Happy New Year to you all. Thanks for visiting the site once again.
So, how's your Christmas belly then? Mine's nicely cultivated - so now presumably it's time to turn masochistic and retrieve some dignity to my appearance by going for 2 bowls of Special K a day. After all, there is one last Dressed To Kill gig to stay trim for...
Yes, you heard me right. I now have one last night in the lycra and the slap next month - FRIDAY 4th FEBRUARY to be precise, at the Robin RnB club in Bilston which is pretty much the closest venue to home for me as it goes.
After the blog I wrote with a heavy heart about leaving DTK, I was inundated with personal messages through here, Twitter & Facebook expressing disappointment that I hadn't been able to sign off on my own 'patch' in the Midlands. And that's not including my close friends outside of social networking sites who all said the same thing! My wife Natalie thought they all had a jolly good point and wondered if anything could be done on that score for a final Midlands 'fling' as it were...
Well Gary, Ash, Danny and - just as importantly - new drummer Matt (The Fox) thought it was a terrific idea, and so on that 4th Feb night it will be a very unique occasion. I will play the main set with the boys, and then Matt will play an extended encore by way of 'introducing' him to the band before we all join together for the finale. Hope you can get along to it - it promises to be quite a nite (sic)
Maybe we should get Vinnie Vincent to show up and have all 6 KISS make-up designs on stage at the same time? If he's still alive & functioning that is - the man went to ground so successfully after his own band imploded, he might as well be playing a bit of bouzouki in Osama's cave for all we've seen of him. Great guitarist and songwriter - utter prat beyond that. And after his antics at a European jaunt where he was MEANT to appear at Kiss Expos across the continent only to nick someone's credit card and go bananas, maybe it's best if he stays hidden from view.
Christmas is always a busy time for those involved in football and radio such as myself. I've managed to side-swerve working on the big day itself for the last 3 years, but I wouldn't have been much use this year if the call had come in - a heavy cold descended on me during Christmas Eve, a few days after Natalie and the children had all been suffering, and I was barking like a seal and feeling like utter garbage throughout Christmas Day.
I had one night to try and get the worst out of my system as I had a long journey through the icy wastes of Northern England on Boxing Day morning to get to Newcastle for commentary on United's clash with Manchester City. It's astounding what a dose of Night Nurse can do sometimes. Whilst I wasn't anywhere near 100%, my voice seemed capable of getting through the game, but I bought a hundredweight of Lockets just to be on the safe side.
St James's Park is a ground I'd driven past before on my way to DTK shows but had never visited as a fan or journalist. It's always nice to cross stadia off your 'not been there yet' list (Bloomfield Road & The Emirates remain from the current Prem grounds) and nothing can prepare you for just how STEEP the Leazes End looks as you glance to your left. Somehow the Gallowgate End wasn't as tall as I'd expected it to be by comparison with the opposite end.
Still I was prepared for the game - but nothing prepares you for working with Bobby Gould, my co-commentator that afternoon. Bobby is like your jolly uncle, always smiling, laughing and letting his infectious enthusiasm rub off on everyone around him. When I first worked with him in the studio at talkSPORT towers, I remember looking away from him for a moment, only to turn round to see him wearing a full face pig mask, just like the one the bloke playing piano on Tiswas used to wear!! Why he did it during a radio broadcast I'm not sure (and probably never will) but it taught me to expect the unexpected from Bobby at all times.
My old boss Tom Ross tells a great tale of Bobby's days as West Brom boss. Tom and the other radio/press guys went to see him the day before a big game, and the press conference was held in the home dressing room. At one point, Tom claimed to Bobby that he thought he could name the team for tomorrow - Bobby quickly challenged him to do just that, and his face went redder and redder as Tom correctly reeled of No's 1 to 11 without a hitch.
Bobby exploded with rage. "WHO F*****G TOLD YOU THAT? WHO F****** TOLD YOU????? COME ON!!!!! WHO'S THE F****** MOLE IN MY CAMP??? I WON'T HAVE INFORMATION LEAKED OUT LIKE THIS THE DAY BEFORE A GAME!!!! HOW THE F*** CAN YOU KNOW MY TEAM TOM???????"
To which Tom calmly replied "Because you've got it written on the whiteboard behind you, Bob..."
Bobby's love for the game came across rather well during the Newcastle/Man City. To be fair, the match got off to an explosive start with City going 1 up inside 90 seconds setting the tone for a real end-to-end encounter. Bobby just couldn't help himself - as I was describing the action, he would chip in with the more than occasional "OOOOOHHH" "AAAAGGGH" "WOOOAAARGH" "YEEEEESSSS" "BLEEEURRRGHHH" and pretty much any other word you'd see during a fight sequence in a 1960's Batman episode.
If Meg Ryan hadn't managed to nail that scene in 'When Harry Met Sally", Bobby would've been an ideal stunt double based on his strangled cries throughout the game. Such interruptions would normally get on your nerves as a commentator, but in this instance I didn't really mind - it was a great surging game, every bit as exciting as he was suggesting (City won 1-3 by the way) and it's all done with such a genuine love for the game, that it's hard to criticise. (EDIT: Stan Collymore’s just done his best to out-Bobby Bobby with his goal celebration as Villa get equaliser @ Chelsea for 3-3! Lost it big time and had a run-in with Chelsea fans around him in the stand!!
All the criticism was left to producer Villa Matt later - not for Bobby, but for his beloved Aston Villa, who meekly surrendered to Spurs as he drove us back down the M1 listening to commentary from Villa Park. Houllier has badly misjudged the situation at his new club, upsetting senior players and blooding too many youngsters at once. As poor as Blues look just now with 2010 becoming 2011, Villa look worse considering money spent, infrastructure etc etc.
As I sat in on mid-mornings on talkSPORT on Wednesday of Christmas week, Mickey Quinn was quick to jump on the subject and proclaim that the Midlands as a whole was 'a black hole for football'. This was swiftly followed by Wolves beating Quinny's beloved Liverpool at Anfield. Funnily enough, when back on air the next morning with Ray Houghton, Quinny's phone was seemingly switched off. Funny that.
Blues surrendered to Arsenal 4 days after earning a late point against Man Utd. The same XI got tired against a Gunners side who made 8 switches and their freshness added to their inventive play (I call it Playstation football the way they knock it about in search of the ultimate through ball & goal) made a 0-3 result almost inevitable. Blues have work to do in recruiting striking options in the window – I worry for Cameron Jerome who still struggles to get regular goals 4 years after his arrival from Cardiff. It’s not his fault Blues are in the bottom 3, but he needs help up there. Will we switch to 442? Doubt it, even when Blackpool & Sunderland are attempting to fit as many forward players into sides below the Top 5 or 6 in the league. And Robbie Keane isn’t necessarily the answer either.
Keep Right On, as the man said.