Tag Archives: gritted

Mario Balotelli less dramatic than Inspector Montalbano – Edge of the Box

Think Balotelli's a drama queen Try Montalbano

By
Mark Webster

PUBLISHED:

00:01 GMT, 5 November 2012

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UPDATED:

00:01 GMT, 5 November 2012

I for one could not be more grateful that BBC 4 are running the Sicilian detective series Inspector Montalbano.

I am learning so much. First of all, I now know that every building on the island seems to be made from the same cream coloured rock.

That, or some rather over-zealous local council official went a bit crazy with the magnolia paint they clearly got a great deal on.

Nothing to write home about: Mario Balotelli was relatively restrained

Nothing to write home about: Mario Balotelli was relatively restrained

Second, I have learned that only about eight people live there.

On the beach, in the town, at the police station, on the roads – not a soul, save for the Inspector, his sidekicks, the odd suspect or witness, and the fragrant young woman he’ll take for a giant plate of so-fresh-it's-still-squirming seafood that he’ll eat with her on the terrace of his favourite restaurant. Which is empty.

Thirdly, I have been getting a weekly crash course in the Italian language, as spoken by Italians. Close study has revealed you say ‘pronto’ when you answer the phone and that aside from a mouth to form words, you also need rolling eyes, fully shruggable shoulders and very wavey arms to be able to express yourself eloquently.

It is, all in all, great late night telly. It is not, however, the great Mario Balotelli.

Not my word, you understand. Nor, indeed, Alan Shearer’s if Saturday’s exchange on Match Of The Day was anything to go by.

The inscrutable Geordie was all fixed grin and no eye contact as his opposite Alan – Hansen – informed the Shearer right ear that ‘you called him great twice’ as once again Manchester City’s enfant terrible striker was put under the microscope.

A shining wall of gritted teeth, through which the former centre forward growled ‘I said good’, said happy. While the eyes said ‘as soon as the red light goes off on that camera..’.

In spite all of this, I really couldn’t fathom from what I’d seen of their highlights, just why it was all about Mario again Even Gary Lineker sounded a little surprised as he made the very same point, and I must say it did feel like they were hammering an editorial square peg into a round hole.

Smooth: Inspector Montalbano (right) with one of his 'fragrant' beauties

Smooth: Inspector Montalbano (right) with one of his 'fragrant' beauties

Sure, we saw images of a manager barking instructions at a player, and the same player looking disgruntled at coming off and sitting solemnly on the bench as he zipped up his coat. Yet no water bottles appeared to go flying. Nor did he make straight for the tunnel. All in all, by Sicilian TV body language standards, the pair might have barely exchanged brief ‘how do you dos’.

Which probably explains why Mancini looked as baffled as Lineker had done, when asked twice in the post match interview if it got on his nerves answering questions about Mario Balotelli. Think I might have spotted the eyes on a bit of a roll then!

Of course the young Italian will make headlines again. However, on November 3rd, he seemed to do nothing to warrant it. Lest we forget, though, you’re likely reading this on 5th of November. So if you ARE looking for some Super Mario gunpowder, treason and plot…

Come the following morning on Sky Sports, and there wasn’t even really a mention of him on Goals On Sunday in their coverage of Man City’s trip to West Ham. As the theme song says, Sunday mornings are decidedly ‘easy’ in the exceptionally capable hands of Ben Shephard and Chris Kamara, and they were clearly much more laid back about what they’d seen at Upton Park.

Personable: Chris Kamara is normally relaxed

Personable: Chris Kamara is normally relaxed

Which is – unless Kammy is on a mission with the officials – the way of a pair who are one of the best teams in televised sport. Their rapport puts them right up there with the BBC’s F1 boys and Jeff Stelling and the team on a Saturday.

What’s more, it helps make their weekly guests feel really relaxed, so that you get so much more from the players and managers who arrive on their settee than you’ll see pretty much anywhere else on the box.

It’s a long show, happy to take it’s time in allowing everyone to have their say about all the action and incidents, as well as discuss their own careers and lives. This week was no exception, with two excellent guests in former Bolton colleagues Stuart Holden and Patrice Muamba.

By Kammy’s standard in particular, this was a rather sombre day on the shirt front, but young American Holden certainly helped brighten the place up with a pair of truly appalling union flag socks. He was also very engaging, funny and pretty ‘northern’ nowadays in the accent department, which certainly helped with the dead pan delivery when he enquired at the end of the show as to where he could make a donation to Kammy’s Movember ‘tache

However, it was the presence of Muamba that really made the morning. The fact that he was there and well would have been good enough. But it was also a pleasure to listen to a man whose quietly spoken, thoughtful words couldn’t have been further away from where Mario’s do their business.

Ben pointed out that they had been inundated with well wishers on email enquiring about his future. Patrice replied that he would ‘take his time… then see where I fit in, in the football world’.

Here’s hoping it somewhere nice and snug. The game could do with his company.

Kenny Dalglish: Sir Alex Ferguson was straight on the phone after Hillsborough

Sir Alex was straight on the phone: Dalglish hails Ferguson for reaction after Hillsborough

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UPDATED:

12:36 GMT, 22 September 2012

Kenny Dalglish insists there will be no problem at Anfield when Liverpool meet Manchester United – and praised Sir Alex Ferguson for his actions immediately following the Hillsborough disaster.

Writing in his column in the Daily Mirror, the Anfield icon labelled sick chants about the Munich air crash and Hillsborough as 'absolutely scandalous'.

'Although there is no love lost between United and Liverpool, there is an underlying respect for each other, even though at times it might be through gritted teeth.

Old foes: Kenny Dalglish (left) and Sir Alex Ferguson have locked horns many times

Old foes: Kenny Dalglish (left) and Sir Alex Ferguson have locked horns many times

'That’s why I don’t think there will be a problem at Anfield,' said Dalglish.

Ferguson has written a letter to United supporters attending the Premier League encounter. It will be presented to fans as they enter the turnstiles and is a final plea aimed at getting them to behave themselves.

And, although acknowledging the long-standing rivalry between the clubs, Dalglish was quick to praise his counterpart for his reactions 26 years ago.

'Some love him, some hate him, but when
something terrible happens, like Hillsborough, Alex is one of the first
asking what he can do,' he said.

Praise: Dalglish hailed Ferguson for his actions after Hillsbrough

Praise: Dalglish hailed Ferguson for his actions after Hillsbrough

And he also had a message for fans of both clubs who have chanted about the tragedies.

'These chants, on both sides, are absolutely scandalous,' he said.

'Unless they’ve actually been through something like that, they can have no comprehension of how difficult it is for the people involved and the families affected by these kind of tragedies,' he said.

Brendan Rodgers stars in US documentary

Review: Boss Rodgers is the star in US documentary look at Liverpool

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UPDATED:

01:00 GMT, 11 September 2012

From the club who brought you the Boot Room, here is something all together less secretive.

Being: Liverpool is an American documentary billed as the first of its kind, a behind-the-scenes look at life at a major Barclays Premier League club.

If Brendan Rodgers was not keen on having his first strides at Anfield caught on camera then he did a good job of hiding it.

Behind the scenes: Brendan Rodgers (left) and Tom Werner (right) star in the US documentary about Liverpool

Behind the scenes: Brendan Rodgers (left) and Tom Werner (right) star in the US documentary about Liverpool

The television crew follow him everywhere, from his first meeting with the staff at the training ground to the passenger seat of his club Porsche and the living room of his enormous new house in Formby, where he awkwardly reveals through gritted teeth that the son of his assistant manager, Colin Pascoe, is dating his 16-year-old daughter.

The first episode of this fascinating series is a scene-setter that seems rather dependant on a happy ending down the line.

We are pitched into the gloom of Kenny Dalglish's final days as Liverpool manager, cutting from footage of their FA Cup final defeat by Chelsea to a scene in a Merseyside pub where the verdict is grim.

The narrator talks of a 'three-year lull of mediocrity for a club synonymous with glory' and the shot cuts to Tom Werner and John W Henry, the owners, as they attempt to explain from a couch how Dalglish's departure was part of a strategy that had been in place all along.

Henry says: 'When we first talked with Kenny he understood and we understood that there was going to be a time when he stepped aside when we found the right person for the long term.

'He said to me in our first conversation that he would be ready for that.'

That right person, they hope, is Rodgers. This series is dependant on him, seemingly both as the willing and able supplier of soundbites and also as the man who will deliver the contrast to the programme's introduction.

In terms of the soundbites, he has made a fast start. In discussing his family work ethic, he says: 'I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I was born with a silver shovel'.

During some of the excellent scenes where he discusses his coaching philosophy, he says: 'You educate players, you train a dog.'

Slow start: Rodgers' Liverpool side have struggled so far this season

Slow start: Rodgers' Liverpool side have struggled so far this season

Board games anyone Luis Suarez (centre) is filmed playing Monopoly with team-mate Lucas Leiva

Board games anyone Luis Suarez (centre) is filmed playing Monopoly with team-mate Lucas Leiva

Later he says: 'Every player I see as a son.' The American audience will love it, which is largely the point, but it's also a risk.

Given the footage already accrued and, indeed, some of the David Brent-at-his-desk-style interviews with Rodgers, it won't be difficult to lampoon the manager if he isn't given the time to implement his brilliant playing systems.

The programme is about more than Rodgers. The first episode introduces characters from the club doctor and Rodgers' family to the players.

In one clip, during the club's pre-season tour to the US, the now departed Charlie Adam is having a 'conversation' with Boston Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross.

'Ever play cricket' asks Ross. 'No,' says Adam. And almost nothing else. Wonderfully awkward.

Face of a star: The scenes where Rodgers talks about his coaching philosophy are particularly revealing

Face of a star: The scenes where Rodgers talks about his coaching philosophy are particularly revealing

Steven Gerrard takes the crew inside his home and shows a bit of his frustration at living with four women but no son, while another scene shows Lucas playing Monopoly with Luis Suarez and discussing the need for the foreign players to stick together.

Fabio Borini, in a fascinating scene during his medical, tells the doctor about his difficulty sleeping during Italy's Euro 2012 campaign.

In all, it covers a lot of bases, as Henry would say.

*The first in a six-part documentary series airs in the US on Sunday.

Tour de France 2012: Bradley Wiggins builds lead with stage nine win

Wiggins digs deep to build Le Tour lead over rival Evans with stunning win on stage nine

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UPDATED:

16:07 GMT, 9 July 2012

Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins enhanced his advantage in the yellow jersey with a stunning victory on stage nine's individual time-trial.

Wiggins (Team Sky) clocked 51 minutes 24 seconds to triumph on the 41.5-kilometre race against the clock from Arc-et-Senans to Besancon.

The triple Olympic champion, who on Saturday succeeded prologue winner Fabian Cancellara in the maillot jaune, began the day with a 10-second lead over defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and enters Tuesday's rest day with an advantage of 1min 53secs.

Yellow jersey: Team Sky rider Bradley Wiggins crosses the finish line during the individual time trial

Yellow jersey: Team Sky rider Bradley Wiggins crosses the finish line during the individual time trial

Evans placed sixth on the day in 53:07, as Team Sky celebrated a one-two on the stage, with Chris Froome second in 51:59. Olympic time-trial champion Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) was third in 52:21.

Froome, who won stage seven, climbed into third place overall, 2:07 behind his team-mate and 14 seconds behind Evans.

Gritted teeth: Great Britain's Christopher Froome at the end of the ninth stage

Gritted teeth: Great Britain's Christopher Froome at the end of the ninth stage

The time-trial, coming ahead of the rest day, could be significant in the race for the maillot jaune, with this year's Tour featuring more than 100km of racing against the clock before the finish in Paris on July 22.

Wiggins is now firmly in pole position to be the first British Tour winner – and Froome could join him on the podium.

The day's events were also a useful marker for the 44km August 1 Olympic time-trial at Hampton Court, when Wiggins hopes to add to his haul of three Olympic gold medals. Wiggins and Froome are Britain's Olympic time-trial selections.

Race against the clock: Fabian Cancellara of Radioshack-Nissan on the way to Besancon

Race against the clock: Fabian Cancellara of Radioshack-Nissan on the way to Besancon

As race leader, Wiggins started last, three minutes behind nearest rival Evans, who he was seeking to beat to Besancon, the watch-making centre of France.

At the first time check, after 16.5km, Wiggins led the field in 21:05 and was beating Evans by 1:02. Froome was five seconds behind his team-mate.

Wiggins again led through the second time check, at 31.5km, in 39:02, 16 seconds faster than Froome and 1:19 ahead of Evans.

Trailing: Wiggins now leads Cadel Evans of the BMC Racing team by just under two minutes

Trailing: Wiggins now leads Cadel Evans of the BMC Racing team by just under two minutes

The 32-year-old maintained his scintillating pace in the final quarter of the race to triumph by 35 seconds from Froome, with Cancellara a further 22 seconds behind.

David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) was 36th in 55:38 and Steve Cummings (BMC Racing) 39th, nine seconds further adrift.

Mark Cavendish (Team Sky), the world road race champion, was 6:27 behind in 1:00.07.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), who began the day in third overall, 16 seconds behind, finished in 53:31 to place eight on the stage and fall to fourth place, 16 seconds behind Froome.

Lion heart: British ace Wiggins celebrates his stage win on the podium in Besancon

Lion heart: British ace Wiggins celebrates his stage win on the podium in Besancon

Germany's Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), the world time-trial champion, clocked 53:40 to place 12th despite wearing a cast on his fractured wrist and later revealed he suffered a puncture.

Froome was nine seconds behind Wiggins after the opening prologue, but punctured on the opening road stage to Seraing, losing 1:25 on the stage.

Had the 27-year-old not suffered that misfortune he would be ahead of Evans in the standings.

Des Kelly: England don"t stand a chance, right? So just enjoy Euro 2012

Des Kelly: England don't stand a chance, right So just enjoy Euro 2012

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UPDATED:

00:45 GMT, 9 June 2012

Give me an E. Give me an N. Give me a
G. Actually, just give me a whole load of Es, because the only way I’m
going to carry on with this England cheerleader nonsense is if I’m on
mind-bending drugs.

There’s no need for the pom poms this
time. It seems the majority of people in this country have finally
accepted that we need to treat the national team in a truly English
fashion, with a cough of embarrassment and a muttered apology.

Over me head, son: Andy Carroll is caught out by a playful attack from team-mate Wayne Rooney in training

Over me head, son: Andy Carroll is caught out by a playful attack from team-mate Wayne Rooney in training

Over me head, son: Andy Carroll is caught out by a playful attack from team-mate Wayne Rooney in training

Instead of ranting and raving at the
inevitable — and yes, I include the media in this — the public have come
to regard the football side in the same way we view so many other
perennial disappointments of this nation’s daily life, like the weather,
public transport, daytime TV and Nick Clegg.

We put up with it. We make do. We
tell ourselves, ‘mustn’t grumble’, join the queue and wait patiently in
line for the only cashier on duty.

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It seems England has acknowledged it’s fine to keep the face paint to a minimum and leave the Jubilee bunting in the garage until the Olympics.

As far as the country is concerned, this Euro 2012 tournament is the sporting equivalent of a Bank Holiday washout, where people sit on the beach in the freezing rain, eating their ice cream cone under an umbrella. Yes, it is grim, but there is still a bloody-minded determination to extract some small delight from the ordeal, even if it is through chattering, gritted teeth.

In light of this prevailing mood, there should be no problem with the fact that most of the media believe Roy Hodgson’s side don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of success either.

Yet a constant moan is heard that England’s chances are somehow being undermined by reports suggesting — and you may need to sit down before you read this — the team aren’t particularly scintillating right now.

Broadcasters and Football Association suits are running around saying how we ‘must be positive’, as if Noel Edmonds’ cosmic ordering baloney will somehow propel Hodgson to the European crown.

Why It is not unpatriotic to remind everyone Hodgson is taking a depleted squad into a major championship after minimal preparation. Or that he has stupidly landed himself with an unpleasant subplot involving Rio Ferdinand and John Terry.

No matter what the FA ostriches think, it is not the media’s role to stand on the touchline waving little flags to ‘get behind the team’. Asking questions is the job.

And Hodgson has still not dealt with his ludicrous assertion that Ferdinand was left out of Euro 2012 for ‘football reasons’. Nor has the presence of obvious passengers in the squad like Martin Kelly or Jordan Henderson been accounted for.

Fostering a bond: England players visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and former concentration camp, in Oswiecim, Poland

Fostering a bond: England players visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and former concentration camp, in Oswiecim, Poland

Perversely, people have twisted the
pessimism into something else. This near-complete lack of expectation
has led to a bizarre ‘logic’ where some genuinely believe England will
do well — because it is assumed we won’t.
If I haven’t lost you already, the argument, as I understand it, seems
to be that because the squad are ostensibly poorer than any in recent
years, the pressure is off and this offers England a better chance of
victory.

Why didn’t we think of this ruse before If this is the yardstick of
likely success, then the favourites, Germany and Spain, are out of it
already while the Republic of Ireland will surely walk away with the
trophy because nobody gives them a prayer.

Such thinking says a great deal about the human spirit. Or it
demonstrates there are enough deranged mugs out there swallowing this
reverse psychology claptrap to keep bookmakers and casinos in business
for ever.

After a bit of spin-doctor coaching, no doubt, Wayne Rooney delivered an upbeat assessment as the team touched down in Poland.

‘We know we’re good enough to make the semis or the final,’ he said. ‘If
people don’t believe that, then it’s up to them, but I don’t see why we
can’t.’

Maybe it’s because they’re not wearing his red-rose tinted spectacles.
Of course, Rooney has to sound positive and it is right and proper he
should talk a good game. But what a shame he can’t play it too.

His stupid red card against Montenegro means he misses the opening two
group matches and England could be out of the tournament by the time he
has a chance to kick a ball rather than an opponent.

Waiting for action: Wayne Rooney will miss out on England's first two games

Waiting for action: Wayne Rooney will miss out on England's first two games

Once again, we are all hoping it might come better. If England feel
insulted by the negativity, maybe it will create a siege mentality
reminiscent of Bobby Robson’s squad during their run to the semi-finals
at Italia 90 But back then they could rely on quality too, with Gary
Lineker scoring goals and Paul Gascoigne providing the spark.

And England’s best European Championship showing was when Terry Venables
got the media and the public onside at Euro 96.

MY EURO 2012 PREDICTIONS

England to scrape through in second place behind France in Group D following a nervy win over Ukraine in the final match.

Despite a couple of dogged draws in a difficult group, Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland exit the competition in the first round.
England go one stage further than Ireland but surrender to Spain in the quarter-finals with barely a whimper.

In the semis, Germany beat Italy and the Spanish edge past Holland in a repeat of the fractious 2010 World Cup final.

On July 1, Germany deny Spain the chance to become the first nation to defend the title and Joachim Low’s men are crowned European champions for the fourth time.

CHAMPIONS: Germany

ENGLAND: Quarter-finals

That was on home soil
with Alan Shearer leading the line and Gazza still offering the odd
flash of unpredictable genius.

So forget counter intuitive psychology, or the media or ‘pressure’.
It’s about good players performing when the occasion demands.

And, besides a good goalkeeper and an able left back, there’s little of that class on offer in Hodgson’s squad without Rooney.

England should still get through their group. They have enough to
squeeze past Sweden and Ukraine and they will be tidy and organised.
This is probably the best that can be said about them — and maybe we
should accept that is how it will be.

This could help. A study in America showed that the majority of people
reading a book found it more pleasurable if they knew the ending in
advance.

San Diego psychologists gave their subjects 12 short stories and in
every single case those armed with a plot spoiler preferred the
experience. They were less anxious about the eventual outcome and could
therefore enjoy the detail of the story itself.

Let’s do the same with England at Euro 2012. There are two realistic
plotlines. Either England perform with style before they are knocked out
in the quarter-finals; or they bore everyone rigid before they are
knocked out in the quarter-finals.

Now that we know how this all ends, pass the popcorn and let’s enjoy it.

On side: England's best showing in a European Championship came in 1996, when there was a measured and enjoyable attitude towards the team

On side: England's best showing in a European Championship came in 1996, when there was a measured and enjoyable attitude towards the team

Zero chance

UEFA say they have a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to racism. They announce this while turning a blind eye to the fact that black players in the Holland squad were subjected to monkey chants during training in Krakow.

So I assume when UEFA talk about ‘zero tolerance’ the zero relates to the amount of effort they intend to put in to tackle this vile behaviour.

Controversy: UEFA chief Michel Platini sparked outrage by suggesting players might be booked should they leave the field of playing protest against racism

Controversy: UEFA chief Michel Platini sparked outrage by suggesting players might be booked should they leave the field of playing protest against racism

Picking Beckham makes a mockery of the motto

Speaking of cheerleaders, the reasons
people are celebrating David Beckham’s tediously inevitable appearance
in the British Olympic football team appear to be:

a) There’s a chance they might get a glimpse of his underpants, and
b) Lots of people will turn up to see him.

On that basis, Robbie Williams should get the call. He draws a crowd and even plays soccerball in the United States on occasion.

Hands up who wants in: David Beckham

Hands up who wants in: David Beckham

But ignore the bogus suggestions that Beckham can lay claim to an Olympic place based on football ability.

He will be in the side simply because of his celebrity status. This is why the British Olympic Association have told Stuart Pearce that he must pick the LA exile. He shifts tickets and will keep the three-striped sponsors happy.

To be fair to Beckham, he was an outstanding talent. Although he never makes a shortlist of the best-ever Premier League footballers, he was a superb club servant. Barring the odd silly episode, he turned out on England duty with pride too and was always charming enough to warrant his fame.

But it is all past tense on the playing front. His best was some years ago. If he has a role with Team GB, it is on the sidelines next to Pearce as an ambassador and member of the backroom team.

Olympic football should be about youth, promise and the future, not all our yesterdays and fool’s gold. Otherwise it is time to change that Olympic motto to ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius… vel Celebrer’.
Higher, Faster, Stronger… or Famous.

Interesting. Or not

Alan Shearer interviewed Wayne Rooney on the television this week. For some reason it reminded me of the day he creosoted his garden fence after winning the Premier League title.