Tag Archives: fantasy

Stoke City players play Premier League fantasy football game

REVEALED: The fascinating insight into who the Premier League players rate as Peter Crouch and co pick their fantasy football team at Stoke… but who has splashed the cash on points king Van Persie

By
Adam Shergold

PUBLISHED:

16:17 GMT, 8 January 2013

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UPDATED:

18:02 GMT, 8 January 2013

It's the time of year when the 20 Barclays Premier League managers start to think about tinkering with their teams in the transfer window.

And around the world, millions of fans with fantasy football teams will log on to do the same.

These two parallel worlds have collided this season after 18 members of the Stoke City squad entered their dream teams in the official Premier League fantasy football game.

Enlarge

Dream teams: The Stoke City squad have their own mini-league on the official Barclays Premier League fantasy football game

Dream teams: The Stoke City squad have their own mini-league on the official Barclays Premier League fantasy football game

Now see fantasy football at Stoke…

Click HERE to view the stars' mini league

Peter Crouch, Asmir Begovic, Jermaine Pennant and Kenwyne Jones are among the Potters stars who have put their judgement and reputations on the line in the club mini-league.

And it's Crouch who has stormed clear at the top of the table, albeit only after he made the heartbreaking decision to drop himself from his 'Longpins Longballers' XI.

The switch came at the end of November, after the lanky striker lost two teeth in a mid-air collision with Newcastle's Fabricio Coloccini.

The former England frontman clearly didn't have much faith in his powers of recovery and hauled himself out of his fantasy team.

But the tough decision has paid off, as his introduction of Demba Ba and Jermain Defoe to accompany Robin van Persie in a three-pronged attack has enabled him to surge to the top of the 'SCFC Fantasy League' in recent weeks.

Good move: When Peter Crouch (above) suffered a mouth injury in November, he removed himself from his fantasy football team and installed the more prolific Demba Ba (below left) and Jermain Defoe

Good move: When Peter Crouch (above) suffered a mouth injury in November, he removed himself from his fantasy football team and installed the more prolific Demba Ba (below left) and Jermain Defoe

Demba Ba of Chelsea

Jermain Defoe of Tottenham Hotspur

He currently enjoys a healthy 54 point advantage over Ryan Shotton and his 'FC Shottinho' side.

Shotton has been rewarded by his faith in teammate Jones, who scored three goals over the Christmas period to help Stoke into the top half of the real-life standings.

The free-scoring Van Persie is a staple in all the Stoke players' teams – as he is in thousands up and down the country after his phenomenal start to life at Manchester United.

There is also extraordinary loyalty towards teammate Asmir Begovic and this is well placed as he's won each of them 93 points so far this season on the game.

Points mean prizes: The Stoke squad's faith in their own keeper Asmir Begovic has earned them plenty of points in the fantasy game

Points mean prizes: The Stoke squad's faith in their own keeper Asmir Begovic has earned them plenty of points in the fantasy game

Languishing in the wooden spoon position at the moment is Dean Whitehead, his last place making a mockery of his 'no.1 seed' team name.

And this despite his XI currently featuring Van Persie, Fernando Torres, Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata, some of the Premier League's most in-form players.

His biggest mistake came, perhaps, in removing Liverpool red hot striker Luis Suarez just before a spell in which he has scored five goals in three league games.

Basement battle: Dean Whitehead is currently bottom of the Stoke mini-league

Basement battle: Dean Whitehead is currently bottom of the Stoke mini-league

Astonishingly, out-on-loan Pennant, who opted for a rude name for his team, hasn't cashed in on the lottery of points Van Persie offers, refusing to bring the Dutchman in at any point so far this season.

Ravichandran Ashwin frustrates England as they close in on victory

Day four analysis: Ashwin makes England wait as Cook and co close on emphatic win

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UPDATED:

12:23 GMT, 8 December 2012

Ravichandran Ashwin's one-man show of defiance with the bat may have frustratingly held up England's victory charge but sometime tomorrow morning Alastair Cook's side will establish a 2-1 lead in this series.

That prospect would have appeared beyond the realms of fantasy when Andrew Strauss sat in a stark back room at Galle in late March following England's fourth consecutive Test defeat.

The press conference in question was the first time Strauss' position as England captain had been publicly questioned. It came after yet another loss in Asian conditions following the 3-0 whitewash against Pakistan in the UAE and it was a spinner, Sri Lanka's Rangana Herath, who again had been England's chief tormentor.

Dominate display: Ravichandran Ashwin was a key man with the bat for India

Dominate display: Ravichandran Ashwin was a key man with the bat for India

The team's ability to play spin, or lack of it, has been the theme of the year away from home. Although the subsequent victory in Colombo saw England draw that series in Sri Lanka 1-1, their demons against spin bowling reappeared with a vengeance when they lost the first Test of this series by nine wickets in Ahmedabad.

/12/08/article-2244987-15EEBEB5000005DC-218_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”In control: Alastair Cook's team look set to take a 2-1 lead” class=”blkBorder” />

In control: Alastair Cook's team look set to take a 2-1 lead

If the questions about spin had been like a broken record to all connected with English cricket then what has occurred in these last two, glorious Tests must be akin to discovering a lost orchestral masterpiece.

The victory in Mumbai, only England's second in India in 27 years, was good. This, though, at Eden Gardens promises to be even better.

At lunch yesterday, with Virender Sehwag poised on 49 and India just 121 runs behind with ten second-innings wickets in hand, the momentum of a match which England had dominated for three days was threatening to swing back in the home side's favour.

Just 79 devastating minutes after the interval and the door which England had allowed India to push ajar had been ruthlessly slam shut.

Six wickets fell in that period, kickstarted by Graeme Swann bowling Sehwag with the first ball after lunch. They looked like completing the job after tea, knocking over Virat Kohli, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, before an inspired Ashwin took matters into his own hands.

Spin king: Graeme Swann had a good session after lunch

Spin king: Graeme Swann had a good session after lunch

No wonder the spinner is fighting hard. India have not lost at this ground since 1999 but his defiance will surely be in vain as England look to move ever closer to their first series victory in India since 1984/85.

Hopefully by lunch tomorrow, all that stands between's Cook's men and a place in history will be avoiding defeat in the final Test in Nagpur. They have proved they are undoubtedly the better side over these last two Tests.

Now they have to finish the job in the morning.

We are unable to carry live pictures from the third Test in Kolkata due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations.
The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.
MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.

Harry Redknapp tips Manchester City to retain Premier League title

Redknapp tips City to retain title… but thinks Arsenal will struggle

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UPDATED:

10:24 GMT, 14 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Harry Redknapp beleieves Manchester City has what it takes to retain their Premier League crown but says neigbours Manchester United will push them all the way again.

Redknapp starts the season watching from afar after he left Tottenham in the summer after failing to secure Champions League football for this season.

He expects the usual teams to be in contention with City, United, Chelsea and Tottenham all to challenge.

Same again: Harry Redknapp believes Manchester City will retain their title

Same again: Harry Redknapp believes Manchester City will retain their title

But Redknapp expects Arsenal to struggle if they lose influential forward Robin van Persie.

Redknapp, who was recently appointed a Sky Sports Fantasy Football ambassador, said: ‘I suppose City will be favourites and then Man Utd, Chelsea and Tottenham again.

'Arsenal will be in for a tough season this year if they lose Van Persie, I think they’ve got it all to do and Tottenham could finish above them this year.

Tough season ahead: Redknapp says if Robin Van Persie leaves it could be hard for Arsenal

Tough season ahead: Redknapp says if Robin Van Persie leaves it could be hard for Arsenal

'[Sir Alex Ferguson] will want to win a trophy this year and they’ll push Man City all the way.

'I think Liverpool will do better. People say there’s a long rebuilding process going on at the club, but they’ll be there. They’ve got fantastic players in my opinion – [Luis] Suarez, [Andy] Carroll, [Steven] Gerrard, [Jamie] Carragher, Glen Johnson, a great goalkeeper in Pepe Reina and some good central defenders. They should be pushing for the top four.

Watching on: Redknapp is in an unfamiliar position of not starting the season in charge of a team

Watching on: Redknapp is in an unfamiliar position of not starting the season in charge of a team

'If Alan [Pardew] gets [Newcastle] into the top five again, top six even, it will be a miracle. He’ll do well if they finish seventh or eighth this year.’

Fantasy Football 2012-13 – best FREE game and 40,000 prizes

Fantasy Football is back! Sign up today for FREE… with 40,000 in prizes up for grabs

PUBLISHED:

10:10 GMT, 19 July 2012

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UPDATED:

10:15 GMT, 19 July 2012

Fantasy football 2012

MailOnline Fantasy Football is back – and it’s FREE to play!

Here's your chance to win a share of 40,000 in our brilliant game.

Our game – based around the Barclays Premier League and the FA Cup – offers you the chance to build and manage a 15-man squad of top-flight stars. So, who will you choose

Our new and improved game is really easy to play, so why not give it go…

CLICK HERE TO JOIN FOR FREE
Win cash!

This could be one of the most exciting seasons yet and by playing MailOnline Fantasy Football, you can be at the centre of all the action. There’s 40,000 in cash to be won, with a whopping first prize of 20,000.

Formations and substitutions

You can choose between five formations and switch between them during the season, to offer your players the best positions – and earn your team the most points! You'll have the opportunity to make lots of transfers to keep your team in top form and our substitute feature will give you the opportunity to pick up even more points.

Make transfers

You'll have a whopping 32 transfers available to you during the season. You can make up to 16 transfers before December 27, 2012. Then we'll give you another 16 transfers to use for the remainder of the season. Make your transfers before the earliest scheduled kick-off for them to score points on the same day.

CLICK HERE TO JOIN FOR FREE

Robin van Persie wanted by Juventus in summer transfer move

Target man! Champions Juve line-up Arsenal skipper Van Persie for Italian job

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UPDATED:

09:04 GMT, 9 May 2012

Italian champions Juventus have expressed an interest in signing Arsenal striker Robin van Persie this summer.

The Turin giants are looking to reinforce their attacking line with veteran forward Alessandro Del Piero set to leave the club next month and on-loan striker Marco Borriello expected to return to Roma in July.

'Van Persie is a great player,' Juventus general director Giuseppe Marotta told Italian website Calciomercato.

Target man - Robin van Persie - wearing next season's home kit - is wanted by Italian's Juventus

Target man – Robin van Persie – wearing next season's home kit – is wanted by Italian's Juventus

'He is a complete player and would be useful to any team. But he still has one year left in his contract with Arsenal.

'We will try to put the icing on the cake this summer but the important thing is that the mix is good.'

Van Persie leads the Barclays Premier League goalscoring chart with 30 so far this season.

Juve have been closely monitoring Liverpool striker Luis Suarez as well as Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuain.

'Van Persie, Suarez or Higuain They are three important players,' Marotta said.

Interest: Liverpool's Luis Suarez

Real deal: Gonzalo Higuain is also a target for Juventus

Interest: Juve are also keen on Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain (R)

'In fantasy football we could have the three of them playing in the same line-up but in reality, it is different.

'If one of them arrives (here) is not because he will be the less talented as other things have to be taken into account, such as the financial aspect.

'Moreover, if (Real Madrid coach Jose) Mourinho does not want to sell Higuain it will be impossible for us to get him and we also have to take that into consideration.'

Wolves 0 Everton 0: Fantasy world cheers Wanderers

Wolves 0 Everton 0: Fantasy world cheers Wanderers in dead rubber

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UPDATED:

20:19 GMT, 6 May 2012

Ignore the scoreline — actually Wolves won 2-0, the day after Everton had lifted the FA Cup at Wembley on Saturday. That, according to both sets of fans, was the alternative version of a dull afternoon at Molineux.

Early in the second half the home fans on the South Bank got tired of waiting for something to end their dismal home run and decided to make their own entertainment.

‘Let’s pretend we’ve scored a goal,’ they sang before leaping together in joy. And a couple of minutes later they did it again, before bursting into song: ‘We’re winning two-nil.’

Good luck: Everton's Jelavic gives Jagielka a pat before kick-off

Good luck: Everton's Jelavic gives Jagielka a pat before kick-off

MATCH FACTS

WOLVES (4-4-2): De Vries 6; Zubar 5, Stearman 6, Berra 6 (Elokobi 54min, 5), Ward 6; Kightly 5 (Forde 71), Edwards 6, Henry 6, Hunt 5; Doyle 5, Fletcher 5 (Ebanks-Blake 62, 5).

Subs not used: Ikeme, Johnson, Milijas, Jonsson.

EVERTON (4-5-1): Howard 6; Hibbert 7, Jagielka 7, Heitinga 6, Distin 6; McFadden 5 (Stracqualursi 60, 5), Osman 5, Cahill 6 (Gueye 68, 6), Fellaini 7, Pienaar 7; Jelavic 6.

Subs not used: Mucha, Barkley, Coleman, Duffy, Baxter.

Man of the match: Marouane Fellaini.

Referee: Lee Mason 7.

Attendance: 25,466

Two Everton fans later ran on the
pitch to start a lap of honour with a shiny silver paper cut-out of the
trophy that their Mersey rivals Liverpool had failed to collect the day
before. It was so much more lively than the real world.

Interim Wolves boss Terry Connor said: ‘I heard the fans singing for 2-0. I’m glad they enjoyed themselves.’

After the match, however, Wolves
chairman Steve Morgan was signing autographs and chatting with fans when
one supporter came up and insulted him. There was an exchange of views
before Morgan drove off in his car.

The visitors had the better
of the chances and twice had the ball in the back of the net, but
Nikica Jelavic and Denis Stracqualursi were both denied by offside
flags.

Despite the scoreline, it was an open
game with chances for both sides, and arguably the best of the
first-half opportunities came in only the fifth minute when Marouane
Fellaini's flicked header landed at the feet of Tim Cahill 10 yards out
but he shot straight at Dorus De Vries.

Jelavic had scored six goals in his
last four league games and he had his first sight of goal in the 14th
minute when he was found by Phil Jagielka's long diagonal pass, but
Richard Stearman stayed with the striker and did very well to block his
shot.

Fall guy: Everton's Marouane Fellaini (centre) is tackled by Christophe Berra

Fall guy: Everton's Marouane Fellaini (centre) is tackled by Christophe Berra

Kevin Doyle and James McFadden both
snatched at chances while Leon Osman wanted a penalty when he went down
under a challenge from Michael Kightly, but referee Lee Mason was
unmoved.

It would have been a very memorable
day for Tony Hibbert had he netted his first goal for Everton after more
than 300 games, and his fierce volley would certainly have tested De
Vries had Stephen Ward not got his body in the way.

Wolves had their best opening in the
26th minute when Stephen Hunt's free-kick was header just over by
Christophe Berra, but Everton, and Steven Pienaar in particular, were
starting to take a grip on the game.

In the thick of the action: Fellaini under pressure from Wolves' Stephan Ward (left)

Falling for it: Fellaini fells Berra

Centre of attention: Fellaini under pressure from Wolves' Stephan Ward (left) and felling Berra (right)

The midfielder might have done better
than fire over when well placed, while his clever ball found Jelavic
but he was flagged offside as he shot past De Vries in what looked a
marginal decision.

The hosts were living dangerously,
and Ronald Zubar would have been very grateful to see his header from
Hibbert's cross drop just past the post, while at the other end an
isolated Steven Fletcher blazed over the bar.

Wolves threatened right at the start
of the second half as Hunt and Fletcher combined to play in Stearman on
the left of the area but the ball had just too much pace on it and the
defender could not control his cutback.

Frustrated: Everton manager David Moyes saw his side have plenty of possession but goals were hard to come by

Frustrated: Everton manager David Moyes saw his side have plenty of possession but goals were hard to come by

Hibbert had been a real thorn in
Wolves' side down the right and another pinpoint cross should really
have been buried by Fellaini instead of placed over the bar.

De Vries was then forced into his
first real save of the match from a Jelavic free-kick 25 yards out, the
keeper plunging to his left.

Up for the cup: An Everton sends a message to Liverpool. At least they got to Wembley...

Up for the cup: An Everton sends a message to Liverpool. At least they got to Wembley…

Boss David Moyes sent on
Stracqualursi for McFadden and he was into the action immediately with a
shot that was well blocked by Ward, while Sylvan Ebanks-Blake replaced
Fletcher for Wolves.

The Scot, who is likely to be a
target for Premier League clubs in the summer, received a very warm
reception from the home fans.

Wide open: Nikica Jelavic shows his frustration as another chance goes begging

Wide open: Nikica Jelavic shows his frustration as another chance goes begging

There was a real lack of intensity
about the game but a burst from Karl Henry provided a shooting
opportunity for Kightly, who pulled his effort well wide.

Jelavic had been pretty quiet but he
certainly should have tested De Vries in the 72nd minute when he beat
the defence to a long ball only to pull his shot wide of the far post.

Gone: Wolves' David Edwards escapes Leon Osman

Gone: Wolves' David Edwards escapes Leon Osman

The visitors had the ball in the net
for a second time moments later as Jelavic's cross was turned in by
Stracqualursi at the far post but again it was ruled out for offside,
although it was Fellaini, who had also lunged for the ball, who was the
culprit.

Everton continued to press but the Wolves defence held firm to earn their first home point since December.

Heading for a draw: Ronald Zubar (right) is challenged by Everton's Osman

Heading for a draw: Ronald Zubar (right) is challenged by Everton's Osman

Wayne Rooney goal against Man City wins Premier League goal of 20 seasons

Roo beauty! Wayne's City stunner is voted best-ever Premier League goal

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UPDATED:

21:12 GMT, 3 May 2012

Wayne Rooney's stunning over-head kick against Manchester City has been voted as the best goal of the 20 Barclays Premier League seasons.

The announcement was made on Thursday evening at the Football Writers' Association annual dinner in London.

The Manchester United striker's sublime strike in the clash at Old Trafford in February last year beat off all the competition to be crowned as the very best from the past two decades.

Wayne's world: The athletic effort has been voted the best of last 20 years

Wayne's world: The athletic effort has been voted the best of last 20 years

Hundreds of thousands of supporters across the globe voted in the poll, with Rooney's strike gaining 26 per cent of the total votes cast.

Dennis Bergkamp's sublime turn and finish against Newcastle for Arsenal in March 2002 was the second most popular with 19%, and Thierry Henry's volley for Arsenal against Manchester United in 2000 was third on 15 per cent.

Rooney said: 'I grew up watching the Premier League so to be voted the best goal in the history of the Premier League is a great feeling.

'There's so many good goals in that shortlist, goals that I watched in my living room as a kid: Alan Shearer's goal, Paolo Di Canio's, Tony Yeboah's, David Beckham's.

'To be competing with them and winning is a great honour for me and something I'm very proud of. I'd like to say a big thank you to all the fans that voted for me.'

Over 4.2million votes were cast by 300,000 supporters to decide the best goal, best save, best goal celebration and a fans' fantasy team.

You beauty! The Old Trafford faithful hail Rooney's wonder goal

You beauty! The Old Trafford faithful hail Rooney's wonder goal

There are also six award categories
being decided by a panel – best player, manager, team, season, most
memorable quotes and a panel fantasy team.

The remaining award winners will be
named over the next fortnight culminating in an event on May 15 where
the best player and manager of the 20 seasons will be revealed.

The 20th Premier League season has
featured some fantastic goals, with last night's swerving strike from
Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse against Chelsea arguably the pick of the
2011-12 campaign so far, coming just days after Luis Suarez's long-range
chip for Liverpool against Norwich.

Top 10 Premier League players

Top 10 Premier League players of the last 20 years: Cantona is King, but is he No 1

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UPDATED:

23:17 GMT, 16 April 2012

As the 20th anniversary of the Barclays Premier League approaches fast, 11 judges – including Sportsmail’s Chief Football Correspondent Matt Lawton – have, after much debate, chosen their top 10 players of the last two decades. But do you agree with their choices

Class act: But does Cantona make your top 10

Class act: But does Cantona make your top 10

Who is the finest player in 20 seasons of the Barclays Premier League Of the 3,000-odd who have appeared on a pitch somewhere between Swansea and Newcastle, would it be Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo or Ryan Giggs

And which would be the best team Manchester United’s 1999 treble winners Arsenal’s invincibles Or would you go with the machine-like Chelsea side Jose Mourinho guided to the title in 2005 After all, that side amassed a Premier League record of 95 points, winning 29 of their 38 games and losing only once.

Try selecting a fantasy team from the same 20-year period. As a member of the 11-man judging panel, nominated by the Premier League, even reducing it to 10 candidates for each position proved no easy task. It was as divisive as daring to suggest Wayne Rooney has a case for being considered this season’s Footballer of the Year when Robin van Persie has been outstanding and is sure to emerge as the Football Writers’ Association champion.

20 YEARS OF THE PREMIER LEAGUE

Click here for the greatest games

Click here for the greatest goals

Click here for the greatest celebrations

That said, Van Persie joins Didier Drogba in failing to make the cut in the forwards list. Rooney, however, does.

Picking two central midfielders is a
task that would trouble Sir Alex Ferguson. Easy you might think. Roy
Keane and Patrick Vieira. But that means there is no place for Paul
Scholes or Cesc Fabregas, Frank Lampard or Claude Makelele. Ferguson
once described Steven Gerrard as ‘the most influential player in English
football’. Would Ferguson pick the Liverpool captain

Legends: Vieira (second left), Bergkamp (second right) and Henry (right)

Legends: Vieira (second left), Bergkamp (second right) and Henry (right)

Top 10 players of the last 20 years

Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal)
Eric Cantona (Leeds, Man Utd)
Ryan Giggs (Man Utd)
Thierry Henry (Arsenal)
Roy Keane (Nottm Forest, Man Utd)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd)
Paul Scholes (Man Utd)
Alan Shearer (Blackburn, Newcastle)
Patrick Vieira (Arsenal, Man City)
Gianfranco Zola (Chelsea)

Look at the aforementioned strikers. Surely Alan Shearer gets one of the slots as the scorer of 260 Premier League goals, a record that sets him so far apart from the rest. The second most prolific goalscorer is Andy Cole, some 73 goals behind.

But then who partners Super Al Dennis
Bergkamp, Henry or Gianfranco Zola What about Rooney, Ruud van
Nistelrooy and Eric Cantona.

Hotshot: Alan Shearer scored a record number of goals for Newcastle

Hotshot: Alan Shearer scored a record number of goals for Newcastle

The one thing the exercise highlights is what a brilliant 20 seasons it has been. So many great sides, so many great players, so many wonderful memories.

What would be the match of the 20 seasons Liverpool’s 4-3 defeat of Newcastle in April 1996 Or Arsenal’s 4-4 draw with Tottenham in October 2008

Try picking a goal of the 20 seasons. Tony Yeboah against Liverpool in August 1995 or David Beckham against Wimbledon a year later

Legend: Gianfranco Zola in his early days at Chelsea

Legend: Gianfranco Zola in his early days at Chelsea

Top five managers

Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)
Jose Mourinho (Chelsea)
David Moyes (Everton)
Harry Redknapp (West Ham, Portsmouth, Southampton, Tottenham)
Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)

It’s worth noting that the most famous footballer on the planet is not on the 10-man shortlist for the Player of the 20 seasons. Nor for that matter is the one-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, Michael Owen, or Rooney and Lampard.

But then look at the list and try erasing one of those names and replacing them with one of the above. Personally I might have axed Zola for a Rooney or a Lampard but compiling these lists has been a voting process that has extended to all national newspapers and Premier League media rights holders.

Now it’s over to you to vote in five other categories – best goal, match, save, goal celebration and, probably most difficult, fantasy XI. Try to stay calm.

London 2012 Olympis: Tom Daley"s dream comes down to 9.6 seconds

9.6 seconds… that's all Tom Daley's dream comes down to

As Tom Daley parked his black Mini
after a dash across Plymouth through late afternoon traffic last week,
it was hard to resist acknowledging the far greater journey he has
travelled.

The boy who went to the Beijing Games
in 2008 with a rucksack strapped to his back as though he was just off
on an Outward Bound adventure will be a man when he returns to the
Olympic arena in London this summer.

Since Beijing he has grown more than
five inches in height to 5ft 9in, and now weighs a muscular 11st 4lb,
at least 25lb heavier than he had been when he became the second
youngest athlete in history to represent Team GB at an Olympic Games.

Thriving on pressure: Tom Daley is Britain's best hope for gold

Thriving on pressure: Tom Daley is Britain's best hope for gold

In Beijing, he was entitled to wear the wide-eyed innocence of a schoolboy living out a fantasy; in London, Daley must bear the burden on his now-broad shoulders of being expected to challenge for an Olympic gold medal.

His role, though, runs deeper than simply nurturing his own aspirations.

Daley's value to those publicising London 2012 was evident again last Monday, when he was photographed on the 10metre diving board at the Olympic aquatic centre with Mayor Boris Johnson as Prime Minister David Cameron looked on from below.

All grown up: Daley with his rucksack in 2008

All grown up: Daley with his rucksack in 2008

'Boris was pretty terrified, and wanted to make sure he was holding on to the rail,' chuckled Daley.

'But, to be fair, that's the reaction almost everyone has. I asked Mr Cameron to come up and have a look, but he didn't!'

Daley's ease in such company is symbolic of his maturity and the responsibilities that he has instinctively accepted.

While he may be still four months away from his 18th birthday, Daley has been exposed to adult competition from a tender age and, sadly, he has had to learn to live without the omnipresent comfort and support of his father, Rob, who lost his fight against cancer almost 10 months ago.

'This year has to be better than last year,' said Daley, a wish he shares with his mother, Debbie, and younger brothers, William and Ben.

When he passed his driving test, Daley relieved his mother of having to operate the taxi-service his father had provided, twice a day, six days a week, as he ferried his son from the family's neat, semi-detached home to his training centre at the diving pool next door to Plymouth Argyle Football Club.

On average, Daley trains for six hours a day; in the pool, the gym, or in the converted squash court where he practises an ever more-complex routine of dives in a harness suspended over a foam mat.

Beijing baby: Daley has come on a bit since 2008

Beijing baby: Daley has come on a bit since 2008

Yet the reality is that only Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who has lowered the 100m world record to 9.58sec, is liable to spend less time in pursuit of an Olympic gold medal than Daley.

'Each of my dives lasts 1.6 seconds,' said Daley. 'I will have six dives in the Olympic final, so the scary part is that after all these years of training, the Olympic Games will come down to 9.6sec of my life.'

It is a cold, stark fact.

'I thrive on the pressure and adrenaline rush,' admitted Daley. 'I still remember how I felt when I went to the top of the board for the first time in Beijing. I looked down and saw the Olympic rings on the bottom of the pool. At that moment, the adrenaline was pumping, it's a feeling I won't ever forget.'

One year later, Daley became the youngest-ever world champion.

Unforgettable feeling: Daley wants to feel the same adrenaline rush

Unforgettable feeling: Daley wants to feel the same adrenaline rush

But since then, he has been consumed by enhancing his programme with more difficult dives that are now within his range due to his increased strength.

The harder a dive, the greater tariff it is awarded, so Daley is now able to compete for higher scores from the judges like all his rivals.

'Any one of eight of us could be Olympic champion,' he argued.

'It really does come down to who dives best, or doesn't freeze, on that one night in August.

'I haven't set any outcome goals. All I can do is focus on the process of each dive. I have to try to jump as high as I can, spin as fast as I can, come out of the dive as tight as possible, and try to enter the water with the least splash as I can. I can't think of anything else. I certainly can't change what anyone else does.

Home ground: Daley performs a dive into the new aquatic centre dive pool

Home ground: Daley performs a dive into the new aquatic centre dive pool

'But I know I'm not going to be given a medal in London, I'll have to earn it. If it doesn't go to plan, it's for me to be upset, no one else. If I go out and dive a personal best, but come fourth, it's still an achievement. Qui Bo, from China, is the world No 1 and hot favourite. He's been doing these style of dives for a long time, and he's like a machine.

'Chinese divers have a history of winning Olympic medals, as the sport is as big in China as football is in England. When I last saw Bo, at the world championships last year, he looked good. But we have to see what he will be bringing to the Olympics.

'He's really small, and I've heard he's done a new dive, a front fourand- half-somersault with a half pike. That could be a hit or miss dive. If he nails it, he'll be hard to beat. But if he gets it wrong, well… I don't think he needs to be taking that risk, but no one will know what he intends until this summer. He likes to lead in a competition, but, it's been shown in the past that if someone can get near him, or any of the Chinese, they can panic a little bit.'

In Beijing, Matt Mitcham did just that to win the gold medal; and only 18 months earlier he had been so disillusioned with life inside the Australian Olympic squad that he quit. Almost penniless, he spent a period diving in a circus in a clown's suit.

Golden boy: Daley dives into the new aquatic centre pool

Golden boy: Daley dives into the new aquatic centre pool

'Matt definitely showed us all in Beijing that the Chinese aren't invincible,' said Daley.

Last month, Daley, in the company of six other divers, spent three weeks at a warm-weather training camp in Australia organised by Alexei Evengulov, the performance director of the British diving team.

'Alexei wanted us to get some sun to boost our immune systems against colds and flu of the British winter,' said Daley.

'He likes training camps to create a good team environment, and to make sure we are resting and eating properly. I find the camps make me more competitive in training, too.'

Focused: Daley is a study of poise and precision as he performs another perfect dive

Focused: Daley is a study of poise and
precision as he performs another perfect dive

Over the next eight days, Daley will sit four exams in maths and Spanish, at A2 and AS level, at Plymouth Academy.

After that, he will spend just 12 more days in the classroom until he returns for the new school year next September.

While he has been balancing training with his education, which he views as a welcome distraction, the Chinese squad have been full-time athletes since the last Olympics ended.

'I have always liked to study, but now I know I need to focus on the Games,' Daley said.

He will compete at the national championships at the end of this month, then restrict himself to competing solely in the 10m synchronised event with his partner, Olympic silver medallist, Pete Waterfield, at the World Cup in the Olympic pool at the end of February.

The two are expected to perform at the Games in greater harmony than Daley and his first partner, Blake Aldridge, who embarrassed himself, and the British team, by making a phone call to his mother from the warm-down area before the final round had been completed at the Beijing Olympics.

'Pete and I have a chance of a medal,' said Daley.

He will be competing in Dubai, Beijing, Russia, Mexico, and Holland before the Olympics, with further training camps scheduled in Plymouth, Majorca and Southend.

Countdown: When to see Daley dive

'As soon as New Year's Day dawned, London 2012 became real in my mind,' said Daley.

'I'm excited and it's going to be an enormous advantage to have almost everyone supporting us.'

Before then, he has supporting to do himself. His mum, Debbie, is in training for the London Marathon, having never shown the remotest interest in actively being engaged in sport until Rob died.

'Mum is running to raise money for the Samantha Dickson Brain Tumour Trust, and she's lost 2 stones,' he said.

'She's determined to complete the course – Dad would be very proud of her.'

Tom Daley's own motivation has been ingrained in him since childhood, of course; but he will take with him to London this summer cherished memories of the precious times he spent with his father, who always had the largest Union flag and biggest smile in the house.

Mini marvel: Daley is a man about town

Mini marvel: Daley is a man about town

LITTLE TOM'S GROWN UP

AT the wheel of his Mini, Tom Daley is now quite the man about town. And he will cut a different figure at London 2012 than when he made his debut on the Olympic stage in Beijing.

In the Olympic Village where giants of sport roamed like Usain Bolt, Chris Hoy and Rafael Nadal, 14-year-old Daley wandered around, almost dwarfed by his rucksack.

Even then, there was a hard edge to Daley the competitor, who was nerveless in the Olympic final. Since Daley's father Rob lost his battle with cancer last year,

Tom has greater responsibilities as he nears his 18th birthday in May.

'Now I can drive, my mum doesn't have to take me, or collect me, from training twice a day,' he said.

'Sometimes, I pick up my brothers William and Ben from school. Or I can pop out for bread or milk. It's a help to Mum.'

Didier Drogba could follow Nicolas Anelka to Shanghai

Anelka unveiled by big-spenders Shanghai Shenhua… and now they want Drogba too!

Nicolas Anelka poses with the Shanghai Shenhua shirt after becoming the first big casualty of Andre Villas-Boas” reign.

And Shenhua now hope to convince Didier Drogba to join Anelka in quitting Chelsea for China.

A Chelsea statement read: “Chelsea Football Club and Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua have agreed terms for the permanent transfer of Nicolas Anelka in the January transfer window.”

Heading east: Nicolas Anelka (right) poses with a Shanghai Shenhua shirt

Heading east: Nicolas Anelka (right) poses with a Shanghai Shenhua shirt

The Chinese Super League club have confirmed that Anelka will join them on a two-year deal in January that is understood to be worth 175,000 per week.

The dream is now to partner the Frenchman with the Drogba. With the financial muscle of businessman Zhou Jun behind them – he made his fortune from an internet company which held the China licence for the hugely popular World of Warcraft fantasy game – Shenhua have shown they can compete with anyone. And Zhou says there is more to come.

“(Didier) Drogba, is a very excellent player. From the perspective of Chinese football, if these big-name players, these excellent players, are willing to come to China, we are willing to have warm negotiations and communications with them,” Zhou said.

Stellar arrival: Anelka is celebrated on the club

Stellar arrival: Anelka is celebrated on the club”s website

“A lot of clubs are chasing Drogba. Fromour perspective… we also have to see what Drogba wants. So from our club”s perspective, we have this to say – If he is willing to come, we will definitely welcome him.”

There is already another lucrative offer on the table from China for the Ivory Coast striker.

Drogba, whose contract at Stamford Bridge runs out at the end of the season, has been offered a three-year deal worth more than 30million – 200,000 a week – by Dalian Aerbin.

Aerbin”s general manager Li Ming said he was waiting for a response on the offer, adding: “Money is not the problem.

“Drogba is still one of the most popular soccer stars in the world, though he will be 34 years old. We have talked a lot with Drogba”s agent and promised to provide him with athree-year contract.”

Who wants me Didier Drogba is after a new Chelsea deal, but is wanted in China

Who wants me Didier Drogba is after a new Chelsea deal, but is wanted in China

Aerbin were only formed in 2009 and have just been promoted to China”s top division.

Chelsea are reluctant to offer Drogba more than a year extension as he will turn 34 in March.

Russian big-spenders Anzhi Makhachkala are among other clubs who see him as an ideal high-profile signing.

Aerbin are considering an offer for former France striker David Trezeguet as an alternative if Drogba turns them down.

Shenhua have confirmed they are also interested in Drogba but have not revealed details of their offer as they revel in the signing of Anelka.

Pay day: Anelka is set to rake in a whopping 175k per week in China

Pay day: Anelka is set to rake in a whopping 175k per week in China

Club director Zhou told reporters near the club”s Pudong training ground: “People are aware of Anelka”s Chelsea yearly salary which is around 5.8 million euros. So when he comes to China it definitely won”t be below this figure.”

The signing of Anelka heralds a massive step for Chinese soccer – and a growth mirroring that of the nation itself.

“It”s like with the opening up of China,” Zhou said. “We needed to bring in the good stuff from foreign countries for us to learn from.

“The benefits Anelka brings to the club are obvious. Firstly it will definitely increase the squad”s attacking capability.

“Secondly, the arrival of such a high level football star like Anelka in a young club like Shenhua will increase the hopes of the young people and create an example for them to follow.

Wielding the axe: Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas is changing his squad

Wielding the axe: Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas is changing his squad

“It will definitely increase the club”s competitiveness.”

The club”s captain Yu Tao said on Twitter: “It is impossible not to be excited! Warm welcome to our new team-mate!”

Goalkeeper Wang Dalei added: “Tell Anelka he made his new team-mates really proud!”

Shenhua have a reputation for signingageing stars, having previously welcomed Ruben Sosa, Jorg Albertz, Carsten Jancker, Junior Baiano and Dejan Petkovic.

Shanghai spokesman Ma Yue did not reveal the fee but said Anelka could start playing in January “if all contract details are 100 per cent confirmed”.

West Ham had hoped to take the 32-year-old Anelka on loan for the rest of the season but could not match the financial muscle of the ambitious Chinese side, so the Chelsea striker is heading east in the January transfer window.

Home sweet home: The Hongkou Stadium where Shanghai Shenhua play

Home sweet home: The Hongkou Stadium where Shanghai Shenhua play

AC Milan and Tottenham had also enquired about Anelka, while three Major League Soccer teams – New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact – were also disappointed.

The rise of the Chinese league was underlined earlier this year when Guangzhou Evergrande signed Dario Conca from Brazilian side Fluminense on a huge contract.

Argentine forward Conca, who is little known outside of South America, signed a deal worth about 130,000 a week.

Villas-Boas is set to cull even more big names from his squad in January, with Salomon Kalou looking likely to leave.

Full-backs Jose Bosingwa and Paulo Ferreira are also available for transfer, while uncertainty now surrounds Frank Lampard, who is no longer first-choice in the team.