Tag Archives: pantomime

6 Nations: Alex Goode says England are always pantomime villains

The Six Nations has so much history… but England are always the pantomime villains

By
Alex Goode

PUBLISHED:

01:57 GMT, 2 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

01:57 GMT, 2 February 2013

This is my first appearance in the Six Nations and I’m very excited to be involved in it at last.

The tournament has so much history and for as long as I can remember England have been seen as pantomime villains.

Part of the tradition seems to be for pundits from other nations to talk about how much they dislike the English and accuse us of arrogance, and that has happened again this week. I’m not sure why but it occurs in lots of sports. In football, everyone wants to beat Manchester United, for example.

Breakthrough: Alex Goode is getting ready to play in his first Six Nations

Breakthrough: Alex Goode is getting ready to play in his first Six Nations

It often comes across as if all the passion in these games comes from the other side, not England. People talk about all this passion Scotland have, but the English are passionate too. When we play against the Scots, of course we want to beat them. We would hate to lose against them. It’s not something we ever want to deal with. It’s the same with every team we play against.

I don’t have hatred for any other countries, but I definitely hate losing. I would hate to be involved in a game that led to stories in years to come when people talk about a famous Scottish victory against England. That would wind me up.

No-one likes losing and that can be what produces the passion. I know that me and Owen (Farrell), for example, are extremely competitive, whether it’s in training or playing for Saracens or England. We both hate to lose. We want to be the best and that drives us to try to get to the top.

Preparation: Goode (right) trains with debutant Billy Twelvetrees ahead of the Six Nations opener against Scotland

Preparation: Goode (right) trains with debutant Billy Twelvetrees ahead of the Six Nations opener against Scotland

We needed a bit of passion to beat New Zealand. I just remember how loud the crowd was that day, and I have never been part of a team that was more fired up. That showed we can be a passionate people too. That win against New Zealand was great, but we can’t make too big a deal of it.

As players, we would rather there wasn’t such a fuss because we want that standard to be our norm. We can only achieve that if we bring the same level of intensity to our performance against Scotland – an intensity they will struggle to match.

I’m relieved that I recovered from a shoulder injury to play. I was out for more than a month and the first reaction from the boys was that I had become ‘big-time’ and didn’t fancy playing in winter. When I used to play with Thomas Castaignede at Saracens, he would come out on a wintry day and say: ‘No electricity. No electrics in Thomas. Thomas don’t train!’ Then he’d walk back inside. So the lads said that about me and how I have changed!

Famous: Goode impressed during England's 38-21 win over New Zealand

Famous: Goode impressed during England's 38-21 win over New Zealand

It was tough when I realised the injury was worse than expected. It knocked me a bit, then it was a race against time, putting the hours in. Luckily, I came through a game for Saracens to prove my fitness.

You know there are always going to be people pushing you for that shirt. I’d had to wait longer than most to get my shot, before I made my Test debut in South Africa last summer, so I didn’t want to let it go. A year ago, I wouldn’t have imagined starting a Calcutta Cup game at Twickenham, but now I’m raring to go.

We have gone from being underdogs against New Zealand to favourites for this game. Everyone expects us to win – pundits and the public, but Scotland are bouncing back from a bad loss and they’ve got new coaches in Scott Johnson and Dean Ryan and they’ll be fired up to impress, which makes them dangerous.

This will be a dog-fight, but I’m hopeful we can win.

Rafael Benitez buys ticket for conned Chelsea fan Harry Rennell

Benitez just the ticket for nine-year-old Chelsea fan conned by online tout

|

UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 31 December 2012

The cacophony of boos that heralded the appearance of Rafa Benitez at Goodison Park would have you believe he is football’s equivalent of a pantomime villain.

Since replacing Roberto Di Matteo as manager, the Spaniard has struggled to win over a stubborn Chelsea support, unwilling to accept him or forgive and forget his days as their nemesis as Liverpool’s manager.

Yet in the eyes of Chelsea-mad nine-year-old Harry Rennell, Benitez is very much his hero this morning.

Conned: Tony Rennell (left) thought he had bought a ticket for the Boxing Day match between Norwich City and Chelsea for his nine-year-old son, Harry, only to discover he had been tricked out of 300 by a touting website

Conned: Tony Rennell (left) thought he had bought a ticket for the Boxing Day match between Norwich City and Chelsea for his nine-year-old son, Harry, only to discover he had been tricked out of 300 by a touting website

Surprise: Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez secured the Rennell's tickets for the Capital One Cup semi-final with Swansea on January 9 after reading about the story

Surprise: Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez secured the Rennell's tickets for the Capital One Cup semi-final with Swansea on January 9 after reading about the story

In a story that pulled heartstrings across the country, Harry’s father Tony wrote a cautionary tale in the Daily Mail last Friday of how he had been let down after ordering two tickets from Online Ticket Express for Chelsea’s game at Norwich City as a Christmas present.

Despite paying more than 300 for the tickets, they failed to arrive in the post, leaving Tony and his son despondent.

On reading the story, Benitez, himself the doting father of two girls, contacted Sportsmail and offered Harry and his father two tickets for Chelsea’s Capital One League Cup semi-final, first-leg tie against Swansea on January 9.

Harry’s delighted father Tony said: ‘Thank you, Rafa. There has been a very sympathetic response.

‘One Chelsea fan has invited us to go as his guest to the QPR game on Wednesday, and we’ll be there to cheer them on.

Stocking filler: Mr Rennell had wanted to surprise his Chelsea-mad son for Christmas and paid website Online Ticket Express over 300 for them

Stocking filler: Mr Rennell had wanted to surprise his Chelsea-mad son for Christmas and paid website Online Ticket Express over 300 for them

‘What is great is that nine year-old Harry now knows that, although some people may let us down in life, there are always others who will step forward to do the right thing.’

Doing the right thing may soften some Chelsea supporters’ view of their interim manager, but it’s not the first example of kind-hearted Benitez showing the grander side of football.

Hearing a pensioner had been mugged on the Wirral, then Liverpool manager Benitez made sure the elderly fan and his family were guests at Anfield.

On his departure from Liverpool, the 52-year-old gave a ‘substantial five-figure sum’ to the parents of Rhys Jones, the young Everton fan who was shot dead as he returned from football training in August 2007.

Disappointed: Harry was let down but will now get to watch his heroes in action next week

Disappointed: Harry was let down but will now get to watch his heroes in action next week

At the time, Benitez said: ‘I am doing this on behalf of the people that cannot. I know that every person on Merseyside would have loved to give the fund a donation, but they are in hard times and can’t find the extra cash.’

Benitez donated 96,000 to the Hillsborough Memorial Fund and gave a further 2,800 to aid running costs through his wife Montse’s foundation.

Whatever he does from now on, Benitez may always be the villain to some, but at least his gesture is just the ticket for Harry Rennell.

Rafael Benitez, Chelsea manager, ready for hostile reception against Everton at Goodison Park

Rafa ready for hostile Goodison reception: Benitez prepared to play pantomime villain… ( but not with Chelsea fans for a change)

|

UPDATED:

16:31 GMT, 28 December 2012

Rafael Benitez has been bracing himself for a hot reception at Everton on Sunday despite refusing to repeat his small-club jibe ahead of his first match on Merseyside as Chelsea boss.

Interim Blues manager Benitez will take a team to Goodison Park this weekend for the first time in more than three years but the passage of time is unlikely to spare him the role of pantomime villain.

The Spaniard is still suffering a backlash from his own club's fans, whose revolt against his appointment was galvanised by criticism they perceived him to have levelled at them while Anfield boss back in 2007.

Enemy: Benitez managed Everton's city rivals Liverpool for six seasons

Enemy: Benitez managed Everton's city rivals Liverpool for six seasons

That was also the year Benitez branded Everton one of the Barclays Premier League's 'smaller teams', something that provoked a furious response from Liverpool's arch-rivals.

Everton fans devised plenty of unpleasant chants about Benitez during his six years at Anfield and he said: 'I don't think they will be supporting me the whole time but the main thing for me is that my players do their job.'

The Spaniard, who still lives on the Wirral near Liverpool, added: 'I have a good relationship with people in the city and what I expect is to find a manager up there with a team who want to win.'

Quizzed about his small-club jibe ahead of Sunday's game, Benitez joked: 'You have a good memory.'

He added of Everton: 'I think they are doing a good job.

'They are doing well, they have less resources than other teams and are still competing.

'They are near the top of the table so credit to them.'

Rafa out! Benitez hasn't been treated to a warm welcome since taking over at Stamford Bridge

Rafa out! Benitez hasn't been treated to a warm welcome since taking over at Stamford Bridge

Indeed, Everton lie only two points behind third-placed Chelsea ahead of Sunday's game and have looked genuine top-four contenders in the first half of the season.

They have lost only two league games – the joint best record in the top flight – and are one of only two clubs unbeaten at home.

They are also Chelsea's bogey-team, having won the sides' last three league meetings at Goodison Park.

Benitez, who has won on his last three league visits to the ground, said: 'It is a good team and a tough game for sure. We have to be ready.

'For us, we have to be ready physically as well as mentally for the game.

'They have been doing well in the past year and we know that Goodison is a difficult place to go to.'

Chelsea will arrive there for what is their ninth and final game of a punishing December that has included a gruelling Club World Cup adventure in Japan.

Jibe: The Spaniard labelled Everton as one of the Premier League's 'smaller teams' during his reign at Anfield

Jibe: The Spaniard labelled Everton as one of the Premier League's 'smaller teams' during his reign at Anfield

Benitez has carefully rotated his squad since taking charge just over a month ago and asked if there were any tired legs, he said: 'Always when you win, it's easy to say, “No”.

'But, to be fair, it's not easy to “keep” the players.

'I like to change players, to move players around because if we don't manage the squad they will be really tired.'

Benitez's changes have yielded six wins in seven games, sparking reports Chelsea want to offer him the manager's job on a permanent basis.

The Spaniard is understood to have insisted on an interim appointment last month, rather than a performance-related contract with an option for a further year, possibly with a view to strengthening his bargaining position if all goes well.

The signs have certainly been good since Chelsea returned from their Club World Cup final defeat in Yokohama, with Benitez having vastly improved the balance of the team.

Their Boxing Day win at Norwich was only their second 1-0 victory of the season and the Spaniard said: “Would I sign for 1-0 five times. I would say, 'Yes, no problem'.”

Indian Grand Prix 2012: Fernando Alonso earns praise

Vettel wins in India but Alonso takes plaudits to keep title challenge alive

|

UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 28 October 2012

Hands up, we British journalists did our share of turning Fernando Alonso into a pantomime villain when he and Lewis Hamilton spent a vicious year together at McLaren.

Team-mates Hardly. Alonso, rattled by his upstart rival, was full of tantrums and truculence. So he deserved most of this approbation he got. But today we can lavish him with praise.

No, Ferrari’s honoured son did not win Sunday’s Indian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel, in serene command of his superior Red Bull, did that, opening up his lead at the top of the championship to 13 points with three races remaining. But Alonso, the runner-up, is surely still the man who deserves the world title.

Main man: Fernando Alonso celebrates finishing second in the Indian Grand Prix

Main man: Fernando Alonso celebrates finishing second in the Indian Grand Prix

Some in the sport argue that whoever wins the championship is inevitably the best driver. Not always. Vettel’s car, designed by the master, Adrian Newey, is clearly the fastest. A measure of that is that Red Bull have locked out the front row of the grid in the last three qualifying sessions.

So once Vettel had navigated the first corner in the lead on Sunday, he had a clear road to victory. The German accomplished the feat faultlessly, making him the first driver since Ayrton Senna in 1989 to lead every lap for three consecutive races.

No 1: Sebastian Vettel won again

No 1: Sebastian Vettel won again

Vettel is a brilliant driver but the
argument for Alonso is simply that he is surpassing the equipment he is
sitting in with a skill and tenacity currently unmatched. Those
qualities took him up the field from sixth on the grid — a reflection of
Ferrari’s true one-lap pace.

He wrestled his way past both British drivers and zipped by Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber, who was suffering from an intermittent KERS system that finally stopped working altogether and meant he finished third.

What is at stake is important. Both Vettel and Alonso are double world champions in search of the third title that confers legendary status.

Another rightful rival for the laurels of their era, Lewis Hamilton, the British driver Alonso recently credited with being able to win races in a sub-standard car, made his views clear.

‘It’s not for me to say but if I was watching TV I think this year Fernando has driven so well; more so than anyone else here,’ said the McLaren man, whose fourth, a place ahead of team-mate Jenson Button, means he must win the last three races to stand even a theoretical chance of the title.

‘Sebastian has stepped up a lot at the end of the year with the improvements on his car. But Fernando is still pushing. Today he just drove phenomenally well and he’s holding on, still. For me, he really is a three or four-time world champion.’

So what are we to make of stories that Vettel has agreed to join Ferrari for 2014 ‘Bull**** on the BBC website,’ said Vettel’s team principal, Christian Horner. Vettel also used the bovine and manure terminology.

Fighting back: Alonso overtook both McLaren drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in India

Fighting back: Alonso overtook both McLaren drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in India

One theory says that Vettel is going nowhere: Ferrari favour an outright No 1 driver and Alonso is that man.

Yet the source in this instance is Italian and so far impeccable in such matters. Sportsmail sources suggest Vettel has signed some sort of agreement, with ifs and buts.

For now Alonso, though trailing in the table, is Ferrari’s jewel in the smog.

Indian Grand Prix

WORLD SNOOKER CHAMPIONSHIPS: Mark Williams to face Ronnie O"Sullivan

Williams to face nemesis O'Sullivan after easing past Chuang

|

UPDATED:

22:06 GMT, 26 April 2012

Mark Williams set up a mouth-watering second-round Crucible clash with Ronnie O'Sullivan after completing victory over Liu Chuang.

Two-time former champion Williams was booed loudly by many in the crowd on Wednesday following his recent derogatory remarks about the Betfred.com World Championship venue, when he called for the tournament to be moved to China.

The heckles returned on Thursday as Williams entered the arena but the calls from the crowd appeared to be more pantomime than vengeful, and Williams had strong support as he turned a 6-3 lead into a 10-6 victory.

Easy does it: Mark Williams cruised to victory against Liu Chuang of China

Easy does it: Mark Williams cruised to victory against Liu Chuang of China

It rarely reached the levels of a serious contest against Liu, a player who beat Jimmy White and then Jamie Cope in the qualifying stage, as the champion of 2000 and 2003.

Only once Williams reached 9-3 did he stumble, and briefly it seemed a comeback was on when Liu won three consecutive frames, but the danger was soon averted.

Williams accepted his pre-tournament remarks about the venue were out of order, and the 37-year-old regretted them.

'Of course. I've already apologised to the main people I've really upset – the staff and the people in the Crucible,' he said. 'There's not a lot more I can do really.

'It just came out a little bit wrong. It's not one of my favourite venues, (but) once it goes down to a one-table set-up it's completely different.'

Now O'Sullivan awaits Williams, an early collision between two giants of the game. Their best-of-25-frame contest starts on Saturday afternoon.

Williams has never beaten O'Sullivan at the Crucible, and has suffered three defeats to the 36-year-old three-time champion in the past six years in Sheffield.

In 2006, O'Sullivan beat the Welshman
in the quarter-finals, while in 2008 and 2010 the defeats for Williams
came at the second-round stage.

Mouthwatering: Williams will play Ronnie O'Sullivan in the second round

Mouthwatering: Williams will play Ronnie O'Sullivan in the second round

Williams said of his success over 21-year-old Liu: 'I probably should have won it a lot earlier than that. With every frame he was winning I was starting to come under more pressure.

'At one stage I was in my chair wondering how many more he was going to pull back. I'm over the moon to scrape through.'

He is relishing the prospect of taking on O'Sullivan, a player he has a nasty habit of losing to.

'I've been owing him one for 10 years. Let's hope this is the time I beat him,' Williams said.

Asked if he enjoyed playing O'Sullivan, Williams said: 'If I said yes, and I haven't beaten him for 10 years, I'd be a bit of a liar really. You enjoy the occasion. He always plays well against me. The last time he didn't play too well but still beat me.

'I need to play better than that to have any chance.'

Scotland's Stephen Maguire began his second-round tussle with Joe Perry, Graeme Dott's conqueror, and was took a stride towards the quarter-finals as he moved 5-3 clear.

Maguire had to watch Perry fire in 115 to take the opening frame, but a pair of 101 breaks put the 31-year-old Glaswegian ahead, and further runs of 52, 65 and 88 followed, before Perry finished with an 82.

Earlier, Neil Robertson moved 5-3 ahead of David Gilbert in their last-16 match, firing breaks of 76, 84, 109, 57 and a session-closing 131. They resume in the morning and, barring an 8-0 session from Robertson, will play to a finish on Friday night.

In front: Neil Robertson (left) has a narrow lead over David Gilbert

In front: Neil Robertson (left) has a narrow lead over David Gilbert

Ali Carter warned Judd Trump his Crucible form cannot last forever as he set up a second-round contest against last year's runner-up by beating Mark Davis 10-2.

Trump began as the title favourite, and the bout of food poisoning which meant he was rather flat during a 10-7 first-round win over Dominic Dale has not altered that status.

Carter, 32, said of Trump: 'He's done well. He's riding on the crest of a wave.

'He plays a very open game which is all very well when it's all going well for you.

'When things do turn, which they will, no player can keep a run of form up forever. We'll see how he handles that.

'All of us top players have been about a few years have been on the back of some bad results. And he hasn't had to experience that yet.

'The amount of balls he goes for when he has those battle scars will show us what he's really made of.'

Carter, who lost to Ronnie O'Sullivan in his first and only Crucible final to date four years ago, was close to giving up snooker as he struggled to manage his Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel condition.

He went as far as approaching Jason Ferguson, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, to request a year off tour.

But a new approach has given Carter a new rush of energy.

Discussing the symptoms of his medical condition, Carter said: 'They have eased off. I've been on quite a strict exclusion diet, I've cut out dairy and wheat, so I'm carrying a lunchbox around with me when I go into restaurants. I feel a bit of an idiot.

'It's taken three weeks and I'm feeling better every day.'