Tag Archives: exposure

Dan Carter exclusive: Sportsmail goes sightseeing in London on a photography course with the planet"s best

EXCLUSIVE: From hotshot to snapshot: What happened when Sportsmail took the world's best rugby player sightseeing

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UPDATED:

02:53 GMT, 30 November 2012

On his one day off a week when on tour with New Zealand, Dan Carter likes nothing better than to roam with his camera.

So, ahead of Saturday's match against England, what better than to spend some time with a master of the art, Sportsmail’s Chief Photographer Andy Hooper

New Zealand rugby player Dan Carter goes sightseeing round London

Picture perfect: Carter poses (from top left) with his camera, with Sportsmail's Andy Hooper, in front of the London Eye and across the Thames in front the Houses of Parliament

Picture perfect: Carter poses (from top left) with his camera, with Andy Hooper, in front of the London Eye and across the Thames in front the Houses of Parliament

Dan Carter

New Zealand rugby player Dan Carter goes sightseeing round London

First, the All Blacks No 10 turned up unannounced to give a kicking lesson to the amazed and excited pupils of Gunnersbury School in west London. Then we jumped in a Range Rover and took Carter to some of the best-known sights of the capital, including the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament.

'When you are on quite a long tour it’s nice to go off on your own and do something when you get some spare time,' said Carter.

'I usually take a camera with me when I’m away and probably the best place I’ve ever photographed is the Grand Canyon.'

Unfortunately, security meant there was no No 10 appearance for the All Black fly-half.

Giving something back: Ahead of Saturday's Test, Carter also took time to give kicking lessons at a local school

Giving something back: Ahead of Saturday's Test, Carter also took time to give kicking lessons at a local school

Giving something back: Ahead of Saturday's Test, Carter also took time to give kicking lessons at a local school

Snap verdict: So, does Carter cut it Here are a collection of his pictures.

So how does Carter square up as a snapper Here is the verdict of award-winning chief sports photographer Andy Hooper.

'He’s obviously a keen amateur photographer and already has a pretty good idea about it. We were talking mainly about photoshopping, framing, positioning and exposure control.

'If he put his mind to it he would probably make a good sports photographer because he has the added advantage of knowing the
game. But I suggest he sticks to being the best rugby player on the planet!'

Clicking kicker: Dan Carter impressed Sportsmail's chief photographer Andy Hooper with his shots on London's South Bank

Clicking kicker: Dan Carter impressed Sportsmail's chief photographer Andy Hooper with his shots on London's South Bank

Clicking kicker: Dan Carter impressed Sportsmail's chief photographer Andy Hooper with his shots on London's South Bank

Clicking kicker: Dan Carter impressed Sportsmail's chief photographer Andy Hooper with his shots on London's South Bank

Andy Carroll should come back to Newcastle – Northern Exposure

Why Newcastle could finally be tempted to make their move for old boy Carroll

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UPDATED:

19:01 GMT, 13 November 2012

Splash the cash Ash.

Newcastle United could do a lot worse than going out to sign Andy Carroll when the transfer window re-opens in January.

Watching the former Newcastle No 9 bustling his way past Steven Taylor and Mike Williamson in the claret and blue No 8 of West Ham United just didn’t seem right. Carroll would be right at home in Alan Pardew’s team.

Come back home: Andy Carroll, leaping above Mike Williamson, would be useful back at St James' Park

Come back home: Andy Carroll, leaping above Mike Williamson, would be useful back at St James' Park

Carroll has not scored for the Hammers yet, and only a brilliant save by Tim Krul denied him a deserved goal on Sunday. But he is still a menace and that partnership with Kevin Nolan is lethal, even if it is the older of the two who is scoring the goals.

More from Colin Young…

Northern Exposure: Just how can O'Neill reverse Sunderland's fortunes
06/11/12

Northern Exposure: Wear-Tees derby may not be as mad as the big one but there's all to play for
29/10/12

Northern Exposure: Time to come up for air before next Newcastle v Sunderland battle
22/10/12

Northern Exposure: Super Sunday as Newcastle and Sunderland prepare for battle
19/10/12

Northern Exposure: Newcastle and Sunderland head into derby on back of Manchester mauling
09/10/12

Northern Exposure: Ba on his way out of Toon There's no smoke without fire…
18/09/12

Northern Exposure: Forget Trapattoni's wrath, Twitter mischief-maker McClean must face O'Neill
12/09/12

Northern Exposure: Trapattoni ready to go against instincts and unleash McClean
05/09/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

The Newcastle manager made no secret of his personal desire to see Carroll back at St James’s Park in his beloved black and white shirt.

He couldn’t say when it might happen, can’t even guarantee it is a plan which would get the backing it needs in the boardroom, but he would love to see it.

So why not the winter window

Carroll would need special dispensation to play for a third Premier League club this season after his loan spell at Upton Park and two substitute appearances for Liverpool. But there is precedence with Gareth Farrelly and, if the rules can be bent in his favour, Newcastle should throw their hat and their money into the ring.

And if Newcastle can put together a financial package which is attractive to Liverpool, although it is obviously not going to come close to the 35million Kenny Dalglish paid two years ago, they will see off competition from West Ham and possibly Spurs for a player who was born to play for Newcastle.

'He’s a Geordie and Newcastle is his home,' said Pardew and Sam Allardyce at the weekend. And judging by the fairly half-hearted stick the striker got at the weekend, Newcastle supporters would not be adverse to having him back.

With Shola Ameobi about to embark on his new international adventure – and good luck to him – he may not be around in January, although Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse will, assuming the release clause in Ba’s contract has not been triggered.

Carroll would be a valuable addition to a squad which needs a lift.

Agreed: Both Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce know Carroll is a geordie and Newcastle is his home

Agreed: Both Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce know Carroll is a geordie and Newcastle is his home

Boro back on top

Flushed by the success of Friday night’s win over Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough have announced more cut-price ticket offers to keep bums on seats at the Riverside.

Having witnessed the cold dreary atmosphere for the games against Burnley and Derby at the ground this season, when Boro were doing reasonably well, it was a pleasure to be back on Teesside to see Tony Mowbray’s side go back to the top of the Championship for the first time in 14 months.

It helps that the team are doing well, demonstrated by a terrific run of seven wins in eight games, and their strong hold on one of the automatic promotion places.

But clearly, in a region blighted by the recession, offering tickets at the right price for adults and their kids is the right thing to do. Season ticket holders may rightly have their reservation about 50 per cent match day tickets having forked out reasonable sums to show their support for longer than one Friday night. But it is surely right to have the stadium close to full again. Better for the club and the team.

Soaring: Middlesbrough is a fun football club to be part of again now the atmosphere has perked up

Soaring: Middlesbrough is a fun football club to be part of again now the atmosphere has perked up

Walking up to the pressbox, jostling through the crowds and fighting the way through the queues at the bars, there was a clear change in the atmosphere at the Riverside and, aside from the FA Cup replay with Sunderland last season, it is Tony Mowbray’s first experience of it as Middlesbrough manager.

He can do his bit to keep the place full with a continuation of positive results and performances from the very good team he is assembling. But offers like the one just announced – two-for-one for home games with Bristol City and Huddersfield Town – can only help the push for promotion back to the Premier League, when the club won’t require incentives to keep seats filled.

Sunderland are in trouble – Northern Exposure

Northern Exposure: Just how can O'Neill reverse Sunderland's fortunes

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UPDATED:

15:56 GMT, 6 November 2012

Ever get the feeling it’s just not your day/week/month/season That’s what Martin O’Neill, and his players, must surely be thinking after the week they’ve just endured.

The Capital One Cup exit at the hands of a useful and vibrant Middlesbrough team last week was a massive blow. Local bragging rights aside, this was a competition Sunderland were looking at with serious intent.

O’Neill won it four times as player and manager, and he recognised, like every Sunderland fan, the possibility of winning it this season. He might not also know that it would have put an end to the Newcastle 'have you ever seen a Mackem in Milan’ chants.

Head in hands: Sunderland's woeful form continued when they were beaten by Aston Villa

Head in hands: Sunderland's woeful form continued when they were beaten by Aston Villa

More from Colin Young…

Northern Exposure: Wear-Tees derby may not be as mad as the big one but there's all to play for
29/10/12

Northern Exposure: Time to come up for air before next Newcastle v Sunderland battle
22/10/12

Northern Exposure: Super Sunday as Newcastle and Sunderland prepare for battle
19/10/12

Northern Exposure: Newcastle and Sunderland head into derby on back of Manchester mauling
09/10/12

Northern Exposure: Ba on his way out of Toon There's no smoke without fire…
18/09/12

Northern Exposure: Forget Trapattoni's wrath, Twitter mischief-maker McClean must face O'Neill
12/09/12

Northern Exposure: Trapattoni ready to go against instincts and unleash McClean
05/09/12

Northern Exposure: Toon Army can look forward to more top trips around Europe
28/08/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Lifting the first trophy since 1973 was a considerable way off, as Tony Mowbray acknowledged after his side were handed their 13th away cup draw in a row and given a trip to Swansea for next month’s quarter-final.

But last eight, semi-finals and Wembley in touching distance would all have helped lift the doom which has unexpectedly engulfed the Stadium of Light this season.

Sunderland then followed that with a home defeat to an Aston Villa side, who were reckoned to be really struggling and were three points behind them and without an away win all season.

And they probably deserved it too. If Lee Cattermole’s drive had flown a few inches lower, the first half, and outcome, might have been very different. But Sunderland are not having a lot of luck on top of Stephane Sessegnon, Adam Johnson and James McClean inexplicably and collectively being unable to deliver.

Villa just looked the bigger threat and once Gabriel Agbonlahor had ended a 28-league game wait for his goal, Sunderland never looked likely to equalise, for all their desperation and kitchen-sink style attacking play.

On top of all this, James McFadden signed last week and in hindsight might have been a fairytale in waiting on the bench but was overlooked for the latter stages of the Boro defeat for the McClean. But now he looks likely to miss out on the opportunity to impress for the next two months after suffering a hamstring injury on Thursday. It never rains…

This is all a serious test for O’Neill, who has asked for time to be judged and pointed out he endured similar difficulties in the early stages of management at Leicester and Villa. Even winning titles at Celtic didn’t come without its setbacks.

And he will know he has to get it right quickly. Just four points above third from bottom Reading, who are the home game in hand next month, Sunderland have a hectic and challenging period ahead.

You try and work out where the points are coming from. They face Fulham (A), West Brom and QPR (H), Norwich (A) before they really get into December.

Plenty to ponder: Martin O'Neill's appointment has not had the desired affect at the Stadium of Light

Plenty to ponder: Martin O'Neill's appointment has not had the desired affect at the Stadium of Light

They then have Chelsea (H) before the Reading re-match, followed by Manchester United (A), Southampton (A) and on Boxing Day Manchester City (H) before the month ends with Tottenham (H).

Testing times for Toon

Alan Pardew is also counting the cost of last week.

His Newcastle side came so close to ending their Anfield hoodoo, but what he'd give for a point and a clean bill of health after Sunday’s 1-1 draw.

Instead, Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye and James Perch – the type of Newcastle players (yes, Perch included) who Sir Bobby Robson would have put in his `blue chip’ brigade – departed with injuries likely to leave them out of action for a few weeks.

And captain Fabricio Coloccini’s uncharacteristic moment of madness, even if he did try to pull out of a full-scale assault on Luis Suarez, has ruled him out of three Barclays Premier League games. He is always missed.

Blow: Demba Ba (right) added his name to Newcastle's growing injury list

Blow: Demba Ba (right) added his name to Newcastle's growing injury list

The downside of the deserved qualification to the Europa League was always going to be the test to the Newcastle squad. And at the beginning of the season, Pardew made no secret of his desire to see his fringe and younger players using the competition as a springboard to full-scale league involvement.

Pardew has used his men well and they sit top of their group, knowing a win in Bruges this week, and a favourable result between Maritimo and Bordeaux, puts them in next year’s knock-out phase. Progress indeed.

Thousands will make the trip to Belgium on Thursday, many without tickets, in a real show of force to mark Newcastle’s return to European action. Bruges is considerably easier, and cheaper, to get to than Mauritius and Athens.

Those who will be inside the Jan Breydel Stadium will not want to leave disappointed. This is the Belgian side’s last chance, and they will want to make an impression on home turf and end a run of six games without a win which cost seasoned campaigner George Leekens his job this week. They are likely to face a vastly inexperienced Newcastle team but the pressure is on the home side and caretaker coach Philippe Clement. It promises to be a testing night.

Return: Newcastle take on Bruges looking to qualify for the Europa League knockout phase

Return: Newcastle take on Bruges looking to qualify for the Europa League knockout phase

With points in the bag, Newcastle can afford a defeat. Maritimo at St James’s Park is an entirely different proposition in a fortnight and could prove to be the night for qualification. After that it is Bordeaux, when the majority of fans might appreciate the option of saving some money.

One criticism from supporters during the summer, was the lack of new signings. The new numbers of players alone didn’t match up.

The board believed they had the resources, and Pardew has never suggested he is unhappy with the cards he has been dealt. But this month tests the squad to the absolute limit and presents challenges he could do without as he looks to gain a stronger presence in the Premier League.

Newcastle have two months to get to the January transfer window. How they deal with its opening may depend on whether they limp or leap into the New Year.

Oscar de la Hoya welcomes Ricky Hatton return

Welcome back, Ricky! De La Hoya gives Hatton return seal of approval

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UPDATED:

21:50 GMT, 12 September 2012

No matter whom he faces in his comeback fight on November 24, Ricky Hatton's fanatical army of fellow Mancunians will turn out in force.

It is inevitable that he will shake off the ring rust against a journeyman opponent in his first fight since he was knocked deeply unconscious by Manny Pacquiao three years ago.

It is the decision Hatton vowed never to take when he formally announced his retirement last year.

Welcome back: Ricky Hatton will return to the ring on November 24

Welcome back: Ricky Hatton will return to the ring on November 24

Not for me: Oscar de la Hoya (centre) has welcomed Hatton back, but says he will not come out of retirement himself

Not for me: Oscar de la Hoya (centre) has welcomed Hatton back, but says he will not come out of retirement himself

The U-turn has been driven by the itch to fight again which gnaws at all great boxers, a nagging reluctance to go out on his back after KOs by Floyd Mayweather and Pacquiao, and the need to find television exposure for the stable of youngsters he promotes.

'Golden Boy' Oscar de la Hoya gave enthusiastic approval here yesterday when I told him that Hatton is returning to the ring, saying: 'I wish Ricky all the luck in the world.

'He's still only 33 and who is to say he should not do this. I support him 100 per cent.'

De la Hoya v Hatton is one of those mega-fights which never happened and if it were to take place during the Hitman's comeback it could easily be worth $100million.

But the Golden Boy reiterated his determination to stay retired, even though he is back to full health after renouncing drink and drugs.

He said: 'I am in fighting shape but I'm 39 and my body would not take it. Nothing will lure me back into the ring, not even the prospect of fighting Ricky.'

Looking trim: Ricky Hatton will reveal his future plans on Friday

Looking trim: Ricky Hatton will reveal his future plans on Friday

That does not mean that his company will not promote Hatton, a long-time partner now, if his return develops into further world title challenges in Las Vegas.

For the Hitman, money is not the lure. He is a multi-millionaire. The urge to fight again took on the heated proportions of a crusade when Sky Sports pulled the plug on his shows even though proteges like Scott Quigg are closing on world title shots.

Naturally, the prospect of the Hitman himself climbing back into the ring has attracted a queue of alternative networks.

It is believed a new TV deal has been brokered with Hatton committed to at least two or three fights. In our recent poll a majority of fight fans urged him not to risk a comeback but the health issues are not that simple in his case.

At 33 – even though those years have been lived high on the hog – Hatton is still of a good fighting age.

Outclassed: Hatton was hammered by Manny Pacquiao three years ago

Outclassed: Hatton was hammered by Manny Pacquiao three years ago

Outclassed: Hatton was hammered by Manny Pacquiao three years ago

Out with a whimper: The Briton did not want to call it a day after a devastating defeat

Out with a whimper: The Briton did not want to call it a day after a devastating defeat

Whether his punch resistance has been weakened by his old binge-drinking and the heavy defeats by Pacquiao and Mayweather is a question which only a return to action can answer.

He has barely touched hard drink while coming down to within less than a stone of his world lightwelterweight title winning poundage.

Ricky Fatton – as he humorously called himself between fights – said yesterday: 'I'm so slim now I nearly fell through a street grating.'

The duration of his comeback will be determined by the first couple of bouts.

But if his skills are undiminished, more big nights in Manchester and Las Vegas – even including return matches with Mayweather and Pacquiao – are not out of the question.

Amir Khan is considering a new trainer who would make him his No 1 priority and help tighten up his defence.

The 25-year-old is coached by Freddie Roach, who is involved with Manny Pacquiao and Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr.

It is thought Khan is frustrated at travelling to the Philippines to fit in with Pacquiao's preparations.

But Roach said: 'Amir would get all the attention he needs for his fight on December 15 and if he wants me to train him for that he knows the number to call.'

On the lookout Amir Khan (left) could leave trainer Freddie Roach (right)

On the lookout Amir Khan (left) could leave trainer Freddie Roach (right)

Ricky Hatton to return to boxing

The Hitman is back! Hatton poised for ring return after three-year exile

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UPDATED:

18:22 GMT, 11 September 2012

The worst-kept secret in sport is out. The Hitman is back.

Ricky Hatton's return to the ring three years after he was knocked unconscious by Manny Pacquiao will be confirmed officially on Friday.

After weeks of hard training and soul searching, Hatton, 33, will shake off the ring rust against a journeyman opponent in Manchester – his fanatical army of fellow Mancunians are sure to turn out in force.

Ringside: Hatton will reveal his future plans at a press conference on Friday

Ringside: Hatton will reveal his future plans at a press conference on Friday

This is the plunge Hatton vowed never to take when he formally announced his retirement last year.

The U-turn has been driven by the
itch to fight again which gnaws at all great boxers, a nagging
reluctance to go out on his back after knockouts by Floyd Mayweather and
Pacquiao, and the need to find television exposure for the stable of
youngsters he promotes.

Personal money is not the lure.
Hatton is a multi-millionaire. The urge to fight again took on the
heated proportions of a crusade when Sky Sports pulled the plug on his
shows even though proteges like Scott Quigg are closing on world title
shots.

Naturally, the prospect of the Hitman himself climbing back into the prize-ring has attracted a queue of alternative networks.

Game over Hatton was destroyed by Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas

Game over Hatton was destroyed by Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas

It is believed that a new TV deal has been brokered with Hatton committed to at least two or three fights.

In our recent poll a majority of
fight fans urged Hatton not to risk a comeback but the health issues are
not that simple in his case.

At 33 – even though those years have been lived high on the hog – he is still of a good fighting age.

Whether his punch resistance has been
weakened by his old binge-drinking and the heavy defeats by Pacquiao
and Mayweather is a question which only a return to action can answer.

The medical case in favour of him
boxing again is made by the dedication he has been pouring into his
training – rather than from a glass – during the last few months.

Ring rusty: Hatton hasn't fought competitively since he faced Pacquiao

Ring rusty: Hatton hasn't fought competitively since he faced Pacquiao

There can be no denying that Hatton's
lifestyle is much healthier when he is an active boxer. He has barely
touched hard drink while coming down to within less than a stone of his
world light-welterweight title winning poundage.

Ricky Fatton – as he humorously called himself between fights – said: 'I'm so slim now I nearly fell through a street grating.'

Clearly, that sharp-witted mind remains undamaged by the blows this warrior has taken while thrilling crowds around the world.

The duration of his comeback will be determined by the first couple of bouts.

But if his skills are undiminished
more big nights in Manchester and Vegas – even including returns matches
with Mayweather and Pacquiao – are not out of the question.

Since Hatton is more likely to damage
his well-being outside rather than inside the ring, the British Boxing
Board of Control have no grounds on which to refuse to re-license him.

And who does have the right to tell any athlete not to take part in the sport he loves

Giovanni Trapattoni ready to unleash James McClean

Trapattoni ready to go against instincts and unleash McClean

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UPDATED:

18:35 GMT, 5 September 2012

Giovanni Trapattoni does not really do 'unleash’.

But according to my colleagues on a well-informed Dublin radio station this week, the Republic of Ireland manager was ready to do just that with James McClean this week.

Then the former Derry City man got a sore throat and, as he did in Poland, Trapattoni will unexpectedly turn to the tried and, as a winger, untested Simon Cox as his wingman. Makes no sense to me.

Secret weapon: Giovanni Trapattoni is ready to unleash James McClean

Secret weapon: Giovanni Trapattoni is ready to unleash James McClean

More from Colin Young…

Northern Exposure: Toon Army can look forward to more top trips around Europe
28/08/12

Northern Exposure: All eyes on the future after solid start for Newcastle
21/08/12

Northern Exposure: Promotion is a must this season for Middlesbrough
14/08/12

Northern Exposure: European adventure always welcome at St James' Park… and it is still St James' Park
07/08/12

Northern Exposure: O'Neill delves into his Clough memories in bid to lift Sunderland
31/07/12

Northern Exposure: All quiet in the north east… but things are about to get busy
24/07/12

Northern Exposure: The north east team of the 2011-12 season
15/05/12

Northern Exposure: Trapattoni can help Sunderland winger McClean be a Euro star
08/05/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

McClean’s first competitive start for Ireland has been too long coming. I will forever fail to understand why the Italian refused to throw the eager Sunderland winger, after such a blistering first half season at the Stadium of Light, on the unsuspecting defences at Euro 2012.

Given how badly his rigid policy worked out, what did he have to lose in Poland

McClean has been unwell this week, so we head to Kazakhstan uncertain whether he is lucky enough to be on the 15-hour hop to Astana, and if he can be guaranteed an `unleashing’ for Ireland’s tricky first World Cup 2014 qualifier.

It is a no-brainer for most Ireland observers – but there were plenty of those three months ago which failed to materialise – and if McClean does play and works in tandem with the (occasionally) talented Aiden McGeady on the right and left, Ireland have a real threat, and can move on from the loss of Damien Duff.

First though Trap will turn to Cox so he must continue to work to impress a manager who is hard to impress.

Sunderland are well represented in Ireland’s squad now. Keiren Westwood will get a chance to prove he is Ireland’s Number One, and should be Martin O’Neill’s, while John O’Shea will take the captain’s armband at the point Trapattoni decides Robbie Keane’s legs have had enough on Friday night.

The fourth Sunderland player on the plane didn’t expect to be there.
But fewer footballers deserve the (international) break David Meyler got this week, although he’s unlikely to feature on Friday.

Chance will come: David Meyler is hoping to be selected for Ireland's friendly with Oman

Chance will come: David Meyler is hoping to be selected for Ireland's friendly with Oman

His chance will surely come in the mouth-watering friendly against Oman at Craven Cottage on Tuesday night.

Meyler has spent the equivalent of a player’s lifetime in treatment and rehab over the last three years, paying the price with injuries which are a result of his exuberance and enthusiasm which seem somehow undiminished.

In the Malahide Grand Hotel on Monday night, a once-shy and reluctant interviewee spilled his guts to the Irish press, revealing the pain and endurance he has been through to get anywhere near a Sunderland reserve team, never mind his return to O’Neill’s squad and bench, and the unexpected call-up as mardy Darron Gibson’s replacement.

'I was called in two years ago,’ he said. 'But suffered two setbacks and had 20 months out.

'I have waited so long for the opportunity to play for my country and to be involved in this team. I have waited a long time but I’m delighted.’

And so it went on, including the graphic details behind his two horrific injuries. Not that he’s counting, but he revealed: 'We played Man United, Sunday, 2nd of May, 34 minutes into the game…’

'Roughly’ said one of the lads, part joking.

'No, it was bang on’, he replied. Not a moment’s hesitation or recognition of any sarcasm.

Back in the fray: Meyler had lengthy spells on the sidelines with knee injuries

Back in the fray: Meyler had lengthy spells on the sidelines with knee injuries

'I went for the ball and Patrice Evra took a heavy touch and I went to tackle him and he leant his body in and I tried to wrap my leg around him but he fell on top of me and I got turned over on my knee.

'I had surgery and spent nine months out.

'In my fifth game back against Villa, there was 40 minutes gone in the game and I went to close down Carlos Cuellar and ended up doing my knee again and spent another nine months out.’

Republic of Ireland v Oman, Craven Cottage Tuesday September 12 is not a fixture many will be circling on the calendar. But David Meyler might.

The moment he controlled the long pass from Vurnon Anita, caressed the ball, stepped inside Ciaran Clark and then fired a blistering shot into the top corner was so devastatingly quick, Alan Pardew admitted he had no idea how Hatem Ben Arfa did it.

'I didn’t realise it was his right foot,’ said the Newcastle manager of a player who normally uses said leg for standing on.

'The goal was worth the admission price alone. It was a top hit,’ he added on Sunday evening after the strike had won Newcastle a point from pretty much nothing.

'He has exceptional power and technique. In training he is our best player and he is on the pitch too. If we can get four up like that we can be a great team, but we have a few to step up now.’

Pardew has played down any suggestion that Ben Arfa is playing with a point to prove after his Euro 2012 disappointment, and literal fall-out.

Wonderful: Alan Pardew has no idea how Ben Arfa pulled off his wonder goal against Aston Villa

Wonderful: Alan Pardew has no idea how Ben Arfa pulled off his wonder goal against Aston Villa

But there can be no doubt that Newcastle’s latest French enigma’s emphatic return to Barclays Premier League action is the Newcastle boss’s biggest bonus of the summer. Because there haven’t been many and he has enough to worry about.

The international break comes at the right time for Newcastle, which is not a sentence often uttered by clubs for the first round of World Cup games of the season.

It will allow the Newcastle manager and his staff time to work on the inconsistencies which have surprisingly crept in during this early phase of the season.

The untidy, frustrating draw with Aston Villa was just not on their agenda and they will work to address their faltering start this week.

Of course there are absentees as Newcastle prepare for their next league game, the visit of Norwich City and, for the first time, as an opposing manager, Chris Hughton who might just want to prove a point or three.

Yohan Cabaye is away with France, which will hopefully give him time to put a smile back on his face and return to the form he showed for the majority of last season, and during Euro 2012.

His first Newcastle season also inevitably led to attention from elsewhere – and Barcelona, Manchester United and Arsenal is not a bad list of suitors – but the transfer did not happen. He and Newcastle have to move on together.

No names were mentioned when Pardew attacked agents for turning the heads of some of his players during the transfer window but looking through the squad, and its current demeanour and form, and Cabaye’s unhappy facade does spring to mind.

Pardew will be hoping the international break will help Yohan Cabaye (right) return to form

Pardew will be hoping the international break will help Yohan Cabaye (right) return to form

Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse have to travel to Africa and back and play two vital games, hopefully this time playing like two men who actually know and will be playing every game with each other, rather than the two strangers who played upfront on Sunday afternoon.

The lack of in-comings to Newcastle during the close season has caused much consternation among the Tyneside faithful, although that overlooks the hard work that went on behind the scenes to keep the likes of Cabaye, Cheick Tiote and Ba.

As Newcastle have unearthed so many gems over the last three years, such as that trio, it is difficult to question Newcastle’s transfer policy.

But the summer recess does feel like an opportunity missed, particularly to those who will always question owner Mike Ashley.

Anita is the only significant summer purchase, and a lack of depth to the striking options, already being felt by the joint absence of the Ameobi brothers, has to be a concern, especially with the Ba/Cisse axis looking so out of sorts, for now at least.

Plenty to think about for Alan Pardew then. Although one much-improved performance and a win against Norwich next weekend and suddenly the world will be a lot brighter for Newcastle.

And finally . . .

I am a little surprised Joe Bennett joined Aston Villa as the transfer window closed.

Clearly not as surprised as the player himself, and hopefully he will quickly get over his reluctance to quit Middlesbrough and move into the Barclays Premier League, where he belongs.

Bennett picked up the North East Football Writers’ young player of the year award last year, and, beating off Premier League competition, thoroughly deserved it.

Potential: Joe Bennett has just signed a four-uear deal with Aston Villa from Middlesbrough

Potential: Joe Bennett has just signed a four-uear deal with Aston Villa from Middlesbrough

Potential: Joe Bennett has just signed a four-uear deal with Aston Villa from Middlesbrough

The message from Boro was to build on that first season, but he struggled in a good Boro side and failed to make the starting line-up for the new campaign.

He has however shown he has the potential to go all the way to the England squad and I was a little surprised, with Sunderland desperate to sign a left-back this summer, that he was not Martin O’Neill’s radar.

As Lee Cattermole and Adam Johnson have shown, home is where the heart is for Boro’s Boys, (even if it is in a Sunderland shirt).

Turns out he was expensive (Villa have laid down 2.5million initially with another two possibly) and consequently a risk.

His fee also relieved the pressure on Tony Mowbray financially and helped him comfortably see off Swansea’s interest in Marvin Emnes.

And Villa have signed one for the future in Joe Bennett.

With the right support from Villa to deal with any homesickness, he could feature this season to establish himself as a Premier League player, without having to wait for promotion with Middlesbrough.

London 2012 Olympics: Angola 31 Great Britain 25 – women"s handball

Angola 31 Great Britain 25: Four defeats from four as women slump in handball

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UPDATED:

10:29 GMT, 3 August 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

Great Britain women's tough introduction to the Olympic Games continued as they slumped to a fourth successive Group A defeat at the hands of Angola, ending any faint hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals.

Losses to Montenegro, Russia and Brazil in their opening three matches were par for the course, after only forming six years ago, but they went into the day's opening encounter at the Copper Box with realistic hopes of beating the African champions, having done exactly that in this arena in November's test event.

But Angola have improved considerably
since then and Team GB were unable to replicate their performance of
nine months ago, though they did produce a display to be proud of in
parts, with nine-goal Marie Gerbron top-scoring.

Handed a beating: Angola romped to victory over Team GB in the handball, the hosts' fourth defeat

Handed a beating: Angola romped to victory over Team GB in the handball, the hosts' fourth defeat

Handed a beating: Angola romped to victory over Team GB in the handball, the hosts' fourth defeat

However, it was sloppy play in the attacking third that really cost Team GB, with too many missed chances and handling errors preventing them from recording a historic Olympic win.

With the track and field events and cycling now under way in the Olympic Stadium and Velodrome, Team GB will have been keen to keep handball in the headlines after the unprecedented exposure it received in the first week of London 2012.

And Jesper Holmris' side enjoyed a solid start, with two Lynn McCafferty goals and a Holly Lam-Moores fast break giving the crowd reason to cheer, while keeping the deficit down to 5-4 after the opening 10 minutes.

But a familiar story was unfolding as for all their impressive defensive work, with goalkeeper Sarah Hargreaves again in good form, they could not make it pay at the other end due to several misplaced passes and glaring misses.

No was past: Angola proved to be a far harder challenge than had been expected by Team GB

No was past: Angola proved to be a far harder challenge than had been expected by Team GB

No was past: Angola proved to be a far harder challenge than had been expected by Team GB

That allowed Angola to score five of the next six goals to open up what was looking like an already unassailable five-goal lead after 18 minutes.

Lyn /08/03/article-2183111-145C3B3D000005DC-847_634x395.jpg” width=”634″ height=”395″ alt=”Rough and tumble: The British women put up a good fight but found their opponents a bit too rugged” class=”blkBorder” />

Rough and tumble: The British women put up a good fight but found their opponents a bit too rugged

Angola continued to keep Team GB at arm's length, though, and four of the next five goals stretched that lead to six as they remained in control.

To their credit, GB continued to chase the impossible dream, with Gerbron excelling, but the Africans flexed their muscles, snuffing out GB's challenge courtesy of four successive goals midway through the second period.

Goals from Ewa Palies and Lam-Moores gave the Copper Box reason to cheer in the final 10 minutes and brought some respectability to the scoreboard, but with four defeats from four, Team GB will go no further in the competition after Sunday's last preliminary clash with Croatia.

Northern Exposure: North East duo hold key to Manchester"s title race

North East duo hold key to Manchester's title race

|

UPDATED:

13:08 GMT, 1 May 2012

Advantage Manchester City. But the title is not theirs yet. Next up for Roberto Mancini’s men, a trip to Newcastle United.

Who knows what mood Alan Pardew and his players will be in when City call in to claim the three points which will put Manchester United’s title within touching distance for them.

They have a trip to Stamford Bridge to contend with on Wednesday night, just days after an untimely and unexpected collapse at Wigan.

Aiming for the top: Alan Pardew says Newcastle will continue to fight for the Champions League

Aiming for the top: Alan Pardew says Newcastle will continue to fight for the Champions League

When Newcastle lose, they tend to do it in style, and they have been here before after three previous heavy defeats at Fulham, Norwich and Tottenham.

More from Colin Young…

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Northern Exposure: Ben Arfa's dream goal makes European football even more of a reality for Newcastle
10/04/12

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20/03/12

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13/03/12

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08/03/12

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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

They may have drawn two league games and gone out of the FA Cup in the immediate aftermath of those losses but they still managed to keep their season on track for Europe eventually each time.

Of course there is no margin for error this week because defeat for either side tomorrow will kill off their Champions League hopes, via the league at least.

Newcastle will not be totally out of the running for fourth if they lose, but it will make it very difficult to achieve. And that could mean a change of mentality for the Sunday showdown with City.

Last week’s day behind the scenes at the Newcastle United Training Centre was one of the best of my career and I know I was privileged to have the opportunity to uncover some of the intimate details behind the club’s resurrection.

From the moment we bumped into Fabricio Coloccini, alone in the dressing room, waiting for his daily cup of Argentinian green tea to brew, it was clear we were in for a fascinating insight into the daily running of a football club which players, and managers take for granted (in a nice way) and fans never see.

No place like home: Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini likes his Argentinian tea at the training ground

No place like home: Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini likes his Argentinian tea at the training ground

Before leaving for an academy game on the land next door, first team coach John Carver took me into the coaches’ office. Amid the four desks, there was chaos.

And it was killing Carver (a self-confessed OCD sufferer). Papers, envelopes, pens, books were scattered across his desk and he was refusing, against his better judgement, to tidy it up. He’d left it that way since the start of their six-game winning run and he was refusing to tidy it up.

You get the feeling that the waste bin under Carver’s desk will have been brimming before he headed on to the training ground on Monday morning following that shock defeat, and first-half performance at Wigan.

But nothing else in Newcastle’s preparations will have changed.

Key roles: The Newcastle coaching staff John Carver, Steve Stone and goalkeeping coach Andy Woodman have all played big parts in the successful season

Key roles: The Newcastle coaching staff John Carver, Steve Stone and goalkeeping coach Andy Woodman have all played big parts in the successful season

The meticulous examinations of the opponents, the extensive warm-ups and sessions aimed at shooting and crossing, the team briefings and management meetings won’t change just because they came unstuck at the JJB at the weekend.

Although Wigan tore at Newcastle’s heart on Saturday, and exposed a weakness in the defence which few sides have managed, the Tyneside club have progressed too well and too convincingly to throw it all away now surely.

Before setting off for the capital, Pardew admitted yesterday that the weekend defeat had hit him and his players hard. And failing to perform in front of an expectant travelling support – particularly after some ill-advised comments about Wigan’s support – must have really hurt him.

It makes the Newcastle manager and his team a dangerous unit for Wednesday’s visit to Chelsea.

'I'm considering all factors,' said Pardew. 'We've had a day compiling all the information and all the stats about distances covered, passing maps and all that sort of stuff. We've analysed all of that, and with that in mind, I'll pick a team I think can get a result at Chelsea.

'We don't look at the bigger picture. Other people might look at the bigger picture, but I look at the bigger picture at the end of the season and analyse it then. I have to analyse how to take the club forward at that stage.

Bad day at the office: Newcastle were soundly beaten by Wigan at the weekend

Bad day at the office: Newcastle were soundly beaten by Wigan at the weekend

'From where I am now, there's only one feeling I have and that's disappointment. I'll take that into Wednesday night, and so will my players.

'If we had focused on Europa League qualification, we might have struggled to get over the line on that. Instead, we've focused on the Champions League and we will do until it's impossible.

'With all due respect to Wigan, it was them we were playing and not Chelsea that was three days around the corner. I'm not attributing any kind of blame here, I'm just saying that collectively we all got it wrong.

'The psychology of the team and the tactical side of things is my responsibility, and I felt that I let the club down a little bit as well. On Wednesday, I have to make sure I don't get that wrong.

'The only thing I worry about in terms of Wednesday night is making sure that my team is motivated at the right level. That will probably mean bringing them down rather than building them up, like I was trying to do on Saturday.’

Getting it right: Pardew says he will get his preparations for the Chelsea game right

Getting it right: Pardew says he will get his preparations for the Chelsea game right

Whatever happens at Chelsea, Newcastle United in front of a sell-out crowd represents one of the toughest away games Mancini could have faced for the penultimate game of the season. And they didn’t need the carrot of the Champions League for that to be the case. But it would help.

At least Newcastle won’t be 'easy' opponents, which is the label thrown at Sunderland by the City boss who seems to believe they are cannon fodder for United’s final game of the season (as he repeated it last night despite Martin O’Neill’s warnings).

Sunderland have certainly struggled since their FA Cup exit to Everton and the spark has gone from their performances, particularly at home. It was so bad for the fourth successive game on Saturday that I am sure I actually heard a Sunderland fan hurl abuse towards their manager during the game.

No easy game: Sunderland will test United on the final day

No easy game: Sunderland will test United on the final day

Clearly criticising St Martin is a punishable offence at the Stadium of Light, and I presume the guilty party was escorted from the premises and banned for life. But one native who is restless and dares to speak out is more than Sunderland would have expected at this stage of the season, and further proof, as O’Neill has admitted, that the Wearside club are some distance from being a regular top ten club.

They could have briefly gone eighth if they had won at the weekend. 'But we are not a top eight side,' said O’Neill after yet another home draw. 'Not by a long way.'

But under O’Neill, they are a formidable home team and under O’Neill they will want to have their say in the outcome of the Premier League title race.

Just don’t expect City or United’s visits to the North East to be easy.

London 2012 Olympics: Fran Halsall meets 1948 swimmer Ron Stedman

The golden girl of the pool, Halsall… and a hero of the 1948 London Olympics

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UPDATED:

23:01 GMT, 17 April 2012

They are Olympians who span the generations: one a swimmer who graced the first post-war Games in London in 1948, the other hoping to light up the pool this summer.

Fran Halsall, 22, clocked the fastest time in the world this year when she won the 100m freestyle at the GB Olympic trials. But could she learn anything from Ron Stedman, Britain’s leading 100m freestyle swimmer when London last hosted the games in 1948 Ron, 84, reached the semi-finals back then and still swims two or three times a week.

Sportsmail got them together to share their stories, their experiences and their training regimes. They met at Fran’s Loughborough base where Ron trained ahead of the 1948 Games.

MATT LAWTON asked the occasional question, but for the most part, he just listened in…

In the swim: Fran Halsall, who is used to public exposure as an Olympic athlete, meets Ron Stedman (far right) whose 1948 experience was quite different

In the swim: Fran Halsall, who is used to public exposure as an Olympic athlete, meets Ron Stedman (far
right) whose 1948 experience was
quite different

MATT LAWTON: Talk us through your training regime Ron.

RON STEDMAN: I was called up for the army in 1946, so I had a job to do — I was involved with port security, based down in Dover most of the time — so serious training was probably limited to an hour a day, three or four days a week. But being in Dover allowed me to use the 25-yard pool at the Duke of York’s Royal Military School. I didn’t have a coach, and time was limited as to how much I could do. The only real coaching I received was when I was eight or nine-years-old. After that it was pretty much down to me.

LAWTON: How about you Fran

FRAN HALSALL: In a week I do 10 two-and-a-half hour swims, three 90-minute to two-hour weight sessions, a couple of Pilates sessions and I run once or twice a week for a bit of cross training, for extra toning of the legs.

Great expectations: Halsall will be going for Gold at the Games

Great expectations: Halsall will be going for Gold at the Games

STEDMAN: Crikey.

HALSALL: But I don’t have to do a job. And I have a coach, and a training group.

STEDMAN: Would you mind if I ask you what you eat

HALSALL: We have a dietician who pretty much tells us what to eat. I like my chocolate mini eggs and nothing beats a pizza on a Friday night. But it’s mainly protein with some carbs, making sure I get my veg. The dietician’s also big into his green tea. What about you

STEDMAN: We had food rationing in England through to 1953, so there was a limit to how much protein you could get. I’ve got my ration recipe book here. You could have 4oz of bacon a week, one and tuppence worth of meat. In today’s terms that would be less than 1lb of meat, in weight. We could have 1lb of jam every other month.

HALSALL: So no mini eggs then

STEDMAN: No. We would get one normal egg when it was available. Although you did get 2oz of sweets a week.

HALSALL: Look at that! A recipe for beetroot pudding. Good grief! How did you train

STEDMAN: For all those pre-selected for the Olympics there was an extra ration card, so I did have two ration cards. In my house it went into the family budget, so how much of it I actually got I’m not really sure. I also played rugby, hockey, cricket and water polo. I think we probably had more fun. It wasn’t quite so serious.

HALSALL: We have our skin fold (a test for fat) done every four weeks, so they can check we are not getting too fat or too skinny.

LAWTON: You are not everyone’s idea of a sprinter Fran! Most people would expect someone, well, bigger.

HALSALL: I’ve not got much muscle, have I!

LAWTON: So how come you are so fast

HALSALL: I don’t know. I didn’t want to do 800m. So boring! So 100m became my thing. I think it comes down to technique and power-to-weight ratio. I’m not that heavy but what I can do compared to my weight is pretty good. I can bench press more than I weigh. I can deadlift 100kg. I can bench-press 65kg when I weigh 60kg. I do chins too. Like I say, compared to my weight I am fairly strong. Do you think, Ron, swimmers look different now Have their physiques changed much

STEDMAN: I don’t think there has been an enormous change. We didn’t do weight training and we had no coaches. I’m not sure the technique has changed that much. Watching it I certainly can’t see much difference, except that you’re much quicker than we were. You guys can do 100m flat out. In my day I think we probably had to pace ourselves more. The fitness levels today are much higher.

LAWTON: The turns have changed, haven’t they Ron And back then you guys didn’t wear goggles.

STEDMAN: In my day you had to touch the end of the bath with your hand. Today you touch with your feet. The turn was slower. And no, there were no goggles. I don’t think they had been invented.

HALSALL: I wouldn’t be able to swim with my eyes open without goggles. Did you have a national championships, Ron

Making a splash: Halsall won the national 100m championship in impressive style on her last outing at the Aquatics Centre in Stratford

Making a splash: Halsall won the national 100m championship in impressive style on her last outing at the Aquatics Centre in Stratford

STEDMAN: We did. I was beaten in 1947 and, while I’d still like to congratulate the fellow who beat me, it was an open air pool in Hastings with the sea coming over the wall. On that particular day it was like swimming in open water, it was so windy. The race was a 100-yard straight, you couldn’t really see where you were going in the dark water and I got beaten on the touch. But I won it in ‘48 and ‘49.

LAWTON: Just how big a deal was the Olympics in 48 Was much made of it on television

STEDMAN: I appeared on the television, just for a few seconds. I qualified for the semi-final and I remember giving a brief interview. There was not a lot of media but it did seem big at the time. I’m not sure the British swimmers were really ready for it. We weren’t used to swimming 100m. We raced over 100 yards. We hadn’t trained in a 50m pool. In the Olympics I swam 1min 01sec. The American, Walter Ris, won it in 57.3sec. I did go on to swim 59.1 in Copenhagen.

HALSALL: Was there an Olympic village, Ron

STEDMAN: Not really. We came here, to Loughborough, before the games and then moved into services accommodation in Uxbridge. I think it was an RAF barracks. I was staying in a dormitory for around 20 people.

HALSALL: Twenty! I’m not sure I could cope with that. I will share a room with Lizzie Simmonds. In Beijing we had six of us in a three-bedroom apartment with a living room and a TV.

Enlarge

Fran Halsall and Ron Stedman: How they match up

STEDMAN: I believe the whole cost of the games in 1948 was 800,000.

LAWTON: Is there more pressure because it is London

HALSALL: We are under the microscope a bit more, but that doesn’t mean there’s more pressure. I put enough pressure on myself to do well. Since Becky (Adlington) won two golds in 2008, the girls have been winning medals, so people are expecting a lot of us. But that is fair enough because we have done well in the major championships since Beijing. I expect Manchester United to win because they have won their games before. It’s no different for us.

LAWTON: Compared to Ron’s day, indeed compared to the days of Duncan Goodhew and David Wilkie, where have the advances been made

HALSALL: The sport always moves on. People are training with MP3 players with music designed to help with their stroke rate and their flow and rhythm. We do lots of floating, which sounds really weird but it’s about movement in the water. We tie sponges to our ankles. Ron didn’t have a coach. Today we might talk to a coach in America and find out what he’s doing. I’m going to try sleeping in an altitude tent. In Australia they have an altitude house! I learnt to swim seriously at eight or nine. I was desperate to compete and swimming is one of the few sports they would let you compete in at that age. I went to an athletics club first, but they said I’d have to wait a couple of years before I could race. So I went to a swimming club where I could start racing straight away.

STEDMAN: That sounds familiar.

Over 1,200 elite British athletes such as Fran Halsall benefit from National Lottery funding, supporting them for London 2012.

Lottery players are also investing 2.2 billion in London 2012 venues, infrastructure and art and cultural events.

Over 1,200 elite British athletes such as Fran Halsall benefit from National Lottery funding, supporting them for London 2012. Lottery players are also investing 2.2 billion in London 2012 venues, infrastructure and art and cultural events.

Northern Exposure: Europe a real possibility for Newcastle now

Ben Arfa's dream goal makes European football even more of a reality for Newcastle

|

UPDATED:

12:30 GMT, 10 April 2012

Three months ago, he couldn’t get a game. Yet on Monday Hatem Ben Arfa scored one of the best goals I have ever seen.

It was breathtaking, it was brilliant, and delivered so nonchalantly that a whole stadium seemed to stop for a moment before realising it had actually happened.

It is one of the few moments I stood in the press box and applauded. I couldn’t help myself.

Solo strike: Hatem Ben Arfa celebrates his wonder goal

Solo strike: Hatem Ben Arfa celebrates his wonder goal

Ben Arfa’s transformation in recent weeks is thanks to Pardew, his staff, and his players. But it is down to Ben Arfa.

This is a guy who went on strike in France so he could sign for Newcastle. So he wanted to come and play and until his horrific double fracture, he was on fire. After more than a year out, including a change in manager, his return to form has been long, tentative and frustrating. For everyone.

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Pardew did sign him and he knew the player was in there. Moments of equal brilliance like his goal against Blackburn, with its similar jaw-dropping dribble, proved that. But he needed the Frenchman to get the work ethic and the concept of team unity he had instilled in his absence.

Once he got it, he would play. And now he’s fully fit and focused, he is a very dangerous player indeed.

Suddenly Europe is in touching distance for Newcastle.

They have talked the talk about European qualification for a few months now. Teams in the top half do that to keep up momentum and interest. Even Sunderland have done it.

Doing it is an entirely different thing and it has taken Newcastle an astonishing run of five successive wins, to build on their consistency throughout summer, winter and autumn which gives them a spring in their step for the final acts of this season.

The permutations surrounding the weekend’s FA Cup semi-final are complicated but Newcastle know a Liverpool win eases their path to the Europa League.

Leaving them for dead: Ben Arfa beat a number of Bolton players

Leaving them for dead: Ben Arfa beat a number of Bolton players

If Everton win there is the possibility
that sixth place qualification could evaporate and in Newcastle’s case
that might not be such a bad thing.

It would be extremely cruel, and one of the current ditties among Newcastle supporters suggests they have already started dreaming of their return to European competition.

But the kudos would have to satisfy them, in the knowledge that realistically, the Europa League is a poisoned chalice and extremely difficult to win. It also probably comes a year too soon for a squad which is already at breaking point without the addition of extra training, games and travel the competition brings.

But hang on.

We’re not just talking Europa League here. Newcastle United have a serious chance of qualifying for the Champions League, and adding the small matter of around 35million to the coffers.

As Harry Redknapp pointed out, Newcastle have replaced Liverpool as the outside contenders to last season’s top six. And he is not alone in recognising that their timely run of form, when Pardew has had to dig deep into his limited reserves, has kept them in contention longer than anyone anticipated, including the Newcastle manager.

Finishing off: Ben Arfa slots home his goal after a brilliant run

Finishing off: Ben Arfa slots home his goal after a brilliant run

After Monday’s 2-0 win over Bolton, Pardew denied he had written off his team’s chances of making the top four on May 13, although he came pretty close to it after the 5-0 drubbing at White Hart Lane.

He said: `I’ve never ruled the Champions League out, I’ve just talked about trying to win the next game.

'This weekend will be important for us because if the semi-final results go our way, we could be in Europe. If that works in favour, then really there is nothing else to go for but the Champions League.

'The semi-finals will be important to us and we’ll be looking at them closely. If the results go against us, we’ll be up against Chelsea for a European place and that will be tough on us.

'It would be tough to take if we finished with this points total but didn’t make Europe. We’re not giving up on anything, apart from winning it.’

Stand and applaud: Alan Pardew could only clap Ben Arfa's effort

Stand and applaud: Alan Pardew could only clap Ben Arfa's effort

Pardew has given his players the week off to relax and focus their minds on more mundane matters before they are recalled for a weekend of training and the start of the preparations for a home game with Stoke, and all the difficulties that can bring.

After that it is a trip to Wigan, followed by a midweek trip to Chelsea who could be filling the rigours of their current Champions League endeavours by that stage. The fact Newcastle will be travelling to Stamford Bridge seeking a win, will make it a fascinating night.

Their final home game is against Manchester City, who could have surrendered their title hopes by then. Their last game is at Everton.

Pardew will also be hoping that the next 11 days will give the likes of Fabricio Coloccini, Cheik Tiote, Yohann Cabaye and James Perch time to recover from aching limbs and muscles which, at this stage, need simple rest.

Frustrating time: Demba Ba is without a goal for nine games

Frustrating time: Demba Ba is without a goal for nine games

It will be time too for some one-to-one time with Demba Ba who is suffering while Papiss Cisse is flourishing.

His unhappy reaction to his substitution after losing his way in his ninth game without a goal was born out of frustration and will have been addressed.

The unexpected break means Pardew should be able to go into the final four games with the closest to his strongest squad he could expect at this time of the season.

He knows they have just scraped through after adding only Cisse in January thanks to the team unity and standards he has installed throughout his squad. They have continued to deliver, and, Ben Arfa proved to Bolton, get even better. And they show no signs of stopping.