Tag Archives: alarming

Scotland 15 Tonga 21: Robinson left fighting for his job after abject display

Scotland 15 Tonga 21: Robinson left fighting for his job after abject display

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UPDATED:

19:26 GMT, 24 November 2012

Tonga triumphed in Aberdeen as Scotland slumped to another miserable loss which is sure to pile pressure on head coach Andy Robinson.

Tries from Lua Lokotui and Fetu'u Vainikolo and 11 points from the boot of Fangatapu Apikotoa earned Tonga a memorable win at Pittodrie.

No place to hide: Scotland coach Andy Robinson

No place to hide: Scotland coach Andy Robinson

Greig Laidlaw kicked five penalties for Scotland, who were blunt in attack, as Robinson's men fell to a third defeat of the EMC Test series following losses to New Zealand and South Africa.

It was an attritional affair on a narrow pitch which limited space and, once again, Scotland's passing lacked the accuracy required as the ball hit the floor with alarming regularity.

Scotland lacked ideas to overcome their physical opponents, who had three players sin-binned but were deserved winners as the hosts tasted defeat in Aberdeen for the first time.

A season which featured early World Cup elimination and a RBS 6 Nations wooden spoon was revived by the June wins in Australia, Fiji and Samoa before New Zealand and South Africa inflicted defeats which will see Scotland outside the top eight seeds for the 2015 World Cup draw.

Assuming he is retained, Robinson will next enter his fourth Six Nations, beginning with the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham, needing a remarkable turnaround to avoid another abject spring showing.

No contest: Scotland's Rory Lawson runs into Tonga's Sione Timani

No contest: Scotland's Rory Lawson runs into Tonga's Sione Timani

No contest: Scotland's Rory Lawson runs into Tonga's Sione Timani

No contest: Scotland's Rory Lawson runs into Tonga's Sione Timani

Due to a mixture of choice and circumstance, change was required for the final match of 2012, with six alterations from the XV which began the Springboks Test.

Making their first starts were scrum-half Henry Pyrgos and loosehead prop Kyle Traynor, who was released by Edinburgh in the summer but brought in due to decimated front-row resources.

Hooker Scott Lawson, lock Alastair Kellock, flanker Alasdair Strokosch and centre Max Evans also started.

Tonga lost to Italy and beat the United States this month and featured a host of European-based players eager to claim another northern hemisphere scalp following their World Cup win over France in the third Test between the sides.

Scotland were bidding for a morale-boosting win, just as they claimed in 1995 and 2001, but fell behind early on.

Apikotoa missed an early penalty from 45 metres before kicking a second from in front of the posts after Scotland killed the ball.

A Laidlaw penalty attempt careered back off the post before he kicked Scotland level after 11 minutes.

Crestfallen: Dejected Scotland players

Crestfallen: Dejected Scotland players

Tim Visser and Sean Lamont stretched Tonga down the left and a period of concerted pressure followed.

Scotland piled over the line, but it was impossible to rule whether the ball was grounded beneath a heap of bodies.

Scotland struggled to breach the Tonga defence until a gap presented itself to Laidlaw and he took it.

The fly-half ran 30 metres towards the Tonga line, with Visser on his left shoulder, but marked, and Strokosch on his right.

The flanker fumbled Laidlaw's pass as defenders recovered, the danger brought to an end.

Tonga continually infringed and referee Mathieu Raynal lost patience when Lokotui obstructed Richie Gray at a lineout and was sent to the sin-bin.

Prop Halani Aulika was fortunate not to join him after body-checking Matt Scott, with no attempt to tackle using his arms.

Tonga's short-handed scrum were penalised and Laidlaw's kick was successful to give Scotland a narrow half-time lead.

Scotland continued to struggle with ball in-hand, a Lamont carry deep into the 22 one of the few occasions the hosts breached enemy lines.

A penalty followed which Laidlaw kicked to extend the lead to six points, but Tonga kept up the pressure.

Apikotoa missed the chance to reduce the arrears, but Tonga's persistence paid off when they spread the ball wide and Lokotui made amends for his earlier indiscretion by burrowing over. Apikotoa converted to put Tonga 10-9 ahead.

Laidlaw kicked two more penalties to give the hosts a five-point lead entering the final quarter, but the advantage crumbled all too easily.

The ball was spread wide to Vainikolo, who simply stepped up the pace and ghosted down the left, evading substitute Nick De Luca, to score.

The conversion was missed by Apikotoa and Bath fly-half Tom Heathcote came on for his debut.

Nili Latu became the second Tongan sin-binned 11 minutes from time for leaping on top of a maul, but Heathcote's resulting penalty was short.

The task became tougher for Scotland when Apikotoa kicked his third penalty to leave the hosts requiring a converted try to win with six minutes left.

Sione Timani was sin-binned, temporarily reducing Tonga to 13 men.

Latu returned, with an attacking scrum for Scotland as the game ticked into added time.

Scotland nudged forward, but captain Kelly Brown lost control at the base of the set-piece and Tonga scrambled clear.

The last act of the game was Heathcote dropping a Rory Lawson pass as Scottish players stood crestfallen – and defeated – across the pitch.

Brendan Rodgers tells Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique they face Liverpool exit

Up your game: Rodgers warns Downing and Enrique that exit looms

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UPDATED:

21:49 GMT, 28 September 2012

Brendan Rodgers has warned Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique they are fighting to save their Liverpool careers after he raised questions about their attitude and desire.

England winger Downing became the fourth most expensive signing in Liverpool’s history when he arrived for 20million from Aston Villa in July 2011.

But he has struggled to make an impact and Rodgers said last month he may have to reinvent himself as a left-back to stay in the team.

Stern warning: Brendan Rodgers has told a number of Liverpool's star names to improve their game

Stern warning: Brendan Rodgers has told a number of Liverpool's star names to improve their game

Enrique, meanwhile, has suffered an alarming loss of form in recent months. He made a terrific start to life with Liverpool following his 7million signing from Newcastle 13 months ago but Rodgers has preferred using Glen Johnson in his position in the Barclays Premier League.

The Spaniard, 26, is unlikely to play at Carrow Road today, as he has been struggling with a knee injury, but Downing, 28, could come back into the squad after being left out of the 18 for last week’s clash against Manchester United. How long he stays there for, though, remains to be seen.

‘What is important is that you have good communication,’ said Rodgers. ‘I don’t waste time waiting until January to tell both players what I know now. So they know in relation to the demands of what we want and certainly what it is going to take for us to succeed and for them to fit into the group.

More needed: Stewart Downing faces an uncertain future at Anfield

More needed: Stewart Downing faces an uncertain future at Anfield

‘As coaches we are not magicians. For me football players are not different to plumbers, to joiners to bricklayers, they are self-employed and us as medics, coaches and managers we are the tools that help them to be better.

‘We will give them everything to help them to be better, but if they don’t want to show that self-motivation – and if they haven’t got that desire and hunger to succeed – then it can be very difficult. Stewart is a good guy but it hasn’t quite worked out for him as he would want it.

‘The big challenge for him now is that commitment to the cause – to fight – because he has the qualities. Talent alone is not enough. You have to work hard; you have to fight for the shirt. I will keep private the discussions Stewart and I have had but he is under no illusion that he has to fight.’

Coming up: Raheem Sterling is seen as a future star at Liverpool

Coming up: Raheem Sterling is seen as a future star at Liverpool

When asked if Enrique – whose last performance against Young Boys Berne in the Europa League saw him culpable for two of three goals Liverpool conceded – was in a similar position, Rodgers was just as emphatic.

‘It is about the hunger and desire and that is why you admire big players who stay at the top for as long as they can because it is not just what they are doing in games,’ said Rodgers, who is aiming to record his first Premier League win as Liverpool manager at Norwich.

‘In order to be like that, that is what they are doing every single day of their life. Look at Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. They are immaculate. It is a way of life and if you prepare yourself right that will ultimately lead to success.

This way to the exit: Jose Enrique could find himself on the way out of Anfield

This way to the exit: Jose Enrique could find himself on the way out of Anfield

‘But if you are not quite right in your preparation and you come in looking in for an easy life, to pick up your money, it won’t be here. We are a club that has to be fighting going forward. I am out there every day, assessing what is going on.

‘Status does not matter. It is what you are like as a player. It doesn’t matter how much money you have come for. That doesn’t matter to me. I will play a 17-year-old if he fights and he has quality. It is quite easy.’

What will not be easy, after such a difficult start to the domestic programme, is bustling up the top four this year. Rodgers does not have to deliver Champions League football this season – owner John W Henry said so in July – but he is refusing to give up on that target.

Enlarge

The Anfield conveyor belt

‘We have got 99 points to play for,’ said the manager. ‘I believe that 70-plus points will allow you to arrive in the top four. So that gives us 68 points that we need over the remaining games. We can maybe have 10-odd games with problems. That maybe the next three games, you know

‘Of course, sooner rather than later, you want to get your points and get up and running. I want us to get the points our performances deserve. But we have got to achieve it. There’s no doubt it’s going to be a monumental achievement for that to happen but we have to work towards it.’

Patrick Collins: Who would want their children to turn out like a Ferdinand or Terry?

Who would want their children to turn out like a Ferdinand or Terry

PUBLISHED:

23:08 GMT, 14 July 2012

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UPDATED:

23:08 GMT, 14 July 2012

The post-match interview is a ritual
of modern football. It features a reluctant player, a docile inquisitor
and a parade of weary platitudes. The match is reviewed through a
rose-tinted lens; head-butts become ‘handbags’, vile insults are reduced
to ‘banter’, history is rewritten. At the close of this exchange, the
player is thanked for his candour and awarded a bottle of champagne.

Recently, I asked a television sports
executive why footballers are let off so lightly, why they are not posed
the kind of searching questions which other public figures expect to
face. He acknowledged that they get an easy ride but said: ‘If we
started embarrassing them, they wouldn’t agree to come on. Their image
is very important to them, you know.’

After the events of the past week, I’d
say they can stop worrying about that image because it is now hanging
in shreds from the rafters of Westminster Magistrates’ Court. We never
really swallowed the insulting fiction that the game is played between
old chums, who might differ over the odd decision yet revert to
back-slapping bonhomie at the final whistle. But we now discover that
the reality is even uglier.

Gutter abuse: The revelations at Westminster Magistrates' Court were not pretty

Gutter abuse: The revelations at Westminster Magistrates' Court were not pretty

Thanks to John Terry, Anton Ferdinand
and their various associates, we know that an alarming number of
professional footballers inhabit a world in which gutter abuse is
routinely employed as a tactic and the F-word is set aside only when the
C-word springs to the tongue, and arrogant entitlement is a way of life
while dignity is a distant stranger. All of these things we had
suspected, yet it was strangely depressing to have those suspicions
vindicated in court.

Already the legal implications have
been scrupulously dissected, by eminent lawyers as well as learned
pundits who have watched an entire box-set of Rumpole Of The Bailey. The
Crown Prosecution Service have been roundly condemned for proceeding
against Terry, although this would seem to be refuted by the
magistrate’s observation that ‘it is clear that the prosecution has
brought a strong case’.

But I know little of these affairs and
if I remain confused by Terry’s stated reason for uttering those
appalling words — that he was quizzically repeating something he thought
that Ferdinand had said — then better minds than mine will supply
explanation.

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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

No matter. Terry has been found not
guilty of the offence and his rackety reputation has avoided a further,
possibly fatal, blow. The game itself could not make a similar claim.

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the
Professional Footballers’ Association, correctly believes that ‘the
searchlight’ is shining on football and footballers. ‘The players are
role models, whether they like it or not, and they must behave
accordingly,’ he says.

He may well have had in mind
Ferdinand’s extraordinary description of the crucial altercation: ‘He
called me a c*** and I called him a c*** back and he gave me a gesture
as if to say my breath smelled. I said to him: “How can you call me a
c*** You s*****d your team mate’s missus, you’re a c***”.’

When football’s apologists complain
that the national sport is wickedly misrepresented, they may care to
consider that piece of reportage.

In truth, the whole affair yielded
some memorable vignettes. There was, for instance, the character
reference which Terry received from none other than Jose Mourinho; the
shameless one endorsing the legally blameless one. It was the kind of
nugget which renders satire redundant. And there was Ashley Cole’s cameo
role in the witness box: ‘Am I supposed to laugh at that …
Personally, I don’t think I should be sitting here.’ And there was
Terry’s own, unwitting soliloquy: ‘Please, please, please, please,’
which will offer material for crowd chanting when the new season
arrives.

Say please: John Terry was sniggered at in court

Say please: John Terry was sniggered at in court

Yet mention of chanting crowds serves to remind us of football’s toleration of the intolerable. In the course of his cross-examination, Terry testified that a section of Liverpool fans sang an obscene song about his mother, yet this piece of moronic offensiveness passed unremarked, just another part of the match-day experience.

At Chelsea’s own Stamford Bridge, there are frequent, cretinous eruptions of ‘Anton Ferdinand, you know what you are’. And at Old Trafford, Arsene Wenger regularly receives the kind of squalid abuse which ought to result in criminal prosecution.

I recall Harry Redknapp enduring a disgraceful afternoon at Villa Park. Redknapp is not an unworldly man but later he spoke with genuine anguish and disgust at what players and managers are required to endure from malevolent fools. ‘And some of them have their children with them,’ he said. ‘Young kids, watching their fathers make those evil gestures and scream those words. If they did it in the street, they’d be arrested. Why should football grounds be different’

Redknapp was right and the Terry-Ferdinand case has demonstrated the depths to which the game has sunk.

In the hot seat Anton Ferdinand leaves the court after giving evidence on Monday

In the hot seat Anton Ferdinand leaves the court after giving evidence on Monday

The Football Association are to conduct an inquiry to establish what action can be taken in the wake of the trial. The noises-off are not entirely encouraging; why, it has actually been suggested that Terry should be restored as captain of England, a role which he should never have been given and which he has deservedly lost on two occasions. But, frivolous diversions aside, there is a crying need for an intelligent reassessment of the disturbing standards which currently prevail in our national sport.

The FA are apparently considering charging both men with bringing the game into disrepute. Some would say that it is impossible to impugn something so patently disreputable. But it would at least represent an awareness of the problem. They could then go on to consider more fundamental questions, some of which might be occupying concerned fathers of young sons.

After reading those shaming accounts from the magistrates’ court last week, do responsible parents want their family to become involved in this game Are they willing to expose them to the jarring ugliness they will encounter in grounds across the nation Could they seriously propose some of these foul-mouthed louts as role models In short, would they risk their children turning out like Anton Ferdinand or John Terry

These are serious questions. If the game we have loved since childhood is to retain even a smattering of its self-respect, they demand urgent answers.

So it'll be 'Arise, Sir Bradley'

After a few attempts to cover the Tour de France, I came to a couple of conclusions.

The first was that this is the most demanding athletic test in the whole world of sport.

The second was that ultimate victory is reserved for the traditional cycling nations and that the idea of a British winner is merely a pipedream.

Hitting the heights: Bradley Wiggins (right)

Hitting the heights: Bradley Wiggins (right)

So how to account for the presence of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome at the head of the pack Since I am unqualified to explain, I shall simply celebrate a glorious achievement.

And if either man should deliver that triumph, then whatever happens at London 2012, the victor will sweep up every end-of-year sports award.

And he will deserve to.

PS

There are a good many Australian fast bowlers who would take serious offence were you to describe them as civilised, courteous and agreeable. Especially if they were blindingly quick and relentlessly aggressive.

But Brett Lee is the exception.

Formidable: Brett Lee claimed 310 wickets in 76 tests and 380 in one-day cricket

Formidable: Brett Lee claimed 310 wickets in 76 tests and 380 in one-day cricket

In 76 Tests, he hurt a lot of batsmen, shattered a lot of reputations and made a whole lot of friends.

The most honourable of opponents, he will take our respectful good wishes into his retirement from international cricket.

Ian Poulter pulls out of Honda Classic

Poulter hot and bothered after pneumonia forces Englishman to pull out of Honda Classic

Ian Poulter was
diagnosed with
pneumonia after pulling out of the
feature group
alongside Tiger Woods
and Lee Westwood at
the Honda Classic in
Florida.

The alarming news
completes a miserable
start to a season for
Poulter, who began it
with such high hopes
after winning his final
event of last year in
Australia.

Back to bed: Ian Poulter will play no part at the Honda Classic

Back to bed: Ian Poulter will play no part at the Honda Classic

Two poor stroke-play finishes were followed by a first-round exit at the Accenture Match Play Championship last week, leading to Sir Nick Faldo concluding there was too much going on in his life for him to play his best golf.

Faldo was particularly concerned about Poulter's 'Twitter obsession.'

But one of the reasons why Poulter has more than 1.2million followers is he keeps them fully informed.

Burning up: Twitter fan Poulter let his followers see his temperature

Burning up: Twitter fan Poulter let his followers see his temperature

And so we know there
was no hint of what
was to come on
Tuesday night, when
he attended the latest
Cirque du Soleil show.

But after a three-hour
drive to the
tournament, he was
being confined to bed
with a temperature of
102 degrees.

Then
came the tweet on Thursday: 'Just
been for a chest x-ray
got pneumonia guys,
rest time for me.'

David Moyes confident Everton can thrive

Moyes confident new signings can inspire Everton to greater heights

David Moyes believes Everton can attack their final 15 games with a renewed confidence after admitting success in the January transfer window has rekindled his enthusiasm.

Everton’s manager has regularly cut a frustrated figure this season and Moyes – who recently accepted responsibility for falling gates at Goodison Park as 'he had not won enough matches' – made the frank declaration on Friday that he felt some of his actions had let the club’s supporters and players down.

But the deadline day signings of Nikica Jelavic from Glasgow Rangers and Steven Pienaar from Tottenham have transformed the mood and Moyes is adamant such decisive action needed to be taken to prevent a malaise setting in.

New boys: Nikica Jelavic (right) and Steven Pienaar joined Everton

New boys: Nikica Jelavic (right) and Steven Pienaar joined Everton

I needed a lift,’ said Moyes, whose side face Wigan on Saturday. ‘I felt that I was letting people down. I felt I was disappointing the supporters with how we have been playing and the selections that I was putting out.

‘I had tried every selection possible but we have done something about it. We have got more confidence and it has been up to me to lift the players.

‘What the last few days have shown me is that our belief has not left the building. We have got a spring in our step again. We have got to build on the win over Manchester City with more performances like that.’

Pushing on: David Moyes is confident Everton can climb the Premier League

Pushing on: David Moyes is confident Everton can climb the Premier League

Everton sold Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to Spartak Moscow to raise the 5million that was needed to sign Jelavic from Rangers. Moyes is confident the Croatian will help improve the alarming statistic of them having scored 23 goals in 23 Barclays Premier League games.

‘When we have got money from selling players in the past, we have tried to make it work as best we can,’ said Moyes.

‘I think the last couple of days looks as if it is decent business for Everton. “Nicky” looks like he will be able to come in and play straight away. From what I have seen of him, he will get us goals and be a good all-round player.’