The long-yearned for spell of mild weather has brought relief to everyone involved at the poultry end of the allotments. Like the relief of Mafekin it arrived just in time and now there is a more relaxed air about the place, no more remarks about being sent to Siberia by Putin not being as bad as this. All of which meant that, as our New Years Eve tradition demands, we had time to sit in the shed to vote for our man of the year. No prize other than a notice on the wall and the winner is unlikely to learn that he or she has won. But we mad chicken/ferret folk enjoy it and nowt else matters.
Twenty slips of paper went into the box and one name emerged as clear winner. Ian Holloway, the manager of Blackpool Football Club, is our almost unanimous choice. Only one vote for Lady Gaga spoiled our unanimity and we can all guess who put that in. For sheer deeds on the field of play many of us considered Andrew Strauss but the power of laughter won through.
When back in July, Ian Holloway somehow managed to drag his team through the play-offs into the Premiership, every soccer expert in the land predicted disaster. Ian made clear that there was no big money available for so-called megastars and put forward the view that eleven men working hard could take on any other eleven however many millions they were paid. And so it has proved. The outcome is best summed up by a remark made by Steve Bruce, manager of Sunderland, after his team’s home defeat by Blackpool over Christmas. He said that he needed a quality player and would spend £10 million to get one. He added that “there is no point in buying a £2 million one since he would be mediocre”. Ian Holloway’s victors cost well below £2 million for the whole team!
Of course Blackpool have taken a few hidings and after one Ian commented that “we have had a walloping but we’re happy because we now have a washing machine, the players don’t have to take their kit home to wash”. In fact not only has Ian Holloway proved that the vast amounts of money splashed out on players is absurd, he has also won the hearts of every sports joiurnalist with his perpetual optimism and wit. When he frst arrived in Blackpool he remarked that he liked the place because, like him, it looked better in the dark. And, unlike other top managers, he accepts defeat with equanimity. After one match he remarked that he had considered poking the linesman with a stick to see if he was awake, but as with every Holloway utterance it was said with a smile. Football, he believes, is taken too seriously and his every action recognises that when Bill Shankly saw it as more important than life itself he was way off the mark.
In a year when football reached its lowest depths and the nation did likewise Ian Holloway made us laugh. He also pricked the bubble of pomposity in which the Premiership dwells and, in so doing, showed just how ridiculous the money paid to semi-literate players of moderate abilility really is. He has set a new standard in honesty and self-effacement, rare features of life at the soccer zillionnaire heights. And his work for charity has shown again and again that he has his feet firmly on the ground.
In 1800 the novelist Maria Edgeworth wrote that “we cannot judge either of the feelings or the character of men with perfect accuracy, from their actions or their public appearance; it is from their careless conversation, their half-finished sentences, that we may hope with the greatest probability of success to discover their real character”. By this, and any other measure, Ian Holloway is the best.
On his day of (unknown to him) triumph let us give him the last word. A TV reporter was attempting to conduct the usual inane interview. “Any injury worries?”, he asked. Our hero replied “No, I’m fully fit thanks“.
AND WHO IS THE DOLT OF THE YEAR?
If such an award existed Andrew Lansley would surely be a hot favourite. A few days ago this site attacked him for cancelling this years flu advertising. As the deaths mount he has now decided to perform yet another U-turn. Has he no self understanding to warn him of his tendency to take rash and wrong decisions?
Perhaps the best judgement on his short but catastrophic reign over the NHS has emerged this very day. Sarah Wollaston is a prominent Conservative MP and is also a retired GP. She has published a lengthy article warning Lansley that he is taking huge risks by attempting root-and-branch reform whilst trying to save £15 billion. Like many she sees what he is doing as an almost inevitable prelude to privatisation and the introduction of private companies who will cherry-pick the profitable services and leave NHS hospitals bankrupt and unable to perform critical procedures. Dr Wollaston knows what she is talking about and is a political ally of Lansley. She gives chapter and verse on the chaos he has wrought and urges him to perform ‘handbrake turns’.
But being the dolt of the year, he is unlikley to listen. He will only realise what he has done when the NHS lies broken and beyond repair!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. 1972 2. Munich
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. China began using pinyin in 1979. What is pinyin? 2. What name did the BBC give to its Teletext services in the 70s?
A VERY HAPPY AND SUCCESSFUL NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!