Tag Archives: natural

Jose Maria Olazabal in Ryder Cup captain"s buggy at Spanish Open

Olazabal has best drive at Spanish Open with signed Ryder Cup captain's buggy

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

15:01 GMT, 17 April 2013

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UPDATED:

16:55 GMT, 17 April 2013

Jose Maria Olazabal has a cool set of wheels at the Spanish Open with the former Ryder Cup captain cruising around in his skipper's buggy.

Olazabal masterminded Europe's win over the United States at Medinah last year and all 12 of his players signed the front of his cart.

Sergio Garcia and Francesco Molinari are the only two of Olazabal's troops teeing it up in Valencia this week – the former the bookies' favourite and the latter the defending champion.

Home hopes: Jose Maria Olazabal (right) and Sergio Garcia at Parador de El Saler for the Spanish Open

Home hopes: Jose Maria Olazabal (right) and Sergio Garcia at Parador de El Saler for the Spanish Open

Garcia, who finished in a tie for eighth at The Masters on Sunday, was all smiles as he hitched a lift with Olazabal during Wednesday's practice at Parador de El Saler.

Meanwhile, Miguel Angel Jimenez will put his recovery from a broken leg to the test on his return to action in Valencia.

Jimenez, who surpassed Des Smyth as the oldest winner on the European Tour when he lifted the Hong Kong Open aged 48 years and 318 days last November, suffered the injury a month later while skiing near his home in Malaga.

'My leg is improving daily,' the 49-year-old told reporters. 'I work out every morning in the gym and I'm actually a little ahead of schedule on my rehab. I am not one hundred per cent fit, but I want to test myself and see how I feel.

Good to be back: Miguel Angel Jimenez is making his return to action after recovering from a broken leg

Good to be back: Miguel Angel Jimenez is making his return to action after recovering from a broken leg

'I can't wait to be back on Tour with my friends and I'd hate to miss the chance of playing at El Saler.'

Jimenez made his tour debut in the Spanish Open 30 years ago and will be making his 599th career appearance this week.

'Javier Arana's wonderful design blends beautifully with its natural surroundings, both in the pine trees area and in the dunes area. For me it's the best course in Spain and I love all the holes,' Jimenez added.

'It's a beautiful layout with a strong finish; the 17th is a good par three towards the dunes and the 18th is spectacular. Once you play at El Saler you get hooked. It's such an enjoyable course that you keep wanting to come back.

'I have many fond memories of El Saler. We used to play many tournaments in the 80's and I won an Under-25 event in 1986. We also played two or three Campeonatos de Levante, and later on a few European Tour events. The last I played was the 2003 Seve Trophy.'

Different ball game: Garcia and his dad Victor watch former tennis ace Juan Carlos Ferrero during the pro-am

Different ball game: Garcia and his dad Victor watch former tennis ace Juan Carlos Ferrero during the pro-am

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain getting better for England and Arsenal

England's Ox growing stronger and stronger after rapid rise with Three Lions stardom

European Championships, where he started the opening game against France in Donetsk.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has certainly come a long way in a short time since being signed by Arsene Wenger as a raw talent from Southampton two years ago.

Better and better: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, pictured here with the new Vauxhall Adam, intends to take everything in his stride as England push on towards the World Cup

Better and better: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, pictured here with the new Vauxhall Adam, intends to take everything in his stride as England push on towards the World Cup

The midfielder, though, is determined to keep himself focused on each new challenge as it comes along.

Speaking at an event organised by England sponsor’s Vauxhall, Oxlade-Chamberlain told Press Association Sport: 'I have a bit more experience now, from both club and international level, on and off the pitch.

'The experience of going to the Euros with tournament football stands me in better stead looking towards the World Cup, but I still have a lot of hard work to do to make that squad for Brazil, if we do qualify.'

Oxlade-Chamberlain added: 'My progress into the first-team at Arsenal and the senior England squad was quite quick, probably quicker than I ever thought it was going to be.

Room to grow: The 19-year-old is likely to play in England's qualifying double header with San Marino and Montenegro this weekend

Room to grow: The 19-year-old is likely to play in England's qualifying double header with San Marino and Montenegro this weekend

'I really just try to keep my head down, focused on my targets, and take everything in my stride.

'I have only achieved a tiny percentage of what I want to achieve in a small fraction of my career.

'I know I have got a lot more hard work to do and a long way to go, so I don’t really think about how quick things have gone because I just want to keep improving myself and keep pushing on.'

Unfazed: Oxlade-Chamberlain fighting the elements and Swansea's Angel Rangel in Saturday's 2-0 win at Swansea

Unfazed: Oxlade-Chamberlain fighting the elements and Swansea's Angel Rangel in Saturday's 2-0 win at Swansea

Natural similarities are drawn between the progress of Oxlade-Chamberlain and his Arsenal team-mate Theo Walcott, another product of the Southampton Academy and now regular for Roy Hodgson’s England squad.

'Theo is a brilliant player, so I don’t really mind getting compared to him,' Oxlade-Chamberlain said.

'He really helps me out a lot and has done ever since I stepped into Arsenal and coming away with England.

Young gunner: Oxlade-Chamberlain has been inevitably compared to teammate Theo Walcott

Young gunner: Oxlade-Chamberlain has been inevitably compared to teammate Theo Walcott

'This season he has been really good for Arsenal, scoring a lot of goals, which is what I am trying to add to my game, so I can learn from him in that sense.

'But I don’t really look at it in terms of what he has done and what I am doing, I just focus on what I need to do to achieve the goals I set for myself.'

Vauxhall are official lead sponsors of England. Check out www.vauxhallfootball.co.uk

Arsene Wenger expects Jack Wilshere to become an England centurion

Bale is the flavour of the month… But Wilshere will be an England centurion, claims Wenger

By
Jim Van Wijk, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

22:50 GMT, 2 March 2013

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UPDATED:

09:40 GMT, 3 March 2013

No pressure: Jack Wilshere is expected to win 100 caps, according to Wenger

No pressure: Jack Wilshere is expected to win 100 caps, according to Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is in no doubt midfielder Jack Wilshere can outlast the hype and go on to earn a century of caps for England.

Wilshere, 21, returned from more than a year out injured in October, but is already being heralded as an integral part of the future hopes of both club and country.

Arsenal head to Tottenham on Sunday, where they will come up against in-form Welshman Gareth Bale, who has drawn comparisons with Europe's best after his match-winning performances this season.

Wenger believes his own talented midfielder has everything ahead of him.

'Bale is the flavour of the moment. When you look at Wilshere, who will deny that this guy will get 100 caps for England Nobody, if he has no injury,' said Wenger.

'My worry is not to compare Wilshere with anyone else. My only worry when you are a footballer player of that talent is to become as good as you can become.

'That is the only thing that is of interest to me. I leave the comparisons to other people. My job is to get the best out of him.'

Talking a good game: Wenger (left) and Wilshere (right)

Talking a good game: Wenger (left) and Wilshere (right)

Wenger feels it is sometimes overlooked just how much Wilshere has achieved since arriving at the club aged nine.

'You tend to forget how old he is when you see him play. You never come out of a game and think 'this guy is 21 years old'. He's at a stage where the others have not started,' said Wenger.

'You think of Jack (as) an established player in the Premier League and at international level, that is still something special.'

Wenger feels Wilshere will develop into Arsenal's natural leader. He continued: 'Jack breathes football. He doesn't talk too much, but he understands everything.

On the run: Wilshere (right) takes on Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger

On the run: Wilshere (right) takes on Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger

'What he has exceeded is the speed of his physical fitness in the game. Honestly, I never expected that.'

Wilshere has yet to score in the Premier League this season, but Wenger feels that the goals will soon come.

'I believe it's part of his development to play a bit more advanced,” the Arsenal boss said.

'In some games, he is more comfortable deeper. I believe he has a little dribble that can get him through in the final third and the finishing will come.

'He's a bit in a situation like (Cesc) Fabregas was for a while. He said to me “but I cannot score goals', however you could see that it would come.

'Jack doesn't talk about it, but who doesn't want to score goals He is more a team player than a goalscorer.

'He will never be a goalscorer, but he can be capable to score.'

Arsenal head across north London defending a five-match unbeaten run, with three victories on the bounce, as they look to move back to just one point behind their rivals.

Wenger accepts there are no longer any margins for error if his team at to secure another top-four finish.

'It is still open, but I am realistic and we cannot drop points,' he said.

'One or two of the other teams will always win over the weekend. If we drop points we can fall quickly behind.

'So there are two things we cannot do – drop points and also speculate over the weaknesses of our opponents because that can be deadly as well.'

Borussia Dortmund use artificial lights to repair pitch during Bundesliga winter break

Does this shed light on Dortmund's success 'Artificial sun' repair lamps pitch them above rivals in Bundesliga

By
Adam Shergold

PUBLISHED:

13:25 GMT, 8 January 2013

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UPDATED:

15:58 GMT, 8 January 2013

Bathed in an eerie yellow glow in keeping with the club's colours, the pitch at Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park receives some tender loving care ahead of the resumption of the Bundesliga season.

The strange light, made all the more pronounced by the darkened stands, is the result of a hi-tech 'artificial sun' lighting system used by the German champions to keep their pitch in pristine condition.

With the stadium capacity a massive 80,645 for league matches – including nearly 25,000 on the famous Sudtribune terrace – the tall stands block out natural sunlight, meaning the pitch can easily become dry and patchy.

Eerie: Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park is bathed in a yellow glow as artificial lighting keeps the pitch in pristine condition during the Bundesliga winter break

Eerie: Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park is bathed in a yellow glow as artificial lighting keeps the pitch in pristine condition during the Bundesliga winter break

Eerie: Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park is bathed in a yellow glow as artificial lighting keeps the pitch in pristine condition during the Bundesliga winter break

So for the past two years, Dortmund have hired Dutch company Stadium Grow Lighting (SGL) to construct a portable grid of powerful lamps above the turf in between matches to ensure the grass gets all the necessary nutrients.

It has created a pristine surface which perfectly suits Dortmund's free-flowing style of play and has helped deliver the last two Bundesliga titles.

With German football pausing for a winter break, and natural sunlight at a premium, the lights have been warming the pitch round the clock in recent weeks.

It's a similar situation at many of the 80-odd football clubs across Europe that use SGL's technology, with pitches today representing a vast improvement on a decade or two ago.

Yellow wall: The tall stands at the 80,000 capacity Signal Iduna Park mean natural sunlight is at a premium

Yellow wall: The tall stands at the 80,000 capacity Signal Iduna Park mean natural sunlight is at a premium

Success: The pristine pitch created by the lights has been a factor in Dortmund's recent success, including two consecutive Bundesliga titles

Success: The pristine pitch created by the lights has been a factor in Dortmund's recent success, including two consecutive Bundesliga titles

Dortmund resume their defence of the title with a trip to Werder Bremen on January 19, with the first game back at the Signal Iduna on January 25 against Nuremberg.

But they have plenty to do if they're to overhaul runaway leaders Bayern Munich, who have a nine point lead over Bayer Leverkusen and 12 over Dortmund.

Pitches have come a long way from the days of Harris, Hunter and Best…

Mudbath: Manchester United's George Best gets a shot away under challenge from Chelsea's Ron 'Chopper' Harris on a less-than-pristine playing surface in 1971

Mudbath: Manchester United's George Best gets a shot away under challenge from Chelsea's Ron 'Chopper' Harris on a less-than-pristine playing surface in 1971

Night of misery: A despondent Norman Hunter of England on a very cut up pitch in Chorzow after losing to Poland in the 1974 World Cup qualifiers

Night of misery: A despondent Norman Hunter of England on a very cut up pitch in Chorzow after losing to Poland in the 1974 World Cup qualifiers

Martin Keown"s boot room: Marouane Fellaini headbutt was wrong but sly Ryan Shawcross has no defence

The boot room: It's not defending, it's tag wrestling! Fellaini headbutt was wrong but sly Shawcross has no defence

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UPDATED:

22:57 GMT, 21 December 2012

What Marouane Fellaini did to Ryan Shawcross last weekend was wrong – there is no place for headbutts on a football pitch. Everton manager David Moyes was quick to make that point, too.

Fellaini's reaction was that of frustration, a retaliation to almost an hour of being manhandled by the Stoke centre back at every set-piece. He felt Shawcross was cheating time after time and so the anger built up. It wasn't right but something needs to be done about the style in which Shawcross marks people.

It's not defending, it's tag wrestling. He's not bothered about the ball, just the man.

Mario Fellaini headbutts Ryan Shawcross

Mario Fellaini headbutts Ryan Shawcross

I have been watching Shawcross for long enough to know he's been regularly grabbing attackers, putting both arms around them like a bear hug.

He's not alone in doing this in the Premier League but he's the best at it, disguising his clear fouling from the referee. He collars his opponents, targeting people like Fellaini who are so good in the air. He does it exceptionally well but he oversteps the mark.

As a defender you always need to have some contact with the man you are marking at set-pieces but there are boundaries.

There will always be shirt-pulling in the box – sometimes it's just a natural instinct when a player runs away from you. You use it as a brake to slow down an attacker, it's part of your armoury. I did that but I never put two arms around an opponent like Shawcross does.

I was on the receiving end of a player like that, too. It was a game against Lazio and Alessandro Nesta was wrestling me to the ground at every free-kick and corner. I tried to tell the referee but I got no help from him. He did nothing. So I decided I would stop him by barging into him at every set-piece, running violently into him. I started acting like a crazy guy. He could see the look in my eye which was telling him not to do it again or it would all go off.

So I can understand what Fellaini must have been feeling, even though he was wrong to let it get the better of him. When Shawcross was headbutted by Fellaini it must have been painful. But I have been headbutted and punched and I know it's a choice whether you go down or not. Most of the time it happened to me, I fought back.

But when Nigel Spackman punched me in the back of the head, I chose to go to the floor so the referee would notice it and would send him off. He did. No doubt that was in Shawcross's mind as he hit the deck.

WhatsTheScore

Christian soldiers on

Bang-on Benteke

Christian Benteke has been a revelation for
Aston Villa, with eight goals already this season in all competitions. Can he become the first Villa player to score 20 goals since Juan Pablo Angel in 2003-04

11-12 . Darren Bent 10
10-11. Darren Bent 9/Ashley Young 9
09-10. John Carew 17
08-09. John Carew 15
07-08. John Carew 13
06-07. Gabriel Agbonlahor 10
05-06. Milan Baros 12
04-05. Juan Pablo Angel 9
03-04. Juan Pablo Angel 23

Christian Benteke is an absolute revelation. He has some of Didier Drogba's pace and power but whereas Drogba would fall to the floor with a broken eyelash, Benteke is harder.

He reminds me of former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who was a fearsome opponent. You didn't make him angry because you'd be worried what he'd do to you and the same can be said about Benteke.

The harder you hit him, the harder he hits back. The Belgian is dominating everyone he faces – I haven't seen any defender master him yet. He's caused problems for Manchester City, Manchester United, Spurs and Liverpool to name but a few.

He has fantastic feet and technique and they complement his confidence and strength. He will keep getting better, too.

Match Previews 2

Match Previews 1

Sir Alex Ferguson installed tanning booths at Manchester United

Ferguson installed tanning booths so United players could top up their Vitamin D levels

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UPDATED:

09:38 GMT, 19 December 2012

Read the full Fergie study…

You can purchase the Sir Alex Ferguson case study from Harvard Business School HERE

At a successful club like Manchester United, no stone is left unturned in preparing the players for action – and that even includes their sun tan.

A fascinating study into the methods of manager Sir Alex Ferguson by academics at the Harvard Business School in Boston has revealed that United had a Vitamin D machine installed for compensate for Manchester's lack of natural sunlight.

Ferguson also gave players staggered one-week breaks during the winter months so they could replenish their Vitamin D.

Sunshine indoors: Manchester United had a Vitamin D tanning booth installed in the dressing room at their Carrington training ground (below) so the squad could counterbalance the lack of sunlight in Manchester

Sunshine indoors: Manchester United had a Vitamin D tanning booth installed in the dressing room at their Carrington training ground (below) so the squad could counterbalance the lack of sunlight in Manchester

Manchester United's Carrington Training Complex

The study, entitled 'Sir Alex Ferguson: Managing Manchester United', said the tanning booth was installed in the players' dressing room at their Carrington training ground.

It says: 'He [Ferguson] could talk enthusiastically about the new Vitamin D machine (which perhaps most resembled a tanning booth) in the players' dressing room at Carrington, put there to help them counterbalance the lack of sunlight in Manchester, or his plan for the new season to give players staggered one-week breaks in the winter months to replenish their Vitamin D.'

The tanning booth is one of many secrets revealed by Ferguson in the Harvard study, by Anita Elberse and Tom Dye, including that he doesn't use his notorious hairdryer technique as often as he used to.

Study: The front page of the Harvard Business School thesis

Study: The front page of the Harvard Business School thesis

Insight: The study, by Harvard Business School academics, offers a fascinating in-depth look at the methods of Sir Alex Ferguson

Insight: The study, by Harvard Business School academics, offers a fascinating in-depth look at the methods of Sir Alex Ferguson

It also covers how he prepares his team, the way he conducts his team-talks and how he changes a game's direction at half-time.

Staff at the club have spoken of the specially-modified tanning booth in the changing rooms, which is used about three times a week by each player to top up their Vitamin D levels.

It is likely to be a large Vitamin D lamp, which emits ultraviolet rays to trigger the formation of Vitamin D. It helps bone strength and stimulates feel-good brain chemicals such as serotonin.

The lamps are used to treat people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

WITH 140 DAYS OF RAIN A YEAR, IT'S LITTLE WONDER FERGIE WANTED TO BRING IN A BIT OF SUNSHINE

Manchester has a reputation as being one of the wettest places in the UK, so it's little wonder Sir Alex Ferguson had a tanning booth installed so the players could top up their Vitamin D levels.

The city has an average annual rainfall of 806.6 millimetres (31.76 inches) and 140 days of rain each year, though both are actually below the national average.

Former United players Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez complained about the cold and rainy Manchester climate, but while the former went to sunnier Spain, the latter moved across the road to City.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich"s plans to conquer the world (just as Rafa Benitez is beginning to win over the fans)

Abramovich's plans to conquer the world (just as Benitez is beginning to win over the fans)

By
Joe Bernstein

PUBLISHED:

22:24 GMT, 15 December 2012

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UPDATED:

22:24 GMT, 15 December 2012

Roman Abramovich's quest for world
domination began with a trip to Arsenal's training ground in the summer
of 2003, shortly after he had bought Chelsea from Ken Bates.

Promising his new club the best
facilities money could buy, the young Russian billionaire took his
entourage on a tour of other clubs' headquarters to seek inspiration.

Having a ball: Torres has started to find the form he showed under Benitez at Liverpool

Having a ball: Torres has started to find the form he showed under Benitez at Liverpool

The visit to Arsenal's London Colney was the key one. 'It should be like this,' said the oligarch as he surveyed the magnificent 143-acre site with its high-tech training and medical facilities. 'But bigger and better.'

Ten seasons on, in the unlikely setting of Yokohama, Abramovich's unwavering vision about Chelsea being the very best could become official at lunchtime on Sunday.

The FIFA Club World Cup may be belittled by some but, for Chelsea's owner, beating Corinthians of Brazil in the final is a natural progression from being crowned champions of Europe on an unforgettable night in Munich last May. And, according to Fernando Torres, victory could even end up with fans singing the name of interim manager Rafael Benitez.

Most of the Chelsea players are still reticent to discuss the Spaniard's influence since the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo last month, but Benitez is handling the situation handed to him by Abramovich with dexterity.

He joined locals in the 70th floor breakfast room at the Royal Park Hotel in Yokohama, where the team are staying, happily posing for photographs and has encouraged his players to mingle with the 200 or so fans who gather every day for a glimpse of their idols.

On a mission: Benitez could win over more fans by claiming first trophy as Chelsea boss

On a mission: Benitez could win over more fans by claiming first trophy as Chelsea boss

Torres, who has scored five goals in his last three games – his best run in almost two years at the club – said: 'It is clear that the team have improved, both in defence and attack, and all this bears the stamp of Rafa. I knew he would make a big difference to Chelsea. He works hard – very hard – and soon the fans will accept him as one of them and not just for the results, but by the attitude we will see on the pitch. Now the fans will be happier and will like him.

'They are going to see the Chelsea they expect and the one they want to see. The Liverpool-Chelsea rivalry, with all the fighting that took place, may have created an animosity that is understandable, but it is just a matter of time before everything changes.'

In a quirk of the fixture list, Chelsea's next game after their world final will remind Abramovich of how it all began, with Bates now chairman of Wednesday's Capital One Cup quarter-final opponents Leeds.

Abramovich's 140million Stamford Bridge buy-out in July 2003 was not only the most significant event of the modern Premier League era – opening the door for a new breed of overseas owner – it was also typically aggressive. He talked terms with Bates on the Wednesday and bought the club the following day.

Powerful: Roman Abramovich attends speech of Russian President Vladimir Putin

Powerful: Roman Abramovich attends speech of Russian President Vladimir Putin

Indeed, it set the tone for a tumultuous decade that has seen the number of managers employed by Abramovich – nine – exceeded by the number of trophies won, 10.

One of the witnesses to this period is Gwyn Williams, who worked at Chelsea as coach, scout, technical director and assistant manager for 26 years under both Bates and Abramovich before rejoining Bates at Leeds in 2006, where he is the club's technical director.

'I was driving to Paris to pick up some trialists when I heard about the Abramovich deal,' he said. 'By the time I came out of the tunnel the other side, it had been done. It was a surprise because it happened so quickly, but we knew if Chelsea were going to the top, they needed seriously rich people involved.'

Abramovich was only 36 when he bought Chelsea and already a multi-billionaire. He decided to control the signing of players personally. Eugene Tenenbaum and Bruce Buck (trusted advisers), Pini Zahavi (agent) and Piet de Visser (scout) were consulted rather than leaving decisions to the manager. Last summer Eden Hazard and Oscar were signed without Di Matteo being a factor.

Williams does not see a problem with Abramovich's hands-on approach or his regular turnaround of managers. 'It's only regarded as strange in British football. In Europe, it's normal for a director of football to buy players and leave the manager to coach them. A club need to know their new player will be a good investment whoever the manager is,' he said.

'If every player you signed was fantastic, life would be easy. But Roman is not afraid of the hiccups and keeps moving forward. He is ambitious and needs to be. He is a wealthy man but also a clever man.'

A clever man who could be left feeling on top of the world.

Meet the sleep coach for Ryan Giggs, John Terry, Didier Drogba and Bradley Wiggins

Have I got snooze for you! Meet the sleep coach who helped Giggs, Terry, Drogba, Hoy and Wiggins

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UPDATED:

22:48 GMT, 13 December 2012

That Ryan Giggs is still playing in the Barclays Premier League in his 40th year is perhaps down to natural ability, a rigid conditioning programme and regular yoga.

The day the Manchester United midfielder invited a chap called Nick Littlehales round to his house in 2003 was maybe significant, too.

Littlehales is – as unusual as it sounds – an expert in the art of sleeping; how to do it and what to do it on and in.

Sleeping on the job: Nick Littlehales takes a break

Sleeping on the job: Nick Littlehales
takes a break

Nik's top tips for getting better kip

You should be able to lie comfortably on your mattress with no pillow.

Hard mattresses are not generally good for you. It’s a myth.

Check the environment. Light, noise and temperature can ruin your sleep without you knowing.

Try to wake up to natural light.

Inexpensive washable linen is best. Fresh linen facilitates good sleep.

Don’t buy a super-warm duvet. You will overheat as you sleep.

He said this week: 'I was invited to talk to a group of United players. Six came to see me together. I spoke to them about how important it was to sleep in the right conditions on the right things.

'At the end, five walked out and one stayed and said, “I want to know more about this”. It was Ryan Giggs.'

Giggs, whose longevity was threatened by hamstring problems as he reached the end of his 20s, is one of Littlehales' most famous clients. There are many more.

Most notable in football are Chelsea captain John Terry and his former team-mate Didier Drogba as well as the whole Blackburn squad during the days of Sam Allardyce.

Littlehales is acting as a consultant for United on a sleep room they are building at Carrington to cater for players returning from overseas games. He has also worked with Arsenal, Liverpool and for the Football Association.

His influence, though, is felt across other sports. In the summer, every member of the Team GB cycling team took individually designed, lightweight, fold-up mattresses and 'sleep packs' recommended by Littlehales into the Athletes' Village at the Olympics and slept on them on the floor next to their beds. They took his linen and duvets too. Bradley Wiggins and his colleagues at Team Sky took them up the mountains during the Tour de France.

Rest in peace: Littlehales with his sleep kit

Rest in peace: Littlehales with his sleep kit

Rest in peace: Littlehales with his sleep kit

Rest in peace: Littlehales with his sleep kit

So what's the big deal about sleep Don't athletes count sheep like the rest of us

'People don't understand how important it is and, more pertinently, how important it is to do right,' said Littlehales.

'If you are spending eight hours and more a day asleep, surely it makes sense to be in the right environment.

'To get it right you have to get things like temperature, light, noise and air quality correct. You have to know your allergies. Then, of course, you have to sleep on something that suits your height, shape and weight.

'I help athletes and people with injuries but it's not just that. It's preventative as much as anything. Many people walk into a shop, spend 500 on a posh mattress and walk out again. It's ridiculous.

'When you wake – athlete or not – you shouldn't want to turn over and sleep for another two hours. You should feel rested and ready to go. But how many people do I dealt with one player whose bedroom temperature at home was 32 degrees! It was because his wife liked to be warm. He, meanwhile, was waking up dehydrated.

'That's quite common in sport. The partner chooses and designs the bedroom.'

Littlehales, a former professional golfer from the Midlands, was working for the Slumberland bed company in the 1990s when he heard about a back injury afflicting United defender Gary Pallister.

'I just wrote to Sir Alex Ferguson and said I may be able to help,' he recalled. 'Gary came to see me. He was travelling home from games on a special bed on the team bus. His back was that bad. At home he was sleeping in totally the wrong position.

Famous clients: Ryan Giggs (above) and Sir Chris Hoy (below)

Famous clients: Ryan Giggs (above) and Sir Chris Hoy (below)

Sir Chris Hoy

Sir Chris Hoy

'I didn't cure his injury but I did help him keep away from the physio's table. After that the United physios went and found out what every player was sleeping on. They even went into the lodgings of their youth players.'

Littlehales, who calls himself a sleep coach, has worked on and off with United for more than 15 years. He has even helped Ferguson.

Inevitably, there are those who don't have time for his theories. Steve Kean dispensed with him when he succeeded Allardyce at Blackburn two years ago, while his work with Chelsea ended when Carlo Ancelotti left.

He said: 'Certain managers won't buy into certain aspects of sport science. Most footballers will be sleeping in the wrong conditions. Allardyce, though, bought into the whole concept of marginal gains in sport very quickly.'

Littlehales has had an on-off relationship with the FA. Fabio Capello was one England manager who was not interested but others were.

'Before Euro 2004 we took the beds out of the England hotel and replaced them with my kits,' he said with a smile. 'The hotel staff thought the FA had gone bonkers.'

He has a meeting coming up about kitting out the FA's centre of excellence in Burton but it is work with Britain's triumphant cyclists that has made him most proud.

'Sir Chris Hoy set the example at the world championships and took one of my kits into his five-star hotel and slept on it,' Littlehales said. 'It only cost a few hundred quid. Then Bradley took his up the mountains.

'Hoy takes his “bed” with him everywhere. Once the others knew he was using it, they all followed.

'In the Athletes' Village they knew they had their own stuff and they understood the science behind it. They bought into it.

'Many football people think it's too much hassle to carry the stuff round. The cyclists don't.'

Littlehales' client list includes the Red Bull Formula One team, companies like Unilever and staff at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He also does consultations at people's homes.

He listened to the fuss about England's footballers taking sleeping tablets before their rearranged game in Poland in October with interest.

'You can't put caffeine into players during the day then try and suppress it at night with a sedative,' he said. 'You end up with players who are wiped out.'

l Nick Littlehales can be contacted at [email protected]

Vote for Sanctuaire as big Nicholls hope for Sandown has the X Factor

Vote for Sanctuaire as big Nicholls hope for Sandown has the X Factor

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UPDATED:

20:18 GMT, 7 December 2012

The people at ITV will have you
believe that all this weekend's fireworks are reserved for the X Factor
final but, for National Hunt fans, there are two explosive chasers at
Sandown today for whom that description fits adroitly.

Both Sprinter Sacre and SANCTUAIRE
(Sandown, 3.05) boast the star quality that X Factor finalists can only
dream of, although the progression through the series of favourite James
Arthur does in a way mirror that of Sanctuaire.

tale of the tingle tape

Peter Scudamore's view

The Tingle Creek Chase provides the clash between Sanctuaire and Sprinter Sacre that we’ve been waiting for since the Spring and, with both unbeaten over fences, something has to give. My worry is the ground is going to play a part. Jockey Peter Buchanan, who landed the big race yesterday on Bold Sir Brian, described conditions on Sandown’s chase course as ‘hard-work ground’.

The big two have both had breathing operations in the past. You can never be totally confident how they will react in arduous going.
I’d also be concerned that the ground will negate the immense jumping of Sprinter Sacre. He is a horse with natural spring in his legs. His technique last year was outstanding and some of his leaps spectacular.

His defeat of Cue Card at the Cheltenham Festival was a piece of form to drool over. He has already shown the potential to be not only the most exciting steeplechaser in training but also the best pound for pound across the distance spectrum. Despite my concerns I can’t desert the Nicky Henderson-trained favourite.

A troubled soul at the start of the
series, the talented Arthur has prospered due to a strict regime of
rehearsal and training and much the same can be said of the headstrong
Sanctuaire

It is only in the past 12 months that trainer Paul Nicholls and his team has managed to resolve the physical and mental issues that were stopping his charge from ascending the chasing tree.

The result has been three unblemished chasing victories by an aggregate margin of 74 lengths, two of which were achieved at today's venue.

It is those front-running demolitions that Sanctuaire's supporters will put their faith in as he bids to see off the imposing claims of Sprinter Sacre.

Nicky Henderson's hot favourite is yet to taste defeat over fences.

A six-length defeat of Cue Card in the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival looks all the more creditable given the runner-up's subsequent efforts.

However, Sanctuaire's experience of the tricky Sandown fences could prove decisive in springing a mini surprise.

Alastair Cook"s best is still to come, says Keith Fletcher

Cook is still developing and his best is still to come, says former England skipper Fletcher

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UPDATED:

22:03 GMT, 6 December 2012

Former England captain Keith Fletcher knew a dozen years ago that Alastair Cook was a banker to follow him on to the international stage — and now expects him to cash in on his natural ability.

Fletcher, then Essex coach, spent some of his 2000-01 winter giving a teenage Cook batting tutorials and saw enough to make a proclamation about his future career path one Saturday afternoon the following summer.

‘I did regular one-to-ones with him, and then, as part of my day job, took an interest in him, watching him play for Maldon Town in the East Anglian Premier League,’ Fletcher told Sportsmail.

The best is yet to come: Alastair Cook can hit greater heights, says Keith Fletcher (FILE PHOTO)

The best is yet to come: Alastair Cook can hit greater heights, says Keith Fletcher (FILE PHOTO)

‘You could see then that he had something special, and I said to one of my fishing mates, who had come to watch, “This lad will play for England one day, and that day will not be so far away either”. My mate took notice of it, put a bet on it and won a few grand.’

Two years later, Fletcher, who remains a batting consultant with Essex, was among the onlookers as an 18-year-old Cook crashed an unbeaten 164 against Cambridge and Godmanchester — unearthing an artistry regularly buried beneath a devotion to accumulation.

‘You don’t score that many, whoever you are up against, without playing a few shots,’ Fletcher added.

Developing nicely: Cook has added several shots to his armoury

Maturing nicely: Cook has added several shots to his armoury

‘However much talent you have, you can’t go out blazing any time you bat. He set his stall out to make a career of scoring runs, and his best way of scoring runs has been to apply himself to the pitch and situation.

‘When I saw him come down the wicket and hit that six, I thought, “Cooky wouldn’t have done that two years ago”.

‘My feeling is that he is going to develop and mature into an even better player.’