Tag Archives: touches

Christopher Samba in London to seal 12.5m QPR move

Samba in London to seal 12.5m QPR switch as Anzhi manager Hiddink blasts: He didn't even say goodbye

By
Neil Ashton

PUBLISHED:

14:09 GMT, 30 January 2013

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UPDATED:

22:18 GMT, 30 January 2013

Nearly there: Samba looks set to join QPR

Nearly there: Samba looks set to join QPR

Christopher Samba is in London to put the finishing touches on his move to QPR after the Premier League strugglers met the 12.5million release clause in his contract.

Samba has been playing for Anzhi Makhachkala but Guus Hiddink, manager of the Russians, has conceded defeat in his bid to hold on to the defender.

Hiddink said: 'He left for England yesterday. I hope that today or tomorrow we'll find out what has really happened.

'It's a shame to talk about this but he didn't even say goodbye, he didn't explain anything to us.

'Whatever happens to you, you should take into account the people with whom you work.

'It's not a great situation for us. He started the pre-season camps with us but then suddenly in the last few days he started to make contact with England, that's despite still being on contract with Anzhi.'

Rangers chairman Tony Fernandes asked manager Harry Redknapp last week if he wanted former Blackburn defender Samba at Loftus Road.

Fernandes is tying up the deal for Rangers and they expect him to be registered in time to make his debut in the must-win Barclays Premier League clash with Norwich this weekend.

Case for the defence: Redknapp needs Samba (left) at Loftus Road

Case for the defence: Redknapp needs Samba (left) at Loftus Road

He was a previous target for Redknapp
when he was Tottenham manager but moved to the Russian side almost a year ago after
being offered a huge financial package. Samba's family still live in England and the 28-year-old has been keen to return.

Rangers are desperate for central defenders as Ryan Nelsen played his final game in the 0-0 draw against Manchester City on Tuesday evening and will move to Toronto this week. Anton Ferdinand has gone to Turkey on loan at Bursaspor.

Meanwhile, QPR have given Alejandro Faurlin permission to speak to Palermo over a loan move.

On the move: Alejandro Faurlin looks set to leave QPR on loan

On the move: Alejandro Faurlin looks set to leave QPR on loan

The 26-year-old is one a handful of survivors from the Hoops side that secured the npower Championship title in 2011.

However, the midfielder could now be off to Serie A side Palermo on loan until the end of the season.

Faurlin has been given permission to speak to the Sicilian outfit, although it is understood the deal is not with a view to a permanent move.

QPR have been one of the most active clubs this month, with Loic Remy, Tal Ben Haim and Yun Suk-young all arriving at Loftus Road.

Several players have also left the club in January, with Anton Ferdinand, Djibril Cisse and Rob Hulse amongst those loaned out.

QPR, who also tried but failed in a bid to sign Portugal defender Bruno Alves from Zenit St Petersburg, are continuing talks over a 6.5m deal for Stoke striker Peter Crouch. Stoke manager Tony Pulis has opted against taking Jamie Mackie as a makeweight.

Samba is swapping a title challenge for a relegation battle…

Russia

Premier

Daniel Sturridge undergoing Liverpool medical

Sturridge undergoing Liverpool medical as Chelsea striker closes in on 12m Anfield switch

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UPDATED:

13:07 GMT, 23 December 2012

Daniel Sturridge has been given permission by Chelsea to undergo a medical on Merseyside after Liverpool resolved the cash wrangle that was threatening to scupper his 12million-plus move to Anfield.

Though the transfer window does not open for another week, Sturridge has been allowed to put the finishing touches to his move after travelling to Liverpool for a medical today.

Heading north: Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge looks set to complete a move to Liverpool next month

Heading north: Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge looks set to complete a move to Liverpool next month

The deal was in danger of collapsing
after Liverpool took exception to agents' demands over sell-on fees and
threatened to pull out.

But agreement has been reached over
the terms of the 23-year old frontrunner’s departure from Stamford
Bridge, and he will now give manager Brendan Rodgers much-needed extra
options up front after accepting a three-and-a-half year contract.

On the move Sturridge scored in the League Cup win over Man United this season

On the move Sturridge scored in the League Cup win over Man United this season

Sportsmail first revealed at the end
of August that Liverpool wanted Sturridge to reinforce their strike
force and would attempt to lure him away from Chelsea in the New Year.

Olympic experience: Sturridge was involved for Team GB this summer

Olympic experience: Sturridge was involved for Team GB this summer

QPR appoint Olympic architects for centre of excellence

QPR ramp up plans for centre of excellence by appointing Olympic architects

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UPDATED:

10:05 GMT, 10 September 2012

QPR have appointed the architects behind Wembley and the London 2012 Olympic Stadium to design 'an unparalleled centre of excellence' at their new training base in Ealing, west London.

The club, who currently train at the Imperial Sports Ground in Harlington, expect to move into the new Warren Farm complex ahead of the 2014-15 season.

Populous, who also designed Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, are putting the finishing touches to their plans for the training centre.

Training day: QPR have made plans to move to a new complex

Training day: QPR have made plans to move to a new complex

QPR chief executive Philip Beard said: 'Having secured Warren Farm, we wanted to work with the best people in the industry to develop a training ground which will benefit not only the first team, but also the academy and the local community.

'Populous have great experience in this field and are the perfect fit for us.

'Over the summer, a great amount of renovation has taken place at our current training ground at Harlington which has reduced the urgency for us to move to a new site.

'We are working very closely with Ealing Council and are very excited about what we can create.'

Populous also designed Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, the New York Yankees stadium and the Sydney Olympic Stadium in 2000.

Blueprint: QPR have appointed the architects who designed the Olympic Stadium

Blueprint: QPR have appointed the architects who designed the Olympic Stadium

Bayern Munich beat Manchester United and Manchester City to signing of Javi Martinez

Bayern Munich set to beat Manchester duo to signing of Bilbao midfielder Martinez

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UPDATED:

09:15 GMT, 20 August 2012

Bayern Munich look to have pipped both Manchester cubs to the signature of Javi Martinez, but the 30million-plus deal is being threatened by a bizarre hitch over how the fee should be paid.

Mindful of a likely backlash from fans over the loss of their most prized asset, Athletic Bilbao bosses wanted to avoid appearing to cash in on Martinez and hatched a plan to make it look as though he engineered the move.

President Josu Urrutia publicly denied any contact from Bayern and told last season’s Champions’ League finalists he would not accept any payment from them. The only way the transfer could proceed, he added, was if Martinez activated an escape clause in his contract and paid the 40million euros (31.4million) himself.

German move: Javi Martinez looks set to join Bayern Munich

German move: Javi Martinez looks set to join Bayern Munich

It was a stance aimed at pacifying Bilbao’s fanatical support, and Bayern went along with it by agreeing to pay the fee to Martinez to enable him to buy out his contract.

The 23-year old visited the Allianz Arena at the end of last week to reach a verbal agreement on a five-year contract and put the finishing touches to meeting Urrutia’s wishes.

But, just as the strangest of transfer deals was about to go through, the Spanish tax authorities were alerted to it and let it be known that Martinez would be liable to a six million euro tax bill, the moment Bayern’s 40million cheque registered in his account.

Beaten: Martrinez attracted interest from both Manchester clubs

Beaten: Martrinez attracted interest from both Manchester clubs

With Urrutia still insisting he will not accept payment directly from Bayern, Martinez’s immediate future has been plunged into uncertainty.

The Spain centre-back or defensive midfielder has been a target for Manchester United for the best part of a year, while City manager Roberto Mancini admitted recently that he made an approach for him earlier this summer.

Bayern remain confident he will still be unveiled as their player in the next 48 hours and are awaiting the outcome of talks today between his representatives and Spanish League officials, in an attempt to find a solution.

Bilbao are also resigned to Martinez’s departure and left him out of their squad for their opening La Liga game, a 5-3 home defeat by Real Betis.

London 2012 Olympics: Tom Daley inspired by Pete Waterfield

Daley's quest for Games gold inspired by Team GB synchro partner Waterfield

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UPDATED:

18:08 GMT, 29 July 2012

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Tom Daley has revealed his desire for Olympic glory was first inspired by his platform synchro partner Pete Waterfield.

Daley will bid to win his first Olympic medal alongside veteran Waterfield at the Aquatics Centre on Monday in a wide-open field in the high board team event.

But as the duo put the finishing touches on their preparations, Daley made the admission that Waterfield's silver medal in the event at Athens 2004 was a major motivation in the early part of his career.

Quest for gold: Tom Daley (left) says that synchro partner Pete Waterfield (right) has inspired him

Quest for gold: Tom Daley (left) says that synchro partner Pete Waterfield (right) has inspired him

The 18-year-old described the chance to dive alongside father-of-two Waterfield as 'surreal' after he recollected tuning in to watch his partner claim Britain's only Olympic diving medal for the past 52 years.

'I was 10 years old when Pete won his Olympic silver medal. I was staying in the family caravan down in Newquay,' he said.

'I was sat in the caravan trying to tune the TV in so I could watch it. I was watching the whole thing and thinking “wow” he's an Olympic silver medallist.

'That is my dream to compete in the Olympic Games and win a medal.

'I was fortunate to compete in Beijing but not even then did I think I'd be able to compete as a synchro team with Pete after watching him in Athens 2004. It's quite surreal actually.'

In sync lads Daley and Waterfield will compete in the men's synchro diving

In sync lads Daley and Waterfield will compete in the men's synchro diving

In sync lads Daley and Waterfield will compete in the men's synchro diving

An Olympic medal is the only major honour to have eluded Daley during his decorated young career so far.

The Plymouth diver was crowned world platform champion as a 15-year-old in Rome three years ago while in May he reclaimed the European title he first won aged just 13.

Daley's European success came in the midst of career-best form, in which he twice improved his personal best, while he was also crowned individual and synchro platform champion at the World Series.

Stiff competition: Daley and Waterfield must overcome China's Cao Yuan (top) and Zhang Yanquan if they are to win gold

Stiff competition: Daley and Waterfield must overcome China's Cao Yuan (top) and Zhang Yanquan if they are to win gold

Those performances have prompted belief that Daley could upset his Chinese rivals over the next fortnight, starting tomorrow.

Daley and Waterfield will face a fiercely-competitive field, however the Chinese will send out arguably their most vulnerable combination at these Olympics.

Teenage duo Cao Yuan and Zhang Yanquan will be competing at their first Olympics while they are short on major international experience having only taken over as China's first-choice team since last year's World Championships.

That has opened up the field for the likes of Germany, Russia and Great Britain to potentially steal a rare gold away from the Chinese.

It is a pressure that Daley is welcoming as he looks to fulfil his Olympic dream.

'Pressure isn't a bad thing. I quite like pressure going into a competition,' he said.

'Divers either handle pressure or they don't. For me I've had pressure going into competitions for a long time now.

'It's something that I am used to. I've had the Olympic experience in Beijing and had the pressure environment from there.

'For me pressure should bring out the best in you because you have that extra adrenaline rush.'

Daley also hinted the pressure of a 17,500 capacity Aquatics Centre could help to knock the Chinese off their stride, adding: 'If you put pressure on the Chinese and pressure on other divers then they are more likely to falter.

'It's about whether they've learned to deal with the pressure or whether they've got used to that.

'You take off the board and land in the water in 1.6 seconds. You hit the water at 34mph. In between that gap anything can happen.'

Shake it off: Daley dries himself after a practice session last week

Shake it off: Daley dries himself after a practice session last week

Good form: Daley is hoping to build on his World Championship gold medal

Good form: Daley is hoping to build on his World Championship gold medal

London 2012 Olympics: Team USA certain for basketball gold

USA are certain for men and women's b'ball gold – unless the bus gets lost

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UPDATED:

01:55 GMT, 28 July 2012

It comes as no surprise to hear that the Americans, men and women, are favourites for gold in the basketball.

But London’s bus drivers appear to have been doing their best to give everyone else a chance against Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and their Dream Team colleagues.

On Friday the Americans were late for their media conference at the main press centre.

Leading line: The United States basketball team are the hot, hot favourites for gold in London

Leading line: The United States basketball team are the hot, hot favourites for gold in London

‘Our bus has been lost on every leg of every trip we have been on so far in London,’ said men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski ahead of Sunday's opening group match against France. ‘That is the one consistent factor of every leg of every trip — our bus driver has been lost.’

Luckily, Krzyzewski has more faith in his team.

‘If we put in a steadfast, resolute performance, then we will do perfectly well,’ he said.

But on this occasion the American women are more of a cert than the men. The men face a decent challenge from Spain, Brazil and Argentina. The women might be tested by Australia, but few others, if any.

Getting ready: The finishing touches are being added to the Olympic arena hosting the basketball

Getting ready: The finishing touches are being added to the Olympic arena hosting the basketball

Being such clear favourites does bring
pressure, though. ‘We get asked about it wherever we go and we get told
we’re the most prohibitive favourites in any sport in any event at the
Olympics,’ said US women’s coach Geno Auriemma, a straight-talking
58-year-old, born in Italy but raised just outside Philadelphia.

‘But one of the things I try to teach is that pressure is something other people put on you. The real pressure is on some of the teams in our pool to beat us because they all know it’s very difficult to beat the US.

‘Real pressure is when you lose your job and have to pay your mortgage, or if you’re a single mum wondering if you can afford to pay for your kids’ education. That’s real pressure.

‘If you’re playing a game you love and which you know you’re better at than most other teams, there’s something wrong if you think that’s pressure.

Star man: LeBron James is expected to light up London, especially with a big NBA season behind him

Star man: LeBron James is expected to light up London, especially with a big NBA season behind him

‘If we were to lose a game at the Olympics, they’d still let us back into the country. They might not talk to us, but they wouldn’t take away our passports!’

In Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Candace Parker, a 6ft 4in centre who once won a prestigious national high school slam dunk contest against male competitors, the USA boast athletes with a high profile even in the male-dominated world of American team sports.

The USA launch their bid for a fifth straight gold medal against Croatia this afternoon, while Australia’s meeting with Great Britain has the potential to be one of the most intriguing games of the tournament.

London 2012 Olympics: Team GB can win gold, says Tom Cleverley

Going for gold! Cleverley confident Pearce's men can upset the odds

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UPDATED:

15:53 GMT, 25 July 2012

Olympics 2012

Team GB midfielder Tom Cleverley insists there is enough ability in Stuart Pearce's squad to challenge for a medal at London 2012.

The hosts get their group campaign under way against Senegal at Old Trafford on Thursday as huge underdogs to end victorious at Wembley on August 11.

Brazil and Spain are assumed to be likely finalists, with Uruguay the most obvious challengers to their duopoly.

Point to prove: Tom Cleverley is desperate to make up for the time he lost through injury last season

Point to prove: Tom Cleverley is desperate to make up for the time he lost through injury last season

As Uruguay are Team GB's final group stage opponents, a win is of paramount importance for Cleverley and his team-mates.

And despite the depressing backdrop, Cleverley has struck an optimistic chord.

'There is enough quality here,' said the Manchester United man. 'There is everything in this squad; youth, experience, enthusiasm, speed, technical ability and a good manager. There is no reason why we can't do well.

'It is a strong tournament but if we work hard and turn up on the day, I am sure we will be amongst the medals.'

With over 70,000 tickets sold, Pearce is eager to maintain focus on the job his side have in front of them.

He has quickly decided not to make an issue of Gareth Bale's absence and will not be making a formal complaint to FIFA about the midfielder's presence on Tottenham's pre-season tour of the United States, even though he was ruled out of Olympic duty due to a back injury.

Finishing touches: Stuart Pearce is ready to lead his team into action against Senegal

Finishing touches: Stuart Pearce is ready to lead his team into action against Senegal

Finishing touches: Stuart Pearce is ready to lead his team into action against Senegal

Indeed, with just 18 players to choose from, Pearce is delighted to have come through a final training session this morning without any injury scares.

That means Cleverley will be fit after a succession of injuries last term which wrecked what had been a pretty impressive start to his senior United career.

'I don't want the tag of being injury prone,' he said. 'I was unlucky last season. I was on the wrong end of a couple of bad tackles that ended up being long-term problems.

'To be back playing is all I want to do. It is all I work for. Being back for the Olympics makes it even sweeter. Hopefully I will have an injury free season and win lots of silverware.'

Rio Ferdinand has revealed that he told Cleverley to make the most of his Olympic experience, which is something United team-mate Ryan Giggs intends to do.

Golden oldie: Ryan Giggs will lead Team GB out to their first competitive match in 52 years

Golden oldie: Ryan Giggs will lead Team GB out to their first competitive match in 52 years

Pearce has offered every member of his squad the opportunity to attend Friday's opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium.

Whether they will be in the mood to enjoy the extravaganza probably depends on how they get on against a Senegal side that rely on a very physical approach if their play-off win over Oman at Coventry in April is any guide.

Giggs has been dealing with such tactics for over two decades now. And, on the eve of his first major tournament experience, the 38-year-old admits he cannot wait.

'I am still disappointed I never got to a major championship with Wales, that we weren't good enough to get to a European Championships or World Cup,' he said.

'But to get the chance to play in a tournament at such a late stage of my career is obviously one I'm excited about and looking forward to. All the lads have embraced the Olympics.

'We were fortunate enough to go to the village and to walk round and see other athletes from other sports was a good experience. But the bottom line is we're playing football matches and we want to win.'

Meanwhile, Pearce believes a successful Olympics could lead to the controversial concept being continued at further Games.

Great Britain have not even attempted to qualify for the competition since 1972, and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Football Associations were opposed to a combined team entering this time around, despite assurances from FIFA that it would not affect their independence as footballing nations.

Pearce said: 'The fact we have sold out blue-chip stadiums gives us a fantastic opportunity to sow the seed and say can this happen more often We can say to the general public in Great Britain “look, this is a valid tournament”.'

There is no doubt at an event more usually associated with athletes, swimmers, cyclists, horse riders and other sports who, however briefly, get to enjoy the kind of attention bestowed on the round ball game for the rest of the year, football seems a little out of place.

This view ignores the fact football has been an Olympic event since 1900 and has amongst its gold medalists Lev Yashin, Samuel Eto'o, Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi.

Can they do it Team GB are outsiders for a medal, but Cleverley is confident of glory

Can they do it Team GB are outsiders for a medal, but Cleverley is confident of glory

Seventy thousand people have been enthused enough to get themselves tickets for Friday's game, the second part of a double-header which also includes tournament heavyweights Uruguay taking on United Arab Emirates.

And Pearce feels those at the game, and the ones watching on TV, are in for a shock.

'We do belittle,' he said. 'If I roll the clock back a calendar year, I was fortunate to go with England to Colombia for the Under-20s World Cup.

'We played a group match against Argentina in front of 44,000 people. The standard was fantastic, the tournament and the exposure were fantastic. Very few people in England knew there was a tournament going on.

'That is how we underestimate tournaments. The same will apply to the Olympics.'

Zlatan Ibrahimovic signs for Paris St Germain

Record-breaker Ibrahimovic completes 31m move to Paris St Germain

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UPDATED:

14:10 GMT, 18 July 2012

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is now the world's most expensive ever player after the Sweden striker completed his 31million switch to Paris Saint Germain.

The Qatar-backed French side presented the AC Milan forward as their third big-money summer signing after he put the finishing touches to his move by undergoing a medical at a Paris hospital.

New arrival: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (left) has completed his move to Paris St Germain

New arrival: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (left) has completed his move to Paris St Germain

Former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti has already captured Ibrahimovic's Milan team-mate Thiago Silva and Napoli hitman Ezequiel Lavezzi causing outcry from French sports minister Valerie Fourneyron.

He said:'These sums are astronomic, they are unreasonable.'

Ibrahimovic, 30, has cost a combined total of 150m in transfer fees, following spells with Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona and AC Milan.

All smiles: Ibrahimovic looks relaxed as he arrives for his medicalAll smiles: Ibrahimovic looks relaxed as he arrives for his medical

All smiles: Ibrahimovic looks relaxed as he arrives for his medical

Big money: Ibrahimovic will become the most expensive player in history when he joins Paris Saint Germain

Big money: Ibrahimovic will become the most expensive player in history when he joins Paris Saint Germain

PSG's sporting director Leonardo said: 'This is a big year for PSG. That a player of his calibre has come to Paris, it's enormous. This is a player who could change everything. '

Ibrahimovic's agent Mino Raiola, meanwhile, told French newspaper Le Parisien: 'Zlatan is very excited. This is not a player that you can force to do what he doesn't want to do.

'He's very excited at the idea of taking on this challenge. PSG was his first choice.'

Raring to go: Ibrahimovic is said to be excited at the prospect of playing under Carlo Ancelotti

Raring to go: Ibrahimovic is said to be excited at the prospect of playing under Carlo Ancelotti

Andre Villas-Boas to be named Tottenham manager on Tuesday

Villas-Boas wins his Spurs: Former Chelsea boss to get job at the Lane

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UPDATED:

21:35 GMT, 2 July 2012

Tottenham are finally expected to announce Andre Villas-Boas as their new manager on Tuesday.

As Sportsmail revealed last week, Spurs have been putting the finishing touches to a three-year contract for the Portuguese boss to replace Harry Redknapp.

And, after completing the finer details of that deal, Villas-Boas is due to be appointed. It is understood Tottenham’s players have been informed that the former Chelsea manager is their new manager.

This way to The Lane: Andre Villas Boas looks set to be named Spurs manager

This way to The Lane: Andre Villas Boas looks set to be named Spurs manager

Villas-Boas will also bring trusted aides Jose Mario Rocha and Daniel Sousa with him to White Hart Lane.

One of the 34-year-old’s first tasks will be to resolve the future of Luka Modric. The Croatia midfielder is a target for Real Madrid — but there remains a substantial amount of negotiating to be done before the path is cleared for Modric to leave for Spain.

And Spurs sources claim Tottenham will try to negotiate a way for striker Gonzalo Higuain to be part of any deal to take Modric to the Bernabeu.

Hard act to follow: Harry Redknapp left Spurs after finishing fourth

Hard act to follow: Harry Redknapp left Spurs after finishing fourth

Villas-Boas is a huge fan of Argentina forward Higuain and tried to sign him during his time as manager of Chelsea last season.

Whether Higuain would consider leaving Madrid for a team not playing in the Champions League remains to be seen.

Wimbledon 2012: Andy Murray blasts critics

McEnroe and Wade, if you think I'm a drama queen, look at the pictures of the eight-inch needle stuck in my back

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UPDATED:

21:17 GMT, 23 June 2012

Andy Murray's anger at the pain inflicted on him by a celebrity cast of critics has followed him from Paris to the gates of Wimbledon.

And after keeping his counsel, Murray finally snapped as he applied the finishing touches to his preparation for his seventh assault on the world's most prestigious tournament.

On Thursday night, after playing reigning Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic in his last public warm-up match, Murray issued an enraged challenge to his most vociferous detractors, who include past champions Virginia Wade, John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Boris Becker, as well as former world No 2 Tommy Haas.

Flat out: Andy Murray receives treatment for his injured back during his French Open victory over Jarko Nieminen

Flat out: Andy Murray receives treatment for his injured back during his French Open victory over Jarko Nieminen

'If someone is going to say to me that my back injury is not genuine, they can come and see my reports from the doctors, they can see the pictures of a needle about eight inches long in my back,' said a seething Murray.

'I'm not accepting criticism any more, because it's not fair.'

Murray revealed he had received eight pain-killing injections in one day before the French Open began.

Hitting back at critics: Andy Murray voicing his concerns

Hitting back at critics: Andy Murray voicing his concerns

While he declares himself to be fully
fit for Wimbledon, where he will play Nikolay Davydenko in the first
round on Tuesday, Murray is clearly embittered by the fall-out from his
appearance in Paris.

All
of his critics, in some shape or form, decried Murray for showing he was
experiencing pain in his back during his second-round match with Jarkko
Nieminen at the French Open. Wade, the last British Wimbledon singles
champion, called Murray a 'drama queen'.

Murray: Will he ever break big three

In Germany, Haas delivered another
hurtful barb when he claimed the world No 4 had acquired a reputation
among the players for being melodramatic on court.

'People talk about it in the locker room,' said Haas.

Murray's possible route to the final

Murray had previously refrained from defending himself but, clearly, his patience has been exhausted.

As
ball girls with pen and paper formed an orderly line to wait for
Murray, after he had showered and undergone physiotherapy following his
gentle work-out against Djokovic in Buckinghamshire, the British star
articulated his true feelings.

When
asked to comment on McEnroe's assertion that his back problems 'could
be more mental than physical', Murray said tartly: 'I think eight
pain-killing injections in your back before the French Open justifies a
genuine injury.

'A lot of
people have suggested that it hasn't been genuine. I have a genuine back
problem, it's not a mental thing. It's something that is there.'

Murray has been informed the injections will have a lasting effect throughout Wimbledon. He declined to specify the exact nature or area of his injury.

'I'm not going into the details,' said Murray. 'It's a problem I had at the beginning of the year. I played through it for five months, but it just got worse. But it feels better since I had the injections.'

Rarely has Murray been so animated outside a tennis court, or felt compelled to defend himself with such vigour. His eyes burned with indignation.

He feels with justification that he is a role model, in so many ways.

He can sulk, he can infuriate, he can divide opinion.

Any other British winners at Wimbledon

But he can play. And he feels he has
done enough to have earned respect, on and off the court, which is why
the criticism in Paris bit deep.

Courier
told a TV audience that he thought Murray should quit mid-match; Becker
had warned beforehand that he should not even play if his back was
troublesome.

To Murray neither was an option.

He
trains hard, lives a quiet life with his long-time girlfriend Kim Sears
and has a coterie of employees from coach Ivan Lendl, an eigh-ttime
major champion, through fitness trainers Jez Green and Matt Little, to
physiotherapist Andy Ireland, all being paid to make him become the best
he can be.

He is
undeniably the fourth best player in the world. Yet still Murray seems
unable to make ground on the three ranked ahead of him: Djokovic, Rafael
Nadal and Roger Federer.

'Everyone was saying after Australia that the gap, from me to the top three, had changed,' said Murray.

'Then, when I didn't make the semis at the French Open, they said it had changed back again. To me, things change in tennis on a weekly basis. If I was to win Wimbledon everyone would say, “There's no gap any more”. It's all about how you perform in the big competitions. We'll see what happens in the next couple of weeks.'

Lendl is with him to give an edge missing in the past. The 52-year-old Czech-American never won Wimbledon, but his worth to Murray is calculated through his iron-hard attention to discipline and the values he demands, as Becker, a three-time Wimbledon champion, who will be a member of the BBC team covering the Championships, explains.

'Lendl was the first real professional in the tennis world. He left no stone unturned to become a better player. He was the first one with a conditioning coach, the first to have a regimented diet, the first with a separate racket stringer and the first with his own physio. Lendl asked himself how could he become better by not only practising more than the rest of us.

'Having Ivan around him, Andy will understand better about professionalism, discipline, preparation and putting yourself in the best position to win.

'You have to have the highest respect for Ivan. If you have someone that good on your side, you cannot mess around. And maybe there is an extra motivation, an extra drive for both men as neither has won at Wimbledon.

'You expect Andy to be around far into the second week, then it takes a little bit of courage, a little bit of luck and great tennis to go all the way. He's doing everything in his power to give himself his best chance of winning.'

Murray will walk through the gates of the All England Club believing he can end the 76-year wait to anoint a British champion in succession to Fred Perry.

'I have no other choice,' said Murray. 'There's not much point in playing if I didn't think I could win.'

But Murray is a realist, not a dreamer.

'When I finish my career, if I haven't won a Slam, maybe it will annoy me,' he said.

'Or maybe my achievements will be seen as being even better because I've played against some of the greatest of all time.'