Thursday, 1 September 2011

Lack of foresight may cost WBA

Right, so I'm going to have a bit of a rant here.

End of last season, WBA came 11th. We scored lots of goals, and we conceded the second highest in the league- only gathering two clean sheets all season.

Every fan knew we needed to improve, and so when we brought in Billy Jones from Preston, and Gareth MacAuley from Ipswich, we were content. We then pulled off the signing of Foster, a great improvement on the hit-and-miss Carson, and have secured the signatures of Long and Gera.

However, we let go of Zuiverloon and Meite. Now whilst I didn't bat an eyelid at Zuiverloon going, I found it strange that Roy Hodgson would not wish to keep Meite, a player who he re-introduced into the side in place of Gabriel Tamas. Meite did very well in RH's 12 games in charge, and looked like the defender who did so well at Bolton all those season's ago.

Before tonight, we had this back four:

Steven Reid
Gabriel Tamas
Jonas Olsson
Nicky Shorey

With a back up of:

Billy Jones/ Gonzalo Jara Reyes/ James Hurst
Pablo Ibanez
Gareth MacAuley/ Craig Dawson
Marek Cech

We now have the same first team back four, but our second string defence looks like this:

Jones/ Jara

Now, I'm not one to dismiss a player, but Mattock is not good enough for the Premier League at the moment. Maybe in season or three, but not now. Dawson is a great prospect, but, like Mattock, I don't think he's ready yet.

We have Paul Scharner who can slot in at Centre Back, but he seems to be preferred in a midfield role.

Because of all of the above, plus loaning James Hurst to Blackpool for the season, we no longer have an out-and-out Right Back. Reid is a midfielder who can play there, and does well most of the time; Jara is a utility man who can be quite rash; Jones was brought in as a Right Back but from doing some research he has also played as a Midfielder and a Winger.

We are also now overly reliant on Jonas Olsson to carry our defence. If he got injured tomorrow, and was out for two to three months, I would put money on us being in the bottom three when he returns. Likewise, if Nicky Shorey was injured, the likes of Mattock aren't proven to be good enough at this level for extended periods of time.

So what does all this mean? We were after targets. We pursued Ridgewell and Dann at Blues. We looked at loaning Onouha, and earlier on the likes of Woodgate, Upson and Johnston all passed us by. We aren't a big spending club by any means, but one player to play with Olsson won't make us do a Leeds or a Portsmouth.

The selling of Ibanez and Cech late today shows a lack of foresight by the club. Maybe Hodgson is happy with the defence and he thinks the unproven MacAuley and the young Dawson can make the step up. Who knows, but there are a lot of angry Albion fans demanding answers from the club as to why the defence, our weakest area last season, has seemingly gotten worst.

**TL;DR: Selling defenders when we have a poor defence and no time to get replacements is bad.**

Sunday, 31 October 2010

In before the lock!

"So what did you get up to on your weekend, Mark?"


Got pissed with Mitch in the staff bar on Friday night. Not majorly drunk, but merry. Came up with a drinking game involving darts so that provided us with some fun.

On Saturday we helped out a teacher at his step-kid's birthday party. This in itself was pretty cool, but nothing major. Hung around in the KC pool and gyms.

The teacher and family then invited us back to his house for the evening to watch the ITM Cup semifinal (NZ regional rugby) and the All-Blacks game. We had some food and met a few of their neighbours: most of them had had kids that went to the party.

Settled down to watch the rugby, and although both matches were lost in exactly the same way (converted try in the last minute), it was a really good evening.

Stayed overnight on the insistence of the teacher, given that we were quite far from school. Today we just hung out really. I was taken up to Mt Eden which is 1) a volcano very near the heart of Auckland, and 2) The highest natural point in Auckland. Awesome 360 degree views of Auckland, so you can see basically the whole of Auckland.

The weather has been beautiful as well. Brilliant sunshine, warm but not hot, and neither too dry or humid. I have quite a healthy tan at the moment, as does Mitch.

Ended up coming back to KC in the afternoon and chilling in the pool a bit more, before they finally had to go home.

Then relaxed around the flat for an hour or so before dinner, and have been making some final changes to my PS before I attach it to my UCAS form.

So yeh, just been a really good weekend. Sometimes I think it's important to realise that although doing skydiving and stuff is obviously really awesome, you can have just as much fun from doing much more simple things.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Skydives, ligaments and bartending

Long time, no blog.

New Zealand is still offering up many delights. The main highlight of recent weeks was going to Rotorua, where much fun was had. This included a skydive from 15,000 feet, white water rafting down a river swelled to nearly five times as high as it usually is, and a zorbing down a hill with a rugby player, which inadvertently strained a ligament in my knee.

So, I may as well get the main thing in early. I did a skydive from 15,000 feet. Here’s a video of it:

And here are some pictures:

Pretty epic, eh? I have to say, I was fully bricking it before hand, as you can probably tell by the unnatural amount of smiling that I was doing.

Another thing that Mitch and I did, before we even got to Rotorua, was go cage diving with sharks. Unfortunately the camera we bought to take pictures of the sharks didn’t work because the mechanism that was meant to wind the film didn’t work properly. But now that has been fixed, and we have a new reel of film, so maybe it’ll get used at some point.

The white water rafting was certainly a lot of fun. Having done it before in Austria, I felt fairly confident about it, and this meant that I got a bit of stick from the lads when we met up with the instructors. The river hat we were rafting on, the Rangatiki (or something like that) usually has a flow level of about 0.9-1.5. I’ve left the units off because they didn’t have units: it was just 1.5, not 1.5 feet or anything like that. When we were getting the boat ready, the bar that showed how high the river was reading 7.0! This, added to the fact that our guide allowed us to do some extra rapids at the beginning which aren’t usually done, meant that we had a very exciting journey down the river.

The last ‘major’ thing we did whilst in Rotorua was Zorbing. This involves going down a hill inside a giant plastic ball, and being thrown about because of changes in direction and speed (and also you jumping around inside the ball). Now, I know it was stupid, but for the final run, Mitch and I decided that we would go down the straight course. In the same ball. At the same time. This presented one major problem for me- Mitch has about 20kg on me, so if a coming together occurred, I would be the person that came off worse. As it happened, we didn’t really smash into each other that much, I half kneed Mitch in the face, but apart from that, nothing major.

It was because nothing major occurred that I was confused as to why my knee hurt so badly when I got out of the Zorbing ball. After seeing a physio, it seems I have strained my Lateral Collateral Ligament, also known as the Fibular Collateral Ligament. It is a fairly minor ligament in your knee that helps to support the knee joint when straightening. I had somehow taken a knock on the side of my knee, which strained it beyond normal, making it extremely tender. Luckily, because it is only a stabilising ligament, I still could walk; it was just that I couldn’t straighten my leg properly. It’s been a couple of weeks since then, and I can now report that my leg is getting better. I can now support my own weight on the leg, and I can straighten it out fully without pain. In fact, the only time it does give me trouble is when I go for physio, and she pokes and prods it!

I guess the final thing that is worth mentioning is the quiz night that occurred last Friday night. One of the houses, Averill, had a parent’s quiz night, and Mitch and I were asked to be the barmen for the evening. It was a pretty fun evening, with the students’ team being badly beaten (but only because the quiz was abiout the 80’s, before any of us were even born!). However, it gave me some experience of working in a bar situation, and allowed Mitch and I to get to know some of the Year 12 lads a bit better.

Aaaaaaaanyway, I think that is basically all there is to say: only minor things like what I do during the day have not been revealed, which is because they usually aren’t that fun to do, and would be even less fun to write and read about.

So I guess that is it for another few weeks. As I might have said in the blog last time, I will usually do one of these blog every few weeks summarising what has happened. It might be, however, that I do a few very short ones with links to pictures and a brief comment on what I’ve done if I think it is worth mentioning.

Sweet as, Bro.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The Beginning

So, three weeks in, and it has been a real whirlwind of a time. The kids have come back from holiday, my hockey has won their first game under my leadership, and I’ve discovered the joy of book covering.

All the staff at the College have been really friendly, and made me and Mitch feel very welcome. They have made settling in very easy. Even on our first day, before term had even started, a teacher had invited us to a local rugby match. To further this point, Mitch and I were invited by one of the houses to go on a trip to some ‘local’ hot springs (an hour and a half away) last Sunday.

The campus of the school is very pretty, as can be seen by the pictures.

Mitch has been adopted by the P.E. department because he did A2 P.E, and I have been taken on by the music department to work with them, because I have a GCSE in music! This means I get to audit instruments- making sure the department hasn’t lost any instruments by checking the labels and crossing them off a checklist. Fun times! I guess the plus side of this is that I get my own eMac and desk, and so I’m going to get really familiar with OS X, because the whole school runs Mac, and I haven’t ever really used a Mac properly before.

We’re booked to go to Roturua during an Exeat this term. This will give us a few days to see a different part of New Zealand, and give us a chance to try out a few different activities. We’re going to book ourselves to go Zorbing, which will definitely be a unique experience. Apparently you can have ones where you get water put in with you, so it is like you’re in a washing machine! We’re also planning on going mountain biking whilst in Roturua, because the surrounding area is meant to be quite good for that sort of thing.

Last weekend we did the bungee jump off Auckland Bridge, which is about 40m from where you jump to the water below. Although I didn’t touch the water, Mitch got submerged to his chest. Hopefully the video below will work, and there are some more pictures as well.

Tonight (Saturday 7th) we’re meeting up with the gappies from another school in the Auckland area. Hopefully this will mean we can start to meet all the gappies at all the other schools in the area, so we can share our experiences of where to go.

That just about sums up the first few weeks, so at this point I’ll sign off.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Third time lucky

Either you’re here because you have a genuine interest in my GAP year, or you want to see more ranting about handheld desserts. If you are part of the latter group, you will be disappointed: there shall be no muffins, and unless something changes, no poems either.

But anyway, some background to my year in New Zealand. I will be working as a Tutor doing duties including, but not limited to:

a) Possibly to act as a Junior House Tutor in one of our six boarding Houses;

b) Possibly do one-to-one or small group academic tuition in subject strengths;

c) Assist with the Resource Centre and Library and such clerical duties as compiling the daily Attendance rolls and annual School List;

d) Take a novice rowing crew or assist with Junior cricket or tennis in summer, and a Junior rugby XV, soccer XI, hockey XI, or netball team during the winter terms;

e) To assist possibly, when the occasion arises, the P.E. Master;

f) Possibly to assist with musical or theatrical production.

g) Back up for the Associate Headmaster (or delegated Teacher) who is responsible for supervising classes when a teacher is absent. Junior Classes – Yr9-11

I know I am coaching the U15C team, so that is sorted- just need to draw up some coaching routines! However, I haven’t heard about whether they want me to coach badminton, though I hope they do, because it seems they don’t play it much, so there might be some untapped talent to work with.

I have my suits all sorted: a rather dapper grey jacket and trouser combo as well as charcoal trousers to mix and match. I also have my blue pin-striped suit that I can take with me if I have room.

That leads me on to one downside of this GAP year, namely that I don’t have enough baggage to allow me to take everything I need. Air New Zealand don’t let you take extra baggage, even if you are going for a year, so it looks as if I will have to have a trunk sent over to me with more stuff in it. Hopefully King’s will give me some stuff to wear anyway: I can’t imagine they will be pleased with me turning up to a training session with my Bournville Hockey top underneath an Albion microfleece!

I suppose it is only right that I talk a little about King’s in a bit more detail, and whilst I will do a post about the College when I actually get there, I can give you a rough guide:

King’s is located in the South of Auckland, and according to one residence guide I looked at, this has a high crime rate and is not one of the nicest areas! Nevertheless, it is very close to Auckland Golf Club, so it can’t be that bad, can it? The College itself has extensive grounds, as you would expect from an independent school.

As shown on the link, they have a water-based astro, but what is especially awesome is the extra ‘D’ on the end, which means that you can practise short corners without using the pitch.

The school has around 1,000 pupils, who are sorted in eleven houses, including separate houses for day-students and boarders, as well as separate girls’ and boys’ houses. As I mentioned earlier, I will be expected to be a house tutor so who knows which one I will end up in (I could work out a narrower selection (take out girl houses and day-students) but I am trying to adjust my body clock, and so am writing this at 1:30am)).

The main sporting rivalry is between King’s and Auckland Grammar, and the annual match that takes place between the sides is attended by hundreds of spectators. A video of the two sides doing a Hakka before one match can be found on YouTube> Link- well worth watching in 480p .

Anyway, I think I should end my first post here. My next post ought to be from Auckland, so long as all goes according to plan. No muffins and no poems.