Tag Archives: sleepless

Michu snubbed by Tottenham, West Ham, Aston Villa, Stoke, Fulham and Leeds before Swansea swooped

REVEALED: The SIX Premier League clubs (and Leeds United) who snubbed Michu before Swansea swooped for 2.2m bargain

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UPDATED:

22:10 GMT, 31 December 2012

If Roberto Mancini is having
sleepless nights over missing out on Robin van Persie, then one can only
imagine the mood at Tottenham's training ground every time Michu scores
for Swansea.

There,
at Hotspur Way, something of a dark comedy routine has been going on
this season between Pat Jennings and Tim Sherwood, an exchange that
usually ends with one telling the other: 'Don't mention Michu'. He's the
one that got away. Twice.

And once he was going for free. But Tottenham are not alone. Sportsmail understands
that Fulham, Stoke, West Brom, West Ham and Aston Villa were also told
by an independent agent in Spain about the 26-year-old in the summer and
encouraged to bid for a man who had just scored 15 goals in La Liga.

Summer steal: Michu has been a sensation since joining Swansea from Rayo Vallecano for just 2.2m

Summer steal: Michu has been a sensation since joining Swansea from Rayo Vallecano for just 2.2m

Who needs Michu

Michu has taken the Premier League by storm since joining Swansea in the summer. Here's how his goal tally compares with the leading scorers at the clubs he snubbed…

Premier League goals 2012-13 (as of Dec 31)

Michu – 13

Spurs – Jermain Defoe – 10

Aston Villa – Christian Benteke – 5

West Ham – Kevin Nolan – 5

Stoke – Jonathan Walters – 5

Fulham – Dimitar Berbatov – 6

West Brom – Romelu Lukaku – 6

And one in the Championship…

Leeds United – Luciano Becchio – 14

The fact that those goals came for
Rayo Vallecano, a struggling team that frequently couldn't afford to pay
their players, wasn't enough to coax an offer.

The
fact that most of the goals had come from midfield, and his release
clause was a relative snip at 3.2million, was seemingly also ignored.

In
Tottenham's case, the shame is a little deeper. Spurs were first
notified about Michu in the summer of 2011, when his contract at Celta
Vigo, who were then in the Spanish second tier, expired. It meant that
he was available on a free transfer.

At
the time, Michu was largely playing a deeper, more defensive role and
Tottenham snubbed the recommendat ion of Gerry Armstrong, a former Spurs
player-turned-Spanish football expert, to make a bid.

'Even
then, it was obvious this guy was a different class,' Armstrong said.
'He played a bit further back, but he was so comfortable on the ball.

Before he was famous: Michu in action against Real Madrid in September 2011 (when he was still up for grabs)

Before he was famous: Michu in action against Real Madrid in September 2011 (when he was still up for grabs), but Andre Villas-Boas, Paul Lambert and Sam Allardyce (below, left-right) all passed up the chance to sign him

Andre Villas-Boas

Paul Lambert

Sam Allardyce

'He
had brilliant vision, could win headers, could pass, could shoot. There
didn't seem to be anything missing.' It wasn't just a Premier League
thing. Leeds, along with the six top-flight clubs, were contacted by a
Spanish agent in the summer and, like the rest, did not act on the
recommendation. Swansea stumped up 2.2m.

The Bigger Picture

'He was offered, I think, to a lot of clubs in the summer,' Michael Laudrup told Sportsmail back in August.

'I think he will be a very good player here. I have a feeling that he will.

'There
is a lot of value in the Spanish market right now. There is not a lot
of money and you can get some very good deals. I think this is a good
deal.'

That conversation took place in the
week before Swansea opened their season against QPR – Michu's debut. He
scored twice in a 5-0 win. Then he scored again in their second game, a
3-0 win over West Ham.

'He can score goals, but I think he can do more,' Laudrup said in the summer.

Indeed,
he passes well, beats players, can poach and has a pile-driver in
either foot. In keeping with Swansea's modus operandi, he is comfortable
taking possession in small spaces, but he's also 6ft 1in and is superb
in the air, making him a target for long balls and crosses.

Laudrup
spoke of adding a Plan B and a greater goal threat in pre-season and
Michu has given him both. His Premier League tally stands at 13, one
short of Van Persie, who cost current leaders Manchester United 24m.

Paying attention: Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque says he will hand Michu his first international cap

Paying attention: Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque says he will hand Michu his first international cap

The Tale of the Tape

A week ago, Vicente del Bosque, the
Spain manager, took the unusual step of promising Michu his first
international cap, almost two months before of the world and European
champions' February 6 friendly with Uruguay in Doha.

Del
Bosque spoke out the night before Michu scored his 13th league goal of
the season in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United on December 23.

A
couple of days earlier, Sir Alex Ferguson had told his club's website
that he had not heard of the Spaniard prior to this season.

He
added that he would be having words with his scouting department.
Fergie won't be the only Premier League manager doing that. Or
Championship boss, for that matter.

Leading the way: Robin van Persie has scored the most goals in the Premier League this season

Leading the way: Robin van Persie has scored the most goals in the Premier League this season

VIDEO: Here's what all the fuss is about…

Kevin Davies quit Twitter after abuse gave him sleepless nights

Bolton talisman Davies quit Twitter after abuse gave him sleepless nights

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UPDATED:

10:57 GMT, 14 November 2012

Kevin Davies has revealed Twitter abuse stopped him sleeping at night.

The Bolton striker – who hardly uses Twitter anymore – believes the social networking site is an unnecessary distraction that can play on the mind of young footballers.

'If it was me, I would advise not to go on it. I enjoyed my time on it because it gave you the opportunity to have conversations with fans and people and charities – that was fantastic.

Abuse: Kevin Davies (right) was forced to quit Twitter

Abuse: Kevin Davies (right) was forced to quit Twitter

'But when it gets to the point where you get abuse and stuff I think it can play on your mind, it can affect you.

'If you’re not sleeping at night wondering what you’re going to be waking up to, I don’t think you really gain anything out of being on there.'

Davies, who made his 600th career appearance in Wanderers’ 2-2 draw at Blackpool on Saturday, was an active participant on the social media site until May 2011.

The 34-year-old took exception to abusive messages aimed at himself and wife Emma and although he still uses his Twitter page, it is predominantly to retweet information on charitable causes.

Marvin Sordell was the subject of vile slurs on the site after claiming he was racially abused while warming up as a substitute during Bolton’s defeat against Millwall last month.

Abuse: Marvin Sordell was subjected to slurs on Twitter

Abuse: Marvin Sordell was subjected to slurs on Twitter

An offensive banner about the England Under-21 forward unfurled at the New Den last weekend in the wake of a 13-year-old fan being banned over the Sordell incident stands as the latest fall-out.]

On the barbs thrown his team-mate’s way, Davies said: 'I’ve heard a few things. I don’t really go on Twitter anymore so I can’t really comment. Not that Davies thinks Twitter is without its merits, having enjoyed the opportunity for fan interaction that the modern game often denies.

'When I was on there I had some great conversations with people,' he said.

'Sometimes after games you can’t sleep and you’re having random conversations with a fan – that side, I absolutely loved it.

'People say it’s only ‘the one per cent’ but one per cent of 180,000 people following me, that’s still a lot of stick to be getting.

'If you get family and things brought into it like that I just don’t think you need that in your life.'

Still going strong: Davies remained with Bolton despite their relegation

Still going strong: Davies remained with Bolton despite their relegation

In the wake of Bolton’s 5-0 FA Cup semi-final thrashing against Stoke in April 2011, seasoned-pro Davies found the slings and arrows difficult to deal with – making him ponder the detrimental effect of Twitter on younger players like Sordell.

He added: 'After semi-finals and stuff I was hurting and everyone else was, and it just comes to a point where you’re constantly checking, wondering if you’re getting stick.

'Why do you need that Just concentrate on your football. What you are gaining out of it as a 21 or 22-year I old, I don’t know.

'I came off it and I felt a big weight off my shoulders because you’re constantly having to wonder what you’re tweeting or having to justify yourself.'

London Olympics 2012: Jessica Ennis watching House to relieve pressure

Edgy Ennis under House arrest as heptathlete enjoys some escapism in the Algarve

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UPDATED:

21:56 GMT, 24 July 2012

Olympics 2012

Hugh Laurie in the character of Dr Gregory House has been the latest this week to play an important role in the preparation of Jessica Ennis as Britain’s golden girl.

In the Robinson Centre, in the Algarve resort of Monte Gordo, where Britain’s track and field athletes are hiding themselves from the brouhaha around the Olympic Games, there is little to do to keep the demons of doubt in check.

Marooned there, like a castaway on Roy Plomley’s desert island, Ennis has chosen the box set of the final series of House as her luxury, hours of escapism to keep her mind occupied when the danger exists that it will start to play games with her.

Stop right there: Jessica Ennis has been trying to avoid injury through cautious training

Stop right there: Jessica Ennis has been trying to avoid injury through cautious training

Training, says her coach Toni Minichiello, is done. The last major session was last Wednesday before they left Sheffield. He describes what remains as a ‘polishing job’.

He says: ‘I call it short corners and free-kicks. Minor stuff.’

The British team are not in Portugal to train but to avoid all that is happening at home. The Robinson Centre is their isolation ward. ‘It gets them out of the country, away from the everyday routine that are distractions — walking the dog, paying bills, staying in because the plumber is coming round to do the boiler,’ explained Minichiello.

‘When you take all those distractions out it gives you a lot more time to focus. It is like a holiday where the only focus is the sport. You get away from the stresses that everybody has in their day-to-day life.’

Ennis and Minichiello have been there since Friday. Already the 26-year-old heptathlete is deep into that box set but it is the day she is filling rather than sleepless nights.

‘I don’t have sleepless nights but I am starting to think more about the Games,’ said Ennis. ‘When I get into the Olympic Village is when it will kick in.’ That will be next Tuesday.

Escapism: Ennis is absorbed by the final series of House

Escapism: Ennis is absorbed by the final series of House

Everything is planned to the last detail. There is even a mechanism in place in case something dramatic happens in an athlete’s home life, a bereavement even.

Ennis’s mother has been assigned the role of deciding whether her daughter should even be told.

Minichiello says Ennis has wanted to wrap herself in cotton wool for some time now. Recent training sessions have been flexible. ‘If she wants to do two reps instead of four, the programme can accommodate her,’ he said.

Ennis missed the Beijing Olympics in 2008 because of a stress fracture. She admits: ‘I may have been more cautious this year than before. It’s hard not to because you don’t want anything to go wrong.

‘I have done a few sessions where I am tighter than usual and I’m thinking to myself, “Do I need to do another rep” but then you tell yourself, “If you don’t do that rep you’ve not trained as hard and you might not do as well as you want”.’

On Sunday the majority of the British athletics team joined her in Portugal. On Tuesday, the BBC’s television cameras were allowed in, and today athletes are spending an afternoon talking to the rest of the media, a little reminder of the attention they are escaping at home.

After that it is back to the box set, and those final 22 episodes, before, hopefully, her own rather happier ending than that of Dr House.

Euro 2012: Keith Andrews believes Ireland can do better against Spain

We're not scared of Spain! Andrews says Ireland's dream is still alive

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UPDATED:

14:44 GMT, 11 June 2012

Keith Andrews insists he will not lose any sleep over the prospect of rubbing shoulders with Spain's superstars.

The Republic of Ireland head into Thursday night's Group C showdown with the reigning world and European champions knowing defeat would end their Euro 2012 campaign with a game still to play.

Not afraid: Keith Andrews (left) says Ireland are not afraid of the prospect of Spain

Not afraid: Keith Andrews (left) says Ireland are not afraid of the prospect of Spain

Indeed, even a draw could end their hopes if the result of the Croatia v Italy match goes against them after last night's 3-1 defeat by Slaven Bilic's men in Poznan.

Stars: Xavi (right) and co will be a tough bunch to beat

Stars: Xavi (right) and co will be a tough bunch to beat

The game in Gdansk will prove a particular test for Andrews and his midfield colleagues as they attempt to contain and overhaul the likes of Andres Iniesta and Xavi, although he is adamant the challenge holds no fears.

Asked if the prospects would give him sleepless nights, the 31-year-old said: 'No, I don't think so. We are obviously against top teams – the three teams are fantastic sides.

'Croatia showed that at times last night and Spain will be probably an even sterner test.

'But I think we can play better than we did last night as well and hopefully we can do that on Thursday.'

Ireland's task always looked a steep one when they were drawn in such a tough group, but the gradient of the incline has grown dramatically as a result of last night's defeat.

Account opened: Sean St Ledger bagged Ireland's goal against Croatia

Account opened: Sean St Ledger bagged Ireland's goal against Croatia

However, while the thousands of Irish fans who filled the Municipal Stadium with such noise and colour left fearing the worst, Andrews will not give up hope that Giovanni Trapattoni's men can get the points they need to secure a prolonged stay in Poland and Ukraine.

He said: 'We have to believe we can or else we might as well go back to Dublin now.

'It was always going to be a difficult group and it certainly proved that last night. The way we have started, we have given ourselves an uphill task.'

That in essence is what the Republic did in their opening game.

Not at their best: Spain only managed a draw with Italy

Not at their best: Spain only managed a draw with Italy

They fell behind after just three minutes when striker Mario Mandzukic headed past Shay Given and, although defender Sean St Ledger levelled with a 19th-minute header, the respite was short-lived.

Everton striker Nikica Jelavic restored Croatia's lead two minutes before the break when, having initially looked to be in an offside position, he was perfectly placed to benefit from Stephen Ward's sliced clearance.

Trapattoni claimed afterward Jelavic had been two yards offside, but Andrews, who raised his arm immediately in a bid to attract the attention of Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers, revealed that had not been his concern.

Not over yet: Ireland must get at least a draw from Spain to keep their hopes of qualification alive

Not over yet: Ireland must get at least a draw from Spain to keep their hopes of qualification alive

He said: 'I wasn't appealing for an offside, I was appealing for a foul on Stephen Ward, which a few of us were.

'I didn't have an angle for an offside. Some people have said it was, some have said it might have come off our player.

'But I thought there was a foul on Stephen Ward, their player clipped him and the ball broke to Jelavic.

'It was just a reaction at the time. Whether it was or wasn't, I'm not too sure.'

Mandzukic made it 3-1 within three minutes of the restart when his header went in off a combination of the post and Given, and while Ireland probably should have had a penalty for Gordon Schildenfeld's crude challenge on skipper Robbie Keane, they were well beaten on the night.

And finally... Ireland must face Mario Balotelli (left) and Antonio Cassano (right) of Italy

And finally… Ireland must face Mario Balotelli (left) and Antonio Cassano (right) of Italy

Andrews said: 'It was very difficult. Basically, we conceded goals at the wrong times.

'There's never going to be a good time to concede goals, but certainly in the first three minutes and then just before and just after half-time are probably cardinal sins in football.

'You are taught that at schoolboy level. We shot ourselves in the foot.
“We were under no illusions – they are a fantastic side. It wasn't a case of us being over-confident.

'Our preparation was spot-on, our build-up, we were going in full of confidence, but with the utmost respect for the team.

'We felt we could achieve a result and unfortunately, we weren't able to do that.'

Paul Nicholls facing anxious wait with Kauto Star

Nicholls facing anxious wait to see if Kauto Star can run in Gold Cup

Paul Nicholls faces a second week of sleepless nights before he knows if his great chaser, Kauto Star, can meet his date with destiny at Cheltenham.

We can expect daily bulletins from Ditcheat as the nation's favourite racehorse continues his recovery from the chilling moment his world turned upside down during a routine schooling session.

The stress experienced by the champion trainer was all too evident as we watched Kauto Star step out of his box early on Friday morning.

Getting there: Kauto Star has a good chance of recovering fully for Cheltenham

Getting there: Kauto Star has a good chance of recovering fully for Cheltenham

'It's so frustrating because he has
been absolutely flying all season until that fall. In the form he was
in, we had to be hopeful of another huge run in the Gold Cup,' said
Nicholls.

'To look at him you wouldn't think
there is anything wrong with him. He is not lame and is cantering away
every day. But his regular rider, my head lad Clifford Baker, says he is
just not quite right at the moment and I have to listen to him.

'Kauto is feeling something. It's not
that serious, we think we know what it is and we are treating it, but
unless Clifford believes he is back to where he was before the fall he
won't be there on March 16. We haven't given up on getting him there and
we'll make a decision on Saturday.

'We have been incredibly lucky at
the Festival over the years. I have to say this is the hardest run-up to
that meeting I've known, with Denman and Master Minded now retired
through injury, others having setbacks, then some coughing in the yard
and now Kauto hurting himself.

'The worst thing is that I realise this is
the last realistic chance he will have of running in the Gold Cup.'

Nicholls concedes that the
consequences of Kauto Star's heavy tumble with Ruby Walsh during a
routine schooling session nine days ago could have been infinitely worse
for horse and rider.

'Kauto was full of himself, jumping
brilliantly,' said Nicholls. 'I remember asking Ruby to pop over an open
ditch once more and that would do.

Dream team: Ruby Walsh and Kauto Star

Dream team: Ruby Walsh and Kauto Star

'I was at the take-off and he
literally launched himself at the fence from too far away, something he
did a time or two in his early races. He made an error of judgment,
panicked in mid-air and turned over.

'I knew straight away it wasn't
good. It looked like he might have hurt himself quite badly. When he got
to his feet I think he might have been a bit concussed. In my heart of
hearts I felt he would be very lucky to escape unscathed. We brought him
back to the yard and when we trotted him up and down he was sound. I
felt a bit better after that, but I've hardly slept a wink since.

'If he doesn't get to the Gold Cup
I'll feel dreadful on the big day, really empty. I'm not even sure I'd
be able to watch the race.'

Optimistic: Paul Nicholls says the signs are good for Kauto Star

Optimistic: Paul Nicholls says the signs are good for Kauto Star

Nicholls is unwilling to call time on
a career that has taken Kauto Star to an astonishing 16 Grade One
victories including two Gold Cups.

'All we are interested in is trying to get him to Cheltenham,' he said.

'There is still time, but if he has to miss the Gold Cup we will give him a long summer's break.

'There is no way we are thinking of retiring him given the form he has been in all season.

'Although he's 12, he behaves as if
he is much younger. We'll assess him in the autumn, just as we did last
year, and if we are happy with him in every way we could possibly look
at the Betfair Chase or another King George.

'What he did for racing in coming
back to win both those in tremendous style was brilliant after I was
getting stick at the end of last season for not retiring him. Now it is
the other way, with everyone wanting him to run at Cheltenham.

'What people have to realise is that
these horses are a long time retired standing out in some field. If you
asked Kauto what he would rather be doing, I know what his answer would
be because he loves every minute of what he does.'

Andrew Strauss needs to perform against Pakistan – Martin Samuel

It's early, but out-of-sorts Strauss should raise the alarm

Andrew Strauss once claimed he played better after a sleepless night. He could do with setting his alarm clock for a call on the hour in Abu Dhabi, then, because if ever a man needed runs it is the England captain.

His team have been a roaring success, until they arrived in Asia at least, but he has been a worrying failure with the bat for more than a year.

His last international century was in the second innings in Brisbane, 2010, the first Test of the triumphant Ashes series.

Ton-derful: Strauss hasn't scored a Test century since Brisbane, November 2010

Ton-derful: Strauss hasn't scored a Test century since Brisbane, November 2010

Until now, the high level of performance has distracted from Strauss's problem. If the team are winning, and he is their captain, why rock the boatThe logic is certainly compelling.

And then, suddenly, against Pakistan in Dubai, England were not winning. England were floundering and one of the reasons was the failure of the top-order batsmen. At which point, Strauss's dry spell became an issue.

Leading from the front: Strauss needs a prominent performance with the bat

Leading from the front: Strauss needs a prominent performance with the bat

It does not help that at the non-striker's end stands the man many see as the solution to the problem: Alastair Cook, prolific in Australia, scorer of 294 against India at Edgbaston last summer and a captain in waiting.

There will come a time for succession and on Asia's flat wickets it will arrive sooner rather than later if Strauss cannot score.

The track here in Abu Dhabi, for instance, is regarded as a ribbon-tied gift to a batsman with a single century to his name in 42 innings.

Averaging 23.42 since the start of last summer, if there is ever a Test in which Strauss needs to take personal advantage, it is this one.

A dead track is of no assistance to a team needing to square the series with one Test remaining, but to Strauss personally it is an opportunity.

Thinking time: The England captain's position in the side could come under threat

Thinking time: The England captain's position in the side could come under threat

'Anyone who is under any illusion that Test match cricket gets any easier as you get older is wrong,' he said before England's final practice session.

'It's always tough. I think when you're young and naive you look for that magic answer if things go wrong, so you'll be changing your technique, trying different things in the nets. When you're a bit older you realise the best thing is to keep everything the same, keep your preparation the same, don't have too many concerns about technique and just make sure you watch the ball.

If ever a man needed runs it is the England captain

'That's the best recipe for doing well, but it's always a challenge mentally. The trick is to prepare properly and when you get in a position to score a big hundred, make it count.

'That's where I've let myself down over the last year, getting out at 50 or 60 when I could have gone on.

'Being captain can work both ways because overanalysing your game and getting too concerned by technical worries can put you in a bad place mentally.

'As captain, you're obviously busier and have got a lot of other things on your mind. Sometimes that's not a bad thing. Generally I've found being captain has helped me. I hope that will continue to be the case.'

Flat out: Strauss will be keen for England to bounce back after their first-Test defeat

Flat out: Strauss will be keen for England to bounce back after their first-Test defeat

Strauss had some rotten luck in the second innings in Dubai and Cook says he is mystified by his form, having never seen him strike a ball better in the nets.

Strauss accepts the little team talk, but it is plain that a role as the modern Mike Brearley – whose intelligence as captain compensated for some ordinary performances with the bat – does not sit comfortably with him.

'I'm conscious that it is important as a captain to lead from the front by scoring runs,' he added.

'My responsibility is to get the team off to a good start. Having been around the Test match scene for a while, I know form ebbs and flows and one innings can completely change your perspective and the perspective of others about how well you're playing, but I don't think there's room for sentiment in the game.'

Talking with Strauss after the Ashes series, it was clear the pressure on an opening batsman weighed more heavily than he will perhaps acknowledge on the eve of a Test.

'Touring is so much harder than being at home because you don't have that network with you and international sport is very stressful,' he told me. 'If you fail, everyone knows about it .

One of the challenges of making a long career is dealing with tours and finding ways of escaping and coping.

'You never know if you can cope until you go through it. I don't want to paint too bleak a picture, because it can be amazing, but how you cope affects how many runs you score.'

So, well hidden, England's captain is probably going through a tough old time right now. What he needs is a bad night's sleep.