Tag Archives: struggle

Petr Cech is injured leaving Ross Turnbull in goal for Chelsea

Cech injury blow leaves Chelsea reliant on Turnbull to keep them in title race

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UPDATED:

16:11 GMT, 31 December 2012

Chelsea have been dealt a huge blow in the title race with goalkeeper Petr Cech sidelined by a groin injury.

Reserve stopper Ross Turnbull stepped in for Cech at half-time during Chelsea's 2-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday.

The Blues are currently unsure how long Cech will be kept out for, with further tests needed to determine the recovery period.

Big blow: Petr Cech (centre) has suffered a groin muscle injury

Big blow: Petr Cech (centre) has suffered a groin muscle injury

Turnbull, who was relatively untroubled during the 45 minutes he played against Everton, is likely to start on Wednesday against Queens Park Rangers.

The 27-year-old's only appearance prior to Sunday this season was in Chelsea's 6-0 victory over Wolves in the Capital One Cup.

Cech said after the game: 'I think it was in 40th minute when I was punching the ball away and when I jumped I felt pain in my right groin.

'I finished the half knowing I would not be able to continue after the break. We will see how serious it is. We will know more after the medical check that I undergo tomorrow.'

Struggle: Ross Turnbull has not made any impact at Stamford Bridge

Struggle: Ross Turnbull has not made any impact at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea's back-up keepers, Turnbull and Henrique Hilario, are unsuitable to replace Cech over a long period of time.

The club have highly-rated Belgian stopper Thibaut Courtois on loan at Atletico Madrid and if Cech's injury proves to be severe they could recall him.

Courtois is likely to fight for the No 1 shirt at Chelsea next season with both Turnbull and Hilario making way.

Bebe leaves Manchester United for Rio Ave loan deal

Manchester United's 7.4m flop Bebe heads for exit again with loan at Rio Ave

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UPDATED:

12:58 GMT, 27 December 2012

Struggle: Bebe hasn't made an impact at Old Trafford

Struggle: Bebe hasn't made an impact at Old Trafford

Portuguese side Rio Ave have sealed a loan deal for Manchester United misfit Bebe.

The 22-year-old striker, who joined United for 7.4m, had an unsuccessful spell on loan at Besiktas last season.

Rio Ave are fifth but 14 points behind leaders Benfica.

Bebe joined Manchester United from Portuguese side Vit Guimaraes in 2010 and looks set for a return to his homeland.

The 22-year-old has found it hard to get a look in this season with Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck and new-signing Robin van Persie all ahead of him in the pecking order.

Bebe of Manchester United set for Rio Ave loan deal

Manchester United misfit Bebe set for Rio Ave loan deal

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UPDATED:

20:28 GMT, 26 December 2012

Struggle: Bebe hasn't made an impact at Old Trafford

Struggle: Bebe hasn't made an impact at Old Trafford

Portuguese side Rio Ave are confident of tying up a loan deal for Manchester United misfit Bebe.

The 22-year-old striker, who joined United for 7.4m, had an unsuccessful spell on loan at Besiktas last season.

Rio Ave president Antonio Silva Campos said: ‘He is one of the players who should be just hours away from joining but there are still some details left to address. His signing could be announced very shortly.’

Rio Ave are fifth but 14 points behind leaders Benfica.

Bebe joined Manchester United from Portuguese side Vit Guimaraes in 2010 and looks set for a return to his homeland.

The 22-year-old has found it hard to get a look in this season with Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck and new-signing Robin van Persie all ahead of him in the pecking order.

Paul Lambert tries to play down Norwich v Aston Villa

Nice try, Paul! Lambert fails in attempt to play down return to Norwich with new side Villa

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UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 10 December 2012

It was a manful attempt by Paul Lambert to play down his return to Norwich CIty on Tuesday night as ‘just another game.’

Unfortunately, he failed to convince.

Aston Villa’s boss heads to Norfolk for the first time since he quit for Villa Park last summer following three mutually-beneficial years.

The details of his acrimonious exit from Carrow Road have not yet been fully explained and arbitration is hanging over him.

Return: Paul Lambert takes his Aston Villa side to Norwich on Tuesday

Return: Paul Lambert takes his Aston Villa side to Norwich on Tuesday

Two months ago, he was all but ignored by the Canaries’ travelling support at Villa Park. They opted to chant Chris Hughton’s name instead.

His public stance may be to downplay its’ personal significance ahead of this Capital One Cup quarter-final, but by making comparison to the Glasgow derby, he was pretty much admitting that it was going to be anything but a conventional evening out.

'I think other people will make more of it than I will,' he said, 'but it’s never been about me, it’s about the team that goes there. I know what I’m going into.

'I’d like to think the sensible supporters might think: “He’s done all right.”

'Myself, Ian Culverhouse and Gary
Karsa gave it a right good run for its money. The sad thing is that
people don’t really know what’s been going on.

'Some managers go back and get great receptions. Brendan Rodgers the other week, with Swansea, for instance.

'Others go back and they are the worst thing since sliced bread.

Struggle: Villa were held to a goalless draw against Stoke on Saturday

Struggle: Villa were held to a goalless draw against Stoke on Saturday

'So I don’t know whether I’ll get any flak…it’s a hard one to call whether they want to do it or not. You’ll probably hear it.

'But then at Celtic I played for a club for eight years that half of the city hated.

'You know, I still get it to this day when I go home. I still get the odd shout in the city centre – and I retired about 15 years ago.

'When you have been in that you can handle anything.

'So, I can’t say too much more because of the arbitration, but it should never have come to this.'

Lambert knows the bigger picture for Villa is that the prospect of a semi-final appearance will leave the Birmingham club with a decided spring in its step.

'I believe we’re playing very well, he added. 'We would love to be winning more games and score but the only teams to turn us over at the moment are the two Manchester clubs. Norwich are going really fine themselves but we’ll be threat, that’s for sure.'

That was then: Lambert walked away from Norwich in the summer

That was then: Lambert walked away from Norwich in the summer

He hopes an agreement can be reached in his dispute with former club Norwich before it goes before a Premier League tribunal at the end of next month.

Lambert was upset when Norwich chairman Alan Bowkett made the matter public at a fans' forum and claimed he had left all of his previous clubs in a similar manner.

But in an ideal world he would like the matter resolved before it goes it goes to arbitration.

Lambert said: 'Probably the sad thing is people don't really know what's been going on.

'Is it a source of sorrow it's ended up how it has Yes, it should never have been the way it is.

'Would you hope it could get sorted amicably You'd like to think that way. But I just let the lawyers and the LMA (League Managers' Association), who have been brilliant with it, get on with things.

'It's unfair to comment because it's in arbitration and you've got to respect that.'

Chelsea are strangling themselves… I feel sorry for Fernando Torres and Rafa Benitez – Martin Keown column

Chelsea are strangling themselves in this power struggle with the fans… I feel sorry for Torres and Benitez in the firing line

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UPDATED:

10:38 GMT, 29 November 2012

Strikers are sensitive fellows. They want to be loved.

But I do wonder if Fernando Torres should come out and say: 'It's not all my fault, there are 10 others out there.'

It's easy to hammer him. I don't believe he is a bad player, but he has lost that extra yard when he could embarrass defenders with his acceleration one on one.

Nowhere to hide: Fernando Torres is in the spotlight as he continues to struggle for Chelsea

Nowhere to hide: Fernando Torres is in the spotlight as he continues to struggle for Chelsea

Don't look now: Torres had another frustrating night as Chelsea drew 0-0 with neighbours Fulham

Don't look now: Torres had another frustrating night as Chelsea drew 0-0 with neighbours Fulham

You can analyse his game: playing too far from goal, he's not being fed with an early pass (like he used to when playing with Steven Gerrard at Liverpool) and his confidence is low; he's stuck in a rut.

But is he feeling loved right now Does he feel those team-mates in his dressing room at Chelsea are doing all they can to create chances for their main spearhead Are they trying to help him

I don't believe the answer to any of those questions is 'yes'.

My old Arsenal team-mate Ian Wright was an individual within a team and he loved centre stage.

If he scored in the first half, I would say to him at half time: 'Go and score a hat-trick.'

He loved the headlines, he wanted to be on the back pages.

Something missing: Torres looks as if he has lost that explosive burst of pace he had at Liverpool

Something missing: Torres looks as if he has lost that explosive burst of pace he had at Liverpool

Another one bites the dust: Torres was shut out by the Cottagers at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday

Another one bites the dust: Torres was shut out by the Cottagers at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday

Tony Cottee, who I played with at Everton, counted his goals. He wanted to score and didn't seem to worry about too much more.

Thierry Henry would not be denied. If there was an obstacle in his path, he would overcome it.

The message I learned from playing with Thierry is this: ability conquers everything in the end.

Chelsea, as a club, are strangling themselves – and I feel sympathy for both Rafa Benitez and Torres.

No holding back: Chelsea fans made it clear they are not happy with the appointment of Rafa Benitez

No holding back: Chelsea fans made it clear they are not happy with the appointment of Rafa Benitez

No holding back: Chelsea fans made it clear they are not happy with the appointment of Rafa Benitez

They have now gone six games without a victory, but it is early days for Benitez and yet he has been swamped by an unhealthy reaction to his appointment from the supporters.

This is a club where you feel there is always a power struggle with the players and now there is a power struggle with the fans.

Get over it! Get on with it! They are making it harder for themselves. They need new leaders in a team who have lost Didier Drogba (released), Frank Lampard and John Terry (injured) and they will sell Ashley Cole in the summer.

Arsenal legend: Ian Wright

Top Gunner: Thierry Henry

Goal machines: Martin Keown played alongside Ian Wright (left) and Thierry Henry for Arsenal

Players must stop hiding and take responsibility. It doesn't help that Torres is struggling and his stats do not make for attractive reading – he hasn't scored for 10 hours and 49 minutes.

Can he overturn this negativity I don't know.

He's a long way from the player he once was. But they play away to West Ham next and that will be a relief to get away from Stamford Bridge: for Torres and his manager.

It could be the game he has been waiting for.

Under pressure: Benitez must win over the Chelsea fans AND get Torres firing again

Under pressure: Benitez must win over the Chelsea fans AND get Torres firing again

Same again Torres scored his first Chelsea goal against Saturday's opponents West Ham - in April 2011

Same again Torres scored his first Chelsea goal against Saturday's opponents West Ham – in April 2011

Clint Dempsey settling in to Rafael van der Vaart role

'Frustrated' Dempsey finally ready to fill void left by Van der Vaart at Tottenham

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UPDATED:

17:02 GMT, 26 November 2012

Tottenham forward Clint Dempsey thinks he is finally ready to fill the giant void left by Rafael van der Vaart’s departure.

Van der Vaart scored 28 goals and provided many more assists during a two-year spell at White Hart Lane before he returned to Hamburg this summer.

Andre Villas-Boas signed Dempsey to fill the No 10 role Van der Vaart performed so well in even though the American was used to operating off the left flank.

Frustrated: Clint Dempsey (left) believes he is doing a better job at Tottenham now

Frustrated: Clint Dempsey (left) believes he is doing a better job at Tottenham now

Dempsey scored a whopping 23 goals from Fulham last season, but he struggled initially to settle in to the more central role required of him at Spurs this season.

Dempsey has scored only twice in Tottenham colours, but he combined well with Jermain Defoe against West Ham yesterday, and the 29-year-old thinks he is finally becoming accustomed to his new position.

'I’ve been frustrated with not getting on the ball, being in the game or affecting games, but I think I’m now starting to do a better job,' Dempsey said after the 3-1 win.

'I thought I was good against West Ham. I was able to get a little bit more on the angle, be able to drive with the ball a bit more, take more shots and create chances for other people.

'It was good to play a part in two of the goals and I was unlucky to hit the post but I enjoyed the game.'

Part of Dempsey’s initial struggle to fit in to the Tottenham team can be put down to what was a tumultuous summer for the 29-year-old.

Dempsey thought he would secure a dream move to Liverpool that he had hankered for all summer when Brendan Rodgers made an enquiry for the forward, but the Merseysiders failed to follow it up with a bid.

Instrumental: Dempsey set up Gareth Bale's goal in the 3-1 victory over West Ham

Instrumental: Dempsey set up Gareth Bale's goal in the 3-1 victory over West Ham

Martin Jol left Dempsey out of his Fulham squad at the start of the season before Tottenham ended the forward’s nightmare summer by meeting the 6million asking price that Liverpool were unwilling to match.

'It was a difficult August for me. I didn’t have a pre-season with Tottenham or anybody, so I’m trying to play catch-up a little bit and trying to adjust to this team and the style they play,” said Dempsey, who supplied Gareth Bale for Tottenham’s second with a clever chip pass.

Playing catch-up: Dempsey signed for Tottenham on transfer deadline day

Playing catch-up: Dempsey signed for Tottenham on transfer deadline day

'I’ve been looking at videos and trying to figure out a way to make an impact and help the team.

'I’m traditionally used to playing in a 4-4-2 where I’m the guy on the left but I’m not an out-and-out winger.

'I come inside and I’m more like an attacking inside-left, so being more central is good, but it’s about getting on the ball and making the right movements, and I’m starting to do a better job in that respect.'

India v England first test: England fight back but face uphill struggle

England show fighting spirit but still face uphill struggle after spin assault

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UPDATED:

11:37 GMT, 17 November 2012

PICTURE DISPUTE

We are unable to carry live pictures from the First Test in Ahmedabad due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations.

The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.

MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.

England rediscovered their fight but still face a mountainous task to salvage a first-Test stalemate after collapsing to Indian spin on day three and having to follow on 330 runs behind.

If their position was no longer hopeless by stumps, thanks to an overdue stand of substance between openers Alastair Cook and Nick Compton at their second attempt, it was still hard to argue with a consensus that they will probably lose an unequal struggle at some point over the next two days.

Pragyan Ojha (five for 45) and Ravichandran Ashwin (three for 80) bowled England out for 191, yet neither of the Indian spinners could make any inroads in 28 more overs between them when the tourists tried again and succeeded to the tune of 111 for none.

Only Cook's lbw scare, sweeping at
Ojha on 41, brought significant alarm on his way to an unbeaten 74 which
restated his commitment to leading from the front as new Test captain.

Going good: Nick Compton showed a good understanding with Alistair Cook

Going good: Nick Compton showed a good understanding with Alistair Cook

In England's first innings,
conversely, a wicket was forever imminent as Ojha and Ashwin made a
nonsense of Graeme Swann's manful attempts to chip through India on what
had appeared a lifeless surface on the first two days of this series.

Suddenly, the Sardar Patel Stadium was
a snakepit as – in reply to 521 for eight declared – England lost four
wickets for 69 runs this morning and then, despite Matt Prior's best
efforts, their last three by teatime.

Prior responded to a critical
situation with determination, interspersed with his instinct for
counter-attacking strokeplay, but could not turn the tide.

England had endured successive
wicketless mornings while Virender Sehwag and then double-centurion
Cheteshwar Pujara piled on the runs.

They never looked likely to continue the sequence with bats in their hands.

Kevin Pietersen's comeback innings
following his successful 'reintegration' was fretful throughout, rarely
in his crease as he sought to stop Ojha dictating events.

The result appeared reckless rather than effective – from the outset.

He could easily have been out twice
before adding to his overnight six, up the wicket in the first over and
having to dive back as the ball bounced off his pad to silly-point, and
missing another from out of his ground which thankfully also beat
Mahendra Singh Dhoni down the leg-side.

A brief illusion of permanence
followed until Ojha knocked out middle-stump as Pietersen played inside a
delivery which turned sharply from wide on the crease round the wicket.

England's collective solution to last
winter's failings against spin, broadly, has been to ditch the sweep and
play much less from the crease.

Solid: England captain Cook (left) oversaw a good fightback

Solid: England captain Cook (left) oversaw a good fightback

Ian Bell has taken the 'remedy' to
extremes, however, and paid the price instantly when he was up the
wicket to Ojha and went through with an attempted lofted drive only to
depart embarrassingly for a golden duck – caught at deep mid-off.

Cook crossed and survived the hat-trick ball.

But soon afterwards Ashwin lured him into a drive and had him edging some spin low to slip, where Sehwag took a neat catch.

Prior was dropped on three after clubbing a full-toss from Ashwin to Zaheer Khan on the square-leg boundary.

Samit Patel had no such luck. He got
past the initial spin threat but was then lbw to one perhaps sliding
towards leg when India finally introduced frontline seamer Umesh Yadav.

Prior and Tim Bresnan closed out the session, and began the next with promise in a stand of 47.

But Bresnan, understandably playing
low in defence, was undone by rare extra bounce as Ojha picked up his
fourth wicket – caught at gully.

Stuart Broad announced himself by
hitting Ojha over midwicket for four first ball; then when Ashwin
returned, he took 13 of the 14 runs off his first over back, including a
six over long-on from the crease.

But England's first-innings resistance
was short-lived, Broad lbw to one from Zaheer that again might have
beaten leg-stump, and then Prior last out missing an inside-out drive at
Ojha.

It seemed then that the tourists were
on the fast track to defeat, until Cook and Compton revived hope that
they could yet head for Mumbai next week 0-0 with three to play.

Andy Carroll: I wasn"t given a fair chance at Liverpool

Carroll: I don't have anything to prove, I wasn't given a fair chance at Liverpool

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UPDATED:

08:17 GMT, 23 October 2012

Liverpool misfit Andy Carroll has claimed he was never given a 'fair chance' to succeed at Anfield.

The England striker scored just six goals in 44 appearances after his 35million switch from Newcastle.

On a mission: Carroll aims to hit the goal trail at West Ham

On a mission: Carroll aims to hit the goal trail at West Ham

Carroll was farmed out on loan to West Ham after Brendan Rodgers replaced Kenny Dalglish.

But the 23-year-old feels he could have adapted his style to suit Rodgers.

'I haven't really had a fair chance at Liverpool,' Carroll said.

'I was really told that I should move on to keep playing regular football, and obviously then Sam wanted me here and told me I would be playing regular games.

'So, for me it was a no-brainer coming here and to play.

'Obviously, I didn't really get a chance there.

'A new manager came in and I wasn't part of his plans. For me to play football, that was my chance to do that. That is why I am here at Upton Park.

Struggle: Andy Carroll failed to shine at Liverpool

Struggle: Andy Carroll failed to shine at Liverpool

'I think I could fit into every system. I believe in what I can do. Obviously he [Rodgers] has his beliefs and he didn't think that.

'But for me, obviously, it was better to move on instead of waiting for my chance – which he told me might not come.

'Coming here, I have got a great chance to start games and score goals, which I haven't really had many of last season.

'I don't think I have got a point to prove, that is the wrong way to put it.

'I know what I can do and the ability I have got. I know what I am capable of.

'If other people don't believe it, that is fine. I just get on with it.

'But at the end of the day, I know what I can do.'

Hammers boss Sam Allardyce admitted he did not know if his on-loan striker will stay in East London all season.

Liverpool have only one senior striker in Luis Suarez, after failing to buy before the summer window closed and then losing Fabio Borini for months with a foot injury.

'I think that depends,' said Allardyce on the possibility of Carroll being recalled early to Anfield. 'Obviously when January comes around it will be assessed then, on just what has happened at Liverpool and how well Andy is doing.

'He is still only a young man and he has got a lot of improving to do. But he is such an important player for us already.

'We have got off to this start and everybody has played their part but as the old saying goes, the front man plays well, the team plays well.'

The Heineken Cup is back, thankfully. chris foy

Let's play! Time for TV war to take a back seat as the Heineken Cup returns

PUBLISHED:

21:34 GMT, 11 October 2012

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UPDATED:

21:37 GMT, 11 October 2012

Against a backdrop of division and doubts about its existence, the Heineken Cup returns, not a moment too soon.

For now, the European TV rights war which has erupted this season can be put to one side. Let the men in suits step back in to the shadows. Let the players and their clubs emerge into the light.

On Monday, ERC stakeholders met in Rome in an attempt to find a resolution to the power struggle stemming from attempts by English and French clubs to overhaul the accord governing participation in the tournament, and the shock English tactic of getting into bed with BT Vision.

There were no puffs of white smoke after the latest meeting, which was no surprise as this is a tangled mess.

Welcome return: Leinster celebrate winning the Heineken Cup last May

Welcome return: Leinster celebrate winning the Heineken Cup last May

The quest to establish common ground will drag on for months, so at this juncture it is simply appropriate to state that anything which threatens this event is bad news.

The Heineken Cup is adored by spectators, relished by players and coaches and envied by the southern hemisphere.

A major aspect of its appeal is the sheer variety it delivers, on and off the field, but the Anglo-French gripe about qualification is justified. The argument that this should be a merit-based showcase of the continent’s best teams is enticing, yet the multi-national element must be protected.

Once again, the English challenge will be hamstrung by circumstance. Aviva Premiership clubs have to deal with the triple-whammy inconvenience of a salary cap, a fight for qualification places and the spectre of relegation in their league.

Europe cannot be the over-riding priority, as it is in Ireland, where central contracts and union control of leading players has been a recipe for success.

Jonny be good Toulon will take on the Cardiff Blues

Jonny be good Toulon will take on the Cardiff Blues

France have relegation and qualification to contend with, but their clubs are awash with money and talent.

The Welsh regions do not have the same issue of league position to contend with, but they now have a salary cap, falling attendance and a growing player exodus.

For them, as for the English, the only way to compete is with an emphasis on quality coaching, production of homegrown talent and development of first-rate support structures.

It is not a level playing field, so they have to be smarter and more efficient than their French and Irish rivals.
Enough of the hardships. The start of the campaign is a time to celebrate what lies ahead.

Much of the rugby in the key pool games and throughout the knock-out phases is of Test intensity.

Ulster play Castres at Ravenhill. The Irish province will aim to deliver another tribute to the memory of young centre Nevin Spence, who died in an accident on the family farm last month, by extending their unbeaten start to the season.

On Sunday, a clash of the titans sees Toulouse host Leicester. The beat of the drums and the giant flags are the mark of such an occasion in France, from Perpignan to Biarritz to Clermont. Next weekend, the Cardiff Blues confront Jonny Wilkinson and the rest of Toulon’s galacticos at the old Arms Park. On the same day, Leicester and the Ospreys renew a fierce rivalry.

What would really galvanise the Heineken Cup would be a Welsh triumph to show that the regional model can prosper. Another feat for the greater good would be an Italian side reaching the knock-out stages, although that is unlikely.

But the health of the event can be measured in how competitive this pool phase has become.

Unlike its football counterparts, there are very few predictable outcomes. The ‘shocks’ are less shocking with every passing year, as the power-base expands.

European rugby has a formula which works. So a message to the suits — enjoy the show, then find a compromise. Do not destroy this.

More from Chris Foy…

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Chris Foy: Fans don't seem part of this Vision for the future
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Chris Foy: Toulon say Non to letting Jenkins fly with the Lions
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

McCaw caught offside

What a shame that, days after Richie McCaw became the world’s first player to participate in 100 Test victories, the release of his autobiography should resurrect the Kiwi obsession with lambasting Wayne Barnes.

The All Black captain reflects on his side’s 2007 World Cup quarter-final defeat to France by castigating the IRB for putting the English referee in charge. ‘I don’t blame Barnes, I blame the people who appointed the most inexperienced referee,’ says McCaw, in The Open Side.

‘On the big stage, an inexperienced referee is likely to become so afraid of making a mistake that he stops making decisions. /10/11/article-0-1568CBF1000005DC-972_634x424.jpg” width=”634″ height=”424″ alt=”Missing the cut: Welford Road” class=”blkBorder” />

Missing the cut: Welford Road

The last word

When England Rugby 2015 released their ‘long list’ of possible World Cup venues this week — which did not contain Welford Road, home of the country’s biggest club, Leicester, the backlash was staggering.

Officially, the problem is that the pitch is deemed too small. In reality it is about money.

The IRB awarded the 2011 World Cup to New Zealand, knowing it would make a loss, which it did. So England are charged with balancing the books, hence the acceptance of an 80million ‘guarantee’ to the world governing body.

Asked recently if ER2015 expected to cover the guarantee, chairman Andy Cosslett said: ‘I think we can do better than that.’

Well, that requires selling 2.9million tickets, potentially in such hot-beds of the elite game as Sunderland, Derby and Southampton.

While that hard sell goes on, Welford Road will continue to stage big games and draw big crowds, but when the festival comes it will be excluded. It’s a travesty.

Euro memories

Conor O’Shea (Director of rugby at Harlequins, ex-Ireland full-back)

Munster’s first European Cup success in 2006, beating Biarritz 23-19 in the Millennium Stadium

‘I’m a Limerick-born lad and that first Cup success was very special after so many disappointments and near misses. It was the end of a journey and I became very partisan in watching Munster finally get to that ‘Holy Grail’ of winning a European Cup final.’

Steve Borthwick (Saracens lock and ex-England captain)

Going to Bath’s semi-final against Pau in 1998 as a schoolboy player

‘I was only 17 or 18 and had been invited to see the set up and sample the atmosphere on a big-match day. Bath won, beating Pau, 20-14, and the decision was almost made. There’s just nothing to beat the atmosphere in the city on a big-match day in such a beautiful setting.’

Chris Robshaw (captain of Harlequins & England)

Nick Evans kicking the winning drop goal against Stade Francais in a pool game at the Stoop, Dec 2008

‘It was in the wet and mud of the Stoop and it was one of our first big wins in Europe. To get to the drop goal for Nick we went through some 29 phases in an effort to get a bit closer all the time. Somehow Nick managed to keep his cool and to slot it over.’

Simon Easterby (head coach at Llanelli Scarlets, ex-Ireland back row)

Losing 13-12 to Leicester in 2003 semi-final at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground

‘I’m a Nottingham Forest fan so it was a great buzz playing at the City Ground, but it did not bring us any luck and came in a period when the Scarlets had a number of really close defeats. Leicester nicked it right at the end thanks to Tim Stimpson’s penalty from over halfway which hit the upright and crossbar before going over.’

Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys and Wales lock)

Shane Williams’ last-gasp try when Ospreys beat Sale 17-16 in Oct 2006 at Swansea

‘Sale had their title-winning team out including players like Sebastian Chabal and Charlie Hodgson. I came off the bench towards the end and was immediately dumped on my backside by Chabal. But I got my own back by winning a line-out and then helping to put Shane over in the corner for one of his special tries.’

Gregor Townsend (Glasgow head coach and ex-Scotland fly half)

Playing for Castres in France when they had to play Munster three times in one season

‘The last match was in the semi-final in Beziers where we just lost, 25-17, but by then a great rivalry had built up between the teams and the games became very special. For Scotsman playing for a French team against Munster left a great impression. Pity we lost.’

Michael Bradley (Edinburgh head coach and ex-Ireland scrum-half)

Edinburgh’s run to the semi-final last season – the best by a Scottish team

‘It must be the win over Racing Metro in last season’s pool games. Greig Laidlaw kicked the winning conversion in a match where we came back to win 48-47 after losing by 24 points. As an Irishman it must be Leinster’s stunning win over Northampton in the 2011 final.’

Alastair Kellock (Glasgow captain and Scotland lock)

Glasgow’s trip to Toulouse in 2011where the game was delayed for five days due to the weather

‘The circumstances surrounding the delay brought the whole squad together and helped us finish the season very strongly. We had arrived without our kit because of flight delays and then refused to play in Toulouse’s away kit. That upset them and made for a very hostile atmosphere once the match was played.’

Interviews by Rob Wildman

Scotland fill Wales assistant boss John Hartson with fear

Relaxed Scotland fill Wales No 2 Hartson with fear ahead of crunch derby showdown

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UPDATED:

21:50 GMT, 10 October 2012

John Hartson admitted he fears Scotland could flourish in Cardiff after being released from the Hampden pressure pot.

The Wales assistant manager has plentiful experience of the national stadium from his five years as a Celtic striker.

And he believes the tense atmosphere may have hindered some of Craig Levein's players as they struggled to disappointing draws with Serbia and Macedonia.

Crunch showdown: Hartson says the pressure will be off Scotland

Crunch showdown: Hartson says the pressure will be off Scotland

Scotland face Wales on Friday evening
in their first away tie in Group A, with both sides desperate for three
points to kick-start their campaign.

'We've seen both games and I think Scotland may well feel they'll perform better away from home,' said Hartson.

'I played at Hampden with Celtic and, with 52,000 there, it can be quite hostile. 'Sometimes that sort of pressure can
add to the burden for the home players. Some players can cope with it,
but others struggle.

On target: Adam and Co will be desperate to seal their first win of the qualifying campaign

On target: Adam and Co will be desperate to seal their first win of the qualifying campaign

'Scotland have not been beaten but
drawing the two home games is slightly disappointing from their own
fans' point of view. They would probably have expected to win one of
those two games.

'So playing away from home might lift the pressure off their players, rather than playing in that cauldron in front of their own fans at Hampden.'

Hartson is heavily involved in the planning for Friday night's meeting, as Chris Coleman's side look to bounce back from a 6-1 mauling in Serbia last month.

'I really feel Scotland have a fantastic squad,' he added. 'They have a great pool of players to choose from. They could pick two sides, really, in terms of the size of their squad.

In charge: Levein oversees training ahead of Scotland's tie with Wales

In charge: Levein oversees training ahead of Scotland's tie with Wales

'We'll have to think about what formation they will play. 'Will they play with two front men, with Kenny Miller and Steven Fletcher up front, or will they stick to their usual one up front – and who will that one striker be

'Will Gary Caldwell sit in front of the back four or will he be in defence We have to look at all the things Scotland could throw at us.

'The one good thing about this game is you don't need to get anyone up for it.

'It's going to be a good old-fashioned British-type derby because the players know each other so well and some of them play for the same clubs.

'We expect it to be fast and furious. We know what we have to do, we know the importance of the three points.

'But we're not underestimating Scotland because they are a very strong side. We know we'll need to improve on our last performance to get anywhere near them.'