The Creative Evolution of an Idea


Evolution of an idea: From Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, to The Art of Tackling: A Modern Football Treatise to a Scottish football parody called A History of Scottish Football in 100 Objects: The Alternative Football Museum.

I’m always intrigued to hear others speak about the creative process. How a songwriter, artist, writer or filmmaker develop an idea from inception to execution. Sometimes every part in the process falls into place and runs smoothly. Alternatively, there can be countless twists and turns, a slow creative evolution as you meander and stumble toward the completion of a project.

Initially, in my case, this idea started as a book called The Art of Tackling: A Modern Football Treatise. The concept was a football parody of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War the ancient Chinese military and strategic treatise. It was full of tactical similarities and axioms which mirrored our beautiful game. The ideas appeared transferable, the rules applied universally, the game crossed continents and the same ancient strategies could be applied and satirised for football. The more I read Sun Tzu, I recognised comedic angles which could be applied.

All I had to do was connect football with The Art of War while also lamenting the passing of the seventies with it’s bad hair, poor pitches and shocking diet. Most importantly it focused on the lost art of tackling, using the crunching tackle as a metaphor, perhaps an allegory of the end of the game as we knew it, comparing the text to both past glories and the modern era.

I began by taking the key points from the two thousand year-old treatise and trying to give it a modern football twist. Strategies like Laying Plans became players’ high jinks. Waging War (derby game), Attack by Strategem, (our hatchet man slaughters their flair player), Tactical Dispositions (4-4-2), Energy, Weak Points and Strength (see Laying Plans plus effective win bonus), Manoeuvring, (evading the side-burned centre half). Variation in Tactics (pyramid system or Christmas Tree or Parking the Bus), The Army on the March, (Tricky Away Games in Europe), Terrain (frozen, muddy or waterlogged pitches), The Nine Situations, (Varieties of ground, aluminium or rubber studs) The Attack by Fire (Players high jinks), The Use of Spies (scouts). The topics were all there, all I had to do was shape the angle and make it funny.

I made initial and tentative approaches to some publishers who considered it too high brow and advised it wasn’t aimed at the prospective customer, the man on the street, or the terracing, the average football fan, not my words, theirs. Then my project had the inciting incident, I visited the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden. Then it came together. The parody of The Art of War, the lost art of tackling, football in the 1970s. I could create a museum full of the bad or at least naughty exhibits that football fans, the man on the street, or the terracing, the average football fan, (those are my words), would genuinely love.

Over the last few years in a notebook and on a post-it in front of me, I have underlined parody Neil MacGregor’s Radio 4 A History of the World in 100 Objects. The tone, style, felt a bit heavy on aggrandisement, dripping with self-importance and overplayed, ripe for parody. Then all the ideas seemed to collide and I knew I had it. A History of Scottish Football in 100 Objects. This would allow me to take aim at many of the infamous moments and topics Scottish football has thrown up such as Barry’s Bar Bill, Parking the Bus, Aggie’s Tea Trolley, Jimmy Johnstone’s Oar, Frank McAvennie’s Diving Suit, Tattoos, Hair Weaves, After-Dinner Speakers, Football Cards, Panini Sticker Books, Argentina Chews, The Magic Sponge, Gardening Leave, Cliche, The Pundit, The Pie, Wagon Wheels, Macaroon Bars & 10 pence Chewing Gum, Alex Cameron  v Adjutant the Horse and Think Tanks.

AJ Bollen author:  A History of Scottish Football in 100 Objects: The Alternative Football Museum.

Comedy: Off the Ball, Only an Excuse? Breaking the News

Books: Nirvana a Tour Diary

Satire: Sandy Trout The Memoir



Theresa May: The Glue Sniffing Years.


The PM is putting the finishing touches to a revealing heartfelt tome in which she openly admits she’s been on the glue for years.

An insider claimed that the now infamous walk she and her fiendishly bespectacled millionaire husband, Philip, was the turning point. ‘Most people think that’s when they decided to have a general election when in fact they were out in the woods ferociously hunting for their glue stash and discarded nude books. They were on the hunt for glue.’

The Prime Minister and her husband Philip will use an appearance on BBC 1’s tediously cumbersome and awkward One Show to reveal their adhesive abuse. They will reveal the glue makes them feel invincible, power crazed and slightly unhinged. The insider continued: ‘when they are on the glue you can see them transform. They start listening to hardcore punk from Black Flag, Dead Kennedys and Bad Brains. Then, they want to bring back slavery, public executions of the poor and Alf Garnet’.

tMay angry


Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron, France’s youngest leader since Napoleon, has vowed to use his massive landslide victory to underline the tide of change in France by adding more cowbell to the French national anthem La Marseilles.


La Marseillaise is a patriotic call to arms. The song was written in 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle and hasn’t had a remix since then. Macron claims the song needs a breath of fresh air. An insider said ‘the rugby and football team have hijacked the song and we believe it just needs a little cowbell overdub. Everybody loves cowbell.’

Mr Macron was elected on a pro-EU platform and has got it right up the far right by meddling with their anthem. The former banker and centrist outsider claims the anthem needs some cowbell and will add more syncopation to an already rousing, if dusty anthem which will signal the end of the old guard.

more cowbell

Not everyone wants more cowbell though and some fear Macron’s overzealous use of cowbell could trigger anti-cowbell riots.


Leicester City Make Audacious Approach For Alan Partridge


Leicester City Make Audacious Approach For Alan Partridge

Leicester City confirmed they have made an audacious approach to install Alan Partridge as new head coach of the struggling club because his name sounds like a football manager.

A club insider confirmed the Norwich radio morning presenter was, despite being fictional and out of work for some time, just the tonic the club required.

‘We need someone who represents everything the club’s about. Incompetence, confusion and someone painfully out of their depth. Plus I love that 1970s early 1980s comb-over; it’s just what the club needs.’

‘He knows the media. We need someone who can navigate their way around the English game, especially the roads that will lead this club to our destination; Stoke, Hull or Burnley. He’ll be able to take us the quickest way via B-roads and avoid traffic hot spots.

Despite Partridge not being a football fan or understanding the basic rules of the game, his suitors don’t think this will necessarily hold him back. Fans at first speechless have started to get behind a manager with a name that sounds like an English football manager.

Dave Rushton, Foxes fan chairman said ‘The players were all too spoiled. Winning the EPL title was the worst thing that could’ve happened. What we required was mid-table mediocrity. It’s completely gone to their heads. Partridge will have the players in Travelodges instead of the Hilton. Motorway service stations instead of Claridges. We’re right behind this back to basics approach. We need someone English, with a name that sounds like an English football manager, out of touch, someone who represents the absurdity of the modern game and will appear gormless each week on Match of the Day.’


Kurt Cobain at 50


Kurt Cobain would be 50 today, (February 20, 2017) if he had lived. The age I am today. What would I say if I bumped into him?

‘Alright mate? Remember me? Fancy a pint?’

‘Kinda…Do you have a bad back?’

‘Yeah my back’s fucked…You’re worse than me. It’s an age thing. It was the way you stooped all the time, bad posture. Didn’t you write about that? ‘Penny Royaltea? That’s what I was paid for the book I wrote.’

‘Yeah I remember you. Always in the dressing room writing shit, looking for every opportunity to get a plug, cool, I like it.’

‘Yes that was me, the gormless guy trying to write the diary. You kept annoying me? Remember? In the cold, dank, scuzzy dressing rooms across the UK? Nevermind Tour? Pretending to sleep to get out of interviews or speak to people?’

‘Fuck yeah…that Andy?’

‘What are you doing in Glasgow?’

‘I’m on my way to St Andrews’ to play golf with fucking Iggy Pop man.’

It’s late 1991. I’m in bed listening to a cassette. There’s a song that sounds like the Pixies, it’s different, melodic, dramatic, powerful, quiet.  Killer chorus. The next song is better, the next brilliant. This band were on Sub Pop and had signed to Geffen. You couldn’t get the album anywhere so I was listening to a copy of an album on a TDK tape with The Kinks scribbled across it in biro. I listened constantly until the batteries run out of the Walkman.

A few days later, I would meet the band who’d recorded the album, Nirvana, in London. I was the drummer in a band called Captain America and we were supporting them on the Nevermind Tour, in 1991.

I played a very small part in Kurt Cobain’s short and explosive life. I spent a brief amount of time with him. As moments go, the time I did spend with him proved intense, especially for him and Nirvana’s career. Action-packed, exciting and unforgettable. It’s scary to think we would’ve been the same age today.

What would he be doing if he were alive? ‘What-if’ accounts always intrigue me. Angry at Trump? I’d hope he’d be clean and creative. That he’d at least have five or six Nirvana albums out. There would be collaborations too. Projects with Michael Stipe or Neil Young or Thurston Moore. He may have started his own record label. You’d hope he’d be living in rural Connecticut, like Keith Richards, but he’d need the city. He loved Europe too, possibly the creativity of Berlin? The South of France? Living in seclusion and enjoying the beautiful light much loved by artists.

With Kurt it could also get cinematic. There’s a huge chance he’d become something of a reclusive figure, dropping out of the mainstream, spotted by the tabloids barely recognisable out walking his dogs. Hopefully, he’d avoid mental illness. I’m sure he’d be into writing. He was interested in the approach. Mine were still raw, detailed, what had happened that day, in essay form. His were sporadic, like shopping lists. BBC Session. Song title idea. Album title. Doodle. He wrote loads of letters too. His journals are all out there which he’d have hated, especially those random, incomplete thought processes.

I’ve deliberately tried to move on from being the guy who wrote the book about Nirvana. I’m fearful of being accused of cashing in. But today he has been on my mind all day. I don’t like obsessing over the dead. I carry the people who have passed on with me and sometimes I get the feeling they are never far from me but that’s about it. Every special anniversary, connected to the band I’m asked and refuse to chip in. Trust me, that was never why I wrote Nirvana A Tour Diary (I wrote about my experiences of being a drummer who wanted to be a comedy writer and found myself touring with one of the hottest bands on the planet at the time, at the precise moment they had a hit single).

I want to share a secret. I don’t even know the name of my book. Seriously, it was called In Bloom: Nirvana, Comedy & Me when I was working on it. Nice photo on the front, one Kurt made me take of him smiling as he burns a Scottish pound note. I wanted that on the cover. Then the book came out with this ludicrous title by then I was so sick of arguing, I moved on to the next project. Kurt knew I was doing the diary and the last night I saw him at Kilburn he made me get my camera. I knew what he was doing. So they never used that picture either because ‘he looked too happy’. They wanted tragic iconic Kurt- and chose a photo from another tour, so now the title and the cover made it look like an official Nirvana book. It was supposed to be a book about my experience with them.

There were two main driving forces behind the book. Firstly, to let people know that Kurt wasn’t some tragic put upon figure, anything but. Secondly, there’s a very high-profile famous ’benchmark’ Nirvana book that completely dismissed the UK tour’s importance and was erroneous with simple facts over information and TV shows and dates, so I felt an in-depth, less sanctimonious book around the UK dates was merited.

Personally, there were so many unforgettable memories. In Sheffield, watching the band’s faces as we watched Nirvana watch themselves on Top of the Pops. Trying to play drums along with Dave Grohl in front of a bouncing Kilburn National crowd while drunk. Then the acid-trip-dream-opiate effect of playing a gig in Newcastle after about six cans of Tennents Super Lager and thinking I was Orson Welles in Moby Dick.

My regrets? That more people didn’t get to see the band live. Three brilliant musicians at their peak, propelling this supersonic sound while unleashing this guttural, powerful raw emotion. I’ve yet to see or hear a performance which captured the same intensity as being in the room.

On that tour people were shit scared of Kurt. I only spoke to him because I wanted privacy to collect my thoughts and update my diary. He found this hilarious. I wanted to write while he ‘rested’ but in fact, he was faking it to get rid of everyone else and get out of doing any work. He was fond of our touring party as none of us gave a fuck about his reputation.

The past few years have thrown up many documentaries about Kurt. So much so that many involved in 1991 would think they don’t really know Kurt of 1994. Journalistically you should always go to the source, ask the obvious question. Buzz Osborne from The Melvins was one of Kurt’s heroes and close friends when they were young. When he’s asked ‘what was Kurt like?’ He tells you. He knew his nature and that mischievous side before fame came his way. Buzz claims that the truth about Kurt’s life has always been false and utter fabrication. When he got bored, the more famous he’d become, he would make things up. Buzz’s thoughts don’t fit in too readily with the lucrative Kurt the tragic iconic figure narrative so he’s seldom asked. To those interested, I also say follow Krist and Dave’s instinct with these films and documentaries. If they get behind a project then it’s fair to assume there will be depth and substance behind them. All the while, remember that Buzz said he liked to make up stuff. Golfing with Iggy, who would’ve thought it?

In one of his Letters From America, I remember Alistair Cooke paraphrasing someone on the death of Duke Ellington. He said ‘Duke Ellington died last week. I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.’ I still feel the same about Kurt.

Bands may come and bands may go but Nirvana will live forever.


How Muirfield’s female golfers could learn from Greece’s 411BC Woody Allen, Aristophanes

How female golfers could learn from Greece’s 411BC Woody Allen; Aristophanes.




As we approach The 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon, the focus will be on the world’s greatest golfers doing battle for the claret jug. My focus though will be on the archaic mindset of the members at golf clubs like Muirfield and Troon.

This week, with shades of an EU/ Brexit vote, and with the golfing world’s spotlight aimed firmly at Royal Troon, Muirfield announced last week it wanted to hold a fresh ballot, in the hope it would overturn the vote in May and the ban on women. The R&A told Muirfield  it would not stage another Open Championship as a result. Clearly common sense has prevailed, the club officials have sobered up or the club treasurer has looked at the balance sheet without The Open and the millions they’ll miss out on. The club needed a two thirds majority when it held its initial ballot in May. 64% voted in favour of allowing women members, meaning changes couldn’t be implemented.

At the time (in May) there was a sudden rush of righteous indignation. The First Minister was quick to tweet ‘Scotland has women leaders in every walk of life. It is 2016. This is simply indefensible.’

George Kerevan, SNP MP for East Lothian, said: ‘I’m outraged by the decision of minority at Muirfield Golf Club to block admitting female members. Sad for golf, equality, democracy.’

BBC Five Live were aghast, many observations pointed to the usual cliché regarding which century they were living in. Others spoke in a haughty nature about male chauvinism. Radio 4 were traumatised, this meant they wouldn’t be able to host The Open? It was sporting suicide!

There was a tone of indignation as if their behaviour was despicable, contemptuous and unusual. I say to all who jumped aboard the PC bandwagon that you are the ones with your head in the sand.

It may be 2016 but throughout most golf clubs in Scotland they will sit down and mock those taking the moral high ground. This kind of behaviour may seem beyond reproach but sadly it’s a fair reflection of where Scotland really is compared to where it thinks it is.

This isn’t a shock to me. Despite Scotland thinking it’s a diverse, open and a right on nation it isn’t. For many, this vote represents and reflects the reality. The true face of the bowling club, the golf club, the allotment society. Any club with half wits in charge, this type of situation always arises. They seem to assume to adopt some farcical far right KKK neo Nazi persona once they receive a car park space.

Membership to the ‘club’ is about keeping people in their place. It’s about exclusion. Some posh, bored old Tories and No voters on the wind up. They are clearly still hurting at Alex Salmond’s high profile no-show at Muirfield’s 2013 Open in protest at their refusal to admitting female members. (Of course this would have nothing to do with a strategic move by the then FM to gain some kudos and respect from the female demographic who could never take to him).

We’re all familiar with the headline news that Scotland as a nation is getting its equality right and we applaud any attempts to drag ourselves into the 21st century.  In the real world, away from spin and PR where it’s more harsh, try being Polish, Syrian or from Somalia and wonder where that kind, friendly, caring and compassionate society had gone from the brochure? From those belligerent bus drivers and train ticket inspectors at High Street who act like The Sweeney and whose idea of customer service is to challenge and antagonise. The reality is the same from bottom to the top. This is a small, petty, bigoted nation determined for centuries to keep people in their place.

Of course the vote means Muirfield would lose out on The Open. These guys don’t care about the Open. Forget the millions it would bring into the area and the golf club, they are so elitist they’d rather not have the world’s eyes upon them. Perish the thought that it may interrupt their monthly medal or worse still, bring in their worst enemy, Joe or Josephine Bloggs rambling through their fairways.  They’d say they aren’t elitist, they are traditionalists.

The R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers: ‘We have consistently said it is a matter for the Honourable Company to conduct a review of its membership policy and that we would await their decision. The Open is one of the world’s great sporting events and going forward we will not stage the Championship at a venue that does not admit women as members. Given the schedule for staging The Open, it would be some years before Muirfield would have been considered to host the Championship again. If the policy at the club should change, we would reconsider Muirfield as a venue in future.’

The Honourable company of Edinburgh Golfers reputation maybe besmirched, but this type of person (50- 75, white, racist, bigot, misogynist company director, small penis) loves that. Power and control. Know your place.

OK, I hear you ask, what’s the solution? How do we solve the problem? We laugh in the face of it, that’s what we do. We parody them.

Here’s one that immediately springs to mind. That really original (sarcasm) scene from Downfall when the Fuhrer, as that’s never been used before has it? The scene as he is losing it in the bunker? See what I did there, the Fuhrer is actually losing the plot in the bunker- as in sand trap? The subtitles explain that Adolf is the club captain and going mental at his underlings because he doesn’t want women members. That’s hilarious isn’t it? No. I agree. Another parody of Downfall deserves a life time ban.


Which brings us, with a literary quantum leap, to the point and to Aristophanes. He was basically the Greek Woody Allen. A comedy playwright. The forefather of comedy, even older than Ken Dodd. For years I’ve been trying to adopt many of his comedic devices and plots and transplant them into a modern milieu.

In one of his surviving plays, Lysistrata, a bawdy anti-war comedy dated around 411BC, well before Up Pompeii and Frankie Howerd and all the Carry On Movies; one of his clever plots may come in useful.

Lysistrata, is a cool Athenian woman who is sick of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. She calls a meeting with women from all the towns and cities across Greece. Then she tells them her idea. They will all withhold sexual privileges, no matter how carnal their urges from their men folk, to force them to bring an end to the war. Lysistrata’s idea worked, withholding nookie forces them to negotiate peace. It’s genius. Now if the women of East Lothian who dream of joining their men in the clubhouse are reading, try it. Tell them straight, there’ll be no nookie until we’re allowed in.



Leicester City, Daring to Dream & Gary Lineker’s Boots

gl leicester

Most football fans have bought into the Leicester City story this year. It’s not just the football but the romance,  the power of daring to dream. In a cynical era of big money signings and powerful elite clubs always having it their own way, along come unfancied Leicester with good old-fashioned values like hard work and organisation and have eclipsed everyone.

They represent all the good things about the game and stand on the threshold of an unbelievable Premiership title. Maybe it’s because we love a plucky underdog. Their striker Jamie Vardy is living the dream, a 31-year-old rags-to-riches story, rising from non-league football in just a few seasons. These kind of things had stopped happening in football.

It’s almost a feat of imagination, of old-school psychology, playing to your strengths, being resolute in defence, quick on the counter attack and fitter, just fitter than the opposition.

It’s also fitting that Claudio Ranieri, who returned just nine months ago to a less than spirited welcome, a sarcastic chorus of derisory condemnation is being rewarded too. How satisfying to read that The Tinkerman was shrewd enough to tinker with his contract to receive £100,000 for every point he finished above 17th.

Football lends itself to the imagination. Everyone has a Leicester City story. Here’s mine.

It’s the late 1970s. The scheme’s local punk rocker, Womble is walking by in full punk regalia. He’s daring to dream. Fame. I want to live forever. The ice-cream van skilfully meanders around the FA cup final, holding up traffic as it’s spilled onto the road.

We were so much more resourceful then. Not only did we play in a field of dreams, in our heads the San Siro, Nou Camp or Maracana, in reality, waste ground, lock-ups or in this case a concrete rectangle, known somewhat erroneously as the square. But we would also commentate on our moves. The power of imagination.

This wasn’t twenty kids running around like crazy chasing an orange scarred Wembley Trophy ball. A ball that had been bladed and wore every scar with pride. The scar tissue in question being the emergency surgery from the scolding hot knife which melted the plastic ball and covered the wound.

This was a tense FA Cup final that had entered into a fifth hour of extra time but the ‘side-aff’ (game of Association football between two sides ranging in numbers from three to 19-a-side). Any skilled twist was voiced over with ‘Cruyff!’, any mazy dribble, ‘Maradona!’ Any hold up play, measured pass or half volley, ‘Dalglish!’ We were raising a generation of players both skilled at football and commentating on our own moves. Dare to dream.

I’d go out and start playing keepie uppie, work on my weaker left foot rattling the ball against the garden fence while avoiding the Thrashbush bus. Then my pal from across the road Paul Hawthorne (Hoffy) would come out, we’d start a small game of crossy-in (game for a minimum of two or more, winger controls, traps, turns and cuts back, laying in crosses for the striker to practice volleys).

On this memorable occasion, Hoffy floated the perfectly weighted cross at the right height and of course, I was commentating. ‘Hoddle!!!!’ I said it with the same surety of Motson and put my laces through it. Perfect connection between ball and foot, the speed and power saw it bullet into the top corner, or our living room window, as it’s known. When I bump into him now he tends to open any dialogue with the same thing, in best Motson impersonation; ‘Hoddle!’

Usually, I would be out with the ball and Bobby Shaw (Shug) my pal next door would come out and have a kick about. He was a great footballer, a few years older, so when he came out to play, he would instinctively coach you and chip it up for you to control it, pass and run. He was messing about out in the street but everyone could see he could make it. He didn’t ever show off when he played with us, there would be the odd flash of instinctive genius, he’d have the ball with his back to us but would drag it away and spin so quickly and be off, while you were still wondering where the ball was, he was lightning sharp.

I would go and see Bobby playing for Gartcosh, anything football related he’d bring me along. Gartcosh at the time had a great team. He’d get picked up and I’d be sitting waiting for the car horn and Bobby’s wave to come along. Anything football related me, Bobby and Angus Gilchrist my pal and neighbour on the other side would go to see Airdrie at Broomfield. Sometimes we’d get on a supporters bus to old Muirton Park in Perth, to Forfar, Brechin, and Montrose. With Alan Jaap, my pal across the road on the other weeks we’d go to see Albion Rovers. Going to a game, any game was brilliant.

On one occasion, Bobby and Gus dragged me along for a trial for Chapelside to play in the Airdrie Schools Cup. If you got picked, you played at Airdrie’s ground, Broomfield. The trouble was, I didn’t attend their school. I went to St Serf’s but was selected from about fifty trialists at Rawyards Park. It was down to playing football every day with them.  ‘Yer name’s Drew if anyone asks’. (I got found out and never got to play at Broomfield).

I remember exchanging football programs with one of Bobby’s school pals, Brian Irvine who would later develop and have a long career in the game. There seemed to more of a chance of people you knew back then getting a professional contract. It all felt more accessible.

By this time Bobby got better and better we would see less and less of him. When we were playing games down the park he and I would normally be first out, long passes, short passes, two touches, pass and move, always running into space. I couldn’t concentrate I was always thinking of music, drumming and girls. Ironically when I was drumming I couldn’t concentrate for wanting to look at girls, listen to something else or be over the park kicking a ball with Shug and Hoffy. Gus and Jappy, last goal’s the winner.

I learned loads from watching and would copy his moves, the way he sprinted at teams from the kick-off and tracked down the goalkeeper. The way he’d play off the centre-half, hold up play, allow the others time to come into the game. He played with this desire and attitude and will to win and that’s what separated him from everyone else.

I knew how much Bobby was improving while I watched his games and scouts were also starting to take notice. Clubs up and down the country were keen to talk to him. Most October or Easter breaks from school he would be on trials or training with big clubs. There was a constant array of scouts and managers showing up at his door.

I got blasé about top managers walking up next door’s path. I’d look out the window and see legendary faces like Jock Wallace get out the big car and walk into his house. I’d immediately grab the teamie and was outside playing keepie-uppie and dribbling around the cones on the square in the off-chance I’d secure a deal.

Bobby would bring me back autographs and programmes from places who’d invite him for trials. Loads of clubs were after him. Aberdeen and Everton were the front-runners. He would chat about these famous names from the various clubs. Famous names who weren’t nice and others who were very surprisingly approachable and helpful. I remember he was surprised with the pressure at Everton and how big a club it was. He had been training with Airdrie too who I’m sure offered him terms. In hindsight they may have been a better option, he was similar in stature and style of play to Diamond’s favourite, Sandy Clark. Airdrie would be a great club, get in the shop window. Leicester seemed to be the most persistent though and he signed with them.

He came back from Leicester, part injury but part homesick. I went in to see if he was alright and there was Bobby, sitting in the kitchen, unpacking this gear. He was taller, leaner, muscular. Handing me over a real Umbro Leicester training top, a real cotton one. Loads of programmes, he also gave me Adidas boots.

Now these boots were the best I’d ever owned. I was 14 or 15 and still growing and knew at best I’d have 6 months as despite my best efforts, my feet kept growing and it felt like the Adidas boots were shrinking.

Players and teams are always given a better quality of strip or boot, I didn’t know that. These weren’t the cheap mass-produced gear made in sweatshops. Teams were given the best kit. These boots were magical, the softest leather, they were like slippers yet the soles were firmer, far more robust than normal Adidas.

Anytime I wore them I scored. I remember scoring four and five goals regularly when I wore these boots. Then eventually they started to check and hurt and almost cripple me. I knew it was time to give them away, I gave them to Paul Hawthorne.

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Years later, talking to Bobby I mentioned the boots. He explained as an apprentice, he had to clean and polish them. They belonged to Gary Lineker. When he was leaving, he gave him them to Bobby. Bobby liked Lineker, said he was helpful and encouraging.

I always wondered why he didn’t tell me they were Gary Lineker’s boots?  He told me that if I knew they were his I wouldn’t have worn them. He wanted me to play in them and use them.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Leicester and Gary Lineker thanks to Bobby and Gary’s boots. And like most people who dare to dream, I genuinely hope they get over the line and end a fairytale season in style.



Oor Wullie Rennie, & Great Uncle Bulgaria’s Brexit Shocker

Caramel Blog:  Just Taking the Biscuit  

The Mischievous Adventures of Oor Wullie Rennie.

w rennie

Oor Wullie Rennie may have a name which sounds like Viagra for heartburn sufferers but do you know he has superhero powers?

You may have witnessed that warm, hapless expression and thought, what a nice man but what is the point of Wullie Rennie?

Ever wondered why cheeky Wullie always smiles so mischievously and makes everyone love him? In a new book, he is expected to reveal that for years he has a superpower. By drinking special milk, he’s able to fart silent but non-violent emissions and let rip. He emits love gas. No matter how aggressive or violent the interviewer or political opponent, everyone becomes happy-go-lucky because of his silent but non-violent farts.

Here we see him test his mix on a poor wee lamb who was soon farting pumps smelling of lavender and a magical secret formula that made people smile and fawn and affectionately grab his cheeky monkey face and become all mushy.

willie rennie


In one chapter he explains that on the doorstep, while canvassing, he faced a right wing neo Nazi KKK family. They are vicious, insulting and starting to become extremely violent toward him with motorcycle chains, chainsaws and the like. He smiles in the face of their profanity, knowing that before he knocked the door, he’d drunk some magical farting milk. He farts and they warm to them.

Wullie reveals he received surprise phone call from CIA. President Obama wanted him to attend secret talks with Syria leader and both fall for Oor Willie’s charms:

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The Rat (Investigative Undercover Reportage)

Harvey’s Hummer


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Following weeks of subterfuge and skilled investigation, The Rat can exclusively reveal co-convener of the Scottish Green Party, – ‘don’t call me leader’- Patrick Harvey lives a double-life.

In public, he badgers everyone about their responsibility to save the whale and the planet and that kind of stuff but privately he doesn’t practice what he preaches.

We can reveal Patrick Harvey not only drives a Hummer, has a big coal powered furnace which he uses to heat his house- a house that isn’t insulated by the way. Apart from all that, he uses lorry loads of hairspray even though bald and incredibly owns a huge farm with 2000 cows. ‘Honestly,’ said an insider (his coalman, Jock) ‘his fossil fuel consumption is epic. The hypocrite wears his Kyoto Protocol t-shirt while stoking up his huge coal powered furnace. It’s amazing, the public can’t get enough of his lentil loving right-on green messiah spiel.’ We tried to speak to Mr Harvey but unsurprisingly, he wouldn’t comment.


Boris Johnson Brings Great Uncle Bulgaria into Brexit Campaign Team

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Boris Johnson revealed a major coup, when he announced Great Uncle Bulgaria, (real name Bulgaria Coburg Womble) the eccentric Times crossword lover and elder statesman of The Wombles will prove to be a key mover and shaker in his Brexit campaign.

Of course, keen Womble fans will know that Great Uncle Bulgaria’s ‘eccentricity’ and propensity to shout ‘why not eff off back to your own country’ and his many off camera right-wing tirades are down to hammering the Buckie. Keen-eyed spotters of the tonic will notice a discarded half bottle being tidied up in the credits.

Boris added, ‘It was difficult to find an iconic cultural and 1970s TV figure still untarnished by Operation Yewtree but we think he’ll bring so much to our Brexit campaign. Not only is he the wisest of The Wombles,  but he talks so much common sense, he even has a name of a European country and wears cool Tartan gear. We’re delighted to bring Great Uncle Bulgaria to the table.’

Tobermory was in rehab and refused to comment.

  Modern Life is Rubbish:  Not News…

Man was ostracised, whipped and beaten for eating white bread…Kenny Graham, 33, said it started as a bit of fun with call centre colleagues gathering around him and salivating as he ate every bit of the plain loaf, gammon and real butter sandwich. Things got ugly by day three when the mob starting getting vocal, some started to push. ’That’s so bad for you’…’that’s just pure sugar.’ By Friday, they all just snapped, Kenny said, ‘It went ballistic, before I knew it, the violence spilled over. They were like a pack of wild dogs. I was being kicked and punched. Not that wild dogs can kick or punch. They turned into salivating zombies. Then the manager pulled off his leather belt and started whipping me and they fought like wild beasts over my pieces.’ Upsetting indeed.


Hipster Brewer Not Hip Enough

There’s insurrection in the ranks of uber-cool craft beer maker, Jaggy Bonnet. As the very public disintegration continued, a court heard that as Jaggy Bonnet IPA approached their IPO there was what could best be described as a stooshie in their ultra hip and groovy boardroom, a soft play area, with space hoppers for seats.

Caught on the Hop…

Marcus Watts, the creator of Jaggy Bonnet, the artisan craft beer company taking the world by storm has been at loggerheads with his partners for some time over a new product, set to revolutionise the drinks world. Watts has apparently created a unique artisan beer which the more you drink, the more sober you become.

The company’s financial director, Fergus Stockton said ‘It’s just one gimmick too far. Drinking yourself sober is just too outside the box, even for us.’ Things reached breaking point when Mills challenged Stockton, not to a square-go but to a space hopper race and Stockton has never forgiven him for ‘whipping his sorry butt’. Stockton, freestyle full beard sculpture and Musketeer moustache winner for three years in a row, claimed it was a disgrace that the company’s figurehead not only couldn’t grow a beard, but didn’t have any tattoos and was too fat to wear ultra tight black jeans.

Responding to Stockton’s claims, Watts, 46, said ‘Admittedly, I could act like I’m a 22 year-old and wear jeans that are inappropriate for a middle-aged man. Yes, I do have a phobia with needles so tattoos aren’t my thing. As for the plumage, short of wear a Brother where art Thou? fake beard, they are basically trying to oust me because I’m not hip enough to be a hipster brewer owner.’ The case in front of Lady Cowan, continues.


Industry Insider, ‘Debates need Trash TV for Viewing Figures.

An industry insider (aren’t they always?) claims that if MSPs want to connect with viewers, their format needs a major overhaul. ‘We’re looking at rewriting the whole concept of political debate, going forward. Voters don’t care about tax or the NHS. We’re looking at a reality TV, bake off meets Jeremy Kyle style model. You’re a dead beat junky dad and I am adopting your son, now make me a cake with these slugs and rats gonads.’


Meanwhile Back in Planet Trump:

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Remembering 7/11 and the war on cornershops.





Topical News Round Up March 27


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Star Wars Droid BB-8 is to join the Madame Tussauds line up…well there’s so many gaps after they melted Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris

Boris Johnson has been unusually quiet over the IDS and Osborne fall out. He hasn’t been left this speechless since that paternity test…

Shetland is to get its first pizzeria. They used to have loads, but one closed, then another, then another and another…it’s called the domino effect.

Matthew Perry has written off a Friends reunion as he doesn’t want to ruin how it ended, that’s the show, not his career.

Project FishLove sees celebrities posing naked with various fish to highlight overfishing. Adele was delicately dressed with a special fish supper…No that’s over eating fish…

Willie Rennie was refused entry into Amazon in Dunfermline. He was handed in to a factory next door who said they’d hand him in later.

Tracey Emin has married a stone. She thinks it Keef but it might me Mick, or Charlie…she isn’t sure.

British troops have tested a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak which allows them to hide from the enemy. You know, just a minor point but see if I was engaged in warfare in 2016, (fighting against Isis) I’d prefer something more traditional like a tank.

Edward Fox told women to accept their husband will cheat and to leave money matters to them…Sounds like just the man to be an administrator in women’s Tennis.

Justin Bieber has decided to cancel fan meet and greets because they leave him ‘mentally and emotionally exhausted to the point of depression’…Sounds like a review of his latest album.

Police are asking questions and appealing for information about a ‘distinctive’ horsebox was stolen in Dunfermline, otherwise known as Katie Hopkins car.

A hamper containing Pimms, a mini pork pie and two cupcakes will be given to those attending the Queen’s birthday picnic…One lucky winner though will receive a special one-off, a portrait of the Queen by Rolf Harris.

The UK’s top cop Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said banks shouldn’t refund victims of online fraud, claiming it ‘rewards’ bad security. Customers instead should be incentivised to update anti-virus software and improve passwords. Right let’s try his…TOPCOP999 kerrching, we’re in…





Brookside Creator ‘Netflix Will Stream Soaps’

Brookside Creator Phil Redmond:

‘Netflix Will Be Streaming Soap Formats in Five Years’

A Conversation with Phil Redmond was the usual set up, a conference room in Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) in front of staff and students from the MA in Television Fiction Writing programme. There were familiar faces from stage and screen adding stardust, glitter and a touch of decadent profligacy to the ubiquitous modern white seminar rooms much lauded by University architects.

It always appeared so nonchalantly effortless for Phil Redmond, so it was great to hear -maybe this is just a writer thing- that it wasn’t plain sailing. Sometimes it’s reaffirming to know those who achieve great success had to struggle like the rest of us. He called his rejection and continually getting it wrong at the hands of commissioning editors, ‘the price of entry’. Something every writer has to, in fact needs to go through.

It’s hard to believe Phil Redmond is 66. Can the bright young thing, the man who created three of Britain’s longest-running drama series, Grange Hill (1978-2008), Brookside (1982-2003) and Hollyoaks (1995-to present) really be a pensioner? You wouldn’t think so from the energy he shows finding his many targets. He comes out all guns blazing. Top of the list, Oxbridge execs running TV and the commissioning editors making ‘Mary Poppins TV.’

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Controversially, Redmond declared it would only be a matter of time before Netflix, Amazon and BT create a soap format via streaming. They would revolutionise the current format and it will happen within the next five years. If he was starting out as a writer in 2016, that’s where he’d go first. He encouraged those present to do the same. Things had to change, it was obvious to him, as TV just eats itself and copies what’s successful, he thinks its inevitable that a streaming giant would create a soap.

It also sounds that throughout his career, across many projects he spent a great deal of time and energy locking horns in the corridors of power with incompetent Oxbridge execs.

The commissioning process? Those in charge of production could be making drama cheaper than ever, yet don’t seem to know how to even use it. He gave the example of producers even sending film crews to interview him with huge cameras costing hundreds per hour when it could be recorded on cheaper equipment, just as well at a fraction of the cost. He went as far as to suggest we could record a drama with the latest iPhones and plug-in mics if we used a bit of clever editing.

He shunned claims Brookside was some kind of champion and campaigning poster boy. As far as social issues go, it’s not the job of the soap to change the law, only to tell the story clearly, as they did with the famous Jordache story line. Their job was to tell it properly and build it up in long form, which they did, over a year, to reach the story’s natural (if gruesome) conclusion. Then it was up to those watching to engage in debate and campaign groups to become galvanised by the story itself. Proud as he was that the laws were changed, that was done by people campaigning, not the show itself.

The current drama strand in TV for nostalgia, the Julian Fellows, Downtown Abbey, Meet the Midwife shows better get their helmets on too, he’s gunning for you too. Their tone had made it just about impossible to make the sort of TV he would want to do. They leave him cold, he blames the regulators and accuses them of having no imagination, copying what they assume is popular and making what he again refers to as ‘Mary Poppins TV’. He appears happy to be out, stating the defining moment for him was the advent of cheap and easy reality TV and Big Brother.  

When in conversation, you can hear that comedy background. That ear for spiky, sharp, cutting dialogue honed from growing up with Monty Python, Morecombe and Wise and Harry Secombe. He smiles in wonderment and excitement when he recalls getting paid for writing. He sold scripts to Doctor in the House (his first comedy sketch was for Mike and Bernie Winters. He also wrote for Les Dawson). Though admittedly, sieges, murders, rape, mental breakdowns, incest, heroin addiction, lesbian kisses and patio graves are far from PG Wodehouse.

Redmond always represented a real, working-class voice, tangible evidence that people from a similar background could write for TV. Unlike writers such as Martin Amis, wonderful yes, but when portraying fictional working class characters always treated the subject like a wonderful play thing, a great piece of porn which has him both captivated and intrigued. Much as it can be hilarious, it’s more caricatured and lacking real bite.

In the world Redmond the writer vacates, it’s different; ‘In Corrie someone might pop in through an unlocked door and shout ‘cooeey, just in for a cuppa, luv’. In Liverpool if someone did that they’d be shot.’ There’s humour too but there’s a reality, an honest truth that matches his writing style and approach.

I was there to hear about Grange Hill and Brookside. Redmond’s work chimed and resonated with most of my generation who grew up with his work. We started high school when Grange Hill began and at sixteen, in 1982, watched Brookside, from launch. Yes it was powerful, controversial and groundbreaking but it inspired too. When pals were getting apprenticeships with British Gas and becoming joiners with the council, I wanted to stay on at school for the next few years and figure out how to write for TV.  Suddenly he made it possible to dream.

Redmond left school at 18 to train as a quantity surveyor for five years. The time he spent prepared him for the challenges that lay ahead in television production. Whether it was the importance of financial control, the understanding of legalities, the practicalities of production scheduling, or meeting a project deadline, all this experience would help shape his next 25 years in TV.

When he eventually decided to go full time on writing things stalled. Realising ‘there were too many gaps in my education’ he returned as a mature student to do Social Studies at the University of Liverpool.

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Working around spare time, he got a break when the BBC liked an idea he pitched about a London comprehensive school. He was given a blank canvass and asked to devise something for kids TV, which he did with Grange Hill. He was also shrewd enough to keep the copyright. At one point, with Grange Hill annuals published on IPC and a series of novels published on Fontana, it was Redmond who received the six figure sums which he would put toward setting up Mersey Television, his own production company that went on to develop Brookside.


With Brookside he drew on the QS training yet again. Instead of burning money renting out and setting up each house, Redmond made the groundbreaking decision to purchase 13 new builds on an estate in Liverpool. The architects adapted each house to his technical requirements. He discussed with sellers, the type of people who would live in each house and was able to select their homes in accordance with their job, salary and background.

With the show costing £13,000 per half-hour episode to record on location, even at the full cost then, of £25,000 for each house, they would only have to shoot 26 episodes, 13 weeks of output to get back their outlay. He beams proudly as he and his accountant wife Alexis recently counted the saving in location facility fees over the collective 21 years of the show’s broadcast was £9.5m.

Launched on the first night of Channel 4, November 2, 1982, Brookside started gritty and controversial and remained that way. A show determined to tackle social issues head on and one which remained thought-provoking.

One of the show’s writers, Jimmy McGovern (Cracker, The Lakes, The Street) begged to write for the Grants but was landed with the posh Tory family the Collins. Redmond refused to let McGovern near the Grants, loving the way he took his vitriol out on the somewhat privileged easy target of the Collins and it worked.


(Everyone talks about the lesbian kiss of 1994 but in 1985 Gordon Collins, the son of Paul and Annabelle was the first openly gay character. A copy of the Gay Times was accidentally delivered to the Corkhills and we found out Gordon had been in a relationship with his pal from school, Chris).

The show’s use of Steadicam and lightweight cameras gave the feel of a live news report. The casting policy which featured many untrained actors and storylines which reflected the redundancies and strikes under the 1980s Conservative government, gave the show a real bite. The show didn’t use script editors, preferring instead to have long meetings with writers and work things through collectively.

With Hollyoaks, Redmond is matter of fact. It was originally devised as a British antidote to American shows like Saved by the Bell or a light-hearted British take on Aussie soaps. Then when it was broadcast, everyone asked ‘where’s the drugs?’ The show exploded when Natasha died when her drink was spiked with ecstasy.

Hollyoaks circa 2016 isn’t what he would make but he’s fine with that. He also seems pragmatic about selling to Granada. He wouldn’t compromise with the broadcasters but knew they would, meaning the show would continue and keep people employed.

He gets particularly irritated with genres. The publishers call his book a crime book. He accepts they know their business but gives the impression he finds having to limit storytelling to a specific area, stifling. He shares a funny anecdote with then Channel 4 Head of Nations Regions (who recently quit after 20 years to focus on other projects) Stuart Cosgrove, saying ‘Who watches TV by genre? Oh tonight I might watch a bit of religion, followed by some factual, then some drama.’

Maybe he’s just outgrown TV, but it sounds like the changes in regulation and the continuing legality made him quit and move on. Then he’s realised what he missed most was storytelling. His visual narrative is clearly evident on Highbridge, the first of a sequence of four novels.

You get the impression he’s enjoying it, the first book is out, the second almost complete and like any quantity surveyor meets successful scriptwriter, the structure is stable, ready for a full, overarching story with the third and forth. I wonder if he misses the collaboration? Bashing out storylines with a big team? Working through the logistics and costing? He admits to making one concession by deliberately picking a huge publishing machine (Random House) big enough to say no to him. He wanted editors strong enough to tell him, ‘no you’re going off on one again, there. ’


I’m tempted to ask if the books are a lengthy journey to pitching Highbridge as huge project to Netflix. It sounds visual, as if it’s been written with that in mind but fear I might get shot and buried under the patio.

For those interested in story, if offered the chance to garner any words of wisdom from Redmond, jump at it. If you have an inkling to write for TV, believe in powerful compelling storytelling or just write, he’s well worth catching as he promotes this and his next three novels.

Highbridge is available on Century (Random House)



Forget Trump. Give Me Vermin Supreme.

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Super Tuesday

Since Donald Trump announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for president, the situation continues to fascinate, beguile and become more horrifying with each passing day.

It’s an unstoppable showbiz car crash. Part vaudeville, part dark comedic Philip Roth or Thomas Wolfe novel, slaughtered down to a bite size mini TV series. Like an old wild-west travelling freak show, where you can’t take your eyes off the weirdo and your emotions are tied between laughing and crying at the outlandish appearance and in this case, Trump’s outrageous remarks. Now the idiot could become President. Can someone with a brain maybe just outwit him? Where’s Vermin Supreme when we need him?

If this was happening in the UK, it would be a nauseating morass, a spiteful soup of right-wing Ukippery, led by some kind of self made rich Jeremy Kyle, Gordon Ramsay or Shane Ritchie amalgam. The type ‘who talk sense about The Muslims, immigration and making our country great again’. Playing to people who watch them on TV all day, appealing to the lowest common denominator.

That would be too easy though. Let’s blame it on the dumb, huddled masses. No, the there’s plenty of smug, mostly white middle-class types being seduced and duped by the American dream narrative. In some ways, it could only happen in America. What I find unsettling is the actual mindset of anyone who finds Trump’s qualities appealing? Look at that emblazoned gold T on my toilet seat? Wow…I just love his garish tacky 1980’s porn set taste and dig that decadent opulence.

There have been many distasteful moments, banning Muslims, Mexicans sending rapists to America, his security detail choking and beating a photographer. The most ludicrous for me was when one of his aides, said, ‘Donald look at the lyrics to Al Wilson’s the Snake.’

There he was, all over social media quoting the words of ‘The Snake’ by Al Wilson. I love the song, it was a great favourite when I DJ’d. He used it as an allegory for racist Muslims who were snakes and untrustworthy and responding wickedly to the kindness of the nice (no doubt American) woman who took them in.

To most soul and music fans, I may be alone in this but I always figured – in my sick allegory – that the snake in the song was in the guy’s pants. To me the snake being revived was always a song about Boaby. A song of priapic proportion and when he was biting her he wasn’t actually biting her, if you get my drift.

For the intellectual behemoth, the cerebral colossus that is Trump, it was a new low, twisting the words of a soul classic. Every word became poisonous, his interpretation deliberately chosen to cause maximum distaste.

Trump isn’t dumb and knows exactly what he’s doing. Playing on the Lets Make America Great Again card, he’s pandering to the football beer gutted small ‘r’ racists. Why should we give our tax dollars to refugees, Muslims, who bombed New York? It’s a dangerous game Trump’s playing. But he’s perfectly aware of what he’s doing.

Sadly, the opposition, Hilary Clinton comes across like her Madame Tussuads’ waxwork has been injected with crystal meth and two jump leads clipped to her backside to jolt her into some kind of movement. She is also very unfortunate, as a politician, to have a voice which grates and grinds on and on, scraping like a needle at the end of an album which has clipped and stuck on a repeating groove and been left on, even though the party’s was over hours ago. Her voice just goes through me, I’m not sure if I could listen to her voice for another four years.


Trump loved fame before he was this famous. He courted it, he even had a reality TV show. If there is one thing he’s doing brilliantly it’s playing the media game. He’s bringing the TV showbiz world into the world of politics and turning it into a huge game. If you don’t think it’s a game driven by fame and power and the media, why don’t we hear more of the eccentrics? My favourite is Vermin Supreme a performance artist and activist who wears a big boot for a hat and carries a large toothbrush. His campaign is based on an insistence that people brush their teeth and promotes a brand of zombie apocalypse awareness and time travel research, if he wins every American will also be given free pony.

Trump is at the part of the show when there’s no longer any need for subtlety. It’s not something you’ll hear on The West Wing but with Trump, we’ve now entered what I like to call the fuck you scenario. He can say or do anything he wants and get away with it.