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Chris Foy: England have a great deal to learn after South Africa defeat

180 seconds of madness! But England have much more to put right than just scrambled thinking

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UPDATED:

01:16 GMT, 26 November 2012

Each week there is a different focus for the England inquest. This time, Stuart Lancaster was asked to identify the principal shortcoming in his side's game.

'Composure' was the response. The national coach is growing weary of the so-near-yet-so-far routine.

Another single-digit defeat against weakened southern-hemisphere opposition leaves England in grave danger of concluding this QBE International campaign with a dire return of one win and three defeats.

Madness: Captain Chris Robshaw made the wrong call in the latter stages of the game

Madness: Captain Chris Robshaw made the wrong call in the latter stages of the game

Crucial score: Willem Alberts goes over the line for the only try of the game despite the attentions of Joe Launchbury

Crucial score: Willem Alberts goes over the line for the only try of the game despite the attentions of Joe Launchbury

That supposes the host nation cannot possibly upset the world champions on Saturday.

On the basis of the latest evidence,
that is a fair assumption. The All Blacks swatted Wales aside while
England were picking through the rubble of this latest setback.

Put aside the debate about 'that'
penalty and Lancaster's observation about composure stands up to closer
scrutiny on various levels.

This result was not solely a
consequence of scrambled thinking in the dying seconds, it was founded
on a lack of composed execution too. While a piercing spotlight is
trained on captain Chris Robshaw's decision making, a telling example of
the fundamental shortcomings hindering England actually took place
seconds earlier.

With referee Nigel Owens playing
advantage, the home side worked an overlap on the right, Alex Goode
jinked forward but his pass was high and in front of Chris Ashton, who
fumbled.

Manu Tuilagi was lurking outside and
would have taken some stopping if released.

When the pressure was
stifling, the composure to execute accurately was lacking.

Earlier, in the 53rd minute, came an
even more glaring example. Tuilagi seized an interception and burst out
of defence before calmly waiting for support and releasing Ashton.

Family affair: Tom Youngs (left) attempts to intervene as Eben Etzebeth grapples with brother Ben

Family affair: Tom Youngs (left) attempts to intervene as Eben Etzebeth grapples with brother Ben

The Saracen appeared ready to reprise
his wonder try against Australia two years ago with an arcing run clear
of the covering defence, but instead he tried to release Mike Brown and
the pass was woefully inadequate.

A rare scoring chance was wasted. In a
day of debate about decision making Ashton admitted he may have taken
the wrong option, saying: 'Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I thought he
was a lot closer.

'I'm thinking now I probably should have had a go.'

While the wet conditions did nothing
to aid handling precision, England also lost lineout composure, with the
towering Eben Etzebeth managing to poach several home throws.

England had plenty of possession, but
it was squandered with aimless kicks – too deep and without the back-up
of an effective chase.

Toby Flood missed two shots at goal before he was replaced by Owen Farrell.

Hands up: Chris Robshaw is closed down by Adriaan Strauss (left) and Francois Louw

Hands up: Chris Robshaw is closed down by Adriaan Strauss (left) and Francois Louw

The first-choice No 10 left
Twickenham in a protective boot after suffering a toe injury and,
although a scan revealed no broken bones, he is seemingly destined to
miss the clash with New Zealand.

In that event Farrell is the man
most likely to take over at fly-half, but he could not conjure an
opening as England's replacement playmaker during a second half when
Lancaster's men swarmed forward but didn't appear capable of unlocking a
robust Springbok defence.

Gloucester's Freddie Burns re-joined the squad last night as the form stand-off in the country and he will be considered.

Bath wing Tom Biggs and, with Alex
Corbisiero struggling because of a knee injury, Gloucester prop Nick
Wood were also summoned.

It is fitting to note that the
attacking platform this week was made of sturdier stuff as the home pack
rose to the challenge posed by South Africa's imposing forwards.

After being out-muscled by Australia this was a stirring riposte.

Running free: Alex Goode breaks away from the clutches of Jannie du Plessis

Running free: Alex Goode breaks away from the clutches of Jannie du Plessis

Lock Geoff Parling was magnificent,
Joe Launchbury showed power and aggression on his full debut, Tom Wood
galvanised the improved breakdown operation and Alex Corbisiero led a
dominant scrum.

The visitors somehow led 9-6 at
half-time then took a firm grip on proceedings by snatching one of the
most fortuitous tries in memory.

Juandre Kruger fumbled near England's
line but, when Ben Youngs tried to kick the ball clear, it ricocheted
off JP Pietersen towards the line, Wood was unable to hold it and Willem
Alberts dropped on it.

Are you sure Owen Farrell remonstrates with Robshaw

Are you sure Owen Farrell remonstrates with Robshaw

Breaking away: Manu Tuilagi skips past Jean de Villiers

Breaking away: Manu Tuilagi skips past Jean de Villiers

Pat Lambie converted for 16-6. Three
penalties by Farrell took England to within a point but the last of
those provided the major talking point and left Robshaw defending himsel
f against accusations of losing composure.

Lancaster backed his captain, saying:
'International sport is tough for people if they make a mistake. You've
got to make sure people are supported.'

Players also spoke up for Robshaw but not even an adherence to the party line could disguise their frustration.

'Chris has the final decision but there are other guys on the field who should be assisting,' said prop Dan Cole.

'Sometimes the right decision is the
quick decision. We live and learn.' England will have to learn fast. In
five days' time they must try to smash the All Black juggernaut off
course.

If composure is lacking again,
Lancaster's side will be heavily beaten and this autumn campaign will be
damned as an abject failure.

Clearing his lines: Ben Youngs gets a kick away despite the attentions of Duane Vermeulen

Clearing his lines: Ben Youngs gets a kick away despite the attentions of Duane Vermeulen

Locked up: Joe Launchbury is tackled by Gurthro Steenkamp and Duane Vermeulen

Locked up: Joe Launchbury is tackled by Gurthro Steenkamp and Duane Vermeulen

HOW THE KEY FINAL MOMENTS UNFOLDED

Really Owen Farrell (left) argues Chris Robshaw's call

77min 14sec Referee Nigel Owens signals a penalty pending for England, just outside South Africa’s 22, slightly to the left of the posts, but allows the home team to play an advantage.

77.23 England ’s attack to the right breaks down when Chris Ashton is unable to hold on to Alex Goode’s pass, so Owens blows his whistle to award the penalty. Mike Brown and Danny Care can be seen urgently waving their arms for the ball to be passed rapidly back to the penalty mark.

77.34 Chris Robshaw initially points to the posts, but Owens is looking the other way. The England captain then asks Owens if the clock can be stopped, but the referee says ‘No, I can’t’.

77.43 Robshaw instructs Owen Farrell to kick for goal and the Saracens player indicates that he thinks England should kick to the corner. The skipper over-rules (right) him and orders him to go for the posts.

77.49 The discussion between captain and kicker continues for several more seconds, with Farrell turning round to offer a further observation before he begins to line up the penalty.

77.52 Farrell puts the ball on the turf next to Owens, then turns around once more and makes another comment while clearly shaking his head in frustration at the decision.

78.00 With Farrell still waiting for the kicking tee to be brought on and the crowd booing, an evidently concerned Robshaw approaches Owens again and asks ‘Can I change the call’ The referee says ‘No’ so Robshaw shouts to his kicker ‘Faz, quick! Quick!’.

78.30 Farrell quickly composes himself and finally the ball is struck, through the posts to bring England to within one point at 16-15 down.

79.00 South Africa ’s restart flies towards the touchline on England’s right flank, replacement lock Mouritz Botha attempts to catch the kick but spills the ball and it rolls into touch.

80.14 Having claimed the subsequent lineout and recycled the ball at a ruck, the Springboks drive again, Ruan Pienaar passes out to Francois Hougaard and he kicks the ball into touch to end the game.

Alan Shearer to Ipswich would be a big risk – John Edwards

Chasing Shearer a big risk by Ipswich's mystery man Evans

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UPDATED:

11:08 GMT, 26 October 2012

Whatever convinced Marcus Evans he should venture into football and buy control of his local club Ipswich Town, it was not publicity. In 2006, Money Week reported there were no publicly available photographs of him, and clicking on to the internet confirms as much.

Enter Evans’ name on search engine Google, and, bizarrely an image of FIFA president Sepp Blatter appears alongside his personal details. He is painfully shy of promoting himself, but promotion for his beloved Ipswich, in every sense of the word, is clearly a different matter.

When Paul Jewell paid the price for Ipswich occupying bottom place in the Championship earlier this week, the quest for a replacement threw up a list of predictable candidates and one that may have been less easy to forecast.

Gone: Jewell paid the price for Ipswich's slow start to the season

Gone: Jewell paid the price for Ipswich's slow start to the season

Alongside the likes of Mick McCarthy and Alan Curbishley, Alan Shearer found himself jostling for position at the club that launched his mentor Sir Bobby Robson towards worldwide managerial renown.

It is even being reported he has already been interviewed, in a development that is reflected in betting trends on who might succeed Jewell. The bookmakers are all over sport these days, laying odds on every eventuality, and football management is no exception.

To borrow a phrase from their original sporting pursuit, though, wouldn’t Evans be better embracing the horses for courses philosophy, rather than considering a punt on a big-name personality with precious little managerial experience

History suggests he might, and so does logic, a fundamental tool of the business world that is so rarely applied when high-flying entrepreneurs turn their attention to football.

There may be a superficial appeal to having one of the game’s greats at the helm, but prowess as a player is no guarantee of effectiveness as a manager. The past is littered with examples, from Graeme Souness and Terry Butcher, in their early days, to Chris Waddle and David Platt.

Rock bottom: Ipswich are propping up the Championship table

Rock bottom: Ipswich are propping up the Championship table

When Souness found the going hard, in his first English managerial post at Liverpool, the case for the defence was always based on the premise that he was a winner. As a player, perhaps. Undoubtedly, in fact, given his haul of winner’s medals and thoroughly-merited reputation as one of the game’s most fearsome midfield enforcers.

As Liverpool were finally forced to concede, though, after sacking him in January, 1994, following an ignominious FA Cup defeat by Bristol City, that has no bearing on whether the same applied as a manager.

Butcher was just as forceful a character and equally revered as a player, yet his first stint in management, at Coventry, lasted barely 14 months.

In the running: Shearer

In the running: Shearer

They may be in the doldrums now, but, when former England centre-half Butcher was appointed, Coventry had won the FA Cup three years earlier and finished seventh in the old First Division the previous season.

He was seen as the driving force to take them on to even greater heights, and he has subsequently earned plaudits in humbler surroundings in Scotland. His first managerial experience left its scars, however, and only reinforced the view that giants of the pitch do not always assume the same proportions in a dug-out.

Burnley were similarly seduced by
thoughts of Waddle’s genius with the ball at his feet and assumed he
could weave the same magic with a clipboard in his hand. It lasted one
season. Nottingham Forest were left with plummeting finances and
fortunes after allowing Platt to spend millions in an ill-fated two-year
reign at the City Ground.

Still clubs flirt with the idea of
A-list players moving seamlessly into management. Evans is following
just such a path now, it would seem, by toying with the idea of
appointing Shearer, even though it may fly in the face of reason, in
some quarters.

Playing legend though he was, his managerial CV contains just one entry, a brief spell at Newcastle, where he won just one game out of eight and failed to save them from relegation. Contrast that with McCarthy’s record of steering Sunderland and Wolves to promotion to the Barclays Premier League.

Dour, blunt-talking McCarthy is not big box office, though, and that may prove decisive in the final analysis. Evans evidently wants to raise the profile of his club, which is fine – and long as it doesn’t lower their League status in the process.

Wales boss Chris Coleman told to deliver points against Scotland and Croatia

Coleman told to deliver points against Scotland and Croatia as Wales boss searches for first win

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UPDATED:

20:47 GMT, 10 October 2012

Chris Coleman has received a bizarre vote of confidence from his bosses at the Football Association of Wales as he bids to avoid becoming the worst manager in the country’s history.

Jonathan Ford, the governing body’s chief executive, has assured the Red Dragons’ coach of his ‘100 per cent support’ while at the same time suggesting that securing points against Scotland and Croatia in the next week is ‘a must.’

Coleman has so far lost all four of his matches in charge – five if the game against Costa Rica in memory of Gary Speed is included – and Wales were on the end of a humiliating six-goal drubbing in Serbia last month.

Backing: Chris Coleman (second right)

Backing: Chris Coleman (second right)

Further reversals would almost
certainly bring his position into sharper focus. There is disquiet among
senior officials that the team has not progressed after taking strides
forward under Speed.

If Wales were to lose the up-coming
double-header, it would leave Coleman with the worst record since the
country’s first manager Walley Barnes who lost his opening four games in
1954. Prior to that, the team was selected by committee.

Ford said: 'We back Chris, 100 per
cent. We sat down with him after the shock in Serbia. No-one wanted to
come away from that match the way we did and Chris took some time to
reflect on what he saw and what he was trying to do with the legacy that
Gary had left us.

Thrashing: Gareth Bale looks furious as Serbia celebrate another goal

Thrashing: Gareth Bale looks furious as Serbia celebrate another goal

'Chris has made some fundamental
changes and we support him and wish our team all of the best success for
the two matches coming up.'

Coleman felt he had to act in the
wake of the disaster in Novi Sad, Wales third heaviest defeat since the
Second World War, axing Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey from his position as
skipper, replacing him with Swansea City stopper Ashley Williams.

However, Ford was then asked if Wales
needed an improved showing, and replied: 'Absolutely. Away to Croatia
will be a very difficult and challenging task. Putting some points on
the board is a must.'

David Beckham should be Britain"s captain at Olympics – Laura Williamson

Making Beckham Britain's captain would be a lightbulb moment for London Games

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UPDATED:

23:42 GMT, 20 May 2012

David Beckham must be the first player Stuart Pearce selects for Team GB’s football squad at the London 2012 Olympic Games. It is time to stop being snooty and finally embrace our transatlantic superstar: a serial winner who deserves to lead his country at an Olympic Games on home soil.

Let’s not pretend Great Britain’s participation in the Olympic football competition is anything other than a one-off opportunity to celebrate our national sport.

Forget this nonsense about giving Under 23 players tournament experience: this is going to be something unique. It’s a chance to bring the Games to all corners of the country and drum up some excitement away from the confines of the capital.

Superstar: David Beckham desperately wants to play at the Olympics

Superstar: David Beckham desperately wants to play at the Olympics

But at the moment we are in danger of throwing this all away. Pearce has hijacked his Team GB press conferences by talking about the England job. We have got lost in the inevitable squabbles with club managers and the understandable reservations of the Home Nations about seeing their players in red, white and blue.

FAVOURITE TWEET

Former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler (@Robbie9Fowler) reacts to Roy Hodgson’s England squad announcement for Euro 2012: 'Ah well… there’s always the Olympic squad, I’ll keep soldiering on… #3lionsonourshirt.'

We’ve forgotten the fundamental reason why we pushed so hard to enter a team in the first place.

Confirmation that Beckham will captain Team GB would change that. Beckham transcends all boundaries. Everyone has an opinion on him: men and women, gay or straight, whether they are interested in football or not. He hasn’t played for an English club for almost a decade, yet he still manages to define the Premier League era.

No other person — never mind athlete — on the planet could bring the same flashbulb moments to the one sport struggling to sell itself this summer. When Beckham met Barack Obama last week it was not the President of the United States who was the most famous face in the White House.

He's a popular lad: Beckham meets school children in Athens last week

He's a popular lad: Beckham meets school children in Athens last week

But Beckham is a credible candidate, too. He has lifted league trophies in three different countries. He retains the burning, driving desire to win that carried England against Greece at Old Trafford in 2001. It is typical of the man that he enjoyed his best campaign in Major League Soccer last season, with 15 assists as LA Galaxy won the MLS Cup.

This idea he is enjoying the easy life smacks of snobbery. I was there to see Beckham lift the MLS Cup last November and, while American soccer does not match the intensity of the Premier League, it is credible and fiercely competitive.

When Beckham moved to the USA, Sir Alex Ferguson told him his opponents would be ‘fit and physical’ and it’s true: you cannot survive on technical talent alone in the MLS.

Interested observer: Stuart Pearce watches Beckham in action for Los Angeles Galaxy against New York Red Bulls earlier this month

Interested observer: Stuart Pearce watches Beckham in action for Los Angeles Galaxy against New York Red Bulls earlier this month

The salary cap also means experienced, multimillionaire footballers play alongside youngsters still learning their trade. Doesn’t this sound like the perfect grounding for the Olympic competition

It would be far easier to just give up, but Beckham is still fit and talented enough to do his talking on the pitch. He enjoys proving people wrong and he will show the doubters, once again, that he is not a veteran picked purely on reputation if he dons that Team GB kit this summer. It would be madness not to select him.

Anyone feeling cheated at all

Mark Foster, the swimmer who carried the British flag at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, explains why the end of the British Olympic Association’s lifetime Games ban for drug cheats was an incredibly sad day for sport in this country.

Proud moment: Mark Foster carries the British flag at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games in 2008

Proud moment: Mark Foster carries the British flag at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games in 2008

‘My big thing is, if Dwain Chambers hadn’t been caught he would still be doing it,’ said Foster.

‘He wouldn’t have said, “I’ve won a couple, I’ll stop cheating”. He wouldn’t. He probably would have retired and nobody would have been any the wiser.’

Makes you wonder if there is any point in catching cheats, doesn’t it

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

Chatting about play-offs, pressure and loving The Lion King with West Ham’s Ricardo Vaz Te… eating too much apple strudel after a behind-the-scenes trip to the Allianz Arena in Munich ahead of the Champions LeagueFinal… bumping into Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Brad Friedel in a lift.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK

Judoka Gemma Howell, one of Sportsmail’s Magnificent Seven, followed a bronze in the under 63kg category in the Baku Grand Prix with gold in the British Open European Cup in Crawley. Howell, 21, achieved success in her first two competitions after nine months out with a knee injury. Her London 2012 dream is alive again.

Rangers in crisis: Paul Murray planning last-gasp bid

Blue Monday! 'Day of destiny' in the battle to save crisis club Rangers

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 22 April 2012

Paul Murray is battling to put together an eleventh-hour deal to save Rangers — after serious doubts emerged over the viability of the only concrete bid on the table.

The leader of the Blue Knights consortium has spent the past three days talking to Sale Sharks owner Brian Kennedy and finance firm Ticketus in an attempt to thrash out an offer to rival that of American Bill Miller.

Sources close to the deal said they were ‘cautiously optimistic’ that the ‘finer details’ could be thrashed out in order to lodge a concrete bid with administrators Duff & Phelps by the close of play on Monday.

Hope: Paul Murray is working to re-enter the bidding race for Rangers

Hope: Paul Murray is working to re-enter the bidding race for Rangers

It’s understood there is broad agreement over the main strands of the proposal and that a mechanism is now in place to pay the 500,000 deposit required to obtain preferred-bidder status.

Tennessee tow-truck tycoon Miller tabled a conditional 11.2million bid on Friday containing the proviso that he would get ’written guarantees’ from the game’s authorities that a newco version of the stricken club would ‘play in the SPL in season 2012-13 without any loss of points and with all historic titles intact’.

Miller claimed that he had been involved in ‘dialogue’ with both the SFA and the SPL — a statement later contradicted by sources at Hampden.

Reports over the weekend claimed that Miller had ‘cut a deal’ with the SPL to take a new version of the club back in to the top flight with ‘limited football sanctions’.

However, although SPL sources confirmed that they had spoken to ‘a number of parties’, they flatly denied any such agreement had been reached.

That, therefore, raises fundamental questions over the likelihood of Miller remaining at the table, although it is anticipated he will be givem preferred-creditor status if the Blue Knights don’t come forward by virtue of being the last man standing.

Question marks: Bill Miller

Question marks: Bill Miller

Miller’s plans raised eyebrows given that, next Monday, the 12 SPL clubs will vote on suggested new sanctions for newco clubs who wish to keep their place in the top flight in a different guise.

Penalties of 10 points for two seasons and a loss in commercial revenue of 75 per cent for three years are on the agenda.

Eight and 11 votes are required to carry the motions respectively.
The SPL have also yet to finalise their investigation into the alleged ‘double-contract’ saga surrounding the stricken Ibrox club, making any pre-emptive ‘deal’ with any prospective owner impossible.

It has been suggested that a number of players were partly paid through Employee Benefit Trusts starting as early as the mid-1990s.

If it is proven that these were excluded from players’ contracts lodged with the SPL and the SFA, the Ibrox club could face a range of sporting sanctions.

The SFA’s investigation is currently on hold as they would be the appeal body to whom Rangers would dispute any decision by the SPL.

Until the outcome of the SPL investigation is known and, if appropriate, any sanction is imposed, potential new owners like Miller cannot be given any guarantee as to what, if any, penalties they could inherit.

Miller’s proposal, which was revealed last Friday, would see Rangers effectively split into two companies for an indeterminate period of time.
He would attempt to move the assets like the players and stadium from the old company to the new one — while simultaneously working towards agreeing a Company Voluntary Arrangement.

Once a CVA had been agreed, his intention would be to ‘marry’ the two companies once again.

Paul Murray’s plan has always been to
try to exit administration via a CVA. He was on the brink of being
awarded preferred-creditor status last week until it emerged that
Ticketus would not come up with the 500,000 non-refundable deposit
administrators Duff & Phelps were demanding.

It
then emerged that Ticketus had been holding talks with the Singaporean
consortium led by Bill Ng — a development that saw the Blue Knights
temporarily step back from the negotiating table.

Out of the running: Bill Ng withdrew his offer for Rangers last week

Out of the running: Bill Ng withdrew his offer for Rangers last week

Ng then withdrew, however, forcing Ticketus — who paid disgraced Rangers owner Craig Whyte 24.4m for tranches of future season tickets — to re-open negotiations with the Murray consortium.

Murray believes that having Ticketus as part of the consortium helps the Blue Knights’ chances of a CVA being agreed as it takes Ticketus out of the creditors’ pot.

In order for a CVA to be agreed, 75 per cent of creditors, voting on a pound-per-vote basis, must approve it.

However, if the so-called ‘big tax case’ finds against Rangers before any creditors’ vote is taken, HMRC would hold the veto over any CVA agreement.

The Blue Knights believe that having Ticketus on board will also bolster their chances of securing Whyte’s 85-per-cent shareholding that he acquired from Sir David Murray a year ago.

Whyte has previously claimed that he is ‘personally on the line for 27.5m’ as a result of the Ticketus deal.

However, he could satisfy the London-based finance company’s demands without the need for a messy and prolonged court action if he was to offer his shareholding as part of a settlement.

Mark Hughes: Keeping QPR in Premier League will be highlight of my career

Forget league titles and European glory, keeping QPR up will top the lot, says Hughes

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UPDATED:

21:45 GMT, 13 April 2012

Mark Hughes has won Premier League titles, FA and League Cups and European honours.

But according to the QPR manager keeping his team in the Premier League will top all of those achievements.

The club dropped into the relegation places under the Welshman but it is now in their own hands to stay up.

Mark my words: Hughes understands the size of the task in hand

Mark my words: Hughes understands the size of the task in hand

They have five games – starting away to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday – to secure top-flight football next year.

At Manchester United Hughes won two league titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup, one Cup Winners' Cup and three Charity Shields.

He won a League Cup at Blackburn and with Chelsea he added another FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup.

But when asked where keeping QPR up would rank he replied: 'Right at the top. It is difficult I haven't done it before coming in halfway through the season.

'There were fundamental problems that we had to address and it takes time.

'Now everybody has a real sense of belonging and a sense things are going to happen positively.'

The 48-year-old said he has hugely changed the club since he joined on January 10 to create that positivity.

Home front: QPR's form at Loftus Road could save their Premier League lives

Home front: QPR's form at Loftus Road could save their Premier League lives

Home front: QPR's form at Loftus Road could save their Premier League lives

He is working on overhauling the training ground and gym to make it a better environment for the players.

He added: 'The gym is a prime example. When we walked into the gym it wasn't fit for purpose. It wasn't a working gym for a professional football club.

'All that's had to change we've ripped things out and changed the whole situation there.

'When the guys come back in the summer they'll see this place different again.

'I don't think there's a great deal of love for [the training ground] and you can understand why. You need to change that and people need to understand this is our place of work and it's got to be a nice environment.

'I've been through this before at Man City when I walked through the door then. It was a club that needed shaping in the right direction. That's what's needed here.'

Bad boy: Barton's off Twitter and in the goals

Bad boy: Barton's off Twitter and in the goals

LONDON 2012 OLYMPICS: IOC face calls to ban Saudi Arabia from Games

IOC face calls to ban Saudi Arabia from Olympics after they ruled out sending women to London

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UPDATED:

17:46 GMT, 5 April 2012

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) faced calls on Thursday to ban Saudi Arabia from London 2012 after the country's Olympic chief ruled out sending women athletes to the Games.

Saudi Olympic Committee president Prince Nawaf bin Faisal said he was 'not endorsing' female participation in London as part of the official delegation.

Sue Tibballs, chief executive of the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF), said that was unacceptable.

Tried and failed: IOC President Jacques Rogge seems to have failed to convince Saudi Arabia to lift their ban on women

Tried and failed: IOC President Jacques Rogge seems to have failed to convince Saudi Arabia to lift their ban on women

Tibballs said: 'Saudi Arabia's current refusal to send sportswomen to the Olympics puts them directly at odds with one of the IOC's fundamental principles as laid out within the Olympic Charter.

'It reads that 'any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement'.

'If today's reports are to be believed, we would expect the IOC to defend the Olympic Charter and exclude Saudi Arabia from IOC membership and the London 2012 Olympic Games.'

The IOC excluded Afghanistan from the Sydney 2000 Olympics due to its discrimination of women under the Taliban regime.

'The IOC needs to send a clear message to Saudi Arabia that they will not tolerate continued gender discrimination,' Tibballs added.

IOC president Jacques Rogge has been working hard to persuade Saudi Arabia to lift their ban on women athletes for London, but appears to have failed.

Nawaf, who is a member of the IOC, told a news conference in Jeddah: 'We are not endorsing any Saudi female participation at the moment in the Olympics or other international championships.

No show: As it stands no Saudi Arabian women will be able to compete at the London Games

No show: As it stands no Saudi Arabian women will be able to compete at the London Games

'There are hundreds, if not thousands, of [Saudi] women who practice sports, but in private.'

Nawaf left it open for Saudi women to possibly compete on their own outside the official delegation, as happened at the Youth Olympics in 2010.

Saudi equestrian competitor Dalma Rushdi Malhas, the only likely possible qualifier for London, won a bronze medal in show jumping at the youth event.

The IOC said in a statement: 'We are still in discussion and working to ensure the participation of Saudi women at the Games in London.'

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei have all never had a female athlete at the Olympics. Qatar, who are bidding for the 2020 Olympics, have signalled their intention to have female athletes in London.

Stuart Lancaster to get England job

Lancaster wins RFU chief's vote to beat Mallett to permanent England job

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 28 March 2012

Stuart Lancaster is on the verge of being appointed England head coach after RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie was understood to have put forward his name to the union board for final approval.

The 42-year-old Cumbrian has had an anxious wait to learn his fate since having a formal interview for the post on Thursday last week, on the same day as his main rival, South African Nick Mallett.

On Monday, Ritchie and his four advisers — Sir Ian McGeechan, Rob Andrew, Conor O’Shea and Richard Hill — met for one final discussion before settling on their recommendation.

Altogether now: Stuart Lancaster (second right) looks set for the job

Altogether now: Stuart Lancaster (second right) looks set for the job

Sportsmail has learned that there was
due to be a gathering of the RFU board on Wednesday night and it is
thought that Ritchie had decided to propose that Lancaster is appointed
as the long-term successor to Martin Johnson. Subject to formal
acceptance at the meeting, an announcement is likely to be made either
on Thursday or Friday.

Confirmation of his appointment would represent a startling coup for Lancaster, who was named as the interim head coach for the Six Nations in December, in the aftermath of Johnson’s resignation following the World Cup debacle.

The ex-schoolteacher has presided over a fundamental overhaul of the England set-up which culminated in a heartening second-place finish in the championship, behind Grand Slam winners Wales.

Fresh blood: Owen Farrell (right) has been one of Lancaster's success stories

Fresh blood: Owen Farrell (right) has been one of Lancaster's success stories

Far from being content to conduct a holding operation, Lancaster set about a clean-up operation to repair the damage done to the game’s image by the controversies out in New Zealand last year.

Having freshened up the squad by removing veterans such as Nick Easter and Mark Cueto, and bringing in a raft of rookies headed by the goal-kicking Saracens tyro, Owen Farrell, the former Leeds coach made a strong disciplinary stand by banishing Danny Care and Delon Armitage following off-field incidents.

With the stated aim of re-connecting
the England team with the rugby public and restoring ‘pride in the
shirt’, Lancaster brought in various guest speakers during a pre-Six
Nations training camp, which was held in Leeds to take the players away
from the comfort zone of their luxury base in Surrey. He maintained the
cultural shift by asking his squad to coach youngsters and engage more
openly and readily with sponsors and media.

Not this time: Nick Mallett was overlooked for the England

Not this time: Nick Mallett was overlooked for the England

Yet, he would not be on the brink of
taking charge of the national team on a long-term basis if he had not
engineered on-field success too. On Lancaster’s watch, England started
the championship with tense wins away from home against Scotland and
Italy.

They did not show much by way of attacking craft in difficult
conditions at Murrayfield and in Rome, but they showed ample character.
Gradually, in the narrow defeat against Wales followed by stunning
victories in Paris and against Ireland at Twickenham, Lancaster’s
England displayed a variety of methods for winning Tests.

Of course, a fair share of credit for
the strides made by the team rightly went to the assistant coaches,
Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell.

Team: Lancaster hopes to work with Graham Rowntree (left) and Andy Farrell

Team: Lancaster hopes to work with Graham Rowntree (left) and Andy Farrell

Rowntree, who had expanded his remit
by taking overall charge of the forwards, is thought to be on an
open-ended contract with the RFU and is keen to maintain his involvement
with England. In Farrell’s case, he has gone back to his day-job as
head coach of Saracens.

The Aviva Premiership champions have him on a
contract for at least two more years and are determined to keep hold of
him, but Lancaster is equally determined to keep Farrell in the national
set-up, now he has seen him thriving in that environment. It would seem
certain that the RFU will have to pay the club significant compensation
if they are to secure his release.