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Mansfield 1 Liverpool 2: Match report

Mansfield 1 Liverpool 2: Dream debut for Sturridge but Stags rage at Suarez handball

PUBLISHED:

17:55 GMT, 6 January 2013

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UPDATED:

18:19 GMT, 6 January 2013

Liverpool new-boy Daniel Sturridge made an immediate impact to leave Mansfield manager Paul Cox mulling over his honeymoon options after failing to pull off an FA Cup giant-killing.

Sturridge, a 12million buy from Chelsea a few days ago, wasted no time in getting off the mark and helping the Reds into the fourth round – and another tricky trip to Oldham – at the expense of their non-league opponents.

The Blue Square Bet Conference side had their moments, notably at the start of the second half, before Luis Suarez further crushed their hopes in the 59th minute – and not without controversy.

Dream debut: Daniel Sturridge celebrates with team mates after scoring his first goal for Liverpool

Dream debut: Daniel Sturridge celebrates with team mates after scoring his first goal for Liverpool

MATCH FACTS:

Mansfield: Marriott, Thompson, Dempster, Geohaghon, Beevers, Meikle, Clements (Rhead 81), Murray, Howell, Briscoe (Daniel 64), Green.

Subs not used: Sutton, Speight, Wright, Hutchinson, Stevenson.

Booked: Beevers.

Goal: Green 79.

Liverpool: Jones, Wisdom (Flanagan 79), Coates, Carragher, Robinson, Lucas, Allen, Shelvey, Fernandez Saez (Henderson 55), Sturridge (Suarez 55), Downing.

Subs not used: Gulacsi, Sterling, Coady, Skrtel.

Booked: Lucas, Sturridge, Flanagan.

Goals: Sturridge 7, Suarez 59.

Attendance: 7,574

Referee: Andre Marriner

If a contentious handball had been spotted then perhaps Matt Green's 79th-minute strike might have forced a lucrative replay at Anfield, but it was not to be.

Instead for Cox, who turned 41 today and who married on Friday, his new wife Natasha will have to start flicking through the holiday brochures after failing to cash in on a promise from Blue Square that they would have paid for his honeymoon if the Stags had won.

Unfortunately, they made the worst possible start as it took just eight minutes for Liverpool, and Sturridge in particular, to make their mark.

The Stags defence was scythed open with ease by a delightful through ball from Jonjo Shelvey, and with Sturridge showing a turn of speed in racing on to the pass, he slotted comfortably beyond Alan Marriott from 12 yards.

The goal allowed the visitors to take control, with Marriott firmly behind a raking low drive from just outside the area from Joe Allen five minutes later that could have deceived as it flashed through a crowded penalty area.

Within 90 seconds it should have been
2-0, and effectively game over, as the Shelvey-Sturridge partnership
combined again, with the latter clean through on to another incisive
defence-splitting pass.

Tidy finish: Sturridge slots the ball past Alan Marriott

Tidy finish: Sturridge slots the ball past Alan Marriott

On this occasion, however, Sturridge
dithered perhaps a fraction too long and shimmied once too often as his
eventual crack at goal was beaten away by Marriott at close range.

At that stage, with just 15 minutes
elapsed, that would likely have knocked the stuffing out of the Stags,
however they grew in confidence as the half wore on even if Liverpool
continued to dominate.

They were indebted to a superb sliding
tackle from Lindon Meikle in thwarting Suso on the edge of the six-yard
box, while John Thompson bravely threw his body in the way of a drive
from Stewart Downing as he raced into the area.

Handball! Luis Suarez brings the ball down with his hand before scoring

Handball! Luis Suarez brings the ball down with his hand before scoring

Moment of controversy: Luis Suarez scored after handling the ball

Moment of controversy: Luis Suarez scored after handling the ball

In it goes: Suarez taps the ball over the line

In it goes: Suarez taps the ball over the line

But with the realisation they were in
the game and there was no walkover on the cards, and with the crowd
becoming ever more vocal, they finally conjured their first chance just
after the half hour.

A quick surging move resulted in
leading scorer Green unleashing a fierce 18-yard drive that stung the
fingers of goalkeeper Brad Jones, with Jose Reina one of those rested,
along with captain Steven Gerrard.

They were amongst eight changes made
to the side following the recent 3-0 victory over Sunderland, with Jamie
Carragher taking over the skipper's armband.

With Suarez on the bench, Sturridge
was given his chance to shine and a minute before the break he again
managed to get in behind the home defence from a Shelvey pass, firing in
a shot Marriott touched beyond the far post.

In with a shout: Mansfield Town's Matt Green pulls a goal back

In with a shout: Mansfield Town's Matt Green pulls a goal back

All smiles: Green celebrates his goal

All smiles: Green celebrates his goal

Whatever Cox then said to his players
during the interval worked a treat as Town gave the Reds the fright of
their lives in the opening few minutes of the second half as they
besieged their opponent's area.

It was all sparked by a close-range shot from Anthony Howell that Jones nudged past his right-hand post.

Beyond that Howell saw another effort
blocked by Carragher before Jones saved from Louis Briscoe, made a more
fumbled attempt from Meikle, and then tipped one past his left-hand
upright as Briscoe aimed a powerful angled drive towards the top corner.

Getting stuck in: Mansfield's Lindon Meikle challenges Liverpool's Lucas Leiva

Getting stuck in: Mansfield's Lindon Meikle challenges Liverpool's Lucas Leiva

It was hair-raising stuff for
Liverpool, who eventually drew breath in the 53rd minute on a breakaway
which culminated in Sturridge dragging a Downing pass across Marriott.

It proved to be his last act of his
debut as Rodgers replaced the 23-year-old and Suso moments later with
Suarez and Jordan Henderson.

The Uruguayan's introduction paid immediate dividends, but not without typical debate for which he has become renowned.

Getting there first: Meikle and Suso battle for the ball

Getting there first: Meikle and Suso battle for the ball

Again Downing was the provider and
after Suarez's initial effort was blocked by Marriott, he then used his
hand to bundle home the rebound from a couple of yards, sparking appeals
from the Town players that went unrewarded.

The game appeared to be petering out
towards a natural conclusion until Green struck 11 minutes from time
with a right-foot shot from 15 yards that bounced off the turf and
beyond Jones, heralding a frenetic finish.

The most notable chance saw Green
lash a shot goalwards from 20 yards in the first of five minutes of
injury time, only for Jones to paw away.

In the end, there was to be no romantic ending. Cox will have to save that for his honeymoon.

Joey Barton is hoping to stay in Marseille for longer and terminate his contract at QPR

Barton and QPR ready to terminate contract and make French holiday permanent

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UPDATED:

11:19 GMT, 27 December 2012

Joey Barton could stay at Marseille for longer than his 12-month loan as it is understood QPR chiefs have encouraged him to terminate his contract by mutual consent.

He has won over the Olympique Marseille club and fans since going on loan at the end of August and, as he is still in receipt of almost 300,000 a month from his parent club.

QPR are keen to do both themselves and the Ligue 1 title challengers a favour and make him a free agent.

Barton has quickly become popular amongst Marseille supporters in his seven matches

Fans' favourite: Barton has quickly become popular amongst Marseille supporters in his seven matches

He has made seven appearances for Elie Baup’s side, and despite being banned from making his debut until late November, has certainly settled in.

According to Le Phoceen, QPR bosses have already spoken with Barton to raise the issue, and the player has gone on record to say he will not be returning to Loftus Road.

The controversial midfielder has lost nothing of his aggressive side since his move to France

No holding back: The controversial midfielder has lost nothing of his aggressive side since his move to France

The 30-year old may, however, choose to return to England or move elsewhere in Europe.

Valencia have previous reported interest and he has also been touted as a potential replacement for Marouane Fellaini at Everton.

Aston Villa 0 Tottenham 4 match report – Gareth Bale scores hat-trick

Aston Villa 0 Tottenham 4: TREE-mendous Bale celebrates hat-trick in fine festive style

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UPDATED:

08:28 GMT, 27 December 2012

Gareth Bale’s first Premier League hat-trick pushed Paul Lambert towards an unwanted record as a second-half goal glut deepened the gloom at Villa Park.

The Wales winger grabbed the match ball – and stuck it on his Christmas tree – following his 23-minute salvo that built on Jermain Defoe’s opener to leave Villa’s boss with a massive festive hangover.

Just three days after the former European champions suffered the heaviest defeat in their history in shipping eight against last season’s Champions League winners, they served up another horror show against Tottenham in front of a sizeable holiday crowd.

Handy: Gareth Bale celebrated a hat-trick as spurs crushed Aston Villa

Handy: Gareth Bale celebrated a hat-trick as spurs crushed Aston Villa

Isn't that tweet: Bale used Twitter to show fans where he had put the match ball after his hat-trick

Isn't that tweet: Bale used Twitter to show fans where he had put the match ball after his hat-trick

Match facts

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Herd, Clark, Baker (Ireland 45), Bennett, Westwood (Albrighton 46), El Ahmadi, Delph, Holman, Benteke.

Subs Not Used: Given, Bowery, Bannan, Lichaj, Carruthers.

Booked: Delph.

Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Naughton, Lennon, Dembele (Parker 66), Sandro, Bale (Townsend 85), Defoe, Adebayor (Sigurdsson 79).

Subs Not Used: Friedel, Dawson, Livermore, Caulker.

Goals: Defoe 57, Bale 61, 73, 84.

Att: 36,863

Ref: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Latest Premier League table and results

And with Bale at the heart of the
torment, it meant the 12 goals fired past Brad Guzan equalled the most ever conceded in back-to-back
matches in the Premier League. They share the dubious distinction with
Ipswich, Manchester City, West Ham and Wigan.

Make no mistake, this result was no
fluke. The first-half corner count was 15-1 in the visitors’ favour and
Villa did not enjoy a shot on Hugo Lloris’s goal until Marc Albrighton’s
effort three minutes from time.

It is difficult to judge just how
good Spurs were given they huffed and puffed against Stoke City last
time out. However, they at least looked like they knew what they were
doing, which was more than could be said for the hosts.

And once Defoe had broken the
deadlock and Villa were forced to chase the game, Bale exploited huge
gaps to take his season’s tally to nine in the league.

‘He’s up there with the best,’ said
manager Andre Villas-Boas following Spurs’ sixth victory in eight games.
‘And I think he is improving every game.

‘His left foot is wonderful and the
power and direction he applies is wonderful too. It was an excellent
performance from him and obviously he gets the goals and reward. But it
was a very good team performance from start to finish.’

Jermain Defoe makes the breakthrough

Jermain Defoe makes the breakthrough

Happy days: Defoe celebrates his strike

Happy days: Defoe celebrates his strike

Gareth Bale on Twitter

Before posting a picture of the match ball on top of his Christmas tree, Bale tweeted: 'Amazing feeling to get my first league hat trick today but more importantly a great team performance to get us up to 4th #matchball'

Asked about the possibility of Bale
leaving in January, his manager said: ‘There’s no release clause in his
contract. He has a market value that is unobtainable to most clubs.’

Villa, who used Christian Benteke as a
lone striker behind a five-man defence and four-man midfield, were
chasing shadows for long spells in the opening period.

Guzan made a superb fingertip stop to
deny Bale from 25 yards in what was the stand-out moment — apart from
the corner won by Villa in the last knockings of the half, greeted by
cheers from the home supporters.

Cool finish: Gareth Bale rounds goalkeeper Brad Guzan to score his team's second goal

Cool finish: Gareth Bale rounds goalkeeper Brad Guzan to score his team's second goal

Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur scores his first goal

Lambert’s side began the second half
brightly but Spurs found a way through. Defoe, surrounded by claret
shirts inside the area, passed backwards to Bale, who did likewise to
Kyle Naughton.

The left back’s first-time ball inside Matthew Lowton was controlled by Defoe, who finished with the outside of his right foot.

Four minutes later, it was two as
Villa shot themselves in the foot again. Spurs just managed to clear
Benteke’s cross from the right but Ciaran Clark’s pass was cut out by
Aaron Lennon and his pass inside was knocked into Bale’s path by Joe
Bennett. Bale ran forward with Chris Herd in his wake, rounding Guzan
and slotting home.

The whole stadium knew that was game
over. But not as far as Bale was concerned. Twelve minutes later, he
took a short ball from Lennon in his stride, taking one touch and
firing past Guzan.

Triple treat: Bale completes his hat-trick

Triple treat: Bale completes his hat-trick

Clinical: Bale scores his second goal

Clinical: Bale scores his second goal

Hat-trick hero: Bale holds the match ball

Hat-trick hero: Bale holds the match ball

Kyle Walker then fed substitute Gylfi
Sigurdsson, who pulled the ball back for Spurs’ man of the moment to
claim his second hat-trick for the club. Who could forget his first It
came in the San Siro against Inter Milan.

While those late goals lifted
Villas-Boas’s side to fourth, Villa now face Wigan on Saturday. If
Wigan win, they will move level on points with Lambert’s side. ‘We rode
our luck massively in the first half,’ admitted Lambert. ‘I thought
there was a foul on Fabian Delph in their first goal.

‘We had a good chance to make it 1-1
but then they go up the park and score again. That’s what can happen
when you are playing those kind of players.’

Asked whether there were problems
defensively, Lambert added: ‘It’s not just the defence. It’s everywhere.
We’re in it together, collectively you have to stop it.’

Villa’s fans – incredibly – ended the
game singing Lambert’s name. They have a Capital One Cup semi-final to
look forward to, after all.

But on this evidence, you wouldn’t
put it past Bradford to reach Wembley. Now that really would shake the
foundations at Villa Park.

Toby Flood not fazed by threat to England place

Flood not fazed by threat to England place with No 10 ready to return for Leicester

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UPDATED:

00:01 GMT, 19 December 2012

England fly-half Toby Flood insists he is not worried by the increasing competition for his international place.

Flood is fit to play for Leicester after overcoming a toe injury sustained in England’s defeat by South Africa last month.

Owen Farrell and Freddie Burns were impressive in his absence against New Zealand but Flood is not fazed.

Blow: Toby Flood missed England's triumph over the All Blacks with injury

Blow: Toby Flood missed England's triumph over the All Blacks with injury

‘I’m not fussed about it. It’s the way it goes. It seemed like a good one (the All Blacks match) to miss in terms of the way they were playing,’ he joked. ‘But credit to the lads, the way they finished off was very impressive. I just want to get back.’

Flood, who started England’s first three autumn matches, looks set to regain his Leicester place ahead of England Under 20 fly-half George Ford for the Aviva Premiership match at London Irish on Saturday.

A goal-kicking record of nearly 79 per cent this season makes Flood Leicester’s No 1, despite the promise of Ford, whose accuracy is only around 59 per cent. Leicester also hope to have England flanker Tom Croft back on duty over the holiday period.

He has been pencilled in for a comeback in the home game against Gloucester on December 29.

Croft has not played since April because of a neck injury and his comeback will be carefully managed. ‘It’s a matter of getting his confidence back,’ said Leicester’s director of rugby Richard Cockerill.

London Tube strike: Arsenal v West Ham Boxing Day game could be off

Arsenal in talks with Premier League to postpone West Ham game until 2013 as Tube drivers announce Boxing Day strike

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UPDATED:

15:38 GMT, 18 December 2012

Arsenal are locked in talks with the Premier League over postponing their Christmas clash with West Ham after Tube workers announced they would strike on Boxing Day.

A club statement issued today read: 'Arsenal Football Club is currently in discussions with the Premier League, West Ham United, police and relevant authorities over the possible postponement of the Boxing Day fixture at Emirates Stadium, following the announcement that London Underground drivers plan industrial action on that day.

'The match is in doubt due to the difficulties of getting 60,000 supporters, plus matchday staff and employees to the stadium safely in the advent of disruption to public transport on a public holiday.

Calling it off Arsenal may have to wait until the New Year to take on West Ham

Calling it off Arsenal may have to wait until the New Year to take on West Ham

Under threat: The Gunners clash with West Ham might be rescheduled

Under threat: The Gunners clash with West Ham might be rescheduled

'The Club will make a further announcement as soon as a final decision is made.'

Although Arsenal have not made a
final decision on whether to call off proceedings, it seems likely that
Sam Allardyce will have to wait until the New Year to take his side to the Emirates.

Arsenal's 60,000-seater ground is
five minutes' walk from Holloway Road station in north London, with
Highbury and Islington and Finsbury Park also close by.

Many fans use the service to get to games so a suspension would cause chaos if the match went ahead.

A strike by Tube drivers last year
forced Arsenal to delay their Boxing Day match with Wolves by 24 hours
but they cannot do the same this year as they have a game against
Newcastle on December 29.

Twelve months ago the club cited the 'duty of
care' they had to both sets of supporters and staff.

A midweek evening in January seems the likeliest date for re-staging but neighbours Tottenham Hotspur and the FA Cup are also factors to be considered.

QPR's match with West Brom will kick off at 3pm as planned after the club held a meeting this afternoon to discuss the matter.

Loftus Road is close to three Tube stations and fans are often reliant on the service but a statement on Ranger's website read: 'Supporters are advised to allow extra time for their journeys to and from Loftus Road.

'Buses will be running on the usual Sunday/Bank Holiday service on the day of the fixture, whilst parking in the borough will be free.

Christmas cheer Arsenal are facing a tricky festive period

Christmas cheer Arsenal are facing a tricky festive period

'Supporters who are unable to attend the fixture owing to the Tube strikes will be entitled to a full refund.'

Fulham will wait for official confirmation of the Tube strike before deciding if any action needs to be taken over their Boxing Day match with Southampton at Craven Cottage.

A club spokesman said: 'We are monitoring situation and putting contingency in place but remain fully committed to the game going ahead as scheduled.'

Fulham play Swansea three days later.

Charlton are the only Championship side hosting a Boxing Day fixture in the capital but it is understood their match with Ipswich should not be too badly disrupted and will go ahead. Most home fans travel in from Kent rather than central London.

Derailed: Fans will have find it difficult to get across the capital

Derailed: Fans will have find it difficult to get across the capital

The announcement by Aslef means
London Underground drivers are on course to walk out on Boxing Day, as
well as January 18 and 25 in a row over bank holiday pay. It will be the
third successive Christmas walkout by Tube drivers.

The
move was announced after Aslef members voted by 9-1 in favour of
strikes. A spokesman said: 'The ballot result shows the strength of
feeling that remains on this issue.'

Everton v Cheltenham: FA Cup scouting report

Cheltenham scouting report: What Everton must be wary of in the FA Cup

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UPDATED:

18:37 GMT, 12 December 2012

David Moyes made the long trip to Hereford on Tuesday night to watch Everton's prospective opponents in the FA Cup Third Round.

As the night turned out, it was a neat near-post header by Cheltenham substitute Kaid Mohamed that settled it in the Robins' favour.

But here are five mental notes that Moyes certainly will have made following his cold night out at Edgar Street.

1. Jermaine McGlashan

The winger was given a torrid time after referee Dean Whitestone adjudged that he had been dragged over by Andy Gallinagh in first-half injury-time.

Speed demon: Jermaine McGlashan could cause Everton problems

Speed demon: Jermaine McGlashan could cause Everton problems

But he has a serious turn of pace and, although the end product does not always match the approach, he only needs to get lucky once – as he did at Edgar Street.

2. Cheltenham weren't bullied

Martin Foyle has some big lads in his Hereford team – midfielders Harry Pell and Will Evans stand well over six feet tall and the Robins stood up well to their challenge. It is particularly apt if Marouane Fellaini is chosen for the trip to Gloucestershire.

3. No kick and rush

I liked the look of midfielder Russ Penn. In the best traditions of central midfielders he keeps things ticking over. He was the victim of a horrible challenge which ruined his evening but before then he had been the fulcrum of a team that was trying to play on a difficult circumstance.

Winner: Kaid Mohamed (right) send Cheltenham through

Winner: Kaid Mohamed (right) send Cheltenham through

4. Confidence

Although Mark Yates is battling with a smallish squad, there is nothing that acts as a greater aid to confidence than winning matches regularly. League Two clubs have a busy schedule over the holiday period but if the Robins can defeat fellow high-fliers Port Vale on Saturday, they could be on the cusp of just the type of run that sends them into their plum tie on the crest of a wave.

5. Past experience

It won't have gone un-noticed on Merseyside that this season marks the tenth anniversary of an FA Cup exit at the same stage of the season at Moyes' expense.

Upset: Shrewsbury's Nigel Jemson scored the winner against Everton

Upset: Shrewsbury's Nigel Jemson scored the winner against Everton

It may not have been the primary reason for the Scot getting into his car and making the long journey south, but memories of a painful 2-1 defeat by Shrewsbury, managed by former favourite Kevin Ratcliffe, may be what has led Everton's boss into leaving no stone unturned.

Cristiano Ronaldo – what we miss about the Real Madrid star

Tantrums, stepovers and buckets of goals… what we miss about awesome Ronaldo

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UPDATED:

07:53 GMT, 21 November 2012

When Cristiano departed from Manchester United for Real Madrid in 2009, he left a void in the Premier League.

Whether it was his mysterious personal life, his unique talent, or his incredible goals, the Portugal captain was a sensation for United.

As he prepares to shine on a football pitch in the North West of the country again as Real look to topple Manchester City, Sportsmail's Ian Ladyman tells us why we miss Ronaldo.

Genius: The Premier League misses the sublime talents of Cristiano Ronaldo

Genius: The Premier League misses the sublime talents of Cristiano Ronaldo

The goals

Ronaldo scored some fantastic ones during his time in England. Who will ever forget the free-kicks that swerved six times on their way into the top corner

If it was just 'because of the ball', then why has nobody else managed it since

The stepovers

Anyone who remembers his United debut as a substitute against Bolton in August 2003 will have the sight of a teenage Ronaldo weaving down the left touchline imprinted on their mind.

On that day, he didn't always manage to take the ball with him, but it was a clear sign of the extravagance to come.

Skillful: Ronaldo (right) became famed for his gratuitous stepovers while at Manchester United

Skillful: Ronaldo (right) became famed for his gratuitous stepovers while at Manchester United

Tantrums: The Real Madrid was not just a fearsome goalscorer at United

Tantrums: The Real Madrid was not just a fearsome goalscorer at United

The sulks

Ronaldo arrived in England looking like a sullen, brooding teenager and left at the age of 24 looking exactly the same.

Nobody does the sulk quite like Ronaldo – and those who think it was all an act have never spoken to people who know him. Bless.

The tan

It's hard to get a tan in Manchester – unless you buy one in a bottle, have a sunbed in your back bedroom or relatives on the Mediterranean.

Luckily, Ronaldo had all three, and seeing him emerge for training next to Paul Scholes did not do much for Oldham's reputation as a holiday destination.

World's best: Ronaldo returns to the Etihad to try to beat Manchester City

World's best: Ronaldo returns to the Etihad to try to beat Manchester City

The mystery

During his six years in the Premier League, Ronaldo made sure that life in the North West was never dull.

His football, his personal life and even his driving skills were endlessly fascinating. He was just like Mario Balotelli, only with goals attached.

Adam Gemili top secret

It's top secret: British sprinter Adam Gemili on Messi, Morocco and making stir fry

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UPDATED:

22:31 GMT, 16 November 2012

Who is your sporting hero

Michael Owen. When I was playing football I thought he was such a great player and he was at Liverpool, my team.

What would you be if you weren't a sportsman

Something in sport. Hopefully coaching or teaching.

Which other sportsman would you like to be

I’d love to be Lionel Messi. He’s the best footballer in my lifetime and possibly ever.

Main man: Lionel Messi (left) in action for Argentina

Main man: Lionel Messi (left) in action for Argentina

Career highlight

Winning the World Junior Championship.

And the worst moment

Being disqualified in the relay during the Olympics. It was heartbreaking.

What's the best advice you've ever been given

Always be yourself.

Favourite karaoke song

I don’t do karaoke. I’ve never really done it so I can’t answer that . . .

Three most-listened to songs on your ipod

This Is War by Thirty Seconds to Mars, Rooftops by Lost Prophets and I’m Ready For You by Drake.

Last film you saw

Sinister. It’s weird and messed up.

Bookworm: Usain Bolt won another three gold medals in London

Bookworm: Usain Bolt won another three gold medals in London

Last book you read

Usain Bolt 9.58: Being the World’s Fastest Man. It’s really good.

Favourite pre-match meal

Chicken and pasta. It’s the best thing to eat before competing.

In a film of your life, who would you like to play you

I haven’t got a clue. Ask me in 10 years.

Can you cook Best dish

Yes. I make quite a good stir fry.

Favourite holiday destination

When I go back to Morocco to see family

What's the most expensive thing you've ever bought

Probably an iPhone.

Tell us a secret…

I do yoga. I find it helps a lot, with flexibility and peace of mind.

Nick Compton recalls grandad Denis" advice – Alan Fraser

EXCLUSIVE: Grandad Compton's advice He just told me to hit the b!**#y ball!

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UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 2 November 2012

There will come a time in his England career, perhaps while standing at the crease preparing to receive the next ball, when Nick Compton recalls the words of his grandfather.

‘Oh for heaven’s sake, just hit the bloody thing.’

You only have to be a certain age — not even one of the millions who hero-worshipped England’s most dashing batsman — to imagine the legendary Denis Compton barking out such an instruction.

Nick Compton needs no imagination. He was there. That particular piece of advice was aimed at him, then just a slip of a lad born and brought up in South Africa, during a family holiday at the home of his larger-than-life grandfather.

Run machine: Compton is in contention to open the batting in India

Run machine: Compton is in contention to open the batting in India

Run machine: Compton is in contention to open the batting in India

Legend: Nick's late grandfather Denis

Legend: Nick's late grandfather Denis

‘We were in the back garden,’ Compton told Sportsmail. ‘My dad was throwing balls to me underarm and I was hitting them back to him with a high elbow. Grandad was sitting on the porch drinking a glass of brandy. I remember it so vividly.’

‘And without doubt his advice has come back to me at various stages of my career. Whenever I start to get over-analytical, I think of what he said. I tended to analyse and analyse in my younger years,’ said the 29-year-old right-hander.

‘But there are certainly times you have to remind yourself just to hit the ball. There are occasions when you are trying to do too many things and you just need to let go, to stand there, stand tall, watch the ball, and leave the rest to the gods.’

The gods — if, indeed, they played any part — decreed that grandson should be carved from a very different willow to grandad. Much more Jonathan Trott than Kevin Pietersen in terms of batting style and much more Nasser Hussain than Ian Botham away from the wicket.

‘I am cut from a different cloth,’ Compton stated. ‘I worry about what I eat. I don’t go out at night a lot. I don’t drink that much alcohol. Grandad probably did not give a s***. He had a good time, drank plenty, went to bed at 5am and still went out and scored 100 the same day.’

Comparisons come with the family tree. First as a precocious boy, then as a fledgling professional at, where else, Middlesex, and now as a Test cricketer. There is an inevitability to the comparisons, even if everyone knows the footsteps of Denis Compton can be vaguely followed but never filled.

‘I actually don’t think my grandfather played any part in my playing cricket at all. I did not wake up at five years old and think I want to be like my grandfather.

Cutting it: Compton lashes out for England Lions against Australia A

Cutting it: Compton lashes out for England Lions against Australia A

‘He was living in England, I was in South Africa. I remember him coming over when I was about eight. He saw me score a hat-trick for the football team I was playing for. I can see it now. One from a corner, one from the edge of the box and the third a tap-in.

‘I was 12 when my prep school came over to England. As president of Middlesex — and as my grandfather, of course — he showed me around Lord’s. He gave me a Middlesex shirt. He watched me score something like 28 not out for my school. He constantly had a drink in his hand, regaling my father with old stories in that Peter Alliss-like rich tone of voice. It was great to listen to.

‘But I was quite young and I had other things on my mind. At that age you are not going to ask him about batting in Test matches and that sort of stuff. A shame, really. When I grew up a bit and learned about him, however, it kind of fitted into place.

Duck: Compton failed to trouble the scorers in the warm-up match against India A

Duck: Compton failed to trouble the scorers in the warm-up match against India A

‘I wanted to be as good as him just as I wanted to be as good as Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara. Having heard all the stories about Grandad, however, I thought I would love to be able to tell a few of my own.

‘It took me a long time to accept that I could not play like Lara or Compton. It took me a while to accept that I could not bat like them and that I had to bat like myself. I used to reject who I was. Now I am much more comfortable in my shoes. I am a top-order batsman. I value my wicket. I bat for long periods of time. I don’t like giving away my wicket. These are my qualities.

‘I am not as good as Grandfather. But who was and who is No-one in this country. He played in such a carefree fashion. He was a real entertainer. It was a different era with different pressures. He brought joy to a lot of people at a tough time in postwar Britain.’ Compton is proof that runs in county cricket — he averaged 99 in the first division at No 3 for Somerset last season — can still lead to an England call-up.

Chance to shine: Compton is vying for a starting place against India in the first Test

Chance to shine: Compton is vying for a starting place against India in the first Test

Chance to shine: Compton is vying for a starting place against India in the first Test

And although he fell to a three-ball duck against India A on Wednesday morning, he now has the opportunity to bring some pleasure of his own to England cricket fans. He now has the chance to fulfil the potential shown when three times being named ‘most promising’ player at Middlesex, in 2001, 2002 and 2006. The winner receives the Denis Compton Award. No pressure, as the saying goes.
And, 16 years on, he will again wear the same badge as Pietersen in a throwback to their time at the Natal academy.

‘I was a young teenager. Kevin was 18 or 19. I knew who he was,’ Compton recalled.

Was he the big cheese

‘I think he thought he was,’ Compton replied with a smile.

No change there then.

Viv Anderson did the same as Robin Van Persie and says it was only way

Viv Anderson: Like RVP I wouldn't have gone anywhere else but United

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UPDATED:

00:19 GMT, 3 November 2012

Viv Anderson is one of only two other players to have ever made the move directly from Arsenal to Manchester United, alongside Frank Stapleton and now Robin Van Persie.

Back in 1987 the former England international defender spent three years at Arsenal but with his contract nearing its end he got a call from United defender Bryan Robson and became Alex Ferguson’s first signing at the club for 250,000.

Controversial: Robin van Persie angered Gunners fans

Controversial: Robin van Persie angered Gunners fans

Anderson, 56, said: ‘I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else in the country. It was a no-brainer when I got the call. If I was 60 and in a wheelchair and got the opportunity I would take it.

'I was offered a contract to stay at Arsenal but I couldn’t accept it. I’d come to Manchester United as a schoolboy and always wanted to play for them. It was a boyhood dream to move there.’

At 16-years-old he spent every single school holiday training for the club and dreamed of turning professional there but at the time there were too many England and Scotland internationals in the first team and he signed for Nottingham Forest.

He spent 10 years there before moving to Arsenal and then United. But he cites the timing of his move as the reason Arsenal fans received him fondly after his transfer.

He said: ‘I didn’t get any backlash from the fans because I moved when my contract was up – I didn’t go in the middle of things. I was given the opportunity.

'The Arsenal fans were appreciative of my time there, I won the League Cup and after I left they went on to win the league. I would like to have won more at United but I wouldn’t swap any of my time at both clubs for anything.’

And he’ll be keeping a keen eye on how Van Persie fares on Saturday. He added: ‘I’m going to be in Abu Dhabi at the Grand Prix but I’ll be watching somewhere don’t you worry.’

Nowhere else: Viv Anderson says United was the only place he could go

Nowhere else: Viv Anderson says United was the only place he could go