Back to Brilliance

I finally caught Peter Jackson’s brilliant new Beatles’ film, Get Back, on Disney Plus. As you probably know, the film supplements the original Let it Be film (1970) with hours of previously unseen and re-mastered footage.

The results are incredible. You are immediately transported back 50 years and watch, first hand, the greatest band of all-time, at work in the studio. It’s almost like a time machine was built with the specific purpose of observing one of the most pivotal moments in music history.

Yes, Get Back charts the making of The Beatles’ final studio album (second last to be recorded, of course!) and all the attendant politicking and fall outs that happened in that turbulent period. I don’t think it’s a spoiler, though. to state that the film shows a much more complicated picture-that’s well documented at this stage.

You see plenty of bickering, of course, but you also see love, laughter, creativity and friendship. And yes, for most of it, Lennon and McCartney get on very well, thank you very much. At one stage George walks out, of course, but that aside, the atmosphere is much more convivial than previously portrayed.

Don’t get me wrong. The film is a long haul. I can’t see too many non-fans patiently sitting through it. There is a lot of sitting around jamming, talking nonsense and not doing very much else. The most absurd element is the endless debates about where the ‘concert’ would take place.

As many of you will know, the premise of the Get Back sessions (what became Let it Be) was to capture The Beatles live. The whole project was to be stripped back and without all the trademark multi-tracking and overdubbing that was the hallmark of previous albums. Back to basics and naked, if you like. All this was captured, as it happened in the studio, in documentary form.

The project was to end with a live concert where he band would perform the songs they created in the studio. This is where Jackson shows the latter day Beatles at their most excessive and absurd. There are interminable discussions over this concert venue. Everywhere on earth, it seems, from the Pyramids, to a ship, to Primrose Hill, and scores of other places, are mooted as possible venues.

It’s ridiculous. Hours of discussion over something that was never going to happen. For me, it highlights, arguably, how directionless the Beatles were in 1969. Imagine the biggest band in the world now working through a project like this without the slightest, coherent thought about the logistics of what was going to happen at the end of it?

Remember, The Beatles were already a phenomenon and yet the film shows this mega-entity essentially making their plans and logistics up as they went along. Actually, it shows how basically rudderless the band was following Brian Epstein’s death two years earlier. If the institution (and that’s what they were in ’69) was better protected/managed, perhaps they wouldn’t have imploded less than a year later?

For all that, it’s a joy to see them at work. The initial Twickenham Studio sessions are often portrayed as tough and uninspiring and the film does little to challenge that view. It’s in those early days that we see most of the tension and Harrison’s temporary walkout. There is little in that early, disjointed jamming to suggest classics were being created.

But as time progresses, we see the album take shape. Amidst all the tedium, we see great songs like Let it Be and Get Back written almost on the spot. It’s simply wonderful. We also see the transformation when Twickenham is abandoned for the more comfortable confines of the Apple Building on Saville Row. Things pick up further when the band is joined by its old friend, Billy Preston, on keyboards. That’s where the magic happens.

It ended on the roof, of course. After all that hype and speculation, The Beatles’ final live concert took place on the roof of Apple, with the police interrupting as they hoped. How perfect and apt an ending. And Jackson captures the brilliance, genius and significance of it all. It’s essential viewing for any Beatles fan.

Beatles’ fans can talk all day about how the band disintegrated shortly after or the way in which Spector changed the record into something it was never meant to be. But in watching this superb film, none of that matters. For a brief moment, the greatest band there ever was, standing atop the Apple Building, was united, defiant and where it was supposed to be. They were back.


Maiden Paradise

It may have escaped your attention but Iron Maiden released their 17th studio album, Senjutsu last month. Granted, hard rock isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The release hasn’t garnered as much attention as Adele’s upcoming new album, of course, but it’s a brilliant piece of work and well worth checking out.

I’ve been a Maiden fan for longer than I care to remember. I spent much of my teenage years in a state of semi-obsession with the band and devoured their work in minute detail. No matter that it was the most unfashionable thing on earth at the time. I had the Maiden bug and that was it. My fandom coincided with perhaps the lowest point in the band’s history, as contemporary trends left them far behind in the dance obsessed ’90s.

I still recall watching Maiden in a three-quarters’ full Maysfield Leisure Centre in 1996. That sums up their status at the time. Then the staggering revival happened. Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to the band in 1999, acting as the catalysts for a new era that’s seen unprecedented success. Maiden has now sold over 100 million copies of their albums and sit atop the pinnacle as bona fide rock giants. My teenage self scarcely believes it.

Therefore, the launch of a new record is an event. Maiden has become such a polished and refined act, new music is greeted with a mixture of expectation and nagging doubt: can they really deliver after all these years? In short, yes! Maiden always produce the goods and deliver emphatically again with Senjutsu.

The new album has everything we expect and oodles more. The heavy riffs and booming guitars are measured by beautiful melodies, layered vocals and distinctly softer interludes. It’s an eclectic piece. Modern Maiden has long championed its progressive and folksy influences, and the band takes that evolution to a new level here. Lost in a Lost World is a novel departure, while remaining essentially Maiden at the same time.

The first single, The Writing on The Wall is a fine track and deceptively brilliant. On first listen it’s a little unremarkable, but the song subsequently establishes itself with admirable persistence. Indeed, it gets better with every listen. And it’s different. More mainstream, perhaps, than we’re used to, the song undoubtedly makes best use of Iron Maiden’s peerless musical assets.

In fact, there isn’t a bad song on the album. The Time Machine initially seems silly and whimsical in conception, but is actually a fantastic song. Days of Future Past is a much shorter track and atypical of the overall album. It’s another change of pace, but in a good way and wouldn’t sound out of place on one of Bruce’s solo albums from the late ’90s.

There are other departures, too. Darkest Hour is a brooding ballad about, ahem, Winnie Churchill. Yes, you read that right. Only Maiden can do things like that and make it work! But there are other more dependable elements. Maiden’s trademark gallop is reassuringly audible in Stratego, while the album concludes with a trio of epics from Steve Harris.

The final three songs aren’t for the faint of heart, but are well worth the investment. They form a majestic wall of sound that plays around with virtually all of Maiden’s signature topics and themes, utilising every trick in their vast book. It is a simply wonderful conclusion.

I enjoy Maiden more than ever, but it wasn’t always like that. Indeed, as I got older and delved into bands like The Beatles, I viewed Maiden as a little anachronistic and immature by comparison. What adult wants to listen to songs about medieval battles, mythology and movies? I drifted away for a time. But you know what? I was right the first time! Iron Maiden are superb and profoundly under appreciated for the brilliance of their work.

Actually, Maiden are the sort of act that you appreciate better with age. Indeed, it takes a little maturity to fully appreciate the intricacy, complexity and melodic consistency of their music. And, after all these years, they get bigger and better. Senjutsu charted Maiden’s best ever ranking on the Billboard 200 and they were only beaten to the UK no.1 album spot by a whisker, by Drake, on the new album’s release. Remarkable. Maiden’s Somewhere in Time album contains an epic about Alexander The Great. Alexander purportedly wept because he had no worlds left to conquer. In 2021, the same is true of Iron Maiden.

PS The United Rugby Championship has started. It’s early days, but already it’s plain to see that whatever problems pan-Celtic rugby has, the South African sides aren’t the answer. These are good players, but taken out of their cultural home and environment, they’re struggling to make an impact. It’s sad to see if rather predictable. Back to the drawing board?


Wounded Pride

So, the Lions are back home after an underwhelming and flat series defeat in South Africa. On the bare facts of it, it wasn’t a disgrace by any means. In a Lions’ context, a 2-1 reverse is far from a disaster. However, the nature of the performances bristled.

It was a hard watch. After hammering poor provincial opposition, the Lions failed to sparkle in the four matches that mattered: South Africa ‘A’ and the three Tests. Little was created of note and the Springboks’ defence was never tested in a meaningful sense. A couple of decent maul tries scored but that’s it. Not much else.

There are extenuating circumstances, of course. South Africa was ravaged by Covid long before BIL and the boys came to town and the country’s vaccination programme lags behind our own. There are real questions over whether the tour should have gone ahead at all. There were viable alternatives. But that’s another matter.

It proceeded as planned but, alas, the rugby didn’t excite. The offering on the pitch was not just sterile but actually quite tedious. Keith Wood is right in his blunt assessment. We can’t blame the Springboks. SA have played the exact same way for well over a century. The Lions were never going to overcome rugby’s most brutal side in an arm wrestle and standing toe-to-toe.

The Lions needed to invent. And they didn’t. Not even a little bit. It was rugby by numbers. And gee, it was flat. It took about ten minutes of the recent Bledisloe Cup game to remind us that it doesn’t have to be this way. There were anomalies in selection, too.

Duhan van der Merwe is a decent, hard working player but out of place in a Lions Test team. And the exclusion of Owen Farrell makes little sense. On the biggest of stages, Test match animals are needed and Farrell fits the fill: a big game player and a leader. Even marginally out of sorts, he offers something tangible to any squad he’s in.

Selection aside, the biggest impediment to success was the style. Too often the Lions kicked down the hosts’ throats and engaged in the sort of hoof-fest the Boks lap up. And they went there repeatedly, even when palpably not working. Talk about playing into the other side’s strengths. The Lions only opened up with Finn Russell’s premature introduction in the third Test following Dan Biggar’s injury. But it was too little, too late. The opportunity was lost.

In the end, the mystery is how close the Lions came to pulling it off. Because this wasn’t a vintage crop and the tourists were too far off the pace to seriously threaten the world champions. Yes, they had their moments and just completing the tour in such tough circumstances was impressive, but the better side won. No doubt.

Actually, it wasn’t a vintage tour. If looking for keenly fought competition and tactical innovation this summer, Love Island delivered more consistently. At least, the action heated up at times!

P.S. The other big sporting event of summer 2021 was the Euros. And it nearly came home, against all the odds. In the end, England fell a little short but played well and are rightly proud of their efforts. And their likeable, humble manager, Gareth Southgate, played a blinder too.

What struck me most following England’s penalty loss to Italy was how quickly fans and commentators turned against the England coach. It was not just quick but instant. A manager and team hailed as heroes moments before condemned by a merciless and unforgiving online jury. Sport is a fickle place sometimes.


Uniting Jack

I just caught up with the documentary, Finding Jack Charlton that aired on BBC 2 last week. If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth a butcher’s. The film recounts Charlton’s extraordinary contribution to Irish football (and Irish society in general), as well as providing previously unseen footage of Big Jack’s final months as he battled dementia.

It works well as a piece of nostalgia, but the film offers so much more than that. For, in modern Irish history, Charlton is a truly remarkable figure. Prior to his record breaking tenure, the Republic of Ireland had not qualified for a major tournament. Indeed, the 26-county team was the poor relation of the Irish football sides, Northern Ireland qualifying for the World Cup finals as recently as 1986.

By the time Charlton left the role, the Republic had qualified for two World Cup finals (famously reaching the quarter-finals in Italia ’90) and a European Championships. It’s an incredible turn of fortunes and testament to the sheer force of personality and charisma Charlton typified. It’s hard to imagine anyone else leading such an unlikely revolution.

Of course, Big Jack’s football was pragmatic and functional rather than a purist’s dream. The end justified the means, for sure, but any manager can only work with the resources at his disposal. The use of the ‘granny rule’ was equally controversial, albeit ahead of its time-rightly or wrongly-in international sport.

Charlton’s Ireland weren’t Brazil, but I think memory deceives us a little in that regard. Italia ’90 is the first major tournament I can remember as a kid. That Irish team was better than it ever got credit for.

But on-field progress was only a fraction of what Charlton brought to Irish football. He also provided (and this is clearly seen in the documentary) mentorship to a generation of Irish footballers. This is especially visible in Charlton’s relationship with the brilliant but troubled Paul McGrath. The most poignant part of the film shows Charlton, his memory now cruelly restricted by his condition, recognising McGrath in footage of Irish football’s golden era.

There’s also the intangible contribution those Irish sides made to the country at large. Without resorting to cliché, we know the sort of Ireland Big Jack came to when he took the reins in the 1980s. Rife unemployment, economic insularity and social conservatism were all still prevalent. The Troubles were at their height in the North. By the time Jack left, the country was transformed.

There’s much to explain the changes. So much happened. Internationalism, U2, secularisation of society, the peace process, and the genesis of the Celtic Tiger. Of course, we can over egg the pudding about how much Big Jack and his army contributed to any of that. But it’s equally wrong to underestimate the contribution. For Jack Charlton, and the football teams he created, undoubtedly helped change Ireland in a profoundly positive way.

It was remarked often after his death last year that Charlton was probably the first Englishman that the Irish really took to their hearts sincerely. A World Cup winner in 1966 that became an Irish institution. If he did nothing else, that’s a wonderful legacy. Actually, Big Jack Charlton was much more than that.

A unifying figure who brought hope to an island bereft of hope when he came. Someone who transcended national and geographical boundaries to deliver fantastic memories for the Irish people: sports fans and non sports fans alike. A Geordie who brought pleasure to a nation that his Irish peers could only dream of.

P.S. I’ve just finished James Haskell’s autobiography. I wasn’t sure what to make of it when I started but thoroughly enjoyed it. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but Haskell is that rarest of things in the modern game: a character. Through the years, rugby had its personalities. It’s one of the things that sets it out from other sports.

However, increasingly in the modern game, players come across as almost robotic; shorn of personalities or at least shielding their real personalities in favour of carefully constructed public images. You couldn’t accuse Haskell of that.

The book is a decent yarn that covers a good cross section of modern rugby history. And it’s hilarious. Without spoiling, he describes a bizarre photo shoot that took place after he signed for Stade Francais and his retelling of the episode had me literally laughing out loud!

The book is full of nice stories and anecdotes like that, although it’s not for the easily offended. Well worth a read for any rugby fans looking for a light hearted but interesting sports book.


Redemption Required

As we survey the first two rounds of the Six Nations, Ireland find themselves in a tight spot. Two games played, two losses is not a good stat, but it’s the manner of the defeats that concerns. Andy Farrell’s men have been no better than mediocre and although there’s plenty of endeavour, stardust is pretty thin on the ground.

Most worrying of all is the listless nature of Irish performances and the inability to score tries. There was, at least, a semblance of attacking shape in Ireland’s opening loss to Wales and the visitors played quite well until Peter O’Mahony’s moment of madness tilted the game in Wales’s favour. In fact, Ireland’s performance with 14 men was pretty spirited, in fairness.

However, even then, Farrell’s men only managed one try. If Irish underperformance was understandable in that context, the French game last week was a severe regression. In terms of attacking ideas, Ireland were virtually non-existent, the only innovation being, err, the tactical novelty that is the Garryowen!

If you didn’t know better, you’d swear it was mid-nineties’ fare. And despite the tactic clearly not working, Billy Burns and his outside backs kept coming back to it-the definition of insanity and all that.

Speaking of Burns, the Ulster ten showed again that he is slightly lacking at the highest level. Don’t get me wrong, Ireland’s reserve fly-half is a decent provincial player who’s done fine things for his club these past couple of seasons.

But he is not yet equipped to boss and dominate a Six Nations encounter at this elite level. Ditto Ross Byrne. Ross’s brother Harry may be the heir apparent, but throwing a supremely talented young fella in at the deep end isn’t the answer either.

So, what does that leave us with? Johnny Sexton! Sexton remains Ireland’s best ten by a country mile, even in the autumn of his career. And that’s a disconcerting thought.

Ireland’s best ever ten has to retire at some stage, but the thought is currently inconceivable given the lack of viable contenders for the throne. Until Joey Carbery returns, there just isn’t an alternative anything close to the same level.

That said, it’s unfair to highlight individuals in discussing Ireland’s lack of creative spark. Farrell has been in the top job for well over a year now and yet his vision is hard to discern.

A brilliant assistant and defence coach, what does an Andy Farrell side look like? What are the hallmarks? We’re still not sure. Yes, there’s plenty of huff, puff and toil, but what’s the grand plan? Integral to all this is Mike Catt.

An unlikely choice, maybe, as attack coach, Catt’s vision is also proving elusive. Apart from his stellar playing career, Catt’s coaching resume is limited, bar a spot on Stuart Lancaster’s doomed England coaching ticket, and a support role with Conor O’Shea’s Italy in recent seasons.

We’ve discussed before the lack of superstars in Ireland’s current panel, but a lack of ambition is altogether harder to defend. Catt may yet prove to be brilliant, but it’s been a baptism of fire so far.

In terms of proving his credentials, however, Ireland’s next opponents, Italy (a side Catt obviously knows well), is a decent place to start!

And that’s the problem for Ireland. The Six Nations is all about momentum and after two rounds, Farrell’s men are playing catch up. Italy will fancy their chances of upset, but even an uninspiring Ireland should have enough to get the job done.

But even then, Ireland still finish with two really tough games: a revitalised Scotland away and then old enemy England at home. Who’d be in Farrell’s shoes?!

And that’s the catch-22. Ireland’s coach needs to experiment a little and spread his wings. He also needs to roll the dice in terms of selection. After all, the World Cup is only two years away.

But he also needs to win or he’ll lose his job. That’s why the Wigan great has so little room for manoeuvre. It’s the tightest of balancing acts.

This is the ultimate transition phase. As anyone who followed Ireland in the late nineties knows, transition phases are zero craic. For what it’s worth, I think Ireland will regroup and recover well.

They may even win all three remaining games. But Farrell needs performances to match. Now, more than ever, his players need to stand up and be counted for him.

P.S. I’ve just finished the comedian, David Baddiel’s new book, Jews Don’t Count. It makes for a fascinating, if at times, uncomfortable read. Nominally about anti-Semitism, Jews Don’t Count focuses on the blind spot held by many progressives in discussing the issue compared to other forms of racism.

It is extremely thought provoking and challenging for anyone not from a Jewish background. It forces us to confront some truths which are difficult to acknowledge. But it’s an important work and everyone, regardless of political persuasion, should read it. It is essential reading. I’m glad I did and it’s helped me look inwards-in a really good way!


An Injection of Dog

Don’t know about anyone else, but I’m quite underwhelmed by rugby at the moment. I know it’s a necessary evil, but the sight and sound of empty stadiums just doesn’t do it for me. I must confess I’ve watched very little action recently and struggle to keep up with developments.

However, some recent news genuinely excites me. The appointment of Paul O’Connell as the Irish forwards coach is a masterstroke by the IRFU. Just when the titan of all titans seemed lost to the professional sport in Ireland, we have a welcome if unexpected addition to Andy Farrell’s coaching ticket. A wonderful bit of business.

The Limerick man is a colossal leader and adds significant value to any team he’s part of. A terrific orator, of course, and a genuinely hard man, the former Irish captain is a figure that inspires respect and fear in equal measure among opponents. But that’s only part of it. O’Connell is a much more intelligent and thoughtful individual than many realise, and brings a huge amount of intellectual property to the set-up.

As a player, O’Connell was renowned for his endless hours dissecting opposition lineouts prior to games. He has a marvellous rugby brain, for sure. That said, the big man is still a scary and intimidating presence these days. I saw him at close quarters at Ravenhill a couple of years ago coming up the stairs and can confirm that Paul is a bear of a man.

I like also that Farrell is keeping Simon Easterby on the ticket. The two will work well together; reprising a relationship they had as Irish players who excelled at the set-piece from a tactical perspective. It’s actually quite an All Blacks’ move and reminiscent of Steve Hansen rejigging the roles and responsibilities in his brains trust a few years back. Keeping everyone on their toes. Irish rugby maximising the resources at its disposal.

Of course, in an ideal world, O’Connell would serve a longer apprenticeship before being catapulted into the unforgiving cauldron of Test rugby; preferably as head coach of Munster. We know from the bitter experience of Martin Johnson, the perils of cutting your international coaching teeth too early. But you have to take these opportunities when they arise. It’s undoubtedly a clever move by David Nucifora and the IRFU.

O’Connell will galvanise, motivate and organise the Irish forwards but will do so much more. For this is the return of a talismanic figure who will instil the ingredients the Irish pack has been missing these past couple of years. Expect Ireland’s maul, ruck and, of course, lineout (both offensively and defensively) to be significantly better with O’Connell calling the shots.

It’s exciting too to think of James Ryan’s future development under O’Connell’s mentorship. In my last blog, I spoke of a certain lack of ‘dog’ in the current Irish pack. The savvy appointment of Paul O’Connell goes a long way to fixing the problem.


State Of The Union

As another year ends (as crazy a year as any of us can remember), we’re all in a bit of a reflective mood. This is as true in rugby as anything else. In a year that’s seen matches cancelled, competitions curtailed and fans exiled, the sport, at all levels, finds itself asking some existential questions. If that sounds hyperbolic, it’s also true of the unique times rugby finds itself in.

So, perhaps we can give Andy Farrell a bit of a bye-ball as we survey the first full year of his tenure. Given all that’s happening in the world, normal standards don’t apply, right? True. Except time stands still for no-one and for the ever keen and motivational Farrell, the honeymoon period is over. Now, more than ever, coaches must find a way to deliver and garner revenue for their employers in rugby’s darkest hour, financially.

And it’s not gone too badly. Irish performances under their head coach have been creditable. Results have been on the upper end of what we expect. Yes, England have remained frustratingly out of reach with their slick, power game, but most other opponents have been within Ireland’s reach. As regards England, they just have a stronger team at present. These things go in cycles.

More worrying, is the apparent inability of the Irish pack to dominate the biggest games at the highest level. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a truly dominant performance-probably the last time was Ireland’s historic win over the ABs at the Aviva in 2018. The likes of Caelan Doris and James Ryan are superb young players, with massive potential, but you sense a lack of dog in the current squad. Where are the Paul O’Connells in today’s crop? Then again, such legends only emerge once a generation.

And that’s the rub. Farrell and his coaches can only work with the raw materials at their disposal. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, how many current Ireland players would get into a World XV and/or a Lions starting XV? How many are at that level? I can think of: Ringrose, Ryan and Furlong (when fit). There aren’t too many others. Alas Sexton and Murray, while still very important, are past their peak at this stage of their Test careers. Sad but true, I think.

Considering the above, has Farrell delivered or fluffed his first year? I’ve seen some criticism of the lack of evolution in playing style since Schmidt left. Not entirely fair. There’s been new patterns on display and, at least, an intent to play with more width and invention. Although Ireland’s attack had got so blunt at the end of the Schmidt era, it’s hard to go backwards in that regard! As discussed, results have been okay and the coaches can only work with the players they have.

The jury is still out in terms of whether Farrell is the right man for Ireland at this juncture. Remember, this is his first head coach gig in what is, to all intents and purposes, his second sport. It’s easy to forget that! And a man so passionate, driven and ambitious is almost certainly worth sticking with; at least in the short term.

Maybe a deeper truth emerges. We can now appreciate how Joe Schmidt over achieved with this group of players in recent years. The golden generation is long gone and the nucleus of Schmidt’s team is past its peak for those that have not retired. I hate the term, but this is a transitional phase. Perhaps expectations should be corrected on that basis.

P.S. It’s been a strange old year for everyone. 2020 is like the year that never got going. It started normally enough, but then took a turn none of us predicted. It’s been tough, weird and interesting. A period that none of us will forget. And we’re not out of it yet, of course. 2021 offers hope but there’s no guarantee it’ll be better, at least not for a while. Lockdown, as tough as it is, teaches us a lot about what’s really important. Despite the challenges, it’s quite nice being cocooned with our nearest in dearest-in small doses anyway!

With the Covid vaccine being rolled out, we at last have hope things will return to the normality we all remember prior to March of this year. How we all crave that! This isn’t a usual end of year reflection. So much to digest and process from 2020. My lesson? The vast majority that worries us is irrelevant in the great scheme of things. We spend so much of our lives fretting and worrying about stuff that doesn’t really matter. I believe we’ve all woken up a bit this year. It’s the little things that count.

Happy New Year!


Cobra Kai Never Dies!

Don’t know if any of you have seen the new series, Cobra Kai, on Netflix. I approached it with slight doubt but thoroughly enjoyed the series. Much more than I expected, in fact.

We all grew up with the story of The Karate Kid, Daniel Larusso, the outsider kid from New Jersey who moves to Reseda in California. His story of bullying and redemption is instantly familiar. A whole generation of boys, this writer included, grew up with Karate Kid as their favourite movie.

Ostensibly, a typical ’80s movie of good guys versus bad, I watched it recently and the film is actually much more nuanced than that. The portrayal of bullying is very realistic-as is the truism that the bully backs down the minute you stand up to him.

Also bucking the trend in a era of cringe-worthy excess, the hero of the piece is not a muscle bound All-American, but a 60 year-old Japanese man. Just another reason to love the movie.

Cobra Kai has an altogether different conceit. Some 34 years later, Larusso is a successful car dealer struggling for balance in his life. Circumstances contrive him to be reacquainted with his nemesis from all those years ago, Johnny Lawrence.

The ensuing years have not been kind to Lawrence. We see him as troubled and disturbed, but fundamentally a good guy. It’s an interesting inversion from the original films.

As well all know, the central pillar of bullying is power. Power, and the abuse of it, is what makes bullying possible. That’s the essence of it. In the original film and its sequels, privileged Lawrence holds the power over poor kid, Larusso.

However, Cobra Kai neatly twists the relationship by making Daniel the powerful one; the successful businessman to Johnny’s down and out character. It’s an interesting role reversal.

The progression of the series plays out the complex relationship between these two well meaning, but flawed individuals.

The rivalry is exacerbated when Johnny coaches a young karate student who ends up dating Daniel’s daughter. The picture is complicated further when Daniel becomes the sensei of Lawrence’s son.

It’s a complicated dynamic and it’s unclear who the good guys are. In the rebooted version, who is the Mr Miyagi figure? Is it Larusso or is Lawrence? By the end of the second season, it’s still not clear.

In truth, both the main protagonists are revealed to be flawed and difficult individuals, each capable of acts of kindness and poor judgement in equal measure.

Neither cover themselves in glory despite their evidently good intentions. In Cobra Kai, unlike its predecessor, it’s not a matter of black and white but muddy shades of grey.

Of course, there are ridiculous moments in the series and some of the fight scenes are downright silly. But there’s a depth and warmth to the series that can’t help but captivate. It’s good stuff.

This is a tv show with plenty of heart and drama, not to mention its fair share of comedy. It’s well worth a watch if you’ve any nostalgia for the movies. You’ll not be disappointed.

P.S. Ireland finish yet another Six Nations campaign in an underwhelming manner. So much potential, but yet the same old story at the end. Criticism will be aimed at Farrell, of course, but it’s misguided.

For all the talk of Irish depth in recent years, how many world class players do Ireland actually have? How many are Lions starters or World XV pedigree? Not too many. Just goes to show, yet again, what an incredible job Joe Schmidt did in overachieving with this group.