Tag Archives: travel

Arsenal old boy and Lyon coach Remi Garde renews Tottenham in Europa league

Arsenal old boy Garde renews Spurs rivalry as coach of Lyon in Europa league tie

By
Paul Hirst, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

20:54 GMT, 13 February 2013

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UPDATED:

20:54 GMT, 13 February 2013

Lyon boss Remi Garde admits he still harbours the same desire to beat Tottenham as he did during his playing days with rivals Arsenal.

The Ligue 1 side travel to White Hart Lane on Thursday in the first leg of their last 32 Europa League tie. It is their manager’s first competitive visit to the capital since he retired.

Garde joined Arsenal from Strasbourg on the same day as Patrick Vieira arrived from AC Milan in 1996, but both players’ careers then took very different paths.

Wenger boy: Current Lyon coach Remi Garde was part of Arsenal's double winning side of 1997-98

Wenger boy: Current Lyon coach Remi Garde was part of Arsenal's double winning side of 1997-98

Vieira went on to become a Gunners icon, winning three Barclays Premier League titles, but Garde left three years later having made just 27 starts.

Although he only had limited playing time at Arsenal, Garde remembers his years at Highbury fondly and he admits the fact that this game is against the Gunners’ biggest rivals adds an extra edge to the occasion.

'I can’t deny that when I wore the red shirt of Arsenal the matches against Spurs were important moments for me,' said Garde, whose team arrive in London on the back of two 3-1 defeats.

'It was important to beat Spurs and I suppose in truth those feelings are still there in my head now, even though that page in my career has turned now.'

Reflecting on the challenge at hand, Garde revealed he had been told about the talents of Gareth Bale by former Lyon youth director Georges Prost almost seven years ago, who held the same post at Southampton from 2002-2007 when the winger was at the south coast club.

Back then Bale was just a gangly left-back, but Prost was still convinced the wide man was set for stardom.

'Georges Prost worked with Gareth as a youngster at Southampton,' Garde said.

'He told me a few years ago about him, but he was about 16 at the time and he had already made his debut for Southampton. He was a young man but he was already expensive then, too expensive.

'Prost told me how quick he was then, how much skill he was blessed with even at that age, so it’s not a surprise to me to see the top form Gareth has been in. 'He is the sort of player that we do need to keep an eye on tomorrow.'

Warning: Garde has been warned about the talents of Gareth Bale by former Southampton coach Georges Prost

Warning: Garde has been warned about the talents of Gareth Bale by former Southampton coach Georges Prost

Homecoming: Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris moved from Lyon to Spurs in the summer but will be replaced by Brad Friedel

Homecoming: Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris moved from Lyon to Spurs in the summer but will be replaced by Brad Friedel

Bale has scored five goals in his last four matches to take his tally for the season to 19 – comfortably his best return since he made his bow in 2006.

Spurs and Lyon are also linked by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who joined Andre Villas-Boas in a 12million move last summer.

Lloris has been in superb form of late, but Villas-Boas revealed today that Brad Friedel will start in goal ahead of the France captain, much to Garde’s disappointment.

'I suppose it’s kind of a regret (that Lloris is not playing).It is for all of us,' Garde said.

'He was very much loved at Lyon. He made a big impression.

'He was a great guy so it would have been nice to have the experience of coming up against him, rather than just seeing him in the corridor.'

Top of his game: Bale has now matured into one of the Premier League's most devastating performers

Top of his game: Bale has now matured into one of the Premier League's most devastating performers

Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah will have to wait to be Dame and Sir – Des Kelly

After a year of plenty, Sir MoBot, Sir Andy and Dame Jess will have to wait their turn

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UPDATED:

00:04 GMT, 29 December 2012

The compilation of the honours list has always been something of a murky affair. The perception lingers that a nudge here, a wink there and a generous donation to the right account does no harm at all to one’s prospects of a knighthood.

Trot along to one of the Prime Minister’s barbecues in Buckinghamshire and the chances of the Queen pinning something on your lapel at Buckingham Palace a few months later also appear to improve somewhat.

Civil servants, politicians and bankers pick up gongs for doing little more than their day job, while, according to a report earlier this year by the Commons Public Administration Select Committee, it still remains the case that not enough ‘normal people’ are being recognised on the list.

Ben Ainslie

Bradley Wiggins

Sirs: Ben Ainslie (left) and Bradley Wiggins have been awarded knighthoods after their sporting successes

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Des Kelly: British lessons for foreign players Let's start with Monty Python
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But the relationship between sport and honours has always been more straightforward. It is essentially a meritocracy, stripped of politicking and intrigue. If you win, you are rewarded. Glories equal honour. Medals equal gongs. In fact, we don’t want our sports stars to be ‘normal’ at all.

The trouble this year is they were too extraordinary. The gold rush of a glorious Olympic summer where Team GB collected 29 gold medals led Downing Street to issue curmudgeonly briefings about how there would be an honours ‘cutback’ even before another 34 golds at the Paralympics.

Faced with the prospect of nearly half the audience at the Sports Personality Of The Year Awards being called Dame This or Sir That, the Prime Minister called a halt. As a result there is no Sir MoBot. No Sir Andy of Dunblane. No Dame Jessica of the Steel City, either.

In any other year, this illustrious trio would have been guaranteed the very highest accolades of the land for their inspirational performances.

They not only succeeded in their chosen fields, their golden glow was reflected across the nation as they brought the country together for moments of collective joy and patriotism, the intensity of which has rarely been seen before.

But on this occasion, they have had to drop down a rung or two, ‘victims’ of our incredible sporting success, if we dare use such a word in this context.

Mo Farah

Double gold: Mo Farah

Jessica Ennis

Poster girl: Jessica Ennis

Andy Murray

Main man: Andy Murray

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When Kelly Holmes took double gold on the track in Athens in 2004, she was made a Dame without argument. When Mo Farah achieved a similar feat in London this summer winning the 5,000m and 10,000m, he was handed a citation for a CBE instead.

Paralympian Sarah Storey is a Dame, but all-conquering wheelchair athlete David Weir is not named a knight, he has a CBE. There are only so many knights and dames a nation can accommodate, even on a special Olympic honours list. But it is not a snub to miss out and it would churlish to regard it as such.

Some of the sports stars not being called to the Palace this year have long careers ahead and there is time enough for knighthoods, honours and accolades. What might seem like a contradiction now can surely be addressed in lists ahead.

At least cycling has two knights of the road; Sir Dave Brailsford for his pursuit of excellence with the British team and Sir Bradley Wiggins, or Sir Wiggo as he will surely be known, for his historic Tour de France triumph and Olympic gold. There are two Sirs on the waves as well, with David Tanner, performance director of Britain’s rowing team and sailor Ben Ainslie collecting knighthoods.

But being a history-maker is not necessarily enough. When Andy Murray finally landed Britain’s first men’s Grand Slam tennis title in 76 years at the US Open during an era when men’s tennis is as strong as it has ever been, he still admitted it ‘would be a little rash’ to give him a knighthood. The committee agreed, handing him an OBE.

The idea that he has been denied,
though, is preposterous. Murray is 25. To make him Sir Andy at 25 would
be premature in the extreme. Fred Perry, Britain’s last great men’s
tennis champion, was never given an honour. However it is certainly a
far cry from the list of 2003 when Tim Henman was given an OBE just to
‘add interest’ to the list.

Making her mark: Sarah Storey was named a Dame in the New Year Honours list

Making her mark: Sarah Storey was named a Dame in the New Year Honours list

In truth, no athlete, sportsman or sportswoman competes with these ceremonial honours in mind. The distinction that truly counts is the medal hung around their neck on the podium or the trophy they receive at the climax to a tournament.

Sports stars receive honours enough, and most of them would happily cede their place on the list to a charity worker or a member of the Armed Forces if that were the choice. But as a nation we enjoy having sporting heroes and it is a fine problem to have too many for once.

Who said the honours system was ever consistent, anyway Want the proof Some inherit a title because their father was made a Baronet, like Sir Mark Thatcher. And then there’s Sir Jimmy Savile. I could go on.

British lessons for foreign players? Let"s start with Monty Python – Des Kelly

British lessons for foreign players Let's start with Monty Python

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UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 15 December 2012

The Football Association has produced a 92-point plan to tackle racism within football. Nice and concise, that. You’d think they might have rounded it up to 100 just for symmetry. But, on the plus side, at least if they ever throw the book at somebody it might actually hurt.

Let me spin through a couple of the key announcements that you might have missed. First, there is a proposal that foreign players and managers arriving in England will be required to attend lessons in 'British culture'.

Also, by 2015-16, one in 10 referees and coaches will have to be of ethnic origin as 'it is reflective of national demographics', starting at the grassroots level.

Association of Silly Talks: the FA's initiative is nothing but a patronising display of political box-ticking

Association of Silly Talks: the FA's initiative is nothing but a patronising display of political box-ticking

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Shall we put aside the other 90 recommendations for now, as these two absolute belters should provide enough material for the time being.

I ask you, has there ever been a more patronising display of political box-ticking in sport than these two misplaced edicts Is the FA seriously going to lecture foreign footballers on culture and set out actual race quotas

This has all come about because FA chairman David Bernstein was dragged into No 10 Downing Street to have his knuckles rapped by a Prime Minister that spotted football was on the news a bit more lately.

Sensing an opportunity, David Cameron declared ‘something must be done’ and, lo and behold, the result is English Football’s Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Action Plan.

It’s a grand title. Politicians just love documents that include words like ‘action’ and ‘plan’ in the same sentence. They look ever so assertive up on the bookshelf. But it’s largely unenforceable guff.

Let’s start with those lessons on British culture for foreigners. Who would be suited for the formidable task of teaching imported sportsmen on 200,000 a week about Britain

The job is likely to fall to some hapless FA apparatchik armed with a Powerpoint presentation that shows a pint of bitter, a Monty Python sketch and a list of the occasions when using the N word is considered unacceptable (Handy tip for foreigners: it’s pretty much all occasions).

Of course, this initiative would have a great deal more impact if it was fronted by a couple of experienced ex-England internationals. Two former captains of the national side, for instance. I wonder if Rio Ferdinand and John Terry might help

I’d also like to know which foreigners qualify for these condescending seminars Will thoroughly Anglicised American, Australian and Dutch players have to sit through these lectures or are they not foreign enough

Fighting talk: Football has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons

Fighting talk: Football has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons

Fighting talk: Football has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons

Is it only for black players and South Americans and is that racist
Besides, surely this is British culture A British-German Royal family, British-Polish plumbers, British Indian restaurants, British-South African cricketers and a British-Pakistani taxi driver all sitting in a British-Irish pub.

The principles underpinning all this are obviously commendable. Of course racism is wrong and should be punished. Role models from all corners of society should be encouraged to join the game, too. But I am utterly sick to the back teeth of people using football as an exercise in social engineering.

There are so many contradictions on matters of race alone. Sport has to be a meritocracy, a system based on individual ability and achievement. That is its essence. Once you impose false quotas it becomes a clumsy, superficial charade.

/12/14/article-0-0143621D00000578-760_468x341.jpg” width=”468″ height=”341″ alt=”Acceptable face of sport The cycling team was an all-white cast” class=”blkBorder” />

Acceptable face of sport The cycling team was an all-white cast

The FA stamp their feet and complain with justification that UEFA’s pathetic attempts to tackles football’s ills are insulting, exemplified by the piffling 65,000 fine imposed on Serbia for a night of racism and violence. But this country has to put its own house in order.

When a so-called fan was caught on video at Chelsea making an alleged (I have to say that) monkey gesture at Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck, the Crown Prosecution Service reviewed the footage and somehow decided there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed with charges of a racially aggravated public-order offence.

Having seen the images, I am at a complete loss over what more evidence they might have required. Which leads me on to the general argument that football is supposedly doomed.

Depending on your news outlet of choice this week, the game is either ‘ungovernable’, ‘teetering on the brink’ of something, or not like it used to be in the good old days when people drank Bovril and smoked Woodbines.

On the plus side, rates of lung cancer and emphysema are down due to the absence of the filter-free gaspers, there’s more on offer at grounds than scalding Bovril, and fewer deaths in the ground, too. I thought I might mention that, since it’s quite important.

Follow Des on Twitter…

More from Des here: @DesKellyDM

Not all bad then, I think we can agree. It can be a hostile and unpleasant environment on occasion, but head into the city centre at chucking out time this weekend and it won’t be much different. So it’s not all football’s fault, despite what the doom-mongers say and we should remember that it can be a joy, too.

A small section of people throw coins because they are irresponsible scum and they think they will get away with it. If CCTV evidence is as unreliable as the CPS have demonstrated, the authorities must intervene.

If coins and missiles are thrown, sections of the ground should be closed. If a thug hurls a seat on the pitch, leave that stand empty for the next fixture and those nearby will shop the perpetrators in their midst soon enough.

Erecting nets behind the goals and around corner flags at the grounds where missiles are thrown is a perfectly reasonable response, too.
There is a spurious counter- argument that this will inevitably lead to the return of fences, but that is not the case.

Nets are used at grounds on the continent and if they save an eye, then they are worth it. And if no coins are thrown, they can be taken down again.

The FA cannot complain about the safety of players on foreign fields and dismiss the perils here at home.

If they do, I only hope someone has the netting handy for when people start throwing stones at England’s glasshouse.

First prize for overblown nonsense goes to Beeb

At least by the end of tomorrow night we should be able to bid farewell to one deeply irritating phenomenon for a month or two.

It relates to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and always occurs in the moment a champion conquers their particular sport.

Even as they are punching the air with delight in their moment of glory, you can guarantee some clown in the room will declare: ‘They’re bound to win Sports Personality now!’; the logic being a world title, gold medal or astonishing personal achievement is merely a step towards ‘the real prize’ — which is a BBC trophy once won by Greg Rusedski, bless him.

When Bradley Wiggins crossed the line in Paris as Britain’s first winner of the Tour de France, do you imagine he thought: ‘That’s sure to get me on stage with Sue Barker’

Motivation SPOTY is hardly at the front of sports men and women's minds

Motivation SPOTY is hardly at the front of sports men and women's minds

Motivation SPOTY is hardly at the front of sports men and women's minds

Does anyone believe that while the European Ryder Cup team were dancing in delight after their comeback, they were also wondering if they might topple the Olympic Gamesmakers in a BBC poll Of course not.

It’s an overblown, self-congratulatory evening; one that has a little more happy footage than usual this year, which will make a pleasant change, thanks to the glorious Olympics and some notable triumphs for Britain elsewhere.

For all the enthusiastic hype, Wiggins is a cert. This is tough on Andy Murray, Mo Farah, Jess Ennis, Rory McIlroy and the countless others who tasted success in Britain’s greatest sporting year.

But Wiggins is a British pioneer in his sport — a genuine first in his sport for his country — and he has deserved all the honours and trinkets that will come his way. Let’s not pretend they are the real prizes, though.

Club World Cup Win or lose, no one cares

Chelsea could be crowned Club World Cup champions in Japan. What a prize. This famous tournament dates back all the way to 2000. It has been a constant in the calendar ever since they stopped arguing about the format in 2005, renamed it in 2006 and rejigged the schedule in 2007 and once again in 2008. What history. What tradition.

Apologies, there’s some punctuation missing there. I meant: What history What tradition The competition is a colossal waste of airline fuel and nothing more than another FIFA junket. Win or lose, nobody really cares.

Who cares Chelsea are battling to win the Club World Cup in Japan

Who cares Chelsea are battling to win the Club World Cup in Japan

VIDEO: Worst basketball free throw ever! Appalachian State basketball player Brian Okam embarrassed

VIDEO: Is this the worst free throw ever US college player suffers embarrassment

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UPDATED:

17:24 GMT, 11 December 2012

Outside of seeing a scoreless game,
there are few certainties in basketball and it seems at least going
close to scoring a point from a free throw is no longer one of them.

The free throw often results in a
player finding the basket. If not that then the ball may bounce out, hit
the backboard or at the very least have enough power and distance to
count as a shot.

Sadly for Brian Okam, he failed to do
any of the above with his feeble attempt for Appalachian State in a
college match at Western Carolina University.

Tension: Brian Okam lines up the shot for the Mountaineers at a Saturday game with Western Carolina

Tension: Brian Okam lines up the shot for the Mountaineers at a Saturday game with Western Carolina

Embarrassment: The ball flew high into the air...and landed almost at the feet of reserve center Brian Okam

Slip-up: The players all gaze upwards as the ball soars into the air above their heads... but doesn't travel forward

Slip-up: The players all gaze upwards as the ball soars into the air above their heads… but doesn't travel far

Butter fingers: The free throw falls far short of the basket during the game at WCU

In fact, his attempt is so bad it
barely travels three feet after looping high into the air prompting a
stunned commentator to declare: ‘I don’t know what that was, that might
be the ugliest thing I have ever seen.’

Following the throw 90 minutes into the game, WCU went on to clinch the match 70-64.

Despite the clip going viral on the
internet, with comments suggesting Okam’s throw was on purpose, the
player himself admitted it was just an error and is something that he
looks back and laughs at.

Okam said: ‘I hit the first shot and
on the second, it was just one of those crazy things where the ball
slips out of your hand. Obviously a lot of folks have seen it and it’s
gotten a lot of attention, but I’m just focused on moving ahead with
final exams this week and getting back on the winning track.

‘You look back at it and laugh a
little bit for sure, but it’s not something that will be in my mind the
next time I step to the free-throw line.’

VIDEO: Watch the 'worst free throw ever' here…

Play Video

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Euro 2020: Michel Platini"s flight of fancy will give fans travel sickness – Des Kelly

Platini's flight of fancy will give fans travel sickness while greedy UEFA swell their coffers at YOUR expense

|

UPDATED:

23:01 GMT, 7 December 2012

The EasyJet 2020 European Championship has a certain ring to it. The Ryanair-miles 2020 Nations Cup is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

Don’t scoff. The plan is already at the departure gate. UEFA chief Michel Platini has helped himself to Duty Free and he is now wheeling his latest idiotic idea through the Nothing To Declare But My Greed channel at airports across Europe.

The new UEFA wheeze is to take what is widely regarded as a fantastic international tournament of concentrated excellence and dismantle it; ruining the format by scattering Euro 2020 games throughout the continent, having already diluted the quality for the 2016 tournament by increasing the number of competing nations from 16 to 24.

Greed: UEFA president Michel Platini (below) wants to rip up a superb football tournament for his new vision

Greed: UEFA president Michel Platini (below) wants to rip up a superb football tournament for his new vision

Greed: UEFA president Michel Platini (below) wants to rip up a superb football tournament for his new vision

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There has been no great clamour from supporters for this. No fans’ groups have lobbied for change, demanded more teams, or more travel. But there is money to be had and the souvenirs are already on the drawing board. Top of the list is the ‘UEFA travel mug’ — because that’s how they see you.

Sponsors, advertisers, television executives, marketeers, travel operators, hoteliers and, crucially, UEFA delegates are rubbing their hands with glee at his proposed tournament. But, as ever, one key part of football is forgotten in the ‘exciting, new format’. The supporters.

The paying public are expected to shut up, cough up and be downright grateful for the chance to watch a first-round game in Dublin and then fly to Berlin and Istanbul for the remaining group matches.

When Platini was asked in a press conference how he thought an England supporter could afford to go from one airport to another, he shrugged: ‘As you know, there are budget airlines.’

If there was enough money on the table, I wouldn’t put it past football’s arrogant little Napoleon to play the first half of a match in one city and the second in another.

No matter that the new Euro format will cost you a fortune. Forget that it will be a logistical nightmare, even if games are grouped in smaller geographical regions. Abandon the thought that the competition might have the feel of a national festival with its own character, cuisine and quirks. That will all be lost — and you have no say in it.

You are considered no more than sheep. You are herded from one place to another with little consideration and treated with the kind of like-it-or-lump-it contempt Michael O’Leary reserves for his Ryanair passengers. But at least he usually has the nous to keep the ‘ordeal’ cheap. Not that it will stay that way when the fixtures are announced. Those budget airlines will cash in like everyone else.

Remember these glorious Euro moments Stuart Pearce after scoring his penalty against Spain in 1996

Paul Gascoigne celebrates his stunning goal against Scotland

Who can forget these golden Euro moments Stuart Pearce (left) and Paul Gascoigne (right) celebrate in 1996

Boy wonder: Wayne Rooney celebrates his second goal in England's 4-2 win over Croatia in Lisbon in 2004

Boy wonder: Wayne Rooney celebrates his second goal in England's 4-2 win over Croatia in Lisbon in 2004

Danny boy: England striker Welbeck (left) scores against Sweden with a brilliant backheel

Danny boy: England striker Welbeck (left) scores against Sweden with a brilliant backheel

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Des Kelly: No Chelsea player heard Terry abuse Ferdinand… now they're blessed with the hearing of a piano tuner
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26/10/12

Des Kelly: Now it is time for football's three monkeys to wise up
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Des Kelly: Really, what are these people who support Armstrong on
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Football is one of the few mass entertainment industries that does not put its paying audience first. Fans are fleeced every season as clubs owned by billionaires and oligarchs hike up ticket prices.
A new first, second and even third strip appears in the ‘megastore’ every season. Kick-off times are designed to suit TV schedulers, or set for the convenience of viewers in the growing markets of the Far East.

The Football Supporters’ Federation told me the number of away supporters attending matches in this country is falling because of unrealistic ticket prices and punishing travel costs.

But despite that backdrop of economic hardship, Platini thinks it is the right time to launch another pan-European flight exodus. I’m not sure how this sits with UEFA’s green initiatives. During this summer’s European Championship I was actually sent a press release for UEFA’s ‘eco-friendly fan camp’.

It said: ‘In the middle of a big city we will show how easy it is to take care of the environment — you will find eco-tips on how each of us can have a positive impact for the benefit of the environment.’

I didn’t quite make it to UEFA’s ‘Eco fan camp’, but one tip I might suggest is not to ask armies of football supporters to zig-zig across Europe on a jetplane for no discernible reason other than greed and political brokering.

But then I remembered Platini was a key backer in Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid.

If he can melt the ice caps with all those Euro flights, the Middle East might be quite habitable by the time the tournament comes around.

We could all just stay at home, of course.

Sinking without trace

British Swimming has finally issued its overdue report into the 25million failures at the London Olympics pool. I think Rebecca Adlington summed up the conclusions rather well.

‘It’s an absolute mess,’ she said. ‘It told us nothing we didn’t already know. I feel insulted, disheartened and saddened by the way they have ignored us, the swimmers, in all of this.’

Highlights included the fact that British Swimming had delivered a lot of fifth-place finishes, as if that was going to justify massive public funding.

Let down: Rebecca Adlington has spoken out about her disappointment with British Swimming

Let down: Rebecca Adlington has spoken out about her disappointment with British Swimming

The panel’s chairman, Craig Hunter, said: ‘Systems and processes in place did not function as well as they should, particularly over the final period of the quadrennial cycle.’

What that gobbledegook actually means is ‘they completely cocked it up in Olympic year’.

Having a performance director that lived in Australia didn’t help. But the year ahead is shaping up as another shambles, since the nation’s swimmers are currently unable to plan their training programmes because they have not been told when the world championship trials will be.

Meanwhile, top 200 metres swimmer Ellen Gandy, a poster girl for the 2012 Games, has decided she has more chance of success with Australia at the next Olympics.

About time too…

Queens Park Rangers have cancelled their
Christmas party. Asked why this had happened, a club spokesman
announced: ‘Have you seen the league table’

And in that moment there
was a sign that sanity was finally taking hold in west London.

At least performance chief Michael Scott and senior coach Dennis Pursley had the decency to resign in the wake of all this turmoil. British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes is still in place.

He said: ‘If you look at all the results, across all the disciplines, I don’t think there’s any justification for me to consider my position at this time.’

Interesting. Aside from the one silver and Adlington’s two bronzes in the pool, it seems Sparkes believes a bronze medal in diving, a single match won between both the men and women water polo teams, a fifth by the synchronised swimmers, and Paralympic successes are enough for him to cling on. So well done the Paralympic team. You saved British Swimming’s chief executive.

Adlington, the most successful British swimmer of the modern era, said of the current state of the sport: ‘It’s stupid . . . it’s a mess . . . people needed guidance.’

In doing so, the 23-year-old spoke more sense in an angry plea for her sport than I’ve ever heard from the defensive, self-preserving suits running around on expense accounts.

In fact, if the proud Adlington ever decides to quit competitive swimming, I’ll join any campaign to make her chief executive.

Cook's recipe for success leaves a sweet taste

Tennis, golf, cycling and athletics have all provided the nation with sporting icons this year, but surely cricket’s finest batsman deserves to take a bow, too.

England’s Alastair Cook somehow combines understated modesty with supreme assurance. He scores runs when it matters, and does it with the unhurried artistry of a true master.

At the age of 27, Cook is already shattering records. But there are no displays of ego, no celebrity magazine shoots, no tattoos, no fraternising with the enemy, no mercenary dashes to collect dollars or rupees and no doubts about his loyalty or intent. Cook is just quality and class.

Brilliant and modest: England captain Alastair Cook is breaking batting records while staying grounded

Brilliant and modest: England captain Alastair Cook is breaking batting records while staying grounded

It’s open season if you fancy threatening the ref

It's
official. From now, it is perfectly possible to justify violent and
threatening behaviour against a referee. You just have to claim that you
thought you heard them say something nasty.

John
Mikel Obi was handed a fine of around five days’ wages and told he was
not allowed to play football for three matches in response to the crime
of launching himself into the officials’ dressing room in a fury.
Reports allege that he shouted at referee Mark Clattenburg that he would
‘break his legs’.

Ox is a stand-up guy

If his football talents desert him, Alex
Oxlade-Chamberlain might care to hone his obvious gift for comic timing.

As the Arsenal player accepted the Best International Newcomer award
from the Sports Journalists’ Association at the Tower of London ceremony
this week, he opened an eloquent chat with the ever-professional Jim
Rosenthal with a fine quip.

The Gunners’ Ox said: ‘It’s an honour to
win… well, anything really.’

But the FA were able to understand
why: ‘At the time he threatened the referee, the player genuinely
believed that the referee had racially abused him. But for that factor,
the suspension would have been significantly longer.’

What
absurd tosh. Just because some player was running around with a
misplaced sense of grievance, it doesn’t give him licence to boot in
doors or issue warnings of grievous bodily harm.

This
insipid, pathetic sanction is another nail in the coffin of the
Football Association’s increasingly limp ‘Respect’ campaign. It is not
the message that the game should be sending out during a week when
amateur players in Holland beat a linesman to death.

Clattenburg
abused nobody and the FA itself said he had no case to answer. Had
Mikel been involved in an incident like this in a Sunday league match,
the punishment would have been significantly greater.

Remember,
Clattenburg missed four games — and he hadn’t done a thing. Mikel will
miss three games after being found guilty. What a joke.

Preston manager Graham Westley refunds fans after Bury clash postponed

Preston boss Westley covers petrol costs of fans after Bury clash called off

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UPDATED:

22:41 GMT, 4 December 2012

Preston North End manager Graham Westley helped soften the blow some of the club's fans suffered on Tuesday night, dipping into his pocket to refund their travel costs after their Johnstone's Paint Trophy clash against Bury was postponed.

The match at Gigg Lane was called off an hour before kick-off due to a waterlogged pitch, despite referee Gary Sutton giving the all clear at 6.30pm.

Westley came across a minibus full of fans making the 30-odd mile journey home, and offered to cover their petrol costs, as well as a round of soft drinks.

Scroll down for video of the Preston boss paying back the fans

Making friends: Graham Westley has covered the petrol costs of some fans

Making friends: Graham Westley has covered the petrol costs of some fans

Video footage of the kind gesture quickly circulated on Twitter, while a number of Lilywhites fans were full of praise for the boss.

@Weyer95 wrote: 'Home and dry (like bury's pitch according to GW). Very disappointed with the game being called off but Graham Westley is magic.'

@ecossesteve added: 'Hearing some great stories from #PNE fans being refunded travel expenses by Graham Westley personally. Fantastic stuff.'

And ‏@ingolwhite claimed his son had been one of the benficeries. He wrote: 'top man graham westley bought my son and his mates a drink and gave them 40 petrol money.'

Preston are 11th in League One after an indifferent run of results, and sit six points adrift of the playoff places.

**WARNING, USE OF STRONG LANGUAGE

FA Cup Third Round Draw: Swansea v Arsenal and West Ham v Manchester United

Not again! A day after losing at home to Swansea, Arsenal are drawn away to Welsh side in FA Cup as they bid to finally end trophy drought

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UPDATED:

15:33 GMT, 2 December 2012

Arsenal, who are bidding to end eight years without a trophy, must beat Swansea away to have any hope of landing the FA Cup.

Arsene Wenger's side lost 2-0 at home to the Welsh side on Saturday as fans lose patience with the manager.

And they now face a tricky trip to the Liberty Stadium in the third round.

Liverpool will be away to non-league opposition – the winner of the replay between Lincoln and Mansfield.

We meet again: Arsenal will travel to Swansea

We meet again: Arsenal will travel to Swansea

Manchester United travel to West Ham, while holders Chelsea have been draw away to Southampton.

There is a repeat of the 1987 FA Cup final as Andre Villas-Boas' Tottenham will host Mark Robins' Coventry.

Championship table toppers Crystal Palace will play hosts to Premier League Stoke.

There will be plenty of Italian interest at The Etihad as Roberto Mancini's Manchester City will host Gianfranco Zola's high flying Watford.

Play it again: Harrogate and Hastings will replay for the right to face Middlesbrough

Play it again: Harrogate and Hastings will replay for the right to face Middlesbrough

Two of the lowest teams left in the draw, Harrogate Town and Haistings, have Middlesbrough as the prize for whoever wins their replay.

Of the other non-league teams, Barrow or Macclesfield will be at home to Cardiff and Luton will host Wolves.

While Everton face a tricky trip to either Hereford or Cheltenham.

League One Crawley, who have made the fifth round for the past two years, will have to get past struggling Premier League side Reading if they are to embark on another cup run.

Ronnie Moore's Tranmere will test themselves away at Nigel Clough's Derby and Nottingham Forest will play Oldham.

There are a number of all Championship ties with Charlton playing Huddersfield, Barnsley playing Burnley, Blackburn host Bristol City while Leeds will play Bolton.

FA CUP THIRD ROUND DRAW

Crystal Palace v Stoke

Brighton v Newcastle

Tottenham v Coventry

Wigan v Bournemouth

Fulham v Blackpool

Aston Villa v Ipswich

Charlton v Huddersfield

Barrow/Macclesfield v Cardiff

Barnsley v Burnley

Manchester City v Watford

Swansea v Arsenal

Leicester v Burton

Millwall v Preston

Cheltenham/Hereford v Everton

Derby v Tranmere

Crawley v Reading

Aldershot v Rotherham/Notts County

Middlesbrough v Harrogate/Hastings

Accrington/Oxford v Sheffield United

Southampton v Chelsea

QPR v West Brom

Peterborough v Norwich

Lincoln/Mansfield v Liverpool

Bolton v Sunderland

Nottingham Forest v Oldham

West Ham v Manchester United

Hull v Alfreton/Leyton Orient

Blackburn v Bristol City

Leeds v Birmingham

Bury/Southend v Bradford/Brentford

Luton v Wolves

Sheffield Wednesday v MK Dons

Ties will be played over the weekend of January 5 and 6, 2013

Manchester City Roberto Mancini: We must beware Rafa Benitez"s Chelsea boys

Mancini worry: We must beware Benitez's Chelsea boys – a new boss means they'll be firing

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UPDATED:

15:16 GMT, 23 November 2012

Roberto Mancini has warned his Manchester City players that Chelsea will be at their most dangerous this weekend under new manager Rafael Benitez.

City travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday hoping to put the disappointment of their Champions League exit behind them.

Mancini’s team are unbeaten in the league this season but lost for the first team in the league last season when they travelled to Chelsea in December.

Scroll down for video

Early start: Roberto Mancini (left) arrives at City's HQ ahead of first-team training today

Early start: Roberto Mancini (left) arrives at City's HQ ahead of first-team training today

Warning: Mancini reckons that Chelsea will be dangerous on Sunday because of their new manager

Warning: Mancini reckons that Chelsea will be dangerous on Sunday because of their new manager

City manager Mancini said: 'When a club changes manager they are always very difficult in the next game.

'Chelsea were a good team under Roberto di Matteo and they will be a good team under Benitez.

'They have very good players and have played some fantastic football this season. Not so long ago they were top of the league.'

As a manager who operates under extreme pressure himself, Mancini said this morning that he felt sorry for Di Matteo, sacked on Wednesday.

Mancini said: 'He won the Champions League a few months ago but this is our life.

Rafa revival: Chelsea's new interim 1st team manager Rafa Benitez with assistant Bolo Zenden during his 1st training session at the Cobham

Rafa revival: Chelsea's new interim 1st team manager Rafa Benitez with assistant Bolo Zenden during his 1st training session at the Cobham

'When you make the choice to be a manager you know at times it can be difficult.'

Mancini confirmed that captain Vincent Kompany is struggling to make Sundays game with a knee injury. Gael Clichy is fit.

The Belgium defender suffered a knee injury in a clash with Cristiano Ronaldo late in Wednesday’s Champions League encounter with Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.

The 26-year-old completed the 90 minutes of the 1-1 draw but required treatment after the game and left the ground on crutches.

His place for the champions’ Barclays Premier League trip to Stamford Bridge is in doubt but Mancini has not yet ruled him out.

The Italian said: ‘We need to wait until tomorrow. I hope we can recover him for Sunday because Vinnie is strong.’

VIDEO: Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini talks ahead of tomorrow's away fixture against Chelsea

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David Moyes says Everton aren"t over-reliant on Marouane Fellaini

We've got more than Marouane! Moyes claims Everton aren't reliant on Fellaini brilliance

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UPDATED:

11:48 GMT, 17 November 2012

David Moyes has warned teams trying to hatch a plan to stop Marouane Fellaini they are wasting their time as Everton are not a one-man team.

The Everton manager believes Fellaini’s form has been so impressive that he deserves to be bracketed alongside the biggest names in the Barclays Premier League, such as Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, Manchester United’s Robin van Persie and Juan Mata of Chelsea.

Fellaini has been instrumental in Everton’s outstanding start to the season – he was the key figure in last week’s 2-1 win over Sunderland – but Moyes, whose side travel to Reading today, is content they have not become over-reliant on the Belgian because they have threats all over the pitch.

Crucial: Marouane Fellaini has been pivotal in Everton's success this season

Crucial: Marouane Fellaini has been pivotal in Everton's success this season

'In the past Leighton Baines has done an awful lot for Everton and been so creative,’ said Moyes.

‘Then Steven Pienaar has come back and people see it as combinations. I’ve seen signs of Seamus Coleman developing and Kevin Mirallas has come into the team.

‘Nikica Jelavic has looked like he’ll get you the goals if you give him chances. In between that you have internationals like (Phil) Jagielka, (John) Heitinga and now (Leon) Osman.

'So we have three or four more players who can open games up than in the past.’

Moyes shattered Everton’s transfer record in August 2008 to sign Fellaini for 15million from Standard Liege but his performances have attracted interest in recent months from clubs such as Chelsea and Paris St Germain.

More than Marouane: Leon Osman (right) made his international debut for England on Wednesday

More than Marouane: Leon Osman (right) made his international debut for England on Wednesday

Excelled: Leighton Baines (left) has impressed at left-back this season

Excelled: Leighton Baines (left) has impressed at left-back this season

‘Felli is a difficult player to stop,’ said Moyes. ‘We have to make sure that teams can’t think of how to stop him. We need to make sure we are utilising him well, but also that we don’t fatigue him. He had an international game this week and it’s a lot on him.’

As Fellaini’ future has been the cause for debate, so, too, has Moyes’ long-term prospects. He is in the final seven months of his contract but insists there is no rush for negotiations with Bill Kenwright to start, as his main focus is the performance of the team.

'As far as I’m concerned, I’ve got a great relationship with the Chairman, we speak every day, and when the time’s right we’ll sit down and look at what we’re going to do,' said Moyes.

'I can understand why at this time people would say it is quite close.

'But all I can ask and say is, I’ve been here over 10 years now, we’ve worked really hard together and will continue to do so, and we’ll wait.

'And it might be that we wait until later in the year before we sort things out.

'I’m not overly concerned at the minute, but I can understand maybe that people in the media will keep asking the question. I’m in no great hurry.'

No rush: David Moyes is likely to extend his deal at Everton over the coming months

No rush: David Moyes is likely to extend his deal at Everton over the coming months

Graeme Swann returns to England squad after return to see ill daughter

England enjoy full complement of bowlers ahead of first Test after Swann returns

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UPDATED:

07:47 GMT, 12 November 2012

Graeme Swann rejoined his England team-mates early this morning, after his 8,000-mile return trip home while his baby daughter was unwell.

England therefore have their full complement of players back on tour, and are confident Swann will suffer no ill-effects of his globe-trotting when the first Test starts against India on Thursday.

Back in the frame: After a brief dash home, Swann is back with the squad

Back in the frame: After a brief dash home, Swann is back with the squad

They are increasingly but still only cautiously optimistic too about the fitness of Steven Finn and Stuart Broad, after the two fast bowlers bowled in the nets yesterday as they continue their recovery from respective thigh and heel injuries.

Swann arrived in Ahmedabad at around 6am today, having spent a handful of days at home after his flight to the UK in the middle of last week.

England believe the off-spinner, key to their prospects in the four-Test series, will have sufficient time to get over his long-distance travel and ready himself for the challenge ahead. 'It's great his little one's okay,' said assistant coach Richard Halsall.

Bowled over: Finn and Broad both came through net sessions yesterday

Bowled over: Finn and Broad both came through net sessions yesterday

Bowled over: Finn and Broad both came through net sessions yesterday

'I wouldn't have thought he'd have been thinking about staying in the Indian time zone back home.

'He's a fantastic Test cricketer. He's got three days now to get himself ready – and with someone of Graeme's experience, he'll be fine for 930 on Thursday.'