Tag Archives: isolation

Tottenham make Luka Modric train on his own

EXCLUSIVE: Spurs make Modric train on his own as he waits for move away

|

UPDATED:

22:03 GMT, 9 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Tottenham rebel Luka Modric is training in isolation at the club's Essex HQ as Andre Villas-Boas prepares for life without his want-away midfielder.

The Croatia international is working towards the new season on his own at the club's Spurs Lodge base, away from the rest of the first team squad.

Despite the fact Modric's proposed move to Real Madrid is far from complete, the influential midfielder is not figuring in the club's pre-season programme, instead going through his own personal training regime.

Out on his own: Luka Modric is training away from the Tottenham first team

Out on his own: Luka Modric is training away from the Tottenham first team

The decision to keep Modric away from first-team matters is further evidence manager Villas-Boas does not expect the 26-year-old to be at White Hart Lane before the start of the season. And it is not the first time the Portuguese has axed players from his first team plans for reasons he views are of benefit to his club.

Nicolas Anelka and Alex were both forced to train away from Chelsea's first team squad last season after the pair submitted transfer requests.

And the new Spurs manager has taken a similar stance with the latest player under his jurisdiction who has made it clear they want to leave.

On his way: Modric looks unlikely to start the season at Spurs

On his way: Modric looks unlikely to start the season at Spurs

Chairman Daniel Levy has rejected offers for Modric from Real — the latest being 30million plus 8m in add-ons.

Levy has set a 40m asking price and will not accept a penny under that mark, while the Spurs supremo is also unhappy with the structure of Madrid's previous offer.

Discussions between both clubs are on-going but the Spanish side are currently unwilling to budge on their latest bid, placing considerable doubt over the transfer given Levy's tough stance.

Spurs' resolve to recoup 40million for a player they signed for 16.5million from Dinamo Zagreb four years ago has been strengthened by Modric's recent training boycott.

The Croat failed to turn up to two pre-season training sessions and also skipped the club's tour of the US, infuriating the Tottenham hierarchy in the process.

England v Australia ODIs will set hearts racing – Paul Newman

It's hardly the Ashes but Aussie duels will set hearts racing…

|

UPDATED:

21:40 GMT, 27 June 2012

We must forget for now reservations about them being here in a non-Ashes year.

The Aussies have arrived and it’s time to put to one side valid fears of overkill and relish five one-day internationals against the old enemy that just might provide a pointer to next year's Ashes.

To listen to Shane Watson on Wednesday was to remember just how special each contest between these great rivals remains. This is a man who missed out, in the main, on Australia's golden years and who felt the pain of losing the Ashes on home soil particularly acutely.

Here come the Aussies: Pacemen Brett Lee (right) and Shane Watson

Here come the Aussies: Pacemen Brett Lee (right) and Shane Watson

Now he hopes the NatWest series which starts at Lord’s on Friday can be the first step for Australia towards erasing that hurt.

'After being involved in two Ashes losses there’s a burning desire inside me to be part of a successful campaign,’ said Watson, a key figure in an Australia team still ranked No 1 at 50-over cricket.

‘Any time you play against England you want to play well, to have success, because it is the ultimate rivalry and the ultimate challenge.

‘I haven’t really experienced winning against England, at least in Test matches, so I want to put that right. I want to try to put some things into place on this trip that we know we have to do right when we come back next year. Even if they are just little things in one-day cricket, they can help us play the type of cricket we are going to have to produce to win the Ashes.’

On the attack: Australia will be led by ambitious captain Michael Clarke

On the attack: Australia will be led by ambitious captain Michael Clarke

But surely these five matches, in isolation, cannot mean as much as taking part in a Test series for the most iconic and emotive prize in cricket

As Jonathan Trott put it in an interview with the London Evening Standard last week: ‘England-Australia is a special tradition and rivalry and it definitely needs looking after. It musn’t be overplayed and overdone and we all have to be careful about that.’

Watson accepts the point, but only to an extent. ‘Yes, it’s more special to be here for an Ashes series but this is still very important,’ he said. ‘To be here playing any kind of cricket against the English is what you want to do. It is a very good feeling to beat England and the worst feeling in the game to lose to them.’

More from Paul Newman…

Paul Newman: Rotation is right way to protect England's top players
20/06/12

Paul Newman: Flower must stay firm while IPL is calling the shots for KP
13/06/12

World of Cricket: This Aussie overkill can only damage the game's great rivalry
06/06/12

Paul Newman: Cherish flair and leave alone Pietersen's stroke of genius
30/05/12

Paul Newman: Finally, there was a bright idea amid the gloom at Lord's
23/05/12

Paul Newman: Dependable Trott usually starts the summer at a gallop…
16/05/12

Paul Newman: Carberry's big step on his road to recovery
09/05/12

World of Cricket: The brilliance of England, the year of the donkey and Bumble's Jim Bowen zapper
07/09/11

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

This could be a classic. England have won six home one-day series in a row but Australia are quietly rebuilding impressively and, in Pat Cummins and James Pattinson, have two of the most promising fast bowlers in the world.

Then there is a certain Brett Lee who has already been clocked at close to 93mph on this trip. And that was in the cold and rain of Belfast against Ireland.

To watch Australia beat Essex at Chelmsford on Tuesday was to see, in cricketing terms, a team of men thrash a team of boys. They even managed what they singularly failed to do in the last Ashes and dismissed Alastair Cook cheaply.

Yet England will be a different kettle of fish and the one-day captain will be a lot harder to dismiss in internationals.

All along I have considered this series an irrelevance, a threat to the special nature of Anglo-Aussie encounters, but I am excited about it now. That’s what Australians do to you. England to win 3-1 again.

Watch out for these lefties

‘If any of you can find me a left-armer then I will snatch him off you. It’s the only thing we’re missing.’ So said England bowling coach David Saker when putting the press through their paces at a training session during the last Ashes.

Swing when you're winning: Reece Topley

Swing when you're winning: Reece Topley

England’s otherwise formidable attack is still lacking that final ingredient 18 months on but an answer might have been at hand at Chelmsford on Tuesday when two young, highly promising left-arm pacemen from Essex were put through their paces against the Australians.

Tymal Mills, who came late to the game, is raw but aggressive and very fast — he has been clocked in excess of 90mph by Sky this season — while Reece Topley is more of a pitch it up and swing it bowler who also has those crucial attributes of height and bounce.

It was Topley, 18, who excelled against the Aussies with four wickets while Mills was given a lesson in how tough life can be at the top. But England have a careful eye on both.

Expect Mills and Topley to be fast-tracked through the England Performance Programme over the next year or so.

Then Saker’s jigsaw might be complete.

Bumble's World: What’s caught David Lloyd’s eye this week…

Tony Greig said it how it is when he delivered the Cowdrey Lecture for MCC at Lord’s. He didn’t pull any punches on the role of India in the world game and he was right in every respect.

At long last India have admitted why they won’t accept the decision review system — their superstar batsmen don’t like being given out by it.

People criticise the International Cricket Council, who have failed to implement DRS across the board, but the Indian board are neutralising the governing body and diluting its powers by refusing to toe the line on technology.

India is a fantastic cricket country but it has an obligation to think about the wider picture.

Dwain Chambers: If the crowd isn"t cheering it"s curtains

Dwain Chambers: You can do all the training in the world, but if the crowd isn't cheering it's curtains

|

UPDATED:

23:20 GMT, 7 May 2012

When Dwain Chambers heard he had been cleared to run for Olympic selection, you might have expected a bit of triumphalism, even jubilation, certainly celebration.

Instead, he sought isolation. He managed a smile when the phone call came and the verdict against the British Olympic Association was read to him. Then he walked out without a word to the squad of top Jamaicans he trains with, took flight to another Caribbean island and hid himself and his emotions away.

Training was the last thing he felt able to cope with.

Free to run: Dwain Chambers poses at Kingston's Emancipation Park on Monday after discussing his feelings towardsthe BOA's decision to free him for London 2012

Free to run: Dwain Chambers poses at Kingston's Emancipation Park on Monday after discussing his feelings towardsthe BOA's decision to free him for London 2012

COMMENTARY

Jonathan McEvoy: Spare us the tears, Chambers, you set out to rob your fellow sprinters

On Monday, back alongside former world record holder Asafa Powell and the others before seven hours of hard graft in Jamaica’s National Stadium, he spoke for the first time about the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision that opened his path to a controversial Olympic place.

The smile on Britain’s most derided drugs cheat is now broad, the emotions under control. Seated in the foyer of a downtown hotel, the words gushed from Chambers.

‘You cannot underestimate the effect this has had,’ he said. ‘I’d been raised up and then brought down. The announcement was going to be this week, then it wasn’t. I kept being pulled back and forth with emotions. I was stressed.

‘I’d try to train and feel worse. Everyone was saying I should be excited and elated but I wasn’t. I was just exhausted.

‘For years it’s been like running with Atlas on my back. Now that Atlas has been removed, I just feel drained. I didn’t realise it was going to have that effect on me.’

He brought the burden on himself by his use of anabolic steroids in 2002 and 2003. He was consequenetly suspended from competition for two years, though the BOA enforced a lifetime ban on his Olympic participation until last week’s court verdict denied them the right to select the team as they deemed fit.

London calling: Chambers feels the strain at his training camp in Jamaica where he is working seven hours a day in pursuit of his Olympic dream

London calling: Chambers feels the strain at his training camp in Jamaica where he is working seven hours a day in pursuit of his Olympic dream

His invitation to the national trials in Birmingham next month, the route to selection, is metaphorically in the post.

‘It will be the biggest race of my life,’ he said. ‘This one matters more. It’s one thing to be eligible but I still have to make the team.’

He will be favourite to take an automatic place by meeting the 100metres qualification time of 10.18sec. In a deplorable reflection on UK Athletics, the pack of richly-funded British youngsters chasing him have never quite managed to knock him off his No 1 perch, even now he is 34.

He said: ‘It’s harder for me and I guess I have to fight that bit harder. But I am a little bit hungrier than them.

Reflecting: Chambers sought isolation on hearing the news from the BOA

Reflecting: Chambers sought isolation on hearing the news from the BOA

‘I didn’t even dream I could be at the Olympics. I thought I would be sitting at home watching. The Olympics was beyond me. I wouldn’t even have imagined it.

‘Now the reality is if I qualify I will be there. That is something I will cherish. I need to stay injury free and qualify, but it would be an honour. I have missed two Olympic Games. I want to make sure I do this one with pride and enjoy it.’

Stephen Francis, Powell’s coach who has been watching Chambers match his squad stride for stride for weeks, said at the weekend that the British athlete can make the Olympic final. Chambers smiles at the compliment. ‘I don’t fantasise but I haven’t ruled it out,’ he admits.

Chambers asked Francis during the World Indoor Championships in March about joining his group.

He explained: ‘I was scared about approaching him but he said, “Fine, no problem”, and his guys were more than happy. They laugh at me because I speak formal English. I have to speak real slow so they understand me.’

Not that there is breath enough for chatting during Francis’s sessions, 6am to 10am every morning and 3pm till 6pm every afternoon. Yesterday morning, the temperature close to 90oF by 8am, Francis had them doing eight 110m sprints.

‘You can see the pain etched on their faces,’ said Chambers’ manager Siza Agha, a criminal barrister who offered himself as an adviser when the sprinter was at his lowest point three years ago.

Chambers has financed the Jamaican venture himself.

‘I haven’t earned a massive amount in recent years, so I had to learn to save and be cost effective,’ he said. ‘Those savings are paying for a one-bedroom apartment 10 minutes from the track. All I need is a bed to sleep in, a track to run on and food to eat. I have just gone back to basics.’

He said he had received ‘tons’ of texts. They are from friends and well-wishers. But what of the millions of track fans who feel uneasy about his re-introduction How will the crowd react when his name is announced as he lines up in the Olympic Stadium

He is desperate for public support. ‘Otherwise it’s like going to a disco, having a DJ and no music,’ he said. ‘It don’t work. It’s the crowd that gets you going. You can do all the training in the world but if the crowd ain’t cheering, it’s curtains.

‘I think people respect my situation, that I’ve been honest about what I’ve done. Some don’t. Some feel very strongly. They feel if you are given an opportunity to compete for your country you shouldn’t jeopardise it, and I did. They are entitled to their opinion.

‘All I can do is say, “I’m sorry”. I made a mistake, a massive mistake, and all I want is another chance to correct it and do the best for my country.

Dwain Chambers

‘I’m still day-dreaming. Something I thought would never happen for me is now happening but it doesn’t seem real.

‘What’s it going to take for it to sink in Perhaps to see my family. I don’t know. I’ve skyped them but you can’t hug a computer. Something will have to switch the light on.’

He thinks most British athletes are cool about him — 90 per cent, he says — even the other sprinters who are rivals for the three Olympic places.

He hopes to hear when he gets back to Britain next week of the first relay practice he can attend, a promise made by chief coach Charles van Commenee should the BOA ban be lifted.

More invitations than in past seasons are arriving already. The first is to race three other sub-10sec men in Puerto Rico next weekend. Then he faces Usain Bolt in Ostrava on May 23.

The invitation he covets most, to run at Crystal Palace in July that would indicate UK Athletics’ lifting of their ban on his participation in commercial races in Britain, is still awaited.

‘For the past few years, where I could compete next was always in the forefront of my mind; what I’m going to be asked, what I’m going to say. It was a mess. I couldn’t concentrate at all. I am hoping now we can put all this behind us and look forward to what is going to be a great Olympic Games and to me making the team.

Impact: Two months after this triumphant shot in 2003, Chambers tested positive for the banned substance THG

Impact: Two months after this triumphant shot in 2003, Chambers tested positive for the banned substance THG

‘I am going to enjoy every moment, go to the opening ceremony, everything.’

Cyclist David Millar, another of those who had been affected by the BOA ban, has suggested he might not bother with the Olympics because of the hassle. That thought has not occurred to Chambers. He watched the two Olympic Games from which he was banned and that told him everything about his desire.

‘It’s my passion but it hurt a lot watching,’ he said. ‘Your competitors are competing and you’re sitting at home. That killed me. Now I have been given a second lifeline. I would never jeopardise that again. Never ever, ever.’

Nor will he end his career after the Games.

‘Who knows, it could take me to places I haven’t imagined. So many doors may open for me. This may be the start of something else. I don’t know. I’m still muddled with the emotions but I feel alive again.’

His thoughts turn again to the Olympic Stadium, just 20 minutes from where he lives. He drives past it with his three children, Skye, six, Rocco, three, and Phoenix, six months, to visit friends. ‘My kids say, “Dad, are you going to be there”’

‘I’ve always said “I don’t know”. Now I can say “Hopefully”. That will be nice.’

Manchester United stars head to Scotland for golf break

Anyone for golf Fergie takes United stars north of the border in break from the title race

|

UPDATED:

11:06 GMT, 30 March 2012

Time for a break Sir Alex Ferguson

Time for a break Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson has whisked his Manchester United squad off for a golfing break in Scotland before resuming their title quest.

The majority of the first-team squad will spend two nights at St Andrews in a bid to relax.

With the club not back in action until their Barclays Premier League clash with Blackburn at Ewood Park on Monday, Ferguson has decided to take his troops north of the border.

The manager is believed to have felt that some of his inexperienced players were on edge as they enter the home straight.

'Initially the players thought they might be going to somewhere exotic like Dubai,' a source told goal.com.

'Fergie wanted to keep the players
guessing a bit because he wants complete isolation and for the trip to
be away from the prying eyes of the media.

'The trip will involve a bit of training, some golf, and some rest and recuperation to relax the players ahead of the run-in.

'It is the first time in a title run-in that the manager has felt the need to take the pressure off like this.

'No-one has ever known anything like it. There was just a feeling among some of the staff that the younger players are on edge.'

It is perhaps surprising that Ferguson has decided to take his players away for such a short break at this time of year – but the United manager knows his players inside out and will recognise what is required.

He is desperate to secure a record 20th league crown to leave arch rivals City second best once again.

United will return on Sunday night and are likely to head directly to the team hotel to prepare for the match against struggling Blackburn.

Chelsea must be defensive, like Andre Villas-Boas

Like Villas-Boas, Chelsea must go on the defensive to preserve their Champions League place

However animated Andre Villas-Boas might have been when his side scored their second goal at Newcastle on Saturday, Chelsea’s manager was keeping such emotions in check on Monday night.

He was candid enough in response to certain questions. Particularly when it came to the isolation of Nicolas Anelka and Alex and whether that result at St James’ Park represented a pivotal moment in Chelsea’s season.

‘We would not be arrogant enough to think that,’ he said. ‘Our results have not been impressive and we need to start performing with more consistency before we can believe we are back on track.’

On the defensive: Andre Villas-Boas was giving little away prior to Chelsea

On the defensive: Andre Villas-Boas was giving little away prior to Chelsea”s crunch Champions League clash

But he was also more measured, defensive even; as defensive as his side need to be against Valencia this evening and defensive with regard to what started to feel like the elephant in the room at Stamford Bridge. Basically, what happens should Chelsea fail to progress beyond the first stage of the Champions League

On three occasions Villas-Boas refused to countenance such talk, insisting he had not even thought about the consequences of a result that would propel Valencia into the last 16 and leave Chelsea in UEFA’s second-tier competition for the first time since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003.

Even with home advantage, it is a precarious position Chelsea find themselves in. A win sees them through, as does a goalless draw. But any other result, from a 1-1 draw to a win for a classy Spanish side sitting third in La Liga — one who have won five of their last six league games — leaves Chelsea and their manager facing some rather more difficult questions.

Villas-Boas recognises it will not be easy, not least because the circumstances for both clubs have changed somewhat since they last met back in September.

Stretched: Chelsea have made hard work of their routine Champions League group

Stretched: Chelsea have made hard work of their routine Champions League group

‘Valencia are in a better moment now,’ he said, knowing full well that the same cannot be said of Chelsea.

He can only hope that the events of the weekend do suggest some kind of turning point. The win at Newcastle, the words of support from Didier Drogba, even the fact that the 34-year-old Portuguese has received the backing of his employers in the way he has dealt with Anelka and Alex. On Monday he might have recognised them as ‘top professionals’, but they were not involved in training during the day.

Danger man: Roberto Soldado

Danger man: Roberto Soldado

‘For players on the transfer list the reality is that, eventually, the mind-set is not the same,’ said Villas-Boas.

It sounded brutal even if it probably amounts to the right decision. As long as he has read the situation correctly and believes the dressing room will be comfortable with such treatment of friends and colleagues.

This being Chelsea, the issue of whether the manager had the support of the players was never far away. Villas-Boas insisted he did. ‘Yes,’ he said in direct response to a direct question, having already had the unequivocal support of the articulate Daniel Sturridge.

‘I am behind the manager and I believe everyone else is,’ he said. ‘He’s going to be here for the next three years.’

If Chelsea are eliminated from the competition and poor results then come against Manchester City and Tottenham it becomes a struggle to see Villas-Boas still being around much beyond the next three games.

But there is a feeling at Stamford Bridge that Tuesday night might not be that critical for the manager, and that it is only a ‘life and death’ game within the context of the competition; that only if Chelsea start to slip down the Premier League table and out of contention for next season’s Champions League would Abramovich start to get an itchy trigger finger. History suggests otherwise, but there you go.

More of the same: The wild celebrations at St James

More of the same: The wild celebrations at St James” Park would be most welcome again on Tuesday night at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea v Valencia: Match preview

Clearly, though, a good result would ease the kind of pressure Villas-Boas was obviously under until Salomon Kalou scored in the 89th minute against Newcastle and Chelsea were no longer vulnerable to the kind of late goal that has proved costly already this season.

On this point Villas-Boas was dismissive, however.

‘It’s irrelevant what the game represents to me,’ he said. ‘It represents, for this club, the continuation in this competition or not, so we approach the game with maximum care and with confidence.’

Villas-Boas said that Juan Mata had been useful in preparing for a game against his former club, even if he said it was impossible to ‘guess Valencia’s strategy’.

He spoke of the Spaniards being highly motivated and recognised the threat posed by players such as Jonas, Tino Costa, Jeremy Mathieu and Jordi Alba; not to mention the prolific Roberto Soldado. But he also said Chelsea would not be vulnerable to that classic continental counter-attacking style because of the more ambitious approach he has tried to implement.

‘We have more or less tested four different formations,’ said Villas-Boas. ‘The talent of these players and their qualities allow us to play what is best for the team in a precise moment.’

The key, though, is something Drogba touched on at the weekend when he said the players needed to get behind the manager. ‘There’s full belief in what we’re doing,’ said Villas-Boas. ‘We saw a great team spirit at Newcastle, and to score three there gives the value of this team a lot of credit.’

More credit tonight would still be most welcome. Not least for the manager.