Tag Archives: youthful

Marc Albrighton interview: Aston Villa youngster ready to shine

Making his Marc again! Villa youngster Albrighton ready to shine after two years on hold

|

UPDATED:

22:35 GMT, 12 October 2012

Being 'the next anybody' isn't easy, not least when what determines whether you fulfill that promise is taken out of your hands.

Marc Albrighton was one such lazy, hastily written headline, a right-sided midfielder with balls in his brain as well as at his feet, and his youthful exuberance electrified the last days of Martin O'Neill's reign as Aston Villa manager.

Equally adept at taking on seasoned professionals as he was delivering crosses with venom, his rise coincided with the last days of David Beckham’s time in the England squad. We had, it seemed, a potential replacement.

Rising: Marc Albrighton can still achieve the big future predicted for him

Rising: Marc Albrighton can still achieve the big future predicted for him

That was a little over two years ago.

Since then, Albrighton has worked under three different permanent managers, plus two more in a caretaker role. He has also suffered appendicitis and, most recently, broken his foot.

In much the same way Villa have slipped from the elite since O’Neill’s departure, Albrighton, too, has been forced to swim upstream against the misfortune of injury and a club trying and everything and anything to arrest a slide.

‘Five years ago I would have taken this situation I am in now, without doubt,’ the 22-year-old told Sportsmail. ‘But now, looking at it, with what’s happened, without injury it could have been whole let better.’

Does he get frustrated when he sees other players five years younger than him, given a good run at the top

Albrighton, speaking to promote Just Play, a scheme set up by Mars and The FA to get more adults into football, doesn’t think so.

‘Someone like Raheem Sterling has had a fantastic start with Liverpool and getting his just deserves. Alex [Oxlade-Chamberlain], too, is progressing great.

‘Yes, I’ve been held back and that could have been me. But I’ve got plenty of years left in me and it starts now, putting in a good season and perhaps that notice might come.

‘Maybe there is annoyance. But I’m only 22, so hopefully I can progress in the next few years.’

Progress is the buzz word around the Villa Park at the moment, not least for Albrighton, who is seizing the fresh start with both hands.

Indeed mere harmony would be considered a step in the right direction at a club whose slump in form was as alarming as it was sudden. The terraces were unhappy places to be, and Alex McLeish was shown the door at the end of the most disappointing campaign a generation can remember.

Diving in: Albrighton dispossesses Gareth Bale

Diving in: Albrighton dispossesses Gareth Bale

For a born-and-bred Brummie like Albrighton it was an unedifying experience to be a part of, as uncomfortable as the gym sessions he was powering himself though in a bid to lend his hand to the fight.

‘Last year was difficult for all of us,’ he says. ‘But we’re fresh now, a clean slate, no relegation battle, and we can enjoy it.

‘The second half of last season, it was pure war going into every game and it took its toll on some of our performances.

‘It isn’t just because I am a local lad, no pro wants to get relegated, it’s not good to have on your CV. I don’t want to hear people attach “relegated with Aston Villa” to my name, it’s not nice.

‘As a local lad, sure, I have people around me, friends, family getting at me. But at the same time, when it is going well they are in my ear telling me how how happy they are for us all. So it works both ways.

Communication: As a local lad Albrighton is well known around the town

Communication: As a local lad Albrighton is well known around the town

‘You have to take the rough with the
smooth in football, don’t get too high when you’re going well, and not
too low when things are against you.’

Villa avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth, changes were made and the clean slate was provided by Paul Lambert.

Albrighton, though, had to wait his
turn due to the foot injury he trained on for the best part of a week
before realising it was broken.

‘With a new manager you have to impress, you got to show him what you’re capable of,’ the fit-again midfielder explains. ‘I’ve been through it before – it isn’t a simple process, but I am used to doing things this way.

‘That said, you have to stick to the game that got me to where I am now. It’s a mixed bag of emotions and how to play it.’

Exciting: Albrighton revealed the players are thrilled to have Paul Lambert at the helm

Exciting: Albrighton revealed the players are thrilled to have Paul Lambert at the helm

And how has Lambert himself played it

Albrighton adds: ‘Paul has done brilliant in his career and it excites all of us, not just the young, but the older players also.

‘It is fantastic, an honour, to say our manager and reserve team manager have won the European Cup, so we’re bound to learn something from these guys. It passes on a good vibe, too.

‘He’s not bought his medal in yet! But he joins in a few sessions and you can see the touch is still there. It’s only his pace that’s not there. He reckons he had me in his pocket the other day, and that was good fun.’

Fun. Certainly not like the last two years. But being ‘the next anybody’ never is. Now if only Albrighton can be the next, well, Marc Albrighton.

Mars and The FA are offering a week of free Just Play sessions across the country from October 8. Search online for Just Play or click here…

Aston Villa beat Swansea comfortably – how did they do it?

It's turning to gold for Lambert: What went right for Villa against Swansea

|

UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 16 September 2012

Perfect days don’t come along all that often in football. But with pressure mounting on Paul Lambert to register his first Premier League victory as Aston Villa manager, his team managed to knock in-form Swansea well and truly out of their stride.

Villa Park rose as one at the final whistle to give their thanks to the Scot’s heavily-revamped and youthful side after an afternoon in which everything went right for the hosts. Here we analyse the key performers and the decisions which went Lambert’s way.

Tidy win: Paul Lambert earned his first league win at Aston Villa

Tidy win: Paul Lambert earned his first league win at Aston Villa

Brad Guzan – Villa’s manager gambled two weeks ago when he dropped Shay Given for the American. But Guzan, who was persuaded to stay by Lambert this summer, rewarded his boss with a crucial last-minute save at St James’s Park. On Saturday, he pulled off a superb save from Ashley Williams’ early header then topped it with a breathtaking stop from Nathan Dyer.

Matthew Lowton – A few eyebrows were raised when Lambert paid Sheffield United, now of League One, 3m for the right-back. Villa already had Scotland international Alan Hutton on the staff. But the defender enjoyed his own perfect day.

Not only did he score a 25-yard opener, but 20 of his family were there to see it, including his mother, Lisa, whose birthday was this weekend. Happy Birthday mum!

Peach: Matthew Lowton smashed one in from way out to open the scoring

Peach: Matthew Lowton smashed one in from way out to open the scoring

MATCH FACTS

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Guzan 7, Lowton 9, Vlaar 8, Clark 8, Lichaj 7; Holman 8, (N’Zogbia 79, 6) El Ahmadi 7, Bannan 7, Ireland 7; (Westwood 71, 6) Weimann 6, (Benteke 71, 7) Bent 6.

Subs: Given, N’Zogbia, Agbonlahor, Bowery, Bennett.

Goals: Lowton 16, Benteke 88

Booked: Clark, Lowton, Lichaj

Swansea City (4-2-3-1): Vorm 5, Rangel 7, Tate 6, Williams 5, Davies 6; Britton 6, (Shechter 79, 6) De Guzman 6; Dyer 7, Michu 5, Routledge 6; (Hernandez 58, 6) Graham 5. (Moore 71, 5)

Subs not used: Tremmel, Ki, Agustien, Richards.

Booked: Michu

Referee: L Mason – 8

Attendance: 34,005

Man of the match: Matthew Lowton

Brett Holman – The Aussie’s industry was highlighted on Match of the Day 2 during Villa’s draw at Newcastle. And he produced more of the same, setting the tempo for the hosts with his ferocious work-rate. It unsettled the Swans who were unable to dominate possession as they normally do.

Ron Vlaar – Awarded the captaincy ahead of Darren Bent, the Dutchman is fast becoming a cult hero of the Holte End. He was Feyenoord’s skipper for two seasons and already looks a force to be reckoned with.

Christian Benteke – The 8m striker from Genk ‘is a right handful,’ according to his manager. Lambert wanted a ‘physical presence’ and the 21-year-old Belgian provides that all right. Scoring the second goal will only help boost his confidence.

‘If Christian tells me it's raining, I’m inclined to believe him,’ joked Villa’s boss at the final whistle.

Confidence boost: Christian Benteke struck the second

Confidence boost: Christian Benteke struck the second

Of course, mention must be made of Lambert himself who has slashed a sluggish squad and appears to have transformed it thanks to an injection of youth and vitality.

It isn’t the finished article yet, but Villa’s fans who saw only their second win in 14 home league matches were certainly happy at the final whistle.

Finally, if it was perfect for Villa, it was less so for Swansea. Brendan Rodgers earned himself a hike up the managerial ladder last season following his success.

However, now teams are starting to develop game-plans to counter their passing style. Michael Laudrup is also trying to implement his own style. It could be a bumpy ride.

London 2012 Olympics rowing: Alan Campbell and Britain men"s pairs win bronze

Bronze for dogged Campbell as Satch and Nash continue rowing success with another medal

|

UPDATED:

21:53 GMT, 3 August 2012

.olympicStats1038148 background:url(http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/07_04/bckg308x110.jpg) no-repeat top left; display:block; width:308px; height:110px; padding:0; font-weight:bold
.olympicStats1038148 ul width:98%; padding:2px; list-style:none; position:relative; top:86px; left:6px; font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif
.olympicStats1038148 ul li a padding:0 2px; font-size:11px; color:#0cac0c; text-decoration:none
.olympicStats1038148 a:hover text-decoration:underline
.olympicStats1038148 ul li float:left; list-style-type: none; padding: 0;

LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

The backbreaking work of winning Britain’s first single sculling medal in 84 years so felled Northern Ireland’s Alan Campbell, all 95 kilos of him, that he could barely make it out of the boat to the medal ceremony afterwards.

Who better to step in and help haul his 6ft 4in frame along than Sir Steve Redgrave, a man who knows better than anyone what it is like to win an Olympic rowing medal.

Pain game: Alan Campbell put it all in to win bronze in the men's single sculls

Pain game: Alan Campbell put it all in to win bronze in the men's single sculls

Pain game: Alan Campbell put it all in to win bronze in the men's single sculls

He duly did so, although Campbell’s
senses had been so assailed that he wept uncontrollably when he had the
bronze hung around his neck, the reward for finishing third behind his
good friend, New Zealander Mahe Drysdale.

Campbell’s endeavours completed a
magical morning for GB rowing that, aside from the women’s double, also
saw a bronze for the youthful men’s pair of Will Satch and George Nash.
That is five medals at Eton Dorney so far for the host nation and by
this lunchtime’s close of the regatta that figure should have gone up to
eight, with possibly five of them gold.

Stars: William Satch and George Nash raise their arms in front of the fans at Eton Dorney

Stars: William Satch and George Nash raise their arms in front of the fans at Eton Dorney

All smiles: William Satch and George Nash show off their bronze medals on the podium

All smiles: William Satch and George Nash show off their bronze medals on the podium

Oar-some: Britain's William Satch (L) and George Nash took bronze in the men's pairs final before congratulating winners Hamish Bond and Eric Murray

Oar-some: Britain's William Satch (L) and George Nash took bronze in the men's pairs final before congratulating winners Hamish Bond and Eric Murray

Punching the air: Bond and Murray toast their emphatic triumph at Eton Dorney

Punching the air: Bond and Murray toast their emphatic triumph at Eton Dorney

We already know they are good at golf
in Northern Ireland and it turns out they produce some decent oarsmen
too, with Campbell’s bronze added to the silver achieved by the Chambers
brothers in the lightweight double.

That pride was partly what lay behind
Campbell’s emotion on the podium, after he had earned his spot there by
holding off Swede Lassi Karonen to nose across the line.

Helping hand: Steve Redgrave helps Campbell out of his boat (above) before he receives his medal (below)

Helping hand: Steve Redgrave helps Campbell out of his boat (above) before he receives his medal (below)

Helping hand: Steve Redgrave helps Campbell out of his boat (above) before he receives his medal (below)

It was also an acknowledgement of
what others have done: ‘It’s hard to grasp just how much has gone into
this,’ said Campbell. ‘It’s not some Rocky film montage. It’s day after
day of gut-wrenching training and a lot of sacrifices.

‘After getting out of the boat I was
pretty out of it. Sir Steve told me to walk it off, to stand tall, that I
could get over it. He has been a great supporter.’

Spurs target Jan Vertonghen fails to resolve Ajax dispute

Spurs target Vertonghen left in limbo as Ajax refuse to budge on transfer cut

|

UPDATED:

23:31 GMT, 6 July 2012

Jan Vertonghen's move to Tottenham
still hangs in the balance after talks between the defender and Ajax
ended without a resolution.

Vertonghen's representatives met Ajax
officials on Friday with the aim of resolving the dispute, which is
holding up his transfer to Tottenham.

Spurred on: Vertonghen wants to join Tottenham

Spurred on: Vertonghen wants to join Tottenham

It is understood the Belgian, who is in the final year of his contract, believes he is entitled to a cut of the reported 9million transfer fee, but Ajax disagree.

The 25-year-old is desperate to join the north London club despite reporting for training with Ajax this week, but the meeting with the Dutch team was not successful.

Vertonghen's agent Mustapha Nakhli said: 'We have nothing (agreed) at this moment.

'They (the talks) were not easy but we are going to try again.'

Nakhli had sounded confident a deal could be struck this morning when his agency released a statement to De Telegraaf which read: “We have a meeting with Ajax at the end of this morning to come to a solution.

'There is some movement and we have the intention to come to an agreement.'

Agreement: Vertonhen's agent is hopeful the deal can be sorted soon

Agreement: Vertonhen's agent is hopeful the deal can be sorted soon

Although the deal is by no means dead
in the water, the fact the talks will drag on into a second day is
frustrating for new Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas, who wants to make
the centre-back his second signing at the club.

The Portuguese has already snapped up
Gylfi Sigurdsson from Hoffenheim and he is determined to add more
youthful players to the ranks.

Brazil midfielder Oscar, 20,
confirmed today Tottenham have contacted him about a potential transfer
from his current club Internacional.

'They (Tottenham) contacted my agent,' Oscar told Brazilian website Lancenet.

'I do not know if there was an official proposal, you'll have to ask my manager or the president.

'I don't know what might happen, I'm not thinking of it right now.

'Not only Tottenham [asked about me],
but I'm not sure if there was an official offer. Offers always come for
me, [team-mate Leandro] Damiao and whoever is showing up.'

Team GB rowers win 12 medals at World Cup

We're oarsome! GB rowers secure 12 medals at World Cup

|

UPDATED:

21:33 GMT, 6 May 2012

It may be too early to herald a gold rush at London 2012, but Great Britain’s rowers flew back from the season’s opening World Cup with almost enough medals to cause an excess baggage surcharge.

In routing nearest opposition Germany to claim the overall team title, they took four golds, six silvers and two bronze from 12 finals contested, apparently confirming that they have the greatest depth of any squad who will be at the Olympics.

The three boats already earmarked by most observers as favourites for this summer all won in heat which caused several British athletes severe, if temporary, physical distress at the end of their races. There was also the promise of other contenders emerging in the next three months.

Top girls: Gold medalists Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger

Top girls: Gold medalists Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger

The scenario could be different by the time we get to London — and not just because there will be no nudist colony 500 metres down from the start line at Eton Dorney, as was the case at this beautiful public lake adjoining the Danube.

Australia and New Zealand were absent yesterday, but what happened was still a reminder that GB’s rowers could rival the cyclists, in whose slipstream they have travelled so far this year, when it comes to podium finishes.

‘Cycling came up with the goods in Beijing so that’s fair enough,’ said performance director David Tanner.

‘I hope we get the recognition but I don’t want more pressure on us than is needed. London is where we have to deliver and it will be very public.

‘I’m very pleased to get medals in 12 events here (out of 14 Olympic classes) and we can move on with confidence.’

Well done: Gold medalists Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter of Great Britain (centre)

Well done: Gold medalists Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter of Great Britain (centre)

He was especially pleased with the
silvers gleaned by the youthful men’s pair of George Nash and Will
Satch, and the double of Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend. Moreover, a
British men’s eight forced to reshuffle in the absence of stroke
Constantine Louloudis gave the all-conquering German boat a scare before
being overhauled to lose by barely three seconds.

The deliberate change of strategy to go all out from the start at one point threatened to cause an upset. ‘I would have thought the Germans will have taken notice of that,’ said cox Phelan Hill, only confirmed in the position last week after his rival Rowley Douglas formally challenged his selection.

‘They are used to having it their own way but we were just ahead at 1,000 metres and gave them something to think about. I don’t think anyone has done that to them since Beijing.

‘We had some changes and maybe lacked a bit of cohesion but I am sure there is more speed to come from this boat.’

Emerging from the long months of winter training, GB’s top three boats won with varying degrees of ease. The defending Olympic champions of the men’s four – reconstituted with Andy Triggs-Hodge at stroke – won easily.

The unbeaten women’s double of Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins, probably GB’s strongest hope of all, withstood a late German charge but were never seriously in danger.

Fours: Silver medalists Peter Chambers, Rob Williams, Richard Chambers and Chris Bartley of Great Britain (centre)

Fours: Silver medalists Peter Chambers, Rob Williams, Richard Chambers and Chris Bartley of Great Britain (centre)

Beijing gold medallists Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter were pushed hardest in the lightweight double scull. The latter was among those whose legs buckled when they hit dry land.

The women’s pair of army captain Heather Stanning and PE teacher Helen Glover completed the roster of winners, showing that they will be very competitive when main rivals New Zealand join the fray.

Even with the limited absentees, which also included certain Americans and Canadians, Britain’s overall margin of victory in the team competition was a crushing one, beating full-strength Germany by 79 points to 47 – and 14 medals to seven – with Holland a distant third.

There are two more World Cups ahead of the Olympics, at Lucerne and Munich. They are staging posts along what looks like a very exciting road.

Doncaster 1 Burnley 2: Charlie Austin"s penalty seals win

Doncaster 1 Burnley 2: Rock bottom Rovers on the brink of drop after Austin's penalty

|

UPDATED:

16:19 GMT, 9 April 2012

Charlie Austin's second-half penalty all but confirmed Doncaster's relegation from the npower Championship as Burnley collected their third win in four matches.

Eddie Howe's youthful side are finishing the season with a flourish after a late winter slump saw them slip out of play-off contention.

Josh McQuoid opened his Burnley account in fine style and the on-loan Millwall winger's 30-yard volley was the difference between the teams at half-time.

Delight: Josh McQuoid (right) celebrates his opening goal

Delight: Josh McQuoid (right) celebrates his opening goal

Match facts

Doncaster: Gary Woods, O'Connor, Lockwood, Hird, Friend, Bennett (Coppinger 46), Stock (Barnes 22), Gillett, Robert (Oster 87), Hayter, Brown.
Subs Not Used: Sullivan, Bagayoko.
Booked: Lockwood.
Goals: Brown 56.

Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Wallace, Stanislas (McCartan 89), Marney, McCann, Ings, Austin, McQuoid.
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Lafferty, Howieson, Hewitt.
Booked: Austin, McCann.
Goals: McQuoid 36,Austin 76 pen.
Att: 8,350
Ref: Nigel Miller (Durham).

The introduction of James Coppinger for injured winger Kyle Bennett at the interval brought about a Rovers revival and the substitute's cross was headed home by Chris Brown to bring the hosts level.

Despite pushing for the victory they desperately needed, Doncaster were caught out by Junior Stanislas' clever through ball in the 76th minute and Adam Lockwood bundled Danny Ings to the ground in the area.

Austin sent Gary Woods the wrong way to condemn Rovers to their ninth game without a win and leave Dean Saunders' men 11 points from safety at the foot of the table with four matches remaining.

Doncaster goalkeeper Carl Ikeme paid for a dreadful error in Saturday's 4-0 defeat at Leicester with his place, as Woods started between the posts in one of nine changes made by Saunders.

Dean Marney replaced hamstring victim Marvin Bartley in the Burnley midfield – Howe's only change.

Ross Wallace was inches away from a spectacular early opener for the Clarets when his sweetly-struck 30 yard effort swerved narrowly wide.

As both sides looked to show attacking intent, Burnley settled into a smooth passing rhythm and at the end of one well-constructed move centre-back David Edgar found himself in the Rovers area to head wide a good chance from Marney's right-wing cross.

In the 21st minute Doncaster midfielder Simon Gillet exchanged passes with Brown and drew a fine save from Clarets goalkeeper Lee Grant with a stinging low effort.

Fabien Robert burst into the Burnley area from the right to send a dipping volley over 10 minute before the interval, but seconds later Rovers were behind.

McQuoid was first to the bouncing ball when Grant's subsequent goal-kick was flicked on and he rifled an unstoppable effort into the top corner.

Stanislas should have doubled Burnley's lead moments after the restart when James O'Connor's slip allowed him to retrieve Austin's cut-back, but the former West Ham winger hesitated and Coppinger got back to tackle.

And Coppinger made his efforts count in the 56th minute when his well-flighted cross was nodded home at the far post by Brown.

Doncaster were revitalised and Giles Barnes – a first-half replacement for injured midfielder Brian Stock – headed straight at Grant from Coppinger's free-kick after Burnley full-back Kieran Trippier earned a booking for bundling Robert to the floor.

A Burnley response was slow in arriving, but Austin tested Woods twice in a matter of minutes midway through the half – the second save a fine parry to the goalkeeper's right after Trippier's cross was headed goalwards.

The home side's comparatively fresher legs made them look the more likely victors, but when Ings got goalside of Lockwood and was brought down referee Nigel Miller had no option to point to the spot, from where Austin calmly converted his fifth goal in four games.

Full-back George Friend almost found a second equaliser, with Grant at full stretch to touch his rising stoppage-time drive over the bar.

Six Nations 2012: Sam Warburton tells Wales to adopt fearless approach

No fear! Warburton tells Wales to take same approach into Six Nations as they did the World Cup

Sam Warburton wants Wales to adopt the same fearless approach that served them so well at the World Cup for the RBS 6 Nations.

Only a dramatic 9-8 defeat by France prevented Warren Gatland's side from reaching the final in a campaign that surpassed all expectations.

The team's youthful exuberance was a key factor behind their success, but the pressure on their shoulders has now risen significantly.

Hands on the prize: Sam Warburton gets his hands on the Six Nations trophy

Hands on the prize: Sam Warburton gets his hands on the Six Nations trophy

Warburton hopes his players are able to emulate level-headed outlook that enabled them to flourish in New Zealand.

'It was a missed opportunity in New Zealand because we missed out on getting to the final by one point,' said Warburton.

'Maybe we were a little bit naive out there in that we didn't realise how big a stage we were playing on.

'We played each game as just another rugby match. We played with no fear and never went into our shells.

Success story: Wales were one of the most entertaining northern hemisphere teams at the World Cup

Success story: Wales were one of the most entertaining northern hemisphere teams at the World Cup

'That will probably be the same message this time – don't think too much about it and ignore all the stuff that goes on off the field. It's just another game of rugby.

'It will be different in the Six Nations because the pressure from the Welsh public wasn't there going into the World Cup.

'We surprised people with how far we got in the competition, but now we're expected to win the Six Nations.

'I was walking past the Millennium Stadium the other day and it said we have three home games, the last of which is Wales v France….and that was the one that had sold out.

Walking away with it: Warren Gatland's Wales are one of the favourites to win the Six Nations

Walking away with it: Warren Gatland's Wales are one of the favourites to win the Six Nations

'Obviously everyone is anticipating that as the championship-winning game. There is more pressure on us, but we're happy with that.'

Coach Warren Gatland believes Welsh rugby has a bright future thanks to the ability and attitude of its emerging stars.

'We've got some real quality and talent. Some of our young players are very exciting and incredibly professional in the way they prepare,' Gatland said.

'I believe we have a special group of young players who will only improve from here.

'What this team is potentially capable of doing is very exciting for Welsh rugby.'

London Olympics 2012: Louis Smith urges Brits to keep their nerve

Smith urges Brit pack to hold nerve as young gymnasts bid for team place at London 2012

The sign in Louis Smith’s sitting room reads ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. It is an adage he intends to follow, but one he fears his British gymnastics team-mates may not.

Today is the team’s Olympic D-Day at the O2 Arena in Greenwich. Finish in the top four of the eight competing nations and they will take their place at London 2012. Fail to do so and one individual in one discipline will go it alone.

Qualification should be a formality because the British line-up is the strongest we have had. Three stars — Smith, Daniel Keatings and Daniel Purvis — are augmented by youthful talent.

Power balance: Louis Smith says his team-mates must show mental strength

Power balance: Louis Smith says his team-mates must show mental strength

But Smith, the Olympic bronze medallist on the pommel horse four years ago, has doubts.

‘We are a young nation in the sport and, although we are doing well, nobody knows what it is like to have expectation, which is why we completely blew out at the World Championships,’ he says of four of the team falling during their high-bars routine and missing out on Olympic qualification back in November.

‘Nobody has been in a position where success is expected. When we failed at the World Championships everybody was like, “Oh my God. I can’t believe this has happened”. The guys were like, “I don’t know what happened. I just slipped off”.

Looking forward: Smith is aiming to improve on his bronze medal of four years ago

Looking forward: Smith is aiming to improve on his bronze medal of four years ago

‘But I was thinking that it was such a strong possibility that this could happen. I was trying to say to them that it was nerves. If you’re ready for a competition and you make uncharacteristic mistakes, more than once, it is nerves. I don’t think they will ever agree with me.’

So can they totally reverse their mistaken mindsets today or — if they do join the British women’s team who have already qualified — at the Olympics this summer

‘I don’t know,’ says Smith, a member of Sportsmail’s Magnificent Seven. ‘It took me two or three years to find a knack of dealing with pressure. You would struggle to do it in six months.

‘The most they can do is to be confident. I have told them to treat it like a training session, to be relaxed, have fun. I like to chill out at the competition. I listen to reggae music. Five minutes before I compete I put a T-shirt over my head and get in the zone.

‘I tell myself, “Look, I’ve done this hundreds of times. Just go up and do it. It’s not a stressful competition”. It is, though. I am just tricking myself.

‘When you are down on the floor and about to compete it is 100 per cent psychological.’

Handling the pressure: Smith relaxes in the gym

Handling the pressure: Smith relaxes in the gym

OUR MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

Tom Daley, diver

Gemma Howell, judoka

Louise Watkin, Paralympic swimmer

Emily Pidgeon, athlete

Shanaze Reade, cyclist

Giles Scott, Finn sailor

Louis Smith, gymnast

Nobody can say that Smith does not
know what he is talking about in this sport that operates on the edge of
its nerves every finely-balanced second. His success in Beijing
represented the first individual Olympic medal by a British male gymnast
since 1908.

He has a Commonwealth title and a clutch of European and world medals to his name.

Smith is speaking in his rented flat
in Peterborough, a bolthole situated close enough to the chicken and
rice on offer at his mum’s house. His career to date has allowed him to
buy a plot of land in the nearby village of Helpston for 100,000. He is
developing it into a three-bedroom house.

National Lottery Magnificent 7 logo

Win gold in London and Smith will
retire at 22 to give his occupational injuries a break and to pursue
business interests — perhaps an adult version of Center Parcs, a
shirtless catering service or the media.

First, he must get to the Olympics.
Yes, Smith might be handed the one individual place in any case, but the
surest route presents itself in competition today.

The message to
the team of Keatings, Purvis, Ruslan Panteleymonov, Kristian Thomas and
Max Whitlock is simple: Keep Calm and Carry On.

Thanks
to National Lottery players, more than 1,200 athletes are benefiting
from world-class support for 2012. The National Lottery is also
contributing up to 2.2bn to the venues and infrastructure for London
2012 and its legacy. www.national-lottery.co.uk/bepartofit