Tag Archives: conviction

MARTIN SAMUEL – THE DEBATE: Luis Suarez…just "wonderful", but could we have this man as the Footballer of the Year?

Luis Suarez… just 'wonderful', but could we have this man as the Footballer of the Year

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Kop idol: Suarez has the backing of the Liverpool supporters

Martin,
your colleague from the Times, Tony Evans, wrote a great piece last
season just after Suarez had deliberately ignored the handshake of
Patrice Evra at Old Trafford.

Evans,
a Liverpool scribe and fan, said of the Uruguayan: 'We are not talking
Ian Callaghan here. Suarez bites people. He handles the ball on the line
in World Cup Finals. He dives. He cheats. He verbally abuses opponents.
Luiz Suarez IS obnoxious.'

Enough said. Should Suarez be named Player of the year Should he hell as like.
Red Predictor, Manchester

I can completely understand this
point of view. Its existence was the crux of the piece. Yet we accept
human failings in art, and just look at the work, but expect footballers
to be morally upstanding.

Top bloke, Tony, by the way and a
true Liverpool man. I don’t actually disagree with a word he wrote
there, but would still ask whether an individual can overcome all of
those misgivings to cast a vote.

I said I would find it hard; but
you’ll notice I didn’t say for certain that I couldn’t. You have
stronger conviction on the issue, though, and I respect that.

Touch of class: Suarez took the ball on his chest before slotting home against Newcastle earlier this season

Touch of class: Suarez took the ball on his chest before slotting home against Newcastle earlier this season

Finished off: Suarez's goal against Newcastle was a perfect example of what he's capable of

Finished off: Suarez's goal against Newcastle was a perfect example of what he's capable of

Just goes to show it isn't really Footballer of the Year, it’s the nice person of the year. Ridiculous. Andypom, Wellington

No, it isn’t Andy, but some members of the Football Writers Association, young and old, do believe that being a role model is part of the package. It certainly was when the award was inaugurated and it could be argued that a positive image matters more than ever now, when there is so much dubious behaviour in the game. Not a view I subscribe to personally, but I recognise its sincerity.

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Suarez isn't good enough for the neutral to overlook all the bad things in his game. For every great goal there is an embarrassing dive. Liverpool fans forget that while they may be blinded and biased because he is scoring goals for them, all fans of other clubs see is an undoubtedly talented striker cheating and diving and screaming and stamping. Rinzler, Manchester

True, but the same could be said of many players. Club allegiances work like blinkers at times.

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I wonder who'd get ref of the year. Don’t you think it would be really
interesting to see the result of a ground-by-ground referendum on that
Jimboin, Preston

No.

Wind up: Suarez took a dive in front of Everton boss David Moyes to celebrate his goal in the Merseyside derby

Wind up: Suarez took a dive in front of Everton boss David Moyes to celebrate his goal in the Merseyside derby

Suarez is finally translating his goal scoring form from Holland to the Premier League but he needs to be able to sustain that form. A lot of players go through purple patches and later fade.
Musa, London

Absolutely. Before Suarez, I thought Juan Mata was going to be the outstanding player of the season and since the piece was written Robin Van Persie has come into his own. I was more interested in the idea that Suarez might sustain this form and how football might react to him then.

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Luis Suarez is NOT a racist. You can keep harping on about it all you like but the FA report said Suarez is not a racist; Patrice Evra said Suarez is not a racist. Yet you continue to act like he goes around with a white sheet over his head in his spare time. You are making yourself look ridiculous by continuing to portray him as the pantomime villain while your docile minions lap up every word. Simon, Swindon

Minions Minions I wish, mate. Simon, I’ve revisited the original piece and nowhere does it get into whether or not Suarez is actually racist.

It is, however, utterly disingenuous to pretend that having been banned for a substantial length of time for using racially charged language Suarez is not associated with the practice.

My point was that Suarez does have this pantomime villain status, making it hard to get the credit he deserves.

And by the way, I don’t want docility, just people who understand the argument and enjoy discussing or arguing it in a civilised way. Which I hope we’re doing here.

Spot of bother: Suarez was the World Cup villain in 2010 as he saw red for handball in the quarter-final with Ghana - but the Africans missed the penalty and the striker was a hero in Urugauy as they progressed (below)

Spot of bother: Suarez was the World Cup villain in 2010 as he saw red for handball in the quarter-final with Ghana – but the Africans missed the penalty and the striker was a hero in Urugauy as they progressed (below)

So let me get this straight Martin, you wouldn't vote for the best player in the league to pick up the best player award Metro El, Liverpool

Never said that. Read the piece. Could I vote for him, I asked, and replied: 'It would be very, very hard.'

That’s not the same as saying I couldn’t. The whole tone of the column suggested that, using my feelings towards art as a measure, I’d bite the bullet and go with the finest footballer, regardless.

Cheeky: Suarez celebrated after Uruguay dumped Ghana out of the World Cup in South Africa

Maybe the best behaved could have their own award, or perhaps even let them win Sports Personality of the Year. Izzie, Aldershot

Right, because Bradley Wiggins got that just for being a goody two-shoes.

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Society is influenced by the media. Newspapers thrive off the controversy of the characters they depict. Suarez is classed as the player people love to hate, and the bad press he is subjected to week in week out is exaggerated and biased. Palm, Kidderminster

I wouldn’t disagree there. I think each season develops a narrative which drives the news agenda and once a player is cast as a certain character it is difficult to shake off his role in the story.

I think referees are influenced by this narrative, too, as Gareth Bale is now discovering. This means the same behaviour from different individuals will then be treated differently.

Some dives are forgotten, others attract headlines. I’m not justifying or condoning that but I would also argue that good journalists try to resist this trap.

I think Suarez gets a raw deal from referees, and the press, because he has been cast as one of the bad guys.

Of course, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t contributed greatly to his own dismal reputation..

No goody two-shoes: SIR Bradley Wiggins has done alright for himself in terms of picking up honours

No goody two-shoes: SIR Bradley Wiggins has done alright for himself in terms of picking up honours

Every man commenting on here, regardless of colour, has called another man of a different skin tone a racist name at some time. Whether or not it was to the face, behind the back, in the school playground or driving the car, we have all done it. Move on. New York DJ, London

Speak for yourself mate. I’ve always thought racial language was either part of your vocabulary or not. I’m not being holier than thou, but I just don’t see how somebody is a temporary racist. You either see black men as n*****s, or you don’t.

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There is a flaw in your argument: why will Gary Glitter never be seen receiving a music award
Jimbo, Lincolnshire

Because he wasn’t any good, Jim. Come on. Look, I’ve got Rock and Roll Part 2 on my I-Pod but that’s basically a Glitter Band track with a killer riff and a bit of chanting. There’s a lot of Ike Turner on there, too. One for the ladies, as my wife always says whenever he comes on.

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If there is a black breakaway players' union in response to this, would Suarez, who is one quarter black, not be able to join; or would you have to be 100 per cent black

Would it exclude Rio Ferdinand as he's only 50 per cent black And isn't the idea of forming an exclusive union based on the lines of race in response to another player winning an award based on ability, racist Donga, York

To be fair the idea of a Footballer of the Year Award for Suarez precipitating a breakaway black union was my extrapolation of the controversy such a vote would cause, rather than any proposed event.

Your point about levels of blackness is well made though, and comes back to the Gil Scott-Heron quote about competitions among black people to be blackest.

Anything that divides is ultimately unhelpful and to split black and white players seems a backward step.

Not guilty: Suarez was accused by Wigan of stamping on David Jones this season but he escaped punishment

Not guilty: Suarez was accused by Wigan of stamping on David Jones this season but he escaped punishment

I thought sledding was a massive part of sport. Expatmac, Perth, Australia

No, sledding is a massive part of Polar exploration, like huskies and frostbite. Sledging is perceived to a part of sport, but it doesn’t have to be. And what Suarez was accused of wasn’t sledging anyway.

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Who cares who journalists make Footballer of the Year It's never mattered to anyone except the media, certainly not real football fans anyway. If Suarez finishes as top scorer there's nothing anyone can do to take that award off him. How funny it would be to see his big toothy grin receiving that trophy on the pages of your newspapers. Dobbelina, Camden

Well, the players who win the FWA award seem to care and the list of previous winners is pretty good company, too.

What you fail to understand is journalists are real football fans, too. They supported teams and paid to watch matches until work got in the way. That is why, like fans, they debate the issues, including the criteria of this award.

Now, Dobbelina, would you quit/you really make sick/with your fraudulent behaviour.

Ha ha, you’ve got to know your old school rap to get that one, which by the sounds of his alias, our friend from Camden does. So no offence taken, I hope.

Altogether now: Mistadobalina, MistaBobdobalina, Mistadobalina, MistaBobdobalina… And on that note, as we doff our caps to Del Tha Funky Homosapien (enjoy the clip), let’s try to clear a few things up.

Here is the introduction from Eric Cantona's winners’ entry on the Football Writers Association website, following his award in 1996.

'Controversial, yes, but never boring, Eric Cantona’s personality, presence, goals and achievements should be remembered more than any disciplinary excesses or references to sardines.'

Guess you didn't vote for him then, Martin. Smoke5screen, Liverpool

No, I don’t think I did. Actually, I don’t vote most years because I believe the decision is made too early when the season isn’t decided and I wouldn’t wish to commit to a view I might later contradict in a column. And, by the way, FWA members don’t vote en bloc. It’s not like the Labour leadership contest.

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Well this is a new one, comparing Suarez to an anti-Semite. Alex, Angola

No, I compared our attitude to unpalatable behaviour in the world of art to our attitudes towards sportsmen who transgress in a way that society finds unacceptable. Nowhere does it link Suarez as an individual to anti-Semitism.

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I don't know if they voted for Poet of the Year in Larkin's day but if they did he probably wouldn't win it anyway when up against poetry’s equivalent of Robin van Persie, who has been so sublime and superior to him. Nick, Sarlat

Now, look Nick, I don’t mind you voting Van Persie over Suarez, but if you’re going to come on here dissing Philip Larkin, we may have words.

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The question you should ask is: is there a better player than him No. Zanydave, Wirral

Maybe.

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If John Terry can be England captain then Luis Suarez can be player of the year.
Mooroondu, Brisbane

Terry isn’t England captain. Keep up.

Iconic: Suarez, like Kenny Dalglish during his playing days at Anfield, was handed the No 7 jersey

Iconic: Suarez, like Kenny Dalglish during his playing days at Anfield, was handed the No 7 jersey

So you're saying John Terry, a proud Englishman unlike that cheating Uruguayan, will end up winning John, Minneapolis

No. Nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. Terry is not even mentioned in the piece. Nothing to do with him at all. Sometimes it helps to read the piece rather than have your interpretation handed down by some twerp on Twitter.

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Too moralist, the British. Fabio Capello was right, they think everybody is wrong and they are right. Leaf27, Montreal

Yes, mate, that’s what’s holding the planet back: morality.

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Suarez is overrated, like Fernando Torres at Liverpool, a big fish in a little pond. He wouldn't last a season at a top club and needs more chances than Andy Cole. Wilson, Fleetwood

Seriously harsh this. I will admit that when a team is ordinary, as Liverpool are, one player can have a disproportionate influence and his ability becomes exaggerated because he is of such worth to that team.

Yet I think it is to Suarez’s credit that he is shouldering such a burden at Anfield.

As far as his chance-to-goal ratio, yes it could improve, but he is not meant to be the main goalscorer in the team. Liverpool messed up in the summer and left him marooned.

I know your post was made in November, and clairvoyance cannot be expected, but look at his performance against Queens Park Rangers on December 30, which was quite exceptional. Not just the stunning turn and straight run for the first goal, how about his contribution to the second

Steven Gerrard plays a long ball out of defence but slips as he strikes it, so it flies aimlessly into huge space on Rangers defensive left. Suarez then chases that lost cause, panicking the Rangers player who makes a hurried clearance, conceding possession.

From that, Liverpool hoof a long ball forward, Suarez wins the header and finds Stewart Downing, whose first touch is poor, but nobody has closed him down so gets another chance and plays Suarez in.

Suarez then drives into the penalty area, hits an excellent low cross which is blocked, the ball returns to him and he scores.

In that entire passage of play, the only quality contributions from either side are made by Suarez. Wonderful.

Race row: Suarez was banned for eight matches after being found guilty of abusing Patrice Evra in 2011

Race row: Suarez was banned for eight matches after being found guilty of abusing Patrice Evra in 2011

No issue in voting for Suarez. I have never seen him as a diver. I recall only one clear dive where he was getting kicked all about the pitch by some very innocent thug-like defenders. I put going over easy on an equally negative level with shirt pulling and elbows in the back of the head. HM, Dublin

Same here. Don’t necessarily agree about just a single dive from the man but I am inclined to side with a creative player over the negative one when exchanging vices.

Not helping: Suarez refused to shake Evra's hand when the pair met for the first time following the race row

Not helping: Suarez refused to shake Evra's hand when the pair met for the first time following the race row

He has
been associated with too much of football’s dark side, as you state,
because it is all journalists ever talk about. There is never any
mention of him being a loyal, decent family man, the amount of spare
time he has spent in South Africa and his charity work. Chris, Fife

This is Chris Rock’s argument about people wanting credit for stuff they
are supposed to do. Loyal family man Millionaire that gives to
charity What do you want, a cookie

Would Marouane Fellaini at Everton not be up there He dominates every time he is on the pitch. Hard-working, honest midfielder who seems to run games for fun. Barto7, Liverpool

Yes he would. Yet after the performance against Stoke City before Christmas and his ban, would some now say he should be excluded This is one of my points: nobody’s perfect.

Demolition derby: Everton defender Sylvain Distin was raging with Suarez for this challenge

Demolition derby: Everton defender Sylvain Distin was raging with Suarez for this challenge

Translation: the football writers’ Footballer of the Year is a popularity contest and therefore worthless. Gray, Liverpool

Translation: you find it hard to grasp some pretty simple concepts and may need to concentrate more. Thank heavens for our next poster.

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Treason is only a matter of timing, as
the saying goes. If Larkin and Pound were about today, producing their
works while espousing their views, it would take a huge effort to see
past the man and into the written word. Society would rightly condemn
them and probably, for the most part, ignore their work.

They've
benefited from the passing of time, and a society whose condemnations
are tempered, rightly or wrongly, by a sense of 'that's what it was like
back then'.

You don't have to be a role model to win Footballer of the
Year, but you do have to avoid being the kind of player Suarez is. He
might be good at football, but can you really brush the racist comment,
the very obvious diving and the catalogue of video evidence which shows
him being reckless in the challenge, under the carpet

His antics make
it too hard to separate the player from the man. Fats, London

Very hard to take issue with any of that, Fats. You are probably right
that modern sensibilities have changed thought processes and a
right-wing extremist in the arts would be marginalised.

I’m thinking of
the controversy that surrounded Morrissey when he toyed with nationalist
imagery a few years ago, or the reaction to the anti-gay lyrics of
reggae dancehall tracks like Boom /12/29/article-2254245-16AE5851000005DC-397_634x388.jpg” width=”634″ height=”388″ alt=”Tasty A Dutch paper branded Suarez the 'Cannibal of Ajax' after he bit PSV's Otman Bakkal during a game” class=”blkBorder” />

Tasty A Dutch paper branded Suarez the 'Cannibal of Ajax' after he bit PSV's Otman Bakkal during a game

The writer isn't saying Suarez shouldn't win it, he's saying that he won't – not because he thinks that he shouldn't, but because others think that he shouldn't. Tommy, Belfast

Thanks, Tommy, and I mean that. Would you be interested in providing a weekly translation service for the column It would really help some people: I’m particularly thinking Piers Morgan. And this next bloke.

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You say Suarez is the best player in the Premier League by a mile, yet you won't vote for him. That says more about you than it does about him. You're not voting for Footballer of the Year, your vote is going to someone you'd like to be mates with. Where is the merit in that
Rocky Soul, United Kingdom

Where does it say I wouldn’t vote for Suarez I said I’d find it hard, that’s all. As for being mates, is that how you think it works I voted for you, please be my friend. I’ve got friends. Nice friends. I didn’t get them by pressing a red button.

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Do you think Suarez would care about being Footballer of the Year, especially one voted for by the Fleet Street hacks who plague Twitter spreading their lies and bile Doubt it. He is a team player and all about Liverpool. He can be an idiot at times, but show me a top player who hasn’t been these days. Fowler1070, Liverpool

Oh, come on, I’m not having that. It doesn’t go with the territory that to succeed in football, or sport, ethical behaviour must go out of the window. Lionel Messi seems to do all right, or Juan Mata.

As for Twitter, I’m not on it mate. Never will be. With a name like Fowler1070, it sounds as if you are though. Apologies if I’m wrong.

At his best: Suarez scored a hat-trick against Norwich earlier this season

At his best: Suarez scored a hat-trick against Norwich earlier this season

The award is for best footballer, not best person. If Suarez was English the author would have a different view. Andrew, Bridgend

That’s not true, Andrew. If John Terry was a contender for Footballer of the Year I would have written exactly the same piece. But he’s not.

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So let's sum up the cons against Suarez. He once called Patrice Evra something inoffensive in Spanish-speaking countries, a year ago, and the Daily Mail claims diving is eliminated from football whenever Suarez is not on the pitch. You guys have built a silly hype around him and robbed yourselves of watching this fantastic talent due to a witch hunt. Reality Check, London

Get real. Without revisiting old ground what Suarez said is not inoffensive in Spanish-speaking countries; it depends on the context. And nobody is deprived of watching Suarez.

The whole article was in praise of him as a footballer, which suggests I take great pleasure in his ability. Indeed, to even flag up his potential to be Footballer of the Year is a tribute.

I think Suarez is a wonderful player. I couldn’t really have made that clearer. For the alternate view, however…

Goals galore: Suarez has been finding the net this season

One unsavory incident should exclude a player from receiving this award. To win Footballer of the Year, a player should have shown exemplary character aligned with superb footballing intellect. He should be technically superior to his peers, able to show discipline on the pitch and be an example to young players. Robbie G, Dunbar

Wow, let’s hope Mother Theresa has a left foot because if Robbie gets his way, she’ll be the only candidate next year.

Tough standards from our man from Dunbar and we’ll have to leave it there, I’m afraid.

Thank you to all who contributed, even though you didn’t know what you were contributing to at the time.

No doubt the views of Mr G will find favour with some inside the Football Writers’ Association, but if Suarez continues to play as he did at Loftus Road, this one will run and run.

Manchester United to win the Premier League – our experts" verdict

Will anything stand in the way of Man United and a record 20th title As Fergie's side sit seven points clear, Sportsmail's experts deliver their verdicts…

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11:14 GMT, 27 December 2012

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11:56 GMT, 27 December 2012

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Manchester United are now seven points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League going into the final game of 2012.

The Boxing Day comeback victory over Newcastle – coupled with Man City’s loss at Sunderland – tightened their grip on top spot.

So, just what can stop Sir Alex Ferguson’s side snatching the crown back from City Here, we ask Sportsmail’s team of expert reporters whether they think United can be stopped – and if so, by what…

Late show: Javier Hernandez is mobbed by his United team-mates after his winner against Newcastle

Late show: Javier Hernandez is mobbed by his United team-mates after his winner against Newcastle

IAN LADYMAN

The only team that can stop United winning this title is United. Manchester City’s challenge lacks the conviction of last season and that makes United clear favourites at this stage.

However, United are so unpredictable that I can envisage them dropping enough points to give their rivals a chance between now and the end of the season.

Yesterday’s performance – as thrilling as it was – was riddled with holes. Sir Alex Ferguson’s team once again defended poorly and failed to keep hold of the ball for long periods of time. These are the two issues that threaten United more than any other.

Great United teams smother teams by refusing them the ball. This one struggles to do that which means that their opponents will always have a chance. United are great to watch and have been involved in some breath taking games this season. This, however, only points to vulnerability.

This race is not run yet.

Follow Ian Ladyman on Twitter @ian_ladyman_dm

Leaky: Papiss Cisse scored Newcastle's third goal at Old Trafford on Boxing Day

Leaky: Papiss Cisse scored Newcastle's third goal at Old Trafford on Boxing Day

NEIL ASHTON

After throwing it away last season, there is no way Manchester United will allow the title to slip through their grasp this time around.

As Manchester City’s form begins to disintegrate, the main threat will come from Chelsea, but they have too much to do.

Despite their re-remergence under Rafa Benitez, United have matchwinners across every area of their forward line, which is why they will be crowned champions at the end of the season.

It barely feels like Robin van Persie has properly got going in a United, but he has still scored 13 times in the Premier League. Crucially, it is only 27 per cent of United’s goals and they can rely on Wayne Rooney (7) and Javier Hernandez (6), among others, to add to their attacking threat.

United have had 15 different goalscorers this season in the Premier League, another illustration of their firepower. Their biggest problem is at the back, but they are good enough to get away with it this season.

When Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are in the Premier League next season it will be a different story.

Follow Neil Ashton on Twitter @neilashton_

Deadly: Robin van Persie struck again for United against Newcastle

Deadly: Robin van Persie struck again for United against Newcastle

MATT BARLOW

Manchester United have a magnificent spirit. The will to win they displayed (yet again) against Newcastle will have a psychological impact on the chasers. Their manager has incredible instinct and unrivalled experience in a title race. With Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones fit again they will get stronger at the back, Robin van Persie will supply a steady stream goals and a seven-point gap will be difficult to close.

Yet not impossible.

Last season, United crumbled, perhaps a hint of inexperience from their younger players. Will this haunt them when it gets squeaky City are not as smooth as they were (won three of nine) but will feel the benefit when European competition starts again, while the real threat may develop from Chelsea, fast-improving under Rafa Benitez.

Chelsea would be eight behind if they won the game in hand (at home to Southampton). They have the Europa League to contend with and face some tough away fixtures, starting at Everton on Sunday. It will not be easy but they are likely to recruit next month.

A quiet confidence is growing at Stamford Bridge (won six of seven) that some of their long-standing problems are being ironed out. Rafa is relishing the prospect of a title duel with Fergie. This one is not quite over yet.

Follow Matt Barlow on Twitter @matt_barlow_dm

On the rise: Juna Mata is inspiring Chelsea's charge up the table

On the rise: Juna Mata is inspiring Chelsea's charge up the table

LEE CLAYTON

Alan Shearer, his wages paid by the taxpayer, told the BBC’s Match of the Day programme: ‘Manchester United will be happy’.

Seven points clear and happy. That’s some revelation.

They can’t defend, the goalkeeper looks less than happy, they’ve had to win 24 points from losing positions… and they’re STILL seven points clear. But surely it can’t be over on Boxing Day.

City are better than that. They have to start scoring soon and Chelsea’s record since losing at West Ham is 26-4 in all competitions and three straight wins in the league. Us neutrals need it to be more exciting, closer, tighter than that.

Maybe it won’t be last-kick-of-the-season-close like last time – and United clearly have it all to lose, as people like Shearer might say – but let’s hope they aren’t runaway champions.

Where is the fun, the drama… and the happiness in that

Follow Lee Clayton on Twitter @leeclayton_

Friendly face: Sir Alex Ferguson shakes hands with club mascot Fred the Red

Friendly face: Sir Alex Ferguson shakes hands with club mascot Fred the Red

DOMINIC KING

Will anything stop Manchester United now In the aftermath of the extraordinary game against Newcastle, it’s an understandable question but it is also highly presumptuous.

In word, there are plenty of factors that can halt United’s title bid. For a start, it would be wrong to dismiss Manchester City as busted flushes. They may not be playing with the same fizz as last season but they have enough class players to embark on a sustained winning run.

The same applies for Chelsea. Rafa Benitez’s side have started keeping clean sheets now and, again, they have excellent players. In this observer’s view, they are the most likely challengers to United and a win at Old Trafford when the teams meet would certainly make things interesting.

Another aspect to consider is United’s defence. They keep conceding goals, they look vulnerable at some point in every game and there will come a point when Robin van Persie doesn’t always rescue them. And what will happen if Van Persie happens to get a lengthy injury

United, unquestionably, are hot favourites for the title and their sustained presence towards the top of the table speaks volumes for their manager’s brilliance.

But are they past the post already Not by a long shot.

Follow Dominic King on Twitter @dominicking_dm

Setback: Man City suffered yet another defeat at Sunderland in a blow to their chances

Setback: Man City suffered yet another defeat at Sunderland in a blow to their chances

JOHN EDWARDS

The way this season has unfolded, it’s easy to see Manchester United letting slip a seven-point lead but difficult to see Manchester City overhauling one. It’s almost as if the two Manchester clubs are doing their best to lose the title race, rather than win it.

United look more vulnerable than for years. Injury problems have caught up with Nemanja Vidic, age with Rio Ferdinand. In midfield, they look distinctly limited by their normal high standards. It would be unthinkable to describe any United side under Sir Alex Ferguson as a one-man band, but where would they be without Robin Van Persie’s goals

City have scarcely been any more convincing. Remaining unbeaten for longer than any other Barclays Premier League side sounds impressive, but the performances behind it were not. The spark just doesn’t seem to be there.

With both teams misfiring, could there yet be an opportunity for Chelsea to break the Mancunian monopoly There surely must be, and if they take it, no-one should be surprised, given three of their back four are England defenders and their attacking creativity is the envy of the land.

They have an even bigger gap to make up, though, and I still expect United’s never-say-die spirit to drag them over the line, if only because Ferguson will demand nothing less.

Follow John Edwards on Twitter @JEAlty

Suspect: Nemanja Vidic (right) is recovering from a serious knee injury

Suspect: Nemanja Vidic (right) is recovering from a serious knee injury

LAURA WILLIAMSON

The only thing that has been consistent about the top half of the Premier League this season is its inconsistency. You can lose three in a row like West Brom and still stay in the top six, concede 28 goals and be seven points clear or experience a supposed crisis a la Arsenal and still be in the mix for a Champions League spot. It's madness.

How Manchester United fare against Real Madrid in the Champions League may impact upon their domestic fortunes, but I can't see anyone putting together a sustained run to challenge Sir Alex Ferguson's side for the title.

United have won 52 per cent of their points after going behind in matches, after all. While that says a lot about their experience, determination and dodgy defending, it says even more about the quality – or not – of the opposition.

Follow Laura Williamson on Twitter @laura_mail

Danger: Much will depend on how United fare against Ronaldo and Real Madrid

Danger: Much will depend on how United fare against Ronaldo and Real Madrid

CHRIS WHEELER

History tells us that United have failed to retain the title at the first attempt only once in the Premier League era. It also shows that when Sir Alex Ferguson’s side hold this kind of advantage at the halfway stage they go on to be crowned champions.

Will it be a similar story this season Probably. Are they unstoppable No.

Ferguson has often bemoaned his team’s tendency to make life difficult for themselves, and there will be a few twists and turns yet.

Manchester City’s early exit from Europe will be an advantage when the Champions League starts up again in February, and United are still conceding far too many goals. Could they afford to lose Robin van Persie to injury

If City and Chelsea are still in contention when the Old Trafford derby rolls around on April 6, it will be very interesting. Three of United’s next four games after that are against Chelsea, Arsenal and away to Stoke. They are definitely favourites but there’s still everything to play for.

Roaring success: Jonny Evans celebrates scoring against Newcastle at Old Trafford

Roaring success: Jonny Evans celebrates scoring against Newcastle at Old Trafford

SAMI MOKBEL

You only have to look at last season to realise the title race is far from done and dusted. Yes, seven points is a pretty sizeable gap but Manchester City have proved they have the minerals to close it – even though it does seem unlikely.

Keeping Robin van Persie fit will be key for United. He’s taken to life at Old Trafford like the proverbial duck to water and his all round game, not just his goals, will be pivotal.

Follow Sami Mokbel on Twitter @samimokbel81_dm

MIKE DICKSON

United’s remarkable resilience and superior firepower to anyone else means they are sure to win the title. The squad deserves a collective horsewhipping if they blow it from here.

Chelsea will come second and Benitez will get the chance to blow some of his owner’s money when he gets the job permanently at the end of the season, with the hate mob (temporarily) silenced.

Mancini will be fired for coming third, while Arsenal will keep Wenger on as they edge Everton for fourth.

Follow Mike Dickson on Twitter @mike_dickson_dm

Under threat: Roberto Mancini may pay a big price if he fails to win the title again

Under threat: Roberto Mancini may pay a big price if he fails to win the title again

COLIN YOUNG

If you were at the Stadium of Light on the final day of last season, you didn’t see Sergio Aguero’s championship winning goal. You just heard about it.

The moment that news came through, the Manchester United players on the pitch had to suffer the very public humiliation of handing the Barclays Premier League trophy to their city rivals. They were mocked by Sunderland fans, and in that moment I felt the destiny this season’s title was decided.

Revenge. That is what motivates Sir Alex Ferguson. he has signed Robin van Persie just to bring even more goals to his side when it matters. And it really matters now and, after seeing them squander so many chances at Sunderland yesterday, it’s hard to see City catching them this season.

Follow Colin Young on Twitter @cyoungdailymail

LAURIE WHITWELL

This has been a highly peculiar season, even by United’s standards, and it can be viewed in two ways. Either you imagine the multitude of goals shipped will eventually prove their undoing or you figure that, as they have consistently shown, even conceding large numbers will prove no obstacle to victory. This United side have a resilience and spirit greater than any I can remember and some attacking displays have been breath-taking.

But they remain egg-shell fragile defensively and that will worry Sir Alex Ferguson. They have allowed 92 shots on target, only four fewer than QPR, and in conceding 28 goals by halfway, they have exceeded season-long totals in title-winning campaigns from 2008/09 (24), 2007/08 (22) and 2006/07 (27).

Undoubtedly Robin Van Persie is a huge player and were he to get injured City and Chelsea would sniff a chance. But goals are coming from everywhere. Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra have six between them this term having scored just three in 10 previous seasons.

Such quirky details, alongside dazzling comeback performances, tell you United want this title back badly and will win it by sheer force of personality.

Follow Laurie Whitwell on Twitter @lauriewhitwell

Helping hand: Patrice Evra (centre) has been a surprise name on the scoresheet this season

Helping hand: Patrice Evra (centre) has been a surprise name on the scoresheet this season

SIMON CASS

There are plenty of reasons why Manchester United are not certainties for the title and not just because I am a bitter Newcastle United supporter!

Take their shaky defence for example, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have conceded more than any other side in the top half and twice as many as at the same stage last season. All very well when Robin van Persie is banging them in at the other end but will the Dutchman stay injury free until the end of the season

And despite seemingly having sown things up by the turn of the year, Ferguson’s men only have one more point than they head this time last year. Given the trials and tribulations of their rivals surely the gap to Manchester City should be greater than seven points. Lest we forget, City were five points back at the beginning of April last year and still did the business on the final day.

This year, Mancini’s men can concentrate fully on staying in touch with their Champions League chasing neighbours while Chelsea’s resurgence under Rafa Benitez means they are not out of it yet. Furthermore, Ferguson is adamant he will not be buying in January while City and Chelsea are sure to strengthen.

There’s still lots of life left in this title race.

Follow Simon Cass on Twitter @simon_cassdm

SAM CUNNINGHAM

What can stop United Well, Fernando Torres has been reunited with a manager who knows him well and knows how to get the most out of him. He’s scored seven goals in nine games under Rafa Benitez and that was after three matches getting his confidence back so that’s seven in his last six.

Add the real goalscoring Torres who was sensational in Spain and lived up to the hype initially when he came to England to Chelsea’s team and they have a side that can catch United. Three of Juan Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard or Victor Moses behind a striker who can actually score is frightening.

Win their game in hand and Chelsea are eight points off top spot – that’s not out of sight.

Follow Sam Cunningham on Twitter @samcunningham

Manchester City were embarrassing! Roberto Mancini"s men slammed over limp Champions League exit

City were embarrassing! No passion, no graft, no team-work… Mancini's men slammed over limp Champions League exit

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UPDATED:

11:54 GMT, 5 December 2012

Dortmund 1 Manchester City 0

City fail to make Europa League cut – Read John Edwards' match report from Germany

Manchester City have been accused of embarrassing themselves in the Champions League by not trying to win against Borussia Dortmund last night.

Roberto Mancini heads in to Sunday’s Manchester derby in the Barclays Premier League under real pressure after City became the first English team to fail to register a single win in their Champions League group.

Last night’s defeat in Germany left City bottom of their group with just three points and left them without even the consolation of a Europa League spot.

Down and out: Manchester City reflect on their dreadful European campaign in Dortmund last night

Down and out: Manchester City reflect on their dreadful European campaign in Dortmund last night

Now City have been accused of failing to earn their big wages by, among others, their former midfielder Didi Hamann.

The former German international, who played for City between 2006 and 2009 and won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005, said: 'Sometimes if you pay these players big wages it takes the edge off them.

'This is not the first time this has happened to City.

'Anyone can have a bad game but if you have six bad games in Europe – like they did last year – and then six more this season then you have to question their will to win.

'Have they got the will to go the extra yards for their team mates Too often, if it gets tough, they don’t want to go the extra yard.

'If you do that in the Champions League you get found out.

'It’s a tough group but this borders on embarrassing, to get so few points.

Under pressure: Roberto Mancini was powerless to stop City's 1-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund

Under pressure: Roberto Mancini was powerless to stop City's 1-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund

'City really don’t have the conviction to play in this league. They had 14 international players used during this game.

'These are the players the manager wanted. You expect better performances than this.

'The gulf between them and Dortmund looked very big.

'Borussia rested some of their top players. The players who came in for City all cost a lot of money. The Borussia players didn’t.

'I saw one team that had the will to win and one that didn’t.

'If I didn’t know beforehand what their position in the group was I would have thought that Borussia had something to play for and City didn’t.

'It was a very disappointing performance from start to finish, apart from Joe Hart.

'Clearly, as Joe Hart said afterwards, things are not right in the camp.'

Mad Mario: Striker Balotelli (right) screams in frustration during the defeat in Germany

Mad Mario: Striker Balotelli (right) screams in frustration during the defeat in Germany

City began last night’s game needing a win to qualify for the Europa League while their opponents had already qualified for the next stage of the main competition.

Despite that, Hamann and fellow SKY TV analysts Glenn Hoddle and Ruud Gullit, were shocked by what they saw from Mancini’s players.

Gullit, who won the European Cup with Milan in 1989, said: 'The managers takes the responsibility when you win and when you lose.

'If the intention was to get out of playing in the Europa League then City did a great job.

'If their intention was to win to get in to the Europa League then they made a fool of themselves.

'It was dreadful. There was no team at all.

'I didn’t see anybody getting mad or angry or even looking like they wanted to do it.

'It was such a bad performance. Even though they didn’t want to play in the Europa League, at least they could have made an effort. At least do something.

'They bought a lot of players for their name. I don’t think they bought players for other reasons.

'I don’t see the reason they bought Maicon. Maybe someone can tell me that.

'They had some good players and they sold them.

'Mancini said after one defeat this season that he knew what the problem was and he would fix it.

'That’s what he said. I have not seen that he has fixed it. I just see them playing worse and worse.

Down and out: Dortmund's Julian Schieber (right) scores the decisive goal past Joe Hart (left)

Down and out: Dortmund's Julian Schieber (right) scores the decisive goal past Joe Hart (left)

'There are lots of things that don’t bode well in this team. If they don’t win on Sunday then they have real problems.

'When things are going wrong it’s the ones that don’t play that cause the problems.

'That is the danger of what’s happening to Man City.'

City were due to train in Germany this morning before flying home to Manchester ahead of their Sunday clash with Sir Alex Ferguson’s United. If they lose at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday they will be six points behind their rivals.

Former England coach Hoddle claimed last night that Mancini’s players don’t understand how to implement the Italian’s tactics.

Hoddle said: 'It concerns me in Europe how City don’t work hard to win the ball back or show passion.

City old boy: Dietmar Hamann

Glenn Hoddle

City critics: Blues' old boy Dietmar Hamann (left) and former England manager Glenn Hoddle (right)

'There is no pressure on the ball. There is nobody giving information. They are playing as individuals.

'Top teams like Barcelona play together and go after the ball together. Man City can’t give teams that much space and time in Europe. If they do they will continue to get picked off.

'They have good players when they have the ball. When they have the ball they want to work and want to have the ball and make an effort.

'But they need to work hard all the time. If they don’t improve this will happen in Europe every season.

'I think Mancini has to look at himself in terms of both sides of the coin – attacking and defending – when you play at this level.

'He went in to a back three in the second half and that is fine. But the players don’t look drilled. They don’t look as though they know what they are doing.

'The full-backs, for example, are getting caught and the full-backs of the opposition are therefore coming on nice and free.

'If you go to playing that system it looks to be causing City a problem.

'They have to be drilled about how they are going to win the ball back in that system and then in the normal system that they play.

'There have to be some questions aimed at the manager and the staff a little bit.

'Are the players switched on to whatever system they are being asked to play I would question that.'

Tottenham fans care more about football than racism, says Society of Black Lawyers

Spurs fans care more about football than kicking racism out of the the game, claims Herbert
Society of Black Lawyers maintain call for 'criminal convictions after November 20'
'Small minority' of Tottenham fans to blame for 'anti-Semitic' chanting, says Herbert
'Their love of football is greater than their desire to deal with anti-Semitism', adds SBL chief
Tottenham have refused to comment on the matter

|

UPDATED:

12:26 GMT, 9 November 2012

The Society of Black Lawyers hit out at Tottenham and the Football Association after repeating its threat to go to the police over what it regards as anti-Semitic chanting at White Hart Lane.

Spurs fans sent an open message of defiance to the SBL on Thursday night when they chanted 'We'll sing what we want' and 'Yid Army' throughout the club's 3-1 home win over Maribor in the Europa League.

Despite being a club with a traditionally large Jewish following, Tottenham fans often refer to themselves as 'Yids' or the 'Yid Army' in chants during the club's matches.

Backing: Tottenham fans cheer on their side against Maribor on Thursday

'We'll sing what we want': Spurs fans were in defiant mood on Thursday

Although Spurs claim otherwise, the
SBL say the phrase is anti-Semitic and they have vowed to complain to
the police under the Public Order Act if supporters continue to use the
chant beyond the November 20 deadline it has set.

The SBL had monitors at the north
London ground on Thursday night who heard the chants and this morning it
reiterated its commitment to report any such action to the police
should fans continue their actions.

'We are not going to let go on this,' SBL chair Peter Herbert said.

'After November 20 there is a potential that people will get a criminal conviction. If they want to run that risk then fine.

'We are serious. We aren't in this
for sensationalism. We think the vast majority of Tottenham fans are
sensible and do not engage in anti-Semitism.

'It's a very small minority who obviously don't care about any offence.

'Their love of football is greater than their desire to deal with anti-Semitism.'

Tottenham refused to comment on the
matter. The London club stick by the statement they released on
Wednesday which read: 'Our guiding principle in respect of the “Y-word”
is based on the point of law itself – the distinguishing factor is the
intent with which it is used ie if it is used with the deliberate
intention to cause offence. This has been the basis of prosecutions of
fans of other teams to date.

A 'Yid Army' Spurs flag

Flying the flag: Herbert has launched another attack on Tottenham supporters

'Our fans adopted the chant as a
defence mechanism in order to own the term and thereby deflect
anti-Semitic abuse. They do not use the term to others to cause any
offence, they use it as a chant amongst themselves.'

Herbert believes the club have been
misguided over the issue and claims fans can be prosecuted regardless of
whether the songs are intended to cause offence.

'Under Section Five of the Public
Order Act it doesn't matter what the intent is of the individual or the
crowd, if the words cause harassment, alarm, or distress to anyone
watching then that is sufficient,' Herbert said.

Three and easy: Defoe scored a hat-trick in Tottenham's win on Thursday

Three and easy: Defoe scored a hat-trick in Tottenham's win on Thursday

'If a crowd of men were walking down
Tottenham High Road singing the Y-word causing offence they would be
arrested. It doesn't make sense that they can make White Hart Lane a
no-go area for law.'

Herbert ridiculed Tottenham's
statement and claimed the SBL has widespread support for its campaign
from within the Jewish community.

'We have no doubt there will be complaints (to the police),' Herbert added.

'If the Met Police say they are going to look at prosecutions then there is a good chance it will stop.

'Tottenham's statement is
indefensible. I think if you went to the United States, Canada or South
Africa and you made a statement like that you would face ridicule and
condemnation.

'It is a very sad day for English football when clubs feel they have to defend a term of abuse.'

Herbert also accused the FA of a lack of interest in the Tottenham matter.

'This is an appalling abdication of
responsibility by the FA,' he said. 'It's a complete disgrace that they
have stayed silent on this.

'There is an inertia from the FA over racism and anti-Semitism.

'You can't go and complain about racism and anti-Semitism in Serbia and then have it happening in your own back yard.'

Tottenham fans Yid Army T-shirt fightback

Tottenham fans get shirty over calls to ban 'Yid Army' chants: Spurs supporters launch T-shirt fightback over anti-Semitism claims

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UPDATED:

14:12 GMT, 9 November 2012

Tottenham fans can hit back at attempts to stop them referring to themselves as the 'Yid Army' with a T-shirt protest.

Fans outside White Hart Lane before Thursday night's Europa League victory over Maribor were heard discussing the T-shirt slogan (pictured) which reads: 'YIDARMY WHL N17'.

The T-shirt can be purchased for 11.99 at www.n17club.co.uk. But it has emerged there is a dedicated Yid Army website – www.yidarmy.com – where Tottenham fans can buy a range of clothing emblazoned with the 'Y-word' slogan.

Show your support: The T-shirts and jumpers emblazoned with the slogans start at 11.99

Show your support: The T-shirts and jumpers emblazoned with the slogans start at 11.99

Show your support: The T-shirts and jumpers emblazoned with the slogans start at 11.99

A debate has been raging this week over whether use of the word 'Yid' by Tottenham fans is anti-Semitic. High-profile campaigners such as celebrity Chelsea fan David Baddiel insist it is. But Spurs fans – and the club themselves – argue that it is about context.

Tottenham issued an impassioned defence of their fans' right to use the term 'Yid' in their matchday chants.

Peter Herbert, chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, described the north London club’s attitude as being '40 years out of date', and vowed to make a formal complaint to the Metropolitan Police if chanting the 'Y-word' continued at White Hart Lane.

The society claim such chants – either by opposition fans or Spurs supporters themselves – are anti-Semitic and unacceptable in contemporary society.

'We are not going to let go on this,'
SBL chair Peter Herbert said. 'After November 20 there is a potential
that people will get a criminal conviction. If they want to run that
risk then fine.

'Their (Tottenham's) love of football is greater than their desire to deal with anti-Semitism.'

Baddiel, speaking exclusively to Sportsmail,
said: 'The idea that Spurs fans are reclaiming the Y-word and are
entitled to because so many of them are Jewish is simply not true,' he
said. 'There are only 250,000 Jews in Britain as a whole and I'd say
about three or four per cent of Tottenham's crowd is Jewish.

Getting shirty: Defoe bagged three and Spurs fans celebrated with a song about him, which incorporates the 'Y' word

Getting shirty: Defoe bagged three and Spurs fans celebrated with a song about him, which incorporates the 'Y' word

Getting shirty: Defoe bagged three and Spurs fans celebrated with a song about him, which incorporates the 'Y' word

'That means well over 90 per cent of those chanting “Yid Army” are not actually Jewish and that is just one of several reasons why it cannot be right. If, for instance, there was a team in Brixton called Brixton United, and they had a mainly white support who adopted the N-word as their badge of honour and went round chanting “N***** Army”, they would be closed down tomorrow.

'At Tottenham, the club's “Jewishness” is just an historical association with the area. It's doubtful that there are more than five per cent actual Jews in the ground at home games (only 0.4 per cent of the UK is Jewish). So the argument “but it's just like Snoop Doggy Dogg using the N-word” does not apply to most Spurs fans.'

Tottenham's stance over the use of the word 'Yid' is clear and the club have taken legal advice over the matter.

Controversy: Spurs fans have vowed to keep using the chants, despite calls for prosecution over alleged racism

Controversy: Spurs fans have vowed to keep using the chants, despite calls for prosecution over alleged racism

Controversy: Spurs fans have vowed to keep using the chants, despite calls for prosecution over alleged racism

Spurs said in a statement: 'The club does not tolerate any form of racist or abusive chanting.

'Our guiding principle in respect of
the “Y-word” is based on the point of law itself — the distinguishing
factor is the intent with which it is used, i.e. if it is used with the
deliberate intention to cause offence.

'This has been the basis of
prosecutions of fans of other teams to date. Our fans adopted the chant
as a defence mechanism in order to own the term and thereby deflect
anti-Semitic abuse. They do not use the term to others to cause any
offence, they use it as a chant among themselves.

'The club believes that real
anti-Semitic abuse such as hissing to simulate the noise of gas chambers
is the real evil and the real offence.'

Sing your heart out: The use of the Yid Army chants is deeply engrained among Spurs fans

Sing your heart out: The use of the Yid Army chants is deeply engrained among Spurs fans

Scott Harrison sentenced to four years in prison

Harrison sentenced to four years in Spanish prison after brothel brawl

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UPDATED:

08:51 GMT, 6 November 2012

Shamed former world champion Scott Harrison has been sentenced to four years in a Spanish jail after being convicted of assault.

The Scotsman, 35, returned to the ring in June after almost seven years in the wilderness and had hoped to fight for another world title.

But Harrison, who intends to appeal the verdict, was found guilty of assaulting three men at a brothel after a trial in Malaga.

Return: Scott Harrison (right) in action against Joe Elfidh in September

Return: Scott Harrison (right) in action against Joe Elfidh in September

He received two years each for the two most serious assaults and a fine for the attack on the third victim.

Harrison's dad Peter told the Daily Record: 'Scott will be appealing this, 100 per cent.

'He has already said he is innocent and that remains the case. He’s down but determined to clear his name.

'Scott is a victim here – and I’m not just saying that because I’m his dad.'

Harrison was only released from a Spanish prison in September last year after spending 30 months behind bars for an assault in 2005.

But despite the sentence, Harrison hopes that by appealing, he can continue his comeback in the ring by fighting John Simpson in Glasgow on December 1.

Guilty: Harrison in a Spanish court

Guilty: Harrison in a Spanish court

He has also set his sights on a Scottish showdown with WBO world champion Ricky Burns.

Lead judge Julian Cruz said: 'Harrison is not a first-time offender and his criminal record reflects a prior assault conviction.

'We’re also taking into account the dangerous nature of this attack, the serious injuries inflicted and the fact one of the accused was a professional boxer with extensive experience in fighting.'

Harrison, from Cambuslang near Glasgow, was warned it could take up to a year before his appeal is settled.

But a Spanish legal source said: 'For the appeal to be successful, Harrison will have to show the other witnesses, or victims, lied. Because there is an appeal, everything will be frozen until the appeal is heard.'

Harrison looked sluggish when fighting on the undercard of Burns' stunning victory over Kevin Mitchell in September when he struggled to a points win over Joe Elfidh.

That followed a knockout win over Gyorgy Mizsei Jnr earlier on his return, a far cry from his glory days as a featherweight world champion.

Nile Ranger convicted of assault on two police officers

Newcastle striker Ranger convicted of assault on two police officers after night out

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UPDATED:

13:09 GMT, 15 October 2012

Conviction: Nile Ranger

Conviction: Nile Ranger

Newcastle striker Nile Ranger has been convicted of two counts of assault by beating against two police officers.

But he was cleared of two counts of actual bodily harm on two members of the public.

Ranger, 21, was on a night out in Newcastle city centre with his cousin on August 27 last year.

At about 2am he was approached by a group of white males and a confrontation ensued which resulted in Ranger punching two of them.

But Newcastle Crown Court heard that the footballer had been the victim of racial taunts and that his actions were in self-defence.

He fled the scene but, when police tried to detain him, he twice pushed them away, causing minor injuries.

He was given a 12-month conditional discharge and told to pay 750 to each officer.

Former heavyweight boxing champion Tyson barred by New Zealand after charity snub

Former heavyweight boxing champion Tyson barred by New Zealand after charity snub

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UPDATED:

05:50 GMT, 3 October 2012

Barred: Mike Tyson

Barred: Mike Tyson

Former heavyweight boxing champion and convicted rapist Mike Tyson has had his visa to visit New Zealand cancelled.

And a speaking tour for the former
heavyweight boxing champion was threatening to fall apart altogether as
Australian immigration authorities said they've yet to decide whether to
allow him into the country.

Tickets for appearances in New
Zealand and five major Australian cities in November are still being
promoted by a Sydney agency.

Tyson's 1992 rape conviction would
normally prevent his entry in New Zealand and could be grounds for
denial in Australia as well. He had been granted an exemption for New
Zealand before that visa was cancelled, days after the prime minister
spoke out against the visit.

Tyson was to speak at a November
event in Auckland, the 'Day of the Champions' which is being promoted by
Sydney agency Markson Sparks!

New Zealand's Associate Immigration
Minister Kate Wilkinson said she'd initially granted entry because a
children's health charity would get some of the proceeds from Tyson's
speech. She said in a statement her decision was 'a finely balanced
call' but that the charity that would have benefited, the Life Education
Trust, withdrew its support on Tuesday.

'Given that the trust is no longer supporting the event, on balance, I have made the decision to cancel his visa,' Wilkinson wrote in her statement.

The charity's chief executive, John O'Connell, however, said the charity had long ago decided not to accept any money from the event due to its concerns over Tyson's character, but that a volunteer trustee had mistakenly sent a letter to immigration authorities supporting Tyson's plans.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship said: 'I can tell you that a decision is still pending' on Tyson's application for an Australian visa.

Big hit: Former heavyweight champion Tyson

Big hit: Former heavyweight champion Tyson

Tyson's criminal history could prevent him from obtaining an Australian visa. Would-be visitors normally must pass a character test. Those with a 'substantial criminal record' – which by the immigration department's definition includes people who, like Tyson, have been sentenced to more than a year in prison – would fail the test. But the department can still use its discretion to grant a visa.

Colorful promoter Max Markson said he'd been 'hoping it might be a smoother run with Mike Tyson' but that he remained confident Australia would grant Tyson a visa and that New Zealand would reverse its decision when he found another suitable charity.

'He'll only be in the country for 20 hours, I don't think he's a danger to anybody, and thousands of people want to see him,' Markson said of Tyson's planned New Zealand leg.

Markson said he's continuing to sell tickets to the planned speeches in both countries and that buyers will get a full refund if the shows are cancelled. He said he had immigration lawyers in Australia, New Zealand and the United States working on the case.

Speaking to the APNZ news agency this week from Las Vegas before his New Zealand visa was cancelled, Tyson said his tattoo was inspired by those worn by New Zealand's indigenous Maori.

In pre-European times, many Maori wore elaborate facial tattoos as a sign of their status in their tribe. Some Maori who identify strongly with their traditional culture get similar tattoos.

Tyson told the agency that, aside from their tattoos, he knew little about the Maori people 'so I'm looking forward to come down there and see them.'

Prime Minister John Key spoke against the planned visit this week, questioning the decision by immigration authorities and saying he personally disapproved of the visit given Tyson's conviction for such a serious crime.

Before his visa was cancelled, Tyson said: 'Fortunately, I am coming to New Zealand and there's nothing they can do about it and I'm so sorry, I'm sorry they feel disappointed and I'm just living my life.'

Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison for the 1991 rape of 18-year-old Desiree Washington in an Indianapolis hotel room. He served three years before being released on parole.

John Terry quit as England captain because FA will find him guilty – Martin Samuel

Others had made up their minds so Terry had to quit

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UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 24 September 2012

Sometime this week at a London hotel, or in the near future via the Football Association website, John Terry will be found guilty of the racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand. Terry clearly thinks that, too. This is why he has retired from international football.

Not that he is admitting guilt. Terry will never do that, whatever the decision of the FA disciplinary panel. Others may have made their minds up about him, but Terry will continue to protest that what he said on a fateful afternoon at Loftus Road was the result of a misunderstanding in the heat of a fractious moment. We have all heard the evidence, both sides of the story at Westminster Magistrates Court. /09/23/article-2207528-13FE72BD000005DC-700_634x394.jpg” width=”634″ height=”394″ alt=”Flashpoint: The John Terry and Anton Ferdinand racism case is due to reach its conclusion this week” class=”blkBorder” />

Flashpoint: The John Terry and Anton Ferdinand racism case is due to reach its conclusion this week

Typically, one couldn’t presume guilt
with such certainty. Presumption is considered prejudicial to a fair
trial. Saying it about Terry, however, doesn’t much matter because FA
disciplinary proceedings do not aspire to the high standards of the law
courts. Criminal and civil courts make rigorous demands of prosecutors.
FA hearings don’t even require proof. In this, at least, Terry has a
point.

It concerns the balance of
probabilities, the method by which he will be found guilty. In fact, it
is on the balance of probabilities that we can make assumptions
concerning the outcome of Terry’s hearing. In 2011, there were 473 FA
disciplinary cases with a conviction rate of 99.5 per cent. That is what
happens when the folk doing the prosecuting get to appoint the judge.

At those odds, Terry has the same
chance of getting off as he does of flipping heads in a coin toss eight
times in a row. He will continue fighting to clear his name, but also
knows the reality. To borrow a line from comedy shrink Frasier Crane,
Abe Lincoln had a brighter future when he picked up his tickets at the
box office.

The hearing begins on Monday morning, but
weeks have already been spent in legal argument. The reason such time
has elapsed since Terry’s charge is that his counsel have been
challenging the make-up of the panel. Now only the chairman is the FA’s
man. The rest are independents, including former Blackburn Rovers
midfield player Stuart Ripley.

Yet disillusionment at the process
remains and has been the catalyst for Terry’s decision regarding
England. Rumours have been circulating for weeks that he was ready to
make this move. Only this week, however, was his mind made up. And here
is the FA rule that did it.

Legal verdict: Terry was found not guilty at Westminster Magistrates Court in London in July

Legal verdict: Terry was found not guilty at Westminster Magistrates Court in London in July

Paragraph 6.8: ‘Where the subject
matter of a complaint or matter before the Regulatory Commission has
been the subject of previous civil or criminal proceedings, the result
of such proceedings and the facts and matters upon which such result is
based shall be presumed to be correct and the facts presumed to be true
unless it is shown, by clear and convincing evidence, that this is not
the case.’

In other words, unless compelling
submission to the contrary emerges, the evidence and result of a civil
or criminal trial is taken as the last word. Terry believed that by
citing this regulation, his hearing would be thrown out. He was wrong.
The case goes ahead. Sensing the FA’s determination, even in defiance of
their rulebook, Terry withdrew from international duty. He is 31. There
will be no going back.

No doubt the FA will claim that by
admitting using racially charged words in Westminster Magistrates Court,
Terry has moved the investigation along. The complexity around this
case from the start was its inconclusiveness. Was Terry not guilty or
not proven, having admitted the caustic address

The FA are now eradicating
complication, because certainty is no longer required. Indeed, to be
found guilty Terry does not even have to be proved to have acted in a
racist way. Even if the panel were to accept Terry’s explanation that
he was merely using racist language in order to deny using racist
language that could justifiably be classed as guilt. The balance of
probability would certainly find against Terry.

So is it fair The FA point out that
such rulings are not confined to football. Medical professionals can be
struck off on probability, too. Yet while malpractice carries a loss of
professional reputation it does not contain the public ignominy of
being marked as a racist. For example, name the doctor struck off for 20
years of sex abuse in February this year. Navin Zala.

Now name the former manager of
Manchester United who made racist remarks about Marcel Desailly eight
years ago and has barely worked since.Ron Atkinson. Easier, wasn’t it

Long wait: Terry (here calming down Stoke's Jonathan Walters on Saturday) will discover the FA's decision this week

Long wait: Terry (here calming down Stoke's Jonathan Walters on Saturday) will discover the FA's decision this week

Balance of probability therefore
becomes a more controversial method of conviction the more serious the
accusation. The problem is that a heinous offence, racism, is subject
to the same FA process as a lousy tackle. Disciplinary hearings have
evolved this way because, when ruling on live events, looser standards
must apply.

Last week, Andy Wilkinson of Stoke
City was, rightly, banned for three matches after being found guilty of
violent conduct. Unseen by referee Mark Clattenburg, he elbowed Mario
Balotelli during a match with Manchester City. Nobody can know if
Wilkinson did this deliberately, indeed Stoke manager Tony Pulis says it
was unintentional, but if the FA had to debate the motivation of every
unsavoury incident, convictions would be so difficult to obtain that the
game could descend into lawlessness. So a hearing decides that, on the
balance of probability, a player has acted in an inexcusably violent
manner, and punishes accordingly. Fair enough.

Wilkinson’s life and long-term career,
however, are unaffected by his misdemeanour. He serves his ban and moves
on. Nobody calls for him to be barred from the Britannia Stadium.
Nobody insists that his international career, if he had one, should be
over.

It is different for Terry. All manner
of complications await when his guilty verdict is announced. His
international career is already gone. Some now think his club future
could be affected because his very presence at Stamford Bridge will
contravene Chelsea’s ground regulations. At the very least, it is
argued, he will be unable to continue as captain.

Of course, some of this extrapolation
is far-fetched. Banning Terry from Stamford Bridge, for instance. He was
found not guilty of using racist language in Westminster Magistrates
Court in July, and the club could reasonably argue that this ruling
takes precedence. Also, footballers do not have to conform to the same
standards of behaviour as fans. Kicking an opposition supporter while
situated in the main stand would result in ejection and perhaps a
lifetime ban; kicking the opposition’s striker when he is through on
goal might earn a pat on the back from a grateful manager. The
punishment is a free-kick, maybe a card. You see the difference.

Grudge: Ferdinand (left) snubs Terry's hand before the game at Loftus Road earlier this month

Grudge: Ferdinand (left) snubs Terry's hand before the game at Loftus Road earlier this month

No doubt, though, Terry’s conviction
will be hugely problematic. To have a captain who has been found to use
racist language — even by implication and by a governing body that is
basically making up the rules as it goes along — would damage Chelsea’s
anti-racist initiatives.

This is mighty stuff, with mighty
ramifications, to simply be left in the realm of probability. Yet the FA
has a lot riding on the outcome, too. ‘These are my principles and if
you don’t like them, well I’ve got others,’ said Groucho Marx. It is
much the same at the FA these days. The chairman should retire at 70,
although now moves are afoot to override this complication when David
Bernstein becomes a septuagenarian on May 22 next year. As for rule 6.8,
the FA presses on regardless and hopes, no doubt, that Terry does not
challenge the process further in arbitration.

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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Usually, the governing body run a mile
from potentially costly legal proceedings — it took them 23 years to
apologise for their role in the Hillsborough tragedy, no doubt because
it was felt an admission of partial culpability might leave them open to
prosecution — so why run this risk over Terry

Clearly, they have a principled stance
against racism to uphold, and there is considerable outside pressure to
take the matter seriously. On this, the FA want to be seen as
proactive.

Yet there is also vested interest. The
FA lost the England captain, and from there the England manager, Fabio
Capello, in a tournament year over this case. Bernstein clumsily
isolated Capello by stripping Terry of the captaincy without prior
consultation and if that episode then concluded with the player’s
not-guilty verdict from the Chief Magistrate, the chairman might look to
have mishandled the situation.

A guilty verdict at an FA disciplinary
hearing is the last-minute, extra-time winner. See, we were right all
along. We might have made a stooge of our manager, we might have set
fire to our rulebook, but we got there in the end. /09/23/article-2207528-15182B42000005DC-715_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Given the boot: Terry Brown” class=”blkBorder” />

Given the boot: Terry Brown

The day AFC Wimbledon won promotion to the Football League, Terry Brown, the manager, stood in a corridor at the City of Manchester Stadium and contemplated the future. He had earned promotions in three of the previous five seasons, but he knew this last one, via a play-off, was a game-changer.

'I need to be realistic,’ he said. ‘How far can this model go There isn’t a club that has trod this path. Not one where I can say to people, “Yes, that’s it — that’s how we should do it”.’

Wimbledon stayed up last year but then started this season poorly. Their first seven matches yielded four points, but they had a solution. They sacked Brown.

Wimbledon subsequently won on Saturday. Their opponents, Wycombe Wanderers, immediately sacked their manager Gary Waddock. In the big league, it seems, one model is very much like another.

Clear as mud

The Portsmouth Supporters Trust still live in hope of being given preferred bidder status in the battle for the club.

It would be very interesting were the fans to become the masters and have access to the financial records of previous failed regimes.

If so, we might be able to get to the bottom of who has really controlled Portsmouth since the financial collapse began — and precisely what they got out of it.

Rugby short of gain line

Serious errors have been made in preparation for the Rugby World Cup. The Rugby Football Union guaranteed the International Rugby Board 80million from the tournament, but must attract 2.9m in ticket sales to achieve that margin.

Their only hope is to utilise larger capacity football grounds, but, while some clubs previously expressed willingness to co-operate, no contracts were signed or agreement reached with the Premier League.

Now football’s authorities say a firm commitment cannot be made until the 2015-16 fixture list is published, meaning arrangements could only be finalised three months in advance. Government intervention may be required.

Amusing, isn’t it, that for all the sneering that goes on, yet another sport cannot make its sums add up without football’s co-operation.

Were you watching, Michel

It was another grand week for UEFA president and professional dope Michel Platini.

He sat in the directors’ box at White Hart Lane, while the six match officials that are his brainchild ruled out two perfectly good Tottenham goals, and the Lazio supporters directed monkey chants at Tottenham’s black players, safe in the knowledge that the worst that could happen, by precedent, was a 16,000 UEFA fine.

Many in his position would have felt rather embarrassed; but that would require a degree of self-analysis with which Platini is unfamiliar.

Professional dope: UEFA president Michel Platini (centre) at White Hart Lane last week

Professional dope: UEFA president Michel Platini (centre) at White Hart Lane last week

Lewis Hamilton ignores discussion over future to take pole in Singapore

McLaren help Hamilton to third pole in four races as talk of split focuses minds

|

UPDATED:

19:06 GMT, 22 September 2012

Lewis Hamilton's conviction that he
retains the unwavering support of McLaren in his bid to land a second
Formula One world championship stood up to scrutiny in Singapore as he
blitzed the Marina Bay street circuit to take his third pole in four
races.

The real possibility that Hamilton
could be on his way to Mercedes has led to suggestions that McLaren
might not be too happy for the 27-year-old to take the drivers' title to
a rival team.

However, Hamilton's assertion that he
has '1,000 per cent confidence' in McLaren seemed well judged, as he
saw off his nearest challenger for pole, Pastor Maldonado of Williams,
by almost half a second.

On top: But Lewis Hamilton is not satisfied

On top: But Lewis Hamilton is not satisfied

Hamilton's stunning qualifying
display – his fifth pole of the season and the 24th of his career –
earned generous praise from McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh.

'Lewis has been strong here all
weekend,' said Whitmarsh. 'He has just driven perfectly. It is a circuit
where you have got to be millimetre perfect … and he did a great job.
He realises the championship is winnable. He is in a really good place
and it is quite possible all the chat has caused him to put the barriers
up and focus on driving.'

Even so, such performances from
Hamilton are seemingly not enough for McLaren to loosen the purse
strings in an effort to fend off Mercedes.

McLaren are understood to have
offered a small sweetener in an effort to get Hamilton to put pen to
paper, but nothing close to matching the potential 60million over three
years he could earn at Mercedes.

Flying: Lewis Hamilton qualified in pole position

Flying: Lewis Hamilton qualified in pole position

It is becoming increasingly clear
that the financial picture is not going to change significantly and
Hamilton now faces a straight choice between sticking by a team with a
proven history of success, or switching to one which has offered him
assurances that they will continue to invest until they are a match for
F1's front-runners.

Jenson Button will be hopeful of capitalising on any first-lap mishaps from fourth on the grid.

Now that his personal title tilt is
all but over, Button's focus has firmly switched to helping McLaren win
their first constructors' title for 14 years.

'If you feel like a team player and you feel a team are around you, then the constructors means a lot,' said Button.