Tag Archives: qualifying

Sol Campbell joins Chris Coleman for Wales training as he does his coaching badges

Why is the Sol shining on Wales England legend Campbell checks in on Bale and co as he begins coaching badges

By
Andy James

PUBLISHED:

17:11 GMT, 25 March 2013

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UPDATED:

17:19 GMT, 25 March 2013

With Gareth Bale in their ranks, Wales need little help in the attacking department. But having conceded 12 goals in just five World Cup qualifying matches, it is perhaps no surprise Chris Coleman has just him some hired help in the shape of former Arsenal and England defender Sol Campbell.

The towering defender announced his retirement from playing earlier this year and revealed that he would begin earning his coaching badges.

Double, double, double trouble: Sol Campbell has been observing Wales training with Chris Coleman

Double, double, double trouble: Sol Campbell has been observing Wales training with Chris Coleman

Sol Campbell

Speaking in May, he said: 'I want to start sometime in the summer. But it's a slow burner that takes three to four years. The best thing is to get it done and over with. Eventually I want to get into something.

'But it's a long old stint to get your badges for the UK and then the UEFA badge.'

Point to prove: The former England defender retired from playing earlier this year

Point to prove: The former England defender retired from playing earlier this year

Point to prove: The former England defender retired from playing earlier this year

And now he has taking his first steps on the long road with Coleman's Wales, who on Tuesday host Croatia bidding to keep their World Cup 2014 hopes alive.

Campbell, who won two league titles and three FA Cups during his playing career as well as winning 73 caps for England, was a keen observer as Bale and co were put through their paces in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Arsenal's Sol Campbell

Sol Campbell

Sol man: Campbell enjoyed a stellar career for club and country, winning titles and caps throughout

Sol Campbell

Rio Ferdinand to the rescue: Should Roy Hodgson name Manchester United defender in England squad

Rio to the rescue: Is it time for Roy to bring back Ferdinand for England Keown, Redknapp and Sportsmail's team of experts have their say

PUBLISHED:

10:46 GMT, 13 March 2013

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UPDATED:

11:00 GMT, 13 March 2013

Roy Hodgson is set to name his England squad for the World Cup qualifying matches against San Marino and Montenegro and fans are desperate to know if Rio Ferdinand will be in it.

Left out for 'football reasons', Ferdinand has not featured for the national team under Hodgson but, with former captain John Terry now out of the picture, he has been touted for a return.

The 34-year-old has been superb for Manchester United this season and here, Sportsmail's team of experts say whether they feel Ferdinand should take that form back on to the international stage.

Solid: Rio Ferdinand has been tipped for an England return after fine performances for Manchester United

Solid: Rio Ferdinand has been tipped for an England return after fine performances for Manchester United

MARTIN KEOWN

I would bring Rio Ferdinand back into the England squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. If Sir Alex Ferguson is picking him as his first-choice centre back for Manchester United, that is good enough for me.

Roy Hodgson is one of the only people who could get away with bringing someone back after not picking them for so long. Hodgson is such a nice man and would find the words to make it a smooth transition.

Ferdinand has every right to feel he should have been in recent squads and he’s the best central defender we have. On top of that, Phil Jagielka is out injured and Gary Cahill has suffered a dip in form. He would benefit from playing alongside some as experienced as Ferdinand.

Tiredness is less of a factor now that United are out the Champions League. Ferdinand has fewer matches to play between now and the end of the season than he would have expected so Ferguson should not have a problem with him playing for his country.

I would imagine Hodgson wouldn’t use him for both games because of the recovery time he needs and the only potential problem with that is whether it creates instability in the team. If someone else plays well against San Marino, do you kill their confidence by then dropping them

The answer is probably yes.

Young gun: Ferdinand made his England debut as a teenager - coming off the bench against Cameroon in 1997

Young gun: Ferdinand made his England debut as a teenager – coming off the bench against Cameroon in 1997

JAMIE REDKNAPP

What has he done wrong He seems to have handled his omission maturely… he lost the England captaincy and didn’t cause a fuss. He has played his way back into form. He wants to play for England and add to his 81 caps.

Judging him on ‘football reasons’, he has to be back in for the World Cup qualifiers, doesn’t he Montenegro is a challenge and their centre-forward, the Juventus striker, Mirko Vucinic is a handful as he proved to Celtic in the Champions League. But Rio has handled better strikers.

Okay, he is not the future, but he is the present.

MARK ALFORD

No. Stick by your footballing
reasons, Roy. I'd prefer it if you further explained them to us all, but
as I suspect your argument is that you're building a side – and
specifically a defence – that can win us the World Cup, please go ahead
and conquer. Rio's too old. Yes, he can still pick a pass and play but
he's past his best. He's lost a yard and that's what matters at
international level. In Roy, we trust… There's no other way.

Off the mark: Ferdinand (No 5) scored his first international goal against Denmark at the 2002 World Cup

Off the mark: Ferdinand (No 5) scored his first international goal against Denmark at the 2002 World Cup

Off the mark: Ferdinand (No 5) scored his first international goal against Denmark at the 2002 World Cup

NEIL ASHTON

Yes. He remains the outstanding England defender of his generation. If he can get two games against Real Madrid in the Champions League, he can play against San Marino and Montenegro in the World Cup qualifiers.

LEE CLAYTON

Yes. Pick your best players, qualify for the World Cup, then worry about his age, his ability to play back-to-back games in a short space of time and the future.

There is a risk that England’s future will be an end-of-season tour to the back of beyond while the World Cup is taking place in Brazil. We did that before, let’s not do it again.

Rio must play in Montenegro. What’s to discuss

CHRIS WHEELER

Yes. Forget his age, any personal
issues with the manager and the fact that he might not be the best man
for the job when the World Cup comes around. Ferdinand's performances
for Manchester United this season have proved he's still a defender of
the highest quality. That's all that matters so just go ahead and pick
him.

SAMI MOKBEL

Yes. Simply because he is without doubt one of the best four centre-backs available to Roy Hodgson.

It's been a while: Ferdinand's last England appearance was against Switzerland in June 2011

It's been a while: Ferdinand's last England appearance was against Switzerland in June 2011

DOMINIC KING

No. Roy Hodgson has made his decision
to preclude Ferdinand from international duty, so he should stick with
it. There is sufficient quality in the England team to negotiate a
tricky task without worrying about whether Ferdinand should play or not.
With Phil Jagielka injured, play Joleon Lescott and give the in-form
Michael Dawson a go. Ferdinand is England's past, concentrate on the
future.

NEIL MOXLEY

If he’s the best English player to fill the position – and I think he’s the best option at present – then of course he should be picked. I’m not one for ‘looking to the future.’ It’s a nebulous managerial cop-out. When is ‘the future’ What about the here and now

He’s fit, playing well and wants to resume his international career. What, really, is there to consider

On the box: Kelloggs made special cereal packets for the 2010 World Cup but Ferdinand missed the tournament through injury

On the box: Kelloggs made special cereal packets for the 2010 World Cup but Ferdinand missed the tournament through injury

JOHN EDWARDS

If he doesn’t, then ‘football
reasons’ will no longer wash as an explanation. With John Terry out of
the frame and Phil Jagielka and Chris Smalling injured, there is only
one logical choice alongside Gary Cahill.

Hodgson is to be applauded for
looking to the future, but there is a time and place for experimenting
with potential. A World Cup qualifier away to the group leaders is
neither. That rules out Steven Caulker, while the likes of Ryan
Shawcross, Michael Dawson and Joleon Lescott lack Ferdinand’s proven
pedigree when the international stakes are at their highest.

The San Marino game should be plain sailing, whoever gets the nod, but for 90 minutes in Montenegro, it has to be Rio.

ALEX KAY

Of course he should. Ferdinand is the
best English centre back around at the moment and knows how to keep his
head in big games. Also, the alternatives do not fill you with hope:
Joleon Lescott is in and out the team at Manchester City, Gary Cahill
has a wobble in him and Michael Dawson, though playing well, hasn’t
featured for England for a long time.

MIKE ANSTEAD

If
he’s good enough, then yes. With John Terry out of the picture, England
are seriously lacking top-level experience at the back – Gary Cahill,
Phil Jagielka and Co won’t worry the world’s best. Bring Rio back and
he’s still got time to forge a new partnership ahead of Brazil 2014.

TOM BELLWOOD

No. His inclusion would represent a kick in the teeth to those whose performances warrant place in the team and have a long-term future in the national set-up.

LAURIE WHITWELL

Yes. Ferdinand is by some margin the best English central defender playing regularly. He is managing his body well this season and is a major reason United's defence has tightened up in the second part of the campaign. The experience he brings to international football only adds to the compelling reasoning for selection. Surely you pick the best players on offer at any one point rather than worry about a future that is yet to be achieved.

DAN RIPLEY

Judging by Ferdinand’s current form and fitness, the Manchester United centre-back certainly deserves a recall to the England squad. His composure on the ball and experience would be a key asset to a Three Lions side that has yet to have a stable back four under Roy Hodgson’s reign. At 34-years-old Ferdinand isn’t the future, but Hodgson needs to pick a squad that can pick up two wins later this month, not one that is likely to lead England after Brazil 2014.

Decision time: Roy Hodgson is set to name his England squad to face San Marino and Montenegro

Decision time: Roy Hodgson is set to name his England squad to face San Marino and Montenegro

JOE RIDGE

Yes. It's crazy we're even asking this question. Along with Michael Dawson and Gary Cahill he's the only Englishman playing regularly at centre back for a top four club – and he's still head and shoulders above those two.
SUNNI UPAL

No. Ferdinand is 34 so it would make no sense going back to him considering he will be 35 by the time the World Cup kicks off next year. England have enough choices in defence and don’t need to turn back to someone who is in the twilight of his career. The decision was, rightly or wrongly, made a long time ago for ‘footballing reasons’ so let’s just stick to those reasons and move on.

Not spoiled for choice: Gary Cahill's form has dipped while Phil Jagielka (below left) is struggling with injury

Not spoiled for choice: Gary Cahill's form has dipped while Phil Jagielka (below left) is struggling with injury

Struggling: Phil Jagielka (left)

RIK SHARMA

No. Picking a defender who probably won't be worth taking to the World Cup itself would only be acceptable if qualification for said competition would be viewed as an achievement. For England it is a necessity. Roy needs to focus on the men for the years ahead.

DECLAN WARRINGTON

No, and particularly not if Hodgson intends on using him for no more than just the next two games. Despite his decline, Ferdinand remains a polished defender and has lately impressed but he's had another inconsistent season in which Manchester United have frequently conceded. Hodgson needs to look at the bigger picture and build a new-look side: in Gary Cahill, Steven Caulker, Phil Jones and particularly Chris Smalling he has several improving, quality options who are already good but need time to develop partnerships for the World Cup. He should stick with them.

BILL RUNGAY

Yes. Age is not an obstacle. He is on track to winning an inevitable sixth Premier League title along with his first FA cup medal whilst showing he is still one of the most solid defenders in the game.

Old head: Veteran defender Ferdinand has the experience of 10 years at United and 81 England caps

Old head: Veteran defender Ferdinand has the experience of 10 years at United and 81 England caps

Sven-Goran Eriksson in talks with Ukraine

Eriksson could come back to haunt England as former boss holds talks with Ukraine

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UPDATED:

16:32 GMT, 5 December 2012

Negotiations: Ex-England manager Sven-Goran Ericksson could be set to take charge of Ukraine

Negotiations: Ex-England manager Sven-Goran Ericksson could be set to take charge of Ukraine

Sven-Goran Eriksson could be handed the challenge of ruining England's World Cup dream after opening talks to become the new manager of Ukraine.

The Ukrainians offered former Three Lions boss Eriksson the position after failing to land Harry Redknapp.

A spokeswoman for the Ukraine Football Federation said: 'An offer has been made and negotiations are under way.'

England and Ukraine are in the same World Cup qualifying group and drew 1-1 at Wembley in September.

Swede Eriksson, who managed England between 2001 and 2006 and lists Roma, Benfica, Sampdoria and Manchester City among his previous employers, has been working as technical director of BEC Tero Sasana in Thailand since September.

He was also linked with German outfit 1860 Munich last month.

Ukraine have been without a manager since Oleg Blokhin quit in September after failing to lead the co-hosts out of the group stages at Euro 2012.

Former Tottenham boss Redknapp admitted he was interested in the post before taking the reins at Premier League basement boys QPR.

Rory McIlroy struggles at Javier Colomo leads Hong Kong Open

Misery for McIlroy as Spaniard Colomo sets early pace at Hong Kong Open

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UPDATED:

11:22 GMT, 15 November 2012

Defending champion Rory McIlroy trailed nine shots behind a player ranked 506 places below him after a first-round 73 at the UBS Hong Kong Open.

While a lacklustre McIlroy managed only one birdie to be just inside the top 100 on three over par, little-known Spaniard Javi Colomo produced a superb 64 to lead compatriot Miguel Angel Jimenez by one in the early clubhouse lead.

Colomo qualified for the event off his Asian Tour ranking, having failed to come through the European qualifying school on three occasions.

Struggles: Rory McIlroy found himself off the beaten track in the first round of the Hong Kong Open

Struggles: Rory McIlroy found himself off the beaten track in the first round of the Hong Kong Open

The 28-year-old actually began with 10 pars in a row, but five birdies in the next six holes brought him alongside Jimenez and after completing a front-nine 29 he finished his day's work with a four-foot putt for yet another birdie at the 367-yard 10th.

McIlroy was hoping to put even more of a gloss on a season in which he has won his second major title and topped the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic – a feat nobody had achieved until Luke Donald did it last year.

But he began with a bogey, turned in one over, made a mess of his approach to the 14th and three-putted from the fringe of the next.

In contention: Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez is just one of the lead held by countryman Javier Colomo

In contention: Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez is just one of the lead held by countryman Javier Colomo

It could so easily have been Jimenez's day, but after seven birdies the 48-year-old, twice a winner of the title and now trying to become the European Tour's oldest-ever champion, finished with two bogeys and slipped back alongside Australian Andrew Dodt, who still had four holes to play.

'I'm putting very well and it's a pity I missed a fairway on the ninth and then on the last got a big flyer,' Jimenez said.

'It's an old-fashioned course – not very long, but you need to be very precise.'

He was playing with fellow countryman and Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal, who in a return to form shot 66 and said: 'I hit three poor shots, but apart from those the rest of the game was pretty solid.

'Obviously I have to consolidate this the next few days, but it's nice to have some signs like this one.'

All in the eyes: Thomas Levet enjoyed the Genworth pro putt challenge after round one

All in the eyes: Thomas Levet enjoyed the Genworth pro putt challenge after round one

Scot Paul Lawrie stood three under until going in the water at the last and double-bogeying, while playing partner YE Yang – Asia's only major champion in the men's game – reached five under before also finding the lake and bogeying to be four under alongside Olazabal, China's Zhang Lian-wei and Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed.

Paul Casey overcame two double bogeys for a level-par 70, one better than Padraig Harrington.

Dodt, with the added pressure of needing to climb three places on the Order of Merit to keep his card, joined Colomo with another birdie at the seventh, but bogeyed two holes later and so finished the day in a tie for second with Jimenez.

Not too far away: Paul Lawrie shot a 69 to start his bid for glory at the Hong Kong Open

Not too far away: Paul Lawrie shot a 69 to start his bid for glory at the Hong Kong Open

England can"t even match Armenia"s best player – Martin Samuel

Thinking football I fear for England when we're always dumbing down

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UPDATED:

22:57 GMT, 28 October 2012

How does the standard inquest into the state of English football go again We haven’t got a player like Andres Iniesta. We haven’t got an Andrea Pirlo. Oh, woe is us.

Did you see the Chelsea and Manchester City games last week We haven’t got Christian Eriksen of Denmark, either. We haven’t got the best player in Armenia.

His name is Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Armenian player of the year for 2009, Shakhtar Donetsk’s player of the year last season. UEFA rate him among the top 100 footballers in Europe. He was leading scorer in qualifying Group B for the 2012 European Championship, in which Armenia finished third and won 4-0 in Slovakia. He would walk into Roy Hodgson’s England team.

Dream on, England: Shakhtar Donetsk's Henrikh Mkhitaryan (left) showed his class against Chelsea

Dream on, England: Shakhtar Donetsk's Henrikh Mkhitaryan (left) showed his class against Chelsea

It was a sobering week for English football, as much as for English clubs. The technique on display in Donetsk and Amsterdam was so far in advance of our own that it is possible to fear not just for England’s fate at the 2014 World Cup, but for the prospect of even getting there.

We kid ourselves with these searches for football’s El Dorado, the hope that we will pass like Barcelona if we could only keep Jack Wilshere fit. Watching Mkhitaryan pull the strings for Shakhtar on Tuesday was to marvel at how far we have fallen. Wilshere did not waste a pass in the first 45 minutes of his return to the Arsenal side on Saturday but he cannot do it alone.

Mkhitaryan was surrounded by nimble, technically able players such as Brazil’s Willian, who is not even a regular in his national team. Then it was on to Amsterdam where Eriksen destroyed the Premier League champions. At the end, Micah Richards, an England international, blamed the defeat in part on being required to play an unfamiliar system.

Do you think Eriksen, Mkhitaryan or Willian would worry about that Shakhtar’s second goal was taken beautifully by Fernandinho, ostensibly a defensive midfield player, who also can’t secure a place for Brazil. He stuck doggedly to his duties but, given one opportunity, knew exactly when and how to break. That’s football. Thinking football. Could Fernandinho be wrong-footed by a tweak to Shakhtar’s system

Great Dane: Christian Eriksen gave Manchester City the runaround in the Champions League last week

Great Dane: Christian Eriksen gave Manchester City the runaround in the Champions League last week

Richards is meant to be one of our new wave, too. He came through the Simon Clifford futebol de salao schools, a form of football education credited with producing many of Brazil’s greatest footballers, including Ronaldinho. Yet Richards’s international career has stagnated because his defensive thinking and strategy are poor. His admission that a simple switch to a back three left him puzzled is startling.

Roberto Mancini was right to say that the next time Manchester City played that way, Richards could watch from the bench. It is probably a moot point after his unfortunate knee injury on Saturday, but Richards is under increasing pressure from Pablo Zabaleta and Maicon, players from South America who do not balk at the thought of modification. Neither is fit right now but, when that changes, whom will Mancini turn to if he desires flexibility

Why do English players find it so hard to adapt Steve McClaren was as good as run out of town for playing three centre halves in Croatia. He was never brave enough to try it again. Yet Holland, Brazil and Germany all do it, or can if necessary. And clubs throughout Europe, including Barcelona, freely switch between three and four defenders without everybody getting the vapours.

Welcome back, Jack: But Wilshere's return alone will never be enough to transform England

Welcome back, Jack: But Wilshere's return alone will never be enough to transform England

Mkhitaryan is not a defender, nor is Eriksen, but they come from football cultures in which thought and expression is expected, from the front to the back. English football continues to dumb down.

Glenn Hoddle got Swindon Town playing three defenders 20 years ago, with Paul Bodin and Nicky Summerbee as wing backs. Try it now with the best players in the land and see what happens. Any deviation from military straight lines is considered heresy and the current England manager is hardly the type to cry revolution.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world catches up and speeds past. We flatter ourselves by yearning for the English Iniesta: Brazilian reserves, the best young player in Denmark, the pride of Yerevan, capital of Armenia, this is what we haven’t got.

Get over it, Bhoys

It was not heartbreaking that Celtic lost at the Nou Camp last week. It would have been heartbreaking if Barcelona, with 82 per cent of possession, leading 10-1 on shots on target, 10-3 on shots off target and 15-1 on corners forced, had not earned more than a point. Defensive football is purely result-driven: the end justifies the means.

Nobody would have felt sorry for Chelsea had they lost to Barcelona last season, because Barcelona were the better team. /10/28/article-2224514-15B6598A000005DC-378_306x459.jpg” width=”306″ height=”459″ alt=”On the touchline: Norwich's Chris Hughton” class=”blkBorder” />

On the touchline: Norwich manager Chris Hughton

It doesn’t do him any favours with the fans of Norwich City, who now believe he is disloyal and will ditch them at the first opportunity, but that isn’t the point. A box must be ticked and Manchester United are ticking it.

But now Chelsea have got wind of United’s interest in Guardiola and Roman Abramovich doesn’t wish to miss out. So he pays off Roberto Di Matteo and puts in a call. And Guardiola fancies living in London even more than Manchester. But Abramovich knows what he must do first. So he phones Chris Hughton.

And that is why the Rooney Rule does not work. We all know that black managers are under-represented in English football but there are better ways of affording opportunity than mere quotas at interview. Black faces are most urgently needed in boardrooms because this is about employers more than employees.

If every club had to have an ex-player responsible for diversity, with non-executive status on the board of directors, the influence of black footballers would grow. The implication of the Rooney Rule is that black candidates are being overlooked, but a lone name on a shortlist won’t change that. A senior presence, with a direct line to the men doing the appointing, might.

It is not unthinkable to consider Paul Elliott in such a role at Charlton Athletic, Patrick Vieira at Manchester City, John Barnes at Liverpool, Marcel Desailly at Chelsea.

Every club, from top to bottom, would have more than one candidate for the position, a former player who could be, not just an ambassador, but a positive influence, making it laughable that a serious black contender for a coaching role would not be considered.

The power is with the employers: it is there that the change must be made.

Fans could ditch ESPN

The best two sports events I watched on television last week were the World Series baseball, and Atletico Mineiro’s 3-2 win over Fluminense in Brazil's Campeonato. Both were on ESPN. Major League Baseball has signed with them for seven years.

Yet from next season, ESPN will have no Premier League football, and soon no Premiership rugby. They are also losing coverage of Italy’s Serie A, Ligue 1 in France, Brazilian domestic matches and Major League Soccer. This leaves them with the FA Cup, Europa League and Bundesliga to appease football fans. It is not much. They will surely have to drop subscriptions from next season, but even that might not be enough as subscribers switch to Premier League football on BT Vision.

At a time when every sport is looking to expand its global awareness one wonders whether baseball, for instance, regrets entering a long-term contract with an increasingly lame-duck broadcaster. The FA, too, tied in until 2015.

The need for competition, far from being a boon to armchair sports fans, has only meant bigger bills as the rights become fragmented.

Sports writers must have all bases covered: but you don’t, and probably won’t, once you see the spiralling cost.

A different ball game: Baseball is fun to watch, but is it enough to keep ESPN viewers happy

A different ball game: Baseball is fun to watch, but is it enough to keep ESPN viewers happy

Authorities must get to bottom of Croft race case

Lee Croft of Oldham Athletic will face no police action over allegations he racially abused a ball boy at a match with Sheffield United. Croft strongly denied the accusation and an investigation by South Yorkshire police found no evidence such an event had taken place.

Not good enough. What actually happened that day The complaint was made by some Sheffield United fans. Was it fabrication or simple misunderstanding The club must take steps to discover the reality here.

If instances of racism are to receive lengthy statutory bans, as is correct and likely, then all aspects of the procedure must be regarded seriously. Victims should never be made reluctant to come forward, but nor should the accusation itself be taken lightly, if found to be false.

Andy for SPOTY

Andy Murray will not be present at the Sports Personality of the Year Awards in December. He has opted to remain in training in Miami instead. I want him to win it even more now.

Chips are down (and so pricey) at Arsenal

The economic strategy at Arsenal is plain. Instead of a very rich man investing his money, in return for excitement and glory, the fans are squeezed until the pips squeak. A club can only spend what it can generate, without external financing, so it’s 13.90 for fish and chips and the dearest season-ticket prices in the land.

There is a term to describe this phenomenon. It’s called financial fair play. Enjoy the future, everybody.

Show me the money: Watching the likes of Mikel Arteta in action for Arsenal doesn't come cheap for fans

Show me the money: Watching the likes of Mikel Arteta in action for Arsenal doesn't come cheap for fans

The problem with QPR

Stephane Mbia, who let Queens Park Rangers down so badly on Saturday, says he thought he was signing for a Scottish club and that manager Mark Hughes had barely seen him play. And there is QPR’s problem in a capsule: too much, too soon, and too many just passing through.

The bottom line

The Manchester City team that lost to Ajax last week cost 175.1million. What a waste of money. Apparently, you can get spanked in Amsterdam for a lot less than that.

Steve Evans

Further to last week’s column, Paul Douglas, chief executive of Rotherham United, has asked me to make clear that while manager Steve Evans was banned for six matches and fined 3,000 for using insulting words and behaviour with reference to gender, the part of the Football Association charge that referred to exposing himself to a female official of Bradford City was rejected.

Davis Love in contention at McGladrey Classic after round one

Englishman Owen and Ryder Cup captain Love start brightly at Sea Island

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UPDATED:

05:53 GMT, 19 October 2012

Hard work paid off for England's Greg Owen as he opened with a first round of 64 in The McGladrey Classic on Thursday.

Owen chipped in for birdie on the 11th, his second hole, and carded five more in a flawless six-under-par round at Sea Island Golf Club.

That left him two shots off the pace set by American duo Bud Cauley and Marco Dawson, with US Ryder Cup captain and tournament host Davis Love one behind Owen after a 65.

Good start: Greg Owen hits his drive off the ninth tee during the first round of the McGladrey Classic

Good start: Greg Owen hits his drive off the ninth tee during the first round of the McGladrey Classic

'I'm working really hard this week and it's starting to pay off,' said Owen, who had to go through the qualifying school to get back on the PGA Tour.

McGladrey Classic Leaderboard

Click here to follow all the latest scores

The Mansfield golfer is 93rd on the money list after playing last season on the second-tier Web.com Tour, when he admitted he was very disheartened with his game.

'I struggled the last four, maybe five years,' Owen said. 'This year I just played really solid. I've putted better, I've holed out better. And (hopefully) there's still more to come.'

Back to the day job: Davis Love III putts on the 15th green

Frustration: Gary Christian reacts to missing a birdie putt on the 16th

Back to the day job: Davis Love III putts on the 15th green on his return to the PGA Tour (left) while Gary Christian reacts to missing a birdie putt on the 16th (right)

Strong iron play was the key to Owen's round, with his longest birdie putt coming from just 11 feet.

'If the wind blows and the sun comes out this afternoon those greens could get really quick,' Owen added.

'You've got to hit golf shots. You've got doglegs either way. You've got to hit fairways and place the iron shots in a position where you can have a putt for birdie.'

Love admitted he was in need of some extra stimulation after the rigours of being Ryder Cup captain at Medinah and tournament host this week.

Life's a pitch: American Ryder Cup player Zach Johnson chips to the 15th green

Life's a pitch: American Ryder Cup player Zach Johnson chips to the 15th green

'The only adjustment I've made is more Red Bull to keep my energy up,' Love told PGATour.com.

'After the Ryder Cup I've been playing these last two weeks and I'm ready to play. The responsibilities, the parties and all that are a lot of fun, but when I get up in the morning I can tell I'm not getting a whole lot of rest.

'But I'm feeling good. I'm excited to play.'

Craig Levein sacking would cost 700,000

That's rich! 700,000 is the cost of getting rid of Levein after Scotland shambles

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UPDATED:

22:48 GMT, 17 October 2012

The SFA face being hit with a 700,000 bill to get rid of World Cup flop Craig Levein — after passing on a chance to ditch him for nothing.

And the man at the Hampden helm when Levein was hired now believes the Scotland boss should resign, saving the national game a fortune and salvaging some of his own reputation with a grand gesture.

Levein is Scotland's highest-paid national team manager in history and, with almost two years of his contract remaining, will be in line for a mammoth pay-out if the Association sack him.

Heading out Craig Levein could be sacked as Scotland manager

Heading out Craig Levein could be sacked as Scotland manager

Yet there was an option to release him for nothing after we failed to reach the Euro 2012 finals — an option not taken as SFA chief executive Stewart Regan hailed the ‘considerable progress’ made in finishing third in our qualifying group.

With our World Cup 2014 campaign now in tatters, the national game can kiss goodbye to an expected windfall of up to 10million for each of the teams making it to Brazil. The financial realities have prompted former SFA chief executive Gordon Smith, part of the panel who hired Levein, to call for his resignation.

Smith told Sportsmail: ‘I think he should walk away with his dignity intact. It would be a nice gesture because it would represent a financial saving for the game — at a time when money is crucial.

End of the road: Scotland suffered their second straight defeat in Belgium

End of the road: Scotland suffered their second straight defeat in Belgium

‘He would get kudos for resigning, as opposed to being sacked. I think he has to realise things haven’t worked out and he will be leaving, one way or another.

‘He is on a decent salary and, if he is sacked, there will be a pay-off. His contract had an option that was renewed after the last campaign.

‘I believe our campaign is over. Most people felt we had to pick up something from our last two games. Two teams in our group now have 10 points and we have two.

‘I believe we have a good group of players, so the common denominator is the manager and that is why we are not in a position to qualify.

‘Now it will be down to the SFA themselves to make a decision.’

Belgium 2 Scotland 0 – match report: Craig Levein hurtling towards sack

Belgium 2 Scotland 0: Kompany rocket sends Levein hurtling towards the exit

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UPDATED:

21:04 GMT, 16 October 2012

A question mark hung over Craig Levein's future as Scotland manager as hopes of salvaging their World Cup qualifying campaign were shattered by a 2-0 defeat to Belgium.

The Scots headed into the match in Brussels sitting second bottom of Group A and still seeking a first win which was desperately needed to boost their slim hopes of reaching Brazil in 2014.

But second-half goals from Christian Benteke and Vincent Kompany just a minute apart meant the dramatic victory against one of the section favourites failed to materialise on another bitterly disappointing night for Scotland.

Roaring success: Belgium defender Vincent Kompany celebrates after scoring the second goal

Roaring success: Belgium defender Vincent Kompany celebrates after scoring the second goal

MATCH FACTS

Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Kompany, Vertonghen, De Bruyne, Witsel, Chadli, Mertens (Mirallas 55), Dembele (Hazard 45), Benteke (M'Boyo 86).

Subs not used: Mignolet, Ciman, Van Buyten, Defour, Lombaerts, Vossen, Simons, Guillaume Gillet, Jean-Francois Gillet.

Goals: Benteke 69, Kompany 71

Booked: Chadli

Scotland: McGregor, Hutton, Berra, Caldwell, Fox, Maloney, Morrison (Phillips 79), Darren Fletcher, McArthur, Commons (Mackie 45), Steven Fletcher (Miller 76).

Subs not used: Gilks, Mulgrew, Cowie, Adam, Martin, Webster, Marshall.

Booked: McGregor

Attendance: 44,047

Referee: Mauricio Morales (Mexico)

Click here for the latest World Cup Qualifying results, fixtures and table

Levein made one change from the side
who lost to Wales, with Wigan midfielder James McArthur drafted into the
starting line-up in place of Scott Brown.

The Celtic skipper was forced to
withdraw from the squad with an ongoing hip problem that forced him out
of Friday's clash in Cardiff at half-time.

Injury to Marouane Fellaini should
have been a boost for the Scots but they still faced a Belgian side
packed full of talent in the shape of players such as Kompany and Thomas
Vermaelen.

The home side were even in a position
to name Eden Hazard on the bench, confirming speculation he would not
start the game at the King Baudouin Stadium.

Belgium looked dangerous right from the first whistle and a Gary Caldwell error allowed Dries Mertens to burst into the box.

But goalkeeper Allan McGregor came to
the rescue and blocked superbly at both attempts by Mertens to deny the
home side the opener early on.

Fortunately for the Scots, McGregor
was on top form and he also saved well from Nacer Chadli at the near
post before diving bravely to the feet of the same player to snuff out
another threat.

Deadlock broken: Christian Benteke (second left) celebrates with team-mate Kevin De Bruyne (right)

Deadlock broken: Christian Benteke (second left) celebrates with team-mate Kevin De Bruyne (right)

Head boy: Benteke (top right) rises highest to nod home past Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor

Head boy: Benteke (top right) rises highest to nod home past Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor

After a period of intense pressure
from the Belgians, a mis-hit shot from James Morrison caused more
problems than it should have for Thibaut Courtois.

The goalkeeper looked more convincing
when he prevented a curling free-kick from Shaun Maloney from finding
the top corner after Kris Commons was fouled just outside the box by
Moussa Dembele.

At the other end, Chadli was given
enough space to unleash a thunderous strike from 25 yards that whistled
inches past the post, before Dembele and Mertens both saw efforts fall
wide of target.

Fighting for his job: Scotland manager Craig Levein is now under huge pressure following another defeat

Fighting for his job: Scotland manager Craig Levein is now under huge pressure following another defeat

The game's up: Scotland's defence know they have a mountain to climb after conceding in Belgium

The game's up: Scotland's defence know they have a mountain to climb after conceding in Belgium

With half-time approaching, Scotland
threatened from another free-kick, with Commons forcing a decent save
from the keeper on this occasion.

Both sides made a change at the interval, with Jamie Mackie replacing Commons and Dembele making way for Hazard.

The Belgians hit the woodwork within
five minutes of the restart when Benteke threw himself in front of Toby
Alderweireld's cross only to see his header clip the crossbar on the way
over.

Sharpshooter: Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard strikes a free kick at Scotland's goal in Brussels

Sharpshooter: Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard strikes a free kick at Scotland's goal in Brussels

Kevin Mirallas was thrown into the
action for Mertens, before McGregor was shown the first yellow card of
the game for time wasting on the hour mark.

The breakthrough came for the Belgians
after 69 minutes when Benteke bulleted home a header at the back post,
eventually beating the impressive McGregor.

On the attack: Belgium midfielder Dries Mertens (second left) gets his shot past Alan Hutton (centre)

On the attack: Belgium midfielder Dries Mertens (second left) gets his shot past Alan Hutton (centre)

Who, me Belgium's Nacer Chadli reacts after conceding a foul against Scotland

Who, me Belgium's Nacer Chadli reacts after conceding a foul against Scotland

Belgium doubled their lead a minute
later when Kompany collected from Hazard on the edge of the area and
rifled an unstoppable shot into the back of the net.

It was a crushing blow for the Scots, who replaced Steven Fletcher with Kenny Miller, with just over 15 minutes to go.

Blackpool's Matt Phillips was then
handed his competitive debut, confirming his allegiance to a Scotland
side whose slim hopes of reaching the World Cup finals were, by then,
left in tatters.

I want to break free: Mousa Dembele (left) attempts to shake off Scotland midfielder James Morrison

I want to break free: Mousa Dembele (left) attempts to shake off Scotland midfielder James Morrison

Tussle: Vincent Kompany (left) fights for the ball with Scotland's Steven Fletcher (right)

Tussle: Vincent Kompany (left) fights for the ball with Scotland's Steven Fletcher (right)

Craig Levein in final bid to keep his job

Last orders! As Scotland face crunch in Belgium, Levein makes final bid to keep his job

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UPDATED:

23:05 GMT, 15 October 2012

Craig Levein insists he is still the man to lead Scotland from the international wilderness.

Under intense pressure to save his job by beating World Cup qualifying group leaders Belgium here on Tuesday night, the Fifer believes his side have one huge result in their locker.

Others remain unconvinced, however, with the clamour for the SFA to act certain to reach a crescendo if Levein fails to deliver a victory over the star-studded hosts in the King Baudouin Stadium.

Big ask: Craig Levein knows his job is under threat if results continue

Big ask: Craig Levein knows his job is under threat if results continue

Claiming that chopping and changing managers is not the answer to the nation’s woes, the 47-year-old maintained he is still the man to get results for Scotland — despite damaging evidence to the contrary so far.

Asked if he felt he was still the right man for the job, Levein replied: ‘Yes I do. I believe in what I am doing. Whatever happens will happen. It is outwith my control.

‘All I am saying to you is that I know how much work has gone into the point we are at now. And I just feel we are a small fraction away from the one result which turns everything.’

Levein insisted he is oblivious to the debate raging over his future in Scotland, which has hit fever pitch following the 2-1 defeat against Wales in Cardiff, and refuses to entertain any queries over his future.

‘I don’t even think about it,’ he said. ‘All I can do is concentrate on the games. After Friday night’s result, we had to get over the disappointment, get on to the training ground, have team meetings and focus on this next match.

‘To me, thinking about anything else, or worrying about anything else, is counter-productive. Those decisions (concerning his future) are not mine. I firmly believe in what we’re doing, I really do.

Controversy: Scotland were denied a clear goal before Gareth Bale's heroics

Controversy: Scotland were denied a clear goal before Gareth Bale's heroics

Controversy: Scotland were denied a clear goal before Gareth Bale's heroics

Controversy: Scotland were denied a clear goal before Gareth Bale's heroics

‘What I need more than anything else — to convince other people — is to get some results.’

The Scotland boss remains angered by the decisions of the German officials in Cardiff last Friday.

A disallowed goal for Steven Fletcher robbed the Scots of a two-goal lead with only 15 minutes remaining and pre-empted a Welsh comeback inspired by the brilliance of Gareth Bale.

Levein accepts that he will be judged by results but claimed that axing a succession of managers had done nothing to arrest the nation’s cycle of international decline in the last 14 years.

‘We have not qualified (for a major tournament) since 1998 — that’s a fact,’ he said. ‘And you can chop and change managers as many times as you want and say: “That manager didn’t work and that manager didn’t work and that one didn’t work”.

‘What happens then is you go out and look for another manager who is the Messiah and he is going to make everything work.

‘But I keep saying that the teams at the top of the tree are the ones that have actually put a system in place to produce players. This is me talking about the long game — this is not about just now.’

Steven Fletcher disallowed goal v Wales – Craig Levene furious

Scotland boss Levein furious at linesman blunder for disallowed Fletcher header

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UPDATED:

10:45 GMT, 13 October 2012

Scotland manager Craig Levein expressed his anger after seeing his side denied a legitimate goal in their 2-1 defeat to Wales at Cardiff City Stadium.

Having already provided the assist from which James Morrison put the Scots 1-0 up in the 27th minute, Steven Fletcher – back in the side for the first time in over two years – thought he had doubled their advantage in the second half when he headed in Charlie Adam's cross.

The effort was disallowed, though, with the delivery from Adam adjudged to have gone out of play – despite replays suggesting otherwise.

Disallowed: Steven Fletcher thinks he has doubled Scotland's lead

Disallowed: Steven Fletcher thinks he has doubled Scotland's lead

Gareth Bale subsequently equalised from the penalty spot in the 81st minute after it was deemed he had been fouled in the box by Shaun Maloney, and then rifled in a delightful winner with a minute of normal time remaining to leave Scotland with just two points from three games in World Cup Qualifying Group A.

Referring to the disallowed goal, Levein said: 'You can understand my frustration.

'Everybody who watches it can make up their own mind about whether it was a good or poor decision by the officials.

See for yourself: The ball clearly stays in play before Fletcher's header

See for yourself: The ball clearly stays in play before Fletcher's header

Fletcher

Fletcher

Fletcher

Fletcher

'I can only relay my feelings, and I am extremely angry about this happening to us again.

'We have been subject to a couple of really poor decisions and it has a huge effect on our chances of qualifying.'

He added: 'With 10 minutes to go I just could not see us losing the match.

'Getting the second goal was always going to be crucial, though, because a 1-0 lead can be fragile, and so it proved.

'That second goal was so important for us, and I believe the officials made a serious error with the chalked-off goal that Steven Fletcher scored. That is very hard to take.'

Fury: Craig Levein was unimpressed at the call

Fury: Craig Levein was unimpressed at the call

After they had lost their two opening Group A fixtures, Wales are now off the bottom and up to fourth, behind leaders Belgium and second-placed Croatia, who both have seven points, and Serbia, third on four points.

That will ease the heat on Dragons boss Chris Coleman, but it is only being turned up on Levein, whose fifth-placed team had already made a disappointing start to their campaign with home draws against Serbia and Macedonia – the new rock-bottom side – last month.

Asked how much pressure he felt he was under ahead of Tuesday's away clash with Belgium, Levein said: 'Any time you take to the field for an international match, the pressure is exactly the same.

'I don't want to talk about 'what if this happens' or “what if that happens”.

'The important thing now is that I do the job to the best of my ability and get the players up for Tuesday.'