Time to Lower Expectations and Ditch the Divine Right

As Ashley Cole stepped off the team coach on Sunday having earlier participated in England’s worst ever World Cup defeat, he laughed and joked casually with other members of the squad. This confirmed two things:

1. He really is thick as two short planks.

And

2. Our beloved England team have reached the end of an era.

The best suggestion I heard following the debacle we were subjected for on Sunday was that Premier League players should be banned from playing at international level. Instead, Championship players would get a chance to grace the world stage. And it makes sense. Not only would they display more passion, they’d be free of the traps bestowed upon our highest-paid stars. Traps of excessive fame and fortune which clearly give them a distorted view of their own footballing ability.

One thing has become abundantly clear over the last fortnight; not a single player in that England squad can ever be described as ‘world class’ ever again.

Take Wayne Rooney, who has unknowingly been poked at with the pointy end of my Tweets and Facebook status updates since the tournament began. He was hailed our talisman and the one player who would finally ignite the ability our team has to bring the World Cup home. An ability which has laid dormant since 1966.

In reality, he cast a lone, despondent shadow across every inch of pitch he covered. Which amounted to quite a lot, if truth be told. He simply kept running the wrong way; back into the congested midfield only to either a) foul someone, b) collide with Gerrard who was doing the exact same thing or c) give the ball away to the opposition.

The rate at which he did the latter was simply staggering.

This is a player who clearly had a big say in which of his team mates made it to South Africa. Walcott didn’t deserve to go but Rooney’s all too obvious reactions to every misplaced cross only served to help Capello make what must have been a difficult decision. I doubt it did Theo’s confidence much good, either.

By comparison, Rooney has played all four of England’s games at a tenth of Walcott’s effort during the qualifying campaign. The young lad who was unfairly taken to the last World Cup must be seething.

I don’t believe it’s the manager’s fault, regardless of some questionable substitutions and an insistence on playing a formation which didn’t lend itself to the players available. He simply seems to be saddled with the same guilt trip this country’s media lavishes on every England manager – whatever you do, don’t drop Wayne.

If we can hope for anything after this mess, its that Capello keeps the job he’s more than capable of fulfilling and becomes the one manager who shuns popular opinion and ditches the divine right. Rooney should play no more than a bit part until he proves he actually wants the caps which have come so easily to him thus far.

iPad Review

The day Steve Jobs held his new creation aloft I, like many others, couldn’t help but feel somewhat aggrieved. Here, after months of speculation, was the magical device Apple claimed would transform the mini computer market. Netbooks would be rendered pointless. The need for a folding device with separate keyboard and screen would soon be considered old fashioned and highly inefficient. Our lives would never be quite the same again. Etc.

And there, in Jobs’ hands, was what looked like a a massive iPod touch. A really big iPhone. Without the phone bit. Or the camera. A huge, gigantic disappointment.

I really wanted one.

To spare my credit card further pain, I spent the next few weeks explaining to everyone how pointless it was. And the device is, on face value, difficult to justify. I have a netbook. I have an iPhone. I have a MacBook Pro. Where would an iPad fit in? No matter how many times Jobs and his cronies banged on about the fun to be had ‘just picking it up off the coffee table to enjoy fantastic email’, I couldn’t think of a legitimate use of this £500 piece of techno eye candy.

Then, a few days after the UK launch, I took the thirty minute journey to PC World in Milton Keynes to have a play with one. Within second of the home screen arranging itself I’d decided I required an iPad. So I bought one.

A few days in, I feel qualified enough to write a few words on Apple’s new baby and I’ll start by reiterating that it really is a luxury device. No one on this planet needs an iPad. Neither will it replace your laptop. The lack of a real keyboard cements that fact.

I’ll start with the screen, which is stunning. There was a whole lot of hokum about the fact it doesn’t possess a true widescreen aspect ratio and the fact that it’s surrounded by a fat black bezel, but as soon as you set your eyes on one, neither of those things matter. It is fabulous. The bezel, in fact, actually makes perfect sense as it gives your thumbs somewhere to rest whilst not obscuring the screen.

Built quality is something else which strikes you; it feels sturdy, immaculately constructed and tough. Granted, I wouldn’t want to drop it, or frisbee it across to someone at the other side of the room, but it does feel like it’ll last. If the iPhone 4 is anything like this, we’re in for a treat.

Apps, while expensive, are impressive and bring to light the benefit of the larger screen, when compared with the iPhone. It’s genuinely very exciting when you consider the kind of apps we’ll see from those clever and friendless enough to develop them. As a part time bedroom music producer, I can’t wait to see how this thing will complement my studio with synth and DAW controller apps.

The keyboard. I hate the iPhone’s keyboard. I’ve found it’s got harder to use the longer I’ve had the phone, regularly hitting incorrect characters or the backspace button. iPad’s keyboard is obviously far bigger which makes it possible to type almost like you can on a ‘real’ keyboard. Not quite though. It’s still prone to errors and the lack of tactile feedback is one of the many reasons it won’t replace your laptop. Indeed, I wrote 50% of this blog on the iPad but had to resort to my MacBook after a while.

Key to understanding and appreciating the iPad is realising that it is simply a device which makes ‘passing the internet around’, checking email, viewing photos and listening to music incredibly simple. The battery is astonishing. Apple quote 10 hours and I don’t doubt that. If anything, it might be a little more. Whatever it is, you can leave this thing anywhere about your house and pick it up when you need it, safe in the knowledge it isn’t going to die on you. Its also on, instantly, therefore you don’t have to wait for the OS to boot up before you check your email.

The lack of Flash? This subject bores me to the core so I won’t labour on it. I’ve hardly noticed it. Although, to be fair, I visit a fairly limited number of websites, most of which don’t include flash content or utilise the HTML5 (something Apple will almost certainly force a web-standard out of). We all know Apple disallow the use of Flash on their mobile devices because they want to protect the App Store, but I really can’t get too excited or angry about it. They were the first to abandon floppy drives, after all…

Should you buy one? In short, only if you can afford it. My house is flooded with technology to the point where I simply don’t have time to use it all. The iPad has, however, made a bit of a mockery of my MacBook when it comes to web browsing and ‘pick up and play-ability’. It’s just incredibly handy to have around.

If you can’t afford it at the moment and need to save, give it a few months and see what apps appear. Maybe even wait until the first hardware revision which should certainly include a camera, at the very least.

I’ll finish with ten of my favourite apps so far:

  1. Press Reader – download digital versions of newspapers – thousands are featured from all across the world and prices are reasonable.
  2. AccuWeather – pretty and informative weather app.
  3. Wikipanion – great Wikipedia app.
  4. Eurosport – far better than its iPhone equivalent.
  5. RightMove – simply fantastic if you’re a UK resident house hunting/selling
  6. Early Edition – great RSS reader which formats RSS feeds in a newspaper-like format.
  7. Guardian Eyewitness – features one photo a day taken from professional news photographers. Also offers technical tips on how the shot was taken.
  8. WordPress – makes far more sense than the iPhone version and is a masterclass of simple design.
  9. Korg Electribe – iPad version of a classic groovebox. Much fun.
  10. IMDb – brilliant for film information and trailers.