Tag Archives: household

Picture jokes about Luis Suarez biting Branslav Ivanovic already on Twitter

Fancy a bit of All-Branislav Photoshop pranksters take to Twitter after Suarez bites Chelsea defender Ivanovic

Charlie Skillen


01:21 GMT, 22 April 2013



01:23 GMT, 22 April 2013

You've got to feel dorry for Branislav Ivanovic. No sooner have you calmed down from being bitten by Luis Suarez, now pictures making fun of your pain have been posted all over Twitter.

Chelsea defender Ivanovic was subject to a shocking attack by Suarez, who sunk his teeth into his opponent in the second half of the 2-2 draw at Anfield.

Collar: Perhaps this would stop Suarez biting, while (below) there's a cereal and a new film for the incident

Collar: Perhaps this would stop Suarez biting, while (below) there's a cereal and a new film for the incident



Chez Suarez: Which other footballers could be on the menu

Chez Suarez: Which other footballers could be on the menu

Not only did Suarez stay on the pitch, he scored an equaliser in the dying seconds of the match to snatch Liverpool a point.

To rub salt in the wound, Photoshop pranksters have taken to Twitter to make light of the incident with different mock-ups.

One shows the Chelsea defender on a packet of cereal – All-Branislav, of course – while another has the controversial Liverpool striker on the cover of shark flick 'Gnaws.'

That's not likely to be popular viewing in the Ivanovic household…

Spot the difference: Luis Suarez sinks his teeth into Branislav Ivanovic

Spot the difference: Luis Suarez sinks his teeth into Branislav Ivanovic

Luis Suarez appears to bite Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic

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Jonny Marray and Freddie Nielsen lose in World Finals semi-final

No dream finale for Marray and Nielsen as Spanish duo reach London showpiece



22:55 GMT, 11 November 2012

A year which saw Jonny Marray propelled from obscure journeyman to household name came to an abrupt end on Sunday night, and almost certainly so did his partnership with Frederik Nielsen.

The Anglo-Danish pair were defeated 6-4, 6-3 by Spain’s Marc Granollers and Marc Lopez in the semi-final of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. So there will be no follow-up to the unlikely Wimbledon win that got them to the O2 Arena.

Given that Nielsen has ambitious plans to try to excel at singles, despite being ranked outside the top 300, it will be their last match for the foreseeable future. The 31-year-old from Sheffield is still scouting around for a new partner.

Over and out: Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen were beaten in the semi-final

Over and out: Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen were beaten in the semi-final

Having got to the last four of the season’s last two sizeable events — here and in Paris — Marray should not have too many problems finding somebody. He and Nielsen were the lowest seeds at this event, so to have made it to the last Sunday was a decent achievement.

Marray will end the year ranked inside the top 20 for doubles, and assuming he can line someone up within the world’s top 40, will gain direct entry into the big events next season. He should be able to leave the world of Challenger-level tennis behind. Marray and his partner will share 70,000 for their endeavours this week, meaning the Liverpool-born player will have cleared 200,000 in earnings for 2012 — a tidy sum for a doubles specialist.

Nielsen dropped his first service game and the victorious Spaniards now face India’s Rohan Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi in Sunday’s final.

Here we go: Spanish duo Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers celebrate their win

Here we go: Spanish duo Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers celebrate their win

Frankel pictures: Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment wear famous silks

Frankel fever! Super horse honoured by Queen's guards in countdown to farewell



10:36 GMT, 18 October 2012

Whether he bows out unbeaten after 14 races at Ascot on Saturday, or suffers the first – and last – defeat of his career, Frankel is already racing royalty.

And proving he is a true equine aristocrat, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, most famously seen Trooping the Colour at the Queen's Birthday parade, honoured the wonderhorse by sporting his legendary green and pink racing silks during their morning exercise.

The world's greatest racehorse – and, many say, the greatest of all time – retires to become a stallion after the 1.3million Qipco Champion Stakes having already written his name into racing folklore and winning over 2.2m in prize money.

Royal approval: Members of the Household Cavalry wearing Frankel's silks at their Knightsbridge barracks

Royal approval: Members of the Household Cavalry wearing Frankel's silks at their Knightsbridge barracks

Royal approval: Members of the Household Cavalry wearing Frankel's silks

Celebration: The Racing Post honoured Frankel on their front page with the stunning photo

Celebration: The Racing Post honoured Frankel on their front page with the stunning photo

And to celebrate Frankel's success in winning the hearts of the nation, the Racing Post produced the stunning pictures seen above of 18 mounted soldiers wearing the colt's familiar racing colours.

Commenting on behalf of The Household Cavalry, Captain Fred Hopkinson said: 'It was a real honour to be able to wear Frankel’s colours today.

'In our unique role as Her Majesty’s Life Guard we see inspirational human acts on the frontlines and work with these wonderful horses at home.

'Frankel is a horse that embodies all of that grit, courage and flare that we strive for in the Household Cavalry at home and on operations.'

The presence of this year’s Eclipse Stakes winner, Nathaniel, along with French 2011 Champion Stakes winner Cirrus Des Aigles, should ensure a good test for unbeaten Frankel in his 14th and final run.

It will also provide perfect symmetry as Frankel beat Nathaniel half a length on their respective debuts at Newmarket in August 2010.

Up for grabs: The finishing touches are made to the Champion Stakes trophy, to be presented on Saturday

Up for grabs: The finishing touches are made to the Champion Stakes trophy, to be presented on Saturday

Ratings suggest Frankel has a stone in hand of his rivals.

Meanwhile, Sir Henry Cecil is poised to give a debut to Frankel’s half-brother Morpheus at Nottingham on Wednesday.


Dean Cox goal from the half-way line

Anything Beckham can do… Leyton Orient's Cox scores belter from half-way line



11:26 GMT, 3 October 2012

Walsall isn't the most glamorous of away trips on a cold Tuesday night, but the Leyton Orient fans who made the journey were able to bask in the glow of a spectacular Dean Cox strike.

Just before the half-hour, and with Orient already a goal to the good, Cox glanced up to spot goalkeeper Karl Darlow off his line.

And with pinpoint accuracy, he let fly inside his own half and sent the ball sailing over the red-faced keeper.

Orient withstood a strong Walsall fightback in the second half to win the game 2-1, a result that lifts them into the top half of the League One table.

We all remember David Beckham's embarrassment of Neil Sullivan from half-way in 1996 but such goals aren't that rare.

Here are a few memorable ones…

David Beckham makes himself a household name in 1996

And one at the opposite end of his career…

Alonso takes aim against Newcastle

Or do as Jone Samuelson does and head the ball

Or take it on the volley like Stefan Ishizaki

Blackburn chief Shebby Singh vows to tackle "world"s most impossible job"

Outspoken Blackburn chief Singh vows to tackle the 'world's most impossible job'



21:54 GMT, 17 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

It hasn't taken taken long for the outspoken opinions that made Shebby Singh a household name across Asia to ruffle a few feathers in English football.

Singh, the man charged with guiding Blackburn Rovers back into the Premier League, global advisor to Indian owners Venky’s, and a popular television pundit, might have won himself some new friends by announcing at a fans’ forum on the eve of the Championship season that manager Steve Kean will be sacked if he loses three games in a row, but his unguarded comments about Kean and midfielder Morten Gamst Pedersen have not gone down so well inside Ewood Park.

Shebby Singh: a man on a mission

Shebby Singh: a man on a mission

Singh has apologised publicly and personally to both men but the 51-year-old former Malaysia international and Asia’s answer to Alan Hansen is not about to change despite the controversy building around him.

‘I call a spade a spade,’ says Singh. ‘There is a job to do, a responsibility on my shoulders. It’s a fresh challenge and it’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is.

‘As a football pundit we are most loved if we say nice things but we are most hated if we don’t. So be it.

‘ESPN Star Sports was televised across 21 countries, all of them football crazy. Man United v Liverpool can draw 250million viewers.

Under fire: Steve Kean (right) has seen his preparations hit

Under fire: Steve Kean (right) has seen his preparations hit

‘It will take a long time for some
people at the club to accept they have got an in-house pundit as a
global advisor who has been sent here to oversee the present and future
of the club.

‘I’ve never been too popular and I don’t think anything will change. But I will get the job done.

‘I saw them (Kean and Pedersen) personally first and apologised, and
then it was only right that I apologised in public. I’m wrong, I’m

‘Whether they accepted the apology or not, that’s not something I can determine.’

Singh was quite happy living in Singapore and delivering his opinions on
world football alongside his old ‘sparring partner’ Steve McMahon to
viewers every Monday night when Blackburn’s owners Venky’s asked him to
become their head of football development for Asia last summer.

Straight talking: Singh will not change his outspoken style

Straight talking: Singh will not change his outspoken style

After the club were relegated in May, Singh was given the title of
global advisor and parachuted into Ewood to work alongside Kean barely a
month after writing a newspaper column in Singapore calling for the
Scot to be sacked.

Before leaving a 15-year career in television to move to Lancashire’s
Ribble Valley, however, he asked his son Sonuljit, 22, for his opinion.

‘He’s my go-to man,’ says Singh. ‘We were having a chat about this and
he said, “do you know what you’ve done You’ve walked into the most
impossible job in the world!”.

‘That’s my son’s opinion of it. Yes, it’s a big challenge but the bigger
the better. It’s better to have tried and failed than never have tried
at all, that’s always been the way I approach life.

‘Please call me a student of the game. I’m not an expert or a guru, I’m
still learning the game. Football is my passion, my vocation, my hobby,
my everything.’

Singh’s honesty might attract controversy but it’s a breath of fresh air
to the fans who have been desperate for better communication with their
club since the Jack Walker Trust handed over control to India nearly
two years ago.

He is well aware of the criticism of the Rao family and their
matriarchal head Mrs Anuradha Desai – or ‘Madam’ who stood against her
brothers and spared Kean the sack at the end of last season – but he
insists the owners have learned from their painful introduction to
English football.

Target: Blackburn Rovers' Norwegian midfielder Morten Gamst Pedersen

Target: Blackburn Rovers' Norwegian midfielder Morten Gamst Pedersen

Money has been made available for eight new signings so far this summer,
meaning Blackburn are among the favourites to go back up at the first

‘I’ve come into this with my eyes wide open,’ says Singh. ‘We’re all
aware of the situation but we don’t like to bring it up. That’s the
promise I made to my bosses. It’s history. You can’t change history but
you can influence the future.

‘Madam has watched me on TV, she knows what I was saying and thinking. I
said things that had to be said, the same as what a lot of fans here
think. Coming here is a progression, not a new start for me.

‘I’ve been sent by the family to get promotion. When I met with them
this summer, Madam said, “Shebby, do what you have to do – I want
promotion”. I recall the moment because that’s the motivation.’

Singh holds up his mobile phone to reveal the motto on his Blackberry Messenger. It reads: ‘Promotion or die trying’.

‘It’s as simple as that for me,’ adds the man who had an 18-year playing
career for club and country in Malaysia. ‘Along the way if people get
upset, if people think that’s the train they don’t want to be on then

Fresh start: Blackburn's new signing Dickson Etuhu (centre) during training

Fresh start: Blackburn's new signing Dickson Etuhu (centre) during training

Singh insists that Venky’s have no intention of walking away from their investment.

‘A lot of people have underestimated the family,’ he says. ‘They are
here to stay. There is a way forward – it’s not the end of everything.

‘Yes, there’s a lot of a hurt which everybody feels and financially the
club has been hit. It’s been painful and detrimental to their name and
reputation, but there’s a stronger resolve now.

‘My bosses run a conglomerate, an empire. With their other business
entities, they trust people they put in place to get results.

‘Right until the end last season I think the owners were possibly
fearful of what might happen but they depended on the manager to have
told them that.

‘I have shouldered a lot of the pressure but certain things only time
will heal. Things like putting the squad together for Steve. I don’t
think we could have done any better.

‘The club has come down, Steve was the man in charge and still is. We
need to go back up. Now it’s time to step back because this is where the
football begins. Team selection and tactics entirely belong to the
manager, and we can only hope we get the right results.’

Blackburn might be out of the Premier League but, with Singh at the
helm, it’s unlikely they will be out of the spotlight for long.

Carl Frampton to fight Steve Molitor in Belfast

Frampton to defend belts against Molitor after Martinez suffers injury blow



18:53 GMT, 16 August 2012

Carl Frampton will now face Steve Molitor at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast on September 22 after Kiko Martinez withdrew through injury.

The Canadian, a two-time world champion, has stepped in at short notice and will attempt to depose Frampton of his Commonwealth and IBF International super bantamweight titles.

The 32-year-old has promised an explosive night as he bids to make a successful return to these shores.

Change of plan: Carl Frampton will now fight Steve Molitor in Belfast

Change of plan: Carl Frampton will now fight Steve Molitor in Belfast

‘I love fighting across the pond,’ Molitor said. ‘I’m four for four over there and plan on retaining that perfect record.

‘I am excited about fighting Frampton. Although he is not a household name amongst the rest in my division, he is recognised as a future star. Scott Quigg, Kid Galahad, and Carl are all names that are trying to make a name for themselves in the 122lb division, but unfortunately none of them will be making it off the Molitor name.

‘Although I am coming in off of Martinez stepping out, I have been training like a mad man for several months. I am not hungry, I am starving.

‘Stepping up against me as a two-time IBF champion of the world takes balls. I’d like to thank the Irish public in advance for coming out to the show and I have to tell them: “Don’t blink, you’re going to love the fireworks!”’

Frampton’s manager Barry McGuigan believes the Canadian has the potential to be a more dangerous proposition for his hot prospect.

Tough test: Molitor is a two-time world champion at super bantamweight

Tough test: Molitor is a two-time world champion at super bantamweight

‘Steve has boxed at a higher level than Kiko so this is a much tougher fight for Carl – but the kind of fight we want him to be in,’ he said. ‘We could’ve looked further down the list of opponents and taken an easier fight but Carl wants to operate at world level and Molitor is certainly there.

‘Most importantly we’ve replaced one great fight with another so the Belfast fans are still going to see an incredible night of boxing topped by a brilliant main event – one that is possibly even more exciting that the Martinez fight and that’s what the fans deserve to see, Carl fighting a world class operator.’

Frampton and Molitor top a stacked bill with Martin Lindsay challenging Lee Selby for the British and Commonwealth featherweight titles. Paul McCloskey is aiming to get back on track after his defeat to DeMarcus Corley in May while Eamonn O’Kane also features alongside unbeaten Belfast prospects Jamie Conlan and Dee Walsh.

Team GB stars Scotty Cardle, Kal Yafai and Martin Ward all continue their pro education in Belfast.

London 2012 Olympics: Great Britain"s fencers flop, Des Kelly

Olympic diary: It's all for one… but none for all as GB's Musketeers flop



22:06 GMT, 31 July 2012

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Britain's very own Three Musketeers
made their entrance at the London 2012 Olympics, but to save
time let me skip to the juicy part of the plot. In this story, all the
main characters are written out before the end of Chapter One.

Our nation’s fencers are not household
names. Ask the average person in the street to nominate a British
swordsman and they would probably offer up Russell Brand for different

But fame will continue to elude
Richard Kruse, Husayn Rosowsky and James Davies following a trio of premature exits where the host nation’s collective buckle was well and
truly swashed.

An ongoing bid to experience new
sports found me trying to distinguish my coupe lance from my derriere at
the ExCeL Exhibition Centre, also the Games venue for judo, boxing and
other violent events where the presence of a sword would shake up the

Touche: Richard Kruse lost to Russia's Artur Akhmatkhuzin

Touche: Richard Kruse (left) lost to Russia's Artur Akhmatkhuzin

But in fencing, everyone has a blade,
which is quite common in east London, and battle is waged in four
contest areas marked out in red, green, blue and yellow neon lights.
These are called pistes. Sadly, the fencers do not enter wearing skis,
although it would undoubtedly add to the entertainment. Instead they
duel for family honour, the hand of a fair maiden, or a gold medal. As
the Brits lost early in the competition, I never established which.

To add to the confusion, the official
commands from the referees are in French, such as ‘En garde!’… ‘Allez!’…
and ‘Bidet!’ This might help account for the home nation’s failures,
since it would be quite understandable if the British had to pause and
ask for a translation, only to find that some foreign chappie had
stabbed them in the meantime.

The action certainly happens in a
brilliant blur. Before you have had time to register that a contest is
under way, fencers lunge at one another, blades clatter and lights flash
to indicate someone has been hit in what is called the ‘valid target
area’. In this case it is the torso, not the groin, as is traditional in
most fights.

Controlled aggression: Alaaeldin Abouelkassem of Egypt competes against -Olympics-Handball-catching-imagination.htmlDes Kelly's Olympic diary: Handball! (But there isn't a footballer in sight)

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Des Kelly: A victory made only in England


Then one competitor whips up his mask, yells something that may or may not be in French, and is awarded a point, while the rest of us squint at three slow-motion replays to find out precisely how and why.

In the old days swordfights would be settled by how many limbs either competitor had left, or by one being inconveniently dead.

But modern fencing is bloodless and all about the technology. The swords are wired and the merest poke or touch (stop me if I’m getting too technical) with the weapon is registered via indicators on the masks and along the stage.

It is as close to being an actual swordfight as the game Operation is to real surgery, although in this case the machine beeps and lights flash when you touch the right place.

The idea is to be the first fencer to reach 15 points or ahead when the three periods lasting three minutes each come to an end. There are subtleties and variations in tactics and one commentator helpfully explained some of them. ‘The trick is to defend well,’ he said. ‘There are two methods, one is the parry to fend off a thrust. And there is also running away. Running away is the safest option if you’re fast.’

I cannot recommend running away highly enough. Unfortunately for Britain, Rosowsky was hobbling on one leg and clearly unable to flee during the first contest of the day.

In the movies, this would be the moment to swing to safety from a chandelier like Errol Flynn. But this was the men’s individual foil at the Olympics and chandeliers had been stupidly omitted from the ExCeL plans.

So the Briton just lay face down on the floor. For a moment I wondered if his Tunisian opponent might have actually stabbed him. It turned out Rosowsky had pulled a hamstring and, while he fought on, the 21-year-old never looked capable of recovering the contest and lost 15-8.

Foiled: Husayn Rosowsky

Foiled: Husayn Rosowsky reflects on a painful defeat

It was a similar story for the vastly more experienced Kruse, a quarter-finalist at Athens in 2004 and triple bronze European bronze medallist. He was resoundingly beaten 15-5 by Artur Akhmatkhuzin, or ‘the Russian’ as he quickly became known.

The dejected Kruse admitted his dream of an Olympic medal was over, that he would retire within a year and had no chance of making Rio in 2016. ‘Not with fencing like that I won’t,’ he sighed. ‘I never got going. I must be getting too old,’ he added, the day after his 29th birthday.

Only Davis could salvage something positive as he went down gallantly to the German four-time world champion Peter Joppich 15-10.

‘We’ll sob about this tonight, mope about a bit and then get on because we’ve got another job to do,’ he said.

He was referring to the second chance Britain’s Three Musketeers will be handed in the team event, but it will take the intervention of D’Artagnan to give this story a happy ending.

Valiant exit: James Davies fell to Germany's Peter Joppich

Valiant exit: James Davies fell to Germany's Peter Joppich

Daily moan

This item was set up to expose the pointless moans that were certain to blight the Games. But aside from the tickets furore, the complaints are few and far between. Even the presumed gridlock has not materialised and on my way to the ExCeL along the notorious Highway there were more vehicles in the Olympic Lane than others. It’s marvellous, isn’t it Now I’m moaning there’s no moaning.

Daily X-ray

There is no point in bringing anything sharp to the fencing — coals to Newcastle and all that. Instead, my trusty Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee spoon set off the scanner alarms, but nobody checked what it was and I was waved through anyway. Luckily, I didn’t have a sword.

EURO 2012: referee guide with Graham Poll

Euro 2012 ref guide… plus Graham Poll's verdict on the men in the middle



16:49 GMT, 5 June 2012

Incredibly only four of the 12 referees at Euro 2012 have major tournament experience, but some will undoubtedly become household names by the end of the Championships.

Here, Sportsmail tells you everything you need to know about the officials at this summer's showpiece, while Graham Poll gives his verdict on the men in the middle.

Raring to go: The Euro 2012 officials (minus Scotland's Craig Thomson) convene in Warsaw

Raring to go: The Euro 2012 officials (minus Scotland's Craig Thomson) convene in Warsaw


referee Howard Webb

Nationality: English

Date of birth: 14.07.71

Big-match experience: FIFA World Cup Final (2010), UEFA Champions League Final (2010)

Day job: Sergeant in the South Yorkshire Police

Controversy: Webb was heavily
criticised by the Spanish press for his performance during the 2010
World Cup final, in particular for his failure to send off Nigel de
Jong. The 40-year-old admitted that had he seen De Jong’s high challenge
on Xabi Alonso properly then he would have taken the appropriate action
– which would have been a red card.

Graham Poll's verdict: World Cup final
and Champions League final referee and one of only four with major
tournament experience. Webb likes to use his physical presence to
dominate players but avoids sending players off. Works very hard on
fitness but success in refereeing breeds jealousy and unlikely to
referee the final. A great guy.


Referee Craig Thomson

Nationality: Scottish

Date of birth: 20.06.72

Big-match experience: UEFA Euro 2008 (fourth official), UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying

Day job: Solicitor specifying in construction and engineering law

Controversy: Thomson abandoned the
Italy v Serbia Euro 2012 qualification match after seven minutes due to crowd disorder. He was also in charge of the Champions
League match involving Real Madrid where Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso
were accused of deliberately getting booked in order to serve their suspensions in a meaningless game against Auxerre.

Graham Poll's verdict: Thomson
appreciates his successes and recognises the role Hugh Dallas has played
in his star rising. Likes to keep a low profile but not afraid to make
big decisions when needed. Has utilised a fitness coach and sports
psychologist to get to the top. Well deserved inclusion in the list.


Cuneyt Cakir

Nationality: Turkish

Date of birth: 23.11.76

Big-match experience: UEFA Europa League semi-final (2010), UEFA Champions League semi-final (2012)

Day job: Works in insurance

Controversy: Sent off Manchester City’s
Mario Balotelli during their Europa League match against Dynamo Kiev, a
match involving eight yellow cards.

Graham Poll's verdict: Best known in
England for refereeing Barcelona v Chelsea in the second leg of this year's semi-final. Cakir prefers not to be noticed in games and only dismissed John
Terry on advice from one of his assistants. Is used to big atmosphere
from his domestic refereeing.


Jonas Eriksson

Nationality: Swedish

Date of birth: 28.03.74

Big-match experience: UEFA Champions League quarter-final (2012)

Day job: Worked in media and finance. Sold his 15 per cent share in IEC for over 6million.

Controversy: Sent off Liverpool's Ryan
Babel during their Europa League clash against Benfica in 2010. Also
awarded two controversial penalties in the match, both of
which were converted by Oscar Cardozo.

Graham Poll's verdict: A slow burner in
the refereeing world having waited behind Marin Hansen and others to step
into the very big shoes on Anders Frisk. A dry sense of humour and quiet
confidence makes Eriksson one of the most popular in the group.


Viktor Kassai

Nationality: Hungarian

Date of birth: 10.09.75

Big-match experience: UEFA Euro 2008 (fourth official), Olympic Games Final (2008), FIFA World Cup semi-final (2010), UEFA Champions League Final (2011)

Day job: Printing sales

Controversy: Awarded a controversial
penalty for handball to Real Madrid in this year’s Champions League
semi-final against Bayern Munich.

Graham Poll's verdict: Top quality
referee who officiated a semi-final at last World Cup and the 2011
Champions League final. Referees appropriately, lots of cards when
necessary but avoids controversy. Possible final referee.


Bjorn Kuipers

Nationality: Dutch

Date of birth: 28.03.73

Big-match experience: UEFA Champions League, Europa League

Day job: co-owner of a supermarket chain and a hair studio in his native country

Controversy: Invited an Eredivisie
reporter into his dressing room at half-time to explain a penalty
decision during Feyenoord’s 4-2 win over Ajax in January.

Graham Poll's verdict: The most
surprising inclusion in the list after disappointing Chief Refereeing Officer Pierluigi Collina earlier
this year when refusing a penalty in the Milan v Barcelona Champions League
quarter-final and then defending his decision on TV. He is very
ambitious and very confident.


Stephane Lannoy

Nationality: French

Date of birth: 18.09.69

Big-match experience: Olympic Games (2008), FIFA World Cup (2010), UEFA Champions League, Europa League

Day job: Salesman

Controversy: Sent off Brazil midfielder
Kaka for two innocuous challenges in their match against Ivory Coast at
the last World Cup.

Graham Poll's verdict: Not a highly-rated referee but has experience from South Africa 2010. Joint oldest
referee with Stark but has much weaker attitude to discipline. Outsider
for later games but with senior committee men backing him cannot be


Pedro Proenca

Nationality: Portuguese

Date of birth: 03.11.70

Big-match experience: Europa League, UEFA Champions League final (2012)

Day job: Financial advisor

Controversy: Admitted to making a
mistake in 2009 after awarding Porto a penalty in a 1-1 draw against
Benfica when Lisandro Lopez had clearly dived. The
Argentine striker was later suspended by the Portuguese FA.

Graham Poll's verdict: In his seventh year
but only just made top spot in Portugal. Refereed this year's
Champions League final very well. Calm under pressure and keeps his cards
in his pocket. A very good referee.


Nicola Rizzoli

Nationality: Italian

Date of birth: 05.10.71

Big-match experience: UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League Final (2010)

Day job: Architect

Controversy: Sent Manchester United's Rafael off during their Champions League game quarter-final against Bayern Munich in 2010

Graham Poll's verdict: Only in his fifth
year but very highly-rated and supported by Collina. Whilst this is his
first senior tournament, Rizzoli refereed the Europa League final in 2010 and has
shot through very quickly. Avoids red cards, although sent Man United's
Rafael in the Champions League. Big chance of later stage game.


Damir Skomina

Nationality: Slovenian

Date of birth: 05.08.76

Big-match experience: Olympic Games (2008), UEFA Euro 2008 (fourth official), UEFA Champions League

Day job: Estate agent and tourism organiser

Controversy: Awarded Chelsea a penalty
during their Champions League quarter-final against Benfica this year and sent off
the Portuguese side's captain, Maxi Pereira.

Graham Poll's verdict: Another low
profile referee who keeps his cards in his pocket. Speaks fluent
English and Italian as well as Slovenian. He will need to perform at his
best and see others fail if he is to progress but he has earned his place in Poland/Ukraine
on merit.


Wolfgang Stark

Nationality: German

Date of birth: 20.11.69

Big-match experience: Olympic Games (2008), FIFA World Cup (2010), UEFA Champions League

Day job: Bank assistant

Controversy: Issued seven yellow cards
and two red cards against Chile during their Under-20 World Cup match
against Argentina in 2007. Stark awarded 50 fouls in the match.

Graham Poll's verdict: Most experienced
referee present with 109 international matches in his 14th year.
Only been to one major tournament and only his enormous self belief has
kept him going after years behind Merk and Fandel. Fluent English


Carlos Velasco Carballo

Nationality: Spanish

Date of birth: 16.03.71

Big-match experience: UEFA Europa League final (2011)

Day job: Engineer

Controversy: Harshly sent off Barcelona's Gerard Pique during their La Liga clash against Sporting Gijon in March.

Graham Poll's verdict: Now this is a
rising star and how. Only international since 2008 but getting great
reviews. Shows plenty of yellow cards but very few reds or penalty
kicks. Clearly his style is in favour but as the least experienced
referee at the tournament and coming from Spain later stages could be
beyond even him.

Stale who? Wolves stars Johnson and Zubar in the dark over new boss Solbakken

Stale who Wolves stars Johnson and Zubar in the dark over new boss Solbakken



20:33 GMT, 11 May 2012

Household name: Solbakken

Household name: Solbakken

Wolves players have reacted with bemusement after Stale Solbakken was confirmed as their new boss.

As revealed in Sportsmail, the former Norway international was announced as Mick McCarthy's successor.

Chief executive Jez Moxey informed the club's players at a meeting yesterday morning. Solbakken will officially begin his duties on July 1.

But it seems the credentials of the ex-Copenhagen and Cologne boss has passed several players by.

Centre-half Roger Johnson said: 'I don't know who the guy is.'

And fellow defender Ronald Zubar mirrored that comment with: 'Seriously, I haven't heard of him.'

Roman Abramovich: Time to halt the revolution – Martin Samuel

Memo to Abramovich… halt the Stamford Bridge revolution



07:04 GMT, 7 May 2012

The problem with Chelsea is that nobody can quite get to grips with the problem with Chelsea. So here's what it isn't. The problem with Chelsea is not Didier Drogba who, at 34, scored his eighth goal in eight visits to Wembley on Saturday, including four in four FA Cup finals.

The problem is not Frank Lampard, who made arguably the best pass of the match to allow Drogba to continue that remarkable run. The problem is not age. The problem is not player power. The problem is not 4-3-3 or its baby brother 4-2-3-1.

The problem is not the absence of a stellar, household name manager, capable of crushing the will of the dressing-room and changing the way Chelsea play. The problem, most definitely, is not Roberto Di Matteo. The problem with Chelsea, in all likelihood, is that there is not much of a problem at all.

Popular: Chelsea salute victorious boss Roberto Di Matteo

Popular: Chelsea salute victorious boss Roberto Di Matteo

More from Martin Samuel…

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Martin Samuel: We sold our soul for medals, so don't be surprised if we've hired a cheat

Martin Samuel: Sorry City, UEFA will take your glad song and make it bitter…

Martin Samuel: What is the point if Roy can't hope

Martin Samuel: City smiles better as Kompany and Co take a leap of faith

Martin Samuel: Out to get him No, what we all want are results

Martin Samuel: Hodgson's record reads: P 52 W 20 L 20… Is this a job for Mr Average


There never was, really. It is the refusal to accept this that was the biggest problem all along, because it has left the club in a ceaseless quest for revolution, when all that is required is evolution. And gentle evolution at that.

This is not to devalue the job done by Di Matteo in the interim. Andre Villas-Boas had the club halfway to ruin and Di Matteo saved them, largely by recognising that there was not a whole lot wrong.

Yet Villas-Boas wasn't the problem with Chelsea, either. He was more a symptom of it: a manager brought in and clearly left under the impression that the best, indeed the only way forward was a wholesale restructure of Chelsea's methodology.

It became an exercise in doublethink. How could the need to replace Lampard, still Chelsea's top Premier League goalscorer this season, despite playing in midfield and not always making the team, be a pressing issue

How has Drogba been allowed to drift to the end of his contract when he remains among the most devastating big occasion strikers in the world How can a pattern of play that has brought more concerted success than at any time in the club's history be afforded such negative scrutiny

How could a headstrong, resilient, proud dressing room, capable of knocking out the most gifted club side in the world by scoring twice despite having 10 men for an hour, be seen as a point of weakness

Chelsea are at their best playing a version of 4-3-3 – Di Matteo favours the hybrid with two guarding midfield players and two high forwards – and until Lampard and Drogba stop scoring goals, John Terry stops making the sort of tackles that freeze the blood and Ashley Cole stops being the best left back in the world, that is how it should be.

The reason Manchester United are best with wingers is because that is Sir Alex Ferguson's preferred method. It worked well from early on and it is easier to replace aging bones like for like than reconfigure the entire team shape.

That is why the job done by Di Matteo has been outstanding. He rejected the notion that Chelsea required overhaul and instead acknowledged the immense quality at Stamford Bridge, regardless of advancing years. He then put players where they were best suited and worked hard building confidence.

Petr Cech, the goalkeeper, is in his best form since Jose Mourinho left; while John Mikel Obi, Branislav Ivanovic and Ramires are turning in the peak performances of their Stamford Bridge careers.

Flying high: New life has been breathed into Drogba and Co since Andre Villas-Boas departed

Flying high: New life has been breathed into Drogba and Co since Andre Villas-Boas departed

Flying high: New life has been breathed into Drogba and Co since Andre Villas-Boas departed

Yes, the leaders of this group are old at heart, and there will come a time when they will no longer be able to monster Liverpool at Wembley, almost unopposed. Chelsea's management must prepare for that day, but not with the reckless urgency of AVB's brief time in charge.

Chelsea had a bald tyre and the response was to scrap the car. This group of players can last at least two more seasons, with sympathetic refurbishment. A continuation of the AVB project is not necessary.

And, right there, is the problem with Chelsea. For the inescapable conclusion is that the owner does not agree, almost that he is restless unless the club is moving forward, like a dead-eyed shark. Hence the ever-changing roster of managers, the constant transfer market activity, the sense that nothing – and certainly not Saturday's FA Cup final triumph, the fourth in six years – is good enough.

Di Matteo's wonderful ability to build confidence in a group of players that looked to have lost their way, should make him a shoo-in for the permanent manager's job right now. Yet few would place a penny on this, not even after landing a trophy in his first season. And that, right there, is the problem with Chelsea.

Dalglish singing for Carroll's England future

'Every time he plays, he puts in a reference,' said Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, eloquently, of Andy Carroll's international prospects. This is not, however, the whole story.

Carroll's references are very much like Liverpool's season, in that they are hard to evaluate convincingly as either positive or negative. Just as the 'Liverpool under Dalglish – success or failure' debate endures, with one trophy, one lost final and a horrid league run, so does talk of Carroll's England potential.

He almost altered the direction of the FA Cup final on Saturday, no doubt of that. Liverpool were no match for Chelsea until he arrived and few forwards have the ability to turn John Terry inside out, as Carroll did for his goal.

Yet equally, the header that Petr Cech pawed back from the line should have been the equaliser. There is no argument over whether it was a goal – it wasn't – but if Carroll is England's man for the European Championship, he should have buried it, just as he should have scored from Stewart Downing's cross in the semi-final with Everton, before erasing that memory with the winning goal.

So faith in Carroll remains subjective. He is certainly a more potent force for Liverpool, but if England get one chance against France on June 11, would you want it falling to him

Net result: Carroll should really have buried the effort which would have brought Liverpool level

Net result: Carroll should really have buried the effort which would have brought Liverpool level

Hodgson's record is not so Fab

Disrespectful. The word leapt out of the Football Association's overprotective statement on manager Roy Hodgson last week. And indeed there is no degree of respect that is too great for football managers these days.

Amid the financial scandal that saw George Graham banned from the game for a year, Jeremy Paxman attended one of his press conferences at Arsenal and remarked that he could not believe the degree of reverence extended at such a time.

A politician in similar circumstances, he said, would have been under siege. Respect is not altogether a national trait, though. The American comedian, Reginald D Hunter, identified this in his early visits.

'The higher universities in this country, they teach people how to think the opposite way,' he said. 'Even people who are not highly educated do it – it's called taking the p***. And y'all take the p*** out of everything. You take the p*** out of the Queen, you take the p*** out of yourselves, you take the p*** out of the government – you even take the p*** out of your friends. I've met people who say, “This is my mate Barry – bit of a t***”.'

Yet once an England manager is appointed, irreverence is no longer allowed. Worse, we become unable to handle the truth, which is that – like any 64-year-old football manager, certainly one about to embark on his 20th job – Hodgson has had a varied career. No harm in that.

Sign of the times: Hodgson's record at Switzerland deserves careful attention

Sign of the times: Hodgson's record at Switzerland deserves careful attention

Harry Redknapp would have been no different, even Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have blemishes. Yet increasingly these last few days, any negatives – his recent time at Liverpool aside – have been airbrushed from Hodgson's picture.

We hear about his first season at Blackburn Rovers, but not his second; we hear that he only lost five of 22 matches with Finland, but not that he won only six. Most frequently, we hear that Hodgson took Switzerland to third in the FIFA rankings and the 1994 World Cup finals, but stop short at the details of that campaign.

Switzerland had an outstanding 4-1 win over Romania, but as for the rest, here's an amusing coincidence. The first game was a 1-1 draw with the United States, the last a defeat by a margin of three goals at the first knockout stage.

Switzerland's record at the tournament overall was one win in four. Now, funnily enough, an England manager had a very similar run at a World Cup quite recently, and nobody seemed very pleased; or was that just lack of respect

Another tradition bites the dust

A lot of people were upset by the booing of the national anthem at Wembley on Saturday. I felt sadder at the fate of the FA Cup final hymn, Abide With Me. Maybe the memories are rose-tinted, but I recall a time when the whole stadium joined in, as one.

It was a proper coming together, not some meaningless pre-match players' handshake, now a mere branding exercise for the television cameras. Abide With Me showed that, while we may support different sides, we are all here because we love football.

Now it has been lost as just another turn in the preamble, sandwiched between dull rock bands, duller dancing troupes, jets of fire and some idiot shouting, 'Wembley – are you ready for the FA Cup final' to which the only answer should be, 'We were ready at 3pm, mate. Same as we always are. You lot are the ones who have kept everybody hanging about.'

The words to Abide With Me were on the big screen, but few bothered to look, even fewer sang. And so another of English football's great traditions bites the dust. The FA Cup used to have its own style, but all finals look the same these days.

The game's changing: Little respect was offered to the traditional hymn Abide With Me

The game's changing: Little respect was offered to the traditional hymn Abide With Me

Douglas defeated

Rowley Douglas has lost his appeal to be reinstated as the cox of Great Britain's rowing eights. Good. Too much of the business around this London Olympics is being decided by lawyers or in the Home Office. Team selection is a matter for coaches and nobody else.

AND WHILE WE'RE AT ITWatch your speed

Colin Nicholson, chief executive of British Wrestling, says that the drug for which Myroslav Dykun tested positive is an amphetamine and therefore not performance enhancing.

Oh, really Amphetamines are speed and Dykun's tainted sample was given in competition. Is Nicholson really saying that a little jolt in those circumstances might not be advantageous

Equally, as northern soul boys will confirm, many prescription diet pills are amphetamine based, too. So in a sport governed by weight classes, would it not be of assistance to take an appetite suppressant

Pull the other one. It rattles.

It rattles: Dykun failed a recent drugs test

It rattles: Dykun failed a recent drugs test

Tackling the No 2 dilemma

So, having lost a first-choice backroom option, Andy Farrell, England rugby coach Stuart Lancaster has now been rejected by another candidate, New Zealander Wayne Smith.

If the RFU were not fussed at losing Farrell, thinking they had a blue chip appointment lined up, that plan has backfired.

At Lancaster's interview, the RFU wanted to know how he would go about introducing more experience to his staff. A show of strength in securing Farrell might have helped.

England cycle out of sync

The most puzzling aspect of the Football Association's appointment process is why the new manager received a four-year contract, lasting until after the European Championships in 2016.

Steve McClaren's dismissal, having failed to qualify for the 2008 tournament, skewed the cycle because it meant Fabio Capello's opening campaign was a World Cup.

This was a chance to get on an even keel again, European Championship first, World Cup second. Obviously, Roy Hodgson gets a bonus competition this summer, but England managers should be appointed in two-year cycles, with an option.

There is no absence of faith in such an offer and if the fear is a successful England manager departing too soon, surely that problem is fixed with the appointment of a domestic candidate.

Hired hand Capello may have been tempted mid-term but if Hodgson, for instance, has a good tournament in 2014, why would he want to quit And, if he doesn't, why would the FA want two more years

Hodgson needs to settle Rio/Terry dispute

Rio Ferdinand says he can play with John Terry. John Terry says he can play with Rio Ferdinand. Not good enough.

It has to go deeper than that and when Roy Hodgson eventually finds time to speak to both players, he must let them know. What cannot be allowed to happen is that two factions develop within the England camp.

That a player comes down to breakfast and finds Ferdinand and friends in one corner, Terry and pals in another, and is forced to make a choice. It is not just about lining up together on the pitch.

How Hodgson mends the personal divide is more pressing, because that is where the real trouble will start. Does he force them to become dining companions

A high-risk strategy, but failing to personal divide: Ferdinand and Terry address these issues could be worse.

Enough is enough: Hodgson needs to calm any tensions between two major players in his camp

Enough is enough: Hodgson needs to calm any tensions between two major players in his camp

Enough is enough: Hodgson needs to calm any tensions between two major players in his camp

Ken gets red carpet treatment

Once we stop laughing at Ken Livingstone decrying personality politics and media smears for his London mayoral defeat – as journalist Andrew Gilligan pointed out, having broken the story of Livingstone's tax complexities, it's not a smear if it's true, mate – we must turn our attention to an even bigger crisis. Ken's Olympic tickets.

Tessa Jowell, Livingstone's senior cheerleader during his doomed campaign, says her priority now is to make sure the former mayor secures entry to the big event, having missed out in the ballot.

Why Livingstone is no fan, or even friend, of sport. 'I couldn't care less about it,' he once said. 'The nearest I've been to sport is a snooker table at college.'

So why should he get a place that could go to a genuine enthusiast, when his prime motive for attendance would be self-aggrandisement Athletes get a lap of honour at the Olympic Stadium; rejected politicians don't.

Red carpet for Ken: Livingstone will be at the Olympics, despite his dislike for sport

Red carpet for Ken: Livingstone will be at the Olympics, despite his dislike for sport