Tag Archives: england football

Not Staying At Home

Here we are then from Monday a large part of the restrictions and rules that have been in place to help tackle the pandemic in England will be removed. I appreciate we cannot continue for ever in some form of frozen state. As a massive fan of the theatre and the arts it is terrible what has happened to those businesses and the people who work in the industry especially as it does appear other sectors have been treated differently. That said though it does feel a bit odd to me that with cases of the virus now rising to levels on a par with what was happening before the last lockdown. All social distancing and all of the current precautions should now be removed.

I do understand that the reason they feel they can do this is down to the success of the vaccination programme, which has been brilliant. Personally I have been fortunate enough to have had both of my jabs for more than six weeks now. It does appear that they greatly reduce the risk of hospitalisation and also your chance of dying from it. That is of course excellent news. It will hopefully help make the transition for it to be more like how we live with the standard flu virus. But the Government has warned us that cases will increase and there will be more deaths as a result. That feels like a bit of disappointment after what we have all been through already.

I am slowly beginning to start to head out to places and meet up with a few more people under whatever guidelines apply at that time. I do have the NHS App and always check in whenever I go anywhere. To me that seems the common sense thing to do. We are all in this thing together and reliant on the actions of others to help us all get to the other side. The latest advice seems to be a lot more advisory than mandatory. My plan is still to wear a mask when I am using public transport or in an indoor space with strangers, as cases are higher now that seems to make more sense than ever. The main aim of a mask is more to stop you spreading the virus rather than stop you getting it. However it does help with both sides of that coin.

Ultimately you have to do what feels right for you and what you feel happy and comfortable doing. Very few people on the planet have lived through something like this, so it is new to everyone and we all know it is frustrating. But a little more thought and compassion may help us all through it a little quicker with a bit of luck. It does feel like the way things are going that half the country could be self-isolating by the end of the month, if cases rise and we mix in bigger and bigger groups. But I guess we shall see. It will be interesting to see if after all of the big sporting test events that we have had recently, if we see any major surges in cases as a result of them, obviously I hope not.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

England were beaten by Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 Final at Wembley Stadium. I worked there for a few years between 2012 and 2015 and remember being excited and interested by the way this competition was organised with Wembley hosting the Semi-finals and Final of the tournament. Even back then I hoped that this would improve our chances of success, like it did in Euro 1996 when we reached the Semi-Final only to then be beaten by our old friends Germany as ever on Penalties. Famously a certain Gareth Southgate missed one on that occasion.

Talking of the manager I think he has done a brilliant job with the National team. He originally took over in slightly odd circumstances but quickly put his own stamp on the role. Having come from being in charge of the Under 21’s this meant he knew them and was keen to work with younger players. He has massively lowered the average age of the team during his time in the role. He has shown he is not afraid of making tough decisions and has the faith and confidence to do what he thinks is right. He also sets the right tone. And is a great talker and role model for players and fans alike.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

The Italians on the night were just a bit cleverer possibly their extra experience did show in a few areas on and off the pitch. We matched them all the way in the actual football part of the game. Penalties are always a bit of a lottery. It is the same for both sides. You need a bit of luck on your side and everything to go your way. As a footballer a penalty in a shoot-out situation is the most pressurised thing you will ever be involved in. You go through pretty much every emotion as you step up to take one.

I once took a sudden death penalty for Aylesbury United in an Under Eighteen Cup Quarter Final. I can still remember the nerves I had as I walked to the penalty spot. I had to score to keep us in it. You can practice taking them as often as you like but you cannot recreate the pressure that is there when you do it for real. I had made my mind up where I was going to put it and struck the ball as hard as I could. The keeper went the right way got a hand to it but it still went in the net. I have never felt such a feeling of joy and relief. It was amazing! That was a penalty kick in a youth team match that did not really matter. I can only imagine what it must feel like to step up to do it in a final for England.

Anyone who even offers to do it is a hero. You are on a hiding to nothing in a way. If you score it is expected. If you miss you will suddenly never feel more alone. To put your hand up and say you want one shows what a person you are and demonstrates such leadership and courage. You can always look at teams and see players who did not fancy it. That is their choice but you should never criticise the person who was prepared to put everything on the line for the team. It is not a nice way to lose and it should not really be a nice way to win. But it is, as a player the adrenalin rush you get from winning one is off the scale.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Well done to everyone involved with the England Squad. They should all be very proud of what they have achieved and how they united the country. The aftermath from it is sadly a society problem that we all clearly need to work together on. You see this sort of thing almost on a weekly basis during the normal football season. The unrealistic expectation to win every game! Then the attack on individuals when things go wrong! The mind set of which I just do not understand I support every player at my club who plays for the team and the same goes for the National team.

This team are great role models and dedicated hard working young men. The main stay of this squad will all be together for a couple of years or so. There is a World Cup next December and I see no reason not to dream that we can do it. We reached our first final since 1966. We are getting closer. There are some children who have never seen England reach anything less than the Semi-Final in any competition they have seen. Let us not spoil their fun and optimism with our old negativity based on failures of the past not opportunities in the near future!

England

Last weekend my girlfriend and I went to see some of her friends for a few days in Reading. During the most recent lockdown one of them celebrated a landmark birthday. This was the first chance we had to mark the occasion properly. He offered to cook for us on both days but he was unable to put us up, so we stayed in a nearby hotel. It was really lovely to see everyone again. Luckily he is a decent chef so on Saturday the meal included Paella and a Beef Stroganoff both of which were excellent. Then we had a Gluten Free Cheesecake that was supplied by Lynda. That meant I could have some but everybody else had to have the “special” version to.

We may have had a few drinks and spent the day laughing and talking. It felt very normal and relaxing. I think I am still happier in small groups of people I know rather than being in venues with lots of strangers around. To me it just feels a bit more comfortable and sensible. We got a taxi back to the hotel just before midnight, that on the face of it seems like a reasonable time to end things. However I will admit that we met up at around three in the afternoon. In our defence we had not seen each other for at least ten months.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

On the Sunday her friends got up earlier than us and went for breakfast at the restaurant next door attached to the hotel. We thought we would just grab a quick something. There was a Burger King across the road. We looked in there but they had nothing that was suitable for a Coeliac. There was a Nando’s nearby but that had a queue outside. Therefore we ended up driving to a Supermarket so that I could raid their Free From section. I am still getting used to the fact I am a Coeliac as previously getting fast food or a simple snack at breakfast would be easy and simple. Now I have realised that it requires a bit more thought and planning. That is fine it is just a bit of a learning curve for me.

Our host cooked us a Lamb Roast Dinner, which was lovely. We also managed to sample three different bottles of Fizz in the afternoon. On reflection it seems like the perfect way to enjoy the weekend. There was of course a big football match that evening that I was never going to miss, so we said our goodbyes and went back to the hotel in time for kick off. We met up in a friend’s room to watch it me armed with some Gluten Free Beer, my girlfriend with some wine. It was a bit odd watching it all in a hotel room but the most important thing is that I got to witness it, despite the result. It was a brilliant weekend, great to see and spend time with people. Something I have not done that much of over the last eighteen months.

Neil Quigley

Paella’s are like buses you do not have one for years then a couple come along right after each other. My girlfriend’s mate gave us his version last weekend. And the Sunday before Lynda decided to try to make the dish for the first time. Now I probably should have kept quiet but I am not very good at that. When she told me her plan I mentioned that the only time I had ever previously eaten Paella was when I was in Barcelona in a very nice restaurant there. It was not an attempt to put pressure on her. I was just being truthful and honest and possibly showing off a bit that I had been there. She need not have worried her Paella was a triumph. I really enjoyed it and went back for second and third helpings!

Paella
Paella

I have been having issues with my left arm for about eight weeks now, which if you are a little bit addicted to exercise like me is very annoying. It means that I have had to alter my regime so that it does not hurt when I work out. Anyway yesterday I went to see a NHS Physio Therapist for some assistance with it. They were very helpful and professional. They are going to help me manage it and improve it with a series of exercises and some treatment. To be fair the amount of niggling things I pick up when I am keeping fit I could do with a full time Physio like they have at football clubs.

Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur

Talking of which I got some new running shoes recently. I did not wear them in enough before I went for my morning run in them. I got them basically because they have a big N on each side. But they are meant to be pretty decent. However the first time I used them they gave me a huge blister on my heel. It was so big that I actually had a problem putting my shoes on. I tried to leave it and rest it in the hope that it would go down and disappear by itself. Everyone was telling me to pop it but the medical advice is that should be kind of the last resort.

After several days with no improvement, if anything it seemed like it was getting bigger, so I phoned my Doctor’s to get an appointment with a Nurse. As it happened when I called they had a cancellation for thirty minutes time, so I took that slot and rushed straight down there. She decided that it would be best to drain it to let the fluid out. My girlfriend had been threatening to do that for me. But I was happy to wait for a medical professional to make the call and carry out the procedure. It is still quite sore and I am unable to run, but it is slowly getting better. Moral of the story is wear any new footwear in before you use it in anger!

New Trainers
New Trainers

As a massive David Jason fan I have of course been watching Still Open All Hours the follow up to the original BBC Comedy that he appeared in alongside the great Ronnie Barker. In the new version the shop boy has succeeded his Uncle as the owner of the corner shop and picked up a lot of his skills and beliefs along the way. The other week I watched a few episodes of the original Open All Hours. I had not realised how many of the original characters were still in this updated one and how much it is true to and corresponds with the version with Arkwright in charge of the shop.

It is actually so clever and would make sense totally if you watched them all back to back, which bearing in mind the gap that there was between the original and the new one is incredible. Both versions I think are funny and have some laugh out loud moments. But you cannot beat Ronnie and David working together. The two of them in a scene just makes everything funnier. The delivery, the timing and the relationship between them is astonishing. The secret may be just leaving little pauses to build tension and anticipation. The ability to allow silence I think is one of the hardest things for any comedy performer. Both masters of the trade, I would like to personally thank them for all the laughter over the years.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Today I am going to Taste of London in Regents Park. It is the first time I have been to this event. However Lynda assures me it is brilliant. Due to her love of food I think this will be to her like a football match or music festival might be to me. I am looking forward to experiencing it. And I will let you know what it was like next time we speak.

Regents Park in 2018

A quick reminder that you can listen to me every Saturday afternoon between 2pm – 4pm on Radio Ninesprings https://www.radioninesprings.co.uk/

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Have fun and we will catch up again soon. Stay safe! Cheers Neil.

The One Where I went to the Zoo

Depending on what happens between now and then we are possibly just over two weeks away from the United Kingdom taking the next step along the roadmap. I am not totally sure how I feel about that if I am honest. I obviously would like things to return to as near normal as soon as they can but we have all made quite a lot of sacrifices over the last six months. I would like to make sure everything is all under control before we take the brakes fully off.

I have been closely following the science, the latest figures and the rules. Things do look in a much better place at the minute but as we have seen in other parts of the world that can change quickly. It does seem that the vaccination programme is having the desired effect. I have had both of my injections. It just makes sense to help to protect yourself and those around you. I take regular Covid tests so I know I do not have the virus when I am meeting up with family and friends.

It has of course been a testing time but we can do so much more now than we could even a month ago. This thing is not suddenly going to disappear sadly but as long as it can be managed so the NHS is not so overwhelmed and fewer people are dying from it. Then it will just be like living with the normal flu. I have been having my jab for that for the last fifteen years, which is why the latest vaccination for me just seems like almost normal practice. The weather has improved and so has our ability to socialise and interact with people.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I am starting to venture out a bit more again now to I will be honest mainly outdoor events and attractions. The first of these was the other week when I went to see a showing of the original Star Wars film at a “Drive In” movie held in the grounds of Knebworth House. It was the second time my girlfriend and I had been to one of these here. The first one was Back to Future last summer. I am still not sure if I am a fan of this way of watching a film or not. But as a massive fan of Star Wars I was not going to the miss the opportunity to see this masterpiece on a big screen!

Drive In

I have seen all of the episodes of these films several times. There is no other film franchise that I have watched as many times. As I am sure you can imagine I was extremely excited to watch one of my favourite movies in the dark in our own private booth or to put it another way the car. When you arrive they give you a speaker to put in the motor that is tuned to the channel the film audio will be on. Then they show you to your parking spot. We got there nice and early so that we got a good space. Like the actual cinema you can get food and drink. Just to prove how rock and roll I am I had a cup of tea.

Star Wars Exhibition
Star Wars Exhibition

When I discovered we were going to this I told Lynda that I would be wearing my Star Wars T-shirt and bringing my Lightsaber. I am not sure if she thought I was joking but that is exactly what I did. I really enjoyed it, it is still brilliant. Hopefully I was not too annoying when occasionally saying the lines along with the characters. This was the first time I had seen the new director’s cut where George Lucas has added in some new bits including Han Solo meeting Jabba the Hut in person, which I did not think added anything to the story. I thought it was more fun to see him for the first time in Return of The Jedi.

Neil Quigley

The thing I like about all of the Star War’s films is that there is so much going on in every scene, it has a nice gentle humour running through it and thanks to the music of John Williams it is instantly obvious who are the good guys and who the bad guys are! I am even happy to concede that the plot of all of them is more or less the same but I see that as a plus point rather than a negative. It shows that the struggle in life is real and often repetitive and people often make the same mistakes over and over again. It was a top night out watching a classic. I always get emotional when Han and Chewbacca reappear to complete the mission and always cheer when Luke destroys the Death Star!

Star Wars Exhibition
Star Wars Exhibition

The first Saturday after the last set of rules were relaxed. It was my girlfriend’s Mum’s birthday so she held a barbeque in the garden for her. It was at the point just before the weather started to improve. There were only six of us in total but we all sat outside in our coats and jumpers using the parasol on the table to keep the occasional light rain showers off us. At one point Lynda did find herself under an umbrella while cooking. That made it feel like a proper English event to be fair.

That was my fist barbeque of the year and the first since my Coeliac diagnosis. She very kindly had got gluten free burgers and sausages so I could have them, but it is the first such occasion I have been to where there were a few things that I could not eat. That is of course perfectly fine, however as somebody who used to eat and like trying everything it was a bit weird. It is just something I need to get used to and will always generally have to bring my own “special” food and beer to these gatherings in the future.

We had a great time just sitting around drinking, eating and chatting. It was nice to be around people and hear laughter again. It felt good. The time flew by and it was gone eight o’clock before we realised it. Human beings are basically pack animals so we like being in groups and seeing each other’s faces and reactions. We have all been a bit starved of this during the last fifteen months now. I do feel like I am catching up on lost time so plan to get to as many barbeques as I can this year to make up for it.

Neil Quigley

Last Saturday Lynda and I went to Whipsnade Zoo. I had not been there for a couple of years. It is mostly outside and always a nice way of spending some time. Therefore it seemed like a good location to reacclimatise to being around random people again. When we got there the car park seemed very busy which did unsettle me a little bit. Then as you would expect the walk way and the entrance were quite crowded but we had our masks on as requested anywhere inside. We sorted out our tickets and went in.

Neil Quigley

It was still quite crowded at this point but everybody is outside and generally not that close to each other. Once we had been there a while it was then easier to pick ourselves a route round to see the animals where there were not too many people. There is plenty of space there to keep in your own groups. We managed to find some of the Rhinos out in their field. Every time I tried to take a picture of them they tended to face away from me, which became a running theme with my photography throughout our visit.

Rhinos

Next we spotted one sleeping Tiger in his enclosure. They really are just like house cats in that they sleep all day and just ignore you. It was then off to the Elephant house to see a selection of them and to enjoy their rather distinctive smell. We then ticked off the Camels, Wilder Beasts and the Flamingos. I remembered those pink birds being bigger and was actually surprised by how small they were. I then took my best picture of the day when I actually managed to get two Giraffes looking at the camera.

Giraffes

We were at the Zoo for about three hours and also saw a Bear, a Wolverine (who looked nothing like Hugh Jackman) but who was deceptively fast and two Otters fighting over a pair of children’s pink sunglasses. Somehow while they were fighting one of them actually flicked them on their face and they were wearing them for about ten seconds but we could not get a picture quick enough. Lastly we saw the Lions. We had to come back to them as there was a queue to get into their viewing area and I refuse to queue for anything!

Anyway predictably when we did get to see them they were all lying down. Then one of them started roaring. A loud and terrifying noise when you are looking right at it. She did this for about five minutes before getting up and walking inside. I imagine saying “that is your lot; you have had the show, now go away”. While we were at the Lions Lynda managed to get a picture of one of them pulling such a good face I will be using it to reply to certain social media comments for at least the next year. It was a lovely afternoon out, helped by the sunshine. You cannot beat a nice Zoo visit.

Lion

I did go to another barbeque on Bank Holiday Monday. See I told you I was going to go to loads of them this year. It was a party for Lynda’s cousin this time, she was celebrating her birthday. It was a Mexican themed do so we turned up wearing giant Sombreros. This was as it turns out a useful headwear selection for someone who has no hair on his head, while he is sitting out in glorious sunshine. The chef at this one very kindly cooked me my own special gluten free meat and I of course brought my own drink with me.

It was a fun afternoon chatting, eating and drinking in the sun. Three of my favourite things while enjoying my preferred weather option. To keep with the theme there was a Pinata. The birthday girl got to play with that if that is the right word. I thought basically you had to destroy them with a stick, but this one had more of a school summer fete appeal to it as you had to pull ribbons from the bottom of it but only one of them would release the trap door and the sweets inside. The only disappointment was that I did not get chance to have a go at it.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I have watched the Friends Reunion. Like everyone in my age group I went through a stage of being a massive fan of the show. I think that I have seen almost every single episode. I have always followed the cast since it ended to see what they have been up to. I even went and watched the play Matthew Perry wrote and starred in when it came to London. A few years ago I went to Friends Fest in Milton Keynes. That was good and I got some brilliant pictures from it.

The End Of Longing
The End Of Longing

I enjoyed the special it was clever how it started with them one by one returning to the set as we later discovered in the order that they were cast. I learnt a few little behind the scenes things that I did not know. It was nice to see them all back together. They clearly do have a special bond and connection having been through what they all went through together. When the programme suddenly took off it does sound like it really was a roller coaster ride.

It was also nice to hear from the writers and how they decided to pursue the Monica and Chandler relationship after the reaction it got from the studio audience. When they got together for what at the time was meant to be just a one off. Until they realised what the public wanted was for them to get together. There were some pretty decent guest appearances to including Lady Gaga appearing to do a duet of Smelly Cat with Phoebe.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

They all seemed to find it quite emotional looking back on it all. They were basically all unknowns when it launched, now they are all big stars. It was a fun and easy watch. Did we learn anything ground breaking not really however it was certainly a decent tribute to an extremely well put together television comedy!

It has aged and bits of it are of course a bit dated now but there are some great lines and situations in it as there are in all comedy classics. I personally think they are right not to make any new episodes and just leave it there frozen in time for us to enjoy re-watching when we need a laugh.

Neil Quigley

The Premier League football season ended then with Spurs beating Leicester City. It was probably the most animated that I had been watching a game all season. There was not much riding on it except for one thing which was the chance to finish above Arsenal. Overall the season has been disappointing but to fall below them on the last day would have been hard to take.

Luckily we won the game despite still not being totally at our best and with a great late swansong from Gareth Bale. We have qualified for the Europa Conference league but I will be honest I am not sure exactly what it is or why it has been created.

Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur

Domestic football is finished for the summer so I am now all about the National Team. The Euro 2020 Championships start a year late this Friday. The tournament is being played all over Europe for the first time rather than all in just one country. That was the plan before Covid became a thing as it happens. That means England will get to play all of their group stage matches at Wembley. It will also be the venue for the semi-finals and final of the competition. That hopefully should give us an advantage as it almost did back in 1996.

I will be watching all the games and supporting the team. I like Gareth Southgate. I used to see him around quite a lot when I was at Wembley and he was always very personable. I wish him all the best. The squad selection is a bit of a surprise with a lot being made of the four right backs but they can all play in different positions. For me the bigger surprise is the lack of experienced midfielders, great to give youth a chance but I wonder if he could have used a spot for a player with more tournament game time. That said I am fully behind the manager and the squad. Fingers crossed for a good showing and some much needed excitement. Come on England!

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

A quick reminder that you can listen to me every Saturday afternoon between 2pm – 4pm on Radio Ninesprings https://www.radioninesprings.co.uk/

Neil Quigley

Have fun and we will catch up again soon. Stay safe! Cheers Neil.