Monday, 14 June 2010


Before arriving at university, I thought education was all about work. Working so you could work even more when you actually work. How wrong I was. Choosing to read Journalism Studies in Sheffield was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, because not only was it an enjoyable course, but I’ve also had a fantastic three years of life. They say your best days are at university and - although it took me a while to get out of the 'workworkwork' mentality of GCSEs and A-Levels, into the 'funfunfun' mentality of a degree - there are insufficient comparitives and superlatives to describe how amazing it's been. But I'll try to find some...

My BA Journalism Studies course has been a wonderful education. I chose The University of Sheffield simply because it was the best place to read journalism at undergraduate level and I haven’t been disappointed. I’ve been given the opportunity to develop skills in so many areas, including newspaper reporting, subbing, television & radio production, magazine writing, shorthand, website & print design and media law. So I've had quite a bit to do!

I’ve also met some fantastic coursemates, some of whom have already been offered jobs in local and national newspapers and PR. I was pretty enthusiastic about working in journalism when I started my course in 2007. But my lecturers have helped ensure I cannot wait to work full-time now, by being so passionate about their subjects and helping me nurture my skills and understanding of the media. For example, the media studies element of the course has been a sociological side of things that I'd never previously considered that much before I left school.

I had the chance to study in London after receiving offers from Goldsmiths and City University, but am so pleased on reflection that I turned them both down in favour of Sheffield. Something I never realised before coming north was how much of a divide still exists in this country. I even did a piece in my final-year broadcast portfolio on ‘northerness’ and what that concept means to people in Yorkshire. I never really thought of regional identity as being that important when I lived at home in Essex, but all of a sudden I became a ‘southerner’ in the north!

Aside from the north-south divide, which is obviously not only felt in South Yorkshire, Sheffield has been a great city to live in as a student. It has two universities and a number of colleges with young people from across the world, making it a vibrant and buzzing place whenever you go out. There is so much going on during term-time and a huge number of restaurants & entertainment outlets competing for student business, that prices are cheap and it’s easy to have a good night out for a tenner.

A fascinating aspect of Sheffield is its diversity over such a small area. You have the leafy, upmarket regions of Broomhill and Fulwood (Deputy PM Nick Clegg’s constituency of Hallam), and then poorer areas like Pitsmoor and Burngreave where postcode gang warfare between S3 and S4 is rife, with a number of murders over the last few years. This all contributes to making it a very eye-opening place to live as a student, whatever background you're from. With the university being a city (rather than campus) college, you really feel part of life here. I’d have just been in a comfortable south-east bubble if I’d never moved to Yorkshire, so I’m very glad I did.

The political world of Sheffield is rather removed from what I was used to in the blue corner of Southend West. There is not a single Tory MP or even a councillor on Sheffield City Council, in an area dominated by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Let's just say the Conservative Future society at the University isn’t massive. It’s no surprise that a former manufacturing stronghold - and the most working-class city in the country - is generally left-wing. Add in all the students voting Lib Dem, and you can see why Clegg loves it up here.

University is a great time for finding out more about who you are as a person and developing your opinions on a wide variety of subjects. I’ve found my own faith as a Christian has been greatly strengthened by a fantastic church, St Thomas’ Church Philadelphia, which is very proactive in its community work both in South Yorkshire and abroad, whilst it continues to grow in reach. And I’ve been able to try out new activities I’d have never even thought about if I had missed out on attending university. I’ve re-ignited a passion I had as a young teenager for dance and got involved in a new type - swing dance - which has been great fun to learn. Add that into activities like salsa and samba drumming, and you can see why I've loved my time here.

Sheffield is well-known for its music and this excited me when I arrived. I’ve got to see so many bands over the last three years here, from Arctic Monkeys [pictured] to Groove Armada, Carmen Ghia to Coldplay and Chase & Status to Kasabian. There is a top music scene in the Steel City and I’ve found so many great smaller artists by going to random gigs and events. One thing that’s really stuck out has been drum ‘n’ bass, as there’s a massive scene locally for a music genre that isn’t very well-represented yet nationwide. I might have been brought up on classical and jazz music, and since then developed a taste for dance and indie, but there’s something unique and fresh about DnB that you just don’t find in other music. And if it wasn’t for Sheffield, I’d have probably never found out about it.

So that’s it, three years of being a student finished. It’s been full of great memories, friends and general learning. Although I wouldn’t like to live here for the rest of my life, Sheffield has been a wonderful city to be in as a student and I’m very glad I decided to come here. I’m sad to be leaving but it’ll be good to get back to the seaside in Leigh-on-Sea for a bit and take a break over the summer. The last three years have been pretty crazy, so I feel like I deserve a rest now!

I'm sorry to announce this will be my last regular Monday evening blog post. I've really enjoyed blogging during my time at The University of Sheffield and getting so much feedback from readers. Many thanks to you for generating the 8,000 hits I've had from 94 countries on my 98 posts in the last 15 months. I'm now going to properly embrace Twitter and post my views on life at, so please follow me as I move into my post-university life! Thanks for your support :)

PICTURES: University of Sheffield; University of Sheffield SASI; Wikimedia; BBC

Monday, 7 June 2010


The flags are out, optimism is sky-high and the Carlsberg is in the fridge. But before you get too excited, let me just say: England are not going to win the World Cup.

If you compare our team to the likes of Spain, Brazil and Argentina, it’s not great. Remember that we’re up against the likes of Torres, Kaka and Messi [pictured] here. And whilst possessing Rooney, Gerrard and Terry in your side is certainly not an embarrassment, Fabio Capello’s men are simply too one-dimensional to succeed. We’ve seen that enough during recent friendlies. But the World Cup is not just about England. It’s a wonderful occasion when the best international footballers come to compete on the biggest stage. And I, for one, can’t wait.

So if England don’t win, who will? I believe this could be a World Cup where workmanlike performances grind out results. There are going to be many teams not used to playing in such humidity and high temperatures that may suffer, which is why preparations are crucial. But this is unlikely to affect top sides such as Brazil and Argentina - or even Spain or Portugal - so the factor that this plays might be minimised. However, sometimes progression in the World Cup is not about playing entertaining football. It’s about getting results and knowing how to close down your opponents.

This is why my two outside bets this year are Germany and Italy. You can still get pretty good odds on both from William Hill (14/1 and 16/1), which is primarily because they have already been written off by most of the media.

Italy are, of course, the current holders - and although no team has retained the trophy for consecutive competitions since Brazil in 1958 and 1962; the only other side to do so was Italy themselves in 1934 and 1938. The reason I’m backing the Italians is that they are so strong defensively, have the capability to become very tough to break down and can grab difficult wins when necessary. Players like Cannavaro, Buffon [pictured] and Zambrotta are a defensive wall that will shut up shop to allow the likes of De Rossi and Pirlo to get forward and cause problems. It might not be pretty and it might be 1-0 defensive football, but that’s what the Italians specialise in, and is why they won the tournament in 2006.

Germany are an industrious and reliable team. You always know what to expect from them in a penalty shootout. Their group - like Italy’s - is pretty straightforward, although Serbia, Ghana and Australia could all cause a few problems. Their coach, Joachim Low, was assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann in 2006, and has a team that will not be pushed over. It includes the likes of Podolski, Schweinsteiger and last tournament's top scorer Klose [pictured], who must be taken seriously and shut down by opponents. But I just think Italy are such a strong all-round side that they will concede fewer goals and have a better ability to stop opponents scoring.

There are a few other possibilities worth looking out for and maybe having a flutter on. Japan, who have only appeared at the World Cup three times before and only made it past the group stage when on home soil in 2002, are 5/4 with Ladbrokes to finish bottom of their group (against Holland, Denmark and Cameroon). How about Holland to finish top of the same group on 4/6 (Skybet) - and maybe combining those odds for a better payout. Looking at top scorers, Arsenal’s Dutch striker Robin van Persie looks well-priced at 16/1 (Paddy Power) to be the tournament’s top scorer, and England’s penalty-taker Frank Lampard is 6/1 (Coral) to score the most goals for the Three Lions.

Two surprise packages to look out for could be Serbia and South Korea - both sides with a relatively average past in the World Cup and few star players - but workmanlike and capable of causing a few surprises. You can get good prices on both to cause an upset in their groups - with South Korea 10/1 (Skybet) to beat Argentina and Serbia 3/1 (Boylesports) to defeat Germany. Both of these results might be unlikely, but upsets do happen - and you can at least get a good price on both of these sides finishing second in their groups. How about a semi-final between South Korea and North Korea? OK, I’m getting carried away now...

I can’t possibly describe how excited I am about the World Cup. My life as a student is set to expire this weekend and what better way to celebrate moving into a new stage of life than watching the whole tournament? The anticipation really has been building up since Euro 2008, with fans around the world wondering whether Spain can clinch the world title too - or will Brazil’s flair and creativity outdo the likes of Xavi and Fabregas? Holland have never won the World Cup, so maybe it will be their year. Or perhaps we’ll get a complete shock, like when Greece were victorious in Euro 2004. One thing’s for sure - and I’m sorry to say it, but I’m only being honest - England won’t be lifting the trophy come July 11th.