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The Footballers" Football Column – Kevin Betsy: Watching Brazil was like buying a ticket to see Beyonce and ending up with Susan Boyle

KEVIN BETSY: Watching Brazil was like buying a ticket to see Beyonce and ending up with SuBo… England may have won, but the Thomas Ince tale reveals everything that's wrong with our game

PUBLISHED:

11:01 GMT, 13 February 2013

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UPDATED:

12:02 GMT, 13 February 2013

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Kevin Betsy returns for his second Footballers' Football Column fresh from scoring for Woking in the 3-0 win at Alfreton at the weekend. The Fulham Academy coach was at Wembley to watch England beat Brazil last week – but left disappointed with the team in yellow. Betsy is also quick to praise Ashley Cole but has some damning thoughts on the future of the game.

When the final whistle blew at Wembley last week, my love for the game had increased and I wished I could have my career over again. However, as I walked away from the stadium my mind was clouded with questions.

This England team has been much criticised in the past, yet against Brazil they played a superb tactical game accompanied with an excellence in technical ability. Something that you associate with the team that have five stars embroidered above their badge, not the team with just one.

The much hyped arrival of the Brazilian team to Wembley was one of the biggest let downs I have experienced as a football fan. Brazil are a team that lots of people
support as their
second nation. As a young boy in the park or on the
street it was a Brazilian, not an Englishman, I pretended to be.

Winning feeling: Wayne Rooney helped England secure their first victory over Brazil for 23 years

Winning feeling: Wayne Rooney helped England secure their first victory over Brazil for 23 years

Extravagance, flair and the Samba band are all associated with the yellow, green and blue, but even the band were as flat as their team.

It felt like booking tickets to see Beyonce and then finding out she had been replaced by SuBo. Sure she can sing, but that’s not what I signed up for.

Luiz Felipe Scolari picked a squad which left me a little perplexed, especially his decision to pick 29-year-olds Dante and Fred and Luis Fabiano, 32, ahead of their pool of younger stars.

Brazil’s endless supply of talent will never run out as the country has a system that is tried and tested and produces with distinction. Thiago Silva, Leandro Damiao, Marcelo, Romulo,
Hulk and Willian are just a few names of younger Brazilian players that
did not even make the pitch or were not in the squad, showing their strength in
depth.

Ronaldinho

Neymar

Big let down: Brazil's box office stars such as Ronaldinho and Neymar failed to live up to their billing

Jack Wilshere

Theo Walcott

The star performers: Arsenal duo Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott shone on the big stage

Enjoying the game: Kevin Betsy at Wembley

Enjoying the game: Kevin Betsy at Wembley

Neymar and
Ronaldinho, two box office players and favourites of mine, certainly put
bums on seats at an almost full 90,000 stadium, but it was two English
players Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott that stole the show and
allowed us to celebrate the English player.

In all honesty, I feel England did play well but it could be a case of Brazil not picking their best team that helped them to win for the first time in 23 years.

Brazil will always have the upper hand over England in the long term, as their youth have opportunity to develop and play from a young age in their clubs first teams.

The Brazilian Campeonato league is full of homegrown players, with only six per cent of players coming into the league from other countries.

If a young player shows any potential they are sold off to Europe. This has always been the economic model and a main source of export.

The players know this as they need to elevate their own career earnings. Third-party ownership is normal in South America, as clubs do not have the financial capabilities of their European counterparts and to keep their best players for longer. Clubs need aid to maintain a player’s salary instead of sponsoring the club, sponsor the player and receive a return their investment.

A large portion of Brazilians have moved to play in leagues to showcase their talents, obtain work permits and boost their transfer values, Ronaldo and Romario at PSV, Juninho Pernambucano, and Michel Bastos at Lyon and David Luiz and Ramires at Benfica.

The Dutch, French and Portuguese Leagues do not have the financial backing that the Premier League clubs enjoy and regulations are flexible on foreign players.

The French and Dutch leagues differ from Portugal at the moment, their main aim is also to develop their own players. They do this well and the road for a young player at the latter stages of development is far easier than in an English club, as they have fewer foreign players to compete with.

Clubs in countries such as these need to boost their revenue and elevate themselves to be able to afford one or two top foreign players to make their club more competitive to achieve Champions League status.

Beyonce Knowles

Susan Boyle

Not what I wanted: Betsy says watching Brazil was like paying to see Beyonce and ending up with Susan Boyle

Without mass spectator volume, TV deals in their league the need to sell young players becomes a way of survival.

In the case of Portugal, they have overloaded their sides with foreign players but have sold on for vast sums, Radamel Falcao moved for 41m, Axel Witsel for 35m, Angel di Maria for 25m.

On a business level this works very well, but in football terms their national team is ageing and if something is not done soon they will also struggle, as their young players have no way of developing.

The Premier League brand shaped by Richard Scudamore must be applauded for all of its work to make the Premier League global and attract the best players that continue to bring revenue to our shores.

But perhaps, with a few tweaks here and there, the national team will increase its quality and pool of players to choose from.

The Premier League has the highest percentage of foreign players with 65 per cent. Countries lower than us include Germany 49 per cent, Spain 37 per cent and Italy 47 per cent. They have all adopted further strategies to the benefit of their sides and we need to take note.

Outnumbered: The Premier League has a very high percentage of overseas players

Outnumbered: The Premier League has a very high percentage of overseas players

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We have tried to implement and address with the likes of the ’homegrown rule’ but there are severe loopholes in this system.

Arsenal is a great example of this, with Cesc Fabregas, Nicolas Bendtner, Wojciech Szczesny all qualified as they have the required three years development in England, but they will never pull on a Three Lions shirt.

Despite the fantastic work that goes on at youth level and the improvements being made in Academies and Centres of Excellence up and down the country criticism is always upon us.

Yes, the standard of coaching needs improving and there are processes in place to improve this but the best coaching in the world will leave any individual stagnated and unchallenged and struggle to reach full potential if the environment doesn’t test them.

My work at a Premier League Academy sees our players come up against the best our country and our foreign counterparts. Our level in comparison is extremely high.

Regular sharing of ideas and discussions take place with coaches, home and abroad. There is no magic wand or hidden secrets. It is all quite transparent as a major factor in many European clubs is they leave room in their squads for predominately their own players.

Perhaps the problem may be just one thing: ‘opportunity’. If there is no sunlight for a flower to blossom it will die. Is there enough sunlight for our young English players That is the question.

Developed to a certain level placed in the professional game but sitting in squads with no real avenue to learn the trade and gain confidence.

The newly revamped Under 21 league introduced this season is aimed at bridging the gap that young players in England have faced. They offer competitive games with consequences and a challenge.

Holding games at first-team grounds aims to increase the number of spectators and give them experience of playing in those grounds. This is good but still not enough.

It’s still reserve football, no matter how much you dress it up. There is quite a difference in tempo, tactical learning, and spectator environment to a first-team game.

Hence many clubs prefer to send their youngsters on loan.

Barcelona’s B team play in Spain’s second division and this makes my point, the players are still developing but are under challenging pressure.

People say if you are good enough you will come through but there are only a few Wayne Rooneys in a generation. The rest have to work hard and be
lucky, under managers that are brave, have a vision and will
let them play and learn from any mistakes.

Sir
Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and recently Brendan Rodgers have shown
the way. I am not saying we need to change the Premier League as a
product but adjust the ingredients a little.

Maintain foreign players in the country, of course, but just adjust the quantity.

Special talent: Players like Wayne Rooney are the exception rather than the rule

Special talent: Players like Wayne Rooney are the exception rather than the rule

Some people say the ‘six-plus-five’ rule that FIFA suggested contravenes European law and I hear this idea has been abandoned.

But it does have benefits and something similar to this would enable more players to play in the top league on a regular basis and learn from the best players.

One thing is clear, it is not the manager’s fault that they recruit foreign players.

Michael Laudrup

Michu

Knowing the market: Swansea boss Michael Laudrup bought Michu for 2m having seen him play in Spain

Their survival is based on results, they don’t make the rules and why should they not favour players where they have in-depth knowledge of ability and value. You get more for your money abroad as some imports have shown already this season and English players are overpriced.

Showing shrewdness in the transfer market with loans, smaller buys is part and parcel of being a top manager. Swansea Manager, Michael Laudrup’s Spanish purchases, including Michu at 2m, are a prime example.

I’m sure If you asked any Premier League manager he would say, 'I would love a team of five or six English players'.

Both sides of the coin: Tom Ince is an example of how clubs can make good and bad decisions

Both sides of the coin: Tom Ince is an example of how clubs can make good and bad decisions

Bosses must favour the market they know but if you have a restriction on number it may be beneficial to the national game long term and this is the governing bodies' problem to safeguard our talents development not football club's managers.

Thomas Ince is just another player who shows all things wrong with English football and all things right.

This bit is right – Developed from a young age at a fantastic academy at Liverpool.

..but this is wrong – Sold to Blackpool for 250,000, then a reported 5m offer to buy him back almost a year later. Patience may have prevailed, the giving of opportunity.

Someone else who has reaped some recent rewards with his 100-cap milestone is Ashley Cole. After coming head-to-head with Ashley on a number of occasions I must say he is without doubt the best left backs in the world.

Big achievement: Ashley Cole won his 100th England cap against Brazil

Big achievement: Ashley Cole won his 100th England cap against Brazil

Tough opponent: Betsy comes up against Cole during his Wycombe days

Tough opponent: Betsy comes up against Cole during his Wycombe days

He has to be coming up against me. Ashley comes second to Roberto Carlos in all-time status. Carlos’s devastating shot and a World Cup winner’s medal tipped the balance for me.

Whatever people’s perceptions are of Ashley off the pitch, in reality you have to be extremely professional to have achieved all he has in football. No matter how talented you are.

In my experience he’s a humble guy. Another example of what a young Englishman getting games from an early age can achieve dispels the ‘we don’t produce players ‘ myth.

Watching Peter Odemwingie on TV the other day, turning up at Loftus Road was as cringeworthy as a guy getting a sea of red lights on Take Me Out [Paddy McGuinness's ITV show – Ed] . All jokes aside, this was not a laughing matter. How could a professional footballer of Odemwingie's standing be left to drive himself to London and also drive the deal to QPR Where was his agent

A deal as complex as this one needed driving by external sources. West Bromwich Albion didn’t want to sell
and QPR had not agreed the fee. Therefore as a player you may argue your
case to the chairman, chief executive or manager but until you get the
green light you have to sit tight.

Embarrassing: Peter Odemwingie drove to Loftus Road on transfer deadline day to try and force a move to QPR

Embarrassing: Peter Odemwingie drove to Loftus Road on transfer deadline day to try and force a move to QPR

Until you get a call to say the fee has been agreed and you are free to discuss terms.

I presume the agent's fee in this deal would have been quiet substantial; the least they could have done was drive him there.

But now it is done and I hope Peter recovers well from this and gets on with what he does best, playing football.

Wesley Sneijder wants Premier League big guns to hijack Galatasaray move

EXCLUSIVE: United, City, Spurs and Chelsea on alert as Turkey-bound Sneijder wants big guns to hijack Galatasaray move

By
Sami Mokbel

PUBLISHED:

12:59 GMT, 10 January 2013

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UPDATED:

14:09 GMT, 10 January 2013

Wesley Sneijder is pining for a last-minute switch to England and has asked his advisers to make one final attempt to plot a move to a top Premier League club.

Despite being on the brink of a transfer to Galatasaray, the Inter Milan midfielder has made it clear to his agent that his preference remains a move to the English game.

Sneijder's representatives have been in talks with Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea but they all turned down the player because of his high wage demands.

Don't rule it out: Wesley Sneijder still fancies a move to the Premier League

Don't rule it out: Wesley Sneijder still fancies a move to the Premier League

He currently earns nearly 9million a year at the San Siro and has always refused to take a significant pay cut. But if a last-minute move to England can be resurrected, it would require the unsettled Holland star to finally lower his wage demands.

On Wednesday Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti confirmed an offer from Galatasaray has been accepted.

The Turkish side revealed they had entered in discussions for Sneijder, who has not played for Inter since September amid a public stand-off over a proposed pay cut to his contract.

Brilliant orange: Midfielder Sneijder has 90 caps for Holland

Brilliant orange: Midfielder Sneijder has 90 caps for Holland

'Galatasaray's offer satisfies us. Now it depends on the player,' Moratti told Sky Sports on Wednesday. 'We would be happy if he decided to stay on our terms.'

Sneijder has reportedly been asked to accept a 1.6m pay cut to his annual salary with the Nerazzurri.

Inter head coach Andrea Stramaccioni has, however, maintained the the 28-year-old's continued absence from his first team is solely a tactical decision.

My decision: Andrea Stramaccioni has been leaving Sneijder out of the Inter team

My decision: Andrea Stramaccioni has been leaving Sneijder out of the Inter team

A statement on the Turkish club's official website read: 'Galatasaray announces it has begun negotiations with FC Internazionale for the transfer of Wesley Sneijder.

'The public will be informed of developments.'

Sneijder joined Inter in August 2009 after winning La Liga with Real Madrid. In his first season he won the Champions League, Serie A and Coppa Italia before reaching the World Cup final with Holland, only to lose to Spain.

Superstars 2012 fails to live up to it previous incarnation

Superflops! BBC takes the shine off golden Olympians with new version of TV favourite

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UPDATED:

20:29 GMT, 30 December 2012

With Strictly Come Dancing all danced out, the BBC had to find something for the crucial Saturday night spot and for one week only that something turned out to be Strictly Team GB — or Superstars 2012, to give the programme its proper name.

The sequins had gone, to be replaced by rain droplets on the kind of wet T-shirts that would attract precious few unique visitors on the web.

Sparing every expense, the Beeb had taken 16 British Olympians to Bath for the waters. It poured for the two days of filming, merely adding to a distinct lack of glamour.

Macho with dips: Anthony Joshua (left) and Alistair Brownlee battle it out in the gym

Macho with dips: Anthony Joshua (left) and Alistair Brownlee battle it out in the gym

For Strictly lovers, however, there was the rather delightful sight of Mo Farah doing a passable Viennese waltz in a kayak, proving that even a double gold medallist can finish up the proverbial creek with a paddle.

Another mildly amusing moment came when Alistair Brownlee — as the Olympic triathlon champion, a man clearly of many talents — managed to land a javelin backwards in possibly a first for the field sport.

Otherwise, the laughs were thin on the sodden ground, despite the efforts of the irritatingly jolly Iwan Thomas.

It was probably a tactical error by the BBC to remind viewers how Superstars used to be by showing clips of Kevin Keegan falling off his bike at full speed and Brian Jacks defying belief with his extraordinary gym tests.

Up for the challenge: Mo Farah takes part in the men's bike race

Up for the challenge: Mo Farah takes part in the men's bike race

These vintage television moments merely emphasised the defects of the latest incarnation in terms of absence of tension, lack of fierce competitiveness and distinct shortage of sporting prowess.

The impression was of a village sports day, without the nastiness, in a cynical but feeble attempt by the BBC to eke a few more miles out of London 2012.

For all that, two extremely worthy and convincing winners were crowned in Anthony

Joshua, the Olympic super-heavyweight boxing champion, and rowing gold medallist Helen Glover.

From the moment that the 6ft 6in Joshua ran the 100 metres in an astonishing 11.53 seconds (a second and a half quicker than Farah) you sensed a talent and the likely Superstars champion. So did Joshua himself. ‘I really want to win this and I reckon I can,’ he told Thomas after that first event.

There followed further victories in the cycling and the javelin, second places in both the swimming and gym tests and a third in the 800m. Despite proving himself a real all-rounder, Joshua was not entirely happy.

Off target: Christine Ohuruogu has a go at the archery

Off target: Christine Ohuruogu has a go at the archery

‘I missed out on the gym test Wow!’ was Joshua’s reaction to coming second in that discipline. ‘So, I would like to know who won the gym test now.’ Ever since the aforementioned Jacks recorded 118 squat thrusts and 100 parallel bar dips (both in 60 seconds) in 1980, the stench of machismo surrounds the gym test.

Scottish swimmer Michael Jamieson, who pipped Joshua, would have been forgiven for ducking after describing it as the most ‘prestigious’ of the disciplines. He was standing next to the boxer at the time.

We do not know the reaction of Joshua or any of the eight men when it emerged that Glover had beaten them all in the squat thrusts with an impressive 84.

On her knees: Lizzie Armitstead during the gym test

On her knees: Lizzie Armitstead during the gym test

The rower also achieved a faster time than any of the boys in the swimming pool as well as finishing victorious in both the 800m and the cycling. It mattered not that she did not so much throw her javelin as drop it.

Katherine Grainger’s victory in the spear-chucking department with a modest 24.93m prompted hosts Gabby Logan and Denise Lewis to talk, in customary exaggerated terms, of a ‘new career’ and ‘hidden talent’. Well, 20 years younger and 20 metres further and Grainger might manage county selection at schools level.

That’s the truth of the level of some of the performances. I have never understood the attraction of watching our sporting heroes vulnerable, fallible and, frankly, inept.

On your marks: The men run the 100m in the rain

On your marks: The men run the 100m in the rain

But if that’s your bag, you no doubt would have delighted in double gold medallist rower Andrew Triggs Hodge running (if that’s the word) the 100m in 19.37sec, cyclist Lizzie Armitstead managing two parallel bar dips and the elder of the Brownlee brothers only bettering Armitstead by four, shooter Peter Wilson taking three hours — maybe minutes — for the 800m and Christine Ohuruogu firing an arrow in the air and landing who knows where.

At least the viewing public will not be subjected to this until the next time the Olympic Games come to Britain.

The class of 2012: The Olympians who took part in Superstars

The class of 2012: The Olympians who took part in Superstars

Rafa Benitez"s bowling trip the new secret to success ahead of Monterrey clash

Is this Rafa's secret to success Benitez's bowling trip ahead of Monterrey clash worked a treat

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UPDATED:

18:54 GMT, 13 December 2012

He came to Chelsea with a reputation as a tactical genius. He introduced unorthodox zonal-marking and squad-rotation systems when he took charge of Liverpool in 2005. Now, though, it seems Rafa Benitez has uncovered a new winning formula.

The Blues boss took his team bowling on Tuesday night as they prepared for their Club World Cup semi-final tie against Mexican outfit Monterrey.

Chelsea won 3-1, Torres was back among the scorers and the players were having fun. Was this another Benitez tactical masterstroke

Tactical masterstroke Rafa's Ten-pin tactics paid off as Chelsea beat Monterrey

Tactical masterstroke Rafa's Ten-pin tactics paid off as Chelsea beat Monterrey

Having fun Oscar, David Luiz, and Ramires seemed to enjoy themselves

Having fun Oscar, David Luiz, and Ramires seemed to enjoy themselves

Ashley Cole didn't impress with his bowling technique and he was forced to wait on the team as punishment

Ashley Cole didn't impress with his bowling technique and he was forced to wait on the team as punishment

I know what I'm doing: Benitez may have lifted the Chelsea players' spirits

I know what I'm doing: Benitez may have lifted the Chelsea players' spirits

Not a lot has gone right for Rafa since he took over from Roberto Di Matteo as Chelsea manager. He started with back-to-back 0-0 results in the league followed by a 3-1 defeat at West Ham and an embarrassing early exit from the Champions League, the first time the holders have ever fallen this early.

And, of course, all this with the boos and groans of discontent from Chelsea fans in the background.

But in the last few days things appear to be looking up for the ‘fat Spanish waiter’. They won 3-1 at Sunderland and set off for Japan for what must feel like welcome relief from the scrutiny back home.

Above all, it appears the Blues are having fun in the Far East. They were mobbed by adoring Premier League fans when they arrived and now it looks like Rafa has found the secret formula to make Chelsea fire again.

Wrong sport: Juan Mata tries the shot-put with a bowling ball

Wrong sport: Juan Mata tries the shot-put with a bowling ball

Good technique: David Luiz shows off his bowling skills

Good technique: David Luiz shows off his bowling skills

Good job son: Torres was amongst the goals in Yokohama as Chelsea won 3-1

Good job son: Torres was amongst the goals in Yokohama as Chelsea won 3-1

All smiles: Whatever happened at bowling must have worked as Chelsea brushed aside the Mexican side

All smiles: Whatever happened at bowling must have worked as Chelsea brushed aside the Mexican side

But if the Blues come back having lost to Corinthians in the final it will be perceived as a worthless trip, as was the case when Liverpool lost to Sao Paulo in 2005.

At least Benitez has got Torres scoring again and team morale looks to be the best it has been since that famous night in Munich in May.

India v England first Test, day four – report

Cool Cook leads England with a captain's innings and gives tourists fighting chance

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UPDATED:

14:41 GMT, 18 November 2012

For so long this looked like the sort of full-time captaincy debut that would have had Alastair Cook, a man who never perspires, waking up in the middle of many a nightmare in a cold sweat. On Sunday, however, all that changed.

Instead of an innings defeat and crushing condemnation of England’s enduring incompetence against spin this, whatever happens on the final day, will go down as the day England’s new leader demonstrated his readiness for the top job.

It can only be imagined what went through Cook’s mind over the first three days of this first Test as all of England’s best-laid plans crumbled around him.

Leading by example: England batsman Alastair Cook batted the whole day

Leading by example: England batsman Alastair Cook batted the whole day

PICTURE DISPUTE:

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This could have been a hugely damaging start to the new era and a defeat so big that it would probably have had massive implications for the rest of the series. As it is India went into the final day still as favourites to win but looking ragged with England having given themselves a fighting chance of a draw.

Cook will probably never be the type of captain who will change the course of a Test with a shrewd tactical move or inspire his team with a statesmanlike address but what he will do is lead by the most driven and thorough example.

No praise is too high for the monumental display of concentration and application that saw Cook bat for more than eight hours to reach 168, his 21st Test hundred, in an unbeaten sixth wicket stand of 141 with the excellent Matt Prior that had India searching in vain for answers for the first time in this match.

Main support: Matt Prior stayed with Cook in the middle with his knock

Main support: Matt Prior stayed with Cook in the middle with his knock

INDIA v ENGLAND

Click here to read the full scorecard

Graham Gooch, the England batting
coach who has played such a big role in Cook’s career, said that he had
never seen his charge bat better and, in truth, there can have been few
greater innings played by any Englishman in Asia. Cook announced he was
ready for the challenge before this Test and how he proved it.

Cook is rarely mentioned when
discussions are centred on England’s best players of spin but his
mastery of Ravi Ashwin in particular, who was wicketless from his 41
second innings overs at the end of the fourth day, could prove hugely
significant as this four-match series unfolds.

Cook’s methods are
uncomplicated but his mental strength is such that suddenly all the bite
seemed to have been extracted from both the bowlers and the dusty
Ahmedabad pitch.

Short stay: Kevin Pietersen was bowled out around his legs

Short stay: Kevin Pietersen was bowled out around his legs

How India, with delicious irony, must
rue their refusal to accept the decision review system as Cook was
absolutely plumb sweeping Pragyan Ojha when he had made just 41 on
Saturday but Aleem Dar, having a rare bad game, inexplicably said no. A
correct decision and it would have been game over now.

The umpires, in fact, appear to have
had their brains scrambled by the lack of technological assistance in
this match as both Dar and Tony Hill have been proven wrong by replays
on at least eight occasions here, with the bulk of the mistakes
favouring England. I am afraid even I will have to reconsider my
aversion to the system if its absence leads to this sort of error-strewn
officiating.

Unexpectedly, it was pace more than
spin that provided the problems for England as Nick Compton
saw his promising second innings contribution of 37 ended by Zaheer Khan
and Umesh Yadav strike twice in two deliveries with the old ball to
send back Ian Bell and Samit Patel.

Unlucky: Samit Patel was given out despite replays proving it was the wrong decision

Unlucky: Samit Patel was given out despite replays proving it was the wrong decision

While both Compton and Bell’s decisions were marginal but probably
correct Patel, for the second time in the match, was spectacularly sawn
off as Hill missed his inside edge onto pad. But as Patel was reprieved
earlier when clearly out Hill’s latest wrong probably proved a right for
India.

With Jonathan Trott falling to a good
delivery from the outstanding Ojha and Kevin Pietersen departing yet
again in horrible fashion to Ojha’s left-arm spin – the only consolation
from Pietersen’s indistinguished comeback is that we have been spared
Piers Morgan’s gloating for now – England were heading to that
ignominious innings defeat at 199 for five following their 191 all out.

That they avoided at least that is
down to the first captain who has scored a hundred in each of his first
three Tests in charge – Cook stood in for Andrew Strauss twice in
Bangladesh – and an innings of real maturity from Prior.

With captain and keeper coming
together in such a show of defiance memories inevitably went back to
Mike Atherton’s rearguard with Jack Russell in Johannesburg 17 years ago
that earned England an against the odds draw.

This one would be even more unlikely.
There remains surely no chance of England pulling off one of the most
unexpected victories in history as they do not have enough time to get
into a position to declare. But if they can bat until tea today then
they really will have pulled off one of the greatest of escapes.

Edgar Davids gives his unique views of Roberto Mancini, Fabio Capello, his new job at Barnet and fashion

EXCLUSIVE: Edgar Davids gives his unique views of Mancini (lacks people skills), Capello (tactical genius), his new job at Barnet (I'm not being paid a penny) and fashion (it's important, man)

|

UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 17 November 2012

Edgar Davids has an opinion and, as is usually the case, he is not overwhelmed by a desire to keep it to himself. This time, it's about his interviewer's choice of clothing.

'It's safe,' he says. 'But there is no adventure. You wear a suit, but you are not trying to tell me something about who you are. It lacks flair. That's not for me. You should try something, man.'

Quite a spectacle: Edgar Davids at Barnet's training ground

Quite a spectacle: Edgar Davids at Barnet's training ground

The assault is not entirely unexpected. Davids, once the 'Pitbull' midfielder of some of European football's greatest sides, has been talking about fashion for more than five minutes.

'It's my passion,' he says. He is the creative director of Monta, a company specialising in street soccer apparel, and was previously engaged to Olcay Gulsen, a renowned designer.

Davids on… Wilfried Zaha

When I was at Palace, he was a big talent but
nothing more. He was also developing bad habits technically and no-one was stopping him. His end product was very poor at times, but now he is really showing his talent. He has worked hard at his game.

One rumour suggests that he turned away a journalist because he was unimpressed by an outfit.

'That did not happen,' Davids says. 'If I refused to speak, it wouldn't have been because of his clothes. However, if I thought he wasn't looking sharp, I probably would have told him. Fashion is important, man.'

And yet here he is, the winner of six league titles, 12 domestic cups, the UEFA Cup and the Champions League, talking about his new life as the 39-year-old player-manager of League Two Barnet, a club in the basement of British football and rarely considered to be chic.

'I don't get paid a dime to be here,' he says.

On the ball: Davids at the club's training ground

On the ball: Davids shows off his skills

Own style: Davids passes on some advice to one of the young players

Own style: Davids passes on some advice to one of the young players

It's the summer of 2012, and a Greek neighbour has called. 'Fancy a Sunday league game' he asks. Davids has been living in north London since his days at Tottenham, but has only really played Street Soccer events since leaving Crystal Palace after a three-month stint in 2010.

Davids on… ‘the greats’

I played with the best. Zinedine Zidane made me look differently at star players. Some guys with that talent don’t work so hard or want different treatment. Not him. Man, those skills. One player people don’t ask me about but should is Ledley King. Left and right foot perfect, fast, almost never made a foul. Technically, he is so gifted. So relaxed on the ball. But those knees.

'I coached a team in Brixton – Brixton United – for a while,' he says. 'We won two cups. They are a good team, but I only coached. No playing.'

The phone call from his neighbour doesn't appeal so much.

'I said, “No, man”, but I woke up in the morning and thought, “You know what Let's kick a ball around”. 'In the first half, I was like, “OK, let's keep it simple, move it around”. But then in the second half, I said the famous words that I got in trouble for on television last week.

'I just thought, “Hey, I'm f*****g Edgar Davids. I didn't want people to go away and say, “I played against Edgar Davids, it was OK”. I wanted them to say, “I played against f*****g Edgar Davids and he was nutmegging me”.

'Man, second half, I did like six nutmegs and got one assist. We won.'

The game prompts a second phone call, this time from Tony Kleanthous, the Greek-Cypriot chairman of Barnet who has heard on the grapevine that Davids dusted off his boots.

Edgar Davids of Barnet photographed exclusively at the club's training ground

Standing out: Davids is enjoying the challenge

Dressing down: Davids offers some style tips to our man Riath Al-Samarrai

Dressing down: Davids offers some style tips to our man Riath Al-Samarrai

Construction work continues on the club's new ground

Big job: Work continues on the new stadium in the background

Edgar Davids at the club's training ground

Front man: Davids leads by example in training

'A friend of mine gave him my number and then I get this call,' Davids says. 'He asked if I wanted to come over for a look.

'I saw the amazing training ground and listened to his plans for the future. It worked for me.'

Davids on… Barcelona

What a team. Would I have been good enough for today’s team Absolutely. You know what it is with Barcelona They play in the half of the opponent so the space is very small and the passes are very hard. To excel, it requires those skills and I have proven I possess those skills. I can do the same as Sergio Busquets or Javier Mascherano.

An agreement was reached and Davids was last month named as joint manager with Mark Robson. The club were bottom of the Football League.

'I've never had a big dream to be a manager, but I'm a curious guy and I want to see if I like it. I've been doing my coaching badges, just the (UEFA) “A” Licence to go, and this was a good chance to play a few games and learn about management.

'You know, I've worked for some pretty good managers so I have a few ideas.'

SIXTY. That's the number of major league titles and cups won by the managers Davids worked under for Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Holland. Between them, they have won the Champions League/European Cup seven times and a World Cup.

'Some were good, others not so good,' Davids says. 'I try to take the good bits from them and leave the bad, but also trying to keep my own identity. I don't want to be anyone's mimic.'

Action man: Davids against Accrington Stanley on Friday night

Action man: Davids against Accrington Stanley on Friday night

Boost: Barnet's Mark /11/16/article-2234184-1611B6C3000005DC-445_634x525.jpg

Still a pitbull: Davids is sent off against Accrington

The list of influences includes Louis
van Gaal, Marcello Lippi, Carlo Ancelotti, Frank Rijkaard, Fabio
Capello, Roberto Mancini and Guus Hiddink. Hiddink sent Davids home from
Euro 96 after a radio interview in which he said the national team
manager 'should stop putting his head in some players' a***s'.

'We
made up and got on fine after that,' Davids says. 'I don't talk about
best managers,' he adds, but does so anyway. 'Van Gaal as a trainer was
one of the best – it was incredible how well he prepared for games.
Lippi was very, very good. He knew his team, he knew how to meld
together a group and make it a team.

Davids on… London

I just love living here. It is so multicultural. I love
that diversity. In Amsterdam, we have it a lot, and it’s like that here. Any dish you want you can have — Japanese, Indian, Chinese. You can go from Asian to black to Jewish in the same neighbourhood. It is a reflection of society nowadays. It’s why I love Brixton — a melting pot.

'Capello taught me so much about systems, about 4-4-2, how to pressure and squeeze a team.

'Rijkaard is not a good trainer but he is a really good manager of
people. You can see Mancini lacks people management, big time.' He adds:
'I don't want to talk negative about somebody. I do not want to talk
about Mancini as there were not so many positive things.'

At Barnet's training ground, Davids'
management style is developing. He is 'a little frustrated' by the
standard but says that is 'the challenge that makes me come down here
for nothing'. The players call him 'Mr' or 'Sir' and he does likewise in
return. 'I told them it is out of the question to call me Edgar. I
don't want to be called boss because I told them they are their own
boss,' he says.

Results have improved quite dramatically. Friday's night's 1-1 draw with Accrington Stanley meant they had picked up 11 points from the seven League Two fixtures played since Davids' arrival (they took three points from the previous 11). And the 'Pitbull' still has a bite – he was sent off in the 85th minute after receiving a second booking for a foul on James Beattie, the former Everton striker.

Graham Stack, the keeper, talks of the squad being driven upwards by a 'fear factor' from playing with 'one of the best in the world'.

Davids is content with his life. 'The feeling of stepping out to play for Barnet for the first time was the same as a Champions League match. It is just joy, an innocent joy. I love to play football and will continue as long as I feel that.

'Maybe I will love management – we will see. This is fun. But you never know. Maybe one day I will own a club. That is a possibility, too. Or maybe I will leave and go into fashion.'

With that, the interview ends and Davids gets up to leave. 'Your coat,' he says. 'Double-breasted. That's very, very safe, man.'

Roberto Mancini tells Manchester City players they are the problem not the system

My tactics Put Micah on bench! Mancini tells City stars they are the problem – not the tactics

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UPDATED:

22:02 GMT, 26 October 2012

Roberto Mancini has responded to rumblings of discontent from within his own dressing room by warning his players that they are not good enough for Manchester City if they cannot adapt to his tactics.

Micah Richards questioned his manager’s decision to switch from a flat back four to using three central defenders during Wednesday’s damaging Champions League defeat by Ajax in Amsterdam.

Having initially taken the blame for failing to prepare properly for the match, Mancini came out fighting on Friday and insisted that the players — not the system — were the problem.

Scroll down for video

I'm in charge: Roberto Mancini barks out the orders in training at Carrington on Friday morning

I'm in charge: Roberto Mancini barks out the orders in training at Carrington on Friday morning

Listen up: Mancini gives his squad a good talking to as they prepare to face Swansea on Saturday

Listen up: Mancini gives his squad a good talking to as they prepare to face Swansea on Saturday

Chins up: City are still reeling from Wednesday night's crushing defeat against Ajax

Chins up: City are still reeling from Wednesday night's crushing Champions League defeat against Ajax

The Italian also suggested that Richards, who was making only his third appearance of the season after a long injury lay-off, should stay on the bench in future until he has a better grasp of the team’s tactics.

Asked if the players should be able to adapt to different systems, Mancini replied: ‘Good players Yes.

‘If you are a top player it’s not important what system you use. If you don’t understand then you’re not a top player and you can’t play for a top team.

‘It’s not important what Micah said after the game because we work hard every day at tactical situations and all the players know the system.

‘Maybe Micah doesn’t know this because it was the first (Champions League) game for him because he was out for two-and-a-half months.

‘Probably he worked less than other players, but maybe next time we play this system Micah can stay on the bench and we will use another player until he knows the system well.’

In the aftermath of another defeat that leaves City’s hopes of qualifying from Group D hanging by a thread, Richards upset his manager by saying: ‘That’s twice we have gone to a back five and conceded but the manager likes it. It’s something we’ve not worked on a lot.’

Mancini insisted that City have used three centre backs ‘a minimum of 50 times last year’, and pointed to this season’s Community Shield win over Chelsea and a battling 3-2 FA Cup defeat by Manchester United in January as two examples.

He also hit back at the critics who pointed out that Ajax scored their third goal just five minutes after City had taken off Joleon Lescott.

‘We conceded a third because we made a stupid mistake one versus one, not because we changed the system,’ said Mancini.

Winter is here: City players return to training on Friday wearing snoods

Winter is here: City players return to training on Friday wearing snoods

Yaya Toure

Mario Balotelli

Fashion victims: Yaya Toure and Mario Balotelli wear snoods in training

IT MUST BE WINTER… SNOODS ARE BACK

You might well want to hide your face when you’re lying bottom of your Champions League group. But Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure and Mario Balotelli have all known chillier times and despite the midweek debacle at Ajax, they should still be too hot for Swansea City on Saturday evening.

‘When you are losing 2-1 away, the manager should do something. Sometimes if you want to change the game you have to change something on the pitch.

‘When we want to be more offensive we leave only three defenders back but, I repeat, we played this system a minimum of 50 times last year and it’s not new. We’ve changed the result every time with this system.’

Asked if he welcomes feedback from the dressing room, the City boss added: ‘It’s not important to talk because every player knows the system. Every player. I talk with the players, with my hair dryer in this hand!’

Mancini acknowledged that a team with the best defensive record in the Premier League for the past two seasons need to regain some stability at the back, starting with today’s game against Swansea at the Etihad.

Under scrutiny: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini (centre) on Friday morning

Under scrutiny: City manager Roberto Mancini (centre) arrives at Carrington early on Friday morning

Captain Vincent Kompany, the bedrock of last season’s title success, and Lescott have been particularly disappointing this term.

Quizzed over his best defence at present, Mancini replied: ‘I don’t have a best defence.’

But he vowed that City will overcome their latest setback, even if Champions League progress now appears to be beyond them.

‘In two years we’ve won three trophies and after one defeat you think that we can go down’ he said. ‘I don’t think so. We are strong enough for this.’

Crushed: City suffered a humiliating Champions League defeat against Ajax on Wednesday night

Big blow: City's European campaign is in tatters after the heavy defeat in Amsterdam on Wednesday night

Outspoken: Micah Richards claimed City's players did not like Mancini's defensive tactics after the loss to Ajax

Outspoken: Micah Richards claimed City's players did not like Mancini's defensive tactics after the loss to Ajax

VIDEO: Mancini remarks on Richards, Ajax and Swansea

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Michael Laudrup facing Swansea rebellion after secret meetings

Exclusive: Swansea manager Laudrup facing a players' rebellion after secret meetings

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 10 October 2012

Michael Laudrup is on a collision course at Swansea after key players held a series of secret meetings with chairman Huw Jenkins about the Dane's management methods.

Despite being 11th in the Barclays Premier League, Laudrup is facing a rebellion among his senior stars after three months at the club.

The latest meeting between chairman and players took place last week as frustrations began to boil over before their 2-2 Premier League home draw against Reading last Saturday.

Collision course: players are unhappy with Laudrup

Collision course: Players are unhappy with Laudrup

Swansea players have been angered by Laudrup's demands for a change to their tactical approach and are reluctant to adopt his methods.

There are also fears among the squad that they are not as fit under their new manager. Some have even taken to staying behind after training for extra fitness work.

Jenkins is also considering complaints from players that Laudrup's training methods are not as advanced as those of the previous coach, Brendan Rodgers.

Swansea's players are still adjusting to life after Rodgers and they are finding it difficult to adapt to Laudrup's approach.

Rodgers captivated his squad with his forward-thinking approach and they responded by winning promotion via the play-offs before finishing 11th in the Premier League last season.

Wayne's world: Routledge scored in the comeback draw against Reading

Wayne's world: Routledge scored in the comeback draw against Reading

The Liverpool boss has first-class communication skills and Swansea's players have noted a big difference between Laudrup and their previous boss.

Jenkins is acting as mediator in the dispute but he has been aware of the concerns among the squad since the start of the season.

The Swansea chairman has no plans to fire Laudrup and is determined his model of continuity will thrive in the post-Rodgers era.

Battle: Swansea are 11th in the Premier League table

Battle: Swansea are 11th in the Premier League table

Incredibly, Jenkins was approached by key players days before the start of the season as they adjusted to life without the new Liverpool manager.

The chairman noted their observations and has held further meetings with players, without Laudrup's knowledge, to assess the situation.

The latest came days before Swansea recovered from a two-goal deficit against promoted Reading to secure a point. On the surface, Swansea appear to have nothing to be concerned about after picking up eight points from their opening seven Premier League games.

Laudrup made a flying start to the season with a 5-0 win at QPR on the opening day and followed it up with a 3-0 victory over West Ham at the Liberty Stadium the following Saturday.

Since then they have drawn against Sunderland and Reading and lost to Everton and Stoke. They face Wigan on October 20 before a tough trip to champions Manchester City seven days later.

Last night Jenkins confirmed the meetings had taken place but insisted Laudrup continues to have his full support.

He said: 'As with any change in manager, particularly at a club who have been successful, it will take time to settle down.

'Everyone has a different approach and this is a normal issue for us after Brendan Rodgers went to Liverpool. Michael knew the philosophy of the club when he came here and that won't change whether he is the manager or not. They all agree to manage the club a certain way.'

Laudrup enjoyed a hugely successful playing career with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Ajax but his managerial record has been mixed.

He coached in the Champions League with Spartak Moscow but left Real Mallorca at the end of last season after winning just 13 games.

The former Denmark midfielder was appointed manager by Swansea to evolve the playing system put in place when Roberto Martinez was in charge.

World Twenty20: Sri Lanka and Pakistan set for spin battle semi-final

Sri Lanka and Pakistan set for World Twenty20 semi-final spin-off

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UPDATED:

16:44 GMT, 3 October 2012


Spin doctor: Ajantha Mendis

Spin doctor: Ajantha Mendis

Sri Lanka and Pakistan are set to serve up a trial by spin for one another in Thursday's first semi-final at the ICC World Twenty20.

Pakistan booked their place at the Premadasa Stadium with a Super Eight win over Australia at the same venue on Tuesday, in a match dominated by 18 overs from their slow bowlers.

Sri Lanka have the personnel to employ similar tactics too, on a pitch likely to reward them.

Captains Mahela Jayawardene and
Mohammad Hafeez did nothing at their preview press conferences on
Wednesday to dispel the notion that there will be little pace or seam in
evidence.

'We have some quality spinners, and we play spin quite well as well,' said Sri Lanka opener Jayawardene.

'It looks a fresh wicket, the one where the first-round games were played.

'Depending on how the wicket behaves, we need to take a few tactical changes. We have to plan accordingly.'

While Sri Lanka can choose between Ajantha and Jeevan Mendis, Akila Dananjaya, Rangana Herath – and opener Tillekeratne Dilshan as a part-time option – Pakistan are even more blessed with possibilities.

Hafeez said: 'It's because of our spinners that we are doing a great job.

Ready for battle: Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene

Ready for battle: Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene

'Sri Lanka also plays spin well. But whatever conditions we have seen here, it suits the spinners.'

The hosts will doubtless respect Pakistan's spin threat, but have another factor to harness – that of expectation from a capacity and partisan crowd.

Sri Lanka are perennial semi-finalists, or finalists, in International Cricket Council tournaments – but have not won one since their shock first success at the 1996 World Cup.

'Yes, we haven't won any of those – and it's a bit of a disappointment,' said Jayawardene.

'But we have to be in those big tournaments, and if we keep getting there we will win.

'Still we are two games away from getting to that title.

Leader: Pakistan's captain Mohammad Hafeez, (right) and teammate Imran Nazir

Leader: Pakistan's captain Mohammad Hafeez, (right) and teammate Imran Nazir

'We are extremely proud to be a part of a group that has been consistent throughout the tournament.'

Jayawardene knows the opposition is full of dangerous players – not least all-rounder Shahid Afridi, yet to fire with the bat here but always a menace with his attacking leg-breaks.

'Shahid is a big-game player, a good all-round cricketer who does well with both bat and ball,' he said.

'It's not just Shahid – they are a dangerous unit and they have some quality players.

'But we have some match-winners and quality players as well. We need them to turn up and perform.'

Tottenham players unhappy with Andre Villas-Boas

Spurs stars furious with Villas-Boas as manager faces squad backlash

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UPDATED:

08:25 GMT, 29 September 2012

Andre Villas-Boas is already under pressure at Tottenham after the squad reportedly held showdown talks with their Portuguese boss.

The Spurs players are unhappy with Villas-Boas' training and tactics, according to The Sun.

The manager has scrapped his gruelling double sessions after complaints his players were left too tired for their Premier League matches.

Sidelined Spurs players are reportedly unhappy with Ande Villas-Boas (right)

Sidelined Spurs players are reportedly unhappy with Ande Villas-Boas (right)

But the squad remains unhappy with Villas-Boas' negative style of football and would rather a return to previous boss Harry Redknapp's tactical approach.

Tottenham have made a steady if unspectacular start to their league campaign and are unbeaten since losing to Newcastle on the opening weekend.

They travel to Manchester United on Saturday night amid reports that some of the club's staff are also unhappy with Villas-Boas.

Tough times: Villas-Boas' training methods have been called into question

Tough times: Villas-Boas' training methods have been called into question

The 34-year-old, who only took over in July, axed chief scout Ian Broomfield earlier this month and is said to have had a bust-up with technical co-ordinator Tim Sherwood.

The former midfielder feels he has been sidelined and could be tempted to move to Blackburn Rovers after Steve Kean resigned on Friday.

The situation at White Hart Lane will be familiar to Chelsea fans after Villas-Boas caused disharmony among the squad during his tenure.