Row Z edition 65: dateline 2 May 2012

In keeping with the pre-Olympic mood Sideliner has taken the month off and left the column in the care of the work experience lass with strict instructions to make it cheery. As the Jubilympics get ever closer it is held to be inappropriate to be anything other than cheery.

Marching in, mush, marching in
Regular readers will have spotted in recent columns a slight tendency toward the Sotonian in some articles and it can now be revealed that Sideliner is, indeed, a Saint. The old beggar claims a genetic predisposition to supporting what we must now doubtless call Nigel Adkins’ Red and White Army, having inherited the team from parents both born and bred within the sound of bombs dropping on Southampton Docks. Despite being ignored by the BBC and belittled by the popular press, whose favour was always with Big Sam (Big Headed Sam, some would say) and his ‘Ammers, the Sainty Boys never left the second division’s top two and last week in a flurry of goals gleaned the final pointage required to re-enter the Kingdom of Mammon, aka the Premier League. Quite what it’s like trying to get a magazine produced when your boss’s team is struggling to avoid relegation from the top flight is something those of us with proper jobs look forward to experiencing.

Peake performance
And so to Manchester’s Royal Exchange and a matinee performance of the Maxine Peake vehicle Miss Julie. Billed as a “searingly honest portrait of the class system and human sexuality”, the play is essentially a two-hander between local lass Peake and Joe Armstrong, whose father Alun can be seen giving his Brian ‘Memory’ Lane in New Tricks on one satellite station or another most weekday afternoons. The production has been well received by people whose cultural references go beyond Shameless (Peake) and Robin Hood (Armstrong) but for our northern stringer the spaciousness of the Exchange worked against the claustrophobic mis en scene and the contradictions inherent in working-class lass Peake playing a fey aristo one suspension of disbelief too many. Nevertheless it was a pleasant afternoon and the discovery that a free bus now links the theatre with Piccadilly Station a very real bonus.

Coach not ego, FA shock
The appointment of cerebral polyglot Roy Hodgson to the post of England kickball manager came as a pleasant surprise to all those who dreaded strident, professional Cockney ’Arry Redknapp getting the nod. That Redknapp was acquitted on charges related to transfer impropriety does not detract from his air of moral shabbiness nor his reputation as one for whom ‘ducking and diving’ is a lifestyle choice. Our quiet satisfaction at seeing coaching excellence preferred to ego maintenance as the measure of a man was only heightened by the schadenfreude engendered by watching colleagues from elsewhere in the press corps scratching and spitting in dismay.

Coach not ego, RFU shock
It would seem that the new England kick and clap coach, Stewart Lancaster, is having trouble recruiting a colleague to look after the backs with both Wiganer Andy Farrell and Kiwi Wayne Smith finding themselves unable to commit to the role. The sporting press, yes them again, seem bent on making this a bad news story, seeking to imply that working with Lancaster or England or the RFU or all three would be some kind of poisoned chalice and ignoring, as they file their vitriolic copy, that Mike Catt has resigned from his job at London Irish in order to take the role on an interim basis. Catt may not have decades of coaching international teams on his CV but nor does he have the self-regard which such experience all too often brings with it and will dovetail well with the rest of the modest men now steering the Lilywhites. Just you wait and see.

Sport Makers making people wonder
Whisper it only but the scuttlebutt emanating from the leading edge of the Sport Makers project is that its fast turning into an exercise in ticking boxes and nest-feathering. “Ordinary people make an extraordinary difference to sport,” says Gail Emms in the promotional video and then, in case you missed it, she emphasises the word “difference”. So who is taking the time to sign up for the opportunity to undergo three hours of training and then deliver 10 hours of legacy-ensuring sport? Students. Essentially the only people who can find a need for this spurious piece of legacy promise validation are FE students who need something other than “worked for MacDonalds” on their CV. And the sport they are delivering? Well, since “a kickabout with their mates” is the headline suggestion, we needn’t be holding our breath for any Chris Chattaways* emerging just yet. Onlookers might expect the people managing this ill-conceived scheme to mention to the funders, Sport England, that it’s a bit of a crock but as one of their number said, off the record, “Why would we when we’re being paid whether it has any effect or not?”
*He started the London Marathon.

Bardathon Lite set for summer screening
Those of our readership who are both long in the tooth and long on culture will vaguely remember the BBC Bardathon which saw all of Shakespeare’s plays being shown week in week out on prime-time television and will doubtless look forward to this summer’s airing of the great man’s history plays. For those not in the know, these are the ones called after kings, but not Lear or Macbeth, obviously. Such is the drawing power of the project that the list of putative players includes all manner of thespian talent. Patrick Stewart will assay John of Gaunt, David Suchet will give his Duke of York and John Hurt has the unlikely role of The Chorus. As the marketing intern said, “It will be like Harry Potter but without the broomsticks.” Yes, child.





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