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Archive for October, 2012

Why Manchester United fans will have absolutely no sympathy for Chelsea as the Premier League pacesetters are justly beaten

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Let’s face it, there is no love lost when Chelsea play Manchester United and a first League victory for the Reds at Stamford Bridge in over a decade is going to taste sweet whatever the circumstances. To end the Blues unbeaten start to the season and then hear their manager and players blame the referee is quite simply music to the ears of the Old Trafford faithful.

In recent years United have been on the wrong end of so many bad refereeing decisions that have given the points to Chelsea that cynics would suspect  a conspiracy. Two seasons ago Sir Alex Ferguson found himself on the end of a five-match ban for “telling the truth” after a shocking performance by Martin Atkinson.

There was no such robbery on this occasion because referee Mark Clattenburg’s decisions did not prevent the team that deserved to come out on top from winning the match. The media enjoy confrontation and there is no disputing there was plenty of controversy in a red hot contest that ended with Chelsea down to nine men and claiming the winner from Javier Hernandez that made it 3-2 was offside.

But the referee got the most important decision right when he sent off Branislav Ivanovic for bringing down Ashley Young as he broke clear with only Petr Cech to beat  – as Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo was honest enough to admit. That professional foul denied United the chance to put United back in front after Chelsea had recovered from 2-nil down to make it all square.

When Fernando Torres went down at the other end and saw red after the ref gave him a second yellow for simulation the home fans howled with rage claiming Jonny Evans had made contact. But as Sir Alex summed up afterwards the Spaniard only had himself to blame for going down too easily when he could have gone on and tried to score.

Whether or not the decisive strike by Hernandez, shortly after replacing Wayne Rooney, was offside was so marginal that the officials made the right call. My belief is that the television evidence was presented in favour of Chelsea when it could just as easily have been served up the other way by stopping the video two frames later. When you consider there are 25 frames in a second you will understand the margins and being in line with the last defender means the striker is onside.

At the end of the day, we all know that refereeing decisions regularly change the outcome of matches and ultimately the destination of trophies. But on the whole these things have a habit of evening themselves out. While great teams are not crushed by one bad result, whether fair or not.  

Master class: Rio Ferdinand ignored abuse by Chelsea fans and at his brilliant best with a magnificent display for Manchester United

Master class: Rio Ferdinand ignored abuse by Chelsea fans and at his brilliant best with a magnificent display in United's 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge

For the record, David Luiz’s own goal and Robin van Persie’s clinical finish gave Manchester United a two-goal lead early on. But Premier League leaders Chelsea fought back superbly to level with goals from Juan Mata and Ramires either side of the interval before Hernandez struck the winner 15 minutes from the end. It was a pulsating game of football and yet another example of why the EPL is the most exciting League in the world.

Meanwhile, Rio Ferdinand deserves huge praise. Not only did he show his support for the Kick It Out campaign by wearing their T-shirt and buried the hatchet with England team-mate Ashley Cole by shaking hands with him before the game. But the former England skipper, shamelessly booed by Chelsea’s John Terry-loyal fans every time he touched the ball, was at his imperious best.



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Sports personality awards are simply popularity contest – greatest achievements are ones that overcome biggest handicaps

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Following the superhuman efforts of the world’s greatest Paralympians at London 2012, many of us have been inspired like never before by the achievements of athletes with incredible disabilities. That in itself is a wonderful legacy from a remarkable summer of sport.

But how many people are aware of the vast legions of able bodied sportsmen and women who have overcome handicaps and illnesses in pursuit of their dreams. And how do we compare one extraordinary achievement with another when it comes to handing out awards.

The reality is that Sports Personality Awards are exactly that. A popularity contest between role models with one thing in common – the ability to overcome incredible odds to become the No.1. The difference is that some sporting heroes have had more handicaps to deal with than others and, in my book, the greater the barrier to reaching your goal the more heroic the achievement.

Britain’s greatest ever rower Sir Stephen Redgrave thought his career was over in 1997 when he was diagnosed with diabetes. But three years later he became a five times Olympic champion in Sydney and a role model for anyone with diabetes who needs inspiring to achieve greatness.

Sir Sephen Redgrave (left), who beat diabetes to win 5th times Olympic title, with Mark Foster

Sir Sephen Redgrave (left), who beat diabetes to win 5th times Olympic title, with Mark Foster

Bob Champion famously won the 1981 Grand National on Aldaniti two years after being diagnosed with cancer and being told he only had six months to live. Infamously, Lance Armstrong enjoyed legendary status when he also beat cancer and won the Tour de France seven years in a row, from 1999 to 2005. His extraordinary achievement counted for nothing when the world discovered he was a drugs cheat, although he will forever be an inspiration for many who have battled against terminal illness.

Although a lifelong sports enthusiast, I have never know what it is like to be a top sportsman. But my own personal handicap to overcome has been my eyesight and I have worn contact lenses including Acuvue since I was 17-years-old. With that in mind I can understand the bravery of my old pal Frank Bruno who feared his boxing career was over before it started because of his eyesight.

Frank Bruno had to overcome problems with his eyesight from the start of his boxing career

Frank Bruno had to overcome problems with his eyesight from the start of his boxing career

Back in the early 80s Big Frank needed an operation to correct blurred sight and weakness in the peripheral vision of his right eye before British officials would give him a license to box. Several years later he had an operation for a detached retina, and sadly his career was finally ended in 1996, just when he was considering a third world title fight with Mike Tyson, after learning he might lose vision in one eye if he kept fighting.

At least he enjoyed success in the ring becoming world champion at the fourth attempt beating Oliver McCall in a unanimous decision at Wembley on Sept. 2, 1995. But just like Mohammad Ali, the greatest of them all, and the many sports men and women who have suffered in later life because of their commitment to their sport, at what cost?

Greedy football club owners and players are damaging sport’s status as the people’s game with rocketing prices and wages

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In an age where Britain’s top football clubs are jointly banking billions of pounds the sport generates from television, it is indefensible that fans are being asked to fork out record amounts to follow their favourite team.

As the recent BBC Sport’s 2012 Price Of Football survey revealed, the price of the cheapest average adult ticket in English football has risen by 11.7% over the last 12 months. The shocking figures prompted Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron to table a motion in the House of Commons urging football fans to boycott League clubs for at least one match in protest at high ticket prices.

While I do not support the MP’s plan of action, I do agree that clubs must be pressurised into giving fans a better deal because the future of the game as the people’s sport is at stake. And  players demanding ever increasing pay rises must share the blame for this!

The pound in your pocket does not go far enough for football fans in England

The pound in your pocket does not go far enough for football fans in England

The argument that clubs must maximise their revenue in a cut-throat sport where fan power demands instant success is no excuse for bleeding fans dry and driving away working class families in favour of wealthy fans and corporate clients.

What greedy football club owners and their players are forgetting is that without the support of the masses the game risks losing its popularity. Fanatical following begins with kids being able to experience the sport in the flesh and without fans filling stadiums football will be damaged goods.

With no chance of a family of four getting any change out of £100 for attending a Premier League football match at most grounds these days, we are driving fans away from the game. Relying on the new generation of fans to become TV supporters only is a dangerous game to play and it is ripping out the heart and soul of the game.

So the next time you hear a highly paid footballer demand a pay rise ask yourself ‘who is paying for that?’

Common sense by Rio Ferdinand – the right man to lead a united fight against racism

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Peace maker Rio Ferdinand has averted a split in football - and  will defuse the race war at Stamford Bridge according to the Mirror

Peace maker Rio Ferdinand has averted a split in football - and will defuse the race war at Stamford Bridge according to the Mirror


Do not underestimate the significance of tonight’s joint statement by Rio Ferdinand and his brother Anton in the fight against racism that had threatened to spiral out of control.

Make no mistake, the threat of a breakaweay Black Players Union, which alarmingly looked likely after a weekend of discontent, would have been a divisive outcome that could have taken football in England back to the dark ages.

Not only has Rio overcome the embarrassment of the communication failure with his manager Sir Alex Ferguson over the Kick It Out T Shirt, his diplomacy has defused the race war that was starting to get ugly.

By speaking out and saying what most decent football fans have known all along, the Ferdinands have averted a disastrous split in our game.

In a strongly worded statement they have criticised the Football Association, Professional Footballers Association and Kick It Out for not being strong enough in the fight against racism. They have identified the John Terry case – which resulted in the Chelsea captain receiving a four match ban for racially abusing Anton – as exposing deep divisions in the game.  But crucially, they have ruled out joining a breakaway Black Players’ Union and vowed to work with all the existing organisations for the betterment of the game.

Welcomed by Kick it Out who have pledged to step by their campaign, the statement coincided with the announcement of a new six-point plan by the PFA to tackle racism with tougher and more decisive action. It is the best possible result in the week of action intended to unite football against racism.

Meanwhile, Rio has the chance to well and truly take the moral high ground this weekend by offering his hand to John Terry and Ashley Cole when Manchester United visit Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

We still have a long way to go to kick racism out of football – but England lead way while FIFA’s tolerance remains a disgrace

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Let's Kick Racism out of Football - this is the campaigning body's annual week of action

This is the campaigning body's annual week of action


Rio Ferdinand may feel the authorities are far too weak in the campaign to kick racism out of football. There are certainly many who believe John Terry got off lightly after admitting he used racist language in the confrontation with his brother Anton. And there are still rumblings of discontent over the way the Luiz Suarez-Patrice Evra saga was handled. But Rio has made a huge error of judgment by embarrassing his manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Any point the former Manchester United captain was trying to make about racism in football by refusing to wear the Kick It Out T-shirt before this afternoon’s 4-2 win over Stoke City will be overshadowed by the media frenzy ignited by Ferdinand’s defiance of the Boss.

In a society where the media magnify any confrontation, it was stupidity beyond belief for Ferdinand to ignore the clear instructions of  Sir Alex.

Every player in the Premier League was issued with a Kick It Out T-shirt and asked to wear it  during this weekend’s pre-match warm-ups to show support for the campaign to drive racism from the sport.

Sir Alex had already made his views crystal clear 24 hours earlier by criticising Roberts for suggesting he would boycott the campaign by not wearing the T-shirt. For Ferdinand to publicly embarrass his boss by doing just that was pure lunacy.

Roberts has been a vocal critic of football’s most prominent anti-racism body, insisting not enough has been done to tackle the problem in the wake of the Suarez-Evra and Terry-Ferdinand affairs. But what measures he and Ferdinand believe Kick It Out should have taken are unclear.

When you compare the great progress made in this country in tackling racism compared with the pathetic weakness of both FIFA and UEFA, it is hard to understand why Ferdinand so blatantly ignored his manager’s strong statement on the matter. It would make more sense if Roberts and Ferdinand were urging tougher action on racism from UEFA and FIFA.

Unless UEFA finally get serious and hand out a severe punishment to Serbia after England defender Danny Rose was allegedly subjected to racist chants and hit with stones during the Euro 2013 play-off match in Krusevac, it will remain easy to criticise Europe’s administration. While FIFA have failed to provide strong leadership on the issue of racism in football.

In contrast, the English FA have consistently been the strongest voice on the world stage in addressing the ongoing problems of racism and there is a zero tolerance of racial abuse in both the Premier League and the Football League. To their eternal credit the FA had the courage to charge Terry after he had been cleared of racial abuse by a court of law.

The Kick It Out campaign is funded by the Professional Footballers Association, the Premier League and the Football Association.

Confirming all his players, including Ferdinand, would wear the campaigning body’s anti-racism T-shirts to mark their annual week of action, the Manchester United manager gave his endorsement when he  said: “I have to disagree with Jason Roberts, he is making the wrong point. Everyone should be united, all the players in the country wearing the top, the warm-up tops. I do not know what point he is trying to make or trying to put himself on a different pedestal to everyone else. He really should be supporting all the rest of the players who are doing something. If you are doing something then everyone who believes in it should do it together, we should not have sheep walking off. He is making the wrong message.

“Yes, all my players will wear it. I think all the players will be wearing it. I only heard that Jason Roberts is different. He is very different, he plays his game and is in the studio 20 minutes after it, it’s a great privilege.”

Sadly, Ferdinand has chosen to take a stand that has more chance of  damaging his relationship with his manager than it has of  kicking racism out of football.

Lance Armstrong still owes the world an apology for making a generation hail him one of sport’s greatest ever icons

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Nike said it would continue to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation, also known as Livestrong, but the cancer charity faces an uncertain

Nike have announced they will continue to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation, also known as Livestrong, but the cancer charity founded by the drugs cheat still faces an uncertain future


It has been a dramatic week in the long-running Lance Armstrong saga – and any doubts that the former cycling icon is a serial cheat have been well and truly smashed. What is so staggering about the revelations that have finally exposed the lies is how this drugs cheat managed to cover up his deceit for so long.

Many sports enthusiasts who have grown up worshipping Armstrong wanted to believe the disgraced cycling hero was innocent. But the weight of evidence against him has been overwhelming. There was no escaping the truth when the United States Anti-Doping Agency published their report a week ago, including damning evidence from no fewer than 11 of his former team-mates.

The shockwaves from the scandal will reverberate throughout sport for a long time to come. The fact that five current riders gave evidence against Armstrong, and in so-doing implicated themselves incurring six-month bans, indicates how far reaching the cover-up was that protected him for so long.

When the American was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from cycling for life by USADA it was a sad conclusion to a story that inspired millions of people around the world. The news that Armstrong has finally been ditched by his biggest sponsor Nike and forced to step down as chairman of the cancer charity he founded 15 years ago is confirmation that the decline and fall of one of sport’s greatest ever icons is complete.

But I can’t help thinking that Armstrong still owes the world an apology. It is never too late to say you are sorry. And the pain of the embarrassment he has caused would be eased ever so slightly if Armstrong showed some remorse and publicly accepted his guilt.

The one thing that no one can take away from Armstrong is the pride and satisfaction he surely feels for setting up the charity that has raised nearly 500 million US dollars to help people affected by cancer. His story may have been built on a lie, but winning his own battle against cancer inspired millions and is an achievement that the world would feel more comfortable respecting if he comes clean and tells the truth.  

Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are a match made in heaven

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There are always critics who like to predict doom and gloom – and no club attracts more jealous jibes than Manchester United. That is why it was no surprise that so called experts were quick to jump on the band wagon of predicting that Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie could not prosper in the same team.

For all those doubters out there, tonight’s brilliant matchwinning goal in Cluj, served up by Rooney and deliciously turned home by RVP, was a sure sign of things to come.

Rooney was outstanding when he came off the bench in the second half of Sunday’s defeat by Spurs. And he was immense again in the Champions League group match in Romania that saw RVP score both goals in a 2-1 win.

Meanwhile, the Dutchman has already scored seven goals in seven starts.

Followers of my blog will know I predicted over a month ago that Rooney and van Persie “will be terrorising the Premier League long before the end of the season” and will form an irresistible trio with Shinji Kagawa.


October 2nd, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Ryder Cup’s Medinah Miracle inspired by spirit of Seve Ballesteros – but ignited by the belief of British bulldog Ian Poulter

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We've done it! Golf's greatest ever comeback

We've done it! Golf's greatest ever comeback


What makes the Ryder Cup so special is the way the team is more important than the individual. And the way José María Olazábal convinced the Europeans to invoke the spirit of Seve Ballesteros inspired one of the greatest sporting comebacks.

Mix emotion, passion, determination, a cause to fight for and a belief that nothing is impossible – and you have the sporting recipe for something extraordinary.

The Medinah Miracle – as the fightback from 10-4 down late on Saturday to claim a 14½-13½ victory has been dubbed – was a sporting fantasy that almost defied belief.

For me it was the awesome contribution of Ian Poulter, partnering Rory McIlroy in that final session on Saturday, that made the difference when the runaway Americans looked unbeatable. When he holed a 12-foot putt on the 18th green to defeat Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson with his fifth consecutive birdie, Poulter was the beast who would not be beaten.

Without doubt it was Olazabal who lifted his team when he convinced them to keep fighting in memory of the great Ballesteros. But it was the guts and determination of Poulter that ignited the belief.

“This event brings out the best in Ian,” Olazábal agreed, as he clutched the trophy and reflected on four magnificent wins out of four for Poults. “It reminds me a bit of Seve: that intensity, that will to win the point.”

For Poulter, to be compared to Ballesteros by Olazabal,  the Spaniard who was closer to him than anyone, there can be no greater accolade.