Author Archives: pearsonlee22

Ireland’s First Test Match: Going from making up the numbers to full members of the cricket world

Irish Cricket will be fully encompassed into the cricket world as they prepare to play their first ever test match in Malahide on Friday.

The historic moment has been 10 years in the making since turning the national side professional back in 2009, to concentrate on the 2011 World Cup in India.

Middlesex player Paul Stirling spoke to WNOL’s Lee Pearson about being a part of the journey as well as looking to the Friday test.

“There is bound to be immense pride, representing my country in our first ever test match will definitely be up there in my career achievements.”


“It has been a long time coming, there will be some nerves we all want to do well, but hopefully once that first session is over we can settle down and enjoy the game, the atmosphere and play some good cricket.”

But as Paul says this moment has been a long time in the making with cricket being firmly in the background of the Irish sporting hierarchy.

“It’s difficult, it’s not a particularly popular game with other sports like Gaelic football, rugby and football being the mains,” he said. “It was hard to find opportunities to play, luckily I found a place to play in Stormont.”

His country soon came knocking after promising performances.

“I think I scored two 50s and a couple of hundreds in my first 12 games. It wasn’t the best of returns but the national side in those days was an amateur organisation, it was about two years later they started handing out incremental contracts to allow us to focus on cricket full time.”

Having a stable footing in the game allowed Paul to enjoy the sport more. In the same year as becoming a professional player he signed a contract with Middlesex, joining fellow compatriot Eoin Morgan – now England’s One-Day captain.

“Having Morgs there helped, having an Irishmen in and around the club help me settle quite well. Eoin was a huge talent, if not technically correct, he has a good cricketing brain and we get on well. I don’t see him as much thanks to his English exploits but we find time for a trip to the golf course once in a while.”

But it was on the international scene where Stirling really began to make an impression. A career highest score of 177  Toronto against Canada came before a memorable World Cup in India in 2011.

“Nothing could beat that day in Bangalore. We were dead and buried at a hundred and something for five, then big Kev (Kevin O’Brien) strolls out and plays one of the best innings I have ever seen.”

“It was a monumental effort, and to do it against England made it a little bit sweeter, especially as we were the little nation turning up to make the numbers.”

Unfortunately for the Irish they will not be taking part in next year’s World Cup held in England and Wales, as they failed to qualify earlier this year, something Paul says will hurt the game in Ireland.

“Of course it will hurt. It is the biggest tournament we can play in the sport. To miss out by a narrow margin is hard to take, it’s one of those things where we couldn’t get over the line and the Windies’ experience got them over it in the end.”

Asked whether this was down to the ICC reducing the number of teams for next year’s tournament he said: “To an extent yes. We wanted the chance to show of our talents on the world stage. You Only have to look at Bermuda in 2007, us in 2011 and Bangladesh back when they started to see every nation can pull off an upset.

“Reducing the numbers narrows the attractiveness of the game to other nations, even though the qualifiers are competitive.”

But for now, the first Test match is the full focus of the day, as well as other opportunities.

“We can only look forward to establishing ourselves as a competitive test nation, and hopefully getting that first win sooner rather than later.”

Women’s FA Cup watched by record attendance

The Women’s FA Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea was watched by more than 45,000 people, the most for a women’s domestic cup competition in the UK.

A repeat of the final two years ago, watched by just under 33,000, saw Arsenal edge a tight affair 1-0, but this time it was Chelsea who celebrated, coming out 3-1 winners.

Two goals from player of the match, Romana Bachmann, and a Fran Kirby effort sealed an emphatic victory for the Blues, with the only hope from the Gunners coming from Vivianne Miedema’s low strike in the 73rd minute.

But does this mean women’s game is becoming a prominent force in British sport?

Not quite. WNOL’s, Lee Pearson and Adam Kirkman went to Wembley to ask the general public whether they knew about the final.


Only two of the ten people they asked knew the game was going ahead with Luke, 23, saying, “I do know it is be playing played this weekend, I didn’t know it was tomorrow.”

Tickets sales are expected to increase, with sales continuing until kick-off. Prices for the game are £15 for adults, £5 for concessions and free for children, with the FA trying to expand the prominence of the women’s game.

Henry, 24, said of these prices “If I knew it was £15 or even a fiver for me I would go down for something to do on a Saturday afternoon, but I have made plans for tomorrow.”

Asked why this was he said; “He said I think the women’s game doesn’t get enough media attention, if this was the men’s final people would know a month in advance, I think they could do something where the women play closer to the men’s final.”

Another first will be carved out to celebrate both teams journey’s to Wembley, in addition to the record attendance, with the first ever all female Subbuteo game being produced.

Lindsey Robinson Refereed the derby who will be celebrating her tenth year as professional.

Speaking to the FA website before the game she said: “To perform at Wembley is a dream for a referee as much as it is a player. I’ve enjoyed my season and I think I’ve done all right so I guess that has been reflected in this appointment.”

Both teams joined the competition in the fourth round, with Arsenal beating Yeovil, Millwall, Charlton and Everton, whilst Chelsea have overcome the London Bees, Doncaster Belles, Liverpool and Manchester City on their respective roads to Wembley.

Chelsea, who won the cup in 2015, got their revenge on their London rivals with game  shown on BBC One at 17:30 BST on Saturday 5th May.


Are Kolpak contracts taking English cricket a step back?

In recent weeks the scrutiny of a lacklustre England side on their travel’s has ramped up the pressure on the teams hierarchy, with calls for change being considered.

The first place to look would seemingly be the county game, but there appears to be a big stumbling block.

A severe lack of English talent coming through county ranks has cause for concern. Only Jack Leach, Liam Livingstone and a developing Mason Crane are in line to replace failures in the batting line-up and spin departments, with no real exciting fast-paced bowlers waiting in the wings to take the reigns of James Anderson when he eventually retires.


Mason Crane bowling in his first test against Australia in the final game of the 2017/18 Ashes series in Sydney.

Why is this?

Well, a number of county sides have taken advantage of Kolpak contracts, allowing them to sign seasoned professionals of the world game, instead of looking towards their academies.

WNOL’s Lee Pearson investigates why this is happening and the affects it has on all parties involved.

What are Kolpak contracts and how did they come about?

In 2000 Slovakian professional handball player Maros Kolpak was ejected from second division side TSV Ostringen because they had more than two non-EU players in their squad. Kolpak had been residing in Germany and working legally due to the Association Agreement between Slovakia and the EU.

But under the Bosman ruling, the German Handball Association said he was not under Rule 15, and had no rights. The case was referred to the European Court of Justice who ruled in favour of Kolpak, as it restricted his rights for freedom of movement to work under the Association Agreement.

This ruling, in 2003, allowed sportsmen and women, whose country had this agreement in place, to work legally in EU countries without having to count towards the overseas quota. Sports such as cricket and rugby, who have caps on foreign players, are most affected by this rule.

How do non-EU players obtain such contracts?

Former South African cricketer Alan Wilkins explains to Cricbuzz why non-EU players are allowed to sign such contracts and the reason behind the increase.

Why do players go down this route? 

Security. Players like David Weise (Sussex), the aforementioned Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbot (Hampshire) along with Hardus Viljoen (Derbyshire) all chose Kolpak’s instead of continuing their international careers because of the quota system in South Africa limits their selection.

“I don’t want to regret sitting here in 12 months time where everyone is fit again and i’m wearing a bib and I’m 30,”

Having a long-term contract, receiving a consistent salary, keeps them stable for life away from cricket. Kyle Abbot in his press conference last year said; “If you want to buy me groceries in ten years time you’re more than welcome to . I have bills to pay and groceries.”

“Ever since I started playing professional cricket at 19, there has been a quota system. I have grown-up with it. I’ve never used it as an excuse and will not now.”

But the quota system does have some part to play. The rules state that six players have to be of non-white dissent, two of which have to be black, limiting opportunity to use his talents for the Proteas.

“I don’t want to regret sitting here in 12 months time where everyone is fit again and i’m wearing a bib and I’m 30,” Abbot continued, “I want to show loyalty now, to Hampshire, to hopefully have future beyond playing cricket.”

No one can blame them for turning their backs on their country for future security, but this leaves others with less secure futures in the game.

a slice of history

The impact on the county game?

The counties that utilise the Kolpak rule seem to haven forgotten the players in their academies.

“I was given one game to show what I could do. Can you call that a chance?”

“I was falling out of love with the game. The demands, lack of stability and stress all took its toll” Jake Goodwin, 20, former Hampshire academy player told WNOL.

“I was given false hope that I would be getting games in the first team, whilst they knew Kolpak’s were going to be placed in front of me. I was given one game to show what I could do. Can you call that a chance?”

Jake scored 32 off 29 balls opening the batting in his one and only chance to impress against Somerset in the 2016 Natwest Blast, “I could have scored more, should have. But trying to the up the anti, I got stumped. We won the game, I didn’t feel out of place, I was expecting more game time in 2017.”


Jake playing in a Hampshire 2’s T20 game against Northamptonshire 2’s at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton

But that never came, instead Rilee Rossouw walked through the door demoting Jake further down the pecking order, “I knew that dented my chances, Tom (Allsop) had scored heavily and Rilee is world class, I was resigned to playing second team cricket. I felt a bit down and my scores suffered.”

“I guess it was a question of timing, if it was one year earlier I think I would have had a proper chance. I know I’m not the only one, we can’t sit and wait 3-4 years to not have a career, I thought it was best to leave.”

Even Jake’s former coach at Swindon Cricket Club, Chris Mabberley, thinks Kolpak contracts have gone too far, “The state of the game overall – including Kolpak’s- played a big part in my decision (to stop coaching).”

“You can see what I think on twitter, Kolpaks suffocate the game in this country, you don’t see Australia or South Africa allowing our has beens to play in their leagues.”

And it remains a wonder how many more talents are being shunned by counties? Is the increase of Kolpak cricketers actually improving county cricket for the long run? Will Brexit intervene or will it remain a problem long-term, shutting down the conveyor belt for young, talented English players that could potentially be mainstays for the national side?


Small changes could mean big differences to 2018 Formula One season

The 2017 Formula One season saw the gap between ‘the big three’ close, with Vettel and Ferrari giving Hamilton and Mercedes a few scares in the race for the drivers’ championship.

We expected Ferrari to come back fighting, but the rate at which they have seemingly closed the difference staggered many, so much so there is now talk of a three-way dog fight for this seasons title.

But a disrupted pre-season testing left us none the wiser, and with the season only a few days away, what can we expect from the 2018 F1 circus?

It seems fitting to begin with the most radical change for this season, with only three engines , instead of four, allowed per car for the season. This on the face of it seems minor, however, because there will be a staggering 21 races on the calendar this year, one less engine affects the strategy of all teams.

That fourth engine allowed teams to swap their systems every fifth race, (last season only had 20 races) now though it will be stretched to seven, meaning teams need to be savvier with their engine modes. Go too hard, run the risk of failures and collecting penalties down the line, go too conservative, risk being completely off the pace and nowhere.

This also brings other issues for teams, especially the developers. One fewer engine means less opportunity for power-unit upgrades throughout the season, meaning those with better management of their development programmes will benefit the most, from last season’s viewing this could favour Ferrari.

1511549761573Another addition that will quicken the pace and the drama is the introduction of two “new” compounds. A pink-walled hypersoft tyre will be introduced into the Pirelli range along with a superhard compound that will be orange, meaning the hard compound is now an icy-blue colour, providing potentially faster lap times, as softer compounds tend to run quicker.

The pitfall though for teams, is there will be more pit stops during a race, as soft compounds degrade quicker. This is an attempt F1 say to “reduce the number of one stops races”, putting strategy once again at the forefront of teams thinking such as; when to stop, which tyres will be better for the start and the end of a race, and of course an added opportunity to utilise the undercut, something Red Bull could be looking at to bridge the gap and Ferrari taking advantage of their superior tyre management to Mercedes.


Technical additions and restrictions will see the cars look slightly different for the 2018 season, with halos being the most noticeable attachment. The polycarbonate pillar, semi-circular in shape, will protect drivers from being hit by debris and lose wheels.

After the incidences involving Jules Bianchi at Suzuka in 2014 and Felipe Massa in 2009, it was inevitable that safety had to be updated. The halo, F1 representatives believe, will prevent such incidents happening again with it being able to take twice the cars weight in a crash, as well as deflecting loose debris.

Drivers though see this as an unnecessary change, affecting visibility, as a pillar comes right down the centre of their view, and spoils the aesthetics of the car. Haas driver, Kevin Magnussen, said last year, “”F1 cars aren’t meant to be ugly. That is the reason that a Ferrari is more exciting than a Mazda”, the same tone was taking by five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who when testing it, said it affected cornering speeds, due to the extra eight kilo-grams of weight.

T-wings and shark fins, however, have been outlawed by the FIA. Teams found a loophole in the regulations last year, exploiting the fact changes could be made round the engine covers and central wing, improving aerodynamics and air flow around the rear wing.

New regulations have meant teams have had to adapt their engine covers with only a small fin allowed instead of the big mounts of carbon seen on the 2017 models. Teams such as Williams, fell into the trap of designing their 2018 model as if it was going to be allowed, where Sauber, as seen in Austin last year, had planned ahead without the wing.

Another tweak in the regulation is trick suspensions. Last year Red Bull and Ferrari played around with their suspensions adding small links that altered the pushrod’s, allowing for the cars ride height to be adjusted when steered. Now the FIA stipulate that the height cannot vary by more than 5mm from lock to lock, this change benefits Mercedes with their car being slower through the corners than both Red Bull and Ferrari.

Other exciting prospects this season include the reintroduction of the French Grand Prix. After a ten-year absence, the Circuit Paul Richard in Le Castellet, which has had a 28-year layoff, will kick start a first for F1.


A summer extravaganza is set to whet the appetites of F1 fans worldwide, with a triple header of races running from June 24th to July 8th with the French, Austrian and the eagerly anticipated British Grand Prix, testing even the fittest of racers stamina and metal.

This is where new faces such as Frenchmen Charles Leclerc could struggle to keep up with the demands of F1. Ok, Leclerc stormed the Formula Two campaign last year, but if Sauber, now powered by Alfa Romeo, wants to climb the constructor’s championship, he must perform in all three for them to have a chance.

Although, when it comes to new young drivers all the attention turns to a 21-year-old Russian. Sergey Sirotkin, “the kid who prevented Robert Kubica’s return”, has taking the vacant Williams seat left by the retired Massa despite having a mixed record in the lower embers of the sport.

A topsy-turvy development, has seen Sirotkin not winning a single championship in his career to date, after his karting days. However, some may call this misfortune with the likes of Magnussen, Gasly, and Vandoorne all being that one-step further in their developments, and when the door seemed wide open in GP2 in 2016, it was quickly shut by new team Prema dominating the season.

There still remains question marks around the young Russian, and also in terms of championship race. The new regulations are set to close the gap further with race-day’s being more strategic whilst in the process making F1 that little bit more competitive.

The rocks and rolls of starting a band

We imagine that being in a band to be all sex, drugs, and booze. But for one young band member selling himself for sex was his stepping stone into the industry.

“In the bluntest possible wayRhys prostituted himself to a Scandinavian women for a hundred quid.”

James Cumner, 21, from the up and coming band, The Sulks, tells Westminster News Online of the rocks and rolls that come in getting a band off the ground.

“Her husband, now wants to kill him. He knew the road where he lived, luckily not the house, otherwise I fear he would be no more,” he says with an apprehensive look, “Rhys now lives in Brighton, so hopefully that is the last of that.”

“We are a band from Swindon, finding money is hard. We need to pay for a producer, recording studio, art work for the cover, and travel to gigs. What, or who, Rhys did helped fund most of the EP.”


The Sulks EP ‘Silence Is Only the Start’ front cover. Art Work by Rob Baker.

The other half has come from a campaign set up on Pledge Music, where people donate by buying merchandise and the EP before it has been released.

“We got lucky with that, we reached our target and a little bit more, if we hadn’t reached our target we would have got nothing.”

Reaching their target has allowed them to branch out away from their hometown of Swindon, “I’ve moved to London, Rhys to Brighton, my brother lives round the corner from me and Matt is at uni in London, it has worked out quite well.”

But the move came at a cost. “I can’t think of anything harder or more ruthless than sacking your best mate.”

“He was the co-founder of the band. His final dreams rested with the band,” he says solemnly looking down at his pint, “It just wasn’t working out, we needed commitment, the hours, sacrifice, everything. He wasn’t prepare to do it.”

“I regret none of it. In this business you have to be ruthless,” he says with a determination eyes.

“In a band it’s trying to build,” he says sighing looking up at the ceiling for the right words, “You need a foundation, we replaced ours with another foundation. We are now moving forward.”

And so it has proved. In the last few months The Sulks have been working on their new EP with producer Gordon Raphael, who has worked with bands like Blur, Radiohead, The Libertines and The Strokes.


The Sulks recording their ‘Silence Is Only the Start’, in Gordon’s recording studio in Northamptonshire.

“Nothing can prepare you for the moment. To work with someone who played a key role in the resurrection of Rock n’ Roll, especially when he comes to you. It’s special.”

“Walking in as a speccy ginger kid from Swindon with this alien of a man drinking his coconut milk was strange. He closes the blinds, tells everyone to fuck off and works with you one and one.”

“He is very creative and patient. He tells you in this soft American accent to try this try that, puts you in a scenario and asks to pour your heart and soul into it. He is a true perfectionist.”

Before working with Gordon, James says of the big influence his dad had on his progression.

“Dad wanted to live his dream through my brother and I. One day, I faked being ill to avoid going to school, instead of watching TV, he told me to a learn a song on guitar before he got home.”

“He is an honest bastard, which you do and you don’t need. He will tell me which songs he does and doesn’t like, he was like a mentor and a massive influence on where I am now.”

Although it is another family member that James dedicates his musical aspirations to; “I only starting writing songs because my grandad died, his dying wish was for me was learn to play piano, drums, guitar, and be in a band.”

“I used it as therapy. I repressed a lot of things, songs allowed me to let it all out, which helps.”

Such therapy was required when at 14 he was told he wasn’t good enough.

“My music teachers, Mrs Sutcliffe and Mrs Brown, said that I would never make it in music. I couldn’t read music and they said it was practically impossible.”

“I cannot wait for the day I get to a big festival or on TV and can say up yours, it would give me great satisfaction I proved them wrong.”

Their new EP is set for release on 16 April with all their last EP being taken down on 1 April which James says will be a relief once it is out.



“It was almost impossible to get it done. Scheduling was the main challenge with my brother working full time, Rhys having no money and Matt’s Uni we couldn’t find a time we were all free.”

“The only time we really got was 9pm to midnight, after work. We were all knackered and where our studios were it was a two hour commute back.”

Despite the struggles, their determination has seen them travel to Paris were James recalls looking out of their hotel window at the Eiffel Tower, “The best part was we were drunk, I just thought wow, we got ourselves here, this is our reward.”

“But, for me, the best moment, so far, was playing a gig in Brighton at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar. We were supporting The Blinders and the gig had sold out. We went to rehearsal, no one was coming through the door, we were expecting five people. We came out, a full 120 people were there it was buzzing.”

“It was the biggest crowd we had played to. It pumped us up. it got to the drum solo of the first song and my brother absolutely nails it. After the gig five six people came up and said we were better than The Blinders.”

But for The Sulks, the real hard work begins now.

“We have a second EP already written, we just need to rehearse, and find the time. Hopefully the first EP gets us out there enough, so we won’t have to prostitute ourselves again.”

You can hear The Sulks new EP, ‘Silence Is Only The Start’ on Apple Music, ITunes and Spotify on 16 Pril, with their next London gig April 5, at the New Cross Inn.

Or check out their Facebook page