Tag Archives: banter

No need for pain in Newcaste"s French revolution – Martin Keown"s Premier League bootroom

Premier League bootroom: No need for pain in French revolution

By
Martin Keown

PUBLISHED:

23:41 GMT, 1 February 2013

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UPDATED:

23:51 GMT, 1 February 2013

Seeing so many French players arrive at Newcastle reminds me of when Arsene Wenger turned up at Arsenal in 1996.

Newcastle have added Mathieu Debuchy,
Moussa Sissoko, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoan Gouffran and Massadio Haidara
to their squad and we did a similar thing during our most successful
period.

Wenger brought in Emmanuel Petit,
Gilles Grimandi, Remi Garde, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Nicolas
Anelka, Sylvain Wiltord and Thierry Henry (below).

thierry henry

You could see they were all coming in ready to win something. It was impressive and a challenge to the rest of us.

Some things changed straight away. I used to go to the gym after training but suddenly I couldn’t get a machine because the French were all in there tuning up different parts of their bodies. They were generally very quiet at first off the pitch — because of the language barriers they couldn’t join in the dressing-room banter straight away.

Wenger made a point of conducting everything in English, which helped them learn the language but he occasionally had a quiet word in French with some of the new boys. But they learned English fast — I’m sure Henry couldn’t speak English one week and the next he was better than me.

In Toon: Newcastle fans embrace the influx of French players while Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit (below) celebrate Arsenal's triumph in 1998

In Toon: Newcastle fans embrace the influx of French players while Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit (below) celebrate Arsenal's triumph in 1998

Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit

There was of course some resistance to the influx of players. Some of the Brits felt the French lads were more quickly praised and indulged in training on occasions. If we talked during the warm-up we’d get a ticking off, while if they did the same it wouldn’t be mentioned. But any wariness soon disappeared as we started winning things. It will be the same at Newcastle. If they win games, the fans and rest of the dressing room will love them.

Some of our values rubbed off on the French players too, particularly our will to win. We trained at 100 per cent in every session while the French peaked for matches.

Main man: Theo Walcott has become a central figure for Arsene Wenger's side this season

Main man: Theo Walcott has become a central figure for Arsene Wenger's side this season

It was important to retain that Britishness and Wenger is still doing that by having Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and others in the team.

We gave our French team-mates important information too, warning them that a trip to Ipswich or West Ham was going to be tougher than they thought. No doubt the new boys at Newcastle will be guided by their team-mates too.

Top Gaul Scorers

Play the game

Our top managers were wheeled out to
say nice things on the FA’s 150th anniversary. Now they have to follow
up and help Roy Hodgson. He has World Cup qualifiers coming up and needs
to see his squad together, against Brazil on Wednesday. We can’t have
tactical withdrawals just to give players a rest.

Whats The Score.jpg

Becks misses a trick

It’s a shame that David Beckham has
joined Paris Saint-Germain. I would have liked to have see n him in the
Premier League one last time to see what he had to offer. He’s from the
same stable as Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, who are doing meaningful
jobs at Manchester United. I think playing again in England would have helped cement his place as one of the greats.

Teams 2

109 Teams 1

Rio Ferdinand coin: Idiot could have blinded me – ESPN pundit Peter Reid

One mindless idiot could have blinded me! Peter Reid relives moment he was struck by coin during Cup tie whilst working for ESPN

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UPDATED:

13:15 GMT, 10 December 2012

It was the shock really that I felt first. I knew I'd been hit by something but I was just stunned. There was a sharp pain then under my eye and I realised it was a 2p coin.

There had been no chanting or name calling just friendly banter with the crowd.

It was half-time in the FA Cup tie between Dorchester and Plymouth and we were stood in the corner, Martin Keown and I commentating for ESPN.

Hit: Ferdinand was struck by a coin in the dying moments of the derby while celebrating Robin van Persie's winner

Hit: Ferdinand was struck by a coin in the dying moments of the derby while celebrating Robin van Persie's goal

Confrontation: A City fan makes his way on to the pitch but is held back by Man City stopper Joe Hart

Confrontation: A City fan makes his way on to the pitch but is held back by Man City stopper Joe Hart

I was actually leaning over getting
make-up on, as I need lots of it, when it hit me. It didn't cut me, I'm
made of Teflon me, but I was very lucky. One mindless idiot could have
blinded me.

The security ran after whoever it was
but I don't know what happened to them. The club were great and
everyone was asking if I wanted to carry on but I soldier on me, always
have done.

Struck: Peter Reid was hit by a coin whist working for ESPN during an FA Cup tie

Struck: Peter Reid was hit by a coin whist working for ESPN during an FA Cup tie

The shock though stayed with me. I
was so surprised by it happening to me there as I was working for TV.
The trouble is there is no legislating for this kind of cowardice.
That's what it is plain and simple. What happened to Rio was millimetres
from the game going into shutdown. What if it had cut his eye

I've heard the calls for netting and
the like but I'm a big believer in collective responsibility. We have to
police it ourselves on the terraces. Clubs can't stop people from doing
this and I'm not having the argument that if we stop players
celebrating then it stops the crowd being incited. If you're a fan and
you see someone do that, tell a steward, report them to the police.

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Under siege: The United defender holds his head after being struck by a coin thrown from the crowd

There's no shame or stigma in being
the one who tells on someone like that. Good on you. I'm aware of peer
pressure and bravado but getting rid of this mentality will do us all a
favour. There's nothing brave in their actions only cowardice and
stupidity.

The sooner society wakes up to it the better.

Target: Rooney holds aloft a coin after being pelted with objects whilst taking a corner for Manchester United during the derby

Target: Rooney holds aloft a coin after being pelted with objects whilst taking a corner for Manchester United

Caroline Wozniacki pokes fun at Serena Williams

Oh, I say! Serena is the butt of Wozniacki's joke during exhibition match in Brazil

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UPDATED:

23:23 GMT, 8 December 2012

Former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki uses some extra padding on Saturday as she has a little fun at Serena Williams' expense during an exhibition match in Brazil.

The 22-year-old Dane was beaten 6-2, 7-6 by Maria Sharapova but enjoyed plenty of banter with the crowd including boyfriend Rory McIlroy.

Butt no, butt yeah, butt no: Caroline Wozniacki impersonates Serena Williams

Butt no, butt yeah, butt no: Caroline Wozniacki impersonates Serena Williams

Wozniacki said: 'I really love the crowd here, they're open and they have a lot of fun.'

The joke was not lost on Williams, also in Sao Paulo to promote the 2016 Games.

She tweeted: 'Do they make Brazilian bikinis for, um, well, me'.

Bikini babe: Serena Williams took ribbing in good humour

Bikini babe: Serena Williams took ribbing in good humour

MANCHESTER DERBY PICTURE SPECIAL: The goals, the rows and the rivalry… and Ryan Giggs" embarrassing tights

MANCHESTER DERBY PICTURE SPECIAL: The goals, the rows and the rivalry… plus Ryan Giggs' embarrassing tights

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UPDATED:

18:23 GMT, 7 December 2012

Move over the Merseyside derby. North London has nothing on this. The big one is back – the Manchester derby. Sunday. 1.30pm. Buckle up and enjoy.

Millions will be watching this Sunday's events at the Etihad. The match will be broadcast live in 212 territories across the globe, reaching an astonishing 720 million homes worldwide.

There will also be 12 international broadcasters present at the Etihad Stadium, including ESPN Brasil and NHK Japan, the highest number of broadcasters at any Barclays Premier League game this season.

It has become the stand-out fixture of
the Premier League season and here's the photographic
evidence… We love the goals, the rows, the celebrations, the banter
and, above all else, the rivalry…

THE GOALS…

The most famous derby goal: Denis Law (No 10), then of City in 1974, scores with a back-heel past United goalkeeper Alec Stepney. It was a strike which still haunts Law because it effectively confirmed United's relegation

The most famous derby goal: Denis Law (No 10), then of City in 1974, scores with a back-heel past United goalkeeper Alec Stepney. It was a strike which still haunts Law because it effectively confirmed United's relegation

Law mobbed by spectators

Manchester United fans invade the pitch and mob Manchester City's Denis Law at the final whistle of the Manchester derby

Life's a pitch: Supporters mob Law after his back-heeled goal on April 27, 1974 for City against United at Old Trafford. Other results would have sent United down anyway and the game had to be abandoned after a pitch invasion (right) with five minutes left.

DENIS LAW ON THAT GOAL… IN HIS OWN WORDS

'I was inconsolable. I didn’t want it to happen. How long did the feeling last How long ago was the game Thirty-odd years. There is your answer. The subject always crops up. It’s one of those things. It’s always there and I am always remembered for it. That’s a shame.

I played with all those guys. They were pals. I didn’t want them down. It was the last thing in the world that I wanted. It didn’t feel good, no. We weren’t friends on the field. We would kick each other. But once the whistle went and it was over, things changed.

There was a bar in those days so we would have a cup of tea or coffee or a beer and then we might meet up later. It was just normal in those days. I was a bit different as I had been at both clubs and I knew guys who were still playing.

I knew the trainers and the guys behind the scenes. As the years have gone on it has changed, I guess.'

Taken from a 2010 interview by Ian Ladyman

Second most famous derby goal: Wayne Rooney's majestic overhead kick against City in February last year

Second most famous derby goal: Wayne Rooney's majestic overhead kick against City in February last year

Close one: United legend Charlton narrowly misses against City as the Blue side of Manchester prevailed with a 4-0 win in 1969

Close one: United legend Charlton narrowly misses against City as the Blue side of Manchester prevailed with a 4-0 win in 1969

Trevor Morley (front right) scores the second City goal. Mal Donaghy (R). Football: Division 1: Manchester City v Manchester United (5-1)

Manchester City's Vincent Kompany (3-L) rises above Manchester United's Chris Smalling (2-R)

Blue moon rising: Trevor Morley (above, far right) scores City's second in their 1989 5-1 thumping of United and captain Vincent Kompany (right) rises highest to score City's opener against United at the Etihad last April

Rarity: Paul Scholes scores the first goal - with his head! - during the 2003 derby, which United won 3-1

Rarity: Paul Scholes scores the first goal – with his head! – during the 2003 derby, which United won 3-1

The near miss: Manchester City's Don Revie (centre) wheels away thinking he has headed home, but the ball strikes the post and United's Bill Foulkes is on hand to clear

The near miss: Manchester City's Don Revie (centre) wheels away thinking he has headed home, but the ball strikes the post and United's Bill Foulkes is on hand to clear

THE ROWS…

Red Devil: Allenby Chilton, the Manchester United captain, heads for the dressing room after being sent of against City in a 1955 FA Cup tie

Red Devil: Allenby Chilton, the Manchester United captain, heads for the dressing room after being sent of against City in a 1955 FA Cup tie

Temper, temper: Bryan Robson (No 7) and Dennis Irwin (centre) wade in as Niall Quinn (No 9) and Steve McMahon (hidden) attempt to keep the peace at Old Trafford in 1992

Temper, temper: Bryan Robson (No 7) and Dennis Irwin (centre) wade in as Niall Quinn (No 9) and Steve McMahon (hidden) attempt to keep the peace at Old Trafford in 1992

In the red corner: Denis Law takes a swipe at Tommy Booth in 1969 as Joe Corrigan lies on the floor during the 2-2 derby draw at Old Trafford

In the red corner: Denis Law takes a swipe at Tommy Booth in 1969 as Joe Corrigan lies on the floor during the 2-2 derby draw at Old Trafford

Roy Keane sent off by referee David Elleray after tackle on Haaland has the last word as he walks off

Roy Keane sent off by referee David Elleray after this tackle on Ale Haaland

Vile: Roy Keane abuses Alf-Inge Haaland (left) after seriously injuring the City midfielder in 2001 (right). Keane was rightly sent off. It was the culmination of a feud which had lasted four years and Keane admitted his violent intent in his subsequent autobiography in 2002

Recent rumpus: Rio fumes at Mancini and Platt in April last year

Recent rumpus: Rio fumes at Mancini and Platt in April last year

Boss bother: Mancini (left) and Fergie clash in April this year

Boss bother: Mancini (left) and Fergie clash in April this year

Cup fuss: Anderson (right) takes issue with Balotelli's FA Cup semi-final victory celebration

Cup fuss: Anderson (right) takes issue with Balotelli's FA Cup semi-final victory celebration

City's Craig Bellamy hit by coin and a plastic cider bottle

Cristiano Ronaldo shows his temper as he throws track suit to the ground after being taken off... Premier League: Manchester United v Manchester City (2-0)

Bottling it: Craig Bellamy, then of City, is hit by a coin while a bottle of cider narrowly misses during the January 2010 derby (left) while Cristiano Ronaldo (right) reacts to being substituted the season before by throwing his tracksuit top to the ground and sulking as United run out 2-0 winners

THE CELEBRATIONS…

Kiss catch: Gary Neville plants a smacker on 2010 goalscorer Paul Scholes

Kiss catch: Gary Neville plants a smacker on 2010 goalscorer Paul Scholes

Late drama: Michael Owen celebrates after scoring United's winning goal in the 2009 derby

Late drama: Michael Owen celebrates after scoring United's winning goal in the 2009 derby

Side stepper: Carlos Tevez, now at City, celebrates his 2009 derby goal for United

Side stepper: Carlos Tevez, now at City, celebrates his 2009 derby goal for United

Malcolm Allison, assistant manager at Manchester City FC reacts to the news that City have been drawn to play Manchester United in the FA Cup 4th round in 1970

Michael Carrick second goal celebration with Wayne Rooney

Game on: Malcolm Allison, assistant manager at City (left), reacts to the news that the 1970 FA Cup fourth round draw had pitted the two great rivals against each other as Wayne Rooney celebrates United second goal in January 2010 on team-mate Michael Carrick's shoulders (right)

Football League match 1990 Manchester City v Manchester United (3-3) David White (Left) and Peter Reid (Right) with Colin Hendry after he scored citys third goal

Manchester City's Vincent Kompany (C) celebrates scoring the opening goal against Manchester United

City slickers: David White (Left) and Peter Reid (Right) with Colin Hendry (left) after the defender scored City's third goal in a dramatic 3-3 derby draw in 1990, while Vincent Kompany (right) wheels away after putting City 1-0 up back in April this year at the Eithad Stadium

Just for kicks: Rooney's celebration is befitting of his wonder goal against City last year

Just for kicks: Rooney's celebration is befitting of his wonder goal against City last year

THE BANTER…

Redundant: Manchester United fans display a banner depicting the last time City won a trophy during the derby in February 2011. City have subsequently won the title and the FA Cup

Redundant: Manchester United fans display a banner depicting the last time City won a trophy during the derby in February 2011. City have subsequently won the title and the FA Cup

Mario Balotelli of Manchester City reveals a message on his T-shirt as he celebrates scoring the first goal

Manchester City FC poster bearing the face of new signing and former Manchester United striker Carlos Tevez, in the city centre

Text messages: Maro Balotelli reveals his infamous T-shirt message after scoring City's first in last season's 6-1 rout at Old Trafford and Carlos Tevez beams down on the centre of Manchester from the inflammatory billboard erected after he signed foe the Blue side of the city in July 2009

Extraordinary sight: The scoreboard shows the final score of the derby match at Old Trafford on October 23, 2011

Extraordinary sight: The scoreboard shows the final score of the derby match at Old Trafford on October 23, 2011

THE (FRIENDLY) RIVALRY…

The bosses: Captured here by artist Paul Trevillion in a special commission for Sportsmail, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson (left) could be looking for a spot of 'Fergie time' on Sunday against Roberto Mancini's City

The bosses: Captured here by artist Paul Trevillion in a special commission for Sportsmail, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson (left) could be looking for a spot of 'Fergie time' on Sunday against Roberto Mancini's City

John Bond, manager of Manchester City FC drinks champagne with Ron Atkinson, manger of Manchester United, 1981

Margaret Atkinson wife of Manchester United Manager Ron Atkinson pictured with Jan Bond the wife of Manchester City boss Jon Bond

Mr and Mrs: City manager John Bond and United boss Ron Atkinson share a bottle of champagne on derby day in 1981, while their wives Jan (bond, right) and Margaret (Atkinson) enjoy a cup of tea ahead of the big match

Friendly rivalry: Mike Doyle of Man City (left) and Man Utd goalkeeper Alex Stepney stroll down the 18th together in 1975

Friendly rivalry: Mike Doyle of Man City (left) and Man Utd goalkeeper Alex Stepney stroll down the 18th together in 1975

Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson (right) with Manchester City manager Mel Machin (left)

Rival managers Joe Mercer (Manchester City) and Frank O'Farrell (Manchester United)

Breakfast club: City manager Mel Machin (left) and Fergie (right) chew the fat ahead of a derby fixture in 1989, while derby rivals Joe Mercer (City, left) and Frank O'Farrell United) chink glasses in 1971

… BUT WE DON'T EVER WANT TO SEE THIS AGAIN, GIGGSY…

Tight fit: Ryan Giggs wearing black leggings during the derby clash on February 13, 2005. Dear, oh dear, Giggsy

Tight fit: Ryan Giggs wearing black leggings during the derby clash on February 13, 2005. Dear, oh dear, Giggsy

Patrick Collins: Ignore the tacky "Rafa Out" crowd and the bigots, football"s silent majority must set the tone

Football's silent majority must set the tone, not the bigots who just want to be noticed

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UPDATED:

02:00 GMT, 2 December 2012

It was a tacky little sign, white
paint smeared on a blue banner, and it said: ‘Welcome to the circus,
starring Fat Rafa as the new clown.’ The letters were slightly smudged
and the ‘n’ of ‘clown’ was squashed against the banner’s edge, as if it
were an afterthought. But the man holding it up seemed strangely proud
of his creation. For the cameras were taking his picture and all was
well with his world.

Other placards sprouted around
Stamford Bridge to greet Rafael Benitez, their new manager. ‘Rafa Out!’ …
‘In Rafa we will never trust’ … ‘Rafa Benitez: Chelsea Fans Do Not
Forget’. The last referred to a trifling slur which the rest of the
world had long since forgotten.

But even as we sniggered, we realised that they had been noticed and thus their object had been achieved.

Spelling it out: Chelsea fans protest before Rafa Benitez's first game in charge

Spelling it out: Chelsea fans protest before Rafa Benitez's first game in charge

Rejecting a Chelsea manager even
before he started his job was clearly absurd but the antics of the West
Ham fans at Tottenham last weekend were darker and far more disturbing.

It is thankfully impossible to
comprehend the characters capable of screaming anti-Semitic insults,
chanting slogans about Adolf Hitler and making hissing allusions to gas
chambers.

But that was the kind of trash which
passed for banter at White Hart Lane and witnesses insist that hundreds
of visiting supporters joined in. You must have read about it; it was in
all the papers.

The clowns and the choristers were at
it again yesterday at football grounds across the nation. And while
their excesses were reported, nobody seemed in the least surprised. It’s
‘tribal’, you see; a way of making a point and gaining attention.

More from Patrick Collins…

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01/12/12

Patrick Collins: Tears follow tragic mistake that turned into an ordeal for brave Hatton
25/11/12

Patrick Collins: Let's hope Pep has the right answers when Roman comes calling
24/11/12

Patrick Collins: How 65 seconds of confusion cost England their chance
24/11/12

Patrick Collins: What's the point of a 5bn league if England can't make it to the World Cup
17/11/12

Patrick Collins: Twickenham man feeling off-colour as panto season comes early for England
17/11/12

Patrick Collins: Why do we put up with these obscenities just because it's football
10/11/12

Patrick Collins: Wilshere is back in action – the miracles will follow
27/10/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

It’s the sort of thing that they do,
because they see themselves as being part of the action. And many of us
find that genuinely disturbing.

Some time ago, I wrote a book which
considered the various ways in which fans follow their chosen sport.
Some are largely silent, as in golf or snooker. Others, such as horse
racing and speedway, are loud, passionate but distant observers. At the
big tennis tournaments they make their noise only when play is
interrupted, while at cricket Test matches the crowd have grown louder
down the years but remain essentially respectful of the nature of the
game.

And all of them — save, perhaps, the
dreary grotesques of cricket’s ‘Barmy Army’ — recognise the convention
by which the watchers watch and the performers perform.

Dreary grotesques: The Barmy Army in Sydney

Dreary grotesques: The Barmy Army in Sydney

True, there was a time, a few years back, when the distinction grew blurred and some of our major sports were interrupted by streakers. But they were happily eliminated, first by the certainty of arrest, then, far more effectively, by television’s admirable decision to turn its cameras away from their tedious caperings. The ancient truth was reasserted: nobody ever bought a ticket to look at the audience.

As the past week’s events have demonstrated, only football still struggles with that simple concept. Having paid extortionate prices for their seats — which they rarely occupy, since mob culture insists on mass standing — football fans demand a share of the spotlight. Obscene gestures, vile chants, abusive placards; anything goes, anything likely to get them noticed.

For those who truly want to cause spectacular offence, football offers an irresistible stage.

Abuse: West Ham fans taunted their Spurs counterparts at White Hart Lane

Abuse: West Ham fans taunted their Spurs counterparts at White Hart Lane

Thankfully, it remains true that the decent majority are deeply disturbed by the squalid excesses of the minority. And there are broad and hopeful shafts of light. Yesterday, at Millwall’s Den, the local South London derby with Charlton was played on ‘Jimmy’s Day’, an occasion which marked the murder four years ago of a blameless young fan named Jimmy Mizen.

In the years since Jimmy’s death, his parents have dedicated themselves to combating violence and raising the aspirations of young people and yesterday they joined with Millwall’s outstanding Community Scheme to celebrate the advances achieved. So we should not doubt that football can be a genuine force for good.

But too often it sells itself short. Too often it allows its tone to be set by chanting morons, or hissing bigots, or misguided enthusiasts with misplaced pride in their crudely painted placards; all demanding to be noticed. We cannot say with confidence that they would go away if we denied them the attention they seek. But it might be worth the effort.

Flintoff’s fight night is just a bushtucker trial in boxing gloves

His ring walk was fine, his glare was ferocious and he answered the opening bell with the urgency of a seasoned pro. It was then that things started to go wrong for Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff in the Manchester Arena.

Nobody ever doubted his heart or his spirit, since they are his stock in trade. No, his fistic limitations lay elsewhere, in the areas of timing, technique, footwork and strategy. And when a man enters the professional ring lacking all of those basic assets, then we know that we are watching not a genuine contest but a reality TV stunt; a bushtucker trial in boxing gloves.

In fairness, the matchmakers had done their work well. Richard Dawson was what boxing calls ‘a body’. Whereas Freddie was said to have spent the past four months in the gym, Dawson seemed to have passed his time in the Oklahoma branch of Dunkin’ Donuts.

He was two stones heavier than our hero and much of that poundage hung from his waist.

Stunt: Andrew Flintoff won his ring debut

Stunt: Andrew Flintoff won his ring debut

Yet still he threw the only authentic punch of the four brief rounds, a short left hook that took Flintoff off his feet for a few confusing moments in round two. As for Freddie, well, he tried his heart out because that is his nature. He flapped and he flailed, threw frantic punches from the elbow, like a man trying to swat an elusive fly. Yet nothing came naturally to him, since it isn’t his sport. Imagine Mike Tyson attempting a cover drive and you have the picture.

The television commentator, painfully anxious to create a sense of occasion, made much of the minor celebrities at ringside; all ‘good mates’ of Freddie, it seems.

And when the fight was done and Freddie had won — as we rather suspected he would — those good mates celebrated euphorically, as if a world title had been delivered.

Victorious: Flintoff celebrates a win over Richard Dawson

Victorious: Flintoff celebrates a win over Richard Dawson

David Price, the British heavyweight champion and a sensible chap, was asked for his view. ‘It was what it was,’ he said, benignly. ‘You can’t take it too seriously.’

Indeed you can’t, which is why Freddie Flintoff’s boxing career is likely to prove brief, trite and utterly forgettable. Such is the way of reality TV.

PS

England’s leading football clubs paid out more than 77million to agents in the 12 months to September 2012.

That’s 77m the sport will never see again, handed over for no good reason to people of no obvious talent for performing no useful function.

It is a scandal which screams out for investigation.

But nothing will happen, since the consequences would prove uncomfortable.

Still, the Premier League remains the greatest league in all the world. Don’t believe me, ask a football agent.

Ricky Ponting retires: Paul Newman tribute

Paul Newman: Ponting's retirement is the Ashes' loss… the Aussie villain will be badly missed in next summer's showdown

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UPDATED:

09:43 GMT, 29 November 2012

A certain magical something disappeared from next summer’s Ashes today when Ricky Ponting, truly one of the greatest batsmen cricket has known, decided that tomorrow’s Test in Perth will be his 168th and last.

Ponting may have fulfilled the role of pantomime villain in England but he will be sadly missed when they take on Australia for what is still cricket’s greatest prize. The Ashes will never feel quite the same without him.

An emotional Ponting chose the eve of Australia’s third and deciding Test against South Africa in Perth to tell the world that, just short of his 38th birthday, enough is enough. He is sure to have a poignant send-off at the same WACA ground where it all started for him in Test cricket 17 years ago.

Fierce competitor: Ponting (centre) will go down as one of the greats

Fierce competitor: Ponting (centre) will go down as one of the greats

Michael Clarke, the man who succeeded Ponting as Australia captain in the aftermath of England’s historic Ashes triumph last year, could barely hold himself together as he talked about a batsman who is second only to the great Sir Don Bradman himself in terms of Australian achievement. He was that good.

There are many in England who have derided Ponting, who have teased him and treated him as the perfect target to focus all anti-Australian banter. In truth it was a compliment for he was the Aussie opponent we all feared the most.

He wasn’t easy to love on the field even though he was such a magnificent competitor. Ponting could sledge with the best of them, which was fair enough, but he often had a bad attitude towards umpires, displaying a disrespect to them that was unbecoming of the Australian captain and the man himself.

Top talent: Ponting is the second highest run-scorer in Test history

Top talent: Ponting is the second highest run-scorer in Test history

Off the field he was a man of real stature. I can honestly say he was one of the best and most impressive people that I have ever had to deal with. To the media he was courteous, thoughtful, articulate and respectful. Many could learn from him.

I will never forget the audience he granted the English print media, a task above and beyond the call of duty that he always provided for us in Australia because of the difficulties of the time difference, deep in the bowels of the Gabba in Brisbane ahead of the first Test of the last Ashes.

I had travelled to Australia convinced England would win. Hell, I even tipped the score to be 3-1 which, of course, it eventually turned out to be. But that spellbinding 20 minutes, just Ponting and around eight of nine of us, made me wonder if I had got it all badly wrong. So impressive was he in his confidence that Australia would prevail that I severely questioned my own judgment.

Impressive: Ponting was always courteous to the media

Impressive: Ponting was always courteous to the media

Impressive: Ponting was always courteous to the media

Even Ponting, as it turned out, could not stop England on that tour but he never stopped believing he would until the moment that he resigned the captaincy, with huge dignity, when it became clear that England were his match.

The writing has been on the wall for a while now. He has not been the same player for a good year or so and the only question became when he would go. He desperately wanted one, or maybe even two, last cracks at England and deep down we all wanted that too. If we can’t boo Punter then it really won’t be so much fun.

Australia patriotism and myopia may all be a bit much at times for English tastes but they know how to honour their great sportsmen. Ponting was allowed to decide when he would go, the selectors trusting him to make the right call, and by all accounts there was barely a dry eye in the house when he told the players today that he was going. So well respected is he that most did not see it coming.

Ashes stalwart: Ponting squares up to Michael Vaughan before the 2005 series

Ashes stalwart: Ponting squares up to Michael Vaughan before the 2005 series

Ponting’s wife, his young family and the whole Australian team then attended his goodbye press conference at the WACA. It is a worthy tribute to the man.

Perhaps it is also the English way to go more quietly than this. Andrew Flintoff attracted criticism for announcing, on the eve of the Lord’s Test, that the 2009 Ashes series would be his last, because to many he was taking attention away from the team. Someone like Mike Atherton, for instance, would have rather died than told everyone that his next Test appearance would be his last.

Mentor: Michael Clarke (left) has taken on the captaincy from Ponting

Mentor: Michael Clarke (left) has taken on the captaincy from Ponting

But it feels right with Ponting. Great champions, as the Aussies would say, deserve a great send off and the Perth Test will undoubtedly all be about Ricky Ponting. He will go into it with 13,366 Test runs from his 167 games at an average in excess of 50, a true mark of greatness.

I for one have never wanted an Australian to score a Test century more than I want Ponting to do so against South Africa tomorrow. And if it means Australia go to the top of the world rankings on the back of it so be it. England can always take the title back off them next summer. Ricky Ponting is one of the greatest players to ever wear the Baggy Green. He deserves to go out in style.

james Anderson: Kevin Pietersen"s back? No problem for this England dressing room

Pietersen's back No problem for this England dressing room

PUBLISHED:

21:03 GMT, 3 November 2012

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UPDATED:

21:03 GMT, 3 November 2012

To be honest, no one really knew how Kevin Pietersen's reintegration into the team environment was going to work.

We had meetings in England before we departed to break the ice, get the awkwardness out of the way and start afresh.

But people still wondered how things would be in the dressing room when he came back.

Scroll down for more

Back in the fold: Kevin Pietersen is getting on well in the England dressing room

Back in the fold: Kevin Pietersen is getting on well in the England dressing room

So far on this tour, from the way we
have been getting on, banter and all, it would be difficult for a
newcomer to believe there had ever been a problem.

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That says a lot about the strength of the spirit in the group and also reflects well on Kevin's frame of mind.

As Swanny said this week, the mickey-taking is still coming as thick and fast as ever, but Kevin has been fantastic and giving as good as he is getting, which is vital.

If he cannot be himself around the guys then he cannot be himself on the field and that is what we need him to be if we want to try to become the team we want to be, with him in it making shedloads of runs.

I have been happy with the way we are getting into the tour, but I've been amused at how the captaincy has obviously gone to Cooky's head.

He made an excellent century in our first match, then promptly sat out the second game.

Funny, but I don't seem to recall he ever missed a game when he was one of us foot soldiers.

Cricket culture

To say Indians are fanatical about their cricket is like saying Homer Simpson quite likes Duff beer.

Entire TV channels are devoted to the game.

Everywhere you look, either on the box, in the papers or out on the street, you are confronted by giant images of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, explaining how they can't live without this deodorant or that motor oil.

Hero: Sachin Tendulkar is idolised in India

Hero: Sachin Tendulkar is idolised in India

And the kind of attention we have been getting offers a small window into the world they live in when they are at home.

Everyone seems to want to meet you, shake hands, have their photo taken with you then take you home to meet the wife and kids.

On a more serious note, you never quite get over the sight of the beggars.

We have been advised not to give, but it takes a hard heart to say no and it never gets any easier.

Kyle Walker returns to twitter after closing it following abuse

Time to be social: Walker to reopen Twitter account following abuse from fans

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UPDATED:

14:21 GMT, 2 November 2012

Kyle Walker has vowed to reopen the Twitter account he closed after receiving criticism for his performances on the social networking site last month.

The Tottenham defender shut his @kyle28walker account, which had over a quarter of a million followers, after becoming angry at those who had hit out at his poor showing in Tottenham's 4-2 home defeat to Chelsea 13 days ago.

The England right-back explained that he had come off Twitter because he wanted to concentrate on football after what has been a mixed start to the season for the ambitious 22-year-old from Sheffield.

Being social: Kyle Walker is back on Twitter

Being social: Kyle Walker is back on Twitter

He revealed he would reactivate the account shortly, however, admitting he misses interacting with the club's fans, who have taken to him after he enjoyed an outstanding breakthrough season last term.

'I will be back on it shortly,' Walker said at an event to publicise the Topps Match Attax Tour.

'I just thought with my form it was time to concentrate on my football rather then tweeting.

'But I will definitely be back on it because I like to have a bit of banter with the fans and it's good to give the fans something back because they are coming to support us every game.'

Walker is not the first player to have shut his account. Darron Gibson and Danny Simpson both came off Twitter after receiving abuse while others have removed their profiles after getting in to trouble with their clubs and the authorities.

Disappointing: Walker could not help Tottenham past Norwich in the Capital One Cup

Disappointing: Walker could not help Tottenham past Norwich in the Capital One Cup

The former Sheffield United defender was clearly angered by some of the tweets he received following his display against Chelsea, and he admits he will have to learn to take any more abuse that comes his way when he returns to the site.

'When people say silly things you have to be a bit thick skinned and try and not make it bother you, but sometimes some comments do hurt because you go out there every week to try your best and you don't want to disappoint anyone,” Walker said.

'You just have to overcome it and get on with it. People are entitled to their opinions.'

Last year Walker enjoyed a hugely successful season in which he was compared to Roberto Carlos, scored a magnificent derby winner against Arsenal, and won the Professional Footballers' Association Young Player of the Year award.

Inconsistent: Kyle Walker says his form has been up and down

Inconsistent: Kyle Walker says his form has been up and down

The pacy full-back admits his form has been patchy at times this season, however.

'My form has been a bit up and down to be truthful. I couldn't tell you why,' Walker said.

'I had a good season last season so to keep that standard is very high.

'I will try and keep doing what I did last season and hopefully everything will fall in to place.

'I am prepared to work after training…that will make me a better player.'

One player whose form has not been questioned this season is Walker's team-mate Jermain Defoe.

Defoe struggled to make Harry Redknapp's first team last season, but he has looked sharp since Andre Villas-Boas' arrival, scoring eight goals for club and country so far this year.

The 30-year-old will no doubt be looking to add to that tally tomorrow when Tottenham welcome Wigan to White Hart Lane in the Barclays Premier League.

Walker thinks Defoe is in just as good form now as he was three years ago when he put five past Wigan in Tottenham's stunning 9-1 win at White Hart Lane.

'I don't think he has ever dropped that form (since the 9-1 win),” Walker added.

'He is one of the first in the gym and he does his finishing after training as well so he is getting the rewards he didn't get last season.

'He is someone young strikers look up to and will learn a lot off, not just in terms of his goalscoring, but his attitude as well.

'He is a pleasure to play with.'

Tom Huddlestone vows to grow his until he scores again

Hair we go! Huddlestone vows to grow his barnet until he scores again

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UPDATED:

11:54 GMT, 2 November 2012

Hair-raising: Huddlestone

Hair-raising: Huddlestone

When Tom Huddlestone vowed last year not to cut his hair again until he scored he must not have envisaged a 19-month goal drought. But that is exactly what has ensued.

In fairness, the Tottenham midfielder has been injured for the vast majority of the time since his last strike against Arsenal in April 2011, but he has kept to his promise nonetheless.

During his battle to regain fitness following ankle surgery Huddlestone has turned his afro into a weapon for charity as he aims to raise 75,000 for Cancer Research.

Huddlestone has so far raised 11,000, and although he is back playing regularly for Spurs, he says he'd happily let his hair keep growing provided Andre Villas-Boas' side finish in the top four.

'I won’t mind if I end up with hair down by my hips if we make it back into the Champions League next May,' the 25-year-old told the Daily Mirror.

'It started out as just a bit of banter with my mates, but although I’ve got more than a year’s growth up there, I won’t cut my hair until I score.

'I thought I would be back for the last three months of the season, and any growth would be manageable, but I suffered a setback towards the end of my rehab and it’s spilled over into this season.

Back in action: Huddlestone is back in the Spurs first-team

Back in action: Huddlestone is back in the Spurs first-team

'To make sure I stuck to my promise, I set up a page for Cancer Research and a lot of people have been kind enough to donate.

'I lost my grandad, and a few family friends, to cancer, and fortunately I’m not too concerned with the way I look at the minute.

'But if I play regularly and stay fit, I would expect to score at least once between now and the end of the season – and the barber will need a large pair of scissors.'

Huddlestone earned himself three England caps in the build up to the 2010 World Cup and just missed out on Fabio Capello's squad to go to South Africa.

Two injury-ravaged seasons have since set Huddlestone's progress back, but injuries to Mousa Dembele and Scott Parker have given him a chance in Villas-Boas's starting XI and the ex-Derby man is delighted to be back in the thick of the action and the think Spurs can finish in the top four.

Distant memory: Huddlestone drills home his last goal - against Arsenal in April 2011

Distant memory: Huddlestone drills home his last goal – against Arsenal in April 2011

'I like to think the top four will be our natural habitat as a club. We’ve been to the Champions League before, we’re aiming high again and it’s good to be back,' he added.

'Basically I’ve lost nearly 18 months of my career to injury at a time when I should be coming into my prime,' said Huddlestone.

'I had half-cemented a place in the team, we had finished fourth under Harry Redknapp and we were going well in the Champions League when I first picked up the ankle injury, and it was the start of a long struggle.

'Last year was a write-off and a nightmare, especially watching the lads do so well up until February, when they were in with a chance of the title, and then not being able to help out when results dipped a bit.

'Luckily, since we reported back for pre-season, I’ve been fully fit and I’ve enjoyed being involved with the boys again.

'Benni is the main man for Afros at this club, but he’s probably got two or three years’ growth there – I hope it doesn’t take me that long to score a goal.'

Death threats to Halsey opened Taylor"s eyes to referee"s plight in the modern game

Death threats to Halsey opened Taylor's eyes to referee's plight in the modern game

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UPDATED:

22:38 GMT, 1 November 2012

Steven Taylor had just finished sparring with Sunderland fans when he bumped into Mark Halsey at St James’ Park last Sunday.

It should have been an innocuous conversation with the fourth official before Newcastle’s clash with West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League, a chance for a quick chat with a popular match official.

What happened next left the former England Under 21 defender wide-eyed as he was given an insight into the world of top-class refereeing.

Banter: Steven Taylor (right) has a glint in his eye as he shares a moment with Sunderland's Steven Fletcher

Banter: Steven Taylor (right) has a glint in his eye as he shares a moment with Sunderland's Steven Fletcher

Taylor said: ‘Mark asked me what the reaction of the Sunderland fans had been and I told him there had been no problems, just a bit of banter.

‘I didn’t realise Mark gets death threats to him and his family. I didn’t know that kind of thing happened, so it was a bit of a shock to me, a real eye-opener.

'When they’re talking about his family, his kids, talking about putting a bullet in their heads, that’s too far. I haven’t had anything like that.

‘Halsey was trying to make me feel better about my situation by telling me what happened to him, but that’s another level.’

This is the modern-day plight of referees, living in fear of reprisals over decisions made at high speed and under matchday pressure.

It has been a difficult week for officials in light of Chelsea’s complaint into the conduct of Mark Clattenburg at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have filed a report to the FA citing ‘inappropriate language’ towards John Mikel Obi, but no-one at the club denies that the alleged insult is the word ‘monkey’.

This is different territory for a referee, but the 80,000-a-year officials have become accustomed to the abuse and the threats from supporters.

In September, a fan was cautioned by Greater Manchester Police after Halsey, who recovered from throat cancer in 2009, was abused on Twitter.

Halsey had refereed Manchester United’s 2-1 victory at Anfield when Liverpool fan John Wareing tweeted: ‘I hope Mark Halsey gets cancer again and dies.’

Death threats: Mark Halsey has received vile abuse from supporters

Death threats: Mark Halsey has received vile abuse from supporters

Taylor added: ‘It’s different for Mark because he gets abuse and threats and it’s down to the decisions he’s made. I asked him how he dealt with it and he said he just had to get on with it and not let it affect him, but that must be incredibly hard.

‘I don’t know how he can shrug that kind of thing off because I’m not that kind of person. He’s a brave guy for what he’s been through and after everything that has been said about his family.’

The abuse is relentless, far more sinister compared with anything Taylor endured at the Stadium of Light after joking that he would rather collect stamps than watch Sunderland.

They responded by singing ‘Steven Taylor, we wish you were dead’, but the big central defender thought nothing of it.

The Newcastle defender added: ‘The Sunderland fans know what I’m like, it was all tongue in cheek, but some of their fans got caught up in the emotion of it.

‘I was only having some fun, stirring things up a bit. I’ve talked to Sunderland fans and they understood it was about getting the North-East derby back up to where it should be.

‘I think the fans were just lost for words about what to sing about me. We were having a laugh with each other, there were 48,000 and the atmosphere is always great there. I really enjoyed it.’

These are volatile times for football, with fans creating hostile atmospheres and players putting intolerable pressure on referees as they press for an advantage.

The Newcastle defender, in the squad for Sunday’s clash at Liverpool, added: ‘Players put massive pressure on referees.

‘In the dressing room before games we are told by one of the backroom staff who is the referee, how many red and yellow cards they’ve given out so far this season.

‘If you act all big time the referee is just going to ignore you. Players are so clever these days and they go down with the slightest of touches.

‘I think we’ve seen them clamping down on this diving thing, but I think it’s getting even harder for referees.

‘Like players, different referees have different characters and egos.

‘People should treat referees the way you want to be treated.

For their own self-respect they need to keep their cool and not let things affect them.’