Sunday, 30 September 2018

West Ham finish momentous week by comprehensively beating Man Utd

West Ham 3-1 Manchester United

West Ham United completed an excellent week with this comprehensive defeat of Manchester United.
The determination of the home side was typified by Pablo Zabaleta, who in the fifth minute stretched to keep the ball in, got down the line to take the return pass and cross for Felipe Anderson to finish with an audacious back heel.
The home side continued to press, with the visitors only managing a couple of first half headers from Romelu Lukaku - one shaving the post.
Then with half time approaching Andriy Yarmalenko worked a space on the edge of the area, and saw his shot deflected into the net by Victor Lindelof.
United had more of the possession after half time but struggled to find a way through the combatative West Ham midfield..
On the one occasion they did get through, Marouane Fellaini's strong downward header was saved by Lukasz Fabianski at the foot of the post.
The visitors got one goal back when substitute Marcus Rashford turned in a corner.
But hopes of a United revival were short lived, as a few moments later man of the match Mark Noble fed a perfectly weighted through ball for Marko Arnautovic to run on and drive under the advancing David de Gea.
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini praised the way his team defended. "We had good possession of the ball and moved it well," said Pellegrini, who was pleased that sticking to his attacking principles is now paying dividends.
A disappointed Jose Mourinho admiitted his team is not good in transition or at stopping the counter attack. This despite playing three central defenders.

*published in Morning Star - 30/9/2018 

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

There may have to be a People's Vote or general election to finally settle Brexit

The debate over Brexit never seems far from the headlines. It has seemingly been raging ever since the referendum vote back in 2016.

The present clamour revolves around whether there will be a deal between the EU and the UK that is acceptable. Then the question seems to be whether there should be a People’s Vote on whether to accept that deal or remain in the EU.

Another possible outcome seems to be that no deal is going to be acceptable to the House of Commons, and with the Conservative Party split, there is likely to be a general election in the not too distant future.

I cannot be the only one who really is getting tired of hearing about Brexit. The whole referendum was a misconceived idea dreamt up by former Conservative leader and Prime minister David Cameron to deal with divisions in his own party and his perceived threat of UKIP on the far right.

The Conservative Parties divisions on Europe are deep seated and long standing. John Major’s government of the 1990s was split on the issue, causing no end of problems.

Prior to that, despite disinformation to the contrary, Margaret Thatcher was very much a pro-European, she was in fact one of the leading proponents of the single market that the brexiteers so vehemently attack today.

The vote to leave came about due to a misunderstanding as to what was causing the suffering of so many people. It was not the EU and migrants but the aftermath of the financial crash and the disastrous austerity agenda pursued first by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government and then the Conservatives on their own.

Had David Cameron not been returned as Prime Minister in 2015, there would have been no referendum and austerity could have begun to be unwound under a Labour Government.

However, that is all history now, the question is how the present impasse over the EU can be overcome? Leaving looks like an incredible act of self harm on the part of this country. International isolation, job losses, threats to food security and diminishing workers rights are just a few of the things that spring to mind.

The reality would seem to be that Cameron really should have done a bit of due diligence before he offered the referendum vote, such an exercise would have confirmed it is not possible to leave the EU now without incredible harm to the British economy.

Offering the vote was a reckless and negligent act from an individual who seems sure to go down as the worst prime minister in living memory.

On the Brexit side, I would have more sympathy if a vision could be created offering something positive coming out of leaving but there is nothing. There are mythical trade deals that won’t materialise and "taking back control." We have control as a main player at the EU top table.

Some of the rich proponents of leave do not live in this country – most notably, some of the owners of the major media groups. Others singing the Brexit song, who stand to profit if they do live here now will have the means to leave when all starts going wrong.

So all in all the country has been landed in a pretty sorry state.

Something needs to be done to resolve the problem. Either a genuinely acceptable deal to leave has to be hammered out with the EU or the whole idea should be shelved and the UK stay in the EU.

How the matter is resolves whether by a referenda style people’s vote on the options or a general election on the issues at stake remains to be seen, what is for sure is that there needs to be a solution found very soon.

published Wanstead and Woodford Guardian - 27/9/2018

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Manuel Pellegrini rues missed chances as West Ham secure 0-0 draw against Chelsea

West Ham 0-0 Chelsea

West Ham striker Andrily Yarmolenko picked up the man of the match award in this entertaining game but it was he who missed the most clear chance of the game.
In the 77th minute, substitute Robert Snodgrass put over a perfect cross from the left for Yarmolenko to steal in round the back alone but the resulting  header went wide.
Not that Chelsea  lacked chances, dominating long periods of this game.
The visitors best chance came after 65 minutes when a flick back from Eden Hazard found substitute Alvaro Morata alone in the goal area but his effort was miraculously saved at point blank range by Lukasz Fabianski.
The home stopper was in action again in the 90th minute pushing a Ross Barkley shot round the post.
For West Ham, a good chance fell to Michail Antonio, who saw his shot saved low down by Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
And for Chelsea, N'Golo Kante saw his header, from a Willian cross go just wide.
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini rued the wasted chances. "When you have such clear chances against such teams, you have to score,"said Pellegrini, who was nonetheless happy to have recorded the first clean sheet of his time in charge. "We forced them to play on the right side more than the left but in the second half lost too many balls."
Chelsea manager Mourizio Sarri praised West Ham, declaring he did not know how they lost their first four matches.
The Chelsea boss was alao aggrieved at having to play the game so soon after his side's Europa league game on Thursday night.
So a satisfactory days work for West Ham, though they must have wished that the injured  Marko Arnautovic had been on the end of some of those chances

published Morning Star - 24/9/2018

Thursday, 20 September 2018

We need to walk more

Walking is great form of exercise, easy, relaxing and providing a real lift to the spirits. I usually manage to find some time every day for a walk of at least an hour, usually around Wanstead Park.

There has been a growing emphasis over recent years on getting more people out walking. The motivation has been to improve health and cut the pollution created by unnecessary car journeys.

The health need is urgent, with people seemingly getting more sedentary with each passing year. The computer revolution has resulted in more and more jobs that do not require much moving around. There must be a link to the obesity explosion that has been witnessed across the world.

Nearly 70% of Londoners do not take enough physical exercise to remain healthy, whilst 40% of school children are overweight or obese.

The developments around schools over recent years provide an interesting insight into the move toward a more sedentary existence. 30 years ago most children walked to school. Over the passing decades, more and more have travelled to school by car. This has contributed to the pollution levels around schools and the obesity epidemic mentioned earlier.

Now, there are moves to get people back out walking. Transport for London recently announced its Walking Action Plan, which intends to see a million more journey on foot each day by 2020.

The walking plan is part of an overall strategy to ensure 80% of all journeys are on foot, by cycle or on public transport by 2041 (the figure is presently 63%). At present 24% of all journeys done in London are on foot.

Regarding schools, there are plans to encourage more walking by having timed road closures, car free days and 20 mph limits around schools. These type of measures should increase the number of children walking and cycling to school.

Walking needs to be prioritised, with streets being made safer and infrastructure developments prioritising walking when under construction.
A reduction in traffic would seem to be a key requirement, improving both physical safety and a reducing the pollution levels that stop so many people from walking in London at present.

The Mayor’s transport strategy, including the Walking Plan, are encouraging moves forward. Many London boroughs have made major steps in the direction of pedestrianisation, with neighbouring Waltham Forest a good example of what can be achieved with a bold vision and the determination to succeed.

More of these bold initiatives are needed in order that everyone can live more green and pleasant lives.
published - Wanstead & Woodford Guardian - 20 & 22/9/2018

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Climate change is the major threat to our future

There was a recent lovely scene of a family, parents and two young children, out enjoying a sunny day.

It was a happy scene but what does the future hold for those children if we continue moving toward environmental Armageddon.

The world has been slow to recognise the damage being done to the environment, which has caused the extinction of hundreds of species and the advance of climate change.

The future for those children and indeed for all of us is not a pleasant one if we continue on the present route. Great swathes of the inhabited land mass will disappear under water, food and water shortages will abound and war become more prevalent. There will be a real danger of a turn to the law of the jungle, the survival of the fittest.

Political decision makers took a long time to act on the environmental threats. The mass of scientists have been warning of the consequences of not addressing the dangers but too many found it easier to be wooed by climate change deniers - often funded by those in the fossil fuel industries, who stood to lose most from a low emissions policy.

The warnings were clear. In 2006, Sir George Stern published his authoritative report for the British Government warning of the dangers and the cost there would be if radical action was not taken. Just in financial terms we now see the wisdom of that warning, with food prices set to leap on the back of the severe hot weather in this country over the past few months.

World leaders appeared to recognise the enormity of the challenge at the UN Paris Agreement of 2015.  Countries committed to reduce emissions, keeping warming below 2 degrees since pre-industrialisation times. Yet today scientists warn the world is heading toward 4 degrees over the next 30 years.

The environment is simply not taken seriously enough. Climate change and other destructive processes are the major threat to our future on the planet, yet still these concerns are put on the back burner, indulged in the economic good times and jettisoned at times of hardship.

There needs to be serious action taken, a change in our whole mind set and way of life.

A possible return to a more village like lifestyle. An existence where we grow more of our own food and what we can’t grow is sourced locally.

There need to be less carbon emitting devices, like cars and planes. Old polluting cars need to be taken off the roads – they are killing our children.

The Mayor of London has set out a target for 80% of journeys to be by foot, cycle of public transport by 2041.

Buildings should not be being constructed now that do not have zero carbon emissions. Beyond this, older properties need to be refitted with the technology to make them carbon neutral.  

We need to start putting back some of the trees and plants that have been removed. It was encouraging to see that 15,000 trees are going to be planted in Hainault under the Mayor’s scheme but this work needs to be spread and accelerated.

There is much that can be done, these are just a few ideas. What is for sure is that the crisis is mounting. The world is way past the point where doing a bit is enough. Everyone has to take responsibility for themselves and the community beyond, if all are to enjoy a safe and sustainable future.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

No need for those with hearing difficulties to be excluded by mainstream society

The recent street party held by the local Empowering Deaf Society (EDS) offered a glimpse of a whole new world.

Attending, I was struck by how everyone was communicating via sign language. If you did not have sign language you were an outsider.

Founder of EDS, Mangai Sutharsan, made the point that this was how deaf people often felt in day to day society when they can so often be excluded.

This struck a real nerve, as I have had worsening hearing over recent years.

It was only a couple of years ago though that I actually went to the doctor to have it checked out. He forwarded me onto the audio department, who did a test that took about 10 minutes. The outcome, I was borderline for hearing aids. So I accepted the offer.

That was it. Over the ensuing couple of years I have come to use the hearing aids more but do not find them comfortable or that effective.

It has been interesting though to observe society around me. I’ve done quite a lot of work over the years, as a journalist, on equality issues. Disabilities has been one strand of that work. However, despite all the articles, conferences etc, you never quite appreciate disability until you actually have one.

The stage that my hearing loss is at means that if people speak clearly and directly to me, I can hear fine. But softly spoken people are difficult to hear. Also people speaking off to the side or in an aside are difficult to fathom. Sub-titles on TV are helpful.

It can be embarrassing to keep asking people to repeat what they are saying. This can mean pretending that you have heard, when you haven’t.

You also notice in others, who may have a hearing problem but do not wish to acknowledge the condition. The tell tale trying to look as though they have heard and understood, when they clearly haven’t.

It has been possible, with declining hearing capacity to really appreciate what Mangai meant when she referred to how many deaf people feel excluded in everyday society. The condition can be socially isolating but doesn’t need to be.

So much could be done to remedy these problems, if our society really took disabilities seriously. Sound systems at meetings, people speaking directly towards who they are addressing rather than the back of heads, the provision of signing.

The number of meetings I attend where the shout comes up from the back “can’t hear.” In the past, I have often regarded these utterances, often made with more than a hint of irritation, as a bit rude. Now, I really understand where the people are coming from.

On a lighter note there can be some hilarious moments, when you mis-hear things. Also, sometimes what is being said is just not worth hearing anyway. However, all in all loss of hearing is a very frustrating and excluding business.

There are services in our society to make life better for the 9 million plus in our country who have hearing problems.

The work of charities like EDS is so vital in advancing the cause of those with hearing difficulties.

However, so much more could be done in our communities, to really help those with hearing difficulties and other disabilities. If we really seek to be an inclusive society then the needs of the disabled need to be factored into all elements of life. Failure to do so means what we are practicing tokenism, gesturing towards inclusivity, but in reality failing at so many levels.

*published Wanstead & Woodford Guardian - 6/9/2018
Morning Star - 18/9/2018

Sunday, 2 September 2018

West Ham beaten for the fourth time in a row, this time by Wolves

West Ham 0-1 Wolves
West Ham's woeful start to the Premiership season continued, as they recorded their fourth defeat in a row.
The game was in many ways similar to the previous home encounter with Bournemouth, the home side enjoy long periods of dominance but always looking vulnerable to the swift counter attack.
West Ham began brightly enough, with Felipe Anderson forcing a smart save out of Wolves keeper Rui Patricio after just three minutes.
Robert Snodgrass also had a shot saved by the keeper diving to his right.
In the second half, Michail Antonio headed against the upright but the warning signs were there from the visitors.
On the hour, Joao Moutinho crossed for Raul Jimenez to see his forceful header saved by Lukasz Fabianski.
Then with 12 minutes to go, Jimenez tripped over a cross from Ruben Nevesl, when it looked easier to score - alone on the edge of the goal area.
Sure enough, with home fans leaving in their droves, resigned to at least getting a point, Carlos Sanchez was dispossessed in the middle of the field, the ball was fed out, via Neves and Leo Bonatini, to substitute Adama Traore who rammed the ball home.
A tight lipped West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini admitted his team needed to defend better and eliminate mistakes.
Upbeat Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo felt his side were rewarded for pushing to the end.He declared " organisation" to be the most important part of the game.
Something Pellegrini might ponder, given that it is something West Ham plainly lack.
It now looks an uphill battle for the East London side, with games coming up away to Everton, home to Chelsea and Manchester United, followed by a trip to Brighton.

published -