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Vardy and Kane are able – and that augurs well for England.

November 12th, 2015 at 11:22 pm

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After 10 wins out of 10 to qualify for next year’s Euro 2016 in France, England have high hopes of making amends for their woeful showing at last year’s World Cup when they failed to qualify from their group in Brazil. But how good are Roy Hodgson’s rejuvenated side? Chances are we will get a better idea over the next few days.

With Spain and France up next for England in this international break, it is going to be fascinating to see how the young Lions fare against two of Europe’s elite. I for one am looking to seeing how Harry Kane does in the absence of skipper Wayne Rooney who will not start Friday night’s match in Spain.

With Hodgson looking to experiment, it will be a shame if red hot strker Jamie Vardy is ruled out of both friendlies by the injury he picked up in the weekend’s win against Watford.
Vardy, the striking sensation of the Premier League season so far scoring in the last nine successive games to take his tally so far to 12, will hopefully be fit enough to at least play a part in Tuesday’s Wembley fixture against France.

Either way, the truth is that England’s genuine striking options augur well for next summer. With the likes of Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling adding an exciting array of attacking options, these are encouraging times. While another exciting factor for Hodgson’s men is the outstanding form of defender Chris Smalling who has had an exceptional start to the season for Manchester United.

But it is up front where England now boast three formidable strikers who all offer something different that opponents will be wary as this maturing, young squad grows in stature and confidence. It will be interesting to see how the bookmakers rate England’s chances as Euro 2016 approaches.

For Hodgson the upcoming double header against Spain and France offers an important opportunity to see how his side fare without relying exclusively on Rooney in the goals department.
The England manager has already said that Rooney will be rested, at least from the kick-off: “Wayne’s with me because he’s the captain of our team, he’s the most important figure as a result, but he actually won’t start the game.

“I’m telling you that because Wayne and I are very anxious that we’re not trying to fool anybody or bamboozle anybody when he’s sat alongside me. That’s for the very simple reason that we’re looking at various combinations and it will be good for me to see how various combinations are developing. At the front we’ve got Wayne and Jamie, we’ve got Harry and Ross Barkley, there are combinations there that interest me.”‎


November 12th, 2015 at 11:22 pm

Who will win Manchester bragging rights in Premier League marathon?

October 23rd, 2015 at 9:40 am

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Once again it looks like Manchester v London in the race to win the Premier League. But will it be United or City who lead the challenge from the north west?

The 2015/2016 Premier League has already provided more shocks and surprises that many people expected.  The biggest surprise the early season collapse of defending champions Chelsea, a shadow of the team that dominated the league last season.  Who would have predicted West Ham United, Leicester City and Crystal Palace all being in the top six at this stage. While Arsenal  look a stronger bet than they have for  years.

As we enter match matchweek ten, both Manchester clubs have put themselves in a strong position to challenge for the title. City and United have both impressed in the opening weeks. And yet the occasional wobble adds to the pressure on two managers expected to deliver success at their respective clubs.

Old Trafford provides the setting for the 146th meeting between Manchester’s finest, which promises to be as fiery and feisty as ever.

Manchester City go into the game as the Premier League leaders following an ominous start to the season. Their early form suggested City would be unstoppable.  But consecutive defeats against West Ham and Tottenham prior to beating Newcastle (6-1) and Bournemouth (5-1) at the Etihad Stadium was a sign that Manuel Pellegrini’s men still have weaknesses that can be exploited.

United, on the other hand, find themselves just two points behind the early leaders, and Louis Van Gaal is moulding his team into potential title contenders. Following a hugely impressive 3-0 demolition of  Everton at Goodison, another United win will send them ahead of their noisy neighbours in the table. While City will be looking to maintain or even extend the two-point gap they currently hold over Arsenal, who entertain Everton in a tough Saturday evening clash.

Trying to call a winner between two teams who have plenty of quality going forward yet sometimes look vulnerable at the back is difficult. Those who feel brave enough to stick their neck on the line and predict a winner can do so at Coral football, where Pellegrini’s men are slight favourites at 13/8 compared to Manchester United at 8/5,. The odds are it will come down to a moment of brilliance or an error to separate the two sides in what promises to be a fascinating encounter.

Having won four consecutive derbies, prior to their 4-2 defeat at Old Trafford back in April, City will fancy their chances of derailing their rivals.. Scoring eleven goals in their previous two outings illustrates the considerable firepower that Pellegrini has at his disposal. But their strong start to the season is weakened by the absence of Sergio Aguero who picked up a hamstring injury on international duty and could be out until late November. David Silva could also miss out with an ankle problem he picked up playing for Spain. Samir Nasri remains on the sidelines, But City could welcome back Fabian Delph and Gael Clichy. While Kevin De Bruyne has been outstanding since his arrival for the Blues.

United’s ability to compete against the best teams was questioned when they slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Arsenal but that was a game where little went right for the Red Devils who provided the perfect response at Everton. The absence of Aguero who scored all three goals against United last season, including the winner in City’s 1-0 win at the Etihad last November may be a factor. Long-term absentees Ashley Young and Luke Shaw are the only first-team players missing for Manchester United.

The only certainty is that neither side will feel their title chances are over whatever the result of the Manchester derby.



October 23rd, 2015 at 9:40 am

Can New Zealand win the 2015 Rugby World Cup?

June 23rd, 2015 at 6:54 pm

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Will the All Blacks be celebrating at the end of the 2015 Rugby World Cup

All Blacks fans hope their heroes will be celebrating at the end of the 2015 Rugby World Cup

Whether or not the upcoming Rugby World Cup lives up to its billing as the third biggest sporting event on the planet, the All Blacks know this is their big chance to prove they truly are the greatest.

Despite winning the inaugural tournament on home soil back in 1987, New Zealand left their supremacy open to question for more than 30 years when they failed to recapture rugby union’s biggest prize in five subsequent attempts.

Only when the tournament returned to New Zealand four years ago did the All Blacks finally become world champions again. And it was far from convincing as they squeezed home by the narrowest of margins beating France 8-7 in the Final at Eden Park.

When the 2015 RWC gets under way on September 18, New Zealand will be expecting to reach the final on October 31st at Twickenham. Victory would make them the first nation to successfully defend the trophy. But this will be their biggest challenge yet because the All Blacks have never won the World Cup on foreign soil.

The truth is they have an incredibly strong squad and are more than capable of thrashing any challenger. With the likes of veteran Keven Mealamu, experienced fly-half Dan Carter and flanker Richie McCaw in the squad, the Kiwis have talent in abundance and have players to hurt opponents on both sides of the ball. Their aggressive style will ensure that they are fully committed in the tackle. While their sensational ball handling skills should mean that the All Blacks score plenty of tries throughout the tournament.

Nonetheless, even red hot favourites are vulnerable when they take opponents for granted and there are a number of teams with the talent to win the tournament if they hit their best form in the key matches. As they did when they last hosted the tournament in 1991, England certainly fancy their chances of reaching the Twickenham Final.

New Zealand v Argentina 2011 Rugby World Cup

New Zealand have never won the Rugby World Cup on foreign soil

Rugby legend Jonathan Davies today insisted his beloved Wales have every chance of lifting the trophy. And never rule out two time winners South Africa and Australia. While Six Nations Champions Ireland have earned the right to be optimistic.

The All Blacks kick off their defence of the title against fellow Pool C contenders Argentina at Wembley. With Tonga, Georgia and Namibia completing the group, New Zealand already have one eye on their potential quarter-final opponents. No disrespect to the other four teams, but New Zealand are by far the best team in Pool C and even the All Blacks’ second string would probably power through to the knockout stages. The winner of Pool C will face the runner up in Pool D, which is likely to be France or Ireland next for the Kiwis.

So, can the All Blacks win this year’s competition and retain the title? Of course they can. New Zealand are in scintillating form and their players will be primed and ready for the tournament to get underway. If the Kiwis perform at their best, the title is theirs. In fact, it could even be argued that the competition is already theirs to lose – such is the raw natural talent of that New Zealand side.

As for the status of the upcoming tournament,  World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper insists: “It is the third biggest global event of an international flavour.” The undisputed big two of course are the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.

For the latest Rugby World Cup news and odds, or general union information, click here.

New Zealand beat Argentina in the quarter-finals on the way to winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup

New Zealand beat Argentina in the quarter-finals on way to winning 2011 Rugby World Cup


June 23rd, 2015 at 6:54 pm

Real Change Takes Time – How Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea work together to improve facilities for disabled supporters

May 18th, 2015 at 2:25 pm

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During my recent trip to Catalonia, I learned the true meaning of FC Barcelona’s slogan “més que un club.”

“More than a club” expresses the commitment that Futbol Club Barcelona has maintained down the ages beyond the realm of sport.

For many years, this commitment specifically referred to Catalan society, which for many decades of the 20th century lived under dictatorships that persecuted its language and culture.

Today Barca’s magnificent mantra is much more than that, because the club has extended its social commitment to the rest of the planet.

In 2006 an agreement with Unicef was the Catalan’s way of saying that a sports club should not be marginal to problems going on in society, when Barca gave their full support to the plight of children around the world.

Last month – on 28 April 2015 – FC Barcelona began another new initiative when Camp Nou hosted the First International Symposium on Disability and Football. This was a ground breaking event, which I am proud to say my good friend Phil Downs, Manchester United’s Disability Liason Officer, attended as one of the main speakers.

The event was also supported, among others, by Bayern Munich, Chelsea, AFC Ajaz and their respective experts on disability and social inclusion. I was filming the Symposium for an upcoming documentary I am making for Manchester United’s TV Channel, MUTV.

Phil Downs (MUDSA) and Kim Kramer (Bayern Munich).

Kim Kramer (right), who spoke at Camp Nou on behalf of Bayern Munich, and his mentor, Phil Downs.

At the Camp Nou Symposium it was encouraging to hear about the advances made at the participating elite clubs around Europe. What has become apparent since is the true meaning and significance of the opening statement by Phil Downs that “real change takes time.”

Under Downs’ stewardship, since it was launched back in 1989, Manchester United’s Disabled Supporters Association (MUDSA) has made remarkable progress at Old Trafford.
The match day facilities are outstanding and a million light years better than what they were back in the eighties. Hence the invite to Downs to share his knowledge and vision of the future at Camp Nou.

Kim Kramer, the disabled speaker from Bayern Munich, underlined the impact Manchester United’s Disability Liaison Officer has made in helping to shape new stadiums around the world when he described Phil Downs as his mentor, who has inspired him and others to push for better facilities for disabled supporters.

Yet back in Manchester, it is clear to me that the good work done by MUDSA is often handicapped by supporters who put their own interests ahead of the long term goals of the organisation working tirelessly to benefit all disabled supporters.

Take, for example, the case of Martin Emery who has launched a personal campaign against Manchester United because of what he perceives as a failure by the club to accommodate him and his three sons, one of whom is in a wheelchair, on matchday.

Mr Emery was told due to space restrictions, he would have to get another adult to sit with his younger boys, who are aged six and four, while he accompanied Jordan, 18, in the wheelchair section. As a father myself, I understand why all four family members would prefer to sit together. But I think it is a real shame that one disgruntled fan has used the tabloid media to magnify his complaint rather than lend his support to the very organisation constantly working to improve facilities for disabled supporters.

While the media are only interested in highlighting the negative aspects of this story, the truth is that Mr Emery remains welcome to take Jordan to a match at Old Trafford. And I strongly urge him to accept this offer so he can share the match day experience with his son. I would also advise him to join MUDSA and take part in some of the wonderful family events organised for the benefit of disabled supporters held throughout the year.

Over the past six months I have seen first hand how disabled supporters can benefit by working together and sharing social experiences.

As FC Barcelona have demonstrated by hosting last month’s symposium and urging all clubs to take a united approach in tackling how to improve access for disabled supporters, it is clear to me that this is the way forward. By sharing knowledge and ideas, accepting that facilities can be improved and discussing how to make changes thing will continue to get better. The current facilities are not perfect but the advances made and the will to make further improvements are beyond question.

As Phil Downs so eloquently explains, it is all about “evolution not revolution.”

There is a real danger that Mourinho’s ‘boring’ Chelsea can dominate Premier League for rest of the decade

May 5th, 2015 at 11:55 pm

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Not only has Jose Mourinho transformed an ageing Chelsea side into Premier League champions in the space of just two seasons, the truth is that the Special One has laid  foundations that could see his club dominate English football for the rest of the decade.

In election parlance, this has been an almighty swing from the Reds to the Blues.

Since United were crowned champions two years ago when Sir Alex Ferguson retired, Chelsea’s net spending on transfers has been massively exceeded by both Manchester clubs, Arsenal and even Liverpool.  And yet Mourinho has assembled a squad so much stronger than the one he inherited that they are now head and shoulders above the competition.

As Gary Neville so eloquently explained on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football, these are challenging times because Chelsea’s rivals all are in danger of being left behind on and off the pitch.

At 222 million pounds Chelsea have spent more on players than any other Premier League club since June 2013. But shrewd wheeling and dealing has recouped 168M, leaving a net spend of just 54M.

Compare that to the net spends of Manchester United – 168M, Manchester City – 115M, Arsenal – 103M and Liverpool – 60M.

On the pitch Chelsea, who finished 14 points behind 2013 champions United,  have wrapped up the title with three matches still to play – 18 points ahead of  the Old Trafford club and 13 ahead of last years top dogs City.

While critics seek to belittle Mourinho’s achievement by labelling his style of play boring, the truth is that Chelsea have the personnel to play  attractive football when they want to. And in Edin Hazard the Blues have an exciting superstar as good as any player in the game behind the top two of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

In his insightful tribute to Mourinho’s remarkable achievement, Neville concludes: “If we’d have said at the end of the 2012/13 season that they were going to abide by FFP, not spend as much as others, have a net spend of £54million, have an overhaul of the squad and turn it into today’s squad, you would say that is an unbelievable performance. He’s reduced the age, he’s won the league, and it is a far stronger squad.”

At 222 million pounds Chelsea have spent more on players than any other Premier League club since June 2013. But shrewd wheeling and dealing has recouped 168M, leaving a net spend of just 54M.

Compare that to the net spends of Manchester United – 168M, Manchester City – 115M, Arsenal – 103M and Liverpool – 60M.

On the pitch Chelsea, who finished 14 points behind 2013 champions United, have wrapped up the title with three matches still to play – 18 points ahead of the Old Trafford club and 13 ahead of last years top dogs City.

While critics seek to belittle Mourinho’s achievement by labelling his style of play boring, the truth is that Chelsea have the personnel to play attractive football when they want to. And in Edin Hazard the Blues have an exciting superstar as good as any player in the game behind the top two of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

In his insightful tribute to Mourinho’s remarkable achievement, Neville concludes: “If we’d have said at the end of the 2012/13 season that they were going to abide by FFP, not spend as much as others, have a net spend of £54million, have an overhaul of the squad and turn it into today’s squad, you would say that is an unbelievable performance. He’s reduced the age, he’s won the league, and it is a far stronger squad.”




May 5th, 2015 at 11:55 pm

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Bournemouth have put romance back into English football – and Howe they deserve it

April 28th, 2015 at 12:10 am

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Bournemouth’s fairytale promotion to the Premier League will complete a remarkable story that proves that it is still possible for dreams to come true for the minnows of English football.

Just seven years after the south-coast club almost went out of business when they were minutes away from liquidation, an historic 3-0 over Bolton has effectively promoted the Cherries to the top flight. And that is a wonderful shot in the arm for the game of football in an age where the richest clubs dominate.

Eddie Howe, the manager who has masterminded this Roy of the Rovers success, from League 2 to the Premier League, summed up his side’s triumph perfectly when he told the BBC:  “This club was on its knees six years ago.”

“We had nothing. A group of supporters put their money in their pockets to keep the club alive and they are reaping the rewards. It is the club I watched as a kid, the club that gave me an opportunity in the game as a player and a manager.

“It shouldn’t be them thanking me, it should be me thanking them. It is a family club and deserves its moment in the sun.”

The truth is that Bournemouth richly deserve that moment in the sun because Howe’s team have entertained fans around the country with a season of sparkling football. Proof that you do not have to park the bus to achieve your goal. Are you listening Jose Mourinho?





April 28th, 2015 at 12:10 am

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Masterclass by Harry Kane has shown world why Premier League title race is never over – and England has a new superstar

January 1st, 2015 at 9:28 pm

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New Year’s Day 2015 proved once again that the English Premier League is a marathon not a sprint.

It was also the day a global audience witnessed a spectacular performance by young England striker Harry Kane, who at times was simply unplayable, scoring twice and contributing two assists as Spurs crushed title favourites Chelsea 5-3.

Jose Mourinho was left making lame excuses and wrongly blaming the officials after his side were given the lead by Diego Costa before being brushed aside by a Kane masterclass.

With Manchester City surrendering a two goal lead for the second time in five days before edging the points in a 3-2 win over Sunderland, all bets are off a runaway triumph by Chelsea who are now hauled back to level pegging by the defending champions.

Even Manchester United, nine points behind the joint leaders, will believe they can still feature in the race for the title. While Spurs are well and truly back in contention for the top four at least.

The only certainty is that the world’s most watched League is destined for another fascinating second half.

What makes the plot even more intriguing is that Chelsea have potentially shot themselves in the foot by discarding midfield legend Frank Lampard, whose latest match winner against Sunderland has lifted rivals Manchester City to joint top spot.


January 1st, 2015 at 9:28 pm

For the sanity of the game, this fickle abuse of Premier League managers by experts and fans must stop

December 12th, 2014 at 10:00 pm

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Alan Pardew November manager of month

Reflecting on some of the ridiculous criticism dished out to Premier League managers so far this season by so-called experts and short-sighted fans, it has never been more obvious that success is more likely for the clubs who stand by their managers.


Even Chelsea – the club famous for changing manager’s more frequently than the ordinary man puts on a new pair of socks – look like benefitting from giving Jose Mourinho another season after ending 2013/2014 empty handed.

A few weeks ago Alan Pardew was top of the hit list after a poor start by Newcastle United. Today he picked up November’s Barclays Manager of the month award. Sam Allardyce, whose tenure at West Ham United looked in danger pre-season, is sitting pretty in the top four.

Louis Van Gaal, has been criticised in recent week’s by United legends Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, the latter of whom predicted Sunday’s match with Liverpool would be like watching two pub teams. Yet victory for the Red Devils will make it six straight wins. Remember the wise words of LVG pre-season when he warned the doubters that it would be at least three months before things improved.

With new signings Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falco, Daley Blind and Luke Shaw all missing Monday night’s priceless 2-1 win at Southampton, it is worth noting that the new United manager is delivering results despite being handicapped by a seemingly endless injury list that currently includes Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Rafael.

Brendan Rodgers in firing line after Champions League exit

Over at Anfield, Brendan Rodgers is unbelievably under fire just six months after narrowly failing to deliver Liverpool their first Premier League title since 1990. What do the fans expect after losing Luis Suarez to Barcelona and Daniel Sturridge to injury. The truth is Rodgers’ side overachieved last season and deficiencies in their squad have left them hopelessly exposed for a twin campaign at home and in Europe.

Fair enough Rodgers has made mistakes and his summer signings have so far failed to deliver.  But what will Liverpool achieve by pressing the panic button and abandoning one of the best young managers in the game?

Arsene Wenger abuse by fansIn the summer many experts were praising the Liverpool boss for snapping up Mario Balotelli for a ‘bargain’ 16 million pounds. It was a gamble by Rodgers that has not yet paid off and the Italian maverick may forever be defined by Mourinho’s assessment that he is  quite simply ‘unmanageable.”

Manchester City’s manager Manuel Pellegrini started the week with experts predicting he would soon be out of a job. The defending Premier League champions are now in the last 16 of the Champions League, as well as being just three points behind Chelsea in the title race.

Worst of all is the shocking abuse from so-called Arsenal fans for Arsene Wenger at Stoke last week. Do those fans not realise what the Frenchman achieved on Tuesday when the Gunners breezed into the knockout stages of the Champions League for the 15th successive season.

The truth is that a good manager will always deliver if he is given the time he needs to finish the job. For the sanity of the game let’s end this ridiculous obsession with the mob mentality of hounding managers out after a couple of bad results.

It’s not just about winning titles! Bryan Robson tribute to Big Ron

December 12th, 2014 at 9:55 pm

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Bryan Robson tribute to Big Ron Atkinson

Ron Atkinson signed Bryan Robson for £1.5 million shortly after being appointed Man Utd manager

As former Manchester United and England legend Bryan Robson told me in a recent interview: “Manager’s are judged on the signings they make, not just on results.”


Later the same day while filming a TV interview with Ron Atkinson – the most successful manager to occupy the Old Trafford hot seat in the era between the formidable reigns of Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson – I could not help wondering ‘What might have been for Big Ron if he’d been allowed a little more time?’

Atkinson, of course, was the man who took Captain Marvel to the Theatre of Dreams. One of United’s best ever signings. He also delivered two FA Cup triumphs and never finished outside the Top 4, recruiting the likes of Frank Stapleton and Remi Moses and giving Norman Whiteside his debut before his 17th birthday.

Big Ron also took United into the UEFA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup, where the Reds narrowly lost out in 1984’s semi-final against Juventus. That European campaign included a 3-2 aggregate win in the quarter-finals against a Barcelona side featuring Diego Maradona.

The 3-0 second-leg triumph against Barça overturned the Catalans’ 2-0 win at Camp Nou and still ranks as arguably the greatest night ever at Old Trafford. Robson scored twice before Stapleton clinched an unforgettable victory. As Atkinson proudly recalls: “Even to this day, bearing in mind some of the things United have done since, people still say the atmosphere that night transcended anything they can remember. It was unbelievable.”

More than 30 years later, the memories are part of United folklore and the relevance of a subtle Bryan Robson tribute to Big Ron is worth taking note of when judging today’s top flight managers.


Ashes to Ashes: Emotional farewell to Australia’s Phil Hughes

December 3rd, 2014 at 8:36 pm

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phil hughes RIP

It is guaranteed that when Australia return to England next summer the shadow created by the tragic loss of Phil Hughes will loom as large it does today as we mourn his funeral.


Not a day of the 2015 Ashes Series will unfold without players, fans and commentators lamenting the absence of a young cricketer who has posthumously become a national hero far beyond the boundaries of the game.

When the hugely talented and popular left hand batsmen died playing the game he loved last Thursday – just one week short of his 26th birthday – the worldwide shock and mourning touched heights we have not seen in the English speaking world since the passing of Princess Diana.

Hughes was felled at 63 not out by a freak bouncer, delivered by Sean Abbott, that hit him on the back of his unprotected neck while batting for South Australia against New South Wales at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

It was an abrupt end to the young life of a cricketer who had already achieved greatness, but promised to hit so many more heights in the future.

The sight of Test skipper and close friend Michael Clarke delivering a gut wrenchingly emotional eulogy at the funeral service in Hughes’ home town of Macksville was a stunningly raw sharing of public grief. Broadcast live to millions Clarke paid a passionate tribute to his “Little brother” that was a fitting eulogy for “a man whose soul enriched all of our lives”.

Phillip Hughes eulogy by Michael Clarke tribute to Phillip Hughes [1988-2014] The full tribute

Full transcript of the Phil Hughes eulogy by Michael Clarke:

“I’m deeply honoured to have been asked by Phillip’s family to speak today. I am humbled to be in the presence of you, his family, his friends and his community. He was so proud of Macksville and it is easy to see why today.

Taken from the game, his family and loved ones at the age of just 25, he left a mark on our game that needs no embellishment. I don’t know about you, but I keep looking for him.

I know it is crazy but I expect any minute to take a call from him or to see his face pop around the corner. Is this what we call the spirit? If so, then his spirit is still with me. And I hope it never leaves.

I walked to the middle of the SCG on Thursday night, those same blades of grass beneath my feet where he and I and so many of his mates here today have built partnerships, taken chances and lived out the dreams we paint in our heads as boys.

The same stands where the crowds rose to their feet to cheer them on and that same fence he sent the ball to time and time again. And it is now forever the place where he fell.

I stood there at the wicket, I knelt down and touched the grass, I swear he was with me. Picking me up off my feet to check if I was OK.

Telling me we just needed to dig in and get through to tea. Telling me off for that loose shot I played. Chatting about what movie we might watch that night. And then passing on a useless fact about cows.

I could see him swagger back to the other end, grin at the bowler, and call me through for a run with such a booming voice, a bloke in the car park would hear it.

The heart of a man who lived his life for this wonderful game we play, and whose soul enriched not just our sport, but all of our lives.

Is this what indigenous Australians believe about a person’s spirit being connected with the land upon which they walk? If so, I know they are right about the SCG.

His spirit has touched it and it will forever be a sacred ground for me. I can feel his presence there and I can see how he has touched so many people around the world. The tributes to him from cricket lovers kept me going.

Phil Hughes funeral in his hometown Macksville, New South Wales

Phil Hughes funeral in his hometown Macksville, New South Wales

The photos, the words, the prayers and the sense of communion in this loss from people across the globe have shown me his spirit in action. It has sustained me and overwhelmed me in equal measure. And the love of my band of baggy green and gold brothers and sisters have held me upright when I thought I could not proceed.

His spirit has brought us closer together – something I know must be him at work because it is so consistent with how he played and lived. He always wanted to bring people together and he always wanted to celebrate his love for the game and its people.

Is this what we call the spirit of cricket? From the little girl holding a candlelight tribute, to masters of the game like Tendulkar, Warne and Lara, the spirit of cricket binds us all together. We feel it in the thrill of a cover drive. Or the taking of a screamer at gully, whether by a 12-year-old boy or by Brendon McCullum in Dubai. It is in the brilliant five-wicket haul, just as significant to the players in a Western Suburbs club game as it is in a Test match.

The bonds that led to cricketers from around the world putting their bats out, that saw people who didn’t even know Phillip lay flowers, and that brought every cricketing nation on earth to make its own heartfelt tribute.

The bonds that saw players old and new rush to his bedside from wherever they heard the news to say their prayers and farewells. This is what makes our game the greatest game in the world.

Phillip’s spirit, which is now part of our game forever, will act as a custodian of the sport we all love.

We must listen to it. We must cherish it. We must learn from it. We must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on.

So rest in peace my little brother. I’ll see you out in the middle.”