Tag Archives: welshman

Masters 2013: Jamie Donaldson shoots hole-in-one on sixth hole

Xbox practice pays off as Welshman Donaldson hits hole-in-one on debut

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

17:50 GMT, 11 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

23:07 GMT, 11 April 2013

MASTERS ESSENTIALS
Follow live action from day one hereHole-by-hole guide to Augusta National
Full list of tee timesFull preview: Tiger must wake up and smell the azaleas: he'll need his driver to win a fifth Green Jacket this weekVIDEO: greatest shots in Masters historyAll the latest news from Augusta

Welshman Jamie Donaldson made a flying start to his first Masters with a sensational hole-in-one on the sixth hole at Augusta.

The 37-year-old was one over par by the time he reached the 180-yard, par-three sixth before his amazing shot on the hole known as Juniper.

He became the fifth golfer record a hole-in-one on the sixth, the first since Chris DiMarco in 2004.

Donaldson's shot was the 24th ace in Masters history after Bo Van Pelt and Adam Scott made holes-in-one on No 16 last year.

Delight: Jamie Donaldson celebrates his hole-in-one as Martin Laird watches on

Delight: Jamie Donaldson celebrates his hole-in-one as Martin Laird watches on

High five: The Welshman celebrates with his caddie

High five: The Welshman celebrates with his caddie

All smiles: Donaldson waves to spectators after his hole-in-one on the sixth

All smiles: Donaldson waves to spectators after his hole-in-one on the sixth

Modest: Donaldson was one over through five

Modest: Donaldson was one over through five

Appreciation: Donaldson raises his cap

Appreciation: Donaldson raises his cap

The Welshman, who was priced at 300-1 before the tournament, prepared for his first trip down Magnolia Lane by playing on his Xbox.

Donaldson won the Abu Dhabi
Championship in January, his first victory on the European Tour.

Elsewhere, Englishman David Lynn was the early leader in the clubhouse thanks to an opening round of 68.

Playing only the third major of his career after securing his place by finishing second to Rory McIlroy at the US PGA Championship last year, Lynn carded a four-under-par 68 in the first round at Augusta National.

The 39-year-old from Stoke, who has just one win in almost 400 European Tour events, carded six birdies and two bogeys during his round on Thursday.

Follow Sportsmail's live coverage from day one at Augusta HERE.

Gareth Bale injury latest: Tottenham to use blood-spinning technique to speed up Welshman"s return

Spurs banking on blood-spinning remedy to get star man Bale back in double-quick time

By
Sami Mokbel

PUBLISHED:

22:02 GMT, 8 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

01:41 GMT, 9 April 2013

RACE FOR TOP FOUR – AS IT STANDS

TOP FOUR

Click HERE for the full Premier League table

Tottenham are putting their faith in the once controversial blood-spinning technique to speed up Gareth Bale's recovery from an ankle injury.

Bale's season looked to be over last Thursday after the Welshman sustained a serious looking ankle injury in Spurs' 2-2 draw against Basle.

But after a scan on Friday, it emerged
that Bale would only miss two games – Sunday's 2-2 draw against Everton
and the Europa League quarter-final second leg clash in Switzerland on
Thursday night.

Scroll down for Premier League highlights

Scare: Gareth Bale was stretchered off against Basle at White Hart Lane

Scare: Gareth Bale was stretchered off against Basle at White Hart Lane

Crucial: Bale has scored 17 league goals for Tottenham this season

Crucial: Bale has scored 17 league goals for Tottenham this season

Manager Andre Villas-Boas is understandably keen to have Bale fit again as quickly as possible and club doctors will use the blood-spinning method to aid his recovery from injury as Tottenham look to get their star man back on the field for the visit of Manchester City on April 21.

The technique, which was also used on Jermain Defoe earlier in the season as he struggled to overcome a pelvic injury, involves a small sample of a person's blood being injected out of the body before it is spun to increase the concentration of the growth hormone.

The blood sample is then injected into the athlete's problem area which can help an injury heal five times faster.

Blood-spinning first came under the spotlight in 2005 when Chelsea, then managed by Jose Mourinho, were warned by the World Anti-Doping Agency that their use of the method to speed up Arjen Robben's recovery from injury may be illegal – but it is now more commonly used in sport.

Meanwhile, there was better news on the injury front for Tottenham on Monday night as Younes Kaboul made his long-awaited return from a knee injury.

The French defender has not played since the opening-day defeat by Newcastle, but he is on course to play a part in Spurs' crucial Premier League run-in after making his return to action against West Ham Under 21s on Monday.

Back: Younes Kaboul (right) made his long-awaited return from injury on Monday night

Back: Younes Kaboul (right) made his long-awaited return from injury on Monday night

VIDEO: Watch highlights of Tottenham's 2-2 draw against Everton

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Tony Bellew draws with Isaac Chilemba, putting Chad Dawson title fight in jeopardy

Bellew left frustrated in bid to line up Dawson title fight after draw with Chilemba

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

01:10 GMT, 31 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

01:12 GMT, 31 March 2013

Tony Bellew was left frustrated in Liverpool after a lackadaisical performance saw him draw with fellow world title contender Isaac Chilemba in Liverpool.

The 30-year-old Scouser knew victory in this WBC light-heavyweight title final eliminator would put him in position to take on American champion Chad Dawson, who first defends his title against Adonis Stevenson in June.

Bellew was unable to force that title challenge, though, with a laboured night's work in front of 7,000 partisan fans at the Echo Arena in his home city.

Bellew – with a record of 19-1 with 12 early wins heading in – is ranked at number one with the WBC having steadily rebuilt since his only career defeat, which came against British rival Nathan Cleverly for the Welshman's WBO title in 2011.

Head-to-head: Tony Bellew (right) drew with Isaac Chilemba

Head-to-head: Tony Bellew (right) drew with Isaac Chilemba

Malawi native Chilemba, with a record of 20-1-1 (9KO wins) heading into the encounter, represented another step up for the Englishman and boasted a number three ranking with the WBC.

Everton fanatic Bellew, watched by Toffees manager David Moyes in the crowd and entering the ring the club's Z Cars theme tune, started positively in an untidy first round, landing a solid early right hand to mark Chilemba's card before the two had to be pulled apart after the bell.

Bellew employed the jab in the second with some success but Chilemba was ready to counter when the chance arose.

Both men landed stiff right hands in an otherwise-tepid third round with Bellew struggling to pin down the visitor. Both men traded close-in in the fourth with Bellew just about coming off better thanks to a stern body shot and right hand.

Another burst of action saw the Scouser repeat the attack with a left hook to the stomach and glancing right but Chilemba was certainly making a fight of it.

Chilemba bullied the home favourite across the ring with one attack without doing any real damage but looked to have done enough to win the round.

Bellew was labouring but did land a long right hand in the sixth, though the African was landing more prolifically. Chilemba was progressing from prey to predator, taking ring centre in the middle rounds. A Bellew right made him think twice for a moment.

Chilemba was more accurate and, as his confidence grew, more aggressive. The consensus at ringside was that the fight was level after eight rounds but Chilemba had the momentum heading into the ninth. Chilemba landed two body shots before Bellew responded with a booming right and following it up with two more decent shots.

The Englishman had sparked into life at last, doubling up the jab before a left to the body and short right gave him a strong finish before the bell.

Chilemba began the 10th well, landing hard shots from range and edging the round. The underdog's combination punching was superior too as he arguably did enough to take the 11th, picking his punches and landing eye-catching shots with the right.

It was all to play for heading into the final round and Chilemba landed a right followed by a counter left hook to Bellew's temple.

Bellew still seemed flat, only sporadically forcing the action as he urged the crowd to gee him up. A right to the body did land for the Briton but he faced an anxious wait before scores were read out.
One judge scored it 116-112 for Chilemba, another 116-115 for Bellew and the third had it level at 114-114 to leave both men disappointed.

Bellew said afterwards: 'I thought I won nine out of the 12 rounds and even Chilemba's trainer Buddy McGirt, one of the most respected men in boxing, told me he thought I won. I've got a lot of time for Chilemba he's a good fighter and a tough man but I won the fight.'

West Ham 2 Tottenham 3: match report – Gareth Bale scores winner

West Ham 2 Tottenham 3: Brilliant Bale hits last-gasp stunner to hand Spurs all three points

PUBLISHED:

21:54 GMT, 25 February 2013

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UPDATED:

22:16 GMT, 25 February 2013

Gareth Bale scored another stunning goal to ensure Tottenham left Upton Park with all three points.

Jussi Jaaskelainen appeared to have kept the Hammers on terms after some remarkable second-half saves, but the Welshman carried the ball to the edge of the box in the 90th minute before letting fly with an unstoppable curling shot, notching up his ninth goal in seven games for club and country.

Bale had opened the scoring before Andy Carroll equalised from the spot. Joe Cole put the hosts ahead, but Gylfi Sigurdsson put Andre Villas-Boas' side back in the game, making things 2-2 with his close-range effort 14 minutes from time.

Unbelievable: Gareth Bale rushes to the bench after scoring his stunning match-winning goal

Unbelievable: Gareth Bale rushes to the bench after scoring his stunning match-winning goal

Unstoppable: Gareth Bale lets fly late in the day to clinch the match for Tottenham

Unstoppable: Gareth Bale lets fly late in the day to clinch the match for Tottenham


No chance: Bale's strike flew over West Ham's defenders before hitting the back of the net

No chance: Bale's strike flew over West Ham's defenders before hitting the back of the net

Too much space Hammers defenders stood off the Welshman, allowing him to aim his killer blow

Too much space Hammers defenders stood off the Welshman, allowing him to aim his killer blow

MATCH FACTS

West Ham: Jaaskelainen, Reid, O'Brien, Collins, Demel (Pogatetz 72), Nolan (Taylor 35), Jarvis, Diame, J Cole, O'Neil, Carroll

Subs not used: Spiegel, Collison, Taylor, C Cole, Vaz Te, Chamakh

Goals: Carroll 25 (pen), J Cole 58

Booked: Diame, J Cole, O'Neill, Collins

Tottenham: Lloris, Vertonghen, Dawson, Walker, Caulker, Lennon, Parker (Livermore 88), Bale, Holtby (Sigurdsson 56), Adebayor, Dembele (Carroll 75)

Subs not used: Friedel, Gallas, Naughton, Assou-Ekotto, Sigurdsson

Goal: Bale 13, 90 Sigurdsson 76

Booked: Dembele

Referee: Howard Webb

Attendance: 35,005

More to follow…

Come here you! Bale hugged his manager Andre Villas-Boas (right) after scoring his second goal

Come here you! Bale hugged his manager Andre Villas-Boas (right) after scoring his second goal

.

Carnage: Gylfi Sigurdsson popped up in the box to score Tottenham's equaliser against West Ham

Carnage: Gylfi Sigurdsson popped up in the box to score Tottenham's equaliser against West Ham

Main man: Gareth Bale scored Tottenham's first goal after just 13 minutes

Main man: Gareth Bale scored Tottenham's first goal after just 13 minutes

In front: Joe Cole put West Ham in the lead after latching on to a long ball

In front: Joe Cole put West Ham in the lead after latching on to a long ball

Just about: Cole hit his shot into the floor as Hugo Lloris (right) was wrong-footed

Just about: Cole hit his shot into the floor as Hugo Lloris (right) was wrong-footed

.

In it goes: Gareth Bale opened the scoring for the visitors

In it goes: Gareth Bale opened the scoring for the visitors

No mistake: Andy Carroll fired his shot home from the spot to equalise

No mistake: Andy Carroll fired his shot home from the spot to equalise

.

Putting the boot in: Carroll was brought down by Scott Parker (left)

Putting the boot in: Carroll was brought down by Scott Parker (left)

On fire: Jussi Jaaskelainen (centre) made a number of saves to keep West Ham in the game

On fire: Jussi Jaaskelainen (centre) made a number of saves to keep West Ham in the game

.

Nice try: Bale tries a bicycle kick, to no avail

Nice try: Bale tries a bicycle kick, to no avail

Game for a laugh: Sam Allardyce (left) and Andre Villas-Boas embrace before the match

Game for a laugh: Sam Allardyce (left) and Andre Villas-Boas embrace before the match

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Tussle: Aaron Lennon (right) tries to resist the challenge of Matt Jarvis

Tussle: Aaron Lennon (right) tries to resist the challenge of Matt Jarvis

Flying the flag: Moore's Poppy (left) Freddie (centre) and Ava (right) led the two teams out

Flying the flag: Moore's Poppy (left) Freddie (centre) and Ava (right) led the two teams out

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Appreciation: The players gathered round the centre circle to mark the 20th anniversary of Bobby Moore's death

Appreciation: The players gathered round the centre circle to mark the 20th anniversary of Bobby Moore's death

Icon: Fans held up posters to make a mosaic which read: MOORE 6

Icon: Fans held up posters to make a mosaic which read: MOORE 6

In memory: Posters were stuck to fans' seats for supporters to lift to pay their respects

In memory: Posters were stuck to fans' seats for supporters to lift to pay their respects

Respect: Tributes to West Ham legend Moore were pinned to the gate outside Upton Park

Respect: Tributes to West Ham legend Moore were pinned to the gate outside Upton Park

Sir Alex Ferguson calls Ryan Giggs a "fantastic human being"

'He is just a fantastic human being': Ferguson heaps praise on veteran Giggs

By
Simon Stone, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

09:24 GMT, 11 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

11:33 GMT, 11 February 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson has run out of things to say about long-serving Manchester United star Ryan Giggs.

The veteran Welshman opened the scoring in yesterday's 2-0 win over Everton, with Robin van Persie adding the second as United went 12 points clear of Manchester City in the title race.

It means Giggs has extended his record of scoring in every Premier League season. And, including the two Football League campaigns he was involved in before the big switch in 1992, the 39-year-old now has 23 unbroken years of league goals behind him.

Giggs took Manchester United ahead when they faced Everton at the weekend

Opener: Giggs took Manchester United ahead when they faced Everton at the weekend

Ferguson labelled his midfielder a 'fantastic human being'

High praise: Ferguson labelled his midfielder a 'fantastic human being'

The milestone is yet another in a staggering career, quite unparalleled in the modern-day game.

And Ferguson admits he does not know how much more he can say about Giggs' talent.

'I think the superlatives have all been used up,' said the United boss.

'I don't think he needs any himself.

'His legacy lives on he is just a fantastic human being.

'Again at 38, or is he 39, maybe even 40 he is up and down that pitch all day.

'He has fantastic energy for the game. It is wonderful to see.'

Giggs' contribution means he probably will not be part of United's starting line-up in Madrid on Wednesday.

Giggs has now scored in every Premier League season

Extended record: Giggs has now scored in every Premier League season

Yet, in a sense, the encounter with Everton was of infinitely more value than a meeting with Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo at the Bernabeu.

After all, for all the glitz and glamour, United and Madrid are only playing for a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

United's win over Everton put them 12 points clear at the top of the table

Safe gap: United's win over Everton put them 12 points clear at the top of the table

Once Manchester City had lost at Southampton, yesterday's game almost turned into a title-decider for United.

'As soon as I saw the result at Southampton I thought this was an opportunity for us to get a real comfortable lead,' said Ferguson.

'I scrapped the changes I originally planned to make.

'I was going to make about seven changes but it was about being realistic.

'We knew if we could get a result then it put us in a fantastic position and we can make changes later on in the season.'

That pre-supposes United do make it past Madrid, whose coach Mourinho met Ferguson ahead of yesterday's game and watched on from the directors' box.

However, after losing the title to City last term, there has been a keen desire for the Red Devils to regain their superiority.

And Everton boss David Moyes is not alone in believing that is what will happen.

'I think 12 points against a club like Manchester United is a big gap to make up,' said Moyes.

'Football doesn't always go the way it is meant to be but it looks a lot.

'To be that amount of points ahead is a big thing at this time of the season.'

Ryan Giggs Premier League ever-present: 20 years of stickers

Sticking with Giggs for 20 years… the United legend is still collectable two decades on

-13 version is as classy as ever.

Then... Ryan Giggs takes on Everton back on January 23, 1994 - the year the Premier League's sticker album debuted

Then… Giggs takes on Everton back in January 1994 – the year the Premier League's sticker album debuted

1993-94: 38 appearances, 13 goals

1993-94: 38 appearances, 13 goals

1994-95: 29 apps, 1 goal

1994-95: 29 apps, 1 goal

1995-96: 33 apps, 11 goals

1995-96: 33 apps, 11 goals

1996-97: 26 apps, 3 goals

1996-97: 26 apps, 3 goals

1997-98: 29 apps, 8 goals

1997-98: 29 apps, 8 goals

Since Giggs first appeared on a
sticker, two years after his full debut, United have had four kit
sponsors (Sharp, Vodafone, AIG and AON) and two kit makers (Umbro and
Nike).

Some shirts have been more attractive
than others – 2010 is a particular blip – and Giggs’ age (now 39) seems
to vary depending on whether he had shaved that morning.

As the Premier League's only ever-present player, Giggs' success is unrivalled in England's top flight over the last 20 years (and the last 20 sticker albums).

1998-99: 24 apps, 3 goals

1998-99: 24 apps, 3 goals

1999-2000: 30 apps, 6 goals

1999-2000: 30 apps, 6 goals

2000-01: 31 apps, 5 goals

2000-01: 31 apps, 5 goals

2001-02: 25 apps, 7 goals

2001-02: 25 apps, 7 goals

2002-03: 36 apps, 8 goals

2002-03: 36 apps, 8 goals

2003-04: 33 apps, 7 goals

2003-04: 33 apps, 7 goals

2004-05: 32 apps, 5 goals

2004-05: 32 apps, 5 goals

2005-06: 27 apps, 3 goals

2005-06: 27 apps, 3 goals

2006-07: 30 apps, 4 goals

2006-07: 30 apps, 4 goals

The Welshman has not only been a part of all 12 of Sir Alex Ferguson's Premier League-winning squads, but he has played a pivotal role in each and every one of the triumphs.

Giggs' success initially came as a winger, who's pace and trickery were up there with the world's best, but in recent years he has been deployed as a deeper lying midfielder as his speed has diminished along with his locks.

Such is the level of Giggs' fitness and professionalism that the fewest appearances he has made in any one Premier League season came back in 1998-99, when he played in 24 games.

2007-08: 31 apps, 3 goals

2007-08: 31 apps, 3 goals

2008-09: 28 apps, 2 goals

2008-09: 28 apps, 2 goals

2009-10: 25 apps, 5 goals

2009-10: 25 apps, 5 goals

2010-11: 25 apps, 2 goals

2010-11: 25 apps, 2 goals

2011-12: 25 apps, 2 goals

2011-12: 25 apps, 2 goals

2012-13: 11 apps (... and counting)

2012-13: 11 apps (and counting)

That means that Giggs has always
comfortably passed the minimum requirement of 10 games played in to collect
a Premier League winners medal.

In the last 20 years Giggs has faced Liverpool – his most frequent opposition – 35 times in the League and scored four goals. With the 36th clash looming on Sunday, no wonder United don’t want to swap him.

... and now: Giggs has already made 11 Premier League appearances for United this season

… and now: Giggs has already made 11 Premier League appearances for United this season

Ryan Giggs warns Manchester United to forget big Premier League title lead

Don't blow it again! Giggs warns United to forget big title lead and learn lesson from last season

|

UPDATED:

15:41 GMT, 31 December 2012

Ryan Giggs is refusing to get carried away by Manchester United's seven-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

United head to Wigan tomorrow having taken 37 points from a possible 42 since they were beaten by Tottenham at Old Trafford at the end of September.

Manchester City and Chelsea performed well over the weekend but there is nothing either of them can do to prevent United securing a record 20th title if Sir Alex Ferguson's men maintain their present form.

Top of the pile: Manchester United currently enjoy a big Premier League lead

Top of the pile: Manchester United currently enjoy a big Premier League lead

But Giggs, a veteran of all 12 Premier League championship triumphs, acknowledges it is far too early to start thinking the job is done.

The Welshman only needs to look back a matter of months, when the Red Devils blew an eight-point lead in the space of four games to lose out to City in the 2011-12 title race, to know nothing can be taken for granted.

'We were this many points ahead with fewer games to go last season and it wasn't enough,' said Giggs. 'We are only halfway there and there are a lot of tough games to come.

'There is also the FA Cup and the Champions League, so there are other things to consider.

'We are in a great position and are happy where we are, but we know we have to carry on.'

However, Giggs does concur with his manager, who has always felt United would be in contention if they reached New Year's Day within striking distance of top spot.

Agony: United reflect on their title race defeat by Manchester City last season

Agony: United reflect on their title race defeat by Manchester City last season

Agony: United reflect on their title race defeat by Manchester City last season

Agony: United reflect on their title race defeat by Manchester City last season

This time, Ferguson can spend his 71st birthday peering down on the rest, with many pundits already declaring it is United's title to lose.

'From the manager's experience and the players who have been here a long time, we know Christmas is the time to get down to business,' said the 39-year-old.

'If we are there or thereabouts in January and then go on a run of winning 10 or 12 games it is going to give us a great chance.

'There can be no mistakes. But usually when the stakes are high and the concentration is there, good players produce the goods.'

It was not the case last season though.

The start of the unravelling process can be traced to a trip to Wigan, a side United had beaten every time they had met up to that point.

Inexplicably, Ferguson's team were caught cold, found themselves unable to cope with Wigan's three-man defensive formation and slipped to a deserved defeat.

It was part of a staggering run from the Latics, which took them clear of relegation trouble when at one point they had seemed certain for the drop.
Their form was so good Giggs was not expecting to find them back in the mire this term.

'I'm surprised that they're down there considering the tough game they gave us last season,' he said. 'They play with a different system to the ones we are used to and do it very well.

'We knew they were in a false position going into that game and when you don't turn up against a team in good form you will come unstuck, no matter who you are against.

'It was tough, especially when you consider our record there and it undoubtedly contributed to us losing the title.'

Ferguson is expected to make a number of changes given the draining conditions his players encountered at Old Trafford during Saturday's win over West Brom.

Michael Carrick looked particularly tired, whilst Robin van Persie's 17th goal of the season should ensure his recall at a time of year when freak results are almost commonplace.

'When you have got four games in nine days you are going to get different results and things can change quite quickly,' said Ferguson.

'The most important thing is not to panic and look after your own results and performances.'

Andre Villas-Boas on target to take Tottenham into Champions League

Villas-Boas is right on target for Champions League… but now his players want more

|

UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 30 December 2012

The owners’ original target, he revealed, was a return to the Champions League and Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas is warming to the idea. But his players have even bigger ambitions now.

The 2-1 victory at Sunderland on Saturday was a good win for AVB’s players, if overshadowed by Martin Atkinson’s booking of Gareth Bale for a perceived dive, the third such punishment for the Welshman in little over a month.

The north London club dominated but fell behind to John O’Shea’s first Sunderland goal. They dominated some more in the second half and thanks to 90 seconds of horrific Sunderland defending, won it thanks to Carlos Cuellar’s own goal and a fine Aaron Lennon strike.

Euro vision: Tottenham head coach Andre Villas-Boas congratulates Gareth Bale on a brilliant performance in the 2-1 win at Sunderland on Saturday

Euro vision: Tottenham head coach Andre Villas-Boas congratulates Gareth Bale on a brilliant performance in the 2-1 win at Sunderland on Saturday

It further cemented their challenge for a return to the Champions League next season — putting them third until overtaken by Chelsea yesterday.

And it has provided further evidence that Daniel Levy may have got it right with his controversial sacking of Harry Redknapp and backing of Villas-Boas so soon after the Portuguese had been discarded by Chelsea.

There are signs that the majority of the Spurs players are growing in comfort and confidence with the Villas-Boas methods which were prematurely curtailed by Roman Abramovich last March.

Despite that very public setback, the coach has never lost faith in himself, or his belief in delivering for an expectant White Hart Lane hierarchy.

‘I’ve always believed in my ability as a manager,’ he said. ‘Football is unpredictable, but you just have to keep going because you can’t live on mid-term success. You have to take it up to the finishing line.

‘The Champions League is the objective, but we’ve only just finished the first half of the Premier League, so there are still a lot of games to be played and the problem with the league this season is that everybody is very tight together.

‘We’re still rebuilding a team that lost very, very important players, but that’s what makes us tick.’

Frustration: Martin Atkinson books Bale for diving, earning him a one match suspension for accumulating five yellow cards this season

Frustration: Martin Atkinson books Bale for diving, earning him a one match suspension for accumulating five yellow cards this season

Scott Parker returned briefly on Saturday but in his absence Sandro has set a standard to ensure the England midfielder has a fight on his hands to play for the new-look Tottenham.

Not only does the Brazilian exemplify the improvement in the side, but he embodies the ambition which he believes makes Spurs title contenders.

He said: ‘Everybody talks about Manchester United and Manchester City and even Chelsea for the title, but never Spurs. Why not Spurs

‘We can go for the top. Why not Spurs at the top this season We have a good coach, a good squad and everything is working well.

‘Nobody is speaking about Spurs. And that suits us. But we are not content to just be a top-four side. We are looking up, not down.

‘I hope it carries on with nobody talking about Spurs as champions right until the end of the season. Then bang, we win. They will all be talking about Tottenham then.’

Ambition: Tottenham's Sandro questioned why the club are never considered for the Premier League table

Ambition: Tottenham's Sandro questioned why the club are never considered for the Premier League table

Although substitute Clint Dempsey’s unnecessary late debate with coach Steffen Freund suggests not all the new recruits are happy with life, one notable performer was French keeper Hugo Lloris.

The 12million summer signing has played the last nine Premier League games, kept four clean sheets and conceded just seven goals, including two against Arsenal.

He was rarely tested by Sunderland, and made a superb reflex save to deny Steven Fletcher before O’Shea hammered home the rebound. His main preoccupation was punching the home side’s relentless aerial bombardment as far from his goal as possible.

Villas-Boas said: ‘It was a big, big performance from him, with difficult balls into the box, a proper English fixture, a difficult team, strong in the air, big players and he handled it fantastically well.’

Top form: Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has played the last nine Premier League matches, keeping four clean sheets

Top form: Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has played the last nine Premier League matches, keeping four clean sheets

Another player very much a part of Villas-Boas’s plans is defender Danny Rose, who was sorely missed by temporary club Sunderland. The left back has been so outstanding fans have been chanting for Martin O’Neill to sign him permanently.

For now, O’Neill is just pleased to have secured an extension to the loan until the end of the season. He can concentrate on other targets this week and vowed to work on Rose’s future in the summer.

The Sunderland manager said: ‘I was really disappointed he (Villas-Boas) said he will have Danny back.

‘Lots of things can change: if we put in an offer of 38million that might change things, I think he would taxi him up here.’

GRAHAM POLL'S OFFICIAL LINE: BALE'S REPUTATION GOES BEFORE HIM

Players often complain that their reputation goes before them and having received his third caution of the season for simulation, Gareth Bale will probably claim just that.

However, Martin Atkinson is a very experienced Premier League and international referee who was absolutely sure that Bale dived. Looking at replays, there is contact but only after Bale’s leg is crumbling.

I understand that Andre Marriner had a meeting at Tottenham’s training ground to discuss this recurring problem with Bale, who now has five cautions for diving since the start of last season, but this meeting does not appear to have had the desired effect.

Andre Villas-Boas and Bale himself both feel sure that he is merely trying to avoid injuries and not seeking to con the referee. However, three referees this season cannot see their point of view.

Harry Redknapp is planning a shake up of QPR"s backroom staff

Shake up: Redknapp hopes to add trusted aids to backroom staff

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UPDATED:

01:01 GMT, 21 December 2012

Harry Redknapp is stepping-up a shake-up of his backroom team after technical director Mike Rigg was on the brink of leaving the club yesterday.

Rigg arrived at Queens Park Rangers shortly after Mark Hughes' appointment as manager in January, but he is set to be the latest member of the sacked Welshman's staff to depart Loftus Road.

Shake up: QPR boss Harry Redknapp is planning to change his back-room staff

QPR boss Harry Redknapp is planning to change his back-room staff

And Redknapp, who replaced Hughes in November, will now look to install trusted aide Ian Broomfield as his new chief scout.

The 65-year-old is also closing in on former QPR striker Les Ferdinand, who he wants to join his coaching team.

Sportsmail exclusively revealed Redknapp's interest in both Ferdinand and Broomfield.

Redknapp (right) with trusted assisstant Kevin Bond, is looking to add les Ferdinand and Ian Broomfield to his staff

Redknapp (right) with trusted assisstant Kevin Bond, who has been with Redknapp at several clubs, is looking to add ex-QPR striker Les Ferdinand and Ian Broomfield to his staff

Gareth Bale admits Micah Richards is his toughest opponent

Bale admits Richards is toughest opponent as well as admiration for Michelangelo (the Teenage Mutant Turtle)

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UPDATED:

17:45 GMT, 19 December 2012

The list of right-backs that Gareth Bale has terrorised over the last few years is a very long one – certainly longer than the one the Welsh winger struggles against.

But despite featuring in the Champions League and being a major player at international level, you may need to guess, and then guess again to find out the Tottenham star's most feared opponent.

Cracking hat, Gareth: Bale took time out to answer fan questions on Twitter

Cracking hat, Gareth: Bale took time out to answer fan questions on Twitter

In fact if you have tried to check regular full-backs from international teams you have already looked too far, as Bale’s nemesis on the pitch is Manchester City's Micah Richards.

Richards has 13 international caps but has found himself controversially on the outside looking in to the England team in recent years, with Glen Johnson, Kyle Walker and Martin Kelly all selected ahead of the 24-year-old.

But Bale rates him as his toughest opponent, describing the defender as ‘physically so strong’.

No way past: Micah Richards shields the ball away from Gareth Bale in a Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium earlier this year

No way past: Micah Richards shields the ball away from Gareth Bale in a Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium earlier this year

The Tottenham star was grilled by fans on the club’s Twitter account where he also revealed that his best goal was not against Inter Milan, in the Champions League or even for the north London side.

International pride ranks high for the Welshman who claimed his favourite strike was the 89th minute winner against Scotland in a World Cup qualifier earlier this year.

Away from the sport, Bale admitted that if he was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle he would be the pizza loving Michelangelo, and that if he wasn’t a footballer he would have still tried to find use for his blistering pace by becoming a 400m athlete.

Singing in the rain: Bale celebrates his winning goal against Scotland

Singing in the rain: Bale celebrates his winning goal against Scotland

The 23-year-old also showed his admiration for golf, revealing his favourite golf course and reasonable handicap

‘Difficult one!! Celtic Manor, lots of variety there,' Bale said: ‘11 at the moment, not played for a while. The Ryder Cup was incredible. The Olympics was awesome as well.’

This year’s dramatic Ryder Cup was his sporting highlight of 2012 just ahead of the Olympics – despite the former Southampton player being
controversially ruled out with an injury from London 2012 before
featuring for Tottenham in pre-season.

Hairier than a bear Sandro (right) was in action for Tottenham's 1-0 win against Swansea in the Premier League last weekend

Hairier than a bear Sandro (right) was in action for Tottenham's 1-0 win against Swansea in the Premier League last weekend

The winger’s favourite question though related to Tottenham team-mate Sandro, when he was asked by a supporter who was hairier out of the Brazilian midfielder and a bear.

The Welshman had little doubt: ‘Haha! Definitely Sandro’