Tag Archives: willingness

Andre Schurrle: Chelsea close in on 20m deal after talks with Leverkusen chief Rudi Voller

Chelsea close in on 20m Schurrle as Leverkusen hold talks over deal

By
John Edwards

PUBLISHED:

22:20 GMT, 18 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

08:52 GMT, 19 April 2013

Andre Schurrle's 20million transfer to Chelsea moved a step closer after Bayer Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voller flew to London for talks with Stamford Bridge bosses.

‘It was good to meet Chelsea officials, and the discussions went well, but no decision has been made yet,’ said Voller, who was accompanied by his Leverkusen assistant Michel Reschke on Thursday.

Key: Andre Schurrle's Chelsea move could depend on Michael Becker, the man who sealed Ballack's deal

Key: Andre Schurrle's Chelsea move could depend on Michael Becker, the man who sealed Ballack's deal

Makeweight: Kevin de Bruyne (left), on loan at Bremen from Chelsea, could be used as part of the Schurrle deal

Makeweight: Kevin de Bruyne (left), on loan at Bremen from Chelsea, could be used as part of the Schurrle deal

Persuading Chelsea winger Kevin De
Bruyne to join Leverkusen on loan, rather than pursue a permanent
15million move to Borussia Dortmund, is one of the key elements to a
deal being struck, and Voller and Reschke were flying on to Brussels to
meet the 21-year old’s agent.

Meanwhile, Schurrle’s
representatives, Ingo Haspel and Dr. Michael Becker, are expected in
London on Friday for negotiations with Chelsea about a proposed five-year
contract for the Germany forward.

Becker negotiated former Germany
skipper Ballack's free transfer from Bayern Munich in 2006 and has
emerged as a key figure in Schurrle's proposed 20million move from
Bayer Leverkusen.

After impressing on loan at Werder Bremen this season, De Bruyne is in demand in the Bundesliga, with Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke all vying for his services.

Dortmund have even indicated a willingness to buy him outright for 15million, but Chelsea are thought to favour Leverkusen's proposal of taking him on loan next season as a temporary replacement for Schurrle.

With De Bruyne aware of Dortmund's intentions, there could yet be some hard bargaining before a deal for Schurrle is concluded to everyone's satisfaction.

Chelsea are in for a shock if they pursue their interest in Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez.

The Bayern target man will figure on Jose Mourinho's wanted list, should the outgoing Real Madrid coach return to Stamford Bridge, and is ready for a fresh start after slipping down the pecking order at the Allianz Arena.

Big-name signing: Becker sealed Michael Ballack's move to Chelsea from Bayern Munich in 2006

Big-name signing: Becker sealed Michael Ballack's move to Chelsea from Bayern Munich in 2006

MICHAEL BALLACK

But while Bayern president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge admitted his position will be reviewed at the end of the season, he was adamant the 27-year old will not be allowed to leave on the cheap.

Chelsea can expect to be quoted at least 20million for a player who cost 30million from Stuttgart four years ago.

Meanwhile, John Terry has tipped David Luiz to be his long-term successor as Chelsea captain. ‘I think so,’ said Terry, when asked if Luiz might inherit the armband one day. ‘Hopefully I have a few years left but he pushes the lads, demanding a lot from himself and others.’

Gary Neville behind the scenes at Sky Sports Monday Night Football

MNF star Neville takes Sportsmail behind the scenes of the TV show making fans fall in love with punditry again

|

UPDATED:

11:04 GMT, 19 December 2012

It is 4.30pm and although Gary Neville is midway through rehearsals for that evening’s Monday Night Football, he is still going through his first item in painstaking detail. Things have to be right and he is unapologetically demanding and meticulous in his preparation.

‘What do we think about this’ the former Manchester United full back asks producer Scott Melvin, as a chart flashes up on his touch screen. ‘I don’t think that’s good enough.’ He is over-ruled. ‘Fine,’ he says, but his arms are folded — it is clearly not fine.

‘Are we comfortable with that colour on this graphic’ is the next question. ‘It’s disgusting,’ Neville continues, without waiting for a reply. ‘I’m not a colours man but… can’t you change it’ It is duly changed.

Oh what a night: Sportsmail's Laura Williamson joined Gary Neville and Ed Chamberlain in the Sky studio to see how the hugely popular Monday Night Football has become such a big hit

Oh what a night: Sportsmail's Laura Williamson joined Gary Neville and Ed Chamberlain in the Sky studio to see how the hugely popular Monday Night Football has become such a big hit

Oh what a night: Sportsmail's Laura Williamson joined Gary Neville and Ed Chamberlain in the Sky studio to see how the hugely popular Monday Night Football has become such a big hit

Neville has been at Sky’s studios in
west London since 9.30am, but he is still like a man on fast-forward,
running ‘at 100 miles per hour’.

His intensity, willingness to work
hard and genuine vigour for his sport are startling. It seems the same
qualities that characterised him as a footballer are the ones that mark
him out as a pundit.

‘This is different to football,’ says
the 37-year-old, ‘but there is pressure — and I think that’s the thing
that keeps me excited and stimulated. It’s got to be right.

‘I think information and the detail
are the most important things for me. Nice goals or a lovely finish or
an incident, that will get done a thousand times by everybody else and
there isn’t really much more you can say.

‘I prefer information. I try to do it as if I was looking at it as a player or a coach rather than as entertainment.

‘I don’t think, really, I’m a perfect
broadcaster by any stretch of the imagination. I think it’s more around
the information for me. That’s all I can do. If you want a pretty face
or a nice voice then don’t come here.’

Ed Chamberlin, the host of MNF, laughs. ‘Well, I won’t argue with that,’ he says.

The pair have been working together
for barely 18 months but have taken the format made famous by Richard
Keys and Andy Gray and made it their own.

There is little ego or arrogance about
Chamberlin, who works without an autocue and fully understands his role
is to ensure Neville is the star of the show.

The presenter continually tries to
tease extra insight and information out of a right back who won 85 caps
for England, constantly asking ‘why’ and ‘how’, which seems to amuse and
frustrate Neville on alternate occasions.

Practice makes perfect: Chamberlain and Neville can be in the studio from 9.30am on the day of the game

Practice makes perfect: Chamberlain and Neville can be in the studio from 9.30am on the day of the game

NEVILLE'S MANIC MONDAY

9.30am Arrive at Sky’s studios in west London.

10am Production meeting. Neville has been feeding ideas to the production team since the previous Wednesday. They discuss what he wants to talk about and the order the pieces should run.

11.30am Neville goes through all the video clips, while Ed Chamberlin studies the running order and familiarises himself with all the links and music.

2pm Lunch.

3pm Rehearsals start on set.

6pm Make-up.

7pm On air. An hour of analysis from the weekend’s games and to preview that night’s Barclays Premier League fixture. Also includes interviews with the managers, live from the ground.

8pm Kick-off.

8.45pm Half-time analysis.

9pm Second half.

9.45pm Full-time analysis, a look back at the weekend’s goals and a Twitter Q&A.

11pm Off air.

‘Ed doesn’t offer opinions on
football,’ says Melvin. ‘It’s different with (Match of the Day
presenter) Gary Lineker. He was a footballer and you would never
begrudge him an opinion.

'But, for me, the presenter’s job is
to probe the guys who have played football. Ed drives it and keeps it
on the rails because otherwise, God knows what would happen.’

It is no mean feat keeping Neville in
check, that’s for sure. He revels in his Aladdin’s cave of touch-screen
boards, slow-motion clips, high camera angles, statistics and league
tables.

The former England defender even had a
screen installed in his Manchester home for nine days to practise
before he started at Sky, only to go bonkers when he found out they had
updated the technology when he arrived in London.

‘I’m obsessed with charts,’ Neville
says, laughing at the nerdy nature of his words. ‘I’ll say, “Make me a
chart, make me a chart”. They argue I don’t need one, just to say it,
but I want everyone at home to know those statistics are there.

‘Every time I do a piece I don’t just
get the clips, I get the statistics. I want statistics to back it up,
so it’s not just my instinct. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking,
“Arsenal are rubbish”. But where are they rubbish Why They can’t be
all rubbish, or all good.

‘You’ve got to offer some perspective. Everything’s so sudden, everyone’s always screaming.

‘I think that’s what people inside
football do better than people in the media because in the media there’s
a need to make everything so dramatic. But, inside football, you
analyse it. You look at it bit by bit and think that’s OK, that’s not
bad, rather than everything being bad or good.’

Neville’s proximity to the game, however, could easily compromise his willingness to say what he sees and how he feels.

He spent all his career at Manchester
United and has a four-year contract with the FA to work under Roy
Hodgson and coach the England senior team, after all.

Gary Neville gets ready for Monday Night Football

Gary Neville gets made up on Monday Night Football

Finishing touches: Neville is still new to football punditry but is brilliantly professional in his preparation

But as Neville watches Arsenal’s 5-2
win at Reading — from a ‘big, wide high camera angle’ because ‘that’s
the only way you can analyse it properly, you can’t watch the ball’ —
there is only a flicker of his allegiance to the national side. When
Jack Wilshere crumples to the ground in the build-up to Reading’s first
goal, Neville suddenly becomes even more animated.

‘Oh! Oh!’ he cries. ‘Wilshere’s done
his knee ligaments. Oh no. Or is it his groin Oh dear.’ Then, ‘Oh,
phew, he’s OK. What price 5-4 Reading now’

Neville’s affiliations make him more
accountable than most but he insists he remains deliberately detached
from the insular, pally world of football.

His reasoning is as clear as the
straightforward manner in which he is able to talk through a set-piece
or analyse the build-up to a goal: you cannot criticise someone on live
television one day and go for a pint with them the next.

‘I don’t speak to too many people,’
he says. ‘I think if you speak to too many people you become friendly
with them and it might not be as honest an assessment.

‘You get to know people — “All right,
how are you mate” — and a week later they think you’re stitching them
up. Don’t get too close. I do know people but I spent my life at one
club.

‘People at the start, understandably,
were asking how it would work, but I think I’ve been as honest as I
can be about United games and most people seem to have accepted the fact
that I’ve praised or criticised their team.

‘I think fans are pretty honest. They
don’t want rubbish. If their team play well they know they’ve played
well. If they haven’t, they know that, too. You try to show why or how
because they know the rest themselves. You’re always looking for the
most interesting bits. Less fluff, more gruff.’

And they're off: The show has received rave reviews this season thanks to Neville's expert analysis

And they're off: The show has received rave reviews this season thanks to Neville's expert analysis

The enjoyment Neville derives from his
new role is obvious, even if he can barely contain his energy, pacing
up and down during advertising breaks and badgering the producer with
ideas as early as the Wednesday before a show.

This opportunity to have the last
word on the weekend’s action is, after all, both the programme’s
strength and its continual challenge — how do you be significantly
different from what has gone before, on television and social media
and in the newspapers

Neville consumes information from all these outlets but still has to offer new insight on a Monday night.

As you can probably imagine, he is not
short of ideas, although the transition from player to pundit has not
been as straight-forward as you might think.

‘The more I relax, the more I become a
little lighthearted,’ says Neville. ‘But on the first show last year, I
was 100 miles per hour. I was like a train with no brakes. I used to
get an incredibly dry mouth because I was so nervous. I’ve not done
anything like this before in my life.

‘And my hands! Oh my hands. That was a
massive problem. What do you do with them when you’re standing at the
touchscreen Now I carry my pen with me because you’ve got something to
focus on.

‘I was everywhere — my hands were
terrible. I got a lot of feedback: hands and my hair, which is a
continual challenge — I’ve just given up on that.’

Giving up That must be a first for Neville, surely.

Sky Sports is the home of football
with more than 500 live matches every season including Barclays Premier
League, UEFA Champions League, internationals, the npower Football
League and more.

EXCLUSIVE: Gary Neville takes Sportsmail behind the scenes at Monday Night Football

MNF star Neville takes Sportsmail behind the scenes of the TV show making fans fall in love with punditry again

|

UPDATED:

23:31 GMT, 18 December 2012

It is 4.30pm and although Gary Neville is midway through rehearsals for that evening’s Monday Night Football, he is still going through his first item in painstaking detail. Things have to be right and he is unapologetically demanding and meticulous in his preparation.

‘What do we think about this’ the former Manchester United full back asks producer Scott Melvin, as a chart flashes up on his touch screen. ‘I don’t think that’s good enough.’ He is over-ruled. ‘Fine,’ he says, but his arms are folded — it is clearly not fine.

‘Are we comfortable with that colour on this graphic’ is the next question. ‘It’s disgusting,’ Neville continues, without waiting for a reply. ‘I’m not a colours man but… can’t you change it’ It is duly changed.

Oh what a night: Sportsmail's Laura Williamson joined Gary Neville and Ed Chamberlain in the Sky studio to see how the hugely popular Monday Night Football has become such a big hit

Oh what a night: Sportsmail's Laura Williamson joined Gary Neville and Ed Chamberlain in the Sky studio to see how the hugely popular Monday Night Football has become such a big hit

Oh what a night: Sportsmail's Laura Williamson joined Gary Neville and Ed Chamberlain in the Sky studio to see how the hugely popular Monday Night Football has become such a big hit

Neville has been at Sky’s studios in
west London since 9.30am, but he is still like a man on fast-forward,
running ‘at 100 miles per hour’.

His intensity, willingness to work
hard and genuine vigour for his sport are startling. It seems the same
qualities that characterised him as a footballer are the ones that mark
him out as a pundit.

‘This is different to football,’ says
the 37-year-old, ‘but there is pressure — and I think that’s the thing
that keeps me excited and stimulated. It’s got to be right.

‘I think information and the detail
are the most important things for me. Nice goals or a lovely finish or
an incident, that will get done a thousand times by everybody else and
there isn’t really much more you can say.

‘I prefer information. I try to do it as if I was looking at it as a player or a coach rather than as entertainment.

‘I don’t think, really, I’m a perfect
broadcaster by any stretch of the imagination. I think it’s more around
the information for me. That’s all I can do. If you want a pretty face
or a nice voice then don’t come here.’

Ed Chamberlin, the host of MNF, laughs. ‘Well, I won’t argue with that,’ he says.

The pair have been working together
for barely 18 months but have taken the format made famous by Richard
Key and Andy Gray and made it their own.

There is little ego or arrogance about
Chamberlin, who works without an autocue and fully understands his role
is to ensure Neville is the star of the show.

The presenter continually tries to
tease extra insight and information out of a right back who won 85 caps
for England, constantly asking ‘why’ and ‘how’, which seems to amuse and
frustrate Neville on alternate occasions.

Practice makes perfect: Chamberlain and Neville can be in the studio from 9.30am on the day of the game

Practice makes perfect: Chamberlain and Neville can be in the studio from 9.30am on the day of the game

NEVILLE'S MANIC MONDAY

9.30am Arrive at Sky’s studios in west London.

10am Production meeting. Neville has been feeding ideas to the production team since the previous Wednesday. They discuss what he wants to talk about and the order the pieces should run.

11.30am Neville goes through all the video clips, while Ed Chamberlin studies the running order and familiarises himself with all the links and music.

2pm Lunch.

3pm Rehearsals start on set.

6pm Make-up.

7pm On air. An hour of analysis from the weekend’s games and to preview that night’s Barclays Premier League fixture. Also includes interviews with the managers, live from the ground.

8pm Kick-off.

8.45pm Half-time analysis.

9pm Second half.

9.45pm Full-time analysis, a look back at the weekend’s goals and a Twitter Q&A.

11pm Off air.

‘Ed doesn’t offer opinions on
football,’ says Melvin. ‘It’s different with (Match of the Day
presenter) Gary Lineker. He was a footballer and you would never
begrudge him an opinion.

'But, for me, the presenter’s job is
to probe the guys who have played football. Ed drives it and keeps it
on the rails because otherwise, God knows what would happen.’

It is no mean feat keeping Neville in
check, that’s for sure. He revels in his Aladdin’s cave of touch-screen
boards, slow-motion clips, high camera angles, statistics and league
tables.

The former England defender even had a
screen installed in his Manchester home for nine days to practise
before he started at Sky, only to go bonkers when he found out they had
updated the technology when he arrived in London.

‘I’m obsessed with charts,’ Neville
says, laughing at the nerdy nature of his words. ‘I’ll say, “Make me a
chart, make me a chart”. They argue I don’t need one, just to say it,
but I want everyone at home to know those statistics are there.

‘Every time I do a piece I don’t just
get the clips, I get the statistics. I want statistics to back it up,
so it’s not just my instinct. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking,
“Arsenal are rubbish”. But where are they rubbish Why They can’t be
all rubbish, or all good.

‘You’ve got to offer some perspective. Everything’s so sudden, everyone’s always screaming.

‘I think that’s what people inside
football do better than people in the media because in the media there’s
a need to make everything so dramatic. But, inside football, you
analyse it. You look at it bit by bit and think that’s OK, that’s not
bad, rather than everything being bad or good.’

Neville’s proximity to the game, however, could easily compromise his willingness to say what he sees and how he feels.

He spent all his career at Manchester
United and has a four-year contract with the FA to work under Roy
Hodgson and coach the England senior team, after all.

Gary Neville gets ready for Monday Night Football

Gary Neville gets made up on Monday Night Football

Finishing touches: Neville is still new to football punditry but is brilliantly professional in his preparation

But as Neville watches Arsenal’s 5-2
win at Reading — from a ‘big, wide high camera angle’ because ‘that’s
the only way you can analyse it properly, you can’t watch the ball’ —
there is only a flicker of his allegiance to the national side. When
Jack Wilshere crumples to the ground in the build-up to Reading’s first
goal, Neville suddenly becomes even more animated.

‘Oh! Oh!’ he cries. ‘Wilshere’s done
his knee ligaments. Oh no. Or is it his groin Oh dear.’ Then, ‘Oh,
phew, he’s OK. What price 5-4 Reading now’

Neville’s affiliations make him more
accountable than most but he insists he remains deliberately detached
from the insular, pally world of football.

His reasoning is as clear as the
straightforward manner in which he is able to talk through a set-piece
or analyse the build-up to a goal: you cannot criticise someone on live
television one day and go for a pint with them the next.

‘I don’t speak to too many people,’
he says. ‘I think if you speak to too many people you become friendly
with them and it might not be as honest an assessment.

‘You get to know people — “All right,
how are you mate” — and a week later they think you’re stitching them
up. Don’t get too close. I do know people but I spent my life at one
club.

‘People at the start, understandably,
were asking how it would work, but I think I’ve been as honest as I
can be about United games and most people seem to have accepted the fact
that I’ve praised or criticised their team.

‘I think fans are pretty honest. They
don’t want rubbish. If their team play well they know they’ve played
well. If they haven’t, they know that, too. You try to show why or how
because they know the rest themselves. You’re always looking for the
most interesting bits. Less fluff, more gruff.’

And they're off: The show has received rave reviews this season thanks to Neville's expert analysis

And they're off: The show has received rave reviews this season thanks to Neville's expert analysis

The enjoyment Neville derives from his
new role is obvious, even if he can barely contain his energy, pacing
up and down during advertising breaks and badgering the producer with
ideas as early as the Wednesday before a show.

This opportunity to have the last
word on the weekend’s action is, after all, both the programme’s
strength and its continual challenge — how do you be significantly
different from what has gone before, on television and social media
and in the newspapers

Neville consumes information from all these outlets but still has to offer new insight on a Monday night.

As you can probably imagine, he is not
short of ideas, although the transition from player to pundit has not
been as straight-forward as you might think.

‘The more I relax, the more I become a
little lighthearted,’ says Neville. ‘But on the first show last year, I
was 100 miles per hour. I was like a train with no brakes. I used to
get an incredibly dry mouth because I was so nervous. I’ve not done
anything like this before in my life.

‘And my hands! Oh my hands. That was a
massive problem. What do you do with them when you’re standing at the
touchscreen Now I carry my pen with me because you’ve got something to
focus on.

‘I was everywhere — my hands were
terrible. I got a lot of feedback: hands and my hair, which is a
continual challenge — I’ve just given up on that.’

Giving up That must be a first for Neville, surely.

Sky Sports is the home of football
with more than 500 live matches every season including Barclays Premier
League, UEFA Champions League, internationals, the npower Football
League and more.

Ryan Giggs says Wayne Rooney is like Cristiano Ronaldo

Wayne's like Cristiano! Giggs says Rooney's unselfish attitude reminds him of Ronaldo

|

UPDATED:

02:48 GMT, 13 December 2012

Ryan Giggs sees shades of Cristiano Ronaldo in the way that Wayne Rooney has emerged as the heartbeat of Manchester United’s attack.

Rooney’s double in the Manchester derby took his total to four in United’s last two Premier League games. Before that, however, Sir Alex Ferguson admitted that the England striker was not scoring enough compared to his teammate Robin van Persie.

Peas in a pod Ryan Giggs claims Wayne Rooney (above) has developed like Cristiano Ronaldo

Peas in a pod Ryan Giggs claims Wayne Rooney has developed like Cristiano Ronaldo (above)

Peas in a pod Ryan Giggs claims Wayne Rooney (left) has developed like Cristiano Ronaldo (right)

Although they are two different types of player, Giggs believes that Rooney’s unselfish attitude and willingness to create goals for his teammates reminds him of Ronaldo.

‘Wayne is the kind of player who can score goals, but if someone is scoring more he’s not too bothered,’ said Giggs.

‘He’s quite happy setting goals up and pitching in with important goals like he did on Sunday.

‘It’s like when Cristiano was here, he scored a lot of goals. It’s similar with Wayne, he’s not just an out and out goalscorer. He’s more than that. He’s the catalyst to everything good that we do.

‘He can score goals, make goals. It’s a massive plus for him to get the goals at City.’

Van Persie’s late winner at the Etihad Stadium made it 14 goals for United since they beat City to sign him for 24million from Arsenal in the summer.

And Giggs believes the Dutchman could make all the difference in United’s bid to reclaim the title from their neighbours.

‘He’s one that we are glad to have,’ he added. ‘He’s not surprised me because I knew that, at 29, he was a ready-made, experienced world-class player.

‘He just has that bit of class that can make a difference – like it did on Sunday and in other games.

'You see it in training, you see it in games, he’s just a brilliant player.

‘The way we performed at City should give us a boost. The squad is looking good. Nemanja Vidic is coming back, our captain. Everything is in place for the busy Christmas period.’

Derby glory: Rooney scored twice against Manchester City at the Etihad

Derby glory: Rooney scored twice against Manchester City at the Etihad

And the winner is... Robin van Persie scored the decisive goal to seal the 3-2 win

And the winner is… Robin van Persie scored the decisive goal to seal the 3-2 win

Ryan Shawcross close to signing new deal

Shawcross on brink of record-breaking 14m contract to keep skipper at Stoke

|

UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 25 November 2012

Ryan Shawcross has given the first indication that he is ready to accept a record-breaking contract that would keep him at Stoke into his 30s.

Stoke’s newly-capped England centre-back has been offered a new six-year deal that would give him parity with Peter Crouch as the club’s top earner on 45,000 a week.

Worth 14million overall, it is the biggest package Stoke have ever put together, and Shawcross revealed his willingness to sign it, despite interest from Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham and his old club Manchester United.

Closing in: Ryan Shawcross (right) is likely to sign a bumper deal that will keep him at Stoke into his 30s

Closing in: Ryan Shawcross (right) is likely to sign a bumper deal that will keep him at Stoke into his 30s

‘I am very happy here and very
settled,’ said the Stoke skipper. ‘I have loved my five years here so
far, and I want that to continue. We have progressed incredibly since I
arrived, and I want to be part of the future.

‘The people here have looked after me
really well. The fans have been brilliant with me, and so has the gaffer
(Tony Pulis). I wouldn’t be where I am now without his help.

‘I am certain of that. I owe him a
lot, as I do other people at the club, like the chairman and the
coaching staff. The gaffer brought me here as an unknown and gave me the
captaincy at the age of 21, so he has shown incredible faith in me, as a
player and person.

‘I always wanted to become a captain
one day, but I would be lying if I said I believed it would come so
early in my career.

'I remember a lot of pundits and supporters
questioning whether it was the right thing to do at the time, but I
think they have been proved wrong.

‘Certainly, it was a bold decision by
the gaffer to give me the armband, but I’m glad he did. He has
undoubtedly been the biggest influence on my career so far. There is no
doubt about that.

Up for it: Fulham's John Arne Riise (left) and Stoke's Charlie Adam tussle

Up for it: Fulham's John Arne Riise (left) and Stoke's Charlie Adam tussle

‘I think my form over the past season
and a half has been the most consistent of my career. It has taken me
into the England set-up, and that’s something I’m incredibly proud of.
Stepping on to the pitch against Sweden was a moment that will live with
me for the rest of my life, but it doesn’t mean I can take my foot off
the gas.

‘I want to establish myself with
England, and to do that, I have to perform consistently well for Stoke.
But the good thing is, I am extremely comfortable in the Stoke team. I
am comfortable with the way we play, and I have great players around me,
which always makes the job easier. Hopefully we can grow as a unit and
become even stronger over the next year or two.’

Pulis confirmed the deal was virtually done and described how he intends trying to instil a ruthless streak in the 25-year old.

‘People have just said he has agreed
and signed it,’ said the Stoke manager. ‘Whether he has or not I don’t
know, but we are close.

'Ryan has been immense for us. I took him from
Manchester United’s third team, and I’ll never forget his debut at
Cardiff, where he scored. From that point on, he’s just improved more
and more.

Nowhere to go: Giorgios Karagounis of Fulham goes down under a challenge from Stoke's Ryan Shotton

Nowhere to go: Giorgios Karagounis of Fulham goes down under a challenge from Stoke's Ryan Shotton

‘For him to be captain of a Premier
League club for the third year running, and to play for England, says it
all. Ryan has done brilliantly for us, but this club has done
brilliantly for Ryan. It has to go hand in hand.

‘We are more than happy to give Ryan
that length of contract. He’s loved to death here. He knows how much we
like him and all the players

like him. He’s a big softie at times, which frustrates me, but he’s a lovely lad.’

Another clean sheet, in a 1-0 win over
Fulham, further reinforced the Stoke rearguard’s reputation as one of
the meanest around. It prompted Fulham manager Martin Jol to describe
them as ‘bullies’ in an analysis which predictably riled his opposite
number.

Attacking threat: Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov (left) tries to shrug off Stoke's Charlie Adam

Attacking threat: Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov (left) tries to shrug off Stoke's Charlie Adam

‘It’s the same for any team coming
here,’ said Jol. ‘They (Stoke) try to bully you. That is a good quality,
but you have to stand up to it. Also, if you want a result here, you
have to at least try to eliminate the likes of Peter Crouch. It is
possible. People have done it before, so why not

‘They pressurise you, play four
attacking players and throw everything into the battle. I like that. But
sometimes you hope for a bit more protection from the referee.

'Even
Charlie Adam looks bigger than I thought. They look like a rugby team.’

Told of Jol’s observations, a
bristling Pulis snapped: ‘People can say what they want, I don’t give a
damn about the whole thing, whatever people say. If they want to say
that, then fine, that’s their opinion.’

Calling the shots: Stoke boss Tony Pulis shouts instructions

Calling the shots: Stoke boss Tony Pulis shouts instructions

Andrey Arshavin set to join Zenit St Petersburg for third time

Zenit ready to sign Arshavin for third time as Arsenal look to get Russian off wage bill

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UPDATED:

10:06 GMT, 24 November 2012

Andrey Arshavin is set for a third spell at Zenit St Petersburg with the Russian club poised to make a move in the January transfer window.

Arsenal are keen to do a deal with the Russian giants in the winter window to prevent the midfielder leaving for free in the summer when his contract expires.

The 31-year-old is believed to earn 90,000-a-week and is one of Arsenal's top earners but the club now want him off the wage bill as he has been reduced to a bit part player.

Returning to Russia: Zenit St Petersburg are keen to re-sign Andrey Arshavin

Returning to Russia: Zenit St Petersburg are keen to re-sign Andrey Arshavin

Arsenal’s willingness to sell has encouraged Zenit to try to re-sign a player they sold to the Gunners for 12million in 2009 and took back on a three-month loan earlier this year.

Manager Arsene Wenger will expect around 3million for Arshavin, and Zenit are prepared to offer the Leningrad-born attacker a two-and-a-half-year deal.

Hamburg keen to sign Rafael van der Vaart from Spurs

Hamburg will fight to re-sign Spurs midfielder Van der Vaart

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UPDATED:

21:43 GMT, 29 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Hamburg insist they will do ‘everything they can’ to sign Rafael van der Vaart from Tottenham before tomorrow night’s transfer deadline.

The German club have already had a 8million bid turned down by Spurs for the 29-year-old but are confident a deal can be concluded.

Van der Vaart has already shown a willingness to return to his former club but the fee remains a problem.

Old pals: Rafael van der Vaart (left) is wanted back at former club Hamburg

Old pals: Rafael van der Vaart (left) is wanted back at former club Hamburg

Spurs want 14m for the Dutch forward
but Hamburg will attempt to find a compromise before the window closes,
offering around 12m.

Hamburg chairman Carl-Edgar Jarchow said: ‘There is not a lot of time — it is really up to Tottenham Hotspur.

‘If we have a chance to sign him, we will do everything we can to make that happen.’

Signing on: Mousa Dembele completed his move to Tottenham on Wednesday

Signing on: Mousa Dembele completed his move to Tottenham on Wednesday

Midfielder Mousa Dembele, whose move
to Spurs was confirmed on Wednesday, said on his Twitter page: ‘Happy to
confirm I signed a new contract with Tottenham FC.

‘I would like to thank all the Fulham fans for their support. You were amazing.’

Real Madrid boost as PSG ditch bid for Luka Modric

Boost for Real in their hunt for Modric as PSG ditch bid for Tottenham star

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UPDATED:

08:35 GMT, 9 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Real Madrid believe they have been handed a significant boost in their bid to sign Luka Modric.

The Spanish champions think that Tottenham will be forced to lower their 40million asking price after rivals Paris Saint-Germain seemingly ditched their bid for the Croatia midfielder.

The French club have agreed to sign Lucas Moura from Sao Paulo in January for 34m and are unlikely to pursue Modric further.

In demand: Luka Modric in action for Spurs against Blackburn last season

In demand: Luka Modric in action for Spurs against Blackburn last season

Madrid have insisted they will not bid more than 30m for the former Dinamo Zagreb player, but could become more flexible if Spurs show a willingness to negotiate.

Modric is keen to seal a move to the Bernabeu, but Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is equally determined to strike the best possible deal.

Meanwhile, Shakhtar Donetsk winger Willian reaffirmed his desire to move to England after scoring an impressive goal in a friendly against Spartak Moscow.

Spurs recently enquired about the Brazil international, while Chelsea retain some interest after trying to sign him in January.

The 25-year-old, who had been left out of Shakhtar’s early season plans ahead of an expected move, said: ‘It’s always good to be on the pitch and scoring goals.

'There is still a possibility I will leave Shakhtar in this window – this is my desire, but I’m being professional. So I went on to the pitch and tried my best today.'

Bradford Bulls docked six points over administration

Bull's play-off hopes dashed after crisis club docked six points over administration

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UPDATED:

09:02 GMT, 25 July 2012

Bradford Bulls have been deducted six points for going into administration.

The Rugby Football League’s board of directors imposed the punishment after the ailing Super League club breached the game’s insolvency regulations.

A statement said: 'The RFL board of directors has today ruled that Bradford Bulls will be deducted six points – the equivalent of three competition wins – as a penalty for entering into administration during the 2012 Stobart Super League season.'

Fear: Bradford Bulls could yet go to the wall after entering administration

Fear: Bradford Bulls could yet go to the wall after entering administration

The deduction takes immediate effect and drops the Bulls out of the play-off positions, from seventh to ninth, ahead of Sunday’s trip to Warrington, with Huddersfield and Hull KR moving above them in the table.

Bradford, who have won three of their last four matches to raise hopes of reaching the play-offs for the first time in four years, were bracing themselves for the points deduction after entering administration on June 26.

Both Wakefield and Crusaders were docked four points when they entered administration on the eve of the 2011 season after the RFL directors took into account the new owners’ willingness to pay off some of the debts to creditors.

Dedicated: Coach Mick Potter remains in charge despite not being paid

Dedicated: Coach Mick Potter remains in charge despite not being paid

Although Bradford’s joint administrator Brendan Guilfoyle has found a potential buyer, any deal is some way off being completed.

Guilfoyle has passed on details of a formal, written offer from the ABC consortium, a group of local Asian businessmen, to the RFL but it is conditional on them being able to buy back the lease to Odsal Stadium and receiving a guarantee on the Bulls remaining in Super League.

He has until this Friday to avoid putting the club into liquidation, although he has the option of a further extension of the deadline if he feels he can complete a deal.

Lawrence Okoye interview: London 2012 Olympics discus thrower

How a 67-year-old coach turned a schoolboy giant into an Olympic gold medal contender

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 21 July 2012


Going for gold: Lawrence Okoye is not going just to compete

Going for gold: Lawrence Okoye is not going just to compete

Eighteen months have passed, yet John Hillier remembers every detail of the telephone conversation. The caller was one of the athletes he coached. He had a friend who wanted to be taught by Hillier.

The coach asked what the friend did: 'He's a discus thrower.' How far could he throw it 'Not very far.' Then, finally: 'What's he like' A pause: 'Big.' A deep chuckle rumbles across the room. 'I wasn't small,' says Lawrence Okoye. 'I was 6ft 5in and about 20st at the time. And I was still at school.'

A meeting was arranged and, using his student travelcard, Okoye caught three buses across south-east London from his home near Croydon before arriving at Hillier's training squad at Sutcliffe Park in Kidbrooke.

'He was hopeless,' says Hillier. 'He had a best of 47metres, and it flattered him. He threw the discus the way Freddie Flintoff bowled a cricket ball.' Okoye nods in bashful agreement.

'As soon as I got there, I realised just how bad I was,' he says. But the coach had seen possibilities; size, of course, but also speed, strength and a willingness to learn. He sensed a raw talent. They fixed up another session, and when it was over, Okoye asked how he had done.

Hillier debated what he was going to say, then he said it anyway: 'Do you realise you could make the London Olympics' In four decades of coaching, Hillier has developed some fine athletes. But he knew, beyond question, that Lawrence Okoye might surpass them all.

If soaring potential should translate into solid performance, then this was the young man whose talent could validate all those years of patient striving. And so they started to work, mostly on technique. 'That's the key,' says Hillier.

'It's easy to get in the gym, work hard and grow strong. But the skill factor has to be there. I tried to pass on a very basic technique at first. It was just a matter of getting him to steer the car correctly. Then, six weeks later, he went out and threw 64m. A year ago, he took the British record with 67.63m. It was unbelievable! Something you dream about.'

Record holder: Okoye took the British record

Record holder: Okoye took the British record

The sheer scope of Okoye's abilities made him enviable material for a coach. He had received staunch support from his school, Whitgift, as a rugby player, a sprinter, finally as a thrower. Despite his vast bulk, he returned 11.02sec for 100m and he played his rugby on the wing. Hillier shakes his head: 'Imagine having him running at you!'

He also possesses a considerable intellect. His scholarship at Whitgift was awarded on academic grounds and he won a place at St Peter's College, Oxford, to read law. He took it all in his stride.

'You don't want to be an average person,' he says. 'You want to stand out a bit. A school like that, it's full of people who want to be the best they can be.' But for now, all that drive and energy is channelled into the discus, and Hillier is facing a test of his own.

It is a truth rarely acknowledged that British athletics gets a free ride on the back of its coaches. Over the next few weeks, our athletes will declare their remarkable talents, while the men and women who encouraged and polished those talents will take their anonymous seats outside the spotlight's beam; guiding, analysing, occasionally praying.

John Hillier is among the best of that self-effacing breed. He loved his active service as one of the country's leading discus throwers, winning a Commonwealth bronze medal in 1974. But coaching was always his forte.

Down the years, he has spent an uncountable number of winter nights pacing austere weight rooms or standing by a dimly-lit throwing circle. At 67, he has never earned a penny from the sport he loves, and he has never complained.

Smart: Okoye is not just an athlete, he is also intelligent

Smart: Okoye is not just an athlete, he is also intelligent

'Essentially, we're all volunteers,' he says. 'When you look at the successful athletes, the majority of them are coached by amateurs, in the best sense of the word. There are times when you get frustrated, when the athletes lose interest or let you down and you think, “God, the time I've spent on them!”'

'It's cost me a fortune, physically as well as financially. Maybe I should have looked after myself a bit better. But I've loved most of the athletes I've coached and I've enjoyed their successes. I'm told I've coached more English Schools winners than anyone ever; more than 50. I'm quite proud of that. And then, just as I'm coming to the end of my coaching career, someone like Lawrence comes along.'

Despite being separated by 47 years, each man is comfortable in the other's company. Hillier's methods were rewarded by Okoye pushing his own record out to 68.24m in Halle, Germany, two months ago, which raised him to third in the world and brought the peaks of the sport into view. '

None of this would have happened without John's coaching,' he says. 'It was vital. He's got a real commitment to his athletes. People let him down, but he always bounces back. I couldn't do that. It's a great quality. And all for no pay! That can't be right.'

Hillier shrugs it all off, the praise and the sympathy. 'I used to have six or seven in my training group. Now there's almost a dozen, and all because of what Lawrence has done. I'm no better or worse a coach than I was 10 years ago. I don't know any more than I did. And Lawrence is certainly not the best coaching I've done. He just happens to be the most talented.

'There comes a point when I have to say: this guy is a potential Olympic champion, certainly by 2016. I'd consider my coaching ability was really poor if he couldn't be the world No 1 in another year or so.

Potential: Okoye is not at his peak yet

Potential: Okoye is not at his peak yet

'Over the past six months, in Cape Town and San Diego, I've talked to all the best coaches, the people who really know discus, and they all say Lawrence is the future. And they're right. He's still struggling for technique, he's not the finished article. But when we get him there, he'll break the world record.'

Yet first, there is London. Hillier believes that his man is a genuine competitor, the kind who will thrive on pressure. 'I've been trying to get him to visualise the occasion,' he says.

'I told him that when a race starts, there's going to be eight runners all going together. But when a thrower steps into that arena, there's just him. And the stadium will be with him, looking at him, screaming for him. Then it's time to perform.'

Okoye seems unconcerned by the notion. He knows that his immediate future will be decided by his performance at the Games. Oxford is alluring, but an Olympic medal would be life-changing. Rugby remains an option, since there is a market for one who now weighs 21st and retains his sprinter's speed. It is a captivating dilemma, but for the moment all his ambitions are concentrated on that discus circle in a stadium in east London.

He is not the favourite; indeed, it would be a major surprise if he were to emerge at the top of the heap. But he is blessed with largely untapped ability, so all things are possible. And he knows it.

Enlarge

How far Okoye has come

'I'm capable of throwing further,' he says. 'How far, I can't know. But I'm fascinated to find out where all the training's brought me. That day in Halle, I was in the zone, laughing my way into the circle. Weird! The day before I wasn't feeling great but suddenly I was ready. Rising to the occasion. That's what the Olympics will do. The stadium will have an effect and I'm strong now. I've progressed. I'm not going to the Games just to participate.'

Hillier listens and smiles. The cat with the cream. This is what he wants to hear. 'He's been great for me,' he says. 'D'you know, he bought me a laptop, so he can send me stuff about training. Bought it out of his own money! I was staggered. He just presented me with it, so I've had to use it. Now I can help him a bit more.'

Okoye gives him a stare. 'He's not easy with computers,' he says. 'He has that kind of old school mentality and I'm new school, but somehow it all gels.'

Hillier is relishing his belated recognition. Last week, he was contacted by Britain's head coach Charles van Commenee and told he was to be a member of the official track and field coaching team. He was more thrilled than he admits.

'Apparently, I can get myself kitted out in the full GB uniform,' he says. And he adds: 'I shall probably sleep in it.' The thought provokes a memory of his first international vest, in the late sixties.

'I had to buy my own tracksuit. True! A man named Cecil Dale was in charge of finances. We all met at Heathrow, and we had to put in travel expenses from home. I asked for 5, Woolwich to London Airport. And Cecil said: 'I've looked it up, young Hillier, and you're wrong. It should come to 4 19 shillings. And that's what he gave me!'

Okoye emits that rumbling chuckle again, even if he seems slightly puzzled by mention of pre-decimal money. 'Never mind, John,' he says. 'You've paid your dues.'

Indeed he has, and not only John Hillier, but all those other coaches without whom the sport could not flourish. Over these next few weeks, when history is written and great deeds are done, we will do well to remember their efforts.