Showing posts with label BBC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BBC. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How do you solve a problem like the licence fee?

This is a transcript of a speech I made today at the Salford International Media Festival, part of a discussion about the future of the BBC. It includes a suggestion that the licence fee should be reduced to £10 per annum.

On 15th October 1973, wearing a crisp white shirt newly ironed by my mother, I nervously pushed open the big brass doors into Broadcasting House and signed into reception to start my career as a BBC News Trainee. 

As we sat in our classroom on the second floor, our instructor greeted us with these words: 

“Congratulations!” he said. 

“You are the chosen ones. We expect all of you to rise through the ranks to become the next generation of BBC leaders. 

“Unless,” and here he glowered at us, “unless you commit one of two heinous crimes – bounce a cheque at BBC Cashiers, or forget to pay your licence fee”. 

There were six of us trainees in total, and later on in the first term our instructor made us take part in a competition – to find which of us was most likely to become Director General. The winner was Tony Hall.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

RIP Kevin Turvey

I hope you’ll forgive me if I add a final paragraph to the plethora of tributes paid to the comedy genius Rik Mayall, who died last Monday. I feel justified in claiming this last word, because I was involved in his first – I gave Rik his first big break. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Jeremy Clarkson and the 'N'-word

Joanna was confused. 

“So why did Jeremy Clarkson use the ‘N’-word in ‘Eeny Meeny Miny Moe’?” she asked innocently. 

Being American, my wife was brought up in a world where the only creatures ever caught by the toe were tigers. 

Jo is a modern woman, born in 1970. At school in Los Angeles, they always used tigers in this playground rhyme. My own children used tigers too, and my eldest is 32. They would no more consider using the ‘N’-word in a sentence than they would use the “C”-word in front of their parents. 

The ‘N’-word was part of an earlier generation. Mine, and Clarkson’s.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

3 - not quite the magic number

The proposed demise of BBC3 has been greeted by howls of rage from its well-remunerated stars (like Jack Whitehall and Russell Kane) and almost complete indifference by the licence payers. 

By yesterday only 150,000 had signed an online petition against the axing, which is about the number that watch the live transmission of the average show, against the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on the network so far. 

Since the network first launched, younger viewers have stubbornly ignored the broadcaster’s efforts to reach them. Which is no fault of BBC3, of course, because everyone knows that the majority of young people find television utterly irrelevant to their lives. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The magic of Doctor Who

[The Doctor Who 50th anniversary special was on BBC1 last night.]

I was eleven when I first saw Susan Foreman and her grandfather. 

Susan was a pupil at Coal Hill School in Shoreditch, and her teachers were worried about her because she had a strange take on the world. Almost alien, you might say. 

Coal Hill School was on television on Saturday night, watched by millions around the world. It’s the most famous fictional school in Britain, for Susan’s grandfather was William Hartnell, the original Doctor Who, and they had stopped off in Shoreditch while he was trying to fix a technical bug in their Tardis, which caused it to keep its shape as a London police box when travelling through time.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Doggie Doos and Don'ts

I think the fairy period of Izzy’s life may have peaked. 

Not that she’s discarded them yet. In fact, as I write this, she’s sitting on the floor building a new fairy house. It’s a shoebox decorated with glitter and nail varnish (which I’m not sure Mummy knows about, but I’m not going to be a spoilsport) and will soon be filled with pixie dust and other tiny objects in order to attract a real live fairy to come and live in it. 

While construction work is proceeding, we’re keeping Boots out of the room in disgrace. Last night he leapt over the dog gate and ate Tinkerbell. Izzy’s hoping the fairy that inhabits her new box will be Vidia, because she says it’s her favourite. 

I looked Vidia up in Wikipedia. She has pouty lips and arched eyebrows. She is also selfish, with a secret box of fairy dust under her bed which she hides from the other fairies, which explains why Izzy has suddenly acquired one too, in which she keeps a collection of birthday cards, broken dolls and old yoghurt pots. 

Vidia is self-centred, calls everyone “darling” and believes that not all fairies are created equal. Izzy says she likes her because she flies the fastest and has purple bits in her hair.  She is the Joan Collins of fairies, and I’m not sure I want Vidia living in my house, even if she’s hidden under Izzy’s bed – she reminds me of my ex-wife.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Winding back the BBC clock

Why did Lucy Adams, the BBC’s confounded and derided HR boss, wear spectacles glued to her scalp whilst being grilled by MPs? Does she have two extra eyes in her head, through which she can seek divine inspiration from the gods of HR? 

She certainly demonstrated something that I’ve always suspected: the pointlessness of her profession.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Thatcher's legacy could be Cameron's downfall

In two days Mrs Thatcher will be buried and we can all get on with our lives. The headlines writers will move on; the television news pundits will find something else to talk about. 

But I for one seriously fear the consequences of the past week – the cans of worms that have been opened, which threaten to spread bitter conflict through our nation.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Trouble At The Beeb's New HQ

Further to my earlier post about the meeting rooms and other facilities at the BBC’s new headquarters building, I note with interest this article in today’s edition of Broadcast magazine: 

More microwaves and meeting rooms: BBC reacts to NBH complaints 

8 February, 2013 

By Balihar Khalsa 

Additional meeting rooms are being installed on the sixth floor of the BBC’s New Broadcasting House, as part of a number of changes that have been made to the corporation’s new building. 

The new meeting rooms as intended to provide extra private space for BBC Vision management, and are one of a range of changes being made following feedback from BBC staff now based at New Broadcasting House. Complaints have included difficulties around hot desking and poor quality catering, plus overcrowded lifts and an insufficient number of microwaves. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Inside the BBC's New Broadcasting House

When he becomes director-general in March, I wonder if Tony Hall will have his own desk, or just a filing cabinet to store his stuff. 

Think I’m joking? I’ve just been to the BBC’s new headquarters, and I’m afraid Tony is in for a bit of a shock.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The King-Maker

[Why Tony Hall was always going to become the BBC’s director general] 

Eric Stadlen, our tutor, was adamant. 

“Vun of you vill be director-general,” he told us in his deep, thick Austrian accent.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The BBC: Turning A Crisis Into A Catastrophe

[The director-general of the BBC, George Entwistle, has resigned after a chaotic 54 days.]

Poor George. Such a charming, gentle man. 

I met him a few times, when he was head of Current Affairs at the BBC and I was pitching a television series about how to improve the rate of prisoner reoffending. What I proposed was so radical and dangerous (I wanted to move young prisoners to a “half-way house”, set them up in business, then film how they got on) that I doubted he would consider it. 

George heard the pitch, then said, in quiet, measured tones: “It’s exactly the sort of series the BBC should be doing right now”.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Crying Games

“Don’t forget to call me in for the bit where they cry at the national anthem,” I called out from the kitchen where I’d been constructing a mountain of spaghetti bolognese for ten hungry mouths.

Their appetites are insatiable, not just for the food, but also for large doses of the Olympics drug that for days has cemented the family onto the giant L-shaped couch in the TV room. Even the cook mustn’t miss the moment where we all blub along with the athletes during the medals ceremony.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

How they blew £27million in one night


I was determined to hate the Olympics opening ceremony.

£27m could have bought half a dozen full-scale West End musicals, or nearly two years’ public subsidy for the Royal Shakespeare Company. It seemed an awful lot to blow on a single performance. The Isles of Wonder would have to be bloody wondrous to justify that kind of expense.

So when the pastoral opening sequence failed to feature any closeups of sheep – much to the disappointment of my sheep-rearing neighbour, who had come over to our house specifically to see them in HD – and instead we endured hammy acting, wimpy maypole dancing, limp apple tossing, and some unexplained film of rugby players, followed by the self-satisfied image of Kenneth Branagh as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, I was pretty sure I’d be proved right.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

End of a Dream

English strawberries and a glass of chilled champagne – what a perfect accompaniment to a Wimbledon final.

To be honest, it was hard to find any strawberries left by the slugs in the garden and I was only drinking Cava, but I was determined to join the rest of the nation in its patriotic fervour.

I tried explaining to Jo why it was such an important day for this most English of traditions, the first time “we’d” reached the men’s singles final since 1936.

“Isn’t he the same guy who lost last year?” she asked, rather dispiritedly.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Vidal Sassoon Cost Me A Fortune

Vidal Sassoon cost me a fortune over the years.

Before him, people who cut men’s hair lived in barbershops marked by red and white spinning poles, to be visited rarely and salelyto stop the hair from growing over your eyes.

Our local barber in Tynemouth had frosted windows and chairs with leather straps where the men with the swept-backed Brylcreemed hair would sharpen their switchblades before shaving foam off old men’s chins. The buzz of electric shavers, interspersed with the clickety-click of comb against scissor, reverberated round the little wooden-paneled room, bedecked with adverts for Durex and Old Spice. Grown men talked of football and beer: I was ignored, other than to be asked questions about my favourite subject at school. I was certainly never asked how I wanted my hair cut: “Not too short” was my Mum’s terse instruction. Short hair was what you got when you had nits. My £1 cut was rounded off with an electric trim up the back and Brylcreem on top.

My hair has always been an embarrassment: it’s the most uncooperative mop. Mum has an appalling photo of me as a choirboy with protuding ears and hair stuck out at an extraordinary angle. She calls it angelic: it’s actually horrendous. My Dad always insisted I had a parting, but when you put a brush anywhere near my hair, it would spring skyward. No gel invented could tame it, no comb could ever breach its impenetrable thickness.

It was many years – too many – before the parting and I parted company. I’d spent my teenage years trying to straighten it, even growing it longer in the mistaken belief that its own body weight would make it sleek as the stars’ locks on Top Of The Pops. Or at least cover my projecting ears. How I envied boys at school who could imitate The Beatles. Mine was more Art Garfunkel.

 As a result, 60s style completely passed me by until eventually I gave up haircuts altogether. There’s a picture of me at university looking like a camp Robert Plant with purple sweater and brown corduroy trousers. My hair, left to its own devices, had become a nest, like something from an Edward Lear poem, in which an owl could happily raise its young.

So when I went to the BBC to begin the process of becoming a journalist, something had to be done. I did some research (well, I asked someone famous I met in a lift at Broadcasting House), and they said I had to go to Leonard. Leonard was the protégé of the great Sassoon, the man who’d created 60s hair revolution. It wasn’t just about the women, with their sharp angular shapes. Men, too, were being pampered in glossy hair emporiums. And none was more glamorous than Leonard’s “house” in Grosvenor Square.

It had yellow and white awnings. I booked an appointment. “Who with?” they asked. This threw me: I assumed it would be with Leonard. Sure, I could have Leonard, but it would cost as much as a family car. Or I could have Sarah. Sarah would do just fine. I have never felt so insignificant: it was a palace. They played music and brought you coffee and magazines. It was full of beautiful women, with frozen Sassoon cuts.

Thinking I’d come to the wrong department, I asked for the men’s section. The girl behind the counter laughed: this was unisex. She summoned a supermodel with impossibly long legs who sat me in a chair until Sarah arrived, studied my birds’ nest in a mirror, then asked what I wanted. I hadn’t the slightest clue. “Not too short, please,” I suggested. She snorted and then I spent the next 2 hours – and £25 plus tip – in makeover mode.

 I emerged short and, as Sarah called it, “choppy”. And I’ve been short and choppy ever since. Since then my hair has been cut by a succession of stylists, all of them expensive and all trained in the Sassoon tradition. The result: I still have terrible hair, and it’s cost me £10,000 more than it would have done in my local barber’s shop. But, short and choppy – that’s me.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ratings Wars

[Last night the BBC's new talent show The Voice went up against the ITV juggernaut Britain's Got Talent.  Was it one reality show too far?]

Well, who would have thought Britain had so much talent? Saturday evening has been turned into the long night of the wannabe.

This morning the TV trade press (Broadcast Magazine) announced that Britain’s Got Talent had “triumphed” over the BBC’s new talent show The Voice. Nothing could be further from the truth, for during the 20 minutes period that the two shows went head to head, the BBC actually won convincingly, by nine million to ITV’s six and a half, even though the average ratings for the whole of Britain’s Got Talent were rather higher.

Take it from me (as one who has spent quite a portion of his career supplying shows to the BBC for the traditional Saturday night battle), getting nine million to switch on (and stay watching) your first show is a more than a success, it’s a barnstorming, miraculous, champagne-popping triumph. I can’t recall another debut that came anywhere close: even shows that have gone on to become hits, like Strictly Come Dancing, had less than 5 million on their first airing.

But despite this talk of ratings wars (and I promise, Britain’s press will be full of it for the next two months, so we’d better get used to it), this wasn’t a battle of equals at all. In fact, when most of us thought the talent show market had been saturated, both networks managed to come up with surprising twists on the tired old genre.

The Voice really is what it says on the tin. Four judges sit with their backs to the singers, so the contestants perform in front of four impenetrable chair backs, willing them to swing round before they finish their performance. Influenced neither by looks nor backstory, the judges’ decision is based solely on the voice they hear. If a judge does turn to face a contestant, then that judge becomes their coach for the rest of the series.

Several failed: Phil the delivery driver with his grey-haired Nan sobbing in the wings, who undoubtedly would have had the Britain’s Got Talent judges begging for more, went home emptyhanded.

But where it gets clever is that when two or more judges pick the same person, then, for the first time I’ve ever seen in a talent show, all the power goes to the contestant. Several singers were chosen by all four celebrity judges, who then turned into groveling lackeys as they tried to woo the candidate to join their team. It was like watching real recording industry pitches: they promised the earth – world tours and endless riches; they name dropped without shame (producer and rapper mentioned “Mike” Jackson every third sentence, whilst Tom Jones dragged up an anecdote about Elvis). Meanwhile the wannabe, who frankly would have been quite happy with just another glass of beer in the BBC green room, had to pick a judge to entrust with their future. My favourite moment was when one candidate completely turned the tables by putting in an X Factor-long pause in the middle of the announcement of his choice, throwing judges, audience and even the TV producers, into confusion.

What was strange about The Voice, though, was that in a typically BBC way, they only featured attractive, young contestants in the first show – thereby losing the drama of the judges turning round and facing a Susan Boyle. This is a format designed for a disconnect between vocal ability and looks, yet they haven’t exploited it - yet.

Not so Britain’s Got Talent. Incredibly, they found themselves another Boyle in an extremely large teenager called Jonathan, who sings like an operatic angel, albeit with an underwhelming though more attractive girl singer called Charlotte. I wonder how many weeks it will take for Simon Cowell to split them up and give Charlotte the boot. Jonathan is a star in the making.

But the real hit of BGT was David Walliams. He and Cowell are the new Morecambe and Wise. I have never seen Cowell look more uncomfortable and edgy (and, as a consequence, perform better) as Walliams ribbed him mercilessly. That relationship alone is enough to turn me into a Saturday night couch potato.

Monday, October 31, 2011

How's About That Then!

[Sir Jimmy Savile, eccentric, philanthropic British DJ and television presenter, died on Saturday.  He would have been 85 years old today.  He is best known for his Jim'll Fix It children's programme, which ran on Saturday afternoons on BBC1 for nearly 20 years.  He was also the first, and last DJ on the BBC's chart show Top of the Pops.]
For years I’ve reckoned my childhood must have been either utterly deprived or privileged. You see, I can’t remember writing a single letter to Jimmy Savile.

I’ve always assumed it was either because my pocket money couldn’t stretch to a stamp, or because my life was so complete, that I never craved a Jim Fixed It For Me badge. I certainly didn’t want any of the things that other children begged him for: like riding in Doctor Who’s Tardis, singing in a studio with Abba, or having a meal on a rollercoaster. What could possibly have been wrong with me?

Then, after Sir Jimmy’s death on Saturday, I realised the problem: I’m just too old. The programme didn’t start till 1975, by which time I was already in my 20s. It was my daughter who wrote to Jim’ll Fix It asking if he could fix it for her to marry Mr Blobby. Yet I’ve always felt Jimmy Savile was an essential part of my childhood.

I might have been briefly exposed to his weirdness in 1960, through a music show on Tyne Tees Television called Young At Heart, though I clearly didn’t have the heart for it, as I can’t even remember the fact that he changed his hair colour every week. He certainly wasn’t the talk of Priory Junior Mixed.

Instead my memories of him begin in my teenage years: Savile was the lucky man who each week on Top Of The Pops introduced me to my ultimate boyhood fantasy, the dance troupe Pan’s People. I adored his unpredictable, mad banter and I was always disappointed when he was deputised by one of the other, blander DJs. Most of the time, I had no idea what he was talking about, but in a world of over-hyped mid-atlantic pretension, his eccentric Northern bluntness was reassuringly grounded.

So I can understand the outpouring of national nostalgia this weekend – you’d have thought the Queen had died. Jim’ll Fix It staggered on until 1994, which is an incredibly long run for a television series, so he must have touched the childhoods of swathes of the population, including the editors of the newspapers and news bulletins that gave his death such prominence. They all grew up, like my older kids, with the sight of that familiar big red chair, his shiny bling-bedecked shellsuits and the sound of his irritating voice; his “How’s about that, then?” catchphrase drummed into their brains every Saturday afternoon.

I met him a few times professionally, and actually found him rather haughty and grumpy. I think I’m in a minority here, and my view may have been clouded by the fact that I can’t bear the smell of cigar smoke. But he was selfless in his support of good causes and, in one way, I’m personally grateful to Sir Jim. For he directly influenced my own career path: I have no doubt that Jim’ll Fix It was the inspiration for Challenge Anneka.

Both shared the same underlying concept, that the power of television can be used for good, and both put ordinary people at their heart. It’s a formula I still believe in, and it’s sad that these days only cynical talent shows and shock reality docs offer an opportunity for members of the public to get onto our screens simply as themselves. Jim’ll Fix It was the archetypal feel-good show in a period of family entertainment that’s long deceased: these were the days of The Generation Game, It’s A Knockout and That’s Life. He and they will be much missed.

Jimmy Savile and I are also linked by music. A very good friend of mine is a composer called David Mindel, who wrote the iconic theme tunes of both Jim’ll Fix It and Challenge Anneka. David made a lot of money out of Saturday nights on BBC1. I greatly admire him for another achievement: not only did he write the most brilliant, catchy tunes, he achieved a teenage dream that even Jimmy Savile could never have fixed for me: he married one of Pan’s People. How’s about that, then?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Campaign For Live Television

For two weeks, Channel 4’s daytime gameshow Deal or No Deal is broadcasting live for the first time in its history. As a result, it’s audience has increased substantially.

I’m not surprised: viewers can really sense the tension and peril of live television. So much of what we watch these days is manufactured, edited and homogenized. From reality shows to talent competitions, producers do their best to artificially inject tension and jeopardy into the safely pre-recorded mix, but it’s rarely convincing. There’s something about the security of recording that saps suspense, and I’m sure our relentlessly vacuous daytime output really benefited from the thrill of potential disaster. Noel Edmonds, probably the best live entertainment presenter Britain has ever had, is the ideal host for the experiment.

As a producer, nothing quite matches the thrill of live TV. For the first dozen years of my career, I was a studio director, sitting in a darkened control room facing banks of monitors, calling the shots and trying to hold it all together. All too often the fragile bubble burst and the show descended into chaos.

That embarrassing episode of Panorama, where David Dimbleby sits alone in front of a solitary camera with nothing to say for 11 minutes because the film has broken down? That was me at the end of the telephone helpfully telling him to “just keep talking”. That live Nationwide episode when a lady judge keeled over in a dying faint and the presenter just stepped over her recumbent body? I was directing that night, too. Grace Jones hitting Russell Harty? It was my voice in his earpiece, foolishly telling him to ignore her.

Yet the more things go wrong, the more audiences seems to enjoy it. It makes the viewing experience somehow more real and the viewers more connected.

Nowadays viewers can turn even pre-recorded programmes into live viewing experiences by texting or tweeting their friends with comments about the content. I reckon that around 80% of all young people use phones or iPads while they are watching television, often to communicate with each other about what they’re watching. Channel 4 News positively encourages viewers to debate the issues on the programme using Twitter.

Next Wednesday I’ll be speaking at a conference in Leeds about “second screen technology”, where viewers will be able to have a live, parallel, two-way experience with a television programme, using their mobile phones. I guarantee it’s the next big thing for our industry, and I’m proud that our Newcastle-based company, ScreenReach, has developed world-beating technology to facilitate it.

The problem is, actual live television, what we in the trade call “event” television, still costs a great deal of money. Now that high definition cameras and cheap editing software are on sale in any high street electronics store, anyone can become a television producer. Yet it still takes guts and a very large outside broadcast unit to go live.

I do hope that, following the publication of its long-awaited strategy review “Delivering Quality First”, the BBC remembers to include plenty of live shows for the nation to enjoy. Most of its other recommendations seem pretty spot on.

I would say that, though, wouldn’t I? In January I gave a speech at a media conference where I proposed five key changes for the BBC. These were: move BBC Three to Salford; replace original daytime programming on BBC2 with repeats; transfer childrens programmes from BBC1 to CBBC; use BBC3 and BBC4 as experimental feeder networks for BBC1 and BBC2; and reduce the evening output of BBC local radio, which almost nobody listens to.

I’m pleased to say that all these suggestions are now BBC policy. I hasten to add that this is not because I had any influence whatsoever, but because they are blindingly obvious solutions to the BBC’s economic plight. I’m now regretting I didn’t add a request to preserve risk-taking through live programmes. As the darkest phase of this recession starts to bite, we need more laughs. And what better way achieve that than to encourage television producers, presenters and performers to make fools of themselves for us, live in our own living rooms.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Last of the Summer Whine

I hope you’ve all remembered to fit your winter tyres. Having been cruelly teased with a glimpse of summer, there’s a rumour going about in weather circles that we’ll be under a foot of snow by the end of next week.

Nothing about our climate would surprise me. If the forecasters are right, then, it’s likely my winter tyres will be booked for their fitting precisely one day after the snows arrive, thereby consigning my car, like last year, to a three-month icy tomb.

I’ve always had a deep distrust of weather reports, stemming from my first job as a reporter on BBC local radio.

Every Friday all the journalists in the newsroom would descend on the local pub and spend the entire afternoon drunkenly playing away their wages on poker. As the most junior person, I was not only the designated driver, but also the mug that had to go back and read the 3 o’clock news and weather.

Quite often the official weather telex wouldn’t show up, so I’d just look out the window and make it up.

“It’ll be quite cloudy in about 20 minutes”, I’d say confidently, and it always was. The listeners must have marveled at the accuracy. If there were any viewers: the station was a bit short on feedback, which is presumably why nobody rang up to complain when I accidentally switched the station over to Radio 4 for a whole hour.

My wife, who’s from Los Angeles, where the average October temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit and the threat of forest fires lasts till November, agreed to relocate to Northumberland only because I took her to the Roman Wall during our previous warm spell in August 2006. Do you remember that week? There was a fire warning in Kielder Forest. We had ice cream and I wore shorts.

Ever since I’ve been pretending it’s just a bit of a cold snap. I fear that, after five years, this argument is wearing thin. It was so sweet to see Jo’s glowing face on Thursday as the sun warmed up our Californian sun loungers: since we brought them over they’ve been shivering unoccupied on the terrace.

However I know last week’s warmth spells only trouble. As the cold mist descended on our valley yesterday and the barbecue cover was put back on, the subject of furry boots and winter coats was top of Jo’s agenda.

Still, even though it’s just a meteorological blip, it was still nice to see brightness in the middle of the gloom. I only wish our business community could experience something similar. For them it’s been a perpetual perfect storm of uncontrollable turmoil.

So I was surprised to see, at the regional CBI’s annual dinner in Newcastle the other night, a room crammed with jolly, optimistic faces. There was, if not exactly confidence, certainly enough exuberance in the air and a gritty determination to see this recession through.

That’s what I love about the North East. When the rest of the country writes us off, and they always do (don’t you love the raised eyebrows in London when you say you’re from Newcastle?), when they scrap our development agency without consultation and replace it with a system no one wants and a fraction of the money we had before, run from London of course, when the state-run railway puts up the cost of an ordinary second class London return to £287, we just plough on. We know we’re part of a team that everyone thinks is destined for relegation, but we’re here for the long term.

Like our footballers (sorry, Sunderland supporters, this bit is not for you), we may not have too many star strikers, but when we pull together, and support each other, we simply can’t be beaten. Who needs Carroll, anyway? We wouldn’t have a Tevez if he was sent to us on a free transfer wrapped in Argentinian fillet steak. We know we’re on our own up here, just waiting for the growth to happen.

Come on, you coalition chaps talking hot air in your warm Manchester conference, send us some quickly, before we all freeze to death.