Tag Archives: style

David Haye return Manchester June 29

Haye announces Manchester return after growing tired of waiting for Klitschkos

as he beat British rival Dereck Chisora at West Ham's Upton Park stadium, with his belief at the time that the success would lead to a fight with Vitali for the WBC belt.

Return: David Haye announced that he will fight in Manchester on June 29

Return: David Haye announced that he will fight in Manchester on June 29

British former WBA heavyweight boxing champion David Haye and his trainer, Adam Booth

David Haye announces his return to the boxing ring

That was not to be but Haye is now ready to go in search of the mandatory challenger tag by beating an opponent in June.

Haye's trainer, Adam Booth, has confirmed talks are ongoing with five fighters, all ranked in the top 15, none of whom are British. The Klitschko brothers are not among the five though.

'I believe they have their strategy for this year and it doesn't involve me. Instead of sitting around and waiting another year I want to get back in there,' Haye said.

'Why wait around and stagnate when you don't have to I'm happy to be back – a year is long enough time to wait for someone to phone you. I want that heavyweight title back and I will get it.

Back again: Haye will fight in Manchester, scene of his victory over Audley Harrison in 2010

Back again: Haye will fight in Manchester, scene of his victory over Audley Harrison in 2010

'I was hoping Vitali would be a man of his word and fight me after I did what he and his team wanted me to do and beat Dereck Chisora.

'We have been sitting around, waiting for the phone to ring, but that hasn't happened. We have sent some e-mails but they have fallen on deaf ears.'

Haye felt he was in line for a title fight against Vitali late last year after his display in beating Chisora in the fifth-round of their fight in impressive style, but it did not come to fruition with Manuel Charr selected ahead of Haye.

'The Chisora fight was a carrot dangled by Vitali Klitschko,' Haye said.

Knockout: Haye was last in the ring when he stopped Dereck Chisora in the fifth round at Upton Park

Knockout: Haye was last in the ring when he stopped Dereck Chisora in the fifth round at Upton Park

Knockout: Haye was last in the ring when he stopped Dereck Chisora in the fifth round at Upton Park

'He said, 'You beat Dereck Chisora and I will fight the winner', you can look back on the footage. I knew it would be a good fight [with Chisora] and the British public wanted to see it. Dereck is a tough guy and has the style that can give many people a few problems.

'A lot of people actually tipped Dereck to beat me, winning on points was never an option and I said that to anyone who would listen.'

Haye maintains he will not fight purely for money and is more interested in collecting titles, claiming a spell out of the ring which saw him make an appearance in the ITV reality TV show 'I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here' has seen his fan-base swell.

Jungle fever: Haye made an appearance on I'm A Celebrity... Get me out of here!

Jungle fever: Haye made an appearance on I'm A Celebrity… Get me out of here!

Jungle fever: Haye made an appearance on I'm A Celebrity... Get me out of here!

'The fans all over the world, wherever I travel to, people want to see me back in the ring and ask me when they can see me. Well, on June 29 they will be able to see me do it,' Haye said.

'I want to get out there and put on a good show – 100 to 200 times a day people are walking up to me in the street.

'Strangely a lot of them are people who have never actually seen me fight live and I have reached out to a different demographic now after doing the TV show last year. It is a nice opportunity for me to do what I do best and knock someone out for the millions of my fans around the world.

Brawl: Haye and Chisora came to blows in Munich before settling their differences in the ring

Brawl: Haye and Chisora came to blows in Munich before settling their differences in the ring

haye

'I'm in it for the right reasons – I don't have to box. That is the difference between myself and a lot of the other heavyweights out there who have to box to pay the bills.

'I'm in it because I genuinely want to do it, I don't need to do it. I want to win that title back and I'm willing to put my body through the pain of a hard training camp to secure this fight.'

Defeat: Haye lost to Wladimir Klitschko in Hamburg but blamed the result on a broken toe (below)

Defeat: Haye lost to Wladimir Klitschko in Hamburg but blamed the result on a broken toe (below)

David Haye's broken toe after the fight

Lance Armstrong "admits" to drug abuse to win Tour de France during Oprah Winfrey interview

Armstrong 'admits' to drug abuse to win Tour de France during Oprah Winfrey interview

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

00:42 GMT, 15 January 2013

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UPDATED:

00:46 GMT, 15 January 2013

Lance Armstrong last night reportedly admitted using performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France.

The disgraced cyclist is said to have confessed in an interview with American TV chat show queen Oprah Winfrey which is scheduled to be broadcast on Thursday.

Armstrong earlier visited the staff of his charity at the Texas offices to apologise for putting their work at risk.

Banned: Disgraced cyclist Armstrong conducted his first interview since being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles with Oprah Winfrey

Banned: Disgraced cyclist Armstrong conducted his first interview since being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles with Oprah Winfrey

Banned: Disgraced cyclist Armstrong conducted his first interview since being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles with Oprah Winfrey

Several employees cried when he told them: ‘I’m sorry.’ He promised he would try to restore the foundation’s reputation – before meeting his legal team to prepare for the Oprah interview.

Armstrong reportedly spoke to a room
full of about 100 staff members for about 20 minutes, expressing regret
for everything the controversy has put them through.

He told them how much the foundation
means to him and that he considers the people who work there to be like
members of his family. None of the people in the room challenged
Armstrong over his long denials of doping.

After the interview, Winfrey tweeted: 'Just wrapped with @lancearmstrong More than 2 1/2 hours. He came READY!'

Winfrey and her crew planned on filming Monday's session at Armstrong's home. As a result, local and international news crews were camped near the cyclist's Spanish-style villa before dawn.

Armstrong still managed to slip away for a run despite the crowds outside his home. He returned by cutting through a neighbour's yard and hopping a fence.

Martin Keown says that teams are taking the FA Cup seriously again

Martin Keown: New trend: taking the FA Cup seriously… apart from Cardiff

By
Martin Keown

PUBLISHED:

23:55 GMT, 6 January 2013

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UPDATED:

00:22 GMT, 7 January 2013

It was nice to see a lot of Premier League teams taking the FA Cup seriously, including the champions Manchester City.

Outside the Premier League, though, Malky Mackay made 11 changes to his Cardiff side and it backfired, with Macclesfield knocking them out. Yet Cardiff might not mind.

The Championship leaders have been top before, only to fade — they want promotion this time. So maybe the sacrifice of going out of the Cup is bearable.

Cardiff's chopping and changing caused their downfall

Knocked out: Cardiff's chopping and changing caused their downfall

Brighton are bright

A look at the quality in Brighton’s line-up means their win over Newcastle should not have been such a surprise. They have Wayne Bridge, Andrea Orlandi, who was at Swansea, and David Lopez, who has played more than 100 games for Athletic Bilbao.

They are talented. The Newcastle players wanted to come in and make a mark. Instead, they have just been part of a disastrous result.

Andrea Orlandi's finish stole the show against Newcastle

Spanish style: Andrea Orlandi's finish stole the show against Newcastle

Dickov kops good news

What a weekend for Paul Dickov. When his backroom staff were put on gardening leave it sent out the message that he would likely be next with the team struggling near the bottom of League One.

But his squad responded by posting one of the most impressive wins of the weekend away at Nottingham Forest. It went slightly unnoticed, but Dickov will now be relishing the visit of Liverpool.

Dickov's Oldham stunned Alex McLeish and his new club Nottingham Forest

what a peformance! Dickov's Oldham stunned Alex McLeish and his new club Nottingham Forest

Ryan passes ever test

Ryan Giggs has been excellent of late and his pass to set up the Manchester United equaliser for Robin van Persie was sublime.

It probably secured him another year at the club. Giggs has been playing back out wide again recently. He doesn’t try to beat people for fun like he used to, he just hits fantastic diagonal balls. He doesn’t expect too much of himself.

Giggs once again proved his worth setting up Robin Van Persie for United's equaliser

Old age no barrier: Giggs once again proved his worth setting up Robin Van Persie for United's equaliser

A right Royals booster

Reading’s win at Crawley could give them the confidence they need to kickstart their Premier League campaign. It could have all gone wrong for Brian McDermott after his side fell behind so early, but they have good spirit at that club and stayed calm.

Going out could have been a major embarrassment and impacted on their chances of survival but they just got on with it and will fancy their chances of reaching the fifth round.

Reading went behind after just two minutes to Crawley but knuckled down to win

Keeping the faith: Reading went behind after just two minutes to Crawley but knuckled down to win

Gibbs proves his class

I hope Kieran Gibbs got home and watched a re-run of his performance against Swansea. If he did, Gibbs would see just how well he played. The left back is such a good player and can be even better if he continues to perform at this level.

He took the game to Swansea, got a deserved goal, and you can see there is so much more to come from him. In the past he has seemed a little apologetic to be in an Arsenal shirt. He shouldn’t feel like that.

Kieran Gibbs put himself back in the mind of Roy Hodgson

England ambitions: Kieran Gibbs put himself back in the mind of Roy Hodgson

Sanfreece Hiroshima goal celebration at Club World Cup – video

Now this is how you celebrate a goal… are you watching Premier League

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UPDATED:

15:10 GMT, 12 December 2012

Do you remember the days when football was about enjoyment

When football players did not scowl, snarl, swear and spit to celebrate a goal.

Well, you may be pleased to see this
joyous sketch from Japanese team Sanfreece Hiroshima, who celebrated
their goal in the Club World Cup, scored by Hisato Sato, with a
carefully choreographed Sumo-style dance routine.

Nice move: Sanfrecce Hiroshima's Hisato Sato, right, celebrates with teammates after scoring against Ulsan Hyundai

Nice move: Sanfrecce Hiroshima's Hisato Sato, right, celebrates with teammates after scoring against Ulsan Hyundai

Hisato Sato (L) of Japan's Sanfrecce Hiroshima and his teammates celebrate

Hisato Sato (L) of Japan's Sanfrecce Hiroshima and his teammates celebrate

It was some afternoon on Wedesday for Sato, who scored two goals and was named Man of the Match for Hiroshima in their 3-2 victory over Ulsan in the 5th placed play-off of the Club World Cup in Japan.

How refreshing it is to see happiness etched into the faces of the players.

You sense that they recognise that they are fortunate to have the chance to play football at such a high level.

They are enjoying themselves. How it should be. Smiling and laughing.

Watch the video…

Arms a'waving, feet a'stomping, it is hard not to be endeared to this group of players.

Such delight is light-years away from those Premier League stars who celebrate goals by swearing into the camera, and those who surge towards supporters with their faces twisted and contorted with anger and aggression.

We should be proud of the passion in the English game but would it not be nice if we saw our Premier League stars follow the lead of the Japanese players and start to bring some joy back into playing football

Gareth Bale transfer latest: Andre Villas-Boas admits Tottenham may struggle to keep Wales winger

I'm not sure how long I can keep hold of Bale, admits AVB as Barca and Real circle

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UPDATED:

09:09 GMT, 29 November 2012

Andre Villas-Boas admits Tottenham may struggle to hold on to Gareth Bale after watching the Welsh winger end Liverpool's eight-match unbeaten run in fine style.

Bale ran 50 yards and beat four Liverpool players before setting up Aaron Lennon for Tottenham's first and then beat Pepe Reina with a brilliant 30-yard free-kick to double the hosts' lead.

The fact that Bale signed a new contract last summer has not stopped Barcelona and Real Madrid being heavily linked with the 23-year-old, and Villas-Boas admits he may be powerless to stop the winger leaving.

Holding on: Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas admits he could struggle to keep hold off Gareth Bale (right)

Celebration: Bale delights after his goal against Liverpool

Holding on: Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas admits he could struggle to keep hold off Gareth Bale (right)

'At the moment he is performing extremely well for Spurs and we are amazed at what he can do for us. He is on to a great career,' Villas-Boas said.

'Obviously Tottenham as a football club want to keep him here for as long as we can but we understand players like this have propositions and a market, which is the nature of the game.'

Should either of the Spanish giants have had scouts at last night's game at White Hart Lane, they will have been impressed with Bale's outstanding performance.

His pace, creativity and finishing were sublime throughout the game – with the only negative point coming in the second half when he got in the way of Lennon's clearance, which struck his head and went in to his own net.

Liverpool feel they should have taken something from the match, however. Manager Brendan Rodgers was infuriated at referee Phil Dowd for not awarding Liverpool two penalties – one for a foul on Steven Gerrard by Mousa Dembele, and the other when William Gallas took out Luis Suarez in the dying minutes.

Rodgers earlier this season complained that his team were not getting enough decisions from officials, and he was deeply unhappy tonight that Dowd awarded the free-kick that led to Bale's goal when Clint Dempsey went down under the slightest of touches from Jordan Henderson.

'Nothing is going for us away from home, that's how it's been all season in terms of decisions,' Rodgers said in his post-match press conference.

Stepping up: Bale gets his effort spot on to score for Spurs against Liverpool

Stepping up: Bale gets his effort spot on to score for Spurs against Liverpool

'Clint Dempsey has been clever (with the free-kick)

'He gets a hand in back and goes down. We should have had two [penalties tonight]. It's incredible to have gone through the season without getting a penalty.

'The Steven Gerrard one was nearly assault. How is that not a penalty

On the ball: Bale gives the Liverpool defence the runaround at White Hart Lane

On the ball: Bale gives the Liverpool defence the runaround at White Hart Lane

'Watch the second one. Luis Suarez spins, William Gallas swings his left foot, catches him and he goes down.

'The statistics will tell you that we've been in the box as much as anyone, but to arrive at this stage of season and not get a penalty…'

Paul Lambert feels the heat after Aston Villa"s worst start since 1970

The Doc's spectre looms large over Lambert as Villa stumble to worst start since 1970

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 28 October 2012

First, the good news for Aston Villa’s supporters.

Following the club’s worst start to a league campaign in 43 years, they cannot be relegated to the third tier of English football, a fate suffered by Tommy Docherty and Vic Crowe’s crop in 1970.

Christian Benteke shows promise. Ron Vlaar is a resolute addition to the ranks. And Matthew Lowton efficiently goes about his business.

And here is the bad.

Home keeper Brad Guzan was rightly named man of the match by Villa’s matchday sponsors. That should be an adequate pointer.

Man of the match: Brad Guzan makes a save from Wes Hoolahan

Man of the match: Brad Guzan makes a save from Wes Hoolahan

The long walk: Tommy Docherty quits Villa in 1970

The long walk: Tommy Docherty after quitting Villa in 1970

Norwich boss Chris Hughton ditched his normal conservative press conference style to claim without hesitation that the Canaries had dropped two points. He was right, too.

Out of their nine matches so far, Villa have played just one team who finished in the top four last season — Tottenham — and have fixtures to come in the next four weeks that include Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal.

What’s more, against those teams last term they picked up not one solitary point.

Manager Paul Lambert appears to have over-estimated the quality of Villa’s playing staff. His brave policy of buying largely untried Premier League players appears flawed. Frankly, their midfield is the weakest in the division.

Tough times: Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert has the weight of the world on his shoulders as Villa struggled against former club Norwich

Tough times: Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert has the weight of the world on his shoulders as Villa struggled against former club Norwich

What’s more, the Scot is struggling to come up with any plausible way forward, apart from blind faith.

What is becoming clearer by the day is that a promising win over Swansea City was a false dawn and the sooner the whole club appreciates the gravity of this situation, the better.

The whole club — from the boardroom to the terraces — wants Lambert to succeed. But something needs to change. Villa are a quarter of the way through the season and boast six points.

Norwich, on the other hand, appear a far more organised outfit than the one who were spectacularly demolished by Liverpool last month.

Sebastien Bassong is a defender of Premier League class whom Hughton will need to keep on the pitch.Having seen the new Carrow Road chief organise a Birmingham City team that threatened to implode, he is whipping the Canaries into shape.

This is obviously where his reputation as a coach of substance comes from.

As for Villa, I’ll leave you with a little teaser. Who said the following

‘The new players have not performed as well as I anticipated,’ said this Scottish boss, ‘but I have complete faith and confidence in all of my players and in my own ability.’

The answer

Tommy Docherty. Twenty-four hours later, he was sacked. Four months after that, Villa were relegated.

John McCririck axed by Channel 4 as Clare Balding leads new-look racing team

Outspoken McCririck turfed out by Channel 4 as Balding leads new-look racing team

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UPDATED:

08:20 GMT, 26 October 2012

'Devastated' John McCririck, one of the best known
faces in racing broadcasting, will not be part of the new Channel 4
Racing team which takes over sole terrestrial broadcasting of the sport
from January 1.

The outlandish and often outspoken
figure, who transformed the way news from the betting ring at
racecourses was shown on TV, has been involved in racing broadcasting
since 1981 when the racing was shown on ITV.

Axed: John McCririck

Axed: John McCririck

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The 72-year-old will be replaced by his sidekick Tanya Stevenson but McCririck accused the broadcasters of ageism, with just one of the 13 presenters in the new line-up over 50.

'I'm devastated. I've been covering TV betting for 31 years,' he told The Mirror.

'According to Channel 4 I'm being sacked after audience research. Yes, I do antagonise people, as reactions to me on Celebrity Big Brother proved. But I was never asked to change my presentation style.

'Clare [Balding] is a terrific choice to lead the new young team. But it's so sad Channel 4 have again gone down the path of ageism.'

With his eccentric headgear, Old Harrovian McCririck was an original member of the Channel 4 Racing team three years later.

His catch-phrases and use of Tic-Tac, the system of hand signals that traditionally transfer messages across the Ring, attracted huge attention to McCririck who became better recognised than many of its best-known participants.

That led to appearances in programmes like Celebrity Big Brother and Wife Swap, the latter with wife Jenny or The Booby as he refers to her.

All change: Clare Balding (L) will lead the new-look Channel 4 racing team in the New Year

All change: Clare Balding (L) will lead the new-look Channel 4 racing team in the New Year

Fellow C4 presenters also to fail to make the new line up are stalwarts Derek Thompson, Mike Cattermole and Alistair Down.

John Francome and Lesley Graham had already ruled themselves out of a role in the new-look team which will be led by Clare Balding.

She moves from the BBC and will be supported by Nick Luck, currently host of C4' s Morning Line.

Other C4 faces to survive include Jim McGrath, Alice Plunkett and Emma Spencer.

Recruited from the BBC is Grand National winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald plus Rishi Persad while joining the team as paddock analyst Graham Cunningham, who has been working on specialist channel Racing UK.

Gold Cup winning jockey Sam Thomas will be a contributor as will Gina Bryce, who works for Attheraces.

Mad-cap: McCririck was an outspoken character in racing

Bonkers: McCririck was an outspoken character in racing and appeared on Channel 4's Celebrity Wife Swap alongside Edwina Currie (below)

Bonkers: McCririck appeared on Channel 4's Celebrity Wife Swap alongside Edwina Currie

The lead commentator will be C4's Simon Holt supported by Richard Hoiles.

Jamie Aitchison, Channel 4's Sports Editor, said: 'Being the new home of horseracing is a real privilege and I'm delighted to announce this carefully selected team of presenters and reporters; a mix of broadcasting heavyweights and racing experts.

'Sports fans have something to look forward to – our racing coverage will be insightful, intelligent and ground-breaking. I'm hugely excited about the future of racing on Channel 4 and greatly look forward to 2013.

'I would like to thank all of the presenting team for their commitment and enthusiasm to Channel 4 and the racing coverage over the years.'

Brendan Rodgers tells Liverpool players to improve their shooting

Hit the target! Rodgers urges Liverpool players to improve in front of goal

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UPDATED:

15:21 GMT, 24 September 2012

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has told his players they need to improve their form in front of goal in order for them to fully reap the benefits of their new style.

Since taking over from Kenny Dalglish in the summer the Northern Irishman has been working on getting his squad adapted to a game-plan based around lots of possession.

In probably their best display so far the Reds dominated Sunday's home match against Manchester United, even after Jonjo Shelvey was sent off before half-time, but ended up losing 2-1 having not taken advantage of their control.

Accuracy: Luis Suarez is among those who need to take more care

Accuracy: Luis Suarez is among those who need to take more care

Rodgers wants his players to threaten the goal more, especially as they have scored four times in five Barclays Premier League matches, but is happy with the way everything else is developing despite his side being in the bottom three.

'I said to them at half-time we have to
be effective as well,' said Rodgers, who is currently working to bring
in a goalscorer to fit into his system in January.

'We have to hit the target: there is no point us getting into good areas in the field and twisting and turning and being bright if we don't shoot.

'You have to shoot otherwise you don't score – that is something we know across the board we need to improve on.

'There's no reticence to shoot but it is in the DNA of the player, the type of player. That is what we hoped we could bring in over the summer and we weren't able to do that.

'So we've got to go with what we've got until January and you bring in the certain type of player who can help that.'

Despite the defeat to United Rodgers believes the United match provided a watershed moment in his short tenure as Reds boss.

'I think we have seen enough in the team to see the improvement and the biggest thing for me to come out now is that control and domination,' he added.

'We really dominated and controlled the ball against United, a top, experienced side, so for me that is a big moment from when I first came in.

'When we played Gomel away we could hardly string five passes together so we are making strides forward and very soon the performance level will turn to results and then we can kick on.

'For our future this is another massive step in terms of where we want to go.'

Nada: Fabio Borini is yet to find the net in the Premier League

Nada: Fabio Borini is yet to find the net in the Premier League

Liverpool have had a difficult start to the season, facing both Manchester clubs and Arsenal in the opening five fixtures, but with those behind them Rodgers is keen to look forward.

'It was always going to be a tough run of games for us at the beginning, especially with change and losing so many players,” he said of the summer turnaround in playing staff.

'But I think everyone who walked out against Manchester United will have seen hope in that performance.

'I think we are seeing lots of real positives; the players are in unison and the quality of our football at times was outstanding.

Shake: Brendan Rodgers is hoping his strikers can pull their socks up

Shake: Brendan Rodgers is hoping his strikers can pull their socks up

'We will turn these performances into wins very soon and then we will be able to push forward.

'Very soon our luck will change and we will do what it takes to win games and then when we do that I believe we will fly.'

Rodgers is awaiting news on three players who were injured against United.

Of most concern is centre-back Daniel Agger, whom the manager thinks may have damaged the medial ligament in his left knee, while fellow defender Martin Kelly also limped off with a knee problem late on.

Forward Fabio Borini was forced off at half-time with a bruised foot and swollen ankle.

Tom Wood aiming for England comeback

Wood sets sights on England comeback… via archery, rifle assembly and shed building

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 21 September 2012

There are various ways for a player to deal with the spectre of long-term injury and the fear that a burgeoning career is in jeopardy. Tom Wood built a shed — on stilts. He took up archery. And he learned about assembling and using rifles.

These were necessary outlets for his concerns and confusion. The injury to his left foot which struck at the start of this year was meant to require a quick fix; just a few weeks of rest, with the aid of a protective boot.

That was before it became apparent the extent of his condition — stemming from the separation of two tiny sesamoid bones behind a big toe — was ‘almost unheard of’.

Poised: Tom Wood is aiming to make his England comeback

Poised: Tom Wood is aiming to make his England comeback

Tom Wood

So the Northampton flanker missed England’s defence of the Six Nations title under new head coach Stuart Lancaster, having played a key role in the 2011 success.

He returned too soon and a freak incident led to a broken toe to compound the problems, before he ripped the arch of his foot in the LV= Cup final defeat against Leicester.

All the indications were that Wood had been the leading contender for the England captaincy before he was forced out of action. Instead, Chris Robshaw seized the role in fine style, while the 25-year-old Saint faced up to months of inactivity and angst.

‘It was a worrying time,’ he said. ‘I was wondering if I would ever run properly again. I genuinely thought that when I was told I’d have to go in a boot and miss a few weeks of rugby, that I would soon come back and be part of a new regime under Stuart Lancaster.

'I didn’t think for a minute that not only would I miss the whole Six Nations, I’d miss play-offs for Northampton and the England tour, too.

Lesson: Wood shows Chris Foy the ropes and picks arrows out of the target (below)

Lesson: Wood shows Chris Foy the ropes and picks arrows out of the target (below)

Target practice

‘When I found out, I got angry at everyone. At the medics for not knowing more, for not understanding it better. I wanted clarity and nobody could provide it. It was no-one’s fault, but it was my career that was in jeopardy and I started looking back, questioning everything.

‘I’m my own worst enemy in a way — I was putting my hand up and saying, “I’m OK to play”.’

Wood is a driven character. He needed a way of filling the void where rugby should have been, so he turned his attentions to ‘a few projects’.

‘I’ll show you how my frustration came out,’ he said, before revealing a picture on his phone of a shed on stilts in his garden.

‘It’s a two-metre-high shed with two-and-a-half-metre stilts holding it up. It’s for hunting, I use it as a “hide”. It was a week of angry sawing and hammering, breaking wood, making a mess.

‘I built that not long after I’d found out I wouldn’t be playing rugby for months. I went into a dark place on my own, I wallowed and got angry at everything, then I took it out on some wood!’

Constructive: Wood built his own shed while recovering

Constructive: Wood built his own shed while recovering

The fondness for hunting developed in New Zealand years ago, when Wood was furthering his rugby education.

‘I will go deer-stalking and might get the odd muntjac,’ he said. ‘I will skin it and butcher it myself. I take off all the steaks and eat them, take the haunches off and have that in a roast. I take off every scrap of meat then give it to the butcher down the road.’

Wood being Wood, he won’t settle for just pursuing the activity, he is fascinated about the processes behind it. In this case, he became intrigued by the rifles themselves. ‘I’m very interested in the engineering side of ballistics and rifle-building,’ he said.

‘It’s a fairly recent hobby. Steve Thompson (ex-Northampton and England hooker) knew a guy here from UK Gunworks. He lives round the corner and builds rifles from his house.

'I get into the physics behind how it all works. He teaches me how to tune rifles and how ammo works. I while away time reading about what powder burns fastest and things like that.’

Experimental: Wood sometimes spends days playing with his archery kit

Experimental: Wood sometimes spends days playing with his archery kit

Of course, that particular hobby requires suitable locations while Wood needed an activity which could be pursued more easily.

One day, someone showed him a bow and arrow and how to operate it. Instantly hooked, he dashed off to buy one. ‘I spend much of my time firing arrows at targets, modifying arrows, making them shorter, trying different weights, measuring how fast they’re going, all that kind of stuff. I can waste whole days doing that,’ he said.

‘I watched the Olympic archery. I wanted to see how they do things differently. I am always experimenting, to see what works best. I practise at the club. I set up targets on the back pitches behind Franklin’s Gardens.’

Happily, Wood is an active rugby player again, gradually recovering stability in his troublesome foot. He has played all three of Northampton’s opening Aviva Premiership games — three full 80-minute stints — although he is among the replacements for Saturday’s visit of his former club, Worcester. The path back to his personal peak is still before him.

Looking forward: Wood is still getting back to his best

Looking forward: Wood is still getting back to his best

‘I’m not 100 per cent,’ he said. ‘The foot isn’t as strong as the other foot yet, but it’s getting better every week. I’m on the up again, but I’m frustrated because I don’t feel I’m the player I was before getting injured. I’m probably 15-20 per cent off where I can be.’

Asked if he would fancy the job of leading his country one day, he added: ‘It’s not something I’d strive for or get worked up about, but if it ever came my way I’d be very proud and I’d give it a good shot.’

For now, he has the more immediate target of rediscovering his best form to push for an autumn Test recall. ‘I want to be back at my best for Northampton,’ he said. ‘I think that when I am, I will be in contention to be back in the England team — whether it’s at six, seven or eight. I’d play at scrum-half for England if that’s what they wanted!'

Demba Ba latest: Alan Pardew plays down rift rumours

Pardew tries to play down Ba rift rumours after outburst from player's agent

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UPDATED:

18:08 GMT, 19 September 2012

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew insisted there is no rift between himself and striker Demba Ba.

The Senegal international admitted his displeasure at only being named among the substitutes for Monday night's 2-2 Barclays Premier League draw at Everton having responded in fine style by coming off the bench to score both his side's goals.

His agent Alex Gontran caused consternation on Tyneside when he suggested the following day that Ba might have to consider his options if he found himself sitting on the bench too often in the future.

Getting ready: Alan Pardew with defender Mike Williamson ahead of their clash with Maritimo

Getting ready: Alan Pardew with defender Mike Williamson ahead of their clash with Maritimo

Pardew's response in Madeira on Wednesday night was more diplomatic than it might have been, with the initial response behind the scenes one of acute displeasure.

He said: 'That's just people needing to say things they shouldn't say, really, but it doesn't really affect me and Demba. We have got a good relationship.'

Pardew signed Ba last summer and saw him plunder 15 goals before heading off to the African Nations Cup, after which he scored just once more before the end of the campaign.

However, he was asked to play a slightly different role on his return, one of the strands of Gontran's criticism.

That early form led to speculation that a series of suitors might activate the 7.5million release clause in Ba's contract during the summer, although the deadline came and went without incident.

Relief at the player's continued presence was tempered by the belief that he had been touted around for sale, and it would be no surprise if the rumours started once again as the next transfer window approaches.

In the meantime, Pardew has no problem making the tough decisions he needs to to balance the demands of trying to compete on four fronts.

He said: 'The bottom line is you have to get your players to play at their best and sometimes there are different methods of doing that.'

Strong: Pardew says he has a good relationship with Demba Ba

Strong: Pardew says he has a good relationship with Demba Ba

Ba and compatriot Papiss Cisse were conspicuous by their absence when a largely inexperienced 19-man squad jetted out from Tyneside for Thursday night's Europa League clash with Maritimo, although Cisse was withdrawn because of illness.

Shola Ameobi will start on a night when 37-year-old Steve Harper hopes to extend a European career which he admits he thought was over.

The goalkeeper made his first senior appearance for the club in almost 17 months in the away leg of the play-off against Greek side Atromitos last month, and as a result of number one Tim Krul's elbow injury, returned to Barclays Premier League action at Everton.

Ready to go: Steve Harper is set to start

Ready to go: Steve Harper is set to start

Asked if he thought he would ever play
in Europe again, Harper said: 'Last year, probably not. But this year
it's well-documented the conversation I had with the manager.

'He
said we had a lot of games and if I still wanted it, it was there for
me, so at the start of the year there was light at the end of the tunnel
and here I am.'

Despite spending much of his career as Shay Given's deputy, Harper has experienced most of the Magpies' big nights on the continental stage.

He played in a famous 1-0 Champions League victory over Juventus at St James' Park and was in the side which beat Dynamo Kiev 2-1 in the same competition in 2002-03, while he was on the bench the night Craig Bellamy's late winner against Feyenoord in Rotterdam fired the club into the second group stage.

On song: Ba struck twice against Everton

On song: Ba struck twice against Everton

Harper said: 'Obviously, the two Champions League games against Juventus and Dynamo Kiev were special, the Feyenoord night, going to Barcelona, the San Siro. It was fantastic.

'The good thing about this is, I was able to sit and look at the draw and the bonus is we are going to three places we haven't been to before.

'We are going to Madeira, Bordeaux and Bruges. I was looking at the draw and looking at Partizan Belgrade thinking, “I've been there twice, can we please go somewhere else” Not that there's anything wrong with Belgrade, but you just want to go out and experience new places.

'It's fantastic to come to Maritimo and I'll hopefully get to Bordeaux and Bruges as well.'