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Ivor Powell dies aged 96

Welsh legend and former Blackpool, QPR and Villa midfielder Powell dies aged 96

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UPDATED:

18:20 GMT, 6 November 2012


Wales finest: Ivor Powell played for Blackpool, QPR and Aston Villa

Wales finest: Ivor Powell played for Blackpool, QPR and Aston Villa

Former Wales midfielder Ivor Powell, who won a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's oldest football coach, has died aged 96.

He was one of the finest players of his generation in a career that saw him play for Wales, Blackpool, Queens Park Rangers and Aston Villa.

Powell started his working life in the mines of South Wales before he made it as a top player.

A tough tackler, he set a record transfer fee for a half-back of 17,500 when he moved to Aston Villa in 1948.

At Blackpool he struck up his friendship with Sir Stanley Matthews, who went on to be best man at his wedding.

He was one of Bill Shankly's successors as manager at Carlisle and worked with the likes of Billy Bremner, Jackie Charlton and Norman Hunter who formed Don Revie's legendary Leeds side.

He had spells coaching at Bath City and also with PAOK in Greece, before joining the University of Bath as football coach in the early 1970s.

In 2004 he was inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame and in 2006 his role as the world's oldest working football coach was recognised as a Guinness World Record.

Powell was made an MBE in the 2008 New Year's Honours List and he finally hung up his boots in May 2010, aged 93.

The university has marked the end of his long service to the game with the Ivor Powell Sports Scholarship Fund.

Speaking in 2006 about his retirement, Powell said: 'I feel so proud of what I've done.

'I've been very, very happy at the University of Bath and I mean that.'

Explaining his coaching philosophy in 2007, Powell told the Independent newspaper: 'Aggression, determination, the will to win. These have always been my watchwords, and they still are.

'That's what I try to instil into these youngsters. And they listen, they really do.'

The University of Bath said Powell died last night after a short illness.

Deputy vice chancellor Professor Kevin Edge paid tribute.

'Ivor was an outstanding individual, a real character and a tremendous inspiration to countless generations of students and to his many colleagues at the university,' he said.

'He will be sadly missed. We would like to extend our sincere condolences to Ivor's family and friends.'

Jess Garland, head netball coach at the university, said: 'There are few people in life that have the ability to touch both the hearts and minds of so many but Ivor Powell had this capacity in abundance.

'People were drawn to his cheeky sense of humour, and the clear passion he had for the field of sport and coaching was infectious.

'It was 13 years ago that I first met Ivor, the morning of the passing of his dear friend Sir Stanley Matthews.

'Ivor's storytelling was second to none and he inspired so many of us to strive for the best.

'His coaching mantra of the key characteristics of sports people and teams needing passion, determination, aggression, the will to win and consistency of performance will transcend to many and will act as a legacy to such a true gentleman.

'It was a true privilege to have known and worked alongside Ivor.'

A spokesman for Queens Park Rangers said: 'The club is desperately saddened to learn of the passing of former half-back Ivor Powell.

'Powell passed away last night, aged 96. He made 159 appearances for Rangers in a 12-year spell that was interrupted by the War. He scored two goals.

'He was part of the R's team that clinched the Division Three South title in 1948 and was our first post-war player to be capped.

'Ivor was awarded an MBE for services to sport and collected his award from the Palace on June 25 2008.

'The club would like to extend its deepest condolences to Ivor's family and friends at this sad time.

'May he rest in peace.'

Heather Watson reaping benefits of Nick Bollettieri Academy move

Leaving home at 12 to go to USA for tennis took guts, but that's… Plucky Heather!

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 15 October 2012

Michelle Watson, Heather's mum, used to curse the fact that the 80 or so miles that lie between Guernsey and the British mainland make it one of the most expensive stretches of water to cross in the world.

It is a major reason why, when her daughter started to show enough promise as a youngster to start taking tennis seriously, the family quickly realised they needed to start looking further afield if she was to properly progress.

With the kind of determination that marked her performance in saving four match points to win the Japan Open on Sunday — ending a 24-year wait for a British winner on the Women’s Tour — they started scouting for a base.

Always smiling: Heather Watson

Bags of potential: A smiling Heather Watson was a smash hit at junior Wimbledon

Bags of potential: The ever-smiling Heather Watson as a child (left) and a smash hit at junior Wimbledon (right)

Spain was considered, as was the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, the LTA’s gated community about which opinion in the sport is heavily divided.

In the end, taking a deep breath to absorb the large fees charged to non-scholarship students, and the travel involved, the Watson family plumped for the tried and tested Nick Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

It turned out to be a successful move and raises the question whether Watson would have come close to achieving her potential if she had not gone through the character-building upheavals involved.

As the man who founded the eponymous training centre pointed out, the results of both the men’s and women’s Japan Opens have been cause for a double celebration in Bradenton.

While Watson triumphed, the men’s event saw a historic win for Bollettieri old boy Kei Nishikori, who came from even further away to learn the game in Florida and is now his country’s first winner of its home championship.

Making history: Watson ended Britain's 24-year wait for a women's singles title in Japan on Sunday

Making history: Watson ended Britain's 24-year wait for a women's singles title in Japan on Sunday

Time and again in tennis you see that displacement at a relatively young age has been the precursor to a stellar career. The octogenarian super coach can highlight the likes of his star ex-pupils such as Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova, but there are European examples too.

Novak Djokovic left Belgrade aged twelve to attend a tennis school in Munich while Andy Murray honed his game at the Casal-Sanchez Academy in Barcelona.

‘If you look at where the champions have come out of, from the Eighties onwards it’s clear the benefits of the academy,’ Bollettieri, a man with the enthusiasm of half his 81 years, told Sportsmail. ‘It’s not just that you have got opponents from different places that you practise with and have to beat. You see an extra determination and mental strength from those who have been away from home.’

Proud: Heather with her mum Michelle

Proud: Heather with her mum Michelle

Being far removed from your roots is not something unfamiliar in the Watson family. Michelle comes from a village in Papua New Guinea and met Heather’s father Ian, a Mancunian, when he was working in the capital Port Moresby. They moved to the Channel Islands, where Ian worked for the Guernsey Electricity Board, and got into tennis at the Kings Club.

It is a world removed from the Bradenton Academy that Heather, accompanied for long periods by her mother, moved to at the age of 12 while enrolling at the local school.

‘Heather was always a character, always smiling, and began to show ability around the age of 16,’ said Bollettieri. ‘She used to pray for her opponents to miss, but gradually she learned to go after the ball and make things happen herself.’

Up until she won the US Open juniors in 2009 Bollettieri believed she might be best served by going to an American university but that success changed his thinking.

‘She takes the ball early and has developed a good volley. It should not be under-estimated how much playing doubles has helped her (she is Britain’s top-ranked doubles player). She is not a big girl at 5ft 7in but makes up for it with her movement so there is plenty of potential.

'Remember she could not have done it without supportive parents, and your Fed Cup captain Judy Murray has also been a very positive influence.’

Of course, perspective is needed and as a grounded individual Watson will know that. She has only beaten four top-50 players since March, compared with the nine that have fallen to Laura Robson in the same period. Robson remains the more likely to win a Grand Slam down the line.

On the up: Watson has broken into the world's top 50 following her triumph in Osaka

On the up: Watson has broken into the world's top 50 following her triumph in Osaka

As for Judy Murray, she looks to have a decent Fed Cup team in the making with Jo Konta another top-100 player in the making.

Wimbledon champions Jonny Marray and Danish partner Frederik Nielsen have qualified for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 next month. Depth may be lacking but these are heady times at the top of the British game.

Fulham sign George Williams from MK Dons

Coup for Fulham as Jol lures teen striker Williams from MK Dons

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UPDATED:

14:50 GMT, 14 June 2012

Fulham have confirmed the signing of teenage striker George Williams from MK Dons.

The 16-year-old, capped by Wales Under 17s, has already broken into the MK Dons first team, becoming the club's youngest ever goalscorer in the FA Cup last season.

Shopping spree: Fulham manager Martin Jol

Shopping spree: Fulham manager Martin Jol

Williams will join up with the Cottagers' Academy as a first-year scholar for the 2012/13 campaign after an undisclosed compensation package was agreed.

MK Dons chairman Pete Winkelman said on the club's official website: 'We are very disappointed that George has chosen not to take up his scholarship or the offer of a professional contract with MK Dons and has instead decided his future is best served with Fulham.

'Everyone at the club wishes him well in the future.'

I owe my career to a missed flight … now Friedel is aiming to ground United"s title bid

I owe my career to a missed flight … now Friedel is aiming to ground United's title bid

There was a time when American
footballers – that is, soccer players from the United States – would
have caused a raised eyebrow in Britain.

It was a time when English
schoolchildren were told of the 1-0 defeat by the USA in the 1950 World
Cup finals in the hushed tones reserved for particularly shameful
episodes in the nation's sporting life, and American sportsmen – no one
seriously considered women to be footballers – in global terms were
confined to boxing, golf, tennis or athletics. Anything but football.

It was the Eighties, and Brad Friedel
was a boy growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, eagerly awaiting his monthly
delivery of Soccer Digest, a round-up of two-month-old European football
results which, in an age before the internet, was the only connection
to a game in faraway Europe, other than the occasional Liverpool and
Bayern Munich matches on TV.

Still going strong: Brad Friedel is enjoying his football

Still going strong: Brad Friedel is enjoying his football

It was a world in which sophisticated global scouting networks did not exist. Nor did Major League Soccer. The much-vaunted North American Soccer League was about to collapse, a financial failure.

So, for a 10-year-old American, who would pretend to be Jean-Marie Pfaff, the great and eccentric Belgian and Bayern keeper, aspirations would be winning a college scholarship to play soccer … if he was fortunate.

So how does this American come to be the Premier League keeper with the most consecutive appearances, 301 No 302 will come when the consistent Friedel is Tottenham's last line of defence in their key title showdown against Manchester United at White Hart Lane.

'Luck,' says Friedel. 'It's all luck. Back then (in the Eighties) I played ice hockey, I played tennis, I played basketball, I played baseball, I played American Football. But I loved playing soccer. But with no professional league, if you were lucky enough to get seen at local tournaments you got called into state or regional camps. I always made it to a certain level but my parents wouldn't have enough money to pay for the next level, so I'd go back to playing basketball. You didn't need money to do that.

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'How I got to university was a flip of a coin. The assistant manager of UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) Dean Wurzberger missed his flight so came back to where our game was playing. He saw me, called Sigi Schmid (then UCLA head coach), who's now the Seattle Sounders head coach, and said, “There's a goalkeeper here I think we've missed, you've got to see him”. That's how it all started.

'If he hadn't missed his flight there's no way I'd be here now. I'd have gone to university. I'd have been playing a different sport, but would I have been a pro I played a lot of tennis and got scholarship offers. Basketball as well. I'd never have been a pro in basketball; tennis would have depended on how much dedication I put into it, but I didn't love it that much. Ice Hockey Possibly. That's a great sport!'

And that would have meant missing out on, among other things, this most stunning of Spurs campaigns, which reaches another momentous high with the visit of United.

Tottenham have not beaten United since 2001, so long ago that Les Ferdinand was the last Spurs player to score a winning goal against them.

'I played against Les, what are you saying' smarts Freidel, before addressing the obstacle of United. 'I think that when you've had a result – not so much a result as a performance like ours at Arsenal, especially in the second half – I think it's great to get back to White Hart Lane against one of the big teams. Our record at the Lane is very good. The players all want to prove that was a one-off last Sunday.'

Last Sunday, of course, was that horrific 5-2 loss at The Emirates which following the 0-0 draw at Stevenage in the FA Cup, has prompted many to suggest Harry Redknapp's men are about to run out of steam.

Friedel, as befits his age, is sceptical, even amused by it all and able to put the instant media analysis into perspective.

'I've done TV and radio, and when results happen, you have to answer questions you are asked at the time. So it can look like it's all dead and buried, then all of a sudden next week's results come and then you say, “Oh hang on a second, they're still in it”. And that's how it is.'

Bad day at the office: Brad Friedel watches as Theo Walcott scores for Arsenal

Bad day at the office: Brad Friedel watches as Theo Walcott scores for Arsenal

Wise words from someone who is no longer the all-American boy. He is middle aged ,for one thing, at 40. And although he subscribes to the theory that 'all goalkeepers are probably a little bit loopy in certain ways', he is the epitome of solidity and stability.

He has lived in this country for 14 years and, since his summer move from Aston Villa to Tottenham, he is happily settled in the outer London suburb of Theydon Bois.

For wife Tracy and his three children, aged eight, five and nine months, the move could not have worked out better, he says. And he happens to be playing in the best team he has experienced in his long and notable career.

'When I first signed at Liverpool (in 1997-98), they had a really good squad. This is comparable, if not better. The first year I was at Liverpool, Mark Wright had a bad back injury and we were probably a centre-half away from …'

He tails off, but he means the league title that has eluded Liverpool for almost 22 years.

Good times: But Friedel didn't play often enough at Liverpool

Good times: But Friedel didn't play often enough at Liverpool

'Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler, Jamie Redknapp and Paul Ince, Karlheinz Riedle and Patrick Berger. We had some really good attacking players. Michael Owen coming on the scene and Steven Gerrard coming on the scene. The years ahead looked promising for Liverpool, and that's really similar to our squad here.

'I had four offers in the summer. I didn't choose the one with the highest financial reward, I chose what I thought was the best squad and the best opportunity.'

More significantly, he turned down Liverpool.

Other than Pfaff, he had idolised Ray Clemence and Bruce Grobbelaar. He visited England in 1980 for the Charity Shield between Liverpool and West Ham, a 1-0 win for the Reds, which confirmed him as a fan. But his first spell at Anfield ended in disappointment.

He had never been able to establish himself as the No 1 and played just 25 games in three seasons. The chance to go back must have been tempting

Idol: Friedel was a big fan of Bruce Grobbelaar

Idol: Friedel was a big fan of Bruce Grobbelaar

'Absolutely. Kenny (Dalglish) was very much above board. said that he could offer me the world, offer me a lot of things, but he couldn't offer me first-team football enough. I had a tough decision but after I had met the (Tottenham) chairman, after I had met the gaffer, and you really see the squad and infrastructure at the club … it was clear that the ambition was to get bigger, better.'

He adds: 'You can never tell someone you're going to come in and play in every game because you have to keep your form going and we have a lot of good keepers at this club.

'(But) I never signed a contract in my career to be a No 2. I felt that if I had chosen Liverpool, I was sort of signing (for) my retirement.'

Enlarge

Weighty or Wimpy David De Gea has been told by Sir Alex Ferguson he needs to beef up though Brad Friedel reckons size isn't everything. But our stats add weight to the belief that big teams like big keepers.

Weighty or Wimpy David De Gea has been told by Sir Alex Ferguson he needs to beef up though Brad Friedel reckons size isn't everything. But our stats add weight to the belief that big teams like big keepers.

All very reasonable, sensible even, as you might expect from a man known for his consistency, famed for his maturity.

One question remains, however. How could such a well-balanced individual choose Jean Marie Pfaff as a role model

'He wore yellow. He was mental. I've met him a few times. Nice guy but he's crazy. He was the one I wanted to be like. I'd make a save and say, “I'm Pfaff'. But I couldn't be any more different than Jean- Marie Pfaff's style'.

Indeed. But he's travelled a long way since those days in which he emulated Jean-Marie Pfaff.

Manchester City and United want Derby"s Will Hughes

Manchester duo City and United lock horns over derby's teen star Hughes

The Premier League's top two are locked in more than just a fight for the title after it emerged the two Manchester clubs are tracking Derby's talented teen Will Hughes.

Both City and United have moved quickly for the in-demand midfielder who last week stole the show at an international Under 17 tournament in Portugal's Algarve.

In demand: Derby's Will Hughes is wanted by both Manchester clubs

In demand: Derby's Will Hughes is wanted by both Manchester clubs

The 16 year old was playing in his first age group competition for his country, but excelled as England emerged victorious from a group including France, Holland and the hosts.

And Hughes' performances have sparked a transfer tussle in Manchester as both big-money clubs attempt to put together a competitive package to entice Derby into selling.

Hughes has only made one brief substitute appearance for the Rams – in a league defeat at Peterborough – and was still on scholarship terms when the current campaign started.