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Gary Lineker deleted Twitter to spend more time with family

Twitter was taking over my life, admits Lineker after deciding to say goodbye to his 1.3m followers

By
John Drayton

PUBLISHED:

10:16 GMT, 20 January 2013

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UPDATED:

11:35 GMT, 20 January 2013

Gary Lineker left Twitter because the social networking site had begun to ‘take over’.

The Match of the Day presenter had stated that he had deleted his account for ‘personal reasons’ last week.

But the former England striker has elaborated on his reasons for leaving Twitter, and said that he would like to spend more time with his family.

Quit: Gary Lineker left Twitter to spend more time with his family

Quit: Gary Lineker left Twitter to spend more time with his family

The 51-year-old told The Sun: ‘I left twitter because it tends to take over and I thought I would try life without it. There is absolutely nothing sinister about the decision at all.'

Lineker had become one of the most followed users in Britain – with 1.3million fans – since he started tweeting last year.

However the ex-Tottenham hitman was targeted by one internet troll last year, who joked about his son George’s battle with leukaemia. Lineker later said the disgusting taunts made him feel ‘physically sick’.

Lineker has four sons with his ex-wife and is now married to former model Danielle Bux, who has a daughter from a previous relationship.

The TV pundit’s final tweet – posted on Friday – said: ‘I’m leaving Twitter for personal reasons . Thanks all.’

They think it's all over... it is now for Gary Lineker with this final message

They think it's all over… it is now for Gary Lineker with this final message

FA 150th anniversary: Fabrice Muamba, Olly Murs and Fabio Capello join in celebrations

Stars come out to play as FA celebrates 150th anniversary with glitzy bash in London

caused by the John Terry racism case.

He said: 'One hundred and fifty years ago a group of people met on this site and they changed the world by producing the first laws of the game.

'Throughout that extraordinary journey the FA continued to sit at its heart.

Positive sign: Former England manager Fabio Capello stops for a few autographs

Positive sign: Former England manager Fabio Capello stops for a few autographs

'Despite occasional frustrations we have always and will continue to our play our full part in influencing the development of football in UEFA and FIFA.

'Even after 150 years there remains a simple beauty to the universality of football – from Wembley to parks football a single unbreakable thread runs through.

'The bedrock of English football are the more than 2million people who play football every week.

'Women's football is third biggest participation sport in the country, disability football is the seventh biggest.

Game for a laugh: Terry Venables (centre), Lawrie McMenemy (right) and Peter Reid share a joke

Game for a laugh: Terry Venables (centre), Lawrie McMenemy (right) and Peter Reid share a joke

'We have experienced terrible tragedies including Hillsborough and Valley Parade and these events, their victims and their lessons must never be forgotten. They are an indelible part of our story.

'We are also committed to equality and inclusion.'

Earlier in the day, John Barnes was one of the first stars to arrive, signing autographs for young fans and asking if they've done their homework.

Sir Trevor Brooking was one of many wearing a 150th gold badge and former England manager Fabio Capello, looking dapper, accidentally walked into the press room! That was quite amusing, maybe he has some points to make!

VIDEO: History of FA in 150 seconds narrated by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

President Prince William was not there but in a video message he said: 'Football part of very fabric of our society.

'Hope 150th year shines light on
incredible grass roots, especially 400,000 coaches, refs and
administrators up and down the country.'

Hodgson was joined on stage by Michael Owen and blind footballer Dave Clarke.

Owen's stunning goal against Argentina
at the 1998 World Cup was shown and the Stoke striker said: 'When you get
older, you realise how good a time that was.'

Three Lions tamers: (l-r) Roy Hodgson, Fabio Capello, Sven Goran Eriksson, Terry Venables and Graham Taylor

Three Lions tamers: (l-r) Roy Hodgson, Fabio Capello, Sven Goran Eriksson, Terry Venables and Graham Taylor

England skipper Steven Gerrard said it is a 'huge honour to be captain of country' in his video message. The Liverpool midfielder apologises twice for not being there.

Barnes and Mark Chamberlain are up. Barnes' goal against Brazil in 1984 is shown and the former Liverpool star says: 'I was looking for someone to pass to.'

David Beckham – who is on a pre-planned visit to hospital patients and is also appearing on video – recalls getting up early at weekends to go to football practice in London then Manchester.

'I owe my family a great deal for taking me to matches,' said the former England captain, who represented his country 115 times.

He says stepping out a England captain is 'the proudest moment an Englishman can have.'

Singer Olly Murs was also on stage, not performing but he will be at Wembley later in the year, apparently.

FACTS ON THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION
Formed in 1863, it is the oldest football association in the world.It is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the amateur and professional game in England.The FA oversees the England national teams at all levels for men and women.Its competition, the FA Cup, began in 1872 and is the longest-running association football competition in the world.Aristocrats and Royals have dominated the list of past FA presidents – the current president is Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge.The longest-serving FA secretary or chief executive was Stanley Rous, from 1934-62. He then became FIFA president and was later knighted.The FA's current headquarters is at Wembley Stadium. For 71 years, until 2000, its offices were at Lancaster Gate before it moved to Soho Square for only nine years until the move to the new national stadium took place.The current FA independent chairman is David Bernstein, and the general secretary is Alex Horne.The FA board is split between the professional game and the national (amateur) game. Since last year there are also two extra independent members including Heather Rabbatts, its first female board member.

Star of the screen: David Beckham sent a message as the FA launched the 150th anniversary celebrations

Star of the screen: David Beckham sent a message as the FA launched the 150th anniversary celebrations

FIVE PEOPLE WHO MADE THE FA WHAT IT IS TODAY

1 Sir Stanley Rous
Unquestionably, the man who has had the biggest influence over English football.
Rous was FA secretary from 1934-1961, he re-wrote the laws of the game in 1938, and championed England's entry into FIFA in 1946. He left in 1961 – to become FIFA president.

2 Ebenezer Morley
A solicitor and who was first inspired with the belief that football should have a set of rules in the same way the MCC had for cricket.

It was his initiative that led to the formation of the Football Association in 1963 and the became the FA's first secretary and later its president.

He also drafted modern football's first rules.

3 Sir Denis Follows
Although some commentators have suggested Follows' era as FA secretary between 1962 and 1973 was uninspired, he did oversee two significant events – though with much influence from his predecessor Rous, who was the FIFA president.

The first was England hosting and winning the 1966 World Cup; the second was in 1971 rescinding the ban on women's football being played at Football League grounds, a rule which had stood since 1921.

4 Ted Croker
FA secretary between 1973 and 1989, he transformed the finances of an organisation via sponsorship and realised the potential of TV income.

He has the misfortune to be in charge during an era when the game was bedevilled by hooliganism, and with three terrible disasters: Bradford, Heysel and Hillsborough.

He defended football in the face of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's attempts to sideline it, telling her famously: “These people are society's problems and we don't want your hooligans in our sport.”

5 David Bernstein
He has only been FA chairman for two years, but has done much to restore it from an all-time low point after the humiliation of the 2018 World Cup bid defeat in 2010.

He persuaded the FA council to agree to reforms to modernise the organisation, including independent board members and the first woman on the board.

He also confronted some painful issues, apologising for the FA's role in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and the organisation's approach to racism following the John Terry abuse case.

Brazilliant: John Barnes scored a famous goal against the Samba superstars in 1984

Brazilliant: John Barnes scored a famous goal against the Samba superstars in 1984

FA TIMELINE

1863 – First meeting of the Football Association at the Freemason's Tavern on October 26 to agree common rules.
– Ebenezer Cobb Morley appointed first FA secretary and was responsible for drafting the first set of rules.
– First game with the new rules played at Mortlake on December 19 between Barnes and Richmond. It finished 0-0.

1872 – The first FA Cup tournament, involving 15 teams, concludes when Wanderers and Royal Engineers meet at The Oval on March 16. In front of 2,000 spectators, Morton Betts scores the only goal for Wanderers.

– England play their first full international match, against Scotland at Partick. Game finishes 0-0.

1873 – England play first home game at The Oval, beating Scotland 4-2.
William Kenyon-Slaney (2), Alexander Bonsor and Charles Chenery get the goals.

1877 – The three different sets of rules – Sheffield Rules, London Rules and Mixed Rules – are amalgamated.

1886 – First meeting of the International Football Association Board held in Holborn.

1908 – England play first match overseas. Beat Austria 6-1.

1923 – Wembley Stadium opens. Becomes the permanent home for the England team and the FA Cup final. Bolton beat West Ham 2-0 in the first final. The attendance is recorded as 126,047, although it is thought many more were present.

1924 – England play at Wembley for first time. Draw 1-1 with Scotland.

1930 – The FA decline FIFA's invitation to enter the first World Cup, also snubbing the 1934 and 1938 tournaments.

1934 – Stanley Rous named secretary. Remains in position for a record 28 years.

1947 – Join FIFA and agree to share a permanent vice-presidency position with Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

1950 – England compete in a World Cup for the first time, losing 1-0 to the USA in the process.

1953 – First home defeat to overseas opposition – other than Ireland – as England are beaten 6-3 by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti getting a hat-trick and Ferenc Puskas getting two more.

1954 – England lose 7-1 to Hungary in Budapest, their heaviest defeat.

1955 – Duke of Edinburgh named president.

1959 – Billy Wright captains England for a record 90th time. Is equalled by Bobby Moore in 1973.

1966 – England hosts World Cup, beating opposition from West Germany and Spain to hold the event.

– England win tournament, beating West Germany 4-2 after extra-time at Wembley.

1981 – Bert Millichip becomes chairman, a post he holds for 15 years.

1990 – England record their best World Cup performance overseas, reaching the semi-finals in Italy where they are beaten on penalties by West Germany.

– Peter Shilton wins a record 125th cap in the third-place play-off defeat to Italy.

1992 – The Football Association takes control of the newly-created Premier League.

1996 – Hosts Euro 96.

2000 – Wembley Stadium closed for rebuilding work, done at a cost of 798 million by Australian firm Multiplex.

2000 – Loses to Germany in the contest to stage the 2006 World Cup.

2001 – England gets its first foreign manager as Sven-Goran Eriksson is appointed as successor to Kevin Keegan.

2003 – Mark Palios named chief executive. His brief tenure includes banning Rio Ferdinand from playing in a Euro 2004 qualifier with Turkey after the Manchester United defender fails to take a drugs test. Resigns in 2004 after media revelations of an alleged affair with Faria Alam.

2006 – Prince William named president.

2007 – Wembley re-opened in time for FA Cup final.

2008 – Signs a record 425 million deal with ITV and Setanta for England and FA Cup games. Setanta goes into administration during the 2008-09 campaign.

2010 – Chairman Lord Triesman forced to resign after alleging Spain and Russia had tried to bribe referees during 2010 World Cup.

– FA embarrassingly receives only two votes – including its own – in voting to host 2018 World Cup, which Russia wins.

2012 – National Football Centre at St George's Park opens.

2013 – Launches 150th anniversary celebrations at Connaught Rooms in central London.

Fran Halsall vows to bounce back in Rio – Laura Williamson

I'll make waves in Rio, vows Halsall after flopping at home Olympics

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UPDATED:

22:09 GMT, 30 December 2012

Fran Halsall has made an important New Year’s resolution. The British swimmer never again wants to feel the way she did in the summer of 2012 after finishing the Olympic Games without a medal.

She has written it all down, just in case she ever needs a reminder, because Halsall is determined she will never feel like that again; so low she did not attend the post-Games parade because she ‘didn’t think she should enjoy it’.

While 2012 was an unforgettable year of sport for so many, there are those for whom 2013 and beyond promises far better things.

Gutted: Fran Halsall struggled to perform at the London Olympics

Gutted: Fran Halsall struggled to perform at the London Olympics

More from Laura Williamson…

Laura Williamson: Farewell to Plucky Brit syndrome, and good riddance
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Laura Williamson: Pity 2012 feelgood factor has faded so quickly
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Laura Williamson: I won't be fighting in Rio but you could as taekwondo seeks new stars
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Laura Williamson: Kids have no chance when vile chants are treated like nursery rhymes
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

A silver medal in the 50-metre freestyle at the World Short Course Championships in Istanbul earlier this month ‘was never going to make up for the Olympics’, but it has helped Halsall get her spark back. She has a new coach — James Gibson, who guided France’s Florent Manaudou to Olympic gold in the men’s 50m freestyle in London. But, most importantly of all, her confidence has returned.

‘Knowing I’m still a fast swimmer feels really good,’ she says. ‘I gave myself a little pat on the back, if you like. I’m really happy.

‘It took me a couple of months to get over the Olympics. There was a lot of upset and blame; of thinking I’m not good enough. I couldn’t deal with the fact I wasn’t good enough and it wasn’t a very nice feeling.

‘But I took ownership of it and I swam fast again. That was all me. It’s not an Olympic medal but I had to differentiate between Fran the swimmer and the person. You can’t live your life like that.’

Halsall was tipped to star in the pool at London 2012 but did not win a medal in any of her five events. She was not the only one to disappoint, of course: Britain’s swimming team came away with only a silver and two bronze medals at their home Games and have lost 4million of funding as a result.

British Swimming conducted a review into what went wrong in London, which largely blamed the leadership of coaches and the timing of the national trials, which were held 13 weeks before the Games in March.

Bouncing back: Halsall has vowed to return to form for Rio in four years

Bouncing back: Halsall has vowed to return to form for Rio in four years

Head coach Dennis Pursley and performance director Michael Scott also quit, prompting Rebecca Adlington to call the situation ‘an absolute mess’.

Halsall, though, has conducted her ‘own review’ and has a much simpler explanation: she over-trained. Working under Ben Titley, who has since moved to Canada, at Loughborough University, she says she was an ‘Olympic keeno’.

Halsall picked up a shoulder injury in mid-May, which kept her out of the pool for ‘a few weeks’.

‘Trials weren’t the problem,’ adds Halsall. ‘I have always swum faster in the summer: this was the first year I didn’t. You have to swim fast for the trials, wherever you put them.

Back on track: Halsall in Turkey

Back on track: Halsall in Turkey

‘The issue for me was I did too much. I was an Olympic keeno. I probably overdid it and ended up picking up an injury. I tried to do more than I had ever done before.

‘I didn’t want to talk about my shoulder problem (before the Games). It’s an excuse and I didn’t want that. My focus was on swimming as fast as I could and I didn’t want to have that distraction. I still fought for every 10th of a second in every race.’

Halsall, though, is already a veteran of two Olympic Games, despite being only 22 years old.

She is determined not to make the same mistakes third time around.

‘I’m not too old just yet,’ she says. ‘I’m looking forward to Rio in four years’ time.’

Fran Halsall uses Multipower Sportsfood: www.multipower.co.uk

What they said

It's little wonder David Weir described the New Year Honours list as ‘a bit strange’ after Sarah Storey became a Dame but Weir, who also won four Paralympic gold medals in London, was given a CBE.

‘Sometimes it seems that Paralympians have to win lots and lots of medals to get a damehood or a knighthood,’ Weir told the Daily Telegraph.

Here's what I've been doing this week

Chugged around the country for the feast of festive football. Clubs might whinge about fixture congestion, but I love the tradition of it all. It works in other sports, too: just look at the record 82,000 people at Twickenham for Saracens’ win against Harlequins on Saturday.

Watched Superstars and revelled in the sheer naffness and rain-sodden Britishness of it all. I can cope with only having shooter Peter Wilson on my television screen every four years, but I enjoyed Mo Farah’s attempts at kayaking, the Brownlee brothers’ rivalry and being proved wrong by Helen Glover’s prowess on the track. And there was I thinking rowers are not always the most co-ordinated of athletes on dry land.

Back on our screens: Olympians took part in the BBC show Superstars

Back on our screens: Olympians took part in the BBC show Superstars

According to Fulham’s programme for their 1-1 draw with Southampton, I ‘swooned’ when I wrote about Dimitar Berbatov’s ‘style and swagger’ in his side’s 2-1 victory against Newcastle this month. That made me laugh, but not as much as the striker’s handwritten ‘Keep Calm and Pass Me the Ball’ T-shirt, which suggested Berbatov is not averse to ‘swooning’ about himself, either.

Performance of the week

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert continues to predict that ‘Aston Villa will be fine’ despite his side suffering a 15-0 deficit over the festive period. That’s some crystal ball he got for Christmas.

Roberto Mancini still searching for a "Plan B" as Manchester City slip up again on Wearside

Mancini still looking for 'Plan B' as Man City slip up again on Wearside

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UPDATED:

23:20 GMT, 26 December 2012

Manchester City's afternoon finished with Joleon Lescott at centre forward, Joe Hart pitching up for two added-time corners and City coach Brian Kidd on the touchline. All are signs of tension, and yesterday, not good signs.

As City pushed in vain for an equaliser, Kidd will have heard the comeback news from Old Trafford with familiar bewilderment. Everyone did. Then the final whistle blew and Roberto Mancini stood apart, literally, with a thousand-yard stare and a seven-point deficit. There had been no release.

Out of touch: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini (right)

Out of touch: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini (right)

City had lost again on Wearside. The champions of England have it all to do if their fans are to sing that line this time next year.

The 'champions' song had got an early airing at the Stadium of Light, along with an un-witty ditty about Robin van Persie.

But by five o'clock City fans bore silent witness to their first away defeat since April. The noise from United must have disturbed them as much as their team's frustration and while Mancini played down the significance of one day in a 38-game campaign, the halfway mark comparison with last season is revealing.

City are not just seven points off United, they are six points short of their own tally of a year ago. Then they arrived at Sunderland top of the table, with a first title in 44 years to chase but lost 1-0 to Ji Dong-won's 90th-minute goal.

Mixed message: Defender Joleon Lescott finished the game upfront

Mixed message: Defender Joleon Lescott finished the game upfront

An appealing contrast yesterday should have been that they had time to recover from Adam Johnson's 53rd-minute strike, which had so embarrassed Hart and led to him seeking late atonement.

But City couldn't level matters. They don't look like the rising force they were 12 months ago; they look like they are searching. Mancini blamed 'soft' attacking, a reference to Sergio Aguero's 70th-minute chance and an earlier one for David Silva, both saved by Simon Mignolet. Mancini's lack of panic was understandable. City flowed for the opening 20 minutes, Mignolet's importance to the home win tells a story and Aguero and Carlos Tevez showed a great understanding.

Yet before kick-off Kolo Toure had sounded concerns about City requiring a 'Plan B' when faced by opponents who sit deep. That followed Saturday's stoppage-time winner from Gareth Barry to beat Reading.

Adam family: Johnson returned to haunt his old club

Adam family: Johnson returned to haunt his old club

But Toure cannot have been talking about throwing on Lescott in the 89th minute as a regular viable alternative. Lescott replaced midfielder Javi Garcia, whose performance was neither energetic nor creative.

City must have both in places like this, but Yaya Toure displayed only flashes of his authority. Privately, he'd probably like some help.

But this wasn't all about City. The teamsheet sparked a legitimate debate as to which Sunderland players would get on the City bench, never mind the first XI. Johnson came from that bench. Yesterday he reminded City of his talent. Johnson's new manager, Martin O'Neill, did the same.

Laura Williamson: Farewell to Plucky Brit syndrome, and good riddance

Farewell to the 'Plucky Brit' syndrome… and good riddance

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UPDATED:

23:22 GMT, 23 December 2012

With all the hoo-hah over the Olympic and Paralympic sports that missed out on funding for the next four years, one very significant detail seems to have been overlooked.

As UK Sport announced a record 347million investment in British sport last week, they also revealed an ambitious target to beat 2012’s haul of 65 Olympic medals and 120 Paralympic medals in Rio de Janeiro.

We have just experienced the most incredible year of British sport and now we want to get even better That should surely be celebrated.

Golden year: UK Sport a investing record amount into sporting excellence in Britain in 2013

Golden year: UK Sport a investing record amount into sporting excellence in Britain in 2013

More from Laura Williamson…

Laura Williamson: Pity 2012 feelgood factor has faded so quickly
16/12/12

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09/12/12

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Laura Williamson: I won't be fighting in Rio but you could as taekwondo seeks new stars
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Laura Williamson: As Sportsmail enters the ring with an Olympic star, Jonas shows being a warrior woman is worth fighting for
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Laura Williamson: Kids have no chance when vile chants are treated like nursery rhymes
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Laura Williamson: Wit is the only way to counter football's vile chants
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

So too should UK Sport’s ‘no compromise’ approach to funding the British Olympic and Paralympic team. The organisation will only support genuine medal prospects, meaning some Olympians and Paralympians have been cast out in the cold.

The basketball, handball and wrestling squads, for example, which will not receive a penny unless they can show they’ve bucked their ideas up at their annual review.

Harsh Yes, certainly. But fair Definitely. This is sport we are talking about here. It isn’t reality television. It is brutal and it hurts like hell if you lose. That is why it’s such a delicious feeling to win.

And British sport is about winning these days, after all.

We’re being fanciful if we think we still exist in a sporting utopia in which every contest ends with the schmaltzy climax of a Disney film and the nice guys always get the gold. Elite level sport is not a pastime, it’s a profession. It’s about British Cycling’s much-applauded ‘marginal gains’ and a pragmatic, analytical pursuit of success.

In the past it has too often seemed our athletes have achieved success in spite of the system, but now it is because of it.

I feel for the people who missed out. I know how hard the women’s indoor volleyball team have worked and seen the strides the men’s basketball team have made.

I was upset when I realised I had broken the news to a goalball athlete on Twitter that the men’s team would not be receiving any future funding.

There was a long conversation with the father of a table tennis player who felt badly let down and confused as to the next step, having spent the last decade looking for bargain budget flights to far-flung corners of Europe so his son could try to win peanuts in prize money.

These athletes have every right to feel slighted and disappointed; to wonder about the next step in their careers. But they should not be surprised.

Benefits: British Cycling's approach to success has been a shining example to other sports

Benefits: British Cycling's approach to success has been a shining example to other sports

Their governing bodies have let them down if they thought it would be any other way.

Many of them experienced London 2012 purely because we were the host nation and their chances of making it to Rio are remote, to put it kindly.

We were utterly abysmal at most team
disciplines at London 2012, don’t forget. Why should UK Sport divert
cash from the sports that did deliver to allow people to spend another
four years chasing an impossible dream

It is far better to cut our losses and
concentrate on helping the next generation to build an Olympic
legacy, hence the 493m of money that Sport England will invest in
grassroots sport over the next four years.

Olympic table tennis, for instance,
had all of its elite level funding cut on Tuesday, yet its governing
body still claimed the ‘future for English table tennis is assured’
after a sport played regularly by almost 100,000 people received a 20
per cent increase in support for building participation.

Be inspired: Luol Deng is the stand-out star in a Team GB basketball team soundly beaten at the Games

Be inspired: Luol Deng is the stand-out star in a Team GB basketball team soundly beaten at the Games

This is not about class, as some have tried to make out. Cutting basketball’s elite level funding for the next four years will make little difference to the inner city kids who are basketball’s primary target audience. There is still potentially 6.75m of funding to come from Sport England for their benefit, including 1.54m to support young, emerging talent.

I realise these future stars need to see a pathway to success and have role models to follow, but I fail to see how watching a British basketball team getting regularly hammered would have more influence than a teenager seeing Luol Deng do his thing for the Chicago Bulls.

Neither do I automatically buy the claims about all the ‘sacrifices’ people made to reach London 2012, either. They could have been working from nine until five in a dead-end job they hated instead of pursuing their dream of being a full-time athlete.

The ‘Plucky Brit’ – eternally hopeless but emotionally heart-warming – has, thankfully, been consigned to history.

The UK Sport formula works. Elite level British sport is no longer about making up the numbers and celebrating getting to finals. We want to be on top of the podium now, thank you very much. It may be a brutal approach but it is also brilliant.

Transition: Gary Neville showed Laura behind the scenes at Monday Night Football

Transition: Gary Neville showed Laura behind the scenes at Monday Night Football

…AND THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING THIS WEEK

Spent the day behind the scenes at Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football. Interested to see Gary Neville agonise over whether to call Reading 'naive' during their 5-2 defeat by Arsenal. He thought it reflected badly on the manager, Brian McDermott, which was not his intention, deciding to highlight Nicky Shorey's 'poor' game instead.

Small steps

At UK Sport's funding announcement on Tuesday there were three female executives alongside Sports Minister Hugh Robertson. On the same day, UK Athletics announced Jenni Banks as their new wheelchair racing coach, reporting to Paralympics head coach Paula Dunn. Small steps…

Taking the mic
Sitting behind the dug-out during Tottenham’s dull draw against Stoke I noticed fourth official Stuart Attwell taking off his microphone when speaking to the managers. Did he not want the man in the middle to hear

Performance of the week

Double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin and her horse Valegro ended a remarkable 2012 with dressage victory at the World Cup freestyle event at London’s Olympia. They scored 87.975 per cent, which is rather good.

Sir Alex Ferguson hails Bundesliga but says Premier League is still top

Fergie hails Bundesliga but Man United boss says Premier League is still the best

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UPDATED:

12:00 GMT, 20 December 2012

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes the German Bundesliga is threatening the Premier League's status as the most exciting league in the world.

For the first time since 1999, more teams from the Bundesliga made it out of the initial group stage of the Champions League than their English counterparts.

With Bayern Munich, Schalke and Borussia Dortmund in the last 16.

Pole position: Bayern Munich are leading the way in the Bundesliga

Pole position: Bayern Munich are leading the way in the Bundesliga

German giants: Bayern had a Christmas message for their fans in Munich

German giants: Bayern had a Christmas message for their fans in Munich

So, with cheap ticket prices fuelling a soccer boom in the country, Ferguson believes they offer a genuine challenge to England's position.

'The Premier League is still the most exciting in Europe,' Ferguson told Eurosport. 'The great thing about our league is that anyone can beat you.

'It has always had that great quality and in general it is 100 per cent commitment, which the supporters recognise.

'But Germany is very successful at the moment also. The crowds there are fantastic and it is very cheap in relation to English football, which encourages supporter participation.

Realistic: Sir Alex Ferguson recognises the power of the Bundesliga

Realistic: Sir Alex Ferguson recognises the power of the Bundesliga

No 1: Fergie is convinced the Premier League is still the most exciting

No 1: Fergie is convinced the Premier League is still the most exciting

'The stadiums are great and the games are good quality with a lot of goals.

'Germany is creeping up but ours is still the most exciting.'

For the second season running, England lost half its Champions League contingent at the group stage.

Big-spending
Manchester City have found the acclimatisation process much harder than
they hoped, whilst this term Chelsea also bowed out, just as United did
12 months ago.

Atmosphere: Borussia Dortmund's home is one of the best arenas in the game

Atmosphere: Borussia Dortmund's home is one of the best arenas in the game

'Europe has been disappointing for the Premier League teams over the last couple of years,' said Ferguson.

'For quite a few years we were getting three teams in the semi-finals, or at least two. In 2008 it was an all Premier League final.

'But sometimes you get blips. I don't think it is going to be a consistent thing. I think English teams will always be challenging to be in the latter stages of the European Cup.'

Rodger Federer meets Pele in Brazil

Gifts for the great: Pele and Federer swap shirts as they meet in Brazil

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UPDATED:

00:22 GMT, 11 December 2012

One legend met another as tennis star Roger Federer and former Brazil great Pele rubbed shoulders over the weekend.

Federer went to Pele's residence in Brazil to exchange gifts with one of the finest players in football history.

Pele was given a signed tennis shirt with a personal message from Federer, while in return he offered a signed 1960s-era blue Brazil shirt.

Exchange: Pele and Roger Federer swap gifts and then engage in a warm embrace (below)

Exchange: Pele and Roger Federer swap gifts and then engage in a warm embrace (below)

Hugs: Pele and Federer

Federer in a Brazil shirt

Football or tennis Federer with an over-sized tennis ball

It's gone to his head! Federer kicks an over-size tennis ball (right) at the Gillette Federer tennis exhibition

'I love playing tennis and today one of the greats of the game dropped by to say hello,' Pele wrote on his Twitter page.

'Roger Federer, you are a champion on the court and in life.'

Federer said on Facebook: 'Today I had the great honour of meeting the legendary Pele.'

He is in South America to play in the Gillette Federer tennis exhibition tournament.

The Sao Paulo competition also
involves Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki, Serena Williams and
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, among others.

Just for fun: Federer and Tommy Haas of Germany share smiles

Just for fun: Federer and Tommy Haas of Germany share smiles

On the ball

Balls in hand: Federer

Rio Ferdinand not to blame for actions of Manchester City fans

Ferdinand to blame for 'inciting' Man City fans No chance. You can't rob English football of its key ingredient: passion

|

UPDATED:

15:39 GMT, 10 December 2012

Let's get this straight: Rio Ferdinand was not celebrating in front of the Manchester City fans and he was certainly not to blame for that cut above his eye.

A text message landed in my phone, seconds after the final whistle brought down the curtain on the tempestuous 164th Manchester derby.

'Ferdinand's bang out of order', said the sender. I found it hard to comprehend. 'Why so' was my reply.

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Struck down: Commentators have tried to apportion some of the blame on Ferdinand for his celebrations

Struck down: Commentators have tried to apportion some of the blame on Ferdinand for his celebrations

'Celebrating like that, rubbing it in the City fans' faces. He's lost it', was the explanation. I could barely bring myself to reply.

I'd just watched the United defender walking off the pitch with blood streaming from a wound a centimetre or two above his left eye.

His crime Celebrating 93rd-minute winner against the Barclays Premier League champions – their city neighbours, no less – to send his team six points clear at the top of the league.

It came after his team had thrown away a two goal lead, only to snatch the spoils right at the very close of a match that will live long in the memory.

Bang out of order Lost it I don't think so.

Pitch invader: Ferdinand was also targeted by a fan who raced onto the field

Pitch invader: Ferdinand was also targeted by a fan who raced onto the field

Pitch invader: Ferdinand was also targeted by a fan who raced onto the field

Various social media, radio and press outlets have lumped a portion of blame on Ferdinand for celebrating on front of the City fans following Robin van Persie's winning free-kick.

Well, that's not true for a start, he was in front of the United fans.

The coin must have travelled quite a distance before it arrived at his brow, as Ferdinand said in his post-match tweet, it was 'some shot'.

But so what if he had celebrated in front of the City fans He and his team-mates had earned the right to celebrate wherever they wanted to.

They'd just won the most important match of the season, three points secured which, at the end of the season, could decide the final destination of the title.

United front: Ferdinand was celebrating in front of the United fans and Rooney receives abuse (below)

United front: Ferdinand was celebrating in front of the United fans and Rooney receives abuse (below)

United front: Ferdinand was celebrating in front of the United fans and Rooney receives abuse (below)

Against a team who did the league double over them last term, scoring eight goals in the process. He had every right to get excited.

Look at the picture of Wayne Rooney, facing a barrage of vile invective from City fans which illustrates the levels of abuse players face on a regular basis.

And what was the alternative after the winning goal was scored A gentle ripple of applause from the travelling supporters followed by handshakes all round as the United players walked back to the centre circle

That anodyne vision of the future would rob the passion – arguably it’s the key ingredient – from the most-watched league in the world.

We demand the very highest standards from the players. Demand they cede no inch, sweat every last drop and leave the field of play shattered, but then want to deny them the right to savour the very moment they pull on their kit for: Score goals. Win games.

Of course players have a duty to not goad supporters with inflammatory gestures. But to celebrate in those circumstances in front of his own fans as Ferdinand did cannot and should not be outlawed.

To suggest he 'crossed the line' is nonsense. The line was crossed when those dozens of fans – and it was dozens, check the amount of coins on the field around Ferdinand's feet – starting rifling through their pockets for some shrapnel to direct at the opposition.

And it is nothing new. The only difference is this time a coin actually hit a player.

Ugly scenes: The fans directed abuse at each other as well as the players

Ugly scenes: The fans directed abuse at each other as well as the players

Ugly scenes: The fans directed abuse at each other as well as the players

Sir Alex Ferguson said after the match: 'It's unfortunate that a City fan runs on and coins are thrown. The same thing happened at Chelsea, which was masked by all the other things. I have not known many more dramatic days than that.'

Screaming in delight following the denouement of a successful title-race battle is not a criminal offence. Gashing someone's face with a missile is.

Commentators should remember that before pillorying those who actions week in, week out give us reason to celebrate.

Ugly scenes: The fans directed abuse at each other as well as the players

Ugly scenes: The fans directed abuse at each other as well as the players

VIDEO: Fans react to the violence…

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Richie McCaw ready to wreck England hopes

Captain McCaw never forgets the time England actually BEAT the All Blacks…

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UPDATED:

00:02 GMT, 1 December 2012

Richie McCaw is always a man to fear. On Saturday at Twickenham, he will have more reason than usual to terrorise England.

The New Zealand captain plays his 116th international before taking a six-month sabbatical and will want to sign off with a performance to remember.

He will be aiming for 80 minutes of devastating rugby that lets the All Blacks know what they will be missing.

Modest: Richie McCaw has every reason to perform to his devastating best against England

Modest: Richie McCaw has every reason to perform to his devastating best against England

Rolling on: All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen drives a cart into Twickenham on Friday

Rolling on: All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen drives a cart into Twickenham on Friday

McCaw is too modest to talk about his own impact on the rugby field but he did deliver the ominous message that he is feeling fresh, fit and strong.

The flanker has a long memory and recalls the last time the All Blacks lost to England, in 2003, very clearly.

'There's always a bit of atmosphere around and there's history, too,' he said.

'The first time I played England in 2003, we got knocked over. Then they won the World Cup and since then it meant they were the team to beat.'

The All Blacks' efforts should not be hindered by illness. McCaw reported a clean bill of health for a team hit by a stomach bug earlier this week: 'It might have been interesting if it had been Friday night, not Tuesday night.

'We're lucky it wasn't. It would have knocked the stuffing out of a few guys. Hopefully, it won't take too much out of us.'

There are two secrets to McCaw's decade of dominance as an openside flanker – invisibility and supreme physicality.

He has forever pushed the boundaries of the law at the breakdown, yet has by and large escaped punishment from referees.

His uncanny knack of getting away with it, of pushing gamesmanship to the limit around the ruck, has made him almost unstoppable as the best turnover merchant in the history of the professional game.

Eyes on the ball: Dan Carter hones his kicking skills on Friday

Eyes on the ball: Dan Carter hones his kicking skills on Friday

Fit for purpose: Captain McCaw was in training on Thursday

Fit for purpose: Captain McCaw was in training on Thursday

The second factor is his fitness. The All Blacks do crucifying fitness drills, then McCaw stays behind for extra work.

At the World Cup he was playing with metal pins rattling in a broken foot. His performances during New Zealand's triumphant campaign prompted commentators to say he was a better player on one leg than most players are on two.

At 6ft 1in he is not the biggest, yet there is an aura of you-shall-not-pass about him.

McCaw, helped by a foot operation to heal three broken bones, has pieced himself back together so successfully that he has played a full part in one of the All Blacks' most glorious years, which reaches its finale today.

His goal is to return in the middle of next year refreshed in an attempt to lead the All Blacks in the defence of the World Cup in 2015.

'We are going to give it a good go,' said the 31-year-old modestly about continuing a career that has already made him the most capped New Zealand player.

'But there's a bit of water to f low under the bridge and there are a few coaches who may have a say in the matter. If it doesn't happen, there's nothing lost in trying.'

Another challenge: McCaw's team-mates Ma'a Nonu (left) and Piri Weepu (right) took part in some wheelchair rugby

Another challenge: McCaw's team-mates Ma'a Nonu (left) and Piri Weepu (right) took part in some wheelchair rugby

Like a duck to water: Nonu seemed to be enjoying the variation of his sport

Like a duck to water: Nonu seemed to be enjoying the variation of his sport

McCaw recognises that he has no right to a return. Coach Steve Hansen has made it clear that likely replacement Sam Cane would make sure he would have to be at his best to reclaim his jersey next year.

McCaw's push for perfection has led to him putting on weight this year in an effort to keep up with changing trends in the professional world.

'I was a bit worried if the extra size would affect me but – especially in loose forwards – the game has gone in the direction of guys who can bring something physically.'

Bouncing back: Chris Robshaw hopes to improve on England's performance against Australia

Bouncing back: Chris Robshaw hopes to improve on England's performance against Australia

Flair: Owen Farrell wants to match Carter

Flair: Owen Farrell wants to match Carter

MEANWHILE… ENGLAND'S WOMEN SEEKING ALL BLACKS SCALP
Shiner: Katy McLean

England women's captain Katy McLean, sporting a shiner, hopes to lead her team to a first 3-0 Test whitewash over the All Blacks tonight at Twickenham following the men's Test.

England have won 16-13 and 17-8, but last year also took a 2-0 series lead only to draw the final game. Head coach Gary Street warned: 'The target is to take a 3-0 series win and I am confident we can do that.'

McCaw has also been working on his
ball-carrying skills. His winning desire remains ferocious to the extent
that he is not taking anything for granted today against Chris
Robshaw's England team.

He
was not prepared to criticise Robshaw for the controversy at the end of
last week's South Africa Test when the England captain's decision-
making was questioned by Owen Farrell.

What would McCaw, who has made those calls in 78 games, have done if a New Zealand player had questioned his authority

'Well, you mean one of the boys I run the philosophy that I am more than happy for the guys to speak up, but there comes a time when someone has to make a decision and once it's made you buy into it.'

And on his personal contribution to a great team, he added: 'I look back on this year and feel I've been reasonably consistent.

'There are parts you keep working on but if I look back I'm pretty satisfied.'

England have been warned.

Laura Williamson tries taekwondo

I won't be fighting in Rio but you could as taekwondo seeks new stars

|

UPDATED:

22:09 GMT, 25 November 2012

Sarah Stevenson, the first British athlete to win an Olympic medal in taekwondo, is trying to teach me how to kick.

This is no mean feat, considering I am about as flexible as the tin man from The Wizard of Oz, but she offers a kind appraisal of my efforts with my right leg.

My left leg, however, is ‘crap’. She doesn’t mince her words, Stevenson, though they are delivered with a smile.

Scroll down to watch a video of Laura in training

Full stretch: Laura Williamson tries out taekwondo with Sarah Stevenson at the UK centre in Manchester

Full stretch: Laura Williamson tries out taekwondo with Sarah Stevenson at the UK centre in Manchester

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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

‘You can be the best kicker in the
world,’ she adds, more encouragingly, ‘but if you haven’t got the bottle
in this sport there’s no point doing it.

‘I’ve
seen lots of champions in the gym. They’re amazing with their kicking
but they can’t fight. You’ve got do what needs to be done in the ring.’

This, I quickly realise, is part of the ‘hardcore attitude’ that got Stevenson to the Olympics despite a 12-month ordeal nobody should ever have to endure. After becoming world champion in May 2011 she lost her father Roy to a brain tumour in July and then her mother, Diana, to cancer in October.

It almost seems insignificant in comparison, but Stevenson then had surgery to repair cruciate ligament damage in February this year – and yet still made it onto the mat at London 2012. The 29-year-old from Doncaster lost in the first round, but just getting there represented a quite remarkable achievement.

It is this kind of extraordinary ‘bottle’ GB Taekwondo want as they aim to recruit the next wave of Sarah Stevensons in the run up to the Rio Olympics in 2016. Keen to build on the success of the London Games, where Jade Jones won gold in the -57kg category and Lutalo Muhammad – who came through the Talent 2012 scheme – a bronze at -87kg, they are looking for males and females aged between 16 and 26 who have enjoyed national success in a kick-based martial art to transfer to Olympic taekwondo. The only criteria I fit is being female, before you ask.

‘I’d want to see a decent amount of technique,’ said Stevenson, ‘but if they’ve got a good attitude with some all right kicking skills, you can’t teach that.

‘I never really saw any (girls) with that fighting spirit, like I thought I had, until little Jade Jones came along.

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‘Just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you can’t do this sport. We need to get more girls and we need more depth.

‘Imagine if the girls had the depth as well as the talent we’ve already got We would be smashing it, wouldn’t we’

Stevenson and Jones are used to training with the boys. They believe it has contributed to their success, but it can be demoralising winning only occasionally in sparring sessions, while the timing is different to fighting a girl.

They accept there are stigmas attached to taekwondo that could be off-putting for female athletes – ‘little Jade Jones’ rolls her eyes at the fact people always expect her to be ‘this big, hulk-looking type person’ – but extol the impact it has had on their confidence and self-belief.

Potential: Laura worked with London Olympian Stevenson as part of taekwondo's drive for Rio

Potential: Laura worked with London Olympian Stevenson as part of taekwondo's drive for Rio

Potential: Laura worked with London Olympian Stevenson

‘You do change,’ says Stevenson. ‘You’re not this girl, you’re an athlete. You don’t think about being a girl. You think: “Come on. We’re having a fight.”

‘If you’re going to sign up then you’ve got to know that this is not easy. This is the hardest thing you’re ever going to do.

‘But hopefully it’s going to help other girls to get involved and to be that other person they want to be, rather than sitting at home in pink putting make up on.’

Stevenson pauses and smiles again.

‘You can do that at a weekend,’ she adds.

If you are involved in martial arts and want to find out more about Fighting Chance:Battle4Brazil go to www.uksport.gov.uk/talent.

WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING THIS WEEK…

Visiting Barcelona for the IAAF Athlete of the Year awards, won by Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix. Bolt’s ‘double double’ – becoming the first man to win the Olympic 100-metre and 200m titles at consecutive Olympics – was incredible, but David Rudisha would have got my vote. The Kenyan’s world record-breaking 800m run in London was an extraordinary sporting performance in a stellar year for athletics.

Listening to Arsene Wenger talk about the ‘completely emotional’ world of football on Tuesday.

Winners: Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix were named athletes of the year

Winners: Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix were named athletes of the year

Now they speak of (Roberto) Di Matteo (getting sacked),’ said the Arsenal boss, with incredulity in his voice. ‘He’s just won the Champions League and the FA Cup!’ Some 16 hours later, Di Matteo was out of a job.

Emotional Football this week been more like someone eating their body weight in chocolate and sobbing uncontrollably over a series of rom-coms: completely irrational.

Noting QPR’s decision to announce Mark Hughes’ dismissal via Twitter on Friday. There’s more than a hint of irony there, given the Welshman’s obvious – and understandable – unease with Joey Barton and Tony Fernandes’ propensity to express their opinions in 140 characters.

THEY SAID WHAT

A chap called AJ McArthur is the commissioner of the – wait for it – Bikini Basketball Association, an eight-team league of players (wearing sports bras and tight shorts) with ‘looks, personality and playing ability’, which is slated to start in America next spring.

‘The main point,’ said McArthur, ‘is that this is a sport everyone loves.’ No, I definitely don’t think that’s the main point of this particular endeavour.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK

The England women’s rugby union team came back from 13-3 down to defeat the world champions, New Zealand, 16-13 on Friday. England are now unbeaten in four matches against the Black Ferns. Roll on the next clash on Tuesday.