Tag Archives: habits

Edgar Davids gives his unique views of Roberto Mancini, Fabio Capello, his new job at Barnet and fashion

EXCLUSIVE: Edgar Davids gives his unique views of Mancini (lacks people skills), Capello (tactical genius), his new job at Barnet (I'm not being paid a penny) and fashion (it's important, man)

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UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 17 November 2012

Edgar Davids has an opinion and, as is usually the case, he is not overwhelmed by a desire to keep it to himself. This time, it's about his interviewer's choice of clothing.

'It's safe,' he says. 'But there is no adventure. You wear a suit, but you are not trying to tell me something about who you are. It lacks flair. That's not for me. You should try something, man.'

Quite a spectacle: Edgar Davids at Barnet's training ground

Quite a spectacle: Edgar Davids at Barnet's training ground

The assault is not entirely unexpected. Davids, once the 'Pitbull' midfielder of some of European football's greatest sides, has been talking about fashion for more than five minutes.

'It's my passion,' he says. He is the creative director of Monta, a company specialising in street soccer apparel, and was previously engaged to Olcay Gulsen, a renowned designer.

Davids on… Wilfried Zaha

When I was at Palace, he was a big talent but
nothing more. He was also developing bad habits technically and no-one was stopping him. His end product was very poor at times, but now he is really showing his talent. He has worked hard at his game.

One rumour suggests that he turned away a journalist because he was unimpressed by an outfit.

'That did not happen,' Davids says. 'If I refused to speak, it wouldn't have been because of his clothes. However, if I thought he wasn't looking sharp, I probably would have told him. Fashion is important, man.'

And yet here he is, the winner of six league titles, 12 domestic cups, the UEFA Cup and the Champions League, talking about his new life as the 39-year-old player-manager of League Two Barnet, a club in the basement of British football and rarely considered to be chic.

'I don't get paid a dime to be here,' he says.

On the ball: Davids at the club's training ground

On the ball: Davids shows off his skills

Own style: Davids passes on some advice to one of the young players

Own style: Davids passes on some advice to one of the young players

It's the summer of 2012, and a Greek neighbour has called. 'Fancy a Sunday league game' he asks. Davids has been living in north London since his days at Tottenham, but has only really played Street Soccer events since leaving Crystal Palace after a three-month stint in 2010.

Davids on… ‘the greats’

I played with the best. Zinedine Zidane made me look differently at star players. Some guys with that talent don’t work so hard or want different treatment. Not him. Man, those skills. One player people don’t ask me about but should is Ledley King. Left and right foot perfect, fast, almost never made a foul. Technically, he is so gifted. So relaxed on the ball. But those knees.

'I coached a team in Brixton – Brixton United – for a while,' he says. 'We won two cups. They are a good team, but I only coached. No playing.'

The phone call from his neighbour doesn't appeal so much.

'I said, “No, man”, but I woke up in the morning and thought, “You know what Let's kick a ball around”. 'In the first half, I was like, “OK, let's keep it simple, move it around”. But then in the second half, I said the famous words that I got in trouble for on television last week.

'I just thought, “Hey, I'm f*****g Edgar Davids. I didn't want people to go away and say, “I played against Edgar Davids, it was OK”. I wanted them to say, “I played against f*****g Edgar Davids and he was nutmegging me”.

'Man, second half, I did like six nutmegs and got one assist. We won.'

The game prompts a second phone call, this time from Tony Kleanthous, the Greek-Cypriot chairman of Barnet who has heard on the grapevine that Davids dusted off his boots.

Edgar Davids of Barnet photographed exclusively at the club's training ground

Standing out: Davids is enjoying the challenge

Dressing down: Davids offers some style tips to our man Riath Al-Samarrai

Dressing down: Davids offers some style tips to our man Riath Al-Samarrai

Construction work continues on the club's new ground

Big job: Work continues on the new stadium in the background

Edgar Davids at the club's training ground

Front man: Davids leads by example in training

'A friend of mine gave him my number and then I get this call,' Davids says. 'He asked if I wanted to come over for a look.

'I saw the amazing training ground and listened to his plans for the future. It worked for me.'

Davids on… Barcelona

What a team. Would I have been good enough for today’s team Absolutely. You know what it is with Barcelona They play in the half of the opponent so the space is very small and the passes are very hard. To excel, it requires those skills and I have proven I possess those skills. I can do the same as Sergio Busquets or Javier Mascherano.

An agreement was reached and Davids was last month named as joint manager with Mark Robson. The club were bottom of the Football League.

'I've never had a big dream to be a manager, but I'm a curious guy and I want to see if I like it. I've been doing my coaching badges, just the (UEFA) “A” Licence to go, and this was a good chance to play a few games and learn about management.

'You know, I've worked for some pretty good managers so I have a few ideas.'

SIXTY. That's the number of major league titles and cups won by the managers Davids worked under for Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Holland. Between them, they have won the Champions League/European Cup seven times and a World Cup.

'Some were good, others not so good,' Davids says. 'I try to take the good bits from them and leave the bad, but also trying to keep my own identity. I don't want to be anyone's mimic.'

Action man: Davids against Accrington Stanley on Friday night

Action man: Davids against Accrington Stanley on Friday night

Boost: Barnet's Mark /11/16/article-2234184-1611B6C3000005DC-445_634x525.jpg

Still a pitbull: Davids is sent off against Accrington

The list of influences includes Louis
van Gaal, Marcello Lippi, Carlo Ancelotti, Frank Rijkaard, Fabio
Capello, Roberto Mancini and Guus Hiddink. Hiddink sent Davids home from
Euro 96 after a radio interview in which he said the national team
manager 'should stop putting his head in some players' a***s'.

'We
made up and got on fine after that,' Davids says. 'I don't talk about
best managers,' he adds, but does so anyway. 'Van Gaal as a trainer was
one of the best – it was incredible how well he prepared for games.
Lippi was very, very good. He knew his team, he knew how to meld
together a group and make it a team.

Davids on… London

I just love living here. It is so multicultural. I love
that diversity. In Amsterdam, we have it a lot, and it’s like that here. Any dish you want you can have — Japanese, Indian, Chinese. You can go from Asian to black to Jewish in the same neighbourhood. It is a reflection of society nowadays. It’s why I love Brixton — a melting pot.

'Capello taught me so much about systems, about 4-4-2, how to pressure and squeeze a team.

'Rijkaard is not a good trainer but he is a really good manager of
people. You can see Mancini lacks people management, big time.' He adds:
'I don't want to talk negative about somebody. I do not want to talk
about Mancini as there were not so many positive things.'

At Barnet's training ground, Davids'
management style is developing. He is 'a little frustrated' by the
standard but says that is 'the challenge that makes me come down here
for nothing'. The players call him 'Mr' or 'Sir' and he does likewise in
return. 'I told them it is out of the question to call me Edgar. I
don't want to be called boss because I told them they are their own
boss,' he says.

Results have improved quite dramatically. Friday's night's 1-1 draw with Accrington Stanley meant they had picked up 11 points from the seven League Two fixtures played since Davids' arrival (they took three points from the previous 11). And the 'Pitbull' still has a bite – he was sent off in the 85th minute after receiving a second booking for a foul on James Beattie, the former Everton striker.

Graham Stack, the keeper, talks of the squad being driven upwards by a 'fear factor' from playing with 'one of the best in the world'.

Davids is content with his life. 'The feeling of stepping out to play for Barnet for the first time was the same as a Champions League match. It is just joy, an innocent joy. I love to play football and will continue as long as I feel that.

'Maybe I will love management – we will see. This is fun. But you never know. Maybe one day I will own a club. That is a possibility, too. Or maybe I will leave and go into fashion.'

With that, the interview ends and Davids gets up to leave. 'Your coat,' he says. 'Double-breasted. That's very, very safe, man.'

Andy Murray looks to regain lethal touch

Murray looking to shake bad habits and regain killer touch at ATP World Tour Finals

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UPDATED:

15:52 GMT, 4 November 2012

Andy Murray will focus all his energies on winning the final point in his matches at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London this week after developing an unwelcome habit since becoming a grand slam champion in New York two months ago.

The Scot has played in three tournaments since winning the US Open, in Tokyo, Shanghai and Paris, and in all of them he has held match points in clashes he went on to lose.

In Tokyo it was a semi-final meeting with Canada's Milos Raonic, then a classic final in Shanghai against Novak Djokovic where he had five chances to win, before last week he lost to Poland's Jerzy Janowicz at the Paris Masters.

Killer touch: Andy Murray (left) is focusing his energy on closing games after squandering match points in all three tournaments since his US Open win

Killer touch: Andy Murray (left) is focusing his energy on closing games after squandering match points in all three tournaments since his US Open win

In it to win it: Murray (left) wants to repeat his Olympic glory in London by winning the ATP Finals at the O2 Arena

In it to win it: Murray (left) wants to repeat his Olympic glory in London by winning the ATP Finals at the O2 Arena

This run has also come after Murray talked about how confident he normally feels in finishing off matches.

The 25-year-old said: 'I did say in Shanghai when you speak about things like that it's bound to go against you. I'm aware how hard it is to finish matches off. It's not an easy thing to do.

'In Shanghai I didn't just play against Novak, I played three matches previously. I've played hundreds and hundreds of matches on tour and sometimes it's going to go your way, sometimes it's not.

'I don't feel in the match with Novak I did too much wrong. I was disappointed with last week, I didn't feel like I focused as hard as I needed to when I was serving for the match.

'That's something this week I'll make sure I play one point at a time, take my time and fight for every single point. I need to try to do a better job of that.'

Murray may not have made much impact in Paris with his tennis but the 25-year-old did cause a bit of a stir with his comments about cycling and drug-testing in sport.

They were taken as a slur on cycling in some quarters and Murray took to Twitter to explain himself in the face of criticism from a few cycling fans.

The line up: The players were in London on Saturday at the official launch of the tournament

The line up: The players were in London on Saturday at the official launch of the tournament

See you there: Murray is in the same group as Novak Djokovic (centre right)

See you there: Murray is in the same group as Novak Djokovic (centre right)

The Scot has plenty of experience of remarks being interpreted in a different way to what he intended, notably with a joke he made about the England football team in 2006.

Murray said: 'What happened in cycling is pretty shocking and you just want to make sure you can completely rule anything like that out in your own sport, because I love tennis, so you'd hate for anything like that to happen.

'A lot of things you can say may come across the wrong way. It's not always easy when you're in a room filled with people and you get asked a question you have to answer straight away.

'One or two words can make something you meant in the right way come across badly. I try my best to not make any silly comments or say anything jokingly that may be taken out of context.

Eyes on the prize: Murray was warming up for the tournament over the weekend

Eyes on the prize: Murray was warming up for the tournament over the weekend

Eyes on the prize: Murray was warming up for the tournament over the weekend

Down to you: Andy Murray (left) and coach Ivan Lendl (right) are hoping to add another tournament win in Murray's best year yet

Down to you: Andy Murray (left) and coach Ivan Lendl (right) are hoping to add another tournament win in Murray's best year yet

'It's unfortunate it comes across that way sometimes. I'll just try better to not make any more mistakes like that.'

Murray opens proceedings in the singles competition at the World Tour Finals on Monday afternoon against Czech Tomas Berdych, with Djokovic taking on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the other Group A clash in the evening.

The tournament is being held at the O2 Arena for the fourth year after London signed a five-year contract to take over from Shanghai in 2009.

It has been a huge success, with organisers expecting even bigger attendances this year, and a deal to extend the contract is thought to be not far away from being signed.

Murray said: 'If it does stay here then that's obviously good. I think they do a great job here, they put on an excellent show and everyone seems to enjoy it.

'From a players' point of view, because we've finished the year in Europe, it's nice to have a tournament of this size being convenient, you wouldn't want it being a hassle for guys to go to. London has been a great spot.'

Chelsea racism row – comment: Police probe fan"s monkey gesture

Comment: My love for football dies a little bit more… this Chelsea fan will have thrilled to Drogba and Mikel, so what would they think of his monkey gesture

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UPDATED:

15:26 GMT, 1 November 2012

CHELSEA FAN'S MONKEY TAUNT LATEST NEWS…

Now name him: Chelsea ask supporters to shop this fan for his 'monkey' taunt towards Welbeck as club AND police launch probe

Click here to read the latest…

For some of us the memory of standing up on terraces watching English football goes back longer than we would care to remember.

Not because it is now long enough ago to remind one of the onset of middle age, and certainly not because of the raw sense of energy once engendered by being part of a swirling mass of humanity all sharing the same passion.

Instead it is due to some of the other stuff that came with it, such as things like the rudimentary toilet habits and, we reflect again today, the vicious singling out of players purely because of their ethnicity.

It hardly needs saying that 'jokes' about jam jars (how some people laughed) and more straightforward racial abuse from 30 years ago should rightly be considered among sport's most unwanted museum pieces.

Unacceptable: A Chelsea fan appears to make a 'monkey' gesture toward Manchester United's Danny Welbeck

Unacceptable: A Chelsea fan appears to make a 'monkey' gesture toward Manchester United's Danny Welbeck

Taunt: A Chelsea fan appears to make a monkey gesture (above) at Stamford Bridge

This was a particularly nasty part to the underbelly of the Seventies and Eighties, one that you would expect to have been consigned to history until you see images such as that of the Chelsea-supporting lout from Wednesday night making ape gestures at Manchester United's Danny Welbeck.

Right-thinking people everywhere, even those who behave in football grounds in a way they would rarely countenance in any other area of life, are entitled to ask: how on earth is this still going on as we approach the end of 2012

Our small and crowded island can, for the most part, be proud of the way it has absorbed large numbers of incomers from far off lands of all colours and creeds and yet there are still a few who believe that walking through the turnstiles gives them license to behave abusively in a way that is now, thankfully, totally unacceptable.

Utlimately self-policing among fans is the best solution to eradicate it altogether. Yet for part of the explanation behind Wednesday night's events it is depressingly instructive to look closely at the picture taken from the opposite side of the pitch and the demeanour of the other spectators around the bearded offender.

Directly two rows back there is
another man, his arm raised and wrist cocked in a position making a
gesture in Welbeck's direction that will be unmistakeable to anyone who
regularly watches football. In the heat of the moment he, too, clearly
thinks it is acceptable to send a hateful signal, albeit one more
commonplace and harmless.

Daniel Sturridge of Chelsea

Mikel John Obi of Chelsea

Victor Moses

Stars: Chelsea have many black players including Sturridge (left), Mikel (centre) and Moses

But back to the bearded man, who in this age of communication will be quickly identified and is already the subject of an official investigation by Chelsea.

After the police and the club have finished with him you would like to ask him a few questions. For instance, does he not in his daily life have friends or colleagues who are of a different race to him, and has their acquaintance not taught him that his behaviour is completely wrong

And as a Chelsea fan, has he never thrilled to any of his team's black players over the years, for example the muscular industry of Jon Mikel Obi or the physical grace of Didier Drogba What would they think of what he has done

But then football is always a mass of contradictions, not least with the running of Chelsea itself. The angry, bearded man will doubtless get a life ban from Stamford Bridge and will quickly be forgotten, but it is tempting to think that he is an easy target for punishment.

Football clubs usually talk a good game when it comes to the whole issue of respect but, as we have seen with the John Terry and Luis Suarez affairs in all their tortuous tedium, they often send out mixed messages if it involves a valuable asset to on-field performance.

All this comes at a time when football's image has suffered badly in the wake of a glorious summer, with a glut of contrasts being drawn with the Olympics and the spirit that pervaded them and other sports.

Such comparisons are largely over-simplistic and fanciful, but there is no question that it sorely tests your love of the world's biggest game, even among those of us who developed it in the decades when football was about as fashionable as herpes. And every time you see images like Wednesday night's that love dies a little more.

Victim: Danny Welbeck was the subject of the apparent monkey gesture

Victim: Danny Welbeck was the subject of the apparent monkey gesture

London 2012 Olympics: Tyson Gay says 9.8sec not enough for 100m medal

Gay warning! Sprint star says 9.8sec won't be good enough for podium place in 100m

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UPDATED:

06:34 GMT, 20 July 2012

The world's second fastest man, Tyson Gay, says someone may break 9.8 seconds for only the second time in an Olympic 100m final and still fail to win a medal.

'I really truly believe that,' said the American sprinter on Thursday.

'It will take a 9.7 to even get a medal. It's mind blowing,' he added, and the record books back him up.

Tough: Tyson Gay knows how difficult getting a medal will be

Tough: Tyson Gay knows how difficult getting a medal will be

Only once in an Olympic final has a sprinter run 9.7 or faster, Jamaican Usain Bolt smashing the world record with his 9.69 at the 2008 Olympics.

Second placed Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago clocked in at 9.89.

Now with Bolt, Jamaican world champion Yohan Blake, former world record holder Asafa Powell, American Justin Gatlin and Gay headed for an August showdown, one could foresee a 100 metres of historic proportions even without a world record, Gay said.

'It is mind blowing to think four or five people even have the possibility of doing that (9.7) in one race,' said the often-injured Gay who set a personal best of 9.69 seconds in 2009.

Bolt leads the pack with his 2009 world record of 9.58, Powell clocked 9.72 in 2008 and Blake ran 9.75 this year.

That Gay is even in the London mix is a minor miracle.

Contender: Yohan Blake is going for gold

Contender: Yohan Blake is going for gold

As late as early March he could not even jog because of 2011 hip surgery that kept him off the track for almost a year.

He ran his first race in June but still made the U.S. Olympic team later in the month, finishing second to Gatlin in the American trials.

'I still feel something here and there but there is no looking back now,' Gay said of a sore groin. The hip appears much better.

The biggest concerns are bad habits, particularly in his start, that have crept back into his race from a year's inactivity.

'But I am definitely confident going into the Olympics that I will be fit, ready to go and my start will come at the right time,” said Gay, who would like an early birthday present from the Games (He turns 30 on August 9).

Gay appeared so ready for his first Olympic medal after a super quick but wind-assisted 100 metres at the 2008 American trials. But a hamstring injury in the 200 there left him unable to run at top speed in the Games and he went out in the 100 semi-finals.

Title holder: Usain Bolt (front right) is the man to beat

Title holder: Usain Bolt (front right) is the man to beat

'That (a medal) is the missing piece,' said Gay, the 2007 world double sprint champion who has never won an Olympic medal.

'I ask somebody every day how many days left till we start. I think about it constantly.'

Bolt and Blake may grab the headlines, 'but I have the confidence I can win it,' Gay said.

'I am confident I can run 9.7 or better. I don't think I have a choice but to.'

He will test his fitness on Friday by running the third leg on an American 4×100 metres relay at the Monaco Diamond League meeting.

Young Ryan Bailey will lead off the squad with Gatlin running second and Trell Kimmons the anchor.

London 2012 Olympics: Tyson Gay says 9.8s 100m sprint not enough for gold

Sprinter Gay claims 9.8second 100m sprint will not be enough for gold

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UPDATED:

18:07 GMT, 19 July 2012

The world's second fastest man, Tyson Gay, says someone may break 9.8 seconds for only the second time in an Olympic 100 metres final and still fail to win a medal.

'I really truly believe that,' said the American sprinter on Thursday.

'It will take a 9.7 to even get a medal. It's mind blowing,' he added, and the record books back him up.

Tough: Tyson Gay knows how difficult getting a medal will be

Tough: Tyson Gay knows how difficult getting a medal will be

Only once in an Olympic final has a sprinter run 9.7 or faster, Jamaican Usain Bolt smashing the world record with his 9.69 at the 2008 Olympics.

Second placed Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago clocked in at 9.89.

Now with Bolt, Jamaican world champion Yohan Blake, former world record holder Asafa Powell, American Justin Gatlin and Gay headed for an August showdown, one could foresee a 100 metres of historic proportions even without a world record, Gay said.

'It is mind blowing to think four or five people even have the possibility of doing that (9.7) in one race,' said the often-injured Gay who set a personal best of 9.69 seconds in 2009.

Bolt leads the pack with his 2009 world record of 9.58, Powell clocked 9.72 in 2008 and Blake ran 9.75 this year.

That Gay is even in the London mix is a minor miracle.

Contender: Yohan Blake is going for gold

Contender: Yohan Blake is going for gold

As late as early March he could not even jog because of 2011 hip surgery that kept him off the track for almost a year.

He ran his first race in June but still made the U.S. Olympic team later in the month, finishing second to Gatlin in the American trials.

'I still feel something here and there but there is no looking back now,' Gay said of a sore groin. The hip appears much better.

The biggest concerns are bad habits, particularly in his start, that have crept back into his race from a year's inactivity.

'But I am definitely confident going into the Olympics that I will be fit, ready to go and my start will come at the right time,” said Gay, who would like an early birthday present from the Games (He turns 30 on August 9).

Gay appeared so ready for his first Olympic medal after a super quick but wind-assisted 100 metres at the 2008 American trials. But a hamstring injury in the 200 there left him unable to run at top speed in the Games and he went out in the 100 semi-finals.

Title holder: Usain Bolt (front right) is the man to beat

Title holder: Usain Bolt (front right) is the man to beat

'That (a medal) is the missing piece,' said Gay, the 2007 world double sprint champion who has never won an Olympic medal.

'I ask somebody every day how many days left till we start. I think about it constantly.'

Bolt and Blake may grab the headlines, 'but I have the confidence I can win it,' Gay said.

'I am confident I can run 9.7 or better. I don't think I have a choice but to.'

He will test his fitness on Friday by running the third leg on an American 4×100 metres relay at the Monaco Diamond League meeting.

Young Ryan Bailey will lead off the squad with Gatlin running second and Trell Kimmons the anchor.

London 2012: British relay team look to fix problems ahead of Games

Drop in standards afflicts whole team as Chambers calls for Gemili to add speed to relay team

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 15 July 2012

The full-scale inquiry into the failures of Britain’s sprint relay team which head coach Charles van Commenee promises post-Olympics has become more pressing.

The British junior teams have become infected with the bad habits of their seniors and when that happens it suggests that there is a systemic problem with the coaching.

Missing out: Dwain Chambers and Christian Malcolm argue after missing the first handover in Helsinki

Missing out: Dwain Chambers and Christian Malcolm argue after missing the first handover in Helsinki

Need for speed: Chambers wants Adam Gemili in the relay team

Need for speed: Chambers wants Adam Gemili in the relay team

The latest disasters, following those of the senior teams at this month’s European Championships in Helsinki, came in the World Junior Championships in Barcelona.

The women’s four dropped the baton at the third changeover. The men’s team, anchored by world junior 100 champion Adam Gemili, finished last after Emmanuel Stephens fell at the first changeover and was disqualified.

Meanwhile, at Crystal Palace, the senior quartet who had been disqualified in Helsinki got the baton around an entire lap . . . but slowly. Dwain Chambers had no doubt what the team needs. ‘I, for one, would like Adam Gemili in the team. We need some speed.’

Wimbledon 2012: Andy Murray feels misunderstood

Whatever I do or say, it's never going to be right, claims Murray

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 24 June 2012

Occasionally, in the off-season chill when an eerie calm descends on a deserted All England Club, Andy Murray will take a seat in the Centre Court stands and quietly look down at one of the world’s most famous rectangles of grass.

The last time was in early spring after a practice session. ‘I’ve sat there with nobody around and thought a bit about the court and the matches I have played,’ he says.

‘If I had done it five or six years ago I wouldn’t have known what I was looking at, but I’ve played so many matches there now and I have a lot of memories.

Misunderstood: Andy Murray says people misinterpret his demeanor

Misunderstood: Andy Murray says people misinterpret his demeanor

‘It seems a long time ago since the first one.’

Murray has actually played 25 singles matches on Centre Court, one for every birthday he has celebrated, going back to 2005, when he seized the baton from Tim Henman as Britain’s great hope for a successor to Fred Perry.

The search for a first major has gone on longer than many would have imagined, to the extent that anyone who follows him will have developed their very own mental Willandywinaslamometer, a half-moon gauge with a needle.

Mine has been stuck at 12 o’clock for the past year, a position that signifies a 50 per cent chance. When he hired Ivan Lendl six months ago, it nudged marginally into positive territory and budged a little further when he came close to beating Novak Djokovic in January’s Australian Open.

Since then, however, it has fallen back a little and now leans slightly in a negative direction. The biggest single reason for this is the remorseless brilliance of Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, but there is also a sense that Murray has reverted to some of his more counter-productive habits on court, such as his tendency towards the self-beration and poor body language which were absent in Australia.

What do you expect Murray says it's natural for him to be negative on court

What do you expect Murray says it's natural for him to be negative on court

A minor, if hardly disastrous, slide in results reflects this and he candidly admits that some of the initial impact of Lendl’s arrival has worn off.

‘Early on it changed things a bit but I guess you would say that the honeymoon period is over and now it has become the same as most of the player-coach relationships I have had,’ says Murray.

‘I felt at the start of the year things did change a little bit. I was getting asked a lot about him. In some ways it maybe took the pressure off; in other ways it raised it.

‘He has a lot to offer, is a lot more knowledgeable than most people in tennis. I want to work with him for a long time, hopefully.’

Clearly the great Czech, an eight-time Grand Slam winner, is struggling to abolish some deeply ingrained habits in his charge but it is relatively early days and reputation-wise both have invested a lot in going on this fascinating blind date, so will surely wish to stay the course.

Recently there have been hurtful
allegations about exaggerating injuries that Murray strongly denies,
although he admits that, however hard he tries, he will never exude the
Zen-like calm of a Bjorn Borg.

Watchful eye: Murray with coach Ivan Lendl

Watchful eye: Murray with coach Ivan Lendl

‘For me, ideally, I’d like not to have moments in matches when I am negative and it’s something I’ve tried to improve on, which I have over a five or six-year period. But it’s part of my personality to be emotional.

‘You can’t always control it. Maybe it is something that has held me back but I’m trying. It’s not something that I haven’t looked at and thought, “Andy, you can do a much better job with that”. It’s not always possible to keep your emotions in check.’

Such honesty is one of the many things to like about Murray who, away from the court or formal press conferences — in which he remains depressingly charmless — is the most engaging and often amusing company, contrary to the image many have of him.

Seven years after those first Centre Court appearances there is the clear sense that he still feels misunderstood. ‘I’ve watched Novak in his matches going mental and yelling at his box or whatever. I’m yet to see Rafa, Roger or Novak laughing in the semis or final of a Grand Slam. Whatever I say or do, it’s never going to be right.

‘I think I’m a very nice person. I’m very polite to everyone that I meet. So just because I’m a bit negative on court sometimes, does that make me a bad person I don’t think that’s the case.’

Best shot: Murray does not want any regrets

Best shot: Murray does not want any regrets

Murray emphatically does not ask for pity that he is caught in an era of truly great players in a global individual sport with no separate tours or divisions, believing the likes of Nadal ‘have made me a better player’.

He also feels that time remains for his remarkable combination of athleticism and co-ordination to deliver the ultimate prize, although he will be going it some to do that this fortnight, given his difficult draw.

‘Tennis has changed significantly since I started, people are playing better as they get older and physically stronger,’ he says. ‘Guys have won Slams into their thirties, although it’s not an easy thing to do. Guys like Agassi have won multiple Slams after 25 and just because it hasn’t been done that much it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

‘I could have easily, after some of the losses I’ve had over the years, thought, “This isn’t going to happen for me and I won’t bother trying to improve myself”. But I haven’t.’

In this, Murray most definitely takes inspiration from Lendl, his fellow workaholic who once skipped the French Open altogether in a desperate, and ultimately futile, attempt to win the one Grand Slam that was always to elude him.

‘It didn’t work out for him but he gave it his best shot,’ says Murray. ‘You can live with that. You don’t want to look back and think, “I wasted that”. That’s something he never did and something I’m trying to make sure that I don’t do.’

Euro 2012: Mario Balotelli tugs Thiago Motta"s tie in team photo

Mario up to his old tricks in Italy camp as Motta fails to see the funny side of tie joke

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UPDATED:

16:26 GMT, 1 June 2012

He is the gift that keeps on giving. Mario Balotelli is up to his old tricks yet again.

The Manchester City striker was caught on camera tugging at former Inter Milan team-mate Thiago Motta's tie before a team photograph with the Italy squad.

Thanks for that, Mario! Balotelli (right) fiddles with Thiago Motta's tie

Thanks for that, Mario! Balotelli (right) fiddles with Thiago Motta's tie

Clearly aggrieved by the incident, Motta leans over Giorgio Chiellini and slaps Balotelli on the back of the head.

At first the City man looks to be getting a little shirty about Motta's reaction, but then continues giggling with side-kick Andrea Barzagli as the doting Chiellini straightens Motta's attire.

Earlier this year, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told Balotelli he needed to 'grow up' if he wanted to be taken seriously.

Still, old habits die hard.

MASTERS 2012: Tiger Woods: I played some of my worst ever shots

Woods shoots level par to stay in contention but insists he played 'my worst ever' shots

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UPDATED:

00:57 GMT, 6 April 2012

Tiger Woods headed straight for the driving range at Augusta after hitting 'some of the worst golf swings I've ever hit'.

The four-time Masters champion somehow managed a level par opening round of 72, but it contained two penalty drops in the trees and several other stray ones.

Tough start: Tiger Woods hits his second shot off the pine needles in the rough on the first hole

Tough start: Tiger Woods hits his second shot off the pine needles in the rough on the first hole

'I just hung in there and grinded my way around the golf course and stayed very patient, stayed in the moment,' he said after two closing bogeys had dropped him off the leaderboard.

'Unfortunately that was about as good as I got right there. I could have shot one, maybe two better, but I got a lot out of that round.'

Off the beaten track: Woods plays a shot out of the rough on the second hole

Off the beaten track: Woods plays a shot out of the rough on the second hole

He blamed it on 'old patterns' – slipping back into bad habits, that is.

'Some of my old stuff from a few years ago,' Woods added. 'I've had to try and kind of work through it and every now and again it pops up.'

Downcast: Woods reacts to a missed shot on the eleventh green but still shot 72

Downcast: Woods reacts to a missed shot on the eleventh green but still shot 72

The penalty drops came at the long second and 18th.

Andrew Flintoff sets 100m record on pedalo

Old habits die hard! Flintoff caught on pedalo again (but this time it's for a good cause)

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UPDATED:

17:00 GMT, 19 March 2012

Just when you thought Andrew Flintoff had put his past misdemeanours behind him, it seems the ex-cricketer has gone back to the more infamous antics from his career.

The former England captain has once again been found on a pedalo, along with former international team-mate Steve Harmison, evoking memories from the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

Just done it: Andrew Flintoff (right) and Steve Harmison celebrate in their pedalo after setting a new world record

Just done it: Andrew Flintoff (right) and Steve Harmison celebrate in their pedalo after setting a new world record

Back then the 34-year-old had to be pulled from the sea after pedalling into difficulty following a drinking session, which led to him being sacked as vice-captain and dropped for the following match.

But this time it’s for a worthy cause.

Swapping the Caribbean for the Serpentine in Hyde Park, Flintoff tried to raise funds for Sport Relief by setting the world record for the quickest 100m in a pedalo by posting a time of 1 minute 58.62 – beating his target by just over a second.

Pedal to the metal: Flintoff and Harmison show their strain during the attempt

Pedal to the metal: Flintoff and Harmison show their strain during the attempt

Relief: Flintoff reacts after finding out his time narrowly set the new record

Relief: Flintoff reacts after finding out his time narrowly set the new record

On his Twitter account, the former all-rounder claimed he would be 'gutted' if he
didn't beat the record but fancied his chances due to this time being
'sober' on the paddle boat.

Bowled
over from setting the record, Flintoff said: ‘That was much harder than
I thought it would be. It was the record that I most wanted to complete
though so I’m really happy about that!’

Controversial: Flintoff's infamous incident with the pedalo during the 2007 World Cup came off the coast of Reduit Beach

Controversial: Flintoff's infamous incident with the pedalo during the 2007 World Cup came off the coast of Reduit Beach

The former Lancashire star is on a campaign for the charity by attempting to break 12 world records inside 12 hours.

They range from the bold to the ridiculous including ‘most cricket deliveries faced in one minute’ and ‘most hotdogs made in one minute’.

You can sponsor and show your support for Freddie, as well as monitor his progress by going to www.sportrelief.com/flintoff