Tag Archives: setbacks

Jack Rodwell suffers injury in Manchester City game at Aston Villa

Rodwell injury curse strikes again after Man City midfielder limps off at Villa Park

By
Alex Horlock

PUBLISHED:

20:37 GMT, 4 March 2013

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UPDATED:

20:58 GMT, 4 March 2013

Jack Rodwell suffered yet another setback in his injury-plagued Manchester City career after hobbling off the pitch at Villa Park this evening.

Little over 20 minutes into City's match against Paul Lambert's Aston Villa, Rodwell pulled up after letting fly with a powerful shot on Brad Guzan's goal.

The midfielder, who made his first start for City since September during their 2-0 win
over Chelsea last weekend, was tonight making his 11th appearance for the champions
this season, but was replaced by the club's top scorer Edin Dzeko
having limped off clutching his hamstring and holding his head in his hands.

Injury curse: Jack Rodwell was marking his 11th appearance for Manchester City since his summer arrival from Everton

Injury curse: Jack Rodwell was marking his 11th appearance for Manchester City since his summer arrival from Everton

The 21-year-old, who joined City in a
12million move from Everton last summer, spoke just last week about his
belief that he had put his injuries behind him.

The England international added that
he had harboured doubts about his ability to withstand the rigours of a
career in football having seen his short spell in the professional game marred
repeatedly by injury during his time on Merseyside and in Manchester.

Rodwell said ahead of City's clash against Chelsea: 'At Everton
last season I doubted whether I was built for it.

'To be honest, I did
think the worst but I had to take the positives and think I'm still
young and in a great position at one of the best teams in the world.

Blow: Rodwell was replaced by Edin Dzeko after suffering an apparent hamstring injury

Blow: Rodwell was replaced by Edin Dzeko after suffering an apparent hamstring injury

'I had between five and 10 setbacks,
and that's not just from the original injury. It's mentally hard. There
are times when you're set back again and you don't know what to do.

'Before the last five or six weeks I
used to go into training and was never confident. I was just praying I
got through it and that's just not the way to be at all.'

John Terry says Chelsea return is only a matter of time

Terry hands Rafa Chelsea boost as skipper insists his return is imminent

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UPDATED:

14:30 GMT, 23 December 2012

John Terry claims it's 'only a matter of time' before he returns to the Chelsea team.

In his programme notes for Chelsea's clash with Aston Villa Terry said: 'I'm doing well and just waiting for the swelling and bruising to calm down and then I can step things up.

'I'm outside doing ball work already and I can't wait to get back involved – it's just a matter of time to let things settle.'

Blow: John Terry suffered a setback in training during the week

Blow: John Terry suffered a setback in training during the week

The Blues captain has been out for several weeks with a knee injury.

He was originally aiming to be fit to feature in the Club World Cup but setbacks mean he is still unable to play.

On Friday Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez said: ‘He was training today and running on the pitch but he is not available yet. He was not training with the ball, just warming up.

‘Today was fine in the warm-up but then he gets a problem, it is one step forward, one step back.

'Hopefully it will be easier in the next few weeks. The problem is the inflammation and the knee is so complicated.

‘I hope he will be available at Christmas but I can’t guarantee anything. You can’t predict when he will be available.’

Benitez was confident Terry would not require further surgery and would not be drawn on reports the 32-year-old was close to opening talks on a new contract to replace the one that expires in 18 months.

Pressed on Terry's importance to Chelsea – there is a huge difference in their win-loss record with and without their skipper – Benitez said: 'If he's the captain, it's because he's a player that can be a leader.

'I have seen he has a great character.'

Hopeful: Rafael Benitez believes Terry will not need any further surgery

Hopeful: Rafael Benitez believes Terry will not need any further surgery

Mark Cueto believes Sale can perform an escape act inspired by their new coach

Cueto: We can perform the great escape despite record defeat in Europe

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UPDATED:

21:11 GMT, 20 December 2012

Sale resume their Aviva Premiership survival quest at Wasps on Sunday, on the back of a record defeat in Europe.

Losing 62-0 in Toulon was the lowest ebb this season, but Mark Cueto still believes the club can perform an escape act, inspired by their ‘intimidating’ new coach.

The former England wing was part of a side which was brutally put to the sword at Stade Felix Mayol last weekend, as Toulon amassed nearly a half-century of points in the second half.

Escape act: Former England wing Mark Cueto (pictured) is sure that Sale's new coach, John Mitchell will have a galvanising effect on the team as they attempt to avoid relegation

Escape act: Former England wing Mark Cueto (pictured) is sure that Sale's new coach, John Mitchell will have a galvanising effect on the team as they attempt to avoid relegation

Of all the grim setbacks in this troubled campaign, the massacre by the Med was the worst of all, leaving the Cheshire club in a dire state as they prepare to head to Adams Park.

Time is running out for the revival to commence. The only northern team in the Premiership lie at the foot of the table, six points adrift of 11th-placed London Irish, having won just one of their 10 league games so far.

Cueto has known plenty of high-stakes occasions with England and the Lions, as well as his club, over the years, and he is well aware of how much is on the line now.

Gruelling: Cueto is tackled during Sale's 62-0 defeat against Toulon, their heaviest ever defeat in the Heineken Cup

Gruelling: Sale's suffered a 62-0 defeat against Toulon, their heaviest ever defeat in the Heineken Cup

‘Our focus is on the Premiership — saving the club and saving our jobs,’ he said.

‘The defeat in Toulon was a massive disappointment but we have closed the door on it. We have to concentrate all our efforts on this fight for survival.

‘Deep down, I think our squad is too good to be relegated, but I’m also a realist and we’ve only won one of our 10 league games, so I do worry.

Galvanising: Cueto is sure that 'intimidating' new coach John Mitchell, a former All Black, will have a galvanising effect on the team as they fight to stay in the Aviva Premiership

Galvanising: Cueto is sure that 'intimidating' new coach John Mitchell, a former All Black, will have a galvanising effect on the team as they fight to stay in the Aviva Premiership

'I’ve got this season and one more on my contract, so I’m not sure if the situation we’re in is more worrying for me or a 21 or 22-year-old.

‘It’s probably more worrying for someone in my position, because at least they can move on. If the worst came to the worst and the club went down, I’m not sure what would happen, which is a huge worry.

'You have to think about those things but the main focus has to be on staying positive.’

A major concern stemming from the defeat in southern France last weekend is that it undid much of the positive work from the previous game against Toulon eight days earlier, when Sale had battled gamely before losing 17-6 at home.

That performance suggested that the arrival of former All Blacks coach John Mitchell was rapidly having a galvanising effect on Sale and Cueto insisted that the Kiwi’s impact has been positive, despite the result in France.

‘I still think we’ve moved forward in the last two weeks under John Mitchell,’ said the veteran wing.

‘Lots of the lads had pre-conceived ideas about John, but I don’t think he has lived up to the negative ideas people maybe had about him. He is an intense guy who has huge knowledge and experience.

'The way he has focused the squad has been brilliant. We’re not playing in a very different way, but he has brought in plenty of new ideas.

‘John is an intimidating bloke, but sometimes you need that — you can’t just all be best mates and getting on all the time. There has to be a boss; someone in charge. Any successful team in any sport has a guy like that.

‘I think he can instil the belief in us so that we can get out of this situation we’re in. We finished sixth last season and have added three or four good players, so we should be better than we were before, but it hasn’t worked out that way.

'We’re a much better side than we have shown so far, but if you lose four, five or six games on the trot, it starts to affect your belief and confidence.’

Bottom: Sale sit at the bottom of the Premiership table with just one win from their first 10 games

Bottom: Sale sit at the bottom of the Premiership table with just one win from their first 10 games

Cueto was candid in admitting that the club’s senior players are the ones who have let the side down, while rookies such as Ross Harrison and Tommy Taylor have performed admirably in trying circumstances.

Sale added quality signings in the summer, in the shape of Richie Gray and Danny Cipriani, while Eifion Lewis-Roberts returned from Toulon, but all these high-calibre component parts haven’t clicked into place yet.

They will have to soon, ideally against Wasps in High Wycombe, then five days later against Worcester in Salford.

‘We have two massive games coming up this weekend and next weekend, and we need two wins, really,’ said Cueto.

‘London Irish have Leicester at home and Quins away, so on form they should struggle, which means if we can pick up points against Wasps and Worcester, we should be in a much better position.

‘At this stage of the season, London Welsh don’t look like being the team who go down — it’s likely to be us or London Irish.

'But if we get a couple of wins, suddenly it can all turn around. If we win our next two and Irish lose their next two, then we can go ahead of them and would have momentum.

‘We really need to turn the corner soon. We’re under-achieving and we have to take that personally.

'I’ve been in this situation before with Sale and we’ve managed to fight our way out of it, but it’s not a pretty place to be.’

Cueto on Mitchell: 'The way he has focused the squad has been brilliant. Were not playing in a very different way, but he has brought in plenty of new ideas'

Cueto on Mitchell: 'The way he has focused the squad has been brilliant. Were not playing in a very different way, but he has brought in plenty of new ideas'

George Groves should be feared after Glen Johnson demolition

Win proves I'm a contender! Groves believes he should be feared after Johnson demolition

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UPDATED:

17:24 GMT, 16 December 2012

George Groves insists his demolition of Jamaican veteran Glen Johnson at London's ExCel has identified him as a fighter to be feared by his super-middleweight rivals.

Groves defended his Commonwealth title with a wide points victory over a respected opponent whose 71-fight record includes wins against Roy Jones and Antonio Tarver.

It was only the 24-year-old's 16th contest, yet he succeeded in defeating Johnson more comprehensively than British rival Carl Froch, who secured only a majority decision in June last year.

In control: George Groves scored an easy unanimous points decision over Johnson at Excel

In control: George Groves scored an easy unanimous points decision over Johnson at Excel

Fighting back: The 24-year-old has fought just twice this year due to injury setbacks

Fighting back: The 24-year-old has fought just twice this year due to injury setbacks

'That performance will tell the rest of the division that I'm here, that I'm a contender and someone not just to keep an eye on, but to fear,” Groves said.

'I will give anyone in the world a decent fight and would beat a lot of the top guys. I believe that now I'm a world class fighter.

'Johnson has boxed at the highest level for a long time, and at light heavyweight as well. The good fighters he's beaten is impressive.

'I can look back at this year and say I've only had two fights, I've had two successful fights and have made big improvements.'

Injury has restricted Groves to just two outings this year and while he was hit too easily, his movement, accuracy and work-rate fully justified the 120-107 120-107 119-109 decision on the scorecards.

The one surprise was that he failed to become only the second man to stop the battle-hardened Johnson after Bernard Hopkins, although the 43-year-old was saved by the bell at the end of the sixth round.

'There were times when I was absolutely nailing him and 95 per cent of other super-middleweights would have gone, but he stood there,” Groves said.

'I genuinely thought I'd stop him. I didn't underestimate how good his chin was, but he can really take a punch.'

Promoter Frank Warren revealed that Groves and Billy Joe Saunders will be fighting again in London in February and tipped the former to win a world title by the end of 2013.

Rising star: Billy Joe Saunders moved to 16-0 with a win against Nick Blackwell

Rising star: Billy Joe Saunders moved to 16-0 with a win against Nick Blackwell

Saunders' rapid development continued with a unanimous points victory over former unlicensed fighter Nick Blackwell in the best contest of an entertaining bill.

Blackwell provided the 2008 Olympian with the toughest test of his 16-fight career and stalked down his opponent throughout, but Saunders' classier work saw him prevail 117-112 116-113 115-114 on the scorecards.

The win adds the vacant British middleweight title to his Commonwealth belt and while Saunders is far more advanced in his career, he covets a showdown with Chris Eubank Jr.

'Chris Eubank Jr is arrogant and I want to put him in his place. I didn't like his dad and I don't like him,' Saunders said.

'He's got nothing I want on, but I'd like to beat him because he's arrogant. He keeps calling people out but hasn't boxed anyone yet.'

The defeat was the second of Blackwell's 14-fight career, but the heavy underdog's gutsy performance and superb conditioning ensured he will challenge for British and Commonwealth honours again.

Liam Smith secured the vacant Commonwealth light-middleweight title with a comprehensive points victory over Steve O'Meara.

Nemanja Vidic plays for Manchester United after injury

'Warrior' Vidic returns to action to delight Ferguson and the Old Trafford faithful

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UPDATED:

22:23 GMT, 15 December 2012

Nemanja Vidic made his return from injury during Manchester United's 3-1 win over Sunderland at Old Trafford on Saturday and received a rousing reception.

The Red Devils back-line has looked exceptionally leaky this season without him and their manager was delighted the Serbian was back in business.

Sir Alex Ferguson said: 'He is a warrior and a captain who has always battled for you. He sticks his head on the ball in that penalty box and he’s great at that.'

In command: Nemanja Vidic made a welcome return from injury for Manchester United

In command: Nemanja Vidic made a welcome return from injury for Manchester United

Nice to see you: Rio Ferdinand high-fives United team-mate Vidic

Nice to see you: Rio Ferdinand high-fives United team-mate Vidic

Vidic, 31, had played just five games for the club over the past year.

He sustained knee ligament damage last season when playing against Basel in the Champions League and suffered further setbacks this term.

Funnily enough, United conceded after Vidic came on as a substitute in the 68th minute for Rio Ferdinand.

Fraizer Campbell scored four minutes after his introduction and Sunderland could have even added to their tally after that.

Ferguson was furious that the visitors had been allowed several chances which could have cost United the game.

'Sunderland could have had two or three towards the end; it could have been embarrassing,' said the United manager.

'For an hour we were fantastic,' Ferguson continued. 'I don't know if we relaxed or Sunderland picked up the baton 20 minutes from time.

'They could have scored two or three goals. But Sunderland deserved a goal because they worked so hard for it. They had a lot of energy in the second half. They have a youngish team and kept going.'

Young defender Chris Smalling was also pleased his more experienced colleague returned to action.

'It's brilliant to see him back,' said Smalling. 'He's been training really well and we've got real strength in numbers now because we've been a bit stretched, particularly in defence.'

Warrior: Sir Alex Ferguson hailed Vidic (below) for his defensive tenacity

Warrior: Sir Alex Ferguson hailed Vidic (below) for his defensive tenacity

Nemanja Vidic

Nemanja Vidic

Australia"s ruby side in turmoil ahead of England clash

Australia have been hit by crucial injuries, bad results and dissent… meet the WOBBLIES

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 13 November 2012

As yet another Australian talisman bit the dust, England tiptoed around the fact that their opponents at Twickenham on Saturday are in turmoil.

The withdrawal of world-class openside flanker David Pocock with a calf injury was another savage blow for the Wallabies ahead of the second QBE International, which could revive their tour or plunge them into new depths of disarray.

No amount of soothing words emerging from England’s Surrey HQ could disguise the fact that Robbie Deans’ side are in a state consistent with their amended nickname, the ‘Wobblies’.

Lost: David Pocock's calf-injury is a huge blow for Australia

Lost: David Pocock's calf-injury is a huge blow for Australia

Where to start This has been a year of crisis upon crisis. First and foremost, Australia are licking their wounds on the back of a 33-6 mauling at the hands of France in Paris.

Following on from an early- season home defeat by Scotland and a turbulent campaign in the inaugural Rugby Championship, that was not the result their brittle morale needed.

The loss of Pocock is the latest in a catastrophic sequence of injury setbacks. He is a marquee man for Deans, who must already cope without many game-breakers in his back line, such as Will Genia, Quade Cooper and James O’Connor, as well as a recent captain up front, James Horwill.

These medical problems have contributed significantly to the poor results which left Deans clinging to his job by a thread towards the end of the Rugby Championship.

A triumph of character in Argentina kept the wolves from the door, as did a subsequent draw against an All Blacks side looking for a world-record run of wins. But there were dramas off the field, too, chiefly Cooper’s public criticism of a regime he condemned as ‘toxic’.

Disarray: Robbie Deans' (left) squad is in a jumble

Disarray: Robbie Deans' (left) squad is in a jumble

The stand-off also poured scorn on selection and strategy under Deans and hinted at a desire to move to rugby league. He was heavily fined by the Australian Rugby Union.

So, against this backdrop of mixed results, controversy and dissent, the Wallabies were unable to paper over the cracks in Paris and now must confront England, who have beaten them in the last two Cook Cup encounters and have exerted a forward dominance for much of the last decade.

England are at pains to cast their opponents as dangerously wounded beasts, still awash with abundant class, but they are aware that a full house will expect an England win.

Asked if Australia are vulnerable, Toby Flood said: ‘I can understand why people would have that perception, but to me they are still a formidable side. Of course the injuries have an impact, but it doesn’t mean that the next guy coming through cannot manage.’

Still tough: Toby Flood said Australia won't be easy to beat

Still tough: Toby Flood said Australia won't be easy to beat

England coach Mike Catt acknowledged that a fast start by the home side could create doubts in Australian minds.

Referring to the issue of forward dominance, he said: ‘We’ve had that in the past and maybe (that will be in their minds), that’s why the first 20 or 30 minutes is crucial. We need to take the game to Australia and make sure they know they’re in another Test match.’

While accepting that the Wallabies have lost a lot of Test quality, he was wary of too much English optimism, adding: ‘They’ve still got world-class game-breakers. But Genia has been a massive loss in terms of game control.

‘David Pocock is world class, if not the best No 7 in the world — he and Richie McCaw are up there together. But don’t underestimate Michael Hooper, he might not have the same physical presence but he’s on the ball all the time, he’s got an incredible work-rate and he’s an incredible ball-carrier.’

Leading the way: Stuart Lancaster (left), Andy Farrell (centre) and Mike Catt

Leading the way: Stuart Lancaster (left), Andy Farrell (centre) and Mike Catt

Having emerged as Pocock’s able deputy, Hooper’s progress has served as an isolated source of encouragement for Australia this year. The irony is that the rookie flanker is half-English. His father played for Blackheath before emigrating from Maidstone to Manly in his early twenties.

Meanwhile, Flood was asked to respond to Wallaby wing Digby Ioane’s assertion that his opposite numbers in the England squad are ‘pretty’.

He handled it with aplomb, saying: ‘Is he talking about Charlie Sharples, with his “bean” head, or Chris Ashton with his see-through skin I can see what he means about Ugo (Monye), to be fair, he’s quite attractive!’

Jack Wilshere fears he won"t be as good as before

I'm worried I'll never be as good as before… Wilshere reveals fears injury has robbed him of his best form

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UPDATED:

17:16 GMT, 7 November 2012

Jack Wilshere has revealed he fears he may not reach the level he did before having spent 17 months out through injury.

The Gunners midfielder was originally sidelined in July 2011 with an ankle problem, something Arsene Wenger initially hoped would rule him out for a couple of weeks.

However, the 20-year-old suffered a series of setbacks before then undergoing knee surgery towards the end of last season.

Centre of attention: Jack Wilshere is continuing his comeback, but admits he has fears long-term

Centre of attention: Jack Wilshere is continuing his comeback, but admits he has fears long-term

Centre of attention: Jack Wilshere is continuing his comeback, but admits he has fears long-term

Wilshere made his return to the side last month against QPR, lasting little over an hour before being substituted.

'It is difficult [to be out for so long] for any player and especially for me – I was 19 and just breaking into the footballing world and coming into the team. I'd had a good season and was looking to push on next season.

'To have a setback like that was heartbreaking but now I'm back. I am still doing my maintenance work in the gym and am keeping fit.

'It [the original ankle injury] was serious, of course. It kept me out for so long but it wasn't the result of a bad tackle or anything where it was career threatening. It was just something that happened over time.

'I knew it would take time to heal and then I suffered a few setbacks.

'Obviously you then question yourself and say, “Am I going to come back to the level that I was at before” Hopefully, now I can get back to training well.

'Every day I need to work hard and get back up to the level I was at.'

Wilshere missed Arsenal's Capital One Cup win over Reading three days after his return, but was back in the side to face Manchester United.

Once again, though, his afternoon lasted little more than a hour as he was sent off for two bookable offences.

Comeback kid: Wilshere is yet to complete 90 minutes in the Premier League since returning

Comeback kid: Wilshere is yet to complete 90 minutes in the Premier League since returning

Comeback kid: Wilshere is yet to complete 90 minutes in the Premier League since returning

And he admits, while frustrating to have to sit out the next Premier League game against Fulham, it may be no bad thing as he continues to get used to regular games again.

He added: 'I am gutted to miss Fulham after being out for so long. It's disappointing to miss any game but if I think about it another way, maybe it will be good for me to have a little break and come back for the Tottenham game [a week later].

Wilshere was, though, available for Tuesday's Champions League draw with Schalke, and came through 90 minutes.

Reflecting on his first full match, he said: 'I felt better than I did over the weekend and the weekend before that, so I am feeling better after each game.

'It's a long season, so I need to take it easy a bit but I am looking forward.'

Blackpool manager latest: Michael Appleton set to succeed Ian Holloway

EXCLUSIVE: Appleton overtakes Coyle as new favourite to boss Blackpool

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UPDATED:

16:52 GMT, 5 November 2012

Michael Appleton is closing in on the managerial vacancy at Blackpool after edging ahead of Owen Coyle and Paul Ince in the race to succeed Ian Holloway.

Portsmouth boss Appleton is believed to have had talks with Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston in the last few hours and is on the verge of reaching an agreement to take over at Bloomfield Road, according to sources close to the club.

On the move: Michael Appleton is set to leave Portsmouth and replace Ian Holloway as the new Blackpool manager

On the move: Michael Appleton is set to leave Portsmouth and replace Ian Holloway as the new Blackpool manager

Football League blog

Though former Bolton manager Coyle and ex-Blackburn and MK Dons boss Ince have figured prominently in recent speculation about the post, Appleton looks the ideal fit for Oyston.

The Blackpool chief has been looking for an up-and-coming young coach who can get the best out of players on limited resources and has seen

Appleton tick both boxes during his time on the south coast.

Pole position: Owen Coyle is favourite for the Blackpool post

In the frame: Former Bolton and Burnley manager Owen Coyle

Resources could scarcely be more limited at Fratton Park, following a series of financial setbacks, yet former West Brom coach Appleton has kept morale high and ensured his team remain competitive.

That has struck a chord with Oyston, who admitted this morning he hoped to make an appointment before the end of the day.

New home: Ian Holloway is the new Crystal Palace boss

New home: Ian Holloway is the new Crystal Palace boss

Jonny Wilkinson wins Ian Wooldridge award

Pride of a lion: Wooldridge award goes to delighted England hero Wilkinson

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UPDATED:

22:45 GMT, 2 November 2012

When Jonny Wilkinson was told he had won this year’s Ian Wooldridge Award, while on his way to be interviewed on a beach in the south of France, his delight was evident and genuine. He understood just what this particular accolade represents.

The former England and Lions fly-half has had more than his fair share of plaudits and prizes over the course of a glittering, record-breaking career.

In that greatest of all years, 2003, Wilkinson wound up with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and IRB Player of the Year awards, to complement the World Cup and Grand Slam successes.

Mile wide smile: Jonny Wilkinson with the award and a column written by Ian Wooldridge about him

Mile wide smile: Jonny Wilkinson with the award and a column written by Ian Wooldridge about him

For some time, Wilkinson was also the leading points-scorer in the history of international rugby and after calling time on his England career at the end of last year, his haul from 97 Tests for his country and the Lions stands at a staggering 1,246 points. There is an outside chance that tally may yet increase as the 33-year-old has indicated his desire to win selection for the 2013 Lions tour of Australia.

The fact that this award has been bestowed on him is testament to his enduring ability to kick goals and win games, now solely on behalf of his club, Toulon.

Wilkinson remains a potent sporting figure, yet being voted winner of the prize created in honour of Sportsmail’s iconic columnist is an indication of his standing in the public’s affections.

It also serves as a tribute to the way he has played the game throughout his career — with endless commitment, a sense of fair play and a strength of spirit which helped him recover and prosper after so many injury setbacks.

‘For me to be involved in anything like this is fantastic,’ said Wilkinson. ‘I appreciate what it stands for. It touches me enormously. The way Ian Wooldridge wrote showed clearly what he stood for and that was an inspirational message to me.’ The way ‘Woollers’ would endlessly champion Corinthian values struck a chord with Wilkinson, who added: ‘I met him several times. He wrote stories that my family and I took huge pleasure in.

Well done: Wilkinson is presented with his trophy

Well done: Wilkinson is presented with his trophy

‘Because of his values, his column was something we regularly talked about as a family. My dad would often ring me up and tell me to read his column that day. I didn’t really read newspapers, but I would read his columns.

Roll of honour
2008 Chrissie Wellington2009 Rebecca Adlington2010 Jessica Ennis2011 Amy Williams 2012 Jonny Wilkinson

‘He just hit it from an angle that resonated with everything that we believed in. Whatever big events were going on, he would look at it from that angle and I just remember thinking the whole time that he was a guy driving his own values, no matter how the world and the media was driven. He didn’t change to fit in. That meant I liked to read what he wrote because you always got consistency. It felt like you could rely on him and respect where he was coming from.’

In the fifth year of the award, Wilkinson is the first male recipient. Previous winners have been triathlete Chrissie Wellington, swimmer Rebecca Adlington, heptathlete Jessica Ennis and, last year, Winter Olympics gold medallist Amy Williams. When Ennis was mentioned as a previous winner, he was especially delighted to be in such exalted company.

‘That’s awesome,’ said Wilkinson. ‘I’m surprised Jess Ennis hasn’t won it again, to be honest! It is a great thing for me to be part of and it’s great that people think of me that way.’

Last season, thanks in large part to the
exploits of their English playmaker, Toulon reached the final of the
French Top 14 league, only to lose to mighty Toulouse. The Cote d’Azur
club have responded by setting the pace in the current campaign —
leading the table with eight wins from nine matches. Their only defeat
was at Toulouse, when Wilkinson was rested.

Take down: Wilkinson is tackled

Take down: Wilkinson is tackled

On Thursday he was back in the old
routine, kicking all the points, with eight penalties from nine attempts
as his side beat Stade Francais 24-19 at home.

For
the first time, when fully fit, the former Newcastle No 10 will be a
distant observer during an autumn series. The man who was the darling of
Twickenham for many years believes England go into the QBE
Internationals against Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand
with cause for optimism.

‘I see England in a good place, definitely, but this autumn series is crucial,’ he said. ‘You know you’re going to be facing big teams but crucially you’re facing them at home. The expectation level is key. Within the team it should be, “We’re looking at nailing all four of these”.

Kick king: Wilkinson thinks England are in a good place

Kick king: Wilkinson thinks England are in a good place

‘If you do it, suddenly you’re on a roll and that starts to look after games for you. If you do it now, then you’re in 2003 territory. There were a few great performances on tour in South Africa, so England should be looking to beat these teams. I believe we can.

‘The team are showing signs of toughness and in order to get that ball rolling, you’ve got to have that foundation of toughness. That’s the thing I’m enjoying about England at the moment. The guys feel that, if they go down by 20 points — or whatever it was in the first 15 minutes against South Africa (in Johannesburg) — there was no-one saying, “We’re going to get beaten by 80 points”. Instead they were saying, “OK, that’s a bad start but let’s turn it around”.’

No doubt when England are in action again, Wilkinson will feel a pang of regret he is no longer involved. But he has plenty to occupy him in Toulon and the move has reinvigorated him. The way he’s going, there’s time for a few more awards before he calls it a day.

Amir Khan: Lose Carlos Molina fight and Floyd Mayweather dream is over

Lose against Molina and dream of Pacquiao or Mayweather fight is over, admits Khan

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UPDATED:

17:47 GMT, 31 October 2012

Amir Khan believes he must score a convincing win in his comeback against unbeaten Carlos Molina next month or kiss goodbye to any chance of super-fights against the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.

Khan's career has lurched dangerously off course in the past 11 months, with his deeply controversial points defeat to Lamont Peterson last December followed by a crushing fourth round knockout loss against Danny Garcia in July.

Those twin setbacks have left Khan with no margin for error as he prepares to face Molina in the American’s backyard at the Los Angeles Sports Arena on December 15.

Comeback: Amir Khan (second left) fights Carlos Molina (second right) on December 15

Comeback: Amir Khan (second left) fights Carlos Molina (second right) on December 15

Fighting talk: Khan speaks during a media conference for his upcoming fight

Fighting talk: Khan speaks in Los Angeles on Wednesday during a media conference for his upcoming fight

'There’s always pressure when I fight but I definitely have to win this because if I lose, I’m done,' Khan said. 'This is a fight I need to win, 100 per cent. If I don’t win it I’m done. It’s that simple. The big super-fights I’ve always dreamed about won’t be there if I lose this. Pacquiao, Mayweather — forget it'

In an attempt to revitalize his fortunes, Khan took the bold step of ditching revered trainer Freddie Roach in favour of the quietly-spoken San Francisco-based Virgil Hunter.

The 25-year-old Bolton light welterweight has been in camp at Hunter’s gym in Oakland and is reveling in the austere surroundings, where Hunter’s house rules a ban on swearing.

'It’s a very tight community in that gym. You need to have people there you trust. Virgil keeps it very limited and that’s what I like about it,' Khan said. 'You’re not bothered about who’s watching, you’re not training for a crowd, or fans.'

A whole lot of glove: Molina signs autographs at the Los Angeles Sports Arena on Wednesday

A whole lot of glove: Local boy Molina signs autographs at the Los Angeles Sports Arena

Khan was forced into an impromptu sparring session in early October when a gang of thugs attempted to steal a Ranger Rover he had been driving with his brother in Birmingham.

The confrontation ended abruptly with one of the would-be thieves being knocked out cold by Khan.

'I walked out of this caf and I opened the car door and these guys jumped in the car ahead of me and said “This ain’t your car mate,”' Khan said.

'It was a courtesy car I’d be given so at first I did a double take and thought, “Maybe it’s not my car”. Then I saw something in the back seat that I’d put there and I knew it was my car. Then the guys started saying – “We’re not getting out the car. You’re going to have to buy it off us”. I had the car keys so I wasn’t too worried. I thought it was a joke. But then it got a bit serious and one guy came out aggressively and said “What are going to do” And he jabbed me in the face. It wasn’t hard. He barely scratched me really. He tried to swing again and I knocked him out.

Golden Boy: Fight promoter Oscar De La Hoya builds up the light welterweight fight

Golden Boy: Fight promoter Oscar De La Hoya builds up the light welterweight fight

'I hated it to be honest with you. I never fight outside the ring. We’re born fighters, we’re taught how to fight.

'So when someone tries to fight you they’re making a big mistake. That’s when it got messy because they came out with baseball bats and sticks and smashed the rear window. They must have been drunk or high or something.'

Meanwhile Khan, who is engaged to New York student Faryal Makhdoom, has shrugged off revelations about his private life after allegations in The Sun he had been partying hard with other women in Marbella in August.

Khan insisted his fiance trusted him.

The wrong man to mess with: Khan revealed how he was forced to fight off a gang who tried to steal his car

The wrong man to mess with: Khan revealed how he was forced to fight off a gang who tried to steal his car

'She’s cool, she knows the truth because I didn’t do anything honestly,' Khan said. 'She doesn’t believe anything that the papers say because I’m honest to her. I don’t lie and she knows there’s always going to be stuff written about me.

'It’s a distraction when you’re preparing for a fight. But my fiance and my family haven’t really spoken to me about it.'