Tag Archives: hangover

Match of the Day is an old boys" club – Laura Williamson

Wake up Gary, or Match of the Day's old boys' club may close for good

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UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 9 December 2012

The BBC website features a page called ‘How to watch Match of the Day’. Increasingly, however, the answer is quite simple.

Record it and fast-forward past the ‘analysis’ between games or risk water intoxication (or a nasty hangover) by putting the kettle on or topping up your wine glass every time the Three Wise Men come on to your screen in their smart-casual, open-necked shirts.

On Saturday night, for example, Alan Hansen delivered the following gems during the 15 minutes we were not watching match action or plugs for Sports Personality of the Year.

Old boys club: (from left-right) Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen, Mark Lawrenson

Old boys club: (from left-right) Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen, Mark Lawrenson

More from Laura Williamson…

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Laura Williamson: As Sportsmail enters the ring with an Olympic star, Jonas shows being a warrior woman is worth fighting for
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Laura Williamson: Kids have no chance when vile chants are treated like nursery rhymes
06/11/12

Laura Williamson: Wit is the only way to counter football's vile chants
04/11/12

Laura Williamson: After Twenty20 World Cup we must now start taking women's cricket seriously
07/10/12

Laura Williamson: Don't use women's sport just to plug a gap, please Auntie…
23/09/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Sunderland ‘have got to stop leaking bad goals early’, three defeats in a row for West Brom is ‘enough’ and, my personal favourite, QPR ‘have got to get victories’. Funny that, as they are bottom of the table having just set a record for the longest winless Premier League start.

Hansen, though, delivers these insightful nuggets with the explicit authority of a father talking down to his eight-year-old son. ‘How are babies made, dad’ ‘They just are.’ End of conversation.

On the rare occasions host Gary Lineker deigns to probe his pal a little further, Hansen frowns and squirms in his seat, visibly affronted. There was a similar, almost embarrassed, reaction from Lineker after reporter Damian Johnson asked Martin O’Neill about self-doubt after Sunderland had slipped into the bottom three.

Ah, those pesky journalists asking former footballers questions. How dare they

Match of the Day too often seems like the comfy old boys’ club we should be honoured to visit for 80 minutes every Saturday night. Relaxed and matey is fine, but it is not conducive to forthright opinions or illuminating punditry.

Dan Walker, who will present next week’s show in Lineker’s absence, may help here. The programme has also tried, to its credit, to shake things up by including current players such as Vincent Kompany and Phil Neville in recent weeks.

It is a very difficult ask, however, for an active footballer to be anything other than diplomatic — particularly when three ex-pros are fawning over your every word.

The programme misses Lee Dixon, while Mark Lawrenson is infinitely better on the radio. Alan Shearer was perfectly fine on Saturday, although he got himself in a twist trying to explain how Chelsea are playing more to Fernando Torres’s strengths.

Effort: Vincent Kompany (right) appeared on the show - but there was only so much he could say

Effort: Vincent Kompany (right) appeared on the show – but there was only so much he could say

Missed: Lee Dixon (right) added something to the show when he was there

Missed: Lee Dixon (right) added something to the show when he was there

But at least Shearer had a go; at least he was enthusiastic and animated. Hansen was also right to highlight Jack Wilshere’s display for Arsenal against West Brom but he simply talked us through what happened and not how or why.

What did Arsene Wenger’s side do differently to their 2-0 defeat by Swansea City And what about Santi Cazorla’s blatant dive to win Arsenal’s first penalty

Little evolution: Lineker (centre) with Hansen and Lawrenson in 2001 and below in 2006

Little evolution: Lineker (centre) with Hansen and Lawrenson in 2001 and below in 2006

Familiar faces: Lawrenson, Lineker and Hansen

Familiar faces: Lawrenson, Lineker and Hansen

Oh, they all had a good laugh about that one, while singularly failing to discuss or expand on one of the main talking points. Are foreign players more culpable than home-grown ones How do we stamp it out Alan, did you ever dive to win a penalty

This is the main problem with the modern Match of the Day. There were highlights of six matches delivered from the shiny new set in Salford on Saturday, not one definitive game.

But then Match of the Day is not definitive any more. That happens on a Monday night on Sky with Gary Neville and his interactive white board. MotD is now occupying a beige middle ground of irrelevancy.

Is it a light entertainment show or a sports programme

It needs to make up its mind before a much-loved television institution is fast-forwarded out of existence.

Blast from the past: Lineker took over hosting duties of the show in 1999

Blast from the past: Lineker took over hosting duties of the show in 1999

What they said

Harry Redknapp teed up his first meeting with QPR chairman Tony Fernandes by announcing: ‘I’ve said it a million times that they’re nice people. I’m not saying that because I need the job. If I thought they were tossers I would say so.’

I wonder if January transfer targets will be on the agenda

Not tossers: Harry Redknapp defended his new bosses

Not tossers: Harry Redknapp defended his new bosses

…And this is what I've been doing this week

In Athens with Arsenal on Monday, Arsene Wenger was noticeably disdainful of any suggestion his club are experiencing a crisis. The admirable belief in his principles is nothing new, but the scornful tone felt different and unnecessary from a manager who has achieved as much as Wenger.

Arsenal are not a club in meltdown — they are still fighting in all competitions, after all — but they are certainly not one in ‘fantastic shape’, whatever the Frenchman may say.

Balance: Arsenal are not falling to pieces, but nor are they in fantastic shape

Balance: Arsenal are not falling to pieces, but nor are they in fantastic shape

Meeting new UK Athletics coaches Rana Reider and Terrence Mahon at Loughborough University, both of whom are American. We Brits have a tendency to self-deprecate, but the way the pair talked up our funding system, personnel and facilities suggested we are doing something right. It also means, of course, there are no excuses for athletes who fail to deliver.

Impressed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s easy, eloquent manner at the Sports Journalists’ Association British Sports Awards on Thursday. The Arsenal midfielder picked up the Best International Newcomer award and quipped: ‘Thank you, it’s nice to win something.’

Juan Manuel Marquez beats Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas

Pacquiao stunned as Marquez delivers knockout blow with stunning sixth-round shot in brutal 'Fight of the Year'

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UPDATED:

13:34 GMT, 9 December 2012

Manny Pacquiao gives straight answers even after he’s been knocked cold in the upset of the new century, as he was by his perennial rival Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday night.

‘I’m open to a fifth fight between us,’ said the PacMan once he had regained consciousness. ‘Why not fight again’

Why not, indeed, when the early returns from the fourth edition of this saga suggest gross takings of $85 million. Why not, now that this knock-out with one second remaining in the sixth round has almost certainly put paid to the even richer prospect of a dream fight between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.

Scroll down for video

Knockout blow: Marquez celebrates after stopping Pacquiao in the sixth round

Knockout blow: Marquez celebrates after stopping Pacquiao in the sixth round

Knockout blow: Marquez celebrates after stopping Pacquiao in the sixth round

The question which remains unanswered, however, is exactly how Senor Marquez, at the grand sporting age of 39, has developed a physique like the Incredible Hulk and nuclear power in his right fist.

If the world were as simple as when we were starry-eyed kids, we would have awoken with an almighty hangover on Sunday morning after joining thousands of Mexicans in their tequila-soaked celebrations here.

Instead we are walking gingerly on egg shells.

Stunning shot: Marquez lands the bout-winning right hand in the sixth

Stunning shot: Marquez lands the bout-winning right hand in the sixth

Knockout blow: Marquez lands the bout-winning right hand in the sixth

Knockout blow: Marquez lands the bout-winning right hand in the sixth

Knockout blow: Marquez lands the bout-winning right hand in the sixth

Knockout blow: Marquez lands the bout-winning right hand in the sixth

Knockout blow: Marquez lands the bout-winning right hand in the sixth

The world is not so simple when the victor of what might well be voted the Fight of the Year has to keep denying that his body-building transformation has been achieved with the help of performance enhancing drugs.

Marquez puts it down to incredibly hard work. We hear him but we also know that his physical conditioner is the man who confessed to supplying steroids to shamed US Olympic athletes Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery.

It feels horribly churlish to withhold unqualified praise for Marquez’s achievement in flattening, at the fourth attempt, the Filipino idol who went into this tumultuous weekend as one of the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. But if you hire as your dietician Angel Heredia – or whatever he calls himself at the moment – you must know that you will invite suspicion.

The PacMan: Pacquiao makes his way out to the ring

The PacMan: Pacquiao makes his way out to the ring

The PacMan: Pacquiao makes his way out to the ring

Everyone was dancing around the issue once Pacquiao was back on his feet and en route to hospital for precautionary tests.

His master trainer Freddie Roach has raised questions previously, but, more diplomatically, said: ‘His body has developed as he gets older and he’s punching harder. His power has improved and he hurt Manny a lot more with his right hand than in the past fights.’

That much was obvious for all to see as Pacquiao was decked in the second round before being knocked head-first into oblivion at the end of the sixth. His wife Jinkee was in weeping distress at the sight of her husband lying prostrate under a rope but once her husband had been revived he consoled her on his way to congratulating Marquez.

He remains a gentleman in defeat – and arguably still the greater boxer than Marquez even though the clear and decisive outcome which both sought in this re-re-re-match went to his nemesis, not himself.

Sighter: Pacquiao lands a left in the first round

Sighter: Pacquiao lands a left in the first round

Smiles better: Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (right) was in the crowd

Smiles better: Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (right) was in the crowd

Pacquiao, with his crisp right jabs, in-and-out attacks and whiplash lefts controlled this fight with the exception of taking those two huge blows. He recovered from his first knock down to dump Marquez on the seat of his pants in the fifth.

For the most part Pacquiao dominated from his quick-fire response to the first bell until that single second before it would have rung to end the sixth.

Marquez, his nose broken and his face lacerated, was on the brink of defeat when Pacquiao sensed a KO of his own, became over-excited and walked onto his opponent’s desperation punch.

‘We made one mistake and got knocked out just as we were about to win,’ said Roach. ‘It happens in boxing. But I didn’t see any signs of deterioration in Manny. When we get back in the gym I will advise him to retire if I see bad things. But I don’t expect that.’

On the charge: Marquez takes the attack to Pacquiao

On the charge: Marquez takes the attack to Pacquiao

Floored: Pacquiao hits the canvas after Marquez connects with a right in the third

Floored: Pacquiao hits the canvas after Marquez connects with a right in the third

Floored: Pacquiao hits the canvas after Marquez connects with a right in the third

Floored: Pacquiao hits the canvas after Marquez connects with a right in the third

Marquez was also showing signs of concussion when he returned to the dressing room and he, too, had to go to hospital.

With both men determined to bring their dispute to an abrupt and finite conclusion, promoter Bob Arum compared this with the historic battle between Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns which is regarded as the greatest three rounds in ring history.

Arum is probably right in arguing that Mayweather-Pacquiao could still be a $200 milllion pay-TV bonanza. As he says: ‘Losing a fight, even by knock-out, is not death.’ The problem is that Mayweather now has the perfect excuse for declining to put at risk the unbeaten record he cherishes. He did, after all, defeat the pre-muscular Marquez quite comfortably a couple of years ago.

Toe-to-toe: Both fighters were intent on attacking

Toe-to-toe: Both fighters were intent on attacking

Toe-to-toe: Both fighters were intent on attacking

Old acquaintances: The pair were meeting for the fourth time in their careers

Old acquaintances: The pair were meeting for the fourth time in their careers

Pacquiao-Marquez Five is another matter. The series continues to court the kind of controversy which, along with the intensity of the fighting, makes for good box office.

Marquez bitterly protested the results of their first three contests, a draw and two narrow decisions in favour of Pacquiao. Now he finds his night of redemption clouded by insinuations of drug abuse.

That will bring a sense of unfairness crowding in on him which will seem as over-powering as the roaring support he had in the Grand Garden Arena.

Old acquaintances: The pair were meeting for the fourth time in their careers

False dawn: Marquez had a wobble in the fifth after a left jab from Pacquiao

False dawn: Marquez had a wobble in the fifth after a left jab from Pacquiao

This was the night which was supposed to resolve their personal dispute once and for all.
Rather, it begs the question of a fifth encounter.

One for which the preparations need to be monitored, by wicked irony, by the Olympic standard blood testing which a certain Mr Mayweather is campaigning to make mandatory in boxing.

So when will it all end The PacMan may have to answer that, too. Whenever he decides to retire into politics full-time.

Floored: Pacquiao was face down on the canvas for some time

Floored: Pacquiao was face down on the canvas for some time

Floored: Pacquiao was face down in the canvas for some time

Floored: Pacquiao was face down on the canvas for some time

Job done: Marquez celebrates his victory

Job done: Marquez celebrates his victory

VIDEO: Reactions after Marquez knocks out Pacquiao in sixth round

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Ryan Giggs vows to claim title back from rivals Manchester City

United veteran Giggs vows to claim title back from rivals City

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UPDATED:

08:40 GMT, 14 September 2012

Ryan Giggs has underlined how determined Manchester United are to win the Premier League title back.

United lost out in agonising fashion to Manchester City last term and, with injuries depriving Sir Alex Ferguson of so many key members of his squad, the hangover has lingered.

After losing their opening match at Everton, the Old Trafford outfit looked set to suffer another defeat at Southampton immediately before the international break until Robin van Persie turned the game on its head.

Life of Ryan: Giggs is determined to win back the Premier League title

Life of Ryan: Giggs is determined to win back the Premier League title

It was the kind of result that can kick-start a season, and with Wigan the visitors tomorrow, Giggs is eager for United to find their feet.

'The lads can't wait to produce some of the football that we did last year,' the veteran Welshman told Key103.

'What happened last season was tough for everyone but you just have to come back in the right manner, which is what we hope to do.

Three and easy: Van Persie netted a hat-trick against Southampton

Three and easy: Van Persie netted a hat-trick against Southampton

'It is going to be tough because there are a lot of quality teams out there but you are always determined. We want to get it back.'

The availability of Van Persie and fellow new-boy Shinji Kagawa would help. However, along with Patrice Evra, all three are major doubts after picking up injuries on international duty in midweek.

Holland manager Louis van Gaal took Van Persie off with a thigh injury, while Kagawa has a back injury that forced him to miss Japan's encounter with Iraq.

With Wayne Rooney already out with his gashed thigh, United would be in trouble if they were forced to operate without two more players who have made such a positive impact at the club already.

'You hope the big players that you sign fit in straight away,' said the 38-year-old Giggs, who will be making his 600th Premier League appearance if he plays some part against the Latics.

'Sometimes it doesn't happen. With Shinji and Robin it has happened straight away, which is great.

'It gives everyone a lift in the squad. Training is a lot sharper and we are all fighting for places, which is what you want.

'It just ups the performance level.'

England still suffering Olympic Games hangover – Wembley match zone

Wembley match zone: England fail to capture imagination amid Olympic hangover

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UPDATED:

23:03 GMT, 11 September 2012

They may be officially over but it’s hard to escape the Olympics and Paralympics in London. Tube trains carry the maps directing people to the different venues, for example, while many buildings are still adorned by flags of competing nations. At Wembley the England football team seemingly failed to capture the public’s imagination as the stadium was far from full at kick-off. Time to give us a reason to believe again, Mr Hodgson.

Applause: Olympic medalists were paraded at half-time

Applause: Olympic medalists were paraded at half-time

Blokhin still bitter

Ukraine coach Oleh Blokhin spent most of Euro 2012 picking fights with people, from journalists to football administrators and politicians. And it seems he still hasn’t forgotten the injustices he felt befell his side — who had a goal not given when the ball had crossed the line — during their defeat by England in Donetsk over the summer, when a Wayne Rooney goal separated the teams. ‘The referee made two mistakes,’ insisted the 59-year-old. ‘Of course he hurt us. But that’s history.’

Northern stars

The national team have rarely been as enthusiastically supported as they were when they travelled the country playing at different venues while Wembley was being rebuilt in the middle of the last decade. Many supporters would still like to see the odd game played ‘up north’ and this suggestion was perhaps given more credence by the fact that eight of the starting 11 play their football in either Manchester or Liverpool.

Wise head: Frank Lampard takes the captain's armband

Wise head: Frank Lampard takes the captain's armband

Team player Lamps

He may not be captain but Frank Lampard is a man who understands the team ethic. Seeing Tom Cleverley screw a chance wide in the first half — the second time the Manchester United man should have scored — Lampard ran 30 yards to give him a tap on the shoulder. Two minutes later, with his confidence restored, Cleverley hit the post with a brilliant shot.

Lescott loses out

Roy Hodgson has said he won’t be afraid to pick players who aren’t playing regularly for their clubs and one wonders if he will soon add Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott to that list. The 30-year-old had a superb season last time round but City manager Roberto Mancini has bought Serb Matija Nastasic as a long-term replacement because he is unsure about Lescott’s ability on the ball. On Tuesday, Lescott gave possession away cheaply in the build-up to the first goal.

Error: Joleon Lescott made a mistake for Ukraine's goal

Error: Joleon Lescott made a mistake for Ukraine's goal

Defoe's fast start

Coaches may be critical of a perceived lack of effort when the opposition have the ball but one of the enduringly impressive aspects of Jermain Defoe’s football is his ability to find his rhythm quickly and work goalkeepers from a variety of angles. In some ways it makes the Tottenham striker a perfect substitute but Defoe was into the game quickly, whipping a super right-foot shot past Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Piatov in the 11th minute, only to be pulled back for a foul.

Michael Carrick threatens backlash

Carrick warns of backlash as United launch bid to wrestle league from champions City

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UPDATED:

22:20 GMT, 18 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Michael Carrick insists Manchester United will come back stronger than ever this season and suffer no hangover after losing their grip on the Barclays Premier League title in such dramatic fashion.

United saw their crown snatched away from them by Manchester City in the dying seconds of the last campaign via their 3-2 win over QPR with two last-gasp goals.

Carrick admits it took time to get over that blow but expects a positive response and believes the arrival of Robin van Persie from Arsenal provides a massive boost ahead of the opening clash at Everton on Monday evening.

Means business: Michael Carrick said United will be back with a bang ahead of their Premier league opener against Everton

Means business: Michael Carrick said United will be back with a bang ahead of their Premier league opener against Everton

'What happened takes some getting over. It's not easy. It was a huge blow, the way it happened,'he said.

'Nobody could have predicted that and we never thought it was going to happen like that.

'But we have to get over it now. We've had setbacks in the past and we have to move on. That's the nature of the club and the manager. He'll be driving us forward to achieve something this season.

'As a club we do tend to bounce back. If we have a defeat or setback we tend to come back stronger. We can't forget how close we were.

'It wasn't a disaster in terms of how the season went because we had a good season really.

'We'll bounce back. We're strong this year and we're hungry, not that we wouldn't have been hungry anyway. It will be a good championship.'

Carrick revealed the pre-season message from Sir Alex Ferguson was the same as always.

'It was just “go again”. Whether we won the league last season or not it's the same, the same message really,' he said.

Carrick (right) played for England in mid-week against Italy

Carrick (right) played for England in mid-week against Italy

'He says 'you have to start again, start afresh. Last season doesn't count for anything now, everything is new' and we'll look forward to it.'

In terms of bringing Van Persie to Old Trafford, Carrick said: 'It's great news. We want the best players in the club.

'It's been well publicised that we've been chasing him and it's a big boost for us. It's a big week now going into the first game of the season and it will give everyone a big lift.'

On a personal level, Carrick ended his self-imposed England exile by returning for the mid-week friendly international with Italy in Berne and he skippered the side for the final 20 minutes.

'It was special to be back. I hadn't played for over two years for England,' he said.

'In terms of not playing, I went to the last World Cup and I was there but was never going to play – and I knew that. There were injuries in midfield and I still didn't get a look in.

Boost: Robin van Persie joined Manchester United and is hoping to partner Wayne Rooney up front

Boost: Robin van Persie joined Manchester United and is hoping to partner Wayne Rooney up front

'It was getting to the stage where I was always turning up and not playing. I decided if I wasn't close to being involved, I'd rather not be there.

'It wasn't a case of 'play me or I quit' because if anyone knows me, they'll know that's not me at all.

'Then obviously Fabio (Capello) left and Roy (Hodgson) came in and there was maybe a little bit of confusion over that.

'But I have to drawn a line under that really and moved on and being captain at the end on Wednesday was a special moment, an extra-special moment.

'It's one of them things that happened and something I'll remember forever.'

London 2012 Olympics: Ben Ainslie wins sailing gold

Fires of '96 still burn bright inside killer Ainslie after fourth sailing gold medal

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UPDATED:

21:41 GMT, 5 August 2012

Olympics 2012

The first time I came face to face with Ben Ainslie was on a pontoon on the north side of Wassaw Sound where the Wilmington River at Savannah, Georgia flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

The year was 1996, the temperature was 105˚F and 19-year-old Ainslie was even hotter having just been denied Olympic gold by the devious tactics of wily Brazilian Robert Scheidt.

The conversation was brief. Despite becoming the youngest British sailor in history to win an Olympic medal, Ainslie was angry and I was suffering from hangover-induced heatstroke made worse by the fact that my early-morning flight from Atlanta had not been for silver. And the time difference meant I had to ad-lib a story about a sport as alien to me as the bug-infested surroundings.

Simply the best: Ben Ainslie celebrates his fourth successive Olympic gold medal

Simply the best: Ben Ainslie celebrates his fourth successive Olympic gold medal

But you could see that the fire in the teenager’s eyes matched the fire in his belly.

His father, Rod, a round-the-world yachtsman of considerable repute, declared with defiance: ‘Ben will win gold in 2000. No question.’

The proud parent described as ‘money well spent’ the selling of the family home and an investment of 25,000 into the Atlanta campaign. National Lottery money had not yet come on stream and sponsorship for sailors did not exist.

/08/05/article-2184142-146530DA000005DC-118_634x410.jpg” width=”634″ height=”410″ alt=”He who flares, wins: Ainslie came from behind to win the title on on the final day in the medal race” class=”blkBorder” />

He who flares, wins: Ainslie came from behind to win the title on on the final day in the medal race

Sir Roger Bannister may not have liked it, accusing the Englishman of unsportsmanlike behaviour. And back in Brazil the boys burned effigies of Ainslie for the treatment of a national hero.

We knew then that here was a rare talent who could combine his sailing skills and sixth sense for those vital changes of wind direction with a ruthlessness, a fierce competitiveness and a steely nerve ideally suited for winning Olympic titles.

We knew, too, that this still shy, apparently quiet individual off the water, albeit with a penchant for the odd wild night out, was a killer on the water, a veritable orca of the fleet.

‘If it comes down to a medal race between Ben and another boat, Ben will kill him. Bet your house on it. Bet your mate’s house on it. In fact, bet the nation’s house on it. He will just annihilate anybody else that he has got to beat. You just don’t want to be in the boat that is going to stand between Ben and a gold medal. He will absolutely drill him.’ The words came from Stephen Park, Team GB sailing manager, and they were said during the Games in Beijing four years ago. But they could have come here in Weymouth last week or in Athens in 2004, when he won his first Finn class gold.

Rivals: Denmark's Jonas Hogh-Christensen, Ben Ainslie and France's Jonathan Lobert

Rivals: Denmark's Jonas Hogh-Christensen, Ben Ainslie and France's Jonathan Lobert

Not even the algae, the dragon flies or the lack of wind could becalm Ainslie in Qingdao as he won his third gold medal.

‘Are you Superman or from another planet’ a representative of the Chinese News Agency probed. As usual in such circumstances, he smiled before replying: ‘Thanks for that. As far as I know, I’m human.’

The next day he told me almost gleefully that he celebrated long and hard and could not remember how he ended up on a flash yacht at 5am.

He is human alright.

There was genuine humanity when learning in the minutes before his race that his great friends Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson had just lost gold in the Star and taken silver.

‘I was really upset,’ he said.

Not so upset that he would be diverted from his goal. The fire still burns brightly.

Euro diary: Ireland fans sleep off hangover at Poznan train station

Euro diary: Irish fans sleep off massive hangover at Poznan train station

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UPDATED:

22:24 GMT, 11 June 2012

Such was the desperation of Irish fans to get to their game in Poznan on Sunday that thousands travelled without hotels or tickets.

Hence the sea of green at the town's main railway station on Monday morning as hundreds slept under flags and scarves.

Drink it up: The Irish fans have got their drinking boots firmly on

Drink it up: The Irish fans have got their drinking boots firmly on

Not quite made it

Nobody from the city of Donetsk will have been surprised to see the Donbass Arena far from full for England's opener.

As recently as last Thursday, workmen were still Tarmacking roads and finishing off the airport runways.

A big thumbs up for…

Regular diary readers will be aware of the hilarity my surname is causing among officials and volunteers over here.

Give thanks, then, for UEFA website journalist Ian Holyman. Maybe he feels my pain.

Give us a smile! Ukrainian officials have proved to be very stern

Give us a smile! Ukrainian officials have proved to be very stern

A big thumbs down for…

The Ukrainian police who steadfastly refuse to break into a smile for anybody.

Maybe I will try tickling one of them the next time I encounter one of their baffling road blocks. Or maybe not…

Bearly interested

The fight to become Paul the Octopus's successor has already begun, with Fred the Ferret predicting results in Kharkiv.

Sadly, Siberian bears Misha and Masha – famous in Russia for predicting sporting scores – have so far refused to get involved. Probably too busy dancing.

Local flavour

Kiev's hot summer weather has already attracted thousands of supporters to the city's Fan Zone near Independent Square.

More than 2km of sausages were devoured there over the weekend. Don't ask me how much beer….

Tweet success: News of Lescott's goal arrived via internet before TV

Tweet success: News of Lescott's goal arrived via internet before TV

Trigger fingers

Those
who like to tweet and watch the football at the same time are being
caught out by the delay on the TV transmission from east to west.

Some
viewers saw news of Joleon Lescott's opening goal against France flash
up on their phones before they saw it on their screens.

Play of the day

What a night for Andiy Shevchenko and what a header for his first goal against Sweden.

The Dynamo Kiev man may be 35 but he hung in the air beautifully to power a header into the corner from a cross by clubmate Andriy Yarmolenko. Textbook.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

'No. Do you know what you will write on Thursday'

Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni when asked if he knew his team for the Spain game in two days' time.

Short shrift: Trapattoni was in candid mood for the press

Short shrift: Trapattoni was in candid mood for the press

Cardiff can beat West Ham – Malky Mackay

Mackay confident Cardiff can put play-off ghosts to rest against West Ham

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UPDATED:

15:29 GMT, 2 May 2012

Malky Mackay is adamant Cardiff will have no hangover from their previous Championship play-off heartaches as they prepare for Thursday night's semi-final first leg against West Ham at Cardiff City Stadium.

The Bluebirds lost out to Blackpool in a thrilling Wembley final two seasons ago, before being downed by Reading at the last-four stage last term.

The club, then under the guidance of former boss Dave Jones, had to watch as Welsh rivals Swansea took the tag of being the first side from the principality to make it to the promised land of the Premier League.

Here we go: Malky Mackay celebrates reaching the play-offs with Cardiff

Here we go: Malky Mackay celebrates reaching the play-offs with Cardiff

Football League blog

But, given the major overhaul that took place last summer following Mackay's arrival, there are many in the squad who were not involved in those previous disappointments.

And manager Mackay points to Cardiff's run to the Carling Cup final as proof that they can handle the pressure.

'That's in the past, you have to take the individual games on their own merit,' he said.

'Last year losing Craig Bellamy against Reading didn't help and against Blackpool the year before they lost a striker who had got a lot of goals for them just 10 minutes in – Jay Bothroyd.

'And Charlie Adam had one of those days where he put the ball in the top corner from 30 yards.

'That's the kind of thing you need to go for you to win a final.

Party time: Cardiff beat Crystal Palace to seal sixth place in the Championship

Party time: Cardiff beat Crystal Palace to seal sixth place in the Championship

'But as far as we're concerned this is a group that has got to a Carling Cup final and taken a club like Liverpool all the way to penalties.

'That shows there's a strength in character here to enable us to handle a two-legged semi-final.'

Former Hammers' defender Mackay, who helped the London club secure promotion via the play-offs in 2005, insists Sam Allardyce's side will start favourites having narrowly missed out on automatic promotion to Southampton.

But the Scot does not believe that means his side have to emerge victorious on home soil if they are to stand a chance of reaching Wembley.

'We have to win the tie. It is not about winning a home game,' he said.

Tough task: Cardiff will take on an in-form West Ham side in the play-offs

Tough task: Cardiff will take on an in-form West Ham side in the play-offs

'Will it be cagey I don't know, I'm not going to second guess how West Ham are going to play.

'Each of us have been better away from home so it will be interesting.

'But it's a 180-minute game of football. Nothing will be decided until 6.15pm on Monday.

'When you get to this stage it is about who is the calmest on the day, who gets that bit of luck, but also who tactically gets it right over the 180 minutes.

'But we are looking forward to it because it's something we've worked towards all season.'

Malaysian Open 2012: Louis Oosthuizen makes solid start on day one

Oosthuizen bids to bounce back from Masters woe with strong start at Malaysian Open

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UPDATED:

12:00 GMT, 12 April 2012

Louis Oosthuizen shrugged off the disappointment of his Masters play-off defeat to Bubba Watson to make a strong start at the Malaysian Open.

Former Open champion Oosthuizen, who narrowly missed out on his second major crown at Augusta on Sunday, showed no signs of a mental hangover as he shot six birdies and an eagle in an opening-round 66.

His close friend, South African compatriot and playing partner Charl Schwartzel held the lead at the end of the first day following a sparkling eight-under 64, which included nine birdies.

Strong start: Louis Oosthuizen is looking to bounce back from his Masters disappointment at the Malaysian Open

Strong start: Louis Oosthuizen is looking to bounce back from his Masters disappointment at the Malaysian Open

Schwartzel, like Oosthuizen, had a 30-hour journey from the United States to Kuala Lumpur – he handed over the green jacket to Watson after winning the event last year – and was relieved to have felt few ill-effects.

'I felt surprisingly good today,' Schwartzel told the European Tour's official website.

'I got a good night's sleep and woke up this morning before the alarm.

'The tiredness seems to catch me more in the afternoon than the morning so it felt pretty good.

'I played very well today. It has been some time coming now because I have been working really hard for the last couple of months and I haven't had anything happen for me.

'It could have been one or two lower as I missed a couple of chances towards the end there but I am happy with 64 – I haven't shot a number like that for a while.'

Pairing up: Oosthuizen was partnered on the course by compatriot Charl Schwartzel

Pairing up: Oosthuizen was partnered on the course by compatriot Charl Schwartzel

Oosthuizen believes himself and Schwartzel adapted well to the course after a hectic few days.

'It was a long haul getting here,' he said. 'I think me and Charl knew the first round concentration levels won't be great, but we did well.

Golf blog

'I knew the swing was still good. It was just adapting to the weather and the green speed, but I putted beautifully again today and hope to keep it going for the week.

'I feel like I'm swinging well. I think a lot of times, we're used to a lot of travel and we adapt quickly.

'We knew there was always going to be one tough round which is normally the first one and luckily for us, it was early in the morning. We can have a nice rest now.'

In the swing: Jeev Milkha Singh shot an impressive opening round 65

In the swing: Jeev Milkha Singh shot an impressive opening round 65

Jeev Milkha Singh is second after an opening 65 – which included an eagle at the par-five 10th – one shot ahead of Oosthuizen, American Jason Knutzon and fellow Indian Jyoti Randhawa.

Scotland's Stephen Gallacher is one of three players in a tie for fifth after a 67.