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South Africa outplayed England at their own game – The Top Spin

South Africa outplayed England at their own game… pray for cloud cover at Headingley and Lord's

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UPDATED:

15:12 GMT, 24 July 2012

Sometimes sport seems to go out of its way to confound. Traditionally the tightest of the international fixtures, England and South Africa have just produced a Test which the statisticians are calling the most crushing win in the history of the game. English fans are calling it something rather less erudite.

How are we to make sense of a game in which the team at the top of the world rankings – as opposed to the world’s most-rounded Test team – claimed only two wickets in 189 overs and failed to reach 400 on a belter which yielded 637 for the opposition

After all, we're used to England not doing so well away from home: of their most recent trips to each of the other Test nations, they have emerged victorious from only Australia, Bangladesh and New Zealand.

Low ebb: England captain scored a total of 29 runs in the first Test as England were thrashed by South Africa

Low ebb: England captain scored a total of 29 runs in the first Test as England were thrashed by South Africa

More from Lawrence Booth…

The Top Spin: Strength in depth gives England the edge against South Africa
17/07/12

The Top Spin: Aussies must find 'mongrel' for the Ashes… or England will stay top dogs
10/07/12

The Top Spin: England's dreams of one-day dominance are nightmare for Hapless Mitch
03/07/12

The Top Spin: Pakistan cricket moves forward from corruption… yet Butt and Kaneria remain stuck in past
26/06/12

The Top Spin: Maynard's shocking death is a sudden and painful descent into the world of reality
19/06/12

Top Spin: There's still plenty to take from Edgbaston despite the rain
12/06/12

Top Spin: If Pietersen can afford to retire, we know where we stand
05/06/12

Top Spin: Forget 'competing', it's time West Indies had a touch of class…
29/05/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

But at home In England The land of seam and swing The place where seven series have been won in a row, and only two Tests in that time lost This is where we enter the territory of one of Malcolm Gladwell’s outliers. Or do we

In last week's column, we argued – hilariously, you may now think – that England had the edge because of their greater strength in depth. While England’s only weakness, we said, was Ravi Bopara, South Africa had three soft batting targets either side of the ‘awe-inspiring peaks’ of Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers.

But while Alviro Petersen duly conformed to stereotype, England never got a crack at Jacques Rudolph or JP Duminy. The peaks proved too much. ‘High mountains are a feeling,’ wrote . They won in Colombo, and lost the rest. This can no longer be dismissed as the stuff of aberration.

Is it possible we are witnessing a
failure of collective imagination In the UAE and at Galle, England’s
bowlers did fine, plugging away with their usual accuracy and punching
above their weight on heartless tracks. But their batsmen, discovering
quickly that Plan A wasn’t much good, seemed unable to locate even Plan
Z.

Bowled over: The Proteas' attack was in impressive form as England floundered at The Oval

Bowled over: The Proteas' attack was in impressive form as England floundered at The Oval

Bowled over: The Proteas' attack was in impressive form as England floundered at The Oval

At The Oval, it was their bowling that deserved more scrutiny, poor though the strokes were from Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss on Sunday evening to contribute to the terminal loss of four second-innings wickets.

For against South Africa, England discovered that plugging away wasn’t enough. In this respect, they have been warned: by Mike Hussey in the Ashes; by Rahul Dravid a year ago; by Azhar Ali and Younis Khan in Dubai; and by Mahela Jayawardene in Sri Lanka. Hell, even by Marlon Samuels.

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But the warning came mainly from individuals. At The Oval, they were faced with three men in the same side all capable of superhuman concentration. Smith, Amla and Kallis are not the kind of men you can bore out on good tracks. Refusing to take the bait, they made England look bereft of ideas.

The best teams produce a bit of magic when they need it, but England’s route to the top has hardly been full of conjuring tricks. They are an honest, hard-working, skilful side, who know their own minds to a degree that may be unhealthy. This is a strength – and occasionally, as we saw at The Oval, a weakness.

The trick now for England will be of the confidence variety. Convince themselves, as they did with the Pakistan whitewash, that The Oval was a freak, and pray for cloud cover at Headingley and Lord’s – the two English Test venues most affected by overhead conditions.

If not, interesting times lie ahead. After this series come four Tests in India. England will need all the imagination they can muster.

Hash of it: Amla (above) scored 311 as the tourists cruised to an innings victory in south London

Hash of it: Amla (above) scored 311 as the tourists cruised to an innings victory in south London

Hash of it: Amla (above) scored 311 as the tourists cruised to an innings victory in south London

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS
Sweeping it under the carpet

England’s one decent Test win this year that we mentioned earlier came in Colombo. It may be no coincidence that it was their one Test out of five in Asia in which they more or less banished the sweep shot until they felt comfortable with the conditions – so much so that neither Andrew Strauss nor Alastair Cook played the stroke until the 39th over of England’s reply.

At The Oval, both Strauss and Matt Prior got out sweeping – Strauss in an over of hand-grenades from Imran Tahir, Prior to a ball he should have padded away. The sweep has its place. But when will England accept they don’t play it as well other nations

A genius in the making

When people wonder where the next generation of Indian batsmen is coming from, one man rises regally above the fray. On Saturday, Virat Kohli scored his fourth one-day international hundred in five innings (a sequence that has produced 596 runs off 549 balls), and his 12th in all from only 83 innings. He is 23.

/07/24/article-2178187-14278C12000005DC-412_634x440.jpg” width=”634″ height=”440″ alt=”Big hitter: Kohli scored his fourth one-day international hundred in five innings against Sri Lanka” class=”blkBorder” />

Big hitter: Kohli scored his fourth one-day international hundred in five innings against Sri Lanka

Rankings conundrum

If events at The Oval were a reminder that rankings must always be handled with care, then further confirmation came with the news that the fourth-best Twenty20 team in the world are… Bangladesh.

That's right: following their 3-0 victory over Ireland, the Bangladeshis have now overtaken both Pakistan and Australia, with India trailing everyone in eighth.

Clearly these calculations have their method, but it’s worth noting that prior to beating the Irish, Bangladesh had lost 13 of their 14 previous T20 internationals. Truly, we live in interesting times.

Irish eyes are smiling: Bangladesh are cruising up the ODI rankings

Irish eyes are smiling: Bangladesh are cruising up the ODI rankings

England v South Africa: Hashim Amla "happy and surprised" after reaching milestone

Amla 'happy and surprised' after reaching milestone as South Africa home in on series lead

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UPDATED:

22:50 GMT, 22 July 2012

Hashim Amla said he felt ‘overwhelmed’ after becoming the first South African to score a triple century in a Test as the tourists moved to within touching distance of a first win at The Oval.

A strict Muslim, Amla is allowed to defer the period of fasting demanded by the holy month of Ramadan until the end of the tour, and duly gorged on England’s bowlers, batting for more than 13 hours for an unbeaten 311.

That surpassed AB de Villiers’s South African record of 278 not out and Amla — described by fast bowler Dale Steyn as the side’s ‘silent warrior’ — gently hugged each of his team-mates as they left the field last night before speaking humbly of his new place in cricket’s record books.

Unforgettable: Hashim Amla celebrates reaching his triple century

Unforgettable: Hashim Amla celebrates reaching his triple century

‘I’m happy and surprised,’ he said. ‘It’s really exciting to do something that has not been done before by a South African. The wicket was batter-friendly, and I’m grateful for the opportunity, but I’ve never dreamed of scoring 300. It’s overwhelming really.

‘But the biggest pleasure is putting the side in a really good position. We need six more wickets to win the Test. I’d rather be in our changing room.’

The first South African Test cricketer of Indian descent — his grandparents hail from Gujarat — Amla scored more by himself than the country of his forebears managed in either innings here last year.

Magic moment: Amla became the first South African to reach 300

Magic moment: Amla became the first South African to reach 300

And England’s batting coach Graham Gooch — the last man to make a Test triple hundred in this country, 22 years ago — was full of praise for his innings.

‘It was a wonderful effort,’ said Gooch. ‘To score runs you need a great attitude, good belief, good knowledge and spot-on concentration. He showed all four things. He’s a solid player with a good range of shots and a good temperament.’

Despite England — with only six second-innings wickets in hand — still being 150 runs short of avoiding a humiliating innings defeat, Gooch insisted that they could arrive at Headingley for next week’s second Test with the series all square.

‘The game’s not over yet,’ he said. ‘You have to believe you can still get out of it with a draw.’

The Top Spin: Strength in depth gives England the edge against South Africa

Strength in depth gives England the edge against South Africa

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UPDATED:

14:54 GMT, 17 July 2012

Both teams have been warily circling the Basil D’Oliveira
Trophy this week, too sensible to make a pre-emptive grab. Yet amid all the
talk of a seam-bowling shootout – as if the batsmen will simply resemble
coconuts in a fairground shy – it’s only fair to ask which of England or South
Africa have more chinks in their overall armour

Top Spin

For if this really is a question about survival of the
fittest (and the ICC rankings will tell you that, technically, as of the
weekend, No 1 v No 2 means the Ashes), then isn’t a team only as strong as its
weakest links

And it is here that England – despite the distraction of
Kevin Pietersen’s increasingly self-centred posturing – have the edge. I know,
I know. But hear me out.

Centre of attention: Kevin Pietersen (left) is set to line up against South Africa

Centre of attention: Kevin Pietersen (left) is set to line up against South Africa

More from Lawrence Booth…

The Top Spin: Aussies must find 'mongrel' for the Ashes… or England will stay top dogs
10/07/12

The Top Spin: England's dreams of one-day dominance are nightmare for Hapless Mitch
03/07/12

The Top Spin: Pakistan cricket moves forward from corruption… yet Butt and Kaneria remain stuck in past
26/06/12

The Top Spin: Maynard's shocking death is a sudden and painful descent into the world of reality
19/06/12

Top Spin: There's still plenty to take from Edgbaston despite the rain
12/06/12

Top Spin: If Pietersen can afford to retire, we know where we stand
05/06/12

Top Spin: Forget 'competing', it's time West Indies had a touch of class…
29/05/12

The Top Spin: England must reacquaint themselves with what they do best at Trent Bridge
22/05/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

While South Africa possess three all-time greats (Graeme
Smith, Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn) to England’s none (sorry, KP, although
Jimmy Anderson may have joined the elite by the time he retires), it is
England’s strength in depth that leaves them better placed to avoid the kind of
one-session meltdown that could cost, say, a scandalously truncated three-Test
series.

Of England’s top seven, only Ravi Bopara is a potential
weakness – not because he looks out of touch (he doesn’t), but because his love
of the game can become crippling when he’s under pressure. Bopara knows that a
bad series here will leave the way open once more for Eoin Morgan and Jonny
Bairstow. If he wants it too much, South Africa will smell it.

But England will reason that South Africa now have three
potential troughs in a batting line-up that includes the awe-inspiring peaks of
Smith, Kallis, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers – a quartet to rank with any in
world cricket.

It seems unlikely that Alviro Petersen will give either
Anderson or Stuart Broad sleepless nights at the top of the order. A decent
player he may be, and in his most recent Test, at Wellington, he made a
career-best 156. But a first-class average of 39, in the context of a top-of-the-table
clash, is no more than adequate.

On paper, a 6-7 combination of Jacques Rudolph and JP Duminy
adds serious depth. But Rudolph, experienced though he is in English
conditions, is still readjusting to the middle order after beginning his Test
renaissance last year as Smith’s opening partner.

Pressure: South Africa is a massive series for Ravi Bopara

Pressure: South Africa is a massive series for Ravi Bopara

And history is yet to record too many instances of proper
batsmen – as opposed to marauding all-rounders prepared to throw caution to the
wind – influencing the result from No 7. Duminy is said to have sorted out his
technique against the short ball, but what about falling lbw to Graeme Swann

Less ponderable, perhaps, is the absence of Mark Boucher,
whose eye injury may not, mercifully, be as serious as was first feared. For no
matter how talented a sportsman de Villiers is, better rookie keepers than him
have been foxed by the late swing in England. Equally, no one can say for sure
that his batting will not be affected by keeping wicket. In this, there is an
element of crossed fingers.

Tough Test: South Africans (from left) Jacques Rudolph, Alviro Petersen, Jacques Kallis and Vernon Philander during a nets session at The Kia Oval

Tough Test: South Africans (from left) Jacques Rudolph, Alviro Petersen, Jacques Kallis and Vernon Philander during a nets session at The Kia Oval

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For more cricketing musings, please follow us on Twitter: @the_topspin

To dissect South Africa’s bowling in the same way feels like
clutching at straws, except to say that Morne Morkel is a better operator with
the new ball (68 Test wickets at 25) than he is at first change (58 at 34); and
that they must avoid the mistake of replacing Imran Tahir with Albie Morkel at
The Kia Oval in the event of more wet weather.

In the balance of their attack, with Kallis as the fourth
seamer, the South Africans can rightly claim to possess more options. Dale
Steyn is the quickest bowler on either side, and Vernon Philander the most
accurate. Morne Morkel retains the greatest potential to take three wickets in
three overs. And Tahir’s googly ought to place any lower order on red alert.

But England will comfort themselves with the thought that,
if both sides lost a front-line seamer, it is they who would suffer less
disruption: witness the selection of Albie Morkel in place of the injured and
highly promising Marchant de Lange.

Steven Finn and Graham Onions, on the other hand, are both
primed to step in at a moment’s notice. Neither would weaken the attack.

South Africa are self-evidently a classy side. They won here
four years ago, and have enough high-calibre players to beat England again. But
scratch at the surface of excellence, and England will tell themselves there is
hope.

A prediction, you say Go on then: despite all this, South
Africa’s top guns to mask other deficiencies and secure a rainy 1-1 draw –
enough for them to retain the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy, but for England to hold
on to the No 1 ranking.

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS

Such is a spinner’s life

Peter Such is a man on a mission. A player perhaps most
famous for two deeds at Old Trafford – 6 for 67 on his Test debut against
Australia in 1993, and a glorious 72-minute duck against New Zealand in his
final Test, in 1999 – was recently named the ECB’s new National Spin Coach. And
though he’s confident England have enough established spinners to see them
through the next few years at the highest level, he has aimed his sights on
changing the culture further down the ladder.

Man on a mission: Peter Such (left) with Derbyshire Disabled CC coach Paul Roe

Man on a mission: Peter Such (left) with Derbyshire Disabled CC coach Paul Roe

‘Counties do recognise the value of a top-quality spinner,’
Such told the Top Spin last week. ‘But not everyone invests the time in
developing their own. Some tend to sign a ready-made overseas player. Spinners
begin to mature around the age of 26. For batters and quicks, it’s more like
23. So you can’t judge them by the same criteria.’

Eye on the ball: Such (right) watches Robson Wadsworth from Alvaston bowling

Eye on the ball: Such (right) watches Robson Wadsworth from Alvaston bowling

Speaking on behalf of the Sky Sports ECB Coach Education
Programme, Such said this summer’s miserable weather had hardly helped county
cricket’s young spin brethren. ‘If they’re bowling less, they take even more
time to mature. Our job is to create an over-supply pipeline of young spin
bowlers, and to get that age of maturation down to 25 or 24.’ We wish him luck.

The world according to Kevin

Kevin Pietersen appears to have made so many U-turns in the
past few days you wonder whether he’ll be representing England or South Africa
at The Oval on Thursday. But it seems that part of his logic for wanting to
miss next summer’s two-Test series against New Zealand so he can play in all
seven weeks of the IPL is that the New Zealanders themselves won’t be at full
strength either (because, naturally, of the IPL). And, in the weird and
wonderful world of Kevin, two wrongs apparently add up to a right.

The harsh truth by a different name

The Top Spin has always enjoyed the different ways in which
players try to get round the fact that their side was simply beaten by the
better team. ‘We weren’t consistent enough’ is a classic, suggestive as it is
of a nirvana in which greater consistency is in no way related to greater
ability. ‘We’re good!’ they imply. ‘It’s just this damn inconsistency that
keeps getting in the way…’

That's a new one: Tim Southee tried to explain New Zealand's defeat

That's a new one: Tim Southee tried to explain New Zealand's defeat

So black caps off to New Zealand’s Tim Southee, who provided
a novel twist on the theme when he tried to rationalise his side’s defeat in
the fourth one-day international against West Indies in St Kitts. ‘Wickets at
the wrong time hurt us,’ he said. ‘We have to think of those key moments in
games.’ Rough translation: West Indies were better than us.

Bangladesh in Blackheath

If you happen to be in south London on Wednesday (apologies
to our overseas reader), then why not pop into Blackheath Cricket Club to catch
an unexpected glimpse of Bangladesh’s Mohammad Ashraful – arguably Test
cricket’s most unfulfilled talent. Ashraful is playing for MCC against the
Tower Hamlets District schools team as part of the club’s efforts to spread the
gospel in less privileged parts of the capital. The match starts at 11.30am.

London 2012 Olympics: Adam Gemili runs fast 100m

From football wannabe to Olympic sprinter – Gemili is Britain's bolt from the blue

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 3 June 2012

Adam Gemili’s heart was set last year on becoming a professional footballer. The teenager’s goal after this weekend may be to run in the Olympic Games in London.

Gemili, a full back on the books of League Two side Dagenham and Redbridge, rose to the top of the year’s British 100 metres rankings when he ran inside the Olympic selection qualifying standard, not once but twice.

In heats at a meeting in Regensburg, Germany, he opened with 10.11sec, inside the 10.18sec which Britain’s Olympic selectors are demanding and which has so far defied all Britain’s experienced sprinters.

Leader of the pack: Adam Gemili is the only Brit to set the A standard in the 100m

Leader of the pack: Adam Gemili is the only Brit to set the A standard in the 100m

In the final he improved to 10.08sec, the fastest time ever run by a European 18-year-old — and he was last out of the blocks. Only Dwain Chambers among Britons has ever run faster as a junior, but he was 19 at the time.

‘When I ran my heat and saw I’d run 10.11 I jumped in the air while still slowing down. The physios told me to calm it down else I’d injure myself,’ said Gemili, whose previous personal best was 10.23sec.

‘So I was a bit calmer after the .08 but it was still the best feeling in the world. It feels really good to have run the A standard but more so to be a junior and have done the time.

‘It shows other juniors what can be done and not to think only seniors can do it. They can compete at that level, too.’

Gemili, who was born in London of Moroccan-Iranian descent, played on loan last season for Blue Square Bet South side Thurrock. The former Dartford Grammar School pupil was at Chelsea for seven years from the age of eight and said last year that football would always come first but now he is less sure. ‘This year may decide,’ he said.

Decisions, decisions: Gemili (right) also has hopes of pursuing a football career

Decisions, decisions: Gemili (right) also has hopes of pursuing a football career

His aim for the summer was the world junior championships in Barcelona. He tops the world rankings for that after his Regensburg runs but having achieved the Olympic qualifying standard twice he has only to finish in the first two at the trials in three weeks to win a place in London.

Chambers, Marlon Devonish and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, Britain’s trio in last year’s world championships, have all failed so far to achieve the standard. Chambers takes another run at it in the Paris suburb of Montreuil on Tuesday.

Gemili later anchored to victory a British relay team that featured Christian Malcolm, 15 years his senior. Malcolm celebrated Sunday’s 33rd birthday a day early when he won the 200m in a selection qualifying time of 20.46sec, while Anyika Onoura became the first of Britain’s specialist women sprinters to qualify in the 200m with a time of 22.93sec that equalled her career best.

To put Gemili’s achievement into context, just 10 days ago he tweeted: ‘Hope in the end all of this is worth it because right now I’m feeling a bit lonely.’

The weekend’s outstanding British performance belonged to Olympic gold medal contender Mo Farah. He ran the year’s fastest 5,000 metres in 12min 56.99sec in the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. As significant was victory by a margin of five seconds over fourth-placed Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the Olympic champion and world record holder.

Brit special: Mo Farah set the fastest 5,000m time in the world this year

Brit special: Mo Farah set the fastest 5,000m time in the world this year

‘He’s a great athlete; we should never doubt him,’ said a respectful Farah, last year’s world champion.

But Farah’s last lap in only 56.2sec was too much for his rivals, Isiah Kiplangat Koech, training partner Galen Rupp and Bekele who finished in that order behind him.

‘I think Mo is the best distance runner in the world right now,’ said his American coach Alberto Salazar.

At the same Diamond League meeting Shara Proctor, the long jumper forced to bid for British selection by Olympic rules that deny recognition to her British Dependent Territory island of Anguilla, beat both world champion Britney Reese and Olympic champion Maurren Higa Maggi with a jump of 6.84m. Two more jumps of 6.75m and 6.74m were also beyond anything the two champions could achieve.

‘With that being only my second competition, I’m looking to go further his summer. I feel like I’ve got a lot more to come,’ said Proctor, who comes to Europe to compete in Oslo on Thursday.

Less pleased with the Eugene meeting was European triple jump champion Phillips Idowu. He injured himself on his third attempt and retired, finishing third in a competition won by world champion Christian Taylor.

One British record did fall as US-based Barbara Parker reduced the 3,000m steeplechase record set by Helen Clitheroe at the 2008 Olympic Games by almost five seconds in 9min 24.24sec.

Euro 2012: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain"s family fear racism

Euro race fears drive Oxlade-Chamberlain's family away

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UPDATED:

21:55 GMT, 24 May 2012

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's family have joined Theo Walcott's relatives in staying at home during the European Championship for fear of being victims of racial abuse in Ukraine.

The news comes as the PFA announced plans to allow clubs to sack players if they are found guilty of racist behaviour.

Family fears: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (left) with manager Roy Hodgson at Thursday's England training session

Family fears: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (left) with manager Roy Hodgson at Thursday's England training session

Walcott's brother Ashley confirmed on Twitter last week that he and his father Don would not take the risk after public warnings from the Foreign Office.

On Thursday Whitehall officials reiterated their concerns and Joleon Lescott, one of eight black players in the England squad, revealed that other families, like that of Oxlade-Chamberlain, are opting to stay away.

The Foreign Office launched a free guide to fans for Euro 2012 on Thursday. Two of the recommendations in the 130-page guide are:

Travellers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent and individuals belonging to religious minorities should take extra care.
Although homosexuality is legal in Ukraine, public attitudes are less tolerant than in the UK and public displays of affection may attract negative attention.

Lescott said his family had decided to stay at home before the warnings were issued, simply for logistical reasons.

'It was quite alarming to see the reports about the situation out there,' he said.

'But even before the reports, my family weren't going anyway. Maybe if I'm playing and we get to the final, my family will want to go.

'But it's a shame for some members of the squad that their families feel they can't go.'

Racism fears: The families Theo Walcott (left) and Joleon Lescott (right) are staying at home

Racism fears: The families Theo Walcott (left) and Joleon Lescott (right) are staying at home

Racism fears: The families of Walcott (left) and Lescott (right) will stay at home

The PFA are getting tough on domestic racism after a season marred by allegations against Luis Suarez and John Terry.

Gordon Taylor, the union's chief executive, is pressing for a small but significant amendment to the standard player's contract clearing the way for clubs to dismiss players guilty of racism without fear of a legal response.

Under the new regulations, the language used by Suarez towards Patrice Evra, which led to an eight-match ban, would be a sackable offence, as would that allegedly used by Terry in the direction Anton Ferdinand.

Terry, who has been stripped of the England captaincy over the case which will be heard in court in July, denies the charge.

Learning lessons: Gordon Taylor vocal in calling for change

Learning lessons: Gordon Taylor vocal in calling for change

Taylor said: 'It's about learning from what's happened this year. It's not been a good year and it's still hanging around with the captaincy.

'There has been strong feeling among all members, particularly young black players, that it's time to progress.

'This will raise the bar and make it a lot more focused. We don't want any ambiguity.'

Taylor's proposal will be raised in July and requires approval from the PFA, the FA, the Premier League and the Football League.

EURO 2012: Theo Walcott"s family won"t travel to Ukraine over racism fears

Walcott's family won't travel to Euros over fears of racist abuse

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UPDATED:

08:09 GMT, 17 May 2012

Theo Walcott’s brother revealed that the winger’s family won’t go to Euro 2012 because of the endemic racism in Poland and Ukraine.

The Arsenal winger was included in Roy Hodgson's England squad to travel to Poland and Ukraine, but due to fears of racism in the countries, dad Don and chef brother Ashley have decided not to travel.

Ashley tweeted: ‘Unfortunately my dad n i have taken the decision not to travel to the Ukraine because of the fear of possible racist attacks confrontations.

Fears: Walcott's family will not be in Ukraine

Fears: Walcott's family will not be in Ukraine

'Something's aren't worth risking, but begs the question why hold a competition of this magnitude in a place that can not police itself for foreigners of any creed to feel safe, but I'll be watching every minute.

'Racism has no place in the modern world.'

Ukrainian football hooligans with racist tendencies have been the subject of recent exposes. Roy Hodgson expressed concerns on Wednesday about the safety of English fans next month.

Close: Theo will not be supported by brother Ashley at Euro 2012

Close: Theo will not be supported by brother Ashley at Euro 2012

Support: Ashley Walcott says he will support his brother from home

Support: Ashley Walcott says he will support his brother from home

Hodgson said: 'The issue of racism, especially the Sky report into the hooliganism and violence in Ukraine, is an obvious concern. Not least the supporters who go over there and risk maybe getting beaten up.'

Fears of racial attacks have prompted the Foreign Office to issue a warning to the thousands of supporters planning to travel.

Official government advice says: 'Foreign nationals have been victims of violent crime in Kiev and other major cities in recent years. In some cases attacks have been racially motivated.

'Travellers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent and individuals from religious minorities should take extra care.'

Fabio Capello: Clubs must stop stealing young players

Capello calls on Platini to act after swipe at Germans for “stealing talent”

Fabio Capello has taken a swipe at Germany for adopting players of Turkish origin and called upon football’s rulers to end the drain of talent from poorer countries.

Capello is still haunted by England’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Germans in last summer’s World Cup and raised the issue of citizenship when he addressed the Dubai International Sport conference.

‘A line needs to be drawn,’ said the Italian. ‘Richer clubs are talent-scouting and stealing players by bidding higher and not thinking about the consequences for those countries.

Capello

Capello”s complaint: Germany”s midfielder Mesut Ozil is of Turkish descent

‘These players are acquiring new passports. Germany had five of Turkish origin who opted to represent them and we all know what happened.’

Germany’s squad for the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa contained 11 players who could have qualified for other countries. Capello claims Turkey would have been far stronger with the ‘five’ who opted to represent Germany but his facts are muddled. Two players of Turkish descent were in Joachim Low’s squad — Mesut Ozil and Serdar Tasci — and both were born in Germany.

Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, who both scored against England in Bloemfontein, were born in Poland. Podolski moved to Germany aged two and Klose aged seven.

The crux of Capello’s complaint is about young players bought by rich clubs, lured from poor countries and nationalised, and he expects UEFA president Michel Platini to tackle the issue.

Plea: England manager Fabio Capello was speaking in Dubai

Plea: England manager Fabio Capello was speaking in Dubai

‘Decisions need to be made,’ said Capello. ‘Players can be bought, especially when they come from poorer backgrounds. I do not accept that, having trained a player, a different team can steal the player from me. UEFA should pass rules allowing people to reap the seed that’s been sown instead of having talents leave when they receive a major offer.

‘I’ve spoken to Michel Platini and he is resolute. Clubs will be forbidden to steal young players from abroad.’

Capello denied England had stolen Danny Welbeck, who qualified for Ghana, saying: ‘He was born and brought up in England. I spoke to his family and they were fine.’

Leeds striker Luciano Becchio wanted by Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough target January raid for Leeds striker Becchio

Tony Mowbray is planning to pep up his Middlesbrough attack for the promotion push, with a January bid for Leeds striker Luciano Becchio, who has just forced his way back into the starting line-up at Elland Road after hamstring trouble.

If Boro boss Mowbray misses out on Argentine Becchio, a huge crowd favourite at Elland Road after scoring 20 goals last season, he may move for Japan striker Mike Havenaar, of J League side Ventforet Kofu.

Wanted: Midlesbrough are interested in signing Leeds striker Becchio

Wanted: Midlesbrough are interested in signing Leeds striker Becchio

Havenaar, a tall frontrunner of Dutch descent, is also wanted by Wolfsburg.

Luciano Becchio wanted by Leeds

Middlesbrough target January raid for Leeds striker Becchio

Tony Mowbray is planning to pep up his Middlesbrough attack for the promotion push, with a January bid for Leeds striker Luciano Becchio, who has just forced his way back into the starting line-up at Elland Road after hamstring trouble.

If Boro boss Mowbray misses out on Argentine Becchio, a huge crowd favourite at Elland Road after scoring 20 goals last season, he may move for Japan striker Mike Havenaar, of J League side Ventforet Kofu.

Wanted: Midlesbrough are interested in signing Leeds striker Becchio

Wanted: Midlesbrough are interested in signing Leeds striker Becchio

Havenaar, a tall frontrunner of Dutch descent, is also wanted by Wolfsburg.