Tag Archives: circuitous

Davide Santon says Newcastle worried about Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan on returns

Santon admits Newcastle are worried about threat of returning stars Carroll and Nolan

|

UPDATED:

18:29 GMT, 10 November 2012

Davide Santon and his defensive colleagues have been put on red alert as Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan head back to Newcastle.

The pair, who proved so destructive in black and white shirts as the Magpies fought their way back into the Barclays Premier League, are now back in harness at West Ham, who visit St James' Park tomorrow.

They will need no introduction to the current crop of Newcastle players, and full-back Santon knows stopping them could prove the key to the home side's chances of extending their five-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

Clucky return Kevin Nolan might unleash his celebration on Sunday

Clucky return Kevin Nolan might unleash his celebration on Sunday

The 21-year-old Italian said: 'West Ham will be a difficult game. They have some good players.

'They have Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan, so we have to be careful.

'It is very important for us to win the game. We are only playing for a win.

'We have to stop them. We know they are coming here to score. However, we know we have a great defence here. We have a great team and we can stop them.'

Carroll and Nolan both left the club in controversial circumstances, the former in exchange for a staggering 35million from Liverpool and the latter after his hopes of securing a new long-term deal were dashed.

But while midfielder Nolan has gone from strength to strength at Upton Park, where he arrived in June last year, Carroll has joined him by a circuitous route.

The 23-year-old found himself surplus to requirements at Anfield in the wake of new manager Brendan Rodgers' appointment and, having been linked with a move back to Newcastle, eventually joined the Hammers on loan for the season in August.

But while both played key roles during their time on Tyneside, Alan Pardew's men have gone from strength to strength since their respective departures and finished fifth in the league last season to earn a return to European football.

Way back when: Nolan and Andy Carroll playing for Newcastle

Way back when: Nolan and Andy Carroll playing for Newcastle

Indeed, they very nearly gatecrashed the top four and the race for Champions League qualification, and that remains an ambition.

Santon said: 'Last year, we had a really big chance to get there.

'We finished fifth in the end, but we have a very good team and have a good chance of getting there.

'We just have to get back into the winning mentality every game. We are in a great position to move forward.'

Newcastle are yet to produce their best form on a consistent basis so far this season, but are unbeaten since they lost 3-0 at home to Manchester United on October 7.

They extended that run in Belgium on Thursday evening when, after carelessly conceding twice to Club Brugge within the opening 19 minutes, they fought back to claim a draw which edged them closer to the knockout stage of the Europa League.

Careful now: Davide Santon (left) knows Newcastle have to watch out for their former stars

Careful now: Davide Santon (left) knows Newcastle have to watch out for their former stars

Santon said: 'I think it was better that neither ourselves nor Brugge won the other night. It is better for our mentality.

'We can still get through in Europe, but we are now ready to win tomorrow.

'This game is very important. We have a lot of confidence and we can win. Now we have to focus on the Premier League again.'

However, Pardew will be without key men Fabricio Coloccini and Cheick Tiote through suspension, while full-back Danny Simpson remains a doubt with a shoulder problem.

Mike Williamson, who was withdrawn early from the 2-2 draw at the Jan Breydel Stadion, will start alongside Steven Taylor, who replaced him, in central defence, while Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba are likely to return.

Kasper Schmeichel hopes to make his own way to Wembley

Like father, like son! Schmeichel hopes to make his own way to Wembley

|

UPDATED:

22:47 GMT, 16 March 2012

Wembley was almost a second home to Kasper Schmeichel as he was growing up.

Watching father Peter and the
all-conquering Manchester United team has become a fuzzy melange of
childhood memories, no particular stand-out moments.

Safe hands: Kasper Schmeichel

Safe hands: Kasper Schmeichel

Now it is Schmeichel senior who is the regular observer, even though he may not be able to make it to Stamford Bridge for Leicester's FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea on Sunday.

Paternal support guaranteed but Schmeichel junior can count on close friends too and none come closer than Joe Hart, his former Manchester City colleague.

Schmeichel watched as the England goalkeeper came agonisingly close to scoring in injury time in the Europa League match against Sporting Lisbon on Thursday night.

'I hope I don't go up front late on against Chelsea,' admitted Schmeichel. 'That would mean we are behind.

'I rang him straight afterwards. He used to do that in training every single day. To be honest I was gutted for him.'

There is no hint of jealousy in the voice. At the age of 25 Schmeichel's journey to the big stage has become a circuitous route, which may yet end well at Leicester.

Having grown up at City, the young goalkeeper will not bat an eyelid at the prospect of keeping in-form Chelsea at bay.

'With the squad we have got we are capable of giving anyone a good game,' insisted Schmeichel.

'I have played with first team players since I was 15 at Manchester City. My first session was at City was with Nicolas Anelka. It is not something that I see as too much out of the ordinary.'

Leicester beat Norwich in the previous round and are 90 minutes away from a trip to Wembley, a familiar venue thanks to Schmeichel senior.

Schmeichel added: 'I went to nearly all the games but they blend into one a little bit.'

Six Nations 2012: The rise of Mouritz Botha: from carpet cleaner to England second row

The incredible rise of Botha: From carpet cleaner to England's second row blond bombshell

Mouritz Botha calls it a ‘long road’. It has certainly been a convoluted one — his painstaking journey from Vryheid, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa to the England team via part-time rugby and asbestos-stripping in Bedford. Not the most conventional background.

When the 30-year-old Saracens lock came through the full 80 minutes of his adopted country’s 13-6 RBS Six Nations victory over Scotland at Murrayfield last Saturday, it marked another giant stride towards personal fulfilment.

He has had to take more strides than most. From rejection in his native South Africa for being too small, to redundancy and relegation in his first year living in this country, Botha is not one of those players whose elevation to Test status appeared pre-ordained from a young age.

Come a long way: Mouritz Botha has been on a journey to make the England team

Come a long way: Mouritz Botha has been on a journey to make the England team

His circuitous route to the top was an enforced consequence of being denied opportunities at home. ‘I was told that I’d never make it as a rugby player in South Africa,’ he said. ‘At 105kg (16st 7lb), I was too light to succeed in the second row at the Stormers (the Cape Town-based Super 15 franchise).’

His response was to send emails to several English clubs, seeking employment. Bedford Athletic got in touch and convinced him to try his hand in National League Three North, only for them to drop out of that division at the end of Botha’s first season in 2004-05. As he resolved to enhance his work ethic in rugby terms, it was also tested in other environments.

‘The carpet washing was the most difficult job I did,’ he said. ‘It was crazy hours and not something I really enjoyed. There was a tumble dryer about three metres high. I dried the carpets and then you had to roll and fold them. I would do about six tons a day, which was brutal. The shift was from six in the morning until two in the afternoon.

Powerhouse: Botha runs through Chris Cusiter during the win over Scotland

Powerhouse: Botha runs through Chris Cusiter during the win over Scotland

Then I had to go home, have a nap and go to training.’

From carpet-cleaning, Botha had a stint stripping asbestos from houses in the Bedford area. He displayed the commitment which has since characterised his development as a player.

His boss at B & W Waste Management Services, Marcus Buckle, said: ‘Asbestos stripping is hardcore work — it is far from the glamorous life a lot of rugby players lead, but he never complained.’

Before he joined Bedford Blues in 2006 and played the game full time, the three seasons he had at Bedford Athletic didn’t make him a living so he had to earn it elsewhere.

But even then he harboured dreams of an England call-up. However far-fetched it must have felt at the time, Botha felt that his dedication would earn its due reward.

High climber: Botha catches the ball during the England training session held at the Soccer Dome

High climber: Botha catches the ball during the England training session held at the Soccer Dome

‘I always believed I could get here, I always had a deep-down belief,’ he said, ahead of England’s trip to Rome to face Italy on Saturday.

‘But it doesn’t count for much as you have to convince a lot of other people that you can do it and that takes time.

‘It’s been a long road and I’m very pleased to get here. There was always hope along the way but to achieve it finally has been brilliant. When I came over originally it was to have a shot at playing professional rugby in England.

'It was a long shot and I knew it would be hard work but through determination and staying focused I achieved it in the end.’

Taking his chance: Botha is determined to grab his opportunity with both hands

Taking his chance: Botha is determined to grab his opportunity with both hands

England’s interim head coach, Stuart Lancaster, has set much store by the honour and privilege of playing for the national team. Amid concerns about a perceived rise in money fixation among the country’s top players, Botha encapsulates the values of the new regime.

‘I played until a couple of years ago for next to nothing and every time you put a shirt on, be it for club or country, it’s just a proud moment of joy and pure satisfaction,’ said Botha. ‘Money doesn’t matter.’

That much was evident when it came to the major turning point in his career — clinching a contract at Saracens in 2009.

Haggling over a salary didn’t even occur to him. Having heard via Facebook that the Hertfordshire club were in the market for a lock, he made his pitch.

‘I think I said, 'Today is the biggest day of my life and career and to be sitting here so close to actually achieving that is a massive opportunity and one I really want”,’ recalled Botha.

Training tough: Botha is keen to make a name for himself in an England shirt

Training tough: Botha is keen to make a name for himself in an England shirt

‘Morne du Plessis (former Springbok captain) was there and when I left the room, Brendan Venter (the then director of rugby) asked him what he thought. He said he didn’t know much about my rugby, but he would sign me because I wanted it so much. That is what swayed them.

‘As I was driving out, Edward Griffiths (Saracens’ chief executive) rang me to say they wanted to offer me a contract. I didn’t ask for how much or anything, I just said, “That’s brilliant”. I pulled up in front of the gates and began a celebration.

‘I screamed a bit and rocked the car a bit, but then I looked up and saw Edward looking down from his office. I felt very embarrassed!’

Recalling the episode, Griffiths added: ‘His car was in the driveway at Old Albanians (Saracens’ training ground) and I remember after his celebration, it stayed there for another 45 minutes, while he phoned everybody to say that he’d finally got his break.

Club class: London Irish's Paul Hodgson is tackled by Botha

Club class: London Irish's Paul Hodgson is tackled by Botha

Mouritz has not had a magic carpet ride to the top, he is a late developer and that means he appreciates his opportunity even more. He has earned it and he leaves nothing on the field.

‘I remember him saying the interview with Saracens was the most important moment of his life. That is how much it matters to him and that showed in the way he played against Scotland last Saturday.’

Botha soon made his presence felt at his new club and helped Saracens win the Aviva Premiership last year. After impressing for the Saxons in the Churchill Cup last summer, he was devastated to miss out on selection for the World Cup.

Made it: Botha is pleased to be part on the England set up

Made it: Botha is pleased to be part on the England set up

But Lancaster admires his abrasive qualities to such a degree he was included in the starting XV last week ahead of other challengers such as Dave Attwood of Bath.

Never mind that, it was the more experienced Tom Palmer who made way for substitute lock Geoff Parling at Murrayfield and Lancaster made a point of positively name-checking Botha after the game.

Once Courtney Lawes regains full fitness, the competition for lock places will further intensify, but having taken so long to reach this point, the newcomer is determined to stick around.