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Archive for June 17th, 2011

AGAINST ALL ODDS: WHY BRAVEHEART McLEISH HAS THE BOTTLE TO WIN OVER THE FANS AND BECOME A HERO AT ASTON VILLA

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Alex McLeish's finest hour with Birmingham City

Alex McLeish's finest hour with Birmingham City

BY JOHN GUBBA

When the going gets tough the tough get going – and Alex McLeish has shown he is as hard as nails by turning from a Bluenose to a Villain

It is easy to question the dignity of the way McLeish quit Birmingham and moved across the city to take the vacant manager’s job at bitter rivals Aston Villa.

When McLeish resigned as manager of Birmingham by email, it reminded me of the time Phil Collins famously dumped his second wife by fax.

Not a lot of class in the the way the message was sent. And to make jilted City’s anger worse, confirmation that their man had been courted by the enemy was the ultimate betrayal. It was a storyline that alienated Birmingham and Villa fans in equal measure.

Phil Collins dumped his second wife by fax

Phil Collins dumped his second wife by fax

But there is something about McLeish that convinces me he has the strength of character to turn the hostility around and make this managerial merrygoround a soap opera with an unexpected twist.

It is 30 years since Aston Villa were champions of England. And there is little chance of McLeish bringing Villa that kind of glory any time soon. But I’m backing the new man in the Villa Park hot seat to win over the disgruntled natives.

Despite taking Birmingham down twice in four seasons he did taste Carling Cup glory with an historic win over Arsenal that took silverware back to St Andrews. And his previous successes at Rangers are testament to the Scot’s impressive pedigree.

With the right backing from Villa owner Randy Lerner there is no reason why McLeish will not be Villa’s most successful manager for many years.

Final word goes to former Villa winger Tony Morley who greeted the news of McLeish’s appointment by declaring: “I admire the man because he’s stuck to his guns. A lesser man would have just walked away and said I can’t handle this.”

WHO NEEDS TIGER WOODS WHEN WE’VE GOT RORY McILROY MAKING HISTORY AND BREAKING RECORDS AT THE US OPEN?

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Rory McIlroy the runaway leader in the US Open

Rory McIlroy the runaway leader in the US Open

BY JOHN GUBBA

It is is nothing short of miraculous the way Rory McIlroy has stormed to a record breaking start after two days of the US Open at the Congressional near Washington DC – and how delicious that the 22 year old has bounced back  just 10 weeks after he crashed and burned at the US Masters.

Trying to keep the trophy in Northern Irish hands following Graeme McDowell’s victory last year, McIlroy entered the record books in dramatic fashion when he sank a 113-yard pitch for an eagle two at the eighth hole on day two as he scorched his way to a superb five under par 66.

On the back of his remarkable six under par 65 yesterday, the young Irishman became the first man in history to reach 13 under par until he hit a double bogey at the final hole. But agonisingly he dropped his first shots after landing in the water to reach the tournament’s half-way mark 11 under par and a lead at the time he reached the clubhouse of 8 shots ahead of Korean YE Yang.

No player at the US Open has ever bettered the 12 under par Tiger Woods registered over 4 days when he won the US Open in 2000. And McIlroy’s 11 under par  is the lowest halfway score ever.

Ironically, before the tournament began McIlroy told the public the absence of Woods with injury was bad news  for the sport.

“It’s obviously not great for the golf tournament – it would have been great to see him play. But I suppose it leaves the door a little bit open for a few of the guys,” was the modest assessment by McIlroy, who added:.”Every time you have Tiger in the field you’ve got to think that he’s going to have a good chance. To have one of the main contenders not here gives the rest of us a little bit more of a chance.”

The truth is Tiger’s absence has been eclipsed by the story of McIlroy’s dramatic comeback. It is only 69 days since he blew his lead at The Masters when he went from four ahead to 10 behind with a nightmare 80, allowing South African Charl Schwartzel to take the title.

McIlroy insists he is not haunted by his April disaster – or even seeking to avenge it. But the public will be gripped by the drama that unfolds over the next two days. Anyone with a heart will be rooting for McIlroy to put his Masters misery behind him. And at the halfway mark it is hard to find anyone who will bet against the Irishman making amends at the Congressional. But that final hole double bogey will sow some seeds of doubt.

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