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Gavin Henson fractures cheekbone

Henson on sidelines as London Welsh new boy suffers fractured cheekbone



22:27 GMT, 25 August 2012

Gavin Henson has suffered a suspected fractured cheekbone.

The former Wales threequarter had been promised the No 10 jersey for London Welsh’s debut season in the Aviva Premiership.

But he is set to miss the opening clash against Leicester on September 2 and could face an extended period on the sidelines after being injured in a friendly against the Scarlets.

Blow: Gavin Henson suffered a fractured cheekbone

Blow: Gavin Henson suffered a fractured cheekbone

Henson was tackled by Deacon Manu in the first minute of the Exiles’ 23-17 defeat at Parc y Scarlets, and it is understood fuming London Welsh officials will query whether any citing action can be taken.

Head coach Lyn Jones said: ‘It was a late shoulder barge off the ball and he’s gone for precautionary X-rays. We’re hoping for the best but, if it’s the worst, he’s not the first player to get injured.

‘No player wants to get injured in a pre-season friendly because of all the hard work that’s been done leading up to it.

‘You have to deal with these things in rugby. So little about the sport and work is positive, you have to deal with thunderbolts all the time.

‘There’s no use crying over spilt milk and we have to move forward.’

Henson received treatment after the incident in the sixth minute but battled on before being replaced on 32 minutes.

Try hard: Gavin Henson congratulates team-mate Tom Baldwin

Try hard: Gavin Henson congratulates team-mate Tom Baldwin

He had spoken of his determination to do his talking on the pitch with the Exiles as he yet again attempted to relaunch his tarnished career. Now he faces an extended period on the sidelines.

The double Grand Slam-winning threequarter had his contract terminated by Cardiff Blues in April following a booze-fuelled incident on a flight from Glasgow.

It was the latest off-field incident to blight the former golden boy of Welsh rugby, but he linked up with his old Ospreys coach Jones at Old Deer Park earlier this month.

A London Welsh spokesman said: ‘Gavin suffered a bang on his cheekbone and has gone to hospital for a precautionary X-ray. We will make a statement as and when we know more.’

Henson was booed by small sections of the crowd after the clash as London Welsh medics provided treatment.

Wimbledon 2012: Mike Dickson"s SW19 awards

SW19 awards: A crying shame for Andy but what a show it was!



21:00 GMT, 9 July 2012

After one of the most memorable Wimbledon tournaments – including a first British finalist in the men’s singles for 76 years in Andy Murray and a surprise doubles success for Jonny Marray – Sportsmail’s Tennis Correspondent Mike Dickson reveals his highs and lows from the fortnight.

Tears of joy – and happiness

The defining image of Wimbledon 2012 will be Andy Murray’s post-match emotion on the Centre Court, but he was not alone in exercising the tear ducts.

After winning her first round match and being told she had made the British Olympic team by Judy Murray standing at courtside, Elena Baltacha also wept, but with joy.

It all ends in tears: Murray can't contain his emotions on Centre Court

It all ends in tears: Murray can't contain his emotions on Centre Court

Kate's a right Royal tennis lover

Wimbledon, and British tennis in general, has been loyally supported by more minor members of the Royal family over the years and it is much appreciated.

But now along comes the new superstar of the clan, who just happens to love the sport. No getting away from it, the Duchess of Cambridge appears to be the new royal face of The Championships.

Anyone for tennis The Duchess of Cambridge (right) and her sister Pippa in the Royal Box

Anyone for tennis The Duchess of Cambridge (right) and her sister Pippa in the Royal Box

An inscrutable fellow

Whatever drama was going on down below him, Ivan Lendl subjugated his wisecracking off-court personality to show barely a flicker of emotion all fortnight in the coach’s box.

It was a remarkable display of self-control, but it seemed to serve its purpose in transmitting calm to his sometimes turbulent client.

Ice cool: Lendl barely flinched as he watched Murray

Ice cool: Lendl barely flinched as he watched Murray

So much in common, yet so different

Roger Federer and Serena Williams were born barely a month apart, and they both won Wimbledon in 2003.

Given the massive level of international competition it is a tribute to their extraordinary skill and athleticism that, just shy of 31, they were able to come back and do it again in symmetry nine years later.

Thirty-somethings: Williams and Federer with their trophies

Thirty-somethings: Williams and Federer with their trophies

From Russia with grunt: Sharapova was as noisy as ever

From Russia with grunt: Sharapova was as noisy as ever

Try not to adjust your volume

The women’s tour say they are serious about tackling repeat grunt/yelping, discussing the introduction of gruntometers and education programmes at junior level to stamp it out.

But they are fearful of upsetting two of its main practitioners, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, neither of whom are going away any time soon, so the debate goes on.

Give it your best shot

Of the thousands of brilliant shots executed over the fortnight, one that sticks in the memory is Andy Murray’s running backhand pass that blazed by Spanish bulldog David Ferrer in the fourth set of their quarter-final.

It helped set up a truly stomach-churning tiebreak, which the British player won.

And the point is

Federer played the most beautifully constructed rally when it most mattered – on set point in the third against Novak Djokovic to go 2-1 up.

He gradually worked his opponent wide and then, back arched, pulled off an acrobatic overhead to answer the world No 1’s awkward lob. It seemed to break Djokovic’s spirit, not easy to do.

Lukas who

The most fearless, explosive spell of tennis was that of world No 100 Lukas Rosol in the fifth set against Rafael Nadal, in the second-round shock.

Could he do it again, Rafa was asked. ‘How old is he’ replied the Spaniard, to which the answer is 26: ‘Well, he never done it before.’

Czech mate: Rosol was brilliant in defeating Nadal

Czech mate: Rosol was brilliant in defeating Nadal

And after crashing in the next round you wonder if Rosol will ever do it again.

Bring me sunshine

The strangest day in a long time on the Centre Court was the first Friday, when the roof was shut all day out of fear that rain was imminent.

Trouble was it never came, and while those on the outside courts luxuriated in longed-for spells of decent weather the crowd in the main arena missed a rare chance to spot blue sky.

Closed in: The roof was closed at times even when the sun was shining

Closed in: The roof was closed at times even when the sun was shining

From hero to zero

Barely four weeks ago Sara Errani enjoyed the best performance of her life in reaching the final of the French Open.

She turned up at Wimbledon and did ok – until Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova inflicted upon her a ‘golden set’, in which Italy’s toast of Paris scored nul points.

The Late, Late Show

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Late show: Murray beat Baghdatis past 11pm

Aussie and out: Former champion Lleyton Hewitt

Aussie and out: Former champion Lleyton Hewitt

You are the pits of the world

Even those against capital punishment might have second thoughts when it comes to the odd isolated idiot who still thinks it is funny to interrupt the unique hush of the Centre Court with a ‘C’mon Tim’ or other such stale banality.

Before long one of them will have to be slung out, as a warning to others.

We tried not to laugh but…

Australia used to be a tennis superpower, as the honours board at the All England Club attests, and the visit of Rod Laver this year reminded us.

But what a modern-day situation for the Rockhampton Rocket to contemplate, with not one of his compatriots making the second round for the first time since 1938.

Conspiracy theory

Ivo Karlovic was apoplectic at being footfaulted 11 times in the second round against Andy Murray. He accused the tournament of a grand conspiracy to help Britain’s top player through. Wimbledon wisely adopted its best regal ‘Never complain, never explain’ response.

Blind date

Jonny Marray, Sheffield’s 31-year-old journeyman, probably did not expect that his Wimbledon would end with a Grand Slam title, 130,000 in his pocket and playing a final before nearly four million TV viewers.

The beauty of sport is that all these things came to pass, and the question now is whether he and Frederik Nielsen can make the field for the O2 Arena in November.

Shock: Marray (right) and Nielsen had to qualify for the tournament

Shock: Marray (right) and Nielsen had to qualify for the tournament

And finally… something for Andy Murray to remember

From his fellow Scot Robert Louis Stevenson: ‘To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.’

London 2012 Olympics: Ryan Giggs easy choice as Team GB football captain

Elder statesman Giggs 'easy choice' for GB Olympic football captain



21:01 GMT, 8 July 2012

Stuart Pearce has described the decision to name Ryan Giggs as Team GB captain as the 'easiest' of his career.

The Manchester United veteran will lead Great Britain's gold medal charge later this month after Pearce confirmed the midfielder will wear the armband.

Captain Fantastic: Manchester United's Ryan Giggs will lead Team GB in London

Captain Fantastic: Manchester United's Ryan Giggs will lead Team GB in London

You're the boss: Stuart Pearce

You're the boss: Stuart Pearce

The 38-year-old has a full set of
winners medals from his glittering Old Trafford career – and speaking
from Team GB's preparation camp at Loughborough University on Sunday,
Pearce admitted the decision to select Giggs as skipper was a no

'It was probably the easiest decision of my life. For over 20 years, Ryan has been a tremendous professional,' said Pearce.

'His reputation and professionalism
go before him, he's got the respect of the group and the staff. I'm
looking forward to working with him, not only as a player but as a

'He's also a guy who hasn't played
tournament football, which for a man of his ability is a crying shame.
So to come here and captain the side on his home soil is fantastic.'

And Giggs has now set his sights on
adding Olympic gold to his extensive medal collection, saying: 'I've won
a lot in my career but it would be nice to add a gold medal to that.
You never think as a footballer you would win an Olympic medal.

Welsh wonder: Giggs was capped 67 times before retiring in 2007

Welsh wonder: Giggs was capped 67 times before retiring in 2007

'Being captain is a massive honour. Being a 38-year-old, you don't expect to be involved in a massive tournament like this.

'So captaining the team ranks very
highly in my career. What can I bring to the captaincy The experience, a
winning mentality and I'm always here if the players want to talk to

He added: 'Not playing in a major tournament will always be a massive disappointment for me – that will always remain.

'But I'm getting the chance now and
I'm looking forward to that. It was something I never thought was going
to happen. Ever since I got the chance to put my name forward for the
Olympics, it's something I wanted to be a part of.'

Giggs' Team GB team-mate Micah
Richards has spoken for the first time about his decision to snub a
place on England's Euro 2012 squad stand-by list.

Wise heads: Micah Richards and Craig Bellamy are the other 'over-age' players

Wise heads: Micah Richards and Craig Bellamy are the other 'over-age' players

The Manchester City defender was a
surprise omission from Roy Hodgson's European Championship's party after
playing a key role in Roberto Mancini side's historic title win.

Richards was given the option of
being on England's stand-by list but turned down the offer – a decision
which brought widespread criticism.

But Richards explained: 'Once I wasn't in the Euro squad I thought there was a chance of me being in the Team GB squad.

'I was told if you are part of the
England squad then you couldn't play in the Olympics. And I decided I
wanted to be selected for Team GB.

Out: David Beckham (left) was not picked by Pearce

Out: David Beckham (left) was not picked by Pearce

'I didn't say I didn't want to play for England or anything like that. I just said I wanted to play for Team GB.'

He added: 'It was very disappointing for me not to make the Euro squad, especially after winning the Premier League.

'But that's what football is about, you can't dwell on the past – you just have to move forward. Now it's all about Team GB.

'It was down to the manager. Football
is based on opinions, and all I can do is look at my own form, and my
form last season was very good.

In or out Daniel Sturridge faces a race to be fit as he recovers from viral meningitis

In or out Daniel Sturridge faces a race to be fit as he recovers from viral meningitis

'I played in 40-odd games in a Premier League winning team – I would have thought that would have been enough, but it wasn't.

'In football, there's always ups and downs – you have to take them.'

And for the ladies…

Casey Stoney will captain the Great Britain women's football team at the Games, manager Hope Powell has announced.

The 30-year-old Lincoln defender is the England skipper and has won 103 caps for her country.

Team GB begin their preparations with a friendly against Sweden at the Riverside Stadium on Friday, July 20.

Meanwhile, Pearce has confirmed
Daniel Sturridge will not travel to Spain for Team GB's training camp
this week as he recovers from viral meningitis.

The Chelsea forward contracted the illness last week, casting huge doubt on his involvement later this month.

Pearce, who has until July 25 to make a decision on Sturridge, added: 'We are pretty confident he will be available.

'We are liaising with the Chelsea medical team on a regular basis. Our doctor saw him last week and Daniel was pretty chirpy.

'We will keep an eye on him and send
our medical people to Chelsea. When we get back to the Olympic village
next week, Daniel will come with us and we will reassess his fitness.

Backing: Scott Sinclair is glad Giggs is captain

Backing: Tom Cleverley is glad Giggs is captain

Respect: Scott Sinclair (left) and Tom Cleverley back their captain

'I've spoken to him and he sounded
very well on the phone. He said he feels very good and he is desperate
to be part of this, so if he's got that mentality then I think he'll be

Bumble at the Test: No Gayle, Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo or Taylor… it"s a crying shame

Bumble at the Test: No Gayle, Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo or Taylor… it's a crying shame



20:57 GMT, 18 May 2012

Absent friends
West Indies' Jerome Taylor

The toast on Friday was to absent friends. No Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan or Dwayne Bravo here and also no Jerome Taylor (right), who bowled West Indies to victory over England in Jamaica three years ago but has disappeared from the scene. It's a crying shame…

Van's the man for us

Happy to say that my football club, Accrington Stanley, are in good hands after my London meeting with new chairman Peter Marsden. I can reveal we might make a bid for Arsenal's Dutch striker Robin van Persie and can offer him a good package – as many pies as he can eat and a weekly ticket to the local Odeon.

My tweet hell

Plenty of abuse on Twitter from India – and all because of my support for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL! It's not my fault they haven't reached the final! Some of these keyboard warriors would be candidates for A&E if they met me face to face…

Fashion victims

Lots of fashion statements among the West Indies players. Opening bowler Fidel Edwards has stars shaved into his hair, while his new-ball partner Kemar Roach has some serious gold round his neck. Lots of ear-rings, too, but I'm old-school on these sorts of things. They should only go with high heels.

Delicious Danni

England's Danni Wyatt

Great to see the launch of The Cricket Paper featuring the Mail on Sunday's very own Peter 'Reggie' Hayter. I've had a brainstorming session with him and reckon there should be a 'crickette' on page three. Who better to start with than Danni Wyatt (right), England's feisty all-rounder

Tuf to remember

Phil Tufnell's new book Tuffers Tales was on parade and I asked him what was in it. 'Lots of stories,' he said. 'What about, Cat' I replied. 'Can't remember,' said Phil. Reminded me of when Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones said: 'If anyone knows what I've been doing for the last 10 years, let me know…'

Sir Alex Ferguson had the title… then he lost it

Fergie had it… then he lost it… but he says it will take City 100 years to match United's history



21:40 GMT, 13 May 2012

So cruel: Rooney shows his frustration

So cruel: Rooney shows his frustration

When Sir Alex Ferguson came up with
one his most famous remarks – 'Football, bloody hell,' – it was in the
brilliant, crazy aftermath of Manchester United's epic European Cup
triumph over Bayern Munich in Barcelona.

Thirteen years on, Ferguson looked as if those words were going through his head once again on Sunday.

Same words, different meaning. It was 13 seconds after the final whistle.

Once referee Howard Webb blew,
Ferguson moved across to shake the hand of Martin O'Neill, then marched
on to the Stadium of Light pitch.

that moment, the title was on hold. The atmosphere inside the ground
was heavy, uncertain, quiet, not unlike a hospital waiting room.

The scene had a slow motion feel to it.

Ferguson had just heard of Edin Dzeko's equaliser at Eastlands but in
those few seconds Manchester United were champions of England for the
20th time.

In a room at the stadium a Premier League trophy was being prepared with red ribbons.

could not see that, which was a small mercy for him. He was on the
grass with United's players who thought were about to hear good news.

Crying shame: Patrice Evra weeps as the title that seemed to be theirs was snatched away

Crying shame: Patrice Evra weeps as the title that seemed to be theirs was snatched away

Ferguson ushered them towards the travelling United fans who were hanging in that same waiting room themselves.

And then, up in the south-west corner, adjacent to the visiting support, a noise erupted from Sunderland fans.

Ferguson's antennae picked it up instantly. There was no hesitation on his part, no thinking this could be a hoax.

Ferguson knows football, knows it can bring pain as well as pleasure. He was in Barcelona. QPR had not been able to match Aberdeen against Real Madrid.

Football, bloody hell.

United won, they lost, they had it, then they didn't.

Down to earth: Antonio Valencia can't believe the title slipped away

Down to earth: Antonio Valencia can't believe the title slipped away

As Ferguson turned for the tunnel, Sunderland fans were already doing The Poznan.

Mockery comes quick.

So, too, from Ferguson, did 'congratulations to our neighbours'.

His response was magnanimous.

'We congratulate Manchester City. Anyone who wins the league deserves to win it because it's a very, very difficult league to win. We know that because, as we've experienced today, we've lost on goal difference.'

Mockery: Sunderland fans celebrate a goal by Manchester City by doing a Poznan

Mockery: Sunderland fans celebrate a goal by Manchester City by doing a Poznan

Eight goals over 10 months, a difference as slim as an upright. United understand its dimensions, having struck the woodwork three times on Sunday.

Wayne Rooney hit the crossbar in the first half and a post in the second. He scored the decisive goal, his 27th in the Premier League this season, his best league tally by one.

As he boarded the team bus afterwards in club-issue black suit, Rooney's face gave no hint of happiness at that fact.

'We're all disappointed, obviously,' Ferguson had added. 'We should be disappointed because we did our best today. But for their goalkeeper, we could have scored seven goals. We hit the post, the bar and the goalkeeper made fantastic saves throughout the match. We conducted ourselves in the right way.

'Yes, there will be a time when we can sit back and say we did this wrong, we did that wrong, but 89 points would have won the league most seasons.

Magnanimous in defeat: In any other year Sir Alex Ferguson knows United would have won the title

Magnanimous in defeat: In any other year Sir Alex Ferguson knows United would have won the title

'They're a good bunch of lads. The younger players will remember today because sometimes a bad experience is even better for you.'

Ferguson was correct about that points total. United won their historic 19th title last season with 80 points. They scored fewer goals then, and conceded more.

United improved by nine points; City improved by 18.

Ferguson said there were no recriminations but the sight of Nemanja Vidic in the directors' box was a reminder of what United have missed since December 7.

Vidic played in neither league derby against City, he was not there when Everton scored two late goals of their own three Sundays ago.

Vidic was injured in Basle when United exited the Champions League. If the league offers one measurement of a team, then so does Europe. United were deservedly beaten by Basle and then by Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League.

Ferguson will address that in due course.

Signing off: Signage for the potential trophy presentation had to be shelved

Signing off: Signage for the potential trophy presentation had to be shelved

There was some consolation in pushing the league to the last kick of the last day but ultimately Old Trafford has its first trophy-less season since 2004-05. That was Rooney's first season at the club, Roy Keane's last full one.

After United had gone out of the Champions League at AC Milan, Ferguson had spoken inside the San Siro of renewal, of the youth of Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.

On Sunday he talked of a clutch of young players – Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, David De Gea among others – and said they could be at United for 'five, six, seven, 10 years.

'The experience is good for them even if it's a bad one.'

Learning process: Jonny Evans (right) is among a crop of exciting United youngsters

Learning process: Jonny Evans (right) is among a crop of exciting United youngsters

On Friday the 70 year-old had warned City: 'We're not going away and I'm not either.'

Here he addressed City again: 'They can go on as much as they like but the history of our club stands us aside. We don't need to worry about that. I think we have a rich history, better than anyone and it'll take them a century to get to our level of history.

'But for us, it's still a challenge and we're good at challenges. We'll kick on from here.'

That process may have started – there were shades of Spanish pressing when Sunderland had the ball.

Then United had the home team on the carousel in the second half. They were controlling possession, counting down the seconds and shaping their future.

But back in Manchester, City were stealing United's late, late trademark. Or, as Ferguson would say, borrowing it.

Andrew Strauss starts with duck

Strauss starts with duck as Onions tears into Middlesex



19:43 GMT, 20 April 2012

Andrew Strauss began the summer that
could decide his future as England's Test captain with a second-ball
duck at Lord's on Friday.

The Middlesex left-hander had his off stump knocked back as he played forward to Durham's Graham Onions.

Weather for ducks: Strauss forced to watch after going second ball to Onions (right)

Weather for ducks: Strauss forced to watch after going second ball to Onions (right)

Weather for ducks: Strauss forced to watch after falling to Onions (right)

Neither Strauss nor Neil Dexter are
skippering Middlesex, with the latter also feeling the pressures of
leadership and handing over the reins to Chris Rogers.

The move worked for Dexter, who led a recovery from two for three by remaining unbeaten on 65 as Middlesex reached 132 for five before bad light stopped play prematurely.

Crying game: Onions removes Strauss second ball

Crying game: Onions removes Strauss second ball

Onions wants his England place back after being leapfrogged by Steven Finn, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan since missing the 2010 season following a back operation.

After the first day's washout, Onions bowled superbly to take three of the wickets, swinging the ball both ways at a healthy pace.

In the helpful early conditions, Onions had Joe Denly caught at first slip by Paul Collingwood for one, then Sam Robson drove at the first ball of the next over from Callum Thorp and edged to Michael Di Venuto at second slip.

When Manchester City and Stoke were relegated in 1998

Flashback: The ultimate crying game… when Manchester City and Stoke were relegated



00:02 GMT, 24 March 2012

It was the last game of the season and both sides could have stayed up depending on other results.

Even though Manchester City won 5-2, victories for Portsmouth and Port Vale meant both went down to the third tier.

1998: Stoke 2 Man City 5

STOKE: Southall, Pickering, Heath, Sigurdsson, Tweed, Keen, Forsyth, Wallace, Thorne, Lightbourne (Taaffe 57), Kavanagh.

Scorers: Thorne 62, 87.

Margetson, Edghill, Horlock, Wiekens, Symons, Vaughan, Jim Whitley
(Brannan 45), Pollock, Goater (Kinkladze 73), Dickov (Jeff Whitley 90),

Scorers: Goater 32, 71, Dickov 49, Bradbury 64, Horlock 90. Booked: Edghill.

Attendance: 26,664

Going down: Georgi Kinkladze thanks the City fans after hearing the news of their relegation

Going down: Georgi Kinkladze thanks the City fans after hearing the news of their relegation

Peter Thorne scored both goals for Stoke City that day. The striker, who played more than 150 times for the club, remembers pre-match jitters and magnificent fans.

What a day! I've never been involved in anything quite like that, before or since. It was a crazy situation for everyone concerned.

Either team could have stayed up if they won and results went their way so there was everything to play for.

There was a cracking atmosphere but what I remember most was the number of times the match was stopped by the referee.

Obviously, there were loads of Manchester City fans who had sneaked among the Stoke fans and the game was halted as these lads ran out of the home end back to the visitors' section.

I'm from Manchester myself and on one occasion someone I knew growing up actually ran past me on the pitch. I kept my head down.

The last thing I wanted was for someone to shout out: 'All right, Thorney!' I can also remember Kyle Lightbourne, my strike partner, and Manchester City's Shaun Goater joking with each other in the tunnel beforehand.

They were best mates and, being from Bermuda, could probably see the funny side of the mayhem that was going on all around them.

The outcome of the day had no effect on their friendship. I remember with fondness sharing a barbecue on a beach in Bermuda shortly afterwards with them both.

To be honest, a lot of the game was a blur. If my memory serves me, I pulled one back with a header but Manchester City were too strong for us that day.

My last goal was a far-post finish but by that stage we both knew that we were going down because of results elsewhere.

That cut the atmosphere stone dead. I think it was the first season we had been at the Britannia Stadium and we ended up going down. I have to say, though, Stoke's fans were magnificent.

My final memory of the day was Georgi Kinkladze walking into the players' bar afterwards. He gave his shirt to my girlfriend. She wasn't interested in holding on to it as a keepsake and I think handed it over to a young, upset Manchester City supporter.

I'm sure it was Kinkladze's last match for them. That lad is probably dining out on that story now.

Manchester City's Jamie Pollock became the most popular man in America a few weeks later after a 'nightmare' own goal that has become a YouTube sensation…

Do I remember it Well, I remember the relegation battle, certainly – I ended it being more popular than Jesus Christ. How

Let me explain. The week before we played at the Britannia, we had been in a similarly tense struggle against QPR, who also needed points to stay up.

That day, I had my biggest nightmare in the game. I ended up scoring what was one of the worst own goals of all time and it helped Rangers to a draw that they needed to lift themselves out of trouble. It was horrible.

Have a look for it yourself if you can find it on YouTube. It's had almost three million hits! I thought I would need to be smuggled out of Maine Road under a towel it was that bad.

Anyway, I went down as a legend at Loftus Road, even if I wasn't that popular with my own fans. So much so, in fact, that QPR's supporters hijacked an online poll of the most influential people of the last millennium that was being run in America. I beat Jesus into second place.

Of course, the weekend afterwards, we had this match at Stoke to try and make amends. If you look through that team you will see a fair few senior professionals.

I had just pitched up from Bolton and there were dozens of different players. What had happened was that managers prior to Joe Royle had brought their own players in and the club hadn't been quick to get rid of them.

It didn't make for a great team spirit. It wasn't healthy. I can't remember too much about the game apart from Joe and Willie Donachie telling us that it was still in our own hands at half-time. Whether it was, I don't know.

I did go over to collect the ball from the crowd with about 20 minutes to go and the reaction from our supporters told me that we were going down. A sad day.

Manchester City are a great club. Being captain is one of the achievements I am most proud of. This season some pals of mine entertained QPR supporters at the Riverside during Middlesbrough's match.

They mentioned my own goal and it turns out that I also won the QPR's player-of-the-year award that season, which in fairness, takes some doing as I never kicked a ball for them . . .

Brief hope: City were victors on the day, but were still relegated

Brief hope: City were victors on the day, but were still relegated

Violence: Some City fans found their way into the Stoke end

Violence: Some City fans found their way into the Stoke end

Violence: Some City fans found their way into the Stoke end

Tears that turned me into Glory McIlroy: I blew it, I choked

Tears that turned me into Glory McIlroy: I blew it, I choked

Rory McIlroy couldn”t bring himself to ring home on the night he threw away the Masters. He couldn”t stand the feeling that he had let everyone down. He couldn”t shake the feelingof shame.

It was the next morning, when he finally spoke to his mother Rosie, that the emotional dam broke.

“It”ll be ok, Rors, you”ll get plenty more chances,” said his mum.

Augusta failure: It

Augusta failure: It”s all too muchfor McIlroy as his final round at the Masters in April goes from bad to worse

That was what started it. Suddenly, McIlroy found himself crying like he”d never cried before.

“I felt like shouting down the phone, “But I won”t get plenty more chances. That was it, I blew it. I choked”,” he recalled.

“There are just so many emotions running through your head. It was probably a couple of weeks before I was able to clear my mind completely. Then you start to realise it won”t be your only chance. Then you”re ready to go again.”

McIlroy sat down for an hour in Dubai last week to discuss his incredible year. A year where he went from that Augusta choke to becoming the youngest European for more than a century to win a major.

Crying shame: McIlroy was soon to bounce back from his Augusta woe

Crying shame: McIlroy was soon to bounce back from his Augusta woe

A year where he was mobbed like no UK golfer we have seen at the Open Championship.

A year where he said some things he”d take back if he could.

A year where he changed his profile, changed his manager and changed his girlfriend.

A year where he sampled the two extremes of humanity, from the crushing poverty of life in Haiti to the celebrity clamour when he started going out with world No 1 tennis player Caroline Wozniacki.

Looking back over those whirlwind 12 months, McIlroy agrees with a simple summary.

“The year I grew up Yeah, definitely,” he said.

Fill in your card, check it twice: McIlroy meets Father Christmas

Fill in your card, check it twice: McIlroy meets Father Christmas

It is fascinating to watch Rory grow up.

At Augusta he was a veritable rabbit caught in headlights. /12/16/article-2075297-0CAF31EC00000578-472_468x333.jpg” width=”468″ height=”333″ alt=”Fill in your card, check it twice: McIlroy meets Father Christmas” class=”blkBorder” />

Redemption: McIlroy was crowned US Open champion

It wasn”t like that at the Masters. For three rounds he played as well as a man can play from tee to green and led by four. Then came Sunday.

“I can”t tell you how much I learned that day. I got up that morning, Ulster were playing in the Heineken Cup and even after watching it, I had time to kill. Every television channel I put on, all I could hear was people talking about me.

“See yourself on television or pick up a newspaper with an article about yourself and it takes an awful lot of self-discipline to ignore what people are saying or writing. Greg Norman rang me afterwards and we talked about the importance of not letting people inside your bubble. I learned after that Masters not to watch television, go on Twitter or anything like that.”

The next two months were all about atonement. He started working with noted putting coach Dave Stockton.

He thought about how he had missed the calming influence of his absent father Gerry on the final morning at the Masters.

World class: McIlroy is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

World class: McIlroy is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

A fortnight before the US Open he went to Haiti as an ambassador for UNICEF and told his then-aide Stuart Cage: “If you ever hear me moan about a hotel room again, shoot me.”

McIlory said: “I definitely went to Congressional with something to prove after the Masters. I wanted to show a lot of people that the golfer they saw on the Sunday at Augusta was not the real Rory, that I wasn”t somebody who folds under the pressure, or chokes.”

Even he must have been surprised that his next chance came at the first available opportunity.

At the US Open he was again leading going into the final day and this time he showed just what he had learned. Out went all communication with the outside world and in came a long chat with his dad.

“To be honest, he only told me the sort of things that any decent sports psychologist would have said, but when it comes from your dad, who knows you better than anyone, it just means more,” said McIlroy.

“I don”t want to slag off sports psychologists but I remember something Jack Nicklaus told me when he heard that I was going to see one of them, Bob Rotella. How many tournaments had Bob won

“Going to Haiti certainly helped as well. It emphasised how lucky I am.”

Following his remarkable victory by the Tiger-like margin of eight strokes, it was next stop The Open.

“I thought I had prepared myself but to be honest the level of attention came as a shock,” he confessed.

Comfortable in the spotlight: With girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki

Comfortable in the spotlight: With girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki

It was after that Open when McIlroy went public with his blossoming romance with Wozniacki and it”s surely not a coincidence he”s grown more comfortable with the spotlight since they became an item.

“I think she”s been a great influence on my career already,” he agreed.

“She understands the lifestyle and it”s nice to go out with someone who shares your sense of ambition. She definitely works harder than I do and that”s rubbing off on me as well.

“I don”t want to sound too soppy, but meeting Caroline was definitely the best thing that happened to me this year away from the course.”

And so the year that changed everything has ended with another great learning experience, as McIlroy picked up a sick note from a doctor with the word “exhausted” writ large following a stamina-sapping 11 weeks spent spanning the globe.

The golf clubs won”t be seen again until mid-January, when he starts his build-up to his Masters return.

“After what happened, I”d be lying if I said that wasn”t the one I”d really like to win,” he said.