Tag Archives: statistic

Brian McDermott says Reading can upset Christmas trend and avoid relegation

McDermott backing rock-bottom Reading to beat history and avoid the drop

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 25 December 2012

Brian McDermott is ignoring that old statistic about the fate awaiting the Premier League's bottom club at Christmas, and will instead focus on some altogether more positive facts and figures to kickstart Reading's bid for survival.

West Brom remain the only team in the Premier League era to stay up after being in Reading's current position, but McDermott has told his players to use their success in winning promotion against all the odds last season as a source of inspiration.

They were 16th in the Championship table in November, and trailed pacesetters Southampton and West Ham by huge margins before winning 15 of the last 17 games to finish top of the table.

We can do it: Brian McDermott says Reading can still survive

We can do it: Brian McDermott says Reading can still survive

Another Herculean effort is required in the second half of this season after Reading suffered a seventh successive defeat at Manchester City on Saturday. But McDermott remains optimistic they can do it again as he prepares to face Swansea at the Madejski Stadium on Boxing Day.

Asked about the gloomy Christmas statistic, he replied: 'West Brom have done it, so it is doable.

'My view on that is that if you're 20 points off the lead, which we were at one point last season, and then go and win it I'm not sure anyone has done that before.

'It's a decent stat. We were loads and loads of points behind West Ham and Southampton and still managed to win the league. So it shows what this team can do.

Foul Barry clambered over Nicky Shorey as he scored for City

Foul Barry clambered over Nicky Shorey as he scored for City

Record of Premier League's bottom club at Christmas

Record of Premier League's bottom club at Christmas

'Our players are winners. They were
champions last season in the Championship. The year before that they got
to the Playoff Final. The year before we were in a relegation spot and
won loads of games.

'What
I've found with our players is that they are incredibly resilient. What
I've found about myself is that I'm incredibly resilient.' McDermott and
his players must pick themselves up after Gareth Barry broke their
hearts with a winner in the second minute of added time at the Etihad
Stadium.

Reading were furious that referee Mike Dean did not rule the goal out for a push on Nicky Shorey.

But once the anger subsided, McDermott was able to draw some positives from a fine performance against the Premier League champions.

'We're in a results business, ' he added. 'We're confident with 20 games to go that if we play like that we can get results.

'I've not had one in the last seven games but, results wise, my record in the last two-and-a-half years has been good.'

Arsene Wenger will NOT be sacked insist Arsenal but club chief Ivan Gazidis is set to face fans" fury at Emirates event

Wenger will NOT be sacked insist Arsenal but club chief Gazidis is set to face fans' fury at Emirates event

By
Sami Mokbel

PUBLISHED:

12:17 GMT, 12 December 2012

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UPDATED:

16:40 GMT, 12 December 2012

Arsenal are throwing their unequivocal backing behind underfire manager Arsene Wenger.

An increasing number of Gunners supporters are calling for the French manager's head after a difficult start to the season and club chief executive Ivan Gazidis will face a hostile audience tonight at the Emirates Stadium when he hosts a drinks reception for the Arsenal Supporters Trust.

The pressure on Wenger intensified last night as Arsenal were dumped out of the Carling Cup by League Two side Bradford.

Stand by your man: Arsene Wenger watches his side crash out of the Capital One Cup at Bradford last night, but the manager will continue to enjoy unwavering support

Stand by your man: Arsene Wenger watches his side crash out of the Capital One Cup at Bradford last night, but the manager will continue to enjoy unwavering support

HE'S USELESS!

Which Arsenal played has been dubbed Useless Read/watch Sportsmail brilliant new video column by clicking here…

But the 63-year-old is under no danger of losing his job despite their recent slump.

The Gunners board remain 100 per cent behind Wenger, who is continuing with his plans to bolster the squad in next month's transfer window.

Wenger has an excellent relationship with the club's hierarchy, who are in no doubt the Frenchman remains the right man to lead Arsenal.

The board's unwavering support of Wenger will anger a growing band of supporters who feel it is now time for a change.

A right old coating: Wenger watches his side slump at Bradford's Coral Windows Stadium last night's cup

A right old coating: Wenger watches his side slump at Bradford's Coral Windows Stadium last night's cup

Bradford City supporters v Arsenal

Ivan Gazidis

Hat-trick: A Bradford fan celebrates last night (left) but Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis will face a hostile audience at a supporters' event at the Emirates Stadium tonight

Arsenal will complete an eight-year trophy drought if they fail to win any silverware this season, a statistic deemed not good enough by some fans.

Nevertheless, Wenger's position remains one of the safest in European football despite the club's problems.

WENGER MUST GO… THIS ARSENAL FAN HAS DECIDED ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Matt Fortune

By the time this piece is written, I'll need a bath. No, something more, a cleansing of the soul, perhaps. Forgive me Arsene, for I have sinned.

Here goes… Wenger out.

Defeat to Bradford, a team ranked more than 60 places lower than Arsenal, was humiliating for a club of this stature.

Forget their current form, injuries or any other extenuating circumstances, it was a shameful night for all involved.

The League Cup quarter-final result will go down in history, the lead in those 'It's happened before' newspaper items many years from now.

'Valley of despair', one headline screamed. Valley of the damned, I'd prefer. It was the final straw.

Click here to read the full Matt Fortune article…

Arsene Wenger will NOT be sacked insist Arsenal but club chief Gazidis is set to face fans" fury at Emirates event

Arsene Wenger will NOT be sacked insist Arsenal but club chief Gazidis is set to face fans' fury at Emirates event

By
Sami Mokbel

PUBLISHED:

12:17 GMT, 12 December 2012

|

UPDATED:

13:24 GMT, 12 December 2012

Arsenal are throwing their unequivocal backing behind underfire manager Arsene Wenger.

An increasing number of Gunners supporters are calling for the French manager's head after a difficult start to the season and club chief executive Ivan Gazidis will face a hostile audience tonight at the Emirates Stadium when he hosts a drinks reception for the Arsenal Supporters Trust.

The pressure on Wenger intensified last night as Arsenal were dumped out of the Carling Cup by League Two side Bradford.

Stand by your man: Arsene Wenger watches his side crash out of the Capital One Cup at Bradford last night, but the manager will continue to enjoy unwavering support

Stand by your man: Arsene Wenger watches his side crash out of the Capital One Cup at Bradford last night, but the manager will continue to enjoy unwavering support

HE'S USELESS!

Which Arsenal played has been dubbed Useless Read/watch Sportsmail brilliant new video column by clicking here…

But the 63-year-old is under no danger of losing his job despite their recent slump.

The Gunners board remain 100 per cent behind Wenger, who is continuing with his plans to bolster the squad in next month's transfer window.

Wenger has an excellent relationship with the club's hierarchy, who are in no doubt the Frenchman remains the right man to lead Arsenal.

The board's unwavering support of Wenger will anger a growing band of supporters who feel it is now time for a change.

A right old coating: Wenger watches his side slump at Bradford's Coral Windows Stadium last night's cup

A right old coating: Wenger watches his side slump at Bradford's Coral Windows Stadium last night's cup

Bradford City supporters v Arsenal

Ivan Gazidis

Hat-trick: A Bradford fan celebrates last night (left) but Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis will face a hostile audience at a supporters' event at the Emirates Stadium tonight

Arsenal will complete an eight-year trophy drought if they fail to win any silverware this season, a statistic deemed not good enough by some fans.

Nevertheless, Wenger's position remains one of the safest in European football despite the club's problems.

WENGER MUST GO… THIS ARSENAL FAN HAS DECIDED ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Matt Fortune

By the time this piece is written, I'll need a bath. No, something more, a cleansing of the soul, perhaps. Forgive me Arsene, for I have sinned.

Here goes… Wenger out.

Defeat to Bradford, a team ranked more than 60 places lower than Arsenal, was humiliating for a club of this stature.

Forget their current form, injuries or any other extenuating circumstances, it was a shameful night for all involved.

The League Cup quarter-final result will go down in history, the lead in those 'It's happened before' newspaper items many years from now.

'Valley of despair', one headline screamed. Valley of the damned, I'd prefer. It was the final straw.

Click here to read the full Matt Fortune article…

Darren Bent and Paul Lambert row – why is the Aston Villa misfit not playing

Revealed: The full transcript of how Paul Lambert explains his treatment of Villa's 24million misfit striker Darren Bent

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UPDATED:

13:49 GMT, 28 November 2012

With Aston Villa being the joint lowest goalscorers in the Premier League after the weekend's action, Tuesday night's home fixture against Reading afforded manager Paul Lambert the chance to improve that statistic.

Christian Benteke's late winner afforded the Scot welcome cheer as Villa collected their second home triumph of the season as they jumped out of the relegation zone following a 1-0 win.

Scroll down for the full transcript from last night's interview with Paul Lambert

Out of favour: Darren Bent has lost his place in the Villa side

Out of favour: Darren Bent has lost his place in the Villa side

Hot shot: 24m Bent has scored 22 goals in 47 appearances

Hot shot: 24m Bent has scored 22 goals in 47 appearances

But there was, once more, no place in the starting XI for Darren Bent. The England striker has scored over 100 goals in the Premier League, yet summer signing Jordan Bowery was given the nod ahead of the club's 24m record signing. Bent spent his evening watching from an executive box.

Despite several attempts by the assembled broadcast and print media to establish a reason for this, it seems no-one is the wiser.

The facts are that Lambert said he would get Bent firing once more upon his arrival at the club. Since then, he has been made captain. Following an ankle injury, he has been relegated to the bench and now is unable to feature at all. Of course, Paul Lambert can point to the scoreline as justification for his actions. That is his absolute right as manager of Aston Villa Football Club.

Just for the record, however, for all those Villa fans scratching their heads at Bent's exclusion, we are reproducing last night's post-match press conference verbatim – to prove to those who remain puzzled by the whole situation the questions have been asked.

Under pressure: Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert

Under pressure: Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert

Suited and booted: Bent watches the action from an executive box on Tuesday night

Suited and booted: Bent watches the action from an executive box on Tuesday night

Lambert on Bent… the press conference transcript in full

Press: While Benteke had a big game tonight people will wonder why Darren Bent wasn't in the squad tonight.

Paul Lambert: He was in the squad.

Press: But not on the bench, even.

Paul Lambert: It was the same on Saturday. I just picked the same group
that deserves the chance to keep going. I always do what I think is
right for the football club.

Press: You do realise that with ten minutes to go with the game
goalless, you have a 24m signing sitting in the stands. With respect to
Jordan Bowery, are you more likely to get a goal from him or Darren
Bent

Paul Lambert: But you can't talk about ifs, buts or maybes. The reality
is that we won. That's the game. I'll always make that decision. I'll
make an honest judgement who plays.

Press: That's accepted, it's your head on the chopping block if you
don't win. But just for the record, what's the problem with Bent

Paul Lambert: There's no point me saying it again, is there (Laughs)

Press: It was a big game tonight and we wondered why you wouldn't at
least have the safety net of a proven Premier League goalscorer on the
bench. What is the problem

Paul Lambert: Absolutely none.

Press: So you just don't fancy him as a player

Paul Lambert: I do. But I've told you before that I'll pick a game to
win. I have 25 guys to look after and the most important thing is this
club. I'll make decisions and I'll live or die by them. That's the
nature of the beast.

Press: How did he take it when you announced who was playing

Paul Lambert: I just read the team out. The lads who were going to take
the field of play and those on the bench, you have to get them focused
on the game. All I try to do is pick a team to win a game.

Press: There were reports he stomped off Are they right

Paul Lambert: No, honestly, I would tell you. (Laughter from the floor) (And then from Lambert)

Press: How is his attitude Is that a problem

Paul Lambert: Fine. I'll do what's best for Aston Villa.

Press: So what does he have to do to get back in, Paul

Paul Lambert: Any player that I have, you work hard, you stay in the side. You play on merit.

Press: So, he's just not working hard enough, then

Paul Lambert: I never said that, you did. I never said that. If people
aren't working hard enough, I need to pick people who will affect the
game.

Press: Will he be sold in January He clearly doesn't fit the bill for you…

Paul Lambert: Honestly, my main concern is winning games for this football club. Crowd are brilliant, right behind you.

Press: Can we clarify that you have no problem with his application

Paul Lambert: No, none.

Press: Will he get a chance before January

Paul Lambert: Everyone will get the same chance. I see them train every
day, at work every day. Then you try and pick a team that will win.

Press: You've been proved right, haven't you Benteke scored and Villa won…

Paul Lambert: That's the game, you live and die by your decisions to do your best for the club.

Press: Is he down at all, Paul

Paul Lambert: Who

Press: Your club record signing.

Press: You said he knows what he needs to do to get back in, has there been any kind of conversation between the pair of you

Paul Lambert: I've said I don't have any problem.

Press: There were reports he left the stadium after the team was announced…

Paul Lambert: I don't know anything about that. I haven't heard that, no.

Press: Can you see him playing again here

Paul Lambert: You never know. I'll keep saying it: I'll play a team and
squad to win. The game's about winning. I've got 26 guys, some are
injured. It's a team game. You need everyone to pull the same way and
that's what we will create here.

Press: If a player was to take the hump and leave the stadium following
the announcement of the team, would it be club policy to discipline him
(Interjection from Press officer, “It didn't happen.”)

Press: Can you understand why we ask these questions, he's a man you made club captain…

Paul Lambert: Yes, I understand the questions. I get them every Friday.
It's the same answers. It's boring for you. I don't know what else you
can write about it.

Press: To put it into perspective, this was a big game tonight. I know
you've said you don't look at the table but 28,000 people here tonight
were looking at it. We were looking at it, our offices in London are
looking at it. We are wondering why, a man the club signed two years
ago, to provide goals doesn't get a run under you, given the fact that
when you came in, you showered him with praise, then you made him
captain. Now, not only can he not get into the side, he can't get on the
bench I know you have 20-odd professionals to look after, but the
question remains when you are struggling for goals, what's going on

Paul Lambert: I know you have your jobs to do, I'll give you the same answer.

Press: But the fans want to know and we are conduits to them.

Paul Lambert: I'm trying to give you an honest answer. If I was going to
lie to you, honestly, I would. It's my decision. Is that all right

Press: Can we put it another way Villa haven't scored a lot of goals.
We are wondering why someone who throughout his career has scored a lot
of goals we are trying to understand the thought process you are going
through to make that. What is it, so we can understand it

Paul Lambert: I think the decision is one I will make. You can't please
people all the time. Stephen Ireland and Charles N'Zogbia might not be
happy. Shay Given, for instance. It's not easy. I'll say it again. I've
got other lads to look after. I've never had one problem with any of
them.
So there you have it.

Are you any the wiser

No, nor us.

Webb Simpson: Don"t ban long putters

Don't ban the long putter! US Open champion Simpson against potential rule change

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UPDATED:

10:48 GMT, 23 October 2012

US Open champion Webb Simpson insists he is not worried about his long putter being banned – but believes outlawing the club would be wrong.

American Simpson, one of three players to win a major recently with the controversial club, has been trying out a conventional 'short' putter in anticipation of a possible rule change.

Simpson also argues that large-headed drivers have had a much bigger impact on the game.

Size matters: Webb Simpson uses one of the controversial longer putters

Size matters: Webb Simpson uses one of the controversial longer putters

The United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and Ancient (R&A), the game's two governing bodies, have been discussing the status of 'anchored putters' with a ban among the options being considered.

'”There's a bunch of arguments going around but I haven't heard a good one yet,' Simpson, in Bermuda for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, said.

'I'm friends with a lot of the R&A guys and the USGA guys. It's nothing personal and I know they are trying to do it for the betterment of the game, but I don't think it's a good decision.'

Simpson switched to the belly putter in 2004 but says he has seen no evidence in the PGA Tour's 'strokes gained over the field' putting statistic that the longer putter gives players any advantage.

'Last year there was no one in the top 20 in strokes gained category that anchored a putter,' he said.

'So the argument of, “it's an advantage”, you have to throw that out there.

Big fan: Keegan Bradley enjoys having a bit of extra length when he's on the green

Big fan: Keegan Bradley enjoys having a bit of extra length when he's on the green

Golf blog

'It's going to be tough if they do ban it. It's going to be tough for a lot of people, not just players. It's going to be tough for committees to really have a stance on it and explain why.'

The use of an extended putter seems to be totally at odds with the spirit of the game, but it has played a key role in reviving the careers of several players who have suffered from the yips, or the putting twitches.

Broomhandle or belly putters, pioneered by 2002 European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance, among others, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, are tucked under the chin or into the belly.

They are swung in a pendulum fashion, and crucially make demands on a different set of small muscles and nerves.

'The objections at professional level are all about if people become failed putters in the conventional way, why should they have a crutch to come back and compete against me when I haven't failed in the conventional way,' R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said earlier this year.

'That's the general argument one hears. But we're also seeing now people who can putt perfectly well in the conventional way thinking that an anchored stroke gives them an advantage.'

Big stick for the Big Easy: Ernie Els won The Open with his long putter

Big stick for the Big Easy: Ernie Els won The Open with his long putter

Three of the last five major winners used long putters – Keegan Bradley at the 2011 PGA Championship, Simpson at the Olympic Club in June this year and Ernie Els at The Open the following month.

'What I found was I just became a more consistent putter,' said the 27-year-old Simpson. 'I don't get hot quite as much. I don't get cold quite as much.

'With the short putter, I was a real streaky putter, so in my head I figured if I want to play this game for a long time, I don't want my putting to be such highs and lows.'

Simpson believes that other rule changes in the game have been much more significant.

'With the changes in the groove, the golf balls, the drivers, you've got a little persimmon head 20 years ago the size of a fist and now a titanium head 460 cc (cubic centimeters),' he said.

'In 1980 the long drive guy was hitting it 285 (yards), and now if you hit it 285, you're one of the shortest guys on the Tour.

'To me it's a bigger change to go from that size head to what we play now than the putter.'

The Open 2012: Padraig Harrington – Beware of the young guns

Beware of the young guns, warns Harrington

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 17 July 2012

Padraig Harrington paid his dues before his trio of major triumphs, but he questions whether that is necessary now in an era when every one of the big tournaments seems to turn up a new winner.

He believes an aggressive mindset among the new breed, lack of fear and greater strength in depth is behind the remarkable statistic that shows 15 different winners from the last 15 of golf's biggest events.

'When I came out on tour in '96 you kind of felt like you had to learn how to win and maybe lose a few tournaments before you were allowed a win,' said the 40-year-old Irishman, on whom there is some smart money this week at Lytham.

Warning: Harrington is among the favourites to win this week

Warning: Harrington is among the favourites to win this week

'Now guys turn up and think, “If it's my week I can beat anybody”. They are hoping to hit their week and if they do they run with it and they shoot 20 under par and win. I think you're starting to see that attitude come into the majors.

'When I started out, I put Monty on a pedestal, Ernie Els up on a pedestal. Retief Goosen was up there.

'I don't think the young guys are like that any more. They're just happy to play their game and, if they get a chance to win, they'll win.

'There are 100 guys at regular events who are charging at the finish line. This week there are probably 50 players in the field who, if they hit form, are quite happy to keep charging and not back off.'

Purple reign: Could Donald win his first major this week

Purple reign: Could Donald win his first major this week

Harrington played in 35 majors before he claimed the Open title at Carnoustie in 2007, which prefaced a remarkable period in which he defended his crown in 2008 then threw in the US PGA for good measure shortly afterwards.

England's nearly men might take heart from that, for they are on very similar figures without having taken that final step. Justin Rose has played 33 majors, Luke Donald 36, Paul Casey 36 and Ian Poulter 39 as they seek to emulate him, and it could be that Harrington is ready to add to his collection after a four-year hiatus.

He has enjoyed a year of solid performance, in which he has achieved eight top 15 finishes. They include a tied eighth place at the Masters and a share of fourth at the US Open last month.

Major success: Harrington has won the Open on two occasions in 2007 and 2008

Major success: Harrington has won the Open on two occasions in 2007 and 2008

While always reluctant to talk himself up, yesterday he could not help but agree with those who think he is in his best form since he won three out of the five majors played from July 2007 to August 2008.

'I've been putting better, that's essentially it,' said Harrington, who has been assessing some of the greens using a spirit level.

'The putting really does help. A lot of areas of my game are better. I'm still not winning but I look forward to the majors and I find them easier than regular events.

'I'm in good form and in a good enough place but it's managing where my head is at.'

Euro 2012: Roy Hodgson plays down Danny Welbeck

Hodgson keen to keep Welbeck's feet on the ground after Kiev winner

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UPDATED:

22:17 GMT, 16 June 2012

England boss Roy Hodgson has cautioned against expecting too much of rising star Danny Welbeck.

The 21-year-old was the Three Lions' matchwinner in Kiev on Friday, turning home Theo Walcott's cross 12 minutes from time with the deftest of airborne back heels.

It would have come as no surprise to Sir Alex Ferguson, who tipped Welbeck as an outside candidate to make the 2010 World Cup squad so certain was he of the youngster's progress.

Main man: Danny Welbeck celebrates his winner against Sweden on Friday

Main man: Danny Welbeck celebrates his winner against Sweden on Friday

The elevation has taken slightly longer, largely because Welbeck has taken his time to mature physically.

Clearly, there is still more developing for the Manchester-born forward to do, which is why Hodgson is so keen to play down expectations.

'I would do well to encourage you not to put too much pressure on the lad,' said Hodgson.

'He had a wonderful season with Manchester United and Sir Alex has high hopes for him.

'Before we start building him up to the skies to knock him down, we should remember he has a lot of time ahead of him.

Classy: Welbeck's backheel earned England a narrow win over Sweden

Classy: Welbeck's backheel earned England a narrow win over Sweden

'I am happy with the progress he is making.

'The fact is the has broken into a team like Manchester United, then got games in the national team when he could still play for the Under 21s.'

It is anticipated Welbeck will retain his place for Tuesday's qualification decider with co-hosts Ukraine despite the return of Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney from suspension.

The pair struck up an impressive partnership this season, scoring an incredible 30 goals between them on the 18 occasions they started together.

Taking a backseat: England manager Roy Hodgson in Krakow on Sunday

Taking a backseat: England manager Roy Hodgson in Krakow on Sunday

That statistic alone may shape Hodgson's thinking, particularly as Ukraine are not expected to be quite as troubled defending high balls as Sweden so obviously were, a crucial factor in Andy Carroll's selection.

Yet it is also apparent Hodgson does not want to pin too much on Welbeck just yet.

And when the pressure is not quite as intense, it would be no surprise if he was given a break from his seven-cap fledgling England career that has now brought him two goals in three games.

'With the quality of players we have, hopefully I will be able to use him in the same way Sir Alex has done at United; sparingly from time to time,' said Hodgson.

F1: Lewis Hamilton looks to get back to winning ways in Monaco

Hamilton looks to his favourite track to get back to winning ways in Monaco

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UPDATED:

18:25 GMT, 18 May 2012

Simply the best: Lewis Hamilton celebrates Monaco victory in 2008

Simply the best: Lewis Hamilton celebrates Monaco victory in 2008

Lewis Hamilton believes next weekend's Monaco Grand Prix is the ideal race for him to finally add his name to the winners' list this season.

Formula One stands on the brink of history as never before have six different drivers taken the chequered flag in the first six races.

Williams' Pastor Maldonado made it five in five in Barcelona on Sunday on a day when Hamilton was forced to fight his way from the back of the grid through to eighth after serving a penalty following a qualifying infringement.

However, despite finishing eighth in the last two races, Hamilton finds himself only eight points adrift of joint leaders Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso in the standings such is the wide-open nature of the current campaign.

Determined to win for a second time around the streets of Monte Carlo, the McLaren star said: 'Monaco is a very special circuit.

'It's up there with Silverstone as the place where I most want to do well.

'There's no room to make a mistake, but when the stakes are at their highest I just find it more exciting.

'Still, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that despite pushing for the win, consistency and scoring decent points is currently the most sensible way to tackle this world championship.

'I've scored points at every race, and I'm only eight points off the lead of the championship.

Favourite: Hamilton relishes the Monaco challenge

Favourite: Hamilton relishes the Monaco challenge

'That's a really encouraging statistic and it's reassuring to see my approach is paying off.

'Nevertheless, I'm coming off the back of two relatively disappointing results and there would be no better place for the cards to fall in my favour than at Monaco.'

Team-mate Jenson Button will long be remembered for his triumph around Monaco in 2009 en route to winning the world title that year.

Notably, Button parked his car in the wrong place at the end of the race and was forced to go on a 200-metre jog along the main straight to meet Prince Albert to collect his winner's trophy.

Whilst Button would also naturally love to savour a second win in Monaco, he is unconvinced as to his car's suitability to do so.

'My win at Monaco in 2009 remains one of my favourite victories in Formula One,' said Button.

'Monte Carlo is a place where every driver wants to win, but achieving it is so satisfying because you know you've conquered one of the toughest circuits in motorsport.

'I remember last year having a fantastic car beneath me and feeling really confident that I could challenge for the win.

“As it happened circumstances beyond our control worked to pull that opportunity away from us, but I go back to Monte Carlo with a little bit of unfinished business.

'While our car isn't especially suited to the tighter confines of a track like Monaco, I'm optimistic of getting on top of the balance issues that have affected me for the past two races.'

Andrew Strauss determined to reach century

Strauss on the search for a century against West Indies to end his dry run

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UPDATED:

17:53 GMT, 16 May 2012

Andrew Strauss is determined not to add to an especially unwelcome half-century against West Indies at Lord's.

A run of 50 innings containing just a solitary hundred is a statistic which dogs the England captain as his team seek to re-establish their world-beating credentials this summer, starting on Thursday.

Strauss' vain quest for a 20th Test century is notable as much because of the knack he once had of converting double-figures into three, as the fact it has deserted him for the past 18 months.

Prize: England captain Andrew Strauss, left, with West Indies captain Darren Sammy and the test series trophy

Prize: England captain Andrew Strauss, left, with West Indies captain Darren Sammy and the test series trophy

Calls for the end of his Test career are reminiscent of his situation in March 2008 when a 30-innings run without a century was followed by a career-best 177 in New Zealand.

Unlike then, of course, the gripes about his form are accompanied by suggestions in some quarters that it may soon be time for him to give up the captaincy.

Strauss acknowledges opening batsmen need to score runs, and captains must be productive in their chosen discipline.

Top Spin

But he insists too he is ready and able to do just that, and is 'not even close' to thinking he may have had enough.

'It was obviously a big issue at the end of the winter, and I recognise as captain and as an opening batsman that I need to contribute,' he said.

'I fully intend to do that. I've got no reason in my mind why I shouldn't go on and do that this summer.'

The questions about Strauss' future became deafening towards the end of England's awkward winter, a 3-0 defeat against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates and a 1-1 draw in Sri Lanka.

Team-mate Graeme Swann was even moved last month to describe the criticism as a 'witch-hunt'.

The equable Strauss sees it differently.

'It didn't feel like a witch-hunt; it just felt like the issue of the day – which is what happens.

Training: Strauss in the batting nets

Training: Strauss in the batting nets

'I think we all know that the only way to switch attention elsewhere is to go out and perform, and that's what I intend to do.

'It's not a simple thing to just go out there and knock up a hundred – even though sometimes it does seem that, the way some of our players have been playing recently.'

As for his tenure as captain, which dates back to England's tour of West Indies in early 2009, Strauss is planning to stick around for a while yet – adding he has simply not thought about the end yet.

He did add, though: 'If you're too wedded to some ideal moment to go or to step down, you can be very surprised by it.

'If I feel like I'm still contributing and helping the side be better, both as a captain and batsman, then I don't see any reason to change things.

'But we just don't know what's round the corner; we never do. It's just not something I've thought about.

'There's going to be a moment at some stage in the future when it is an issue, but right at the moment it doesn't feel like that's the time.

'I would certainly like to be in a position to know when the right time is.

'I'll obviously keep an eye out for it. But I don't think we're there at the moment – I don't think we're anywhere near there at the moment.'

He retains all the enthusiasm he has ever had for the job.

'That's one of the reassuring things. I've never felt that it's all getting on top of me.

Ready to rumble: (left to right) Chairman of the ICC Clive Lloyd, Strauss, Executive Senior Vice President of Reliance Communications Rod Riley and ECB Chief Executive David Collier

Ready to rumble: (left to right) Chairman of the ICC Clive Lloyd, Strauss, Executive Senior Vice President of Reliance Communications Rod Riley and ECB Chief Executive David Collier

'I feel really honoured and privileged to be able to do it at a time when English cricket is really strong.

'As long as I still have that motivation and drive and feel like I can really make a difference then I'll be keen to continue.'

Strauss' search for batting form has brought him two first-class 40s for Middlesex this season, among several low scores, in tough batting conditions for all.

'The times I've lasted more than 10 balls or so I've felt very good,' he said.

'But it's been the nature of the beast, early season with the weather we've had, that it's been pretty tough for batting.

'I feel well-prepared and I'm quite excited to go out there and have a good season, I hope.'

More than anyone, he needs a good start – and is pretty sure he knows how to make that happen.

'The most important thing is…don't let any of the peripheral stuff influence or affect you too much.

'Cricket's as stressful a game as you make it. You can let a lot of things get to you if you want to.'

'I've always been pretty good at just keeping it quite simple, and now is as good a time as any to do that.'

Spanish Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton could be fifth different winner

Come on Lewis, everyone can be a winner! Thrills and spills expected at Spanish Grand Prix

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 11 May 2012

The last time grand prix racing was this tightly contested Liverpool had wrapped up the title while Manchester City were facing up to life in the second tier.

You have to go back 29 years to find a time in Formula One when five different drivers driving five different cars won the opening five races of the season. But at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday there is every chance that statistic will be matched.

One driver who had a share of the spoils back in 1983 was John Watson, the Ulsterman having scythed through the field from 22nd on the grid in his McLaren to take the win at the United States Grand Prix West.

Taking it easy: Lewis Hamilton hopes to get off the mark in Barcelona this weekend

Taking it easy: Lewis Hamilton hopes to get off the mark in Barcelona this weekend

Watson pointed to the rule changes ahead of that season as the major factor why success was shared so evenly, notably the banning of ‘ground effect’ cars and consequently the need for new aerodynamic packages.

‘That was a massive change and nobody knew what was going to be good, bad or indifferent,’ conceded Watson.

It was also an era when teams and drivers were coming to terms with the benefit of pit stops for fresh tyres and fuel. Notably Brabham — then owned by Bernie Ecclestone — and Williams.

There are certainly parallels to be drawn with the current campaign, the complexities of getting the best from Pirelli’s latest brand of fast-degrading tyre and the banning of the exhaust-blown diffuser having seriously levelled the playing field.

‘That rule change was almost singularly directed towards Red Bull,’ claimed Watson. ‘They have been the most penalised because they had done a good job compared to everyone who hadn’t quite got to grips with it.’

Spanish sizzler: Hamilton during practice for Sunday's race in Barcelona

Spanish sizzler: Hamilton during practice for Sunday's race in Barcelona

Even so, Sebastian Vettel’s trademark crooked finger victory salute was back in evidence last time out as he and Red Bull took their first win of the season in Bahrain. Will that combination be back to the dominance of last season from the Spanish Grand Prix onwards

Recalling how matters started to shift in favour of Alain Prost and Renault in 1983, Watson said: ‘If I had to put my money on who would win the championship, I would have put it on Prost.

‘The Renault was fundamentally a good car in both qualifying and in the race.’

But the name on the drivers’ championship trophy that year was that of Brazilian Nelson Piquet, the Brabham driver pinching the title from Prost in the last race in South Africa despite winning just three grands prix.

‘In the last 10 or 12 years, we have seen McLaren, Williams, Benetton/Renault, Ferrari and, most recently, Red Bull dominate a championship to such an extent that it became, frankly, uninteresting,’ said Watson.

In the running: Mark Webber could also be the fifth different winner

In the running: Mark Webber could also be the fifth different winner

‘In my generation if a driver won three or four grands prix in the season there was a very good chance he would be a world champion.’

Should the 2012 season continue to be so tightly fought, a similar tally may well be enough to see a driver crowned. Such a scenario would certainly be a welcome departure from Vettel’s procession of last season in which he took the title with four races remaining by winning 11 of them.

Yet another different driver on the top step of the podium tomorrow will go a long way to ensuring there are no such foregone conclusions and that the title battle goes all the way to the wire in Brazil in November.

Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber and Kimi Raikkonen are all potential candidates to keep the unpredictable run going in Spain.

Formula One, as Watson would dearly love, may yet wind back the clock to 1983 — even if Manchester City are crowned champions and Liverpool end up ninth not long after the champagne corks have popped in Spain.

Spanish Grand Prix