Tag Archives: remarkable

Brendan Rodgers says Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy"s performance was the best he"s ever seen

McCarthy for England: Reading keeper's performance the best ever, says Rodgers

By
Riath Al-samarrai

PUBLISHED:

21:00 GMT, 14 April 2013

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UPDATED:

00:57 GMT, 15 April 2013

At least there is hope, and failing that the prospect of receiving a hefty transfer fee.

Reading looked just about ready for the Championship on Saturday with the exception of a stand-in goalkeeper whose remarkable performance drew statements that were grand even by Brendan Rodgers’ standards.

Initially, the Liverpool manager said Alex McCarthy should be in contention for England; then he went as far as to describe his efforts in the 0-0 draw amounted to the best display of goalkeeping he had ever seen.

Scroll down for highlights from the Madejski…

England contention: Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy (right) produced a stunning display between the sticks for the doomed club

England contention: Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy (right) produced a stunning display between the sticks for the doomed club

Not many at the Madejski Stadium disagreed. His 10 saves, especially those that stopped Daniel Sturridge in the first half and Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez in the second, looked out of place in a doomed side capable of coughing up so many chances.

Best ever: Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers said it was the best goalkeeping performance he'd ever seen

Best ever: Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers said it was the best goalkeeping performance he'd ever seen

It’s anyone’s guess what impact he might have made on the club’s season had he not missed the past five months with a shoulder injury sustained when he collided with a goalpost against QPR in November.

None of this would have been a surprise to Rodgers, who oversaw Reading’s youth department and later managed the first team when the 23-year-old was coming through the ranks. He said: ‘Reading have always produced good goalkeepers and Alex is one who is next in line for me, he really is a top goalkeeper.

‘I was aware of him just before I left [as youth coach], and when I came back as manager he was still young. Goalkeepers need that experience so he went out on loan but he was always one that the guys here felt was going to be a top goalkeeper and you saw today that he has all the qualities to succeed.’

Having spent time on loan at Woking, Team Bath and Cambridge United, among other sides like Ipswich and Leeds, McCarthy only got selected after Adam Federici aggravated his ankle injury.

Asked if it was the best goalkeeping performance he had seen, Rodgers added: ‘Yes. I was sat in the changing room with the staff and said I couldn’t remember being at a game where a goalkeeper has made a performance like that, either as a manager, coach or spectator.

Attributes: Rodgers, who managed McCarthy when he was Reading boss, says the goalkeeper has all the tools to be one of the best

Attributes: Rodgers, who managed McCarthy when he was Reading boss, says the goalkeeper has all the tools to be one of the best

‘Normally goalkeepers make one or two saves that make a difference, but he made an incredible number of saves and when he was beat it was cleared off the line. It was a brilliant goalkeeping performance.’

Reading manager Nigel Adkins said: ‘We have some excellent goalkeepers. We have Stuart Taylor, Adam Federici, Alex McCarthy, Mikkel Anderson.

‘They are out there and have good competition for places which is important. Alex had been out for a long time, but had the opportunity and made some great saves. Now we have to ensure there is a consistency in his game.’

Frustrated: Liverpool had to settle for a second successive goalless draw

Frustrated: Liverpool had to settle for a second successive goalless draw

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Manchester United"s incredible list sponsors helping them become $3billion super club

The making of the $3BILLION super club: How Manchester United's bank balance is being boosted by beer, wine and crisps… and that's just for starters!

. The amount these companies pay for association is secret so that the Premier League leaders can keep prices competitive.

Some deals, United want people to know about though, such as the enormous shirt sponsorship with Chevrolet, announced in August last year, which will come into effect from 2014.

Sign of the times: Sir Alex Ferguson attends a Chevrolet soiree in Shanghai last summer

Sign of the times: Sir Alex Ferguson attends a Chevrolet soiree in Shanghai last summer

At the start of that season it will be worth 44m a year, increasing by 2.1 per cent annually to 2021 – totalling an incredible 357m. These numbers do not make it into United’s current take home from sponsorship but the 12m Chevrolet has paid to have its logo on the Old Trafford dugout seats this season does.

As do United’s other big deals. Aon pay United 20m a year to sponsor the shirt currently, while DHL have since 2010 forked out 10m a year to feature on the team’s training kit. That seemed a remarkable agreement at the time, but United have bought out the postal firm’s remaining contract as they believe they can generate greater income elsewhere.

It costs Nike around 25.4m to supply United’s kit each season but talks will begin next month over a new deal which should dwarf that amount.

Betting firm Bwin pay 2.4m to have outlets at Old Trafford, among other things, Singha handover 2m to have around 20,000 bottles sold at the ground each game, and Thomas Cook give 1.3m to provide United player’s travel and offer packages to fans.

Chilly: But United's finances are warming up with their glut of sponsors

Chilly: But United's finances are warming up with their glut of sponsors

Meanwhile, Mister Potato is the official ‘snack’ partner and Smirnoff the official ‘responsible drinking’ partner. Also, the 14 separate sponsorships with telecom companies dotted around the globe show United’s interest in supplying exclusive video footage for mobiles. A pointer to this came last week, when the club bought out BSkyB’s 33 per cent share in MUTV so they have full control over distribution rights.

Fans may feel United’s name is cheapened by associating so many sponsors and we can only wonder what Sir Matt Busby would make of it all. But given the Glazer family takeover loaded the club with debt – 400m at last count in November – many financial experts now admire their relentless pursuit of commercial opportunities.

David Chattaway, valuation director at Brand Finance, which worked with United on a consultancy basis a few years ago, said there was plenty of mileage left in sponsorship deals and suggested Australia and USA would be the next markets targeted.

‘There’s talk about dilution, “How far can it go” I don’t think they’re there yet,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘Hong Kong staff take a proactive approach, targeting who has an interest in Manchester United, and calling them. It’s like they’ve got a huge matrix and they’re filling up the boxes.

Coffers: Sir Alex Ferguson will hope to be able to spend some of United's income

Coffers: Sir Alex Ferguson will hope to be able to spend some of United's income

‘These little deals show the commercial acumen at Manchester United. It’s become an industry joke – a “day a deal” – but this club is motoring ahead. Brands want to be associated with them. It wouldn’t surprise me if each quarter we saw three or four news deals.

‘There probably is a tipping point. When you’re clicking through five pages of sponsors on their website the brands may start to think this is too much.

‘Juventus are at the other end. They believe there is more value in fewer partnerships. But Real Madrid and Barcelona are chasing Manchester United at the moment thinking that’s where the
money is.

‘With financial fair play, these clubs need to balance their books, they need additional revenue to pay their bills. The commercial opportunity is probably the easiest to tap into.

‘You’d be naive trying to pull together
some rationale that United really want to have a soft drink partner in
China. No, I don’t think it is that. It’s purely a commercial
transaction.

VIDEO: Rooney and Co enjoy a glass of red wine…

‘Manchester United have a reputational issue, they wouldn’t want to associate with certain brands, like a Wonga, who could cause controversy. They are keen to go with big brands in these territories that they’re eyeing up for new fans, or continuing to get close to existing fans.’

Chattaway added: ‘If you look at the amount of partners they get through, it’s fair to say Manchester United aren’t building long-term relationships here. They are short, three-year windows. They take the money, manage the relationship, and are then not averse to bringing in a new partner.’

Deloitte released figures last week showing United made 117.6m in commercial revenue in 2011-12, making it a larger revenue stream than matchday receipts and broadcast money for the first time.

‘The deal they announced with Chevrolet is very, very impressive,’ Adam Bull, senior consultant at Deloitte Sports, told Sportsmail. ‘And they continue to make new deals in different countries around the world, with companies becoming regional sponsors of certain items. That’s going to help them grow their commercial revenues.

‘The strength of it is shown by the DHL deal they are now buying out because they think they can generate more. Pretty phenomenal for a training kit.’

UNITED'S SPONSORS (according to club website)

AON
Principal sponsor of Manchester United – 20m a year

DHL
Official logistics partner of Manchester United – 10m

NIKE
Official kit supplier of Manchester United – 25.4m

CHEVROLET
Official automotive partner of Manchester United – 12m

SINGHA
Official beer of Manchester United – 2m

THOMAS COOK
Official travel partner of Manchester United – 1.3m

BWIN
Official online gaming and betting partner of Manchester United – 2.4m

CASILLERO DEL DIABLO
Official wine partner of Manchester United – 2m

HUBLOT
Official timekeeper of Manchester United – 4m

The below are all worth approximately 1m – 2m…

SMIRNOFF
Official responsible drinking partner of Manchester United

TOSHIBA MEDICAL SYSTEMS
Official medical systems partner of Manchester United

STC
Official integrated telecommunications partner of Manchester United for Saudi Arabia

PCCW
Official integrated telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Hong Kong

TURKISH AIRLINES
Official airline partner

EPSON
Official office equipment partner of Manchester United

MISTER POTATO
Official savoury snack partner of Manchester United

YANMAR
Official global partner

TM
Official integrated telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Malaysia

GLOBACOM
Official integrated telecommunications partner of Manchester United for Nigeria, Ghana, Republic of Benin

VIVA KUWAIT
Official integrated telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Kuwait

MTN
Official integrated telecoms partner of Manchester United for South Africa / Zambia / Rwanda / Uganda / Swaziland / Botswana.

AIRTEL
Official telecommunications partner of Manchester United in India/Sri Lanka/Seychelles/Bangladesh.

ZONG
Official telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Pakistan

GLOBUL
Official telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Bulgaria

MAMEE
Official noodles partner of Manchester United for Asia, Oceania and Middle East

VIVA
Official integrated telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Bahrain

TURK TELEKOM
Official integrated telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Turkey

A.P. HONDA
Official motorcycle partner of Manchester United in Thailand

AIRTEL AFRICA
Official telecoms partner in Burkina Faso, Chad, DR Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Congo Brazzaville

BEELINE
Official telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos

BAKCELL
Official telecommunications and broadcast partner of Manchester United for Azerbaijan

KAGOME
Official soft drink partner of Manchester United for Japan

WAHAHA
Official soft drink partner of Manchester United for China

PT MULTISTRADA
Official tyre partner of Manchester United

KANSAI
Official paint partner of Manchester United

Leeds v Chelsea classic clashes: It"s the neutrals" nightmare… but tonight"s tie is set to be another belter

Classic Leeds-Chelsea clashes: It's the neutrals' nightmare… but tonight's tie is set to be another belter

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UPDATED:

13:49 GMT, 19 December 2012

No one likes them, but we don't care… on this evidence tonight's clash between bitter rivals Leeds and Chelsea is set to be a classic.

It's a fixture which can lay claim to being a neutral's nightmare – you don't know who you'd rather see lose – but down the years these two titans have produced some memorable moments on the field.

Here Sportsmail picks some of our favourite moments between the Whites and the Blues, they're not necessarily the best matches but we defy you to not come over all misty-eyed at the nostalgia…

1970 – Chelsea 2-5 Leeds: 'Terry Cooper starts the goal riot'

Don Revie's famous Leeds United were 2-1 down at half-time but scored three goals in seven minutes in a remarkable turnaround that commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme described as a 'truly wonderful victory' which began when Terry Cooper started the 'goal riot'.

Check out the pitch and this rather special punditry from Johnny Giles and Sir Bobby Charlton…

1970 – FA Cup Final: Chelsea 2-2 Leeds… Replay: Chelsea 2-1 Leeds watched by 28million

It takes a special kind of fan – but most Leeds and Chelsea supporters – to appreciate the on-field brutality of the replay at Old Trafford, which was watched by a TV audience of 28 million.

Referee Eric Jennings let so much go that Hugh McIlvanney wrote: ‘At
times, it appeared that Mr Jennings would give a free-kick only on
production of a death certificate.’ There was one booking. David Elleray ‘re-refereed’ the game years later and said there should have been six reds and 20 yellows.

The Leeds great, Peter Lorimer, remarked that Chelsea ‘kicked everything above grass’. No foul was given for Eddie McCreadie’s kung-fu kick on Billy Bremner’s head. ‘It was just the way the game was played back then,’ Paul Madeley said on Monday, from Yorkshire. Fantastic stuff.

Winner: David Webb (left) heads home to win the 1970 FA Cup for Chelsea in the re0play at Old Trafford against Leeds as Terry Cooper (No 3) attempts to challenge

Winner: David Webb (left) heads home to win the 1970 FA Cup for Chelsea in the re0play at Old Trafford against Leeds as Terry Cooper (No 3) attempts to challenge

1972 – Chelsea 4-0 Leeds… but only because Lorimer was in goal

Way before the days teams could call a multi-million-pound goalkeeper off the bench, Leeds' David Harvey had to go off injured. Peter Lorimer left his right-wing posting to put the No 1 jersey on and Chelsea made hay.

It was very much a case of 'first-half good, second half not so good' for Hot-Shot Lorimer, who came over all Gary Sprake near the end.

Keep a special eye out for Peter Osgood's simply amazing sideburns – eat your heart out Bradley Wiggins – and the famous Leeds sock tassels. Classic.

Tassels and tussles: Leeds captain Billy Bremner tackles Chelsea's Steve Kember during the 1972 clash at Stamford Bridge as Johnny Giles looks on

Tassels and tussles: Leeds captain Billy Bremner tackles Chelsea's Steve Kember during the 1972 clash at Stamford Bridge as Johnny Giles looks on

1994 – Leeds 2-3 Chelsea… Whelan scores with a bicycle kick… yes, really… And Lukic gifts Chelsea win with a clanger… yes, again!

John Spencer, remember him He won this thriller for Chelsea at a sold-out Elland Road. The match had everything: A masterly performance from Gary McAllister, a Noel Whelan overhead kick, another John Lukic howler and some grand old names from the past: Philemon Masinga, Dmitri Kharine anyone

JOHN LUKIC

JOHN SPENCER

Long Johns: John Lukic (left) made a mistake in 1994 to allow John Spencer (right) to pounce for Chelsea

Bonus goals… Viduka (2008) Gudjohnsen (2003)

VIDEO: Top-class Mark Viduka finish (but take note of John Terry's awful positioning)…

MARK VIDUKA

Eidur Gudjohnsen

Goal-getters: Mark Viduka (left) and Eidur Gudjohnsen (right) became cult heroes at their clubs

Wowsers, Gudjohnsen's sensational overhead kick in January 2003 – it's no Ibra effort…

Steven Gerrard, Ryan Giggs and now Lionel Messi: Sportsmail tribute to one-club men

As Messi and Xavi join Gerrard, Giggs, Armfield and Le Tissier, we pay tribute to football's one-club men

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UPDATED:

15:46 GMT, 18 December 2012

Barcelona stars Lionel Messi, Xavi and Carles Puyol have signed contract extensions that will keep them at the Nou Camp for the rest of their glittering careers.

They are the ultimate one-club men, having progressed from Barca’s fabled La Masia Academy.

Barcelona boy: Lionel Messi has signed a new deal with the Catalans - Xavi and Carles Puyol are also staying

Barcelona boy: Lionel Messi has signed a new deal with the Catalans – Xavi and Carles Puyol are also staying

Messi, Xavi and Puyol, though, are not alone in dedicating their careers to a single team.

Here Sportsmail pays tribute to 10 men who epitomise football loyalty.

TONY ADAMS (Arsenal 1983 – 2002)

How Arsenal could do with someone like him now. A no-nonsense defender, who inspired all around him, Adams became club captain in his early 20s and led the Gunners through one of the greatest periods in their history. In total he played 668 games and collected 13 major honours.

Top Gunner: Tony Adams will always be a legend to the Arsenal supporters

Top Gunner: Tony Adams will always be a legend to the Arsenal supporters

RYAN GIGGS (Manchester United 1991 – present)

Some day in the future, Giggs will call time on the most remarkable career and when he goes, the Barclays Premier League will have a gap that cannot be filled. He has made 921 appearances, scored 165 goals and won all there is to win twice over. The moniker ‘legend’ fits easily alongside him.

PAUL SCHOLES (Manchester United 1995 – present)

He
has been described by many, including Xavi, as the finest English
midfielder of the last two decades and it is hard to pick holes in that
argument. Blessed with wonderful passing and a keen eye for goal,
Scholes has eschewed the trappings of fame. All he has wanted to do is
play for United.

Old heads: Ryan Giggs (left) and Paul Scholes are still turning it on for Manchester United

Old heads: Ryan Giggs (left) and Paul Scholes are still turning it on for Manchester United

MATTHEW LE TISSIER (Southampton 1986 – 2002)

If
ever there was a talent who did not get his full rewards, it was Le
Tissier. A mercurial playmaker, who scored phenomenal goals and barely
missed a penalty, he kept Southampton in the Premier League almost
single-handedly at times. But he never won a major honour and was only
capped eight times by England.

A real Saint: Matt Le Tissier spent his entire playing career with Southampton

A real Saint: Matt Le Tissier spent his entire playing career with Southampton

JAMIE CARRAGHER (Liverpool 1997 – present)

It wasn’t easy for Carragher when he first broke into Liverpool’s team as a teenager but, through sheer force of will and talent, he has had an outstanding career. You don’t play for Liverpool 716 times if you haven’t got something special and the defender has earned every accolade.

STEVEN GERRARD (Liverpool 1998 – present)

Though it is true Gerrard twice came close to leaving Liverpool, his commitment to the club and efforts through three decades are indisputable. He has just passed 600 appearances at Anfield and boasts a trophy cabinet in keeping with his standing as one of the best midfielders of his generation.

Conquering Europe: Jamie Carragher (left) and Steven Gerrard won the Champions League in 2005

Conquering Europe: Jamie Carragher (left) and Steven Gerrard won the Champions League in 2005

LEON OSMAN (Everton 2002 – present)

Osman might not have a burgeoning trophy cabinet nor is he a name that will be discussed frequently up and down the land but he represents old-fashioned values and Everton are all the better for it. He, along with Tony Hibbert, fought his way through the youth ranks and kept trying to force his way into David Moyes’ team. A decade’s efforts were rewarded last month when he was capped by England.

Sticking with the Toffees: Leon Osman has worked his way through the ranks at Goodison Park

Sticking with the Toffees: Leon Osman has worked his way through the ranks at Goodison Park

DEREK FAZACKERLEY (Blackburn Rovers 1969 – 1987)

If his coaching career has been nomadic – see spells at Newcastle, Manchester City, Birmingham, Huddersfield and England, amongst others – Fazackerley’s playing days were spent solely at Ewood Park. He made a record-breaking 671 appearances for Blackburn and that total will never be passed.

JIMMY ARMFIELD (Blackpool 1954 – 1971)

To many he will be the softly-spoken expert analyst on Radio Five Live but as a player Armfield was the archetypal one-club man. Loyal, professional, conscientious and talented, Armfield was a classy right-back who made 627 appearances for Blackpool. He also won the World Cup in 1966.

I do like to be beside the seaside: Jimmy Armfield is Blackpool through and through

I do like to be beside the seaside: Jimmy Armfield is Blackpool through and through

And one from abroad we can't ignore… PAOLO MALDINI (AC Milan 1985 – 2009)

From the moment Maldini made his debut as a 16-year-old against Udinese,
he was destined for greatness. His name will stand the test of time, a
defender who oozed class, skill and dedication. His 902 appearances for Il
Rossoneri and five Champions League winners’ medals are extraordinary
statistics.

Milan man: Paolo Maldini (right) won the European Cup five times with the Italian giants

Milan man: Paolo Maldini (right) won the European Cup five times with the Italian giants

Adel Taarabt goal was excellent, but Matthew Le Tissier scored goals like that regularly

Why the fuss over Taarabt Le Tissier performed magic like that week in, week out for Saints

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UPDATED:

16:19 GMT, 17 December 2012

There is a lot about Adel Taarabt which brings back memories of the heyday of Matt Le Tissier.

He's languid, a touch lazy, and must be incredibly frustrating for teammates to play with – that is until he produces moments of audacious genius such as his finish on Saturday.

It began with a burst of energy as he brought the ball under control, a sublime dummy and then that instinctive perfectly placed finish.

Scroll down for video…

Magic moment: Taarabt scored a stunner for QPR in their first win of the season

Magic moment: Taarabt scored a stunner for QPR in their first win of the season

*Click here to watch Taarabt's stunning goal against Fulham

Yes, it was all very Le Tissier. But to
truly bare comparisons to the South Coast legend Taarabt is going to
have to repeat his wonder goal time and again for a series of seasons.

For that is what Le Tiss did – practically single-handedly keeping Saints in the top flight for a decade – and he dominated the goal of the season charts, particularly in 1993 and 1994.

I can’t hear the song Life of Riley by the Lightening Seeds (which was Match of the Day's goal of the month music in the mid-nineties) without remembering Le Tiss's flick up and volley from a free kick against Wimbledon, the loop over two players heads and then a delicate finish against Newcastle, a swerving strike against Forest, and, my favourite, the 35 yard belter against Blackburn.

And there were many more, most notably a volley against Arsenal in the final game at The Dell.

On top of that he had a remarkable record from the penalty spot – only failing to score once in 48 attempts.

Master: Le Tissier regularly scored cracking goals for Southampton

Master: Le Tissier regularly scored cracking goals for Southampton

He seemed to have a hand in almost every goal Saints scored. There were times his talent drove fans to despair. For someone who could see and supply passes only a handful of others could match, he hung on to the ball for an eternity.

Some would call his never-ending flicks, tricks and dummies mesmerising, others would sigh at why he didn’t just play the simple pass.

When his inspiration went missing and Saints fell behind, his sloth-like demeanour was frustrating.

But Le Tissier scored 210 goals for Southampton – all of them in the top flight, and for a club which rarely finished in the upper half of the table.
Only when Taarabt can match this, will his talents ever truly match the man Saints fans call Le God.

VIDEO: Le Tiss stars in Goal of the Season competition

SPOTY 2012: Andy Murray should have won, not Bradley Wiggins

If it's really about sport, Murray should have prevailed over Wiggins

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UPDATED:

09:57 GMT, 17 December 2012

You could easily have made a case for half a dozen different winners. And that’s just among those who didn’t make the top 12.

It is inevitable, then, that last night’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year victory for Bradley Wiggins will not represent the end of the debate.

Ah, how glorious it is to argue over which of Britain’s multi-talented, honour-laden, phenomenally successful sporting ambassadors should be named first among equals in a public poll.

At last: Andy Murray won the US Open to end years 76 years of hurt

At last: Andy Murray won the US Open to end years 76 years of hurt

Murray's mint

Martin Samuel also felt the Scot should have won last night

Anyone who knows athletics understands how impossible it should have been for Mo Farah to do the distance double. Or how about Jess Ennis, THE face of London 2012, having missed Beijing through injury

Chris Hoy, Britain’s greatest ever Olympian. The Paralympians who changed attitudes about disability in Britain — and beyond. All held a claim on the crown.

But, if it’s really about the sport, the prize should have gone to Andy Murray. Put bluntly, he didn’t just succeed when it mattered — he also triumphed with the weight of history on his shoulders.

Winner: Bradley Wiggins was crowned Sports Personality of the Year

Winner: Bradley Wiggins was crowned Sports Personality of the Year

That is not something you could say about even Wiggins, as remarkable achievement it was being the first British winner of the Tour de France.

While that historic victory will stand for the ages, it is not as if Wiggo has had to deal with years and years of endless questioning over when one of ‘our boys’ might finally end the wait for a Continent-conquering road warrior to emerge.

As much as we all celebrated the win by a fantastic athlete and all-round geezer, if he had finished runner-up or even ninth, the nation would have shrugged and moved on.

Recognised: Murray came third and was presented the trophy by Lennox Lewis

Recognised: Murray came third and was presented the trophy by Lennox Lewis

Murray Every time he has ‘squandered’ a Grand Slam opportunity, the wailing and gnashing of teeth has been heard around the world. Oh, how could that serial Scottish loser possibly let Britain down again He alone had lived with the ghost of Fred Perry, British angst, 1936 and all that.

And he’d failed in four Slam finals. No one had ever lost their first five. No other nominee can understand what it’s like to have lived under that kind of expectation for more than just a couple of weeks during one glorious sporting summer.

Let the debate continue, then. Enjoy it. We may never get the chance to argue like this again.

Charl Schwartzel wins Alfred Dunhill Championship 2012 by 12 strokes

Schwartzel wraps up 2012 with emphatic 12-stroke win at Dunhill Championship

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UPDATED:

17:33 GMT, 16 December 2012

South African Charl Schwartzel completed his fantastic finish to 2012 with an astonishing 12-stroke victory on home soil at the Alfred Dunhill Championship today.

The third biggest winning margin in European Tour history was achieved at Leopard Creek a week after last year's US Masters champion won in Thailand by 11 shots.

Only Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, who won the 2000 US Open and 2005 Asian Open by 15 and 13 respectively, have left the best of the rest trailing so far behind in the circuit's 40-year history.

Emphatic: Charl Schwartzel lifted the Alfred Dunhill Championship after surging to a 12-stroke lead

Emphatic: Charl Schwartzel lifted the Alfred Dunhill Championship after surging to a 12-stroke lead

Schwartzel, 10 clear with a round to play, added a three-under-par 69 either side of a two-hour thunderstorm delay to take his eighth Tour title – five of them in South Africa – with a 24-under-par total.

In the Thailand Championship he was 25 under, and for the past five weeks – they started with finishes of fifth, third and second – he is a staggering 84 under.

France's Gregory Bourdy, his closest challenger for virtually the entire weekend, took a double-bogey seven on the final hole and that elevated Swede Kristoffer Broberg, four times a winner on the Challenge Tour last season, into second place.

Bourdy shared third with Scotland's Scott Jamieson, who last Sunday captured the Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban, defending champion Garth Mulroy and England's Andy Sullivan a month after he came through the Tour qualifying school.

Schwartzel also continued a remarkable record at the course on the border of the Kruger National Park. He won his first Tour title there in 2004 and has had four runner-up finishes.

'It's always been a special place for me,' the 28-year-old said. 'This is where I can almost say my career started and it's always stayed close to my heart.

'It's nice to have continued my form from last week. I was saying a month and a half ago it's been a pretty disappointing year.

Class act: Schwartzel ended the year on a high

Class act: Schwartzel ended the year on a high

'Slowly and surely I started to swing the club a lot better, back to how I did when I won The Masters, and I actually got excited to play again.

'It started at the SA Open and from there got better and better. It's been a pretty good year now!'

Schwartzel's lead was down to seven when he three-putted the eighth, but he spun his approach to three feet on the next and after the weather hold-up he collected more birdies on the 12th, 13th and par-five last.

Fellow countryman George Coetzee's best-of-the-day 65 lifted him into joint 10th place and came after results elsewhere had guaranteed he stayed in the world's top 50 and earned himself a Masters debut next April.

Also qualifying by the same route for a first trip to Augusta are Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Belgian Ryder Cup star Nicolas Colsaerts, South African Branden Grace and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen.

Geoff Ogilvy would have denied Olesen if he had had one less shot at the Australian PGA Championship, where he finished in a tie for fourth place.

Way off: Gregory Bourdy was the South African's closest competitor for almost the entire weekend

Way off: Gregory Bourdy was the South African's closest competitor for almost the entire weekend

Others to book their Masters places through the end-of-year top 50 are Scot Paul Lawrie, Italians Francesco Molinari and Matteo Manassero, Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, American Bill Haas, Australian Jason Day and Japanese player Hiroyuki Fujita.

Coetzee told the Sunshine Tour website: “My dream has never been just to play in The Masters.

That's not the job description – I want to play in those majors and I want to win all of them.

'It's great to have the opportunity. Last week I could feel that The Masters was making me play a bit rubbish because it puts a bit of pressure on you.

'After three days of scrapping around this week I got things together. It's Augusta – it's the one major with a limited field, it's the best in the world.

'I watched it as a kid and I was mad at Phil Mickelson for beating Ernie (Els) that year (2004) when he holed that putt and jumped around like a madman.

'It's got so much history and I'm sure it's going to be an unbelievable experience. As they say in poker – if you have a chip and a chair you never know.'

Getting an eye in: John Parry

Getting an eye in: Scott Jamieson

Brits on tour: Scott Jamieson (right) and John Parry (left)

Tom Watson named United States Ryder Cup captain

Watson named Ryder Cup captain as United States ask legend to lead them into battle at Gleneagles

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UPDATED:

17:45 GMT, 13 December 2012

Tom Watson has been named United States Ryder Cup captain for the battle with the Europeans at Gleneagles in 2014.

The greatest Open champion of the past 100 years, the man of principle who rigidly refused to use the crutch of the belly putter even while crippled with a form of the yips, picks up the captaincy in at an age when most people are content to pick up their bus pass.

Three weeks after his 65th birthday, Watson won’t be a father figure to most of the team he will lead at Gleneagles but a grandfatherly one. Not only is he the oldest American captain of all time, he is a good decade older than any captain of either side for more than 40 years.

Leader: Tom Watson will captain the United States Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles in 2014

Leader: Tom Watson will captain the United States Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles in 2014

Leader: Tom Watson (right) will captain the United States Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles in 2014
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

DARREN CLARKE (Europe’s likely captain in 2014): ‘Obviously if Tom does get it, he is one of the legends of the game. I am sure he would be a fantastic captain, not just to the team but for the whole aspect of the Ryder Cup. The man is a huge name in the world of golf and rightly so.’

BERNARD GALLACHER (European captain opposite Watson in 1993): 'It is a surprise. The USPGA obviously decided they needed a bit of experience in Scotland and Tom is probably the most respected figure in the game today.

'He's done the job before, he's been there as a player, he knows how to win in Europe and in Scotland as well.'

WEBB SIMPSON (2012 US Ryder Cup player): ‘I think he would be amazing. Such a remarkable player and person and he demands respect just by the kind of player he has been. He’s like a quiet lion. It would be an honour to play for him.’

BRANDT SNEDEKER (2012 US Ryder Cup player): ‘I am surprised but excited. Tom is a good friend of mine, one of the best players to ever play the game who is instantly going to gain a lot of respect and sway the homefield advantage for us in Scotland because of his success over there.’

PAUL AZINGER (2008 US Ryder Cup captain): ‘Truthfully, I am really surprised but I think it’s OK. There’s a philosophy of picking contemporary players under the age of 50 that hasn’t really worked. That would have been a great philosophy had we been winning, but we haven’t, which makes Watson a good choice at this time.’

LANNY WADKINS (played under Watson in 1993): ‘Tom is just one of those guys who always believes. He doesn’t go out there to have fun. He goes out there to kick butt and get the job done. That’s really what the PGA of America, in my opinion, are thinking what needs to happen.’

On Thursday Watson appeared on NBC television before a teleconference at the Empire State Building in New York.

He said: 'I was waiting 20 years to get the call again,' he said. 'It's a great honour to do it again and this time it is going to be 14 and a half points.

'I loved it the first time. I've been a great fan of the Ryder Cup – I get the same gut feeling just watching it at home on TV.'

Inevitably, there will be eyebrows
raised as to how a man who will not be rubbing shoulders with his
players week-in, week-out can somehow mould them into a team.

It is a
reasonable question, one that Sir Nick Faldo failed to answer in 2008,
and he had been only a few years removed from the scene, not 13 long
seasons like Watson.

But there are other more persuasive
reasons that suggest this could turn out to be an inspired move by the
PGA of America rather than an illogical one.

Firstly, in four Ryder Cups as a
player and one as a captain, Watson has never been on a losing side.
Given that losing has become a habit for the US, with seven defeats in
the past nine matches, that winning mentality he has always possessed
can only be for the good.

But here’s the main reason I think
he has been selected. Since Watson captained America to victory at The
Belfry in 1993 — their last triumph on foreign soil — we have seen four
American skippers in Tom Kite, Curtis Strange, Tom Lehman and Corey
Pavin dwarfed by the personalities of their European counterparts — Seve
Ballesteros, Sam Torrance, Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie.

Think back to the last match at
Celtic Manor, where Montgomerie was lording it gloriously and his
opposite number appeared even smaller than his diminutive self after
being labelled ‘Crazy Pavin’.

Momentum is everything in a Ryder Cup and Europe began each of those
matches with it all in their favour because four larger-than-life
captains had set the tone against four US skippers with no profile
outside their own country.

Now look at the two men put forward
to lead in 2014: the immensely popular Darren Clarke and the relatively
unknown David Toms. Is it any wonder the PGA of America looked at that
prospective scenario and wearily thought to themselves: ‘We’ve seen this
movie before’.

Tartan Army: Scottish golf fans love Watson - he won four Opens north of the border

Tartan Army: Scottish golf fans love Watson – he won four Opens north of the border

Now, in going for a true legend who could not be held in higher esteem in Europe, they have changed the dynamic completely.

Watson, lest we forget, won four of
his five Open titles in Scotland, where he might even be more popular
than Andy Murray. In the press room, Clarke’s blarney would have been
infinitely more quotable than the genuine but quiet Toms, while among
the paying spectators filling the grandstands there would have been no
contest.

But Watson, with all his wit,
charisma and integrity, is a different matter. For the first time in 19
years at an away match, America will not mentally feel a couple of
points down at the start.

Squaring up: Darren Clarke (right) is set to captain Europe - following on from Jose Maria Olazabal (centre)

Squaring up: Darren Clarke (right) is set to captain Europe – following on from Jose Maria Olazabal (centre)

As for the team room, Watson might
not know much about the music tastes and personalities of his players
but it is hard to imagine there will be a member of the US side who will
not look up to him and respect his decisions. Well, maybe there is one.
In 2010, at the height of the Tiger Woods scandal, Watson was scathing
in his criticism.

‘I feel Tiger has not carried the
same stature as the other great players that have come along like Jack
(Nicklaus), /12/12/article-2246805-05C54D86000005DC-660_634x408.jpg” width=”634″ height=”408″ alt=”Fairytale: Watson was so close to winning The Open at Turnberry in 2009 before Stewart Cink pipped him” class=”blkBorder” />

Fairytale: Watson was so close to winning The Open at Turnberry in 2009 before Stewart Cink pipped him

Watson’s four Open wins in Scotland
came at Carnoustie in 1975, Turnberry in 1977, Muirfield in 1980 and
Royal Troon in 1982. He came close to winning again and writing one of
the great sports stories of all time at the age of 59 at Turnberry in
2009, but he missed a short putt at the 72nd hole then lost out in a
play-off to Stewart Cink.

The man who will feel most
disappointed is the personable Toms but expect him to be chosen for
Hazeltine in 2016. Unless America win, of course. Then it will probably
be Arnold Palmer.

It's elementary: Why Watson's a real Ryder Cup hero

He has appeared in four Ryder Cups as a player (1977, ’81, ’83, ’89) and one as captain (1993) and never been on a losing side.

In 15 matches he won 10 and lost just four. He teamed up with Jack Nicklaus on four occasions and won every time.

Only one American who has played two Ryder Cups or more has a better winning percentage against Europe — Larry Nelson.

At 65 he will be the oldest American Ryder Cup captain. The previous oldest was Sam Snead, who was 57 when captain in 1969.

Watson’s message before sending his team out in the singles in 1993: ‘Remember, everything they invented, we perfected.’

He is the seventh US captain to be granted a second term of office but the first since Jack Nicklaus at Muirfield Village in 1987.

Ryder Cup pedigree: Watson and the USA's triumphant team of 1993 celebrate victory at The Belfry

Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter and the best Ryder Cup of all time! Golf"s great year remembered – Derek Lawrenson

What a year! Magnificent McIlroy, Donald, Rose, Poulter… and the best Ryder Cup ever

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UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 10 December 2012

Right from the first tournament in Abu Dhabi in January, this was a golfing year to remember, with each month providing a highlight reel. As the curtain comes down, here are my favourite moments of a season to savour.

January – Robert Rock in Abu Dhabi

Not only Rocky by name but, for one tournament at least, Rocky by nature. A former club pro who rises through the ranks to beat the greatest player of his generation — Hollywood would be interested if the franchise hadn’t already been taken. Here, Rocky wrote a script on which he will dine out for years to come.

David and Goliath: Robert Rock (left) is congratulated by Tiger Woods on his victory in Abu Dhabi

David and Goliath: Robert Rock (left) is congratulated by Tiger Woods on his victory in Abu Dhabi

February – Paul Lawrie in Qatar

An unlikely revival that had begun in Dubai the previous December took wing in the Gulf as the Scot continued his remarkable rise from the nether regions to Europe’s Ryder Cup team. How nice to see that one of the game’s genuine guys is getting the credit this time round that was denied him following his 1999 Open win.

March – The UK's finest rule in Florida

I couldn’t tell you how many tournaments I've covered in the Sunshine State that have been won by Americans. It felt like I waited ages for the first UK success to come along. Then, in a manner characteristic of a Florida downpour, it started raining victories. First, Rory McIlroy beat Tiger in Fort Lauderdale. Then, Justin Rose won his first World Golf Championship in Miami. Not to be outdone, Luke Donald joined the party by winning the following week in Tampa. It was March madness of a glorious kind.

Justin Rose won at Doral

Luke Donald kisses the Transitions Championship trophy at Innisbrook

England's finest: Justin Rose won the WGC Cadillac at Doral (left) and Luke Donald took the glory at Innisbrook

April – Watson wins the Masters

Whoever imagined a man called Bubba would find himself wearing a green jacket No, it is not an urban myth that Bubba Watson has never had a lesson in his life. Working out the hardest sport all on his lonesome, Watson earned his ultimate reward at the season’s first major, moving a wedge 30 yards in the air on the first play-off hole and moving a nation in the process with his wonderful success.

The greatest shot ever played Bubba Watson's miraculous hooked wedge that helped seal the Masters title

The greatest shot ever played Bubba Watson's miraculous hooked wedge that helped seal the Masters title

May – Luke's successful PGA defence

It is never easy defending a title and particularly Europe’s flagship event on home soil. Was this really the same Luke Donald who used to find it so hard to win In front of an adoring record crowd at Wentworth, the classy Englishman made it appear relatively straightforward, with a vivid demonstration of how much he has grown.

June – Marvellous Royal Portrush

At an historic Irish Open, it might have rained almost from the first shot to the last, but it made no difference to the golf-mad people of this special corner of Northern Ireland. To watch them pouring through the entrance gates from first light was truly humbling. More than 130,000 people had attended by the time Welshman Jamie Donaldson holed the winning putt.

Great friends: Ernie Els commiserates Adam Scott after pipping his pal to the Claret Just at Lytham

Great friends: Ernie Els commiserates Adam Scott after pipping his pal to the Claret Just at Lytham

July – Ernie Els's major comeback

Was there anyone who still believed big Ernie had another major victory in him Fortunately, the people who mattered kept faith. They rebuilt his shattered putting stroke and fractured confidence to lay the foundation for a most popular Open win. Credit, too, the dignified runner-up, Adam Scott, who took his late, late collapse at Royal Lytham & St Annes on the chin.

August – Rory at Kiawah Island

So much for fatal distractions and taking his eye off the ball. All those who doubted Rory McIlroy’s desire and ambition were forced to concede they were wrong following a momentous second major win for the 23-year-old, achieved in the grand manner, when a 20-foot holed putt on the final green allowed him to beat Jack Nicklaus’s record margin of victory. In that moment, every pro golfer wished that he was so distracted.

September – The FedEx Cup

Another eye-opener. This four-event series opened with Tiger and Rory playing together and kept us gripped through two McIlroy victories, right up to the moment Brandt Snedeker walked off with the mammoth $10million bonus and promptly announced he was giving much of it away to charity. A perfect warm-up to the year’s big event.

Major number two: Rory McIlroy holds aloft the Wanamaker Trophy at Kiawah Island

Major number two: Rory McIlroy holds aloft the Wanamaker Trophy at Kiawah Island

September-October – The Miracle at Medinah

There are some who believe this to have been the greatest golf event of all time. What is undeniable is that it provided a lifetime of memories. An event that defined Ian Poulter as one of the sporting heroes of the age, where Rory’s timing was as good on the course as it was bad off it; where Bubba introduced us to the unforgettable sound of cheering on the first tee while golfers play their shots. If you were wearing European blue, this really was as good as it gets.

Miracle-worker: European talisman Ian Poulter celebrates after his remarkable performance at Medinah

Miracle-worker: European talisman Ian Poulter celebrates after his remarkable performance at Medinah

November – Rory in Dubai

Ho-hum, not a bad month either. Poults took his Ryder Cup form to China and then became the first Englishman to win two WGC events. Luke made it three wins on three different continents with victory in Japan. And then came Rory at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. How about five birdies in a row to finish the season and finish off Justin Rose, who had just shot 62 What a day in the Middle-Eastern sun — but then, what a season.

December – And the winner is… Rory

A year that began with him becoming world No 1 at the age of 22 is ending with Rory scooping up practically every golf award going. Thank goodness, he has reportedly settled on a $10m home in Florida, so he has somewhere to put all these trophies. The year is ending in a fitting manner, therefore, as the dawn of Rory’s era offers up the promise that it will provide many more special moments in the seasons to come.

Quote of the Year

‘Europe’s Ryder Cup qualification
system should now be changed. It should be nine automatic qualifiers,
two captain’s wildcards… and Ian Poulter. Call it the Poults
clause.’

Lee Westwood sums up the feeling of a
continent in the aftermath of a display from Poulter that surely ranks
as the greatest Ryder Cup performance of all time.

After 48 consecutive weeks, this column is taking a December break. Merry Christmas to you all… and we will be back on January 7.

Jason Puncheon back in favour at Southampton

Jason is Puncheon his weight at last after scoring Saints' winner against Reading

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 9 December 2012

The remarkable turnaround at Southampton is matched by the remarkable turnaround in the career of their match-winner against Reading.

In January Jason Puncheon looked like he had committed career suicide when he used Twitter to slam Southampton executive chairman Nicola Cortese – his boss.

Puncheon didn’t pull any punches. He accused the Swiss-Italian of forcing him to train with the youngsters, called him ‘Nicolina’ and threatened to spend the rest of his contract, that runs until 2013, training with the reserves and youth team.

Main man: Jason Puncheon (second right) celebrates scoring against Reading

Main man: Jason Puncheon (second right) celebrates scoring against Reading

Puncheon patch-up

What he said Saturday, January 21:

‘I’m not going no where gonna sit an train with the reserves/kids for 18months see how cortese likes that then go on free.

‘Most of u fail to understand that only reason I train with the kids is cos of nicolina not the manager.

‘He won’t speak to face to face that’s how much a man he is.’

What he said Saturday, December 8:

‘People make out Nicola to be a
stern, stubborn character but what he is, is a man of his word. You have
to always give credit to that. He has a good driving force behind
himself.

'When I joined I remember the day I
signed he said this football club will be in the Premier League in five
years time – it happened in three years.’

But then Cortese called him in for clear-the-air talks and the winger apologised to him. The next day he was back in training.

Fast-forward 10 months and he found the bottom left corner with a shot across goal in the 61st minute against Reading to lift Saints out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.

It was his fourth goal in all competitions this season and third in the league and he has established himself as one of Southampton’s most dangerous attacking threats.

‘It’s all about growing and maturing as an adult and a player and I’m doing that now,’ Puncheon said after scoring that goal. ‘The gaffer has given me a platform and given me a chance and I’ve grasped it with two hands. That’s what’s happened and that’s why we are where we are.

‘I wasn’t nervous about [meeting Nicola] because he is a man of his word. We had a meeting, we spoke. The next day I was at training. That was the most important thing for me to be settled and start playing again. We had clear-the-air talks and as far as I’m concerned that’s all history. I’m just pleased to get the chance and keep producing.’

Rescued: Puncheon (left) had looked to be heading out of Southampton

Rescued: Puncheon (left) had looked to be heading out of Southampton

His outburst in January followed three loan spells to Millwall, Blackpool and QPR in just less than two years, the first of which came 10 months after his arrival at the club in February 2010. It was during two seasons when Saints were flying and won back-to-back promotions that has landed them back in the Premier League.

They did not drop below fifth in League One in the entire second half of the 2010/11 season. The next campaign in the Championship they did not drop out of the top two at all.

‘It was difficult for me to come back as much as I was loaned out I was coming back to a team that was winning week-in-week-out,’ the 26-year-old added.

‘The club were second in the Championship when I came back and were in the top two all season it’s hard to come back in and hit the ground running the way the boys were playing. I knew coming back having a good preseason would be the start for me and that’s what I needed.

Turnaround: Southampton manager Nigel Adkins has worked wonders

Turnaround: Southampton manager Nigel Adkins has worked wonders

‘I learned a lot from all different types of experiences. That’s what’s helped me now to be settled and to mature as an adult and a player. I wouldn’t change anything the way I went about my career so far, I wouldn’t change any of it. That’s helped me grow as a player and as a human being.’

His manager Nigel Adkins believes Puncheon deserves all the credit he gets. The 56-year-old said: ‘We treat people as human beings and they have all got to be allowed to make mistakes and grow. All the credit that Jason will get now is down to him because he is the one who has got to do it. He’s a great story. It shows how well people can do when you give them an opportunity.’

Following back-to-back promotions Southampton appeared to be punching above their weight in the Premier League at the start of the season. But Puncheon’s goal on Saturday moved them to 15th and they are starting to look like they fit in as well as the midfielder does in their team.