With 12 groups in total, just comprehending the size of the Europa League requires you to have paid close attention during those Sesame Street episodes as a youth. L is for Ludicrous.
As someone who likes to think of himself as fairly knowledgeable on football in general I have to admit I have paid little to no attention to Europe’s second competition this season and it all just seems a little over complicated for me.
With one eye on Forest’s attempts to climb the Championship table and the other on the more traditional fair of top flight football and Champions League action, games such as Dnipro V Pandurii, and Kuban Krasnodar V St. Gallen have unfortunately slipped me by.
The suits at Uefa, led by Mousier Plattini, have cobbled together the competition out of the ashes of the Cup Winners cup and the Uefa cup format and created a monster.
With big teams fielding weakened sides and blaming their involvement for lapses in league form, and other teams struggling to see the economic value of flying half way across the world to battle out for a 0-0 draw to secure third place in the group, the tournament continues to pail into insignificance. Ever increasingly in the shadows of its much more successful and better looking sibling, the Champions League, teams such as Swansea are seeing the harsh reality of having to play on a Thursday night somewhere in the midst of Europe affecting their league form so far this season.
Another issue. The teams that fail in the Champions league should not be allowed to enter the next stage of the Europa league. Like poor quality hand me down’s these teams shouldn’t be automatically sent to the Europa League for a second chance in the sun. All this does is clog up an already congested system. Plus many of those teams don’t really want to be in the Europa League anyway.
Take Chelsea for instance. Even as they were on their way to winning the competition a couple of seasons ago, they didn’t want to be there. There fans didn’t want to be there. Abramovich didn’t want to be there. And their players certainly didn’t want to be there. With Chelsea about to take part in the showpiece final against Benfica, Jon Obi Mikel came out and lamented the fact he had to “play on Thursday nights in front of Channel 5 cameras”. And bless his little heart, he didn’t know the Europa League song and missed the “prime time” of Champions League football.
While having an AC Milan or Chelsea in the draw might look good on paper, in reality these teams only serve to dilute the respectability of the competition and with 48 teams already making up the group stages it is counter-productive to then add a further 8 at a later stage.
Undoubtedly having a second European competition is key in order to prevent the chasm between Europe’s elite clubs and the rest growing even further but I can’t help but feel a simpler version which keeps itself to itself without accepting cast off’s and winners of fair play tables would be more rewarding; both for the teams taking part and for those of us seeking a competitive enjoyable tournament.
Because at the minute all the Europa League seems good for is giving Jermaine Defoe a run out.
On this day in 1890 the electric chair was used for the first time as a method for execution in the United States as William Kemmler, having been found guilty on the charge of murder, was put to death in Buffalo, New York. Now whilst the death of an individual is always harrowing it is the story behind the chair which is the focus here.
Electricity itself was still in the process of being understood, and harnessed, at this time and the execution marked a significant development in the battle between two pioneers of the energy source. On the one side Thomas Edison and his patented DC flow, on the other George Westinghouse and the AC system. Both men had been battling for supremacy for years and it seems that in their battle to achieve dominance in the electricity market, no area was off limits. As propaganda and publicity campaigns continued relentlessly others were beginning to recognise potential uses for this powerful energy source. In 1888 New York State had implemented legislation decreeing the electric chair was to be the standard process for future executions, replacing the long standing method of hanging, and both an AC and a DC powered prototype emerged.
After years of wrangling, claims, and counter-claims on everything from safety and efficiency, to the value for money provided by the two options the debate over which energy source should power the electric chair was unique.
Now here is where it gets interesting. Edison, a fervent anti-capital punishment man, is actually directly linked to the production of the first ever electric chair, designed and built by a man named Harold Brown. With Brown under the employment of Edison during this project it would suggest the great inventor had put aside any moral issues in favour of expanding the DC format. Why then, when New York State administered the fatal volts to Kemmler, did they do so via a machine powered by Westinghouse’s AC current?
Championed by some as a technological advancement and a potentially lucrative business opportunity (lets face it the US has never been exactly shy when it comes to the death sentence) it seems both Edison and Westinghouse did not see it this way.
In reality neither individual wanted the infamous title of the man supplying the lethal force required to kill; it was bad for business.
Edison therefore implemented perhaps the most lethal smear campaign in modern business as he actively sought to ensure that his rivals AC current would be used on August the 6th. Browns employment by Edison was based largely on his known distain for the AC system and having already conducted a number of stunts in which animals were killed by Westinghouse’s alternate current, they both hoped this most blatant association with danger and death would be enough to sway the population in favour of the direct current option. If people could see AC current killing a man, he believed the public would look on it with scepticism.
Westinghouse himself was aware of the damaging impact this could have for his business and the appeals lodged on behalf of Kemmler during the process were actually funded by Westinghouse’s corporation on the grounds that death by electrocution was a cruel and unusual punishment. The appeals failed however in part due to the testaments of Edison and Brown who claimed the electric chair would provide a quick and painless death.
So it came to pass that on the morning of Wednesday August 6th 1890 William Kemmler was executed by an electric chair powered by AC. The debut run itself did not go smoothly as the prison technician failed to administer the required voltage at first leaving Kemmler severely injured but still alive. With the botched execution lasting eight minutes and leaving the prisoners body bleeding and omitting an odorous smell, newspapers were quick to report sensationalist headlines.
Talk of Kemmler having been set on fire and of his blood vessels bursting is sure to have damaged the reputation of AC but ultimately, despite Edison’s attempts to discredit the system, AC had become the standard output of electricity by the early twentieth century. The competition for supremacy had however set in motion a method which still stands today as people continue to be “Westinghoused” as a form of execution in numerous countries 123 years after William Kemmler.
Breaking Bad returns in less than two weeks!
The final chapter of the final season of one of the most intense shows of the past few years begins August 12.
Walter White surely one of the best characters of recent times.
An Ode to Football;
Two months of nothing but rugby and cricket,
Pretending to care about who takes the next wicket,
All that is second best when August rolls around,
And you make your way to that hallowed home ground,
You can cancel the golf or that trip to B&Q,
Finally no more free Saturday afternoons for you,
Away days planned and re-scheduling of Sunday dinner,
All so you can catch that 4pm kick-off – and not miss that last minute winner,
Back from your holidays and you should be all tanned,
Instead you’ve spent two weeks searching for free wifi or broadband,
Hours spent refreshing the club homepage, sky sports or twitter,
At least pre-season is done and the players look fitter,
Searching for signings that never appear,
The same old story year after year,
#breaking news, your club has made an enquiry,
#rejected, official statement; “the offer made was derisory”,
On the walk to the stadium everyone is in good cheer,
Supporters already craving that half time pie and a beer,
As kick-off approaches the same old terrace chants inevitably return,
Plus a few new ones lovingly created ready for the masses to learn,
You see familiar faces sitting in front and behind,
On the bench too, those fans favourites as well as those much maligned,
The manager has assured you the players are up for the fight,
And we all hope the ref’s have improved their eye-sight,
New home shirt on and season ticket in hand,
Anticipation is palpable as 3pm approaches all across the land,
Whether its hoof ball, route one, or all out attack,
The style is irrelevant just as long as football is back,
There will be those who look on with scorn and disparage,
But to you there is nothing better than an evening in with Manish and Claridge,
Of course there is hope of beginning next season with Match of the Day,
To Lineker and Hansen and United away,
With 46 games to go you can’t help but dream of promotion,
It’s the least you deserve after years of devotion,
Unbeaten runs and promotion by Christmas all seem within reason,
To coincide with the impressively pointless trivia being spouted by BBC presenters trying desperately to fill air time whilst pictures show nothing more than the outside of a hospital or some waving union jacks here is a list of 10 people the future King shares his birthdate with.
Because lets face it, we have all been wondering…
1) Dirk Kuyt
2) Willem Dafoe
3) Danny Glover
4) Stewart Downing
5) Shawn Michaels
6) Jimmy Hill
7) Selena Gomez
8) Joan of England, Queen of Scotland
9) Emma Lazarus (
scraping the barrel wrote some words under the statue of Liberty)
10) Rhys Ifans
The ones that got Away XI
Whether it be Hoddle and Waddle (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WACF8ID-To), Keegan’s “Head over heels in love” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MnMskejuvc),
Andy Andrew Cole’s 00’s R&B anthem (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9UHcRrCWlI), or Vinnie Jones hard man acting career (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gk17yncyzOg) we all know about those footballers who have ventured beyond the safety of the hallowed turf in search of fame and adulation in other spheres.
But what about the other side of the coin? Here is a look at some of those who got away; tempted by the bright lights of celebrity fame or other sporting pastures, these individuals either turned down a career in professional football or fell at the final hurdle.
GK – JULIO INGLESIAS
– Just look at him. The man contains enough swagger and confidence to control even the most unruly of defences. He has sold over 300 million records worldwide and released 80 albums yet it could all have been very different had he not suffered a serious car accident in 1963 which curtailed a promising goalkeeping career. While completing a law degree in Madrid, Iglesias occasionally turned out for Los Blancos feeder side Real Madrid Castilla and at 6ft 1 is a commanding presence in net.
Most likely to: Woo an opposition player’s better half.
RB – MICHAEL SHEEN
– The actor who, in recent times, has seemingly gone on a one man rampage to portray any famous British figure worth his salt in recent history was invited to enter Arsenal’s youth team at the age of 12 but his family refused to move from their native Wales. The man who has played Frost, Blair, and Kenneth Williams could give a fairly stirring half time team talk if he donned his Brian Clough persona too.
Most likely to: have identity issues on the pitch.
CB- GORDON RAMSAY
– Whilst Ramsay’s himself may have embellished his glittering Rangers career ever so slightly it still stands that the foul-mouthed celebrity chef did at least have trials with the Glasgow giants. A shoe in for the centre back role due in large part to his ability with words rather than his feet a back injury ensured channel four’s evening schedule was safe for years to come.
Most likely to: Get sent off for foul and abusive language.
CB- MATT SMITH
– Complimenting the physicality of Ramsay is Doctor Who star Smith as we search for the classic defensive partnership of strength and vision. Smith played youth football for Northampton Town, Nottingham Forest, and Leicester City alongside the likes of Michael Dawson and Jermaine Jenas and it was only after a recurring case of spondylosis that he turned to acting.
Most likely to: Metamorphose half way through the second half.
LB- STEVE HARRIS
– Iron maiden founding member and self confessed West Ham nut, slotting in at left back Steve Harris could have rivalled Stuart Pearce both in his position and music tastes. A trialist for his beloved club as a youngster Harris chose long haired rock and roll over the tightly nit perm fashionable with players at the time. Any man with a full sized football pitch in his back garden deserves a place in the starting line up.
Most likely to: compose a team anthem.
RW – GREG RUTHERFORD
– We all witnessed the pace of Rutherford as he galloped down the Olympic stadium long jump track to Gold medal fame last year and Rutherford could have been putting that pace to use on the touchlines of Premier league grounds having had trials with Aston Villa before turning his focus to athletics. Has football in his veins with his great grandfather Jock Rutherford having won 11 England caps in years gone by.
Most likely to: Win a penalty with a controversial foul just outside the centre circle penalty area.
CM – DAVID FROST (C)
– The old head of the team, Frost has both the confidence and intelligence to play that creative midfielder role. Before going on to become one of the most well-respected journalists in the country Frost turned down a professional contract with Nottingham Forest choosing instead to head to Cambridge University and subsequent stardom. Not sure many footballers have those options when signing pro contracts these days.
Most likely to: be sent out for the post-match interview.
CM – IAN BOTHAM
– Perhaps the individual with the most footballing pedigree, Botham combined his England test career with the odd game for Scunthorpe United and Yeovil Town in the mid-eighties amassing 11 games in the football league. The “commeth-the-hour commeth-the-man” role perfected as England captain could come in useful if in search of an injury time winner.
Most likely to: be seen on next week’s “showboat” section of Soccer AM.
LW – JOHNNY MARR
– Marr himself jokes he could have signed for Man City if they hadn’t been put off by his eyeliner. The foil to Morrisey in ‘The Smiths’ for a number of years Marr had trials for City and Forest (yet again!) before choosing to enter the world of 1980’s music. Would ghost down that left wing with a reserved confidence.
Most likely to: have his hairstyle copied by Leighton Baines.
CF – DARREN CAMPBELL
– Even if his first touch sends the ball 40 metres down field I wouldn’t bet against this man catching it. The former GB sprinter actually postponed his athletics career in 1995 at the age of 21 in pursuit of professional football. Subsequent trials followed at Plymouth Argyle, Newport County and Weymouth respectively, but a return to the track was imminent and the rest as they say is Olympic history. Now works for Cardiff City as sprint coach making the most qualified for the position of player-manager.
Most likely to: beat the offside trap.
CF – USAIN BOLT
– Creating perhaps the fastest front two in footballing history the six time Olympic gold medallist could have taken his pick of the sports as a youngster. Although never officially given the opportunity by a professional club he spent hours playing football in the streets before the sprint mad nation saw his potential. Rumoured to be making an appearance in Rio Ferdinand’s upcoming testimonial and with his height he would be a handful.
Most likely to: inspire a celebration copied across the nation on a Sunday morning.
Yuri thought himself in a position of inconvenience to say the least. But this time his renowned penchant for understatement was being tested. As he lay motionless on the floor of his 16th story, one bedroom apartment, in the same prone position he had occupied for the previous eighteen hours and thirty-six minutes (god bless his $2 watch from the market – who says you can’t get value these days he thought), his main concern was not why his body had suddenly refused to cooperate, but why no one seemed to care about his whereabouts.
No call from the warehouse foreman. No note from Mrs Donovan across the hall, even though he knew she would have been alone today on her daily 7.50am descent down the stairs. Nothing. If only he had plucked up the courage to give his number to that girl at the coffee shop then at least he would have been able to think of three people he could blame for not taking an interest.
If this had happened in his native Ukraine, he thought, he wouldn’t have been able to move for the commotion caused by his disappearance. As he chuckled at the irony of this last turn of phrase he shocked himself as the deep sound shattered the overwhelming silence. One more futile attempt to wiggle his toe followed before Yuri looked down at his watch once more. The second hand was no longer moving.