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Ricky van Wolfswinkel could back out of big-money Norwich move if they go down

Van Wolfswinkle move to Norwich could be scrapped if they fail to survive

By
Sami Mokbel

PUBLISHED:

12:42 GMT, 17 April 2013

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UPDATED:

13:17 GMT, 17 April 2013

Norwich's swoop for Ricky van Wolfswinkel will come under serious threat if Chris Hughton's side are relegated.

The Holland international is due to join the Carrow Road club in the summer after the Canaries struck an 8.6million agreement with Sporting Lisbon.

Big money: The Dutchman agreed an 8.6million move to Carrow Road from Sporting Lisbon

Big money: The Dutchman agreed an 8.6million move to Carrow Road from Sporting Lisbon

But Sportsmail understands the forward, who is due to sign a four year deal with Norwich on July 1, has a clause in his contract that allows him to pull out of the move if the Norfolk club are relegated.

Van Wolfswinkel is a long-term target of Hughton, who will be desperate not to miss out on the 24-year-old.

After a worrying start to the season, the Canaries have managed to improve their form and currently sit in 14th place, four points off the drop zone.

But a poor end to the season could easily see them slump back into relegation trouble, which will leave Van Wolfswinkel's switch in jeopardy.

Goal machine: Van Wolfswinkel (above centre) would bring Hughton's men much-needed firepower next season, having scored just 31 goals this campaign

Goal machine: Van Wolfswinkel (above centre) would bring Hughton's men much-needed firepower next season, having scored just 31 goals this campaign

Arsenal Norwich

Back in March, the 24-year-old was impressed by Hughton during discussions and became convinced Norwich is a team with potential.

‘The club is in the middle of the table and very ambitious, this summer they will be debt free and will get on strong,’ Van Wolfswinkel told Dutch magazine Voetbal International in March.

‘I had a good talk with the manager, Chris Hughton. He was very specific about my qualities and wants to build a strong team around him. That gives good trust.

‘The plan is also to bring in an attacking midfielder and two wide players this summer. With that, Norwich can look to play in the top half of the table.’

Robert Snodgrass

Grant Holt

Lacking up top: Robert Snodgrass (left) and Grant Holt (right) have just eleven goals between them all season

Hughton, who tried to sign 6ft 1in Van Wolfswinkel in January, wants more attacking options after having to deploy Grant Holt as a lone striker this season. Norwich have scored just 31 goals in 33 games, with top scorer Robert Snodgrass having netted just six times.

‘That a club would spend so much money, in these times, shows their faith in me,’ he said.

‘I have been to Norwich to look around and spoken to the manager and chief executive over their plans for the future. I don't know much about Norwich, but the city and the club surprised me – the stadium has 25,000 (capacity) and there are 5,000 fans on a waiting list for (season) tickets on top of that which shows the status of the club.’

Henning Berg forced to shake-up Blackburn backroom staff by club chief Shebby Singh

Berg loses his team as Blackburn club chief Singh forces boss into shake-up

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 12 December 2012

Blackburn manager Henning Berg has been told to find a new backroom team to halt the club's slump, although his own job is not yet in jeopardy just eight games into his return to Ewood Park.

Rovers have won just once in that time, dropping to 13th place in the Championship, and the players will also be warned to improve performances or risk being sold in the January transfer window.

Plenty to ponder: Henning Berg has been forced to overhaul his backroom staff

Plenty to ponder: Henning Berg has been forced to overhaul his backroom staff

Berg's assistant Eric Black, first-team coach Iain Brunskill and goalkeeping coach Bobby Mimms are all expected to be axed, with Brad Friedel lined up to return to the club from Tottenham as player-coach next month and replace Mimms.

Friday's 4-1 home defeat to Cardiff was the final straw for club chief Shebby Singh who held crisis talks with Berg on Monday night.

'After a result like that it is inevitable there was going to be a post mortem,' said Singh.

Out of sorts: Blackburn have claimed one point from a possible 12

Out of sorts: Blackburn have claimed one point from a possible 12

'Decisive action was needed. Now we know the direction we are heading in and what decisions have to be taken.

'The pressure is on. We did not expect this to be easy, and it hasn't been, but the decisions have been made that need to be made.'

Sebastian Vettel could lose title to Fernando Alonso after "illegal" overtake – video

Vettel could be stripped of world title as footage emerges of alleged illegal overtake

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UPDATED:

08:03 GMT, 29 November 2012

Sebastian Vettel's world title could be in serious jeopardy over an illegal overtaking manoeuvre by the Red Bull driver during Sunday's chaotic season ending Brazilian Grand Prix.

Footage circulating on YouTube appears to show triple drivers' champion Vettel overtaking Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne under yellow flag conditions in the early laps of the rain affected race at Interlagos.

Scroll down to watch the video

Champion: Sebastian Vettel won the title in Brazil last weekend

Champion: Sebastian Vettel won the title in Brazil last weekend

Why Ferrari can't lodge appeal

Article 174 (d) of the International Sporting Code states:

Protests against any error or irregularity occurring during a competition, referring to the non-compliance of vehicles with the regulations and concerning the classification established at the end of the event shall, except in circumstances which the stewards of the meeting consider as physically impossible, be made within thirty minutes of the official publication of the results.

Overtaking is outlawed under such a
caution by race stewards and usually results in the guilty party being
handed a drive-through penalty during the race. However, in cases where
the infringement is not spotted prior to the chequered flag, the
customary punishment is 20 second penalty handed out retrospectively.

Vettel finished sixth in the race while Ferrari's Fernando Alonso came home in second meaning he was beaten to the drivers' title by just three points by his Red Bull rival.

Although Ferrari cannot lodge an appeal at this point, the FIA may choose to investigate the manouvere.

The motorsport's world governing body have until Friday to do so, then Vettel could be demoted to eighth place if a time penalty is applied.

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Such a dramatic outcome would see
Alonso crowned champion for a third time by a solitary point. Vettel
staged a remarkable recovery to take the crown in the spectacular season
finale after a first lap collision with Bruno Senna left him dead last.

Suspicions of illegality in passing moves on an HRT backmarker and Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber proved unfounded but it is the footage of Vettel's move on Vergne, who drives for Red Bull's sister team, which is being forensically examined by Ferrari's top brass who spent Wednesday afternoon locked in talks at their Maranello headquarters.

A Ferrari spokesman would only confirm that: 'Anything that threatens the credibility of the championship has to be examined.'

Speaking
after clinching the drivers' championship for third time in successive
years, Vettel spoke out about the 'dirty tricks' Red Bull's competitors
had used to derail his title charge.

Gutted: Fernando Alonso (left) missed out on the title to Vettel

Gutted: Fernando Alonso (left) missed out on the title to Vettel

The remark was taken by most observers to be in reference to Ferrari's decision to sabotage Felipe Massa's gearbox at the penultimate race in Austin in order to boost teammate Alonso's grid position.

In addition, Red Bull have had to alter their car on numerous occasions this season after complaints by rival teams regarding the legality of their 2012 challenger's design.

Meanwhile, Alonso tweeted after the race seemingly questioning the manner of Vettel's comeback in Brazil, posting: 'I have no miracles, I make the correct laws my miracles.'

Jose Enrique to fight for place at Liverpool

Enrique up for the fight after Rodgers gets tough with ultimatum

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UPDATED:

22:44 GMT, 26 November 2012

Jose Enrique will fight to save his Liverpool career after admitting he still has to convince Brendan Rodgers he can play a long-term role at Anfield.

The Spanish left-back, along with Stewart Downing, received an ultimatum from Liverpool’s manager that 'talent alone' would not be enough to convince Rodgers they should stay at the club.

While the 20million winger has
subsequently been told he can leave Liverpool in January if a suitable
offer arrives, Enrique has managed to work his way back into the
starting line-up, ironically in the position that should have been
reserved for Downing.

Tough times: Jose Enrique (right) faces a fight to save his Anfield future

Tough times: Jose Enrique (right) faces a fight to save his Anfield future

Enrique, however, is by no means safe and the likelihood is Liverpool would consider trading him if the opportunity arises but the former Newcastle man, who was signed by Kenny Dalglish in August 2011 for 7million, is determined to win his battle.

When asked how he felt to hear his place at Liverpool was in jeopardy, Enrique said: ‘To be honest, you cannot worry about it. I believe in myself. I always have done, no matter what team I have played for. This is the biggest club I have ever played for.

‘Every day you have to prove yourself. It doesn’t matter how well you have played in the past, it is what you are doing at the minute that counts. If you don’t play well, you are on the bench. There are players here waiting to come and take your place. I want to be here for a long time.

‘I had some problems with my knee at the start of this season. I had this pain but in the scan, everything was showing okay. Then, one day, the pain had just gone. Now I want to keep improving.’

Time up Stewart Downing looks set to leave Liverpool in January

Time up Stewart Downing looks set to leave Liverpool in January

Though Enrique, who had a ‘goal’
disallowed in Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Swansea, made a blistering start to
his Liverpool career, he suffered an alarming drop in consistency in the
New Year and he recognised that the first six months of 2012 have left
him with everything to prove.

‘Last year, until December, I really
played well,’ said Enrique, who scored his first goals in the Barclays
Premier League during a 3-0 win against Wigan 10 days ago. ‘I don’t know
why my form dropped after that. But now I feel as if I am doing well
again.

‘You don’t live off what you have done before in football, you live in the now and I am trying to do my best.

‘He (Rodgers) is the best manager I
have had in terms of tactics and everything else. Tactically, he is very
Spanish. He reminds me of when I had (Manuel) Pellegrini at Villarreal.
He really likes Spanish players, those who give him 100 per cent every
game.’

Point to prove: Jordan Henderson (right) has failed to shine

Point to prove: Jordan Henderson (right) has failed to shine

Another player with everything to
prove is Jordan Henderson. He was offered to Fulham in August as Rodgers
tried to find a way of signing Clint Dempsey but the 16million
midfielder, who made his first Premier League start of the season at
Swansea, turned down the move.

Just as significantly, Henderson – England’s Under 21 captain – insists he is not looking to escape in January, either.

‘I was happy with the way things went
but I have to improve an awful lot of thing,’ said Henderson. ‘In the
final third, I need to get better. Defensively I have been sold and done
what the manager asked. The fee doesn’t bother me. People might talk
about it but that had nothing to do with me.

‘A move to Liverpool has to be for
life, not just for Christmas. When I signed, I definitely wanted it to
be for the long term. I want to make sure that when I am given my
opportunities, I work hard and try to take them.’

Rafa Benitez: I want the Chelsea job and I"ll take it to the end of season

Benitez: I want the Chelsea job and I'll take it to the end of season

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UPDATED:

12:06 GMT, 21 November 2012

Former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has thrown his hat into the ring for the vacant manager's job at Chelsea.

The Spaniard has been tipped to
replace Roberto Di Matteo, who was sacked by the Blues on Wednesday
morning following an 'unacceptable' run of results. The 3-0 defeat by
Juventus on Tuesday, which left their Champions League defence in jeopardy, was the final straw.

I'm free: Rafa Benitez has confirmed interest in Chelsea job

I'm free: Rafa Benitez has confirmed interest in Chelsea job

he
Chelsea owner, furious with the club's disastrous Champions League
campaign, sacked him this morning just hours after their 3-0 defeat at
Juventus Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2236196/Roberto-Di-Matteo-sacked-Chelsea-Abramovich-targets-Guardiola.html#ixzz2CrBEWfhS
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Roman Abramovich's No 1 target is Pep Guardiola,
but the Chelsea owner needs to persuade the former Barcelona boss to end his year-long
sabbatical from football.

If he fails in this bid, he will turn to Benitez to take the helm.

And Benitez says he's interested in taking charge at Stamford Bridge.

He told Sport360: 'I have just found out [about Di Matteo].
Obviously Chelsea is a top side and they can compete for trophies so it
goes in this category.”

Asked if Chelsea had already made an approach, he replied: 'You ask
directly, I cannot answer directly. In football a lot of people are
talking so we will see what happens in the next few days. I am looking
for a club that can challenge for trophies and Chelsea is one of these
clubs.'

Game over: Di Matteo has been sacked, six months after landing the Champions League

Game over: Di Matteo has been sacked, six months after landing the Champions League

There has also been speculation in the UK that Benitez could be approached to take the job on a short-term basis.

When asked about taking the job on a short-term basis, the 52-year-old replied: 'I have to talk with my
agent and see what he has been doing the last couple of days. But I am
just trying to go to a team that can win. So we will find ways to have a
challenge like this.'

Benitez was speaking at a coaching seminar in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday before flying back to the UK.

The Spaniard has been out of work since December 2010 after winning the
Club World Cup with Inter in the UAE capital and says he has been
waiting for a 'top side who can win things'.

Roberto Di Matteo not commenting on Chelsea speculation

Di Matteo focused on Juventus clash as Chelsea boss faces fight to save his job

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UPDATED:

19:45 GMT, 19 November 2012

Roberto Di Matteo has refused to comment on speculation regarding his future ahead of tomorrow night's Champions League clash with Juventus.

Sportsmail revealed today that the Italian is fighting for his job just six months after his side were crowned champions of Europe.

Chelsea have won just three of their last seven games, and defeat against Juventus would put their Champions League campaign in serious jeopardy.

No worries: Roberto Di Matteo refused to be drawn on speculation over his job at Chelsea

No worries: Roberto Di Matteo refused to be drawn on speculation over his job at Chelsea

Di Matteo also stuck to his policy of not disclosing what conversations he and Abramovich might have had since Saturday's 2-1 defeat at West Brom.

'I'm not thinking about that,' he said. 'I'm preparing for tomorrow
and the team for tomorrow. I've some important decisions to make about
that. We're confident we can have a good game and hopefully a good
result.'

Saturday's loss heralded the first visible cracks in the Chelsea dressing
room, with players said to have argued loudly and Di Matteo also thought
to have been furious with their performance.

Battle: Chelsea need to avoid defeat against Juventus to preserve their Champions League hopes

Battle: Chelsea need to avoid defeat against Juventus to preserve their Champions League hopes

Chelsea players train

But the Italian 'absolutely' welcomed the frank exchange, saying: 'It's
important that we communicate with each other, and the players express
themselves. I've always encouraged that.'

Defeat will leave Chelsea staring at the ignominy of being the first champions to go out in the group stage.

Di Matteo said: 'There was frustration on Saturday and that's normal
when results don't go your way. We owe ourselves a good performance and
then anything can happen. We've proved before that when it counts our
players stand up to be counted.

Chelsea's Spanish forward Fernando Torres

Chelsea's Spanish forward Fernando Torres

Axed: Sportsmail understands Fernando Torres will be dropped by Di Matteo

'Motivation is going to be high and important we show the necessary
commitment. I feel confident. We have a good team. We know the
importance of the match. We know we have to play a good game.

'We're thinking positive. We played a very good game at home against
Juve. It's going to be difficult but they're under pressure to win as
well. It's going to make it interesting.

“They need to believe in themselves. We work together and at the moment we’re all in it together. We believe we have a good group and if we pull together we can get a good result.'

Warming up: Juventus train ahead of their Champions League clash with Chelsea

Warming up: Juventus train ahead of their Champions League clash with Chelsea

Meanwhile, Juventus are ready for their ‘biggest game of the year’ against Chelsea and are not running scared of the European champions.

The Italian giants are unbeaten in five games against English opposition in Turin, a run stretching nine years to Manchester United’s 3-0 win in 2003, but they have only won one of them and a draw favours Chelsea tomorrow.

The Italian champions and Serie A leaders are in good form but have concerns about the availability of Mirko Vucinic, who has been out with flu, although the Montenegrin striker was able to take part in training today.

Confident: Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio talks to the media ahead of his side's clash

Confident: Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio talks to the media ahead of his side's clash

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2235330/Juventus-dont-fear-Chelsea-Champions-League.html#ixzz2Ch6u8tzs

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Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2235330/Juventus-dont-fear-Chelsea-Champions-League.html#ixzz2Ch6u8tzs

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Juventus are ready for their ‘biggest game of the year’ against Chelsea and are not running scared of the European champions.

The
Italian giants are unbeaten in five games against English opposition in
Turin, a run stretching nine years to Manchester United’s 3-0 win in
2003, but they have only won one of them and a draw favours Chelsea
tomorrow.

The Italian
champions and Serie A leaders are in good form but have concerns about
the availability of Mirko Vucinic, who has been out with flu, although
the Montenegrin striker was able to take part in training today.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2235330/Juventus-dont-fear-Chelsea-Champions-League.html#ixzz2Ch6u8tzs

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Juventus are ready for their ‘biggest game of the year’ against Chelsea and are not running scared of the European champions.

The
Italian giants are unbeaten in five games against English opposition in
Turin, a run stretching nine years to Manchester United’s 3-0 win in
2003, but they have only won one of them and a draw favours Chelsea
tomorrow.

The Italian
champions and Serie A leaders are in good form but have concerns about
the availability of Mirko Vucinic, who has been out with flu, although
the Montenegrin striker was able to take part in training today.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2235330/Juventus-dont-fear-Chelsea-Champions-League.html#ixzz2Ch6u8tzs

Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Claudio Marchisio said: ‘Maybe we have less experience but we should not be scared or discouraged. This year, we are back in the Champions League and my teammates have experience at international level.

‘We know it’s very important, our biggest game of the year, and we want to go through but we know we are facing the champions of Europe, who won this great trophy

‘Chelsea have invested a lot in the summer, so we have lots of respect for them. We have been put in a group which, together with Real Madrid’s, is the most difficult. We have respect but will do all we can to go through.’

Testing times: Juventus must avoid defeat to keep their European hopes alive

Testing times: Juventus must avoid defeat to keep their European hopes alive

There is astonishment in Italy at the notion that Di Matteo’s position may be under threat, just six months after he won the Champions League.

‘He did something extraordinary last season and he is showing it again this year,’ said assistant coach Angelo Alessio, standing in for head coach Antonio Conte, who is serving a touchline ban for his role in Italy’s latest match-fixing scandal.

‘We are pleased when an Italian coach does so well in England,’ added Alessio. ‘We are pleased with what he has done and what he is doing. I don’t think he is going to lose his job if they don’t qualify.’

SQUAD BACKS DI MATTEO

Gary Cahill tonight insisted Chelsea's players were 'all behind' Roberto Di Matteo and claimed their dressing-room bust-up at West Brom had been a good thing.

Cahill said the Blues' squad had as much confidence in their manager now as when he masterminded their march to Champions League glory exactly six months ago today.

That earnt caretaker Di Matteo a permanent contract but he goes into tomorrow's Group E game at Juventus under real pressure after an alarming slump in form, which has seen them lose three of their last seven matches.

Cahill said: 'From last year, when he took the job, he did tremendously well and achieved such a lot in a short space of time.

'We started the campaign really well.

'We're all behind him and he's definitely the right man.

'He proved it last year and I'm sure he will prove it this year as well.'

After that, Ian Bell can take as much paternity leave as he wants

After that, Bell can take as much paternity leave as he wants

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UPDATED:

20:34 GMT, 17 November 2012

Batsman Ian Bell will return to
England for the birth of his first child with his position in England's
middle order in jeopardy unless he can make a significant second-innings
contribution.

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The 30-year-old batsman suffered what
former England captain Michael Atherton described as an 'unforgivable
brainstorm' in his side's first innings, when he charged down
the pitch to his first ball from Pragyan Ojha and gifted a catch to
Sachin Tendulkar at mid-off.

Bell's record on the subcontinent –
where he averages less than 30 in 18 Tests – came under scrutiny in the
lead-up to this series and yesterday's nervy contribution will only
increase the question marks over his ability against top-class spin.

'That was disgraceful. He can have all the paternity leave he likes after that,' said Sky commentator Atherton.

'It was an indefensible shot and he
deserves every bit of criticism that comes his way. It made life
particularly difficult for England.'

Oh dear: Ian Bell had a 'brainstorm' in the first innings against India

Oh dear: Ian Bell had a 'brainstorm' in the first innings against India

With Jonny Bairstow favourite to replace Bell for the second Test in Mumbai next week, the Warwickshire batsman desperately needs a second-innings score to avoid calls for his exile to be made permanent.

The moment of madness, which reduced the tourists to 69-5, also drew criticism from former England opener Geoffrey Boycott.

He said: 'He came down the pitch first ball and tried to hit the left-arm spinner out of the park and I thought: “Did that really happen” Even if he had got away with it, it was an awful shot.'

Wicketkeeper Matt Prior said: 'Only he will know his plan and what he wanted to do. But you can't question the class of a batter like Ian Bell.'

Yann M"Vila banned from France duty until 2014

Rebel M'Vila handed TWO-YEAR ban from France squads following nightclub trip

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UPDATED:

16:56 GMT, 8 November 2012

Former Arsenal and Tottenham transfer target Yann M'Vila has been suspended from the France national squad until 2014.

The 22-year-old was disciplined along with Under 21 internationals Wissam Ben Yedder, Antoine Griezman, Chris Mavinga and M'baye Niang after they visited a nightclub in between the crucial Euro 2013 qualifying matches against Norway in October.

While the other players have been handed bans lasting until December 31, 2013, Stade Rennais midfielder M'Vila, who has 22 caps, has been issued a more severe sanction, preventing him from representing his country at any level until Monday, June 30, 2014, leaving his potential participation in the World Cup in serious jeopardy.

Marching orders: Yann M'vila has been banned from the France set-up for two years

Marching orders: Yann M'vila has been banned from the France set-up for two years

Marching orders: Yann M'vila has been banned from the France set-up for two years

Previously, the midfielder was suspended for one match after refusing to shake the hand of coach Laurent Blanc and substitute Olivier Giroud when he was taken off against Spain during Euro 2012.

Meanwhile, France coach Didier Deschamps has given playmaker Yoann Gourcuff another chance to resurrect his international career by including him in the squad to play Italy.

Gourcuff has struggled with loss of form and injuries since his standout year in helping Bordeaux to the league title four seasons ago, leading to comparisons with famed No 10 Zinedine Zidane.

Blanc kept faith with him for several months last season, but then left him out from his squad for Euro 2012.

But Gourcuff has been in good form since returning to the Lyon side after a spell out through injury. He was outstanding in the 5-2 thrashing of Bastia last time out.

Jimmy Bullard fears he will suffer boredom in retirement

EXCLUSIVE: 'It's boredom, not the booze that's always been my big problem', says newly retired Bullard

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UPDATED:

22:17 GMT, 19 October 2012

Jimmy Bullard nearly became a fireman. He was working as a painter and decorator with his dad, Big Jim, and dreaming of becoming a professional footballer while playing for Gravesend and Northfleet.

‘I got quite far and failed the written test, obviously,’ says the former Peterborough and Fulham midfielder with a self-deprecating roll of his eyes. ‘I was a Sky fitter for a few months as well, had my own van.’

Yet Bullard’s dream did not go up in smoke. He did make it. And now, in the month he turns 34, the dream is over.

Stumped: Jimmy Bullard has retired because of injuries

Stumped: Jimmy Bullard has retired because of injuries

The ‘late developer’, who ascended the divisions with Wigan Athletic before being called up for his country, has retired. A ‘whack on the knee’ in his first game for MK Dons in September was the final straw as Bullard finally gave in to the injuries that blighted his career.

‘I thought I would leave while I’m half-decent, rather than being absolutely crap,’ he says. ‘I was never going to make it again in the Premier League — and that’s what I strived to do as a kid.

‘I was frightened of really, really injuring myself and putting my whole life in jeopardy: with work and with playing football with my kids; with walking, even.’

Bullard feared his career was over when he ‘smashed all of the ligaments’ in his right knee in only his fourth game for Fulham in September 2006. ‘Every one of them was hanging on by a fag paper,’ he says.

Staying up: Bullard celebrates with Danny Murphy after helping Fulham beat Portsmouth 1-0 at Fratton Park on the final day of the 2008 season to avoid relegation

Staying up: Bullard celebrates with Danny Murphy after helping Fulham beat Portsmouth 1-0 at Fratton Park on the final day of the 2008 season to avoid relegation

He injured the same knee on his Hull City debut after signing for 5million in January 2009, causing a nine-month lay-off. In December he was out again. ‘Wallop. I landed on my head and did my left knee. Another three months out and my head was completely gone.’

Bullard was desperately unlucky with injury, but there have been suggestions his lifestyle did little to help his cause. East Yorkshire used to be awash with stories of the midfielder’s late-night drinking and he was suspended for an incident during a pre-season training camp in Slovenia in July 2011. Bullard has signed a confidentiality clause that stops him from discussing it, but insists it was ‘just an argument with the manager’, Nigel Pearson.

Bullard also received a two-week suspension at Ipswich Town last March after turning up late for training following a two-day bender in Newcastle with Michael Chopra. The ‘dopey sod’ apparently forgot to book a taxi.

Cursed: Bullard is helped off during his ill-fated Hull debut

Cursed: Bullard is helped off during his ill-fated Hull debut

So did this talented sportsman, a scratch golfer with a natural gift for football, drink his career away ‘No,’ says Bullard emphatically. ‘That’s rubbish; an embarrassment.
‘When I’m wrong I’m the first to say sorry. I shouldn’t have done that — turning up late and going out two nights in a row at Ipswich. I’m a professional athlete.

‘When you’re injured you sometimes do go out more than you should but you think, “Well, I haven’t got a game to play at the weekend, so what’s it going to do”

‘Browny (former Hull manager Phil Brown) let the boys go out when we wanted. There were about six or seven lads living in the same place. We used to have a fantastic time, parties and stuff.

‘We’d go out, but I might have gone out for a bite to eat and the next morning he would have heard I’d been in a bar until 4am or out for three days. It was unbelievable.’

The early days: Bullard playing for Peterborough in 2003

The early days: Bullard playing for Peterborough in 2003

Bullard insists booze is not his problem, but boredom. His eyes constantly flicker about, and even at 10am in a cafe in a sleepy village in Surrey — after pouring sugar into his tea — he already seems wired. Bullard is very entertaining company, but non-stop.

‘I’ve got a bad problem with boredom,’ he says. ‘I get bang into trouble when I’m bored. I didn’t combat the boredom, but I got over it. Ian Ashbee was the captain at Hull and he was injured at the same time, which got me out of trouble. But I always had to have people round me.

‘It’s a nightmare, especially when you’re indoors on your own. I’m not one to play computer games. My boredom was off the scale. I wished I was going out. But a lot of it was so inflamed and so out of control.’

Joker in the pack: Bullard was known as a prankster at his various clubs

Joker in the pack: Bullard was known as a prankster at his various clubs

Bullard remembers Hull fans confronting him in the street; angry that a man earning 45,000 a week (the club’s record signing) was not playing. It was a ‘massive salary’ compared to his old Fulham deal, a ‘life-changing’, four-and-a-half-year contract, but it ended badly.

Hull were relegated and Bullard’s contract was terminated in August 2011 as player and club concluded their business in court. The accusation that Bullard was greedy, however, rankles.

‘I played for nothing for three months,’ he reveals. ‘I wasn’t guaranteed to get that money — there were reports of liquidation — but everyone was in the same boat and that’s what happens when a club’s bang in trouble: you’ve got to stick with it, haven’t you

Pain game: Bullard suffered his first major injury just a few games into his Fulham career away at Newcastle

Pain game: Bullard suffered his first major injury just a few games into his Fulham career away at Newcastle

‘Then I found out I was the only player not getting paid. I had bills to pay. In the end Hull did pay, but they shouldn’t have done that, just because I was on a big contract.
‘As a player who had an injury like that I’m always going to safeguard myself and take as many years as I can, but it was about football, too. I wanted to go to a club who showed they wanted me.

‘But I’m a fan myself. I know what they were thinking, but I’ve always given 100 per cent when I could. I’ve done my rehab. There isn’t a lot I could say I would do differently.’

In some ways Bullard seems to belong to a different era, when more players had personalities as memorable as their performances. You can’t help but laugh as he recalls the time he checked in to a hotel on a pre-season tour with Fulham and noted manager Chris Coleman’s room number.

International recognition: Bullard was called into the England squad by Fabio Capello in 2008 - but never played a game

International recognition: Bullard was called into the England squad by Fabio Capello in 2008 – but never played a game

‘I put everything on his room all week: golf, golf buggies,’ he says. ‘I even bought myself a putter. All the Real Madrid boys were there and I bought them all drinks. I must have spent about 3,000.

‘It was classic: I watched Cookie (Coleman) go up to sign out — plus what he’d had — and he says, “That’s a bit steep, isn’t it” Then, “Bullard!” ‘He didn’t charge me for it, but then I broke the glass lift door. I clipped a golf ball and it shattered. I kept quiet but it was me or Papa Bouba Diop — the size of him! — so I had to put my hand up. It cost me about 700.’

Bullard wrinkles his nose at what he sees as some of the ‘regimentation’ of today’s game, when grown men have to ‘be in bed by 10’.

‘Do me a favour,’ he says. ‘I can’t be doing with that. But I think you’ve got to weigh things up.

Playing the fool: Bullard imitates Hull manager Phil Brown with his goal celebration after scoring against Manchester City

Playing the fool: Bullard imitates Hull manager Phil Brown with his goal celebration after scoring against Manchester City

‘I knew I could get away with it with Chris Coleman, but he was great for me. It was probably my worst moment in football when he was sacked. If Roy Hodgson’s there I’m not going to do it. You’ve got to use your noggin. Can you imagine doing that to Roberto Mancini’

He’s ‘messing about’ again, yet Bullard sounds faintly disappointed when he says: ‘People don’t recognise my football, half of them; it’s all the things off YouTube or my hair advert.’

He insists his route to the top made him value his profession more. He still has a letter from one of his teachers, Mr Marquart, telling him he had the talent to become a footballer and the same little boy look appears in his eyes when he describes being offered a trial at West Ham. Bullard, then 19, ‘still had claret and blue on the walls’ and thought the scout, Roger Scott, was ‘having a wind-up’.

That's your lot: Bullard quit football after he failed to recover from his knee troubles

That's your lot: Bullard quit football after he failed to recover from his knee troubles

‘But I turned up and Harry Redknapp was there,’ he adds. ‘Me and Frank Lampard going one-on-one first thing. I’ll never forget it.’

Bullard does not bow out as a player in a blaze of glory but proudly recalls when he was called into the England squad in August 2008.

Although he was never capped, he is quietly happy with his achievements, insisting he has ‘enjoyed it at every club’.

There have certainly been some firework moments, that’s for sure.

TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF LITTLE JIM

October 23, 1978: Born in London.

1998: Joins Gravesend and Northfleet.

1999: Joins West Ham for 30,000 but fails to make an appearance.

2001: Joins Peterborough.

2003: Moves to Wigan in January for 275,000 and helps secure promotion to the Championship that season, before promotion to the Premier League in 2004-05.

2006: Joins Fulham for 2.5m. Bullard dislocates his kneecap in September and is out until January 2008.

2008: Called up for England World Cup qualifiers with Croatia and Andorra but doesn’t play.

2009: Joins Hull for 5m in January. Injures his knee on debut and misses nine months. Named Premier League player of the month in November. Injures his other knee in December and is sidelined for three months.

2011: Joins Ipswich after a loan spell. Suspended after drinking spree with Michael Chopra.

2012: Joins MK Dons but a knock in his first game for them convinces him it is time to retire.

Camelot undergoes exploratory surgery after attack of colic

Dual Classic winner Camelot undergoes exploratory surgery after attack of colic

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UPDATED:

20:38 GMT, 11 October 2012

Derby and Guineas winner Camelot, who was seventh in last Sunday’s Arc, has undergone an operation after an attack of colic.

Invasive surgery can be a last option for the potentially fatal abdominal condition but the belief is that Camelot’s life was not in immediate danger.

Last time out: Camelot finished 7th in the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe

Last time out: Camelot finished 7th in the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe

The son of Montjeu was taken the short distance from trainer Aidan O’Brien’s Co Tipperary stable to the Fethard Veterinary hospital.

Owners the Coolmore Stud, via Twitter, said: ‘Triple Classic winner Camelot was admitted to Fethard Veterinary Hospital this evening and underwent exploratory colic surgery. Obviously, it’s still very early days but a further bulletin will be issued in the morning.’

Operation: Camelot has received attention for colic

Operation: Camelot has received attention for colic

Colic is a major cause of early death in horses and can be caused by a gastrointestinal blockage or a displacement of the bowel.

Camelot has won the 2,000 Guineas and both English and Irish Derbys this year but lost his unbeaten record in the St Leger last month.

After his Arc defeat, O’Brien said he would race on next year but that might be in jeopardy even if he emerges successfully from the surgery.