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Roberto Martinez confirms signing of Roger Espinoza

Two out, one in! Martinez loses Lopez and McCarthy through injury but confirms Espinoza



20:19 GMT, 19 December 2012

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has revealed defender Adrian Lopez could be sidelined for 10 weeks with the hamstring tear he suffered in Saturday's defeat at Norwich.

James McCarthy's ankle problem, sustained in the same game, appears to have been only a short-term setback, but for Lopez the verdict was far from encouraging.

Martinez told the Wigan Evening Post: 'We are waiting on the results of another scan, but Adrian has a tear to his hamstring and it will probably be between six and 10 weeks.

'It's a shame': Wigan defender Adrian Lopez (left) could be out for up to 10 weeks after injuring his hamstring in the defeat against Norwich

'It's a shame': Wigan defender Adrian Lopez (left) could be out for up to 10 weeks after injuring his hamstring in the defeat against Norwich

'It's a shame because Adrian has never had a soft-tissue injury before.

'He is a sprinter and he has a real sprinter's muscles – you don't usually see people like him picking up this kind of injury.'

Wigan's Adrian Lopez

Blow: Lopez had played Wigan's last five games, coming into the side as defenders Ivan Ramis, Antolin Alcaraz and Gary Caldwell have all suffered injuries

Midfielder McCarthy had to be substituted at half-time at Carrow Road after being left with a hurt ankle following what Latics manager Martinez branded a 'nasty challenge'.

Martinez has since received an update on McCarthy's situation, and said: 'We've had the scan and he has a sprain in his ankle, and we need to see how that develops.

'Any sort of injury is disappointing, although we are relieved that it is not a really bad tear to his ligament.

James McCarthy

Too early: Midfielder James McCarthy has been working hard to play against Arsenal Saturday, but according to Roberto Martinez, it's 'too early to tell'

'He's been working really hard this past two days, accelerating the recovery process, but it's too early to tell if he'll be okay for the weekend.'

Wigan, who have dropped into the relegation zone, play Arsenal in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday.

Defenders Gary Caldwell, Ivan Ramis (both hamstring) and Antolin Alcaraz (groin) could return, while midfielder Ben Watson, who fractured his shin in November, is to have his cast removed tomorrow.

Wigan defender Gary Caldwell

Wigan defender Ivan Ramis

Injuries: Wigan have also been without defenders Gary Caldwell (left), Ivan Ramis (right) and Antolin Alcaraz (not pictured) at various stages this season

Martinez was delighted to have confirmation that Sporting Kansas City's versatile Honduras midfielder Roger Espinoza will be joining Wigan in January after being granted permission to work in the UK.

'He is someone who physically is really capable and has a gifted left foot,' Martinez told www.wiganlatics.co.uk.

'Having someone with such a good left foot gives a balance to the squad because most players are primarily right-footed.

'He's developed his tactical awareness and has learned how to play in different systems.

'Roger can play in any position in the midfield and can even play out in a wide left position, so we are delighted to capture a player with such versatility and stature.'

Reinforcements: Roberto Martinez has confirmed the signing of versatile Honduran midfielder Roger Espinoza

Reinforcements: Roberto Martinez has confirmed the signing of versatile Honduran midfielder Roger Espinoza from MLS side Sporting Kansas City

NFL viagra secret: Chicago Bears star Brandon Marshall reveals on-field boost

Why are NFL stars so pumped up They take VIAGRA, claims Chicago Bears ace



11:49 GMT, 30 November 2012

Professional sportsmen have been glugging Red Bull and popping caffeine pills for some time now in a desperate attempt for a last-minute pick-up before a match.

But it seems American footballers have taken that drive for peak performance to a new level, at least according to one player.

No wonder, he's smiling: Chicago Bears star Brandon Marshall claims NFL players take Viagra to boost their on-field performance

No wonder, he's smiling: Chicago Bears star Brandon Marshall claims NFL players take Viagra to boost their on-field performance

NFL Viagra secret revealed

Chicago Bears’ Brandon Marshall claims NFL stars are taking Viagra before games to boost on-field performance.

Marshall told the Mirror: ‘Some guys will do whatever they can to get an edge. I’ve heard of some crazy stories.

‘I’ve heard of guys using Viagra, seriously. Because the blood is supposedly thin, some crazy stuff.

‘It’s kind of scary with some of these chemicals that are in some of these thins, so you have to be careful.’

Up for it: Viagra is legal in the USA, provided it is prescribed by a doctor

Up for it: Viagra is legal in the USA, provided it is prescribed by a doctor

From a sports science perspective, the pills would work in a similar way as they do in the bedroom. The pills relax and widen blood vessels, in turn speeding the flow of oxygen to the muscles and boosting performance.

Viagra is legal in the USA provided it is prescribed by a doctor — it is even advertised on American television by former NFL coaches.

London 2012 Paralympics: Tim Pearson is aiming for "12 in 2012"

The Medal Machine: He already has nine golds, now Pearson is aiming for '12 in 2012'



22:04 GMT, 28 August 2012

For the British equestrian with the largest haul of gold medals, one horsepower is never going to be enough.

Which is why Paralympian Lee Pearson CBE has got Jeremy Clarkson — and Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson — in his sights.

‘I want to take on Jeremy Clarkson in a car and then make him ride a horse against me — one horsepower — can you imagine that’ says Pearson, who has nine Paralympic gold medals (28 in all major championships) and would love to make it ‘12 at 2012’.

Born to ride: Lee Pearson with Gentleman at his Stoke stables

Born to ride: Lee Pearson with Gentleman at his Stoke stables

Another triple gold performance in London would also put him one ahead of Grey-Thompson, Britain’s legendary Paralympian, who has 11 golds, four silvers and one bronze.

‘Clarkson is always showing off about his 500 horsepower cars or whatever. Yes, that is one of my life’s missions: to take on Jeremy Clarkson — and beat him. I think he will dislike me, then I can wind him up even more.

‘I just love cars. It was buy a farm or buy a race car and I did the sensible thing and bought a farm.

‘Driving a fast car is all about feel and it’s the same with a horse. When I am riding I feel what the horse is doing. I feel every leg, every muscle, the tension in the horse’s jaw down the rein. You need to feel if it is going sideways enough, going forwards enough, backwards, everything.’

At ease: Pearson relaxes at his home

At ease: Pearson relaxes at his home

Pearson was born with arthro-gryposis multiplex congenita, where his arm and leg muscles are just scar tissue. As a gay, disabled sportsman, with a forthright manner, who loves fast cars and owns an 800cc quad bike, Pearson ticks a lot of boxes, as well as blowing away a few prejudices about how disabled people are expected to behave. First and foremost, Pearson is an elite sportsman with serious ambitions.

Pearson, 38, says: ‘For every one of my medals I worked my guts off. I have been classed as a medal machine as I have also got European and worlds — 28 golds in total. So I do work like a dog to achieve them.

‘At my first Paralympics, in Sydney, they pulled a number out of a hat to find out what horse you rode. And while people say horses don’t realise if you are disabled, they do realise if you have got empathy and talent, strength, stupidity and bravery. So you can imagine that a bunch of about 120 disabled riders jumping on to a bunch of horses they don’t know was quite entertaining! The structure changed for Athens, partly because Greece couldn’t supply the number of dressage horses required.

‘Athens was my own horse, Blue Circle Boy, and at Beijing it was Gentleman, who is the most awkward, nasty horse you have ever known. At Beijing he was trying to get me off. Until we went into the arena and the atmosphere was so big that he went, “S***, I had better behave”.’

In the saddle: Pearson puts Gentleman through his dressage paces

In the saddle: Pearson puts Gentleman through his dressage paces

Lee Pearson's Paralympic haul

On top: Pearson in Beijing

On top: Pearson in Beijing

Winner of the ‘triple triple’ in equestrian dressage (Grade 1)

Beijing 2008: gold in team dressage, individual dressage and freestyle dressage.

Athens 2004: gold in team dressage, individual dressage and freestyle dressage.

Sydney 2000: Gold in team dressage, individual dressage and freestyle dressage.

Pearson is relaxing in his farmhouse kitchen just outside Stoke-on-Trent. It is a scene Come Dine With Me viewers will see later this week, when Pearson takes on four fellow Paralympians in the Channel 4 cookery competition.

The CBE is framed behind him, next to the Paralympic golds and his MBE and OBE. A new honour was bestowed after every Paralympic success.

‘Our sport is perceived to be elitist and I now live on a nice farm that I have worked seriously hard to afford but sometimes it is actually difficult to get sponsorship because some people think you are already loaded, whereas I am just a bloke from Stoke who has done good, marketed myself quite well and got a good sponsorship deal but I still have a mortgage. People don’t realise how hard you have to work at this.

‘Mum and Dad had to fight to get me into mainstream school. Eventually the authorities gave in and said I could go if I had a lady to follow me around to make sure I was OK and to carry my bag.

‘My mum said, “You are having a laugh, as if he is not weird enough, he is going to be very weird having this person following him around”.

‘Mum and Dad made the decision that they
were going to try to give me the same opportunity as my two able-bodied
older brothers. It was just seen as a hurdle to get over and we would
get over the hurdle one way or another.

‘There are different ways to cope,’
added Pearson, who was a Child of Courage in 1980, when Margaret
Thatcher famously carried the six-year-old upstairs on a visit to
Downing Street.

‘Although my body is knackered, I have a real great sense of feeling. Except when I fall off.’

This seems to be a regular occurrence for Pearson, who took 12 weeks off last year after breaking his back. ‘Halfway through a session my horse just launched into the air and as he hit the ground he went at a flat-out gallop across the arena, leaping like a rodeo horse. I am doing like 30 miles an hour, about 20 feet in the air, thinking this is going to hurt.

Courage: Pearson meets Margaret Thatcher in 1980

Courage: Pearson meets Margaret Thatcher in 1980

‘At A&E they said nothing was broken, go home and rest and take pain-killers. Two weeks later I was still in pain so went to a private clinic and had a scan. I had cracked three vertebrae and crushed a fourth.’

And then he cracked a rib tripping
over a chicken. ‘She hadn’t gone to bed so I picked her up, then I don’t
know what happened, I slipped on chicken s*** I think, my crutches were
in the air, the chicken was in the air, I was in the air and I landed
in a load of aviary wire and cracked a rib.

told myself that I was getting all my accidents out of the way last
year to have a clear run this year. I also joke that I was able-bodied
when I started!’

out was almost as traumatic for Pearson, who had to break the news to
his parents. ‘It was quite difficult because Dad was a lorry driver, a
typical bloke,’ he says.

‘He took it very badly, but so did I. I didn’t want to be gay. I didn’t want to be disabled but you are kind of given your lot.

‘My mum was quite confused and said things like, “Are you sure, can’t you just hide it”.

am quite a masculine person. I would see a good-looking couple walking
down the street and think she’s pretty, but I’m eyeing him too. That is
what I was always fighting with. I decided to give in.

‘If I could flip two switches and be able-bodied and normal I probably would.’

Chelsea v Manchester City – Community Shield live

LIVE: Chelsea v Manchester City – follow the Community Shield action from Villa Park



03:00 GMT, 12 August 2012

The Community Shield – the curtain-raiser to the Barclays Premier League season – takes place at Villa Park today as Chelsea and Manchester City flex their muscles ahead of the title race. Keep track of all the latest news and pictures as the action unfolds…

***Coverage begins at 12.30pm***

Rivals: Eden Hazard and Sergio Aguero are set to go head-to-head

Rivals: Eden Hazard and Sergio Aguero are set to go head-to-head

London 2012 Olympics: Great Britain"s men"s eight win bronze in final

Eight left with bronze after daring to fight with the giants and dream at Dorney



20:10 GMT, 1 August 2012

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For Greg Searle, retirement came with a bronze medal, a final burn of the muscles and the sole regret that he was unable to wear his lucky school rugby socks in the Great Britain eight.

His last race at the highest level at least turned out to be a sensational contest, the home crew bravely challenging the German favourites for gold before losing out to Canada for the silver in the closing stretch as they paid the price for earlier adventure.

At 40, Searle, a gold medallist 20 years ago today in Barcelona, goes back into normal life with head held high and advice for crew-mates such as stroke Constantine Louloudis, who is half his age but appeared twice as upset at a third-place finish.

Giving it their all: The men's eight won bronze

Giving it their all: The men's eight won bronze

Medal men: The Great Britain team pose with their bronze medals

Medal men: The Great Britain team pose with their bronze medals

The veteran was not seriously put out
at Olympic regulations forcing him to wear the universal ankle socks but
he did feel it touches on a more profound point that his GB rowing
successors can take on board.

‘Guys who are full-time can find the
training tough and I do worry that it can turn into a job,’ he
reflected. ‘I would just say to others that as well as being
professional in your approach, keep the passion and love for what you
do. That is why Helen Glover and Heather Stanning have done so well —
because they love it.’

Winners float: Canada (left) took silver, Germany (centre) gold, Great Britain (right) bronze

Winners float: Canada (left) took silver, Germany (centre) gold, Great Britain (right) bronze

Searle’s life now will be a ‘blank
canvas’ with family getting priority. ‘I have missed a lot of things
that my children have done,’ he said. ‘I’m looking forward to seeing
their sports days again. But I have no regrets about coming back, I’m
very proud of what we have done over the past three years.’

Louloudis, at 20 marked out for
greatness already, will resume his studies at Oxford next term after a
race which he said forced him to dig deeper than ever before.

Making a splash: The Germany team throw their cox Martin Sauer into the water after winning gold

Making a splash: The Germany team throw their cox Martin Sauer into the water after winning gold

Not long after the halfway point Great
Britain were just ahead of the Germans, unbeaten since Beijing, and
looked in sight of a sensational victory with Eton Dorney’s increasingly
landmark ‘Wall of Sound’ pulling them home. In the end they were nearly
edged off the podium by Australia.

‘We went for a win. If we had just
wanted silver we could have rowed a different race,’ said Louloudis, who
made the boat despite back problems earlier this summer. ‘In the last
500 metres the mind said yes but the body said no. The legs weren’t
co-operating and I was having to shorten it up.’

He knows he should get another chance
in Rio 2016, as does his equally inconsolable crew-mate Moe Sbihi, and
they were more distraught than the relatively phlegmatic Searle. Perhaps
it is the knowledge of all that pain in store in the future.

Winning feeling: Germany's rowers celebrate after winning the gold medal in the men's eight final

Winning feeling: Germany's rowers celebrate after winning the gold medal in the men's eight final

It also saw Northern Ireland’s Alan
Campbell qualify for the final of the single sculls and an extremely
impressive progression for the youthful men’s pair of Will Satch and
George Nash, who will also be contenders for a medal, although probably
not gold.

Along with the men’s quad it meant
that all 10 of the British crews who have attempted it so far have made
their finals. Although Tanner is loath to get into specific targets, he
did reveal a growing sense of optimism that the next three days will
continue to deliver hardware.

‘We’ve been the second best boat all
summer and bronze does not reflect that. We went for broke,’ said Sbihi,
who carved his own little piece of history by becoming Britain’s first
Muslim to win an Olympic rowing medal.

The British performance director,
David Tanner, again pronounced himself pleased with the day, especially
as the vision he has harboured since Atlanta 1996 for Britain to produce
a women’s gold had finally become reality.

Just pipped: Germany win ahead of Canada and Great Britain

Just pipped: Germany win ahead of Canada and Great Britain

‘Two medals and 10 finals is at the
very top end of my expectations,’ he said. Today’s three finals could
produce two more medals, with a genuine chance of gold for the fancied
lightweight men’s four, although it is a notoriously unpredictable
class. The men’s double of Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend are a less
certain shot to get on the podium, and the women’s eight will have to
show unforeseen form to make an impression.

There will also be the
hugely-anticipated clash between the British and Australian men’s fours,
although only in the semi-final, with their last showdown due on

Paris Saint-Germain to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Paris next for Zlatan, the 150m enigma… and could Modric follow



23:14 GMT, 12 July 2012

They say that money moves to money and in the world of football that sort of phrase often ends with two words: Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Once again Ibrahimovic is on the move, this time to Paris Saint-Germain, from AC Milan, whose president Silvio Berlusconi was quoted as saying: ‘Yes, I’ve sold Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to PSG.’

The deal for the pair is thought to be worth a combined 51.3million — 32m of that being for Ibrahimovic. If that is correct, it would make him the most expensive footballer in history.

Is that the way to Paris Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks set for a move to France

Is that the way to Paris Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks set for a move to France

Depending on which figures you trust, Ibrahimovic will have been transferred for between 130-150m in his career once the move goes through.

The Sweden centre forward, who will be 31 in October, has gone from Malmo to Ajax to Juventus to Inter Milan to Barcelona to AC Milan. He is frequently described as over-rated but this c.v. suggests otherwise. His aggressive, skilful and committed performances for his country at Euro 2012 may also have altered some opinion.

Now Ibrahimovic, who bought an island
off Stockholm last month, is set for another club in another country.
The shock is not that he is moving; the development concerns who is
buying. PSG can now rival Manchester City for sovereign wealth.

For he's a jolly dear fellow…

5m: Malmo to Ajax, July 2001

12m: Ajax to Juventus, July 2004

20m: Juventus to Inter, Aug 2006

56.5m: Inter to Barcelona, July 2009

24m: Barcelona to AC Milan, June 2011

32m: AC Milan to PSG, July 2012
(plus Thiago Silva)

TOTAL: 149.5m

The best-paid player in Serie A is ready to go to the Parisian club purchased last summer by Qatar Sports Investments. QSI have billions, not millions, behind them, and muscles are being flexed. Ezequiel Lavezzi, the Napoli striker who scored twice against Chelsea in the Champions League in February, joined for almost 24m earlier this month.

QSI’s president is Nasser Al-Khelaifi but it is Qatar’s ruling family, Al Thani, who own QSI and who are funding this cultural shift a decade before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Malaga in La Liga are now also owned by the same extended family.

Shortly after QSI acquired PSG last June, Argentinian playmaker Javier Pastore arrived from Palermo for around 37m. It was the sort of quick statement Manchester City made when they signed Robinho after their Abu Dhabi takeover.

In Paris QSI followed Pastore with
several others from Serie A and, from elsewhere, Alex from Chelsea and
Maxwell from Barcelona — a former team-mate of Ibrahimovic. PSG also
tried to lure David Beckham to Paris.

Former AC Milan manager, Leonardo,
who coached Beckham at the San Siro, is PSG’s sporting director. Six
months ago PSG appointed Carlo Ancelotti as their new manager. The
connection with the Italian game is strong — see Lavezzi — and
Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva arriving would increase it.

Swede strike: Zlatan scored one of the goals of Euro 2012 against France

Swede strike: Zlatan scored one of the goals of Euro 2012 against France

Al-Khelaifi’s other significant role is as director of the TV station Al Jazeera Sports. From this season, Canal Plus, previously the established broadcaster in France, no longer have that position. Al Jazeera now control domestic football on French TV, and shares Champions League games with Canal Plus.

QSI’s impact at PSG did not prevent Montpellier winning the French title last season, most surprisingly, but PSG came second and will be in the Champions League. Last season they were out of the Europa League before Christmas.

Signing Ibrahimovic would be PSG’s loudest statement yet. If they keep adding to it Ancelotti will have a squad capable of more than noise. Thursday brought a link to Ganso, a young Brazilian compared to Neymar before injury struck, and Ancelotti spoke about Luka Modric.

‘I did not need to see him at the Euros to know how much talent he has,’ Ancelotti said of the Spurs player. ‘But I am sorry to disappoint you. I cannot speak publicly about the transfer market.’

Subtle, it was not.

Al-Khelaifi’s stated aim is to ‘bring PSG on long-term to be one of the biggest in the world.

Next buy Carlo Ancelotti is an admirer of Tottenham playmaker Luka Modric

Next buy Carlo Ancelotti is an admirer of Tottenham playmaker Luka Modric

‘We are not saying we are going to be the best club in the world, because it’s really tough; you’ve got history behind other clubs in the Premier League or Spanish or Italian leagues.

‘We love football, we love Paris. Paris deserves to have a big club in the world, that’s why we came to Paris and bought PSG.’

Like Rome and Berlin — and, until May, London — Paris is a major European capital never to have held the European Cup, but QSI and PSG are altering the geography of football. How it fits in with Uefa’s financial fair-play model is another matter.

They are feeling it in Italy, according to AC Milan managing director Adriano Galliani. ‘The country has changed; our economy has changed,’ said Galliani. ‘Italian football reflects the crisis in the country. We have to aim at balancing our books. Get it into your heads: the big stars are not coming to Italy any more. They are searching for more succulent deals.’

The juiciness of the Ibrahimovic deal could shed light on why Liverpool’s Andy Carroll may be a Milan loan target.

Not for the first time, money and Ibrahimovic have Europe on the merry-go-round.

Euro 2012: Giorgio Chiellini to miss England game

England boost with crocked Italy defender Chiellini ruled out of quarter-final clash



13:12 GMT, 20 June 2012

Defender Giorgio Chiellini will miss Italy's European Championship quarter-final against England on Sunday, their team doctor has confirmed.

But Enrico Castellacci refused to rule out the Juventus centre-back recovering from a left-thigh injury if the Azzurri progress further.

Chiellini, the most experienced defender in Italy's squad with 53 caps, was forced off during the second half of Monday's 2-0 win over Republic of Ireland, which secured a last-eight place.

Crocked: Italy's Giorgio Chiellini was forced off with a thigh injury against Ireland

Crocked: Italy's Giorgio Chiellini was forced off with a thigh injury against Ireland

Waiting game: Chiellini will have tests on his thigh problem

Waiting game: Chiellini will have tests on his thigh problem

Euro 2012 email button

'The scan he underwent confirmed it's a strain,' Castellacci said. 'He will certainly miss the game on Sunday.

'Obviously, in a competition like this
you have to try everything to have him back as quickly as possible but
we will not take any unnecessary risks with his muscles.'

Chiellinin, 27, had been a doubt for
the tournament after suffering a similar injury in Juve's Serie A win
against Atalanta last month.

Castellacci said: 'It's nothing related to the injury he suffered just ahead of the finals.

'It's a pity because he had recovered
so well from that one but he is very motivated and has already started
rehab. Let's see what happens.'

Chiellini was replaced by Juve team-mate Leonardo Bonucci against Ireland.

Sir Ian Botham – Master of the charity walk

Why Beefy's still a miracle walker… Sportsmail salutes the master of the long march



21:39 GMT, 22 April 2012

'Go on Beefy,’ bellow a group of builders enjoying a quick cuppa. ‘Keep going Sir Ian!’ shouts a man in chef’s whites standing outside a pub, thrusting a 20 note into a collection bucket as Sir Ian Botham pounds past.

Botham nods and waves out a hand in acknowledgement but certainly doesn’t break his stride; that deceptively quick, machine-like march that has propelled him through 14 charity walks and raised more than 13million for research into blood cancer since 1985.

Head down, knees angled slightly inward and massive calf muscles bulging with every relatively short, relentless step, the 56-year-old completed the 13.6 miles of our walk around Cambridge in less than three hours.

A big stride forward: Sir Ian (centre) walks with Sportsmail's Laura Williamson (right), Paul Newman (fourth right), and Daley Thompson (second left) in Friday's penultimate leg of his 10-day, 150-mile walk around Britain

A big stride forward: Sir Ian (centre) walks with Sportsmail's Laura Williamson (right), Paul Newman (fourth right), and Daley Thompson (second left) in Friday's penultimate leg of his 10-day, 150-mile walk around Britain

Friday saw the penultimate leg of his 150-mile, 10-day trek around the country — known as Beefy’s Great British Walk — but even double Olympic champion Daley Thompson was left trailing in his wake at times. Maybe it was the ‘jungle juice’, the unmarked bottles of orange liquid that Sir Ian swigged now and again — and Thompson spat out after mistaking it for a well-known fizzy drink — that kept him going.

There were a fair few well-deserved glasses of wine at the end, of course, but Sir Ian’s real motivation is much rawer than that, inspired by a chance hobble through the children’s ward at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, Somerset, in 1977.

He said: ‘I had broken my foot against the Australians. I saw four boys playing a board game and I said to the doctor, “What are these guys here for, doc Who are they visiting” And he said: “No, they’ve got leukaemia — and they’re very ill.” I thought: “Well, they’re not obviously ill.”

‘But as I went in for my treatment over the next six weeks, all four of them died. Over that six-week period. That was my first awareness of leukaemia.’

Leading the way: Botham and Thompson share a joke

Leading the way: Botham and Thompson share a joke

Question time: Williamson find out why Beefy is so determined to walk for charity

Question time: Williamson find out why Beefy is so determined to walk for charity

Just as he could never bear to lose on the cricket field, or as a Question of Sport captain, Sir Ian wants to beat this indiscriminate, dangerous disease. There is a real depth of feeling in the tone he uses to talk about it: so much so that you feel he doesn’t just want to beat blood cancer, he wants to grind it into a pulp.

Sir Ian said: ‘When we started the walks, kids with the most common form of leukaemia had about a 20 per cent chance of survival. It’s now 93 per cent. That keeps us going. Nowadays we get so many situations where people say, “I joined in your walk 25 years ago and now I’ve fully recovered. I had been in a wheelchair, but here’s my family — meet them.”

‘We get lots of stories like that, a lot more happy-ending stories than we did before. So you can see it’s working, which is great.’

But Botham, also the president of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, still wants to do more, particularly with the forms of blood cancer that affect adults. He has been in contact with Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov, who was diagnosed with acute leukaemia last month, and believes the Bulgarian will be back on the football field ‘very soon’.

Sir Ian said: ‘He’s one of the fittest blokes on the planet and it just shows you — it’s totally indiscriminate. It can hit anyone at any time, but he’s got all the attributes to fight it. He’s physically fit, strong-minded, the club captain, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back playing football very soon.

‘We’re doing well with children but we’ve still got problems with other forms of leukaemia in adults. Because it’s a form of cancer, who knows what doors the research will open for other forms It’s an exciting period for us. We’re making in-roads, big in-roads.’

Most people, us mere mortals, had to break into an occasional jog to keep pace with the former England cricket all-rounder, but Botham never strayed more than a couple of metres behind the support truck in which his two-year-old grandson Kieran contentedly watched a DVD.

Kieran’s mother Becky was born during Sir Ian’s first charity walk in 1985. Some 27 years on from that 34-day, 1,000-mile mission from Land’s End to John O’Groats, Botham’s wife Cathy walks alongside the support vehicle and his eldest daughter Sarah directs the traffic, allowing the Beefy procession to pass by safely.

Marching on ahead: Botham leads the way with military precision

Marching on ahead: Botham leads the way with military precision

Everything is organised with military precision, with Sir Ian leading from the front. He does not look as if he’s particularly enjoying it, but stomps on regardless.

A bride is hauled in for a quick snap before she dashes off to her wedding. Unsuspecting drivers are badgered for loose change and give generously. It feels wonderfully British, following this 6ft 2in beast of a man through Cambridge in aid of such a good cause, and it’s an infectiously friendly, inspiring and supportive environment. People tell you their own stories of fighting the disease with such fierce honesty that you cannot help but feel moved.

Karl Parr and his family walk in support of youngest daughter Charlotte, six, who has beaten a rare form of blood cancer after a bone marrow transplant. Karl had pulled a calf muscle 10 days earlier and was hobbling badly by the end, but there was no way he was going to give up.

‘Every time I feel a bit of pain, I just think of Charlotte,’ he said.

Suddenly the motivation behind Botham’s 27-year mission becomes very clear indeed.

Around 30,000 people are diagnosed with blood cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma in the UK every year. Sir Ian Botham has raised more than 13m for research by completing 14 charity walks since 1985. To donate to Beefy’s Great British Walk go to: www.justgiving.com/beefywalk2012

Ledley King: Harry Redknapp understands the players, he trusts us and makes us feel great

Long live the King! Harry understands the players, he trusts us and makes us feel great

Only when you listen to Ledley King describe the hurdles he overcomes just to train with his Tottenham colleagues can you begin to understand why he feels any invitation to join England at this summer's European Championship would have to be declined.

Such an offer could well come if Harry Redknapp does end up in charge of the team, because nobody appreciates King more than the manager who regards him as his security blanket at White Hart Lane. If King is in the dressing room on match day, Redknapp sees how it lifts his players. How it gives them confidence.

'He just has this aura about him,' said Redknapp recently.

Just say no: despite still being a dominant force Ledley King would reject an England call-up

Just say no: despite still being a dominant force Ledley King would reject an England call-up

But the Spurs boss would have also witnessed the sight of King approaching with extreme caution the one training session he will attend each week the day before a game. A team-mate will send a pass in King's direction but it will not be returned in the usual manner.

'At first I might have to pick it up and throw it back because I'm not ready to kick it,' says King. 'I have to watch these muscles.'

King has never made a secret of his chronic knee condition and the poor chap must be tired of talking about it when he has so much else to say. In this interview he tackles the hot topic of Redknapp, why Manchester United remain the one English side his boss has not yet beaten at Tottenham and why he admires United's Patrice Evra for making the stand he did against racism during the Luis Suarez affair.

But this is also an interview about him and why anything he achieves as a footballer has to be viewed in the context of an injury that affects him every minute.

'I'm like an old man,' he says at one stage, and the way he struggles to walk after sitting down for an hour suggests as much.

It makes the mere fact that he continues to play at the very highest
level at 31 all the more remarkable, especially when the majority of his
training has been done in the gym and in the swimming pool for the past
five or six years.

Arsenal's Robin Van Persie (R) challenges Tottenham Hotspur's Ledley King

Rock solid: Harry Redknapp regards King as his security blanket

'You can't prepare for Premier League football without training on the football pitch,' he says. 'But I guess I'm lucky. A certain amount of it is ability, some of it is luck with my genetics; the fact that I don't put on weight even when I'm not training. I still have to watch what I eat but I am lucky with my genetics.

'A lot of my game is in my head now. I realise that. My hamstring was a bit tight at the weekend but that wasn't the problem against Arsenal. You just get some games when you are not as sharp as you should be, when you are not at your best.

'If that happens you will get exposed. Arsenal was a bad defeat, one of those games when I felt I was a little bit off the pace. My job is to limit the number of times that happens. I'm always looking to make a difference. That is my mindset.

'I train my muscles hard.
Fitness-wise, I can't do too much. Being on the pitch is different. I
try to play with my head. I'm not able to run as much as I would have
five years ago. You just have to be more clever. I try to watch a lot of
football and learn about other players from watching and make myself a
better player by doing that.'

A better player for Tottenham but not, he says, for England. When Fabio
Capello asked him to go to the last World Cup, it was the first time
the Italian had called on his services. King could not say no, but he
now reflects on South Africa as a mistake.

England's Ledley King (left) and USA's Jozy Altidore battle for the ball during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa

Ledley King has a rare run-out in training alongside James Milner

England heartbreak: King feels going to the World Cup was wrong

'It probably wasn't the right thing to do,' he says. 'I think I'd come off a good run of games at the end of the season. I felt pretty fit. I knew it would be difficult to put my training regime into the England system but the opportunity to play in a World Cup was too big to turn down.

'For a start I'd not played under Mr Capello before. It was quite a big thing that he still wanted me to go to the World Cup, and I felt I could add something to the team. I thought he must see something in me. But in hindsight it was difficult. It doesn't really work. You need to be among the lads training. Tottenham is familiar to me, and the lads are used to it. With England you get the spirit going on the training pitch. It is on the training pitch that the team builds.

'Being segregated in the gym was
tough. It didn't really work. It's not why I got injured in the first
game, but it was difficult.

'My first reaction, if I was asked to go to the Euros, would be no. I
have to try to look after myself, and if that means getting the right
rest so I can go again the next season then that is what I would have to

'I have to make
these decisions with my head rather than my heart. Any player will tell
you it would be tough turning down the chance to play in a major
tournament, but I'd have to look at that.'

In the past he has spoken of how he is unable to even kick a ball
around the garden with his son. Does he worry about how playing with
his condition might affect him later in life

Ledley King at the White Hart Lane community sports centre

Helping out: King at a new community project at the White Hart Lane sports centre

Ledley King at the White Hart Lane community sports centre.

Ledley King at the White Hart Lane community sports centre.

'I hope by then that they would have found something that prevents people from having this problem,' he says.

'Maybe then I'll make a comeback.
But seriously, I'm not in excruciating pain. It's more of an
awkwardness. It gets a bit stiff if it's bent for a long time. I
certainly don't feel sorry for myself. I could have stopped playing at
26. I'm just trying to enjoy what time I have left, trying to make a

Last Sunday's 5-2 defeat at Arsenal was a chastening experience.

'We were just getting overrun,' he says. 'Even at 2-0, as Ade (Emmanuel
Adebayor) was stepping up to take the penalty, we were having a
discussion about how we could try to deal with them. They stopped us
from playing by pressing high up the pitch; it was just one of those
games. We've not had many like that this season.'

He intends to put it right on Sunday, by making a difference against United and chalking up that first victory for Redknapp.

'I don't think I've beaten them too many times in my career,' he says.
'I can tell you that when you have a good record against a team, it
gives you the belief that you can go there and get the result.

'We've had good records against teams in the past and it has helped.
Against us, I think United have got that belief. We try to play an
expansive game, it's almost like we try to match them, but they're
better at doing it. There's no real reason why it happens like it does
other than a mental one.'

Harry Redknapp, manager of Tottenham

Top man: King works well with Redknapp

He is not prepared to comment on the speculation regarding Redknapp and the FA but he is happy to discuss the impact the manager has had at Tottenham.

'Harry made an instant impact on the club and the players,' he says. 'That's not easy to do, but we've gone from strength to strength each year. We're in a really good position this season and it's the first time most of us have been associated with a chance of winning the League. It's been exciting.

'The manager just understands the Premier League. He understood the players needed to succeed in the League. In the past, with foreign managers coming in, I don't think they have understood just how tough the Premier League is and how much you have to compete week in, week out.

'When we had Juande Ramos, I don't think he realised how tough some of the lower teams were to play against, particularly away from home. Andre Villas-Boas has found it tough in England. Harry knows the League inside out and what players are required to get results week in, week out. He has put together a great group of players, great characters. We all get on well and he gives us the freedom to play.

'That is his great strength. He trusts the players, he makes us feel great about ourselves and we go out there and try to express that on the football pitch.'

King feels a sharp sense of loyalty to Tottenham, having spent his entire career there. On this particular day he is putting his name to an exciting new community project at the White Hart Lane sports centre, even pulling on some overalls to apply fresh paint to the walls.

'I wish there had been somewhere like this when I was growing up in east London,' he says. 'The youth are our future and this gives them the opportunity to excel in different sports, or just come here to learn and get an education. This foundation is providing those opportunities and, who knows, they might find the new Ledley King here.'

The old Ledley King has a social conscience and it brings him to the subject of racism, in particular the high-profile cases in English football this season. It is clear he has an awful lot of respect for the man expected to captain United tomorrow.

'It takes some bravery to stand up to something like racism,' he says of Evra. 'It's easier for a player to sweep it under the carpet. It's easier to ignore it. It takes a brave individual to step out and acknowledge that something is not right, not acceptable, go against the grain if you like.

'It's something that shouldn't be taken lightly and it's important to send out the message to kids today that racism is wrong. Hopefully that's the message that has come out of these recent cases. It helps people realise it's not acceptable and if people are guilty they deserve to be punished.

'I've been relatively lucky in my career. Some players haven't, but I feel there has definitely been an improvement in this country. There was an incident when I was young; not a player but fans. I'm pretty sure that today they wouldn't get away with what they did 10 or 12 years ago, so that's progress.'

No wonder Redknapp admires him as much as he does.

skills logo

The Tottenham Hotspur Foundation has created 1.5million Sporting Opportunities in five years for people in the club’s local community.

Ledley King has put his name to Skills — a new education and sports programme for young people in Haringey.

Michael Essien left out of Ghana squad

Essien left out of Ghana Cup of Nations squad as Chelsea ace battles back from knee injury

Crocked: Michael Essien has been out since July

Crocked: Michael Essien has been out since July

Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien has been left out of Ghana”s preliminary squad for the Africa Cup of Nations as he continues his recovery from a knee injury.

Essien has not played since breaking down in July during the first week of pre-season – the third time he has been sidelined with a serious knee problem.

The 29-year-old returned to light training last month and Chelsea pencilled in the clash with Manchester United in early February as a possible comeback.

If that match remains the target for Essien then next month”s tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea will come too soon.

Thecompetition kicks off on January 21 and Ghana boss Goran Stevanovic does not have to finalise his selection until next month.

But by leaving Essien out of his initial 25-man squad it looks as if the Blues powerhouse will play no part.

Essienresponded well to the surgery but members of Chelsea”s medical team feel his persistent knee complaints are in part down to his over-developed upper leg muscles putting too much strain on the joint.