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From Mo Farah to Bradley Wiggins, relive the most sensational festival of sport

When London lit up the world! From magical Mo to wonderful Wiggo, relive the most sensational festival of sport



01:13 GMT, 29 December 2012

We lit the flame and we lit up the world. Those were the simple words of Lord Coe, his neck flexing with exhilaration in front of a global television audience of three-quarters of a billion. He had promised at the opening ceremony a fortnight earlier that we would do it right, and so we had.

The Games of the XXX Olympiad were closing in front of our spoilt eyes and we were left to reflect on the truth that this was perhaps the best thing Britain had done since winning the Second World War.

The transformational qualities of sport were clear on London's streets. A year before, so-called student protestors had urinated on the statue of Winston Churchill. But in the summer of 2012 Britain rediscovered her senses. People were smiling. Football's tribal enmities had yielded to a more generous sporting spirit. Conversation even broke out on the Tube. This carnival gripped the nation.

Just Momentous: Farah wins the 5,000m final to complete his golden double

Just Momentous: Farah wins the 5,000m final to complete his golden

So much so that, after today's New Year's Honours announcement, an unprecedented four sporting notables await the Queen's sword tip. Arise Sir Ben Ainslie and Sir Bradley Wiggins, knights of sailing and cycling, Sir Dave Brailsford and Sir David Tanner, the foremost performance directors of their era, from cycling and rowing. Then there is Paralympic swimming and cycling gold medallist Sarah Storey, who becomes a dame. There are 78 high-achievers on the special Olympic and Paralympic list.

I had always been a believer in London's potential to deliver a glorious Games. Coe, with a team led by his meticulous No 2 Paul Deighton, was assiduous. Anyway, the country is habitually good at staging great events. The British public generally come round to such occasions when they arrive.

This particular slow-burner was coming at us from Greece. I saw the torch lit in that ludicrous ceremony concocted by the Nazis for the 1936 Berlin Games among the splendid old stones of ancient Olympia.

A week later, we witnessed the rain briefly lifting at the home of the modern Olympics, the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, as the torch was passed from Greek hands to British. I reported from seat 10D on board BA flight 2012 as the flame shared the front row with the Princess Royal on our journey to the UK.

But it was in Bath on May 22 that my belief in the project became total. It was the day I ran with the Olympic flame. People were standing a dozen deep on either side of the road. Jason Gardener, relay gold medallist from the Athens Games, was a fellow runner. His eyes were moist at seeing all ages and conditions of men and women cheering and waving on the journey through the handsome streets of his home city.

Golden boys: Farah poses with Bolt at the medal ceremony

Golden boys: Farah poses with Bolt at the medal ceremony

This scene was replicated virtually every mile of the torch's progress up and down the land until the night of July 27 arrived. The Opening Ceremony was upon us.

What Danny Boyle had dreamed up in his crazy and creative mind set the whole jaunty mood. Occasionally left-leaning, yes, but it was a phantasmagoria that was undeniably bonkers and brilliant. It was unashamedly made for a home audience – Mr Bean and Only Fools and Horses featured, the first with memorable piano humour. The rest of the world was simply welcome to take from it what they could.

The rehearsal and the schedule contained no mention of the Queen's involvement nor any reference to Churchill. Those extra dimensions were revealed only at the last moment. My first-edition piece, filed as the ceremony was starting, excoriated Boyle for the omissions and was followed by a call to the office: 'Where I say there was no mention of Churchill, can we change that to barely a mention'

The Queen staged surely the greatest coup de theatre in British artistic history when she turned round to say 'Good evening, Mr Bond' from her Buckingham Palace desk. She then supposedly descended to the stadium by parachute, which prompted two American ladies watching the beach volleyball to marvel at the 86-year-old monarch. 'Did you see the Opening Ceremony' one said to the other. 'They even got the Queen to jump out of a helicopter. Can you imagine Obama doing that'

Her Maj looked tired by the time the British team – led by Sir Chris Hoy – paraded in. It had been a long but uplifting night. Coe's speech about the power of sport struck me as sensationally good. He hailed a celebration of 'what is best about mankind'. He went on: 'There is a truth to sport, a purity, a drama, an intensity of spirit that makes it irresistible.

On the Boyle: a stunning opening ceremony by the film director set the tone for the greatest Games in history

On the Boyle: a stunning opening ceremony by the film director set the tone for the greatest Games in history

'To the athletes gathered here, I say that to you is given something which is precious and irreplaceable – to run faster, to jump higher, to be stronger.' Then Lord Coe (or Mr Swan, as he called himself by adopting his grandmother's maiden name during his Games stay at the Intercontinental Hotel, Park Lane) unwound with Lady Coe ahead of the feast of sport that was to come.

And so it all began. It is difficult at a few months' detachment to think just how much we anticipated Mark Cavendish getting us off to a victorious start in the road race. The rest of the world ganged up in an anyone-but-Cav pact. Our dreams dashed.

But it hardly mattered to the party. The route was lined at every yard out to the Surrey hills and back into London. And when Lizzie Armitstead took silver in the women's race the next day we had lift-off – sort of.

But, still, after four days of sport there was no gold to show for the most lavishly funded British team of all time. The success of Beijing four years before – 19 golds, 47 medals – hung heavily. Don't panic, I wrote, our strongest sports had yet to reach the medal stages.

So it was a relief to be at a windless Dorney Lake at 12.24pm on day five to see two girls in a boat deliver that elusive bullion. Heather Stanning, a Royal Artillery captain, and Helen Glover, a PE teacher, led from the start of their pairs final and commanded the race. The team had found the key to Fort Knox.

Hampton Court that afternoon provided perhaps the most famous image of the Games: Tour de France winner Wiggins, long legs crossed and flashing a Churchillian victory sign, on a gaudy throne after winning the road race. He now had seven Olympic medals – more than any Brit including Sir Steve Redgrave. Again, the crowds were immense. We were witnessing the symbiosis of participants and supporters. Enthusiasm fed success, and success fed enthusiasm.

Famous image: Bradley Wiggins on teh throne

Famous image: Bradley Wiggins on teh throne

was our greatest in Games history when we factor in that the numerical high point in 1908 came in a different world altogether. The first of three London-hosted Games lasted 187 days and a third of all competitors were British. It was the tug-of-war era.

Here the superb volunteers had the delight to announce one night as we headed out of the Park: 'Ladies and gentleman, Yorkshire is leading Australia in the medal table.' Nobody can say we do not love sport. Heats were sold out. Sports we hardly understood against nations we could barely find on a map played to full houses. No other country could boast that, including Australia, whose Sydney Olympics in 2000 were generally acknowledged until this summer as the best. The enthusiasm for the Paralympics, complete with a new host of heroes such as Storey, Jonnie Peacock, David Weir and Ellie Simmonds, underlined the point.

You could soak in the atmosphere for free on the road routes or in Hyde Park. Or for the licence fee. Bad news, so often the staple of newspapers, barely existed. Yes, the performance of Ye Shiwen, the 16-year-old Chinese swimming sensation, came under scrutiny. But, suspicions raised, the story faded. A handful of badminton matches were thrown by nations looking to aid their chances in the knockout stages but the stink did not linger.

There were the occasional British disappointments, notably the underperformance of our own swimming team. I sensed the mood in the camp was desperately wrong at the World Championships the year before. They were so downbeat that we can just be thankful they didn't drown.

Swim sensation: China's Ye Shiwen

Swim sensation: China's Ye Shiwen

But if swimming failed, gymnastics, equestrianism, boxing all sparkled. Cycling and rowing inevitably soared. Athletics, though falling below the target set by the Mr Tough Love, aka head coach Charles van Commenee, provided the Games' most memorable evening of British endeavour. It was such a Super Saturday that long jumper Greg Rutherford is in danger of becoming a pub quiz question of the future: who was the third Briton to win a gold medal on the night that Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah both won Rutherford's misfortune, if we can call it that, was to reach the peak of his athletics career in the 44 minutes during which two of the Olympics' poster people reached theirs.

Heptathlon gold was virtually assured by the time Ennis started her final event, the 800 metres, turning it into a double lap of honour. Farah's run to 10,000m glory was packed with tension until his big eyes popped out of his head as he crossed the line first.

That day, Britain won six golds in all, the others coming through our peerless coxless four, women's double scullers and our team pursuit women in the Velodrome. It was gluttony.

We returned to see Farah go for the double the following weekend. Tired after the heats of the 5,000m, the crowd hit one of the two most ear-splitting sounds I heard all Games. The other was in the enclosed ExCeL for the boxing, first for Ireland's Katie Taylor and then our own gold medallist, the open, friendly, Nandos-loving Nicola Adams. But back to Farah. The crescendo of noise that helped push him into the front in the final lap and to withstand the late challenge of Dejen Gebremeskel and Thomas Longosiwa broke the photo-finish equipment. The vibrating stadium was too much for the technology. Thankfully, the winning margin was evident to all 80,000 loud and happy souls in the stands. It was one of the single highlights of the whole Games.

My favourite day was the longest day, the middle Sunday. Up before dawn, Tube to Waterloo, train to Weymouth, taxi to the sailing venue. Ainslie was in the latest fight of his life for a gold medal, this time against a red-bearded Viking called Jonas Hogh-Christensen.

Flying the flag: Ben Ainslie

Flying the flag: Ben Ainslie

Our greatest sailor was being frustrated by the tactics of his rivals. 'You don't want to make me angry,' he told them. After losing the first six races to Hogh-Christensen, he wrenched his way back into contention. In the final race, he went in and then out of gold-medal position. Jacques Rogge, IOC president and himself a former Finn sailor, is an avowed Ainslie admirer. He based his whole day around being free to watch the last act of this particular drama, in which Ainslie dramatically prevailed. A sword's tap awaits the sailor's shoulder.

I run to the waiting taxi, queue for the train then squeeze into a seat for more than an hour. Tube to Stratford, walk into the stadium at 9.20pm. Usain Bolt is off at 9.50pm.

The 100m final – that most stomach-turning event of the whole Games – has arrived. Bolt, who finally admitted he had been struggling with injuries we had reported, was up against his training partner Yohan Blake.

Blake, undefeated all year, had beaten the great man in the Jamaican trials. To what extent was Bolt limited by his back-related travails Could the younger man pull off the bravest heist A reputation was on the line more than a world record was in prospect. Bolt delivered gold in 9.63sec.

If only he had been fit. If only he did not party. If only he gave up the junk food. This is a man who lives by his own rules, a point reinforced when he added the 200m and the 4x100m titles to his c.v. He declared himself a legend and nobody could argue otherwise.

Before the Olympics finished, Bolt was acting out Farah's 'Mobot' celebration. Farah was striking the 'Lightning Bolt' pose. Fun and brilliance conjoined.

In the Velodrome, Victoria Pendleton took her golden leave, hopefully happy in that sometimes mixed-up mind of hers. Laura Trott emerged as cycling's new queen, an image given a glitzy frisson when she was pictured in love with her golden team-mate Jason Kenny. The oak-legged master Hoy was emotional on the podium as he bade goodbye. His second gold of the Games, which was won in the keirin, meant he had won more Olympic golds than anyone else in British history, with six to Redgrave's five.

Cycling's new queen: Great Britain's Laura Trott

Cycling's new queen: Great Britain's Laura Trott

Hoy, a modest man of immodest ability, still reckoned that Redgrave's quintet achieved in five separate Games, conferring longevity, is the greater achievement. I am inclined to agree.

There was so much to marvel at here. We almost forget that Michael Phelps left the pool with a career total of 18 Olympic gold medals – and that's because, in London, the American won a paucity of honours by his standards: just the four golds and two silvers.

We saw Kenya's David Rudisha win the 800m like a horse running against men. Coe hailed him as the star of the Games. It was a touching compliment from one of the greatest middle-distance runners of the ages to another. We revelled in our own heroes and heroines: Katherine Grainger, in the double sculls, winning a gold at last after three silvers. Charlotte Dujardin emerging as a double star with gold in the equestrian team event and the dressage. Nick Skelton winning gold at the age of 54 in the team showjumping.

There was triathlon's Brownlee brothers – Alistair coolly strolling through the line with the Union Flag on his back to take gold; Jonny collecting his bronze once he had been treated for exhaustion. Andy Murray's joy at Wimbledon, where there had been tears just weeks before. Jade Jones, funded by a whip-round in her home town of Flint in North Wales, winning taekwondo gold. Peter Wilson, a tall chap with a nice sense of humour, taking the shooting honours in the double trap. Tom Daley, with a diving bronze just a year after his father and mentor died, doing well to make the headlines among the golden hordes.

Too soon, the show closed on this revitalised eastern edge of the capital. Rio was charged with bringing the youth of the world together for the XXXI Olympics four years hence – no pressure there. The more prosaic debate over legacy commitments took centre stage.

Tears were shed as the flame was extinguished. Pride abounded.

London had lit up the world.

Leeds v Chelsea classic clashes: It"s the neutrals" nightmare… but tonight"s tie is set to be another belter

Classic Leeds-Chelsea clashes: It's the neutrals' nightmare… but tonight's tie is set to be another belter



13:49 GMT, 19 December 2012

No one likes them, but we don't care… on this evidence tonight's clash between bitter rivals Leeds and Chelsea is set to be a classic.

It's a fixture which can lay claim to being a neutral's nightmare – you don't know who you'd rather see lose – but down the years these two titans have produced some memorable moments on the field.

Here Sportsmail picks some of our favourite moments between the Whites and the Blues, they're not necessarily the best matches but we defy you to not come over all misty-eyed at the nostalgia…

1970 – Chelsea 2-5 Leeds: 'Terry Cooper starts the goal riot'

Don Revie's famous Leeds United were 2-1 down at half-time but scored three goals in seven minutes in a remarkable turnaround that commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme described as a 'truly wonderful victory' which began when Terry Cooper started the 'goal riot'.

Check out the pitch and this rather special punditry from Johnny Giles and Sir Bobby Charlton…

1970 – FA Cup Final: Chelsea 2-2 Leeds… Replay: Chelsea 2-1 Leeds watched by 28million

It takes a special kind of fan – but most Leeds and Chelsea supporters – to appreciate the on-field brutality of the replay at Old Trafford, which was watched by a TV audience of 28 million.

Referee Eric Jennings let so much go that Hugh McIlvanney wrote: ‘At
times, it appeared that Mr Jennings would give a free-kick only on
production of a death certificate.’ There was one booking. David Elleray ‘re-refereed’ the game years later and said there should have been six reds and 20 yellows.

The Leeds great, Peter Lorimer, remarked that Chelsea ‘kicked everything above grass’. No foul was given for Eddie McCreadie’s kung-fu kick on Billy Bremner’s head. ‘It was just the way the game was played back then,’ Paul Madeley said on Monday, from Yorkshire. Fantastic stuff.

Winner: David Webb (left) heads home to win the 1970 FA Cup for Chelsea in the re0play at Old Trafford against Leeds as Terry Cooper (No 3) attempts to challenge

Winner: David Webb (left) heads home to win the 1970 FA Cup for Chelsea in the re0play at Old Trafford against Leeds as Terry Cooper (No 3) attempts to challenge

1972 – Chelsea 4-0 Leeds… but only because Lorimer was in goal

Way before the days teams could call a multi-million-pound goalkeeper off the bench, Leeds' David Harvey had to go off injured. Peter Lorimer left his right-wing posting to put the No 1 jersey on and Chelsea made hay.

It was very much a case of 'first-half good, second half not so good' for Hot-Shot Lorimer, who came over all Gary Sprake near the end.

Keep a special eye out for Peter Osgood's simply amazing sideburns – eat your heart out Bradley Wiggins – and the famous Leeds sock tassels. Classic.

Tassels and tussles: Leeds captain Billy Bremner tackles Chelsea's Steve Kember during the 1972 clash at Stamford Bridge as Johnny Giles looks on

Tassels and tussles: Leeds captain Billy Bremner tackles Chelsea's Steve Kember during the 1972 clash at Stamford Bridge as Johnny Giles looks on

1994 – Leeds 2-3 Chelsea… Whelan scores with a bicycle kick… yes, really… And Lukic gifts Chelsea win with a clanger… yes, again!

John Spencer, remember him He won this thriller for Chelsea at a sold-out Elland Road. The match had everything: A masterly performance from Gary McAllister, a Noel Whelan overhead kick, another John Lukic howler and some grand old names from the past: Philemon Masinga, Dmitri Kharine anyone



Long Johns: John Lukic (left) made a mistake in 1994 to allow John Spencer (right) to pounce for Chelsea

Bonus goals… Viduka (2008) Gudjohnsen (2003)

VIDEO: Top-class Mark Viduka finish (but take note of John Terry's awful positioning)…


Eidur Gudjohnsen

Goal-getters: Mark Viduka (left) and Eidur Gudjohnsen (right) became cult heroes at their clubs

Wowsers, Gudjohnsen's sensational overhead kick in January 2003 – it's no Ibra effort…

Jose Maria Olazabal still loves being captain at Royal Trophy

Olazabal still loves being captain as Ryder Cup hero tees it up at Royal Trophy



10:20 GMT, 14 December 2012

Jose Maria Olazabal is captain of Europe again this week, and it feels good.

The mention of September's Miracle of Medinah still brings a beaming smile to the face of the great Spaniard, and why not

Not many men can say they inspired arguably the most impossible sporting comeback of all time.

Head to head: Jose Maria Olazabal (right) and Asia captain Joe Ozaki were all smiles ahead of the event

Head to head: Jose Maria Olazabal (right) and Asia captain Joe Ozaki were all smiles ahead of the event

Royal Trophy

Click here for the latest from Brunei

Olazabal is once more in charge of his continent for the sixth edition of the Royal Trophy in Brunei, where he and fellow Ryder Cup heroes Nicolas Colsaerts and Francesco Molinari are taking on the might of Asia, including Japanese superstar Ryo Ishikawa, over three days of matchplay amid the tropical rainforest at the Empire Hotel and Country Club.

Olazabal has had time to reflect on Medinah since Europe's scarcely believable comeback and, speaking to Sportsmail Online in Brunei, sums up the experience as 'an extraordinary moment. Unforgettable. Unique.'

Victory in the Windy City whipped up a whirlwind of publicity for Olazabal and even led to an audience with the King of Spain.

What with getting his feel back for playing ahead of this tournament with trips to the Far East, he has only recently been able to snatch moments of peace to let it all sink in.

'It's true that for a few weeks after it was over I didn't have the chance to reflect on what happened that week. I'm really looking forward to this winter, having more time on my own with a DVD and a nice glass of wine, and just enjoying it.

Nice work if you can get it: European skipper Olazabal lines up a putt as Miguel Angel Jimenez looks on

Nice work if you can get it: European skipper Olazabal lines up a putt as Miguel Angel Jimenez looks on

'Last week I had enough time to go shooting with my father. We go for partridge, quail, duck. We had a couple of nice days. It's nice to go with the dogs, just on your own, that's the beauty of it. You feel like you're the only man in the world. That sense of peace… that's what I really look forward to.'

And did he bring any dinner home for the family

'Yes, both of us did!' he laughs.

Here in Brunei, things are a little different to those incredible few days in Chicago: less hair-pulling, gut-wrenching and tear-shedding, more back-slapping, belly-laughing and mickey-taking.

During the opening ceremony we were even treated to a slapstick comedy sketch from Laurel and Hardy, otherwise known as Olazabal and Joe Osaki, the Asian captain.

When Osaki rubbed Olazabal's nose in the fact he had triumphed the last time the pair led their continents in this format, the Spaniard ran from his seat across the stage to deliver a few playful whacks to his friend's head.

Thankfully, no golfers were harmed in the making of this gag.

Two of his five a day: Our man Chris got a bit fruity with the fans in Brunei

Two of his five a day: Our man Chris got a bit fruity with the fans in Brunei

'Obviously it's not the same intensity as the Ryder Cup, it's a more relaxed atmosphere,' says Olazabal.

'But don't get me wrong, things are going to get serious. We're facing a serious challenge. The Asian team is strong. We're going to have to be on our toes.'

Olazabal's tears for his great friend Seve Ballesteros, who devised the Royal Trophy in 2006, regularly punctuated the Ryder Cup and gave viewers an insight into both the man's genuinely warm nature and his appreciation for life away from the golf course.

Ollie is emotional, and he doesn't care who knows it. He is no relentless golfing machine, focused purely on victory.

'You have to be hard in competition when you're on the course. But outside we cannot forget that this is a game. I've known Joe for many years, since the late 80s playing in Japan. You cannot forget that we're all human beings.

'There are other things in the world more important than what we do today here and you have to be able to separate those things. You have to have the right, friendly atmosphere off the golf course. On the golf course we shake hands on the first tee but that's it. We're going to try to beat each other.'

Glorious: The sun was shining on day one of the Royal Trophy in Brunei

Glorious: The sun was shining on day one of the Royal Trophy in Brunei

Unlike at Medinah, Olazabal will be teeing it up as well as leading his team as a player-captain.

On Friday he partnered compatriot Miguel Angel Jimenez in the foursomes against YE Yang and KT Kim.

The mere mention of Jimenez brings a smile to Olazabal's face, although he jokes that the 'old boys' might need to use a buggy or play off the forward tees to compete with the whippersnappers.

Alongside Jimenez and the Ryder Cup stars, Henrik Stenson, Edoardo Molinari, Marcel Siem and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano complete the European team.

Olazabal, a two-time Masters champion, admits he is not as sharp as he once was but now that the Ryder Cup is behind him, he has his sights firmly set on finding form on the course again.

'My game is on and off,' he says. 'I can play a bunch of great holes but all of a sudden I can hit that crooked shot that spoils everything. My goal now that the Ryder Cup is over is to concentrate on my game. I've always worked hard but (I need) to have my frame of mind on practicing and playing.'

Olazabal speaks glowingly of Tom Watson, who was confirmed as United States captain for Gleneagles in 2014.

But is he not tempted to give the captaincy another shot, on home soil The answer is a categorical no.

'The Ryder Cup is over, for sure. If Ivan Ballesteros (Seve's nephew and Royal Trophy organiser) asks me to captain again, I might do it. Most probably I would do it. For Seve, for Ivan, for the family. But the Ryder Cup – that's over.'

It may be over, but it will never be forgotten. Just ask the Princess of Sharjah – her highness herself has made the journey here to speak with Olazabal.

Like his late, great friend, Olly too is now golfing royalty.

Arsene Wenger will NOT be sacked insist Arsenal but club chief Gazidis is set to face fans" fury at Emirates event

Arsene Wenger will NOT be sacked insist Arsenal but club chief Gazidis is set to face fans' fury at Emirates event

Sami Mokbel


12:17 GMT, 12 December 2012



13:24 GMT, 12 December 2012

Arsenal are throwing their unequivocal backing behind underfire manager Arsene Wenger.

An increasing number of Gunners supporters are calling for the French manager's head after a difficult start to the season and club chief executive Ivan Gazidis will face a hostile audience tonight at the Emirates Stadium when he hosts a drinks reception for the Arsenal Supporters Trust.

The pressure on Wenger intensified last night as Arsenal were dumped out of the Carling Cup by League Two side Bradford.

Stand by your man: Arsene Wenger watches his side crash out of the Capital One Cup at Bradford last night, but the manager will continue to enjoy unwavering support

Stand by your man: Arsene Wenger watches his side crash out of the Capital One Cup at Bradford last night, but the manager will continue to enjoy unwavering support


Which Arsenal played has been dubbed Useless Read/watch Sportsmail brilliant new video column by clicking here…

But the 63-year-old is under no danger of losing his job despite their recent slump.

The Gunners board remain 100 per cent behind Wenger, who is continuing with his plans to bolster the squad in next month's transfer window.

Wenger has an excellent relationship with the club's hierarchy, who are in no doubt the Frenchman remains the right man to lead Arsenal.

The board's unwavering support of Wenger will anger a growing band of supporters who feel it is now time for a change.

A right old coating: Wenger watches his side slump at Bradford's Coral Windows Stadium last night's cup

A right old coating: Wenger watches his side slump at Bradford's Coral Windows Stadium last night's cup

Bradford City supporters v Arsenal

Ivan Gazidis

Hat-trick: A Bradford fan celebrates last night (left) but Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis will face a hostile audience at a supporters' event at the Emirates Stadium tonight

Arsenal will complete an eight-year trophy drought if they fail to win any silverware this season, a statistic deemed not good enough by some fans.

Nevertheless, Wenger's position remains one of the safest in European football despite the club's problems.


Matt Fortune

By the time this piece is written, I'll need a bath. No, something more, a cleansing of the soul, perhaps. Forgive me Arsene, for I have sinned.

Here goes… Wenger out.

Defeat to Bradford, a team ranked more than 60 places lower than Arsenal, was humiliating for a club of this stature.

Forget their current form, injuries or any other extenuating circumstances, it was a shameful night for all involved.

The League Cup quarter-final result will go down in history, the lead in those 'It's happened before' newspaper items many years from now.

'Valley of despair', one headline screamed. Valley of the damned, I'd prefer. It was the final straw.

Click here to read the full Matt Fortune article…

Mark Clattenburg is controversial referee

Meet Mister controversy: Clattenburg is referee who loves the spotlight



23:54 GMT, 28 October 2012

As a top-class FIFA and Barclays Premier League referee, Mark Clattenburg is no stranger to controversy.

He is one of the new breed of celebrity officials, always happy to be the centre of attention in a world of glitz and glamour.

Even as he was warming up at Stamford Bridge before Sunday’s explosive game, he was aware that he was the centre of attention.

Ruling the roost: Mark Clattenburg is a highly-rated referee

Ruling the roost: Mark Clattenburg is a highly-rated referee

The deliberate pauses as he stopped by the touchline during the circuits he performed with his officials were impossible to ignore.

On the pitch he is known for a chatty, matey style with the players that rubs them up the wrong way at times. His style is not uncommon at the highest level but most players want someone to officiate with integrity and intelligence. They want and expect them to be able to keep up with the speed of the game and to make smart decisions.

Before Sunday night he was marked out by FIFA as one of the top officials in world football.

At the Olympics he was chosen to referee the final between Brazil and Mexico, a prestigious appointment in a game watched by a global audience.

FIFA have been monitoring his progress and he is expected to be put forward to be the English representation at the 2014 World Cup.

Flashing red: Clattenburg sent off Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres on Sunday

Flashing red: Clattenburg sent off Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres on Sunday

It would be a remarkable honour, but he is now fighting to save his reputation in the professional game.

Clattenburg, 37, is regarded by the PGMO as one of their top officials, but he has been through some controversial moments in his career.

In 2009 Mark Hughes and his coaching staff were furious with him over comments he allegedly made about Craig Bellamy when he played for Manchester City against Bolton.

Bellamy had been his usual voluble self during the first half and was later sent off by Clattenburg for a second yellow card during a tempestuous Premier League clash.

According to accounts at the time, the Durham-born referee asked the City bench: ‘How do you put up with Bellamy’

Hughes was incensed that an official would appear to jeopardise his impartiality by making comments about one of his players.

The same year, Clattenburg was suspended by the PGMO after being accused of an off-the-field controversy with a former business partner.

Honour: Clattenburg refereed the Olympic final in London between Brazil and Mexico

Honour: Clattenburg refereed the Olympic final in London between Brazil and Mexico

On the field he has been dogged by criticism of his handling of high-profile and important incidents.

Four years earlier he was the referee who failed to spot Pedro Mendes’s ghost goal at Old Trafford for Tottenham.

Manchester United keeper Roy Carroll was beaten by the Portuguese midfielder’s lob in 2005, but Clattenburg failed to see that the ball had crossed the line. It provoked widespread indignation and even derision.

In 2007 he was involved in a bizarre incident at the Merseyside derby after appearing to take Steven Gerrard’s opinion into consideration when he booked Everton defender Tony Hibbert. Clattenburg appeared to upgrade a caution to a red card and later failed to send off Liverpool winger Dirk Kuyt for a waist-high lunge.

At Old Trafford in 2010 he was the referee when Nani took advantage of a bizarre mistake by Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes to tap the ball into the empty net.


Jan 2005, Pedro Mendes v Man Utd

In charge when Pedro Mendes ‘scored’ for Tottenham at Old Trafford. Roy Carroll fumbled the ball over the line but Clattenburg and his officials did not give the goal.

Over the line: Pedro Mendes saw this goal ruled out by Clattenburg

Oct 2007, Everton v Liverpool

Sent off Tony Hibbert, apparently upgrading his yellow card to red after consulting with Steven Gerrard. Failed to send off Dirk Kuyt for a waist-high lunge and did not give a penalty when Joleon Lescott was hauled down. Did not ref another Everton game for five years.

Jan 2009

Sacked by the PGMO, the referees’ governing body, and told he would never officiate again after breaching his contract. Accused of sending threatening emails to business associates and alleged to have debts of 175,000.

Dec 2009, Bolton v Man City

Sends off Craig Bellamy. At half-time, allegedly said to the City bench: ‘How do you work with him all week’

Heated: Tottenham players argue with Clattenburg after Nani's goal

Oct 2010, Nani v Tottenham

Allowed a goal to stand when keeper Heurelho Gomes put the ball down believing his side had a free-kick. Clattenburg had not blown, let play continue and Nani tapped in.

John McCririck axed by Channel 4 as Clare Balding leads new-look racing team

Outspoken McCririck turfed out by Channel 4 as Balding leads new-look racing team



08:20 GMT, 26 October 2012

'Devastated' John McCririck, one of the best known
faces in racing broadcasting, will not be part of the new Channel 4
Racing team which takes over sole terrestrial broadcasting of the sport
from January 1.

The outlandish and often outspoken
figure, who transformed the way news from the betting ring at
racecourses was shown on TV, has been involved in racing broadcasting
since 1981 when the racing was shown on ITV.

Axed: John McCririck

Axed: John McCririck


Are Channel 4 right to axe racing veteran McCririck




John McCririck



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The 72-year-old will be replaced by his sidekick Tanya Stevenson but McCririck accused the broadcasters of ageism, with just one of the 13 presenters in the new line-up over 50.

'I'm devastated. I've been covering TV betting for 31 years,' he told The Mirror.

'According to Channel 4 I'm being sacked after audience research. Yes, I do antagonise people, as reactions to me on Celebrity Big Brother proved. But I was never asked to change my presentation style.

'Clare [Balding] is a terrific choice to lead the new young team. But it's so sad Channel 4 have again gone down the path of ageism.'

With his eccentric headgear, Old Harrovian McCririck was an original member of the Channel 4 Racing team three years later.

His catch-phrases and use of Tic-Tac, the system of hand signals that traditionally transfer messages across the Ring, attracted huge attention to McCririck who became better recognised than many of its best-known participants.

That led to appearances in programmes like Celebrity Big Brother and Wife Swap, the latter with wife Jenny or The Booby as he refers to her.

All change: Clare Balding (L) will lead the new-look Channel 4 racing team in the New Year

All change: Clare Balding (L) will lead the new-look Channel 4 racing team in the New Year

Fellow C4 presenters also to fail to make the new line up are stalwarts Derek Thompson, Mike Cattermole and Alistair Down.

John Francome and Lesley Graham had already ruled themselves out of a role in the new-look team which will be led by Clare Balding.

She moves from the BBC and will be supported by Nick Luck, currently host of C4' s Morning Line.

Other C4 faces to survive include Jim McGrath, Alice Plunkett and Emma Spencer.

Recruited from the BBC is Grand National winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald plus Rishi Persad while joining the team as paddock analyst Graham Cunningham, who has been working on specialist channel Racing UK.

Gold Cup winning jockey Sam Thomas will be a contributor as will Gina Bryce, who works for Attheraces.

Mad-cap: McCririck was an outspoken character in racing

Bonkers: McCririck was an outspoken character in racing and appeared on Channel 4's Celebrity Wife Swap alongside Edwina Currie (below)

Bonkers: McCririck appeared on Channel 4's Celebrity Wife Swap alongside Edwina Currie

The lead commentator will be C4's Simon Holt supported by Richard Hoiles.

Jamie Aitchison, Channel 4's Sports Editor, said: 'Being the new home of horseracing is a real privilege and I'm delighted to announce this carefully selected team of presenters and reporters; a mix of broadcasting heavyweights and racing experts.

'Sports fans have something to look forward to – our racing coverage will be insightful, intelligent and ground-breaking. I'm hugely excited about the future of racing on Channel 4 and greatly look forward to 2013.

'I would like to thank all of the presenting team for their commitment and enthusiasm to Channel 4 and the racing coverage over the years.'

Jess Varnish: I"m trying to rebuild my life after Olympic nightmare

While Vicky stars in Strictly, I'll be trying to rebuild my own life after Olympic nightmare



21:08 GMT, 29 September 2012

Even now, two months after her heart was broken in London's Velodrome, Jess Varnish admits that the pain of disqualification from the Olympics is no easier to bear.

'It felt like someone had died,' she said. 'I knew it was wrong to feel like that and I told myself to pull myself together. I know it wasn't anything important in the real world but at that time, in that stadium, the Olympics were everything to me. It was like life or death.'

Horror: The moment Varnish and Victoria Pendleton messed up their changeover in the team sprint at London 2012

Horror: The moment Varnish and Victoria Pendleton messed up their changeover in the team sprint at London 2012

On Friday night, Victoria Pendleton will be watched by a television audience of millions as she takes a starring role in the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing, the first act in her new life since her retirement from sport after a much-garlanded career.

At the same time, thousands of miles away in South America, Varnish will be preparing to race for the first time since the infamous moment when, in partnership with Pendleton, her own Olympic dreams were shattered as the pair were disqualified in the women's team sprint, an event in which the Britons, who had broken the world record in qualifying, were favourites for the gold medal.

Shaping up: Olympic gold medalist Victoria Pendleton in rehearsals for the new series of Strictly Come Dancing

Shaping up: Olympic gold medalist Victoria Pendleton in rehearsals for the
new series of Strictly Come Dancing

While Pendleton knew she would be returning to the Veldrome for two further events, winning the keirin to claim the second Olympic gold medal of her stellar career as well as a silver in the individual sprint to add to the gold she had won at Beijing in 2008, Varnish vanished into the shadows.

For her, two and a half years' dedication were destroyed in the blink of an eye as they failed to make a legal changeover in the team sprint and were disqualified in the semi-finals.

Now Varnish must start out on the road to redemption – and the Rio Olympics in 2016. For the bright-eyed 21-year-old from Bromsgrove, the journey begins at a World Cup event in Colombia in 11 days' time.

Her expectations are not high, having started to train again only four weeks ago. Varnish says she cried alone during the sleepless nights that followed her disqualification in London, but remained with the team to provide support and encouragement as Pendleton's roommate in the Athletes Village.

'I was helping Vicky out, getting her food when she didn't want to stay in the apartment,' she recalled.

'It was her last-ever competition and I wanted her to go out with a bang. And she did.' Varnish was holding Pendleton's 10-week-old nephew, Nathan, in the Velodrome when Britain's best-known woman cyclist restored her reputation by winning the gold medal in the keiren 24 hours after being evicted from the team sprint. 'I ended up crying all over again,' said Varnish.

'I was happy to be with Vicky's family, sharing the moment with them, but it was sad to be back in the stadium where nothing had changed, really.'

Her parents had tried to comfort her on the night her world collapsed. 'We went to dinner but I didn't want to eat,' she said.

'I didn't want to do anything; but you can't really explain how you feel because you feel pathetic.

'It was hard to stay in the Village, to be around a team where almost everyone else had got gold medals apart from me. The Olympics had been all I thought of for two and a half years, just focusing on that one lap. I was crying a lot, but there was no one in the team I could talk to as I didn't want to affect the performances of others.

'But it was the right thing to support the team in any way I could and I'm proud of the way I reacted. But people think I am tougher than I actually am. I couldn't sleep for days afterwards.'

Varnish will continue her regular sessions with sports psychologist Steve Peters, the man Pendleton always called her 'mind mechanic', as her life gets back to normal.

Downer: Pendleton (right) and Varnish react after being disqualified

Downer: Pendleton (right) and Varnish react after being disqualified

She misses Pendleton and they still meet regularly for coffee or dinner when time permits. Varnish laughs at the pain her friend has undergone in training for Strictly.

'She can only wear Ugg boots because her feet hurt so much,' said Varnish. 'Of course, we've spoken about what happened, and tell one another we had a medal stolen from us.'

As for the changeover that cost Varnish her dream, she remains angry that she and Pendleton could have made such a crucial error.

'As the lead rider, I had to pull up at a certain place and Vicky had to come through at a certain place,' said Varnish.

'We missed that point by a couple of centimetres, by one-hundredth of a second. But at the Olympics the judges were going to be on to that. You saw it happen to others; it happened to the Chinese after they thought they had won the gold medal.

Downcast: Jess Varnish reveals the heartache of missing out on the gold medal

Downcast: Jess Varnish reveals the heartache of missing out on the gold medal

'I was angry with what happened to us then and I'm still furious now. If you weren't angry at being disqualified from the Olympic Games, I think you'd have a problem. But I understand that I'm only 21, there is so much in my life and I have so much fire in my belly to prove that I've got what it takes.'

Varnish has never watched a replay of her Olympics and never will. 'What's the point' she said.

'But I know this will make me stronger. I don't think anything worse can happen in my cycling career unless I have a really bad crash.'

In the last week of the Games, Varnish at least had the distraction of assisting her boyfriend, BMX rider Liam Phillips.

'Liam made the Olympic final but he crashed at the last turn,' she said. 'We just had to laugh! When we talk about the Olympics, we ask each other: “What the hell happened”'

Track Cycling – October 11-13 Cali (Colombia)

United States Grand Prix to stage F1 race after glowing report

US Grand Prix given green light as F1 race director Whiting hails 'first-class' track



09:41 GMT, 26 September 2012

The Circuit of the Americas has been given the green light to stage this year's United States Grand Prix.

FIA technical delegate and race director Charlie Whiting conducted a 60-day inspection of the venue that is due to host the race in Austin, Texas, from November 16-18.

Whiting has declared the 5.5km (3.4-mile) track and the pit and paddock buildings as 'fantastic', and had no hesitation in awarding COTA 'Grade One' status that now allows it to stage grand prix.

Yanks very much: The Grand Prix of Americas has been given the green light

Yanks very much: The Grand Prix of Americas has been given the green light

'Everything I've seen so far has been absolutely first class, and the progress that's been made since the last time I was here is amazing,' said Whiting in a COTA statement.

'The guys have done an awesome job – it really is quite fantastic! It's built to the highest quality, exactly as we expected, and I've absolutely no complaints whatsoever.'

Whiting believes the drivers, in particular, will be impressed given the possibilities available for overtaking, and which are crucial for entertaining an American audience.

Debut: The race is scheduled for November 18

Debut: The race is scheduled for November 18

Whiting added: 'There are three or four corners that are very likely to see overtaking.

'You'll see the turns have been designed so that they're extremely wide and the apex is very short.

'It's a very modern approach to slow corners where we hope overtaking will take place. So I'm very confident it will work well.

'And turn one is awesome! It's the only word I can think of to describe it, and I think drivers and teams coming here for the first time will say the same thing.'

Whiting will conduct one final inspection on the Monday before the race to ensure completion of the remaining ongoing landscaping and painting projects.

Freddie Ljungberg swears on Match of the Day 2

Four-letter Freddie! Ljungberg forces MOTD 2 host Murray to make apology



10:06 GMT, 24 September 2012

Embarrassed BBC host Colin Murray was forced to issue a grovelling apology to Match of the Day 2 viewers late on Sunday night after guest Freddie Ljungberg delivered a live four-letter gaffe.

Former Arsenal star Ljungberg was speaking about his memories of the Gunners unbeaten 2003-04 ‘Invincibles’ team, when he made the slip up, saying his old team-mate Lauren would ‘kick the s***’ out of anybody who fouled him.

Scroll down for video (contains bad language)

Whoops: Freddie Ljungberg was frank about how Lauren used to play

Whoops: Freddie Ljungberg was frank about how Lauren used to play

Sorry! Host Colin Murray (right) had to apologise

Sorry! Host Colin Murray (right) had to apologise

The Swedish midfielder retired in August and appeared on the BBC show to offer insight and analysis.

‘I had Lauren behind me for example,’ explained Ljungberg while talking about the set-up of the team.

‘If anyone kicked me he would kick the s*** out of them.’

Ljungberg asked any offended viewers to excuse his language, while Murray swiftly apologised and informed his audience that the excerpt would be removed on the iPlayer version of the show.

Football"s authorities told to do more to tackle racism in English game

MPs tell Football's authorities they need to do more to tackle racism in English game



00:28 GMT, 19 September 2012

FA chairman David Bernstein is facing demands for greater transparency in the game after MPs hit out at the disparity in the number of black and ethnic groups represented in football.

In a wide-ranging report into racism published by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport published on Wednesday morning, MPs demanded a transparent recruitment process across all levels of the game.

No love lost: Anton Ferdinand avoided shaking hands with John Terry after accusations of racism in the game last season

No love lost: Anton Ferdinand avoided shaking hands with John Terry after accusations of racism in the game last season

The report has been published just
days before Chelsea skipper John Terry faces an independent panel after
he was charged by the FA of using racially abusive language towards
Anton Ferdinand last October.

He was found not guilty by
Westminster Magistrates Court, but faces another fight to clear his name
next week after being charged by FA chiefs.

The committee also claimed that
football has provided a platform for extremist and racist groups to air
their views to a wider public audience.

Among the conclusions in the 27 page report, the committee believes homophobia is now a bigger threat to the game than racism.

Not enough: Norwich boss Chris Hughton is one of very few black manager in the English game

Not enough: Norwich boss Chris Hughton is one of very few black manager in the English game

The FA were also criticised for being
'over bureaucratic, slow and lacking in the ability to think and act
radically' by the anti-semitism committee at the House of Commons.

They also added that it 'was also
concerned that the FA acted as “police, judge and executioner” in
dealing with discrimination.'

The CMS report, chaired by John
Whittingdale, called Paul Elliott, PFA chairman Gordon Taylor, chairman
of the Kick it Out campaign Lord Ouseley and Bernstein to give evidence.

According to the report's
recommendations to Bernstein: 'We believe that all appointments should
be based on merit alone irrespective of the candidates' race.

Flashpoint: Patrice Evra accused Liverpool's Luis Suarez of racist abuse last season

Flashpoint: Patrice Evra accused Liverpool's Luis Suarez of racist abuse last season

'We believe that the best and most
equitable way to introduce greater diversity among football managers and
on boards is to encourage transparency and consistency of recruitment
processes across all clubs and football authorities.

'The FA Board should work with County
FAs and clubs to develop best practice for transparent recruitment
processes and ensure their consistent application.'

Chris Hughton is the only black
Barclays Premier League manager and the Football League representation
includes Chris Powell (Charlton) and Keith Curle (Notts County).

The CMS report also instructed the FA
to carry out a high-profile campaign to highlight the damaging effect of
homophobic language and behaviour.

The FA responded to the report by releasing a statement in which it backed the stance of the MPs.

The statement, posted on the FA website, read: 'We welcome the report from the CMS Select Committee into Racism in Football.

'We agree with the Committee that whilst substantial progress has been made to promote equality and tackle discrimination in the game, challenges remain for all of the football authorities.

'We remain committed, along with all of our stakeholders, to promoting equality and diversity within the game and to the eradication of all forms of discrimination in football.

'We will continue to work across the entire breadth of the sport to deliver our inclusion and anti-discrimination agenda. In doing so, we will consider in detail how the Committee's recommendations can support and influence this work.'


The report says the Football
Association must take the lead and set a strong example for others to
follow. The report recommends:

FA should make it a priority for stewards and club staff to be trained
to deal with abuse at club grounds, and to use social media to condemn
in cases of racial abuse at league and club level are 'extremely
welcome' but similar efforts should be applied to the grassroots game.More candidates from ethnic minorities should be trained as coaches and referees.Recruitment of managers and directors should be transparent and consistent to encourage greater ethnic diversity.