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Sepp Blatter hands FA 314,000 cheque for St George"s Park

Friends again After World Cup 2018 snub, Blatter hands FA 314k cheque for St George's Park



14:13 GMT, 21 November 2012

The relationships between FIFA and the FA, which reached an all-time low after the 2018 World Cup vote debacle, have now improved to the extent that Zurich have awarded 314,000 Goal project funding to St George's Park.

The money will be spent on further developing the state-of-the-art sports science and medical facilities at the National Football Centre outside Burton, which was visited by FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Blatter, who was greeted at the entrance by FA chairman David Bernstein with a warm embrace, said: 'FIFA is committed to the development of football across the world and the Goal projects are crucial in achieving this mission.

Take Blatt: FIFA have handed a cheque to the FA for St George's Park

Take Blatt: FIFA have handed a cheque to the FA for St George's Park

'Protecting the health of the players is one of our key objectives and I am therefore very pleased that this project will be dedicated to a sports science and medical centre at such an emblematic location as St George’s Park.'

Bernstein, who made his solo stance against Blatter's unopposed re-election at the FIFA Congress in 2011 following the World Cup vote fall-out, said: 'This is fantastic news and reflects FIFA’s commitments to raising standards within the game around the world and to our improving relationships with FIFA.

'I'd like to thank our colleagues at FIFA for their support of St George's Park as well as those who continue to work so hard on the project here in England.'

The rebuilt partnership between Zurich and Wembley was further strengthened through a Memorandum of Understanding signed jointly by Blatter and Bernstein.

Great expectations: The new facility at Burton is the future English football

Great expectations: The new facility at Burton is the future English football

This will see the FA share their expertise in various football disciplines, including sports medicine, stadium safety, and women’s football with developing nations.

And SGP will play host to nine football coaches from around the world next month as part of the strategy to re-engage with federations. This initiative will be paid through the FA's new international bursary scheme.

The Goal programme is FIFA's financial assistance programme which was launched in 1999.

England must avoid slip-up in Poland – Martin Samuel

Beware travel sickness! Hodgson must avoid slip-ups on the road – now that Wembley is no longer a fortress



22:12 GMT, 15 October 2012

Martin is British No 1

Martin Samuel has been named Britain’s top sports journalist. Chief sports writer Samuel, whose columns every Monday and Wednesday tackle sport’s biggest issues with power and ingenuity, came first in the Press Gazette’s top 50 sports journalists.

The awards list was compiled by polling some of the biggest names in British sports journalism. Sportsmail’s Des Kelly was recognised for his weekly column, as was Charles Sale for his work on Sports Agenda.

There was a time when a draw in Poland was a good result. That was the mistake Graham Taylor made all those years ago. His team played poorly in Katowice, sneaked a point, and he dismissed them in public as headless chickens. The players took umbrage, went to Norway and lost, and began an inexorable slide out of the 1994 World Cup.

In the aftermath it was widely agreed that Taylor made a hash of the trip to Poland. Criticise the players behind closed doors, yes, but accept that a 1-1 draw is still a decent result and be diplomatic beyond those confines.

Times have changed. On the surface, a draw in Warsaw is good news. Poland are a young, improving team, playing in front of a noisy, full house. Many teams would settle for a draw in Poland. Germany and Portugal did in friendly matches here last season; Argentina lost in June 2011.

Big night ahead: England manager Roy Hodgson (left) and striker Wayne Rooney (right) in training in Warsaw

Big night ahead: England manager Roy Hodgson (left) and striker Wayne Rooney (right) in training in Warsaw

Yet, for England manager Roy Hodgson, the problem is this: England can no longer be guaranteed to win at home. Away draws only have worth if accompanied by home victories in the corresponding fixture, and nobody talks of fortress Wembley any more.

In May 1993, it was anticipated that a point in Katowice would soon be accompanied by three more at Wembley in September and so it proved, with a 3-0 win.

Yet England have already dropped two points at home to Ukraine in this campaign and while the 3-2 reverse against Croatia in 2007 is the only qualifying defeat in 12 years, there are an increasing number of draws and a worrying air of uncertainty.

Few would bet with any confidence against further slip-ups in this group. England’s final two matches are at home to Montenegro — who closed ranks and drew 0-0 on their last visit to Wembley, in the time of Fabio Capello — and Poland, a year from now.

Banana skin: The Poland squad warm up at the National Stadium in Warsaw on Monday night

Banana skin: The Poland squad warm up at the National Stadium in Warsaw on Monday night

If six points are required to avoid a
play-off or, worse, the exit, these could prove very tense affairs,
given England’s variable home form.

At the National Stadium in Warsaw, Hodgson attempted to make sense of a match some see as the most critical of his 11 in charge. If the European Championship tournament was blessed with low expectation — giving it a slightly unreal air — Hodgson has now had enough time to be handed responsibility for any failure.

Lose in Poland and there will be few excuses, even if the international retirement of John Terry is a greater blow than his many detractors would have us believe.

Hodgson said that the idea of a ‘must-win’ match was a football cliche that left him cold. He has been around the block plenty of times and, after his unofficial meet and greet on the London Underground, was not about to let another slip of the tongue cause him more problems than the opposition ever could.

Hart at work: England goalkeeper Joe is put through his paces in the Polish capital

Hart at work: England goalkeeper Joe is put through his paces in the Polish capital

There is no result that could
eliminate England in Poland, Hodgson made clear. He knows how quickly
the balance of power changes in group football.

Ukraine drew 1-1 at Wembley and no
doubt felt that the advantage was with them; then they drew 0-0 last
Friday away in Moldova, where England won 5-0 last month. Back to
square one.

Yet Hodgson was equally aware what a fillip a victory in Warsaw would be. ‘It reduces the pressure enormously if you can get a result away from home,’ he said, ‘and those victories are not as difficult to achieve as they once were.

Road to Brazil: England have already dropped points at home to Ukraine and cannot afford to let more slip

Road to Brazil: England have already dropped points at home to Ukraine and cannot afford to let more slip

Roy Hodgson's perfect start

‘Games are more open, with teams
having to come at you and leaving themselves vulnerable. At Wembley,
teams hope they can catch us on the counter-attack if we open ourselves
up too much. Look at the number of away wins in the Premier League in
recent seasons as well. That did not used to happen, but football is

‘And I know the
statistics, we did draw against Montenegro, we did lose to Croatia and
draw with Ukraine, but I still think the record at Wembley is pretty
good. We can remain confident of playing at home.’

That is not always how Capello saw
it. He thought England suffered an inferiority complex, particularly at
Wembley and came to the conclusion very early in his tenure that he
preferred away games.

Hodgson has only played two
competitive matches in London, a joke fixture against San Marino, and
the more stringent examination presented by Ukraine, which England
failed. The manager is beginning to experience the fragility that can
strike English players at any time.

Capello’s team sailed towards South
Africa in 2010 as one of the strongest European contenders, only to be
affected by torpor once there. England battled their way out of a
difficult group in Ukraine this summer, only to freeze against Italy in
the quarter-finals.

what happened to the Sven Goran Eriksson team that beat Germany 5-1 in
Munich They were stumbling and on the plane home from the World Cup in
2002 long before Germany reached the final.

‘The one thing we know is that, in Warsaw, we will face a very highly motivated team with a very vocal and enthusiastic support, because we are a scalp,’ Hodgson said. ‘England have always been a scalp.

‘We watched games about San Marino and, in those matches, their performance was nothing like it was at Wembley. They gave a bit to the game, rather than just being ultra-defensive. Their respect was a flattering aspect, seeing them simply trying to keep the score down.

‘So we know that Poland will be
rubbing their hands with glee at this game, given that, if they win,
it’s such a feather in their cap. First, we have to make sure we’re not
the victims.’

To this end, Hodgson is leaning towards experience rather than the cavalier approach: Michael Carrick not Tom Cleverley, Jermain Defoe not Danny Welbeck.

Away wins may be easier to come by in international football these days, but Hodgson’s tendency to caution suggests he will attempt to snaffle one, rather than enter the refurbished National Stadium with guns blazing. That is his prerogative. What he cannot afford to do, however, is allow conservative leanings to result in a missed opportunity.

This is a Poland team without captain Jakub Blaszczykowski and ranked 54th in the world, marginally higher than the Bulgarians who England beat home and away en route to the 2012 European Championship. No England manager since Sir Alf Ramsey in 1973 has lost in Poland, either.

‘Historical moments don’t really interest me,’ said Hodgson. ‘I don’t dismiss history, knowledge of it gives you some perspective: but it doesn’t help you win a football match.’

He must hope he locates what does in Warsaw; otherwise the road could get rather dicey from here. Even that familiar road home.

Pakistan to be led by Dav Whatmore from March

Thanks for nothing! Khan shunned for Whatmore despite Pakistan's whitewash

Dav Whatmore will be appointed as Pakistan's new coach in March, according to Intikhab Alam.

Alam, a former Pakistan player and coach, chaired a committee put together by the Pakistan Cricket Board to find a new man after Waqar Younis stepped down last year.

It has long been thought that, despite Pakistan's impressive form under interim boss Mohsin Khan – they recently inflicted a Test series whitewash on number-one ranked England – former Bangladesh coach Whatmore had been chosen by the committee.

New man: Dav Whatmore will lead Pakistan from March

New man: Dav Whatmore will lead Pakistan from March

And Alam said: 'Dav Whatmore will arrive in early March to sign his contract. I can't give you the exact date yet as that has not been verified, but everything is in place for him to take over with his first assignment being the Asia Cup in Bangladesh.

'Whatmore has a proven record and I feel that his appointment will be an exciting one for the Pakistan cricket team. The team under Misbah[-ul-Haq]'s astute leadership have gelled and continued to show great signs of improvement over the last year or so.

'I feel that Whatmore will add more professionalism to an already improving team and will take this team to greater heights.'

Andy Murray and family enjoy great success

Keeping it in the family! Judy joy caps a fine 10 days for Murrays

All in all it was not the worst 10 days for Britain’s pre-eminent tennis family.

Andy Murray nearly stopped omnipotent Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open.

Brother Jamie reached the final of an ATP event in Montpellier, and then mum Judy made a quick impact as new captain of GB’s Fed Cup team, overseeing an immediate rise to the World Group play-offs.

Party time! Judy Murray celebrates with her British Fed Cup team

Party time! Judy Murray celebrates with her British Fed Cup team

Few would have envisaged a clean
sweep for the British women’s team in Israel last week, where they beat
the hosts, Holland, Portugal and Austria to escape the dreaded Euro
Africa Zone.

One of those involved, Anne Keothavong, carried on the momentum by beating world No 16 Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 6-1 at the WTA Tour event in Thailand on Tuesday.

Sadly team-mate Heather Watson lost there and another, Laura Robson, retired with a bad back.

Nonetheless the captain of the AEGON Fed Cup team is still buzzing with excitement having quickly vindicated her appointment.

One reason for her elevation was the desire to have a woman in charge, and Murray feels it worked to her advantage.

Getting there: Andy Murray pushed Novak Djokovic all the way in Melbourne

Getting there: Andy Murray pushed Novak Djokovic all the way in Melbourne

‘I think it probably puts you in a
better position to understand how girls react and being a mum as well
you are probably a bit more sensitive about when it’s best to try to use
humour and when to get tough,’ she said.

‘In the five days’ build-up I tried to make it so we worked in the day and then had some fun in the evenings.’

This included darts — quite where that sits with her passion for improving fitness and fighting obesity is another matter — but whatever she did it seemed to work.

Murray was in tears when Elena Baltacha secured the win over Israel’s top player Shahar Peer. She said: ‘Peer was No 11 in the world last year and Bally also had to play against the crowd so it was a fantastic effort.’

Next week they find out whether they face Switzerland, Sweden, France or Argentina in the play-offs.

Judy Murray’s Set4 Sport campaign is supported by RBS.