Tag Archives: embrace

Dean Richards exclusive – bloodgate in the past

EXCLUSIVE: Bad blood is in the past as Richards aims for the top again with resurgent Newcastle

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 21 December 2012

Four months into his second coming as a coach and Dean Richards has had a perfect return; 15 wins from 15 games with Newcastle and not one jibe about the reason for his ‘sabbatical’.

In the depths of his post-Bloodgate exile, when the three-year ban he had to serve surely felt like a lifetime of pain and punishment, this scenario would have been nothing more than an idle fantasy.

Yet, the legendary former England and Lions No 8 is now at the forefront of a promising salvage operation on Tyneside and relishing an unexpectedly warm embrace from the game he adores and missed so much.

Turnover: Richards is rebuilding at Newcastle after the shame of Bloodgate

Turnover: Richards is rebuilding at Newcastle after the shame of Bloodgate

‘I’ve not had one comment about the past, which is quite strange,’ said Richards. ‘I had been expecting something, but there has not been a single remark, which is bizarre. Sorry, I should qualify that – I’ve not had one negative comment about it, which is slightly different. People have commented, but seem to be accepting me for what I am. A lot of people have said how pleased they are that I’m here.’

The welcome he has received, at his own club and elsewhere, has touched Richards. That has been the bonus element in this reintegration process. But the principal source of satisfaction stems from simply being involved again, day after day, and seeing lots of hard graft paying off in the results that have followed, even if, on a personal level, he has taken time to get his bearings.

‘I love it,’ he told Sportsmail, after overseeing a training session at Kingston Park in the build-up to Sunday’s home Championship clash with London Scottish. ‘Being around a team again has given me a real buzz. It is one of the things that you miss, when you have your – sabbatical. I had my three years out and missed that involvement. Now I’m back, I’m enjoying the buzz, I love being around players and coaches, being around a winning team.

‘I had watched a lot, but there is no doubt there was a huge amount of rustiness; there still is. You don’t get up to speed straight away, but I’ve got enough quality people around me who have pushed me in the right direction.’

He feels he’s changed, too, although he doesn’t believe that has anything to do with his exit from Harlequins in 2009.

‘With
everything I’ve been through in the last few years, I’m a bit more
relaxed on match day,’ said Richards. ‘Wellsy (forwards coach John
Wells) finds it very frustrating because he has gone totally the other
way! He is far more animated and I’m there with my feet up, just
watching and analysing. I’m not very demonstrative in the changing rooms
either, rather than bringing out the old hair-dryer!’

Scandal: Richards clashes with Leinster coaches after bringing Nick Evans back on the field

Scandal: Richards clashes with Leinster coaches after bringing Nick Evans back on the field in 2009

Ronan O'Donnell (left) and physio James Allen
BACK FROM THE SIN BIN: THE RETURN OF RICHARDS

AFTER being banned from coaching for three years following the ‘Bloodgate’ scandal, Dean Richards is back and eyeing promotion with Newcastle. Here are the key stats for the former England forward.

Born: July 11, 1963
Clubs: Roanne, Leicester
England caps: 48 Lions caps: 6
Coaching career: Leicester, FC Grenoble, Harlequins, Newcastle
Coaching honours: 4 Premiership titles, 2 Heineken Cups

This is his second such assignment – trying to conjure an immediate return to the Premiership. In 2005-06, his first season at Quins, he took them straight back up. Richards is now helping the Falcons fly again, as they try to build on a 12-point lead at the top of the Championship table.

‘When I arrived at Quins, the fanbase was down to 3,500-4,000 per game; it has been very similar here,’ he said. ‘With the success we had that year and hopefully the success we have this year, the fans will come back.

‘It is similar in terms of the mental state of people when I arrived. A lot of people were very down; the club had gone down, though it wasn’t until July we knew for sure. Once that news broke, there was a real dropping of jaws and the realisation set in. The main difference is that I arrived at Quins and we had Andre Vos, Will Greenwood, Andrew Mehrtens, Ugo Monye – guys like that who were already in situ. We don’t quite have the leaders here who we had at Quins back then, which made a big difference.’

The contrast that has struck Richards the most is nothing to do with the comparative depth of leadership within his current club and his previous one. It is not the clubs’ markedly different catchment areas – a huge northern region with a low density of ‘chimney pots’, as opposed to a small southern region crammed full of them at Quins.

And it is nothing to do with the gulf in travel times that have played havoc with his fondness to share a post-match beer with the opposition. The most striking contrast has been in the landscape of the league.

There is now a play-off system; semi-finals and a final, on a home-and-away basis. And after London Welsh’s promotion via appeal last summer, there are Minimum Standards Criteria that the Championship clubs regard as redundant. Richards doesn’t hold back in condemning the situation.

Reprieved: London Welsh were promoted to the Premiership on appeal earlier this year

Reprieved: London Welsh were promoted to the Premiership on appeal earlier this year

‘The Championship is different now,’ he said. ‘It is a bizarre scenario we find ourselves in – not knowing what is happening until May 29 and this Minimum Standards Criteria rubbish. You can’t plan conditioning, you can’t plan recruitment, no one knows where they stand.

‘It is a very ill-thought out process and whoever came up with it needs speaking to. It doesn’t have the ambience and rugby culture that was evident when I was there with Quins.

‘It has lost something because of what happened last year, which I think is wrong. What the London Welsh scenario means is that it doesn’t matter what facilities and structures are in place, you can just find a club 40 miles away and play there. There is no incentive to build foundations, to have a strong academy, to develop a side and a community and a culture.

‘You have to have a culture and strong roots, yet there is no encouragement to do that from the RFU because of the play-off structure and the Minimum Standards going out the window. It has become a real dog’s dinner. It is quite sad.’

Richards is adamant Newcastle will ‘do things right’. As the business end of the season approaches, he expects several other clubs to recruit heavily to ambush the Falcons in the play-offs, but he will not countenance a similar strategy. He feels the squad is of Premiership standard already.

Richards sets his sights incredibly high. ‘The ultimate goal is to win the European Cup,’ he said. ‘It will take a few years, but there’s no reason why we can’t get up there.’

Positive thinking, a long winning run and no negative comments about ‘the past’ – a perfect return indeed.

Rodger Federer meets Pele in Brazil

Gifts for the great: Pele and Federer swap shirts as they meet in Brazil

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UPDATED:

00:22 GMT, 11 December 2012

One legend met another as tennis star Roger Federer and former Brazil great Pele rubbed shoulders over the weekend.

Federer went to Pele's residence in Brazil to exchange gifts with one of the finest players in football history.

Pele was given a signed tennis shirt with a personal message from Federer, while in return he offered a signed 1960s-era blue Brazil shirt.

Exchange: Pele and Roger Federer swap gifts and then engage in a warm embrace (below)

Exchange: Pele and Roger Federer swap gifts and then engage in a warm embrace (below)

Hugs: Pele and Federer

Federer in a Brazil shirt

Football or tennis Federer with an over-sized tennis ball

It's gone to his head! Federer kicks an over-size tennis ball (right) at the Gillette Federer tennis exhibition

'I love playing tennis and today one of the greats of the game dropped by to say hello,' Pele wrote on his Twitter page.

'Roger Federer, you are a champion on the court and in life.'

Federer said on Facebook: 'Today I had the great honour of meeting the legendary Pele.'

He is in South America to play in the Gillette Federer tennis exhibition tournament.

The Sao Paulo competition also
involves Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki, Serena Williams and
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, among others.

Just for fun: Federer and Tommy Haas of Germany share smiles

Just for fun: Federer and Tommy Haas of Germany share smiles

On the ball

Balls in hand: Federer

Aston Villa 1 West Brom 1: Match report

Aston Villa 1 West Brom 1: Super sub Bent cancels out Long's opener to earn point

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UPDATED:

17:01 GMT, 30 September 2012

Record signing Darren Bent came off the substitutes' bench to rescue a point for Aston Villa in a pulsating Barclays Premier League derby with West Brom at Villa Park.

Bent was axed by Villa boss Paul Lambert with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke preferred upfront.

But he had only been on the pitch 11 minutes when he fired the equaliser in front of England head coach Roy Hodgson to cancel out Shane Long's opener.

That'll do it: Bent scores late on for Villa

That'll do it: Bent scores late on for Villa

Match facts:

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Bennett, Albrighton (N'Zogbia 66min), Holman, El Ahmadi, Delph (Bannan 71min) Agbonlahor, Benteke (Bent 68min).

Subs not used: Given, Westwood, Weimann, Lichaj.

Goal: Bent 80

West Brom: Foster, Jones (Tamas 45+2min), McAuley, Olsson, Popov, Morrison, Mulumbu, Yacob, Brunt (Dorrans 39min), Gera, Long (Lukaku 72min).

Goal: Long 51

Subs not used: Luke Daniels, Rosenberg, El Ghanassy, Fortune.

Latest Premier League results, fixtures and table

All square: Aston Villa striker Darren Bent scores to make it 1-1

All square: Aston Villa striker Darren Bent scores to make it 1-1

Opening up: Shane Long puts the Baggies ahead

Opening up: Shane Long puts the Baggies ahead

Making no mistake: Shane Long scores for West Brom from close range

Making no mistake: Shane Long scores for West Brom from close range

Going close: Gabriel Agbonlahor has a shot for Villa

Going close: Gabriel Agbonlahor has a shot for Villa

High jump: Matthew Lowton competes for the ball with Chris Brunt

High jump: Matthew Lowton competes for the ball with Chris Brunt

Taking a tumble: Karim El Ahmadi tackles Yousuff Mulumbu

Taking a tumble: Karim El Ahmadi tackles Yousuff Mulumbu

Battle for the ball: Aston Villa's Brett Holman challenges Billy Jones

Battle for the ball: Aston Villa's Brett Holman challenges Billy Jones

Midfield battle: Chris Brunt tries to win the ball from Marc Albrighton

Midfield battle: Chris Brunt tries to win the ball from Marc Albrighton

Frustration: Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert sees a chance go wide

Frustration: Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert sees a chance go wide

Warm embrace: Paul Lambert and Steve Clarke shake hands before the game

Warm embrace: Paul Lambert and Steve Clarke shake hands before the game

Chelsea 6 Wolves 0: John Terry captains Chelsea in rout

Chelsea 6 Wolves 0: Terry skippers Blues cruise at the Bridge

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UPDATED:

22:20 GMT, 25 September 2012

If John Terry fears he is about to be thrown to the wolves by the FA, he can only hope they turn out to be as feeble as the sorry pack dragged down to London by Stale Solbakken.

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Norwegian manager sent out his reserves here and they were promptly destroyed by a Chelsea team captained by Terry.

Blues cruise: Chelsea thumped Wolves at Stamford Bridge

Blues cruise: Chelsea thumped Wolves at Stamford Bridge

MATCH FACTS

Chelsea: Turnbull; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Bertrand; Ramires (Oscar 59), Romeu; Piazon, Mata (Marin 70), Moses; Torres (Hazard 78).

Subs not used: Hilario, Luiz, Ferreira, Mikel.

Goals: Cahill 4, Bertrand 8, Mata 17, Romeu (pen) 53, Torres 58, Moses 71.

Wolves: De Vries; Stearman, Zubar, Batth, Margreitter; Peszko (Zeli Ismail 83), Edwards, Davis, Boukhari (Nouble 63), Hunt (Forde 46); Sigurdarson.

Subs not used: Ikeme, Foley, Johnson, Price.

Referee: Neil Swarbrick.

Attendance: 32,569.

After two days in front of a
disciplinary commission, looking on as lawyers grappled with the legal
complications of his FA racism charge, this will have served as an ideal
distraction.

Back in the warm embrace of the Chelsea
fans, Terry performed as if without a care as his side breezed into the
fourth round of the Capital One Cup.

He started the game by saluting supporters in the Matthew Harding Stand
who serenaded him with, ‘There’s only one England captain’, and left the
pitch after a six-goal stroll, blowing kisses, waving and patting the
badge on his chest.

‘We wanted John to start,’ said Eddie Newton, Chelsea’s assistant
manager. ‘With everything happening with the FA, we had to see how it
panned out but we had a phone call that he was making his way back nice
and early. We’d covered all the bases, all the scenarios, and the best
one happened.’

In the spotlight: Terry is currently part of ongoing FA disciplinary hearing

In the spotlight: Terry is currently part of ongoing FA disciplinary hearing

In the spotlight: Terry is currently part of ongoing FA disciplinary hearing

Roberto Di Matteo will take the same flexible approach to Saturday’s game at Arsenal, according to Newton.

Terry had left Wembley six-and-a-half hours before Tuesday night’s
kick-off, after sitting through five hours of legal argument at the FA
hearing which will continue on Wednesday.

Opener: Cahill (centre) is mobbed after his early strike

Opener: Cahill (centre) is mobbed after his early strike

The crowd was well below capacity but there were lusty cheers for their captain’s name when the teams were announced.

This would be a theme of the evening, at least when the home crowd were
not jeering Stephen Hunt, never to be forgotten or forgiven in these
parts for his challenge on Petr Cech six years ago.

Double trouble: Bertrand scores the second for Chelsea

Double trouble: Bertrand scores the second for Chelsea

Cech was among those given the night off as Di Matteo blended the
experience of Terry, Ramires and Fernando Torres with some of his
newcomers. Lucas Piazon, Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses started
their first games and Marko Marin came off the bench 20 minutes from
time to make his debut.

Of the six different scorers, Gary Cahill struck first, although Wolves
had every right to feel aggrieved. Ronald Zubar seemed to win the ball
but was penalised for a foul on Moses and then Cahill scrambled over
Richard Stearman at the far post to reach Juan Mata’s free-kick and head
it in.

Three and easy: Mata (right) made it 3-0 before the 20-minute mark

Three and easy: Mata (right) made it 3-0 before the 20-minute mark

Four minutes later, Ryan Bertrand swept forward and curled in the
second. Mata made it 3-0, jinking inside from the right, trading passes
with Torres on the edge of the penalty box and finishing with a sweet
left-footer.

All this inside 17 minutes. Although Chelsea relaxed briefly and lost a
little focus, an astonishing fightback never seemed likely. Moses sped
clear seven minutes into the second half and was deemed by referee Neil
Swarbrick to have been fouled by Dorus De Vries.

Oscar was booked for a dive at Stamford Bridge against Stoke on Saturday
and this was a little suspicious, too. Moses certainly started to fall
before the goalkeeper took his legs but there was contact and a penalty
was awarded. Oriol Romeu converted it, his first goal for the club.

Spot on: Romeu scored a penalty shortly after the break

Spot on: Romeu scored a penalty shortly after the break

Torres headed in the fifth at the near post from a corner taken by Mata
and Moses scored the sixth, heading in a cross from Oscar.

Solbakken defended his selection. ‘This was the fourth game in nine
days,’ he said, but Wolves can expect a letter from the Football League
for breaching their rules on fielding weakened teams.

Six of the best: Moses centre scored his first goal for Chelsea

Six of the best: Moses centre scored his first goal for Chelsea

London 2012 Olympics: We planned to hug then cross the line, reveals Brownlee

We planned to hug then cross the line, reveals Brownlee

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UPDATED:

22:31 GMT, 11 August 2012

Alistair Brownlee, warned by Olympic
bosses against trying to stage a triathlon dead-heat with his brother,
Jonny, claims he had planned an alternative display of fraternal
solidarity at the finish line in Hyde Park last week.

Brownlee says he wanted to stop short
of the finish and wait for his brother so they could enjoy a fraternal
embrace before he ran in to take the gold medal just a metre ahead of
Jonny.

But the plan was thwarted by the silver
going to Spain's Javier Gomez, with the younger Brownlee taking bronze, a
further 20 seconds behind, having served a 15-second time penalty.

Oh brother: Alistair Brownlee (left) consoles brother Jonny, who won bronze

Oh brother: Alistair Brownlee (left) consoles brother Jonny, who won bronze

Alistair, 24, said: 'We knew we couldn't cross the line together because it would have contravened regulations and it would have been impossible to make it a tie, so the plan was for me to stop a few metres before the line and wait for Jonny to catch me up.

'Then we would have embraced and celebrated before I, as the obvious race winner, would have jogged in ahead of Jonny to the finish line. It would have been a very special moment for us if that had taken place but winning gold and bronze was very special anyway.

'Of course there was always the danger that Jonny would have run straight past me to win – but if he'd tried I would have tripped him up!'

Gomez ruined that plan but cannot prevent Alistair's next idea, to run in the 10,000metres at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow after astonishing the sporting world by completing the 10k in Tuesday's triathlon in 29min 7sec, despite stopping to collect a flag and walking the final few metres.

'I'd love to compete in the 10k at Glasgow,' he revealed, committing himself further than at any point during the week.

'There's no way I'd ever turn my back on the triathlon but it would be a welcome break from just training for the tri, and it could be part of my overall training. I'm 24, I'm Olympic and world champion, so it'd be nice to try something different.

'I reckon I could get down to the lower 28-minutes mark, which would be good enough for me to represent England at the Commonwealths, I'd hope. Providing the timetable allows it I'd like to give it a shot. The qualifying requirement for the 10k in Glasgow is not massively quick, so it's a target.'

The Brownlees could go on to dominate the Commonwealth Games, with both gunning for the title separately as well as pairing up to win team gold for England. They plan to do the same at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, too, especially if the IO C ratify a move to add a team competition to the individual in the Olympic triathlon, a decision expected next year.

But if Jonny, 22, hopes big brother will make way for him in Rio, then his idea was dashed on Sunday night.

'I wouldn't be disappointed if the results were reversed and Jonny became Olympic champion in 2016 and I won bronze – but I'd be happier if I defended my title successfully,' Alistair said. 'I certainly won't be moving aside for my brother. He'll have to beat me.'

Roberto Martinez granted permission to talk to Liverpool by Wigan chairman Dave Whelan

Liverpool granted permission to talk to Martinez by Wigan chairman Whelan

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UPDATED:

18:08 GMT, 17 May 2012

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has given Liverpool permission to speak to manager Roberto Martinez, following an approach from the Carling Cup winners.

The Anfield side are seeking a manager following the departure of Kenny Dalglish.

And Whelan told Sky Sports News: 'If Liverpool are serious then I may lose him.'

Talks: Wigan boss Roberto Martinez (right) is set to discuss the managerial vacancy at Liverpool following the sacking of Kenny Dalglish

Talks: Wigan boss Roberto Martinez (right) is set to discuss the managerial vacancy at Liverpool following the sacking of Kenny Dalglish

Whelan has always said he felt the Spaniard was destined to manage one of Europe's top clubs and he would not stand in his way should one come calling.

The Wigan chairman revealed the Reds made an approach earlier this afternoon and he gave Martinez permission to speak with them.

Close: Dave Whelan and Martinez embrace after securing Premier League safety in 2011

Close: Dave Whelan and Martinez embrace after securing Premier League safety in 2011

'When they phoned me I was actually with Roberto having a meeting on what we are doing next season,' he said.

'I did promise Roberto and I have always said when a big club comes he would have permission to talk to them and they don't come any bigger than Liverpool.

Fans' favourite: Former Wigan player Martinez has impressed sinceleaving his post at Swansea

Fans' favourite: Former Wigan player Martinez has impressed sinceleaving his post at Swansea

'I gave him permission and he will be talking to them soon – I don't know when, but quite soon.

'When Liverpool sacked Kenny I have to say I thought Liverpool would be knocking on the door and sure enough they are.

'I would love to keep him but I have told Roberto he has my permission to speak with Liverpool.'

Martinez will not be the only manager owners Fenway Sports Group speak to in their quest to replace Dalglish and he would be far from the populist choice.

Questions have already been asked about his suitability for a club the size of Liverpool, considering he only has experience at the bottom end of the Premier League with Wigan and in the Football League with Swansea prior to that.

Popular: Martinez has ensured his place in Wigan folklore by keeping the club in the elite

Popular: Martinez has ensured his place in Wigan folklore by keeping the club in the elite

However, his achievements at the DW Stadium – particularly this season when the Latics finished as the form side of the division with seven wins in nine matches to escape relegation once again while Liverpool were floundering – have been on a shoestring budget with players of considerably lower quality than those at Anfield.

He is a forward-thinking manager and a great student of the game though and that has obviously gone in his favour in the first stage of the short-listing process.

Whelan has no doubts about the achievements of Martinez, who rejected an approach for Aston Villa last summer, in his three seasons at the DW.
But he knows if FSG do decide he is the man to take the club forward he will be powerless to stop the Spaniard leaving.

Fine finish: Martinez won April's manager of the month award as Wigan won seven of their last nine Premier League games

Fine finish: Martinez won April's manager of the month award as Wigan won seven of their last nine Premier League games

'I would love to keep Roberto. He's brought youngsters on and is an absolutely superb manager,' he added.

'Unfortunately there are two or three clubs looking for managers and I think Roberto is on the list of every one of them.

'Managers change clubs and sometimes you don't know what's happening and you have got to accept it and get on with the job.

'I think he's going there with an open mind.'

Whelan added on ESPN: 'I knew that the day would come when this happened, so it wasn't unexpected.

'He is a good manager so I am not surprised a club like Liverpool want him.

'It is up to him and Liverpool now. I can imagine he will want to manage such a big club but I would willingly keep him if I could.

'He only signed a new three-year contract three months ago so I would be due compensation – but I would rather have Roberto than the compensation.'

Jose Maria Olazabal on Seve Ballesteros – Ryder Cup

OLAZABAL EXCLUSIVE: Spirit of Seve can inspire my men to Ryder Cup glory

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 6 May 2012

Friends: Jose Maria Olazabal and Seve Ballestero

Friends: Jose Maria Olazabal and Seve Ballestero

One year on from the passing of his great friend and he still thinks about him every day.

How could it be any other way given all the adventures Jose Maria Olazabal shared with Severiano Ballesteros

Through the dim mists of time we see two blood brothers rescuing each other from the wreckage of each other’s wayward shots at the Ryder Cup. We see them walking in stride, or locked in an embrace after clinching yet another point for their team.

Then came the sadness when the latter’s health was failing. Two weeks before Ballesteros left us, Olazabal paid him one last visit where they reminisced about the glory days, poor Seve hardly able to talk, the two of them with tears in their eyes. In the months following his death, on this day last year, the younger man was bereft.

Now it’s invariably a poignant joy that comes to mind when Ollie conjures up his daily memory of Seve. Like the time in Hong Kong before Christmas, when he botched a recovery shot from the trees.

‘I was thinking how Seve would have made a much better job of it!’ he said, smiling.

It’s that sort of spirit he wants to pervade this year’s Ryder Cup in Chicago, where he will follow in Seve’s footsteps once more as the European captain and there will be a special Seve tribute in the days beforehand. Olazabal is keen to ensure it is free of mawkishness and puts a smile on people’s faces.

‘I don’t want to talk about it because we want it to be a surprise for everyone, including the players,’ he said. ‘We’re all conscious of wanting to strike the right balance. Whenever there was a meeting before the Ryder Cup it was Seve who had the last word, when he always managed to convey his core values: not quitting, being always ready and facing down adversity.

‘Yes, Seve will be there in spirit in every member of our team but it’s those core values we want to get across. We don’t want people so emotional they can’t play.’

Pain: Olazabal (left) was hit hard by Ballesteros' death a year ago

Pain: Olazabal (left) was hit hard by Ballesteros' death a year ago

Spend time in Olazabal’s company and it is not hard to understand why his name is considered a byword for integrity among his peers. Colin Montgomerie captured him perfectly when he said: ‘When Ollie speaks, everyone listens.’

Over the years he has turned down tasty offers from management companies because he’d rather leave his affairs in the hands of his lifelong friend, Sergio Gomez.

Millions of euros in appearance fees have been politely declined because he’d rather spend the time at home. The flashiest car he has ever purchased is his current one, a distinctly unflashy Volkswagen Touareg.

When the Real Madrid footballer Xabi Alonso received a Spanish magazine award last year for Sportsman of the Year, he knew exactly who he wanted to present it to him. Not because he and Olazabal are close. It had everything to do with respect.

Embrace: Ballesteros gives Olazabal a victory hug at the Ryder Cup in 1993

Embrace: Ballesteros gives Olazabal a victory hug at the Ryder Cup in 1993

‘I was happy to do it because Xabi is a very down-to-earth man,’ explained Olazabal. ‘We met a few years ago at a charity thing in South Africa and we have kept in touch. But I wouldn’t say we were close. I never want to get too close to people and overdo it. You want to respect people’s privacy.’

It’s like that in his hometown, the small fishing port of Fuenterrabia, just a few miles from San Sebastian, where everyone has a friendly greeting but no-one outstays their welcome.

‘Occasionally I’ll be walking down the street and someone will say “Hey, Capitano” and that sort of recognition is nice,’ he said. ‘But one of the reasons I’ve never moved and never will is that people are respectful.

‘All I’ve ever wanted to do when I’m away from home is play golf at tournaments. Why compete in tournaments just to get a big cheque for turning up I would rather spend the time with my family.’

/05/06/article-2140403-0CD0A88C000005DC-470_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Leader: Olazabal captains Europe's Ryder Cup team” class=”blkBorder” />

Leader: Olazabal captains Europe's Ryder Cup team

‘Yes, I am really happy with the career I had,’ he said. ‘When you’re a teenager with promise you dream of being a good player and perhaps winning a major, so to win two and play in six Ryder Cups while going through my injuries, I couldn’t ask for more. Even now, I don’t really think the doctors know why I couldn’t walk in 1995 and 96. Over the years my health has been a real medical mystery.’

Now 46, Olazabal still has problems with his shoulder and lower back but is thankful they won’t prevent him from playing a schedule full enough to know all about the personalities of the team he will captain.

Now that it is the start of a long run of tournaments that will shape his team, he must be delighted to see Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood in the upper reaches of the automatic standings.

‘I think we all know how good Lee and Luke are and I hope they can win a major because there’s nothing better than watching players whom you think deserve to win majors finally doing so,’ he said.

‘That’s why Darren Clarke’s Open victory thrilled so many people last year. I’d place Sergio (Garcia) in the same category. Majors for a pro are the icing on the cake. It’s a special thrill to be able to say you won one.’

Is there anyone better qualified than Olazabal to say if this crop of European players is as good as the golden age in the 1980s Thinking of Seve once more, he screws his face up. ‘What happened to the easy questions’ he says.

‘I genuinely think it is hard to compare different players in different eras. That group of players led by Seve and Nick (Faldo) were special in their time. What we might see is a much larger group of high-quality players but it is going to be very difficult for them to achieve the things we saw in the past because the competition is so much closer these days.’

What we can say is that Olazabal will have a team to cope with what is bound to be a noisy cauldron, played out in the heart of one of America’s most raucous cities. Olazabal, of course, was the man standing on the 17th green at Brookline in 1999 when raucousness spilled over into yobbery and the Americans celebrated before he had even had the chance to putt.

New order: Rory McIlroy will be a key member of Europe's Ryder Cup team against America this year

New order: Rory McIlroy will be a key member of Europe's Ryder Cup team against America this year

Thankfully, we’ve all moved on from those disgraceful days and, with Davis Love at the helm for America and Ollie for Europe, there’s little chance of any grotesque repeat.

‘We’ve seen it all over the years, haven’t we’ said Olazabal. ‘We’ve seen calm men explode and good players become great. We’ve seen strong men cry. It’s a very proud moment for me to be captain of Europe.’

And when it’s over, when the last bellowed chant has rung out from the stands and the winning team room, Olazabal will retreat gracefully from the spotlight and back into the bosom of life back home.

He will go into the mountains with his father and their four dogs and go hunting for partridge and woodcock and savour their time together. There, following the sound and fury of a Ryder Cup, he will cherish the quiet and the innocence.

‘We might spend six or seven hours walking in the hills and the only noise you can hear is the dogs working and the whisper of the wind and that’s the beauty,’ he said. ‘Perfect silence I call it. There’s nothing like it.’

OLAZABAL ON…

Chicago: ‘They bid for the Olympics and the Super Bowl and they are thrilled to get the Ryder Cup. It’s going to be very loud but I’m confident it will be respectful.’

American captain Davis Love: ‘We have a lot of respect for each other. We’re going to try to beat each other like hell but it won’t change our relationship.’

The Ryder Cup: ‘We’ve seen it all over the years. We’ve seen calm men explode, good players become great and strong men cry.’

Seve: ‘I know he will be there in spirit and we want him to be proud of us. I think about him every now and then, certain moments on the golf course. It is always going to be like that.’

Vice-captains: ‘I’d expect to have three or four. If you have four or five players in the team from the UK it would make sense to have a vice-captain from the UK but only if that person has a good relationship with the players. There’s no point if all they do is speak the same language.’

Biggest regret: ‘Not winning The Open. To me, it is the biggest event in our sport, the one that tests every facet of your game. I love it because it is not about strength or patience or imagination, but all of those things.’

Harry Redknapp never thought he would see Fabrice Muamba again

I never thought I'd see you again! Redknapp admits fears after emotional reunion with Muamba

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UPDATED:

15:05 GMT, 3 May 2012

Harry Redknapp and Fabrice Muamba shared an emotional embrace as the footballer made his return to Bolton's Reebok Stadium for the first time since suffering a cardiac arrest.

Tottenham's manager admitted he feared he had seen the Trotters midfielder for the last time after he collapsed to the turf against Spurs at White Hart Lane in the FA Cup 46 days earlier.

Face to face: Harry Redknapp and Fabrice Muamba meet each other and then embrace (below)

Face to face: Harry Redknapp and Fabrice Muamba meet each other and then embrace (below)

Embrace: The pair hug

'It’s fantastic to see him,' said Redknapp. 'It was absolutely brilliant, to see him smiling, to see him alive. It was wonderful.

'I'll never forget him getting wheeled down that tunnel.I’d be a liar if I said I thought I’d ever see him again because it was absolutely desperate. Nobody gave him a chance.

'I think the medical staff thought that night it was a bit beyond retrieval. To see him here tonight with a smile on his face is brilliant.'

muamba

tears

Tears: Muamba greatly appreciated everyone's concern for him and the reception he was given

Back home: Muamba walked out of the tunnel before the match, then watched the game (below)

Back home: Muamba walked out of the tunnel before the match, then watched the game (below)

Onlooker: Muamba watched Bolton take on Spurs at the Reebok

Muamba emerged onto the pitch to a rousing reception from both Bolton and Spurs fans, who were all delighted to see him.

The last time many of these supporters saw Muamba was the night he collapsed in north London. He was treated by doctors on the pitch before being taken to the London Chest Hospital.

Muamba was clinically dead for over an hour and received 15 defibrillator shocks. He was discharged from the hospital on April 18, when he went back home.

Salute: Muamba thanks both Bolton and Tottenham fans for their good wishes

Salute: Muamba thanks both Bolton and Tottenham fans for their good wishes

Clap: He applauds the specators

The 24-year-old was moved to tears by the reception afforded to him on Wednesday night before Spurs beat Bolton 4-1 in the Barclays Premier League.

Owen Coyle said: 'To see Fabrice here – he came in before the game and it was quite emotional, as you can imagine.

'We are absolutely delighted with his
recovery. That was paramount for Fabrice and his family, I have always
said that. It was fantastic to see him and for everyone else to see how
he is recovering.'

Onlooker: Fabrice Muamba's girlfriend Shauna watched, while the player was welcomed back on the big screen (below)

Onlooker: Fabrice Muamba's girlfriend Shauna watched, while the player was welcomed back on the big screen (below)

Silver screen: There was a big welcome

Paolo Di Canio"s mum dies as Swindon win

Di Canio in tears as mum dies on day Swindon edge ever closer to promotion

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 14 April 2012

Wearing a black armband, Paolo di Canio led Swindon to the point of promotion on Saturday — just hours after learning that his mother Pierina had died.

Incredibly, Di Canio lost his father Ignazio just before they played the same opposition earlier this season.

And in a further emotional twist, Swindon captain Alan McCormack pulled out of the game just five minutes before the warm-up, because his wife had gone into labour. /04/14/article-0-1298D2E8000005DC-332_468x307.jpg” width=”468″ height=”307″ alt=”Winner: Swindon celebrate their goal with manager Paolo Di Canio (hidden)” class=”blkBorder” />

Winner: Swindon celebrate their goal with manager Paolo Di Canio (hidden)

Di Canio, 43, refused to desert his post until another three points had been secured.

And he received a long embrace from matchwinner Alan Connell, who lost his mother three years ago.

Emotional: Paolo Di Canio cries

Emotional: Paolo Di Canio cries

The passionate Italian flew to Italy on Wednesday to say goodbye to his mother for the last time, returning to take training on Thursday.

Yet despite that black armband, few knew what had happened until Swindon chief executive Nick Watkins broke the sad news to more than 10,000 spectators at the County Ground, most of whom had stayed behind to celebrate the fact that their manager has all but secured the club’s promotion to League One.

/04/14/article-0-1298D2E0000005DC-468_468x286.jpg” width=”468″ height=”286″ alt=”Main man: Di Canio has led Swindon to the brink of promotion to League One” class=”blkBorder” />

Main man: Di Canio has led Swindon to the brink of promotion to League One

‘To achieve the success he has in his first year of management against the
backdrop of losing both his parents is extraordinary and he deserves our love and the love of the fans. We are under no illusions that Paolo will spend his entire career here, because he will go right to the top in management one day.’

Connell, whose goal put Swindon on the brink of promotion, revealed: ‘We
knew his mum was very close to passing away. I lost my mother three years ago and we were very emotional when we celebrated the goal. I understand what he is going through and I’m proud to have offered him some comfort.’