Archive for March, 2012


Grant Holt scored twice at the weekend to see off Wolves, but nationally he is still somewhat of an irrelevance.

The cult of Grant Holt, the portly former non-league Norwich City forward, is much like the city he plays in: provincial and retarded. Holt has adapted exceptionally well to the challenges of Premier League football, making a similarly seamless step up to the top flight as he did to Championship football following the Canaries’ promotion in 2010.

However, the cult surrounding his modest debut season in the “greatest league in the world” is enough to provoke an intense vomiting fit. Holt is no superstar. Nor is he supremely talented. Holt’s game relies on intense physicality, the skewing of the spirit of the game to the maximum extent permissible, usually based on the referee’s inability to adhere to the rulebook, and opportunism. Now, you wouldn’t build a shrine to Dave because he managed to get a senior managerial job at EDF Energy immediately after quitting the humdrum of installing Virgin Media aerials, would you?

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QPR striker Jamie Mackie wheels away in celebration having netted an extraordinary 90th minute winner against the hapless Reds on Wednesday.

What’s the biggest joke in football right now? I’ll give you a clue. It plays in red and is based on Merseyside. Congratulations lucky guessers, it is indeed Liverpool Football Club. The Andy Carroll debate has been, at local, national and international level, covered to the point where no new ground could possibly emerge, so next in the firing line is the team’s massive underachieving this year. Liverpool supporters appear to reside in a state of semi-trance, barely batting an eyelid as their once great club slides further and further down the table, and revels in glories so minor and insignificant you’d imagine the city’s mayor might organise a parade for yet another unplanned teenage pregnancy.

So why does the complacency of those on the Kop annoy so much? Because, quite simply, Roy Hodgson was unfairly hounded out of Liverpool in favour of the incumbent, the returning hero, Kenny Dalglish. Widely revered as a saviour, nay, some sort of god, Dalglish is supposedly the answer to years of underachievement and the “new big four” of Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

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New York Knicks interim coach Mike Woodson has his star player, Carmelo Anthony, and the Knicks squad performing at their best again

What a difference a coach makes.

Mike Woodson’s all-too-timely promotion to head coach of the New York Knicks is seeing a recently-ailing franchise currently enjoying its second sudden, unexpected surge of the truncated 2011-12 NBA season. (The first time, this guy was the focus, if you don’t remember.)

In basketball, especially in the NBA, a change of head coach can have profound effects on a team’s personnel and fortunes. The game is so focussed around set-plays and defensive systems at the elite level that Woodson’s isolation-heavy offense is completely different to the “seven seconds or less” philosophy of his predecessor, Mike D’Antoni.

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The beautiful Sepang circuit, opened in 1999, is known for its twin straights, twisting corners and highly unpredictable weather (MotoGP.com)

There are many talking points around the Formula 1 paddock ahead of this weekend’s second round of the season in Sepang, Malaysia. Last weekend’s curtain-raiser in Melbourne provided F1 fans with a couple of surprises – McLaren out-qualifying Red Bull caught most casual fans by surprise, while the struggles of Ferrari have heaped more pressure on Stefano Domenicali and his technical team. So what should we be looking out for as the teams prepare to go racing again?

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Could this be the last season in Orlando for franchise poster-boy Dwight Howard? If the front office sees sense, it should be

Dwight Howard’s decision yesterday that he wants to stay in Orlando – this season, and possibly next season – was a stunning about-turn for a man who has been openly courting trade rumours since the middle of 2011. And beyond that, it resembled a massive slap in the face for everyone involved in the Magic organisation.

Amid all the stories, rumours, make-believe and hyperbole coming out of central Florida in the last two or three weeks have been some positively disturbing suggestions. The idea that team president Alex Martins told Howard that he could choose whether or not GM Otis Smith and head coach Stan Van Gundy were fired or retained was particularly troubling – if only because it’s not that hard to believe that this might actually be true.

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Ravi Bopara is the favourite to replace Eoin Morgan for the Sri Lanka series, but he is running out of time to make his mark with England

England’s decision to drop Eoin Morgan from the squad for the two-match Test series in Sri Lanka this month has opened up the number-six spot in the batting order, and although there are other names (the uncapped all-rounder Samit Patel, or seam bowler Tim Bresnan) being touted as possible inclusions, the line-up will most likely be completed by Ravi Bopara, the Essex all-rounder who has been battling for over five years to establish himself in the England Test squad.

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Germany international Lukas Podolski has agreed a deal to join Arsenal at the end of this season

Arsenal pulled off a major coup this morning, announcing that they have a deal in place with Bundeslige club 1.FC Köln to sign experienced German international Lukas Podolski.

The deal, reported by the BBC to be worth £10.9m, brings another major name to an Arsenal squad which has ditched a long-standing refusal to sign established players. And Podolski, the sharp-shooting forward who can play up front or out wide on his preferred left flank, brings another valuable asset to the Emirates as a man who attract some of a defence’s attention away from Robin van Persie.

The two should make an enthralling strike partnership next season. If, of course, van Persie is still at the club by the time Podolski makes his Premier League debut.

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Andre Villas-Boas was sacked as Chelsea manager Sunday after a 1-0 away loss to West Brom

Well, the inevitable happened again. Chelsea fired a manager. Big deal.

Andre Villas-Boas has looked ready for the chop since Christmas. The youngest manager in the Premier League, in his third season as a manager, sitting in the hottest seat in world football? Working for the most trigger-happy owner in top-class sport with a record of three wins in 12 games? Fighting a losing battle in seemingly trying coerce a group of veteran superstars into his new-age training and tactical methods? It could never last.

And yet, after casting aside numerous more successful managers without a second blink, that trigger-happy owner didn’t want to fire this one.

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Djibril Cisse scored within 12 minutes against Aston Villa, showing a poacher’s instinct which QPR have sorely lacked all season.

Djibril Cisse could keep Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League. Jonathan Pearce said he could on the BBC, so it must be true. He has the pace, agility, and goal-scoring prowess to be the perfect foil for Bobby Zamora, and the link up play between the two against Wolverhampton Wanderers was, for all its briefness, rather exciting.

Stupidly, Cisse temporarily mislaid his brain, and received his marching orders for reacting violently to Roger Johnson’s “robust” challenge. Indeed, you might say, it was a rather cowardly act from Cisse. But the £4m man is the answer to our collective prayer, like the metaphorical spring in the arid desert, he could revive our emaciated corpse, and lift Rangers to the heady heights of 16th place.

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Heikki Kovaleinen and Caterham were at the first F1 test of 2012 in Jerez, 7-10 February. Marussia and HRT, meanwhile, are yet to unveil their new cars

For the second time in three years, HRT will enter the Formula 1 season opener in Melbourne having not tested their new car at any of the sport’s spring tests in Jerez and Barcelona. This year, after failing the last of the FIA’s 18 mandatory crash tests, Marussia (previously Virgin Racing) will arrive in Melbourne blind, too – their plan to run some light testing tomorrow, the day after the final Barcelona test ends, was nixed earlier this week by the sport’s governing body.

2012 is the third season in F1 for these two teams, as well as for Caterham F1 (until recently known as Lotus Racing). And yet, neither are anywhere near being competitive, and the failure to arrive at pre-season testing – a perennial issue for beleaguered and cash-strapped HRT, in particular – is just another indication that neither team has what it takes to develop into a legitimate F1 competitor.

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