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Captain Rooney, Goldenballs on bench and Rio at the back spells a winning formula for Wenger’s United England
Let’s be honest. It is hard to tackle Gary Lineker’s defeatist attitude when he declares: “England do not have an earthly of winning the World Cup.”
So how about thinking outside the box and doing something radical. Cue the professor of football, Frenchman Arsene Wenger, who champions the idea of building the national team around the country’s most successful team. Add the influence of England’s most loyal servant David Beckham, the leadership and vision of Wayne Rooney, the panache and style of the world’s best footballing defender Rio Ferdinand and the new crop of kids from Old Trafford.
In other words let’s build the next England team around Manchester United – past and present – and put Wenger in charge to see if he can turn his vision into reality with the help of players who still know how to win trophies. No.2 Gary Neville will make sure the Frenchman does not neglect his defence – and Roy Hodgson can be the player liaison officer. During matches he can sit with the suits. Just don’t ask him to make any team talks because his Plan B is the same as his Plan A
Much that I admire Steven Gerrard, his leadership in Montenegro was undermined by a performance littered with sloppy mistakes. Like Frank Lampard his best days are behind him. But these golden oldies have an important supporting role to play on the bench along with Mr Golden Balls himself David Beckham.
Becks is back in the frontline with Champions League quarter-finalists Paris St-Germain. He’s the only English player still in the competition. And Carlo Ancelotti has made it clear he still thinks Beckham can deliver at the highest level by offering him another season’s contract that will take him up to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Let’s remind Stuart Pearce what an idiot he was by leaving the former Manchester United star out of his Team GB squad for London 2012 and make him Wenger’s assistant player-manager. We all know that Wenger loves Becks and he struck up a friendship with the Essex boy when he invited him to train with Arsenal.
Becks is an admirer of England’s great Arsenal protege Jack Wilshere having watched him at close quarters in training. He knows the boy will be magical supporting frontmen Rooney and Danny Welbeck, in a midfield surrounded by Ashley Young, Tom Cleverly and Michael Carrick, the most consistent performer at Old Trafford this season.
Everyone can see that Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are the future rocks at the back for England and even Roy Hodgson admits he got it wrong backing John Terry instead of Ferdinand. So how about Ferdinand and Smalling as centre backs with Jones pushing forward from the rightback berth. That leaves a space for Ashley Cole on the left. I am sure he can kiss and make up with his old pal Rio. Even the Chelsea man must have seen the tongue-in-cheek humour of that choc ice twitter jibe.
The goalkeeper has to be Joe Hart- an advocate of a United Manchester and good friends with Ferdinand and other players at Old Trafford – so there is no reason he will not fit into a United England. Former Reds keeper Ben Foster, meanwhile, is an outstanding deputy for the No.1 shirt.
So who will the captain be? I thought that was obvious. Rooney will revel in the role. Judging by the way he is starting to find his form again for England and the confidence boost he will receive from such a vote of confidence will bring out the best of a player yet to fulfil his true potential on the world stage.
It may be April Fool’s Day, but am I really joking here? Think about this formation and you tell me . . .
ENGLAND (4:1:3:1:1) – Hart; Jones, Smalling, Ferdinand, A.Cole; Carrick; Cleverly, Wilshere, Young; Rooney; Welbeck. Subs: Foster, Baines, Cahill, Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard, Defoe. Manager: Wenger. Assistant: Neville
Sky TV’s quest to champion Women in Sport is no way diminished by Charlie Webster’s sexy photoshoot for FHM
For anyone to suggest that Charlie Webster has damaged her career by posing for a sexy FHM photo session is simply absurd. Does anyone think that glamour shoots have harmed the reputations of her Sky colleagues Kirsty Gallagher and Charlotte Jackson? Being beautiful never damaged the career of Gabby Logan, one of the most successful broadcasters in TV Sport and recently voted 2012 Celebrity Mum of the Year – and why should it?
I had to laugh when my former associate Charlie Sale wrote in the Daily Mail that “There is considerable annoyance among management and her fellow Sky Sports News presenters over Charlie Webster appearing scantily clad on the cover and inside lads’ magazine FHM.” Sale claims the FHM shoot (video below) “upset a number of her female colleagues, who feel such exposure can only damage their efforts to be taken seriously as broadcast journalists and become known for the quality of their work rather than their looks.” Really?
Vic Wakeling, the former Head of Sky Sports, once confided: “It is our policy to appoint glamorous presenters because that is what the viewers want.” True, Wakeing has retired. While former presenters Richard Keys and Andy Gray got the bullet after embarrassing the channel with male chauvinistic comments a couple of years ago. But that has not stopped the hugely popular satellite channel from filling our screens with good looking presenters, as Webster’s anchor role merely confirms. What’s more, why should they change a winning formula and where does it say in the book of life that you can’t have brains and beauty?
Personally, I have always supported the old adage “If you’ve got it flaunt it.” No one would seriously argue that David Beckham or Jess Ennis have cheapened their image by doing exactly that and cashing in on their good looks. So why should we think any less of TV presenters who do exactly the same thing.
Even Clare Balding, the classy BBC thoroughbred with an air of royalty about her, has cast her inhibitions aside and tried to sex up her appeal by proudly posing as a covergirl for Lesbian monthly Diva. Good luck to her and I’m sure the vast majority of the Great British public respect her for doing so.
Instead of trying to sell newspapers with salacious gossip, hacks like Charlie Sale would be doing us all a favour if they paid more attention to giving credit where it is due and highlighting Sky’s current quest to champion Women In Sport. No channel did more to promote International Women’s Day than Sky Sports News with an excellent amount of airtime for inspirational female role models.
Sale, meanwhile, a journalist who would never win a beauty contest, is undoubtedly among the many thousands of readers FHM are targeting by featuring glamorous photoshoots. It would be hypocritical of the sports gossip monger to claim otherwise. He certainly has an eye for a beautiful woman, as I experienced first hand when he brazenly leered over my ex in my presence with accompanying words that I could not possibly repeat here. Does that lose him any respect with his colleagues?
Behind the scenes on Charlie Webster’s photoshoot for FHM . . .
It was the autumn of 1991 and I was checking into Edinburgh Airport with Frank Bough, former England captain Steve Smith and the rest of the ITV Sport team returning from a Rugby World Cup match at Murrayfield. In the distance was a familiar figure walking towards us carrying a sports bag and his fishing gear. It was Tony Gubba.
By pure coincidence, my uncle was on the same flight back to Heathrow and he was just as surprised by this unexpected welcome party as we were to see what he was trying to check in as hand luggage. The sports bag was unzipped and packed with ice to keep fresh the huge salmon he had caught that afternoon. One of Tony’s great passions was fishing and while we had been at the game, Tony was relaxing on a quiet riverbank .
This surreal scene took an unexpected twist when the check-in staff insisted the salmon was not permitted on the flight because “transporting dead animals as hand luggage was not permitted.” But that of course was red rag to a bull. And typical of one of the most resourceful sports journalists and broadcasters of his generation, our Tony weaved his magic and managed to find a way to get his catch on board and safety home to Berkshire.
It was a tribute from his old pal John Motson, speaking after the tragic news broke that Tony had passed away at the age of 69, that reminded me of this amusing episode.
“What I like most about Tony and it worked in my favour many times was his sheer determination and persistence. He would never take no for an answer,” recalls Motty.
“In 1974 he and I went to our first World Cup in what was then West Germany. And of course the wall was still there and West Germany were about to play East Germany in a highly political match. And on the plane over Tony said ‘I’m going to do my first piece walking along the Berlin Wall.’ And I said don’t be ridiculous there will be guns on one side and he said ‘Don’t worry. I will do it’ and he managed to get permission to walk along the wall and do this piece to camera.”
Three World Cups later, the two buddies were both commentating again at Mexico 86 and Motty paints an even more exotic picture when he remembers: “Tony said we are going to have to go and watch the Russians play you know. And I said they haven’t got any warm up games and he said yes they’ve got one private game. It’s about 240 miles away. And he named the place. And I said how are we going to get there and he said I’m going to hire a plane.
“He went out and got a 4-seater plane. And the two of us on our own with the pilot went to this place in the middle of Mexico. When we got there there were some very stern Russian officials saying you can’t come in. This is a private friendly and Tony sort of said something about the BBC and the guy said well you better come in and go and sit on the touchline with the coaches.”
Whether it was requisitioning an aeroplane to pursue a story, risking personal danger to film a classic piece of video or using his charming powers of persuasion to get his own way, this was who I looked up to and wanted to be like.
When I was a kid growing up in the late 60s and early 70s,Tony was the ultimate role model for me because I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Not just because he was living the dream with a career in the media, he always seemed to have a beautiful sports car and a never ending procession of glamorous admirers.
I remember when Tony made the switch from newspapers to TV, leaving the Daily Mirror in Manchester to head to the South Coast and a job with Southern TV. It was a long drive to his new home in Southampton and I loved it when he took me there for visits during the school holidays. He was not impressed when I got car sick the first time we made that trip. But it was all good character building and watching his career take off was a great inspiration.
It was not long before the switch from ITV to BBC and it was only a matter of time before Tony made it into the wonderful world of sports broadcasting. I was bursting with pride when he was chosen to present Sportsnight after David Coleman left the programme in 1972. I can’t imagine how thrilled he must have been. Tony had hit the big time and no one deserved it more than he did. He later became the frontman for Grandstand, alongside Frank Bough, the man I would get to work with myself a couple of decades later, and he also presented Match of the Day, where he made his name as an outstanding football commentator.
For many football fans of my generation, we grew up listening to John Motson, Barry Davies and Tony Gubba doing the commentary on MOTD.
Along with my father, his older brother Ron, uncle Tony got me hooked on Manchester United. And I will always remember how a BBC camera picked out his celebration on the pitch behind the goal when Norman Whiteside famously won the 1985 FA Cup Final for United’s 10-men in a dramatic injury time against Everton.
Less than 10 years later I had the honour of working with my uncle when Visionsport International – the independent production company I set up after leaving ITV started filming Premier League football. With Tony often the commentator at matches where we supplied the host broadcast coverage, one of the highlights for both of us was when my uncle provided the commentary and we supplied the coverage of Manchester United’s record 9-0 win against Ipswich Town at Old Trafford. There were many occasions when that familiar voice provided the soundtrack to our pictures.
Sportsnight editor Jonathan Martin, who later became head of sport at the BBC, summed up Tony’s qualities that earned him his place in the hot seat vacated by Coleman when he said: “His strength was that he was a very good broadcaster and journalist. He was mainly a football man to start with, and that was his real love, but he was very flexible. He could turn his hand to anything. Bobsleigh, table tennis, ice-skating, ski jumping, rowing … He would be on everybody’s team for the winter and summer Olympics. He never complained or grumbled when he was asked to do something, he just went away and did his homework. He could present, commentate and was a first-class reporter.”
But Tony was a natural entertainer who was always destined to get a taste of showbusiness. A talented singer, who enrolled at the Northern music college with thoughts of becoming an operatic tenor, he once dressed up as Pavarotti and gave an outstanding rendition on David Baddiel and Frank Skinner’s cult TV show Fantasy Football. It suited him down to the ground, although he initially turned down the role, when Christopher Dean and Jayne Torvill personally chose him to be the commentator on ITV’s Dancing on Ice. His tongue in cheek commentary was always one of the highlights of one of the most popular shows on ITV. Classic lines like “He skates like Benny Hill chasing a chorus girl” when describing Kieran Bracken and “He’s not normally this active before midnight” in a respectful tease of Lee Sharpe, the ex-footballer with a playboy reputation, earned him a new legion of fans.
Along with the rest of the Gubba family, I felt devastated when the end came so suddenly on 11 March 2013, just a few short weeks after he was diagnosed with leukaemia. My heart goes out to his beautiful daughters Claire and Libby and his partner of the past 15 years, Jenny. But the memories will live on forever. And if you would like to help fight the cancer that killed one of the great voices of the past 40 years please visit this site Memory Giving
‘World would be a boring place without Paddy Crerand’ – don’t miss this remarkable feature-length tribute to unique football legend
There is no one in football quite like Paddy Crerand – and this weekend Manchester United fans around the world will enjoy a fascinating and revealing insight into the life of one of the club’s most colourful personalities when my long-awaited documentary ‘Paddy 50 Years’ premieres on MUTV.
Signed by Matt Busby for £56,000 on 6 February 1963, the kid from the Gorbals was the Paul Scholes of his generation and enjoyed a pivotal role in a hugely successful side that became the first English winners of the European Cup.
Now one of the club’s most fanatical supporters, Paddy has re-invented himself as an outspoken football pundit and has his own show on the club’s TV Channel. His recent radio rant that followed the Manchester derby – when contributors to BBC 5Live Breakfast blamed Rio Ferdinand for inciting the crowd and being hit by a coin – trended worldwide on twitter.
It was an insanely funny piece of radio that re-inforced his cult status with United’s current stars and skipper Patrice Evra says: “The players all love Paddy.” Not that this was the first time that he has vented his fury on radio in his uniquely passionate style to defend a Red Devil. Guess who was dominating the airwaves in support of Eric Cantona after his infamous kung-fu attack on abusive Crystal Palace fan Matthews Simmons back in 1995?
This Glasgow-born Celt of Irish descent is a fascinating character adored by his fans, friends and family alike because he is a man of the people who speaks his mind and is fervently loyal. Sent off six times, he insists he never started a fight but always finished it. And yet, behind that tough-tackling, tough-talking exterior, is a man with a heart of gold.
There are many fascinating chapters in the life of the 73-year-old who briefly dabbled in coaching and management after hanging up his boots. While his passion for politics famously saw him act as a peacemaker between the IRA and his old friend John Hume back in the seventies. Then there was his spell as a pub landlord when the likes of Bryan Robson, Paul McGrath, Alan Brazil, Norman Whiteside and Kevin Moran were his regulars.
“The world would be a boring place without Paddy Crerand,” declares Brian Kidd, who used to clean the Scottish international’s boots when he started out as an apprentice at Old Trafford. Kiddo, of course, is now Roberto Mancini’s assistant at rivals Manchester City. But he remains a close friend and is one of the stars of our feature-length documentary tribute to the United legend.
It is a film laced with tragedy as well as triumph and I expect a few tears will be shed when viewers share Paddy’s emotional trip down memory lane that begins with the Second World War when his father was killed by a German bomb.
When Paddy finally signed for United from his boyhood heroes Celtic, it was the start of a golden era that saw Matt Busby’s men win the FA Cup, two league Championships and the 1968 European Cup in a remarkable five year spell. “I’d only been at United three months when we beat Leicester City 3-1 in the Cup Final at Wembley,” says our hero, who lined up against Frank McLintock, a player he’d previously faced in schools football back in their Gorbals days.
It was a decade when George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton became the iconic names at Manchester United. All three were European footballers of the Year. But Paddy was the outstanding half-back who made Busby’s team tick.
Nobby Stiles, who reverted to a more defensive role when Crerand arrived, says: “For me Paddy signing was the best thing that ever happened because it meant I moved back alongside Bill Foulkes, which was my best position.”
In the documentary, Sir Alex Ferguson and his brother Martin both talk about their memories of Paddy in the early days. Martin worked with Paddy in the shipyard before he signed for Celtic, and talks about how they used to play football at lunchtime in steel toe-capped boots. Sir Alex recalls Paddy playing junior football for Duntocher Hibs and likes to remind everyone that Celtic were beaten 4-nil by Rangers in Paddy’s final game north of the border.
The biggest accolade comes from Denis Law who told me: “Paddy was one of the best midfield players Scotland ever had.” Now that is some tribute from my good friend the Lawman who many of us regard as the greatest Scottish player of them all.
To fully appreciate what I am talking about you will have to watch the documentary and I am proud to say that my script has been brought to life by the narration of Bernard Hill, the Hollywood actor who starred in Lord of the Rings and Titanic.
‘Paddy 50 Years’ premieres exclusively this weekend on MUTV.
Watch primetime at 9pm on Sunday, February 3, or catch one of the repeat showings. You can sign up for MUTV at manutd.com/joinmutv or call 08708 486888. ‘Paddy 50 Years’ is produced, directed & scripted by John Gubba.
— john gubba (@johnnielegend) February 3, 2013
You are truly a legend @patcrerand . One of a kind, hilarious, incredibly biased but don’t we just love it! The 50 Years show was brilliant
— Craig Nunn (@CraigNunn10_14) February 3, 2013
Just watching a documentary celebrating @patcrerand 50 years at United. Brilliant stuff
— waz (@wazmcr13) February 3, 2013
Paddy Crerand documentary on MUTV. Absolutely brilliant. Thought Paddy could not go any higher in my estimation. I was wrong. Legend. #mufc
— JOHN LUDDEN (@JOHNLUDDS) February 3, 2013
— Vijay Kara (@VijayKara1) February 2, 2013
@johnnielegend 50 years wot a legend Paddy is KRO
— paul collins (@gabbiecabbie) February 2, 2013
Also thanks to everyone at MUTV, but special thanks to John Gubba who Im sure i drove mental. Well done John excellence
— Paddy Crerand (@PatCrerand) February 2, 2013
Roberto Mancini and Mario Balotelli must kiss and make up again – or Man City will have to spend big in January transfer market
Roberto Mancini’s loyalty to his controversial striker Mario Balotelli, already tested by a series of high profile incidents, will once again have to survive intense public scrutiny after a heated training ground spat was caught on camera. The difference this time is that Manchester City’s attacking options are limited and the January transfer window offers the opportunity to make immediate changes.
But surely this time around Balotelli has been cleared of all blame by the paparazzi photographs that do not look good for his manager. That is why Mancini will surely kiss and make up once again with the player he has consistently said could become one of the best in the world.
With Sergio Agüero sidelined by a hamstring injury that has ruled him out of this weekend’s FA Cup tie against Watford game and doubtful for City’s Premier League meeting with Arsenal on 13 January, Balotelli was looking for a return to the starting line-up. That could still happen, whatever the popular media may suggest, because Mancini is a class act. Once the red-mist subsides it would be a huge mistake for him to punish his 22-year-old protege for being too agressive in training, especially with Balotelli’s defence already in the public domain.
A witness told the Manchester Evening News: “Mancini ran at him — he was furious. He grabbed hold of him and appeared to try and throw him on the floor. It looked like Mario was too strong and he couldn’t get him down.Then all the coaches ran in to separate them but Mancini was having none of it. He kept trying to break free and have a go at him again.”
The incident was photographed by snappers camped outside City’s Carrington training ground where the pitches are visible from a public road and the sequence of pictures clearly show Mancini striding towards Balotelli and pointing in an aggressive manner. The manager looked out of control as he grabbed hold of Balotelli’s orange bib before the young striker was dragged away by a member of City’s coaching staff.
The incident was apparently triggered by a Balotelli challenge on Scott Sinclair that proved too severe for the manager’s liking,
It will be fascinating to see how Mancini responds in the morning to his latest fall-out with Balotelli when he faces the media in the cold light of day at his Friday press conference.
Balotelli has been involved in a succession of controversies since his £24m move from Inter Milan in August 2010. Only last month Mancini said he was willing to give him another chance after he dropped his move to take the club to a tribunal over a two-week fine for missing 12 games last season because of suspensions. He told Gazzetta dello Sport: “The time of cheap talk is over. Balotelli is 22 years old and now it’s time to be professional. I ask from him seriousness and commitment in training, a more stable private life and correct behaviour on the pitch.”
The glare of the media spotlight, magnified by embarrassing photographs, make it difficult for the defending champions and their manager. But this time Balotelli is not the one who should be doing the apologising. On the evidence of what we have seen Mancini was the aggressor. How he deals with this storm in a tea cup will tell us more about the manager than a striker who can’t keep out of the headlines.
Meanwhile, City’s rivals United sit seven points clear at the top of the Premier League wondering how this latest Eastlands soap opera will affect their noisy neighbours.
While Rafa Benitez jumps to the tune of Roman Abramovich, Pep Guardiola’s refusal to sell his soul only enhances his reputation
In the eyes of the vast majority of football lovers around the world, Roman Abramovich has reduced Chelsea to a laughing stock by the outrageous way he runs the West London club.
But the reason that managers like Rafa Benitez continue to line up for slaughtering at Stamford Bridge is simple: money and silverware.
On the one hand Abromovich (above) is impossible to satisfy, firing a succession of managers simply because they have lost a couple of matches – regardless of how many trophies they deliver. The counter argument is that the Stamford Bridge club has enjoyed an unprecedented era of success since the Russian oligarch came along with his millions. And for many Blues fans that is all that counts.
With few exceptions in football, managers have a limited shelf life. As George Graham told me on the day he was appointed manager of Arsenal: “Most of us know that one day we will be sacked.” The difference at Chelsea, since Abramovich took over, is that the axe is almost certainly going to come sooner rather than later.
New boss Rafa Benitez claimed at his unveiling that working for Abramovich will be “easier” than for George Gillett and Tom Hicks, despite admitting he had never even spoken to the Chelsea owner. The thick skinned former Liverpool boss will shrug off his inevitable unpopularity with Blues fans because he will be well rewarded for his efforts, regardless of whether or not he lasts the duration of his six month contract.
If he succeeds in delivering silverware it will be another achievement to add to an already impressive CV and getting the sack at Chelsea is far from being a career wrecker. So it is easy to see why the Spaniard who has been out of work for over a year was quick to jump at the opportunity to put his neck on the line. Don’t bet againt Benitez kicking off with a win against Premier League champions Manchester City at the weekend.
The simple conclusion to draw from Benitez being crowned Chelsea’s ninth manager in just over eight years is that Abramovich believes he is the man to get the best out of his much-maligned £50 million pound signing Fernando Torres. The irony is that the arrival of Benitez will, in my opinion, increase the pressure on Torres to prove he is not a busted flush.
Meanwhile, the dignity of the West London has been tarnished yet again by the brutal dismissal of Roberto di Matteo, despite becoming the first Chelsea manager to win the Champions League and as well as adding an FA Cup into the bargain.
To quote The Independent’s James Lawton, Abramovich’s treatment of Di Matteo suggests that the club has “a certain rottenness at its core.” And that is the rub. Money can buy you many things but it can’t buy you dignity and honour.
It is also reassuring to know that some football managers have a bigger pricetag than any amount of money can buy. For Pep Guardiola to resist the riches thrown before him by the Russian is the delicious postscript to this tacky tale of West London extravaganza of obscene proportions. Guardiola has in many people’s eyes enhanced his reputation by ignoring Abramovich’s advances. That is something that will send his desirability soaring at a club like Manchester United who will one day be looking for a successor to the greatest British football manager of all time.
Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his wish to move in at Old Trafford when Sir Alex Ferguson eventually retires. But the Real Madrid boss will surely be challenged by his former Barcelona rival if the United hot seat becomes available any time soon.
Below: Abramovich parades the Champions League trophy (left), Di Matteo wonders what his future holds (right) and Guardiola enjoys his Barcelona dominance (below).
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.
Ryder Cup’s Medinah Miracle inspired by spirit of Seve Ballesteros – but ignited by the belief of British bulldog Ian Poulter
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.
Epic: Murray crowns golden summer of British sport with historic US Open win on day Team GB heroes parade streets of London
From London to New York, 10 September 2012 was the day when Britain celebrated arguably our greatest summer of sport ever. And watching proud Scotsman Andy Murray put the cherry on top of a remarkable succession of triumphs underlined Team GB’s boast that this is Our Greatest Team.
For many sports fans in England, 1966 – when our football stars won the Jules Rimet Trophy in a bygone era – will forever be our greatest triumph.
But this is a new world and 2012 is the year of the Brit. Thanks to a golden generation of heroes who have put the pride back into Great Britain
Just hours after Team GB staged a glorious victory parade in London to celebrate the unprecedented joint success of our Olympians and Paralympians, Murray made history when he ended Britain’s 76-year wait for a men’s Grand Slam singles champion.
The 25-year-old from Dunblane emulated Fred Perry’s 1936 achievement, winning a five-set thriller against Novak Djokovic 7-6 (12-10) 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2. Murray’s victory in four hours 54 minutes at the Arthur Ashe Stadium completed an epic victory in the US Open final.
Murray’s breakthrough comes just a month after he won gold at the Olympics and crowns a remarkable summer of sport that began with Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France.
When Wiggins won cycling’s premier event many experts claimed his feat could not be bettered by a British sports star. But there have been so many superhuman efforts by our amazing men and women since that the Sports Personality of the Year Award is by no means a forgone conclusion.
Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis has brushed aside suggestions that she should quit at the top after her spectacular gold medal success at London 2012.
Ennis was speaking at a joint press conference with Greg Rutherford, who says he wants to build on his success at becoming Olympic long jump champion.
Admitting it is going to be hard to top her gold in London, Ennis insisted: “I’m still only 26 and there a few years left in me yet,” adding “I definitely want to achieve a little bit more in this sport.”
Speaking before the ceremony to receive his gold medal on Monday, Rutherford said he was still coming to terms with the idea of being an Olympic champion. “It’s a very strange feeling. I’m very happy but don’t know how to get that out at the moment.”