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Cheltenham Festival – win VIP tickets

WIN VIP tickets to the Cheltenham Festival, including meal and drinks – courtesy of lovetheraces.com

UPDATED:

17:21 GMT, 18 February 2013

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Cheltenham

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What is the flagship race of the Cheltenham Festival
A) The Silver Cup
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to arrive by 3pm on Friday, February 22.

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The Adrian Durham column: The next Wayne Rooney? England"s kids can do better and why do Arsenal fans lie down and get ripped off?

The next Rooney England's kids can do better than that… The all-Spain XI is a total joke (so is Chamakh's loan to West Ham)… And why do Arsenal fans lie down and get ripped off

without Ashley Cole is frankly laughable. He’s now up to 99 caps, he’s a European champion and performed at a consistently high level throughout the year. David Silva’s absence is stunning – perhaps the fact that he has had no history with either Barcelona or Real Madrid meant he couldn’t be considered. Maybe those who voted didn’t realise Juan Mata started out at the Bernabeu.

The full cast: FIFA's world XI for 2012 was made up entirely of players from La Liga...

The full cast: FIFA's world XI for 2012 was made up entirely of players from teams in La Liga…

... but Spain's time at the top will come to an end, just like France's did at the World Cup in 2002

… but Spain's time at the top will come to an end, just like France's did against Senegal at the World Cup in 2002

... but Spain's time at the top will come to an end, just like France's did at the World Cup in 2002

More from Adrian Durham…

The Adrian Durham column: Mourinho ruined Joe Cole, Sam's the man to fix him… Owen acted like a Twit over trophy snaps… and Lampard shoots TOO MUCH
03/01/13

The Adrian Durham column: Keepers make mistakes so back off England's undisputed No 1 Hart… useless Liverpool need Carragher… and make Arsenal play away on Boxing Day (at Stoke)
27/12/12

The Adrian Durham Column: Reality check for Arsenal – even Peterborough have beaten Reading… Cazorla cannot touch Silva or Mata… And why Messi is a bottler
20/12/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

And how about Ramires Voted player of the year by his Chelsea team-mates, a European champion, a regular for Brazil, and scorer of one of the best and most important goals of the year – that stunning chip in the Nou Camp in the Champions League semi final.

Surely Chelsea’s stunning achievement in Munich in May – not to mention the semi – had to be reflected in the FIFA selection

This adulation of all things Spanish is understandable. But it won’t last.

The same happened with France after their international success in 1998 and 2000. They went to the next World Cup and failed to score a goal. I made a bit of money backing Senegal to beat the French in Seoul in 2002 and here’s another prediction – Spain won’t win the World Cup next year.

Loan scattergun is an insult to loyal fans

The loan system is also a total joke. You’ve got players like Marouane Chamakh having a good chunk of his wages paid by Arsenal, while he plays for West Ham. So basically Arsenal are subsidising West Ham. If Chamakh scores the goals (don’t laugh) to take West Ham to eighth, then the prize money (755k per place last season) the Hammers earn would in part be thanks to the Gunners. Ridiculous.

Then you get the clubs who completely lose their identity. Ipswich Town for example. A great club with a rich history who this season have had eight loan players, including Daryl Murphy, now in his THIRD loan spell at Portman Road.

Loan rangers: Today's Ipswich, including temporary fixes David McGoldrick (centre) and Aaron McLean (left), is a far cry from the club's glory days under Bobby Robson (below) in the 1980s, when the Tractor Boys won the UEFA and FA Cups

Loan rangers: Today's Ipswich, including temporary fixes David McGoldrick (centre) and Aaron McLean (left), is a far cry from the club's glory days under Bobby Robson (below) in the 1980s, when the Tractor Boys won the UEFA and FA Cups

Loan rangers: Today's Ipswich, including temporary fixes David McGoldrick (right) and Aaron McLean (left), is a far cry from the club's glory days under Bobby Robson (below) in the 1980s, when the Tractor Boys won the UEFA and FA Cups

Town now have 10 strikers at the football club. (I’m not making this up). The latest are Aaron McLean, on loan from Hull City, David McGoldrick, on loan from Nottingham Forest, and Frank Nouble, a rare permanent signing from Wolves. Not one of the Ipswich loans is a young player sent out for experience by a Premier League club, which might be a positive. All are experienced pros.

One or two loans are fine, and some are necessary in an emergency. But five to six loans That’s bad management. Ipswich were never going down, and are too far off the play-off chase. So in effect they’ve signed a load of loan players who haven’t joined Ipswich Town, the club the fans love and hold close to their heart. They’ve joined any club that will give them a game.

Why do Arsenal fans lie down and take this rip-off

I can’t let Arsenal get away with it… 62 for Man City fans is cheap compared to what the Gunners robbed me of this season.

I had promised a friend a ticket to the north London derby, and as a man of my word, I followed through on my promise. It cost me 89. Yes almost 1 a minute. Luckily she’s a Gooner and got her money’s worth.

It seems a lot of Gooners are happy to be exploited by their club. Do they realise this money goes towards the wages of the aforementioned Chamakh, now at West Ham And the fans part-fund the astonishing 7million-a-year wages of Arsene Wenger, who used to be brilliant but isn’t now.

Arsenal’s big 'trophy' is meeting financial fair play rules. I’m not surprised they meet the rules when they rip the fans off and those fans lie down and take it.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Marouane Chamakh

What a waste of money: Arsenal are still paying for Arsene Wenger's mistake in signing Marouane Chamakh

ADRIAN DURHAM

Follow Adrian on Twitter – @talkSPORTDrive… Adrian hosts talkSPORT's Drivetime Show on weekdays between 4pm–7pm alongside former England cricketer Darren Gough

Upsetting the Apple-cart

Michael Appleton hasn’t had to do very much to be wanted has he Plenty of managers have improved their clubs – Kenny Jackett at Millwall, Mark Robins at Coventry, and Paolo Di Canio at Swindon are three examples. Appleton isn’t in that list with either of his clubs. But some influential people said he was good. So he must be.

Adrian Durham: Arsenal"s Santi Cazorla cannot touch David Silva or Juan Mata… Lionel Messi is a bottler

Arsenal reality check: Even Peterborough have beaten Reading… Cazorla cannot touch Silva or Mata… And why Messi is a bottler

PUBLISHED:

10:17 GMT, 20 December 2012

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UPDATED:

11:15 GMT, 20 December 2012

Arsenal won 5-2 at Reading. So what

The way Gooners are banging on about that result makes it sound like everything is OK at the Emirates. Breaking news – everything is not OK. Bradford knocked Arsenal out of the Capital One Cup. Arsenal are 15 points behind the Premier League leaders, and we’re not even halfway through the season.

More breaking news for Gooners – Theo Walcott is good, but he will never be at the same level the talismanic Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry achieved.

Good, but not stellar: Theo Walcott scores Arsenal's fifth goal under pressure from Adrian Mariappa at Reading on Monday

Good, but not stellar: Theo Walcott scores Arsenal's fifth goal under pressure from Adrian Mariappa at Reading on Monday

Follow Adrian Durham on Twitter – @talkSPORTDrive

And Santi Cazorla is good, but over
the course of a season he’s not quite David Silva, or Juan Mata. Both
Walcott and Cazorla are players I rate highly, but both prove that
Arsenal on the field have been starved of success and stripped of
quality year after year.

The fans are desperate for a hero –
when Santi played well, he was the new hero. Then Wilshere came back,
and Santi’s form dipped and Jack was the man. Now it’s Theo. But the
fans can’t really get behind Theo because they know the chances are
he’ll be leaving.

On Monday night at Reading Arsenal
won the first half when Reading got their tactics completely wrong.
Brian McDermott changed things at half time and the 2nd half finished
2-2.

And at the end of it all it’s a great
night out when your team wins away but what does a 5-2 win at Reading
actually mean for a club like Arsenal Not a lot really. Arsenal used to
win big at Premier League cannon fodder on their way to the title or
the double. It was a means to an end. Now the odd decent win is all the
fans can look forward to.

A great club, with great fans who deserve better.

Arsene Wenger said that Monday’s win shows how strong Arsenal are.

The reality is that Arsenal beat Reading in the same calendar year Peterborough United beat Reading.

Santi Cazorla

David Silva

Juan Mata

Season's greetings: Cazorla (left) is decent but he's no David Silva (centre) nor Juan Mata of Chelsea (right)

HAMMERS GOING FOR GOLD

West Ham United's co-owner David Gold

In the summer West Ham co-owner David
Sullivan said the club were willing to 'blow the budget for several
years' by signing Andy Carroll for 17million and paying his 100,000 a
week wages. Carroll said no to a permanent move but a loan deal was
sorted out.

Fast forward to this week and West Ham
are among the clubs ready to agree to new cost controls in the Premier
League.

The other co-owner of the Hammers David Gold (above) said on Tuesday: 'It’s important to bring in governors to ensure the Premier League never
has to experience what happened when Portsmouth went into
administration. If you control costs you probably control wages, but the
driving force is for sustainability which is what we’re pursuing.'

West Ham fans better hope the club is run by Mr Gold’s philosophy.

OLD SCHOOL NO, BROWN
IS SIMPLY DIRTY

I’m neither a Leeds fan nor a Chelsea fan but here is one special reason why I’m glad Leeds didn’t make it to the semi finals of the Capital One Cup – Michael Brown.

As far as I could see he spent the whole game kicking and fouling opponents and playing very little football.

He seems to have built a career on nasty challenges.

Among those who have felt the full force of Brown’s brutality are Jacob Butterfield, Ashley Cole, Sean Davis, Jem Karacan, Theo Robinson, Jermaine Jenas and perhaps the worst foul I’ve ever seen – on Ryan Giggs in August 2006.

He launched a stamp on Giggs’ knee with the ball not even in the same postcode.

Amazingly he only saw yellow for it, so he’s lucky to have only received eight red cards in his career.

He’s been described as 'old school,' but he’s just dirty.

Tackle from behind: Leeds' Michael Brown puts in a trademark challenge on Chelsea's David Luiz at Elland Road last night

Tackle from behind: Leeds' Michael Brown puts in a trademark challenge on Chelsea's David Luiz at Elland Road last night

Seeing red: Ryan Giggs of Manchester United reacts after being fouled by Fulham's Michael Brown in 2006

Seeing red: Ryan Giggs of Manchester United reacts after being fouled by Fulham's Michael Brown in 2006

THE SECRET FOOTBALLER WHO JUST WANTS TO PLAY

Think all footballers are in it for the money Think again.

Quite by chance I happened to sit
opposite a professional footballer on a train recently. I didn’t
recognise him at first, and when I did realise who it was I couldn’t
introduce myself because he was listening to music. Then his phone rang
so I thought I’d take the chance at the end of the call to say hello.

This ceased to be an option once I
realised the nature of his conversation. He was telling his agent how
gutted he was that he wasn’t getting a game.

To fill you in, he wasn’t injured, and isn’t a bad player at all. His manager just isn’t selecting him.

At first I thought he was another
egotistical player who thought he had a divine right to be picked. But I
was wrong. He just wants to play football.

From what I picked up, money
was not an issue at all, he just wants to play football. The manager
who won’t pick him isn’t the manager who signed him, so the player is
now in a situation where he is getting paid but not playing.

From the
outside it looks like he is taking money for nothing, but in his own
words: 'I just want to play.' A decent young English player being held
back by a club that should do the decent thing and let him go.

MAGNIFICENT MESSI HAS BOTTLED OUT OF BIG TEST

Never thought I’d say it but I’m
disappointed in Lionel Messi. The best player on the planet, arguably
the best player of all time, I’d happily pay a small fortune to watch
him play.

But why sign again at Barcelona

Messi has won everything at Barcelona,
there’s nothing left to do there. So why not come to the Premier League
so we can find out if he can do it out of his comfort zone

Avoiding England: Lionel Messi beats Gorka Iraizoz of Athletic Bilbao to put Barca 2-0 up at the Nou Camp

Avoiding England: Lionel Messi beats Gorka Iraizoz of Athletic Bilbao to put Barca 2-0 up at the Nou Camp

His new contract takes him beyond the age of 30 so we will never see Messi at his peak playing anywhere else but Barcelona.

Scoring and winning has become easy at
Barcelona for Messi. I wish he had accepted the challenge of signing for
an English side. Is he scared of Stoke

Lionel Messi – bottler.

Follow Adrian on Twitter – @talkSPORTDrive… Adrian hosts talkSPORT's Drivetime Show on weekdays between 4pm–7pm alongside former England cricketer Darren Gough

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are great but can they trap a football on a lamppost?

VIDEO: Messi and Ronaldo are great… but they can't climb a lamppost while juggling a football like this street star sensation

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UPDATED:

17:15 GMT, 30 November 2012

Eat your heart out Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo — you might earn a few more euros a week than this street busker, but we bet you can’t do this with a football and a lamppost!

This talented street performer, reportedly called Iya Traore, who performs regularly in the Montmarte suburb of, entertains inquisitive tourists on the streets.

He might not be revered around the world as one of the finest footballers the world has ever seen, but he certainly has a few tricks up his sleeves.

Going up: This amazing football juggler heads up a lamppost in Paris while balancing the ball on his head

Going up: This amazing football juggler heads up a lamppost in Paris while balancing the ball on his head

Spinning around: The mystery keepy-uppy artist then swings around the lamppost with the ball wedged to his foot (above) and demonstrates more of his stunning repertoire while standing on a plinth (below)

Spinning around: The mystery keepy-uppy artist then swings around the lamppost with the ball wedged to his foot (above) and demonstrates more of his stunning repertoire while standing on a plinth (below)

Paris football juggler

Paris football juggler

Paris football juggler

VIDEO: Check out his amazing skills for yourself. Take a bow, son…

DM.has('rcpv2000470137001','BCVideo');

Iya good enough Get in touch, please…

We're so impressed with Iya Traore's skills that we want him to get in touch. Iya, email us at: [email protected]

Traore starts with some fairly
basic keepy-uppies, before hypnotising crowds with a head balancing act
that has to be seen to be believed.

At one point in the five-minute performance he balances precariously on a thin iron pole while continuing his flicks and tricks.

There’s also a homage to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with his very own interpretation of a propeller kick.

And the finale has to be seen to be believed — as he performs a heart-stopping balancing act 30ft in the air.

Watch and learn, lads: Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (right) and Barcelona's Lionel Messi (left)

Watch and learn, lads: Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (right) and Barcelona's Lionel Messi (left)

EXTRA VIDEO I: Now watch Cristiano Ronaldo have a go (and check out the cameraman!)…

EXTRA VIDEO II: And, here's Messi showing off his skills – WITH A BOOT INSTEAD OF A BALL…

LONDON OLYMPICS 2012: Steph Houghton wants gold for Britain now

It's been a dream so far, but we want to go all the way and win gold now

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UPDATED:

23:54 GMT, 2 August 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

We've done what I don’t think we even dared to dream about: beat Brazil at the Games in front of 70,000 people.

We heard that there was going to be a record crowd but I didn’t expect there to be so many fans. It was amazing — for Great Britain and for women’s football.

I don’t know where my goalscoring run has come from! It’s great but I don’t care who scores as long as we keep winning.

What a win: Stephanie Houghton scores Britain's winner against Brazil at Wembley

What a win: Stephanie Houghton scores Britain's winner against Brazil at Wembley

When I was younger, I played up front for Sunderland but in the last few years I’ve turned into a full back.

The whole experience has been mind-blowing. We’re the first British women’s football team at the Olympics. We are a really tight group and we’re all buzzing.

You can’t explain what it feels like to be at the Olympics and part of Team GB. Hope Powell, our coach, has showed us all the newspapers after our matches and we’ve been front and back page news. It’s a massive boost for women’s football.

We’re all used to people saying: ‘Girls don’t play football.’ But now we’re playing on the biggest stage of all. It’s a reality check for people who were negative when we were younger, which is why I’m really thankful it’s gone so well so far.

Pure delight: Houghton celebrates Britain's win

Pure delight: Houghton celebrates Britain's win

It’s such a good thing for young girls to see because, when I was growing up, I looked up to David Beckham and Steven Gerrard. But there are female footballers in the spotlight now. We need to try to be role models because girls can now dream about playing football.

Meeting Beckham was amazing. He said he watched our games and liked the celebration we did after scoring against Cameroon.

I can’t tell you what that’s about, though. It’s a secret that we’re keeping to ourselves for now.

Can we win gold Beating Brazil has really boosted our confidence and we’re improving with every game. Canada will be really tough to beat, but against Brazil we showed how determined we are.

I hope we’ve shown that women’s football is actually really good.

Great Britain women's football team

London 2012 Olympics: Helen Glover and Heather Stanning in to women"s pairs final

British pair send message to rivals with Olympic record to reach rowing final

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UPDATED:

09:06 GMT, 28 July 2012

Olympics 2012

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning confirmed their status as gold medal favourites as they stormed into the final of the women's pair in a new Olympic record time.

Roared on by a packed crowd at Eton Dorney, Glover and Stanning won the opening heat of the Olympic regatta in a time of six minutes and 57.29 seconds, beating the previous best by over four seconds.

Glover and Stanning controlled the race from the outset, leading the field by a half a length at the 500 metre time-check before pulling smoothly clear to beat the United States crew by a length.

Easy does it: Great Britain's Heather Stanning (right) and Helen Glover set a new Olympic record

Easy does it: Great Britain's Heather Stanning (right) and Helen Glover set a new Olympic record

The defending Olympic champions Romania came a surprise third and will have to negotiate the repechages to reach Wednesday's final.

Glover and Stanning reacted to being pipped into silver place at the 2011 world championships by dominating the women's pair this year, winning gold at all three of this summer's World Cup regattas.

If they can continue that run of success into Wednesday's final they will become Britain's first ever female Olympic rowing champions.

Here we go: Helen Glover gets ready to compete in the women's pair at Eton Dorney

Here we go: Helen Glover gets ready to compete in the women's pair at Eton Dorney

Saturday's performance sent out a powerful message of intent to the rest of the field, with heat two winners Australia coming home in a time four seconds slower than the British crew.

New Zealand, who beat Glover and Stanning by eight hundredths of a second to win the world championships last year, trailed home unconvincingly behind the Australians.

Eric Abidal out of hospital

Abidal out of hospital! Former Barca star on the mend six weeks after liver transplant

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UPDATED:

09:11 GMT, 22 May 2012

Retired former Barcelona and France defender Eric Abidal has been released from hospital, six weeks after a liver transplant.

Abidal was told he needed the operation earlier this year, almost 12 months after surgery to remove a tumour.

The player's cousin supplied the donor organ and Abidal went through the procedure last month.

Recovery: Eric Abidal has been released from hospital after his liver transplant

Recovery: Eric Abidal has been released from hospital after his liver transplant

Barcelona's medical services released a statement, saying: 'Given the particulars of his recovery process, Abidal will have to undergo a number of hospital check-ups.'

Abidal missed just a few weeks of football after his first operation last year but he has been forced to hang up his boots since his transplant.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish runs the rule over Arsenal target Younes Belhanda

Liverpool boss Dalglish runs the rule over Arsenal target Belhanda

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UPDATED:

05:58 GMT, 1 May 2012

Liverpool have joined Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain in the race for Montpellier winger Younes Belhanda.

Manager Kenny Dalglish made a personal check on the 22-year-old who has scored 11 goals in 27 matches as Montpellier have surged to the top of the Ligue 1 table.

Target: Montpellier's Younes Belhanda (centre)

Target: Montpellier's Younes Belhanda (centre)

Belhanda's form has also alerted Arsenal and PSG who sent scouts to watch him in action.

However, the duo are likely to have
to do battle with Liverpool if they want the Morocco international.

Ray Stubbs to miss FA Cup final after heart operation

Stubbs to miss FA Cup final coverage to recover from heart op

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UPDATED:

22:27 GMT, 19 April 2012

Missing the Final: Ray Stubbs won't be fronting ESPN's coverage from Wembley

Missing the Final: Ray Stubbs won't be fronting ESPN's coverage from Wembley

Ray Stubbs will miss the FA Cup final following heart surgery.

The popular TV presenter, 55, will return to his frontman role at broadcaster ESPN next season.

He said: 'A health check revealed a rare heart condition that I was born with and some corrective surgery was needed to fix it.'

An ESPN spokesman added: 'Our priority is to support him so he can have a full and speedy recovery.'

Piermario Morosini dead: Fans pay tribute to Italian footballer

Fans pay tribute to Morosini after Italian midfielder dies during Serie B clash

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UPDATED:

14:37 GMT, 15 April 2012

Thousands of people have gathered outside Livorno's Armando Picchi stadium to pay tribute to Piermario Morosini, the Livorno midfielder who died on Saturday after collapsing on the pitch during his team's Serie B game at Pescara.

The fans left scarves and flowers outside the stadium, where a banner read: 'You fought until the end, goodbye great Moro.'

Livorno, the club Morosini had joined on loan in January from Serie A side Udinese, issued a statement thanking everyone for the overwhelming support they have received in the last few hours.

Tribute: Fans flocked to Livorno to pay their respects to Morosini, who died on Saturday

Tribute: Fans flocked to Livorno to pay their respects to Morosini, who died on Saturday

It said: 'The family, the girlfriend of Piermario and AS Livorno Calcio wants to thank all of the people that in this time of pain have remembered a great athlete and a special person.'

Ernesto Randazzo, the player's agent, was still coming to terms with the tragic loss of the 25-year-old.

Tears: Several thousand people gathered outside Livorno's Armando Picchi stadium

Tears: Several thousand people gathered outside Livorno's Armando Picchi stadium

'I knew him for 13 years,' he said. 'His aim was to make his stay at Livorno permanent. He had always been in very good condition and proof of that was all the medical check-ups he had undergone with all of the teams he had played for.'

Morosini moved to Udinese in 2005 from Atalanta's youth academy before embarking on a series of loan spells elsewhere – first at Bologna, then Reggina, Padova, Vicenza and finally Livorno.

He made 18 appearances for Italy's Under 21s.

One-minute silence: Valencia and Espanyol honour Morosini ahead of their La Liga clash

One-minute silence: Valencia and Espanyol honour Morosini ahead of their La Liga clash

Udinese, the club that owned Morosini's sporting rights, have confirmed they will honour his memory by providing financial aid to the player's disabled sister.

Tragedy: Morosini collapsed, and died on Saturday

Tragedy: Morosini collapsed, and died on Saturday

A statement from Udinese read: 'We are profoundly in pain for the premature death of Piermario Morosini.

'Through our non-profit organisation, “Udinese for life”, we will guarantee assistance to the sister of the unfortunate player, who has now been left on her own.'

Morosini had been hit by a series of personal tragedies in his young life. The Bergamo-born player had lost both his parents before his 18th birthday.

Shortly after, Morosini's disabled brother committed suicide, leaving him alone with his handicapped elder sister.

An autopsy will be conducted tomorrow to ascertain whether Morosini's cause of death was linked to a problem with the brain or the heart.

Pescara's local authorities have announced that an inquiry into Morosini's death will be opened after a parked car belonging to traffic police had initially blocked the ambulance's path into the stadium.