Tag Archives: brink

PSG 3-0 Nice – match report and video highlights

VIDEO: PSG on the brink of first title since 1994 as Beckham watches from the bench

PUBLISHED:

00:15 GMT, 22 April 2013

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UPDATED:

07:09 GMT, 22 April 2013

Paris Saint-Germain closed in on the French league title with a 3-0 victory over Nice that restored their nine point lead over Marseille.

David Beckham was an unused substitute in the match and with just five matches left, the big-spenders look set to win their first league crown since 1994.

Scroll down for video highlights

Not needed: David Beckham was an unused substitute in PSG's 3-0 win over Nice

Not needed: David Beckham was an unused substitute in PSG's 3-0 win over Nice

On the scoresheet: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (second right) celebrates with team-mates

On the scoresheet: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (second right) celebrates with team-mates

Jeremy Menez gave PSG the lead from close range in just the third minute, with striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic doubled the lead by converting a penalty in the 65th.

Substitute Clement Chantome then rounded off the win in the 88th, leaving PSG on 70 points after 33 games.

Marseille have 61, while Lyon are another two points behind in third.

Earlier on Sunday, Lille kept pace in the race for a Champions League spot by defeating Bastia 2-1 on Sunday to stay three points behind Lyon.

Ligue 1 - The latest standings

Ligue 1 – The latest standings

Opener: Jeremy Menez scores the first goal

Opener: Jeremy Menez scores the first goal

Handbags: Referee Tony Chapron separates Renato Civelli of Nice and Ibrahimovic

Handbags: Referee Tony Chapron separates Renato Civelli of Nice and Ibrahimovic

VIDEO: Watch highlights from PSG's 3-0 win against Nice

Coventry to have 30,000 crowd for JPT against Crewe

Coventry on course for 30,000 crowd at showdown with Crewe… but why the sudden rush to the Ricoh

By
Neil Moxley

PUBLISHED:

11:40 GMT, 5 February 2013

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UPDATED:

16:04 GMT, 5 February 2013

Coventry City are set to smash a few attendance records this evening in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Area final first leg against Crewe Alexandra at the Ricoh Arena.

It has been a testing few years for the Sky Blues…demotion from the Premier League in 2001 followed by relegation from the Championship last year.

But with more than 30,500 supporters expected at the stadium this evening – with 2,000 arriving from Cheshire – at last the club's beleaguered supporters may have something worthwhile to shout about.

Here, Midlands football correspondent Neil Moxley looks at the reasons why so many punters will be turning out tonight.

Filling up: Coventry will be supported by 28,500 fans at the Ricoh Arena

Filling up: Coventry will be supported by 28,500 fans at the Ricoh Arena

Phew, 28,500 tickets have been sold for this…and it's only the first leg

Yes, but there's a whiff of success in the air and you cannot accuse Coventry City supporters of being fair-weather supporters, can you

I didn't realise the club was so well-supported

Well, Coventry is England's ninth biggest city, so it's little surprise really that they can attract the support if the team is doing well.

Yes, but that's a big 'If', as far as the Sky Blues are concerned, isn't it

Oh yes. It's reasonable to point out that Coventry supporters have just had one knock after another following the club's demotion from the Premier League in 2001.

Then chairman Bryan Richardson left the club either with a whopping 60million debt or a whopping 22m debt – depending on who you believe – and the Sky Blues have become embroiled in one financial problem after another since then.

On the up: Coventry are on the brink of moving into the play-off spots

On the up: Coventry are on the brink of moving into the play-off spots

On the up: Coventry are on the brink of moving into the play-off spots

Right, but what happened to Highfield Road

It's a sore point. Richardson had done a deal to move to a state-of-the-art new stadium on a brownfield site on the outskirts of the city. But, in truth, though it was opened seven years ago, it was done without the proper finances to ensure that the club thrived.

How is that then

Well the matchday revenues were sold off. Coventry still cannot take a penny from a burger, a pint or a pie that they sell to their supporters.

To be honest, it's all a gigantic mess.

Did it contribute to their fall into the Championship

It had an effect, certainly, but it was by no means the only reason and now the current owners, a hedge fund with the acronym of SISU, are trying to sort out the mess. The only trouble is, they have racked up a 43m debt doing so.

So, why are the fans flocking to the stadium tonight

Mark
Robins and his arrival at the club following Andy Thorn's sacking
earlier this season has given everyone a huge lift. From being in the
bottom three, Robins has transformed the club's fortunes and now they
are in with a realistic shot at promotion.

Main man: Mark Robins (left) has guided Coventry up the League One table

Main man: Mark Robins (left) has guided Coventry up the League One table

And in this competition too, a Wembley shot

Yes, some might say Coventry's name might be on it. They won a penalty shoot-out with Burton in an earlier round and defeated Preston last time out 3-2 with two goals in the last few minutes.

How many supporters could the club take to Wembley

Coventry were last at the national stadium in 1987 when they faced Everton in the Charity Shield. Estimates that day put the following at 40,000-plus.

If they can sell out the Ricoh Arena they should have no problem taking up their allocation.

But, as always with Coventry City, it's a mighty big 'If'!

Harry Redknapp plans QPR shake-up as Mike Rigg leaves

Redknapp hopes to add Ferdinand to backroom staff as Rigg leaves QPR

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UPDATED:

10:44 GMT, 21 December 2012

Harry Redknapp is stepping-up a shake-up of his backroom team after technical director Mike Rigg was on the brink of leaving the club yesterday.

Rigg arrived at Queens Park Rangers shortly after Mark Hughes' appointment as manager in January, but he is set to be the latest member of the sacked Welshman's staff to depart Loftus Road.

Shake up: QPR boss Harry Redknapp is planning to change his back-room staff

QPR boss Harry Redknapp is planning to change his back-room staff

And Redknapp, who replaced Hughes in November, will now look to install trusted aide Ian Broomfield as his new chief scout.

The 65-year-old is also closing in on former QPR striker Les Ferdinand, who he wants to join his coaching team.

Sportsmail exclusively revealed Redknapp's interest in both Ferdinand and Broomfield.

Redknapp (right) with trusted assisstant Kevin Bond, is looking to add les Ferdinand and Ian Broomfield to his staff

Redknapp (right) with trusted assisstant Kevin Bond, who has been with Redknapp at several clubs, is looking to add ex-QPR striker Les Ferdinand and Ian Broomfield to his staff

Diego Maradona close to becoming Iraq manager

Legend Maradona in line to become Iraq coach… who are ranked 92nd in the world

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UPDATED:

07:20 GMT, 21 December 2012

Diego Maradona is on the brink of becoming manager of Iraq.

The former Argentina boss, who is acting as a consultant for the UAE club Al Wasl that he used to coach, is awaiting the outcome of a meeting of the Iraqi Football Federation to be held on Friday.

Maradona has already set his sights on guiding the country, who are ranked 92 in the world, to the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

Who wants me Diego Maradona is in line to become the new Iraq manager

Who wants me Diego Maradona is in line to become the new Iraq manager

'Diego is really enthused and phones us every day,' agent Hernan Tofoni said. 'He doesn't just want to coach (Iraq) for the next six months but long term.'

'He is excited by the fact that it's a challenge and that he'd be going to replace Zico,' added Tofoni, referring to the Brazil great who quit as Iraq's coach last month.

Tofoni, a registered FIFA agent, said he put Maradona's name on the table when Iraq approached World Eleven looking for an Argentine coach and 'they liked the idea'.

He said there would be no obstacles for Maradona to leave Al Wasl, where he coached for 14 months until last July, to take up the Iraqi post.

Replacement: Brazil legend Zico quit the post earlier this year

Replacement: Brazil legend Zico quit the post earlier this year

Iraq have played at one World Cup finals, in 1986 in Mexico where Maradona led Argentina to their second title.

The Middle Eastern nation are third in Group B in the fourth round of Asian World Cup qualifiers. Japan lead with 13 points from five matches, while Iraq are equal on five points with second-placed Australia, who have a match in hand, and Oman.

The 52-year-old Maradona, one of the greatest players, has a modest record as coach.

Although he led Argentina to the World Cup finals in 2010, his side lost 4-0 to Germany in the quarter-finals.

Manchester City quash New York MLS franchise rumours

Man City quash rumours of 100m New York MLS franchise involving Beckham

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UPDATED:

11:09 GMT, 15 December 2012

Manchester City have rejected speculation they are in discussions to buy a new MLS franchise.

City, who yesterday reported annual losses of 97.9m and increased turnover of 231.1m, were said to be on the brink of being awarded a franchise that would be based in the Queens district of New York.

It had been suggested David Beckham had been approached to be part of the scheme, which was to be named New York City Football Club and cost Blues owner Sheikh Mansour 100m.

No truth: Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour is not about to start a Major League Soccer franchise in New York, according to the club

No truth: Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour is not about to start a Major League Soccer franchise in New York, according to the club

However, Manchester City officials have today distanced themselves from the talk.

'Manchester City are not buying an MLS club,' said City in a short statement.

Sheikh Mansour has used his involvement with City, on which he has now lavished well in excess of 1bn, to raise the profile of Abu Dhabi.

Farewell: David Beckham waved goodbye to the MLS and LA Galaxy earlier this month, but was rumoured to be involved in the New York venture

Farewell: David Beckham waved goodbye to the MLS and LA Galaxy earlier this month, but was rumoured to be involved in the New York venture

It was suggested an involvement within the MLS would add to the work that has taken place turning City from a mid-ranking Premier League club into last season's champions.

A second MLS franchise in New York is set to be based in Queens, close to the site of Flushing Meadow, which currently hosts the US tennis open.

Joe Cole vows to fight for his Liverpool future

Cole vows to fight for his Liverpool future after firing timely reminder to Rodgers

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UPDATED:

06:55 GMT, 12 December 2012

Joe Cole has insisted has no plans to leave Liverpool.

The 31-year-old former England
midfielder came off the bench to claim his first Premier League goal for
20 months in Sunday's 3-2 win at former club West Ham.

Uncertain future: Liverpool's Joe Cole

Uncertain future: Liverpool's Joe Cole

Cole, who also scored in the recent Europa League draw with Young Boys, still has two years left on his current Reds deal and insists he can still be a success at Anfield.

He told the Mirror: 'All I'm doing is giving my all in
training every day, and trying to keep my place in the squad when we
play Villa – that's all I can do.

'It has been difficult recently but I
have scored in my last two appearances and I want to keep the sequence
going if I can. And when I'm called upon I will do the best job I can.'

But Cole may be moved on as Liverpool will unveil a new 18million strike force in January after taking significant steps to securing deals for Daniel Sturridge and Thomas Ince.

It has been Brendan Rodgers wish for Liverpool to get their business in the New Year done early and they now are on the brink of landing their two prime targets.

Reunion Cole has been linked with return to West Ham

Reunion Cole has been linked with return to West Ham

Chelsea forward Sturridge is expected to cost Liverpool in the region of 12million, while they will have to pay Blackpool in the region of 6million to take Ince back to Anfield 18 months after letting him leave for 250,00

The arrivals of the pair will offer
even fewer chances to Cole, who has been linked with a return to Upton Park, and rock-bottom QPR, now managed by his old Hammers boss Harry Redknap. and Rodgers hinted the player may prefer to
move on when he said: 'Joe's a terrific lad and I feel for him at times.

'If he's not going to play as often as he wants then he's no different to any player, really.

'Players are about game time and money. He's a good guy, though – he's not any kind of problem.'

Alastair Cook will waltz past my record for Test runs – Graham Gooch

Sky's the limit! Cook will waltz past my record for Test runs, says old master Gooch

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UPDATED:

22:54 GMT, 10 December 2012

Graham Gooch, fresh from a game of tennis with his regular opponent Andy Flower, sat back and almost purred with pleasure as he discussed the extraordinary impact Alastair Cook has had here in India.

Not only has Cook followed an identical route to the top as Gooch via Essex to the England captaincy, but the pair are cut from similar hard-working, no-frills cloth.

Gooch, who has been with Cook all the way with county and now country, is thoroughly enjoying his protege’s journey.

Captain marvel: Alastair Cook has led England to the brink of victory in India

Captain marvel: Alastair Cook has led England to the brink of victory in India

The man who is now England’s batting coach still likes a good battle — ‘It’s pretty even with Andy at tennis and I’m pleased about that because I am giving him 15 years. We both like to win’ — and appreciates the qualities that have taken Cook to the brink of a historic triumph in his first series as full-time captain.

They are the same qualities that made Gooch England’s record run scorer.

‘My early memories of Alastair are that he was mature for his age and very balanced and considered. He went about his cricket in a methodical way and you can still see that. The priceless ability he had, and again you can see this now, is that he knows exactly what he can do and what he can’t. He puts that into practice and doesn’t step outside that.

‘He applies a certain type of game in Test cricket that works. When he came into the one-day side a lot of people said he didn’t have the game for it but smart players find a way. And he plays a different sort of game in one-day cricket.

‘He’s not a power player but he keeps
it moving and his runs-per-balls ratio is very good. That shows the
skill of the man in being able to adapt.’

Mentor: Graham Gooch is now Cook's batting coach in the England set-up

Mentor: Graham Gooch is now Cook's batting coach in the England set-up

It is impossible not to feed off Gooch’s enthusiasm, still strong at 59. The man who was a colossus as England captain is perfectly qualified to judge the man who has made a colossal start to his own reign.

How far can Cook go Here in Kolkata he became the youngest to reach 7,000 Test runs and broke the England Test century record with his 23rd. A tally of at least 10,000 runs looks guaranteed, probably nearer 15,000. And how about 40 hundreds

Gooch, understandably, did not want to burden Cook with too many targets. ‘I hope to hang on in this job until he goes past my record,’ smiled the man with 8,900 Test runs. ‘In my opinion 27 to 35 are the best years for a batsman because you have honed your knowledge and know your game. Alastair is 28 on Christmas Day and I think he’s got his best years in front of him. He’s got to stay fit and motivated but nothing at the moment would suggest to me that won’t happen.

‘Captaincy has enhanced his runscoring already. He’s mentally strong, that’s his greatest asset, and he could achieve a lot of the things you’re talking about. I’d like to think he will go all the way.

‘He’ll certainly go past my record in
the not-too-distant future and good on him because he’ll deserve that.
He’s mastered his art to a degree and is always looking to improve. If
he delivers, England win matches.’

The man to beat: Gooch is England's highest Test runscorer with 8,900

The man to beat: Gooch is England's highest Test runscorer with 8,900

Cook is not, of course, a classicist. He will never thrill the way Kevin Pietersen in his pomp does. But he is becoming more expansive, as well as mightily effective. Again, Gooch is effusive in his admiration.

‘He tends to get on the front foot a bit more later in his innings now and he plays a very resolute game outside off stump.

‘He’s worked very hard over the years. He practises the sweep and hitting the ball over the top and it’s good to see him showing confidence in selective sweeping against the turning ball.

‘He’s had success with that and also has the confidence to use his feet and come down the wicket. He’s starting to enhance his game.

‘He’s not the most eye-catching player, but he gets the job done. You know the old saying It’s not how, it’s how many.

‘Often young players coming up have talent and ability to strike the ball but they don’t quite know how to manage it. Sometimes it dawns on them later in life and sometimes it doesn’t at all, but this lad had it from the beginning.’

And, typically, Cook is learning the art of captaincy, too. ‘I think we’ve seen already in the dressing room that he’s prepared to make his own decisions,’ said Gooch. ‘Alastair doesn’t always take the coaches’ advice in that he wants to do it his own way.

‘He’ll make mistakes and he won’t get it right every time. You have to grow into that job, the way you get the best out of people, counsel them, and make tactical decisions. All those things come into it. I don’t see any reason why he won’t be a good captain and leader of men.’

Cook is already well on the way. And the old master will enjoy every minute of watching the captain overtake him as England’s greatest batsman.

Alan Shearer: Sunderland boss Martin O"Neill has one game to save his job

Lose to Reading and it could be the end for Sunderland boss O'Neill, says Toon hero Shearer

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UPDATED:

12:11 GMT, 10 December 2012

Alan Shearer believes Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill has one last game to save his job.

The former Newcastle legend turned BBC pundit says the visit of Reading on Tuesday night in the Barclays Premier League will be crucial to O’Neill’s survival.

Sunderland have lost five of their last seven Premier League matches while O’Neill’s side have won only one of their last 11 league fixtures at the Stadium of Light.

Under pressure: Martin O'Neill watched his Sunderland side slump to defeat at home to Chelsea at the weekend

Under pressure: Martin O'Neill watched his Sunderland side slump to defeat at home to Chelsea at the weekend (below)

Spot of bother: Two goals from Chelsea's Fernando Torres helped see-off Sunderland at the Stadium of Light

Writing in his column in The Sun, Shearer said: ‘Martin O’Neill has faced some mighty games as a player and manager in his career. None, however, in his 12 months in charge at the Stadium of Light will be bigger than tomorrow night’s visit of Reading.

‘The fans have not turned but they are on the brink. If they don’t beat Reading at home tomorrow their patience will snap.

‘I hate to suggest people are facing the sack. But his next two games after tomorrow are Manchester United away then Southampton away.’

Making his point: Newcastle legend Alan Shearer believes O'Neill has one game to save his job at Sunderland

Making his point: Newcastle legend Alan Shearer believes O'Neill has one game to save his job at Sunderland

Sunderland have attempted only 46 shots on target in the Premier League this season; the fewest of all sides.

But there is hope — No side have kept fewer clean sheets in the Premier League this season than Reading.

Forest Green Rovers: Welcome to the greenest football club on the planet!

Welcome to the greenest club on the planet! (No red meat, an organic pitch and Mowbot the lawnmower is solar powered…)

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UPDATED:

22:45 GMT, 7 December 2012

The clue is in the football club’s name: Forest Green Rovers. Or else it is in the address: The New Lawn, Another Way, Nailsworth. Welcome to the home of Forest Green, third in the Blue Square Bet Premier and the greenest football club on the planet.

From the solar panels on the roof of the main stand, to the meat-free menu and the electric car driven by owner Dale Vince, the credentials are there for all to see.

With a solar-powered lawnmower that sends text messages to the groundsman when it is broken and an organic pitch to boot, Vince is using football to spread his message. And why not

Flying the green flag: Dale Vince, the club's owner, is building football's most eco-friendly club

Flying the green flag: Dale Vince, the club's owner, is building football's most eco-friendly club

The 51-year-old was laughed at when he decided to sell green energy. After building 53 windmills, the first of which overlooked the club’s stadium, he now employs 300 people in Ecotricity, a business that turns over 50million.

And, after winning over a sceptical audience, Vince is clearly on to something. But why Forest Green, a club based four miles south of Stroud, Gloucestershire

‘It’s a combination of three things,’ said the club’s owner, ‘First, Forest Green had a need. They were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Second, it was local, they employed around 100 people and we were able as a company to find the sums of money they said they needed which, as it turned out, were gross under-estimates.

‘And third, it was the chance to promote our message.

No burgers: But there's solar panelling at the ground

No burgers: But there's solar panelling at the ground

‘We look at energy, transport and food as the big three. We began with the windmills. Now we have constructed an electric car with charging posts on motorways. We call it the electric highway to encourage people to use electric cars.

‘The third is food. Red meat was the first thing we banned. Well, we didn’t actually ban it, but everyone has labelled it like that, so I’ve just fallen into using that term.

‘We just stopped supplying it to our players. I suggested that red meat wasn’t actually good for our players, our athletes.

‘The manager, Dave Hockaday, agreed to do it. During the course of the conversation, we said, “Well, if we are not feeding it to our players, then we shouldn’t really feed it to our staff or our supporters”. So we took it off the menu altogether.’

Vince added: ‘We took some flak for it but red meat is bad for us. It’s also unsustainable. And it takes 10 grammes of vegetable protein to produce a gramme of beef. You have diminishing returns. The rough analysis is that you can feed 10 vegetarians or one meat-eater.

‘It seemed wrong to me to be involved in the meat trade. I held it to be a bad product. And anyway, the burgers we sold at the time were s***e — or so I was told as I’m a vegan…

‘A few unreasonable people said I was a dictator, saying I was imposing my principles on them. But, if you flip it around and I was forced to sell them red meat, something I abhor as a practice, then they are imposing their principles on me.

‘I said to our fans, those who were upset, “Bring in a ham sandwich if you want, it’s only two hours every other week when you won’t have access to it on our menu”.

‘Most restaurants set their own menu. Italian restaurants serve Italian food. But they set the menu. That’s all we have done, set our own menu. Now we have offerings such as the Badger pastie — it’s a vegan pastie, braised tofu is the main ingredient. It’s got a meat-like texture, quite salty and it’s our halo product. It’s hand-made here on the morning of the game.

Green, green grass of home: Vince and the Mowbot, the lawnmower that sends a text to the groundsman

Green, green grass of home: Vince and the Mowbot, the lawnmower that sends a text to the groundsman

‘The players have been good. We have a nutritionist and he has been able to explain to them. We have moved things considerably. We feed them before and after games. Quorn is the principal source of protein we give them.

‘I’ve had fans come up to me and say it has changed their lives. One said she had lost a stone in weight.’

Vince spent a decade living as a New Age traveller. ‘I fought the law from time to time,’ he says. But then he hit upon wind energy and, due to the deregulation of the industry in the mid-Nineties, spotted a way to make it pay. And now he wants to spread the word.

‘We are already the greenest club on the planet,’ he said. ‘We have an organic pitch — no fertilisers and pesticides. It creates an enormous challenge for our groundsman because you have to control weeds and pests and still promote growth.

‘We have a solar-powered lawnmower. We call it the Mowbot. It’s GPS-controlled and if it breaks down it sends our groundsman a text.

He's Red Nev, but Gary's green too

Gary Neville: Manchester United legend, dressing-room lieutenant, respected pundit…and eco-warrior.

But,
according to Vince, the two-time Champions League winner is so serious
about the subject he has even set up a charity called ‘Sustainability
in Sport’ with the owner of Ecotricity. ‘I read in the paper that he was
planning to build a house with an emphasis on the environment,’ said
Vince.

'I asked someone to send him an email asking whether there was anything we could help with — and we hooked up.

Dream: Neville's eco-house

‘He’s tried to build windmills. So
here was a footballer trying to get into wind energy, just as a company
built on wind energy was trying to get into football.

‘We
have a joint venture going on building windmills. We powered his
testimonial match against Juventus. We have our Ecotricity banners
everywhere. It was live on television. He wanted a seriously green
outcome for his testimonial and so he gave us some solar panels for the
roof of our stand.

‘He’s a good guy and very passionate about this. In fact, I was surprised how knowledgeable he was about the whole issue.’

‘It has saved him 150 hours per year. The grass is so finely cut that we don’t collect it, we leave it on the pitch, so we don’t remove any of the nutrients. We have electric-powered leaf-blowers and strimmers, so we are not burning petrol. We are building an electric tractor.

‘We have put in a system of drains and ring main, so that we can collect rainwater. We put it back into a tank and use it again. We have a wildflower meadow, we have habitats all around the ground, newts and slow-worms, orchids.

‘We want some LED floodlights. Our next big aim is to get the manager (Hockaday) into an electric car. And to get charging points at our ground, so that you could come here in an electric car.

‘We recently achieved EMAS, it’s like the gold-standard of environment management. Manchester United, by comparison, have just been granted ISO 14000. I mention that because that’s League One standard, though we applaud what they have done. We, however, are in the Champions League…

‘We are going to be recognised as the greenest football club on the planet. We would like to be promoted a few leagues because the higher we go, the more impact our message has.’

Vince won’t say who he supports, but went to watch England play Portugal in the European Champioship, saw Rui Costa in action and named his son after the playmaker.

‘The football culture surprised me. The attitude, the way the managers and players were treated by the board… well, it was Victorian.

‘One of the things I rail against is boardroom dress code. I want to go to an away game. I’m a big boy, I can dress myself, yet I have to discover beforehand what I can and can’t wear.

‘We have considered imposing a reverse dress code. If they insist we have to wear a suit and tie at their place, we will ban it at ours. We will insist on trainers! Swindon came to play in pre-season. Their directors loved it, they turned up in shorts and flip-flops.

‘We like to challenge the culture and convention of football,’ he adds with a smile.

After tackling the big electricity companies, leading the way on a football field should be child’s play.

Jamie Carragher: Champions League needs change

Jamie Carragher
Jamie Carragher exclusive column: How I would save the Champions League, by the Liverpool defender (who won the competition in 2005)

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UPDATED:

11:55 GMT, 5 December 2012

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The Champions League, for the last decade, has been the best tournament in world football. In my opinion, it has been superior to both the World Cup and European Championship.

Those high standards would be under threat, though, if it was to expand from 32 teams to 64, as Michel Platini has suggested might happen.

Football is always evolving and I understand that new ideas have to be implemented from time to time but increasing the numbers competing in the Champions League is not the way to go.

Every game should count: Arsenal fielded an understrength side in their defeat to Greek side Olympiacos because they had already qualified

Every
game should count: Arsenal fielded an understrength side in their
defeat by Greek side Olympiacos because they had already qualified,
while Manchester City (below) fell to Borussia Dortmund

End game: Manchester City crashed out of Europe after losing to Dortmund

If you look at the way the group stages have fizzled out over the last couple of years, you will see that more teams won’t raise the quality. Interest in the group stages has been dwindling and it has only been at the quarter-final stages that the competition has come alive.

So how does Platini make the Champions League exciting right from the start

Apart from winning the tournament in 2005, the best experience I had in the competition came during the 2001-2002 season when there were two group stages.

On the brink: Chelsea face an early exit from the Champions League just months after winning the Final in Munich

On the brink: Chelsea face an early exit from the Champions League just months after winning the Final (below)

Drog days are over: Chelsea beat Bayern Munich to win last season's Champions League

After getting through the first phase, when Liverpool were drawn with Boavista, Borussia Dortmund and Dynamo Kiev, we were paired with Barcelona, Galatasary and Roma.

That type of group is what the Champions League is about. Every game meant something, every goal that was scored mattered.

We only ended up getting through to the quarter-finals by beating Roma 2-0 in the last game at Anfield. It was the night Gerard Houllier returned to the dugout after he had suffered a heart attack.

Part of the plan: Carragher's concept for change would see the first knockout round of the draw seeded so the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid would avoid each other early on

Part of the plan: Carragher's concept for change would see the first knockout round of the draw seeded so the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid would avoid each other early on

WHEN THE EUROPEAN CUP WAS A KNOCKOUT…

Brian Clough guided Nottingham Forest to their first European Cup win 1979 as 'Old Big Ead's' men negotiated their way through a tough knockout format en route to glory.

Here's how they did it…

First round: v Liverpool, won 2-0 (1st leg: 2-0; 2nd leg: 0-0)

Second round: v AEK Athens, won 7-2 on agg (1st leg: 2-1; 2nd leg: 5-1)

Quarter-final: v Grasshopper, won 5-2 on agg (1st leg: 4-1; 2nd leg: 1-1)

Semi-final: v Cologne, won 4-3 on agg (1st leg: 3-3; 2nd leg: 1-0)

Final: v Malmo, won 1-0

Euro star: Brian Clough

Of course, the obvious problem with two group stages would be fixture congestion. I read with interest Martin Samuel’s observations in his column on Monday, about returning the competition to pure knockout football all the way through.

My idea would be to strike a balance – keep 32 teams but start things off with a knockout round, with all qualified teams needing a win to get through. So this year, for instance, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea would have to have to win through a high-stakes knockout round first.

The draw for the knockout stage would be seeded, so you would never get a situation where Barcelona faced Real Madrid.

Some people might say that is unfair to the smaller teams and nations that Platini wants to get involved. He should be credited for trying to help them but it is taking things away from the group stage.

Surely the minnows in the competition
should want to prove that they belong in the competition Wouldn’t that
create more excitement But with so much to lose, you could guarantee
that all the seeded teams would be fully committed, regardless of who
they were playing. That, in turn, would lead to better games.

You
would then be left with four groups of four, with the top two going
through to contest the quarter-finals. You could almost guarantee that
every game in the group stage would mean something and be of a high
quality.

Over to you: Jamie Carragher believes UEFA president Michel Platini should change the format of the Champions League

Over to you: Jamie Carragher believes UEFA president Michel Platini should change the format of the Champions League

Wouldn't it be great if all the groups were of the quality of the one this season that contains Real Madrid, Dortmund, Ajax and Manchester City

The problem when you have a 32-team group stage is that a lot of fixture can be monotonous. The World Cup group stage, for instance, doesn’t have the same intensity as the European Championship.

Sealed with a kiss: Jamie Carragher celebrates Liverpool's 2005 Champions league success with Steven Gerrard in Istanbul

Sealed with a kiss: Jamie Carragher celebrates Liverpool's 2005 Champions league success with Steven Gerrard in Istanbul

Of course, the idea might get opposition from the big clubs, who would be fearful of falling out at the first hurdle and missing out on the subsequent revenue but wouldn’t that make things more interesting and exciting

The aim for the Champions League has to be for every group game to mean something but, at the minute, they do not – just look at some of the matches that were played this week.

When the Champions League was revamped in 1992, nobody would have envisaged teams playing weakened sides. That, however, is now the reality.

Jamie Carragher was talking to Dominic King