Tag Archives: things

Tim Bresnan back to bowling in a fortnight after elbow operation

Bresnan to get back in the swing of things in a fortnight after undergoing elbow operation

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

19:53 GMT, 3 April 2013

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UPDATED:

19:54 GMT, 3 April 2013

On the comeback trail: Tim Bresnan

On the comeback trail: Tim Bresnan

England bowler Tim Bresnan will return to action in a fortnight following an operation on his right elbow.

The 28-year-old, who was named in a 30-man England squad for the summer season, underwent an operation in February and missed the tour of New Zealand.

The Yorkshireman is set to play in the three-day friendly against Lancashire at Headingley, which starts a week on Tuesday.

Bresnan said: ‘It would be wise to go into a friendly first up. I’m hoping to be fully fit and take a full part in that game and all the other games after that.’

David Beckham admits he"s at PSG to sell shirts

I don't mind if I'm here to sell shirts! Becks admits star appeal helped clinch PSG deal

By
David Kent

PUBLISHED:

12:24 GMT, 1 March 2013

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UPDATED:

12:28 GMT, 1 March 2013

David Beckham has openly admitted that his move to Paris St Germain hinged on his ability to sell shirts.

The former England captain joined the French giants in January before making his debut against Marseille on Sunday.

And speaking on Canal Plus show Grande Journal on Thursday night, Beckham revealed one of his main jobs is now to shift club merchandise.

Famous faces: David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane appeared in front of the Paris public

Famous faces: David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane appeared in front of the Paris public

Famous faces: David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane appeared in front of the Paris public

'If I can help to sell lots of shirts, no problem,' said Beckham. 'It's great to see so many people wearing my shirt.

'In most of the clubs where I've been, I heard the same thing, that I've come to sell shirts.'

Meanwhile, Beckham, who was busy endearing himself to the French public with an appearance alongside the legendary Zinedine Zidane on Thursday, expects Cristiano Ronaldo to be at his best when he returns to Old Trafford with Real Madrid next week.

French fancy: Beckham has made two appearances for PSG following his January move

French fancy: Beckham has made two appearances for PSG following his January move

French fancy: Beckham has made two appearances for PSG following his January move

The Spanish champions travel to Manchester United for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday and Beckham, who was replaced by Ronaldo at United and eventually in Madrid, believes the atmosphere will inspire the Portuguese on his first appearance at the club since his 2009 departure.

'When you go back, you enjoy the occasion, of course, and I am sure it will inspire Cristiano,' said Beckham, who first played against United when with AC Milan in 2010, seven years after leaving.

'Many things inspire great players and him going back will be a special night for him. 'The fans love him and it will be a great occasion.'

Sir Dave Brailsford wants to make Team Sky into an admired sports team

We'll be the next Barca! Boss Brailsford wants Team Sky to be 'admired' like Messi and co

By
Richard Moore

PUBLISHED:

01:04 GMT, 29 January 2013

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UPDATED:

01:04 GMT, 29 January 2013

Sir Dave Brailsford has revealed that he is part of a group of elite coaches who hold regular meetings to share information and trade secrets.

Among those involved are Stuart Lancaster, head coach to the English rugby team, Mike Forde, director of football operations at Chelsea, Geoff McGrath of the McLaren F1 team, and Damien Comolli, former director of football strategy at Liverpool.

‘We meet regularly, and it’s expanding,’ said Brailsford, the British Cycling performance director and Team Sky principal.

‘It’s about getting some leading guys together and thinking about things from a high performance perspective. Damien is the numbers guy, and Stuart’s an interesting guy who’s doing very well.’

Ambitious: Sir Dave Brailsford wants to make Team Sky into an 'admired sports team'

Ambitious: Sir Dave Brailsford wants to make Team Sky into an 'admired sports team'

The group – sport’s equivalent of a ‘brain trust’ – will hold their next meeting in April, said Brailsford, who added that he is keen to involve coaches from American sport, perhaps including Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s coach whose story was immortalised in the book and film, Moneyball. Brailsford has met Beane and declares himself an admirer.

‘It’s becoming a bit more formal, and we’ re moving towards having a name, but we’re in the nice position of having other people wanting to join,’ said Brailsford.

Brailsford also said that one of his ambitions is for Team Sky to become ‘the most admired sports team in the world.’

Stars: Barcelona are one of the top sports teams in the world

Stars: Barcelona are one of the top sports teams in the world

Citing Barcelona and McLaren as teams towards which he aspires, he explained that achieving their ultimate ambition of winning the Tour de France, which they did with Bradley Wiggins last year, led him to another question: ‘One of the issues with having a goal based only on results is you think, “what’s next” And we wanted to be as ambitious as we could be, so we asked: “what would the most admired sports team look like”

‘There are four elements,’ Brailsford continued. ‘Having the best performances, the most engaged fans, the most satisfied partners, and, most importantly, that we’re recognised as being clean.’

On this fourth point Team Sky endured a difficult off-season when, in the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal, they re-stated their zero tolerance doping policy and insisted that all members of staff sign a document promising no previous transgressions.

Hero: Sir Bradley Wiggins has become a national treasure following his Tour de France win and Olympic time trial gold

Hero: Sir Bradley Wiggins has become a national treasure following his Tour de France win and Olympic time trial gold

This saw Bobby Julich, a coach, and Steven de Jongh, a sports director, both leave after admitting to using EPO as riders, while Geert Leinders, the Belgian doctor now implicated in a doping case involving the former Rabobank team, was dismissed in October when it became clear that he represented, as Brailsford put it, ‘a reputational risk.’

Brailsford admitted that the team’s performance could suffer this season as a result of the departures, which also included Sean Yates, who has retired, and Michael Rogers, who has joined Alberto Contador at Saxo-Tinkoff. ‘It was a clear decision: do we compromise our 9zero tolerance9 policy or change the policy and be willing to take a step back in performance’ said Brailsford.

‘We decided that, yes, we will potentiallly compromise performance and stick to our policy. If managed correctly we shouldn’t see a drop in performance, but we’ll wait and see.’

Rafael Benitez says he can win Chelsea the Premier League

Benitez: Give me a full season at Chelsea and we can be Premier League champions

By
Rob Draper

PUBLISHED:

21:52 GMT, 26 January 2013

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UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 27 January 2013

Rafa Benitez has admitted he would love to stay at Chelsea and that he would have a better chance of winning the league if the club give him a full season to impose his ideas.

Chelsea take on Brentford on Sunday in the FA Cup fourth round, the last domestic trophy they can realistically win, and Benitez says the negative reaction by fans to his reign so far would not stop him from taking the job next season if he were offered it and that he would relish a proper chance to challenge for the title.

Having lost the World Club Cup and been knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Swansea, Benitez would need to win the FA Cup or Europa League to convince owner Roman Abramovich to give him the job.

Stick with me: Rafa Benitez has urged Roman Abramovich to keep him in the job at Chelsea for a full season

Stick with me: Rafa Benitez has urged Roman Abramovich to keep him in the job at Chelsea for a full season

But Benitez believes his side are making progress and the key figures at the club – Abramovich, his assistant, Marina Granovskaia, and technical director Michael Emenalo – are said to be impressed with his approach to training and tactics.

Despite the Capital One Cup defeat and disappointments at home against QPR, Swansea and Southampton, Benitez is optimistic for next season.

'I'd like to be in a top side,' he said. 'And Chelsea are a top side with great potential. So it's a great opportunity. I came in the middle of the season, so I couldn't change too many things and I had to work with the squad I had.

'This team have enough quality and they're a good squad but the circumstances of this year have been difficult. This is a top side and if they continue doing things in the right way they will always be challenging for trophies.'

Benitez believes his record will stand up to scrutiny at the end of the season, given that the club have switched to a new playing style, are attempting to overhaul the key players and that he only started mid-season.

He said: 'If you go outside and it's snowing and you fall down, they say, “Ah, he fell down”. But the reality is, it's snowing, which makes it slippery and makes you fall down.

'So if you analyse all the managers [at Chelsea], how many had a pre-season here Not me. How many managers have spent massive money here Not me. How many managers have played in Japan in the middle of the season and have some players injured and some at the African Nations Only me.'

Shame: Eden Hazard was sent off in Chelsea's last outing for kicking out at a ball boy

Shame: Eden Hazard was sent off in Chelsea's last outing for kicking out at a ball boy

Back in action: Hazard was in training this week at Chelsea's Cobham base

Back in action: Hazard was in training this week at Chelsea's Cobham base

Benitez wants to sign a holding midfielder, having concluded the team do not distribute the ball quickly enough from defence to attack.

But Emenalo and the board are reluctant to commit to a major signing in January given that the identity of the future manager is unclear.

With Oriol Romeu injured and John Mikel Obi at the African Cup of Nations, Benitez has been forced to play Ramires and Frank Lampard in holding midfield almost every game when his inclination would be to rotate the older players.

Benitez said: 'We have enough quality in the squad. The question is do we have enough bodies'

Next up: Uwe Rosler will be hoping that Brentford can topple Chelsea on Sunday

Next up: Uwe Rosler will be hoping that Brentford can topple Chelsea on Sunday

Steven Gerrard put in a masterful performance against Fulham

Rolling back the years: Gerrard puts on a masterclass in 4-0 rout of Fulham

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UPDATED:

22:10 GMT, 23 December 2012

It was a moment that provided a reminder of a glorious past but one which also offered a tantalising glimpse of what the future may hold.

As Steven Gerrard surged on to a perfectly weighted ball from Stewart Downing then smashed a drive inexorably past Mark Schwarzer, he gave a demonstration of the skills which have consistently set him apart and also reinforced the point that, contrary to what some of his detractors may think, he remains one of the most influential midfielders in the Barclays Premier League.

Masterclass: Gerrard (pictured) scored one, set up two and covered a whopping 6.31 miles in Saturday's 4-0 rout of Fulham

Masterclass: Gerrard (pictured) scored one and set up two in Saturday's 4-0 rout of Fulham

This was comfortably Gerrard's finest display of the campaign. Aside from providing two assists in the 4-0 demolition of Fulham, nobody ran further than the 6.31miles he covered and another example of his current well-being can be seen in the fact he has played in every minute of Liverpool's 18 Premier League games.

Gerrard only has 18 months left on his current contract but this was the type of performance that showed why – even at 32 – Liverpool can ill-afford to be without him and it left Brendan Rodgers adamant that a new deal should be drawn up for their talismanic captain.

'He was at the top of his game,' Rodgers observed after a rout which was completed by Martin Skrtel and Luis Suarez.

Goal: Gerrard's goal come from a wonderful reverse pass from the rejuvenated Stewart Downing

Goal: Gerrard's goal come from a wonderful reverse pass from the rejuvenated Stewart Downing

'The mixture of his short passing and long passing was perfect, and he got his goal. I have no qualms about him whatsoever.

'He is right up there as one of the most influential midfielders in the Premier League; he's at the top in chances created, passing, possession all the important things.

'I find it incredible he can have had any criticism at all. It is absolutely ridiculous.

Stamina: The 6.31miles he covered was more than any other player on the pitch

Stamina: The whopping 6.31miles Gerrard covered was more than any other player on the pitch

'He may not be getting the goals he did five or six years ago, but that doesn't stop you influencing the game, and his influence for me – and especially once he was starting to understand what I'm looking for – has been absolutely top class, up there with the very best.

'We are improving, we are growing, and he has influenced that. He is vital to us, and I recognise that.

'I know he has 18 months left on his contract, but I would want him to go beyond that for this club and this team.

'I want him to stay beyond his current contract. There is absolutely no question about that.'

Rodgers, clearly, has never had any doubts about Gerrard but the same cannot be said of Downing, who was told last month he was free to leave in January if Liverpool received the right offer but with just eight days until the window opens, the England winger may have earned himself a reprieve.

Downing was outstanding against Fulham. Aside from creating Gerrard's goal, he got one of his own and caused havoc on the flanks with his pace and trickery.

It was particularly intriguing to see him perform like this, given that Daniel Sturridge is potentially ear-marked for Downing's role once his 12million move from Chelsea is officially ratified.

This type of performance showed why Kenny Dalglish was so desperate to spend 20million to bring him from Aston Villa.

Sturridge underwent a medical on Merseyside yesterday after several minor glitches in the deal were ironed out but Downing is in no mood to surrender his spot after describing the moment Rodgers told him he could go as being 'the kick up the ****' he needed.

Silenced: Stewart Downing silenced his critics with his first league goal for Liverpool since his 20m move from Aston Villa last August

Silenced: Stewart Downing silenced his critics with his first league goal and first league assist for Liverpool since his 20m move from Aston Villa last August

'I want to stay,' said Downing. 'I never wanted to leave but I was out of the team, I was frustrated and in that situation you have to look at something if it crops up.

'The only thing I can do is play well and make him keep me here. All I am trying to do is make him pick me for the team and stay in the team.

'If I keep playing like I did against Fulham, that will happen.'

Joe Hart: Nothing wrong with Manchester City wall against Manchester United – EXCLUSIVE

JOE HART EXCLUSIVE: There was no problem with THAT wall… I don't care what other people say, I know what I am doing!

By
Ian Ladyman

PUBLISHED:

22:15 GMT, 21 December 2012

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UPDATED:

22:15 GMT, 21 December 2012

From the very first moment, it is clear this will not be a routine interview. Mario Balotelli is in the room and he's not really supposed to be.

'What's this' he enquires, standing at the door. 'It's an interview, Mario.'

'What interview Why' he asks. 'Joe and the Daily Mail. Nothing to do with you.'

Scroll down for the video

Hart stopper: Balotelli did his best to hijack Ian Ladyman's interview with Manchester City stopper Joe Hart

Hart stopper: Balotelli did his best to
hijack Ian Ladyman's interview with Manchester City stopper Joe Hart

'Oh. I will stay and listen,' he affirms, closing the door. So, in a small office off the Manchester City home dressing room, Joe Hart prepares to talk while his controversial team-mate settles himself down, elbows on knees, on the edge of a nearby physio bed.

Over the course of the next half an hour, Balotelli may have learned something about the art of straightforward conversation. No hidden messages from the City goalkeeper, just some candid opinions about the world in which he and his Italian team-mate now live in the wake of last season's Barclays Premier League title success.

'The spotlight shines on us and that's a good thing because it means people are interested and love the game,' says Hart.

Blue moon: Hart has emerged as one of world football's finest goalkeepers in recent years

Blue moon: Hart has emerged as one of world football's finest goalkeepers in recent years

'With the good comes the bad and you have to deal with it. 'The season has been indifferent. We have had two teams, one in Europe and one in the league. We know we haven't been great all the time but we know we have that greatness inside us and when it does come it will put us in a very good place.

'I am in a position where so many people say so many nice things and that's great. But sometimes it's inevitable that you will find someone who doesn't agree and will criticise you. I think it actually pays to listen to those who may be saying things that hurt you at the time. At the end of the day, you may learn something.'

Are you listening to this Mario

Intruder: The controversial strike (centre) sat in on Sportsmail's exclusive interview with Hart

Intruder: The controversial strike (centre) sat in on Sportsmail's exclusive interview with Hart

The day we meet is three days after City were beaten at home by Manchester United in the Premier League.

With one late swish of Robin van Persie's boot, City's two-year unbeaten home record turned to dust and the champions found themselves six points behind their great rivals.

Ten days on, the gap remains and so does the scrutiny of City's play this season. At times some of the analysis has been brutal, from both inside and outside the club.

Hart's own manager Roberto Mancini, for example, blamed his goalkeeper for setting his wall up incorrectly moments before Van Persie's free-kick found the bottom corner, courtesy of Samir Nasri's outstretched leg.

'There was no problem with the wall,' said Hart. 'It's plain to see what happened. The ball was coming straight into my midriff. If it doesn't take a deflection it lands in my hands. But sometimes things happen.

Derby: Hart insists there was nothing wrong with his wall as City conceded against rivals United in the dying moments

Derby: Hart insists there was nothing wrong with his wall as City conceded against rivals United in the dying moments

Derby: Hart insists there was nothing wrong with his wall as City conceded against rivals United in the dying moments

'I don't care what other people say, I know what I'm doing. I know how many people I want in my wall. It cuts you deeply. It will have cut every City fan in that stadium.

'Inches and centimetres make the difference at this level but I have looked at the tape. It's a freak goal but it's nothing new. We train for these things and sometimes it works the other way.

'I have had plenty of times when it has worked in my favour. There have been plenty of times when a player has had all the praise for scoring a great goal. People will say, “What a wonderful goal, he is the best player in the world”. But deep down inside you know you probably should have saved it. But nobody says that, they don't realise. So it cuts both ways. It's life.'

Hart is an avid newspaper reader and watcher of football on TV. He doesn't miss much on or off the field. So he knows, for example, that City were savaged by a Sky TV panel of Didi Hamann, Glenn Hoddle and Ruud Gullit after the defeat in Dortmund that ended the club's European participation for another season. He also knows that former United captain Roy Keane called him 'cocky' while working for ITV. Hart is unfazed.

'I wouldn't want to be called some of the things that people call him [Keane] but there we go,' he said. 'But of course these people have the right to say what they want. I read the papers. I'm a big football fan. It interests me. I like it, good and bad. I wouldn't change it. It's part of the game.

Teamwork: Hart (centre) gets a kick out of his charity work

Teamwork: Hart (centre) gets a kick
out of his charity work

'There is no point thinking, “How dare they say or write that about me”. There is no law saying that people can only say nice things. The people on Sky you mention don't get paid to work for us or to defend English clubs in the Champions League. If that's their opinion then that's great.

'I think it's nice to point out that they don't know the club and have nothing to do with the club and know nothing about what goes on here. They certainly don't know the manager. But it's just the same as people having a conversation outside on the street. People get hyped up and emotional.

'I listen to a lot of people who I hold in high regard. But sometimes your connection with someone makes it hard for them to criticise you so sometimes it does pay to listen to other views.

'I'm no hero. Things hurt me. But things not going well for the team hurts me a great deal more than someone telling me I'm rubbish. I love football and winning. I love City and what we have built here dictates everything about me and my mood.

Net gain: The England international is put through his paces during training for the Premier League champions

Net gains: The England international is put through his paces during training for the Premier League champions

'I have a lot of people who are proud of what I do and it affects them too. But I love that. I love carrying their hopes and dreams.

'When criticism comes what we have to do is be strong internally and pull together and in the same direction. If that's the case then you are OK. This is football. It's how it works. Something else always happens the next day, there is another game a few days later.

'There is no time for personal wars at a football club. You just can't have them. They will ruin you. It's about the team.'

Are you listening to this Mario

Hart's relationship with his manager is interesting. Perhaps his team's best player this season, the England international nevertheless has had to listen to occasional criticism, most notably after Hart publicly apologised on television moments after City lost 3-2 in the Champions League at Real Madrid in September.

Mancini's immediate press conference response was to suggest that 'Joe Hart should stay in goal and make saves'. It's important to understand the context here.

Hart-warming: The former Shrewsbury stopper takes part in charity work for Manchester City

Hart-warming: The former Shrewsbury stopper takes part in charity work for Manchester City

Mark Hughes didn’t rate me. I just had to accept that and find a manager who did

Much as Mancini's English has improved, it is now thought the City boss had taken Hart's comments to be much more critical than they actually were. Nevertheless, it is not the first time the two men have rubbed each other up the wrong way.

Hart is happy to acknowledge that the language barrier doesn't help but it is equally obvious he will not change. After the Dortmund defeat, TV's 'go-to guy' in the City dressing room said of City's spirit: 'I think it was there and then they scored and it disappeared.'

Asked about this during our chat, he said: 'Everybody watches the same game. There is no point hiding from the truth and I feel comfortable speaking. You have to talk about the game relative to what happened. I'm not doing it to impress people. I am doing it because that's how I deal with life.

Poor campaign: City crashed out of Europe after failing to win a match in the group stage of the Champions League

Poor campaign: City crashed out of Europe after failing to win a match in the group stage of the Champions League

'Obviously there are ways of saying things. I don't give my exact opinion on everything. That would be stupid. And in terms of the questions asked about football, I am never gonna dig anyone out personally. But everyone is watching it and the majority of those people know football. So you have to tell it how it is sometimes.

'I have had foreign coaches at England and City. It is what it is. When it gets heated then you will misinterpret things and get things wrong. But it's not important.

'I was very comfortable with what I said in Madrid. I was comfortable because I knew I hadn't said anything wrong. I wasn't particularly angry because I knew that when it was explained properly to him [Mancini] then there would be no problem.'

Hart has come a long way in three years. It is not long ago that he spent a season on loan at Birmingham after City manager Mark Hughes recruited Shay Given as his No 1. At the time he wasn't sure he would ever be back.

Making his mind up: Hart was given the nod over Given under Mancini

Making his mind up: Hart was given the nod over Given under Mancini

I just do anything I can to stop the ball going in. I will take anything for this team

'It was a genuine thought at the time,' he recalled. 'I had no clue what was happening. Shay was one of the best in the Premier League and I thought I may have to go down a different path. Luckily I came back. Not everyone thinks I'm great. The previous manager didn't. I had to accept that and find one that thinks I am.'

Mancini made his choice two and a half seasons ago. Given ended up at Aston Villa and Hart strode forward to establish himself as perhaps the most proficient goalkeeper in the Premier League. Now it's the manager who always seems to be under pressure.

'It's always been the way here,' reflected Hart. 'Look at Sven [Goran Eriksson]. He was apparently sacked ten days before the end of the season! Roberto knows the situation. The only way to deal with the pressure is to win games.'

Hart's attributes are clear from watching him play, while it is equally obvious from talking to him that he has a clear mental picture of what is required from himself and his team-mates if their rather pedestrian form this season is to improve.

'It doesn't matter if you are playing Real Madrid or Bradford, you just have to save whatever comes at you,' he said.

'You can go out in the garden with a five-year-old and he could score past you. If you can't reach it, then you can't save it. It's the same as facing Ronaldo. That's just the way it is.

'The fact is that we have been successful this season without being great, so when it does come we know things will be a great deal easier for us. We know that if we play well we should beat anybody. We are not just waiting for it. We are looking for it every day. Unfortunately it's a tough league but it will happen.

'Part of the difficulty is pressure but it's not that that stops us winning games. Sides know us now, for example. They don't play to win, they play to draw or get out alive. That makes it hard but it's life at the top. I'm not saying we have been terrible because we haven't. It's just nice to know we can do more.

'I think we are on an even par with United. They carry that tradition and that shirt, that red shirt that takes them to a different level sometimes. But I'm sure that over time the blue shirt will be the same.

'I feel that when we play we are never gonna lose. I feel that something will always happen. Maybe it has happened more often with United over the years and so people say it is 'classic United'. But we are beginning to do that too. It just needs two or three players to come good this season and everything will change.

'As for me, I just do anything I can to stop the ball going in the net. I will take anything for this team. I will face any battle, mental or physical.'

Are you listening to this, Mario

After the interview, Hart is set to join Balotelli, Micah Richards and James Milner in meeting a group of children from under-privileged backgrounds. The players give their time generously and enthusiastically for more than an hour.

'I love it,' Hart said. 'It means the world to these kids. It's a great part of my job.'

Later, Hart is to go in goal for some penalties and the mind is taken back to a hot June night in Kiev when the England goalkeeper's goal-line gurning was not enough to stop Andrea Pirlo or to prevent Italy winning a penalty shoot-out in Euro 2012. Any regrets about those faces, then

'Well it didn't work with this one, did it' smiled Hart, glancing over at Balotelli. 'I actually just thought it would help the situation.

Out: England were KO'd from the European Championships by Italy

Out: England were KO'd from the European Championships by Italy

Joe Hart

'One of the Italian players was fuming with me 'cos I had smiled at him as we were waiting for the shoot-out to start. I thought it would help in my favour if I tried to wind the others up. What I didn't know was that guy wasn't even playing! He was injured!

'But it was a crazy, intense moment and people react differently. It was a confidence that I was trying to give off in a very nerve-wracking situation. I felt strong and in control. It felt like the right thing to do. Obviously it wasn't. But I wasn't showing off, I was just trying to do right by my team.

'Would I do it again If I felt it was right then of course, but if I didn't feel it was the right path to go down then I wouldn't. The whole intention was to put the other team off and make them miss.

'Bruce Grobbelaar did it [for Liverpool in Rome in 1984] and it worked. It didn't for me. But that's the fine line that we live and die by. If you are scared of that line then you have no chance.

'I was just the England goalkeeper. I was not trying to set a new trend of how to save penalties. I was just doing what I thought was right.'

By the end of our interview, Balotelli is lying on his back looking at an iPad. Who knows if he has been listening at all to half an hour of common sense and clear logic. If he wasn't then, for a young man in need of professional guidance, it was a clear opportunity missed.

Real Sociedad players wear fans" names on their shirts instead of a sponsor

Real Sociedad players keep fans close to their hearts… by wearing their names instead of a shirt sponsor

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UPDATED:

05:58 GMT, 21 December 2012

Real Sociedad have delighted some of their supporters by wearing their names on their shirts in place of a sponsor.

Each player wore the name of a randomly selected club member out of a pool of 25,000 as they took to the field against Sevilla.

They pleased the supporters further still with a 2-1 home win in the La Liga clash at the Anoeta stadium, with former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela opening the scoring.

Thanks for the support: Real Sociedad players wear fans' names on their shirts

Thanks for the support: Real Sociedad players wear fans' names on their shirts

Club president Jokin Aperribay said: 'The fans are the soul, the nourishment and the reason for Real Sociedad. For this reason, we’re uniting the names of our members with the shirts.'

Aperribay added: 'It’s for the history, because the fans are the of the club and this is a tribute to those that have supported us for many years.

'When we went down to the Segunda, we
overcame that difficulty because we retained 20,000 members. For the
present, because the fans show enthusiasm, which the team receives and
returns to them.

'We want to achieve bigger
objectives, but we can’t do that without the fans. For the future,
because that will be determined by the fans.

'It is very important that fans feel
they are necessary for the club to function. For that reason, we decided
to unite two of the most important things at Real Sociedad – The fans
and the shirt.'

Helping hand Sociedad ended up beating Sevilla 2-1

Helping hand Sociedad ended up beating Sevilla 2-1

Carlos Vela (left) gets stuck in

Alberto de la Bella (left) duels for the ball

Midfielder Xabi Prieto, who has been a
member at the club since 1992, said: 'We’re fortunate that we can play
every week. Against Sevilla, we’ll have our members playing with us.'

Sociedad have named the fan-appreciation initiative 'we carry you on our shirts'.

Previously they thanked their fans for their support by naming 22 of them in a television advert.

Last
season in La Liga nearly half of sides did not have a shirt sponsor
leading to creativite options coming to the fore as they looked to make
money.

Valencia used their
Twitter address instead, while Sevilla charged supporters around 25 to have
their faces used to create the numbers on the back of shirts.

Getting shirty: Sevilla asked fans to pay to have their faces put onto the players' strips

Getting shirty: Sevilla asked fans to pay to have their faces put onto the players' strips

Real Sociedad wear players names instead of shirt sponsor

Real Sociedad players keep fans close to their hearts… by wearing their names instead of a shirt sponsor

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UPDATED:

00:22 GMT, 21 December 2012

Real Sociedad have delighted some of their supporters by wearing their names on their shirts in place of a sponsor.

Each player wore the name of a randomly selected club member out of a pool of 25,000 as they took to the field against Sevilla.

They pleased the supporters further still with a 2-1 home win in the La Liga clash at the Anoeta stadium, with former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela opening the scoring.

Thanks for the support: Real Sociedad players wear fans' names on their shirts

Thanks for the support: Real Sociedad players wear fans' names on their shirts

Club president Jokin Aperribay said: 'The fans are the soul, the nourishment and the reason for Real Sociedad. For this reason, we’re uniting the names of our members with the shirts.'

Aperribay added: 'It’s for the history, because the fans are the of the club and this is a tribute to those that have supported us for many years.

'When we went down to the Segunda, we
overcame that difficulty because we retained 20,000 members. For the
present, because the fans show enthusiasm, which the team receives and
returns to them.

'We want to achieve bigger
objectives, but we can’t do that without the fans. For the future,
because that will be determined by the fans.

'It is very important that fans feel
they are necessary for the club to function. For that reason, we decided
to unite two of the most important things at Real Sociedad – The fans
and the shirt.'

Helping hand Sociedad ended up beating Sevilla 2-1

Helping hand Sociedad ended up beating Sevilla 2-1

Carlos Vela (left) gets stuck in

Alberto de la Bella (left) duels for the ball

Midfielder Xabi Prieto, who has been a
member at the club since 1992, said: 'We’re fortunate that we can play
every week. Against Sevilla, we’ll have our members playing with us.'

Sociedad have named the fan-appreciation initiative 'we carry you on our shirts'.

Previously they thanked their fans for their support by naming 22 of them in a television advert.

Last
season in La Liga nearly half of sides did not have a shirt sponsor
leading to creativite options coming to the fore as they looked to make
money.

Valencia used their
Twitter address instead, while Sevilla charged supporters around 25 to have
their faces used to create the numbers on the back of shirts.

Getting shirty: Sevilla asked fans to pay to have their faces put onto the players' strips

Getting shirty: Sevilla asked fans to pay to have their faces put onto the players' strips

Gary Neville behind the scenes at Sky Sports Monday Night Football

MNF star Neville takes Sportsmail behind the scenes of the TV show making fans fall in love with punditry again

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UPDATED:

11:04 GMT, 19 December 2012

It is 4.30pm and although Gary Neville is midway through rehearsals for that evening’s Monday Night Football, he is still going through his first item in painstaking detail. Things have to be right and he is unapologetically demanding and meticulous in his preparation.

‘What do we think about this’ the former Manchester United full back asks producer Scott Melvin, as a chart flashes up on his touch screen. ‘I don’t think that’s good enough.’ He is over-ruled. ‘Fine,’ he says, but his arms are folded — it is clearly not fine.

‘Are we comfortable with that colour on this graphic’ is the next question. ‘It’s disgusting,’ Neville continues, without waiting for a reply. ‘I’m not a colours man but… can’t you change it’ It is duly changed.

Oh what a night: Sportsmail's Laura Williamson joined Gary Neville and Ed Chamberlain in the Sky studio to see how the hugely popular Monday Night Football has become such a big hit

Oh what a night: Sportsmail's Laura Williamson joined Gary Neville and Ed Chamberlain in the Sky studio to see how the hugely popular Monday Night Football has become such a big hit

Oh what a night: Sportsmail's Laura Williamson joined Gary Neville and Ed Chamberlain in the Sky studio to see how the hugely popular Monday Night Football has become such a big hit

Neville has been at Sky’s studios in
west London since 9.30am, but he is still like a man on fast-forward,
running ‘at 100 miles per hour’.

His intensity, willingness to work
hard and genuine vigour for his sport are startling. It seems the same
qualities that characterised him as a footballer are the ones that mark
him out as a pundit.

‘This is different to football,’ says
the 37-year-old, ‘but there is pressure — and I think that’s the thing
that keeps me excited and stimulated. It’s got to be right.

‘I think information and the detail
are the most important things for me. Nice goals or a lovely finish or
an incident, that will get done a thousand times by everybody else and
there isn’t really much more you can say.

‘I prefer information. I try to do it as if I was looking at it as a player or a coach rather than as entertainment.

‘I don’t think, really, I’m a perfect
broadcaster by any stretch of the imagination. I think it’s more around
the information for me. That’s all I can do. If you want a pretty face
or a nice voice then don’t come here.’

Ed Chamberlin, the host of MNF, laughs. ‘Well, I won’t argue with that,’ he says.

The pair have been working together
for barely 18 months but have taken the format made famous by Richard
Keys and Andy Gray and made it their own.

There is little ego or arrogance about
Chamberlin, who works without an autocue and fully understands his role
is to ensure Neville is the star of the show.

The presenter continually tries to
tease extra insight and information out of a right back who won 85 caps
for England, constantly asking ‘why’ and ‘how’, which seems to amuse and
frustrate Neville on alternate occasions.

Practice makes perfect: Chamberlain and Neville can be in the studio from 9.30am on the day of the game

Practice makes perfect: Chamberlain and Neville can be in the studio from 9.30am on the day of the game

NEVILLE'S MANIC MONDAY

9.30am Arrive at Sky’s studios in west London.

10am Production meeting. Neville has been feeding ideas to the production team since the previous Wednesday. They discuss what he wants to talk about and the order the pieces should run.

11.30am Neville goes through all the video clips, while Ed Chamberlin studies the running order and familiarises himself with all the links and music.

2pm Lunch.

3pm Rehearsals start on set.

6pm Make-up.

7pm On air. An hour of analysis from the weekend’s games and to preview that night’s Barclays Premier League fixture. Also includes interviews with the managers, live from the ground.

8pm Kick-off.

8.45pm Half-time analysis.

9pm Second half.

9.45pm Full-time analysis, a look back at the weekend’s goals and a Twitter Q&A.

11pm Off air.

‘Ed doesn’t offer opinions on
football,’ says Melvin. ‘It’s different with (Match of the Day
presenter) Gary Lineker. He was a footballer and you would never
begrudge him an opinion.

'But, for me, the presenter’s job is
to probe the guys who have played football. Ed drives it and keeps it
on the rails because otherwise, God knows what would happen.’

It is no mean feat keeping Neville in
check, that’s for sure. He revels in his Aladdin’s cave of touch-screen
boards, slow-motion clips, high camera angles, statistics and league
tables.

The former England defender even had a
screen installed in his Manchester home for nine days to practise
before he started at Sky, only to go bonkers when he found out they had
updated the technology when he arrived in London.

‘I’m obsessed with charts,’ Neville
says, laughing at the nerdy nature of his words. ‘I’ll say, “Make me a
chart, make me a chart”. They argue I don’t need one, just to say it,
but I want everyone at home to know those statistics are there.

‘Every time I do a piece I don’t just
get the clips, I get the statistics. I want statistics to back it up,
so it’s not just my instinct. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking,
“Arsenal are rubbish”. But where are they rubbish Why They can’t be
all rubbish, or all good.

‘You’ve got to offer some perspective. Everything’s so sudden, everyone’s always screaming.

‘I think that’s what people inside
football do better than people in the media because in the media there’s
a need to make everything so dramatic. But, inside football, you
analyse it. You look at it bit by bit and think that’s OK, that’s not
bad, rather than everything being bad or good.’

Neville’s proximity to the game, however, could easily compromise his willingness to say what he sees and how he feels.

He spent all his career at Manchester
United and has a four-year contract with the FA to work under Roy
Hodgson and coach the England senior team, after all.

Gary Neville gets ready for Monday Night Football

Gary Neville gets made up on Monday Night Football

Finishing touches: Neville is still new to football punditry but is brilliantly professional in his preparation

But as Neville watches Arsenal’s 5-2
win at Reading — from a ‘big, wide high camera angle’ because ‘that’s
the only way you can analyse it properly, you can’t watch the ball’ —
there is only a flicker of his allegiance to the national side. When
Jack Wilshere crumples to the ground in the build-up to Reading’s first
goal, Neville suddenly becomes even more animated.

‘Oh! Oh!’ he cries. ‘Wilshere’s done
his knee ligaments. Oh no. Or is it his groin Oh dear.’ Then, ‘Oh,
phew, he’s OK. What price 5-4 Reading now’

Neville’s affiliations make him more
accountable than most but he insists he remains deliberately detached
from the insular, pally world of football.

His reasoning is as clear as the
straightforward manner in which he is able to talk through a set-piece
or analyse the build-up to a goal: you cannot criticise someone on live
television one day and go for a pint with them the next.

‘I don’t speak to too many people,’
he says. ‘I think if you speak to too many people you become friendly
with them and it might not be as honest an assessment.

‘You get to know people — “All right,
how are you mate” — and a week later they think you’re stitching them
up. Don’t get too close. I do know people but I spent my life at one
club.

‘People at the start, understandably,
were asking how it would work, but I think I’ve been as honest as I
can be about United games and most people seem to have accepted the fact
that I’ve praised or criticised their team.

‘I think fans are pretty honest. They
don’t want rubbish. If their team play well they know they’ve played
well. If they haven’t, they know that, too. You try to show why or how
because they know the rest themselves. You’re always looking for the
most interesting bits. Less fluff, more gruff.’

And they're off: The show has received rave reviews this season thanks to Neville's expert analysis

And they're off: The show has received rave reviews this season thanks to Neville's expert analysis

The enjoyment Neville derives from his
new role is obvious, even if he can barely contain his energy, pacing
up and down during advertising breaks and badgering the producer with
ideas as early as the Wednesday before a show.

This opportunity to have the last
word on the weekend’s action is, after all, both the programme’s
strength and its continual challenge — how do you be significantly
different from what has gone before, on television and social media
and in the newspapers

Neville consumes information from all these outlets but still has to offer new insight on a Monday night.

As you can probably imagine, he is not
short of ideas, although the transition from player to pundit has not
been as straight-forward as you might think.

‘The more I relax, the more I become a
little lighthearted,’ says Neville. ‘But on the first show last year, I
was 100 miles per hour. I was like a train with no brakes. I used to
get an incredibly dry mouth because I was so nervous. I’ve not done
anything like this before in my life.

‘And my hands! Oh my hands. That was a
massive problem. What do you do with them when you’re standing at the
touchscreen Now I carry my pen with me because you’ve got something to
focus on.

‘I was everywhere — my hands were
terrible. I got a lot of feedback: hands and my hair, which is a
continual challenge — I’ve just given up on that.’

Giving up That must be a first for Neville, surely.

Sky Sports is the home of football
with more than 500 live matches every season including Barclays Premier
League, UEFA Champions League, internationals, the npower Football
League and more.

Ashes 2013: England are red-hot favourites to beat Australia, says Nasser Hussain

Red-hot Ashes favourites: England have talent to burn as battle for urn hots up

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UPDATED:

22:32 GMT, 18 December 2012

England have beaten India, and Ashes
fever is starting to hot up. Surrey announced that they have already
sold out all five days for next summer’s final Test, the first time an
English Test has ever been entirely sold out before Christmas.

With the
oldest enemies in cricket meeting in back-to-back series next year, Sportsmail columnist
Nasser Hussain, a veteran of many an Ashes battle as England batsman
and captain, ran the rule over both teams with the countdown to the big
battle now under way…

Three's a charm: England aim to win their third consecutive Ashes series next summer... and travel to Australia in winter

Three's a charm: England aim to win their third consecutive Ashes series next summer… and travel to Australia in winter

The captains

We have two phenomenal players here
who seem to have been inspired to new heights by the captaincy and
increased their potency since rising to high office. I think Alastair
Cook is much more likely to score runs in Australia than Michael Clarke
is in England, with the English seamers fancying their chances of him
nicking the ball to wicketkeeper or slips over here next summer. But
that is not to underestimate Clarke, who has had a Bradmanesque year.

Face-off: Alastair Cook (left) and Michael Clarke will do battle over 10 Tests in seven months

Face-off: Michael Clarke

Write caption here

As
a leader, Clarke, a disciple of Shane Warne, is more proactive and more
inclined to do unusual things, like getting keeper Matthew Wade to have
a bowl in Hobart when he was struggling for wickets. Cook will sit in
more and is like Andrew Strauss in style but we saw in India that he is
not afraid to quickly change things if they are not going right, like
replacing Joe Root at silly point with Ian Bell in the final Test to
immediate productive effect. He has made big changes to personnel
already too, even though he is a new captain, like leaving out Stuart
Broad after Mumbai.

The bowlers

On paper Australia have an excellent attack full of potential but the challenge for them will be keeping their bowlers fit because they have had one injury after another. A seam attack featuring the likes of Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Pat Cummins could cause problems for England but there are too many question marks for Australia’s liking. And their spinner, Nathan Lyon, is OK and nothing more. England certainly won’t be kept up at night looking at DVDs of Lyon like we had to watch videos of Warne.

No sleepless nights: England's batsmen need not have nightmares about Nathan Lyon

No sleepless nights: England's batsmen need not have nightmares about Nathan Lyon

England, in contrast, have strength in depth and are raring to go. They have been able to rest and look after their bowlers — they sensibly left Jimmy Anderson out of the Indian one-day series — and Graham Onions, who is a fantastic bowler who could get into almost any other Test team in the world, hasn’t even had a game yet this winter for England. And England have two world-class spinners in Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. They have the bowling edge, no question.

The batsmen

Again I fancy England in batting too. Any side who cannot get Eoin Morgan and Jonny Bairstow in the team at the moment must have depth while another two Test batsmen have emerged against India in Nick Compton and Root. England’s batters just seem more ready for Test cricket these days than Australia’s when they are introduced. Clarke and Mike Hussey are outstanding but there are question marks at the top of the order and around them.

Mr Cricket: Mike Hussey remains a middle order menace for England

Mr Cricket: Mike Hussey remains a middle order menace for England

Shane Watson has been decent without going on to big scores and David Warner could be very good but I am not sure yet, while the absence of Ricky Ponting could be a problem for them because they will miss his experience. No Australian line-up will be ordinary but they have no-one like Kevin Pietersen, and all England’s batsmen know how to perform in their own conditions.

The keepers

Matt Prior really is the finished product while Wade is another one still in the promising category. Warne has been saying for some time that Wade was the man to watch out for but I actually think Australia could miss Brad Haddin. He is a feisty character who England don’t really like and a good attacking batsman. I cannot speak highly enough of Prior, the best No 7 in world cricket and a much improved keeper. I would keep him as vice-captain, too. He impressed in that role after Broad was left out in India.

In the box seat: Matt Prior (right) and Pietersen celebrate an Ashes victory Down Under

In the box seat: Matt Prior (right) and Pietersen celebrate an Ashes victory Down Under

The verdict

I think next year’s two Ashes series are coming at exactly the right time for England whereas for Australia they may be a year to 18 months too early. For them to defeat England they will need to get everybody fit for sustained periods and rely on the galvanising abilities of Clarke. England will not leave anything to chance and have great bench strength. OK, they had had a bad year before they pulled things around in India but I believe they are very much back on track now. If I were a betting man I’d have money on England to win, as both teams stand now, both home and away.