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Nicklas Bendtner on Arsenal, Juventus and art – exclusive

From pants to paintings! The renaissance of Nicklas Bendtner as the on-loan Juventus striker speaks exclusively to Sportsmail

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UPDATED:

22:50 GMT, 19 November 2012

Not too long ago Nicklas Bendtner was paying 80,000 for a pair of green underpants, so it's refreshing to discover the more sophisticated way he has found to spend his money.

From his favourite Damien Hirst painting to the three sculptures he has added to his growing collection, Bendtner has developed a passion for modern art.

Considering some of his antics during an eight-year career in England, some people could be forgiven for struggling to accept the colourful and at times controversial Arsenal striker as a Renaissance Man now he has moved to Italy on loan for the season with Juventus.

Italian job: Bendtner is spending the season on loan at Juventus

Italian job: Bendtner is spending the season on loan at Juventus

But sitting in a cafe close to his apartment in an upmarket area of Turin, cradling a double expresso, 24-year-old Bendtner certainly looks and sounds the part.

'Some of my friends in London are in the art world and they introduced me to it slowly,' he says.

'There are always new things happening in that world, new artists coming up, so it's something you can never get tired of if you understand what I mean. The new thing I like are the graffiti artists, I think they're quite interesting.

Moving on: It seems unlikely that the Denmark international will play for Arsenal again

Moving on: It seems unlikely that the Denmark international will play for Arsenal again

'I have seven paintings and three sculptures which I'm really proud of. My favourite is probably the first one I bought which is the Damien Hirst. I love it. I can look at it all day long. It represents me in sort of a way because I can see something of me in it. That keeps me looking at it and finding new things. 'It's nice when you get to know a person and find a new depth to them. Each time you meet there's something new and interesting cropping up.'

The painting is particularly significant to Bendtner because he believes people stopped looking for anything new in him a long time ago.

'I got a bit stuck in England,' he says. 'At times I felt I was misunderstood and people had sort of boxed me off.

That's pants: Bendtner was fined 80,000 by UEFA for this celebration at Euro 2012

That's pants: Bendtner was fined 80,000 by UEFA for this celebration at Euro 2012

'Everyone will have an opinion of me but very few know what I'm like. A lot of things have been written about me and taken out of proportion. Nicklas said this, Nicklas said that. No matter how many times I try to clear it up, people never seem to let it go. That's what I mean by the painting.

'I felt it was important to come to a new country and get a new start; get my career going again. 'Italy has such great romance. it's very beautiful. They have an art fair in Venice which is amazing, and Florence. They have so many great painters – not that I'll be able to afford them in my lifetime.'

This could come across as pretentious but it doesn't. Bendtner is polite, engaging and genuinely passionate about his art. Not many footballers would invite you up to their apartment to show off a painting.

Nicklas Bendtner

Nicklas Bendtner

Struggle: Bendtner failed to impress at Arsenal before being shipped out on a season-long loan to Sunderland

Ironically, one of the streets leading to it is called Via Arsenale. His time in North London was punctuated by loan spells at Birmingham then last season at Sunderland, and it now seems unlikely that he will play for the Gunners again.

Bendtner's Arsenal career went into decline following a serious car crash in September 2009 when his Aston Martin collided with a tree on the way to training. The incident led to a persistent groin injury that later required surgery and loss of form. It also caused the fun-loving Dane to re-assess his lifestyle.

'It set me back a huge deal,' he admits. 'When I finally got over that I was still part of Arsenal but not as I was before.

Slow start: Bendtner missed the first five games after arriving in Turin a little overweight

Slow start: Bendtner missed the first five games after arriving in Turin a little overweight

'Everything just hit me at once. I went through a complete transition and changed everything in my life after that.

'I'm still young but when I was younger I maybe didn't think about what I had, what a big deal it was, and what you could do if you really put your mind to it.

'Yes that [drinking and parties] was part of it. There are other aspects which are a bit more personal that I don't want to get into.'

Bendtner's tempestuous relationship with Baroness Caroline Luel-Brockdorff – they were dubbed Denmark's Posh and Becks – was one of the casualties. It did, however, produce their baby son Nicholas, and fatherhood has also played its part in altering his outlook on the world. He is in the process of launching a new charity, Rich Without Money, in aid of children with terminal diseases.

Dutch of class: The Denmark ace can sympathise with Van Persie after joining Manchester United

Dutch of class: The Denmark ace can sympathise with Van Persie after joining Manchester United

'When you experience the birth of your child, it's amazing what happens,' he says. 'You change in your way of thinking.

'If you draw a circle and put arrows out there saying “this is in your life, and this is what you really need” there is actually very little you need to be happy.

'It's always been something I wanted but I probably wasn't as prepared as I thought I was. This last year it's just started to happen.'

It would be fair to say that is not a completely changed man, however. Less than a year ago Bendtner felt compelled to issue a public apology following a series of off-the-field scrapes. And then, of course, there were those green underpants.

They caused a bit of a stir at Euro 2012 when he hitched down his shorts after scoring a second goal against Portugal to reveal the name of a well-known Irish bookmaker. The company reimbursed him for the 80,000 fine from UEFA but could do nothing about a one-match ban.

Nor have Bendtner's opinions mellowed with age. He is still typically forthright about the club he left behind now and the departures of other Arsenal players like Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song. If Sunderland could be seen as a step down after Arsenal, then Juventus certainly are not.

'I don't have a bad word to say about Arsenal but if you had to compare the trophies then Juventus are like Manchester United,' he says.

Arty impression: Bendtner doesn't have a bad word to say about Arsenal

Arty impression: Bendtner doesn't have a bad word to say about Arsenal

'You feel it's maybe even a bigger step than Arsenal. 'I thought it would be good for me to come here to a big club with big expectations, sort of how it was at Arsenal when I first went there. With all the tradition, if you can make it here and score goals then you can make it anywhere.

'Arsenal have sold off a lot of stars and not replaced them whereas Juventus would not sell one star without bringing in another straightaway. That's what has kept them on top of the pile.

Exclusive: The Dane was speaking to Sportsmail

Exclusive: The Dane was speaking to Sportsmail

'From what I'm hearing, some of the players left because they didn't feel Arsenal still had the same ambitions as they did.

'I can't blame people for wanting to go to United or Barcelona. Robin has been brilliant since he's been at United. He was the main man as soon as Cesc left. He became captain and took the responsibility. Everybody could see he had that ability at Arsenal and now he's improved because he probably thought he could get better at United.

'I feel that if I was still there I would be able to compete for a place. Despite what happened to me it's still a great club and I still feel for some people there. I wouldn't say that I can never ever go back but at the moment it's not on my mind.'

Some might say that Bendtner was fortunate to join the Italian champions after a spell at Sunderland that brought eight goals in 28 games. Juve's sporting director Giuseppe Marotta even admitted that he was not their first choice target, and he missed the first five games after arriving in Turin a little overweight.

But as the Italians prepare to meet Chelsea at Juventus Stadium on Tuesday night, Bendtner is back in shape and happy again.

'I've settled in quite well,' he says. 'The hardest thing has been that none of the coaches apart from one speak any English so it's been difficult for me to communicate with the staff and the players.

'I have a teacher but I'm getting a new one because we didn't get on – she didn't speak English or Italian very well!

'I've never trained so hard in my life. It's a very different set-up to England. Here they like you to come in every day. It's just the Italian way, not just Juventus, and something you adapt to.

'Since coming here I've literally had two days off in two months, and I've spent them with family.'

He might have new interests in life but Bendtner is still prepared to suffer for his art.

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Steven Gerrard emulates Bobby Moore photo with schoolkids in Liverpool – EXCLUSIVE

EXCLUSIVE: On the eve of his 100th cap, Steven Gerrard shares special moment with pupils at his former school — emulating the famous picture of England's iconic captain Bobby Moore

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UPDATED:

22:58 GMT, 12 November 2012

Steven Gerrard was standing in the middle of a tiny school hall when the magnitude of what he was about to achieve struck home.

As he looked around, the memories came flooding back. Gerrard is on the verge of winning his 100th England cap but the morning he spent at Huyton-with-Roby Church of England Primary School put the journey to the top of his profession firmly into context.

This was where it had all began. There could have been no more fitting place, then, for him to mark the achievement of becoming England's sixth footballing centurion than by returning to his first school and recreating the iconic image of Bobby Moore in 1973, surrounded by 99 children, each wearing one of his international caps.

Stevie's a class act: Gerrard poses for this exclusive photograph for the Daily Mail with 99 children from his former school

Stevie's a class act: Gerrard poses for this exclusive photograph for the Daily Mail with children from his former school on the eve of his 100th England cap

Gerrard looked overwhelmed as the photoshoot began, even if the youngest members of the assembled children were blissfully unaware of who he was.

Others were so excited they chirruped the song the Liverpool supporters sing to him, minus the colourful language, of course.

'It was brilliant to go back,' said the England current skipper. 'When I was walking around and getting ready for the picture, it put my whole career into perspective.

If the caps fit: Bobby Moore poses in his England kit with 99 boys from the school opposite West Ham's Upton Park ground on the eve of his 100th game for his country in 1973

If the caps fit: Moore poses in his England kit with 99 boys from the school opposite West Ham's Upton Park ground on the eve of his 100th game for his country in 1973

'I went there when I was only four years of age and I couldn't help but think where I was then and where I have got to now, on the verge of 100 caps.

'It put everything into perspective. I couldn't help thinking how well things have gone and how lucky I have been. I had so many happy memories of being in school and it was just nice to go back and see what it was like again. It was really poignant.

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Hats off: The England and Liverpool captain poses a number of exclusive snaps taken by Daily Mail Chief Sports Photographer Andy Hooper

Hats off: The England and Liverpool captain poses for a number of exclusive snaps taken by Daily Mail Chief Sports Photographer Andy Hooper

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To cap it all: Gerrard with 99 pupils from his old school in Huyton

'I haven't been back for about seven or eight years, so part of the reason for wanting to have the picture taken there was to share it with the teachers and the children.

'That was the first place where I kicked a ball. None of my family would have thought then that I'd go on to play for England.'

Huyton-with-Roby was known as St Michael's Church of England Primary School when Gerrard attended. It has changed since he left in 1991, but Gerrard's impact since has been profound and in one hall there is 'an aspiration corner', where one of Gerrard's Liverpool shirts hangs.

Stricken: Steven Gerrard will have a scan on his knee after picking up an injury against Chelsea

Scare: Gerrard was given the all-clear to face Sweden after sustaining a knee injury in the draw at Chelsea on Sunday

Its aim is to inspire future generations and, judging by the reception he received, his inspirational qualities are not in question. The 30 minutes the 99 children spent with Gerrard, as the cameras clicked to get the perfect image before the heavens opened, will not be forgotten either – by him or the staff of his old school.

'I'm not keen on having my picture taken, but this was special,' said Gerrard. 'I had memories of being on the playground, playing football in the little halls or being stood outside the headmaster's office if I'd been naughty.

Back where it all began: Former England boss presents Gerrard with his first cap in 2000

Back where it all began: Former England manager Kevin Keegan presents Gerrard with his first cap in 2000

'I remember making the walk to school from the Bluebell Estate where I grew up and it would be nice to think that maybe some of the kids who do the same walk now could achieve something themselves in the future.

'If you believe in yourself, you can do it. 'I had not seen the original picture of Bobby Moore until I was asked to do this. I went online and as soon as I saw it, I was both flattered and delighted to have the opportunity. Bobby Moore is an England legend and an iconic figure, so to be asked to emulate that was overwhelming.

'As I said, I'm not the biggest fan of having my picture taken, but this was different. In years to come, it will be fantastic to look back on with my own family and children.'

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Paolo Di Canio furious after Swindon lose to Macceslfield

I want to fine my players! Di Canio fumes after Swindon crash to Macclesfield

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UPDATED:

21:34 GMT, 3 November 2012

Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio wants to dock the wages of his players after they slumped to a home defeat by Blue Square Bet Premier side Macclesfield.

Di Canio, furious at the way his team were defeated by second-half goals from Tony Diagne and Swindon substitute Louis Thompson, who put into his own net, will also have his squad in for Sunday morning training — starting at 7.30am.

Di Canio could hardly believe it was the same set of players who, four days before, had only just lost to Aston Villa in the Capital One Cup.

Fury: Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio was frustrated after his side's defeat

Fury: Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio was frustrated after his side's defeat

Swindon had defender Aden Flint sent off for a two-footed lunge in the 63rd minute soon after dogged Macclesfield had taken the lead.

Di Canio said: ‘I would like to fine my players, but it may not be possible because they have too much protection.

‘When I tell players they are average they get angry, but that was the case here. Now the club has to say sorry to everybody because they have damaged themselves.

‘For three days after Villa I was happy. Now I am angry. On Sunday at 7.30am we will be training at Liddington and Di Canio will be the first to arrive.

‘I know how to manage my players. Sometimes they think they are Barcelona players, but they are not.’

It is not the first time Di Canio has lost his cool during his colourful 18-month reign at the County Ground.

He had a bust-up with his own striker Leon Clarke on the pitch and in the tunnel after a League Cup defeat by Southampton last season. And this term he launched an astonishing rant at keeper Wes Foderingham after hauling him off just 21 minutes into a 4-1 defeat by Preston.

Swindon, who knocked Stoke out of the Capital One Cup, made six changes from the team beaten by Villa, but were hardly recognisable.

Off and running: Macclesfield's Tony Diagne scores his sides first goal

Off and running: Macclesfield's Tony Diagne scores his sides first goal

Macclesfield goalkeeper Lance Cronin made good saves from Raffa de Vita, Andy Williams and Gary Roberts, but Swindon paid for their wastefulness. Diagne put Macclesfield ahead with a 35-yard free-kick into the top corner after 63 minutes.

And victory was sealed when Swindon’s debutant substitute Thompson scored an own goal, his 30-yard back pass under pressure eluding goalkeeper Foderingham.

Macclesfield boss Steve King said: ‘This is massive for us and our fans. Look at the gulf between the clubs.

‘Last year we were in the same division but now they are looking to get into the Championship. Days like this you can only dream about and we will all savour it while we can. I am proud of the team and my players because they gave me everything.

‘We came under a lot of early pressure but held out and, once we went ahead, I felt we were the better team and I had no doubts we would go on and win.

‘We can think about getting to the third round and perhaps Manchester United away, but just to get to the second round is an achievement.’

Joey Barton wants French success like Joe Cole and Chris Waddle

Barton hoping to follow in footsteps of Cole and Waddle by being a hit in France with Marseille

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UPDATED:

12:25 GMT, 4 September 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Joey Barton is hoping to follow in the footsteps of other British players to have enjoyed success in France, having completed his move to Marseille.

The out-of-favour QPR midfielder switched nations on Friday on a season-long loan deal, and was introduced to the fans at the weekend.

Never short of a word, Barton has already been fulfilling a number of media duties and today expressed his desire to be the latest Brit to do well across the channel.

Hit or miss Joey Barton is hoping to be a success in France, like Joe Cole and Chris Waddle were

Hit or miss Joey Barton is hoping to be a success in France, like Joe Cole and Chris Waddle were

Joe Cole had a successful season with Lille last year, while going back further, the likes of Chris Waddle, Trevor Steven and the colourful Republic of Ireland striker Tony Cascarino have all been big hits in Ligue 1.

Speaking to the division's official website, the 30-year-old said: 'English players have done well in France.

'Cole, Cascarino, Waddle, Steven.. French football is top-level football. There is the problem with the cultural differences and the languages and I will have to adapt.'

All smiles: Barton joined French side Marseille on Friday

All smiles: Barton joined French side Marseille on Friday

All smiles: Barton joined French side Marseille on Friday

All smiles: Barton joined French side Marseille on Friday

The former Newcastle man believes that will be easy, though, owing to the football-mad nature of his new home.

'Everybody supports the club in this city,' he added.

'OM (Olmypique Marseille) has an English feel to it in some ways, with the supporters and the atmosphere.

'OM could be an English club. The club and the city are intrinsically linked. It's not like London or Paris. Football is integral to the city. When the team wins, the whole city is happy.'

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Why Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio"s humiliation of his goalkeeper Wes Foderingham is just the latest in a line of colourful incidents

Brilliant and bonkers: Why Di Canio's humiliation of his goalkeeper is just the latest in a line of colourful incidents

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UPDATED:

11:49 GMT, 3 September 2012

Twenty minutes in to the game, you’re not playing
especially well and you’ve already had to pick the ball out of your net twice.

Despite these setbacks, the last thing you expect is to be dragged off by your
boss and publicly humiliated in front of the whole stadium – after all, there’s
still 70 minutes for the team to turn it around, plenty of time.

Not if your manager happens to be a firebrand like
Paolo Di Canio. This was the fate to befall Swindon goalkeeper Wes Foderingham
on Sunday when his side found themselves 2-0 down in 20 minutes at Preston.

Humiliation: Di Canio dragged his goalkeeper, Wes Foderingham, off after 20 minutes of Swindon's defeat at Preston on Sunday, with the side trailing 2-0

Humiliation: Di Canio dragged his goalkeeper, Wes Foderingham, off after 20 minutes of Swindon's defeat at Preston on Sunday, with the side trailing 2-0

The stopper was hauled off and ranted at by the colourful
Italian as he walked unceremoniously back to the changing rooms. And the
embarrassment continued after the final whistle, with Di Canio launching into a
spectacular character assassination before the television cameras.

According to Di Canio, Foderingham was not only ‘one of
the worst players I have ever seen at a football match’ but also ‘the worst
professional… I have ever seen.’

As we all know, this outburst was just the latest
incident in the colourful career of Di Canio. Here, Sportmail looks at five
more of the Italian’s blood-boiling, temple-throbbing moments.

The Alcock
Incident

Just before half-time at Hillsborough and Sheffield
Wednesday against Arsenal is coming to the boil. An altercation between a dozen
players ends in Di Canio and Martin Keown being shown red cards by referee
Paul Alcock.

Understandably, both are aggrieved but at least Keown
leaves the field with a shred of dignity. Not so Di Canio, who, in one of the
most replayed moments in Premier League history, erupts like Mount Vesuvius and
shoves the official in the chest as though the protagonist in a slapstick play.

Alcock, who had been out of action with a bad back,
didn’t help himself by falling so theatrically he almost robbed himself of all
sympathy. A funny moment often overlooked – and pointed out by this video – is
how Nigel Winterburn, who clearly didn’t want to let the incident lie, flinched
like a petrified kitten at Di Canio’s inferno glare.

He was banned for 11 matches, fined 10,000 and moved on
at the end of the season, as Big Ron Atkinson reflected: ‘I have managed a few
nutters in my time, but Di Canio takes the biscuit.’

I want to go off!

One of the most bonkers games of the Premier League era,
so fitting that its maddest player should take centre stage. West Ham against
Bradford finished 5-4 as the Hammers fought back from 2-4 down to record a
breath-taking victory – but an amusing sub-plot involved Di Canio and his
frustrations with referee Neale Barry.

So annoyed was the Italian that Barry turned down not
one, but three, stonewall penalties he demanded manager Harry Redknapp sub him
off. After much gesticulation and finger jabbing, Di Canio broke down on the
half-way line, appealing to the dug-out to put him out of his misery.

So when West Ham did finally get a penalty and the chance
to reduce the deficit to 3-4, Di Canio wasn’t going to be denied. He snatched
the ball from Frank Lampard, who had already set it on the spot, and demanded
to take it himself.

Frank did the sensible thing – clearly a perceptive
reader of body language, and after getting a close-up look at Di Canio’s vocal
chords, he surrendered the ball and took cover behind three Bradford defenders.
Thank God the penalty went in.

The Salutes

A devoted Lazio fan as a teen, despite growing up in the
AS Roma hotbed of Quarticciolo, Di Canio sought solidarity with the club’s
Ultras – the feared ‘Irriducibili.’

In his autobiography, he recalled being tear gassed and
beaten by police, and pelted with bricks by rival fans, as he travelled around
Italy and Europe with the firm.

So when, in 2005, he scored for Lazio in the
Rome Derby he made a bee-line for his terrace comrades and greeted them with a
Fascist salute, his tattoos honouring Benito Mussolini on his shoulder plain to
see.

It confirmed many people’s assumptions that Di Canio’s
political view were more 'extreme' than most in the game.

Controversial character: Di Canio gives a straight-arm salute to the Lazio Ultras after the Rome Derby in January 2005

Controversial character: Di Canio gives a straight-arm salute to the Lazio Ultras after the Rome Derby in January 2005

Altercation with
Leon Clarke

After hanging up his boots and following the Samurai
teachings of Hagakure and Bushido in an effort to curb his brimstone
temperament, Di Canio took up his first managerial post in 2011. It’s fair to
say that most people did not expect that post to be with League Two Swindon
Town.

And it’s certainly not been dull. In the first month of
the season, Swindon went down 1-3 at home to Southampton in the League Cup and
fitness coach Claudio Donatelli decided the underperforming players needed a training
session the following morning as punishment.

Clarke, who had been at the club just 11 days, took exception
to the thought of sprint training and shooting practice, and mouthed off as he
left the field. A moment later, Di Canio was pushing him down the tunnel, the
pair at each other’s throats. Guess who won Clarke had a two year contract –
he played just two games.

Sent to the stands

There’s something about Macclesfield that brings out the
worst in Di Canio. Both matches against the Silkmen in Swindon’s promotion
campaign led to that legendary temper flaring.

In September, the Robins lost 2-0 at Moss Rose and in a
typically microphone-busting, ten to the dozen post-match interview, Di Canio
strayed into the murky waters of football philosophy with this bizarre dog
analogy:

‘With some players, if he has a Chihuahua character, I
can’t make a Chihuahua into a Rottweiler. He could be a proud Chihuahua but he
remains a Chihuahua. So many players at the moment are Chihuahuas away from
home. This is the truth.’ Indeed.

And in the return match in January, which Swindon won
1-0, he was banished to the stands for ranting when his side weren’t awarded a
free-kick which led to this wonderful, gabbling post-match interview.


P.S. But not forgetting the genius and the sportsmanship

Di Canio's best goals for West Ham

THAT goal at Old Trafford

A moment of great sportsmanship at Goodison Park

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Sid Waddell dies: The "voice of darts" was 72

Darts in mourning as legendary commentator Sid Waddell passes away

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UPDATED:

12:18 GMT, 12 August 2012

Darts broadcaster Sid Waddell has died at the age of 72.

Waddell had been battling bowel cancer since last September and the news of his death was confirmed on Sunday.

Scroll down for Waddell quotes compilation video

Voice of darts: Legendary commentator Sid Waddell has passed away

Voice of darts: Legendary commentator Sid Waddell has passed away

A statement from his manager Dick Allix
read: 'With great sadness, we announce that following a long illness,
broadcaster and author Sid Waddell died peacefully with all his family
around him late last night, Saturday August 11th, 2012.'

Waddell was a central part of Sky
Sports' coverage of PDC darts events since 1994 and was known for his
colourful and excitable commentary style, with his best-known lines
including “There's only one word for it – magic darts”.'

He also noted, while watching Eric
Bristow become world champion: 'When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he
cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to
conquer…Bristow's only 27.'

Waddell's other commentary work
included pool's Mosconi Cup, while he also made a one-off appearance as
the BBC National Lottery's 'Voice of the Balls'.

In addition, he has had 11 books
published and wrote the sport-based BBC children's programmes Jossy's
Giants and Sloggers, receiving a nomination for best scriptwriter from
the Writer's Guild of Great Britain for the latter.

Insight: Waddell offered superb knowledge of darts and spoke with humour

Insight: Waddell offered superb knowledge of darts and spoke with humour

Toon: Geordie Waddell was a Newcastle fan

Waddell conducting an interview

Former players and broadcasting colleagues queued up to pay tribute after news of Waddell's death.

Twice BDO World Championship finalist Bobby George wrote on Twitter: 'So sad to hear of the passing of the legend Sid Waddell or Sidly as I used to call him. Sincere condolences go out to the family x.'

Wayne Mardle, the 2003 World Matchplay runner-up, added: 'So so gutted, The legend Sid Waddell passed away last night. Thoughts are with his family right now.'

Sky Sports' Dave Clark, who worked with Waddell for many years, tearfully remembered his former colleague on Sky Sports News.

'He was the voice of darts,' said Clark. 'Darts isn't going to be the same without Sid Waddell.

'He had a child-like exuberance, he'd
be bouncing round like a young puppy in the commentary box, and mix
that with the intellect of Einstein.

'He was a brilliant man, a genius of the microphone – I'm going to miss my old mate, that's for sure.

Broad palate: As well as commentating, Waddell also wrote books

Broad palate: As well as commentating, Waddell also wrote books

'I know he's been really battling
this cancer for a long, long time and what I hear from the family is
it's a blessing that he's gone, but a tragedy.'

Another of the organisation's
presenters, Jeff Stelling, added: 'It's shattering news. Back when I was
working with him he made more of an impact than any of the players did.
He is totally irreplaceable.

'There has never been such a sports
commentator to make such an impact. He had a wonderful turn of phrase.
He was the leader of the gang and we were all in his gang.

'On the big occasion he was always
there – if he wasn't there it wasn't a big occasion. He was the doyen of
sports commentating.'

BBC Sport's Gary Lineker wrote on
Twitter: 'See that Sid Waddell has lost his fight with Cancer. He really
was the voice of his sport. A brilliant, witty, colourful commentator.'

In action: Waddell loved the game

In action: Waddell loved the game

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney Tweeted: 'Sad news to hear about sid waddell. Made darts so much better to watch. He will be missed. Legend. RIP SID'.

Tributes to Waddell extended beyond
sport, with former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott tweeting:
'Farewell to Sid Waddell – a man who did so much for darts and voiced so
many memorable moments. A double top bloke.'

Bristow told Sky Sports News: 'Sid was top dog wasn't he He's not going to be replaced, he was a one-off.

'I remember a game he was commentating on, Cliff Lazarenko was playing Jocky Wilson. Cliff was about 22 stone and Jocky was about 17 stone and he said they were two athletes. I just cracked up.'

A statement from Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis read: 'We all remember Sid's wonderful words, his great sense of humour and his passion for the sport he loved.

'Sid was a friend to all of us at Sky Sports, at the heart of our darts coverage since the early 1990s. He was a wonderful man and we will miss him deeply.

'Our thoughts are with Irene (his wife) and family at this very sad time.'

SOME OF THE GREAT WADDELL QUOTES

'That was like throwing three pickled onions into a thimble!'

'He's about as predictable as a wasp on speed.'

'Look at the man go, its like trying to stop a waterbuffalo with a pea-shooter.'

'The atmosphere is so tense, if Elvis walked in with a portion of chips, you could hear the vinegar sizzle on them.'

'That's the greatest comeback since Lazarus.'

'Big Cliff Lazarenko's idea of exercise is sitting in a room with the windows open taking the lid off something cool and fizzy.'

'As Freud said to Jung in Vienna, you can psych up too much for a darts match.'

'Bristow reasons; Bristow quickens; aaaaah Bristow!'

'Keith Deller's not just an underdog, he's an underpuppy!' – Deller would go on to win the 1983 World Championship final against Bristow with a 138 finish.

'He's as cool as a prized marrow!'

'He looks about as happy as a penguin in a microwave.'

'When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer….. Bristow's only 27.'

'The pendulum swinging back and forth like a metronome.'

'He's been burning the midnight oil at both ends.'

'That's like giving Dracula the keys to the blood bank'

'This lad has more checkouts than Tescos.'

'Even Hypotenuse would have trouble working out these angles.'

'Steve Beaton – The adonis of darts, what poise, what elegance – a true roman gladiator with plenty of hair wax.'

'Phil Taylor's got the consistency of a planet … and he's in a darts orbit!'

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Wimbledon 2012: James Ward left to rue missed chance against Mardy Fish

WonderWard: Brave James takes Fish all the way but just comes up short

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UPDATED:

00:44 GMT, 29 June 2012

In the end, he finished disappointed for a third time in a week. But for James Ward there was honour and pride in this most dramatic of defeats.

Being denied an Olympic wildcard and giving up his Arsenal season ticket because it cost too much — only to then claim a serious pay day by reaching the second round — was the colourful backdrop to Ward’s clash with American Mardy Fish.

No chance of the rollercoaster stopping there, though, as the 25-year-old London taxi driver’s son offered his new legion of followers on Court No 1 four hours and 13 minutes of compelling sporting theatre.

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So close: James Ward had his chances to claim a memorable scalp

So close: James Ward had his chances to claim a memorable scalp

This was what all the hours on the practice courts at the national tennis centre in Roehampton, funded by the LTA, had been about.

And thank goodness the world No 173 didn’t do himself a serious disservice by accepting such a gallant defeat with anything less than what appeared genuine frustration.

‘Everyone seems to be quite happy but I’m disappointed,’ Ward insisted. ‘It was a great match and I’ll remember the standing ovation for the rest of my life, but obviously I don’t like losing.’

Mardy Fish of the U.S. hits a return to James Ward

Return: Fish was making first appearance since heart op

Ward’s pedigree on grass had previously peaked at overcoming Stanislas Wawrinka, then the world No 14, to reach the semi-finals at Queen’s just over a year ago. But yesterday will clearly stay with him and hopefully inspire him in his quest for even greater feats for some time to come.

Ward said: ‘You know, he played well and so did I. He’s a top player for a reason and he came up with some big points at the right time. Every time I had a chance he came up with a big first serve, you’ve got to expect that. He’s a great player and he went for it and it came off.’

Great Britain's James Ward celebrates winning a set

Boost: Ward celebrates winning a set

Fish also entered the match following an unusual, and unhelpful, run-in. From heart surgery last month to a missed press conference following his first-round win which drew doubts as to his health, the American looked to be up against it in trying to play to his No 10 seeding.

That was until the action started, however. The man from Atlanta swept through the first set with consummate ease to spark fears of a mismatch from the Union flag-waving set.

Flying the flag: A British fan cheers on Ward

Flying the flag: A British fan cheers on Ward

Ward said: ‘There had been a lot of talk about his health but you could see out there he wasn’t really struggling too much. I don’t think he’s the sort of guy that’s going to play for the sake of it. If he didn’t feel like he was ready, I’m sure he wouldn’t be playing. He was fine.’

Although one of a series of stinging forehand winners helped Ward draw level, Fish reclaimed the initiative to go 2-1 ahead before breaking the Briton’s serve to secure an all-too premature match point.

Fighting spirit: Ward refused to give up

Fighting spirit: Ward refused to give up

Cue further proof of Ward’s grit and determination as he not only held his nerve to save it, but went on and clinched the fourth set to take their clash the distance. Great stuff.

Any doubts, or even hopes, regarding Fish’s potential lack of stamina for a sun-drenched fifth set disappeared, however, as the six-time title-winner on the men’s tour tightened the screw at 4-4, forcing Ward into submission.

‘James played well today, he played well enough to win,’ admitted the American. ‘He served as well as anyone has served against me all year. I was very happy to win a match like that. I didn’t feel great after my first-round match, but I feel a lot better now, that’s for sure.’

Relief: Fish celebrates after defeating Ward

Relief: Fish celebrates after defeating Ward

Job done for Fish, and a place in the third round. For Ward, a heroic defeat and an Arsenal shirt, sent by the club, with his name and the No 12, to celebrate his success this year.

Although much to his credit, you could see it was all scant consolation for what Ward really wanted, the victory which he came so close to grasping.

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Chelsea must appoint Roberto Di Matteo – Martin Samuel

Tell fate to take a hike, Roman, and just give Di Matteo the job

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UPDATED:

21:27 GMT, 20 May 2012

To begin with, stuff destiny. If it was just about fate, or your name being on the cup, or blue angels and all the other supernatural guff that has accompanied Chelsea through Europe this season, then anybody could have been Chelsea’s manager in Munich on Saturday. Even Andre Villas-Boas.

Why has Roman Abramovich spent so much time, and money, hiring and firing managers, if all it needed was for the planets to align and Chelsea would win the Champions League Contrary to some highly bizarre notions, it was not their turn; it is never anybody’s turn.

There are colourful narratives, invariably en route to a final, and we imbue them with mystical force, as if whatever Chelsea did, Michel Platini would be handing them a trophy on May 19. To think that, however, entirely undervalues the contribution of one man: Roberto Di Matteo.

Here to stay Roberto Di Matteo must wait to hear if he is to be kept on as Chelsea boss

Here to stay Roberto Di Matteo must wait to hear if he is to be kept on as Chelsea boss

Everyone was talking destiny after the game. Even Gary Neville, the arch realist, was claiming it was meant to be. What about Bayern, then What about Dahoam Finale Uli Hoeness, the president, has spent several years’ frantic politicking to deliver the dream of Germany’s greatest club playing for the greatest prize in club football in Bavaria before the Rot-Weiss Inferno. Doesn’t that have an air of destiny about it, too

Did two destinies collide and Chelsea’s force was stronger What does that make Di Matteo Yoda He is not as quote-worthy as the Jedi master, no doubt of that. Di Matteo has spent his months as Chelsea’s interim manager giving so little away that ranks of journalists now know what it is like to play against one of his teams: all that possession and probing, but it still gets you nowhere. Di Matteo would not even say that he wanted the job on Saturday night. So in place of insight is this outpouring of superstition. Destiny Pah.

So does Di Matteo want the job Of course he wants the job. That’s why he keeps quiet. He knows Abramovich does not care for idle chatter. The owner gives nothing away, so neither does Di Matteo.

Decision time: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has finally got his his hands on the Champions League

Decision time: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has finally got his his hands on the Champions League

He does not hang himself with foolish remarks, and, by doing so, all Abramovich has to work with are his results. And what results. So magnificent was Chelsea’s achievement that it is almost forgotten that Di Matteo has already landed the FA Cup. If not the Double — which Carlo Ancelotti achieved straight off the bat — he has delivered a double, and a hugely impressive one. Di Matteo did not get lucky in Munich; he got organised, got clever, got brave and got exceptional performances from players who looked flat and demotivated until he took charge.

Saving a penalty isn’t luck if a man has studied every one Bayern have taken since 2007, as Petr Cech did; and becoming champions of Europe isn’t luck if a manager is bold enough to show faith in a 22-year-old left back, Ryan Bertrand, who hasn’t played a minute of European football until the 2012 Champions League final.

Nor is it luck to have looked the 50million striker in the eye and told him that, in a team of 11, he is not among the first five penalty takers. Can you imagine the consequence if Fer-nando Torres had been denied his moment from 12 yards, and Chelsea had lost, Di Matteo having preferred five others, including two defenders Avram Grant lasted roughly 24 hours after defeat on penalties by Manchester United in Moscow; Di Matteo might not have survived as long as that.

Rallying the troops: Di Matteo delivers a rousing speech to his players before extra time in Munich

Rallying the troops: Di Matteo delivers a rousing speech to his players before extra time in Munich

It showed an incredible amount of steel and, as the result is all in football, proved the right call, too. We do not know whether Torres would have scored, but enough of Di Matteo’s selections did to beat the Germans on penalties in their own backyard. No further debate is necessary.

Chelsea paid 16m for John Mikel Obi — including 12m compensation to Manchester United — and few have ever been able to see why. Yet under Di Matteo, who, like his coach Eddie Newton, often played a holding role, he has thrived.

He was arguably Chelsea’s best player in Munich; quick feet, quick wits, moving the ball on with the wonderful combination of calm and urgency that set Claude Makelele apart. Di Matteo has turned Mikel into Makelele in a matter of months, just as he has turned Gary Cahill into the next John Terry, and David Luiz into a defender who no longer attracts guffaws.

This was not destined to happen. No higher force arrived to sprinkle fairy dust over Chelsea’s Cobham training facility. Ashley Cole is once more being talked of as the best left back in the world; in Villas-Boas’s final European game in charge — away to Napoli, a 3-1 defeat — Cole did not make the starting line-up. Right back Jose Bosingwa played in his place; he wasn’t performing as he has done under Di Matteo, either. Nobody was.

Kings of Europe: Chelsea celebrate their Champions League triumph in Munich

Kings of Europe: Chelsea celebrate their Champions League triumph in Munich

That is the cynical view. The older players resented Villas-Boas’s attempts to curb their power and did not perform for him; then Di Matteo came along and let them do as they pleased, and order was restored.

Yet what of the younger ones, in which Villas-Boas did have faith What of Luiz and Bosingwa and Mikel Their performances have improved hugely, too. So this isn’t about spite. Chelsea’s success is not a dressing-room attempt to prove Villas-Boas wrong; it is the difference between a manager who alienates and one who motivates.

The messages from family members shown to the players in the build-up to the game was another managerial masterstroke. Nobody goes out and collects hours of video footage, in secret, by luck. Di Matteo knew how to inspire his team —and the proof was in the performance. He was right again.

If Chelsea’s executive strategies were not so random there would not even be a doubt. Real Madrid won the European Cup in 1998 and sacked Jupp Heynckes, is the counter- argument, the alleged proof that there is a bigger picture than one triumph. Yes they did, and do you know why people remember it Because it was stupid.

Home comforts: Chelsea paraded the Champions League trophy in London on Sunday

Home comforts: Chelsea paraded the Champions League trophy in London on Sunday

They did not win the European Cup the next year, or La Liga, either. They then went out and spent an absolute fortune on the famous galacticos team, won the Champions League twice in three years — 2000 and 2002 —and have not been back to a final since. Madrid are not an example of how to run a football club. Given all their advantages, they underachieve.

Chelsea, under Di Matteo, have done the opposite. They were destined for nothing this season and he turned that round. He deserves the chance to take the club on, to play some games without his back to the wall — and the 5-1 FA Cup semi-final win over Tottenham, plus the semi-final monstering of Liverpool for 60 minutes suggests there is better to come.

He has captured hearts, minds and two trophies that looked beyond this team until he arrived. Tell fate to take a hike, Roman, and give the man the job.

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West Ham v Blackpool play-off final preview

Holloway's desperate to be in big time again as Blackpool seek instant return

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 18 May 2012

‘I couldn’t give a monkey’s about the Champions League final. I think they’re all rich and in my book it’s quite obscene. The same teams finish at the top over and over again, and they get richer and richer all the time. It’s like what’s gone wrong with the rest of the world.’

— Ian Holloway, May 2010

Not a great deal has changed in the two years since Holloway last went to Wembley.

The rich get richer, Blackpool continue to punch above their weight, and one of the most colourful characters in the game is once again relishing his chance to rival the grandest occasion in European football.

Plenty to ponder: Ian Holloway hopes to guide Blackpool back to the top flight

Plenty to ponder: Ian Holloway hopes to guide Blackpool back to the top flight

THE 46MILLION FINAL

The play-off final is usually worth 90million to the winner. This year it’s worth ‘only’ 46m to the victor because both teams came down from the Premier League last season.

Relegated teams receive four annual parachute payments of 16m, 16m, 8m and 8m. Blackpool and West Ham are already guaranteed 32m over the next three years — so, a trip back to the Premier League will secure one more 16m payment.

Add to that an estimated 30m bonanza in broadcasting, gate receipts and commercial deals in the Premier League and the net sum of 46m is reached.

One is worth a place in the Premier League and the small matter of 46million, the other a right to be called kings of Europe.

Holloway’s opposite number on Saturday, Sam Allardyce, has no doubts about which is the bigger game. ‘Saturday afternoon,’ said the West Ham manager this week. ‘The Champions League is a glory match. Saturday afternoon is about people’s livelihoods and your status.

‘The Champions League is a great tournament but this one is about changing people’s lives. If we don’t win, it would be Year Two in the Championship and we’ll be cost-cutting across the board.’

Having witnessed the boom of reaching the Premier League two years ago, Holloway experienced the bust of relegation 12 months later.

‘If any club was going to go down like a pack of cards it could have been us,’ he said.

We're going to Wembley! Blackpool players celebrate their semi-final win

We're going to Wembley! Blackpool players celebrate their semi-final win

‘With the players we lost it all looked broken and we’ve somehow managed to glue it back together. I remember talking to the chairman last summer and it was hideous. We had all sorts of problems because the players’ money went back down.

‘We deserve a chance because of the massive hurdles we’ve overcome this year. The lads have got stronger and stronger. The fans deserve it. They didn’t leave us when we went down.’

Before we shed too many tears, it is worth noting that Blackpool’s squad will once again share in a 5m bonus pot if they can upset the odds against West Ham, just as they did against Cardiff on their last trip to Wembley.

In two games against the Hammers this season, Blackpool have lost 8-1 on aggregate.

Tough at the top: Sam Allardyce

Tough at the top: Sam Allardyce

‘Sam tried to say we’re the favourites — good one!’ laughed Holloway. ‘You don’t have to tell me West Ham are favourites, we know that. Their players are on four times what my lads earn. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to win.

‘We’re lucky to be on the same track as them but we’ll give it a right good gallop. After what happened a year ago, I’ve had my fill of being a plucky loser.’

The Premier League has missed Holloway and Holloway has missed the Premier League. Just how much was brought home to him when he watched the unforgettable final day last weekend.

‘I’ve never been as nervous in my life,’ he said. ‘Who wouldn’t want to be involved in all that Man City looked like they’d lost the plot. I was relieved, to be honest, because I felt that way at Birmingham (in the play-off second leg). I couldn’t get any sense out there on the pitch and Mancini was the same. I said to the missus, “It ain’t just me love, look at him!”.’

For Allardyce, the game is a chance for revenge; on Blackburn’s Indian owners who sacked him; on Steve Kean, the man who replaced him; on Bolton, another of the relegated Premier League clubs he could pass on the way up, and their chairman Phil Gartside, who fell out with Big Sam after he left in 2007; even Blackpool, whose majority shareholder Owen Oyston is said to have sacked him from a prison cell 16 years ago.

Publicly at least, Allardyce insists he is not looking back. ‘It’s over with,’ he said. ‘You can’t let it prey on your mind because it distracts you from your next job. The only satisfaction I’ll feel is getting West Ham up at the first time of asking.’

One step away: Ricardo Vaz Te has helped put West Ham on the brink

One step away: Ricardo Vaz Te has helped put West Ham on the brink

Allardyce has never been the most comfortable fit at Upton Park. If West Ham lose, the 57-year-old knows he might well have another club to add to the list.

‘I know the question’s coming, I just hope I don’t hear it,’ he added. ‘We’re a massive club and were favourites at the start of the season. It’s been a difficult task because we’ve been doing only what people expect us to do.

‘We can think about next season only when this game is over. Whether we’re back in the promised land or overcoming the disappointment of not making it.

‘I don’t like thinking about what happens if we don’t get there.’

WEMBLEY WIZARDS

WEST HAM

BOBBY MOORE

Captain for West Ham’s first FA Cup win in 1964. Trailing 2-1 to Preston, Moore marked Alec Ashworth to perfection and the Hammers won 3-2.

SIR TREVOR BROOKING

Scored the only goal of the 1980 final to earn second winners’ medal as West Ham, then in Second Division, upset top-flight Arsenal.

RAY STEWART

Last Hammer to score at Wembley, levelling from spot in
1981 League Cup final against Liverpool. West Ham lost replay.

BLACKPOOL

SIR STANLEY MATTHEWS

Finally won winners’ medal in 1953 in ‘The Matthews Final’. At 38, the Wizard of the Dribble set up two goals in 4-3 win over Bolton.

STAN MORTENSEN

It was also third time lucky for Mortensen, who got a hat-trick in 1953. Only person to net Wembley FA Cup final hat-trick.

CHARLIE ADAM

Midfielder captained side to their 2010 Championship play-off final victory in his first season, scoring with a piledriver free-kick.

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London 2012 Olympics: Organisers release plans for giant TV screen near stadium

It's Hoy hill! Fans will flock to watch games on giant TV screens in the Olympic Park

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UPDATED:

08:30 GMT, 4 May 2012

Fans flocking to the Olympic Park during the summer Games will be able to watch action on a giant TV screen the size of three double decker buses.

It is hoped that the screens will attract 10,000 people wanting to watch Olympic action before or after their ticketed events.

And the screen will be located in the middle of the River Lea in the centre of the wetlands area of the Olympic Park, within a short distance of the Olympic Stadium, and between the Velodrome, Riverbank Arena and Copper Box.

Watching the action: How the fans will be able to view the action on the screens

Watching the action: How the fans will be able to view the action on the screens

View from the banks: Fans watching the screens with the Olympic Stadium in the background

View from the banks: Fans watching the screens with the Olympic Stadium in the background

Anyone with a ticket to that day’s competition at Olympic Park will be able to access the area. Officials are also going to release an unspecified number of general Park tickets, enabling people to come into the Olympic Park without tickets for sporting events.

No information has been released regarding how many general area tickets will be avalible but London 2012 chairman Lord Coe belives the area will be a hit with the fans.

There will be lawned picnic areas, timber seating, frog ponds and wild flower meadows, allowing fans to watch the action in comfort.

Lighting up the skyline: The screen will be a focal point of the Olympic Park

Lighting up the skyline: The screen will be a focal point of the Olympic Park

Coe said: 'Whether it’s ‘Halsall Hill’, ‘Pistorious Park’ or ‘Dai Greene Fields’ our plans for Park Live will create a green and colourful place for fans to cheer their heroes and soak up the Olympic Park atmosphere.

'With lush lawns surrounded by wild flower meadows and rustling reeds, a trip to Park Live will be a truly unforgettable experience.'

Olympic champion Denise Lewis said it looked like the area could be the ‘Henman Hill’ of the Games.

Organisers said as well as watching the live sporting broadcast, spectators will hear from medal winning athletes and experience short films on the creation of the 250 acres of parklands.

Park Live will have 100 British Airways hosts in the area each day to help patrons picnic and watch the television.