The Lone Ranger

I want you to make those darting runs down the flank, no behind the front man…err…

The formation. It’s always about the formation, just ask any journalist who’s covered the England team in the last twenty years.
I was watching Chelsea (who are no doubt some people’s title favourites) play at home against Reading, who though play some decent football, will surely be struggling in the lower realms of the Premier League come the end of the season.

What struck me, as the clock ticked down towards half time with Reading 2-1 to the good with their fans singing loudly about how they now adorned the top of the most coveted league in the world, was that Chelsea were playing with a solitary striker.

Why were they so concerned about packing the midfield, at home, against lesser opposition? Sure they have a forward who when on form (wearing a liverpool shirt) can do the job of two, but why the negativity? What is it with the rise of the lone striker? Just think of the problems this would have caused in ’96, no longer a brave Who Dares Wins, but a signal of distress, and we didn’t require it back then. Why the 4-1-4-1 or 4-5-1 or 4-1-3-1-1? Are modern managers trying to find something as powerful as the fibernacci sequence? Does it boil down to what Johan Cruyff famously said, “if you control the midfield, you control the game”? which anyone who watched the European championships earlier in the summer will have seen taken to the nth degree by the Spanish, who could have played a 3-2-2-2 and still come away with the title. They’d won the previous two major tournaments with different systems after all.

Which means does the formation matter or is it simply the players that count? Is there too much emphasis on the shape of a team, talk of fitting players into positions or buying players to play roles? We could take a specific look at Barcelona, who have dominated European football for the past five years with a fluid formation from midfield to attack, not to mention a tiny central midfielder at centre back and a right back who spends most of his masquerading as a right winger. Yet last season they won neither of the major two trophies and there was talk of this due to them not being willing to change their formation and tactics. Surely it was simply down to percentages and the fact that no team is invincible (alright apart from the Arsenal invincibles that one season)?

The question is then, would the Dutch team of Total Football actually have won silverware if they’d swapped a second striker for a disciplined holding midfielder, or would they have slipped into obscurity like those really short shorts and the sweeper system?

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Champion Jack

It wasn’t just the music, in fact it wasn’t the music at all. Before I heard his laconic, loping, booging piano and wooging singing I discovered, through a photograph, that this New Orleans bluesman, used to live in Halifax, West Yorkshire just around 20 miles from these typing fingers.

When I eventually heard his music the fact that Champion Jack Dupree spent a portion of his life just over the hills, gave the songs extra intrigue and immediacy. Not only that, he also grew up with Professor Longhair, surely one of the funkiest critters ever to have walked this earth.

I’d always thought that music of Champion Jack’s magnitude was something that happened far, far away. Not down the A58.

Halifax isn’t known for its blues. It’s better known for its bank, Mackintosh toffee and the birthplace of Blue Peter presenter John Noakes, and Big Daddy. Granted, the name Big Daddy wouldn’t look out of place chalked up on a board in a honky tonk but he was a wrestler, rather than a musician. Champion Jack on the other hand, as well as being a musician was also a boxer, hence his nickname.

The photograph that alerted me to the existence of Jack was part of an exhibition of Terry Cryer photos, at, I think Dean Clough in Halifax, sometime in the late 80’s, early 90’s?. Some of the images I remember include Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the axe-wielding gospel singing legend, the Jimi Hendrix of her day, some guy with a monkey on his shoulder and Champion Jack Dupree.

The pictures were amazing. Some were taken locally, of blues and jazz musicians performing, practising or just sitting, standing around. A lot of the names were new to me Clara Ward, Zoot Simms and some more familiar, Muddy Waters, Louis Armstrong.
But the one that stuck was Champion Jack.

Years later I got in touch with the photographer Mr Cryer, after he’d retired and closed down his darkroom, but he agreed to do me a print of Jack. He also invited me in for a brew and to look at some other amazing photos and contact strips.

Look here for more of Terry’s photographs…

http://www.terrycryer.com/photographs.html

And to get a bit of Champion Jack…