Archive for June, 2012
Why Robin Cousins gets a perfect 10 for predicting Great Britain’s synchro girls will be our ‘guilty pleasure’ at London 2012
Not only is Robins Cousins a truly inspirational ambassador for London 2012, he’s a great judge. And I’m not just talking about his new found fame on ITV’s hit TV show Dancing on Ice. The Gold medallist at the 1980 Winter Olympics is championing the star quality of our women’s synchronised swimming team.
After years of being underestimated by the public, our synchro girls are finally winning the respect they deserve for making great strides in a sport which I believe is one of the most difficult team events of any sport at the Olympics.
As poster girl Jenna Randall proclaims: “I’ve always said since I was very young, my goal in life in my synchro career is to get our sport more well know with the British public and I think having the Olympics in this country this year has been fantastic.”
Having Cousins on board as an ambassador and technical adviser has also been a master stroke of good fortune for the synchro girls and the legendary ice dancer is so captivated by the sport he is convinced the British girls are destined to make a big splash at London 2012.
“It’s been eye-opening from many aspects for me and I think it’s going to be a lot of people’s guilty pleasure at the Games.”
Adds Cousins: “It’s one of those lesser known sports that’s going to get a lot of attention. A lot of kids are going to realise I only need to have a swimming pool. I can actually do some of those moves in the bath (and) have fun.”
Roy’s boys have restored English pride but brilliant Germans are outstanding team at Euro 2012 and Ronaldo looks best in world
As I wrote a week before the tournament started: “There is little doubt in my mind that the new England boss is going to restore pride in the top job. And that is just as important (as success) this time around.”
Not only has Roy Hodgson shattered the myth that managing England in the modern era is an impossible job, he has turned around a team with no direction and no hope into a confident squad with no fear and a fresh belief that nothing is impossible.
To claim a quarter-finals showdown with Italy at Euro 2012, Roy’s boys have confounded the critics. Only all-conquering Germany won more points in the Group stages. And in skipper Steven Gerrard England have been inspired by one of the stand-out players of the tournament.
Giving Gerrard the captain’s armband and playing him in a role best suited to his world class qualities has been the master selection that has laid the foundations for Hodgson’s renaissance. With the courage to give youth a chance in the shape of Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the coach has added an exciting blend of exuberance.
His tactical astuteness and ability to get his players to perform has made this England side unrecognisable from the bunch of strangers who looked out of their depth under Fabio Capello at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. With talisman Wayne Rooney restored to the side with his first tournament goal in eight years, there is an unmistakable sense of optimism in the England camp.
The reality is that England are still rank outsiders, with Germany lying in wait in the semi-finals if they do succeed in beating Italy on Sunday. Joachim Loew’s team have been the outstanding team of Euro 2012 and on what we have seen so far look destined to win their first major tournament in 16 years.
Then of course, in the other half of the draw the favourites are the reigning World and European champions Spain. While my tip for the final is Portugal, a highly under-rated side led by player of the tournament Cristiano Ronaldo, who looks hellbent on reclaiming the crown of world’s No.1 player from Lionel Messi.
For England to go all the way is still hard to imagine because let’s be honest Germany, Portugal and Spain all look like teams on a higher level. But one of the big attractions of the beautiful game is that anything is possible – as the Greeks proved in their Olympic year as recently as 2004.
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Welbeck’s brilliant winner knocked Sweden out of Euro 2012 and crowned a tactical triumph for Roy Hodgson
Roy Hodgson is proving what a great decision the Football Association made when they appointed him as the new England manager.
With a quiet confidence Hodgson has given England belief, shape and versatility – and a thrilling victory over bogey team Sweden was all down to the tactical awareness of the new boss.
The truth is that Roy’s boys were having a nightmare when a double strike by Olof Mellberg at the start of the second half overturned a great opening strike by Andy Carroll.
But the England coach read the game magnificently when he sent on Theo Walcott. The Arsenal winger was the catalyst to a brilliant winning surge with the equaliser and the assist for a classic match winning strike by Danny Welbeck.
Hodgson’s skipper Steven Gerrard is revelling in the responsibility of wearing the armband. And his central midfield partner Scott Parker is a warrior who gives England something extra.
The truth is that England are an average team short on quality and talent. But Hodgson is a master at getting the best out of an ordinary group of players. And in a short period he has injected a winning balance of youth and team spirit into the national team.
On the face of it Roy Hodgson has picked a visionary path by opting to give youth a chance at Euro 2012 – but to accept that view without question would be to avoid the elephant in the room that threatens to blacken the reputation of the new England manager and has split the nation down the middle.
When Hodgson declared that he was omitting Rio Ferdinand “for football reasons” it was a controversial statement that did not sit comfortably with a large section of the football community who feared that this was a convenient way of side-stepping the rift between John Terry and the brother of Anton Ferdinand, the player the Chelsea skipper is accused of racially abusing.
Given the chance to reinstate Rio to the England squad following the double fracture to the jaw that has ruled Gary Cahill out of Euro 2012, Hodgson has this afternoon opted for the inexperienced Liverpool defender Martin Kelly – a right back! Aside from Terry, this means that England’s only remaining recognised centre backs are Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka and Phil Jones.
To suggest that the Manchester United defender is out of form or unfit are hugely exaggerated. Ferdinand made 38 appearances for United this season and was ever present in the critical final stages.
Anyone who now doubts that Hodgson has been influenced by the knowledge that Terry and Ferdinand have fallen out would be naive at the very least.
Ferdinand indicated as much when he tweeted to his 2.8 million followers “What reasons?????!!! as he openly questioned Hodgson’s “football reasons” stance over his squad selection that will send England into a major tournament as the most unpopular national team ever to leave these shores.
Forget the simplistic argument that a man is innocent until proven guilty. Dismiss any suggestion that Terry’s inclusion will improve England’s chances in Poland and the Ukraine. Do not be sidetracked by the fury in certain quarters that Liverpool will have six players in the squad of 23. The reason for England fans turning against their country is summed up in two words: John Terry.
Terry, who will get the chance to clear his name in court after Euro 2012, denies the charges against him. In the meantime, he has damaged England more than any player in the history of the game – and the tragedy is that Terry, Hodgson and the Football Association all fail to recognise this fact.
The reality is that Terry’s toxic presence in this England squad is like a cancer that has eaten away at the very heart and soul of the nation’s football team.
Even if England did over-perform and do better than expected, for millions of football fans any success at Euro 2012 with Terry in the team would leave a bitter taste.
Whether or not Terry is found guilty of racism, the real sting in the tail is that England go to a major tournament defending the reputation of a man who has been accused of racism. To do so in a tournament where the hosts have a reputation for failing to tackle racism only magnifies that position. To omit a player because he had the strength of character to support his brother and make a stand against racism makes England look weak on an issue where we have done more good than any country in Europe.
When the new England manager said he does not care about Euro 2012 because his real focus is the next World Cup, he indicated he was going to give youth a chance. But that statement coupled with his omission of Ferdinand in favour of Terry may come back to haunt him over the next couple of weeks.
When Camelot stormed home to win the 2012 Epsom Derby it was a performance fit to serve before the Queen on Diamond Jubilee weekend – and a great day for punters as the bookmakers took a bashing.
It was a fairytale result for trainer Aidan O’Brien. The 8-13 shot was ridden by his 19-year-old son Joseph making the O’Briens the first father-son trainer-jockey combination to win the world’s most important race.
Camelot is now favourite to win the St Leger and become the first horse since Nijinsky 42 years ago to win the Triple crown.
Camelot, already winner of the 2000 Guineas, surged late for an easy win over Main Sequence and Astrology.
Nijinsky was the last horse to make a clean sweep of the 2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger in 1970.
It is long overdue. But how refreshing to see football’s top jobs being filled by homegrown mangers.
Paul Lambert to Aston Villa, Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool and Roy Hodgson to England are all outstanding appointments destined to restore the status of the great British football manager.
Over-rated foreigners have been lining their pockets with multi-million pound salaries for years – and the truth is that shopping abroad is no guarantee of success.
To see a Scotsman a Welshman and an Englishman installed in three of the hottest seats in British football is a return to sanity that is good for our game on so many levels.
The millions wasted by decision makers on expensive names from abroad could not continue, especially when the price of failure is so high and the success-rate of foreigners – other than a few exceptions – has been minimal.
The FA have been the biggest losers with the grossly overpaid Fabio Capello and Sven Goran Eriksson both failing to live up to all the hype. True Steve Maclaren was an English-born failure who came in between the big names from abroad. But that is no reason to write off a whole nation.
Whether or not Roy Hodgson manages to fare significantly better, there is little doubt in my mind that the new England boss is going to restore pride in the top job. And that is just as important this time around.
Whatever the temptations to go continental, my belief is that every England manager must be English. Not just because success any other way would be a hollow victory. Equally important is the necessity to dismiss the inferiority complex that tells our upcoming mangers they are not good enough.
The truth is that when we give our best managers a chance they can deliver. Englishmen Hodgson, Alan Pardew and Harry Redknapp have all enjoyed outstanding seasons – and produced teams that play stylish football.
Hodgson may have been many people’s second choice behind Redknapp for the England job. But forget the rubbish written by some of our tabloid press. He is an outstanding manager and will get the best out of an England team short of quality. Where his predecessors have flattered to deceive my belief is that Roy’s boys will not underachieve because they respect the manager and understand what he wants to deliver.
Hodgson is a good communicator who connects with his players. And as former England manager Graham Taylor has predicted: “I just think he might do a lot better than people expect.’
With limited resources on his player options, the new England manager has already made it clear that he will give youth a chance. And that is going to be a key element in laying the foundations for the future.
The appointment of Gary Neville – a strong advocate for youth – to Hodgson’s coaching team is a master stroke that will serve England well.
Meanwhile, Scotsman Lambert and Welshman Rodgers are two of the most talented managers around who deserve their chance on the bigger stage after overachieving with newly promoted Norwich City and Swansea. Not only do I predict they will both bring stability and progress to their new clubs, they will do so playing attractive football. And that is good for the game.
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