Tag Archives: silent

Sir Alex Ferguson referee watch: Manchester United manager loses his temper briefly

Fergie ref watch: After his haranguing of Dean and co, how did Sir Alex behave on the touchline for clash against West Brom

|

UPDATED:

01:24 GMT, 30 December 2012

It seemed like Sir Alex Ferguson was on his way to giving another set of officials the full treatment during Manchester United's 2-0 victory over West Brom at Old Trafford.

But although he did start shouting at assistant referee Andy Garrett over the award of a throw-in, he soon made up with him.

These pictures show the Red Devils boss giving Garrett an earful before later making him laugh, along with fourth official Phil Dowd.

Sir Alex Ferguson shouts at assistant referee Andy Garrett

Just joshing: Ferguson laughed with him afterwards

Making up: Sir Alex Ferguson shouts at assistant referee Andy Garrett… but then joked with him afterwards

Time for a chat: Garratt giggled while Ferguson chatted to fourth official Phil Dowd

Time for a chat: Garratt giggled while Ferguson chatted to fourth official Phil Dowd

The officials would have been wary
after the United manager's incredible rant at Mike Dean and his
assistants during the side's 4-3 win over Newcastle on Boxing Day.

He strode on to the pitch to harangue
Dean about Newcastle’s controversial second goal and then berated both a
linesman and the fourth official.

But because the referee did not
include the incidents in his match report he is believed to view
Ferguson’s comments as within the boundaries of reasonable
communication.

Dean did not report him because he did not feel there was abusive language or any questioning of his integrity.

Caught between a rock and a hard place: Dowd was sandwiched between Fergie and the United mascot

Caught between a rock and a hard place: Dowd was sandwiched between Fergie and the United mascot

Manager watch

Wenger v Pardew

Pardew was banned for shoving an assistant referee this term but kept his hands to himself yesterday. Wenger stayed seated.

Hughton v Mancini

While Hughton was a silent witness to defeat, Mancini was furious with Nasri's red card, though he was sanguine at the time.

Jol v Laudrup

Laudrup remained in control amid doubts over Fulham's goal. Jol knew he and his players were to blame for defeat.

Lambert v Martinez

Lambert kept cool despite another thrashing. His rival appeared annoyed by refereeing decisions but reined himself in.

McDermott v Allardyce

A feisty game but neither tangled with the officials. McDermott stood in his technical area while Big Sam stayed seated.

Pulis v Adkins

Both were animated but well behaved throuighout. Pulis was asked to retreat from the touchline in the second half, and did.

Martin O'Neill v AVB

Little to move Andre VIllas-Boas, who sat through most of the game. Martin O'Neill prowled his technical area as usual.

Patrick Collins: The anti-Wenger mob should be careful what they wish for

The anti-Wenger mob should be careful what they wish for

|

UPDATED:

00:46 GMT, 16 December 2012

So, farewell Arsene Wenger. Not yet perhaps but soon, very soon, if the pack has its way.

Defeat at Bradford City, in what some of us still call the League Cup, was apparently the last straw.

It seems that the Arsenal manager must fall on his sword. Failing that, he must be shown the door.

Troubled times: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under fire

Troubled times: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under fire

Either way, he has to go. Don't take my word for it; listen to the people.

One red-top tabloid, which knows a bandwagon when one comes clattering by, organised a highly scientific opinion poll.

This 'damning' exercise revealed that around 60 per cent of respondents believed that Wenger's time was up.

Considering it was taken in the hours
after Bradford, and plainly included a hefty cargo of drunks, comedians
and Tottenham supporters, some might think the manager came out rather
well.

More from Patrick Collins…

Patrick Collins: How Fergie's bedtime habits set standards at Old Trafford
15/12/12

Patrick Collins: England's sensational miracle workers have everyone believing again
08/12/12

Patrick Collins: Captain Cook must stand the test of time before he can join the greats
08/12/12

Patrick Collins: Football's silent majority must set the tone, not the bigots who just want to be noticed
01/12/12

Patrick Collins: Richie McCaw, Dan Carter… your boys took one hell of a beating!
01/12/12

Patrick Collins: Tears follow tragic mistake that turned into an ordeal for brave Hatton
25/11/12

Patrick Collins: Let's hope Pep has the right answers when Roman comes calling
24/11/12

Patrick Collins: How 65 seconds of confusion cost England their chance
24/11/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Yet the weight of informed opinion
was against him.

Somebody called Tim, who is apparently a spokesman for
the Arsenal Supporters' Trust, announced: 'His inability to delegate or
seek help from others has resulted in a stale environment where best
practice is no longer to the fore.'

We must wonder how 'Tim' can speak so confidently of such private matters.

But in the current climate, even impertinent middle-management clichs find an audience.

Which takes us, quite seamlessly, to Stewart Robson, who played for Arsenal more than a quarter of a century ago.

Robson declared himself 'embarrassed' by Wenger. 'In my view,' said Robson, 'it was time up for him three or four years ago … Tactically Arsenal are all over the place, they are under-prepared defensively and he doesn't understand the game well enough.'

Now, most will acknowledge that losing to Bradford was mildly disgraceful, that a good many of Arsenal's displays this season have been sub-standard, that the performances of players such as Gervinho, Chamakh and Santos are incomprehensible and that the manager's recent transfer dealings are heavily at odds with his glittering track record in this department.

And Wenger must know that he has made enemies.

He is not 'clubbable', he has never sought membership of that managerial cabal which likes to gather after matches to swap cosy anecdotes, curse grasping players, endorse amenable agents and slurp expensive red wine.

A frosty winner and a graceless loser, the Arsenal manager has offended most of his contemporaries down the years with his distaste for conspiratorial small talk.

He will expect no mercy in these mean and trying times.

Yet Robson's portrayal of Wenger is clearly an absurd caricature.

The man who 'doesn't understand the game' has won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups.

That same inadequate innocent has secured Arsenal a place in the Champions League for 15 consecutive seasons.

Think about it: not since Tony Blair's first administration was in its opening year have Arsenal failed to qualify for Europe's major competition and even then they played in the old UEFA Cup.

The consistency is staggering, the achievement extraordinary, especially when we reflect that he has also effectively built a glorious stadium and encouraged his sides to produce some of the most enthralling football the modern British game has seen.

Staggering consistency: Wenger with the FA Cup and Premier League trophies in 2002

Staggering consistency: Wenger with the FA Cup and Premier League trophies in 2002

In recent memory, the teams of Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas, back to Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira have set standards of excellence which speak of inspired coaching and sensitive development.

Yet this is the man whose head is currently being demanded by an avenging posse.

Loud of voice and short of memory, they seek a manager who will take them to 'another level'.

Well, in a spirit of helpfulness, I have compiled a random list of men who may be open to offers of employment.

Assuming that Pep Guardiola is unavailable, it includes the likes of Avram Grant, Roy Keane, Kenny Dalglish, Alan Shearer, Iain Dowie and Mark Hughes.

These may not be the kind of candidates who would slide snugly into the shoes of Arsene Wenger.

Clearly, I have no stake in this particular argument.

But we are considering the future of an authentic visionary, one of our most brilliantly accomplished football managers.

And so I say to the avenging mob: be very careful what you wish for.

The Dazzling Dozen in a truly great year

When you want to know what kind of sporting year it has been, you look at the BBC Sports Personality contenders.

Great year: Bradley Wiggins

Great year: Bradley Wiggins

In lean times, when achievements are modest, the odd, frivolous option sneaks on to the list; a darts player here, a snooker champion there. Not this year.

Eleven golden Olympians and Rory McIlroy: never has there been such an extravagant outpouring of talent.

So many candidates, several with gold at their necks, were reluctantly passed over.

There was no place for the extraordinary Alastair Cook, nor for a single representative of the national game, despite the winning of the Champions League.

That's the kind of year we've just lived through.

And if, when the votes are counted, Bradley Wiggins climbs to the top of the rostrum, just ahead of Mo Farah and Andy Murray, then I suggest that the matchless glories of 2012 will have been accurately assessed.

Football must see beyond money if it wants to tackle its problems

English football has a few problems. Nothing important. Minor issues involving racism, thuggery and a failure to understand the grotesque figure it is currently cutting.

The coin that sliced open Rio Ferdinand's eyebrow was symbolic of the problems which beset the game.

Disgraceful: Ferdinand hit on the head by coin from the crowd

Disgraceful: Ferdinand hit on the head by coin from the crowd

Disgraceful: Ferdinand hit on the head by coin from the crowd

Football is perhaps the last area of recession Britain in which a coin is seen not as an asset but a weapon.

Those whose task it is to portray the 'product' in its most sympathetic light – Sky TV and the Premier League – are at pains to point out that we have travelled far from those grim days of the Seventies and Eighties.

Yet still the echoes linger. Just listen to the young gentlemen at West Ham taunt the Liverpool fans with: 'Sign on, sign on with hope in your hearts. And you'll never get a job.'

It carries the authentic stench of Thatcher's Britain. The simplest reform becomes a matter for debate.

Gordon Taylor, of the PFA, makes the unarguable suggestion that nets should be erected by the corner flags, so that his members might be protected from coin-hurling idiots.

He is instantly shouted down by Steve Kelly of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.

Unarguable suggestion: Gordan Taylor

Unarguable suggestion: Gordan Taylor

'I don't think nets would bring safety,' says Kelly.

'The next thing would be wire mesh, then fencing, and we all know what that meant.'

It is drivel; trite, illogical drivel. Yet we sense that football will succumb to such foolishness rather than do the right thing.

And so a fine man like Lord Herman Ouseley walks away from a game which has been swamped by the self-interest of the major clubs.

And David Bernstein, at the FA, sees his reforming instincts cynically sabotaged by those whose sights rarely rise above the bottom line.

Yes, football has problems. Such a pity that it shows so few signs of recognising them.

P.S.

When they told Geoffrey Boycott that Yorkshire would stage the 'Grand Depart' of the 2014 Tour de France, he thought they were having him on.

Assured by his Test Match Special colleagues that this was indeed the case, he started to warm to the prospect: 'Riding up and down the Dales, it teks some doing, does that.'

He racked his brain for a famous cyclist.

Then he cackled, wickedly: 'Will that Lance Armstrong be coming'

Very Yorkshire; flattered by being chosen yet not overly impressed. I'm not sure the Great Race knows what it's in for.

Patrick Collins: Ignore the tacky "Rafa Out" crowd and the bigots, football"s silent majority must set the tone

Football's silent majority must set the tone, not the bigots who just want to be noticed

|

UPDATED:

02:00 GMT, 2 December 2012

It was a tacky little sign, white
paint smeared on a blue banner, and it said: ‘Welcome to the circus,
starring Fat Rafa as the new clown.’ The letters were slightly smudged
and the ‘n’ of ‘clown’ was squashed against the banner’s edge, as if it
were an afterthought. But the man holding it up seemed strangely proud
of his creation. For the cameras were taking his picture and all was
well with his world.

Other placards sprouted around
Stamford Bridge to greet Rafael Benitez, their new manager. ‘Rafa Out!’ …
‘In Rafa we will never trust’ … ‘Rafa Benitez: Chelsea Fans Do Not
Forget’. The last referred to a trifling slur which the rest of the
world had long since forgotten.

But even as we sniggered, we realised that they had been noticed and thus their object had been achieved.

Spelling it out: Chelsea fans protest before Rafa Benitez's first game in charge

Spelling it out: Chelsea fans protest before Rafa Benitez's first game in charge

Rejecting a Chelsea manager even
before he started his job was clearly absurd but the antics of the West
Ham fans at Tottenham last weekend were darker and far more disturbing.

It is thankfully impossible to
comprehend the characters capable of screaming anti-Semitic insults,
chanting slogans about Adolf Hitler and making hissing allusions to gas
chambers.

But that was the kind of trash which
passed for banter at White Hart Lane and witnesses insist that hundreds
of visiting supporters joined in. You must have read about it; it was in
all the papers.

The clowns and the choristers were at
it again yesterday at football grounds across the nation. And while
their excesses were reported, nobody seemed in the least surprised. It’s
‘tribal’, you see; a way of making a point and gaining attention.

More from Patrick Collins…

Patrick Collins: Richie McCaw, Dan Carter… your boys took one hell of a beating!
01/12/12

Patrick Collins: Tears follow tragic mistake that turned into an ordeal for brave Hatton
25/11/12

Patrick Collins: Let's hope Pep has the right answers when Roman comes calling
24/11/12

Patrick Collins: How 65 seconds of confusion cost England their chance
24/11/12

Patrick Collins: What's the point of a 5bn league if England can't make it to the World Cup
17/11/12

Patrick Collins: Twickenham man feeling off-colour as panto season comes early for England
17/11/12

Patrick Collins: Why do we put up with these obscenities just because it's football
10/11/12

Patrick Collins: Wilshere is back in action – the miracles will follow
27/10/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

It’s the sort of thing that they do,
because they see themselves as being part of the action. And many of us
find that genuinely disturbing.

Some time ago, I wrote a book which
considered the various ways in which fans follow their chosen sport.
Some are largely silent, as in golf or snooker. Others, such as horse
racing and speedway, are loud, passionate but distant observers. At the
big tennis tournaments they make their noise only when play is
interrupted, while at cricket Test matches the crowd have grown louder
down the years but remain essentially respectful of the nature of the
game.

And all of them — save, perhaps, the
dreary grotesques of cricket’s ‘Barmy Army’ — recognise the convention
by which the watchers watch and the performers perform.

Dreary grotesques: The Barmy Army in Sydney

Dreary grotesques: The Barmy Army in Sydney

True, there was a time, a few years back, when the distinction grew blurred and some of our major sports were interrupted by streakers. But they were happily eliminated, first by the certainty of arrest, then, far more effectively, by television’s admirable decision to turn its cameras away from their tedious caperings. The ancient truth was reasserted: nobody ever bought a ticket to look at the audience.

As the past week’s events have demonstrated, only football still struggles with that simple concept. Having paid extortionate prices for their seats — which they rarely occupy, since mob culture insists on mass standing — football fans demand a share of the spotlight. Obscene gestures, vile chants, abusive placards; anything goes, anything likely to get them noticed.

For those who truly want to cause spectacular offence, football offers an irresistible stage.

Abuse: West Ham fans taunted their Spurs counterparts at White Hart Lane

Abuse: West Ham fans taunted their Spurs counterparts at White Hart Lane

Thankfully, it remains true that the decent majority are deeply disturbed by the squalid excesses of the minority. And there are broad and hopeful shafts of light. Yesterday, at Millwall’s Den, the local South London derby with Charlton was played on ‘Jimmy’s Day’, an occasion which marked the murder four years ago of a blameless young fan named Jimmy Mizen.

In the years since Jimmy’s death, his parents have dedicated themselves to combating violence and raising the aspirations of young people and yesterday they joined with Millwall’s outstanding Community Scheme to celebrate the advances achieved. So we should not doubt that football can be a genuine force for good.

But too often it sells itself short. Too often it allows its tone to be set by chanting morons, or hissing bigots, or misguided enthusiasts with misplaced pride in their crudely painted placards; all demanding to be noticed. We cannot say with confidence that they would go away if we denied them the attention they seek. But it might be worth the effort.

Flintoff’s fight night is just a bushtucker trial in boxing gloves

His ring walk was fine, his glare was ferocious and he answered the opening bell with the urgency of a seasoned pro. It was then that things started to go wrong for Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff in the Manchester Arena.

Nobody ever doubted his heart or his spirit, since they are his stock in trade. No, his fistic limitations lay elsewhere, in the areas of timing, technique, footwork and strategy. And when a man enters the professional ring lacking all of those basic assets, then we know that we are watching not a genuine contest but a reality TV stunt; a bushtucker trial in boxing gloves.

In fairness, the matchmakers had done their work well. Richard Dawson was what boxing calls ‘a body’. Whereas Freddie was said to have spent the past four months in the gym, Dawson seemed to have passed his time in the Oklahoma branch of Dunkin’ Donuts.

He was two stones heavier than our hero and much of that poundage hung from his waist.

Stunt: Andrew Flintoff won his ring debut

Stunt: Andrew Flintoff won his ring debut

Yet still he threw the only authentic punch of the four brief rounds, a short left hook that took Flintoff off his feet for a few confusing moments in round two. As for Freddie, well, he tried his heart out because that is his nature. He flapped and he flailed, threw frantic punches from the elbow, like a man trying to swat an elusive fly. Yet nothing came naturally to him, since it isn’t his sport. Imagine Mike Tyson attempting a cover drive and you have the picture.

The television commentator, painfully anxious to create a sense of occasion, made much of the minor celebrities at ringside; all ‘good mates’ of Freddie, it seems.

And when the fight was done and Freddie had won — as we rather suspected he would — those good mates celebrated euphorically, as if a world title had been delivered.

Victorious: Flintoff celebrates a win over Richard Dawson

Victorious: Flintoff celebrates a win over Richard Dawson

David Price, the British heavyweight champion and a sensible chap, was asked for his view. ‘It was what it was,’ he said, benignly. ‘You can’t take it too seriously.’

Indeed you can’t, which is why Freddie Flintoff’s boxing career is likely to prove brief, trite and utterly forgettable. Such is the way of reality TV.

PS

England’s leading football clubs paid out more than 77million to agents in the 12 months to September 2012.

That’s 77m the sport will never see again, handed over for no good reason to people of no obvious talent for performing no useful function.

It is a scandal which screams out for investigation.

But nothing will happen, since the consequences would prove uncomfortable.

Still, the Premier League remains the greatest league in all the world. Don’t believe me, ask a football agent.

Lewis Hamilton has his sights on Fernando Alonso as Sergio Perez eyes McLaren spot

Lewis has his sights on Alonso as ambitious Perez eyes Hamilton's seat at McLaren

|

UPDATED:

20:49 GMT, 20 September 2012

Lewis Hamilton and Sergio
Perez have launched charm
offensives ahead of the Singapore
Grand Prix with the future of both
drivers still in doubt.

Hamilton, who is considering a
move to Mercedes next year,
refused to talk about his contract
but did discuss McLaren's
strengths.

Silent treatment: Hamilton refused to discuss his future at McLaren on Thursday

Silent treatment: Hamilton refused to discuss his future at McLaren on Thursday

Silent treatment: Hamilton refused to discuss his future at McLaren on Thursday

'We have always been
able to turn things around even if
we start badly,' said Hamilton,
who still hopes to catch Ferrari's
Fernando Alonso, the
championship leader.

'You have to have confidence the team have done a good job, which I have always had. We are in a good place and the car is feeling great.'

Meanwhile Perez, having been told by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo he will not replace Felipe Massa, tried to ensure his name remains near the top of McLaren's shortlist of potential Hamilton replacements.

'I feel ready to be in a top team, to fight for the title,' said Sauber's Mexican star, who has had three podium finishes this season.

Lewis Hamilton silent over McLaren future

Hamilton silent over McLaren future as Button tells team-mate to embrace speculation

|

UPDATED:

14:59 GMT, 20 September 2012

Lewis Hamilton took the sting out of what could have become another feeding frenzy over his future by declining to answer any questions as to where he might be next season.

As revealed this week, Hamilton has two final contract offers on the table from McLaren and Mercedes, with the ball in his court as to where he decides to go.

In Italy a fortnight ago, courtesy of a remark from Eddie Jordan that terms had been agreed with Mercedes and an announcement of a deal was imminent, the subject of Hamilton's future was the only one in town.

Silent treatment: Hamilton refused to discuss his future at McLaren on Thursday

Silent treatment: Hamilton refused to discuss his future at McLaren on Thursday

Silent treatment: Hamilton refused to discuss his future at McLaren on Thursday

Two weeks on ahead of this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix and Hamilton has no desire to continue to discuss the matter.

As he took his seat ahead of one of his press sessions at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, Hamilton said: 'Before we start, I'm not here to speak about anything but the weekend.

'I've no extra news for you, so use your time wisely to speak about other things if you can.'

Hamilton even refused to skirt around the issue when it was put to him team-mate Jenson Button has used speculation over his future in the past as a positive.

'I've not even thought about it,' said Hamilton, winner of two of the last three races in Hungary and Monza to push him to within 37 points of championship leader Fernando Alonso.

'I'm just focusing on this weekend. The most important thing is not to get excited about the pace we had in the last race because it is going to be different this weekend.

'Other people, like Fernando, have said they're going to be bringing an update this weekend, so I hope we have something to combat that.

'So I've other things to focus on.'

Closing in: Hamilton is only 37 points behind championship leader Alonso

Closing in: Hamilton is only 37 points behind championship leader Alonso

Closing in: Hamilton is only 37 points behind championship leader Alonso

So it was left to Button to put things into perspective for Hamilton, urging him to embrace his situation, no matter how tough the decision.

Button experienced something similar in 2009 as to whether he would remain with Brawn, which eventually morphed into Mercedes, or move on elsewhere, and again last season with his initial two-year McLaren deal expiring.

'I quite like it. It's quite exciting being in that situation,' said Button.

'I've never found it a bad thing when people have asked me where I'm racing, and when you've more than one interested party it's always nice for a driver.

'The only difficult time for me was with Williams and BAR (as there was a contract dispute), but that was for different reasons.

High spirits: Button was in a more convivial mood than his team-mate

High spirits: Button was in a more convivial mood than his team-mate

High spirits: Button was in a more convivial mood than his team-mate

'But when people have talked about whether I'm going to be at one team or another I've never had a real issue with it before.'

With rumours of Sergio Perez or Paul Di Resta joining McLaren should Hamilton depart, Button is keeping an eye on all the gossip and does care as to who his partner will be next season.

'I think it's great. Every day I read the papers and the websites – because we all do, even if we say we don't,' said Button with a smile.

'I don't know how much truth is in any of it – and I'm not saying you guys (the media) don't always write the truth – but there are many interesting things out there.

'There's a lot of talk and it's an exciting part of the season for everyone.

Renewing acquaintances: Button sizes up his car in Singapore

Renewing acquaintances: Button sizes up his car in Singapore

Renewing acquaintances: Button sizes up his car in Singapore

'For me, I'm all right for next year so it's more straightforward, but it's interesting reading all the rumours and the guesswork from everyone.'

And if he had a choice, it would appear he would prefer Hamilton to remain with McLaren, believing the 27-year-old a perfect yardstick against whom to measure his own performance.

Button said: 'I purposefully moved to McLaren because I wanted a competitive team-mate, and it's always fun judging yourself.

'Over a weekend, if you have a good day and you are in front of your team-mate then it means a lot more, and you really enjoy that moment.

'When you are behind it's frustrating, but you respect the fact he has done a better job than you.
'It's really good having a competitive team-mate. That's the most important thing.'

Let"s hear it if you"re British – Des Kelly

Let's hear it if you're British

|

UPDATED:

22:46 GMT, 27 July 2012

Let's get this straight. Everyone representing Great Britain during this Olympics is participating in a form of national service, whether they like it or not.

It’s not military duty, of course, and I wouldn’t be so crass as to draw a direct parallel, not when men and women fresh from postings in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are around us at the Olympic Park helping the spectacle of the 2012 Games to take place.

But the phrase 'national service' has meaning and relevance in a sporting context too, since every single one of the athletes draping themselves in the Union flag over the course of the next 16 days is representing this nation. And that honour carries with it certain expectations and responsibilities.

Silent minority: Neil Taylor (left) and Ryan Giggs (right) stay mum as Jack Butland belts it out

Silent minority: Neil Taylor (left) and Ryan Giggs (right) stay mum as Jack Butland belts it out

More from Des Kelly…

Des Kelly: A message to all the Olympic moaners… BELT UP!
20/07/12

Des Kelly: I swear, it should not have come to this
13/07/12

Des Kelly: The man to trust at Arsenal is not RVP, Usmanov or Kroenke… it's Wenger
06/07/12

Pearce got it right, and backing Beckham makes you a loser too!
29/06/12

Des Kelly: A victory made only in England
22/06/12

Des Kelly: The FA forced Levy to do the dirty on Harry… and Redknapp deserved better
15/06/12

Des Kelly: England don't stand a chance, right So just enjoy Euro 2012
08/06/12

Des Kelly: One great big football family Not when bigots rule it…
25/05/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

The first is to show some respect for the flag they are here to represent. And one of the ways to do that is to sing the anthem.

The sight of Welsh players standing there tight-lipped as the camera panned along the line of the British football team at Old Trafford on Thursday night was embarrassing. It was rude, dispiriting and out of keeping with the Olympian spirit.

This is a quite simple scenario. If you’re British enough to wear the Team GB badge and represent Britain at the Olympic Games then you should be British enough to sing the National Anthem.

That just happens to be God Save The Queen. So sing it. Of course, if any Welshman or woman, any Scot or Northern Irish soul decides in a private capacity they are unwilling to do this, they are perfectly entitled to that view. One of the great freedoms this country offers is the freedom to say parts of it stink. I actually think the anthem is a bit of a dirge. See

But when you elect to represent the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the world stage any claim to be ambivalent about the concept of Team GB disappears.

I’m staggered the Welsh players — and Ryan Giggs in particular —even put themselves in such an ignoble position. Their little gesture of silent protest was clearly pre-planned. So if coach Stuart Pearce knew in advance Giggs and Co had some kind of ‘issue’ with the anthem, then the Manchester United player should never have been chosen to captain the side in the first place.

As for the skipper, if the anthem really is such an ordeal to him, perhaps Giggs might also like to review the honour he received from the Queen in December of 2007 and stick his OBE in the post back to Mrs E Windsor c/o Buckingham Palace, London.

The idea that anyone is turning up for the Olympics on sufferance or with conditions attached to their participation is infuriating. Appearing at the London Olympics for Britain is an extraordinary privilege.

What on earth was the point of
standing there like a dummy while the anthem played anyway As gestures
of dissent go, it was fairly puerile. It was hardly a Black Power salute
circa 1968. And, the last time I checked, the Welsh were not an overtly
oppressed race these days. If that were the case, Robbie Savage would
not be allowed on television.

The posturing from our women
footballers was equally preposterous. Two Scots, Kim Little and Ifeoma
Dieke, refused to join in with God Save The Queen before their midweek
victory over New Zealand.

Little told a radio interviewer: ‘I
personally probably won’t sing (the National Anthem) but we’ll be
standing there proud to represent the country. It’s just a personal
choice for me.’

For whom the Bell tolls: The Liverpool striker bagged the goal for Team GB

For whom the Bell tolls: The Liverpool striker bagged the goal for Team GB

For whom the Bell tolls: The Liverpool striker bagged the goal for Team GB

Someone should explain to Little that she has already made her personal choice. She could have stayed away; she could have chosen to stick with her Scottish allegiance rather than see it subsumed into Team GB. But, no, Little chose to be part of the team. So she should behave like part of the team.

This doesn’t often happen in other sports. The Welsh members of the women’s hockey team have no issue with the anthem. I cannot recall any dissent among the Scots in the cycling. Is football unique in its tribal arrogance

Backing up Becks

Did you see what Paul McCartney had to say
about the absence of David Beckham from the Olympic football team

The 70-year-old ex-Beatle complained: 'Some
person somewhere said: “so-and-so's playing better” – like it matters. I thought Beckham would be first choice. But some idiot decided otherwise.'

And so a showbiz star, that used to be in a decent team but has since left their best days behind them, stood up for another showbiz star, that used to be in a decent team but has since left their best days behind them. It’s the circle of celebrity life.

Yes, there are English footballers who
have declined to sing the anthem in the past. But Roy Hodgson has
changed that and even a reluctant Wayne Rooney joined in at the European
Championship.

Pearce should follow suit. No doubt some individual members of Team GB arrived at the athletes’ village under the impression they are running, jumping or throwing only for themselves. They are soon disabused of that notion.

They discover they are competing on behalf of all the proud and enthusiastic people who lined the streets for a fleeting glimpse of the Olympic torch as it passed by, regardless of wind, rain or blazing sun.

They find they are at London 2012 for the ordinary people who have scrimped and saved to buy a ticket to an event — ANY event — just so they can share in the greatest sporting occasion these isles will host in our lifetimes.

They are doing it for the tens of thousands in front of the big screens in the parks of London, Cardiff, Swansea, Edinburgh, Belfast and right across the UK; the tens of thousands in the stadia; the millions tuning in across the nation and the billions more watching around the globe. That is why the British public will cheer on competitors they might not know, in sports they don’t fully comprehend, as if they were rooting for a member of their family.

They are a part of Team GB too. That is the burden the lucky 541 who make up our Olympic team must bear.

Pegged back: Senegal left it late to equalise and share the spoils at Old Trafford

Pegged back: Senegal left it late to equalise and share the spoils at Old Trafford

Pegged back: Senegal left it late to equalise and share the spoils at Old Trafford

But football is often too bloated with its own importance to look beyond its own interests. The whole backdrop to assembling this Team GB football squad has been a story of unashamed insularity and committee-seat-saving pettiness. It is reprehensible that the football associations of Scotland and Northern Ireland turned their backs on this opportunity.

It is also quite pathetic that Gareth Bale played for his club in a pre-season tour match rather than represent Britain at the Games.

Alive and kicking

Quite how Senegal managed to finish the 1-1 draw against Team GB with all 11 players on the field was quite a puzzle.

I hear the International Olympic Committee plan to apologise to Stuart Pearce’s men for the relentless kicking they received.

The explanation is they accidentally sent a referee to Old Trafford who was supposed to be in charge of the taekwondo.

No doubt he was pressured by his club,
and Tottenham’s huffy statement that he merely recovered from a back
injury a bit earlier than expected did nothing to quell the general
shabbiness of it all.

Bale was happy to parade in the Team GB kit before the tournament. When the crunch came, he was in America kicking a ball for his club and missing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win an Olympic medal on British soil. It’s his loss. Truly.

There will be heroes at London 2012. There will be inspiring stories. For a couple of weeks, let us hope the football becomes an integral part of the spectacle that unites so much of Britain, rather than a sideshow that makes us cringe.

A billboard slogan on the way to the Olympic Park summed it up rather well for me. It is a message Giggs and the rest might like to remember. It said: ‘The eyes of the world are on London. Try to look good.’

It certainly does look wonderful. The park is stunning. The arenas are magnificent. Lord Coe has fashioned a wonderful stage for the Olympics. Now it is up to the athletes and the competitors of Team GB to make the 2012 Games a success. And give us plenty to sing about along the way, too.

Battle of Old Trafford: Team GB were on the end of some robust challenges from Senegal

Battle of Old Trafford: Team GB were on the end of some robust challenges from Senegal

Oh no, not the working class

One broadsheet columnist had a severe attack of the vapours this week.

The panic attack was induced by a worry that last night's Opening Ceremony was – and allow me to quote directly – 'in danger of becoming a little too, well, working class'.

Follow Des on Twitter

Click her for more musings: @DesKelly

Thankfully, I hear his servants were on hand. They swiftly carried the correspondent to his 16th-century giltwood fainting couch, where he was fed chilled chamomile tea through a pipette and fanned vigorously until his senses were becalmed.

For heaven’s sake, who let the working class into east London

And why didn’t they warn the Daily Telegraph first The great unwashed appear to be swarming all over the Olympic Park (which was something they took great care to avoid in Beijing). Many of the interlopers may not be Oxbridge graduates either. Some have ‘community college’ written all over them.

Other ‘working class’ types are here in military uniform; others provide first aid or serve food and drink. They’re everywhere. How is this delicate soul going to survive Do intravenous drips of antiseptic hand gel exist

East End heroes: Some people claimed the Opening Ceremony would be too working class

East End heroes: Some people claimed the Opening Ceremony would be too working class

Give her gold now

The Malaysian woman, Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, makes her Olympic debut this weekend in one of the shooting competitions. I mention this because there is a significant detail to add. She is eight months pregnant.

Does anyone else think it might be unwise to hand a heavily pregnant woman a firearm I’m no expert in this field, but at the eight-month stage it is an established scientific fact that around 97 percent of a female’s bloodstream consists of neat hormones.

Rational discussion is not an option. It is like negotiating with a grizzly bear. Random demands are issued, such as ‘I want a lemon curd, anchovy and toothpaste toastie — and I want it RIGHT NOW!’, often while sobbing, laughing and throwing a plate at the wall at the same time. And we’re still going to allow this woman to wander around London 2012 with a gun

Mum's the word: Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi is eight months pregnant

Mum's the word: Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi is eight months pregnant

The Open 2012: Rory McIlroy is low-key after chaos of Royal St George"s

Rory's silent treatment… McIIroy is so low-key after chaos of last year

|

UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 17 July 2012

This time last year Rory McIlroy turned up at The Open to be greeted by the sort of mob scenes more normally associated with his doppelganger Harry Styles, from the boy band One Direction. Here at Royal Lytham the reception has been more like for the fifth Beatle.

McIlroy could never be just another golfer but the lack of commotion has been palpable. Out with the madness and the mayhem and in with the silence and the serenity.

'It has definitely not been anything like it was last year, it has been great,' said the 23-year-old Northern Irishman.

All smiles: McIlroy enjoys a chat with Miguel Jimenez ahead of this week's Open Championship

All smiles: McIlroy enjoys a chat with Miguel Jimenez ahead of this week's Open Championship

'I wanted to keep everything as low key as possible and just go about my business and I have been able to do that pretty well.'

He can say that again. Twelve months ago he had to fight his way through a scrum simply to get into the media centre. Here the room was barely 60 per cent full. At 'Roryal' St George's the chances of attracting the attention of the press officer and squeezing in a question were not great.

Here, McIlroy's 30-minute slot was cut short as those assembled had run out of things to ask him. Yes, this must be great, as McIlroy says, but only up to a point. No madness means no majors. No mayhem means no-one thinks he is going to win. A double-edged sword, if ever there was one.

At Sandwich, McIlroy was playing for the first time since becoming the youngest US Open champion for almost 90 years. As if that was not a big enough tale, he was asked to fill the huge vacuum left by the absence of Tiger Woods.

In the swing: The northern Irishman hasn't played a competitive tournament for two weeks

In the swing: The northern Irishman hasn't played a competitive tournament for two weeks

Golf blog

It was the perfect storm and it ended in a terrible soaking, as McIlroy showed his age following a poor weekend's play and lashed out in a fit of frustration at the maddening vicissitudes of links golf.

Now he is back and hoping to surprise a few people on a course he grew to like during his amateur days playing in the Lytham Trophy. In his last outing at the Irish Open at Royal Portrush a fortnight ago, there were distinct signs McIlroy was getting back to his normal self.

'There was definitely a little blip on the radar but I feel great now. I feel like I am swinging the club better than I have all year,' he said.

A top 15 finish in the wind and rain on the Antrim coast was a hopeful sign that he was beginning to answer his own doubts about being able to deliver in bad weather.

Keeping it on the down low: McIlroy is enjoying the relative quiet of this year's tournament

Keeping it on the down low: McIlroy is enjoying the relative quiet of this year's tournament

'I thought I played well in the conditions and looking at the forecast it might be like that again this week, where you have to knuckle down and focus and keep fighting and stay tough,' he said.

McIlroy agreed with the observation of Graeme McDowell in yesterday's Sportsmail that this week represented a great opportunity to show people what he has learned when it comes to playing on a tight links course.

Perhaps a sign that he has embraced the idea of reining in his naturally aggressive instincts and is taking a leaf out of Woods' book on conservative play comes with an explanation of how he intends to play the short, par four 16th.

Justin Rose, for example, sees this as a driveable hole and intends to go for it all four days. Rory 'I've hit a driver on that hole and also the 10th and it just doesn't seem worth it unless you really have to go for it,' he said.

'I think it is just knowing when to be aggressive and when not to be. Obviously the key for everyone is to keep the ball out of all the bunkers and avoid the rough because there are places where it is a jungle out there.'

After a fortnight off from competitive play, McIlroy has adopted a tip given to him by Jack Nicklaus and has been playing just one ball in practice, rather than hitting several.

'If you haven't played for a fortnight I think it does help you get back into a competitive frame of mind,' he said.

'I have been having a few bets with my dad, my coach and my caddie. 'Last Friday I shot four under for the back nine, which was good, and yesterday my target was to shoot one under for the last four holes, and I did that to win a coffee off my caddie JP (Fitzgerald). It has helped me focus.'

Offering his hand: McIlroy congratulates Woods on the driving range

Offering his hand: McIlroy congratulates Woods for his success at Congressional on the driving range

Out on the range, McIlroy went up to Tiger yesterday and congratulated him on his recent victory at Congressional. It is in keeping with his 'under the radar' Open to date that while Woods will be the centre of attention alongside Rose and Sergio Garcia in the first round tomorrow, McIlroy will keep the company of two low-profile recent major winners in Louis Oosthuizen and Keegan Bradley.

Having dinner in the town last Sunday night, McIlroy was approached for photos and autographs but was struck by the lack of commotion in comparison to his last Open.

Yes, as the last 15 major winners have all effortlessly shown, it is good to prepare without the distractions. But, come 7.30pm or so tomorrow night, at the end of McIlroy's opening round, wouldn't he and the rest of us be happy to see the return of just a little McIlmania

Paul Gascoigne to auction off "priceless" mementos for charity

Gazza in 100k charity attempt as England legend auctions off 'priceless' mementos

|

UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 18 June 2012

Paul Gascoigne will follow England's fortunes from a hotel in Dubai on Tuesday night, then attempt to raise over 100,000 for charity by auctioning three solid silver mementos given to him by the Pope at the 1990 World Cup.

As the star name at the launch of a new Middle East sports magazine, Gazza is hosting a sell-out dinner arranged to coincide with England's final European Championship group game against Ukraine.

His duties were supposed to extend no
further than analysing England's performance for the 450 guests and
taking questions from the floor, but he stunned organisers by donating a
string of prized items for the late-night auction.

Priceless: Gazza holds the two silver coins

Present: Gazza poses with the Rosary necklace

Gesture: Gazza poses with the two coins and his silver Rosary necklace

'All the proceeds will go to a charity of Paul's choosing, and it really is a wonderful and selfless show of generosity from him,' said Ben Jacobs, editor of Sports Talk.

'When the two silver coins and the silver Rosary necklace were valued back home in England, he was told they were priceless.

Charity: The England legend hopes to raise 100k at the auction

Charity: The England legend hopes to raise 100k at the auction

'We understand they are worth around 50,000 each, and he has also given us a signed Wayne Rooney shirt and photograph, a signed Steven Gerrard top and a photograph of England's 1966 World Cup winning team, signed by the nine surviving members.

'Pre-event silent bidding is available for the coins and necklace, so anyone wishing to enter bids should send them to [email protected] Paul is in tremendous spirits and looking extremely healthy, and we consider ourselves very fortunate to have him here.'

David Moyes delighted with Nikica Jelavic

Moyes delighted with investment in Jelavic who had 'something to prove'

|

UPDATED:

21:34 GMT, 6 April 2012

David Moyes believes Nikica Jelavic’s burning desire to prove a point has helped transform Everton’s season and made his 5million move look smart business.

The Everton manager admitted to being unsure about how quickly Jelavic would adapt to life in England following his January move from Rangers but three goals in six starts have quelled any lingering concerns.

Jelavic, 26, will spearhead Everton’s attempts to reach the FA Cup final but Moyes is not being distracted by talk of the semi-final showdown with Liverpool and wants to see the Croatian help maintain his good form in the Barclays Premier League, starting at Norwich today.

Transformation: Nikica Jelavic has improved Everton's play

Transformation: Nikica Jelavic has improved Everton's play

‘His all round play has given us a lift,’ said Moyes, who considered signing Jelavic initially when he played for Rapid Vienna. ‘We had badly needed a centre-forward for a couple of seasons and he felt as if he had something to prove.

‘This has been a bit of a step up for Nicky but he is a bit of a silent assassin. Some of the players we have brought in over the years have needed time to settle but he has got on with it.

‘We have needed him and are very happy with what he has done for us. He was well recommended by people like (former Everton and Rangers defender) Davie Weir and (former Everton and Rangers manager) Walter Smith. We had 5million to spend and we spent it wisely.’

Good business: David Moyes is delighted with his purchase

Good business: David Moyes is delighted with his purchase

Moyes, meanwhile, has confirmed that Sylvain Distin will continue to be part of his squad next season after Everton took up their option to extend the French defender’s contract by a further 12 months.

But Moyes will not make any decisions on the futures of Royston Drenthe and Steven Pienaar – who are on loan from Real Madrid and Tottenham respectively – until the end of the current campaign.

Alex McLeish not worried about Aston Villa fans protest

McLeish vows to get it right at Villa as fans plan protest ahead of City clash

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish has come out fighting ahead of a proposed fans' protest before Sunday's home game with Manchester City and insisted: 'I'll get it right at this club.'

The 'Vital Villa' fans' website posted a message earlier this week calling on supporters to voice their feelings an hour before the meeting with the current Barclays Premier League leaders.

But McLeish has thanked the majority of fans for their backing of his players in what he admits was always going to be a season of transition with Villa hovering around midtable.

Unmoved: Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish insists he will get it right at the Midlands club

Unmoved: Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish insists he will get it right at the Midlands club

McLeish said: 'I know there were a few Villa fans at the start of the season expressed dissent at me becoming a manager.

'That is out of my control but I know the silent majority of Villa fans have been absolutely tremendous in supporting the team home and away.

'I've met some of the fans and I really felt their passion but I think they felt mine as well – and I'm determined I'll get it right at this club.

'I do believe in one or two other seasons there have been sticky moments as well.

'This season is a bit of a rollercoaster but the points are there for us to climb the table.'

Villa faithful: Some Aston Villa fans are planning a protest against McLeish

Villa faithful: Some Aston Villa fans are planning a protest against McLeish

As regards the intended protest, McLeish said: 'It is out of my control, it is a modern day fashion.

'There were rumours of a protest against Arsene Wenger a couple of weeks ago so I'm in pretty good company!

'At the same time, it's not something I'm going to say I enjoy because we all like to be popular.

'It's a minority and something out of my control. But the one thing I can control is the team and what effort they put in to get the best out of them because I am pretty good at that.'

Striker Robbie Keane will make his final home appearance on loan to Villa and McLeish admits he would the chance to link up again with the Los Angeles Galaxy player in the future.

The long goodbye: Robbie Keane will make his final appearance at Villa Park this weekend

The long goodbye: Robbie Keane will make his final appearance at Villa Park this weekend

When asked if there was a possibility of Keane returning next season, McLeish said: 'I don't know. I am probably best to say you never know and maybe leave that one dangling.

'Would I get Keane back if there was a chance I would like to have a crack, yes.

'He has been enlightening in terms of his performances. They have been great but he has been a great character around the place and has livened things up a bit.

'I hope he leaves his print within the club as regards the young players and seeing how he goes about his training.”

McLeish worked with City keeper Joe Hart when Birmingham manager two years ago during a season-long loan and believes he has the ingredients to be a potential future England captain.

He said: “There are good examples of other keepers being captains. Dino Zoff lifted the World Cup, Sepp Maier was captain for a long time of Germany, and Shay Given is captain of the Irish team.

'Joe could be the next goalkeeping captain although personally I prefer to have an outfield player.

'I don't know how the next England manager will see it but certainly Hart can see everything in front of him, the whole picture, but it is difficult to get messages to everybody when you are a keeper.'