Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
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.”
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?
Masterclass by Harry Kane has shown world why Premier League title race is never over – and England has a new superstar
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.
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
Cricket.com.au 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.
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.”
Mickleson blames Watson: Another Ryder Cup triumph for Europe brings out the best and the worst of the Americans
Jubilant European celebrations in the Ryder Cup have become so familiar in the past couple of decades, with eight wins in the last 10 epic encounters, that the scars inflicted on the losers have become too uncomfortable to live with for some of the losers. What is said in the cauldron of emotion when the battle is won or lost often reveals far more about the gladiators who fight to the death than than the battle itself.
For me there were two overriding memories of yesterday’s demolition of the American dream. Firstly, the majestic winning shot by Jamie Donaldson on the 15th that sparked wild scenes of jubilation for the Europeans. Secondly, the dignifty and grace of the American captain Tom Watson as he congratulated his rival Paul McGinley.
Approaching McGinley on the fairway, hand outstretched, Watson conceded: “If we could have played four fourballs we might have had a chance. You killed us on the foursomes, man.”
Later Watson was big enough to admit: ” I may have made mistakes playing some players who were tired.” But there was nothing dignified or gracious about the bitter reaction of Phil Mickelson who clearly blamed his captain for the defeat as he reeled off a tribute to Paul Azinger, USA’s winning captain in 2008.
Mickelson, dropped by Watson on Saturday, blatantly took a dig at his beaten captain when he concluded: ‘Unfortunately we have strayed from a winning formula for the last three Ryder Cups and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.”
While Mickelson blames Watson for defeat, the bottom line, in the captain’s opinion, was this: “We came over with expectations higher than the results. The obvious answer is our team has to play better.” The Americans also need to match Europe’s team spirit.
Nick Faldo dismissed Mickleson’s unconvincing insistence he was not being critical when he said: “Phil certainly doesn’t respect Tom Watson. He threw his captain right under the bus.”
If you have any doubt, just take a look at his team-mates squirming in embarrassment as Mickelson delivered his brutal verdict at the post event media conference. And there in a nutshell you have the reason why America’s divided team underachieved so badly. Crushed by five whole points – 16½ to 11½ – by a group of players inferior in the world ranking.
Compare that sight to the togetherness of the European team who have now won three in a row.
World No.1 Rory McIlroy led the praise for his triumphant captain McGinley when he declared: “He left no stone unturned. He was amazing. He couldn’t have done anything else. He was fantastic.”
The praise was universal for the European leader who modestly concluded: “I didn’t execute the plan. The 12 guys in the team did. I did the easy bit – and I really mean that.” And that is the difference between Europe and the USA. One is team united by an unbreakable bond of unity. The other is divided by the size of one man’s ego and the absence of a genuine togetherness.
Lampard proving critics wrong for 18 years – ever since West Ham fan lambasted Redknapp for picking him ahead of Scott Canham
Chelsea may be the runaway leaders with six matches gone in the Premier League. But Blues boss Jose Mourinho must surely know that his club have made a huge misjudgement releasing Frank Lampard. Only time will tell how damaging his switch from London to Manchester via New York will be for the Stamford Bridge club. In the meantime, the evidence is starting to look overwhelming.
In the past week Lampard has twice come off the bench for Manchester City to score important Premier League goals. In midweek in the League Cup he started and scored a double. That’s 4 goals in less than 3 games.
The infamous strike he landed in last Sunday’s 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium to deny Chelsea will be talked about for years to come. Yet it is ridiculous to suggest that Lampard has tarnished his reputation as a Chelsea legend. When he was released by Chelsea in May, thirteen years after signing from West Ham for £13 million pounds, he left as the club’s record goalscorer and arguably their greatest ever player.
The truth is that Lampard did not believe he was finished at the top level and he clearly wanted to remain at Stamford Bridge.
As City boss Manuel Pellegrini mischievously suggested in the pre-match mind games before last Sunday’s showdown with the Premier League’s pacesetters, Chelsea did not want to renew his contract because they did not think he was good enough anymore.
Teased Pellegrini: “I don’t think it is a difficult situation for him. I think Frank didn’t continue in Chelsea because Chelsea didn’t want him, not because he wanted to come here to Manchester City. He couldn’t continue with the team he played for his whole life for. He has all the rights to continue playing football. He arrived here and we are very happy with him.’
What followed was the script you could not write that somehow seemed destined to become a reality. Lampard’s instinctive finish cost Chelsea two points. A strike that could prove pivotal come the end of the season. The way he went into autopilot and did his job like the true professional he is was pure theatre.
There was a fleeting look of horror on his face as his team mates jubilantly surrounded him to celebrate. The outcome was less traumatic, but it reminded me of the day I stood on the Stretford End in May 1974 and saw Denis Law backheel an instinctive winner for City against Manchester United.
Poor Denis thought he had relegated his beloved United. As fate turned out results elsewhere meant United would have gone down anyway. Not since then have a I seen a reaction like Lampard’s haunted look the moment he realised what he had done.
While Lampard must not be compared with ‘The King’, who many of us believe is the greatest Scottish player of all time and arguably the best to wear the famous red shirt of Manchester United, there is no doubt that Lampard is and has been a superb footballer.
Like many Manchester United fans, I will always blame Sven Goran Eriksson for prematurely ending Paul Scholes’ England career by picking Lampard ahead of him. A choice that beggars belief because Scholes was the best English midfield player of his generation by a long way. But that should not overshadow Lampard’s achievements and his ability to overcome criticism.
Critics have been writing him off even before his career had taken off.
I was at a Fans Forum in 1996 when an eighteen year old Lampard squirmed in embarrassment as a West Ham United supporter insisted he was “not good enough” for the Hammers. On that occasion the loudmouthed fan challenged Lampard’s manager and uncle, Harry Redknapp, for choosing him ahead of Scott Canham and Matt Holland.
Redknapp’s response captured in this exclusive YouTube video filmed by VisionSport TV could not have been more adamant: “I did not want to say this in front of him. But he will go right to the very top. Right to the very top.”.
Added Redknapp: “There ain’t no doubt about that in my opinion. Because he’s got everything that’s needed to become a top class midfield player. His attitude is first class. He’s got strength. He can play. He can pass it. And he can score goals.”
Eighteen years on, the egg is on Chelsea’s face because nothing has changed. All the qualities quoted above by Redknapp still apply.
Clock counting down transfer window resembles hostage situation with Manchester United held to ransom in pursuit of top players
To put it bluntly Manchester United have five days until the transfer window closes to save their season. Humiliated in the League Cup tonight by minnows MK Dons, the club crowned champions for a record 20th time just 15 months ago have become a shambles. Not just on the pitch – but off it too.
Humiliated 4-0 in Milton Keynes hours after breaking the British transfer record by agreeing to pay Real Madrid an eye-watering 59.7 million pounds for Angel Di Maria, this is a script you simply could not make up.
The brutal reality is that Louis Van Gaal is still at least two, possibly three more marque signings away from assembling a squad with any hope of challenging the top six.
With clubs around the world aware of the Red Devils’ desperate situation, further meteoric spending will be required. Not to mention the huge salaries that will be expected to persuade world class players to miss out on the Champions League for one season at least.
Blinded by a perfect pre-season that produced six wins out of six, fans and pundits alike expected the new manager to deliver a challenge for the Premier League. The Dutchman was a tactical genius when he guided Holland to third place in this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
But three matches into the new campaign, Van Gaal has a return of just one point out of six in the Premier League and a crushing Capital Cup exit that ranks as one of the worst embarrassments in the club’s history.
“I am not shocked because it can happen, especially when you have nine injuries and you have to play a match within 48 hours,” was Van Gaal’s verdict. “We have to build a new team and that can’t be done in one month.”
Di Maria it is hoped will make his debut at Burnley on Saturday, along with Marcos Rojo, signed for £16 million pound from Sporting Lisbon a week ago. But it is impossible to envisage an instant fix, such is the frailty of United’s defence and the confidence shattering blows to an inadequate squad further weakened by injuries.
Make no mistake United were battered by the minnows from League One. This was no fluke. MK Dons were more organised, more determined. After a promising start, United’s unfamiliar 3-5-2 system was ripped apart with embarrassing ease.
Any manager will tell you he needs time and the extent of the re-building required at Old Trafford means there is no longer any way to paper over the cracks. But time is a rare commodity in the 21st century, where football is no longer simply a sport. This is big business and the consequences of failure and poor investment are potentially catastrophic.
The Glazer’s front man Ed Woodward has entered the fray splashing the cash at the eleventh hour with everything to prove. His stature in the cut-throat arena of the global transfer market is yet to match the class act United took for granted when David Gill was calling the shots. But he has been dealt a tough challenge to deal with.
It is not rocket science to conclude that Woodward has overpaid. So far he has recruited Marouane Fellaini (27.5M), Juan Mata (37.5M), Ander Herrera (£28.8M), Luke Shaw (27M) plus Rojo and Di Maria for a combined 76M spree in the last seven days. That’s 196.5M on six new faces, and, if Paul Scholes was on the ball last week with his evaluation, United still need three more big signings.
By my reckoning – and through the good and the bad times I have followed United for close on 50 years – we still need a world class centre back, a ball winning central midfielder and a quality marksman to come close to challenging Chelsea and Manchester City. The Blues are both a cut above their closest challengers in the Premier League and even further ahead of the Reds.
Woodward’s ability to deliver the missing ingredients with the clock ticking down will have long reaching consequences because the stakes are so high and there is little room for error. United fans are hoping and praying he can deliver and equally that Van Gaal has sent him in search of the right signings.
The Old Trafford faithful admire LVG’s continuation of the United tradition of giving homegrown players a chance and the signs are that the latest crop of starlets include some great prospects. But whatever the makeup of his re-built squad he can only succeed if he firstly wins trophies and secondly moulds a team that plays the beautiful game the United way. And that means we must be entertained.
In the full glare of the media spotlight on the biggest club floundering in the world’s most watched domestic league, there is no hiding place – as the much maligned David Moyes found out in his ill-fated solitary season in the hot seat.
Failure to qualify for the Champions League as a result of last season’s spectacular crash to seventh place under Moyes meant United were competing in the League Cup for the first time in over 20 years. But that ignominy was nothing compared to the shame on a Tuesday night in Milton Keynes brought on United by a collapse so spectacular that it beggared belief.
Triumphant MK Dons manager Karl Robinson summed up the magnitude of his side’s four goal demolition of the Manchester giants when he told BBC radio minutes after the final whistle: “We are still in shock. For the first 20 minutes they dominated us and we didn’t know what to do.”
But then came a spectacular collapse by the club that claims to be the biggest in the world. To do so at the hands of League One minnows who only came into existence a decade ago has intensified the pressure on the new manager to start performing miracles.
This could be most exciting Premier League season ever and here is our preview of the opening weekend’s fixtures
Visionsport TV’s Top 10 goals compilation from the first ever Premier League season . . .
The race to join the Premier League is under way and you can expect the promotion battle to be widely contested by up to a dozen candidates in the Championship . . . Cardiff City, Derby County and Ipswich Town are my tips for the top three positions.
But it’s the top flight where we are in store for a campaign I am expecting to be the most hotly contested season since the Premier League started in 1992/1993.
Withe five heavyweight challengers for the all important top four positions, there is a strong argument to be made for Manchester City, Chelsea Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United. While Everton and Tottenham Hotspur will be pushing hard to made an impact.
Most difficult to predict is just how high new manager Louis Van Gaal can guide the Premier League’s most successful club after last year’s blip under David Moyes.
But there is no underestimating how important a strong start will be this year. And here is our review of next weekend’s big kick-off.
Arsenal v Crystal Palace
Arsenal have failed to win on the opening weekend for the last four seasons (D3 L1). Last year they crashed 3-1 at home to Aston Villa. They had won eight of the previous nine (D1).
Palace have won only one of their five opening weekend fixtures in the Premier League (D2 L2).Last season was the first time the Eagles managed to end a PL season without being relegated.
The Gunners beat Palace 2-0 home and away last season.
Burnley v Chelsea
Burnley lost their only previous opening weekend fixture 2-0 at Stoke in August 2009. While Chelsea have won more points (47) than any other team on the opening weekend of the Premier League.
Jose Mourinho has a 100 percent record in his previous five opening weekends as Chelsea manager.
The Blues are unbeaten since 1998/99, winning 13 of 15 first weekend games (D2).
Burnley lost both games against Chelsea in 2009/10, their only previous Premier League season .
Leicester City v Everton
The Foxes have failed to win in five attempts on the opening day (D3 L2).
Not since the opening game of the 2009/10 season has Roberto Martinez enjoyed a victory on the first weekend of the PL, drawing two and losing two since then.
Everton are unbeaten in their last nine Premier League clashes with the Foxes. But they have won just two of those games (D7).
Liverpool v Southampton
Last year’s 1-0 win over Stoke was Liverpool’s first victory on the opening weekend in five attempts (D2 L2).
Seven of Southampton’s last eight opening games in the PL have been away from home, winning just two of the previous seven (D2 L3).
Southampton won 1-0 win at Anfield last season. Liverpool’s new striker Rickie Lambert scored 28 league goals for Southampton over the last two seasons.
Manchester United v Swansea City
The reverse of last season’s opening fixture when United won 4-1 at the Liberty Stadium, their sixth win in their last nine opening PL matches. (D2 L1). The Red Devils have never lost on the opening weekend at Old Trafford (W8 D3).
Swansea’s three previous matches on the opening weekend have produced 14 goals.
Danny Welbeck has scored three times in his last two league games against Swansea City.
Newcastle United v Manchester City
The reverse of last season’s opening fixture when Newcastle United lost 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium.
Newcastle have only won once in the last five seasons in their opening match (D2 L2) and have failed to score in their last three PL games with the defending champions.
City have won four and lost none of their last five opening matches, keeping four clean sheets in the process.
Queens Park Rangers v Hull City
This will be the first Premier League meeting between Queens Park Rangers and Hull City.
Queens Park Rangers have taken just one point from six opening weekend matches in the Premier League (D1 L5).
In 10 matches, Steve Bruce has enjoyed just two victories on the opening weekend of a Premier League season (D4 L4).
Stoke City v Aston Villa
Last season’s 3-1 win over Arsenal was Paul Lambert’s first victory on the opening weekend of a Premier League season. Peter Crouch scored in both Stoke’s victories over Aston Villa last season.
Despite winning just once on the opening weekend (D2 L3), Stoke are unbeaten at the Britannia Stadium on the opening day (W1 D1).
West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland
The home team has won each of the last three clashes between West Brom and Sunderland, Stephane Sessegnon scoring in two of the last three league meetings, once for each side.
Gus Poyet will be the fourth different manager Sunderland have had on the opening weekend in the last four seasons and the fifth in the last seven.
West Brom’s last four opening day fixtures have produced 13 goals.
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur
This game will be Sam Allardyce’s 400th as a Premier League manager and last season he had a 100 percent record against Spurs. The Hammers won both PL clashes and also knocked Spurs out of the Capital One Cup when they met in the Quarter Final.
These two sides met on the opening day of the 1999/2000 season, Harry Redknapp’s West Ham winning 1-0 at Upton Park. Spurs have won just four of their last 17 opening weekend fixtures (D4 L9).
What a brilliant idea by the organisers of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games to make the opening ceremony a spectacular fund raising event for children’s charity UNICEF.
In the unprecedented move, the countdown to the start of the ceremony was interrupted by a video plea broadcast on the 100-metre wide screen stretching across the stadium at Celtic Park.
“Right now thousands of world-class athletes are here in Glasgow. And over the next eleven days they’ll be doing their best to come first,” said the UNICEF ambassador.
“But tonight, they’re asking all of us watching to take a moment to think about the children in our Commonwealth who usually come last. Last to get healthcare. Last to get an education. Last to just get a fair chance in life.”
Money raised through the partnership between the Commonwealth and Unicef will be used to help to protect children from disease and exploitation, providing food and vaccines, and by giving children the chance to take part in sport.
To donate £5 to the Children Of The Commonwealth Fund text FIRST to 70333
Watched by a global audience of up to a billion and a crowd of 40,000 inside Celtic Park this was the biggest event staged in Glasgow’s proud history. And the opening ceremony was a glorious success.
Even a hilarious few moments that delayed the conclusion of the opening ceremony by Her Majesty the Queen did not detract. Sir Chris Hoy came to the rescue of Commonwealth Games Federation president Prince Imran from Malaysia when he struggled to open the ceremonial baton that contained the closing message.
Once the message was retrieved, the Queen said: ‘At Buckingham Palace last October I placed this message into the specially-crafted baton and passed it to the first of many thousands of baton-bearers. Over the past 288 days the baton has visited all the nations and territories of the Commonwealth, crossing every continent in a journey of more than 100,000 miles.
‘The baton relay represents a calling together of people from every part of the Commonwealth and serves as a reminder of our shared ideals and ambitions as a diverse, resourceful and cohesive family.
‘And now, that baton has arrived here in Glasgow, a city renowned for its dynamic cultural and sporting achievements and for the warmth of its people, for this opening ceremony of the Friendly Games.’
Can Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United stop City retaining the Premier League – or will it be Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea?
With the World Cup over and the countdown to the new season fast approaching, all eyes are on the Premier League kick off on 16th August – and the big question is: ‘Who can stop defending champions Manchester City from making it two in a row?’
The summer transfer window has already seen plenty of activity among the leading contenders and who gets it right before the deadline will certainly boost their odds of winning the title. So here is our rundown of the top moves made so far by the leading contenders.
Manuel Pellegrini’s title holders have signed three new players and their focus has been on bringing in new signings that will make them even harder to beat. Despite mistakes at the back costing City a damaging defeat by Liverpool in the title run in last season, the Manchester club eventually squeezed home ahead of the Merseysiders by 86 points to 84. The new squad is strengthened by the addition of Fernando – £12m from Porto; Bacary Sagna – free from Arsenal; and Willy Caballero – £6m from Malaga
City’s switch around has already met with the approval of the bookmakers who currently have odds of 12/5 on City to retain the Premier League. But this looks like being another hugely competitive season with all the big guns keeping busy in the transfer market.
It is only 14 months since United were champions for a record 20th time in Sir Alex Ferguson’s farewell season. But can new manager Louis Van Gaal repair the spectacular demise last term under David Moyes? There is certainly huge expectation among Reds fans after watching their new boss guide the Netherlands to an impressive third place at the 2014 World Cup that included a Robin Van Persie assisted demolition of Spain in the group stages.
So far £58m has been spent on bringing in defender Luke Shaw from Southampton and midfielder Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao. But Van Gaal has raised expectations that more names will follow telling fans: “Watch this space.” With Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand already departed and Ryan Giggs retired, there is certainly a lot of room to add to the squad at Old Trafford. The optimism created by LVG’s appointment has lifted the Reds to third favourites for the title at 5-1.
Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has been notorious for not spending big money in the past. But the arrival of Alexis Sanchez for a cool £35 million looks like one of the buys of the summer. The Chilean forward was a big star at the World Cup and looks a class addition to the team that won the FA Cup. Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle United is the other big money signing at £12 million. Nonetheless, the Gunners remain fourth favourites at 6-1.
One manager who claims his club have already completed their summer spending is Jose Mourinho. The Blues have splashed out close to £80 million. The marquee signings have been teasing Cesc Fabregas away from Barcelona for £27 million and Diego Costa the much needed striker from Atlético Madrid costing £32 million.
Chelsea are strongly fancied at 7-4 to top the league.
With odds of 10/1 to end their 25 year wait to be champions, last season’s runners-up have been weakened by the loss of their talisman Luiz Suarez to Barcelona. In compensation the Anfield club have already recruited six new faces for around £60 million and appear to be in the market for at least one more big money signing. But will this prove to be too much surgery in one summer for Brendan Rodgers’ squad? The new arrivals so far include Adam Llallana (Southampton, £25m), Lazar Markovic (Benfica, £20m), Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen, £9.75m) and Ricky Lambert (Southampton, £4m). The betting at least suggests Liverpool’s chances of winning the Premier League for the first time have drifted.