Tag Archives: reputation

Stewart leaves British athletics under a cloud after coaching Mo Farah to gold

Stewart leaves British athletics under a cloud after coaching Farah to gold

Stewart was described by UKA as ‘a
vital cog in the machinery of British athletics for more than 20 years,
most notably as meeting director for the successful televised series
where Britain has built a reputation for hosting the best meetings in
the world, both indoors and outdoors’.

De Vos said last night: ‘Ian leaves us in great shape to take these events from strength to strength.

‘I’d like to thank him for his work and wish him well in his future career.’

Stewart was one of the world’s leading
distance runners during the late 1960s and mid-1970s. He won a 5,000m
bronze medal at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, adding to the European gold
he had captured three years earlier in Athens.

Alex McLeish: I"ll win over Nottingham Forest fans with positive results

I'll banish negative reputation with positive results, insists McLeish after Forest fans' backlash against new boss

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UPDATED:

21:53 GMT, 28 December 2012

Alex McLeish mounted a sterling defence of his managerial methods as he countered criticism that his appointment is a backward step for Nottingham Forest.

The Scot returned to the game following an eight-month absence after his sacking by Aston Villa, struggling to shake off the perception that he was a negative coach.

Social networking sites were awash with opposition to his arrival but the former Rangers coach brushed aside suggestions that he would dismantle what Sean O'Driscoll had left behind.

I'm in charge: Alex McLeish poses with a Nottingham Forest shirt at the City Ground on Friday

I'm in charge: Alex McLeish poses with a Nottingham Forest shirt at the City Ground on Friday

'I am an organised coach,' said the erstwhile protege of Sir Alex Ferguson. 'I can't apologise for that. I think people might be confusing the issue.

'I could have nine positives on my CV and one negative and some people would point out the negative.

'Winning games will help get the fans behind me. It's not as if I'm Jose Mourinho walking in here and it's a unanimously popular decision.

'Some of the fans may not be with me but if we win games and play the kind of football that they produced against Leeds, there's no reason why we cannot get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet.

'The situation here is simple. If it ain't broke, why fix it We have a good bunch of players playing good football.

'What I've got to do is brainwash these guys into have winning mentalities.

Back on the training pitch: McLeish on Friday morning during his first session as Forest boss

Back on the training pitch: McLeish on Friday morning during his first session as Forest boss

'You don't do that by winning against Leeds, then losing the next game. That means winning against Leeds, then winning the game after that…and the one after that.

'I think there is a few players in our dressing-room who are capable of that.'

McLeish has agreed a one-year rolling contract with Forest and his assistant at Villa Park, Peter Grant, will be joining him at the City Ground.

His brief is to 'mount a very serious challenge' and, in fairness to the Scot, it was not his fault that O'Driscoll was making a decent fist of that before the axe fell on Boxing Day.

McLeish said that the job was a 'wonderful opportunity' but that he needed a break after an horrific end to his stay at Villa Park. A text reading 'Welcome back to the asylum' from Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy was received with a smile.

Unwanted reputation: The former Scotland boss is ready to prove certain disapproving fans wrong

Unwanted reputation: The former Scotland boss is ready to prove certain disapproving fans wrong

'It was a difficult job at Villa but one I met head on,' he said, 'It was great to get over the line despite the catalogue of horrors we had there.

'It had been draining. I was on a bit of a downer after leaving Birmingham.

'But I don't regret it. It's just that the glove maybe didn't fit.

'It wasn't easy at Villa. It's not easy to turn that club around overnight with a few changes. Paul (Lambert) is maybe finding that. It's been a roller-coaster for him.

'But that's in the past now as far as I'm concerned. I'm at Nottingham Forest now and I couldn't be more delighted with that.'

Luis Suarez interview: Liverpool striker says people can call him racist, diver and cheat but he sleeps soundly every night

LUIS SUAREZ EXCLUSIVE: Racist Diver Cheat People can call me what they want but I still sleep soundly every night
The Liverpool star discusses what it is like to be one of football's most reviled figures in his first major interview
'What matters most to me is my family, the Liverpool fans and the team. Anything else that goes on is not my problem''Liverpool are the club I wanted to play for, and now that I’m here, I want to stay for a long time'

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UPDATED:

23:11 GMT, 22 December 2012

Luis Suarez never directly expresses his exasperation. He is polite, engaging and thoughtful. But he sits with arms folded for most of the interview, as though he fears that judgment has already been made and that nothing he can say will change the verdict.

The controversies are well recorded: his abuse of the Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, which the FA deemed a racial slur, a verdict Suarez still disputes; his reputation for too readily going to ground in the penalty area; his handball on the line that prevented Ghana from progressing to the 2010 World Cup semi-finals; and his general aggression on the pitch.

Suarez, 25, gives the impression that the insults which come his way as a result of his reputation are of no consequence and that the support of his family and his football club, Liverpool, are all he needs. Indeed, he is dismissive of the suggestion that, as a result of the Evra affair — for which Suarez served an eight-match ban — many would now regard him as racist, even though the FA Disciplinary Commission made it clear in their judgment that they did not.

At ease: Luis Suarez says he is unconcerned with the criticism he attracts

At ease: Luis Suarez says he is unconcerned with the criticism he attracts

‘I still sleep soundly every night,’ insists Suarez. ‘I’m not worried about everything people say. I don’t care what people outside Liverpool think.’

Suarez has always maintained that the Spanish word he admits using in his infamous clash with Evra, ‘negrito’, can, at times, be acceptable in his native Uruguay. Suarez now knows that it is not acceptable in England to refer to somebody’s race in this way, but he claims that he remains perplexed by the response to the incident.

‘I don’t understand, but that’s football,’ he says. ‘It’s in the past now. I fought hard to get where I am and now all I care about is playing football for Liverpool.’

He even remains outwardly unmoved by the fact that Chelsea’s former England captain, John Terry, received a four-match ban for racial abuse, half the punishment meted out to Suarez. ‘They’re different situations,’ he says. ‘Terry is Terry and Suarez is Suarez — they’re different issues, and I never cared about the Terry case.’

Yet, tellingly, when it comes to other aspects of the way he is perceived, Suarez does want to explain. On the diving, he wants people to know what it is like to have muscular 6ft 2in centre-halves bearing down on you as you run towards goal or attempt a cute turn.

Going to ground: Suarez falls after a challenge from Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen

Going to ground: Suarez falls after a challenge from Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen

‘Sometimes you’re standing there and someone comes flying in, so you move your leg out of the way or you go to ground because you’re scared of getting hit,’ he says. ‘If I leave my leg there so the referee can see it’s a foul, I risk suffering a big injury. That’s why sometimes your instinct tells you to go to ground. It’s a split-second instinct, not a conscious decision you make on the pitch. Of course, I don’t want people to go around saying “this guy just dives”.’

The swallow-dive celebration Suarez performed in front of David Moyes after his goal in the Merseyside derby in October was the Uruguayan’s response to pre-match accusations of diving from the Everton manager, a riposte made even more pleasing when Everton captain Phil Neville was booked for simulation in the same game.

‘Everton was a special case, because the Everton manager came out and spoke about me before the match, saying that people like me are going to turn supporters off going to matches,’ says Suarez.

‘And then, in the match, the Everton captain dived. So that’s why sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut. Moyes can talk about me if he knows me, or at least after the match, but before the match it’s not right.’

Courting controversy: Suarez celebrated his goal in the Merseyside derby with a dive in front of Everton boss David Moyes

Courting controversy: Suarez celebrated his goal in the Merseyside derby with a dive in front of Everton boss David Moyes

Suarez’s default position is a defensive one. ‘What matters most to me is my family, playing for Liverpool, the Liverpool fans and the team. Anything else that goes on is not my problem. I don’t read the papers or watch TV. Every time they boo me or chant something about me, it just gives me more confidence to keep playing. I’ve been booed in Holland and in Uruguay — as a professional footballer you need to have thick skin and just get used to it. But right now I’m at the club I wanted to play for, I’m really enjoying myself out on the pitch, because I fought for a long time to get here and I’m happy the club acknowledge what I’ve done, which is the only thing that matters to me.

‘If we’re playing away from home, I know I’m going to get booed. But I also know that if they boo me, it’s not only because of anything I’ve supposedly done, but also because they’re afraid, because they know I’m a player who is a threat to their team. And that’s why they try to unsettle me and keep me quiet in the game … almost. But I never let that happen.’

And he is a potent threat. The skill and the inventiveness were never in doubt but the finishing that seemed awry last year is now much improved, as 11 Premier League goals — including one in the 4-0 victory over Fulham — and three in cup competitions testifies. For some, he is the player of the season so far.

Intriguingly, though, he says he does want to change. Regarding diving, he says: ‘Yes, of course. I’m trying to change and to avoid doing it because I know that football is different here, and it’s helping me at the same time. I’ve discussed it with both managers I’ve played under here, Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers. Kenny also used to tell me not to protest so much, that I should focus more on playing football, that I have a lot of qualities and so should forget about referees. And Brendan has also told me a few things to help me improve.’

Lucky for some: Suarez hits his 13th goal of the campaign, adding the gloss to Liverpool's win against Fulham

Lucky for some: Suarez hits his 13th goal of the campaign, adding the gloss to Liverpool's win against Fulham

There is a familiar contradiction in sportsmen like Suarez, those who carry a reputation. The image they bear on the pitch is so far removed from their demeanour in everyday life that it is often difficult to reconcile the two. Suarez himself says so.

‘My wife always says that people must think I act crazy at home, too, but that’s not the case,’ he says.

‘Off the pitch I am nothing like the way I am on it. The passion I have for football, it’s very different, I’ve always expressed it like that, that’s the way I play, but I also understand that I need to change. Because it’s not nice to be constantly shouting and back-chatting, it’s not nice for the crowd and for children to see, and it’s not nice for me either. I understand that and I think I’ve made the effort to change a little over the last few months.’

There will not be an immediate transformation, he says, as he tries to strike the balance between retaining legitimate aggression and curbing what is unacceptable. ‘That’s why it’s really hard to change overnight, because of the passion you feel on the pitch. And I don’t like losing, I don’t like giving up a lost ball — say if the ball is going out and I know I can reach it, then I chase it down … that’s the passion you feel on the pitch.’

He draws a direct link between his upbringing and the way he plays now. ‘When you’re a kid, you play in the street, you need to have lots of ambition, drive and strength to play, and that’s what makes you act like that on the pitch.’

Flashpoint: Controversy has been no stranger to Suarez, with the Uruguayan getting an eight-match ban for this clash with Patrice Evra at Anfield last season

Flashpoint: Controversy has been no stranger to Suarez, with the Uruguayan getting an eight-match ban for this clash with Patrice Evra at Anfield last season

For his is that well-told story of the South American boy playing street football, first in Salto and later in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. His father left the family when he was nine years old and he was raised by his mother and grandmother, who provided financial help. He has two sisters and four brothers, one of whom, Paolo, plays for Isidro Metapan, the champions of El Salvador, while two others play professionally at a lower level.

In Suarez’s mind, he has had to battle constantly to be where he is now, playing football for Liverpool. ‘Some kids have things very easy here. They don’t go wanting for anything, their parents help them, and by 18 they already have their own cars. It’s not like that in Uruguay: you have to work really hard and for a lot of years. Even if your parents help you to have a car, you have to work and fight really hard, and show a lot of ambition and hunger to go far, which isn’t the case here.

‘In Holland (where he played for Groningen and Ajax) and it’s happened to me here, too, I would look at players who were moving up to the first team, and they already had expensive cars at the age of 18, which I found amazing. Back when I was in Uruguay, the club used to loan me a car, and it wasn’t until I moved to Holland when I was 20, and then when I moved to Ajax, that I could buy one myself.’

He was signed to Nacional, the Uruguayan champions, as a child but looked like missing the cut at 14.

‘I wasn’t on the path I wanted to be on. I was going out at night, I didn’t enjoy studying and I wasn’t dedicating myself to football. When I was a kid, there were some people around me who were a bad influence. When I met my girlfriend Sofia, who is now my wife, I think it all changed. She was very important for me, because she steered me back on to the path I wanted to be on.

Home team: Suarez is always calm and relaxed with wife Sofia and daughter Delfina

Home team: Suarez is always calm and relaxed with wife Sofia and daughter Delfina

‘When I was single, I would go out at night, but then when I had a girlfriend, I would always go to her house at the end of the night, so I had more peace of mind. So it’s about that, the everyday routine. She would also tell me to study and to focus on my ability to play football, and to forget about everything else.

‘I’m the one out on the pitch, but I think if she hadn’t helped me change my life, I probably wouldn’t have made it. Also, I wasn’t playing at Nacional, I was on the bench, some people told me to look for another club, but there were two people who told me to stay and helped me to get another chance. And then I met my wife and that’s when it all changed.’

At times he seems a throwback to the world of Diego Maradona, the street kid with the ball at his feet made good. In Uruguay they use the word ‘botija’ to describe a player like Suarez, the one with the skill, guile and what locals would call cheekiness.

‘Being crafty, a bit more streetwise than the rest,’ says Suarez, attempting an explanation. ‘That’s very common in Uruguay, just like in Argentina, I think because of the way you grow up as a kid.’

But does the phrase accurately describe Suarez ‘I think I am sometimes [that kind of player] but not always. I think maybe the example you’re trying to get at is my handball at the World Cup’

Indeed, it is. That was the day Suarez took a red card for the team and stopped Ghana scoring in the last minute of the quarter-final by blocking a goalbound shot with his hand on the line. The penalty was missed and Uruguay progressed to the semi-finals in the subsequent penalty shoot-out. ‘I think any player in the world would have done that,’ says Suarez. ‘It’s all part of being a little bit crafty, getting the upper hand.’

Public enemy No 1: Suarez attracted the ire of a continent after handballing Dominic Adiyiah's goalbound header off the line

Public enemy No 1: Suarez attracted the ire of a continent after handballing Dominic Adiyiah's goalbound header off the line

While his actions would not be
universally condemned in England — what wouldn’t we do to be in a World
Cup semi-final — it is pointed out that there would be a strong body of
opinion here that would consider such an unsporting act as plain wrong.

‘But if a player is running towards an open goal, you can haul him down
and injure him, and that’s acceptable’ argues Suarez. ‘I think that if
they were doing it for their country …’ he begins. Maybe, it is
suggested, a cultural difference. ‘Right,’ he says. ‘The culture is very
different.’

At Liverpool, the fear must be that he will soon outgrow them, now that they have ceased to become a regular Champions League club, but in August he signed a new five-year contract with the club.

‘All I can say is that my head is here now and for many years to come. My dream and desire is to play in the Champions League and achieve big things with Liverpool, because they’re the club I wanted to play for, and now that I’m here, I want to stay for a long time.’

He cites the club’s tradition and ‘amazing fans’ as the reason ‘we hope that over time, we can take Liverpool back to where they belong’.

He may need some patience for that. ‘Just like I waited to play in the Champions League with Ajax and I had that chance, now I hope the same thing happens with Liverpool,’ he says.

And his enthusiasm for the manager, the club, the city and its people seems genuine. His wife and two-year-old daughter, Delfina, are happy here. He even claims to understand Scouse accents: well, Steven Gerrard’s anyway. Jamie Carragher, he says, is still impenetrable. Some cultural chasms, it seems, are too wide to bridge.

Heather Watson aiming to stay top Brit

Looking after No 1… Ambitious Watson aiming to stay top Brit

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UPDATED:

23:23 GMT, 21 December 2012

To gain an appreciation of how Heather Watson has become such a nuggety tennis player it helps to visit her at the place where it all started.

The IMG/Nick Bollettieri Academy on Florida's Gulf Coast is a very long way from her native Guernsey, but it was here that she arrived as a 12-year-old armed with a racket bag, a few mementoes of home and dreams inside her head.

'That's where I first stayed, it's actually a classroom now but it used to house several dorms,' says Britain's No 1 as she points at a whitewashed block of buildings in the middle of the campus.

Green machine: Watson at the IMG Academy

Green machine: Watson at the IMG Academy

'It brings back a lot of good memories.' She looks almost surprised when you ask if she suffered any homesickness, but then not for nothing has the 20-year-old already acquired a reputation as one of the WTA Tour's most durable and resourceful newcomers. And it helps that her three roommates back in those days, aspiring young golfers from South Korea and America – and another called Nicola Reynolds from Guildford – turned out to be friends for life.

'It was too much fun in the dorms to be homesick and those three were great, I think they would be the bridesmaids at my wedding if I ever got married. I just found the whole thing very exciting and I can't remember anything negative about it at all.'

Watson's parents Ian and Michelle had decided that if she was to be serious about her tennis she had to leave Guernsey and head for a place with a track record of producing good players and they plumped for Bradenton.

After three years her mother came to live there part-time and she moved out of the dorms to focus more professionally. Michelle no longer travels that much with her after a request this summer from her daughter that she have a bit more space.

Bathed in year-round sunshine and with an on-site high school, the academy turned out to be a decent choice, which is why Watson heads into the new season exuding such optimism, even by her own sunny standards.

Delight: Watson after her memorable victory in Osaka in October

Delight: Watson after her memorable victory in Osaka in October

When she flies to Auckland on
Christmas night it will be as the world No 49, with a very particular
plan as to how she will build on the success of the past two seasons
that has come quicker than anyone expected.

Watson
approaches each campaign with military precision and every December
holds what might be termed an Annual General Meeting with her father,
which can last three hours and features a devastatingly honest appraisal
of the season just gone.

'We
have to be absolutely clear about things and not hold back. It can get
quite heated although this year's took only two hours because I reached
my main target, which was to get into the world's top 50,' she says.

'For the coming season the soft target is to get into the top 30 and the ultimate one is to make the top 25. It would be great to be seeded for a Grand Slam, which sounds a lot but I believe in setting quite tough goals.'

There is also the incentive to ward off the rising challenge of Laura Robson, although she places that in a wider context. 'I would want to finish the year British No 1, not No 2, but I am focussed far more on what happens in the world rankings in general.'

Brit of all right: Watson in action at the London Olympics

Brit of all right: Watson in action at the London Olympics

Watson is currently ending her offseason training block in the company of her Colombian coach Mauricio Hadad and her fitness trainer Flo Pietzsch. On the day we meet she is practising with Alexander Sendegeya, a 16-year-old Liverpudlian based there who is trying a similar route to the top of the game.

After a festive visit from her mother Michelle, the three of them will take off for New Zealand knowing a big opportunity for ranking improvement presents itself. This is because she had a poor start to a season that ended with her becoming the first British player in 24 years to win a title on the main WTA Tour, the HP Open in Osaka.

'I went to Australia last year with half a sprained ankle that I did playing football and it was never going to be good in hindsight. The victory in Japan has really helped my confidence.'

Watson is relatively diminutive at 5ft 7in, but points out that Martina Hingis was no powerhouse either. 'The really positive thing is I've got to where I am with still so much that I can work on. I know I've got to get bigger shots and I'm using doubles to work on coming to the net, which is something I love. I know I am not that big but I have certain advantages with my speed and agility, and my mental toughness.'

Watson believes she is still three to four years off her best and will not rest until she becomes a factor more at the business end of Grand Slam tournaments.

Away from the court her ambition is to buy a flat close to Wimbledon and Roehampton's National Tennis Centre. 'London's expensive so I'm having to save up,' she says. 'I drove past those One Hyde Park apartments the other day. I might have to win a Grand Slam to afford one.

Mike Tyson will help me beat Amir Khan – Carlos Molina

Tyson will help me beat Khan, insists unbeaten Molina ahead of showdown

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UPDATED:

00:10 GMT, 13 December 2012

Amir Khan is the larger fighter with the bigger reputation and a growing belief that he is now mature man enough never again to do anything stupid like throwing his strategy to the wind and getting knocked out.

Mike Tyson found himself up against champions like that as he came into his first really major fights.

So it was to the iron man himself that Carlos Molina turned for inspiration as he braced himself for Saturday night’s fight, remembering: ‘Mike said that everyone has a game plan until they get smashed in the face. That is going to be the story here.

Scroll down to watch the video

Stare down: Amir Khan (left) and Carlos Molina during a press conference ahead of their fight

Stare down: Amir Khan (left) and Carlos Molina during a press conference ahead of their fight

Mission: Carlos Molina in action during his media work-out ahead of his fight with Amir Khan on Saturday

Mission: Carlos Molina in action during his media work-out ahead of his fight with Amir Khan on Saturday

‘He will start the rounds cautious but once I put on the pressure and land some punches it will be back to the same old Amir Khan of the last few fights. He will get wild and that will benefit me. When he starts opening up he will find out that I do have power.’

Khan knows that if that happens he will be in deep career trouble at worst, embarrassed at the very least. Molina is undefeated as a late cross-over from the amateur to professional game but is markedly shorter than Britain’s former world champion, lighter as he comes up a division and not a renowned puncher.

This Mexican-American knows he has been hand-picked for Khan to get his career back on track but says: ‘I took this fight in a shot. As soon as the call came through with the offer I dropped the phone and went out to start running. I haven’t stopped training since. This is my opportunity.’

Paying a visit: Football hard man Vinnie Jones popped in to see Khan ahead of fight night

Paying a visit: Football hard man Vinnie Jones popped in to see Khan ahead of fight night

Tough challenge: Molina is unbeaten but takes a step up in class when he takes on Khan

Tough challenge: Molina is unbeaten but takes a step up in class when he takes on Khan

At 27 now and a father of two young boys with a third child on the way, this survivor from the mean streets of East LA believes his tough early life has been a preparation for this moment.

‘I’m not intimidated by anyone,’ he says. ‘Certainly not by Khan and what he has done. Not after watching film of his last two fights against Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia (both shock defeats). I grew up in the suburb of Norwalk. It’s a very hard place. Not the nicest neighbourhood.

‘There were a lot of street fights. Then the gangs came in. Then the guns. People got killed. I was lucky to have a great father (Miguel) who looked after us kids, kept us busy and kept us out of that trouble. At first I played soccer. I was a small centre-forward like Carlos Tevez and had a great time. But from where I come from I was bound to try boxing and I fell in love with the sport.

‘Of course I still follow Mexico and the USA team but no, I didn’t catch any of David Beckham while he was here in LA. I’ve got mouths to feed and I’ve been working hard towards this day.

All smiles: Khan (right) is hoping for an early Christmas present on Saturday night

All smiles: Khan (right) is hoping for an early Christmas present on Saturday night

Fresh start: Khan (right) has teamed up with Virgil Hunter (left) after suffering successive defeats

Fresh start: Khan (right) has teamed up with Virgil Hunter (left) after suffering successive defeats

‘Putting on the extra few pounds of muscle has made me stronger and Khan is fooling himself if he believes I don’t have punching power. Given his suspect chin, If this fight ends early it will be to my advantage, not his. Although I’m ready to go 12 rounds.’

Molina trained on Wednesday in the Little Mexico area of south-east LA where the great Oscar De La Hoya, now the promoter, has his roots. De La Hoya , who has financed a school in this Montebllo district, arrived at the gym to an ecstatic reception from the locals and predicted a tougher fight than Khan’s fans are expecting.

Molina threatens the same and has an emotional incentive to deliver. He says: ‘My youngest boy has told me I’m the best so I have to win. I don’t want to let him down.’

Carlin Isles – fastest rugby player on the planet?

Is this the fastest rugby player on the planet Former US sprinter taking Sevens circuit by storm

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UPDATED:

13:01 GMT, 12 December 2012

Forget Bryan Habana and his cheetah, American Sevens star Carlin Isles is quickly earning a reputation as the fastest man in rugby.

The 23-year-old was rated as the 36th-fastest sprinter in the US with a 100m personal best of 10.13 seconds before opting to switch to the oval ball game just a few months ago.

Scroll down to watch a video of Isles in action…

Speedster: Carlin Isles is taking the Sevens circuit by storm

Speedster: Carlin Isles is taking the Sevens circuit by storm

And Isles, who's PB would have seen him qualify for this year's Olympic 100m semi-final, has taken no time at all to adapt to rugby and he took October's Gold Coast Sevens by storm.

Clearly not short of confidence (and rightly so as the video below confirms), Isles has loved every minute of his rugby career so far. 'I had a track career and now I am playing rugby and for that I am very thankful,' he said.

'When I see all the room on the pitch, it’s like Christmas to me. When we train, the width of the pitch is a little shorter, so I was like, “I can run all day around these guys”.'

Having missed out on London 2012 Isles may yet get the opportunity to compete at the Olympics when Sevens returns at Rio 2016.

AVB hopeful Bale will be out for only two weeks after Spurs winger suffers hamstring injury

AVB defends Bale over diving as winger faces two weeks out with hamstring injury

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UPDATED:

19:05 GMT, 1 December 2012

Andre Villas-Boas defended Gareth Bale after the winger was booked for diving for a second successive game in Tottenham's 3-0 win over Fulham.

Bale has battled throughout his career against allegations that he goes to ground too easily.

That claim came to the fore on Wednesday when he was booked for simulation against Liverpool and he saw yellow again against the Cottagers when Chris Foy cautioned him for diving following a tackle by Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell.

Not again: Gareth Bale reacts to his yellow card for diving

Not again: Gareth Bale reacts to his yellow card for diving

Replays showed there was contact between the two players, leading Villas-Boas to claim the booking was unjust.

The Spurs boss admits making a split-second judgement on a player as quick as Bale is difficult, but he also hinted that he felt the 23-year-old is earning an unfair reputation for being a diver.

'Gareth is so fast so it is very difficult (for referees) to judge situations,' Villas-Boas said. 'He has suffered big, big injuries to his ankles before and sometimes he wants to protect himself a little bit. He might put his body in situations that the referee thinks that he is diving and he is suffering for it in these last two games.

'He is now very near suspension for two unfair yellow cards and I think you gain a reputation for being a diver unfairly sometimes. This player has suffered a lot in his career. It's a little bit harsh on him.'

Job well done: Jermain Defoe applauds after his two goals for Spurs

Job well done: Jermain Defoe applauds after his two goals for Spurs

As has been the case all season, Bale's pace struck fear in to the heart of the opposing defence during thes win, which came courtesy of a Jermain Defoe double and a rare strike from Sandro.

Worryingly for Tottenham fans, their star winger hobbled off in the second half with a hamstring injury.

Captain Michael Dawson also went off with the same injury after 15 minutes, but Villas-Boas anticipates that the duo will not be out for long.

Injury blow: Tottenham's Gareth Bale (L) receives treatment at Fulham

Injury blow: Tottenham's Gareth Bale (L) receives treatment at Fulham

'Both Bale and Dawson have suffered hamstring muscle injuries,' the Spurs boss said.

'One looks more serious than the other although both are controllable. With muscle injuries it's very difficult but it might keep (Bale) out for one to weeks. Dawson a little bit less.'

The game had been pretty even until Sandro opened the scoring with a 35-yard drive. Just 12 minutes later, however, and the contest was over thanks to Defoe's 11th and 12th goals of the season.

Star man: Bale has been unplayable at times this season

Star man: Bale has been unplayable at times this season

First he turned home Gylfi Sigurdsson's cross in the 72nd minute and he then latched on to Clint Dempsey's through-ball to beat Mark Schwarzer from 12 yards.

Villas-Boas, whose side are now in fourth position, was left in awe of the in-form striker's exploits.

'It was amazing,' the Portuguese said. 'Sometimes strikers look distant from the game but when the team sets them up it's important that they have that clinical touch and he just has it.

'He is having an amazing season with us. He is playing lots of games and is extremely motivated.'

The match was billed as Dimitar Berbatov's chance to shine against his former employers but despite a number of skilful touches, he failed to penetrate the Tottenham defence.

Limited impact: Dimitar Berbatov could not make an impression for Fulham

Limited impact: Dimitar Berbatov could not make an impression for Fulham

Fulham have now failed to score in their last three matches, and manager Martin Jol rued the way his team collapsed in the second half.

He said: 'It was a bad result.

'It was a tight game but the likes of Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, Clint Dempsey, Jermain Defoe… we kept them pretty quiet.

'It was very disappointing to concede three goals out of nothing.'

Brendan Rodgers says Gareth Bale would be criticised for diving if he was Uruguayan

Rodgers claims Bale would be slammed for diving if he was Uruguayan… like his star man Suarez

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UPDATED:

11:05 GMT, 30 November 2012

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes that if Gareth Bale was Uruguayan – like his star striker Luis Suarez – he too would be widely criticised for diving.

The Tottenham winger was booked for supposed simulation during his side’s 2-1 win over Liverpool on Wednesday evening.

But Rodgers believes it is an example of double standards that Bale, who scored a stunning free-kick before putting the goal past his own goalkeeper, has not been given similar treatment to Suarez, who has been widely criticised after picking up a number of yellow cards at Liverpool for diving.

Diver Gareth Bale was booked for supposed simulation against Liverpool

Diver Gareth Bale was booked for supposed simulation against Liverpool

Rodgers said: ‘It’s not surprising. We’ve seen it highlighted and it seems to have quietened off a little bit now because there have been a lot of other incidents.

‘I’ve not seen the headlines, but if he was Uruguayan it would be different. There is no doubt about that. Luis has taken a lot of stick and I’m sure that will continue.

‘All I can do is focus on the team and getting results, and let other people write the headlines.’

Reputation: Swansea defender Ashley Williams described Luis Suarez (left) as a 'serial diver'

Reputation: Swansea defender Ashley Williams described Luis Suarez (left) as a 'serial diver'

Bullet: Bale scored a stunning free-kick to put Tottenham two goals up

Bullet: Bale scored a stunning free-kick to put Tottenham two goals up

Suarez has come under intense scrutiny since his arrival at Liverpool, and gained a reputation in some circles for going down too easily.

Swansea centre back Ashley Williams was forced to apologise to Suarez after saying he wanted ‘to knock him out’ and labelling him a ‘serial diver’.

Everton manager David Moyes stoked the fire before this season's Merseyside derby as he appeared to direct comments towards the 25-year-old, claiming that repeated diving would eventually drive fans away from football.

Moyes said: 'I would (be concerned about Suarez) because I think he has got history.

'But I am not the referee, I am not the one that (makes decisions). But I tell you what – it will turn the supporters away from football if they think players are conning their way to results.'

Ouch! Aaron Lennon smashed the ball in Bale's face, which ricocheted into the Spurs net

Ouch! Aaron Lennon smashed the ball in Bale's face, which ricocheted into the Spurs net

Unlucky: Bale was floored by the powerful strike

Unlucky: Bale was floored by the powerful strike

When Moyes was asked if his comments were directed at Suarez in particular, he replied: 'It is generally. I think it is a discussion to be had. I don't think supporters like the idea of players going down easily.'

A grinning Suarez taunted Moyes after he scored the opening goal at Goodison Park by running over to the manager's technical area and performing an exaggerated swallow dive in front of the Scot.

Bale has picked up six bookings for Tottenham in all competitions this season, whereas Suarez has been yellow-carded five times.

Fernando Torres hasn"t scored in 10 hours and 49 minutes… You could watch five William Shakespeare plays in that time

Oh Fernando: Torres hasn't scored in 10 hours and 49 minutes… You could watch five Shakespeare plays in that time

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UPDATED:

11:31 GMT, 29 November 2012

Chelsea failed to score again. And again there's
Fernando Torres sunk to his knees on the turf. Head despairingly in
hands as he replayed another missed opportunity in his mind.

A second consecutive bore draw, against Fulham last night, left the Blues faithful wondering how, in the space of seven days, Rafael Benitez had transformed them from the Premier League’s most attractive attacking force to a blunt instrument.

Benitez is here to get the best out of the Spain striker but there have been no immediate signs of improvement – he clearly hasn't been instantly snapped out of the malaise he found himself in during the end of Roberto Di Matteo's tenure.

Torres hasn’t scored in the league in 10 hours and 49 minutes now, since he opened the scoring against Norwich on October 6.

You can accomplish a lot in that time –
watch five Shakespeare plays or the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy,
fly to Singapore or drive to the south of France, run three marathons or
make about a thousand cups of tea.

Defining image: The sight of Fernando Torres with his head in his hands has become an all-too-familiar one

Defining image: The sight of Fernando Torres with his head in his hands has become an all-too-familiar one

Golden chance: Torres saw this volley cleared off the line by Aaron Hughes as Chelsea were held 0-0 by Fulham

Golden chance: Torres saw this volley cleared off the line by Aaron Hughes as Chelsea were held 0-0 by Fulham

Imploring: Benitez demands more from his side as they struggle to break down Fulham

Imploring: Benitez demands more from his side as they struggle to break down Fulham

BARREN SPELLS

Drought One

February 6, 2011 – April 23, 2011

15 hours and three minutes

Drought Two

October 6, 2012 –

10 hours and 49 minutes

(and counting…)

Last night, he was outshone by Fulham’s Dimitar Berbatov, who has a (largely undeserved) reputation for being languid and lazy.

The Bulgarian had nearly double the touches of Torres – 62 to 34 (see the Touch Maps below) – and his contributions were spread across both penalty areas and both flanks. He outpassed Torres too – by 47 to 23.

The 50m man’s apologists will say
that had Aaron Hughes not blocked his goalbound volley in the second
–half, we wouldn’t be having this debate this morning.

But
looking back over his season, there’s no escaping the reality that
Torres is woefully underperforming. His barren run is creeping nearer
and nearer to the 903 minutes it took him to break his duck after
joining Chelsea in January 2011.

TORRES TOUCHES BERBATOV TOUCHES
Only 34 Almost double 62

Fernando Torres touch map v Fulham

Dimitar Berbatov touch map v Chelsea

Outshone: These touch matches from last night's game compare Fernando Torres (left) and Dimitar Berbatov (right). As you can clearly see, the Fulham forward saw more of the ball (62 touches to 34 for Torres) and was effective in more areas of the field, including both penalty areas and both flanks. Source: Opta

TORRES vs FULHAM

Minutes on Pitch: 90

Goals: 0

Shots: 2

Shooting accuracy: 100%

Goal assists: 0

Chances created: 1

Total passes: 23

Pass completion: 61%

Dribbles and runs: 2

Dribble completion: 0%

Fouls: 1

Offside: 2

Source: Opta

There’s perhaps a crumb of comfort in that Chelsea next face West Ham, the side against whom Torres scored his first goal for the club – on April 23, 2011 – 11 weeks after the 50m cheque was posted to Anfield.

His 1,194 minutes on the pitch in league action this season have yielded four goals, or one every 298.5 minutes. His chance conversion languishes down at 17% and he hasn’t created a goal either.

/11/29/article-2240291-1642B6EF000005DC-379_634x422.jpg” width=”634″ height=”422″ alt=”Head-to-head: Dimitar Berbatov (left) had a much more productive evening than Torres ” class=”blkBorder” />

Head-to-head: Dimitar Berbatov (left) had a much more productive evening than Torres

TORRES IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE THIS SEASON

Appearances: 14

Minutes on pitch: 1,194

Goals: 4

Minutes per goal: 298.5

Shots: 23

Shooting accuracy: 61%

Chance conversion: 17%

Goal assists: 0

Chances created: 17

Total passes: 291

Pass completion: 70%

Dribbles and runs: 51

Dribble completion: 39%

Fouls: 20

Offside: 15

Yellow cards: 1

Red Cards: 1

Source: Opta

A side that just last month looked like a well-oiled goal machine is now spluttering to a complete standstill, with another concern for Benitez being the reliance on Torres to supply the goals.

Had he been in the job a year earlier, he could have fallen back on the reliable Didier Drogba (13 goals and four assists in 2011-2012) to offer a finish to the abundant chances coming from the midfield.

But Drogba is on the opposite side of the world and his only manifestation at the Bridge is a bright orange banner perched on the upper tier that reads in block black capitals: ‘DROGBA LEGEND.’

It can’t help Torres that whenever he misses a chance, he glances up and sees the colourful tribute.

Not forgotten: The new tribute banner to Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge

Not forgotten: The new tribute banner to Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge

Benitez was in ebullient mood despite the derby draw with Fulham, suggesting that Chelsea can still win the title and that, on another night, Torres would have helped himself to two or three.

‘It wasn’t easy for him, or Hazard or Oscar,’ he said. ‘We were on top of them, regaining the game higher up the pitch, and might have won it in the last minute.’

But on a night when the home faithful again made their frustrations at Benitez known, there appears little, if any, appetite for a Rafalution – or his main henchman.

TORRES PREMIER LEAGUE COMPARISON – LIVERPOOL v CHELSEA

Liverpool

Games played: 102

Minutes played: 7886

Goals: 65

Minutes per goal: 121.3

Total shots: 291

Minutes per shot: 27.1

Shooting accuracy: 48.8%

Shot conversion rate: 22.3%

Assists: 12

Chelsea

Games played: 60

Minutes played: 3860

Goals: 11

Minutes per goal: 350.9

Total shots: 86

Minutes per shot: 44.9

Shooting accuracy: 45.35%

Shot conversion rate: 12.8%

Assists: 6

Source: Opta

Andy Carroll targeted – Sam Allardyce

Allardyce claims Carroll is special target as striker's goal drought continues

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UPDATED:

23:49 GMT, 19 November 2012

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce feels Andy Carroll is targeted for extra attention from opposing defenders as he searches for his first goal for the club.

The 35million striker, currently on loan from Liverpool, again failed to find the back of the net as the Hammers were held to a 1-1 draw by Stoke at Upton Park.

Jonathan Walters opened the scoring for the visitors with a smart finish following a well-worked corner routine and Allardyce needed defender Joey O'Brien to hit only his second goal for the club to rescue a point.

Not impressed: Andy Carroll was unhappy at being replaced in the second half

Not impressed: Andy Carroll was unhappy at being replaced in the second half

Allardyce believes Carroll's reputation means he will always be highlighted as the main threat by opposing teams.

'He is going to attract attention by the fact he is very good at his hold-up play and [because of] his heading ability, and people are going to need to pay particular attention to him,' he said.

'He is going to attract one or two defenders around him and that will create spaces elsewhere.

'Andy is not to be frustrated by the fact that he is not scoring at the moment and in fact today he didn't get much of a chance to score.

'But I think sooner or later, if we keep concentrating on him making runs into the box and the service we give, he will eventually score.'

Carroll looked visibly irritated when Allardyce replaced him with Carlton Cole late in the second half, but the former Blackburn boss felt his side needed fresh impetus after Carroll had put in a busy shift as the lone forward.

'He wants to score a goal and he wants me to leave him on for 90 minutes but at the end of the day he put that much effort in, there are a lot of fresh players on the bench,' he said.

Happy Hammers: Joey O'Brien scored the home side's equaliser against Stoke

Happy Hammers: Joey O'Brien scored the home side's equaliser against Stoke

'There is Carlton Cole, Matt Taylor and Guy Demel who came on and continued to give us that much more energy to find a winner.

'Fresh players with fresh legs can come on and try and push the opposition and try to score a goal. He will be disappointed, I know, but in the end you make the subs for the benefit of everybody to try and win the game.'

West Ham missed out on the chance to move up to fifth in the table following the draw and Allardyce felt his side did enough to win the game after the break.

'In the end we were disappointed we didn't win it, given our second-half performance,' he said.

'When you put that much pressure on the opposition second half you have got to try and a be a bit more ruthless in front of goal, a little bit more quality and composure needed and we probably would have won it, but at the end of the day it is another point.'

Stoke manager Tony Pulis revealed his side had been working over the past few days on the corner that unlocked the West Ham defence with just 13 minutes on the clock.

Routine: Jonathan Walters finished off a set-piece move to put Stoke in front

Routine: Jonathan Walters finished off a set-piece move to put Stoke in front

'We have worked on it for the past three days, we tried it five or six times and Jonathan Walters has never scored from it so I'm glad he saved it for today.'

He added: 'I spend a lot of time watching videos and watching teams and I felt if we could do this it would come off. You work on it millions and millions of times.

'All of my career I have always looked for little angles and little areas that we could exploit from set-plays and it is lovely when it comes off.'

Pulis has not seen his side win away in the league since a 2-1 victory over Blackburn on January 2 but was pleased with his players' application.

'First half I thought we played well and created the better opportunities and really we needed that second goal. The worst thing that happened to us was half-time. That took the momentum away from us,' he said.

'We started very sloppy in the second half, we invited West Ham onto us and they scored a goal and from that point onwards we need to show a lot of resilience and determination as a group not to concede a second.'