Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas Everyone

Bury is still in firmly in the grip of the Artic weather that has been the norm across the country as of late but the Lancashire hospitality I've become accustomed to is keeping me warm.

The sub-zero temperatures are being accompanied by clear blue skies and bright sunshine so it's lovely and crisp outside and there hasn't even been a hint of rain, very unusual indeed ;)

I heard my first siren today!  A sound that is so familiar in Shepherd's Bush is a rare occurrence in these more rural parts.  I do miss the hustle and bustle but it's nice to be in more peaceful surroundings every so often.  At some point Sarah and I will no doubt have to find some sort of compromise but we'll save that for another time!

We ran the final few errands in town earlier and all the presents have been wrapped ready to assume their place under the tree. Not sure what the plan is for tonight but I'm sure it'll involve a few beers and a good feed :)

Brentford's Boxing Day game at Yeovil has been postponed so the later season fixture pile-up is well on track!  I'm driving back on Tuesday for the Tranmere game but I may get an extra couple of days in Lancashire if that too falls foul of the weather.

Bury are away at Shrewsbury on Saturday so I can't even make the short trip to Gigg Lane for a football fix.  The little corner of west London I found in Tesco will have to keep me going!

Wishing everyone a very merry and happy Christmas .

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ring Ring. Ring Ring. Rings Around the World

My weekday lunchtimes are usually spent either strolling around the environs of West Kensington or the in the free gym we have on-site.

There's way too much ice on the W14 pavements to make it worth going for a walk today and I'll go to the gym after work tonight so I've been messing around with my new phone.

My 18th month O2 contract ran out last Monday so I upgraded on Tuesday from my rather tired looking Nokia 5800 to the highly regarded HTC Desire.  It's my first non-Nokia phone since joining the mobile age in July 2000 and all I can say is WOW!!  It's an amazing bit of kit with so many features and I've been taken aback by the sheer number of applications that can be downloaded to increase functionality.
Of course there are social media apps, mapping apps, alternative web browsers and music clients that are well publicised but I've also downloaded emulators and games that make my phone think it's a Gameboy, Megadrive and SNES!  I've had emulators on my PC for years but didn't think that I'd get them for a phone.  I've also added the quintessential smartphone game, Angry Birds.  It was one of the first things I downloaded and is totally addictive.  There are just so many levels!!

The only downside with the upgrade is the change in contract.  Out went unlimited data, the ability use my inclusive text allowance to send both texts while abroad and photo messages and in came having to pay a fiver a month for 500MB of data and text charges for things that were previously free.

My line rental is £25 so it's £30 a month in total with the additional fiver for data.  I previously had a £35 a month contract with a 30% discount through an offer at Sarah's work but sadly they have changed their mobile provider to Vodaphone so I couldn't get a discount this time round.

I'm quite lucky that I can claim my phone line rental back from work as long as it's below £25 so up to now it's been covered entirely.  I have heard that I may be able to claim up to £30 now so I'll give it a go and see what happens.

The loss of unlimited data is a real negative though.  Especially as the HTC Desire (like all decent smartphones) has so many apps and widgets that need a constant web connection to make best use of them.  The unlimited data I had was wasted on my 5800.  It was the phone Nokia brought out in response to the iPhone but didn’t have anything like the functionality to make use of the luxury of unlimited data.  I mainly used it to check football scores, not exactly data intensive!

When I’m at home I hook the Desire up to my wireless network (to be fair the 5800 could do this as well) so I think the 500MB a month limit will be OK for when I'm out and about.  I can also use BTOpenzone and The Cloud wireless hotspots, although there seem to be some issues, so I should be pretty well connected wherever I go.  If we had a wireless network in the office it would be perfect but there's no news of one being setup anytime soon.

One thing the 5800 did excel at was being a SatNav.  Nokia snapped up Navteq a few years ago and rolled out OVI Maps to all users with a compatible phone.  I have installed Google’s Navigation app so only time will tell how well it compares.  I’ll test it out on the drive up North later this week.

Just as long as the battery life holds up, these smartphone really do use up a lot of juice!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Snow Stopping this Cold Snap!!

Sarah's intent on watching Sports Personality so it seems like a good time to hop on the laptop.

I love sport but have absolutely no interest in Gary Lineker, Sue Barker et al. harping on for two hours.  I can barely watch a full 90 minutes of football on the TV without getting bored so this would be unbearable!  Sarah's already taken down the number for Jessica Ennis and is chomping at the bit to vote.  Who knows what she'd do if there wasn't an Athletics representative on the shortlist!!

I hope AP McCoy wins it.  He is without doubt the greatest jump jockey of all time and this year won the Grand National for the first time in his career.  It was the only major race he hadn't won and coupled with him winning the Champion Jockey title for the 15th straight season it's about time he got the popular recognition his achievements deserve.

What with all the snow it's been a pretty quiet weekend.  The Brentford game was called of on Friday which turned out to be a wise decision.  We had a short, sharp dumping of snow in west London on Friday afternoon and I thought the ref (good old Andy D'Urso!) might have been a bit hasty but yesterday there was a deluge of snow all over the country with all but 8 League and two Premiership games being postponed.

We've not had a home league game since 13th November and unless I can persuade Sarah that it is worth coming back from Bury on the morning of 28th, in time for the Tranmere game at GP, that'll be it for me and Brentford in 2010.  We're away at Yeovil on Boxing Day which, weather permitting, gives us a decent chance of continuing out fine away form.  We won 2-0 at Southampton last weekend to push the continuous away victory run up to five.  Andy Scott rather cheekily called it our most comfortable away win of the season.  Nothing like rubbing salt into a defeated opponents wounds!!

We did play at home against Charlton on Tuesday in the Southern Area Semi-Final of the Johnson's Paint Trophy and sneaked through 3-1 on penalties after a 0-0 draw.  Thankfully Extra Time there is no extra time and we should really have won the match in the 90 minutes.  Richard Lee saved the first three Charlton penalties, the second and third saves were world class.  Watch the highlights if you don't believe me ;)  Exeter await in the two-legged Area Final and hopefully we'll get through to our first game at the new Wembley.

This year will be the first time I've spent Christmas with Sarah in Bury.  I've been up for New Year before but never for the big festive event.  It'll be a marked change from the quiet Malcolm Christmas' I'm used to with aunties, uncles, grandparents and cousins turning up to the Bell household throughout the day.  Looking at the forecast it looks like we'll be buzzing up in Meg a day earlier than I expected, maybe there is hope of a morning of 28th return after all!

Oh here we go.  Fat boy Corden is rolling out on to the stage to do his Smithy routine again!  Surely it's been done to death now!!  It can only mean there is a World Cup review on the way, great!

Living deep in QPR territory the snow has given the locals ample opportunity to add their ever so special tag to stationary street furniture.  With them sitting pretty (although not quite as pretty as 10 days ago having lost their first two league of the season against Watford and Leeds) sightings of the blue and white hoops are becoming ever more frequent.  Fair play to them though, and it'll be a real achievement for them to make it back into the top tier having been out of it for almost 15 years.

If QPR do go up all three LBHF teams will be in the Premiership and we'll be the only west London team not feasting on the millions of pounds available at the top table of English football.

Faced with all that I thought it was only fair that me and Sarah had the opportunity to put our own little footballing messages across.

Not quite as bold as the scribblings on a few of the cars down the road but they made me smile earlier today when I saw them again and will no doubt do so again tomorrow while I walk the mile and a half to work in W14.

It's the simple things that keep us football fans happy eh!?!

It's almost time for The Apprentice final so I'd best wrap this up.

Tony McCoy has just won Sports Personality of the Year.  Hopefully Stella will make it two out of two for me tonight :)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Is the Smart(odds) Money on Brentford?

The annual report and statement of accounts for Brentford FC were released yesterday.

I'm not one to take too much interest in the off-field goings on at TW8, it is a subject that tends to divide fans, but it's always interesting to read about how the club is fairing financially.

Here are the highlights:

- After tax BFC lost £1,264,664 in 2009/10.  In 2008/09 the loss was £495,263.
- Our net debt on 31st May 2010 was £8,512,915.  Up from £8,303,278 in 2009.
- Average attendances rose from 5,707 in 2008/09 to 5,985 last season.
- Turnover increased by £197,191.
- We made £501,893 net profit from transfer fees.  We made a loss of £8,774 the previous season!

It's pretty worrying to see that losses increased by over £750k and the debt is around £8.5m.  However unlike a lot of other clubs we are in a very privileged position.

Since January 2006 Bees United (BU), the supporters trust I'd encourage all Bees fans to join, have held the majority (around 60%) shareholding in BFC and currently have three representatives on the BFC board.

Having already given BFC an interest-free loan of £4.5m, last summer Matthew Benham (MB), a Brentford fan, and owner of the Smartodds company agreed to buy the BFC shares held by minority shareholders and also invest £1m a season for five seasons.  The deal also gives MB operational control of the club for the five years.

At the end of the five years BU has the opportunity to pay back the £4.5m loan and buy his shares to give them around a 95% shareholding.  If BU do not take up this option MB has the opportunity to buy the BU shareholding which will give him a 75% share.

The plan is for BFC to become a Championship club and this deal has given us a real chance of achieving this.  The partnership between BU and MB means that BFC can incur operating losses without a threat to its future.  A future that was seriously at risk before BU took control of BFC from Ron Noades at the start of 2006. 

Andy Scott has been backed by the board with the largest budget of any Brentford manager and after a disappointing start to the season Scott has steadied the ship.  In the league games since the start of October we've won six, drawn one and lost two. Scott was named Manager of the Month for October (yes, as it the norm we did loose our next league game!) and we're on a run of four straight away wins and sit 13th in the table.  Our home form has been hit and miss with good wins against Charlton, Wednesday and Peterborough tempered by miserable performances against Rochdale, Oldham, Bournemouth, and MK Dons.

We've not had a game for a couple of weeks having been 'giant killed' by Aldershot in the first road of the FA Cup and the Notts County game postponed last weekend so the team should be rested and raring to go at Southampton on Saturday.  I just hope the lay-off hasn't seen the team go off the boil.  Five straight away wins really would be a great achievement.

So why these musings about the finances of BFC?  Well Greg Dyke's Chairman's statement at the start of the accounts paid tribute to us Brentford fans and it made me proud to be a Bee.  The club was at in trouble before BU took over an MB made the £4.5m loan.  Perhaps not as at risk as in 1967 when news broke that then Brentford chairman Jack Dunnett had been in secret talks with his QPR counterpart Jim Gregory about moving them into Griffin Park and flogging Loftus Road, but things were seemingly pretty dicey.

There isn't much glamour supporting a lower league team and every now and then it's good to hear that your efforts are noticed and appreciated.  I hope BFC don't mind me reproducing the comment here:

Before a brief note on Lionel Road I wish to thank all Brentford fans for their continued support. These are very difficult economic times and there are many demands on supporter's time and pockets. Your enthusiasm for a Club which has languished in the bottom two divisions for nearly sixty years (bar one season) is remarkable and your board is working hard to ensure that we have the best possible opportunity of delivering on what we all want and that is a financially viable, self-supporting Club playing in a modern stadium and consolidated in the Championship.

The line about us languishing in the lower divisions for almost sixty years really brought into focus how small we are compared to the other three west London clubs.  OUCH, typing that hurts, but it's true no matter what we think as partisan Brentford fans.

After a dismal relegation from League One in 2006/07 and first season in League Two, (be honest Bees fans, we all expected to get up at the first attempt!), we got our act together won the division the following season and had a great season last term to finish 9th.  OK performances at home this season haven't been great but we are well positioned on and off the field to have a decent tilt at promotion over the next 3 seasons.

Keep the faith Bees fans I'm certain we'll get there in the end, erm, maybe!!