Monday, May 29, 2006

Fight the real enemy

As a Hibs fan, it normally falls to me to revel in the discomfort of Hearts fans, and to take great pain from their success. This year, however, is different. The normal order has been at least temporarily overturned. The Old Firm have been split, and one half (Rangers) deprived of the Champions League for a year. At the risk of getting dizzy, a quick review of the last few epic managerial eras at Tynecastle is called for:

The Robertson Era (duration: 7 months)
Following Craig Levein’s tenure, John Robertson is appointed as manager, only to be sacked in May 05. Steven Pressley and John McGlynn take over until the end of season. Hearts court Bobby Robson, Lothar Matthaus and Nevio Scala as potential replacements

The Burley Era (duration: 4 months)

George Burley is confirmed as new Hearts coach in June with a 2-year contract. Following an astonishing early-season run of success, his contract disintegrates in October due to "“irreconcilable differences"” between Burley and the board. He leaves with Hearts topping the league, unbeaten.

3 days later, a spokesman for Vladimir Romanov promises on that he will not meddle in team selection. Hearts consider Bobby Robson, Nevio Scala, Claudio Ranieri and Kevin Keegan for the managers hotseat. Before October is out, both chief executive Phil Anderton and chairman George Foulkes depart (the hugely successful Anderton is pushed, with Foulkes jumping in protest) - Foulkes goes on to label Vladimir Romanov a "“megalomaniac". I can't imagine where he got that impression.”

The Rix Era (duration: 4 months)
November sees Hearts confirm Graham Rix as the new head coach. In February 06, he is joined by Jim Duffy as director of football. Just incase Jim gets too comfy in Gorgie, Rix is sacked in March with Duffy following him out the door. Valdas Ivanauskas appointed as interim head coach.

As this season comes to a close (we are seemingly still currently in the Ivanauskas Era, but check back regularly for updates), Hearts go on their summer holidays with two major things to think about: a vastly increased debt hanging over their heads, and the glory of the Champions League beckoning. Oh yes -– and the certifiable owner.

Notwithstanding the rolling farce that has been Hearts off-the-field season, they must be credited with an astonishing achievement in splitting the Old Firm by coming second in the league, and kicking down the door to the qualifying stage of the Champions League. The team and their fans deserve nothing but congratulations for their achievements this year.

Any force that can dent the domination of the Old Firm over Scottish football must be wholeheartedly welcomed. Despite Hibs local differences with Hearts, it is incumbent upon all Scottish football fans to welcome a challenge to Old Firm hegemony, no matter from which quarter that challenge comes. Hearts are currently asking the questions of the ugly sisters in Glasgow, and until Hibs are in a position to do so in a sustained manner, Hibees everywhere must continue to support the challenge that Hearts are mounting.

If they can sustain their on-the-field form with the insanity in the boardroom, season 06/07 should be another beauty!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Genius becomes legend

Over the last few years, no one has been able to touch Thierry Henry in the Premiership. A devastating package of pace, footwork, visionary reading of the game, and artistry and imagination of what might be possible - Henry has combined these with quiet dignity and professionalism to write his name large on the history books long before he has come close to hanging up his boots at the top level. Sporting journalists continue to scramble for unused superlatives to describe his sublime skills.

Following the defeat of Arsenal in the Champions League final last week, he engaged in off-the-field maneuvers that should catapult his status into a different dimension. With his contract at his club entering its twilight, and at least two Spanish clubs (certainly Barcelona, and presumably Real Madrid) courting him, he did the one thing that nobody expected him to do - and re-signed for Arsenal. In an age where professional footballers regularly seem to value money over loyalty, stability, and occasionally even first-team football, Henry'’s example to sporting youngsters is priceless.

To put the subject in some context, he is not going to struggle to pay his bills or get his groceries (reports suggest his new salary at Arsenal may be circa £110,000 per week). But consider also that he could have taken a money spinning move to many of the worlds top clubs. With the chequebooks of the biggest clubs in the world flapping in the breeze -– he re-signed for the North Londoners.

The new contract will run for four years, and Henry (who is now 28) has indicated he will see out his football life there. If during that contract, he can produce at Arsenal the quality of football of which we are all aware he is capable, the next few years will be utterly breathtaking.

His capacity to transcend the ordinary on the pitch has drawn gasps from all who have been privileged enough to witness it. In committing himself once more to Arsenal in the face of other opportunities, he should become nothing less than a legend.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

New Moog!

Thoughts my synthesizer buying might be over for the time being were shattered by the Little Phatty at the Frankfurt Music Show in March. Opinion on this keyboard seems to be pretty violently split online, with many declaring it their latest lovechild, and others shunning it as a betrayal of all that is Moog.

Having seen it and played with it, I can report that it sounds amazing, and it looks utterly stunning – probably the most physically attractive keyboard I’ve ever seen. Whilst the internet opinion is split, my experience has been that everyone that has seen this thing in the flesh, wants one. Badly.

The first edition is a special tribute to Bob Moog (who passed away following his input to the initial design stages of the Little Phatty) – this initial tribute edition run being 1200 units only at around US $1,500. There is talk of a revamped full production model closer to the US $1000 mark following this, but with a pared down physical appearance - this is yet to be confirmed.

So long as you are behind me in the queue, let the stampede begin…