Tag Archives: pressure

Mario Balotelli scores as Milan beat Genoa 2-0

A booking within 30 seconds of coming on and a second-half goal… just another day at the office for Balotelli at Milan

By
Sunni Upal

PUBLISHED:

22:40 GMT, 8 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

07:59 GMT, 9 March 2013

Mario Balotelli came off the bench fire 10-man AC Milan to a 2-0 win at Genoa in a crazy Serie A match for the former Manchester City striker on Friday.

The Italian was booked within 30 seconds of coming off the bench in the first half to replace the injured Giampaolo Pazzini, who had just given Milan the lead.

Balotelli then latched onto Cristian Zapata's pass to fire home the second goal with an hour played.

Scroll down for video…

On target: Mario Balotelli scored Milan's second goal in their 2-0 win at Genoa

On target: Mario Balotelli scored Milan's second goal in their 2-0 win at Genoa

Regular: Balotelli scored for the fifth time in as many games since his move to Milan

Regular: Balotelli scored for the fifth time in as many games since his move to Milan

It was Balotelli's fifth goal in as many matches since joining Milan. The former City forward was making his first appearance since the Milan derby two weeks ago.

Former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini was also booked for diving as he tried to win a penalty in the second half.

Blow: Balotelli replaced the injured Giampaolo Pazzini, who earlier gave Milan the lead

Blow: Balotelli replaced the injured Giampaolo Pazzini, who earlier gave Milan the lead

Eventful: The former City striker was booked just 30 seconds after coming off the bench

Eventful: The former City striker was booked just 30 seconds after coming off the bench

Milan came under extreme pressure after
Kevin Constant was sent off in the 65th minute for lashing out at Genoa
defender Cesare Bovo, but their defence held firm as they strengthened their grip on third place in Serie A ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Barcelona.

Milan now have 51 points, two behind second-placed Napoli and four ahead of Inter Milan and Lazio.

VIDEO: Watch Mario Balotelli's clinical finish against Genoa

Manchester United 2 Reading 1: match report – Javier Hernandez and Nani score

Manchester United 2 Reading 1: Clinical Nani and Hernandez see off brave Royals

PUBLISHED:

21:56 GMT, 18 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 18 February 2013

Manchester United were made to sweat after Jobi McAnuff scored a late Reading goal after the hosts had gone two goals up.

After relentless pressure, Sir Alex Ferguson's men finally scored on 69 minutes when Nani struck from an Antonio Valencia pass.

Javier Hernandez scored United's second just three minutes after the opener, but McAnuff coolly slotted past David de Gea to make things interesting for the final ten minutes.

Near post: Javier Hernandez nodded the ball past Adam Federici to put the Reds 2-0 up

Near post: Javier Hernandez nodded the ball past Adam Federici to put the Reds 2-0 up

Breached: Nani finally opened the scoring for Manchester United at Old Trafford

Breached: Nani finally opened the scoring for Manchester United at Old Trafford

MATCH FACTS

Manchester United: De Gea, Jones (Nani 42), Smalling, Vidic, Buttner, Valencia, Anderson (Carrick 84), Young (Van Persie 64), Cleverley, Hernandez, Welbeck

Subs not used: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Giggs, Kagawa

Goals: Nani 69, Hernandez 72

Reading: Federici, Shorey, Mariappa, Morrison, Kelly, Karacan, Leigertwood (Guthrie 63), McAnuff, Le Fondre, Hunt, McCleary (Robson-Kanu 70)

Subs not used: Andersen, Gunter, Pearce, Daniel Carrico, Pogrebnyak

Goal: McAnuff 81

Referee: Andre Marriner

More to follow…

Wheeling away: Nani came off the bench for Phil Jones in the first half

Wheeling away: Nani came off the bench for Phil Jones in the first half

Fist pump: Sir Alex Ferguson gestures to the home crowd as he makes his way out after half-time

Fist pump: Sir Alex Ferguson gestures to the home crowd as he makes his way out after half-time

.

Chase: Danny Guthrie attempts to keep pace with Manchester United's Anderson

Chase: Danny Guthrie attempts to keep pace with Manchester United's Anderson

.

Blow: Phil Jones was taken off in the first half through injury

Blow: Phil Jones was taken off in the first half through injury

Blow: Phil Jones was taken off in the first half through injury

Blow: Phil Jones was taken off in the first half through injury

.

Words of wisdom: Ferguson (left) talks to fourth official Phil Dowd as the pair leave at half-time

Words of wisdom: Ferguson (left) talks to fourth official Phil Dowd as the pair leave at half-time

Premier League predictions: Martin Keown and Jamie Redknapp go head-to-head

Premier League predictions: Martin Keown and Jamie Redknapp go head-to-head

By
Martin Keown and Jamie Redknapp

PUBLISHED:

22:45 GMT, 28 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

07:59 GMT, 29 January 2013

Pressure is hotting up at both ends of the Premier League table this week, with a full programme of fixtures across Tuesday and Wednesday.

At the bottom, Newcastle and Aston Villa head into their clash knowing defeat could see a calamitous season hit new lows with a place in a relegation zone.

Friendly rivalry: Jamie Redknapp and Martin Keown have predicted this midweek's Premier League results

Friendly rivalry: Jamie Redknapp and Martin Keown have predicted this midweek's Premier League results

Friendly rivalry: Jamie Redknapp and Martin Keown have predicted this midweek's Premier League results

Closer to the top, Arsenal and Liverpool, both still very much the outsiders in the four-way race for the Champions League places, square off at Emirates Stadium, though even three points won't see either side overtake Tottenham, who are at Norwich.

As for the title-chasing trio, Chelsea and Manchester City are away – the champions at QPR and the Blues at Reading, while Manchester United welcome Southampton to Old Trafford.

With so much at stake – and so soon after one of the most memorable weekends of FA Cup upsets – a surprise, or two, are certainly not out of the question.

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

Alan Pardew

Alan Pardew

Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger

But where do our experts see the points going Martin Keown and Jamie Redknapp, themselves no strangers to playing under intense pressure, have had their say on all 10 games taking place.

If it's goals you want, both suggest you head to north London. In the west of the capital a shock could be on the cards if Jamie is to be believed, while Martin thinks a similarly surprising result could happen at the Madjeski.

MARTIN AND JAMIE'S PREMIER LEAGUE PREDICTIONS

TUESDAY
JAMIE REDKNAPP
MARTIN KEOWN

Aston Villa v Newcastle

1-1

1-1

QPR v Manchester City

2-2

1-1

Stoke v Wigan

2-1

2-1

Sunderland v Swansea

2-1

1-0

WEDNESDAY

Arsenal v Liverpool

2-2

3-2

Everton v West Brom

2-1

2-0

Fulham v West Ham

2-1

1-1

Man United v Southampton

3-1

3-1

Norwich v Tottenham

1-2

0-2

Reading v Chelsea

1-2

2-2

Premier League preview

Eden Hazard ball boy row: police launch probe but video supports claim Chelsea ace kicked the ball

VIDEO: Police launch probe into alleged assault on ball boy… but is this the new camera angle that clears Chelsea's Hazard
Belgian FA hit out at Eden Hazard after incident during Capital One Cup tieHazard clashed with ball boy Charlie Morgan, 17, while trying to reclaim ballFormer Chelsea star Pat Nevin backs Hazard and calls Morgan 'disgraceful'
17-year-old ball boy is heir to 42m Swansea director's fortune Claims ball boys were under orders to help Swansea rubbished by club
FA investigating the incident, but PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor does not believe Hazard should face additional punishment

qualifier for Belgium and was filmed tucking into a burger from a van outside.

Steven Martens, the chief executive of the Belgian FA (KBVB) said: 'It's unfortunate and of course it's not something we are proud of. No football authority or person interested in football likes to see acts of violence or lack of respect and this is what happened.

'It might have happened in the heat of the fire but professionals are expected to be able to control themselves.

'They have to be able to control their emotions and when they don't that's unpleasant in general.

Anger: Swansea's Ashley Williams (centre) is held back as he tries to confront Eden Hazard (off camera)

Anger: Swansea's Ashley Williams (centre) is held back as he tries to confront Eden Hazard (off camera)

Sending off: Chelsea's Eden Hazard (#17) receives a red card from referee Chris Foy for violent conduct

Sending off: Chelsea's Eden Hazard (#17) receives a red card from referee Chris Foy for violent conduct

'Of course as we are the Belgium FA we don't like it to be a Belgium national squad player but I am very much convinced that Eden himself will realise that.

'Eden is more than intelligent enough to understand that this is going to be a lesson learned for him. All of us make mistakes in life.'

Martens, speaking at a meeting of UEFA's 53 member associations in Nyon, said Hazard's frustration was perhaps a reflection of the intense pressure on his shoulders.

Helping hand: Chelsea's Demba Ba (right) checks on the ball boy after he had clashed with Eden Hazard

Helping hand: Chelsea's Demba Ba (right) checks on the ball boy after he had clashed with Eden Hazard

Boast: The 17-year-old earlier wrote on Twitter that he was 'needed for timewasting'

Boast: The 17-year-old earlier wrote on Twitter that he was 'needed for timewasting'

He added: 'It is easy to judge from outside but you also have to see it from the player's side too.

'I have been a professional sports coach for many years and the demands on athletes and players are there day-in, day-out.

'Yes we think these guys are well-paid and have a luxury life but on the other hand there is an expectation on them all the time. 'It's not an excuse but it is something that could help us try to understand.'

While the boss of Belgium's football association was damning of Hazard, the Chelsea forward found a supporter in Pat Nevin.

Injured: The ballboy was named as 17-year-old Charlie Morgan, the son of Swansea director David Morgan

Martin Morgan

Wealthy: Charlie Morgan (left), the ball boy who
was kicked by Eden Hazard during a League Cup game last night, is the
son of multi-millionaire businessman Martin Morgan (right)

Property: The self-made tycoon is the owner of the luxury Morgans hotel in Swansea, pictured

Property: The self-made tycoon is the owner of the luxury Morgans hotel in Swansea, pictured

Boasting: Charlie posted this picture of a broken bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne on his Twitter page

betting slips

Boasting: Charlie posted a picture of a broken
bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne on his Twitter page, as well as one
of torn-up betting slips

The former Chelsea winger claimed he would have done the same as Hazard if he had been involved in the controversial ball-boy incident at Swansea.

When asked how he would have reacted to the situation, Nevin told BBC Radio 5: 'I would have kicked the ball out from underneath the ball boy if he had been lying like that, 100 per cent.'

And Nevin also criticised the behaviour of 17-year-old Morgan, branding it 'disgraceful'. He added: 'I was very, very disappointed by the way the ball boy acted, and I say “acted”.

'He must have been watching footballers, the way he rolled around and pretended to be more injured.

Travelling in style: Charlie put up this picture of himself in Virgin Atlantic's upper class

Travelling in style: Charlie put up this picture of himself in Virgin Atlantic's upper class

Destination: The teenager on holiday in Las Vegas, in another picture he posted to Twitter

Destination: The teenager on holiday in Las Vegas, in another picture he posted to Twitter

'He only has one job and his job is to go and give the ball back, and what did he do He keeps the ball.

'I have to say I was absolutely amazed this morning to find he is 17, not 12, not 13. 'He should know what his action should be in that situation. His behaviour was disgraceful.'

The ball boy at the centre of the storm Charlie Morgan is the son of hotel and property tycoon Martin Morgan, said to be the 32nd richest person in Wales.

Morgan is on the the Swansea board of directors – which is how Charlie ended up as a ballboy for the League Cup semi-final against the Londoners.

Pricey: A photo of the Louis Vuitton store in Las Vegas which Charlie put on Twitter

Pricey: A photo of the Louis Vuitton store in Las Vegas which Charlie put on Twitter

Charlie Morgan receipt

Charlie Morgan weather

Shared: The teenager retweeted someone else's
120,000 receipt with the caption, 'This is huge time', and also let his
friends know about the good weather at his holiday destination

Posting on Twitter before the game, the teenager wrote: ‘The king of all ballboys is back making his final appearance #needed #for #timewasting.'

Charlie's father is the director of 11 hotel and property companies and has featured in recent editions of the Sunday Times Rich List.

Morgan comes in at No 32 in the top 100 list for Wales – ahead of Premier League footballers Michael Owen and Ryan Giggs and 80s rock chick Bonnie Tyler.

Ben Watkins, 18, a former school friend of Charlie's, said: 'He must be the richest ball boy in football.

In pain: Morgan (second right) is ushered away from the sidelines following the incident with Hazard

In pain: Morgan (second right) is ushered away from the sidelines following the incident with Hazard

'He's mad about Swansea City – what he did was a bit foolish especially after be boasted he was going to time waste. I guess he's been a bit spoiled because his dad's got pots of money.'

In posts on Twitter Charlie brags about drinking Veuve Clicquot champagne and going on holiday to Las Vegas and Dubai.

Swansea are highly unlikely to take any action against Morgan for his part in the ugly clash – and the club has rubbished claims that their ball boys were ordered to give them an unfair advantage in the Capital One Cup clash.

Morgan has been widely accused of
deliberately withholding the ball, a stance seemingly supported by his
posts on Twitter earlier in the day.

Chelsea star: Eden Hazard (right) is pictured earlier in the League Cup match with Swansea City's Ben Davies

Eden Hazard award in May 22, 2011 in Paris

Striker: Eden Hazard is pictured earlier in the match (left) and winning an award in Paris in May 2011 (right)

The club refused to comment when asked to explain the decision, but Swansea vice-chairman Leigh Dineen reiterated Michael Laudrup’s assertion that their ball boys were not briefed to favour the home side.

Dineen told the Guardian: ‘There was no agenda, absolutely not. Stoke, a few years ago, would get the ballboy to wipe the ball down for a long throw and that was something the ballboys were obviously told to do. But certainly we don't line up the ballboys and ask them to waste time. Definitely not.’

A club spokesman added that Morgan,
who started his role aged 12 in 2008, ‘has been a ballboy for about six
seasons and there’s never been a complaint before’.

The
FA have also confirmed they will be taking no action against Swansea
over the incident, while South Wales Police are not pursuing the case as
Morgan declined to press charges.

The FA are reviewing footage of the
action, but Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon
Taylor does not believe Hazard should face additional punishment.

Hurt: The ballboy (centre) is ushered away from the sidelines following the incident with Eden Hazard

Hurt: The ballboy (centre) is ushered away from the sidelines following the incident with Eden Hazard

TODAY'S POLL

Should Eden Hazard face long ban for ball boy kick

No

Yes

VOTE

Hazard

POLL RESULTS

Close

All polls
Click to view yesterday's poll results

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He said: 'There is obviously a process which the FA have to go through and it is up to them what they decide. 'But I don't think the young lad involved would want to see Hazard punished further.

'The referee made the correct decision on the night and you do not want people to be hung, drawn and quartered for things that happen in the heat of the moment.

'It is disappointing and Hazard has shown remorse and the two clubs handled the matter very well.

'It will be seen as another stick to beat the game with, but the game has always been about passion and emotions running high and it is a shame for this to overshadow the wonderful achievements of Swansea and Bradford – two clubs who have faced extinction – in reaching the final.'

Coach Alan Curtis also insisted the ball boys were not told to waste time.

He said: 'We never gave them any
instructions whatsoever to slow the game down. It’s never ever been the
case at all. It was a really unfortunate situation.

'I’ve got to be honest though, if I had been the player, I would have tried to get the ball back as quickly as possible.

'Unfortunately it’s been blown up to
be a major incident. It was quickly defused straight after the game.
They met up after the game and shook hands, both apologised and, as far
as we’re concerned, that is the end of it.

'It’s a shame that it’s overshadowed everything.'

Meanwhile, Fulham boss Martin Jol has accused Morgan of 'playing rugby' against Chelsea and said he could understand Hazard kicking out at the teenager.

Jol said: 'Our ball boys are between 10 and 12 years of age. I saw he (Morgan) was probably over-age, probably 21. A big boy, you know Six foot, maybe

'I felt for Hazard, but you can't kick people. He (the ball boy) was playing rugby with him, so I can understand he wanted to get the ball.

'We always tell coaches to tell the ball boys to give the ball back as soon as possible. To do it quick; and not to irritate people.

'Of course you could say Eden should have controlled himself, but it was bizarre. The ball boy shouldn't lie on the ball and play rugby with it.

'He (Hazard) should have controlled himself, but I can see why he did it. I'm not allowed to say I would have done the same so, of course, I would not have done that.'

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Sportsmail"s Magnificent Seven, including Louis Smith and Tom Daley, come together for the final time

Thanks for being MAGNIFICENT! Sportsmail pays tribute to the seven athletes we have followed from 2005 to the 2012 Olympics

|

UPDATED:

00:04 GMT, 28 December 2012

Seven years ago, Sportsmail began following seven young athletes as they set out on their journeys to try to reach the 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games in London.

Three of the original seven made it to the Games but two called time on their sporting careers before the start of this year. Their replacements, however, were both part of Team GB and Paralympics GB last summer.

It has been an enlightening experience, punctuated by extremes of success and disappointment, watching the development of these athletes' careers since 2005.

Recently, Sportsmail's Magnificent Seven met up for the final time and shared memories of their experiences.

Then and now: From left, Gemma Howell, Tom Daley, Louise Watkin, Sportsmail's Andy Hooper, Emily Pidgeon, Shanaze Reade and Louis Smith met up for one final time recently

Then and now: From left, Gemma Howell, Tom Daley, Louise Watkin, Sportsmail's Andy Hooper, Emily Pidgeon, Shanaze Reade and Louis Smith met up for one final time recently

As they were: The original Magnificent Seven lined up at Lord's, from left, Tom Daley, Louis Smith, Jean-Rene Badrick, Emily Pidgeon, Giles Scott, Rachael Latham and Shanaze Reade

As they were: The original Magnificent Seven lined up at Lord's, from left, Tom Daley, Louis Smith, Jean-Rene Badrick, Emily Pidgeon, Giles Scott, Rachael Latham and Shanaze Reade

Tom Daley, Diving, 18, from Plymouth

The youngest of the Magnificent Seven has become a superstar. Daley was selected for the Beijing Games aged just 14 after becoming a British and European champion in the 10-metre platform.

He added the world title in 2009, two Commonwealth golds (in the individual event and synchronised 10m platform) in 2010 and then won an emotional Olympic bronze medal in London, despite intense pressure and expectation and the passing of his father, Rob, in May 2011.

'When I look at some of the photos from 2005 I'm so small! It's crazy how much I've changed since then and what I've achieved in that time.

'Life's changed, too. In fact, it's stacked up to a whole new level since London. Going out anywhere, there are so many people who stop you and say, “Congratulations”.

'It's nice to feel appreciated and respected but it does feel weird that seven years of training were geared towards London 2012 and now it's been and gone.

Superstar: Tom Daley won a bronze medal in the men's 10m platform at the London Games

Superstar: Tom Daley won a bronze medal in the men's 10m platform at the London Games

In the spotlight: Daley (right) presented the Young Sports Personality of the Year award to Josef Craig (centre)

In the spotlight: Daley (right) presented the Young Sports Personality of the Year award to Josef Craig (centre)

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN…

The Magnificent Seven series originated in 2005 through Sportsmail selecting seven talented athletes to follow through to London 2012.

The National Lottery joined as partner in 2006 to promote their funding into the seven chosen athletes, along with over 1,200 other competitors, on their journey to the London 2012 Games.

National Lottery funding, originating directly from the Lottery-playing public across the UK, enables elite athletes to benefit from the world-class coaching, facilities and medical support, giving them every possible chance to succeed during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

As the nation's attention moves from the London 2012 Games to Rio 2016, The National Lottery will continue to invest in sports facilities, support staff and coaching, providing opportunities for future generations to succeed on an elite level.

No-one has contributed more to our athletes than National Lottery players, with more than 1,200 athletes having benefited from world-class coaching and support. www.national-lottery.co.uk/London2012

'I think 2012 changed the face of British sport but there was a bit of a crash after the Olympics when I thought, “I can't believe it's all over.” I'm slowly, gradually, building my way back up there.

'After the Games, I went on holiday with my family and then got two golds at the World Junior Championships: one in the 10-metre event and one in the 3m synchro with Jack Laugher. Then I went to Dubai with my friends and have been back at school catching up on my maths and Spanish A-levels. I want to get three A*s rather than three As.

'Rio in four years' time does seem a long way away, but there are also World Championships, European Championships and Commonwealth Games in between, so there's plenty to look forward to.

'I think in total I might make maybe four or five Olympic Games – depending on how diving moves on – but we'll get to Rio first. It's outdoors, which the Chinese don't like, and I love diving outdoors.'

Louise Watkin, Paralympic Swimming, 20, from Redhill (replaced Rachael Latham)

Latham, who was born with Erbs Palsy, which limits the use of her left arm, made two swimming finals at the Paralympic Games in Beijing.

She retired in 2010 due to injury but went on to become a Channel 4 presenter and was a Sportsmail columnist during the London Paralympics. Watkin, who has upper limb deficiency, won two Paralympic silvers and two bronzes in London.

Dazzling: Louise Watkin won four medals in the London Paralympic Games

Dazzling: Louise Watkin won four medals in the London Paralympic Games

'The Paralympics were amazing. I didn't want them to end. You could hear the crowd when you were under water in the Aquatics Centre. I came away with two medals from the individual events and two in the relays. It went brilliantly.

'In the past four years, the Paralympics has moved on so much. People are still talking about it now. It's nice so many people have got the Paralympics bug. 'I hope there will be more integration in the future. Come and watch us at the World Championships next year. Then hopefully I'll get my gold in Rio!'

Giles Scott, Sailing, 25, from Huntingdon

Scott was a world youth champion in the Laser class when he joined us in 2005 and became world champion in the Finn in 2011. The one major disappointment was missing out on London 2012.

Scott competes in the same class as Ben Ainslie and GB could only send one sailor. With Ainslie now retired, Rio 2016 cannot come soon enough.

Disappointed: Giles Scott missed out on the London Games as he was in the same division as gold medal winner Ben Ainslie

Disappointed: Giles Scott missed out on the London Games as he was in the same division as gold medal winner Ben Ainslie

Who they are

'I wouldn't call it bad luck, being in the same division as Ben. If I had performed at the right regatta it would have led to me being selected to go to the Olympics.

'I was unsure whether to watch the Olympics and some of it was hard, but I got into it and was probably as addicted as everyone else by the end. Since then I have joined an America's Cup team (Team Korea) and moved away from the UK. I wanted to broaden my horizons so I don't mess up for Rio like I did this time around.'

Emily Pidgeon, Athletics, 23, from Cheltenham

Pidgeon was an outstanding junior 5,000 metres runner but has struggled with injuries and found it difficult on the senior circuit. She still hopes her best years are to come.

Her boyfriend, GB runner Andrew Osagie, was in the fastest 800m race in history, the Olympic final in London.

'It has been an amazing journey. It's scary how quickly it's gone. I always thought I'd be there in London, so it's been up and down.

'When I realised I wasn't going to be
able to compete, it wasn't that I didn't want anything to do with the
Olympics but I just knew I'd find it hard to go and watch.

A first: Emily Pidgeon ran around the Olympic Park stadium before anyone else

A first: Emily Pidgeon ran around the Olympic Park stadium before anyone else

'But because I got injured in May I had dealt with that by the time the Olympics came round.

'I was determined to enjoy the experience and I'm so glad I did. I was there to watch Andrew in his heat and his final. I think there's a reason I was injured and I hope Rio will be my time.'

Gemma Howell, Judo, 22, from Telford (replaced Jean-Rene Badrick)

Badrick, then 16, won bronze at the European Youth Olympics but retired in 2010 through injury. Howell replaced him, battled back from serious injury and was selected for London.

She was disqualified in her first-round fight against world champion Gevrise Emane.

'It was the worst and best week of my life. I was devastated. When I came off the mat I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible but then I thought, “I just have to use this going forward to Rio.”

Devastated: Gemma Howell was disqualified in her first round bout at the 2012 Olympics

Devastated: Gemma Howell was disqualified in her first round bout at the 2012 Olympics

'I was more nervous than I'd ever been. I have dreamed since I was little of being Olympic champion and I was a bit overwhelmed. Hopefully I can just get on with the job next time around.

'I've started a sport and exercise science degree at Bath University. My brain hurts after four years out of education. But while I want an Olympic medal more than anything, it's education and judo going forward.'

Louis Smith, Gymnastics, 23, Peterborough

In 2006, Smith won the Commonwealth pommel horse title aged 16 and has not looked back. He won Britain's first individual Olympic gymnastics medal for 100 years with a bronze in Beijing and went one better with silver in London.

He also won a bronze in the men's team event. Since the Games he has won the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing. 'No one would ever have thought we could have got that bronze in the team event. I didn't even think we could do it. It was a big statement to the rest of the world.

'It was really hard to come back again for my individual event. Winning the bronze was such a high and then you've got to come back down again for the event that was most important for me, and the one everyone expected me to do well in. It was tough but I'm glad I finished it the way I did.

Enjoying it Smith posed for Sportsmail on the back of a real 'pommel horse'

Enjoying it Smith posed for Sportsmail on the back of a real 'pommel horse'

Proud: Smith put in a sterling performance on the pommel horse to take silver home

Proud: Smith put in a sterling performance on the pommel horse to take silver home

A different route: Smith recently won the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing

A different route: Smith recently won the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing

'There are about seven different paths I could take now: fashion, property, sport. Do I carry on to Rio The Commonwealths When do I call it quits It's about making the right and the best decision, not necessarily the one everyone wants me to make.

'I want to start my own fashion range. It's something I've wanted to do for a while, although I won't be keeping any clothes I've worn on Strictly. They love their glitz and glam and shiny stuff!

'Magnificent Seven has been remarkable in so many different ways. It's been fantastic and we've done some funky stuff along the way.

'I never want to go on a horse again after that photoshoot when I pretended it was a pommel horse! I was scared stiff. I did it, although I probably wouldn't do it now!'

Shanaze Reade, BMX Cycling, 24, from Crewe

Reade went to Beijing as a world champion but crashed out in the final after deciding she would not settle for silver. Reade regained her BMX world title in 2010 and has also won two world championship golds on the track, but that Olympic medal still eludes her. Reade finished sixth in the BMX final in London.

'It was quite hard, mentally, after the Games. Everyone in British cycling did so well and I was tipped to get a medal but, again, I didn't fulfil my potential. I can definitely see what went wrong. It's about staying injury-free moving forward and just getting on that good mental pathway of getting some success under my belt and getting my confidence back.

'I have “Team Reade”, a group of people who I trust and I know will push me, to help me do that, but first and foremost it comes down to me.

Crushed: Shanaze Reade finished sixth in the final of the Olympics BMX Cycling

Crushed: Shanaze Reade finished sixth in the final of the Olympics BMX Cycling

Crushed: Shanaze Reade finished sixth in the final of the Olympics BMX Cycling

'I'm at a crossroads now where I feel I want to be world champion again in BMX, hopefully in New Zealand next year, and win a BMX Olympic medal. But then I've been world champion on the track and I also want to get further in that because I've only ever done six- to eight-week blocks of training. I would like to do the Commonwealth Games, and BMX isn't in it, so we'll see.

'I went to Beijing on such a high. I hadn't lost a race for six or seven years so I thought, “Why should it be any different”

'Coming into London was the opposite. I had been injured, missed races, crashed out of finals. I had never really fulfilled what I was capable of doing on the day. Now I don't want to short-change myself any longer.'

Jonathan Trott helps England build lead over India as they close in on series win

Determined Trott stays calm under pressure as England move closer to memorable series win

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UPDATED:

14:03 GMT, 16 December 2012

Jonathan Trott stood defiantly up against the Indian attack, a pitch unfit for purpose and a barrage of verbal abuse to take England to within one good session of one of their best and most historic triumphs in modern memory.

What had been a cagey, turgid and mostly downright dull final Test burst into life with the series on a knife-edge in the final session of the fourth day when Trott put behind him a year full of frustrations to deliver just when it mattered most.

When Kevin Pietersen inexplicably shouldered arms to a straight ball from Ravindra Jadeja – just as Trott had done in the first innings – England, who had battled heroically for the best part of four days, looked to be letting their first series win in India for almost 28 years slip out of their grasp.

Building his runs: Jonathan Trott scored a half century as England look to build a lead

Building his runs: Jonathan Trott scored a half century as England look to build a lead

They were just 98 ahead with three wickets down and the man who could have attacked them to safety gone yet again to left-arm spin. But Ian Bell joined Trott and what followed was the most fluent, potentially decisive, batting of a Test England need only draw today to take the series.

Not to mention the most controversial. For when Trott walked a few paces outside his crease and smacked a ball that had dribbled out of Jadeja’s hand and bounced several times before trickling to a halt on the leg-side of the pitch for four he ignited another argument between these teams over the spirit of cricket.

Trott was perfectly within his rights to do what he did but, even though both Jadeja and MS Dhoni reacted with wry smiles, Ravichandran Ashwin later said that this was the spark for the tense and unpleasant scenes that were to follow.

Remember, it was Dhoni who called Bell back at Trent Bridge last year when he had been run out walking out of his crease at tea. And remember it was Trott who, in Ahmedabad, pleaded ignorance when he had clearly grassed a catch. India feel that their gesture in Trent Bridge has hardly been reciprocated since.

Trott will not care. His totally legal shot – which went down as four off a no-ball – showed the competitive desire of the man and he carried on displaying it when India were convinced, wrongly, they had him caught behind on 43.

This has again been a chastening match for the umpires and those of us who against all hope tried to cling on to a game not dominated by technology. Sorry, this series has proved the Decision Review System doubters like myself totally wrong. It has been punctuated by one awful umpiring error after another.

The latest howlers came from the man this year voted the best official on the ICC elite panel, Kumar Dharmasena. Firstly he gave out Alastair Cook, wrongly, for the second time in the Test and then said no when Trott should have been given lbw on just seven to Jadeja. How important that reprieve now looks.

Frustration: Ishant Sharma thought he had taken Jonathan Trott's wicket

Frustration: Ishant Sharma thought he had taken Jonathan Trott's wicket

Add Sunday’s other wrong decision of Rod Tucker who gave Nick Compton lbw to one he inside edged onto pad – the ball then ballooned to gully so Compton should have been given out anyway, only in a different way – and this series has seen a catalogue of errors from these umpires and the ones who officiated in the first two Tests, Aleem Dar and Tony Hill.

But Dharmasena’s decision to reprieve Trott when he attempted to cut Ishant Sharma was not among them. This was the right call but that did not stop the Indian players losing their cool completely, with their agitator in chief Virat Kohli involving himself in an incident that had nothing to do with him.

There at the end: Ian Bell supported Trott at the end

There at the end: Ian Bell supported Trott at the end

They were picking on the wrong man in Trott. He is one who thrives on such things rather than being cowed by them. He appeared to blow a little kiss at Sharma – that didn’t exactly calm India down – and went on his merry way to an unbeaten 66 by the close with England on 161 for three, a priceless lead of 165.

There was one other flashpoint when Ashwin threatened to run Trott out backing up – he later said in essence that he would not have stooped to Trott’s level – but the combative Trott and his team lived to fight one last day in this absorbing and unpredictable series.

As long as England do not blow it with a cluster of quick wickets today they will surely achieve the draw they need. It would be a series triumph richly deserved. Even yesterday India, until they were stirred into a late reaction, were strangely passive, poor in the field and lacking any sort of dynamism.

Their fortunes were summed up by a quite bizarre first hour yesterday when they batted on but showed no ambition to try to win the match, scoring just 29 runs in 13 soporific overs before declaring with one wicket left four runs behind England’s 330. All they achieved was take time out of the match and made Cook’s task a little easier. It was not very Duncan Fletcher-like cricket at all.

A Test that has never progressed beyond first gear, at least until Trott and Bell took the run-rate up close to a giddy three an over, has done little to further the cause of the ultimate game in its most passionate country. Shame on the groundsman who produced this lifeless excuse of a pitch, whether by accident or design.

But the sheer importance of this Test and what is at stake has made it compelling viewing for the purists. And England just need one last, final push now for the most extraordinary of series wins.

We are unable to carry live pictures from the fourth Test in Nagpur 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.

India v England: Alastair Cook dropped by Cheteshwar Pujara on way to record century in third Test in Kolkata

Pujara left to ponder Cook clanger as ruthless England leave India dazed and confused

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UPDATED:

11:09 GMT, 6 December 2012

It was a day of records for Alastair Cook, but the England captain would doubtless apply a different slant. For him, this was the day his side gave themselves a glorious chance of taking control of a series they were told they had no chance of winning.

The generous interpretation, at least from an Indian point of view, was that England’s 10-wicket win at Mumbai was a one-off. But if that argument felt flaky at the time, it has now been exposed as a total fallacy. Since giving up a potentially soul-destroying first-innings deficit of 330 in Ahmedabad, England have quite simply been the better side.

Their spinners have looked more potent, their seamers – here in Kolkata, at any rate – have found more reverse-swing, and their in-form batsmen have played the more decisive innings.

Record breaker: Alastair Cook (left) hit 136 not out on day two in Kolkata

Record breaker: Alastair Cook (left) hit 136 not out on day two in Kolkata

Cook, of course, belongs to the last group. But he is also in a class of his own.

It was he who showed England they could, in fact, score runs against spinners in Asia with his second-innings 176 in the first Test. And, despite the headlines grabbed by the brilliance of Kevin Pietersen at the Wankhede, it was Cook who quietly helped him ensure a crucial first-innings lead.

Today at Eden Gardens, it was Cook who – with the aid of the diligent and unsung Nick Compton – ground India into the dust.

Ouch: Cheteshwar Pujara dropped Cook at slip when he had scored just 17

Ouch: Cheteshwar Pujara dropped Cook at slip when he had scored just 17

Trailing by only 100 and with nine
wickets in hand, England can now regard tomorrow as a free day’s
batting: there is no time pressure and they will hope to bat only once.
If that sounds familiar, then cast your mind back to Edgbaston in 2011,
when Cook moved to 294 on a remorseless third day and England piled up
710 for 7.

That is a long, long way off. But India’s performance with the ball on the second day confirmed the impression they made with the bat on the first, when the cheap loss of their two centurions in this series – Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara – seemed to leave them dazed and confused.

Worse, they looked listless in the field, flopping over the ball rather than diving, beseeching team-mates to set off in pursuit to the fence, and conceding overthrows. Even the lone wicket they took might have been overturned had the DRS been in use.

Then there was Pujara’s drop at first slip when Cook had 17. This can happen to anyone, and it was by no means a gimme.

But it was hard not think of Durham wicketkeeper Chris Scott, who missed Brian Lara on 18 in a county match at Edgbaston in 1994. ‘I expect he’ll get a hundred now,’ moaned Scott. Lara finished unbeaten on 501.

Cook has already added 119 runs since Pujara put him down. More of the same tomorrow, and England can think about a 2-1 lead.

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.

Joey Barton should be football"s gay hero – Martin Samuel

Gay hero Surely there's only one man to herald football's watershed moment… step forward Joey Barton

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UPDATED:

09:41 GMT, 5 December 2012

Could just one footballer please come out and be gay, so everybody can be really cool about it and the sport can get on with its life Just one, it’s not much to ask surely

Football is beginning to sound a little desperate with its pleading. Rugby, cricket, they’ve all had their gay watershed moment.

Man of the moment: Joey Barton

Sensitive soul: Joey Barton in his Marseille tracksuit

Man of the moment: Joey Barton is a sensitive soul who adds a French twist to his English words

And until football does, too, it will
continue to be presumed that the sport has not evolved enough to handle
male homosexuality.

(Hope Powell, the manager of England’s women, has been openly gay for years, without comment, yet that does not seem to count.)

The gay pressure group, Stonewall, has called again for football to tackle its ‘culture of fear’, while Anders Lindegaard, the Manchester United goalkeeper, has said that football needs a ‘gay hero’.

So here’s a thought. Joey Barton continues his quest for intellectual and social respectability. Why not come out as gay

Outspoken: Barton has often found himself at the centre of attention

Outspoken: Barton has often found himself at the centre of attention

Instant credibility, instant respect, untouchable by the Football Association or future employers. His past misdeeds mentally reprocessed and explained.

‘Well, of course he put his cigar out in that bloke’s face, Gary. He was a tortured soul, forced to live a lie.’

And imagine the new material. A never-ending treasure trove for Barton’s Twitter feed: Alexander the Great, Leonardo da Vinci, Oscar Wilde, Lady Bunny.

And, let’s face it, with that new accent, he’s probably halfway there.

Watch Barton's hilarious French accent below… and read Martin Samuel's column here

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Neil Lennon will send Celtic out for the win against Spartak Moscow

Lennon ready to go all out for glory with Celtic standing on the brink of Champions League progress

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UPDATED:

21:35 GMT, 4 December 2012

One month after the greatest night in Celtic’s Champions League campaign — the unforgettable 2-1 victory over Barcelona — comes their most important.

Beat Spartak Moscow at home, and if Benfica fail to win in the Nou Camp, and Celtic are in the last 16.

‘We’ve got to go for it,’ said manager Neil Lennon. ‘It’s there for us.’

On the brink: Neil Lennon is close to qualifying for the knockout stage of the Champions League

On the brink: Neil Lennon is close to qualifying for the knockout stage of the Champions League

Lennon added he will tell his players that: ‘This is their moment, they might never get this opportunity again.

‘I’m not going to put extra pressure
on them, I want them to play as they can at home on a big European night
— aggressively and with a good tempo.

‘We have players who can score goals
and flair players who can rise to the occasion. Spartak are a dangerous
team but they haven’t got the calibre of Barcelona or the structure of
Benfica in the way they play. But they have flair in their team as
well.’

Celtic must better Benfica’s result.
The Portuguese have the superior head-to-head record so if they match
the Scottish champions they will progress. Celtic could gain 10 points, a
first for them in the Champions League, and go into the Europa League.

The good news from Catalonia
yesterday was that Lionel Messi will start for Barca. He is chasing that
Gerd Muller goalscoring record. Less promising is that Barcelona are to
rest six other first-team regulars, including Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
So, in come six players from Barca B, highly rated forward Gerard
Deulofeu, 18, among them.

‘I’m not concerned with other teams; I’m concerned with my own team,’ was Lennon’s response to this.

The 41-year-old Irishman was in his club tracksuit in the Jock Stein suite at Celtic Park.

History boy: Tony Watt scored Celtic's second goal against Barcelona

History boy: Tony Watt scored Celtic's second goal against Barcelona

Goal threat: Georgios Samaras will hope to help Celtic beat Spartak Moscow

Goal threat: Georgios Samaras will hope to help Celtic beat Spartak Moscow

Lennon was a picture of relaxation
given the enormity of tonight but he knows his side have far exceeded
expectations in the group and to have guaranteed Europa League football
already is an achievement. They were in the fourth pot of seeds when the
draw was made.

‘We have punched above our weight,’
Lennon said. ‘No-one gave us a prayer. ‘Now I want them to keep it going
and have something to get their teeth into in the new year by reaching
the last 16.’

Spartak arrived in Glasgow with
former Celtic winger Aiden McGeady but without manager Unai Emery, who
was sacked 10 days ago. Former Russia midfielder Valery Karpin is, to
use a term, interim boss.

Crunch time: Scott Brown (right) is likely to play through pain against Spartak

Crunch time: Scott Brown (right) is likely to play through pain against Spartak

It is not going well. Spartak lost 4-2 in Karpin’s first game at Zenit St Petersburg and have let in 12 goals in three matches.

So Celtic have hope. Victor Wanyama is suspended but captain Scott Brown, who missed the victory over Barca, is back.

When Celtic won in Moscow in October, it was the first time they had triumphed away in the Champions League group stage.

But now they know they can rely upon themselves in Europe — and you can usually rely on Barcelona, too.

Roberto Mancini says Champions League failure adds no pressure ahead of Chelsea clash

No sweat! Mancini claims Euro failure doesn't pile pressure on City to win back-to-back league titles

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UPDATED:

18:18 GMT, 24 November 2012

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini claims there is no extra pressure to retain the Barclays Premier League title as a result of European failure.

City can longer no longer reach the knockout stages of the Champions League after collecting just three points from their first five group games.

Mancini's men, who were pictured this afternoon on the platform at Stockport station ahead of their trip to Chelsea, made amends for a similar failure last season by going on to win their first league title in 44 years and the focus will now shift mainly to repeating that success.

Enlarge

Feeling the pressure lads Manchester City players wait at Stockport train station ahead of their trip to London to face Chelsea

Feeling the pressure lads Manchester City players wait at Stockport train station ahead of their trip to London to face Chelsea

No 1 fan Carlos Tevez takes time to sign an autograph on the platform

No 1 fan Carlos Tevez takes time to sign an autograph on the platform

With expectations continuing to rise at the Etihad Stadium, it was suggested to Mancini that the pressure on him to achieve that will be greater than a year ago, but he disagrees.

The Italian said: 'I think we could be disappointed because we wanted to go and play the February stage in the Champions League, because we have good players and these players probably deserved to play in this competition.

'But we don't have pressure. We know we have a chance to win if we stay together in a difficult moment like now, but we do not have pressure because we went out of the Champions League.'

For all their vast wealth, power and status as Premier League champions, City remain novices on the Champions League stage.

Although some of the European performances have been lacklustre, Mancini feels it is sometimes forgotten how far the club have come over the last few years.

He said: 'We are Manchester City – we are not Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, who are used to winning every year for 100 years and have big histories.

'We are Manchester City and for 35 years we didn't win. Now in two years we won three trophies and I think that is good for us.

'It is clear we want to win every year if possible but this is impossible because in football only one team will win the Premier League and the Champions League. The other teams can't win.'

This is how you beat the offside trap... A police officer chats to Sergio Aguero (left) and Tevez (right)

This is how you beat the offside trap… A police officer chats to Sergio Aguero (left) and Tevez (right)

With City still unbeaten in the Premier League – and top of the table prior to this weekend's fixtures – the situation is far from dire for Mancini.

But the team have still largely lacked the dynamism they displayed early last season and they will face a stern test of their credentials at Chelsea this weekend, whatever the recent turmoil at Stamford Bridge.

Mancini said: 'I think that we had a problem, we had players injured and we are on the top. I think we can improve more.

'Also, I think this championship will be stronger than last year because I think also Chelsea will fight for the title.

'There are three (teams) in this moment.'

City captain Vincent Kompany is doubtful for the match having suffered a knee injury in the Champions League draw with Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Tired of waiting Joleon Lescott and David Silva (right) amuse themselves as they wait to board the train to London

Tired of waiting Joleon Lescott and David Silva (right) amuse themselves as they wait to board the train to London

The Belgian battled through to the end of the match but left the stadium on crutches and was to undergo a late fitness test.

As the heart of City's defence, his absence would be a major blow for Mancini, who has dismissed concerns over the player's recent form.

Mancini said: 'I think Vinny maybe started this season so-so but now, in the last month, he played really well. Vinny is an important player for us.'

City will face a Chelsea side hoping to restore stability after a tumultuous week which has seen manager Roberto Di Matteo sacked and Rafael Benitez – like Mancini, a former Inter Milan boss – installed as his replacement.

Let's be 'aving you: Aleksandar Kolarov shares a joke with the police officer as his team-mates look on

Let's be 'aving you: Aleksandar Kolarov shares a joke with the police officer as his team-mates look on

Mancini said of Benitez: 'I know him but I don't know him very well.

'As a manager I spoke with him many times before he went to Inter.

'He won trophies in Spain, England – and won a Champions League at Liverpool. I think he is a good manager.'

Mancini's
players were photographed this afternoon on the platform as they waited to board a train to London
ahead of the Chelsea clash.

In
one of the photos, the players were seen sharing a joke with a police
officer as they waited, with Aleksandar Kolarov being the centre of attention.

In another, Carlos Tevez signs a programme for a
young City fan while relaxing before the train arrived to take the champions south in their bid to spoil Benitez's first game in charge at Stamford Bridge.