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Darren Barker proposes at Wembley Stadium

Knocked off her feet! Boxer Barker proposes via Wembley scoreboard… but did he get the answer he was looking for

By
Martin Domin

PUBLISHED:

00:57 GMT, 14 February 2013

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UPDATED:

01:32 GMT, 14 February 2013

Roses Check. Chocolates Check. Dinner at a fancy restaurant Check.

As Valentine's Day dawns, men up and down the country will be hoping they’ve finally got it right.

But they will have to go some to beat the efforts of boxer Darren Barker who proposed to his girlfriend Gemma at Wembley Stadium.

The big question: Darren Barker proposed to girlfriend Gemma at Wembley Stadium

The big question: Darren Barker proposed to girlfriend Gemma at Wembley Stadium

The middleweight, who was at the ground
to promote his next fight at Wembley Arena on March 9, used the giant scoreboard to ask the all-important question – and the answer was a
resounding 'Yes'.

'It was short notice; I knew someone at Wembley and they said I could do it on the scoreboard,' Barker told Sportsmail. 'I’ve wanted to do it for a while, I’ve been with Gemma for 12 years so it was overdue; she’s been long suffering but she's over the moon.

'She didn’t think I had it in me; she’s a happy woman thankfully.'

Having pulled out all the stops for his proposal, Barker expects to get off lightly today.

'She’ll get a nice card from Hallmark and that will be her lot,' he joked. 'It’s what she’ll do for me, that’s the question!'

Darren Barker

Darren Barker

Sealed with a kiss: Barker got the answer he was looking for when he proposed at Wembley

With his next fight on the horizon, Barker has put the engagement party on hold.

'We went out for a bit of lunch, she had a glass of wine but I was on the mineral water! We’ll wait until after the fight.'

Gemma later tweeted: 'I was at
Wembley Stadium earlier where Darren was having a photo shoot and doing a
bit for the press…..I said yes!

'I'm
over the moon to be engaged was so lovely and we were lucky to have
some amazing photos taken on the pitch under the sign xxx'

The 30-year-old Chelsea fan, who expects to tie the knot next year, also got his hands on the FA Cup ahead of the Blue's replay against Brentford on Sunday.

Up for the cup: Chelsea fan Barker

Up for the cup: Chelsea fan Barker

'It was good getting hold of the FA
Cup,' he said. 'Brentford had their bit of glory getting a replay at
Stamford Bridge but I think you’ll see the true professionalism come
through now.'

Chelsea have struggled this season and the FA Cup is their only realistic chance of domestic silverware.

'In some respects I would rather have
gone right out of Europe,' Barker admitted.

'The Europa League is a bit
of a nightmare with the added fixtures and travelling. It’s second best
to the Champions League and we only want the best at Chelsea. I’d
rather win the FA Cup.'

After a long lay-off with injury, Barker returned to the ring in December when he stopped Kerry Hope inside four rounds.

With just over three weeks to go until the first bell, Barker's opponent has yet to be confirmed but he revealed to Sportsmail that a deal is close.

'It looks like being Simone Rotolo who I
was supposed to fight in September when I pulled out injured so I
suppose there’s a bit of unfinished business there,' he said.

'We won’t take him lightly as he’s a good
fighter and an experienced opponent. We were looking for a top 10
opponent but everyone’s either busy or holding out for a world title
shot.

'The next fight after this will be huge, either a big domestic dust-up or a world title shot.'

And when his big moment arrives, Barker would love nothing more than to fight at Stamford Bridge.

'It would be a real honour to fight at the Bridge,' he said. 'I’ve been going there for years and years as a kid and to fight there, I’d really have to pinch myself.

'It would have to be a big world title fight to fill a stadium like that.'

England player ratings v Ukraine

England player ratings v Ukraine: Sportsmail's verdict on Hodgson's boys

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UPDATED:

23:34 GMT, 11 September 2012

England came away from the clash with Ukraine at Wembley on Tuesday night with one point when many expected them to take three.

Here, Sportsmail takes a closer look at the individual players and how they fared.

As a whole the team earned a 6.3 average rating – not the hallmark of an impressive display.

player ratings

player ratings

London 2012 Olympics: Michael Phelps beats record medal tally

Greatest Olympian ever! Phelps beats all-time record medal tally with double in pool

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UPDATED:

20:14 GMT, 31 July 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

Michael Phelps tonight became the most decorated athlete in Olympic history when his gold in the 4×200 metres freestyle relay took him to 19.

The 27-year-old had equalled Larisa Latynina's record earlier this evening with silver in the 200m butterfly.

However, the United States swimmer moved him beyond the Russian whose record had stood since 1964 to stand alone at the pinnacle with three more events to come.

History maker: Phelps bagged the two medals he needed to become the most decorated Olympian

History maker: Phelps bagged the two medals he needed to become the most decorated Olympian

Phelps' medal tally
15 x GOLD2 x SILVER
2 x BRONZE

The American has always
maintained he is not interested in medal counts and will be furious with
himself after Chad le Clos beat him on the touch in his first race of the evening – the 200m butterfly.

It is a measure of the expectations placed on the Baltimore swimmer that there was audible shock around the Aquatics Centre, a feeling of deflation even.

However, credit is due to Le Clos who swam a superb race to take advantage of Phelps' poor judgement, the American gliding into the wall rather than finishing on a full stroke as has been his hallmark.

The South African won in one minute 52.96 seconds, 0.05secs ahead of Phelps with Japan's Takeshi Matsuda third.

The 200m butterfly final came after Caitlin McClatchey had finished seventh in the 200m freestyle which United States swimmer Allison Schmitt won in Olympic record time.

Pipped to the post: Phelps narrowly missed out on the gold medal

Pipped to the post: Phelps narrowly missed out on the gold medal

No hard feelings: Phelps congratulates Le Clos on sealing gold

No hard feelings: Phelps congratulates Le Clos on sealing gold

The 26-year-old McClatchey produced her
best performances for years to reach the final but she was not
realistically expected to be in the battle for the title.

Schmitt, who last month swam the
event faster than anyone in textiles in history, led from start to
finish and touched in a dominant 1:53.61.

France's Camille Muffat was second as
the pair reversed their placings in the 400m freestyle on Sunday with
Australia's Bronte Barratt third.

McClatchey touched in 1:57.60 in what is set to be her final Olympics after three Games.

She said: 'I would have liked to have
gone a bit faster than I did in the semi, I tried something a bit
different and ended up going out too hard probably, tried to stick with
Missy (Franklin) down the first length, and it took a bit more out of
me.

Gold standard: Le Clos was the big winner - taking gold in the 200m butterfly

Gold standard: Le Clos was the big winner – taking gold in the 200m butterfly

Gold standard: Le Clos was the big winner - taking gold in the 200m butterfly

Gold standard: Le Clos was the big winner – taking gold in the 200m butterfly

'It was all about enjoying it tonight, I knew I would have to do something massive to get into the medals.

'I really enjoyed it, the crowd were fantastic again, I couldn't ask for anything more from them.

'I didn't even think I would make the
final because it was such a strong event so that was a massive
achievement, and I didn't come last so that was good!'

Jemma Lowe squeezed into the final of
the 200m butterfly in 2:07.37, a relief after the shock exit of world
silver medallist Ellen Gandy this morning.

You beauty! Le Clos' dad, Bert, celebrates his son's famous victory

You beauty! Le Clos' dad, Bert, celebrates his son's famous victory

You beauty! Le Clos' dad, Bert, celebrates his son's famous victory

Masters 2012: Rory McIlroy can win more majors than me, says Gary Player

EXCLUSIVE: McIlroy is the one… He can win way more than my nine majors, says Player

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UPDATED:

22:25 GMT, 1 April 2012

He's the nine-time major champion and a man who has won at Augusta three times. So when Gary Player makes this statement, it's worth listening.

'Rory McIlroy is as talented as anybody I have ever seen.'

The success of Player, now a most sprightly 76, came in golf's so-called 'golden era' when he, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus dominated their sport.

Legend: Player has won the Masters three times

Legend: Player has won the Masters
three times

From his debut in 1957, the 'Black Knight' played in a record 52 Masters – 'a year of my life!' – winning in 1961, 1974 and 1978 as well as claiming 12 more top-10 finishes. He'll be swinging again alongside the rest of 'the big three' on the first tee at Augusta next week, but more of that in a moment.

For now, the fitness fanatic is keen to talk about another major winner: the new Holywood superstar who won last year's US Open, but only after the most infamous of Masters meltdowns.

'Wow, is he talented,' Player said of McIlroy. 'When he starts to putt consistently well, he will win a lot of majors.

'The hallmark of a champion is consistency. And, boy, in his overall game, he is right there. There are other young guys who are talented – Jason Day, Charl Schwartzel to name two – but Rory is the one. I have nine majors and he can win way more than that.'

Player had no hesitation in focusing
on how McIlroy will cope with returning to the scene of his final-day
nightmare, which saw him add to his four-shot overnight lead with a
final-round 80 to help hand the green jacket to Schwartzel.

'Firstly, Rory's technique is good,
and that's crucial,' he said. 'You've got to know why you hit a good
shot – and not just hit one – because you need something to fall back on
when it's going wrong. Rory has that now.

/04/01/article-2123629-1266D7E9000005DC-129_306x423.jpg

Masters legends: Player will once again take to the first tee to play the first shot with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer

Masters legends: Player will take to the tee to play the first shot with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer

'He played in one of our days in Abu Dhabi, in the Gary Player Invitational and, sure we paid him well, but he was outstanding. At night, at our dinner, he was bidding for some of our items for our charity. He's a role model. I was so impressed with him.'

Looking back with a wry smile across a career in which he's travelled an estimated 15 million miles ('more than any other player, probably more than any other human'), Player reeled off examples of when he finished close but not close enough.

He described the 'indelible stain' on
your record that comes from being second rather than first; his
frustration at having three runner-up spots as well as three wins at the
Masters was tangible.

'Rory has the whole world at his
feet,' he continued. 'To do what he did at the Masters was tough, but to
come straight back and win the US Open – wow, that was impressive to
me. It took my head off.

'Let me tell you, that comeback, to
win that first major, also showed the other pros how tough he is
mentally. And that's a huge thing to have on your side.

Bouncing back: McIlroy endured a horror final round in Augusta, only to win the next major: the US Open

Bouncing back: McIlroy endured a horror final round in Augusta, only to win the next major: the US Open

Bouncing back: McIlroy endured a horror final round in Augusta, only to win the next major: the US Open

'Managing pressure is the hardest thing. If you are leading the Open or Masters, like I did on many occasions, you have got to go to bed with that on your stomach. It's real pressure because you know what that means to your life. And he's now experienced that, which will only go to help him.'

But Rory is far from the only story in town leading into the Masters. Tiger Woods is back and, unlike last year when he continued his comeback from his own meltdown to upset expectations and finish a highly creditable tied fourth, he's firing on all cylinders following last weekend's triumph at Bay Hill.

'You just don't know what is going on inside a man,' said Player. 'He is on his way back now. I don't know if he can be the player he was, but he's definitely on the right track now. And don't forget in the two years he was missing, the young generation have come through to now give him a vital new challenge. He'll savour that.

'Golf needs Tiger Woods. I am a big fan. He gets the ratings to go up. He has a charisma about him, and he gets the media, the fans, everything. Anybody who drives a ball like Tiger and Phil Mickelson – not very straight a lot of the time – and win like they do, then that's a special, special talent both in terms of their mentality and the shots they can play. Remarkable.'

Top of the game: Golf needs personalities like Mickelson and Woods (below)

Top of the game: Golf needs personalities like Mickelson and Woods (below)

Top of the game: Golf needs personalities like Mickelson and Woods (below)

Although the UK challenge is headlined by McIlroy and led by world No 1 Luke Donald, it's the man ranked third who Player picked out as we chatted about the 'men to watch'.

'Lee Westwood is probably the most unlucky golfer I can think of who hasn't won a major,' he said. 'There is no finer striker of a ball. Tee to green there is nobody better. And he's a great gentleman, too. But he will win a major. I'm sure of it. As long as he doesn't kill himself over it, he can win a major. That's what he's got to tell himself. Put it on a big piece of paper. On his mantelpiece, so he can see it every day.

'I used to stand in front of a mirror and tell myself, “You are going to be the best player in the world”.'

The invitation from Player to talk all things Masters came as part of his participation as an honorary starter of the event, alongside Palmer and Nicklaus. The three icons will pull out their drivers once more on Augusta's first tee for commemorative shots on Thursday before the action proper gets under way.

This will be the sixth time Palmer has accepted the honour, and the third for Nicklaus, and their new partner is savouring the thought of joining them.

Give him a break: Player believes Westwood is the most unlucky man in golf

Give him a break: Player believes Westwood is the most unlucky man in golf

'Being a starter at Augusta is fantastic,' he said. 'Arnie, Jack and I travelled the world extensively, going to all corners of the globe. There were no big financial guarantees like now when Tiger gets $2-3million (1.25m-1.87m) for playing and travels in a private jet. We would stay in the club and dance with the members, and I got $20,000, $25,000 and $45,000 for each of my Masters. Today it's $1.4m (875,000)!

'I took my wife Vivienne, six children and I don't know how many bags with me wherever I went. Jack, Arnie and myself built up a friendship along the way. So it's nice to go back and have a little bit of that competitive feeling on the first tee. But it's also right that we don't play for real any more as we've had our day and won our Masters.'

McIlroy will hope he's in a position to say the same in 50-odd years' time.

Gary Player will host the Gary Player Invitational Series at Champions Retreat Golf Club, Augusta on April 9 to benefit his foundation, which has raised $35m for underprivileged children.

Roy Keane new Wolves manager candidate

Wolves keen on Keane as Bruce prefers to wait for better deal


Option: Could Roy Keane (right) replace Mick McCarthy (left)

Option: Could Roy Keane (right) replace Mick McCarthy (left)

Roy Keane has emerged as a candidate for the vacant manager’s post at Wolves.

Second interviews are scheduled to take place this week but early favourite Steve Bruce is reluctant to accept the job on a short term basis until the end of the season, which the club were keen on.

Former Sunderland manager Keane recently said he was happy to continue in his role as TV pundit where his hallmark no-nonsense approach has upset the likes of Arsene Wenger.

However, the challenge of keeping Wolves in the Premier League is attractive to the 40-year-old.

Maybe: Steve Bruce wants a longer-term contract than is being offered

Maybe: Steve Bruce wants a longer-term contract than is being offered

Wolves must now decide whether to revise their ideas and talk to Bruce, also a former Sunderland manager, again, with a long-term offer or press ahead with other candidates such as Keane.

Alan Curbishley though appears to have slipped out of the running after holding talks with chief executive Jez Moxey and chairman Steve Morgan last Thursday.

Moxey said: ‘What I can say is that I think we are about halfway through the process and it is going well.

‘We have seen some very good candidates and have got some more candidates to see and we’ve got second interviews.

Contender Alan Curbishley is unlikely to take the job

Contender Alan Curbishley is unlikely to take the job

So far I think we are just about on schedule to keep to what we said which was, if at all possible, that we’d like a new manager in before our away game to Newcastle United.

‘We can’t be absolutely sure that will be the time frame but ideally that is what we want to do.

'This job requires a certain type of manager and someone who is going to give us complete commitment and enthusiasm.

'We would only ever appoint somebody who clearly demonstrated to us that they really want the job.’