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Diego Maradona takes to the court with tennis ace Caroline Wozniacki

Video: Watch out, Rory… Maradona proves a smash hit with tennis ace Wozniacki

By
Thom Drake

PUBLISHED:

19:41 GMT, 21 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

14:01 GMT, 22 February 2013

It's safe to say that Diego Maradona is having a busy week.

Following the news of his fifth child being born last Thursday, the ex-Argentina World Cup winner was snapped alongside Caroline Wozniacki at the WTA Dubai Tennis Championships.

It looks hard to tell who was more excited, with the pair swapping a signed football shirt and tennis racket courtside.

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Signed: Diego Maradona takes time out from watching the tennis for a photo alongside Caroline Wozniacki

Signed: Diego Maradona takes time out from watching the tennis for a photo alongside Caroline Wozniacki

Elated: Both Maradona and Wozniacki were full of smiles as the Dane towered over the sporting icon

Elated: Both Maradona and Wozniacki were full of smiles as the Dane towered over the Argentine

With her boyfriend Rory McIlroy away in snowy Arizona at the moment, Maradona may have seen his chance to get a photo with the in-demand former World No.1.

He also couldn't keep his hands off American player Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who appeared delighted at the attention.

After a little peck on the hand, a strangely long-faced Maradona posed for another picture.

Peck: Bethanie Mattek-Sands was next to receive the affections of father of five Maradona

Peck: Bethanie Mattek-Sands was next to receive the affections of father of five Maradona

Maradona currently resides in Dubai as 'honorary sports ambassador', helping the state with media relations in all major international sports events.

He has said in the last week that he will only be able to see his new son, Diego Fernando, when his commercial obligations finish in June.

As for now, he seems to be enjoying the high-life in Dubai, and can't keep away from a photo opportunity with the good and the great from sport.

Frown: A sullen faced Maradona may have been getting tired of posing with tennis players

Frown: A sullen faced Maradona may have been getting tired of posing with tennis players

An excited Diego Maradona meets Dubai semi-finalist Caroline Wozniacki

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Oscar Pistorius accused of having testosterone and needles at his home as court hears of "non-stop shouting" before gunshots fired

Pistorius accused of having testosterone and needles at his home as court hears of 'non-stop shouting' before gunshots fired
'Non-stop' shouting heard from Pistorius' home before shooting
Court hears Reeva was shot on right side of head, in right hip and right elbowPistorius is a flight risk and shouldn't be granted bail, says detectiveUnlicensed ammunition was found at the propertyPolice say testosterone, needles found in Pistorius' bedroomPistorius has said he had been a
victim of crime and received death threats

PUBLISHED:

06:38 GMT, 20 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

10:14 GMT, 20 February 2013

'Non-stop shouting' was heard coming from Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius' home before his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead, his bail hearing was told today.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said the prosecution team has a witness who heard the shouting between 2am and 3am.

Steenkamp, aged 29, was shot three times in her arm, hip and head.

Two containers of testosterone and needles were also found in the bedroom of Pistorius.

The details were revealed as the second day of the 26-year-old athlete's bail hearing began at Pretoria Magistrates' Court.

Back in court: Oscar Pistorius on second day of bail hearing

Back in court: Oscar Pistorius on second day of bail hearing

VIDEO Pistorius arrives at court two hours early for second day of bail hearing

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In an affidavit, Paralympic star
Pistorius has denied murdering the model Steenkamp, 29, at his
home in the early hours of Thursday.

He has said the couple were in love
and he fired through his closed bathroom door, hitting the victim,
thinking a burglar or burglars were inside.

Steenkamp was hit three times and today the court heard the bullets hit her arm, hip and head.

Pistorius has said he shot her with a 9mm pistol.

Investigating officer Hilton Botha said he wanted the Olympian charged additionally with a weapons violation after unlicenced .38 calibre ammunition was found at the property on the exclusive Silver Lakes Golf Estate.

Pistorius arrived at the court
building in a police car with a blue blanket covering his head as
prosecutors prepared to detail why they are charging him with
premeditated murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend.

Under cover: A TV crew film Pistorius arriving at court with a blanket over his head

Under cover: A TV crew film Pistorius arriving at court with a blanket over his head

Oscar Pistorius stands in the dock

Oscar Pistorius stands in the dock

Today's proceedings were delayed as more than 100 journalists squeezed into court to report the hearing.

There were chaotic scenes as one
reporter fainted, an overflow room was set up to provide more space and
courtroom screens had technical problems.

Mr Botha said he arrived at Pistorius's house at 4.15am when the victim was already dead.
She was wearing white shorts, a black top and was covered in towels, the court was told.

Mr Botha said he believed Pistorius,
who won two gold medals and a silver at London's 2012 Paralympic Games,
was a flight risk and he was opposing bail.

He also told court Pistorius has offshore accounts and a property in Italy.

The court heard that two mobile phones were seized at the property and neither had been used to call the police or paramedics.

Pistorius has said he had been a
victim of crime and received death threats, but today the court heard
there were no records of this.

Police told the presiding magistrate that testosterone and needles were found in Pistorius's bedroom.

The athlete – who was sobbing this morning in court – made notes with a silver pen as the case progressed.

It was claimed the track star was
involved in another shooting at a restaurant in Johannesburg in January
and asked the gun owner to take responsibility for the incident.

Mr Botha also told the court of an
incident at Kyalami racetrack where Pistorius allegedly threatened to
“f*** up” a man during a row over a girl.

Anxious wait: Oscar Pistorius' sister Aimee, brother Carl and father Henke in the courtroom on Wednesday

Anxious wait: Oscar Pistorius' sister Aimee, brother Carl and father Henke in the courtroom on Wednesday

Inside Oscar's Bathroom - a graphic illustrating a suggested representation of the events that lead to Reeva Steenkamp's death

Prosecutors want to show why he should be denied bail. Pistorius denies the charge, and said it was an accidental shooting.

The double-amputee Olympian, his
brother, father and uncle were inside the court room as proceedings for
the bail hearing began. The room was packed for a second day.

The 26-year-old Pistorius sat in the
back of the car, which was in a convoy of three police vehicles that
entered the Pretoria Magistrate's Court through a side entrance ahead of
the second day of his bail hearing.

A detective has testified that Pistorius is a flight risk and shouldn't be granted bail.

Mr
Botha also said in the star athlete's bail hearing Wednesday that
Pistorius illegally possessed .38-caliber ammunition in a safe in his
bedroom.

Pistorius is
charged with premeditated murder for the Valentine's Day shooting death
of Steenkamp with a 9 mm pistol. The policeman testified that Pistorius
did not have a license for a .38-caliber weapon and consequently
possession of that ammunition was illegal.

Pistorius
argued in a court affidavit Tuesday that the shooting was accidental
and he thought the model was an intruder in his home.

The detective says all Pistorius would say after the shooting was 'he thought it was a burglar'.

Pistorius' attorney read out an emotional statement on Tuesday in which the
athlete denied murder.

In the statement, which Pistorius was too upset to read out himself, the
athlete said the couple were 'deeply in love', adding: 'I am absolutely
mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva.'

In his statement, the 26-year-old claimed he mistook Steenkamp for a
burglar after hearing a noise in his bathroom.
Believing Steenkamp to be still in bed, he grabbed his 9mm pistol and
shouted a warning before firing shots at the toilet door.

Pistorius added: 'When I reached the bed, I realised that Reeva was not
in bed. That is when it dawned on me that it could have been Reeva who
was in the toilet.

'I returned to the bathroom calling her name. I tried to open the toilet
door but it was locked. I rushed back to the bedroom and opened the
sliding door exiting on to the balcony and screamed for help.'

According to Pistorius he then smashed his way into the toilet using a
cricket bat, finding her 'slumped over but alive'. He then phoned for an
ambulance and carried her downstairs, but she died in his arms.

Magistrate Desmond Nair ruled that the case was a schedule six offence –
meaning premeditated murder – for the purpose of the bail hearing in
Pretoria.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court the victim arrived at the house
between 5pm and 6pm on Wednesday, and went to the bathroom after an
argument between the pair.
He said that at 3am Pistorius got up from his bed, walked to the
bathroom door and fired four shots through the closed door, hitting her
three times.

Nel said: 'She couldn't go anywhere. You can run nowhere.'
He told the court Pistorius later told a friend he thought she was a
burglar. Nel added: 'It was all part of the pre-planning. Why would a
burglar lock himself inside the bathroom'

The bail hearing came as Steenkamp's funeral was held in her home town of Port Elizabeth.
Steenkamp was cremated at a memorial service attended by family and
friends who had travelled from around the world. Six pallbearers carried
her coffin, draped with a white cloth and covered in white flowers.

Earlier, French fashion house Thierry Mugler became the latest high-profile sponsor to distance itself from Pistorius.

The company has announced the immediate and complete withdrawal of all
products featuring Pistorius, including its 'A*men Pure Shot' fragrance
featuring Pistorius, which was launched as a special edition to mark
last year's London Paralympics.

In addition, Thierry Mugler has removed all point-of-sale advertising
featuring Pistorius, and deleted all references to the athlete from its
website.
Two other major sponsors, Oakley and Nike, also distanced themselves
from the athlete this week. Oakley has suspended its contract with
Pistorius while Nike said it has no plans to use him in future
campaigns.

Oscar Pistorius back in court for murder bail application as funeral held for Reeva Steenkamp

Pistorius 'attached his legs, walked seven metres and shot four times': Paralympic star back in court for murder bail hearing as funeral held for girlfriend Steenkamp

PUBLISHED:

06:41 GMT, 19 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

09:53 GMT, 19 February 2013

Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius shot dead his model girlfriend through a closed bathroom door, a court heard today.

A tearful Pistorius, known as the Blade Runner for his prosthetic legs, appeared in a South African court for his second appearance over the death of Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the hearing that Pistorius shot Steenkamp four times inside his Pretoria home on Thursday.

Pistorius, 26, was formally charged with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend.

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Oscar Pistorius, centre with head covered, leaves the Brooklyn Police Station on his way to court hearing on Tuesday

Bail hearing: Oscar Pistorius, centre with head covered, in a police car on his way to court on Tuesday

Solemn: Pallbearers carry the coffin of Reeva Steenkamp into the crematorium in Port Elizabeth

Solemn: Pallbearers carry the coffin of Reeva Steenkamp into the crematorium in Port Elizabeth

Emotional: Barry Steenkamp, father of Reeva (second left), arrives at the crematorium in Port Elizabeth

Emotional: Barry Steenkamp, father of Reeva (second left), arrives at the crematorium in Port Elizabeth

Respects: Springboks rugby star Francois Hougaard arrives for the memorial service

Memorial: Springboks rugby star Francois Hougaard arrives for the service

VIDEO She was good & strong. Reeva's brother remembers her ahead of funeral

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Mr Nel said the victim arrived at the house between 5pm and 6pm the night before she was killed at 3am. He said she was locked inside the small bathroom and was unarmed.

'She couldn't go anywhere. You can run nowhere,' said Mr Nel.

The prosecutor also said the athlete, who broke down in tears during the hearing, had not provided investigators with his own version of what happened.

Barry Roux, defending, said Ms Steenkamp was not murdered, and there were a number of cases where men have shot members of their own family through doors after mistaking them for burglars.

He also suggested that Pistorius broke the bathroom door down to help Ms Steenkamp after the shooting.

The charge was made as Steenkamp's
body was being driven to a church for a memorial service in the
south-coast city of Port Elizabeth. The family said members have
gathered from around the world.

Pistorius uncovered

When Sportsmail's award-winning photographer Andy Hooper was invited into the home of Oscar Pistorius

Laura Williamson: It might all be finished for Pistorius but the Paralympic movement will survive

Pistorius' arrest triggered shock
across the globe and prompted rumours that he might have mistaken his
girlfriend for an intruder in what could have been a Valentine's Day
surprise gone wrong.

But police swiftly distanced
themselves from that suggestion and said there had been previous
incidents of a 'domestic nature' at Pistorius' house.

His family has vowed to fight the murder charge in the 'strongest terms'.

Pistorius's management company has
issued a statement announcing it had 'no option' but to cancel all
future races the double amputee was contracted to compete in.

Managing agent Peet Van Zyl said the athlete's 'key focus is defending himself against this serious charge'.

Pistorius, who won two gold medals
and a silver at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, was contracted to
compete in the Manchester City Games on May 25, following Qantas Tour
races in Australia on March 9 and 16 and meetings in Rio de Janeiro
(March 31) and Iowa (April 26).

Video: Pistorius arrives at court

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Journalists watched Pistorius, head
covered with a hoodie, leave the police station and arrive at the back
entrance to the courthouse in Pretoria, before 7am.

Pistorius' brother Carl and longtime
track coach Ampie Louw – the man who convinced Pistorius to take up
athletics – were also in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court building,
pointing out friends of the family that should be allowed in. Queue of
dozens of people waited to go in that public entrance.

Pistorius
was remanded in custody after a hearing on Friday at which prosecutors
said they intended to pursue a case of premeditated murder against the
athlete – which means he could face a life sentence.

And
they are set to strongly oppose a bid by Pistorius' legal team for the
Paralympic athlete to be granted bail at a court hearing.

Breakdown: Oscar Pistorius wept uncontrollably in court as the charge was read out

Shocking: Oscar Pistorius was charged with murdering his girlfriend on Valentine's Day at his Pretoria home

Grisly scenes: A graphic cartoon strip has been published depicting the last moments before Oscar Pistorius allegedly shot his girlfriend dead

Grisly scenes: A graphic cartoon strip has been published depicting the last moments before Oscar Pistorius allegedly shot his girlfriend dead

Home: Neighbours of the athlete say they heard noise from the house (pictured today) just before the authorities arrived

Concern: Police say that there had been previous incidents of a 'domestic nature' at Pistorius's property

Police
swiftly distanced themselves from an initial suggestion that Pistorius
may have mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder in what could have been
a Valentine's Day surprise gone wrong.

They added that there had been previous incidents of a 'domestic nature' at Pistorius's property.
His family has vowed to fight the murder charge in the 'strongest terms'.

Pistorius's best friend claimed the
sports star called him minutes after the shooting telling him 'there has
been a terrible accident', according to the Sunday People.

Justin Divaris said: 'It's all very sad. Oscar called me at 3.55am saying that Reeva had been shot.
It was very traumatic. By the time we got there it was already a crime scene and we weren't allowed in the house.'

Pistorius's father said he had 'zero doubt' Miss Steenkamp's death was a
tragic accident and that his son may have acted 'on instinct'.

Henke Pistorius said he believed the model was killed after being mistaken for an intruder at his son's house.

Pistorius and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

Support: Pistorius's father said he had 'zero doubt' Miss Steenkamp's death was a
tragic accident

The funeral of Reeva Steenkamp also takes place today

The funeral of Reeva Steenkamp also takes place today

He said: 'When you are a sportsman, you act even more on instinct.

'It's instinct – things happen and that's what you do.'

Meanwhile Steenkamp's mother has paid tribute to her daughter, describing her as the 'most beautiful person who ever lived.'

Mrs Steenkamp told South African newspaper The Times: 'She loved like no one else could love.

'She had so much of herself to give and now all of it is gone. Just like
that, she is gone … In the blink of an eye and a single breath, the
most beautiful person who ever lived is no longer here.

'All we have is this horrendous death to deal with … to get to grips
with. All we want are answers … answers as to why this had to happen,
why our beautiful daughter had to die like this.'

David Cameron plays cricket in Mumbai

VIDEO: PM Cameron plays cricket in Mumbai… (and his cover drive is not bad!)

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

20:41 GMT, 18 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

20:41 GMT, 18 February 2013

He is used to batting back questions from journalists and fellow MPs, so meeting willow with wood out in the middle of a cricket pitch shouldn't be completely alien to Prime Minister David Cameron – and it shows.

The PM, currently on a trade mission in India, produced a couple of stylish cover drives while being filmed playing cricket with children in a local park in Mumbai this week.

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Shot, sir: Cameron crashes a drive through the covers

Shot, sir: Cameron crashes a drive through the covers

As an Old Etonian Cameron is no stranger to the game but nonetheless his ability with the bat in hand will surprise many.

The PM went for one drive too many though, eventually losing his off stump after being bowled through gate by a seaming delivery that no doubt jagged back in off the Mumbai dustbowl of a pitch.

VIDEO: Watch David Cameron playing cricket in Mumbai

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Cameron was playing with children from the Global Cricket School, which teaches children from Mumbai's slums.

'He said he hadn't had a hit for a long time but he got going and hit a few good cover drives,' said Sachin Bajaj, the school's leader.

Kevin Pietersen shouldn't be too worried about his England place though.

On a mission: Cameron was taking time out from trade discussions

On a mission: Cameron was taking time out from trade discussions

VIDEO: Liverpool ace Suso cheats at Guess Who? on LFC TV

VIDEO: Guess Who's the winner at Anfield when two Liverpool players go head to head for this title…

By
Frank Foster

PUBLISHED:

17:45 GMT, 13 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

21:36 GMT, 13 February 2013

Liverpool winger Suso had to be reprimanded by the presenter of LFC TV's Kop Kids show after cheating in a game of 'Guess Who' against Luis Enrique.

The young Spaniard locked horns with his fellow countryman at the classic children's game and the winger used some suspect tactics as he claimed victory.

Such was the controversy caused by his
indiscretions, Kop Kid's presenter Charlotte was forced to intervene and
declare a re-match.

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Cheeky: Suso appeared to cheat during a game of 'Guess Who'

Cheeky: Suso appeared to cheat during a game of 'Guess Who'

Cheeky: Suso appeared to cheat during a game of 'Guess Who'

The latest edition of LFC TV's Kop Kid's show saw the Spanish duo go head to head at a number of retro games including Hungry Hippos, Jenga, Buckaroo and Screwball Scramble.

Summer signing Fabio Borini also makes an appearance as another young presenter attempts to teach him some Scouse.

Young Liverpool fans will certainly hope that future competitors will respect the laws of the game a little more than Suso.

The show will air on at noon on Sunday.

VIDEO Watch Suso v Jose Enrique

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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.

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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

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VIDEO: Comedian John Bishop hit in the face by blindfolded Robbie Fowler

VIDEO: Comedian Bishop sees funny side after being hit in the face by Fowler during blindfolded penalty shootout

By
Richard Sharpe

PUBLISHED:

01:09 GMT, 12 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

14:18 GMT, 12 February 2013

John Bishop had the Kop in stitches on Monday night after the comedian and Liverpool fan was hit in the face by a ball kicked by Anfield legend Robbie Fowler.

The unlikely duo graced the pitch at half-time during Liverpool's 2-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion.

Fowler and comedian Bishop were on the pitch at Anfield during the break to support Liverpool's 'Seeing is Believing' initiative.

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Doing their bit: John Bishop (right) and Robbie Fowler (left) took penalties while blindfolded

Doing their bit: John Bishop (right) and Robbie Fowler (left) took penalties while blindfolded

Fowler, accompanied by his son Jacob, and Bishop took penalties while blindfolded during the interval to support the charity.

Liverpool had replaced their usual 'Standard Chartered' sponsors with the slogan 'Seeing is Believing' to raise money for the charity which seeks to eradicate avoidable blindness in developing countries.

The jerseys the players wore during a smash-and-grab defeat by West Brom will be auctioned to aid the cause.

Hijinks: Fowler lifts his blindfold to see how Bishop is getting on

Hijinks: Fowler lifts his blindfold to see how Bishop is getting on

Reds captain Steven Gerrard said
before the match: 'You realise at the time how difficult it is without
your sight. Especially doing activities.

'We were involved in a penalty shootout using a blindfold and it's so difficult.

'It
was really enjoyable to take part and very important for myself and the
club as well to play our part and try to help these people.'

Video Stand-up comic John Bishop gets whacked in the face with a football

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David Beckham better than Cristiano Ronaldo – The Footballers" Football Column by Adam Eckersley

ADAM ECKERSLEY: I played with Beckham and Ronaldo – but Becks was better… and on one of the few occasions Fergie spoke to me, he warned me of dangers of gambling

PUBLISHED:

08:36 GMT, 6 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

10:01 GMT, 6 February 2013

Adam Eckersley, Port Vale

Adam Eckersley played one first-team game for Manchester United, before moving to Denmark to play for Horsens and AGF Aarhus. The 27-year-old attacking full back also played for Port Vale, and had loan spells at Royal Antwerp, Brondby, and Barnsley. Here, he talks about life as a Manchester United youngster – and what it’s like being an Englishman abroad…

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BY ECK: CAREER HISTORY

2004-2008: Manchester United
2006: Royal Antwerp (loan)
2006: Brondby (loan)
2007: Barnsley (loan)
2007: Port Vale (loan)
2008: Port Vale (loan)
2008 – 2010: Horsens
2010 – AGF Aarhus

Man Utd 4-1 Barnet
League Cup third round, Oct 2005
Scorers: MU – Miller, Richardson, Rossi, Ebanks-Blake. Barnet – Sinclair

TEAM: Tim
Howard; Phil Bardsley, Gerard Pique, Wes Brown, Adam Eckersley; Lee
Martin (Darron Gibson), Ritchie Jones, Liam Miller, Kieran Richardson;
Giuseppe Rossi, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.

My Manchester United debut (at home to Barnet in the League Cup in 2005) was one of the best nights of my life. I was so nervous though.

We met at the hotel about 1pm, I couldn’t sleep, so I spoke to some first-teamers for advice.

I said to Wes Brown, who was playing that night but had made his debut seven years earlier: 'I’m really nervous, are you'

He just looked at me and said: 'I’m not that bothered, to be honest, mate'. I was like: 'Thanks mate!'

I actually found out I was playing the week before. Wes used to have poker nights, once a week on a Monday night. It started off with just a few, but we ended up with 25 to 30 down there. You’d get first-teamers but reserves too, people like me, Chris Eagles, Mark Howard.

At one, Rooney said to me: 'I’ve seen the team, you’re playing next week.'

The manager (Sir Alex Ferguson) once had a word about my poker. I was with the first team on the way back from Birmingham City, playing cards at the back of the bus with the lads.

The next day, the manager had a word. We weren't playing for big amounts, but he told me to stop playing poker, concentrate on my football.

He actually brought up Keith Gillespie, who had gambling problems. It wasn’t the hairdryer, but it was good advice.

I didn’t often speak to the manager at United. If you walked past him at Carrington, he’d make conversation but I worked more with Brian McClair and Jim Ryan.

Debut: Adam Eckersley (No 44) joins the melee of Manchester United players as they swamp goalscorer Liam Miller during the 4-1 Carling Cup win over Barnet at Old Trafford in 2005

Debut: Adam Eckersley (No 44) joins the melee of Manchester United players as they swamp
goalscorer Liam Miller during the 4-1 Carling Cup win over Barnet at Old Trafford in 2005

Rocket man: Eckersley scores against Peterborough during a pre-season friendly at London Road

Rocket man: Eckersley scores against Peterborough during a pre-season friendly at London Road

Larking around: Wes Brown has a giggle at Ruud van Nistelrooy's expense during United training in 2005

Larking around: Wes Brown has a giggle at Ruud van Nistelrooy's expense during United training in 2005

Still, you knew that he knew everything: how you were playing, how you were training.

When I left for good, his last words to me were: 'You’re going to have a great career, you’ve been fantastic here.'

That was really good to hear.

I was in Puccini’s restaurant in Swinton, Greater Manchester, when I first heard about going to Denmark. In 2006, our reserve team manager at United, Rene Meulensteen, went to manage Brondby.

He signed Mark Howard from United. I’ve known Mark since I was five – we played for the same junior team in Salford, Barr Hill – and one day he phoned me up. He asked if I wanted to sign on loan. It was the first I’d heard of it!

Brondby wasn’t my first loan spell abroad. Earlier that year, I went to Antwerp in Belgium. It came as a shock: I came into training one morning, Jim Ryan dragged me in, and said you’re going to Antwerp this afternoon.

There were a few of us over there: Danny Simpson (now at Newcastle United), Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (Wolves), Lee Martin (Ipswich). We lived in a hotel for six months. It was a good opportunity to play first-team football.

What’s the difference between the reserves and first-team games It’s a feeling. In a first team, you’re someone important. You’re doing a job. You’re playing for points, for people’s livelihoods, for the manager’s job.

We would get six or seven thousand people at Antwerp, rather than 300 down at Altrincham for United reserves. I saw my career as a ladder, and this was another step up the ladder.

Injuries aren’t funny. I came back early from my loan spell at Brondby because I did my hamstring. I couldn’t take being injured.

I missed the buzz of the crowd, so I came back too soon. When you get older, you know when to stop. You think, 'You can either miss three games or three months'. When you’re younger, you don’t think like that. You just want to be out there.

Fitness battle: Eckersley at a Danish hospital with his legs in a special recuperation chamber

Fitness battle: Eckersley at a Danish hospital with his legs in a special recuperation chamber

More from The Footballers' Column…

The Footballers' Football Column – Edgar Davids: If Platini can't stop racism, he should step aside and get someone in who can… Blatter and Cruyff should be leading by example
01/02/13

MARTIN ALLEN: There are so many good, young English managers like Parkinson and Tisdale… But they are being overlooked for foreigners who have done nothing
01/02/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Karl Henry: Only a handful of Premier League players can do everything – work hard, tackle, score goals… Gerrard, obviously, but Wilshere is the best
29/01/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Graham Westley: It was cancerous when I arrived at Preston. Did anyone turn up drunk for training Probably… but I made 24 signings to clear out and start again
28/01/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Stephen Constantine: In England we coach the life out of players by the time they're 21… In Spain the emphasis is 'the ball is your friend', at home it’s 'get rid of it!'
25/01/13

KEVIN KEEGAN: I don't like players kissing the badge – show you care by the way you play… Suarez needs to sort himself out, fans are desperate to worship the ground he walks on, not falls on
21/01/13

RAHEEM STERLING: I get kicked a lot – it's annoying trying to sleep with your legs in pieces… Ivanovic is the scariest man I've played against but he's not dirty, he's a tank
18/01/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Richard Lee: I should've been a striker… you can be dreadful but bang in the winner and be hailed a hero, says the goalkeeper who is allergic to goalkeeping gloves
18/01/13

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

If you’re coming back from loan spells injured every week, it doesn’t look good. You look at other people who’ve had good loan spells and it really helps them: Tom Cleverley at Wigan, Jonny Evans at Sunderland, Danny Simpson at Sunderland and Blackburn, others.

Injuries held me back a little bit: I’m not saying I’d have been good enough for the first team, but they didn’t help.

In 2007, I had a loan spell at Port Vale and was sent off on my debut (at home to Brighton). I was booked in the first half for a good tackle, threw the ball into the floor, and gave the ref some stick.

In the 80th minute, the attacker was through, I caught him, it was almost a professional foul. I think the ref remembered the stick – he couldn’t get the red card out quick enough!

I still got man of the match though, so not all bad.

Looking back, I rushed my permanent move to Port Vale in 2008. No disrespect, but I think I could have signed for a team higher up the leagues. But I was at the end of my tether with reserve-team football.

I needed a new challenge. I had Evra, Heinze, Silvestre ahead of me. I thought 'you’ve got no chance'.

I signed a six-month deal at Port Vale, but I didn’t really like the football. The Horsens manager, Kent Nielsen (who played at Aston Villa from 1989 to 1991), had seen me during my loan spell at Brondby, and took me over there.

I knew the league, I knew the living conditions. In my first season, I injured my knee and we were relegated, but we won the First Division (the Danish second tier) the next season.

I then went to AGF, who’d been relegated from the Superliga. We went straight back up. Now we’re five points off second, although Copenhagen are running away with the league.

Take a look: Reading manager Brian McDermott watched Eckersley last year but a deal never materialised

Take a look: Reading manager Brian McDermott watched Eckersley last year but a deal never materialised

Living in Denmark was a lot easier after I met my Danish girlfriend, Elizabeth – she's now my wife. I’ve got to know her family; it’s like a home from home.

Do I speak Danish Elizabeth’s trying with me every day. The problem is, everyone here speaks English so well. I’m taking lessons though, and this time next year I reckon I’ll be OK. I don’t want my wife and kids, when we have them, speaking behind my back!

I’m not desperate to come back to England. If a Premier League team came in for me, of course I’d consider it.

Brian McDermott at Reading watched me last year but it didn’t work out. But there’s nowhere I wouldn’t go: Germany, Holland, anywhere. Moving abroad has made me grow up fast.

Family guy: Eckersley with his daughter in Denmark

Family guy: Eckersley with his daughter in Denmark

David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo are the best I’ve played with. If I had to choose Beckham.

I remember a first-team session at United, eight versus eight. Roy Keane was on my team; Beckham was on theirs. He kept crossing, and they kept scoring from them. I couldn’t get near him. Keane was shouting at me, going mad: 'Adam! You’ve got to get out to him, stop the crosses!'

I thought: 'The best full backs in the world can’t stop him, so what chance do I have!'

Keane just wanted the best though. I’m a bit like that with the younger players now.

Top class: Cristiano Ronaldo

Simply the best: David Beckham

Simply the best: Adam played with David Beckham (right) and Ronaldo at United but rates Becks as better

FOLLOW ADAM ON TWITTER

CLICK HERE TO FOLLOW @ADAMECK6

There are some really good players in Denmark – Lars Jacobsen (Copenhagen, formerly Everton, Blackburn and West Ham), Dennis Rommedahl (Brondby, formerly Ajax and Charlton), Martin Jorgensen (AGF, formerly Udinsese and Fiorentina). It’s a tough league and I enjoy it.

If you’d told me 10 years ago how my career would go, I wouldn’t have believed it. I’ve spoken to my mum about it. It’s amazing how it’s gone.

Elizabeth says it was all mapped out so I’d meet her.

Mario Balotelli donated his wages to charity before David Beckham started

Beckham may be about to donate his PSG wages to charity, but Balotelli started doing the same thing a while ago…

, when he and Brown became an item, and when his fame grew even further.

One particular celebration now known as the “Hulk pose” went viral on the internet – something Brown says Balotelli truly revelled in while revealing he also used his fame to avoid a speeding fine when in Manchester.

'Mario googled himself obsessively to see how popular he was,' Brown said.

Settling in: Milan hope Balotelli can become a key member of their new-look side

Settling in: Milan hope Balotelli can become a key member of their new-look side

'He loved the web craze where people were photo-shopping the “Hulk” pose he did after scoring for Italy in the semi-final [of Euro 2012] and was beside himself when it made it on to Fifa 13.

'We were out in his Bentley once and he got stopped for speeding. But the policeman's face lit up when he saw it was Mario and let him off in return for an autograph!'

VIDEO Balotelli happy to be training with AC Milan

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