Trying to understand
When ah were a lad in short pants life were ever so simple. 11 blokes came out on ter t’pitch and th’object were to score more than th’opposition and there were no fancy language.
The language of football was easy to understand as per the great Bolton full-back Tommy Banks message to Burnley’s John Connelly: “Ah’ll let thee get past me. Ah’ll let t’ball get past me. But ah’ll not let both of thee get past me. If tha does manage it; t’ next time, ah’ll break thy bloody leg.”
It were that simple. That were it. So what’s ‘appened since then?
Today I’m making progress with the modern game but for the life of me I still can’t get to grips with all this first phase, second phase and third phase stuff. I read up about it the other day. Someone sent me what he called an idiots’ guide. It was pretty good too although I make no claim that this is the definitive guide, or that I am the definitive idiot.
First phase, apparently, is when you are in between phases because phase 2 is when you are on the attack and phase 3 is when you are defending. So anything in between is phase 1 because you don’t have the ball. This is also called the transition stage because it’s in between phases. It’s when you don’t have the ball and you are either about to attack or defend depending on whether you have just lost the ball or just won the ball and you are about to move into the next phase which is either 2 or 3 depending on whether you have just lost the ball and therefore must defend or just won the ball so therefore you are going to attack.
That all seemed simple enough until I thought: because first phase is actually a transition stage is it really a phase at all? Therefore if it is a stage not a phase, should second phase therefore be re-named first phase, and third phase re-named second phase because in fact there are only two phases.
OR: should first phase (attacking) not remain as second phase and third phase (defending) become fourth phase because then you can properly call what was first phase, second phase because it’s in between second phase and fourth phase. That of course means that now you have a second, third and fourth; but you have no first phase so therefore you would have to invent something to fill the vacant slot. First phase could therefore be something as simple as running onto the pitch or just putting your kit on.
Ah well: for now I’m happy to think I understand the three phases according to the idiots’ guide – that first is without the ball, second is attacking and third is defending. It does seem nice and simple.
However, not wanting to complicate things but - I also read somewhere that phases are all to do with being active or inactive, when a player is in an onside or offside position. For now, on the grounds that seems even more complicated, I’ll stick to what I think it means.
It was another two weeks without any Burnley games. The Indian summer changed to cool winds and scudding grey clouds. England were appalling against Montenegro. And I got hooked on Strictly Come Dancing.
I don’t really know how it happened. If Mrs T is watching something that doesn’t bother me I slip across to the office and look at Claretsmad. So I did just that when the first show was on. And then through the door I saw Russell Grant doing the Mince Trot and was spellbound. I saw the Italian tramp Nancy Dell Lollio do things with a feather boa that would have shamed a pole dancer and I can only think that the great British public voted to keep her on the show because, Like Len Goodman, they wanted to take another peek up her skimpy skirt. She displayed the finesse of an elephant and the grace of a lamp post.
Even more astonishing was the performance of Oddly Harrison who makes David Edgar look like Rudolf Nureyev. I have a hunch that our very own Brian Jensen would be a wow. But having seen Michael Duff’s dancing at Wembley (enough to make milk curdle), it’s unlikely he’d get very far.
Funny how things crop up: the thorny question of exactly who owns Turf Moor reared its head again on the websites. The quick run-through is that to raise cash at a time of real need, it was bought by Longside Properties (Barry Kilby and John Sullivan) some years ago. Longside were then paid a substantial rent by the club for the use of Turf Moor with various safeguards in place to make sure it could be bought back when the time was appropriate or finances permitted.
Longside was then sold (allegedly to Lionbridge we were lead to believe) a couple of years ago. This was done with little fanfare or publicity. Lionbridge is/was jointly owned by two directors, A Parmiter and R Hull, Parmiter listed as a chartered surveyor and Hull as a ventriloquist (oops sorry that’s the other one) property consultant. Barry Kilby and John Sullivan resigned as Longside directors in March 2009 which was presumably the date of the sale to Lionbridge… if it was Lionbridge.
Latest information seemed cloudy. On the one hand sources were saying that Lionbridge was dissolved in January 2011; but according to other sources they were still in existence and registered in the British Virgin Islands with the directors’ identity undisclosed.
Coming at the same time as the BBC programme about ‘Who owns Leeds United’ and the liberal use of the terms ‘tax haven’ and ‘secrecy’ in the programme; the question of who owns Turf Moor became even more intriguing. Once a company is registered in that part of the world, transparency vanishes.
Being puzzled I emailed Lionbridge director Richard Hull. Richard replied immediately and categorically denied connection with Longside Properties.
“Lionbridge was a property for foodstore development. Effectively it never traded and had no connection with Longside Properties whatsoever.”
Regarding owning Turf Moor:
“I have seen a report in the past that Turf Moor was owned by Lionbridge but I can categorically state that this company has never owned the ground and as you rightly say has been dissolved.”
But oddly, according to Aggi a website poster, in the latest Longside annual returns filed at Companies House, there are references to Lionbridge. And: according to Whalleyclaret, Creditsafe state that “Longside Properties Ltd is wholly owned by Lionbridge Ltd, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.”
Meanwhile, I emailed Paul Fletcher who said that the rent is still paid to Longside Properties. As of August 11th, there was director Vicki Harrison and company secretary Lynn Hammond. Maybe I’m dim but for sure after a day of emailing and texting I still felt no wiser than when I’d started to try and fathom out “who owns Turf Moor?”
And then just as I’d given up bothering, at last the fog cleared a little (or did it) when replies came to texts from what we might call the key people at the club. Both texts named Lionbridge although one of them explained that it was Longside who owned Turf Moor but Longside he thought was owned by Lionbridge. Bloody hell, right back to square one, I thought, so much for a day playing at Sherlock Holmes.
In desperation I watched Blue Bloods and Tom Selleck (wad a guy). If I’d taped it I’d have watched Russell Grant doing the Gay Gordons.
“A riddle wrapped up in an enigma,” Winston Churchill once said about Russia. By the end of my tame efforts at investigative journalism (its bloody hard work and I take my hat off to Tom Bower and David Conn) that’s just about what I felt about “who owns Turf Moor.” Writing about Roger Eli and ‘91/92 seemed infinitely easier. But even that became mired in a mystery. Roger was adamant that his great bag that went everywhere with him containing all his gear, was an Adidas holdall. But, his sister Rhona who has been reading the chapters said no it was a Nike holdall. “I used to borrow it,” she said. “So I should know.”
So: where are the channels on a football pitch? What is first phase second phase and third phase? Who owns Turf Moor? Was Roger’s holdall an Adidas or a Nike? Questions, questions, questions: I went to bed with my head spinning.
Despite the parachute payment windfalls, despite the oft-stated need now to cut running costs and trim budgets, there does seem a reluctance to buy back the ground, on the grounds that the time is not right. Fans seem divided in their opinions. One group says what is the point of buying it back? The other says we must buy it back as soon as possible. Some say who cares who owns the ground? However, after ten years of paying rent (if my sums are correct), the point must surely arrive when the rent that has been paid exceeds whatever the ground was sold for in the first place and after that it then becomes just dead money. Surely, it remains a curious thing that somebody/the club/directors/whoever, prefer to shell out £300,000 a year ad infinitum and also on top of that be responsible for ground upkeep and repairs.
After all that draining intellectual effort, known in medical terms as episodic intelligence, it was good to get back to thinking about the game against Reading. Two wins and a draw made us wonder if the corner had been turned. But caution was the word of the day. The 5 – 1 against Forest could so easily have been 5 – 5. The 1 – 0 win at Millwall was hardly convincing and was a classic away “smash and grab.” There was more talk of another loan signing but nothing happened.
“What’s your prediction?” enquired Mrs T.
“We need to use the channels and make sure we move swiftly and decisively between phases,” I replied.
“And we must execute second phase moves with rapier-like panache but make sure we are firm and resolute in the third phase,” I added.
She looked at me as if I’d done gormless. But then that’s nothing new these days. Meanwhile if you think you know who owns Turf Moor, or understand channels and phases do get in touch.