Two million coaches and every one a cynic...

It is often said that Wales is a nation of two million coaches, and that every single one of them has a different opinion on how the Welsh rugby team should be managed. But a strange thing seems to be happening at the moment, everyone seems to agree. Agree that we're crap.

But I thought we were alright...

I'm not one of these blinkered rugby fans who think no matter what glaring reality is staring me in the face, everything will be fine and my team will win everything. In fact, I'm a complete and utter pessimist of the highest order.

On the day we won the Grand Slam I sat with 3 minutes left in the game, 12 points up, shitting myself. I was completely and utterly convinced that somehow, we would concede two tries in quick succession and that would be it. Of course it wasn't and I became quite the optimistic for the next ten months, that is until them over the bridge brought me down with a catastrophic bump.

But against South Africa all in all, it wasn't too bad.

Yes there were problems, oh good Lord there were. We lacked a dynamic ball carrying back row player, we lacked a cutting edge on attack, and the defence, well, lets not make things any worse.

Yet the Welsh press have leaped on these negatives bemoaning how screwed we are. It's almost as if they have forgotten that we've only beaten the Saffers once in our 102 year test history. Forgotten that they won a certain big game in Paris last month, on the back of a withering defence and clinical attack. Forgetting also that they had not one IRB World Player of the Year in their starting XV, but two.

All in all. I thought we were going to get nilled, and they'd probably put a half century on us too. Anyone who actually bought into the pre-match media optimism was either ignorant or stupid. Cynics say that after the first half the Springboks sat back and let us bounce off their watertight defence. Granted, they definitely did, but that's what good teams do when they have a comfortable lead, especially when your defence is as good as South Africa's is.

We scored two tries against the best team in the world, who have the most impressive and physical defence I have ever seen and there's something to be said in that. I dare say we would have scored a few more had Shane Williams and Lee Byrne not withdrawn late and James Hook suddenly not reverted to his shaky summer tour kicking game.

So it wasn't all bad. But where to now?

The future is obviously Black, the Black of the Ospreys. Not wishing to sound ridiculously partisan, but due to our ridiculous summer spending spree a great deal of our young talent can be found in 'Ospreylia':

Mike Phillips is the future Wales 9 and anyone who thinks he isn't has been reaching for a biscuit every time Dwayne Peel has held the ball in the last 12 months.

James Hook is the man at 10. For the next year or so, Stephen Jones will probably win us more games, but talents like Hook come along once in a Gareth Edwards length lifetime...

Gavin Henson, welcome back. Please check your ego at the door this time.

Alun-Wyn Jones - Will captain Wales, for a long time, on the way to being recognised as the best lock to ever wear the three feathers.

Frankly I could go on, but I won't. The point I'm making is that we are not in an England position, we are not having to mourn the loss of our 'Golden Generation'

We constantly think our players are nothing special and that it must be this new coach, or that new coach that occasionally, momentously elevates us to a higher level. But anyone who thinks that needs to look at where Worcester are with such dynamic leadership.

The fact of the matter is, Wales has always and hopefully will always produce great talent. Chatting with Ponty legend Dale McIntosh the other day, he was keen to impress on me how much talent there is in the young players coming through at all age levels, and that in terms of skill we have something really exciting to look forward to.

So lets stop mourning our World Cup misery and for crying out loud let's stop obsessing about losing on Saturday. It was only the 'Prince William Cup' and frankly we all know where his loyalties lie...

The talent will always be there, and short of a rather large Martyn Williams shaped hole for the next few years we aren't in bad shape. We have the talent, we hopefully have the coach, what we need is patience to allow the side to grow and develop.

Until then? Well there's always YouTube...

"If the greatest writer of the written word..." Yeah. Exactly.


Gaming for grownups?

I like video games. A lot.

I always have and hopefully I always will. I will talk about them, watch programmes about them, I'll damn sure read (and hopefully work for!) magazines about them, but I'll tell you what, I hardly play them any more...

Last year I had a grand total of 6 whole hours of lectures. They were so much fun, I actually went to about two thirds of those in any given week, sometimes less.

Now this meant that two things happened. Firstly I became immensely apathetic and lazy, and secondly it meant I had all the time in the world to game to my hearts content.

Half Life, Counterstrike, Company of Heroes, Madden, Pro Evo, Supreme Commander, Battlefield 2142, Zelda, Mario, I literally bought a game a fortnight and merrily worked my way through them and still had time to have a girlfriend and a social life.

And then came the post-grad. Don't get me wrong in spite of several reservations I love this course, writing is my fourth favourite thing in the universe and there was no way I would be doing anything else (in spite of what I might say when stuck in uni till 5pm on a Friday evening...ahem...) but it causes a problem.

What it means is that I now have a tiny window of free time every day which I have to really manage to make the most of. Now I love my lovely ladyfriend and I want to spend time with her, and I like at least half of my friends and want to spend time with them, I also like to write inane gobshite on the internet... as you can see.

What this doesn't leave much time for is gaming. This is where I think gaming foolishly gets it's tag as being childish, immature, or only for geeks, losers and the mentally ill. People with lives do not have time for gaming. Since September I have played Madden through half a regular season with the Bucs, last year, I had already completed every game mode and won the Superbowl 5 times by October.

No game better illustrates this than Bioshock. I upgraded my PC purely for the pleasure of playing a game that looks this darn pretty.

I ended up shelling out a fair chunk of my playscheme wages on upgrading and yet more for for the game. And it is brilliant. Not just good, great, or even excellent, but brilliant. I am fairly sure I have never played anything like it before and it may be a good while until I do again, it redefines my opinions of how the medium can tell a superbly crafted story, combined with stunning, atmospheric game play. It is, and I do not throw this term around, genius.

And yet I have played it for roughly two hours, perhaps a fifth of this magnificent opus. This isn't because it is too hard or I don't really like, but because a game like this cannot be enjoyed in half an hour bursts like Pro Evo or Tiger Woods. You need to sit with it for a week and become immersed in the story as you would a good book or gripping tv series. And that is why I can't play games like this any more, I don't have the time to give them the credit they deserve.

This makes me sad, I know I'm missing out on a lot, and maybe as time goes on I can manage my time well enough that I can come back to them. Until then, I completely understand why only kids and bums play games and until the industry can do something to change the way they work, it will always be that way. The Wii is a start but it's still not really hitting the right notes. Gaming bank holiday anyone?


Yids for the Championship anyone?

Having just wasted 90 minutes of my life watching Spurs just about managing to beat Hapoel Tel-Aviv I have firmly concluded that it was actually the worst game of football since last years completely abysmal FA Cup final. And that was really, really bad.

On paper it looks like a comfortable result for Spurs but it wasn't, it was a dull boring match with exactly 57 seconds of interesting play and the rest of it soul sapping, mind numbing rubbish.

Spurs scored two goals from the exact same play and then spent the remaining 89 minutes showing everyone just how poor a team they are.

No disrespect to Hapoel Tel-Aviv, but they are shit. And I do not say that lightly. In UEFA ranking terms Hapoel are a whopping 127th, below powerhouses such as Grasshoppers Zurich, Hearts and even the mighty Millwall.

Spurs on the other hand are ranked 55th, not exactly high flyers either but a gulf this big should mean that Spurs should be metaphorically shitting on them from a great height. You can say that Spurs have had a shocking start to the season but Hapoel have too, so much so that their manager will be out the door on Sunday if they lose and he seems to wish they didn't have to play in Europe anymore...

But instead of dominance, for the first hour of the game we had complete and utter ineptitude. They looked panicked in midfield, hurriedly shooting off half-arsed passes as soon as they were put under the tiniest bit of pressure. As for defence the makeshift assemblage which had Chimbonda at centre-back, looked as if it was going to break under the slightest pressure, if not for Hapoel's complete lack of adventure and one uncharacteristically fine save from Paul Robinson, they would have bagged at least one.

After an hour though, things somehow, got worse. Gal Shish was dismissed for a second booking and it seemed like Spurs might actually make the win look impressive, but no. Within ten minutes Robbie Keane, the only player who seemed to care, was off, and double goal provider Malbranque followed soon after.

Spurs played most of the second half with a man advantage, with three strikers on the pitch, and somehow the keeper had less to do than vegetarian in a butchers shop.

They were woeful, inept and at many times painful to watch, especially as Berbatov seemed to be genuinely trying to get sent off. What has happened? Spurs last season would have pounced on an opportunity like that to put five goals past them in style!

The problem, as Pete, Andy and I discussed in the pub, was heart. It's not that the players don't care about the team, or about winning, they're professional sportsmen and want to perform to the best of their ability. Even Berbatov seemed to care, despite the rumours that he is so lazy and malcontent at Spurs this season that heartfelt pleas of loyalty are required to try and convince the fans that he's not off in January.

Several times Berbatov shrugged with a look of "what the hell was that" when yet another pass went astray. But that was all he did and that, is the problem.

When a team are struggling with form, as Spurs clearly are, you need fire, you need leaders to step up on the pitch and make a point that you need to pull your finger out. No one on that field in Israel was prepared to do that, when Robbie Keane went off, the captain's armband went to Paul Robinson. Paul Robinson?! That says a lot about the mentality in the White Hart Lane dressing room.

Great teams have players that are never satisfied, even when all is well they are screaming, shouting, extolling and berating their team mates to sharpen things up, to push up to the next level, to make the team better.

Man United are brilliant at getting players like that. Roy Keane used to look thoroughly annoyed even when they were 3-0 up and when they were down or playing badly he would become positively psychotic. They have similar players now in Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and others who are shouting at their team mates non-stop from start to finish, embarrassing them into not becoming complacent.

Without such players, teams get sloppy, teams get comfortable, and then you start wondering why that top four finish you were targeting has turned into a relegation battle. Spurs don't have a big, angry personality to keep them in line, even the new coach seems positively taciturn no matter what is going on, and that does not bode well for Spurs this year.

But I don't really think that the Yid Army will be enjoying away days at Ninian Park next year, the sheer amount of quality in their attacking line-up combined with how poor Derby, Bolton and others are playing this year gives me hope, but that won't solve the problem. Mild mannered, aloof players with fantastic ability are great when you're winning but useless when your losing, who will stand up and fight for Spurs?