Thoughts 4.11 to 4.20

Thought 4.20: 09 August 2007: Is Pop Music Something To Be Ashamed Of?

I was contemplating a few things this week and even at my ripened (well sort of) old age of 35, I do start to wonder if the words "pop music" are something that people are generally ashamed of, and won't admit that their favourite song could actually be defined as "that excellent three minutes of pop genius" or similar wording. It's almost as if there's some form of coolness to be anything but the pop mainstream, which to a point I can see, but to another it does get a little kind of annoying. Allow me to explain.

Some of you may have heard of Amy Macdonald, a fair few of you may have even bought her album. Now, the single "Mr Rock And Roll" is, to be perfectly honest, a great example of what a pop single should be all about: memorable hooks, catchy tune, a chorus you just want to sing along to, and on top of all that just over three minutes or so. It's even been picked up by Radio 2 of all places and played a fair bit. Now, because it meets all the lovely pop song criteria should it be riled by the indie kids who deem it fit to post on Amy's official messageboards in capital letters deeming her work "poor"? I think not. That's an example of the "ashamed" side of it.

Now, I'm not a fan of Mika whatsoever. But I know people who are, and regardless of whether you like it or not, the likes of his singles "Grace Kelly" and "Love Today" are the sort of songs that stick in quite a few people's ears and refuse to leave until they've been hummed several times in the head and then on the way to work, you know that sort of thing. And at the same time there's the indie kids who think it's just too commercial and shun their eyes away from it, although I think if pushed some of them would actually admit to it being a tune that they like.

But more to the point: why do we as a nation of music lovers seem to be ashamed if a catchy pop tune comes along and just grabs you by the proverbials? It makes me wonder actually. Yes, I know that the charts as such are generally full of music which isn't everyone's cup of tea, and there's a lot of rubbish out there (I mean Rhianna's "Umbrella" at number one for ten weeks, why?) but at the same time there's some infectiously good music made which just has either an innocence or a catchiness about it that doesn't leave you. I mean, isn't CSS' "Lets Make Love And Listen To Death From Above" such a great pop song? Well, it is.

Over the last decade or so there's been movers and shakers in the music industry, genres have come and gone, but yet there's always been a pop element which has survived. And pop shouldn't necessarily mean popular (although it is that), maybe it should also be defined as catchy, infectious, addictive and tuneful? That'd at least qualify for all of the above, and after all shouldn't a good pop song be all of that? You should feel no shame if you happen to write something that just gets everyone hooked, even Barenaked Ladies managed it in the US with the likes of "One Week" for example (argubly it's not even in my top 20 BNL songs but there you go).

So the next time you pour scorn on something pop, have a think first and maybe instead of trying to be all dour and cool accept that music is different things to different people and that pop has its place.

Thought 4.19: 29 July 2007: Tour de Drugs

Unfortunately, as was the case last year, the Tour de France cycle race has once again been blighted by the spectre of drugs that really is hanging over the sport of cycling at the moment. Certainly as the race had its prologue in London and the first stage proper from London to Canterbury, little did anyone know that two top riders would be thrown out of the race and that other riders would also fail the drugs tests along the way, and indeed the effect it would have both here and in the race's native France.

Certainly drugs has become a big problem in cycling. Last year's "winner" Floyd Landis could still have the title taken away from him after some of his drugs tests had failed. And as for this year, all hell broke loose once it was discovered that one of the leading riders, Alexandre Vinokourov, had failed a test, and indeed his B sample also came back positive, which is usually a clear indication of the test failing. Suspicions had been aroused I guess by the fact he struggled badly on a mountain stage one day and then stormed back to win a stage the next day. Even if the body recovery of cyclists is pretty good, it still would have taken an immense amount of effort to do what he did - and cleanly. Cristian Moreni was then also thrown out for failing at test.

Even more controversy emerged after the Rabobank team sacked Michael Rasmussen. Considering Rasmussen was in the coveted Maillot Jaune (yellow jersey) for being the overall leader, it was a bold move to make by the team. But their reasons became very clear. Not only had Rasmussen missed two tests requested by his own national cycling union in Denmark, but he had lied to his own team about his whereabouts when he was asked to take a test by the team but said he was in Mexico, when in fact he was in Italy. The fact that he missed the tests, and sounded intentional, blighted his achievements and the team sacking was a proactive way of them making a stand that they wouldn't be associated with cheats.

Unfortunately, this and the last Tour de France have really suffered as a result. Really the victory this year felt a bit hollow for Alberto Contador (intriguingly he was in the same team as Rasmussen last year) because of all the scandal going on. Indeed many French newspapers have called for the Tour de France to be suspended until cycling can prove that it is a clean sport, and to many the casual watcher, that would be an action that they would support.

However, I don't think that's the answer. Drugs exist, sadly, in most sports, and unfortunately for cycling it seems to be in the most high profile race where the pressure tells and the riders resort to these measures instead of battling it out fairly. Indeed, one British rider finished last this year, but his determination to keep going earned him quite a few fans who could see he was riding fairly. And there is hope out there. The majority of the riders (most of them younger) signed a pledge before the start of the race that they were clean, and intriguingly two of the non-signatories were Rasmussen and Vinokourov. You make your own minds up what that tells you.

But the younger generation do make a good point - they do not want to be tarnished by association - they may be in the same race, but they do not want to be cast in the same shadow as those around them who elect to cheat the system. The drug testing is getting more strict and the majority of cyclists seem to support it. Indeed David Millar (himself banned for two years for failing drug tests) did state that Rasmussen's sacking sent a positive message out there that drugs would not be tolerated. Plus it also seems to me that a lot of them want the cycling governing body (UCI) to get tougher, not to allow any missed tests, that sort of thing. I can only hope that they continue to try and turn it around and together that they can show the way forward. If they fail, then it'll only be a matter of years before the Tour will mean nothing, that's how bad a state it's in at the moment.

Thought 4.18: 01 July 2007: At Last, A Worthwhile Ban

Today is a pretty historic day in England, as the anti-smoking laws which have been in place in Ireland, Scotland and Wales have now come to the fore here as of 6am. As of now it's against the law to smoke in an enclosed public space, which basically means all work places, pubs, clubs, all that sort of thing. Interestingly it also means that if a bus shelter has sides and a roof (as some of them do) they're also no smoking as well. I've seen a pub near me erect a smoking shelter to its side so that people can go and smoke there instead of inside and thus complying with the law.

I must confess that I did have some jealousy that Scotland had the ban before England, but it also showed just how beneficial that the ban was in terms of health, in terms of the fact that the risk of getting cancer from passive cigarette smoke had been significantly reduced, and in general just how much cleaner everywhere seems to be because of it. It also proved to me that even if the law may seem controversial to some (especially smokers themselves) it was a case of which would be the less harmful to the majority of people who don't smoke.

As a matter of fact, the percentage of smokers has reduced a heck of a lot. In 1948, 80% of all men smoked. Today it's around 27% and reducing all the time. The percentage of women is slightly less, and that was reduced from an all time high of around 50% in 1966. Clearly as the proven detriment to health of smoking is more and more apparent, there are enough people out there who are thinking that actually, smoking is not such a good idea after all and better to give up now instead of face a life of possible lung cancer and eventual early death.

I'm a lover of real ale, I freely admit. And in years gone by, I would have always visited a pub more often and savoured a nice pint of the hand pulled stuff had it not been for inhaling the foul fumes of cigarette smoke everywhere at the same time. A pint should just taste of the lovely ale taste and nothing else, and when I do go on holiday, the ban will of course be in force which means I can really savour a nice relaxing evening pint. One thing is definitely for sure: the vast number of real ale drinkers out there in this country will be visiting their locals more to savour the good stuff. I know I will (well it would be if our local pubs actually knew what real ale was, but that's a different story.)

Anyway, the smoking ban is here, and I'm very happy. No longer will I go to a pub or club and come home and have to wash my clothes straight away to get rid of the absolutely vile stench of smoke. No longer will I have to inhale the cast offs of someone else being completely inconsiderate and only thinking of themselves instead of everyone else's health. No longer will I have to worry about planning my nights out to avoid smoky places (done that before now). No longer will I feel the need to have to be rather abrupt with people and tell them to stop stubbing their cigarettes on the floor of the pub. And indeed, no longer will I risk someone brushing their cigarette against my hand in a club or a concert venue and giving me a burn either.

And if you do smoke, now is the time to give up. You'll feel so much healthier inside and you'll reduce the risks of the likes of asthma, lung cancer and all sorts of evils that you don't really want to actually get. I'm so pleased that this Government had the audacity and the balls to actually put the ban through and implement it, it's not the "nanny state" thing that so many people are saying it is, it's rather a victory for common sense and for the healthy amongst us who wish to remain that way. And as we're in the 75% majority now, the figures speak for themselves.

Thought 4.17: 17 June 2007: Arise, Sir Beefy!

When I saw the Queen's Birthday Honours list yesterday, on the whole I was pleased with most of the honours given out, which has not always been the case. But most of all I was really pleased to see that at last one of England's greatest cricketers and charity fund raisers had been given the highest accolade and had been knighted. Sir Ian Botham deserves that accolade so much, for a variety of reasons.

Being a nine year old child and watching cricket for the first time over the summer, it was the Ashes series of 1981. Cue Headingley, cue England in deep trouble at 135 for 7 attempting to avoid an innings defeat and going two down in the series. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, who along with the tail enders got up to 356 all out, with Botham unbeaten on 149. It might not have been the most technically wonderful innings, but it was an innings of determination and passion and earning your luck by going for it. It gave England a slim chance of victory, and Bob Willis' inspired 8 for 43 did the rest, and he was in the zone that day, inspired by Botham's heroics.

More was to come, in the fourth test with Australia needing just 37 to win and with five wickets left to be taken, Botham in the space of 28 balls took the last five wickets with the loss of just one run. The Aussies capitulated from 114 for 5 to 121 all out. And in the fifth test, a magnificent 118 to bolster England from 102 for 5 to 404 all out, leaving the Aussies a mere 500 or so to win, which they didn't manage in the end. The Ashes were England and since then the series became known simply as Botham's Ashes.

And it didn't end there. For a while, Botham was the world record leading wicket taker with 383 wickets, he was the fastest all rounder in terms of tests to get 1000 runs and 100 wickets, 2000 runs and 200 wickets, and 3000 runs and 300 wickets. Oh, and just for good measure, it took twenty four years until Kevin Pietersen came along to break his record of the most sixes in a Ashes innings as well - which was during the Old Trafford test in 1981. Every side bar the absolutely phenomenal West Indies side of the time all fell to Botham's bat or ball. His style and methods were one that drew in the crowds and certainly got cricket out of the doldrums.

But there's not just that side of him that merits the knighthood. Early in his career for Somerset, he was in hospital having a toe x-rayed. While he was there he saw children suffering with lukaemia, and it had an affect on him. So much so, that he started doing charity walks to raise awareness for the disease, and to raise money. The first one, from John O'Groats to Lands End, was publicised, sure, but the rest haven't been. It's just been him doing his thing for the charity and raising over £10million in the process. And I'm sure there's plenty of people suffering with the disease whom with his support have lived longer lives as more goes into research and into ways of beating it. He's also the president of Lukaemia Resarch too.

People often forget that it's not just about what you achieve on the sporting field, but what you also achieve off it, and it's through that charity work that he should be rightly lauded as someone who took things into his own hands (bit like the cricket at times) and decided to do something about it. His resignation from Somerset in 1985 over the sackings of Sir Viv Richards and Joel Garner was commendable on the grounds that he was standing up for their unfair dismissal.

For years after his swansong, the 1992 World Cup, where he helped England to the final with a memorable 50 and four wickets against Australia being his best performance, commentators looked at an all rounder to be "the next Ian Botham". Well, I've got news for them. There's no one who could be the man. Sure, Andrew Flintoff helped tame the Aussies in 2005, but over in Australia, did he have the same effect. No. Far from it. Till Flintoff helps England win in Australia like Beefy did, then he can't hold a candle to England's greatest all rounder. Arise Sir Beefy, you've bloody well earned it.

Thought 4.16: 13 June 2007: Memory Hungry Or Lazy Programming?

With each new release of a software product, haven't you noticed that the system requirements always seem higher every single time? Even with Windows, the leap in technology you actually need to run Windows Vista in a stable environment (that is, not slow) is such that it'll take a lot of companies a lot of time to not only wish to replace their kit, and do so within a time frame that Vista is still the operating system of choice. At least with Windows XP it ran on kit that relatively was out there for a couple of years and could still behave itself reasonably well. And indeed with each version of the Adobe Creative Suite (as they now like to call it) although the functionality's increased, the core use of the program actually hasn't, as such. So why bloat the memory and system requirement so much?

The answer, put simply: lazy programming. Programming that can be put together pretty tightly and that runs efficiently with small footprints on system requirements seem a lesser breed, because the "as long as it works we don't care how bad the code is" philosophy allows the programmers to get away with bad code and yet still be able to run a program on a pretty powerful piece of kit. To give you another example, some of our potential architects where I work usually run something like Autocad (and particularly the architecture version). The requirements for that particular flavour are a mere 3Ghz processor (not too bad these days but still) and a mere - get this - 3GB of RAM. Yes, you read correctly. Three gigabytes. Which laptop's going to have that? Erm.. none! That just seems ridiculous to me and considering the normal Autocad release works on 512MB of RAM, it makes you wonder just what extra bloat and lazy programming in the Architecture version makes it need six times as much memory?

In many ways this is also not doing software companies any favours as effectively they're pricing new products out of the developing nations and their massive potential. Many PCs are donated abroad to countries for recycling which are of a reasonably good specification, but nothing that would match anything like the above. And it's a massive market to miss out on, not least if you want customer loyalty and also people actually using software that gets them on an even footing in terms of job opportunities and so on. Many software corporations are really missing the point in that software should work as you want, but you shouldn't have to have the most whizzo system, graphics card or RAM to do so just because the developers have and they couldn't be meithered testing it on lower specification kit.

And proof it can be done can be found in the open source community. I recently installed Ubuntu Linux on a mere AMD K6-2 500Mhz PC, with a mere 256MB of RAM. And you know what? It worked. And worked pretty quick. Open Office worked rather nicely, and so did Mozilla Firefox. And in fact Firefox on that Ubuntu rig was just as quick as it would be on a higher spec PC. Reason? Good optimised programming, simple as. Programming where those that run and test it run it on real life kit, what you and I would have, on PCs that you might have bought two or three years ago. And let's face it, if people can still produce mind blowing stuff on a Commodore 64 with a mere 64K of memory and a 1Mhz (yes, 1Mhz) processor, there's hope for us all yet.

Thought 4.15: 03 June 2007: Find Madeleine, But Don't Forget The Other Missing Children

With all the press furore and hype over the missing girl Madeleine McCann, not to mention the publicity, the web site, the yellow ribbons, and so on, you would think that she is the only girl missing at the moment. In Spain for example they have their own missing girl who has been missing for over two months, and their plight has hardly had any press coverage compared to Madeleine, although I believe in Spain it's been the headline-making news of the moment.

I think at times like this it's important to achieve a sense of balance. Yes, I do hope Madeliene is found, as do most people. However, I don't think that we should forget that not just abroad, but in this country, plenty of children go missing. According to the Missing Kids web site, over 70,000 children go missing in the UK alone - never mind when they are on holiday. Some of their own accord who run away and don't get in touch with their parents, some who are unfortunately abducted, and some who are also just left alone by cruel parents. Yet it seems to me that their plight doesn't get an equal airing and I'm sure parents of any child who has been abducted are going through their own heartaches right now and must feel a sense of injustice with all the media pressure resting on just one example.

When you also see the bigger picture you just have to wonder about the whole saga. Her parents are going to have to live with the fact that they left their children unattended. Checking on them every half hour just, to be brutally honest, wasn't enough. If I was a parent and wanted a night out, I would have made sure a responsible adult was there to look after the children so that I know that they would be safe. You often see now that some friends and their families go on holiday together so that there's always someone with the kids if one of the couples want some quality time on their own - and that works well for them. It's a millstone that the McCanns will, sadly, have to carry around their neck, and I'm sure people are making their own judgements as to their responsibilities as parents. But let's not dwell on that too much at the moment.

So in short, let's hope Madeleine is found. But let's also hope the thousands of missing children are found as well and try to give the whole issue a sense of realism and perspective.

Thought 4.14: 25 May 2007: Any Dream Won't Do

Some of you out there as parents with children may have been completely dismayed with one competition that your child may have been entering, and some of you may rightfully feel anger and disgust right now. In case you're wondering, the BBC One show "Any Dream Will Do" launched a school choir contest, called Joseph Choir Search, where schools could enter their choirs singing the opening song from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, and a video clip of around a minute's duration would then be available online to watch and vote on.

It would be clear from the outset that the contest would be popular with primary school children. There are many school productions of Joseph each and every year, and it's still a very popular musical - not least with its profile being raised considerably by the BBC One show. So you'd think that the BBC would know what sort of multimedia bandwidth it would need, especially considering their news site is one of the most visited sites on the whole World Wide Web, right? Erm, wrong. The first mistake the BBC made was outsourcing the site to an external company, Mint Digital. Unforunately, they and the Beeb completely underestimated the popularity of the competition and the servers where the site was being held was constantly in a state of flux or being down.

Even at the initial stages where schools were uploading video clips, there were problems. It eventually transpired that only video clips up to a maximum of 9MB would be allowed. One small problem with that: if the video was encoded as MPEG1 (which many schools must surely have done) the file would be around 10MB, and so the upload would fail. That then meant many schools had to send in their footage by post, meaning that their entry wouldn't be on the site as early as others, possibly giving them an unfair disadvantage when it came to voting on the choirs.

Later on, as voting initially commenced, the web site was often slow (even at work with a 100Megabit connection accessing it made no difference whatsoever) and it was pretty clear from my eyes, as a technologist, that there was vote rigging going on, or that too many people were attempting to vote at the same time. In my frustration I wrote to Mint Digital and actually got a reply, where they actually admitted they'd completely underestimated demand. Surely anyone with an ounce of brain power would have realised the sheer popularity of anything backed by the BBC? Well, you'd think so.

But worse was to come. The voting deadlines were constantly being changed, as were the rules, so that no parent was sure if their vote actually counted. Eventually an announcement was made that voting would recommence on the 21st May, and close on 3pm 25th May, with everyone requiring to register in order to vote. Now, that in my eyes should have been done in the first place to avoid controversy, but better late than never, I suppose. But the timing of the close and the supposed results announcement on the Tuesday 29th would mean that many kids were on half term break, and if their choir needed to be in London for 2nd June, then it would mean a lack of a half term break for some.

Surely someone at the BBC could have looked at the school term dates and realised that half term was when it was and made it so that when the winning choir were to perform on the telly that the week before the child would be in school so that any last minute practice would have been planned? As it was, the execs had decided to extend the series run for another week to 9th June - and it wouldn't surprise me now if that when the top 20 is announced on Thursday 31st May (yet another moving of the goalposts) it would then mean that the winner could be announced when the kids are back at school, and so give them a little time to arrange a trip down to the BBC (with probable stay over Saturday night somewhere if required.)

Unfortunately, it was clear from early on that the contest was doomed to controversy but also embroiled the BBC in a deserved backlash from angry and annoyed parents. The constant moving of deadlines was one thing, but also the fact that it didn't consider those who were putting the heart and soul into the contest - the children themselves - was nothing short of an utter disgrace. There's no other word for it. Mint Digital and the BBC together need to take some highly deserved flak from Ofcom for what's descended into nothing but absolute farce. In fact there should be an apology on tomorrow night's show for the complete shambles that the competition has become. If I was a parent, I'd be upset. If I was a teacher, I'd be upset. And if I was a child, I'd be thinking "what's happening?" And one thing you don't do is mess with the emotions of children.

Any dream won't do. And for the BBC to have shattered the dreams of so many children by not ensuring fair play enough so that the schools with real talent have a chance to appear on television is a big black mark by which they must be held accountable for. A whole investigation needs to be carried out into the whole sorry affair and further more, it should be carried out independently by a watchdog with as much teeth as it's allowed.

Thought 4.13: 06 March 2007: The End Of The Phone-In Rip Off? Let's Hope So

In case you haven't already read, today leading broadcaster ITV made a very conscious decision, and one that's going to affect a fair bit of their programming. For a while now various regulators have been looking into premium rate phone-ins such as competitions, prize draws and everything like that and uncovered many ways that the consumer gets ripped off. One such example is being charged even if you don't get through to leave your name and number to be in with a chance of winning. Another is actually making an error and charging more for the phone vote for the X Factor, so those of you who voted for Leona Lewis to win might have seen that on your phone bill. And so on.

Interestingly, this has meant that ITV has had to get rid of ITV Play. In my view, not before time either. That was vying with ftn's Quiz Night Live and all those other quiz channels for having ridiculous answers that no one would stand a chance of getting with logic - and racking up the profits in the process. In fact, ITV Play stood to make around £20million profit this year, which is no small sum. But surely the money could have been generated by ITV in other ways? They must make enough in advertising, sponsorship of key progammes and so on to actually make rip off phone ins something they didn't need to do.

That said, ITV are the tip of a more widespread iceberg of plenty of channels out there who deem it fit to charge the customer large amounts of money for competitions and phone ins that in truth they have no chance of winning. But what makes ITV even under more scrutiny is the more serious allegation that some of the phone ins are a waste of time because the winner has already been chosen prior to the phone calls being made - and that it's basically a free income generator for those ringing up hoping to be selected with the lucky call. Now that, if proven true, is extremely out of order.

The relevant regulators have to act now, but not just single ITV out. The BBC have made errors (but most of their phone ins get large sums of money donated to charity) and other channels need to be come down hard upon in exactly the same way which made ITV make a decision to actively cancel all their phone-in lines. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end of such ripoffs for the consumer, and that from now on any numbers to call on screen are much more strictly vetted, with clearer terms and conditions, and indeed with the customer in mind instead of the corporation. I think that would be fair.

Thought 4.12: 21 February 2007: We Don't Want Another Hillsborough To Happen

Saturday 15th April 1989 is a date etched in the memory of most fans of football. I was with my uncle watching Manchester City get hammered 4-0 at Blackburn, a blip on our push to promotion that season. As we left rather disheartened by the team's performance and headed for the car park, once we had the radio on in the car and had heard what had happened on the fateful day in Hillsborough, all results just seemed completely irrelevant as the tragic news filtered through of the untimely deaths of 96 people.

Fast forward to last night in Lens, as Lille played Manchester United in the Champions League, and another catastrophic situation could have occurred. In similarities to Hillsborough, the policing was not up to the job: they were spooky similarities, the way the gates were opened and then closed, allowing too many fans in a small confined space, the police treating the supporters like third grade hooligans (indeed tear gas was fired at last night's game which was a bit extreme) and the general lack of support for the welfare of human beings.

Clearly the problem was manifold for all to see: the safety fencing imposed in the ground did nothing but to make you feel claustrophobic, the intimidation by the police beggared belief, and the way they reacted was completely over the top. I mean, if people were climbing the fence to escape being crushed, then what was with the police attacking the fans with batons? Just completely incredulous to be honest. And if proof were needed at how bad it was, a British police officer and Manchester United fan who was at the game said it all: "I was appalled by our treatment by the French police from the moment that we arrived. I couldn't believe the state of the ground - it was like returning to the era before all-seater stadiums. We were fenced in like cattle only treated worse." And that's from someone who's actually policed at football matches.

I would not wish that sort of treatment or safety risk of any supporter, no matter which club they would support. As the Champions League draw could have turned out, it well could have been another English team there - and quite scarily Liverpool could have been one of them confined in that ground. I am sure several of their supporters watched horrified last night as the scenes unfolded. Whatever happens in football, it's quite clear that football, particularly that which involves English teams, does not want another tragedy like Hillsborough to happen. We can proudly look at our top stadia and show in modern terms how safe that they are and how it's transformed the game to being much more of a family thing than it ever has - less intimidation and violence (unless you look for it in which case that's your choice), but still rivalry and banter between supporters.

I'm hoping that the events of last night force UEFA to act, and act swiftly. Such an incident shouldn't happen full stop, never mind in their supposedly most prestigious of competitions. Be interesting to see what Michel Platini, UEFA president, thinks of all this. If he's seen not to act and favouring his home nation of France scorn will be poured upon, and rightly so. Something has to be done. No football fan wants another Hillsborough.

Thought 4.11: 11 February 2007: Sack the Mac!

You may think that I might be jumping the gun by already wanting the new England manager sacked, after all he's only been in the job a few months. However, now the dust has settled after Wednesday's appalling performance against Spain (and in truth it can only be described as that) questions simply have to be asked, not just about the players but the manager Steve McClaren, for numerous reasons.

Granted his cause was not helped by injuries to several players for Wednesday's game, but at the same time the side he put out was tactically inept. Firstly, playing Peter Crouch up front on his own does not work at international level - sides will know that the ball will be constantly hoofed up to him in the hope of other players getting knockdowns. Too many sides deal with that ruthlessly and playing one striker alone with the likes of Dyer and Wright-Phillips supporting was never going to work. It would have made more sense for Jermain Defoe to at least start so England were playing the formation that works the best for them - 4-4-2. Simple as.

Then there was the puzzling midfield selection. With no natural left sided player on at the start, it would have been ideal to have played Gareth Barry there and given him a full ninety minutes to see what he can do. Certainly his club form's been impressive and I'm sure he could have matched that, given enough time (but he wasn't). Also, everyone knows that the England midfield cannot work with Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard together. If Gerrard wasn't being subbed at half time, perfect opportunity to play Joey Barton with him and have a tough tackling (and creative) twosome. Certainly the midfield seemed disjointed and playing Shaun Wright-Phillips with no club form behind him was a big mistake. Maybe now Shaun will realise following the money and going to Chelsea was just the wrong move and it's really damaged him as a player. As far as I'm concerned, if you're not playing first team football, you shouldn't be picked for England as you have no form to go off.

The substitutions were puzzling as well - not giving some players enough time to be able to change the game (I do wonder if Barton had come on at half time what he might have done) but also not seeing the fundamental flaws in England's play and acting upon them. Too many players flatter to deceive and there's no motivation there. For all McClaren's so-called passion, he doesn't seem to show it and makes you wonder the time he's spent with Sven-Göran Eriksson has damaged him as a manager. Certainly at the moment it seems like Sven mark 2, only worse in terms of performances.

The most awful thing of all is that McClaren isn't inspiring the players. It upsets me a lot when players don't even sing the national anthem. I mean, regardless of your views on royalty, you're playing for England, at least show some passion and sing it. It upsets me more when it seems to me McClaren can't take them by the scruff of the neck at half time and give the overpaid primadonnas a bit of a bollocking and tell them in no uncertain terms to get out there and play for your shirt. This is in stark contrast to the under 21s, who came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 on Tuesday night. I'd love to have known what Stuart Pearce said, but it obviously worked. And players look up to him, they know he's been there, done it and worn the shirt with pride and commitment.

I feel so sorry for Rio Ferdinand (about the only England player to come away with any credit on Wednesday). He tried his hardest even if the team around him weren't, and he sang the anthem loud and proud. He at least cares enough and you can always sense that pride in him when he plays for his country. A few others around him should follow his example to be quite honest - and if I was him, tell them that. And while he's at it tell McClaren what most of us are thinking - you're not good enough, Steve! I'm seriously thinking that if England don't get any result in Israel in the next qualifier we may already be doomed not to qualify and to sack him there and then, if not sooner. England fans can't tolerate the sort of rubbish played on Wednesday, they expect passion, commitment and skill. And if McClaren can't provide any of that he should go. Now. Before it's too late. And take his Eriksson-inspired lack of tactics with him.