Tag Archives: villain

Rafael Benitez buys ticket for conned Chelsea fan Harry Rennell

Benitez just the ticket for nine-year-old Chelsea fan conned by online tout

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UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 31 December 2012

The cacophony of boos that heralded the appearance of Rafa Benitez at Goodison Park would have you believe he is football’s equivalent of a pantomime villain.

Since replacing Roberto Di Matteo as manager, the Spaniard has struggled to win over a stubborn Chelsea support, unwilling to accept him or forgive and forget his days as their nemesis as Liverpool’s manager.

Yet in the eyes of Chelsea-mad nine-year-old Harry Rennell, Benitez is very much his hero this morning.

Conned: Tony Rennell (left) thought he had bought a ticket for the Boxing Day match between Norwich City and Chelsea for his nine-year-old son, Harry, only to discover he had been tricked out of 300 by a touting website

Conned: Tony Rennell (left) thought he had bought a ticket for the Boxing Day match between Norwich City and Chelsea for his nine-year-old son, Harry, only to discover he had been tricked out of 300 by a touting website

Surprise: Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez secured the Rennell's tickets for the Capital One Cup semi-final with Swansea on January 9 after reading about the story

Surprise: Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez secured the Rennell's tickets for the Capital One Cup semi-final with Swansea on January 9 after reading about the story

In a story that pulled heartstrings across the country, Harry’s father Tony wrote a cautionary tale in the Daily Mail last Friday of how he had been let down after ordering two tickets from Online Ticket Express for Chelsea’s game at Norwich City as a Christmas present.

Despite paying more than 300 for the tickets, they failed to arrive in the post, leaving Tony and his son despondent.

On reading the story, Benitez, himself the doting father of two girls, contacted Sportsmail and offered Harry and his father two tickets for Chelsea’s Capital One League Cup semi-final, first-leg tie against Swansea on January 9.

Harry’s delighted father Tony said: ‘Thank you, Rafa. There has been a very sympathetic response.

‘One Chelsea fan has invited us to go as his guest to the QPR game on Wednesday, and we’ll be there to cheer them on.

Stocking filler: Mr Rennell had wanted to surprise his Chelsea-mad son for Christmas and paid website Online Ticket Express over 300 for them

Stocking filler: Mr Rennell had wanted to surprise his Chelsea-mad son for Christmas and paid website Online Ticket Express over 300 for them

‘What is great is that nine year-old Harry now knows that, although some people may let us down in life, there are always others who will step forward to do the right thing.’

Doing the right thing may soften some Chelsea supporters’ view of their interim manager, but it’s not the first example of kind-hearted Benitez showing the grander side of football.

Hearing a pensioner had been mugged on the Wirral, then Liverpool manager Benitez made sure the elderly fan and his family were guests at Anfield.

On his departure from Liverpool, the 52-year-old gave a ‘substantial five-figure sum’ to the parents of Rhys Jones, the young Everton fan who was shot dead as he returned from football training in August 2007.

Disappointed: Harry was let down but will now get to watch his heroes in action next week

Disappointed: Harry was let down but will now get to watch his heroes in action next week

At the time, Benitez said: ‘I am doing this on behalf of the people that cannot. I know that every person on Merseyside would have loved to give the fund a donation, but they are in hard times and can’t find the extra cash.’

Benitez donated 96,000 to the Hillsborough Memorial Fund and gave a further 2,800 to aid running costs through his wife Montse’s foundation.

Whatever he does from now on, Benitez may always be the villain to some, but at least his gesture is just the ticket for Harry Rennell.

Ricky Ponting retires: Paul Newman tribute

Paul Newman: Ponting's retirement is the Ashes' loss… the Aussie villain will be badly missed in next summer's showdown

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UPDATED:

09:43 GMT, 29 November 2012

A certain magical something disappeared from next summer’s Ashes today when Ricky Ponting, truly one of the greatest batsmen cricket has known, decided that tomorrow’s Test in Perth will be his 168th and last.

Ponting may have fulfilled the role of pantomime villain in England but he will be sadly missed when they take on Australia for what is still cricket’s greatest prize. The Ashes will never feel quite the same without him.

An emotional Ponting chose the eve of Australia’s third and deciding Test against South Africa in Perth to tell the world that, just short of his 38th birthday, enough is enough. He is sure to have a poignant send-off at the same WACA ground where it all started for him in Test cricket 17 years ago.

Fierce competitor: Ponting (centre) will go down as one of the greats

Fierce competitor: Ponting (centre) will go down as one of the greats

Michael Clarke, the man who succeeded Ponting as Australia captain in the aftermath of England’s historic Ashes triumph last year, could barely hold himself together as he talked about a batsman who is second only to the great Sir Don Bradman himself in terms of Australian achievement. He was that good.

There are many in England who have derided Ponting, who have teased him and treated him as the perfect target to focus all anti-Australian banter. In truth it was a compliment for he was the Aussie opponent we all feared the most.

He wasn’t easy to love on the field even though he was such a magnificent competitor. Ponting could sledge with the best of them, which was fair enough, but he often had a bad attitude towards umpires, displaying a disrespect to them that was unbecoming of the Australian captain and the man himself.

Top talent: Ponting is the second highest run-scorer in Test history

Top talent: Ponting is the second highest run-scorer in Test history

Off the field he was a man of real stature. I can honestly say he was one of the best and most impressive people that I have ever had to deal with. To the media he was courteous, thoughtful, articulate and respectful. Many could learn from him.

I will never forget the audience he granted the English print media, a task above and beyond the call of duty that he always provided for us in Australia because of the difficulties of the time difference, deep in the bowels of the Gabba in Brisbane ahead of the first Test of the last Ashes.

I had travelled to Australia convinced England would win. Hell, I even tipped the score to be 3-1 which, of course, it eventually turned out to be. But that spellbinding 20 minutes, just Ponting and around eight of nine of us, made me wonder if I had got it all badly wrong. So impressive was he in his confidence that Australia would prevail that I severely questioned my own judgment.

Impressive: Ponting was always courteous to the media

Impressive: Ponting was always courteous to the media

Impressive: Ponting was always courteous to the media

Even Ponting, as it turned out, could not stop England on that tour but he never stopped believing he would until the moment that he resigned the captaincy, with huge dignity, when it became clear that England were his match.

The writing has been on the wall for a while now. He has not been the same player for a good year or so and the only question became when he would go. He desperately wanted one, or maybe even two, last cracks at England and deep down we all wanted that too. If we can’t boo Punter then it really won’t be so much fun.

Australia patriotism and myopia may all be a bit much at times for English tastes but they know how to honour their great sportsmen. Ponting was allowed to decide when he would go, the selectors trusting him to make the right call, and by all accounts there was barely a dry eye in the house when he told the players today that he was going. So well respected is he that most did not see it coming.

Ashes stalwart: Ponting squares up to Michael Vaughan before the 2005 series

Ashes stalwart: Ponting squares up to Michael Vaughan before the 2005 series

Ponting’s wife, his young family and the whole Australian team then attended his goodbye press conference at the WACA. It is a worthy tribute to the man.

Perhaps it is also the English way to go more quietly than this. Andrew Flintoff attracted criticism for announcing, on the eve of the Lord’s Test, that the 2009 Ashes series would be his last, because to many he was taking attention away from the team. Someone like Mike Atherton, for instance, would have rather died than told everyone that his next Test appearance would be his last.

Mentor: Michael Clarke (left) has taken on the captaincy from Ponting

Mentor: Michael Clarke (left) has taken on the captaincy from Ponting

But it feels right with Ponting. Great champions, as the Aussies would say, deserve a great send off and the Perth Test will undoubtedly all be about Ricky Ponting. He will go into it with 13,366 Test runs from his 167 games at an average in excess of 50, a true mark of greatness.

I for one have never wanted an Australian to score a Test century more than I want Ponting to do so against South Africa tomorrow. And if it means Australia go to the top of the world rankings on the back of it so be it. England can always take the title back off them next summer. Ricky Ponting is one of the greatest players to ever wear the Baggy Green. He deserves to go out in style.

El Hadji Diouf feature: Leeds v Southampton

Sewer rat or pussy cat He's flash and brash but there is a softer side to Diouf

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UPDATED:

22:35 GMT, 29 October 2012

At the start of this season, Neil Warnock was asked by a member of his coaching staff if new arrival El Hadji Diouf would be making his debut for Leeds United the next day.

‘Oh no, Neil!’ gasped Warnock’s wife Sharon, overhearing the conversation. ‘Tell me you haven’t signed him!’

‘I’m afraid I have, love,’ said the Leeds manager. ‘I was going to break it to you before he went out on the pitch tomorrow.’

Unlikely partners: El Hadji Diouf has linked up with Neil Warnock at Leeds

Unlikely partners: El Hadji Diouf has linked up with Neil Warnock at Leeds

It says everything about the two sides of Diouf that a player once branded ‘a sewer rat’ by Warnock is now his talisman at Leeds.

When the Saints of Southampton line up for Tuesday’s Capital One Cup fourth-round tie at Elland Road, they will do so against someone who has never been depicted with a halo over his head.

El Hadji El Diablo more like. He is one of the most controversial figures British football has ever seen. But dig a little deeper and there’s a different Diouf. Far from perfect, but not quite the figure of hate people might have you believe either.

For every despicable spitting incident, the acrimony he left behind at Liverpool, the mayhem in Glasgow and the untidy departure from Blackburn Rovers, those who have worked with him behind the scenes will tell of a cheerful, carefree individual who never turns down requests for personal appearances even though he is heavily involved with his own Dioufy Foundation that raises money for charities here and in Senegal.

This is not an attempt to sanitise Diouf. He knows what he’s done and how he’s perceived. In fact, he embraces the role of villain because it makes him play better.

Splashing the cash: Diouf is known for his expensive taste in cars

Splashing the cash: Diouf is known for his expensive taste in cars

‘I love to get the crowd going so it doesn’t bother me if they shout bad things,’ he told Sportsmail.

‘I always remember what Gary Speed used to tell me, and that is a crowd never boos a bad player.

‘People judge you on your car, your tattoo and they judge me because of what they have heard or seen but they don’t really know me.’

Diouf, 31, speaks warmly about handing out presents at the children’s hospital in Chorley each Christmas dressed as Santa, and of the money his foundation has raised to buy incubators in Senegal and care for the handicapped. Recently he arranged a charity football match at home in Saint-Louis.

‘We charged a small price for tickets and raised over 6,000 to pay for the machines and stocks of blood because it’s very expensive for the people there,’ he adds. ‘Without it they’re dying.

‘People don’t see that side of me. Maybe they don’t want to see it but I’m comfortable in who I am.’

This would be easy to dismiss as ‘charidee’ media spin were it not widely corroborated by those who remember Diouf’s generosity and sense of humour.

At Bolton, he was known to give tips to everyone from the apprentices cleaning his boots to the training ground chef.

Nasty side: Diouf spits in Arjan de Zeeuw's face after his claims for a penalty were ignored

Nasty side: Diouf spits in Arjan de Zeeuw's face after his claims for a penalty were ignored

When Gary Megson walked in to meet the players on his first day as manager he found Diouf sat in the corner wearing a big ginger wig.

At Blackburn, he once handed over a wristwatch worth several thousand pounds to a kitman who had been admiring it but could never afford one.

Diouf’s gaudy jewellery and outlandish velvet African-print tracksuits have become the stuff of legend.

His Blackburn team-mates would wait until he had changed for training before putting on his clothes and joining him for breakfast to see if he would notice.

When he returned from a loan spell at Rangers flaunting his medals for winning the Scottish title and League Cup they saw the funny side but Steve Kean’s backroom staff did not. He was marched off the premises and banned from the club’s training ground.

Yet some who got to know him describe an insecure character far removed from the brash image.

Sue, the player liaison officer at
Bolton, effectively became his full-time personal assistant, such was
the need to organise (some say mother) a man who had no idea how to pay
the bills and fund his lifestyle.

Old Firm hate: Diouf clashed with Neil Lennon during a spell with Rangers

Old Firm hate: Diouf clashed with Neil Lennon during a spell with Rangers

If the behaviour was sometimes outrageous, so too were the cars — the huge gold Cadillac Escalade with Diouf’s initials on the headrests and wheels, and his favourite 420,000 Mercedes SLR McLaren that would change colour every few months.

Both vehicles became a magnet for parking tickets in the more trendy areas of Manchester and Liverpool. But it would be wrong to excuse Diouf as an extravagant showman who is simply misunderstood.

The arrogant, confrontational side is never far from the surface, and earlier this month he used an interview in France to brand his former team-mate Steven Gerrard ‘selfish’.

‘Gerrard was jealous of me back then as I had the world at my feet,’ claimed a bitter Diouf.

He has never forgiven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher for the way he felt they shut him out of their Anfield clique as a 10million move turned sour. ‘He was always the last one to get picked in training,’ Carragher once said.

Since then the rap sheet and tales of indiscipline have been extensive.

While at Liverpool, Diouf was fined
for spitting at Celtic fans during a UEFA Cup quarter-final — an offence
he was to repeat twice while playing for Bolton.

Taunts: Diouf mocked Celtic fans during his time at Liverpool

Taunts: Diouf mocked Celtic fans during his time at Liverpool

It was alleged that he once threatened to stab his Sunderland team-mate Anton Ferdinand following a post-match bust-up.

After being accused of racially abusing a ball boy when Blackburn played at Everton, he responded by claiming to have been pelted with bananas even though no evidence was found.

An appearance in the Old Firm game on loan to Rangers was an accident waiting to happen, and Diouf duly took centre stage in a furious Scottish Cup fifth-round replay in which he clashed with Celtic boss Neil Lennon and had to be stopped by police from throwing his shirt into the crowd after becoming one of three players sent off.

Then, of course, there was the fall-out with Warnock when QPR played at Blackburn in the FA Cup in January last year and Diouf taunted Jamie Mackie as he lay injured on the pitch with a broken leg.

‘For years I have thought Diouf was the gutter type,’ said Warnock afterwards.

‘I was going to call him a sewer rat but that might be insulting to sewer rats.’

When the two crossed paths in the
summer after Diouf had ended a brief spell at Doncaster and was headed
for the Middle East — with even his staunchest ally Sam Allardyce
deciding that it was too risky to take him to West Ham — Warnock revised
his opinion of the player and offered him a short-term deal until
January worth 5,000 a week. ‘We talked a while and he understood me,’
says Diouf, who is now expected to extend his stay at Elland Road.

Settled Diouf (left) appears to be fitting in at Elland Road

Settled Diouf (left) appears to be fitting in at Elland Road

‘He knew I wasn’t the bad guy. I was very happy when he called me and it showed that he is a big man, a good man.

‘We are two big characters. I’m a bad loser and so is he. We had a beef but that’s a thing of the past and now we have a good future together.’

In many ways, Diouf is a perfect fit for the ‘nobody likes us and we don’t care’ mentality at Leeds.

‘This is his stage,’ says Warnock.

He can still play at the highest level too, as Everton found to their cost when they lost there in the third round of the Capital One Cup last month.

Victory over Southampton would put Warnock’s side into the quarter-finals of the competition, but winning promotion back to the Premier League is what really matters.

Achieve that, and Diouf really would become a Leeds hero. Even Mrs Warnock might learn to like him.

Ian Holloway is Blackburn Rovers target

Blackpool boss Holloway in line to replace Blackburn villain Kean at Ewood

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 20 October 2012

Ian Holloway is set to be offered the job as Blackburn Rovers manager with the directive to get the club back into the Premier League next season and a massive budget to help him achieve it.

Indian-based owner Venky’s has targeted the Blackpool boss as its top choice and will make an official approach within a week.

In line: Ian Holloway is Blackburn's prime target

In line: Ian Holloway is Blackburn's prime target

Venky’s, anxious to build bridges with Rovers supporters following the unhappy tenure of Steve Kean, realises that only a return to the big-time will heal the wounds. And it is prepared to put a substantial transfer treasure chest at the new manager’s disposal with a view to begin recruiting players in the January window.

But Holloway said: ‘We don’t deal with speculation. The chairman hasn’t had a phone call. I know he would have told me about it if he did.’

Wales 0 Belgium 2: James Collins the villain

Wales 0 Belgium 2: Collins the villain again as Kompany and Vertonghen slay hosts

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UPDATED:

22:47 GMT, 7 September 2012

James Collins's first-half sending off undermined the best efforts of a weakened Wales side, yet he was absolved of any blame by manager Chris Coleman.

The West Ham defender was dismissed for a lunge on right-back Guillaume Gillet as Group A favourites Belgium ended a dispiriting week for Coleman on a sour note.

The centre half saw red after horribly mistiming a tackle near the halfway line after 25 minutes, leaving an already under-strength team at the mercy of their highly-rated opponents.

Thunderous: Vincent Kompany (left) powers his header home

Thunderous: Vincent Kompany (left) powers his header home

Take that: Jan Vertonghen smashes in the second goal

Take that: Jan Vertonghen smashes in the second goal

MATCH FACTS

Wales (4-1-4-1): Myhill 6; Matthews 7, Collins 4, Blake 7, Gunter 7; A Williams 7; Church 6 (Robson-Kanu, 71min, 6), Edwards 6 (King, 79), Ramsey 6, Bale 8; Morison 6 (Vokes 72, 6)

Booked: Williams, Vokes.

Sent off: Collins.

Belgium (4-1-4-1): Courtois; 6, G Gillet 6, Kompany 8, Vermaelen 7, Vertonghen 6; Witsel 6; Hazard 6, Fellaini 5, Dembele 6 (De Bruyne, 46, 6), Mertens 6; Mirallas 6 (Lukaku, 46, 6)

Scorers: Kompany 42, Vertonghen 83

Booked: G Gillet, Vertoghen.

Man of the match: Gareth Bale.

Referee: Stefan Johannesson (Swe) 6.

Attendance: 18,000.

It was the latest gaffe in a dreadful
series of mistakes by Collins for his country. And he could have little
complaint when Swedish referee Stefan Johannesson ordered him off.

But Coleman jumped to Collins’s
defence. ‘I don’t think it was a red card,’ he said. ‘I’ve seen the
incident half-a-dozen times and maybe I’m biased but I think the referee
went on the reaction of the Belgium player on the floor. He got up and
finished the 90 minutes.

‘We can’t let players just run past
us. Sometimes as a defender you can’t help yourself. Even if it was
late, it wasn’t malicious. Maybe I’m old school, but I’ve seen more
dangerous tackles than that.’

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots countered
with ‘the referee had to give it’ and although the arguments raged
afterwards, there was little doubt it made a difficult job all the
harder for the hosts.

Agony: Guillaume Gillet writhes after being slide tackled by James Collins, who is sent off (below)

Agony: Guillaume Gillet writhes after being slide tackled by James Collins, who is sent off (below)

Off: Collins is dismissed

Annoyed: Collins stomps off

Coleman, already shorn of seven
players who could reasonably have expected to start, had to re-shuffle
his pack before kick-off when Joe Allen was struck down with a virus.

Wales, with Gareth Bale and Aaron
Ramsey outstanding, made a decent fist of the game before Collins’s
dismissal, even with their scratch side.

But thereafter it was only likely to
take one goal to swing the balance in Belgium’s favour. And the
breakthrough came four minutes before the interval.

Dries Mertens’s corner on the right was met at the near post by Vincent Kompany and his header flashed past Boaz Myhill.

Well done: Belgium celebrate with scorer Kompany

Well done: Belgium celebrate with scorer Kompany

Rivals: Aaron Ramsey gets to grips with Mousa Dembele

Rivals: Aaron Ramsey gets to grips with Mousa Dembele

After the interval, Wales were reduced
to raiding from deep using Bale’s energy. It took a fine stop from
Thibaut Courtois to prevent the Tottenham winger from finding the net
with a 30-yard free-kick. But that was as close as Wales came to
drawing level.

The match finished as a contest seven minutes from time when Aaron Ramsey was adjudged to have tripped Romelu Lukaku.

Jan Vertonghen with Dries Mertens on his back

Gareth Bale and Mertens

Contrasting fortunes: Club-mates Jan Vertonghen and Gareth Bale

‘It wasn’t a free-kick,’ said a frustrated Coleman, ‘Lukaku pulled back his leg to have a shot and caught Aaron.’

That did not seem to matter to Jan Vertonghen, who lashed a thunderous left-foot shot beyond Myhill from 25 yards.

In truth, it was only half-hearted
finishing that prevented a greater margin of victory. Yet that would
have been unfair on the 10 players who remained on the pitch in
Collins’s absence.

Tussle: Bale goes in on Dries Mertens

Tussle: Bale goes in on Dries Mertens

Eden Hazard

Mousa Dembele

Star names: Eden Hazard and Dembele featured for Belgium but neither were on top form

London 2012 Olympics: John Herdman hopes to rain on Team GB"s parade

Canada's British boss Herdman looking to rain on Hope's parade in Coventry

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UPDATED:

22:10 GMT, 2 August 2012

Olympics 2012

Canada coach John Herdman savoured the prospect of being the most unpopular man in Britain ahead of their quarter-final against Team GB on Friday night.

But what the native of County Durham had not counted upon was his similarly low standing within the home dressing-room as the heat was turned up ahead of Friday night’s clash in Coventry.

Herdman has previous with Team GB coach Hope Powell following an unsavoury spat during last year’s World Cup.

The 37-year-old, formerly of Consett, was employed to coach New Zealand but was cast in the role of villain after clashing with Powell, in charge of England.

Villain of the piece: John Herdman (right)

Villain of the piece: John Herdman (right)

Powell’s side came from behind to win a bruising encounter 2-1 but Herdman had inflamed passions beforehand by labelling her team “rigid and predictable.”

Those comments were nailed to the wall of England’s dining-room and Canada’s coach, who has promised his employers he will be ‘absolutely ruthless’ in his approach, won few friends in Germany.

His team was cited in Kelly Smith’s autobiography “Footballer” and Herdman certainly did little to dispel the notion that Team GB’s flair players will be allowed the freedom of the City of Coventry pitch on Friday night.

Smith wrote: 'Herdman said some stuff that wasn’t too nice about us. That revved everything up.

'My recollection is that New Zealand wanted to play us rather than Japan because we were rigid and predictable.

On a roll: Hope Powell's side have won all three of their games so far

On a roll: Hope Powell's side have won all three of their games so far

'Hope (Powell) wrote it down and put it up word-for-word in our dining hall.

'I hadn’t expected them to be as physical in every part of the pitch. They were more than happy to put the boot in.

'I thought they were tough, but they were also pretty dirty.'

Herdman was reminded of the rumpus at yesterday’s briefing. And it appears that Canada, who sit seventh in FIFA’s rankings, will take a similar approach.

'The way to beat Team GB is by trying to stifle their rhythm and frustrate them,' said Herdman, 'we need to disrupt them.

'So far, the British team have shown their resolve. The Canadian team have showed their courage and spirit. The game is lined up to be something special

'And I’d be well happy to be the most unpopular man in Britain. I’ll be trying everything in my power to make sure Canada go through.'

Golden goal: Stephanie Houghton has netted three times for Team GB

Golden girl: Stephanie Houghton has netted three times for Team GB

When quizzed about Herdman’s comments, Powell rolled her eyes and said: 'Good old John,' but failed to rise to any bait, apart from obvious disquiet about the fact that her opportunity to train on a surface that has been twice used already during the group matches by her opponents was lost due to a mid-afternoon downpour.

Team GB were moved to pitches at the University of Warwick. A joint statement issued last night said: 'Fifa and LOCOG took the decision to protect the pitch. There have ten games on it in a week.'

Powell is under no illusion that the burden of the sport’s popularity in this country rest on her shoulders.

She added: 'We wanted to drive participation, raise awareness and showcase womens’ football’s talent in this country and have it recognised as a positive product.

'We are hoping that as a result of everything that we have done thus far, if we got the nation behind us, we could lead people to think that this is a sport that should be taken seriously.

'I think we have done that. We are hoping to continue that tonight.'

World of Golf: Such a shame that glory for Matt seems a bit flat

Such a shame that glory for Matt seems a bit flat

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UPDATED:

22:40 GMT, 14 May 2012

What's gone wrong with the Players Championship A few years ago it compared favourably with the Masters.

Successive wins for Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson brought with them an excitement that had been missing a month earlier during dull wins at Augusta for the likes of Trevor Immelman and Angel Cabrera.

Now the roars have returned every Sunday to the Masters while the Players has thrown up a hat-trick of winners all cut from the same mould.

Same same, but different: Matt Kuchar claimed victory in the Players Championship

Same same, but different: Matt Kuchar claimed victory in the Players Championship

Like Tim Clark and KJ Choi before him, this year’s winner Matt Kuchar is a fairways and greens man who gets the job done through consistency rather than flair.

Alongside Saturday’s pantomime villain Kevin Na, it made for perhaps the flattest weekend’s viewing we’ve seen all year. Why this has come about is a little course tweaking in both instances.

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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

At Augusta they’ve made it a touch easier, thus loosening the reins for the adventurous players, allowing them to play their shots in the knowledge there’s an escape route if they just fail to pull them off.

That’s how you get winners like Bubba Watson.

At Sawgrass now, there’s no margin for error. You only have to miss a fairway by a couple of feet to be in trouble.

The greens are invariably protected by a thick lining of rough, thus nullifying the skill and imagination of the short game artists.

Maybe this is fair enough. Why should everything be set up in favour of the great flair players It just seems a shame given the passionate crowds the event attracts and the brilliant trinity of finishing holes.

This year they cut the rough down a little, and let’s hope they cut it down a little more next year.

Nobody wants to see the McIlroys and the Mickelsons having things all their own way. But neither do you want them feeling like they can’t deliver.

Don't miss it

The Big Miss has proved a huge hit with the book-buying public of America. The controversial tome written by Tiger Woods’ former coach

has been flying off the shelves, with more than 228,000 hardback sales.

Big booking: Hank Haney's tome on Tiger Woods has been flying off the shelves

Big booking: Hank Haney's tome on Tiger Woods has been flying off the shelves

‘A money-making exercise,’ raged Woods when it was published in March and he certainly got that right.

Offering an interesting insight into
the mind of the Tiger, there have been seven reprints already, netting
its author an estimated $1million.

Perhaps Haney could get Woods to have another dig before the paperback comes out and make him a further million.

Caddie Waite’s the Westwood pick

As you can imagine, Lee Westwood hasn’t been short of offers since it was confirmed he would be without his regular caddie Billy Foster for the rest of this season owing to the latter suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury.

The man he has chosen is experienced
Australian Mike Waite, who caddied for Kiwi Michael Campbell when he won
the US Open in 2005.

Leen on me: Lee Westwood has had a big decision o make about his caddy

Leen on me: Lee Westwood has had a big decision o make about his caddy

Westwood’s manager Chubby Chandler was sitting in the press centre on Friday when he took the call from Waite. Three days later, Waite was glad he rang, for based on current form, 10 per cent – the usual caddie quota – of what Westwood earns is a better rate of pay than the Prime Minister’s.

What happens to Foster if Westwood and Waite team up to win a major this summer ‘Billy will be back on the bag the moment he is fit again,’ said the loyal Westy.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

‘I actually think we might want to experiment with penalty shots for players who play slowly. But I don’t think it will make any difference.’

Is there anybody in the world who agrees with that comment from US Tour commissioner Tim Finchem No, didn’t think so.

Don’t experiment, Tim, implement it. Tiger Woods wants it, Luke Donald wants it, in fact everyone with half a brain wants it to speed the game up. Golf in threeballs on Thursdays and Fridays is so slow it’s all but unwatchable.

Uncertain future
Troubled waters: Ian Poulter won last year's Volvo World Match Play Championship

Troubled waters: Ian Poulter won last year's Volvo World Match Play Championship

Once a staple of the autumn calendar at Wentworth, the Volvo World Match Play Championship was relaunched last year in Spain, but it already faces an uncertain future following this week’s edition.

The first thing will be to persuade Volvo to carry on supporting it, which won’t be the easiest task given the tournament has failed to attract any of the world’s top eight players.

Assuming the sponsors can be persuaded to stay on board, the next thing will be to find the event another new home, for it won’t be held at this week’s troubled venue Finca Cortesin anymore.

‘I can see it moving around Europe,’ said Guy Kinnings, golfing supremo for IMG, who organise the event.

Let’s hope he sees another date as well. Being sandwiched between marquee events on both sides of the Atlantic just doesn’t work.

Snooker world championship 2012: Mark Williams happy to be the villain

Let them boo! Williams is happy to be cast as the villain as Crucible crowd heckle

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UPDATED:

23:25 GMT, 25 April 2012


Targeted: Williams steps out to jeers

Targeted: Williams steps out to jeers

Mark Williams was greeted by a chorus of boos as he stepped out to begin his first-round match in the Betfred.com World Snooker Championship against China's Liu Chuang.

Around a quarter of the 980 spectators made plain their feelings at Williams's pre-tournament tweet that he hates the Sheffield arena and is anxious that the World Championship decamps to the Far East as soon as possible.

The Crucible Theatre is associated more with hushed reverence than outright revolt yet the Welshman discovered that his foul-mouthed criticism of the hallowed venue did not sit kindly with the sport's devoted followers. As Barry Hearn has learned, you mess with snooker tradition at your peril.

Williams raised an eyebrow and appeared suitably chastened as he made his way to his seat. Whether it was lingering embarrassment or simply first-round nerves, the two-time world champion began fitfully against his 21-year-old opponent before finally settling to stretch out a 6-3 lead going into the concluding session.

In truth, the dissent quickly dissipated and by the time a lady ambled down the steps to offer Williams a bag of chocolates while he waited for Chuang to return to the arena, it appeared he had been forgiven.

Williams said: 'There were some boos but I was expecting that to be honest. But after the beginning, when they made their point, it was fine. They pay their money so they have a right to boo and cheer whoever they want.

'I have always got on very well with the Sheffield crowd and they clapped and cheered good shots so it didn't bother me at all. It was certainly nice to finish with a century (a 111 break). Whether it's all done and dusted, I suppose we'll find out tomorrow.'

On the other table, Judd Trump's dodgy stomach overcame Dominic Dale's swollen right hand in a tussle in which off colour referred more to each player's health than their positional sense.

Flamboyance is Trump's default setting under normal Crucible circumstances. Then again, there was nothing normal about the food poisoning which made him violently ill, weak and able to eat only small quantities of bread and soup since Monday evening.

At the table: Williams in action against China's Liu Chuang at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield

At the table: Williams in action against China's Liu Chuang at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield

Last year's beaten finalist was left to eke out a 10-7 victory which exemplified his determination even if it did little to advertise the attacking flair that will surely re-surface in subsequent matches. A dodgy helping of chicken was to blame for his illness and left him on the verge of withdrawing.

Trump said: 'It's the closest I've ever been to pulling out of a professional tournament. I maybe wouldn't have played if it had been a smaller event than the World Championship but I knew I just had to get through.

'I started feeling ill an hour after I ate on Monday evening. Then I woke up sweating in the middle of the night and I was being sick in the morning until about half past nine (his match began at 10am).

'I feel tired now. I haven't eaten properly for two days. I've got a couple of days off now so I'll lie in bed tomorrow and hopefully get better for Friday.'

At least Trump's food poisoning was a one-off. Dale has been afflicted for a number of years by carpal tunnel syndrome, a nerve problem in the wrist which causes pain and swelling in the hand.

Opening skirmishes: 21-year-old Liu Chuang handed former champpion Williams an early test

Opening skirmishes: 21-year-old Liu Chuang handed former champpion Williams an early test

The final medical bulletin of the day was issued in the evening session when a bulging muscle in his neck proved too painful for world No 1 Mark Selby as he lost 10-3 to Barry Hawkins.

For Ding Junhui, whose dismal Crucible record continued when he lost 10-9 to Ryan Day from 9-6 ahead, the excuse was less physical, more psychological as he allowed fervent Welsh support to cheer Day to an unlikely victory.

While there was no impropriety and certainly no calling out as Ding addressed the cue ball, he struck back verbally in what is becoming a war of words between snooker's old and new worlds.

Ding said: 'It was all rubbish. I don't think I played well. I don't think the table's right. I don't think the fans are right. All rubbish. Rubbish fans. I was concentrating on the game and they kept shouting out. How can they do that

'People say that Chinese fans are no good. OK, but then I come here and what do they do No, they were not fair.'

Craig Whyte forced to take security after police safety fears

Rangers owner forced to take security precautions after police safety fears

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UPDATED:

16:07 GMT, 2 April 2012

Rangers owner Craig Whyte revealed he has been taking 'extra precautions' after being warned by police over fears for his safety.

Police believe the London-based businessman could be in danger of being targeted by disgruntled Gers fans for his part in the financial collapse of the administration-hit Ibrox club, whose future remains clouded in uncertainty.

Whyte said: 'I have had security advice from the police.

Fears: Police have advised Craig Whyte to take precautions

Fears: Police have advised Craig Whyte to take precautions

Unresolved: A solution is yet to be found to the Rangers crisis

Unresolved: A solution is yet to be found to the Rangers crisis

'You would have to be living in a different planet to think that there is not an increased security risk for me.

'I have been briefed by police and have been taking extra precautions.

'I am not overly concerned. Most people are understanding of the situation.

'I have been demonised for problems at the club from years ago.'

After being hailed as a hero when he took the ailing Ibrox club over from Sir David Murray last May for 1, Whyte became the villain when Rangers entered administration on February 14 over alleged non-payment of 9 million in PAYE and VAT taxes.

It emerged that Whyte was able to fund his takeover by selling future season tickets to Ticketus, a partnership which ultimately raked in 30.5million and which left the the investment firm a key player as administrators Duff and Phelps search for new owners.

Rangers are still waiting on the verdict from a tax tribunal relating to the use of employment benefit trusts to pay players and other staff before Whyte took over and which, if it goes against them, could leave them with a reported bill of 49million.

The Light Blues were deducted 10 points by the Scottish Premier League for entering administration, which effectively ended their title hopes.

Duff and Phelps have set a Wednesday deadline for interested parties but liquidation has been mooted as a possibility even in the event of a takeover.

Grant Holt good enough for England at Euro 2012 – David Fox

Holt can forget about my wedding… he could be off to Euro 2012, says team-mate Fox

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UPDATED:

21:55 GMT, 25 March 2012

Norwich midfielder David Fox has told team-mate Grant Holt to forget about booking flights to his wedding this summer – in case he is on the plane to Poland and Ukraine.

Holt became the second-highest scoring English striker in the Premier League this season behind Wayne Rooney with two goals against Wolves.The double took him to 12 goals in the league and 14 in 31 games in all competitions.

Fox said: 'He is meant to be coming to Cyprus for my wedding. I don't know now.

In form: Norwich striker Grant Holt celebrates his opening goal on Saturday

In form: Norwich striker Grant Holt celebrates his opening goal on Saturday

'I have told him not to book his tickets yet. I will have to speak to him via video-link or something.

'I don't know whether to put him on the table plans just yet. I wouldn't be surprised if he is off to the Ukraine because there is only Rooney who has scored more than him. He wouldn't let anyone down.

'It could be two less people to pay for. We'd miss him. His dance moves are very good.'

The 30-year-old is known for his burly centre-forward play but his first goal against Wolves demonstrated the technical ability he possesses.

Running one-on-one with Wayne Hennessey in Wolves' net he deftly chipped the ball over the goalkeeper before running around him and nodding it in.

And manager Paul Lambert said: 'I think that he can be misconstrued as an old-fashioned No 9.

'He's got ability to play the game. His career has been up and down, in the lower reaches.'

Hero to villain: Holt was sent off after scoring twice against Wolves

Hero to villain: Holt was sent off after scoring twice against Wolves

He has certainly flourished under Lambert who made him captain of the Canaries when he took the reins in 2009, shortly after Holt made his debut.

Since then he has averaged a goal every two games – netting 67 times in 123 games. And he has consistently made the step up each season.

In the 2009/10 campaign he finished as joint fourth top scorer in League One with 24 goals, in 2010/11 was fourth again with 21 Championship goals and has not looked out of place in the Premiership this season.

In fact he has found the net wherever he has played. Before Norwich he played throughout the Football League for nine different clubs and even had a spell in Singapore playing for Sengkang Marine.

And Lambert added: 'I think the last three years has been an incredible high for him, as it has for a number of lads.

'He's getting the rewards for that hard work, effort, graft, disappointments, knocks – all that.'

Match zone: Norwich v Wolves