More a bowling brown.
Evry Tuesday and Thursday at Queens Walk Rec.
Now 35, Pennant, man of the match in a European Cup Final and twice close to major silverware, has published an autobiography which starts with some challenging memories of The Meadows.
No gratitude to the community in the first extract; instead, football was his only way out; dramatic stories – of a father who was a dealer; a mother who moved away; gangs in The Meadows, lined up against gangs from St.Ann’s; a set-to at a fried chicken restaurant in town, which led to a lad from St.Ann’s being kicked to death; a grand-auto style car chase.
I didn’t recall it being as bad as that, then. Later, I do know a teenage lad was shot and killed in The Meadows; and a teenage girl was shot and killed in St.Ann’s by an indiscriminate shot aimed into a group of girls fired from a moving car from The Meadows.
But we’d made progress from then. The council employed neighbourhood wardens. There was a major drive on gun crime. We were tough on the causes of crime. More jobs. Children’s centres. Higher attainment at schools. We had made significant progress.
Some of the progress has been lost. Now, we’ve had a period of knifings between dealers. Tackled, but the underlying causes – lack of proper jobs, insufficient earnings – not so visible, but witnessed by our schools – are ongoing and getting worse.
I was struck by an assertion by Pennant that he would still be at risk if he came back to The Meadows.
Jermaine Jenas survived a visit to The Meadows with a TV camera crew, about a year ago, but the risk factor seemed talked up given community activists who live on the featured Holgate Road have not reported any problems.
As for football, following goals put in at The Green, we are planning to improve the MUGA equipment at Queens Walk Rec., and possibly find some kit to install on Arkwright Walk. And we want to support local clubs more. But the finance is a challenge. Not saying either Jermaine should be obliged to help, but it would be nice. Not so much to help kids find a way out; just for the enjoyment of the game.
Canvassing in the streets in The Meadows most affected by drug dealers and users in the last few months.
There is a multi-agency day of action on the forthcoming Wednesday in the neighbourhood.
All following a public meeting with Lilian Greenwood MP and a major uniform initiative – after a series of knifing wounds inflicted by dealers upon dealers.
We had a special leaflet printed, to help seek opinions including a possibility of re-used play equipment for the neighbourhood.
Plans for investment in parks elsewhere in the city might release a 3 sided fence which includes a goal, a basketball hoop and a cricket wicket.
But it needs a kinda 22 yard by 12 yard piece of tarmac, so there is a cost. If we can find the money, we’d like to offer this “half-muga” for the neighbourhood, either to the west of the play area on Arkwright Walk, or to the south.
Crudely, the play-area would continue to serve toddlers and younger children, and the “half-muga” would serve teenagers.
Response on the doors was positive, including from older residents.
Paddy found one home that was still displaying a “vote Labour” poster from last year’s General Election; he spoke to a number of residents about policing matters.
Nicola and I picked up some general case-work.
Everyone seems to know the score
They’ve seen it all before
They just know
They’re so sure
That England’s gonna throw it away
Gonna blow it away
England’s going home …
As the media celebrate heroes, the ultimate irony is we’ve just experienced another episode which the song “Football’s coming home” so bewails.
Yep, we were singing how we always end up doing something rubbish at tournaments, and again we’ve thrown it away. Well, an appearance in the final anyway.
And we’re back to what we’re used to.
Missing in front of goal and giving up on the importance of possession.
And the analysis remains woeful. As extra time began, it was about heart and belief.
Having been the better side in the first half, and having missed all those chances, we should have seen that Croatia would change, and we needed to change too, in a way that gave our players the opportunity to close down. Instead, we kept pumping long balls way to long runs and we kept giving the ball away.
The hype is back. Media and commentators cannot leave it alone, and here are the latest examples.
1. England have exceeded expectations. True, but only because the groups draw suggested that England would meet Brazil or Germany in the quarter-finals.
2. England’s players have been heroes. False. It’s only football. But even in football terms, heroism comes when beating a side with a track record. Circumstances means England can only now be heroic by beating France.
3. England’s players have been brilliant. Bit unfair cos this has tended be a recent view from cheerleaders rather than football analysts. Watch the Irish tv pundits and read the Guardian analysts for a more sober analysis. But we know all our players have or have demonstrated flaws in this tournament with the possible exception of Kane.
4. England usually make us suffer in these competitions. False. The media make us suffer. OK, Southgate has been a step above in being clear on his best formation and special tactics given the players available, and then tweaked selection to fit the plans.
5. The whole country is behind them. False. Viewing figures are still below half of England’s population, and once again, the failure to be sensitive to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
So why should we be proud of England in this tournament?
– In every game (except the England reserves – Belgium reserves game), England has gone out to attack, attacked with some potential of scoring in those attacks and that makes watching them so much more enjoyable. And it is a change – we’re talking England, and the FA who in putting out their top 10 England competitive moments, put scoring a penalty as 2 of them
– The special teams play. That great story – that Southgate met top US basketball teams to find out players can move in confined spaces when heavily marked.
England will beat Croatia by at least 2 goals. True. Well, opinion. I’m actually prepared to go along with this one, not least cos everybody qualifies it with recognition for Croatia’s strengths. But our players are commercially valued as worth twice as much, have developed a special teams approach with the ability to punch through a defence from set-pieces, the form has been improving, we have Harry Kane, and Trippier and Maguire, and Croatia have had longer games and look more tired. Croatia do have an advantage in having more experienced players, and their midfield may well overwhelm Henderson (no criticism implied), but the punditry on Croatia has either been respectful, or passed them by, rather than announce that they’re not very good.
So now England expects. A 2-goal win (the second from a 2 minute passage of possession) and a clean sheet (with the newish goalkeeper making 3 excellent saves).
Soon the pundits were talking about the final.
England have built nicely. Unbeaten for a year.
A recent switch to 3-5-2, built 3 strong central defenders and 2 very attacking wing-backs.
Using younger players with previous success that Southgate knows well.
The genius of Kane. Special use of set-plays, using aerial dominance.
Picking a team, using good players with special abilities – Young and Trippier’s crossing, Stones and Maguire’s heading, Sterling’s dribbling, Lingard’s running. A goalkeeper who’s better at passing the ball out.
So thank heavens for the scepticism of Irish television pundits and Guardian writers; and probably, Gareth Southgate himself.
The passing can still be woeful. The ball is still bouncing off players. Build-ups towards goal can peter out very easily. Returning to saves being punched out rather than away.
So why the new confidence? Cos we know more of our players than theirs. Cos we know our players are better (e.g. rated as worth more – seven times Sweden’s, twice Croatia’s). Cos we’ve won 4 matches and a penalty shoot-out. Cos the 4 wins came against sides who were happier to sit back. Cos the media are pumping us up.
And cos we can all see England can continue to grow