Friday, 31 December 2010

King Charlie Hurley is born on January 1st 1961

On the 50th anniversary of his inauguration as Sunderland's KING a small piece on a big man, Charlie Hurley. 

Taken from CHARLIE HURLEY - "The greatest centre-half the world has ever seen' 

Charlie Hurley’s first goal for Sunderland should have come when Ipswich were beaten 2-0 at Roker Park at the start of December 1960 because, reported Argus, Ipswich goalkeeper Roy Bailey “admitted that Hurley’s header from a corner by Overfield had crossed the line but the referee didn’t see it’

The Suffolk team were lying in third place behind Sheffield United and Liverpool but two goals from Willie McPheat, who had only just got into the team after signing for Sunderland the previous year put Sunderland’s fortunes on the up. So Hurley’s opening goal for Sunderland would have to wait – but not for long!

The decision to send Hurley up for corners was a revolutionary one when Sunderland tried it towards the end of 1960. Since Hebert Chapman’s decision to make the centre-half a stopper they had remained firmly on the halfway line at set pieces no matter how good they were in the air.

In was this tactic which helped make Hurley so popular with Sunderland’s fanatical fans. After a while no corner at Roker Park would be complete without the cry of ‘Charlie, Charlie, Charlie’ as the crowd roared the big man to get up into the opponents’ box to cause as many problems as possible.

Charlie Hurley and Stan Anderson shake hands before Stan's Testimonial match 

“I was always good in the air, I went up for a corner and it caused a lot of problems, I didn’t score, I was the 1st defender to go up for corners. It was Stan Anderson’s idea. The fact that I attacked the ball meant I got an awful lot of goals, we had some good crossers of the ball, Harry Hooper, George Mulhall, Nicky ‘the nicker’ Sharkey on the end of some of my knock downs.”

Anderson’s foresight changed the face of English football forever - every side now sends at least one of their centre-backs up for corners, not to mention these days for free-kicks close to the opponents penalty area as well. The ex-Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough and England International “thought that it was a natural thing to do for Charlie to go up for corners. He was a big fella, brilliant in the air, what else were we supposed to do with him? It was logic, it meant when he came up the other side had to say ‘whoa we’d better mark him’, look at the size of him.’ Normally it was the centre half who marked the centre-forward, but when you’ve got Charlie up there standing at the far post the centre-half didn’t fancy going out there and the number of goals that Charlie scored, and the number of knock-downs that he allowed others to score was a very decent return.

He was a magnificent header of the ball, it doesn’t take rocket science to think what I thought, Brownie never said a word against it, Brownie rarely spoke to me, except when he played hell with all of us. I said to Charlie at his seventieth birthday party that Brownie thought the world of you and to be fair Charlie was his best buy ever, so he should have, you can’t take that away from him” says Anderson.

On Boxing Day 1960 Hurley scored his first League Goal for Sunderland in a one one draw with Sheffield United watched by 46,099 spectators. It was the first goal by a Sunderland centre-half since Ray Daniel had scored at home to Sheffield Wednesday back on February 16th 1957. It came when he blocked an attempted clearance.

There was no such wait for another this time, Hurley scoring as part of a seven one win against Luton Town at Roker Park on New Year’s Day in 1961.

Stanley Ford, writing below a banner headline of ‘Hurley giant in Sunderland blitz’ in ‘The People’ reported that ‘Hurley, showing shades of manager Alan Brown’s Burnley days, raced up from defence to centre-forward for corners and headed an Anderson chip for No 3. For my money Hurley is the best centre-half in Britain today’.

A view echoed by Luton Manager Sam Bartram who mused “if John Charles is worth £60,000, how much is he worth? He’s the greatest in the business. I wish we had Hurley’.

“I used to get more knackered going up for corners than playing back in defence, if we had 10 or 12 corners in a game I had to get up and the get back, but the crowd wouldn’t have it any other way because if I stayed back you’d hear ‘Charlie, Charlie’ and up I went…it was one of the biggest things, it was the number one thing that the fans loved” recalls the genial Irishman.

It was in the report of the Luton match that Charlie Hurley earned the nickname “King’ for the first time. It was written by Vince Wilson in the Sunday Pictorial on New Year’s Day 1961. And it stuck.

In 1961 Sunderland signed Brian Clough from Boro. Clough had scored a stack of goals for the
Teessiders but not when he his opponent had been Charlie Hurley. 

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Sunderland 0 Blackpool 2

Sunderland 0

Blackpool 2

Campbell 50, 90+1

Dudley [DJ] Campbell must love playing against Sunderland. Five years ago he used the Wearsiders as a stepping stone to a career in the Premier League by scoring Brentford’s two FA Cup winning goals in a fourth round game at Griffin Park. Yesterday in the more illustrious surroundings of the Stadium of Light he was again helping himself to another pair of goals to give Blackpool their fifth away league victory of the season.

To suggest however that the Seasiders deserved to win would be ridiculous, and a score-line of say 5 or 6-2 in favour of the home side would not have flattered them. Goals though win matches and despite at least twelve good scoring opportunities Sunderland managed to avoid hitting the back of the net throughout the entire ninety minutes.

Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan have cost around £23 million between them but both were guilty of some truly terrible finishing, whilst Sunderland’s midfielders Lee Cattermole, Jordan Henderson and Ahmed Elmohamady all blew glorious opportunities to score. Bent was slightly unfortunate when his lovely 25 yard free-kick curled beyond Richard Kingston to hit the bar, but there was little excuse for the England international’s failure to twice hit the target when left with only the keeper to beat.

Kingston, signed twice by Sunderland manager when he was in charge at Birmingham and Wigan had a fine game, making a great diving save to deny substitute Steed Malbranque, but he should have had no chance when Gyan somehow conspired to head over the bar from just a couple of yards out.

Campbell showed the home forwards how to do it with two second half strikes. He might have got one in the first but Craig Gordon was out superbly, following a brilliant fifty yard run and cut back by substitute Matt Phillips, to push the ball from his toe-caps. However on 50 minutes Neal Eardley’s cross was flicked on by Ian Evatt and Campbell reacted quickly to drive the ball shot into the net from ten yards and send the Blackpool fans behind the goal into joyous celebrations.

His second in injury time came after Phillips, who had a fine game, tricked his way into the box and when his cross picked Campbell out he smashed the ball home off the inside of the bar. Victory for Blackpool, thus ensuring that Sunderland have played and lost to all three promoted teams in the first half of the season. 

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Manchester United 2 Sunderland 0

Manchester United 2

Berbatov 3

Ferdinand [own goal] 57

Sunderland 0

Manchester United maintained their two-point lead over local rivals City at the top of the Premier League with an accomplished performance against a weakened Sunderland side.

The away side had plenty of the ball but lacked a cutting edge and might have been heavily beaten if Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had taken a host of chances they created, especially in the first quarter of the game.

There were only three minutes gone when the home side took the lead, Ryan Giggs picking up a loose ball in the middle of park advancing quickly before finding Wayne Rooney, whose exquisite cross was headed powerfully home by Dimitar Berbatov. It could easily have been two soon after when Rooney hit a lovely flighted shot that beat Craig Gordon only to flash agonisingly wide.

With Manchester United running riot Berbatov then hit the post with just nine minutes gone. Six minutes later the woodwork again came to the rescue of Steve Bruce’s side, Anderson this time being the unlucky player. A fine shot by Rooney was then well held by Gordon before Berbatov hit the side netting when he might have done better after he was left with just the keeper to shoot at.

Giggs was next to try his luck, forcing a fine save from Gordon as somehow Sunderland got to twenty five minutes just a goal down and after which Bruce dropped back Darren Bent, giving Sunderland five players in the midfield. As a consequence it became a lot more difficult for a side seeking a record 19th top-flight title success and it wasn’t until just before the break that Gordon was next called into serious action, the Scottish international making a confident save low down to foil Rooney.

When Anton Ferdinand soon after the restart blocked an Anderson shot from the edge of the area it seemed that Sunderland might even have a chance of getting something from the game. However on 57 minutes the Sunderland defender was unfortunate enough to score an own goal at Old Trafford for the second consecutive season, Berbatov’s shot deflecting off him to leave Gordon wrong footed as the ball dropped into the net. Having had such a fine game it was then something of a surprise to see Anderson substituted and his replacement Darron Gibson should have done better when left with a direct shot that Gordon had little trouble in saving.

Sunderland substitute David Meyler was a lucky lad soon after when his stud’s high challenge on Rafael da Silva was deemed only a yellow card by referee Phil Dowd. The away side finally had a shot on 78 minutes when Bolo Zenden gave Edwin van der Sar a chance to show he was still awake. This, of course, isn’t something that could ever be said about the crowd at Old Trafford; whose support for their side is frankly pathetic and despite having watched their side totally outplayed it was the away supporters who were in fine voice at the final whistle.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Stitch up - 20 years on and Malcolm Kennedy re-asserts his innocence

How the Metropolitan Police stitched up an innocent man for the death of another in Hammersmith Police Station in December 1990.
Over the years there have been many miscarriages of justice cases in Britain. None though can compare with what happened at Christmas 1990, when an innocent man was stitched up for the murder in Hammersmith Police Station of Patrick Quinn.
Malcolm Kennedy from Hackney was a middle aged slightly built man with no history of violence when he was arrested for drunkenness in the early hours of Christmas Eve 1990. He was taken to Hammersmith Police station and locked in a cell where he fell asleep. Shortly after Patrick Quinn, originally from Donegal in Ireland but a long term London resident, was also arrested for being drunk and placed in the same cell.
Kennedy alleges that he was later woken by a struggle in the cell between a police officer and Quinn and that when he tried to intervene he was punched unconscious. When he was subsequently woken up by 3 police officers it was to find himself viewing his cellmates body on the floor with all but one of his ribs smashed, his heart and spleen crushed and his face pulped. If that was horrifying enough it was to get a whole lot worse for Kennedy when he was told “you did this”, a charge he disputed from the very start.
If Kennedy really had done it then the police investigation into his alleged murder was hardly top notch because officers then cleaned the uniforms they were supposed to hand over for forensic tests, the log book showing who visited the cell was "lost" (just one of several vital documents which disappeared) and procedures for calling in the Police Complaints Authority and pathologist were not followed.
Nevertheless when he was put on trial the jury backed the case against him and Malcolm Kennedy was convicted of Quinn’s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in mid 1991.

This however was not the end of the matter. New witnesses, present in the police station on the night of Quinn’s death, were located by Kennedy’s solicitors and meanwhile a World in Action TV [*] investigation heavily questioned the police’s version of events by alleging that the time of another arrest had been altered in order to get 2 officers - Emlyn Welsh and Paul Giles - out of Hammersmith Police station at the time Quinn died.
With the media spotlight now firmly on the case it went back to the Court of Appeal on 11.2.93, where a retrial was ordered to allow a new jury to hear all the evidence.
When this took place in September 1993 PC Welsh revealed that he had in fact now "found" his "lost" notebook. He'd had it in a wallet stuck behind his new pocketbook and had carried it around for months without knowing! Unfortunately for PC Welsh when he was asked to show where he'd had the notebook he couldn't fit it back into the wallet.
It had taken nearly three years to find one piece of lost evidence. Yet, some might say, remarkably another came along within hours. PC Giles was performing badly in the witness box when another officer, sitting in court as an Exhibits Officer suddenly found as he flicked through a file a vital piece of missing evidence - a computer aided dispatch [CAD] print out that provided support for the timings PC Giles was claiming.
Despite three previous separate investigations having searched that file for that piece of evidence, and not found it, the Judge refused to accept that this was a forgery and the trial had to be abandoned.
Sadly by the time the re-trial commenced PC Giles was declared mentally unfit to give evidence claiming he could suffer irreparable mental damage if he went into the witness box. Giles was a key witness, and his absence Kennedy’s legal team argued prevented him having a fair trial, a charge dismissed by the Judge.
At the end of the trial Kennedy was, in fact, found not guilty of murder. This, of course, presented the state with something of a difficulty as clearly a man whose injuries included 33 fractured ribs and a crushed heart and larynx hadn’t died accidentally. Kennedy ‘getting off’ would inevitably throw the spotlight on who had done the crime. 
With the Jury placed under considerable pressure from the judge to reach a decision Kennedy was found guilty of manslaughter, a perverse judgment as Quinn’s injuries clearly indicated he’d been brutally murdered.
Kennedy was sentenced to 9 years imprisonment. Thankfully for him there were now plenty of people convinced of his innocence, including Celia Stubbs, the partner of Blair Peach, killed by the Metropolitan Police during protests against the National Front in Southall in April 1979.
In the late 80s and throughout much of the following decade Stubbs was actively involved with Hackney Community Defence Association [HCDA], which later merged into the independent self-financed Colin Roach Centre. HCDA, together with members of the Irish community based at the Irish Centre in Hammersmith, formed the Justice for Patrick Quinn, Free Malcolm Kennedy campaign and were to regularly picket Hammersmith Police Station over many years. 
In 1996 in the lead up to Kennedy’s appeal against his conviction an early day House of Commons motion attracted 65 signatures. This was made on the grounds that the trial judge wrongly exercised his discretion by deciding that PC Giles was medically unfit to give evidence and then in his absence allowing transcripts of his evidence in previous hearings to be read out in open court. Further, that it was an abuse of process for the second re-trial to continue without PC Giles giving evidence.
However on Tuesday 16th July 1996 Kennedy’s appeal against his manslaughter conviction was lost. The 3 High Court Judges would not accept any of the grounds put forward by Mike Mansfield QC, Kennedy’s barrister, and would not accept that Kennedy had not had a fair trial.
Later, when he had been released from prison, Kennedy’s attempts to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights were also unsuccessful. For some this might have been the end of the matter, but no sane person wants to go to their grave having been wrongly convicted of another man’s death, even if it is of the lesser charge of manslaughter rather than murder. Kennedy was determined to legally prove he did not kill Patrick Quinn, a man he had never previously met.
During the protracted court cases officers from Hammersmith Police station had disputed ever previously knowing who Patrick Quinn was prior to his arrest for drunkenness. The implication was clear, there was no motive for police officers to attack Quinn.
And yet seven years ago, and thirteen years after Quinn’s death someone who knew him well came forward after he saw an appeal for new witnesses in the Irish press. The man had waited until he moved back to Northern Ireland, after forty years on London building sites, before making contact.
What he revealed was amazing. Campaigners had never previously heard of Joseph Fallon, but it turned out he had also died in Hammersmith Police Station three years before Quinn did the same. The witness had only found out about Fallon from a friend a month after his death, following which he rang the police about finding the dead man’s relatives in Ireland in order to help arrange a funeral. A search of the records revealed that Fallon died in police custody at Hammersmith on September 17th 1987. He had a ruptured liver. Because of the circumstances an Inquest was held at which his death was recorded as natural causes
Interesting, but what had that to do with Quinn? “They were best friends.”
So much so that the man alleges that three years later at 7.00am on December 24th 1990 he was rung by the police to be told that Patrick Quinn had died in Hammersmith Police Station.
He had known Quinn’s since meeting him at a friends wedding in 1967 in Hammersmith. Over the next 23 years he frequently worked with him on various sites and also enjoyed the odd pint or two. “He was a very respectable Irish man who would stick up for his rights” leading to him having “the odd argument” including with the police. According to the man Quinn, like Fallon, was a passionate Republican.
The man claims; “that the police would have the odd go at Quinn now and again” - something he says he heard from the men he was transporting to and from work on various building sites. 
Asked why he thought the police had contacted him less than 6 hours after Quinn had been confirmed as being dead in the Police Station the Tyrone man, who is married and has two grown up children, felt “it could have been because they had my name in there because of Joe Fallon. My opinion would be that they [the police] knew Patrick Quinn knew Joe Fallon” and as such the man was contacted because of his concern three years earlier when Fallon died.
This would indicate that if true, certainly one or more officers had already made the connection in a matter of a few hours between Quinn’s death and that of Joseph Fallon three years earlier at the same station. In effect, at least, one officer knew that the dead man was Patrick Quinn and that he was a friend of a man who had died earlier in the same station.
The implications are clear, but when Kennedy through his legal team tried to get the Criminal Cases Review Commission [CCRC] to look at the new evidence he was told they wouldn’t commit any resources into taking their own statement.
It has left Kennedy frustrated, especially as he alleges that since he left prison he has faced constant harassment in the form of “highly intrusive and unlawful surveillance” including interference with his phones, mail and emails. All of which he claims has had the effect of blocking him from going about his everyday affairs whilst preventing potential customers making contact with his removals firm and thus losing him a lot of business.
Kennedy’s attempts to pursue a legal case here in Britain and in the European Court of Human Rights on this have proven unsuccessful
Kennedy is not hopeful of having his conviction overturned saying on the 20th anniversary of the death of Patrick Quinn that he’d “love to believe, but I think it’s unlikely that my manslaughter conviction will be overturned in my lifetime.

I feel the statement that was obtained in October 2003, disproving the police claims about not knowing Patrick Quinn when they arrested him, was new evidence and yet the CCRC wouldn’t commit any resources into taking their own statement and consequently I am blocked from appealing against my conviction. 

It may be twenty years on but I am still haunted by what happened in 1990, especially as I am still being harassed due to an ongoing police interest in me. I hoped this would stop when I formally stopped campaigning a few years ago in order to enjoy some relative peace. Sadly that hasn’t proven to be the case, and I still find my phones, emails and letters being interfered with and I suspect that will continue until my death. 

But, I repeat, and always will - I was not responsible for the death of Patrick Quinn in Hammersmith Police Station on December 23rd 1990.”

“ I hope that one day Malcolm Kennedy and the family of Patrick Quinn will both know the truth about what happened in Hammersmith Police Station in December 1990, and that those responsible for an innocent mans death are brought to justice” Celia Stubbs.

[*] In 1998 GRANADA television made one of the biggest libel settlements in legal history after it issued a full apology in the High Court to PC’s Paul Giles, Peter Bleakley and Emlyn Welsh for what The Independent reported was ‘wrongly implicating them of covering up a murder in a World in Action programme…the settlement, to include £100,000 to each Metropolitan Police officer and their costs of £1.2 m, comes after a six-year battle…….A spokesman for the officers' solicitors, Russell Jones and Walker, said the men were pleased the case had concluded in their favour, but "this will never make up for the damage caused to these entirely innocent and blameless men. Viewers were left with the impression that it was a police officer who had murdered Patrick Quinn."

Monday, 20 December 2010

Terrace Battles

Scunthorpe United supporters are seeking to use Lib Dem support for safe standing areas at football grounds to maintain terracing at their ground. The outcome could have implications for supporters at all major footballing venues. 

Nicknamed ‘The Irons’ Scunthorpe United have, with gates averaging little more than 6,000, certainly shown plenty of metal by maintaining their position in English footballs second league, the NPower Championship, for the last three seasons.

One more season of success though and the club will be hit with a massive bill for a move that the majority of their supporters don’t want, whereby seats will be installed at the Doncaster Road End of the 9,088 capacity Glanford Park opened in 1988. This was recently packed for an incident free record crowd of 9,077 for the League Cup match with Manchester United.

The change will result in a thousand less allowed inside for bigger matches and more expensive tickets, and arises under rules instructing clubs to install seating within three years of being promoted to the Championship. Being unsuccessful on the pitch would though have its rewards, as relegation would enable Scunthorpe to retain its standing area.

Now, with no self-respecting Irons fan shouting for them to go down some of its most vocal have got together to launch a ‘Keep Scunthorpe Standing’ campaign which at the recent derby match with Leeds United obtained the backing of the club’s most famous supporter, ‘Beefy’, or Ian Botham. He added his signature to those of more than 2,000 regulars and with backing from the Football Supporters’ Federation [FSF], which represents over a quarter of a million fans through various supporters organisations, they’re trying to get the Liberal Democrats to pressurise their coalition partner, the Tories, into backing the junior parties official position of supporting safe standing.

Bath’s Don Foster has been the MP taking up the case with Hugh Robertson, the Sports Minister, and said “he is probably sick of me by now. He’s agreed this is an important issue worth looking at again and will be speaking to the FA, the Premier League, the Football League and the Football Licensing Authority to discuss the potential for change. The 2012 Olympics is the priority but until recently it was followed closely by the 2018 World Cup bid. Now that the latter is over I think it will be time to take another look at safe standing.”

As a long standing Scunthorpe fan David Beverley would like to think that Foster is right, but meanwhile he’s gathering further support including that of local Conservative MP Andrew Percy, whose constituency includes Glanford Park. Now that they are out of office Labour too is behind the campaign, with its new leader Ed Miliband saying he will meet the campaign.

Beverley is keen to point out that Morecambe have just built a brand new ground, the Globe Arena, whose 4,000 plus standing areas dwarf the remaining terracing at Scunthorpe. He’s also noted, as anyone who watches Match of the Day can’t have failed to notice, that every weekend fans of away teams in the Premier League are unlikely to watch their favourites sitting down.

But surely standing, especially after Hillsborough in 1989 when 96 supporters lost their lives on the antiquated Leppings Lane, isn’t to be trusted? Not so argues FSF representative Chris Nash who said, “plenty of large football grounds in Europe have massive standing areas that are safe. Similar facilities could be made available here for the many fans who’d prefer to stand and who were are campaigning on behalf of to try and change the ground regulations.”

Don Foster is hopeful saying “while we are not home and dry just yet, I feel that progress is being made." However if that really is the case Hugh Robertson, and the department of Culture, Media and Sport [DCMS] he represents, certainly aren’t giving anything away because after the Sports Minister’s office forwarded my questions to the DCMS a spokesperson said “whilst we appreciate some supporters have genuine concerns about Glanford Park becoming all-seater we are not convinced that a compelling case has been made to change the legislation which has helped ensure improvements in safety at football grounds over the last 20 years.  There are no plans to change policy and Scunthorpe will be required to covert to an all-seater stadium by next season.”

Despite the negative reply Beverley, perhaps not surprisingly, responded that all those involved “are determined to stand our ground.” 

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Sunderland 1 Bolton Wanderers 0

Sunderland 1

Welbeck 32

Bolton Wanderers 0

Steve Bruce’s side took advantage of the cancellation of games elsewhere to move within touching distance of the Premier League’s high fliers. Sunderland aren’t, of course, going to win the title but a first ever qualification for Europe achieved through a high league placing remains a possibility.

What seems less likely is match winner Danny Welbeck still being on Wearside next season as he must surely be in Sir Alex Ferguson’s thoughts for next season when his loan in the north-east expires in the summer. The youngster was on hand in the 32nd minute to head home after Jussi Jaaskelainen parried Darren Bent’s powerful close range shot.

It was no more than Sunderland deserved following a bright opening spell in which Bent missed a good chance and Jaaskelainen saved a powerful Asamoah Gyan drive that deflected off Gary Cahill. Soon after the Bolton centre-back was a lucky man when referee Chris Foy preferred yellow rather than red following a rash challenge on Bent.

Ironically if the Bolton had been sent off the crowd would have missed the best save ever seen at the Stadium of Light since it opened in the summer of 1997. Matt Taylor’s corner was headed powerfully back across goal by Cahill and when Zat Knight side footed the ball from just two yards out no-one in the ground could have expected to witness what came next. Appearing from literally nowhere Craig Gordon somehow not only got his arm to the ball but also managed to scoop it from behind his body and over the bar. No wonder he was showered with congratulations from his team-mates, helping his side retain their slender half-time lead with an absolutely brilliant save.

The home side were fortunate early in the second half. Lee Cattermole had been booked for an innocuous challenge in the first period, but this time the ex-Middlesbrough man clearly brought down Johan Elmander for what should have been a second yellow and an early bath. Not so said Foy, whose failure even to award a free kick had the Bolton manager Owen Coyle rightly going mental in his dugout area.

Welbeck might have finished off the game soon after but his shot from a Gyan pullback hit the outside of the post. Then with Bruce preferring to hold on by taking off Gyan, and replacing him with midfielder Bolo Zenden, Bolton piled forward. Paul Robinson and Cahill both had shots blocked in the box, before man of the match Anton Ferdinand did superbly to block substitute Ivan Klasnic’s eight-yard shot.

With Sunderland desperately hanging on Klasnic was then guilty of a poor miss when with just seconds remaining he miscued from less than six yards out. An equaliser though would have been harsh on the home side, which already missing their two central defenders did remarkably well to cope after experienced defender John Mensah limped off with less than twenty minutes of the game gone. 

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Teams of Sunderland AFC book

Fair play to Paul Days and Brian Leng for putting together a superb photographic collection of the Teams of Sunderland AFC dating right back to 1885, just six short years after Scotsman James Allan kicked off the north-east [of England’s] most successful football club.

Over the decades ‘the lads’ from County Durham have had some very decent players and even one or two outstanding stars such as Johnny Campbell, Charlie Buchan, Ted Doig, Raich Carter and Charlie Hurley. This remarkable collection gives Sunderland followers a chance to take a look at them all. In doing so you also catch a glimpse of how the game of football has changed as shin pads move from outside the socks, boots become much smaller and lighter, shorts rise above the knee and shirts become more lightweight and eventually adorned with the logos of car manufacturers and alcoholic products.

Then there’s the hair, or lack of it as for many years it was short back and sides for all and you wonder what the likes of Tom Porteous, right back in the sides that captured the Division One title in 1891-92 and 1892-93, would have made of a man who followed in his position ninety or so years later, Barry Venison, with his long flowing locks.

Ethnically too there’s a distinct change - although interestingly both the official photographs that Paul and Brian have been able to use for the 1978-79 and 1979-80 teams do not include Sunderland’s first black footballer, Roly Gregoire - so by 1984-85 there’s two black faces in the photograph in Howard Gayle and Gary Bennett. It’s a number that has steadily risen since.

The photographs are clear and concise, and this is a marvellous book. It’s therefore disheartening to note that the Sunderland club shop has decided not to stock it, especially as the book even includes photographs supplied to the authors by the club itself! Now I feel it was bad form for the club not to have stocked an excellent book on the Sunderland side of 1935-37 that I co-authored with Paul but this seems more than a little daft. Brian Leng in particular has given thousands of hours of his spare time to Sunderland, whilst Paul was the main man behind the excellent Official History 1879-2000 book.

The club make a lot of how much their supporter’s mean to them, and what is a football club without its supporters? Well there aren’t many better at Sunderland than Brian Leng and Paul Days and the least the club can do is stock The Teams of Sunderland book - especially as i suspect its going to sell very well. 

The Teams of Sunderland AFC - Sportsbooks
£25 or £18.99 before Christmas

No ifs or buts - The Law still demands the NHS pay for care homes

The coalition government seems set to continue with the policy of the past sixty four years by failing to inform electors that, under the NHS Act of 1946, all long term care for those who need it should be free.

Consequently, like millions before them, thousands of mainly elderly people legally entitled to free health care will continue to be treated unlawfully by health authorities that force them to sell their homes to pay for care. This will be  despite a landmark ruling eleven years ago re-affirming under the 1946 NHS Act a right to free health care from cradle to grave.

In 1999 road traffic accident victim Pamela Coughlan successfully opposed at the Appeal Court the closure of her Exeter nursing home and her transfer to social services arguing that North and East Devon Health Authority sought to redefine healthcare as social care. Four years later health authorities were instructed to follow Department of Heath Guidance preventing elderly and disabled people paying for care that should be free.

However when he subsequently gathered evidence from right across the country businessman Robin Lovelock was convinced little had changed. Almost a decade ago he set up www.nhscareinfo and claims “hundreds, if not thousands of people have benefited. The Law is that anyone with care needs the same or greater than Pam Coughlan, must be 100% funded by the NHS - including all Care Home costs.

The Labour Government from 1997 to 2010 followed the strategy of the previous Major/Thatcher Government to evade the legal obligation of the NHS to pay for long-term care resulting from a stroke, road accident, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or other health conditions. The NHS closed down long term stay beds, typically occupied by geriatric patients, and used Social Services to approach families, misinform them, and get them to pay for the Care Home after means testing. Those without sufficient savings, or a house to sell, become the burden of local Council Tax payers. Many of the people who have given the NHS our one page flyer have had their full care costs covered. One Law firm [*] has won back over £9 million in recovered costs for families."

Earlier this year the family of war veteran Leslie Terry, 88 won over a quarter of million pounds from the NHS in compensation for being forced to sell his home to pay for his £3,500 a month care. Suffering from Alzheimer’s Mr Terry, who served in Burma and India, has not been out of bed for years.

Despite such successes Lovelock believes most people are unaware of their entitlements. He is highly critical of the media accusing them of “concentrating on bad news rather than informing their readers in plain English of their rights.”

Neither is he expecting the government to mount a campaign to let people know their rights. In opposition the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for older people, Paul Burstow MP, was highly critical of Labour’s record on denying free health care, calling it a “cruel hoax.” However since he was appointed minister for care services in May 2010 he seems to have lost his tongue on the matter.

At least, if that remains the case, the way will be open for others to assert their rights but Lovelock is concerned they will soon find them being curtailed by “new legislation legalising what has been happening, despite the Coughlan judgment. It would be a great shame if one of the pillars of the NHS was removed.” 

* The firm is Hugh James of Cardiff, Wales. 

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Improving workplace safety

More people would be killed and injured at work without them. Welfare facilities would be attacked and the health of millions of workers would suffer. Elected union safety representatives play a vital role in trying to ensure working conditions are safe, especially in a period where employers might be tempted to reduce safety spending in an attempt to cut costs and boost profits.

Production operative Martin Foster became a Unite safety rep at the Scunthorpe Tata Steel [ex-Corus] plant six years ago. Having witnessed workplace injuries elsewhere he was keen to prevent similar occurrences at Scunthorpe.  He’s devoted thousands of hours of his spare time to the cause and had a high degree of success. It’s still not enough to make him happy though, especially as there have been two deaths this year. 

“There are some serious site hazards. Molten metal is dangerous and gases from the coke and blast furnace are highly toxic and explosive. As a safety rep I wanted to ensure management fulfilled their legal obligations under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act [HASAWA]” said Martin, elected as the Unite senior safety rep four years ago, and one of sixty reps covering every department at the North Lincolnshire site.

Getting management to act isn’t easy.  Martin believes “we must remember it was the struggle of earlier trade unionists against hostile employers that established the laws which now offer some protection. However, despite the legal framework, management won’t act on our concerns unless we prove our case by rigorously collecting information highlighting them. ”

“We do this in a number of ways at the Bounds Green maintenance depot of the East Coast Main Line railway company” said engineer Alan Bayliss, a Unite safety rep there for five years “including through quarterly inspections and examining the record of safety incidents and accidents to see if there are patterns emerging that need addressing. We obtain safety advice from the union and specialist publications such as the Hazards magazine. By advertising our role on union notice boards members can also approach us direct with their safety issues. “ 

Both men raise their concerns in writing. Martin says this is to “ensure there is a paper trail so no manager can deny being informed. In most instances management will act. For example after we raised noise problems soundproofing was improved and on welfare we negotiated improvements in shower and kitchen facilities.

If it’s clear our requests are being ignored we raise the problem at a departmental health and safety committee meeting and, if necessary, when we meet with senior management at the site safety meeting when all unions and department managers are present.”

When that doesn’t work the Health and Safety Executive [HSE] may be informed. Martin is pleased “about getting an HSE improvement notice at Tata over the lack of control of asbestos. This doesn’t immediately kill you, but could later as 4,000 workers are annually finding out by going to an early grave after working with the product 25-30 years ago. It’s better to negotiate improvements with management but it’s not always possible.”

When problems are not rectified the consequences can be fateful. In April Martin represented Unite at the funeral of his union colleague, 26-year-old Tom Standerline. The electrician was carrying out maintenance duties when was crushed by an overhead crane.

Ongoing HSE investigations mean Martin can’t say anything specific. He wasn’t though totally surprised there’d been a death as “the union had regularly raised with management over the last few years the need for constant vigilance. We were aware of some near misses, and felt it was partly luck that no one had been killed. Going to the funeral demonstrated why we must improve our organisation. The pain amongst Tom’s family and friends was terrible.” It’s one now being felt by Barry Shaw’s, the contractor being killed in September after becoming trapped between a lorry tractor unit and a trailer.

Four years ago Corus were fined £1.3 million, with £1.7 million costs, for killing three workers at Port Talbot. As the deaths have continued Martin feels campaigns for new laws on Corporate Manslaughter, whereby senior directors would be held accountable for workplace deaths “should be backed.” With the Tories in power, and already attacking existing health and safety laws, it may be sometime before this is put into effect.

Meanwhile Martin is determined to up the fight for improved safety. He wants Tata to improve its management safety training, has helped establish a joint safety site committee with the GMB union and wants no safety rep to be left isolated and without support.

“We have lost a battle with the two lads deaths, but we can only really mark their passing by ensuring we organise to protect the living. That means getting more members to come forward as safety reps. This is most definitely not a time to throw in the towel.”

Established in 1977, under section 15 of the 1974 HASAWA, safety reps appointed from recognised unions have a right to investigate potential hazards, dangerous occurrences and accidents, carry out workplace inspections, make representations to the employer on health and safety matters and to receive information and represent employees at workplace consultation meetings with heath and safety inspectors.

 Where at least two safety reps request a safety committee be established the employer must do so within three months. They have a legal right to paid time off for performing their functions and to undergo relevant training.

“The training the union provides is a big help” says Alan “as it varies from basic safety right through to more specialist industry based courses. As well as learning how to do inspections you find out about hidden hazards and begin understanding the need for procedures to ensure no one is injured at work or suffer from using a dangerous substance. The courses give you confidence about how to approach management with a problem.  Safety reps protect people. Figures show that workplaces where there is one are safer.”

A point proved by researchers in 1995 who discovered manufacturing establishments with trade union health and safety committees had half the injury rate of non-union workplaces. Findings that were supported by a 2007 government paper on the “union safety effect” estimating safety reps annually prevent between 8,000 and 13,000 workplace accidents.

“Anyone who gets the chance to become a safety rep should take it.  The union will get you started and you will be doing yourself and your work colleagues a favour,” said Alan Bayliss.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Review of Made in Dagenham

Made in Dagenham is a highly entertaining British film centred on the equal pay struggle of women sewing machinists at the Dagenham Ford car plant in the late 60s.

With the dramatisation featuring actors such as Sally Hawkins, Rosamund Pike, Miranda Richardson, Daniel Mays and Bob Hoskins it should attract a decent audience. Better still its arrival, in a period when employers and the coalition government seem set on cutting pay and conditions, could ironically give today’s workers a few tips on how to organise.

As June 1968 arrives the news is dominated by the Knighting of Manchester United manager Matt Busby, the arrest of Martin Luther King’s killer James Earl Ray at Heathrow airport and the search for Robert F Kennedy’s assassin.

187 working class women in east London though have more important issues to get concerned about after their employer announces they are to be downgraded from semi to unskilled labour. Unlike many factories in the private sector today, they’re all members of the union - not any old union, but one with some clout in the National Union of Vehicle Builders that later amalgamated with the TGWU that is now part of Unite. The result is an overtime ban and then a walk out.

It’s thought the women will soon be back at work, but as the film shows they grow in strength and confidence as they realise the collective power they have over production. 

Nigel Cole previously directed the Calendar Girls, in which a group of Yorkshire Women’s Institute members take their clothes off to raise money for Leukaemia Research.  As a comedy it was sweet and good-humoured and in his attempts to bring similar qualities to Made in Dagenham Cole does occasionally overstep the mark. Such as when he has some of the women stripping down to their underwear to escape the boiling hot temperatures of a dilapidated workplace or having one of the strikers persuaded by management to pose for a Ford calendar photo-shoot.

Bob Hoskins too, as the male shop steward who backs the women’s walkout, often appears awkward. You also doubt that the behind the scenes union wrangling over whether the women should be fully supported would have been resolved so amicably. Particularly as towards the end of the strike thousands of Fords male workers were laid up and the company was losing millions, causing it to threaten the Labour Government about pulling out of Britain.
These though are minor points. Made in Dagenham is after all not a documentary but a film based on factual events. Nevertheless, to its great credit it presents a serious industrial struggle in an accessible and entertaining fashion. Furthermore within it working class people are portrayed positively, not as objects of laughter as in The Full Monty, but as living, breathing makers of history who through struggle pave the way for improvements in working conditions. At a time when newspaper columnists are poised to vilify any workers forced to defend their pay and conditions through strike action Made in Dagenham may just be the sort of show that gets people thinking. That would be something.

Football teams of the decades


The top side, with four league titles and two FA Cup wins, was Aston Villa. Everton, who started the decade by moving from Anfield to Goodison Park, were the best supported side.


With three league titles, one FA Cup success and the highest average gate it was Newcastle United.


With two league titles from just five competitive seasons it has to be Blackburn Rovers, with the magnificent Robert Crompton at the back, although Chelsea were the best-supported side.


With three consecutive titles and one FA Cup success it was Huddersfield although Chelsea, despite six seasons in Division Two had the highest average gate.


With five league titles, three in consecutive years, and two FA Cup wins the best-supported side Arsenal were clearly the side of the 30s.


With two league titles from just four seasons it was Portsmouth, although Second Division Newcastle were the best-supported club.


With three league titles apiece Wolves narrowly piped Manchester United for the honour of the being the team of the decade with success at the 1959-60 FA Cup Final. Attendance wise there was little to choose between Manchester United, Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea. Best watched away side was however Stanley Matthews’ Blackpool!!


Tottenham Hotspur won the most trophies with three FA Cup successes and victory in the 1963 Cup-Winners Cup to add to their single league success. However it could well be argued that the record of Manchester United was superior as in addition to winning the FA Cup in 1963 they also twice captured the Division One Championship and won the European Cup in 1968.


Liverpool with four league titles, a single FA Cup success, two European Cup and two UEFA cup wins were the team of the decade but off the pitch Manchester United assumed their virtually permanent place at the top of the attendance tree from 1972-73 onwards broken only by Liverpool in 1987-88 and 1988-89.


With six league titles, two FA Cup’s, four League Cups and two more European Cups then Liverpool were the number one team. 


Manchester United, with five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, one League Cup, one Cup-Winners Cup and the 1999 Champions Clubs’ Cup were the team of the decade.

First decade of the twenty-first century

With eleven trophies, including the FIFA Club World Cup, Manchester United were the team of the decade, with Chelsea three behind.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Mate Crime

Incidences of Mate Crime, under which someone befriends a person with a learning disability to exploit them, are being examined in a pilot project launched in West Yorkshire. The results could pave the way for legislative changes if they confirm the fears of disabled rights activists, and those working with them, that the crime is on the increase. It comes at a time when the numbers of people with learning disabilities living independently are rising in the wake of direct payments to them. 
David Grundy is the researcher from the national charity, the Association for Real Change [ARC], behind the project. He said: “It was a response to concerns amongst our members about cases where people were befriending people with learning disabilities in order to get them to buy them things, eat their groceries or to use their flats for parties. Going to the pub and only spending the disabled person’s money was also being raised as a concern. 
Those being exploited could get angry when someone raised their concerns with them, as they often didn’t see what is happening as a crime. From my initial findings this appears to be the situation in the large majority of cases.” The project is based in Halifax and will run till 2011.
If the example of volunteer worker, Carol, is typical the problem of mate crime may well be a big one. Firstly, fearing she may be attacked for helping with this article she was unwilling to give her full name or location.  Carol, who is registered disabled herself, has in the last six years worked with 16 people with a learning disability. This has included helping them with budgeting and says: “that every one of them has suffered from incidents of mate crime. A typical case is that of a young man who is regularly phoned late at night by friends asking him to cook them a meal at his flat using food he has purchased. In another situation an alcoholic woman befriended a man, and in order to maintain what he felt was a relationship with her, he would buy beer and drugs and even perform sex acts on other people for money. Neighbours got upset at his behaviour and he ended up losing his flat.
Getting people to recognise they are being exploited is difficult in itself, but when people do subsequently stand up for themselves they can and do face intimidation and violence.”
Which was the case with Denise from Hull who befriended by a woman, introduced to her by a social worker, was later put under pressure to support unfounded allegations against a local man. Visibly shaking on being asked to recall events Denise said: “it was frightening. When I told the police I hadn’t seen what was being alleged I was threatened with serious violence. This woman I also believe spent most of the £2,000 my mother left me in her will.” 
Whilst most people with learning disabilities don’t ever have such large sums of cash the introduction of direct payments in 1998, followed four years later by local authorities being compelled to offer them, has substantially increased the numbers managing their own budgets. 
Disabled activist and equality researcher Dr Pam Thomas does not believe this is necessarily a bad thing saying: “disabled people campaigned, and in some cases were arrested for doing so, for the right to have a choice and as much control as possible over their lives. That includes deciding how to spend the allowances they are entitled to. With direct payments having increased then mate crime is a growing concern, including situations where family members persuade a disabled person to employ them and don’t carry out any of the tasks they are expected to fulfil. 
We can overcome the problems by re-establishing or improving Centres for Independent Living. [CIL] Each local authority is required to support these voluntary sector user led organisations to assist disabled people. Sadly, many haven’t allocated sufficient funds, and this has meant information is not being provided to give people a complete understanding of the problems they may face in managing their own budget. I look forward to seeing the ARC report as it will give us an idea of the levels of exploitation but we shouldn’t be waiting to act until it’s released in two years time.” 
Carol believes it should be “culturally unacceptable for people with learning disabilities to be exploited by unscrupulous members of the community keen to access the relatively small sums of money they have. We don’t want to develop a situation where people don’t want to be friends with people with learning disabilities, but where people do exploit them then protection needs offering.” 
In light of the fact that many of those being exploited don’t recognise what’s happening, and can act defensively when it’s pointed out, then will there be a need for additional legislation? 
Thomas is not sure saying “stealing someone’s money is already a crime” whilst Grundy believes that the “legislation on hate crimes should already cover a situation whereby someone targets a person with a learning disability in order to take their money. This should be reflected in the sentencing in just the same way as when there is a racial element to a crime.” 
Grundy says that one of the aims of the project will be to develop a toolkit of resources that organisations can use to protect people and that over the next couple of years there will training and awareness raising on mate crime.
The level of support he has received from many statutory and voluntary agencies has heartened him and he is confident that his final report will “give a good indication of how big a problem mate crime against people with learning disabilities is and consequently whether new approaches to tackle it will be needed.” 

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Is there a plan if the banks went bust?

When savers in Northern Rock rushed to remove their hard earned cash in 2007 the collapse in the value of the banks assets sent shudders, still being felt today, across the whole of Britain’s financial system.

Indeed, so great was the crisis throughout 2008 and the first half of 2009 that some political commentators and economists believed the country was on the edge of bankruptcy. Iain Martin in the Telegraph newspaper was amongst them, writing on January 20th 2009 ‘that with every step taken by the Government to frantically prop up the British banking system, this central truth becomes ever more obvious....the country stands on the precipice. We are at risk of utter humiliation, of London becoming a Reykjavik on Thames and Britain going under. Thanks to the arrogance and serial incompetence of the Government and a group of bankers, the possibility of national bankruptcy is not unrealistic.’

Thankfully Martin’s fear proved misplaced. But with plenty of economists worried that the coalition government’s plans to slash billions of £’s in public spending might create a ‘double-dip’ recession then what would happen if Martin’s mistake was simply his timing, and the banks did, in fact, collapse?

The answer, if enquiries to a range of government organisation’s and Britain’s biggest food chain are to be believed, appears to be very little.

Britain’s Emergency Planning College is based near York. Currently managed by Serco Limited its website states it is ’situated at the heart of Government, within the Civil Contingencies Secretariat of the Cabinet Office, and responsible for running courses on an inter-agency basis in the field of crisis management and emergency planning.’ Six thousand delegates a year participate in its diverse programme intended to share good practice. Has it ever run, been asked or would want to run a course on what the authorities should do in a situation where the country has experienced financial Armageddon?
A senior college official is initially more than happy to help. Agreeing that whilst they’ve never run such courses they might be a good idea, only to immediately retract his statement asking not to be named for “fear of losing my job.”
Perhaps the Cabinet Office can be of greater assistance? No-one questions the argument that the banking and finance system could collapse - so has the Cabinet, past or present, discussed having plans drawn up on how to react if just such a situation arose? After all isn’t it better to be prepared for all eventualities? It takes nearly three weeks to receive a reply stating ‘the best people to speak to on this are actually the Treasury.’
Meanwhile, what would be the response of Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket chain, if money became worthless? Would they be willing to distribute food free to people whilst the authorities introduce emergency plans to restore confidence in the financial system? Curtly a spokesperson tells me “No comment.”
Over at the Treasury it may have as well been the same response; with a spokesperson blandly stating the department is “responsible for ensuring that appropriate plans exist to manage major operational disruption. We work with the Financial Services Authority……….to maintain financial stability. What’s more, the Government is currently reforming the regulatory structure which will further improve oversight and regulation of the UK’s financial services sector.”
As the reply fails to answer any of my questions I go back to the Cabinet Office and put it to them that there aren’t any plans in place for a banking crash, that whilst no-one in authority disputes it could happen there’s no one brave enough to admit plans need discussing for just such an eventuality. Not so and as proof I am told why not take a look at the 22 capability work streams for emergencies that are listed on the Cabinet Office website. Clicking on the link listed under Financial Services I am returned back to the Treasury Office.
The whole exercise has taken a frustrating ten weeks. This is a lot longer than it would take for Britain’s supermarket shelves to run dry and starvation to kick-in as the country no longer has the capacity or skills to feed itself, relying for almost half of what we eat on the imports that we would be unable to afford if the value of the £ disappeared. It’s a grim scenario but one surely that any Government should consider and make contingency plans for?