Monday, 8 March 2010


The death of James Bulger provided us with one of the most disturbing court cases of all time. And now it's come back into the media spotlight once again. The case of the two Edlington boys in January had eerie parallels to Bulger [pictured, Daily Mail], but fortunately nobody died that time. However, now we hear Jon Venables - one of the two-year-old’s killers - has gone back to jail. Few people know why, although there are various rumours such as him breaching his order to stay away from Merseyside by clubbing, working as a bouncer or watching Everton FC. Some papers say he has been charged with holding images of child abuse. The tabloids are having a field day trying to work out what's occured. But the real issue here is: should we be told by Justice Secretary Jack Straw what's happened?

The family clearly ought to know and should not have been kept in the dark this long. Straw, to his credit, will sort this out by going to see them. The debate now is how much the public should be told. If he goes to trial for any of these crimes, Venables is unlikely to get a fair hearing at the moment. He will certainly need another new identity, which could end up costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds. But this case has such huge public interest that people will want to know. Straw says he's currently not going to say any more. He is most probably scared of the "lock-him-up-and-throw-away-the-key" lynch mob, as well as prejudicing any further court cases, which is fair enough. But I think we should know what Venables has done so we can learn from the mistakes made by officials during his rehabilatation. One thing is for sure - this debate is not going to die down anytime soon.

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Well done to the Lalani family for their business success story. It seems that 99p Stores have found an excellent model to get through the recession - cheap "fizzy drink and loo roll", as The Independent puts it. It’s doing well by buying up empty Woolworths stores and undercutting big supermarkets with cheaper prices(under £1, of course) - projecting sales of £1bn over the next six years. Their 129 stores must have an excellent stock of one pence coins in the cash registers too.

The business model is an interesting one - and there aren’t many shops that can claim to undercut Poundland, but Nadir Lalani and his sons [Hussein is pictured, credit William Reed Media] have made an excellent effort. They’re creating jobs in poorer areas of the country, people are buying essential items for cheaper and the Lalanis are getting customers into high-streets so everywhere benefits. Many customers say they visit 99p Stores before doing their weekly shop at a supermarket, to pick up any products sold at a lower price, and can save lots of money doing so. Good work, Mr Lalani.

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These are desperate times at Roots Hall. Today the assistant manager Paul Brush [pictured], who has been with the club for seven years - and led them with boss Steve Tilson to two cup finals, a league title and two play-off appearances - has been sacked. Southend United meanwhile are in the bottom four of League One and facing relegation to the bottom tier. Oh dear. I went to watch the Shrimpers at Hartlepool on Saturday and we really did look like relegation material. It was a freezing cold day in County Durham and the Blues were rolled over by an equally poor side. It only rubbed it in that Roy O’Donovan grabbed a hat-trick against us - more goals than he managed in his entire Southend career earlier this season.

So where do we go from here? Chairman Ron Martin has taken a lot of flak from the fans recently after reports that the players had not been paid for two months in a row. The club seems to have no money to spend on players and is trimming the wage bill. Tilson and Brush have been a great partnership for fast-approaching a decade now, and I won’t be surprised if Tilly walks now Brush has been pushed. The priority is now to keep this club in League One. That starts this Saturday against relegation rivals, Exeter. Every player needs to give his all in every game now, as I don’t want to be watching League Two football next season. Ron Martin claims it would be “fatal” if we got relegated. So please stay up, lads.