Tag Archives: background

Great Britain v Russia – Davis Cup: Dan Evans and James Ward both lose singles matches in five sets

Britain's Davis Cup hopes in tatters after two five-set defeats… and rebel Evans admits he doesn't try hard enough

By
Mike Dickson

PUBLISHED:

18:17 GMT, 5 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

23:47 GMT, 5 April 2013

Great Britain's Davis Cup hopes are close to being extinguished for another year after two epic near-misses against Russia on Friday and a disarming admission from No 2 player Dan Evans.

Having come so close to producing another heroic performance for GB, the 22 year-old did not hold back on why his ranking remains so stubbornly low, conceding that he simply does not put enough effort into his tennis.

He played far above his world ranking of 325 to push world number 67 Dmitri Tursunov desperately close before succumbing 6-4 6-7 6-4 5-7 6-4 in just under four hours, and later was blunt about his stalling career.

Dejection: Great Britain's Dan Evans lost in five sets to Dmitry Tursunov

Dejection: Great Britain's Dan Evans lost in five sets to Dmitry Tursunov

Marathon: Russian Tursunov prevailed in just under four hours in Coventry

Marathon: Russian Tursunov prevailed in just under four hours in Coventry

'It's because I don't train hard
enough and don't work hard enough day in and day out. I know that's the
reason. I'm obviously pretty bad at my job,' he said, amid various moans
about the costs associated with playing the tour, and an admission that
he gets 'distracted' at more obscure events.

'There are other things in life. I'm from a pretty working class background and I just go out. It's nobody else's fault.'

His defeat was compounded by James
Ward going down 4-6 4-6 7-5 6-3 8-6 to world No 80 Evgeny Donskoy. Both
matches were far closer than rankings predicted but ultimately only a
win in Saturday's doubles will keep Euro/Africa Zone tie at Coventry's
Ricoh Arena alive.

Try harder: Evans, who was called up to the squad at late notice, admits he doesn't work hard enough

Try harder: Evans, who was called up to the squad at late notice, admits he doesn't work hard enough

In the absence of Andy Murray, British
captain Leon Smith originally picked national No 3 Jamie Baker for this
tie, only to dump him on Wednesday evening for the errant 22 year-old
Evans, source of so much frustration for a variety of British coaches
over the years.

Yet when Evans gets in front of a
crowd and, crucially, has the guidance of Smith at every changeover, he
is transformed into someone in the tradition of Tim Henman, an elegant
all-court player with wonderful touch at the net. You hope one day he
will get his kicks from winning.

While some in the British game felt
that picking Evans, who has been stuck in a constant revolving door in
and out of official LTA training programmes for years due to his
questionable commitment, sent the wrong messages out to other players it
was clear why Smith took the gamble – and it nearly paid off.

Blown: James Ward let a two-set lead slip in his defeat to Evgeny Donskoy

Blown: James Ward let a two-set lead slip in his defeat to Evgeny Donskoy

Blown: James Ward let a two-set lead slip in his defeat to Evgeny Donskoy

Big-serving Tursunov won the first
set with relative ease but Evans took the next 7-5 in the tie-break and
levelled for 2-2 when he snuck in a late break.

Ultimately his lack of a single big
shot to gain cheap points hurt him, as did a tendency to throw in
untimely double faults. An anxious Tursunov finally asserted his class
to serve it out once he had made the key break for 4-2 in the decider.

Against the highly-rated but initially
nervous Donskoy, world No 214 Ward led 2-0 in the third set but could
not sustain his early level of serving and consistent depth, losing
after being broken at 6-6 in the decider.

Joy: Russia celebrate a perfect first day as they took a 2-0 lead

Joy: Russia celebrate a perfect first day as they took a 2-0 lead

Steven Gerrard Coronation Street visit pictured

PICTURED: Gerrard in top-secret meeting in Manchester… in tour of Coronation Street!

By
Graeme Yorke

PUBLISHED:

15:19 GMT, 18 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

15:40 GMT, 18 February 2013

What's this Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard in a top-secret Manchester meeting It can only mean one thing, of course… he's on a guided tour of Coronation Street!

The England international entertained his daughters on their half-term school break by taking them for a walk down the famous cobbles of Weatherfield on a special tour with Liverpool-supporting actress, Sue Johnston.

Set play: Steven Gerrard takes a tour of Coronation Street with actress Sue Johnston

Set play: Steven Gerrard takes a tour of Coronation Street with actress Sue Johnston

Johnston, who plays battleaxe gran Gloria Price in the ITV1 soap, greeted Gerrard on the set before showing him around.

After losing to West Brom and Zenit St Petersburg, Liverpool ended a miserable week on a high in Sunday's emphatic 5-0 win over Swansea at Anfield.

Meet and greet: Gerrard thanks fellow Scouser Johnston after treating him to a special tour of Weatherfield

Thanks for the memories: Gerrard hugs friend Johnston after the tour

Meet and greet: Gerrard thanks fellow Scouser Johnston after treating him to a special tour of Weatherfield

Gerrard, 32, was on the scoresheet with a 34th minute penalty to ensure everything went according to script for the hosts.

Indeed, his manager Brendan Rodgers might have deemed it enough to reward the goalscoring star with a treat.

However, there were no signs of Gerrard popping into the Rovers Return for a well-earned pint. But he probably did visit in the 'Korner' Kabin…

Happy days: Gerrard scored from the spot in Liverpool's 5-0 win over Swansea

Rovers return: Sue Johnston plays the character of Gloria Price in Coronation Street

Rovers return: Gerrard, who scored against Swansea, visited actress Johnston (who plays Gloria Price, right)

VIDEO: STEVIE G SCORES AGAINST SWANSEA

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VIDEO: SUE JOHNSTON AS GLORIA PRICE IN CORONATION STREET

Rio Ferdinand coin fallout: Football in gutter after Manchester derby

It has been a superb sporting year… but football's only gold medal is for hatred

|

UPDATED:

22:50 GMT, 10 December 2012

Sport can be cruel, Arthur Hopcraft wrote 44 years ago in The Football Man, which remains the most compelling book written about the game in this country. He went on: 'Football can make a man more ridiculous even than drink.' With that arrow the archer split the tree.

Hopcraft's book, written in the afterglow of England's World Cup triumph, can still be read with pleasure for its unrivalled examination of the people who play and watch football, and the author's expertise in placing the English game in a social context. It is a masterpiece.

What would Hopcraft make of the cesspit that English football resembles these days A man from a humble background, who educated himself, he was one of those old-fashioned football romantics who saw the game as part of that education.

Cauldron of hate: Police separate City and United fans at the Etihad and (below) Joe Hart stops Matthew Stott getting to Rio Ferdinand

Cauldron of hate: Police separate City and United fans at the Etihad and
(below) Joe Hart stops Matthew Stott getting to Rio Ferdinand

Cauldron of hate: Police separate City and United fans at the Etihad and (below) Joe Hart stops Matthew Stott getting to Rio Ferdinand

Had he been born four decades later would he want to write such a book Or would he conclude that the game is so filthy that it wasn't worth five minutes of his time

At the end of a wonderful sporting year, maybe the greatest year of all, football lies in the doghouse. Our Olympians, led by the magnificent Jessica Ennis, wear their gold medals with modesty. Bradley Wiggins and Andy Murray are champions, and our golfers stand supreme.

At rugby we have just beaten the All Blacks by 17 points. In cricket Alastair Cook is leading his men to a notable victory in India. Yet in football, wherever one looks, there is disgrace.

Bradley Wiggins

Andy Murray

Pride of Britain: Bradley Wiggins and Andy Murray have enjoyed fantastic sporting years

When players are not diving, they are abusing referees or demanding salaries out of all proportion to their talents. Managers, when not heaping abuse on match officials, prefer to look the other way. The FA, supposedly the guardians of the game, retreat when they should advance.

Then there are the fans. You know the type, those lovely folk who spend every Saturday afternoon and many nights of the week spitting poison at anybody who comes within a coin's throw.

The Manchester derby on Sunday was a rousing affair, won eventually by Robin van Persie's stoppage-time free-kick, but the abiding image was of Rio Ferdinand ending the game in a daze, a bloody cut above his left eye, as a City supporter expressed his hatred in the way he thought best.

Bloody mess: Rio Ferdinand was targeted by City supporters after celebrating Van Persie's winner

Bloody mess: Rio Ferdinand was targeted by City supporters after celebrating Van Persie's winner

The other image that remains is a familiar one, but it supports the view that football is a great game that attracts pigs. Behind the goal into which Van Persie shot the winning goal a photograph revealed rows of police officers separating the opposing fans.

Without that not-so-thin yellow line there would have been a riot, just as there would be riots on other grounds the length and breadth of the kingdom if police officers and stewards were not present in their hundreds.

This season has begun with a cascade of fan-related incidents: pitch invasions, racist chants and the general nastiness that football fans have made their stock in trade since Hopcraft put his pen down in 1968.

Centre of attention: London staged an incredible Olympic Games with a 'human face' which hasn't been transferred over to football

Centre of attention: London staged an incredible Olympic Games with a 'human face' which hasn't been transferred over to football

Football has always aroused strong feelings, wherever it is played. But when it comes to hatred inspired by football – and hatred is surely the word – we take some budging from the gold medallist's rostrum.

Even in our spanking new stadiums, filled, we are often told, by a new breed of supporter, the hatred burns on an intense flame. And many of the people doing the hating are those brought up in the Seventies, when grounds really were dangerous places to visit.

They are men (almost always men) in their 50s and 60s for whom the Saturday afternoon ritual remains an imperishable part of human experience.

Some people wondered, after London staged an Olympic Games with a human face, whether that spirit could carry over into the football season. Well, they know now.

Arrest: A fan is escorted off the pitch by police after confronting United defender Ferdinand during Sunday's derby

Arrest: A fan is escorted off the pitch by police after confronting United defender Ferdinand during Sunday's derby

Don't be deceived by the talk of 'passion', that most over-rated of qualities. The behaviour at most football grounds would not be tolerated in any other sport. In rugby spectators who behaved as they do at football matches would be marched out of the ground, no questions asked.

We are talking here about significant numbers who rejoice in the tribalism that football encourages. In no other sport is hatred endorsed as a way of life.

Consider how often managers and players refer to 'the fans' as if fandom was a benign phenomenon. If they actually had to sit among the people they praise they might change their tune. Or perhaps they wouldn't.

Perhaps football is now so degraded as a public entertainment that the people who work in the game can no longer distinguish acceptable behaviour from the other sort. It's not as if the fans can take any kind of lead from the players they pay so much to watch.

Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand

Under siege: Ferdinand was left with blood pouring from his head after he was struck by a 2p coin

It has been argued that football reflects society, and our society is increasingly dominated by self-obsession, instant gratification, and a corrosive celebrity culture. Many footballers are themselves celebrities, whether or not they can kick a ball.

Despite the commercial success of the Premier League we are not living through a golden age of English football. Should you doubt it, consider this barely believable fact: Stewart Downing, a journeyman midfielder, has played more times for England than Tony Currie, Alan Hudson, Charlie George and Peter Osgood put together. And those gentlemen could play.

Yet rugby, league and union, reflects our society as well, and nobody has to segregate fans on their grounds. There are boorish rugby players, and unpleasant supporters, but nobody feels the need to shout obscenities at opposing fans, or make hissing noises to denote the gassing of Jews. In football it is all in a day's work.

We are also told, sometimes by those who have rarely set foot in a football ground, that such 'boisterous' behaviour is part of 'working-class' culture and is something to be celebrated. That is not a view that would find favour with those working-class folk who used to attend matches, and who managed to behave with a fervour tempered by a respect for others. In any case football is hardly a working-class activity these days.

A fan who follows his team throughout the season is likely to spend up to 5,000 in tickets, travelling and booze. Not many people on modest incomes can manage that.

No, today's yobbos are decidedly affluent compared with their predecessors, who wore flat caps and lit up Woodbines over their cups of Bovril. Football could stop it in a trice if the will was there. The FA could close those grounds where people misbehaved, or dock points for persistent misconduct. Managers could use public statements and programme notes to denounce offenders with strong words, not platitudes.

Something else happened in 1968, when Hopcraft's book was published. John Arlott, another great journalist, stopped covering football, a game he loved, because it had become 'seedy'.

It sounds almost polite these days, seedy, like some Bayswater boarding house. Today we are obliged to use more powerful words, and every one holds the game to account: a reckoning that nobody, not the players, not the fans, not the wretched FA, feels obliged to honour.

Petr Cech feels sorry for Roberto Di Matteo

Cech: I feel sorry for Di Matteo, he will always be a huge part of Chelsea's history

|

UPDATED:

11:00 GMT, 25 November 2012

For a man who appears so serious on the pitch, Petr Cech laughs infectiously during interviews. But the Chelsea stalwart, goalkeeping giant and spare-time drummer in an Indie rock band is not so laid-back when he can see a wasted season coming into view.

And as Chelsea prepare for their first game under interim manager Rafa Benitez, when they take on champions Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, Cech is in reflective mood over the departure of Roberto di Matteo just 186 days since he led the club to their first Champions League triumph.

Cover star: Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech

Cover star: Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech

Cech, Chelsea captain in the absence of the injured John Terry, agrees that he feels sorry for Di Matteo. 'He will always be a huge part of the history of this club with all he has achieved as a player and manager,' he says. 'It was sad to see him go early like that, but that's football life, unfortunately.'

If Cech appears philosophical amid the disorder that currently is Chelsea, then that is a reflection both of the man and of the need that players have to build a wall between themselves and the chaos around them.

It has been quite a week for Cech, but then he is used to that. When you are a Chelsea veteran, traumatic weeks become part of the background noise of life, an inconvenience to be negotiated. This, after all, is the seventh managerial transition the Czech goalkeeper has experienced in his eight years at Stamford Bridge.

But for Cech, the 2-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion eight days ago, followed by the Champions League setback against Juventus in midweek which precipitated the departure of Di Matteo, was enough to rattle even his unflappable nature.

Difficult times: Cech argues with defender David Luiz

Difficult times: Cech argues with defender David Luiz

Chelsea's defensive performance at The Hawthorns had been some way short of what is expected from the European champions. In the dressing room afterwards, some home truths needed to be told. According to one report, the opinion voiced by one player during the post-match debrief was brief and to the point: 'We were f****** rubbish.'

Cech is reluctant to go into details or to expand on what was said. But he admits that it was he who took the lead.

'It was a speech I had to make to the team,' he says. 'About what we are and what we want to be and that we have to improve if we are to fulfil our expectations. We were all in the same boat – manager, coaching staff and all players.

'We've ended up in this situation and we are all responsible for that, so we need to put it right now. Unfortunately, the manager is always the one who gets under pressure the most.'

Cech admits he is a little baffled by what has happened to Chelsea's season. Before the past two results, he had talked confidently about the stylistic change that Chelsea had been embracing, from a direct, powerful team to an intricate passing side.

'You can see the change of the generation is happening slowly but surely,' he says.

Warning: Chelsea players were incensed by display at West Brom

Warning: Chelsea players were incensed by display at West Brom

'We have a lot of new players and players that haven't been here for a long time. So it feels like a new Chelsea and obviously the players are really different players and have brought a different style; their way of playing football is completely different.'

The change of style starts with Cech, no longer required to kick long for Didier Drogba but expected to distribute the ball through the centre-halves. 'I'm fine about this,' he insists, 'because if you have Juan ([Mata] and Eden [Hazard] on one side and they're standing next to [Ryan] Shawcross and [Robert] Huth, there's no point kicking the ball.'

But has the move away from Chelsea's traditional strengths left them exposed 'We had a very good start to the season so I don't think it all happened too quickly,' says Cech. 'Thanks to the run of recent results people started talking about it, but I think it was the case that we were not defending well as a team. You need to defend as a team to defend well.'

Nothing, of course, can take away from the joys of last season. Obviously, Cech is not happy that the club are unlikely to have the chance to defend the Champions League trophy. Chelsea are now relying on Shakhtar Donetsk to beat Juventus in order to make the last 16 of the tournament. But he insists: 'This team have the quality to challenge the best and we should not be missing in the last 16.'

With Chelsea, of course, you never know. Juventus would be right to remain wary until they have properly finished off the job of knocking out Chelsea after last season's inconceivable triumph in the tournament. That took in the reversal of a 3-1 defeat to Napoli as well as knocking out Barcelona with 10 men at the Nou Camp.

'I had a friend at the Nou Camp and he said, “When you conceded the second goal I told the guy next to me that the last place in the world I would like to be was in the Chelsea goal. Barca could finish with eight”. '

Italian flop: Chelsea were well beaten in Turin

Italian flop: Chelsea were well beaten in Turin

Finally, there was beating Bayern Munich in their own stadium, having fallen 1-0 behind with seven minutes to play and later going 3-1 down in a penalty shoot-out, with Cech saving crucially from Ivica Olic, a feat he makes sound fairly routine.

'Left-footed, under pressure in his own stadium,' explains Cech. 'It's always easier to hit across the ball [shoot to your right if you're left-footed]. So it had to go to my left side.'

Cech saved and Drogba delivered the rest, although the goalkeeper's nonchalant explanation belies the hours of work he put in studying all Bayern Munich's penalties since 2007. 'It will really sound strange now, but I said to my wife in December, “I think we're going to win the Champions League”,' he says.

In December That was when Andre Villas-Boas's time began to run out at the club. From December 17 until his sacking on March 4, Chelsea won just three Premier League games. Cech says it was the worst League run of his time at the club.

'We couldn't even buy a win. It didn't matter how we played,' he says. 'But I told my wife, “You will see. Before, we have been marching in the League and we couldn't get past the semi-finals of the Champions League. This time everything is going wrong, but you will see everything will go right in the Champions League”. She said, “Yeah, right, I agree with you”, and we laughed about it. Then we lost the first Napoli game and I'm thinking, “Well, maybe not”.

Petr Cech of Chelsea FC dejected

Petr Cech of Chelsea FC dejected

'But we won the Birmingham game in the FA Cup and suddenly we picked up good results in the League and we took the momentum to the second Napoli game. And suddenly things completely changed.

'Then we thought, “Well, anything can happen now”.'

The knowledge that the times were changing at Chelsea drove the team towards Munich.

Cech says: 'We were talking about it before the Napoli game and I said, “Didier! Come on, man! You have to score. Because we're not going to have many more chances to win it if we want to lift it together”. And he said, “No, you're right. If we're going to do it, we have to do it now”.

'When we went to the final we were aware that we were not all going to be here forever. We knew that for Didier it was the last game, because he had told us. Ever since the 2008 Champions League final, when we lost on penalties to Manchester United, the only thing I wished for was to play in another final. Going to Munich, I said to Christophe [Lollichon, Chelsea's goalkeeping coach], “OK. The only thing I needed was one more go. Now let's win it”.'

And they did. It just seems a long time ago now.

Petr Cech feels sorry for Roberto Di Matteo but Chelsea keeper has no regrets over that dressing room inquest

Cech feels sorry for Di Matteo but Chelsea keeper has no regrets over that dressing room inquest

|

UPDATED:

22:44 GMT, 24 November 2012

For a man who appears so serious on the pitch, Petr Cech laughs infectiously during interviews. But the Chelsea stalwart, goalkeeping giant and spare-time drummer in an Indie rock band is not so laid-back when he can see a wasted season coming into view.

And as Chelsea prepare for their first game under interim manager Rafa Benitez, when they take on champions Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, Cech is in reflective mood over the departure of Roberto di Matteo just 186 days since he led the club to their first Champions League triumph.

Cover star: Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech

Cover star: Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech

Cech, Chelsea captain in the absence of the injured John Terry, agrees that he feels sorry for Di Matteo. 'He will always be a huge part of the history of this club with all he has achieved as a player and manager,' he says. 'It was sad to see him go early like that, but that's football life, unfortunately.'

If Cech appears philosophical amid the disorder that currently is Chelsea, then that is a reflection both of the man and of the need that players have to build a wall between themselves and the chaos around them.

It has been quite a week for Cech, but then he is used to that. When you are a Chelsea veteran, traumatic weeks become part of the background noise of life, an inconvenience to be negotiated. This, after all, is the seventh managerial transition the Czech goalkeeper has experienced in his eight years at Stamford Bridge.

But for Cech, the 2-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion eight days ago, followed by the Champions League setback against Juventus in midweek which precipitated the departure of Di Matteo, was enough to rattle even his unflappable nature.

Difficult times: Cech argues with defender David Luiz

Difficult times: Cech argues with defender David Luiz

Chelsea's defensive performance at The Hawthorns had been some way short of what is expected from the European champions. In the dressing room afterwards, some home truths needed to be told. According to one report, the opinion voiced by one player during the post-match debrief was brief and to the point: 'We were f****** rubbish.'

Cech is reluctant to go into details or to expand on what was said. But he admits that it was he who took the lead.

'It was a speech I had to make to the team,' he says. 'About what we are and what we want to be and that we have to improve if we are to fulfil our expectations. We were all in the same boat – manager, coaching staff and all players.

'We've ended up in this situation and we are all responsible for that, so we need to put it right now. Unfortunately, the manager is always the one who gets under pressure the most.'

Cech admits he is a little baffled by what has happened to Chelsea's season. Before the past two results, he had talked confidently about the stylistic change that Chelsea had been embracing, from a direct, powerful team to an intricate passing side.

'You can see the change of the generation is happening slowly but surely,' he says.

Warning: Chelsea players were incensed by display at West Brom

Warning: Chelsea players were incensed by display at West Brom

'We have a lot of new players and players that haven't been here for a long time. So it feels like a new Chelsea and obviously the players are really different players and have brought a different style; their way of playing football is completely different.'

The change of style starts with Cech, no longer required to kick long for Didier Drogba but expected to distribute the ball through the centre-halves. 'I'm fine about this,' he insists, 'because if you have Juan ([Mata] and Eden [Hazard] on one side and they're standing next to [Ryan] Shawcross and [Robert] Huth, there's no point kicking the ball.'

But has the move away from Chelsea's traditional strengths left them exposed 'We had a very good start to the season so I don't think it all happened too quickly,' says Cech. 'Thanks to the run of recent results people started talking about it, but I think it was the case that we were not defending well as a team. You need to defend as a team to defend well.'

Nothing, of course, can take away from the joys of last season. Obviously, Cech is not happy that the club are unlikely to have the chance to defend the Champions League trophy. Chelsea are now relying on Shakhtar Donetsk to beat Juventus in order to make the last 16 of the tournament. But he insists: 'This team have the quality to challenge the best and we should not be missing in the last 16.'

With Chelsea, of course, you never know. Juventus would be right to remain wary until they have properly finished off the job of knocking out Chelsea after last season's inconceivable triumph in the tournament. That took in the reversal of a 3-1 defeat to Napoli as well as knocking out Barcelona with 10 men at the Nou Camp.

'I had a friend at the Nou Camp and he said, “When you conceded the second goal I told the guy next to me that the last place in the world I would like to be was in the Chelsea goal. Barca could finish with eight”. '

Italian flop: Chelsea were well beaten in Turin

Italian flop: Chelsea were well beaten in Turin

Finally, there was beating Bayern Munich in their own stadium, having fallen 1-0 behind with seven minutes to play and later going 3-1 down in a penalty shoot-out, with Cech saving crucially from Ivica Olic, a feat he makes sound fairly routine.

'Left-footed, under pressure in his own stadium,' explains Cech. 'It's always easier to hit across the ball [shoot to your right if you're left-footed]. So it had to go to my left side.'

Cech saved and Drogba delivered the rest, although the goalkeeper's nonchalant explanation belies the hours of work he put in studying all Bayern Munich's penalties since 2007. 'It will really sound strange now, but I said to my wife in December, “I think we're going to win the Champions League”,' he says.

In December That was when Andre Villas-Boas's time began to run out at the club. From December 17 until his sacking on March 4, Chelsea won just three Premier League games. Cech says it was the worst League run of his time at the club.

'We couldn't even buy a win. It didn't matter how we played,' he says. 'But I told my wife, “You will see. Before, we have been marching in the League and we couldn't get past the semi-finals of the Champions League. This time everything is going wrong, but you will see everything will go right in the Champions League”. She said, “Yeah, right, I agree with you”, and we laughed about it. Then we lost the first Napoli game and I'm thinking, “Well, maybe not”.

Petr Cech of Chelsea FC dejected

Petr Cech of Chelsea FC dejected

'But we won the Birmingham game in the FA Cup and suddenly we picked up good results in the League and we took the momentum to the second Napoli game. And suddenly things completely changed.

'Then we thought, “Well, anything can happen now”.'

The knowledge that the times were changing at Chelsea drove the team towards Munich.

Cech says: 'We were talking about it before the Napoli game and I said, “Didier! Come on, man! You have to score. Because we're not going to have many more chances to win it if we want to lift it together”. And he said, “No, you're right. If we're going to do it, we have to do it now”.

'When we went to the final we were aware that we were not all going to be here forever. We knew that for Didier it was the last game, because he had told us. Ever since the 2008 Champions League final, when we lost on penalties to Manchester United, the only thing I wished for was to play in another final. Going to Munich, I said to Christophe [Lollichon, Chelsea's goalkeeping coach], “OK. The only thing I needed was one more go. Now let's win it”.'

And they did. It just seems a long time ago now.

Mark Clattenburg uncomfortable with Chelsea players" visit

Race-row ref Clattenburg was 'uncomfortable' over Chelsea's visit to officials' room

|

UPDATED:

23:53 GMT, 3 November 2012

Referee Mark Clattenburg’s report on last Sunday’s clashes at Stamford Bridge — when he was accused of racially abusing Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel by calling him ‘monkey’ — will centre on the visit Chelsea employees and players made to the officials’ room after the match.

And sources claim that the ‘extraordinary incident’ report will suggest Clattenburg was uncomfortable with what happened during that visit.

Contrary to some reports, Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay is understood to have played no part in confronting Clattenburg after the 3-2 defeat by Manchester United. One well-placed source claims that Gourlay actually ushered Chelsea personnel away from the officials’ room.

Claim: Mark Clattenburg allegedly racially abused Jon Obi Mikel (centre)

Claim: Mark Clattenburg allegedly racially abused Jon Obi Mikel (centre)

Clattenburg is the subject of ongoing
investigations by the Football Association and police into the racial
abuse accusation, which the 37-year-old has privately denied. He faces
the possibility of an FA charge, criminal action and the end of his
refereeing career.

But the possibility also remains that one or more
Chelsea employee could face FA action for their part in confronting the
referee. It is understood that statements from assistant referees Simon Long and Michael McDonough and fourth official Mike Jones will support Clattenburg’s assertion that he made no racially abusive remarks.

All three were able to hear and speak to Clattenburg throughout the game using an earpiece system which provides digital quality sound that cuts out background noise.

Flashpoint: Clattenburg sent off Fernando Torres

Flashpoint: Clattenburg sent off Fernando Torres

Chelsea have not disputed the fact that Mikel heard the claim he had been abused by Clattenburg only after the match when he was told by non-English-speaking team-mate Ramires.

His version of the exchange was translated from his native Portuguese by his Brazilian team-mate David Luiz. United’s players have been asked by the club whether they heard any abusive comments by Clattenburg during the match and none reported anything untoward.

United are particularly sensitive to the issue of racism after Patrice Evra’s experience in the Luis Suarez case and the John Terry affair involving Rio Ferdinand’s brother Anton.

Evidence is still being gathered in the latest case, but it is expected that the FA will have a clear picture of what happened within days and may be in a position to announce whether any individuals will face disciplinary charges by the end of the week.

No decision has been made over when Clattenburg can return to work. The final say rests with the match officials’ controlling body — the PGMOL.

Chelsea are also under investigation because of the behaviour of their fans at last weekend’s match. Further action against the club could result from their failure to keep sections of the crowd under control after coins, lighters and a seat were thrown onto the pitch during the game.

The club have been further embarrassed by photographs of Chelsea fan Gavin Kirkham apparently making monkey gestures towards United striker Danny Welbeck in the return Capital One Cup game last Wednesday.

Unacceptable: Gavin Kirkham appears to make a 'monkey' gesture

Unacceptable: Gavin Kirkham appears to make a 'monkey' gesture

Clattenburg has received staunch support from United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

On Friday the United boss said he did not believe Clattenburg had made a racist remark. In his programme notes on Saturday, he added: ‘I felt every sympathy for Mark Clattenburg last Sunday. He was pilloried and didn’t deserve it. The officials made two mistakes — one that went against us and one that did us a huge favour — and I don’t hold either error against them.

‘I would have thought Chelsea would have been grateful to the referee rather than going on to give him a hard time.’

Leeds takeover imminent, confirm club and GFH Capital

Leeds takeover imminent after Bates receives proof of funds from Bahrain

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UPDATED:

10:51 GMT, 26 October 2012

Bahrain-based investment bank GFH Capital are poised to complete their takeover of Leeds, the two parties said on Friday.

GFH Capital have provided Leeds owner Ken Bates with the necessary proof of funds to complete the transaction, which has been in the pipeline since May when talks between the two first began.

Speaking on Friday morning, Bates said: 'It's been a long road, but we are in a good place. Both sides have been in talks over the last few days to finalise this deal. We are keeping focused and hope to complete very soon.

Almost done: Ken Bates time as owner is nearing an end with a buyout imminent

Almost done: Ken Bates time as owner is nearing an end with a buyout imminent

'The inaccurate reporting of certain journalists who will remain unnamed does not help the situation.

'Their articles, based upon a lack of knowledge of the intricacies of the deal and the full facts of the positive intentions of GFH Capital, achieve little and lead only to retractions or public apologies at a later date.'

GFH Capital announced in October that they had signed an exclusive agreement to lead a takeover of Leeds after they had notified the Bahrain stock exchange.

GFH Capital's deputy chief executive officer David Haigh said: 'With the money in place, we are poised to make this deal happen pending agreements and arrangements which are in the interests of the future of Leeds United – we need to make sure all the finer detail is addressed before trading signatures.

'Despite what has been said recently in media, both sides continue to talk regularly and continue to work hard to get the job done.'

GFH Capital director and chief investment officer Salem Patel added clarification that the operation of the club would not be hindered by Shari'ah law, owing to GHF`s Islamic background, saying: 'We understand there is some concern related to how Leeds United would be run under our stewardship.

On the up: Leeds hope the buyout will spark a return to the Premier League

On the up: Leeds hope the buyout will spark a return to the Premier League

'It remains important to be clear that Shari'ah law will not hinder this transaction, nor will it affect the future operations of the club.

'Our intention is to provide investment which will facilitate a successful and sustainable future for Leeds United on and off the pitch.'

Former Chelsea chairman Bates, 80, who took control of Leeds in 2005, has become increasingly unpopular with a growing number of fans due to a perceived lack of investment in the playing squad.

In April last year Bates announced he had bought a controlling 72.85% stake of the club's shares from a Geneva-based company, Forward Sports Fund, while the club have made pre-tax profits of more than 10million since the summer of 2007.

London 2012 Olympics BMX: Brooke Crain crash in qualifier

Thumbs up from American Crain after nasty BMX crash… and she plans to go again on Friday!

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UPDATED:

18:11 GMT, 8 August 2012

This is the moment American BMX rider Brooke Crain's Olympic dream looked certain to have ended with a painful crunch.

Half-way through a seeding race the 19-year-old clipped her rear wheel on a ramp and flew over the handlebars of her bike, before slamming to the ground chest first.

She laid motionless on the track, clutching her ribs for almost a minute while a medical team raced to help her.

Ouch: The moment Brooke Cain makes contact with the track, chest first, after hitting a ramp during her seeding run

Ouch: The moment Brooke Cain makes contact with the track, chest first, after hitting a ramp during her seeding run

Crash: She hits the track chest-first and the impact sends her hurtling back into the air

Crash: She hits the track chest-first and the impact sends her hurtling back into the air

Crunch: The impact of the collision sent Crain and her bike bouncing painfully along the circuit

Crunch: The impact of the collision sent Crain and her bike bouncing painfully along the circuit

The accident happened during a race to decide ranking for Friday's semi-final – where she is due to line up alongside British medal hope Shanaze Reade.

The crash drew gasps of horror from the crowd at the BMX circuit and thousands watching on TV.

The full extent of her injuries have
not been revealed, but incredibly Team USA bosses insist she has still plans to competing on Friday.

The brave rider even managed to send a message of hope to supporters from the sick bay.

Her coach Mike King tweeted a photo
of Crain lying on back and still clutching her ribs, but offering a
smile and a thumbs up, alongside the message: 'Preliminary report from todays seeding run is that @brookecrain32 is sore but will be ready for Friday.'

If she is fit on Friday, Crain will be given the 16th and final seed in the women's competition.

Somersault: Crain clipped her rear wheel on a ramp at speed and flew over her handle bars

Somersault: Crain clipped her rear wheel on a ramp at speed and flew over her handle bars

Hurt: She slammed her chest into the next ramp and remained on the ground for about a minute

Hurt: She slammed her chest into the next ramp and remained on the ground for about a minute

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The teenager is only competing in London as a replacement for Arielle Martin, who was hospitalized after a crash during a final training run on July 30 in California.

Martin underwent a third surgery on Monday night after injuring her liver and lung in the accident.

Martin's family said in a statement
that doctors are hopeful the latest surgery will help with fluid build
up in her abdomen. A previous surgery removed about two liters of fluid.

The
gold medal hopeful crashed after a mechanical problem during a final
practice with the U.S. team. She suffered a severe liver laceration and a
collapsed right lung, injuries that initially were deemed
life-threatening.

Crain is due to ride in the same heat
as British medal hope Shanaze Reade, who started her Olympics with a
strong ride, qualifying for the semi-final seeded fifth.

Reade
is hoping to improve on her performance in Beijing, when she chose to
battle for gold, rather than settle for bronze or silver – only to crash
on her final turn and end up medal-less.

The
three-time world champion will need to improve her time, but with a
strong home crowd, she'll be hoping to ride better as the competition
progresses.

Back on her feet: Crain eventually sat upright and was helped off the course. There was no immediate word on how badly she was hurt

Back on her feet: Crain eventually sat upright and was helped off the course. There was no immediate word on how badly she was hurt

Hurt, but not broken: TeamUSA tweeted this picture of Brooke in the sick back, clutching her ribs

Hurt, but not broken: TeamUSA tweeted this picture of Brooke in the sick back, clutching her ribs

British women's hopeful Shanaze Reade is in good form ahead of Friday's final

British women's hopeful Shanaze Reade is in good form flying round the course during her seeding ride

Speaking after
her ride, the 23-year-old from Crewe said: ‘It felt quite good out
there. The first race is always going to be a bit rusty.

‘It
was amazing to compete in front of a home crowd. I have been sitting
around and watching Olympic titles being won and have just wanted to get
out there and compete myself.

‘After
the last Games I had a kind of love/hate relationship with the
Olympics. Coming into this Olympics feels so normal and relaxed. I just
want to enjoy the event.’

Team GB's Liam Phillips was also in action in the men's event on a thrilling first day of competition.

And the 23-year-old from Burnham-on-Sea was thrilled with his performance, despite qualifying for
tomorrow's quarter-finals back in 12th place.

He said: 'This is what I wanted. I like riding on the track, but it didn't float my boat.

'This is where I belong. Whatever
happens in terms of results, I'm here to enjoy it and to have 6,000
people that have paid to come and watch a sport that I've done since I
was five years old is mind-blowing.'

Redemption: Reade who narrowly missed out on a medal in Beijing, is seeded fifth going into Friday's final

Redemption: Reade who narrowly missed out on a medal in Beijing, is seeded fifth going into Friday's semi-final

Steady start: British rider Liam Phillips is in good shape

Steady start: British rider Liam Phillips is in good shape

Flying biker: A packed house watches Philips in his seeding run, qualifying in 12th for Thursday quarter-final

Flying biker: A packed house watches Philips in his seeding run, qualifying in 12th for Thursday quarter-final

London 2012 Olympics: Crista Cullen is Team GB hockey"s top scorer

It's one big game to another for Team GB hockey ace Cullen

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 7 August 2012

Leading the way: Cullen is Britian's top scorer

Leading the way: Cullen is Britian's top scorer

To her hockey team-mates, Crista Cullen is known as the Kenyan Warrior. Little surprise when you see where she sleeps.

Cullen is Great Britain's top scorer at the Games with four goals as the team prepare to play Argentina for a place in the final.

When she visits her parents in Nairobi, though, a tent is all that separates her from the big game lions, rhinos and elephants of the family's nature reserve.

'It's quite a unique lifestyle,' conceded Cullen, 26. 'We've got a plot on a ranch. It's a wildlife sanctuary. I live in a tent in the garden. I can hear the animals making noises when I go to bed.

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'When I was 18 the tent was a present from my parents. It's not like one of those four-person, pitch-up ones – it's got a four poster bed. It's a luxury camping-type tent but it is made out of tarpaulin. It just makes me feel at home. That's part of my life: an outdoors, adventurous lifestyle.'

Cullen's paternal grandfather was a conservationist and her mother's father was a policeman who was posted in Kenya during the Mau Mau Uprising that led to Kenya's independence in 1963.

Cullen was born in Lincolnshire but moved to Kenya as a baby before coming back to Britain to attend Oakham School, aged 12.

She said: 'Here there is pressure and I'm in a bubble of hockey, very focused. In Kenya I'm able to escape.'

Jack Butland"s taking 2012 London Olympic Games in his stride

Keeping his cool… Butland's taking the Games in his stride

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UPDATED:

21:33 GMT, 3 August 2012

If you were to ask athletes for the moment they truly felt part of the Olympics, the majority of answers would be on similar lines.

Some would offer being part of the spectacular opening ceremony; others may point to standing on the starting blocks ahead of a race or hearing their national anthem.

For Jack Butland, however, reality dawned amid the hubbub of the Olympic Village's vast dining hall.

Net gains: Butland has starred for Team GB at the London Olympics

Net gains: Butland has starred for Team GB at the London Olympics

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Butland, the Birmingham City goalkeeper who will stand between the posts for Team GB in their quarter-final against South Korea in Cardiff, is a footballer who takes everything in his stride.

His ability to remain focused, coupled with his huge natural talent, is set to carry him a long way.

He knew those qualities would be required in order to help Stuart Pearce's team on the road that they hope will lead them to football gold but little did Butland appreciate he would need to display them during one dinner service.

'The whole atmosphere is superb,' explained Butland, who admitted to sleeping through Bradley Wiggins' tour de force on Wednesday afternoon as he was preparing for the Group A decider against South Korea.

Safe hands: Butland in action against UAE

Safe hands: Butland in action against UAE

'We are seeing what Olympic life is like and how different athletes prepare. It is eye-opening to see how it is done outside of football. We can see for ourselves that how we are preparing is unusual.

'The food hall is so different. Potentially there are 5,000 athletes using that hall. It adds a bit of professionalism. If you want to do well, you need to blank out all the distractions and focus on what you need to do.'

During the past 12 months, the towering Butland, 19, has enjoyed a meteoric rise. This time last year, he was hoping to make up for lost time, having suffered a serious hand injury during the 2010-11 season. He has done that and more.

Great Britain v South Korea

From a successful loan spell with Cheltenham Town to establishing himself as England Under-21s No 1 keeper, Butland – who has caught the eye of several Barclays Premier League clubs – also answered a late call to go to Euro 2012 as England's third choice keeper.

Being involved in the Olympics has put the gloss on everything but there is no sense that he is overawed. If anything, Butland speaks matter-of-factly, professional enough to know there is business to be taken care of but wise enough to appreciate the magnitude of the occasion.

'It's just the whole aura of being here,' said Butland.

'We were only in the Olympic Village for a couple of days but rubbing shoulders with athletes from other sports, you really get a sense of how important this is and what a big stage it is. It is unusual for us to be involved.

'It is just getting better by the day. We are taking it all in. It is a fantastic experience and you don't want it to stop. We have met so many people. The divers; Rebecca Adlington and all the swimmers. The basketball team. When we paraded at the opening ceremony, we were mixing with the boxers.

'It is understandable that the focus has not been on us. We have not played as a Great Britain team for some considerable time. The Olympics has solely been around other sports as far as Great Britain has been considered.

'We have come under the radar but we feel we have the players to do really well. Hopefully people realise that. We are here to do business. We are not a Mickey Mouse team. This tournament has been fantastic from day one. We had full houses at Old Trafford, then Wembley and again at Cardiff.

'People are looking forward to playing against or watching the other teams in the competition. It has been a while since there was a major tournament here. The country has grasped that.'

Men's quarter-final schedule

Japan v Egypt
Old Trafford, noon
Mexico v Senegal
Wembley, 2.30pm
Brazil v Honduras
St James’ Park, 5pm
GB v South Korea
Millennium Stadium, 7.30pm

If there was ambivalence towards football's place in the Olympics before the jamboree started, interest has gradually increased and there will be plenty of eyes on the Millennium Stadium this evening to see if Team GB can make the next step.

Honduras or, most likely, Brazil await the winners in the semi-finals but head coach Pearce and his players have made a point of explaining how much of a challenge it will be to see off the tenacious South Koreans.

It augurs well, though, that Team GB have improved with every game. 'We are building momentum,' said Butland, who was outstanding in Wednesday's 1-0 win over Uruguay.

'Most of the teams have had more preparation time. The South American teams have been in full flow. We knew we would be behind.

'Our target was to improve every game, which is what we have done. Our performances have shown that. It is much too early to think about medals. South Korea is the next aim. Once we beat them – hopefully – we would need to move onto the next one.

'You thrive on opportunities like this. If I can play my part in helping us go a little bit further, then that would be brilliant.'