Thursday, 28 March 2013

"Football?" "But you're a girl." "Yeah. No shit, Sherlock!"

"Wow! Sports journalism. That's a different job for a girl."

"Have you always been into sports?"

"Did you used to play football?"

"How did you get into that?"

All questions I am used to being asked on a regular basis. And nearly four years ago when I committed to this as a career, it used to bother me.  Deep down, it may still do.  But I know longer feel the need to react or come out with a barbed comment.

There's a few reasons for that, the main one is I feel a lot more secure about my capabilities as a sports journalist.  But more importantly as a female sports journalist.

Now, I'm not attempting to be self-effacing when I say this. But I, Natasha Henry am not the best journalist in the world.  No, seriously, I'm not. 

I still feel I'm pretty new to all this and with every period of time that passes I aim to get better and improve my skills.  As anyone should, whatever career they're in.  The way I see it, the day you stop learning is the day you might as well give it all up.  Why should the field of journalism be any different?

Thankfully, I'm not the only one.  Female or sports journalist!

Contrary to popular belief, there are quite a bloody lot of us.  Some would call us a coven, personally I would describe us a more mature sorority.  One that would rather be on the field, than waving pom-poms on the side-line.  And more importantly, one that drinks really good wine and likes really nice food.

And do you know what, we're good.  We're damn good.  We know our stuff, we graft hard and most importantly we have the courage to fight the negativity that - far too often - floats our way.  I know about our capabilities, but I wasn't sure if others did.

I was curious about this, which was why I created the survey earlier this year, to see what others thoughts were, regarding us women that write about sport.

Some of the answers surprised me, and some didn't.  But it's always good to see what people think about something you care strongly about.

So, I'll be posting the article later today and feel free to comment, share or ignore.  It's up to you.

Hopefully it will remind you that the gender of the writer doesn't matter, it's only the words that do.

To be continued...

Monday, 18 March 2013

Only a Phonecall Away.

He's in the squad.
But he's not going.
He is going.
Now he's definitely not.

Not a moment too quick, the Rio Ferdinand and England drama has come to an end. The joke is, it could have all been prevented if Roy Hodgson had just bothered to pick up the phone. It's so simple, it's not even funny.

For months, the whispers to recall Ferdinand have got louder and the England manager finally decided to listen yet doing it in the manner that he did; hasn't done him any favours.

We can all agree that the defender currently playing for the Champions-elect is not the injury-hit player of 18 months ago. His performances and the injuries and inconsistency of others, means he fully deserves a place in the squad. If not the team.

It was clear that Ferdinand and the medical team at Manchester United had worked hard to find a system that allowed him to play regularly, without any serious problems. So it's curious that the England boss didn't think to contact the club and/or the player before calling him up.

Given the way the defender was left at home prior to Euro 2012, some may also feel an apology should have been on offer. He was clearly aggrieved by Hodgson's decision to more-or-less take John Terry's side, while there are also the 'football reasons' that have never quite been explained.

Sir Alex Ferguson's comments last week were no surprise. The manager has long been vocal that Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs' decisions to retire, helped them prolong their club careers. But as well as thinking about the best interests of his club, he is thinking about the best interests of his player. At the age of 34, the former Leeds star is in the last lap of his top-flight career, it is logical that he would also want to ensure it lasts as long as possible.

That is why it is understandable the player has pulled out of the double header against San Marino and Montenegro. Two games that require a fair amount of travel and also games that England should win without too much fuss. The decision to meet and explain to the manager, makes it hard for many to question Ferdinand's motives or doubt his commitment to his national side.

As for Hodgson, it could be said he won't come out of this so well. His subdued character is a stark change from previous national managers such as Fabio Capello, but it appears to be working well enough with two wins and two draws from four qualifying games.

But you have to admit, this situation could have been easily prevented. That much is clear. Hodgson or his team don't appear to be on the ball in regards to what is going on with English players. An area they should know inside and out. Surely that is part of his job description?

Maybe this is the time for the England manager to become more thorough, and make sure he knows exactly what is going on with the professionals who are available to play for him.

Because when or if things go wrong, he may end up looking like a bit of a bumbling fool.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Curious Tale of Nile Ranger

What do you call someone who has been arrested six times since May 2011?

Well, probably not a successful professional footballer.  Which I'm guessing is why Newcastle United announced they had cancelled Nile Ranger's contract last week.

Ranger's is a curious situation. A former forward for England's under-19 team - playing 11 games and scoring six goals. Yet he now finds himself without a club and possibly, without a future in the game at the age of just 21.

And the worst thing about the whole matter is the fact that it's not really a surprise.
His first serious brush with the law came at the age of 15.  The teenager was convicted of participating in a street robbery and sentenced to 11 weeks in a youth offenders institute.

Now I'm not one for judging someone by a mistake or the errors they made in their younger years, as we've all made mistakes.  None of us are infallible.

But despite the talent he is lucky enough to have and the opportunities this has afforded him, Ranger doesn't appear to have learnt anything since that very first offence.

He has continued to position himself in both compromising and illegal situations.

His rap sheet consists of; assault, being drunk and disorderly and criminal damage.  The most worrying and most recent charge is the suspicion of rape.  A case that is currently ongoing at the time of writing.

And that doesn't even include The Football Association fine for posting tweets deemed to be homophobic, the breach of bail, the photo of himself with a replica gun or the evening he kicked his front door down because he believed his girlfriend was being kidnapped.

There is an urge to giggle reading the latter or chastise him for wasting the lifestyle that so many crave, but I can't help but wonder if there is a bigger issue behind all these incidents.

As far as we know the Londoner doesn't have any addictions, but it's obvious he enjoys a drink given the incidents he's been involved in.  Maybe it is the company he keeps or his crew as the kids call it.  It is not uncommon for high earners to attract hanger-on's whose only aim is to get them to spend money.  The type of people who couldn't care less about whether Ranger will be late for training again.

Of course that doesn't make him the innocent party, he is an adult and at his age should know right from wrong.  But we all know the saying: if you lay down with dogs, you're gonna get fleas.
But any sympathy starts to wane when you also consider his conduct in and around the club.  While his 51 League appearances only yielded three goals. Habitually tardy for sessions, he had been demoted and was actually training with the reserves the week he was charged with being drunk and disorderly.  A charge that eventually led to a £135 fine and six-month conditional discharge.

Admittedly Ranger isn't the first and won't be the last to mess up, but my hope is that he is still young enough to see what's going on and redirect himself from this negative path he appears to be on.
Maybe there is an underlying issue, whether that be an addition or something relating to his mental health.  Something he can seek help for, work on and move forward from.  Both are illnesses that affect a higher percentage of sportspeople, than the national average. It's feasible that Ranger could be one of those.

In a way I hope he does have an issue, because at least then he can seek help from The PFA and others.  Then he can find a way to deal with it, rebuild his reputation and attempt to kick-start his career.

Yet at the same point; maybe there is nothing wrong, maybe that's just how he is. Maybe I'm just trying to understand why a young guy would continue to act out and make his position at a club untenable. Instead of putting yourself in situations that are preventable.  As right now, I can't understand why you wouldn't just keep your head down and put your graft in on the pitch.
And I'll tell you why.

Because the alternative is that he just doesn't care, and to me that's the scariest scenario of them all.