Tag Archives: physical

County Championship 2013: Nick Compton"s rise highlights importance of domestic circuit

County cricket is back! And if you're in any doubt how relevant it is, just ask Compton

By
Richard Gibson

PUBLISHED:

22:26 GMT, 9 April 2013

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UPDATED:

09:19 GMT, 10 April 2013

Anyone wondering whether the County Championship retains its relevance within the framework of 21st-century cricket ought to pose the question to Nick Compton.

In an age when Twenty20 offers the quickest route to fame and fortune, Compton took the sleepy backroads around the shires with Somerset to reach the international fast lane.

Perhaps held back in his early career by lugging a famous surname around, the 29-year-old has flourished since moving to Taunton in 2010.

Driving seat: Nick Compton hit back-to-back centuries in New Zealand to all but secure his Ashes spot

Driving seat: Nick Compton hit back-to-back centuries in New Zealand to all but secure his Ashes spot

Prolific: Compton averaged 99.25 last season

Prolific: Compton averaged 99.25 last season

Last season he achieved a Bradman-esque
County Championship average of 99.25 and, two Test hundreds in New
Zealand later, he holds an England place three months shy of the Ashes.

‘The County Championship provides the route to the England team and it is really important that message is projected.

'Compton is a fine example of someone who was banging out big runs to a degree where we could no longer not pick him,’ acknowledged England limited-overs coach Ashley Giles as county sides prepare for Wednesday's opening games of the Championship season.

‘In the end he selected himself by the sheer weight of numbers he was stacking up and that has to be a boost for all county cricketers out there.

'From my experience with Warwickshire, he was by far the stand-out guy we played against; by virtue of the fact you actually had to get him out.

'He exhibited the skills you look for in a top player as well. You can’t just do it by getting runs, you have to display the mental and physical attributes to play Test cricket.’

Mark Butcher, a predecessor of Compton’s as an England Test opener, added: ‘Compo’s thing is that he was not picked on the basis of one glorious summer. He has done it year in, year out and that as much as anything is the lesson for others.’

Recognition: England coach Ashley Giles believes Compton selected himself after his prolific run-scoring

Recognition: England coach Ashley Giles believes Compton selected himself after his prolific run-scoring

Championship cricket, with its
unrelenting schedule, remains the best gauge of a player’s credentials,
according to Giles, the director of cricket who guided Warwickshire to
the title last September.

‘Over
the course of a long season, take away all the variables of weather,
injuries to a degree, and it is the best signal of who is the best
cricket team in the land,' he said.

On Wednesday morning, the Championship
pennant will be hoisted on the pavilion at Edgbaston for the champions’
opening fixture against Derbyshire. But who does Giles view as the most
likely challengers this year

Champions: Warwickshire will begin their Division One defence on Wednesday against Derbyshire

Champions: Warwickshire will begin their Division One defence on Wednesday against Derbyshire

Addition: Middlesex have been strengthened by the signing of James Harris (left)

Addition: Middlesex have been strengthened by the signing of James Harris (left)

‘I think Middlesex will be a dangerous side,’ he said. ‘When we sat back at the end of last season and reflected, we felt they were the most similar side to us in how they played their cricket. If they had nudged us a bit harder last year I reckon they could have beaten us but they were quite tentative.’

Former Surrey batsman Butcher, meanwhile, said: ‘I will be keeping an eye on Yorkshire because they are a very talented group. They have some young guys in there so to go all the way might be beyond them because of that youth.

‘To me it’s no surprise that Warwickshire got into positions to win things over the past couple of years because of the average age of their team. They are a mature team, not an old team.'

Cups run over: All the trophies that will be played for this summer, and the Ashes in the middle

Cups run over: All the trophies that will be played for this summer, and the Ashes in the middle

Ashley Giles and Mark Butcher were talking ahead of this year’s LV= County Catch-up – A monthly online programme featuring news, player interviews and behind the scenes insight from the LV= County Championship circuit.

Arsenal"s Jack Wilshere was forced off with a thigh injury against Sunderland

Arsenal face anxious wait over Wilshere as England star hobbles off at Sunderland

By
Thom Drake

PUBLISHED:

16:42 GMT, 9 February 2013

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UPDATED:

09:54 GMT, 10 February 2013

Jack Wilshere was forced off during his Arsenal's 1-0 victory against Sunderland with a thigh injury after being bodychecked by Alfred N'Diaye.

There didn't seem to be a great deal
of contact from the new Sunderland signing, but it was enough for Wilshere to be replaced by Abou Diaby as Arsenal looked to keep hold of their lead.

Arsene Wenger was visibly furious with the physical nature of Sunderland's tackling, as his playmaker was left on the floor on more than one occasion.

After the match the Arsenal manager said that Wilshere 'can't walk properly now', but hopes he will only be out for around four or five days.

Down: Jack Wilshere was in distress when receiving treatment after the collision

Down: Jack Wilshere was in distress when receiving treatment after the collision

Furious: As Wilshere hobbled off, Arsene Wenger was irate with the referee

Furious: As Wilshere hobbled off, Arsene Wenger was irate with the referee

Laurent Koscielny, who was initially
named on the Arsenal teamsheet, had to be withdrawn just before kick-off
after limping out of the warm up with a calf injury.

He had passed a fitness test before
the game, but was unable to take to the pitch, meaning Bacary Sagna had
to play centre back and Carl Jenkinson came in at right back.

Arsenal were also made to play the last 30 minutes without Carl Jenkinson, who was sent off for two
yellow cards, the second being a silly lunge on Stephane Sessegnon.

He will be suspended for their FA Cup fifth-round clash against Blackburn on Saturday.

They
held on to pick up a 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light after Santi
Cazorla had put the Gunners ahead in the first half with a low shot past
Simon Mignolet.

Fighting: Wilshere and N'Diaye go head to head for the ball

Fighting: Wilshere and N'Diaye go head to head for the ball

Smash: Bramble came in with a heavy tackle on the Arsenal midfielder

Smash: Titus Bramble came in with a heavy tackle on the Arsenal midfielder

Wilshere's injury comes the day after Wenger had said that the England star needed to be protected from burnout and future injuries.

He had played a leading role in their 2-1 win when Brazil visited Wembley, outshining the likes of Ronaldinho and Neymar.

However Wenger was more philosophical: 'It is not just the physical aspect, but the mental pressure every time he plays. We will have to manage him well physically to make sure he doesn't face that burnout.

'I had in fact expected Jack to play only a part of the game on
Wednesday, but it didn't happen and because of his quality he will be
exposed to that, the overuse of his quality, and you can understand that.

'He will have to be managed like everyone else.'

Competitive: Wilshere and Lee Cattermole getting to grips with each other in the middle of the park

Competitive: Wilshere and Lee Cattermole getting to grips with each other in the middle of the park

Winner: Santi Cazorla's strike was the only goal of the game

Winner: Santi Cazorla's strike was the only goal of the game

Andy Murray pictures show added muscle ahead of Australian Open 2013

Muscle-bound Murray shows off bulked-up frame ahead of latest shot at Aussie Open

has left him hungry for more.

Murray enjoyed a breakthrough season last year when he became the first British male to win a grand slam in 76 years with his success at the US Open, while he was also crowned Olympic champion during a fairytale summer for the Scot.

The world No 3 is not ready to settle for that, though, and has spoken of his determination to keep on improving and adding to his title collection.

Andy Murray

Murray looks on during practice ahead of the Australian Open

Watch out, Australia: Andy Murray practices serving as coach Ivan Lendl looks on at Melbourne Park

Murray serves as his coach Ivan Lendl watches on during practice at Melbourne Park

Focused: Murray has his sights set on the Australian Open, which begins next Monday

Murray serves as his coach Ivan Lendl watches on during practice at Melbourne Park

Murray once again spent December building his fitness at a gruelling training camp in Miami before flying home briefly for Christmas and then on to Australia via the Middle East. While in Florida, Murray worked hard on his physical strength, doubling his weekly weightlifting sessions from two to four, in a bid to boost his shot power.

The result is an added three pounds of muscle to his already impressive frame. And, judging by the impressive pictures taken of the Scot in practice in Melbourne today, he is in peak physical condition ahead of his latest tilt at the year's opening grand slam title.

Speaking ahead of the upcoming Australian Open, where the 25-year-old will aim to improve on runners-up finishes in 2010 and 2011, Murray told the Daily Telegraph: 'The US Open and the Olympics made me extremely motivated.

'It wasn’t a case of, “Oh, everything’s done now”. It’s taken a long time to get there and to win those sorts of events.

Murray has been hard at work building his fitness over the winter

Murray has been hard at work building his fitness over the winter

What a specimen: Murray has been hard at work building his fitness during the break over the winter

Murray has been hard at work building his fitness over the winter

'I know the feeling when you do win them now and it’s worth all of the work that you put in.'

Prior to his success at Flushing Meadows, Murray had won 22 singles titles but had never managed to go all the way in a grand slam tournament, tasting defeat in four finals and reaching numerous semi-finals.

He added: 'In the past, there were loads and loads of questions. I wasn’t physically strong enough. I wasn’t mentally strong enough. I didn’t listen to my coaches. I was spoilt. Whatever it was, none of that really bothers me any more.

'I’m just looking for ways to keep improving.'

Although Murray has been working hard on the physical side of his game, he is adamant that the real difference between victory and defeat comes from brains, not brawn.

The Scot's love of boxing is well known – he counts David Haye as a close friend – so he was thrilled to meet former undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis while filming for the BBC's SPOTY programme, where the pair talked training – and winning.

'Heavyweight boxing is the pinnacle of sport really, especially when he (Lewis) was fighting,' said Murray. 'So to get to pick his brains about certain things was nice.

'I asked a lot of questions about current boxers and how you train. He was saying boxing is 70 per cent mental, 30 per cent physical in the actual talent you need, and I think that applies to a lot of sports.

'The difference in how guys hit a ball is not that huge, but it’s about how you deal with the pressure moments and who can hold their nerve.

'When you get towards the end of sets, some guys make more mistakes than others.'

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES…

Murray at Melbourne Park last year

Murray flexes his muscles back in 2009

Murray's torso is noticeably less ripped during practice at Melbourne Park last year (left) while, despite his best Incredible Hulk impression, his still-impressive physique from 2009 (right) is not as muscular as today

Arsenal"s Johan Djourou agrees Hannover loan

Djourou agrees Hannover loan spell as Arsenal clear-out gathers pace

By
David Kent

PUBLISHED:

13:24 GMT, 5 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

13:37 GMT, 5 January 2013

Move: Johan Djourou will join Hannover

Move: Johan Djourou will join Hannover

Arsenal defender Johan Djourou has agreed to join Hannover on loan until the end of the season.

The Switzerland international has struggled to hold down a regular first-team place but is Arsenal's longest-serving player, having joined the club in 2004.

The 25-year-old has made just two appearances for the first team this season, captaining the side to Capital One Cup victories over Coventry and Reading.

Djourou's move to Germany is dependent on the formality of the necessary paperwork being completed as he has already passed a medical.

'Johan Djourou is an internationally-experienced footballer who we are convinced will be able to help us out quickly,' said Hannover's director of sport Jorg Schmadtke.

'He fits the bill perfectly for what we were looking for because he is also eligible to play for us in the UEFA Europa League.'

Coach Mirko Slomka has welcomed Djourou, saying: 'After losing Felipe and Leon Andreasen (to injury), we needed to act defensively.

'With his physical robustness, his tactical understanding and his high level of commitment, I am convinced we will profit from having him.'

Hannover are currently 11th in the Bundesliga.

Meanwhile, PSV Eindhoven are interested in taking Arsenal midfielder Andrey Arshavin on loan.

The 31-year-old rejected a move to Reading but is interested in linking up with former Russia coach Dick Advocaat in Holland.

Second chance: Marouane Chamakh has joined West Ham on loan

Second chance: Marouane Chamakh has joined West Ham on loan

Marouane Chamakh joined West Ham on loan yesterday after failing to prove himself at the Emirates.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been heavily linked with Barcelona striker David Villa who is available for 16million.

The Spaniard is ready to ask his club to grant him a January move to the Gunners.

Sportsmail exclusively revealed Wenger’s interest in the striker last month and talks between both clubs are ongoing.

Sources
close to the deal claim Villa is very keen on a move to the Emirates
Stadium during the transfer window and wants to speak with the north
London club.

Fulham and Martin Jol"s issues to resolve in 2013

Fulham near crisis point after defeat against Swansea… and here are the key issues Jol and Co need to resolve in the New Year

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UPDATED:

22:38 GMT, 30 December 2012

Among some rather vague comments about Dimitar Berbatov’s best position and Fulham’s January shopping policy, Martin Jol was adamant of one thing on Saturday evening.

Fulham’s performance in the 2-1 defeat against Swansea was, he said, their best for two months. It must have been a cold winter for some supporters.

Jol’s team are now 14th in the Barclays Premier League and only four points clear of the bottom three. Their last win was five games ago; prior to that they had been winless in seven. A drama is fast becoming a crisis and, worryingly, there are numerous issues to resolve.

Cold winter: Martin Jol claimed that the 2-1 defeat to Swansea was Fulham's best performance in two months

Cold winter: Martin Jol claimed that the 2-1 defeat to Swansea was Fulham's best performance in two months

Unlucky: Fulham were beaten 2-1 at home by Swansea

Unlucky: Fulham were beaten 2-1 at home by Swansea

LOVERS AND FIGHTERS

Jol highlighted one of Fulham’s key issues ahead of the Liverpool defeat earlier this month when he said his side had ‘too many lovers, not enough fighters’.

Those comments came after a 2-1 defeat against QPR in which his side won nine tackles (their average at the time was 17) and their tally for the season is 259 – better than only Everton and Reading.

There is much to love about the way Fulham play, especially flair players like Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz, but, Steve Sidwell and the injured Mohamadou Diarra aside, there is no great physical presence in midfield.

Left-back Matthew Briggs, making his second league start of the season, lost a 50-50 against 5ft 5in Nathan Dyer on Saturday, which told its own story.

OLD LEGS AND TOO MUCH TINKERING

Fulham have the division’s oldest squad with an average age of 27.72 years and that might explain their propensity for niggly injuries and, also, why their attacks occasionally lack zip.

Their squad is loaded with guile but, in the absence of real pace, they sometimes lack an extra dimension, which makes them easier to defend against. Earlier in the season they had one of the most prolific attacks, and yet they have scored only five in their past eight games.

Tactically, Jol has been restricted by injuries and the departures of important players like Moussa Dembele, Clint Dempsey and Danny Murphy.

With them he hoped to play a dynamic 4-3-3, but since they left, and because of injuries, he has been forced to revert to 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 systems that he favours less.

Departure: Jol saw the likes of Mousa Dembele leave for pastures new

Departure: Jol saw the likes of Mousa Dembele leave for pastures new

Flying the nest: Clint Dempsey (left) followed Dembele to Tottenham

Flying the nest: Clint Dempsey (left) followed Dembele to Tottenham

Me too: Jol let Danny Murphy (left) leave for Blackburn

Me too: Jol let Danny Murphy (left) leave for Blackburn

Jol said: ‘In May we had Murphy, Dembele and Dempsey in midfield. After that we had Diarra, Sidwell and Ruiz. Last week I played with Kieran Richardson, Giorgios (Karagounis) and Chris Baird… we cannot play in our formation the last three months.’

There is no denying the fine job Jol has done while overhauling the teams of Roy Hodgson and Mark Hughes – only three of the 18-man squad that faced Swansea were involved in the 2010 Europa League final – but he seems unsure of what his best XI is. Indeed, he has retained the same players for consecutive games only once this season and on Saturday there were six changes.

AWAY DAY MISERY

The never-ending issue. Of their 11 completed Premier League seasons, they have never won more than five games on the road in a campaign (2003-04) and averaged three.

They have done so only once this so far season, when they beat Wigan 2-1.

JANUARY SALES

Jol admitted on Saturday that reinforcements are needed. Sportsmail understands he will enter the January market with a 10million budget and wants a goalkeeper, defender and midfielder.

Jol said: 'I have the chairman’s number and if I need something I give him a phone call. So I gave him a phone call.

'Sometimes he gives me a call. I feel if everyone is fit we are good enough, but there are a few players who are a bit older, a bit injury prone, so we have to try to do something.'

Woeful: David Stockdale made an error for Swansea's second goal

Woeful: David Stockdale made an error for Swansea's second goal

Beneficiary: Jonathan De Guzman pounced to score the decisive goal

Beneficiary: Jonathan De Guzman pounced to score the decisive goal

On the back of Saturday’s showing, the goalkeeper search will take on added importance. Second-choice keeper David Stockdale had a shocker and the second goal was a ‘Christmas gift’ to Swansea, according to Jol.

Regular stopper Mark Schwarzer, 40, was out with a neck injury, but after years of impressive performances he is having a relatively poor season behind a leaky defence (only five teams have conceded more than Fulham’s 36).

CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM

Bryan Ruiz. He missed six games with injury, but on his first start since November 18 he was Swansea manager Michael Laudrup’s man of the match.

His partnership with Berbatov is lovely to watch and can be extremely effective with the right support.

‘He was one of our best players so I’m very happy that he’s back to his old level and that he’s pulling the strings,’ Jol said.

When fit, Ruiz has the ability to get Fulham scoring again and the points should follow.

Every cloud... Bryan Ruiz (left) has dazzled behind the frontman this season

Every cloud… Bryan Ruiz (left) has dazzled behind the frontman this season

Michael Hussey retires from international cricket

Mr Cricket can't be tempted by another Ashes berth as Australian batsman Hussey calls time on international career

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UPDATED:

10:19 GMT, 29 December 2012

Australia batsman Michael Hussey will retire from international cricket at the end of January.

The 37-year-old confirmed that the third Test against Sri Lanka at the Sydney Cricket Ground – scheduled for January 3 to January 7 – would be his last, with his international commitments ending after the ensuing one-day series, which ends on January 23.

An official statement from Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said: 'Michael Hussey has been a vital contributor to many Australian team wins over his very successful Test cricket career.

Calling it a day: Michael Hussey will play his last Test for Australia against Sri Lanka in January

Calling it a day: Michael Hussey will play his last Test for Australia against Sri Lanka in January

'Affectionately known as 'Mr Cricket', he has always been thoroughly committed to meticulous preparation and the highest levels of physical fitness which have in turn delivered consistent performances in all forms of the game.

'An incredibly reliable player and leader within the Australian cricket team, Michael will retire from Test cricket with a record that puts him amongst the very best Australian batsmen of all time.

'Beyond his contributions to team success, he will be remembered for the way he has carried himself on and off the field – and in doing so he has won the respect and admiration of players, officials and fans all around the world.

Mr Cricket: Hussey had a remarkable career at the crease with Australia

Mr Cricket: Hussey had a remarkable career at the crease with Australia

Loss: Hussey will miss the Ashes series against England

Loss: Hussey will miss the Ashes series against England

'In congratulating him on a great Test career, we wish him well and hope to see him stay close to the game after his playing days are over.'

He has 6183 runs in 78 Tests to date, with those coming at an average of 51.52 and including 19 centuries.

Hussey has also scored 5442 runs at an average of 48.15 in 185 one-day international matches and was also part of Australia's 2007 World Cup winning side.

Hussey will remain available for selection for the Western Australia Warriors and the Perth Scorchers for the remainder of the 2012-13 season and will make a further announcement about his future on Sunday.

Michu is proving to be one of Spain"s best exports

Bargain buy Michu is proving his worth alongside some of Spain's greats

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UPDATED:

16:08 GMT, 23 December 2012

Before the start of the season, most fans in England had never heard of him. Now, Swansea City’s Michu is one of the most talked-up, threatening midfielders in the Premier League.

The Spaniard pegged back Manchester United at the Liberty Stadium, making sure Sir Alex knew exactly who he was, and in doing so recorded his 13th goal of the season to earn his side a hard-earned point.

A snip at just 2million, he represents one of the league’s biggest bargains. But where does he stand among his country’s best

The main man: Michu has proved to be a great signing for Swansea so far

The main man: Michu has proved to be a great signing for Swansea so far

Xavi Hernandez, Barcelona
Barcelona’s Xavi turns 33 next month but has just signed a contract extension, keeping him at Camp Nou until 2016.
A true dead-ball specialist and an expert in both expansive and contained possession, he is not the biggest goal-threat, having only crept into double figures once in his career.
Estimated market value: 68million
Games: 17
Goals: 4
Shots: 25

Xavi Hernandez

Andres Iniesta

Barca duo: Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta are two of Spain and Barcelona's best

Andres Iniesta, Barcelona
He smashed in the goal which won Spain the World Cup in 2010 and his humble approach is eternally endearing. An accomplished technician, Iniesta makes up for anything he lacks in physical prowess with intelligence and versatility.
Estimated market value: 61.5million
Games: 12
Goals: 1
Shots: 16

Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona
One of the game’s modern-day greats, Fabregas is a superb passer, an accomplished finisher, was the very heart of Arsenal’s midfield and is proving indispensable for the Primera Liga greats.
He also has nine assists to his name and has dropped into Tito Vilanova’s highly-charged, switch-driven approach with ease.
Signed from Arsenal for 35million
Games: 15
Goals: 5
Shots: 21

Back home: Cesc Fabregas joined Barcelona from Arsenal in 2011

Back home: Cesc Fabregas joined Barcelona from Arsenal in 2011

David Silva, Manchester City
Silky Silva had a slow start with Manchester City, often finding he was easily out-muscled and dispossessed, but since settling with the Premier League champions, he’s been lively and exciting.
A true playmaker, his absences through injury this season have certainly been felt.
Signed from Valencia for 24million
Games: 15
Goals: 1
Shots: 25

Little master: David Silva has proved to be a key player for City

Little master: David Silva has proved to be a key player for City

Jan Vertonghen tips Tottenham target Christian Eriksen to light up Premier League

Vertonghen tips Tottenham target Eriksen to light up Premier League

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UPDATED:

14:59 GMT, 17 December 2012

Jan Vertonghen believes Tottenham target Christian Eriksen would be a big hit in England if he decides to swap Ajax for the Premier League.

Vertonghen played with the young midfielder in Amsterdam before joining Spurs in the summer.

Eriksen is out of contract at the end of next season and he is already being tracked by Europe's biggest clubs.

Great Dane: Christian Eriksen is wanted by a host of clubs in Europe

Great Dane: Christian Eriksen is wanted by a host of clubs in Europe

The young Denmark international has indicated he will not sign a new deal with Ajax and Vertonghen, who scored the only goal of the game against Swansea on Sunday, would love to be reunited with his former team-mate.

'Technically, he's one of the best players I've played with,' Vertonghen told the Evening Standard.

'He can use his right foot and his left foot equally well and he is always fit.

'Since he was 17 or 18 he has played so many games for Ajax and hardly ever been injured. When he gains a bit more physical strength, then I think he can play in any team. 'I don't want to speak for him but he is a good player, and I think a good player can play here.'

Old pals: Jan Vertonghen (right) played with Eriksen at Ajax

Old pals: Jan Vertonghen (right) played with Eriksen at Ajax

Maroune Fellaini headbutts Ryan Shawcross: Referees launch clampdown on holding in the penalty box

EXCLUSIVE: Referees launch clampdown on holding in the penalty box after Stoke's tactics against Everton causes storm
PLUS Former World Cup referee Graham Poll on the difficulty detecting the pushers, holders and blockers

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UPDATED:

12:49 GMT, 17 December 2012

Referees are to clamp down on holding in the penalty area in a move which will see Stoke City's defensive tactics come under the spotlight.

Stoke have acquired a reputation for rough-house tactics with Maroune Fellaini taking particular issue with Ryan Shawcross's physical approach on Saturday.

Ryan Shawcross holds Maroune Fellaini

Ryan Shawcross holds Maroune Fellaini

Hold on a sec: Ryan Shawcross holds Maroune Fellaini (left and right)
during the 1-1 draw at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday. Sportsmail
understands referees are set to clamp down on such foul play

VIDEO: Match highlights from the Britannia – Stoke 1-1 Everton…

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REMEMBER THE LAST CLAMPDOWN

Mike Dean was the centre of attention at Bramall Lane in September 2006, when he awarded three penalties in the last 20 minutes of a Barclays Premier League match between Sheffield United and Blackburn.

First, on 70 minutes, Blackburn's Benni McCarthy went down theatrically under pressure from David Unsworth, but Paddy Kenny kept out Lucas Neill's spot-kick.

Seven minutes later, United's Rob Hulse had his shirt tugged in the box by Zurab Khizanishvili, with a penalty contentiously awarded by Dean. Hulse saw the kick saved by Brad Friedel.

A handball decision against Neill, spotted by Dean's assistant Mike Cairns, four minutes from time gave Hulse a chance to atone – but he was again denied by Friedel and the game ended in a 0-0 stalemate.

ADAM SHERGOLD

Now, Sportsmail understands that elite
group of Barclays Premier League referees have decided enough is enough
and plan to penalise players for holding, pushing and shirt-grabbing at
set-plays. If the ball is in play, a penalty will be awarded.

The Potters are not alone, with many strikers becoming frustrated that top-flight defenders have been able to get away with impeding them in this way for so long.

Everton midfielder Fellaini reacted with a shocking display of physical violence when he headbutted Ryan Shawcross at the Britannia Stadium, but it is not the first time that Shawcross and Stoke have been criticised for their approach.

Two years ago, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger accused the Potters of playing 'rugby' instead of football. That provoked Stoke to lodge a complaint with the FA.

In 2010, Wenger said: 'You cannot say it is football any more. It is more rugby on the goalkeepers than football. When you see the way Shawcross kicked Heurelho Gomes, how Robert Huth pushed Gomes in the goal, you cannot say that is football anymore.'

The evidence was clear on numerous highlights programmes over the weekend as foul play in the Stoke penalty area was broadcast.

Daily
Mail chief sports writer, Martin Samuel today called for officials to
take action on this issue and it seems the the festive fixtures will
provide the test ground for new focus at set-plays.

Samuel
wrote in his regular Monday column: 'It was still illegal to hold on to
another player to prevent his movement. Meaning the first foul that was
committed in the Stoke City penalty area in the 59th minute on Saturday
was by defender Ryan Shawcross.

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

Not just Stoke: Ciaran Clark of Aston Villa grapples with Stoke's Kenwyne Jones earlier this month at Villa Park

Not just Stoke: Ciaran Clark of Aston Villa grapples with Stoke's Kenwyne Jones earlier this month at Villa Park

Hold tight: Wigan's Adrian Lopez grabs a handful of Jonny Howson's shirt during Norwich's 2-1 win on Saturday

[caption

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

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

GRAHAM POLL'S OFFICIAL LINE: HOLDING IS EASY TO DETECT, IT'S BLOCKING THAT IS HARD TO PENALISE

GRAHAM POLL

Ryan Shawcross clearly did not deserve to be butted on Saturday but he should have had a penalty awarded against him for holding Marouane Fellaini.

While PGMOL chiefs are very happy with officiating so far this season, cautions are down, particularly those for dissent, the one issue that stands out is holding and blocking at set pieces.

A compilation of examples will be put together and shown to referees to get commitment from them to punish this offence more often and in a consistent way.

Stoke City are bound to feature in that DVD, not exclusively of course, but the way Shawcross clearly held Fellaini is one example of many.

Holding and blocking at set pieces has been raised as an issue many times before and is seen as difficult to clamp down on due to the consequences and likely reaction.

Firstly the offence starts to occur before the ball is in play and so cannot be punished by a free kick until the ball is played. If the referee stops play before the ball is played then he could caution the offender for unsporting behaviour but play would still restart with the corner or free kick that was delayed.

That is why you often see the referee stop the kick being taken and warn the players to stop holding. This has stopped being an effective deterrent as so few follow up on the warning.

The second issue is that once the ball is played some defenders stop holding the opponent and so there is no offence to punish. However, that is happening less frequently as defenders are realising that referees are ignoring the offence which is not hard to detect.

Go back to Shawcross at the weekend and Fellaini. You could clearly see Shawcross’ arms wrapped around Fellaini, preventing him from jumping for the ball. Referees are trained to watch the ‘drop zone’ at set pieces rather than the ball in the air as nothing happens to the ball.

Blocking offences are more difficult to detect but one which always stands out is Kevin Nolan on the opposing goalkeeper. Whichever team he plays for Nolan has always stood on the ‘keepers toes, sometimes literally. It started when he was at Bolton and they faced Arsenal knowing that Jens Lehman was always put off by such actions.

I used to ask him to step away which he refused and so I awarded a free kick as soon as the corner was taken and told him that I would do so at every corner. Two free kicks and he would move away, so it can be cured.

Rough stuff: Shawcross catches Man City's Mario Balotelli with his arm last season

Rough stuff: Shawcross catches Man City's Mario Balotelli with his arm last season

Do MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar and India still have hunger for Tests? – Nasser Hussain

Do Dhoni, Gambhir, Sachin and India legends still have Test hunger

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UPDATED:

21:53 GMT, 9 December 2012

India have big questions to answer in the aftermath of the Kolkata Test and the biggest surrounds the attitude of their near god-like top names.

When the likes of MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and the rest went back to their hotel rooms after that defeat in the third Test, how much were they hurting How much hunger for the long-haul form of the game — with its mental and physical demands — have these multi-millionaire players still got

Are they thinking, deep down, ‘Never mind’, and prioritising instead the fun, glamour and huge financial rewards that come from the Indian Premier League

Plenty to ponder: MS Dhoni

Hungry for more Gautam Gambhir

Plenty to ponder: India captain MS Dhoni (left) and Gautam Gambhir (right)

That is the crux of the issue now for India. The last thing their cricket needs, really, is a win in Nagpur and a share of this series because all that would do is paper over the cracks. They would believe everything is OK.

India left Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh out of their squad for the final Test but it is attitudes as much as personnel that need to change. India will always have some good young players but what kind of cricket will they want to play Will they still dedicate themselves to Test cricket or will they look to that lucrative six-week world of IPL Twenty20 instead

We had the sight, just before England completed their famous victory, of India’s chief selector, Sandeep Patil, being caught on TV having what looked like an animated conversation with their coach Duncan Fletcher.

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They could have been talking about what they were going to have for lunch for all we know, but it didn’t look like that. It looked like pretty serious stuff, with some finger-jabbing going on from Patil. And Fletcher would have hated that.

When I worked with Duncan for England he hated anything like that being done in public. He even hated us talking team business in the dressing room because he felt any player watching us might think we were talking about them. He liked to conduct his business in private.

Fletcher has a very different job now. When he was England coach he could take people on for the good of the team. He would incur the wrath of many a county chairman because he knew what was best for England and he wasn’t afraid to upset people along the way. And he turned English cricket around with the help of central contracts and the sort of support for the England team that poor David Lloyd could only dream about when he was coach.

Can Fletcher do that now Perhaps if India lose this series 3-1 the public will realise that there needs to be a shake-up and support Duncan’s attempts to do that, for what is happening in Indian cricket is not Fletcher’s fault. Remember, they have lost two great players in Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, while the greatest of them all, Sachin Tendulkar, is not what he was.

Fletcher will want to look into the eyes of Dhoni, Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and even Tendulkar to see how much hunger they have.

The day that hunger goes is the day they will have to step down and Fletcher will know what needs to be done. It is whether he will be allowed to do it and whether the players take responsibility for what has happened that will be key.

The turnaround in this series has been incredible. For England to have lost three tosses and to have been defeated in the first Test so heavily but to be 2-1 up with one to play is little short of phenomenal.

When they were 2-1 up in the last Ashes series they went to Sydney and produced their best performance and that is what they want to do now.

There have been echoes in this series of how they came back in Australia after a slightly shaky start in Brisbane and England will not want to share the series.

If they complete the job in Nagpur it will be right up there with the Ashes.

Picture dispute

We are unable to carry live pictures from the third Test in Kolkata due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations.

The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.

MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.