Tag Archives: turf

Plumbing the depths in Poland – Martin Samuel

Plumbing the depths of flood and blunder in Warsaw

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UPDATED:

22:37 GMT, 16 October 2012

This is what happens when you let every good plumber leave the country.

No doubt they were ringing around desperately at the National Stadium in Warsaw on Tuesday night.

'Of course, Aleksy! Why didn't I think of him before No, not that Aleksy. Aleksy Pawinski. No, he's good. Yes, you do remember him. Twenty four hour service, no job too large or small. Little yellow van. He knew something about drainage. Give him a call.'

Call a plumber: Hodgson goes for a splash about before the scheduled kick-off

Call a plumber: Hodgson goes for a splash about before the scheduled kick-off

'Hello, Aleksy Aleksy, is that you It's Mikolaj. Mikolaj Wrobleski. Yes, it has been a long time. No, she's fine mate. Yes we must. It would be nice to catch up. Look, Aleksy, we're in a bit of bother at the football here.

'That's right, the National Stadium. Water everywhere, mate. Yes, it did have a roof. Well, it's a long story.

'So, anyway, we were wondering if you could pop over, have a look at the pitch, maybe give us a bit of advi…Sorry Hackney Where's Hackney Oh, I see. No, don’t worry about it, mate, Friday's no good.

'Look Aleksy, do you know anybody. Who Gregorz Of course, Gregorz. Why didn’t I think of him before No, don’t mention it. You've been very helpful. I’ll try Gregorz.

'Gregorz, hello mate, it’s Mikolaj. Wrobleski. From Warsaw, that's right. Oh, you know, same old, same old. Look, Gregorz, I was wondering if you…Plaistow Where the bloody hell is Plaistow'

They didn't even have men with forks.
You always get a couple of poor sods with forks at times like this. Have
a stab at the turf, make a few holes, look busy for the sodden masses.

Splish splash: One Poland fans makes the most of the inclement weather

Splish splash: One Poland fans makes the most of the inclement weather

Splish splash: One Poland fans makes the most of the inclement weather

Maybe they're just more realistic in Poland. Not as interested in public relations. No point getting people's hopes up unnecessarily. No point trying to make it look better.

As the rain beat down and the puddles grew, the pitch lay drenched, abandoned by humanity.

Grim-faced spectators, hangovers kicking in from pre-match merriment, stared forlornly at the empty expanse of what once was a football field, now a prototype paddy field.

The gentleman in charge of the public address system, meanwhile, exercised a keen sense of irony. Beautiful Day followed by Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall. At least somebody was having fun.

As did a pair of pitch invaders. They leapt the three small barriers at what would have been 35 minutes into the first half had the game played and had a little paddle, pursued by a quarter of high-visibility bibbed stewards.

Their splashing footsteps only highlighted the inevitability of postponement. The first change of direction resulted in a fall, as water lapped over shoes in goalmouths and beyond.

The idea that a legitimate sporting
contest could take place in these conditions was simply preposterous. It
was foolish to even still be sitting here. This game was dead in the
water.

Soak it up: One steward takes a tumble trying to stop a pitch invader as fans watch on

Soak it up: One steward takes a tumble trying to stop a pitch invader as fans watch on

Soak it up: One steward takes a tumble trying to stop a pitch invader as fans watch on

And it was a pity. For, deep down, let's be honest, who wouldn't have loved to have seen it played

Forget fairness for a moment. Forget purity. Forget the beautiful game and the fact it would have turned the outcome into a lottery, removing the elements of technical excellence, ability and planning that decide international football matches.

Christ, it would have been fun.

Come on, admit it. We’ve all seen at least one match that should never have been played. Flooded, frozen, knee deep in mud or with the ball bouncing 20 feet from the goal kicks. Blinding, wasn't it One of the best matches you’ve ever seen.

You can watch 1,000 games where the ball runs true and the conditions favour the most talented individuals and a lot of the action looks exactly the same.

Once in a while, isn't it good to
have the whole thing turned into a crap shoot Have we really forgotten
how to enjoy the odd 90 minutes of mayhem Nobody would expect Roy
Hodgson to agree. He wants a match decided on merit and understandably
so.

The moment he was alerted to the
problem by Gary Neville, who was stomping around kicking puddles as if
taking the incoming storm clouds personally, it was obvious England’s
manager was angling to get the game called off.

Long way home: It was a fruitless trip for many England fans

Long way home: It was a fruitless trip for many England fans

He spoke to the referee, he spoke to various FIFA and UEFA bods, he even tried to engage the Polish team in the futility of it all as they went out to warm up, but ultimately no lobbying was needed.

The second inspection, at 9.45pm local time, lasted barely a minute. There have been courses on Total Wipeout containing fewer water features than the pitch in Warsaw by this time.

So when the game was called off, it was to the surprise of none. We reconvene at 5pm local time today, by which time the Polish hope to have a handyman on site in case of any unforeseen leaks or crises.

There’s a fella called Tomasz coming from Shepherd’s Bush, apparently.

Michael O"Neill heralds Northern Ireland"s courage after holding Portugal in Porto

Purring O'Neill heralds Northern Ireland's courage after holding Portugal in Porto

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UPDATED:

23:05 GMT, 16 October 2012

Michael O'Neill hailed a 'huge result' for his Northern Ireland side after they held a star-studded Portugal side to a 1-1 draw on home turf.

O'Neill has had precious little to celebrate since taking over as Northern Ireland boss at the turn of the year, most recently seeing his men take just a point against lowly Luxembourg at Windsor Park.

But he could scarcely conceal his pride after seeing his side come within touching distance of a famous win at Porto's Dragao Stadium.

'I'm hugely proud of the effort and what the players gave us tonight. I think we saw a huge amount of character in this team.

Proud: Michael O'Neill saluted his team's character in Porto

Proud: Michael O'Neill saluted his team's character in Porto

'It's a huge result. I don't tend to get carried away and the main thing for me is that regardless of the result, I was proud to stand there tonight and be their manager.

'That's because of what they gave to the cause and to each other.'

The notion that O'Neill would leave Portugal frustrated at sharing the spoils seemed unthinkable before the match, but he admitted to a hint of regret having seen his side hold out for so long.

'We're very disappointed only to draw but we recognised that we would have to defend for our lives and that certainly proved to be the case, especially in the second half,' he said.

'Having gone that far it was a bit of a blow (to concede). But we got what we deserved, simple as that, and I'm immensely proud of the players. There was nothing more I could ask from first to last.'

Getting ahead: Niall McGinn put Northern Ireland on track for a famous victory

Getting ahead: Niall McGinn put Northern Ireland on track for a famous victory

O'Neill, whose side now have two points from their first three matches in Group F – including their two toughest away trips – declined to suggest how the result compared to other famous days in Northern Ireland's history.

Home wins over England and Spain in 2005 and 2006 remain the high watermark, but taming a side containing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Joao Moutinho on their own patch will surely draw comparison.

'I'm sure it does, but that's for other people to say,' O'Neill added.

'I've told the players what I felt about their performance in the dressing room and that's all matters to me.

'It's up to other people where they want to rank that in history or in terms of benchmarking that performance.'

Heartbreak: Helder Postiga wheels away after scoring the equaliser

Heartbreak: Helder Postiga wheels away after scoring the equaliser

Portugal had chances to win the game in the closing stages as Nani, Varela and Eder all went close, the latter in an implausibly generous five minutes of injury time.

O'Neill pointedly added: 'I thought the character of our team was shown in the way they defended for the last 10 minutes after conceding and in the 22 minutes the referee added on.'

Eddie Howe appointed Bournemouth manager

Bournemouth snap up former boss Howe from Burnley despite resistance

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UPDATED:

14:59 GMT, 12 October 2012

Back again: Manager Eddie Howe

Back again: Manager Eddie Howe

Bournemouth have appointed former manager Eddie Howe despite Burnley's unwillingness to let him go.

Howe was in charge of the Cherries for two years before moving to Turf Moor last January and was linked with a return following Paul Groves' exit from Bournemouth.

The club have settled on a fee with Burnley for the manager.

Burnley confirmed a package had been agreed, saying in a statement that the 34-year-old had left 'for personal and family reasons'.

Bournemouth chairman Eddie Mitchell felt a deal was 'close' to bring Howe back to Dean Court, despite earlier rebuttals from both Hoos and Howe himself.

But Hoos said in a statement: 'Bournemouth have made an unsolicited and unwanted approach for manager Eddie Howe.

'Burnley Football Club would like to stress that no agreement has been reached and Eddie Howe is still Burnley manager.

'No permission has been granted for Bournemouth to speak to Eddie.'

Howe is contracted to Burnley until the summer of 2014.

The last time a manager left a Championship club to take a job in the division below was when Simon Grayson moved to Leeds from Blackpool in 2008.

Burnley rebuff Bournemouth move for former Cherries manager Eddie Howe

Burnley rebuff Bournemouth move for manager Howe

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UPDATED:

00:11 GMT, 12 October 2012

Approach: Burnley manager Eddie Howe

Approach: Burnley manager Eddie Howe

Burnley chief executive Lee Hoos has
confirmed the club have received an 'unwanted approach' from npower
League One side Bournemouth to talk to their manager Eddie Howe.

Howe managed the Cherries for two
years before moving to Turf Moor last January and was immediately linked
with the post following Paul Groves' exit last week.

It is understood that Bournemouth
chairman Eddie Mitchell felt a deal was 'close' to bring Howe back to
Dean Court, despite earlier rebuttals from both Hoos and Howe himself.

But Hoos said in a statement tonight: “Bournemouth have made an unsolicited and unwanted approach for manager Eddie Howe.

'Burnley Football Club would like to stress that no agreement has been reached and Eddie Howe is still Burnley manager.

'No permission has been granted for Bournemouth to speak to Eddie.'

Howe is contracted to Burnley until the summer of 2014.

The last time a manager left a Championship club to take a job in the division below was when Simon Grayson moved to Leeds from Blackpool in 2008.

Martin Samuel: Frank Lampard puts us all at ease

Cool-headed Lampard puts us all at ease

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UPDATED:

01:09 GMT, 8 September 2012

England's greatest penalty taker. As accolades go, it is not saying much.

A bit like being the most famous Moldovan* or the brains of the latest generation of the Kardashian family. It's all relative.

Yet there is still something to be said for having Frank Lampard march towards goal when the referee has pointed to the spot.

At ease: Frank Lampard is England's most successful penalty taker

At ease: Frank Lampard is England's most successful penalty taker

More from Martin Samuel…

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It is a very comforting watching him clasp the ball between his hands before laying it firmly on the turf. In Frank we trust.

Mostly, anyway. Penalty shoot-outs at major tournaments, it could go either way. Scored in 2004, missed in 2006, did not play in 2012.

A game like this, however, and a penalty for England almost certainly means a goal for Lampard, too.

So it was in Moldova and the weight on English shoulders eased. That is what Lampard does best of all, he releases tension.

England could have been edgy, first game of a World Cup qualifying campaign, away from home in unfamiliar surroundings.

Lampard prevented that angst from surfacing. Once Dutch referee Paulus van Boekel had judged defender Simeon Bulgaru to have handled, few pulses even raced as Lampard stood over the ball.

Unlike goalkeeper Stanislav Namasco, we knew what to expect: the outcome, if not the trajectory.

As it transpired, this one travelled low to the left, just out of Namasco's reach: 1-0 to England, eight successful penalties to Lampard, a cursory celebration and Roy Hodgson's team had taken a first step on a journey they hope will end in Brazil.

Some would rush Lampard into
retirement but we will miss him when he has gone; we will miss that
security blanket; we will miss that sense of certainty.

We will miss those goals. He has 25 for England now, which is one more than Sir Geoff Hurst and one fewer than Bryan Robson.

Lampard's reputation is only enhanced by proximity to a player whose contribution from midfield is considered prolific.

Comforting: Lampard is placed 13th in England's list of goalscorers after a brace against Moldova

Comforting: Lampard is placed 13th in England's list of goalscorers after a brace against Moldova

Robson, do not forget, was England's warrior midfielder, too – and he was injured a lot. Captain Marvel, indeed.

Lampard is a marvel, too, in his own way. His scoring efficiency here afforded his team-mates the freedom to attack Moldova and, three goals up after 31 minutes, what could have been a tricky encounter unfolded in the manner of a spirited training exercise.

The survivors of England's only other visit to Moldova, in 1996, the first match of Glenn Hoddle's tenure as national manager, would not have recognised the old place. That was because it had been knocked down.

The crumbling Republican Stadium made it through another 11 years before it was put out of its misery and fixtures moved to the home of Chisinau's biggest team, FC Zimbru 65.

A zimbru is a particularly large,
fighting bull that was once prevalent in Moldova. Like the Republican
Stadium, it is now extinct in these parts. Legend has it that zimbru
were used to repel the invading Ottomans.

They
could have done with some of them in defence on Friday. Or attack. Or
ambushing England's players as they left the team hotel. Team sports
aren't really Moldova's thing, a nice man called Vitali, from the
Department of Sport and High Achievement, explained.

Battered: England hammered Moldova 5-0 on Friday night

Battered: England hammered Moldova 5-0 on Friday night

Wrestling, more recently weightlifting, bit of judo, are the big sports around here. Individual events, said Vitali. Moldova had a women's basketball team that did a bit 20 years ago and a couple of water polo players who held their own during the nation's final fling as part of Russia.

The rest of it was something of a bust. Give a Moldovan a Lycra singlet and he was happy, seemed to be the message. A football, not so much. A betting slip, however, that's a different story.

Stadium Zimbru is decked out in the yellow and green colours of its club proprietors, not the blue of the national team.

'Like Bet365,' Vitali observed before revealing that many in the country had wagered on his match.

The
most popular bets Moldova not to score but not to lose by three goals
or more. It was hardly the most unexpected prediction: the hosts to be
defeated while keeping it tighter than last time. They were wrong about
that, too.

Applauded: England's players should be praised for making Moldova look as poor as they did

Applauded: England's players should be praised for making Moldova look as poor as they did

In the most impoverished country in Europe, let's hope they were cautious at the counter. So, an emphatic win this may have been, but it would be wrong to call it easy.

England played very well in order to make Moldova appear poor and this was not a game that anyone took lightly, from Hodgson to the Department of Sport and High Achievement or the local police.

There were hundreds of them, thousands maybe taking into account the other uniforms, soldiers and Carabinieri, plus guards at every level of the functional Soviet-style apartment building Dacia that towered over the stadium, its infrastructure worryingly exposed through the bleak concrete facade.

'Very nice flats,' said Vitali, the property market being relative, too. Much like concepts of success in a tie such as this.

Some argue England should go to Chisinau and destroy the makeweights of
Moldova; others that the days of proud supremacy are gone and a win of
any kind is acceptable.

Tougher tests ahead: ENgland will face off against Ukraine on Tuesday

Tougher tests ahead: ENgland will face off against Ukraine on Tuesday

The truth is probably in between. Of course, the result trumps all; but it was equally important for Hodgson's team to play as well as they did, to build confidence with sterner tests ahead, starting against Ukraine on Tuesday.

Like being English football's greatest penalty taker, or getting on the cover of Moldova's equivalent of House and Home, it's all relative here, too.

*Probably Anton Rubinstein, the Russian composer and one of the great piano virtuosos of the 19th century, who, as founder of the St Petersburg Conservatory was composition tutor to Tchaikovsky (although he was born in Transnistria, which wasn't actually Moldova at the time.

Great Britain 1 Senegal 1

Great Britain 1 Senegal 1: Late Konate strike confounds Pearce after Bellamy opener

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UPDATED:

20:54 GMT, 26 July 2012

A late strike by Moussa Konate foiled Stuart Pearce's Team GB in their maiden competitive outing.

Craig Bellamy's first-half strike set Great Britain on their way but with eight minutes to go Konate pounced.

This rugged Senegal outfit lacked discipline – as demonstrated by several wild lunges – but certainly deserved their point.

More to follow.

Payback: Moussa Konate fires past Jack Butland to equalise

Payback: Moussa Konate fires past Jack Butland to equalise

Here we go: Craig Bellamy celebrates Team GB's first goal of the tournament

Here we go: Craig Bellamy celebrates Team GB's first goal of the tournament

Boom: Bellamy fires home from inside the box

Boom: Bellamy fires home from inside the box

Midfield king: Ryan Giggs skippered the side

Midfield king: Ryan Giggs skippered the side

Brought down to earth: Daniel Sturridge could not get into the game

Brought down to earth: Daniel Sturridge could not get into the game

Take that: Danny Rose gets a thumping

Take that: Danny Rose gets a thumping

Helpless: Stuart Pearce watched as Team GB conceded a late goal

Helpless: Stuart Pearce watched as Team GB conceded a late goal

Theatre of dreams: Old Trafford was the venue for the match

Theatre of dreams: Old Trafford was the venue for the match

Pure delight: Bellamy hits the turf in ecstasy

Pure delight: Bellamy hits the turf in ecstasy

The boys: Team GB lined up before the game

The boys: Team GB lined up before the game

Come on lads: Four young fans show their true colours as they cheer on Team GB

Come on lads: Four young fans show their true colours as they cheer on Team GB

Roberto Martinez defends Wigan pitch in wake of Darren Bent injury

Stop making excuses! Martinez defends Wigan pitch from critics after Bent injury

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has defended the DW Stadium pitch in the wake of Darren Bent's ankle injury and believes it provides a convenient excuse for visiting teams.

Bent is likely to miss the rest of the season after rupturing ankle ligaments in Saturday's goalless draw between Wigan and Aston Villa when he appeared to catch his studs in the turf.

It is not the first time the Wigan pitch, which is shared by the rugby league club, has come in for criticism but Martinez does not think it is a major problem.

Agony: Darren Bent ruptured ankle ligaments at Wigan last weekend

Agony: Darren Bent ruptured ankle ligaments at Wigan last weekend

The Spaniard told Latics Player: 'We want a really good pitch because we base our work on what we do with the ball, and the ball needs to roll well. But the pitch is becoming a bit of an excuse for other teams.

'I think the pitch is the same for both teams, you have to adapt to it. There's nothing we can do with the weather conditions we have and obviously it's difficult for the groundstaff.

'We're trying to do our best to correct it but I don't think the pitch is to blame for the injury to Darren Bent, it's just a very unfortunate incident.

Let's play ball: Roberto Martinez insists his team want to play on a good pitch too

Let's play ball: Roberto Martinez insists his team want to play on a good pitch too

'If you look at the records it's not a pitch that players get injured on much. Unfortunately we're going to see a player out for a long spell and that's something nobody wants to see.'

Stuart Pearce tells England players to put country before clubs

Be Lionhearts! Now put England before your clubs, Pearce tells players

Stuart Pearce has promised that
England will come first under his leadership and challenged his players
to do the same to secure their international futures.

The caretaker England boss warned
clubs there will be no deals struck about who plays for how long in the
friendly against Holland at Wembley.

Enlarge

The man in the middle: Stuart Pearce leads his troops across the hallowed Wembley turf

The man in the middle: Stuart Pearce leads his troops across the hallowed Wembley turf

Pearce will select two England teams in a matter of hours as he will also decide who plays for the Under 21s against Belgium in Middlesbrough.

And Pearce, who has declared himself available to manage the senior team at Euro 2012, has made it clear what he expects from his team.

Passion: Pearce has called for England to show some pride

Passion: Pearce has called for England to show some pride

He said: 'When you play for your country that is the true pinnacle of anyone’s career. I think that is still the case for players.

'When I get asked the question about my proudest moment it is not playing in the Champions League it is playing for England and captaining England.'

Wearing his heart on his sleeve: Pearce shows his delight after ending his penalty heartache against Spain in Euro 96

Wearing his heart on his sleeve: Pearce shows his delight after ending his penalty heartache against Spain in Euro 96

Pearce will reveal the team and the captain today and expects Steven Gerrard to play some part for the first time since 2010, when he was injured in a friendly against France.

It sparked an angry reaction from Liverpool’s coaching staff, who thought they had an agreement for Gerrard to play no more than 45 minutes.

Back in the fold: Gerrard (left) is expected to feature

Back in the fold: Gerrard (left) is expected to feature

'There won’t be any agreements with the clubs,' said Pearce. 'They know I have a duty of care to the country and a duty of care to the players. If I put them on the pitch and they’re only half-fit, that’s detrimental to the country.

'We’ve taken care of them but we need them to be at full tilt when they play for their country. A lot of the players had extra time on Sunday. We gave them a recovery day on Monday and the option to drop out of the small-sided game today to make sure their legs are in place. There are no excuses really.'

Issuing the orders: Pearce

Issuing the orders: Pearce

Glen Johnson became the fifth player to pull out of Pearce’s squad through injury.

Joleon Lescott was called up and the caretaker boss told his players: 'Go and play and show us your ability. You’re fighting for a place in a major finals this summer.'