Thursday, 9 February 2012

Critical times for the FA

After the hectic events of the past few days, an organisation that has been vehemently questioned in recent years was once again thrown under the media spotlight by two men: firstly John Terry, and then that oh-so popular Italian disciplinarian Fabio Capello.

Many people feel that the FA were correct in stripping John Terry of the captaincy, though question marks still remained over what Capello really thought of the situation. His answer? To resign as manager of the England national team just four months before the start of the European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine and once again shove David Bernstein et al into the limelight.

It seems so long ago that the English media were delighted that a man boasting nine league titles and a European Cup as a manager was given the so-called “impossible job,” but the original optimism has turned further sour following Capello's shock resignation, and it may seem critical, but some of the negative press coverage is probably deserved.

For one, he could not remove that lingering curse on English football which usually sees the side sail through the qualification with consummate ease, yet choke on the big international stage. It's all well and good comfortably beating the Liechtenstein’s of the footballing world but the whole country was praying for success at the World Cup in South Africa 18 months ago, and the strict Italian could not deliver, culminating in a desperately humiliating 4-1 defeat at the hands of a far superior German side at just the second round stage.

Even up to then, a team made up of some of the most talented English players of their generation had coughed and spluttered through a seemingly kind group on paper, with a 0-0 draw against minnows Algeria another low point of a hugely disappointing campaign.

While Capello may possess an impressive resume, it seems he never really connected with the English media, which is in stark contrast to his potential successor, Harry Redknapp, who is more than happy to divulge his entertaining thoughts to the press. Redknapp is frequently seen winding his window down to converse with the media whilst leaving Tottenham's Chigwell training ground, whereas Capello took a much more reserved approach whilst seemingly showing no real urgency to properly learn the English language. It was this that saw him partially exiled towards the end of his reign, as Wembley was littered with empty red seats during recent friendlies with Sweden and Spain and the expectant England faithful thought with their feet and chose not to attend.

Of course, England v Sweden on a cold Tuesday night in November may not be the most appealing of prospects but the fans' decision to stay away spoke volumes.
At times, England under Capello was what watching England should be; entertaining, riveting and enjoyable to watch. But the Italian mentality of playing the beautiful game also crept in to a large proportion of England games, which has never been renowned for exciting attacking football. This is something that a new manager will no doubt look to address as he faces the arduous task of leading this side which possesses so much potential to glory.

As a result of Capello's departure, the footballing big-wigs of this country face a critical decision with Euro 2012 firmly on the horizon. If the England fans are to be celebrating come July 1st in Kiev, it is essential that they chose a manager not on nationality, but on suitability for the international scene.

Capello is a prime example of what can happen to an outstanding club manager who delves into international football management, and with the spotlight shining firmly on Wembley, it is vital that the FA don't make the same mistake again.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Worthing v Hythe Town - Match Report

A dominant Worthing performance saw the Rebels record their biggest win of the season in an emphatic  5-0 demolition of high-flying Hythe Town.

The south coast side were eager to bounce back from an awful outing last Saturday away at Crawley Down, and a sixth minute Tom Manton tap- in set the Reds well on their way to what was to be a  comfortable afternoon at Woodside Road.

Hythe, in truth, never really looked threatening throughout the game’s entirety and after falling behind to Manton’s goal early on, the Kent side rarely tested opposition goalkeeper Alan Mansfield.

With the wind well and truly in the Rebels’ sails, a brace inside five minutes from winger Tom Lawley, the first a delicate lob over the Town keeper, effectively killed the game as a contest.

Lawley’s second goal would have delighted manager Chris White as pacy midfielder Jamie Brotherton skipped past two challenges and played a delightful through ball with the outside of his right boot into the path of Lawley, who was fortunate to beat Egan in the Hythe goal but nevertheless saw his shot nestle in the bottom corner from eight yards.

Hythe finally settled into the match just before half-time, with midfielder Ronnie Dolan hitting a superb rebound volley after his original free-kick had cannoned back of the wall, but his long-range effort clipped the outside of the post and went behind for a goal kick.

The team from Shepway had shown little of the form that had seen them win their last three league encounters, and Worthing capitalised on yet more poor defending in the 65th minute as an unmarked Mike Huckett headed home a teasing delivery from a Brotherton free-kick.

The deflation in the Town side was clear for all to see and just a minute after Worthing had extended their lead to four, Huckett turned provider as his low cross was tapped home by striker Ryan McBride, via a deflection off Hythe defender Aaron Lacy, for number five.

Despite the relative ease of the encounter for the Rebels, there was still time for controversy as a strong John Lansdale tackle on Hythe striker Craig Thompson provoked a furious response from a number of the Town players and a mass twenty- two man brawl ensued, with Worthing captain Paul Kennett receiving a yellow card for his part, a player who will also incur a suspension following his fifth booking of the season.

It took Hythe nearly 75 minutes to fashion a real clear-cut opportunity, though, and it fell to substitute Richard Sinden but he fired wide from ten yards after a neat first touch.

Ronnie Dolan then had two chances in the space of six minutes; the first another well controlled half volley from the edge of the area tipped past the post by ever-present goalkeeper Alan Mansfield, and then Dolan’s clever cross was headed fortunately on to his own crossbar by Worthing centre-half Glen Woodburn, but it was to no avail as Hythe were humbled by a rampant Rebels side.

Final score: Worthing 5-0 Hythe Town     Attendance: 213

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


The curse of the broken mast struck the Volvo Ocean race fleet once again on Monday as PUMA Ocean Racing became the latest crew to unfortunately retire from leg one, leaving just three boats remaining on the surge south to Cape Town.

The American crew, skippered by Ken Read, suffered damage to one of their masts whilst sailing in 23 knots of breeze yet they were still hoping they could continue their participation in what has been a gruelling leg thus far. Sadly for the 12-strong team aboard Mar Mostro their faint hopes were dashed and they subsequently withdrew.

However, Read reported that none of the crew were injured, but he admitted morale was at an all time low amongst his ranks.

“As you can imagine, there aren't a lot of smiles right now. To say we are disappointed would be the understatement of the century.

“This is the saddest and most disappointed 11 people on Earth.”

The PUMA team had been involved in an epic tussle with Team Telefonica in the preceding days leading up to the catastrophe; but the de-masting 2,150 miles shy of Cape Town has left them heading towards the small volcanic island of Tristan de Cunha, desperately hoping that a solution can be reached in order for the crew to prepare for the second leg between Cape Town and the Chinese port of Sanya.

With just 31nm separating the two leaders before the dis-masting in the South Atlantic there will no doubt be a bitter taste in the mouths of all involved with the PUMA crew; but despite this they are working closely with their on-shore team to strategise the best way to get the boat to Cape Town.

After tireless work from the on-shore team, as well as Volvo Ocean Race control,on Wednesday a complicated fuel transfer has enabled the luck-ridden crew to motor towards Tristan de Cunha; and it is expected that they will reach the small island in the next three to four days.

When they arrive on the little-known island they will be greeted by another boat dispatched from Cape Town; it is at this point where the race to be sufficiently prepared for the next leg really begins and Read will no doubt hope for a smooth transition to enable his crew to get back in the contest.

On the fuel transfer, the American skipper seemed delighted at how such an elaborate plan came to fruition, and he said, “I cannot believe that actually worked. That is the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever done.”

As a smile materialised on the face of Read he took time to praise the efforts of the crew on board the 257-metre cargo ship, ZIM Monaco, that greatly enhanced his team' chances of getting back in the race, describing them as “unbelievable” and “our new best friends.”

The response from their rivals has been one of great sympathy; with even rival Team Telefonica skipper Iker Martinez admitting, “It wasn't a nice feeling at all to leave our closest rivals throughout the whole leg behind like that, 2,000 miles from the nearest coast and with no mast."

Their withdrawal from leg 1 leaves just half the fleet that departed from Alicante two-and-a-half weeks ago in tact; with Team Telefonica, CAMPER and Groupama slugging it out in the South Atlantic a mere 2,000 miles short of their eagerly anticipated arrival in South Africa.

Friday, 18 November 2011

02 Arena set for exciting season finale

One of the most prestigious tennis events of the season returns to London this weekend as the world's top 8 players compete to win the ATP World Tour Finals at the 02 Arena.

With arguably one of the strongest line ups in recent memory - this year's players have 194 career singles titles between them - it is sure to be a thrilling weekend, which kicks off on Sunday with defending champion Roger Federer in action against his Wimbledon nemesis Jo-Wilifried Tsonga. The frenchman however did suffer a 6-1 7-6 defeat at the hands of Federer in the final of the recent Paris Masters but he will look to put that behind him and cause an upset in the first round robin match of the eagerly anticipated season-ending tournament.

The swiss maestro will also look to become the first player in World Tour Finals history to claim the title 6 times; a feat that not even the likes of Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras could achieve, and despite being the tournament favourite if he is to add another trophy to his ever-expanding mantlepiece he must get past Rafael Nadal and Mardy Fish, as well as the popular Tsonga in a tough-looking Group B.

One match not to be missed in Group B is a rematch of the 2010 final between two of the greatest players to have ever stepped foot on a tennis court; that of course being Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. The rivalry between the two tennis masters will once again reignite when the pair meet in London, on a surface on which they cannot be seperated with a 4-4 head to head record during their illustrious careers.

Nadal, who has won 17 of the 25 matches against Federer, will surely hope to round-off what has been a fairly quiet year by his standards by lifting the World Tour Final trophy. The Spanish star has won just three titles all season; all of which came on his favoured clay courts, and despite being the number two in the world many are tipping him for yet more dissappointment at the 02.

In Group A, Andy Murray faces world number one Novak Djokovic in what is sure to be an epic encounter with both players aiming to finish a gruelling season on a high. Djokovic, who has lost only four matches all year, will come up against one of the few players to beat him in what has been a remarkable 2011 for the young Serbian.

After recent impressive tournament victories in Tokyo, Bangkok and Shanghai, Murray is a force to be reckoned with at this years event, and the world number three also has perhaps the slightly easier group to negotiate. The Brit will face Spaniard David Ferrer; a player whom Murray has beaten twice in their last two meetings, aswell as Thomas Berdych. The czech, however, recently ended the British number one's impressive 17 match unbeaten streak with a 4-6 7-6 6-4 victory at the Paris Masters event exactly a week ago.

Despite the imperious performances of Novak Djokovic this season it is hard to look past Federer who surged to victory in Paris last week and who comes in to the season-ending tournament brimming with confidence. There will of course be challenges from both Nadal and Murray, and it would be foolish to write off surprise package Mardy Fish who has enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career, playing some dominant tennis at the net. His style is one that could break down the likes of Djokovic and Federer and the world number eight could be a dark horse to take the title and just over £2,250,000 in prize money when the tournament finishes on the 27th November. Djokovic et al, you have been warned....

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Darren Deadman....we salute you

I honestly never thought I would see the day where a referee uses his common sense against the letter of the footballing law, but last night in Doncaster's 3-1 home reverse against Middlesbrough, Darren Deadman did exactly that. In doing so, he has earned a level of praise never before aimed at a referee; and deservedly so.

The incident I am referring to is unfortunately one of great sadness. On Saturday, Billy Sharp's two-day year-old son tragically died in hospital. It showed great character for the Doncaster legend to even play last night, and when he fittingly scored, he revealed a t-shirt saying, "that's for you son."

What bravery. A true show of courage from a 25-year old who must be feeling incredibly low right now. It kind of makes you think, doesn't it? In a world where football is dominated by what many people believe to be over-paid prima donnas who have no loyalty or respect whatsoever, it is refreshing to see a footballer who truely has passion, desire and courage in what must be the most turbulent few days in his young life. He may not be the best player in the world but his actions last night deserve more plaudits than any 40-yard screamer or world-class save will ever merit.

It must be said I cannot praise the referee in this instance enough. Darren Deadman took into account what had happened to Sharp in the last few days and he showed common decency by not booking the player for revealing such an emotional message.

Removing or part-removing your shirt is, rightly or wrongly, a bookable offence but Deadman used his common sense and showed that referees are human beings. He in effect completely ignored and went against the laws of the game by not showing Sharp a yellow card but can you imagine the uproar if he did book the player? Maybe that's why Mr Deadman chose not to book him, and I'm sure you will agree that he made a correct and noble decision by doing so.

I really hope that Mr Deadman's actions will set a precedent; whereby referees use their common sense and are slightly more understanding to the players they are in charge of. The fact that players are booked for removing their shirt causes massive controversy anyway but surely a rule can be implement where the referee can use his discretion in certain situations. I personally can't see why not.

There have unfortunately been a few incidences in the past where the referee hasn't acted like last night's referee did, which also brings up the common controversy of refereeing consistency. Why can't every referee use his common sense at some point during the game? Is it really necessary to send a goal keeper off when his team are 6-0 down in the 95th minute when a penalty would surely suffice as punishment? And is it necessary for Mike Jones to book Tamir Cohen for revealing a picture of his deceased dad? Needless to say, Billy Sharp's incident will surely make FIFA look at the rules and amend it for the better. Over to you, Mr Blatter....

The rise of Anne Keothavong

Now as a great lover of tennis, I am fascinated by the progress of our British tennis stars; both current and future. And i'm sure you will all agree Anne Keothavong has been grabbing the headlines recently, and thankfully for all the right reasons.

There is usually quite a lot of negative press about Women's tennis, especially in relation to female British players, yet I really wish more had been made of Keothavong's recent triumph at the AEGON Pro-GB series, because it marks a significant step in her career. Plus it's always good to see a female British tennis player win something, right?

Ranked 91 in the world before the tournament, Keothavong has experienced many ups and downs in her career and this victory at Barnstaple will no doubt give her the confidence to achieve bigger and better things next season, and who knows we might have a female Brit in the later rounds of a grand slam fairly soon. She was unfortunate to lose a hard-fought battle in the semi-final against Monica Niculescu at the recent WTA tour event held in Luxembourg, in a match that lasted just over three hours. If she had made the final, Keothavong would have been the first British female player to make the final of a WTA tour event since Jo Durie in 1990. She also lost recently at the Generali Ladies event in Austria to well-known third seed Jelena Jankovic, despite taking the first set. Even this marks a remarkable improvement because, unfortunately, our women seem to crumble against the bigger stars but to push Jankovic so hard would surely have meant a lot to the popular Brit.

The forgotten fact of Barnstaple however is that she also triumphed in the doubles, winning with partner Eva Birnerova, and the British number two said on twitter: "Its been a great week for me, had some great support and really happy to do the double." No doubt her popularity will rocket after this, and for British tennis fans across the country it will be a welcome relief to see a female Brit win not one title; but two in the same week.

Her recent success has also led her to rise to number 83 in the world and become the British number two, and there will be even more positive news for British tennis fans as Elena Baltacha has climbed into the top 50 after making the second round of all four grand slams and winning 10 ITF titles this season.

A lot has been said in the press over the years about the state of British tennis but it seems to be definitely on the up, with three women inside the top 100 and of course Andy Murray's rise above Roger Federer to world number three. As well as a recent triumph for Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins in the doubles at the St Petersburg Open. Of course, there is still room for improvement, particularly on the female side as I'm sure many will agree that to really push on our women need to be making later rounds of grand slams.

Who knows, maybe it isn't such a big ask to see our women make the prestige second week at Wimbledon in the near future. I for one don't believe the doubters, with Keothavong's recent victories and Baltacha's rise in to the world's top 50 there is evidence enough to suggest that they CAN achieve great things next season. Oh, and I haven't even mentioned Laura Robson or Heather Watson yet....

Friday, 28 October 2011

Worthing v Eastbourne Town preview

Following an enthralling 4-2 after extra-time victory over Bashley in the FA Trophy on Tuesday night, Worthing welcome former boss Danny Bloor to Woodside Road as the Rebels take on Eastbourne Town on Saturday afternoon.

Manager Chris White will be hoping to close the gap on leaders Dulwich Hamlet as The Reds play their first league game in just over a month.

The Rebels, having played eight straight cup games, sit four points ahead of Bloor’s Eastbourne side although Town have played three matches more and will be eagerly anticipating a return to league action in their first home Sussex derby of the season.

After thrilling performances from Rebels duo Tom Manton and substitute John Lansdale saw The Rebels overcome Bashley on Tuesday, the Worthing fans will no doubt be looking for more of the same when the two local rivals meet, and two-goal hero Manton believes the draw for the next round has been kind to Worthing, saying, “We’ve now got a home draw against a side the same level as us, so it’s a good opportunity to go further.

He added: “It’s a really good result. We felt after Saturday that we had a good chance to go through.”

Eastbourne were unlike their Sussex compatriots unable to progress in the Trophy, and manager Bloor will be looking for a reaction from his players after their 3-1 home reverse at the hands of Evo-Stik Premier Division side Hitchin Town last weekend. The game is sure to have a bit of extra spice as the Town manager has often had run-ins with sections of the Worthing crowd following his controversial time at the club, and the loyal Rebels faithful will undoubtedly remind him that he has never beaten the Rebels as a manager at Woodside.

The Saffrons will also be looking to avenge two defeats to their Sussex counterparts after Worthing won both meetings between the sides last season, with the Rebels running out 4-2 winners in the corresponding fixture in the 2010-11 campaign.

The Woodside faithful will hope to see the return of legendary midfielder Paul Kennett who missed the game against Bashley with a back injury.