Tag Archives: olympians

Olympic medallist Joanna Rowsell is knocked off her bike

Olympic cycling curse strikes again, as golden girl Rowsell is knocked off her bike

Peter Scott


22:53 GMT, 6 April 2013



22:53 GMT, 6 April 2013

Joanna Rowsell, who won a gold medal for Britain at the London
Olympics, has been knocked off her bike by a car, the latest of several
British Olympians to have accidents on the road.

Rowsell told her 25,000 Twitter
followers that she been knocked off her bike on Saturday morning, the
first time it had happened to her in 9 years of cycling.

She told said: 'I am OK. No serious injuries, just cuts and bruises. Bike came off worst.'

Golden girl: Joanna Rowsell poses with Olympic gold

Golden girl: Joanna Rowsell poses with Olympic gold

She also thanked her followers for their messages of support.

Rowsell, was part of the team that won pursuit gold at the London Olympics, alongside Laura Trott and Dani King.

Other Olympians have also been knocked off their bikes since the Games.

Sir Bradley Wiggins was hit while training last year, and then coach Shane Sutton was involved in a crash the following day.

Paralympics: Honours List strongly criticised by dressage rider Lee Pearson

The Honours List just 'p***** me off'… Paralympics great Pearson says he should have been knighted and Olympic medals are still valued higher



17:27 GMT, 30 December 2012

One of Britain's leading Paralympians has launched a stinging attack on the New Year Honours List, admitting it 'p***** him off'.

Dressage rider Lee Pearson won his 10th gold medal at this year's London Paralympics, and received a CBE in the list.

He told the Independent on Sunday that he was 'disappointed' not to receive a knighthood, and added: 'It's the discrepancy that p***** me off'.

Lee Pearson

Lee Pearson

High achiever: Dressage star Pearson competing at this year's London Paralympic Games

Other Paralympians had already criticised the list, which saw Bradley Wiggins and Ben Ainslie knighted. Paralympian Sarah Storey was made a dame. Four Olympians and two Paralympians were awarded OBEs, with four Olympians and one Paralympian receiving a CBE.

Pearson said: 'Obviously, 10 gold, one silver and one bronze just isn't enough. I'm disappointed because I do feel I've given a lot to Paralympic sport and equestrianism. I think 10 gold medals is quite an achievement.'

Pearson won three gold medals at three successive Games, in Sydney, Athens and Beijing. He won an amazing tenth gold in the team dressage at Greenwich Park.

Wiggins and Ainslie are both greats of their respective sports, cycling and sailing, but Pearson's gold medal tally is higher than both of them combined.

Bradley Wiggins

Ben Ainslie

Suits you both, sir: Bradley Wiggins (left) and Ben Ainslie (right) have both been knighted

Pearson, 38, insists this case shows that Paralympic and Olympic medals are still not valued equally.

'There still seems to be a discrepancy between a Paralympic medal and an Olympic medal,' he added.

'It's tougher to get on in normal life if you've got a disability, and then to do sport on top of that is quite an achievement, I think, but maybe the powers that be don't.'

Stars such as David Weir, who won four
gold medals in London, had already said over the weekend that better
awards were deserved for Paralympians.

Weir told the Daily Telegraph: 'Kelly
Holmes was made a dame when she won two gold medals, but it seems we
have to get into double figures to get it. Sarah Storey should have been
awarded this years ago. I feel that sometimes we are left out, perhaps
because we are not in the public eye.'

She's more than a Brit special: Sarah Storey has been made a Dame

She's more than a Brit special: Sarah Storey has been made a Dame

Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee, said: 'You can do the arithmetic and make your own conclusions. I think it's important to listen to what two great Paralympians think. The people saying maybe [Paralympians] should have a bit more, there might be a case for that.'

The London Paralympic Games was the biggest in the history of the event. Huge television audiences tuned into Channel 4's coverage, with sell-out crowds turning up across the capital to watch the various sports.

The likes of Storey, Weir, and Ellie Simmonds have become major public figures after their success at the Games. All three were among the contenders for this month's Sports Personality of the Year award, which was won by Wiggins.

Oscar De Le Hoya set to apply for British license – Jeff Powell

De La Hoya on his way as Golden Boy applies for British license



23:00 GMT, 17 December 2012

The Golden Boy is preparing to invade England with major boxing events show-casing Britain's 2012 Olympians on the under-cards of top Americans in world title fights.

Oscar De La Hoya and his company – in a move which will send shock waves through the ranks of the established UK promoters – are applying to the British Boxing Board of Control for a license.

They are also engaged in talks with several UK stars of the London Games, who are believed to include medalists Anthony Joshua, Luke Campbell and Anthony Ogogo.

Invasion: Oscar De La Hoya (left) could be set to sign up some British talent

Invasion: Oscar De La Hoya (left) could be set to sign up some British talent

More from Jeff Powell…

Jeff Powell: 50 Cent's rapping is small price to pay if he brings bling to the fight game (just pass me the earplugs please!)

Jeff Powell: Thank Heavens for Freddie… now he must see the light and never box again

Jeff Powell: Hatton can take the Tyson track and head for a better future after comeback

Jeff Powell: Over to you, Ricky… Froch hands over British baton to returning hero Hatton

Jeff Powell: Cannon fodder will help Brits catch the big fish in the end

Jeff Powell: Fury on the campaign trail for a world title if Klitschko's political move disappoints Haye

Jeff Powell: Steward is gone but Hearns will fight for The Kronk to live on

Jeff Powell boxing column: So long, Ricky Fatton! Returning Hitman vows to quit boozing between bouts


The trans-Atlantic expansion of Golden Boy Promotions has been confirmed here in Los Angeles by chief executive Richard Schaefer.

He outlined his plans to British Board chairman Charles Giles and general secretary Robert Smith, who flew to LA for Amir Khan's resurrection fight on Saturday night.

Since Schaefer is a Swiss passport holder who is preparing to open offices in London and is already in negotiation with British television companies, they see no basis for objection.

Golden Boy are now the world's biggest promoters, staging more than 120 shows a year in the US and Mexico.

Schaefer says: 'There is fantastic opportunity for us in the UK. I have always said the British boxing fans are the most passionate in the world.

'Over here some people could hardly believe that Ricky Hatton sold out 20,000 tickets for his comeback fight before he even named his opponent.

'I love London and I will be spending a lot more time over there in the future.

'I am promising to help your Olympians maximise their potential and develop into big, successful stars. For that, I will be taking fighters under my wing personally for the first time.'

Schaefer is not only in discussion with the traditional UK television channels, such as Sky.

Intriguingly, he has sparked interest with British Telecom, who are rapidly becoming major players in the sports market, and is also exploring the possibility of an American network becoming the host broadcaster.

While he realises the impact this will have on the British boxing establishment, Schaefer does not expect the rivalry with Golden Boy's counterparts across the Pond to be bitter.

The initial concept is for no more than four shows a year and he says: 'I get on well with the British promoters. I have a good relationship with Mick Hennessy (who promotes Tyson Fury) and Frank Maloney (David Price).

'We have just enjoyed a positive negotiation with Eddie Hearn for Kell Brook to challenge Devon Alexander for his world title over here. Not only is Frank Warren an outstanding promoter but we are very good friends.

On the cards: Anthony Joshua (right) is believed to be in talks with De La Hoya's company

On the cards: Anthony Joshua (right) is believed to be in talks with De La Hoya's company

'I won't be trying to steal their fighters. But this is a competitive business so when any boxers become free agents at the end of their contracts then of course we will expect to have talk with those we like.'

Golden Boy's $200million-a-year turnover will lend massive weight to that bargaining power, as it appears to be doing with London's Olympic super-heavyweight champion Joshua and others of his team.

Several Team GB boxers have held back from committing their futures until their amateur funding runs out in March and the first Golden Boy promotion in Britain is not scheduled until the second quarter of the year.

Others under review are youngsters who just missed out on the Games 'but who have the ability and charisma we need.'

Schaefer is also tempting them all with the prospect of early US exposure on promotions over here.

Medal winner: Anthony Ogogo (left) shone for Team GB at the Olympics

Medal winner: Anthony Ogogo (left) shone for Team GB at the Olympics

In England, the 02 Arena in London tops the preferred list of venues. To fill that, Golden Boy will top the bills with big international names in world title fights.

For example, former champion Sugar Shane Mosley is planning to come out of retirement to challenge Paulie Malignaggi.

Says Schaefer: 'While that is coming too early for our first UK promotion that is the kind of fight which could take place over there.

'Adrien Broner is a dynamic younger champion who would relish the chance to do his thing in England.'

Nor is it beyond possibility that Floyd Mayweather – who appreciates his large fan base in Britain and often talks of how he would love to fight in London – could make the trip in 2014.

Schaefer said: 'We will promote in the UK with same quality and style we do in the USA.'

The gauntlet has been thrown down.

Tyson still all man

Mike Tyson has been forced to deny a spoof report which went viral in Asia – where it was taken as fact – that he has undergone a successful sex change operation to become a woman.

Just as well for the author that he did not say it to the face of the youngest ever world heavyweight champion.

He may have mellowed into a showman now but there was a glint of the old Iron Mike when he lisped: 'I never lose touch with my masculinity.'

Still the man: Mike Tyson had to deny spoof reports he had undergone a sex change

Still the man: Mike Tyson had to deny spoof reports he had undergone a sex change

Pacquiao v Mayweather still on the cards

The mega-bucks fight the world has been waiting so long to see may yet happen, despite Manny Pacquiao's brutal knockout by Juan Manuel Marquez.

Floyd Mayweather is scheduled to make his post-prison comeback in Las Vegas on May 4.

While that will probably be against Robert Guerrero, the Money Man has told the PacMan: 'Ease back in with an interim fight of your own to make sure there are no after-effects from that KO and we might look at my next date, in September.'

Chance: Floyd Mayweather could still fight Manny Pacquiao in a big-money bout

Chance: Floyd Mayweather could still fight Manny Pacquiao in a big-money bout

Munroe calls time

Rendall Munroe – who went from a dustbin round in Leicester to a world title fight in Tokyo – has retired following his super-bantamweight defeat by the fast-rising Scott Quigg.

He leaves the ring with his dignity and our admiration for a most worthy career.

Merchant hangs up his microphone

The doyen of American TV boxing analysts called his last fight on Saturday night, Nonito Donaire's victory over Jorge Arce in Houston.

Larry Merchant has hung up the microphone. He is 81 yet only last year, in a feisty post-fight interview in the ring, he famously told an angry Floyd Mayweather: 'I wish I was 30 years younger so I could kick your ass.'

I am doubly glad now that he and I had a long, reminiscent chat in Las Vegas on the eve of Pacquiao-Marquez a week earlier.

Thanks for the memories and all the wisdom, Larry. We will miss you at ringside.

Legend: Ringside analyst Larry Merchant is hanging up the microphone

Legend: Ringside analyst Larry Merchant is hanging up the microphone

Dai Greene: Our golden night at London 2012 was hell for me

EXCLUSIVE: Our golden night at London 2012 was hell for me, admits Dai Greene



22:43 GMT, 7 December 2012

Three golds on one glorious evening. A stadium rocking. Joy unconfined. 'Ah, the greatest night in British athletics history,' says Dai Greene, 'was the night I came fourth in my semi-final.'

He can finally bring himself to laugh about that – and the toughest point of his life, two days later, when he missed out on a long- predicted medal in the 400 metres hurdles – now that the stadium cacophony has been exchanged for the contemplative quiet of a Bath cafe.

Dai another day: Greene had endured a tough year

Dai another day: Greene had endured a tough year

He is ready to confront the truth that has barely uttered its name in the back-slapping, bus-touring, bunting-strewn euphoria of London 2012: sport can crush as well as exalt.

Nobody knows that more palpably than Greene. Some of our Olympians were simply happy to be at the Games; others merely hoped to mount the podium. Even after his injury-ravaged preparations, he was expected to do so. 'The question all year was not whether I could win a medal,' says the Welshman, 'but whether I could win gold. Simple as that.' Green, after all, was champion of Europe, champion of the Commonwealth and champion of the world. Selected as captain of the British athletics team, he was a proven big-stage performer.

His one anticipated task was to beat Javier Culson, of Puerto Rico, the season's best performer. That assumption was ripped apart on the night Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford reigned in gold.

'The heats had been lovely,' remembers Greene, 26. 'I won nice and easily. The crowd was brilliant and I believed everything was going to be fantastic in the semi-final. It was . . . until I looked inside and saw a few guys there alongside me and thought, “What the hell . . . ” They weren't my pace. They were pulling away. S***. The crowd got quieter and I panicked a bit. It was horrible.

Hurdler Dai Greene

'People always said athletes raise their games for an Olympics but I didn't believe it until I saw it at that moment.' The three men who beat him had all set their season's best. The Dominican Republic's Felix Sanchez, the eventual champion, had run his fastest time for eight years, at the age of 34.

'You do think it has gone t**s up,' says Greene. 'But you don't want to admit it to yourself. You cling to the hope that you still have something special inside you. I just hoped they couldn't run that fast again. But after the semi, yes, I would have been happy just to get any sort of medal, let alone gold.

'I got lane three – that was OK. I stuttered into the last hurdle but, regardless of that, I hadn't got it in me to do better.' America's Michael Tinsley was second to Sanchez, Culson third and Greene fourth.

'This was the biggest competition of my life and I just wasn't in the place I wanted to be,' admits Greene.

'After that I didn't want to speak to anyone. I went to get food in the canteen and then to find Malcolm (Arnold, his coach) to get my phone off him. I don't think I rang Sian (his girlfriend). I texted her to say I was OK and that we would speak tomorrow.

'I went to my room. It was hard to sleep. Usually you get over a disappointment in a few days. But with this you knew you would never get another chance.

Down and out of medals: Greene finished fourth in London

Down and out of medals: Greene finished fourth in London

Down and out of medals: Greene finished fourth in London

'Every day got slightly better. I was going through a process. I wasn't asking for help.' Greene's Olympics ended with fourth place in the 4×400 metres relay, bringing him close to tears.

'I didn't want to talk athletics for weeks,' he says. 'I didn't watch the Olympics after that. I barely watched the Paralympics. I didn't go on the London parade. I didn't see it on telly.'

What few people understood was the extent of Greene's injury. He had surgery on his left knee almost exactly a year ago but barely talked publicly about the ongoing problems he suffered. He did, however, type some painful and honest notes prior to the operation. In them he says: 'I'm a world champion. I can't be injured. I felt in great condition. I saw pain as a weakness.'

Nearly a month after surgery, and still having five hours of physio a day, he was thrilled to run 400m flat in the super-slow time of 2min 20sec. Even as late as April, he had to fly back from a training camp in Portugal for urgent treatment, his inability to stay compact by bringing his heel up to his buttocks as he hurdled having upset the rest of his body.

His fastest run of the year came at a Diamond League meeting in Paris, but his paucity of sustained training left him unable to improve on, or even sustain, his time of 47.84sec. His best at the Games was 48.19sec, in the semi-final. Now able to rationalise his performance, and happier after breaks in the south of France and New York, Greene is back in full training.

'These experiences make you a stronger person,' he says. 'Now my body is holding up. The volume of work I am doing is going up. I have my world title to defend in Moscow next year. Felix is eight years older than me so, yes, the next Olympics in Rio are definitely a realistic target. But for now I am not thinking too much about that. I am just excited about being an athlete again.'

Scotland 22 New Zealand 55: Match report

Scotland 22 New Zealand 51: Ruthless All Blacks begin autumn series with a bang



17:20 GMT, 11 November 2012

Tim Visser scored two tries for Scotland, but world champions New Zealand triumphed in the EMC Test at Murrayfield to extend their unbeaten run to 18 Tests.

Visser scored a try in each half and Geoff Cross also went over for the hosts, for whom Greig Laidlaw kicked seven points, but the All Blacks ruthlessly punished any mistakes.

Julian Savea (two), Israel Dagg, Corey Jane, Andrew Hore and Ben Smith crossed for the All Blacks, with Dan Carter kicking 21 points.

Try time: Hore touches down for another New Zealand score at Murrayfield

Try time: Hore touches down for another New Zealand score at Murrayfield

The one blot on the tourists' record came when Adam Thomson was sin-binned for stamping on Alasdair Strokosch's head.

Scotland had not scored a try against
New Zealand since 2005 and they scored three for the first time since
1996, two for a Holland-born Edinburgh wing who qualified through
residency in June.

Visser's 14th-minute score put
Scotland in front, but three converted tries in a 10-minute spell turned
the contest in the All Blacks' favour and Andy Robinson's men will now
seek to bounce back against South Africa and Tonga.

New Zealand, meanwhile, resumed
winning ways after a draw against Australia in their prior Test saw them
miss a record-equalling 17th successive Test win.

Now the All Blacks face Italy, Wales and England as they bid to finish the calendar year unbeaten.
Hopes were high in 2010 of a Scotland
upset, only for the hosts to lose 49-3, and two years on ahead of the
29th Test between the sides, Scottish expectation was tempered in the
build-up, despite summer successes in Australia, Fiji and Samoa.

Murrayfield's famous pre-match
welcome included a parade by Scotland's Olympians and Paralympians as
well as a match-ball presentation by cyclist Sir Chris Hoy.

Star performer: Visser scored two tries for Scotland who impressed at stages during the match

Star performer: Visser scored two tries for Scotland who impressed at stages during the match

Star performer: Visser scored two tries for Scotland who impressed at stages during the match

There was also a statement of intent
from the hosts, who walked towards the Haka, led by Kelly Brown on his
50th Test and first as captain.

But in the opening minute the
pressure was released as Scotland openside flanker Ross Rennie was
penalised for hands in the ruck and Carter kicked over the resulting

Carter missed a penalty kick before his pass was intercepted by Matt Scott at the halfway line.
The centre popped the ball to supporting wing Visser, who touched down on his Murrayfield debut. Laidlaw converted.

New Zealand reclaimed the lead with
ease, with Carter's midfield break the spark. Dagg went over on the
right and Carter converted.

Scotland suffered a further blow as
Rennie went off with a shoulder injury, with David Denton coming on,
before Laidlaw and Carter exchanged penalties.

New Zealand then elected to raise the tempo and scored three times in quick succession to take a commanding lead.

First, Scotland were stretched from one wing to the other and Savea breezed by Visser to score in the left corner.

Free scoring: New Zealand laid down a marker for the remaining autumn Tests

Free scoring: New Zealand laid down a marker for the remaining autumn Tests

Free scoring: New Zealand laid down a marker for the remaining autumn Tests

A poor kick-off gifted the ball back
to New Zealand and Wyatt Crockett punched a hole through the Scotland
defence to create an overlap which allowed Jane to score in the right

The direct route was next, with
hooker Hore rolling out of an attempted Cross tackle to dot down on the
right. Carter kicked his fourth conversion of the match, but there was
still time for a Scotland response before the half-time whistle.

They laid siege on the All Blacks
line. Denton bounced out of a McCaw tackle, Sean Lamont was stopped
short of the line and then the television match official ruled against

Another penalty followed, though, and
Richie Gray twice went close before Cross bundled over for his first
Test try. Laidlaw converted.

Scotland had a numerical advantage
for 10 minutes early in the second half when Thomson trod on Strokosch's
head at a ruck. Replays suggested Thomson's punishment might have been
more severe than 10 minutes in the sin-bin.

A succession of lineouts followed, but Brown was unable to gather Ross Ford's throw, allowing the All Blacks to clear.

Warm welcome: The Kiwis performed their traditional Haka and Sir Chris Hoy was in attendance, too

Warm welcome: The Kiwis performed their traditional Haka and Sir Chris Hoy was in attendance, too

Warm welcome: The Kiwis performed their traditional Haka and Sir Chris Hoy was in attendance, too

Scotland surged back, but loose play
saw the ball in All Black possession once more, only for the tourists to
uncharacteristically lose it at the breakdown.

Centre Tamati Ellison was tackled and
Laidlaw stepped over to kick the ball through for Mike Blair to scoop
it up. Blair in turn fed Visser for the wing to claim his second try of
the afternoon.

Despite toiling in their own half for much of the third quarter, New Zealand then scored a fifth try.
Carter chipped to the left where Savea gathered and scorched past Stuart Hogg for his second try of the game.

Numerous changes ensued, with Glasgow
Warriors scrum-half Henry Pyrgos among them to make his debut, before a
flat conclusion to the contest was enlivened by the tourists' sixth

Scotland substitute Max Evans missed a
tackle on Carter and Ben Smith was able to go over in the corner.
Carter converted to complete a handsome victory.

FA Cup first round: Cambridge City v MK Dons kicks-off action

A Cantona style kung-fu kick, world beaters and a touch of glamour… it must be the FA Cup proper



09:54 GMT, 2 November 2012

It's FA Cup time again. The first round proper begins on Friday night when Cambridge City host MK Dons. But this is not the first round for many.

There have been six rounds so far and Sportsmail's MICHAEL WALKER has been at each one, starting at North Shields back in August.

We have followed the winners of each round and will do so through to next May's final.

On Saturday it is Torquay United v Harrogate Town. Here's how we got there.

Honours even: Hyde (in red) take on Harrogate, a game which ended 1-1

Honours even: Hyde (in red) take on
Harrogate, a game which ended 1-1

August 11, FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
North Shields 1 Birtley Town 1
Venue: Ralph Gardner Park, Attendance: 134, Entry fee: 4 , Match programme: 50p, Prize-money: 1,000

So this is it: the last day of the Olympics, the start of the FA Cup. Down in east London, Mo Farah is about to win his second gold medal of the Games in the 5,000 metres; up on sunny Tyneside, the amateur sport is real.

The FA Cup has 758 entrants, and at this stage 400 are involved. It is regional, but nationwide. There are matches from Cornwall to Northumberland.

It is 98 days since the last FA Cup final, when Chelsea beat Liverpool 2-1, if you recall. North Shields' ground, where the main sponsor is a local funeral director, feels as far from Wembley as it does from the Olympians in Stratford.

These are two teams from the Northern League's second division. But it is good. The banter among the watching lads would fill a northern, kitchen-sink novel, a sample line being: 'He didn't stop it until wor Davy stabbed him.'

There is a touch of glamour, too, from the presence of England fast bowler Steve Harmison in the crowd. Harmison's brother James is a North Shields centre half. The pitch is hairy, the standard is rusty – it's the first game of the season – and Birtley, from Gateshead, deserve their equaliser.

That means a replay the following Tuesday. South of the Tyne, Birtley Town win. They are officially on an FA Cup run. For North Shields there will be no return to Wembley, where they won the FA Amateur Cup in 1969, beating Sutton United in front of 47,000. Those were the days.

Hyde and seek: fans sample the culinary delights on offer at Hyde FC

Hyde and seek: fans sample the culinary delights on offer at Hyde FC

August 25, FA Cup Preliminary Round
Birtley Town 1 West Auckland Town 4
Venue: Birtley Sports Complex, Attendance: 135, Entry fee: 5, Match programme 1, Prize-money: 1,750

It is the sodden August day when, 10 miles away, Sunderland postpone their first home match of the season, against Reading. Across in Birtley, tucked away at the foot of a housing estate, it's game on.

Anyone who has ever been on the east coast mainline can have seen Birtley Town's ground. South of Newcastle, amid the low-rise industry of the Team Valley, the pitch is beside the railway line. As Birtley take a surprise lead against the famous West Auckland – who hail from the Northern League's first division as well as football's history books – trains hurtle by, followed by those of Virgin.

The crowd seems almost entirely from County Durham – that is, West Auckland – and when 'West' equalise in the second half there is a roar. 'West' are clearly the more accomplished footballers but Birtley have excelled. Quality tells though in the next 20 minutes as the County Durham team rattle in three more.

Birtley's Cup run has ended but their players can always console themselves at a takeaway advertising in the match programme. It has speciality pizza costing 3 called 'Geordie Delight' – 'tomato, kebab and cheese.'

Gentle touch: groundsman opts for the light workout

Gentle touch: groundsman opts for the light workout

September 8, FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round
Ashington 2 West Auckland Town 3
Venue: Woodhorn Lane, Attendance: 277, Entry fee: 6, Programme: 1, Prize-money: 3,000

A fixture with a history and a half delivered a game and a half.

The West Auckland team bus in the Ashington car park has a sign on the front with 'Winners of the World Cup' on it.

This refers to the Sir Thomas Lipton trophy, a precursor of the World Cup and West Auckland's dual triumphs of 1909 and 1911.

These were the first, embryonic international tournaments. They were held in Turin and the miners from West Auckland beat a Swiss club, FC Winterthur, in the first final and Juventus (6-1) in the second final. And in West Auckland they haven't forgotten. Nor in Turin – 'West' were invited back by Juventus for the 1909 centenary three years ago.

Ashington, also of the Northern League's first division, will always have a place in the history of English football as the two framed England shirts in the clubhouse show. One is signed by Bobby Charlton, the other by Jack Charlton.

Ashington gave the world, and the World Cup, the Charlton brothers. The town was built on coal, but while the National Union of Mineworkers are among the sponsors at the ground, Ashington is now referred to as an 'unemployment blackspot'. Dole not coal.

Outside Woodhorn Lane, young lads are saddling up a pony and trap. It's like something out of Kes. Inside, the banter, which later spills over, reflects modern life. It is dominated by rival chants concerning which town has the greater number of 'smackheads'.

But first a proper FA Cup tie breaks out. In hot sunshine, the scoring goes 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2 until, in the 87th minute, John Parker makes it 2-3 to the visitors. It is a deserved win for West Auckland.

For Ashington midfielder Andy Dugdale, it gets too much. He commits another foul and sees a second yellow card.

Something is said on the sidelines as Dugdale departs and he stops, turns and leaps over the perimeter barrier kung-fu style and plants an Eric Cantona Selhurst Park-style boot on a West fan. For a minute it gets ugly and threatens to run out of control. Who says the FA Cup doesn't matter any more

Afterwards a detour leads to Beatrice Street where Bobby Charlton returned after the Munich air crash to recuperate. There is a famous back-lane photograph of Charlton with some local children. But outside the front of 114 there is no blue plaque. But then what did the Charltons ever do for England

Hyde FC V Harrogate FC in the FA Cup 4th round pre qualifier

September 22, FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round
West Auckland Town 2 Harrogate Town 2
Venue: Darlington Road, West Auckland, Attendance: 194, Entrance: 8, Programme: 1, Raffle prize: four cans of lager, Prize-money: 4,500

Turning off the Durham Road in Bishop Auckland, a shiny new stadium comes into view and anticipation rises. The car park is full and there is an FA Cup tie soon to begin. But this is Bishop Auckland v Fylde.

West Auckland is further on. There you park on the grass and walk down a back lane to a sloping pitch that presumably was once a farmer's field. It is massive.

But the welcome is warm and West Auckland are far from agricultural. They have a reputation for aggression but there is not much evidence here. Against Harrogate Town, three divisions higher in the Conference North, West keep playing pass-and-go even when they fall 2-0 behind with 15 minutes left.

But West have two stars on their badge – those World Cup wins – and more than two on the pitch. Ten minutes from the end, John Campbell strikes home a penalty and, in injury time, captain and centre forward Mattie Moffat spears in the equaliser. Fans are on the pitch.

Moffat is one of those natural ball-players that populate the Northern League and their ilk. There are a few who could play higher and West showed that again in the replay. Though they lost 5-1 it was 1-1 in the 66th minute. Jose da Veiga, the Harrogate goalkeeper who began at Benfica and who was first choice for Levante in La Liga II for three seasons, made vital saves.

West reached Wembley last season in the FA Vase but there will be no FA Cup to add to those two stars next May.

October 6, FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round
Harrogate Town 3 Frickley Athletic 2
Venue: Wetherby Road, Attendance: 349, Entry: 12, Programme: 2.50, Prize-money: 7,500

Autumnal sunshine gives picturesque Wetherby Road a yellowish hue. The pitch is heavy with the rain that has swamped Yorkshire. But an end-to-end county derby unfolds.

Harrogate manager Simon Weaver was a youth player at Sheffield Wednesday. His programme notes refer back to the West Auckland replay, when West had a man sent off late on.

'I was pleased that (our) players did not get sucked into a fight as the players of West Auckland seemed determined to 'snap' some lads in two, according to instructions from their dug-out.'

There will be another red card in this game, for Harrogate's Lee Elam.

The two teams had met in the previous round last season when there needed to be a replay, won by Frickley. They are now 'Athletic', they used to be 'Colliery'; they bring a bunch of fans north to leafy Harrogate who chant: 'You're so posh it's unbelievable.'

Frickley, of the Evo-Stik League Northern Premier, are 1-0 up in three minutes. The scoring then goes 1-1, 2-1 and 2-2 when, with 15 minutes left, Adam Bolder scores a beauty. Bolder, 31, scored two for Wednesday in a Sheffield derby in the Championship four years ago.

But Frickley, 100 years old last season, come again. You can almost touch the commitment as they pursue an equaliser. But no, it will be Harrogate Town going to Hyde to seek progress to the first round proper.

October 20, FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round
Hyde 1 Harrogate Town 1
Venue: Ewen Fields, Attendance: 393, Entry: 14, Programme: 2.50, Prize-money 12,500

'Let's make it official, Hyde,' shouts an especially eager fan at kick-off. 'In the FA Cup, First Round Proper.'

You can tell he really enjoys saying 'proper'. There has been no shortage of competitiveness in any round to date, but the prize here – beyond the 12,500 winners' money – is status. The FA Cup's first round proper is even called the FA Cup First Round Proper. It's proper status.

Unfortunately for the Hyde fan, this is the first match in this series when the most striking thing about the FA Cup is its apparent irrelevance. This is 90 minutes lacking traditional values. It is polite, coached football.

Hyde have a seat at the top table of FA Cup history. They hold the record defeat – 26-0 to Preston in 1887. They are one up early through Phil Jevons, who replaced Nick Barmby when making his Everton Premier League debut 13 years ago. It is a soft penalty.

Hyde won the Conference North division that Harrogate finished 12th in last season. But Harrogate deserve the 88th- minute equaliser from substitute Leon Osborne. That means a replay, by which time the clubs know the Proper prize is a trip to League Two Torquay United.

Harrogate feel this a 'cruel irony'. In 2005 they got the same first-round prize. But they won it again, 1-0 on Wednesday night, deep into injury time. A replay that was postponed twice finally took place on Harrogate's neighbours' pitch. The Yorkshiremen are off to Devon.

Heather Stanning returns to army training

From Olympic gold to Afghanistan Rower Stanning returns to army base



12:48 GMT, 21 September 2012

While some Olympians are basking in the post-Games glow of endorsements and television appearances, rower Heather Stanning has returned to reality after rejoining the army.

The 27-year-old won Britain's first gold medal of the London 2012 Games when she partnered Helen Glover to triumph in the women's pairs.

Stanning, who is a Captain in the 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery, took two years leave from her day job as she prepared her Olympics bid and was cheered on by her regiment at Roberts Barracks in Wiltshire and the troops in Afghanistan where Stanning could be deployed next year.

Back to the day job: Heather Stanning has returned to the army after winning Olympic gold

Back to the day job: Heather Stanning has returned to the army after winning Olympic gold

Attention! Stanning (centre) could be deployed to Afghanistan next year

Attention! Stanning (centre) could be deployed to Afghanistan next year

Quick march: Stanning won gold in the women's pairs with Helen Glover

Quick march: Stanning won gold in the women's pairs with Helen Glover

England Ukraine referee made correct decisions – Graham Poll

Football is back and referees are the scapegoats…



08:32 GMT, 12 September 2012

Roy Hodgson showed the football public that the Olympic spirit certainly does not extend to football.

He berated Turkish referee, Cuneyt Cakir, after the game at Wembley on the pitch and bemoaned his decisions again in his post-match interview.

Just 24 hours previously, a million fans had flocked to London to celebrate a summer of achievement by our fantastic Team GB Olympians and Paralympic athletes.

Have a word: Hodgson held the referee culpable for a number of decisions at Wembley

Have a word: Hodgson held the referee culpable for a number of decisions at Wembley

But that was all forgotten as England salvaged a late draw in our first home qualifier for the FIFA World Cup 2014. I watch England like most, full of hope but little expectation; urging us to play as I know we can.

There were plenty of big decisions and I thought Cakir got every one of them right.

First we saw a fantastic effort from Jermaine Defoe ruled out for a foul in the build-up; I had heard the whistle long before Defoe unleashed the unstoppable shot.

Replays showed that Ukraine player Andriy Yarmolenko was pushed by Defoe – a rugby style hand off which is not permitted in Association Football.

Yarmolenko's reaction was pathetic but not uncommon on our Premier League pitches: clutching his face as if struck by Defoe and rolling around as if in agony.

Hand off: Defoe's strike (below) was chalked off for pushing his opponent in the face (above)

Hand off: Defoe's strike (below) was chalked off for pushing his opponent in the face (above)

Hand off: Defoe's strike (below) was chalked off for pushing his opponent in the face (above)

It is the Ukrainian who should have incurred the wrath of Hodgson and indeed the ITV commentator whose condemnation of Cakir was ill-informed and monotonously repeated.

FIFA referees are instructed to protect players with particular offences highlighted, one of which is the illegal use of the arms and elbows. Cakir was consistent and correct in his application of these instructions.

Careless use of the arm in an aerial challenge resulting in an opponent being struck should be a yellow card. Violent use of the arm, often raised with a clenched fist indicating intent to harm, must result in a red.

James Milner and Steven Gerrard were clearly guilty of the first category offence and were rightly cautioned.

Knowing that, England captain Gerrard, who had played superbly, was taking a massive gamble by committing a late, lunging challenge which had to result in a second yellow and red card.

Clumsy: Gerrard was handed his marching orders after committing two yellow card offences

Clumsy: Gerrard was handed his marching orders after committing two yellow card offences

Clumsy: Gerrard was handed his marching orders after committing two yellow card offences

To commit the offence in such an advanced position on the field was rash at best and left Cakir with no option but to dismiss.

Finally onto the penalty claims of which there were two and both for England. The second was clear enough as Danny Welbeck shot and Ukraine defender Yevhen Khacheridi blocked with an unnaturally positioned arm – clear enough as it was in England's favour.

The first appeal was fascinating as on first viewing and at full speed it looked as though Welbeck had been tripped when trailing 0-1.

Replays though showed that Cakir, superbly positioned, was absolutely correct to wave aside appeals as Welbeck simulated contact. Welbeck should have been cautioned for diving.

Had a Ukrainian done the same he would have been condemned but as Welbeck is English there was no mention of his duplicitous act.

Football is back and referees are the scapegoats – how I enjoyed the summer of sport.

Handball! England drew level late in the game courtesy of Lampard's penalty

Handball! England drew level late in the game courtesy of Lampard's penalty

Katherine Grainger: I"ve had lots of proposals after finally winning gold

Grainger: Mum was worried I'd been left on the shelf, but I've had lots of proposals after finally winning

Ian Stafford


23:33 GMT, 8 September 2012



23:33 GMT, 8 September 2012

At some point on Monday morning Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins will meet up for a ‘quiet coffee’ and a ‘moment of reflection’ before they board Float 14 and enjoy their euphoric parade around the streets of London in a mass post-Olympic and Paralympic celebration.

Although each won her first Olympic gold medal in the women’s double sculls at an emotional and partisan Eton Dorney Lake last month, the emphasis was very much on Grainger — at 36, seven years Watkins’s senior and bidding for an elusive gold after three successive Olympic silver medals.

There was one quiet moment amid the mayhem of immediate victory. ‘After a bout of collective screaming, I lay back in the boat and looked up at Anna,’ recalled Grainger. ‘Anna said, “Is it real Did we do it” And I replied: “Yeah, we did it”.’

Shore leave: Katherine Grainger is looking forward to the parade

Shore leave: Katherine Grainger is looking forward to the parade

After a crazy few weeks since they produced one of the memorable moments of the Games, the pair will share a longer, more measured moment together. Then they will join 700 fellow Olympians and Paralympians to be greeted in the centre of London by a crowd which, it is estimated, will be well over half-a-million strong.

‘Whatever happens in the future Anna and I will always have that bond of winning that gold medal at the London Olympics,’ said Grainger. ‘We’ll reflect tomorrow on how our lives have changed. I got most of the attention but Anna and I are equal partners in winning that Olympic title, and I thank her for helping me finally achieve my goal.’

Grainger’s career had not exactly been disastrous before all this. A six-time world champion to go with her three Olympic silvers, she was dubbed the Sir Steve Redgrave of women’s rowing. But winning gold has made all the difference to her.

‘I’ve never really been recognised before in the street,’ she said. ‘Now I’m stopped everywhere I go. I’ve been eating badly, sleeping badly, barely training at all and I’ve loved it because I’ve been so busy.

Elysium: Grainger and Anna Watkins hail victory at Eton Dorney

Elysium: Grainger and Anna Watkins salute a dominant victory at Eton Dorney

‘I’ve had a good number of marriage proposals from men who have somehow tracked down my email address,’ she added. ‘One sent a photo, too. No, it wasn’t that kind of photo! My Mum’s pleased because I’ve been on the shelf a bit too long and she wants me married off.’

Mrs Grainger may have to wait a little longer because her daughter is not convinced just yet that her rowing career has finished, even if winning gold at 36 would appear to provide the perfect ending.

‘It would be crazy to make a decision right now while still riding on an emotional wave. A part of me says I’ve achieved what I set out to and, let’s face it, I will be 40 by the time of the 2016 Games in Rio.

‘Then again, we’ve just won Olympic gold and broken the world record, so we can’t be too bad. We’re still a relatively new pairing that can improve and I love the training and competition that international rowing has brought to my life. It’s a happy dilemma. Life is good.’

Fourth time lucky: Grainger added Olympic gold to her three silver medals

Fourth time lucky: Grainger added Olympic gold to her three silver medals

There will be plenty of silver and bronze medallists on the floats in the parade, but Grainger would not have been one of them.

‘I’d have been out of the country, away from everything,’ she said. ‘Losing would have been totally unbearable for me. I would have been haunted by a huge sense of failure for the rest of my life.’

That feeling would have been fuelled by her bitter Beijing memories. ‘I kept telling myself that nobody had died but it felt like a family bereavement.

‘Of course I understand how good people feel about winning a silver medal. I was very happy in Sydney in 2000. But after Beijing, every request to show the silver medal felt like the twist of a knife.’

Happy and glorious: The duo kicked off Great Britain's gold rush at the Games

Happy and glorious: The duo kicked off Great Britain's gold rush at the Games

By the time London came around, she knew she had to put things right.

‘You see, Anna and I had never been beaten and in the heat we broke the world record,’ said Grainger. ‘We were in the form of our lives. The final was ours to lose. If we’d lost it, then clearly I hadn’t done everything I could. Something would have been wrong. I would have let Anna and the nation down. That’s the way it felt with the coverage all about me going for that gold. Mentally I would never have been able to let it go.’

After victory, the first person to greet Grainger was Redgrave and their heartfelt embrace was fitting.

‘It was special knowing we had Steve in our corner. He would talk to us, sharing his experiences. He was so calming. He was our rock.’

Grainger looks down at her gold medal and concludes: ‘No more sob stories. No more near misses. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.’

London 2012 Paralympics: Mixed coxed fours win gold for Great Britain

Golden glory for mixed coxed fours at Eton Dorney as GB beat Germans in sprint finish



12:03 GMT, 2 September 2012

Great Britain's LTA mixed coxed fours beat chief rivals Germany in a thrilling sprint for the line to win Paralympic gold.

David Smith, James Roe, Naomi Riches, Pam Relph and cox Lily van den Broecke added the Paralympic crown to the world title they won in Bled last year.

Britain's success in the mixed coxed four brought to a victorious conclusion an otherwise disappointing day for the host nation at Eton Dorney.

Making waves: Britain's Pamela Relph, Naomi Riches, Davis Smith, James Roe and Lily van den Broecke celebrate on the podium after they win gold in the rowing LTA mixed coxed four

Making waves: Britain's Pamela Relph, Naomi Riches, Davis Smith, James Roe and Lily van den Broecke celebrate on the podium after they win gold in the rowing LTA mixed coxed four

Tom Aggar lost his Paralympic title and his five-year unbeaten streak as he finished fourth in the AS men's single sculls final.

Nick Beighton and Samantha Scowen, who only came together in the TA mixed double sculls last year, also had to settle for fourth after being edged out of the medals in a tight finish.

After two fourth-placed finishes, Britain's glorious summer of rowing was in danger of ending on a sour note to match the grizzly weather.

Britain's Olympians won four gold medals, two silver and three bronze to cement London 2012 as their greatest Olympic regatta of all time.

Aggar knew he faced the biggest challenge of his dominant career in today's final but to slip out of the medals altogether was unexpected and hurt him badly.

China's Huang Cheng, who smashed Aggar's world record in Friday's heat, and Russia's Aleksey Chuvashev set the early pace and Aggar was in touch at the 500 metre mark.

First to the line: Britain mixed coxed four win gold

First to the line: Britain mixed coxed four win gold

But Australian Erik Hollie produced a
powerful second half of the race to take silver behind Huang and
relegate Aggar out of the medal positions.

'I am absolutely devastated,' said Aggar, who was paralysed from the waist down in a 2005 accident.
'It's hard for me to describe. I am devastated it wasn't my day. I went out hard to lead from the front and get control.

'The two guys to the left of me were really fast. When I tried to dig deep there was nothing there.'

Beighton and Scowen had set themselves
no targets beyond reaching the A final, which they did in impressive
fashion through the repechage yesterday.

But having missed out on bronze by just two tenths of a second, their raw emotions matched those of Aggar's.

'We gave it everything and I am completely dead on my feet now,' said Scowen, who was born with a short right femur.

Pure joy: Pamela Relph, Naomi Riches, David Smith, James Roe and cox Lily van den Broecke celebrate their medal

Pure joy: Pamela Relph, Naomi Riches, David Smith, James Roe and cox Lily van den Broecke celebrate their medal

'Fourth is the worst place. I would rather have finished fifth. 'It was really hard to come that close to a medal. I hope we made everyone proud.'

Beighton lost his legs serving in
Afghanistan less than three years ago and it was only last year that he
competed in his first rowing race.

'Right from the (accident], I've
wanted to seize life and this is the reward for that attitude. It has
been a long journey but it is only just beginning,' he said.

And so it came down to Britain's mixed coxed four to deliver the gold medal the Eton Dorney crowed craved.

Britain and Germany, who had set a
new world's best time in the heats, seized control of the race from the
outset and it came down to a head-to-head sprint for the line.

The Germans were marginally faster
over the first 500 metres but Britain finished stronger, taking the lead
in the third quarter of the race and eventually winning by nearly two