Tag Archives: enormous

Australian Open 2013: Jamie Baker loses to Lukas Rosol in first round

Baker's Aussie dream is over after Brit falls to Nadal's Wimbledon conqueror Rosol

By
Mike Dickson

PUBLISHED:

07:45 GMT, 15 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

10:53 GMT, 15 January 2013

Jamie Baker was left to rue some missed opportunities as he fell in the first round of the Australian Open to the man who famously knocked Rafael Nadal out at Wimbledon last year.

Playing on a far outside court in the enormous shadow of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the 26-year-old Scot led in both the first and second sets before he became overpowered by the athletic figure of Czech Lukas Rosol 7-6, 7-5, 6-2 in a shade over two hours.

Having typically battled hard to make it through the qualifying event it was a disappointing outcome for the British No 2 but winning those three preliminary matches still makes it a decent start to the season for the world No 246.

Over and out: Jamie Baker lost at the first hurdle to Lukas Rosol at the Australian Open

Over and out: Jamie Baker lost at the first hurdle to Lukas Rosol at the Australian Open

Against 75th ranked Rosol, who played like Godzilla back in June to beat the stricken Nadal in five sets, he had to rely on his counterpunching skills from the back of the court but they served him well early on as his opponent started to get frustrated.

Baker broke for 6-5 in the opener when he played a clever chip-and-charge manoeuvre that brought an error from Rosol. Trying to serve it out, however, he allowed three break points against him and on the last one hit a forehand into the net.

The Briton, an off season training partner of Andy Murray in Miami, was always behind in the tiebreaker as Rosol threw caution to the wind and hit out to take it 7-5, having built up a 6-3 lead.

Cruise control: Rosol knocked Rafael Nadal out at Wimbledon and was in no mood to be shocked himself

Cruise control: Rosol knocked Rafael Nadal out at Wimbledon and was in no mood to be shocked himself

The second set was also a story of Baker not being able to capitalise on his lead as he went ahead 4-1 and 5-3 and again was unable to close it out. Rosol reeled off four games and Baker’s fighting spirit was sapped, with daylight between them in the third.

Consolation for the Scot is the 18,000 first-round loser’s money and a boost from his wins last week.

Having fought more than his fair share of injuries he is at least heading in the right direction.

Arsene Wenger should stay at Arsenal: Gary Neville

Yes, Arsenal are struggling but sensible people should be defending Wenger now

|

UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 16 December 2012

When I started out as a pundit I was
given a piece of advice from someone in whom I place an awful lot of
trust. ‘The key to being good in the media is to ensure you don’t get
embroiled in every single little piece of comment and opinion,’ he said.
‘Don’t spend the day listening to the talkshows. Don’t read every
single paper. Keep your opinions fresh.’

Of course, I have to be across news
stories like never before but you can get distracted by the noise of
football and it can start to warp your thinking.

It has been an enormous change for me
to be inserted into that fast-moving, frantic media world when, at the
club where I played, I was working in a dressing room that was like a
sanctuary, protected from the whirlwinds and thunderstorms of the
outside world.

Why always him Mario Balotelli storms off at the Etihad after being hauled off by Roberto Mancini

Why always him Mario Balotelli was one of the talking points this week, storming off at the Etihad after being hauled off by Roberto Mancini

And the past week has been full of
those types of storms. On Sunday we were talking about diving yet again
after Santi Cazorla against West Brom. On Monday the headlines were all
about Mario Balotelli and his performance the day before against
Manchester United, when other players were much worse than him.

It was that or the issue of netting at
games because Rio Ferdinand had been struck with a coin in that
Manchester derby. Then we moved on to Bradford beating Arsenal and the
fact that Arsene Wenger has to go … again. On Thursday, racism reared
its ugly head again, with the verdict on the Serbian FA.

And then on Friday I was looking down
my Twitter timeline and there was a question from an Arsenal fan: ‘What
do you think of George Graham’s comments that Arsenal will never win
the title again’ And I’m thinking: ‘That can’t be right’ So I went
online to check and it’s there in the newspaper as clear as day — George
Graham is quoted as saying: ‘Will they [Arsenal] win the league again I
can’t see it.’

The dark side of the moon: Arsene Wenger watches as his side crash out of the Capital One Cup at Bradford

The dark side of the moon: Arsene Wenger watches as his side crash out of the Capital One Cup at Bradford

The speed at which the football media operate today is like a blender that is constantly having food chucked
into it and chopped into a thousand pieces but never has any end
product. There’s never any substance at the end of the process. Or it’s
like a sausage machine that just churns out more mincemeat rather than
sausages.

More from Gary Neville…

Gary Neville: The title is now a two-horse race and both are from Manchester
08/12/12

Gary Neville: Chelsea's players must be living on a knife-edge
24/11/12

Gary Neville: Brave, ruthless, relentless: Ronaldo redefined football
17/11/12

Gary Neville: Why Manchester City are still searching for their own identity
10/11/12

Gary Neville: Nine great reasons why RVP can become a Manchester United legend
03/11/12

Gary Neville: Why both Chelsea and Manchester United would accept a 1-0 win at the Bridge
27/10/12

Gary Neville: AVB deserves a second chance… good managers – and some great ones – have failed before
20/10/12

Gary Neville: Rooney is in the same mould as Robson, Adams and Keane
06/10/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Being partly in football as an
assistant coach with England and partly in the media, I can see it from
both sides. And I think football and the media should work more closely
together. I want footballers to be more open.

But the reality inside the changing
room is often totally different to the furore on the outside. I’m not
sure which the public want: the frenzy of the media or a reflection of
the serenity of the dressing room; or a bit of both. But it has got to
the point where we almost need two distinct media: one that deal with
the actual match and one that deal with the issues surrounding it.

Football has become a soap opera,
which, of course, is partly why the Premier League has become so
extraordinarily popular and is one reason why it is beamed around the
world. But the actual football can get lost in the drama. For some
people the main act can become the sideshow.

And so incredible statements come out
like: ‘Arsenal will never win the league again.’ Now I’m not going to
sit here and say: ‘All’s good and well at Arsenal and they shouldn’t
worry about going out to Bradford.’ That’s not the case. They’ve lost a
lot of quality in the past three years and they haven’t replaced it,
like for like. There seem to be some management failures in the number
of players who end up with just one year on their contract but I doubt
that’s Arsene Wenger’s fault. And they definitely need a bit of the
attitude of the 2005 FA Cup final team, the last trophy they won.
Without Thierry Henry that day they struggled but there was such a
resilience about those players that they were prepared to win ugly and
beat Manchester United on penalties.

Halcyon days: A jubilant Wenger holds the Premier League trophy aloft eight years ago

Halcyon days: A jubilant Wenger holds the Premier League trophy aloft eight years ago

But for George Graham, someone who has a greater knowledge of Arsenal than I will ever have, to be quoted as saying they will never win the league again leaves me stunned. I’ll be amazed if Arsenal Football Club never win another title. Honestly, I’d be just as surprised if tomorrow wasn’t Monday. It’s like saying Liverpool will never win another title. Of course they will. It’s a fact. Fifteen years ago who would have said that Chelsea or Manchester City would win a title Things change. They move on.

When I look back at the history of Arsenal, the club went 45 years before they won their first league title. And after dominating in the Thirties and then after the war, they went 18 years between 1953 and 1971 without a league title. And then another 18 years before the next title, which came under George Graham, in 1989. Arsenal are not a club like Real Madrid, Benfica or Celtic who should expect to win the title every year. They never have been.

When Roberto Di Matteo was sacked three weeks ago, the same people who were saying they despised the madness of Chelsea are now saying that we need a change at Arsenal. What do we want We just want a news story. We want more food in the blender.

Nadir: Arsenal's midweek defeat is a low point, but the club will get back to fighting for titles under Wenger

Nadir: Arsenal's midweek defeat is a low point, but the club will get back to fighting for titles under Wenger

There’s nothing to say that if you
change Arsene Wenger you’re going to be more successful. There’s nothing
to say that if you spend 100million, like Liverpool did, you’re going
to win the league.

Manchester
City and Chelsea have done superbly in recent years and between them
have won four out of the last eight Premier League titles. But it has
cost the best part of 2billion between them to do it. Are we saying
Arsenal should do that

Arsenal
are on the right track. They run the club in a sensible way. When I go
there, I watch good players, good football and you sense the history of
the place. There is a drop in quality, especially in forward positions.
They were the best attacking team I played against and, at the moment,
they don’t have that ruthlessness and devastation.

Lack of quality: Gervinho misses a crucial chance in the first half against Bradford

Lack of quality: Gervinho misses a crucial chance in the first half against Bradford

But we should be applauding the fact a club have had a manager for 16 years in a world in which divorce rates get ever higher, in which loyalty isn’t valued and in which everyone demands everything instantly.

Sensible football people should be defending Arsene Wenger and fighting for him to build another great Arsenal team. And we certainly shouldn’t be sat here saying: ‘Arsenal will never win another title.’ To me, that seems absurdly reactive.

Nike will have to pay up to extend Manchester United deal

Nike will have to dig deep to extend Man United sponsorship deal

|

UPDATED:

19:00 GMT, 14 November 2012

Nike face having to shell out huge sums of cash if they want to maintain their association with Manchester United.

The American sportswear giants are due to sit down with Red Devils officials in February at the start of an exclusive six-month negotiating period with United over their 303million kit supply deal.

And whilst United officials were giving little away today during a conference call to provide information on their first quarter results, it seems obvious Nike will have to come up with an enormous sum to satisfy the club’s owners, the Glazer family.

Swoosh: Manchester United's current kits are made by Nike

Swoosh: Manchester United's current kits are made by Nike

In July, United announced a staggering 357million deal with General Motors for the Chevrolet logo to be worn on their shirts for seven seasons from 2014.

That figure prompted United to buy-out the present deal with DHL for United’s training kit, which will now come to an end at the climax of this season.

'We feel we know, with some clarity, the value of our rights, and we are bullish about the abundance of opportunities available to accelerate the growth of this business,' said Woodward.

'The planning on DHL started post-GM deal. We are always monitoring the value of our rights. We can improve the amount, duration and rights-package about that deal.

'Our six-month negotiating window with them (Nike) starts in February. We look forward to sitting down with them then.'

Privately, United officials do not see the way the Nike deal is structured fits with the more commercially aggressive Glazer regime.

When the present deal was negotiated in 2002, United were a publicly floated company and preferred to take as much risk as possible away from any sponsorship tie-up.

Therefore, a profit-share arrangement was put in place which ensured United received only a proportion of the cash generated from worldwide shirt sales in exchange for a guaranteed sum.

The Glazer family have not gone down the same route. They have even stopped the policy of contracting out pre-season tour arrangements, believing they can negotiate better deals themselves.

Costly: If Nike want to extend the deal they will have to cough up

Costly: If Nike want to extend the deal they will have to cough up

As a battle is presently taking place
between Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne for two proposed matches in
Australia during 2013, the value of such an attitude is obvious.

It has also been noted Nike now pay the
French Football Federation almost 40million-a-year, without a
profit-share arrangement, for a seven-year period which began at the
start of last season.

Sponsorship certainly appears to be a lucrative revenue stream for United given they posted a 32% increase to 27.8million for the three months to September 30, 2013.

Including the General Motors contract, United did 10 sponsorship deals during that time, confirming an increase in workforce from 670 to 735 was almost exclusively connected to the marketing sector.

They now have mobile phone partnerships in 44 countries, with Woodward claiming the three-year deal with Japanese soft drinks manufacturer Kagome came as a direct result of opening an office in Hong Kong.

He added that the USA was the 'next natural place' for the club to open a regional centre given as many supporters watch United live there as do so in the United Kingdom.

Lucrative: From 2014 United will be sponsored by General Motors

Lucrative: From 2014 United will be sponsored by General Motors

It was also confirmed United received 2.5million as a result of being an Olympic Games football venue, plus 1.3million in compensation for players appearing at Euro 2012.

In addition, United used proceeds of IPO to reduce total debt by 17% to 359.7million.

This is unlikely to appease the vast numbers of anti-Glazer United supporters though.

An ‘exceptional item’ of 3.1million related to professional advisor fees in connection with the IPO, part of what is estimated to be an overall spend of 550million in interest and fees since the Glazer takeover in 2005.

England caps are still an honour – Jeff Powell

England caps are an honour… so wear them with pride like Bobby once did

|

UPDATED:

23:54 GMT, 12 November 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Gerrard emulates Moore on the eve of his 100th England cap

Click here to see the pictures as Steven Gerrard shares a special moment with pupils at his former school — emulating the famous picture of England's iconic captain

They're abandoning ship faster than the rats on the Titanic.

Men for whom it should be a matter of enormous pride to play for their countries are pulling out of international matches this week faster than they can bank their club pay cheques at the rate of 10 a minute.

Never mind the national pride, here’s the sick note. Basically it reads: ‘It’s only a friendly.’

Centurion: The legendary Bobby Moore posed with 99 schoolboys each wearing an England cap prior to winning his 100th as an England player

Centurion: Bobby Moore posed with 99 schoolboys each
wearing an England cap prior to winning his 100th

Time was when these games were nearly all friendlies and great players would have given – if not quite their right arms – at least a couple of fingers for the privilege of pulling on the shirt.

Now they pull a pained expression.

The world might never have heard of Ferenc Puskas and his mighty Magyars had it not been for the small matter of a so-called non-competitive match at Wembley in the spring of 1953, when Hungary stormed the hitherto impregnable fortress of English football and fired a six-goal salvo into the heart of our national game.

A year later, in the return friendly, they made it seven and changed us forever.

John Barnes would not have immortalised himself with a wonder goal in the cathedral of Rio’s Maracana unless England had travelled to Brazil to practice playing against those infernal South Americans.

That friendly is more fondly remembered than any England World Cup match of late.

Magnificent Magyars: Hungary's Ferenc Puskas (right) greets Billy Wright at Wembley in 1953

Magnificent Magyars: Hungary's Ferenc Puskas (right) greets Billy Wright at Wembley in 1953

The cap which Barnes received for his exploit is the most cherished of his mementoes. It seems there are England players now who would rather put a baseball cap on backwards and go for a night out.

Roy Hodgson is not so much England’s new manager as the secretary of a youth club, so little known are some of the kids he is calling up for national service in Sweden on Wednesday evening.

Frankly, at first glance, I thought Zaha was a clothes shop. It turns out he is a lad who, until yesterday, had been torn between playing for England or the Ivory Coast… someday.

I wish the lad well but if he does plump for this country I hope he never forgets that his big chance came in the kind of game which so many of his elders – and supposedly betters – are in the habit of calling ‘meaningless.’

Neither Bobby Moore or Bobby Charlton ever described any England match in which they took part in such disparaging terms. Nor did any of their distinguished peers. For men like these, it was always an honour to play for the country.

And even though David Beckham is a long-time sparring partner of mine, it has to be said that he always wanted to play in every England game. In fact, still does.

Unforgettable: John Barnes embarks on his epic run before scoring against Brazil at the Maracana in 1984

Unforgettable: John Barnes embarks on his epic run before scoring against Brazil at the Maracana in 1984

Although it was country first for the older gentlemen of England they were conscious, also, that every international appearance enhanced their reputations both at home and abroad.

They knew, too, that if they wanted to become World Cup stars it was only proper that they served their time and answered the call every time it came.

Now no-one doubts that John Terry is on crutches for a reason after that leg-crunching collision on Sunday.

But while it could well be that yesterday’s scans of other celebrated limbs revealed serious hurt, we can be forgiven for expecting that a whole posse of celebrated names missing from the passenger manifest for the flight to Stockholm will suddenly reappear, right as rain, in the Premier League this weekend.

Maybe there is pressure from some leading managers – Arsene Wenger for one is a leading campaigner for the abolition of friendlies – but the kind of strong-minded footballer who ought to be picked for England should be able to resist.

Patriot: David Beckham would still play for England in every match if he were selected

Patriot: David Beckham would still play for England in every match if he were selected

It’s not only the English chaps, of course, Robin van Persie – who came under Wenger’s influence for a long time at Arsenal – is one of many overseas Premier Leaguers opting out of ‘friendly’ week on the Continent.

In a perfect world, all the replacements would do so amazingly well that the services of the cynical old drop-outs would not be required in future.

That is most unlikely to happen, of course. But perhaps the mere thought of it might send out a reminder to the celebrities that since much of their fame and fortune is garnered from playing in the big World Cup games we expect in return that they pay their dues on the less glamorous occasions.

And if that’s not enough, in this of all weeks, let them not forget to wear not only their poppies with pride… but also their caps.

England to play France in Brazil in summer 2013

EXCLUSIVE: England add France clash to Hodgson's summer Samba tourEngland drop to six in latest FIFA world rankings Scotland slip 14 places and sit in 70th below Wales

|

UPDATED:

12:33 GMT, 7 November 2012

England will play France next summer as part of their tour to Brazil.

Roy Hodgson takes his side to South America for a mini-tour in June to acclimatise to the conditions ahead of the 2014 World Cup. Out there the national side will play five-time World Cup champions Brazil, Uruguay and now France as well.

England's playing schedule is clear next summer, with no World Cup qualifying ties to play and the FA believe the trip will be a valuable experience for the squad, coming 12 months before the World Cup.

We're off to Brazil! England are set to go on tour to South America next summer

We're off to Brazil! England are set to go on tour to South America next summer

It is England’s first trip to Brazil since 1984, when John Barnes hit a wonder-goal in a 2-0 win.

The FA have also ensured the fixtures in South America will be completed in time for the players to have a decent close-season break, before the start of the new campaign and a qualifier against Moldova on September 6, 2013.

The Three Lions will fly out to South America the day after playing a friendly at Wembley on May 29 as part of their 150-year celebrations as a national association.

Should England qualify for the World Cup without the added difficulty of the play-offs, they will play two friendlies at Wembley in November 2013 as well as two further home clashes in March and May 2014.

But Hodgson warned: ‘Brazil has got a major logistical problem on its hands. It’s a vast country, I don’t think we realise quite how vast.

‘There’s going to be enormous difficulties for the teams that qualify, according to where they are drawn.

‘You’ve got to remember it’s the Brazilian winter, so it’s not going to be a particularly sun-bathing time unless you happen to find yourself in Rio.’

What a goal: England have not played in Brazil since John Barnes waltzed through the home defence to score in a 2-0 win at the Maracana in June 1984

What a goal: England have not played in Brazil since John Barnes waltzed through the home defence to score in a 2-0 win at the Maracana in June 1984

What a goal: England have not played in Brazil since John Barnes waltzed through the home defence to score in a 2-0 win at the Maracana in June 1984

England have slipped a place to sixth in the FIFA rankings, with Northern Ireland the only of the home nations to improve their standing.

Euro 2012 finalists Italy, the side who eliminated England in that competition, replace Roy Hodgson’s side in the top five.

England played two World Cup qualifiers in the eligibility period, with a regulation 5-0 win over San Marino and 1-1 draw in Poland.

Spain and Germany remained unmoved in first and second, with Argentina climbing into third above Portugal, who slip to fourth following their surprise home draw against the Northern Irish.

Michael O’Neill’s men enjoyed a leap of 17 places thanks to that result, moving to 100 in the standings.

The Republic of Ireland slipped eight spots to 36th after a 6-1 hammering by Germany.

Scotland, who sacked Craig Levein as manager this week, have dropped below Wales after being beaten 2-1 in their head-to-head match last month.

Scotland drifted by 14 to 70th while a 2-0 defeat in Croatia meant Wales also dropped from 57th to 66th.

Elsewhere Fabio Capello’s Russia have moved into the top 10 after a strong start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Steven Gerrard proud to lead England for FA"s 150 year anniversary

Proud Gerrard delighted finally to be given England armband ahead of landmark year

|

UPDATED:

10:03 GMT, 24 October 2012


Captain fantastic: Steven Gerrard wearing the armband for England against Poland last week

Captain fantastic: Steven Gerrard wearing the armband for England against Poland last week

Steven Gerrard has revealed his 'enormous pride' at the prospect of wearing the England captain's armband during the FA's 150th anniversary year.

Roy Hodgson made the Liverpool midfielder his skipper after taking over the Three Lions last May, and he is almost certain to continue in the post heading into a big 12 months for the FA in 2013.

Gerrard was made to wait a long time to become the permanent captain of his country, as the likes of David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry all took precedence.

But the 32-year-old star is delighted to have finally earned his opportunity in such an important year for English football.

He said: 'It is a source of enormous pride to captain my country, and to do so in such a significant year is fantastic.

'The history of football in this country is immense and it is staggering to think next year it will be 150 years since the organisation came together.

'Football has been my life from a very young age and it is important that we celebrate the opportunities and benefits of the game.

'It brings people so much happiness and while I’ve travelled the world as a footballer there is nowhere in the world quite like our country for passion and enthusiasm.'

Roy's boy: Hodgson (left) handed Gerrard the honour after a long wait

Roy's boy: Hodgson (left) handed Gerrard the honour after a long wait

England women’s team boss Hope Powell
added: '2013 will be a really exciting year for The FA and I am already
looking forward to being involved in it.

'Next year will also be 20 years since The FA took over the running of the women’s game in this country and we have made incredible strides over the last two decades.

'Football is now the most popular female team sport and we are third in terms of participation figures behind men’s football and men’s cricket.

'The FA WSL has just finished its second season and we are already starting to see the benefits of our first-ever semi-professional women’s league.

'On the international front, England have just qualified for Euro 2013 – our fifth consecutive appearance at a major finals and we will be looking to make a good account of ourselves to help The FA mark what will undoubtedly be a big year.'

England women’s captain Casey Stoney has targeted a trophy at the upcoming European Championships to add to the FA's celebrations.

She said: 'To be an England captain in The FA’s 150th year is something I’ll be extremely proud of.

'The FA has really helped improve and raise the profile of the women’s game and I know they are planning on doing even more in the next few years.

'It’s also a massive year for us with the Euro finals in Sweden and I’d love to win something with England.

'We’ve certainly got the ability, we just need to go out there and prove we are good enough to get over the finish line.'

Barcelona v Celtic: How will Neil Lennon stop Lionel Messi?

How do you solve a problem like Messi Celtic take on football's toughest challenge

|

UPDATED:

11:34 GMT, 23 October 2012

Step forward Charlie Mulgrew, Efe Ambrose and Victor
Wanyama – the latest contestants on football’s impossible challenge.

The challenge of stopping a player with 53 Champions
League goals in 70 matches, of keeping quiet a man with 201 goals in his last
200 games, of stifling a threat that has delivered 71 goals already this
calendar year – just 20 less than your entire team.

The conundrum of ‘How to stop Lionel Messi’ is the biggest
chin-scratcher in football and, on Tuesday night in the Nou Camp, Celtic’s Neil
Lennon and his defenders will be the latest to try and solve the puzzle.

Crowded house: Celtic would be well advised not to give Lionel Messi this much room in Tuesday night's match

Crowded house: Celtic would be well advised not to give Lionel Messi this much room in Tuesday night's match

Form of his life: Messi completes another hat-trick in Barcelona's 5-4 win at Deportivo at the weekend

Form of his life: Messi completes another hat-trick in Barcelona's 5-4 win at Deportivo at the weekend

They will try and stop what was once famously called the
‘passing carousel’ orchestrated by ten of the most technically gifted players
in the world. They will try and shackle a player who has more records than the
annual stocking filler hardback published by Guinness.

At least the boss isn’t kidding himself about the scale
of the challenge – ‘You are wary of being embarrassed. You don’t want that – I
certainly don’t want that,’ Lennon said in the build-up to the Champions League
Group G tie.

‘People say, “what’s it like to play in the Nou Camp
Well, you come off and say “I don’t know, I don’t remember much about it.” I
was too busy doing this that or the other.’

Lennon can reflect with enormous satisfaction on his two
visits there as a player. A battling goalless draw in the UEFA Cup in March
2004 against Ronaldinho and company which carried Celtic through 1-0 on
aggregate.

And a 1-1 draw in the Champions League group stage the
following season, in which John Hartson fired an equaliser to cancel out Samuel
Eto’o.

Right approach: Celtic may have to get as tight to Messi as Neil Lennon (right) and Chris Sutton did to Ronaldinho in 2004

Right approach: Celtic may have to get as tight to Messi as Neil Lennon (right) and Chris Sutton did to Ronaldinho in 2004

MESSI BY NUMBERS

In all competitions, Messi has 201 goals in his last 200 matches for Barcelona. He is one away from his 300th club goal.

Messi's 53 goals in 70 Champions League matches makes him the third highest all-time scorer in the competition

He has 15 goals for Barcelona so far this season and 71 in this calendar year. The latter stat means he is closing in on a benchmark set 53 years ago by Pele, who scored 75 goals in 1959

Messi has 11 goals in 22 games against British opposition

But with respect to the past, and to Celtic’s ability,
Barcelona now play at a level several times higher than they did then. As
Lennon acknowledged, you can be ‘eaten alive’ by them.

If news of Barcelona shipping four goals at the weekend
against Deportivo offered hope their defence might not be quite so imperious at
the moment, it’s worrying that they still scored five and, with great
inevitability, Messi got three of them.

The Argentinean is closing in on another eye-catching
record – usurping Pele as the player who has scored the most goals in a
calendar year (Pele got 75 in 1959 for club and country, Messi has 71 and it’s
only the end of October) and a few against Celtic will almost get him there.

The leading theory for sides trying to counter Messi –
and Barcelona – can seem scientific: Place as many immovable objects in the way
of the irresistible force. But the defenders of La Liga who know him best have
in their time come up with a few practical tips that Celtic might want to heed.

You know what you have to do: The task falls to Efe Ambrose to keep Messi and co at bay in the Nou Camp

You know what you have to do: The task falls to Efe Ambrose to keep Messi and co at bay in the Nou Camp

Martial arts Victor Wanyama could be deployed in front of the back four to disrupt Barcelona's passing

Martial arts Victor Wanyama could be deployed in front of the back four to disrupt Barcelona's passing – though perhaps not like this

FANCY A FLUTTER

FIRST SCORER

Messi is 7-4 favourite to score the first goal against Celtic with Bet365, with David Villa at 10-3. The first Celtic player is Gary Hooper at 14-1. Messi is 3-1 to score a hat-trick.

TO WIN

Barcelona are 1-12 to win, Celtic are 25-1 with the draw at 10-1.

CORRECT SCORE

You can get the same odds on a 6-0 win for Barcelona (20-1) as a 1-1 draw.

WINNING MARGIN

Barcelona to win by a four-goal margin or greater is priced at 7-4.

You might think taking a physical approach against Messi
is the one nobody has thought of, but the Real Betis full-back Javier Chica
says he has tried this – and well and truly failed. ‘You can’t foul Messi! Two
touches and he’s gone,’ he has said.

‘Better to try and make sure that he only receives the
ball with his back to goal and is unable to turn. If he turns and faces you, if
he can see all his options clearly, he is very dangerous.’

He may be an ex-Rangers man, but Celtic might also listen
to Juanma Ortiz, now at Granada, who recommends that defenders show him onto
the outside at all times as it’s more ‘unnatural’ for him.

Gonzalo Rodriguez, now at Fiorentina but late of
Villarreal, has stressed the critical importance of staying compact and
disciplined, while Bilbao’s Andoni Iraola says you need to keep tabs on him
even when you’re in possession ‘in case’ the ball breaks to him.

If there’s one man who knows how to halt Messi, it’s Jose
Mourinho. He has faced him with Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid – and he’s
also an advocate of collective organisation.

Special: Jose Mourinho masterminded a win for Inter Milan over Barcelona in the 2010 Champions League semi-final

Special: Jose Mourinho masterminded a win for Inter Milan over Barcelona in the 2010 Champions League semi-final

‘I am against man-to-man marking,’ he revealed after
Inter had beaten Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals in 2010. ‘We
defend as a team, in zones – one man alone cannot stop Messi.

‘You can’t say it was [Esteban] Cambiasso that stopped
Messi or that our midfield or our defence stopped Messi – we worked together
and played in zones.’

Another Madrid favourite, Michel Salgado, concurs. ‘The
best way to stop Messi is as a team. It is incredibly important to double up on
him at all times and you have to be as tight as possible as a defensive unit.’

Real have previously deployed someone like Pepe to roam
in front of the back four with, in essence, the sole aim of roughing Barcelona
up.

But equally, Sir Alex Ferguson had his staff compile the
biggest tactical dossier ever on Messi before the 2011 Champions League final –
to no avail.

Surrounded: Manchester United tried to stifle Messi in the 2011 Champions League final - but to no effect

Surrounded: Manchester United tried to stifle Messi in the 2011 Champions League final – but to no effect

And how many times have managers sent out their sides demanding
military-style discipline, instructions to flood the midfield and disrupt the
supply lines, only to see their well-intentioned plans torn to shreds

If anyone does have a watertight formula for stopping the
Messi express, then they haven’t shared it. Perhaps it’s down to guess work or
good fortune. Or maybe Efe Ambrose knows the secret.

In the run up to the game he said: ‘He won’t pose many problems
to me.’

Fighting words, but will they prove foolish come ten o’clock

Roy Hodgson warns of logistical issues at Brazil World Cup

Hodgson warns World Cup in Brazil faces plenty of logistical issues

|

UPDATED:

12:48 GMT, 24 August 2012

Roy Hodgson warned of the 'enormous logistical problems' England and their fans could face if they qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

Hodgson welcomed the added 'spice' of the tournament being held in Brazil but painted an otherwise bleak picture of what might await teams and fans in the country.

Speaking at the Vauxhall Road to Brazil 2014 media conference, along with the other Home Nations managers, Hodgson said: 'They've got a major logistical problem on their hands. It's a vast country. I don't think we realise quite how vast.

Looking ahead: Roy Hodgson and the other home nations managers, Michael O'Neill, Craig Levein and Chris Coleman look ahead to the World Cup qualifying

Looking ahead: Roy Hodgson and the other home nations managers, Michael O'Neill, Craig Levein and Chris Coleman look ahead to the World Cup qualifying

Issues: Hodgson says there are logistical issues involved with the World Cup in Brazil

Issues: Hodgson says there are logistical issues involved with the World Cup in Brazil

'There's going to be enormous difficulties for the teams that qualify, according to where they're drawn.

'You've got to remember, it's the Brazilian winter, so it's not going to be a particularly sunbathing time unless you happen to find yourself in Rio.

'If you're down in Porto Alegre, you'll going to need a fur coat because it snows and temperatures reach single figures, certainly, and maybe even sometimes lower.

'And if you find yourself in Manaus then you won't be sunbathing but you will find 45, 50 degrees of heat and plenty of mosquitos as well being near the Amazon jungle.'

Hodgson revealed he had scouted potential bases in Rio, Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte but was worried about the kind of facilities that would await teams.

'There are going to be enormous logistical problems,' he added.

'The major problem at the moment is that the local organising committee and the management of FIFA haven't yet come to a definite decision which training ground will be paired with which hotel.

'You don't really want to be necessarily choosing a hotel with a training venue you don't like and vice-versa.

Talking a good game: Hodgson chats with the other home nations managers

Talking a good game: Hodgson chats with the other home nations managers

'The type of hotels that you're likely to stay in won't be the sort of hotels that national teams like to stay in, where you can essentially commandeer a hotel and fashion it to your requirements.

'It'll be very difficult to get the type of privacy that national teams prefer, if they can get it, when they go to major tournaments.'

But Hodgson also said: “The fact that it's Brazil, we can't deny adds some spice to this tournament because it is such a major footballing power, has been for so many years.
'It's a country which is totally dominated by football.

'They're also known, of course, for their carnivals and party atmosphere.

'They're [the fans] going to be a lot keener to go to Brazil than perhaps some other countries that are occasionally chosen to be a World Cup venue.'

London 2012 Olympics: Phillips Idowu ready to leap for triple jump gold

Idowu set to jump out of the shadows and leap for triple jump gold

|

UPDATED:

22:05 GMT, 6 August 2012

.olympicStats1038148 background:url(http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/07_04/bckg308x110.jpg) no-repeat top left; display:block; width:308px; height:110px; padding:0; font-weight:bold
.olympicStats1038148 ul width:98%; padding:2px; list-style:none; position:relative; top:86px; left:6px; font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif
.olympicStats1038148 ul li a padding:0 2px; font-size:11px; color:#0cac0c; text-decoration:none
.olympicStats1038148 a:hover text-decoration:underline
.olympicStats1038148 ul li float:left; list-style-type: none; padding: 0;

LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

Nobody would ever describe Phillips Idowu as shy and retiring but he has retreated so far from the public eye in the Olympic build-up that there was more likelihood of meeting the Dalai Lama on the triple jump runway.

On Monday the mystery of the missing triple jumper ended when he walked into the Athletes’ Village, allegedly looking the picture of good health, and asked for a bed for the night.

On Tuesday, when he launches himself down a runway in competition for the first time in a little over nine weeks, we shall have a better idea whether looks deceive. Nothing reveals the condition of an athlete’s body like a hop, step and jump.

Hidden talent: Idowu has been off the radar for weeks

Hidden talent: Idowu has been off the radar for weeks

The British Olympic Association’s medical adviser, having talked to Idowu’s personal physician, is convinced that he is fit to do himself justice in today’s qualifying competition and not embarrass Team GB.

‘He’s set to compete. All is good,’ said a BOA spokesman.

All Confidential medical records exchanged between doctors cannot tell the full story of a man’s ability to put enormous stress on heels, knees and hips by landing more than 15 times his own body weight on to them in the step phase.

Idowu has not done that in competition since June 2. He has not completed a flat-out training session for three weeks. And he will go into the competition on a wing and a prayer, hoping that sports tape on his upper leg will see him through.

Everybody has their favourite theory about Idowu’s refusal to have anything to do with the brouhaha of a home Olympic Games. Being injured is the most prevalent and cannot be denied.

Playing mind games with rivals is the theory of world champion Christian Taylor, as an attempt to fly at them under the radar now they have written him off in their minds.

Is he injury free Idowu fitness has been a cause for concern

Is he injury free Idowu fitness has been a cause for concern

Showing the finger to his bete noire, the team’s chief coach Charles van Commenee (right), is another. The two have not talked in a year.

Idowu has spoken only through the medium of Twitter. He says he has imposed a media blackout on himself for weeks and so knew nothing of the controversy over his absence until last Saturday. He confessed to surprise that his movements caused so much interest.

After all, he pointed out, he has to keep his daily whereabouts known for doping purposes ‘so it’s impossible to completely disappear’.

His statement added: ‘The appropriate people can contact me with ease. There is no story here at all.’
That may be his way of seeing it but when the most recognisable man in British athletics, with his dyed hair and facial piercings, makes himself so scarce that his head coach describes him as a ‘missing person’, it is a story.

Star attraction: Idowu was one of Great Britain's pre-Olympic medal hopes

Star attraction: Idowu was one of Great Britain's pre-Olympic medal hopes

The facts we have at our disposal to help resolve the mystery of why he turned himself into a recluse are the confirmation that he ended a training session prematurely three weeks ago because of pain in his thigh and back and that he has not trained with his personal coach Aston Moore subsequently.

But could he still come out of the Games in his native city with a medal at least

He has only to jump 17.10 metres today to qualify for the final. He has jumped 17.81 at his best and 17.31 in the abbreviated season he has had this summer. A single jump could be enough.

Then it is anybody’s guess as to what he could do with one single do-or-die jump through the pain barrier in Thursday’s final. Nobody questions Idowu’s physical power and mental resilience. He would jump through a wall to win at these Games. So do not dismiss the possibility easily.

American Taylor is an outstanding opponent, the world champion, and if he ever hits his stride pattern perfectly a serious threat to Jonathan Edwards’s world record. But Taylor is almost alone in that category.

Idowu, like Greg Rutherford in the long jump, may not have to be at his very best to come away with something.

Sir Alex Ferguson should have spoken out about Manchester United owners the Glazer family: Patrick Collins

400 million reasons why you should have spoken out, Sir Alex

|

UPDATED:

00:20 GMT, 8 July 2012

Once upon a time, Manchester United’s
balance sheet told a happy tale. An ambitious club, they pursued the
game’s great prizes, paid the largest fees for the finest players and
generally enjoyed a level of prosperity that others could only envy. Yet
they did not owe a single penny.

Then, in the summer of 2005, the
Glazer family of Palm Beach, Florida, acquired this admirable enterprise
by means of a leveraged buy-out. The process was totally legal and, to a
lay person, utterly mystifying. It involved borrowing some 525 million
to complete the purchase, then promptly dumping that sum on the club’s
hitherto pristine books. In seven years, the ingenious family spent
about 500m of the club’s income on servicing that debt, with its
enormous interest charges and professional fees.

Last week, we learned that United are
to be floated on the New York Stock Exchange, via the tax haven of the
Cayman Islands. This is not an unusual way of raising finance but here
it is being done as a faintly desperate means of reducing the Glazers’
debt without diminishing the family’s control. Some thought it an
incongruous operation; the most renowned institution in the domestic
game being treated as if it were a dice to be rolled or a card to be
dealt. But the people who administer English football took the whole
affair in their comfortable stride.

Flotation: Bryan and Avram Glazer, sons of Michael, pictured on a rare visit to Old Trafford

Flotation: Bryan and Avram Glazer, sons of Michael, pictured on a rare visit to Old Trafford

It needs something seismic to shake
the smugness of the Premier League. At the time of the United takeover,
the league’s chief executive Richard Scudamore dismissed the concerns
about debt: ‘The most important thing for us when we met with the
Glazers was to talk about their aspirations regarding television rights
and collective rights generally,’ he declared. And he sounded less
reassuring than he intended.

Five years later, when United’s debts
had passed 700m, he remained unruffled: ‘Manchester United have
continued to be one of the top clubs and since the Glazers have owned it
have continued to deliver huge success,’ he said. ‘It is absolutely one
of the best-run clubs in the world.’

More from Patrick Collins…

Murray will arrive quietly in a tiny VW… and could leave as the man the whole world wants to know
07/07/12

Murray beats the clock in his new role as Cinderella: Victory takes him closer to dream of first Grand Slam
01/07/12

Patrick Collins: Pirlo the master shows how far behind England truly are
30/06/12

Patrick Collins: Sadly Chambers must be chosen, but he could at least end the petulance
23/06/12

Patrick Collins: That touch of Sir Alf is why there is such trust in Roy
23/06/12

Patrick Collins: Fans will be the last to gain from Premier League's 3bn jackpot
16/06/12

Patrick Collins: Now for the real test… but Hodgson's men travel to Euro 2012 in hope
03/06/12

Patrick Collins: Is it any wonder preening Pietersen is so hard to like
02/06/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Now whenever Scudamore is challenged
about the way in which the various clubs of his league are run, he
usually insists that he is ‘ownership neutral’. It is a formula which
allows his organisation to shrug aside the antics of such as Thaksin
Shinawatra at Manchester City, as well as some of the rascals who have
helped destroy poor Portsmouth. And so long as he can carry on
delivering 3billion television deals, the various owners will not
worry. This is, after all, the ‘Barclays’ Premier League, a
serendipitous title which reminds us that a sensitive conscience can be
an expensive luxury.

But if Scudamore and his chums have
been predictably indifferent to the situation at United, the silence of
the Football Association is far more concerning. The most renowned club
in English football are in debt to the tune of 423.3m. Even the Glazers
admit that: ‘Our indebtedness could adversely affect our financial
health and competitive position.’ Yet the FA, the custodians of the
national game, have nothing to say on the matter.

But there are two other figures whose
silence is both perplexing and regrettable. David Gill, the accomplished
chief executive, was part of the United board who opposed the Glazer
takeover. In the ensuing years, he has defended the owners at every
turn, insisting that the soaring debt has not damaged the club’s ability
to invest in the team.

Then there is Sir Alex Ferguson. Since
2005, he has delivered his employers four League titles and a Champions
League. In addition, he has declined to complain about player
investment and described the Glazers as ‘excellent owners’.

Surprisingly silent: Both Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill have backed the Glazers since their takeover

Surprisingly silent: Both Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill have backed the Glazers since their takeover

Yet he, more than anybody, was responsible for that original, unblemished balance sheet. It was his work which had made the club such an inviting financial target. But now he is required to run harder than at any time in his career, simply to stay level. While the famously noisy neighbours make merry with Abu Dhabi’s endless largesse, Ferguson must try to flourish on more slender resources.

He has never complained, since that would be construed as weakness, but ideally he would not have chosen to go against City with Paul Scholes (37) and Ryan Giggs (38) in his engine room. Both have been extraordinary players but the fact that United should have come so close to success with such a venerable cast represented a minor miracle of management.

With City’s ruling family expected to invest still more lavishly in their project — leverage is not a term they recognise at the Etihad — Ferguson’s task becomes painfully daunting. He will give it his best shot, since that is his nature, but deep down he must know that the die was cast on the day when Family Glazer arrived at Old Trafford, bearing promises of a brave new world and around half a billion pounds of debt.

He was the one person who might have altered events. Had he publicised his protests and articulated his opposition, public anger might have been aroused and a more suitable purchaser might have emerged. But he said nothing and now the club who have consumed his energies and talents have become the Cayman Islands-registered Manchester United Ltd. Just another ‘brand’, another commodity, another hopeful gamble on the New York Stock Exchange.

Why I wish AVB well

The last time I saw Andre Villas-Boas, he was about to be sacked. It was March and Chelsea had just lost at West Bromwich Albion. He had concluded, correctly, that several of his players were way past their peak and that drastic surgery was required.

For their part, the old lags recognised their continued employment depended on the manager’s departure. So they got rid of him.

The process was curiously repugnant: they shrugged, pouted and went through the motions, apparently indifferent to the outcome. They made it clear that they would not play for the manager.

An honourable man: Andre Villas-Boas

An honourable man: Andre Villas-Boas

Just a few weeks later, they would mass their defences and ride some outrageous luck to win the Champions League. But by then, AVB would be gone.

He left with great elegance, refusing to blame those who had let him down, and we sensed he still had much to offer. He now has his chance at Tottenham. I hope he takes it.

No room for cheats

Deluded: Stewart Regan

Deluded: Stewart Regan

At the risk of intruding upon private grief, it would seem that demotion to the Scottish Third Division is the very least of the penalties which Rangers should expect for their sustained exercise in financial doping. However, Stewart Regan, the chief executive of the Scottish FA, is trenchantly opposed to such a punishment.

He pleads for the softer option of relegation to the Scottish First Division, apparently on the grounds that Rangers are too big to fail. Indeed, he has issued preposterous warnings of ‘Armageddon’ and ‘social unrest’ if the club should get what they truly deserve. Rangers in the Third Division, warns Mr Regan, would ‘kill the game’ in Scotland.

I suspect he is mistaken, for civilised sanctions will not kill the Scottish game. That task can safely be left to systematic cheats like Rangers. And deluded prattlers like Stewart Regan.

PS

Liz Nicholl is chief executive of UK Sport. This is the excellent body who have invested vast amounts of Lottery and exchequer funding into Olympic sport. Unfortunately, they have a bizarre obsession with bogus targets.

After staging ‘close consultations’, they bravely forecast that GB would win between 40-70 medals. Ms Nicholl has now announced the ‘official’ medal target. ‘Our commitment is to 48,’ she declares.

The figure is as meaningless as the process which produced it. Next time, she should choose the scientific option. And ask a bloke down the pub.