Tag Archives: likelihood

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Formula One calendar 2013: Turkish Grand Prix looks set for return in absence of New Jersey race

Turkish GP looks set for return to F1 calendar in absence of New Jersey race

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UPDATED:

16:15 GMT, 5 December 2012

The 2013 Formula One calendar could again stretch to 20 races in the wake of today’s final meeting this year of the World Motor Sport Council.

With the removal of the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey until 2014 due to financial and construction difficulties, it appeared the calendar for next season would revert back to 19 races following the record 20 this campaign.

Track record: Lewis Hamilton takes the chequered flag at Istanbul in May 2010

Track record: Lewis Hamilton takes the chequered flag at Istanbul in May 2010

2013 Formula One Calendar

Mar 17: Australia
Mar 24: Malaysia

Apr 14: China
Apr 21: Bahrain

May 12: Spain
May 26: Monaco

Jun 9: Canada
Jun 30: Britain

Jul 7: Germany
Jul 21: TBC
Jul 28: Hungary

Aug 25: Belgium

Sep 8: Italy
Sep 22: Singapore

Oct 6: Korea
Oct 13: Japan
Oct 27: India

Nov 3: Abu Dhabi
Nov 17: United States
Nov 24: Brazil

However, the WMSC has opted to switch
the German GP – which still does not have a confirmed venue – from July
14 to July 7, and which will now be back-to-back with the British GP at
Silverstone.

In doing so, they have created a vacancy for July 21, which the WMSC state 'has been reserved for another F1 European event, subject to the approval of the relevant ASNs (National Sporting Authority)'.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is known to be in discussions with the new owners of the Istanbul Park in the hope of restoring the Turkish Grand Prix to the calendar, with the likelihood now next year.

That race would also form a double-header with the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 28 ahead of a four-week summer break across August.

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David Beckham farewell ends with victory for LA Galaxy over Houston Dynamo

From cynicism to people's champion, Beckham heads back to Europe after his American adventure more acclaimed than ever

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UPDATED:

00:23 GMT, 2 December 2012

What began amid cynicism and courted controversy and suspicion along the way, ended here in California tonight with a standing ovation. David Beckham’s American journey is over and he heads back to Europe as a winner.

It was six years ago that Beckham moved to Los Angeles at the age of 31 to play football. It seemed a peculiar thing to do for a man still with so many years ahead of him. The MLS was not a great league and LA Galaxy were a club – or a ‘franchise’ – in a bit of a mess.

But as Beckham took his leave a minute before the end of his team’s 3-1 win in the MLS Cup Final here today, few would contest his own view that America has been as good to him as, eventually, he has been to America.

Fond farewell: David Beckham has crowned his six year spell in the United States and the Los Angeles Galaxy with another MLS Cup victory, after they beat Houston Dynamo 3-1

Fond farewell: David Beckham has crowned his six year spell in the United States and the Los Angeles Galaxy with another MLS Cup victory, after they beat Houston Dynamo 3-1

Here's the punchline: Beckham celebrates after Omar Gonzalez had brought the match level at 1-1 early in the second half

Here's the punchline: Beckham celebrates after Omar Gonzalez had brought the match level at 1-1 early in the second half

Family man: Beckham lines up with his sons, Brooklyn (left), Romeo (middle) and Cruz before kick-off

Family man: Beckham lines up with his sons, Brooklyn (left), Romeo (middle) and Cruz before kick-off

Trailing by a goal at half-time, it looked for a while as though Beckham’s big day was about to collapse around his sparkling pink football foots. Galaxy had been the better team but had been hit by a sucker punch from Houston just before the interval.

In the second half, though, Beckham wrote his name all over this contest. He was the game’s best player and by full-time he had made many of the decisive contributions.

Beckham may not be able to run like he once could. It will be this, in all likelihood, that ultimately prevents him landing a contract at one of Europe’s bigger clubs as he looks to extend his remarkable career yet further in the coming weeks.

As a football technician, though, he remains almost unparalleled. Here today, some of his passing was reminiscent of his salad days at Manchester United and Real Madrid. Playing deep in the centre of midfield, the 37-year-old found the time and space to deliver telling passes with familiar regularity.

Still got it: Beckham produced a number of superlative, hallmark passes during the final

Still got it: Beckham produced a number of superlative, hallmark passes during the final

Hair-raising: Beckham challenged Houston's Ricardo Clark to the ball

Hair-raising: Beckham challenged Houston's Ricardo Clark to the ball

Indeed the one 80-yard first-time pass he played with his right foot to Robbie Keane on the hour will not be bettered anywhere this weekend. It was classic Beckham.

With the Home Depot Center awash with Beckham t-shirts and banners – “Take us with you, Becks” read one popular shirt – this day was somewhat different to the difficult early ones when the former England captain’s commitment to his team was questioned by supporters and colleagues alike.

Ultimately, it was just a shame that he was denied a fitting finale.

Much loved: Beckham's departure was mourned by LA Galaxy fans, who made a number of tribute banners for his farewell

Much loved: Beckham's departure was mourned by LA Galaxy fans, who made a number of tribute banners for his farewell

Memento: This Galaxy fan wanted the shirt of Beckham's back

Memento: This Galaxy fan wanted the shirt of Beckham's back

With Galaxy awarded a penalty with seconds remaining, Beckham and team-mate Landon Donovan – the regular taker – seemed to agree that the Englishman would take it. He seemed set to end his career here with a goal.

Keane had other ideas, however, and the Irishman didn’t even look at his team-mate as he placed the ball and slotted it in to the net for the third goal.

As Keane celebrated, though, it was Beckham who was mobbed. Moments earlier he had sunk to his knees. His final mission had been accomplished.

As he left the field soon after, 30,000 people rose to applaud him. He merely waved to his three sons in the crowd and took his place on the bench.

Beckham’s visit to America is over and he ends it with another trophy. Has he been a success over here Try telling the Galaxy otherwise.

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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.’

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Alex Bruce called up to Northern Ireland squad

Bruce called up to Northern Ireland squad to face Portugal after switching allegiance

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UPDATED:

14:44 GMT, 5 October 2012

Call-up: Bruce

Call-up: Bruce

Hull defender Alex Bruce has been called up by Northern Ireland for the first time after switching his allegiance from the Republic of Ireland.

Centre-back Bruce played at under-21 level for the Republic and was also capped in two senior friendlies but, with the likelihood of further caps waning he began the process of switching to represent Northern Ireland under former manager Nigel Worthington.

His successor Michael O'Neill has now called the 28-year-old into a 24-man squad to take on Portugal in a World Cup qualifier in Porto on October 16.

Bruce – son of former Manchester United defender Steve, who is his manager at Hull – was born in England but qualified for both the Republic and Northern Ireland via grandparents.

He was wanted by Northern Ireland at under-21 level but opted to play for the Republic.

He went on to captain their 'B' team and played for the full side in non-binding friendlies against Ecuador in 2007 and Poland in 2008.

He joins Hibernian's James McPake in the Portugal squad. The Scotland-born defender was persuaded by O'Neill to commit to Northern Ireland earlier this year and made his only appearance in the 6-0 friendly defeat to Holland.

Both players will provide cover for the suspended Gareth McAuley.

Back on track: Bruce has been starting regularly for his dad at Hull

Back on track: Bruce has been starting regularly for his dad at Hull

There is no place in the squad for Lee Camp, the Nottingham Forest goalkeeper who left the squad for personal reasons after being dropped in favour of Roy Carroll for the first qualifier against Russia.

Alan Mannus, of St Johnstone, and Michael McGovern of Falkirk will provide competition for the No 1 shirt but Camp's future is now in some doubt.

Elsewhere in the squad there is a recall for the country's record goalscorer David Healy, who is now back playing competitive football for Bury, as well as Peterborough's Grant McCann, who had declined an invitation to join a previous squad under O'Neill.

Bruce's Hull team-mate Joe Dudgeon, who has yet to be capped, is included, while Burnley striker Martin Paterson and Celtic winger Paddy McCourt both return from injury having missed the last two matches.

O'Neill was unable to call on Chris Brunt and Jamie Ward (both hamstring).

Tottenham and QPR chase Esteban Granero from Real Madrid

Real could let 'Pirate' Granero walk the plank to Spurs now that they're mateys…

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UPDATED:

07:39 GMT, 28 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Tottenham could benefit from their new partnership with Real Madrid by securing a deal for midfielder Esteban Granero.

The Spanish giants are prepared to let the 25-year-old leave the Bernabeu after signing Luka Modric from Spurs.

But Andre Villas-Boas faces competition from Queens Park Rangers as the transfer deadline draws near, according to Madrid paper Marca.

Target: Tottenham are keen on Real Madrid midfielder Esteban Granero (L)

Target: Tottenham are keen on Real Madrid midfielder Esteban Granero (L)

Arsenal came close to signing ‘The Pirate’ last year, while Liverpool were knocked back earlier this summer.

But Modric’s arrival and the increasing likelihood that Kaka will stay at Madrid has made versatile Granero a potential sacrifice.

Real deal: Luka Modric's switch to the Bernabeu has opened a new partnership between Madrid and Spurs

Real deal: Luka Modric's switch to the Bernabeu has opened a new partnership between Madrid and Spurs

Lassana Diarra, who is wanted by AC Milan, is another midfielder who could leave Jose Mourinho’s squad in the next few days.

Like Modric, former Spain Under 21 international Granero can operate well both in attacking and defensive midfield duties, but he has struggled to hold down a regular first-team place since signing from Getafe in 2009.

Robin van Persie returns to scene of 8-2 humiliation to make Man United debut

What a difference a year makes as Van Persie returns to scene of 8-2 humiliation

PUBLISHED:

22:06 GMT, 24 August 2012

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UPDATED:

22:06 GMT, 24 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Robin van Persie begins his Manchester
United career in earnest when he makes his home debut against Fulham in
the Barclays Premier League on Saturday. Whether he realises that an
anniversary is at hand is another matter.

After the disappointment of Monday
night's defeat at Everton, Van Persie is sure to start for his new club
at Old Trafford, a year to the weekend since one of the most
demoralising experiences of his footballing life.

Spot pain: Van Persie misses a penalty in 2011

Spot pain: Van Persie misses a penalty in 2011

Manchester United 8 Arsenal 2 perhaps stood out as the most remarkable scoreline of a series of peculiar results in matches between the top teams last season.

The fact that Manchester City won 5-1 at Tottenham on the same day – August 28 – and ended up being overshadowed perhaps illustrates the point.

What is more pertinent, though, is the fact that day – more than any other – revealed to Van Persie just how far Arsenal had fallen behind a team they used to consider rivals for the top position in the Premier League.

When placed in that context, it's hard to understand anyone who criticises the 29-year-old's decision to swap London for Manchester.

Van Persie played and missed a penalty that day.

All smiles: Van Persie and Michael Carrick in training

All smiles: Van Persie and Michael Carrick in training

On Saturday he returns to that particular pitch for the first time. In all likelihood he will partner Wayne Rooney, the United centre forward who scored three of his team's eight goals a year ago.

The two men did spend 22 minutes playing together at Goodison Park on Monday night after Van Persie was sent on as substitute to help chase the game against David Moyes's team.

On Saturday, however we should be able to form some idea of just how this partnership is going to work

'I'm excited about watching it myself,' said United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. 'Robin is a very, very good player and he brings a maturity to us up front. 'I am looking forward to starting him …when he starts. It's important that he brings something to the team. His goals record last year was fantastic. I hope he can do this for us and give us more of an edge.

'Wayne got 30-something last season and has been improving on his goalscoring for the last two or three years.

'We need a contribution from all the strikers. Chicho (Javier Hernandez) is capable and Danny Welbeck gives us something different. We have fantastic options and that's part of the attraction now.'

Hot shots: Wayne Rooney (right) and Van Persie

Hot shots: Wayne Rooney (right) and Van Persie

Last season at Arsenal, Van Persie carried the load of sole goal-scoring responsibility. The Holland star scored 30 times in the league, a staggering 22 goals ahead of the club's second highest scorer Theo Walcott.

At Old Trafford, Rooney scored 27 league goals and, even though he was backed up by 10 from Hernandez and useful single-figure contributions from Welbeck (nine), Nani (eight) and Dimitar Berbatov (seven), it is clear that both members of United's new strike partnership will be quite glad to see each other.

Ferguson – still vexed by losing last season's title on goal difference – has already vowed that his team will score more times than last season's 89.

With Rooney and Van Persie, one would imagine United certainly have a chance.

How they line up will certainly be intriguing and perhaps provide a pointer for the season. The talented Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa impressed against Everton and it is hard to see him being left out, meaning that there is room for only one of Welbeck, Nani, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia.

Threat: Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa

Threat: Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa

'Shinji's goalscoring record is better than most players in that position,' said Ferguson. 'His past two years at Dortmund showed that. I think that will come. I think he will score goals for us.

'He will also create chances as he did on Monday. That shows he has the vision and passing ability to open up defences.

'You need a full squad at this level. We have 27 or 28 players.

'There are lots of games and you pick up injuries. We have a strong squad and we are going to use it. There will be opportunities for all the players to contribute to whatever we go on to achieve.'

Ferguson revealed none of the four injured central defenders absent against Everton will be available. Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand trained on Friday but neither will make it, meaning Michael Carrick continues in defence with Paul Scholes in midfield.

But it will be at the other end of the field that the intrigue lies this afternoon.

Fulham actually scored five times themselves in beating Norwich last weekend, but that stroll in the sun could well be a distant memory by 5pm.

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Memo to Roman Abramovich: Time to halt the revolution – Martin Samuel

Memo to Roman: halt the Stamford Bridge revolution

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UPDATED:

22:15 GMT, 6 May 2012

The problem with Chelsea is that nobody can quite get to grips with the problem with Chelsea. So here's what it isn't. The problem with Chelsea is not Didier Drogba who, at 34, scored his eighth goal in eight visits to Wembley on Saturday, including four in four FA Cup finals.

The problem is not Frank Lampard, who made arguably the best pass of the match to allow Drogba to continue that remarkable run. The problem is not age. The problem is not player power. The problem is not 4-3-3 or its baby brother 4-2-3-1.

The problem is not the absence of a stellar, household name manager, capable of crushing the will of the dressing-room and changing the way Chelsea play. The problem, most definitely, is not Roberto Di Matteo. The problem with Chelsea, in all likelihood, is that there is not much of a problem at all.

Popular: Chelsea salute victorious boss Roberto Di Matteo

Popular: Chelsea salute victorious boss Roberto Di Matteo

More from Martin Samuel…

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03/05/12

Martin Samuel: We sold our soul for medals, so don't be surprised if we've hired a cheat
02/05/12

Martin Samuel: Sorry City, UEFA will take your glad song and make it bitter…
01/05/12

Martin Samuel: What is the point if Roy can't hope
01/05/12

Martin Samuel: City smiles better as Kompany and Co take a leap of faith
30/04/12

Martin Samuel: Out to get him No, what we all want are results
30/04/12

Martin Samuel: Hodgson's record reads: P 52 W 20 L 20… Is this a job for Mr Average
30/04/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

There never was, really. It is the refusal to accept this that was the biggest problem all along, because it has left the club in a ceaseless quest for revolution, when all that is required is evolution. And gentle evolution at that.

This is not to devalue the job done by Di Matteo in the interim. Andre Villas-Boas had the club halfway to ruin and Di Matteo saved them, largely by recognising that there was not a whole lot wrong.

Yet Villas-Boas wasn't the problem with Chelsea, either. He was more a symptom of it: a manager brought in and clearly left under the impression that the best, indeed the only way forward was a wholesale restructure of Chelsea's methodology.

It became an exercise in doublethink. How could the need to replace Lampard, still Chelsea's top Premier League goalscorer this season, despite playing in midfield and not always making the team, be a pressing issue

How has Drogba been allowed to drift to the end of his contract when he remains among the most devastating big occasion strikers in the world How can a pattern of play that has brought more concerted success than at any time in the club's history be afforded such negative scrutiny

How could a headstrong, resilient, proud dressing room, capable of knocking out the most gifted club side in the world by scoring twice despite having 10 men for an hour, be seen as a point of weakness

Chelsea are at their best playing a version of 4-3-3 – Di Matteo favours the hybrid with two guarding midfield players and two high forwards – and until Lampard and Drogba stop scoring goals, John Terry stops making the sort of tackles that freeze the blood and Ashley Cole stops being the best left back in the world, that is how it should be.

The reason Manchester United are best with wingers is because that is Sir Alex Ferguson's preferred method. It worked well from early on and it is easier to replace aging bones like for like than reconfigure the entire team shape.

That is why the job done by Di Matteo has been outstanding. He rejected the notion that Chelsea required overhaul and instead acknowledged the immense quality at Stamford Bridge, regardless of advancing years. He then put players where they were best suited and worked hard building confidence.

Petr Cech, the goalkeeper, is in his best form since Jose Mourinho left; while John Mikel Obi, Branislav Ivanovic and Ramires are turning in the peak performances of their Stamford Bridge careers.

Flying high: New life has been breathed into Drogba and Co since Andre Villas-Boas departed

Flying high: New life has been breathed into Drogba and Co since Andre Villas-Boas departed

Flying high: New life has been breathed into Drogba and Co since Andre Villas-Boas departed

Yes, the leaders of this group are old at heart, and there will come a time when they will no longer be able to monster Liverpool at Wembley, almost unopposed. Chelsea's management must prepare for that day, but not with the reckless urgency of AVB's brief time in charge.

Chelsea had a bald tyre and the response was to scrap the car. This group of players can last at least two more seasons, with sympathetic refurbishment. A continuation of the AVB project is not necessary.

And, right there, is the problem with Chelsea. For the inescapable conclusion is that the owner does not agree, almost that he is restless unless the club is moving forward, like a dead-eyed shark. Hence the ever-changing roster of managers, the constant transfer market activity, the sense that nothing – and certainly not Saturday's FA Cup final triumph, the fourth in six years – is good enough.

Di Matteo's wonderful ability to build confidence in a group of players that looked to have lost their way, should make him a shoo-in for the permanent manager's job right now. Yet few would place a penny on this, not even after landing a trophy in his first season. And that, right there, is the problem with Chelsea.

Dalglish singing for Carroll's England future

'Every time he plays, he puts in a reference,' said Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, eloquently, of Andy Carroll's international prospects. This is not, however, the whole story.

Carroll's references are very much like Liverpool's season, in that they are hard to evaluate convincingly as either positive or negative. Just as the 'Liverpool under Dalglish – success or failure' debate endures, with one trophy, one lost final and a horrid league run, so does talk of Carroll's England potential.

He almost altered the direction of the FA Cup final on Saturday, no doubt of that. Liverpool were no match for Chelsea until he arrived and few forwards have the ability to turn John Terry inside out, as Carroll did for his goal.

Yet equally, the header that Petr Cech pawed back from the line should have been the equaliser. There is no argument over whether it was a goal – it wasn't – but if Carroll is England's man for the European Championship, he should have buried it, just as he should have scored from Stewart Downing's cross in the semi-final with Everton, before erasing that memory with the winning goal.

So faith in Carroll remains subjective. He is certainly a more potent force for Liverpool, but if England get one chance against France on June 11, would you want it falling to him

Net result: Carroll should really have buried the effort which would have brought Liverpool level

Net result: Carroll should really have buried the effort which would have brought Liverpool level

Hodgson's record is not so Fab

Disrespectful. The word leapt out of the Football Association's overprotective statement on manager Roy Hodgson last week. And indeed there is no degree of respect that is too great for football managers these days.

Amid the financial scandal that saw George Graham banned from the game for a year, Jeremy Paxman attended one of his press conferences at Arsenal and remarked that he could not believe the degree of reverence extended at such a time.

A politician in similar circumstances, he said, would have been under siege. Respect is not altogether a national trait, though. The American comedian, Reginald D Hunter, identified this in his early visits.

'The higher universities in this country, they teach people how to think the opposite way,' he said. 'Even people who are not highly educated do it – it's called taking the p***. And y'all take the p*** out of everything. You take the p*** out of the Queen, you take the p*** out of yourselves, you take the p*** out of the government – you even take the p*** out of your friends. I've met people who say, “This is my mate Barry – bit of a t***”.'

Yet once an England manager is appointed, irreverence is no longer allowed. Worse, we become unable to handle the truth, which is that – like any 64-year-old football manager, certainly one about to embark on his 20th job – Hodgson has had a varied career. No harm in that.

Sign of the times: Hodgson's record at Switzerland deserves careful attention

Sign of the times: Hodgson's record at Switzerland deserves careful attention

Harry Redknapp would have been no different, even Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have blemishes. Yet increasingly these last few days, any negatives – his recent time at Liverpool aside – have been airbrushed from Hodgson's picture.

We hear about his first season at Blackburn Rovers, but not his second; we hear that he only lost five of 22 matches with Finland, but not that he won only six. Most frequently, we hear that Hodgson took Switzerland to third in the FIFA rankings and the 1994 World Cup finals, but stop short at the details of that campaign.

Switzerland had an outstanding 4-1 win over Romania, but as for the rest, here's an amusing coincidence. The first game was a 1-1 draw with the United States, the last a defeat by a margin of three goals at the first knockout stage.

Switzerland's record at the tournament overall was one win in four. Now, funnily enough, an England manager had a very similar run at a World Cup quite recently, and nobody seemed very pleased; or was that just lack of respect

Another tradition bites the dust

A lot of people were upset by the booing of the national anthem at Wembley on Saturday. I felt sadder at the fate of the FA Cup final hymn, Abide With Me. Maybe the memories are rose-tinted, but I recall a time when the whole stadium joined in, as one.

It was a proper coming together, not some meaningless pre-match players' handshake, now a mere branding exercise for the television cameras. Abide With Me showed that, while we may support different sides, we are all here because we love football.

Now it has been lost as just another turn in the preamble, sandwiched between dull rock bands, duller dancing troupes, jets of fire and some idiot shouting, 'Wembley – are you ready for the FA Cup final' to which the only answer should be, 'We were ready at 3pm, mate. Same as we always are. You lot are the ones who have kept everybody hanging about.'

The words to Abide With Me were on the big screen, but few bothered to look, even fewer sang. And so another of English football's great traditions bites the dust. The FA Cup used to have its own style, but all finals look the same these days.

The game's changing: Little respect was offered to the traditional hymn Abide With Me

The game's changing: Little respect was offered to the traditional hymn Abide With Me

Douglas defeated

Rowley Douglas has lost his appeal to be reinstated as the cox of Great Britain's rowing eights. Good. Too much of the business around this London Olympics is being decided by lawyers or in the Home Office. Team selection is a matter for coaches and nobody else.

AND WHILE WE'RE AT ITWatch your speed

Colin Nicholson, chief executive of British Wrestling, says that the drug for which Myroslav Dykun tested positive is an amphetamine and therefore not performance enhancing.

Oh, really Amphetamines are speed and Dykun's tainted sample was given in competition. Is Nicholson really saying that a little jolt in those circumstances might not be advantageous

Equally, as northern soul boys will confirm, many prescription diet pills are amphetamine based, too. So in a sport governed by weight classes, would it not be of assistance to take an appetite suppressant

Pull the other one. It rattles.

It rattles: Dykun failed a recent drugs test

It rattles: Dykun failed a recent drugs test

Tackling the No 2 dilemma

So, having lost a first-choice backroom option, Andy Farrell, England rugby coach Stuart Lancaster has now been rejected by another candidate, New Zealander Wayne Smith.

If the RFU were not fussed at losing Farrell, thinking they had a blue chip appointment lined up, that plan has backfired.

At Lancaster's interview, the RFU wanted to know how he would go about introducing more experience to his staff. A show of strength in securing Farrell might have helped.

England cycle out of sync

The most puzzling aspect of the Football Association's appointment process is why the new manager received a four-year contract, lasting until after the European Championships in 2016.

Steve McClaren's dismissal, having failed to qualify for the 2008 tournament, skewed the cycle because it meant Fabio Capello's opening campaign was a World Cup.

This was a chance to get on an even keel again, European Championship first, World Cup second. Obviously, Roy Hodgson gets a bonus competition this summer, but England managers should be appointed in two-year cycles, with an option.

There is no absence of faith in such an offer and if the fear is a successful England manager departing too soon, surely that problem is fixed with the appointment of a domestic candidate.

Hired hand Capello may have been tempted mid-term but if Hodgson, for instance, has a good tournament in 2014, why would he want to quit And, if he doesn't, why would the FA want two more years

Hodgson needs to settle Rio/Terry dispute

Rio Ferdinand says he can play with John Terry. John Terry says he can play with Rio Ferdinand. Not good enough.

It has to go deeper than that and when Roy Hodgson eventually finds time to speak to both players, he must let them know. What cannot be allowed to happen is that two factions develop within the England camp.

That a player comes down to breakfast and finds Ferdinand and friends in one corner, Terry and pals in another, and is forced to make a choice. It is not just about lining up together on the pitch.

How Hodgson mends the personal divide is more pressing, because that is where the real trouble will start. Does he force them to become dining companions

A high-risk strategy, but failing to personal divide: Ferdinand and Terry address these issues could be worse.

Enough is enough: Hodgson needs to calm any tensions between two major players in his camp

Enough is enough: Hodgson needs to calm any tensions between two major players in his camp

Enough is enough: Hodgson needs to calm any tensions between two major players in his camp

Ken gets red carpet treatment

Once we stop laughing at Ken Livingstone decrying personality politics and media smears for his London mayoral defeat – as journalist Andrew Gilligan pointed out, having broken the story of Livingstone's tax complexities, it's not a smear if it's true, mate – we must turn our attention to an even bigger crisis. Ken's Olympic tickets.

Tessa Jowell, Livingstone's senior cheerleader during his doomed campaign, says her priority now is to make sure the former mayor secures entry to the big event, having missed out in the ballot.

Why Livingstone is no fan, or even friend, of sport. 'I couldn't care less about it,' he once said. 'The nearest I've been to sport is a snooker table at college.'

So why should he get a place that could go to a genuine enthusiast, when his prime motive for attendance would be self-aggrandisement Athletes get a lap of honour at the Olympic Stadium; rejected politicians don't.

Red carpet for Ken: Livingstone will be at the Olympics, despite his dislike for sport

Red carpet for Ken: Livingstone will be at the Olympics, despite his dislike for sport

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Liverpool 2 Everton 1: Jamie Carragher blushes spared

You spared my red face! Carragher grateful to team-mates after Blues waste his gift

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 15 April 2012

He marched towards the centre circle when time had been called on a frantic encounter, dropped to his knees and spent a few moments on his own, looking at the turf.

Watching Jamie Carragher at the end of any Merseyside derby is always the best barometer of how it has gone, and usually the veteran defender is the fist-pumping, smiling embodiment of elation.

This time was different. Liverpool had scrambled into the FA Cup final by beating their oldest rivals, but rather than leading the celebrations, Carra, whose 24th-minute error had led to Everton’s goal, was emotionally spent.

Relief: Carragher drops to his knees at the final whistle

Relief: Carragher drops to his knees at the final whistle

‘This was the biggest derby I’ve played in so I’m delighted the lads have helped me out,’ said Carragher, who was so wound up about the game that he struggled to sleep for three days.

‘It’s one of the biggest games I’ve played in, right up there with the Champions League final. I was close to tears, to be honest. The thought of the stick we would have got on the streets of Liverpool if we’d lost that game… I’m not sure we would have ever recovered.’

Had Liverpool failed, many would have asked the same of the Kenny Dalglish reign. Having endured intense scrutiny, in which results and performances have fluctuated wildly, losing to Everton would, in all likelihood, have been one blow too many.

The sacking of director of football Damien Comolli last week rattled Dalglish and left him under no illusion that Fenway Sports Group, the club’s owners, would act again if things went further awry. Liverpool simply had to win to release the intolerable pressure. That is why relief was the overriding feeling on their flight home.

‘If it’s me getting dog’s abuse then
that’s good,’ said Dalglish, who celebrated Andy Carroll’s late winner
with more gusto than he showed after his own strike that clinched
Liverpool’s second European Cup in 1978.

Blunder: Carragher is left on the turf as Jelavic celebrates the opening goal

Blunder: Carragher is left on the turf as Jelavic celebrates the opening goal

‘It takes the pressure off the players. My skin is a bit thicker than some of theirs. There are a lot of them here in their first year. It is important for everybody to go through some bad bits to realise how good the good bits are.

‘I have been there before and I suppose I will be again at some stage. I have never said at any given time we are the finished article and we still won’t say that night now. But what we will do… is get this football club moving in the right direction.’

There was a certain irony that it was Carroll and Luis Suarez who lifted Liverpool off their knees. They, more than anyone, have kept Liverpool in the headlines this year, but, crucially, they produced when it was needed, repaying a chunk of their combined 57.8million transfer fee.

Suarez played with more menace than he
has done since that incendiary exchange with Patrice Evra last October.
It looked at one point as if John Heitinga had him under control, which
led to flashes of temper and petulance from the Uruguayan. Yet he was
unrecognisable after the break and Carragher described him as
‘brilliant’.

Star men: Suarez and Carroll were a handful in the second half

Star men: Suarez and Carroll were a handful in the second half

Suarez’s speed, allied with Carroll’s power, unsettled Everton’s defence and the unflappable way he inflicted maximum punishment on a mistake from Sylvain Distin showed all that is good about him. If Liverpool are to progress, he must stay.

‘I have four years left on my contract and I am very happy to be here,’ said Suarez. ‘I hope good things continue. I am over (what happened with Evra). The important thing was the support from all the people (here). There is no need to talk about that (anymore) as it is in the past.’

Should Liverpool go on to complete a cup double, it would not mask the fact that enormous work must be done.

They are unlikely to finish higher than seventh and need to win their remaining five games to avoid a lower points total than last season.

‘We won the Carling Cup and we should
have gone on and put up a real fight to get in the top four,’ said
Steven Gerrard. ‘It never happened. But if we go on and win this cup, I
think we can look at this season as a success as far as the cups are
concerned.’

Plenty to do: Gerrard pulled no punches

Plenty to do: Gerrard pulled no punches

On a day of great emotion and poignancy, when both sets of supporters held an impeccable minute’s silence for the 96 souls who perished at Hillsborough 23 years ago, it was impossible not to feel sympathy for Everton.

Many believed this would be Everton’s day; that they would secure the victory that would lead to a shift in the balance of power on Merseyside.
For two-and-a-half weeks, David Moyes had built his players up and had them believing.

As it was, they were undone by a lack of big-game quality. They never laid a glove on Liverpool after taking the lead and, having now lost 13 of the last 23 games against their neighbours, one wonders how demoralising this defeat will be for Moyes.

‘The manager is trying to find an extra ounce out of every player each year to create special things,’ said Tim Cahill.

‘Liverpool seem to have luck on their side when they play us. We have lost to a good team but have had an amazing experience.’

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Chris Foy: Warren Gatland should lead British Lions

Who should lead Lions Gatland's the mane man

This should be the period of intrigue, as the final auditions take place before a head coach is named to take the Lions to Australia next summer. Except this time, it appears to be a simple equation.

The job must be given to Warren Gatland, to front a Wales-led crusade Down Under in 2013, with Sam Warburton emerging as the ultimate shoo-in for the captaincy.

Mane man: Warren Gatland

Mane man: Warren Gatland

John Feehan, chief executive of the Lions, confirmed this week that a coach will be appointed after this year's Six Nations. He also strongly indicated that the list of candidates is a short one, with Gatland, Andy Robinson and Declan Kidney thought to be the men in the mix, although Sir Ian McGeechan – Mr Lions rugby – may yet put himself forward again.

Feehan said: 'There are really only four or five people we are seriously considering. The likelihood is that the coach will come from the Six Nations. You don't have to be a genius to work out who the candidates are, so keep an eye on them and see how well they do.'

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We will John, we will. But for now, it is hard to look beyond Gatland.

Robinson finished the World Cup in an emotional state after failing to take Scotland into the quarter-finals. He was involved with the Lions in 2001 and 2005, but on the latter tour there were murmurs of dissent from within the Celtic faction, caused by his famously intense, stern approach.

Kidney lacks Lions experience and although he oversaw only the second Irish Grand Slam three years ago, his team also fell flat at the World Cup. He comes across as a coach who prefers to work quietly below the radar, rather than being the sort of dynamic, assertive figurehead needed to oversee a high- profile Lions expedition.

Gatland inherited a Wales team who had failed miserably at the 2007 World Cup and promptly won a Slam with them. Three years later, his exciting young team fell two points short of reaching the final in New Zealand. He has a clause in his contract allowing for a sabbatical next year to work with the Lions, he was part of McGeechan's management team in 2009 and is a natural at the helm. The fact that he is not British or Irish should not count against him, after so many years with Ireland, Wasps and Wales.

So this time, unless Wales suffer a catastrophic slump in the coming months, there should be no intrigue. Gatland as coach, then, some time next spring, Warburton to be named as a mature and brilliant young captain. They should stop taking bets now.

Clean record
Big success: Rugby World Cup

Big success: Rugby World Cup

When World Cup organisers unveiled their new headquarters at Twickenham on Monday, amid all the bold talk of record ticket sales and revenue growth and global interest in the event, one curious statistic stood out.

Mike Miller, the chief executive of the IRB, claimed that there hadn't been a single arrest at either the recent tournament in New Zealand or the previous one in France.

First, that is quite a claim as it must be difficult to quantify once outside the official match stadiums. However, if true it is a remarkable testament to the even tempers of rugby fans given the often prodigious amounts of alcohol consumed.

It also leaves officials in charge of the 2015 edition in this country with the daunting task of maintaining that clean record, which can't go on indefinitely.

Grow your own, the Tigers way…

The fierce Midlands rivalry between Leicester and Northampton was even evident in their reaction to the England squad announcements on Wednesday.

First, the Saints released a statement expressing their satisfaction at providing a quarter of Stuart Lancaster's 32-man senior contingent, which noted: 'The eight players in the England senior EPS represent a club record for Northampton in any one country's squad.'

Half an hour later, a release from the Tigers carried the headline: 'Home-grown Tigers in England squads' and began by saying: 'Richard Cockerill acknowledged the work of the Leicester academy after seeing five home-grown products named in the England elite squad.'

The emphasis in the Leicester statement may have had something to do with the fact that, of the eight Saints to be included, six of them came to Franklin's Gardens after emerging at other clubs (albeit a rugby league club in the case of Chris Ashton). Or maybe it was just a coincidence…

The last word

Earlier this week, Lawrence Dallaglio claimed that England have 'tried to put a square peg in a round hole' at openside flanker for some time, and despite insisting he had several high-calibre options at No 7, new head coach Stuart Lancaster conceded that there was no out-and-out 'poacher' or 'groundhog' in the Richie McCaw, David Pocock or Warburton mould.

He and Graham Rowntree spoke of trying to develop one, Andy Saull, in the Saxons. The problem is that the Saracens rookie can't get into his club team ahead of outstanding Namibia captain Jacques Burger.

Saull's brilliance against Harlequins at Twickenham last month, in the absence of an injured Burger, was at once heartening and infuriating, as it should be seen more often.

As another example of this issue, the IR B world Young Player of the Year, George Ford, was due to be in Belfast with Leicester today, to act as injury cover. He had been on loan at Leeds, with journeyman Irish flyhalf Jeremy Staunton recently preferred by the Tigers as deputy to Toby Flood.

Lancaster's ideal scenario is for a steady stream of talent to move up from the England Under 20 side into the senior ranks, but that plan is hampered by shortterm pragmatism at club level.

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Alan Shearer the favourite as Blackburn prepare to sack Steve Kean

Shearer favourite to take over as Blackburn prepare to sack Kean

Alan Shearer is the front-runner to take over as Blackburn manager as owners Venky”s prepare to put an end to Steve Kean”s public torment.

Venky”s bosses are studying reports of Saturday”s shambolic home defeat by West Bromwich before deciding whether to axe Kean now or hand him one final opportunity, in Tuesday”s basement battle with Bolton.

Al

Al”s your man: Former Newcastle boss Alan Shearer is being tipped to take over at Blackburn

Either way, former Blackburn striker Shearer is ready to step in after being nominated by key advisers as the prime candidate to restore harmony at a club riven by public opposition to Kean and plummeting player morale.

Monday”s Lancashire Evening Telegraph, the influential local newspaper, is expected to call for Kean”s removal in a front page editorial.

Fall guy: Steve Kean shows his pain during defeat against West Brom

Fall guy: Steve Kean shows his pain during defeat against West Brom

After a brief spell in charge of Newcastle, it is understood Shearer is interested in taking the reins, despite Blackburn”s perilous position near the foot of the Barclays Premier League and the likelihood that he would have only a modest budget in the January transfer window.

As Venky”s consider their options, they may well be swayed by Shearer”s standing among Ewood Park patrons after he spearheaded Blackburn”s title success in 1995.

Kean refused to concede his sacking was inevitable, despite more chants of “You don”t know what you”re doing” during Saturday”s 2-1 defeat.

“We have a massive game against Bolton on Tuesday, and yes, I do believe I will still be here for that,” Kean said.

“There have always been reassurances from the owners, and I haven”t heard anything to the contrary.”

Kean added: “Because the players don”t play well with the ball for one half of one game does not mean the negativity is getting to them.”

Chris Samba”s assessment was at odds with Kean”s and underlined the task facing Blackburn”s next manager in trying to lift morale.

“We are devastated,” said the Blackburn skipper. “We are so low. As a team, we have not proved we are good enough to stay in this league. It is difficult at the moment, because the mood in the dressing room is down.”

The timing of Kean”s departure appears to be the only remaining issue. As Rovers followed their normal procedure of examining matchday feedback from their beleaguered boss and director Simon Hunt, Venky”s were attempting to reach an agreement on when he should go.

They have been left in little doubt that Shearer should be appointed sooner rather than later, though former Blackburn manager Mark Hughes and Avram Grant are also in the frame.

Blunt message: Blackburn fans make their feelings known

Blunt message: Blackburn fans make their feelings known

Blackburn v West Brom Match Zone