Tag Archives: father

Dimitar Berbatov isn"t the first to send a message through his shirt

Putting their message across… after Berbatov's Keep Calm scribble, here's the best moments when footballers get shirty

|

UPDATED:

13:40 GMT, 27 December 2012

Fulham star Dimitar Berbatov earned himself a yellow card against Southampton with a shirt emblazoned with the words 'Keep Calm and Pass Me the Ball.'

The stunt could be called arrogant, but he's hardly the first player to make a mistake as far as shirt decorations go.

Dimitar Berbatov shows off a shirt with the words 'Keep Calm and Pass Me the Ball' written on it

Arrogant: Berbatov rubbed some people the wrong way after scoring the first goal in Fulham's match against Southampton

Sportsmail took a look back at some of the more memorable messages that have been communicated through the use of a shirt.

Carlos Tevez – 'Feliz Cumple Mami'

Carlos Tevez sends his mother a birthday message using his shirt

Mummy's boy: Tevez showed off the message after scoring the only goal in Manchester City's 1-0 win over Chelsea

Tevez went for a home-made approach when he sent his Mum a birthday greeting in 2010. The words 'Feliz Cumple Mami,' which translates as 'Happy Birthday Mum,' had been scrawled on his shirt in black marker.

Mario Balotelli – 'Why Always Me'

Mario Balotelli reveals a message on his shirt that says 'Why always me' in Manchester City's clash with United

Feeling sorry for himself: The Italian revealed his shirt after scoring in the Manchester derby

After taking City ahead in last year's Manchester derby, the Italian lifted his shirt to ask the question 'Why Always Me' The message would have made more sense had the striker not spent the night before setting fire to his own home with some fireworks.

Paul Scharner – Albion crest

West Brom's Paul Scharner wore a shirt emblazoned with the Albion logo

Proud father: Paul Scharner was wearing a shirt designed by his children, who had supposedly drawn the Albion logo for luck

The West Brom midfielder angered Wolverhampton manager Mick McCarthy when he seemed to taunt Wolves fans with an Albion logo which had been drawn onto his shirt by his kids. McCarthy later apologised for accusing Scharner of 'taking the p***,' after realising what was on the shirt.

Samir Nasri – 'Eid Mubarak'

Nasri celebrated a goal against Southampton with the message 'Eid Mubarak' on his shirt

Celebration: Nasri followed Manchester City's third goal against Southampton with the words 'Eid Mubarak'

When Manchester City went 3-2 up against Southampton thanks to a strike from Samir Nasri, the French international treated watching fans to the traditional Eid festival greeting 'Eid Mubarak,' which means 'blessed festival'

Robbie Fowler – 'Support the 500 Sacked Dockers'

Robbie Fowler revealed a shirt in support of striking dock workers in Liverpool

Punished: Fowler was fined 2,000 Swiss Francs by UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Committee

The Liverpool striker was fined 2,000 Swiss Francs by UEFA after revealing a shirt that gave support to striking Liverpudlian dock workers in 1997. Liverpool were up against Brann Bergen in a European Cup Winners' Cup match and won 3-0 after a brace from Fowler.

Lee Trundle – Urinating on Cardiff shirt

Lee Trundle upset supporters in Cardiff with his offensive t-shirt

Arrested: The Swansea man was later taken into custody for a public order offence after complaints from fans, including supporters of Swansea

Trundle was arrested for a public order offence after angering Cardiff fans. During Swansea's 2-1 defeat of Carlisle in the Football League Trophy final in 2006, Trundle wore a shirt that depicted a cartoon man in Swansea kit urinating over a Cardiff shirt. He then paraded around with a flag that had 'F*** off Cardiff' written on it.

Paul Tait – 'Birmingham City S**t on the Villa'

Paul Tait caused offence with an expletive-covered shirt that said 'Birmingham City S**t on the Villa' after Birmingham's win over Carlisle United

Foolish: Tait claimed that the prank was banterous, but observers didn't see it that way

The Birmingham City midfielder was fined 3,000 for his stunt in 1995, which saw him wear a shirt emblazoned with the words 'Birmingham City S**t on the Villa.' City were up against Carlisle Untied in the Auto Windscreen Shield final and the 23-year-old scored the only goal of the match. Tait claimed that it was meant as a humourous prank, but the move received criticism from all sides.

Artur Boruc – 'God Bless the Pope'

Artur Boruc celebrated Celtic's win over Rangers with a shirt that said 'God Bless the Pope.'

'The Holy Goalie': Boruc celebrated Celtic's win over Rangers with a tribute to the Pope

The Poland international whipped off his shirt after Celtic's 3-2 win over Rangers in 2008, and was underneath wearing an undershirt featuring a picture of John Paul II and the words 'God Bless the Pope.' He was defended by manager Gordon Strachan, who said: 'If it was 'God Bless Myra Hindley,' I might have a problem.'

Liverpool – Luis Suarez support

Liverpool's Glen Johnson warms up while wearing a t-shirt bearing the name and image of team mate Luis Suarez

Defiant: Suarez had been banned for eight matches and fined 40,000 by the FA, but his teammates were determined to support his appeal

When Suarez received an eight-match ban by the FA for racially abusing Patrice Evra, there were some who felt his punishment was deserved. But not his teammates or his manager, as they donned T-shirts in support of the Uruguayan striker before Liverpool's clash with Wigan. Manager Kenny Dagliesh was in favour of the display, saying: 'It is a great reflection of the man as a character, a person and a footballer that the boys have been so supportive and so have the supporters.'

Danny Graham – 'Watford's Table Tennis Champion 2010/11'

Danny Graham boasted of his Table Tennis victory over teammate Don Cowie during Watford's 3-0 win over Portsmouth

Smug: Graham was proud of his ping-pong prowess

Danny Graham, in his days playing for Watford, managed to keep things friendly with his own comical shirt message. According to the forward the team used to enjoy a game table tennis after training sessions and Graham had emerged victorious from his most recent battle with Don Cowie. After scoring against Portsmouth in 2011 the cheeky Watford man proudly revealed a shirt on which he had written 'Watford's Table Tennis Champion 2010/11. Get Over It Lads!!!'

Manchester City full of festive cheer as they train on Christmas Eve

Merry Mario leads Manchester City training as defending champions gear up for festive period

|

UPDATED:

15:40 GMT, 24 December 2012

Making up two points on leaders and fierce rivals Manchester United would have bought more than a hint of festive cheer to City's training ground on Christmas Eve.

And the presence of the club's very own crackers character Mario Balotelli gave the squad a lift, as did the sight of captain Vincent Kompany coming through the session.

In fact, so good was the spirit in camp that youngster Matija Nastasic, who has previously enjoyed a winter break in Italy, said he was relishing his first taste of England's traditionally busy Christmas schedule.

Christmas crackers: Manchester City got an early present when they made up two points on United

Christmas crackers: Manchester City got an early present when they made up two points on United

Christmas cheer: Mario Balotelli was put through his paces in the freezing cold of Manchester

Christmas cheer: Mario Balotelli was put through his paces in the freezing cold of Manchester

Christmas cheer: Mario Balotelli was put through his paces in the freezing cold of Manchester

The 19-year-old centre-back, who has
made a big impression since his arrival from Fiorentina in August, is
unfazed by the prospect of playing five games in the space of 15 days.

He
is also far from concerned by the fact the next two of those matches,
at Sunderland on Boxing Day and Norwich next Saturday, will involve
lengthy journeys.

'To me
it is not a problem,' said the Serbia international. 'I am always happy
when I am playing, so this time of the season makes me happiest of all!

Carlos the joker: Tevez was the one enjoying the Christmas Ever session the most, judging by his smile

Carlos the joker: Tevez was the one enjoying the Christmas Ever session the most, judging by his smile

Carlos the joker: Tevez was the one enjoying the Christmas Ever session the most, judging by his smile

'My father and mother are here, so I won't miss my family. I don't look at the two long away trips as a problem at all.

'Now we concentrate on the Sunderland game, and then we focus on Norwich – it's not a headache.

'The league in Italy stops, and we have a break, but playing here is no problem for me. I am looking forward to the next couple of games.'

City needed a last-gasp winner from Gareth Barry to beat Barclays Premier League bottom side Reading in the first of their festive matches at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Having gone into the game trailing leaders Manchester United by six points, the champions were in danger of handing their title rivals another boost until Barry headed home a contentious goal in injury time.

Reading felt Barry had fouled Nicky Shorey but City celebrated a valuable three points amid much relief and their joy increased later in the weekend when Swansea held United to a draw.

Although Reading showed commendable
resilience throughout, Nastasic felt victory was deserved for City's
obvious superiority and greater number of chances over the whole game.

Nastasic
said: 'We knew the game would be difficult because it was obvious they
would just come and defend, but we deserved the goal in the last minute.

'Reading
played 11 men behind the ball, in a small area which always makes it
very difficult to attack – but that was their game plan.

Space at the table: Roberto Mancini will no doubt be distracted on the big day as he prepares for Boxing Day

Space at the table: Roberto Mancini will no doubt be distracted on the big day as he prepares for Boxing Day

Hart stopper: Joe Hart will hope 2013 doesn't see a repeat of the odd mistake he made this year

Hart stopper: Joe Hart will hope 2013 doesn't see a repeat of the odd mistake he made this year

'We are a very strong team, self-motivated and full of confidence at the moment. What is important is that we keep the same attitude, if we want to win the Premier League. We won the game, and that is the important thing.'

Nastasic's consistent and unfussy performances are currently keeping England centre-back Joleon Lescott out of the City side.

There was even the unusual sight on Saturday of Lescott and captain Vincent Kompany – the heart of City's title-winning defence last season – on the bench as Nastasic partnered Kolo Toure.

Manager Roberto Mancini's regard for the player is evident and he is quickly becoming a fans' favourite.

Nastasic
said: 'It makes me happy if the fans think highly of me, and I just
want to keep playing the way I am – that is the objective for the whole
team, not just me.'

Kompany
was not risked against Reading as he continues to recover from the
groin injury he suffered in the Manchester derby defeat a fortnight ago.

Head for the top: Gareth Barry got the champion out of trouble with a late goal against Reading

Head for the top: Gareth Barry got the champion out of trouble with a late goal against Reading

Head for the top: Gareth Barry got the champion out of trouble with a late goal against Reading

Another teenager, Karim Rekik, was also deployed at left-back as both Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov were sidelined by niggles.

Their fitness will be assessed ahead of the trip to the Stadium of Light while controversial striker Mario Balotelli could come back into contention after illness last week but forward Samir Nasri is out with a hamstring injury.

The match marks the halfway point of the season and Mancini wants his side to start picking up the tempo.

The Italian said: 'We can work better but at the same time I think that we need to do more than last year. From the first six months we need to work better – that's individuals and the group.'

Amir Khan aims for world title after beating Carlos Molina – Jeff Powell

JEFF POWELL: King Khan is back on track and showing the world his exciting natural talent… but he will have to wait for title shot

|

UPDATED:

15:16 GMT, 16 December 2012

Next stop the world. So says Amir Khan after laying waste to a neighbourhood of east Los Angeles on Saturday night.

Maybe so, now that he has pulled back from the edge of the fiscal cliff which was threatening his future as much as the financial recession is jeopardising the American economy.

One false step here and he would have plunged into chaos.

Now he says: ‘I will be the champ again soon.’.

Scroll down for video

Flush: Amir Khan was on top from the first bell as Carlos Molina found himself overwhelmed

Flush: Amir Khan was on top from the first bell as Carlos Molina found himself overwhelmed

Amir Khan connects with Carlos Molina
KHAN IN 2013

Amir Khan’s three-fight calendar for 2013 is now shaping up like this:

March/April v Josesito Lopez to fine tune trainer Virgil Hunter’s game plan.

June/July v Danny Garcia in a world light-welterweight title re-match.

November/December v Lamont Peterson in re-match to become undisputed 10 stone champion, given Olympic standard drugs testing.

Maybe so since Danny Garcia, who knocked Khan off his perch with a left hook from hell earlier this year, appears willing to risk the lengthy odds against him landing that sucker punch again in a re-match.

Garcia and his mind-games father, Angel, were still in bullish mood after watching Khan beat Carlos Molina to pulp in the LA Sports Arena.

The Garcias had just seen the Bolton express land enough bolts of lightning to generate a year’s electricity for Molina’s impoverished home district not far from the LA Sports Arena but remained obdurately unimpressed.

‘We’ll fight Khan again and knock him out again,’ they said .’Even though we know that if he had beaten us he would never have given us a re-match.’

Price of success: Khan was reported to have fractured both hands during his victory over Molina

Price of success: Khan was reported to have fractured both hands during his victory over Molina

Through the gate: Molina did manage to land on Khan but the Bolton boxer withstood the punches

Through the gate: Molina did manage to land on Khan but the Bolton boxer withstood the punches

Carlos Molina sits in his corner after the ninth round

Amir Khan

Sore one: A cut opened around Molina's left eye early in the fight which caused him problems throughout

Maybe not. Khan has battened down his defences and acquired self-restraint in his first camp with new trainer Virgil Hunter.

But he has done so without
sacrificing the blistering hand speed or dynamic intensity which
hallmark one of the most exciting talents in the prize-ring today.

And yes, we are talking here about
Khan, at just turned 26, despite the flaws he is grafting to eradicate
from his game and the detractors who are so quick to pounce on his
inconsistencies.

There is no more exciting natural
talent in boxing right now, even though Khan will be required to prove
as much against opponents more formidable than prize-fighting’s version
of the Hobbit who came shuffling out of the opposite corner this
weekend.

Relentless: Khan used his jab effectively to keep Molina at bay and launch his combinations

Relentless: Khan used his jab effectively to keep Molina at bay and launch his combinations

Sore one: A cut opened beneath Molina's left eye early in the fight

Sore one: A cut opened beneath Molina's left eye early in the fight

They say punch-bags don’t hit back
but the diminutive Molina proved to be the exception, albeit not often
enough to prevent him losing all ten of the scheduled twelve rounds
before his corner men called a humane halt to the one-side proceedings.

This peon praise for Khan’s
renaissance after two successive but peculiar losses has to be qualified
by Molina’s limitations of size, ability, experience and hitting
power.

Yet they also say that you can do no
more than obliterate whoever is put in front of you. Khan did that in
overwhelming style and Britain should not lose the faith with its most
prominent and courageous ambassador for Anglo-Islam relations.

Molina had been hand-picked as a
stepping-stone towards Khan’s rehabilitation but he still had to be
beaten and the pot-shots he fired in retaliation had to be weathered as
evidence that the chin in a question is not fatally Achillean after all.

Over and out: The fight was stopped when Molina's corner felt he had suffered enough

Over and out: The fight was stopped when Molina's corner felt he had suffered enough

Referee Jack Reiss stops the fight between Amir Khan and Carlos Molina

The new Khan we had been promised
boxed with enough self-control and adherence to a less hazardous game
plan to suggest that our former world light-welterweight champion can
reclaim his place among the elite, and he had two fractured hands to show for his night's work.

Although the world championship he wants back may not come quite as soon as he is predicting.
Khan said; ‘I will fight Garcia again whenever and wherever he wants.’
The feeling is mutual, even if the money is doing much of the talking
when Danny boy says: 'I’m open to a second fight.’

But Garcia is scheduled to defend his
unified title against Zab Judah in February so the re-match with Khan
will have to wait at least until June or July. Khan will plug the gap
with another confidence building bout in March or April, before marrying
his fiance in May.

Suddenly the mists of doubt have cleared and the sun is shining on Khan again.

New era: Khan will hope to fight for a world title next year after his win in Los Angeles

New era: Khan will hope to fight for a world title next year after his win in Los Angeles

New era: Khan will hope to fight for a world title next year after his win

That warmth should help heal the
damage to the right hand, which he feared he had broken in hitting
Molina so often. The pain came as a reminder of his ex-trainer Freddie
Roach’s assertion that Khan has a recurrent problem there.

Not that Molina would have noticed.
So sharp and rapid were the multi-punch combinations with which Khan hit
him repeatedly that as early as the second round Molina’s face looked
as if a saucepan of boiling water had been thrown over it.

/12/16/article-0-16897E64000005DC-805_634x337.jpg” width=”634″ height=”337″ alt=”Looking to the future: Amir Khan and his trainer Virgil Hunter are looking at a world title shot in 2013″ class=”blkBorder” />

Looking to the future: Amir Khan and his trainer Virgil Hunter are looking at a world title shot in 2013

Khan had boxed with smarter attention
to trainer’s orders but for we who delight in watching him it was
reassuring to see that his warrior instincts will never be tamed
altogether.

He said: ‘I expect to become an even more complete boxer after more fights under Virgil.’

Hunter said: ‘He is on his way again to becoming a truly great boxer.’

Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer,
whose belief and investment in Khan had been redeemed, went further: ‘I
have always been convinced that Amir will be the best pound-for-pound
boxer in the world.’

First things first.

Our boy is back. Well, back on track if not all the way back to the top quite yet.

King Khan, as he is called, is
looking like a Prince of the ring again, which is no small achievement
for one who was sliding towards that precipice prior to this Saturday
night in the City of the Angels.

VIDEO: Amir Khan: 'trainer changed me…'

Play Video

Loading video…

DM.has('rcpv32564','BC',
'renderConfig' :

'css' : “videoplayer-large”,
'autoplay' : false,
'muted' : false,
'adUrl' : “http://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/adssz=8×8&iu=%2F7023%2Fdm.video%2Fdm_video_homehp&ciu_szs=&impl=s&gdfp_req=1&env=vp&output=xml_vast2&unviewed_position_start=1&url=[referrer_url]&correlator=[timestamp]”,
'playerId' : “1989148206001”,
'playerKey' : “AQ~~,AAAAAFSL1bg~,CmS1EFtcMWELN_eSE9A7gpcGWF5XAVmI”,
'objId' : “rcpv32564”,
'videoPlayer' : “2038502520001”,
'width' : 636,
'height' : 358,
'linkBaseURL' : “http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/boxing/article-2248948/Amir-Khan-aims-world-title-beating-Carlos-Molina–Jeff-Powell.html”

});

The Midlander puts on his red suit and hands out Christmas presents to clubs

All I want for Christmas is… The Midlander goes down the chimneys of eight clubs to spread some Christmas cheer

|

UPDATED:

21:32 GMT, 13 December 2012

Just because it's the time of year and – quite frankly because I also really enjoy writing this type of piece – I'm handing out a few Christmas presents to our Midlands' teams.

It's meant to be light-hearted. It maybe a bit pointed, but if any offence is caused, I'm going to take the mickey out of myself too somewhere along the line….so what would we give to….

Paul Lambert

Paul Lambert

Gifts: Neil Moxley does his best Father Christmas impression and hands Villa manager Paul Lambert (left) a new creative midfielder and West Brom's Steve Clarke a dose of reality after a great start has become a blip

Carson Yeung (Birmingham City owner) I'm sure what Mr Yeung would value most this Yuletide is his liberty. Difficult to put a price on that, isn't it

What Birmingham City's supporters would value is clarity. It appears that the great sell-off continues to gather pace.

No-one is any the wiser as to how, why and when it will come to an end.

Until that situation is resolved, then Lee Clark is going to continue to have to make-do in the transfer market, I'm afraid, and frustrations will inevitably grow.

Funds: Nigel Clough (pictured) will be hoping that young starlet Will Hughes, who has attracted interest from Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, brings much-needed funds

Funds: Nigel Clough (pictured) will be hoping that young starlet Will Hughes, who has attracted interest from Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, brings much-needed funds

Nigel Clough (Derby County manager) After spending four seasons in charge of the Rams, the current manager's late father was mounting a First Division title tilt.

But then, Clough Snr operated in different times. I remain a fan of Clough Jnr – I think his squad is evolving – and the players he has signed have a desire to be successful.

It is a pity that won't be cut too much slack in the New Year. The word is that some funds will need to be generated.

I've not seen him yet – except on television – but if the rumours are right Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are tracking Will Hughes, then he must be half-decent.

Therefore, I wish for Mr Clough a clean and healthy balance sheet that gives him an evens-chance of pushing Derby upwards.

Paul Lambert (Aston Villa manager) Having witnessed a car-crash of a performance in the first home fixture against Everton, I feared for Villa.

I fear no longer but I'd be happier still if they had a playmaker who could really make a difference in the final third of the field.

The Scot deserves credit for his policy. A few players have certainly done themselves no harm. I've always liked Ciaran Clark. Chris Herd is a battler and should have been given a chance to establish himself as a right-back under Alex McLeish.

More from Neil Moxley…

The Midlander: Darren's situation has Villa Bent out of shape
07/12/12

The Midlander: Cunning Clarke has West Brom punching above their weight
22/11/12

The Midlander: Football is a results business… but it's never that clear cut for Clark and Clough
15/11/12

The Midlander: Was O'Neill a good Villa boss Let's end this debate once and for all…
08/11/12

The Midlander: Coventry can begin to paint rosy future with morale-boosting Wembley run
19/10/12

The Midlander: Pearson deserves so much more as Leicester target the Premier League
12/10/12

The Midlander: Bent mystery at Villa making life under Lambert very interesting
04/10/12

The Midlander: Baggies crashed out, but at least they took the Capital One Cup seriously
27/09/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

But the former Blues boss went out and bought Alan Hutton instead. Expensive mistake, that. Nathan Baker has been a revelation and, obviously, Christian Benteke has caught the eye.

I have to say I'm a huge Matthew Lowton fan. This boy goes about his business in a quiet, effective and understated fashion. Where Lambert is lacking is someone with a bit of guile to take games such as the one against Stoke City at the weekend and open up defences or fire one in from the edge of the box.

So, it's a number ten for Paul Lambert. And a Wembley appearance Another League Cup triumph Fingers crossed.

Nigel Pearson (Leicester City boss) The easiest present of the lot to source. No boardroom interference…please.

Leicester's boss can be a crotchety so-and-so on occasion but if the Foxes' hierarchy can leave him alone, I have a feeling he will end up delivering this season.

From what I've seen, Danny Drinkwater has come on leaps and bounds and by securing a defender of Wes Morgan's quality, Pearson was always going to reap rewards in the medium-term.

I've a sneaky feeling the Foxes will be adding – hurray – to our Midlands' contingent in the top-flight next season.

Steve Clarke (West Brom head coach) I'd just like a dash of reality to be sprinkled all over Clarke's Christmas pud.

While everyone outside of the club appears to be getting carried away by a storming start to the season, it was always likely that the Baggies would suffer a slight blip somewhere along the way.

It seems that blip is now. The overall quality of Clarke's squad will see them finish well clear of trouble, but all this nonsense about Europe needs to be nipped in the bud early on.

The time to talk about that is April. The only other point is that Youssouf Mulumbu's form so far this season has been sensational. I do hope his presence is not missed during the African Cup of Nations.

Clarke won't get carried away, he's too experienced for that. But it will be interesting to see how he handles this, given that he's now number one in his own right.

Dispute: Coventry City need an end to the dispute over their stadium, the Ricoh Arena

Dispute: Coventry City need an end to the dispute over their stadium, the Ricoh Arena

Coventry City – the whole club – the board of directors, manager Mark Robins and his players and the long-suffering support – need an end to the situation with the stadium which, quite frankly, must be resolved to the benefit of the club.

I understand why the holding company was formed and the reasons for it. But it is a nonsense that the decision-makers at the Sky Blues do not have access to matchday revenues.

I have no axe to grind with ACL whatsoever. But I fear that before the end of the year this could all end horribly. I don't think ACL will offer the kind of rent reduction the club is seeking.

I'm not sure they can. They have a mortgage to pay themselves. So, it could get worse before it gets better. It's just such a sad situation.

But it's one the football club has to address, or else it will continue to chase its' tail, I'm afraid.

I just wish the fans some good cheer on the pitch. I have a feeling Mark Robins is going to get the Sky Blues going again.

Wolverhampton Wanderers – I could be glib, here. I could say, a tin of paint-remover for boss Stale Solbakken following that incident with his beamer the other week.

But I'm not going to. I wish him all the best as, from my admittedly limited dealings with him, he has been absolutely honest and truthful when fronting up Wolves' recent failings.

I loved his comment about fearing the sack. ('I was dead, why should that bother me') I also believe owner Steve Morgan is one of the game's good guys.

Despite the flak he continues to receive chief executive Jez Moxey most certainly is one of the good guys. Under his stewardship Wolves have always tried to act in a proper manner.

They may come up short on occasion – as they did with Mick McCarthy's sacking. But there were phone calls made to the press afterwards to dissect why the club had such a hard time of it.

They wanted to learn from their mistakes. Believe me, if only a few more were like that. I wish top six for Solbakken – and Morgan and Moxey too for that matter.

A signing or two in the New Year to add fresh impetus would be nice, too.

Fresh faces: Wolves manager Stale Solbakken (pictured) could do with some new signings to help their bid for an instant return to the Premier League

Fresh faces: Wolves manager Stale Solbakken (pictured) could do with some new signings to help their bid for an instant return to the Premier League

Nottingham Forest – see Leicester City. Leave Sean O'Driscoll alone. Let him manage the club. It will come right.

The financial bonanza that accompanies promotion to the Premier League distorts the thinking at some clubs.

And the word is that the Kuwaitis are getting frustrated – as the Thai owners at Leicester did last season.

Forest have improved markedly from last season when I thought they were going down.

But O'Driscoll – and Steve Cotterill – moved them away to safety. Let's just see where we are in February and if the manager wants to strengthen then, it might be an idea to let him.

As for yours truly, I need three things.

The first is a treadmill. After asking Mr Solbakken whether he was fit to do the job at Molineux following his heart scare, (and with the hindsight of what happened to Gerard Houllier, I thought it was a relevant topic) he challenged me to a race around the Molineux pitch. Ten times. Clearly I need to get fit.

Secondly, I'd like a pair of sunglasses. That way I could have hidden when, during an exchange involving Steve Clarke and a colleague who asked what Roy Hodgson had said after the Scot confirmed that the England coach had been in touch, I dropped myself in it.

I piped up: 'He just asked how his team was getting on.' I got a few laughs from the floor and none from Mr Clarke. I apologised and he was gracious. But that stare…

Lastly, I need a good book. My Albion-loving pal Chris Lepkowski has chartered West Brom's rise during the past decade in his tome: 'In pastures green.'

No-one has been closer to the events at the Hawthorns during the past ten years than Chris. And he's a good writer. So I'll settle for an afternoon reading that.

Until next week…

Nottingham Forest manager Sean O'Driscoll looks on

 Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson

Interference: Both Nottingham Forest manager Sean O'Driscoll (left) and Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson would benefit from a lack of interference by members of their respective boards

Ben Youngs said England victory over New Zealand is benchmark for Six Nations

Youngs hopes England take their Six Nations lead from All Blacks bashing

|

UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 2 December 2012

Ben Youngs claimed after England’s record win over New Zealand the display had set a benchmark for the Six Nations Championship next February.

But the Leicester scrum-half said the England team were disappointed at the narrow defeats by Australia and South Africa in an autumn series which also brought a win over Fiji.

'It was a great result and a great way to finish the series, but we are still disappointed because we could have been four from four.

Benchmark: Ben Youngs thinks the win should show England the way for the Six Nations

Benchmark: Ben Youngs thinks the win should show England the way for the Six Nations

'We got in a huddle after the game and said “enjoy the night”, but also we must remember it’s a benchmark for when we meet up in the Six Nations.

'We have to hit the ground running. But it’s tough. We will play Scotland at Twickenham (on February 2) in the first game and it is difficult to explode in the first game.

The win gave Youngs and his brother, Tom, their first win over New Zealand thus matching the deed of father Nick who played in the England team who beat the All Blacks in November 1983.

'I’m really happy, because I can finally shut my dad up because he beat them and now we are one up as well.'

Youngs claimed England were not worried by the draw for 2015 Rugby World Cup which takes place in London on Monday afternoon.

No fear: Youngs said England are not worried about the Six Nations draw

No fear: Youngs said England are not worried about the Six Nations draw

Despite England’s win over the world champions, they remain in the second group of teams and could be drawn against the All Blacks in the pool stages of the tournament.

'I don’t think the draw is a huge thing for us at the moment. We are a young side and are developing.

'You have to remember that in the last two finals the two teams have come out of the same pool. We will notice who we are against, but we won’t worry about rankings.'

Youngs hopes by 2015 England will be a 'team to beat' and one of the favourites. 'The World Cup is quite a way to go yet and the whole idea of Stuart’s plan is that we will be a vastly more experienced team.'

Ben Youngs and Tom Youngs sign new contracts at Leicester

Youngs boost for Leicester as brothers extend stay at Welford Road

|

UPDATED:

10:08 GMT, 20 November 2012

Leicester have announced new long-term contracts for England internationals Ben and Tom Youngs.

The brothers are currently part of
head coach Stuart Lancaster's England set-up, and both were involved in
last Saturday's 20-14 home defeat against Australia.

Family affair: Tom Youngs (right) and brother Ben (left) with father Nick

Family affair: Tom Youngs (right) and brother Ben (left) with father Nick

Scrum-half Ben has won 26 caps and recently clocked up a century of appearances for the Tigers. He made his Leicester debut five years ago and has played in four Premiership finals.

Hooker Tom, meanwhile, made his Test debut against Fiji earlier this month, having first featured for Leicester as a centre in 2006 before being converted into a front-row forward.

Both players are Leicester academy products.

Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill said: 'It is excellent news that both Tom and Ben have agreed new deals with us. They are both very important to the club.

Youngs at heart: Ben and Tom played against Australia at the weekend

Youngs at heart: Ben and Tom played against Australia at the weekend

'They have grown up in a Leicester Tigers family. Their dad Nick played for the club, they know the history of this place and they have come all the way through the academy system here before establishing themselves as key first-team players.

'Ben and Tom both have an excellent attitude to their work.

'They are the kind of players we want to build the club around for the future, and we look forward to their continued development in the Tigers squad over the years to come.'

Justin Tipuric and Dan Biggar step up for Wales on fright night

Tipuric and Biggar step up for Wales on fright night

|

UPDATED:

22:02 GMT, 15 November 2012

If Wales had put the world’s top 10
teams into a hat and picked out their next opponents, they could hardly
have selected a more dangerous fixture than Samoa on a Friday.

In many ways, it is a nightmare
scenario. Any team desperate for a win — a position in which Wales
surprisingly find themselves after four consecutive defeats — would do
anything to avoid a side they are expected to thump, yet a side so
capable of producing an upset.

Ryan's mighty: Jones will be captain

Ryan's mighty: Jones will be captain

Wales have history with Samoa. The ferocious Pacific Islanders have beaten them twice in World Cups, and even gave them a fright at last year’s tournament in New Zealand, before the side pulled together at half-time and set themselves on that glorious path to the semi-final.

And they have history with Friday nights, too. Their two most recent weeknight adventures at the Millennium Stadium have brought a forgettable draw with Fiji and a fierce defeat by England. Head coach Rob Howley has made five changes to the team who started the loss to Argentina with Scott Williams, Rhys Priestland, Tavis Knoyle, Gethin Jenkins and captain Sam Warburton on the bench.

Howley insists this is squad rotation, but dropping your captain when you are looking for your first win in six games — excluding a Barbarians exhibition — is not a traditional coaching policy.

Standing in for Warburton is over-qualified deputy Ryan Jones. He will captain Wales for a 29th time, breaking the record he held jointly with Ieuan Evans. If he enjoys a 16th victory as skipper, he will leap ahead of Howley with the most wins as a Wales captain.

On that decision Howley said: ‘Sam Warburton is a special player. He is still captain. Ryan has been an integral member of the squad. He is like the father figure of the whole squad and his form for the Ospreys and Wales over the last 18 months has been exceptional.

Big call: Wales coach Rob Howley

Big call: Wales coach Rob Howley

‘One thing we probably lacked against
Argentina, having Alun Wyn Jones and Jamie Roberts injured, was
leadership, and that is about the number of leaders you have in a team.
Wales is not about the one captain, it’s about more leaders, whether
it’s the back three, second row or props. It is important you create
leadership within a group.’

The two players in the spotlight are flanker Justin Tipuric and
fly-half Dan Biggar. This is a first start for Biggar since 2010 but the
coaches feel ready to trust him in the playmaker slot. It is a big
chance to shine, with Rhys Priestland wavering and Dan Carter coming to
Cardiff in a week.

Tipuric has been pushing for the No 7 shirt for a year now, modestly
waiting in Warburton’s shadow.

He is a machine in training, scarcely
breaking breath, and has arguably been the outstanding openside in the
RaboDirect Pro 12 this season. He is a natural scavenger and his bright
blue scrum hat is a blur when he hits breakdown after breakdown.

Samoa have been quietly acclimatising in North Wales, beating Canada a
week ago in a double- header at Colwyn Bay. Their line-up includes
familiar faces, led by Worcester wing David Lemi, who will have a
fascinating and full-on battle with rivals George North and Alex
Cuthbert. Scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i will run out against some of his
Ospreys team-mates, with Northampton centre George Pisi taking on Jamie
Roberts.

Samoa assistant coach Darryl Suasua is realistic. ‘Argentina playing so well did not do us any favours,’ he said.

‘Wales will be smarting over that and making sure they get things right.
They made a heck of a lot of errors but we don’t believe they will play
like that again.’

Last year’s World Cup match against Samoa was a turning point for Wales. It needs to be the turning point again.

Steven Gerrard to give dad 100th England shirt for Christmas

Gerrard is Father Christmas! Skipper's dad to get shirt from 100th game as present

|

UPDATED:

10:57 GMT, 15 November 2012

Steven Gerrard will give the England shirt he wore when winning his 100th cap as a Christmas present to his father Paul.

Three Lions captain Gerrard achieved the milestone during 4-2 defeat against Sweden in the Friends Arena.

He became only the sixth England player to reach a century of appearances.

Centurion: Steven Gerrard won his 100th England cap in the friendly defeat against Sweden

Centurion: Steven Gerrard won his 100th England cap in the friendly defeat against Sweden

Gerrard said: 'To get there was a very proud moment for me. I have been really touched by all the support and all the good wishes I have had – from family, friends and everyone in the game.

'The shirt I wore during the game, I will give it to my dad. It will be a nice Christmas present for him.

'He has been with me since day one, shown me fantastic support. My dad has watched me kick a ball since I was seven.

'He always gave me the advice “you get out of your career what you put into it” and I've always taken that on board.

Leader: Gerrard (right) and his England team-mates take to the pitch at the Friends Arena

Leader: Gerrard (right) and his England team-mates take to the pitch at the Friends Arena

'All the way through, I've made sacrifices and tried to work hard and, every time I go onto the pitch, I give it everything I've got.'

Gerrard insists he still has plenty more to offer his country at the age of 32 – 12 years after making his debut.

He said: 'Are there more caps to go Yes, I feel good, I feel fit, I'm happy with my form in an England shirt so on I go and I'm looking forward to the next game.'

Gerrard believes England can take plenty of positives from their performance in a game where six players were handed their debut.

England led 2-1 before Zlatan Ibrahimovic took centre stage with three late goals to take his tally in the match to four.

Middle man: Gerrard put in a fine shift before coming off with quarter of an hour left

Middle man: Gerrard put in a fine shift before coming off with quarter of an hour left

Gerrard said: 'I thought we were terrific for large chunks of the game. There were a lot of positives.

'We did well for three quarters of the match and then we collapsed and fell away towards the end.

'I'm sure the manager will be happy with the character and the belief we showed even when we went behind. “We kept fighting and got ourselves in front against a tough team who were well organised in front of their crowd. “For three quarters of the game we were in control.

'The substitutes disrupted us but that happens in friendlies. I think overall it was a positive outcome. “There is more reason to be optimistic with some of the individual performances of the night.'

Cheers boss: Gerrard is congratulated by England manager Roy Hodgson after coming off

Cheers boss: Gerrard is congratulated by England manager Roy Hodgson after coming off

Gerrard admitted the newly-laid surface in the Friends Arena was far from perfect.

He said: 'I think we had trouble all night with our footing and controlling the ball, waiting for the ball to settle before you could pass it.

'But I think they are having teething problems with the surface like we had at Wembley to start with.

'I'm sure they will get it right but it is the same for both teams. We can't look at the surface as an excuse.

Fan-tastic: Gerrard signed a few autographs for supporters at England's friendly clash in Sweden

Fan-tastic: Gerrard signed a few autographs for supporters at England's friendly clash in Sweden

'We've got to hold our hands up and say an individual performance from Ibrahimovic won them the game but there is no reason to be down.'

Gerrard looked at home in the holding role as England hit back to lead 2-1 through goals from Danny Welbeck and Steven Caulker before Ibrahimovic's superb contribution.

He said: 'I was really happy with how it went for me personally. I thought I did well. “I was asked to play the holding role and felt comfortable.'

Mako Vunipola – the making of England"s prop (via Tonga)

EXCLUSIVE: After Mako Vunipola's England debut inspires a Pacific nation, will the Red Rose now reap… a Tongan harvest

|

UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 12 November 2012

When Mako Vunipola ran on to the pitch at Twickenham for his England debut on Saturday, it was around 4.45 in the morning in Nuku'alofa, but his proud father and hordes of relatives in Tonga's capital were wide awake, savouring the occasion.

The sight of one of their own playing in the Red Rose shirt was a big deal in the Pacific-island nation. Several rugby clubs were open in the early hours of Sunday morning to show the Italy v Tonga game followed by events from London, which suddenly took on added significance for those conquering tiredness to follow the footage on TV.

Having come on as a replacement in the 46th minute against Fiji, Vunipola jnr acquitted himself well – helping England maintain their scrum dominance while also showcasing his ball-carrying clout. Thousands of miles away, Fe’ao observed his son’s efforts with great satisfaction.

Hard yards: Mako Vunipola in training with the England squad at Pennyhill Park on Monday

Hard yards: Mako Vunipola in training with the England squad at Pennyhill Park on Monday

Hard yards: Mako Vunipola in training with the England squad at Pennyhill Park on Monday

Speaking to Sportsmail, the former captain of Tonga, who now coaches the national Under 20 team, said: ‘When I spoke to my wife, Iesinga, after the game, she said Mako wanted to know what I thought of how he played. I was very happy with his performance. In the past, his weakness was that his priorities were wrong – he preferred to carry the ball rather than do the hard yards in the scrum and lineout. I told him, “If you can’t sort out your set piece then forget about England”. Mako knew he had to improve his scrummaging and he scrummaged well on Saturday.’

The 21-year-old Saracens prop and his younger brother, Billy – who is emerging as an outstanding No 8 prospect at Wasps – were both huge Polynesian children who were brought up here, first in Wales while their father played for Pontypool, then in England. Fe’ao’s exploits meant they were destined to be rugby players, but he didn’t always push them in that direction. ‘They were big and strong from when they were young kids,’ he said. ‘They stood out because of their size and the lighter boys would always try to run around them.

‘They always wanted to play rugby – it is in our family, but I tried to discourage them. I wanted them to study hard and try to become lawyers or doctors or teachers. I told them that if they played rugby, as well as all the hard physical work they would have to accept being dropped without any reason. But they were determined to be rugby players.’

England debut: Vunipola made his international bow against Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday

England debut: Vunipola made his international bow against Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday

England debut: Vunipola made his international bow against Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday

He credits his wife with doing so
much to help her sons fulfil their potential, adding: ‘Their mum is a
Methodist minister and her faith has helped the boys a lot. She did
incredible work raising them. Sometimes, being in England, they can
become a bit arrogant and we have to tell them off and keep them humble.
They are more English than Tongan, so they only go to church because we
tell them off if they don’t!’

The Vunipola brothers began playing in Wales and Mako’s first club was New Panteg, where he appeared alongside another rising star of Tongan descent, Toby Faletau – now the Wales No 8. Recalling where it all began, Billy said: My first memory was playing touch rugby, standing in the middle of the pitch and not knowing what I was doing, at Newport High School. My dad got us into rugby and trained us up. I remember training with Toby down in Wales which was pretty cool.’

Eventually, the family moved on to
Bristol and then High Wycombe, with Mako going on to attend Millfield
School – a few years after England captain Chris Robshaw – while Billy
wound up at Harrow. Fe’ao had strong views on the thorny issue of
national allegiance, given the Tongan background, Mako being born in New
Zealand, Billy in Australia, and the pair growing up first in Wales
then on the other side of the Severn Bridge. But the boys had their own
ideas.

Little cherub: An 11-month-old Mako

Little cherub: An 11-month-old Mako

Holiodays: Mako (right) and Billy in the USA

Holiodays: Mako (right) and Billy in the USA

‘I tried to convince
them that they should play for Wales, out of loyalty,’ said Vunipola
snr. ‘As a family, we ended up in the UK because of Wales, because of my
contract at Pontypool. We lived there before moving to England so I
wanted them to play for Wales, but they said they wanted to play for
England. I couldn’t change their minds.’

Explaining that decision, Mako said: ‘I wanted to play for the country I was growing up in. My father wanted us to strive for the best and that’s why we went for England. When we moved over we concentrated on getting into the England set-up.’

While the Tongan background is a firm part of their identity, there has been no doubt about the siblings’ ultimate target, with Billy adding: ‘We know where we are from so it’s just about whether people in England will like us playing for England. Everything has been pretty positive. We know where we come from but it has been a dream to play for England.’

Perhaps the biggest challenge along the way has been the need to work hard to hone their giant physiques. Much has been made about the big strides made by Mako when he spent last summer back in Tonga and Fe’ao suggested that all the graft has been the key to his older son’s sudden rise to Test status. That and his set-piece work.

Big catch: A Wallabies jersey-wearing Vunipola

Happy family: Vunipola's mother Singa with sisters Tiffany (left) and Anna (right)

Happy family: A Wallabies jersey-wearing Vunipola (left) and mother Singa with sisters Tiffany and Anna (right)

‘He came over to Tonga with his own programme and put it to good use,’ he said. ‘Mako hates doing long-distance running but that is what they wanted him to do and he did it. He’s now down to around 120kg, but at one time he weighed 140kg. Him and Billy were both fat and were told to slim down. They had to start watching their diet. I thought Billy would be the first to make it into the England team, but Mako has proved me wrong by improving his scrummaging.’

While the work ethic has been enhanced over time, there was always abundant natural talent. John Mallett, now coaching at Millfield, remembers an audacious display of skill from Mako, unheard of in a prop. ‘I’m still laughing at the day he dropped a goal from the halfway line in training, with a coat over his head,’ said the ex-England prop. ‘He was always doing little stunts but that was exceptional.’

Saracens coach Alex Sanderson has seen Mako’s development at close quarters over several years and soon knew this was a rare talent, albeit one who ‘looked like he was 30 when he was still a schoolboy’. ‘I’ve always had an eye on him since I coached him in the England Under 18s,’ he said.
‘I’ve always known about his potential. In that team we had Mako at loosehead and Joe Marler on the tight. Mako has had to grow up in the last season because of the demands in the Premiership. He’s now a big man who can hold his own in the tight and do his stuff in the open play.’

The shirt fits: Mako aged 17 (left) with brother Billy aged 16 (right) in England Under 18 kit

The shirt fits: Mako aged 17 (left) with brother Billy aged 16 (right) in England Under 18 kit

On Thursday, Stuart Lancaster is due to name his England team to face Australia in the second QBE International. Despite the fact that the country’s premier loosehead prop, Alex Corbisiero, is now back from long-term injury, the head coach insisted that Mako is ‘definitely in the mix’ to retain his place in the match-day 23. If he does, there will be another sleepless night for many in Tonga. ‘It’s normal for Tongans to play for the All Blacks, but for a Tongan to move further away and play for England is new, so people here are really excited about it,’ said Fe’ao.

‘The Tongan people put England on a high pedestal in every aspect of life and rugby started in England, so for a Tongan boy to play for England is unbelievable. Now that the door is open I’m sure more Tongans will aim to follow in Mako’s footsteps. There are loads of young Manu Tuilagis and Mako Vunipolas in the islands, who will now aspire to play for England.’

For Test teams visiting Twickenham in the future, that is an alarming vision.

Mario Balotelli Time Magazine interview says racists will never change

Stupid racists will never change, says Balotelli in Time Magazine interview

|

UPDATED:

16:46 GMT, 2 November 2012

Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli believes that nothing can be done to change the ways of racist people because they are inherently stupid.

In an interview with America's iconic Time Magazine the Italian international born to Ghanaian parents spoke frankly about the racist abuse he has suffered during his football career.

The 22-year-old was on the receiving end of racist chants while playing for Inter Milan in Italy and he believes the problem is far worse in his homeland than in England.

Cover star: Balotelli spoke to Time Magazine about racism among other things

Cover star: Balotelli spoke to Time Magazine about racism among other things

'Racist people are few and you can do nothing against [to change] them,' said Balotelli.

'You can talk, you can do what you want, but you can't do anything because they are just stupid people.

'When I wasn't famous, I had a lot of friends, almost all of them Italian,' he says. 'The racism only started when I started to play football.

Training day: City face West Ham at Upton Park on Saturday evening

Training day: City face West Ham at Upton Park on Saturday evening

'But me, personally, I hope I can help Italy to be a modern country like England or America.'

Balotelli also discussed his admiration of US President Barack Obama, revealing: 'I was really happy to see a black man be the chief [commander-in-chief]. I would like to meet him.'

Fang-tastic: Balotelli with Man City captain Vincent Kompany on Friday

Fang-tastic: Balotelli with Man City captain Vincent Kompany on Friday

Balotelli has endured a rocky relationship with City manager Roberto Mancini at times, but he told Time that he sees his countryman as a father figure.

'My relationship with Mancini is really important,' added Balotelli. 'He's known me since I was young and he's like a father to me. 'I used to play with the young children at Inter Milan, so I know him very well and I can tell him anything.'