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Ronnie O"Sullivan says snooker return could be car crash TV

It could be car crash television, but I'll still be worth watching! Returning O'Sullivan says appearance at Crucible will be like a reality TV show

By
Matt Mcgeehan, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

17:30 GMT, 15 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

18:48 GMT, 15 April 2013

Snooker's biggest star Ronnie O'Sullivan joked that his return for the Betfair World Championship at the Crucible will be like watching Big Brother.

The 37-year-old has taken most of this season off, but is returning for the spring showpiece in Sheffield.

And he said: 'It's like my own reality TV show. It could be car crash, it could be good. You just don't know.

'I’ve never been one for doing Big Brother but this is about as close as it gets to it. It’s definitely exciting for me and everyone looking in.

Making his return: Ronnie O'Sullivan poses during the media launch for the World Championship at The Groucho Club in London on Monday

Making his return: Ronnie O'Sullivan poses during the media launch for the World Championship at The Groucho Club in London on Monday

'If I'm cueing all right and feeling all right, then I should be a match for anyone, but who knows'

The snooker world waits with bated breath to see what kind of form O'Sullivan will be in at the Crucible.

He insists that his desire for success, focus, to lose weight and reconnect with friends encouraged him to return to defend his title.

The 37-year-old Chigwell cueman
confirmed in February that he would defend the title he won 12 months
ago, despite not competing in a tournament since.

'There's a part of me that wants
instant success,' the four-time champion said. 'That would be nice, but
for me it's just about having fun. I felt it was time to have some sort
of focus in my life.

'Running was a massive part of my
life and I found I got that lazy having nothing to do, I had too much
time to even go and run in the end. I started putting weight on.

'I realised that snooker gave me an
opportunity to meet some good people, to travel and that's kind of what I
missed, missing the routine.'

Ready for the big one: World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn and Ronnie O'Sullivan attend the media launch for the World Championship

Ready for the big one: World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn and Ronnie O'Sullivan attend the media launch for the World Championship

O'Sullivan has lost a stone since
deciding to come back by returning to a routine and plans to run during
the 17-day World Championship, which begins on Saturday with his
first-round match against Marcus Campbell.

O'Sullivan believes he has plenty to
offer the game, adding: 'If you look at it statistically I've done
pretty well, but from my own perspective I feel like I've still
underachieved. I'd like to win another world title in my forties. I've
not set myself the goal to win this year's world title because that
would be a bit of a silly goal.

'I'd like to be a world champion when
I'm 40. It gives me a bit of leeway. It's the long game I'm looking at,
rather than just the short-term. This is just the start.'

Winning on his comeback would be an
overwhelming experience, O'Sullivan admitted. 'It would be a fairytale
dream, but last year was my greatest performance,' he said.

'I'd had a good season and it was
expected by pretty much everyone that I was going to win the tournament
before it started. To me that is the ultimate achievement, because
anything other than a win would've been seen as a failure in most
people's eyes.

'This year it's a different ball
game. I've come here with no matches under my belt. It'll just be nice
to be out there playing. I don't have anything to prove to the general
public.'

Champion: O'Sullivan celebrates last year's win in Sheffield

Champion: O'Sullivan celebrates last year's win in Sheffield

O'Sullivan is something of an enigma
and has worked with Dr Steve Peters, the sports psychiatrist who worked
with British Cycling and whom he now regards as a friend. O'Sullivan is
instinctive in his game and his life and his recent practice sessions
with Peter Ebdon were 'by coincidence' in Sheffield.

'Peter was the only decent player for
me to play. I had no choice,' O'Sullivan said. 'That's not being
horrible because I love Peter. And I can handle him better now since
I've been working with Steve Peters. I wish I'd been working with him 20
years ago.'

O'Sullivan was speaking at the Groucho Club in London's Soho alongside world No 1 Mark Selby, who is favourite for the title.

Selby, described as an 'invoicing
operation' by World Snooker chief Barry Hearn, has won the UK
Championship and Masters tournaments this year and is aiming to become
the fourth player – after Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Mark Williams –
to win the 'triple crown' in the same season.

The 29-year-old from Leicester said:
'It's a tough tournament to win. There's a lot of great players in it.
It's great to have Ronnie back playing as well, so it's going to be
tough.

'He's one of the most natural players
to ever play our game. If any one player can do it (win after a year
out), Ronnie's the person.'

VIDEO: Martin Fitzmaurice, voice of BBC darts, forced to apologise over racist jokes at tournament

Voice of BBC darts faces investigation after shocking audience with vile racist jokes

BBC 'appalled' by vile jokes

Compere Martin Fitzmaurice apologies and claims it was 'banter'

Asian teenage prodigy Jordan Singh was in the crowd in Fife, Scotland

British Darts Organisation launch investigation

PUBLISHED:

06:34 GMT, 10 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

13:14 GMT, 10 April 2013

The British Darts Organisation (BDO) have vowed to investigate vile racist jokes by the man dubbed the voice of BBC darts.

Compere Martin Fitzmaurice – famous for his catchphrase 'Let's play
darts' – was forced to apologise after he shocked an audience with remarks about Asians and black people.

Scroll down for video

Controversy: Darts Compere Martin Fitzmaurice

Controversy: Darts compere Martin Fitzmaurice

Out of order: Fitzmaurice has apologised for his vile remarks

Out of order: Fitzmaurice has apologised for his vile remarks

The 73-year-old's offensive comments came when he thought cameras were
off during a break at the British International between Scotland and England in Fife, Scotland on Sunday.

Among the audience was 14-year-old British Asian prodigy Jordan Singh.

Fitzmaurice told The Sun: 'It was banter. I apologise if I offended anybody.'

The BDO have launched an investigation

Under investigation: The BDO have launched a probe

Best of British: Martin Adams was part of the England team that beat Scotland 7-5 on Sunday

Best of British: Martin Adams was part of the England team that beat Scotland 7-5 on Sunday

Both the BDO and the Scottish Darts Association (SDA) condemned the 'offensive comments'.

In
a statement, the BDO said: 'The British Darts Organisation apologises
unreservedly for the fact that racially offensive comments were made by
MC Martin Fitzmaurice at the BDO British Internationals in Scotland on
Sunday, April 7th and streamed over the internet.

'The
BDO wishes to make it clear that it does not tolerate racism in any
shape or form, and a full enquiry is already taking place into this
regrettable incident.

'In
accordance with BDO rules on racism, Martin Fitzmaurice has been made
fully aware of the seriousness of his actions and will be required to
face a disciplinary hearing in front of the BDO Board.'

A BBC spokesman said: 'As someone who has appeared in previous
tournaments we have televised we are appalled by the alleged remarks.'

Match up: Fitzmaurice was at the international between England (above) and Scotland (below)

Match up: Fitzmaurice was at the international between England (above) and Scotland (below)

Image taken from the Scottish Darts Association of the Scotland Men's team.

Image taken from the Scottish Darts Association of the Scotland Men's team. Photo: Evert Zomer/www.evertzomer.nl

VIDEO: Fitzmaurice caught on camera making offensive comments

Commentator Martin Fitzmaurice makes remarks about Asians and…

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Lewis Hamilton has played down former team-mate Jenson Button"s title chances

Forget Button, Alonso is the one I really have to beat: Hamilton sets his sights on driving back to the top with Mercedes

000005DC-773_634x344.jpg” width=”634″ height=”344″ alt=”The edge: Damon Hill believes Fernando Alonso will win the title ahead of Sebastian Vettel” class=”blkBorder” />

The edge: Damon Hill believes Fernando Alonso will win the title ahead of Sebastian Vettel

WHAT'S NEW THE TYRES

Pirelli have been instructed to supply tyres that will degrade faster. The subtle changes are designed to make them harder to manage by drivers, leading to more pit-stops and greater excitement. During winter testing the paddock was bewildered by the rate of tyre wear and this threatens to be significant in the early races. Speed may have to be sacrificed so tyres last longer.

To witness his victory in atrocious conditions in the final race of last season in Brazil — his 15th victory — was to see the baton being passed from Hamilton to Button inside the team.

‘It’s the right place for me to be for the long term,’ said Button, 33. ‘Some people have left because they feel there is another challenge or something missing from their position.

‘There is still so much to achieve here. When we had the launch of our 2013 car, it was amazing to see cars representing 50 years of McLaren brought out; to look at the team’s history and the championships won. We really are a spectacular team.

‘I want to add to that history; not just this year, but for the coming years.’ Button is at his most dangerous in Melbourne, having won three of the past four Australian Grands Prix, although where McLaren’s performance is in relation to Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus, or, for that matter, Mercedes is a mystery — 12 days of inconclusive winter testing offered fluctuating evidence of the pecking order we can expect Down Under.

‘It’s been an extremely hard-to-read winter,’ said Button. ‘Varying fuel loads and levels of tyre degradation mean it’s hard to predict accurately who will arrive in Australia with the best-sorted car. But I love the place.’

Danger: Vettel is chasing his fourth World Championship

Danger: Vettel is chasing his fourth World Championship

WHAT'S NEW THE CIRCUITS

Bernie Ecclestone had hoped for a new race in New Jersey this year to replace Valencia in June but that hit money problems. There is a vacant date, which the underwhelming circuit in Turkey had hoped to fill. And if Portugal and Austria don’t get it, Europe’s weakening status in Formula One will be confirmed with just seven races this season — the fewest since 1963.

Hamilton has not taken a backward glance since he took the gamble last autumn of tying his future to Mercedes in exchange for a three-year contract worth 60million, with the freedom for his management company, XIX Entertainment, to broaden his commercial portfolio.

‘It needs to be made clear that it was more lucrative [in salary] to stay with McLaren,’ insisted Hamilton.

His motivation in moving from McLaren, where he could expect to challenge for the championship this season, is governed by an ambition to replicate what Michael Schumacher achieved, year after year, with Ferrari and what Vettel is accomplishing with his dominance at Red Bull. At McLaren, the hall of fame is inhabited by the ghost of Ayrton Senna.

At 28, Hamilton is arriving at his peak years with 21 victories already in a career that has never lacked controversy on the track, or off it. Perhaps he has never driven better than last year. ‘You want to be the one,’ he told a small gathering at the BRDC Clubhouse at Silverstone.

No 4: Max Chilton becomes the fourth British driver in F1

No 4: Max Chilton becomes the fourth British driver in F1

WHAT'S NEW THE DRIVERS

Max Chilton joins Lewis Hamilton (now with Mercedes on a 60million deal), Jenson Button and Paul di Resta as the fourth British driver in the championship after being fast-tracked by Marussia.

Chilton, 21, benefits from having AON insurance vice-chairman Grahame Chilton as his father. He is worth 93m and owns the Carlin Motorsport team, where Chilton raced in GP2.

An F1 seat for this season reportedly costs 1.8m but Chilton denies he is a spoilt rich kid. ‘No team are going to let you behind the wheel if you’re not up to it,’ he says. Even so, Pastor Maldonado contributes 29m to the williams team budget through sponsorship from Venezuela’s state oil company, and Williams’ newest driver, 21-year-old Valtteri Bottas, from Finland, found the budget to secure the seat from Bruno Senna.

Chilton will be joined at Marussia by Frenchman Jules Bianchi after the team’s first choice, Luiz Riaza, failed to deliver promised funding.

Giedo van der Garde (Caterham) and Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) have also paid for their seats, Which means five of the 22 drivers next week will be making their Formula One debut.
Susie Wolff, wife of McLaren shareholder and Mercedes director Toto Wolff, is McLaren’s development driver, the second woman recently in F1 after Marussia’s Maria de Villota, who lost an eye in a test drive last year.

‘I was the one for a short period of time, as the youngest world champion, then I was toppled by Vettel. Fernando had his success. I expect myself to win.

'I expect myself to excel. Ultimately, I want to achieve greatness. I want to prove my abilities year after year. Michael is seen as an all-time great, Seb is, too. I want to be seen as great as well.’

In winter testing, Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have shown that Mercedes have made a startling improvement in performance after winning just one grand prix in the past three years.

‘I’m 100 per cent confident and happy with the decision that I made — and keeping myself out of trouble!’ said Hamilton.

‘The more time I spend at the factory the more excited I become. It’s just a beautiful place to be and I’m happier with the environment I’m in. I don’t have anything negative to say about McLaren — I was lucky to be given the opportunity by the team to get into Formula One.

‘Had I stayed I was guaranteed to be competitive.

'Yet I’m not looking to get one over McLaren. I know that I have gone to a team who have been unable to compete with the car I had last year — at some races, there was a deficit in qualifying of 1.9sec from Mercedes to McLaren — but we all have a hunger to change. I think Mercedes will impress this year.’

Hamilton will be driven to prove that he was correct to free himself from McLaren, where the management structure made him feel claustrophobic, to fulfil a search for ultimate greatness.

But with a nudge to his growing maturity, Hamilton said: ‘When I look at it sensibly, I realise I have quite a lot of time left.’

England"s rugby stars play with Flavia Cacace from Stricly Come Dancing

Strictly scrum dancing: TV queen Flavia joins England trio at training

By
Thom Drake

PUBLISHED:

12:49 GMT, 12 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

16:16 GMT, 13 February 2013

England may have found their rhythm in the Six Nations but there were some more impressive dancing feet on show yesterday.

Flavia Cacace, the recent winner of Strictly Come Dancing with gymnast Louis Smith, swapped the ballroom for a rugby ball as she waltzed through a training session.

Brad Barritt, Alex Goode and Mike Brown took a break from England's attempts to win their first Grand Slam since Martin Johnson's heroes were triumphant in 2003, to join forces with the dancing star at the launch of O2 National Touch Rugby campaign at Ely's Yard.

Scroll down for video

Eyes on the prize: Brad Barritt looks on as Strictly star Flavia Cacace dives for glory

Eyes on the prize: Brad Barritt looks on as Strictly star Flavia Cacace dives for glory

Handling: Flavia gets a good feel of the ball as she lines up alongside the England stars

Handling: Flavia gets a good feel of the ball as she lines up alongside the England stars

The trio were in good spirits just days after England battled to a superb win in Dublin on Sunday, and will hope to lead France a merry dance in their next eye-catching clash in two weeks' time.

England had not won in Ireland in 10 years, and that victory has given the rugby world another noticeable reminder what this young side has to offer.

But judging by these pictures, they are ready to be this year's movers and shakers…

Twirl: Flalvia shows the England boys a couple of moves

Twirl: Flalvia shows the England boys a couple of moves

Flying high: England are on a roll now with the Grand Slam within their grasp

Flying high: England are on a roll now with the Grand Slam within their grasp

VIDEO: Flavia Cacace tries out touch rugby with England stars

Play Video

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Djibril Cisse out with Chloe Green in leather outfit that makes him look like Michael Jackson

REVEALED: Cisse in wacko new kit as QPR striker hits the town with latest g-love affair

|

UPDATED:

14:27 GMT, 17 December 2012

Djibril Cisse and QPR returned to winning ways this weekend but the French striker scored a big own goal in the fashion stakes last night.

Cisse, who was back in training at Rangers' Harlington HQ first thing today, turned up to Will.i.am's party in central London with his rumoured squeeze Chloe Green.

The QPR striker, who was dressed a little bit like Michael Jackson in his heyday, attended the launch party alongside the Topshop heiress even though the pair have denied their romance.

Djibril Cisse

Michael Jackson performing the first of two concerts at the National Stadium in Singapore in 2009

I'm looking at the man in the mirror: Cisse (left) last night and Michael Jackson performing in 2009 (right)

His and hers: Cisse (right) spent another evening out with Topshop heiress Chloe Green (left) in matching studded jackets

His and hers: Cisse (right) spent another evening out with Topshop heiress Chloe Green (left) in matching studded jackets

Enlarge

Djibril Cisse

Djibril Cisse's glove

Bootiful: The QPR striker stepped out at Will.I.Am's party in big trainer-boots (left) and a zaney glove (right)

They even turned up in matching leather outfits last night, though Green managed to pull the look off slightly more successfully than the former Liverpool and Sunderland star.

Cisse, who has scored three goals this season, had reason to celebrate after QPR recorded their first win of the season against Fulham on Saturday.

So far this season has been the worst in the club’s history but two goals from Adel Taarabt put an end to their terrible run in a 2-1 triumph.

Meanwhile, Cisse's manager Harry Redknapp offered Taarabt some home truths ahead of Saturday's crucial first win.

‘I took him off last week (against Wigan) and he wasn’t in the best of moods,' Redknapp revealed. 'He didn’t behave in the best of ways so I had a good chat with him in the office on Monday morning. He’s responded to that.

Back to the day job: Cisse (right) trains today with Adel Taarabt as coach Joe Jordan (centre) watches

Back to the day job: Cisse (right) trains today with Adel Taarabt as coach Joe Jordan (centre) watches

Glovely job: Cisse, in more conventional finger-wear appeals for a free-kick during Rangers' first win of the season against Fulham on Saturday

Glovely job: Cisse, in more conventional finger-wear appeals for a free-kick during Rangers' first win of the season against Fulham on Saturday

‘I didn’t put my arm around him, I didn’t call him in and say: 'Oh, come on'. I was disappointed with one or two things when I took him off last week, he had the hump on the bench and all that.

‘So we sorted that out. I said to him, don’t throw your arms up when you lose the ball, don’t stand with your hands on your hips and don’t put your hands on your head, just get after the ball if you lose it otherwise everyone sees that you made a mistake and it gets highlighted.

‘He did that on Saturday and he was fantastic. He can be a top, top player. He’s got ability like not many people you’ve ever seen in your life.’

Djibril Cisse in 'The Pr9ject', his clothes shop in Newcastle

Footballer Djibril Cisse

Call the fashion police: Eccentric French striker Djibril Cisse in a couple of garish outfits

Nasser Hussain: Alastair Cook did not impress me when I first saw him

Fletch told me 'This lad will be a great…' I just couldn't see it!

|

UPDATED:

05:50 GMT, 7 December 2012

The first time I saw Alastair Cook was
during one of my many spells when I was struggling to score runs as
England captain. I wanted to clear my head, get back to basics, so I
asked my former coach Keith Fletcher if I could play for Essex seconds.

I turned up at Colchester and was
quickly dismissed so I went for a walk round the boundary edge with
Fletch, the wise old ‘Gnome’, to ask him what I could do to get my game
right. Suddenly Keith stopped, pointed to the middle and said: ‘That lad
is going to be one of the greats.’

I couldn’t see it to be honest. All I
saw was a left-hander whose head fell over when he played his shots and
was full of nudges and nurdles. His name was Alastair Cook and
he scored his 23rd Test hundred, more than any other Englishman. At the
time I just said to Keith: ‘That’s all very well, Fletch, but I’m
worried about my game here, not him!’

Eye on the ball: Alastair Cook takes a catch at the launch of the Under 15 World Cup at Lord's in 2000

Eye on the ball: Alastair Cook takes a catch at the launch of the Under 15 World Cup at Lord's in 2000

That reminded me of the time a
young off-spinning opponent of ours walked into the England dressing
room after taking a few wickets for KwaZulu Natal in a tour match in
Durban and plonked himself down next to me, asking if I knew of any
English teams he could play for.

More from Nasser Hussain…

Nasser Hussain: Sachin just cannot work paceman out as Anderson gets the better of him again
05/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Warne's Ashes return is an exciting prospect, but Aussies must move on
04/12/12

Nasser Hussain: I'd rest Stuart against India, but he will be back for Ashes
03/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Ricky Ponting was a streetfighter, a panto villain… and a true great
29/11/12

Nasser Hussain: Triumph is thanks to fantastic four… but it's time to have a word with out-of-sorts Broad
26/11/12

Nasser Hussain: 'Public enemy No 1' Pietersen is a genius and he is worth a bit of hassle
25/11/12

Nasser Hussain: England captain Cook comes nicely to the boil in Mumbai
23/11/12

Nasser Hussain: Captain Cook must think on his feet now that the pressure is on
21/11/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

I
thought he meant club cricket and almost gave him my brother’s number
and told him to try Fives and Heronians but it turned out he had bigger
ambitions than that. His name was Kevin Pietersen and in the second Test
he scored his 22nd Test hundred for England. All of which goes to show
how much I know about spotting a good young player.

Fast
forward a few months after my first meeting with Cook and I bumped into
him again when I went to the indoor school in Chelmsford for a bit of
practice —yes, you’ve guessed it, I was searching for form as England
captain.

When I got there, Cook, who had just
been named England Under 19 skipper, was with a local TV crew, I think
they might have been from Look East.

The
interviewer saw me and asked if the England captain might like to say a
few words about this young star from my county. I looked at Cook, back
at the interviewer and said, ‘Not now, son’, before going off to the
bowling machine.

Cook still
reminds me of that one every time I speak to him. There are plenty of
words to say about him now. He was brilliant here, brilliant in
scoring his record hundred, brilliant in reaching 7,000 Test runs
younger than anyone in history and brilliant in scoring his fifth
century in five Tests as captain.

Truly, this innings has to be right up there with his best. It is as good if not better than all those hundreds he made in Australia and the 294 he scored against India at Edgbaston. It was special because Cook was so fluent.

Ever since Cook scored that potentially career-saving hundred against Pakistan at The Oval in 2010, he has been an absolute run machine. And what really impresses me is that he has worked so hard on improving the areas of his game that, a couple of years ago, weren’t his best. He has never said: ‘This is how I play, it works for me.’ He has kept his strengths and improved his weaknesses.

Special innings: Cook answered his critics at The Oval with a gutsy 110

Special innings: Cook answered his critics at The Oval with a gutsy 110

Not too long ago Cook relied heavily on his cut, pull and nudge off his hips. But now he is playing far more shots down the ground and is sweeping much more effectively. He may not have the flair of Pietersen or the shot selection of Graham Gooch, but he is becoming almost a complete batsman.

Cook keeps himself so well grounded. A lot of players might have been tempted to be a bit flashy after scoring hundreds in the last two Tests but he plays every innings with the same application as the last and at the same tempo. And how mentally strong must he be to score each of those hundreds after he has lost the toss and spent all that time in the field as a young and inexperienced captain

It’s good, too, that he has interests outside the game, in particular the family farm. /12/06/article-0-14214923000005DC-331_634x414.jpg” width=”634″ height=”414″ alt=”Hot on his heels: Kevin Pietersen (right) will be keen to match Cook's milestone” class=”blkBorder” />

Hot on his heels: Kevin Pietersen (right) will be keen to match Cook's milestone

I’m sure Cook’s team-mates will be inspired by him. Pietersen will want to quickly catch him up after falling one Test century behind him and Jonathan Trott will have been prodded after a relatively lean spell of his own. What will please Cook most of all is that his hundred has put his team in a potentially decisive position in this third Test and the series.

India were not very good on the second day, even though I cannot fault the effort of their four bowlers. They were flat and looked an old side in the field. If England can run them ragged they really will be on the verge of something special.

Nasser Hussain: Fletch told me "This lad will be a great…" I just couldn"t see it!

Nasser Hussain: Fletch told me 'This lad will be a great…' I just couldn't see it!

|

UPDATED:

21:08 GMT, 6 December 2012

The first time I saw Alastair Cook was
during one of my many spells when I was struggling to score runs as
England captain. I wanted to clear my head, get back to basics, so I
asked my former coach Keith Fletcher if I could play for Essex seconds.

I turned up at Colchester and was
quickly dismissed so I went for a walk round the boundary edge with
Fletch, the wise old ‘Gnome’, to ask him what I could do to get my game
right. Suddenly Keith stopped, pointed to the middle and said: ‘That lad
is going to be one of the greats.’

I couldn’t see it to be honest. All I
saw was a left-hander whose head fell over when he played his shots and
was full of nudges and nurdles. His name was Alastair Cook and
he scored his 23rd Test hundred, more than any other Englishman. At the
time I just said to Keith: ‘That’s all very well, Fletch, but I’m
worried about my game here, not him!’

Eye on the ball: Alastair Cook takes a catch at the launch of the Under 15 World Cup at Lord's in 2000

Eye on the ball: Alastair Cook takes a catch at the launch of the Under 15 World Cup at Lord's in 2000

That reminded me of the time a
young off-spinning opponent of ours walked into the England dressing
room after taking a few wickets for KwaZulu Natal in a tour match in
Durban and plonked himself down next to me, asking if I knew of any
English teams he could play for.

More from Nasser Hussain…

Nasser Hussain: Sachin just cannot work paceman out as Anderson gets the better of him again
05/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Warne's Ashes return is an exciting prospect, but Aussies must move on
04/12/12

Nasser Hussain: I'd rest Stuart against India, but he will be back for Ashes
03/12/12

Nasser Hussain: Ricky Ponting was a streetfighter, a panto villain… and a true great
29/11/12

Nasser Hussain: Triumph is thanks to fantastic four… but it's time to have a word with out-of-sorts Broad
26/11/12

Nasser Hussain: 'Public enemy No 1' Pietersen is a genius and he is worth a bit of hassle
25/11/12

Nasser Hussain: England captain Cook comes nicely to the boil in Mumbai
23/11/12

Nasser Hussain: Captain Cook must think on his feet now that the pressure is on
21/11/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

I
thought he meant club cricket and almost gave him my brother’s number
and told him to try Fives and Heronians but it turned out he had bigger
ambitions than that. His name was Kevin Pietersen and in the second Test
he scored his 22nd Test hundred for England. All of which goes to show
how much I know about spotting a good young player.

Fast
forward a few months after my first meeting with Cook and I bumped into
him again when I went to the indoor school in Chelmsford for a bit of
practice —yes, you’ve guessed it, I was searching for form as England
captain.

When I got there, Cook, who had just
been named England Under 19 skipper, was with a local TV crew, I think
they might have been from Look East.

The
interviewer saw me and asked if the England captain might like to say a
few words about this young star from my county. I looked at Cook, back
at the interviewer and said, ‘Not now, son’, before going off to the
bowling machine.

Cook still
reminds me of that one every time I speak to him. There are plenty of
words to say about him now. He was brilliant here, brilliant in
scoring his record hundred, brilliant in reaching 7,000 Test runs
younger than anyone in history and brilliant in scoring his fifth
century in five Tests as captain.

Truly, this innings has to be right up there with his best. It is as good if not better than all those hundreds he made in Australia and the 294 he scored against India at Edgbaston. It was special because Cook was so fluent.

Ever since Cook scored that potentially career-saving hundred against Pakistan at The Oval in 2010, he has been an absolute run machine. And what really impresses me is that he has worked so hard on improving the areas of his game that, a couple of years ago, weren’t his best. He has never said: ‘This is how I play, it works for me.’ He has kept his strengths and improved his weaknesses.

Special innings: Cook answered his critics at The Oval with a gutsy 110

Special innings: Cook answered his critics at The Oval with a gutsy 110

Not too long ago Cook relied heavily on his cut, pull and nudge off his hips. But now he is playing far more shots down the ground and is sweeping much more effectively. He may not have the flair of Pietersen or the shot selection of Graham Gooch, but he is becoming almost a complete batsman.

Cook keeps himself so well grounded. A lot of players might have been tempted to be a bit flashy after scoring hundreds in the last two Tests but he plays every innings with the same application as the last and at the same tempo. And how mentally strong must he be to score each of those hundreds after he has lost the toss and spent all that time in the field as a young and inexperienced captain

It’s good, too, that he has interests outside the game, in particular the family farm. /12/06/article-0-14214923000005DC-331_634x414.jpg” width=”634″ height=”414″ alt=”Hot on his heels: Kevin Pietersen (right) will be keen to match Cook's milestone” class=”blkBorder” />

Hot on his heels: Kevin Pietersen (right) will be keen to match Cook's milestone

I’m sure Cook’s team-mates will be inspired by him. Pietersen will want to quickly catch him up after falling one Test century behind him and Jonathan Trott will have been prodded after a relatively lean spell of his own. What will please Cook most of all is that his hundred has put his team in a potentially decisive position in this third Test and the series.

India were not very good on the second day, even though I cannot fault the effort of their four bowlers. They were flat and looked an old side in the field. If England can run them ragged they really will be on the verge of something special.

Lionel Messi will miss two Barcelona training sessions as he bids to break Gerd Muller record

Messi: 'I thought it would be the last time I'd touch the ball for a long time.' Barcelona star reveals fears over long-term knee injury

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UPDATED:

17:44 GMT, 6 December 2012

Lionel Messi will sit out Barcelona's next two training sessions after suffering a painful knee injury against Benfica, but he has revealed the knock is healing far quicker than expected.

Messi has 84 goals this calendar year – just one behind Gerd Muller's 1972 record of 85 – and Barcelona will need him on Sunday having won only one of their last 10 visits to Betis' Benito Villarmarin stadium.

The Argentine has a bruised bone in his left knee after a collision with goalkeeper Artur and will stay in the gym while his team-mates prepare for Sunday's game against Betis.

Stricken: Lionel Messi was injured after coming off the bench against Benfica

Stricken: Lionel Messi was injured after coming off the bench against Benfica

Record: The injury to Messi has put his attempts to beat Gerd Muller's 40-year calendar year goalscoring record in doubt

Record: The injury to Messi has put his attempts to beat Gerd Muller's 40-year calendar year goalscoring record in doubt

Despair: Both Messi and the Barcelona trainers knew something was wrong as soon as the player went down

Despair: Both Messi and the Barcelona trainers knew something was wrong as soon as the player went down

FOUR GAMES TO GRAB THE RECORD

December 9 – Real Betis (A)

December 12 – Cordoba (A) Copa del Rey last 16, first leg

December 16 – Atletico Madrid (H)

December 22 – Valladolid (A)

Speaking on Thursday at the launch of a new advert for Turkish Airlines in which he stars alongside NBA star Kobe Bryant, Messi said: 'I was in pain after the knock, so I thought it was really bad. Luckily, it was just that, a knock.

'I’m fine, better than yesterday already. I don’t know if I’ll be ready for Sunday’s game, will depend on evolution.

'What happened yesterday, can happen on training too. Every time you’re out on the pitch, there’s a risk to get injured. The truth is I did not think about
anything because all I could feel was the pain. But in a moment I
thought the worst. When it was shown it was not a severe injury I was
calmer.

'I sincerely thought it was the last ball I would be touching for a long time because of the pain. I tried to go ahead and shoot but I didn't have the strength.

'I am not obsessed with breaking records. It will be nice because (Muller's record) has stood for so long and if I break it then i hope my record stands for as long.'

Club doctor Richard Pruna will decide, along with the player and his coach Tito Vilanova, if he can
train normally on Saturday and then travel to Seville for Sunday night's
match with fourth placed Betis.

The Nou Camp were calling for Messi
just before the half time whistle of last night's draw with Benfica and
Villanova gave in to their demands early in the second half only for
the No 10 to go down holding the back of his knee five minutes from
time.

In-flight entertainment: NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and Messi star in an advert for Turkish Airlines

In-flight entertainment: NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and Messi star in an advert for Turkish Airlines

Worried: Messi left the field on a stretcher after receiving treatment on the pitch

Worried: Messi left the field on a stretcher after receiving treatment on the pitch

Unprecedented: Messi, who has 84 goals so far this year, needs two more to break Muller's record

Unprecedented: Messi, who has 84 goals so far this year, needs two more to break Muller's record

Drama was heightened when the player
was carted to the far corner of the ground, because the electronic car
carrying his stretcher wouldn't fit down the tunnel, and whisked away
for tests.

Messi suffered several long-term
injuries at the start of his Barcelona career but has not broken down
since March 2008 when he injured a thigh muscle against Celtic keeping
him out for six weeks.

His four years under Pep Guardiola
were almost injury-free with the then Barcelona coaching bringing in
podiatrists and dieticians to help prevent injuries.

Ouch: Messi was injured during a Barcelona attack late in the game

Ouch: Messi was injured during a Barcelona attack late in the game

In the wars: Messi was fouled on a number of occasions during the game with Benfica

In the wars: Messi was fouled on a number of occasions during the game with Benfica

Lionel Messi of Barcelona lines up a free kick during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium

One of the doctors used by Guardiola
Xavier Gasso was important in linking the player's frequent muscle
injuries with his feet and remedying the situation by adusting the sole
inserts in his boots.

Last night Barcelona fans feared the
old problems had returned but a medical report issued at half-past
midnight local time calmed those concerns.

The good news also got coach Vilanova
off the hook with critics ready to blame him for bringing Messi on in
what was a dead rubber game for Barca.

He said: 'I would not do anything differently. We had spoken before about the possibility of him playing for 30 minutes.

'He is a player who always wants to
play, and not because he is about to break a record – something which
everybody else is talking about but that he never mentions.

'If we were concerned about the record then I would have played him and all the other first team players from the start.'

Sunderland fan accused of racist monkey gesture against Romelu Lukaku

Fresh racism storm rocks football as Sunderland launch investigation into fan allegedly aiming 'monkey' gesture at Lukaku

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UPDATED:

12:35 GMT, 27 November 2012

Police have launched an investigation after a Sunderland supporter appeared to make a monkey gesture at West Bromwich player Romelu Lukaku in Saturday's Premier League match at the Stadium of Light.

A photograph shows the alleged gesture as Belgium international Lukaku celebrated scoring his side's third goal in the 4-2 win.

Police today confirmed they are looking into the alleged abuse following a complaint.

Gesture: The fan can be clearly seen making what appears to be a monkey gesture at West Brom's Romelu Lukaku as he celebrates scoring his side's third goal on Saturday

Gesture: The fan can be clearly seen making what appears to be a monkey gesture at West Brom's Romelu Lukaku as he celebrates scoring his side's third goal on Saturday

It comes less than a month after Chelsea fan Gavin Kirkham was banned from Stamford Bridge for appearing to make a monkey gesture at Danny Welbeck, the Manchester United player, in a Capital One Cup tie.

Police are continuing to investigate that incident.

Ged Grebby, of Show Racism the Red Card, hit out at the fan's actions in the photograph.

'It's very similar to the picture taken at the Chelsea game,' said Mr Grebby.

'This kind of gesture at football matches is a thing we never thought we'd see again.

'If anyone is guilty of this they could be looking a a three-year ban.

'When people do these kind of things we have to have action against them, and if they are found guilty then we will be asking the club to ban them.'

Investigation: Police in the north-east have launched an inquiry into incident, following a complaint from another supporter

Investigation: Police in the north-east have launched an inquiry into incident, following a complaint from another supporter

A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said: ‘Police are carrying out inquiries after a report of racist abuse at the Sunderland v West Brom match on Saturday.

‘The report was received at 10.10pm on Saturday, November 24.’

A spokesman for Sunderland AFC said: ‘SAFC operates a policy of zero tolerance towards racism and anti-social behaviour of any kind and naturally we will co-operate with the police in fully investigating any such incidents.’

Sunderland had a number black players in their team on Saturday, with Danny Rose and Stephane Sessegnon in Martin O’Neill’s starting line-up and striker Louis Saha coming off the substitutes’ bench in the second-half.

The photograph emerged as West Brom head coach Steve Clarke condemned racist chanting in the game.

It follows accusations that West Ham fans chanted anti-Semitic songs during their 3-1 defeat at Tottenham on Sunday.

Clarke, a former number two at Upton Park, said: 'There is no place for it (racist chanting) in the game.

'It is sad it is coming out. I went to White Hart Lane with West Ham on a couple of occasions and there was never anything like that.

'That's not so long ago, only two or three years ago, so it's strange now how it has started coming out again.

'It's something we have to jump on and we have to stop.'

Kirkham, 28, tried to claim he wasn't racist after sparking national outrage with his gesture – saying he was just being 'one of the boys'.

He made the apparent monkey gesture towards Welbeck from the Matthew Harding Stand during Chelsea's 5-4 cup win.

Shamed: This Chelsea fan caught on camera making a monkey gesture (bottom left) was later identified as Gavin Kirkham

Shamed: This Chelsea fan caught on camera making a monkey gesture (bottom left) was later identified as Gavin Kirkham

Kirkham, from Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire, reportedly admitted to friends: 'I'm totally ashamed of myself and I wish it hadn't happened.

'I'm not a racist. I'm just one of the boys.

'I had a couple of pints and got a bit lairy but I'm not a bad lad. I just got wrapped up in the match.'

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was said to have personally intervened to get Kirkham banned from Stamford Bridge.

West Ham anti-Semitic chants: Harry Redknapp leads attack

You're filth! Harry leads attack on West Ham yobs as FA and club launch probe

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UPDATED:

07:38 GMT, 27 November 2012

Harry Redknapp has warned English football is in danger of a return to the dark days of the Seventies after the disgraceful scenes at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

The new QPR manager said he was disgusted with football’s yobs and accused them of being ‘filth’ after fans of his former club West Ham chanted anti-Semitic songs during their 3-1 defeat at Tottenham.

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Plenty to ponder: Harry Redknapp hit out at the West Ham fans who sang anti-Semitic songs

Plenty to ponder: Harry Redknapp hit out at the West Ham fans who sang anti-Semitic songs

Redknapp, who also spent nearly four
years in charge of Spurs, said: ‘We don’t want to go back to what we had
with all the violence in the Seventies — we can’t have that again.

‘When they get in a group it’s filth. It’s disgusting and people are supposed to stand there and take it.

‘They chant at managers, at players and at each other and it has nothing to do with the football. They are cowards. It’s disgusting and I keep hearing it, but it’s not right.’

Israel midfielder Yossi Benayoun, who is on loan at West Ham from Chelsea, spoke of his disappointment and embarrassment after away supporters hissed and sang vile songs about Adolf Hitler on Sunday.

Benayoun wrote on Twitter: ‘I have a great relationship with the West Ham United supporters from my first spell at the club and again now I am back on loan here. This is why I was very disappointed to hear some of the songs yesterday and it was embarrassing.’

VIDEO: Anti-semitic chants at Spurs Fan's video captures shouts in stands

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The FA have launched an investigation and West Ham vowed to take ‘the strongest possible action’ — including lifetime bans — against any of their supporters found to have been chanting abuse.

The Society of Black Lawyers have reported the chants highlighted by Benayoun (below) to the Metropolitan Police, and two men were arrested at the game for making Nazi salutes.

Both accepted cautions and one has been identified as a West Ham season ticket-holder and banned from the club.

Police may also launch a formal criminal investigation after receiving a telephone call from a member of the public about anti-Semitic chanting in the West Ham section of the ground.

At the double: Jermain Defoe scored twice as Tottenham cruised to victory over West Ham

At the double: Jermain Defoe scored twice as Tottenham cruised to victory over West Ham

A West Ham statement added: ‘Any other individuals identified can expect a similar, swift and robust response.

‘West Ham will take the strongest possible action against any of their supporters, including enforcing life bans from the club, that are found guilty of behaviour which is categorically not condoned by West Ham.’

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said the chants were ‘a stain upon the character of British football’.

The organisation, the main representative body of British Jewry, also criticised Scunthorpe United manager Brian Laws after he compared his team’s defending in Saturday’s 4-0 loss at Doncaster Rovers to the Holocaust.

Gaffe: Brian Laws compared Scunthorpe's defeat to the Holocaust

Gaffe: Brian Laws compared Scunthorpe's defeat to the Holocaust

Laws has since apologised for his ‘poor choice of language’, but a statement from the board said: ‘Clearly there is either a lack of understanding or a lack of compassion within some sections of the British football world about these issues.

‘We will be writing to the Football Association to urge them to punish those responsible for these chants and to take further steps to rid our national game of these slurs.

'Anti-Semitism has no place in football or society in general. For football fans to use Holocaust imagery and chants glorifying Adolf Hitler is grossly offensive to the Jewish community and is a stain upon the character of British football.’

On Sunday there were also repeated chants mocking the stabbing of Spurs fan Ashley Mills, who remains in hospital in Rome after he was attacked in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Aftermath: The Drunken Ship pub in Rome where Spurs fans were attacked last week

Aftermath: The Drunken Ship pub in Rome where Spurs fans were attacked last week

Sections of West Ham supporters sang ‘Viva Lazio’ and ‘Can we stab you every week’, and Italian flags were also spotted among the away fans.

Mills, 25, was visited in hospital by Lazio president Claudio Lotito yesterday following his injuries sustained before Tottenham’s Europa League clash in Rome last week.

Lotito, who denies his club’s fans had any involvement in the brutal attack, gave Mills a Lazio shirt with his name on it and promised there would be a ‘surprise’ on his players’ strips in tonight’s Serie A match against Udinese.

When asked about the songs at White Hart Lane on Sunday, Lotito said: ‘Those people were not fans — they were chants that should be punished by jail.’

Fresh start: Redknapp was unveiled as the new manager of Queens Park Rangers on Monday

Fresh start: Redknapp was unveiled as the new manager of Queens Park Rangers on Monday

Redknapp claimed clubs are powerless to act because of the sheer number of people chanting offensive songs.

The Rangers boss said: ‘It’s so difficult to deal with and you can’t throw them all out. It’s happening more and more.

‘I heard the abuse Arsene Wenger gets and I saw Dave Jones and heard what they are singing at Sheffield Wednesday — it’s disgusting. I don’t know what we can do with these people.’

WEST HAM'S OFFICIAL STATEMENT

West Ham United are in contact with Tottenham Hotspur to assist them with their investigation into the conduct of a small number of supporters and alleged inappropriate chanting during yesterday's match at White Hart Lane.

West Ham United will take the strongest possible action against any of their supporters, including enforcing life bans from the club, that are found guilty of behaviour which is categorically not condoned by West Ham United.

During the 46 games in the Championship last season, West Ham United had zero arrests for racism or violence, so while we are surprised to see such reports today, we will examine any available evidence of such conduct thoroughly and take the appropriate action.