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Darts at Alexandra Palace – why everyone loves it

Why even the Queen loves darts at Christmas in the madhouse of the Palace (that's Ally Pally, of course…)

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UPDATED:

10:35 GMT, 26 December 2012

Friday night at the Palace. Her Majesty the Queen sweeps into the room, with Philip, Charles and Camilla in tow. All in her presence greet her with curtsies and cheers before spontaneously bursting into a hearty rendition of the national anthem.

But Her Majesty suddenly stumbles in her heels, loses her stately poise and crashes into Charles. The four-pint pitcher of Carlsberg she was balancing on her handbag sloshes down Camilla’s dress.

A great mocking cheer goes up from those nearby – from Mario and Luigi, from the six traffic cones and from Captain America.

Then the thudding beat kicks in, the lights go up and a party like nothing ever before seen at the Palace starts. The guests at the back start doing the Poznan, Spiderman is dancing Gangnam style on a table with a Christmas tree and the Royals spill more lager as they chant ‘Oi Oi Oi’ in chorus.

Festive fun: The Ladbrokes girls warm the crowd up at Alexandra Palace before Christmas

Festive fun: The Ladbrokes girls warm the crowd up at Alexandra Palace before Christmas

Playing second fiddle: The action on the oche is often competing for the limelight

Playing second fiddle: The action on the oche is often competing for the limelight

The Queen is in most nights, they all are. How could they stay away It’s brash, bombastic and brilliant. It’s fancy dress, froth and frolics. It can only be darts.

For six years now, sportsmen with a build closer to Henry VIII than Adonis have congregated at the Alexandra Palace just before Christmas to chance their arm at the Ladbrokes PDC World Championships.

And while the thousands in the sell-out crowd let off steam, 72 players from around the globe compete on the oche for a 200,000 jackpot and the honour of being crowned the first world champion of the sporting year.

A very British sport played in every pub from Penzance to Penrith feels snuggly at home at a place christened by its Victorian benefactors as the “Palace of the People” – but behind-the-scenes and away from the glare of the Sky cameras, the tournament has the feel of a travelling show.

Just a couple of days before the first darts were thrown, the great auditorium in which darts legends such as Phil Taylor, Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld perform was full of nervous students sitting accountancy exams.

Stand-out dress: Pals enjoy a beer in their Where's Wally outfits

Stand-out dress: Pals enjoy a beer in their Where's Wally outfits

Sealed with a Kiss: This rock 'n roll fan didn't hold back with his fancy dress gear

Sealed with a Kiss: This rock 'n roll fan didn't hold back with his fancy dress gear

The stands and the 120ft stage were assembled through the night. The rigs, jibs and cameras are painstakingly positioned by an army of Sky Sports technicians within hours of the start. The “best seat in the house” studio from which Dave Clark fronts broadcasts to every continent of the world is a precarious Meccano set of steel scaffolding, perspex and black drapes.

Underneath the 200ft tall ceilings of the Palace’s great function rooms, underneath the iconic classical frescoes, the Sky trailers, screens and endless miles of cables are wheeled in alongside the incalculable gallons of ale and the well-stocked pantries of pie and mash.

This fleeting feel to what is the annual highlight of the sport only adds to the earthy, all-embracing and all-round enjoyable nature of darts. It’s a formula that the sport’s head honcho, Barry Hearn, has got nailed down.

‘99.9 per cent of fans who come to the Ally Pally are there to have a good time,’ he says. ‘There’s a lot of worry in people’s lives at the moment – they’re worried about their job, about paying the bills, about affording things for Christmas.

‘But they can come here on their Christmas party or with their family, forget about all those things for a while and have a good time while not breaking the bank.

Girls night out: But most of the crowd are guys enjoying a beer with their mates

Girls night out: But most of the crowd are guys enjoying a beer with their mates

Making their point: Fans are encouraged to write their signs for the cameras

Making their point: Fans are encouraged to write their signs for the cameras

‘It’s a sport for the people because the players are just like them, just normal blokes. It’s not like football, where they jump in to a Ferrari, speed off, have a crash and then jump into their second Ferrari. I remember when Phil Taylor – the 15-time champion of the world – was earning 75 a week as a lathe operator in Stoke-on-Trent.

‘It’s that kind of game that’s open to anyone, it’s a classless sport which is enjoyed by everyone from the bloke down the pub to the Royal family.’

It’s funny that Hearn should mention the Royals – and I don’t mean those in fancy dress. Sat up in the Sky studio, surveying the magnificent arena below, Dave Clark beams as he recalls the moment last year when Adrian Lewis, caught up in the euphoria of winning a second successive title, unwittingly planted a wet celebratory kiss on the forehead of Prince Harry, who had come backstage to congratulate him.

‘That’s the beauty of this sport,’ says Clark, who has fronted Sky’s annual 100 hours of live coverage for a decade now. ‘You never know what’s going to happen. It’s unscripted drama and entertainment the entire time, both up on the oche and up here in the studio. We never prepare anything, it’s all spontaneous and based on the strength of character of these players.’

The excitement on this occasion is about the 23-year-old Dutchman Michael van Gerwen, just one of a good 10 players who have a feasible chance of winning the Sid Waddell Trophy in an incredibly open field.

The dark and claustrophobic commentary booth underneath the studio is a quieter place this year in the absence of Waddell, the “Voice of Darts” for 40 years who passed away in August. The trophy is a fitting tribute to him and the description of it – “made from the same Eritrean marble as used by Michelangelo in the Sistine chapel” – almost passable as one of his inimitable soundbites.

Where's Darth Vader Fans queue up to see the darts stars walk up to the stage

Where's Darth Vader Fans queue up to see the darts stars walk up to the stage

The future's darts, the future's orange: Dressing up is part of the fun

The future's darts, the future's orange: Dressing up is part of the fun

While the coverage may not be scripted,
Clark and the commentators can fall back on a 75-strong team who produce
the polished final product screened around the world. The Sky trailers
are like NASA mission control, with the producers able to see about four
dozen different feeds and every conceivable angle.

Throwing up on the oche, even when there’s nobody in the audience, is like a daunting experience – like being caught up in the glare of a great eye. It’s no wonder the players sweat under the heat of the lights, while every expression is captured by a bank of camera lenses trained at every part of your body.

For the semi-finals and finals, eight additional cameras for Sky’s 3D coverage will further magnify the scrutiny. There’s going to be a camera directly above the board, to create the effect that the darts are being flung straight through your TV screen.

The feeds are stitched together by a team who sit and control in a tiny trailer for five or six hours without pause, every second committed to industrial-sized hard drives (no tapes any more) linked by giant fibre optic snakes of wires. Replays are captured in a split-second and on air before you can yell ‘One hundred aaaannnddd eighty..’

‘Everywhere around the world, from the USA to New Zealand, people are watching the darts,’ says Hearn. ‘Watching darts take off over these last few years have been one of the most satisfying moments in my life and my career.

Leading the way: Top players like Phil Taylor are adored by the Alexandra Palace masses

Leading the way: Top players like Phil Taylor are adored by the Alexandra Palace masses

‘In some countries like Germany, we
started off playing tournament in front of 50 people. Now we get 3,000
or more. Over a million watch every night in Holland (the Dutch TV
companies have started bringing their own equipment and have colonised
part of the press tent).

‘Where next The Middle East and Japan – we’ll take the superstars there, go global!’

Back in the auditorium, the 'jimmy jib' boom camera makes another sweep over the audience as ‘Chase the Sun’ – the song by Italian electronica outfit Planet Funk discovered entirely by chance by a Sky producer to become a metaphor for darts – kicks in again.

It captures the fans dancing on their chairs and waving their red signs with long-mulled over messages scrawled on them in black marker pen, it captured the dodgy dress sense and the dodgier dance moves. It even captures the bouncers turfing people out seemingly at random for getting a bit too involved in it all.

From the pub to the Palace, this travelling, sporting show of darts is genuinely unlike anything else.

The Ladbrokes World Championship is live on Sky Sports HD including the semi-finals and final in 3D. Join the conversation at #Ladbrokesdarts.

DAVID LLOYD – BUMBLE"S TEST DIARY: Sir Ian Botham goes to see Rolling Stones concert

BUMBLE'S TEST DIARY: Why Monty bowling on this pitch is 'Satisfaction' guaranteed… but unlike that old rocker Beefy, 'Wild Horses' can't drag me away from the cricket

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UPDATED:

15:31 GMT, 23 November 2012

CLASSIC PITCH = CLASSIC MATCH

This is a cracking pitch and it promises to be a classic Test match. A spinning pitch makes for a great game. Some resolute batting from Pujara and Ashwin during some superb India resistance, and they could have a good score already.

SWANNING AROUND IN THE SHADOW OF MONTY

A big tick for Monty Panesar. He was handled very well by Alastair Cook, who brought him on in the seventh over. His dismissal of Tendulkar was a classic and it was great to see him and Graeme Swann bowl together, although it is interesting that when Monty plays, he tends to push Swann into the background. It might be that Swann thrives as being the main man in a four-pronged attack while he is less effective when there is another spinner in the side.

Perilous place: Stuart Broad's vice-captaincy does not guarantee him selection and his poor displays have put his place in the side in jeopardy

Perilous place: Stuart Broad's vice-captaincy does not guarantee him selection and his poor displays have put his place in the side in jeopardy

VICE-CAPTAINCY DOESN'T GUARANTEE SELECTION

Stuart Broad is out of sorts..he’s running on empty. I know him well and he will be frustrated that his contribution is not as it should be. Quick bowlers need to be used in short, sharp bursts in India and his pace is down. He needs a break and England should freshen things up for the next Test. They are under no obligation to pick him just because he is vice-captain. Why do we even need one

MY PRINCELY PORTRAIT

Former England wicketkeeper Jack Russell is now a world-renowned artist…and he’s doing my portrait. It’s a work in progress. I’ve sat with him for two hours so far and he won’t let me see it, he says it’s bad luck. But crikey, having my portrait done…I feel like Prince Philip!

Ugly mug: Bumble is having his portrait painted by former England wicketkeeper Jack Russell

Ugly mug: Bumble is having his portrait painted by former England wicketkeeper Jack Russell

Prince Philip

Jack the lad: Former England wicketkeeper turned professional artist Jack Russell is painting Bumble's portrait

Royal appointment: Bumble says that sitting for Russell (right) makes him feel like Prince Philip (left)

JIMMY'S DODGY BARNET

Jimmy Anderson is supposed to be a fashion icon, a star of magazines. So who on earth was let loose with the scissors to give him that haircut Whichever of his team-mates it was, they must have done it when he was asleep.

ROLLING WITH SIR BEEFY

Ian Botham is off to see the Rolling Stones in London this weekend and it promises to be a fantastic occasion. All together now: 'This could be the last time…'

Sir Ian Botham

The Rolling Stones Grrr!

Old rocker: Sir Ian (left) will be rocking it out at this weekend's Rolling Stones gig, titled Grrr! (right)

More from David Lloyd…

BUMBLE'S TEST DIARY: Drop Trott, it's time to wield the axe because India are having England for breakfast
19/11/12

Bumble's diary: Cook doesn't perspire and never changes his gloves, magnificent
18/11/12

Bumble's Test diary: England finally wake up and join the Test series
18/11/12

BUMBLE'S TEST DIARY: How the utter madness of England sending in Jimmy left me calling for Sunny and Cher
16/11/12

BUMBLE'S TEST DIARY: England have picked the wrong team… but why I'm in a tizz over Chas
15/11/12

Bumble's guide to Twenty20 Finals day: Yorkshire v Sussex, Somerset v Hampshire
23/08/12

Bumble at the Test: KP's Headingley innings was my magic moment, will it be his last
20/08/12

Bumble at the Test: Polly thriller as Shaun finally gets to ring the Lord's bell
19/08/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Alex Ferguson statue unveiling: Ruud van Nistelrooy, Eric Cantona and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer among guests

Van Nistelrooy, Cantona and Solskjaer will all return for the unveiling of Fergie's statue

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UPDATED:

00:29 GMT, 23 November 2012

Eric Cantona and Ruud van Nistelrooy will be amongst the most notable guests at the unveiling of a statue in honour of Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford on Friday.

United commissioned award-winning sculptor Philip Jackson to create the nine-foot bronze statue which will be placed outside the stand that already bears Ferguson's name.

The precise details of the statue are yet to be revealed but Ferguson recently inspected it himself and declared himself satisfied.

Ruud van Nistelrooy

Eric Cantona

Guests: Eric Cantona and Ruud van Nistelrooy will be present at the unveiling of the statue

Ready to go: The statue of Sir Alex Ferguson is set to be unveiled

Ready to go: The statue of Sir Alex Ferguson is set to be unveiled

Sir Alex Ferguson is hoisted into place

His longevity at Old Trafford is encapsulated by the guests who will be in attendance.

In addition to Cantona, who signed for
United almost 20 years ago in probably the most astute transfer of
Ferguson's 26-year reign, and Van Nistelrooy, who scored 150 goals in
five seasons but has never been back to the club since he was
sensationally jettisoned in 2006, Ferguson's first captain, Bryan
Robson, will be there, plus Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who scored that famous
injury-time match-winner in the 1999 Champions League final.

Present and correct: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be there

Present and correct: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be there

United's entire first-team squad will also be present, as will England coach and long-time Red Devil Gary Neville.

And tributes ahead of the ceremony had been pouring in.

Before it was former Prime Minister
Tony Blair, and now it is Arsene Wenger, with whom Ferguson has had so
many battles down the years.

Fergie time: The United manager has seen his side win numerous games in injury time

Fergie time: The United manager has seen his side win numerous games in injury time

The Frenchman said: 'I don't remember anybody else being at the top level for such a long time.

'In some ways it is scary because when
this guy leaves the club, no matter the quality of who comes in after
him, it will be a huge hole.

'The club will be destabilised even if
the guy who comes after him is top quality because the print of
everything, the life of everything, revolves around Ferguson so much at
Manchester United.

High praise: Arsene Wenger cannot remember another manager as good as Ferguson who has worked for that long

High praise: Arsene Wenger cannot remember another manager as good as Ferguson who has worked for that long

'He has to be immortal so the club doesn't suffer! His commitment is always there, you never feel it is weakened.

'What I admire maybe the most in him
is his forward-thinking. He is always ready to move with the times and
never speaks about what he has done before.

Trophy laden: Ferguson has led United to multiple honours during his successful reign

Trophy laden: Ferguson has led United to multiple honours during his successful reign

'He knows when to renew the team, when
you have to make changes, and that is exceptional because you can
sometimes be a little bit lazy when you have so much success.

'He's never been like that, he's always on his toes and he can renew what is needed, when it is needed.

'It is a job where you need to dedicate your life to football and Ferguson has done that and that deserves massive respect.

'He has won absolutely everything and, of course, that is something exceptional.'

Still going strong: Ferguson continues to have United challenging both domestically and in Europe

Still going strong: Ferguson continues to have United challenging both domestically and in Europe

Ferguson won the first of his 12
Premier League titles with United in 1993 and has also overseen
Champions League success twice. There have also been five FA Cup wins.

England hero David Beckham found
stardom under Ferguson and was a member of six title-winning sides
before leaving for Real Madrid in 2003.

Beckham may have had his differences
with Ferguson at times but the pair have long since been reconciled and
the respect is evident.

Beckham said: 'I think the manager has
been so successful because he's passionate about Manchester United and
he's a born winner.

'He knows how to win games, how to handle pressure and how to look after his team and his players.

'Playing under him for the years that I did, well – he was like a father figure to me.

'I moved up from London to Manchester
and he always said to me, 'If you've got any worries, come and knock on
my door – it's always open'.

'I was scared to go and knock on his
door because of who he is but he always made me feel as if I was part of
a family and that's how you feel when you're at Manchester United.'

Neville is another whom Ferguson has influenced so much.

'To be at this club for so long is staggering. You would never believe it could happen,' he said.

'I've said before, United had Sir Matt
Busby, now they've got somebody who's replicated his longevity at the
club and surpassed his success – you would just never believe it could
be achieved.

'It's really not something you can put into words, what Sir Alex Ferguson has done for the club.'

Kings of Europe: Ferguson won his second Champions League trophy in 2008

Kings of Europe: Ferguson won his second Champions League trophy in 2008

Plenty to ponder: Ferguson has faced new challenges during his reign at Old Trafford

Plenty to ponder: Ferguson has faced new challenges during his reign at Old Trafford

Alex Ferguson statue in place at Manchester United"s Old Trafford stadium

Here comes the 9ft statue of Fergie at Old Trafford… but what pose can we expect

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UPDATED:

17:08 GMT, 22 November 2012

Manchester United are on the brink of unveiling their statue of Sir Alex Ferguson.

United commissioned award-winning sculptor Philip Jackson to create the 9ft bronze statue which will be placed outside Old Trafford's recently renamed North Stand. It is to celebrate 70-year-old's Ferguson's incredible career at the club.

Ferguson's pose in the statue has yet to be revealed, with United fans speculating on whether it will be a celebration, with a trophy or even tapping his watch.

Ready to go: The statue of Sir Alex Ferguson is set to be unveiled

Ready to go: The statue of Sir Alex Ferguson is set to be unveiled

Sir Alex Ferguson is hoisted into place

Jackson said: 'I have met Sir Alex on a number of occasions and he is a very nice chap. I took a lot of pictures of him and watched a lot film.

'You have to get to know the subject. He came down to see the clay sculpture and he seemed very pleased.'

The statue is being unveiled at 2pm on Friday, with a large crowd expected to gather at the ground. Ferguson is set to attend, along with Sir Bobby Charlton and United management.

Ahead of the unveiling, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has led the tributes to his great rival.

Fergie time: The United manager has seen his side win numerous games in injury time

Fergie time: The United manager has seen his side win numerous games in injury time

Wenger has had many close duels with Ferguson during his own remarkable 16 years with the Gunners but still holds his old adversary in the highest regard and expects United to struggle to replace him.

The Frenchman said: 'I don't remember anybody else being at the top, top level for such a long time. In some ways it is scary as well because you think when this guy leaves the club, no matter of the quality of who comes in after him, it will be a huge hole.

'The club will be destabilised even if the guy who comes after him is top quality because the print of everything, the life of everything, revolves around Ferguson so much at Manchester United. He has to be immortal so the club doesn't suffer!

Trophy laden: Ferguson has led United to multiple honours during his successful reign

Trophy laden: Ferguson has led United to multiple honours during his successful reign

'His commitment is always there, you never feel that his commitment is weakened. What I admire maybe the most in him is his forward-thinking. He is always ready to move with the times and never speaks about what he has done before.

'He knows when to renew the team, when you have to make changes, and that is exceptional because you can sometimes be a little bit lazy when you have so much success.

'He's never been like that, he's always on his toes and he can renew what is needed, when it is needed.

'It is a job where you need to dedicate your life to football and Ferguson has done that and that deserves massive respect. He has won absolutely everything and, of course, that is something exceptional.'

Still going strong: Ferguson continues to have United challenging both domestically and in Europe

Still going strong: Ferguson continues to have United challenging both domestically and in Europe

Ferguson won the first of his 12 Premier League titles with United in 1993 and has also overseen Champions League success twice. There have also been five FA Cup wins.

Veteran Ryan Giggs, who has been a key member of the first team for most of Ferguson's reign, has also been wholesome in his praise.

The 38-year-old said: 'He's just a great man. Even though he is managing the greatest club in the world and the biggest club in the world, he still has
time for any young player or any player with problems – both on and off the pitch.

'He's the biggest influence on my career so I can't speak highly enough about him.'


Kings of Europe: Ferguson won his second Champions League trophy in 2008

Kings of Europe: Ferguson won his second Champions League trophy in 2008

England hero David Beckham found stardom under Ferguson and was a member of six title-winning sides before leaving for Real Madrid in 2003.

Beckham may have had his differences with Ferguson at times but the pair have long since been reconciled and the respect is evident.

Beckham said: 'I think the manager has been so successful because he's passionate about Manchester United and he's a born winner.

'He knows how to win games, how to handle pressure and how to look after his team and his players. Playing under him for the years that I did, well – he was like a father figure to me.

'I moved up from London to Manchester and he always said to me, “If you've got any worries, come and knock on my door – it's always open”.

Plenty to ponder: Ferguson has faced new challenges during his reign at Old Trafford

Plenty to ponder: Ferguson has faced new challenges during his reign at Old Trafford

'I was scared to go and knock on his door because of who he is but he always made me feel as if I was part of a family and that's how you feel when you're at Manchester United.'

Another influential player was defender Gary Neville, who is now on the England coaching staff and forging a promising media career.

Neville said: 'To be at this club for so long is staggering. You would never believe it could happen.

'I've said before, United had Sir Matt Busby, now they've got somebody who's replicated his longevity at the club and surpassed his success – you would just never believe it could be achieved.

'It's really not something you can put into words, what Sir Alex Ferguson has done for the club.'

Frankel goes to stud at Banstead Manor Farm

What a stud! 125k-a-time Frankel settles into his new home as he prepares for his career change

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UPDATED:

17:18 GMT, 22 November 2012

It is not often a horse commands a stud fee of 125,000 so Banstead Manor Farm have every right to show off their prize possession.

Unbeaten Frankel was paraded round the grounds before he goes to work.

Rated as the greatest horse in the world, Frankel was expected to stand for around 100,000 after retiring on the back of a 14-race unbeaten career — but his fee was announced last week as 125,000.

A real stud: Unbeaten racehorse Frankel in his new home at Banstead Stud in Newmarket

A real stud: Unbeaten racehorse Frankel in his new home at Banstead Stud in Newmarket

He will be based in Newmarket at owner Khalid Abdullah’s Banstead Manor Farm, where he is pictured in these photos.

Juddmonte Farms general manager Philip Mitchell said: ‘We believe our stallion roster is the best we have been able to offer breeders – and we are very excited with both of our new arrivals.

‘The fee for Frankel reflects his merits as being perhaps the greatest racehorse we have ever witnessed. He is by Galileo, who is now recognised as the best sire in the world, and out of Kind, a winner of six races (from five to seven furlongs) and herself a daughter of one of the most influential stallions in the history of thoroughbred breeding, Danehill.

Expensive business: Frankel will command a stud fee of 125,000

Expensive business: Frankel will command a stud fee of 125,000

Getting used to new surroundings: Frankel settled in his new home

Getting used to new surroundings: Frankel settled in his new home

‘Bated Breath (8,000) will give breeders the opportunity to use a most genuine sprinter who was placed second in four Group One races. Ironically, his father Dansili started his career at the same fee and he also just failed to win a Group One race.’

Dansili and Oasis Dream, Juddmonte’s two previous standard bearers, will stand for 80,000.

Mitchell added: ‘We have made minor adjustments to the fees of our two major stalwarts Dansili and Oasis Dream as we believe both of these world-class sires to be equally successful.’

Luis Suarez – can he win Player of the Year? Martin Samuel column

Suarez is poetry in motion… but can he really be Player of the Year

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UPDATED:

15:46 GMT, 21 November 2012

And the days are not full enough And the nights are not full enough And life slips by like a field mouse. Not shaking the grass. Ezra Pound wrote that. Remarkable, isn't it

'Pound is more responsible for the 20th century revolution in poetry than any other individual,' said TS Eliot, and he would know. So here's one of his lesser known works.

'You let in the Jew and the Jew rotted your empire, and you yourselves out-jewed the Jew. And the big Jew has rotted every nation he has wormed into.' Pound said that in a pro-fascist radio broadcast in March 1942. He said plenty of other stuff, too, and was arrested for treason after the war.

Saint and sinner: Luis Suarez has been accused of diving during his time at Liverpool

Saint and sinner: Luis Suarez has been accused of diving during his time at Liverpool

Later, Pound renounced his anti-Semitism in public, but recollections of the private individual tell a different story. He would refer to people he disliked as Jews, and refuse to talk to psychiatrists with Jewish names.

He really wasn't a nice guy. Doesn't make Eliot wrong, though. Doesn't make the depth of emotional meaning conveyed in the sparse four lines of And the days are not full enough – that's the whole poem up there, by the way – any less astonishing. Same with Philip Larkin.

'I can hear fat Caribbean germs pattering after me in the Underground,' he wrote, disgusted, to Kingsley Amis on a visit to London. Then again, Larkin was disgusted by a lot of things; by himself, often enough. For Larkin in excelsis, however, read An Arundel Tomb. 'What will survive of us is love.'

We could go on. Through Chuck Berry to Miles Davis or Michael Jackson. We separate the man from his art. But not in football. In football, we want it all. Beauty and the blameless life. We can accept that poets, artists, musicians or writers can be despicable creatures redeemed by their work, but from our footballers we demand the exalted physicality of an athlete and the immaculate morality of an angel.

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez

Light and shade: The Uruguayan striker is a match-winner for Liverpool but has also been accused of stamping on an opponent (above right)

More from Martin Samuel …

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Chelsea 3 Shakhtar Donetsk 2: Moses works a miracle as Di Matteo's luck holds
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Manchester City 2 Ajax 2: It's all gone De Jong as Euro exit looms for Mancini misfits
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Chelsea 2 Manchester United 3: Crazy red card for Torres and Hernandez offside goal hand United victory at Stamford Bridge
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Martin Samuel: Amid his Twitter row, Liverpool's Chang should know using the supporters as muscle is a dangerous abuse of power
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

So could Luis Suarez be the Footballer of the Year this season Of course not. Should Luis Suarez be the Footballer of the Year this season Well, who else have you got

This is a crude calculation as it presumes no other player could have scored Suarez's goals, but the difference he has made to Liverpool this season equates to seven league points and, potentially, a place in the Europa League.

Goals from Suarez have changed Liverpool's dividend on seven occasions. He has been the difference between victory and a draw with Norwich City and a draw and a defeat against Manchester City, Sunderland, Everton, Newcastle United and Chelsea.

Without his goal at Anfield, the Europa League qualifier with Hearts would have gone into extra time. And in this season's Premier League, seven points is currently separating Liverpool and a place in the bottom three.

True, if Suarez had not been in the team, somebody else would have been and that somebody might have scored, too. So this isn't exact science.

Nobody can accurately evaluate Suarez's worth to Liverpool this season but, ball-park, seven points sounds about right. Maybe more. Is there any footballer in the country more influential

Last week, Jamie Carragher compared Suarez to Lionel Messi at Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid. Indeed, he placed him higher, because Suarez is not playing in a great team. But Footballer of the Year No chance.

This is bogeyman Suarez, remember, verbal debaser of Patrice Evra, alleged diver, alleged stamper, the man English football loves to hate and boo, even during the feelgood Olympic Games this summer when just completing the course got a standing ovation.

How can he sway a vote of journalists, some of whom believe their award winner must stand out as a role model, as much as a footballer How could he earn the votes of players, some of whom are black, ethically-minded or represent Manchester United Could you vote for him No. Could I It would be very, very hard.

On target: Suarez has scored more goals than any other player in the Barclays Premier League this term

On target: Suarez has scored more goals than any other player in the Barclays Premier League this term

A vote for Suarez would appear to send out the message that racism doesn't matter. Yet I'd have no hesitation in referring to Larkin as our greatest modern poet; no agonising over love for the music of the wife-beating Ike Turner either.

Maybe by the end of the season the Suarez dilemma will no longer exist. Different players go through purple patches at various times – Juan Mata was brilliant for Chelsea as Roberto Di Matteo's side topped the table early on – but few have been as consistent as Suarez, with no sign of relenting.

Left to fend for himself by an almost wantonly negligent series of executive choices in the transfer market, he has prevented Liverpool entering freefall. And he is not even a conventional striker.

If Liverpool had acted with coherence this summer, Suarez would be playing beside a prolific goalscorer, setting up as many as he scores, the burden on his shoulders relieved. For Uruguay, he most regularly played alongside Diego Forlan or Sebastian Abreu. These days Edinson Cavani is his regular foil. The idea of him leading a line unaccompanied would baffle his national coach, Oscar Tabarez.

Imagine: If Suarez was Footballer of the Year, they'd be uproar arguments and probably resignations

Imagine: If Suarez was Footballer of the Year, they'd be uproar, arguments and probably resignations

What he is doing at Liverpool is far removed from his comfort zone. And yet he is this season's peak performer: top scorer in the Premier League with two more goals than Robin van Persie and top scorer of any Premier League player in all club competitions, again two more than Van Persie.

The difference is, Van Persie has Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez to take a load off, Suarez is in virtual isolation.

Carragher also placed Suarez alongside Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen and Fernando Torres among recent goalscorers at Liverpool, but in essence he is more like Steven Gerrard or Carragher himself, in his ability to influence matches sometimes with sheer will.

Yet, imagine if he was the Footballer of the Year. There would be uproar, protests, arguments, quite probably resignations. A breakaway black union without doubt, if he won the PFA vote, a very awkward few weeks for representatives of the media if he topped any poll of journalists.

Mock: Suarez celebrated in front of Moyes after the Everton boss accused him of simulation

Mock: Suarez celebrated in front of Moyes after the Everton boss accused him of simulation

An unrepentant horror as an example to the next generation, it would be fiendishly hard to justify his glorification, almost inexcusable. Yet is he the best player in the league This minute, by a mile.

Those crowned Footballer of the Year tend to be winners. It seemed incongruous two years ago when Scott Parker collected the prize in a season that ended in relegation for his club, West Ham United.

The case for Suarez would be different. It would be based on his contribution to a former member of the elite, Liverpool, and how far a great club might have tumbled without him.

There was certainly a similar case for Chris Waddle at Tottenham Hotspur one season, when the club could easily have slipped into the bottom three without his frequent interventions. Yet Suarez won't win and can't win, we know that.

He has been associated with too much of football's dark side – racism, simulation – to rise above the negativity. He refused to shake hands with Evra, at first, even though the wronged man made the first move, he openly mocked David Moyes when the Everton manager dared to suggest he went to ground too easily. And yet despite the opprobrium, Suarez stays strong.

If no-one likes him, see if he cares. Perhaps this is why, as well as being this season's best footballer he is also one that troubles the soul.

Suarez does not do sorry, he does not do contrition and, in this, demands to be considered only for his art. Will he care if recognition is not his at the end of the season Probably not. As Pound said on his release from a lengthy stint of hard labour: 'I've had it worse.'

Arrests: Crowd trouble in Germany is at a 12-year high

Arrests: Crowd trouble in Germany is at a 12-year high

Don't mention the arrests…

And more news just in from Germany, where tickets are cheap, stadiums are full, standing is tolerated and crowd trouble is at a 12-year high.

According to figures released to Reuters in Berlin, the 2011-12 season had the highest number of criminal proceedings this century, a sharp rise in the amount of injured fans from the previous season and a 20 per cent increase in police work hours.

'Criminal proceedings are up 70 per cent, work hours up 40 per cent and injuries up 120 per cent from the 12-year average,' said a police spokesman.

A total of 8,143 criminal cases against individuals were launched compared with 5,818 the previous year, while the number of injuries rose from 843 to 1,142.

Meanwhile, according to the Home Office, English football arrests are at an all-time low since records began in 1985, and there was a 32 per cent decline in Premier League arrests from the 2010-11 season. But keep this quiet. It doesn't fit the self-flagellating narrative.

And while we're at it… Unbuyable Try to lure him back, Sir Alex!

He is back, at a football ground near you, tonight. And while Cristiano Ronaldo can be guaranteed a hostile reception when he steps out for Real Madrid against Manchester City, there will not be a true football fan in the stadium who does not feel a frisson of excitement at the anticipation of seeing him play live again.

Because we miss him, of course we do. Even the blue lot, deep down. Manchester United miss him, English football misses him. We haven't had one quite as good since. Not a player whose talent is so immense he actually found a new way of kicking a football.

Welcome (back) to Manchester: Ronaldo touched down in England on Tuesday night ahead of Real's clash with City

Welcome (back) to Manchester: Ronaldo touched down in England ahead of Real's clash with City

Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Hydrodynamics Laboratory in Paris will test their theory about the way Ronaldo strikes his knuckleball at a scientific gathering in San Diego this week. They have been dropping steel beads into a tank of water and studying the trajectory. Nobody does that for Ashley Young.

So, when Sir Alex Ferguson says that he remains on good terms with Ronaldo but the player is 'unbuyable', the heart sinks. Try, Sir Alex. Have a go, for all of us. It doesn't matter if it makes life really hard for your rivals. We won't moan, even if you win the league by 25 points. Just get our guy back. Please.

Relationship: Ferguson has claimed the former Manchester Untied star is 'unbuyable'

Relationship: Ferguson has claimed the former Manchester Untied star is 'unbuyable'

Madrid is the love of Ronaldo's life, but he hasn't always felt loved back. Good. Use that. Tell him he's wasted there. Tell him the Spanish crowds have never taken to him as they have Lionel Messi. Massage his ego, play on his insecurities. Wasn't there a time when Madrid made him sad Didn't he refuse to celebrate his goals at the start of the season, because he felt unappreciated That never happened at Old Trafford, did it Hell, it's worth a try.

Unbuyable is such a miserable term. Unbuyable says he is Madrid's, for ever. Unbuyable means nights like this are one of the few chances you will get to see one of the world's greatest players at the height of his powers. If you can go, don't miss it. He's the one you'll tell the grandkids about.

Sacking Hughes might not add up

The problem for Tony Fernandes at Queens Park Rangers, and for all owners, is that the only way to build a club is to place faith in a coach and his vision. Invariably, this means an equal investment in players, staff and the remodelling of academies and training facilities.

In terms of results, there is no indication this season that Rangers are going to turn around under Mark Hughes, so continued support now is merely a leap of faith.

In training: Hughes puts his squad through their paces on Tuesday as his future hangs in the balance

In training: Hughes puts his squad through their paces on Tuesday as his future hangs in the balance

Yet the alternative, to remove Hughes and his entourage and start again, is fraught with expense and difficulty with no certainty of alleviating the crisis, either. West Ham United stuck with Avram Grant and went down, West Bromwich Albion sacked Roberto Di Matteo and stayed up.

Wigan Athletic kept Roberto Martinez and stayed up, Wolverhampton Wanderers dismissed Mick McCarthy and went down. The only concrete guarantee is that the cost of replacing the manager, his backroom boys and overhauling the squad twice in one season is horrific. This alone may be what buys Hughes the time to turn Rangers around.

Luis Suarez can"t win Footballer of The Year Award – Martin Samuel

Suarez is poetry in motion… but can he really be Player of the Year

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UPDATED:

01:47 GMT, 21 November 2012

And the days are not full enough And the nights are not full enough And life slips by like a field mouse. Not shaking the grass. Ezra Pound wrote that. Remarkable, isn't it

'Pound is more responsible for the 20th century revolution in poetry than any other individual,' said TS Eliot, and he would know. So here's one of his lesser known works.

'You let in the Jew and the Jew rotted your empire, and you yourselves out-jewed the Jew. And the big Jew has rotted every nation he has wormed into.' Pound said that in a pro-fascist radio broadcast in March 1942. He said plenty of other stuff, too, and was arrested for treason after the war.

Saint and sinner: Luis Suarez has been accused of diving during his time at Liverpool

Saint and sinner: Luis Suarez has been accused of diving during his time at Liverpool

Later, Pound renounced his anti-Semitism in public, but recollections of the private individual tell a different story. He would refer to people he disliked as Jews, and refuse to talk to psychiatrists with Jewish names.

He really wasn't a nice guy. Doesn't make Eliot wrong, though. Doesn't make the depth of emotional meaning conveyed in the sparse four lines of And the days are not full enough – that's the whole poem up there, by the way – any less astonishing. Same with Philip Larkin.

'I can hear fat Caribbean germs pattering after me in the Underground,' he wrote, disgusted, to Kingsley Amis on a visit to London. Then again, Larkin was disgusted by a lot of things; by himself, often enough. For Larkin in excelsis, however, read An Arundel Tomb. 'What will survive of us is love.'

We could go on. Through Chuck Berry to Miles Davis or Michael Jackson. We separate the man from his art. But not in football. In football, we want it all. Beauty and the blameless life. We can accept that poets, artists, musicians or writers can be despicable creatures redeemed by their work, but from our footballers we demand the exalted physicality of an athlete and the immaculate morality of an angel.

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez

Light and shade: The Uruguayan striker is a match-winner for Liverpool but has also been accused of stamping on an opponent (above right)

More from Martin Samuel …

Juventus 3 Chelsea 0: Holders braced for new European low as Di Matteo faces chop
20/11/12

Martin Samuel: Pietersen's 'reintegration' is complete… but now England need to see the destructive, swashbuckling KP of old
13/11/12

Chelsea 1 Liverpool 1: Suarez rescues point for Reds after goalscorer Terry is crocked on return
11/11/12

Chelsea 3 Shakhtar Donetsk 2: Moses works a miracle as Di Matteo's luck holds
07/11/12

Manchester City 2 Ajax 2: It's all gone De Jong as Euro exit looms for Mancini misfits
06/11/12

Chelsea 2 Manchester United 3: Crazy red card for Torres and Hernandez offside goal hand United victory at Stamford Bridge
28/10/12

Martin Samuel: Amid his Twitter row, Liverpool's Chang should know using the supporters as muscle is a dangerous abuse of power
23/10/12

Shakhtar Donetsk 2 Chelsea 1: Bad case of the Blues as holders feel pain in Ukraine
23/10/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

So could Luis Suarez be the Footballer of the Year this season Of course not. Should Luis Suarez be the Footballer of the Year this season Well, who else have you got

This is a crude calculation as it presumes no other player could have scored Suarez's goals, but the difference he has made to Liverpool this season equates to seven league points and, potentially, a place in the Europa League.

Goals from Suarez have changed Liverpool's dividend on seven occasions. He has been the difference between victory and a draw with Norwich City and a draw and a defeat against Manchester City, Sunderland, Everton, Newcastle United and Chelsea.

Without his goal at Anfield, the Europa League qualifier with Hearts would have gone into extra time. And in this season's Premier League, seven points is currently separating Liverpool and a place in the bottom three.

True, if Suarez had not been in the team, somebody else would have been and that somebody might have scored, too. So this isn't exact science.

Nobody can accurately evaluate Suarez's worth to Liverpool this season but, ball-park, seven points sounds about right. Maybe more. Is there any footballer in the country more influential

Last week, Jamie Carragher compared Suarez to Lionel Messi at Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid. Indeed, he placed him higher, because Suarez is not playing in a great team. But Footballer of the Year No chance.

This is bogeyman Suarez, remember, verbal debaser of Patrice Evra, alleged diver, alleged stamper, the man English football loves to hate and boo, even during the feelgood Olympic Games this summer when just completing the course got a standing ovation.

How can he sway a vote of journalists, some of whom believe their award winner must stand out as a role model, as much as a footballer How could he earn the votes of players, some of whom are black, ethically-minded or represent Manchester United Could you vote for him No. Could I It would be very, very hard.

On target: Suarez has scored more goals than any other player in the Barclays Premier League this term

On target: Suarez has scored more goals than any other player in the Barclays Premier League this term

A vote for Suarez would appear to send out the message that racism doesn't matter. Yet I'd have no hesitation in referring to Larkin as our greatest modern poet; no agonising over love for the music of the wife-beating Ike Turner either.

Maybe by the end of the season the Suarez dilemma will no longer exist. Different players go through purple patches at various times – Juan Mata was brilliant for Chelsea as Roberto Di Matteo's side topped the table early on – but few have been as consistent as Suarez, with no sign of relenting.

Left to fend for himself by an almost wantonly negligent series of executive choices in the transfer market, he has prevented Liverpool entering freefall. And he is not even a conventional striker.

If Liverpool had acted with coherence this summer, Suarez would be playing beside a prolific goalscorer, setting up as many as he scores, the burden on his shoulders relieved. For Uruguay, he most regularly played alongside Diego Forlan or Sebastian Abreu. These days Edinson Cavani is his regular foil. The idea of him leading a line unaccompanied would baffle his national coach, Oscar Tabarez.

Imagine: If Suarez was Footballer of the Year, they'd be uproar arguments and probably resignations

Imagine: If Suarez was Footballer of the Year, they'd be uproar, arguments and probably resignations

What he is doing at Liverpool is far removed from his comfort zone. And yet he is this season's peak performer: top scorer in the Premier League with two more goals than Robin van Persie and top scorer of any Premier League player in all club competitions, again two more than Van Persie.

The difference is, Van Persie has Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez to take a load off, Suarez is in virtual isolation.

Carragher also placed Suarez alongside Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen and Fernando Torres among recent goalscorers at Liverpool, but in essence he is more like Steven Gerrard or Carragher himself, in his ability to influence matches sometimes with sheer will.

Yet, imagine if he was the Footballer of the Year. There would be uproar, protests, arguments, quite probably resignations. A breakaway black union without doubt, if he won the PFA vote, a very awkward few weeks for representatives of the media if he topped any poll of journalists.

Mock: Suarez celebrated in front of Moyes after the Everton boss accused him of simulation

Mock: Suarez celebrated in front of Moyes after the Everton boss accused him of simulation

An unrepentant horror as an example to the next generation, it would be fiendishly hard to justify his glorification, almost inexcusable. Yet is he the best player in the league This minute, by a mile.

Those crowned Footballer of the Year tend to be winners. It seemed incongruous two years ago when Scott Parker collected the prize in a season that ended in relegation for his club, West Ham United.

The case for Suarez would be different. It would be based on his contribution to a former member of the elite, Liverpool, and how far a great club might have tumbled without him.

There was certainly a similar case for Chris Waddle at Tottenham Hotspur one season, when the club could easily have slipped into the bottom three without his frequent interventions. Yet Suarez won't win and can't win, we know that.

He has been associated with too much of football's dark side – racism, simulation – to rise above the negativity. He refused to shake hands with Evra, at first, even though the wronged man made the first move, he openly mocked David Moyes when the Everton manager dared to suggest he went to ground too easily. And yet despite the opprobrium, Suarez stays strong.

If no-one likes him, see if he cares. Perhaps this is why, as well as being this season's best footballer he is also one that troubles the soul.

Suarez does not do sorry, he does not do contrition and, in this, demands to be considered only for his art. Will he care if recognition is not his at the end of the season Probably not. As Pound said on his release from a lengthy stint of hard labour: 'I've had it worse.'

Arrests: Crowd trouble in Germany is at a 12-year high

Arrests: Crowd trouble in Germany is at a 12-year high

Don't mention the arrests…

And more news just in from Germany, where tickets are cheap, stadiums are full, standing is tolerated and crowd trouble is at a 12-year high.

According to figures released to Reuters in Berlin, the 2011-12 season had the highest number of criminal proceedings this century, a sharp rise in the amount of injured fans from the previous season and a 20 per cent increase in police work hours.

'Criminal proceedings are up 70 per cent, work hours up 40 per cent and injuries up 120 per cent from the 12-year average,' said a police spokesman.

A total of 8,143 criminal cases against individuals were launched compared with 5,818 the previous year, while the number of injuries rose from 843 to 1,142.

Meanwhile, according to the Home Office, English football arrests are at an all-time low since records began in 1985, and there was a 32 per cent decline in Premier League arrests from the 2010-11 season. But keep this quiet. It doesn't fit the self-flagellating narrative.

And while we're at it… Unbuyable Try to lure him back, Sir Alex!

He is back, at a football ground near you, tonight. And while Cristiano Ronaldo can be guaranteed a hostile reception when he steps out for Real Madrid against Manchester City, there will not be a true football fan in the stadium who does not feel a frisson of excitement at the anticipation of seeing him play live again.

Because we miss him, of course we do. Even the blue lot, deep down. Manchester United miss him, English football misses him. We haven't had one quite as good since. Not a player whose talent is so immense he actually found a new way of kicking a football.

Welcome (back) to Manchester: Ronaldo touched down in England on Tuesday night ahead of Real's clash with City

Welcome (back) to Manchester: Ronaldo touched down in England ahead of Real's clash with City

Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Hydrodynamics Laboratory in Paris will test their theory about the way Ronaldo strikes his knuckleball at a scientific gathering in San Diego this week. They have been dropping steel beads into a tank of water and studying the trajectory. Nobody does that for Ashley Young.

So, when Sir Alex Ferguson says that he remains on good terms with Ronaldo but the player is 'unbuyable', the heart sinks. Try, Sir Alex. Have a go, for all of us. It doesn't matter if it makes life really hard for your rivals. We won't moan, even if you win the league by 25 points. Just get our guy back. Please.

Relationship: Ferguson has claimed the former Manchester Untied star is 'unbuyable'

Relationship: Ferguson has claimed the former Manchester Untied star is 'unbuyable'

Madrid is the love of Ronaldo's life, but he hasn't always felt loved back. Good. Use that. Tell him he's wasted there. Tell him the Spanish crowds have never taken to him as they have Lionel Messi. Massage his ego, play on his insecurities. Wasn't there a time when Madrid made him sad Didn't he refuse to celebrate his goals at the start of the season, because he felt unappreciated That never happened at Old Trafford, did it Hell, it's worth a try.

Unbuyable is such a miserable term. Unbuyable says he is Madrid's, for ever. Unbuyable means nights like this are one of the few chances you will get to see one of the world's greatest players at the height of his powers. If you can go, don't miss it. He's the one you'll tell the grandkids about.

Sacking Hughes might not add up

The problem for Tony Fernandes at Queens Park Rangers, and for all owners, is that the only way to build a club is to place faith in a coach and his vision. Invariably, this means an equal investment in players, staff and the remodelling of academies and training facilities.

In terms of results, there is no indication this season that Rangers are going to turn around under Mark Hughes, so continued support now is merely a leap of faith.

In training: Hughes puts his squad through their paces on Tuesday as his future hangs in the balance

In training: Hughes puts his squad through their paces on Tuesday as his future hangs in the balance

Yet the alternative, to remove Hughes and his entourage and start again, is fraught with expense and difficulty with no certainty of alleviating the crisis, either. West Ham United stuck with Avram Grant and went down, West Bromwich Albion sacked Roberto Di Matteo and stayed up.

Wigan Athletic kept Roberto Martinez and stayed up, Wolverhampton Wanderers dismissed Mick McCarthy and went down. The only concrete guarantee is that the cost of replacing the manager, his backroom boys and overhauling the squad twice in one season is horrific. This alone may be what buys Hughes the time to turn Rangers around.

Frankel stud fee set at 125,000

Frankel stud fee set at 125,000 (well, he is the best horse in the world)

|

UPDATED:

15:18 GMT, 14 November 2012

Frankel will stand at stud for a fee of 125,000.

Rated as the greatest horse in the world, Frankel was expected to stand for around 100,000 after retiring on the back of a 14-race unbeaten career.

He will be based in Newmarket at owner Khalid Abdullah's Banstead Manor Farm.

Settling in: Frankel arrived at Juddmonte Farms Banstead Manor Stud last week

Settling in: Frankel arrived at Juddmonte Farms Banstead Manor Stud last week

Juddmonte Farms 2013 fees

Bated Breath – 8,000
Champs Elysees – 5,000
Dansili – 80,000
Frankel – 125,000
Oasis Dream – 80,000
Rail Link – 5,000
Zamindar – 10,000

Juddmonte Farms general manager Philip Mitchell said: 'We believe our stallion roster is the best we have been able to offer breeders – and we are very excited with both of our new arrivals.

'The fee for Frankel reflects his merits as being perhaps the greatest racehorse we have ever witnessed. He is by Galileo, who is now recognised as the best sire in the world, and out of Kind, a winner of six races (from five to seven furlongs) and herself a daughter of one of the most influential stallions in the history of thoroughbred breeding, Danehill.

Curtain call: Frankel won the Champion Stakes in October and retired unbeaten

Curtain call: Frankel won the Champion Stakes in October and retired unbeaten

'Bated Breath (8,000) will give breeders the opportunity to use a most genuine sprinter who was placed second in four Group One races. Ironically, his father Dansili started his career at the same fee and he also just failed to win a Group One race.'

Dansili and Oasis Dream, Juddmonte's two previous standard bearers, will stand for 80,000.

Mitchell added: 'We have made minor adjustments to the fees of our two major stalwarts Dansili and Oasis Dream as we believe both of these world-class sires to be equally successful.'

Frankel settling into new home at Banstead Manor Stud

Frankel's back at start as world's greatest settles into stud where he was born

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UPDATED:

16:18 GMT, 8 November 2012

Feline fine: Frankel meets his new friend at Banstead

Feline fine: Frankel meets his new friend at Banstead

Frankel, the world's highest-rated racehorse, has begun settling into his new home after he left Sir Henry Cecil’s stable and returned to his birthplace, Banstead Manor Stud.

The Newmarket stud, just a few miles from Cecil's stable, will be where Frankel's new career as a stallion for Juddmonte Farms will start next year.

Philip Mitchell, the stud's general manager, said: 'In the foaling unit on February 11, 2008, at 11.40pm, little did we realise that we were witnessing the birth of a phenomenal racehorse.

'The rest as they say is history. And it is now extremely exciting that Frankel will be returning to the Stallion Unit at Banstead, some 500 yards from where he was born.'

Frankel is retired to stud as the winner of all 14 of his races, 10 of which came at Group One level. His glittering racing career came to end when he won the Champion Stakes at Ascot on October 20.

Paying tribute to his champion, Cecil said: 'There is no doubt Frankel has been a brilliant racehorse. I am pretty certain that there has never been a better or more talented thoroughbred.

Greatest: The unbeaten Frankel has been retired to stud back at his birthplace

Greatest: The unbeaten Frankel has been retired to stud back at his birthplace

Greatest: The unbeaten Frankel has been retired to stud back at his birthplace

‘He had the speed to be a champion sprinter and then, once he grew up and settled, he got a distance with a turn of foot that makes champions.

'Today is a sad day in some ways for us as he has given us so much pleasure over the last three years. But I want to thank Frankel for so much – for being such a very special part of my training career. Thank you, Frankel.'

Sir Alex Ferguson Old Trafford statue to be unveiled on November 23

Sir Alex statue to be unveiled outside Old Trafford later this month

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UPDATED:

00:44 GMT, 6 November 2012

Manchester United have announced that the statue they have commissioned in honour of Sir Alex Ferguson will be unveiled outside Old Trafford later this month.

The 9ft bronze statue created by award-winning sculptor Philip Jackson will be unveiled 'in a prominent position' outside the stand named after Ferguson on Friday, November 23, at 2pm.

Honour: A statue of Sir Alex Ferguson is to be erected outside Old Trafford

Honour: A statue of Sir Alex Ferguson is to be erected outside Old Trafford

The unveiling comes the day before United
welcome QPR who, coincidentally, were the same opponents Ferguson faced
in his first home game in charge on November 22, 1986.

The Scot, who has won 24 major
trophies in a quarter of a century, is the club's longest serving
manager.

United already have two permanent statues outside their famous home ground – one of legendary manager Sir Matt Busby overlooking the East Stand, and the other known as the 'the United Trinity' of George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton.

History: Sir Matt Busby and the 'United trinity' have already been celebrated

History: Sir Matt Busby and the 'United trinity' have already been celebrated

History: Sir Matt Busby and the 'United trinity' have already been celebrated

Ferguson, who is now 70 years old, has shown no signs of slowing down despite his advancing years and the increased competition, notably from rivals Manchester City.

The club will also be unveiling new artwork and installations in the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand concourses designed to illustrate the manager’s achievements throughout his United career.