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Steven Gerrard humbled to get Football Writers" Association award

Gerrard 'humbled' after Liverpool captain is recognised by Football Writers' Association

By
Jim Van Wijk, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

22:14 GMT, 20 January 2013

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UPDATED:

06:04 GMT, 21 January 2013

Steven Gerrard admitted it was a humbling experience to be honoured by the Football Writers' Association at a gala tribute dinner in London this evening.

The Liverpool and England captain was guest of honour at The Savoy Hotel, where he was presented with the prestigious accolade from FWA chairman Andy Dunn of the Sunday Mirror.

Gerrard, 32, was voted FWA Footballer of the Year in 2009 and was touched to have been recognised for his achievements once again.

Accolade: Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard said he was 'humbled' to receive the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year Award

Accolade: Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard said he was 'humbled' to receive the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year Award

Speaking to the FWA before this evening's dinner, Gerrard said: 'Tonight's award means a lot because these guys have followed me throughout my career, written about me whenever I have played, to receive this award from the Football Writers' Association is a very proud night for myself and my family.

'I feel very flattered and humbled to receive it.'

Gerrard added: 'I have always looked at personal awards as a bit of a bonus really. I always try to achieve things with Liverpool or fight to do well for England.

'But when you talk about awards of people like the supporters or people in the press who watch you week in and week out, scrutinise your performances, these mean an awful lot because these guys know their football.'

Influential: Gerrard continues to excel for club and country, scoring again at the weekend in Liverpool's 5-0 rout of Norwich City

Influential: Gerrard continues to excel for club and country, scoring again at the weekend in Liverpool's 5-0 rout of Norwich City

Gerrard has played in every minute of all of Liverpool's Barclays Premier League matches this season and scored in Saturday's 5-0 demolition of Norwich at Anfield, which saw the Reds move a small step closer to the top four.

The veteran midfielder has also now chalked up 100 international caps as he looks to lead Roy Hodgson's team on through to qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

'It is a special year – the 150th anniversary for the FA as well, so there are some really big fixtures to look forwards to,' Gerrard added.

'We are halfway through a World Cup qualifying campaign, so hopefully at the end of the season it can be a success for Liverpool to achieve something, and also make it through to the finals in Brazil with England.'

MARTIN SAMUEL – THE DEBATE: Luis Suarez…just "wonderful", but could we have this man as the Footballer of the Year?

Luis Suarez… just 'wonderful', but could we have this man as the Footballer of the Year

/12/29/article-2254245-16A063BC000005DC-974_634x429.jpg” width=”634″ height=”429″ alt=”Kop idol: Suarez has the backing of the Liverpool supporters” class=”blkBorder” />

Kop idol: Suarez has the backing of the Liverpool supporters

Martin,
your colleague from the Times, Tony Evans, wrote a great piece last
season just after Suarez had deliberately ignored the handshake of
Patrice Evra at Old Trafford.

Evans,
a Liverpool scribe and fan, said of the Uruguayan: 'We are not talking
Ian Callaghan here. Suarez bites people. He handles the ball on the line
in World Cup Finals. He dives. He cheats. He verbally abuses opponents.
Luiz Suarez IS obnoxious.'

Enough said. Should Suarez be named Player of the year Should he hell as like.
Red Predictor, Manchester

I can completely understand this
point of view. Its existence was the crux of the piece. Yet we accept
human failings in art, and just look at the work, but expect footballers
to be morally upstanding.

Top bloke, Tony, by the way and a
true Liverpool man. I don’t actually disagree with a word he wrote
there, but would still ask whether an individual can overcome all of
those misgivings to cast a vote.

I said I would find it hard; but
you’ll notice I didn’t say for certain that I couldn’t. You have
stronger conviction on the issue, though, and I respect that.

Touch of class: Suarez took the ball on his chest before slotting home against Newcastle earlier this season

Touch of class: Suarez took the ball on his chest before slotting home against Newcastle earlier this season

Finished off: Suarez's goal against Newcastle was a perfect example of what he's capable of

Finished off: Suarez's goal against Newcastle was a perfect example of what he's capable of

Just goes to show it isn't really Footballer of the Year, it’s the nice person of the year. Ridiculous. Andypom, Wellington

No, it isn’t Andy, but some members of the Football Writers Association, young and old, do believe that being a role model is part of the package. It certainly was when the award was inaugurated and it could be argued that a positive image matters more than ever now, when there is so much dubious behaviour in the game. Not a view I subscribe to personally, but I recognise its sincerity.

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Suarez isn't good enough for the neutral to overlook all the bad things in his game. For every great goal there is an embarrassing dive. Liverpool fans forget that while they may be blinded and biased because he is scoring goals for them, all fans of other clubs see is an undoubtedly talented striker cheating and diving and screaming and stamping. Rinzler, Manchester

True, but the same could be said of many players. Club allegiances work like blinkers at times.

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I wonder who'd get ref of the year. Don’t you think it would be really
interesting to see the result of a ground-by-ground referendum on that
Jimboin, Preston

No.

Wind up: Suarez took a dive in front of Everton boss David Moyes to celebrate his goal in the Merseyside derby

Wind up: Suarez took a dive in front of Everton boss David Moyes to celebrate his goal in the Merseyside derby

Suarez is finally translating his goal scoring form from Holland to the Premier League but he needs to be able to sustain that form. A lot of players go through purple patches and later fade.
Musa, London

Absolutely. Before Suarez, I thought Juan Mata was going to be the outstanding player of the season and since the piece was written Robin Van Persie has come into his own. I was more interested in the idea that Suarez might sustain this form and how football might react to him then.

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Luis Suarez is NOT a racist. You can keep harping on about it all you like but the FA report said Suarez is not a racist; Patrice Evra said Suarez is not a racist. Yet you continue to act like he goes around with a white sheet over his head in his spare time. You are making yourself look ridiculous by continuing to portray him as the pantomime villain while your docile minions lap up every word. Simon, Swindon

Minions Minions I wish, mate. Simon, I’ve revisited the original piece and nowhere does it get into whether or not Suarez is actually racist.

It is, however, utterly disingenuous to pretend that having been banned for a substantial length of time for using racially charged language Suarez is not associated with the practice.

My point was that Suarez does have this pantomime villain status, making it hard to get the credit he deserves.

And by the way, I don’t want docility, just people who understand the argument and enjoy discussing or arguing it in a civilised way. Which I hope we’re doing here.

Spot of bother: Suarez was the World Cup villain in 2010 as he saw red for handball in the quarter-final with Ghana - but the Africans missed the penalty and the striker was a hero in Urugauy as they progressed (below)

Spot of bother: Suarez was the World Cup villain in 2010 as he saw red for handball in the quarter-final with Ghana – but the Africans missed the penalty and the striker was a hero in Urugauy as they progressed (below)

So let me get this straight Martin, you wouldn't vote for the best player in the league to pick up the best player award Metro El, Liverpool

Never said that. Read the piece. Could I vote for him, I asked, and replied: 'It would be very, very hard.'

That’s not the same as saying I couldn’t. The whole tone of the column suggested that, using my feelings towards art as a measure, I’d bite the bullet and go with the finest footballer, regardless.

Cheeky: Suarez celebrated after Uruguay dumped Ghana out of the World Cup in South Africa

Maybe the best behaved could have their own award, or perhaps even let them win Sports Personality of the Year. Izzie, Aldershot

Right, because Bradley Wiggins got that just for being a goody two-shoes.

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Society is influenced by the media. Newspapers thrive off the controversy of the characters they depict. Suarez is classed as the player people love to hate, and the bad press he is subjected to week in week out is exaggerated and biased. Palm, Kidderminster

I wouldn’t disagree there. I think each season develops a narrative which drives the news agenda and once a player is cast as a certain character it is difficult to shake off his role in the story.

I think referees are influenced by this narrative, too, as Gareth Bale is now discovering. This means the same behaviour from different individuals will then be treated differently.

Some dives are forgotten, others attract headlines. I’m not justifying or condoning that but I would also argue that good journalists try to resist this trap.

I think Suarez gets a raw deal from referees, and the press, because he has been cast as one of the bad guys.

Of course, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t contributed greatly to his own dismal reputation..

No goody two-shoes: SIR Bradley Wiggins has done alright for himself in terms of picking up honours

No goody two-shoes: SIR Bradley Wiggins has done alright for himself in terms of picking up honours

Every man commenting on here, regardless of colour, has called another man of a different skin tone a racist name at some time. Whether or not it was to the face, behind the back, in the school playground or driving the car, we have all done it. Move on. New York DJ, London

Speak for yourself mate. I’ve always thought racial language was either part of your vocabulary or not. I’m not being holier than thou, but I just don’t see how somebody is a temporary racist. You either see black men as n*****s, or you don’t.

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There is a flaw in your argument: why will Gary Glitter never be seen receiving a music award
Jimbo, Lincolnshire

Because he wasn’t any good, Jim. Come on. Look, I’ve got Rock and Roll Part 2 on my I-Pod but that’s basically a Glitter Band track with a killer riff and a bit of chanting. There’s a lot of Ike Turner on there, too. One for the ladies, as my wife always says whenever he comes on.

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If there is a black breakaway players' union in response to this, would Suarez, who is one quarter black, not be able to join; or would you have to be 100 per cent black

Would it exclude Rio Ferdinand as he's only 50 per cent black And isn't the idea of forming an exclusive union based on the lines of race in response to another player winning an award based on ability, racist Donga, York

To be fair the idea of a Footballer of the Year Award for Suarez precipitating a breakaway black union was my extrapolation of the controversy such a vote would cause, rather than any proposed event.

Your point about levels of blackness is well made though, and comes back to the Gil Scott-Heron quote about competitions among black people to be blackest.

Anything that divides is ultimately unhelpful and to split black and white players seems a backward step.

Not guilty: Suarez was accused by Wigan of stamping on David Jones this season but he escaped punishment

Not guilty: Suarez was accused by Wigan of stamping on David Jones this season but he escaped punishment

I thought sledding was a massive part of sport. Expatmac, Perth, Australia

No, sledding is a massive part of Polar exploration, like huskies and frostbite. Sledging is perceived to a part of sport, but it doesn’t have to be. And what Suarez was accused of wasn’t sledging anyway.

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Who cares who journalists make Footballer of the Year It's never mattered to anyone except the media, certainly not real football fans anyway. If Suarez finishes as top scorer there's nothing anyone can do to take that award off him. How funny it would be to see his big toothy grin receiving that trophy on the pages of your newspapers. Dobbelina, Camden

Well, the players who win the FWA award seem to care and the list of previous winners is pretty good company, too.

What you fail to understand is journalists are real football fans, too. They supported teams and paid to watch matches until work got in the way. That is why, like fans, they debate the issues, including the criteria of this award.

Now, Dobbelina, would you quit/you really make sick/with your fraudulent behaviour.

Ha ha, you’ve got to know your old school rap to get that one, which by the sounds of his alias, our friend from Camden does. So no offence taken, I hope.

Altogether now: Mistadobalina, MistaBobdobalina, Mistadobalina, MistaBobdobalina… And on that note, as we doff our caps to Del Tha Funky Homosapien (enjoy the clip), let’s try to clear a few things up.

Here is the introduction from Eric Cantona's winners’ entry on the Football Writers Association website, following his award in 1996.

'Controversial, yes, but never boring, Eric Cantona’s personality, presence, goals and achievements should be remembered more than any disciplinary excesses or references to sardines.'

Guess you didn't vote for him then, Martin. Smoke5screen, Liverpool

No, I don’t think I did. Actually, I don’t vote most years because I believe the decision is made too early when the season isn’t decided and I wouldn’t wish to commit to a view I might later contradict in a column. And, by the way, FWA members don’t vote en bloc. It’s not like the Labour leadership contest.

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Well this is a new one, comparing Suarez to an anti-Semite. Alex, Angola

No, I compared our attitude to unpalatable behaviour in the world of art to our attitudes towards sportsmen who transgress in a way that society finds unacceptable. Nowhere does it link Suarez as an individual to anti-Semitism.

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I don't know if they voted for Poet of the Year in Larkin's day but if they did he probably wouldn't win it anyway when up against poetry’s equivalent of Robin van Persie, who has been so sublime and superior to him. Nick, Sarlat

Now, look Nick, I don’t mind you voting Van Persie over Suarez, but if you’re going to come on here dissing Philip Larkin, we may have words.

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The question you should ask is: is there a better player than him No. Zanydave, Wirral

Maybe.

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If John Terry can be England captain then Luis Suarez can be player of the year.
Mooroondu, Brisbane

Terry isn’t England captain. Keep up.

Iconic: Suarez, like Kenny Dalglish during his playing days at Anfield, was handed the No 7 jersey

Iconic: Suarez, like Kenny Dalglish during his playing days at Anfield, was handed the No 7 jersey

So you're saying John Terry, a proud Englishman unlike that cheating Uruguayan, will end up winning John, Minneapolis

No. Nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. Terry is not even mentioned in the piece. Nothing to do with him at all. Sometimes it helps to read the piece rather than have your interpretation handed down by some twerp on Twitter.

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Too moralist, the British. Fabio Capello was right, they think everybody is wrong and they are right. Leaf27, Montreal

Yes, mate, that’s what’s holding the planet back: morality.

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Suarez is overrated, like Fernando Torres at Liverpool, a big fish in a little pond. He wouldn't last a season at a top club and needs more chances than Andy Cole. Wilson, Fleetwood

Seriously harsh this. I will admit that when a team is ordinary, as Liverpool are, one player can have a disproportionate influence and his ability becomes exaggerated because he is of such worth to that team.

Yet I think it is to Suarez’s credit that he is shouldering such a burden at Anfield.

As far as his chance-to-goal ratio, yes it could improve, but he is not meant to be the main goalscorer in the team. Liverpool messed up in the summer and left him marooned.

I know your post was made in November, and clairvoyance cannot be expected, but look at his performance against Queens Park Rangers on December 30, which was quite exceptional. Not just the stunning turn and straight run for the first goal, how about his contribution to the second

Steven Gerrard plays a long ball out of defence but slips as he strikes it, so it flies aimlessly into huge space on Rangers defensive left. Suarez then chases that lost cause, panicking the Rangers player who makes a hurried clearance, conceding possession.

From that, Liverpool hoof a long ball forward, Suarez wins the header and finds Stewart Downing, whose first touch is poor, but nobody has closed him down so gets another chance and plays Suarez in.

Suarez then drives into the penalty area, hits an excellent low cross which is blocked, the ball returns to him and he scores.

In that entire passage of play, the only quality contributions from either side are made by Suarez. Wonderful.

Race row: Suarez was banned for eight matches after being found guilty of abusing Patrice Evra in 2011

Race row: Suarez was banned for eight matches after being found guilty of abusing Patrice Evra in 2011

No issue in voting for Suarez. I have never seen him as a diver. I recall only one clear dive where he was getting kicked all about the pitch by some very innocent thug-like defenders. I put going over easy on an equally negative level with shirt pulling and elbows in the back of the head. HM, Dublin

Same here. Don’t necessarily agree about just a single dive from the man but I am inclined to side with a creative player over the negative one when exchanging vices.

Not helping: Suarez refused to shake Evra's hand when the pair met for the first time following the race row

Not helping: Suarez refused to shake Evra's hand when the pair met for the first time following the race row

He has
been associated with too much of football’s dark side, as you state,
because it is all journalists ever talk about. There is never any
mention of him being a loyal, decent family man, the amount of spare
time he has spent in South Africa and his charity work. Chris, Fife

This is Chris Rock’s argument about people wanting credit for stuff they
are supposed to do. Loyal family man Millionaire that gives to
charity What do you want, a cookie

Would Marouane Fellaini at Everton not be up there He dominates every time he is on the pitch. Hard-working, honest midfielder who seems to run games for fun. Barto7, Liverpool

Yes he would. Yet after the performance against Stoke City before Christmas and his ban, would some now say he should be excluded This is one of my points: nobody’s perfect.

Demolition derby: Everton defender Sylvain Distin was raging with Suarez for this challenge

Demolition derby: Everton defender Sylvain Distin was raging with Suarez for this challenge

Translation: the football writers’ Footballer of the Year is a popularity contest and therefore worthless. Gray, Liverpool

Translation: you find it hard to grasp some pretty simple concepts and may need to concentrate more. Thank heavens for our next poster.

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Treason is only a matter of timing, as
the saying goes. If Larkin and Pound were about today, producing their
works while espousing their views, it would take a huge effort to see
past the man and into the written word. Society would rightly condemn
them and probably, for the most part, ignore their work.

They've
benefited from the passing of time, and a society whose condemnations
are tempered, rightly or wrongly, by a sense of 'that's what it was like
back then'.

You don't have to be a role model to win Footballer of the
Year, but you do have to avoid being the kind of player Suarez is. He
might be good at football, but can you really brush the racist comment,
the very obvious diving and the catalogue of video evidence which shows
him being reckless in the challenge, under the carpet

His antics make
it too hard to separate the player from the man. Fats, London

Very hard to take issue with any of that, Fats. You are probably right
that modern sensibilities have changed thought processes and a
right-wing extremist in the arts would be marginalised.

I’m thinking of
the controversy that surrounded Morrissey when he toyed with nationalist
imagery a few years ago, or the reaction to the anti-gay lyrics of
reggae dancehall tracks like Boom /12/29/article-2254245-16AE5851000005DC-397_634x388.jpg” width=”634″ height=”388″ alt=”Tasty A Dutch paper branded Suarez the 'Cannibal of Ajax' after he bit PSV's Otman Bakkal during a game” class=”blkBorder” />

Tasty A Dutch paper branded Suarez the 'Cannibal of Ajax' after he bit PSV's Otman Bakkal during a game

The writer isn't saying Suarez shouldn't win it, he's saying that he won't – not because he thinks that he shouldn't, but because others think that he shouldn't. Tommy, Belfast

Thanks, Tommy, and I mean that. Would you be interested in providing a weekly translation service for the column It would really help some people: I’m particularly thinking Piers Morgan. And this next bloke.

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You say Suarez is the best player in the Premier League by a mile, yet you won't vote for him. That says more about you than it does about him. You're not voting for Footballer of the Year, your vote is going to someone you'd like to be mates with. Where is the merit in that
Rocky Soul, United Kingdom

Where does it say I wouldn’t vote for Suarez I said I’d find it hard, that’s all. As for being mates, is that how you think it works I voted for you, please be my friend. I’ve got friends. Nice friends. I didn’t get them by pressing a red button.

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Do you think Suarez would care about being Footballer of the Year, especially one voted for by the Fleet Street hacks who plague Twitter spreading their lies and bile Doubt it. He is a team player and all about Liverpool. He can be an idiot at times, but show me a top player who hasn’t been these days. Fowler1070, Liverpool

Oh, come on, I’m not having that. It doesn’t go with the territory that to succeed in football, or sport, ethical behaviour must go out of the window. Lionel Messi seems to do all right, or Juan Mata.

As for Twitter, I’m not on it mate. Never will be. With a name like Fowler1070, it sounds as if you are though. Apologies if I’m wrong.

At his best: Suarez scored a hat-trick against Norwich earlier this season

At his best: Suarez scored a hat-trick against Norwich earlier this season

The award is for best footballer, not best person. If Suarez was English the author would have a different view. Andrew, Bridgend

That’s not true, Andrew. If John Terry was a contender for Footballer of the Year I would have written exactly the same piece. But he’s not.

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So let's sum up the cons against Suarez. He once called Patrice Evra something inoffensive in Spanish-speaking countries, a year ago, and the Daily Mail claims diving is eliminated from football whenever Suarez is not on the pitch. You guys have built a silly hype around him and robbed yourselves of watching this fantastic talent due to a witch hunt. Reality Check, London

Get real. Without revisiting old ground what Suarez said is not inoffensive in Spanish-speaking countries; it depends on the context. And nobody is deprived of watching Suarez.

The whole article was in praise of him as a footballer, which suggests I take great pleasure in his ability. Indeed, to even flag up his potential to be Footballer of the Year is a tribute.

I think Suarez is a wonderful player. I couldn’t really have made that clearer. For the alternate view, however…

Goals galore: Suarez has been finding the net this season

One unsavory incident should exclude a player from receiving this award. To win Footballer of the Year, a player should have shown exemplary character aligned with superb footballing intellect. He should be technically superior to his peers, able to show discipline on the pitch and be an example to young players. Robbie G, Dunbar

Wow, let’s hope Mother Theresa has a left foot because if Robbie gets his way, she’ll be the only candidate next year.

Tough standards from our man from Dunbar and we’ll have to leave it there, I’m afraid.

Thank you to all who contributed, even though you didn’t know what you were contributing to at the time.

No doubt the views of Mr G will find favour with some inside the Football Writers’ Association, but if Suarez continues to play as he did at Loftus Road, this one will run and run.

Black Caviar named Australia"s sportswoman of the year ahead of Olympic gold-medallist Sally Pearson

Golden girl Pearson falls at the first and is beaten to national Aussie gong… by a horse!

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UPDATED:

13:48 GMT, 23 December 2012

Olympic gold-medallist Sally Pearson had to settle for the runner-up place in an Australian Sportswoman of the Year contest – after she was pipped at the post by a horse.

Racehorse Black Caviar is undefeated in 22 races, a record not matched in 100 years, and was handed the honour by two journalists at Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.

Pearson has suffered shock losses before, but generally when pitted against her own species.

Top of the pile: Black Caviar was named Australia's Sportswoman of the year

Top of the pile: Black Caviar was named Australia's Sportswoman of the year

She fell at the first hurdle and lost to Kellie Wells in the last race before London 2012 and came back to top the table in the 100m, but quite how anyone could recover from being overlooked in favour of a horse is unclear.

Pearson will no doubt draw consolation from knowing one other horse made it into the shortlist of four female athletes.

Other prominent female athletes who were snubbed include members of Australia’s only Olympic gold medal in the pool, Cate Campbell, Alicia Coutts, Brittany Elmslie and Melanie Schlange, along with gold-medallist cyclist Anna Meares.

Flying the flag: Sally Pearson won the Women's 100m final at the Olympics but it was not enough to win her national prize

Flying the flag: Sally Pearson won the Women's 100m final at the Olympics but it was not enough to win her national prize

Sports writers Phil Rothfield and Darren Hadland maintain the accolade was part of a light-hearted feature, but prompted a wave of angered reaction.

Channel Seven AFL commentator Tom Harley tweeted it was: 'plain offensive to all the inspirational sportswomen of Australia' while News Limited colleague, Mark Robinson, slammed the ‘award’, saying it was 'utterly embarrassing'.

Fewer complaints were heard for men’s category. Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke was named Sportsman of the Year for his four double centuries this year.

Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez prepare for fourth and final fight

This is it: Pacquiao vows knock out Marquez and end long running rivalry in fourth and final fight

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UPDATED:

15:13 GMT, 6 December 2012

Having shared the ring for 36 rounds over their careers there is not too much that Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez don't know about each other – yet they are prepared to go head to head for one final time.

Officially, the tally stands at two Pacquiao wins and one draw, though many fans and boxing writers believe Marquez could legitimately have won all three encounters.

Saturday’s fight is likely to be another close encounter and Filipino Pacquiao believes this will be the last time the two set foot in the ring together.

Fourth and final time: Manny Pacquiao and Juan Marquez prepare for their fight on Saturday

Fourth and final time: Manny Pacquiao and Juan Marquez prepare for their fight on Saturday

'I think this is the last fight with him,’ Pacquiao said.

'Last time,’ agreed trainer Freddie Roach. ‘We're going to knock him out. End of story.'
Pacquiao lost his last fight to Timothy Bradley – albeit in controversial fashion – and Roach says his fighter is hungrier than ever to succeed, especially if he is ever to get Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the ring.

'The fourth fight could be the same as the last three, but Manny's hungrier now,’ Roach said. 'I don't think Marquez has seen the best Manny yet.’

The final showdown: Pacquiao and Marquez both say this will be the last time they fight each other

The final showdown: Pacquiao and Marquez both say this will be the last time they fight each other

But in the opposite corner, Marquez says his sole motivation for Saturday's non-title welterweight clash is the prospect of finally being able to celebrate victory over the Filipino.

'I want them (his corner) to raise my hand (in triumph),’ Marquez said.
'People tell me, 'You really beat him', in the last three fights, a lot of people feel I beat him.

'But I want to have my hand raised. I want the judges to really look at what they're doing and get it right this time.’

We've met before: Pacquiao and Marquez go head-to-head before their fourth fight

We've met before: Pacquiao and Marquez go head-to-head before their fourth fight

For his part, Pacquiao appears to be growing increasingly frustrated by the Mexican's insistence that he was the deserved winner of their previous three contests, particularly because of the counter-punching style favoured by Marquez.

'He always claims he won the fights,’ said Pacquiao. ‘So he needs to prove something.

'You cannot say, 'Yes I won the fight' when you are always backing off. It's contradictory. If you're claiming you won the fight, then you have to press the action.’

Nice and relaxed: Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach laugh during the press conference

Nice and relaxed: Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach laugh during the press conference

The four-fight rivalry between the two boxers almost failed to last one round. Pacquiao knocked down Marquez three times in the opening round of their first encounter in 2004, but the Mexican rallied to outbox his opponent and eke out a draw.

In their second meeting four years later, Pacquiao knocked down Marquez in the third round, which proved the difference after he won a close split decision.

Their third bout was adjudged a majority decision victory for the Filipino southpaw, despite Pacquiao's surprisingly unimpressive display.

Game face on: Marquez looks serious as he bids to finally get a win over his rival

Game face on: Marquez looks serious as he bids to finally get a win over his rival

'I thought Manny won that fight,’ Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach said on Wednesday. “But the booing was very loud and very vocal.

'Someone said, 'Why aren't you smiling You won the fight'. And I said, 'It's very hard to smile when you're being booed that bad'.’

Pacquiao acknowledged that his series of fights with Marquez had been the defining rivalry of his career.

Capturing the imagination: A blackjack table at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas promotes the fight

Capturing the imagination: A blackjack table at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas promotes the fight

'When you say 'Muhammad Ali', you think 'Joe Frazier',’ the Filipino said. ‘And I think when you say 'Manny Pacquiao', you think 'Juan Manuel Marquez'. And when you say 'Marquez', you think 'Manny Pacquiao'.’

But neither man is expecting a fifth fight, whatever happens in the ring on Saturday. The fourth bout, they insist, will be the last.

'This is the last fight with Manny,’ said Marquez. ‘I don't know what will happen in the ring, but this is the last time.'

Pacquiao v Marquez is live on Primetime from 2am on Sunday morning

Robin van Persie could win player of the year again – Jamie Redknapp

Jamie Redknapp: Hotshot Van Persie could be heading for a double

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UPDATED:

00:14 GMT, 5 November 2012

Top form: Van Persie

Top form: Van Persie

If you could take one player from the Premier League at present, it would be Robin van Persie. He was outstanding again against Arsenal. Cristiano Ronaldo was the last man to win back-to-back Footballer of the Year and Football Writers’ Player of the Year and there is no reason why Van Persie cannot do the same.

Noble for England

A good result for West Ham, for whom Mark Noble impressed me again. He has the excellent habit of passing to players in his own team and he’s made 44 tackles this season – more than any player in the Premier League. Roy Hodgson was watching and an international call-up could be on.

Time to gamble, AVB

The boos at White Hart Lane said it all. Taking your leading scorer Jermain Defoe off when you are losing is not what the Tottenham fans wanted to see. Andre Villas-Boas surely has to be more adventurous. When you are losing, you sometimes have to throw caution to the wind and get two strikers on.

Booed: Spurs fans were not happy with Villas-Boas for substituting Defoe

Booed: Spurs fans were not happy with Villas-Boas for substituting Defoe

Join the squad, Jack

Arsene Wenger says he doesn’t want Jack Wilshere involved in England’s friendly with Sweden. But now he is suspended for next weekend, he could do a lot worse than link up with the squad. It would be good to reacquaint himself with his England colleagues – even if he doesn’t play.

Look for Silva lining

Manchester City are badly missing David Silva’s guile. At the moment they are reliant on Yaya Toure’s power but they need the Spaniard’s finesse. At the start of the season he had a bad spell and now he’s injured but Roberto Mancini will be hoping he returns soon. His ability to dribble and hit a killer pass is just what City need.

Fellaini a perfect fit

When Marouane Fellaini arrived as a defensive midfielder at Everton, I thought he was too big for the role. But his confidence is amazing and he is now unplayable further up the field. Against Fulham he was holding two players off and still winning the ball.

Outstanding: Fellaini scored twice as Everton drew with Fulham

Outstanding: Fellaini scored twice as Everton drew with Fulham

Show us you feel it

Little annoys me more than players who don’t celebrate goals against their former clubs. Robin van Persie and Kaspars Gorkss did it this weekend. Scoring is one of the best feelings – so don’t act like you’re not enjoying it. If you loved your old club so much, you wouldn’t have left.

Jonny's so good

How is this for an amazing stat Jonny Evans has not committed a foul this season. He’s played seven Premier League matches for Manchester United, so that is incredible, even though he should have been given cards against Chelsea and Liverpool.

Davis Love III faces Ryder Cup wildcard dilemma- Derek Lawrenson

Old heads or long hitters Your wildcard call, Love

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UPDATED:

23:39 GMT, 3 September 2012

When America's Ryder Cup captain Davis Love sat down with a small corps of British golf writers at the US PGA Championship recently, he waxed lyrical about the value of experienced hands like Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker.

He talked enthusiastically about Hunter Mahan wanting to make amends for what happened at the last Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, when his clunked chip presented the Europeans with their victory.

Everything said during that fascinating round-table discussion — stay tuned for all the details, later this month — would have led you to believe that all three would get the nod when Love names his four wildcards on Tuesday afternoon.

Off course: Hunter Mahan is one player who finds his Ryder Cup spot in doubt

Off course: Hunter Mahan is one player who finds his Ryder Cup spot in doubt

But, three weeks on, we find ourselves in the remarkable situation where all three could just as easily miss out on the US team for Medinah.

Never before, then, have we seen anything quite like the dilemma confronting Love, who might well have waited to see what happened in the final round of the Deutsche Bank FedEx Cup play-off event in Boston on Monday evening before making his final decision.

Indeed, so close are the plausible claims of seven different candidates that, if you asked 20 fellow pros for their selections, you’d probably get 20 different answers.

In form: Dustin Johnson is making a late charge towards the US team

In form: Dustin Johnson is making a late charge towards the US team

Furyk and Stricker need little introduction, of course. The former has made his riches showing precisely the sort of grit and stellar short game that defines a great player at a Ryder Cup.

Stricker might be the second best putter in the game behind Luke Donald and solves instantly the conundrum that has foxed so many US Ryder Cup captains: who partners Tiger Woods.

Counting against them is the fact they are the only two candidates without a win in a full-field event this season, and they’re medium-length hitters on a bomber’s course.

Tough choice: US captain Davis Love III must select his four wildcards

Tough choice: US captain Davis Love III must select his four wildcards

Mahan, by contrast, has actually won twice, including the Accenture Match Play where he beat Rory McIlroy in the final. But he has cooled off so dramatically he hasn’t had a top-10 finish since April.

If current form is a prime factor —and surely it should be — you’ve got last week’s winner Nick Watney and in-form Dustin Johnson, who are both long hitters. You’ve got Brandt Snedeker, third in The Open, runner-up last week and another wizard on the greens.

Finally, there’s Rickie Fowler, who beat McIlroy in a play-off to win his first tournament in May and just loves head to head.

Tempting: Rickie Fowler loves the head-to-head nature of the Ryder Cup

Tempting: Rickie Fowler loves the head-to-head nature of the Ryder Cup

A genuine sense of mystery hangs over proceedings, therefore, when Love announces his picks at the New York Stock Exchange.

The skipper will then finish the day by ringing the closing bell.

It is entirely in the nature of being Ryder Cup captain, of course, that he’d better make sure he gets his picks right — or he will find by the end of the month that bell is tolling for him.

I'll have what he's having…

Is there a more remarkable club golfer in these isles than Bill Thomas

On the eve of this year’s Ryder Cup, at a South Herts venue that has so many Ryder Cup connections, Bill will be sworn in as this year’s captain of the London Welsh Golf Society.

And here’s the fabulous twist: he recently celebrated his 100th birthday. Fellow society member Andrew Porter tells me Bill still plays nine holes at society meetings.

‘He looks more like 70 than 100, and is just amazingly fit,’ he says. Golfers are fond of comparing their lives to a round of 18 holes, saying things like they’re now on the back nine when they pass the age of 50, etc. Lucky Bill must feel like he’s playing 36.

Main attraction: Scotland's Carly Booth

Main attraction: Scotland's Carly Booth

On the tee… Carly’s cartwheeling

Organisers of the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Liverpool next week are hoping more than 75,000 spectators will turn up, and let’s hope they are right.

The new generation of photogenic talents, like the gifted Scot Carly Booth and the brave English lass Melissa Reid, deserve the support.

Among their backers will be Olympic gymnastics bronze medallist Beth Tweddle, with a couple of the players presently mulling over whether to join her in doing a few cartwheels for the crowd.

This is what’s missing from the men’s game, of course.

Wouldn’t it be fun watching Monty cartwheeling his way to the first tee

Quote of the week

‘Congrats to my niece Cheyenne on winning her first professional event on the SunCoast Ladies Series Tour. Won by four. Very Proud.’

In a rare tweet, Tiger Woods salutes his 22-year-old relative who shares his surname and was the last player taught by Tiger’s late father, Earl.

Cheyenne, who recently graduated from college and who begins her quest for a card to play on the main US Women’s Tour on Monday, comes with an added bonus: she doesn’t throw clubs.

‘I never thought that was a good look on a golfer,’ she says. Now, why can’t her uncle grasp that

Mail photographers nominated for Barclays Shot of the Season

Mail photographers nominated for Barclays Shot of the Season

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UPDATED:

10:24 GMT, 23 August 2012

Daily Mail photographer Ian Hodgson and Dave Shopland of the Mail on Sunday have been shortlisted for the Barclays Photographic Awards 2012.

The pair have been nominated in the shot of the season category – Hodgson for capturing Manchester City celebrations as they lifted the Premier League trophy and Shopland for his snap of Sergio Aguero scoring against Norwich.

The winner will receive a Barclays Award and 5,000 to spend on photographic equipment.

The judging panel includes Alan Sparrow, UK Picture Editors’ Guild chairman, Martin Rickett, last year’s Barclays Photographer of the Season, Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler and Andy Dunn, chairman of the Football Writers’ Association.

Silver service in the blue half of Manchester: Ian Hodgson captures City's Premier League title celebrations

Silver service in the blue half of Manchester: Ian Hodgson captures City's Premier League title celebrations

Going it alone: Dave Shopland took this picture of Sergio Aguero scoring for Manchester City against Norwich

Going it alone: Dave Shopland took this picture of Sergio Aguero scoring for Manchester City against Norwich

Manuel Almunia says Arsenal will only get better

It's Gunner get better for Arsenal, insists former Emirates No 1 Almunia

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UPDATED:

10:05 GMT, 5 August 2012

Former Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia is excited by his old club's squad-building this summer after years of selling off their top stars.

The Spaniard collected a 2005 FA Cup winner's medal with the Gunners, albeit as an unused substitute, but that remains the north London side's last major trophy.

New era: Arsenal have made some key signings this summer

New era: Arsenal have made some key signings this summer

The likes of Thierry Henry, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor have since departed for significant fees and the club's apparent reluctance to invest in proven replacements has deepened the frustrations of fans who have seen their team trail the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea in the battle for silverware.

Almunia told the Sunday Mirror: 'As a player at Arsenal, it is hard to see the best players go to other clubs every year. They have missed a lot of great players in the last few years.

Moving on: Almunia (left) has joined Watford on a free transfer

Moving on: Almunia (left) has joined Watford on a free transfer

'The first year I came to England, I thought “Oh, I'm going to win a lot of things with Arsenal” but the change then started. The club has been changing every year.'

There remains a danger of Robin van Persie, named Professional Footballers' Association and Football Writers' Association player of the year after scoring 37 goals in all competitions last season, leaving the Emirates Stadium this summer.

But the arrivals of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud have encouraged Almunia, now with Watford, to believe this could finally be Arsenal's year.

Mastermind: Wenger goes in search of Arsenal's first silverware since 2005

Mastermind: Wenger goes in search of Arsenal's first silverware since 2005

His compatriot, Malaga midfielder Santi Cazorla, is also expected to sign in the coming days while Arsene Wenger has been heavily linked with a move for Real Madrid's Nuri Sahin.

'One of these years, everything has to come together and be perfect, and now is the time for Arsenal,' Almunia continued.

'They've signed some good players this year, Santi Cazorla is fantastic.'

Caddies blast R&A over guest pass issue at The Open – Charles Sale

Caddies blast R&A over guest pass issue

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UPDATED:

22:49 GMT, 19 July 2012

The Open caddies have complained about being treated as second-class citizens by the R&A because they have to pay for guest passes on to the course for family and friends.

The bagmen, who have moaned in the past about the Open facilities and meal allowances, are upset the R&A don’t follow the example of the European and US Tours in giving them regular tickets for partners.

Mick Donaghy, caddie for Jamie Donaldson who was two under par after the first round, said: ‘The way we’re treated here is nothing short of a disgrace. The R&A are sipping their gin and tonics in the clubhouse and we’re having to pay full price to get our wives in. The other golf organisations give us proper respect, but that’s never been the case at The Open.’

Caddie trouble: Jamie Donaldson waits with Mick Donaghy who branded the way caddies were treated 'a disgrace'

Caddie trouble: Jamie Donaldson waits with Mick Donaghy who branded the way caddies were treated 'a disgrace'

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Dave Clark, who carries Vijay Singh’s clubs, said: ‘There’s still a stigma around caddies. We’re regarded as the lowest of the low. Surely we shouldn’t have to rely on the players to help us out with passes all the time.’

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson countered: ‘Our pass policy is generous and caddies have a fantastic time here.’

Adding to the tension is the R&A commissioning Strokesaver to produce hole-by-hole yardage guidebooks, which cost 7, rather than allow an extra opening for former caddies Graeme Heinrich and Dion Stevens, who compete for yardage-guide business on the European Tour. Dawson said: ‘There was an issue, but the Strokesaver product has been very well received.’

Mickelson keeping eye on deals

Phil Mickelson is so sponsorship conscious he still talks to Bob Diamond, former boss of his major backers Barclays, since the rate-rigging scandal that led to his departure.

Mickelson is also one of the few golfers to wear a watch — Rolex in his case — while competing. All Rolex-sponsored sports stars have it in their contract to put on their watch for the trophy presentation, as Roger Federer did at Wimbledon.

Watch me: Phil Mickelson wearing his Rolex

Watch me: Phil Mickelson wearing his Rolex

Dinosaur errs again

Peter Alliss, the BBC’s dinosaur 81-year-old commentator whose one-year rolling contract rolls on and on, had contravened Corporation rules over product-endorsement mentions before noon on the first day of The Open.

After Tiger Woods missed a putt, Alliss said, ‘He should have gone to Specsavers,’ which is in breach of commercial regulations.

A BBC spokeswoman said: ‘Peter did not realise the implications of it being perceived as a product endorsement when he made the remark. He was made aware of this immediately.’ (Apologies to reader Ralph Brough who asked for The Open to pass with no Sports Agenda pops at Alliss.)

FA pay rise dispute

There is significant unrest among FA blazers about the lack of consultation over the board decision to pay 12,000 a year to directors instead of a small attendance allowance – an increase of around 300 per cent. The angry FA councillors want the pay hike suspended until a proper debate has taken place.

Respected councillor Jack Pearce said in a letter of complaint to FA chairman David Bernstein, circulated to all stakeholders, that the timing ‘could not be more inappropriate’ in the current economic climate.

Displeasure: David Bernstein will receive a letter of complaint

Displeasure: David Bernstein will receive a letter of complaint

A Royal bungle by G4S

At the Open on Thursday, bungling Olympic security firm G4S’s attempts to look efficient included them trying to move along members of Royal Lytham from the concourse outside their own clubhouse next to the practice putting green.

Lytham golf grandee Martin Kippax, a former chairman of the R&A, was one of those told he shouldn’t be standing in that area. In contrast, at one of the course entrances, there were claims G4S personnel were allowing spectators to walk in without having their bags scanned.

R&A want more from TV

The R&A will talk first to the BBC when they renew the Open TV contract which runs until 2016. But chief executive Peter Dawson will also lobby the Government ahead of the next TV rights policy ruling in 2013 about the tournament losing its listed event status. Dawson believes responsible rights-holders should have a free market to maximise their media earnings without listed restrictions.

Luke Donald annoys golf writers before The Open: Charles Sale

Charles Sale: Golf writers teed off by Donald's digs

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UPDATED:

23:12 GMT, 18 July 2012

World No 1 Luke Donald caused a
considerable stir on the eve of The Open with his less than gracious
response after winning the prestigious Golf Writers’ Trophy.

Donald, making his acceptance speech
in front of the game’s top brass at the Association of Golf Writers’
annual dinner at Royal Lytham, chose the occasion to be chippy in the
extreme about the tabloid press who had helped vote him top golfer of
the year.

However, Donald, who wrote the speech
himself rather than relying on his IMG management team, claimed
yesterday that he must have been misunderstood by the critical audience.

Ruffling feathers: Donald

Ruffling feathers: Donald

He said: ‘I was just trying to be
light-hearted. I’ve no problem with the British press. I get on well
with them and was trying to reflect that. It seems some people have
got the wrong impression.’ They certainly have.

Meanwhile, the AGW missed an
opportunity by not giving more recognition to the Curtis Cup-winning
quartet in attendance, who all look like models as well as being top
sportswomen. It was a particular shame considering the sexist men-only
Royal St George’s hosted The Open last year and another male bastion,
Muirfield, will do so in 2013.

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Ashley's 2m payout

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, who is considering bringing 35million striker Andy Carroll back to Tyneside if the price is right, might have to put 2m aside for Open Championship expenditure.

The sponsorship deal the Ashley-owned Dunlop brand has with Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke pays them 2m for winning a major. Westwood is again one of the favourites this week — as he was last year when Clarke took the Claret Jug and Ashley paid up just three days later.

Olazabal absent

Jose Maria Olazabal is nowhere to be seen at Royal Lytham despite being captain of the Ryder Cup team who will defend the trophy in Chicago in two months.

It is understood the Spaniard doesn’t feel the need to be at The Open, having failed to qualify, although his US counterpart Davis Love III is in the field.

It would be extremely rare in any other high-profile sport for a team boss not to watch all his players in action, as well as the opposition, ahead of an event as big as the Ryder Cup.

However, the last European captain to win in America was Bernhard Langer in 2004 and he missed that year’s Open for family reasons.

Staying away: Olazabal

Staying away: Jose Maria Olazabal

BBC's big bid

BBC Sport are understood to have paid around 100million to secure exclusive TV and online rights to the summer Olympics in 2016 and 2020 and two winter Games.

This is despite Sky having discussions with the IOC about buying the contract and then sub-leasing it to fulfil free-to-air commitments. In the event Sky did not bid.

And having had the door closed on their Olympic ambitions, Sky’s resolve for hours of daily non-rights Olympic coverage will be tested.

G4S score Open goal

The biggest surprise at Royal Lytham this week is that the 200-strong workforce from bungling security firm G4S, who have a three-year contract, have all turned up at the course.

R&A executive director of championships Johnnie Cole-Hamilton said: ‘All the managers and supervisors, who we’ve been using for many, many years, are back with us. The numbers we asked for are all here. We have no issue whatsoever.’ Pity London 2012 can’t say the same, although some of the G4S golf personnel are bound for Stratford after The Open.

Is Rio on course

Golf enters the Olympics in 2016, but work on constructing the course in Rio will not start until October at the earliest following complications over the land ownership.

Despite the tight timescale, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson is confident it will be ready for a test event in 2015. Dawson was on the panel that chose American Gil Hanse as course designer ahead of golfing greats Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Greg Norman.

Hanse, responsible for Scottish Open course Castle Stuart, is prepared to live in Brazil during construction.