Tag Archives: building

Michael Appleton settled at Blackburn Rovers

He's the only manager to have been in charge of three different teams in the FA Cup in the same season… but stability is the key for roving Blackburn boss Appleton

By
Neil Ashton

PUBLISHED:

22:17 GMT, 15 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

08:50 GMT, 16 February 2013

In the car park at Blackburn’s fabulous training complex, a white painter and decorator’s van from Clitheroe is occupying the space of global adviser Shebby Singh.

‘I’m not sure what Shebby’s doing at the moment, but if he’s global advising he’s not advising me,’ admitted Blackburn’s new manager Michael Appleton. ‘I’ve not had any contact from Shebby since I’ve been here. He knows my number, he knows where I am.’

Appleton is already making his mark, a forward-thinking manager with ambitions to reach the highest level with Rovers. The interference from above, the comical sideshow that turned Blackburn into a laughing stock before he arrived on January 11, is no longer an issue.

Shake on it: Michael Appleton is building bridges at Blackburn

Shake on it: Michael Appleton is building bridges at Blackburn

He answers to Derek Shaw, Blackburn’s managing director, as the pair stabilise the club after a chaotic couple of years under Venky’s. They feel like a football club again, aiming for the Championship play-offs and proudly travelling south on Saturday for an FA Cup fifth-round tie against Arsenal.

When Appleton, 37, took charge of Blackburn against Derby in round four, he unwittingly became the subject of a pub-quiz question. ‘That’s right — I’m the only manager to have been in charge of three different teams in the FA Cup in the same season,’ he said.

He began the season with Portsmouth in League One, throwing together a team each week as the financial excesses of the previous regime continued to bite. Then it was on to Blackpool, replacing Ian Holloway until he left for Rovers after just 65 days.

New challenge: Michael Appleton made Blackburn his third club this season

New challenge: Michael Appleton made Blackburn his third club this season

He wasn’t aware of the financial restrictions under Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston until he began.

‘Karl admits he runs the club a certain way,’ said Appleton. ‘It was a slightly more attractive opportunity than at Pompey.

Next up: Appleton joined Blackpool

Next up: Appleton joined Blackpool

‘I wouldn’t have left Blackpool if I was completely happy, or felt I could take the club to the next level and keep it there. The club is certainly day to day. You can’t argue in a way, because Karl can say it’s been successful like that. We argued constantly, but Karl quite liked that. There was a mutual respect. We told each other what we thought, even if it was about each other, but it became a frustration.

‘I can see the talent they’ve got in the squad, the potential at the club, and the first XI is as good as any in the division. But with that you need the right infrastructure, training ground and facilities, and for things to be done in the right way so the players feel loved.’

Blackburn have the infrastructure and Appleton has had an impact. There is a feel-good factor again, a genuine buzz. They are six points off sixth in the Championship.

Appleton added: ‘I had to build bridges between the management and above, with the fans and the owners.There wasn’t a lot of stability: we had 12 people wanting to play the No 10 role. It’s a difficult job, but I didn’t know when an opportunity to take over a club as big would come along again.

‘Look at the facilities. They’re first class — it’s a nice place to work — and what you’d expect of a club who have competed for so long in the Premier League. We’ve steadied the ship, tried to be a lot more solid, and we have a goalscoring machine in Jordan Rhodes who can nick a win for us at any time.’

Rhodes has scored 20 since his 8million move from Huddersfield at the start of the season and, like the rest of the squad, is responding to Appleton’s influence. The manager said: ‘All I want now is stability. I’d love to put my stamp on the football club.

Goal machine: Jordan Rhodes has been in fine form for Blackburn

Goal machine: Jordan Rhodes has been in fine form for Blackburn

‘The frustration at Portsmouth was that no one saw what we were trying to do behind the scenes. I found it difficult to do at Blackpool, which is why I’m here. I’d love to be at Blackburn long enough for people to see the work we’re putting in. As difficult as the job is going to be, I didn’t expect it to come so quickly.’

As they head to Arsenal on a five-match unbeaten run, things are already happening fast for Appleton.

Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson will be pulling out all the stops to beat Europe

I'll stop the rot, vows America's Ryder Cup captain Watson… and Tiger will be my No 1

|

UPDATED:

00:06 GMT, 14 December 2012

It all ended in tears the last time an iconic figure made it as far as the 80th floor of the Empire State Building and roared out a warning.

Nearly 80 years on from the movie King Kong, Tom Watson will hope his message to Europe’s Ryder Cup team from the same New York landmark doesn’t end with him shot down in flames.

‘I hope that by appointing me as America’s Ryder Cup captain we’re telling the Europeans we are pulling out all the stops to beat you guys,’ he said. ‘We’re saying that winning is the most important thing and we want to do it in style. I always say that early in my career I learned to win by hating to lose — and it is about time we stopped losing.’

Bullish: New USA Ryder Cup captain was in bullish mood in his inaugural press conference saying his team would 'pull out all the stops to beat you guys'

Bullish: New USA Ryder Cup captain was in bullish mood in his inaugural press conference saying his team would 'pull out all the stops to beat you guys'

Skipper: Watson posed for photographers on the observation deck of the Empire State Building...

Skipper: Watson posed for photographers on the observation deck of the Empire State Building…

...but still had time to act the tourist and take a picture of his own

…but still had time to act the tourist and take a picture of his own

And with that proclamation ringing in the ears it was time to light the most famous building in Manhattan in the obligatory red, white and blue. As befits the grace of the man himself, there was nothing garish about Watson’s appearance, save for the slightly unnerving lack of grey hairs on the 63-year-old’s head.

Speaking of icons, the news of Watson’s appointment had hardly been made official than Tiger Woods was sending his congratulations and saying what an honour it would be to play for him at Gleneagles in 2014. Two years ago, he and Watson had a major falling-out after the latter had gone public with some scathing criticism of Tiger’s behaviour. Now Watson is keen to emphasise it is ‘all water under the bridge’. He added: ‘I hope he is on my team and if for some unforeseen reason he isn’t, he’s going to be my number one pick. He’s perhaps the best player in the history of the game and brings a stature to the team.’

Struggle: Tom Watson stated that Tiger Woods (above) will be the first name on his team, but the former World Number 1 has an appalling record in the tournament

Struggle: Tom Watson stated that Tiger Woods (above) will be the first name on his team, but the former World Number 1 has an appalling record in the tournament

Given Tiger’s appalling Ryder Cup record, for a moment I thought he said statue.

In keeping with the startling nature of this extraordinary appointment, Watson revealed he was first approached 13 months ago. ‘It was a phone call that I had waited a really long time to receive,’ said the five-time Open champion, who was a winning captain at The Belfry in 1993.

‘I really wanted the challenge again. Here we are, just off Broadway and that’s appropriate because I look upon being captain as like a stage manager, getting everything ready so the actors, or in this case, the players, can go out and perform.’

Jose Maria Olazabal, Europe’s retiring Ryder Cup captain, said Watson was just the man to deal with some of the huge egos in the American team. As the fall-out from Medinah continues, others have pointed the finger at Olazabal’s counterpart, Davis Love. Trust Watson to cut through the bluster. What he will bring to the job is an enormous presence, and that shouldn’t be underestimated.

But let’s not forget that Love lost at Medinah by the narrowest of margins. Watson was quick to seize on the hope that he gets that elusive quality that deserted his predecessor. ‘What I need is a little bit of luck,’ he said.
It was fascinating listening to his brilliant analysis of that miracle in Chicago. How Ian Poulter’s five successive birdies on Saturday night brought a ‘cloud on to the horizon’; how Europe’s wonderful start on Sunday saw the cloud turn into a storm. ‘ US Ryder Cup player): ‘I
think he would be amazing. Such a remarkable player and person and he
demands respect just by the kind of player he has been. He’s like a
quiet lion. It would be an honour to play for him.’

BRANDT SNEDEKER (2012 US Ryder Cup player):
‘I am surprised but excited. Tom is a good friend of mine, one of the
best players to ever play the game who is instantly going to gain a lot
of respect and sway the homefield advantage for us in Scotland because
of his success over there.’

PAUL AZINGER (2008 US Ryder Cup captain): ‘Truthfully,
I am really surprised but I think it’s OK. There’s a philosophy of
picking contemporary players under the age of 50 that hasn’t really
worked. That would have been a great philosophy had we been winning, but
we haven’t, which makes Watson a good choice at this time.’

LANNY WADKINS (played under Watson in 1993):
‘Tom is just one of those guys who always believes. He doesn’t go out
there to have fun. He goes out there to kick butt and get the job done.
That’s really what the PGA of America, in my opinion, are thinking what
needs to happen.'

Rafael Benitez says Chelsea players need a rest

Get in shape! Rafa says Chelsea players are not fit enough and many need a rest

|

UPDATED:

00:24 GMT, 1 December 2012

Rafa Benitez has told Roman Abramovich his Chelsea squad is not fit enough, fresh enough or big enough.

Benitez made his point at a board meeting on Thursday when he was asked to offer feedback on his first week in the job.

Scroll down for video

Need a rest: Rafael Benitez says Chelsea's players are tired

Need a rest: Rafael Benitez says Chelsea's players are tired

Chelsea’s interim manager refused to
elaborate on details yesterday but he is thought to believe the European
champions should prioritise a left-back, a defensive midfielder and a
striker.

Leighton Baines has been extensively
scouted by Chelsea as a long-term successor to Ashley Cole, who will
leave on a free at the end of the season, probably to join Paris
Saint-Germain.

Baines has been in brilliant form for
Everton and would suit the attacking style Abramovich longs to see but a
more immediate need is to bolster the squad in January.

John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses are
bound for the Africa Cup of Nations in the New Year and fringe players
lack the quality to rotate to the extent Benitez would like.

That has still not stopped him
dropping Brazilian midfielder Oscar for today’s trip to West Ham as he
goes searching for his first goal and first win.

The future as well as the present is very much on the agenda though even if Benitez is in a job until the end of the season.

With Frank Lampard expected to follow
Cole through the exit at the end of his contract in June, the Blues are
planning the next phase of team building.

Benitez told the board he would like
more time to assess the players he had inherited but was able to explain
it was a tired squad and not physically equipped to compete on all
fronts.

And the Oscar goes to... the bench: The Chelsea midfielder will be among the substitutes for the London derby

And the Oscar goes to… the bench: The Chelsea midfielder will be among the substitutes for the London derby

On target: Oscar scored a wondergoal against Juventus earlier this season

FAT SPANISH WAITER

If it is any consolation to those Chelsea fans who feel Rafa Benitez is an uncomfortable fit for their club, he knows exactly how they feel.

Benitez has found the Dolce & Gabbana club suits a little too fitted for his liking and is waiting for a specially tailored version to arrive.

'I have some problems with the official suit,' smiled Benitez.

'It is an Italian style and the Italian style is different. It's really nice, but it's a style for young people, not old people. The Italian style is more for players.'

Chelsea supporters have found it hard to accept the former Liverpool manager who was appointed to replace Roberto Di Matteo.

Benitez has been booed and jeered during his first two games at Stamford Bridge and faced with protest banners.

He even found his tie was criticised after the game against Fulham because it was not blue enough. Unlike the blue tie he wore in his first game against Manchester City.

'These little things are not the main issue,' he said. 'My first tie was blue.'

'We had too many players playing
almost every game,' said the former Liverpool manager. 'Eleven or 12
were playing in every game and others hadn’t had too many minutes.

'You cannot play two or three games in
eight days and be fully fit. You lose some pace and energy. We will
manage the squad, particularly with Japan and the games over Christmas.
We will be stronger as a team if we juggle them.'

When Marko Marin came off the bench
against Fulham on Wednesday he became Chelsea’s 20th player of the
Barclays Premier League campaign.

No club has used fewer and some, like Fernando Torres, the one established centre-forward, have been run into the ground.

The new manager feels unable to work
on fitness with a congested schedule ahead, which includes flying to
Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup after next weekend’s game at
Sunderland.

'There aren’t many players here,' said
Benitez. 'There were 19, now 20 with Marin. They’d been playing fewer
players. I’m not here to criticise, but that’s the reality.

'You can see the team needs to improve
a bit physically and you cannot do that if they play two games in a
week. It’s very demanding.

Run down: Fernando Torres looks like he is running in treacle these days

Run down: Fernando Torres looks like he is running in treacle these days

In training: Ashley Cole and David Luiz are put through their paces on Friday

In training: Ashley Cole and David Luiz are put through their paces on Friday

'They have played so many games,
massive games in the Champions League. The players were getting tired.
You can’t give them a rest either because there’s no time.

'We will analyse carefully, talking
with the fitness coaches, and may adjust a bit. We’ll start specific
programmes with every player.'

Torres clearly needs to rest both mind and body, yet Daniel Sturridge, the only real alternative, is injured.

Benitez also dismissed the idea of returning to the last-gasp gamble by Di Matteo, playing Eden Hazard up front.

Ahead of today’s trip across the
capital to West Ham, the Spaniard also told how he came close to signing
Andy Carroll for Liverpool for only 5million. The move is understood
to have been blocked by the Anfield club’s co-owner Tom Hicks.

'He played in the Youth Cup at
Anfield,' said Benitez. 'We were watching him, a young player with
power. It was an option and he was quite a lot cheaper than 35m. Take
off the three. Quite cheap but sometimes you cannot.'

VIDEO: Rafa Benitez talks tactics ahead of Chelsea's match against West Ham

DM.has('rcpv2000529432001','BCVideo');

Olympics success helps the healing between FIFA and FA – Charles Sale

Games success helps the healing between FIFA and FA

|

UPDATED:

23:30 GMT, 21 November 2012

FIFA president Sepp Blatter was roundly booed by the capacity Wembley crowd at the Olympic football final at London 2012.

But yesterday he cited football’s part in the Games’ success as the catalyst for the greatly improved relationship between FIFA and the FA since the nadir of the 2018 World Cup vote.

‘The Olympic spirit had done a lot of good for football,’ said Blatter.
And the bridge building has resulted in FIFA donating $500,000 (almost 314,000) from their Goal Programme for the development of the sports science and medicine facility at St George’s Park.

Friends again: FIFA president Sepp Blatter visited St George's Park

Friends again: FIFA president Sepp Blatter visited St George's Park

Partners: Sepp Blatter and FA chairman David Bernstein

Partners: Sepp Blatter and FA chairman David Bernstein

More from Charles Sale…

Charles Sale: Richards causes ructions at the FA
21/11/12

Charles Sale: Premier League's TV deal bonanza continues as tender on course to reach 5bn after Indonesia and New Zealand sign up
20/11/12

Charles Sale: Premier League celebrate whopping 200m Thai deal
19/11/12

Charles Sale: Fayed ready to sue Premier League over fair play plan
16/11/12

Charles Sale: Cricket pundit Hughes on a sticky wicket in love match
15/11/12

Charles Sale: No way back Liverpool chief Chang return in doubt following Twitter storm
14/11/12

Charles Sale: Soccer Saturday tour scrapped… but no-one will say why
13/11/12

Sports Agenda Extra: We needed troops to step in yet G4S could WIN gong for 2012 Olympics work
05/11/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

It is a bizarre decision considering the FA’s huge wealth and the fund being designed by Blatter mainly to aid third world football countries and in the process shore up his election support.

But FA general secretary Alex Horne said: ‘The money goes back into developing football, so any contribution that is eligible, why not take it’

Nevertheless, the FIFA sweetener does not make much of a dent in the 18million spent on England’s doomed 2018 bid.

Bernstein shows his funny side

FA chairman David Bernstein — said to have had a humour by-pass by his FA board colleague Roger Burden — showed a jocular side to his character during a friendly tour around St George’s Park with FIFA president Sepp Blatter, not least in greeting the old rogue with a bear hug when he arrived at the National Football Centre, as did SGP chairman David Sheepshanks.

Blatter added to Sheepshanks’ credentials for succeeding Bernstein in the FA post next June by giving him ‘special merit’ for the success of the 100m SGP project.

Revie honoured

Don Revie is still best known as the England manager who betrayed his country by quitting in the middle of a World Cup qualifying campaign for a big-money move to the United Arab Emirates. Yet now there is a Don Revie room at St George’s Park in which the FA entertained FIFA president Sepp Blatter for lunch yesterday.

History forgotten: Don Revie has been honoured at St George's Park

History forgotten: Don Revie has been honoured at St George's Park

Scudamore shines

FIFA have resolved to take increasing action against third party ownership of footballers following a presentation in Zurich by Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore. The PL have led the way in banning third party involvement in transfers following Carlos Tevez’s move to West Ham in 2006. Scudamore was asked to give the talk to FIFA’s new football committee, on which he sits, by UEFA president Michel Platini. Chelsea target Falcao is part-owned by a football fund co-managed by ex-Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon.

Viagogo still on the go

Secondary ticket site Viagogo are shamelessly claiming it will be business as usual in their busy selling of Twickenham seats after the Supreme Court ruled they must tell the RFU who used the website to sell rugby tickets in 2010 and 2011 in breach of RFU regulations.

Viagogo’s Ed Parkinson said: ‘The RFU may have run off with a handful of names but I can assure you this will not happen again. Our rugby business is now bigger and our data protection is better.’

Controversy: Viagogo insist is business as usual with England rugby tickets

Controversy: Viagogo insist is business as usual with England rugby tickets

RFU chief commercial officer Sophie Goldschmidt called Viagogo’s response ‘misleading’, adding that they were in no position to make guarantees to customers. The RFU, armed with the landmark Supreme Court judgement, are chasing Viagogo’s 2012 Six Nations suppliers and will be taking action over the seats being advertised online for the current autumn series.

No Elleray conflict

It has emerged that FA councillor David Elleray, chairman of the FA referees committee, has an eight per cent shareholding in First Class Cars, the chauffeur company which ferries around elite referees, England players and Premier League and FA officials. An FA spokesman said there was no conflict over the shareholding with Elleray’s FA roles.

Rights boom

The latest money-laden Premier League TV deal for the next three seasons has seen agents IMG secure the rights for Vietnam for treble the price of the current contract, Japan, where there has been a significant rise also on the back of Shinji Kagawa signing for Manchester United, and Mongolia.

Liverpool v Anzhi, Maribor v Tottenham, Newcastle v Club Brugge live

EUROPA LEAGUE LIVE: Maribor v Tottenham – the action from the Ljudski as it happens

|

UPDATED:

16:51 GMT, 25 October 2012

Follow Sportsmail's coverage of the Europa League as Tottenham, Liverpool and Newcastle reach the halfway point of their respective group matches. Spurs travel to Maribor at 6pm, while the Reds and Alan Pardew's side follow at 8.05pm when they host Anzhi and Club Brugge respectively. Send me your thoughts on the action at [email protected] or contact me on Twitter @Ripinho.

Maribor v Tottenham (6pm)

Click here for the live goals as they go in

Maribor: Handanovic, Milec, Rajcevic,
Arghus, Mejac, Mertelj, Cvijanovic, Mezga, Tavares, Ibraimi, Beric.
Subs: Pridigar, Filipovic, Komazec, Ploj, Viler, Dodlek, Lesjak.

Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Caulker,
Vertonghen, Naughton, Sandro, Huddlestone, Lennon, Sigurdsson, Townsend,
Defoe.
Subs: Cudicini, Dempsey, Gallas, Falque, Livermore, Smith,
Parrett.

Referee: Sergei Karasev (Russia)

Click here for all the latest scores and live tables from the Europa League

17.49: One of those was a 3-0 win over Panathinaikos this season though…

17.47: From OptaJoe:

2 – NK Maribor have won just two of their previous 15 European games on home soil. Struggle.

17.44: Elsewhere it's worth keeping an eye on Andros Townsend on Tottenham's left flank.

Confidence is something he doesn't lack but knowing when to pass is not his strong point.

Spurs fans will be hoping he doesn't end up down more dead ends on the wing this evening.

On a random note I think he is a dead ringer for F1 driver Lewis Hamilton too but I guess that isn't that important.

17.41: Speaking of Sigurdsson this game is big for him personally too. The Icelandic midfielder has made a quiet start since joining Spurs this summer and looks far from the player that rifled in crucial goals for Swansea last term.

The 23-year-old could do with a confidence building performance where he features heavily in the attack.

17.38: Gylfi Sigurdsson certainly knows what's at stake this evening. The attacking midfielder commented in this piece from Simon Peach on the importance of Tottenham bouncing back from last weekend's defeat to Chelsea.

17.35: The players are warming up in Slovenia in what looks like a chilly evening. It's good to see Tottenham going with a reasonably strong line-up.

17.32: That doesn't leave many options on the bench either for Spurs. Clint Dempsey provides an option in attack but there isn't much else in terms of ammunition for Villas-Boas.

17.29: No Emmanuel Adebayor or Gareth Bale either for Spurs, with the former still struggling with fitness and the latter on paternity leave.

17.26: Michael Dawson misses Tottenham's Europa League clash with NK Maribor this evening due to a migraine.

The 28-year-old had been expected to start for Spurs, who make three changes to the side that started Saturday's 4-2 defeat to Chelsea.

Hugo Lloris replaces Brad Friedel in goal for the Group J fixture, while Kyle Naughton and Andros Townsend come in for William Gallas and Clint Dempsey. Aaron Lennon captains Spurs at the Stadion Ljudski.

17.23: Full line-ups from the Ljudski:

Maribor v Tottenham
Maribor: Handanovic, Milec, Rajcevic, Arghus, Mejac, Mertelj, Cvijanovic, Mezga, Tavares, Ibraimi, Beric. Subs: Pridigar, Filipovic, Komazec, Ploj, Viler, Dodlek, Lesjak.

Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Caulker, Vertonghen, Naughton, Sandro, Huddlestone, Lennon, Sigurdsson, Townsend, Defoe. Subs: Cudicini, Dempsey, Gallas, Falque, Livermore, Smith, Parrett.

Referee: Sergei Karasev (Russia)

Missing out: Michael Dawson is absent for Tottenham through illness

Missing out: Michael Dawson is absent for Tottenham through illness

17.20: Also Spurs fans, do you fancy free tickets to see your team at White Hart Lane

Then check out our competition in association with Thomas Cook Sport here for full details on how you can see Andre Villas-Boas' men take on Wigan next month.

17.17: Before we focus fully on Spurs, don't forget to stay with us after this game for Liverpool and Newcastle's live matches against Anzhi and Club Brugge respectively.

Brendan Rodgers hasn't made this competition his priority at Anfield but he has served up a couple of cracking games so far.

17.14: Maribor as you may expect don't have a rich European pedigree but it was only last season that they faced English opposition in Europe.

They lost to Birmingham home and away in this very competition and don't forget City are a Championship side – so if Spurs don't win tonight then I don't think they ever will.

17.11: So no Michael Dawson for Spurs, has he dropped further down the pecking order Evidently not – he misses tonight's game through illness.

17.08: It's time for Spurs to deliver in this competition following two draws they really should've won.

They were unlucky to see harsh referee decisions rule out three goals (at least one should've counted!) against Lazio while they only had themselves to blame for not beating the most disillusioned Panathiniakos side in living memory.

Maribor are the minnows in this group so failure to secure three points tonight and it's an uphill struggle for the last three games.

17.05: Tottenham starting XI:

Lloris, Walker, Caulker, Vertonghen, Naughton, Huddlestone, Sigurdsson, Sandro, Lennon, Townsend and Defoe.

17.00: Well I guess it's up to our Europa League trio to prevent English football leaving this European week with its tail between its legs.

We'll see Liverpool and Newcastle later on but first up it's Tottenham…although I'm not entirely sure they're the team we want to rely on following Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City's respective Champions League defeats. Either way the team news from Maribor's Stadion Ljudski is on the way.

Yet to get going: Aaron Lennon (right) and Tottenham have recorded two draws so far

Yet to get going: Aaron Lennon (right) and Tottenham have recorded two draws so far

Heather Watson reaping benefits of Nick Bollettieri Academy move

Leaving home at 12 to go to USA for tennis took guts, but that's… Plucky Heather!

|

UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 15 October 2012

Michelle Watson, Heather's mum, used to curse the fact that the 80 or so miles that lie between Guernsey and the British mainland make it one of the most expensive stretches of water to cross in the world.

It is a major reason why, when her daughter started to show enough promise as a youngster to start taking tennis seriously, the family quickly realised they needed to start looking further afield if she was to properly progress.

With the kind of determination that marked her performance in saving four match points to win the Japan Open on Sunday — ending a 24-year wait for a British winner on the Women’s Tour — they started scouting for a base.

Always smiling: Heather Watson

Bags of potential: A smiling Heather Watson was a smash hit at junior Wimbledon

Bags of potential: The ever-smiling Heather Watson as a child (left) and a smash hit at junior Wimbledon (right)

Spain was considered, as was the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, the LTA’s gated community about which opinion in the sport is heavily divided.

In the end, taking a deep breath to absorb the large fees charged to non-scholarship students, and the travel involved, the Watson family plumped for the tried and tested Nick Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

It turned out to be a successful move and raises the question whether Watson would have come close to achieving her potential if she had not gone through the character-building upheavals involved.

As the man who founded the eponymous training centre pointed out, the results of both the men’s and women’s Japan Opens have been cause for a double celebration in Bradenton.

While Watson triumphed, the men’s event saw a historic win for Bollettieri old boy Kei Nishikori, who came from even further away to learn the game in Florida and is now his country’s first winner of its home championship.

Making history: Watson ended Britain's 24-year wait for a women's singles title in Japan on Sunday

Making history: Watson ended Britain's 24-year wait for a women's singles title in Japan on Sunday

Time and again in tennis you see that displacement at a relatively young age has been the precursor to a stellar career. The octogenarian super coach can highlight the likes of his star ex-pupils such as Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova, but there are European examples too.

Novak Djokovic left Belgrade aged twelve to attend a tennis school in Munich while Andy Murray honed his game at the Casal-Sanchez Academy in Barcelona.

‘If you look at where the champions have come out of, from the Eighties onwards it’s clear the benefits of the academy,’ Bollettieri, a man with the enthusiasm of half his 81 years, told Sportsmail. ‘It’s not just that you have got opponents from different places that you practise with and have to beat. You see an extra determination and mental strength from those who have been away from home.’

Proud: Heather with her mum Michelle

Proud: Heather with her mum Michelle

Being far removed from your roots is not something unfamiliar in the Watson family. Michelle comes from a village in Papua New Guinea and met Heather’s father Ian, a Mancunian, when he was working in the capital Port Moresby. They moved to the Channel Islands, where Ian worked for the Guernsey Electricity Board, and got into tennis at the Kings Club.

It is a world removed from the Bradenton Academy that Heather, accompanied for long periods by her mother, moved to at the age of 12 while enrolling at the local school.

‘Heather was always a character, always smiling, and began to show ability around the age of 16,’ said Bollettieri. ‘She used to pray for her opponents to miss, but gradually she learned to go after the ball and make things happen herself.’

Up until she won the US Open juniors in 2009 Bollettieri believed she might be best served by going to an American university but that success changed his thinking.

‘She takes the ball early and has developed a good volley. It should not be under-estimated how much playing doubles has helped her (she is Britain’s top-ranked doubles player). She is not a big girl at 5ft 7in but makes up for it with her movement so there is plenty of potential.

'Remember she could not have done it without supportive parents, and your Fed Cup captain Judy Murray has also been a very positive influence.’

Of course, perspective is needed and as a grounded individual Watson will know that. She has only beaten four top-50 players since March, compared with the nine that have fallen to Laura Robson in the same period. Robson remains the more likely to win a Grand Slam down the line.

On the up: Watson has broken into the world's top 50 following her triumph in Osaka

On the up: Watson has broken into the world's top 50 following her triumph in Osaka

As for Judy Murray, she looks to have a decent Fed Cup team in the making with Jo Konta another top-100 player in the making.

Wimbledon champions Jonny Marray and Danish partner Frederik Nielsen have qualified for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 next month. Depth may be lacking but these are heady times at the top of the British game.

Alessandro Del Piero: I declined Liverpool because of Heysel tragedy

Memories of Heysel made me turn down Liverpool offer, reveals Del Piero

|

UPDATED:

10:26 GMT, 11 October 2012

Painful memories of the Heysel tragedy and Liverpool fans' involvement in it stopped Alessandro Del Piero from joining the club this summer.

It is 27 years since 39 Juventus fans were killed after a wall collapsed following rioting at the stadium in Belgium ahead of the European Cup final.

But both clubs have gone to great lengths to heal the wounds following that fateful day.

Aussie rules: Del Piero chose Sydney over a move to Merseyside

Aussie rules: Del Piero chose Sydney over a move to Merseyside

On the 25th anniversary of the disaster, Liverpool unveiled a plaque at the entrance to the Centenary Stand in front of officials from both clubs.

But Del Piero has revealed he could not move to Anfield, despite interest this summer, after recalling those events in Brussels.

'Why I said no to Liverpool Negotiations with Sydney were already advanced and then I thought about what had happened at Heysel,' Del Piero told Gazzetta dello Sport.

'Juve and Liverpool were able to rebuild the relationship, but for many people that tragedy is an indelible memory. I thank all the clubs which wanted me, but I’m convinced of my choice.'

The Italy legend completed his switch Down Under soon after Liverpool made their move, and he has revealed he is finding it hard to adjust after 19 years with the Turing giants.

He said: 'One month is not much to make judgments, but the beginning is comforting from every point of view.

'The farewell to Juve still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. One year and a half ago I would not have imagined that this would happen, then things change.

‘I still have the great satisfaction of having given everything I could for Juventus.'

Building bridges: Phil Neal (left), Michel Platini (centre) and Ian Rush before the Champions League clash in 2005

Building bridges: Phil Neal (left), Michel Platini (centre) and Ian Rush before the Champions League clash in 2005

Frank Lampard likes the mix of young and old in the England squad

Generation game means a Brazilian blend is key, says veteran Lampard

|

UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 9 September 2012

It is not often a senior England footballer confesses to staying in an hotel ‘with an older man’, but Frank Lampard is quick to point out that a space as wide as Wembley divided their two beds.

This was something, he went on to explain amid much laughter at the England team hotel on Sunday, that happened when he was sent on loan as a 17-year-old to Swansea. Back in 1995 the Welsh club did not have much money and a teenage Lampard and 32-year-old Robbie Dennison found themselves sharing a twin room ‘in a Hilton on an industrial estate’.

No wonder Lampard now thinks the emerging footballers of today get ‘too much too young’.

Times have changed: Frank Lampard says the youngsters are fearless

Times have changed: Frank Lampard says the youngsters are fearless

‘We were both on loan there,’ recalls Lampard. ‘But he was in his 30s and I was 17, at opposite ends of our careers. It was… interesting. I didn’t really know what to say to him when I lay in bed at night. He had two kids and I wanted to go out.

‘But it was a great learning curve for me. I was a boy being chucked into a man’s world, without the privileges I even had at West Ham at that time. It was character-building in itself having to stay with an older man.

‘But I should stress there were two single beds, and he left after a month while I stayed there for two. For some reason we actually got our own rooms after a couple of weeks. Probably because he asked.’

The Table

There is a point to this story and it concerns the blend of youth and experience in the current England squad.

Lampard, 34, says there is no sense of awkwardness in this group of players; no generation gap even if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Butland are 15 years his junior.

‘There is a nice freshness about the young boys at meal times and around the hotel,’ he said. ‘I actually enjoy mixing with them; it makes me feel a bit younger when you mix.

‘There is a relationship between that good atmosphere at meal times and going on the pitch, and the more we can improve that the better. The young players have this free spirit. They are playing for fun.’

Friday’s 5-0 defeat of Moldova did see Roy Hodgson use his resources well. Between the senior players like Lampard, who scored two goals, and youngsters like Oxlade-Chamberlain, the England manager struck a good balance. But, with one eye on the next World Cup in Brazil, as well as tomorrow’s qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley, the England team do need to keep evolving.

High five: Lampard with young gun Tom Cleverley

High five: Lampard with young gun Tom Cleverley

‘I have certainly noticed that younger
players are getting more of a chance compared to when I got in the
squad,’ said Lampard. ‘But then I think we have a crop of players now
who play with less fear than we did when we came through.

‘These boys now mix it. They do not seem fazed at all.’

The question of how England progress, how they arrive in Brazil a significantly better team than they were in Eastern Europe over the summer, is one Lampard ponders.

‘It is the youth and it is helping the youth progress while at the same time getting results,’ he said. ‘That is why there is a lot of talk about the oldies and the youngies and the experienced players helping the Oxlade-Chamberlains and the Cleverleys play like they did.

Bang bang: Lampard scored twice against Moldova

Bang bang: Lampard scored twice against Moldova

‘That will help the team and the country move on and be in a better position for the World Cup. It is just a case of trying to do the best with what you have. It is a case of nurturing the young talent. They will nurture themselves but, if that happens and we also get the results we need, we will put ourselves in the best possible position.’

Right now Lampard is a major part of Hodgson’s plans, as he should be after becoming England’s leading goalscorer in World Cup qualifiers. ‘I am proud of my England career,’ he said. He is also excited by the emergence of these young players and what Hodgson is trying to implement.

‘He didn’t have enough time to put his full imprint on the squad before the Euros but now he has that,’ said Lampard. ‘We have to be positive. We got a good result against Moldova and it is important we keep showing that progress, get the results and see the young boys come through.

‘It’s now all about the development of these young kids.’

Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone to fight to keep No 1 spot

Main Mannone! Arsenal stopper tells injured Szczesny he won't snatch back No 1 spot

|

UPDATED:

15:24 GMT, 5 September 2012

Italian goalkeeper Vito Mannone has warned Wojciech Szczesny to expect a fight for the Arsenal No 1 jersey this season.

The 24-year-old has deputised for the injured Poland international in the Gunners' last two Barclays Premier League games – recording a clean sheet in both.

While Szczesny, recovering from a minor rib problem, is expected to return for the visit of Southampton on September 15, Mannone maintains he has come a long way since a calamitous display in a Champions League game at Olympiacos last December.

Safe hands: Vito Mannone has impressed in his two games this season

Safe hands: Vito Mannone has impressed in his two games this season

Injured: No 1 Wojciech Szczesny is sidelined by a rib injury

Injured: No 1 Wojciech Szczesny is sidelined by a rib injury

He puts a large par of that down to a confidence-building and productive four-month loan spell with Hull in the npower Championship.

'I have improved in every part of the goalkeeper position. In my mind as well, I came back stronger and stronger,' Mannone said.

'Especially after the mistake at Olympiacos – it is never easy to come back, but when I have got my back against the wall, I don't mind. I just roll up my sleeves and try to work because I know I can do well.

'It is a good fight between the keepers because we know the level is quite high and you need to keep working and improve yourself to get the first spot.'

Lukasz Fabianski and young Argentine Damian Martinez are the other goalkeepers available to manager Arsene Wenger.

Mannone, though, feels his spell of regular football with Hull – during which he kept a club record six consecutive clean sheets – has given him an extra edge.

'When you are number one, you feel important and like the happiest man in the world, that sort of feeling gives me the chance to go onto the pitch with confidence,' Mannone added on Arsenal player.

'I had some good games [at Hull] and it was a great experience for me. The best thing was playing senior football and playing consecutive games and getting the mentality of the number one.'

Mannone added: 'I know Arsenal, everybody here and I am really happy when I am involved, like now. I would like to be involved more and more and establish myself.'

Marcelo Bielsa confronts builder at Athletic Bilbao training ground

Argy-bargy! Bilbao coach Bielsa confronts builder over shoddy work at training ground

|

UPDATED:

12:05 GMT, 6 July 2012

Athletic Bilbao's Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa scuffled with a building contractor after his company failed to finish remodelling work at the Spanish club's training facilities in time for pre-season.

The Argentine coach said he lost his cool after he found the club's Lezama facilities looking more like a construction site than a football field.

'The condition of Lezama is an insult to the players and I am responsible for them,' the 56-year-old explained. 'I was indignant because that was not recognised and began to say offensive things. I don't respect him because he did a bad job.

Furious: Bielsa confronted a building contractor at Athletic's training ground

Furious: Bielsa confronted a building contractor at Athletic's training ground

Furious: Bielsa confronted a building contractor at Athletic's training ground

'I behaved badly and I admit that. I offended the person but he also said some bad things.

'He made no police report and that, I believe, is because of pressure from his company or Athletic, who wanted to avoid [any publicity over] what I'm reporting here.'

A furious Bielsa added: 'The work had deadlines. I had no vacation and I met with them a week ago and also spoke with those responsible for about four hours a day while in Argentina.

'When I saw that, I got angry because I have a squad here that is worth €300 million that has to work in these conditions.'