O'Really?

July 5, 2019

Are Liverpool and Manchester still in Lancashire?

Red_Rose_Badge_of_Lancaster.svg

The Red Rose of Lancaster is the county flower of Lancashire. 🌹Image by Sodacan, created with Inkscape. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons.

Once upon a time, there were two football teams, a Northern one (Liverpool F.C.) and a one, (Tottenham Hotspur F.C.). They were due to meet each other in a historic and lucrative match: the 2019 UEFA Champions League Final in Madrid. The biggest prize in European club football would be awarded to whichever team triumphed on the 1st June 2019. As with all zero-sum games, only one team could be crowned champions of Europe.

This particular match posed a cruel dilemma for football supporters across the North of England. Which team to support? The local Northern team or the Southern London one, on the other side of the North-South divide?

Scousers or Cockneys?

For football supporters in Manchester, this dilemma had an added dimension. Both of the Mancunian teams: United and City had been knocked out shortly beforehand. A woeful United were humiliated by superior spaniards from FC Barcelona (4-0) while City lost to Spurs during a dramatic game. The video assistant referee (VAR) judged that Raheem Sterling hadn’t scored the winning goal in the dying minutes of the game because he was offside. Ouch. With both Mancunian teams out of the running, the Champions League final was simply a question of which team you hated less, the scousers from Liverpool or the cockneys from London? A difficult choice, especially for Mancunians.

Mancs and Scousers: Sibling rivalry

Now Manchester and Liverpool have a long rivalry, not just in sport, arts and science but in commerce too. For example, when Mancunian traders got fed up with paying the duties charged by Liverpool for using their docks to export goods, they decided to bypass them by building the Manchester Ship Canal. This transformed Manchester into a port – even though it is more than 30 miles from the sea. The new ship canal gave the Port of Liverpool the finger: sibling rivalry on an industrial scale. You want to rip us off? We’ll just route around you bro!

Liverpool, Lancashire: Manchester, Mancashire

Like many siblings, the twin cities of Manchester and Liverpool have much in common. They are both joined by the River Mersey and share a common commercial and cultural rival: the megacity of London. As well as being on the same river, both Manchester and Liverpool are in the same county too; Lancashire. Symbolised since the Wars of the Roses by the Red Rose of Lancaster.🌹 Historically, there’s a strong argument for Mancunian supporters to back Liverpool over London. We are brothers in arms, sisters in arms, siblings from the House of Lancaster, two red roses from the very same rootstock.🌹

Lancashire_1610_Speed_Hondius_-_Restoration

John Speed’s map of the County Palatine of Lancaster (Lancashire) in 1610. The River Mersey joins Manchester to Liverpool along the bottom of the map and separates Lancashire in the North from Cheshire in the South. The Pennines separate Lancashire in the West from Yorkshire in the East. Picture by Jodocus Hondius, engraved by John Speed, and restored by Adam Cuerden. This is a retouched picture, digitally altered from its original version. Public domain picture from Wikimedia Commons.

An organisation called the Friends of Real Lancashire (FORL) @FORLancashire puts it another way on their website forl.co.uk (emphasis mine):

“Friends of Real Lancashire are concerned to promote the true identity of our county which has been extremely confused in the minds of some people, especially those working in the broadcasting and newspaper industries, since the local government reorganisation of 1974.

The Government at that time stated that the “new counties” were administrative areas only, and that the boundaries of traditional counties such as Lancashire had not been changed. Unfortunately, the media refer to these administrative areas all too frequently and ignore the fact that places such as Barrow-in-Furness, Liverpool, Manchester, Warrington, etc. are still in Lancashire.

If administrative areas had not been called counties much of this confusion would have been avoided. The Royal Mail has at last dropped the use of administrative county names in postal addresses, and names such as Cumbria and Merseyside do not appear in the current Royal Mail Postal Address Book.”

Lucifer over Lancashire

As a follower of Manchester United, I backed our Lancastrian siblings from Liverpool. As someone with Lancashire roots, it is red roses all the way, any day and I was happy when Liverpool got the victory they deserved. Like Andy Burnham, we’re not anti-London, just pro-North. Come on Lancashire, ‘AVE IT!

My fellow United supporters didn’t see it that way. They looked at me like I was the devil incarnate, or Lucifer over Lancashire, as Mark E. Smith used to sing. How could I support Liverpool, a scouse football team? They called me a traitor, a scally and lots of other names that can’t be repeated here. Such is the sibling rivalry between LFC and MUFC. When Alex Ferguson arrived as a new manager of United in 1986 he said:

 “My greatest challenge is not what’s happening at the moment, my greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f****ng perch. And you can print that.

Which sums it up. Forget Lancashire, forget The North, forget George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse. United and City fans should support Spurs, the Southern Powerhouse team, because they’re not Liverpool. Support anyone you like, absolutely anyone, apart from Liverpool. Or so they told me…

Conclusion

So are Manchester and Liverpool still in Lancashire? It depends who you ask:

  • If you consult a map, the answer you’ll get will depend on who made the map and when it was made.
  • If you type a Mancunian or Scouse postcode into the Royal Mail postcode & address finder it won’t mention Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside or even Cheshire so you’ll be none the wiser.
  • If you ask a football fan, they will probably be too blinded by bitter sporting rivalry to give you a sensible answer.
  • If you ask the government, they are preoccupied at the moment, and have more important international borders to think about.
  • If you ask the Friends of Real Lancashire they’ll tell you absolutely YES without question, Manchester and Liverpool are still in Lancashire, because they never left. Our county is called LANCASHIRE, not “Cumbria”, “Greater Manchester”, “Merseyside” or “part of Cheshire”. I’m inclined to agree with them. 🌹

 References

NOTE: Here’s a good related pub quiz question which will sort the wheat from the chaff: Which football team plays closest the River Mersey? (Google it.)

June 12, 2014

A passion for England: Suffering at the Brazil WorldCup in 2014

How to Win the World Cup: Step One: Dream on, Dreamer

Are you passionate about your football team? When I say passion I mean passion as in suffering, from the Latin verb patī meaning to suffer. World cups are passionate milestones for many people, they leave indelible marks on the psyche, you remember who you were with, where you were and how your team suffered.

Like many England supporters I’ve suffered as the english media whips up false hope about the prospects of the squad every four years. “This year could be our chance”, and “we’ve got some really good players”, “remember 1966?”, “thirty years of hurt never stopped me dreaming” bla bla bla….

Passionate English suffering at the World Cup (1982-2014)

All this hope, passionately flies in the face of reason, cold facts and history:

So if history [2,3] and mathematics (via predictwise) are anything to go by, there is (at the time of writing) a 96.5% chance that English suffering will continue and a 60% chance that the suffering will occur in the latter stages of the competition…

Wherever you are, whoever you support and whatever their chances, enjoy the inevitable suffering that comes with being passionate about zero-sum games like football. Life would be very boring without passion and suffering…

References

  1. Clemente FM, Couceiro MS, Martins FM, Ivanova MO, & Mendes R (2013). Activity profiles of soccer players during the 2010 World Cup. Journal of Human Kinetics, 38, 201-11 PMID: 24235995
  2. Graham McColl (2010) How to win the World Cup Bantam Press, ISBN: 0593066227
  3. Alex Bellos (2014) Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life Bloomsbury Paperback ISBN: 0747561796

June 28, 2012

May 16, 2012

Blue Moon hypothesis tested in Large Football Collider (LFC)

The Manchester Derby 2007. What a difference five years makes

“This is how it feels to be City, this is how it feels to be small, this is how it feels when your team wins nothing at all.”  [1,3]

If you are not interested in Football Science, look away now. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

There is a controversial idea in football that money buys trophies, also known as Mancini’s Blue Moon hypothesis.

Two rival Universities have led the way in testing this idea, The University of Old Trafford and the The University of Eastlands, both in Manchester. One institute is led by a Scot, Professor Ferguson the other by an Italian, Professor Mancini. Both Universities have assembled teams of elite researchers including Doctor Vidic (PhD, University of Spartak Moscow) and Doctor Kompany (PhD, University of Hamburger) in their respective labs to carry out the necessary experiments.

Professor Mancini’s research laboratory have recently produced some intriguing experimental results by winning the 2012 Premier League title with generous funding from the Mansour Research Council (MRC) [2] (not to be confused with the Medical Research Council). The MRC has invested significantly more funding than rival bodies like the Glazer Research Council (GRC) not be be confused with the Global Research Council, which has opened up exciting new research opportunities in applied football science.

Some leading football scientists say Mancini’s Blue Moon hypothesis has been proven beyond all doubt; money does buy you trophies. Other scientists say that is it too early to tell, these results are inconclusive and more research is needed. Professor Ferguson insists that other factors besides money are significant in winning trophies.

Experimentalists will resume their research when the Large Football Collider (LFC) is switched back on in August 2012 after its annual summer shutdown. Is Mancini’s hypothesis proven or not? Tune in next season …

References

  1. Inspiral Carpets (1990) This Is How It Feels to be Lonely, This Is How It Feels to be Small Mute records
  2. The Premier League Research Council (PLRC) funds research into basic and applied football science in collaboration with the Mansour Research Council and many others. These football science councils have a larger fund than all the other traditional scientific research councils combined (EPSRC, BBSRC, NERCMRC, STFC and PPARC etc).

July 7, 2010

Top ten excuses for World Cup football failures (with citations)

NASA Blue Marble 2007 West by NASA Goddard Photo and Video, on FlickrFootball fever grips the globe as we reach the final stages of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Alongside the traditional game where one winning team takes all, leaving 31 losing teams to go home earlier than expected, there is another competition running in parallel. Which losing team can come up with the best excuses for formidable football failure? All manner of feeble and pathetic excuses are offered, but many aren’t backed up with proper citations of peer-reviewed research published in scientific journals. So let’s set the balance straight. Here are the top ten excuses for world cup losers (with citations), using some help from sports scientists [1] and the wikipedian protester demanding that a citation is needed: (more…)

June 9, 2010

World Cup Chemistry: How heavy is the FIFA trophy?

Have you ever wondered how heavy all that Gold and Malachite is in the FIFA World Cup Trophy is?

Professor Martyn Poliakoff from the Chemistry department at the University of Nottingham and his partner in crime Brady Haran over at the fantastic Periodic Table of Videos explain:

Which just leaves one question, who will be lifting it this year? Lúcio? Cristiano Ronaldo? Philipp Lahm? Fabio Cannavaro?  Denis Caniza? Steven Gerrard? Giovanni van Bronckhorst? Iker Casillas? Diego Lugano? John Mensah? Javier Mascherano or A.N.Other?

June 18, 2009

Ooh aah Cantona! Welcome back Eric…

Eric Cantona by Mark KennedyIt is great to see the eminent french football philosopher and scientist Eric Cantona back in his adopted hometown of Manchester. As well as visiting in person during production of the latest Ken Loach film (on the famous Keppel Road, Chorlton) and appearing at the premiere, Eric is currently gracing silver screens in cinemas all over Manchester (and across the world), thanks to his role in Looking for Eric where he stars as lui-même [1].

It is a little known fact that Eric actually has a PhD, with a thesis titled (roughly translated from french):

Making it count with nonchalant gallic passing and scoring.

This prize winning thesis was awarded on graduation from The University of Old Trafford back in the summer of 1997, by the Faculty of Football Science under the supervision of Professor Alex Ferguson. The thesis hasn’t been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal yet but a lot of the raw data is available on youtube. Eric knows a thing or two about the art and science of timing in football [2].

As for the film, it is not really about football (thank God, footy flicks have an atrocious track record in cinema) or Manchester United Football Club (too divisive) but a touching story about the power of the human imagination in overcoming adversity. Worth watching and very enjoyable, IMHO, you can read all about it in the local newsrag, The Manchester Guardian [3].

So whether you’re red, blue, white, black, seagull, sardine or a trawler – there is something for everyone in this film.

C’est bon or is it c’est bien? Je ne sais pas [gallic shrug]. Bienvenue à la maison Eric!

References

  1. Ken Loach et al (2009). Looking For Eric , Eric Cantona mosaic above by Mark Kennedy (markkennedy.co.uk)
  2. Michael Hopkin (2006). Goal fever at the World Cup: Why the first strike counts. Nature, 441 (7095), 793-793 DOI: 10.1038/441793a
  3. Simon Hattenstone (2009). The awkward squad: Ken Loach and Eric Cantona The Guardian

June 15, 2009

Nettab 2009 Day One: Bio-wikis (and football)

Drogba, Eto'o, Ronalda, Beckham, Messi, Ibrahimovic, Del Piero and KakaA brief wiki-report and some wiki-links from the first short and introductory day of Network Applications and Tools in Biology (NETTAB 2009) in Sicily where there was a tutorial on Technologies of wiki resources and bio-wikis delivered by Paolo Romano and Elda Rossi. This covered Gene Wiki, Wikiproteins, Wikigenes and Wikipathways [1-4].

There is already a bewildering array of different wikitechnology, thankfully wikimatrix (“compare them all”) gives wikicomparisons on some of the wikisolutions are already out there (open vs. closed – more on this later).

The theme of the workshop this year has been Technologies, Tools and Applications for Collaborative and Social Bioinformatics Research and Development. So wikis seems like an obvious place to start.

Since user-driven social software is becoming increasingly important, here is a list of of few of the people involved in this years workshop,

  1. Giampaolo Bella
  2. Luca Bortolussi
  3. Leandro Ciuffo
  4. Alfredo Ferro
  5. Rosalba Giugno
  6. Alessandro Lagana
  7. Stefania Parodi
  8. Alfredo Pulvirenti
  9. Paolo Romano
  10. Elda Rossi
  11. Andrea Splendiani

I don’t know about you, but those names sound deliciously exotic to my non-italian speaking Inglese ears. When I read the list of names above, it sounds like an elite squad of the Azzurri (football team). You would have Romano as capitano in the middle of the park, joined by Ferro, Ciuffo and Rossi. Then at the back you’ve got the famous italian Catenaccio (locking defence: Paolo Maldini style), the kind that wins world cups (remember 2006?) – there’s nothing getting past Parodi, Giugno, Pulvirenti and Bortolussi in defence. Last but not least, I’d put Splendiani and Bella up front, they sound like strikers to me, mostly because of their surnames.

What all this footballing nonsense has to do with NETTAB and wikis I don’t know. There’s probably some obvious-but-cliched link between Football and Science (by virtue of them both being collaborative and competitive team sports). But, really I just couldn’t resist a little Italian-inspired post about football, I hope to post some more notes on days two and three of the NETTAB workshop later… where most of the action took place.

References

  1. Mons, B., Ashburner, M., Chichester, C., van Mulligen, E., Weeber, M., den Dunnen, J., van Ommen, G., Musen, M., Cockerill, M., Hermjakob, H., Mons, A., Packer, A., Pacheco, R., Lewis, S., Berkeley, A., Melton, W., Barris, N., Wales, J., Meijssen, G., Moeller, E., Roes, P., Borner, K., & Bairoch, A. (2008). Calling on a million minds for community annotation in WikiProteins Genome Biology, 9 (5) DOI: 10.1186/gb-2008-9-5-r89
  2. Hoffmann, R. (2008). A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters Nature Genetics, 40 (9), 1047-1051 DOI: 10.1038/ng.f.217
  3. Huss, J., Orozco, C., Goodale, J., Wu, C., Batalov, S., Vickers, T., Valafar, F., & Su, A. (2008). A Gene Wiki for Community Annotation of Gene Function PLoS Biology, 6 (7) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060175
  4. Pico, A., Kelder, T., van Iersel, M., Hanspers, K., Conklin, B., & Evelo, C. (2008). WikiPathways: Pathway Editing for the People PLoS Biology, 6 (7) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060184

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