Tag Archives: recollections

Chelsea Mark Clattenburg fiasco: Ron Gourlay should resign – Jonathan McEvoy

The enemies of football are now pariahs of the Premier League… Gourlay should pay with his job for this

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UPDATED:

23:45 GMT, 22 November 2012

For a cabal that has found it easy to spread so much insinuation and so many insults about so many innocent parties, Chelsea cannot bring themselves to utter the one appropriate word.

Sorry was not to be heard in the wind howling down Fulham Road last night. It was as predictable an omission as it was sad.

The FA had found the club’s accusation that referee Mark Clattenburg called John Mikel Obi a ‘monkey’ did not stand up to scrutiny. All logic and instinct had told us that the minute the claim was made on October 28 following Chelsea’s acrimonious defeat by Manchester United.

No evidence: Chelsea's claims about Mark Clattenburg have proved to be unfounded - but they won't say sorry

No evidence: Chelsea's claims about Mark Clattenburg have proved to be unfounded – but they won't say sorry

Sky TV had failed with all 20 of their cameras to pick up the racial slur. The other officials cleared Clattenburg of wrongdoing. Chelsea had a record of intimidation and arrogance.

What is more, Clattenburg speaks with a Geordie accent. Anyone who has spent time in a Newcastle pub will tell you how those tones can be faintly indecipherable to English ears let alone to a Brazilian, namely Ramires, who thought he heard the insult despite the backdrop of a noisy stadium. Ramires’ recollections were translated for the rest of the team by David Luiz, another Brazilian. Mikel, the supposed victim who has good English, did not hear the word monkey spoken.

Despite all this — and after the shameful saga of John Terry, Chelsea’s totem, calling Anton Ferdinand a black **** — the club were going public within hours about Clattenburg’s supposed crime. They also claimed Juan Mata was called a ‘Spanish t***’, an accusation later withdrawn.

Nasty episode: The John Terry race row with Anton Ferdinand brought shame onto the club

Nasty episode: The John Terry race row with Anton Ferdinand brought shame onto the club

Why did they not keep quiet while they considered if a complaint was worthwhile That is a question for Ron Gourlay, the chief executive. A second question for him is: will you resign after this fiasco
Harsh Hardly. This is a club drunk on its own oxygen and wealth.

Take Rafa Benitez’s unveiling as the ninth manager of Roman Abramovich’s nine-year reign. He is the latest pawn in a billionaire’s game where normal employment rights — like reward for success — do not count because he can afford to override them.

No wonder the men on the pitch and in the boardroom adopt such high-handedness when the boss sets such a rebarbative example.

The litany of modern Chelsea’s bullying of referees is without parallel in British football.

Remember him Referee Anders Frisk (second left) was forced into retirement by death threats

Remember him Referee Anders Frisk (second left) was forced into retirement by death threats

The crime sheet goes back as far as February 2005, when the then manager Jose Mourinho accused Anders Frisk of collusion with Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard during Chelsea’s defeat at the Nou Camp that saw Didier Drogba sent off. Chelsea were charged with inappropriate conduct and Mourinho was banned from the touchline. Frisk retired after receiving death threats.

Mourinho was cast as an ‘enemy of football’ by UEFA referees’ committee chairman Volker Roth.
Since then the wrath has been incited not just on the continent but also closer to home. Chelsea have gone from the enemies of European football to the pariahs of the Premier League.

In November 2006, Graham Poll sent off Terry as Chelsea lost to Tottenham for the first time in 16 years. Terry accused the referee of changing his explanation over why he had shown the red card.
The delightful Ashley Cole chimed in, saying Poll had warned Chelsea players he wanted to ‘teach us a lesson’. A fortnight later, Chelsea withdrew the accusation and Terry was fined 10,000.

Who could forget this Ref Tom Henning Ovrebo was subjected to vile treatment from Chelsea fans

Who could forget this Ref Tom Henning Ovrebo was subjected to vile treatment from Chelsea fans

Who could forget this Ref Tom Henning Ovrebo was subjected to vile treatment from Chelsea fans

Fast forward to May 2009, when Norwegian Tom Henning Ovrebo turned down four Chelsea penalty appeals. Admittedly, it was a shocking refereeing performance but not as wayward as the reaction of Drogba and Jose Bosingwa, who both turned on Ovrebo at the final whistle. Drogba screamed ‘It’s a f***ing disgrace’ into a television camera. Ovrebo was still being subjected to vile emails from Chelsea fans as late as this spring.

Last October after that infamous game against QPR, Chelsea were fined 20,000 for failing to control their players. Drogba and Bosingwa were dismissed in the first half. Manager Andre Villas-Boas called it a ‘very poor display’ — by the referee, that is, not his players.

The unfortunate referee then was Chris Foy. /11/22/article-2237127-0608100D0000044D-767_634x456.jpg” width=”634″ height=”456″ alt=”Sound familiar Chelsea retracted claims about comments by Graham Poll back in 2006″ class=”blkBorder” />

Sound familiar Chelsea retracted claims about comments by Graham Poll back in 2006

So back to Chelsea’s weasel words in response to the FA findings. They said: ‘Chelsea FC has a duty of care, as do all employers, to act responsibly when such allegations are reported by employees.’

It smacked of the usual one-eyed, self-serving nonsense that fails to acknowledge a wider obligation to football itself or the lightly trampled reputation of a blameless referee.

We are Chelsea. We snarl and we smear. Who says we should say sorry

Luis Suarez can"t win Footballer of The Year Award – Martin Samuel

Suarez is poetry in motion… but can he really be Player of the Year

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UPDATED:

01:47 GMT, 21 November 2012

And the days are not full enough And the nights are not full enough And life slips by like a field mouse. Not shaking the grass. Ezra Pound wrote that. Remarkable, isn't it

'Pound is more responsible for the 20th century revolution in poetry than any other individual,' said TS Eliot, and he would know. So here's one of his lesser known works.

'You let in the Jew and the Jew rotted your empire, and you yourselves out-jewed the Jew. And the big Jew has rotted every nation he has wormed into.' Pound said that in a pro-fascist radio broadcast in March 1942. He said plenty of other stuff, too, and was arrested for treason after the war.

Saint and sinner: Luis Suarez has been accused of diving during his time at Liverpool

Saint and sinner: Luis Suarez has been accused of diving during his time at Liverpool

Later, Pound renounced his anti-Semitism in public, but recollections of the private individual tell a different story. He would refer to people he disliked as Jews, and refuse to talk to psychiatrists with Jewish names.

He really wasn't a nice guy. Doesn't make Eliot wrong, though. Doesn't make the depth of emotional meaning conveyed in the sparse four lines of And the days are not full enough – that's the whole poem up there, by the way – any less astonishing. Same with Philip Larkin.

'I can hear fat Caribbean germs pattering after me in the Underground,' he wrote, disgusted, to Kingsley Amis on a visit to London. Then again, Larkin was disgusted by a lot of things; by himself, often enough. For Larkin in excelsis, however, read An Arundel Tomb. 'What will survive of us is love.'

We could go on. Through Chuck Berry to Miles Davis or Michael Jackson. We separate the man from his art. But not in football. In football, we want it all. Beauty and the blameless life. We can accept that poets, artists, musicians or writers can be despicable creatures redeemed by their work, but from our footballers we demand the exalted physicality of an athlete and the immaculate morality of an angel.

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez

Light and shade: The Uruguayan striker is a match-winner for Liverpool but has also been accused of stamping on an opponent (above right)

More from Martin Samuel …

Juventus 3 Chelsea 0: Holders braced for new European low as Di Matteo faces chop
20/11/12

Martin Samuel: Pietersen's 'reintegration' is complete… but now England need to see the destructive, swashbuckling KP of old
13/11/12

Chelsea 1 Liverpool 1: Suarez rescues point for Reds after goalscorer Terry is crocked on return
11/11/12

Chelsea 3 Shakhtar Donetsk 2: Moses works a miracle as Di Matteo's luck holds
07/11/12

Manchester City 2 Ajax 2: It's all gone De Jong as Euro exit looms for Mancini misfits
06/11/12

Chelsea 2 Manchester United 3: Crazy red card for Torres and Hernandez offside goal hand United victory at Stamford Bridge
28/10/12

Martin Samuel: Amid his Twitter row, Liverpool's Chang should know using the supporters as muscle is a dangerous abuse of power
23/10/12

Shakhtar Donetsk 2 Chelsea 1: Bad case of the Blues as holders feel pain in Ukraine
23/10/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

So could Luis Suarez be the Footballer of the Year this season Of course not. Should Luis Suarez be the Footballer of the Year this season Well, who else have you got

This is a crude calculation as it presumes no other player could have scored Suarez's goals, but the difference he has made to Liverpool this season equates to seven league points and, potentially, a place in the Europa League.

Goals from Suarez have changed Liverpool's dividend on seven occasions. He has been the difference between victory and a draw with Norwich City and a draw and a defeat against Manchester City, Sunderland, Everton, Newcastle United and Chelsea.

Without his goal at Anfield, the Europa League qualifier with Hearts would have gone into extra time. And in this season's Premier League, seven points is currently separating Liverpool and a place in the bottom three.

True, if Suarez had not been in the team, somebody else would have been and that somebody might have scored, too. So this isn't exact science.

Nobody can accurately evaluate Suarez's worth to Liverpool this season but, ball-park, seven points sounds about right. Maybe more. Is there any footballer in the country more influential

Last week, Jamie Carragher compared Suarez to Lionel Messi at Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid. Indeed, he placed him higher, because Suarez is not playing in a great team. But Footballer of the Year No chance.

This is bogeyman Suarez, remember, verbal debaser of Patrice Evra, alleged diver, alleged stamper, the man English football loves to hate and boo, even during the feelgood Olympic Games this summer when just completing the course got a standing ovation.

How can he sway a vote of journalists, some of whom believe their award winner must stand out as a role model, as much as a footballer How could he earn the votes of players, some of whom are black, ethically-minded or represent Manchester United Could you vote for him No. Could I It would be very, very hard.

On target: Suarez has scored more goals than any other player in the Barclays Premier League this term

On target: Suarez has scored more goals than any other player in the Barclays Premier League this term

A vote for Suarez would appear to send out the message that racism doesn't matter. Yet I'd have no hesitation in referring to Larkin as our greatest modern poet; no agonising over love for the music of the wife-beating Ike Turner either.

Maybe by the end of the season the Suarez dilemma will no longer exist. Different players go through purple patches at various times – Juan Mata was brilliant for Chelsea as Roberto Di Matteo's side topped the table early on – but few have been as consistent as Suarez, with no sign of relenting.

Left to fend for himself by an almost wantonly negligent series of executive choices in the transfer market, he has prevented Liverpool entering freefall. And he is not even a conventional striker.

If Liverpool had acted with coherence this summer, Suarez would be playing beside a prolific goalscorer, setting up as many as he scores, the burden on his shoulders relieved. For Uruguay, he most regularly played alongside Diego Forlan or Sebastian Abreu. These days Edinson Cavani is his regular foil. The idea of him leading a line unaccompanied would baffle his national coach, Oscar Tabarez.

Imagine: If Suarez was Footballer of the Year, they'd be uproar arguments and probably resignations

Imagine: If Suarez was Footballer of the Year, they'd be uproar, arguments and probably resignations

What he is doing at Liverpool is far removed from his comfort zone. And yet he is this season's peak performer: top scorer in the Premier League with two more goals than Robin van Persie and top scorer of any Premier League player in all club competitions, again two more than Van Persie.

The difference is, Van Persie has Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez to take a load off, Suarez is in virtual isolation.

Carragher also placed Suarez alongside Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen and Fernando Torres among recent goalscorers at Liverpool, but in essence he is more like Steven Gerrard or Carragher himself, in his ability to influence matches sometimes with sheer will.

Yet, imagine if he was the Footballer of the Year. There would be uproar, protests, arguments, quite probably resignations. A breakaway black union without doubt, if he won the PFA vote, a very awkward few weeks for representatives of the media if he topped any poll of journalists.

Mock: Suarez celebrated in front of Moyes after the Everton boss accused him of simulation

Mock: Suarez celebrated in front of Moyes after the Everton boss accused him of simulation

An unrepentant horror as an example to the next generation, it would be fiendishly hard to justify his glorification, almost inexcusable. Yet is he the best player in the league This minute, by a mile.

Those crowned Footballer of the Year tend to be winners. It seemed incongruous two years ago when Scott Parker collected the prize in a season that ended in relegation for his club, West Ham United.

The case for Suarez would be different. It would be based on his contribution to a former member of the elite, Liverpool, and how far a great club might have tumbled without him.

There was certainly a similar case for Chris Waddle at Tottenham Hotspur one season, when the club could easily have slipped into the bottom three without his frequent interventions. Yet Suarez won't win and can't win, we know that.

He has been associated with too much of football's dark side – racism, simulation – to rise above the negativity. He refused to shake hands with Evra, at first, even though the wronged man made the first move, he openly mocked David Moyes when the Everton manager dared to suggest he went to ground too easily. And yet despite the opprobrium, Suarez stays strong.

If no-one likes him, see if he cares. Perhaps this is why, as well as being this season's best footballer he is also one that troubles the soul.

Suarez does not do sorry, he does not do contrition and, in this, demands to be considered only for his art. Will he care if recognition is not his at the end of the season Probably not. As Pound said on his release from a lengthy stint of hard labour: 'I've had it worse.'

Arrests: Crowd trouble in Germany is at a 12-year high

Arrests: Crowd trouble in Germany is at a 12-year high

Don't mention the arrests…

And more news just in from Germany, where tickets are cheap, stadiums are full, standing is tolerated and crowd trouble is at a 12-year high.

According to figures released to Reuters in Berlin, the 2011-12 season had the highest number of criminal proceedings this century, a sharp rise in the amount of injured fans from the previous season and a 20 per cent increase in police work hours.

'Criminal proceedings are up 70 per cent, work hours up 40 per cent and injuries up 120 per cent from the 12-year average,' said a police spokesman.

A total of 8,143 criminal cases against individuals were launched compared with 5,818 the previous year, while the number of injuries rose from 843 to 1,142.

Meanwhile, according to the Home Office, English football arrests are at an all-time low since records began in 1985, and there was a 32 per cent decline in Premier League arrests from the 2010-11 season. But keep this quiet. It doesn't fit the self-flagellating narrative.

And while we're at it… Unbuyable Try to lure him back, Sir Alex!

He is back, at a football ground near you, tonight. And while Cristiano Ronaldo can be guaranteed a hostile reception when he steps out for Real Madrid against Manchester City, there will not be a true football fan in the stadium who does not feel a frisson of excitement at the anticipation of seeing him play live again.

Because we miss him, of course we do. Even the blue lot, deep down. Manchester United miss him, English football misses him. We haven't had one quite as good since. Not a player whose talent is so immense he actually found a new way of kicking a football.

Welcome (back) to Manchester: Ronaldo touched down in England on Tuesday night ahead of Real's clash with City

Welcome (back) to Manchester: Ronaldo touched down in England ahead of Real's clash with City

Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Hydrodynamics Laboratory in Paris will test their theory about the way Ronaldo strikes his knuckleball at a scientific gathering in San Diego this week. They have been dropping steel beads into a tank of water and studying the trajectory. Nobody does that for Ashley Young.

So, when Sir Alex Ferguson says that he remains on good terms with Ronaldo but the player is 'unbuyable', the heart sinks. Try, Sir Alex. Have a go, for all of us. It doesn't matter if it makes life really hard for your rivals. We won't moan, even if you win the league by 25 points. Just get our guy back. Please.

Relationship: Ferguson has claimed the former Manchester Untied star is 'unbuyable'

Relationship: Ferguson has claimed the former Manchester Untied star is 'unbuyable'

Madrid is the love of Ronaldo's life, but he hasn't always felt loved back. Good. Use that. Tell him he's wasted there. Tell him the Spanish crowds have never taken to him as they have Lionel Messi. Massage his ego, play on his insecurities. Wasn't there a time when Madrid made him sad Didn't he refuse to celebrate his goals at the start of the season, because he felt unappreciated That never happened at Old Trafford, did it Hell, it's worth a try.

Unbuyable is such a miserable term. Unbuyable says he is Madrid's, for ever. Unbuyable means nights like this are one of the few chances you will get to see one of the world's greatest players at the height of his powers. If you can go, don't miss it. He's the one you'll tell the grandkids about.

Sacking Hughes might not add up

The problem for Tony Fernandes at Queens Park Rangers, and for all owners, is that the only way to build a club is to place faith in a coach and his vision. Invariably, this means an equal investment in players, staff and the remodelling of academies and training facilities.

In terms of results, there is no indication this season that Rangers are going to turn around under Mark Hughes, so continued support now is merely a leap of faith.

In training: Hughes puts his squad through their paces on Tuesday as his future hangs in the balance

In training: Hughes puts his squad through their paces on Tuesday as his future hangs in the balance

Yet the alternative, to remove Hughes and his entourage and start again, is fraught with expense and difficulty with no certainty of alleviating the crisis, either. West Ham United stuck with Avram Grant and went down, West Bromwich Albion sacked Roberto Di Matteo and stayed up.

Wigan Athletic kept Roberto Martinez and stayed up, Wolverhampton Wanderers dismissed Mick McCarthy and went down. The only concrete guarantee is that the cost of replacing the manager, his backroom boys and overhauling the squad twice in one season is horrific. This alone may be what buys Hughes the time to turn Rangers around.

Floyd Mayweather: I"m no coward but Manny Pacquiao could ruin my life

I'm no coward but cheating PacMan could ruin my life, says Mayweather

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UPDATED:

00:04 GMT, 4 May 2012

The fight the world wants to see is disappearing into the shadowy and menacing recesses of Floyd Mayweather's brutally deprived childhood.

Behind the flashy facade and the wads of $100 bills thrown like confetti to grovelling night-clubbers here in party city, the boxer so rich that he calls himself Money is haunted by nightmares of an upbringing so impoverished that he lived his days in hunger and his nights in darkness.

That boy has grown into a man so paranoid about safeguarding his health that he sees no reason to risk confronting Manny Pacquiao to resolve once and for all which of them is the greatest pound-for-pound fighter on Earth.

Holding court: Mayweather has revealed details of his tough upbringing

Holding court: Mayweather has revealed details of his tough upbringing

The explanation is his familiar accusation that Pacquiao could not have grown into a world champion in an unprecedented eight weight divisions without chemical assistance.

The reality is that he fears being sucked back into the ghetto from which he so narrowly escaped.

Mayweather bared his soul after putting the finishing touches to his preparations for Saturday night's fight with Miguel Cotto, a ferociously tough proposition for any normal champion but not one to disturb the sleep of one of the most masterful technicians in the annals of the ring.

It is his memories which do that.

Mayweather's extraordinary confessional veered between painful recollections and a rant against Pacquiao dripping with foul-mouthed venom.

Floyd Jnr, as he was known until he decided to shrug off the yoke of the father who beat him, was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan and remembers: 'There was no stable home. I was moved between our place and other family members, between Michigan and New Jersey.

'Basically I raised myself. One lady relative had nine kids but still she made me her tenth child. When I was at home, my elder sister would try her best to get us up for school and my father would sometimes drop off a few dollars.

Title bout: Mayweather faces Cotto on Saturday night

Title bout: Mayweather faces Cotto on Saturday night

Title bout: Mayweather faces Cotto on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas

'From a young kid, I never had no curfew. I never got in before midnight, often 3am even though the sound of gunshots on the streets was something we heard all the time. I plain didn't want to go home.

'Worst of all it was dark there when I got in. There was no electricity. Too dark. I used to lay in bed with my flashlight and look up at the pictures of famous boxers I had stuck to the ceiling. I couldn't wait to go to the gym. That was the best thing in my life.

'If my father was at home he would beat me. Mostly I hadn't done anything wrong but he beat me just the same. Then when I was 16 my father left my life, to go to prison.'

Uncannily, that fate now awaits Floyd the younger. His three-month term for assaulting the mother of his own children was delayed so he could go through with his appointment with Cotto, the Puerto Rican folk hero. But report to the county jail here he must, on June 1.

It will be harder for him to leave his kids than it was to depart what masqueraded as his first family home: 'Some of the boys who got the call to the bigger training camps got homesick. Not me. I was given food and looked after. I could see they thought they had found something in me. They put me in hotels.'

Once, though, it was in a dingy motel and its lack of light became a recurring and disturbing theme in his life: 'The room was dirty but worst of all it was dark. So dark. I was back to laying in bed in the dark,'

Waiting game: There's still no sign of the Mayweather v Pacquiao fight taking place any time soon

Waiting game: There's still no sign of the Mayweather v Pacquiao fight taking place any time soon

Waiting game: There's still no sign of the Mayweather v Pacquiao fight taking place any time soon

Waiting game: There's still no sign of the Mayweather v Pacquiao fight taking place any time soon

Not for long – but long enough for him to say to himself: 'Something good is going to happen to me and when it does I will make sure my family never have to go where I have been.'

Now it angers him that so many of his countrymen are disaffected by his public arrogance, his sharp tongue, his bling, his insistence on calling himself the greatest: 'I give back to America (his generosity runs from major charities to paying for the funerals of great old fighters who die poor like Smokin' ) yet I get more love in the UK than in my homeland.'

Suddenly the mood begins to turn. He has talked of admiring the epic rivalry between Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran but ask him why boxing is still awaiting his defining fight against Pacquiao and the 35-year-old snaps: 'Do you do what you want or what other people want you to do Why should I do something which could damage my health in order to please the media If I end up unable to see my watch you mother-f****** will just move on to someone else.'

But can Mr Money turn his back on a cool $100million from the richest fight of all time 'I've made a pile of money already but I tell you I’d rather give it all back than wind up trying to find my cane.'

But if he's so sure he can whip the PacMan, why is the risk so great He is facing a libel action from Paquiao for insinuating that he uses drugs but he says: 'S*** man can't you see. Come on. He was nowhere back in the day but he's grown through eight divisions. Come on. Even his head got bigger. Ray Charles could see it.'

But hasn't Pacquiao agreed to his demand for Olympic standard blood testing 'Bulls***. Bob Arum (PacMan's promoter) says it but Arum is a f***** liar. Go ahead, call me a coward. But if so I'm a rich coward. And you all know I ain't scared.'

Belt up: Mayweather and Cotto go head-to-head on Saturday night

Belt up: Mayweather and Cotto go head-to-head on Saturday night

Mayweather-Cotto is live on Box Nation Saturday night via Sky Ch. 456, Virgin Ch. 546.

FA Cup: Luke Freeman gunning for Tottenham

Record-breaker Freeman gunning for Tottenham as he hopes to trip up Harry

As a proud East Ender, FA Cup record-breaker Luke Freeman knows that Harry Redknapp used to manage West Ham. He is just too young to remember it, a confession that is bound to make the 64-year-old Tottenham manager feel his age at Stevenage’s Lamex Stadium on Sunday.

Freeman, the youngest player in FA Cup history when he played for Gillingham as a 15-year-old schoolboy, is still only 19 and will be Stevenage's major threat on Sunday afternoon, having taken the ‘mad’ decision in January to leave Arsenal for League One.

The left-winger played for Arsenal and England youth sides with Jack Wilshere and his goal against Notts County a fortnight ago put Stevenage into the fifth round for the first time.

Tall order: Luke Freeman is ready to cause an upset for Stevenage in the FA Cup

Tall order: Luke Freeman is ready to cause an upset for Stevenage in the FA Cup

Freeman apologises to Redknapp for his sketchy recollections, but he was only nine when the current favourite for the England job left Upton Park in 2001.

‘Harry was before my time but I know he did the job,’ he says. ‘West Ham was my local club growing up in Towers Hamlets and I nearly joined them from Gillingham when Alan Curbishley was manager. In the end I chose Arsenal, I’d always been a supporter.

Bit before time: Freeman barely remembers Harry Redknapp's time at West Ham

Bit before time: Freeman barely remembers Harry Redknapp's time at West Ham

‘Arsenal made me the player I am today, technically and tactically. I’d pick things up by watching the other players. Cesc Fabregas was definitely an inspiration, Robin van Persie as well. Emmanuel Eboue was a nice guy, always helping the youngsters out, talking to them and giving them boots if they needed them.

‘If you wanted to ask any of them for advice, you wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. I’m expecting to get a few texts from the Arsenal boys asking me to put one over on Spurs.

‘We had a great youth team with Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong and Jay Emmanuel Thomas and I didn’t feel out of place. But some players get their big chance before others.

‘People might say I was a bit mad to leave Arsenal, but I looked at it as a teenager trying to get as much first-team experience as I can. I didn’t want to get to the age where I was 21, 22 without any experience of League football.

‘Sooner or later, I might be able to get back in the Premier League. That is where I see myself in five years.’

Freeman’s undoubted pedigree will need to come to the fore if Stevenage, on the up after two successive promotions, are to pull off the greatest result in their history.

An education: Freeman was a key part of Arsenal's 2009 FA Youth Cup success

An education: Freeman was a key part of Arsenal's 2009 FA Youth Cup success

His parents, Paul, a tiler, and Cathy, moved from east London to the Kent suburbs and it was on Gillingham’s books that he made Cup history by coming on as substitute in a first-round tie against Barnet aged 15 years and 233 days, needing special permission from St John’s Secondary School in Gravesend where he was taking eight GCSEs.

He joined Arsenal for 200,000 shortly before his 16th birthday.

‘It’s funny,’ he said, ‘at the time I was so young it didn’t really register what I was about to achieve. I’m more aware of it now. The schoolwork probably did suffer a little bit. I ended up having to drop most of my GCSEs but Arsenal got me a tutor for six weeks when I joined them and I managed to pass maths and English.’

Paolo Di Canio on being a "barbarian", why Swindon is cool and his life in England

Di Canio reveals all on being a 'barbarian', why Swindon is cool and his life in England

'The first thing I had to do was to fight back the tears,' Paolo Di Canio admitted, 'even though it seemed that they would never stop. When I arrived at the stadium, I had a lump in my throat which I thought would choke me. I was overwhelmed. And so I wept. And I trembled.

'The pounding of my heart tormented me. I felt unable to control my thoughts or my actions. I lost the power of speech, I kept on crying like a baby. I am not a man accustomed to weeping. But here, everything was different.'

Strong words, perhaps, but who knows how a man will be affected when he first arrives at Swindon Town

Heavens above: Paolo Di Canio is the manager of League Two Swindon Town

Heavens above: Paolo Di Canio is the manager of League Two Swindon Town

Actually those recollections come from Il Ritorno (The Return), Di Canio's wonderful but sadly untranslated 2005 memoir. They describe his homecoming, as a player, to his beloved Lazio; the team to which he has dedicated much of his life, both as a player and a member of the Irriducibili, the Roman club's notorious hardcore supporters.

No modern footballer – not even Eric Cantona – has polarised opinion quite so effectively as Paolo Di Canio. A prodigious talent as a player ('Paolo,' said Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, 'did things with the ball that made you gasp. Other footballers would pay to watch him train'), he has been worshipped by supporters of the many clubs he's represented.

As well as the sky-blue of Lazio, he has worn the colours of AC Milan, Napoli, Celtic, Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham United. The length of that incomplete list is indicative of his often turbulent relationship with authority. His history has been punctuated by insurrection, verbal and physical, towards managers.

Passion: Di Canio

Emotion: Di Canio

Fire in the belly: Italian Di Canio is famous for his passion and devotion to the game

And now, at 43, here at this modest League Two club in Wiltshire, he is in charge. In an age in which overpaid, badge-kissing footballers have found loyalty almost as easy to simulate as injury, Di Canio embodies the passion and commitment of another age.

In his playing days, he once kept a Lazio room-mate awake all night, on the eve of a derby against Roma, by playing the DVD of Braveheart over and over again.

Sir Alex Ferguson, I tell the Italian, once told me that he'd attempted to sign the headstrong striker on two occasions.

'I can't pretend that isn't flattering,' Di Canio replies. 'But there was no way I could ever have betrayed the fans at West Ham.'

In his life, he says, 'football has never been a business. Football is a passion.'

Di Canio's ultimate allegiance has always been to Lazio; so much so that, one day in January 2005, while celebrating a goal in front of their right-wing fans, he was moved to raise his right arm to join them in their trademark Roman salute.

The gesture was an ancient practice, Di Canio claimed, even if, to the untrained eye, it was indistinguishable from a more recent, Germanic sign of allegiance. He repeated the salute twice more in Lazio colours, and as a result has been branded by some as a fully-fledged fascist.

When Swindon Town chairman Jeremy Wray showed the initiative (and, it has to be said, the courage) to appoint Di Canio, one of the club's sponsors, the GMB union, withdrew its support, reluctant to be associated with a man some still perceive, mistakenly, as a neo-Nazi.

I first met Paolo Di Canio five years ago at Cisco Roma (now Atletico Roma), a tiny lower league club where he was embarking on what promises to be a distinguished managerial career.

'When we first met,' I remind him, 'you were speaking about your dad in Italian; explaining how everything you ever learned, you owed to him. Then, suddenly, you said four words in English: “He was a brickie.” You have a real bond with this country, don't you'

'You remember how I told you then that my dream was to come back to Britain' Di Canio asks. 'Swindon Town has given me my chance. I love England and I love the people. I just hope I can stay here for many years.'

Welcome to the County Ground: Di Canio was appointed manager of the Wiltshire club in May this year

Welcome to the County Ground: Di Canio was appointed manager of the Wiltshire club in May this year

'You get a sense of the atmosphere at a football club very quickly,' I say, 'from the people who work in the cafe and the souvenir shop; from the players and the office staff. Swindon Town has a very welcoming, yet highly professional feel about it. I'm sure a club acquires its character from the manager. And yet – with no disrespect to this town – there can't be many Italians who would have chosen it over the Eternal City.'

'I love Swindon. It's not a place where you can almost smell the history, like Rome or Florence. It's an industrial town. That may not seem “cool” to some people, but it only makes me love Swindon more.

'You know why Because the people here are proper people; people who work hard, often for low wages. When Swindon people tell you something, you can trust them, because they mean it.

'They still have a lot of the values that we had in Italy back in the 1960s and 1970s. I still love my country. But I've cut the umbilical cord with Italy.'

England, in Di Canio's words, is 'the perfect place to play football. In Italy, you get a goal, then kill the game. In England, it's 90 minutes of battle'.He also believes that cheating, for instance with performance-enhancing drugs, is less prevalent here.

'Doping in English football,' he writes in Il Ritorno, 'is restricted to lager and baked beans with sausages.'

As a player, Di Canio scored arguably the best goal in the history of the Premier League: an exquisite volley for West Ham against Wimbledon in the 1999-2000 season.

In 2001 he won the FIFA Fair Play award following a game in which, seeing the Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was badly injured, he caught the ball rather than put it into the unguarded net, so that his opponent could get immediate treatment.

Bust-up: Di Canio came through a major test early in his career at Swindon after an altercation with striker Leon Clarke

Bust-up: Di Canio came through a major test early in his career at Swindon after an altercation with striker Leon Clarke

He received slightly less praise for his decision, having just been shown a red card while playing for Sheffield Wednesday against Arsenal in 1998, to shove referee Paul Alcock in the chest. The official fell to the ground in a slow, spiralling movement.

'Even now, when I watch it, I can't believe the way he went down, like a drunken clown,' admits Di Canio.

'One moment,' Di Canio argues, 'can erase everything else you've accomplished in your career. I didn't kill anybody. I pushed a referee. We all know that's wrong. But it can happen. And if it happens, you take your punishment. I was banned for 11 games. But you remember the press. People said I was a barbarian…'

'And mad,' I remind him. 'And wretched. And “a man with a mind like a blast furnace”. And a gypsy: your former manager David Pleat called you that.'

'I took “gypsy” as a compliment. Pleat made me laugh.'

It was the late Tony Banks, then Minister for Sport, who said 'Barbarian go home', according to Di Canio. 'Somebody wrote that what I'd done was worse than Hillsborough where 96 died. I still have the cutting.'

'Didn't that make you want to leave England'

'No. Because there are people of low intelligence all over the world.'

As a manager, Di Canio appears to have harnessed a ferocious self-belief and rendered it contagious.

'I changed the coaching methods (at Swindon) completely,' says Di Canio, who introduced double training sessions and scrutinises every aspect of a player's welfare, including diet. Lager, sausages and beans are things of the past.

'I can't praise the players enough,' he adds, 'because at the beginning it was very tough for them. In my first seven weeks they had just one day off.'

Every player has his failings; in the case of Di Canio, exaggerated deference towards managers has not been among them. In Il Ritorno, he confesses to an inability to shut up when on the substitutes' bench.

First love: Lazio was Di Canio's boyhood club, and he rejoined the Roman giants after 14 years in 2004

First love: Lazio was Di Canio's boyhood club, and he rejoined the Roman giants after 14 years in 2004

'I wasn't trying to manage the team,' he says. 'I was just shouting encouragement.'

Il Ritorno also describes a contretemps with the Lazio chairman Claudio Lotito, over dinner.

'Inside the restaurant, I feel my anger rising. I start to scream like a
madman. I turn the buffet table over. I start throwing things. The room
is full of flying objects: plates, bottles and forks. Everything is
flying; anything I can lay my hands on, I throw. I go up to the coach's
table and I start kicking it. They look at me as if I am mad.'

Now that Di Canio is in the position of
exerting, rather than defying, authority, he displays scant tolerance
for insolence from players. Last August there was a scuffle with his
striker Leon Clarke following a defeat by Southampton.

Infamy: Di Canio pushes over Paul Alcock in a match between Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal in 1998

Infamy: Di Canio pushes over Paul Alcock in a match between Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal in 1998

'I saw Leon insulting my colleagues. So, as his manager, I put my arm round his shoulder and told him to go down the tunnel.

'He kept on swearing. I had to grab his shirt and put him up against the wall. It wasn't violent. But he'd been saying “**** off” repeatedly to people older than him. Imagine Sir Alex Ferguson in that situation. Eventually I had to say, “OK. Now, you **** off.”

'The chairman was wonderful. I said, “Either he goes, or I go.” He said, “The club is with you.” In that moment, we gelled. I think I have shown that I have matured. I didn't lose my temper.'

'But aren't you the man who, as a player, told Fabio Capello (then of AC Milan) to go **** himself, then pushed him over'

'Not on the field. I pushed him and he lost his balance. He fell over a bag. I'd been challenging his decisions. Capello was saying things to me like “Vaffanculo” (**** you). I understand his point of view better now. I was young.

'The conversation we're having now is unusual because we're talking about everything, which I believe is good for me. I also hope it will allow people to understand the way I really think. I have a family.' (He has two daughters, one of whom is at Southampton University, with his wife Betta.)

'I pay my taxes. My life speaks for me. I am,' Di Canio concludes, 'an ordinary man.'

Paolo Di Canio grew up in a working-class area of Rome. He shared a bed with Antonio, his oldest brother.

'When I needed to go to the bathroom, I simply wouldn't. Bed-wetting is something I had to deal with till I was 10 or 11.'

Such candour illuminates his autobiography, a remarkable book which broaches subjects many in football fear to address, such as the panic attacks he suffered as a young player, his fear of flying, and the help he has had from psychoanalysts, one of whom was – in Di Canio's words – a 'specialist in nervous breakdowns'.

As a small boy, he was addicted to cola and similar drinks. He was called 'Palloca', a slang term, meaning lard-ball.

Happy Hammer: The Italian was adored by the West Ham fans - and he adored them back

Happy Hammer: The Italian was adored by the West Ham fans – and he adored them back

'I never hid. My response was to exercise; to try to become the kind of person I am.'

His father Ignazio, he says – struggling
to control his emotion – got up at four in the morning and didn't come
back till five in the afternoon.

'When I think of the sacrifices he made, I feel like crying.'

Even when recruited to Lazio's youth team, Di Canio was still hanging out with the Irriducibili.

'I've had bricks thrown at me by opposing fans. I've been tear-gassed and beaten by police.'

Scissor kick: The forward scored one of the greatest goals in Premier League history against Wimbledon in 2000

Scissor kick: The forward's strike against Wimbledon in 2000 was one of the Premier League's greatest goals

He'd been at Lazio for five years when they sold him to Juventus, at which point he first began to experience panic attacks.

'It was terrible. You feel that something goes dark. It's as if your eyes can't see any more.'

While Di Canio has previously declared his sympathy with the historical tradition of fascism, such pronouncements don't represent an area of his life he wishes to relive.

There is no denying the DVX tattoo on his shoulder (the Latin appellation for Benito Mussolini). It's the symbolic expression of an opinion expressed in his autobiography, in a passage which has frequently been misquoted so as to appear more incendiary than it actually is.

'I am fascinated by Mussolini,' Di Canio wrote. 'I think he was a deeply misunderstood individual. He was basically a very principled individual. Yet he turned against his sense of right and wrong. He compromised his ethics.'

The truth is that – today at least – Di Canio is not a demented fascista. While he was in Italy, his column in the national sport newspaper Corriere dello Sport routinely ranted against racism. He is a less volatile man now, Di Canio explains, partly through his study of Samurai culture.

'I have read a lot. I like the code they lived by. The loyalty. The honour,' he explains. 'When I see young people showing disrespect to their elders, I go mad. You must respect old people, because they teach you about the true meaning of life.'

Through studying ancient practices, Di Canio says: 'I am more peaceful these days.

'I believe in nature. I believe in earth, sun, fire and water. I believe in the circle of life. When a tree loses its leaves, you think it's dead. But the tree is only resting. It's born again, in the spring. I believe in energy. Positive energy.'

'Has the loss of your father (in October) helped you to bond with the club'

'Definitely. I got the news after we'd played at Accrington. I was in Rome for the funeral; I came back straight away. I wanted to do something special in the next game, for his sake.

Making his point: The Italian says he loves England and wants to stay for many years to come

Making his point: The Italian says he loves England and wants to stay for many years to come

'We played Plymouth. We won, and the lads were just amazing. They led me up to our fans. What really touched me was that I knew they were doing it not because they felt obliged to, but because they felt my pain. And that's when I realised that, in this squad at Swindon, I don't just have skill and professionalism; I have decency and humanity.

'Because of that, they are very close to me. It was the same with the chairman and everybody else here. I felt I was in a family. They became close to me as a man. That was, and is, very important to me.'

'Some people have expressed a concern that – given your history – you're bound to lose your head sooner or later and punch a referee, or another manager.'

'People who talk that way don't know me. I am calm, and more mature and I am really happy. The board, the players and the fans are fantastic. They all have enthusiasm, commitment and a real bond with the town. I say again, we're like a family. Our ambition may take years to achieve, but I honestly believe that this club is capable, eventually, of promotion to the Premier League.'

Click here to read the full version of this story as it appeared in the Independent on Sunday.

Muhammad Ali at 70: The Greatest is still fighting – Jeff Powell

Even at 70, The Greatest is still fighting the good fight

Every one of the 350 people who gathered at the Muhammad Ali Center for the great man’s 70th birthday dinner party had a personal story to tell.

We exchanged recollections as we wished him well. He nodded as he rummaged through his memories, the mind apparently as bright as ever even though that lyrical Louisville Lip has been silenced by Parkinson’s.

The Greatest has done with talking. We all do it for him.

The Greatest: Muhammad Ali welcomes guests to his 70th birthday party

The Greatest: Muhammad Ali welcomes guests to his 70th birthday party

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His legendary trainer Angelo Dundee, now 90, bustled up in his wheel-chair, recollected how the last time they spoke Ali had said how much he missed the gym, the training, the fighting.

Dundee told him: ‘If you’re thinking of a come-back I’ll have to ask them to put in elevators at ringside so I can get up to your corner.’

They produced a limited edition t-shirt on Saturday night which proclaims: 1942 – The Greatest Year Of All Time.

No argument from the rest of us who, like Ali, were born that year.

None of us are getting any younger but we are linked in time and coincidence.

Can it really be 39 years ago this week that I first got to know him quite well

He spent the evening before his 33rd birthday at the Royal Albert Hall, having flown to London to watch the British champion he was to fight a month later in Las Vegas.

Joe Bugner duly warmed up by beating one Rudi Lubbers and as Ali hurried out I chased after him to seek his opinion of the performance.

‘I’m in a hurry,’ he said. ‘But jump in my limousine and I’ll tell you how Mr Bugner will be defeated by The Greatest.’

That he did, as we drove to his hotel. Ever hungry for an audience, he invited me up to his suite where he held court for hours, only pausing in his brilliant monologue as we toasted his birthday at midnight.

Masterclass: Ali, as promised, comfortably beat Joe Bugner in Las Vegas

Masterclass: Ali, as promised, comfortably beat Joe Bugner in Las Vegas

Then he said: ‘Stick with me and you too can be The Greatest.’

He had a habit of foretelling the round in which his challengers would fall – our ‘Enery Cooper included – so he is entitled to get the odd prediction wrong.

There is only one Greatest. But what Ali has done, in all his overwhelming self-belief, is convince all who cross his path to endeavour to be the best we can.

That January night in 1973 we looked we looked out from a penthouse in the London Hilton across Hyde Park.

Dream team: Ali at his 70th birthday party with his trainer Angelo Dundee

Dream team: Ali at his 70th birthday party with his trainer Angelo Dundee

Last Saturday here in Louisville the view from atop his Center was of a freezing Ohio River.

The supreme athlete, the ultimate world heavyweight champion, is a somewhat frail figure now but he remains a magnetic presence. Still the Pied Piper as thousands flock to his public appearances and cheer him from the streets where he grew up.

There can be no denying that he Is in the final stages of his disease. But he is still fighting the good fight.

Praise me: Ali was never afraid to proclaim his greatness to the world

Praise me: Ali was never afraid to proclaim his greatness to the world

There is no telling how long he has left. What I do know is that these last 39 years have been enlivened beyond measure by encounters with Muhammad Ali.

Simply, they have flown by. As fast as the quickest hands in heavyweight history.

Serita Shone: A Christmas miracle

A Christmas miracle: That”s what doctors call Serita Shone

On that fateful evening, 22-year-old Serita Shone folded herself into the back of the two-woman British bobsleigh and counted the corners as driver Fiona Harrison guided the sled down the floodlit track at Winterberg in Germany at 80mph.

Christmas miracle: Serita Shone at home in Weymouth

Christmas miracle: Serita Shone at home in Weymouth

Shone was preparing for her first competition as a member of Britain”s squad – the British championship tobe held over the same course later that week – and had ticked off 12 ofthe 14 turns they had to negotiate when disaster struck.

“In a split-second it all went wrong,” recalled Shone last week in the first interview she has given since the catastrophic accident that broke her back and changed her life.

“We went up. We came down. I was fractionally pulled out of the bob by gravity – even though I was clinging for dear life to my handles – and my back hit the ice first. The pain was intense.”

As if that were not bad enough, the bob, weighing 175kg (nearly 28st), landed on top of Shone.

She and Harrison, by then unconscious, were dragged down the rest of the course until the bob finally came to a halt after passing the finishing line.

Shone admits that her first thought as the bob was removed from around her by rescuers was: “Oh my God, I”m paralysed.”

But after two operations on her spine, 44 days in hospitals in Germany and Bath, and a recovery that hersurgeon called “a medical miracle”, Shone walked back into her home in Weymouth on Friday afternoon with a big smile on her face and declared: “Being home is the best Christmas present I could ask for. I could have been paralysed; I may even have died. Instead, I am here and making a better than expected recovery.”

Brave fightback: Shone was injured after crashing at around 90mph in a training run

Brave fightback: Shone was injured after crashing at around 90mph in a training run

Her dramatic recollections of her accident – and the pain she has endured – are recounted without any wish for sympathy.

She is still hopeful that one day in the distant future she may yet get the chance to fulfil her dream of competing for Britain at the Olympic Games.

She was a good enough heptathlete to represent Britain at under-20 and under-23 level.

But recently she switched her sporting ambitions to the bobsleigh, directing her athlete”s strength tothe far from glamorous role of brakewoman in the two-woman bob.

The result was the crash just over six weeks ago that Shone now recalls in all its vivid horror.

“When the bob wedged itself to a stop, I was in so much pain I couldn”t get any words out,” she recalled.”In front of me, Fiona was making noises, a mixture of snorting and choking. I didn”t know she was out cold and instinctively I tried to help her. But I couldn”t move. It felt like 10 minutes had passed beforeanyone got to us, but it turned out it was no more than a minute. When they pulled the bob from us I was lying in a heap on the ice staring at the sky on my back. I still couldn”t move … and that was the moment I feared the worst. Oh my God, I am paralysed.”

An ambulance crew arrived and Leigh Cockman, from the British bobsleigh team, ensured that Shone”s back was properly supported on spinal boards before the two women were taken to the nearest hospital.

“I could hear Fiona talking in the next room,” said Shone. “I had been pumped full of drugs as the pain from my back was horrendous. I could see a light moving. I thought, “Is this the tunnel people are supposed to see when they are dying” I said to myself, “I”m not going to see tomorrow”.”

Run of terror: Aerial view of the bobsled run at Winterberg in Germany

Run of terror: Aerial view of the bobsled run at Winterberg in Germany

In fact, the cocktail of drugs she had been given was causing her to hallucinate.

But the doctors at Winterberg still had shattering news for her.

“They said that I had broken my back, at the L1 and L2 vertebrae. They were also worried because there was bleeding in my spinal column.”

An air ambulance was summoned to takeher on a 20-minute journey to the Marburg University Hospital, where there is a spinal unit.

/12/10/article-2072568-0F1FDB4000000578-431_468x298.jpg” width=”468″ height=”298″ alt=”Battle scars: Shone shows the neat lines of stitches that are the only physical signs of the horrifying crash” class=”blkBorder” />

Battle scars: Shone shows the neatlines of stitches that are the only physical signs of the horrifying crash

That week in Winterberg had been her first real exposure to travelling as brakeman in a bob at maximum speed and she had already had three crashes in five previous runs with another driver without harming herself.

“My mum had texted to tell me to come home if I wanted,” said Shone. “But she knows me too well to know that I”d never quit.

“I”ve always been an adrenaline junkie. I knew, and accepted, that by trying to make the British bob team for the 2014 Olympics I would be exposed to risks at high speed. I just thought those earlier crashes were part of the learning curve and, anyway, I reasoned that after that, how bad could it get”

Her childhood and adolescence had been governed by sport.

She graduated from Bath University in Sports Performance and had just finished her Masters in Sport and Exercise Nutrition at Leeds Metropolitan when she first trialled for the bob team in the summer.

“We called her Bomber from when she was very young,” said her mother, Julie. “She just bombed from one thing to another. As we have a karting business, she was driving from the age of eight. At 12, she was captain of the rugby team at school as there weren”t enough boys to make up a team. She did athletics and played volleyball with her dad, who took her to grand prix races. Sport brought them very close.”

Her mother has never cried at her daughter”s bedside but she has shed plenty of tears.

“She”s still my baby, whether she”s two or 22,” said Julie as she climbed around the bags of gifts and clothes that testified to the fact her daughter was home at last.

“There was a time when we feared Serita would never walk again. Then, we thought if she does walk, how will she walk Her dad doesn”t show his emotions but I know, like me, he was worried sick. We have always encouraged her to follow her dreams.”

Shone was an instant success on the British squad, her effervescent attitude towards life adding to her popularity.

“She was totally focused on making the Olympic team for Sochi,” said Gary Anderson, the British bobsleigh performance director. “Serita is extremely strong and powerful, but she also has a great humility that makes her stand out as a team player. It”s not enough to assess an athlete on the numbers they produce from the tests we set. What Serita showed us was that she possessed the attitude of an elite athlete.”

Anderson has found the weeks since Shone”s accident an ordeal unlike any other he has experienced after 30 years working in sport, at Barnet, Watford and Luton football clubs, with the British judo team at the Athens Olympics and with track and field operations.

“What Serita has been through has really affected me,” said Anderson. “When I saw her walk for the first time I had a tear in my eye.”

Shone was encouraged by the medical team in Germany to get back on her feet soon after the second operation, but she has discarded her crutches only since undergoing three sessions of physiotherapy a day at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases at Bath.

She can now walk up to 10 minutes at a time.

“When I walk I am fine, but when I stop I have to lie down and rest because the movement aggravates the area in my back,” she said. “Sitting down is also problematical, it puts a lot of pressure on my vertebrae. Every day has to be organised.”

Three neat scars – one on her spine and two on her hip – are the only physical signs of the two operations she has endured but meetings with sports psychologist Amanda Gatherer, the lead clinical psychologist at the England Institute of Sport, have been crucial in coming to terms with what has happened.

“We”ve spoken since and Amanda has been really helpful,” said Shone. “I”m human and there are days that are worse than others. At times you feel sorry for yourself, and I”d lie if I said I hadn”t asked, “Why me” But I”m determined to show I can come back from adversity. I”m a positive person. Instead of dwelling on the negative, I think about the things I will do when I”m better: I think of holidays, doing sport again.”

She will return to hospital after Christmas for further intensive treatment but already has a series of challenges planned against Cockman, the firefighter from the RAF and assistant coach of the bob team who never left her side during her ordeal.

“He”s a great man,” she said. Would Shone ever get back in a bob

“Yes!” she said, without hesitation. “I know I will be considered mad, but I want to prove to myself that this hasn”t stopped me from achieving something. I still want to be an Olympian. I just know it”s going to be a harder, longer road than it already was to get there.”

She may never get to the Olympics, of course, but Serita Shone already has a story of courage that will sit comfortably alongside any of the tales waiting to unfold at London”s Games next summer.