One Party vs. UKIP… and The Rest

UKIP won only their second seat in the House of Commons on Thursday in the eagerly anticipated dreaded Rochester & Strood by-election. With Nigel Farage’s party polling at approximately 15%, there is a genuine fear that the purple party can win a healthy number of seats next May. The prominence of ‘acceptable’ xenophobia seems to be rising with UKIP incessantly upping the ante of their anti-EU agenda and to great effect.

With the ascension of UKIP has come an ugly change to the two larger parties. In a frankly thinly veiled effort to win back support, both Labour and the Conservatives have championed a new approach to immigration policy in order to soothe the concerns of the electorate and tempt defected voters back on side. This week, Labour pledged to increase the deferral on immigrants claiming benefits for up to two years whilst the Conservatives have been branded ‘BNP-lite’. In essence, Nigel Farage may finally have a point, it appears Miliband and Cameron are hiding in the shadows from UKIP, but who exactly is speaking out for the 85% that aren’t worried by nefarious immigration scapegoating and the endless propaganda that aims to portray the EU in the same light as Emperor Palpatine’s galactic empire?

Last week, BBC’s Question Time took the bold approach of affording yet more time to discussing the issues of the ‘UKIP-ification of Lab-Con’, the NHS and UKIP themselves. One of the panellists, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown declared that no party had stood up to UKIP, which simply isn’t true. One party had stood up to UKIP a long time ago, but that party is still in the electorate’s bad books over a tuition fees clanger in 2010. The Liberal Democrats are not suddenly shouting anti-immigration and anti-EU rhetoric from the rooftops in the face of UKIP’s rise. In fact, the party has stuck to its principles, ironically given the party’s recent reputation for doing the opposite. Only Nick Clegg challenged Nigel Farage to a debate on the EU and immigration, Ed Milliband weaseled out of one as recently as a week ago. The Liberal Democrats were the only party of ‘in’ during May’s European elections, a bold strategy given the relentless tide of Europhobia in the right-wing press. Just what is this obsession with immigrants anyway? Studies have shown that immigration benefits the crown jewel of British politics, the National Health Service and has contributed £25billion to the British tax fund in recent years. Why are we talking about this so much when benefit thieves are more likely to be British, just as the tax evaders who are bigger burdens on the nation’s economy. Why are we not discussing this in as great a depth?

Too, the Lib Dems are having to battle a dogged tide of populism heading in to next May’s General Election. Given the tuition fee debacle, the party’s unrivalled efforts to challenge UKIP’s deceitful campaigning has largely fallen on deaf ears. Of course, nowadays we’re all expected to humour and indeed hate the Liberal Democrats, having failed to deliver the abolition of tuition fees and then raising them in line with the Conservatives ideals instead. Truthfully, that decision was a major blow to the party’s plans in governments, whilst it allowed them to deliver other policies such as equal marriage and a higher income tax threshold, it did alienate student voters – and understandably so. Of course, the reason the policy couldn’t be enacted was the stubborn opposition from the Tories and Labour, meaning only a majority for the Lib Dems in May would have been enough to realise the policy. Of course, the Lib Dems have made the issue of repayment far easier than under Labour, who bizarrely seem to be winning support from students themselves. As it were, the policy was undeliverable and Nick Clegg was forced to apologise for a policy he would have only been able to implement with 326 seats – but the party are still being battered in the polls, largely because of this slight misbehaviour. Did the Conservatives apologise for U-turns of reorganisation of the NHS or cuts to public spending? Have Labour apologised for abandoning ‘moral politics’ and launching a new initiative against migrants? So then, why are views like Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s in that we ‘don’t trust the Lib Dems’ but trust Labour and the Tories so common? Is it really fair that the Lib Dems have taken such a hammering compared to the rest of the ‘establishment’? Will the Greens face the some blockade of disdain when they find that free higher education is undeliverable for the mean time too? The answer to the last two is probably not.

The widespread concern for UKIP’s place in the General Election next year is fair and founded. Nigel Farage’s ‘army’ is increasingly sounding like the self-professed ‘racist’ British National Party – in fact, a clip of Chris Huhne’s reaction to Nick Griffin’s policy on Question Time, a few years ago seems to mirror many of UKIP’s stances now. Their dubious morals are constantly under scrutiny and in truth detailing the never-ending list of the party’s gaffes would be tiring and depressing, especially as it never seems to dampen support. It’s time we as a righteous, moralistic electorate put UKIP to the sword like the Liberal Democrats have been for months. As Brian Paddick put it on Twitter; if you hate what UKIP and now Labour and the Conservatives stand for, then it’s time to reconsider voting Liberal Democrat.

Pearson, Sort it Out!

Currently, there’s a widespread feeling of confusion at Filbert Way. After an impressive haul of eight points against Arsenal, Everton, Chelsea, Stoke and Manchester United, the Foxes have failed to pick up more than a solitary point against less fancied outfits Crystal Palace, Burnley, Newcastle, Swansea and West Brom – as well as high-flying Southampton. Begging the question; what on earth has happened to Leicester City?

I’m not usually a fan of phrases like “typical Leicester” or “classic City”. They’re constantly used with pessimistic connotations and are synonymous with the sort of banally arrogant fatalism that’s spouted by nearly every football fan the nation over. However, Leicester’s recent glitch does seem to resonate with our rather regrettable tradition of helping those on a bad run – be they Newcastle, Swansea or Shane Long. At least, that’s all I thought it was until one point in four became one point in five which then became one point in six.

Last season, Leicester were a beacon of stability. The formidable system of 4-4-2 was seldom tinkered with, and the same could be said for the personnel. Crucially, it seemed the Championship’s big-hitters of last term; Leicester, Burnley, Derby etc., all used the fewest amount of players in the league. Consistency in selection led to consistent results.

I’m sure monotony, as you may dub it, is quite in tune with City manager Nigel Pearson’s appearance. However, in recent weeks he seems to have deviated from that image. Leicester have started their last six games in no less than five different systems with the starting eleven from the previous game failing to survive intact for the next game once.

Under-pressure… Nigel Pearson’s tactics have been slated by many Leicester fans

And as much as I admire his work at the club thus far, Nigel Pearson ought to take a sizeable portion of the culpability for the recent blip. The manager’s defensive and dismissive attitude when it comes to discussing tactics with the media has been challenged lately as he’s been keener to explore different set-ups – it appears Pearson may have bought in to the anti-4-4-2 rhetoric of the Premier League’s experts. Persistent tinkering is surely counter-productive, particularly when that very tinkering has the side lining up to match West Bromwich Albion’s threat at home. Talks of a confidence crisis have been rife on City forums, and with the manager not placing ample faith in his side to undo Albion playing to their strengths there would be no surprise if there was some substance to it.

There too have been repeated calls of a reversion to Leicester’s favoured 4-4-2 system, to include more width in to the side’s play, be it tactically en vogue or not.  City’s strikers that started the most recent league outing at St. Mary’s, Leonardo Ulloa and Jamie Vardy have scored six goals between them this season, all of them, bar a penalty against Manchester United have come from wide positions. In fact, since Pearson sacrificed width for whatever he feels the side has gained since, I can barely remember the pair having a shot on target between them.

On top of this, the Foxes seem content enough to continually invite pressure on themselves away from home, looking to absorb any threat and then cannon the ball back out to the opposition – at least we appear to have learned the art of defending set pieces, not that we could score one at the other end in a month of Sundays. Simply put though, Leicester are not good enough to play the containing game away from home and consistently pick up points. Our best players are attackers, and as clichéd as it sounds, they need to be a form of defence for us away from home as much as the defenders do.

Cursed… The out-of-form Foxes have been unlucky in recent weeks

Don’t get me wrong, Nigel Pearson has been a superb manager for the club and to want his dismissal at this moment in time would be lunacy but his decisions of late have definitely raised eyebrows. His persistence with isolating previously free-scoring Leonardo Ulloa up top and his desire to transform our best striker in Jamie Vardy in to a makeshift winger have been thoroughly ineffective and ultimately a waste of time. It seems clear to everyone in the stands that Nigel needs to discover his best eleven and start playing to our strengths, home and away – like he said he was going to before the start of the current campaign.

Of course, it’s also true that this slump is not all the manager’s fault. The current Leicester team(s) haven’t really looked like scoring in their last six matches, summed up perfectly by Chris Wood’s unthinkable miss on the South Coast. On top of that, our passing game has been erratic, rushed and panicked for weeks. Leicester’s attacking and defensive strengths seem to be depreciating simultaneously but despite it not being all down to Nigel Pearson – it’s his job to fix it.

However, it’s important to remember that the sides that fought gallantly against the country’s footballing elite are all still here, they just need to be unearthed again. Maybe, it’s time to do away with what others think and go and play Leicester City’s game, and perhaps, in Football Manager terms switch the mentality from ‘contain’ back to ‘counter’ away from home– it wasn’t working too badly in August and September. I’m not having the suggestion that we aren’t good enough for this level because we are – we’ve seen it, it just needs to be reproduced again and again. But with all this being said, it’s imperative we as fans don’t lose hope and our patience with Nigel Pearson – he’ll sort it all out with time to spare, and so will the players.

Make Britain Tolerant: Leicester Is British

What exactly is British? Winston Churchill? Cups of tea? Rain?

‘British’ means anything you want it to. I had hoped that too would be the message of Channel 4’s Make Leicester British documentary which aired on Monday night – yet it wasn’t to be.

From the introductory seconds, the programme started on with the anti-immigration attitude I quietly dreaded. Several clips positioned at the front of the documentary insinuated that Leicester had been conquered by settlers, that ‘British’ identity was being vanquished in the city and that Britons, white, black and Asian alike were all amalgamated in their derision of the new economic and crime scapegoats; the Eastern Europeans.

It appeared that the documentary was loaded from the start, with the ostensibly biased casting including an unemployed Somalian Muslim on benefits, a Polish woman whose very slight toil with the English language was opportunistically latched upon by the sensationalist eagles at Channel 4, and of course, two sympathetic White Britons who were not once publicised in a damaging light, unlike the other six participants. The programme went on to explore how these people could co-exist together, continually emphasising Leicester’s afflicted obligation to verify that multiculturalism is a feasible reality in modern Britain. The viewer was afforded a few moments of modest redemption in which the participants from diverse cultures were able to enrich the lives of the others with their alternative lifestyle. However, those peeps in to multiculturalism at work were habitually misplace in between the near single-mindedness on division, in which the documentary was even left on the note of two women of differing religions re-entering in to an irreconcilable conflict.

The researchers led the spectator to believe that Leicester is a city of tribal conflict, that citizens from every sub-culture were left fighting a silent war of acrimony on the city’s very streets. However, the real experiences of the people of Leicester generally rejected that opinion. In a small poll I ran on my social media page, 78% felt the show misrepresented the city and only 29% of Leicesterians felt there was any sort of ethnic tensions in the city whatsoever. In truth, growing up and living in Leicester is for many people a very heartening experience. It’s a city where Christmas and Diwali hold similar status in the eyes of the council and the locals alike. Growing up in the city’s suburbs, I was educated on the city’s varied population and given the opportunity to visit Gurdwaras, Hindu Temples, Churches, Synagogues and Mosques, all of which were hospitable, enlightening and crucially, integrated.

Regrettably, the tone of the piece is very much indicative of the climate of xenophobia that has spread across the country. As mentioned, the documentary was profoundly dependent on migrant typecasts such as immigrants being benefit thieves when in fact research shows the contrary. Immigrants are 45% less likely to claim benefits and recent settlers have made a net contribution of £25bn to the national tax fund; £8.8bn more than they withdrew, 26% of NHS doctors are foreign-born. The programme demonstrated an impassioned row with plenty of xenophobic rhetoric was – it seems the recipe for media viewership at the minute is to villainise and segregate the ‘other’. Yes, experiences within the city will fluctuate but any difficulties are few and far between.  The programme’s subservience to the far-right tabloid agenda was incredibly disheartening and particularly insulting to the wonderfully harmonious city that I call home.

It is thoroughly inappropriate for Channel 4 to stir the pot of neophobia with loaded titles that intimate a city is not authentically ‘British’. ‘British’ to me means tolerance, respect, diversity and equality. In those terms, Leicester is as prototypically ‘British’ as you can get. The same cannot be said for the British media, works like Make Leicester British continue to fail and insult the British public.

It always puzzles me as to what people’s issues are with immigrants. I want to close this post with what’s hopefully a sobering thought; your hometown, no matter where you live, is full of strangers. Why does it matter what ethnicity those strangers are?

So far so good… sort of

It’s been a strange return to the Premier League so far for the Foxes. An impressive of haul of eight points against Arsenal, Everton, Chelsea, Stoke and Manchester United has been followed up by the embarrassing return of just one point against Palace, Burnley and Newcastle. A fiery start to the new campaign has quickly been extinguished in a seemingly typical fashion.

I’m not usually a fan of phrases like “typical Leicester” or “classic City”. It’s always used with negative connotations and it’s the sort of arrogant fatalism spouted by nearly all football fans the nation over. However, Leicester’s recent blip does seem to resonate with our rather unfortunate habit of helping teams on a bad run. Like other Foxes fans, I’ve noticed on many occasions that periods of bad and indeed good form end against City. In fact, I’ve often said that all runs come to an end at the King Power Stadium – no matter if the visitors are winless Conference North Hyde or the impenetrable Barcelona on the back of their ninth consecutive clean sheet.

This has certainly proven to be the case in City’s last three outings. Crystal Palace were without a home win in the current campaign before Leicester turned up and relinquished three points from two atrociously defended set pieces. Burnley had waited six league games to find the back of the net following their opening day defeat to Chelsea, and Claret goals proved to be like London buses as Burnley rocked up to Filbert Way, scored twice, and deservedly stole a point from a lacklustre Leicester side. And then of course just yesterday, Leicester travelled to winless Newcastle United and believe it or not, lost.

Given this odd bit of trivia, it certainly doesn’t bode well for the Foxes that our next opponents are a Swansea City side without a win in five. Gulp. The Swans are certainly not a bad side either, and I’d be willing to bet that their first four games are more indicative of how their season will go than their last few. It feels like City never do well in South Wales too, with Leicester’s last success in Swansea coming in 1986, although, we’ve only met twice since then.

Leicester travel to Swansea next Saturday in the hope of recapturing our previously held panache. Many theories have been floated on social media as to what is the cause for City’s downturn in form. Some have pointed out that a failure to start with what is perceived as our strongest team, has left us looking for points too late on. Others have noted that an inconsistent team is leading to unsettled form, the opposite of Leicester’s system last term.

I personally would welcome a return to the 4-4-2 system of last campaign that served us so well. I’d also advocate for Jamie Vardy starting in a central role so he can pounce on through balls like a bloodthirsty jaguar. I would also like to see Riyad Mahrez start. Admittedly, playing him yesterday would have been a bit of a stretch given his international commitments but the Algerian is capable of changing any game, particularly in his current purple patch of form.

These are just my suggestions and whatever the problem(s) is/are, it’s important to remember that form is temporary and to stay supportive of the side. I share everyone’s frustrations that we aren’t collecting as many points as we should be. After all, if we can take five points from Arsenal, Everton and Manchester United, we should be able to beat Burnley and co.

Unfortunately, football isn’t like that. Leicester are doing okay though and that’s what’s important – we’re on course to achieve our targets and we have proven on our day, we can be a match for every side in the division. The results may not be glittering but the signs are still good for the Foxes – so until our good form returns, until our strikers rediscover their ruthlessness, until our midfield returns to being unplayable and until our defence becomes immovable again all we can do is back the team and the manager. Foxes never quit, keep the faith, blah blah blah.

The Misrepresentation of a Party: Don’t discount the Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are currently considered toxic in British politics. In between the last general election and the upcoming election in 2015, the party has fallen from 25% to 6% in the opinion polls.

Criticism for the party has largely stemmed from what was perceived as an ill-informed decision to enter in to a coalition with the Conservatives, and the party’s inability to scrap university tuition fees; inability being the key word. The party’s decision to enter in to government with the Conservatives was controversial but it must be understood that this was a rare opportunity for the party to enact some of their own policies. Unfortunately, the Liberal Democrats could not scrap tuition fees without backing from either the Conservatives or Labour – and they didn’t get it. Although, it wasn’t all bad news, the party has managed to make the issue of repaying tuition fees far easier. However, the electorate, particularly it’s student portion of which Lib Dem support has been traditionally quite reliant is still not satisfied with that and given Scotland’s amnesty from further education debt, that is understandable. In an uncommon twist, the party leader Nick Clegg, who is routinely and often unfairly lambasted and belittled by the wider media and public, apologised for not being able to deliver on this policy – even though the influence of a junior party in a coalition government is greatly constrained. I understand the grievance with the party on this issue; I cannot fathom nor express how frustrated it makes me that this however is accredited to the ‘downfall’ of the Lib Dems. Especially seeing as any resentments held against the Conservatives for their failure to deliver an EU referendum as promised (The Lib Dems are too committed to one by the way), Labour for their economic incompetency or Ukip for their immeasurable number of faux pas are seemingly non-existent.

The Liberal Democrats do not hold as much sway in the media as its opponents. The newspapers in this nation largely lean towards the Conservatives and more recently have begun to serve the right-wing populist agenda of Ukip. In opposition, many newspapers also back the Labour party. As a result, the accomplishments of the party in government are not well-documented or at least, are easily steamrolled by the two larger parties. For instance, the movement for equal marriage was only in one party’s manifesto; the Liberal Democrats’. The Labour party, try as they may, cannot take credit for the Liberals’ work like they did in the mid 20th-century. Likewise, the Conservatives cannot legitimately profess to have toppled Labour’s mess alone. The Lib Dems have played a crucial role in reversing the fiscal devastation left for them. The Tories then tried to reap the praise for the raising of the income tax threshold to £10,000 which is and always has been a Liberal-driven policy – as are the plans to take that step further by raising it once more to £12,500 after 2015.

As well as this, the Liberal Democrats have helped cut immigration in government, eliminated the deplorable practice of detaining innocent children for immigration purposes under Labour. The party are the only ones standing in the ‘IN’ camp of the European Union, surely casting off the ‘wishy-washy’, non-committal reputation the party has. The party has helped boost the number of apprenticeships and has helped create over a million new jobs in the private sector whilst in government. The party has blocked Tory plans to let schools be run for profit, to give millionaires inheritance tax cuts and have cleaned up Labour’s economic nightmare.

In the upcoming election, the Liberal Democrats are the only party continuing to champion LGBT+ rights, the only party taking a serious stance on the drastically serious issue of female genital mutilation, the only party supporting the rights of football fans to enjoy the game without being discriminated against - as well as campaigning for safe standing in English football stadia. The party is also dedicated to reforming unfair drug laws that would stop those in possession of drugs from facing jail time. As well as this, the Liberal Democrats are aiming to criminalise the frighteningly more common acts of ‘revenge porn’. This week, the Lib Dems have come forward as the only major party committed to treating mental illness as seriously as physical ailments.

Liberalism is not irrelevant, no matter what the media says. This brand of politics will always be in demand in this country – it has just fallen on hard times. Obviously, I am writing this with an agenda. I am a proud Liberal Democrat and it would be naive and hypocritical of me to share my views with you like the biased newspapers. But, it’s vital that the electorate don’t rule the Liberal Democrats out of the race. We still have a lot to offer, do your research, and read up on the party’s success and future plans. The fight of our lives is on its way and the Lib Dems have a better chance than you think.

How 9 Years of Television Were Just About Saved in Four and a Half Minutes

And relax…at the end of last week, the highly anticipated alternative REAL ending was leaked on to the internet and thank goodness it was. I really really like How I Met Your Mother. It never made me laugh consistently but it had a lot of heart, a great story, a unique gimmick and characters you cared about. Yeah, it was quite funny and easy to watch but its biggest triumph was making characters care so much about Ted, Barney, Robin, Lily, Marshall and Tracy. In April, I wrote about how Carter Bays and Craig Thomas’ ill-conceived finale basically ruined the nine years of TV that preceded it, so it seems only fair that now they’ve tried to correct their glaring faux pas, that we look at what went right and what still didn’t…

+ - Ted didn’t end up with Robin

Hallelujah! The fact that the blue french horn peskily found a way to trump the yellow umbrella back in March was without doubt the worst part of the finale – and that’s no mean feat! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Ted and Robin make no sense. Maybe they did in 2005 but after nine long years of watching the pair develop, there’s simply no way. I’m still annoyed at the ridiculous U-turn of the writers in the original ending especially because it was probably just so they could use archive footage. Urgh. Thankfully, Robin can be my favourite character again. The meeting (what the show was about) between Ted and Tracy was sufficient for the viewers and it was right to end the episode there.

Fulfilling… Ted meets Tracy and she doesn’t die! Hooray!

+ - Ted’s recap of the series

I don’t usually like self-appreciating shows but HIMYM probably deserved a moment of reflection in the finale. Ted recapping the long journey that led him to the mother, was far more respectful to her character and the show itself than having him disregard this journey as an afterthought in order to pursue Robin. It gave us a happy reflection on Ted’s irritating quest for the one, allowing the series to cap off it’s achievements on screen.

 - Ted not visibly addressing the kids

I know, it’s a really small detail but it seemed right that the last line – “and that kids, is how I met your mother” – was spoken visibly to the children by future Ted, just before the visual credits. Of course, had they gone with the correct ending in the first place I’d imagine that small creases like this would have been ironed out.

+ - The implication that Barney and Robin got back together

As a fervent supporter of Robin & Barney over Robin & Ted this was the most satisfying part. The finale’s ending wasn’t the only thing that was wrong with it – the rest wasn’t good either. I had real concerns when the alternate ending was announced that Robin and Barney would remain separated. After all, they broke up earlier in the episode and no new footage was filmed to piece together a different climax. However, future Ted’s narration about the tribulations of life and how things “things fall apart, things get put back together” as the camera pans to Robin and Barney exchanging glances at Ted and Tracy’s wedding. It also bodes well that in Ted’s recap of his story that Barney and Robin falling for each other was included and their divorce wasn’t. Long live Stinsbatsky!

Reunited? The right couple may have survived after all.

 - The change of music

I’m definitely being pernickety here but my favourite thing – scratch that – basically the only thing I liked about the original ending was the music. The Walkman’s ‘Heaven’ carried on a long tradition of the show using great songs to escalate the emotion of certain moments and it was the perfect nostalgic track to see the show out. I seriously love that song.

+ - The clip of the dancing yellow umbrella

After all, the yellow umbrella was what the show was all about. Not the blue french horn. It was NEVER about the blue french horn.

So there we have it, the alternate ending was simply unquantifiably better than the original. Thank you, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas for rectifying your horrendous blunder. I think it’s best we all pretend that the original ending never happened. At least now, I won’t have to sell my HIMYM boxset on eBay.

The Death Penalty Should Stay Dead

One of the more arduous, repetitive and indeed controversial political debates currently is that of the death penalty’s restoration. Having not seen an execution for fifty years, recent high-profile crimes such as the murder of Lee Rigby have sparked some support for reintroduction of capital punishment. In fact, Ukip MEP Louise Bours stoked the discussions last week by hinting that Ukip may be in support of the re-introduction.

With an issue like this, there are always strong feelings on either side. Those in favour of reintroduction say it will mean the worst of criminals pay the ultimate price, the families of the victims will get ‘closure’ and it will stop tax-payers funding criminals’ prison life.

However, it isn’t that simple. How are we supposed to teach lessons to criminals if we kill them for their crimes? They won’t suffer, they’re dead. Is it not the ultimate hypocrisy of the justice system to punish killing by killing? Should we not deter society from killing by never using it to solve problems? It’s also short-sighted to assume that victims’ families want the death penalty reintroduced too, with many speaking out against the penalty.

The death penalty is not even a sufficient deterrent of crime. The UK’s homicide rate is 18 times lower than the United States, where they do utilise execution. It’s not even cost-effective to kill violent criminals either, a common misconception is that the death penalty is cheaper than keeping criminals in prison for life – but it isn’t. In the United States, those sentenced to death can end up costing the tax-payer four times as much as those given lifetime incarceration. Those on death row often appeal and can end up waiting for execution for up to twenty years, which hardly solves the prison overpopulation problem either.

And just what are we to do if a jury reaches an incorrect verdict and innocent man or woman is charged with murder and subsequently put to death? Do we then send the executioner to death for what would be the killing of an innocent person? Do we kill the jury too? These cases, although rare do happen – it only takes one instance for this potential law to be thrown in to disrepute.

As far as Ukip goes, Louise Bours support for this motion’s reintroduction reeks of right-wing populism. She’s probably just testing the waters to see if they can ram this in to their manifesto for later this year. Either that, or they hate the EU that much that they simply cannot stand that the organisation opposes the death penalty too. In reality, the death penalty is expensive, labourious, hypocritical and barbaric. Journeying back to a bygone era where brutality was an acceptable resolution is not the answer, as is shown by the USA’s higher crime rate. I don’t think it’s wrong to feel vengeful in situations like these. Of course, those supporting the death penalty have a point – these people don’t deserve to live whilst their victims don’t. Financially, the death penalty isn’t beneficial – let the criminals suffer in prison, their life can be taken away from them without death.

FAO: Leicester City Supporters

Yesterday, top-flight football finally returned to Filbert Way. An exhilarating game ended 2-2 as a weakened Leicester side more than spurred a quality Everton outfit. An 86th minute equaliser from the Foxes was welcomed by a wall of noise that in truth encapsulated the King Power Stadium for match of the 90 minutes but for some, it still it isn’t enough.

Since the inception of ‘identikit soulless bowls’, of which we’re proud owners, home atmospheres have been routinely slated. Our home atmosphere has been steadily improving for the last few years, it’s still not as good as Filbo’s – it never will be. As a group, we’re probably a little hard on ourselves. Having followed City away for years, I can safely say we’re above average at home. Of course it fluctuates and sometimes the atmosphere is dead but such is the nature of the beast.

Anyway, getting to the point, yesterday’s atmosphere was raucous. Our supporters have received acclaim from other football fans, press, pundits etc. but in turn we’ve also received criticism (mostly from Everton fans).

Firstly for the goal music. Okay, no one wants goal music but this isn’t something we as fans control, like having ‘Hey Jude’ played instead of ‘When You’re Smiling’ and Lee Jobber’s irritating drum. It’s not like our goal music is loud either. I cannot count how many times fans have left the ground asking “did we not play goal music today? I didn’t hear it”. It’s certainly not even close to the deafening sounds of Chelsea Dagger that literally mute the Forest fans at the City Ground.

However, the major complaint was ‘the poznan’. Okay, it’s not ours. It’s not Man City’s either and while we’re on the subject, Crystal Palace did not start the ‘We Love You’ chant they just popularised it here in England. We’ve done that with chants too you know, without being uppity about it. The celebration was only adopted to parody the Citizens during an FA Cup tie three years ago and it probably should have died a death when they showed us how to perform it during last season’s League Cup meeting – but it didn’t.

For the record, I don’t like it. Having watched the poznan on Saturday instead of doing it, I realised it looks a bit naff when the whole ground isn’t joining in but suggestions that it needs to be ‘binned’ or ‘axed’ or ‘banned’ are a bit over the top. You can’t ban a celebration -we would all be moaning more if the celebrations were muted and nobody did anything following a goal. Actually, why are those partaking in it more at fault than those that aren’t? Wouldn’t it be ‘amazing’ if the whole stadium did it?

What’s really embarrassing, is that fans only seem to want to lead a charge against the poznan now because we’re in the Premier League and other fans are criticising our support. Who cares what they think? We should have some self respect and ignore their opinions. It’s great that people are currently so enthusiastic about improving (or maintaining) yesterday’s atmosphere but maybe just sign up and follow the activities of Filbo Spirit rather than attacking fans who are trying to support the team.

 

Football is in Debt to its LGBT Fans

It’s 2014 and there are still no openly LGBT people in English football. Not a manager, a player, nor even a physio. Other sporting organisations in the traditionally more conservative United States such as the NFL and the WWE and even Rugby Union and cricket here are streets ahead of ‘the beautiful game’ when it comes to equality.

Homophobia is still a huge problem in English football. The FA and the 92 league clubs are, in my opinion doing little to combat anti-LGBT perceptions on the pitch and in the stands. When I corresponded with the FA, they were proud to boast of several initiatives they had backed including Opening Doors and Joining In and Football vs. Homophobia. Other than placing their name on a few programs, the visibility of the FA’s work is scarce to say the least. In fact, the campaigns they allegedly support haven’t had much success with England’s top clubs either. Just over a quarter of the ninety-two Premier League and Football League clubs are signed up to the Football vs. Homophobia campaign.

The FA has had numerous opportunities to avow its pledge to opposing homophobia but refuses to comment on the provocative choices of Russia and Qatar for the following two World Cups. Sadly, it seems there was greater tumult in the footballing world, when it was alleged that the decision was the product of a payoff rather than the fact the bribers were from a country that incarcerates homosexuals?

The biggest problem is the non-existence of ‘out’ footballing personnel – and the absence of transparency. In recent years, high-profile names such as Thomas Hitzlsperger and Robbie Rogers have come out as gay. The former waited until he was retired to do so and the latter felt he’d be safer from abuse and judgement in the United States, where social conservatism is almost sacred. If that doesn’t highlight the problem then I don’t know what will.

Just this week Malky Mackay and Iain Moody were accused of sending homophobic texts as well as racist and sexist ones, using phrases such as ‘independently minded young homo’ and ‘gay snake’. Imagine being a young gay footballer working under people with those views. In a truly appalling follow-up the League Manager’s Association dismissed Mackay’s and Moody’s heinous behaviour as ‘banter’ and the pair ‘blowing off steam’. Football doesn’t take the issue seriously. Last season, footballers and managers were given the opportunity to showcase their support for LGBT people in football by supporting Paddy Power and Stonewall’s Right Behind Gay Footballers rainbow laces campaign but most didn’t lace up. Only one player from my club did so, which is demoralising – every player in the top six divisions received the laces for free.

It’s important that fans, players and footballing bodies alike make LGBT players feel comfortable to not hide who they are. A recent poll found that 73% of English fans would accept a gay player in either their club or national team, even when we account for demand characteristics and social desirability bias; we can be nigh on certain that the majority of football fans would embrace or at least tolerate more LGBT personnel in the English game. So, we need to ask ourselves why players are still so petrified.

It’s time for football to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. It’s not enough to say you’re anti-homophobia but do nothing about it. The FA, the Premier League and the Football League need to introduce high visibility initiatives to make gay footballers feel safe enough to ‘come out’ and hopefully soon – that’s the best way to rid the game of homophobia. For too long, football fans have put banter ahead of equality, shoddily made Richard Keys vines ahead of an all-encompassing environment. Seriously, it’s 2014. There are more openly gay active NFL players and WWE wrestlers than there are openly gay players in English football. Our sport may be the world’s best but when it comes to a Premier League for equality; football is doing a Derby County.

Leicester is better than Nottingham

The title says it all. Leicester is better than Nottingham and that’s all there is to it. Today, the Leicester Mercury published an opinion piece from budding journalist Catherine Hancock (who I’m sure is lovely by the way) detailing why she thought that Nottingham was the top city in the East Midlands. Of course, you can’t expect me to read that and not respond, so let’s travel through Catherine’s arguments and unhinge them bit by bit.

Like Catherine, we’ll start with sport. Leicester has a Premier League football team. Nottingham doesn’t. Those are the facts. Actually, our northern neighbours haven’t graced the top-flight since 1999, a time when S Club 7 and Steps were still dominating the charts. Forest fans, as we all know, love a good history lesson but their triumphs under Brian Clough are not really relevant now. Not only does Leicester boast a Premier League football team, we’re also the home of the Rugby Union’s most successful ever club, the Leicester Tigers, with ten Premiership titles to their name. Add the only cricket club to have won the Twenty20 Cup more than once and the country’s oldest basketball club (and current cup champions) in to the mix and you’ve got a true sporting city,unlike the underachieving Nottingham.

And if we’re simply talking sporting icons, how can you look further than England legends Gary Lineker and Peter Shilton, who both hail from the city? And who can forget the Jester from Leicester Mark Selby who won 2014’s World Snooker Championship?

When we’re talking music, Leicester once again reigns supreme. How can you argue with Showaddywaddy, Mark Morrison, Engelbert Humperdinck, X Factor champ Sam Bailey and of course, the crème de la crème; Kasabian? Are we to submit all of these music icons to that miserable Jake Bugg? I don’t think so.

Let’s not forget that Leicester was also the city that brought up the legendary Attenborough brothers – you’re welcome, Earth.

Apparently, Nottingham is also ‘the city of history’ too, because it’s the ‘home’ of Robin Hood, who could well be fictional. Leicester’s local Maryland Chicken chains have more history than that. Leicester can boast to be one of the country’s oldest settlements, as well as one of it’s most populated (more than Nottingham). It was also, the place Richard III met his maker, and was discovered some 530 years after he died – he wasn’t fictional.

Catherine also said that Quentin Tarantino chose Nottingham to be the location of one of Pulp Fiction’s premières – which I admit is quite cool. However, it doesn’t quite have the same honour as Queen Elizabeth II hand-picking Leicester as the first stop on her Diamond jubilee tour in 2012.

In fact if the cities were to go head-to-head Nottingham would be knocked out in the second round. Nottingham is the country’s singleton, bad breath and crime capital – quite a resumé, I know. We could stretch even further and call Nottingham the obese capital, if we were to include Bassetlaw in north Notts.  There’s actually such a gap in quality between the two cities that your life expectancy increases five years if you travel 30 miles south via the A46.

Let’s face it Nottingham cannot compare. How can you stand a few good ice skaters against the city responsible for Walkers crisps, the largest outdoor market in Europe, being Britain’s first environment city, the birth of local BBC radio and more importantly than anything else, the modern English language, and expect to win?

Neither are bad-looking cities by the way, not particularly beautiful but not ugly either. For me, Leicester edges that too but I’m sure others will disagree. In truth, there are several thousand reasons why Leicester is better than Nottingham, maybe the most relevant one is that nobody from Leicester would ever write in a Nottingham newspaper just about how great our city is. There you go, add humility to the list of things we do better too!

If you’re keeping score, don’t bother. It’s game, set and match to Leicester.

(P.S. – You can read Catherine’s blog at http://www.catherinescolumn.com)