Tag Archives: narrative

Martin Samuel: Marouane Fellaini was wrong but let"s get to grips with the real problem

OK, Fellaini was wrong but let's get to grips with the real problem

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UPDATED:

22:59 GMT, 16 December 2012

The narrative moves fast in English football but, even so, it can safely be presumed they haven’t changed the rules on the sly midway through the season.

So, as of the weekend, it was still illegal to hold on to another player to prevent his movement. Meaning the first foul that was committed in the Stoke City penalty area in the 59th minute on Saturday was by defender Ryan Shawcross.

That does not justify Marouane Fellaini’s reaction, and is only the tiniest mitigation for an incident that will almost certainly end with a three-match ban for the Everton player, but it is nevertheless an important fact.

Losing his head: Marouane Fellaini's clash with Ryan Shawcross was wrong on many levels

Losing his head: Marouane Fellaini's clash with Ryan Shawcross was wrong on many levels

Losing his head: Marouane Fellaini's clash with Ryan Shawcross was wrong on many levels

More from Martin Samuel…

It's been the greatest sporting year we've seen, but there can be only one winner, so… It must be Murray
14/12/12

Viva Forever Let’s hope it’s dead by Easter
13/12/12

Martin Samuel: Benitez battling jet-lag at a Club World Cup that is still trying to wake up… a prize that should be football's crowning glory, but isn't
12/12/12

Martin Samuel: Being good at football is not an act of provocation
11/12/12

Martin Samuel: You've had your time, Shane. Don't fight the dimming of the light…
09/12/12

Martin Samuel: Has Platini just torpedoed European Football with his 2020 vision
06/12/12

How awkward. I agree with the head-bangers
06/12/12

Martin Samuel: Gay hero Surely there's only one man to herald football's watershed moment… step forward Joey Barton
05/12/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

For it makes plain that what happened on Saturday, a clash that could have ended in serious injury, a fractured cheekbone or broken nose, was a direct result of football’s decision to allow wrestling matches in the penalty area.

Fellaini assaults Shawcross primarily because he is being prevented from playing, illegally, and Mark Halsey, the referee, appears happy to let this continue. Football has never had more policemen and yet such little interest in implementing the rules.

The replays clearly show that, directly before Fellaini strikes, Shawcross is gripping him by an upper arm beneath the shoulder, to restrict his run. This is a foul. It isn’t a penalty, because the ball is dead but it is without doubt subject to corrective action.

As none is forthcoming, Fellaini takes matters into his own hands, attempts to wrestle free and, as he passes Shawcross, ducks his head into his opponent’s face. Shawcross collapses. Halsey misses the incident.

For this reason the FA can pass sanction and Everton will lose their key player at a crucial time in the campaign. David Moyes, the manager, is resigned to this and did not complain. To his credit, he as good as invited punishment.

Maybe, by doing so, he felt he was acting for the wider good. Had Moyes defended his player, the fallout would have centred on Fellaini, who got away with several instances of poor behaviour on Saturday.

Instead, with Everton pleading guilty, football would now be wise to study cause and effect.

Fellaini is a physical player. He gives as good as he gets, and one imagines he gets plenty. Even so, he does not usually prioritise butting defenders over scoring goals. If Shawcross’s marking had been old-school, without fouling, this would not have happened.

Football is a contact sport. In the
penalty area, players will be in proximity. Yet over the last decade,
increasingly, defenders no longer guard their man, but grapple with him.

Jose Mourinho’s
Chelsea were masters at it, so are Stoke. And because referees have not
stopped this behaviour, it is encouraged.

Rough and tumble: Grappling at corners and freekicks has become commonplace in football

Rough and tumble: Grappling at corners and freekicks has become commonplace in football

Every penalty area resembles a red-belt judo class these days. The FA, supposed guardians of the game, are content to let this continue.

Fellaini has admitted he was wrong and apologised. There can be no quibbles over punishment.
Yet the wider problem is not being addressed. A single weekend, in which every foul of this nature was met with a warning, then a yellow card (or a penalty if it happened when the ball was in play), would curb it instantly.

Results would briefly resemble rugby scores, but then the crisis would be over, and football would be re-acquainted with the old-fashioned ways of defending. After all, isn’t that exactly what a player like Shawcross is supposed to be about

All about cash for nice little Hearner

Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn continues his battle to torpedo any hope of a genuine legacy at the Olympic Stadium.

'This dispute is going to run and run and run,' he said, maintaining his opposition to West Ham United’s tenancy. 'I know, after talking to the London Legacy Development Corporation, that the Olympic Stadium is all about money and nothing about community values.'

The same community values that once led Hearn to consider moving Orient to Harlow or Basildon.
That deal, obviously, wouldn’t have been about money at all. He's all heart, our Barry.

Pay now, judge later

Damien Comolli has been working overtime attempting to justify his record at Liverpool. It boils down to the standard demand of every director of football: judge me in five years.

'I don’t think we made mistakes on the players going out,' he said, 'and whether we made mistakes on the players who came in, time will tell.'

Time has told, old son.

Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson

Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll

Stewart Downing

Stewart Downing

Nearly two years down the line, Andy Carroll is on loan to a lesser club, having scored 11 goals for Liverpool — just six in the league — at a cost of 35million.

Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing can barely get a game. Charlie Adam is gone. There are eight players that have made double figure league appearances for Liverpool this season and only one — Luis Suarez, great acquisition, but hardly out of left field — was signed by Comolli.

The majority were in the team under Rafael Benitez.

'I speak to people and they ask, “What about that deal”' Comolli said. 'I explain and they say, “OK, I see where you’re coming from”.'

Of course they do; they aren’t writing the cheques.

'If you want to talk about Carroll, the situation was quite clear,' Comolli added. 'We were selling two players, Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel, and were bringing two in, Suarez and Carroll.

'Chelsea kept bidding higher and higher for Torres until we got to a point where the difference between their first and final bid was double. We were making a profit and the wage bill was coming down as well.'

In other words, Abramovich was overpaying so Comolli decided it did not matter if John Henry paid through the nose, too. That is why he got the bullet.

He was big-hearted Charlie with another man’s money. Judge him whenever you want but Liverpool will regret giving him even as long as they did.

Arsenal should be wary of dinosaurs like Usmanov

The Australian PGA Championship has probably sunk its last putt in Coolum, Queensland. Blame Jeff.

Jeff is a 26-foot robot plastic replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex located outside the clubhouse between Coolum’s ninth green and 10th tee. It has been there since the resort club was purchased by billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer. He is also considering building a dinosaur theme park.

Indeed, Palmer is considering a lot of things, many of them plastered on one of the 60 signs he erected around the course, promoting his pursuits, including a proposed replica of the Titanic.

Dino-sore: Jeff, the 26-foot robot plastic replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex at Coolum, isn't pretty

Dino-sore: Jeff, the 26-foot robot plastic replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex at Coolum, isn't pretty

Also sinking is golf’s credibility as players, including Darren Clarke, walk in Jeff’s shadow.
At least Palmer agreed to turn off the dinosaur’s mechanical roar. Club players and guests traditionally get a mulligan — a chance to replay the shot without penalty — if Jeff bursts into life at the top of a backswing.

The very rich, as F Scott Fitzgerald observed, are very different from you and me. Palmer cannot understand what the fuss is about and wants Coolum to host again next year.

Alisher Usmanov, meanwhile, is perplexed that Arsenal continue to reject his advances and his requests for a seat on the board.

Yet just as Palmer dropped Jeff on an unsuspecting public, so Usmanov – wealthier than Roman Abramovich – offered a glimpse of what Arsenal could be like on his watch, by announcing that Thierry Henry should return to the club, 'but not as a player'.

Decisions, decisions: Alisher Usmanov

Decisions, decisions: Alisher Usmanov

‘I don’t have any powers in terms of decisions but there are a few players with whom I am in contact,’ Usmanov said. My favourite is probably Thierry. He should be involved at the club. He has another role to play; a more important role.

'Take the example of Patrick Vieira at Manchester City. He is also a symbol of Arsenal but is helping another club. We have to avoid that with Thierry.'

Says who

One imagines if Arsene Wenger wants Henry back in any capacity, he is perfectly capable of asking him. And if he wants him as a player, short-term like last season, he would not appreciate having his plans vetoed by an owner who thinks he knows best.

In attempting a populist manoeuvre, Usmanov inadvertently revealed more of his style than was flattering.

Whatever Arsenal’s current predicament, Wenger has more than earned the right to make his own decisions and to be told that Henry’s transfer is off, but his unrequired return in an elevated role is on, is precisely the type of interference that could usher him out of the door.

Usmanov has money and this alone appeals to desperate supporters, but the last thing Arsenal need is a 26-foot dinosaur, roaring his instructions at a neutered manager.

AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT
Expansion explained

We can all see the problem with the Club World Cup. To embrace the global ethos all continents must be represented, yet Europe and South America are overwhelmingly strong, so the tournament contains no mystery, beyond the outcome of the final.

Happy chappys: Corinthians are champions of the world after beating Chelsea in the Club World Cup Final

Happy chappys: Corinthians are champions of the world after beating Chelsea in the Club World Cup Final

The Intercontinental Cup, as the Club World Cup once was, has a tradition lasting 52 years, beginning with a home and away final between the winners of the European Cup and the Copa Libertadores.

Real Madrid lifted the first trophy in 1960, drawing 0-0 with Penarol of Uruguay in Montevideo and then beating them 5-1 in the Bernabeu. This was the best and most dramatic format of all.

From 1960 to 1979 when Olimpia of Paraguay defeated Malmo, there were 10 South American winners and nine from Europe.

Money won, however, and FIFA then switched to a one-off game, sponsored by Toyota, in Japan.
Again, competition stayed even. From 1980 to 2004 there were 13 European winners and 12 from South America.

Expansion then brought the Club World Cup, with a wider range of entrants, a horrid false start in Brazil in 2000, a relaunch in 2005, but basically the same outcome.

Apart from the shock qualification of Mazembe of Congo in 2010, the final has always been between Europe and South America. So as a spectacle, the tournament is moribund.

What is to be done Bruce Buck, chairman of Chelsea, has a good idea.

To strengthen the tournament, he said, it should be expanded to include the winners of the Europa League and its South American equivalent, the Copa Sudamericana. That way, there would be no guaranteed progression and at least one tough match en route to the final.

This season’s tournament would have featured Chelsea and Atletico Madrid from Europe, and Corinthians and Universidad de Chile from South America.

Sao Paulo, who finished fourth in Brazil this season, nine points clear of Corinthians, would already have qualified for next season’s tournament as Copa Sudamericana champions.

Conquering the world: How would Chelsea feel playing three matches in South America

Conquering the world: How would Chelsea feel playing three matches in South America

Buck’s point was that the Champions League became more vibrant by expansion.

Placing the tournament in one of the host cities in Europe or South America — so this year’s edition would have been played in London, Madrid, Sao Paulo or Santiago — rather than a sterile location like Japan or Dubai would also help.

One imagines the bid to claim the title of world champions would carry greater cachet if Chelsea’s task involved three matches in South America, against Monterrey of Mexico, Universidad de Chile and a final against either Corinthians or Atletico Madrid. Just a thought.

Are you sitting comfortably

Sir Dave Richards, chairman of the Premier League, is to be grilled at a Football Association board meeting this week over his character witness support for John Terry.

The FA considers Richards’ stance during Terry’s hearing a conflict of interests. Yet the FA brings these disciplinary cases and also commissions and rewards the members of the independent tribunal.

This as good as places the jury in the pay of the prosecution. No conflict of interests there then, gentlemen.

Merry Christmas

Well, that’s it from me until the New Year. I know we don’t usually do presents, but if you’ve got a machine that can receive apps, search for Radio Soulwax and download a file called Dave.

Sixty minutes of pure pleasure. If you like David Bowie, that is. And, if you don’t, seriously, what’s the matter with you But it’s free, so either way, Happy Christmas.

.

Kolkata pitch row revelations highlight panic among India"s cricket establishment – Lawrence Booth

Kolkata pitch row revelations highlight panic among India's cricket establishment

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UPDATED:

14:56 GMT, 4 December 2012

The narrative in Kolkata this past week has centred, rather unexpectedly, on an old man with a fierce sense of pride and a refusal to be cowed by the BCCI. World cricket's administrators must be looking on in awe.

India had hoped the build-up to the third Test would allow them to stand back and chuckle at yet more wailing and gnashing of teeth over England's ineptitude against spin.

But events in Mumbai changed all that, instead shining a light on the Kolkata pitch and the alleged attempts by the Indian board to prevent the troublesome Prabir Mukherjee – long-standing curator at one of world cricket's most evocative venues and a man presumably absent from MS Dhoni's Christmas-card list – from doing his job.

Bowled over: Dhini has been embroiled in a row with the Kolkata groundsman

Bowled over: Dhini has been embroiled in a row with the Kolkata groundsman

More from Lawrence Booth…

The Top Spin: Home is not so comforting after all as Dhoni's plan backfires
27/11/12

The Top Spin: Spooked England were beaten in their minds in Ahmedabad
20/11/12

The Top Spin: India preparations leave England in a spin, but for Cook's charges the warm-up has barely begun
13/11/12

The Top Spin: Why India are clinging to faith in England's ineptitude against spin
06/11/12

The Top Spin: England's batsmen show they are still struggling to get to grips with spin
24/09/12

The Top Spin: England voyage into the unknown on a wing and a prayer
18/09/12

The Top Spin: Bears, Twitter and textgate… a review of the summer that was
10/09/12

The Top Spin: KP's England future is more dependent on his attitude than he may realise
03/09/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

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Bear witness: The priest in The Life of Brian couldn't resist using the word Jehovah

For even if the pitch does assist the
slow bowlers, India must still hope for rather more from Ravichandran
Ashwin, who has taken 3 for 278 since the first innings at Ahmedabad.
With Harbhajan Singh set for the chop, the onus will rest unduly on
Pragyan Ojha.

But just as India will fret about
what may happen if Cheteshwar Pujara fails in their first innings, so
England will be hoping others can take up the slack should Alastair Cook
not reach three figures for the first time in five Tests as captain.

The Top Spin on Twitter

For cricket-related snippets from England's tour of India, go to twitter.com/the_topspin

That may sound harsh on Kevin Pietersen, who was self-evidently magnificent in Mumbai. But his 22 Test hundreds have been scored in 17 different series: he’s more likely to dazzle once than twice.

The rest need to play their part, especially if Steven Finn replaces Stuart Broad, which would mean Swann batting as high as No 8, a position he hasn’t ascended to since Perth two years ago.

And yet while India picked the wrong attack in Mumbai – generously returning the favour after England’s gaffe at Ahmedabad – the English may just have stumbled, partly by accident and partly by design, over their most potent bowling line-up.

If the pitch does their bidding, memories from a painful year will be more easily forgotten.

Ever reliant: Cook has led England from the front, but will need support to win series

Ever reliant: Cook has led England from the front, but will need support to win series

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS

More from Mukherjee

As we have seen, Prabir Mukherjee is plainly no respecter of reputations, and he was at it again yesterday when he was snapped ‘shooing away’ Mike Atherton from the middle of the Eden Gardens pitch.

Athers and Vic Marks – described in one Indian newspaper as ‘a fellow-scribe’ – were hoping for a look at one of the most talked-about strips in recent Test history, but Mukherjee was having none of it.

Ever-ready to provide a quote, and displaying masterful knowledge of his brief, he declared: 'Nobody except the players and match officials are allowed inside the playing arena. He may be an ex-England international, but he’s here as a journalist. He had no business to be there.'

Grounds for concern: Eden Gardens has been at the centre of recent controversy

Grounds for concern: Eden Gardens has been at the centre of recent controversy

One punt too many

Proof that Australia is a more sentimental place than it likes to admit could be found in the treatment of Ricky Ponting in Perth. The standing ovations and Ponting’s own, final, salute to Australian crowds were as you’d expect for an all-time great.

We’ll all miss Ponting in our different ways. But is it callous to wonder whether his selection for the third and final Test against South Africa was a triumph of hope over expectation

Ponting himself had admitted before the Test that his time was up, saying his performances against the South Africans had not reached ‘the level required of a batsman in the Australia team’.

No matter: for a game in which victory would have taken Australia to the top of the Test rankings, there was no suggestion at all that Ponting should miss out. Actually, it’s rather nice that this was the case. But let’s not pretend the Australian selectors made a decision that was anything other than misty-eyed.

Slick Rick: Ponting has finally called time on his Aussie career

Slick Rick: Ponting has finally called time on his Aussie career

Mud sticks

A belated thought about poor Imran Tahir’s monstering by Australia’s batsmen at Adelaide, where his match return of 0 for 260 was the worst in Test history. As the bowler whose record he broke can testify, these stats can scar a man. Khan Mohammad took 0 for 259 in the Jamaica Test of 1957-58, when Garry Sobers hit his then-world record 365*.

But he deserved better than to be known for those figures alone: his 13-Test career as a seamer for Pakistan brought him 54 wickets at under 24 apiece.

Wisden's Steven Lynch remembers meeting Mohammad when he was coaching at Lord’s some years back, and enquiring about the Sobers innings. The reply betrayed a certain weariness: ‘Everyone always asks me about that. They never ask about when I bowled Len Hutton for 0.’ Tahir beware.

Anderson spreads his wings

Sniffy journalists like to accuse professional sportsmen of lacking a hinterland, as if there’s time to write a novel or learn the oboe in between winning Test matches for their country. So hats off to Jimmy Anderson for agreeing to become executive producer of Warriors, a film directed by Barney Douglas – who provides video content for the ECB – about the role cricket is playing among the Maasai tribespeople of Kenya.

The film, which charts the villagers’ hopes of taking part in a tournament in England and examines some of the darker aspects of Maasai life, is due out in 2013. It’s a terrific idea. But it needs your help. To find out more, and to contribute to the fund-raising drive, please visit http://www.indiegogo.com/warriorsfilm

Roberto Di Matteo latest victim of Roman Abramovich"s random Chelsea reign: Martin Samuel

Di Matteo is just the latest victim of Roman's random reign at Chelsea

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UPDATED:

00:15 GMT, 22 November 2012

The rumours were circulating long before the confirmation of the deed. Pep Guardiola, Rafael Benitez, even Avram Grant. Let’s be honest, what does it matter

Avram Grant, Bernie Grant, Eddie Grant, here’s a good one, why not give it to Russell Grant. At least he’d know when he was about to get sacked. I see a short, dark stranger with your P45, sunshine. Better avoid that meeting then.

Chelsea are a random club and for that reason random things happen.

There is a line in the film Withnail and I. Freezing and helpless at their borrowed cottage in the Lake District, the out-of-work actors appeal to a farmer. ‘We’ve gone on holiday by mistake,’ Withnail says.

The writing's on the wall: After delivering club football's greatest prize six months ago, Roberto Di Matteo finds himself out of work

The writing's on the wall: After delivering club football's greatest prize six months ago, Roberto Di Matteo finds himself out of work

Chelsea are a bit like that. The owner, Roman Abramovich, behaves in an unpredictable manner and so unpredictable events occur. Things just befall Chelsea without any coherent narrative. They appoint the owner’s mate who has no qualification for the role; they follow him with a coach who won the World Cup.

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They sack the man who swept the board at Porto; his assistant, who nearly got West Bromwich Albion relegated, takes the same group of players and wins the Champions League.

They sell their most influential player to China; they spend 50million on one who can’t get in the team. Mark Hughes is yet to win a Premier League game at Queens Park Rangers this season, Roberto Di Matteo held the Champions League trophy aloft six months ago. Guess who is first out the door

Yet don’t say he didn’t warn you. Abramovich never wanted Di Matteo to be his manager, and he made that plain all along. A regular feature of Chelsea’s progress to the Champions League final in Munich was a managerial press conference in which Di Matteo was asked, repeatedly, when he was going to be given the job full time. He did not once entertain the question, wonder aloud, or encourage speculation.

On the brink: Chelsea could be the first Champions League holders to be eliminated at the following group stage

On the brink: Chelsea could be the first Champions League holders to be eliminated the following group stage

He knew that to do this, to be seen angling for the job, would not go down well with the owner. Abramovich says nothing, so Di Matteo aped him and played dumb, too. Then he won the FA Cup. Still there was silence. Then the Champions League. Tumbleweed.

HAVE YOUR SAY…

Did Roberto Di Matteo deserve more time as Chelsea boss
Roman Abramovich has wielded the axe for the eighth time as owner of Chelsea following the team's 3-0 defeat against Juventus.

Roberto Di Matteo

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK

Meanwhile, the wider world, fans, media, casual seekers of justice, howled in disbelief that Di Matteo was not being rewarded for his achievements. Yet now we know. Abramovich watchers could have told Di Matteo the truth: he’s just not that into you. Only when all other options were exhausted and Guardiola had made it absolutely clear that he was going to take a year out to recharge his batteries, did Abramovich go against his better instincts and give the man who won the European Cup the job. No doubt he felt a right soft touch in doing so.

And no doubt, lately, a few have been reminded of his previous reservations; just as they were over Luiz Felipe Scolari, another mid-season departure. The life expectancy of a Chelsea manager is short; the life expectancy of a Chelsea manager who does not have the complete faith of the owner from the start is roughly that of a Christmas turkey.

England batsman Kevin Pietersen was among the social media passers-by expressing his surprise. Why

England’s winter cricket tours are frequently interrupted by Chelsea sacking the manager. Scolari (West Indies, 2009), Andre Villas-Boas (between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, 2011) and now Di Matteo (India, 2012). A bullet for the Chelsea boss is almost as predictable as a middle-order collapse on the sub-continent. And often as logical. Di Matteo went, like most Chelsea managers, because he was not getting the best out of his players. Players, of course, who he didn’t buy.

The holy grail: After countless millions, Roman Abramovich gets his hand on Old Big Ears

The holy grail: After countless millions, Roman Abramovich gets his hand on Old Big Ears

Throughout the summer, when Di Matteo waited for the puff of white smoke that would confirm that, yes, he was next in line to get a substantial pay-off for being sacked at Stamford Bridge, Abramovich continued to rebuild his squad.

So these were not Di Matteo’s signings. He merely got to marshal them to the best of his ability until the man responsible grew tired of his floundering. Even the mighty Jose Mourinho, when complimented on his insight in signing Petr Cech, admitted to being merely a bystander in the transfer market. He recommended Cech to his new employers, he said, only to be told he had already signed.

So David Luiz is no John Terry. Whose fault is that Abramovich, not any coach, drove Benfica mad for Luiz before the deal was done. No manager could pay 50m for one player, as Chelsea did for Fernando Torres. That decision comes from the very top. The role of the manager is simply to be the scapegoat in the event of disaster.

Torres has now seen off three bosses and one cannot help but think that the emergence of Benitez as Abramovich’s latest fancy is a final attempt to justify his investment, and his judgment.

Out of sorts: Fernando Torres came off the bench in Turin but once again did little to justify his 50million price tag

Out of sorts: Fernando Torres (left) came off the bench in Turin but once again did little to justify his 50million price tag

Now here’s the funny thing. In the time Abramovich has been at Chelsea, the club have had eight managers. Manchester United, obviously, have had one. And in that time United, the most convincing argument for patience and loyalty there has been in English football, have won nine trophies (one Champions League, four Premier League, three League Cup, one FA Cup). But Chelsea have won 10 (one Champions League, three Premier League, four FA Cup, two League Cup). So random has accrued more than continuity.

Indeed, in United’s single Champions League win, they played Chelsea, who lost on a penalty shoot-out having been marginally the better side. So, a method in the madness Of course not. Sir Alex Ferguson spent as many seasons struggling at Old Trafford as Di Matteo has been given weeks since Chelsea’s form collapsed.

Abramovich’s success as an owner is just further evidence of the overwhelming influence of money: throw enough cash at a problem in football and however crass the executive behaviour, chances are results will come your way eventually. Abramovich’s actions defy convention and therefore conventional analysis.

These constant rounds of hirings and firings shouldn’t work. Often they don’t. But given Chelsea’s level of investment, sometimes they will.

So it really doesn’t matter who manages Chelsea, because the club is run by one man who you will never see on the touchline. Rafa Benitez, Rafa Nadal, Rafael Scheidt, the big Brazilian defender signed by John Barnes at Celtic, the names, the personalities are interchangeable. It’s his money, so let him play his game.

Whether Abramovich keeps Benitez, whether he lures Guardiola, or whether he just employs Scheidt, it usually ends the same way regardless.

Gary Speed inquest: Wife slept in car hours before his death

Speed's widow admits to sleeping in car following 'words' hours before Wales manager hanged himself

Gary Speed's widow admitted that she stormed out of their house after an argument and spent the night in the car hours before he was found hanged.

Louise Speed, 41, made the revelation during the inquest into the former Wales manager's death at Warrington Town Hall in Cheshire.

Coroner Nicholas Rheinberg returned a narrative verdict and ruled there was not enough evidence to say it was intentional. However, Speed, 42, had sent a text to his wife in the days before he died that had 'talked in terms of taking his life'.

Grief: Louise Speed, 40, pictured today leaving the inquest, revealed how she left the family home after a row and could not get back in. She discovered her husband Gary hanged the next morning

Grief: Louise Speed, 40, pictured today leaving the inquest, revealed how she left the family home after a row and could not get back in. She discovered her husband Gary hanged the next morning

Mrs Speed said they had 'had words' the night before he was found hanging in the
garage and she had walked out. She said: 'We walked in the house and we had an exchange of
words about something and nothing.'

She added: 'I can't even remember what it was.'

'I suggested I would go for a drive. He blocked the back door and said “You are not going anywhere”.

'I went upstairs and lay on the bed for probably about five or ten minutes. Then I decided to go for a drive, to clear my mind (and for) space to think.'

She drove to the 'top of the road' – but her husband did not respond to her call when she tried to ring. After driving back to the house he again did not reply so she slept in the car because she had locked herself out.

'I
could see him on the stairs. His toes were in contact with the step' –
Louise Speed recalls the moment she found her husband hanged

After getting some sleep she woke up at about 6am and went to the outside bathroom.

She said she noticed some shed keys
missing which were usually stored there and went to the shed to see if
Gary was there, before moving to the garage.

The widow broke down in tears as she
described walking to the rear of the of the house and seeing her
husband's body suspended on stairs from through the window.

'I can't even remember what it was': Mrs Speed, 40, told the coroner yesterday that they had a petty argument

'I can't even remember what it was': Mrs Speed, 40, told the coroner yesterday that they had a petty argument

After a brief pause to recover her
composure, Mrs Speed said: 'I could see him on the stairs. His toes were
in contact with the step.'

She said she then woke their two teenage sons to open up the house and called the emergency services.

On their advice, she cut her husband to the ground as paramedics were dispatched to the home
near Chester on November 27.

The inquest heard that investigators believed Mr Speed had been sitting
on the stairs in his garage with the ligature around his neck.

Mr Rheinberg said: 'It may have been that this was some sort of dramatic gesture, not
normally in Mr Speed's character, but nonetheless, a possibility.'

Mr Rheinberg added that Mr Speed may have sat there for some time
and “nodded off to sleep” with the cable around his neck.

The couple had spent their last
evening together at a dinner party at a friend's house where Mr Speed
and the other men had jumped into the swimming pool.

Mr Rheinberg described their behaviour
as being 'over-boisterous' but Mrs Speed said that was 'quite normal'
and said the evening had been 'all good fun'.

Gary Speed's mother Carol

Roger Speed, Gary's father, at the inquest today

Inquest: Gary Speed's mother Carol arrives at the hearing, left, and his father, Roger, can be seen at the inquest, right

Drawing from the Gary Speed inquest; Louise Speed

Gary Speed inquest; Coroner Nicholas Rheinberg

These court drawings from the inquest show Louise Speed in tears while giving evidence and Coroner Nicholas Rheinberg, who returned a narrative verdict

The couple had arranged to leave
their car at the house because they planned to drink, and were taken
home at around 12.45am by a pre-arranged taxi. But shortly after they
returned home the couple had 'an exchange of words about something'.

When asked by Mr Rheinberg if there had been 'some degree of stress with the relationship at this
time', she agreed and said there had been 'ups and downs' in their marriage.

Mrs Speed said her husband was forced to spend a lot of time away from home as Wales manager.

Mrs Speed said management and coaching, first with
Sheffield United and then Wales, had put 'something of a strain on him'.

The Welsh role was supposed to be
part-time but he was spending 'more time there (at work) than the
'family man' thought he would.

Mrs Speed agreed that 'for both of us
it was difficult', with periods travelling abroad adding to his
'separation' from his family.

The coroner asked: 'Would it be fair
to say there was some degree of stress with the relationship at this
time' and Mrs Speed agreed.

She added: 'Like all couples we would be going through ups and downs in our marriage and we were working through it.'

Last moments: Louise Speed, pictured with her husband last year, cut her husband down after her teenage sons let her back into the house

Last moments: Louise Speed, pictured with her husband last year, cut her husband down after her teenage sons let her back into the house

Speaking in hushed tones, she added: 'He was a somewhat closed character.

'He liked to take on board everyone else's problems and try to help but was not one to open up himself. He was a very private person in a very public role.'

Four days before he died, Gary Speed had text his wife talking 'in terms of taking his life', the inquest heard.

But
Mrs Speed said that immediately after the reference to suicide in their
text exchange, Speed began referring immediately to 'moving forward and
how me and the boys were so important to him'.

She said he had never spoken in that way (about self-harm) before and had never previously harmed herself.

The day before he died, the 42-year-old former
footballer had appeared happy and optimistic during an appearance on
the BBC1 show Football Focus.

In
a statement read out at the inquest, Newcastle legend Alan Shearer said
his friend's death made no sense as Mr Speed did not appear to be
worried about anything when they last met at the BBC studios hours
before his death.

He said: 'He seemed fine, laughing and joking. Gary didn't appear worried about anything.

'Gary seemed to be enjoying his job as Wales manager and coped with the pressure well.

'He knew what it was like beforehand and some part of him liked to work under pressure.

Row: Louise Speed left the family home, pictured, near Chester, and went for a drive after a row Hours later she discovered her husband hanged in the garage

Row: Louise Speed left the family home, pictured, near Chester, and went for a drive after a row Hours later she discovered her husband hanged in the garage

ALAN SHEARER'S STATEMENT

Gary Speed confided to Alan Shearer that his marriage was in difficulties but he had vowed to 'stick in there', the inquest heard.

The former England striker (pictured), a close friend of Speed, had bumped into him at the BBC studios in Salford hours before he died.

Shearer said in a statement read to the coroner that the Wales manager's marriage issues were nothing out of the ordinary in a long-term relationship.

The Shearers and the Speeds had previously holidayed together.

Shearer said in the statement: 'Gary said there were a couple of issues between him and Louise.

'I said that is usual in a relationship that longstanding.

'He said: “I'm going to give it a go and stick in there.”

'Louise seemed relaxed and it seemed to me it was just being worked through.'

'When I left the studio on that Saturday I expected to hear from him on the Monday. On Sunday I got the phone call telling me Gary had died.

'I didn't believe it. I was shocked. Gary is probably one of the last people out of my million friends to ever do that.

'I had only seen him the day before and he seemed fine, we had plans for the following week too. It just didn't and still doesn't make sense to me.'

He added that their families had
enjoyed holidays together and on their most recent holiday, in August last year, Mr
Speed was “more relaxed this year than I have ever seen him”.

He added that he was aware of a “couple of issues” between Mr Speed and his wife on the holiday.

He said: “My response was that is usual in a relationship that is so
long-standing. I think he took the advice well as his words were that he
was 'going to give it a go' and 'stick in there'.”

Cheshire coroner Nicholas Rheinberg ruled that there is no evidence to suggest Gary Speed intended to take his own life.

In
a narrative verdict, he gave the cause of death as hanging but said
'the evidence does not sufficiently determine whether this was
intentional or accidental'.

In
a statement read out after the inquest, Mr Speed's family said the day
of his death was the 'worst day of our lives' but his memory 'shines
brightly in our thoughts'.

'Gary’s death and the manner of it,
made Sunday 27 November 2011 the worst day of our lives,' it read.

'Throughout
the nine weeks since, there have been some very dark moments, which we
have all had to find our own different ways to endure.

'Now, we have to adapt to the future
without a husband, a father, a brother and a son; but Gary’s memory
shines brightly in our thoughts and we will forever remember the
wonderful times we shared with him and the deep love and affection he
offered so freely within our close knit family.'

Mr Speed's mother, Carol Speed, told how he 'loved his sons completely' but described him as a 'man of few words'.

Speaking
about his appointment as Wales manager, Mrs Speed said: 'Gary said
there was no greater honour than to manage his country in the game he
loved.

'Although Gary enjoyed his job he did not enjoy the high profile nature of it.

'Gary always said he was not a celebrity.'

Final hours: Gary Speed appears on the BBC's Football Focus next to Gary McAllister on November 26, broadcast from it's studios in Salford, hours before he was discovered dead

Final hours: Gary Speed appears on the BBC's Football Focus with Gary McAllister on November 26, broadcast from its studios in Salford, hours before he was discovered dead

She said her son's death left herself and her husband in 'complete shock'.

'Looking back, Gary was always a glass-half-empty person, certainly no optimist,' her statement added.

Dan Walker, the presenter of Football
Focus, spent four hours on and off camera with Speed the day before he
died and he said he was left stunned by the tragedy.

Speaking
in the days after the death, he said Speed had been 'as bubbly as I
have known him…It's awful to think that someone who was so gifted and
so well liked with the rest of his life to look forward to has been so
cruelly removed.'

Tributes
to Speed poured in from around the world after news of his death
spread. A public memorial service to celebrate his life is planned to
take place later this year.

The Football Association of Wales has also said that the national team’s game against Costa Rica on
February 29 will be dedicated to their former manager.

Distinguished professional: Gary Speed celebrates scoring for Bolton with a free kick against Liverpool in 2006

Gary Speed challenges for a header against Arsenal in the late 1990s

Distinguished professional: Gary Speed celebrates scoring for Bolton with a free kick against Liverpool in 2006 and, right, he challenges for a header against Arsenal in the late 1990s

The FAW appointed Chris Coleman as the
new manager of Wales earlier this month after what they admitted had
been 'a very difficult period' following Speed's death.

Speed
played for Leeds United, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers, Sheffield
United and Everton during a distinguished football career.

He
was named Wales manager in December 2010 in a surprise announcement.

Under his guidance the national team had turned the corner and had been
playing some of their best football for years.

SPEED FAMILY STATEMENT ISSUED THROUGH THE LEAGUE MANAGERS ASSOCIATION

'Gary’s death and the manner of it, made Sunday 27th November 2011 the worst day of our lives. Throughout the nine weeks since, there have been some very dark moments, which we have all had to find our own different ways to endure.

'Now, we have to adapt to the future without a husband, a father, a brother and a son; but Gary’s memory shines brightly in our thoughts and we will forever remember the wonderful times we shared with him and the deep love and affection he offered so freely within our close knit family.

'Thankfully, out of tragedy some good often emerges, and we feel blessed to have such true friends who are helping each of us come to terms with the circumstances of our bereavement.

'Gary’s funeral was an occasion of great sadness and grief for everyone concerned but it was also a day where we were able to say farewell to him in our own personal and private way.

'At this time we wish to reiterate our deep appreciation for the very generous and clearly sincere accolades paid to Gary and his memory by the public and all forms of the media.

'We remain especially grateful for the sympathetic way that the media has respected the family’s privacy.

'The help and encouragement we have received from so many special individuals and organisations leading up to today’s inquest has been truly breathtaking and we must recognise publicly some of those concerned.

'The thoughtful way we have been treated by the Cheshire constabulary, which has been represented here today by Detective Inspector Peter Lawless.

'The considerate way today’s hearing has been conducted by HM Coroner Mr Nicholas Rheinburg. The practical help given in abundance by Melissa Chappell, whose support and friendship has been so much more to us than simply Gary’s professional agent.

'The invaluable life-line provided by the League Managers Association which has been there for us throughout. We are immensely thankful to all of you and greatly appreciate what you have done for us.

'Finally, our thanks go to the FA of Wales which has arranged the Gary Speed Memorial Match against Costa Rica at the Cardiff City Stadium on Wednesday 29th February. '

This will give everyone whose lives were touched and enriched by Gary’s achievements the opportunity to attend, celebrate his life and pay their final respects. We look forward to seeing you there.'

Wales manager: Gary Speed, right, on the touchline alongside England boss Fabio Capello in September as the Welsh lost 1-0 to England in a European Championship qualifying match

Wales manager: Gary Speed, right, on the touchline alongside England boss Fabio Capello in September as the Welsh lost 1-0 to England in a European Championship qualifying match

Tributes: Leeds United supporters leave tributes to Gary Speed outside their Elland Road ground. Speed played for Leeds during a distinguished career

Tributes: Leeds United supporters leave tributes to Gary Speed outside their Elland Road ground. Speed played for Leeds during a distinguished career

Andrey Arshavin ruined by Arsenal

Arshavin wrecking Arsenal's season Surely it's the other way round

Remember the Andrey Arshavin who dazzled against the Dutch at Euro 2008 The one who scored four goals at Anfield in his debut season for Arsenal

That guy hardly bares resemblance to the No 23 who left the Emirates with criticism ringing in his ears on Sunday.

So what went wrong His detractors, led by their new spokesman Gary Neville, would have you believe he doesn't care – he's lazy, invisible on the pitch and isn't prepared to get stuck in.

Number's up: Arshavin came in for stick over his performance against United

Number's up: Arshavin came in for stick over his performance against United

But while Arshavin can't be held blameless for his current malaise, isn't it also the case he has been ruined by Arsenal

Gradually diminished in a system that doesn't suit him and in a position he had barely known in a decade or more at Zenit St Petersburg.

His biggest crime on Sunday seems to be that he was brought on for a player who was enjoying a flying first league start.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with his dynamic wing play, hunger and demeanour, represented the antithesis of Arshavin, but the substitute can hardly be blamed for his manager's decision.

The over-the-top criticism and analysis of his role in Danny Welbeck's winner would not have come had it not been for the displeasure at Oxlade-Chamberlain's departure. Singling out Arshavin fit the narrative, the scapegoat easily identified.

Yes, a more defensively apt player might have dealt with Antonio Valencia better, but Arshavin was not the only man culpable if we break it down.

With the game stretched, he was caught
out of position in tracking Antonio Valencia. But, without a left back
in sight, he still managed to get close to the Ecuadorian, guiding him
inside where Arsenal were strong, towards Alex Song and Thomas
Vermaelen.

Defensive blunder: Arsenal were carved apart for Welback's winner which Arshavin was powerless to stop (below)

Defensive blunder: Arsenal were carved apart for Welback's winner which Arshavin was powerless to stop (below)

Defensive blunder: Arsenal were carved apart for Welback's winner which Arshavin was powerless to stop (below)

Song was easily bamboozled into stepping aside while Vermaelen stood square as Valencia passed. Arshavin stuck with Valencia and prevented him from shooting when receiving the ball back, seven yards from goal.

Valencia instead returned the ball to Welbeck, who scored, unmarked, as the rest of Arsenal's defence looked at each other. This was obviously all Arshavin's fault.

Forget that Arsenal had been vulnerable down the flanks all game (see United's opening goal) or that Arsene Wenger has been fielding defences without full backs having got three weeks into the transfer window without signing reinforcements.

Neville has been a revelation as a TV pundit, with his pre-match analysis on Sky's Monday Night Football show often more entertaining than the subsequent game.

Yet instead of dwelling on the detail he resorted to playground criticism of Arshavin not liking England and thinking our women are ugly. It's hard to imagine why a 30-year-old with two children settled in London a long-term partner who loves Oxford Street hasn't seduced a string of British beauties.

Nigel Winterburn, who also knows a bit about defending, has a slightly different view.

Up in arms: Arsenal fans are starting to show signs of dissent towards manager Wenger for the first time

Up in arms: Arsenal fans are starting to show signs of dissent towards manager Wenger for the first time

'Arshavin has been smashed to pieces because he didn't tackle Valencia,' Winterburn told the Sovetskiy Sport newspaper. 'But he is only partly to blame.

'Andrey is not an experienced defender and it is not so easy to stop guys like Valencia. But he still keeps going to the end and tried his best. Where were the defenders The blame must be shared by all the defensive players, and Andrey too.

'I agree with Gary Neville to some extent. If he doesn't get pleasure from playing in England then of course it would be better to go to Wenger and say, “Arsene, I want to go home”. But I think it's just Andrey is suffering bad form. He can return to his previous level, he just needs to make an effort.'

Arshavin acknowledges his performances have not been great, but the stuttering nature of his involvement – eight starts in 22 Premier League games this season – is not conducive to regaining match rhythm. It is a n obvious vicious circle.

But he is never likely to regain his lustre on Arsenal's left wing.

It is hard to understand why Wenger bought Arshavin, possibly for a club-record fee (between 12million and 16.5m depending on who you believe) in a time when he hasn’t lavished a lot of money on signings.

The Frenchman rightly identified Arshavin as one of the most talented players of his generation during those magical displays against Sweden and Holland four years ago, but brought him into a system that fails to embrace his vision.

Four of the best: Arshavin's career started so well in north London

Four of the best: Arshavin's career started so well in north London

Four of the best: Arshavin's career started so well in north London

After early development in midfield positions, Arshavin established himself playing in a front two. He was best playing as a No 10 off a figurehead No 9, drifting in and out of space, in and out of games, stealthily and so effectively delivering killer blows.

The closest Wenger has come to using this role was when he pushed Cesc Fabregas into a more advanced position than normal.
So, why was he signed Was an established 27-year-old expected to transform his game into that of an industrious winger

Neville attempted to say Arshavin looked the least interested player in the Premier League. Never mind that his demeanour has always been as it is now, when the chips are down fans want to see you haring about like Scott Parker, sweating blood for the shirt.

Show some passion – the most overrated attribute in the game, often held in higher regard than invention or calm, calculated competency.

If you think Arshavin doesn't care, you may wonder why he hasn't responded since Sunday. His Twitter has remained silent for over a week and the interview he usually gives after every game has gone unpublished.

Remember the excitement when he first said, 'Now I am Gooner' The next words he says may well be, 'Do svidaniya' – and I for one won't be pleased to see the back of him.

Manager's prerogative: Sir Alex and Wenger aren't having it all their own way this season

Manager's prerogative: Sir Alex and Wenger aren't having it all their own way this season

Manager's prerogative: Fergie and Wenger aren't having it all their way this term