Monday, 30 November 2009

Ireland plead for a 33rd place at the World Cup. Don't hold your breath. But we may get two more refs.

THE Thierry Henry handball fiasco, like Tiger Woods' mysterious car crash, just won't go away. Today, FIFA boss Sepp Blatter informs us the Republic of Ireland have asked for a 33rd place at the World Cup finals in South Africa next June - and he hinted two extra match officials may be used behind either goal at the tournament.
Ireland's reprieve is not going to happen. But it should. Lest we forget, Henry's basketball-style manipulation of the ball with his left arm led to the William Gallas goal which put France through at Ireland's expense in Paris a fortnight ago.
Right-thinking fans around the world - 345,000 of them on a Facebook petition alone, many of them French - demanded a replay. Even the Irish government became involved. But FIFA, being FIFA, declined the tidal wave of support for the replay without adequately explaining why.
Expect little better this time. Blatter, who appears to care only about certain countries and certain controversies (he allowed a replay between Uzbekistan and Bahraine over a disputed refereeing decision in a far less important World Cup qualifier) said only: "I will bring Ireland's request to the attention of the Executive Committee."
He might as well have told our inconsolable Irish neighbours: "Sorry, France are going, you're not. Ya boo."
Angry Irish fans won't be placated by the other titbit offered by Blatter, who finally admitted: "Something has to be done about match control" and suggested FIFA are thinking about introducing two extra officials for the tournament next year.
Once they have dismissed Ireland's request for an extra place at the table, the executive committee will hold "an emergency meeting" to discuss the addition of an extra match official behind either goal.
Their meeting takes place in Cape Town on Wednesday, two days ahead of Friday's eagerly-awaited World Cup draw, which will decide where and when each of the 32 nations plays.
But even if they agree to the change, it won't be put to the international board in Zurich until March. Blatter admitted: "We have only one man on the field of play who can intervene. He has two assistants for the time being, perhaps more in the future. He has to make an immediate decision.
"He has only two eyes. So match control is now is on the agenda. How shall we avoid such situations as we have seen in this very specific match? It's possible we will make additional officials for the World Cup but we have to see if it is feasible or realistic."
Unfortunately for Ireland, Costa Rica feel they were robbed by Uruguay too, citing an offside decision in their play-off defeat. That will, no doubt, be the excuse FIFA needs to keep Ireland out. They will argue if they let one side in, they'll have several demanding a place.
Unfazed, the FA of Ireland released a statement, confirming a 90-minute meeting with Blatter in Zurich last Friday.
The FAI said: "A lot was discussed at the meeting and at one stage the FAI asked if Ireland could be accommodated into the World Cup 2010.
"Other suggestions were also made to mitigate against further occurrences of such incidents, including the use of additional goal-line assistant referees for Fifa international matches, further use of video technology for matches at the highest level, stronger provisions to discourage players from engaging in such blatant breaches of the laws of the game and provisions to strengthen referee selection for such important matches."
Let's hope Blatter was paying attention. One day something might be done. But Ireland's exclusion will not be reversed... and their sense of injustice will take a long time to fade.

Tiger responds. But the questions remain

SO we finally have the word of Tiger Woods. Or, more likely, the carefully-crafted statement of somebody respresenting the world's No1 golfer after his early-morning car crash on Friday.
He asked for "understanding" and blasts the "malicious" rumours surrounding the golfer's wayward driving.
It's on his official website, so we have to believe it's what Tiger feels, rather than the imperious word of the great management company IMG.
As papers all over the world agree the crash came after a golf-club-wielding wife Elin raised the subject of Tiger's alleged liasions with a New York events planner called Rachel Uchitel, but this morning Tiger himself is purported to have said|: "My wife, Elin, acted courageously when she saw I was hurt and in trouble. She was the first person to help me. Any other assertion is absolutely false.
"This incident has been stressful and very difficult for Elin, our family and me. I appreciate all the concern and well wishes that we have received.
"But, I would also ask for some understanding that my family and I deserve some privacy no matter how intrusive some people can be. The many false, unfounded and malicious rumours that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible."
Tiger said the crash, which left him unconscious with facial wounds, was all his fault. He was discharged from hospital on Friday but news of the accident didn't emerge for 12 hours and Tiger has still not been seen in public.
And then we are confronted with Tiger and Elin turning away the Florida police THREE times when they arrived to question him at his Windermere home near Orlando over the weekend.
Sgt Kim Montes of the Florida Highway Patrol said a "chat" about the accident has still not been scheduled with Tiger's lawyers.
Then there are the tapes of the 911 emergency call doing the rounds. A concerned neighbour tells police: "I need an ambulance immediately. I have someone down in front of my house. They hit a pole.".
Police say they were treating the incident as a traffic accident, not a domestic issue. According to the highway patrol, alcohol was not a factor in the incident. Chief Daniel Saylor of the Windermere Police Department said: "From what we understand, his wife came out of the house when she heard the accident, him hitting the fire hydrant, (and) used a golf club - that's what we were told - to break out the rear window to gain entrance into the vehicle, removed him from the vehicle and laid him down in the street.
"He was in and out of consciousness with lacerations to his upper and lower lip, with a little bit of blood in his mouth, but he was conscious enough to be able to speak a little bit. According to my officers, it was not life-threatening injuries."

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Out-powered. Out-classed. For Arsenal, the war is over

SO that's it for another season, Gooners. The Premier League trophy will have to wait for yet another year. After Arsenal 0, Chelsea 3 today, the Blues are 11 points clear of their north London rivals. And that gap is not going to narrow on the evidence of yesterday's showdown.
As Jamie Redknapp said: "Out-powered, out-classed. Chelsea were on another level to Arsenal."
He's right of course. I saw Nigel Winterburn yesterday trying to think of Arsenal players who would get in the Chelsea team. Eduardo and Andrei Arshavin wouldn't have a hope against Didier Drogba, who scored two yesterday, and former Gunner Nicolas Anelka, who simply cut his old side apart. The injured Robin van Persie is hardly in that class either.
Winterburn suggested Thomas Vermaelen, who contributed an own goal yesterday, but given the dominance of John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, I can't see a place for the Verminator either.
And in the middle of the park, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Co are hardly going to be threatened by lightweights like Alex Song, taken off at half-time, and Denilson. Men against boys.
Typically, Arsenal played their pretty football. But despite the imploring Emirates crowd, the shots never came. In front of goal, the loss of Emmanuel Adebayor remains glaring. Wenger's moth-filled wallet should have creaked open for a new striker when the Togo international went to Manchester City, but it never happened.
And the one real chance, where Arshavin scored at 2-0 down in the second half, was righly ruled out for Eduardo's high foot, which took the ball out of Petr Cech's hands.
Drogba, who now boasts ten goals in nine games against Arsenal, said: "I like to play against them. They used to be the team everyone in France supported. I really like a win like this. I was pointing at my right boot as I came off to show the red laces, my part in the campaign against AIDS.
"Last season we showed we could be champions but we lost a lot of points at home. This season, we don't give the opposition any chances. We have more confidence, it's easier."
John Terry said: "Once again, we soaked it up. Going forward, we were exceptional. Our midfielders were going through the middle of them. We have to stay together now. You can see people throwing their bodies in front of balls. Fighting for eachother."
Carlo Ancelotti certainly seems to have his team playing for eachother, a trick Jose Mourinho managed but Avram Grant, Phil Scolari and Guus Hiddink couldn't quite match.
Ancelotti, five points clear at the top, said: "Today in defence we were fantastic. Offensively we could do better, sometimes we lost the ball. We have to stay at the training ground."
Sure, Manchester United shrugged off Portsmouth yesterday with a Wayne Rooney hat-trick - and didn't Ryan Giggs do well - but Chelsea are different gravy.
Of more imporance in north London? Fourth place. Spurs are third at the moment at look like they might stay there after their 1-1 draw against Aston Villa. Fifth-placed Liverpool saw off Everton 2-0 to win the Merseyside derby and start putting pressure on Arsenal.
And Wenger has to accept, as the seats at the Emirates emptied long before the finish, Arsenal fans fear years of under-investment could finally see the Gunners slip out of the top four.
Wenger, whose pledge to end the five-year trophy drought is looking a little hollow, said: "The first part of the game was all us. Their first shot of the game went in. We find ourselves 2-0 down at half-time and it's difficult. We were very unfortunate to be like that a half-time.
"I watched the decision on the goal we scored five times, I still don't understand it. It was their player who had a foot up (as he said that, the television replay showed Eduardo kicking the ball out of Petr Cech's hands before Arshavin's fine finish). We had plenty opportunites where, with a better first touch and more belief, we could score.
"We have nothing to be ashamed of. It all went Chelsea's way today. I was not specially impressed with what happened on the pitch but they took their chances well. We're not in the title race right now but it's up to us to come back into it."
And Arsenal fans everywhere held their head in their hands.

Rout of Africa: England instantly unbeatable in Port Elizabeth

SO this is rapidly becoming the Jekyll and Hyde tour. One minute England are absolute rubbish, bring 'em home, drop the lot. Then they're unbeatable, superb, give them all a knighthood.
Did I say unbeatable? After today's emphatic seven-wicket victory over South Africa in Port Elizabeth that's exactly what Andrew Strauss's men have become, given that they're 2-1 up in the One-Day series with one to play at Durban on Friday. Not bad against a side unbeaten in ODI series since 2002.
Today's victory, set up by a best-ever James Anderson (10-3-5-23, right), superb discipline plus incredible fielding and finished off by Cape Town-born Jonathan Trott's unbeaten 52, was in total contrast to Friday night's record thrashing at the hands of Graeme Smith's men at Newlands.
We blamed that little lot on Strauss's failure to win the toss. He lost it again today and admitted afterwards: "That was a good toss to lose" as a "very disappointed" Smith chose to bat and, despite being 55-3 and 78-4, slumped to 119 all out off just under 37 overs.
Strauss grinned: "We had a good chat about what went wrong in Cape Town and were very accurate today. James Anderson was outstanding, creating pressure and bowling wicket-taking deliveries as well."Anderson said: "We had a chat after the last game because we didn't bowl as well as we could have done. We wanted to come here and bowl a lot better, and luckily we got a wicket (Smith) that helped us with our plans."

They all failed, the great South Africans who had made our lives a misery in Cape Town. Graeme Smith went first, leg before to Stuart Broad for two, Hashim Amla was Anderson's first victim for 11 and the great AB De Villiers was snaffled up by a jubilant Tim Bresnan. He look unhappy with the LBW decision, but it looked pretty good on Sky. But then I would say that. I'm off to cover the four Tests next week and this is just the result England needed.

Somehow, despite the huge gulf between these two sides, were are going to get to the four five-day clashes without losing either the Twenty20 or the ODI showdowns. Amazing.

Yet today England actually looked the tighter, more impressive outfit, just as they had in Centurion a week before. Anderson, shrugging off his injured knee, bowled like a dream, Strauss captained with verve and purpose, bringing Jimmy back quicker than expected to complete his first five-wicket haul in ODIs, Luke Wright, though he didn't bowl that well, finished the Proteas with an astonishing one-handed catch to get rid of Alviro Petersen, South Africa's only batsman on the day with 51 off 79 balls.
Trott led the way in reply, scoring his 52 off 77 balls and though he lost skipper Strauss for 28 after a 74-run opening partnership, Eoin Morgan joined him with 28 off 38 to complete victory. Oh, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood failed but by then, who cared?
Durban on Friday becomes a real contest, with South Africa desperate to bounce back, struggling to retain that unbeaten home record. But somehow, it won't matter. England are unbeatable!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

One win in seven, but South Africa are favourites in Port Elizabeth

SOUTH AFRICA'S rugby team return home this week with an unwanted record of just one win in five games. After today's 15-10 defeat against Ireland, the World Cup-winners fly home having beaten just Italy on their trip to Europe, with defeats against France, Leicester and Saracens to add to today's 15-10 defeat in Dublin. Shocking!
Their cricket team of course is in even worse shape. In their last seven One-Day International showdowns against England they've won just once. Not great for the No1 ranked Test nation. Nearly as bad as their football team, still switching coaches and begging stars to play six months before football's World Cup kicks-off in Johannesburg on 11 June next year.
But let's be honest, that's a cheap dig at Graeme Smith's Proteas. They are in a different league to the Rainbow Nation's football and rugby sides right now.
Friday's clash at Newlands saw a comprehensive victory for the Proteas, with centurion AB De Villiers imperious in a 118-run triumph which levels the series at 1-1 with two to play. Home skipper Graeme Smith says he now intends to make life very diffficult for Andrew Strauss, who insists his side are "still a work in progress".
The teams flew up the Garden Route at the crack of dawn this morning for tomorrow's clash at Port Elizabeth with Paul Collingwood, fresh from scores of 105 not out and 86, insisting: "We're straight back into a game tomorrow, but in many ways that's a good thing. I feel in very good form at the moment - I'm seeing the ball well. I'm enjoying the wickets out here, I gained a lot of confidence from playing in the Champions Trophy on faster and bouncier wickets.
"My confidence is high, and it's amazing what you can do when confidence is that high."
You can say that again. A couple of weeks into the tour it looked like a bad back might force him out of action. Now he says: "It's settling down. I think I've just got to control it as much as possible. Touch wood, everything feels fine at the moment - and I hope we can get another win."
England's other wounded troops, James Anderson (knee), Graeme Swann (side) and Stuart Broad (shoulder), should all be okay to resume battle tomorrow but having let the South Africans get a near-record 354-6 on Friday, the return of Swann and Broad didn't have quite the impact England were hoping for in Cape Town... where losing the toss was a huge drawback.
While Strauss practices his coin-tossing, South Africa are sweating on the dodgy hamstring of the world's No1 pace bowler Dale Steyn, though they have the consolation of knowing Wayne Parnell and Morne Morkel returned to take eight wickets between them in Cape Town. Charl Langeveldt is ready to step up and Smith says: "If Dale doesn't play we will miss him dearly. But the positive side is it gives someone else the opportunity to rise to the occasion."

On a weekend when Tiger Woods crashed his car, Wayne Rooney scored a hat-trick and West Ham enjoyed a high five, tomorrow sees further huge sporting showdowns including this one in Port Elizabeth and, in London, the make-or-break game for Arsenal against Premier League leaders Chelsea. As a cricketing Gooner, I predict a sad Sabbath. South Africa and Chelsea will seize the day. As for Real Madrid v Barcelona, on immediately after the Arsenal v Chelsea clash... it's got to be Barca.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Tiger Woods: It happened something like this

SO the truth about Tiger Woods' accident in Florida yesterday morning at 2.25am is beginning to leak out. It wasn't just a simple car crash as anyone with a nose for these things suspected all along.
And yes, it did involve the allegations surrounding Rachel Uchitel, a New York-based events planner who follows the world's No1 golfer around the world.
According to most sources this morning, Tiger's Swedish supermodel wife Elin Nordegren, 29, reacted to National Enquirer pictures leaked on the internet, showing Uchitel entering a hotel in Melbourne where Tiger was staying when he played in Australia this month.
Tiger may be the world's first sporting billionaire but no marriage can survive such pressure. Elin, mother of his two children, lashed out. Tiger leapt into his Cadillac SUV and crashed into the now-infamous fire hydrant and tree.
Some reports suggest Elin then helped him out of the car by smashing the rear windscreen with a golf club. Others are more sceptical, suggesting her actions caused the crash.
Suspicions over the crash were first raised when it emerged that a total news blackout had surrounded the incident for 12 hours. There were also suggestions Tiger had been admitted to hospital under an assumed name.
Details remain sketchy but what is clear is that, after the crash, Tiger was unconscious for six minutes and has sustained some kind of facial injuries, from the accident or from his wife, or a combination of both.
Gary Bruhn, mayor of Windermere, just outside Orlando, where Tiger lives, said: "There were facial lacerations and he was treated. This was an accident. Nothing special."
But Windermere Police Chief Daniel Saylor said Elin was standing over Tiger in the street as shocked neighbours gathered. One local brought him a pillow and a blanket.
Police arrived to find the champion semi-conscious. Saylor said: "He had lacerations to his upper and lower lip, and a little bit of blood in his mouth. They asked his wife what happened. She said the car hit a fire hydrant then a tree.
"When he woke up, he tried to get up and lost consciousness. Ms Nordegren was very distraught, very upset."
Tiger's agents IMG and the hospital both moved to calm the growing speculation, suggesting he was "fine" and in "good condition" but until Tiger himself talks - and shows the world his injuries - the speculation will continue.
What is clear is that drink was not involved. But Tiger could face a charge for not wearing a seat-belt. Hopefully sensible forces in Orange County will choose to overlook that minor offence on a night when Tiger's life, for once, veered wildly off the fairway.
And the worst drive of his life will soon become consigned to history.
But Ms Uchitel, 34, whose husband died in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, will not be able to slip quietly out of the limelight.
The New York Daily News said today she sent them a message from her Facebook page that read: "There is NO relationship with Tiger. I resent my name being slung thru the mud."
But she told the New York Post: "God forbid Tiger got into a car wreck because of this false report of him having an affair."
Tiger is currently holed up at home at when officers from the Florida Highway Patrol tried to interview him, they were turned away.
What is clear is that this is no sports story. Just a near-tragic tale of ordinary life, which can leave even the super-rich lying injured in the road.
Perhaps it's time to return to England's thrashing at the hands of South Africa in Cape Town yesterday, or Arsenal's crucial showdown against Chelsea tomorrow. It feels more comfortable.

Tiger Woods "fine" says agent, hospital say he's in "good condition"

TIGER WOODS is "just fine" according to his agent Mark Steinberg as the mystery over his early morning car crash deepened. Early reports suggested the world's No1 golfer was seriously injured in an accident near his home in Isleworth, north of Tampa in Florida.
But both the mayor of the town, Gary Bruin, and Steinberg, vice-president of the International Management Group, have denied those reports, insisting Woods has been released from hospital with facial injuries after hitting a tree and a fire hydrant.
A statement from the Health Central Hospital in Ocoee said: "Tiger Woods was in a minor accident. He came in last night and was released today. He was in good condition."
The hospital would not say what injuries he had suffered amid rumours he checked in under a different name.
Nobody else was in the car but police say the incident was "not alcohol-related" - though one report suggested "charges are pending" and that "an investigation is pending".
Woods was driving his Cadillac SUV which apparently ricocheted off the fire hydrant into the tree. The airbags did not detonate, suggesting he was travelling at low speed according to Florida Today.
The accident happened at 2.25am local time this morning - and news of the incident took over 12 hours to emerge. Woods lives in Orange County with his wife, Swedish supermodel Elin Nordegren, 29, and their son and daughter - they met at the 2001 British Open.
Woods has won 93 tournaments including 14 “majors” and was the world’s highest-paid professional athlete last year, earning an estimated $110 (£66 million) from winnings and endorsements. He became sports first ever billionaire dollar earner earlier this year.

John 'Influencial' Terry: England captain and marketing tool

"The FIFA 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa are fast approaching. John Terry is available to create effective brand awareness and endorse products and services globally. He has been voted one of the world's most influencial people."
Yes, influencial. Get the spell-checker out. Good old JT. Fluent in English he is. And in case his PR company have missed it, that's INFLUENTIAL mate. Except when it comes to taking penalties against Manchester United in European Cup finals in Moscow. Then he's just effluential.
The Daily Mail makes a huge deal of the selling of England's captain before next year's World Cup today, complaining he's "putting the nation's armband on sale". And they're right. It stinks. The man is on £170,000 a week. At least. A couple of years ago I sneaked a peek at an international star's monthly wage packet at Liverpool. Apart from the basic £82,000-a-week, he was paid all kinds of win bonuses, training bonuses, Champions League bonuses and extras to do with his house, car and sundries. I'm sure Terry gets plenty of that.
Yet here he is, six months before the greatest footballing show on earth, presenting himself as a marketing tool (rather an apt expression in this context) rather than quietly getting on with the job of leading England to the World Cup after 44 years of hurt. Sir Bobby Moore must be turning in his grave.
A company called Riviera Entertainment are behind the campaign (pictured). They were appointed by Elite Management, Terry's agents. Interestingly, Elite Management, to quote their press release "is owned and controlled by John Terry’s long term friends Paul Nicholls and Keith Cousins."
So at least we know it's not just John Terry who's getting millions for being England captain. All his pals are in on the act too.
The bits they don't mention in their puff for big John? His mum Sue was arrested for shoplifting £800 of goods including dog food and flip-flops from Marks & Spencers in March this year. His dad John Snr, was filmed arranging a drug deal by the News of the World earlier this month. The Daily Mail are quick to remind us of both points.
But we don't need to know that. Elite tell me: "Terry is the main face for the Umbro sportswear brand. He has also appeared in adverts for Samsung, Nationwide
and has been the face of King of Shaves. He has a sponsorship deal with football gaming series Pro Evolution Soccer, and appears on the cover of the UK version of ‘Pro Evolution Soccer 6’ with Brazilian international Adriano."
Thanks lads. Let's hope he gets lots more exposure in the build up to the World Cup. He deserves it. And perhaps on Sunday, when Chelsea could end Arsenal's title hopes and take an 11 point lead over the Gunners, he'll be too busy imagining his future riches to stop Eduardo's hat-trick.
We can dream...

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Fancy glasses, flashy cars and England's South Africans

GRAEME SMITH came perilously close to accusing England's four South African-born players of being too keen on "fancy glasses and flashy cars" before tomorrow's massive third One-Day International at Newlands.
The no-nonsense Proteas captain (pictured), possibly in shock at finding himself 1-0 down in the series with three to play, said: "Look, for me I always had a dream of playing for South Africa and it has worked out. I think it's a good job now, being a cricketer for your country. I feel playing for South Africa has brought a nation together, it's carried the nation.
"The only thing we need to work on is the value of the Rand!"
And turning to those like Andrew Strauss, Matt Prior, Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott who were born in South Africa but chose to pursue a career with England, he said: "There are some players not ready to just do the work, to wait for it to happen like I did.
"It's more about the financial rewards. Some players want the fancy glasses, the fancy cars."
But he insisted the drain of talent is coming to an end, adding: "What's really encouraging is we've seen lately a lot of players are coming back into our system from the County game where they were Kolpak players, it's encouraging from out perspective."
Though Smith's comments were not directly aimed at the quartet of expats, there's no doubt the South Africans will be keeping an extra-close eye on their former countrymen over the next two months.
With the four-Test series starting on December 16, this One-Day war is seen as vital for momentum after England were highly fortunate to grab a 1-1 draw in the Twenty20 showdowns. South Africa have a great record in Cape Town, but the side batting first has won 20 of the last 25 ODIs in the shadow of Table Mountain.
The good news for England is that injured Nottinghamshire pair Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann may both be back for Newlands tomorrow.
Last Sunday at Centurion, rampant England might have had just two weak links - inconsistent seamer Sajit Mahmood and woefully out-of-form spinner Adil Rashid. Broad and Swann will slot in easily to strengthen the attack - and both can bat a bit too.
A stronger, fitter England will worry the South Africas with captain Andrew Strauss saying: "Broadie looks 100 percent now after the shoulder injury and it will be great to have him back.
"Swannie bowled for the first time in the nets, so he may be ready too. To be honest he's been a pain in the dressing-room. Too much energy! It would be great to have him back too.
"There is a long-term plan in improving our one-day cricket - and these sorts of games are the ones that can really take us forward
"We've said in the past we've always responded well to defeat, but we have not been quite so great on building on a good performance. We're going to try to put ourselves under a bit of pressure this game to make sure we build on that."
The only bad news on the England front? Former coach and Sky commentator David "Bumble" Lloyd, clearly a Lancastrian as opposed to archetypal Yorkshireman Geoffrey Boycott, complains on Twitter: "Mortified..bloke just come up and said ,“ Hi, Geoffrey." Ouch.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Newlands awaits a Broad side and England are having a whale of a time

JUST three words from Stuart Broad and a buoyant England camp in Cape Town is positively bubbling. "I feel good," says the Nottinghamshire paceman - or should we say all-rounder - after a couple of weeks out struggling with a dodgy shoulder.
Given that England crushed the South Africans at Centurion by seven wickets last Sunday, that's just what coach Andy Flower will want to hear in the city of his birth... though Sajid Mahmood may suffer for it when the team is picked for Newlands on Friday.
Mahmood looks like being the fall-guy for Broad's return after conceding 92 runs from seven overs in the drawn Twenty20 series and seven overs for 41 at Centurion last Sunday.
But let's not be negative. England are on a run of six successive one-day wins over the hosts and after last Friday's rained-off opening ODI, they are 1-0 up in this series with three to play.
Another win and a morale-boosting series triumph before the four Tests start on December 16 will appear on the horizon.
Broad's larger-than-life Notts pal Graeme Swann twitters to keep us up to date with the background to the team's current plight in mid-summer Cape Town, one of the finest cities in the world. He said: "300 miles on a Harley Davidson, great white sharks and whales. Not the worst day that! Apart from sunburnt hands!"
That can be loosely interpreted as a motorbike trip to Hermanus to see the great monsters of the sea. Not a bad way to prepare for another massive showdown against a side hovering around the top of the world rankings. And all this in a city which proclaims in today's newspapers: "Trott's coming home", a reference to the Capetonian roots of England's in-form batsman Jonathan.
And there was Broady yesterday, in the shadow of the stupendous Table Mountain, training with the rest of them at Newlands... and looking tip-top, ready to repeat his Ashes-winning performance from last summer. Hopefully.
He said: "It's been a tricky couple of weeks getting my shoulder right but I feel back to full fitness and excited if selected for Friday.
"We've built some momentum but it's important we kick on from here. There's only three one-dayers left in the series so this is going to be huge for us."
Swanny was out and about too yesterday after his rib injury. With Adil Rashid bang out of form and emergency call-up James Tredwell yet to play international cricket, Swann's needed in the spin department. Elsewhere, pacemen Graham Onions and James Anderson plus opening bat Alistair Cook are all struggling for fitness.
Strange that. Broad, Cook and Anderson all injured... and all three featured in our picture (above) in a shoot for sponsors Hugo Boss. That'll teach 'em! Please feel free to comment on this post... or even, dare I say it, follow me. Pleeeeease!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Liverpool bitten by Lyon... now for the Europa League

DEPENDING which paper you read, Liverpool lost anything from £10m to £40m last night when they failed to qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions League.
Quite how that odd American couple, Gillette and Hicks, will take this loss of earnings on their Anfield investment is not yet known. But under-fire boss Rafa Benitez, now talking about winning the Europa League, knows he's got a job on his hands.
Sure, the Reds won 1-0 at pointless Debrecen but with Lyon understandably losing 1-0 at Fiorentina, qualification from Group E is now beyond them. Would you want to win or draw if it meant going to Anfield and playing for your lives?
Poor old Liverpool. Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard have been battling injury all season and they're a modest 7th in the Premier League, five points behind Spurs in fourth. We won't even mention the beach ball.
Dramatically, Sky Sports 2 showed Gerrard watching the final minutes of the game in Fiorentina on a screen in the tunnel at the Ferenc Puskas stadium in Budapest. Gutted. He didn't stop to talk when the whistle went. Later he said: "You get what you deserve in football. The disappointing thing was having to rely on other people. We have played well today but now we have to try and move on, build on tonight and, with a lot of players coming back from injury, try and win the Europa League.
"Of course its disappointing. The Champions League is the main trophy at the start of the season but the only consolation now is to try and win the Europa League."
And Benitez emerged briefly to say: "I am 100% confident we will finish in the top four in the Premier League this season."
And all this while Arsenal were merrily skipping through to the last 32 with a game to spare. Their 2-0 win over Belgium's Standard Liege came courtesy of welcome goals for the returning Denilson and Samir Nasri (pictured).
Quite an improvement after Saturday's demoralising 1-0 defeat at the hands of Sunderland and their former Spurs striker Darren Bent. No need to mention the two penalties turned down in front of the Emirates crowd... or the double rattling of the woodwork by the Belgians, who had a man sent off late on. Funny how we don't notice these things when English clubs are winning. Former Gunner Paul Merson did. He pointed out in the Sky studios: "What worries me is they were dominant throughout but they still could have lost this game. Liege had a stonewall penalty and a couple of clear chances. Any team that plays Arsenal knows they're always in with a chance, they can always nick a goal."
Another small point before the London showdown against Premier League leaders Chelsea on Sunday: William Gallas took a nasty blow to the eye and looked concussed after clashing heads with Andrei Arshavin, while Kieran Gibbs limped off with what looked like a recurrence of his ankle injury. But still, they're through for the 10th season in a row, joining Chelsea and Manchester United, whatever they do tomorrow night.
Rangers are out too, beaten 2-0 by Stuttgart... and they don't even get the consolation of a late place in the Europa League as they finish bottom of Group G.
The good news for UEFA came in Spain where Barcelona eased the threat of non-qualification with a 2-0 win over Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan in fascinating Group F. Rumours of Thierry "Hand of Gaul" Henry diving twice in the first half have yet to be confirmed.
Bad news for Portsmouth fans with manager Paul Hart departing (former Chelsea boss Avram Grant is waiting in the wings), good news for Wycombe, the Division One strugglers, who followed up their shock 2-0 win at Millwall with a 1-0 win over Brentford last night.

I'm not like Maradona says Henry, the mouth of God

THIERRY HENRY should not be judged in the same bracket as fellow Hand-of-God user Diego Maradona. And who says so? Erm... Thierry himself.
Today we are assailed by another avalanche of self-justification and bluster from the man who cheated to put France through to the World Cup finals in South Africa next year, courtesy of a blatant handball.
Maradona did the same for Argentina in the World Cup quarter-final against England in Mexico 23 years ago but never admitted he cheated, preferring to refer to his deft finish over Peter Shilton as "the Hand of God".
Henry apparently feels he has the Mouth of God as he attempts to wriggle out of the situation he has created for himself.
The 32-year-old Frenchman has been under pressure ever since his basketball-style move helped make the crucial goal for William Gallas in Paris last week, but as the 450,000 strong Facebook petition to have the game replayed fades in FIFA's memory, the Barcelona striker says: "I was in a situation where, whatever happened, I couldn't have won. At a certain point I thought I had done something very seriously wrong. After the game I went to a press conference to say I had touched the ball with my hand.
"That is not like Maradona or Messi (his Barcelona team-mate Lionel also scored with his hand once, perhaps the Nou Camp has an expert on hand to explain this), I could have easily avoided it and not said a word.
"But I did not run away from my responsibilities. On Friday, when everything went too far, I was really upset."
Hold on a bit Thierry, most of Ireland and the rest of the football-speaking world were upset too. With you. And it hasn't helped that the perfectly acceptable idea of a replay - agreed as "the fairest solution" by you and a million others - appears to have been firmly shelved by FIFA.
Despite yesterday's claim that he nearly quit playing for France over the incident, Henry adds: "I've always fought for Les Bleus. Like a dog. I won't let my country down."
No, Thierry, you've already done that. Last Wednesday. With your left arm.
And like Maradona, that single act will define your career.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Trott's colours nailed firmly to the England mast

JONATHAN TROTT'S creed, his mantra, may help to explain how he is able to return to Newlands, Cape Town's magnificent cricketing bowl in the shadow of Table Mountain, with such confidence... batting, if you'll pardon the expression, for the other side.
The former Western Province batsman - perhaps we should call him an all-rounder after his performance in the second One-Day International triumph over South Africa on Sunday - plays at his old home ground for the tourists on Friday expressing this philosophy: "I'm always trying to better myself."
So far, Trott (pictured) is successfully treading the path broken so controversially by Pietermaritzburg-born Kevin Pietersen in 2005. And he is bettering himself with every innings
Trott scored 87 at Centurion over the weekend to help Paul Collingwood put England 1-0 up in the five-match ODI series after the opening game at The Wanderers on Friday was monsooned-off.
He also bowled seven overs for 21 runs, earning Ian Botham's heartfelt praise: "As an all-rounder, he was a revelation."
And who can forget his Test debut in the summer when, with KP in hospital and Ricky Ponting on the sledge, he scored 41 and 119 in the final Test at The Oval against Australia to help seal the Ashes for his adopted country? Instant runs, instant confidence at the heart of the storm.
Between those two innings, while he was mysteriously left out of the one-day humiliation against the Aussies, he was accused by former captain Michael Vaughan of celebrating with the South Africans after their Test series win in England last year, a week after being 12th man for the home side.
Nasty stuff which put huge pressure on a tour rookie, but it sold books, I guess.
Ian Jonathan Leonard Trott, who also managed 33 and 51 in the drawn Twenty20 series last week, appears unfazed. He says before Friday's showdown in the town of his birth: "It adds a little edge to it for me. But I'm going to have to put the emotions of coming back here to one side. Everyone wants to play at Lord's and the SCG but for me, I always wanted to come and play back at Newlands and be part of a winning England side."
So South Africans - including coach Mickey Arthur who insists Trott wouldn't make his current top six batters - can now rearrange these words into a commonly used phrase: "Colours, mast, nailed, firmly, the, to."
Promoted to opener in place of Kent's Joe Denly, Warwickshire's Trott, whose father Ian coaches in Leatherhead, nails things down still further, insisting in his still-heavy Seffeffriken accent: "I'm really happy to be sitting here part of an England team which has just won in South Africa.
"It's just the same as when I walked out against Australia in that first Test match. I try not to get too wound up about it. I just try to bring my Warwickshire processes into playing for England. Just like all the other guys in the team, I'm always trying to better myself."
Let's just get the Trott story right. Yes, he went to Rondebosch High on the slopes of Table Mountain. Yes, he attended Stellenbosch University, home of the Afrikaner intellectual and yes, he captained South Africa's Under 19s.
But like so many others in South Africa, he grew up with the knowledge that his grandparents were solidly British. England were not necessarily the enemy. Remember Basil D'Oliveira, Tony Greig, Robin Smith and Allan Lamb had gone there before, not to mention Zola Budd and Gary Bailey, long before KP. It's tough to understand that if you haven't lived over there.
Trott's two early Twenty20s against the West Indies in 2007 didn't go too well but after averaging 90 in the County game last year, he was always going to be the next up once Pietersen had gone down with an Achilles problem and Ravi Bopara had failed one too many times.
Forget Mark Ramprakash and Marcus Trescothick, at 28, Trott had to be the future. Has been ever since he made his debut for the Warwickshire 2nd XI in 2002 and scored 245. A year later he scored 134 on his first team debut. And along the way he grabbed a seven-wicket haul with the seamers the South Africans failed to deal with last Sunday.
Trottsky is likely to be joined the fit-again Pietersen, Matt Prior and Andrew Strauss over the coming weeks. But, like the other three South African-born Englishmen, he has nailed those colours to the mast.
The man who came through the South African schoolboy ranks with currently injured Jacques Kallis, Protea's captain Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs - recalled to the South African side today - and Ashwell Prince leaves no room for doubt: "I won't let any outside emotions affect my decision-making on the field. I'm looking forward to contributing to another win. For England."

Abandoned Henry: I nearly quit playing for France after hand Gaul

Thierry Henry says today he felt “abandoned” by the French Football Federation last week – and insists he nearly quit international football after his blatant handball put the Republic of Ireland out of the 2010 World Cup in Paris last Wednesday.
Henry, whose basketball-style left-handed dribble set up the crucial goal for William Gallas, admitted he handled the ball but insisted: “I am not the referee” as the furore over his apparently deliberately actions raged.
While over 200,000 joined a Facebook petition and arranged a protest march to have the game replayed, Henry twittered it was “the only fair solution” but added: “It’s out of my control.”
And throughout it all, France’s top scorer with 51 goals insists he received no help or advice from French football or FIFA, who both declined the invitation to replay the game, despite the sour taste left by the French play-off triumph.
Henry explained how he and his lawyer issued the statement on Friday in which he said that a replay of the second leg would be the "fair solution” just hours after world FIFA had given a categoric NO.
Barcelona’s former Arsenal favourite Henry, 32, told L’Equipe this morning: "After the game, and even for the next two days, I felt alone, truly alone. It was only after I sent my statement that people from the French federation appeared.
"Despite everything that has happened, the fact of feeling abandoned, I do not let go of (playing for) my country.”
And Henry admits: "Yes, I asked myself the question should I retire from international football
"Without the support of my family, I perhaps would not have made the same decision.
"But I will always fight to the end - even if what just happened will be engraved in history. You can always forgive but you cannot always forget."
As for his apparently guilt-free celebration after the goal, Henry confessed: "I should not have done it. But frankly, it was uncontrollable. After all that had happened... yes, I regret it. That's why right after I spoke with the Irish one by one."
So what, in the light of this do we "hand" it to Thierry for his selfless decision to keep playing for a discredited France in South Africa next year... or do we wonder why he didn't threaten to quit UNLESS the French agreed to a replay. That way, he may just have polished up that tarnished reputation a little.

Trott the all-rounder? A revelation from Botham

IAN BOTHAM, who knows a thing or two about all-rounders, picked out Jonathan Trott’s performance in the thumping seven-wicket win over South Africa yesterday as “a revelation”
While the immediate headlines surrounded the performance of Paul Collingwood, who took two wickets, a superb catch and scored an undefeated 105 in his record 171st one-day international for England, Botham went straight to Trott’s performance with bat and ball in his post-match analysis.
The Sky Sports commentator and former England captain said: “You have to look carefully at what Trott (pictured) did out there. He scored 87 and bowled seven overs for nothing (21, the most economical England bowler). England are having to learn to live without Andrew Flintoff and Trott will help them do that.
“It’s been a real revelation for England. South Africa are struggling without their all-rounder Jacques Kallis (broken rib) but we have Trott, Paul Collingwood, Luke Wright and Tim Bresnan who can do both now.”
Botham appears genuinely optimistic about England’s chances after they eased past South Africa’s 250-9 with seven wickets and four overs to spare.
With South African captain Graeme Smith admitting: “There is a realisation we’re in for a long, hard summer of cricket,” Beefy argues: “We all want to see a vibrant and punchy England side going at it hammer and tongs with the opposition.
“The best one-day teams in the world are front runners - the Australians and the Indians. I think Andrew Strauss finally recognises that. He was conservative in the West Indies, but he has been captain for a year now and I expect to see him blossom in charge.”
Collingwood, who overtook Alec Stewart as his country's most capped player in the ODIs, said: "It was a big day for me on a personal note.We were quite comfortable in the end. It was a special performance by all the boys really."
But the Durham dynamo also picked out Trott after their 162-run third-wicket partnership. Trott opened for the first time, replacing Kent’s Joe Denly, and fell just 13 runs short of a maiden one-day ton.
Collingwood purred: "It was a top knock by Trotty. He really played the anchor role. "Credit to him, all the international innings he's played so far have been special ones and hopefully that continues. He’s taken his county game to the international level."
England captain Strauss, who dropped three catches and scored just 16 off a sluggish 26 balls, did the vital thing - winning the toss - and said: "Jonathan and Paul both played exceptionally well. We always felt we could chase down 250 but we needed to get stuck in and build a partnership.
The great disappointment yesterday? Adil Rashid, once more England's least economical bowler. The young Yorkshire spinner, hit for four sixes in the only over allowed him in last week’s crushing Twenty20 defeat on the same ground, bowled just three overs for 27, leaving the door open for Kent’s James Tredwell to make his debut in the third one-day international at Newlands in Cape Town on Friday.
Tredwell, England’s Under 19 captain back in 2002, took 95 wickets in all forms of the game last season and he can bat a bit as well, with two first class tons and a 16 fifties for Kent.
The only other thing England need to worry about on Friday? The captain’s hands. After dropping those three catches, Strauss said: "That was the one negative. My hands went missing somewhere. I'll have to do some practice before Newlands on Friday."

Hobbling Becks and Galaxy of stars lose in shoot-out

DAVID BECKHAM was forced to play 120 minutes with an ankle injury last night as LA Galaxy went down 5-4 on penalties in the MLS final after being held 1-1 by Real Salt Lake at Seattle.
The former England captain, scheduled to join AC Milan on loan next year in a bid to keep himself in Fabio Capello's thinking for the World Cup in South Africa next year, needed three painkilling injections on his bruised joint to make the glitzy showdown in front of 46,000 but he was clearly struggling - particularly in extra-time when he wandered up front to hobble about after the Galaxy had made their maximum three substitutions.
Beckham, who has also been suffering a "persistent cold" admits that, at 34, the "bones start to ache that bit more" and he looked like he could do with a break until the transfer window opens and he can return to Serie A action in January.
Still, Beckham was able to stick away the first penalty in the shoot-out only for the MLS's Most Valuable Player Landon Donovan to miss his first-ever spot-kick as the Galaxy threw it away.
Beckham and Donovan - at loggerheads early in the season after the American accused Becks of a lack of commitment - combined to produce the opening goal for Mike Magee four minutes before half-time.
But former Galaxy striker Robbie Findley levelled for Salt Lake in the 64th minute and, after seven minutes of injury time, the extra half-hour failed to separate the Galaxy's stars and the MLS's newest franchise.
Beckham, with his sticky-up Jedward hairstyle lampooned by the US commentators (see picture, they said "he loves to draw attention to himself", "he considers himself a fashionista off the pitch"), bravely stuck away his penalty in the shoot-out but Donovan, Jovan Kirovski and Edson Buddle all missed as it went to sudden-death and after £12m and three seasons, the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder failed to join Trevor Steven (Everton, Marseille, Rangers) as a title winner in three different countries.
Beckham said: “It’s quite a few times I’ve lost on penalty shoot outs now. It was Russian roulette, not a nice way to lose, but we can be proud of ourselves for getting to this point. But that’s the way it is in soccer.”
And with rumours that he will buy his own MLS franchise next season, Beckham insisted: “I’ll definitely be back to win the MLS title.”
Donovan said: "What you don't see is that this guy has been hurt or sick for probably the last seven games but he just gets on with it."

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Nine? Nein! Nine! Be very afraid of Spurs and Jermain man

GOONERS everywhere be afraid. Be very afraid. Tottenham stuck nine, yes nine, past Wigan at White Hart Lane today. And Jermain Defoe, the little big guy who should play every England game alongside Wayne Rooney, stuck away five of them, including three in eight minutes, the second fastest hat-trick in the history of the Premiership.
Not since Manchester United put nine without reply past Ipswich in 1995 has the Premier League seen anything it. And Wigan... well, they've just never seen anything like it.
Remember, Roberto Martinez's side beat runaway leaders Chelsea 3-1 on 26 September. Incredible. I tend to put two quid a week on seven results as an accumulator, often at odds of 500-1... but this one scoreline was a 750-1 shot at Corals.
It was one of those rare results that come up on the teleprinter (aka the internet) with the score in words next to the number. Just so we know it's not a typing mistake.
There's no point trying to run you through it, this is a blog, not War and Peace. The goals went like this: Crouch 9, Defoe 51, Defoe 54, Defoe 58, Lennon 64, Defoe 69, Defoe 87, Kirkland (og) 88 and finally Kranjcar, four minutes into injury time.
Defoe (yes, he's the 5ft 6in one above, with Peter Crouch) said afterwards he was hoping "to score a few more" while Redknapp oozed "Jermain looked like that yesterday in training, he looks so sharp that I just thought if he can carry that into the game he's going to be a real handful today for their back four.
"All the strikers have been in great form. Robbie's (Keane) had a four this year, now Jermain's had five, Crouchy's had a three. So it's nice to have your strikers all scoring goals.
Martinez looked stunned, as well he should after an afternoon of chronically bad defending which will reduce Alan Hansen to a sloppy mess if he ever gets to review it. The Wigan boss groaned: "It was unacceptable and unexpected. The way we defended in key moments was not good enough.
"I am embarrassed as it's a result we don't want to be associated with. We need to move on quickly and give a good reaction in the next game.
"I've never been involved in a game like this. But the damage of this won't be carried into the next game."
Don't bet on it Roberto.
All this of course on a weekend when rivals Arsenal failed to score against Sunderland, who scored the only goal through Darren Bent. No prizes for guessing where he was before Defoe returned to White Hart Lane from Portsmouth to rejoin Redknapp - and left Bent surplus to requirements.
At the top, Chelsea crushed Wolves 4-0 and Manchester United were too much for Everton, with Darren Fletcher scoring a cracker in a 3-0 win. Liverpool dropped further off the top four and had to come from 2-1 down to draw 2-2 against Manchester City. On another goal-happy weekend, West Ham came back to draw 3-3 at Hull, Birmingham beat Fulham 1-0 and Aston Villa came from behind to draw 1-1 at Burnley.
Today's less one-sided games? Ricardo Fuller's first Premier League goal of the season was enough to see Stoke beat Portsmouth - without injured goalkeeper David James - and Blackburn beat Bolton 2-0 with goals from David Dunn and an own goal from Sam Ricketts. That makes 34 goals in 10 games, another corking weekend for goals in the Premier League. Unless you're Roberto Martinez.

Record-breaking Collingwood's clout of Africa

PAUL COLLINGWOOD take a bow. Two wickets and an undefeated century as he broke Alec Stewart's record of 170 England one-day international appearances - and South Africa crushed by seven wickets. What a day for the Man of the Match. Oh, and typically, a flying catch at backward point to dismiss danger man AB De Villiers for two.
The Durham dynamo (left, with me at The Oval earlier this year) ended with 2-24 off six overs with the ball as South Africa could only manage 250-9 off their 50 overs at Centurion. Then, with a little help from Jonathan Trott, 87, and Eoin Morgan, 27 off just 18 balls, Colly scored a magnificent 105 off 110 to see England home.
Home captain Graeme Smith, who gets more articulate by the day since his early, clumsy attempts at verbalising on his first tour in charge here back in 2005, was left admitting candidly: "I think the realisation has dawned that we're in for a long, hard summer of cricket against England.
"Credit to them, they bowled well and we were 30 runs short. I think we were a little soft with a few dismissals in the middle. I'd like to congratulate Paul Collingwood...and we will have to be at out best from now on."
How's that for a change of mood? Just a week ago, South Africa raced to a record Twenty20 victory at the same ground (curiously the hero of that game, Loots Bosman, was left out in the longer form of the game) and injury-hit England looked in all sorts of trouble despite somehow contriving to draw the two-match wham-bam series.
The 50 over game made the South Africans look impatient and under-prepared. Collingwood said: "To be fair this was a completely different track today. Last week was a quick track, the ball was coming onto the bat. I thought we bowled really well and I had great support from Trotty and Morgs.
"Jonathan just took was he does in county cricket and did it here. To be fair, his international innings so far have all been magnificent.
"It was a big day for me, but I thought the team were fantastic all the way through. I had a bad back last week but the medical staff did a great job and hopefully I'll be fine now."
As a Sunday cricketer lucky enough to have netted with Collingwood, and ghosted newspaper columns with him, you can rest assured a day like today couldn't happen to a finer fellow. A handy golfer and all-round sporting genius, Collingwood has often been lambasted for being something less than Andrew Flintoff as an all-rounder. If England are to live without Freddie, we have to start loving Colly more.
Lifted by a warm-up win against South Africa A in Potchefstroom, England were magnificent today, apart from a couple of dropped catches from captain Andrew Strauss, who also failed with the bat.
But as he picked up the magnificent R15,000 winners' cheque (that's about £1,000, which won't go far back home), Strauss was all smiles. He did all the captain had to today, winning the toss before play had even started. He said: "It was an imporant toss to win, I think the pitch flattened out a bit for us. But I was very happy with how we bowled. It was a professional performance. Paul and Jonathan played very well and hopefully we can take this forward. We aren't going to get carried away, but we're fairly happy with where we are at the moment."
With three more one-dayers to go - the first was rained off in Johannesburg on Friday - followed by the four Tests, we're all fairly happy Straussie. And as Collingwood said: "We'll just have to give the captain some catching practice."

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The ultimate Cantona solution: I would have punched Thierry

AH yes, trust Eric Cantona to put the whole thing in perspective. What should the Irish have done when Eric's fellow Frenchman Thierry Henry committed his blatant handball to put the Republic out of the World Cup in Paris on Wednesday? Punched him!
In fact, the fiery Cantona can't understand why Aston Villa's Richard Dunne didn't do exactly that when he sat with Henry after the whistle had gone and the Irish were forced to accept they had been cheated out of next year's carnival in South Africa.
As a very ordinary but highly-motivated South Bucks church league defenderr, I find myself in agreement, especially since the French have this morning refused the polite, safe-facing option of a replay, despite overwhelming public pressure.
Manchester United legend Cantona, who famously kung-fu kicked a fan for being rude to him at Crystal Palace, said: "What shocked me most wasn't the handball. It was at the end of the match wshen, in front of the cameras, Henry went and sat down next to an Irish player (Dunne) to console him, even though he'd screwed them three minutes earlier.
"If I'd been Irish, he wouldn't have lasted three seconds."
Cantona wasn't much nicer to France coach Raymond Domenech. He said: "I think Domenech is the worst coach in French football since Louis XVI."
Given that the "Sunshine King" was guillotined when the revolution came in 1793, Cantona presumably feels heads should roll.
Cantona advises: "If it was up to me, I'd put Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc (another former Manchester United Frenchman) in charge. First he wins the league with Bordeaux and then he wins the World Cup! I'm not the only one who thinks that."
Blimey, thanks Eric. All sorted then! Meanwhile the agony goes on for Irish supporters - and a world of football fans who have had enough of cheats prospering, going way back to Diego Maradona's disgusting Hand of God goal in 1986. At present, 342,014 of them have joined the petition on Facebook (adding some great virals, see above), and a march from Lansdowne Road to the French emabassy is scheduled as I write.
But do they listen, the people that runs football? First FIFA turned down the option of a replay, then the French shut the door this morning - despite Henry twittering last night he though a replay was "the fair choice, but it's out of my hands."
This morning Henry's twitter site is down after "dubious activity". Too honest perhaps, Thierry?