Tag Archives: superstars

Andy Murray won"t complain about OBE

OBE The fantasy league is my goal, says Murray on back of stunning year

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UPDATED:

00:17 GMT, 30 December 2012

Andy Murray would have every right to feel aggrieved for receiving ‘only’ an OBE in the New Year’s honours, but you will not find Britain’s best tennis player complaining about it — his focus is firmly on 2013, when he says his main aim, aside from winning matches, will be to retain his Fantasy Football title.

Murray’s historic 2012 included Olympic singles gold and the US Open title (the first Slam title by a British man for 76 years) in tennis’s greatest era for quality bar none, as well as being voted into third place in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

Yet Murray’s OBE was two tiers down from the award handed to Bradley Wiggins (knighthood), a tier below the CBEs handed to Mo Farah, Jess Ennis, Victoria Pendleton and Kath Grainger, and on the same level as up-and-coming cyclist Laura Trott and dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin.

Main man: Andy Murray was honoured with an OBE after his winning season

Main man: Andy Murray was honoured with an OBE after his winning season

More from Nick Harris…

Nick Harris: Farah and Co can push TV Superstars to a longer run
22/12/12

Nick Harris: Beckham in talks over ownership of MLS club
15/12/12

Nick Harris: Europe to fight winter World Cup plans
08/12/12

Nick Harris: 5.5bn – The staggering sum TV companies around the world will pay to screen the Premier League
24/11/12

Nick Harris: 2012 heroes miss out on Christmas books bonanza
17/11/12

Nick Harris: Another blow for Wiggins as his throne fails to sell
10/11/12

Nick Harris: Olympic chiefs told athletes to cash in and charge 10,000 for appearances
03/11/12

Nick Harris: United to top rich league again with half a billion
27/10/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Murray, 25, will be unruffled because his sport comes ahead of any resulting baubles, although he has already been installed as the favourite to win the SPOTY award in 2013. England cricketer Alastair Cook is second favourite in what will be Ashes year, ahead of Ennis, Farah and Chris Froome, a possible winner of the 2013 Tour de France with Team Sky.

Murray outlined his 2013 targets, including retaining the fantasy league title he contests among friends, in a debut Twitter forum hosted by football’s world governing body, FIFA.

In the same session, Sir Geoff Hurst invited Murray to watch England play football in 2013 — and Murray accepted. Murray also disclosed that ‘purely on satisfaction’ his Olympic gold meant more to him than his US Open title.

He also said that if he had not been a tennis player, his dream would have been to play football for Arsenal, rather than Hibernian, the Edinburgh team he supports.

Jess a Twitter millionairess

Jessica Ennis’s army of Twitter followers reached the one million mark on Christmas Eve, prompting the heptathlon star to tweet: ‘That’s mad! Thanks guys. I’d better start tweeting some interesting stuff.’

Golden moment: Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon at the London Games

Golden moment: Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon at the London Games

Ennis becomes only the third British Olympian to pass 1m followers after diver Tom Daley, who has 2.1m people following his tweets, and Andy Murray, with 1.33m. Mo Farah (710,000) is next closest to the tally, Sir Chris Hoy is on 430,000, Becky Adlington has 311,000, Victoria Pendleton attracts 237,000 and gymnast — and ‘Strictly’ winner — Louis Smith is on 195,000.

These numbers are dwarfed by Britain’s best-followed footballers Wayne Rooney (5.5m) and Rio Ferdinand (3.7m).

Mum Julie flies to Crowe’s nest

Four Yorkshire brothers, who have all been signed to play for the Sydney-based rugby league club owned by film star Russell Crowe, will celebrate the New Year as a family after their mother, Julie, flew to Australia to begin a new life Down Under with them last week.

England and Great Britain international Sam Burgess, 24, as well as older brother Luke, 25, and twin siblings George and Tom, 20, have been signed by the South Sydney Rabbitohs, owned by Crowe, 48, since 2006.

Helping hand: Russell Crowe

Helping hand: Russell Crowe

Widowed Julie has been a friend of Crowe’s since the club signed Sam in 2009, with the other brothers following. ‘He’s always very hospitable and looks after the boys. He loves being part of our family, he likes to look after us,’ said Ms Burgess earlier this year.

Once in Sydney, she tweeted: ‘Hello Australia! I’ve arrived and couldn’t be happier!’

Sam Burgess has played down suggestions of a romance between Crowe, who recently split from his wife, and his mother, insisting they are ‘just mates’.

BT warned

Sunset+Vine, the award-winning company who have bagged the contract to produce the live sports programming for BT’s new sports channel, including Premier League games from summer 2013, will face financial penalties in the event of any broadcasting cock-ups, say sources.

BT are desperate for their new content to be perfect and a schedule of fines is aimed at making sure there are no bloopers like the one made by ITV during the 2010 World Cup, when viewers missed Steven Gerrard’s goal for England against the United States because of an advert break. BT declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Jake Humphrey’s appointment to front BT’s Premier League coverage has led to joy for petrolhead pin-up Suzi Perry. The 42-year-old presenter will replace Humphrey as the face of BBC1’s Formula One coverage. Gary Lineker is among those who tweeted his congratulations, saying: ‘Great choice, she’ll be brilliant.’

Nick Harris Mo Farah can push TV Superstars to a longer run

Farah and Co can push TV Superstars to a longer run

PUBLISHED:

22:35 GMT, 22 December 2012

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UPDATED:

23:02 GMT, 22 December 2012

The BBC hope their festive Olympic
Superstars show will lead to a longer-term revival of the hit programme
of the 1970s and 1980s – although one of the London 2012 athletes who
features in the Christmas special jokes that he will be hiding in
embarrassment when it is screened.

Superstars became a family favourite
as top sportsmen from Formula One's James Hunt to judo star Brian Jacks
took part and through famous moments such as Kevin Keegan crashing his
bike.

Paddle power: Mo Farah has fun in the kayak head-to-head with Peter Wilson

Paddle power: Mo Farah has fun in the kayak head-to-head with Peter Wilson

The Olympic special, to be screened next
Saturday evening, pits 16 heroes from London 2012 against each other –
from double gold-winning runner Mo Farah to boxing's Nicola Adams and
Anthony Joshua, triathlon's Brownlee brothers, rower Kath Grainger and
equestrian pin-up Laura Bechtolsheimer among others.

More from Nick Harris…

Nick Harris: Beckham in talks over ownership of MLS club
15/12/12

Nick Harris: Europe to fight winter World Cup plans
08/12/12

Nick Harris: 5.5bn – The staggering sum TV companies around the world will pay to screen the Premier League
24/11/12

Nick Harris: 2012 heroes miss out on Christmas books bonanza
17/11/12

Nick Harris: Another blow for Wiggins as his throne fails to sell
10/11/12

Nick Harris: Olympic chiefs told athletes to cash in and charge 10,000 for appearances
03/11/12

Nick Harris: United to top rich league again with half a billion
27/10/12

Nick Harris: 1.3m Olympic 'freebies' to blame for those empty seats
20/10/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Peter Wilson, who won shooting gold in
the double trap, said: 'Once it's screened, I'm never going to live down
how bad I was! I'll probably buy myself a one-way ticket to Timbuktu to
avoid the embarrassment.'

Wilson says that for 'must watch TV', fans should tune in for the kayak head-to-head between himself and Farah.

'The two worst kayakers against each other,' he said.

'I went out like a dingbat and ended up against the wall and Mo went the wrong way, about 18 times, then capsized.'

In other events, Wilson reveals, 'me and the javelin did not see eye to eye and the 800 metres was so tough it felt like my lungs were bleeding. My sport is all about standing still and I was up against these supreme athletes like the Brownlees, Robbie Grabarz and Anthony Joshua.'

The BBC paid the competitors undisclosed fees for taking part. 'But it wasn't about the money, it was great fun to do, even if it won't be for me to watch it,' said Wilson.

The show's main presenter, Gabby Logan, confirmed that the BBC want further shows.

'Hopefully, we're trying to do another one so we want contestants to tell their friends that they all had a great time and keep the calibre of the guests really high profile,' she said.

'This will stand the show in good stead to hopefully re-establish Superstars again. I think it would be great to mix Olympians up with other sportspeople – rugby, footballers and cricketers. That would be the nub of it.'

Selling: Carl Hester open to offers

Selling: Carl Hester open to offers

Hester still a seller

Olympic dressage gold medallist Carl Hester is still hopeful of selling wonder horse Valegro, despite dismissing reports that a Saudi prince wanted to buy the gelding for 20million as 'complete and utter fantasy'.

Hester joked that he 'spotted a few billionaires' watching as Charlotte Dujardin triumphed again on Valegro at Olympia last week.

He says he remains hopeful of 'developments in the New Year' and would be open to British investors securing the horse for Dujardin, who won two gold medals on him at London 2012, to ride towards Rio in four years' time.

Leeds fans urge new owners to reveal details of 17m takeover

Leeds United supporters have greeted the takeover of their club by the Dubaibased GFH Capital with cautious optimism but say they want more details about the new owners' finances, background and plans.

GFHC now own 100 per cent of Leeds in a takeover that sources say cost 17million up front to buy out chairman Ken Bates and other shareholders, and will cost a further 17m when Leeds win promotion. GFHC and Leeds have declined to confirm any financial details.

Bates was unpopular with some fans but will remain as chairman until the end of this season and then become president.

Neither GFHC nor Leeds have said whether he will be paid for those roles.

End of an era: Ken Bates

End of an era: Ken Bates

Dan Moylan, of the Square Ball fanzine, said: 'On the one hand I'm happy because, to all intents and purposes, it's the end of Ken Bates's tenure and the new owners are saying all the right things. On the other hand we now need the new owners to flesh out their plans with hard detail and tell us what the plan is in a year, two years, three years. They say they want Leeds to be sustainable. How will that happen'

The takeover does not include GFHC buying Leeds's Elland Road stadium or the Thorp Arch training ground, both of which are owned by unknown parties through an offshore firm in the Caribbean.

John Boocock, founder of the Leeds List group, the oldest online community of Leeds fans, which started in 1996, said: 'We want to know where the cash to buy the club came from, why the company that controls the club will not be registered in Britain where we can examine the accounts, but in the Cayman Islands, and what money precisely will be available in January.

'We weren't too impressed by the claim that the squad is good enough when we get players back from injury.'

Gary Cooper, head of the Leeds United Supporters Trust, said: 'The new owners did well in saying they want to work with the fans and the community and a lot of the supporter base will buy into that.

'We're led to believe we'll get the chance soon to meet the owners and we hope we will be able to get answers to all our outstanding questions.'

Asked for further details about the GFHC takeover, a Leeds spokesman told Inside Sport: 'The new owners answered all the questions they were asked at their press conference and won't be answering any more.'

Michu happy at Swansea despite transfer interest

I'm staying at Swansea! Michu allays quit fears and says he's happy in Wales

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UPDATED:

16:38 GMT, 11 December 2012

His manager Michael Laudrup claims he is worth 30million but Swansea City star Michu is ready to snub the biggest clubs on the planet and stay in Wales.

The 26-year-old Spaniard has been one of the surprise stars of the season, scoring 12 goals in the Barclays Premier League since his 2million bargain move from Rayo Vallecano in the summer.

Staying put: Spanish midfielder Michu insists he is happy to remain at Swansea

Staying put: Spanish midfielder Michu insists he is happy to remain at Swansea

His prolific form has seen him linked with a quick-fire move in January, with Atletico Madrid among the named targets.

But Michu has insisted he is staying put at the Liberty Stadium for now.

He told Radio Marca: ‘Right now I’m happy, playing almost every minute and I’m very happy.

‘It is always nice that you get talked about with teams like Atletico Madrid, one of the largest in Spain, but now I am very happy in Swansea.’

Michu has adapted to life in the Premier League with remarkable ease. While the likes of Spanish superstars Fernando Llorente and Fernando

Torres have been struggling for form in recent months, Spain manager Vincente des Bosque revealed this week that he has been looking at the Swansea star with keen interest after his goalscoring exploits at the start of the season.

Sean Fitzpatrick: New Zealand will beat England by 15 points

Twickenham's not a great hunting ground for All Blacks… but we'll win by 15 points

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 30 November 2012

Twickenham hasn't always been fruitful for the ever-impressive All Blacks, but former New Zealand international and pundit Sean Fitzpatrick tells Sportsmail why his country will put Stuart Lancaster's England side to the sword.

Form so far

Good, but they need to win all four games on tour to be deemed a success back home.

That's the beauty of the All Blacks. We've beaten Scotland, Italy and Wales. Now for England.

Flair player: Dan Carter will hope to leave England's hopes of salvaging this series in tatters

Flair player: Dan Carter will hope to leave England's hopes of salvaging this series in tatters

High standards expected

Our mantra is to remember the losses more than the wins. I still recall losing to the 1993 Lions in Wellington. It was my worst game for the All Blacks.

We 'park' our victories pretty quickly.

I'm sure Richie McCaw will remember the pain of losing the 2007 World Cup quarter-final to France more than winning the final last year.

How good is this team

They have improved since winning the World Cup. They play a simple game and what they do, they do very well. They build unbelievable pressure and hardly make a mistake.

They have such strength that a good player becomes a very good player. Everyone does his job. Other than Dan Carter and McCaw, there are not many superstars – they are not showy.

Fearsome: Richie McCaw is ready to pick up another win over England

Fearsome: Richie McCaw is ready to pick up another win over England

Playing at Twickenham

It's not a great hunting ground – it's quite a difficult environment to play in and it's usually the last game.

All Blacks to look out for

No 8 Kieran Read, player of the year and the best No 8 in the world. He leads by example.

He's got the raw ability of a No 8 – big, fast and strong – a great work ethic and passion for the jersey.

He improves each week. No 15 Israel Dagg is the new Christan Cullen, a real talent improved from 12 months ago.

One to watch: Sean believes we should look out for Kieran Read (right)

One to watch: Sean believes we should look out for Kieran Read (right)

Any advice

England have to put the All Blacks under pressure for 80 minutes. They have to create space, take their chances and be hugely physical.

Basically, they need the game of their lives.

Prediction

The All Blacks to win by 10-15 points. But Twickenham is a difficult place to go to and the All Blacks will be wary.

*Sean Fitzpatrick is a rugby commentator for Sky Sports, who will show the men's and women's England-New Zealand games on Saturday as part of Sky's year-round rugby union coverage.

Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney prepare for Newcastle

The best strike partnership in British football Van Persie and Rooney gear up for Newcastle clash

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 6 October 2012

Manchester United's 50million strikers Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie have been piling on the overtime to ensure they live up to the hype of being the most exciting front pairing in the Premier League.

Sir Alex Ferguson has been putting his two superstars through their paces on the training ground, with particular emphasis put on the tactical side of their new partnership.

They are expected to start a Premier League game together for the first time at Newcastle on Sunday after linking well in United's 2-1 Champions League win at Cluj on Tuesday, when Rooney set up both goals for his Dutch team-mate.

Ready to start Wayne Rooney (right) and Robin van Persie have a laugh in training

Ready to start Wayne Rooney (right) and Robin van Persie have a laugh in training

And Van Persie, who has scored seven goals already this season, has also been voluntarily undertaking extra training sessions to improve his fitness after missing pre-season while his protracted 24million move from Arsenal to United was being finalised.

Despite their status in the game, Rooney and Van Persie are not being allowed to let natural talent alone build their on-pitch relationship.

Ferguson is excited by the possibilities of having two such versatile players, with each on capable of playing as the furthest man forward, or as a second striker.

'There is a tactical part to the kind of training we do, and Rooney and Van Persie have to include themselves in that, without doubt,' he said. 'All the players get coached every day.

'We've had a lot of players who are naturally gifted in terms of movement and ability – Giggs, Scholes, Cantona , Ronaldo.

'But players and tactics can be manufactured as well. I don't think there is anything wrong with that if you reach high levels through the coaching you give the players.'

Ferguson's biggest headache is working out which way is best to use his strikers, given their talent and versatility, hinting that Van Persie is capable of supplying chances for Rooney, as well as vice-versa.

'Rooney and Van Persie can play up front together, it is possible to use them as a front two. But I think one of them would always drop in, which we don't mind – we think that is usually the right thing to do.

'It's not right to say Rooney prefers it facing the play. The season we played him up on his own, he scored 30-odd goals. We have great options up front because Danny Welbeck can also play up top or drop in.

'I think Van Persie and Rooney will score at least 20 goals each this season. If we can get Welbeck or Chicharito [Javier Hernandez] to 20 goals as well, that's perfect. We'll be in business.'

Ferguson is aware expectations are sky-high when arguably the two best individuals in the Premier League are in the same starting line-up.

Killer touch: Van Persie has hit the ground running since leaving the Emirates for old Trafford

Killer touch: Van Persie has hit the ground running since leaving the Emirates for old Trafford

Should Van Persie and Rooney replicate their solo form as a duo, they have the potential to emulate the best strike pairings seen in the Premier League, like Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, and United's own Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke.

Rooney's leg injury earlier in the season meant they have not yet started a league game together, but Ferguson clearly feels his two star players are now ready for it, having both started the campaign sluggishly for different reasons.

'Rooney is fit, he has trained really well,' said the manager. 'I think having time off because of his gashed leg has been key to it.

He maintained his fitness during that time, which is important because he is a stocky lad. 'Once Rooney gets that first goal of the season, he will explode.

His record shows that he will score goals, his finishing gets better every year. I know Van Persie was short of fitness and sharpness in his first games.

He doesn't carry weight but nonetheless you need four or five games pre-season. The other players had that but he only had 20 minutes for Arsenal against Cologne.

'His training sessions are getting better all the time. He's doing a lot of work after training with the sports science people. He asked for it because he knows he needs to make up time. He's been good that way in training, I think he is a good pro actually, looks after himself.'

Despite winning four Premier League titles and appearing in three Champions League finals since joining United in 2004, Rooney is still searching for that elusive perfect strike partner, for club and country.

Gearing up: Rooney (centre) and Van Persie (centre right) linked up well against FC Cluj to help United win 2-1

Gearing up: Rooney (centre) and Van Persie (centre right) linked up well against FC Cluj to help United win 2-1

He has scored goals alongside Ruud van Nistelrooy, Dimitar Berbatov, Welbeck and Hernandez for United, and Michael Owen and Emile Heskey with England, but nothing to compare with the Yorke-Cole partnership at Old Trafford.

United's injury crisis in defence means Ferguson's back four will pick itself at Newcastle, although he hopes Chris Smalling will be back to provide competition for Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans after the forthcoming international break.

But the manager faces a huge selection problem in midfield as he is desperate to find a place for Japan international Shinji Kagawa, who has impressed this season and was rested for the Cluj victory.

Michael Carrick, Anderson, Ryan Giggs, Nani, Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes are also vying for midfield places while Welbeck and Hernandez cannot be guaranteed a place on the bench. 'I think I know my team but it's difficult,' admitted Ferguson.

The trip to the north-east is always considered one of the toughest by United aficionados who remember Philippe Albert's chip in the 5-0 Newcastle win in 1997.

United were also well beaten there last season. Ferguson is expecting a tough contest again. 'Newcastle rested five players in the Europa League against Bordeaux and did very well.

Papiss Cisse's goal was brilliant, a really good finish. Any time you go to Newcastle it's tough with the support and all the 50,000 screaming Geordies.'

Now you see it... Rooney set up both Van Persie goals as United overcame FC Cluj

Now you see it… Rooney set up both Van Persie goals as United overcame FC Cluj

What about us Demba Ba (right) and Papiss Cisse (left) will be hoping to outscore Rooney and Van Persie on Sunday

What about us Demba Ba (right) and Papiss Cisse (left) will be hoping to outscore Rooney and Van Persie on Sunday

… But could they outperform these pairings

Could they outdo these pairings

Brendan Rodgers hoping to protect Raheem Sterling

Staying Sterling! Rodgers hoping to protect Liverpool starlet Raheem from overexposure

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 5 September 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Brendan Rodgers has held talks with the FA to ensure Liverpool’s exciting protg Raheem Sterling does not suffer overexposure.

The 17-year-old’s emergence over the past month has captured the imagination and England Under-21 head coach Stuart Pearce had given serious consideration to naming Sterling for the Euro 2013 double header against Azerbaijan and Norway.

Protection: Raheem Sterling has dazzled for Liverpool so far this season

Protection: Raheem Sterling has dazzled for Liverpool so far this season

However, after Rodgers spoke with Sir Trevor Brooking, it was decided Sterling would remain as part of the Under-19 squad that will play Germany in Hamburg tonight and the Liverpool manager is adamant the right decision has been made.

‘I think with young players you have to be careful,’ said Rodgers. ‘They can be elevated above their station too quickly. That is a part of it in this country. They have one good game and they get elevated into superstar status.

‘You then see them at 23 and 24 and wonder why they are not superstars any more. I spoke to Trevor Booking on the thoughts of where the FA believes Raheem is at. I said, in my opinion, of course he has got the ability to be in the Under-21s.

‘But I believe in many ways it is right for him to go with the Under-19s. He was involved with us on Sunday.

Future team-mates: Sterling was pitted against Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on Sunday

Future team-mates: Sterling was pitted against Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on Sunday

'He has met up with England squad now and travelled to play in Germany. It then allows him to come back and recover well before our next game at Sunderland.’

Rodgers had considered sending Sterling out on loan in July but such has been the transformation in his form that the winger has started the last two Barclays Premier League games against Manchester City and Arsenal.

His performances have been a rare high point for Rodgers in a tough few weeks but that will not stop him from pulling Sterling out of the spotlight if he believes his long-term development is in danger of being damaged.

‘It is all about individual needs,’ Rodgers continued. ‘It might look great on the back pages that he is involved in the Under-21s but the reality is that this is a kid who has made great strides over the last few weeks; he was absolutely fantastic through pre-season.

‘You have seen his quality, courage and attitude in games – it has been fantastic. But, for the moment, let’s just stay calm.’

Hopeful: Brendan Rodgers is hoping to protect his prized youngster from overexposure

Hopeful: Brendan Rodgers is hoping to protect his prized youngster from overexposure

Great Britain 78 USA 118: LeBron James and Co too good for Olympic hosts

Great Britain 78 USA 118: Money men too flash for rookie Brits

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UPDATED:

21:38 GMT, 19 July 2012

As the USA emerged, everyone in the sold-out Manchester Arena turned to their end of the court; camera phones flashed and messages were tweeted, recording the moment 160million worth of wage packets loped out in front of them.

Since the 1936 Olympics, the USA's men have won 13 gold medals in 16 attempts, losing only five of 127 games.

Great Britain, meanwhile, have not fielded an Olympic basketball team since 1948.

Stars and Stripes: The USA were just too good for the hosts in the Olympic warm-up match

Stars and Stripes: The USA were just too good for the hosts in the Olympic warm-up match

Lionel Price, 85, Britain's only surviving basketball Olympian, was present looking, understandably, a little bewildered. He was given a bus pass to get to Harringay Arena 64 years ago.

The USA may have won this exhibition match comfortably but, as all parties kept saying beforehand, it was certainly a 'big deal'.

British basketball started from nothing only five years ago, but last night hosted the defending Olympic champions just days before a home Olympics. That is a big deal.

Some of Britain's own famous sporting names, including Joleon Lescott, Fabr ice Muamba, Darren Fletcher and Amir Khan, were court-side.

Testing times: Great Britain were competitive but were outclassed by the NBA superstars

Testing times: Great Britain were competitive but were outclassed by the NBA superstars

Testing times: Great Britain were competitive but were outclassed by the NBA superstars

We think our Premier League stars are well paid, but the NBA is another level: Kobe Bryant earns around 19.6m a year, plus around 18m in sponsorship deals. LeBron James's annual salary is around 10.4m, with 21m coming in from other commercial interests.

King James could not have looked less interested in proceedings in the warm-up, but for the six minutes and 53 seconds he was on the court in the first quarter he was on another level: fizzing a pass out to the right and collecting rebounds at will.

In the second he coasted towards the basket quite brilliantly and he was showboating by the third, darting in from the right and hanging on the rim.

Court side: Stars including Jordan Henderson, Fabrice Muamba (above) and Danny Cipriani with Harry Kewell (below) were in attendance

Court side: Stars including Jordan Henderson, Fabrice Muamba (above) and Danny Cipriani with Harry Kewell (below) were in attendance

Court side: Stars including Jordan Henderson, Fabrice Muamba (above) and Danny Cipriani with Harry Kewell (below) were in attendance

James, 27, isn't the tallest – 7ft 1in Tyson Chandler takes that honour – but the Olympic Games may not see a more imposing athlete.

Great Britain could not quite match their female counterparts' lightning start on Wednesday night, but they did score first. Joel Freeland broke quickly to capitalise on Pops Mensah-Bonsu's rebound.

London-born Mensah-Bonsu has played 61 games for five NBA teams and certainly looked at home in such esteemed company, snapping up rebounds and yelling 'C'mon Kobe!' when he was penalised for fouling Bryant in the second quarter.

Full house: The manchester Arena was packed to watch Deng and Co take on the Americans

Full house: The manchester Arena was packed to watch Deng and Co take on the Americans

The 28-year-old Freeland and Chicago Bulls and NBA All-Star Luol Deng certainly hold the key to Great Britain's challenge in London.

There was no chance of the USA letting Great Britain off lightly. Maybe, just maybe, this was a 'big deal' for them, too.

Wimbledon 2012: Rafa Nadal-Roger Federer frostiness adds extra spice

The end of the love-in: Nadal-Federer frostiness adds extra spice to rivalry

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 24 June 2012

A few weeks ago a very prominent figure in tennis’s global hierarchy was reflecting on the ever-changing dynamic between the all-powerful Big Three at the top of the men’s game.

‘At the moment we’re in a phase when Rafa (Nadal) and Novak (Djokovic) take the opposite position on everything to Roger (Federer),’ he said. ‘And it’s not something you want to get caught in the middle of.’

There have been times in the past year when their disagreements on everything from ranking systems to court surfaces have boiled over into the public arena.

Up for the cup: What has happened to the 'friendly' rivalries among the game's global superstars

Up for the cup: What has happened to the 'friendly' rivalries among the game's global superstars

So as we approach another Wimbledon it is
worth asking: what has happened to the so-called ‘friendly’ rivalries
among the game’s global superstars

This is among the most fascinating sub-plots to The Championships as it begins today. What is beyond dispute is the grip which three players have on the sport right now.

Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have won the last 28 out of 29 Grand Slam singles titles. Tennis has never seen anything like it.

In the past year Djokovic and Nadal have particularly dominated, and while only a fool would declare that the great Swiss arrives with anything less than a good chance of winning on a surface that suits him so well, the harsh truth for Federer is that he has not won a major trophy since January 2010.

Friends Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

Friends Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

Plenty is on the line for him this
summer. If he does not emerge victorious either from this fortnight or
the Olympics which follow just three weeks after, serious questions will
be asked about the future of someone who will be 31 by the time the US
Open begins in September.

Nadal and Djokovic keep stopping Federer (and Andy Murray, for good measure) when it matters most, and it has been mirrored off the court by a distinct chilling of relations, especially between the Swiss and the Spaniard.

Federer has just about kept a lid on his frustration about his two rivals’ slow play and how they are allowed to get away with it, but in November he broke ranks with them over their support for a two-year ranking system, dismissing it as ‘nonsense’.

They had already disagreed on a new Chief Executive for the ATP Tour, with the Swiss coming out against Nadal’s preference, ex-Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek.

In January, Federer, president of the ATP’s Player Council, urged caution against militant action on what many of his peers believe is a lack of prize money from the Grand Slams.

It drew a remarkably scathing reaction from the usually mild-mannered Spaniard: ‘For him it’s good to say nothing,’ said Nadal, alleging that his attitude was ‘everything is positive, it’s all well and good for me, I look like a gentleman, and the rest can burn themselves’.

In March, Nadal resigned his seat on the Player Council and then in May came the controversial blue clay surface at the Madrid Open.

The top two created merry hell and lost early in the tournament, while Federer stayed more positive, and won the title. Afterwards he pointedly said there was ‘no need to freak out about it’.

It would be wrong to say some full-scale feud has developed but it is some way from remarkable entente cordiale that has previously marked the Nadal-Federer relationship, and which enveloped the two great finals at Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010.

Public interest: David Nalbandian Queen's shame has bought the men's game into a different focus

Public interest: David Nalbandian Queen's shame has bought the men's game into a different focus

It is almost as if the Spaniard is now according a unique level of respect to Djokovic, who in turn has never had a close relationship with the six-times Wimbledon champion.

That there is a harder edge to the triangle at the top will not disappoint neutrals. After all, one thing that the David Nalbandian affair at Queen’s showed is that, rightly or wrongly, there is nothing that quite so captures public attention as a good old spat.

Due to the desperately short turnaround between the French Open and Wimbledon an immediate form guide is difficult but the records of players this year are instructive, and show that Federer is anything but a spent force.

Nadal’s annual clay court haul sees him ahead with a 41-5 match record in 2012, well ahead of Djokovic on 36-6. Therefore the world No 1 does not have quite the same sense of invincibility he had a year ago.

Centre of attention: Roger Federer has the chance to return to the top of the rankings

Centre of attention: Roger Federer has the chance to return to the top of the rankings

Federer — who will become world No 1 again if he wins here — comes in at an impressive 39-6, and if you take that run back to the US Open it stretches to a mighty impressive 62-7.

The only player who comes close to them this year is not Murray, but David Ferrer on 38-8.

The biggest threat to the big four comes instead from Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and 21-year-old Canadian Milos Raonic, who is shaping up to have the best serve the sport has seen.

Broadly speaking the draw has been kind to the Big Three, especially Federer, and much less so to Murray. Should the 25 year-old Scot make it through the land of the giants to the semi-final then he will certainly be battle-hardened.

It could be that the first significant test for Nadal and Djokovic may not come until their quarter-finals against Tsonga and Berdych respectively. Only the adventurous would bet against the top duo making it five finals in a row, but there may be a bit of now-or-never creeping in subconsciously with Federer, and that makes him extra dangerous.

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

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

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UPDATED:

14:44 GMT, 11 June 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Indies need some old heads in their young side: Nasser Hussain

West Indies must find room in young side for a few old hands

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UPDATED:

22:05 GMT, 28 May 2012

West Indies have played much better cricket and pushed England much harder than India, who arrived here last year as the No 1 team in the world.

For all the talk about India’s batting superstars, West Indies have already managed to provide a much tougher test for the England attack.

Darren Sammy’s side are well drilled and have shown a lot of character, fight and discipline with so many star names missing and they did it again on Monday to make England wait for their win.

Plenty of character: Darren Sammy has a good team but needs some older heads

Plenty of character: Darren Sammy has a good team but needs some older heads

They are very professional but what they just need now is to be sprinkled with a bit of stardust because they can’t keep on collapsing to something like 40 for four and expect to win.

It’s all well having 11 committed young players but every team needs its older heads, and just as I wanted Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart in my England side, it could well be that West Indies need to bring back one or two of those on the outside.

Return Chris Gayle would be an asset if he buys into what the West Indies are doing

Return Chris Gayle would be an asset if he buys into what the West Indies are doing

Their results were hardly better when Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan were in the side and there were times when they did not seem committed, but it is all about man-management and the way Sammy and coach Ottis Gibson handle them.

People always told me what Andy Caddick and Phil Tufnell couldn’t do when I became England captain but I was more concerned with what they could do. Sammy and Gibson need to think now about what the missing players could bring to their side.

If Gayle, or whoever, returns they will have to buy into what this West Indies side are doing but, again, that is a challenge for the captain and coach. And if they come back but won’t comply then it would be a case of thank you and goodbye.

Marlon Samuels is the classic example of what West Indies can achieve. He’s been around since 2000 and has always been talented but now the penny has dropped that he needs to make the most of that natural talent.

The penny has dropped: Marlon Samuels is an example of a player who has improved

The penny has dropped: Marlon Samuels is an example of a player who has improved

I spoke to Marlon at the team hotel the other night and told him to keep going. He said, ‘I’ve been through too much and missed too much cricket not to keep going now.’

Yes, he’s a bit eccentric and kept on chatting to England players again yesterday but, apart from maybe Jimmy Anderson, I think England like him. We need characters in this game, not clones.

England, meanwhile, have been thoroughly professional again here at Trent Bridge from the captain all the way down. They are turning every home Test ground into something of a fortress and it will take a very good side to beat them in home conditions.