Tag Archives: humble

Michu is proving to be one of Spain"s best exports

Bargain buy Michu is proving his worth alongside some of Spain's greats

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UPDATED:

16:08 GMT, 23 December 2012

Before the start of the season, most fans in England had never heard of him. Now, Swansea City’s Michu is one of the most talked-up, threatening midfielders in the Premier League.

The Spaniard pegged back Manchester United at the Liberty Stadium, making sure Sir Alex knew exactly who he was, and in doing so recorded his 13th goal of the season to earn his side a hard-earned point.

A snip at just 2million, he represents one of the league’s biggest bargains. But where does he stand among his country’s best

The main man: Michu has proved to be a great signing for Swansea so far

The main man: Michu has proved to be a great signing for Swansea so far

Xavi Hernandez, Barcelona
Barcelona’s Xavi turns 33 next month but has just signed a contract extension, keeping him at Camp Nou until 2016.
A true dead-ball specialist and an expert in both expansive and contained possession, he is not the biggest goal-threat, having only crept into double figures once in his career.
Estimated market value: 68million
Games: 17
Goals: 4
Shots: 25

Xavi Hernandez

Andres Iniesta

Barca duo: Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta are two of Spain and Barcelona's best

Andres Iniesta, Barcelona
He smashed in the goal which won Spain the World Cup in 2010 and his humble approach is eternally endearing. An accomplished technician, Iniesta makes up for anything he lacks in physical prowess with intelligence and versatility.
Estimated market value: 61.5million
Games: 12
Goals: 1
Shots: 16

Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona
One of the game’s modern-day greats, Fabregas is a superb passer, an accomplished finisher, was the very heart of Arsenal’s midfield and is proving indispensable for the Primera Liga greats.
He also has nine assists to his name and has dropped into Tito Vilanova’s highly-charged, switch-driven approach with ease.
Signed from Arsenal for 35million
Games: 15
Goals: 5
Shots: 21

Back home: Cesc Fabregas joined Barcelona from Arsenal in 2011

Back home: Cesc Fabregas joined Barcelona from Arsenal in 2011

David Silva, Manchester City
Silky Silva had a slow start with Manchester City, often finding he was easily out-muscled and dispossessed, but since settling with the Premier League champions, he’s been lively and exciting.
A true playmaker, his absences through injury this season have certainly been felt.
Signed from Valencia for 24million
Games: 15
Goals: 1
Shots: 25

Little master: David Silva has proved to be a key player for City

Little master: David Silva has proved to be a key player for City

Paul Lambert stays grounded after Norwich beat Aston Villa

Villa boss Lambert stays grounded after thrashing former club Norwich to progress

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UPDATED:

23:41 GMT, 11 December 2012

Paul Lambert remained humble in victory after Aston Villa booked their place in the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup with a 4-1 win at old club Norwich.

Lambert received a mixed welcome as he walked out at Carrow Road, with a few jeers heard among general applause for the man who masterminded the Norfolk club's meteoric rise up to the top flight from the depths of npower League One.

However, the former Canaries boss, who is in dispute with his old employers after an acrimonious departure during the summer, enjoyed the last laugh as substitute Andreas Weimann hit a second-half brace to turn the tie around after Brent Holman had cancelled out Steve Morison's opener.

Gracious: Paul Lambert watched his new club cruise past Norwich in the Capital One Cup quarter final

Gracious: Paul Lambert watched his new club cruise past Norwich in the Capital One Cup quarter final

Christian Benteke cracked in a fourth during stoppage time to move Villa within 180 minutes of Wembley.

'I thought we were excellent for the whole game,' Lambert said.

'We have been playing like that since the Sunderland game, but I am delighted, I really am.'

Lambert, who is been represented by the League Managers' Association in his arbitration hearing with Norwich, which is set for early next year, maintained he will always look back on his time at Carrow Road with pride.

'I had three great years here. We gave anyone a really good run for their money. I love the club. I've got nothing but praise for the football club,' he said.

'You like to think they [fans] appreciate what you have done and I appreciate the support they gave us.

'It is great club with great fans, but this is Chris' (Hughton) team now, he has done fantastically well with the position he has got them into and we will try and catch them.'

Villa's travelling support were in full voice on what was a bitterly cold night in East Anglia.

Just like that: Christian Benteke scored yet another goal

Just like that: Christian Benteke scored yet another goal

In it goes: Andreas Weimann scored twice for Aston Villa

In it goes: Andreas Weimann scored twice for Aston Villa

Lambert hopes to give them more to cheer about over the coming months as he aims to reconstruct the Midlands club.

'I have never been to Wembley, although I have been to watch a game,' he said.

'But it's not anything I have thought about – we have still got a couple of games to go.

'However, it gives the club something to look forward. The fans deserve a pick up as well.

'Whatever happens [for the semi-finals], Villa Park will be jam-packed.

'I will be more pleased with the pleasure the players get from it because I don't play the game any more.'

Lambert had handed Darren Bent a rare start, only for the England striker, who saw an early one-on-one saved, to limp off just after the hour with a hamstring problem.

Lambert said: 'I thought he looked pretty sharp. It was a blow for us, I don't know how serious it is.'

At home: Grant Holt (right) was unable to prevent his former manager getting a win at Carrow Road

At home: Grant Holt (right) was unable to prevent his former manager getting a win at Carrow Road

Norwich had been defending an unbeaten 10-game run heading into tonight's game, and certainly had their chances to put the tie beyond Villa at the start of the second half, when Morison missed twice in quick succession and Villa keeper Shay Given produced a brilliant reaction save to deny Grant Holt.

Canaries boss Hughton, who turned 54 today, said: 'We needed to make sure we held onto our 1-0 lead longer, and then at the start of the second half, we had a great chance and if that goes in then possibly it is a different story.

'Villa are a good footballing side and they were more clinical than us.

'It is really disappointing because we had been on a good run.

'We have to take it on the chin and now need to make sure we can get back on track for Saturday against Wigan.'

Rio Ferdinand coin fallout: Football in gutter after Manchester derby

It has been a superb sporting year… but football's only gold medal is for hatred

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UPDATED:

22:50 GMT, 10 December 2012

Sport can be cruel, Arthur Hopcraft wrote 44 years ago in The Football Man, which remains the most compelling book written about the game in this country. He went on: 'Football can make a man more ridiculous even than drink.' With that arrow the archer split the tree.

Hopcraft's book, written in the afterglow of England's World Cup triumph, can still be read with pleasure for its unrivalled examination of the people who play and watch football, and the author's expertise in placing the English game in a social context. It is a masterpiece.

What would Hopcraft make of the cesspit that English football resembles these days A man from a humble background, who educated himself, he was one of those old-fashioned football romantics who saw the game as part of that education.

Cauldron of hate: Police separate City and United fans at the Etihad and (below) Joe Hart stops Matthew Stott getting to Rio Ferdinand

Cauldron of hate: Police separate City and United fans at the Etihad and
(below) Joe Hart stops Matthew Stott getting to Rio Ferdinand

Cauldron of hate: Police separate City and United fans at the Etihad and (below) Joe Hart stops Matthew Stott getting to Rio Ferdinand

Had he been born four decades later would he want to write such a book Or would he conclude that the game is so filthy that it wasn't worth five minutes of his time

At the end of a wonderful sporting year, maybe the greatest year of all, football lies in the doghouse. Our Olympians, led by the magnificent Jessica Ennis, wear their gold medals with modesty. Bradley Wiggins and Andy Murray are champions, and our golfers stand supreme.

At rugby we have just beaten the All Blacks by 17 points. In cricket Alastair Cook is leading his men to a notable victory in India. Yet in football, wherever one looks, there is disgrace.

Bradley Wiggins

Andy Murray

Pride of Britain: Bradley Wiggins and Andy Murray have enjoyed fantastic sporting years

When players are not diving, they are abusing referees or demanding salaries out of all proportion to their talents. Managers, when not heaping abuse on match officials, prefer to look the other way. The FA, supposedly the guardians of the game, retreat when they should advance.

Then there are the fans. You know the type, those lovely folk who spend every Saturday afternoon and many nights of the week spitting poison at anybody who comes within a coin's throw.

The Manchester derby on Sunday was a rousing affair, won eventually by Robin van Persie's stoppage-time free-kick, but the abiding image was of Rio Ferdinand ending the game in a daze, a bloody cut above his left eye, as a City supporter expressed his hatred in the way he thought best.

Bloody mess: Rio Ferdinand was targeted by City supporters after celebrating Van Persie's winner

Bloody mess: Rio Ferdinand was targeted by City supporters after celebrating Van Persie's winner

The other image that remains is a familiar one, but it supports the view that football is a great game that attracts pigs. Behind the goal into which Van Persie shot the winning goal a photograph revealed rows of police officers separating the opposing fans.

Without that not-so-thin yellow line there would have been a riot, just as there would be riots on other grounds the length and breadth of the kingdom if police officers and stewards were not present in their hundreds.

This season has begun with a cascade of fan-related incidents: pitch invasions, racist chants and the general nastiness that football fans have made their stock in trade since Hopcraft put his pen down in 1968.

Centre of attention: London staged an incredible Olympic Games with a 'human face' which hasn't been transferred over to football

Centre of attention: London staged an incredible Olympic Games with a 'human face' which hasn't been transferred over to football

Football has always aroused strong feelings, wherever it is played. But when it comes to hatred inspired by football – and hatred is surely the word – we take some budging from the gold medallist's rostrum.

Even in our spanking new stadiums, filled, we are often told, by a new breed of supporter, the hatred burns on an intense flame. And many of the people doing the hating are those brought up in the Seventies, when grounds really were dangerous places to visit.

They are men (almost always men) in their 50s and 60s for whom the Saturday afternoon ritual remains an imperishable part of human experience.

Some people wondered, after London staged an Olympic Games with a human face, whether that spirit could carry over into the football season. Well, they know now.

Arrest: A fan is escorted off the pitch by police after confronting United defender Ferdinand during Sunday's derby

Arrest: A fan is escorted off the pitch by police after confronting United defender Ferdinand during Sunday's derby

Don't be deceived by the talk of 'passion', that most over-rated of qualities. The behaviour at most football grounds would not be tolerated in any other sport. In rugby spectators who behaved as they do at football matches would be marched out of the ground, no questions asked.

We are talking here about significant numbers who rejoice in the tribalism that football encourages. In no other sport is hatred endorsed as a way of life.

Consider how often managers and players refer to 'the fans' as if fandom was a benign phenomenon. If they actually had to sit among the people they praise they might change their tune. Or perhaps they wouldn't.

Perhaps football is now so degraded as a public entertainment that the people who work in the game can no longer distinguish acceptable behaviour from the other sort. It's not as if the fans can take any kind of lead from the players they pay so much to watch.

Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand

Under siege: Ferdinand was left with blood pouring from his head after he was struck by a 2p coin

It has been argued that football reflects society, and our society is increasingly dominated by self-obsession, instant gratification, and a corrosive celebrity culture. Many footballers are themselves celebrities, whether or not they can kick a ball.

Despite the commercial success of the Premier League we are not living through a golden age of English football. Should you doubt it, consider this barely believable fact: Stewart Downing, a journeyman midfielder, has played more times for England than Tony Currie, Alan Hudson, Charlie George and Peter Osgood put together. And those gentlemen could play.

Yet rugby, league and union, reflects our society as well, and nobody has to segregate fans on their grounds. There are boorish rugby players, and unpleasant supporters, but nobody feels the need to shout obscenities at opposing fans, or make hissing noises to denote the gassing of Jews. In football it is all in a day's work.

We are also told, sometimes by those who have rarely set foot in a football ground, that such 'boisterous' behaviour is part of 'working-class' culture and is something to be celebrated. That is not a view that would find favour with those working-class folk who used to attend matches, and who managed to behave with a fervour tempered by a respect for others. In any case football is hardly a working-class activity these days.

A fan who follows his team throughout the season is likely to spend up to 5,000 in tickets, travelling and booze. Not many people on modest incomes can manage that.

No, today's yobbos are decidedly affluent compared with their predecessors, who wore flat caps and lit up Woodbines over their cups of Bovril. Football could stop it in a trice if the will was there. The FA could close those grounds where people misbehaved, or dock points for persistent misconduct. Managers could use public statements and programme notes to denounce offenders with strong words, not platitudes.

Something else happened in 1968, when Hopcraft's book was published. John Arlott, another great journalist, stopped covering football, a game he loved, because it had become 'seedy'.

It sounds almost polite these days, seedy, like some Bayswater boarding house. Today we are obliged to use more powerful words, and every one holds the game to account: a reckoning that nobody, not the players, not the fans, not the wretched FA, feels obliged to honour.

Roberto Matrinez backing for Jordi Gomez

Martinez wants critics to cut hat-trick hero Gomez some slack

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UPDATED:

18:55 GMT, 24 November 2012

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez hopes Jordi Gomez has answered his critics among the Latics fans after his hat-trick earned a much-needed three points against Reading.

The Spaniard was making only his third start of the season in the Barclays Premier League and was jeered early in the game for a few poor touches.

Eat that: Jordi Gomez left his critics eating humble pie with a hat-trick

Eat that: Jordi Gomez left his critics eating humble pie with a hat-trick

Match facts

WIGAN: Al Habsi, Boyce, Ramis (Lopez 48), Figueroa, Stam, McCarthy, Jones (McArthur 82), Beausejour, Gomez, Kone, Maloney (Si Santo 45). Subs not used: Pollitt, McManaman, Boselli, Fyvie.

Goals: Gomez 58, 68, 90+2

Booked: McCarthy, Jones

READING: Federici, Gunter, Morrison, Gorkss, Shorey, Robson-Kanu, Leigertwood, Tabb (McCleary 72), McAnuff, Le Fondre, Roberts (Pogrebnyak 83). Subs not used: Taylor, Mariappa, Hunt, Harte, Cummings.

Goals: Morrison 35, Al Habsi 80 (og)

Referee: Howard Webb

The latest Premier League results, fixtures and tables

But he responded superbly with goals
in the 58th and 68th minutes to turn things around after Sean Morrison
had given Reading a 35th-minute lead.

The Royals looked to have snatched a
point with a major stroke of luck in the 80th minute when Wigan keeper
Ali Al Habsi dropped a wet and spinning ball against the bar that then
rebounded against him and went in.

But Gomez had the last word two
minutes into injury time to earn Wigan a 3-2 win that lifted them five
points clear of the relegation zone.

The midfielder is only the third
Latics player to score a Premier League hat-trick after Marcus Bent and
Henri Camara, and Martinez believes he has been treated unfairly by some
of the Wigan fans.

'The role Jordi had to play today was
as unfair as you're going to get,' said the Latics boss. 'Because he
missed the first two or three passes, all of a sudden the crowd let him
know.

Diving in: Shaun Maloney (right) challenges Reading's Jobi McAnuff

Diving in: Shaun Maloney (right) challenges Reading's Jobi McAnuff

'I've seen it so many times and it's
very difficult to compose yourself, and it would have been all too easy
for him to hide and look away from the challenge. But that's not Jordi
at all. Nobody deserved a hat-trick more today than him.

'It's not just the three goals, he always shows for the ball, he had another two great opportunities.


Heading for Reading: Morrison (top right) powers home the opening goal

Heading for Reading: Morrison (top right) powers home the opening goal

'The crowd were too vocal against
him and I hope that today they realise that the only thing Jordi does is
give his life for Wigan Athletic and to win football games. I hope we
all realise that and he gets a bit of warmth the next time he's on the
pitch.'

In contrast, Al Habsi has been a huge
hit since joining Wigan from Bolton in the summer of 2010 and he had
made a brilliant flying save from Adam Le Fondre's header moments before
his howler.

Rising high: Morrison (centre) gives Ali Al Habsi no chance

Rising high: Morrison (centre) gives Ali Al Habsi no chance

Going down: David Jones (top) clatters into Reading's Jay Tabb

Going down: David Jones (top) clatters into Reading's Jay Tabb

Martinez was more than happy to
forgive his keeper, saying: 'Goalkeepers are exposed to that, they're
the last men, and it's just Ali doesn't do that, which is why you're so
surprised.

'Minutes before he had the save of
the game. Internally as a team you should be there to help your
team-mate when he makes a bit of an error, which happens, it's a game of
errors and you need to be able to overcome whatever situation comes
your way.

'Today we showed that type of performance. In the first half we had a little bit of the feeling of something to lose.

It takes two to tango: James McCarthy (left) and Jason Roberts try to keep their balance

It takes two to tango: James McCarthy (left) and Jason Roberts try to keep their balance

'We weren't sharp or as effective as
we can be, and to concede from a set-play and allow Ali to have a
mistake, I think it was more our approach and our mentality, and we need
to change that.

'But it was pleasing to see the
players found a reaction and a way to overcome that. To give that win to
the dressing room pleased Ali more than anyone.

'I think it's the time to thank him
for the amount of times he got the team out of difficult situations with
his outstanding performances.'

make mine a double: Jordi Gomez (right) dives to head home Wigan's second

make mine a double: Jordi Gomez (right) dives to head home Wigan's second

To come away with nothing in such
circumstances was a real blow to Reading, who arrived in the north west
on the back of their first Premier League victory of the season against
Everton last weekend.

Boss Brian McDermott was frustrated
they could not see out the game but felt his side should have had a
penalty for a foul by Maynor Figueroa on Jay Tabb when the score was
1-1.

'I thought we deserved a point, and I thought it was the least we were going to get,' said McDermott.

Bald truth: Brian McDermott (left) felt Reading were worth a point against Roberto Martiniez's (right) side

Bald truth: Brian McDermott (left) felt Reading were worth a point against Roberto Martiniez's (right) side

Bald truth: Brian McDermott (left) felt Reading were worth a point against Roberto Martiniez's (right) side

'I think if the referee had given the
penalty on Jay Tabb we would have gone on to win the game. Someone of
Howard Webb's experience and quality, you would have expected him to get
that one right.

'When you're 2-2 in the 92nd minute
and we've got the ball, you've got to make sure you see the game out. If
you have to take a point in this league then take it and move on.

'We have to learn quickly from that.
We've seen out the last couple of games really well but unfortunately we
haven't seen this one out.'

Jordi joy: Gomez (right) celebrates with James McArthur after completing his hat-trick

Jordi joy: Gomez (right) celebrates with James McArthur after completing his hat-trick

Andy Murray beaten by Roger Federer at ATP Finals semi final

Fed express tramples on Murray's dreams as Swiss star sets up Djokovic clash

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UPDATED:

22:41 GMT, 11 November 2012

With the 02 Arena festooned as if it had been shifted to somewhere called Basle-on-Thames Andy Murray might have wondered where he was as he stepped out to meet Roger Federer.

And by the time the great Swiss had finished with him he might have wondered what year it was, too, for as their match went on it seemed increasingly we had gone back to the time when Federer ruled the world and Murray was still trying to convert his promise into a Grand Slam title.

The result was a 7-6 6-2 victory in the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, in a contest that became disarmingly one-sided. Murray will have many fantastic memories from 2012 but this will not be one of them.

Roger Federer

 Andy Murray

Contrasting fortunes: Roger Federer jumps for joy as Andy Murray is beaten at the semi-final stage

In the last match of the regular season, Federer will take Novak Djokovic – a 4-6 6-3 6-2 winner over Juan Martin Del Potro – and those of us who have been heralding the Djokovic-Murray axis as the new big thing in tennis will try and digest a little humble pie.

Federer showed the champion's appetite for a scrap and backed it up with fine shot making after a poor start and whatever happens this evening he will be heading into his off-season feeling a little less than his 31 years.

Murray enters that phase of the year on Monday, and in defeat it was not hard for him to find consolation in the events of the last five months. 'If you told me last year that I would be sitting in this position now with the results I've had in the last twelve months I would have signed up for that straightaway,' he said.

Proposition: Federer fans cheer their man on at the O2 in London

Proposition: Federer fans cheer their man on at the O2 in London

'It's been incredibly positive season but obviously I would have loved to finish it with a win. It's been the best year of my career by a mile and I've achieved things I've never done before.'

One of those came in the Olympic final, when he trounced Federer, and it was interesting to note how different Sunday night's atmosphere was to that heady Sunday afternoon in August in the midst of that heady two weeks.

On that day you had never heard a British crowd so supportive of Murray and positively anti-Federer, swept up in Olympic fervour, but it was as if the default position of deep affection for the great Swiss had been reset and that many had forgotten the home player's historic triumphs of 2012.

Murray did not complain that he was afforded less than partisan support, although it hardly augurs well for his chances of winning Sports Personality of the Year, saying 'Whenever you play Roger anywhere in the world he gets great support and he deserves that because of everything that he's achieved.'

 Andy Murray

Catch me if you can: Federer managed to get nose in front – and stayed there

The febrile atmosphere did not spur Federer to race out of the blocks, far from it, and his forehand was erratic as he gifted the 25 year-old Scot the first break of the match in the very first game, and was fortunate not to go 3-0 down shortly afterwards.

Competitor that he is, Federer fought his way back in and started to profit from his opponent's second serve, coming back from 3-1 down in a tiebreak in which neither man did much wrong until Murray netted a couple of times to conclude it.

The match properly turned at 1-1 in the second set, when Murray got to 40-0 on his serve and then threw in five desperately poor points in succession with ill-executed drop shots to the fore, the manoeuvre he admits can leave him looking like a genius or idiot.

Despair: Murray reflects on his semi-final defeat to Federer

Despair: Murray reflects on his semi-final defeat to Federer

'I started the match well, he came back in and then I played that poor game. He is very tough once he gets ahead, he played very well after that. I didn't think it was an incredibly high standard in terms of the length of the points, a lot of them went quickly,' said Murray, often pressured by the Swiss's judicious net rushes.

The fact that their last two matches had seen Federer lose all five sets was an irrelevance, but then a big difference was that this was indoors and he is the greatest player ever seen in this environment.

Whether that will be enough to see off Djokovic is another matter with the Serb in this mood. He was in deep trouble at a break down in the second set but eventually worked Del Potro out, and you have never beaten the world No 1 until you shake hands.

At full stretch: Murray had chances to make an impression but was unable to convert

At full stretch: Murray had chances to make an impression but was unable to convert

Fergie"s Firsts: Sir Alex Ferguson walked through the doors at Old Trafford 26 years ago today

Fergie's Firsts: Sir Alex Ferguson walked through the doors at Old Trafford 26 years ago today

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UPDATED:

12:45 GMT, 6 November 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably the greatest British football manager of all time, walked through the doors at Old Trafford 26 years ago today.

The job of managing United in 1986 was huge – they were a sleeping giant and his tenure began with a humiliating defeat at Oxford's Manor Ground. From humble beginnings and all that…

Here Sportsmail recalls Fergie's firsts…

Humble beginnings: 26 years ago this week, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson (second right) watches his new team for the first time as they crash to a 2-0 defeat at Oxford

Humble beginnings: 26 years ago this week, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson (second right) watches his new team for the first time as they crash to a 2-0 defeat at Oxford United's Manor Ground

HIS FIRST GAME…

Manchester United's new manager Alex Ferguson (R) watches from the dug out as his side play Oxford United, in their League Division One football match at Manor Ground, Oxford. Manchester United lost 2-0.

Manchester United slipped to a 2-0 defeat
at the old Manor Ground against a side who were to drop out of the
Football League during Ferguson’s 26 years at Old Trafford.

There
were 13,545 for the game on November 8, 1986, two days after Ferguson (right)
had taken over from Ron Atkinson. Future Liverpool striker John Aldridge
scored a penalty for the home side and Neil Slatter added the second.

Ferguson was later to describe how he was shocked at the fitness levels of the United players.

But then maybe it was no surprise that his team fell to defeat at Oxford.

Ferguson
revealed in his autobiography that a number of his new charges had been
drinking heavily at Atkinson’s leaving do the night before his arrival
in Manchester and he was in no mood to accept excuses after the Oxford
game.

He called them in for extra gym training on the Monday morning
and told the players he would `put an end to Manchester United’s
reputation as a social club rather than a football club’.

It was also
the beginning of the end for Paul McGrath at United. Ferguson was so
unimpressed by his midfield performance that he took him off, claiming
later his lifestyle meant he did not have the stamina for a midfield
berth in his team.

Oxford: Parks, Langan, Slatter, Phillips, Briggs, Shotton, Houghton, Aldridge, Leworthy, Trewick & Brock.
Manchester United: Turner, Duxbury, Albiston, Moran, McGrath, Hogg, Blackmore, Moses, Stapleton, Davenport, Barnes.

Humble beginnings: Fergie's first match... United's Paul McGrath (left) heads clear during the 2-0 defeat at Oxford in 1986

Humble beginnings: Fergie's first match… United's Paul McGrath (left) heads clear during the 2-0 defeat at Oxford in 1986

HIS FIRST WIN…
Ferguson had to wait three games for his first success as United boss.

November 22, 1986, United beat Queens Park Rangers 1-0 at Old Trafford, thanks to a thumping free-kick from Danish defender John Sivebaek.

HIS FIRST GOAL…
United had gone 213 scoreless minutes – and 16 days – before Sivebaek finally broke the deadlock at Old Trafford to secure that first win.

But it was a fleeting moment of glory for the Denmark international who was sold to St Etienne by Ferguson the following summer after just 31 games for United. He was eventually replaced at right-back by Viv Anderson.

`I don’t remember much about the goal except that it was a free-kick 20 yards out,’ said the Dane. “I hit it hard but bent it a bit like Beckham as well.

`It was a big goal because it gave Sir Alex his first win at Manchester United and it was also big for me because I didn’t score many.’

Picture shows Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson - Oxford United v Manchester United - 07.11.1986

JOHN SIVEBAEK MANCHESTER UNITED 1986

Looking glum: Life at United began poorly for
Ferguson (left, in the stands at Oxford) but things began looking up
after John Sivebaek (right) scored the first goal of Fergie's tenure
against QPR

Enlarge

Here we go: Ferguson (arms folded) takes first-team training during his first week as United boss in November 1986

Here we go: Ferguson (arms folded) takes first-team training during his first week as United boss in November 1986

Still smiling: Ferguson (right) shares a joke with first-team coach Rene Meulensteen at carrington today

Still smiling: Ferguson (right) shares a joke with first-team coach Rene Meulensteen at carrington today

SIR ALEX BY NUMBERS

37 Major trophies (12 Premier League titles, 2 Champions League wins, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups)

3 Trophies in the 1998-99 treble

45 United's longest unbeaten run in all competitions under Ferguson

9-0 Manchester United's biggest win under Ferguson, against Ipswich Town at Old Trafford in 1995

6-1 Ferguson's heaviest defeat, last season at home to Manchester City

26 Years Manchester United were waiting for a league title before Ferguson's first in 1993

3 “Years of excuses and it's still crap … TA RA FERGIE”, a banner seen at Old Trafford in December 1989

30.75m Paid to Tottenham Hotspur for the services of Dimitar Berbatov in 2008, a club record fee

80m Received from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo, a world record.

625,000 Spent on Denis Irwin, regarded by Ferguson as his greatest signing 'pound for pound'

60,000 Ferguson's estimated annual salary when he joined in 1986

5m His current annual salary

7 Years without giving interviews to the BBC after a controversial Panorama investigation into his son Jason

14 The number of managers to have occupied the Manchester City dugout while Ferguson has been at United

17 Games missed by Ferguson due to touchline bans

HIS FIRST AWAY WIN…
Where else but Anfield

United only picked up one away win all that first season under Ferguson and actually managed to achieve the double and it was Liverpool’s only home defeat at Anfield that season.

Norman Whiteside scored United’s winner to help United to their third win in his first eight games in charge – hardly a resounding start.

It would take Ferguson a few years to knock Liverpool off their perch, and they finished 11th that season, but it was a good start.

HIS FIRST SIGNING…
Viv Anderson was signed from Arsenal for just 250,000 in a deal finalised at tribunal.

The England international was to play a significant role in Ferguson’s new-look United and quickly established himself as first-choice right-back.

He played more than 50 games for the club until Ferguson signed Denis Irwin from Oldham for just 625,000 and he took over from Anderson, who moved on to Sheffield Wednesday.

Ferguson said: `Viv’s resolute professionalism at right-back and bubbly, contagious enthusiasm in the dressing room were worth a lot more than the 250,000 we paid Arsenal.

`Viv, a man I am always happy to see, was prevented by injury from being as valuable to us as he should have been.’

Anderson won the 1990 FA Cup at Manchester United, followed by the Charity Shield at the start of the next season, his only silverware at Old Trafford.

First recruit: Viv Anderson signs for Ferguson at old Trafford

First recruit: Viv Anderson signs for Ferguson at old Trafford

FIRST TROPHY…
Manchester United needed a replay to see off Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup Final and pick up Ferguson’s first trophy.

The first game finished 3-3 and Palace, who had stunned Liverpool to reach Wembley, had the audacity to take the lead through Gary O’Reilly after just 17 minutes when he headed in via Gary Pallister’s head.

The United equaliser also came from a deflection, with John Pemberton getting the final touch to a Bryan Robson effort before half-time. Mark Hughes then put Ferguson’s side in front just after the hour before Palace boss Steve Coppell threw on Ian Wright whose mazy run within three minutes of his introduction finished with the goal to take the game into extra-time.

Enlarge

Alex Ferguson (right) with his assistant Archie Knox in 1986

Enlarge

Manchester United's new manager Alex Ferguson at a press conference at Old Trafford, decked out in his new team's colours

Life and times: Ferguson with his newly
installed assistant Archie Know in 1986 (left) and posing up (right)
before his first official press conference at Old Trafford 26 years ago
this week

Old school: Ferguson's desk at United HQ remained a rustic affair

Old school: Ferguson's desk at United HQ remained a rustic affair

And it was the electric Wright who put Palace ahead two minutes after the re-start, seizing on Jim Leighton’s hesitancy dealing with a John Salako cross, before Mark Hughes calmly slotted home seven minutes from the end of extra-time to take the final to a replay.

Ferguson bravely, and controversially, dropped Leighton for the replay five days later and the Scotland international keeper never played for United again.

His place went to the late Les Sealey who made three crucial saves in a largely uneventful match.
The winner came from defender Lee Martin who chested down a Neil Webb pass just before the hour and shot high into the net past Nigel Martyn. Captain Bryan Robson lifted his manager’s first trophy.
Sealey was the only change from the first game, the outfield players were Phelan, Bruce, Pallister, Martin, Webb, Ince, Robson, Wallace, McClair, Hughes.

The Palace side was unchanged for the two games, was the last all-English team to play in the FA Cup Final and included Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew. Martyn, Pemberton, O’Reilly, Thorn, Shaw, Barber, Gray, Thomas, Pardew, Salako, Bright.

Kevin Pietersen scores 23 on England return as old foe Yuvraj Singh takes his wicket

KP's humble pie: Old foe Yuvraj ruins Pietersen's return to England side

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UPDATED:

22:37 GMT, 31 October 2012

Kevin Pietersen has been warned he will face more of his old nemesis Yuvraj Singh in the Test series against India after the part-time left-arm spinner he once called a pie-chucker spoiled his comeback.

On the day Alastair Cook marked his first game as England’s new captain with a typically careful century against India A, Pietersen was caught and bowled by Yuvraj for 23 in his first knock for England since August 6 and the infamous Headingley Test against South Africa.

Cook’s men closed the second day on 286 for four, with Samit Patel crafting an attractive unbeaten 82 to lay claim to the No 6 spot following a third-ball duck for opener Nick Compton in his first senior game for England.
Return: Pietersen produced a swashbuckling 23 before being caught and bowled by Yuvraj Singh

Return: Pietersen produced a swashbuckling 23 before being caught and bowled by Yuvraj Singh

Return: Pietersen produced a swashbuckling 23 before being caught and bowled by Yuvraj Singh

Return: Pietersen produced a swashbuckling 23 before being caught and bowled by Yuvraj Singh

PIETERSEN vs THE PIE-CHUCKER

March 28, 2006, 1st ODI — Yuvraj dismisses Pietersen for the first time as the England batsman is caught by Gautam Gambhir for 46.

March 31, 2006, 2nd ODI — Pietersen is caught for 71 off Yuvraj.

April 15, 2006, 7th ODI — He is caught again, this time for 64.

November 17, 2008, 2nd ODI — Yuvraj takes out his off stump, sending the England man packing for 33.

December 13, 2008, 1st Test, Day 3 — Pietersen is trapped lbw for one.

Wednesday, tour game — On his England return, KP drives a ball straight back at the bowler to go for 23.

But, for sheer drama, nothing matched
the moment Pietersen shimmied down the track and chipped a return catch
to Yuvraj to end an eventful 24-ball stay.

After getting off the mark with a
quick single to mid-on off his first ball, Pietersen lofted his sixth —
from Suresh Raina’s off-spin — over the ropes down the ground. He carted
the next delivery through the covers, was dropped at short leg on 16
off Raina, then pulled seamer Vinay Kumar for four.

But Yuvraj was lying in wait. With
his third ball of a new spell — his second to Pietersen — he struck. It
was the sixth time he had embarrassed England’s alpha male following
four dismissals in one-day internationals and one in a Test at Chennai
four years ago.

India A captain Raina promised it
would not be the last time Yuvraj would be given the chance to add to
Pietersen’s litany of woes against slow left-armers.

‘Last time England came here, he
bowled really well to KP and the plan worked again,’ said Raina with a
smile. ‘I was always going to try him. I know he’s had success against
him early on.’

Asked whether India’s Test captain MS
Dhoni would repeat the ploy in the four-match series, starting in
Ahmedabad on November 15, Raina said: ‘Definitely. He was so happy to
get him out but KP came after the game to the dressing room and they
both had a laugh.

Slow start: Compton went for a third-ball duck

Slow start: Compton went for a third-ball duck

SCORECARD

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‘He needs to score runs against
India. He did well against South Africa but this is going to be
different. We have a good spin attack, plus Zaheer Khan and Umesh
Yadav.’

Pietersen’s cameo overshadowed an
otherwise good day for England, including Cook’s six-hour unbeaten 112 —
a monument to self-denial that bodes well for the rest of the tour.

Top knock: Cook

Top knock: Cook

Top knock: Cook celebrates reaching his ton

Just as reassuring for England was
the batting of Patel, who must now be favourite to bat at No 6 in
Ahmedabad. Dropped on 29, he added an unbroken 153 with Cook after
England were wobbling at 133 for four.

Patel said: ‘One of the things we
work hard on is to grind down the bowling, and we wanted to keep India
in the dirt. It was fantastic to have Kevin back. He gave us a bit of
oomph to get us going.’

Ton-derful: Cook was in fine form with the bat as he passed 100

Ton-derful: Cook was in fine form with the bat as he passed 100

Ton-derful: Cook was in fine form with the bat as he passed 100

Top knock: Cook

Compton’s first-over duck at the
ground where his grand-father Denis made 249 not out for Holkar in the
Ranji Trophy final in 1945 was something of a disappointment, but
Jonathan Trott helped Cook steady things with 56.

Steven Finn faces a race against time to prove his fitness for the first Test after straining his right thigh on Tuesday.

singly, it came only three balls after India A captain Raina had brought Yuvraj on to bowl.

Rebuilding: Cook and Patel put on a fine fifth-wicket partnership to dig England out of a hole

Rebuilding: Cook and Patel put on a fine fifth-wicket partnership to dig England out of a hole

Rebuilding: Cook and Patel put on a fine fifth-wicket partnership to dig England out of a hole

Rebuilding: Cook and Patel put on a fine fifth-wicket partnership to dig England out of a hole

Euro 2012: Roy Hodgson"s remarkable football journey

How a freezing dressing room set Hodgson on his remarkable football journey

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UPDATED:

21:13 GMT, 23 June 2012

When Roy Hodgson's remarkable football
journey began at non- League Gravesend & Northfleet 43 years ago,
there were none of the trappings associated with being England manager
at a major international tournament.

Even by Southern League standards,
the Kent club's Stonebridge Road ground was primitive. The unheated
dressing rooms were covered with cracked, dirty white tiles and housed
an unwelcoming single wooden bench that spread round three sides.
Occasionally, a spider would be seen in the bath.

Main man: Hodgson learned his earliest lessons lower down football's pyramid

Main man: Hodgson learned his earliest lessons lower down football's pyramid

A draught would often blow up from the Thames, leaving players to freeze as they trained at the ground on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

The highlight of the Thursday session would be to decamp to the supporters' club afterwards to receive their wages in a little brown packet from manager Alf Ackerman, in Hodgson's case about 20 a week.

ROY'S THANK YOU

Roy Hodgson has invited his agent Leon Angel to the quarter-final against Italy as a thank-you for the way he handled his ‘transfer’ from West Brom to England.

Angel negotiated a four-year contract for the coach with the FA but was not able to persuade Hodgson to include one of his other clients, Spurs’ Aaron Lennon, in the England squad for Euro 2012.

It was in such humble surroundings that Hodgson set out on the path that will see him carry the hopes of more than 20 million Englishmen watching on TV when his England team meet Italy in Kiev.

Hodgson arrived at Gravesend in 1969, having been released from Crystal Palace without playing a game. In his second and final season there as a no-frills wing-half, he helped Gravesend win promotion from the Southern League First Division to the Premier.

'Our training nights on cold damp evenings helped forge my future ideas,' said Hodgson in a contribution to the club's Golden Jubilee book.

'Distance has lent enchantment to my less-than-glorious playing career and I remember my time at Stonebridge Road warmly. I learned a lot as a young player there, the characters I played with and my geography improved as well because we played in a number of locations I never knew existed.'

During his spell, Hodgson grew close to teammate Colin Murphy, another future manager who tried to coach less than-enthusiastic colleagues. Ackerman, a fearsome South African, was known for the catchphrase: 'What is your problem, pal'

Hair we go: A young Hodgson (circled) at Gravesend

Hair we go: A young Hodgson (circled) at Gravesend

Fortunately for England's superstars, Hodgson is more diplomatic than Ackerman. But the 64-year-old can be demanding of his players, and remembers his first manager with affection.

'There was a shouting match in training because Murphy wanted to tell goalkeeper Brian Hughes where he should stand at a free-kick,' said Hodgson. 'While we stood around freezing, the manager walked out and ruled in Murphy's favour. When Hughes protested, Alf rolled up his trousers, placed the muddy ball down and told Hughes to stand where he wanted.

'Then he blasted the ball into the net and shouted at him “I told you effing Murphy was right”. Coaching at its most effective.'

Those who remember Hodgson at Gravesend recall an average player who nonetheless performed his duties as a foot soldier with diligence. But it was his personality off the pitch that suggested there may be better things ahead for the young PE teacher from Croydon who knew he would never be good enough to be a full-time professional player.

'He wasn't one of the singalong crowd but he was articulate and very intelligent,' said Gravesend's former vice-chairman Roger Easterby. 'While the other players played cards on the team bus, he'd quietly read a book or a newspaper.

'He worked hard and slotted into the team, although he wasn't particularly talented. It was far from a glamorous life but it was a good school. A few of them, like Roy and Colin, were always interested in the coaching because they knew they'd never reach the top playing the game.'

Hodgson played 59 times for Gravesend, scoring just once. But at the end of that 1970-71 season, he showed the first signs of the wanderlust that led him to a career that has so far taken in 26 different jobs in nine different countries.

The first move wasn't far – from Gravesend to Kent neighbours Maidstone – but it was controversial because the two clubs were fierce rivals.

Some Gravesend diehards still grumble about Hodgson's decision, but local photographer Phil Gunnill said: 'I was always told Roy was frustrated by Gravesend's lack of facilities, particularly when it was cold. Maidstone had heated dressing rooms. That was the clincher.'

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Euro 2012: Spain"s plan for winning consecutive Euros

Forget past glory, but remember what made you great… Spain's plan for consecutive Euro wins

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UPDATED:

11:13 GMT, 7 June 2012

Embrace the values that made you a champion, forget past glory. That's Spain's motto for winning a second straight European Championship.

Spain's training base in the sleepy village of Gniewino at the northern tip of Poland is surrounded by greenery and far from any off-field distractions.

Yet it's impossible to escape the slogans scattered around the World Cup champions' training facilities. Splashed over walls and hanging from lampposts, they reflect the team's humble pie personality and have a clear message for the players: past successes mean nothing going into Euro 2012.

Preparation: Spanish players get ready for the Euros

Preparation: Spanish players get ready for the Euros

Euro 2012 email button

'History doesn't make you champion, humility does' reads one banner, before giving way to the next just a few feet along.

'History doesn't stop the rival, concentration does' is enshrined alongside 'History doesn't score goals, talent does.'

Finally, 'United by a dream' adorns each lamp post leading up to the Mistral Sport Hotel pitch where the squad trains twice a day in front of several hundred local spectators, including a boisterous bunch of Spanish fans that assistant coaches have had to quiet down on occasions.

Spain is small in stature and big on talent, and quite happy about that.

'We're conscious of the fact that it was inevitable on paper we'd be favorites. The key to our success has been to always start from zero and respect our opponents,' defender Sergio Ramos said in the buildup to the tournament. 'Humility has been the base from which we have grown in these recent years.'

Spain's refusal to take anything for granted – despite all its success – should be clearly visible on Sunday when it starts in Group C against Italy, winners of the 2006 World Cup.

Smile: Juan Mata enjoys the view

Smile: Juan Mata enjoys the view

The squad is marked by the personalities of Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, who have quietly won every possible trophy available at a senior level. Iniesta scored the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final, and celebrated by revealing a memorial message to former Espanyol player Daniel Jarque – who died from cardiac arrest the previous summer – on his undershirt.

Spain's players seem to be embracing the pressure that comes with the expectations in Poland and Ukraine, where Ireland and Croatia also await in group play.

'There's always pressure with the national team but these are nice challenges to dream about making history with,' Xavi said.

'The pressure is welcome because we still want to make history with a third straight major title while respecting the rival, and remembering how hard it was to win the World Cup.'

Jenson Button apologises to McLaren after Malaysia gaffe

Button apologises to McLaren after Karthikeyan gaffe in Malaysia meltdown

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UPDATED:

14:00 GMT, 25 March 2012

Jenson Button has issued a humble apology to his team following a Malaysian Grand Prix he has described as 'horrendous'.

Button is normally the master of the changeable conditions, as he proved three years ago at the Sepang International Circuit when he won a rain-shortened race.

Tough day at the office: Button could only manage 14th in the changeable conditions

Tough day at the office: Button could only manage 14th in the changeable conditions

On this occasion, as Button put it, 'anything that could have gone wrong really did', with the McLaren ace finishing 14th and almost 80 seconds adrift of race winner Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari.

Coming just a week after his near-perfect victory in Australia, a philosophical Button said: 'I can't do anything but laugh really.

'It was a tough afternoon when everything just spiralled out of control, although I didn't do a very good job.

Bad day at the office: Button reflects on a disappointing race

Contrasting fortunes: Button leaves Malaysia third in the title race

'I'm just sorry for the team because they did a great job all weekend, and we expected a lot more from the front row.'

From second on the grid, Button made a solid start, filing in behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton, but with rain falling the race was suspended for 51 minutes after nine laps.

Phil Duncan F1 blog

Shortly after the restart, the 32-year-old collided with the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan, losing the right end of his front wing, which was the beginning of the end for Button.

'I just locked up the rears, couldn't slow the car down and hit Karthikeyan, which was very frustrating,' said Button.

'Then I had to come in and change my nose which took a long time, and after that it was a tough afternoon, tough when you are in 14th or 15th place.

Over the line: Alonso wins in Malaysia

Over the line: Alonso wins in Malaysia

'But everyone is so close, it's so difficult to overtake around here, but a lot of the issues I suffered were because I wiped my front wing off shortly after the restart.

'So not a good race for me, not one in which I'll look at the TV footage.

'I finished almost a lap behind, which is the thing that will stick in my mind for a little while, but I'll get over it.

'The amazing thing is I'm still third in the championship after a day like that.'

As Button concedes it is now a case of 'chin up' as F1 embarks on a three-week break between races following a back-to-back start.

'We'll just move forward and hopefully I'll have a better weekend in China,' said Button.

'This was one of those races that sometimes happen. We'll put it behind us and move forward from there.

'I'm positive things will hopefully get back to normal in China, but I just want to sorry to the guys again, which is the most important thing.'