Tag Archives: shirts

Valentine"s Day 2013: Premier League clubs offer selection of gifts

Love is in the air but would you really treat your loved on to a Chelsea belly bar Top clubs play cupid with Valentine's Day gifts…

By
Liv Lee

PUBLISHED:

10:04 GMT, 14 February 2013

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UPDATED:

12:14 GMT, 14 February 2013

There may not be much love between the clubs right now, with the Premier League title race end just coming into sight, but the same can’t be said for the fans.

And anyone hoping to combine their love of football with a bit of romance can be thrilled with the selection of gifts on offer from their club.

Manchester United fans can spoil their partner with a gold set of club earrings, sure to go well with any item of United clothing, for a not-so-bargain price of 59.99.

 Chelsea have a belly button bar on offer for the special day, while Liverpool are advertising personalised champagne

Chelsea have a belly button bar on offer for the special day, while Liverpool are advertising personalised champagne

Romantic Chelsea have a belly button bar on offer for the special day, while Liverpool are advertising personalised champagne

Elsewhere in Manchester the men should get more of a look-in, with Manchester City offering up a snappy pair of silver cufflinks, adorned with the City crest of course, for 45.00.

For those who want to decorate their body at a slightly lower price, Chelsea have a belly-button bar which is described as being ‘ideal for the Chelsea fanatic’ for less than 10.

West Ham fans can proudly display their team loyalty with a glittering wristwatch decorated with the team crest on the face for only 10, or for him there’s the option of a unique and original bubbles silk tie, sure to get anyone in the mood for a Valentines trip to the Boleyn Ground.

For her West Ham fans have the option of a glitzy wristwatch, while for him there's a special bubble tie

For her West Ham fans have the option of a glitzy wristwatch, while for him there's a special bubble tie

Valentine's selection: For her West Ham fans have the option of a glitzy wristwatch, while for him there's a special bubble tie

Reading fans are privy to a special offer on February 14th, and will be given an extra 14 per cent off when they buy two replica shirts together, while those at Southampton have the opportunity to personalise one of the club’s special Valentine’s Day cards for only 4.

For those who are feeling decadent, Liverpool have in their Valentine’s Day selection a bottle of personalised Rose wine, or, for those who are feeling particularly flush, a bottle of LFC Champagne along with two flutes.

Sunderland, meanwhile, are offering two lucky fans the chance to win a four course meal, courtesy of the club, as well as padded seats at a game and a signed Martin O’Neill rugby shirt in a Valentine’s competition open to those making purchases from their store.

Aston Villa are another team with a package on offer. For 50, couples can relax in a private pitch-side box with champagne, wine and a four-course meal, along with a hostess service, sure to create an atmosphere of romance.

Superstars 2012 fails to live up to it previous incarnation

Superflops! BBC takes the shine off golden Olympians with new version of TV favourite

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UPDATED:

20:29 GMT, 30 December 2012

With Strictly Come Dancing all danced out, the BBC had to find something for the crucial Saturday night spot and for one week only that something turned out to be Strictly Team GB — or Superstars 2012, to give the programme its proper name.

The sequins had gone, to be replaced by rain droplets on the kind of wet T-shirts that would attract precious few unique visitors on the web.

Sparing every expense, the Beeb had taken 16 British Olympians to Bath for the waters. It poured for the two days of filming, merely adding to a distinct lack of glamour.

Macho with dips: Anthony Joshua (left) and Alistair Brownlee battle it out in the gym

Macho with dips: Anthony Joshua (left) and Alistair Brownlee battle it out in the gym

For Strictly lovers, however, there was the rather delightful sight of Mo Farah doing a passable Viennese waltz in a kayak, proving that even a double gold medallist can finish up the proverbial creek with a paddle.

Another mildly amusing moment came when Alistair Brownlee — as the Olympic triathlon champion, a man clearly of many talents — managed to land a javelin backwards in possibly a first for the field sport.

Otherwise, the laughs were thin on the sodden ground, despite the efforts of the irritatingly jolly Iwan Thomas.

It was probably a tactical error by the BBC to remind viewers how Superstars used to be by showing clips of Kevin Keegan falling off his bike at full speed and Brian Jacks defying belief with his extraordinary gym tests.

Up for the challenge: Mo Farah takes part in the men's bike race

Up for the challenge: Mo Farah takes part in the men's bike race

These vintage television moments merely emphasised the defects of the latest incarnation in terms of absence of tension, lack of fierce competitiveness and distinct shortage of sporting prowess.

The impression was of a village sports day, without the nastiness, in a cynical but feeble attempt by the BBC to eke a few more miles out of London 2012.

For all that, two extremely worthy and convincing winners were crowned in Anthony

Joshua, the Olympic super-heavyweight boxing champion, and rowing gold medallist Helen Glover.

From the moment that the 6ft 6in Joshua ran the 100 metres in an astonishing 11.53 seconds (a second and a half quicker than Farah) you sensed a talent and the likely Superstars champion. So did Joshua himself. ‘I really want to win this and I reckon I can,’ he told Thomas after that first event.

There followed further victories in the cycling and the javelin, second places in both the swimming and gym tests and a third in the 800m. Despite proving himself a real all-rounder, Joshua was not entirely happy.

Off target: Christine Ohuruogu has a go at the archery

Off target: Christine Ohuruogu has a go at the archery

‘I missed out on the gym test Wow!’ was Joshua’s reaction to coming second in that discipline. ‘So, I would like to know who won the gym test now.’ Ever since the aforementioned Jacks recorded 118 squat thrusts and 100 parallel bar dips (both in 60 seconds) in 1980, the stench of machismo surrounds the gym test.

Scottish swimmer Michael Jamieson, who pipped Joshua, would have been forgiven for ducking after describing it as the most ‘prestigious’ of the disciplines. He was standing next to the boxer at the time.

We do not know the reaction of Joshua or any of the eight men when it emerged that Glover had beaten them all in the squat thrusts with an impressive 84.

On her knees: Lizzie Armitstead during the gym test

On her knees: Lizzie Armitstead during the gym test

The rower also achieved a faster time than any of the boys in the swimming pool as well as finishing victorious in both the 800m and the cycling. It mattered not that she did not so much throw her javelin as drop it.

Katherine Grainger’s victory in the spear-chucking department with a modest 24.93m prompted hosts Gabby Logan and Denise Lewis to talk, in customary exaggerated terms, of a ‘new career’ and ‘hidden talent’. Well, 20 years younger and 20 metres further and Grainger might manage county selection at schools level.

That’s the truth of the level of some of the performances. I have never understood the attraction of watching our sporting heroes vulnerable, fallible and, frankly, inept.

On your marks: The men run the 100m in the rain

On your marks: The men run the 100m in the rain

But if that’s your bag, you no doubt would have delighted in double gold medallist rower Andrew Triggs Hodge running (if that’s the word) the 100m in 19.37sec, cyclist Lizzie Armitstead managing two parallel bar dips and the elder of the Brownlee brothers only bettering Armitstead by four, shooter Peter Wilson taking three hours — maybe minutes — for the 800m and Christine Ohuruogu firing an arrow in the air and landing who knows where.

At least the viewing public will not be subjected to this until the next time the Olympic Games come to Britain.

The class of 2012: The Olympians who took part in Superstars

The class of 2012: The Olympians who took part in Superstars

Champions League draw: Is Real v Man Utd the biggest match in club football? And will it be a British wipeout?

Champions League draw reaction: Is Real v Man Utd the biggest match in club football And will it be a British wipeout

PUBLISHED:

12:29 GMT, 20 December 2012

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UPDATED:

17:12 GMT, 20 December 2012

Today's Champions League draw was one of the most exciting in recent memory, pitting Sir Alex Ferguson against Jose Mourinho and handing Cristiano Ronaldo his first return to Old Trafford since his world record transfer to Spain. Celtic have a glamour tie against Italian kings Juventus, while Arsenal face German behemoths Bayern. All classic ties, but is Real v United the biggest club match in the world And will any of the British teams survive We asked our experts…

THE BIG QUESTIONS

1. Is Real v Man Utd the biggest match in club football

2. Will any British side survive

THE DRAW

Galatasaray v Schalke

Celtic v Juventus

Arsenal v Bayern Munich

Shakhter Donetsk v Borussia Dortmund

AC Milan v Barcelona

Real Madrid v Manchester United

Valencia v PSG

Porto v Malaga

**First leg ties played on February 12/13 or 20/21, second legs on March 5/6 or 12/13.

For full details on all the teams in the draw, click here

IAN LADYMAN

1. It’s not the biggest but then what is It’s too hard to
define. It’s certainly one of the biggest in European competition, though. Both
teams are hugely popular and successful commercially while they both have a
strong history in this competition.

2. Common sense says that all three British teams will go out
but I have a feeling that one of them will sneak through and I think it will be
United, courtesy of playing at home second. Celtic will make a decent fist of
their tie with Juventus while Arsenal will lose to Bayern home and away simply
because they aren’t very good.

SAM CUNNINGHAM

1. Yes – in the past five years both clubs have sold an average of 1.4 million replica shirts globally each. More than any other club, even Barcelona, who although are a better side do not have the same global reach. More eyes around the world will be on that game than any other fixture that could have been drawn from the hat or anywhere on the planet.

2. United will win. They are flying this campaign while Real's season is falling apart already. I think Celtic have a chance… The way Kris Common's late penalty crashed off the crossbar and in to send Celtic through suggests fate is on their side. But Bayern will beat Arsenal: The German club are top of the Bundesliga and historically do well in the competition. Arsenal couldn't even beat Bradford last week.

LEE CLAYTON

1. If I could have one ticket to any game, it would probably be Barcelona versus Real Madrid, so that must make it the biggest club game. But if there's a spare for Manchester United vs Real Madrid, I could try and get a night off. It's a magical game and the tie electrifies the Champions League which was in danger of going a bit stale. And Jose vs Fergie on the touchline could be like the Rumble of the Jungle revisisted. Come on Fergie, show him you are still the old master…

Big cup, big clash: United boss Sir Alex Ferguson (left) and Real manager Jose Mourinho pose with the Champions League trophy

Big cup, big clash: United boss Sir Alex Ferguson (left) and Real manager Jose Mourinho pose with the Champions League trophy

2. Rooney vs Ronaldo… Wayne, time to stop
living on 'promise' and 'potential'. This is your World Cup Final. If
Rooney fires and if Nemanja Vidic is fit and defending for his life,
United can edge it. He will need to be at his very best. One goal in it.

I fear United could the last survivors of the British clubs. I can't see Arsenal beating German powerhouses Bayern with their limited firepower post-RVP and we saw how skilled Juve are against Chelsea. But then Celtic beat Barcelona with willpower and luck.

MATT BARLOW

1. Perhaps it is from an unashamedly English perspective. These are two of the world's wealthiest and most decorated clubs with genuine global reach. They are both rich with tradition, boast a vibrant fanbase, carry corporate clout and an air of football royalty. Yet, if its purely down to medals then the likes of AC Milan, Bayern and Liverpool might point to United's European Cup haul. Whilst the rise of Barcelona in the last decade married with that club's heritage suggests they should feature somewhere in the equation.

2. Oh dear. I fear Manchester United, the best of the Brits, will become victims of Mourinho's relentless obsession to bring this trophy to the Bernabeu. That Celtic cannot match the power of Juventus over two legs and that Arsenal, a team unable to beat Bradford this month, will struggle against Bayern.

Returning hero: Arsenal's Lukas Podolski will return to Bayern where he had an unhappy and unsuccessful spell

Returning hero: Arsenal's Lukas Podolski will return to Bayern where he had an unhappy and unsuccessful spell

ALEX KAY

1. No, Real Madrid v Barcelona is. Playing United is not that big a deal for Real, even though Mr Mourinho might have other ideas. I was in Africa recently and every kid has Real or Barca shirts. They are the two big guns these days, even if we don’t like to believe it in our Premier League dominated world.

2. Bayern will demolish Arsenal – they are pure class. Celtic are not better than Chelsea and Juventus eased past the Londoners. So expect more of the same there. I can’t call Real v United. I have a hunch United could do it though.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United is congratulated by team mate Wayne Rooney

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo (L) celebrates his goal against Porto with team mate Wayne Rooney

Friends ru-United: Former team-mates at Old Trafford Cristian Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney will face each other

CHRIS WHEELER

1. If there’s a bigger, more glamorous game out there, I’d like to see it. The history and tradition of the two clubs and their commitment to playing attacking football means this one should have everything. Entertainment and extravagance are in their DNA. United and Real didn’t disappoint in 2000 and 2003. Why should 2013 be any different

2. United to find a way past Real, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho – but only just. Difficult to see the Celtic fairytale going any further, especially with the second leg in Turin. Chelsea somehow beat Bayern in last season’s final but I can’t see Arsenal doing it over two games.

NEIL MOXLEY

1. Is it Real Madrid v Manchester United, or Manchester United v Barcelona Or even Barcelona v Real Madrid – given the social backdrop to 'El Classico.' You could argue a case for Celtic v Rangers, on that basis too. Obviously, it's up there. For me, it signifies Jose Mourinho v Sir Alex Ferguson – the pre-match verbals will be interesting, that's for sure.

2. You can get short odds from the bookmakers on all three British teams going out. Which sums up – sadly – what I think may happen.

Cock-a-Hoops: Celtic's Kris Commons celebrates his winning goal over Spartak Moscow with Charlie Mulgrew earlier this month

Cock-a-Hoops: Celtic's Kris Commons celebrates his winning goal over Spartak Moscow with Charlie Mulgrew earlier this month

LAURIE WHITWELL

1. It is certainly the most romantic. The first winners of the
European Cup versus the club who have such an indelible narrative with the
competition. United almost denied Real their second title in 1957 at the last
four stage and but for Munich the 1958 final would have been between the two.
That Sir Matt Busby recovered to mastermind victory over Madrid in the
semi-finals 10 years later and lead United to a maiden title is one of sport's
great stories. I have been fortunate to attend each of Real's last two visits
to Old Trafford and witnessed 12 goals. This tie should prove equally stylish
and is another reason it is mouth-watering. The modern day global fame of each
team must also make this the biggest match in the world.

2. United to squeak past Real on away goals, Celtic to fall to a last-minute
Juve goal and Bayern to out-class Arsenal.

COLIN YOUNG

1. With their histories and financial pulling power, there can’t be many bigger. But it’s the return of Fergie v Jose which will be the most fascinating part of the build-up and the games.

2. I can’t see Manchester United and Arsenal beating Real Madrid and Bayern Munich over two legs, yet I can see Celtic progressing over two legs against Juventus. With the first leg in Glasgow, if Neil Lennon’s side can get a victory to take to Turin, they just might do it to be the only British team left in the last eight, which would be some achievement.

LIV LEE

1. All the key factors are coming together to make Real v United the biggest club game in football this year. Ronaldo will return to Old Trafford to face his former team-mates (and fans), while Alex Ferguson will be pitted against Jose Mourinho. With nine years having passed since the teams last faced each other in this competition, and more than 30 having passed since United last beat them in the European Cup, the tension is likely to reach momentous heights in the run-up to this dream tie.

2. Momentum after the Barca win might give Celtic a boost to overcome Juventus in the first tie, but I predict a Juventus win over two. Unless something changes dramatically in the Arsenal camp over Christmas, it looks like two consecutive victories for Bayern Munich. The second leg home advantage may just see United take the win on aggregate over Real.

VIDEO Reaction from the draw…

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Barcelona make sexy calendar for 2013

Barcelona are already the sexiest team to watch on the planet… and you should see their new calendar!

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UPDATED:

11:36 GMT, 27 November 2012

It's a widely held belief that Barcelona play the sexiest football around. So why not make a calendar to match

That must have been the thinking in the merchandise department of the Nou Camp at least.

My, how you've changed Lionel: These chicas seem to be the face of the Barcelona calendar rather than Messi or Xavi

My, how you've changed Lionel: These chicas seem to be the face of the Barcelona calendar rather than Messi or Xavi

Barca girls

Barca girls

Barcelona's 2013 calendar features two young ladies who seem to have left their replica shirts behind.

It is easy to imagine the teenagers of Catalonia (and maybe even Madrid for that matter) putting this on their lists for Santa.

Waking up with these two in your stocking would certainly be a Christmas to remember.

It takes a lot to move superstar Lionel Messi from centre-stage but this pair have just about succeeded.

Eye (not) on the ball: The calendar is sure to be a best seller with these two marketing it

Eye (not) on the ball: The calendar is sure to be a best seller with these two marketing it

Then again, there's no way of knowing what's inside the calender – this may all be sneaky marketing.

When the boys rub their hands in glee and rip open the packaging they may be disappointed to find inside the rugged faces of Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano.

Most football teams do put their star men on the pages of their calendars, but then Barca do claim they are 'mes que un club'.

Maybe they'll just have to take the risk and buy it.

Rafa Benitez not expecting Roman Abramovich to tell him about Pep Guardiola

Benitez not expecting Pep talk from Roman following Chelsea appointment

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UPDATED:

00:03 GMT, 25 November 2012

Rafael Benitez is confident Pep
Guardiola will tell him if he decides to take the Chelsea job from him,
but has admitted Roman Abramovich is unlikely to do the same.

Benitez insisted he had no problem
keeping the manager's hotseat warm for his fellow Spaniard following his
own appointment on an interim basis until the end of the season.

Former Barcelona boss Guardiola is on
a one-year sabbatical from football and is said to be Chelsea owner
Abramovich's number one managerial target.

Big task: Rafa Benitez is unveiled as the new Chelsea boss

Big task: Rafa Benitez is unveiled as the new Chelsea boss

Guardiola's agent claims his client, who has also been linked with Manchester United and Manchester City, will make no decision about his future until next year.

And if he elects to join Chelsea, Benitez expects to be among the first to know.

'I think so!' he joked.

Key man: Fernando Torres

Key man: Fernando Torres

He added: ' have good relations with Pep so any time I call him, I say, “How are you doing”

'I know he is enjoying life in New York, now, with his family.'

And would Benitez's bosses at Chelsea also tell him if they were in talks with Guardiola

'I don't think that they will let me know,” he shrugged.

He added: 'But I don't have any problem. I know the situation.

'I have come to create a competitive team and to win trophies.

'It might be that you can win three trophies, which would be difficult for anyone.

'The worst case scenario – if you win three trophies and then they would say, “No, we give the job to another one” – I will be so pleased with three trophies.'

Winning silverware barely scratches the surface of what is expected of a Chelsea manager by the most demanding owner in football, who reputedly wants to watch 'Barcelona in blue shirts'.

Benitez, who met Abramovich over dinner for the first time on Thursday night, said: 'He's not desperate in terms of, “We have to play Barcelona-style”.

'He wants to enjoy watching games.

'The way to enjoy is to see your team winning, and attacking and creating chances.

Target: Roman Abramovich (inset) is reportedly interested in Pep Guardiola

Target: Roman Abramovich (inset) is reportedly interested in Pep Guardiola

'The way that we create chances could be passing the ball or with a long ball.'

He added: 'If you score 10 goals and concede seven… I think he will be happy.

'I wouldn't be happy because I don't want to concede goals but I want to score a lot of goals. My job is to find this balance.'

Benitez also questioned how realistic it was to replicate the Barca model overnight, adding: 'You will not have this if you don't spend some time doing the same thing for years.'

Calling the shots: Roman Abramovich

Calling the shots: Roman Abramovich

Something else Benitez will have to get used to is a lack of control over transfers.

Again, not a problem. 'I can tell you 200 players I wanted to sign in my career and we couldn't,' he said, suggesting he would happy to be given a list of targets from which to choose.

'I'm not someone that has no experience and will say, “Oh, I want to do this and do that”, and it's not sensible. You have to be sensible.'

He added: 'Eden Hazard, we wanted for Liverpool. We couldn't sign him. In our list, maybe he was here [top] but we have to go for this one [lower down].'

Benitez now has Hazard to play alongside Fernando Torres, whose awful form Benitez admitted had been one of the topics of conversation with Abramovich.

Benitez said he would try to 'push' as well as 'put an arm around' the 50million man he previously made one of the best strikers around.

He added: 'We are not stupid. We know he is a very important player.'

As is captain John Terry.

Important figure: John Terry in action

Important figure: John Terry in action

'He is the kind of player you want pushing with you, because that is the key to be successful,' Benitez said.

Terry's absence through suspension and injury arguably played a key part in Roberto Di Matteo's downfall as manager and Benitez will also spend his first fortnight in charge without his captain.

That includes the's clash with Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City.

'It's a challenge, but you will be sure the motivation will be there,' Benitez said of his first game, declaring his squad the equal of any.

Asset: Eden Hazard has started well for Chelsea

Asset: Eden Hazard has started well for Chelsea

'I think Chelsea is as strong as Manchester City or United.'

He also insisted they were as hungry, despite finally ending their agonising wait for Champions League glory last season.

He added: 'I had massive offers from Asia, the Middle East – massive money and it would have been easy to go there.

'But they were teams that are not as big as this club. '

It doesn't matter that it's for seven months, even three months.'

Twickenham man feeling off-colour as panto season comes early for England

Twickenham man feeling off-colour as panto season comes early for England

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UPDATED:

23:22 GMT, 17 November 2012

The last Australian drive yielded possession, the ball was lashed high into the West Stand, and the yellow shirts fell upon each other in boisterous celebration. A few yards away, heads were dropping, shoulders slumping and chins sinking into shirts of 'regal purple'. And as this tableau took shape, the sound of jeers came cutting through the November mist.

Twickenham Man was not happy. Defeat was one thing; defeat was no stranger, he could cope with that. But losing to Australia, particularly to an Australian side who had been beaten out of sight in Paris last weekend; that was hard to take. And losing haplessly and carelessly; that was even harder. Above all, losing in those colours.

No mistake: Nick Cummins evades the attentions of Toby Flood to score Australia's opening try

No mistake: Nick Cummins evades the attentions of Toby Flood to score Australia's opening try

'Regal purple' is a fashion disaster. Coupled with gold lettering on front and back, it reduced fierce and massive forwards to the stature of pantomime dames. Twickenham Man hated it.

We shall not reproduce the various overheard descriptions, since they offend against taste and decency. Suffice to say they were emphatically expressed. 'D'you know, I wouldn't want our men to win in that bloody gear,' fumed an outraged patron. It was not true, of course, but several heads nodded their agreement. Somehow, this absurd piece of product placement added substantially to the air of discontent. England had been poor, their decision-making awry, their thinking sluggish, their handling erratic, their finishing inadequate.

This was the autumn international they seemed most likely to win, certainly their supporters had carried an air of blissful confidence as they swarmed down Rugby Road. England had done little to modify those expectations. Chris Ashton had given a number of chirpily optimistic interviews, expressing the solid hope that his barren run was about to end. In the event, he pushed his number of try-less matches into double figures.

The assistant coach, Graham Rowntree, was even more confident: 'These (Southern Hemisphere) teams could come over to Europe and lose every other game, but if they beat England at Twickenham they will think it's been a successful trip for them,' he declared.

Toby Flood

Toby Flood

We must doubt that, say, New Zealand would fly home in glory if their only touring success had been gained in south-west London. No, it was the kind of nonsense which can communicate itself to players, especially players who are ill-equipped to indulge in such delusions. For the truth was that England needed no distractions to their attempts to deal with a spirited Australian side.

Of all the teams in world sport, Australia are possibly the last to be under-rated. Missing several important players and coming into the game in depressing form, they possess an inborn cussedness, a determination to be better than the sum of their parts.

That spirit remained unshaken through a first half in which they were unfortunate to fall behind to a dubious late try by Manu Tuilagi. For they knew that they had performed with authority, that their options had been sounder, their execution more intelligent. Their competitive instincts told them that the tide would turn towards them. It was merely a mattter of time. At such moments, you can almost hear Twickenham worrying. Sweet Chariot is sung with a nervous edge, like a prayer offered up in a doubtful cause. Drink is taken thoughtfully, ruminatively, as if the worst is imminently expected.

They were pleased to cheer the parade of Olympians at half-time. Now that was a genuine success. Marvellous summer; all those medals. And Australia were rubbish. If memory serves. Not so yesterday.

Triumphant: Australia's Nathan Sharpe lifts the Cook Cup

Triumphant: Australia's Nathan Sharpe lifts the Cook Cup

The penalties which Berrick Barnes struck early in the half gave his team first equality, then the lead. And they seemed to point to an unmistakeable conclusion. For a kind of panic had crept into the English game. The extravagant manner in which they declined kickable penalties had the air of bluster. Later, the coach Stuart Lancaster would argue, quite reasonably, that he had given his players responsibility and that he would not criticise them for exercising it. Yet the decisions were flawed, and they helped to ensure the outcome.

For the Aussies came home; strongly and, although by just six points, quite comfortably. England were left with the prospect of first South Africa, then New Zealand; just the kind of opponents you need when your own confidence is low, your selection problematical and your methods uncertain.

Twickenham Man glared at the glittering scoreboard, then consoled himself with the announcement that there would be post-match karoake in the Scrum Bar. But the resentment still niggled away. A poor performance, a disappointing day. And those bloody awful colours!

England 14 Australia 20: Barnes and Beale fire Wallabies as Red Rose rue missed chances

England 14 Australia 20: Barnes and Beale fire Wallabies as Red Rose rue missed chances

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UPDATED:

16:51 GMT, 17 November 2012

England crashed to a defeat to Australia they may still be regretting in three years' time.

The Wallabies bounced back from a 33-6 thumping in France last week to dominate England, whose chances of being a top seed at their home Rugby World Cup in 2015 now look remote.

England have worn purple shirts twice – against Argentina and Australia – and both times they have lost.

Unbridled glee: Australia celebrate their third win in four Cook cup matches

Unbridled glee: Australia celebrate their third win in four Cook cup matches

England clawed a half-time lead with a
contentious try from Manu Tuilagi after Nick Cummins had scored his
first international try for the Wallabies.

But Australia turned the screw after
the interval with Berrick Barnes kicking a total of 15 points and it was
not until England emptied their bench that they posed any consistent
threat.

England will rue their bold decisions
to kick second-half penalties to touch instead of taking points because
the Wallabies defence held firm.

And the more panicky England became, the more mistakes they made and Australia saw out the victory to reclaim the Cook Cup.

Going over: Manu Tuilagi scores England's first try to give the home side a 14-11 half-time lead

/11/17/article-0-1613F11C000005DC-989_634x449.jpg” width=”634″ height=”449″ alt=”Going over: Manu Tuilagi scores England's first try to give the home side a 14-11 half-time lead” class=”blkBorder” />

England's kit was officially described as 'regal purple', in order to reflect their place among the 'rugby royalty'.

But with South Africa and New Zealand
due at Twickenham over the next fortnight, England face an uphill
battle to join the elite in the top band of World Cup seeds when the
draw is made on December 4.

That would leave England with the prospect of facing one of the southern hemisphere giants in the pool stages.

Toby Flood kicked England into an
early lead but they spent most of the first half battling to stay in the
game, in the face of an Australia side who were more direct and more
threatening.

Initially, England defended
ferociously, hitting the Wallaby ball-carriers hard on the gainline,
holding them up and driving them backwards.

No mistake: Nick Cummins evades the attentions of Toby Flood to score Australia's opening try

No mistake: Nick Cummins evades the attentions of Toby Flood to score Australia's opening try

No mistake: Nick Cummins evades the attentions of Toby Flood to score Australia's opening try

But as the first half wore on,
England began to slip off key first-up tackles and that allowed the
Wallabies to build the pressure.

Danny Care did well to halt Tatafu
Polota-Nau in the corner after Australia had attempted a crafty short
lineout but they were soon on the back foot again.

Michael Hooper, the Australian
openside with an English father, slipped through Tom Youngs' tackle and
offloaded to Cummins, forcing England to scramble again.

Wycliff Palu, Cummins and Alexander
were all halted in their tracks before Barnes slotted the drop goal to
bring the Wallabies level.

England built the phases for the
first time but without any real menace, unlike the Wallabies who won a
scrum against the head and then released Cummins on the outside again.

Tuilagi and then Flood made
half-breaks for England before Thomas Waldrom took a quick tap penalty
and flicked the ball inside to Chris Robshaw.

Brace yourself: Chris Robshaw prepares to be hit by Wycliff Palu and Nicholas Phipps

Brace yourself: Chris Robshaw prepares to be hit by Wycliff Palu and Nicholas Phipps

Hooper was forced to slow things down
illegally and Flood's second penalty crept over the bar to restore
England's lead but it was brief respite.

Hooper ran onto a long lineout and
the Wallabies hammered away at the England line before Ben Alexander,
with Benn Robinson on his shoulder, drove low from the ruck.

The television pictures were not
conclusive enough for the try to be awarded but Joe Marler was penalised
at the subsequent scrum, allowing the Wallabies to leave with some
points.

Flood responded with a third penalty
but Care, who had been very effective in defence, was punished for a
loose kick with Nick Phipps launching the counter-attack.

Phipps beat one defender and then
released Cummins with a questionably forward pass but the Wallaby wing
streaked down the right and dived over in the corner for his maiden Test
try.

Care made amends immediately, turning
down a kickable penalty to take the quick tap. Tom Johnson and Brad
Barritt shipped the ball wide for Tuilagi, who had Sharples on his
outside but decided to go himself.

Quick ball: Nick Phipps releases early for Australia

Quick ball: Nick Phipps releases early for Australia

Tuilagi powered through Beale and
Phipps and stretched for the line with the the TMO finally confirming he
had got the ball down on the whitewash.

Australia were back in the groove
immediately after the interval, with Barnes and Beale pulling the
strings and the Wallaby pack edging the set-piece battle.

Barnes slotted three penalties in
quick succession. England's response was to send on replacements and two
of them in particular made an immediate impact.

Joe Launchbury took a towering high
ball before Mako Vunipola burst though the line and Ashton arrowed
towards the corner before being tackled into touch just short of the
line.

Reliable: The right boot of Toby Flood accounted for nine points

Reliable: The right boot of Toby Flood accounted for nine points

England piled on the pressure, twice
rejecting penalty shots at goal in the hope of driving the Wallabies
back from the lineout and it almost worked but Waldrom lost control as
he grounded the ball.

This time the television official's decision went against England.

Barnes' long-range penalty attempt
fell short and Vunipola continued to cause damage to the Wallabies,
destroying one scrum and then carrying powerfully into the Australian
22.

England went for another quick tap
penalty and Waldrom came steaming onto the ball but he was chopped down
short of the line and again the gamble failed to pay off.

England rugby players pose for Canterbury and Movember

Twickenham time machine! Can you recognise the England rugby stars behind the vintage gear and fake moustaches

|

UPDATED:

16:58 GMT, 15 November 2012

Movember has been taking the world of rugby by storm once again this month – but nobody expected it to come to this.

England stars David Wilson, Brad Barritt, Joe Marler and Thomas Waldrom, James Haskell, Ben Youngs and Geoff Parling have been showing the new 1871 collection by Canterbury – and worn accompanying moustaches to boot. (Well, all except Marler that is!)

The name for the limited edition collection derives from the year that the RFU was inaugurated. It draws upon the history of the England kit and features a version of the famous red rose emblem inspired by the very first England shirts back in 1871.

Hats off: England rugby stars wearing the new '1871' collection from Canterbury

Hats off: England rugby stars wearing the new '1871' collection from Canterbury (Top row left to right: David Wilson, Brad Barritt, Joe Marler and Thomas Waldrom. Bottom row: James Haskell, Ben Youngs, Geoff Parling)

On Thursday Stuart Lancaster named his side for the Saturday's Test match against Australia and Chris Ashton's inclusion on the right wing, with Charlie Sharples switching to the left in place of Ugo Monye, is the only change to the side that beat Fiji 54-12 last week

The Saracens wing missed England's opening QBE autumn Test through suspension – but he returns to face the Wallabies, against whom he has scored three tries in three Tests.

Style icon: Second row Geoff Parling poses in the Canterbury gear

Style icon: Second row Geoff Parling poses in the Canterbury gear

Ashton scored his first Test try in England's 21-20 victory in Sydney on the 2010 summer tour and he touched down twice in a record 35-18 win at Twickenham the following autumn.

The second of those efforts, finished by Ashton after England launched a counter-attack from behind their own line, has gone down in the annals as one of the great Twickenham tries.

Ashton is England's most potent attacking threat and he will consider a game against the injury-hit Wallabies as the perfect opportunity to break his international try duck for 2012.

High ball: England winger Chris Ashton shields an aerial delivery in training

High ball: England winger Chris Ashton shields an aerial delivery in training

Lancaster said: 'We were pleased with lots of aspects of our performance last week, but we know we need to improve this week and, by having some consistency in selection, we allow those players to demonstrate we can step up to the next level against what will be a very tough Australian side.'

Lancaster will be interested to see how Alex Goode fares at full-back against the Wallabies after an impressive showing against Fiji.

'He's a great footballer and he provides us with extra organisation in our backline. He's a great communicator with the backs and he has the ability to move defenders around and make breaks himself,' Lancaster said. 'It's a step up for him but he's playing well at the moment.'

Goode to talk: Full back Alex (left) gets ready for the Wallabies with a chat with Danny Care and Chris Ashton (right)

Goode to talk: Full back Alex (left) gets ready for the Wallabies with a chat with Danny Care and Chris Ashton (right)

Lancaster plans to keep faith with the back row from the Fiji match so Tom Wood will begin on the replacements' bench.

'The back row played well at the weekend. Tom Wood was good when he came off the bench but we want to give them another shot this week,' he explained.

On the potential for an Australia backlash after their Paris defeat, Lancaster added: 'We will need to step up and our training this week has reflected that. The Aussies will have done a lot of work on their own performance this week after losing against the French.

'But the game before that they pushed the All Blacks to 18-18 and they are a very experienced side who have played some very good rugby over the last six months.'

Gloucester chairman Ryan Walkinshaw has faith in a big future

He may be an outspoken atheist but Gloucester chairman Ryan has faith

|

UPDATED:

22:13 GMT, 26 October 2012

Ryan Walkinshaw does not confirm to the stereotype image of a club chairman, to put it mildly.

The man in charge of Gloucester is 24, a globe-trotting business prodigy, renowned DJ, science enthusiast and out-spoken atheist.

But don’t doubt the rugby passion, inherited from his late father, Tom. /10/26/article-0-15B35028000005DC-936_634x431.jpg” width=”634″ height=”431″ alt=”Master planner: Gloucester chairman Ryan Walkinshaw” class=”blkBorder” />

Master planner: Gloucester chairman Ryan Walkinshaw

He can’t be at a packed, partisan Kingsholm on Saturday for the visit of Leicester, as he is away in Delhi on business. Several of the players wearing the fabled Cherry and White shirts will be older than their boss, but years of expert advice prepared him for the role he has taken on so young, and there is real clarity and conviction in his vision for the club.

Speaking to Sportsmail at Heathrow, just prior to departure, Walkinshaw fittingly revealed that he is ready to broaden Gloucester’s horizons. ‘As a club we are at one of those tipping points,’ he said. ‘We can either come up with new strategies to enhance and extend our brand both nationally and internationally, or we can conserve what we’ve got, refine it slightly and maintain it.

‘We’ve got an aggressive plan to take us forward. There is so much potential. We had the second-highest average attendance last season and we’re one of only two clubs, along with Northampton, who made a profit. Hopefully we can get back into the Heineken Cup next season and that will give us a great platform for further growth.

Major star: Jimmy Cowan

Major star: Jimmy Cowan

Harlequins’ CEO told me the other day
that when he goes to South Africa or Japan, he would be quite happy to
see a few people walking down the street wearing Quins shirts. That is
how I feel about Gloucester. I think there is great potential to start
developing rugby in Asia, not necessarily as “Gloucester” but as a
sub-brand based on Gloucester.

The club’s global status would be considerably enhanced if Kingsholm is chosen to stage World Cup 2015 matches, having made it on to the ‘long list’ of potential venues. The chairman hopes that the enthusiasm for rugby in the region and the recent hosting of international games at the ground – with Fiji playing Gloucester there next month – will help them make the final cut.

Of course, this talk of the brand has to have a basis in the team and on-field success. In that regard, the signs for Gloucester are encouraging, after what Walkinshaw describes as the ‘debacle’ of Bryan Redpath’s sudden resignation as director of rugby late last season.

Armed with new recruits such as England No 8 Ben Morgan, former Tigers centre Billy Twelvetrees and ex-All Black scrum half Jimmy Cowan, the West Country club have hit their stride quickly and are currently fifth in the league.

Their revival has been impressively over-seen by Welshman Nigel Davies, who was recruited from the Scarlets in the summer. He has been able to harness the ability of so many talented young local players coming through into the senior team – promising products of the academy at Hartpury College.

Walkinshaw recognises the hunger and commitment they bring. ‘It comes down to the fact that the guys who give you that extra 10 per cent are the guys who care about the badge,’ he said.

When it comes to caring for the badge, the club and the sport, Walkinshaw has picked up the baton from his father, who died in 2010 after a three-year battle against cancer. While Tom grew up playing rugby in Glasgow when he wasn’t racing cars, Ryan attended Radley College in Oxfordshire, a few years after former England cricket captain Andrew Strauss.

Looking good: James Simpson-Daniel in action for Gloucester during their win over Bordeaux last weekend

Looking good: James Simpson-Daniel in action for Gloucester during their win over Bordeaux last weekend

‘I played in the 1st XV at school,’
he said. ‘I was pack leader; a hooker. I was known to be a bit of a
****. I got a lot of yellow and red cards – I was pretty angry, but I
loved it.’

He went on to
study history at Oxford University, but dropped out and switched to a
business management and marketing course in Newcastle. In the mean-time,
he had been making a name for himself as a DJ in the UK and Ibiza, and
had set up a record label and nightclub promotions business. Having
spent long periods gaining first-hand experience in his father’s
automotive companies and at Gloucester, Walkinshaw soon realised that
the course wasn’t teaching him anything he didn’t already know, so he
left to start work.

Now, as a young businessman and rugby chairman, he admits that the age factor is a double-edged sword. ‘In some ways it has been beneficial, in other ways it has been a hindrance,’ he said. ‘I believe respect is earned over a long period of time, doing the right things, but at my age I know I have to do that little bit more to show people I’m worthy of their respect.’

Walkinshaw has been unable to attend any Premiership Rugby board meetings since taking over as Gloucester chairman in May, due to commitments overseas. When he does, the established figures around him can expect the newcomer to speak his mind. He certainly does on Twitter, on a range of subjects. A staple topic is the ridiculing of Mitt Romney and the Republican party in America. His scorn is based on their often zealous religious stance, which he is at turns mystified and incensed by. ‘I hate the word “belief”,’ he said. ‘I think about things scientifically.

Over the line: Billy Twelvetrees scores a try against Bordeaux

Over the line: Billy Twelvetrees scores a try against Bordeaux

‘I read a lot of books about science and the history of religion. One of my heroes is Christopher Hitchens, who was a game-changing anti-religious writer – showing it up for what it is. I don’t understand why someone can spout their God stuff, but atheists have always had to keep quiet.

‘Just because you have an opinion, it doesn’t mean it has to be respected unless it is supported by evidence. We live in the most exciting time in the history of the sciences. Reading about that is far more exciting than reading about a burning bush or a guy who builds an Ark.’

Whether or not Walkinshaw’s fascination with science and dismissal of religion will ever have a bearing on his running of Gloucester is unclear. In truth, it’s unlikely. But it shows he has the courage of his convictions and that can only be good for his club.

Sportsmail"s looks at the exciting teams and players so far in the Premier League

The Premier League is off to a flyer… so here's who have excited us

|

UPDATED:

23:27 GMT, 12 October 2012

It might be a week until they pull on their club shirts again, but the Barclays Premier League's stars have offered us no shortage of entertainment in the first seven games of this season.

Here Sportsmail's football writers tell us what has impressed them most, and what hasn't.

Ian Ladyman

What has excited you most about the Premier League so far this season

The way that some of this season's foreign signings have raised the bar a little.

Raising the bar: The likes of Eden Hazard (right), Shinji Kagawa and Santi Cazorla have dazzled in the early weeks

Raising the bar: The likes of Eden Hazard (right), Shinji Kagawa and Santi Cazorla have dazzled in the early weeks

There are still plenty of journeymen imports – too many perhaps – but players like Eden Hazard at Chelsea, Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa and Arsenal forward Santi Cazorla have lit up games in which they have played already.

Which manager looks most vulnerable and why

Chris Hughton at Norwich looks like he may have it all to do over the coming weeks.

The problem with succeeding a manager who has over-achieved is that supporters quickly begin to expect that as the norm.

Paul Lambert left big boots to fill at Carrow Road and I am not sure Hughton will prove up to it.

Who has been the best signing of the season so far

At the moment it's hard to look further than Hazard at Chelsea. The fact that the two Manchester clubs also wanted the Belgian shows what kind of reputation he has and he has certainly hit the ground running.

I hope he learns to stay on his feet, though.

Which player/players will give Roy Hodgson hope

I st ill love the attitude and confidence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Arsenal.

He will only improve. Meanwhile, I don't think we have seen anything like the best of Manchester United's Danny Welbeck yet.

I hope he gets enough games at his club this season, though.

Exciting: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (right) has impressed Roy Hodgson with his attitude and ability

Exciting: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (right) has impressed Roy Hodgson with his attitude and ability

Who is a star lurking in the lower leagues

Believe it or not, there is life beyond the Premier League and visitors to Elland Road this season will have been impressed by young central defender Tom Lees.

Just 21, Lees is now part of Stuart Pearce's Under 21 squad and scouts from the big clubs already have their eyes on him.

Matt Barlow

What has excited you most about the Premier League so far this season

Chelsea's creative trio of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata, West Bromwich Albion and Everton's bold assault on the top of the table, Tony Pulis's admirable pursuit of the divers, Joe Hart's goalkeeping, Jack Wilshere's return to football, Tottenham's swanky new training facilities and Ashley Cole's Twitter account.

Which manager looks most vulnerable and why

Mark Hughes. QPR have started poorly, against expectations after a hectic summer of player trading, and have amassed a hefty payroll with many players on big wages without relegation clauses.

The drop is unthinkable. Worse than all that, Loftus Road is an easy commute from Harry Redknapp's house.

Somehow, the owners' reassurances have not removed the air of uncertainty.

Under threat: Sportsmail's Matt Barlow believes QPR's Mark Hughes could be the first Premier League manager to lose his job

Under threat: Sportsmail's Matt Barlow believes QPR's Mark Hughes could be the first Premier League manager to lose his job

Who has been the best signing of the season so far

Robin van Persie. Jan Vertonghen looks a coup for Spurs and Steven Fletcher has proved what a good finisher he is at Sunderland but Van Persie continues to look supreme at Manchester United.

He is in his prime, the best footballer on these shores, with wonderful technique and a clinical ability to hurt teams.

His hat-trick at Southampton was magical and proved he will secure many points for United this season. All for 24million.

Which player/players will give Roy Hodgson hope

Flickers of encouragement all over the place for Hodgson. The challenge is for one or two of them to turn it into high-grade consistency.

Tom Ince has been 'unplayable' at Blackpool, according to manager Ian Holloway.

MVP Robin van Persie has bolstered Manchester United's front line for 24million

MVP Robin van Persie has bolstered Manchester United's front line for 24million

Raheem Sterling is quick and dangerous. Kieran Gibbs started the season well but has been hit by injury, again.

Nick Powell seems to have settled well at Manchester United. Hodgson will hope to see a centre half emerge but most vital could be that Jack Wilshere returns to his best this season and is healthy come Brazil 2014.

Who is a star lurking in the lower leagues

Tom Ince is making rapid progress at Blackpool, having developed physically.

There was money on the table from Premier League clubs on deadline day but Blackpool resisted and the 20-year-old striker is benefiting from regular football in a team playing positively.

Another is Ben Marshall, who joined Leicester from Stoke for 1million in January.

Originally a product of the youth set-ups at Manchester United and Crewe, the 21-year-old has technical ability and plays with adventure.

Marshall is a striker who can play wide on either side or in the hole behind a centre forward.

The future's bright... Tom Ince has been 'unplayable' for Blackpool according to Ian Holloway

The future's bright… Tom Ince has been 'unplayable' for Blackpool according to Ian Holloway

Michael Walker

What has excited you most about the Premier League so far this season

It is the idea that Everton can again mount a challenge on the top four playing expansive football.

West Bromwich Albion, too, are impressing with the style of their game. Can Tottenham come again

Which manager looks most vulnerable and why

Obviously Chris Hughton, but Mark Hughes must be worried.

QPR's next two games are at home to Everton and away at Arsenal. QPR have two points from seven games and this means they could have two points from nine games.

QPR are scoring less than one goal a game; they are conceding around two-and-a-half.

Who has been the best signing of the season so far

Joe Allen (Liverpool). While it has not clicked yet at Liverpool for the team, Allen is already doing what he does, creating a tempo and keeping the ball.

You would expect his influence at Anfield to grow.

Which player/players will give Roy Hodgson hope

Joe Hart, and the news that Jack Wilshere may soon be back in first-team action. Other than that…

On fire: Joe Hart has further cemented his place as England No 1 in recent weeks

On fire: Joe Hart has further cemented his place as England No 1 in recent weeks

Who is a star lurking in the lower leagues

Jamie Paterson, 20 (Walsall), is a gifted, and English, midfielder.

Another midfielder, Oliver Norwood, 21, has settled well at Huddersfield and has helped bed them into the Championship. Both look like they could play a division higher.

Dominic King

What has excited you most about the Premier League so far this season

Everton's high-tempo start to the campaign. David Moyes has assembled a squad that he rates as being the most talented of his decade at Goodison Park and the style of football they have been playing has raised hopes they will challenge for a top-four spot.

They are yet to feature in a humdrum game.

With the big boys: Marouane Fellaini (left) and Everton have made an uncharacteristically good start to the season

With the big boys: Marouane Fellaini (left) and Everton have made an uncharacteristically good start to the season

Which manager looks most vulnerable and why

Michael Laudrup . Was the opening day win at Swansea too good to be true

It would appear so. Rumours of discontent have started to emerge, results have started to dip and he doesn't strike me as the type of character who will grab the club by the scruff of the neck and turn the tide.

Who has been the best signing of the season so far

Santi Cazorla . Arsene Wenger doesn't know which foot the Spaniard is strongest on but does it matter Whether it is right foot or left foot, it hasn't mattered.

Cazorla has been sensational so far and, if his form continues, Arsenal could emerge as serious title challengers.

Diminutive: Santi Cazorla has adapted superbly to the pace of the Premier League

Diminutive: Santi Cazorla has adapted superbly to the pace of the Premier League

Which player/players will give Roy Hodgson hope

Leighton Baines is playing like the best left back in Europe and the England manager would have no worries about that position if Ashley Cole happened to cry 'enough'.

The way tyros such as Raheem Sterling and Jonjo Shelvey are playing will encourage him, too.

Who is a star lurking in the lower leagues

Wilfried Zaha. He is getting better with each game he plays for Crystal Palace, has become an England Under 21 regular and has scouts flocking to Selhurst Park.

He has a big future.

Laura Williamson

What has excited you most about the Premier League so far this season

It feels like a more competitive league this year – both in the fight for Champions League football and at the other end of the table.

Chelsea have yet to be beaten, of course, but no team have looked truly dominant, which bodes well for a dramatic season.

More competitive: Sergio Aguero and his Manchester City team have yet to fire on all cylinders

More competitive: Sergio Aguero and his Manchester City team have yet to fire on all cylinders

Which manager looks most vulnerable and why

Mark Hughes. While Michael Laudrup faces internal problems after a brilliant start, Swansea are not the type of club to panic. QPR, however, most certainly are.

There are already murmurings that too many changes were made all at once last summer and, although Hughes appears to have the backing of owner Tony Fernandes at present, will this continue if the poor run of results stretches to 15 or 20 games

It's difficult to imagine.

Who has been the best signing so far

Santi Cazorla. To watch him play is a privilege; a lesson in balance and vision off both feet – and he says Arsenal fans haven't seen the best of him yet.

Which player/players will give Roy Hodgson hope

Jermain Defoe. The Tottenham striker looks energised, confident and clinical again in front of goal. He didn't react kindly to suggestions he cannot play on his own up front but, backed by Tottenham's array of midfield talent, he has shown – if there was ever really any doubt – that he can.

Rejuvenated: Jermain Defoe has been exceptional up front for Tottenham so far this season

Rejuvenated: Jermain Defoe has been exceptional up front for Tottenham so far this season

Who is a star lurking in the lower leagues

Charlie Austin. From bricklayer to non-League and through the divisions to Championship side Burnley, where he has scored 15 goals in 12 appearances this season.

He's still only 23, too.

whos leading the way