These are a range of different articles, inspired by Rory's interests.

Rob Purdie talks promotion, the club's future, and becoming a fireman

Published April 20, 2018

Rob Purdie Penalty

NEVER has a football team risen from the ashes with such dominance and desire, after having previously seen much dismay and despair.

From playing in League One in the 2008-09 season, to reforming and competing in the West Midlands Premier League (the ninth tier of English football) in less than a decade is not what the masses would consider progress. However, one of the two remaining players to see both of these times assures me that life at Hereford has never been better, and after scoring the goal on Tuesday (17th) to secure Hereford FC’s third straight championship promotion, it is hard to disagree.  

“I loved the club then, but it is just better now”, said Hereford veteran and goal scorer, Rob Purdie.

“Obviously with what has happened, dropping leagues and what have you, it’s been a huge change, but I loved the club when I was here before and things have just moved on for the better.

“But deep down, it’s the same club really. I feel the same walking out onto the pitch now as I did with Hereford United.

“The connection between those fans, the boardroom, to the manager, to the players, it’s just massive and helped us achieve greatly.

After walking out onto the pitch for the 451st time, Purdie stepped up to score from the spot against Biggleswade; a goal that proved to be the decider and won him his fourth promotion affiliated with Hereford.

“Lance missed a penalty a few weeks back. Symmo missed one on Saturday which I actually wanted to take, but to be fair to him, he hadn’t missed one before – so I knew I was going to be on them against Biggleswade”, Purdie told me.

“The keeper played a few mind games with me.

“He told me he’d seen my penalties before, but he has no idea who I am so he hadn’t, and he gave himself away.

“He was so hyped up to save the penalty, I knew he was going to go down early so it was comfortable enough to put straight down the middle.

“I was confident in the boys that we were going to be fine and push on further, but we are so solid at the back with getting clean sheets, at one goal we knew we were going to be alright.”

The Bulls now play their last three remaining games as champions of the Southern League Premier Division, hoping to stretch their current 104 points, to 113.

“It’s a bit of a shame that we had to win the last three leagues away from home to be honest with you, and on a Tuesday night you can’t really do much afterwards.

“We had a couple of beers on the way home but it is nice to just get it over with because our last three games are pretty tough.

“Kettering at home on Saturday, Hitchin away, and then St Ives which won’t be an easy game.

“It’s nice to get it done and dusted, though. Not to relax, but just get it done and enjoy these last three games.

“Saturday will be one of the toughest games we’ve got this season.

“It’s massive for whoever gets the home advantage in the play-offs, so they’re going to want to win.

“They’ve also got the added incentive of trying to beat us and spoil our promotion party, so they’ll be going all out and they’re in good form as well, so it’s going to be tough.

“But we’ll just approach it the same way we always do, to win the game.

“We won’t take any liberties just because we’ve won the league.

Since rising as a phoenix club in 2015, Hereford FC can not only boast three successive promotions, something only done by six other clubs in history, but also three successive championships, something never done before. Furthermore, they achieved all three promotions with over 100 points and 100 goals.

In their inaugural season, they reached the FA Vase final at Wembley Stadium, a game where Purdie was Hereford’s only goal scorer from 25 yards. With all of this under his belt, Purdie now looks to the future for both club and career.

 “Next year will be a harder transition for the boys than previously and we’ll aim to do as well as we can, for promotion, but it might take a couple of years to plan things this time.

“But just surviving is out the question. I think finishing in the top 10 would be an okay season, as long as there was a push for promotion at some point.

“Beadle is massive on going into every game wanting to win, and he drills that into us which is why we’ve got this winning mentality.

 “If we get it right, get the right couple of signings and the lads progress then we’ve got every chance. Whether or not I’ll be in the setup, I’m not sure.”

Now, at 35 and coming to the end of his career, Purdie reluctantly concedes that his time at his beloved Hereford may be coming to an end.

“I honestly don’t know where I’ll be. I’ve got a new job with the fire service now which is going to massively impact my commitment, and a club like this needs commitment.

“It’s especially hard when I’m feeling so good and playing well at the moment, my body isn’t telling me stop, plus my fitness has only got better since I’ve been training with the service, they’re helping each other.

“I said to Beadle I’d sit down with him once we’d won the league and if there’s a place for me here as a player, or coach or whatever, then yeah and if not, well, there you go.

“It’s 50/50 whether I’ll be here next year I think.

“I’ve got all my shifts already and I’ve looked at it and thought well I might not be able to play a game in this month or that month.

“I’ve landed on my feet in terms of the job, though. I’ve had a good day with my crew so I’m in a team again, and it’s a job I’ve always got to adapt and develop in.

“Me, my wife, our little girl, and we’ve got a little boy on the way in June, are so happy I’ve got it, as a lot of footballers struggle once their playing career has finished.

“So that’s my next 30 years now. But, to say you’ve been a professional footballer and a fireman in your life, well those are two pretty cool jobs if you ask me.”

Rob Purdie Celebrates

Growing up with divorced parents

Published January 16, 2018

Robotic AI

“It was nothing but heartbreak. [It was] One of, if not the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in my life", my good friend, Tom, confessed to me. 

One gloomy Friday night in 1998 is all it took for Thomas Dale’s childhood to freeze in time. What started off as an average day at school took a drastic turn in a way he could have never expected. A night that started off upbeat and cheerful, one which looking back, he realises was just a front for the pain that followed, ended quite the opposite.

“I don’t remember an awful lot about life in general back then; I was five – but that day is something I’ll never forget.

“I got out of my dad’s car after school and went into the house – thinking about it, it’s things like that which you take for granted. That was the last time I ever got picked up from school by my dad, the last time we’d ever stop at the shop to get my favourite sweets on a Friday.

“I got inside and I remember eating my then favourite pizza, Hawaiian. Something, which funnily enough, I now cannot stand.

“They sat me down and explained they hadn’t been getting on recently and were separating. ‘I’m sorry’ were their final words before waiting for me to say something.

“I knew it had nothing to do with me but I couldn’t help but feel it was something I’d done. I just burst into tears and ran out the room.”

In 1998, along with Tom’s, another 145,000 households went through a divorce, whilst last year saw 106,959 marriages end the same way.

Tom, now 24 and studying Sports Coaching at Staffordshire University, tells me how he thinks the tender age of five is the worst age to be when parents get divorced. Having matured enough to realise it’s a sorrowful, yet common occurrence, his voice softens as if not to break during speech.

“The hardest thing, as I guess it is with most children going through something like this, is why?

“I was old enough to understand they wouldn’t be together anymore, but too young to comprehend why.

“At that age it doesn’t take a lot for parents to hide their true feelings for each other and shelter you from all the arguments. I get why, but if anything that just made the inevitable harder to deal with.”

According to the latest government statistics, 55,323 parents divorced in 2013, happening most frequently when the child is between five to 10-years-old. This left nearly 100,000 children under the age of 16 with separated parents.

“It’s always a hard thing to talk about. Just like whenever you’ve been through something that someone else hasn’t it’s hard for them to fully understand.

“But like all things in life, it has moulded me into who I am today. Thankfully I get on with them both well and after knowing how some children come out of something like this, I’m very grateful.”

It may be comforting to know that after the peak of divorces in 2003, the rate has slowly been on the decline. 58% of marriages today will not end in divorce, with 10% reaching their diamond wedding anniversary (60 years). However, coming from a home inside that now 58%, I can’t help but sympathise with the children in the remaining 42.

Robotic AI and what the future holds

Published December 16, 2017

Robotic AI

The year’s 2040, you need some shopping and order it online. Five minutes later, it arrives at your door by a robot courier in a driverless car, so lifelike you almost invite it in. This may sound like a distant dream only to be seen in the likes of ‘Black Mirror’ or ‘Ex Machina’, but as technology advances, this is only becoming more and more of a possibility.

In the sixties is seemed a forgone conclusion that by 2015 we would be driving hover-cars and be living on the moon. The future is near impossible to predict, but what is the likelihood of robots becoming too much for humans to handle?

It was only in July this year, social media giant Facebook had to shut down a pair of its AI agents named Alice and Bob due to them creating their own language, untranslatable to humans.

“There was no reward to sticking to the English language,” Dhruva Batra, Facebook researcher, told FastCo.

“Agents will drift off understandable language and invent code words for themselves.”

Humans have always been self-destructive throughout history, but when will we realise this is becoming a step too far? Many scientists, including Professor Stephen Hawking, predict that in as little as 20 years robots will be able to do practically every job done by humans. Robots are already replacing humans in many day-to-day jobs and it can only get worse.

There are obvious benefits of having robots around, however. For example, in a study done by Showa University in Yokohama, Japan, robots could detect cancerous cells with 94% accuracy in less than a second by matching cell growth against over 30,000 images. Robot carers are already being tested to look after the elderly and put less pressure on care homes worldwide, and a government competition backed by £2m has been launched for people to innovate technology that could help keep the public safe in high terrorism threats. Nevertheless, after showing their intelligence, giving robots this much power in our world can inevitably only lead to one thing.

The robot versus human ideology is already well and truly in practice, and this type of takeover could start with seemingly harmless interactions. In the early 1990’s, the idea to create a socially integrating campaign to boost the public’s robotic awareness was thought of. The football Robocup concept was created, designed to construct robots that could beat the most recent human world cup winners, all within 50 years. With backing from global sponsors, the first official games and conference was held in 1997. Over 40 human and simulated teams competed, with over 5,000 spectators, more than most Football League Two teams.

Laws and regulations must be put in place to restrict and monitor the creation of AI.

The Human Rights Watch have already warned of the dangers this could bring, stating that humans should remain in control of all weapons at a time of rapid technological advancements.
In an open statement, Bonnie Docherty, senior arms division researcher at Human Rights Watch, said it has now become a real threat that humans could delegate these life-and-death decisions to machines.

“Machines have long served as instruments of war, but historically humans have directed how they are used. That could all change.”

Is human curiosity into artificial intelligence going to prove to be the downfall of humanity? Or will these theories be looked back on with mockery, just as outlandish as Charles H. Duell’s, the Commissioner of the US patent office, 1899:

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” 

Rory Smith - Journalist