The highs, lows, laughter, tears and downright frustration of Football

Football

I have been a football supporter for as long as I can remember – and an Evertonian even longer than that.

As a kid, my Dad always told me that whoever was top of the table at Easter would win the league. If that still holds today, then in a few weeks time Liverpool will be crowned Champions.

This week on Merseyside football fans have gone through every single emotion that the beautiful game can throw at you.  At Anfield on Sunday, Liverpool finally overcame Man City 3-2, and then in mid week watched their Manchester rivals totally blow the title with a disappointing performance against relegation bound Sunderland resulting in a 2-2 draw.

After the euphoria of an incredible performance and win over Arsenal less than a fortnight ago, Everton seriously dented their prospects of joining their neighbours in the Champions League next season, falling to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of lowly Crystal Palace.

Amidst all this was the twenty fifth anniversary of a football related tragedy that remains an indelible stain on the English game – Hillsborough.

Far more qualified writers than me have put into words just how much of a catastrophe that totally unnecessary and wholly avoidable horror was. Those that lost loved ones have finally secured a modicum of justice and content through their sterling, relentless campaigning work.

Weather you support Leeds, Blackburn, Burnley or Carlisle, you will admire the work of those families. If you were going to big football matches during the seventies and eighties you will have thought at some point ‘that could have been me’.

It took twenty five years for the 96 who were killed at Hillsborough to get some kind of justice. It took about twenty five weeks before the powers that be recognised that if it was to survive as a sport and as a business football could not go on treating fans like cattle, sub human, cretins.

Today we have 21st century state of the art stadiums, sensible policing and clubs that by and large recognise the need to ‘entertain’ before and after the match even if what you are watching during the ninety minutes of play is not particularly riveting.

All the regeneration, television money and razzamatazz have made football a safer sport to watch in terms of your physical well being. Emotionally, it can still kick you in the guts when you’re least expecting it. And that’s why it’s still the greatest game on the planet.

Justice for the 96. And don’t buy the Sun!

Tom Finney

Tom Finney

It was with huge sadness that I learnt of the great Tom Finney’s death last week.

When I was a Member of Lancashire County Council I had the privilege of meeting Tom on three separate occasions, and very fortunately ended up at one particular dinner in his company.

He obviously noticed my dulcet ‘scouse’ tones and started to wax lyrical about one of his former teammates Bill Shankly, telling me what a great player he was and how he knew he would go on to be a fantastic manager at Liverpool.

On learning that I was actually an Evertonian, he quickly began to regale tales of a young Howard Kendall, who had appeared in an FA Cup final for Preston North End at the tender age of just 17. Tom told me that Howard was the best footballer never to be capped by England, and again he was eager to praise Kendall for his achievements as a manager at Everton.

Tom Finney

When I asked the affectionately know ‘Preston Plumber’ about his own England career, he won over 70 caps scoring 30 goals for his country, he quickly moved the conversation on to some of the players he played alongside at international level. He was keen to avoid talking about himself, far more comfortable talking in praise of others. To say he was a humble man is an understatement.

And as much as he clearly loved playing for his country, he loved his club more, once saying “North End was a love affair for me. All I ever wanted to do was play for Preston.”

Of course we have players in the modern game who proclaim their love for the club who are currently paying their wages (‘Once a Blue always a Blue, hey Wayne), but we all know that they are, quite literally, playing the game.

It could be argued that there wasn’t as much money in football back then of course. But consider this. In 1952 Finney was offered the opportunity of joining an Italian club for a signing on fee of £10,000. That was a big figure back then, a record fee in fact. That he remained a one club man until the end of his career tells you all you need to know about one of our greatest footballers, a genuine legend and a true gentleman. RIP Tom.

To see the DQ Icon feature on Tom Finney please CLICK HERE

2014 is going to be a good ‘un

2014

Unemployment down, inflation down, predictions of growth up and Everton riding high in the Premier League playing a brand of football not seen at Goodison Park sine the halcyon ‘school of science’ days, 2013 has ended up being quite a decent year – but I’ll predict that 2014 will be even better.

The economy has turned the corner, business confidence has returned, and during the next twelve months that confidence will deliver enterprise, jobs and growth for UK Plc and for the North of England.

In the regions where Downtown operates, there is even more reason to be optimistic.

Leeds will host the Tour de France, a tremendous coup for the city region and an event that will elevate Leeds’ international standing and generate significant interest in Yorkshire. With the new Trinity shopping mall now open, and a 13,000 seat arena, Leeds will be looking to build its visitor economy, whilst maintaining its position as a leader in the professional and advanced manufacturing sectors.

Lancashire has been working hard to put in place a business support package that is private sector friendly and can deliver for ambitious companies in the county. Its BOOST initiative is the most comprehensive project of its kind that I have seen, and Lancashire County Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership deserve huge credit for genuinely listening to business and establishing a programme that will really work for Lancashire firms.

Manchester continues to deliver major regeneration and infrastructure schemes, and its plans for Airport City will take the city to another level again. Greater Manchester continues to demonstrate the importance of good civic leadership, private-public sector partnership that work, and the ability to avoid complacency and continue to drive forward with visionary strategies that build on past successes. I expect Manchester to lead the pro HS2 campaign and lobby for the acceleration rather than cancellation of a project that will benefit the North, but arguably Manchester in particular.

Liverpool will host the biggest international business event the UK has seen since 1951. Max Steinberg and his team at Liverpool Vision are organising a six week jamboree of activities that will take place in June and July of next year, with Downtown holding a significant series of high profile events during the International Festival of Business’ ‘Cities & Enterprise’ week. Over 140 countries are already signed up to IFB, and some top speakers have been booked. Again as a showcase for what the Liverpool city region has to offer, it couldn’t get much better.

As for Downtown, well 2014 see’s us mark our tenth anniversary. As you can imagine we have a whole host of special events, parties and celebrations in store for you, so watch this space.

Have a fantastic Christmas – and look forward to an absolutely fabulous New Year.