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Those American ‘punk poppers’ are back with their 5th studio release and, in my view, their best. Take Off Your Pants and Jacket is a more mature album musically than the previous release Enema of the State, but the lyrics are still as immature and comical as ever, just as we’ve come to expect from the trio. Now this isn’t the right place to say anything about the history of the band, so I won’t go in to any detail whatsoever about that. Instead I’ll just write about this album with a track-by-track rundown and a conclusion at the end. Enjoy… Anthem Part Two This carries on from ‘Anthem,’ the final track on Enema, which was a very pop-orientated tune written from the perspective of a teenager about sex, parents and getting drunk (typical Blink!). The follow-up begins with a subdued 45-second intro before the vocal kicks in. The lyrics are again about being young and how “kids are victims,” and are sung by DeLonge (Tom). This song sets the mood for the rest of the record, with the more adult music and DeLonge’s punk-rock voice. The swearing in this track also gets the listener set for an angrier offering. The weak point is that this song never really seems to get going enough and so can become boring. I suppose I should rate each track… go on then (you lucky people) – 7½ /10 Online Songs Again here there is reference to previous Blink material. Online Songs, sung by Mark Hoppus, mentions Josie as his “source of most frustration.” Josie is the title of a track from Dude Ranch on the subject of a perfect girlfriend, with the final line “I know everything’s gonna be fine.” This is a stark contrast to Online Songs, where he and Josie have a relationship which is far from ideal. The tempo of the track is raised and it is very catchy from start to finish. For this reason I give it 9/10 First Date This is the second song to be released from the album and again is very catchy and so should be successful. Back to the subject of teenage love, this could easily have been written by a 16 year old lad nervous about his first real date. The first verse is full of questions and panicky lyrics, before a fast-paced chorus and the second verse, which is more about having fallen in love. The guitar work in this track is appealing and fits in with the mainstream music Blink are making nowadays. Well worthy of 8/10. Happy Holidays, You Bastard Well they couldn’t last out for more than 6 or 7 minutes of semi-mature tunes could they. This is 42 seconds of the most puerile material you’re ever likely to hear. Still, it’s an interesting listen, and not since Family Reunion have they fitted so many obscenities into such a short space (which is why I can’t quote any of the song). I counted 33 in that track, so in comparison Happy Holidays is good, clean family fun. However, I wouldn’t recommend playing this in front of your elders (show some respect boys and girls). A good laugh without a serious line in sight, a respectable 8/10. Story of a Lonely Guy Quite a dissimilarity between this and its predecessor (whoa – two long words in one sentence!). This song is fairly downbeat (yes it is a word) in comparison, but is superior both lyrically and musically. Again love, or rather lack of it (as the title would suggest), is the subject for this track. Nice guitar work during the breaks in the vocal adds to this track and as a suitable build up to The Rock Show I give it 8½ /10. The Rock Show The first release from the record scored the band a well deserved hit in the UK. This is the most ‘pop-ish’ song on the album, about; guess what, falling in love. Repetition in theme, but theme alone. All tracks are different and entertaining in their own right. This one is very
upbeat and lively and with Mark on vocal this was bound to be popular. It is the closest you will find on this album to anything on Enema, but it’s a quality tune. Very catchy, very good, very Blink – 9/10 Stay Together for the Kids This track made the biggest impression on me from the first listen than any other ever has. If this were written and sung by a serious band it could be moving stuff. It is close in theme to Adam’s Song from Enema – lost childhood. Stay Together is the stand-out song on the album and combines Mark’s soft voice on the verses with Tom’s harsher, livid voice on the chorus perfectly. Like Adam’s Song, this contains very thought provoking lyrics, and I feel it is the best slow track they have produced. A superb 10/10 as the tears roll down my cheeks(!). Roller Coaster A decent track but nothing special. Again the guitar work is noticeably marvellous and the theme of the song is love. Actually, scrap that first comment, listening to it again it is pretty good. The lyrics are once more non too serious, just plain fun, and the pace of the song is moderate and just what the album needs – 7½ /10 Reckless Abandon This tune starts off slowly with no music, but then the guitar kicks in and the pace picks up. The beginning of the first verse sums Blink up in a nutshell: “I learned a lot today, Not sure if I’ll get laid, Not sure if I’ll fail or pass, Kissed every girl in class…” Most teens can relate to that line of thought! However, the same can’t be said for the last bit of the second verse: “He took a sh*t in the bathroom tub, And fed the dog the brownie drugs, Tried hard to not get caught, He f*cked a chick in a parking lot” Anyway, it’s a quality tune through and through; hints of pop, but mainly punk rock. Everytime I Look for You This one gets
going very quickly and in a blink of the eye (don’t even think that was a pun) you find that you’re in the chorus. A thoroughly enjoyable track again combing the vocal talents of Hoppus and DeLonge. The pace of the track is quite quick originally, but towards the end there is a period of calm which just enhances the track. 8/10. Give Me One Good Reason This comes a close second to Stay Together. It is very appealing without a hint of pop about it. The drumming from Travis Barker plays a bigger part in this track, and the guitars also contribute to ensuring there isn’t a dull moment. Again, teens can relate to this, even though it isn’t about love. It deals with those kids who aren’t regarded as fashionable, “They hate the trends and think it’s f*cked to care… so give me one good reason, why we need to be like them… they [kids] don’t want to and don’t fit in.” This is bound to appeal to the youth of today and I feel it should be released after First Date. A stunning tune 9½ /10 Shut Up A superior track with more than its fair share of blaspheme (cussing to the uneducated ones (including I, who used the thesaurus!)). You can get a good idea of this song from the opening line, “Shut the f*ck up she said.” Enough said! Well worthy of a listen from your good self, as well as 8½ /10 Please Take Me Home The run of class tracks extends to 13 with this little beauty. Not very pacey, but some very good and quite heavy (for Blink) guitar work and drumming play a part in making this tune, about dating a (female) friend. The lyrics are simple, although put together with the tune they are emphasised and are the making of a more-than-respectable track, 8/10 Bonus Tracks What Went Wrong This concerns a good relationship gone bad. This is another quite outstanding tune, describing how the liaison once was, “We would stay up
all through the night, We would laugh and get high, And never answer the phone,” and how it turned out, “I can’t forgive, Can’t forget, Can’t give in, What went wrong?, ‘Cause you said this was right, You f*cked up my life.” The feelings of the song are expressed at the end with the repetition of “I’m kicking, out fiercely at the world around me, What went wrong.” It really is many times better than you’re average bonus track, 9/10 Time to Break Up This is another rather fast paced song about everything and nothing, with more swearing. An additional bonus track that exceeded all expectations and still sounds great after many, many listens. Towards the end the pace slows with a short instrumental session and then another verse with more meaningful lyrics. F*ck a Dog And I thought Happy Holidays was as childish as it gets. I was wrong. Well, here you get twice the length of that song, and 17 f*cks. 17 f*cks in 90-seconds; beat that if you can (you’d get rather sore if you did…). I don’t think this was written from first-hand experience, )at least I hope not) and I don’t think many teenagers could relate to this (I *did* mean ‘many’). It must just be a bit of a laugh, and it’s not bad either. Most bands would try and make the last song of an album a good one that sums up the record as a whole… Blink 182 are no different, 9/10 for pure comical value. Man Overboard (video) The song is not contained on this album, you’re gonna have to buy the live album (The Mark, Tom and Travis Show – The Enema Strikes Back) if you want just the song. Still the video is included on the CD, though I haven’t watched it yet as it crashes my computer whenever I try to use it. I thought I’d give it a mention though as it is technically on the album. I personally can’t really make head no
r tail out of this song, though I presume it’s saying not to depend on people too much as we and they are not here for long, “You can only lean on me for so long, Bring the ship about to watch a friend drown, Settle on the ledge, That you don't come down, You can only lean on me for so long.” Anyway, all I know for sure is that it is an amazing track. It’s worth buying the live album just for this song, though you will be getting live performances of all the tracks on Enema plus some other great songs from the Blink back catalogue. Rated and recommended 10/10. Conclusion At the end of the day, when everything is said and done, it’s a game of two halves (d’oh, I’m drifting into football cliché mode!), this is a top album. Though this may not be suitable for sophisticated beings, those who are easily offended or those who are too old to appreciate this kind of quality, I would recommend it to everyone else. I got mine the day it came out and it still sounds great now, as does Enema, which is also worth investing in. Take Off Your Pants and Jacket has less of a pop vibe about it, but no doubt is just as catchy with some extremely amazing songs and none that are average or even close. By the way, if you don’t appreciate the humour of the title of the album, maybe it’s not for you.
Sven-Goran Eriksson is the best thing to happen to English football since... well, since Kevin Keegan quit, at least. What a day that was; it allowed the country to progress under the leadership of one of the finest rather than a half-rate like King Kev. Many people were in strong opposition to the thought of having a foreign man at the helm of the national team. Even they must see now that we were right to let Eriksson take charge. His record speaks for itself and he is highly regarded by everyone in Serie A. Before joining Lazio, where most of his fame comes from, he had already done a great deal. Here are his achievements pre-Lazio: Degerfors (Sweden) - From 3rd division to 1st division in successive seasons. IFK Gothenburg (Sweden) - Title, cup, title. Benfica (Portugal) - Championship/cup double and UEFA Cup finalist, championship. Roma (Italy) - Domestic cup. Fiorentina (Italy) -... Benfica (Portugal) - European Cup finalist, championship. Sampdoria (Italy) - Domestic cup. Now this in itself shows to be more favourable than any current English manager, especially compared to Keegan. However, he achieved more with Lazio, taking them to the top of their game and possible European honours. Here is his record from taking over in 1997. Lazio (Italy) - Italian Cup and Super Cup, Cup Winners Cup and UEFA Super Cup, Serie A title and Italian Cup. Six major honours in three seasons - we should count ourselves lucky to have him. Now lets look at his International record to date. Before the Greece game, England have won 7 out of 8 games, 5 of which were in the World Cup qualifying group. The squad is generally the same as under Keegan, but Eriksson has something more than his predecessor. "The Ice Man" is his nickname and it's not hard to see why. I believe he has all the passion of Keegan, but more tactical know-how and awareness; he is a brighter thinker and a calming i
nfluence. Even with everything going so well for England, he won't take his foot off the gas or take the success for granted. He can still be seen sometimes two or three times a week attending Premiership matches searching for new blood to help improve the squad. Eriksson has inspired the team and now has the right man for the job as captain. No one is more patriotic on the football field than David Beckham. Sven trusted his instinct, and Becks has repaid him. England work more as a team now than before. We don't have any outstanding players, on a level like Rivaldo, Luis Figo, or Zidane. We work as a unit now. Beckham, Gerrard and Scholes are perfect for an attacking midfield. Owen is proving to be more than a mere handful for opposition and he feeds well off the great service provided by the afore-mentioned trio. Sol Campbell is solid in defence and we have the bright talents of Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown coming through, not to mention Ledley King who will shine in years to come. The basis for a quality squad is there for all to see. We are nothing special though. The players have just got the belief required to take England to the top, that's all they need. We can do it. What I like about Eriksson is he is not afraid. He will try out anything. He goes to many games and sees players who he has faith in to make it. Ashley Cole, though prone to making mistakes defensibly, has impressed Sven going forwards. He is now almost a regular at left back. He is young; he will learn and develop, hopefully into a top class player. If he doesn't, we still have Le Saux or even Phil Neville. Eriksson will test the players in form. Teddy Sheringham has started this season for Tottenham in the same fashion as he did last season for the champions. He's a form player, even if he's not one for the future plans of English football. With Owen out, he has been brought into the squad and will hopefully start the n
ext game. Sheringham can do a job in the absence of a (possibly) key player. I don’t think we have to rely on Owen to score our goals. Philips is emerging still, as well as Fowler and Cole, with Heskey to play the Niall Quinn “donkey” role. The Swede has transformed England from the also-rans of the last European Championships into a potentially competitive team on the world arena. Here are the results from the 8 games played so far with him in charge: Spain (H) – 3-0 Finland (H) – 2-1 Albania (A) – 3-1 Mexico (H) – 4-0 Greece (A) – 2-0 Holland (H) – 0-2 Germany (A) – 5-1 Albania (H) – 2-0 7 wins, 0 draws, 1 loss Compare this with the 8 games immediately before Eriksson took over: Malta – 2-1 Portugal – 2-3 Germany – 1-0 Romania – 2-3 France – 1-1 Germany – 0-1 Finland (Howard Wilkinson) – 0-0 Italy (Peter Taylor) – 0-1 2 wins, 2 draws, 4 losses And now with Keegan’s managerial career with England: 7 wins, 7 draws, 4 losses. Considering that the only challenging opposition for Keegan were Germany (twice), Portugal, Brazil, France and Argentina, of which he won 1, drew 3 and lost 2, England were hardly a threat. To think that many of us had great hopes going into the finals is a joke. England were a joke. Keegan was (and many say still is) a joke. Eriksson has already beaten Mexico and Spain, and thrashed Germany. The nation is better off without Keegan in charge. Eriksson has instilled more life into games. Since his arrival, we have netted 21 times (7 from Owen, 13 from Liverpool and 7 from Man United), whilst only leaking 5 ourselves (12 scored in those 3 matches above, only 1 conceded). From Keegan and the caretakers, excluding the 6-0 drubbing of Luxembourg, in 19 matches, we scored 20 (2 from Owen, 5 from Shearer
and 6 from Scholes) and let in 16. No wonder all England fans were bored to death for 18 months, those figures are hardly exciting stuff. All we need to do is complete a simple victory over Greece, who have no chance of qualifying. They come off the back of a 5-1 defeat from Finland, have lost 5 of their 7 games and have a goal difference inferior to our own by 20. Owen or no Owen, it matters not; just that formality of a victory and we take the direct route to Japan and Korea next summer. With Sven guiding us we should be sitting pretty at the top of the group this Saturday night, and our next two games should be a bit of practice with Italy and Holland, rather than gruelling playoff legs against another second placed team fighting to gain a place in the sport’s ultimate competition. These are exciting times for England, long may they continue. All hail viKing Sven, Keegan is best off with Manchester City. *update* Yay, we won, if somewhat luckily. What seemed impossible less than a year ago has been achieved thanks to Eriksson and the team. Next stop, the World Cup finals...
Well, I saw this topic a while ago and made a mental note to write about my views on the best 11 in the world right now. I came across it again this (now yesterday!) morning and so thought I'd write about it tonight (last night). I've come fresh from the Man United game against Ipswich (4-0) and am currently watching Real Madrid against Espanol, so I’m ‘in the groove.’ Please forgive me if many of those players feature in the below list and also forgive the random Spanish, German and French. Continue to the good stuff at free will… There are no restrictions to this team, even Phil Neville COULD make it. Goalkeeper – Oliver Kahn Hailing from the Planet of the Apes, it's no surprise that Kahn is extremely athletic despite his age and tall stature. Playing for Bayern München and Germany, he is about the best keeper around. Difficult to beat from anywhere, he spreads himself like a German whore and can dive as well as Ginola. Kahn is the pick of both his club and national side and it would be a shame if he doesn't make it to the 2002 World Cup. Actually, no it wouldn't. Now he's getting old though and is nearing the end of his career. A major influence in Bayern's success in the last 5 years on the European front, he is a must in my team, shading the spot over Barthez. Right Back – Lilian Thuram Lillian shone for the French national women’s team before making the transition to the men’s game (so his website says). A full back for Juventus now after his £25m move from Parma. He started his career at Monaco and has won honours at every level; French Cup, Italian Cup, UEFA Cup as well as the European Championship and the World Cup with France, for whom he is a regular. This is a wealth of experience for a 29 year old, again at the peak of his career. Thuram scored the two goals for France against Croatia that saw them through to the
World Cup final but doesn’t usually contribute goals. He is useful going forward, but his definite strength is at the back. He has tremendous tackling ability for a full back, and possesses great pace and power. Just what every team wants. Centre Back uno – Jaap Stam The Dutch international now playing for Lazio was a key figure in Manchester United’s treble winning season and should help his new club in the Italian league. Stam is immense at the back with a great tackling capacity and a general competence that makes him stand out above other defenders. He’s good in the air and with his feet and is now 29 and at the peak of his career. If I had a football team and £16.5m lying about I’d invest in a Jaap Stam simply because he has talent in abundance and no hair. Centre Back dos – Roberto Ayala The Valencia star is the pick of all the South American defenders around. He has inspired his club side to success in the Spanish league with little resources and has played a major role in bringing them to successive Champions League finals. Ayala is the perfect partner for Stam. Together they would be the most formidable defence anywhere. Both are adequate in the air, and Ayala especially nifty with his feet. He won’t get beaten often by any player and is also good at bringing the ball forward to turn defence into attack. Nice. Left Back – Roberto Carlos Da Silva He played in his native Brazil for União São João and Palmeiras before moving overseas to Inter Milan for a season. In 1996 he transferred to Real Madrid and has enjoyed success on every stage with the Spanish champions and his national side. He’s in my team for one reason – his cool name… and his attacking play I suppose. He’s only slightly better defensively than Ashley Cole, but going forward he’s the best there is. He shaded this spot in the team over Bixente Lizarazu b
y a whisker. Both are great attacking players for arguably the top two national sides in the world. What gave Roberto Carlos the spot was the fact that in the Madrid match this evening he scored with a stunning strike from a free kick (though not as good as that one in the Tournoi), described by the commentator as “dream league stuff”. He’s extremely skilful (typical Brazilian), pacey and looks like Mini Me (so I think anyway). Top guy. Right Mid – David Beckham England’s finest, y’know. Beckham is the best crosser of the ball anywhere. This is a key feature of United’s attacking play and should help my team. He is the best all round player this nation possesses; not only can he take free kicks as well, but is useful at shooting and also tracking back. If a player beats him he’ll do his best to win the ball back and is always committed, in a girly kind of way. He needs to take players on more to improve his game, but he’s good enough for this team. Centre Mid ein – Juan Veron Signed for Estudiantes as a 5 year old (I’ve heard Dave Jones was the manager), he then played for Boca Juniors, then Sampdoria, then Parma where he won domestic and European trophies, before moving to Lazio for £20m where again success came on all stages. Sven knows talent when he sees it. Then United snapped up ‘The Little Witch’ for the minor amount of £28.1m from the bargain section of the transfer market. I don’t feel I need to justify my inclusion of the Argentinean star in this team, but I will; I’m good like that. He is as near to a complete player as you will find anywhere in the world. In my view, there is no better player. He has stunning vision, great passing ability and can unleash a powerful and accurate shot or two when required. A great asset to United, along with Keane he should help their quest for European glory again. No doubt a quali
ty player, I’ve give United £50m for him. He also looks like a baby-snatcher. Centre Mid zwei – Gaizka Mendieta (c) Despite the stupid hair, I rate Mendieta, Veron’s replacement, as one of the top three midfielders in the world. He stood out as a midfielder of world class in the Primera Liga; the best league there is. He’s in this spot above players like Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo because I believe him to be a better all round player and he’s only 27. He also cost considerably less than the others. £28m (there abouts) rather than the £36m or so for Figo and £48m for Zidane. Money well spent. He should liven up the Italian league now with Lazio, although he isn’t really a flair player. He skippered Valencia to their two Champions League finals, and he is the outstanding playmaker that I feel my team needs. Veron and Mendieta; yes please. Left Mid – Martínez Luis Enrique This position was a straight showdown between Luis Enrique and his Barca team mate Phillip Cocu. Both are aggressive, especially Enrique. He was chosen because of his versatility. He can play defence, midfield and attack, and he can play left, right or centre. I can’t think of many, if any, guys who have played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona without being top class. This guy is an amazing playmaker for club and country. He is certainly decent going back and his record of 46 goals in his first three seasons with his current club speaks volumes for his strength in attack. Striker une – Raúl González The best striker in La Liga and one of the best in the world. Never fails to make the keeper work and always ends up on the scoresheet, quite surprising seeing as he drops off Morientes. He thrives on the good service he receives from his Real Madrid team mates Zidane, Figo and co, and so should benefit from that provided by my midfield quartet. He’s a natural finisher proven at e
very level; domestically and on the European and international fronts. At just 24 his best years are ahead of him, and he doesn’t seem to have any injury worries. World class little guy that any manager would love in their team. Apparently good at Subbuteo, which has to be a bonus. Striker deux – Thierry Henry The best player at Highbury and the best striker in the Premiership. Henry has an immense amount of natural talent and he has improved his game a lot too. Didn’t shine much at all before moving to Arsenal, working with Wenger to launch his international career with France. Henry makes my team just ahead of Shevchenko of Milan. He was outstanding at Dynamo Kiev in the European competitions, but I feel Henry would work better in my team. Coach - Hector Cuper He spent just two seasons with Valencia, taking them from practically nothing with no resources to successive Champions League finals. The Argentinean manager is now at Inter Milan, hoping to bring them the same kind of success. I rate him above Martin O’Neill of Celtic (because he’s not really proven), Ottmar Hitzfeld of Bayern (because he’s boring and German), Wenger (had better resources in terms of players and money) and even ahead of Sir Alex, purely because Cuper looks like a teddy (y’know, Peter Taylor style). Well done to all who have reached the promised land – the end of my opinion. Well, that’s none of you yet. I’m not content with boring you half to death, I’m going all out. I don’t think this has been done before, so I’ll try it. Here is a short list of what I consider to be the ugliest team in the Premiership. ‘My Nightmare Football Team’ if you like. A lot of research went into this, so here goes. Keeper Ed de Goey – Oh my, what a tramp. Not a bad keeper but could do with losing the ‘tash and getting a wig. Can be seen on a par
k bench near you. Defence Albert Ferrer – Aka the rat. Enough said. Martin Keown – King Kong would like his arse back, which Keown has been using as a face for the last 35 years. Colin Hendry – The golden locks have to go I’m afraid, as has the red nose. They make him look Danish. Phil Neville – Not blessed with the same good looks as brother Gary(!) Midfield Luke Chadwick – Well, for the right wing position it was a straight choice between him and Becks… Chadders wins. This is bound to spark controversy. Lee Bowyer – Super thug Bowyer isn’t the most pleasant thing to look at now is he. Ray Parlour – The same appearance as Charlie Dimmock but without the tits. It’s not looking good for Ray. Strikers Francis Jeffers – It’s the FA Cup himself, just not as shiny or pretty. Paul Merson – Still looks like he’s on the drugs. Has he heard of a comb? Gianfranco Zola – Extremely talented, but you can’t have everything! Coach Arsene Wenger Assistant - Phil Thompson Those who missed out Seaman, van der Sar, Martyn, Tony Adams, Oleg Luzhny, Gilles Grimandi, Rio Ferdinand, Danny Mills, Matt Elliott, Lee Hendrie, Manny Petit, David Batty, Robbie Savage, Jonny Greening, Matt le Tissier and Alan Smith. Whoa, that longer than I expected! Feel free to agree, disagree, or fully p*ss on my parade if you wish. Please do comment if you think of any more nasties to make the nightmare team.
I can't understand what led senior officials at Arsenal to grant Arsene Wenger a ludicrous amount of money - £8m rising to £10m on appearances - on an unproven player who didn't even outshine Kevin Campbell at Everton. From this first paragraph I think you can gather Jeffers is not one of my favourite players! To me it looks like Everton shouldn't get their extra £2million, as he might not play the required number of games. It's no wonder the picture above is of him in an Everton shirt; we haven’t really seen him in the Arsenal one yet. He's not the worst player in the world (that's Phil Neville!) and neither is he the worst striker in the world (Hamilton Ricard take a bow), but he does come close. At Everton he succeeded mainly because he was a goal hanger, or a 'fox in the box' as is the more favourable term. Still, he pounced on any shots that the keeper couldn't hold onto. Also, he was probably their number 1 striker for a time, and so he was the main target that attacks should go through. Now he finds himself at a big club (no offence to Everton) with many world-class stars and great ambitions. He's way down the pecking order in my opinion. Henry, Bergkamp, Wiltord and maybe even Kanu are ahead of him. Henry is a quality player without doubt, Bergkamp is proven at every level, Wiltord is young but showed signs of being a good player with France and in the FA Cup, and Kanu is very skilful and also a decent player. Jeffers has been brought on in a few games early this season and has really not repaid any of the money shelled out on him. He has made a few glaring misses in front of goal already and has yet to find the net. Still, he will get better in the future, and he needs to. Playing with greats like Henry and Viera is bound to rub off on him, and he should become a better all round striker. He needs to be able to beat players, shoot from longer range and also provide goals
for others if he wants to be a first team player for Arsenal and make it into the full England team on a regular basis.
I'm not an Arsenal fan, yet I appreciate the incredible talent that Thierry Henry possesses. He looks like a natural goal scorer; just what the club needed after the departure of Anelka. Henry has great pace for a big man, which has caused problems for many a defence. He is very strong as well and can hold off challenges from the best around. He can run defenders off the park, as his movement is superb. His best quality however is his footballing brain. When this is coupled with his stunning ability to strike a ball with great accuracy it isn't hard to see why he is one of the best strikers in the world. He has what all the greats do - time. He is never rushed, dictates the play and decides exactly where the ball will go. So hailed greats like Owen, Heskey and Alan Smith are as yet nothing compared to Henry. He buries every chance that comes his way and in the past couple of years has kept Arsenal in the top 2. When Henry is off form it is noticeable. Kanu, Wiltord and even Bergkamp can do nothing to replace him. I rate Henry slightly above Ruud van Nistelrooy as a player and I think he is as near to a complete striker as will be found in England. Henry, along with Viera, is the key to Arsenal's challenge both domestically and in the Champions League. There he plays against some of the best defences in the world and still comes out on top more times than not. If he performs well then Arsenal can realistically think about recapturing the Premiership. If he doesn't, then they will find it hard to keep up with Man U, and will face an early exit from Europe. That's just how valuable he is. Henry is a world-class striker, without doubt.
And I just keep going back for more! In my view, Virgin Megastores are about the best there is on offer. There is no HMV or the like in my area, so Virgin is all I've really experienced, and that’s not a bad thing. The store in Crewe is quite small compared to those that I have been in located in cities. In only has one level, but is very deep and accommodates all of the merchandise you would expect in any Virgin store. Navigation around the place is easy enough; new releases ahead of you as you enter, singles down the right aisle of the shop with the chart against the wall and the albums chart next to it. The far left aisle contains the poster rack and other such miscellaneous items, including a small selection of vinyl. The space in between is filled with aisles of older CDs, both albums and singles, helpfully titled and sorted according to genre and the artist's name. The selection is more than adequate. I personally only browse through the latest music i.e. the charts and new releases, but they do have an extensive range of past CDs should you want them. They stock a very small selection of music on cassette format, though this is obviously because it is no longer as popular. Towards the back of the shop, videos, DVDs and computer games/consoles can be found. The range here is not as good as in specialist shops, but it's good enough to suit the needs of most customers. The shop itself is very modern and clean and the staff are extremely knowledgeable and willing to help, unlike in many music stores. There are many tills considering the size of the shop, and so queues are kept to a minimum, leading to happy customers. There are many listening posts dotted around the music section, equipped with about half a dozen albums to listen to, so you can try before you buy. They also play some quality music over their sound system at a decent volume, which everyone appreciates. My one and only big gripe with this chain is the price. The CD singles are generally the same price wherever you go, but Virgin charge up to £15.99 for a CD album, which is far too much. The same product can be bought online for almost half the price. The DVDs and console games can also be purchased elsewhere for a less hefty sum. I guess the same applies to other leading high street music chains, which is why there is good business for online retailers. All things considered, Virgin Megastores are near enough the best chain out there. Their prices are competitive with other high street shops, though not with specialist stores or online dealers
Michael Owen is without doubt a very talented footballer. At moments he can play like the best in the world. The best characteristics of him are his youth and the fact that he is English. England were left without a decent striker when Alan Shearer departed, leaving the national team with a gap to fill. Luckily the saviour know as Sven came to the rescue and put his faith in Owen - he has been repaid by the young star. Owen showed what he was capable of when Hoddle took him to France '98 after only a small number of Premiership appearances and goals. A decision which in some respects split the country. Hoddle was proved right and Owen will be remembered for a long time for that wonderful goal against Argentina. The media hyped him up far too much after this, however and he carried the nation's hopes, which was unfair on him. He lived off that goal for some time as he went through a rather baron patch for his country which led to him becoming out of favour with Kevin Keegan. For Liverpool he continued to shine, still threatening many a defence with his pace and ability. Over time, though, teams learnt how to cope with Owen to some extent and he didn't seem as good at exploiting their weaknesses. He is not very strong and couldn't cope with the physical presence of such defenders as Jaap Stam or Sol Campbell who almost bullied his out of games. Most defences became aware of his pace as a major threat and that many of his goals were from balls played over the top for him to run on to. In a sprint not many could match Owen, so players dropped off him, giving themselves a head start. This was a blessing in disguise for Owen. His familiar route to goal was blocked and so he had to branch out and create other options. He became better at beating players and at shooting from further out. He is also now a more than competent header of the ball, which is an achievement considering his height of only 5’7
8221;. One real weakness in his game still remains to this day. He is nothing special with his left foot. I can't think of a world star, which we all hope Owen will be one day, who only has one foot, with the possible exception of Davor Suker (if you classify him as a world star). Stam picked up on this fact in his controversial autobiography, which will hopefully lead Owen to strengthen that part of his game. Criticism helps Owen to improve. Back to the Owen timeline now. He continued in good form for his club side, which gave him back a regular place in the national set-up. His main rivals, also doing well for their respective clubs, were Andy Cole and Alan Smith with Heskey on the fringe with Leicester. Cole had been somewhat tried and failed and Smith and Heskey (before his move to Merseyside) were up and coming unproven youngsters. When Eriksson took over, he promptly restored Owen to the England team. He didn't appear to do extraordinarily well to begin with, but did enough to keep his place. With Eriksson's team on a winning streak, the competition for places became more intense as Heskey shone for his new team, as did Fowler when he returned from injury. Cole continued in good form for Man United (before the signing of van Nistelrooy) and Smith showed some signs of becoming a quality player, if a somewhat fiery one. In recent months, Owen has cemented his place in the England starting eleven, and is one of a handful of names (Beckham, Scholes and Sol Campbell included) whose names should be penned in on the teamsheet. Owen has thrived off the great service provided to him by Beckham, Scholes and Gerrard and the buzz about football in the country in recent times. He has had a marvellous start to this season after starring in last year’s treble for Liverpool. He expertly put away 4 chances created for him by the midfielders in the week which saw England murder Germany and see off Albani
a, which sees him in the form of his life. England are now on the way to Japan and Korea in a year's time all being well, partly thanks to the Owen and Beckham partnership, especially Owens goals. He's not the best in the world yet, as the media are constantly hyping him up to be. His name shouldn't be mentioned in the same sentence as such strikers as Raul, Ronaldo (in his former glory), Batistuta or Salas... yet. One day he will be in my view. He has the raw talent needed to be world class, and if he continues to eat his Sporties in the mornings then he should be in that list soon enough. And yes, that was a joke. Owen’s not even 22 yet and so shouldn't be reaching his peak for another 6 or 7 years. If he keeps working on his game and stays injury-free (easier said than done for him) then he could be some player by that time. For the future of English football, lets hope so.
Adidas are probably the best manufacturer in the world for comfort, durability, price and, most importantly for a 16-year-old lad such as myself, style. Adidas classics are what the Adidas brand represents through and through. These trainers can be used for practically anything, as they are so durable; for sport, walking or just wearing as a fashion trainer. They are a simple design, also used by companies such as Nike and Reebok, though less effectively in my view. Even if you aren't after a pair of classics, i recommend buying a pair of trainers from the vast Adidas range, as they have footwear suitable for all uses by all people. You're guaranteed to be satisfied. The only disadvantage i have found with my classics is that everybody seems to have them, all the youths of my area anyway. Still, that just shows how popular they are, and it's not hard to see why. The price is also more than reasonable. I paid £42 for mine, which is cheap compared to most trainers on the market these days.
After just one listen to this album, even just hearing the well-known title track, you will be captivated. I was only two when this album was released and grew up listening to later albums from the great man. This one is by far the most compelling of the lot. Not many songs from the 80's sound good to my ears, but here are 11 that sound just wonderful. This album is as near to complete as i have ever experienced. Absolutely everybody must have heard "Bad" - a quality song that sets the benchmark for the rest of the album. My personal favourite track on the album is "Smooth Criminal" which is currently being covered by Alien Ant Farm, without differing too far from the stunning original. This looks like it may top the UK chart and is very popular with young people, showing how timeless these songs are and how all can enjoy them. There is no weak link on the album with all songs suitably different, from the slow ballads like "Man in the Mirror" and "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" to dance tracks such as "Bad" and the more rock orientated "Smooth Criminal" and "Speed Demon." Overall, a top album that should take pride of place in all record collections around the globe. Jackson's songs don't age; I can imagine all of the tracks from "Bad" fitting in on his upcoming album. A classic.
BLC is the best playable cricket game on the market. There are many different variations of the game you can try your hand at, including test matches, the world cup, one-dayers and matches from the past. I have the attention span of a 3-year-old child and so can't bring myself to play, or at least, finish a test match. Although a bowler in the actual game, this side of computer cricket doesn't appeal to me. Neither can i bat for longer than 20 overs, nor score at less than 10 an over. The 10 over slog is ideal for me. Included are 8 of the 9 test playing nations (no Bangladesh, which obviously may influence you not to buy the game) and all of the one-day competitors, even Scotland. The stadia have been modelled to almost perfection - they must have had far too much time on their hands. The controlling of the game is easy to pick up and the game play on the whole is quite realistic. Most shots can be played, but i am afraid to tell you there is no reverse sweep, nor reverse hook (damn them!) but strangely there is a defensive shot, so they say, but i have never used it. That is a minor gripe with the game - there are worse ones. I don't know whether it’s just my computer but the commentary is a kind of muffled and so, regrettably, i don't get to hear Geoffrey Boycott throughout my game. Fielders never misfield and either catch the ball simply or comically drop it, taking a few seconds to realise and pick it up. The slides are pretty ineffective and take up more time than they're worth. Similarly, keepers don't drop the ball and byes only occur when you are bowling and aim one to square leg ('missing the barn door' if you're not down with the lingo). The worst thing about the game is that you can't play a late cut to a spinner without gifting the ball to the keeper. Well, you may be able to but i can't. Also, the fact that you can't advance down the pitch
can slow down the run rate. My one and only opportunity to track Warney for six, gone - i'm not a happy chappy. In my opinion the 'slog mode' option is a waste of time. It is already too easy to mash runs off good balls, without having a mode that enables you to flash the ball out of the country if you hit it cleanly. Basically, that's a 6 every ball guaranteed. The computer still defend. The game play is largely realistic though, and is the best around. There are many camera views, with the main use of them being to prove that, in fact, your bat was grounded next to the wickets when you were given run out. That third umpire needs his beats - he's obviously trying to fix every game. On the whole, i have experienced no better playable cricket simulation and so am more than satisfied with what the game provides. I hope there is a follow up effort from Codemasters without all the annoyances of this version, but for now this will do. Suits me sir!
In my experience, girls usually don't do A-levels unless they can make it out on the other side. Boys on the other hand might stay on because they maybe don't want to get a job. This is shown by the local girls' school having around 70 or 80 pupils in lower sixth this year, and the boys' school over the road having an intake of 120. The girls will end up with better results, there is no doubt about it. There are about 20 lads staying on to do GNVQ, so they can start the A-level course next year. I suspect many won't stay around for much longer and end up going to college instead. My point is really that girls will go on to further education if they are good enough, whereas many boys will do regardless. At secondary school girls have better results. They are generally more attentive in class, actually do the homework and coursework and seem more work-orientated. At A-level, the gap between sexes is less than it is at GCSE. In my view, this is because lads start to realise that to be successful in the future takes hard work. The class sizes are smaller and there is a closer student-teacher relationship. The pupils are also, for the first time, allowed to make a genuine choice of what to take and what to drop. These factors all contribute to lads making a greater effort. In the future we may see boys close the gap to nothing, but until that happens we cannot possibly say that they are just as bright as girls. Boys are generally better in other fields though, so i guess things really even themselves out. But in the end, who cares? All that matters to all of us is the results that we and the people we care about achieve. Girls are brighter than boys - i'm not going to lose any sleep over it.
The choice between college and sixth form can be big for a lot of people. For me it was relatively simple. My nearest college is only a short distance away, about 3 miles, and my school is about 3 miles in the opposite direction. The school is very good for A-levels, considering it's a lads school and so i stayed there in familiar surroundings. Now i've only been in year 12 for 4 days at the time of writing, but already the differences become apparent. We get a lot more respect from the teachers, most of whom we can call by their first name. The sixth form common room is very new and big and is a welcome change from having to blag a way into a classroom at break and dinner. I know who all the teachers are and who all the other pupils are, which makes the transmission to AS levels easier. Some of my friends have opted to go to college, but it is mainly the ones who didn't get the grades that they required to stay on - 5 C's at my school. The atmosphere is more relaxed, i am told, and the teachers don't seem to be as harsh. Still, in the sixth form we don't get detentions or anything and the teachers are more laid back. We have to wear a uniform, which is a major let down, as it just isn't cool, doesn't improve behaviour etc. and the girls across the road who i share a bus with can wear what they like, as is the case with college. Some people feel they have more freedom at college, especially with them not having to go in all the time. We are supposed to be in school all the time and should work during free periods, of which i have 6, totalling just 3 and a half hours a week, compared to over 8 hours a week of maths - normal AS maths, further maths and key skills application of number. That is another downside to sixth form. Key skills in IT, maths and communication takes up a couple of hours a week and really don't seem too special to me. All in all, i must say i'm happy
with my decision to stay at school. I know the surroundings, the people and probably most important of all, the school is very successful for results at A-level. Had the school not been up to scratch i would have left for college. There i would have met lots of new people, not had to wear uniform and probably ended up like a typical uni student i.e. slob. As it is, i could take the courses that i wanted, we got the school to timetable further maths, which a college wouldn't have done. It all depends where you live, what the local sixth form/college is like, what you want to do later in life and which establishment suits your needs the greatest. Each individual has different requirements and so the choice between sixth form and college is a big one. Choose wisely and good luck. (The ratings below are for Sandbach School Sixth Form in Cheshire.)
First off, i'll say he could turn out to be a bloody good player, maybe good enough to partner Michael Owen for England. He's certainly a good enough striker for Leeds and forms a formidable partnership with Viduka. Smith can definitely strike a ball, he's a hard worker and tracks back most of the time. He links up well with his strike partner and provides the team with a lot of goals. He's not in the same class as players like Owen, van Nistlerooy, Hasselbaink and Henry, but he does the job for Leeds. He's young, talented and English, something that David O'Leary wants to build his team on, and something that most managers are searching and paying big money for. However, there is another side to Alan Smith; a very nasty, ugly side that he needs to sort out. Because he's young, he can get away with it most of the time, more so than Viera and co. Some of the challenges he comes up with are less than pretty and he shows no remorse. A little aggression is fine, but Smith appears sometimes to just go out with the intention of hurting people. The extra aggression is not good. He permanently seems to act like Roy Keane does at times, when he loses control and randomly goes after people. I hope Smith learns and calms down. Then he could be just what England are crying out for. In the future, i believe it will be a straight choice for Sven between Smith and Phil Neville - leader of men, to partner Owen. Personally, i think Smith might just shade it.
With the exception of Frank Leboeuf, there isn't a bad player in the French national team. Pires is a key player for them as well as Arsenal. He plays on the left wing replacing Marc Overmars, who himself was a quality player. Pires appears to outshine him though. Pires has stunning vision and great passing ability, as well as being able to tackle competently and shoot when required. He can beat players and cross the ball with accuracy for Henry. How England could do with a decent left winger. Pires beats Barmby and McManaman any day, and rivals Ryan Giggs in many respects. In conclusion, he is an extremely talented and valuable player, key to Arsene Wenger's success as Arsenal manager.
Well, he's not the worst keeper around - probably the best England have. However, he certainly won't be around after the World Cup, so both England and Arsenal will have to find replacements. For England, the short-term replacement is Nigel Martyn, and for both club and country, Arsenal's number 2, Richard Wright. Seaman, in his day, was quite athletic, a very good shot-stopper, good on crosses and had a respectable hair cut. He can still make the effort and save well enough, but he is getting a bit dodgy when trying to catch and he can't dive about as much. He has enjoyed a successful time with Arsenal, but he should be replaced soon by a younger man in Wright, who could turn out to be even better than the old man. Seaman's past his best, but will be remembered for the good player he was, and for that awful hair.