Tying Up Loose Ends…(150 up!)
November 27, 2010

I’m spending my final weekend in Kigali.

Yesterday morning I caught the 07.30 International Express  from Nyakarambi and at 10.15 I arrived at the VSO office. Two hours later I left, having completed my ‘exit interview’, claimed my final expenses and said my ‘goodbyes’ to the office staff.

Down town I called in at the Ethiopian Airlines office to confirm my flights for next Saturday. All sorted but I can’t say I’m looking forward to kicking my heels for six hours in Addis Ababa airport before boarding the 02.00 flight to Heathrow!

Earlier in the week, back in Nyakarambi,  I had met up with Msafiri bemoaning Arsenal’s mid week defeat in Europe. He also confirmed that he has acquired a vehicle to transport  me to the airport next Saturday morning.  I think he is going to drive me there, which is a really nice gesture, considering it’s a six-hour round trip and Saturday is a busy day for trade!    

I was delighted to log on last night and find that Forest have pulled off two superb loan signings, Marcus Tudgay, a decent striker from Sheffield Wednesday, and Aaron Ramsey, an exciting and precocious midfield talent from Arsenal. Ramsey is recovering from a nine month lay off following a very nasty injury but hopefully during the eight matches, he is available for, he will help Forest cement a place in the top six of the Championship.

It’s less good news for Dexter Blackstock, a striker who I have a lot of time for, who will be out for twelve months following his injury in the latter stages of our win at Cardiff. At least the ‘acquisitions panel’ have moved quickly to replace him.

It’s less good news on the ‘Ashes’ front where England might struggle to come away with a draw from the First Test, down under. The pre series hype was never going to favour them. We don’t wear the ‘favourites’ tag very easily and the Aussies were never going to roll over despite what the media wrote.   

Hopefully things will turn around, as one of the things I’m  looking forward to on my return  is a few late night/early morning sessions of play courtesy of Sky Sports.

There was a rather surreal feeling this morning, sitting in my T-shirt sipping coffee in the ‘Isimbi’ bar as CNN announced severe weather and snow alerts across the UK. As long as it doesn’t interfere with flights I don’t mind, but below freezing temperatures will come as a bit of a shock.

It’s umuganda today so I’m confined to the hotel this morning, hence the opportunity to update the blog, at some length!  According to the stats this is my 150th posting, which is quite amazing. I have to admit I have rather surprised myself at managing to keep it going for that long.

Given this landmark posting and the weather conditions back home perhaps I should have followed the time-honoured Dandy and Beano format of coating the title font with snow and wishing all my readers a somewhat premature Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Anyhow I think at least celebratory lunchtime drink is called for. It’s warm and bright here in Kigali, the bars are opening up now and I think I’s better make the most of it!

The Man With Maradona’s Shirt
August 29, 2010

Saturday’s  final, pre-Rwanda, visit to the City Ground didn’t quite live up to expectations. Forest had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Saint Delias’ newly promoted Norwich.

The Canaries were on song, high on confidence after a couple of good results, and played  the ball around well. Forest, however,  looked a yard off the pace, particularly in midfield.

They did take the lead, rather against the run of play, from a dubiously awarded penalty (to make up for a stonewall certainty the ref had failed to give a few minutes earlier) taken by Dexter Blackstock but it didn’t last for long and once again, this season, sloppy defending led to a Norwich equaliser just before half time.

Former Forest striker, Grant Holt, who spent most of the game on the floor (no change there then) might have scored for Norwich late on but keeper Lee Camp made a sprawling save.

Once again Robbie Earnshaw was by far the liveliest Forest player  and nearly conjured up a last gasp winner when he hit the post again (5 times in 4 games) following a very smart shot on the turn from a tight angle.

It would have been harsh on the Canaries  who deserved at least a point. Forest were booed off by a section of the crowd. If the acquisitions group don’t act quickly before Tuesday’s transfer deadline it could be a long haul through to Christmas!     

Before the match I visited the newly extended and refurbished club shop where, former Forest star and England international, Steve Hodge was signing copies of his autobiography The Man with Maradona’s Shirt.

The title refers to  the one of the most controversial  incidents ever seen in an international football match when, during England’s 1986 World Cup quarter-final against Argentina, Steve Hodge’s sliced back pass led to Diego Maradona’s Hand of God  ‘goal’.

Amazingly Steve still found it in himself to swap shirts with Maradona after the game. But then again, whichever way you look at it, it is a historic piece of football memorabilia!  

Harry Hodge , as he was known, played 277 games in two stints for Forest, from 1982-85 and 1988-91, both under Brian Clough. He was an energetic, attacking left-sided midfield player with a nice habit  of scoring goals, 66 in total, a ratio of 1 every  4 games – some strikers would be pleased with that!      

He also played for Aston Villa, Spurs and Leeds where he was in their league championship winning side. Harry who made 27 appearances for his country, and was involved in two World Cups (Mexico ’86 and Italia ’90) currently works with Forest’s  youngsters in the academy where I’m sure he is a great role model.

We could certainly do with someone like him in our midfield at the moment!