Tag Archives: marginal

Paul Lambert defends Aston Villa youngsters

The kids are alright! Lambert defends Aston Villa youngsters despite recent hammerings

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UPDATED:

12:27 GMT, 28 December 2012

Paul Lambert has refused to blame Aston Villa's youngest-ever side for the club's recent beatings, saying the club's experienced players have done no better.

Villa have conceded 12 goals in their past two games and are in desperate need of a return to winning ways against Wigan on Saturday.

Lambert makes no apologies for looking up the Premier League table, rather than down it, despite the fact that Villa have let in more goals than anyone else and are the joint lowest scorers.

Standing firm: Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has the crowd behind him

Standing firm: Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has the crowd behind him

But he remains committed to the policy of blooding youngsters – the current average age of Villa's team is 23 – and he is remaining true to his recruitment policy.

'Over the last few years this club has had loads of experienced players and the situation hasn't really changed,' said Lambert.

'Experienced players won't always take you where you want to go. I know that from my own experience.

'I have a belief in the way we are doing it. In the long term this club will be great.

'There's no point me saying we are down there because of inexperience. This club was battling against relegation last season.'

Hard knocks: Villa were hammered by Chelsea and Spurs in their last two games

Hard knocks: Villa were hammered by Chelsea and Spurs in their last two games

Villa's eight-goal thumping at Stamford Bridge was the worst defeat in the club's history.

Conceding four without replay at Villa Park against Spurs on Boxing Day was a marginal improvement.

Yet the Holte End remained steadfast in their support of the team, staying behind to chant Lambert's name.

Villa are in the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup but their backing did not go un-noticed in the home dugout.

'It's the first time in years that I've seen that reaction from a crowd,' added Lambert.

No answer: Spurs winger Gareth Bale ripped Villa apart with a hat-trick

No answer: Spurs winger Gareth Bale ripped Villa apart with a hat-trick

'I think they see the bigger picture. Normally, when you are three down at home there is an evacuation. I think they can see the big picture.

'The fans have been fantastic and one thing you can say about this club is that the crowd have never not been behind it.

'My job is to rectify it, the fans I can't thank enough. For anyone who was there…well I've not seen that.'

Lambert is again short of options due to a lengthy injury list.

Ron Vlaar, Gabby Agbonlahor, Andreas Weimann, Nathan Baker, Charles N'Zogbia and Darren Bent are all sidelined for Wigan's visit.

Alex McLeish says Sir Alex Ferguson is a true genius

Alex McLeish: Ferguson is a true genius and what we know about him is just the tip of the iceberg

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UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 19 December 2012

I sincerely hope that those Harvard academics who worked alongside Sir Alex Ferguson realise how fortunate they have been.

I can absolutely guarantee this morning that any coach worth his salt will be trying desperately to source that blueprint for success.

And, after the career Sir Alex has enjoyed, who could blame them

Pals: Sir Alex Ferguson with Alex McLeish while the latter was at Aston Villa

Pals: Sir Alex Ferguson with Alex McLeish while the latter was at Aston Villa

I think it was Team GB's cycling performance director Dave Brailsford that I heard talking about 'marginal gains' during the London Olympics.

Well, Sir Alex has been practising that throughout his managerial career. Pretty much since day one.

I'll give you an example from the day when I turned-out for Aberdeen's youth team in a match under the lights at Pittodrie against Celtic.

He wasn't in charge that night, but as manager he had come down to watch.

The game had gone badly. We were three-down at half-time. He raced from the stands to the dressing-room and launched into us.

He turned to one of the boys, a team-mate of mine called Malky Thomson – and said: 'Tomorrow son, first thing, you are going for an eye test.'

All the boys looked at each other, we thought he was taking the mickey. But Malky had been misjudging the flight of the ball in the floodlights.

Sir Alex had called it. He was spot on. Malky went for that eye test. Turned out that my pal needed contact lenses. Oh, and we won the match 5-3.

That's what I'm talking about. There
was a time at Aberdeen when he went absolutely ballistic at us for
conceding a corner – never mind a goal.

Looking back, I think he did it to prove a point about standards dropping. But nothing is lost on him. Nothing.

Ferguson

McLeish

Long way back: McLeish was Ferguson's captain when he managed Aberdeen

For example, people talk about 'Fergie time.' He will argue with me, you or anyone who will listen that it's warranted. He absolutely 100 per cent believes that he is right.

Everyone makes a joke out of it now, but it's part of the psychology of the man and it speaks volumes for his precision as a coach.

Of course, in later years, he has had to adapt his methods of dealing with players.

He is far more mellow now than when I was playing for him – although he remains adept at letting you know if he is upset.

Fancy seeing you here: McLeish, while at Rangers, with his old friend Ferguson

Fancy seeing you here: McLeish, while at Rangers, with his old friend Ferguson

But I'll always remember one of the lines from his after-dinner speeches.

He tells a story and ends with the words: 'I taught him everything he knows,' before adding, 'good job I didn't tell him everything I know.'

I don't think he is joking about the punchline, either.

So what those academics really heard and saw was but a snapshot of the man.

They will not be able to replicate the genius of Sir Alex Ferguson – no matter how hard they try.

Matt Parker will learn rugby is not exact science – Chris Foy

New guru Parker will soon learn rugby is not an exact science

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UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 22 November 2012

When England were building towards their 2003 World Cup triumph, Clive Woodward repeatedly talked of the ‘one per centers’ — the focus on minor details which combined to give his side a crucial advantage.

Now the concept is back on the agenda for the national team, but this time they are taking their cue from British Cycling. Matt Parker, the sports scientist who was head of ‘marginal gains’ and played such a part in the glorious exploits in the Olympic Velodrome during London 2012, will soon be working at Twickenham as head of athletic performance.

It was unfortunate that news of the appointment should come on the back of a grim home defeat. This presented a comedic open-goal, and sure enough one wag on Twitter quipped: ‘It isn’t a marginal gain they need, it’s a cavernous gain.’

Different ball game: Matt Parker was head of 'marginal gains' for the cycling team at the Olympics

Different ball game: Matt Parker was head of 'marginal gains' for the cycling team at the Olympics

Yet, what the new recruit represents is an encouraging desire for England to set global standards once again, using any trump card they can muster. Expertise from within the ranks of British Cycling could serve as a major asset in that regard.

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However, what Parker will find is a sport where the appliance of science is, in a sense, a more subtle and complex business than it is in cycling. Rugby presents a less defined challenge for his winning methods. Granted, much comes down to physical preparation and a successful mind-set, which he will recognise, but raw emotion and collective will come into the equation in a way he may not.

Rugby and science have become joined at the hip. Players wear GPS tracking devices to gauge speed and movement, their heart-rate is monitored and analysed. Diets are strictly controlled, gym regimes are meticulously prepared.

But this is a game which puts an onus on raw courage and that cannot be drilled, although the work of psychologists helps. And old-school values have not been wholly eradicated. In France, there is still plenty of bread on the table and many players still enjoy a drop of red. Saracens have made a virtue of their ‘bonding’ weekends at Munich’s Oktoberfest and elsewhere.

There was a striking contrast after Argentina’s win in Cardiff this month. While the vanquished trooped off for stints in an ice chamber to aid their recovery, the victors cracked open a crate of cider. So, England are right to embrace progress and a visionary approach but they would be wise to strike a balance between new ways and old.

Quote of the week

England flanker Tom Wood reveals how he manages a persistent foot problem with this unusual alternative to a traditional spa session: ‘I put my foot in ice — I make it hot and cold to flush inflammation out.

‘I also claw with my feet in buckets of sand and rice in order to strengthen the toes. I try to do it three times a day. It’s generally done down in the physio room.

‘It’s quite nice here at Pennyhill Park, we have the massage and physio room downstairs, with the TV on, so I can just head down there and get the various treatments I need. I can get pampered for an afternoon in a bucket of rice!’

Rice is nice: Tom Wood loves to be pampered in a bucket of grain

Rice is nice: Tom Wood loves to be pampered in a bucket of grain

You’re still a hero at Exeter, Tom

Rob Baxter, Exeter’s director of rugby, evidently has a canny grasp of man-management. On Tuesday, he was given the unexpected news that Tom Johnson would be back with the Chiefs this weekend, after being dropped by England. His response was of the arm-round-the-shoulder kind — a strong public statement of faith in his surely despondent player.

‘Tom’s been incredibly unlucky but sometimes players get dropped on the back of a team performance rather than an individual one and that is what has happened with him,’ said Baxter. ‘He’s in that unfortunate position where he hasn’t done anything wrong. Most people have been very complimentary about the way he’s played.

‘I’m a little upset for Tom, but sometimes it’s a case of, “Last man in, first man out”, when they’ve looked to make changes, which I can understand.’

Thus, Baxter tactfully questioned England’s selection and bolstered Johnson’s self-esteem. Expect the flanker to respond with a storming performance against London Irish on Sunday.

The final word

To call this a big weekend for Wales would be something of an under-statement.

With the edifice of Welsh rugby seemingly on the brink of collapse, Lions coach Warren Gatland is back at the helm, with a Midas touch needed to avert a calamity against the All Blacks. Mixed messages are emerging about morale in the ranks.

Blame game: Warren Gatland said the media created a 'rift' in his squad

Blame game: Warren Gatland said the media created a 'rift' in his squad

On the one hand, the Kiwi was relaxed when naming his side and revealed that a quip to his management team at the start of the week that ‘the Messiah is back’ was met by a mocking put-down, which he took to be an encouraging sign.

Yet, on the other hand, Gatland condemned the media for supposedly creating a ‘rift’ between openside rivals Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric, while Jonathan Davies laid bare the hurt over criticism of players on Twitter.

If there is a concerted attempt to circle the wagons and create an us-against-the-world, siege mentality ahead of tomorrow’s clash with New Zealand, that could be an astute move. But if these are indications of a thin-skinned squad feeling the strain, heaven help them when Richie McCaw and Co set about them.

Parker leaves British cycling to join England rugby staff

EXCLUSIVE: England poach British cycling guru to spearhead World Cup push

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UPDATED:

10:36 GMT, 20 November 2012


Joined up: Matt Parker's appointment will be viewed as a stunning coup

Joined up: Matt Parker's appointment will be viewed as a stunning coup

Stuart Lancaster has made a bold move to enhance England’s back-room staff ahead of the next World Cup by recruiting a central figure from the all-conquering British cycling team.

Matt Parker was one of the sports scientists whose pioneering work helped paved the way for a gold rush in the velodrome at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

He has been recruited by Lancaster to fill the role of ‘head of athletic performance’, with responsibility for fitness and medical care, and his appointment is regarded by the RFU as a stunning coup.

An RFU spokesman told Sportsmail: ‘We are looking for someone of that calibre but nothing has been agreed.

‘This person will play a key role in the development of the England team through to 2015.’

However, it is understood that the deal has been done and Parker is due to take up his new post at Twickenham early in the new year.

He joined British Cycling as endurance coach in 2006 and went on to coach Bradley Wiggins to two gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.

Helping hand: Parker was part of the team which enabled Sir Chris Hoy and Co to perform so well

Helping hand: Parker was part of the team which enabled Sir Chris Hoy and Co to perform so well

Parker also masterminded the team pursuit squad’s world record ride at the 2008 Games, having introduced a completely new way of tackling the event.

More recently, as ‘head of marginal gains’, Parker has been one of those responsible for implementing Dave Brailsford’s fabled philosophy at British Cycling and Team Sky.

Cycling Guru Matt Parker joins England rugby staff

EXCLUSIVE: Cycling guru Parker joins England rugby staff after helping Team GB strike gold

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UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 19 November 2012


Joined up: Matt Parker's appointment will be viewed as a stunning coup

Joined up: Matt Parker's appointment will be viewed as a stunning coup

Stuart Lancaster has made a bold move to enhance England’s back-room staff ahead of the next World Cup by recruiting a central figure from the all-conquering British cycling team.

Matt Parker was one of the sports scientists whose pioneering work helped paved the way for a gold rush in the velodrome at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

He has been recruited by Lancaster to fill the role of ‘head of athletic performance’, with responsibility for fitness and medical care, and his appointment is regarded by the RFU as a stunning coup.

An RFU spokesman told Sportsmail: ‘We are looking for someone of that calibre but nothing has been agreed.

‘This person will play a key role in the development of the England team through to 2015.’

However, it is understood that the deal has been done and Parker is due to take up his new post at Twickenham early in the new year.

He joined British Cycling as endurance coach in 2006 and went on to coach Bradley Wiggins to two gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.

Helping hand: Parker was part of the team which enabled Sir Chris Hoy and Co to perform so well

Helping hand: Parker was part of the team which enabled Sir Chris Hoy and Co to perform so well

Parker also masterminded the team pursuit squad’s world record ride at the 2008 Games, having introduced a completely new way of tackling the event.

More recently, as ‘head of marginal gains’, Parker has been one of those responsible for implementing Dave Brailsford’s fabled philosophy at British Cycling and Team Sky.

I want England to learn from Team GB cycling success, says Stuart Lancaster

I want England to learn from Team GB's Olympic pedal power, says Lancaster

By
Chris Foy

PUBLISHED:

23:02 GMT, 14 August 2012

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UPDATED:

23:02 GMT, 14 August 2012

Stuart Lancaster didn't have time for a trip to the Olympic Velodrome while Team GB's cyclists were conquering the world again. But he saw enough from afar to reinforce his view that they provide the perfect template for his England rugby team.

Back in January, Lancaster invited Dave Brailsford, British Cycling performance director and Team Sky general manager, to address the national squad.

Brailsford, mastermind of Britain's cycling triumphs, was unable to attend, but he is likely to receive another invitation soon. Brailsford's success is founded on his philosophy of 'marginal gains' contributing to a decisive edge in competition.

Blueprint: Lancaster is hoping to use the systems implemented by British cycling

Blueprint: Lancaster is hoping to use the systems implemented by British cycling

Lancaster is a student of sports coaching and he, too, advocates the notion that attention to detail is a route to success, but he uses a different culinary analogy to emphasise the point.

For Brailsford it is steak and peas, with the meat representing core preparation and the veg as the finishing touches.

Lancaster considers a sweeter scenario. ‘I see it as a cake and icing,’ he said. 'What we have done in the past is focus on the icing with things like GPS and haven’t actually got a strong team culture and spirit in place with players wanting to work hard for each other.

'I now think we are at that second stage, where we are talking about the detail, the marginal gains bit but you can’t get there before you have the cake. It is about the players adopting that Olympic mindset of, “I will do everything I can to be the fittest I can be”.

‘I read the Team Sky book (Sky's The Limit — about the 2010 Tour de France campaign). I was interested in how they got the selflessness in a team where athletes who were gold medallists or winners themselves were supporting Bradley Wiggins in his attempt to win the Tour.

Winning formula: Brailsford led Team GB to a stunning medal haul in the Velodrome

Winning formula: Brailsford led Team GB to a stunning medal haul in the Velodrome

Winning formula: Brailsford led Team GB to a stunning medal haul in the Velodrome

'I was also interested in how that team was built and how Dave brought in guys from outside cycling, people with new ideas and it is definitely something we need to do in rugby.

‘In my evolution of the management team over the next 12 months there is definitely scope for that.’

The RFU announced on Monday that Sir Ian McGeechan and Peter Keen – former performance director of UK Sport who was instrumental in much of the Olympic success – would be conducting a far-reaching review of the England rugby operation.

They will set about their task with Team GB’s efforts as a reference point and Lancaster has already urged his players to use what they’ve seen from the likes of Sir Chris Hoy, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis as an inspiration.

He said: 'I talked to the players about Olympic fitness and by that I don’t mean I want them to be like Bradley Wiggins or Mo Farah, what I meant was the dedication to become that good and that professional.'

Tour de Force: Wiggins followed up victory in France with gold in London

Tour de Force: Wiggins followed up victory in France with gold in London

England go into autumn Tests against Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand needing to protect their place at No 4 in the IRB world rankings to earn a top seeding for the World Cup draw in December. By the end of next year, Lancaster’s target is for his side to be in the top two, which he describes as a ‘realistic goal’.

But if England are to emulate GB cyclists when the next global gathering takes place here, only first place will do.

England’s backroom team work with Lucozade Sport to ensure that the players are properly hydrated.

London 2012 Olympics mountain biking: Liam Killeen breaks ankle

Bad things come to those who wait… Biker Killeen breaks ankle in cross-country event

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UPDATED:

15:57 GMT, 12 August 2012

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Liam Killeen waited until the final day of the London 2012 Olympics for his chance and ended it in hospital for surgery on a fractured ankle.

The 30-year-old from Malvern recovered to finish fifth in Athens and seventh in Beijing after early crashes, but there was no way back on the second of seven laps of the cross-country mountain bike event at Hadleigh Farm, which was won by 2011 world champion Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic.

Killeen tumbled at Deane's Drop, a steep section of boulders on the 4.7-kilometre route, carved into an Essex hillside overlooking the Thames estuary, and was transferred to a London hospital for surgery on his left ankle.

Bad day: Liam Killeen tumbled at Deane's Drop

Bad day: Liam Killeen tumbled at Deane's Drop

British Cycling head of marginal gains Matt Parker said: 'He's got a clean break to his ankle.

'He was determined to push through the field quickly. My understanding is one of the wheels went, he hit a rock and that was it.

'It's just mountain biking. He'll be devastated.'

Killeen began the race in 25th place on the grid and was making progress through the field before the spill.

He was treated by medical staff on the course before travelling in an ambulance to Homerton Hospital alongside British Cycling mountain bike coach Phil Dixon.

The incident led to immediate questions over Killeen's Olympic future.

Tricky terrain: Riders roll over the rocks

Tricky terrain: Riders roll over the rocks

Chase him down

Parker added: 'Liam is still the outstanding mountain biker in the UK. I think the sport needs someone like Liam still riding.

'The young kids need to go and do the national points series and race Liam Killeen and see what the standard is.

'He's an incredible athlete, he's shown on an international stage that he can ride with the very best.

'Liam's next big effort for the sport will be to act as a target for these youngsters. Hopefully they'll come through and challenge him for Rio.

'Whether he goes that far I don't know, but we still need the likes of Liam in our sport.'

Podium places: Silver medalist Nino Schurter of Switzerland (left), gold medalist Jaroslav Kulhavy of Czech Republic (centre) and bronze medalist Marco Aurelio Fontana of Italy (right)

Podium places: Silver medalist Nino Schurter of Switzerland (left), gold medalist Jaroslav Kulhavy of Czech Republic (centre) and bronze medalist Marco Aurelio Fontana of Italy (right)

It can be a challenge to break through at international level, but Parker believes the development of Annie Last, the 21-year-old from Derbyshire who was eighth in the women's race, proves progress is being made.

'I don't think there's any reason why a youngster going into mountain bike can't succeed at the highest level,' Parker added.

Killeen was not the only abandonment as Kulhavy won in a sprint finish from Switzerland's Nino Schurter, with Italy's Marco Fontana third.

Julien Absalon, the champion in 2004 and 2008, withdrew after falling down the field as a result of a puncture.

Germany's Robert Forstemann, who entered the mountain bike event to exploit a loophole and take a place on the velodrome track, did not even start the race.

His team-mate Manuel Fumic, who finished seventh, said: 'He's a track guy. I don't think he is able to ride a mountain bike.'