Di Stefano by Ian Hawkey

Books in the English language, on the greatest footballer of all time are few and far between, hold on I hear you say, books on Pele, Maradona and Messi are numerous and plentiful but as great as these players are, none of them can hold a candle to the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano. Just how great this player was is often overlooked because he really played before the television era began. So, when Ian Hawkey recently produced a book on the great man, it had to bought and read immediately. Although I enjoyed the book I have to say it would not make my top ten of sporting books. Whilst the book explores Di Stefano’s experience as both a player and a coach, it is his time as player that I was most interested. Although he had a loan spell at Huracan early on in his career and a spell at Espanol at the end, it is his time at 3 clubs River Plate of Buenos Aires in Argentina, the Colombian club Millionarios of Bogotá and last but least the Spanish team Real Madrid (who he transformed in to the biggest football team on the planet) that really interested me.  his time at Real Madrid has been well documented, but the other two clubs not so much. River Plate whether you like or not was the place that established him as great player, playing alongside the likes of Rossi, Pedernera and Labruna he developed his game to another level, success came quickly resulting in 2 Primera league titles in 1945 and 47 with his club as well as the 47 Copa America with Argentina. Although this was a golden period of Argentine football, it has to said the Argentine FA was consumed by greed and corruption, that forced their better players to head the rebel Colombian League. I feel Hawkey’s book has missed an opportunity here to explore just disastrous this was Argentine football, which saw them miss 2 world cups and the chance to be recognised as the leading football nation in South America, the repercussions of which are still being felt today. Di Stefano time at Millionarios was spent under the guidance of their President Alfonso Senior Quevedo, a man who you could argue created the first galacticos, (an idea pinched by Santiago Bernabeu and used to this day by Florentino Perez) his side nicknamed the “Ballet in Blue” dominated the Columbian League during Di Stefano’s time there. Quevedo was man ahead of his time, relentlessly chasing trophies home and aboard turning them into the football equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters, when the toured Spain and played against Real Madrid, Senor Bernabeu was captivated by the brilliance of Di Stefano so much so that he knew that if Real Madrid were to come become great, then this was the man that was going to transform them. The rest as they say is history and Hawkey’s book adequately covers his Madrid years, discussing the tug of war with Barcelona for player’s signature, his glory days at Madrid, his partnership with Puskas, his tragic exit,his return as a manager it’s all there. Di Stefano had peerless career that no great player can match in terms of success and longevity, the only downside in his professional life was in the World Cup in which Argentina refused to play in twice in 1950 and 54 which, they could have possibly won, when he eventually got to play in the world cup he was badly hampered by injury and could not do himself justice. Di Stefano was an awkward, stubborn individual, who was not easy to get along with, but one thing always comes shining through and that was his hunger and desire to be the best at times. Hawkey’s book could and should have been a lot better, but having said that I did enjoy it, should you buy it, I would have to say yes if only for the fact it will expose you to the greatest player that has ever lived, Alfredo Di Stefano.


AWB “The White Album”

A couple of  weeks ago the BBC showed a programme called the Story of  Funk, it featured the usual suspects, James Brown, Sly, George Clinton, Earth Wind and Fire it was all there, among the various artists being interviewed were two white gentlemen from Dundee called Onnie McIntyre and Alan Gorrie. Seeing these two catapulted me back to 1974 and my efforts to obtain their album AWB or the White Album as it now more commonly known, This disc was bought purely on the basis that had been reviewed favourably by New Musical Express (NME), at this particular time the frozen northerner only bought records on the advice of this magazine. NME held only three areas of interest, the soul section written by Roger St Pierre, the crossword and the album reviews which were done superbly by someone like Nick Kent or Charles Shaar Murray (Murray once wrote a great piece expounding the brilliance of the Jackson 5 album Skywriter, but that’s another story). So when they said go buy, I bought, at that particular time Newcastle had probably three main outlets to buy records Jeavons, Windows and probably Callers, none these places had even heard of the Average White Band, I vainly trolled every record shop in Newcastle without any success leaving with one last chance which was the hippy sanctuary on Ridley Place known as Virgin Records, unbelievably they stocked the album which, was happily purchased from some John Lennon lookalike and was taken straight home to be listened too. On a first hearing I was quite smitten with the band, the vocals of Hamish Stuart and Alan Gorrie were outstanding, which is probably a bit unfair on the rest of the band who were all at their very best on this album, there isn’t a bad track people on the LP and every song is a little piece of magic, “Pick up the Pieces” is the best known track, although my personal favourite is “Just want to love tonight. It was produced by the great Arif Mardin, with a little bit of help from Jerry Wexler; both men knew they were on a winner with these Scottish funksters, with the outcome being an album of the highest quality. I don’t think anyone has really appreciated the fact that AWB reached no1 in USA, both in the Billboard and R & B charts, some achievement for bunch of lads from Scotland. Any fan of soul and funk should buy this album because it will over time become a prized possession; just remember unlike me you won’t have to troll the streets of Newcastle to buy it.

The Berlin Experience

The Brandenburg Gate

Easter has brought about the first holiday or break of the year and it is not to my beloved Italy but, to Germany to explore the delights of its capital city, Berlin, mmm. My devoted partner the Contessa Di La Proctero informs me that Berlin is currently the third most visited city in Europe so let’s just see what it has to offer. We stayed at Westin Grand which has featured in Richard E Grant’s hotel secrets series and is certainly one the best hotels I have stayed in, I would suggest that Berlin is very much coffee cultured and is more laid back than other capital cities that I have visited which is no bad thing. First stop on the itinerary was a trip to the Brandenburg gate, commissioned by Frederick 11 of Prussia, this entrance to the capital was built between 1788 and 1791, it is probably the most famous landmark in Berlin, and is one of the main tourist attractions for overseas visitors alongside other sites such as Check Point Charlie, the Jewish Museum, the Berlin Wall, the Reichstag, the Holocaust Memorial, the list is wide and varied so there was always plenty to do and see. With all of this to explore this was not going to be a restful break, the Contessa was on a mission making us walk up to 15K per day, irrespective of the weather which was not that good. Although I found Berlin enjoyable, especially when relaxing in Newton’s in the evening ( Newton’s is named after the legendary German-American photographer Helmut Newton those pictures adorn the walls of the establishment) I have to say that the highlight of the trip was the day I spent in that  Teutonic stronghold that is Potsdam, this former capital of Prussia is an absolute gem of a city and has been completely underrated by the frozen northerner, I have to honest I loved Potsdam and in hindsight I would have much preferred to stay there rather than Berlin, whether we spending time in the old market square or visiting the palaces or Schlosses I was completely captivated by the whole place and one day was just enough to do the place justice, as pointed out at the start of this blog I badly needed to escape the charms of Italy to gain new experiences, which Berlin certainly was, would I go back I am not sure, but another visit to Potsdam is an absolute must.


Postdam’s Schloss Sanssouci



Postdam’s Brandenburg Gate


Postdam’s Schloss Babelsberg






Oliver sweeney
Oliver Sweeney

Due to pressure of work my contributions to the frozen northerner blog has been a bit scratchy of late hopefully, my future itinerary may be a little bit lighter, but who knows. So where to start, I thought a good place to start is to talk about something that I slightly obsessed with and that is shoes. In their 1992 spring edition, Arena magazine offering you the chance to win a pair of Oliver Sweeney’s storm derby shoes, these much sought after shoes were regularly featured in the magazine and were worn by such luminaries as Richard Jobson and Bruce Oldfield to name but two. It is probably fair to say that Oliver Sweeney probably made his name off the back off of these wonderful shoes, since that time the frozen northerner has purchased good few pairs of his shoes, but my relationship with this company is complicated, sometimes they have shoes that are my must have list, other times they stock shoes that I wouldn’t give a second glance. Oliver Sweeney initially made his name as head of design at MacAfee, before starting out on his own with a concession in Harrods in 1990, it took him a while to get firmly established but in 2003 opening his first flagship store on the King’s Road. Oliver Sweeney shoes which have often been described as “classic with a twist” are mostly made in the Marche region of Italy, where their main factory is based and are usually very Italian influenced. However, despite the fact they were producing great shoes the overall business was not doing so well and in 2009 the company were saved from administration by Amery Capital, who brought in Tim Cooper to oversee the company, Cooper’s influence on the company is there for everyone to see, since joining the company  it has gradually expanded and now has 6 beautifully laid out stores, 4 in London as well as 1 in Manchester and 1 in Leeds,( the Leeds store is my personal favourite, situated in the Victoria Quarter, it is run by a very caring and understanding staff). Oliver Sweeney sadly is no longer involved with the company which is a crying shame however, under Cooper the company has shown steady growth, although their shoes are regarded as the mainstay of the company they have of late started to develop a nice line of menswear, which is fine but I am not sure if I approve of this change in direction, I am a firm believer in doing what you do well, which is shoes. Oliver Sweeney may not be everyone’s cup of tea and yours truly has a kind of love/hate relationship with this shoemaker, are their shoes than better than Crockett and Jones maybe not, but that doesn’t stop producing some very interesting numbers, so go check out their shops for yourself because like me they may just have pair of shoes that will  you fall in love with.

Vintage Pair of Oliver Sweeney
Oliver Sweeney Novoli


Another Tragedy

When the frozen northerner was serving his apprenticeship at the famed Swan Hunter
Shipyard, he was informed by a work colleague that one day there would no heavy industry
left and that anybody left living in the north east of would working in a national park because industry as we knew it then, would all but disappear. This rather cynical approach was quickly forgotten by the frozen northerner who firmly believed that he would by employed at the world’s greatest shipyard for the rest of his life. Brian Hull’s words of wisdom have not quite come true, but he was not far off the mark. The north-east that lived and breathed as an engineering stronghold is now it is all but gone, no Parsons, no Swan Hunter’s no Vickers no coal industry no nothing, only call centres and places like sports direct paying poor wages or even worse employing people on zero hours, it’s a national disgrace, no wonder young people in the north east are frustrated at the very limited opportunities they have to develop a career. Don’t get me wrong the heavy engineering industry and the pits were not an ideal place to
work but it did give you a bit of pride and self-esteem, but over the years various governments have done little to help and people’s dignity has slowly been eroded, so it
should have come as no surprise to me that Coty Inc has decided to close their factory in my small Seaton Delaval village. Why have Coty decided to close this plant I have no idea, has it come about because of Brexit, may be, Coty have decided to move lock stock and barrel to France, this is a hammer blow to my local community, companies like this disgust me they don’t care about local people, they only care about profit, it’s bad enough that this multi-national employ a large number of people on zero hours which is absolutely outrageous, but have now they have decided to make these poor souls life even more miserable by closing the plant. Will the tory government and their inept leader Theresa May do anything to help, not a chance, like most politicians she and her lily livered cabinet will talk of optimism and a brighter future but here’s the reality, there isn’t one, things will only get worse for the people of the north. The gulf between and north and south is now immeasurable. Money needs to be spent and spent big in the north but all we will hear is tighten your belts because more cut
backs are coming, things are now so bad in this part country we are not even prepared to put
money into the education and the national health service. Immigrants coming into this
country won’t head north because they don’t want to swap a third world existence for another one, this may sound a bit over the top but someone has got say enough is enough. The closure of the Coty plant but known locally to all and sundry as “Shulton‘s” has really touched a nerve with the frozen northerner, it is 44 years since I stood at the top of the bank viewing the Valhalla that was Swan Hunters dreaming of a better existence for the working class, how could I have been so stupid.


The Replacement 

The psychological thriller The Replacement has just finished and despite its rather disappointing kop out ending it has been one of the standout TV shows of the year, right up
there with the likes of Apple Tree Yard and Taboo. It is great to see well-made British drama that has the ability to make you wait eagerly for the next episode and is a welcome relieve from the endless stream of American drama that can be found on Sky Atlantic, don’t get me wrong Sky Atlantic has shown some noteworthy shows, for example Boardwalk Empire, True Detective and Billions are drama shows of the highest order. So why am I more
impressed with the British offerings as opposed to their American counterparts, the answer is rather simple, American drama can last possibly six or more seasons whereas British drama is maybe just three shows, a good illustration of where the Americans are getting it wrong, is with the second season of Billions, episode one pretty much followed plot set out in season one but by the time you get to second episode we are wrapped up in a juvenile card game which is about as far removed from the plot as you can get. I do hope that Billions is not going to end up like Mad Men which, by the time they got to the last season was worn out and tired looking. Years ago if two shows were in direct competition you had to make a choice of which one you were going to watch, now with the advent of the magical Sky planner you can watch any programme whenever you want, but that is not the point I am trying to get across, what I am asking is what you would watch if you had to choose one.
Personally I would choose The Replacement, not because Billions is not a good show, it is
but how many seasons will they try and wringe it out. The Replacement has left me screaming for more and that how it should be, I felt the same about Apple Tree Yard and Taboo great shows that leave wanting more but you know there is no more. The only slip that the BBC has currently made is with Sherlock which has now went on for too long, they need
to stick to their 3 shows and gone formula which is proving very successful, how long can the BBC sustain these high end drama series I have no idea, but being a wrinkly I don’t want
Netflix or any programmes that require my brain to function too much, I just want damn good drama that is not going to go forever, the producers of such shows are highly talented but please don’t overrun them just to make money your audience deserves a better deal.


J Fitzpatrick GMTO “Roosevelt in Snuff Suede“ Wonderful!

Last year in June The Shoe Snob aka Justin Fitzpatrick started asking for donations to support his expanding shoe company, I saw this as a possible worrying way to try and help his business but nevertheless in time of trouble you have to do, what you have to do. Added to this Justin was not having the greatest of times on the domestic front and with all of these things going on, I seriously wondered how his company was going to continue and expand. I still continued to follow The Shoe Snob blog relentlessly but I was bit unsure where everything was going, whether he was cracking under the pressure, feeling the strain of running his business. Having bought my first pair of J Fitzpatrick shoes when he a small concession within Saville Row tailors Gieves and Hawkes I dutifully followed him to Timothy Everest in Brunton Place, Mayfair, although I have to say that the love affair that had started so brightly was starting to show signs of cracking, J Fitzpatrick shoes is now based at 16a Dufours Place in Soho, I have not visited his new shop and to be honest I was seriously questioning if I would ever purchase another pair of his shoes. However his latest collection of GMTO (group made to order shoes) is likely to bring back into the fold, his Blue Ridge button boots using a combination of leather and suede are a joy as are “Roosevelt” suede oxfords. When he makes shoes like these I genuinely believe he as good as anyone out within his price range, but beware the competition is ferocious and getting tougher, my admiration for Justin is strong and with shoes like these, he is hopefully right back at the top of his game.

J Fitzpatrick GMTO “Blue Ridge Button Boots”