Just look at what COULD happen in our neck of the woods in 2013

Port Vale striker Tom Pope is set for a big year in 2013.

Port Vale striker Tom Pope is set for a big year in 2013.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day and a New Year to boot.
As we shrug off the hangovers and stare balefully into the slate grey skies I, for one, am determined to be positive.
You know, I think 2013 might be alright if my crystal ball is anything to go by.
Here’s what COULD happen in the next 12 months…

*Stoke City qualify for the Europa League two months before the end of the season on account of not having lost a game at the Brit since 2003.
Sir Alex Ferguson gives Tony Pulis ‘the hairdryer’ for not having the decency to sell England defender Ryan Shawcross back to him – muttering something like: “He forgets all the favours I’ve done him” and mentions Stoke being “just a wee club in the Midlands”.
Potters striker Michael Owen then wins the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award. Like his three predecessors – Tony McCoy, Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins – Owen takes the crown after spending his entire sporting year sitting down. (Joke © The Sentinel’s Sportsdesk)
*Sir Alex Ferguson is left tearing what’s left of his hair out as Tom Pope turns down a multi-million pound move to Old Trafford as a like-for-like replacement for Wayne Rooney.
Explaining his decision to The Sentinel, the Pontiff – whose 40 goals fire Port Vale to automatic promotion – said: “What’s Salford Quays got that I conna get in Sneyd Green, youth?”
Port Vale Supporters’ Club begins fund-raising for a statue of Pope, scheduled to be completed to coincide with the 27-year-old’s 40th birthday celebrations.
Meanwhile, in honour of the Burslem club’s success, the city council lifts the ban on Vale players urinating in the bushes at Hanley Forest Park.
*In a bid to save money Stoke-on-Trent City Council ditches plans to relocate its Civic HQ from Stoke to Hanley in favour of a move to neighbouring Newcastle.
Explaining the decision, council leader Mohammed Pervez said most people considered Newcastle to be in the Potteries anyway, even it was “a bit posher”.
However, councillors in the Loyal and Ancient Borough start a petition against the proposals – barricading themselves into the Guildhall until those riff-raff have gone away.
*In an attempt to improve Stoke-on-Trent’s image in the wake of the disastrous BBC documentary The Year The Town Hall Shrank, council leader Mohammed Pervez agrees to star in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.
After successfully completing several Bushtucker trials councillor Pervez is narrowly beaten into third place by the pretend opera singer off the Go Compare telly adverts and a kangaroo named Dave.
Mr Pervez, however, remains upbeat – claiming he has “put the city on the map” and reveals he has persuaded Ant and Dec to appear in The Regent Theatre’s pantomime.
*Buoyed by his appearance on ITV1, city council leader Mr Pervez unveils the authority’s latest cost-cutting initiatives.
These include only four out of five council workmen being allowed to loaf about for two hours at lunchtime.
*Staff at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery are put in celebratory mood once more following the discovery of a further 700 pieces of the Staffordshire Hoard in a field near Lichfield.
After farmer Fred Johnson ploughs the earth deeper than a Rory Delap throw-in, he churns up Excalibur, the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail as well as the missing tail fin from the city’s Spitfire RW388.
The museum’s Principal Collections Officer Deb Klemperer tells The Sentinel that experts hope to have worked out what the new finds actually are before she retires in 2050.
*Staffordshire’s new Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis unveils his radical new idea to solve the force’s acute staffing shortage.
After appointing his sixth deputy, Mr Ellis tells the media he will be handing out police uniforms to anyone who wants one, adding: “This is the Big Society in action. The genius of the idea is that the crims won’t know who’s a real copper and who isn’t.”
The Sentinel’s crime reporter thinks he’s joking until he hands her a canister of CS spray some flashing blue lights for her motor.
*Local radio stations run another story claiming The Sentinel is closing down.
The Sentinel’s Editor-in-Chief responds by publishing a 148-page supplement to mark the paper’s 148th anniversary – including all the stories the paper has beaten the radio stations to during the previous week.
*Developers of the new multi-million City Sentral retail complex on the site of the former Hanley Bus Station announce they have attracted another big name store to the development.
Poundland confirms it will be employing up to six part-time staff at its new superstore.
A spokesman for the shopping complex reveals the name is also to be changed after a huge public outcry because City Sentral is “clearly a bit daft”.
Expect the new Jonny Wilkes Centre to be open in
time for Christmas.
What are your hopes for 2013?

There’s nowt wrong with having no women in the Sports Personality of the Year list

I don’t think bras were actually burned but straps were certainly loosened as the politically-correct brigade went into overdrive this week.
Their target: The life-or-death matter that is the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) Awards.
Forget the global economic crisis, the conflict in Afghanistan and the public sector strikes.
The thing that was exercising high-profile critics (most of them women) was the absence of any women on the SPOTY shortlist.
Four-time Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington branded it “disgraceful”.
Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington OBE was equally dismayed, adding that she hoped that next year the shortlist would be all women.
I just can’t see it myself, Rebecca. To be honest, I think I’ve got more chance of making the cut than there is of 10 women being shortlisted in 2012.
Actually, I get rather annoyed when confronted with these ridiculous debates which infer sexism where there is none.
Let’s look at the evidence, shall we?
The SPOTY shortlist is drawn up by a panel of 27 sports editors from national and regional newspapers and magazines.
This immediately exonerates the Beeb of any blame in terms of who is selected and is, I believe, a genuine attempt to pick the brains of people who ought to know their stuff.
‘Ah, but they’re all men,’ I hear the bra-looseners cry.
So what? This system hasn’t prevented previous winners being women or at least two women being shortlisted every year since 2006. (Four in 2008).
I wonder if it has it occurred to the critics that maybe, just maybe, the 10 blokes on the shortlist deserved the recognition this year – ahead of other male and female contenders?
Because Mark Cavendish (cycling), Darren Clark (golf), Alistair Cook (cricket), Luke Donald (golf), Mo Farah (athletics), Dai Greene (athletics), Amir Khan (boxing), Rory McIlroy (golf), Andy Murray (tennis) and Andrew Strauss (cricket) have all certainly had a damn good year.
So the question I would pose to the nay-sayers is: Which of these blokes would you boot out to accommodate a woman?
Isn’t the truth here that it’s all subjective?
The sports editors have come up with a list of people whom they believe have had a better 2011 than their sporting peers. End of story.
By all means moan about the lack of coverage of women’s sport (and the lack of spectators), but there is no conspiracy here. It’s certainly not a disgrace or a scandal.
Frankly, to suggest that women must be included in any such top 10 is tokenism of the worst kind, in my book.
We had a similar ‘debate’ when yours truly was a judge for Stoke-on-Trent’s Citizen of the Century Awards last year.
When tasked with finding the 10 most worthy individuals from Stoke-on-Trent in the last 100 years, my fellow judges and I immediately named ceramic industry genius and celebrity Clarice Cliff as one.
However, we genuinely struggled to find another woman whom it was felt deserved to make the shortlist alongside the likes of Spitfire designer Reginald Mitchell CBE, influential Potteries author Arnold Bennett and global football icon Sir Stanley Matthews CBE.
This was simply because – and this is an indisputable fact – for much of the century we were reviewing women simply didn’t have the life opportunities or high-profile roles that men did.
Thus, logically, the shortlist of 10 was always going to be dominated by men.
In the end, however, political correctness triumphed – despite what yours truly thought – and Millicent Duchess of Sutherland was included.
Who, you might ask? Well, she was an activist for social reform who was born in Fife in 1867 and founded the North Staffordshire Cripples Aid Society.
Now, I wouldn’t for one minute seek to diminish her endeavours but the truth is ‘our’ Millie was included specifically to pacify those who felt the list wasn’t fair on women and not representative enough of modern Stoke-on-Trent.
It’s nonsense but you’d be amazed how many people think like this and believe that it’s OK to rewrite history in order to appear inclusive and tick the right boxes.

We’ve seen plenty of ‘The Power’… but what about the glory?

I’m rubbish at darts – as anyone who has taken cover while I’ve slung a few arrows in the Sneyd Arms will testify too.
This is despite the fact that I have an old set of Phil Taylor’s practice darts.
All of this just goes to show that blood doesn’t always run true because I’m told my dad was a bit special in his day.
Some fellas who know about these things tell me that, had he not been working away a lot when I was little, he could easily have played at county level and possibly above.
The multitude of trophies and 180 medals in the cardboard box at the bottom of his wardrobe backs up what they say.
But me? I think I’ll stick to playing pool.
Darts is one of those games that looks unfathomably easy, but is actually really difficult to be good at without practising ’til the cows come home.
And right now, we are fortunate to have in our midst, a world champion at the peak of his Powers (if you’ll pardon the pun).
Phil Taylor is a freak. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that.
The bloke is a machine. Untouchable. Relentless.
Even people like me, who don’t follow darts, watch in awe as he racks up victory after victory – title after title.
Yet because we see so much of him here in the Potteries, because he’s one of our own, I wonder if we perhaps just take him for granted.
If Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor had come from Liverpool they’d have no doubt based the Capital of Culture celebrations around him and had him singing on stage with Paul McCartney.
There would have been a statue of him erected within spitting distance of the Liver Birds by now and they’d have renamed the Albert Dock Taylor’s Oche.
You wouldn’t be able to turn on the radio without a Scouse voice blathering on about ‘ar Phil’.
As it is, despite his achievements, one of the world’s greatest sportsmen has again failed to make the shortlist for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Awards which is nothing short of a scandal. On their website, Phil is mentioned in passing as having had another ‘incredible year’.
Auntie Beeb ought to wake up and smell the skinny latte.
Phil’s been having ‘incredible years’ for a decade now and it’s about time they were recognised.
I can’t help, but think there’s an element of snobbery behind this apathy towards our darts maestro. After all, some would say, darts isn’t a sport – it’s a pub game.
No. It’s a sport played by millions – so get over it.
And, dare I say it, there are a damn sight more people interested in Phil Taylor’s exploits than a Royal equestrian, an F1 driver or many of Team GB’s Olympic hopefuls.
Fifteen years ago darts was about as sexy as sink full of dirty dishes.
But clever television executives and a certain prolific player from our neck of woods have transformed the sport into a global phenomenon, which now names top celebrities among its fans.
Let’s for a second set aside Phil Taylor’s charity work for the likes of the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice and numerous other worthy causes.
Let’s not focus on the fact that, despite his considerable wealth, he still lives a dart’s throw away from his beloved Stoke-on-Trent.
Let’s ignore the fact that, on impulse, he paid thousands of pounds for Aaron and Andrew Corden – two young lads from Abbey Hulton who came runner-up in Stoke’s Top Talent – to go to dance college and follow their dreams of a career in musical theatre.
Let’s just focus on the sportsman.
I reckon that, in 40 years’ time, people will look back and say: “Hey, that Phil Taylor – 17 (or whatever it will be by then) world titles. What a player he must have been.”
And old fogies like me will answer: “Yeah. I saw him once. He was incredible. Made it look effortless. No-one could live with him.”
Because that’s how good he is.
Sadly, just like all great sportsmen and women, one day he will be shown up to be human. But, right now, he’s the undisputed heavyweight champion of the oche and no-one can touch him.
Thankfully, Phil Taylor’s immortality is assured and long may he continue to entertain and inspire millions with nine-dart finishes, bullseyes and 180s.
More Power to his elbow, I say.