Run Jose, run!
Run Jose, run!
Down the street from where I’m staying sits one of the busiest train stations in London. The Camden Town stop is one of the Underground’s oldest and deepest stations, and handles an enormous amount of traffic. On a sunny weekend day, you can barely cross the High Street for the crowds, and it seems like a wave is coming at you, babbling in multiple languages, all heading for the shops and Camden Locks.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the London Underground lately by dint of spending so much time on it. It is hot, crowded and faintly miserable. It is also utterly indispensable: in my case I’m 15 minutes from Arsenal, about 30 minutes from Shoreditch, and never further than 45 minutes from any stadium in the city limits, save perhaps Dagenham and Redbridge.
Camden Town’s stop — not to be confused with the Camden Road overground stop about five minutes north — is so busy that it closes up shop to departing passengers on weekends. When that happens, you have to clamber down a steep 96-step spiral staircase. If you go down an extra set of steps at the end of Platform 2, you will find yourself in an air-raid shelter that was used during World War II. Doctor Who fans have seen the shelter: Tom Baker prowled about it in the 1977 episode “The Sunmakers,” — I’ll give you an extra mark if you name the other sci-fi series in which it made a cameo.
On Tuesday, the sun was out and underneath my flat window, Hollywood had broken out. A camera crew was at one end of Inverness Street, at the other stood a man I recognized from Doctor Who: James Corden.
For a moment, I thought Los Angeles might have followed me over here but then I realized that all the people crowded around him has been rounded up off the streets. Those were not extras playing schoolgirls, cops and street-sweepers — they were schoolgirls, cops and street-sweepers (London’s public worker rules must very liberal indeed). A good hour and a half went by while they rolled off shot after shot as I watched from above. Some of the cast started waving up to me and I waved back. A girl asked for a bottle of water, I chucked one down.
I won’t spoil the plot, but it is apparently part of a campaign for Cadbury over here, and might have a bit to do with the return of the cult-classic comedy “Gavin and Stacey.” I only know this because their social media team tweeted at me about it.
Is Gavin and Stacey back? Dunno, but James Corden and crew are shooting something right under my flat window in Camden…— Jamie Trecker (@JamieTreckerFOX)February 11, 2014
@JamieTreckerFOX We certainly don’t know anything about that… ;)— Cadbury UK (@CadburyUK)February 11, 2014
Green Street, the approach to the Boleyn Ground at Upton Park, has a famous clock outside the Tube station. The message is grim: it reads “DON’T KILL YOUR WIFE/LET US DO IT.” It’s for a launderette, and it’s sold with typical East London humor.
There’s a lot of that around here, and the area needs it: Upton Park is in a ragged part of London, clogged with shops offering mobile phone unlocking, open-air fish markets and halal eateries. And the football here’s not offering much relief.
West Ham is an immensely proud club, fallen on some difficult times. Nearly 120 years old, they have bounced back and forth between the Premier League and the Championship in recent years and are currently locked in a fierce relegation battle. Tuesday night, they were in a classic six-pointer against an equally poor Norwich side, hoping to put a bit more distance between themselves and the drop.
Off the field, the Hammers have been a bit more successful. Owned by two veterans of London’s now-faded pornography industry, David Gold and David Sullivan, West Ham have inked a sweet deal to move out of their aging ground and take over the Olympic Stadium in nearby Stratford. For a mere $26 million, they will get to take over a stadium that is expected to cost nearly $310 million to retrofit for football. In addition, they announced on Monday that they will sell their old grounds here to a private developer, in a deal that has been reported as worth nearly $120m. Not a bad bit of business.
Not everyone is happy about that, mind you. Tiny Leyton Orient, currently trying to clamber out of the third division, sits in the Olympic Stadium’s shadow. They fear their tiny stadium on Brisbane Road simply won’t be able to compete, and they have a point, but they have lost several legal challenges to West Ham’s tenancy there, and as it stands, the matter is settled.
The funny thing is that West Ham might not be far apart from Leyton in the tables next season. Their fabled “Academy of Football” is referenced with heavy irony these days and with just seven points separating the eleven teams trying to stay in the top-flight, they have a brutal run-in ahead of them. In the final weeks, the Hammers will play both Manchester sides, Liverpool and three London derbies (against Palace, Arsenal and Spurs). They are currently 4-1 to go down the chute.
Leyton, on the other hand, sit in third in League One and have a realistic chance of going into the Championship. They are hardly world-beaters and rely too much on a single player — defender Romain Vincelot, a steely defender who begins most of their play out of the back — but they aren’t half bad, either.
The fact that these two clubs on opposite trajectories — one wealthy but always soggy; another plucky but well-scrubbed — might meet next year is a bit of an irony. What would be even better is if the two were in the same division come 2016. One will be playing in a taught ground that barely seats 10,000. The other might be rattling in around a 54,000 seat stadium. And both are likely to be far away from the top-flight.
Welcome to England. Half the country is underwater, and the other half is stuck indoors. Deluged by gale force winds and soaking rains, and besieged in the capital by a series of transit strikes, London had the feeling of a ghost town. It’s Ballard’s Drowned World.
The rain has been falling since last July and show no sights of letting up. It is no joke, even though the satirical magazine Private Eye went to street this week with a picture of a scuba diver on its cover and the tagline: “Environmental Minister Visits Somerset.” Brighton’s old west pier has collapsed under the waters and the south-west coast has suffered enormous damage. The rain tracks between London and Corwall at Dawlish, repeatedly referred to in that deliciously English manner as “one of the world’s great railway wonders,” is now kindling. The waves over Penzance dwarf those at Malibu.
Such things normally wouldn’t bother the City very much — but wait! A series of Tube strikes, have paralyzed much of the London’s subway system and forced everyone out of the stuffed hellholes of the Underground into the teeming mire. The strikes are over a so-called “modernization” plan, which in fact would close all the ticket offices and put a number of folks out of work. The administration’s rationale is indeed questionable, but the union’s cause was not helped when pictures of workers taking naps behind the glass at the ticket windows made the rounds on social media. That, and the fact that the roads around London were utterly impassible.
Now, the English do love a good complaint. There’s even ritual whingeing here: one of their cherished traditions is the so-called “question time” in Parliament whereupon men in rep ties bray at one another while their parties trade crude insults. This week, while the South drowned, the moaning was about the number of women on display in the Tory Party. This seems like a perfect one-two: miserable weather, miserable governance.
Yet the prevailing attitude here seems not one of complaint but of exhaustion. There’s not even much energy for the Olympics — a hot topic of conversation in the States, but merely something in the ether here. People seem to just want to get home and put the fire on, and who can blame them?
This has affected the football matches as well, with the lower league in particular feeling the pinch. The pitches are terrible — which isn’t unusual for this time of year — and that many of the games have been flooded out, which is. Reserve matches around the city were postponed, and the conference game up north at Kidderminster was called off. Teams have also been unable to travel to the games, while some places are quite literally underwater; others have been hit by buckled tracks and washed away roadbeds.
On my way out to Liverpool this morning, with 80 mph winds expected to sweep the capital, I passed a lonely greengrocer setting up his stall. His newspapers remained bound in plastic, and a bunnet of soaked local strawberries fetched a pound. The good news, according to him anyway, is that all this rain means better berries. That might be wishful thinking, but I got some. They weren’t half bad.
Even famous professional athletes get star struck sometimes. NBA veteran and die-hard Chelsea fan Kevin Garnett proved just that during his visit to Stamford Bridge.
Ahead of the Brooklyn Nets’ game against the Atlanta Hawks, who will play against each other in London on Thursday, The Big Ticket snapped a quick photo:
— NBA (@NBA)January 14, 2014
Even the biggest stars take selfies too.
According to the English newspaper Daily Star, Arsenal are set to offer manager Arsene Wenger a new contract. The Gunners boss is in his 18th year at the club and the north London club want to extend his tenure.
Elsewhere, Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Dutch striker Luuk De Jong has issued a come-and-get-me plea to Newcastle and Samir Nasri’s dad has blasted Newcastle’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa for a ‘spiteful’ tackle that almost ended his son’s World Cup dream.
To read these rumors and the rest of Tuesday’s transfer gossip, click here.
With the winter transfer window just around the corner, clubs entrenched in relegation dogfights enter the market with wallets full of cash in a desperate attempt to snag the player needed to remain in top-flight football.
Case in point, Monday’s main rumbling comes straight from Craven Cottage as Premier League strugglers Fulham are reportedly setting their eye on a January loan move for Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey. The current United States captain, who played for the Cottagers from 2007-12, signed a three-and-a-half year deal with the Major League Soccer club that allows him to leave on loan in the winter to prepare for next summer’s World Cup.
With Fulham currently sitting 19th in the Premier League table, a move for the 30-year-old would be a welcomed addition for newly-appointed manager René Meulensteen who is keen to beef up Fulham’s gun-shy attack.
To read this and the day’s top rumors, visit Monday’s Paper Chase on FOXSoccer.com.
Image: Jamie Trecker
Around the corner from one of London’s flashiest shopping districts, full of green-haired punk kids and French tourists, is a small townhouse with a brushed aluminum door, kitty-corner to a notorious pub called the “Spread Eagle.” You have to buzz to be let in, but once you get past the foyer, a kindly old woman at the cloakroom, you’ll be in the guts of an old piano factory.
“They haven’t made pianos in London for years,” says the guard. “So, we got a nice place to put this mikveh.”
This is the Jewish Museum of London, currently hosting the cheekily-titled exhibit “Four Four Jew,” that celebrates the achievements of English Jews in football. I’d heard about it from my colleague Jonathan Wilson (his book is prominently displayed) and while it immediately made me think of that old Mel Brooks joke about a pamphlet being able to encompass the entirety of Jewish sporting prowess, we went and had a look.
It’s a small but well-curated show, one on the periphery of a number of exhibits around the FA’s 150th anniversary this year. Football was to emigrated Jews in London what basketball and baseball were to the Yiddish-speaking in New York a hundred years ago: a way to assimilate into an alien and, at times, hostile culture that became a passion. For some, football became a path to success. Represented at the exhibition are genuine household names such as David Pleat and Mark Lazarus, alongside barely remembered trailblazers like West Brom’s Louis Bookman, the first Jew to play in Britain’s top-flight.