Tag Archives: adversity

Lance Armstrong: Australian library brands his books works of fiction

From inspirational tale to work of fiction: Australian library re-shelves Armstrong books after doping confession

By
Adam Shergold

PUBLISHED:

17:46 GMT, 20 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

17:46 GMT, 20 January 2013

Lance Armstrong's fall from grace after admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs shows no signs of slowing.

The professional cycling fraternity has shunned him, the sponsors have dropped him and just about everyone else he's ever crossed is about to sue him.

And now, his books – once an inspirational story of how to overcome adversity – have been re-shelved and re-categorised from 'must-read autobiography' to 'fiction.'

Works of fiction: This sign was on display at Manley Library in Sydney, Australia following the Lance Armstrong revelations on the Oprah Winfrey Show at the end of last week (below)

Works of fiction: This sign was on display at Manley Library in Sydney, Australia following the Lance Armstrong revelations on the Oprah Winfrey Show at the end of last week (below)

Confession time: Lance Armstrong is interviewed by Oprah Winfrey

Confession time: Lance Armstrong is interviewed by Oprah Winfrey

Manly Library in Sydney, Australia caused a few smirks after they moved three Armstrong titles this weekend.

A sign at reception read: 'All non-fiction Lance Armstrong titles, including 'Lance Armstrong: Images Of A Champion,' 'The Lance Armstrong Performance Program' and 'Lance Armstrong: World's Greatest Champion,' will soon be moved to the fiction section.'

I wonder how many people will be suddenly very keen to find out what 'The Lance Armstrong Performance Program' involves.

It comes as Armstrong, 41, took to the Oprah Winfrey chat show in the United States to come clean about being at the centre of one of the most sophisticated doping programmes in the history of sport and appealed for forgiveness from the public.

Seventh heaven: Armstrong celebrates winning his final Tour de France title in 2005 - he was stripped of all seven titles after confessing to taking performance-enhancing drugs

Seventh heaven: Armstrong celebrates winning his final Tour de France title in 2005 – he was stripped of all seven titles after confessing to taking performance-enhancing drugs

In a sensational interview, broadcast late last week, Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France champion, admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs during the most successful part of his career.

But his confession came with a belief that he should be given a second chance to compete.

Today, disgraced former sprinter Ben Johnson said that Armstrong will be quickly forgiven by the American public following his admission.

Johnson, who was stripped of his 100m gold medal from the 1988 Seoul Olympics after testing positive for anabolic steroids, said 'It's going to be fine for him in a few months.'

Disgraced: Sprinter Ben Johnson was stripped of his 100m gold from the 1988 Seoul Olympics after testing positive for banned steroids

Disgraced: Sprinter Ben Johnson was stripped of his 100m gold from the 1988 Seoul Olympics after testing positive for banned steroids

FA Cup third round: A view from the sofa

View from the sofa: No naked butler but heroes aplenty as it goes bananas

By
Riath Al-samarrai

PUBLISHED:

23:42 GMT, 6 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

00:28 GMT, 7 January 2013

As is so often the case, it was Jeff Stelling who delivered the sentence that best summed up the day. ‘O’Brien is in for Matt Armstrong-Ford, the naked butler who failed a fitness test this morning. He’s become an instant hero.’

It’s just gone 3.17pm and the wise men of Sky Sport’s Soccer Saturday are getting excited. Middlesbrough have won a penalty and Ishmael Miller has stepped up to take it. Liam O’Brien, the stand-in goalkeeper for Hastings, ranked 18th in the Ryman League, makes the save and it stays 0-0.

Instant heroes; new and unusual stories. If it’s not a new story, it’s a good old one. In a nutshell, that’s the ‘magic’ and the ‘charm’ of the FA Cup’s third round. It’s the novelty, the lop-sided match-ups, the possibilities, the temporary seating, the quirks of history. Often, the fixtures serve up a belter, but it’s usually context over content.

Providing the drama: Jeff Stelling and the Soccer Saturday team keep the viewers up to date with the 3pm kick-offs

Providing the drama: Jeff Stelling and the Soccer Saturday team keep the viewers up to date with the 3pm kick-offs

And on Saturday, as always seems to happen on the first weekend of January, there was no shortage of context.

Joe Cole was back at West Ham, restarting his career almost 14 years to the day after making his professional debut for the club in the same competition. Manchester United were once desperate to sign him. Their interest had long since died by the time they arrived at Upton Park.

Bournemouth’s Wes Fogden has overcome a tumour that ate into his spine and he spent months in a body cast. The paper talk is of overcoming adversity, leading into a discussion of Bournemouth’s prospects against Premier League Wigan. Then there’s Hastings again, with puns on 1066 and all that, and Mansfield, whose manager, Paul Cox, got married two days before taking on Liverpool.

Instant hero: Liam O'Brien saves a penalty from Middlesbrough's Ishmael Miller

Instant hero: Liam O'Brien saves a penalty from Middlesbrough's Ishmael Miller

Southampton’s Jack Cork has been saying how desperate he is to match and silence his dad Alan, who won the FA Cup with Wimbledon; Southampton are 4-1 down against Chelsea after an hour. But Fogden goes close for Bournemouth against Wigan, before Eunan O’Kane puts the League One side in front. Non-League Luton are leading against Wolves. Goldberg pulls one back for Hastings.

So far only Brighton have banked what, on paper, is an upset. ITV certainly saw the 2-0 win coming, hence the live coverage.

But then Macclesfield of the Blue Square Premier pull level with Cardiff, the leaders of the Championship. Matthew Barnes-Homer, who has scraped a living playing in the US, Sweden and the Midland Alliance, scores the goal. And then the winner. The gap between the sides is 81 places.

Back on the pitch: Wes Fogden plays for Bournemouth after recovering from a tumor

Back on the pitch: Wes Fogden plays for Bournemouth after recovering from a tumor

‘It’s all gone bananas, Jeff,’ says Soccer Saturday reporter and occasional manager Iain Dowie. Kieron Dyer has scored for QPR in injury time against West Brom. Is that irony or magic Joe Cole looks reborn as West Ham draw 2-2 with Manchester United.

By the close of play on Saturday, there are a couple of fruity upsets — notably Macclesfield over Cardiff and Luton over Wolves — but no genuine giant has been knocked on his backside.

On the phone-ins, some Cardiff and Wigan fans aren’t happy with the changes that their managers made to their respective sides.

But that doesn’t matter so much. Barnes-Homer, Robbie Simpson of Oldham, Brighton’s Andrea Orlandi and Alex Lawless of Luton are instant heroes. ‘Magic,’ as Stelling said.

Martine Wright and Olympic Games legacy extinguished by funding cuts to sitting volleyball, says Lisa Wainwright

Funding cut to sitting volleyball has wiped out legacy of 7/7 survivor Wright and the Games, claims sport's chief Wainwright

|

UPDATED:

22:38 GMT, 18 December 2012

UK Sport's decision not to fund sitting volleyball for the next Paralympic cycle has 'extinguished' any legacy left by London 2012 and the likes of 7/7 bombings survivor Martine Wright, according to Volleyball England's Lisa Wainwright.

The UK's high performance sports agency today announced how a record pot of 347million would be distributed in the run-up to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

It has been decided sitting volleyball will not be getting a chunk of the pie, just two days after Wright was honoured at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards.

Waste of time: Lisa Wainwright indicated that the legacy forged by the Games and Martine Wright (pictured) was being wasted

Waste of time: Lisa Wainwright indicated that the legacy forged by the Games and Martine Wright (pictured) was being wasted

Wright, a sitting volleyball player who lost both legs in the 2005 attacks on London, gave a moving speech at the ExCeL on Sunday as winner of the Helen Rollason Award for 'outstanding achievement in the face of adversity', but Wainwright believes any legacy left from London 2012 has now disappeared.

'Today's funding announcement is so disappointing for all the athletes, staff and the sitting volleyball programme who have made such significant progress given their previous funding of less than 5k each for all training, competition and support,' she said.

'The investment requested from UK Sport was less than 500k per year per squad over the next four years.

'Everyone will have seen the impact sitting volleyball can have on people with the winner of the BBC's Helen Rollason Award, Martine Wright a survivor of the 7/7 London bombings.

Furious: Lisa Wainwright says the sport will need to refocus now

Furious: Lisa Wainwright says the sport will need to refocus now

'When we speak of legacy remember this day, the flame has well and truly been extinguished.

'The sport will now refocus over the new year and start the process of looking for additional funding from sponsors and donors.

'As ever, we remain focused on increasing the awareness of the sport at all levels. We thank all the players, coaches and support staff that have supported the programmes and look forward to working with them in the future.'

Only yesterday things had looked much rosier for the sport after Sport England announced its volleyball funding.

Following that announcement, Wright took to Twitter to say: 'Great news 5 million for grassroots volleyball which is fab, sitting volleyball back on the map where it counts! Decision Tom 4 elite level.'

PARALYMPIC FUNDING: 2013-2017

Winners

Adaptive rowing 3.5million (up from 2.3million) – one medal in London (hit target)

Boccia 3m (up from 2.3m) – one medal (hit target)

Disability athletics 10.7m (up from 6.7m) – 29 medals (hit target)

Disability sailing 2.8m (up from 1.7m) – two medals (hit target)

Disability shooting 3.3m (up from 2.1m) – three medals (surpassed target)

Disability table tennis 2.7m (up from 1.7m) – four medals (hit target)

Five-a-side football 1.3m – n/a

Goalball 1m women only (up from 0.5m) – no medals (hit performance target)

Judo (visually impaired)* 2m (up from 1.3m) – two medals (hit target)

Para-canoe* 2.3m – n/a

Para-cycling 6.7m (up from 4.2m) – 22 medals (hit target)

Para-equestrian dressage 3.8m (3.6m) – 11 medals (surpassed target)

Para-triathlon* 2.2m – N/A

Wheelchair basketball 5.4m (up from 4.5m) – no medals (missed target)

Wheelchair rugby 3m (up from 2.4m) – no medals (hit performance target)

Wheelchair tennis 1.9m (up from 0.8m) – two medals (hit target)

Losers

Disability archery 2m (down from 2.1m) – two medals (missed target)

Disability swimming 10.4m (down from 11.8m) – 39 medals (missed target)

Powerlifting 0.8m (down from 1.1m) – one medal (hit target)

Sitting volleyball – zero funding (down from 0.8m) – no medals (missed performance target)

Wheelchair fencing – zero funding (down from 0.6m) – no medals (missed performance target)

*denotes one-year award, with indicative four-year figure

Kolo Toure to fight for his Man City future

Kolo Toure to fight for his Man City future after falling out of favour

|

UPDATED:

15:30 GMT, 12 October 2012

Kolo Toure has no plans to leave Manchester City and has vowed to fight to regain his place in the team.

The former City captain currently finds himself fourth choice behind Joleon Lescott, Vincent Kompany and summer acquisition Matija Nastasic at the heart of their defence.

But despite falling down the pecking order, the Ivory Coast international, 31, believes he has a future at Eastlands.

Rare sight: Kolo Toure's appearances in a Manchester City shirt have become few and far between this season

Rare sight: Kolo Toure's appearances in a Manchester City shirt have become few and far between this season

‘I want to stay, I want to fight for my place,’ he told BBC Sport.

‘It’s difficult, I was a key player. I’ve done everything but that will not change the manager’s decision.’

Toure, who is on the brink of winning his 100th international cap, added: ‘I like City and this season I started every game pre-season.

‘But when the season started I’ve been kicked out again from the team. It was difficult.’

Fighter: Toure (left), pictured here in training with Micah Richards, has vowed to compete for his City place

Fighter: Toure (left), pictured here in training with Micah Richards, has vowed to compete for his City place

He lost his place after a poor performance against teenager Raheem Sterling in the 2-2 draw with Liverpool at the end of August and has only started one match – a Capital One Cup tie with Aston Villa – since.

But having already fought back from a six-month drugs ban last year, Toure is used to periods of adversity.

He said: ‘I fight. My team-mates know, my brother [Yaya, the City midfielder] knows. I do my best but the club are showing me the way out at the moment.

‘I’m not angry with the manager. If someone doesn’t want me then there will be another club that does.

‘I still have this hunger. I take Ryan Giggs [38] and Paul Scholes [37] as an example. What they are doing for Manchester United is incredible. I want to be like them.’

Bradford Bulls offered ticket money by Leeds Rhinos

Rhinos offer beleaguered Bulls ticket money from Headingley clash

|

UPDATED:

15:02 GMT, 15 July 2012

Leeds are to put their bitter rivalry with Bradford to one side by donating money generated from away ticket sales from next Friday's Super League derby at Headingley to their ailing neighbours.

The beleaguered Bulls are in administration and have until Friday, July 27 to find a buyer or face liquidation.

Bradford would normally be entitled to a small percentage from the sale of tickets sold by them for away games but the Rhinos are to donate all the proceeds in the hope of raising at least 50,000 for their rivals.

Running out of time: Bradford have just 12 days to find a buyer

Running out of time: Bradford have just 12 days to find a buyer

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington said: 'The game has a collective responsibility towards those who have been hit by the Bulls' current financial difficulties and we at Leeds Rhinos are keen to assist at this difficult time.

'We also want to attract a 20,000 crowd, create a good news story for rugby league and make this Friday a memorable occasion. Together we can achieve all that.'

Widnes made a similar gesture earlier this year during Bradford's attempts to raise 500,000 in a bid to avoid going into administration.

Leeds, who on Saturday beat Wigan to reach the Challenge Cup final, are aiming to sell out the Western Terrace which houses away fans.

Bradford interim chief executive Gary Tasker, who says the offer applies only to tickets sold by his club beforehand, said: 'This is a fantastic gesture from our neighbours and we appreciate it at this difficult time.

'In adversity you learn a lot about people and since my return I have been surprised by some of the calls I have received.

Running out of time: Bradford have just 12 days to find a buyer

'However, I am not surprised that Leeds Rhinos have made this offer. The Rhinos have always seen the bigger picture for the game of rugby league and now we can look forward to a bumper crowd for the derby clash.

'Hopefully, we will have a Western Terrace full of Bulls fans on Friday night and tickets will be available all week from the Odsal ticket office.'

Bradford's joint administrator, Brendan Guilfoyle, recently made 16 full-time staff redundant in an effort to slash the club's wage bill and reduce running costs.

Head coach Mick Potter and his assistants Francis Cummins and Lee St Hilaire have all returned in a voluntary capacity while the players only received their July wages on Friday after the Rugby Football League advanced the club their share of television income.

That was a condition of Guilfoyle's willingness to extend his deadline to conclude a deal with a group of local Asian businessmen known as the ABC consortium, who have emerged as the only potential saviours.

Euro 2012: England can learn from Chelsea

Lampard: England can learn from Chelsea's Champions League win and conquer Euros

|

UPDATED:

09:23 GMT, 10 June 2012

Frank Lampard hopes England can take their cues from Chelsea and win Euro 2012 by playing a similar style to the Blues.

Chelsea's astonishing Champions League triumph saw them come back from the dead three times, against Napoli, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

They struggled with the absence of key players, through suspension and injury and yet still ended up with the biggest prize in club football.

Hope: Frank Lampard is injured but believes England would do well to learn from Chelsea

Hope: Frank Lampard is injured but believes England would do well to learn from Chelsea

Euro 2012 email button

'England can do what Chelsea have done. There are a lot of similarities, after all — new manager and key players missing through injury and suspension,' Lampard told The Sun.

'At Chelsea we found all the adversity brought us even closer together.

'Yes, we had some luck along the way too. But the mental strength we showed and our refusal to accept defeat helped us overcome Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

'I’m sure England can show the same mentality and attitude.

'They will definitely need more of the ball than we got against Barcelona. You can’t play like that every game and expect to get away with it.

'But Barca are an exceptional team and dominate everybody.'

Learning curve: Will Steven Gerrard and Co. take their cues from Chelsea

Learning curve: Will Steven Gerrard and Co. take their cues from Chelsea

The Englishman captained Chelsea during their win in the final but a thigh injury has prevented him from being part of Euro 2012.

But he was encouraged by England's chances and commented that there was no one outstanding team.

Lampard explained: 'The good news for England is there isn’t a dominant team at the Euros, not even Spain this time around.

'So it’s very open. OK, England are not anything like favourites. But neither were Chelsea, so I’m feeling pretty positive.

'The first game against France is crucial and I’ll be cheering England on all the way.'

Oscar Pistorius visits Manchester Children"s Hospital

Oscar's winning over the kids… Pistorius visits children in Manchester hospital

|

UPDATED:

06:50 GMT, 21 May 2012

With just 100 days to go to London's paralympic games, Oscar Pistorius is a busy man. But the Blade Runner still found time to spend his Sunday morning visiting sick youngsters at the Manchester Children's Hospital.

The 25-year-old 400m runner, who competes at the BT Paralympic World Cup on Tuesday, took his famous artificial running legs into the wards to allow the youngsters a glimpse of what can be possible through adversity.

Pistorius said: 'I spent quite a bit of time in hospital when I was young, I broke so many bones, and it can be quite scary being there for a long time.

'Even this morning, one of the kids saw me and my white shirt and started crying because he thought I was there to give him an injection.

'A lot of them don't know who I am, but whether you are a world-class sprinter, a businessman or someone from down the road, they just like the fact that somebody has taken the time to come and visit them other than their parents. It is nice to do.'

Special visit: Oscar Pistorius at Manchester Children's Hospital on Sunday

Special visit: Oscar Pistorius at Manchester Children's Hospital on Sunday

Oscar Pistorius visits Manchester Children's Hospital

Special guest: Oscar Pistorius at the Manchester Children's Hospital

BT Paralympic World Cup

Oscar Pistorius is a BT Ambassador. BT is the official communications services partner for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Oscar will be competing at the BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester on May 22, broadcast on Channel 4. Tickets on sale at: www.btparalympicworldcup.com

Whitmarsh hopes Hamilton will stay with McLaren

Whitmarsh hopes Hamilton will stay with McLaren 'for years to come'

|

UPDATED:

23:05 GMT, 14 May 2012

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh is clinging to the hope Lewis Hamilton will continue to drive for his team 'for years to come' despite another calamitous race weekend casting doubt of the 2008 world champion's future with the Woking-based outfit.

Hamilton had to use all of his skill and determination to finish eighth at the Spanish Grand Prix after a fuel mix up in qualifying saw him penalised by being stripped of pole position and shunted to the back of the grid.

Staying power: Lewis Hamilton has had an indifferent start to the season

Staying power: Lewis Hamilton has had an indifferent start to the season

The mistake was just the latest in a catalogue of errors by McLaren which have meant Hamilton has been unable to translate his stunning performances in qualifying into race wins.

Even so, Whitmarsh is crossing his fingers that Hamilton's loyalty to the team he joined as 13-year-old will see him sign a new contract with McLaren to extend his current deal which expires at the end of the season.

'The relationship with Lewis and team is stronger and better and hopefully we will work together for a long time,' said Whitmarsh who admitted it had been impressed with the way Hamilton had reacted to this latest adversity.

'I have to say he had some greatness I had not seen before. /05/15/article-2144493-130DD8C5000005DC-549_634x432.jpg” width=”634″ height=”432″ alt=”Talking a good game: McLaren Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh” class=”blkBorder” />

Talking a good game: McLaren Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh

'To say I was disappointed is a modest expression of what I felt. 'He was saying we win and lose as a team. He was a great, great driver in Spain. To be a great driver like Fangio you need greatness in handling setbacks, challenges off the track and he has excelled in that. My affection and admiration for Lewis have been enhanced by events at the weekend.'

Hamilton continues to profess that, despite the extra challenges he is being handed by his team, his focus remains on staying in touch in the championships fight rather than his long-term future.

'I am not looking at the bigger picture,' insisted Hamilton who currently occupies third place in the standings, eight points behind co-leaders Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel .

'I am just looking at the season and I want to win the championship.

Demoted: Mechanics push Lewis Hamilton's McLaren Mercedes back to their garage

Demoted: Mechanics push Lewis Hamilton's McLaren Mercedes back to their garage

'The situation I have been in in these last five races has not helped. We could have a healthy lead in the championship if we had capitalised on the performances we had in qualifying but we have been a little bit unfortunate.

'At some stage, things will come together for our team and we will get the points and finishes we deserve. It is bound to happen.'

The unpredictable nature of the championship with five different winners in five different cars so far means it is certainly still wide open as the teams prepare for the next race in Monaco.

But Hamilton's teammate, Jenson Button, remains concerned by McLaren's alarming drop-off in pace since his victory at the season opener in Australia.

'We're struggling in terms of pace and I'm definitely struggling in terms of finding a balance with the car,' said Button who finished ninth in Spain.

'It's just the last two races when it's been hotter. We expected it to be quicker when it was hotter because we expected to get our tyres working. But it hasn't really been the case.'

Jose Maria Olazabal on Seve Ballesteros – Ryder Cup

OLAZABAL EXCLUSIVE: Spirit of Seve can inspire my men to Ryder Cup glory

|

UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 6 May 2012

Friends: Jose Maria Olazabal and Seve Ballestero

Friends: Jose Maria Olazabal and Seve Ballestero

One year on from the passing of his great friend and he still thinks about him every day.

How could it be any other way given all the adventures Jose Maria Olazabal shared with Severiano Ballesteros

Through the dim mists of time we see two blood brothers rescuing each other from the wreckage of each other’s wayward shots at the Ryder Cup. We see them walking in stride, or locked in an embrace after clinching yet another point for their team.

Then came the sadness when the latter’s health was failing. Two weeks before Ballesteros left us, Olazabal paid him one last visit where they reminisced about the glory days, poor Seve hardly able to talk, the two of them with tears in their eyes. In the months following his death, on this day last year, the younger man was bereft.

Now it’s invariably a poignant joy that comes to mind when Ollie conjures up his daily memory of Seve. Like the time in Hong Kong before Christmas, when he botched a recovery shot from the trees.

‘I was thinking how Seve would have made a much better job of it!’ he said, smiling.

It’s that sort of spirit he wants to pervade this year’s Ryder Cup in Chicago, where he will follow in Seve’s footsteps once more as the European captain and there will be a special Seve tribute in the days beforehand. Olazabal is keen to ensure it is free of mawkishness and puts a smile on people’s faces.

‘I don’t want to talk about it because we want it to be a surprise for everyone, including the players,’ he said. ‘We’re all conscious of wanting to strike the right balance. Whenever there was a meeting before the Ryder Cup it was Seve who had the last word, when he always managed to convey his core values: not quitting, being always ready and facing down adversity.

‘Yes, Seve will be there in spirit in every member of our team but it’s those core values we want to get across. We don’t want people so emotional they can’t play.’

Pain: Olazabal (left) was hit hard by Ballesteros' death a year ago

Pain: Olazabal (left) was hit hard by Ballesteros' death a year ago

Spend time in Olazabal’s company and it is not hard to understand why his name is considered a byword for integrity among his peers. Colin Montgomerie captured him perfectly when he said: ‘When Ollie speaks, everyone listens.’

Over the years he has turned down tasty offers from management companies because he’d rather leave his affairs in the hands of his lifelong friend, Sergio Gomez.

Millions of euros in appearance fees have been politely declined because he’d rather spend the time at home. The flashiest car he has ever purchased is his current one, a distinctly unflashy Volkswagen Touareg.

When the Real Madrid footballer Xabi Alonso received a Spanish magazine award last year for Sportsman of the Year, he knew exactly who he wanted to present it to him. Not because he and Olazabal are close. It had everything to do with respect.

Embrace: Ballesteros gives Olazabal a victory hug at the Ryder Cup in 1993

Embrace: Ballesteros gives Olazabal a victory hug at the Ryder Cup in 1993

‘I was happy to do it because Xabi is a very down-to-earth man,’ explained Olazabal. ‘We met a few years ago at a charity thing in South Africa and we have kept in touch. But I wouldn’t say we were close. I never want to get too close to people and overdo it. You want to respect people’s privacy.’

It’s like that in his hometown, the small fishing port of Fuenterrabia, just a few miles from San Sebastian, where everyone has a friendly greeting but no-one outstays their welcome.

‘Occasionally I’ll be walking down the street and someone will say “Hey, Capitano” and that sort of recognition is nice,’ he said. ‘But one of the reasons I’ve never moved and never will is that people are respectful.

‘All I’ve ever wanted to do when I’m away from home is play golf at tournaments. Why compete in tournaments just to get a big cheque for turning up I would rather spend the time with my family.’

/05/06/article-2140403-0CD0A88C000005DC-470_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Leader: Olazabal captains Europe's Ryder Cup team” class=”blkBorder” />

Leader: Olazabal captains Europe's Ryder Cup team

‘Yes, I am really happy with the career I had,’ he said. ‘When you’re a teenager with promise you dream of being a good player and perhaps winning a major, so to win two and play in six Ryder Cups while going through my injuries, I couldn’t ask for more. Even now, I don’t really think the doctors know why I couldn’t walk in 1995 and 96. Over the years my health has been a real medical mystery.’

Now 46, Olazabal still has problems with his shoulder and lower back but is thankful they won’t prevent him from playing a schedule full enough to know all about the personalities of the team he will captain.

Now that it is the start of a long run of tournaments that will shape his team, he must be delighted to see Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood in the upper reaches of the automatic standings.

‘I think we all know how good Lee and Luke are and I hope they can win a major because there’s nothing better than watching players whom you think deserve to win majors finally doing so,’ he said.

‘That’s why Darren Clarke’s Open victory thrilled so many people last year. I’d place Sergio (Garcia) in the same category. Majors for a pro are the icing on the cake. It’s a special thrill to be able to say you won one.’

Is there anyone better qualified than Olazabal to say if this crop of European players is as good as the golden age in the 1980s Thinking of Seve once more, he screws his face up. ‘What happened to the easy questions’ he says.

‘I genuinely think it is hard to compare different players in different eras. That group of players led by Seve and Nick (Faldo) were special in their time. What we might see is a much larger group of high-quality players but it is going to be very difficult for them to achieve the things we saw in the past because the competition is so much closer these days.’

What we can say is that Olazabal will have a team to cope with what is bound to be a noisy cauldron, played out in the heart of one of America’s most raucous cities. Olazabal, of course, was the man standing on the 17th green at Brookline in 1999 when raucousness spilled over into yobbery and the Americans celebrated before he had even had the chance to putt.

New order: Rory McIlroy will be a key member of Europe's Ryder Cup team against America this year

New order: Rory McIlroy will be a key member of Europe's Ryder Cup team against America this year

Thankfully, we’ve all moved on from those disgraceful days and, with Davis Love at the helm for America and Ollie for Europe, there’s little chance of any grotesque repeat.

‘We’ve seen it all over the years, haven’t we’ said Olazabal. ‘We’ve seen calm men explode and good players become great. We’ve seen strong men cry. It’s a very proud moment for me to be captain of Europe.’

And when it’s over, when the last bellowed chant has rung out from the stands and the winning team room, Olazabal will retreat gracefully from the spotlight and back into the bosom of life back home.

He will go into the mountains with his father and their four dogs and go hunting for partridge and woodcock and savour their time together. There, following the sound and fury of a Ryder Cup, he will cherish the quiet and the innocence.

‘We might spend six or seven hours walking in the hills and the only noise you can hear is the dogs working and the whisper of the wind and that’s the beauty,’ he said. ‘Perfect silence I call it. There’s nothing like it.’

OLAZABAL ON…

Chicago: ‘They bid for the Olympics and the Super Bowl and they are thrilled to get the Ryder Cup. It’s going to be very loud but I’m confident it will be respectful.’

American captain Davis Love: ‘We have a lot of respect for each other. We’re going to try to beat each other like hell but it won’t change our relationship.’

The Ryder Cup: ‘We’ve seen it all over the years. We’ve seen calm men explode, good players become great and strong men cry.’

Seve: ‘I know he will be there in spirit and we want him to be proud of us. I think about him every now and then, certain moments on the golf course. It is always going to be like that.’

Vice-captains: ‘I’d expect to have three or four. If you have four or five players in the team from the UK it would make sense to have a vice-captain from the UK but only if that person has a good relationship with the players. There’s no point if all they do is speak the same language.’

Biggest regret: ‘Not winning The Open. To me, it is the biggest event in our sport, the one that tests every facet of your game. I love it because it is not about strength or patience or imagination, but all of those things.’

Alex McLeish handed Aston Villa vote of confidence from Randy Lerner

McLeish handed vote of confidence from Lerner despite Villa relegation fears

|

UPDATED:

19:20 GMT, 25 April 2012

Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner have given their backing to manager Alex McLeish and his players as the club strive to win their Barclays Premier League relegation battle.

Lerner and Faulkner have issued their rallying call after Villa were left only three points above the bottom three following Tuesday night's home defeat by Bolton.

Fans called for McLeish to be sacked and Lerner and Faulkner understand the frustrations of the supporters and are calling for their backing for the final three games of the season.

Under fire: Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish has presided over a slump

Under fire: Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish has presided over a slump

Unrest: Villa fans hold a banner in protest against McLeish on Tuesday

Unrest: Villa fans hold a banner in protest against McLeish on Tuesday

Lerner and Faulkner, in a joint statement, said: 'Right now everyone connected with Villa is hurting badly.

'A win was in sight last night against Bolton after a strong start and the tenacity the team displayed, although ultimately we weren't able to hold on for the points.

'We very openly acknowledge the frustrations of Villa fans and share in them completely.

'What matters to us and the board at this moment is how we, as a club, handle adversity and the pressure it brings.

Danger zone: Villa are just three points off the top flight's bottom three

Danger zone: Villa are just three points off the top flight's bottom three

'Our horizon is the next three games and we continue to be in control of our own destiny.'

The statement continued: 'Young players side by side with more senior players are fighting hard for the club.

'They are now preparing for the West Brom game on Saturday, followed by Spurs and Norwich.

'We will continue to support and rely on our manager and the squad and therefore give them our full support.

'We are totally conscious, as is everyone at the club, that this is a very trying time for those who love Aston Villa.

'We know that the team will continue to fight through every minute of the remaining games and we hope Villa fans will continue to show their great support.'

Stephen Warnock, who scored Villa's goal in the 2-1 defeat, accepts players must stand up and be counted during the final three games of the season.

Midfielder Warnock acknowledges Villa lack players who are used to being involved in scraps to survive at the foot of the table.

He said: 'There's only myself at Blackburn, James Collins at West Ham and Emile Heskey at Wigan who have been in this situation. It's not a nice situation to be in. We need fighters now.'