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Tom Daley"s mum Debbie hits back at David Sparkes after Splash! criticism – EXCLUSIVE

EXCLUSIVE: Tom's Olympic medal probably kept you in your job. He turned down his friends and holidays to keep diving after the Games. Isn't it time you left my son alone

PUBLISHED:

22:00 GMT, 9 January 2013

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UPDATED:

11:12 GMT, 10 January 2013

British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes this week criticised Olympic bronze medallist Tom Daley's decision to appear on ITV's Saturday night diving show Splash!, saying the 18-year-old should have waited until the end of his competitive career.

Last February, Sparkes hit out at Daley's non-diving commitments, agreeing with British Diving's performance director that Daley was in danger of failing to fulfil his talent.

Here, Daley's mother Debbie responds…

Belly-flop: Tom Daley has been criticised by the chief of British Swimming for his part in TV show Splash!

Belly-flop: Tom Daley has been criticised by the chief of British Swimming for his part in TV show Splash!

Slated: David Sparkes

Slated: Tom Daley's TV show has been widely criticised

Slated: British Swimming chief David Sparkes (left) said he was concerned Daley was not paying enough attention to his diving career by appearing on television

Dear Mr Sparkes,

We last spoke at Loughborough in June
2011 after you asked for Tom to do a favour for you and open a sports
park at Loughborough. I don't believe that you spoke much to Tom
directly in 2012, other than to briefly congratulate him on his medal. Since the media is your preferred method of communication, I thought that I should do the same.

As Tom's mum, I take a lot of pride
in the way he handles himself. I am sure that he will make mistakes
along the way, but to date he is doing a lot right. I find it incredible
that you want to criticise him so publicly, when he does so much for
your organisation and for sport in the UK – and worse, you do it by
giving your opinion without any thought. You did not speak to Tom – or
his agent – first. Is this a good way for a CEO to operate

Statement: Debbie Daley has written an open letter to the man who has accused her son of putting fame ahead of diving

Statement: Debbie Daley has written an open letter to the man who has accused her son of putting fame ahead of diving

As far as I'm aware, Tom was one of
the few major success stories for British Swimming this summer… and
possibly one of the athletes that helped you retain your job. Others say
that your performance was the worst of any CEO in British sport. Surely
you should be thanking Tom and showing your support and gratitude

His target was to achieve a medal and
he delivered, becoming the first British individual diver in 52 years
to get an Olympic medal. Not only this, but immediately after the
Games, when most athletes were enjoying themselves, Tom went back to
intense training for five weeks to prepare for the Junior World
Championships. Since you didn't speak with Tom during this period, let
me shed some light on how he coped.

Mentor: Daley sat beside the pool applauding his students as they dived in

Mentor: Daley sat beside the pool applauding his students as they dived in

Making a Splash! Vernon Kay and Gabby Logan co-host the television programme

Making a Splash! Vernon Kay and Gabby Logan co-host the television programme

All smiles: Daley (right) has been accused of 'putting the cart before the horse' in his media appearances

All smiles: Daley (right) was accused of 'putting the cart before the horse' in his media appearances

For an individual who is normally so
motivated, going back to intense training after the climax of the Games
was a real struggle: I'm sure he won't mind me saying he lacked drive
and motivation. Andy Banks, his coach, expressed concern that this was
being reflected in his training.

Everyone else was taking long
holidays, partying, celebrating exams, while Tom had to get straight
back to diving. You must remember what you did the summer you were 18
years old We even discussed with Andy the option of him backing out of
the competition. I was concerned Tom would crumble as the impact of the
previous 24 months finally came on top of him.

Success: Daley claimed bronze at the London Games

Success: Daley claimed bronze at the London Games

Perhaps you need to be reminded that
not only was Tom taking on the pressures of the biggest sporting event
in his life, not to mention a home Games, but during this period he also
lost his biggest supporter, his dad.

My bond with my son has always been
strong but Rob was Tom's rock, friend and role model; he would be
spitting mad if he had read your media attacks on him over the past 12
months and would have given you a franker view than mine.

However, Tom didn't want to back out.
While the competition had no real incentive for him, Tom had made the
commitment to his performance director Alexei Evangulov and to British
Diving and – despite me trying to convince him otherwise – he got his
head down and ploughed on. He said he'd take a break after, so what was
five more weeks of training

Any mum will know that for an
18-year-old to make this decision requires a lot of self-discipline. Tom
was being offered opportunities left, right and centre to appear at
exciting award ceremonies, red-carpet events, five-star holidays, not to
mention the fact he hadn't 'hung out' with his friends for the past
four months.

So off to Australia he went alone
(none of his direct coaching team went, which highlights the importance
of this competition) and he came away with not just one, but two gold
medals – one in an event he doesn't normally compete in. I was so proud
of him. A great way to end the year. Now it was about time for my son
to have some fun and let his hair down. He had done his job. He had
also played a key role in funding your organisation. So can you not see
why I'm so angry with your lack of support

Your comments in February 2012 were a
big enough blow: Tom was five months away from the biggest competition
in his life where he should have as much support as possible and you
spoke out to him via the media after Alexei had let emotion take over at
a press conference and after Tom's team had met your team to discuss
the real issues.

Pressure: Daley was under intense scrutiny during and in the build up to last summer's Games

Pressure: Daley was under intense scrutiny during and in the build up to last summer's Games

As it turned out, one of the issues
then was that there was a lack of funding for a masseur for Tom, which
Alexei wanted… so Tom – not British Swimming – funded this. From memory it cost Tom 3,000. We said nothing at the time.

The other issue was a trip to Sydney
Zoo organised by British Swimming where he was swamped by fans. Alexei
hated this. However, British Swimming – not Tom – organised the visit.
So to now see your remarks three-and-a-half years before the next
Olympics makes me so angry.

A leader should motivate his team,
not make them think: 'Why do I bother'

Tom has always worked his hardest
when it comes to his training. Diving has always taken priority. We
have all worked closely with Tom's coaching team (Andy and Alexei) plus
Tom's agents to create a plan that ensures he has the best path for
success.

Do you communicate with anyone,
David Perhaps you should try to talk to Tom Of course the headlines
make you look important and help protect you should Tom not deliver any
medals. Wouldn't it be better to work with one of your most important
athletes rather than against him

Had you been kept up to date you
would know that we all agreed to keep Tom's commercial days to a minimum
and ensured no training was missed in the two years prior to the Games
unless approved by everybody.

The irony is that while all Tom's
sponsors respected this and used no days in the months leading up to the
Games, the only request that was not originally approved came from
British Swimming. Funny how things change when it suits British
Swimming!

It's also baffling that you openly
criticise Tom when you yourself have called in special favours for Tom
to make appearances (such as that eight-hour trip to Loughborough in
2011 when I last saw you).

Tom trained in December, also
attending an intensive training camp the week before Christmas, and
continues to train this month. Splash! is now one weekend day of his
time. His coach and mentor is also part of the show. If you were
worried, why did you not speak to Andy If you had actually watched
Splash! you would have seen him as a judge.

The Chinese comparisons really annoy
me – and I know that they annoy Tom. He was not born in Beijing. He was
born in Plymouth. I saw a documentary a few years ago which showed the
Chinese boot-camp style of training in sport. This is not Tom. He would
not function if his life was just diving.

He is very bright, works incredibly
hard and over the last 10 years has given up so much to focus on his
2012 Olympic goal. I know that he will do the same for 2016. However,
Tom is never going to lead a lifestyle similar to a Chinese diver.

I am sure that he will always be the
best he can be in his sport. Splash! is an appropriate show for Tom.
Yes, it can improve following the first show. However, a lot of
grandparents, mums, teenagers and kids loved it.

As you did not watch the show, I can
tell you that it is a diving show and it promotes a key sport that is
under your leadership.

Cautious: Sugababe Jade Ewen prepares to take her first dive on the Saturday night TV show

Proud: Omid Djalili also appears on the show

Cringe-making: Sugababe Jade Ewen (left) and Omid Djalili take the plunge on the show

Oh dear: The likes of Helen Lederer are taught to dive by Daley in the ITV show

Oh dear: The likes of Helen Lederer are taught to dive by Daley in the ITV show

Oh dear: The likes of Helen Lederer are taught to dive by Daley in the ITV show

You told Tom's agent on Monday that it would do
nothing to help the sport in the UK. How ironic to see that your marketing
department has today promoted watching Splash! on Twitter to British
Swimming's followers. So you are worried about Tom's performances
Well, I am worried about yours.

A leader should motivate his team,
not make them think: 'Why do I bother' Did you speak out to protect
your UK Sport funding and be seen to do the right thing for them Well,
if UK Sport want to demotivate the key person in a sport, carry on
David. Good work.

While you may want Tom to do more
training, I would like you to do leadership, media and motivation
courses. Tom may benefit from some UK Sport funding but he has to fund
his own life from sponsorship and media work. When the Splash!
opportunity came to us, it was a completely appropriate one for him and
we also believed that it would help our sport long term – there is not a
lot of diving or swimming for that matter on television, David. That is
meant to be your job.

Tom, though, is just giving some
advice and encouragement – and having some fun. I am glad that he is
doing Splash! even though I don't like to read negative reviews of the
show. Those opinions, though, I can handle. Yours I would like you to
manage given your role within the sport and the impact that it is having
on my son.

Yours sincerely,

Debbie Daley

Manchester City full of festive cheer as they train on Christmas Eve

Merry Mario leads Manchester City training as defending champions gear up for festive period

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UPDATED:

15:40 GMT, 24 December 2012

Making up two points on leaders and fierce rivals Manchester United would have bought more than a hint of festive cheer to City's training ground on Christmas Eve.

And the presence of the club's very own crackers character Mario Balotelli gave the squad a lift, as did the sight of captain Vincent Kompany coming through the session.

In fact, so good was the spirit in camp that youngster Matija Nastasic, who has previously enjoyed a winter break in Italy, said he was relishing his first taste of England's traditionally busy Christmas schedule.

Christmas crackers: Manchester City got an early present when they made up two points on United

Christmas crackers: Manchester City got an early present when they made up two points on United

Christmas cheer: Mario Balotelli was put through his paces in the freezing cold of Manchester

Christmas cheer: Mario Balotelli was put through his paces in the freezing cold of Manchester

Christmas cheer: Mario Balotelli was put through his paces in the freezing cold of Manchester

The 19-year-old centre-back, who has
made a big impression since his arrival from Fiorentina in August, is
unfazed by the prospect of playing five games in the space of 15 days.

He
is also far from concerned by the fact the next two of those matches,
at Sunderland on Boxing Day and Norwich next Saturday, will involve
lengthy journeys.

'To me
it is not a problem,' said the Serbia international. 'I am always happy
when I am playing, so this time of the season makes me happiest of all!

Carlos the joker: Tevez was the one enjoying the Christmas Ever session the most, judging by his smile

Carlos the joker: Tevez was the one enjoying the Christmas Ever session the most, judging by his smile

Carlos the joker: Tevez was the one enjoying the Christmas Ever session the most, judging by his smile

'My father and mother are here, so I won't miss my family. I don't look at the two long away trips as a problem at all.

'Now we concentrate on the Sunderland game, and then we focus on Norwich – it's not a headache.

'The league in Italy stops, and we have a break, but playing here is no problem for me. I am looking forward to the next couple of games.'

City needed a last-gasp winner from Gareth Barry to beat Barclays Premier League bottom side Reading in the first of their festive matches at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Having gone into the game trailing leaders Manchester United by six points, the champions were in danger of handing their title rivals another boost until Barry headed home a contentious goal in injury time.

Reading felt Barry had fouled Nicky Shorey but City celebrated a valuable three points amid much relief and their joy increased later in the weekend when Swansea held United to a draw.

Although Reading showed commendable
resilience throughout, Nastasic felt victory was deserved for City's
obvious superiority and greater number of chances over the whole game.

Nastasic
said: 'We knew the game would be difficult because it was obvious they
would just come and defend, but we deserved the goal in the last minute.

'Reading
played 11 men behind the ball, in a small area which always makes it
very difficult to attack – but that was their game plan.

Space at the table: Roberto Mancini will no doubt be distracted on the big day as he prepares for Boxing Day

Space at the table: Roberto Mancini will no doubt be distracted on the big day as he prepares for Boxing Day

Hart stopper: Joe Hart will hope 2013 doesn't see a repeat of the odd mistake he made this year

Hart stopper: Joe Hart will hope 2013 doesn't see a repeat of the odd mistake he made this year

'We are a very strong team, self-motivated and full of confidence at the moment. What is important is that we keep the same attitude, if we want to win the Premier League. We won the game, and that is the important thing.'

Nastasic's consistent and unfussy performances are currently keeping England centre-back Joleon Lescott out of the City side.

There was even the unusual sight on Saturday of Lescott and captain Vincent Kompany – the heart of City's title-winning defence last season – on the bench as Nastasic partnered Kolo Toure.

Manager Roberto Mancini's regard for the player is evident and he is quickly becoming a fans' favourite.

Nastasic
said: 'It makes me happy if the fans think highly of me, and I just
want to keep playing the way I am – that is the objective for the whole
team, not just me.'

Kompany
was not risked against Reading as he continues to recover from the
groin injury he suffered in the Manchester derby defeat a fortnight ago.

Head for the top: Gareth Barry got the champion out of trouble with a late goal against Reading

Head for the top: Gareth Barry got the champion out of trouble with a late goal against Reading

Head for the top: Gareth Barry got the champion out of trouble with a late goal against Reading

Another teenager, Karim Rekik, was also deployed at left-back as both Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov were sidelined by niggles.

Their fitness will be assessed ahead of the trip to the Stadium of Light while controversial striker Mario Balotelli could come back into contention after illness last week but forward Samir Nasri is out with a hamstring injury.

The match marks the halfway point of the season and Mancini wants his side to start picking up the tempo.

The Italian said: 'We can work better but at the same time I think that we need to do more than last year. From the first six months we need to work better – that's individuals and the group.'

Ken Bates programme notes: No mention of Chelsea but he blasts UEFA and FIFA

Leeds chief Bates snubs Chelsea in his programme notes… and blasts UEFA and FIFA's 'antics'

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UPDATED:

20:14 GMT, 19 December 2012

Leeds chairman Ken Bates has not mentioned Chelsea in his programme notes ahead of the sides' Capital One Cup clash.

Bates used to be the Blues' owner and in the build up to the game even described Wednesday night's clash as 'like getting a new Bentley with your mother-in-law in the passenger seat and watching it go over a cliff'.

He was at Stamford Bridge for 21 years before leaving in 2004, and taking over at Elland Road.

Strong words: Ken Bates is unimpressed with both UEFA and FIFA

Strong words: Ken Bates is unimpressed with both UEFA and FIFA

Instead of writing about his former
club he has blasted UEFA’s decision to spread Euro 2020 across different
countries and has suggested countries will be awarded matches in return
for votes in forthcoming elections.

UEFA president Michel Platini
confirmed recently that Euro 2020 will take place in more than one
venue, prompting fears that many fans will not be able to afford to
travel.

Writing in the
match programme ahead of his club’s Capital Cup tie against Chelsea,
Bates said: 'The antics of UEFA and FIFA continue unabated (no pun
intended).

Who are ya

Football fans often like asking their opponents the question 'who are ya' when they full well know who they are.

But both Leeds and Chelsea supporters would be entitled to look at this team-sheet handed out at Elland Road and wonder just who 'Marko Marvin' was.

Marko Marvin

German attacker Marko Marin admittedly
hasn't featured much for the Blues since his summer switch – but you
wouldn't have thought he'd been out for long enough for people to forget
his name.

'UEFA’s latest daft idea is that the European Nations Cup is played at venues throughout Europe.

'This could mean the games are staged at anywhere from Dublin to Moscow, Belgrade or even Jerusalem!

'The logistics of implementing this idea would be horrendous, least of all for the PBF (Poor Bloody Fans).

'The competition coincides with the height of the holiday season, which will put pressure on aircraft seat capacity, trains and hotel rooms, to say nothing of the cost involved.

'You can expect two or three small countries to get a venue, thus securing their votes in the next UEFA/FIFA elections.'

Bates also turned his attention to FIFA’s decision to award to 2022 World Cup finals to Qatar.

'There have always been suspicions about staging the World Cup in Qatar,' said Bates.

Shake on it: Rival managers Neil Warnock and Rafa Benitez exchange pleasantries before the game

Shake on it: Rival managers Neil Warnock and Rafa Benitez exchange pleasantries before the game

Daft! Bates' verdict on Michel Platini and UEFA's decision to host Euro 2020 across the continent

Daft! Bates' verdict on Michel Platini and UEFA's decision to host Euro 2020 across the continent

'(FIFA president) Sepp Blatter claimed the reason is by going to new countries it is spreading the word and helps take football to a much wider audience.

'But Australia, who lost out, has a much higher population of over 22 million, compared to Qatar, approximately 1.8m. The climate in Qatar in summer often exceeds 100F, but now there is the suggestion it be switched to winter.

'That’s nothing compared to the irreversible financial damage it would do to domestic football. This madness must be stopped in its tracks.

More reason for anger: Sepp Blatter and FIFA were also a target because of their decision to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

More reason for anger: Sepp Blatter and FIFA were also a target because of their decision to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

'The Association of European Leagues, the FAs and domestic leagues should join common cause and say enough is enough.

'If FIFA persists with this scheme they should collectively boycott the event and not make their players available. The ultimate sanction will be to resign from this incompetent organization and see it collapse.

'Both UEFA and FIFA speak with forked tongue. They say that clubs should reduce the size of domestic competitions to reduce players’ fatigue, at the same time increasing international fixtures includes fatuous friendlies, all for profit.'

West Ham appear on The Simpsons, series 24 episode 7 "The Earth Stood Cool"

Hammers hit the big time as first Premier League club to be immortalised on The Simpsons

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UPDATED:

11:45 GMT, 11 December 2012

West Ham have had their fair share of 'D'oh' moments over the years. But now they are the first ever Premier League club to be immortalised in the award-winning cartoon, The Simpsons.

Despite last weekend's defeat by Liverpool, the newly-promoted Hammers have made a promising start to the season.

And it seems that the efforts of Sam Allardyce's side have not gone unnoticed across the pond after the club were given a surprise mention on the legendary comedy show.

Hammer time: West Ham made a surprise appearance on the latest episode of The Simpsons

Hammer time: West Ham made a surprise appearance on the latest episode of The Simpsons

Action replay: Bart and Lisa are amazed to find a West Ham banner in the Bohemian room of new neighbour, T-Rex

Action replay: Bart and Lisa are amazed to find a West Ham banner in the Bohemian room of new neighbour, T-Rex

In the seventh episode of the current – and 24th – series, titled 'The Day The Earth Stood Cool', Bart and Lisa are amazed to discover a 'West Ham United' banner as they enter the Bohemian bedroom of new neighbour, T-Rex.

While the famous Castle crest is included, the east London outfit's traditional claret and blue colours are replaced with green and gold.

The Barclays Premier League club were thrilled by the appearance and tweeted: 'West Ham United were delighted to be featured in The Simpsons episode “The Day The Earth Stood Cool”!'

One stunned Hammers supporter, VeniceHammer, wrote on the Knees Up Mother Brown forum: 'At first I was a bit outraged since they got the colours so completely wrong, but then I guessed it was at least cool to be named in such a well-known TV show.

'Maybe it's all part of the plan for a re-branding after moving to the Olympic Stadium!'

Although there are no posters of the likes of Carlton Cole, Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan in T-Rex's room, West Ham can consider themselves among an elite list of celebrity guest stars on the show.

Making their Mark: West Ham are the first Premier League club to be immortalised on the hit American cartoon show

Making their Mark: West Ham are the first Premier League club to be immortalised on the hit American cartoon show

Tony Blair, Simon Cowell, Ricky Gervais, Gordon Ramsey and Sting are some of the notable British A-listers to have appeared in Springfield, along with other sporting greats including the Williams sisters, LeBron James and Oscar De La Hoya.

Cristiano Ronaldo('oh) featured in a skit during the 'Marge Gamer' episode alongside Homer Simpson, two years ago before the 2010 World Cup.

The Portugal and Real Madrid superstar delivers his trademark wink to the camera after nut-megging Homer on his Springfield doorstep.

Viva Espana: The Simpsons paid tribute to Spain's 2010 World Cup-winning team

Viva Espana: The Simpsons paid tribute to Spain's 2010 World Cup-winning team

The Spain World Cup winning-side were also immortalised by creator Matt Groening last year.

Cesc Fabregas tweeted a picture of his team-mates and wrote: 'How handsome [Carles] Puyol looks in this caricature of the Simpsons… ooooooohhhhhhhhh! Moooc moooc!'

VIDEO: Cristano Ronal-d'oh!

Football club Christmas parties from the past

From tinsel and turkey to fancy dress… the changing face of football's Xmas parties (and, yes, it used to be a bit more civilised…)

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UPDATED:

12:50 GMT, 6 December 2012

It's that time of the year again – frosty mornings, Christmas carols on the radio, glitter and tinsel around the house and High Street shopping hell as you try and find a gift Auntie Gertrude and Uncle Bob might actually like.

And despite it being one of the busiest periods in the football calendar, the players always seem to find time for a Christmas bash – cue photos of superstars looking embarrassed in ridiculous fancy dress or a little worse for wear after stumbling out a nightspot at 3am.

Just this week, we've had West Ham's Andy Carroll accused of assaulting a photographer on the club's festive jaunt to Dublin and Harry Redknapp cancelling QPR's planned party because they just don't deserve it.

Sir Alex Ferguson always reserves the right to ban Manchester United's festivities at the eleventh hour, while Andre Villas-Boas is the anti-Scrooge – he said Tottenham's players should have two or even three nights out this December.

We've certainly come a long way since the players sat round the table for turkey and sprouts with the club directors, as our stroll down a snow-flecked memory lane shows.


Not-so-lively affair: The Tottenham Hotspur Christmas dinner in 1960

Not-so-lively affair: No flaming sambucas or dance-offs at the Tottenham Hotspur Christmas dinner in 1960, just a chat about the club's fortunes with the chairman and board of directors over turkey and two servings of sprouts. The picture at the top is of the 1921 Cup winning side and maybe it inspired the team – they won it in 1961

Bite! Dave Dunmore of West Ham FC bites turkey drumstick held by team mate John Bond in 1960

Plenty of bite! Dave Dunmore of West Ham United tears off a piece of turkey leg kindly stuffed into his mouth by teammate John Bond at their Christmas bash in 1960

Right old knees up: Tottenham Hotspur footballers throw their annual Christmas party at the canteen at White Hart Lane

Right old knees up: The Tottenham vintage of 1962 sing and dance along to Knees Up Mother Brown in what appears to be the back room of a pub, but is actually the White Hart Lane canteen. Pictured are (left to right): Tony Marchi (with fake moustache), Terry Dyson, John Hollowbread, Jimmy Greaves, Dave McKay, John White, Freddie Brown and either a WAG or the canteen's dinner lady

Another mince pie Jimmy Greaves (left) with Tony Marchi (centre) and Terry Dyson (right) enjoy Christmas fayre at the Tottenham Hotspurs annual Christmas party

Greavesy the saint: In a sight that would make a modern club dietician wince, Jimmy Greaves offers a tray laden with mince pies and Christmas pudding to Tony Marchi (centre) and Terry Dyson (right) at the 1962 bash. It had been a good year for Spurs as they retained the FA Cup with a 3-1 win over Burnley

Crystal Palace Football Club christmas party at the Savoy Hotel.

Whole new ball game: The 1966 Crystal Palace team partake in some after dinner entertainment at the Savoy Hotel, as manager Bert Head watches on (bottom left)

Bobby Charlton, former England and Manchester United Footballer, with wife Norma and daughters Suzanne and Andrea, preparing for Christmas

Family Christmas: In the days when photographers and journalists were invited into players' homes, Manchester United and England star Bobby Charlton is pictured with wife Norma asking daughters Suzanne and Andrea what they would like for Christmas 1968. It had been a great year for Charlton, as United won the European Cup

Fulham FC players, playing instruments at their Christmas party.

A team in tune: Fulham's players grab their instruments and take to the stage for an impromptu performance at their 1968 party. Performing Live, it's Les Barrett on clarinet, John Dempsey on drums, Johnny Haynes on the maracas and Johnny /12/06/article-2243862-165C2632000005DC-821_964x775.jpg” width=”964″ height=”775″ alt=”Right at home: George Best, dressed in a Santa outfit, posing with five lovelies at a 1969 film premiere ” class=”blkBorder” />

Santa baby: George Best couldn't look more relaxed as he poses with five lovelies in Santa outfits at a 1969 charity film premiere. Awkwardly, the girl behind him was his former girlfriend Eva Haraldsted, who had been chosen to play the part of 'Mummy Christmas' at the event

Manchester City player Mike Summerbee and Beauty Queen Jenny McAdam entertain children at a Christmas party at Manchester's Odeon cinema

What I want for Christmas… Manchester City legend Mike Summerbee and Beauty Queen Jenny McAdam entertain three young children at a 1969 Christmas party at the Odeon Cinema in Manchester

John Bond, manager of Manchester City FC, with John Benson (assistant manager) and John Sainty (coach) posing with cooked turkey and wearing paper party hats, 1980

What a beautiful bird! It's Christmas 1980 and Manchester City's coaching staff have been hard at work in the kitchen rustling up a turkey dinner for the players. Manager John Bond grasps the tray through a tea towel, while assistant John Benson (left) and coach John Sainty (right) prepare to carve

Ho ho ho! Kenny Dalglish at a children's party with his children Paul and Kelly in 1980

Ho ho ho! Liverpool's Kenny Dalglish and his children meet Father Christmas in 1980 – Kelly can't wait to rip into her present, but Paul doesn't look so sure

Hello Sailor! Sampdoria's Christmas card from 1994

Hello sailor! This very non-festive, but still hilarious, scene was on the front of Sampdoria's club Christmas card in 1994. If you look very closely at the back row, you can pick out future England manager Sven Goran Eriksson and next to him, David Platt

Leather messiah: Ian Wright arrives at Arsenal's 1997 Christmas party

Hat's my boy: David Beckham leaves the 2001 Manchester United Christmas party

Fashionistas: /12/06/article-2243862-165C2618000005DC-267_964x715.jpg” width=”964″ height=”715″ alt=”On the march: The Manchester United squad on the city's streets on their 2002 Christmas party after leaving Mulligan's Irish Pub” class=”blkBorder” />

On the march: Manchester United players taking a stroll around the city centre on their Christmas night out in 2002 after leaving Mulligans Irish Pub. (Left to right) Luke Chadwick (who looks a bit worse for wear), Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, John O'Shea, David May, Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown

Good form: Lee Bowyer dressed as a jockey at the club's 2007 Christmas party

West Ham midfielder Nolberto Solano, dressed as a cricket player, attends the football club's Christmas party at the Kingly Club in central London.

Good form: The West Ham party in 2007 had a sports theme and delivered some cracking costumes, including Lee Bowyer in his jockey silks and Peruvian Nolberto Solano wondering why on earth he came as a cricketer… or indeed, what cricket actually is

You shall go to the ball! Frank Lampard in a fetching outfit arriving at Chelsea's fancy dress Christmas party in 2007

You shall go to the ball! Frank Lampard is some fetching attire as he arrives at Chelsea's Christmas fancy dress party at Stamford Bridge in December 2007

You shall go to the ball! Frank Lampard in a fetching outfit arriving at Chelsea's fancy dress Christmas party in 2007

Captain, Leader, Superhero John Terry in his Mr Incredible costume driving to the Chelsea party in 2007

A few too many... Tottenham's Giovani Dos Santos needs some assistance as he leaves the Taman Gang Club in Marble Arch

A few too many, Gio Tottenham's Giovani Dos Santos is dragged into a taxi by bouncers after throwing up outside Taman Gang Club in Marble Arch on the club's 2008 do

Spotty and dotty: Manchester City's players outside the Piccolino restaurant on their Christmas night out in 2010

Spotty and dotty: Manchester City's players outside the Piccolino restaurant on their Christmas night out in 2010

Manchester City players go out in London in fancy dress last year

Man City madness: The players hit London town in fancy dress last year

Costume capers: The Manchester City squad went even further when they hit the town in London last year, wearing a variety of fancy dress outfits

Manchester City players go out in London in fancy dress last year

Manchester City players go out in London in fancy dress last year

Arsenal"s American owner Stan Kroenke buys 80m ranch in the Rocky Mountains

Gunners chief Kroenke in 80m splurge… but let's hope he's got some change for Arsene after buying ranch the size of 71,000 Emirates Stadium pitches

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UPDATED:

23:34 GMT, 3 December 2012

On Saturday Arsenal fans marched against the perceived lack of financial muscle being flexed in the transfer market. How could a club with billionaire shareholders and some of the most expensive tickets in world football be unable to compete in the Premier League

News then, that 5,000 miles away American majority shareholder Stan Kroenke was putting the finishing touches to an 80million deal for a Montana ranch will not sit will with feuding fans.

The billionaire businessman has purchased the 124,000 acre site – enough to fit 71,000 Emirates Stadium pitches – in the Rocky Mountains, a fitting location considering the indifferent form of his team and the size of the task facing them if they are to maintain their place among England and Europe's elite.

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Stan Kroenke's 80 million farm Broken O Ranch in Montana

Not bad: The 10,000-square-foot main house overlooks the Sun River and comes with indoor pool

River view: 20 miles of the Sun River run through the Broken O Ranch

River view: The main house looks out over the 20 miles of the Sun River that run through Broken O Ranch

Stone floors and hunting trophies give the main house a hunting lodge fee

Welcome: Stone floors and hunting trophies give the main house a hunting lodge feel

Arsenal currently sit tenth in the Premier League having endured their worst start to a season for 18 years. Rumblings of discontent among fans have become roars in recent weeks and much of the ire has been directed at the board.

Ivan Gazidis has bore the brunt of the criticism, though Wenger and Kroenke, who owns 66 per cent of the club, has also been heckled.

Covering the equivalent of 71,000 Arsenal pitches, the Broken O Ranch runs 3,500 mother cows, 800 replacement heifers and 175 range bulls.

Against the tide: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under increasing pressure from the fans

Against the tide: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under increasing pressure from the fans

Against the tide: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under increasing pressure from the fans

Such is the vastness of Broken O that the UK's second largest city, Birmingham, at 103 square miles or 66,174 hectares, would virtually fit into it twice.

Situated along the eastern edge of the stunning Rocky Mountain Front – the Broken O Ranch is regarded as one of the US's most grand and significant ranches.

It was owned by the Moore family who spent around 25 years building it up and includes more than 20 miles of the Sun River coursing through it.

The Sun River corridor provides exceptional brown and rainbow trout fishing, antelope, whitetail and mule deer hunting, as well as extensive upland game bird and waterfowl populations.

The main house looks over the 20 miles of the Sun River

Room with a view: The main house gives panoramic views right up to the Rocky Mountains

Broken O Ranch covers the equivalent of 71000 Arsenal pitches

Huge: Broken O Ranch covers the equivalent of 71,000 Arsenal pitches

Each year the ranch produces 25,000 tons of alfalfa hay and 700,000 bushels of small-grain crops.

Denver-based Kroenke, who is worth 2.5 billion, is now thought to be the eighth largest landowner in the USA following his latest purchase – owning an estimated 864,000 acres.

Real estate company Hall and Hall managed the sale for Mr Kroenke, who also owns a number of US sports franchises.

VIDEO: A look at the Broken O Ranch:

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Broken O Ranch spans three counties and is 45 miles west of Great Falls

Location: Broken O Ranch spans Lewis & Clark, Cascade and Teton counties and is 45 miles west of Great Falls and east of the stunning Rocky Mountains

 Broken O Ranch runs 3,500 mother cows, 800 replacement heifers and 175 range bulls

Legacy: Mr Kroenke is said to be looking forward to building on the work done by previous owners in making Broken O one of the most significant farming ranches in the US

The UK city of Birmingham could fit twice into the Broken O Ranch

Vast: The UK city of Birmingham could fit twice into the Broken O Ranch

Cristiano Ronaldo the new Jerry Springer: Video

VIDEO: Ronaldo the new Jerry Springer as Real Madrid star sorts out family feud on Italian TV show

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UPDATED:

09:26 GMT, 1 November 2012

Cristiano Ronaldo has had his fair share of spats over the years but the Real Madrid star was the perfect peacemaker during a recent appearance on Italian television.

Ronaldo, on 'C'e fasting per te,' or 'I have a letter for you,' helped a mother and daughter mend their broken relationship.

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Man in the middle: Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo on Italian TV

Man in the middle: Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo on Italian TV

It's good to talk: Ronaldo brought a mother and daughter back together

It's good to talk: Ronaldo brought a mother and daughter back together

The 27-year-old former Manchester United favourite has obviously been watching Jeremy Kyle and Jerry Springer, as he told the warring pair: 'All people should know how to forgive. Life is so short — things are better if you forgive.'

Well said, Ron!

Meanwhile, Ronaldo was called to testify at Silvio Berlusconi's bunga bunga sex trial this week.

Berlusconi's lawyers hope that Ronaldo's evidence will discredit the testimony of Karima El Mahroug – the dancer at the heart of the trial.

Also known as Ruby the Heart Stealer, El Mahroug claims to have had a fling with Ronaldo in a Milan hotel. The player's lawyers have denied this.

Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with the dancer when she was 17 and of putting pressure on police to let her off a theft charge.

The 76-year-old denies both allegations.

Women"s World Twenty20 2012: Arran Brindle"s son helps England"s bid for victory

Brindle's little boy is helping England women's T20 campaign end in the mother of all victories

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UPDATED:

21:50 GMT, 6 October 2012

England's women stand on the brink of outdoing their male counterparts by winning the World Twenty20 on Sunday, courtesy of their secret weapon – four-year-old Harry Brindle.

The son of veteran batsman Arran Brindle has accompanied the team throughout the tournament in Sri Lanka, where they have yet to lose more than six wickets in an innings, let alone a match.

While the men's team limped out at the Super Eight stage, the women are favourites to clinch a fifth world title over Australia, who they have already beaten once in this tournament.

On the brink: Arran Brindle (right) is hoping to outdo the men's T20 by winning the final

On the brink: Arran Brindle (right) is hoping to outdo the men's T20 by winning the final

England had a training session yesterday before taking their minds off the final by playing with Harry in the hotel pool in Colombo.

'Harry's having a whale of a time swimming with the girls,' said Brindle. 'To have that away from cricket gives you another focus and a good time to relax.

'Being in the pool is also great for recovery and recuperation. I hope the girls have enjoyed having him here. I've taken on a bit of a mother role in the team and I always seem to end up carrying things and the girls ask me for various things, like tape and scissors. I've not quite taken on grandma status yet.'

Harry's presence has proved a distraction for a team seen as the best in the world in all formats.

'We're going in as favourites but we're not feeling the pressure,' said Brindle.

'We take confidence from the fact we have already beaten them in the group stage. The biggest thing for women's cricket is that it's an entertaining final because it's being televised.'

Brindle, 30, returned to the international fold last year following a five-year break to start a family with husband James. She played club cricket throughout her hiatus, becoming the first woman to captain a men's ECB Premier League team when she took the reins at Louth in 2007.

Sweet victory: England beat New Zealand in the semi-final of the World T20

Sweet victory: England beat New Zealand in the semi-final of the World T20

'I didn't retire, I just needed a break,' said Brindle. 'It was a lot of travel from Louth to Loughborough, where the England team trained. But things have changed for the better in terms of investment since then.

'A lot of my training can be done five minutes down the road now because of improved facilities, so it made returning to international cricket while Harry is just starting primary school an option.'

It is testimony to the commitment of the ECB to develop women's cricket with a huge increase in funding, security and status for elite players.

They take performance seriously, with intensive training camps including strength and conditioning, nutrition, spin and diving techniques.

Such attention to detail has seen England lose one game in the T20 format since January 2011, a defeat by West Indies last month ending a 21-match unbeaten run.

But they have rarely been stretched, their supremacy continuing with victory over semifinal opponents New Zealand.

Brindle's son, Harry, four, has accompanied the team throughout their tour

Brindle's son, Harry, four, has accompanied the team throughout their tour

Captain Charlotte Edwards will again have a quartet of spin bowlers, led by Holly Colvin, at her disposal in the final.

They will relish a return to the sluggish pitch at Premadasa. 'Spin has been a key part throughout, so it's nice to have a surface to help us out,' said Colvin, 23.

The extra day's rest England have had over Australia, who beat West Indies on Friday, could be telling.

But if England do reclaim the World T20 trophy, which they relinquished to Australia in 2010, celebrations will be kept to a minimum.

'Win or lose, it's a quick flight back home,' said Brindle.

Aston Villa beat Swansea comfortably – how did they do it?

It's turning to gold for Lambert: What went right for Villa against Swansea

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 16 September 2012

Perfect days don’t come along all that often in football. But with pressure mounting on Paul Lambert to register his first Premier League victory as Aston Villa manager, his team managed to knock in-form Swansea well and truly out of their stride.

Villa Park rose as one at the final whistle to give their thanks to the Scot’s heavily-revamped and youthful side after an afternoon in which everything went right for the hosts. Here we analyse the key performers and the decisions which went Lambert’s way.

Tidy win: Paul Lambert earned his first league win at Aston Villa

Tidy win: Paul Lambert earned his first league win at Aston Villa

Brad Guzan – Villa’s manager gambled two weeks ago when he dropped Shay Given for the American. But Guzan, who was persuaded to stay by Lambert this summer, rewarded his boss with a crucial last-minute save at St James’s Park. On Saturday, he pulled off a superb save from Ashley Williams’ early header then topped it with a breathtaking stop from Nathan Dyer.

Matthew Lowton – A few eyebrows were raised when Lambert paid Sheffield United, now of League One, 3m for the right-back. Villa already had Scotland international Alan Hutton on the staff. But the defender enjoyed his own perfect day.

Not only did he score a 25-yard opener, but 20 of his family were there to see it, including his mother, Lisa, whose birthday was this weekend. Happy Birthday mum!

Peach: Matthew Lowton smashed one in from way out to open the scoring

Peach: Matthew Lowton smashed one in from way out to open the scoring

MATCH FACTS

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Guzan 7, Lowton 9, Vlaar 8, Clark 8, Lichaj 7; Holman 8, (N’Zogbia 79, 6) El Ahmadi 7, Bannan 7, Ireland 7; (Westwood 71, 6) Weimann 6, (Benteke 71, 7) Bent 6.

Subs: Given, N’Zogbia, Agbonlahor, Bowery, Bennett.

Goals: Lowton 16, Benteke 88

Booked: Clark, Lowton, Lichaj

Swansea City (4-2-3-1): Vorm 5, Rangel 7, Tate 6, Williams 5, Davies 6; Britton 6, (Shechter 79, 6) De Guzman 6; Dyer 7, Michu 5, Routledge 6; (Hernandez 58, 6) Graham 5. (Moore 71, 5)

Subs not used: Tremmel, Ki, Agustien, Richards.

Booked: Michu

Referee: L Mason – 8

Attendance: 34,005

Man of the match: Matthew Lowton

Brett Holman – The Aussie’s industry was highlighted on Match of the Day 2 during Villa’s draw at Newcastle. And he produced more of the same, setting the tempo for the hosts with his ferocious work-rate. It unsettled the Swans who were unable to dominate possession as they normally do.

Ron Vlaar – Awarded the captaincy ahead of Darren Bent, the Dutchman is fast becoming a cult hero of the Holte End. He was Feyenoord’s skipper for two seasons and already looks a force to be reckoned with.

Christian Benteke – The 8m striker from Genk ‘is a right handful,’ according to his manager. Lambert wanted a ‘physical presence’ and the 21-year-old Belgian provides that all right. Scoring the second goal will only help boost his confidence.

‘If Christian tells me it's raining, I’m inclined to believe him,’ joked Villa’s boss at the final whistle.

Confidence boost: Christian Benteke struck the second

Confidence boost: Christian Benteke struck the second

Of course, mention must be made of Lambert himself who has slashed a sluggish squad and appears to have transformed it thanks to an injection of youth and vitality.

It isn’t the finished article yet, but Villa’s fans who saw only their second win in 14 home league matches were certainly happy at the final whistle.

Finally, if it was perfect for Villa, it was less so for Swansea. Brendan Rodgers earned himself a hike up the managerial ladder last season following his success.

However, now teams are starting to develop game-plans to counter their passing style. Michael Laudrup is also trying to implement his own style. It could be a bumpy ride.

US Open 2012: Laura Robson spotted by Jo Durie at age 10

Robson a big hit with Durie! Former British star saw Laura's potential at age 10

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 3 September 2012

Jo Durie well recalls first encountering a 10-year-old Laura Robson and the immediate impression she made when they got on a practice court together.

Brought along by her mother, Kathy, for a try-out with former world No 5 Durie and her long-time coaching partner Alan Jones, something stood out from the other girls they were working with.

‘Straightaway you could tell she hit the ball really well. A lot of the time it went into the back fence but there was an unusual sense of timing,’ said Durie, who helped guide her for two years.

Bright future: Laura Robson enjoyed a fine run to the US Open fourth round

Bright future: Laura Robson enjoyed a fine run to the US Open fourth round

‘I remember her losing in the first round of the national Under 12 championships. We asked her and Kathy afterwards if she wanted to win Under 12 titles just by making fewer mistakes than her opponent or end up being good at 18 by learning to hit the ball properly and hard and lose a few more matches than might be expected.’

Sensible words, as by taking the latter course Robson is comfortably the best 18-year-old in the world. After reaching the fourth round of the US Open she is the best equipped home-produced player to emulate Durie, who in the mid-Eighties was the last British woman to reach the quarter and semi-finals of Grand Slams.

Robson was really not far off beating Samantha Stosur before losing 6-4, 6-4 late on Sunday. With a little more composure at junctures such as two break points at 4-4 in the first set, she could have been in the last eight.

Power games: Robson already has formidable weapons in her arsenal

Power games: Robson already has formidable weapons in her arsenal

Durie, who is still working to produce the next generation at her academy in Northwood, Middlesex, knows there is more to come from Robson.

‘It is exciting because there is still a lot of improving to do,’ said Durie. ‘The best thing about her in New York has been her willingness to run and chase. Ultimately it has to come from the player. It’s obvious how well she hits the ball.

‘She has also got to improve the consistency on her serve, which can be a big weapon but a bit horrible at other times.

Blast from the past: Brit favourite Jo Durie

Blast from the past: Brit favourite Jo Durie

‘When you look at some of the players who have got into the top 10, you would ask why shouldn’t she Providing she works hard, she will make the top 20, but after that it is not easy to tell. Some things can only come from the player.’

Robson, who has clothing and equipment contracts with adidas and Wilson respectively, is quite a potential commodity when you consider what the likes of Jessica Ennis have earned this year. While London 2012 was a one-off springboard for Ennis, tennis is an almost year-round showcase that includes Britain’s biggest annual sports event.

It is conceivable Robson will do extremely well at Wimbledon in the coming years as her game is perfectly suited to grass. She loves the ball coming at her relatively low and at pace while a left-handed serve that is already clocking 112mph should develop into a considerable asset. Those are attributes which caused Murray to pick her as his Olympic mixed doubles partner.

Murray collects about 2million a year for his clothing deal alone so it is not hard to see how Robson, blessed with looks and intelligence, will fare in the market if she continues to deliver on the promise of the Wimbledon junior title she won at 14.

After food poisoning interrupted her promised retail therapy in Manhattan on Monday she will head home before going to Asia for a series of WTA Tour events before the season rounds off in Europe.