The AV Referendum

May 3, 2011

If you want to read about some of the flaws of the first-past-the-post system you can read my dissertation. Which is titled

An Electoral Geographical Study

 of the Liberal Democratic Party

Dissertation


Fulham vs Blackburn 5th March 2011: My Thoughts

March 6, 2011

For a multitude of reasons this was the first Blackburn game of the season that I have managed to get to this year. It was far and away the best Rovers away support I have ever seen in London. In the past when I have been in the away fans at Arsenal or Chelsea there has never been a sell out of our allocation or that vocal a support. This time the fans never stopped getting behind the team and singing – what a great effort. It was a shame the players could not repay the fans with a win or even a draw.

A lot has been made of the controversial penalty decision at the end of the game. I am not going to dwell on this too much but instead focus on the performance of the team. Rovers played a classic 4-4-2 formation. Steve Kean’s aim seemed to be to shut down their midfield, especially Danny Murphy, in the centre of the park with Nzonzi and Jermaine Jones and then attack on the flanks with the pace of Hoilett and Olsson.  In a way the plan worked as Murphy was quiet all game and was substituted after 70 minutes. How then did we still lose?

 

  1. Martin Olsson – He originally came to the club as a young left back but has since been developed into a left winger as his performances in defence were terrible. Anybody remember the Tottenham away game when he was sent off after a very stupid tackle. Against Fulham he performed well going forward and he does offer something different to Pedersen as he has pace and can beat his man. However his defensive shortcomings were evident as he was clearly at fault for the first goal as he let Duff cut in on his left foot far too easily. You could even claim he had a part to play in his second goal as he did not track Duff’s run. We still suffer from not having a proper left back at the club. Givet always tries his best there but always looks uncomfortable especially up against a fast or tricky winger.
  2. Christopher Samba – This may be an unpopular opinion but I would have let him go in January, let me justify this. Against Fulham he was poor (Like he has been too often this season), every time the ball was played down the channel to Johnson, Samba was always two steps behind him. Also he was at blame for the second goal for now closing down Duff. I have said this many times before Samba looks good because he recovers well from situations, but often these are caused by his mistakes. He is meant to be the leader on the pitch as club Captain and I saw little of this. He was either arguing with Jones or Nzonzi or showing little interest in the game. In fact it was Grant Hanley who seemed to lead and organise the defence despite being only 19. You have to question Samba’s motivation at the moment. He clearly rates himself too highly or has an agent who is telling him that he belongs at a top four club. I think he believes that if Rovers go down some big club will come in for him. Why he was given back the club captaincy after his unprofessionalism in January I do not know. Bold action needs to be taken, he needs to be dropped and stripped of the captaincy.
  3. Jason Roberts – A great guy but not a great or even good footballer. To his credit he did well in setting up the second goal for Hoilett (who took it so well). But he clearly should never start for Blackburn Rovers again. All game we saw Kalinic, Rochina and Santa Cruz warming up to come on. One of these, if not two, should be are starting strike force. For me what summed up Roberts performance, and his career, was his chance in the second half a 2-2. It was a chance he created himself through the pressure he put on their centre back but when it came to finishing it off he attempted an overly ambitious outside of the foot finish which he woefully failed to pull off. This sort of thing happens almost every single game he plays in and for me his career for the club should be over.
  4. Steve Kean – Firstly respect for his post match BBC interview for not being like many other managers and blaming the referee for the loss. But when will he realise that Salgado is off the pace and should not be starting at right back. Brett Emerton is the obvious replacement. Why were Santa Cruz and Kalinic on the bench even if they were not fit they could have done a better job than Roberts or Diouf. (Diouf falls into the same category as Matt Derbyshire – great when he comes off the bench for the last half an hour not so great when he starts). Also did he not instruct the players to not let Duff cut in onto his left foot espically after the first goal? Every time Duff was forced to cross with the right nothing came of it, every time he used his left he was a threat or scored a goal. Those fans calling for Big Sam to come back are idiots. Despite his failings so far Kean is finding his feet in management and learning from his mistakes. We are clearly trying to play a more positive brand of football and what the Manager needs are the supporters backing, not the fans turning on him straight away. Kean’s tactic of shutting down their midfield worked but the team failed to get the ball wide to our dangerous players. It could be argued that Kean failed to gamble like Hughes did (when he brought on a third striker with 20 minutes to go) but for Kean to do that away from home would have been too much of a gamble.

 

Lets end on some positives

  • Phil Jones will be back soon
  • Junior Hoilett is one of the most talented players we have had at the club for a long time
  • Our fate in our own hands. We still have Blackpool, Birmingham & Bolton to play at home and West Ham and Wolves to play away.
  • Nzonzi is starting to look like the player he was last season
  • We are not Burnley

 


World Road Championship Preview and Betting tips

September 24, 2010

Cylosport.org the leading Sportive listing website asked me to write a preview for the World Championship and pick some riders to look out for in the Men’s Road Race. You can read it here: http://www.cyclosport.org/article.aspx?id=1617

No odds have been released yet for the Womens, Under 23 or Mens Time Trial but keep an eye on my twitter feed for some tips when these odds do get released.


Tour De France Recap

July 26, 2010

So it has finished and we are all left with a void in our afternoons as there is no more cycling to watch on TV. It certainly was an eventful Tour. For me it is the best one I have ever seen (although the majority of the Tours I have watched were drugged up Postal Service Dominated).

Firstly let me apologise for my shoddy tips in my pre-tour post. I got one out three. At one stage it looked like Thor was going to walk home with the Green Jersey. Sadly his injuries caught up with him and his sprinting deteriorated greatly. If it had not been for Cancellara’s action to neutralise stage 2 to protect Andy Scheck then the Green Jersey could have rested on Thor shoulders. Still at least I got my money back as I put him on EW.

My second bet on Kreuziger to finish in the top 3 was a very bad shout.  A top ten placing would have been a more reasonable tip. Kreuziger once again failed to really stamp his authority on the race. His climbing has not really matured and apart from his attack on the first serious mountain top finish he failed to match the top 5 riders on GC and ended up coming 9th overall on the GC. In his defence his team failed to really support him and generally where mediocre.

My final bet on Luis Leon Sanchez to come in the top 10 was close he came 11th overall. He just missed that little bit in the steep mountain top finishes to really challenge for the top 10. In fact he had to get in a breakaway with two other teammates on stage 9 to make up for his loses in the previous days stage to help resurrect any chance of finishing in the top 10. What annoyed me the most is that Chris Horner finished tenth. Not because I do not like the guy – he is one of my favourite riders – but because all last year I backed Horner multiple times to get results in races. This was unsuccessful as bad luck seemed to follow him and he would crash out of races. This year I have steered clear of Horner and it has been to my detriment as his odds were big for the top 10. I did consider him before the Tour for a Top 10 placing but I thought that he would not get the support from his team as they would focus on Armstrong, Levi and Kloden.  Well they did not really support after each of the riders previously mentioned saw their GC chances disappear as they were drugged up like normal. But the RadioShack Team failed to ride and support Horner instead focusing on the Team GC competition which no one really cares about. What I would really like to see next year from RadioShack is a team that supports Horner for GC for what would surely be his final hurrah at the tour and give a chance to Taylor Phinney to challenge Mark Cavendish in the sprints but this is only a pipe dream and I doubt it will happen if Johan Bruyneel is still in charge. Who knows he could be in jail buy then.

Rant over.

Horner and Hesjedal in the top 10 were the real surprises in the top 10 and if called correctly would have won you big money. The best money I won all tour was betting on the winner of individual stages on the day or during the race. Firstly with Cav, I backed him on every flat stage after his first win. Secondly my amazing pick of J Rodriguez at 28/1 to win Stage 12 which finished at Mende. This gain was undone slightly by my instance on backing Edvald Boasson Hagen to finish in the top 3 of the last 3 sprint stages, oh well.

So my tip to myself, in my last post, not to back Sky or Christian Van De Velde was a wise one as one hardly performed and the other crashed out. Garmin had a tough tour, bar the amazing Ryder Hjesdal,  but I am really excited about the team they are going to take to the Vuelta and I would really like so seem them win their first grand tour with a rider like Van de Velde or challenge for it with someone like Dan Martin. I was really disappointed with Sky’s performance at the Tour. Firstly Bradley Wiggins performances; I thought he would be in the top 10 without a doubt but not in the top 5. For him to struggle the way he did was a shock.  But then I remember what Jonathan Vaughters (Garmin’s Team manager) had said in February this year to Jeremy Whittle of the Times:

“The 2009 Tour route was suited to Brad, but 2010 is less so,” he said. “In 2009, the tactics worked in his favour and Astana were soft-pedalling a bit to not embarrass Lance [Armstrong]. And Brad is very good at a flat stage that has a big hill at the finish and we saw a lot of that in 2009.

Well how right was he! To be fair to Bradley the Giro he rode had a negative effect as it was so tough and took a lot out of the riders that rode it. But what I would really like to see from Bradley next season is him riding competively in week long stage races like Paris-Nice before the Tour or riding some of the classics.  I cannot remember him this season really be up there challenging for a race victory in any race and maybe he just has lost that competitive edge at the crucial moments in races. My other problem with Sky was their team selection. Not picking Greg Henderson was a big mistake as Edvald Boasson Hagen is not a sprinter for the really tightly contested sprint finishes where he has to hold his ground and position. At almost every sprint finish in the Tour he got boxed out. Also the support for Wiggins in the mountains was pathetic. Serge Pauwels was meant to be a good climber but he did not show any climbing prowess at all during the tour. Lofkvist is a good domestic for the lesser climbs but will not be there to support Wiggins on a final mountain top finish in a stage. I am still a bit puzzled why Stephen Cummings was selected for the Tour. He had ridden a tour Giro and must have been knackered (same with Michael Barry) and never climbed well all Tour. I would have like to see one of my favourite riders Chris Froome given a place at the Tour next year and I look forward to see what he can do the Vuelta this year.

I also have a slight problem with this notion that you can take a good Individual Pursuit rider and mould him into a tour winner. Just by producing the numbers on a flat track does not mean that it can translate just as well to the mountains. I believe that climbing mountains is something more natural or something you learn after a period of time. Bradley has only really been climbing at the Tour level one year previously so he should get better each year and if pushes himself to stay with the top guys in the week long stage races before the Tour. Also I feel this also means that riders like Froome and Kennaugh have more potential to win grand tours than your Wiggins and Thomas. Their bodies are built for climbing whereas Bradley and G never look at ease in the mountains and try and power their way up them rather than glide over them like Contador and Schleck do. (The same criticism can be made of Cadel Evans)

Overall I thought it was an excellent Tour with the right winner, as Schleck really was lucky with the neutralisation in stage 2 which a lot of people have forgotten about after the chain incident. It looked like the cleanest Tour in years as many have also said see http://bikepure.org/2010/07/a-clearer-picture-of-the-sport/ for an excellent summary of why. Here is to hoping Contador and Schleck are on different teams next year, Sky strengthen their team, Wiggins gets his preparation right and we see some new younger riders challenge on GC next year.


Tour De France Betting Tips

July 1, 2010

I am not going to preview the race not doubt you will have read many previews in magazines and websites instead I will offer up some bets that are value for money for the Tour De France. Although I will point out two good articles and also recommend the most recent Cycle Sport Publication which previews the tour excellently:

http://nyvelocity.com/content/features/2010/tour-de-schmalz-preview-2010

A preview of the Tour by the excellent NY Velocity Website that does not role out all the standard cliches as others do.

http://www.podiumcafe.com/2010/6/29/1543466/tour-de-france-lets-rank-the-climbs#storyjump

Analysis of the major climbs of this year’s race.

So to my bets:

1)  Thor Hushovd to win the Green Jersey 13/2 (Paddy Power) 2.5 points EW

Although recently starting work as an intern for Mark Cavendish’s management company I am betting against in the Tour. I hope to be proven wrong and when I met him he looked in great shape. Furthermore Cav has recently stated in the media that if he did not win the Green jersey it would be a failure, so far in his career Cav has rarely not achieved the goals he has set himself. So why I am not backing him? Firstly his odds are stupidly short at 6/5 especially when considering all the variables that go in winning a green jersey and Cav’s relatively poor form this season. He has had a lot of bad luck this season and this could easily continue in the Tour. But why Hushovd and not Farrar. Well although I think Farrar will get his first Tour win I can see him contesting the sprints in the stages that are hillier and undulating where as Hushovd can. Another thing in Hushovd favour is Stage 3, the cobbled stage, where he is undoubtedly the strongest of these 3 guys. He is in good form winning the Norwegian national champs last weekend and Cav has lost key men in his lead out train. At the price he is if you back him each way and he finishes 2nd or 3rd in the green jersey classification you still get your money back and then some so it is worthy gamble. N.B I put this bet on a couple of days ago and his odds have dropped to 5/1 although Will Hill is still offering up 6/1.

2) Roman Kreuziger to win the Tour De France 66/1 (Paddy Power) 2.5 points EW

There is no value in the winner market without backing a rider EW as Contador is very likely to win. Earlier in the season I would have said that Andy Schelck was a dead cert for 2nd spot. As the season has gone I have become less and less sure about this. Although recently he has been putting in some better I am not convinced. Therefore the other two spots in the top 3 are more open than before. I have gone for Kreuziger because at 66/1 he is the best priced of the many candidates that can make that step up to the podium. Most of them are all on fairly similar level and therefore it makes more gambling sense to back a person who is at a higher price. I see Kreuziger as the strongest rider in his team as I feel there is no way Basso can perform at a really high level after the effort he had to put in to win the Giro. His team is strong and he will have plenty of support in the mountains in the form of Basso and Szmyd. It is easy to forget that he came 9th last year and the route is more suited to him as the climbs are tough and will suit more explosive climbers which he is when compared to Armstrong and Wiggins, furthermore he can Time Trial well. There are some questions marks against like; how will he do on the cobbles and windy stages that will lead to splits? And has his climbing improved enough from last year to really stay with the Schelcks  and Contador. He will have to overcome these to place in the top 3.

3) Luis Leon Sanchez to finish in the Top 10 £6/1 (Will Hill) £5

Here is a rider who has one a tour stage in each of the last two years but his abilities deserve more than that. He has the talents any good Grand Tour rider needs but will he challenge in the G.C this year. Some quotes before the Tour suggests not, but I think (and hope) he is bluffing. He is the stand out GC rider in his team and as they are Spanish I can see them wanting him to be at the front in the Pyrenees. 6/1 is a good price for this guy in the top ten.

Other than that I have struggled to find bets that offer really good value for money at this year’s tour at this point. I was tempted with a Sky to win 3 or more stage at 4/1(Sky Bet) or putting money on Wiggins or Van De Velde to finish on the podium but those bets would have been more about what I wanted to happen rather than what I think will happen. A better chance to win money will be live in play betting during stage (the prologue on Saturday look out for G Thomas Top 3) or ,as I found to my benefit at the Giro, betting during the race on the mountains classification.  It should be fairly clear in the second week which rider is really targeting the mountains classification and then back him as early as possible on betfair. If you follow me on twitter: https://twitter.com/Chris_Alfred then you will be able to read my choices during the race for these markets.

Overall I am very excited about this year’s tour. The route could be great especially if Contador gets in trouble in the first week where I expect RadioShack and Saxobank to really attack. Furthermore I am going to the race this year with work to see the end of Stage 1 in Brussels on Sunday. Look out for my blog at the end of the race summing it all up.


World Cup Bets

June 5, 2010

World Cup

Ghana eliminated in the Semis 22/1 £5 (TOTESPORT)

Torres Top Goal Scorer 14/1 £2.50 Win (TOTESPORT)

Van Persie Top Goal Scorer 14/1 £2.50 Win (TOTESPORT)

Di Natale 50/1 £2.50  EW (TOTESPORT)

USA to be eliminated in the Semis £5 20/1 (BETFRED)

Germany not to qualify from the group  £5 7/2 (BETFRED)

France not to qualify from the group £5 9/4 (BETFRED)

Argentina to not qualify from the group £5 6/1 (PADDY POWER)

South Korea to finish 2nd in their group £5 7/2 (PADDY POWER)

Name the Finalists: Brazil and Spain 11/1 £5 (BET365)

And one crazy accumulator on group winners:

1              Spain    @ 2/7

2              Brazil    @ 4/7

3              Italy    @ 4/9

4              Holland    @ 1/2

5              Serbia    @ 11/4

6              USA    @ 9/2

7              Nigeria    @ 4/1

8              Mexico    @ 3/1

Multiple Bets

1 x 2.50 8 Folds

Stake: 2.50

Potential Winnings:  4,511.58


Review of the Giro

May 31, 2010

Wow. What a race it had everything: from crashes to epic stages to huge breakaways. The reason why the Giro is more spectacular than there tour is because of one man: Angelo Zomegnan (The organiser of the race). The great racing seen in the last two years of the Giro is down to his innovative way of structuring a race. As he says himself in this article:

(http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/zomegnan-proud-of-spectacular-giro-ditalia?cid=OTC-RSS&attr=news_headlines)

“I think the finish in Verona was a spectacular ending to a spectacular Giro d’Italia. I think it perfectly sums up the race because day after day the race was exciting and dramatic,” Zomegnan told Cyclingnews, refuting claims that he has made too many changes, perhaps some times to the detriment of the riders because of long transfers and difficult racing conditions.

“The Giro has its roots in the history of the Giro, in it’s traditions, in the pain and suffering of the riders. I think the Giro is changing for the better. It’s far less ‘artificial’, with riders who suffer and who have good and bad days. I think it’s all more natural.”

“Some people think we’re pushing things too far, making too many changes, making the racing too hard. But I don’t think change is a  problem. I think it’s a good thing. Perhaps, we’re changing things a little too fast but better too much than too little.”

Zomegnan enjoyed showing Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme the spectacular finish in Verona on Sunday He accepts the Tour de France will always be the biggest race in cycling but enjoys being more innovative and creative than the French organisers will ever dare.

“The Tour de France is the Tour de France. It’s the biggest race in the world. And it’s stupid for anyone to think they can lower the level of the Tour to help other races, perhaps races without any history and tradition can grow. I think people understand who I’m talking about,”

He has every right to be happy. My personal highlights were the strade bianche, the huge breakaway of 50+ riders on stage 11 and the plan de corones time trial. My bets came off well. Basso took the race as I predicted. He looked strong and I do believe him to be a clean rider (For more on this topic read Richard Moore’s excellent blog- http://www.skysports.com/opinion/story/0,25212,16299_6182163,00.html).

Evans just does not seem to have that final bit to win a 3 week stage race or a team to support him. Or another way to look at it is that Evan’s individual style is not suited to win a grand tour. Even when he was at Silence Lotto with strong team mates around him you never saw him surrounded by them or being protected by them. His BMC team where a joke all race, bar Brookwater’s prologue, how they expect to be competitive at the Tour I do not know. Evans, having gone so deep in this Giro, will surely struggle to recover in time for the tour (although I could be wrong). There are not any other climbers in the team to support him and they lack a fast sprinter for the flat stages and will therefore have to rely on breakaways through the like of Ballan and Hincapie (Drugs Cheat).

Elsewhere Matt Lloyd had a great Giro. He did not come in the top ten as I predicted. He lost time in crashes in the early part of the stage and then broke away and took the stage on Day 6. After that win he said he was happy he had something do defend – the mountains jersey. Once I read this I backed him to win the mountains classification at 30/1 on Betfair, which he duly did. Thanks Matt.

Dario Cioni rode really strongly all race and netted 17th Overall so my tip was wrong. I think I was over optimistic with him and should have gone for a bet on a top 20 placing which still would have been good odds but it was a brave ride all the same. Some people have been criticising Bradley Wiggins performance in the Giro but I think he did a good job. He won the opening prologue and rode strong in the first mountain top finish in Stage 8. This he did all the while being above his optimum weight. He will know rest up over June and recon some of the tour stages. I fully expect him to finish top 10 in the tour but I just do not know where in that top 10 he will come.


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