Tag Archives: pragmatic

Bradley Wiggins captures British hearts on Tour de France – Edge of the Box

French fancy captures British hearts on Le Tour with Wiggo and Co

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UPDATED:

08:48 GMT, 23 July 2012

What's that old saying about the weather: 'If to Kylie and Jason in Hyde Park you can't dance, just switch on the telly and watch some Tour de France'.

If the last few weeks have been nothing but dark clouds for us over here, over there was the silver lining of three weeks of eye-catching outdoors action along the highways and byways.

This year, given added appeal by the fact that one of our own, Bradley Wiggins – always easy to pick out in the myriad colours his sunny yellow jersey – won it.

Big winner: Wiggins celebrates his Tour victory with Team Sky colleagues

Big winner: Wiggins celebrates his Tour victory with Team Sky colleagues

More from Mark Webster…

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Edge of the Box: Too much of Lawro as Martinez stars for ITV at Euro 2012
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Edge of the Box: Well that was worth the trip! The BBC boys arrive at the Euros… and England bow out
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Edge of the Box: BBC and ITV take pragmatic approach to England's charge at Euro 2012
12/06/12

Edge of the Box: Just when should we get excited about the summer of sport
03/06/12

Edge of the Box: Hodgson's outfit give Euro night a very English feel
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

The complexities, traditions and sheer duration has never really made this ultimate cycling road race a crossover smash here.

However with Wiggins relentlessly, and ultimately triumphant, Mark Cavendish still the king of speed and an emergent Chris Froome making a name for himself, the road was clear for ITV and Eurosport to capture the nation's interest and, yes, affections.

This they both did by leaving no revolution of a wheel uncovered, and by showing images provided by a host nation broadcaster for whom capturing Le Sprit de Tour is second nature.

As the rain poured here, the relentless helicopter shots of rolling countryside, bustling town centres and ancient towering edifices filled our front rooms with a breath of fresh, moisture free air.

Equally, when the images came from the weaving squad of motorbikes, the sight of sweat, sinew and scabs was positively visceral, as was the claustrophobic crush of crowds that frequently framed the riders – particularly on the narrow mountain rides – and the sudden awareness of sheer speed, as a cameraman would let a rider fly by, then away.

Of the two channels, ITV were the one who hosted on site with Gary Imlach and Chris Boardman, yet decided to put their two men in front of a set of screens that wasted what was going on around them.

Final furlong: Wiggins completed a memorable Tour in Paris

Final furlong: Wiggins completed a memorable Tour in Paris

Final furlong: Wiggins completed a memorable Tour in Paris

On commentary, Paul Sherwan did well in quickly calling 'conspiracy theory' on Friday 13th, when a series of punctures in the mountains – including to two of the camera bikes – caused chaos in the racing, but also inspired genuine sporting behaviour from the peloton, led by Bradley Wiggins.

I suppose if you’re going to throw a 'sabeau' in the works, at the top of a French mountain would be as good a place as any.

Eurosport's approach, in comparison, seemed to feel a little more laid back throughout – not least of which, when James Richardson (decamped from an anonymous studio to a cycle bar for the Tour’s coup de grace) referred to a 'cheer for the width of Bradley's ring' as the Wiggin's bike gear mechanism was discussed.

There was also much giggling one day on commentary about how some local Monks would no doubt be getting high on the fumes of their own alcohol supply at their monastery.

And the translation of a Luis Leon Sanchez interview (eggy and wooden bits of telly, these interviews, throughout the coverage on both channels) as he received a piece of cardboard covered in signatures, was delivered with tongue firmly in cheek. 'I will keep this with pleasure', they said he said.

All of which lead to a genuine visual feast on the last day as the racing went right to the line and a Cavendish stage win that ITV's Phil Liggett described as 'just all too perfect', as it was coupled with Wiggins also celebrating from the middle of the peloton as Le Tour's nouveau nombre un.

Yellow peril: Wiggins has already set his sights on winning Olympic gold

Yellow peril: Wiggins has already set his sights on winning Olympic gold

Yet surely the image of the Tour was that of Friday’s three French donkeys, in their yellow, green, and spotted jerseys, who lined up on cue for the helicopter camera, and in doing so, made complete assets of themselves.

Of course the weather, nor indeed the history, were too shabby all weekend up on the North West Coast of England either where the Claret Jug was on the line in The Open.

Clearly not as expansive as le Tour, the course at Royal Lytham St Annes still provided some of the most unique images in major sport.

For example, it’s not often you get the chance to see a superstar golfer standing on the thirteenth tee of a major on a Saturday evening, and notice that someone has just parked their dry cleaning van in the front garden for the weekend.

That evening, there was also a fabulous aerial shot of Tiger on the 9th which showed just how this famous old links course pokes like a nobbly finger into the compact little community that surrounds it,

And on Thursday on the third tee as Garcia was preparing to drive, we discovered that we wouldn’t be seeing a train whizz by his right ear any time soon as they'd been suspended so as not to put the players off.

Easy does it: Els lifted the Claret Jug after sealing victory in Royal Lytham

Easy does it: Els lifted the Claret Jug after sealing victory in Royal Lytham

Which naturally received one of those well established 'in my day' responses from a man who is all about history and tradition, Peter Allis.

Indeed, so much does the venerable Allis feel comfortable at presenting himself as the keeper of the faith, he at one point felt perfectly entitled to inform the organisers, on air mind, that ‘the price of food and beverage on the course is disgraceful. Shame to lose your reputation for the price of a packet of chips’.

However, I felt this tournament underlined that he no longer necessarily gets to be the ultimate voice of British golf.

For me, Nick Faldo was excellent throughout the Sunday afternoon and although it was Allis' eloquent thoughts that accompanied Ernie Els once he had won, it was Faldo's insight, enthusiasm, sense of commentary 'team' and first-hand knowledge of the players and the game in general, that really brought the last nine holes home.

Not something I saw coming when he was something of a po-faced player, I must admit, but a pleasant surprise on a weekend that reminded us that not only can we put on a bit of a bash, we can also be top banana at the odd one, too.

Come the next few weeks, that is something that’s well worth keeping in mind.

Edge of the box: England crash out as BBC boys arrive at tournament

Well that was worth the trip! The BBC boys arrive at the Euros… and England bow out

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UPDATED:

23:56 GMT, 24 June 2012

Well, the plan was to come into the tournament not doing it, but by the time Sunday evening came around, we just couldn’t help ourselves could we…England expected.

Equally, the BBC expected an absolutely massive TV audience so Lee Dixon went around and turned off all the lights, Alan Hansen switched off the gas, and Gary Lineker locked up behind them all in Salford as the Match Of the Day team headed off to Kiev for the quarter final game against Italy.

And again: England crashed out on penalties once again

And again: England crashed out on penalties once again

More from Mark Webster…

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Edge of the Box: Hodgson's outfit give Euro night a very English feel
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Which in its own way proved a little disappointing.

Just as so often happens on those more elaborate stag weekends, the ITV boys had gone out to the party early and were having a right time of it on their Warsaw balcony.

It would have been nice if when the BBC lads showed up, they’d taken the room below them so we might have had the prospect of Adrian Chiles and Roy Keane climbing down from above and mooning their BBC counterparts.

Then again, perhaps not.

Instead, the BBC took their place inside the Olympic Stadium, in a booth that provided not only a splendid view, but also plenty of atmosphere. And when I say atmosphere, I mean noise.

Sound seemed to be prove to be a nightmare for their technical team all night long.

Class act: Andrea Pirlo of Italy was on top form

Class act: Andrea Pirlo of Italy was on top form

Admittedly they had to deal with a PA announcer for whom all the way through the build up, silence was never golden, but even then Lineker and his team of pundits often sounded tinny and thin.

Perhaps they can get that room double glazed if they’re planning to stay there for the duration

Acoustics issues aside, there was also the editorial question of quite how big to go with the build up for this game To which the answer pretty quickly was, without sparing the horses.

‘Dare we start to believe’ asked Lineker at the very start of the coverage – a question which proved to be just about immediately rhetorical as we were soon rallying around the flag to a spirited piece of hip hop called ‘3 little Words’ and a rousing speech delivered by the imposing tones of Terence Stamp.

Pals: Joe Hart congratulates Mario Balotelli

Pals: Joe Hart congratulates Mario Balotelli

It felt that if we were indeed to go further in the tournament, the BBC would have had to find a way to cause all our TVs to explode with excitement if they were going to top that.

Mind you, if you were worried that the tone was going to be too over the top throughout, you needn’t have worried for long, because come the kick off, Mark Lawrenson was on hand for co-commentary duties alongside Guy Mowbray.

Now I don’t expect Alan Hansen’s regular straight man to be some kind of tub thumper or cheer leader, but his, shall we say, low key way of doing his business can somewhat suck the life out of a situation.

That was something that became particularly pointed when from the second half onwards, England themselves were doing little or nothing to alleviate the problem. Which is also when his, ahem, wisecracks certainly weren’t helping either!

While the boys in white were barely hanging on in there, Lawrenson was working the room.

Opposite number: Hart's counterpart Gianluigi Buffon made a crucial save in the shoot-out

Opposite number: Hart's counterpart Gianluigi Buffon made a crucial save in the shoot-out

We got a joke about Federico Balzeretti’s ballerina wife wanting a ‘tutu draw’ and a zinger to Mowbray’s question ‘what has Prandelli got up his sleeve’ – ‘his shirt’ – that will no doubt have them rolling in the aisles when he starts his summer season in Great Yarmouth. That, or trying to set light to their seats.

In the end, though, it was an older story than that joke that we were left with, and images of the two Ashleys probably the only thing that will be seen ad nauseam, and that anyone is ultimately really going to remember.

That is unless they decide it would be hilarious to make a commercial for a pizza restaurant, of course.

While Lethal Bizzle may want to consider altering a lyric in that ‘3 Little Words’ tune of his…to ‘not good enough’.

WEDGIES

Wednesday afternoon on Sky Sports News and the Spanish squad’s press conference took no chances in promoting their sponsors with tiny TV screens in front of their microphones rotating logo, and with giant bottles of Cruz Campo beer on the table…

Winner: Black Caviar (right) at Royal Ascot

Winner: Black Caviar (right) at Royal Ascot

Thursday on BBC 1 at Royal Ascot and Australia’s wonder horse Black Caviar’s amazing record is displayed on a graphic that includes the fact that ‘she loves swimming and going to the beach’. As I say, ‘Australian’ wonder horse…

BBC 2 on Saturday evening at the Olympic trials in Birmingham, and a victorious Dwayne Chambers goes on the charm offensive with a direct message delivered straight to camera. With perhaps just a bit too much emphasis on the ‘offensive’ part…

London 2012 Olympics: Plastic Brits will know words to national anthem – Charles van Commenee

Van Commenee insists Plastic Brits will all know words to national anthem at Games

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UPDATED:

23:34 GMT, 5 June 2012

UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee has revealed that athletes on the media's 'radar' will definitely know the words to the national anthem before the London Olympics.

Van Commenee's surprise choice of America-born Tiffany Porter as team captain for the World Indoor Championships in March sparked a row over 'Plastic Brits', athletes who have switched allegiance to represent Britain.

The news of her appointment at the team's official press conference in Istanbul prompted Sportsmail to ask Porter to sing the first few lines of God Save the Queen.

Flag of convenience: Britain's 100m hurdler Tiffany Porter (left)

Flag of convenience: Britain's 100m hurdler Tiffany Porter (left)

Porter – who qualifies for Britain through her London-born mother and has held a British passport since birth – said at the time: 'I do know the first lines, I know the whole of God Save the Queen. I'm not known for my singing ability. I don't think that's necessary.'

But Van Commenee appears to have taken a typically pragmatic view of the kind of 'rubbish' which comes up in an Olympic year by ensuring other athletes will be prepared for similar questions.

'They know the words, or they will,' the Dutchman said. 'I'm not going to rehearse everybody because we have 90 athletes, but people that matter… let's say the relevant ones, the ones on your radar.'

Asked if it should matter whether athletes know the words to the national anthem, Van Commenee added: 'It does because if they don't somebody will make an issue of it.

'(Whether it should matter), that's a different question.'

Van Commenee insists he would only know the first two lines of his own national anthem, but claims he had far more important matters to deal with when he was technical director of the Dutch Olympic Committee for the Beijing Olympics.

Round table: UKA chief Charles van Commenee talks to journalists in Rome

Round table: UKA chief Charles van Commenee talks to journalists in Rome

'I know in Olympic year all sorts of rubbish comes up,' Van Commenee added. 'This is nothing compared to what I had to go through in preparation for Beijing.

'In the lead up to Beijing there were lots of issues around Taiwan, Tibet, smog, human rights, not having the ability to express yourself in public, child labour; all these things had to be addressed by me.

'This is nothing compared to these major political issues. I had a dozen press officers around me saying “Don't say this, don't say that”.

'Now I represent a sport. At that time I represented a nation. And those were in my mind serious issues. The issues I deal with now are partly not serious.

'But it comes with the job. This is nothing compared to what football managers have to go through, but at least it tells me that athletics is worth talking about these days. When you are in the spotlight then yes, you get issues to talk about.'

Controversial move: Van Commenee chose Tiffany Porter as team captain for the World Indoor Championships

Controversial move: Van Commenee chose Tiffany Porter as team captain for the World Indoor Championships

Another such issue is the fact that Van Commenee and former World triple jump champion Phillips Idowu are still not on speaking terms.

Idowu insists he will not speak to Van Commenee until he receives a public apology from the Dutchman.

Van Commenee criticised Idowu in June last year for using Twitter to announce he was pulling out of the European Team Championships in Stockholm, something Idowu has always denied.

'The communication is always open at this end, it takes two ways,' added Van Commenee, who suffered broken ribs in a recent fall from his bicycle in Holland.

'I stay in close contact with his coach and know what is going on. It doesn't matter that I don't have a relationship with him, not at the distance he is jumping.

'Obviously it's not what you would like with athletes, but it is what it is.'

Celtic"s Joe Ledley says Rangers" Lee McCulloch deserved his red card

You”re guilty! Ledley says McCulloch deserved his red card

Celtic midfielder Joe Ledley insistedLee McCulloch was guilty of a “blatant elbow” to earn the red card thatcould have ruled him out of Wednesday”s Old Firm clash.

Ledley admitted, however, that he could understand why Rangers had launched an appeal to ensure McCulloch was able to feature in the potentially pivotal derby.

Off you go: Lee McCulloch leaves the pitch after being sent off against St Mirren

Off you go: Lee McCulloch leaves the pitch after being sent off against St Mirren

The Ibrox player was ordered off by referee Steven McLean following a clash with Graham Carey in the champions” 2-1 defeat to St Mirren on Christmas Eve.

Yet he is free to play at Parkhead this evening – and in the January 2 meeting with Motherwell – as the festive break means an SFA judicial panel will not be able to deliver an appeal verdict until next Thursday at the earliest.

The situation has sparked controversy, with Ledley offering his opinion that it is a case of Rangers playing the system.

“You can understand why they are going to appeal,” said Ledley. “You need your best players for the game.

Free to play: McCulloch will face Celtic on Wednesday

Free to play: McCulloch will face Celtic on Wednesday

“Obviously you can see it was a blatant elbow but most teams would have appealed anyway.”

Asked if he was surprised the Christmas and New Year holidays had created such a delay in terms of an appeal judgment, Ledley said: “Yeah, maybe. I think everyone could see it was an elbow. I knew right away that it was a straight red and I thought the referee did well to see it, as well. But it is football and, hopefully, they can sort it out as soon as possible.”

McCulloch could end up having a standard two-match ban for violent conduct increased if the judicial panel ultimately decides it was a “frivolous” appeal.

Celtic boss Neil Lennon took a pragmatic view of the situation as he declined to point any accusatory fingers at opposite number Ally McCoist.

“It”s not the first time a team has used that (appeal),” said Lennon.

“I”m sure it won”t be the last. I can understand a manager doing that. Do I have a problem with it Only because they”re playing us!

“It”s not for me to comment on whether they (the SFA) have to look at it.

“There will be a lot of people unhappy if McCulloch starts having been sent off at the weekend.”

Manchester City can"t buy until they sell, says Roberto Mancini

We can”t buy until we sell, says Mancini as Man City tighten the purse-strings

Manchester City might have spent more than 600million on new players under Abu Dhabi rule, but manager Roberto Mancini admits he must sell before he can buy when the transfer window reopens next week.

Carlos Tevez, still valued at 40million by City, would command by far the biggest transfer fee and Mancini also hopes to offload defenders Wayne Bridge and Nedum Onuoha.

He is concerned that injuries could derail City’s Premier League title challenge, with Yaya and Kolo Toure set to be missing for a month from mid-January on African Nations Cup duty.

January sales: Mancini needs to move on players before he can buy

January sales: Mancini needs to move on players before he can buy

But after more than three years of lavish spending, City’s wealthy owners are insisting on a more pragmatic approach.

‘Now we need to sell two or three players and then we’ll see,’ said Mancini.

‘We want to sell and after that we may have time to buy someone if it’s possible.

‘But it’s not easy. I ask the owner for Messi but it’s not possible!

‘Until now we have been lucky because we didn’t have any big injuries. This could be a problem in January because we lose Yaya and Kolo, and I hope we don’t lose any other players through injury.’

City have been linked with Ajax defender Jan Vertonghen, Lille’s Eden Hazard and Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote among others, but Mancini claims that clubs routinely ramp up the price when City inquire about their players.

On the radar: City have been linked with a move for Cheick Tiote

On the radar: City have been linked with a move for Cheick Tiote

He also admitted that another potential target, Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi, will be difficult to lure from the Italian capital.

‘De Rossi was born in Rome and it’s unlikely that he’ll leave the city,’ said the City boss.

‘There are players that could be good for us, but every time we want to buy a player their clubs ask for lots of money.’

City are top at Christmas for the first time in 82 years and will look to maintain their advantage when they visit West Bromwich Albion on Monday.

But Mancini has told his players that they must be mentally prepared to fall behind Manchester United during the course of the title race if they are to succeed in deposing their rivals as champions.

Up for a fall: Mancini believes his team will behind Man United at some stage

Up for a fall: Mancini believes his team will behind Man United at some stage

‘I think we’ve got more chance if we have that attitude,’ he said.

‘I’ve told the guys that we can be second for three or four games, and go one or two points behind United.

‘But it won’t change anything. We know that United have to play many games away and we can recover points in those moments.

‘I think we are strong enough to stay on the top. We also know we can go into second position at some time. There are more than 20 games until the end. But it’s important we stay there and continue to play well and believe in ourselves.

‘When you are a strong team and you havea difficult moment you pull together and use it to stay where you are. United are very strong like that.

United: Mancini hopes his side

United: Mancini hopes his side”s spirit can make that of their neighbours

‘I’m sure we’ll continue to do well but we know that if we want to win this league we need to play well to the end and beat them at home.

‘In Italy when you’re on the top at Christmas then you usually win it, but here it’s different. It’s a good omen to be top at Christmas, but it would be a better omen if United lost three games!’