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Fran Halsall vows to bounce back in Rio – Laura Williamson

I'll make waves in Rio, vows Halsall after flopping at home Olympics

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UPDATED:

22:09 GMT, 30 December 2012

Fran Halsall has made an important New Year’s resolution. The British swimmer never again wants to feel the way she did in the summer of 2012 after finishing the Olympic Games without a medal.

She has written it all down, just in case she ever needs a reminder, because Halsall is determined she will never feel like that again; so low she did not attend the post-Games parade because she ‘didn’t think she should enjoy it’.

While 2012 was an unforgettable year of sport for so many, there are those for whom 2013 and beyond promises far better things.

Gutted: Fran Halsall struggled to perform at the London Olympics

Gutted: Fran Halsall struggled to perform at the London Olympics

More from Laura Williamson…

Laura Williamson: Farewell to Plucky Brit syndrome, and good riddance
23/12/12

Laura Williamson: Pity 2012 feelgood factor has faded so quickly
16/12/12

Laura Williamson: Wake up Gary, or Match of the Day's old boys' club may close for good
09/12/12

Laura Williamson: Booth and Co aim to end golf's old school traditions
02/12/12

Laura Williamson: I won't be fighting in Rio but you could as taekwondo seeks new stars
25/11/12

Laura Williamson: Dangerous message that strong isn't sexy for women
18/11/12

Laura Williamson: As Sportsmail enters the ring with an Olympic star, Jonas shows being a warrior woman is worth fighting for
11/11/12

Laura Williamson: Kids have no chance when vile chants are treated like nursery rhymes
06/11/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

A silver medal in the 50-metre freestyle at the World Short Course Championships in Istanbul earlier this month ‘was never going to make up for the Olympics’, but it has helped Halsall get her spark back. She has a new coach — James Gibson, who guided France’s Florent Manaudou to Olympic gold in the men’s 50m freestyle in London. But, most importantly of all, her confidence has returned.

‘Knowing I’m still a fast swimmer feels really good,’ she says. ‘I gave myself a little pat on the back, if you like. I’m really happy.

‘It took me a couple of months to get over the Olympics. There was a lot of upset and blame; of thinking I’m not good enough. I couldn’t deal with the fact I wasn’t good enough and it wasn’t a very nice feeling.

‘But I took ownership of it and I swam fast again. That was all me. It’s not an Olympic medal but I had to differentiate between Fran the swimmer and the person. You can’t live your life like that.’

Halsall was tipped to star in the pool at London 2012 but did not win a medal in any of her five events. She was not the only one to disappoint, of course: Britain’s swimming team came away with only a silver and two bronze medals at their home Games and have lost 4million of funding as a result.

British Swimming conducted a review into what went wrong in London, which largely blamed the leadership of coaches and the timing of the national trials, which were held 13 weeks before the Games in March.

Bouncing back: Halsall has vowed to return to form for Rio in four years

Bouncing back: Halsall has vowed to return to form for Rio in four years

Head coach Dennis Pursley and performance director Michael Scott also quit, prompting Rebecca Adlington to call the situation ‘an absolute mess’.

Halsall, though, has conducted her ‘own review’ and has a much simpler explanation: she over-trained. Working under Ben Titley, who has since moved to Canada, at Loughborough University, she says she was an ‘Olympic keeno’.

Halsall picked up a shoulder injury in mid-May, which kept her out of the pool for ‘a few weeks’.

‘Trials weren’t the problem,’ adds Halsall. ‘I have always swum faster in the summer: this was the first year I didn’t. You have to swim fast for the trials, wherever you put them.

Back on track: Halsall in Turkey

Back on track: Halsall in Turkey

‘The issue for me was I did too much. I was an Olympic keeno. I probably overdid it and ended up picking up an injury. I tried to do more than I had ever done before.

‘I didn’t want to talk about my shoulder problem (before the Games). It’s an excuse and I didn’t want that. My focus was on swimming as fast as I could and I didn’t want to have that distraction. I still fought for every 10th of a second in every race.’

Halsall, though, is already a veteran of two Olympic Games, despite being only 22 years old.

She is determined not to make the same mistakes third time around.

‘I’m not too old just yet,’ she says. ‘I’m looking forward to Rio in four years’ time.’

Fran Halsall uses Multipower Sportsfood: www.multipower.co.uk

What they said

It's little wonder David Weir described the New Year Honours list as ‘a bit strange’ after Sarah Storey became a Dame but Weir, who also won four Paralympic gold medals in London, was given a CBE.

‘Sometimes it seems that Paralympians have to win lots and lots of medals to get a damehood or a knighthood,’ Weir told the Daily Telegraph.

Here's what I've been doing this week

Chugged around the country for the feast of festive football. Clubs might whinge about fixture congestion, but I love the tradition of it all. It works in other sports, too: just look at the record 82,000 people at Twickenham for Saracens’ win against Harlequins on Saturday.

Watched Superstars and revelled in the sheer naffness and rain-sodden Britishness of it all. I can cope with only having shooter Peter Wilson on my television screen every four years, but I enjoyed Mo Farah’s attempts at kayaking, the Brownlee brothers’ rivalry and being proved wrong by Helen Glover’s prowess on the track. And there was I thinking rowers are not always the most co-ordinated of athletes on dry land.

Back on our screens: Olympians took part in the BBC show Superstars

Back on our screens: Olympians took part in the BBC show Superstars

According to Fulham’s programme for their 1-1 draw with Southampton, I ‘swooned’ when I wrote about Dimitar Berbatov’s ‘style and swagger’ in his side’s 2-1 victory against Newcastle this month. That made me laugh, but not as much as the striker’s handwritten ‘Keep Calm and Pass Me the Ball’ T-shirt, which suggested Berbatov is not averse to ‘swooning’ about himself, either.

Performance of the week

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert continues to predict that ‘Aston Villa will be fine’ despite his side suffering a 15-0 deficit over the festive period. That’s some crystal ball he got for Christmas.

Laura Williamson: Farewell to Plucky Brit syndrome, and good riddance

Farewell to the 'Plucky Brit' syndrome… and good riddance

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UPDATED:

23:22 GMT, 23 December 2012

With all the hoo-hah over the Olympic and Paralympic sports that missed out on funding for the next four years, one very significant detail seems to have been overlooked.

As UK Sport announced a record 347million investment in British sport last week, they also revealed an ambitious target to beat 2012’s haul of 65 Olympic medals and 120 Paralympic medals in Rio de Janeiro.

We have just experienced the most incredible year of British sport and now we want to get even better That should surely be celebrated.

Golden year: UK Sport a investing record amount into sporting excellence in Britain in 2013

Golden year: UK Sport a investing record amount into sporting excellence in Britain in 2013

More from Laura Williamson…

Laura Williamson: Pity 2012 feelgood factor has faded so quickly
16/12/12

Laura Williamson: Wake up Gary, or Match of the Day's old boys' club may close for good
09/12/12

Laura Williamson: Booth and Co aim to end golf's old school traditions
02/12/12

Laura Williamson: I won't be fighting in Rio but you could as taekwondo seeks new stars
25/11/12

Laura Williamson: Dangerous message that strong isn't sexy for women
18/11/12

Laura Williamson: As Sportsmail enters the ring with an Olympic star, Jonas shows being a warrior woman is worth fighting for
11/11/12

Laura Williamson: Kids have no chance when vile chants are treated like nursery rhymes
06/11/12

Laura Williamson: Wit is the only way to counter football's vile chants
04/11/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

So too should UK Sport’s ‘no compromise’ approach to funding the British Olympic and Paralympic team. The organisation will only support genuine medal prospects, meaning some Olympians and Paralympians have been cast out in the cold.

The basketball, handball and wrestling squads, for example, which will not receive a penny unless they can show they’ve bucked their ideas up at their annual review.

Harsh Yes, certainly. But fair Definitely. This is sport we are talking about here. It isn’t reality television. It is brutal and it hurts like hell if you lose. That is why it’s such a delicious feeling to win.

And British sport is about winning these days, after all.

We’re being fanciful if we think we still exist in a sporting utopia in which every contest ends with the schmaltzy climax of a Disney film and the nice guys always get the gold. Elite level sport is not a pastime, it’s a profession. It’s about British Cycling’s much-applauded ‘marginal gains’ and a pragmatic, analytical pursuit of success.

In the past it has too often seemed our athletes have achieved success in spite of the system, but now it is because of it.

I feel for the people who missed out. I know how hard the women’s indoor volleyball team have worked and seen the strides the men’s basketball team have made.

I was upset when I realised I had broken the news to a goalball athlete on Twitter that the men’s team would not be receiving any future funding.

There was a long conversation with the father of a table tennis player who felt badly let down and confused as to the next step, having spent the last decade looking for bargain budget flights to far-flung corners of Europe so his son could try to win peanuts in prize money.

These athletes have every right to feel slighted and disappointed; to wonder about the next step in their careers. But they should not be surprised.

Benefits: British Cycling's approach to success has been a shining example to other sports

Benefits: British Cycling's approach to success has been a shining example to other sports

Their governing bodies have let them down if they thought it would be any other way.

Many of them experienced London 2012 purely because we were the host nation and their chances of making it to Rio are remote, to put it kindly.

We were utterly abysmal at most team
disciplines at London 2012, don’t forget. Why should UK Sport divert
cash from the sports that did deliver to allow people to spend another
four years chasing an impossible dream

It is far better to cut our losses and
concentrate on helping the next generation to build an Olympic
legacy, hence the 493m of money that Sport England will invest in
grassroots sport over the next four years.

Olympic table tennis, for instance,
had all of its elite level funding cut on Tuesday, yet its governing
body still claimed the ‘future for English table tennis is assured’
after a sport played regularly by almost 100,000 people received a 20
per cent increase in support for building participation.

Be inspired: Luol Deng is the stand-out star in a Team GB basketball team soundly beaten at the Games

Be inspired: Luol Deng is the stand-out star in a Team GB basketball team soundly beaten at the Games

This is not about class, as some have tried to make out. Cutting basketball’s elite level funding for the next four years will make little difference to the inner city kids who are basketball’s primary target audience. There is still potentially 6.75m of funding to come from Sport England for their benefit, including 1.54m to support young, emerging talent.

I realise these future stars need to see a pathway to success and have role models to follow, but I fail to see how watching a British basketball team getting regularly hammered would have more influence than a teenager seeing Luol Deng do his thing for the Chicago Bulls.

Neither do I automatically buy the claims about all the ‘sacrifices’ people made to reach London 2012, either. They could have been working from nine until five in a dead-end job they hated instead of pursuing their dream of being a full-time athlete.

The ‘Plucky Brit’ – eternally hopeless but emotionally heart-warming – has, thankfully, been consigned to history.

The UK Sport formula works. Elite level British sport is no longer about making up the numbers and celebrating getting to finals. We want to be on top of the podium now, thank you very much. It may be a brutal approach but it is also brilliant.

Transition: Gary Neville showed Laura behind the scenes at Monday Night Football

Transition: Gary Neville showed Laura behind the scenes at Monday Night Football

…AND THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING THIS WEEK

Spent the day behind the scenes at Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football. Interested to see Gary Neville agonise over whether to call Reading 'naive' during their 5-2 defeat by Arsenal. He thought it reflected badly on the manager, Brian McDermott, which was not his intention, deciding to highlight Nicky Shorey's 'poor' game instead.

Small steps

At UK Sport's funding announcement on Tuesday there were three female executives alongside Sports Minister Hugh Robertson. On the same day, UK Athletics announced Jenni Banks as their new wheelchair racing coach, reporting to Paralympics head coach Paula Dunn. Small steps…

Taking the mic
Sitting behind the dug-out during Tottenham’s dull draw against Stoke I noticed fourth official Stuart Attwell taking off his microphone when speaking to the managers. Did he not want the man in the middle to hear

Performance of the week

Double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin and her horse Valegro ended a remarkable 2012 with dressage victory at the World Cup freestyle event at London’s Olympia. They scored 87.975 per cent, which is rather good.

Sports Personality winner Bradley Wiggins hails extraordinary year of British achievement

'It was THE year to be British, wasn't it' Wiggins hails unforgettable 2012 as he collects Sports Personality award

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UPDATED:

00:15 GMT, 17 December 2012

Bradley Wiggins thanked his nan, Maureen Cousins, for voting for him so many times as he picked up the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

The 16,000-strong crowd chanted ‘Wiggo’ as the 32-year-old seven-time Olympic medallist collected his award last night at the ExCeL in east London. But the cyclist thought he had missed out when Jessica Ennis was announced as the runner-up.

Double Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah did not make the top three in an astonishing year for British sport.

Popular champion: Bradley Wiggins was voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2012 at a glittering ceremony in East London

Popular champion: Bradley Wiggins was voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2012 at a glittering ceremony in East London

Wiggins said: ‘Thank you very much to
everyone who picked the phone up and voted. We’ve had all that jungle
stuff (I’m a Celebrity) and the X Factor so for people to pick up and
vote is phenomenal. To my nan, the cheque’s in the post because you
pressed redial so many times.

‘What a year. It was the year to be
British, wasn’t it When they mentioned Mo I thought: “Oh God, I’m not
even in the top three.” To stand on the stage with the likes of these
people next to me, it’s incredible. If I stood here as the only gold
medallist it would mean nothing.

‘I’d like to thank my team-mates
because I wouldn’t be here without them. Cycling is a team sport and I
couldn’t have done it without the team behind me.

‘We’re just the athletes. That sounds really demeaning but there is an incredible team of people behind every one of us.’

Winner: Wiggins was presented with his accolade by David Beckham and the Duchess of Cambridge

Winner: Wiggins was presented with his accolade by David Beckham and the Duchess of Cambridge

Sky procycling team rider Bradley Wiggins of Britain celebrates his overall victory on the podium

Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain celebrates after the Men's Individual Time Trial Road Cycling

Extraordinary achievements: Wiggins became the first Briton to win the Tour de France (left) and then took gold in the Olympic time trial in London

Lord Coe was introduced by David
Beckham as the ‘man that has run the Olympics and won the Olympics’ as
he picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award. The double Olympic 1500
metres gold medallist and chairman of the London 2012 organising
committee received his trophy from the Duchess of Cambridge.

Lord Coe said: ‘I’m so honoured to be
the recipient of this award tonight. I’m also incredibly lucky. For the
larger part of my life I’ve woken up knowing sport is going to shape
that day.

‘Thanks to the extraordinary athletes
we’ve celebrated tonight, who made this year what it has been. Thanks to
the millions of people the length and breadth of the country, whose
generosity of spirit made this Games what they were and, of course,
thanks to our Games makers.Nobody could have done this alone. It has
been an extraordinary night for me — I could never forget it.’

Sir Roger Bannister presented the
Team of the Year award to Victoria Pendleton, who received it on behalf
of Team GB and Paralympics GB, who won a record 185 medals at London
2012.

Delivering the Games: Lord Coe was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award after organising the London Olympics

Delivering the Games: Lord Coe was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award after organising the London Olympics

Dave Brailsford, the performance
director of British cycling, beat Ennis’s coach, Toni Minichiello, and
rowing coach Paul Thompson to be Coach of the Year. Brailsford, said:
‘It’s a huge privilege to win this because it was a fantastic summer of
sport. There is a great team behind me at British Cycling and Team
Sky.

‘They did a brilliant job. Our opponents thought our wheels were rounder than theirs.

‘It’s great because everyone sniggered when we said we would win the Tour de France in five years with a clean British rider.’

Our Greatest Team: Victoria Pendleton (centre) and Jonnie Peacock (right) received the Team of the Year award from Sir Roger Bannister on behalf of Team GB and Paralympics GB

Our Greatest Team: Victoria Pendleton (centre) and Jonnie Peacock (right) received the Team of the Year award from Sir Roger Bannister on behalf of Team GB and Paralympics GB

Paralympic swimmer Josef Craig, 15,
Britain’s youngest 2012 gold medal winner, was the BBC Young Sports
Personality of the Year.

Fabrice Muamba, who suffered an
on-pitch cardiac arrest during Bolton’s game at Tottenham in March,
presented the BBC Sport Unsung Hero Award to husband and wife team Sue
and Jim Houghton.

Lewis Hamilton says fond farewell to McLaren on last official outing

Tears shed as Hamilton says fond farewell to McLaren on last official outing… and he does not rule out emotional return

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UPDATED:

15:53 GMT, 11 December 2012

Lewis Hamilton left the door open to a possible return to McLaren after saying an emotional farewell to the F1 team.

Tears were shed as the British driver hugged his colleagues and thanked them for their support during his last official official outing.

End of the road: Lewis Hamilton on his last official outing with McLaren

End of the road: Lewis Hamilton on his last official outing with McLaren

Sad ending: Tears were shed as Hamilton made emotional farewell

Sad ending: Tears were shed as Hamilton made emotional farewell

Hamilton, who will join Mercedes in January, took part in a demonstration event in Malta at the weekend, his last drive in a McLaren car.

And the 2008 World Champion did not rule out a return to the Woking-based outfit in the future.

'My time at McLaren has been fantastic,' he told staff at the
McLaren Technology Centre.

'When I arrived in Formula One in 2007, I now
realise I never really grasped what I was taking on. Ron [Dennis] had
told me: “Don't be surprised if you're 0.5sec slower than Fernando
[Alonso]”, and I just smiled because I knew it wouldn't be the case.
But, even so, that year was very hard, for many reasons.

Driving seat: Hamilton took part in a demonstration event in Malta

Driving seat: Hamilton took part in a demonstration event in Malta

Can't stop partying: Instead of having a night in after a hectic weekend, X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger shows up to the premiere with Lewis Hamilton in tow

Night out: Hamilton and girlfriend, X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger, at the Jack Reacher premiere in Leicester Square on Monday

'You were brilliant – you still are. I have so much affection and love
for this team. And that's why McLaren has always felt like home,' he
added.

McLaren's sporting director Sam Michael admitted Hamilton's departure would be 'a loss to McLaren' but the team will 'move on quickly'.

Hamilton leaves to join Mercedes following six seasons with the team in Formula One and a further seven as part of the team's driver development programme.

'Of course it's a loss to McLaren but just like if anybody leaves, whether it's a driver – there have been some very big, famous names leave McLaren before in terms of drivers – and you don't dwell on it,' Michael told James Allen on F1. 'You move on quickly because Formula One's all about change management.”

Michael also said that Hamilton leaves on good terms.

'I think the whole team gets on very well with Lewis, and we still do. He's a great guy, he's a fantastic racing driver; he's possibly the quickest driver on the grid at the moment in terms of pure natural talent.'

Hamilton is backing Sebastian Vettel to maintain his stranglehold on the Formula One drivers’ championship for a fourth successive season.

Hamilton, who has left McLaren to race for Mercedes in the coming campaign, admitted he expects the combination of Vettel’s pace and the genius of Red Bull’ s chief designer Adrian Newey to be unbeatable once more.

‘It's going to be hard to beat Sebastian next year,’ Hamilton said. ‘I think Sebastian's going to have another amazing car. The car he had this year was fantastic. It's going to be an evolution of that next year. Adrian only seems to get better with age; I think he's going to do something pretty special next year as well.’

Laid back: Lewis looked rather coy as he relaxed in the back of his car and headed home

Back seat driver: Lewis looked relaxed as he headed home

Hamilton faces an uphill battle to
turn Mercedes into frontrunners next year but is eagerly anticipating
racing for his new team – even if he is forced to battle in the
midfield.

Hamilton added: ‘I like that people
know that I'm a racer and I'm a winner. But it doesn't matter where you
are on the grid, you can still race. But I want to win – of course.
That's my goal. I can't wait to get my hands on the team and the car and
just try to work as quickly as possible.

‘It doesn't matter how many days, how
many hours it takes. I'm willing to put all the effort in. I feel like
I've got a new breath of life in me, so I'm ready for it.’

Meanwhile Hamilton’s former teammate, Jenson Button, is looking forward
to being the main focus at McLaren now that he is sharing the garage
with Mexican youngster Sergio Perez.

Button said of his team leader status: ‘It's not the first time I've
done that. When I got to BAR and Jacques [Villeneuve] left it was
exactly the same situation.

‘I was there to lead the team and it's something I really look forward
to and it's something where the best comes out of me in that situation.’

Determined to drive the design process of next year’s car in a direction
which can give him a machine capable of consistently challenge the
likes of Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, Button added: ‘I can
really build that team around me and direct the team in a direction I
like with the car.

‘We all drive differently and have different styles. For me, I need a
car I can develop beneath me and feel comfortable in. If the car feels
neutral and unbalanced it doesn't work for me.

‘I need to develop a car and engineer a car in a position that feels
comfortable for me, and I don't think anyone can do a better job than I
can in that position. The problem for me is if I can't get the car there
I do struggle more than some.'

Lewis Hamilton says fond farwell to McLaren on last official outing

Tears shed as Hamilton says fond farewell to McLaren on last official outing… and he does not rule out emotional return

|

UPDATED:

13:22 GMT, 11 December 2012

Lewis Hamilton left the door open to a possible return to McLaren after saying an emotional farewell to the F1 team.

Tears were shed as the British driver hugged his colleagues and thanked them for their support during his last official official outing.

End of the road: Lewis Hamilton on his last official outing with McLaren

End of the road: Lewis Hamilton on his last official outing with McLaren

Sad ending: Tears were shed as Hamilton made emotional farewell

Sad ending: Tears were shed as Hamilton made emotional farewell

Hamilton, who will join Mercedes in January, took part in a demonstration event in Malta at the weekend, his last drive in a McLaren car.

And the 2008 World Champion did not rule out a return to the Woking-based outfit in the future.

'My time at McLaren has been fantastic,' he told staff at the
McLaren Technology Centre.

'When I arrived in Formula One in 2007, I now
realise I never really grasped what I was taking on. Ron [Dennis] had
told me: “Don't be surprised if you're 0.5sec slower than Fernando
[Alonso]”, and I just smiled because I knew it wouldn't be the case.
But, even so, that year was very hard, for many reasons.

Driving seat: Hamilton took part in a demonstration event in Malta

Driving seat: Hamilton took part in a demonstration event in Malta

Can't stop partying: Instead of having a night in after a hectic weekend, X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger shows up to the premiere with Lewis Hamilton in tow

Night out: Hamilton and girlfriend, X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger, at the Jack Reacher premiere in Leicester Square on Monday

'You were brilliant – you still are. I have so much affection and love
for this team. And that's why McLaren has always felt like home,' he
added.

McLaren's sporting director Sam Michael admitted Hamilton's departure would be 'a loss to McLaren' but the team will 'move on quickly'.

Hamilton leaves to join Mercedes following six seasons with the team in Formula One and a further seven as part of the team's driver development programme.

'Of course it's a loss to McLaren but just like if anybody leaves, whether it's a driver – there have been some very big, famous names leave McLaren before in terms of drivers – and you don't dwell on it,' Michael told James Allen on F1. 'You move on quickly because Formula One's all about change management.”

Michael also said that Hamilton leaves on good terms.

'I think the whole team gets on very well with Lewis, and we still do. He's a great guy, he's a fantastic racing driver; he's possibly the quickest driver on the grid at the moment in terms of pure natural talent.'

Hamilton is backing Sebastian Vettel to maintain his stranglehold on the Formula One drivers’ championship for a fourth successive season.

Hamilton, who has left McLaren to race for Mercedes in the coming campaign, admitted he expects the combination of Vettel’s pace and the genius of Red Bull’ s chief designer Adrian Newey to be unbeatable once more.

‘It's going to be hard to beat Sebastian next year,’ Hamilton said. ‘I think Sebastian's going to have another amazing car. The car he had this year was fantastic. It's going to be an evolution of that next year. Adrian only seems to get better with age; I think he's going to do something pretty special next year as well.’

Laid back: Lewis looked rather coy as he relaxed in the back of his car and headed home

Back seat driver: Lewis looked relaxed as he headed home

Hamilton faces an uphill battle to
turn Mercedes into frontrunners next year but is eagerly anticipating
racing for his new team – even if he is forced to battle in the
midfield.

Hamilton added: ‘I like that people
know that I'm a racer and I'm a winner. But it doesn't matter where you
are on the grid, you can still race. But I want to win – of course.
That's my goal. I can't wait to get my hands on the team and the car and
just try to work as quickly as possible.

‘It doesn't matter how many days, how
many hours it takes. I'm willing to put all the effort in. I feel like
I've got a new breath of life in me, so I'm ready for it.’

Meanwhile Hamilton’s former teammate, Jenson Button, is looking forward
to being the main focus at McLaren now that he is sharing the garage
with Mexican youngster Sergio Perez.

Button said of his team leader status: ‘It's not the first time I've
done that. When I got to BAR and Jacques [Villeneuve] left it was
exactly the same situation.

‘I was there to lead the team and it's something I really look forward
to and it's something where the best comes out of me in that situation.’

Determined to drive the design process of next year’s car in a direction
which can give him a machine capable of consistently challenge the
likes of Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, Button added: ‘I can
really build that team around me and direct the team in a direction I
like with the car.

‘We all drive differently and have different styles. For me, I need a
car I can develop beneath me and feel comfortable in. If the car feels
neutral and unbalanced it doesn't work for me.

‘I need to develop a car and engineer a car in a position that feels
comfortable for me, and I don't think anyone can do a better job than I
can in that position. The problem for me is if I can't get the car there
I do struggle more than some.'

Arsenal don"t scare Sir Alex Ferguson any more

Gunners lose fear factor: Fergie's just not scared of Arsenal now, especially as he has Van Persie

|

UPDATED:

01:07 GMT, 3 November 2012

The clue was in the choice of words. ‘I think it will be a hard-ish game tomorrow,’ said Sir Alex Ferguson as he looked ahead to Saturday's lunchtime match with Arsenal.

Hard-ish Once upon a time the league season’s two meetings between Manchester United and Arsenal were seen as definitive, pivotal matches. They used to go some way to determining the destiny of the league championship.

At times they lit up the landscape. At others they were horrible and ugly. Now — with Arsenal suffering from Arsene Wenger’s mistakes and the rise of clubs such as Manchester City — Ferguson anticipates their arrival like he would a six-foot putt on one of his favourite Che-shire golf courses.

Hard-ish. It’s enough to make Arsenal diehards wince.

Changing relationship: Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson at loggerheads in 2004 (above) and sharing a joke earlier this year (below)

Changing relationship: Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson at loggerheads in 2004 (above) and sharing a joke earlier this year (below)

Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson

Ferguson meant no disrespect. That much is clear. In fact he did his best on Friday to talk this fixture up.

‘Every game against Arsenal is always a big one,’ he said. ‘Since I’ve come down here [to England], it’s always the most important ‘derby’ game in the sense that both teams have always been challenging for the league.

‘It won’t be different tomorrow.’ The truth is, however, that it is different now.

Arsenal still represent tough opposition, a team who, on their day, could beat United. What they are not, though, are title contenders.

They are the type of team who draw at home to Sunderland (currently 14th in the Barclays Premier League), lose at Norwich (16th) and beat 10-man QPR (20th) at home by a single goal scored in the 84th minute.

Looking good: Robin van Persie celebrates after his goal for United at Chelsea last weekend

Looking good: Robin van Persie celebrates after his goal for United at Chelsea last weekend

LOCKING HORNS ONCE AGAIN

Since taking charge of Arsenal in September 1996, Arsene Wenger has faced Sir Alex
Ferguson’s United side 47 times.

United have won 21 games, Arsenal have won
15 and there have been 11 draws.

Arsenal have scored 53 times against their rivals, but United have scored 68.

United’s 8-2 win last year was Ferguson’s
biggest victory over Wenger in all competitions.

Wenger’s biggest win was a 4-0 victory in the League Cup back in 2001 at Highbury.

Wenger has won the league three times and
the FA Cup four times with Arsenal.

In the same period, Ferguson has won two
Champions League trophies, nine league titles and two FA Cups.

Kick-off: 12.45pm, Old Trafford.
TV: LIVE on Sky Sports 2 from 12pm.
Referee: Mike Dean.

They are seven points off the lead at the top end of the Premier League, a point ahead of Fulham and two behind Tottenham. They are not title contenders. To make matters worse, United now have in their team Arsenal’s best player of recent years and indeed last season’s captain Robin van Persie, a player signed in the summer after Ferguson telephoned Wenger not so much to haggle but to commiserate.

Wenger and his disciples —and there are many — must wonder how it has come to this. Ferguson used to spit out Arsenal’s name through gritted teeth. He used to talk about ‘Wenger’.

Now the United manager, knowing Arsenal look no nearer to breaking their seven-and-a-half-year run without a trophy, pays lip-service to ‘Arsene’ and his team, an entertaining and intriguing curio that he knows will not be bothering him much come May.

‘I think they have improved defensively this year, they’re a stronger physical team,’ he said. They’re stronger physically if you look at the make-up of their team now.These players they’ve brought in are much more physical than they have had in the past.’

We can only presume Ferguson was
referring to the recent past. Arsenal, after all, use to head north
with trojans like Vieira, Petit, Winterburn and Keown in their team.

The
fact that United have won 10 of the last 14 fixtures against Arsenal
(losing just two) tells the story of how the relationship between the
clubs has become a little lop-sided. The last time Arsenal won both
league games was in 2006-07 while United did so as recently as last
year. United beat Arsenal 8-2 in this corresponding fixture last season
and Van Persie — scorer of nine goals already this term — was still
playing for the other side.

Asked
about his former captain on Friday, Wenger did little to quell the
feeling that it could be another productive day for the Dutchman.

What a coup: Ferguson with Van Persie after United's dramatic summer capture of the Dutchman

What a coup: Ferguson with Van Persie after United's dramatic summer capture of the Dutchman

‘My players know him as well because they have played against him in training,’ he said. ‘But in the game it’s a question of timing. How quickly will they read it as well as he reads it He’s certainly the most efficient striker (in the Premier League).

‘In Manchester United you have good players around him. His runs are fantastic, his technique is absolutely amazing, so I’m not surprised (at his success).

‘United are a lot in offensive positioning, so with his intelligent runs, of course he will take advantage of that.’

Embarrassing: Arsene Wenger suffered at Old Trafford last season as United claimed an unlikely win

Embarrassing: Arsene Wenger suffered at Old Trafford last season as United claimed an unlikely win

Arsene Wenger watches at Old Trafford

Ferguson said on Friday he scouted Van Persie as a teenager at Feyenoord, on a day he was actually sent off, but it was Wenger’s stealth in the market that saw Van Persie lured to Highbury rather than any doubts about temperament.

Certainly the current United team look made for a player blessed with so much precision, imagination and instinct. Despite issues in defence, Ferguson’s team look capable of digging themselves out of the deepest of holes right now.

Last year’s drubbing at Old Trafford left Wenger ‘embarrassed’ and ‘humiliated’ though he insisted yesterday it didn’t take him long to recover.

On Saturday, he will hope his team stay in the game long enough to have a chance. If they do it could be close. Well, close-ish.

All-star charity single for Hillsborough families bidding for Christmas number one

All-star charity single for Hillsborough families to challenge X Factor for Christmas No.1

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UPDATED:

10:52 GMT, 26 October 2012

An all-star charity single to raise funds for Hillsborough families will take on the X Factor for Christmas No. 1.

Robbie Williams, Mel C, Rebecca Ferguson and Paloma Faith are among the stars who have come together to cover The Hollies' 1969 hit 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.'

All money raised from the single will go towards paying the legal costs of families of the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

All-star cast: Pop stars including Robbie Williams, Rebecca Ferguson and Paloma Faith will record a charity single to raise money for Hillsborough families

All-star cast: Pop stars including Robbie Williams, Rebecca Ferguson and Paloma Faith will record a charity single to raise money for Hillsborough families

Fundraiser: Proceeds from the single, which could be Christmas No.1, will help the families of the 96 pay their legal costs

Fundraiser: Proceeds from the single, which could be Christmas No.1, will help the families of the 96 pay their legal costs

It comes after a damning report was released last month into the handling of the deaths, at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday's ground.

Other artists involved in the single include Mick Jones from The Clash, Chris Sharrock from Oasis and the Lightning Seeds, and Gerry Marsden, who recorded the Liverpool anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone'.

Steve Rotheram, MP for Walton and long-standing Hillsborough campaigner, said: 'I am proud to announce that a group of some of the biggest UK recording artists are coming together to record 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' to support the Hillsborough families fight for justice.

'Whilst we are confident that the campaign for truth and justice is nearing a conclusion, for 23 years the bereaved Hillsborough families have carried the eternal flame of hope that we would one day see those responsible brought to justice.

Robbie Williams singing on French TV this week

Paloma Faith

Stars: Robbie Williams (left) and Paloma Faith (right) are just two of the stars who will sing The Hollies' 1969 hit 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother'

'All profits from this CD will go towards assisting with any legal costs incurred in that fight. The families have suffered enough.'

Club legend Kenny Dalglish added: 'The families of the 96 should never have been in the position they are now in, of having to fight to get the accidental verdicts of the 1989 inquests overturned.

'I will continue to support their dignified campaign every step of the way.'

Triple Ivor Novello winning songwriter Guy Chambers will produce the single, which will be recorded at his North London studio later this month.

He said: 'I am deeply honoured to be asked to produce this record for the 96. If it can help to raise money to support the families' legal battle so that they finally get their time in court then our job will be done.

'I spent my teenage years in Liverpool and feel a deep affection for both its musical heritage and the unique solidarity of its people.'

The song was played during Everton's tribute to the 96 victims before their Barclays Premier League match with Newcastle United last month.

The Old Trafford X-Factor: Initiation of young stars Wootton and Brady caught on camera

The Old Trafford X-Factor: Initiation of young stars Wootton and Brady caught on camera

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UPDATED:

13:09 GMT, 28 September 2012

They both made assured starts to their Manchester United careers in the midweek League Cup win over Newcastle.

But while Scott Wootton and Robbie Brady passed the Old Trafford 'X Factor' audition on their senior debuts, they won't be entering the real version of the TV show anytime soon.

A video from United's pre-season tour in August shows the two youngsters being initiated into the professional ranks – by singing the Bill Withers classic 'Ain't No Sunshine.'

Audition: Manchester United youngsters Scott Wootton and Robbie Brady stand up to sing in front of the whole first team squad

Audition: Manchester United youngsters Scott Wootton and Robbie Brady stand up to sing in front of the whole first team squad

Red-faced: Wootton and Brady sing their way through Bill Withers' classic 'Ain't No Sunshine'

Red-faced: Wootton and Brady sing their way through Bill Withers' classic 'Ain't No Sunshine'

Debut: Scott Wootton in action for Manchester United against Newcastle in midweek

Debut: Scott Wootton in action for Manchester United against Newcastle in midweek

The pair's induction was captured on camera by erstwhile United striker Dimitar Berbatov and the clip found its way onto YouTube.

As the rest of the squad bang tables to keep the beat, Wootton and Brady try to keep in tune – although there's clearly some difficulty in remembering all the words.

Paul Scholes, sat just in front of the camera, can't help himself dissolving into a fit of giggles, while Javier Hernandez at the back also raises a smile.

Defender Wootton, 21, started in the third round win over Newcastle and impressed alongside fellow debutant Marnick Vermijl.

Irish striker Brady, 20, came on as a late substitute for another newcomer – left-back Alexander Buttner – as United ran out 2-1 winners to set up an away tie at Chelsea in the next round.

Both players appear to have bright futures ahead of them – though perhaps not on the karaoke circuit.

Wootton and Brady's Manchester United initiation

Ryder Cup 2012: Justin Rose wants summer of sporting success to continue

Our golden chance: Now it's our turn to keep the feelgood factor going, says Rose

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UPDATED:

23:29 GMT, 27 September 2012

Justin Rose has urged world No 1 Rory McIlroy and the rest of his European Ryder Cup team-mates to use the great British sporting summer as their inspiration to win the trophy.

The Englishman was so transfixed by events at the London Olympics that he almost pulled out of a prestigious event in America at the same time to attend.

He said: 'It did cross my mind because you could see what an amazing experience it must have been to be in the stadium on the nights when Mo Farah was winning and all those golds were coming in.

Lets keep it going: Justin Rose wants Europe's Ryder Cup team to build on the success of Great Britain's summer of sport

Lets keep it going: Justin Rose wants Europe's Ryder Cup team to build on the success of Great Britain's summer of sport

‘Then we had Andy Murray win the US Open
to maintain the feelgood factor in brilliant style. Now it’s our turn.
Let’s hope we can keep it going. We all feel that.’

Rose was one of the few bright spots for Europe in the last Ryder Cup staged in America, at Valhalla in 2008, teaming up with pal Ian Poulter to win two points before defeating Phil Mickelson in the singles. ‘I had a fantastic time but now I want to be on a winning team,’ he said.

Europe face a US side who have won just one of the last five contests with superstars like Tiger Woods and Mickelson desperate to improve their poor records.

They also have the Masters champion Bubba Watson, who commendably took Poulter’s contentious remark that he wanted to ‘kill Americans in the Ryder Cup’ in the spirit in which it was intended.

It's up to us: Rory McIlroy is one of the key players for Europe

It's up to us: Rory McIlroy is one of the key players for Europe

Watson said: ‘I understand where Poults is coming from. I love watching his passion. As a fan myself of watching the game, I think he’s great for golf.

He’s not disrespecting us. He’s just trying to tell you how much he wants to win that trophy.’

Europe’s Paul Lawrie revealed that captain Jose Maria Olazabal had become emotional at a meeting on Wednesday, especially with references to Seve Ballesteros that affected all those present. Lawrie said: ‘Ollie spoke about Seve and what it was like to play with him, how Seve had phoned him to play an exhibition match when he was 16.

Time to shine: European fans cheer the Europe team on stage during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup

Time to shine: European fans cheer the Europe team on stage during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup

‘Everything Olazabal does on the course, every time he speaks to you, you just want to do well for the man. When someone like that sends out a message wanting you to give your all then a lot of the boys get a wee bit emotional too, and that’s brilliant.’

US captain Davis Love and Watson have also admitted weeping this week — suggesting there could be floods of tears when the highly-charged event ends on Sunday.

Chris Hughton hopes Norwich win will kickstart season

Happy Hughton hopes Norwich win will spur them on against Liverpool

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UPDATED:

10:10 GMT, 27 September 2012

Chris Hughton hopes Norwich's advance to the last 16 of the Capital One Cup can help them kickstart their Barclays Premier League campaign against Liverpool this weekend.

The Canaries paid tribute to former manager John Bond, who has died aged 79, with a minute's silence before kick-off against Doncaster at Carrow Road on Wednesday night.

And Norway midfielder Alexander Tettey marked his debut with a fine strike midway through the first half which proved enough to see off Dean Saunders' npower League One side and set up a home tie with Tottenham.

Decider: Alexander Tettey (left) scores Norwich's winner

Decider: Alexander Tettey (left) scores Norwich's winner

Norwich will now look to record their first Premier League victory under Hughton when Liverpool come to Norfolk on Saturday.

'Winning football matches is a nice habit for a club like us, it is difficult to win lots of games because of the division we are playing in,' said Hughton.

'You hope there is a feel-good factor you can go from one game to the next, and all of our efforts will now be on trying to get a win on Saturday.'

Hughton felt Wednesday's win was a fitting tribute to Bond, who was in charge for a seven-season spell from the mid-1970s, leading the Norfolk club to the League Cup final.

'When I came to this club in the summer, the first name you think of as former managers is John Bond. If I am able to be at this club anywhere near as long as John was, then I would be incredibly lucky. He will be thought of very fondly by a lot of people,' said Hughton, who was part of the Tottenham side which played against Bond's Manchester City in the 1981 FA Cup final.

'It was fitting that Norwich won, but also there was a nice respect from the crowd for a minute's silence.'

Although there was a start for captain Grant Holt, who has yet to score this season, Hughton made the expected sweeping changes, with recent signings Jacob Butterfield and goalkeeper Mark Bunn all coming in. On-loan Tottenham striker Harry Kane also started before being carried off in the second half with an ankle injury.

Norwich created plenty of chances, but were thwarted by Rovers goalkeeper Gary Woods and some last-gasp defending.

'At 1-0, they are still in the game, and then it can become a bit tense, so we could have made life easier for ourselves,' Hughton said.

Ready for more: Chris Hughton is gearing up to face Liverpool

Ready for more: Chris Hughton is gearing up to face Liverpool

On the next cup tie against his former club, Hughton said: 'It will be tough, but it will be a great occasion with a big crowd here against a quality Premier League team.'

Norwich hope Kane's injury will not prove too severe.

'There was no contact with the keeper, he just fell as he went for the ball,' Hughton said.

'We are hoping the news in the morning will not be so bad.'

Doncaster almost snatched an equaliser with two minutes left after full-back James Husband darted down the left and his low centre was stabbed goalward by substitute David Syers, when better contact would have seen the ball in the net rather than the grateful hands of Bunn.

Rovers boss Dean Saunders felt the South Yorkshire side had done enough to get a positive result.

He said: 'It was an upset waiting to happen. We created the chances, but never took them.'