30 December 2010

Sick. Sick Of It All

I'm sick. Sick of it all. Not the band (they're OK), just literally sick.

Physically, because I stupidly ignored my own instincts and ate a whole plate of Penang Char Kueh Teow that had half a dozen jumbo-sized king prawns in it. Not a good idea when I know full well that I'm allergic to those tasty crustaceans. So, here I lie in bed with a moderately high fever and the feeling that my tonsils are about to come out of my ears in the next few moments.

But, whatever about the physical side of things (nothing a bit of Panadol, Merocaine, cough syrup, Sudafed and nasal spray couldn't cure), the mental problems are proving harder to remedy.

The lack of Vespa riding will eventually cure itself once I can manage to get back on my feet. It's the one problem that's beyond my control that's causing me to develop this mental illness. Some might call it rage. Some might say it's just me being over emotional. Some might even say that all this is just some sort of knee-jerk reaction to a problem that will eventually fade away. I disagree.

 I call it Roy Hodgson.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

28 December 2010

Rafalution in the Head

It was meant to be the holiday season. The busiest time for EPL clubs as about half a dozen games are squeezed  in between the few days before Christmas and the New Year. A time that can make or break clubs. And, managers.

Over in Melwood, Roy Hodgson must've breathed a sigh of relief when two games in this period were called-off due to the adverse weather. Seemingly, difficult games by current standards. One, a match that pitted Hodgson against his former employers with a Mark Hughes who is eager to convince the Fulham faithful that he is the man to replace Hodgson. The other, against formidable opponents, Blackpool. Yes, things have changed  a lot at Liverpool this season.

Unfortunately, the feeling of relief must have been abruptly cut short on hearing that Liverpool's former manager, was sacked from his job in Milan and subsequently decides to spend the holiday season in his Wirral home, just down the road from Melwood. No pressure there, eh?

Cue a flurry of activity on the many online Liverpool forums, Facebook and Twitter on the possible return of Rafa Benitez to the hot seat in Anfield. Immediately polls popped-up asking Liverpool supporters on whether they would take Benitez back. Not surprisingly, most if not all of the sites had at least, two thirds of people in support of Benitez's return.

What would be interesting to know is whether the two third majority reflects a genuine support for Benitez or is just some sort of no confidence vote for the current manager. I'd go with the former but then again, I've always been a fan of Benitez's work. But, to be fair, when all the underlying issues that exist at Anfield (player power, new footballing structure, media bias, etc.) are set aside, Benitez is still the only truly world class manager that is available and more importantly, passionately willing to take the Liverpool job.

The question now is, will it actually happen? And if so, will it be anytime soon?

26 December 2010

Another Postponed Date

Like most nights, I had the telly on that evening but wasn't paying too much attention to it as I was surfing the net at the same time. After awhile, something on the telly caught my attention. The news was on and I had gathered that the topic of discussion was this horrible weather that we were facing in Ireland, the UK as well as most of Western Europe. There was nothing new in terms of what was being reported but then the camera was focused on a single person, a Russian Embassy official and he was probably standing on the snow-covered lawn of the Russian Embassy in Dublin.

You see, we in Russia are used to winter temperatures of between minus 10 and minus 30 on a regular basis. Roads are chemically-treated and cleared of snow on a daily basis. Our airports remain open while schools are only closed when the temperature dips below minus 25. So, as you can see, the weather that you are facing now is actually quite comfortable for us...

The man said it all with a smug smile on his face as if to mock us all here for our constant whining and our continuous complaining about the mild weather. He was right though. Three horrible winters should be enough notice for the powers-that-be to cop on and learn from their Russian (and Finnish) counterparts who seem to be coping just fine.

Once the basics are out of the way, then maybe something can be done about match day preparations as well. Today's postponement of the Blackpool game was the second in just over a week following the re-scheduling of the Fulham game.

I don't know whether this is the norm but thankfully, it seems that my friends and I won't be losing out too much on our recent Irish Sea cruise. If all goes well, I'd still be getting the same trip for a nominal charge of around €20 to €30. Not too bad I suppose. The only bad thing about it is that the game itself is on, smack-bang in the middle of the week, in the middle of the busiest month of my working calendar.

Hopefully, I'll have better luck this time. Oh, and happy holidays and have a good New Year.

24 December 2010

Vespa PX: An Insurance Example

One of the most dreaded letters that I could have received before the year comes to a close, finally arrived in the post today. Yes, it's been almost a year since I last paid for my Vespa's insurance. Fortunately, it wasn't too bad. The cost of the renewal premium was within my already over-cautious budget. At first, the €297 quoted by Carole Nash for TPFT (Third-Party, Fire and Theft) cover seemed high but after doing a bit more research, it turned out to be very good. Well, very good is relative especially when it comes to the cost of things in Ireland.

Normally, when it comes to all things financial, my first port of call would be the Financial Regulator's very consumer-friendly site which gives very good independent advice on the costs and services of the various organisations that fall within its remit. It's not a up-to-date as I'd like it to be but at least, it's a good starting point when comparing insurance costs.

Unfortunately, although most types of insurance products are discussed and analysed in detail, the cost of motorcycle and scooter insurance seems to have fallen under the radar with no mention of it whatsoever. So, it was back to square one. Quotes from every single insurance broker that provided scooter insurance cover had to be obtained as soon possible.

Thankfully, there were only two others in competition with Carole Nash, Quinn Direct and AON Bikecare. Both of them have decent online quote systems on their sites so, it made my job easier. Based on my past experience, Quinn always provided decent quotes and were never too far off its nearest rival but, I was fairly disappointed when they quoted me €468 for the same level of cover provided by Carole Nash.

Maybe the company's own financial woes were effecting it's ability to compete with its rivals but that was not my problem. I was looking for the cheapest possible quote and they couldn't do that so, off I went to AON's site.

With AON, I wasn't expecting much as I've always been quoted the most ridiculously high premiums from them. The broker stayed true to form when their system blurted out a quote that was almost double the amount quoted by Carole Nash and €76 dearer than Quinn's. The answer to their system's question was a quick No Thanks.

Note to self: Don't even bother paying AON's site a visit next year. Also, do get the test out of the way ASAP. It just doesn't make sense to give the insurance companies an excuse to rip you off on an annual basis.

22 December 2010

Vespa PX: In 16 Colours

Was messing around with Microsoft Paint and came up with this from a recent photo that I took. Think it looks nice in basic colours. OK I suppose, for a bit of boredom relief during these non-Vespa riding winter days.

Speaking of winter days, there's more snow expected later tonight but fortunately, a thaw is expected just in time for Christmas. Hopefully, the forecasts are accurate enough. Being forced to stay indoors most of the time is beginning to get to me and if not for my daily commute to work, cabin fever would have set in a long time ago.

20 December 2010

Distracted in December

Still gutted by the events of the weekend just past, I decided that I needed some sort of distraction to keep my mind off it. Normally, a nice long ride on the Vespa would do me some good but, in the weather that I find myself in, I doubt that doing so would be a wise option.

Being a cheap old fella, I decided to go with the least expensive option or more specifically, the one that cost me nothing, a free book. Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest to be exact. A good, easy read that's broken-up into a few short stories. Not good, when halfway through the book, I had to visit my daughter's school at night when there's basically no one around.

The fact that the school looks as if it came straight out of a Stoker book doesn't help either. Yes, although the school does have that magical Hogwarts feel to it, I was also half-expecting a priest to be flung to his death from a second floor window or impaled by a stray cast iron rod while taking a walk around the school's grounds.

There's nothing like a good book to let the imagination run a bit wilder than normal. It certainly kept me distracted for a good while...

18 December 2010

Anfield: So Close But Yet So Far

Everything seemed fine as the wheels to our master plan seemed to be well in motion. Even the snow that threatened to ruin our plans the night before, mysteriously disappeared by early morning, leaving only a small bit on the ground, like lightly dusted icing sugar atop a cake.

Not wanting to miss our ferry, we made contingencies for delays because of the snow and arrived at the ferry terminal an hour earlier than expected. Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

After about an hour later, we were on the ferry and well on our way to Holyhead on board the Ulysses. Even the lack of sleep the night before couldn't dampen our spirits as my friends and I were all looking forward to the match and getting to know fellow Reds on the ferry, from Malahide as well as far as the Mauritius.

About two hours into the journey, the three of us started to get hungry and wolfed down my wife's delicious Nasi Lemak within the space of a few short minutes. We joked that, eating the Nasi Lemak while in international waters put a whole new meaning to the Antarabangsa in Kampung Baru's famous Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa. Anyway, a good walk around the ferry was in order especially after eating such a cholestrol-filled meal.

Wanting to feel like a cross between Jack Sparrow and a Cold War era submarine commander, I ended up with a bunch of smokers on the upper decks of the vessel. That didn't last long but I managed to snap a quick pic which should explain why my naval fantasy was a short-lived one...

It wasn't looking good but as we caught sight of land on the horizon, things began to clear up and the sun was shining on the ferry's intended destination.

As soon as the ferry docked, we walked up to the reception area, eager to get a hold of our match tickets from our travel agents' representative. Seeing us standing around at the agreed meeting point, the rep headed straight to the three of us. I knew something was wrong when I didn't see any match tickets in his hands...

Sorry lads...the match's been cancelled.

I looked the man straight in the eye, trying to gauge whether it was the Irish sense of humour coming through or outright seriousness.

You're joking...?

Nope. Nothing we can do about it. They cancelled it.

I was stunned. Utterly disappointed. One of my friends was in denial and was immediately looking for the nearest computer or Wi-Fi connection to confirm the news. The other was already thinking ahead and was taking a look into the small print of our booking confirmation.

By noon, it was clear we weren't going to watch the match. We weren't even going to get anywhere near Anfield or Liverpool itself. We were in Holyhead and within the next two hours, we were going to be back on the Ulysses, making our way back to Dublin...

16 December 2010

Plan A (for Anfield)

Just over 24 hours to go to my long-awaited return to Anfield. Seeing that its a packaged trip, there wasn't that much to do except to print off the booking confirmation and make sure we turned-up in time to wherever we had to turn-up to. Easier said than done.

The plan is simple: get the early morning ferry from Dublin to Holyhead and from there, travel by coach to Liverpool, presumably direct to Anfield where we would be arriving about an hour before kick-off. Just enough time to grab a bite, snap some pics and spend some cash on souvenirs.

The only problem with the plan is the impending snow showers. The words from Met Eireann weren't actually too encouraging...

A second more significant snow event is expected to occur during Friday afternoon, Friday night and for a time on Saturday. A band of heavy snow is expected to spread across the country from the west and northwest. Further totals of 10-15cm possible, with all areas at risk. 

When I mentioned this concern to a colleague of mine at work, he just laughed and when I thought of it from his point of view, it made sense - the Irish Sea wasn't at risk of freezing over anytime soon so, my journey by sea should be fine. The gale force winds would make the journey slightly uncomfortable but, that was the least of my worries.

The main problem was getting ourselves to the ferry terminal at Dublin Port in the small hours of Saturday morning when the roads could be impassable and too hazardous because of the ice and snow. Then, even if we did make our way safely to the ferry, there was always a chance that we wouldn't be able to escape the same hazardous conditions in Wales.

Of course, desperate to make it back to Anfield after such a long time (the first time for the two guys accompanying me), all sorts of contingency plans were made covering everything from the unavailability of taxis to the suitability of Nasi Lemak on a potentially rough journey. There wasn't only Plan B as back-up, there were also Plans C to probably Z to make sure we made it to Anfield on Saturday. You certainly couldn't blame us for not putting in the effort, eh?

Anyway, do wish us three the best of luck. We'll definitely be needing it.

14 December 2010

Sub-Zero Scootering

The Yahoo Weather thingamajig read minus 1. It definitely didn't feel like it. Having gone through a couple of weeks of sub-zero weather, I think I should  know what minus 1 felt like. I quickly came to the conclusion that the weather dudes at Yahoo were wrong and I was going to go ahead with my plan.

The plan (if you could call it that) was easy: ditch Dublin Bus and get back on my Vespa. I had thought about getting back on the Vespa for a while. The main roads were all clear of ice and snow while the city centre had been a snow-free zone for days now. The only thing that held me back was the ice and snow that was still a permanent fixture on the roads around my housing estate. Most of that melted away over the weekend. Being the of the risk averse variety, I gave it another day to thaw out a bit more and this morning, I found myself kick-starting my Vespa.

Surprisingly, the scooter came to life on the first kick. Maybe, it too was eager to get out and about after being locked-up in a shed for over two weeks. I looked around me and there were still patches of ice and compacted snow but fortunately, none of them were unavoidable. I let the engine run for a bit longer and then, I was off...

Halfway out my estate, I was beginning to have second thoughts. There was still a touch of frost covering the road which wasn't helped by the fact that the Vespa's tyres were probably still half-forzen. I went down a gear and moved on slowly. I constantly assured myself that all I needed to do was to get myself to the main roads and all would be fine.

All did turn out to be fine and I made it to work in one piece and on time.

12 December 2010

The Predictability of the Unpredictable

As of last night, here's what Liverpool's performances look like as we approach the halfway mark to the season...

The unpredictable becoming oh so predictable. Based on this, at the very least, I can expect a draw for the upcoming home game against Fulham. The way things are going this season, I think I'll settle for that result.

As for the away game last night, if the players on the pitch were looking for some sort of inspiration from the sidelines especially after going down for the second time during the match, this is all they got...

Ah yes, the old face and chin-rubbing technique. Works all the time. Surely. Doesn't it? No. A blue genie doesn't pop out to score 3 goals in 6 minutes? That only works with a lamp and if you're called Aladdin, Roy. Lamp. Aladdin. Not. Football. Match.

What? No? Dammit...

10 December 2010

After the Snow

The people in the tropics have been blatantly lied to. Well, at least I know of a good few people (yours truly included) who have this image of a perfectly fluffy, snow-covered winter where we all sat indoors by the fireplace and sipped hot caramel macchiato watching snowflakes gently fall to the earth. I blame Hollywood. The reality of it is, after the snow is gone, it looks like this...

That feel-good feeling that comes with snow’s first appearance only lasts for about two days (a week at most). Over a few nights, that fluffy and soft snow turns into compacted ice that’s as hard as concrete and is so slippery, one might as well ditch the ski boots, wellies, magic shoe socks, etc. and put on some skis.

It took me almost 10 minutes to climb up this slope this morning whereas normally, it would have taken me half a minute. Stepping on icy footpaths or anywhere there was ice on the road would have been lethal. I had this image repeated in my mind where I took a wrong step and fell, hitting my head on the kerb, cracking my skull open with my brains oozing out like grey egg yolk. So, I treaded carefully on the thin strips of visible tarmac that were left behind by cars over the past few days. The fact that one might come along and accidentally hit me from behind was completely ignored. The fear of oozing brains was all it took for me to stay the course and stay on the road, car or no car.

As I sat on the bus this morning, I contemplated whether it was time to get back on the Vespa. But as soon as the thought crossed my mind, flashing images of oozing brains started to re-appear and any thought of getting even close to my Vespa was quickly brushed aside.

About an hour or so later, I was in the city centre. I thanked the driver as I stepped out of the bus and as I turned around to cross the street behind me, there it was – a rider sitting smugly on his cream coloured Vespa PX whizzing past me as if he was riding on the coastal roads of the Italian Riviera whereas I was the fool that was stuck in some sort of personal Arctic dimension, complete with cartoonish hovering grey cloud above me. It didn’t make sense but after seeing that, the flashing images of oozing brains slowly melted away...

08 December 2010

When is One Better Than Three?

As the title suggests: When is one better than three?

When the One is a Champions League trophy that was won in the most memorable fashion in the history of the competition and the Three being the treble of the UEFA Cup (that's the Europa League these days), the FA Cup and the Worthington Cup (better known as the Carling Cup since 2003).

That's my personal view on the matter and I'd say it would be a safe bet to say that it's most Liverpool supporters' view on the matter too. But apparently, Jamie Carragher disagrees. If the comments came from anyone else, I would've easily written it off as sentimental, even delusional tripe but, seeing that it came from a man that has notched over 650 appearances for Liverpool, I would give him the benefit of the doubt and not judge his comments too quickly.

Anyway, it has long been speculated that Carragher was the player that texted Houllier to say this on Benitez's departure...

...he never beat you, Boss...

After his comments above, it's starting to become clear who sent the text to Houllier. And, while Carragher is talking about mathematical superiority, it's slightly ironic that his old gaffer got soundly beaten by a treble of goals at Anfield a few days ago.

In this case, three is better than one...

06 December 2010

Winter Wonderland

Walking has its advantages. Other than the obvious ones like getting yours truly some much needed exercise, the slower pace does allow me the time to appreciate the finer details of what lies around me even more. Being from tropical Malaysia, snow still has this magical hold on me. That magical feeling slowly diminishes though with every harsh winter that passes. The slush and extra slippery ice don't actually help.

What does help are scenes like this which I took while walking to work a few days ago...

St. Stephen's Green

The picture was taken on my Nokia mobile and doesn't actually do the scenery justice but hopefully, it would give you a good idea. Simply magical.

04 December 2010

The Kids Are Alright...

...and the old dudes too! It was good to see Jovanović getting on the scoresheet as well as his badge-kissing-I'm-staying-put celebration in front of the fans. If anything else, it would be nothing else but a reminder to Hodgson that he too could be considered as strike partner in Roy's preferred 4-4-2.

Fabio Aurelio also had a good game an escaped unscathed. If he could stay injury-free for a good run of games, we'd be instantly stronger at the leftback position. Kyrgiakos was his usual, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin self whereas Poulsen, presumably included to add some experience to the young midfield, did just that i.e. increased the average age of the First XI and pretty much nothing else.

Joe Cole's substitution didn't actually come as a surprise but, what was strange was who greeted him at the touchline. Instead of either Sammy Lee or Hodgson which would be the norm, it was Peter Brukner (Liverpool's Head of Sports Medicine and Sports Science) who offered Cole a pat on the back...

Anyway, back to the kids. Danny Wilson had a decent first start considering Liverpool weren't threatened that much for most parts of the match. No silly mistakes (can't say the same about Reina unfortunately) and a show of decent defending skills is all a fan could ask for from a centre half at this stage of their career so, in that sense, Wilson looked good. The experience would certainly come in useful with Liverpool's current shortage in his position.

One young man that doesn't lack experience is Martin Kelly. He's increasingly being viewed as a dependable and solid option at rightback. Certainly not a bad reputation to be earning. He wouldn't actually set the world alight at that position but the skills learned there would do him good when he moves back to his preferred position in the centre. Again, here's hoping that he can stay injury-free as long as possible.

Jonjo Shelvey on the other hand, clearly looked like a work-in-progress but that's not a complaint considering that he's only 18 and had Poulsen as partner in the centre of midfield. It would be interesting to see how he does with some quality players partnering him in the very near future. One potentially quality player is Dani Pacheco. Admittedly, he had a slightly subdued game which wasn't surprising given that he was played off-position. At this stage though, being played off-position shouldn't worry Pacheco too much as what he needs is games and if playing at right wing gets him games, he should keep his head down and do as much as he can to impress manager.

Closer to home and it was interesting to see Why We Won't Copy Barca as a news headline on Liverpool's official site. A fitting headline considering Barcelona only recently trounced Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid 5-0 a few days earlier but at the same time peculiar. I mean, which football club in their right mind would not want to emulate Barcelona's amazing football? I suppose, Radolfo Borrell's reply was the one and only answer...

Liverpool is too big to copy other sides. We can have our own vision.

Now, that's one person who understands Liverpool Football Club. If only that message could get across to the one person in charge of managing Liverpool these days, we wouldn't have to hear ludicrous comments about managing supporters' "unreasonably high expectations".

02 December 2010

Trains, Planes and (Skidding) Automobiles

I woke up that morning thinking the worst was over. I got myself a shower, grabbed some breakfast and headed out the door. My aim was to get to the bus stop by 7.30 for a chance of getting in the office door by 9. Normally, I'd allow for more time but because of the weather, I gathered that there would be less traffic on the road. I was right to an extent but I didn't take into account that traffic was going to be much, much slower in this weather.

The bus finally got to Baggot Street a half an hour later and I was greeted by a blizzard that made the 5 minute walk to work feel like a whole hour.

I made it to the office safely enough and as soon as I cleared the snow off my coat, I was out again. This time, in my boss' car, a rear-wheel drive BMW. Great in the dry, desperately useless on snow and ice. I mentioned this to him but he was determined that we got out to the client's place out in Citywest (a mere 10 miles away from Dublin's city centre).

I got in the car and brought along my coat and gloves. My boss had a quick look at what I was carrying with me.

We don't need all that.

I smiled politely and replied.


He didn't return the smile.

The journey out was fine but the journey back was an adventure of The Day After Tomorrow proportions. The car skidded like mad on the icy roads back into Dublin and to top it all off, we narrowly missed a skidding/swerving double-decker bus.

Miraculously, we made it back to the office in one piece. At that stage, I lost any desire of sticking it out at work. I grabbed my laptop and whatever else I needed and was out of the office at just after 3 that afternoon. Of course, Dublin Bus was no longer in service at that stage so, it meant that I, along with a thousands of others who desperately needed to get home that evening had to fight it out for a spot on the already crammed commuter trains.

At least, I had the option of the train. Others didn't and had to either book a hotel room or walk the whole way home.

Thankfully, I made it home. Home, warm, sweet home.


30 November 2010

Winter Riding Gear

The car's on board computer flashed up with a warning as soon as I turned the ignition that cold Sunday morning. Risk of Ice, it read.
No shit, Sherlock.

Yes, there was ice alright as well as over an inch of snow which magically appeared overnight. Nothing too severe even by UK and Ireland standards but, this is Dublin. A bit of ice and snow and the place plunges into absolute chaos. Schools get closed, people fall flat on their faces on icy footpaths, car drivers pretend that their on the set of Tokyo Drift  and worst of all, I get to go on the bus, once again. Shock. Horror. [Cue music to the Psycho Shower Scene].

You see, as much as I do love riding on my Vespa, I do realise that I have responsibilities, and commitments but most importantly, I do realise that I can't afford Evel Knievel-level insurance cover. So, like most sane people, I opt for other alternative forms of transport.

But, what if there is no snow? How do I manage to continue riding my Vespa in almost freezing winter conditions.

Well, different people have different ways of coping. I know of this one old dude who refuses to wear anything more than his leather jacket and an open face helmet even in the coldest of days. No goggles and certainly no visor. Every time I come across him on his classic Jap bike, I could swear that his face looks bluer by the day.

I, on the other hand, prefer to keep myself warmer as it gets colder. Most of my gear can be classified as “all-weather”. My helmet is of the flip-up variety so it’s a full face when it needs to be and an open face when I prefer the wind in my face. All I need to do with my trusty old jacket is to insert the quilted lining when it gets colder while the Vespa’s leg shields appear to be adequate enough cover from the elements, saving me the hassle of fiddling around with my motorcycle pants’ lining.

That therefore, leaves me with my gloves. As much as I try to find an all-weather glove, I just can’t seem to find a decent one. So, I am resigned to the fact that I have to own at least two gloves. The ones I use in the colder months are Dainese’s RS WD D-Dry B (that’s mouthful of alphabets) gloves. They were classified as winter gloves on Motocard’s online store but I have the feeling that the classification is slightly off the mark as it’s probably based on the Spanish winter rather than temperatures further up north.

Having said that, I have now used the gloves for almost three winters and the almost daily usage has taken its toll on it. So, the search is now on for replacement gloves. Moving away from Dainese, I came across FC Moto Shop that has the Alpinestars Arctic Drystar gloves for sale at a reasonable enough price while from farther afield, I found these deerskin gloves from Lee Parks Designs. Other than the good design, I also like the plain, non-Power Ranger look of them.

But, as usual, all that will have to wait (damn this recession). For the meantime, I’ll make do with bright red, freezing and throbbing hands. Nothing that a hot cup of coffee couldn't cure...

28 November 2010

Heart Break Lane

It's strange being a Liverpool supporter these days. Win, and I smile for days with that warm, fuzzy feeling engulfing me, at least until the next match. Lose, and instead of being as depressed as a smoke addict who has been without a cigarette for a whole day, I actually don't feel that bad. I hate to admit it but the feeling some days verges on apathy towards Liverpool Football Club especially when the team loses a match. Maybe it's got to do with the fact that my expectations are so low, I'm actually never expecting a good result, no matter who Liverpool play.

Take for instance this afternoon's visit to White Hart Lane.

Anyone that knows a small bit about football would come to the conclusion that there's no point in defending against Spurs this season. With about half a dozen central defenders out injured, the only way to play Spurs is to attack, attack and attack.

So, I was pleased to see Hodgson's team set out to do the obvious with two up front in a standard 4-4-2 formation which, was mirrored in Spurs' own line-up. Unsurprising really considering that the fixture was a meeting of two very old school English managers.

The first 15 minutes looked positive and the team looked to control proceedings with some very neat passing around the pitch. A nice change from the hoofball tactics applied for most of the season. But, as the game progressed, it was becoming evident that Liverpool lacked a good amount of creativity either on the pitch or on the bench (could have done with an Aquilani or Pacheco around, eh?). Spurs on the other hand, were growing in confidence but by mid-way into the first-half, Spurs' slight creative edge in the form of Luka Modric, almost led to a goal which was only avoided because of Jamie Carragher's timely intervention as well as Jermaine Defoe's rustiness.

The game was really open and the two teams went back and forth until Skrtel's goal came along a couple of minutes before the break. It all looked good after that for Liverpool but although chances did come along, the lack of creativity became even more evident when Modric's magic led to Skrtel slotting in an own goal past Reina. The already nervy situation was further compounded when on 86 minutes, Jamie Carragher walked off the pitch with a dislocated shoulder.

With Carragher's absence, Liverpool's back four became quite disorganised and Redknapp pounced on the opportunity. Diagonal long balls began to be pumped from Spurs' left for Aaron Lennon to latch on. Konchesky was no match for Lennon's pace and within a few minutes, Liverpool were two goals down.

As bad as that result was, it doesn't look like it'll get better anytime soon. Carragher's injury looks like a long-term one whereas Daniel Agger is still recovering from his own injury. Besides Skrtel and Kyrgiakos (Daniel Ayala is out on loan and Kelly could do a job), that leaves the club with only young Danny Wilson as cover at the centre of defence.

We're definitely in for a rough ride for the next few...

26 November 2010

Where’s Dani? Can You Find Dani?

It was the summer of 2009 and Liverpool had just finished a close second in the Premier League. Things could only get better (hindsight is a great thing isn’t it?) and I wanted a piece of the action, grabbing at everything that had anything to do with Liverpool that summer.

Unfortunately, things weren’t as great from a financial perspective so, rather than make plans for a trip to Anfield (a European night against Fiorentina or Lyon would have been good), I had to settle for whatever I could find within Ireland.

That opportunity came along soon enough when it was announced that a Liverpool XI would be playing a friendly against Bohemians at Dalymount Park on the 17th of August. It was a great chance to watch a pre-season friendly that would have included at least some members of the first team. Then, I realised that the match was scheduled after the Premiership’s first game. So, instead of being able to watch the likes of Carragher, Gerrard and Torres play, I was treated to a mix of Liverpool Reserve and Youth players.

There was the recently acquired Victor Palsson in midfield while Chris Mavinga was the club’s latest coup from PSG. Obviously, the squad had local Liverpool lads like Stephen Darby and Steven Irwin along with a couple of other promising English talents in the form of David Amoo and Nathan Eccleston. But, the two names that the fans were keen on watching that evening were Argentinean Gerrado Bruna and Liverpool’s current Number 12, Dani Pacheco.

While Bruna looked off the pace and slightly uninterested, Pacheco was extremely impressive as he pulled the strings from his free role just behind Eccleston. A friend of mine, having watched a very young Robbie Fowler play in the Reserves mentioned that it was glaringly obvious that Fowler was a class above the rest of his team mates. Well, I’m not a qualified football scout but it was as clear as day that Pacheco (on the evidence of this one match) was a special talent. So, it comes as no surprise to me why Liverpool fans (especially the ones that follow Pacheco regularly) are so excited about giving Pacheco an extended run in the First XI these days.

Here's a video compilation (by MilanKakaBaros) of Pacheco at the European Under-19 Championship last summer...

And, of a more recent goal against Everton in the Reserves.

Not surprisingly, it confuses and frustrates fans around the world as to why the Spaniard hasn’t even made the substitutes’ bench since September 2010. This of course, coincides with Pacheco’s last first team appearance in Liverpool’s humiliating exit from the Carling Cup after having been defeated by a “formidable” Northampton Town side. Whether it’s true or not, it does appear that Hodgson was disappointed with Pacheco’s display against Northampton and has sent him packing back to the reserves.

Maybe he does need to be re-trained in a different role or bulk-up to survive the physical aspects of the English game but in the meantime, here’s hoping that the coaching staff at Liverpool really know what they’re doing with Pacheco. We just can’t afford to let such a talented player go to waste or worst still, get sold to some La Liga outfit on the cheap in exchange for an aging, average at best player.

24 November 2010

Being Ewan McGregor

Like Ewan McGregor and more accurately, Jean-Yves Pignant, I want to jump on my Vespa and go on an adventure to the ends of the world. It doesn't matter where or when, just as long as it's somewhere far away and the weather is half-decent. But, unlike Ewan McGregor, my 15 minutes of fame was more like 15 seconds. My life as a child-model/actor/singer was cut short by the time puberty creeped in. Naturally, I don't have vast amount of resources to call upon to raise funds for a journey of McGregor-Boorman proportions. I can barely afford spare parts for my own Vespa.

So, rather than travel to places in Central Asia or Africa, I sit at home, content that at least, I do get to clock-up some miles on my Vespa through my daily commute.

Unfortunately, I feel that life has different plans for me. While nosily looking around my other half's Facebook account, I noticed a link to this article in Malaysia's New Straits Times and found out about Syed Hadi's epic journey. In short, Hadi got on his kapcai (that's Malaysian for small bike - likely derived from the legendary Honda Cub) and decided to ride all the way from Malaysia to the UK, with minimal sponsorship and a vague of idea of vehicle laws in the places enroute.

Yes, I do realise that something like what Hadi did had been done before but this fella appears to be like any other man on the street AND more importantly is Malaysian. The way I see it, if he can do it, surely the thousands out there like me stand a chance of at least heading out of the countries we live in.


Image by Khaosaming

22 November 2010

Of Rain, Snow and Rainbows

Monday morning. Wet, cold and foggy with a touch of frost. Perfect. Although we were officially into the winter months since the start of the month, when the clocks moved back an hour, this morning seemed like the real changeover date. All that was missing was some snow. I need not worry about that though. If latest news reports are to be believed, that should come along pretty soon too.

As long as it doesn't ruin my travel plans in December, I'd be happy.

Anyway, I eventually made it to work, safe and sound. After drying mysef and a couple of hours worth of work, I remembered that I had left my gloves in my Vespa's toolbox. It wasn't a good idea to leave it there, all damp and cold so, I popped down to grab it.

As I stepped out the front door of my office, I noticed something peculiar in the sky...

...a rainbow! OK, I'm not 6 anymore and don't go chasing after pots of gold but, if there was one of thing that would put a smile on people's faces on such a dreary day, it would be something like this. More of the same, please...

20 November 2010

A Return to Anfield

I used to visit Liverpool a lot during my first few years in Dublin. It helped that the city is quite close (just under 250 km across the Irish Sea) and was either a few hours ferry trip away (the ferry I took used to dock right by The Royal Liver Building) or under an hour's flight away to what was then just plain old, Liverpool Airport (John Lennon's name was only added in 2002). Oh, and the fact that my sister used to live in Liverpool also helped, free accommodation and all. 

For some reason, my visits to Liverpool were never uneventful. On my first visit there, I had my first encounter with snow. A couple of friends and I were outside at around 3 o'clock in the morning, making snowmen and having snowball fights. We were like a bunch of kids locked-in a toy store overnight. These days, having gone through a few horrible winters, I think it's safe to say that I'm not as keen on snow anymore.

On another visit, my flight back to Dublin was cancelled because of bad weather and a bunch of 20-30 people were stuck at the airport as there was no way for us to get back to civilisation. I eventually made it home when a bunch of us decided that hypothermia wasn't an option and broke-in to a parked bus, hot-wired it and drove it all the way to Lime Street where we returned it back to the public transportation system. I still had an uphill walk on icy footpaths to my sister's place on Princes Street but that was the least of my worries. I didn't get arrested the following day for stealing a Merseytravel Bus so I suppose, I need't have worried too much the night before.

Obviously, the most memorable of visits to Liverpool was my first match day visit to Anfield. It was the summer following Liverpool's treble-winning season and the place was absolutely buzzing with optimism. The visitors on the day were John Gregory's Aston Villa who ended up beating Liverpool 3-1 on the day. Not a great result but standing there amongst the crowd on the Anfield Road stand that day was definitely an unforgettable experience on its own. Thanks for the free ticket that day Abe!

A couple more visits followed since but then, life just took over and unfortunately, I've yet to watch a match at Anfield in over five years now. 

Well, I certainly hope that the wait would end in the next few weeks where I hope to travel to Anfield once again. This time, to watch Liverpool play host to Fulham. Hopefully, today's win against West Ham starts to become a trend and I'll have some happy memories to bring back home.

18 November 2010

Capturing the Action

Catalogues lying idle around the house can be a dangerous thing. They're bad enough for adults (e.g. the SIP catalgoue) never mind the kids especially when the catalogue has lots and lots of toys in it. OK, they're not bad for the kids, just bad for the kids' Dad who has to fork out the money to buy the latest and greatest toys. My kids however, will learn that all they're ever going to get off me are Lego bricks (to stimulate the brain and to cause Daddy a world of pain when he steps on one when he rolls out of bed) and maybe, just maybe, a Chicco Vespa. Not the Peg-Pérego one that runs on batteries and is designed for fat kids who are prone to asthma attacks the minute they realise that they have to push themselves to move forward.

Yes, I secretly want a Peg-Pérego for myself but given the price, I just couldn't justify it to myself (or more importantly, my wife).

The same goes for another boy-toy I've been eyeing for a while, the GoPro video camera. The USD price listed on its site was already expensive to start off with but given that the Euro is (theoretically) stronger than the Dollar, I was sort of half-hoping that it would be slightly cheaper over here. Well, my hopes were completely dashed when I found out that it retails at just a cent shy of €350 in Dublin. Looks like I won't be getting that one anytime soon.

But, what I might realistically be getting is the GroPro's cheap and cheerful alternative. Yes, having catalogues around the house has its positives - I wouldn't have found this alternative if the latest Argos catalogue wasn't a permanent feature in my household, lurking around the dining table, ready to pounce on its unsuspecting victims.

OK, the so-called Action Camera might not have many of the qualities of the GoPro (HD video, sophisticated attachment options and bombproof build quality, to name a few)  but at €60, I'd say its worth a punt. Plus, its not like I'll be going down dirt tracks or be doing any acrobatic stunts on my Vespa anyime soon. All I need is a video camera to capture and then share the scenery (and hopefully some of the feel as well) when I go out on rides, be it alone or with others.

Will be post an update as soon as I have €60 to spare in the near-future...

16 November 2010

A Day for Sacrifice

I was going to write/rant about Liverpool's current misfortunes and call for you-know-who's head. If some simple mathematics were applied on the way things are going (a mere 16 points after 13 games played), it looks like the best we can hope for this season is mid-table mediocrity. Yes, John Henry and the Fenway Sports Group  (that's what NESV call themselves nowadays) might have a vision of an Arsenal-esque Liverpool but if things stay the way they are, Liverpool could well end up in the mould of a different London club. A club that's more familiar with our dear old manager. 

But, in the spirit of Eid al-Adha, I'd make my one sacrifice (of sorts) i.e. to cease to write about the issue at hand and save my words for another time. In the meantime though, I'll leave you with a video of one of Liverpool's best players, who for some very odd reason, just happens to be playing for Juventus this season...

He'd certainly come in handy these days, wouldn't he? To rub salt into the open wound, there seem to be rumours around that say Juventus have a GBP12m buy-out option as part of his loan deal plus, they actually got to offload a player they didn't want (Poulsen-who else?) for GBP5m. The management at Juventus deserves a pat in the back and big, fat bonus for pulling this whole deal off. It would have actually been funny if the joke wasn't on Liverpool.

Anyway, Eid Mubarak to one and all. Hope you have a good one.

14 November 2010

Why Riding in Gale Force Winds Should Be Avoided

Right, I'm out of here. The Luas is out and I need to somehow make it all the way to Stillorgan in an hour.

The silence of the workplace was suddenly broken by my colleague's announcement that afternoon. I knew the weather that Thursday wasn't that great but I hadn't noticed how bad it got. Until I heard the news about the Luas that is. Seemingly the wind that evening was so bad, there were fears that the Luas' electrical cables could be effected.

Not being able to gauge the weather from my desk at work, I decided to pop out and have a look for myself. It didn't seem that bad but I was still advised to ditch my Vespa and find some other way home. I had two alternatives none of which appealed to me. I popped out again and the gale force wind that was threatening to cripple Dublin's streets appeared to have disappeared. The decision was made for me then.

The journey home seemed fine until I left the safety of taller buildings in the city centre and got to the quays when the gusts of wind suddenly got stronger. My guess is that it was some sort of funnel effect but it was still within my control. Well, it almost got out of control when I was going through Phoenix Park that evening.

Noticing a strong wind hitting me on the left, I consciously stayed closer to the kerb  instead of staying right in the middle of the lane. I honestly don't know whether this was the most suitable solution to my predicament but there must have been some good to what I was doing as one particularly strong gust almost blew me off course. That extra space that I allowed must've helped as I recall being pushed to about an inch from the white line but, before I got the Vespa under control, a car on the other side of the road swerved in anticipation of a head-on collision with me.

Scary stuff.

It didn't end there though. Being in a park full of old oak trees didn't help either. The wind snapped branches and twigs of the trees and hurled them across the road that evening. I had one or two near-misses but that was one too many. It was like playing a game of Russian Roulette and I was the only player, every single turn being mine.

I definitely won't be doing that again anytime soon as I now realise that what I did could only be defined in one word: Stupid.

Ride safely people.

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