Tag Archives: purpose

Jack Butland could be sold by Birmingham

Birmingham prepared to sell Butland if Paladini's takeover falls through

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UPDATED:

22:21 GMT, 14 November 2012

Jack Butland will be sold by Birmingham City in the New Year, unless Gianni Paladini's takeover of the club is successful.

The England international has yet to play half a-season for Lee Clark but with the cash reserves dwindling, the keeper will be sacrificed to ensure the St Andrew's club can continue to operate.

Butland has agreed a five-year deal last year and Birmingham rejected a 6m offer by Southampton for the teenager during the summer.

Heading out Jack Butland could be sold by Birmingham

Heading out Jack Butland could be sold by Birmingham

Liverpool are also interested but Birmingham will be in a position to rebuff any interest should the second bid by Paladini's consortium be accepted by acting chairman Peter Pannu.

The offer, which is for an initial 20m backed by a further 10m, is being consideration in Hong Kong by owner Carson Yeung and Paladini's accountants are currently undertaking due dilligence.

Bid: Gianni Paladini

Bid: Gianni Paladini

The former QPR chief executive said: 'We want to get a deal done very soon because we don't want to lose any players in January.

'I am hopeful that we can get something agreed within the next ten days.

'I still believe BIrmingham can reach the play-offs and our intention is to sign four or five players in the transfer window to strengthen.

'We have spent a lot of money trying to get this completed and currently we are looking through the books.

'Our intentions have never wavered. We want it done. And we are keen to get it sorted by the end of next week.'

He said: ‘That means delivering a stadium that preferably is multi- purpose, at the heart of the community, and able to host concerts and big set-piece events alongside world-class sport.’

Yohan Blake breaks car window as he hits cricket six

Sprint for cover: Olympics star Blake turns his hand to cricket… and ends up smashing car window!

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UPDATED:

13:06 GMT, 18 September 2012

If you thought Yohan Blake’s sole purpose in life was to wait for Usain Bolt to retire and take over the throne of sprint king, then think again.

The Jamaican took silver medal in the 100m and 200m behind his compatriot at London 2012 but he also has another passion in life, playing cricket – and he’s not too bad either.

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Oops: Yohan Blake hit a six... but in doing so damaged the car below

Oops: Yohan Blake hit a six… but in doing so damaged the car below

Oops: Smashed window of the car

In his first match since the Olympics,
Blake featured for Bartley XI in a Twenty20 game as they defeated
Correctional Services by 36 runs at the Prison Oval in Jamaica last
weekend.

Blake batted at five and scored 20 off 21 balls before being stumped on the last ball of the innings trying to dance down the wicket to hit a six.

It’s just as well he missed because an earlier shot he sent over the boundary not only cleared the ground but unfortunately smashed the rear view window of a parked car.

Speaking after the game, Blake explained that he was willing to discuss the cost of the damage with the owner while also commenting on the match where he opened the bowling for his side.

Start at 4:25 for Blake's six

Blake said: ‘I was a bit nervous as I haven’t batted in a while but I just had to play myself in and with 20 off 21 balls that’s what I did today.

‘The owner of the car said ‘that’s just cricket’ and I said ‘you know if anything, we can always talk’, it was a wonderful six but I know the owner of the car, he’s a good guy.

‘I’m working on the bowling, I start off
well but I tend to lose concentration later on. The skipper made me
change ends which I didn’t like but I go with it because I don’t want to
go against what the captain says.’

So serious is Blake on his cricket, he claimed he wants to quit the track in six years so he can play more of the sport.

Big hitter: Blake was good with the bat

Big hitter: Blake was good with the bat

The 22-year-old was also lost for words trying to describe the honour of ringing the bell at Lord’s last month in the third test between England and South Africa.

‘With this hard training in track and
field, I know that cricket training is not that hard and I can make the
team and it is my first love,’ Blake said. ‘I want to finish this
(athletics) as early as possible, so I can play my cricket, like
somewhere around 30, 29, 28, in that region.

‘To
be the first non-cricketer to ring the bell at Lord’s, the greatest
sports ground in the world, with two top teams and get a standing
ovation from the crowd, words cannot explain how I felt.’

Blake interview after the match

Blake’s first target would be to travel to Australia and play in the Twenty20 Big Bash League along with Bolt, who also has eyes on appearing for Manchester United.

He added: ‘Usain and I said let’s go to Australia and play some cricket, let’s check out the Big Bash and see what it is all about.

‘I know those guys are really quick, but I am always ready and I am always playing cricket. I have my bowling machine and my batting machine at home, so I have been practising and getting ready for that.’

Sebastian Coe believes Olympic Stadium will maintain athletics legacy

Coe has faith Olympic Stadium will maintain athletics legacy whatever lies ahead

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UPDATED:

16:11 GMT, 9 September 2012

Sebastian Coe believes it is within the 'wit and wisdom' of decision makers to keep a track and field legacy at the Olympic Stadium.

It has yet to be finalised what to do with the 80,000-seat stadium after London 2012, with Premier League outfit West Ham among four bidders interested in becoming tenants.

The process has been hit by a series of delays and legal wrangles, while there has also been a focus on keeping to the original promise of an athletics legacy at the venue.

Drawing to a close: Lord Sebastian Coe watches the last night of the athletics

Drawing to a close: Lord Sebastian Coe watches the last night of the athletics

London 2012 chairman Coe remains confident that a track and field legacy will remain at the stadium and believes there will be an outcome that works for all parties.

'I only tend to interfere when I get irritated about things,' he said.

'I was very committed to the Olympic legacy. I felt very strongly that it was a commitment I made and I made it to a lot of people in international sport. I certainly wasn't going to walk away from that.

What lies ahead The Olympic Stadium's future has not been decided

What lies ahead The Olympic Stadium's future has not been decided

'I still think it is perfectly within the wit and wisdom of all of us to make a multi-purpose sporting arena work for track and field.

'The rest of it is now firmly in the lap of the Olympic Park Legacy Company.

'I do think it would have been a fairly mystifying set of images that would have come through in six weeks had we have been watching the news and the roller derby was taking place as the stadium disappeared.

'I am not sure that would have met with public approval.'

Wimbledon 2012: Martin Samuel – Give respect to Andy Murray

Pay attention and give respect to the man from nowhere

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UPDATED:

23:02 GMT, 6 July 2012

Do you know the most wonderful thing
about Andy Murray He’s Scottish. Now a lot of people don’t agree with
that. They think Murray’s monotone brogue, his roots, his loyalties, are
absolutely the worst of him.

They think it makes him dour and
chippy and they are convinced by this myth that he hates the English.
They drink it all in and then they hate him back, because they genuinely believe he is as small-minded and petty as they are.

Relief: Andy Murray points to the sky after winning the match

Relief: Andy Murray points to the sky after winning the match

Battle: The fourth set was an epic tussle

Battle: The fourth set was an epic tussle

And they do not understand, and never will understand, that it is precisely Murray’s otherness, his uniqueness, his outsider status, that has taken him to where he will be on Sunday: the men’s singles final at Wimbledon.

If he was typical, if he was the standard issue British tennis player, he would not be where a fellow national has not stood since 1938.

Bunny Austin was the name. He was a bit of a rebel, too — he played in shorts rather than in clothes better suited to the set of Brideshead Revisited.

Even so, that cognomen is a bit of a giveaway. Bunny. There are not too many get called Bunny in Murray’s part of the world.

Applause: Murray laps up the adulation of the fans

Applause: Murray laps up the adulation of the fans

Tough luck: Murray and Jo-Wilfried Songa in conversation after the match

Tough luck: Murray and Jo-Wilfried Songa in conversation after the match

Austin was a Cambridge man and a public
schoolboy. He would have had a lot in common with many of the
ineffectual characters that followed him, to little purpose, at
Wimbledon; less with the strangely driven Murray brothers from Dunblane.

In picturing how Murray got to Centre Court on Sunday, one first has to
imagine the two of them, Jamie and Andy, as proteges on the junior
circuit.

‘Every competition seemed to take place about six hours from where we
lived,’ Andy once told me. ‘We were outsiders all the time, so we became
our own little team.

‘There was nothing in Scotland. No tournaments and no players. That is
very unusual in tennis, to have someone come through from a country
without pedigree. I had Tim Henman to look up to and that definitely
helped, but nobody with my background.

Crucial: Andy Murray celebrates winning a vital game

Crucial: Andy Murray celebrates winning a vital game

Good start: Murray got off to a fine opening

Good start: Murray got off to a fine opening

ROGER FEDERER v ANDY MURRAY

7 Head-to-head 8

30 Age 25

Birthplace

Basel, Switzerland Dunblane, Scotland

6'1″ Height 6'3″

187lbs (85 kg) Weight 185lbs (84 kg)

1998 Turned Pro 2005

39/6 This year Won/Lost 26/9

846/192 Career Won/Lost 349/116

74 Career Titles 22

46m Career Prize Money 13.3m

Now do you understand Now do you get why Murray’s Scottish roots are so
important They made him the man he is. They made him this weird little
exception.

‘Somebody from nowhere’ was how the playwright Joe Orton described
himself, becoming the toast of West End theatre from his origins in a
Leicester council house.

That is Murray, too. Can you conceive how hard it is to become one of
the world’s great tennis players, starting in Dunblane Can you imagine
what the summer season must have been like, the travelling, the sense
of isolation

It is a miracle, a bloody miracle, that of all the British tennis
players to try and fail to reach the final at Wimbledon, the one that
should then do it originates from the heart of Scotland.

To put Murray’s achievement into further perspective, do you know what
happened to the last player to lose to a British opponent in a men’s
singles semi-final at Wimbledon He died in the Battle of Stalingrad on
December 3, 1942.
Henner Henkel was his name and, four years after losing to Austin, he was killed while fighting for the German Sixth Army.

This is ancient history Murray is rewriting here, in sporting terms at
least. We are so used to the now, to the immediacy of modern sport, the
advances in technology and training, that we can barely comprehend an
achievement that has stood since a time when the average house price in
Britain was 545.

Chamberlain met Hitler in 1938. Errol Flynn played Robin Hood. Len
Hutton made 364 against Australia. And Bunny Austin lost in straight
sets in the final to Don Budge. Who knew that would be as good as it got
for 74 years; and what calibre of man it would require to break the
curse

In other times, a player of Murray’s ability would already have trod
this path. He is good enough, he has the game, he has the shots, he has
the determination, he has the stamina. He also has three of the greatest
players in history in a blocking formation before him: Roger Federer,
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

The mighty Federer now stands in his way tomorrow.

New balls please: Tsonga was hit in a delicate area by a Murray shot

New balls please: Tsonga was hit in a delicate area by a Murray shot

Rally: Murray and Tsonga in action

Rally: Murray and Tsonga in action

Federer did for Djokovic and Nadal exited at an earlier stage, but do
not be fooled. The cynics who claim Murray has had it easy at Wimbledon
so far greatly underestimate the strength in depth of the men’s tour.

Not one opponent has been a pushover and if Murray has made his progress
appear comparatively straightforward that is not to his detriment.

If Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was tamed yesterday, kudos to Murray. He dropped
two points on his service game in the entire second set. Tsonga did not
hold one service game to love.

Against a player whose serve on grass was claimed to be his strength,
Murray’s defence was quite brilliant. If he suffered a third set wobble,
it merely confirmed the danger he faced.

History: Tsonga beat this year's finalist Roger Federer in a thriller last time around

History: Tsonga beat this year's finalist Roger Federer in a thriller last time around

Tumble: Murray reacts to a fall during the match

Tumble: Murray reacts to a fall during the match

Of course, Murray would rather have played Tsonga than Nadal, but having
had the misfortune to share his time with men of such exceptional
ability, is it not about time that he caught a break

‘I’m so happy to be there,’ Murray told the BBC after the match,
without so much as breaking into a smile at the thought of a fourth
Grand Slam final. And no doubt some at home will have curled their lips,
too, at this sight. It is they who are the miserable ones, though, they
who need to find the joy in the moment. Murray has already done his
bit.

There are people who did not think they would see this in their lifetime; take Murray away and they probably wouldn’t.

He has become the greatest British tennis player since the year Judy Garland was cast in The Wizard of Oz.

Onlooker: Murray's girlfriend Kim Sears

Onlooker: Murray's girlfriend Kim Sears

Oops: Tsonga was making several unforced errors

Oops: Tsonga was making several unforced errors

Murray, the Lawn Tennis Association must hope, will inspire a
generation the way winning the Ashes in 2005 turned their older brothers
back onto cricket.

Capering around like a buffoon, cracking wise, bouncing up and down like
an excited schoolgirl is not part of the deal. The journey has been too
long and has taken too much out of him to worry about striking poses.

Just watch the man play and remember where this started. It is not part
of nature’s deal, Dunblane to SW19. This is against all conception of
how it should be done. Credit where it is due. This is the Wimbledon
men’s final: and somebody from nowhere’s here.

Bunny Austin

Lionel Messi says football is about having fun, not winning

Stop parking the bus! Messi insists football is about having fun, not winning

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UPDATED:

12:27 GMT, 23 June 2012

Lionel Messi has taken a thinly veiled swipe at teams who play for the sole purpose of victory, believing that enjoyment should be the prime purpose of football.

The Argentina forward – widely regarded as the best player in the world – is the star attraction of Barcelona's 'tiki-taka' style of play that has received acclaim from the media and fans alike.

Falling short: Barcelona were beaten by Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final last season

Falling short: Barcelona were beaten by Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final last season

Yet the Catalan club finished behind Real Madrid in the Primera Division and were surprisingly knocked out of the Champions League in the semi-final stage by Chelsea, who were outplayed for large spells, this year.

The styles of both Jose Mourinho's men and the Blues have attracted criticism in the past for being too defensive.

And perhaps with that in mind, Messi told the Times magazine: 'Football is a game. I'm trying to have fun on the pitch, always, just to play.

Doing it for the kicks: Messi and Robinho celebrate a goal in a charity match in Bogota on Thursday

Doing it for the kicks: Messi and Robinho celebrate a goal in a charity match in Bogota on Thursday

'That's why I do it. The day I stop having fun is the day I retire… I never want to lose that spark, that passion.

'Today, teams are playing more statically, more for the final score than producing good football.

'For them, it's more important to win than to play well. We need more players with passion coming up for the good of football.'

Joe Cole wants to return to Liverpool

Cole: I'm delighted for West Ham but I have unfinished business at Anfield

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UPDATED:

21:59 GMT, 21 May 2012

Joe Cole had just finished talking about his memorable year in France when he swiftly turned his gaze to the future.

Having seen his season long-loan in France end with him being given a standing ovation by Lille’s supporters, Cole could have been forgiven if he felt a mixture of wistfulness and anxiety. Instead there was clarity and a sense of purpose.

Though West Ham are eager to give Cole an emotional return to Upton Park and Lille would be open to taking him back for another 12 months, the Liverpool midfielder is still holding out hope he will be able to rectify the one anomaly in his career.

Revitalised: Joe Cole (right) has been a hit in France after joining Lille on loan

Revitalised: Joe Cole (right) has been a hit in France after joining Lille on loan

‘When I signed for Liverpool, it startled me a bit,’ said Cole, who was brought to Anfield by Roy Hodgson two years ago in a blaze of publicity. ‘I don’t know if I felt the pressure but the city is so in love with football. It’s a religion. If I go back, I will be more prepared for it this time.

‘I can see why people say (joining Liverpool) is a culture shock. It is a small place but it has this great buzz. How can there not be in a city that has produced five Prime Ministers and The Beatles The people are so sharp, quite a bit like Londoners really.

‘There is still a part of me that would really love to make it work there and I don’t want to have a bad spell at Anfield on my CV. But it is out of my hands now. At the minute I can’t rule anything in or out. We have got to speak to Liverpool and see what happens there.’

Cole’s spell at Liverpool is widely-regarded as a disaster, with his performances betrayed by a lack of confidence and a series of injuries. He barely figured after Kenny Dalglish replaced Hodgson but the Scot’s departure might yet offer him a surprise opportunity.

Adventure: Cole's career has been given a boost after going stale at Liverpool

Adventure: Cole's career has been given a boost after going stale at Liverpool

Seeing Cole, 30, flourish alongside Eden Hazard in Sunday’s 4-1 win over Nancy confirmed he had recaptured his confidence and, given how much havoc injuries had wreaked in recent years, there is little doubt he has benefitted from playing regularly.

‘I’ve definitely broaden my horizons,’ said Cole. ‘I managed to do an interview the other day completely in French. It’s very basic but it’s just the aspect of living in another country. Now I can appreciate the difficulties that foreign players have coming to England.

‘We have got this great league on our doorstep and I am gladly I have experienced it. There were a lot of hurdles to overcome. But this is something we will be able to look back on with great fondness. Who is to say it is going to end

One of the boys: Cole must now decide where his future lies

One of the boys: Cole must now decide where his future lies

‘It was exactly what I needed. It is a bit slower, a bit more tactical. But this has helped me gain confidence in my body again. I have been able to learn about the tactical side of the game. Foreign players tend to embrace that more than we do.’

His critics, though, will claim that a spell away from the helter-skelter pace of the Premier League may actually prove detrimental. The tempo of Ligue 1 is significantly slower and Cole is well aware that he will have questions to answer should he return to England.

’I will have to do extra work because it will be going back to that 100mph pace but I’m sure it will be okay,’ explained Cole, who said he was “delighted” by the exploits of Chelsea and West Ham at the weekend.

Anfield return Joe Cole

Anfield return Joe Cole

‘It’s not England, it’s not Spain – they are the two top leagues. But it is comparable with Germany and Italy. This is a very good league. Now I have got to keep thinking ahead. ’

That is very much how it has been for Cole in France, never looking back or thinking what might have been. Some felt he had an outside chance of being involved in Hodgson’s squad for Euro 2012 but rather than stew on that disappointment, he hopes another door will open with Team GB.

‘I haven’t played for England for two years,’ he said. ‘I know there is a new manager but I was never contacted. I heard there were strange things going on with the odds of me being cut to make the squad and that made me think “maybe”.

‘But I have got my eyes on the Olympics now. I am in the mix and it would be amazing to play in that but, again, it is out of my hands. We will just have to wait and see what happens. Whatever is the case, it has been a great year it has been a great season. I am delighted with how things have gone’

Joe Cole's career

Rangers fans groups hit out at SFA ruling as Ibrox club are slapped with transfer ban

Rangers fans hit out at SFA ruling after Ibrox club are slapped with transfer ban

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UPDATED:

10:15 GMT, 24 April 2012

The Rangers Supporters Trust have accused the Scottish Football Association judicial panel of trying to cripple their club as they consider a series of protests and boycotts.

Rangers have been hit with a 160,000 fine and 12-month embargo on signing players aged over 17 after being found guilty of five charges in relation to their finances and the appointment of Craig Whyte as chairman.

Fans' groups will now consider protests including a boycott of the SFA's sponsors and the national team.

Defiant: Rangers fans have hit out at the SFA's transfer ban on the club

Defiant: Rangers fans have hit out at the SFA's transfer ban on the club

The club's administrators, who have vowed to appeal, have warned the sanctions could seriously undermine attempts to rebuild with the two interested parties still to submit finalised bids.

A statement from the trust read: 'This is a shameful decision that has been taken with the sole purpose of crippling Rangers Football Club.

'It is completely unacceptable and fans groups will be meeting to explore how we jointly express our opposition to this decision in the strongest possible terms.

'This could include protesting at Hampden on on the day of the Scottish Cup Final as well as boycotting SFA sponsors William Hill, Carling and Vauxhall.

'All options are on the table and no Rangers player or supporter can credibly play in or support the national side until this ridiculous decision is reversed.'

The trust hit out at the timing of the SFA action.

In the dock: Craig Whyte has been banned from involvement in Scottish football

In the dock: Craig Whyte has been banned from involvement in Scottish football

The governing body wrote to Rangers on December 1 asking for clarification over Whyte's declaration 24 hours earlier that he had previously been disqualified as a director, a fact which emerged almost six weeks previously in a BBC documentary.

The SFA announced they were launching a full independent inquiry on February 17, three days after the club went into administration.

The findings of the inquiry led to several charges against the club and Whyte, who has been banned for life from Scottish football and fined 200,000.

The trust statement read: 'Despite calls to delay this action the SFA persisted with this case while the club was not in a position to adequately defend itself and had the SFA done its job in the first place on Craig Whyte then this entire saga could have been avoided.

'Rangers supporters are appalled by this decision which brings shame on the SFA and the national game.'

The Rangers Supporters Assembly made a similar point.

A statement read: 'Just when the club needs the SFA to help it… they kick us when we are down.

'Why did the SFA not investigate when they said they had suspicions before Christmas rather than wait until the club went into administration'

England v England Lions ODI warm-up for Pakistan series

England crush Lions by seven wickets after chasing 230, despite bowling them out for 96!

England coasted to a seven-wicket 'victory' in the bizarre mis-match against the Lions at the Zayed Stadium.

This warm-up fixture lost its List A status once England's second string failed to reach a competitive total, bowled out for 96 by Jade Dernbach (three for 21) and Steven Finn (three for 28) in only 28.3 overs on a fair pitch.

Captains and coaches on either side decided a 'chase' of less than a hundred in 50 overs would serve little purpose for England's preparations to play Pakistan in a one-day international series, and therefore simply agreed an arbitrary target of 230.

In the runs: KP made a good start at the top of the innings

In the runs: KP made a good start at the top of the innings

England v England Lions

Click here for full scorecard

Whether even that constituted a
worthwhile exercise was a moot point, as captain Alastair Cook (68) and
Jonathan Trott (75no) did enough to ensure a straightforward task was
achieved with more than four overs to spare.

It was hard to see how England could
have fine-tuned the skills they may need in four matches to come under
lights, in this daytime fixture which put them under precious little
pressure at any stage.

After their 3-0 Test series hammering, though, a win of any sort to rebuild shaken confidence was doubtless very welcome.

For the record, Kevin Pietersen's
return to the top of the order began adequately – with a fluent 41,
until he disappointingly edged Chris Woakes behind – and Cook's 76-ball
50 paved the way for Trott to complete formalities in contrived
circumstances.

Cook went with 80 still needed,
stumped as he tried in vain to dominate Danny Briggs' left-arm spin. But
Trott did not need to stray from his trusted methods to add another
half-century from 64 balls, and Ravi Bopara had a chance to become
accustomed to batting in the number four position Pietersen has made his
own for so long.

Jade Dernbach took first sitting this morning as England had the Lions batsmen for breakfast in the desert.

Finn the zone: The England quick finished with figures of 3-28

Finn the zone: The England quick finished with figures of 3-28

He almost instantly had three wickets for two runs, and the Lions never even hinted at a significant recovery.

Only captain James Taylor, who chose
to bat first despite the early start, all-rounder Woakes and number 11
Jack Brooks managed double-figures in a binary scorecard featuring four
noughts.

Dernbach and Finn proved lethal with the new ball, reducing the Lions to 14 for four.

Dernbach struck with his first
delivery when he shaped one slightly away from Alex Hales, who failed to
cover off-stump and therefore lost it to go for a golden duck.

Joe Root was pinned lbw on the crease
by Dernbach – whose next victim was James Vince, pulling aerially and
well-caught by Samit Patel at midwicket.

Finn was bowling well too, and got
his reward when a reluctant Jonny Bairstow had to go caught-behind via
an apparent inside edge on a ball that snaked back into him.

Taylor decided a counter-attack was in order, and he soon had more than half his team's paltry total.

Duck: Borthwick goes for nought off the bowling of Swann

Duck: Borthwick goes for nought off the bowling of Swann

But Moeen Ali was unable to keep him
company for long, edging an attempted drive off Graeme Swann to slip,
and Taylor went too to an outside edge behind off Tim Bresnan.

Swann had Scott Borthwick lbw pushing
forward to an off-break from round the wicket – and it was therefore
thanks only to top-scorer Woakes and a last-wicket stand of 27, the
highest of the innings, that England were kept waiting for long.

With Stuart Broad rested but Bresnan
back, having been passed fit as he continues his recovery from an elbow
injury, it was highly-encouraging for England that their bowling
resources appear in such good heart.

The flip-side, though, was no
evidence on this occasion that any of the Lions batsmen are ready for
the step up if and when required at full international level.

Six Nations 2012: George North exclusive

George North exclusive: Sportsmail's new columnist ahead of the Six Nations

The RBS Six Nations kicks off this weekend with the focus on a new look England. However, in Wales one young man has already made himself a star. And here Sportmail's new columnist George North opens up about life at the top of the game.

The World Cup was one hell of an experience

It feels like years ago now but I will keep hold of it — my first World Cup, my first full competition for my country.

Welcome: George North has signed up as Sportsmail's Six Nations columnist

Welcome: George North has signed up as Sportsmail's Six Nations columnist

With Ireland approaching we’ve looked back and spoken about that quarter-final. It was probably our best performance but in some ways Samoa was more significant. It was must-win, we were getting smashed up by these massive Islanders and we still came away with the victory. The whole team grew in confidence after that.

I owe the supporters a thank you

Like all the players and the management, I really do want to thank the fans for their incredible support and for being so passionate while we were out there.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out there is pressure on us now after how well we performed and it did help probably being out of the picture for a little bit, just free to get our training done and get our prep in.

Personally, I try not to listen to any hype too much because it can get in the way of training.

Powering through: North is one of the most exciting in his position in the world

Powering through: North is one of the most exciting in his position in the world

The Poland training camps are as much a mental as physical battle

Early mornings, long days. The work was similar to our pre-World Cup training camps but we couldn’t do the same volume because it was a shorter turnaround.

It was so cold in Gdansk that nobody really wanted to be there but we know it is all for a good purpose so you just get on with it.

The day starts at 6am with ‘monitoring’, which is a weigh-in and your saliva and urine tests for hydration levels, then the first session in the gym starts an hour later. We did a fitness session on the beach — it was so cold there was snow on the sand. I couldn’t get my head around that.

Work ethic was always important to me because it had to be…

I believe it’s my work ethic that has got me here today. In Wales, there is a lot of competition to get a look-in and being from North Wales meant I didn’t get many chances.

The geography means all of the rugby is based in Newport, Llanelli, Swansea and Cardiff. It is better now but we hardly got any chance to play in South Wales so taking your chances was key. It’s something I’ve always believed in: if you work hard you’re rewarded.

They are moving Under 20 home Six Nations matches to North Wales now which will be a great thing.

…it was something I learned from my old man

Both my parents have had a massive impact on my life. My dad always said: ‘When you’ve got a chance, work until you’ve nothing left because you might not get another.’

I have an older brother and two older sisters who are the complete opposite to me. The joke in the family is that my brother got the brains and I got the brawn. He’s the A-class student and I’m the A-class lump.

I lost my wooden spoon at the World Cup

The youngest player in the squad has to carry a giant wooden spoon. In the last week I lost it. Ninety-two hours later — and about 12 room raids — I finally found it in Adam Jones’ room. It cost me three figures in fines and the boys wound me up. I wasn’t happy. It kept changing hands and I was always just behind it.

Get in shape: The Wales embarked on a challenging training camp in Poland, which included cryotherapy chambers

Get in shape: The Wales embarked on a challenging training camp in Poland, which included cryotherapy chambers

We don’t stay in camp all week

It varies depending on our schedule. We generally go home on Wednesday and Thursday but away games are different. I’ve never played in Dublin but it’s probably the closest game for my family because they still live in North Wales.

The boys have been telling me it’s a great stadium to play in and it will be two countries who love to play. They play physical and they play fast but they like to play rugby. It’s one of those you wish you could watch sometimes!

I’m a member of ‘the original wolf pack’…

…but I can’t tell you any more! It’s on my Twitter page and it’s between me and my team-mates. I’m not very good at gaming, but I like to get online and play with the boys – a bit of Call of Duty and a bit of FIFA. It’s supposed to be rest time but I’m sure some of the boys’ heart-rates should not go that high on a day off.

I want to play a bit of golf but I don’t have enough time off. I won’t mention my handicap because I haven’t played in so long but Rhys Priestland is a bit of a golfer.

Tribute: North has hailed the retired Shane Williams

Tribute: North has hailed the retired Shane Williams

I am wary of ‘second-season’ syndrome

It's something a lot of players go through and something I want to minimalize. There is going to be a lot of expectation and I’ve got to deal with it.

It’ll be OK as long as I don’t forget why I’m there – if you lose focus you lose out. Does that make sense or do I sound like a nut case

I’m not too bad on the superstitions

Compared to my team-mates, at least. I start off with my left sock, then my right sock, left boot, right boot, then I pull my socks up and tie my laces in the same order, left then right. That’s the one thing I have to do before I go on to the pitch.

Shane Williams is a great loss – for me and for Wales

Ask any Welsh wing at any level who is your favourite player and I guarantee you nine out of 10 will say ‘Shane Williams’. I learned so much from him, watching him, playing against him, playing with him, even talking to the guy.

But if he felt it was time to retire then I back him to the hilt. The boys are winding me up saying he’s the new agility guru coming in to teach us to side step.

Injuries are the nature of the beast

This run of bad luck has felt like a bit of a low blow but you can’t get away from playing rugby without getting injuries. It’s bound to happen and we’ve just got to manage them and work around them.

The quality we’ve got means those who come in can still do the same job. Every dog has its day. It all comes back to that lesson: if you have a chance, you take it.

George North is supporting RBS RugbyForce, the community rugby programme that is improving club facilities across the nation. To register your club for the RBS RugbyForce Weekend on June 2 and 3, visit: www.rbs.com/rugbyforce

Getting to know George North

I'm not a massive fan of books but I am reading 61 Hours by Lee Child which was given to me by a close friend Andy McCann. It's taking me ages to get through because I read a chapter and then fall asleep.

I don’t have any quirky pastimes but I have started collecting the key cards from hotels. It’s not like I have to, only if I remember.

I have a cat and a dog. The dog is called Bess and the cat is called Splodge – don’t ask, it’s a very long story.

Wolf pack: Despite being the youngest, North is a key member of the dressing room

Wolf pack: Despite being the youngest, North is a key member of the dressing room

I don’t really have a favourite holiday destination. I don’t really have enough time if I’m honest. Hopefully after the Six Nations I’ll get some rays on a beach and relax, or go home and see the family in sunny North Wales.

I watch a lot of DVDs and try to go to the cinema as much as I can. It’s a great way to chill out. I’m more into action and comedy – but I can’t stand horror movies.

When I was growing up I really played every sport I could. I didn’t play anything to a high level really, but I just couldn’t bear to be still for very long.

Harry Redknapp tax evasion trial: Prosecution call first witness

Redknapp returns to court as prosecution calls opening witnesses over claims of secret bungs

Prosecutors accusing Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp of taking bungs in an offshore tax dodge call their first witnesses this morning.

Redknapp secretly received transfer 'bungs' worth 189,000 in a Monaco bank account opened up in the name of his pet bulldog, a court heard on Monday.

Day two: Harry Redknapp was followed into court by son Jamie

Day two: Harry Redknapp was followed into court by son Jamie

Back: Milan Mandaric arrives at Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday

Back: Milan Mandaric arrives at Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday

The Tottenham boss – tipped to be the next England manager – is accused of hiding the two 'off-the-record' payments in an offshore tax haven.

Redknapp, 64, flew to the Mediterranean principality to open the account called Rosie 47, a combination of his dog's name and the year of his birth, a jury was told.

Both payments were made in American
dollars by Portsmouth chairman, Milan Mandaric, when
Redknapp worked at the club, the court heard.

Court: Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp - who was wearing glasses - appears in the dock accused of tax evasion

Court: Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp – who was wearing glasses – appears in the dock accused of tax evasion

Facing court: Harry Redknapp, right, enters Southwark Crown Court. His son Jamie, left, who is a pundit and former footballer was in the public gallery to support him

Facing court: Harry Redknapp, right, enters Southwark Crown Court. His son Jamie, left, who is a pundit and former footballer was in the public gallery to support him

But the cash was 'deliberately and
dishonestly' concealed with the prime purpose of avoiding the payment of
tax, the jury was told.

Prosecutor John Black QC told
Southwark Crown Court 'both parties must have known' they were avoiding
taxes. 'These payments were a bung or offshore bonus that the parties
had absolutely no intention of paying taxes for,' he said.

Redknapp, who underwent heart surgery
last year to unblock his arteries, is the most successful English
manager in the modern game. He led Portsmouth to FA Cup success and
Spurs into last season's Uefa Champions' League. Mandaric, 73, is now
chairman of Sheffield Wednesday, and has previously worked at Leicester
City.

Man's best friend: Redknapp with his pet bull dogs Rosie, left, who the account was named after, and Buster

Man's best friend: Redknapp with his pet bull dogs Rosie, left, who the account was named after, and Buster

Mr Black told the court Redknapp was
'no ordinary employee' of Portsmouth and had the 'greatest capacity to
influence the success or failure of his football club'.

He said: 'He is currently enjoying
football success as manager of Tottenham Hotspur. They are currently
riding high and I think today they are placed third in the Premier
League. Even in the early 2000s, it was obvious he was unusually
talented.' But he added: 'Talented and popular he might have been, the
Crown say he was nevertheless a hard-headed businessman, with a
financial acumen and pecuniary sense of his influence to his employers.'

The court heard Redknapp had a series
of lucrative bonuses built into his contract when he was made director
of football at Portsmouth in 2001, including 10 per cent of any profit
made from any players he bought and sold.

Those bonuses could total up to 500,000 depending on profits the club made from transfers.

However, the court heard that in 2002 –
when Redknapp went from being director of football to the club's team
manager – the bonus for trading players was halved to 5 per cent.

Accused: Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp arrives at Southwark Crown Court where he faces trial over tax evasion charges

Accused: Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp arrives at Southwark Crown Court where he faces trial over tax evasion charges

Enlarge

The prosecution's case

Plush: Harry Redknapp's 10million home in Sandbanks, Poole, Dorset

Plush: Harry Redknapp's 10million home in Sandbanks, Poole, Dorset

Eight days after Redknapp joined
Portsmouth in June 2001, England striker Peter Crouch was bought from
Queen's Park Rangers for 1.25million.

Crouch stayed at Portsmouth for nine months before being sold to Aston Villa for more than 4million in 2002, the court heard.

The net profit of the sale was
2.3million, but, because of the revised terms of Redknapp's new
contract, he was due only 5 per cent of that, which was 115,473. This
was paid to him via his wages.

But Mr Black said the pair made an
'off-the-record' arrangement to compensate Redknapp for taking a smaller
cut after the deal had gone through.

He added: 'It seemed clear that Mr
Mandaric and Mr Redknapp arranged that Redknapp, in addition to being
paid by the club any sums due to him under the new transfer bonus
clause, would receive sums off the record.

'Such off-the-record sums would remain hidden from the UK tax authorities. That is what the Crown say is exactly what happened.'

Charges: Former Portsmouth owner Milan Mandaric, left, arrives at Southwark Crown Court where he faces charges of tax evasion

Charges: Former Portsmouth owner Milan Mandaric, left, arrives at Southwark Crown Court where he faces charges of tax evasion

The court heard Redknapp waited just
four days after receiving the legal bonus from the Crouch sale before
taking steps to ensure that he would receive 'what he regarded was his
due'.

The court heard how he flew to Monaco
to open the private Rosie 47 HSBC account. The prosecution said there
was no good reason why the account couldn't have been opened in
Redknapp's own name. It is alleged that Mandaric, a Serbian billionaire,
made two payments into the account.

The first charge relates to 93,000
allegedly paid by Mandaric to Redknapp's account between April 1, 2002,
and November 28, 2007, without paying NI contributions or tax. The
second relates to 96,500 allegedly paid by Mandaric to Redknapp between
May 1, 2004, and November 28, 2007, again into the Monaco account
without paying NI contributions or tax.

The jury has not been told why the second payment was made.

But the Monaco bank account eventually
came to light during an inquiry into illicit payments in football led
by Lord Stevens, the former Metropolitan Police commissioner.

Claims: Redknapp and Mandaric were at Portsmouth Football Club in the period the charges relate to. The club play their games at Fratton Park, pictured

Claims: Redknapp and Mandaric were both at Portsmouth Football Club in the period to which the charges relate. The club play at Fratton Park

Tottenham boss: Harry Redknapp on the touchline as his team were beaten 3-2 by fellow title chasers Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium

Tottenham boss: Harry Redknapp on the touchline as his team were beaten 3-2 by fellow title chasers Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium

The results of that investigation,
known as the Quest inquiry, was handed to the Premier League chief
executive, Richard Scudamore, in July 2007.

Redknapp had been investigated by HM
Revenue & Customs officials over his transfer dealings at one of his
previous clubs, West Ham United, the court heard. But he made no
mention of the Monaco account when interviewed in November 2006. This
probe, between January 2004 and October 2006, 'was originally prompted
by concerns over a 300,000 payment' regarding profit made in the
transfer of Rio Ferdinand.

Mr Black said: 'That was the first
time anyone heard of the Monaco bank account.' He added: 'It is
significant, the Crown suggests, that the bank account opened by Mr
Mandaric was located in an offshore tax haven.

'The Crown suggests this was quite
deliberate and was intended to obscure and to render less transparent
the nature of the money payments.'

Redknapp, who lives in Poole, Dorset,
was dressed in a dark blue suit, white shirt and tie. He had arrived in
court with his son Jamie, an ex-player and respected football pundit.

Redknapp senior sat next to Mandaric
behind toughened bulletproof glass in the witness box. He and Mandaric,
of Oadby, Leicestershire, deny two counts of cheating the public
revenue.

The trial continues.

Co-accused: Milan Mandaric, left, with Harry Redknapp in 2005 when the pair were at Portsmouth

Co-accused: Milan Mandaric, left, with Harry Redknapp in 2005 when the pair were at Portsmouth