Tag Archives: miles

Edgar Davids unable to save Barnet from final day heartache as Bees sink back into non-League

Davids unable to save Barnet from final day heartache as Bees sink back into non-League

Andrew Warshaw


21:38 GMT, 27 April 2013



01:54 GMT, 28 April 2013

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Edgar Davids’ first season in management ended in disappointment as Barnet fell out of the Football League after eight seasons.

Three years in succession, Barnet had somehow survived on the last day of the campaign. But this time there was no miracle as play-off qualifiers Northampton sealed their fate.

More than 1,300 visiting fans saw their team dominate for long periods but they were made to pay for poor finishing, including a couple of glaring misses, as Northampton’s Roy O’Donovan and Luke Guttridge netted twice in the space of six minutes midway through the second period.

Bitter pill: Edgar Davids contemplates his future

Bitter pill: Edgar Davids contemplates his future


League Two table

Davids’ future at Barnet is now uncertain and a new stadium seven miles outside the borough will play host to Conference football next season.

Frustratingly, a draw would have been enough to save Barnet with Dagenham losing at home, while anything but a win for AFC Wimbledon against Fleetwood would have seen the south Londoners go down.

As it was, Barnet’s tally of 51 points was the highest ever for a side to lose their league status. ‘It’s certainly a bitter pill to swallow,’ said Davids, whose 40-year-old legs could not quite push his side over the line. ‘I’m aware of the consequences but the players can look at themselves in the mirror and say they did everything. You have to take chances but Northampton were more clinical than us.’

Davids, who was not being paid by the club and was brought in partly to develop Barnet’s academy, hinted strongly he would have to move on after an illustrious playing career that included both Milan clubs, Barcelona, Juventus and Tottenham as well as Ajax.

‘I’ll have to sit down with the chairman
and evaluate a lot of things,’ said the Dutchman. ‘You have to be
realistic. I have done everything that was asked of me in terms of the
objectives set. Fifty-one points playing good football and some
promising young players — that’s what makes it so hard.’

Anxious moments: Barnet fans contemplate relegation

Anxious moments: Barnet fans contemplate relegation

Northampton manager Adie Boothroyd, whose side meet Cheltenham in this week’s play-offs, felt for the visitors.

‘It’s one of those terrible professional situations,’ he said. ‘You have to do your job and you have to win. We got a good hiding there in the corresponding game and I wanted us to finish strongly.

‘Unfortunately someone has to suffer. I’m disappointed for them but it’s a great chance now for us to try and get promoted.’

James McClean looks a sorry state as Irish winger has nowhere to hide after Twitter outburst

McClean looks a sorry state as Ireland winger has nowhere to hide after Twitter outburst

Colin Young


21:23 GMT, 9 September 2012



21:23 GMT, 9 September 2012

He may have won his Ireland reprieve
with a humiliating apology on Saturday afternoon but James McClean
looked like a man who wanted to be a million miles away from Kingston on
Sunday morning.

The neat and tiny Kingsmeadow ground
on the outskirts of London – The Cherry Red Records Stadium to give it
its full title – plays host every week to modest crowds watching League
Two and non-league matches.

The only notable spectators in the
stands were keeper Keiren Westwood and defender Sean St Ledger, who are
both likely to be left to their own devices on Tuesday as well, sitting
out the friendly at Craven Cottage.

Ireland's James McClean

Feelign the heat: Ireland's James McClean

Other than them, a small throng of Irish journalists, a few bemused AFC Wimbledon officials and their ground staff, plus assorted FAI bodies, had assembled to observe a training session with the legendary Giovanni Trapattoni and his Ireland team.

All our eyes were on McClean. And through the searing south-west London heat, the poor lad toiled for every painful second. He looked like a man, in fact a boy, who wanted the ground to swallow him up and put an end to his very obvious misery.

No doubt still living through the stupidity of pressing the send button on his phone from the team bus on Friday night, McClean looked like a footballer with the weight of the world on his shoulders. And this was a Sunday morning run-out in Kingston.

The moment the practice match bibs were handed out, McClean knew he was in trouble.

Robbie Brady, anxious, excited and eager to impress, was handed one of the orange garments. McClean was overlooked by the coaches, left to ponder how much of a twit he has been in the reserve team, and then plonked in the centre of midfield, presumably as additional punishment. Every touch, every shot, every moment went awry. And he struggled to hide his contempt and disappointment.

Not amused: Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni

Not amused: Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni

This time he didn't need Twitter to make a twit of himself. The ball was doing it for him.

It was almost painful to watch, and as an observer who has seen every one of McClean's home matches since he made his sensational arrival at the Stadium of Light under Martin O'Neill in nine months, it was an alien performance and unlike anything the winger seems capable of.

The boy from Derry had not expected his Ireland career to shape up this way when he made the difficult and controversial choice of picking this particular colour of green for his international future.

Although he has no right to expect a starting place in the Irish team yet, and although he is still naive, raw and inexperienced, he surely deserves better treatment – and longer than 17 competitive minutes – for being hauled across to Italy, Hungary, Poland and now Kazakhstan.

As Sportsmail's columnist Kevin Kilbane said last week, McClean is Ireland's in-form Premier League player and he should be in the team from the start.

Sadly Trapattoni takes the opposite view and he appeared to have little sympathy with the player's well-publicised remarks and his obvious agony. There was no arm round McClean's shoulder, in fact there was little if any eye contact.

If Trapattoni is trying to ruin another young Irish footballer, who just happens by coincidence to play for Sunderland, and run him out of the squad, he is going the right way about doing it.

In favour: Robbie Brady (left)

In favour: Robbie Brady (left)

By contrast, Brady was having the time of his life.

Maybe it was the bib, maybe it was the call-up and the chance to show his talents to the senior boys. Whatever it was, Brady was the one winger with a smile on his face as he came off the lush Kingsmeadow turf. Trapattoni even had a private word with him, very publically in front of the main stand.

'It was my first few hours and I really enjoyed it,' Brady said. 'They are a good group of lads and I have been welcomed from the first moment I came in.

'I know John O'Shea from United and Paul McShane when I was at Hull, so I know quite a few of the lads from being around the football scene so it was not as if I was coming in and not knowing anybody. They made me fit in so it was great.

'The manager had a quick word and said that he had me on the radar for a while so I'm glad to hear that and that I am in.

'I've been working hard all year, it's been a good season for the 21s and I got my best ever run with Hull and I'm just delighted to have been called up to the squad. And, hopefully, come Tuesday if I get a chance I'll be able to show what I'm about.

'But I just don't want to come in, meet everybody, say 'hello' and go back out. Hopefully I have come in to stay.'

And while he may not have played a meaningful minute in a Manchester United shirt, and failed to hold down a regular starting place at Hull City last season, the Baldoyle Boy, once of St Kevins, has been promoted in to Tuesday's starting line-up ahead of McClean.

To add insult to McClean's hurt, he even talked up Brady to an extent even Sir Alex wouldn't recognise him.

'He's a type of player we are missing,' said Trapattoni. 'He has vision, can pass and can shoot, like James McCarthy but he has other midfield work like Meyler. Brady sees the pass immediately, he has the pitch in front of him, he can pass and shoot, he is intelligent and clever.'

Robbie was not the only Brady on Trapattoni's mind.

At the end of his pitchside press briefing, the Italian was informed of Liam Brady's surprise criticism of his old manager's style of play which was adopted in Poland and failed. The depressing long ball tactic was restored in Astana and even Brady found it painful to watch.

It was at this moment – to the amusement of the Wimbledon staff at least – that Trapattoni became typically animated, voluble, yet no entirely coherent. He even grabbed a pen and pad and scribbled diagrams and notes. His minders wanted him out of there, but Trapattoni wanted to talk. Or shout. And it was still clear as mud.

But he said: 'Liam Brady He was never a manager

'I lie awake in the night and I think about a new team, how we play in defence, how we develop the game.

'In the first 50 minutes, we had three chances, how many after one hour You could pass the ball for 80 minutes and still lose one or two nil.

'We had to save energy. So then we play the long ball and the second ball. We're not Manchester United – tip tip tap tap – we needed our strength.'

Brian Clough once said of players showing dissent. 'Well, we talk about it for 20 minutes and then decide I was right.'

As Liam Brady will tell Robbie Brady and James McClean, it is a philosophy Giovanni Trapattoni knows very well, and they will have to accept that. Or stay at home.

I"m desperate to finally end Major drought, insists Woods

I'm desperate to finally end Major drought, insists Woods



09:17 GMT, 8 August 2012

Tiger Woods has come a long way since this time last year – but not far enough, as far as he is concerned.

When the former world No 1 missed the cut by six shots at the US PGA Championship last August he looked a million miles away from the player who had won 14 majors.

He remains four behind Jack Nicklaus' record, but after finishes of 40th in the Masters, 21st in the US Open and third in the Open – plus three other tournament wins – things are certainly looking up again.

Getting ready: Tiger Woods hits a bunker shot during a practice round at Kiawah Island on Tuesday

Getting ready: Tiger Woods hits a bunker shot during a practice round at Kiawah Island on Tuesday

'I'm pleased at the way I was able to play at certain times and obviously disappointed that I did not win,' Woods said at Kiawah Island, where the 94th US PGA starts on Thursday.

'I've played in three major championships this year and I didn't win any of them. That's the goal.

'I was there at the US Open after two days [he was joint leader] and I was right there with a chance at the British Open.

'Things have progressed, but not winning a major championship doesn't feel very good.'

Not that the 36-year-old is fretting over a pursuit of Nicklaus that has stalled for four turbulent years in his life.

'I figure it's going to take a career – a long time,' he said. 'Jack didn't finish his until he was 46, so if you go by that timetable I've got 10 more years.
“Four more majors is a lot, but I've got plenty of time.'

Luke who's in contention: Donald in practice on Tuesday

Luke who's in contention: Donald in practice on Tuesday

Tom Watson nearly won the 2009 Open just short of his 60th birthday and the year before that Greg Norman was third at Birkdale aged 53.

'We can play late in our careers just because of our training and also just getting the right golf course,' he added.

Woods now finds himself on the longest course in major history – 7,676 yards if played from every back tee – and one made famous by its staging of the 'War on the Shore' Ryder Cup in 1991.

He also finds himself in the strongest field ever assembled for any event.
Barring any late withdrawals, it will be the first time since the rankings were launched in 1986 that the world's top 100 are all in the same place.

The last 16 majors have had 16 different winners. This season has seen Bubba Watson capture the Masters, Webb Simpson the US Open and then last month Ernie Els his second Open.

Lee Westwood

Rory McIlroy

Brit of all right: Lee Westwood (left) and Rory McIlroy (right) at Kiawah Island

It could easily become 17 – Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Woods are not on the list and nor, of course, is Adam Scott after he threw things away with four closing bogeys at Royal Lytham.

Watson is also celebrating something off the course this week – his adoption of a baby boy was finalised.

The American's victory at Augusta came just after he and wife Angie had welcomed month-old Caleb into their home, so perhaps the latest news will spur him onto more major glory.

'Monday was a great day for us, so that's the most important thing – and now we're on to trying to win this tournament,' he said.

Simpson, meanwhile, has become a father again since he triumphed in San Francisco, missing the Open while he waited for his wife Dowd to give birth.

Premier League clubs pre-season tours cover 190,000 miles

Premier League clubs clock up 190,000 air miles as worldwide pre-season tours kick off



10:34 GMT, 5 July 2012

There was a time when pre-season consisted of some brutal training sessions in the nearest park and a tour round the local non-league outfits.

But now, the irrepressible need to sell a team's 'brand' to new markets around the world means clubs are travelling ever wider and wider for their pre-season preparations.

This summer, Premier League teams will clock up an incredible 190,000 air miles to fulfil warm-up fixtures overseas.

Reds alert: Liverpool headed to Malaysia last summer where the fans turned out in their thousands

Reds alert: Liverpool headed to Malaysia last summer where the fans turned out in their thousands

Reds alert: Liverpool headed to Malaysia last summer where the fans turned out in their thousands

All but one of the 20 sides lining up
in the top flight for 2012-2013 will be heading abroad. Six are heading
East to Asia, six to America and the rest will play in Europe. This is
in addition to domestic away trips.

/07/05/article-0-0D0EA45100000578-878_468x296.jpg” width=”468″ height=”296″ alt=”Sign of the times: Chelsea headed to Asia on tour last summer ” class=”blkBorder” />

Sign of the times: Chelsea headed to Asia on tour last summer

After that, they also play against the Nigerian national team in Abuja and Bundesliga side Cologne in Germany.

With such phenomenal distances to fly, it’s perhaps just as well Dennis Bergkamp is safely in retirement.

Everton’s tour to Jakarta, where they
will compete in the Java Cup, and the considerably shorter jaunt Malaga,
amount to just over 17,000 miles. QPR’s three-game trip to Malaysia
will see them in the air for nearly the same distance.

Premier League away days

Click here for the full fixtures lists

Manchester City will be seeking to
capitalise on their maiden title to capture the imagination of fans in
Beijing and Kuala Lumpur – but will travel over 14,000 miles to do so.

Sunderland face a 12,000 mile
round-trip to Suwon in Korea to take part in the Peace Cup, while
Chelsea’s four-stop tour of the United States will see them fly 12,700

Other leading sides are heading to
far-flung destinations but are more economical with their mileage –
Liverpool’s tour to Toronto and Baltimore comes in at under 10,000

More unexpected are the American tours
Stoke City and Swansea City will be going on, something unthinkable
just a few years ago.

But none of these compare to Fulham,
whose fans are the only ones in the Premier League not requiring a
passport this summer. They will travel just the 33 miles to Adams Park,
Wycombe for the sole away friendly announced to date.


London – Kuala Lumpur 6,530 miles, Kuala Lumpur – Beijing 2,641, Beijing – Hong Kong 1,206, Hong Kong – London 6,010, London – Abuja 2,942, Abuja – London 2,942, London – Cologne 316, Cologne –London 316

TOTAL: 22,903

Birmingham to Philadelphia 3,486, Philadelphia to Chicago 657, Chicago to Portland 1,766, Portland to Birmingham 4,844, Birmingham to Bremen 448, Bremen to Birmingham 448

TOTAL: 11,649

London to Seattle 4,797, Seattle to New York 2,345, New York to Philadelphia 101, Philadelphia to Miami 1,018, Miami to London 4,431

TOTAL: 12,692

Liverpool to Jakarta 7,366, Jakarta to Liverpool 7,366, Liverpool to Malaga 1,155, Malaga to Liverpool 1,155

TOTAL: 17,042


Liverpool to Toronto 3,399, Toronto to Boston 1,241, Boston to Baltimore 974, Baltimore to Liverpool 3,477

TOTAL: 9,091

Manchester to Beijing 5,052, Beijing to Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur 2,641, Kuala Lumpur to Manchester 6,568

TOTAL: 14,261

Manchester United to Durban 6,055, Durban to Cape Town 776, Cape Town to Shanghai 8,059, Shanghai to Manchester 5,698, Manchester to Oslo 645, Oslo to Gothenburg 158, Gothenburg to Manchester 626, Manchester to Hannover 501, Hannover to Manchester 501

TOTAL: 23,019

Newcastle to Chemnitz 823, Chemnitz to Landsberg am Lech 273, Landsberg am Lech to Faro 1,538, Faro to Newcastle 1,275

TOTAL: 3,909

Norwich to Gleisdorf 1,023, Gleisdorf to Norwich 1,023

TOTAL: 2,046

London to Sabah 7,044, Sabah to Kuala Lumpur 1,091, Kuala Lumpur to Surabaya 1,046, Surabaya to London 7,587

TOTAL: 16,768

Reading to Vilamoura 1,543, Vilamoura to Reading 1,543

TOTAL: 3,086

Southampton to Carouge 690, Carouge to Annecy 17, Annecy to Southampton 690

TOTAL: 1,397

Stoke to Montreux 765, Montreux to Stoke 765, Stoke to Columbus 3,741, Columbus to Orlando 948, Orlando to Kansas 1,471 , Kansas to Stoke 4,225, Stoke to Frth, Bavaria 619, Frth to Stoke 619

TOTAL: 13,153

Sunderland to Suwon 6,051, Suwon to Sunderland 6,051

TOTAL: 12,102

Swansea to Denver 4,555, Denver to Oxnard, CA 1,072, Oxnard, CA to Santa Clara, CA 321, Santa Clara to Swansea 5,263

TOTAL: 11,211

London to Los Angeles 5,446, Los Angeles to Baltimore 2,317, Baltimore to New York 169, New York to London 3,464, London to Valencia 832, Valencia to London 832

TOTAL: 13,060

Birmingham to Malmo 640, Malmo to Birmingham 640

TOTAL: 1,280

London to Prague 642, Prague to London 642, London to Erfurt 483, Erfurt to Dresden 117, Dresden to Cottbus 55, Cottbus to London 620

TOTAL: 2,559

Wigan to Ostersund (Training camp) 909, Ostersund to Wigan 909

TOTAL: 1,818


Drastic surgery needed to save the nation"s favourite

Drastic surgery needed to save the nation's favourite after deaths overshadow race



21:30 GMT, 15 April 2012

The British Horseracing Authority have promised a balanced and comprehensive review of the two horse deaths that scarred the John Smith’s Grand National for the second year running.

But when they have collated the statistics and reviewed the videos, the decisions they must take are to level out the drop on the landing side of fences, notably Becher’s Brook, and reduce the number of runners by up to a quarter.

Traditionalists will blanch at the prospect. Some will accuse me of betrayal of the sport on which I report, but after the deaths of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised and According To Pete, drastic surgery is necessary.

Tragic: Gold Cup winner Sychronised fell during the Grand National and was later put down

Tragic: Gold Cup winner Sychronised fell during the Grand National and was later put down

The aftermath of Saturday’s race should have been celebration. After four-and-a-half miles and 30 jumps, the John Hales-owned Neptune Collonges, the first grey to win for 51 years, had beaten Sunnyhillboy by the thickness of a cigarette paper under an inspired ride from Daryl Jacob to secure the trainer’s championship for Paul Nicholls.

Back in third, Katie Walsh on Seabass had secured the best ever finish for a female jockey.

But memories of a race that fired my love of the sport are joyless. They are the grief of Synchronised’s trainer Jonjo O’Neill and the grim faces of his owner JP McManus and officials.

On the opening day of the meeting, I wrote about the significant changes undertaken since both Dooney’s Gate and Ornais lost their lives a year ago.

Fatality: According to Pete also died as questions were once again asked about the race's safety

Fatality: According to Pete also died as questions were once again asked about the race's safety

They included beefed-up entry criteria to weed out potential risks as almost 250,000 was spent on a range of welfare measures.

Three fences were altered, including a
five-inch reduction of the drop on the landing side of Becher’s. /04/15/article-0-12987260000005DC-602_634x438.jpg” width=”634″ height=”438″ alt=”Neck and neck: Neptune Collonges (near) and Sunnyhillboy fought out a thrilling finish” class=”blkBorder” />

Neck and neck: Neptune Collonges (near) and Sunnyhillboy fought out a thrilling finish

Both deaths on Saturday were tragic
accidents. Synchronised fell at Becher’s Brook but galloped on riderless
and jumped five fences until the stumble that broke his hind leg.
According To Pete had jumped Becher’s Brook on the second circuit when
he cannoned into the prostrate On His Own and broke a foreleg.

The key objective for the BHA must be to
have fewer fallers. More runners on their feet is the safest option and
it would not detract from the spectacle.

It wouldn’t make the race risk-free but would establish firmer foundations for a defence against those hell bent on its destruction. And it would still be just as exciting if 18 or 20 runners out of a line-up reduced from 40 to 30 crossed the Melling Road with a chance. Most of us who remember the victory of Bobbyjo in 1999 do not reflect on it as a lesser contest — yet only 32 runners lined up.

Success story: Daryl Jacob on Neptune Collonges

Success story: Daryl Jacob on Neptune Collonges

More can be done at Aintree and not just because we are concerned with the cosmetic appearance of the sport that has wider implications for jump racing.

More than 70,000 spectators were at Aintree on Saturday and the same number will be there next year no matter what happens.

But we should want to make changes — want to build on the welfare successes that have been achieved.

I want to be proud of the sport’s biggest day, just as I was of one aspect on Saturday.

A jockey ban for excessive use of the whip for a second successive year would have added to the furore but Jacob and, particularly, Richie McLernon on the tiring runner-up Sunnyhillboy performed with admirable professionalism in pursuit of the prize.

Their actions showed how seriously the current crop of competitors take their responsibilities to their mounts and the historic prize, when it would have been easy for them to recklessly chase victory at all costs.

Aintree and the BHA have shown the same responsibility in the last year. Their decisions now must be brave and bold.

Eden Hazard open to Manchester United or Chelsea move

Come and get me: Hazard gives green light to Man United and Chelsea

Chelsea and Manchester United have
been given a major boost in their pursuit of Eden Hazard after he let it
be known he would be interested in a move to the Barclays Premier

Lille's attacking midfielder, 21
last week, was refusing to look beyond Real Madrid for a summer move
away from the French champions, according to recent reports.

On the move: Lille's midfielder Eden Hazard open to Premier League option

On the move: Lille's midfielder Eden Hazard open to Premier League option

But not only would he be receptive to an offer from Chelsea or United, he could even be prised away during the current transfer window, despite his club insisting he will not be allowed to leave until the end of the season.

Hazard's agent John Bico, who confirmed Chelsea were considering a 25million bid for a player with a 33million release clause, told Sportsmail: 'Eden's career has been built on a patient philosophy of developing, year by year, and his ambition today is to try and make Lille champions for a second successive season.

'But he is a professional, and the club is a company. Sometimes clubs have to deal with the reality of the market, and Eden will go along with whatever Lille decide.'

Sportsmail understands Barcelona are ready to go head-to-head with fierce rivals Real for Hazard after registering an interest in one of Europe's hottest prospects.

But a source close to the player claimed it was by no means a straight fight between La Liga's big two for his signature.

'England isn't exactly a million miles away, so it wouldn't be any great upheaval,' he said.

'It all depends on the project put to Eden and the ambition he senses from whoever he is talking to. Real like him, and he likes them but, as with any player, he would view Manchester United as an great opportunity.

'If Roman Abramovich really is providing funds to take Chelsea back to the top again, then they would be interesting, as well. He would consider that, for sure.'

Sam Stapleton agent column on return of January transfer window

Mr Agent: So it all begins again… but believe me, we've been very busy!

Mr Agent: Sam Stapleton

Stapleton, an FA licensed players' agent and co-founder of Star
Management Signings Ltd (right), has signed up for Sportsmail to give
our readers an agent's insight into the transfer window and football's
big talking points.

Read his thoughts on what will be a busy January transfer window…


Click here to follow StarMSignings

So the January window is upon us again. People often ask me: 'what does an agent do outside of the window'

A fair question given the summer window closes at the end of August and doesn't reopen until New Year's Day, leaving four months without being able to bring money into the company through transfers.

But, believe me, there is plenty to be getting on with. During this time we are out there trying to sign new talent, build relationships with clubs and personnel, all in preparation for the next window.

There are a lot of games to be watched and the air miles soon stack up.

Now January has arrived, the focus shifts to moving players on, both here and abroad.

In my experience, January has always been a strange window and it is always hard to predict how it will go for our agency. We can do as many deals as we did in the summer window but the level of income seems to be a lot lower.

Most clubs tend to look towards the loan market and cheaper options, simply to add to their squad rather than rebuild it in such a short space of time.

Obviously, there are a few exceptions to this rule with some of the big clubs but generally there's nowhere near as much money spent.

There are deals to be made in China

At the moment, we are working on a few deals at both Premier League and Championship level. We're also busy with a few pre-contracts with players overseas who are available on a free in the summer and some loan deals too.

We also pay a lot of attention to other international federations whose seasons are set to start, with this window their equivalent to our summer window.

China, Russia, USA, even Uzbekistan – these countries all present us with good opportunities for our players.

Deal made in China: Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka has joined Shanghai Shenhua

Deal made in China: Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka has joined Shanghai Shenhua

China, in particular, are spending a lot more money now and looking to bring players with real quality to their league – as already proven with Nicolas Anelka.

As an agency based in the UK, this means that we have to work with local agents within these areas.

This can be difficult at times but you try to work through everything in order to get the deal done for the player.

I have just returned from Dubai after talking to a few clubs out there and, of course, managed to get a couple days in the sun… the New Year's fireworks at the Burj Khalifa were quite incredible!

The going can get tough for some players

Our players are half way through their season now. Some have done very well so far and there are others who have found the going tough.

In the summer, difficult decisions have had to be made and only at the end of the season do we know if those decisions have been the right ones.
Kaspars Gorkss has been doing exceptionally well at Reading, while Robert Koren is having a very good season at Hull.

Improving: Blackburn's Radosav Petrovic

Improving: Blackburn's Radosav Petrovic

But on the other side of the scale, Zoltan Gera has picked up a nasty injury after a promising start on his return at West Brom and is sadly now out for the season.

It is also difficult for a player to travel to the UK from abroad and settle quickly in the Premier League.

Radosav Petrovic, for instance, has endured difficult start to life at Blackburn.

Ideally, a player needs a transitional stage but he was played straight away and struggled to adapt to the pace of the game.

But, after a period on the bench for a few games, he has had more time to adapt and impressed in the New Year's Eve win against Manchester United. So we look to him to improve more in time.

It's almost identical to Marko Futacs at Portsmouth. The big striker has bided his time and got his first start since arriving from Werder Bremen in the summer this week against Leicester.

His hold up play was very good and he scored a good goal. He then repeated his success against Watford with a header.

Two goals in two starts isn’t bad but it's up to him now to keep improving, adapting and keep his place in the team. What better opposition than Chelsea in the FA Cup this weekend to do this…

We're not all 'parasites'…

Agents, as a whole, get a fair bit of bad press and were recently called ‘parasites’ and ‘spivs’ by Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell.

Comments: Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell

Comments: Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell

To be honest, it always makes me laugh when people who know nothing about what goes on in the industry jump to conclusions based on ambiguous figures that are published.

To label all agents 'parasites and spivs' frankly surprises me as I would have thought a politician knows all about being tarnished with the same brush

In fact, in one instance recently, we gave the agency fee to our player in order to help him with his salary and, on another occasion, we took money off an agency fee in order to make sure a loan move went through as the club was looking for a loan fee.

As an agency it really isn't all about picking up agency fees. It's about developing our clients and making sure that they are at the right club and on the right path.

FA Cup of plenty

I will look to keep you up to date with all that's going on within our agency over the next few weeks during the January window.


Star Management Signings

This Friday I'm off to Anfield to watch Liverpool take on League One side Oldham to see how Josh Parker does for the Latics.

Then, on Sunday, I'm at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea's third round FA Cup tie against Portsmouth to hopefully see Marko Futacs continue his good run.

Till next week…

Tony McCoy spends second night in hospital

AP kept in hospital for tests as champion jockey faces fight to regain fitness

Champion jockey Tony McCoy has spent a second night in hospital after breaking several ribs in a fall at Taunton on Friday.

After initial treatment at the course, McCoy was carried by stretcher into an ambulance for the short journey to Musgrove Park Hospital.

He was detained overnight after X-rays confirmed the damage to his ribs, an injury that would force most sportsmen on to the sidelines for well over a month.

Sore one: Champion jockey Tony McCoy cracked his ribs in a fall at Taunton

Sore one: Champion jockey Tony McCoy cracked his ribs in a fall at Taunton

‘It felt like the horse that came down on top of me had more feet than a centipede,’ he said.

McCoy was hoping to be released yesterday but he has been kept in, awaiting extensive tests to check he has not suffered further injuries.

A hospital spokesman said: ‘Mr McCoy’s condition is comfortable but he will be staying here for a second night.’

McCoy has long made a habit of defying medical opinion and on Friday was initially talking about being back in days rather than weeks.

But he now accepts that the injury has put an end to his long-held ambition to ride 300 winners in a season, a feat never achieved in this country on the Flat or over jumps.

Riding high: McCoy (left) had been in fine form before his fall

Riding high: McCoy (left) had been in fine form before his fall

Meanwhile, All the Aces lived up to his name with a fluent first success over hurdles at Newbury. His new trainer, Nicky Henderson, said: ‘I think he’s a smashing horse, versatile and honest. I would like to step him up to two and a half miles so we know where to go with him. I’d like to think he’d be doing something at Cheltenham in March.’

Richard Johnson had good cause to celebrate on Saturday as he reached a century of winners for the 16th consecutive year.

His latest landmark ride arrived over the Newbury hurdles on Fingal Bay and Johnson said: ‘Ever since I started in racing I’ve always wanted to be champion jockey — still do. For me, it is what matters most, more than winning any race in the calendar. I’m 34 now and getting on a bit, but I’ll keep trying. It would be fantastic to do it just once.’

Peter Scudamore: Kauto Star joins the pantheon of greats

The real Star of Christmas: Kauto joins the pantheon of greats

The great stand out from the merely very good in any sport – they don” t need experts to point out their extraordinary talent.

Watch your first match and you”d still probably be able to tell that Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney can do magical things with a football or that Kevin Pieterson can mix artistry with brutality when wielding a cricket bat.

I remember the great West Indian bowler Courtenay Walsh explaining why the late Malcolm Marshall was so revered.

Star of wonder: Paul Nicholls and Kauto Star return to a warm reception at Ditcheat

Star of wonder: Paul Nicholls and Kauto Star return to a warm reception at Ditcheat

It wasn”t because he could bamboozle a batsman on a wicket offering him help but because he could get wickets by using his skills on the most unresponsive of pitches.

In some ways, Kauto Star is the same. He is no one-trick pony. From two miles to three and a quarter miles, over the speed-biased flat terrain of Kempton, the stamina-sapping undulations of Cheltenham or the demanding fences at Sandown, he has delivered at the highest level.

It is that versatility that truly sets him apart.

Few horses can match him.

Desert Orchid was a similar athlete but did not master Cheltenham to the same extent as Kauto Star.

Something old, something new: Kauto Star clears the last with Gold Cup winner Long Run trailing

Something old, something new: Kauto Star clears the last with Gold Cup winner Long Run trailing

That”s why I rate Kauto marginally the better horse and after Boxing Day”s fifth King George victory I believe Kauto Star can justifiably talked off as one of the top three staying steeplechasers of all-time.

I have only read about Golden Miller but his achievement of winning five Cheltenham Gold Cups during the 1930s is incredible.

Forget trying to compare the raw ability of horses over different eras, that is never going to work because of advances in training techniques and the way the sport is conducted.

The best you can do on an objective basis is compare what the horses achieved in their careers and I marvel at what Golden Miller did in the Gold Cup and Grand National.

I was a child when Arkle burst on the scenes.

His rider Pat Taaffe was my godfather.

Starry-eyed: Ruby Walsh with Kauto Star after the gelding

Starry-eyed: Ruby Walsh with Kauto Star after the gelding”s fifth King George VI Chase victory

My memories of what many have only seen on flickering back and white pictures are of a horse whose mere name was synonymous with excellence.

Arkle, trained by Tom Dreaper is Ireland, was both a national hero and freak of nature.

He murdered the opposition and they had to change the rules to accommodate his outrageous talent.

I never thought I would argue that a horse had similar talent but I am prepared to with Kauto Star and that is a measure of the horse.

The range of his 40-race career swells our admiration but it has taken a final twist late for the wider racing and general public to appreciate the gelding bred in France but made in Britain.

Inspiring: Kauto Star is the best marketing tool racing could have

Inspiring: Kauto Star is the best marketing tool racing could have

It has been a slow-burn, maybe because he is not flamboyant, more ruthlessly and relentlessly efficient.

The British love an underdog and a comeback story and that is what they have got with Kauto Star this season.

Only last month he was been written off and pensioned of by some.

The ability to claw your way back to the top endears sportsmen and women to the public and horses are no different.

There is also a sense that we don”t like our stars too pure and Kauto Star has overcome hiccoughs through his life.

His jumping was not flawless in his early steeplechases and he became associated with last fence blunders at one stage.

But he has become slick and reliable. Kauto Star has conquered jump racing. He is back as king.

But he has done more than that. He has pushed the sport to a wider audience.

His Gold Cup clash with young rival Long Run, the horse who took his King George and Gold Cup titles last season, at Cheltenham in March will inevitably be box office gold, publicity for jump racing no amount of PR work could buy.

It will billed as The Decider with the score standing at 2-2.

To win the race again when 12-years-old will add another accolade. No horse has won the Gold Cup when that old since What A Myth in 1969 When he finally retires, Kauto Star”s name will rank alongside the greats that non-racing people know.

Horses like Arkle, Seabiscuit and Red Rum. And that is probably his greatest achievement.


Eight-time champion jockey Peter Scudamore with his top 10 long-distance steeplechasers of all time.

1 Golden Miller
The most successful horse in Cheltenham Gold Cup history winning for five consecutive years (1932-36). Also the only horse to win the Gold Cup and Grand National in the same year (1934), setting a course record in the latter. Trained by Basil Briscoe and owned by eccentric Dorothy Paget, he won 29 of his 52 starts. In any era that record stands the test of time.

2 Arkle
The three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner (1964-6), who also won a Irish National (1964), King George (1965) and two Hennessy Gold Cups (1964-5). A national hero in Ireland whose performances prompted a change in the rules. So superior was he over his opponents that different handicaps had to be framed if he took part in races. His name will always be synonymous with excellence.

3 Kauto Star
What a record. Two Cheltenham Gold Cups (2007 & 09), five King Georges (2006-09 and 2011) and two Tingle Creek Chases (2005-06).The greatest staying chaser of the current era. The ability to compete over a variety of distances makes him so special as well as his durability. In a career stretching back to March 2003 , he has raced 40 times, completed the course 35 times and, on those runs, finished out of the first three only once. With almost 2.4million in prizemoney, the Paul Nicholls-trained chaser is Britain’s biggest earning jumper.

Blooming great: Desert Orchid

4 Desert Orchid
Landed the Cheltenham Gold Cup (1989), four King Georges (1986, 88-90), an Irish National (1990) and the Tingle Creek Chase (1988) for trainer David Elsworth. The flying grey (right) who captured public hearts. His versatility was arguably even greater than Kauto Star, winning from two miles to three miles five furlongs. He also produced some great handicap runs. But he could not master Cheltenham as well as Kauto Star even though he finally ended his Gold Cup hoodoo.

5 Best Mate
Henrietta Knight’s chaser deserves his place in this list by virtue of his three Cheltenham Gold Cups (2002-04), the first horse to achieve that feat since Arkle. Also landed the King George (2002). One of the best jumpers of a fence that I have ever seen. Smooth and economical. Just lacked the range of career of those horses rated higher on my list.

6 L’Escargot
Irish winner of two Cheltenham Gold Cups (1970-1) and a Grand National (1975) when ridden by Tommy Carberry. The Dan Moore-trained gelding is second only to Golden Miller in his performances in the Gold Cup and Grand National and a horse whose achievements are often overlooked.

7 Captain Christy
May be a surprise to some to be on this list but won the Cheltenham Gold Cup (1974), two King Georges (1974-75) plus an Irish Champion Hurdle (1973). An erratic but brilliant chaser whose 30-length demolition of Bula in the 1975 was close to steeplechasing perfection. He won his Gold Cup as a novice and, in raw ability terms, was one of the best I’ve ever seen.

8 Dawn Run
Still the only horse to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup (1986) and Champion Hurdle (1984). Deserves her place on this list for that Gold Cup effort alone when she orchestrated one of the most emotional afternoons I have ever experienced on a racecourse with her defeat of three-time King George winner Wayward Lad. She may not have been the best of jumpers but no horse had a bigger heart.

9 Burrough Hill Lad
The one horse in this list that I rode and winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup (1984), King George (1984), Welsh National (1983) and Hennessy Gold Cup (1984). He may not have had the electric pace of some other greats but the Jenny Pitman-trained gelding was streets ahead of his rivals when injury was not hampering his career. Defying 12 stone to win the Hennessy was a colossal weight carrying performance that sticks in the memory.

10 See More Business
Like Kauto Star, trained by Paul Nicholls but not a ‘sexy’ horse. Still managed to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup (1999) and two King Georges (1997 & 99). Won 18 of his 36 starts and was still competing at the top level at 13 years of age. His record might have looked even better had he not been carried out in the 1998 Gold Cup.

Martin O"Neill joy at "surreal" Sunderland win

O”Neill joy at “surreal” win that gets his Sunderland career up and running

Martin O”Neill celebrated his first match in charge of Sunderland in “surreal” fashion with a dramatic late victory over Blackburn.

O”Neill”s bow looked to be heading for disaster with Rovers leading 1-0 at the Stadium of Light with just six minutes to play.

However, David Vaughan”s 84th-minute piledriver pulled the hosts level and set the stage for Sebastian Larsson to snatch three points with an injury-time free-kick to spark a trademark celebration from the 59-year-old Ulsterman.

Jumping for joy: Martin O

Jumping for joy: Martin O”Neill celebrates Sunderland”s win

O”Neill said: “It was surreal, really surreal. Just to get three points on the board is immense.

“I would have given a lot for that, just to have won the game, but mainly – forget about myself – just for the players.

“Having lost the game here last time out against Wigan in the circumstances in which they did, and then to go to Wolves and miss the penalty and then lose the game…

“It”s only a win, it only gives us a win. We have a million miles to go, but in terms of restoration of confidence, it was great.”

Sunderland”s Wearside misery – they had won only three times on their own pitch in 2011 before kick-off – seemed likely to continue with Blackburn leading through Simon Vukcevic”s 17th-minute header with just six minutes remaining.

But it was then the Black Cats, who had been lethargic before the break, made their improved second-half performance count, and did so in some style.

Piledriver: David Vaughan

Piledriver: David Vaughan”s shot nestles in the back of the net

Vaughan levelled with a sweetly-struck 30-yard drive to send a sigh of relief around the Stadium of Light, although the real drama was still to come.

Two minutes of injury-time had passed at the end of the game when Larsson curled home a free-kick off the foot of the post to snatch victory and ease the Black Cats” fears of being dragged into a relegation scrap.

O”Neill had revealed before the game he has been dreaming of winning his first match, but admitted the circumstances in which victory was delivered were more far-fetched than those of his imagination.

He said: “Even in my wildest dreams, I never thought about those. David Vaughan”s equalising goal was just brilliant.”

For once, the majority of a crowd of 39,863 headed home with smiles on their faces, but none of them broader than the one sported by the new manager.

O”Neill said: “If they feel half as good as I do at the minute, they will be pretty pleased.

At the death: Sebastian Larsson celebrates the winning goal

At the death: Sebastian Larsson celebrates the winning goal

“It”s a typical Irish trait to say there will be many a dark day around the corner, but there you go. I think that was just my upbringing.”

Blackburn boss Steve Kean”s emotions were markedly different as the Black Cats left his team behind them inside the Barclays Premier League drop zone.

He was left to bemoan the decision for handball against Mauro Formica which led to Larsson”s decisive strike, and a disallowed Scott Dann goal four minutes before the break after Samba was adjudged to have fouled keeper Keiren Westwood.

Kean, who insisted he know nothing about an impending financial crisis amid reports that the players may not be paid in February, also had to cope with the loss of Michel Salgado with suspected fractured ribs, Jason Lowe through concussion and Gael Givet with heart palpitations.


Fan”s favourite: O” Neill made an immediate impact at Sunderland

Asked about Givet, he said: “He has had it before and he was feeling as if his pulse was pounding out of his neck.

“The doctor said there was a potential that he could collapse, so we had to just get him off.

“He has had it before in the past when his heart goes out of synch and starts to fire at a different time.

“The doctor said we needed to get him off because we could have ended up with a much more serious situation.”