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Match of the Day debate – what needs to change to close the gap on Sky Sports

Colin Murray has gone… but does Match of the Day need a proper shake-up to close the gap on the champions at Sky Sports

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But pillorying MOTD is no fun. For many of us, it was the football programme to watch when we were growing up; the first show of each new season was eagerly anticipated and some of the analysis and comment provided has stood the test of time.

Remember when Alan Hansen famously declared that 'you will win nothing with kids' back in August 1995 about Manchester United Hansen may have been proven wrong but that is exactly the type of thought-provoking, headline grabbing conjecture it needs to regain.

So after jettisoning Murray how does the BBC, whose first live football commentary – a game between Arsenal and Sheffield United at Highbury – was broadcast 86 years ago today, continue to make the improvements required that will get the MOTD brand back to the required standard

Flagship: Jimmy Hill presented Match of the Day when it was THE show to watch

Flagship: Jimmy Hill presented Match of the Day when it was THE show to watch

Flagship: Jimmy Hill presented Match of the Day when it was THE show to watch

For starters, let the pundits argue. It is tedious letting a presenter ask questions to one man; let the pundits ask questions of each other, let them get wound up. It will show the audience they care and are taking their duties seriously. Nobody ever wants to hear one side of the story.

How about actually sending one of the pundits to a game and doing a brief video diary, getting their reaction immediately after a goal has been scored or a red card has been shown The footage could then be shown after the highlights on MotD and debated accordingly.

Biggest of all, though, why not have a proper shake up of the pundits Some, plainly, are not doing enough. Others state the obvious and making banal observations. If they are not taking their role seriously, find someone who will – and there will be fresh options available next summer.

Leading the way: Gary Neville, Graeme Souness and Jamie Redknapp are key to Sky's success

Leading the way: Gary Neville, Graeme Souness and Jamie Redknapp are key to Sky's success

Another idea would to bring the time the show starts forward; why not aim for 9pm or earlier Let’s be honest, losing Casualty from a prime time slot would not be greeted with dismay – seeing Match of the Day continue to dwindle, however, would be cause for sorrow.

At least in wielding the axe on Murray, a man for whom the mute button was invented, the BBC have recognised that a revamp is required and Chapman, who has a great sporting knowledge and is a journalist, will ask proper questions.

But if the questions that are being aimed at MOTD are to go away, losing Murray cannot be the only change.

So, how would you fix Match of the Day Sportsmail's experts give their verdict…

Charles Sale

There's
a big need for BBC to freshen up the pundits on both Match of the Day
shows . If Liverpool’s insightful Jamie Carragher decides to retire at
the end of the season, he would be an excellent signing for the Beeb but Sky, BT Sport and ITV will also be chasing him.

Follow Charles Sale on Twitter @charliesale

Matt Barlow

Never mind the face for radio and nasal northern tones, Mark Chapman's direct style is the perfect antidote to the failed Murray experiment. He will not sneer and swerve the news issues in an effort to ingratiate himself to famous people on the sofa and he chairs Five Live's Monday Night Club superbly, balancing the weekend issues with the week ahead.

Support him with stronger pundits, pitch for topical guests and generate proper debate. Assuming they can't poach Gary Neville or Graeme Souness from Sky, at least try to bring back Lee Dixon from ITV.

Maybe give Jamie Carragher a whirl. Drop the goofy cartoons and the obsession with big names with bland opinions and dull delivery like Alan Shearer and Michael Owen.

Follow Matt Barlow on Twitter @Matt_Barlow_DM

Insight: Jamie Carragher

Legend: Jamie Carragheris nearing retirement at Liverpool

Insight: Jamie Carragher could fancy a pundit's role when he finally retires at Liverpool

Neil Ashton

Ray Wilkins. Any former player turned professional analyst who takes the time out to go to a match unpaid to watch a player specifically to gen up on them merits a place on the sofa of any football programme.

Wilkins did just that last Saturday, heading to Selhurst Park to watch Wilfried Zaha in action for Crystal Palace against Bolton: 'I've never seen him and when I'm asked about him on Sky I want to be able to be able to talk from a position of strength,' he told me.

It was impressive, if only because it is so rare (Jim White on Sky Sports News is also fanatical about detail and goes to games whenever he can). This should be normal practice for any television football analyst.

Match of the Day could improve their coverage no end by making their analysts go to matches and heading back to the studio full of enthusiasm. It would give them the chance to speak to people at the game from 'their world' – coaches, managers, scourts and former players – and pick up the insight and gold dust that the viewers are begging for in the modern era. Sitting in front of a bank of television screens watching a game does nothing to motivate the guests – get them out there.

Follow Neil Ashton on Twitter @neilashton_

Dedication: Ray Wilkins does his research when it comes to analysing players

Dedication: Ray Wilkins does his research when it comes to analysing players

Talent: BBC's presenter Dan Walker

Talent: BBC's presenter Dan Walker

Laura Williamson

Lighten things up, add a bit of humour and make MOTD2 distinct from Saturday's show by all means, but the programme's aim is to show football highlights, not launch careers in daytime TV.

The excuse for the dire levels of 'analysis' on Match of the Day is the number of games and the lack of time, but there's no such get-out clause on a Sunday night.

A decent pundit like Lee Dixon could really make a name for themselves, but they need a journalist in the presenter's chair to help them do that. Just please, BBC, do not let Robbie 'For me' Savage or Alan 'I'm only here on a Sunday because I went to Anfield yesterday' Hansen anywhere near that studio in Salford. Freshen things up a bit.

Dan Walker would be an ideal presenter but he chooses not to work on Sundays and Jack Humphrey has joined BT, so Mark Chapman does fit the bill.

Less 'Chappers' and more 'Mark' and I might finally be able to stop fast-forwarding the inane chatter between matches.

Follow Laura Williamson on Twitter @laura_mail

Mark Alford

Adrian
Chiles. There I've typed it. His stint on MOTD2 was arguably the best
broadcasting of his career. He actually challenged those tired old pros
to deliver some proper analysis. And his on-screen chemistry with wee
Gordon Strachan made Sunday nights less sermon, more fun.

I'd
also bring back L

ee Dixon – top insight, clever analysis, decent bloke –
and create a special ref's room for Sportsmail's Graham Poll to deliver
his 'official line' on contentious incidents (just keep him focused on
the officials). Oh, and Beckham's free, isn't he I'd be interested to see if there's anything in there…

Follow Mark Alford on Twitter @AlfieDM

Ian Ladyman

My ideal anchor would be Mark Chapman so am delighted to see that he has been given the job. He has the right touch, understands his football and has enough confidence to guide and control his guests rather than indulge and pander to them as others have.

In the experts’ chair I would throw money at Gary Neville and if that didn’t work – which it probably wouldn’t – I would ask Graeme Souness and Lee Dixon if they fancied being the regulars. I would abandon recent attempts to use current players and managers as they rarely say anything of note.

I like Mark Alford’s suggestion of having a referee on hand to explain contentious decisions.

Follow Ian Ladyman on Twitter @Ian_Ladyman_DM

Official line: Graham Poll could offer his expertise on referee decisions

Official line: Graham Poll could offer his expertise on referee decisions

Heads up: Phil Neville has shown potential as a pundit

Heads up: Phil Neville has shown potential as a pundit

Matt Lawton

I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to Match of the Day. For me there’s nobody better than Gary Lineker when it comes to anchoring the show. But I would mix things up a bit on the sofa.

If we accept that Gary Neville, Jamie Redknapp and Graeme Souness are lost to Sky forever, I’d bring in guys like Phil Neville more regularly. Jamie Carragher would be brilliant. You want good talkers with great knowledge and strong opinions.

Follow Matt Lawton on Twitter @Matt_Lawton_DM

Sami Mokbel

Lee Dixon and Ian Wright. Both played for Arsenal, but couldn't be different in terms of their TV personas. Dixon was analysis brilliant during Euro 2012 and he has continued that on ITV this season. But given the channel's lack of live football, he is severely underused. His insight is first class.

Wright, on the other hand, is impulsive, open to snap judgements and uncomfortable to watch at times. But he is compulsive viewing. Together they would be an MOTD match made in heaven.

Follow Colin Young on Twitter @SamiMokbel81_DM

Could you handle it Ian Wright divides opinion on the TV

Could you handle it Ian Wright divides opinion on the TV

Lee Clayton

There
IS quality in the existing MOTD team, they just need to freshen it up.
How many of its viewers have seen Hansen or Lawrenson play Sky add
Jamie Redknapp then Gary Neville and will freshen it up again this
summer. They have the best live coverage, the best highlights programme
(Goals on Sunday) and the Beeb has been left behind.

More analysis,
insight and use of Prozone or Opta stats to back up their argument. Gary
Lineker is still the No 1 football presenter, but Mark Pougatch from 5 Live would be ahead of 'Chappers' in my line-up. Or if you want a
completely different programme on Sunday nights for the follow-up, how
about Danny Baker Excellent broadcaster, football fan and all-round Mr
know-it-all.

Follow Lee Clayton on Twitter @LeeClayton_

Colin Young

Put Goals On Sunday on BBC1 on Sunday night, the programme fronted by Jeff Stelling with his enthusiasm and love of the game alongside Chris Kamara. Kammy's insight and analysis of games and key incidents is always well researched, spot on and interesting.

The array of his Sunday guests would be welcome on the MOTD sofa too but the pick of the pundits right now is definitely Gordon Strachan. Hope he can manage Scotland as well as he can talk.

Follow Colin Young on Twitter @cyoungdailymail

Passion: Danny Baker

Passion: Chris Kamara

Passion: Both Danny Baker (left) and Chris Kamara love the game and have a huge following

Neil Moxley

I'd
like to see a former pro in the hot-seat a la Lineker. I think the BBC
should look towards Matt Holland, clearly a little bit above the norm as
far as ex-footballers go. Lee Dixon should be the MOTD2 analyst.

Then
I'd like to see some input from the officials – either a current or
former ref – but only for them to provide insight on refereeing
decisions – any other comments would leave them open to claims of bias.
Finally, get a current manager or player to fill in the line-up.

Follow Neil Moxley on Twitter @Neil_Moxley_DM

Paul Newman

The thing about Match of the Day 2 is
that it dared to be different and certainly should be different to the
Saturday show. The sight of Alan Hansen on there this season has made my
heart sink. Colin Murray might not be everyone's cup of tea but I liked
the irreverence. Adrian Chiles was at his best when he presented the
programme.

Follow Paul Newman on Twitter @newman_cricket

Guiding hand: Adrian Chiles (right) was lured to ITV from the BBC

Guiding hand: Adrian Chiles (right) was lured to ITV from the BBC

Les Snowdon

It is time for the Beeb to build this increasingly important programme around a retired pro with genuine insight and opinion.

Step forward Jamie Carragher…the presenter needs to be a journalist who is not afraid to pursue genuine news lines and who can tease the best out of Carragher.

Luke Benedict

Gabby Logan. This is an opportunity to give MOTD2 the makeover it so desperately needs. In the modern Premier League era, Sunday hosts the bigger, better matches yet the flagship highlights show has descended into fluffy guff. Cut the painful, MTV-style build-ups and just show us the highlights. Then talk about it.

The programme needs to be anchored by a specialist broadcast journalist who can bring the expertise out of former players turned pundits – who otherwise revel in banal banter if the studio descends into an old boys' club.

Follow Luke Benedict on Twitter @L_Benedict_DM

Mike Anstead

Match of the Day is stale. Gary Lineker is a good presenter but he is let down by tired, cliched pundits like Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson. They look like they are bored of football. Most viewers are bored of them.

Losing Lee Dixon was a big blow. He brought intelligence analysis and insight. You could tell he had done his research. Perhaps they need to bring him back.

Sky hit a crossroads when Andy Gray and Richard Keys left. But they tackled the problem head-on by going for Gary Neville and promoting bright young talent like Ed Chamberlain. The BBC are also at a similar junction – but they need to attack the root of the problem.

Michael Owen and Phil Neville both have potential, but they'd need tough training and commitment like Neville at Sky. You'v

e got to want to be a pundit. And how about James Richardson as host I last saw him presenting World's Strongest Man. What a waste.

Follow Mike Anstead on Twitter @mike_anstead

Alex Kay

Gary Richardson. He asks probing, intelligent questions every Sunday morning on the radio. It is rare a news line does not come out of his show. We want proper analysis and journalism – not quirky, patronising nonsense.

Follow Alex Kay on Twitter @Alex_Kay_DM

Laurie Whitwell

He
would probably think it the worst idea initially, but if Paul Scholes
could be convinced how valued his opinion would prove I would switch on
each week. He knows the game inside out, has played in all manner of
situations, and in my eyes is the most talented player Englishman of his
generation.

So his
insight and knowledge would prove fascinating. He would be able to
disect match action with precision and perhaps provide dressing room
tidbits. Once he retires for good, of course.

Follow Laurie Whitwell on Twitter @lauriewhitwell

Phil Gradwell

I would get Lee Dixon back. I feel he is marginalised at ITV and is not really suited to the pre-match/half-time/full-time pundit role, especially when ‘straight-talking’ Roy Keane takes over. Dixon is much better when he has had time to analyse a match and can pick out incidents and make you see something slightly differently.

At the moment, I rarely watch the analysis on MOTD as I don’t think they’ll tell me anything I didn’t already know, whereas Dixon does.

Follow Phil Gradwell on Twitter @GraddersOnline

Chris Cutmore

The last thing Match of the Day needs is another matey-matey, back-slapping host to massage the egos of the old boys by bringing up their past glories. It needs someone not afraid to ask real, probing questions, a journalist rather than an ex pro – how about the superb Ian Dennis of 5Live

But, frankly, a new presenter isn’t enough to shake MOTD out of its slumber (Alan Hansen certainly sleepwalks his way through each episode). So let’s take a broom and clear out the tired old pundits and the squeaky, hyperventilating commentators while we’re at it.

Follow Chris Cutmore on Twitter @Chris_Cutmore

James Andrew

James Richardson is the man the BBC need to breath new life into Match of the Day. The presenter was hugely popular as the face of Football Italia in the 90s. His relaxed style of presenting would suit the MOTD2 format yet he is informed enough to ask the key questions.

As for pundits, a younger breed is needed, people who can relate to the game today, not the 1980s. Danny Murphy is being groomed by Sky and is someone who is intelligent and articulate, so if the BBC could poach him he could provide fresh insight.

Follow James Andrew on Twitter @JamesAndrew_

Alex Horlock

I'd give Mark Pougatch a shot at hosting. He's been in the game for years on BBC 5Live and has done a tremendous job time and again. He's been covering the live football to an incredibly high standard with the Beeb and has proven how capable he is to entice listeners. What little he's done on television, he's looked assured. To accompany him, I'd keep Alan Hansen and make sure Pat Nevin was on the panel every week – he's a near-flawless pundit.

Follow Alex Horlock on Twitter @alexhorlock

Rory McIlroy still backing Paul McGinley over Colin Montgomerie for Ryder Cup capatin

Forget Monty, McGinley is the man! McIlroy still backing Irishman for Ryder Cup captain

By
Derek Lawrenson

PUBLISHED:

08:35 GMT, 15 January 2013

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UPDATED:

17:06 GMT, 15 January 2013

Rory McIlroy ramped up the
pressure on Europe’s Tournament Players’ Committee on Tuesday by
repeating his insistence that Paul McGinley had to be the next Ryder Cup
captain.

The 15-man committee meet on Tuesday
night to nominate the successor to Jose Maria Olazabal and speculation
has grown in recent days that Colin Montgomerie, the skipper at Celtic
Manor in 2010, might get the nod for a second term at Gleneagles next
year.

Scroll down for video

Backing: Rory McIlroy wants Paul McGinley to captain the European team at the 2014 Ryder Cup

Backing: Rory McIlroy wants Paul McGinley to captain the European team at the 2014 Ryder Cup

In the money: McIlroy was unveiled as Nike's latest big-name signing in Abu Dhabi

In the money: McIlroy was unveiled as Nike's latest big-name signing in Abu Dhabi

‘I have a very strong opinion about
this and I’d be disappointed if it was Monty,’ said McIlroy.

‘I firmly
believe that captaincy should be a one-time thing. I first played under
Paul at the Seve Trophy in 2009 and he is the best captain I have played
under, and deserves his chance. His attention to detail his second to
none and he is also very inspirational.’

McIlroy believes that the voice of the players who worked their miracle at Medinah last year ought to be heard.

‘When you have myself, and Poults
(Ian Poulter), Luke (Donald) and several others all saying the same thing,
I’d like to think our opinion is valid,’ he said.

Next in line Paul McGinley

Take two: Colin Montgomerie could return

Decision: Paul McGinley (left) is tipped to lead Europe but Colin Montgomerie could be back for a second term

Top 10 football flicks: Neymar not the only one capable

Neymar Zola Otsemobor Pick your favourite flick from our top 10

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UPDATED:

01:28 GMT, 5 December 2012

Brazilian star Neymar wowed us all with his outrageous flicked pass for Santos on Sunday night, but he's not the first player to pull an audacious bit of skill out of the bag at the drop of a hat.

Today, thanks to the game’s ever increasing popularity and global appeal, we have a range of tricks and skills that can leave even opposing defenders dumbfounded, but you just can't beat a good old flick.

Here, Sportsmail picks out 10 of the best…

Outrageous: Neymar shocked viewers with his skill at the weekend

Outrageous: Neymar shocked viewers with his skill at the weekend

Paul Gascoigne

One of England’s finest talents in the past 30 years also produced one of the European Championships’ finest ever goals at Euro 96.

A deft touch over the head of Colin Hendry to leave the Scotland defender on the ground before volleying home is fondly remembered as one of the best goals ever seen at Wembley – old and new.

Dennis Bergkamp

Even by Bergkamp’s ridiculous high standards this was something special. During a 2-0 win against Newcastle in the Premier League in March 2002, the Dutchman’s first touch was enough to completely bamboozle Nikos Dabizas before the Arsenal striker ran around the defender and calmly slotted home.

Gianfranco Zola

No wonder Chelsea were desperate to keep Zola after he decided to leave in 2003. From a low corner kick, the Italian put this 2002 FA Cup tie with Norwich to rest with a delicate back heel flick into the near post that left just about everyone inside Stamford Bridge startled.

Jay-Jay Okocha

Bolton under Sam Allardyce were often considered boring, one dimensional and long ball hoof merchants. But how many teams looking to see out a game from a corner kick decide to rainbow flick their way out of trouble in injury time against the Premier League champions, in this case Arsenal Remember, the Trotters and Jay-Jay Okocha did it as early as 2003.

Matty Burrows

An injury time winner scored with a double back heel flick from a cross is the sort of stuff not even Roy of the Rovers could produce.

But Burrows certainly could, and his stunning goal for Glentoran against Portadown was so good it was nominated by FIFA for Goal of the Year in 2010.

Joseph Ndo

Having gone to the 1998 and 2002 World Cups with Cameroon, you would think Ndo’s best years were behind him having spent nine years playing in Ireland.

But this pass off the back of his heel to find a team-mate while playing for Sligo Rovers last year shows the 36-year-old is possibly due an international recall.

Rodrigo Palacio

Better than Zola Quite possibly. Genoa’s Palacio proves there is some magic left in Serie A with a delightful back flick while running away from goal to meet a corner against Lazio last season. Spurs could have done with something like that against the Rome outfit in the Europa League this term following two 0-0 draws.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Proof that El Clasico isn’t just 22 men trying to win a free-kick after the slightest bit of contact. Ronaldo’s back heel to play himself through on goal is made even sweeter by his control of the difficult falling ball and subsequent finish to hand Real Madrid the lead against Barcelona back in August.

Neymar

Just to prove any doubters wrong of Neymar’s ability – here is one he made earlier playing for Santos. During a match against Atletico Mineiro in October, the Chelsea target left a defender so outraged by his perfect rainbow flick that it drew a cynical foul and a free-kick just outside the box. Genius.

Jon Otsemobor

The magic of the cup strikes again. A pulsating and historic FA Cup tie on Sunday between MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon was decided in stoppage time with the most casual of flicks from Otsemobor, whose strike (or lazy lift of the foot) for the Dons gave them a 2-1 victory over a Wimbledon side who play their trade a division below in League Two.

Lyle follows Torrance, Montgomerie and Lawrie into Scottish Hall of Fame

Lyle follows Torrance, Montgomerie and Lawrie into Scottish Hall of Fame

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UPDATED:

00:40 GMT, 2 November 2012

Two-time major champion Sandy Lyle will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Scottish Golf Awards.

Lyle will be granted the honour at a
celebration of Scottish Golf's achievements over the past 12 months on
March 1, 2013 in Glasgow, 25 years after winning The Masters at Augusta.

Top man: Sandy Lyle

Top man: Sandy Lyle

The 54-year-old, who also won the 1985 Open and featured in five Ryder Cup tournaments, said: 'It is an honour to receive such a prestigious award from the Scottish golfing public.'

Lyle will follow Sam Torrance, Colin Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie into the Hall of Fame.

Blackburn 0 Wolves 1: Match report

Blackburn 0 Wolves 1: Soko goal sinks Rovers as fans flock back to Ewood

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UPDATED:

16:36 GMT, 6 October 2012

Wolves striker Bakary Sako's spectacular strike 12 minutes from time ensured Blackburn's first home game of the post Steve Kean era ended in defeat.

A crowd of 17,034 was comfortably Rovers' highest of the season as hoards of disgruntled fans returned to Ewood Park to mark the end of Kean's deeply unpopular reign.

But they were subjected to a lacklustre performance as caretaker boss Eric Black stuck with the five-man defence that secured a goalless draw at Nottingham Forest in midweek, leaving forwards Jordan Rhodes and Colin Kazim-Richards to probe manfully with little service.

Take that: Wolves Bakary Sako celebrates with Anthony Forde after scoring the winning goal for his side

Take that: Wolves Bakary Sako celebrates with Anthony Forde after scoring the winning goal for his side

Match facts

Blackburn: Robinson, Orr, Dann, Givet, Martin Olsson, Formica (Nunes 46), Grant Hanley, Murphy, Lowe (Etuhu 72), Kazim-Richards, Rhodes.

Subs Not Used: Kean, Dunn, Pedersen, Rochina, Nuno Gomes.

Wolverhampton: Ikeme, Stearman (Forde 53), Johnson, Berra, Foley, Davis (Zubar 61), Doumbia, Henry, Ward, Sako, Ebanks-Blake (Batth 87).

Subs Not Used: McCarey, Nouble, Jonsson, Margreitter.

Booked: Henry, Sako.

Goal: Sako 78.

Attendance: 17,034

Referee: Nigel Miller

Click here for the latest npower Championship results, fixtures and table

Rhodes had claims for penalties rejected in each half and his strike partner spurned Rovers' best chance shortly after Sako's magnificent long-range effort left goalkeeper Paul Robinson with no chance.

Stale Solbakken's Wolves leapfrog their opponents to go third on the back of three consecutive wins on the road, while Blackburn fall to ninth with no victory in four matches.

Wolves started the brighter of the two sides and Sako drew a fine early save from Robinson, firing a loose ball through a crowd of defenders.

Moments after a robust challenge from Karl Henry on Kazim-Richards went unpunished, Rovers had a penalty appeal waved away by referee Nigel Miller when Rhodes went to ground under the attentions of Richard Stearman.

The visitors should have taken the lead in the 19th minute, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake thudding a header against the post from Kevin Foley's cross.

Happy man: Wolves manager Stale Solbakken celebrates at the end of the game

Happy man: Wolves manager Stale Solbakken celebrates at the end of the game

Kazim-Richards almost found a vital touch at the end of Martin Olsson's teasing left-wing cross before the Blackburn striker was clattered on the knee with half an hour gone – Henry failing to escape a booking on this occasion following a heated altercation.

Rhodes' poachers instincts were on display five minutes before half-time when he collected the scraps from a goalmouth scramble to force a reaction stop from Wolves keeper Carl Ikeme.

The Scotland international striker had another penalty shout turned down early in the second half when he grappled with Roger Johnson and continued to look like Rovers' main threat despite little ammunition.

In the 51st minute Blackburn winger Fabio Nunes mishit a cross that landed on the top of the net with Ikeme scrambling.

Wolves got bodies in the way of speculative efforts from Bradley Orr, Danny Murphy and Kazim-Richards before the visitors regained the attacking impetus they showed in the first half.

Substitute Anthony Forde might have done better when he curled beyond the far post following excellent work from Sako.

In he 78th minute, Sako decided to do the work himself to glorious effect.
Blackburn only partially cleared a corner and the ball fell to the Frenchman, who took a fine first touch to engineer space and rifled a superb 25-yard effort beyond Robinson.

Rovers almost levelled moments later when Nunes produced a delicious cross that caused confusion between Ikeme and Wolves centre-back Christophe Berra, but Kazim-Richards could not direct his close-range header goalwards.

As the hosts belatedly committed men forward, Forde burst forward on the counter attack in stoppage time but blazed wide with only Robinson to beat and fellow substitute Ronald Zubar unmarked.

Ryder Cup 2012: Jack Nicklaus serves up painful reminder to Colin Montgomerie

Tee Room: Golden Bear serves up a painful reminder for Monty

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UPDATED:

23:43 GMT, 30 September 2012

As if watching Europe struggle to retain the trophy he led them to two years ago wasn’t bad enough, Colin Montgomerie had salt rubbed in the wound by Jack Nicklaus.

As the pair sat together in the commentary box, Nicklaus declared: ‘You’ve got to win some majors to be rated,’ before cheekily adding: ‘Oh, sorry Colin.’

Rubbing salt in the wound: 14-time major winner Nicklaus (centre)

Rubbing salt in the wound: 14-time major winner Nicklaus (centre)

Breakfast beers!

Hardly surprising there have been a few drunken oafs around considering the first outlet incoming spectators got at Medinah was a man selling bottles of the local brew from a box.

His sales pitch was a cheerful ‘Breakfast beers, breakfast beers! If you don’t start in the morning you can’t drink all day!’

Iron out whinges, Lee

Lee
Westwood was among those whingeing about the greens – a vested interest
after his feeble pairing performances perhaps – complaining that they
have speeded up unusually after lunch.

It is true, however, that the greens were ‘ironed’ on Friday between foursomes and fourballs, and nobody told the Europeans.

In the dark: Westwood was unhappy that the greens were ironed out

In the dark: Westwood was unhappy that the greens were ironed out

Check this lot out…

One of the most staggering sights of the Ryder Cup has been the merchandise tent.

As long as a football pitch and more than half one’s width, the norm has been a queue 100 yards long to get into the snaking lines of the paying area, where 85 assistants are on the check-out desks.

This temple of consumption dwarfs its equivalent at The Open.

Barack is Bushwhacked

Former US Presidents George Bush and George W Bush were supporting the Americans this weekend and gave a pep talk on Saturday night. Barack Obama was invited but despite deep local connections said he was otherwise engaged.

After taking flak for the amount of golf he plays he might not have wished to come too near anyway.

You'll never putt alone

Two things you never knew about Keegan Bradley, whose Ryder Cup exploits have made him a superstar in American golf – even if taking on world No 1 Rory McIlroy on the final day proved a step too far.

Up to the age of 13 Bradley was among the most outstanding ski racers in mountainous Vermont before turning to his talents to the game of golf instead. His Christian names are Keegan Hanson – but there is no Liverpool connection.

Ryder Cup 2012: Europe must prove they can overcome USA home crowd

The time for trash talk is over… Europe's finest must prove they can be pitch perfect

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UPDATED:

21:37 GMT, 27 September 2012

At the end of this sporting summer, where one moment of a lifetime has followed another, is it too much to ask for a glorious encore that stands comparison

Fortunately, we might just have one with the 39th Ryder Cup, a contest that promises three days of mesmerising drama and unspeakable tension.

Keepy-uppy: Europe star and world No 1 Rory McIlroy shows off his football skills on the 17th tee

Keepy-uppy: Europe star and world No 1 Rory McIlroy shows off his football skills on the 17th tee

Keepy-uppy: Europe star and world No 1 Rory McIlroy shows off his football skills on the 17th tee

Keepy-uppy: Europe star and world No 1 Rory McIlroy shows off his football skills on the 17th tee

It's tee time!

At 7.20am in Medinah (1.20pm UK time),
a very nervous European will tee off to kick-start the 39th Ryder Cup.
So how does it feel to stand on that first tee with the eyes of the world on you It’s a jelly-legs moment, as these players recount.

Colin Montgomerie
(Oak Hill, 1995)

‘The pressure facing the first shot
is as intense as it gets. It became an achievement just to stand up. I
was just gulping air like mad. The electricity was fantastic. Nick
Faldo, my playing partner, said it was a three-wood, so I teed the ball
down, took a practice swing and, thankfully, managed to make contact,
which is all you can really ask for in those situations.’

Corey Pavin
(The Belfry, 1993)

‘I can’t even describe how nervous I
was. I put the tee in the ground and I went to put the ball on and
realised my hand was shaking so much. I decided to just drop the ball,
hoping it would stay on the tee. Thank goodness it did. I was able to
compose myself and hit a drive down the middle.’

Nick Faldo
(Lytham St Annes, 1977)

‘Peter Oosterhuis told me I’d be
first. I was a bag of nerves and decided to go off and calm down by
hitting 20 extra five and six irons. Of course, when I stepped on the
tee I saw instantly it was a four-iron shot. I missed the green.
Thereafter, it was the first time I’d ever experienced my stomach
churning for a whole round.’

The game and its supporters stand ready
to make their own, unique contribution. Nowhere else would you find
50,000 people prepared to gather at a shade after 7am to make an unholy
racket. Nowhere else are sportsmen asked to strain every sinew for the
best part of 12 hours and then come back the next day and do it all over
again, with no monetary reward but the chance of something far more
precious: points for their team.

Here we have a course set up to demonstrate just how good the best players from the United States and Europe have become. With no rough, the bombers on either team are going to have no qualms in firing off howitzers. Around the greens, the great short-game merchants are going to relish the tight lies that offer the chance to show off and chip in. The putting surfaces are so pure, the wizards with the short stick cannot wait to weave their spell.

There is a lot of nonsense spoken about setting up a course to favour one side over the other but what America’s captain Davis Love has done is create the conditions for an extravaganza of attacking play in the knowledge that this offers him his best chance of fully involving the crowd, the so-called ‘13th man’.

Boy, is it likely to be loud. At the gala dinner on Wednesday, brilliant compere Justin Timberlake (best line: ‘I’m so into golf that the first time I heard them talk about a pop superstar obsessed with wearing a white glove, I assumed they meant me.’) was extolling the virtues of Europe’s captain, Jose Maria Olazabal. Suddenly, a lone voice yelled: ‘Goin’ down, baby!’ It prompted an extended chorus of ‘USA! USA!’ that almost took the roof off.

That will be sweet music to the likes of Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy, of course. The noisier the better as far as they are concerned. They are accustomed to playing in front of large, excitable crowds, and never happier than when someone lays down a challenge.

Passion: Fans cheer at the start of the opening ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club

Passion: Fans cheer at the start of the opening ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club

Mo problem: American fans show off their patriotic moustaches on Thursday at Medinah

Mo problem: American fans show off their patriotic moustaches on Thursday at Medinah

Ryder Cup bingo!

Seven items to mark off on your card on day one…

6.01am
With the gates open, the first sighting of someone dressed head to toe in Stars and Stripes.

6.45am
The first chant of the ever-imaginative ‘USA, USA!’ Europe fans respond with football-style ditties.

7.20am
Players
arrive on the first tee, with the colour drained from their faces as
they are about to play golf’s most nerve-racking opening shot.

7.31am
The first annoying shout of ‘Get in the Hole!’ is heard on the first green.

8.30am
Initial sighting of Ian Poulter’s eyes bulging out on their stalks as he starts to get his putter going.

11.20am

Davis Love and Jose Maria Olazabal submit their afternoon pairings. Tactical geniuses or Captain Calamities

2.00pm

With the fourballs having gone off, the first reports come in of
European players being abused by the odd home supporter fresh from a
bibulous lunch.

But what about the unsung men on the
team, the honest souls who largely ply their trade in quiet corners of
the European Tour, where the galleries restrict themselves to a
smattering of applause and the odd moment of vocal encouragement

Look
back through the annals and the difference between winning and losing
often comes down to how these players rise to the challenge on Sunday.
They are usually ‘hidden’ somewhere in the middle of the order but there
is no hiding place when the fate of the Ryder Cup comes down to your
match.

Think back to how Eamonn Darcy met the challenge in 1987, Christy O’Connor Jnr in 1989, Philip Walton in 1995 and Paul McGinley in 2002. Europe’s destiny this weekend might well lie in how the unheralded continental members of this team handle the atmosphere.

Thank goodness the action is about to start, because frankly some of the players have not covered themselves in glory in the build-up. Yes, we know where Poulter and Brandt Snedeker are coming from. But do we really need to hear inflammatory rhetoric like ‘killing the opposition’ from Poulter, or ‘beating their brains in’ from Snedeker No prizes for phraseology, chaps.

Let us hope the partisanship does not
overstep the mark. Offering encouragement is the fact that Chicago is
undoubtedly one of the friendliest big cities in America. At the gala
dinner, Luke Donald got a wonderful hometown reception while the roar
that greeted McIlroy’s entrance was only a shade behind that afforded US
superstars Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

United under one flag: European fans are heavily outnumbered but can match their hosts for excitment

United under one flag: European fans are heavily outnumbered but can match their hosts for excitment

Hair-raising: Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal signs autographs for a group of fans on the 18th hole

Hair-raising: Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal signs autographs for a group of fans on the 18th hole

The basics

The winner of each match
earns a point. There is half a point each if a match is halved. There
are 28 points on offer, so 14 points wins the cup. At 14-14, the
defending team (Europe) retain the cup.

Schedule

Friday – 4 x foursomes in the morning and 4 x fourballs in the afternoon.

Saturday – 4 x foursomes in the morning and 4 x fourballs in the afternoon.

Sunday — 12 singles matches.

Format

Fourballs
Two players on either side, four balls in play. The player with the lowest score wins the hole for his team.

Foursomes
Two
players on either side but only one ball is used by each pair as
players hit alternate shots. The team with the lowest score wins the
hole.

Singles
Captains list their players from 1 to 12. They then play against their opposite numbers.

But you can guarantee the likes of
Mickelson and Bubba Watson will be doing plenty of arm-waving, intent on
whipping up the atmosphere. They will want it every bit as
uncomfortable for the Europeans as it was for the Americans at Celtic
Manor.

Shadowing the proceedings, of course, will be the spectral presence of Seve Ballesteros in this, the first Ryder Cup since his death. It is a great sadness to those of us lucky enough to have witnessed Seve and Ollie’s great moments on the course that the pair are not walking in tandem off it here. But on this, the 25th anniversary of the first time they played together in the Ryder Cup, you can be sure the memory of Seve will be instilled in Olazabal’s every thought and deed.

‘What did I learn from Seve You
always try your hardest and you never, ever give in.’ You could see
Olazabal repeating that message in his final words to his team, couldn’t
you

And so the sporting
year that none of us really want to end has reached its final, great
occasion — and it is that time of a preview when a correspondent is
required to make a prediction. This one really is so close to call.
Europe have most of the best partnerships and America have the
formidable advantage of home soil.

Only
once in the last seven Ryder Cups has the home team not won, so that is
the scale of the task facing the away side. But, in the spirit of
Seve, let’s go with the heart.

Let’s go with Europe.

Home advantage: America's (left-right) Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson

Home advantage: America's (left-right) Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson

Ryder Cup 2012: This could turn nasty like Brookline – Colin Montgomerie

This Ryder Cup could turn nasty… just like the Battle of Brookline, warns Monty

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UPDATED:

21:13 GMT, 23 September 2012

Colin Montgomerie is worried that Europe's golfers could this week face the most hostile atmosphere a Ryder Cup has seen since the infamous events at Brookline 13 years ago.

The man who captained the Continent to victory at Celtic Manor in 2010 is calling for the inevitable patriotic home support at Medinah, just outside Chicago, to be sufficiently restrained that it avoids any repeat of past Ryder Cup excesses, although there is a danger that might not happen.

‘There is a risk,’ he said. ‘I think that what you find is that playing away from home in America when they want it back is a difficult place to play golf and I do hope that everyone realises that and allows the Europeans to play to their potential. Unfortunately, on the Sunday of the Ryder Cup in 1999, that wasn’t available to us.

Patriot games: The USA team runs onto the 17th green in unsavoury scenes at Brookline in 1999 after Justin Leonard holed a putt that all but won the Ryder Cup

Patriot games: The USA team runs onto the 17th green in unsavoury scenes at Brookline in 1999 after Justin Leonard holed a putt that all but won the Ryder Cup

Fever pitch: The intimidating atmosphere at Brookline is infamous

Fever pitch: The intimidating atmosphere at Brookline is infamous

‘I think the world changed — I mean the Ryder Cup and sporting events in which America played internationally — changed after 9/11. America realised we were their allies. But time moves on, everything moves on and I have a slight fear that it is going to be very difficult for us Europeans to perform to our potential.’

Montgomerie, who this year will be there in his role as an analyst with Sky Sports, believes that his successor Jose Maria Olazabal is equipped to cope with the different pressures of being captain in an away match, even if the venue outside Chicago seems the most friendless place.

‘If it does happen we’ve got the best guy in Olazabal to cope with it,’ said Montgomerie. ‘I’ve played four of these Ryder Cups away from home. They are tough, they are harder. He understands that, he’s played four away from home as well so understands that it’s not going to be easy.

‘We’re not just thinking, “We all play in America, Luke Donald lives in Chicago and they like him, and Rory and Lee as well”.

Beware: Even Rory McIlroy won't be spared by the home crowd, says Monty

Beware: Even Rory McIlroy won't be spared by the home crowd, says Monty

‘No, no, this is the Ryder Cup, this is different and we’re not silly enough not to realise this. It’s going to be hard, very hard for everybody to perform to their ability in an atmosphere they haven’t experienced. It will be foreign to a lot of the guys who haven’t played in a Ryder Cup in America before – Francesco Molinari, Peter Hanson, Nicolas Colsaerts – and it is very different.’

Montgomerie offers just one piece of advice to Olazabal — not to go into the match with rigid thoughts. He said: ‘Just one thing that I would say to him is he has to be flexible. You can’t go with say Graeme McDowell playing with Rory McIlroy all the time, you just can’t go with that one scenario, you’ve got to be flexible. I had a problem when I put Ian Poulter with Ross Fisher and it didn’t work that first morning, didn’t ignite any fire, so I had to change them and be flexible.’

Whatever the outside pressures, Montgomerie expects the closest of contests: ‘I think the two teams this year are extremely evenly matched. If you look at the world rankings they are pretty even, the things that they’ve done,’ he said.

‘I therefore would have to take the Americans as slight favourites because of where they’re playing and that’s all. It’s difficult to win there and the last three Ryder Cups have been won by the home teams. I think I would slightly favour by half a point the Americans because of where it’s played.

‘It could even be a tie which would be great because that means we’d retain it.’

Sebastian Coe will stand to be chairman of the British Olympic Association

Olympics king Coe confirms he will stand for BOA chairman role

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UPDATED:

16:51 GMT, 10 September 2012

Sebastian Coe has confirmed he will stand to be the next chairman of the British Olympic Association.

Lord Coe, the London 2012 chairman, said he had been approached to stand as the successor to Colin Moynihan by the BOA committee appointed to draw up a list of candidates.

Coe said: 'I have been approached and I am happy for my name go to forward.'

Proud: Sebastian Coe waves to athletes during the parade on Monday

Proud: Sebastian Coe waves to athletes during the parade on Monday

Future: Lord Coe (right) could become the new chairman of the BOA

Future: Lord Coe (right) could become the new chairman of the BOA

More to follow.

Harry Redknapp to be Match of the Day pundit

Former Spurs boss Redknapp swaps touchline for place on Match of the Day sofa

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UPDATED:

10:02 GMT, 17 August 2012

Wasn't he supposed to be the England manager

It's certainly been an incredible year already for Harry Redknapp, and the next step is a regular place on the Match of the Day sofa.

Redknapp, who left as Tottenham boss at the end of last season, will appear on football's fabled programme over the coming months.

Taking an interest: Redknapp watches Bournemouth play Reading in a pre-season friendly earlier this month

Taking an interest: Redknapp watches Bournemouth play Reading in a pre-season friendly earlier this month

It seemed at one time that Redknapp might replace Fabio Capello as England manager, but the job went to Roy Hodgson instead.

Redknapp was expected to work for the BBC during Euro 2012, but pulled out just before the tournament.

Mick McCarthy, who has been used by the BBC at big international tournaments in the past, will also be airing his views on Saturday and Sunday nights.

New direction: Redknapp was Spurs manager last season

New direction: Redknapp was Spurs manager last season

As for the top team Well, there's no change there.

Gary Lineker will present the Saturday version of the show, with Colin Murray the front man on Sunday evenings.

The two top pundits are Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer. It's safe to say we'll be hearing the words 'shocking defending' more than once or twice.

The BBC came under fire from many fans in the summer for their laborious coverage of Euro 2012. It isn't often that ITV win nearly all the plaudits during a big event.

All eyes will be on the BBC once again in the new domestic season, to see if they can provide viewers with something a little more inspired.