Tips for Business Start Ups, Lessons for Life: It ain’t over if the fat lady’s still in her dressing room.

There comes a point very soon in the new start up career when the first flush of enthusiasm has worn off, the bills start arriving and the income has mysteriously decided to take an annual vacation. The paying customers are conspicuous by their absence and whilst there’s plenty of window shoppers grazing through your shop, no-one’s putting their hand in their pocket and pulling out a wedge of used bank notes to pay for your hard wrought product or service.

Alfredo, an enthusiastic proto-entrepreneur from the Algarve soon realised that his offer of Mediterranean seafood to the assembled hoardes of inner city Northampton (the furthest you can get from the sea in England apparently) was taking its time to convince them to change their foodie habits from shoe leather to octopus and calamari. One might dispute whether there’s any difference but that’s another matter.

He became despondent very quickly, his anxiety ratcheting up by the day when the friendly bank relationship manager re-discovered his nasty streak and one of his main suppliers decided that the future of seafood sales was no longer in Northampton but back in Lisbon. Alfredo looked at his shaky business, the pile of bills and the crates of eel still wriggling on his warehouse – ie his car – floor and threw up.

Faced with almost immediate economic annihilation and the consequent personal and social ruin that he thought would follow, Alfredo was on the verge of dropping his warehouse keys back with the bank and jump on the next Easy-Jet to Faro when an email popped up on his phone screen out of the blue.

It was from the local over-dramatic opera star, Betty Van Westerhoosen, diva to the East Midlands stars, putting in the largest order of clams, sea urchins and assorted shell fish Alfredo had ever had the pleasure to read. She paid a whacking 20% deposit up front and suddenly, for the time being at least, Alfredo got to save his start up from ignominy and lived to meet the local fat lady who saved his bacon – or in his case, his langoustines.

In Business Start Up land, and indeed in life in general, it’s never over till the opera singer flexes her vocal chords: and we all need the vision of Argus All-Seeing to be able to realise when she hasn’t even left the changing room before drowning in a fish soup of despair.

An Open Letter to Roy Hodgson: please prove the English FA wrong and fail gloriously

Dear Roy Hodgson,

I’ve got nothing against you and happen to think you were on a losing to nothing when you came to Liverpool last year.  We all know the results of that story and there’s not much to add to it now.

The new story you’re now part of though is alarming in the way its already being constructed: you’ve ‘steered West Brom to mid-table safety’; you’re a blazer man who ticks all the boxes; an FA man for the FA.  Well, lets hope your appointment doesn’t’ lead to sweet FA, or that if it does, you fail spectacularly and come crashing out of the football heavens burning on all cylinders.

Because Roy, your appointment has all the hall marks of what is tired and miserable about English sporting culture and indeed our public life in general.

Steering your team to mid-table respectability has an air of desperation about it, its risk averseness wearing its heart on its sleeve or on another respectable part of your anatomy.  Respectability?  So that we can look forward to saying things like “unfortunately we just missed out on scraping into the quarter finals but second place in the qualifying qualifying group stage is no mean achievement?’ Is that the extent of the endorsement we can expect from your boys at the FA after the summer?

Because those boys at the FA, Roy, are trying to anoint you as one in the image of themselves: Blazer Men, the stalwarts of the English sporting club tradition. We all know a Blazer Man. He’s the bloke on Saturday afternoon who kicks you off the tennis court cos you’ve not got your membership card with you. The bloke in the bar holding forth on all things, unctuously and loudly. The bloke in the car park who has driven his Jag up the back side of your Ford Orion and driven away, oblivious to the trail of damage behind him cos he’s as pissed as a Friday afternoon lunch time fart. The bloke who will lead us to mid table security making sure his blazer elbow patches don’t rip and tear at the strain of it all.  The Blazer Man. As exemplified by Trevor Brooking and his collection of gold plated carriage clocks. Cuck-bloody-oo.

Beware all those carriage clocks Roy! It’s no wonder you’re in danger of ticking all the boxes. All of them. Hoo bloody ray. A box ticker! We’re all living with box tickers every day Roy, they make up almost every department of every large organisation everywhere in England at the moment; they sit there in the neat and tidy offices, underlining things in red, covering their audit trail arses and ticking their boxes with a rapidity which puts the fastest PC to shame.

We don’t need box tickers Roy in our public life Roy,  we need our sports heroes to tear up the boxes and start again. We need our public figures to show us there’s life after the box, the target, the service level agreement.

We don’t need you to tick the FA’s boxes for them., Roy. We need you to win convincingly, after much struggle, heart break and living on the edge of our collective nerves; but failing that, please fail gloriously and utterly.  Please prove once and for all that the FA Blazer Men and their ticking clocks and ticking boxes should be thrown into a container and carted off to the South China Seas for them to live the rest of their lives in Rousserian decadence.  For Gods sake, for all our English public lives’ sake Roy, go and fail properly: disasterously,  noisily, embarrassingly.

However you do it, just do it with conviction.  We may not like the results but it will be infinitely better than being steered to mid-table respectability. No one wants that in their lives, never mind in their football team.

Pitch a (football) film on a Friday: Fifty Years of Hurt! A football fantasy film with fun for all the family.

A rough and ready premise for a football rags to riches jumpers for goal posts toad turned prince naturalistic mythic saga about four ordinary lads who set out to do the extraordinary – taking a lower division football team to the heights of the premiere league, the league cup, the FA cup, European championships and world domination in Mexico city – and then management of the England football team in just one extraordinary, ordinary season.

Tom, Rick, Dave and Sally are four ordinary football punters – going down to their local team every Saturday, sitting through intolerable football matches played against intolerable opposition on intolerable Saturday afternoons in the wet rain snow sunshine fog and hailstorm, week in week out. Their team – Onthe’ead United has been suffering in recent years with a lack of money, gates, management, players and the final straw is the imminent take over of the ground by the devious property developers Snout Grubb and Lovely who are making no bones about their collective desires to buy up the ground and turn it into a multipurpose sports, shopping, leisure, youth justice community and DiY centre with optional allotments.

Our four heroes reckon in a drunken binge that they would be far more capable of running a football club than any of the erstwhile owners are obviously capable of. In a rash new years resolution they decide to take on the forces of the football association and law and order and make a rash attempt to take over the club. They offer anonymously through a third party New York financial executive who is in the process of bringing down the whole of western capitalism, a paltry sum to buy up the club, its players, grounds, assets, liabailities and club mascot – a mingy terrier called Jimmy Hill who has just been slung out of the kennel clubs’ regional annual dog show rounds, the finalists of whom will be making it to Crufts at the next international show. Jimmy Hill, a miserable little specimen is aggrieved at his rejection and plans, at the next available opportunity to take his revenge.

Much to our gangs surprise and chagrin their offer s snapped up by the clubs owners. Before the first week of the new year is up, the four have moved in and carved up the responsibilities between them. Tom fancies himself as a coach, only having ever been rejected by the school football teams when he was in primary school all those 40 years ago. He has a bone to pick with Stanley Unctuous, the teams centre forward who rejected him all those years ago but who has since fallen on hard times himself, turning into a semi part time alcoholic who plays football as a means to salvaging his credibility with his family who look askance at him from the side of the pitch every Saturday afternoon.

Fifty Years of Hurt! Your Saturday afternoons and English football will never be the same again.