View from the Lane
By Nick Griffiths
If you’d suggested to me, during that lean spell when people with cloth for brains called for Martin Jol’s head last season, that we’d finish fifth in the table, I’d have tied you to a trolley and pushed you to Bedlam. I thought mid-table and hopefully a cup, to make up for that.
As it was, we went out of all the cup competitions – late on, mind – to opposition we feared. Early goals against Chelsea, Arsenal and Sevilla proved we could do it, then the self-belief died. Remember that second half against Sevilla, when we needed four goals, and might even have scored them? It wasn’t to be.
And that’s the key to the next season: breaking that psychological barrier. We have the makings of an excellent squad, who could match/outplay any team in the Premiership if only they had consistency, confidence and the ability to defend set pieces. What’s our ratio of goals conceded at set pieces to set pieces of our own that fail to resemble a Chuckle Brothers routine? About 34,682:3.
Now let’s be positive. It was a decent season, ideal for building upon. We played exciting football. We scored goals for fun. Even opposition fans drooled over Berbatov. And the sort of team spirit you notice in all the great sides developed. Keep every key player and add to them with genuine talent (not Benoit Assou-Ekoto). Losing Carrick destabilised us, as did Ledley’s injury-marred season. Berbatov will stay. No question. Well, maybe a tiny question, but I have my fingers in my ears while going ‘Lalalalalalalala’. No, he’ll stay.
Lennon needs maturity. Play him on the right and stop him skittering into dead ends. Keep Chimbonda. Please. Bale’s a great buy and we should look forward to his set pieces. Give Huddlestone back that Carrick role. I’d even give Ghaly one last chance, despite his hot-headed tantrum and me chanting a very bad word at him next to my impressionable son, because he’s attack-minded and has guts. I remember watching his tooth fly out in slo-mo against Pompey (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPMSsYGF3IA), joined by three unseen others, and my fillings doing an involuntary electro-pop dance, circa 1984. Who should go? I’m going to stand on a box and wave bye-bye to Mido. And if Defoe leaves, so be it. New squad strikers, please. Awards? Why not? Hey, they’re imaginary so it costs nowt.
Player of the season: I’m tempted by Keane again, for heart, determination and goals, despite that form-dip, or Dawson, for propping us up with a permanent grin – but it would be churlish not to go with the flow. Berbatov. Genius. The man could turn his feet to ballet. If he wanted. Laugh of the moment: Arsenal’s disarray.
By Georgina Roberts
The day I leave Stoke Newington I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown. My doctor says I’m depressed, my friends say I’m brave and my boyfriend says I’m mad. But I know it’s the right thing to do and I have to get out of London.
Got to get out of London. This sentence rings through my ears. I hear it when the buses shake my flat as they pass 24 hours a day. I hear it when I am startled by the drunken shouting outside my window and I hear it in the continuous sirens that won’t let me enjoy my bath. The phrase comes out of my mouth at least twice a day. Mostly when I find myself stuck behind the yellow framed barrier on the 73 with my face stuck in someone’s armpit.
So where did I choose for my urban escape? Harlow. Attracted by the reputation of Harlow College’s journalism centre, I headed for Essex. I have swapped Daniel Defoe for Jade Goody but more importantly the number 73 for my trusty feet. Harlow is one of Essex’s new towns and will be sixty this year. To say it is a country retreat would be largely inaccurate. The place I am staying is not exactly Beckingham Palace, which incidentally is down the road in neighbouring Sawbridgeworth. But I wake up with the sunshine, no longer blocked by buildings and breathe the fresh air, no longer polluted by the smell of fast food and stale urine. I live next to a wood now, and although it is a modest one with a few teenagers and coke cans scattered about, it is a wood nonetheless, one that houses a chorus of bird song every morning.
Harlow is a local authority-planned mixture of grey and green, and from my first impressions distinctly pedestrian unfriendly, perhaps due to my city dweller reliance on public transport. I’m guessing that it was designed by people who would never live here, and who would never have to walk through the many underpasses or spend their Saturdays shopping in the concrete town centre. But the people generally have been friendly and welcoming, so much so that I already feel a certain loyalty to them and their town.
I am certainly not the first to move out from the East End to Essex and I won’t be the last. The property market, Stoke Newington in particular, has priced out most people these days, and the sprawl of the city suburbs, particularly in the East End, will no doubt attract many more first-time buyers. Historically, I follow a mass immigration of Londoners to Essex.
It is true that you miss all the things that you would imagine: the food, the culture, the people. But although I do miss all of these things I am not in a rush to return to the city I love. My time in Harlow will be coming to an end soon. As I could have predicted, I will not be staying on here but, rather unexpectedly, I don’t know if I will be returning to London. Although my heart is in Stokey, my mind can’t keep up with it and craves the time, space, and perspective that living in a small town gives you. I am enjoying being local, getting home at quarter past five, walking home from a night out, not having to keep an eye on my handbag, not having to top up my Oyster card, having time to get bored. But I wonder how long I can resist N16’s charms.