Tag Archives: change

Steve Bruce hits out at DJ Campbell after striker walked out of move to Hull

DJ told me he was going for a spot of lunch… then ran off for talks with Blackburn, fumes Bruce

Lee Bryan


11:54 GMT, 2 February 2013



11:54 GMT, 2 February 2013

Hull boss Steve Bruce was furious with QPR striker DJ Campbell after he allegedly told the club he was ‘nipping out for lunch’ but then walked out on a potential move to the KC Stadium to hold talks with Blackburn.

The whole affair left a sour taste in Bruce’s mouth and he blasted the striker of a lack of professionalism.

Hull believed they had agreed a deal but then found out that Blackburn had made a 4.5million offer for Campbell for a three-and-a-half year deal behind their back.

On the move: DJ Campbell looked like he was going to sign for Hull but left to go and talk to Blackburn

On the move: DJ Campbell looked like he was going to sign for Hull but left to go and talk to Blackburn

Not impressed: Steve Bruce was disappointed with Campbell's conduct

Not impressed: Steve Bruce was disappointed with Campbell's conduct

Bruce raged to the Daily Mirror: ‘The total lack of respect by DJ and his agent left a bad taste. I have no problem with him going but the way they handled it is shocking.

‘They said they were going for a bit of lunch, but went along the M62 and left us trying to find out where they were for a couple of hours. If they had rung and said what happened we could have all got on with our lives.

‘I have been in the game for a long time and never been as disappointed as I am with their behaviour.

‘It’s just greed. Be a man, just inform us of your intentions.’
Campbell’s move to Blackburn was put on hold as the parties disputed financial details.

But he is finally expected to join them on loan next week.

Sportsmail’s Charles Sale revealed the story this morning and claims the Hull boss was especially upset as Campbell’s agent – Otis Roberts – used to represent him when he became Sunderland manager.

It is understood Campbell was offered 16,000 a week by Hull and 25,000 a week by Blackburn, which might explain his rapid change of mind.

Manchester United"s Robin van Persie credits position change with injury-free run

Van Persie credits position change with injury-free run after playing in 71st CONSECUTIVE Premier League game

Sam Cunningham


16:24 GMT, 21 January 2013



17:51 GMT, 21 January 2013

Robin van Persie had 27 separate injuries in eight seasons at Arsenal – but following almost a year injury-free, he puts his newfound consistency down to switching from playing as a No 10 to a No 9.

The striker yesterday chalked up 71 consecutive Barclays Premier League games and he is behind only Jon Walters as having currently played the most consecutive top flight league games. Walters has featured in 76 straight matches.

At Arsenal his eight years were blighted by injury but he has played 28 of Manchester United’s 33 matches this season.

On fire: Van Persie is producing the finest form of his career

On fire: Van Persie is producing the finest form of his career

He used to play predominantly in-behind another striker at his former club and, though he was prolific when fit, he spent a fair bit of time on the treatment table.

There wasn’t much he didn’t injure. He missed matches with groin, ankle, foot, knee, hamstring, thigh and hip problems and broke his metatarsal.

Van Persie withdrew from the Holland squad for a friendly back in November as a precaution with a slight thigh problem but it did not stop him starting United’s next match against Norwich.

Injury prone: Much of Van Persie's Arsenal career was spent on the sidelines

Injury prone: Much of Van Persie's Arsenal career was spent on the sidelines

And he has not missed a club game through injury since he picked up a groin strain last February – almost a year ago. He puts that down to a shift in focus becoming an out-an-out striker.

The 29-year-old said in an interview on Sky Sports: ‘It’s a different game, they’re very close to each other playing No 10 or No 9. But there’s a big difference. As a No 9 you have much more intervals – stop-start, looking for spaces, waiting, then going for it and taking chances.

‘As a No 10 you have to deal with the defensive midfielder of the opposition. Depending how they play you can have a really difficult game.

Durable: Only Walters is on a longer consecutive run of Premier League games

Durable: Only Walters is on a longer consecutive run of Premier League games

'You’re always expected to get into the box making 30-40metre runs when you attack, then you have to go back 30-40m or more depending how far he goes back, and you have to go left or right. It’s much more of an endurance game than stop-start. If I look now my game as No 9 is great.

'My average running in games has always been high, but it’s high intensity runs now. Before I had to run more endurance-wise, now it’s more stop-start, short and sharp runs in behind.’

The consistency is paying off. Van Persie’s goal against Spurs yesterday took him two clear of Luis Suarez as the Premier League top scorer on 18 goals. He has netted in 10 of the last 11 matches he has played in, scoring 11 in the process. And he is closing in on Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record of scoring in 10 consecutive matches, which he set between March and August 2003.

Van Persie has scored in Manchester United’s previous six league games. If he keeps fit, he could even have Dixie Dean’s league record of scoring in 12 consecutive Division Two matches for Everton back in 1930-31 in his sights.

Loic Remy to join QPR after Newcastle deal is hijacked

Toon blow as QPR hijack 8m Remy switch with M'Vila also set to join Redknapp revolution

Colin Young


19:43 GMT, 14 January 2013



19:43 GMT, 14 January 2013

Queens Park Rangers are confident they have hijacked Loic Remy's move to England after they were given permission to speak to the Marseille striker by the French club on Monday night.

Newcastle had agreed to meet Marseille's 8million valuation of the France international and he travelled to Tyneside on Sunday for talks with Alan Pardew and director Derek Llambias.

Hijack: QPR are poised to sign Remy from Marseille

Hijack: QPR are poised to sign Remy from Marseille

Remy had refused to talk to QPR last
week but after the Barclays Premier League' s bottom club matched
Marseille's offer, they were given official permission to negotiate a

It is understood Rangers have
offered more than 70,000-a-week to the 26-year-old former Lyon and Nice
striker who was Newcastle's No 1 target following Demba Ba's move to

Yann M'Vila is also set to join Remy at Loftus Road. Harry Redknapp flew to France after Saturday’s goalless draw against Tottenhan to look at the Rennes star, with a deal close to completion.

Former Newcastle and QPR midfielder Joey Barton revealed Remy had had a change of heart.

He tweeted: 'Just heard from a
magician that Loic Remy has signed for QPR. Not sure what happened at
Newcastle Llambias again'

Celebrity Big Brother: Frankie Dettori joins house

That's one way to serve your ban! Shamed jockey Dettori joins Celebrity Big Brother

Mike Dawes


21:19 GMT, 3 January 2013



22:10 GMT, 3 January 2013

Frankie Dettori has found a novel way to fill his time while he serves a drugs ban – by appearing in Celebrity Big Brother.

The 42-year-old is suspended until May after being sidelined following a failed test in September.

Dettori will be competing against the likes of X Factor star Rylan Clark and Steps singer Claire Richards.

Frankie Dettori

Frankie Dettori

Change of scenery: Frankie Dettori joined fellow contestants in the Celebrity Big Brother house

Entering to a series of cheers from
the audience, the jockey admitted he was worried his fiery
Italian personality would land him in trouble in the house.

said: 'I don't know if I'm going to be a good housemate. I'm very
Latin, I blow hot and cold. I get on with people, I just don't know if
they get on with me.

'I'm looking forward to 2013, it's a new
start. I'll miss nothing about the outside world. I want to win!'

Lacey Banghard

Ryan Maloney

Pleased to meet you: Lacey Banghard and Ryan Maloney (aka Toadie) have also entered the famous house

Dettori's decision to join the programme comes as a surprise after his agent ruled the jockey out last month.

Pete Burrell, who has acted for
Dettori for many years, said: 'Frankie has no plans to appear on this
show. We have not discussed it and I do not imagine we will be
discussing it.

'Frankie is out of the country for the next two months and is already looking forward to riding again in May.'

Broadcaster and former jump jockey John Francome expressed surprise that Dettori's name had been linked with the show.

He said: 'Frankie will undoubtedly benefit from a proper break from racing after more than 20 years as a jockey.

'The last thing he needs is to be locked away for ages with a load of idiots on this show.

Emma Spencer on Channel 4 horse racing

Racing is waiting to judge me, I can't wake up with a hangover, says C4's Spencer



22:00 GMT, 29 December 2012

Emma Spencer will be staying responsibly sober on New Year’s Eve. For the next day, she is part of the newly assembled team that will be placed under the microscope as never before when Channel 4 assumes exclusive coverage of horse-racing on British television.

‘It won’t be good to wake up with a hang-over after going to bed at 5am,’ said Spencer.

‘We know the racing world will be watching to see how we do, so I will definitely be spending New Year’s Eve differently from the way I usually would.’

Lady in red: Emma Spencer will help front Channel 4's racing coverage

Lady in red: Emma Spencer will help front Channel 4's racing coverage

To some, it is still a shock that the BBC has abdicated its decades-long association with the sport of kings. Last week, Sir Peter O’Sullevan, for more than 40 years the most recognisable voice of BBC Sport as he called the major races from the Derby to the Grand National, suggested with undeniable irritation: ‘I can’t believe this will go down terribly well with the monarchy.’

Yet the reality is that the BBC had reduced its live coverage of racing to a mere 13 days this year. In 2013, Channel 4 will televise 88 days’ racing; but the new production company awarded the contract have purged many of the faces familiar to the channel’s existing audience.

From the Old Guard, out go: John McCririck and Derek Thompson, who publicly expressed their grievances at being axed, along with presenters Alastair Down and Mike Cattermole. In addition, John Francome opted to walk away, while Lesley Graham had already chosen a career change by accepting the job of chief executive of Racing Welfare.

In comes Clare Balding, a national treasure after her performances at the Olympic Games in the summer. She will be joined by former BBC colleagues Mick Fitzgerald and Rishi Persad, but there is no place for Willie Carson. Instead, Fitzgerald will provide the perspective of an ex-jockey, with Graham Cunningham recruited from Racing UK to be the team’s analyst.

‘Change always divides opinion,’ said Spencer, 34. ‘I grew up listening to Sir Peter and I have the highest respect for him as a broadcaster. I can see why traditionalists might be upset at first.’

Plush: Spencer shares a house with her brother

Plush: Spencer shares a house with her brother

However, from her knowledge of production meetings, Spencer is confident Channel 4 can win over the sceptics. She said: ‘There is going to be a smart purpose-built studio, with touch-screens and new graphics. I’m sure there are an abundance of fresh ideas that will be done to the best of everyone’s ability.’

As a broadcaster, Channel 4 have some form at breaking the mould; after all, they won unreserved plaudits, against all expectation, for their Test match cricket coverage. ‘I also think it will be good for the public to know that from now on all racing in this country can be found on the same channel,’ said Spencer, who survives from the former Channel 4 team along with commentator Simon Holt, Alice Plunkett, Jim McGrath and Tanya Stevenson.

Like Balding, Spencer is the daughter of a racehorse trainer; or in her case, two as both parents, Jack and Lynda Ramsden, held training licences at one time or another.

Even so, to her disappointment, Spencer’s credentials are often overlooked by gossip diarists who refer to her as the ‘glamour puss’ of Channel 4’s racing output.

‘I do take umbrage at that,’ she admitted. ‘There’s part of me that thinks: “Hold on, I’m a serious career woman”. Anyone who has worked with me knows how much homework I do. In spite of people thinking you’re a girl, and therefore don’t know much about racing, I probably have quite a good background to understand the sport.’

Twice, she has been champion amateur lady jockey. ‘I’d love to have Clare’s brain,’ she said with a chuckle. ‘She’s amazing. She does radio, TV, and can broadcast on sport, politics and culture. She’s had an unbelievable year, and while she has a racing background she is also recognised outside of racing. Clare is an asset to us.

‘But I’ve a similar background. I grew up in the racing world and have known her family for a long time. Her brother, Andrew, now training at the yard where his father, Toby, trained, was an assistant to my parents when they trained in Yorkshire.

‘I was riding from a young age and my father had strong opinions on how horses are ridden. When you’re brought up listening to that, it’s a massive help. I’ve ridden in a few hundred races and I’d like to think that makes me more than just a girl who knows a bit about racing.’

She was married to Jamie Spencer, whose rise to champion jockey saw them labelled the Posh and Becks of racing. They lived in a 1.75million home in Newmarket, and had three children.

But Jamie’s affair with Hayley Turner, the leading woman jockey, precipitated a breakdown in their marriage and led to Emma filing for divorce three years ago. For a time, she refused to interview Turner in her role as a reporter for Channel 4. That is no longer the case. ‘It’s history, isn’t it Life goes on,’ said Emma.

Line up: Channel 4 have taken over all racing coverage from the BBC

Line up: Channel 4 have taken over all racing coverage from the BBC

She and her ex-husband — whose romance with Turner fizzled out — have an amicable relationship and he saw their children over Christmas. ‘While it was difficult at the time of our break-up, we get on well,’ said Emma. ‘Over the past three years, dealing with divorce, the children starting school and having a career, you do have difficult days. Just as you overcome one problem with one of the children, the next one develops attitude! Luckily, I can see light at the end of the tunnel; and thanks to the help I have it’s very manageable.

‘Jamie lives a couple of miles away. His season is so demanding, but he sees the kids whenever he can. Even now, at the races, people think we’re still married, which was awkward for both of us at first when I had to interview him after a race. But Jamie has always been very professional.’

Since moving out of the marital home, Spencer and her children have moved into an even more sumptuous Newmarket property with seven bedrooms, an indoor pool and a cinema — all built around a courtyard featuring a fountain and sunken garden. It reportedly cost 2.95m but had been on the market some time earlier for 7m. The house was bought by her brother, Anthony Ramsden.

‘Anthony was living in London when I found the house, and when he came and saw it, he fell in love with it, too,’ she explained. ‘Now he has one side of the house and we have the other; we are like passing ships in the night.’

Spencer juggles being a single parent with a career in television. She has also found the time to freshen her wardrobe for the advent of Channel 4’s takeover of racing. ‘You don’t want to know how many pairs of shoes I have,’ she said. ‘I am a shopaholic! I have a lot of clothes, too, let’s leave it at that.’

More pertinently, Emma Spencer has been investing heavily in doing her homework, as she knows that on New Year’s Day the racing community will be placing Channel 4’s coverage under greater scrutiny than ever.

Peter "Snakebite" Wright shows off crazy haircut

Hair-raising! Darts star Peter 'Snakebite' Wright shows off arguably the maddest haircut ever seen on a sportsman



13:06 GMT, 18 December 2012

Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright put on a show in the first round of the Ladbrokes World Championship.

The wacky darts player scored four 180s as he fought past 22-year-old Arron Monk yesterday. Other winners included James Wade and Mark Webster.

But as enthralling as Wright's performance was his hairdo.

Peter 'Snakebite' Wright wins his first round match in the Ladbrokes World Darts Championship

The eccentric darts player beat Arron Monk at Alexandra Palace last night

Wright is known for showing off a
collection of weird and wonderful hairstyles, which change at every
tournament. They are created by his wife, Joanne, who is a professional

The 42-year-old often has snakes painted onto one side of his head to honour his nickname, which comes from his favourite drink.

He has even had special ‘Snakebite’
darts created which change colour in different lights, reflecting the
chameleon nature of his hair.

Peter 'Snakebite' Wright competes in the Labrokes World Darts Championship

Peter Wright competed at the Ladbrokes Darts World Championship at Alexandra Palace

Wright likes to co-ordinate his look and has had special darts designed which change colour in different light

Peter Wright competes with Phil 'The Power' Taylor at Alexandra Palace

The 42-year-old has his wife design and create his wacky hairstyles

While the style is certainly flamboyant, Wright usually pulls off his original look. Other sporting stars have been less fortunate.

The most ridiculous hairstyles in the
world of sport are more often found in football, with Ronaldo’s 2002
World Cup hairdo surely being the most bizarre.

Colombian Carlos Valderrama also
sported a unique bushy hairstyle back in the 1990s, and Taribo West
went through a period of favouring green dreadlocks, usually worn in
bunches while he played.

Ronaldo of Brazil in the 2002 World Cup Final against Germany

Carlos Valderrama played for Colombia in the 1998 World Cup

Ronaldo and Carlos Valderrama are two footballers who have shown off an individual sense of style

Nigerian defender Taribo West holds off Peter Moeller

Nigerian defender Taribo West sported unique hairstyle during the 1998 Soccer World Cup

British and Irish Lions tour 2013: Warren Gatland unveils coaching team

Gatland announces Lions coaching trio of Farrell, Howley and Rowntree for Australia tour



12:23 GMT, 12 December 2012

When Warren Gatland announced this morning the coaches who will work with him on the Lions tour next summer, the biggest talking point was the omission of Shaun Edwards.

For the Kiwi head coach, who fills the same role with Wales, the decision to overlook his long-standing coaching side-kick will have been particularly difficult to make. Telling Edwards will have been an even tougher exercise.

This is the man who has enjoyed so many
successes with him on behalf of Wasps and Wales – the former rugby
league icon whose blitz defence was such an integral part of two Grand
Slams, four successive Premiership titles and a Heineken Cup triumph.
This is the man who also worked alongside Gatland under the command of
Sir Ian McGeechan on the 2009 Lions tour and who came home enthused by
the whole experience, but so stung by the series defeat that making
amends in 2013 became a stated personal ambition.

Scroll down to watch former Lions reliving their favourite tour memories…

Lionhearts: (L-R) assistant coach Andy Farrell, head coach Warren Gatland, tour manager Andy Irvine, assistant coaches Rob Howley and Graham Rowntree

Lionhearts: (L-R) assistant coach Andy Farrell, head coach Warren Gatland, tour manager Andy Irvine, assistant coaches Rob Howley and Graham Rowntree

Lionhearts: (L-R) assistant coach Andy Farrell, head coach Warren Gatland, tour manager Andy Irvine, assistant coaches Rob Howley and Graham Rowntree

Now, for Edwards, the hope of being
part of a successful Lions campaign has been deferred, maybe forever,
certainly for four years. While Gatland is understood to be open to the
notion of adding further man-power to his management team before
departure for Hong Kong in late May, his preference is for a tight-knit
coaching group to oversee preparations to face Australia.

It would appear that the omission of
Edwards reflects a late change of heart on the part of the head coach.
Until recently, it is understood that his name was in the frame, while
Rob Howley was destined to miss out on the trip, with the sizeable
compensation of continuing to deputise for Gatland in charge of Wales,
with a view to one day succeeding him. It was thought that Howley and
Robin McBryde would lead Wales on their summer tour of Japan, while
Gatland and Edwards were away with the Lions.

Left out: Edwards (above) had been hoping to embark on another Lions tour with Gatland (below left)

Left out: Edwards (above) had been hoping to embark on another Lions tour with Gatland (below left)

Left out: Edwards (above) had been hoping to embark on another Lions tour with Gatland (below left)
How they compare…

Andy Farrell for England in 2012:
P9 W6 L3 Pts Against 140
Tries against 11

Shaun Edwards for Wales in 2012: P12 W5 L7 Pts Against 229
Tries against 15

But two issues emerged to alter the
plans. First, Howley struggled to ignite the Dragons when he was at the
helm for two recent autumn Tests, against Argentina and Samoa, which
both ended in grim defeat – leaving doubts about his ability to one day
assume the figurehead role. Secondly, Andy Farrell returned to the
England coaching fold and soon started building on his sterling work at
the start of the year. While the victory over New Zealand at Twickenham
on December 1 surely came too late to influence Gatland’s thinking, it
illustrated his contribution as a defensive co-ordinator and supreme

The up-shot has been bad news for
Edwards and the appointment of a well-balanced Lions coaching team.
Farrell will fill the role that his one-time Wigan and Great Britain
rugby league team-mate would have coveted – as defence guru, while also
having responsibility for other fundamental areas such as the kicking
game and kick-chase routine which became a staple in his time at

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Pointing the way: Gatland has opted to take Farrell to Australia with him

Pointing the way: Gatland has opted to take Farrell to Australia with him


Click here for all the fixtures for the 2013 tour of Australia

For Howley, any future concerns about
his suitability for the Wales head coach job can be set aside in the
summer as he seizes the opportunity to once again mould the Lions into a
dangerous attacking force. It will be a reprisal of his role in 2009,
when a 2-1 series defeat against the Springboks was not down to any
absence of craft or guile or adventurous intent. McGeechan’s side played
an audacious game – perfectly illustrated by stunning tries for Rob
Kearney in the second Test and Shane Williams in the third.

Graham Rowntree will take charge of
the forwards, as an expansion of his brief from 2009, when he was scrum
coach – in keeping with his enhanced England duties since the last World
Cup. He emerged with credit from that debacle of a campaign in New
Zealand. In addition to being technically astute, the former Leicester
and Lions prop is also a popular, engaging figure, respected by players.
Like Farrell, he is a man with strong motivational qualities.

Scrum's the word: Rowntree will be responsible for coaching the pack

Scrum's the word: Rowntree will be responsible for coaching the pack

This trio will form the core, if not
the entirety, of Gatland’s management group. In time, the Kiwi may bring
other specialists on board, but this half-Welsh, half-English line-up
brings a blend of Lions experience, big-game Test pedigree and
complementary qualities. While Farrell has not been involved with the
iconic touring team before, his background with Great Britain in league
provides a useful reference point. Howley’s morale may have been knocked
of late, but with the Kiwi in charge, he can focus on his area of
expertise Down Under.

These are surely the right men. There
are few other attack coaches of note who would have come on to
Gatland’s radar. Joe Schmidt, the Kiwi in charge of European champions
Leinster, was name-checked as a candidate, but there would have been an
appetite among the Lions hierarchy to avoid having two overseas coaches
in prominent positions, even if both are based in these islands.

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Neither Scotland – who are currently
searching for a new head coach to replace Andy Robinson – nor Ireland
offer strong candidates who have been overlooked. For England, being
without two of their four front-line coaches for the summer tour of
Argentina is far from ideal, but Stuart Lancaster sees the prestige
involved in contributing to the Lions, so he will accept this as a badge
of honour.

Finally, there may be a knock-on
consequence of these appointments when it comes to the identity of the
captain. A Scot, Andy Irvine, is tour manager and Wales and England
dominate the coaching team, so what price an Irishman to lead on the

Last time out: Paul O'Connell led the Lions in South Africa in 2009

Last time out: Paul O'Connell led the Lions in South Africa in 2009

The coaching team


Born: May 30, 1975 in Wigan, England.

Tests (as player): 8 (all in 2007).

Position: Centre.

Club(s): Saracens, Wigan RL.

Coaching career: Saracens (from 2009), England (2012-).

Lions background: none.

Other: Made Great Britain rugby league debut at age of 18 and was youngest-ever captain at age of 21. Won five championships and four Challenge Cups in successful Wigan side. Former world Player of the Year in league.

Crossed codes in 2005 but missed a whole season through injury. Part of England (union) squad which reached Rugby World Cup Final 2007.


Born: October 13, 1970 in Bridgend, Wales.

Tests (as player): 61 (from 1996-2002).

Position: Scrum half.

Club(s): Wasps, Cardiff, Bridgend.

Coaching career: Cardiff Blues, Wales (from 2008).

Lions background: Toured South Africa in 1997, but injury ended his tour early. Toured Australia in 2001, playing in two Tests. Served as attack coach under Sir Ian McGeechan in South Africa in 2009.

Other: Captained Wales 22 times in 1998 and 1999. Welsh Player of the Year in 1996 and 1997. Famously won 2004 Heineken Cup for Wasps with last-gasp try against Toulouse at Twickenham.


Born: April 18, 1971 in Stockton-on-Tees, England.

Tests (as player): 57 (from 1995-2006).

Position: Prop.

Club(s): Leicester.

Coaching career: Leicester, RFU national academy, England (from 2008).

Lions background: Toured South Africa in 1997, but unable to break into Test squad. Toured New Zealand in 2005 and played in two Tests. Served as scrum coach under Sir Ian McGeechan in South Africa in 2009.

Other: Part of the 2003 Grand Slam-winning England squad but overlooked for World Cup. Played 398 matches for Leicester from 1990-2007, winning two Heineken Cups and four Premiership titles.

Official ticket, travel and accommodation packages are available from Lions Rugby Travel starting from 2,199– contact www.lionstour.com or call 0844 788 4070.

David Weir interview: You have to be quite scary, give evil stares, says Paralympic gold medal hero

EXCLUSIVE: You have to be quite scary, give evil stares and tell them to get out of my way, says… the Weirwolf of London!



23:01 GMT, 10 December 2012

The man known as the 'Animal' of wheelchair racing, who won four gold medals at the Paralympic Games in London, is sitting in a cafe in Richmond Park, south-west London, sipping a coffee.

David Weir is quiet, humble and softly spoken, smiling tiredly as he talks about his 10-week-old daughter, Tillia Grace London. He still seems overawed by the scale of his achievements and how his life has changed since that glorious summer.

But when the conversation turns to sport — and, specifically, competition — Weir is transformed. His blue eyes become piercing and intense as he explains, with passion verging on venom, what it means to him to race in a British vest and the ruthlessness it takes to succeed.

Animal passion: David Weir wins gold in the T54 800 metres at the London 2012 Paralympics

Animal passion: David Weir wins gold in the T54 800 metres at the London 2012 Paralympics

It was a striking change that was noticeable during the Games, too, as this polite, mild-mannered man executed four tactically perfect finals in nine days.

Weir won the T54 800 metres, 1500m, 5,000m and marathon and now has a tattoo of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike, to match the insignia on the four gold medals which he removes carefully from their black velvet cases. Appropriately, the six-time London Marathon winner also has another tattoo on his chest which means ‘winner’ in Japanese.

‘You have to be quite scary,’ says Weir, ‘because if you’re not, people will box you in. So you give them some evil stares and tell them to “**** off and get out of my way”. They’re going to move. I wouldn’t move, but some people will.

‘On the track I just switch on to being a racer and winning. It takes anything to win. I wouldn’t say I would cause accidents but you have to be ruthless.

‘I do certain things on the warm-up
track that might unsettle the guys’ minds. I will wait until they’ve
gone past me and then start my warm-up lap, pushing at a good speed and
just sitting behind them. Then I go past them and look like I’m at ease.
Just to show them. When I was sprinting, my starts weren’t great and,
because you would be allowed one false start without being disqualified,
sometimes I used to false-start on purpose. Then I knew I would get
away as good as everyone else.’

Patriot: Weir celebrates his marathon victory

Proud day: Weir was awarded the Freedom of City of London at Guildhall last week

Proud patriot: Weir celebrates marathon victory (left) and was awarded the Freedom of City of London (right)

There are two distinct sides to ‘The Weirwolf’. After the Games the 33-year-old, an aspiring DJ, spent five days in Ibiza indulging his love of house music, yet he arranges our interview for 9am so he can spend the day with his family.

He was awarded the freedom of the City of London last week but still lives in ‘a two-bedroomed terrace’ on the ‘same council estate’ in Wallington, south-west London, where he grew up.

Weir was so painfully shy when he rediscovered athletics in 2002 that he took months to pluck up the courage to ring his coach, Jenny Archer, because he ‘didn’t want to bother anyone’. Archer, who worked with Wimbledon FC’s ‘Crazy Gang’ in the 1980s, has subsequently helped him become the greatest wheelchair racer of all by training with cyclists in Richmond Park.

His drive and toughness surface again when we discuss the BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday evening, for which Weir has been nominated along with fellow Paralympians Sarah Storey and Ellie Simmonds. Weir says he does not normally attend because a Paralympic athlete has not been included on the shortlist since the then Tanni (now Baroness) Grey-Thompson in 2000. She came third but was unable to accept her award because there was no ramp to the stage.

So should there be a separate award to recognise the achievements of Paralympics GB ‘No, never,’ Weir says. ‘We want to compete against the best. All right, we probably won’t win it, but we want to compete.

Hometown hero: Weir still lives in his two-bedroomed house in Wallington despite his extraordinary success

Hometown hero: Weir still lives in his two-bedroomed house in Wallington despite his extraordinary success

‘I am just in awe of being in the top 12 with these great athletes, but I don’t think it should ever be separate because then you’re segregating it again and we don’t want that.

‘Sports Personality is about sport. We want to be branded as athletes. Speak to any Paralympian and they’ll tell you the same — and if they didn’t…’ His voice trails off and he takes a deep breath. God help anyone who dares to disagree with Weir in this mood.

‘I would hate to see it separated,’ he continues. ‘You’re a sports person and that’s what it is: sports personality. It doesn’t matter about colour, race, women, disabled — it’s all about sport and that’s all that matters.’

The quality of the sport, after all, was the most memorable thing about the 2012 Paralympics, the ‘perfect Games’ that Weir describes as being ‘like a storybook’.

‘It just feels like I’ve read a story on an athlete’s life,’ he adds.

The positive experience Weir had in London is even more moving when you consider his first taste of the Paralympics in Atlanta 16 years ago.

It was, as he puts it, ‘shocking’. The Athletes’ Village, the facilities, the crowds were all ‘very disappointing’. America did not — and still does not, to a large extent — ‘get’ the Paralympic movement, leaving a 17-year-old Weir thinking: ‘What’s the point’

Path to glory: Weir trains in Richmond Park with professional cyclists and credits beetroot juice for his success

Path to glory: Weir trains in Richmond Park with pro cyclists and credits beetroot juice for his success

‘I did nothing after Atlanta,’ he
explains. ‘No training. I couldn’t get a job, couldn’t do anything. I
struggled. I had left school at 16 and was on the dole, doing nothing.

‘Then I saw the Games in Sydney on TV four years later and that broke my heart a little bit. I thought maybe I would have been there, winning a medal. I thought, “What have I done” I just wanted to represent my country. I felt like I let my country down and a lot of other people down. I had missed the World Championships in ’98. I just didn’t turn up. I didn’t do enough training so I didn’t deserve to be there and I told them (the British team) that.

‘So when they did ask me to come back on the squad I felt like I was paying it back. I felt very proud after that.’

Weir’s pride in competing for his country shines through. He is not thinking about defending his titles in Rio in 2016 yet, but the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow is a real desire.

His willingness to discuss his patriotism is not sickly, but heartfelt — and fairly unusual for athletes in an individual sport who, in their blinkered pursuit of success, can appear selfish. Weir desperately wanted to finish London 2012 by winning his fourth gold in the marathon on the Mall, ‘with Buckingham Palace and all those British flags’ behind him.

Golden boy: Weir shows off his four medals from 2012

Golden boy: Weir shows off his medals

‘I was very conscious I was competing in a British vest,’ he says. ‘I saw all those British flags and people jumping up and down and just thought, “No way am I going to let anyone past me”.

‘I think the British public gets Paralympic sport and I think it was the first time (at a Games) we didn’t get treated as disabled. It was, “We’re going to watch David Weir, or Hannah Cockroft, or Jonnie Peacock”. It wasn’t because they’re disabled.’

Quite the opposite. Watching Weir in the distinctive red helmet Archer has spirited away for safe-keeping was a distinctly enabling experience. He was imperious and apparently unstoppable for that nine-day period, powered only, as Boris Johnson pointed out, by beetroot juice.

Weir drinks ‘litres of it’ — mixed with apple juice — three days before a race and then had a concentrated shot of the red stuff during the marathon. He seems a little miffed, however, that the Mayor of London decided to broadcast his ‘secret’ to the ‘whole world’ during the Team GB parade.

‘It’s a bit stronger than coffee,’ he says, laughing now. ‘It’ll give you a stamina shot all day.
‘I wonder if Boris went home and tried it.’

England purple rugby kit set for the dustbin as RFU ponder banning change strips

England's controversial purple kit set for the dustbin as RFU ponder banning change strips



10:52 GMT, 5 December 2012

The RFU are considering banning the controversial change strips worn by England for the autumn internationals including the garish purple shirts in which the side were beaten by Australia at Twickenham.

From the charcoal grey anthracite to the divisive black shirt at the World Cup, for each one of the past five seasons England have released a coloured ‘change’ shirt and worn it for at least one Test match to exploit commercial opportunities.

Although the kits are on sale at Twickenham on the day they are worn, and throughout the autumn, many of the change designs haven’t sold as expected. A red-and-white version – a design apparently inspired by the St George’s flag- was first introduced in 2008, then it was that horrible purple shirt against Argentina a year later, in which England played terribly.

What were they thinking England lost to Australia in this purple kit last month

What were they thinking England lost to Australia in this purple kit last month

Chris Ashton’s brilliant ‘try of the century’ against the Wallabies two years ago was marred only by the sight of his famous Swan dive in a dank grey ‘anthracite’ shirt.

Last month they played Australia again in a bright purple that supposedly harked back to the anthem jackets worn by England in the Seventies and Eighties. The team were defeated and the shirt – which looked just like an Arsenal away shirt from a few season ago – took the brunt of the blame, adding to the condemnation.

The only team in Test rugby against whom England would have to wear anything but their all-white home shirt is against Fiji. But absurdly, on November 10 it was Fiji who switched to blue.

Asked about the controversial change strips, RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie told the Times: ‘You always look at it. I’m quite happy to say one was surprised by the strength of feeling (about the purple shirt worn against Australia) and that it was correlated to the performance.

‘I don’t remember reading huge criticism for the last five years about a change of shirt. All of us look at these things and review it. How do we deal with the atmosphere Of course we look at all those things and it’s right to do that.’

And who remembers these horror kits

England v Argentina, 2009

Purple patch: Ugo Monye is sent flying in another England horror kit in 2009

Purple patch: Ugo Monye is sent flying in another England horror kit in 2009

England v Australia, 2010

Tryu of the century: But Chris Ashton's effort was scored in this grey monstrosity

Tryu of the century: But Chris Ashton's effort was scored in this grey monstrosity

England v Argentina, World Cup 2011

Black Saturday: Jonny Wilkinson wears this dark number against Argentina

Black Saturday: Jonny Wilkinson wears this dark number against Argentina

Inside crazy world of Roman Abramovich"s Chelsea: Trophies, turmoil and constant sackings

Trophies, turmoil and constant sackings! Inside the crazy world of Roman's Chelsea



13:20 GMT, 21 November 2012

Money talks, as they say, but it doesn't always make sense. Roman Abramovich has spent his entire adult life proving the first point and the best part of a decade giving just as much credence to the second.

Publicity-shy Abramovich must have done something right when he turned his entrepreneurial skills to Russia's oil fields and began amassing a personal fortune that topped 8billion at the last count.

Ruthless Rom: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich decided to axe Roberto Di Matteo after defeat by Shakhtar Donetsk on October 23

Ruthless Rom: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich decided to axe Roberto Di Matteo after defeat by Shakhtar Donetsk on October 23

The crazy stats of Roman

Chelsea have spent approximately 86m since 2004 in compensation for managers – more than Everton’s entire net spend since the Premier League began.

Chelsea had eight managers in their first 70 years from 1905 to 1975, they are now going for a ninth in nine years.

Since failing to escape their Champions League group in 2005, Sir Alex Ferguson has won four Premier League titles, one Champions League and three League Cups with United.

Abramovich has now had as many managers in his nine-year reign as United have had since 1937.

Chelsea have sacked seven managers since 2005 and won seven trophies.

The average life span for a manager under Abramovich is eight months. Only Mourinho and Ancelotti lasted more than a year.

It left him with enough spare change to buy Chelsea for 140million in July, 2003, but if there was admiration, however grudging, for his singular approach to succeeding in the business world, approval rating for his football acumen hasn't reached quite the same heights.

Sacking Roberto Di Matteo six months after he delivered the prize Abramovich craved most is like a snapshot of the Russian oil magnate's whole turbulent rollercoaster reign.

As he came face-to-face with Abramovich at the Champions' League final presentation ceremony, high up in the stand at the Allianz Arena, Di Matteo clenched his fists and beamed: 'I've done it.'

Abramovich nodded, with a smile nothing like as radiant as his manager's, and you could almost hear him thinking: 'Yes, you've done it now, all right.'

Di Matteo fell into the job, as assistant promoted to caretaker after Andre Villas-Boas' dismissal last March, but never quite matched the Abramovich identikit of a sharp, incisive coach who could produce a team from the same mould.

Euro king: Di Matteo delivered the prize Abramovich craved... and was still sacked six month later

King for a day: Di Matteo delivered the prize Abramovich craved… and was sacked six months later

He was always on borrowed time, but sacking a Champions' League winning manager might have been deemed excessively harsh, even by Abramovich's standards. There had to be a stay of execution, but the reprieve did not last long. A couple of Barclays Premier League defeats, and a Champions' League setback in Turn, and the latest instalment in the mad world of Chelsea's reclusive but ruthless owner was duly enacted.

Boardroom bosses with a merciless streak are nothing new in football. Fifty years ago, Bob Lord, a local butcher by trade, ruled Burnley with a rod of iron. His antipathy towards television coverage was such that when Match of the Day was launched in 1964, he banned the cameras from Turf Moor for five years.

The BBC's pioneering sports executives weren't the only ones to cross him at their peril. Taking exception to articles he perceived as a personal slight, he banned three newspapers and six individuals from the Turf Moor press box in a dictatorial reign that earned him the nickname 'the Khrushchev of Burnley.'

Down the road at Ewood Park, in the 1990s, legend has it Roy Hodgson's second season in charge of Blackburn came to an abrupt halt after the equally blunt-talking Jack Walker peered at the television screen, after a home defeat, and muttered: 'Bloody 'ell, we're bottom. I'm not 'aving that.'

Close eye: Abramovich oversees a training session by former boss Andre Villas-Boas

Close eye: Abramovich oversees a training session by former boss Andre Villas-Boas

Abramovich may well chuckle at mention
of his fellow-Russian Khrushchev. He might also reflect on how Lord
earned the sobriquet and conclude that this dinosaur from a bygone age
could actually be considered a role model.

There has been more than a touch of the iron fist about his stewardship since he targeted Stamford Bridge and struck a deal with Ken Bates, another to include eccentricity in his approach to running a club after paying 1 for Chelsea in 1982 and subsequently threatening to build electric fences to keep fans off the pitch.

No-one can deny supporting Chelsea is more rewarding these days, even if it has come at a cost to all concerned. The matchday experience at Stamford Bridge takes a hefty chunk out of most weekly pay packets, while Abramovich is estimated to have parted with around 1billion in transfer fees alone.

There are some who may question that sentiment, though, not least some of the players and managers who have passed through during the last nine and a half years. Chelsea had gone precisely 50 years without a League title when Jose Mourinho delivered it in 2004-05.

For good measure, he added another the following season, but it still wasn't enough to save him after Abramovich reinforced the image of Chelsea being a plaything by deciding he wanted success with a bit more style.

Axed: Di Matteo was fired after 'unacceptable run of results'

Axed: Di Matteo was fired after 'unacceptable run of results'

Coaches of similar standing, in Big Phil
Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti, and one from the new breed, in
Villas-Boas, went the same way, while even the most senior players have
had to contend with the incongruous sight of their chairman calling them
together at the training ground for a Monday morning dressing down, if
standards have dropped over the weekend.

And who's to argue This is a self-made multi-billionaire who is impervious to any sort of comeback. He is the world's biggest spender on luxury yachts, with one evidently fitted with an anti-paparazzi photo shield and another claiming to be the longest in existence at 557ft.

Gratifyingly, there is at least one example of the all-powerful oil magnate failing to get his own way. When he attempted to dock the 557-foot long Eclipse in Europe's biggest yachting harbour, Millionaire's Quay on the French Riviera, he found that the only space large enough was already taken by Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal Alsaud.

With the Prince ranked 26th in the world's rich list, with 12.3bn, and Abramovich trailing behind in 53rd place, the disgruntled Chelsea boss could hardly pull rank and had to settle for anchoring several hundred feet out to sea and transferring to shore on a motor boat.

It was, as anyone with Stamford Bridge connections will readily agree, a rare occurrence. One of the more tiresome terrace chants these days focuses on any given player and ends with 'he does what he wants.' They could adopt that in the Chelsea dressing room and direct it at Abramovich. Just not within earshot, though.