Archive for May, 2012

Shrewd signing | Brendan Rodgers‘ head-hunting by Liverpool puts paid to the impression that hungry, young British managers have no future in the upper echelons of the Premier League. (Image | Flickr)

Brendan Rodgers yesterday signed a three-year contract to become the new manager of Liverpool Football Club. Replacing folk hero Kenny Dalglish, the 39-year-old has performed excellently to bring Swansea City into the Premier League and lead them to survival in their first year back in the top flight.

The Merseyside club have had to pay around £4-5m in compensation to the Swans for the Northern Irish boss, who guided his former club to a 1-0 victory over Liverpool on the final day of the season.

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Should he stay or should he go? | McLaren Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton should stay put, at least for the moment, with exit talk recently emerging in the media. (Image | Top News)

In a response to Andrew Benson’s article on the BBC Sport website, Billy Sexton believes it best for Lewis Hamilton to stay with McLaren Mercedes for the time being.

Benson acknowledges that former F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton is frustrated with the failure of his team to provide him with a World Championship-winning car since he took his maiden title in 2008.

With Hamilton out of contract at McLaren at the end of this season and hungry for a second title, Benson points out that he has the option to switch teams, as a number of seats are expected to become available at the sharp end of the grid.

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Monday night’s Panorama unearthed some shocking truths about racism in football in Poland and Ukraine – which were flatly denied by local police chiefs (Image | still from Panorama)

Anyone who watched BBC’s Panorama programme on Monday night will now know for certain what we all already believed. The powers at the fulcrum of European football are fundamentally uninterested in tackling the difficult problem of stamping out racism in Eastern European football.

I will make no attempt whatsoever to pretend that there is no racism in English – or Western European – football in 2012. The deluded Geordie who tweeted that there were too many black players in the Newcastle United squad following the signing of Papiss Cisse in January pays a sorry tribute to that. But, mercifully, we are at least 20 years beyond the scenes aired in Panorama on Monday.

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Dominant: England took a 2-0 lead against the West Indies at Trent Bridge to win the series, but they didn’t have to work too hard for it. (Image | The Bolton News)

Before the Test series against the West Indies began, Andrew Strauss was having to defend his captaincy of the England cricket team and refute rumours that he was set to cast the role aside.

A series win over the Windies later, and all is well in the England camp. As has been observed by many, the hosts barely had to move into second gear at Trent Bridge as the West Indies were bowled out for 165 all out, having fallen to 61-6 at the close of play on day three.

The visitors’ collapse was spectacular, as James Anderson, Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad all claimed wickets amid the ruthless destruction of the West Indies batting order.

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LeBron James’ dominant individual performances in the Heat’s recovery against Indiana doesn’t bode well for the Celtics.

So the NBA’s Final Four, as it were, have been decided. In the West it all seemed over before it began with the San Antonio Spurs going unbeaten in their first two series and the Oklahoma City Thunder only conceding one game en route to eliminating the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers.

The East, on the other hand, is where the drama has unfolded. When Derrick Rose went down with a torn Achilles in game one of the Chicago BullsPhiladelphia 76ers series one could predict that the East was not going to fall into place as foreseen.

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Allegations: The investigation into Lazio midfielder Stefano Mauri has inevitably drawn comparisons with the highly-damaging 2006 scandal. (Image | The Daily Mirror)

Lazio captain Stefano Mauri has been arrested by police investigating fresh allegations of match-fixing in Italian football. Head coach of Juventus, Antonio Conte, is also being questioned, as well as Domenico Criscito, a member of Italy’s 25-man squad for the European Championships.

In 2006 the match-fixing scandal commonly referred to as “Calciopoli” emerged. It resulted in the demotion of Juve, who were stripped of two Serie A titles, and points deductions for other teams, including AC Milan and Fiorentina.

The events of this year were extremely damaging for Italian football, in particular prompting the mass exodus of star players from Turin, and affecting the quality and reputation of the Serie A. According to the BBC’s Alan Johnston, the investigation has been going on for some time.

“For many months now this investigation into match-fixing in the Italian game has been widening and deepening. While up to now much of the suspicion has fallen on teams and players in the lower divisions of the game, the prestigious Serie A is increasingly being drawn into the scandal.

“More painful and damaging, allegations and revelations lie ahead.”

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Flying high: Red Bull’s Mark Webber became the sixth different race winner this season after holding off Nico Rosberg to take the chequered flag. (Image | The Daily Mail)

Mark Webber took his second victory on the streets of Monte Carlo to become the sixth different winner in the opening six races of the 2012 Formula One season. Webber, who was granted pole after Michael Schumacher was demoted to sixth, drove faultlessly as he held back Nico Rosberg of Mercedes. Fernando Alonso took the final podium place and surprisingly leads the championship ahead of Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Webber, something few in the paddock would have predicted before the first race in March.

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Joy unconfined: Huddersfield Town rejoined the Championship after 11 years in the third tier of English football courtesy of their shoot-out success. (Image | The Telegraph)

Huddersfield Town Football Club returned to the second tier of English football yesterday courtesy of an 8-7 victory on penalties over Sheffield United in the nPower League One play-off final.

The shoot-out followed 120 minutes of goal-less action, in one of the least enthralling play-off finals in recent memory.

Town nearly broke the deadlock twice, 20-year-old winger Danny Ward hitting the woodwork just before half time, while Michael Doyle blocked Tommy Miller’s shot with less than 10 minutes to go.

Half an hour of extra time followed, in which neither side, clearly playing within themselves in the 25 degree heat, could open the scoring.

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Dave Whelan should be lauded for his achievements in transforming the fortunes of Wigan Athletic, but his meddling in the negotiations between Liverpool and Roberto Martinez is unseemly and unprofessional.

It’s all too common in the 21st century for perceived ‘small’ clubs to complain of having their best talent or their manager tapped up by a divisional or continental giant who simply walks in and steals their target for a paltry compensation fee. Manchester United are one of the clubs to surface most frequently in these conversations, a recent example being their pursuit of Paul Pogba from French minnows Le Havre a couple of years ago.

The way with which Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan has dealt with the approach made to his manager, Roberto Martinez, by Liverpool, is therefore reprehensible. Despite – and disregarding – the efforts of Liverpool’s American owners to follow the ‘correct’ procedure, Whelan has broadcast the Anfield club’s every moment as if he were a Sky Sports commentator giving the Soccer Saturday bunch regular updates on a weekend fixture.

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All hail the (nearly) invincibles

Alessandro Del Piero is Juventus’ all time leading goalscorer, and his name is synonymous with the club. He will be a free agent from this summer after nearly 20 years at the club. (Image | Wikipedia)

Forever remembered as a golden time for Italian football, 2006 saw the national side winning that year’s World Cup. But Italy’s international glory was sullied by a story much closer to home. It can be summed up in one word: calciopoli.

The scandal that rocked Italian football sent shockwaves throughout Serie A, and those tremors were felt most keenly at Juventus. The then reigning champions were stripped of their two previous league titles, and demoted to Serie B, starting the following season on -9 points. This was incredibly damaging to the Old Lady, arguably Italian football’s most famous club side. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the playing and coaching staff didn’t come to Turin to work in the second tier.

As a result there was a mass exodus.

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