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The TRUTH behind Jack's patronising PR goodbye letter
Posted on the 6th August 2021 in the category sport



Pongo Waring left. Bruce Rioch left. Andy Gray left. Mark Walters left. Dwight Yorke left. Gareth Barry left. Benteke left. Fabian Delph left.


Even the Villa warewolf became a Blues fan.
 
And now Jack Grealish has left. 
Players leave football clubs, that's fine. Good luck Jack, but don't patronise us with an awful PR exercise. Whether it was his PR company or even worse, the Villa PR department, his goodbye letter is patronising pap of the highest/lowest order.
I've been a journalist for more than 20 years and have to see through PR shite for a living, whether it be politicians, the police or private companies. I don't like having to do it in my personal life.

So to save you the time, I've translated Jack's goodbye letter for you.....

I'VE BEEN AT ASTON VILLA FOR 19 YEARS AND HAVE BEEN A FAN ALL MY LIFE.
Err, how do I turn off the caps lock?

I'VE COME UP THROUGH THE RANKS AND CAPTAINED MY CLUB BACK TO THE TOP TIER OF ENGLISH FOOTBALL. 
As well as helping us get relegated in the first place.

IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO PUT MY FEELINGS INTO WORDS, BUT I WILL TRY.
I nicked this line from a Jessie J song I heard in Michu a few years ago.

WHEN I FIRST CAME TO VILLA I HAD MY OWN PERSONAL DREAMS AND AMBITIONS LIKE GETTING INTO THE FIRST TEAM, SCORING MY FIRST GOAL & SCORING THE WINNER IN A DERBY.
These are facts, not feelings.

IT WASN'T UNTIL WE GOT RELEGATED THAT I FELT A GREATER SENSE OF PURPOSE.
To play in the Champions League after setting my heart on a move to Spurs but they made the biggest none transfer blunder in British football.

EVERY TIME I WORE THE VILLA SHIRT I PLAYED WITH MY HEART ON MY SLEEVE.
And tiny shinpads which is why I miss loads of games a season with shinsplints. 

BEING GIVEN THE CAPTAINS ARMBAND WAS BOTH A PRIVILEGE AND AN HONOUR FOR ME AND MY FAMILY AND I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT.
Except for all those dirty looks from Tyrone Mings.

I WANT TO THANK THE MANAGER AND MY TEAMMATES I'LL NEVER FORGET WHAT WE ACHIEVED TOGETHER...AND THE FANS WHO HAVE SUPPORTED ME THROUGH EVERYTHING. I CAN'T THANK YOU ENOUGH.
Well, I could, I could stay and help us get into the Champions League in a few years time, I could be a Totti, a Shearer but I want to win stuff now. YOLO!

TO ALL MY COACHES AND PEOPLE WHO WORK BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE CLUB WHO HAVE DONE SO MUCH FOR ME OVER THE YEARS - THANK YOU.
Thanks for tipping me off when the drug tests were going to be, wink, wink!

I WILL ALWAYS BE A VILLA FAN.
Although I know supporting the team you support is nothing special, 99.99% of fans do that.

I LOVE THIS CLUB WITH ALL MY HEART AND I HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND MY REASONS FOR SEEKING A NEW CHALLENGE.
I'm guessing you are all telepathic because I've not told you why in this crappy goodbye letter.

THE CLUB ARE IN GREAT HANDS. 
Oooops, fire the proof reader, this should be "THE CLUB IS" not "ARE" as it's a single entity and not plural.

THE MANAGER, THE LADS, THE NEW SIGNINGS COMING IN. IT IS AN EXCITING TIME TO BE A VILLA FAN.
Not as exciting as it was a week ago when you had me as captain!

I'LL SEE YOU AGAIN SOON.
Kissing the Man City badge.
UNTIL NEXT TIME.
I patronise you.
UTV.
My new bosses wouldn't let me write SOTC.


JACK­­­



Racism wont ruin our golden Euros or mixed race future
Posted on the 15th July 2021 in the category sport



When the anger subsides. When the arguments about racism are forgotten and the career of Priti Patel is a distant memory, Euro 2021 will be remembered as a golden tournament.


England got to a major championship final for the first time in the colour television age and our country came together to cheer on a multi-coloured team in a multi-cultural country.

I watched the final in The Calthrope Arms, Handsworth, which is a shining beacon of what can happen when cultures mesh and something beautiful is created. The desi-pub phenomenon has saved countless boozers in the West Midlands with Sikh and Hindu landlords offering top notch Indian nosh with a pint removing the need for the late night stagger to a carpet wallpapered curry house.

I never understand any Englishman resenting a Commonwealth immigrant taking their birthright and living in Britain. Firstly, they've improved our culture and secondly, we kind of owe them for raping their countries to be the most powerful economy the world had ever seen, the after efffects we all still benefit from.

Every England game saw The Cally packed, by patrons of all ages, colours, races and religions, some women even came in the notoriously cock-heavy (pre-extension) pub. Look at the video of the penalty shoot out mayhem, the flailing limbs, joyous screams and gutteral howls of dismay were from a crowd who were mostly none white. 
That's the England I love, the inner-city mish mash of colours I grew up in.
Strongbow and a tandoori mixed grill, the best of British The best of British - Strongbow and a tandoori mixed grill

The knee-jerk racist minority of knobs who predectibly took to their keyboards to spew bile against those who fluffed their kicks are in the minority, the push back by the overwhelming decent majority proved this. And this being 2021 not everything is as it seems on the internet a lot of those racists were also Russian bots sewing the seeds of division in a democracy.
Social media has given everyone the chance to air their opinion and unsurprisingly there are a lot of stupid ignorant people ready to show the world just how daft they are. I see it everyday on my news feeds, people who I liked in real life, but knowing their innermost thoughts when something they are not clever enough to understand happens has made me think twice about associating them online or offline. And as for "our-eyes-only" Whatsapp groups, that's where true colours are shown despite everyone knowing I'm in a long-term mixed race relationship.
 
And its not all about race, the sheer abuse Gareth Southgate got throughout the tournament was sickening, he got us to the final. It reminds me of how Villa fans lose their minds when we lose a game and attack local manager Dean Smith as if he was a criminal.
But, Southgate lost us the final. Trying to defend for 45 minutes and sending one of youngest players to toil against wiley brilliant defenders was never going to work. The whole stadium would have erupted if he had brought on Grealish to torment a tiring team with a talent which even the ever-so-important stats back.
Then entering into extra-time knowing the Italians had a keeper with a 30% penalty save ratio, with the once-in-a-generation backing of a home crowd in a major final, and not to attack with our insanely talented players is unforgivable. If England were managed by Roberto Mancini we would have won, but we aren't and we lost.
The first World Cup game I remember properly was the Mexico 1986 quarter final between France and Brazil. After 70 minutes it was 1-1 and the legendary Zico was brought off the bench, he had not kicked the ball when Brazil was awarded a penalty, previous penalty taker Socrates was brushed aside so Pele's heir could score, but he missed. 
 
French keeper Bats, who saved from Russian player Ratz in the previous Euros, palmed the penalty away and went on to be the hero of the subsequent shoot out which saw Platini and co qualify for the semi-final where West Germany and certain arse-first goalkeeper lay in waitWhy am I bringing up Zico? Because it has been footballing common sense ever since no matter how good the player is they need to have a feel of the match, the ball, the atmoshphere and the pitch before taking a penalty. So bringing two players on to take penalties just before a shoot-out will not work.
However, Zico and football know-how are not things which factor into statistics. Gareth and his army of technocrats have number crunched penalties, they would have picked the penalty takers on this basis. 
Before the tournament one of the statmasters let it be known the data had shown players who wait more than five seconds after the whistle blows score more than those who 'rush' their kick. So the penalty takers would have been picked on data, not on common sense like not allowing a 19-year-old to take the deciding kick after he'd not had a sniff since coming on. 
We will never have a better chance to win anything again, the Qatar World Cup will be like playing in a boiling pan of piss and our players will wilt in the heat even if the organisers create the magical rainclouds they promised the bent FIFA officials who voted for their bent bid.
But getting to the final was wonderful. This was a much bigger achievement than Euro 96, whose team of household names only had four games before getting knocked out. Watch the Scotland and Spain game again and see how bad we were. But this Euro 2021 team played seven games, and we undefeated in 90 minutes, letting in only two goals. The reason why the whole country ground to a halt and 30m watched on TV because that's what happens when you go deep in competitions, the team takes the whole country with them and the hype after winning a semi-final rightly became reality.
I've always loved covering World Cups and European Championships as a local news journalist. Whether it be convincing a charity shop owner in Halesowen to dress her maniquins up in England colours or getting a butcher in Cradley to come up with Three Lions Faggots its the bonkers spin-offs and tall tournament tales I love.
During the last World Cup at the Metro I reported my mate Sophie's cheeky fundraising bid to get her to the semi-final, she got absolute pelters in the comments sections as a Muslim single mother trying to see her heroes - https://metro.co.uk/2018/07/02/single-mum-is-trying-to-crowdfund-trip-to-watch-the-world-cup-after-losing-500-1-bet-7676218/. Nothing made me happier on Sunday was seeing her face beaming on a Wembley seat for the final. 
Legendary antics by Villa lionesss Sophie 

This tournament I was doing a bit of PR for my old mate T8PES and his England single This Is Football and it seems a long time ago when we turned up to the Barton's Arms unannounced for a photo shoot before a football was even kicked. This Is Football gave me a tiny stake in the entire fandango and getting him in the Sun, Mirror, Star, Brum Mail etc for his take on fake England kits and his video uncannily captured what millions of us experienced on Sunday as we saw England in our first major final our lifetime. 
The final of course is, by definition, the end. Normally the end for England has come well before the end of the actual tournament. I've never let England's performance in tournaments effect my enjoyment of them. USA 1994 remains one of my favourite World Cups because I watched every game with my mates in the Little Crown, Perry Barr.  I always love the first two weeks, three games a day, all those fears and hopes bound up in nations' fortunes which can be scuppered by an own goal or elevated to ecstasy by journeyman's bicycle kick. 

What this Euro run has given us all is a chance to meet up, an excuse to ring a brother after too long, an opportunity to see friends when evil fridge calendars makes it an impossibility to get together, and when new girlfriends or boyfriends could be introduced to old friends. Seven times we congregated around screens with people we cared about.

After so long being locked away from each other this tournament has been wonderful, the return of fans for games has shown their importance to sport, broadcasts from empty stadiums share the sadness of the situation so seeing so many fans' limbs going in all directions and getting entwined with maskless strangers like Covid never existed was bostin to witness.
For a beautiful few days between the semi-final win and the last penalty kick the country seemed to come together to support our young team, who unlike their predesessors had bothered to bond themselves, who come from all parts of the nation, are black, white and mixed race and were unburdened by the failures of the 1990s and not suffocated by the ghost of 1966.

This team actually give a shit about something besides bedding beauties or grannies. Rashford, aged 23, seems to be the UK's only effectual opposition and feeds countless kids, Henderson coralled Premiership captains to help the NHS, Sterling stood tall under a barrage of blatant racism and the list goes on, any Villa fan will have plenty of stories of how Jack Grealish has gone out his way to help stricken fans. 
A footbaling tragedy quickly became a political football. And it took Villa's Tyrone Mings to brilliantly puncture it by calling out Priti Patel's crocodile tears over racism by pointing out her refusal to condemn fans booing our players taking a knee for racial equality, not for defunding the police or a bastadised Marxist version of the gesture made famous by Martin Luther King.
By Wednesday morning Conservative MPs were urging their colleagues  to rethink their condemnation of players taking the knee as they were very much on the wrong side of the argument.
Looking around the Calthorpe Arms during the penalty shoot out and seeing the sheer unadulterated support for England by so many none white supporters felt totally right, and new. If we had won there would have been a conga around the car park and god knows when the party would have finished.  As it was there was a cascade of keyboard strokes and monkey emojis from elsewhere abusing the three players who missed their kicks.

But the best thing is, the racists are on the wrong side of history, their country is not going to get whiter, it will become more beiger, and they will become angrier, there will never be an all white England footballing team again, it seems unthinkable even now. 
For some it will take the love for a brown grandchild to get their minds in the 21st Century but for others let them fester in their own anger, and both laugh and pity them in equal measure. We might have lost the match but we'll win the war, just ask that mixed race family enjoying a mixed grill at the Calthorpe Arms!

 




Goodbye Gorgeous George, the last of the hacks
Posted on the 17th June 2021 in the category sport



Gnarled.
Is a word I would use to describe George Makin.
As in a Gnared Hardbitten Hack.
George wasn't a journalist he was a hack.
For those middle class journalists who were straight A students, took media studies and dress up to go to work he wasn't one of you, he was one of us.
A working class hack.
George didn't get his stories from press releases he got his best tales from talking to humans.
Probably with a pint in front of both of them.
As my favourite compliment about a journalist goes (and one I was taken in the office of the Birmingham Mail by a posh news editor for repeating it on the phone)  you couldn't have a shit in Walsall without George smelling it.
There is a curry house in Walsall with a tree in it, it was the place to be in the 90s and 00s if you were a public sector bod wanting to end your week with a flourish.
George would be lying in wait ready for them to unload. He didn't have a notebook or a dictaphone but he would have his wits about him. And to use his wit to be good company as those around him, loosened their lips to unload. 
And whatever their motive, and there can be many, they gave him titbits, a steer here, a steer there.
The kind of one line throwaway line that would have turned George's stomach with that unique feeling of knowing a scoop was in play.
I'd listen to him the following Monday morning as he would try and stand up whatever tale he would have been told.
I was fresh to reporting trying to work out a way to turn my unrivalled cast of contacts and their bonkers tales into front pages.
The Walsall Advertiser team were the likable gunslingers of the newsroom. Edited by the loud, brash and brilliant Natalie with the affable bloke-next-door Ian Edmunds (RIP), the brainbending talent of John Newton and George. I wanted to be on their team but was scared I wouldn't cut it.
I'd earhole George despite being the other side of the office. He was a good ten years older than me but, unbeknownst to me then, had only been in the game couple of years before me.
But for all I knew at the time he was the star reporter at the Walsall Advertiser so I listened.
I listened, where others in the newsroom would have heard, George argue with press officers about stories.
He would call them liars. He would not back down. Even as you could hear his story fall apart he would not back down.
The thing is if you are a hack stories will fall down for the lack of being able to stand them up.
But just because you can't publish a story because of the legal requirements needed for your employer does not mean its not true.
And George would take the indignation of knowing a story was true but could not be published into the next story he was told.
And again, and again after that until he could stand a story up from a drunken tip off and write a front page which would effect every Walsall taxpayer..
I bristled at the snide comments about George. His attire, his growliness, he didn't drive, his half baked ideas (my favourite being when he walked into an Advertiser news meeting and declared they should write national news if nothing was happening) and lack of production.
One exclusive takes the work of 20 press release rewrites but probably has 2000 times the impact.
But the bean counters who've driven journalism into the ground don't care about society's good but only if their balancesheet's were bad.
So George was made redundant from the job he was perfect for. And his like, working class people who lived a life before journalism and saw the game as a trade not a profession, are no longer wanted or welcome in new world churnalism. 
I'd landed on my feet head first from my Obamaescapade with a job at the (Mighty) Halesowen News but always remembered George's comment when every former colleague was giving their critique of me after some buttoned up BBC type said I'd wrecked the reputation of British journalism with my viral hilariousness.
"Adam is the only journalist I've met who can walk into a blizzard and walk out the other side with ten stories not about the snow."
I took it as a compliment. I think it was meant as one.
So it saddened me when I saw a brilliant hack scratching around for PR work when his calling needed him more than ever. A job came up in my newsroom and I told him about it, he got an interview and I gave him some pointers the night before.
After his interview I heard the snarky comments about his unironed shirt, his over-emphasis on exclusives and admission he likes a good argument about stories. Hacks don't get employed anymore so I phoned him and told him he wouldn't be getting the job so he would not build his hopes up thinking he would be an asset to a newsroom only to be let down. His personality was too big for that part of the newsroom I didn't tell him I'd heard the phrase "we don't need two Adams here." I know he appreciated my honesty.
Fast forward a few years and it was me who was in the wilderness and him back in the game. I was so happy he was a Local Democracy Reporter and could read Appendix to find nuggets. He was covering Sandwell, a place where my shit smelling is unsurpassable, so I gave him tips when I was in London and back at home bashing out Soft Drink / Hard Area.
I saw him on the train in December 2019, he was on the way to a newsroom which is my natural environment but I was dressed head to toe in Labour apparell on the way to a much needed temporary job during the election.
We chatted, I could see the pity in his eyes as he asked me about any journalism opportunities despite both knowing I'm effectively blacklisted in Brum. But, more importantly I could see how happy he was when I explained there was an opportunity for an investigative journalism gig in Glasgow but I'd sacked it off because "I'd met the one" at a daytime rave in Perry Barr and wasn't going to leave her and Brum only to be made redundant in a few years.
He said: "Sounds like you've finally grown up, I've always said you'd be unstoppable if you settled down."
Since then he was always there with a comment about on Facebook ribbing me how I've ended up with a woman like Natalie. 
He was going to meet her for the first time on Sunday "to prove she's real" but he got spiked before that could happen. 
He was respected and rated by those who knew anything about journalism but more importantly he was loved by his wife and family and they will  be missing him more than anyone.
As for me, George is another reason why I should get my shit together and keep the flag flying for us dying breed of hacks. 

Read George's last ever story - here!



 

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