Tag Archives: surprises

Chris Robshaw has been named England skipper for the Six Nations as Stuart Lancaster keeps his faith in the flanker

Robshaw named England skipper for Six Nations as Lancaster keeps faith in flanker

By
Duncan Bech, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

19:53 GMT, 21 January 2013

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UPDATED:

20:03 GMT, 21 January 2013

England have confirmed Chris Robshaw as their captain for the forthcoming RBS Six Nations in an appointment that will have caused no surprises.

Robshaw has been retained after leading England to a record 38-21 victory over New Zealand at Twickenham on December 1 and will fill the post for a second successive championship.

Northampton forwards Dylan Hartley and Tom Wood are viewed as potential captains, but coach Stuart Lancaster views 26-year-old Harlequins openside Robshaw as the outstanding candidate.

Chris Robshaw will lead England into the Six Nations as one of the favourites

Responsibility: Chris Robshaw will lead England into the Six Nations as one of the favourites

Lancaster, who announced Robshaw's reappointment at tonight's squad meeting, believes the Lions captaincy candidate has developed into superb leader.

'Chris stepped into the role 12 months ago when we were building a new team and he has grown as a captain on and off the field,' Lancaster said.

'He showed those leadership qualities during the QBE Internationals and especially against the All Blacks when the whole squad got behind him.

'We have a number of leaders and I know they will all take this team forwards with Chris as we look to kick on from that result.'

Robshaw will be hoping to continue the success which led to victory over New Zealand

Ice Cold: Robshaw will be hoping to continue the success which led to victory over New Zealand

Robshaw made his Test debut against
Argentina in 2009 and despite his lack of experience, was installed as
skipper upon his next cap against Scotland at the start of last year's
Six Nations.

He has continued in the post since,
missing only the final Test against South Africa last June due to
injury, and has been a key part of Lancaster's rebuilding program
following the disastrous 2011 World Cup.

'Stuart told me this afternoon and I am really pleased to be asked again,' Robshaw said.

'There are other leaders in the squad that Stuart could have turned to so I am really honoured.

'The lads have been great over the
last year and now we our focus is on building on the New Zealand
performance and getting a result against Scotland.'

Gloucester fly-half Freddie Burns will
undergo a scan over the coming days to assess the extent of the damage
of the knee injury he sustained during Saturday's 36-16 victory over
Mont de Marsan.

Robshaw celebrates with Ben Youngs and James Haskell

Good times: Robshaw celebrates with Ben Youngs and James Haskell

Robshaw and Stuart Lancaster have formed a formidable partnership leading England

Together: Robshaw and Stuart Lancaster have formed a formidable partnership leading England

Dimitar Berbatov – why he is thriving at Fulham

You might think he is lazy… but Berbatov has grafted to become the king of Craven Cottage

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UPDATED:

16:20 GMT, 11 December 2012

When Martin Jol pulled off one of the surprises of the transfer window by singing Dimitar Berbatov from Manchester United many called it a masterstroke – but some questioned if the Bulgarian would be up for the challenge of playing down further down the Premier League with Fulham.

But 16 games into the Premier League season and Berbatov has more than proved any doubters wrong and has delivered more than even the most optimistic of Fulham fan could have dreamt of- even if he does wear tights.

The former golden boot winner has already chipped in with five goals this season, but he has contributed more than that, he has added style, adventure and leadership.

Man in tights: Dimitar Berbatov was one of Fulham's star performers against Newcastle

Man in tights: Dimitar Berbatov was one of Fulham's star performers against Newcastle

He may not have had his most accurate shooting boots on during Monday night’s 2-1 win over Newcastle, but he more than made up for it with his touch and vision.

And while jumping in the air for high balls does not appeal, why should it, when he simply plucks them out of the air with his feet and then plays the ball on the ground.

His somewhat laid back style of play at Old Trafford has not transferred to Craven Cottage where the Bulgarian seems to be thriving in the senior role at Fulham and is not afraid to get stuck in.

Good ball control: Berbatov keeps the ball in the west London derby against Fulham

Good ball control: Berbatov keeps the ball in the west London derby against Fulham

At times he may seem sulky and surly when the ball is not played to him at exactly the right time in the place that he wants it, but at others, he can be seen actively encouraging the younger players in the team, the likes of Alex Kacaniklic and more recently since his return from injury, Kerim Frei.

But it is not just the younger players; Berbatov makes himself available all around the pitch and for that reason is making more touches than most people remember him doing in his time with both Tottenham and Manchester United.

Berbatov touches v Newcastle.png

Berbatov heatmap v Newcastle.jpg

Getting everywhere: Opta stats show where Berbatov touched the ball against Newcastle and the areas of the pitch he was most active

Berbatov has often been accused of being a stroller, a player who does not move at speed, but watch him for Fulham this season and it is as if he has magnets in his boots.

If any criticisms are to be made, it is that possibly the Fulham players rely too much on him, by passing to him to get them out of trouble, but while he is willing then the problem is not so prevalent.

Naturally he has his own philosophy on how the game should be played, speaking ahead of the game with Newcastle in the programme.

Close control: Berbatov keeps the ball away from Fabricio Coloccini

Close control: Berbatov keeps the ball away from Fabricio Coloccini

He said: 'I like to play with beauty and grace – that has always been my philosophy from a young age.

'That’s how I play and that’s what football is about. Plenty of football players play like this and that is what I want to watch.

'I don’t want to watch players puffing around the pitch. You see games where the ball is flying from one box to another and it makes my neck hurt. That is not football for me.'

He may not want to see players puffing around the pitch, but don’t let that fool you that he is afraid of hard work.

Part of the team: Berbatov celebrates Fulham first goal against Newcastle with his team-mates

Part of the team: Berbatov celebrates Fulham first goal against Newcastle with his team-mates

Against Arsenal last month, with Fulham 2-0 down after 25 minutes he single handily dragged Jol’s team back into the game and earning a point by scoring two and creating the other one for Kacaniklic.

And back to Monday’s game with Newcastle, and it was probably not his favourite type of game, given its fast and frantic nature. But he did his best to lead the team and end Fulham’s seven game winless run.

And Jol was clearly pleased with the Bulgarian’s contribution, he said: ‘He didn’t score but he kept the team together in the hole and I was very happy with him.

'My squad realise that Berbatov is a key player. He is the one that keeps us together.

'He probably covered more ground than ever before. He’s a good number 10. After losing Clint Dempsey, I’m very happy that he came to this club.'

Jol is clearly delighted that his transfer window masterstroke is paying off and while it is, Fulham fans and football fans in general should enjoy it.

Berbatov

US Open 2012: Maria Sharapova beats Melinda Czink 6-2, 6-2

Easy for Sharapova as she sees off Czink in just over an hour

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UPDATED:

23:30 GMT, 27 August 2012

Maria Sharapova wasted little time booking her place in the second round of the US Open with a straight-sets defeat of Melinda Czink on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The 2006 champion was playing Czink for the first time but the 29-year-old Hungarian failed to deliver any surprises as the third seed eased to a 6-2, 6-2 win in 67 minutes.

Sharapova took control in the fifth game of the opening set with the first break of the contest and followed that up with another two games later as world number 88 Czink began to falter.

Easy does it: Maria Sharapova eased through the first round of the US Open

Easy does it: Maria Sharapova eased through the first round of the US Open

Straight forward: Sharapova beat Melinda Czink 6-2, 6-2

Straight forward: Sharapova beat Melinda Czink 6-2, 6-2

An ace sealed the opening set for Sharapova before she raced into a 3-0 lead at the start of the second on the back of two more breaks of serve.

Czink stopped the rot with a break of her own but failed to get the set back on serve as Sharapova – who broke for a third time at 4-2 – did what was required to advance.

Rio Ferdinand Twitter anger at new injury

I'm p***** off! Rio anger as injury rules United defender out of season opener

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UPDATED:

08:31 GMT, 20 August 2012

Rio Ferdinand has revealed his anguish suffering yet another injury which looks set to rule him out of Manchester United's opening game of the season.

United face Everton at Goodison Park on Monday evening, but Sir Alex Ferguson will have to field a patched-up defence without Ferdinand who has taken to Twitter to express his dismay.

Ferdinand said: 'P***** off doesn't get close to how I feel at the moment. Sake.'

Crocked Ferdinand could miss a month of the news season

Crocked Ferdinand could miss a month of the news season

Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil
Jones are all absent and now faces a troubling wait to discover the full
extent of the damage to Ferdinand's leg and he could miss as much as four weeks of the new season.

Sportsmail understands he suffered the injury during a session at the club's Carrington training base and Ferguson could now play midfielder Michael Carrick at centre-half alongside fit again Nemanja Vidic against the Toffees.

The news comes just days after Ferdinand was fined 45,000 for his response on Twitter to someone calling Ashley Cole a 'choc ice'.

Sir Alex suggested Ferdinand's standing in the game and the fact that he plays for United contributed to the FA finding him guilty of making improper comments about Cole the social networking site.

Case for the defence: Carrick could step in at centre back

Case for the defence: Carrick could step in at centre back

The United defender chose not to appeal against the verdict but his manager said: 'I think it was almost certain. The only thing that surprises me is players have tweeted for years and it's not been challenged by the FA.

'Rio's status in the game has caused this and who he plays for could be another issue.'

Ajax fans spied on in changing room

Too far Ajax fans given party, but only after being spied on in changing room

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UPDATED:

14:29 GMT, 18 July 2012

For Ajax fans, a home kit launch at their main club store in Amsterdam is not often full of surprises.

The pattern of a red chest and white sleeves is a tradition that stretches back throughout the Dutch giants’ history, and was no different last week when they launched their new home strip for the upcoming season.

Business as usual for fans then…until they tried on their new adidas designed kit in a small changing room.

Assuming they were surrounded by only their own privacy, fans proceeded to try on replica shirts to see if they fitted – only they were not alone.

The changing room was installed with hidden cameras and a two-way looking mirror, enabling a small gathering of Ajax players from the men and women’s team to see from the other side of the wall where there was a small party going on.

As each fan put on the new home shirt, the wall separating both was opened to reveal the Ajax stars greeting them, with supporter responses ranging from shocked, delighted and the downright confused.

As much as the stunt was in good faith, there is room to question the ethical grounds of a hidden camera in the changing room – it will certainly make you think twice the next time you’re in one.

Shane Williams retirement U-turn

Williams in retirement U-turn as Wales legend signs six-month deal to play in Japan

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UPDATED:

19:15 GMT, 13 June 2012

Shane Williams has accepted a 600,000 offer to end his glittering career in Japan’s second division.

The 35-year-old will delay his retirement plans to take up a six-month deal with Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Dynoboars.

U-turn: Williams is heading off to Japan

U-turn: Williams is heading off to Japan

Williams said: 'The offer came totally out of the blue but was too good to turn down.

'It’s a step into the unknown but one hell of a challenge.'

The former World Player of the Year was due to hang up his boots and take up an ambassadorial role with Ospreys.

But his late salvo to win the
RaboDirect Pro12 Final against Leinster last month proves the 87-cap
wing has not lost his eye for the try line.

Williams said: 'It has been an
incredible season and I really thought playing for the Barbarians
[against Wales] last month was my last game. But life is full of
surprises.'

Jessica Ennis romps to victory in hurdles in Gotzis

Impressive Ennis hurdles into lead in Gotzis with stadium record

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UPDATED:

11:03 GMT, 26 May 2012

Jessica Ennis has made the perfect start to the defence of her heptathlon title at the Hypo Meeting in Gotzis – and this time there were no nasty surprises.

Ennis, who on Friday shrugged off claims from an unnamed GB athletics official that she is 'fat', was quick out of the traps in Gotzis.

Superior: Jessica Ennis (left) eased to victory the hurdle event of the heptathlon

Superior: Jessica Ennis (left) eased to victory the hurdle event of the heptathlon

On her last competitive appearance at the event, Ennis seemingly ran a personal best of 12.75 seconds in the 100m hurdles, only to later discover that just nine hurdles instead of the required 10 had been set out on the track.

Lean: Ennis quashed claims that she was out of shape by romping to victory in the hurdles

Lean: Ennis quashed claims that she was out of shape by romping to victory in the hurdles

This time all 10 hurdles were present and correct – her coach Toni Minichiello making a point of counting them personally – and Ennis cleared them all in 12.81secs to win the final heat.

That was just 0.02secs outside her personal best, making it her joint second quickest ever run and also a stadium record, while also being worth a 32-point lead over Canada's Jessica Zelinka.

Russia's Tatyana Chernova was 79 points behind in fourth, and Olympic champion Nataliya Dobrynska 170 points adrift after finishing last in her heat.

Dobrynska revealed on Friday that her training had been understandably disrupted by the death of her husband and coach Dima Polyakov two months ago.

Peter Shilton urges Ben Foster to reconsider decision to quit England

Shilton urges West Brom keeper Foster to reconsider decision to quit England

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UPDATED:

13:06 GMT, 26 April 2012

West Bromwich goalkeeper Ben Foster believes he is playing the best football of his career – and has been urged by England legend Peter Shilton to reconsider his decision to quit international football.

Foster, on loan from Birmingham this season, has played a key role in the Baggies guaranteeing Barclays Premier League football for a third successive season.

But the 29-year-old has opted not to play for his country for the past 12 months – a move Shilton has urged him to contemplate changing.

Top form: Foster believes he is putting in some of the best performances of his career to date

Top form: Foster believes he is putting in some of the best performances of his career to date

Foster said: 'I think it is my best football. At Birmingham last year I felt pretty sharp and on top of my game, and I think I have pretty much carried that on.

'They say goalkeepers get better with age and I feel I am now playing at probably the best level I have played throughout my career so far.'

Foster's stance on not playing for England since the tail-end of last season has not altered.

But Shilton said: 'It would be good if Ben reconsidered his decision.

'Ben, when he has played for England, has looked okay and it would be nice if he came and was available again.

'It would create a nice trio of keepers in Joe Hart, Robert Green and Ben, who would pressurise each other.

England legend: Shilton remains the most-capped England player

England legend: Shilton remains the most-capped England player

'It surprises me when someone does not want to play for England, although I've got to say I did it once when Don Revie was manager and I felt he wasn't being honest with me.

'Ben is 29. I don't know is there is something deeper. He probably feels 'do I need to be travelling around at the end of the season being number two'.

'But anything can happen, an injury or loss of form, and suddenly you are England's keeper, win a medal and be a hero and win the first trophy since 1966. To me it's a case of “hang on in there”.'

Bahrain Grand Prix live

LIVE: Bahrain Grand Prix – Follow all the F1 drama from Sakhir as it happens

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UPDATED:

11:07 GMT, 22 April 2012

It was an all too familiar sight last year, but Sebastian Vettel's shock pole position for Red Bull puts him on the front row for the first time this season for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Britain's Lewis Hamilton sits alongside him on the grid, with McLaren team-mate Jenson Button behind third-placed Mark Webber for the fourth round of the world championship.

Follow Sportsmail's coverage of all the action from Sakhir, where you can send me your thoughts on all the GP drama at [email protected] or via Twitter @Ripinho.

12.15: It's been a weekend of surprises, arguably the biggest being there will even be a race today, given the turmoil in Bahrain at this time.

But sticking to events on the track, who saw that stunning pole lap coming from Sebastian Vettel yesterday Extraordinary stuff from our double world champion and it sets us up for a cracking race.

Back on top: Sebastian Vettel (centre) took pole position ahead of Lewis Hamilton (left) and Mark Webber

Back on top: Sebastian Vettel (centre) took pole position ahead of Lewis Hamilton (left) and Mark Webber

Chris Hughton eyes Birmingham progress in Europa League

Hughton sees it through: Birmingham boss eyes progress ahead of Maribor crunch

Looking up: Birmingham boss Chris Hughton

Looking up: Birmingham boss Chris Hughton

Chris Hughton dismissed any suggestion of a carve-up ahead of his Birmingham side”s clash against NK Maribor at St Andrew”s.

The Championship club will progress to the knockout stages if they win and Bruges lose at home to last season”s beaten finalists Braga.

The Portuguese do not need a victory and the conspiracy theorists have been suggesting the top two will play out a draw to ensure they both qualify from Group H.

But Birmingham manager Hughton is not among them.

He said: “I don”t see that happening. If you do that, football sometimes gives you a nasty shock. I think Braga will take pride in winning any game they play, certainly in Europe. And, don”t forget, they lost at home to Bruges and I think they would want to win this.

Date with destiny: Birmingham in training ahead of their big clash

Date with destiny: Birmingham in training ahead of their big clash

“We have a fighting chance. We”ll have a team out that will give everything for that to happen and a big crowd behind us. I don”t think Maribor will look forward to coming here. It”s still tough to get a result at St Andrew”s.”

The task: How Birmingham can qualify

Hughton played down rumours Birmingham are on the brink of running out of cash and says he has not been instructed to sell players.

He said: “I”m not being kept in the dark. Until now, there have been no surprises. If anything was to happen, I”m sure I would be told. I”m in contact with vice-president Peter Pannu every other day.

“I”m not thinking about players I might lose. Until I”m told anything differently, then we will work as we always have done. At the moment it”s not a concern.”

Birmingham (4-4-2): Myhill; Spector, Pablo, Davies, Murphy; Burke, N”Daw, Fahey, Beausejour; Zigic, King.