Barclays Fantasy Football 2014/15 – Top Tips


las, from a league table perspective, Barclays Fantasy Premier League (FPL) 2013/14 was a disappointing season for me. I say from a league table perspective as points-wise it was my highest total to date. It would seem that the general standard of FPL play is improving, although the particularly high points hauls of 2013/14 probably owed more to the performance of Luis Suarez – glad to see the back of him!

My stubborn, contrarian streak negatively impacted my performance last season (in some seasons it has aided me). Sticking with Van Persie when he was fit, thereby missing out on some hefty Suarez points hauls, and ignoring the Ramsey bandwagon, hurt me. For instance, in one gameweek alone I missed out on approximately 50 points after Suarez’s heroics against Norwich.

As the last two seasons have been relatively lean, I have revised my FPL ‘Top Tips’ for 2014/15. I now accept that incurring points deductions in FPL is not the biggest sin and possibly has some merit, particularly early on in the season and in joining the big club player bandwagons as demonstrated by Suarez, Y.Toure and Ramsey last season. Still, my contrarian outlook remains and I like to think my misjudgements of last season have sharpened up my analysis. I hope you find my recommendations below helpful.

A Day at the Cricket - MCC v The Rest of the World


was a little bit apprehensive before the MCC v Rest of the World at Lord’s. I’m not normally one for friendly sporting fixtures and I feared that it might be light entertainment at its worst with an ambience bordering on the inane, hyperactive, jocularity of Question of Sport. Thankfully, none of the cricketers made any concerted efforts to mimic Matt Dawson, playing the game in a semi-serious manner. There was even some scuttling about on the boundary led by the blooming Tamim Iqbal and everyone’s favourite, Kevin Pietersen. Most of the retired cohort looked in pretty good shape with no one yet reaching the comfortable proportions of an Inzamam-ul-haq, although Murali seemed to be developing a slight paunch. Brian Lara kept the amateur spirit alive when he failed to make up the five yards necessary to take a dolly at short mid-on after a thick edge from Yuraj Singh.

Jeremy Paxman Departs The Jeremy Paxman Show (Newsnight)


ast week the ‘great lion of BBC journalism’ and ‘the scourge of politicians’ called it a day after 25 years in the saddle as the principle Newsnight anchorman. Of course there was no thanksgiving, tears or even a wobbly lip. The ‘great lion’ did, however, agree to mark his departure by partaking in some minor frivolities, going on a bike ride with Boris and presenting his favourite news item – the weather. Newsnight will certainly be weakened by his departure; it might as well have been called The Jeremy Paxman Show. Fortunately, the ‘scourge of politicians’ won’t disappear entirely as his enthusiasm for reading out tricky questions to bright young things and making high pitched utterances of disdain remains undiminished. 

As a Newsnight anchor I shall miss him, more as an entertainer than as an informer. He had charisma and star quality and was a cut above most of his contemporaries. In a programming era increasingly driven by ‘accessibility’ he was a welcome intellectual bulwark. Indeed, if Jeremy Paxman presents a programme, you know that it comes with a triple A intellectual rating. The questions on University Challenge are as difficult as they ever were.

Italia ’90: Glorious Failure


t’s a little odd, I know, but in the build up to the World Cup in the Youtube age, I watch it again, and again, and again: the montage clip of England’s travails at Italia ’90 accompanied by Nessun Dorma* belted out by Luciano Pavarotti. Why do I do it? Is there nothing more to it than having a particular regard for Luciano’s stirring rendition? Do I like watching grown men cry? Am I just weird?**

Urbane Londoners: UKIP welcomes your sneering


mong urbane Londoners, admitting to a fondness for UKIP and its man of the moment* Nigel Farage is about as bad as confessing never to have watched Mad Men and The Killing. Maybe that’s a touch extreme; perhaps a better analogy would be about as distasteful as drinking blue top milk or serving up a Dairylea Dunker as a canapé?

Despite making inroads across much of the UK in the Local and European elections last week – Nigel was particularly excited** by UKIP’s gains in Wales – UKIP failed to convince a large chunk of London voters of its merits. And why was this? Well, one reason for UKIP’s London failure, as acceded by Suzanne Evans, UKIP’s communities spokesperson, when interviewed on Radio 4 last week, was UKIP’s difficulty in appealing to the ‘cultured, educated, and young’, of which it would seem London is absolutely packed to the rafters.