Tag Archives: quality

Grand National 2013: Last year"s fatalities put jump racing under the microscope

Grand National faces biggest test with fatalities putting jump racing under the microscope

By
Marcus Townend

PUBLISHED:

21:04 GMT, 3 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

21:04 GMT, 3 April 2013

Four Grade One races of rare quality grace today’s opening day of Aintree’s Grand National meeting while tomorrow the clash between steeplechase superstar Sprinter Sacre, Cue Card and Flemenstar is being billed as the race of the season.

But which horses pass the winning line first over the next three days won’t matter a jot if Saturday’s big race turns into another visceral examination of jump racing.

Twelve months ago, when two horses were killed for a second year running, including Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised, the joy was squeezed out of the victory of Neptune Collonges.

Scroll down for Peter Scudamore's inside track on Aintree's new fences

Preparations: Aintree ground staff were tending to the new safer fences ahead of the three-day meeting

Preparations: Aintree ground staff were tending to the new safer fences ahead of the three-day meeting

The deaths of Synchronised and According To Pete raised questions as to whether the race could even survive in its present form.

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant called the deaths ‘totally unacceptable’ while branding the famous Becher’s Brook, where According To Pete was brought down before being hit by another horse, a ‘killer fence’. A nervous calm precedes this year’s race but a major modification to the fences’ construction has been welcomed (see graphic above).

Spokesmen for the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare deny the race is on trial but another body blow would be serious given a sponsor is being sought with John Smiths leaving after Saturday’s race.

Finishing touch: The grass on the Grand National finish line was cut this week before the Aintree showpiece

Finishing touch: The grass on the Grand National finish line was cut this week before the Aintree showpiece

WHW chief executive Roly Owers said: ‘There is still huge support for the race but there also are increasing voices within racing questioning whether the National is doing the sport any good. The warning bells have sounded and Aintree have recognised that.

‘Our biggest issue with the National is the number of fallers. It is five times higher than a normal steeplechase. The fewer fallers, the less chance of injury. The changes to the fence core are a real step forward and we also welcome the improvements in irrigation.

‘We recognise you can’t eliminate risk. The responsibility is to minimise it.’

WHW have repeated a call to reduce the number of starters.Owers said: ‘We believe there should be a trial reduction of three years. We recognise it has to be a great test but you can’t just accept the regular death of horses.’

Scrutiny: Last year's Grand National (above) saw the fatalities of According to Pete and Synchronised

Scrutiny: Last year's Grand National (above) saw the fatalities of According to Pete and Synchronised

RSPCA equine consultant David Muir added: ‘With 40 runners, you have 40 chances of things going wrong. I’d like to see them reduce it to 30 but we don’t run racing.’

Jockeys have been asked to moderate their speed to the first fence and the run-up to it has been shortened by 90 yards by moving the start further away from the unsettling cauldron of noise coming from of the grandstands.

Jamie Stier, BHA director of raceday operations, said: ‘The changes are all designed for horse welfare but at the same time we have maintained the shape, size and character of the fences.

Fences

‘People have to understand the position of the race within the fabric of society. Attendance figures last year were 155,000 at the meeting and more people watch the Grand National on TV than the FA Cup final — more than 11million — with a global audience of 600m in 140 countries.

‘We don’t feel it is on trial. It is down to the BHA and Aintree to find a way forward.’

Still, a lot of people will be holding their breath on Saturday.

Peter Scudamore looks at the major fences at this year's Grand…

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Brendan Rodgers wants four new signing to turn Liverpool into top four contenders

Liverpool want Williams, Ben Arfa, Ince and Gameiro as Rodgers targets four summer signings to seal Champions League return

By
Dominic King

PUBLISHED:

00:14 GMT, 13 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

08:10 GMT, 13 March 2013

Brendan Rodgers has outlined his ambition to make four new signings this summer to give Liverpool’s squad the depth to become credible Champions League challengers.

Liverpool have made significant progress on the back of a positive January transfer window which saw them land Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho and Rodgers wants that to set a precedent.

He is eager to sign similar quality players in the close season and plans have already been put into place for the recruitment drive, with Rodgers wanting to have a number of options.

Top target: Brendan Rodgers wants to be reunited with Swansea's Ashley Williams

Top target: Brendan Rodgers wants to be reunited with Swansea's Ashley Williams

Feyenoord's Stefan De Vrij and Swansea captain Ashley Williams will be considered as potential new central defenders, while Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa, Tom Ince of Blackpool and Paris St Germain’s Kevin Gameiro will also come under consideration.

'There is no doubt there is a natural rebuilding that will come with the likes of Jamie Carragher going,’ said Rodgers. ‘I am happy with the squad if I can then put another three or four quality players to it. It is quality we are after, not quantity.

'If we bring in another three or four quality players to add to what we have got, then we have got a strong squad. Naturally there might be people who aren't playing who might want to think about going elsewhere, but at the moment it's a strong squad.’

Hatem Ben Arfa

Tom Ince

Wanted men: Rodgers is keen on Hatem Ben Arfa from Newcastle and Blackpool's Tom Ince

When Rodgers took over last summer, there was a feeling that Liverpool lacked a strategy in the transfer market, which contributed to the summer window ending in farce as they missed out on signing Clint Dempsey. It is why Rodgers feels it is imperative to have different options to go for.

'Of course you have an ideal target, but we are getting to a situation now where, for me, you have to have three players and if one doesn't come off you have to be comfortable with the other two – If you get one of those you are happy,’ said Rodgers.

'There is a lot of terrific work going on behind the scenes with the scouting department getting those lists together really. We never had that in the summer and what I had to go with was not what I knew but there were some key positions we needed support in.

Wanted: Paris Saint-Germain's forward Kevin Gameiro is a target

Wanted: Paris Saint-Germain's forward Kevin Gameiro is a target

'What I didn't want to do was to waste the club's money. I like to be extensive and know what we are bringing in, but also we did not have the time and that was the big issue. We are much better placed now. There is great collaboration that goes on between all the departments.

'January was a productive window for us and hopefully if we do the similar in the summer then it's going to be a real good place for us.’

If Liverpool maintain the form they have shown in recent weeks until May, they may yet sneak a place in Europe. To achieve that goal, they would need to finish fifth in the Barclays Premier League and defender Jose Enrique says beating Tottenham helped the squad clear a mental block.

Aiming high: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers wants the club to challenge for the Champions League

Aiming high: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers wants the club to challenge for the Champions League

'I didn't think we would win the game when Tottenham scored their second goal,’ said Enrique. ‘It is difficult to win these games. The statistics speak for themselves, look at how we have done against the top six teams this season.

'Of course, you always try to win every game, but in terms of our mentality we hadn't had good experiences of this type when we've been losing. But the team worked very hard and this is the important thing because when the team stick together you can see the results.’

Ronnie Wood at Barcelona v AC Milan

Rolling Stone axeman Wood spotted in the Nou Camp getting plenty of satisfaction

By
John Drayton

PUBLISHED:

20:45 GMT, 12 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

21:41 GMT, 12 March 2013

Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood knows plenty about hot tickets. But usually people are buying them for his shows.

On Tuesday it was Wood shelling out, as he treated his wife Sally to an evening of high quality football as Barcelona faced AC Milan in the Nou Camp.

Many claim the Stones are rock's greatest band and Wood found himself watching someone else at the top of his trade too, as Lionel Messi went on a rampage.

Excited: Ronnie Wood enjoying the action with his wife Sally... and with a cigarette (below)

Excited: Ronnie Wood enjoying the action with his wife Sally… and with a cigarette (below)

Smokin'

Ruby Tuesday: Ronnie Wood and his wife Sally were in the Nou Camp to see Barca take on Milan

The Barca star painted it black with two stunning first half strikes to rock Milan, who had come to Spain with a two-goal lead.

The first was some real hot stuff – the Argentina international finished exquisitely from outside the box.

Messi then shattered Milan's advantage with his second, sending Barcelona fans out of control.

Barcelona went on to win 4-0, thanks to additional strikes from David Villa and Jordi Alba, leaving Milan firmly under their thumb.

You got me rocking: Lionel Messi celebrates after turning the tie on its head

You got me rocking: Lionel Messi celebrates after turning the tie on its head

Wilfried Zaha and Ian Holloway charged by FA following Leeds clash

Zaha charged for flashing middle finger at Leeds fans… as Holloway joins him in dock

By
Dan Ripley

PUBLISHED:

16:14 GMT, 12 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

18:19 GMT, 12 March 2013

Wilfried Zaha has been charged by the FA following his gesture towards at Leeds fans last weekend.

The Crystal Palace star was being
berated by fans in Palace's 2-2 Championship draw with Leeds on March 9, and
responded by grinning and sticking up his middle finger.

Palace have been hit with a double
charge in relation to the same game after manager Ian Holloway was also
hit by the FA following his alleged misconduct towards match officials.

Response: Wilfried Zaha had a message for the Leeds fans giving him stick

Response: Wilfried Zaha had a message for the Leeds fans giving him stick

Top form: Zaha again showed the star quality yesterday that earned a move to Manchester United

Top form: Zaha again showed the star quality yesterday that earned a move to Manchester United

Zaha has already
apologised for swearing at Leeds supporters after they gave him abuse
for his impending transfer to Manchester United.

Both Zaha and Holloway have until 4pm on Friday March 15 to respond to the charge.

Zaha posted on his Twitter profile: 'On
that note I also wanted to apologise for the gesture I did towards the
Leeds fans in yesterday's game. Very unprofessional from me.'

United fans took to Twitter to praise their new signing, saying he was 'getting into practice'.

Whether Sir Alex Ferguson would approve of this gesture is another matter entirely.

Eyes on the ball: Zaha used his head to get past Leeds defender Lee Peltier

Eyes on the ball: Zaha used his head to get past Leeds defender Lee Peltier

Wing wizard: Zaha cuts inside to beat Leeds United's Stephen Warnock

Wing wizard: Zaha cuts inside to beat Leeds United's Stephen Warnock

Ibrahimovic backs Beckham to deliver after PSG show their star quality in 4-0 rout of Toulouse

VIDEO: What has Becks signed up for PSG show their star quality in rout of Toulouse as Ibrahimovic backs former England captian to deliver in Paris

By
Sami Mokbel

PUBLISHED:

22:19 GMT, 1 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

08:08 GMT, 2 February 2013

New signing David Beckham may
struggle to win a place in the Paris St Germain team on the evidence of
their 4-0 demolition of mid-table Toulouse on Friday.

The Ligue 1 leaders, who signed
free-agent Beckham on Thursday, were without the former Real Madrid and Manchester United midfielder
as he had returned to England for extra training in a bid to sharpen his
fitness.

Beckham has been without a club since winning the Major League Soccer title with Los Angeles Galaxy in December.

VIDEO: Scroll down to watch highlights of PSG's win over Toulouse

Clinical: PSG defender Mamadou Sakho heads home

Clinical: PSG defender Mamadou Sakho heads home

Beck and forth: Beckham missed the game to sharpen up his fitness

Sales pitch: But a Beckham shirt will cost you an eye-watering 100 on PSG website

He is due to begin training at PSG on February 13.

Carlo Ancelotti's PSG moved three points clear at the top of the table thanks to Javier Pastore, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with his 20th goal on his 20th league appearance for the club, Mamadou Sakho and Gregory van der Wiel.

Brazil striker Lucas, another recent recruit, produced a fine performance and set up two of the goals.

PSG have 48 points from 23 games. Second-placed Olympique Lyon travel to AC Ajaccio on Sunday.

VIDEO: Watch highlights from PSG's 4-0 win over Toulouse

Meanwhile, Ibrahimovic has leapt to defence of David Beckham's after his new team-mate was called a 'third-hand Rolls-Royce'.

The 37-year-old has signed a five-month deal with Paris Saint-Germain, but his capture has not caused as much glee as you would expect, despite the former England captain pledging his 170,000-per-week wages to a Paris children's charity.

It is claimed Beckham will still receive a hefty image rights fee, and PSG are said to be paying for his accommodation and security in the capital. And his arrival in France was not particularly well received by the Parisian press yesterday.

Top man: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (R) celebrates after scoring

Top man: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (R) celebrates after scoring

Impressed: PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti

Impressed: PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti

Newspaper Le Figaro read: 'A special status can feed jealousy. In a dressing room where the offensive egos of players are struggling to live, the arrival of a third-hand Rolls-Royce, which becomes the main focus of media fascination, risks causing envy, while feeding a climate of discord.'

The paper also suggests players will be 'annoyed' by Becks and wife Victoria appearing in glossy magazines, but new teammate Ibrahimovic insists the global icon still has plenty to offer on the pitch.

He said: 'For a striker playing with somebody like David is a dream. He is the best deliverer of the ball in the world, still.

'If you make the good runs, you know he will find you. I am sure we will create something very special. David said that when he left the US, he had more offers than at any point in his career. The fact that he chose PSG says a lot about the project we have here.

'It is no longer just the big teams from Italy, Spain and England the top players want to come to – it is now us as well. It is excellent news for us that David is permitted to play in Europe. He still has so much to offer at that level, and his experience with Manchester United and Real Madrid will be vital.

'I am sure David wants to win the Champions League again before he retires.'

Andy Murray won"t complain about OBE

OBE The fantasy league is my goal, says Murray on back of stunning year

|

UPDATED:

00:17 GMT, 30 December 2012

Andy Murray would have every right to feel aggrieved for receiving ‘only’ an OBE in the New Year’s honours, but you will not find Britain’s best tennis player complaining about it — his focus is firmly on 2013, when he says his main aim, aside from winning matches, will be to retain his Fantasy Football title.

Murray’s historic 2012 included Olympic singles gold and the US Open title (the first Slam title by a British man for 76 years) in tennis’s greatest era for quality bar none, as well as being voted into third place in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

Yet Murray’s OBE was two tiers down from the award handed to Bradley Wiggins (knighthood), a tier below the CBEs handed to Mo Farah, Jess Ennis, Victoria Pendleton and Kath Grainger, and on the same level as up-and-coming cyclist Laura Trott and dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin.

Main man: Andy Murray was honoured with an OBE after his winning season

Main man: Andy Murray was honoured with an OBE after his winning season

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Murray, 25, will be unruffled because his sport comes ahead of any resulting baubles, although he has already been installed as the favourite to win the SPOTY award in 2013. England cricketer Alastair Cook is second favourite in what will be Ashes year, ahead of Ennis, Farah and Chris Froome, a possible winner of the 2013 Tour de France with Team Sky.

Murray outlined his 2013 targets, including retaining the fantasy league title he contests among friends, in a debut Twitter forum hosted by football’s world governing body, FIFA.

In the same session, Sir Geoff Hurst invited Murray to watch England play football in 2013 — and Murray accepted. Murray also disclosed that ‘purely on satisfaction’ his Olympic gold meant more to him than his US Open title.

He also said that if he had not been a tennis player, his dream would have been to play football for Arsenal, rather than Hibernian, the Edinburgh team he supports.

Jess a Twitter millionairess

Jessica Ennis’s army of Twitter followers reached the one million mark on Christmas Eve, prompting the heptathlon star to tweet: ‘That’s mad! Thanks guys. I’d better start tweeting some interesting stuff.’

Golden moment: Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon at the London Games

Golden moment: Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon at the London Games

Ennis becomes only the third British Olympian to pass 1m followers after diver Tom Daley, who has 2.1m people following his tweets, and Andy Murray, with 1.33m. Mo Farah (710,000) is next closest to the tally, Sir Chris Hoy is on 430,000, Becky Adlington has 311,000, Victoria Pendleton attracts 237,000 and gymnast — and ‘Strictly’ winner — Louis Smith is on 195,000.

These numbers are dwarfed by Britain’s best-followed footballers Wayne Rooney (5.5m) and Rio Ferdinand (3.7m).

Mum Julie flies to Crowe’s nest

Four Yorkshire brothers, who have all been signed to play for the Sydney-based rugby league club owned by film star Russell Crowe, will celebrate the New Year as a family after their mother, Julie, flew to Australia to begin a new life Down Under with them last week.

England and Great Britain international Sam Burgess, 24, as well as older brother Luke, 25, and twin siblings George and Tom, 20, have been signed by the South Sydney Rabbitohs, owned by Crowe, 48, since 2006.

Helping hand: Russell Crowe

Helping hand: Russell Crowe

Widowed Julie has been a friend of Crowe’s since the club signed Sam in 2009, with the other brothers following. ‘He’s always very hospitable and looks after the boys. He loves being part of our family, he likes to look after us,’ said Ms Burgess earlier this year.

Once in Sydney, she tweeted: ‘Hello Australia! I’ve arrived and couldn’t be happier!’

Sam Burgess has played down suggestions of a romance between Crowe, who recently split from his wife, and his mother, insisting they are ‘just mates’.

BT warned

Sunset+Vine, the award-winning company who have bagged the contract to produce the live sports programming for BT’s new sports channel, including Premier League games from summer 2013, will face financial penalties in the event of any broadcasting cock-ups, say sources.

BT are desperate for their new content to be perfect and a schedule of fines is aimed at making sure there are no bloopers like the one made by ITV during the 2010 World Cup, when viewers missed Steven Gerrard’s goal for England against the United States because of an advert break. BT declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Jake Humphrey’s appointment to front BT’s Premier League coverage has led to joy for petrolhead pin-up Suzi Perry. The 42-year-old presenter will replace Humphrey as the face of BBC1’s Formula One coverage. Gary Lineker is among those who tweeted his congratulations, saying: ‘Great choice, she’ll be brilliant.’

Rafa Benitez savours Juan Mata masterclass after Chelsea midfielder shoots down Norwich

Benitez savours Mata masterclass after Chelsea midfielder shoots down Norwich

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UPDATED:

18:36 GMT, 26 December 2012

Chelsea interim manager Rafael
Benitez hailed Juan Mata as one of the best players in the Barclays
Premier League after the Spaniard struck the winner in a 1-0 victory at
Norwich.

Despite not hitting the heights of
the 8-0 thrashing dished out to Aston Villa on Sunday, Chelsea were the
better side in a game that lacked any sustained quality.

Beauty: Mata broke the deadlock seven minutes before half-time with a long-range effort

Beauty: Mata broke the deadlock seven minutes before half-time with a long-range effort

Delight: Mata celebrates his goal with Ashley Cole

Delight: Mata celebrates his goal with Ashley Cole

Match facts

Norwich:
Bunn, Martin, Turner, Bassong, Garrido, Snodgrass, Tettey, Johnson (Howson 82), Pilkington (Morison
78), Hoolahan (Elliott Bennett 88), Holt.

Subs Not Used: Rudd, Jackson, Barnett, Ryan
Bennett.

Booked: Johnson.

Chelsea:
Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole, Mikel (Lampard 73), Luiz, Moses (Hazard
78), Oscar, Mata (Ake 90), Torres.

Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Ferreira, Marin, Piazon.

Booked: Hazard.

Goal: Mata 38.

Att: 26,831

Ref: Jon Moss (W Yorkshire).

Latest Premier League table and results

Mata struck from 25 yards in the 38th minute to settle the match and condemn Norwich to a second defeat in four days, with the Canaries failing to truly test Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech over the course of the game.

The win moves the Blues to within four points of Manchester City in the Premier League table and Benitez was full of praise for his compatriot.

'He is playing really well,' he said.

'Even without the ball he is working hard but when we are in possession he is making the difference, I always say the same; if the team are playing well these players can make the difference.

'I think the Premier League has a lot of good players and Mata is one of the best for sure – he can be even better.

'Mata is a player who is dangerous – inside the box and outside the box, we are really pleased with him.

'The team has won three games in a row since Japan…against Man United and Arsenal they (Norwich) have won so we knew it could be tough, I'm pleased for the team and pleased for Juan.'

Star man: The gifted Spaniard scored the only goal in a game of little quality

Star man: The gifted Spaniard scored the only goal in a game of little quality

Closing the gap: Chelsea moved closer to Manchester City, who lost to Sunderland

Closing the gap: Chelsea moved closer to Manchester City, who lost to Sunderland

Benitez left Frank Lampard on the bench for the trip to Norfolk amid speculation he will leave Stamford Bridge next summer.

But the former Liverpool boss was bullish about the future of Lampard and fellow England star Ashley Cole.

'From my position it is very easy, it is a private conversation between
Frank and the club and that is it. He is a good player and I would like
to bring the best from him, that is my position.

'I don't know if Ashley has had the conversations or not but, for me, they are players under contract, good players.

'After being injured like he (Lampard) was, we needed fresh legs and we have to manage the squad,' he said

'We can't play so many game with the same players so we have to manage and everyone is important.'

Resilient: Chelsea kept another clean sheet under Rafael Benitez

Resilient: Chelsea kept another clean sheet under Rafael Benitez

On a roll: Chelsea have won their last three games since returning from the Club World Cup in Japan

On a roll: Chelsea have won their last three games since returning from the Club World Cup in Japan

Alan Pardew praises Shola Ameobi

Pardew praises Ameobi 'the big man for the big occasion' as Toon struggle past Rangers

|

UPDATED:

20:13 GMT, 22 December 2012

Alan Pardew hailed Shola Ameobi after seeing the striker come off the bench to fire Newcastle to a much-needed victory over lowly QPR.

The 31-year struck nine minutes from time to claim just the Magpies' second Barclays Premier League win in eight attempts with the game seemingly heading for stalemate.

Toon hero: Newcastle's Shola Ameobi celebrates scoring his sides winning goal with James Perch

Toon hero: Newcastle's Shola Ameobi celebrates scoring his sides winning goal with James Perch

Match facts

Newcastle: Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Anita, Tiote (Marveaux 77), Perch, Gutierrez (Obertan 60), Ba, Cisse (Shola Ameobi 61).

Subs Not Used: Harper, Bigirimana, Sammy Ameobi, Ferguson.

Booked: Tiote, Perch, Shola Ameobi.

Goal: Shola Ameobi 81.

QPR: Green, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Nelsen, Hill, Mackie, Mbia, Granero (Wright-Phillips 56), Faurlin (Derry 78), Taarabt, Cisse (Hoilett 64).

Subs Not Used: Murphy, Diakite, Traore, Onuoha.

Booked: Ferdinand, Hill.

Attendance: 50,180

Referee: Kevin Friend

Latest Premier League results, fixtures and table

Pardew, whose decision to replace
Papiss Cisse with Ameobi 20 minutes earlier had been booed by a section
of the 50,180-strong crowd at St James' Park, said: 'I know the crowd
weren't particularly pleased when I took Cisse, a goalscorer, off but I
just felt Shola… he's a big man and this was a big occasion and he likes
big occasions.

'It said QPR on the programme but
really it was bigger than that, I think we all knew that and he has that
calm head – he knows what is demanded here – to produce a quality goal,
and it won us the game.

'I wanted to get Shola on the pitch, and thank goodness I did because it was a really class finish.

'He could have taken the shot with
his right foot, which is his stronger foot, but to have that composure
in that area is first-class.'

Ameobi's decisive intervention came
in the nick of time and was greeted by a huge sigh of relief on Tyneside
after he ran on to fellow substitute Sylvain Marveaux's
perfectly-weighted pass before shooting left-foot across keeper Rob
Green and into the bottom corner.

Leaving it late: Shola Ameobi scores to win the game for Newcastle

Leaving it late: Shola Ameobi scores to win the game for Newcastle

It was no more than the Magpies
deserved after dominating throughout but it proved a rare piece of
incision with Pardew's men too often lacking craft to open up the
visitors.

Vurnon Anita forced two second-half
saves from Green, but Tim Krul also had to get down well to keep out
Djibril Cisse's effort just after the break.

The Magpies might have won more
comfortably had Green not beaten away Marveaux's late effort after a
pacy run, but Krul had to ease late nerves by plucking Adel Taarabt's
free-kick from under his crossbar in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

Fight for the ball: Adel Taarabt vies for the ball with Newcastle's Mike Williamson

Fight for the ball: Adel Taarabt vies for the ball with Newcastle's Mike Williamson

Pardew had admitted before the game
that he would not enjoy his Christmas lunch unless he sat down with
three points safely banked, and he was delighted to be able to do so
ahead of a tough Boxing Day trip to Manchester United.

He said: 'The pudding will taste a
little bit sweeter. I feel sorry for our fans. We have put them through
the rack, really, over this last period.

'They have watched some football that
hasn't been our best. But you have periods in your tenure as a manager
and sometimes a season.

Midfield battle: Cheick Tiote is tracked by Esteban Granero

Midfield battle: Cheick Tiote is tracked by Esteban Granero

Pardew had admitted before the game
that he would not enjoy his Christmas lunch unless he sat down with
three points safely banked, and he was delighted to be able to do so
ahead of a tough Boxing Day trip to Manchester United.

He said: 'The pudding will taste a
little bit sweeter. I feel sorry for our fans. We have put them through
the rack, really, over this last period.

'They have watched some football that
hasn't been our best. But you have periods in your tenure as a manager
and sometimes a season.

Getting it right: Harry Redknapp gives instructions from the sidelines

Getting it right: Harry Redknapp gives instructions from the sidelines

'Last season, we sailed through one or two low moments but not many. This year, it's been a sustained little run.

'But the last five games, two wins in
the last four Premier League games, they are starting to look the right
sort of stats now.

'Now we need to back that up and get a big win against one of the big clubs, and that would really cement us into mid-table.'

Defeat on Tyneside was the first for
QPR boss Harry Redknapp since taking over from Mark Hughes, although he
admitted his side had been hanging on when Ameobi settled the game.

He said: 'I thought we were going to hang on and nick a draw. I couldn't see us winning, but we just couldn't see it through.

'I thought we could hang on for a good point to keep us going, but it just wasn't to be.'

All smiles: QPR owner Tony Fernandes watches on at St James' Park

All smiles: QPR owner Tony Fernandes watches on at St James' Park

Alex Cuthbert signs new contract at Cardiff Blues

Wales wing Cuthbert rejects French overtures to sign new three-year deal at Cardiff Blues

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UPDATED:

09:26 GMT, 20 December 2012

Wing wizard: Cuthbert has put pen to paper

Wing wizard: Cuthbert has put pen to paper

Wales wing Alex Cuthbert has resisted the temptation of joining several of his international team-mates in France by signing a new three-year contract with Cardiff Blues.

Cuthbert, a star performer in the Test match arena this year, has bucked the trend of top Wales players moving to France, with Jamie Roberts and Dan Lydiate both set to join the exodus next season.

Mike Phillips, Gethin Jenkins, James Hook and Luke Charteris already play in the French Top 14, while prop Paul James is in his first season at Aviva Premiership club Bath.

'I had a lot of decisions to make, but I am glad I've got it sorted and this is the place I want to be to take my rugby career forward,' Cuthbert, 22, said.

'I did have some good offers from other clubs, but I wanted to stay with the Blues.

Dragon: Cuthbert has scored five tries in 13 Tests for Wales

Dragon: Cuthbert has scored five tries in 13 Tests for Wales

'I've certainly seen the progress on the pitch, although we may not be getting the results right now. We are just losing by narrow margins, and you can tell it's coming.

'Hopefully, we will get some quality players in next season and those close losses will turn into wins for us.'

Cuthbert scored tries against Scotland, Italy and France during last season's RBS 6 Nations title and Grand Slam-winning campaign, and he transferred that form into the recent autumn Tests, claiming a try against New Zealand.

Room for improvement: Cuthbert is only 22

Room for improvement: Cuthbert is only 22

Blues rugby director Phil Davies said: 'Alex is 22. He has a fantastic future ahead of him, not just at the Blues but in the game in general. He is a vital part of our squad.

'Alex is a great try-scorer, but he is still young and developing all the time.

'His work-rate is phenomenal and his defence and reading of the game is improving considerably. Hopefully, he will get better and better over the next three years.'

David Beckham"s move to Monaco is one I want, says manager Claudio Ranieri

Bring me Beckham! Ex-Chelsea boss Ranieri confirms interest from Monaco

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UPDATED:

23:56 GMT, 18 December 2012

Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri has confirmed his desire to bring David Beckham to the ambitious Ligue 2 club.

Ranieri, who is backed by Russian billionaire owner Dmitry Rybolovlev, also wants Chelsea's Frank Lampard and believes Beckham can play a pivotal role in the development of Monaco's emerging squad.

Beckham, 37, is considering his options after leaving MLS side LA Galaxy.

Star quality: David Beckham is wanted by Monaco, and manager Claudio Ranieri

Star quality: David Beckham is wanted by Monaco, and manager Claudio Ranieri

Paris St Germain are also interested but coach Carlo Ancelotti, Beckham's ally, is under severe pressure to keep his job.

Ranieri said: 'Beckham keeps a passion for football, that's what interests me. It would be helpful in all aspects of the development of the club.

'He could share his passion with our young players, at 37 years old, he continues to improve and be professional.

'All young players need an experienced coach but also references in the locker room.'

French fancy: Claudio Ranieri has plenty of financial clout to strengthen Monaco

French fancy: Claudio Ranieri has plenty of financial clout to strengthen Monaco

Old friend: Ranieri has never managed Beckham, but has been beaten by him

Old friend: Ranieri has never managed Beckham, but has been beaten by him

On Tuesday, Sportsmail revealed the interest in Lampard.

Ranieri signed the midfielder from West Ham for 11million in 2001. Although the Italian was fired by Roman Abramovich in May 2004, Lampard retains a healthy respect for him as a coach.

Ranieri wants to take advantage of Lampard’s fading star at Chelsea after the London club failed to open talks with the player over a new deal.

Meanwhile, Robbie Keane says he intends to rest rather than take in a loan spell in the Premier League.