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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Ashley Cole considers quitting as Arsenal confirm Aaron Ramsey is out for season

ASHLEY COLE is considering quitting football as he lies in a Biarritz rehab centre, conetemplating his post-operative ankle - and a divorce from the nation's darling, Cheryl Cole.
The 29-year-old was injured by Everton's on-loan USA international Landon Donovan - unintentionally - three weeks ago and needed surgery which may put him out of the World Cup in South Africa which starts on June 12 when England, ironically, play the USA in Rustenburg.
Though Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti says he is confident Cole will play again before the end of the season, there are no doubts about his mental state.
While he has been rehabilitating, Cole's private life has self-destructed. Four different women have claimed to have had affairs with him since the first stories involving illicit text messages emerged in The Sun three weeks ago.
And Cheryl Cole officially announced that Britain's dream couple - second only to David and Victoria Beckham - had split on Tuesday.
With Chelsea losing 4-2 to Manchester City yesterday amid the whole Wayne Bridge/John Terry dispute, the Sunday Mirror's Paul Smith reckons Cole has told friends he's had enough.
Officially Chelsea are saying what they said when Terry was revealed to have had an affair with Bridge's ex-partner Vanessa Perroncel - that they would support him.
But the club's billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich, is believed to be unhappy about the negative publicity surrounding two of his leading English players.
Though Abramovich himself has recently been through a very public marital split, he does not want the club dragged through the gutter.
The club moved last night to deny they would fine Cole or force him to be sold - despite reports in Spain that Real Madrid were hovering, ready to pick up the pieces.
Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck has apologised to Cole for the way the club have handled matters,s an X-Factor judge, does not appear to be forthcoming.
Meanwhile Arsenal's Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey, horrifically injured after a tackle from red-carded Stoke midfielder Ryan Shawcross, is out for the season. The club confirmed both bones in his shin, the tibia and fibula, were broken in the challenge.

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Saturday, 27 February 2010

Team Bridge on top at Stamford Bridge, Ramsey agony at Stoke, now listen to Radio 5

THE weekend is barely half-done and already we've had so much dramatic action - from Wayne Bridge refusing to shake John Terry's hand before Manchester City's shock 4-2 win at Chelsea (pictured) to Aaron Ramsey's horrific injury as Arsenal won 3-1 at Stoke.
From Canada's Ice Hockey gold medallists getting into trouble for drinking on the ice after beating the USA to England falling 20-16 to Ireland at Twickenham in the Six Nations.
A weekend of drama, all watched on a big screen in a home theatre near Wrexham in Wales. I've turned down two Sky News appearances to attend Linda Holgate's 50th birthday in the middle of nowhere - a magnificent mansion called Wynnstay Hall which once housed Lindisfarne College before it closed in 1994.
And now Radio 5 want me on at 11pm to talk about Bridge and Terry. So much for the birthday party!
Think of me tonight, out in the cold on the mobile, being abused by Chelsea fans. This is an incredible place, beautiful scenery, we drove through Llangollen on the way to go-karting. Had no idea what this area of Wales is like - though all the locals wanted to talk about Friday night's Six Nations defeat by Wales at the hands of France, who appear the dominant force this year.
Until Ramsey's awful injury, the day had been dominated by Chelsea's first home defeat of the Premier League season. With Manchester United playing Aston Villa in the Carling Cup tomorrow, it was just the right result for Sir Alex Ferguson.
Frank Lampard gave Chelsea the lead as they dominated for the early exchanges but Carlos Tevez equalised as City - apparently disrupted by the hullaballoo over Bridge and Terry, began to settle.
Bridge was, disgracefully, booed with every touch at the Bridge. The former Chelsea left-back announced he wouldn't play for England on Thursday - because Terry had an affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the mother of his child.
Terry, who had the England captaincy stripped from him in the aftermath of the scandal, then suffered the humiliation of seeing Team Bridge triumph with that lovable rogue Craig Bellamy giving City the lead and scoring the a clinical fourth. Between his two goals, Tevez added a second from the spot before Lampard did the same.
As Roberto Mancini celebrated an unexpected success over his fellow-Italian Carlo Ancelotti, the Blues were forced to finish with nine men after Juliano Belletti and Michael Ballack were sent off. John Terry was booked and appeared lucky to stay on the pitch after a scuffle with Tevez, who clearly captains Team Bridge. Good lad.
City had failed to score in their previous seven visits to Stamford Bridge, while Chelsea had only conceded eight at home in the Premier League all season. This was some result. Ancelotti's first defeat at the Bridge, and the Blues first home reverse in 38 games.
Arsenal closed on the leaders with their injury-time win at Stoke, who were on the verge of an 11-match unbeaten run, which would have been their best in the top flight since 1974. Stoke scored from a typical Rory Delap long throw, Nicklas Bendtner equalised but the match was marred by an awful injury to Aaron Ramsey which saw Ryan Shawcross sent off.
The players on both sides looked stunned after the Welshman was carried off... it's one of those incidents so bad Sky refused to show a replay. Cesc Fabregas looked like he was going to be sick. Awful. Just wasn't the same after that, though Fabregas recovered to tuck away a last-minute penalty and Tomas Vermaelen added the late, late third.

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Thursday, 25 February 2010

I got it wrong calling Bridge a wimp on Sky News. He's done the honourable thing. Unlike John Terry

I GOT IT wrong on Sky News this morning. I called Wayne Bridge a wimp when they rushed me in to Isleworth for a first response to the news. The statement was gloriously straightfoward and to the point. And it has got the entire football-speaking world talking.
The Manchester City left back, this week backed for a World Cup berth by coach Fabio Capello, said: "I have thought long and hard about my position in the England football team in the light of the reporting and events over the last few weeks.
"It has always been an honour to play for England. However, after careful thought I believe my position in the squad is now untenable and potentially divisive.
"Sadly therefore I feel for the sake of the team and in order to avoid what will be inevitable distractions, I have decided not to put myself forward for selection.
"I have today informed the management of this decision. I wish the team all the very best in South Africa."
First thought? This has happened to me. When my twins, now 22, were three, their mother left me for a younger bloke, the brother of a friend. All his mates played for the French Horn, our rival team in the village. On the common a few Sundays later, we had to play them. Everybody knew the story. I wanted to kill the guy and his mates. He had relentlessly pursued my wife knowing she was suffering from post-natal depression.
I wanted to run away, never mind walk away like Bridge. But I knuckled down, played the game, got through it. Proved I still had a life, pride, honour. The guy's still out there, my ex-wife and I are friends but I brought the kids up without her support for 18 years. I'd still like to catch him in a dark alley. He knows who he is. But that game, that confrontation - not without its flare-ups - helped me get through it.
And that's what I thought Bridge should have done. Knuckle down, confront the demon Terry, a former best-mate (see picture above) who had an affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the mother of his child.
So I told the world (at least that tiny bit of it which watches Sky News) I thought Bridge had wimped out. It was re-run several times this afternoon. Ah, the expert analyst. Superb. Not.
Tracy, my new wife, took me to task. She feels Bridge has done the honourable thing. Withdrawn to give England a chance. To keep the dressing room on a level keel.
Whether Bridge plays for Manchester City against his old team and former best pal this weekend is not the point.
What he's done, she said, is sacrificed his place at the World Cup for England's sake. I saw it in that awful masculine way. By standing down he had let Terry humiliate him again.
Wrong. Terry should have been the one to withdraw but as he hasn't and is such an important part of the World Cup plan for Fabio Capello, Bridge made the brave decision to walk away.
Imagine the pain that bloke has been through. Nobody is actually sure when the affair between Terry and Perroncel began. But it ended in an abortion and a pay-off. Whether Bridge had actually moved up north by the time Terry started his diversions on the way home from training or not, we don't know. But the flirting had been going on for months.
There was talk of other affairs, of further lurid details, but all that came to a halt when Perroncel and publicist Max Clifford decided not to run with her side of the story amid rumours of a £750,000 pay off.
We will never know the full extent of Terry's betrayal. And remember, Perroncel was close to his wife Toni, mother of twins of a similar age to his boy, too.
Bridge's heart is broken. His spirit low. Trust in Terry, the senior player, crushed. But he has returned to play for City and his boss Roberto Mancini insists he is the best left back in the country with Ashley Cole, another Chelsea man of loose morals, out following ankle surgery.
But when the side to play Egypt next Wednesday is picked on Saturday night, Leighton Baines is likely to get the call now. Bridge has given up his chance of immortality in South Africa this summer.
And for that he must be applauded. Quite how we greet Terry at Wembley next Wednesday I'm not sure. But here's a thought. If Terry, forced out as captain over this whole tawdry affair, gets injured before the World Cup, will Bridge return?
I for one certainly hope so.

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Cipriani, the debate goes on all over the Planet of Rugby

HERE'S what I posted on the absorbing Planet Rugby Forum this morning: "Sorry to start a new thread, but I've had emails from Planet Rugby posters asking for my response. Have read the arguments since Daily Mail article yesterday and thought I'd offer this.
Chris Foy is a good bloke, a football writer who worked hard to replace Peter Jackson when he retired as the Mail's rugby guru. Like Jacko, he is not the kind of journalist who simply does what the RFU asks.
If the instances he quotes about Cipriani aren't true he will be sued. He must have had a good source... or two. But make no mistake, this is a direct reponse from Martin Johnson and Co to Cipriani's quotes when he decided to go to Melbourne.
Without question Cipriani has burned his bridges with the current regime at all levels, particularly with his open support of Wales (Gwlad readers will love that)... but I suspect by then Cipriani had already given up on an England future under MJ.
Here's my view: Cips is a new generation rugby player. Ambitious, selfish, impatient. He doesn't fit in with Martin Johnson's regime or MJ's idea of what a rugby player should be. But that doesn't make him a talentless twat, just a petulant fool. Football puts up with such characters if they have the talent, cricket does too (you should have seen Kevin Pietersen batting against selector Ashley Giles in nets on tour in December, and then there's Craig Bellamy).
Given that Shaun Edwards is his coach at Wasps, Cipriani wouldn't have got away with the way he behaved with the Saxons at club level. Edwards would have torn him off a strip. Inside the club, Cipriani is respected for working hard... most of the time.
The fact remains that Cipriani, after his treatment at the hands of a very mediocre England set-up, had no choice other than to pursue his career overseas at what he perceives as the top level. If he succeeds at Super 15, he will have proved his point to MJ and the doubters.
I still think it's a brave move, the kind of thing top sportsmen (and ordinary people in all walks of life) do when the road ahead is blocked.
Whether Cipriani has the talent to comeback with his status restored after tales like this, I'm not sure.
What I do know is that Cipriani was picked out as a major talent at every level as he progressed through the ranks. I hope he makes it in Melbourne. It's a big ask.
But rugby needs to find a place for the Big Charlie rugby player to survive. Cipriani, like Stuart Barnes and Gavin Henson, believes he can behave as he does and win our respect on talent alone.
These are just the ramblings of a sports fanatic, I'm not saying I know better than anybody else on here. But for the good of rugby I hope Cipriani is the toast of the Super15 when he goes Down Under. I have my doubts."

It was written in response to this piece from Chris Foy in the Daily Mail yesterday:

"Danny Cipriani was hailed as the saviour of English rugby when he broke into the national side as a prodigiously talented 20-year-old.

Two years later, his hopes of a long international career lie in tatters after he broke two of the commandments in England - you don't cheer for Wales and you don't mock the living legend that is Martin Johnson.

Cipriani, 22, has long been seen as an outsider in the rugby world - his love of the celebrity life and his relationship with model girlfriend Kelly Brook, 31, were met with derision in many quarters.

But he has gone a step too far by cheering for Wales against England, and mocking national coach and World Cup winner Johnson.

Critics say he is a traitor, and after his vocal support for England's historic rivals was reported back, it is understood he has no chance of playing for his country's first team while Johnson is in charge.

Cipriani last week announced a move from London club Wasps to the Melbourne Rebels in Australia for £170,000 a year, which scuppered plans for an immediate future in the England squad.

But it was his behaviour earlier this month while surrounded by fellow players from the England Saxons, the country's 'B' team, which sealed his fate.

Last night a source close to the England squad said: 'Cipriani was in Italy with the Saxons preparing for their game against the Italians.

'The senior team were playing Wales at Twickenham, so the Saxons got together in front of a TV in their hotel to watch.

'Danny was shouting at the screen throughout - in support of the Welsh.

'And when Adam Jones scored for Wales, Danny was jumping up and down in celebration.

'He was also making barbed comments whenever the cameras showed Johnson in the stand.

'The rest of the team were appalled. They thought he was behaving like a complete twit.'

Some observers will see this latest debacle as simply the culmination of the young star's increasingly arrogant behaviour.

Former England captain Will Carling recently said he had decided not to become Cipriani's manager, adding: 'I do not believe Danny's focus is on playing for England'.

Cipriani's high profile makes him popular with sponsors - he has a reputed £1.2million deal with Adidas - but it is not appreciated by many in the rugby world.

Two years ago, he was axed from the England team because he was seen leaving a nightclub two days before a match against Scotland.

In October 2008, Cipriani was punched by Wasps team-mate Josh Lewsey during training, and other squad members are said to have scrawled disparaging comments next to his name in the changing rooms.

One Wasps source said last year: 'There are a lot of Danny Cipriani types in football - but they stick out like a sore thumb in rugby. It does not go down well.'"

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Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Forget the Wayne Rooney, Barcelona, the World Cup, the FA Cup replays... Jose is all that matters tonight. And he's taking on the world.

TWO of the best sides in Europe meet at the San Siro tonight. But Jose Mourinho has made sure only one man matters. And he won't be on the field of play.

Ah, the Special One. Not content with his third ban of the season in Serie A (this one a three week suspension for showing a hand-cuffed salute after a referee's decision last weekend), Mourinho has seen fit to accuse Chelsea's Italian boss Carlo Ancelotti of being a member of Italy's footballing mafia.

The Italians are up in arms about Mourinho's behaviour as he apparently angles for a move to Real Madrid next season. And there he was at Internazionale's training ground at Pinatina yesterday making sure we knew who the focal point of tonight's clash really is.

Responding to Ancelotti's claim that the whole of Italy will be backing Chelsea tonight because of him, Jose said: "If Ancelotti says that it's because he knows or because somebody told him. Or because he belongs to the clan."

There was more of course. There always is with Mourinho, the man thrown out in his days as a player because his dad - a Portuguese international goalkeeper - put him in the first team. The players revolted. Then he was promoted again, from Bobby Robson's interpreter to top European manager. Further revolt.

The Champions League with Porto followed, then two Premier League titles with Chelsea. Still revolting though. And now, widespread revulsion in Italy: "I'm offering them a challenge. I'm waiting for a referee to come here and say I insulted them.

"To my face. I'm interested to see if they would be brave enough."

Never forgetting that he is the man who made Chelsea great of course, even though Roman Abramovich eventually turfed him out: "You ask me what system Chelsea will play. The same systems Chelsea have played since I joined the club in 2004. Nothing has changed.

"Then I look at my old players - men like John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. John and Frank perform week after week, year after year.

"They look as if they are never tired of playing well. Did I make a little contribution towards that? They say yes and I think they are right.

"I thank them because they never forget my contribution. They are good players because, yes, they are good anyway and because they have worked very hard.

"When I speak with people at Chelsea they always say that the culture of working very hard every day has not changed.

"The players have kept their strong mentality. The years may be passing but they are like Port wine - the older the better."

"The most beautiful thing in football for a coach is the passion and respect of his players - and the passion and respect of his supporters.

"That happens with me all the time - in Porto, Chelsea and Inter. That makes me proud."

"But I know what will happen in the San Siro in this match. I know Didier will break his legs for his team. And it's the education I gave to the players."

So yes, forget European Cup holders Barcelona, held by Stuttgart last night. Forget Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, scorer of two more headed goals against West Ham as he heads for the Golden Boot. Forget England's training camp in Rustenburg. In fact, forget the whole looming World Cup. And you can certainly ignore the FA Fifth Round replays - Aston Villa v Cyrstal Palace, Stoke v Man City, Spurs v Bolton, West Brom v Reading - which aren't even on the television tonight.

There is only one subject of fascination in the footballing globe. Tonight on ITV. Jose. The Special One. Taking on the world.

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Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Kneesy does it for Benni, Pienaar gets drunk on success

SOUTH AFRICA'S already frail World Cup hopes took an alarming turn for the
worse today with the news that West Ham striker Benni McCarthy's
31-year-old knee is showing little sign of being ready for the big kick off against Mexico in
Johannesburg on June 11.
McCarthy, who completed his controversial £2.5m move from Blackburn days
before the January transfer window closed, is "seriously doubtful" for tonight's clash with Manchester United and has yet to complete a game for the Hammers since his £2.5m move from Blackburn.
McCarthy limped off during his debut at Burnley - he had a glorious chance saved off the line in
a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat on 10 February - and has been unavailable ever since.
My Upton Park source tells me: "Benni's not looking good. That knee is a
problem. South Arica may be in trouble if they think he's going to be their
major World Cup striker."
The injury is not believed to be related to the knee problem McCarthy
suffered for Rovers against Fulham in November 2007 or any of the long-running problems
which have ruled him out of so many internationals for South Africa in
recent years.
But Carlos Alberto Parreira is insisting he will only pick a fully-fit
McCarthy after his repeated spats with the Bafana Bafana (The Boys, The
Boys) management.
When McCarthy left Ewood Park after refusing to train during his final days
at Blackburn, former boss Sam Allarydyce insisted: "Benni's not getting any
younger. The legs are not quite as good but the talent is still there.
"When he came to Blackburn he scored 23 goals in his first year and hasn't
quite replicated that since."
McCarthy's problems add to Parreira's woes - his side moved up from 85th to
81st in the FIFA rankings after friendly wins over Zimbabwe and
Swaziland in Durban last month, but they remain the lowest ranked World Cup
hosts in history.
While their cricket team held the world's best Test nation
India to a drawn series and their rugby Springboks hold the World Cup,
the football side faces abject failure as they prepare for the biggest
sporting event in the Rainbow Nation's history.
This week's news of their late move of World Cup training camp from Esselen Park's School of Excellence to Sandown High School has left the hosts facing further ridicule.
Kevin Pienaar remains South Africa's real beacon of hope despite being charged with drink driving today. Perhaps understandably, he was pulled over by the police on Merseyside after starring in Everton's shock 3-1 win over champions Manchester Unitedc on Saturday.
A police spokesman said: ''Merseyside Police can confirm that a 27-year-old man has been charged with drink driving and failure to comply with a traffic sign.
''He was arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning and charged later that day.
''Steven Pienaar from Woolton will appear at Liverpool City Magistrates Court on March 9, 2010.''
On a brighter note, Jamie Redknapp, the former Liverpool and England midfielder, said after Pienaar's display: "He won't be among the contenders for Footballer of the Year, but there haven't been too many more consistent players.
"He travels all over the pitch, left and right, wants the ball and makes things happen.
"He has good balance, can pass and dribble with both feet and scores goals. I'm not surprised other clubs are looking at him."

Oh, and I received this by email from my old University pal Rich this morning:

Media reports suggesting that the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace facilities will not be completed on time are untrue and false.

We are confident that the facilities are on track to meet all of the national team and FIFA’s obligations.

Rich Mkhondo

Chief Communications Officer

2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa

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Monday, 22 February 2010

England's training camp? Don't panic! I could have told you that two months ago!

THE SUN call it "as dump", the Express "Shambles"... the Daily Mail and Mirror have had a go today too. All lambasting the state of England's World Cup training camp currently under construction at Phokeng, near Rustenburg in deepest, darkest South Africa.
Truth is of course, if they'd read my blog, they'd have know it's nothing of the kind. If any of them had seen published before I sped off to the second cricket Test before Christmas, they'd have known the Royal Marang Hotel is only half finished.
Yes, the grass pitches are still being prepared, as are the five plastic pitches. But the complex, carefully hidden off the road to Boschhoek six kilometres from the Royal Bafokeng Stadium where England will play their opening Group C game against the USA on June 12, will be ready.
Funded by the Bafokeng tribe, who claim a slice of the platinum mine profits, this will be the finest high altitude training camp in the world. At 3,900ft above sea-level, the Australian and New Zealand rugby teams are already booked in to prepare for their Tri-Nations clashes. The All Blacks used to prepare at Swartkops High School, on a resurfaced rugby pitch some 300ft close to sea-level in Centurion, an hour away.
Now the Italians are consigned there, the USA will be training at the nearby Southdowns College, the Argentinians at Pretoria University's High Performance Centre, the Dutch at Wits University's Milpark.
All are inferior to England's base near Rustenburg. The FA have been on top of this one for months. Fabio Capello will visit there again tomorrow on his way to a coaching symposium at Sun City half an hour away.
As Mark Ferguson, head of security at the complex assured me: "We will be ready by May. Your Football Association officials fly in here all the time. You don't have to worry."
But, typically, the tabloids arrive, rustle up a couple of old pictures, and scream about "a dump" and "shambles".
It isn't. By the time the England squad arrive in early June, the Royal Bafokeng Sports Complex will be ready. Half of the five-star hotel opened in November, the other half will open in March. The pitches will be ready, the roads will be resurfaced. I've been saying this for two months. But do they listen?
How about the Germans? They're booked in to the Velmore Estate in Erasmia, nearer Centurion than Rustenburg. And their training pitch has only just been dug out... they'll be bringing the grass asap! The Australians are based at Kloofzicht, a lovely resort in Muldersdrift near Sandton, 20 miles away. But there isn't a decent football pitch within a half-hour drive.
So rest easy. As I told you two months ago, England have the best possible preparation for this World Cup. And an easy qualifying group against the Yanks, Slovenia and Algeria. It's winter, the weather will suit us, particularly for the games in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. And if Fabio Capello's team win the group, they'll be playing their first knock-out match back in Rustenburg, just down the road from the training camp.
As far as Rustenburg goes, we do not need to panic. But if some clogger injures Wayne Rooney in the next three months, rush around screaming hysterically. That's where the key to our World Cup success, ending 44 years of hurt, really lies.

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Sunday, 21 February 2010

Nine points and moving words from Cipriani

IF you were sad enough to spend most of your weekend on the rugby forums, you might think, among the abuse and foul language, Danny Cipriani was a waste of space. That he deserved to be consigned, at 22, to the rugby's international dustbin.
Yes, the same Danny Cipriani who booted Wasps to a 9-0 win over Saracens in the Guinness Premiership today. Okay, it was no classic. There were better sporting events over the weekend. Manchester United's 3-1 defeat against Everton, Amy Williams's skeleton gold medal in Vancouver, the all-British final at the World Matchplay golf, England's penultimate over defeat against Pakistan in Dubai, and Chiltern Under 15s epic 5-5 draw at chilly Chinnor this morning.
But there was Cipriani, hours after the official announcement of his move to Melbourne Rebels and the Super 15 at the end of the season, coolly booting his side to victory at Adams Park.
I suggested in my blog on Thursday Cipriani might be a better choice than the fading Jonny Wilkinson for the England No10 shirt after Wilko's uncertain performance against Italy a week ago.
That if England coach Martin Johnson had kept him in his plans rather than demoting him to the Saxons bench, he might just have developed a bit of confidence after his serious ankle injury. That he may have become a realistic option for the 2011 World Cup as he is eight years younger than the great World Cup winner Wilko.
This led to copious abuse and explusion from rugby's internet following, for reasons that are hard to comprehend - bitterness and envy have always surrounded the youngster whose mum drives a taxi and father has returned to Trinidad, who needed a scholarship to attend the Oratory School in Reading. Oh, and he goes out with Kelly Brook. That really makes the sad anoraks uptight as the hurl their crude expletives around on what are supposed to be open, democratic forums. I kid you not, there are some unpleasant types out there.
As Wasps move into the play-off positions, just above London Irish, Cipriani attempted to explain his move Down Under in the Sunday Times.
He said: "There has been so much negativity surrounding me, from coaches, pundits, all sorts of others. It has been depressing.
"I have never made any secret of the fact that I want to have a career with England. I have now lost 15 caps I could have won and I could have improved so much by now if I had been given the chance. The best way to get away from all the negativity is to go to Melbourne.
"My rugby has made me depressed and I have got to get back to feeling good about myself and back to being called confident, not arrogant."
Crucially, here's his verdict on England coach Martin Johnson: "It is fair to say that I would have liked to be treated with a little more sympathy by people in the game. I would liked to have spoken to Martin a lot more. People write things about me every day and sometimes it would have been good to set the record straight.
"I was interested in listening to Alex Ferguson discussing Cristiano Ronaldo. I am not for a moment suggesting that I am in his class as a sportsman but he was saying that every person in a team is different and they have to be treated differently – not singled out for special attention, just different."
Spot on Danny. Given Johnson's precarious situation at the helm - the World Cup winner never coached at club level before his elevation to England boss - Cipriani may yet get the chance to play at the World Cup in New Zealand. Under a new coach.
Cipriani's parting shot: "I will be 23 when it happens, hopefully at a peak. I can be back for all the training."

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Saturday, 20 February 2010

National Vets Semi-final: Goldhill Baptist 4, Peniel (Surrey) 0

The end is Nige: winger Nigel Williams takes on the Peniel defence

In it for the kicks: our new slimline full-back, Jason Lambe

Strike a pose: Goldhill and Peniel after the semi-final

Three and easy: James Cansdale on his way to a perfect hat-trick

Bruce almighty: midfield dynamo Bruce Nutman on the slide

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Friday, 19 February 2010

A Rebel yell for Cipriani... the naked truth about Danny, Melbourne and Martin Johnson

DANNY CIPRIANI confirmed today what this blog has known for a couple of weeks now - that's he's off to join the new Super 15 side, Melbourne Rebels.

When the link was first suggested last month, England boss Martin Johnson immediately said Cipriani would stand no chance of selection if he went to Australia. Big deal. Johnson has succeeded in utterly destroying the Wasps' fly-half's career while creating a deeply unimpressive side around a series of fly-halves far older and less talented than Cipriani, still just 22.

Johnno's tried his former Leicester pals Andy Goode and Toby Flood, and has ended up with fellow 2003 World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson playing at No10 in the current Six Nations. And the side hardly sparkled with Wilko's fading boot at the fulcrum in Italy last Sunday. Cipriani, the progressive choice, finds himself demoted to second choice for the Saxons.

Apparently there are tensions in the camp over Dangerous Danny. He dates Kelly Brook, he sometimes goes out at night, he's trendy and often neglects to shave. Yes, he takes risks, as our picture shows. Not quite Johnno's cup of tea.

Quite rightly, Cipriani has gone off to improve himself in a standard of rugby certainly better than the Guinness Premiership and arguably better than the Heineken Cup, which Wasps failed to qualify for this year.

Cipriani said: "I am still young enough to go away and experience something completely different. Leaving Wasps is very hard, this is my home."

"I see this move as the next step in my career and would never rule out coming back to play in England.

"If I did, the first place I would look at is Wasps, and we have already talked about that as a possibility for the future.

"I believe in the coaches and the players here and it will be very difficult to leave, but the decision has been made easier by having the support of (director of rugby) Tony Hanks and (head coach) Shaun Edwards."

And in a direct response to Johnson, he said: "I have been given no indication that I am pushing for a place with England at the moment.

"So it is up to me to ensure I am in contention in the future by challenging myself in new realms. I want to be the best player I can be."

A quick history of Cipriani's seven-cap international career reveals he came into England contention when he won the Heineken Cup with Wasps in 2007 and helped win the Premiership in 2008.

After two caps as a replacement when Brian Ashton was head coach, he had to wait for his first start after being dropped for going out in Mayfair after midnight a few days before the Six Nations game against Scotland.

But when his first Test start did come, at the expense of Wilkinson, Cipriani destroyed Ireland. Then came that horrendous ankle injury against Bath at Adams Park in May, 2008 - I was there, you could hear the screams echoing across the ground.

After a quicker-than-expected rehabilitation, Cipriani looked all set to resume duties at fly-half for England but then came the fall out with Johnson amid reports of a behind-closed-doors rift. He wasn't even picked for the summer tour to Argentina, despite the galaxy of stars rendered unavailable by the Lions tour to South Africa.

Quite how Melbourne will do in the new, expanded Super 14 - which features regional franchises from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, is anybody's guess. Perth, another Aussie Rules dominated area in Australia, have struggled to make headway. But the Rebels will be led by no-nonsense former Wallaby boss Rod Macqueen and Cipriani insists: "The chance to play in a completely different tournament against different players at this time in my career will help me develop on and off the field."

Wasps, who have also lost England wing Paul Sackey to Toulon this week, issued a statement saying Cipriani leaves "with the club's understanding and support" adding he "made clear his ambition to return to England in the future and a return to Wasps down the line has already been discussed".

Wasps boss Tony Hanks said: "Obviously we are disappointed that Danny is leaving, especially as he has worked hard on a return to form on the back of a couple of nasty injuries. However, knowing his reasons are based on rugby and personal development, we as a Club support his decision.

“Working with him for the last few weeks around this decision, we have looked at it more as a Wasp going on a sabbatical."

Me? I remember when the rugby world was your oyster under Brian Ashton three years ago when we met in Bath to chat about your glowing future. I say good luck Danny. The Super 15 is a tough old slog, lots of travelling, plenty of world class players. I hope you dominate the lot of them. And force Johnson to change his mind about you before the 2011 World Cup. If he lasts that long.

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Thursday, 18 February 2010

Terry will be lucky to stay on the park against Wolves says Molineux legend Bull

JOHN TERRY will be lucky to stay on the park when he makes his return to Chelsea’s starting line-up at Wolves on Saturday – according to Molineux legend Steve Bull.
Bull believes Terry will come under intense pressure from the hard-working Wolves striker Kevin Doyle. The 26-year-old, signed last summer from Reading for a club record £6.5million, is “the business” according to Bull, who still holds all the scoring records at Wolves.
Bull, 44, said: “Look, I watch this lad every week, he’s the business. I’d put him in my side, even if I was at Manchester United or Arsenal.
“He’s been working up front on his own. He runs hard, chases everything – and he’s a real sniffer in the box. He’d be a handful for anyone – and I can see John Terry getting at least a booking on Saturday trying to keep Doyle quiet.”
With Wolves coming off the back of a 1-0 win over Spurs and Chelsea losing 2-1 to Everton in their last Premier League clash – when Terry was at fault for both Louis Saha goals – Bull insists: “I can really see Wolves pulling off another of those shock results.
“I know it’s going to be hard, but the way Mick McCarthy has got them playing against the big clubs – giving 100 percent, rolling up their sleeves, working for each other – suggests to me Chelsea are in for a hard time.”
With financial problems hitting clubs from Cardiff to Portsmouth, Southend to Notts County, Bull says: “I felt for Mick in the transfer window. It’s a struggle when you can’t sign big players, but he’s got those boys working. Wolves are young, eager, keen – and McCarthy knows some of the players demanding the big money out there won’t roll up their sleeves and give their all.
“I watch every Wolves home game and I travel to the away games sometimes too – I can tell you there are no big-time Charlies in this team. But Chelsea have two great strikers – Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka – so it will be tough. Half a chance and they’ll have you.”
Chelsea play old boss Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan next Wednesday and Bull insists: “If Wolves can take something off them on Saturday, it will shake Chelsea’s confidence before one of their biggest games in recent years.
“With the Champions League coming up after the Wolves game, they’ll want a win and they’re a great side. But Wolves got a 0-0 draw against Liverpool last month, they’ve beaten Spurs twice and they can produce another upset if they work as hard as they did against Spurs last time out.”
Worryingly, Wolves were crushed 4-0 at Stamford Bridge when the teams met in November and, with 10 goals, nobody has scored less at home this season.
Doyle (pictured) is top-scorer with just six strikes this season and Bull, who scored a record 250 in 474 League games for the club, grins when he is reminded of how much he cost when he moved from West Brom in 1999: “It was a joint deal with Andy Thompson,” he recalls, “And they paid £65,000. Doyle cost £6.5m. That’s how times have changed. But given the way he works on his own up front, Doyle will prove he’s worth that. I’m sure of it.”
On the thorny subject of Terry and Manchester City’s Wayne Bridge, Bull – who played for England in the 1990 World Cup despite never reaching the top flight with Wolves (they failed at the play-offs in 1995 and 97) – said: “They have to get their heads together. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter what has happened off the field.
“Terry has proved he can play well no matter what is happening in his life, now Bridge has to show he can put England first. They may already have sorted this out. They have to for the sake of our World Cup hopes.”
Terry, who missed Chelsea's FA Cup win over Cardiff last weekend to see his wife Toni in Dubai, has fallen out with Bridge since news of the Chelsea captain’s relationship with Vanessa Perroncel – the mother of Bridge’s son – broke three weeks ago. While Terry lost the captaincy, Bridge was rumoured to be considering international retirement over the affair.
But Bull reckons all this could just make the squad stronger. He recalls: “In 1990 we were under incredible pressure off the pitch. But we pulled together for Bobby Robson. We worked as a team and we got to the semi-finals.
“That’s what this England team have to do in South Africa this summer. Bond together. Don’t let anything affect them. And that’s what I expect them to do.”
Steve Bull was speaking at the launch of Sportingbet’s Wolves accumulator Every time you beat Bully in the Sportingbet accumulator (predicting match result, match scoreline and first goalscorer), you earn a free £5 bet. But you’ll have your work cut out. Bull laughs: “I have a little flutter on the horses and football but I’m worried Sportingbet are going to fire me - my account is bulging at the moment, I must be doing something right!”

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Wednesday, 17 February 2010

It was never about Beckham. For the next six months, it will be all about Rooney

IN THE end, it wasn't about 34-year-old David Beckham, it was about 24-year-old Wayne Rooney. And it will be all about Rooney for the next six months.
Manchester United's 3-2 win over AC Milan at the San Siro last night left Sir Alex Ferguson drooling and the rest of the world trembling.
Three hours before Beckham's Champions League clash against his old side, I said on Twitter: 'All set for the Becks and Fergie show. My money's on Man United. And Rooney to win the day.'
Rooney's two second-half headers - unlike some England players, he's starting to use his head to some effect - were his 24th and 25th goals in a best-ever season.
He is, by five goals, the best striker in Europe right now - his 21 Premier League goals have him five ahead of next-best Lionel Messi at Barcelona.
He has stepped up following the record-breaking transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo and he is ready to spearhead England's World Cup campaign in South Africa this summer. No question.
It's not as if Beckham was that bad. He should be on the flight to Rustenburg on June 1 too. And his Milan side, as he mentioned afterwards, are not out of it after a five-goal extravaganza at the San Siro. The second-leg at Old Trafford on 10 March promises to be quite a night.
Fergie drooled: "Wayne's in devastating form, they could not handle him in the second half. He was marvellous. He has to be regarded at the highest level, along with all the other players we know about."
That's the Scotsman's way of saying: "YES, BLOODY HELL, HE'S THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW."
And he's not far off - though Ronaldinho looked a bit special last night too.
Ferguson points out why Rooney is more important though: "He should score 30 goals this season, over the last two months, there has been a marked improvement in his game. Confidence has a lot to do with it of course. I just felt he had to improve his goalscoring, which is what he is doing now."
Beckham, hauled off after 72 industrious minutes which provided a few scares for his old boss, said: "I've always said Wayne is one of the best goalscorers in the world and he is obviously on fire again. If you give him chances he'll score goals, that's the way he is and the way his mind works."
Ronaldinho put Milan ahead, Paul Scholes scuffed an equaliser, then Rooney struck twice to give United a 3-1 edge which was drmatically cut back five minutes from the end by a lovely back-heeled Clarence Seedorf effort fromm close range.
Beckham concluded: "Clarence's second goal has made a comeback possible. It's not easy to go to Old Trafford and win 2-0 but we have made it a bit better for ourselves."
Back in the Premier League, former Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira got himself into trouble during Manchester City's 1-1 draw with Stoke City - Sky Sports News keep showing pictures of him shoving a boot into some poor Stoke lad's privates - and tonight his old side Arsenal take on Porto with five players injured. Apparently the Portuguese have injury problems too.
I suspect it won't be quite as good as last night's European extravaganza.

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Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Any Porto in a storm for Arsenal as all eyes turn to David Beckham and Manchester United

ANDREI ARSHAVIN'S hamstring. Alex Song's knee. William Gallas's back. Thomas Vermaelen's leg. Manuel Almunia's hands. Cesc Fabregas's future. Porto are laughing before tomorrow's Champions League clash against once-mighty Arsenal at the Estadio do Dragao.

Guess who's gone on standby for the biggest match of the season in the one competition the Gunners could yet win to end their five-year silverware drought?
Yes, Sol Campbell. Picked up for free in the transfer window. Arsene Wenger's only signing last month. Aged just 35, walked away from Notts County, eager to extend his career, but probably not at the Emirates.
And while Wenger, ever the tightwad, was picking up one of his cheap rejects, he was allowing Luke Wilshere and Phillippe Senderos to spend the rest of the season with Bolton and Everton.
Luckily he kept the great Denilson, who will make his usual inadequate effort to help homesick Spaniard Fabregas in the midfield tomorrow night. Oh, and Nicklas Bendtner, kept while Emmanuel Adebayor was sold, may get a run too. Or perhaps the ever-improving Theo Walcott?
While all eyes will be on Old Trafford tonight and David Beckham's return to Manchester United with Milan, for belly laughs we will turn to North London before the week's European action begins.
If this were a footballing sitcom, it would be just about unbelievable. Belly laughs all round as Arsenal fly off to Portugal with a bunch of kids and the star man already planning his move home to Barcelona next season. The Carling Cup and FA Cup have already been thrown away and in the Premier League and in Europe, Wenger's comedy decisions on and off the field keep us constantly amused.
Inept in the 3-1 defeat against Manchester United, incapable of a meaningful shot on goal when they dominated possession in the 2-0 defeat against Chelsea, Wenger made a big deal of the 1-0 win which followed over Liverpool, pretending the previous fortnight hadn't happened.
But now, with the excellent Song unable to hold the midfield together, with Arshavin the pint-sized but talented striker out and problems for both Gallas and Vermaelen at the back, Arsenal are really up against it.
And so we turn to good old Sol. He last played in the Champions League in the 2006 final against Barcelona - and if my memory serves, he scored in Paris (he must have, look at the picture above).
But everything has changed since then. From that substantial, experienced squad Wenger has got rid of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Gilberto Silva, Kolo Toure, Adebayor... and lost Mathieu Flamini, Freddie Ljungberg and Alex Hleb. The list of departures is so long, we don't have room.
Most worrying of all? Jens Lehmann has been replaced in goal by the even more unstable Manuel Almunia. Against Chelsea, when Drogba's free-kick hit the bar two feet from his head, the bemused Spaniard barely moved. Just watched it. He's still capable of great saves Almunia, but the consistency is gone. And in a goalkeeper, that's everything.
Still Almunia is another casualty tomorrow night, so you might hope to see a return for Vito Mannone, the Italian who had a good run in mid-season. But no, the Pole Lukasz Fabianski has been ear-marked for the No1 shirt.
Plenty of money has been made with all the famous "Invincible" departures of course. and Gooners must consider themselves fortunate that, despite the cost of the new stadium, Arsenal aren't among the Portsmouths and Cardiffs, struggling against foreclosure for overspending.
But somehow, Wenger, in his bid to prove the most profitable manager in the history of English football, has taken his eye off the ball. Anybody who has seen his side's last three attempts at winning will know that. Despite having Robin van Persie, Johan Djourou and Kieran Gibbs on the long-term injured list, he didn't dip into the alleged £40m Arsenal claimed he was allowed to spend in January.
Wenger seems to have forgotten what it's all about. He's forgotten about scoring goals. He's forgotten about finding young, English talent, He's forgotten about the fans, who pay over the odds without the prospect of silverware.This from Arshavin, who was exposed when he was played up front alone in the awful defeat against United: "If all goes well, I will get back on the pitch as early as the next league match against Sunderland. However, I will miss the game against Porto."
So no strikers at all then. Not really. No sign of Eduardo, who never really recovered from the ankle break. His hamstring injury, supposedly nearly better last week, remains a problem. Bendtner will lead the line we are told tonight. Mexican Carlos Vela? He's out too. But they're all lightweights. If ever a club needed a striker, it's Arsenal. But Wenger did nothing in January, other than chat about how all the goal-getters were pricing themselves too high.
And at the back, half a defence. Vermaelen, evidence of Wenger's ability to buy when he really wants to, says of his badly bruised leg, picked up against Aston Villa last month: 'It turned out that I could play against Manchester United, but after that game I had some more problems, so I went for another scan.
"We could see then that there was a big bruise on the bone, and that's all - so it is painful but that can be controlled with medicine and when it is not broken, you can't do too much wrong. It is not a big problem to play - yes it is still there and will take some time to go away, but it is not dangerous.'
Yup, just like his forward line. A big problem, but it's still there and it's certainly not dangerous.

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Monday, 15 February 2010

Why Chelsea continue to dominate the headlines... for all the wrong reasons

MUST be a hell of a dressing room at Chelsea. If you believe everything the tabloids are currently throwing at us every morning, it's packed with international footballers taking pictures of themselves naked to blonde models.

First we had the John Terry story - his affair and subsequent abortion with Wayne Bridge's ex-partner Vanessa Perroncel resulted in him losing the England captaincy.

Then, when French underwear model Ms Perrroncel had been paid an alleged £750,000 to stop, The Sun switched targets to Ashley Cole, married to the nation's darling, Cheryl Tweedie.

Today were are told he sent naked pictures of himself to a SECOND blonde, and apparently Cheryl didn't spend much time together on Valentine's Day.

Page five of The Sun has a magnificent picture of ultraslim Cole, pictured from the chest down with just a pair of underpants on. Mouthwatering stuff it ain't.

Elsewhere, on page nine, Terry and wife Toni are pictured in a pool in Dubai, where they are patching up their marriage. Allegedly. In front of the cameras.

Other papers add further spin to the Chelsea goings-on. The Mail claims Ashley and Cheryl are now living apart and has accused Terry of play-acting throughout the trip to Dubai.

Of course the former England captain had to miss Chelsea's FA Cup fifth round tie over Cardiff to sort things out with Toni, his childhood sweetheart.

While he was away, having blundered in their last Premier League game against Everton (Terry was at fault for both Louis Saha's goals in a shock 2-1 defeat), the Blues crushed Cardiff to reach the quarter-finals on the road to Wembley.

And that of course, resulted in a last eight clash with Manchester City, who drew with Stoke over the weekend and will need a replay to reach Stamford Bridge next month.

Why is this relevant? Because Bridge moved to City last January, leaving Vanessa in London with his son. Somewhere around this point in our tawdry tale, his former pal Terry began stopping off at their Oxshott neighours for post-training hanky-panky.

Over the weekend, the News of the World assured us Bridge refuses to respond to Terry's calls or texts about his betrayal. But now we have the prospect of Bridge v Terry in the Premier League on February 27, the pair of them in the England dressing room together for the friendly against Egypt at Wembley on March 3, followed by the FA Cup quarter final the weekend after.

Yes, having been at loggerheads for a few months, they'll now be forced to see eachother three times in a week.

The tabloids are lapping it up. I assume the fans are too. A Man City source tells The Sun today: "Wayne acted with dignity and he doesn't need anyone to tell him what this FA Cup game would mean.

"If City needed any extra motivation to beat Stoke and get back to Stamford Bridge, this will be it."

Meanwhile Ashley Cole, whose broken ankle sustained against Everton last week has left a place for Bridge at left-back in the England team - possibly for the World Cup too - has to hope Cheryl will invite him for a let's-make-up holiday in an expensive overseas resort sometime soon. Though he will be in a plaster cast after undergoing surgery on Friday, so it may be uncomfortable for both of them.

The real football stories - like Crystal Palace being robbed of victory over Aston Villa by a dodgy decision , England struggling to overcome Italy in the Six Nations and David Beckham preparing to take on Manchester United for Milan in the Champions League tomorrow, must remain on the back burner.

That's what happens when you have the Premier League leaders’ high profile stars making silly mistakes away from home.

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Friday, 12 February 2010

The moment Ashley's World Cup was thrown into doubt... and according to The Sun he's in trouble off the park too

THIS was the moment the World Cup dream may have been shattered for Ashley Cole, ironically against Landon Donovan, the man he would have marked in England's opening game against the USA at Rustenburg on June 12.
Everton's on-loan Yank Donovan is blameless - he played the ball and Cole damaged his ankle in the 57th minute as Chelsea slid to a shock 2-1 defeat at Goodison on Tuesday night.
I broke the story that he was out for three weeks yesterday after scans, today comes news that the 29-year-old former Arsenal left-back is off for surgery on the injury.
His World Cup is now in serious doubt. Spurs boss Harry Redknapp was the first to react, saying: "Ashley is probably the best left back in the world. He's got three months, let's hope he makes it for the World Cup."
With Wayne Bridge two games into his comeback from injury, City boss Roberto Mancini came out strongly this morning insisting he was the best in the position for England. He said: "Wayne is a big man. It's important for him to play in the World Cup, the first eleven for the national team.".
But of course that would put him alongside axed captain John Terry, disciplined by Capello for having an affair with the mother of Bridge's child, Vanessa Perroncel. When this all broke there was talk of Bridge wanting to give up international football. Not any more judging by Mancini's enthusiasm this morning.
And that's got the whole world talking. Everyone knows footballers have copious affairs - Ashley Cole himself is on the front of The Sun today over sending naked pictures of himself to some model or other - but what happens in the dressing room when this sort of situation crops up?
Will the England players be model professionals and ignore the obvious tensions for the sake of the nation? Will there be petty squabbling and nasty tackles at training?
Some of the Manchester City players wore Team Bridge t-shirts when the story broke a fortnight ago, while Chelsea players, who saw Bridge move to City a year ago, would line up for Team Terry.
And of course the big man himself, after a stinker in the Everton defeat where he allowed Louis Saha to score twice, is in Dubai for Valentine's Day with his wife and three-year-old twins for Valentine's Day. The club has given him permission to miss the weekend FA Cup clash against Cardiff to patch up his marriage.
Boss Carlo Ancelotti said today: "I'm very disappointed. Ashley is a very important player for me. I hope he will be quick to rest and he will come back before the end of the season. It is a realistic possibility. He will go surgery today.
"I think that in three months he will be ready for play, also for England. I think he can play in the World Cup."
And Terry? Ancelotti said: "He will be back for the next game against Wolves. I think he will come back strong and make a recovery." Terry and Bridge? "It's not my problem this."
Question is, will Capello avoid the issue and play Gareth Barry as his emergency left-back against Egypt on March 3? Or will he go for the regular understudy and call Bridge into the starting eleven?
Cole has been Capello's first choice at left-back, playing 16 times while Manchester City's Wayne Bridge has played nine, Joleon Lescott five and Aston Villa midfielder Barry three.
Me? I'd pick Bridge. Let him have it out with his former mate if necessary. Word is he hasn't been taking calls from Terry during the uncomfortable situation which has arisen in the last fortnight.
Bang their heads together, Fabio. This is England's year. An easy Group C, the Yanks, Slovenia and Algeria. Back to Rustenburg near the training ground for the first knock-out game if we win the group. And then it's the quarter-finals.
Even Sven Goran Eriksson got us that far on a regular basis. This is England's year. South Africa won't be too hot. And after three weeks of preparation at the best training facility in the country at the highest altitude available, nobody will be more ready.
As long as the off-field disputes are firmly thrust behind them.

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Thursday, 11 February 2010

With Cole out for three months, will we finally have the Terry and Bridge reunion?

WE should not celebrate the fact that Ashley Cole's injury, picked up during Chelsea's surprise defeat at Everton last night, will keep him out for three months.
Nobody will rejoice over this evening's latest update that the 29-year-old has a fractured ankle.
Of course not. Terrible news. But it DOES raise the intriguing prospect of Wayne Bridge playing in England's friendly against Egypt at Wembley on March 3 - and possibly the whole World Cup next to a certain John Terry.
Cole turned his ankled in the Premier League leader's shock 2-1 defeat at Goodison Park. He had to be helped off in the 57th minute after a challenge involving USA skipper Landon Donovan - the two of them should face up again when England take on the Americans in the opening Group C clash at the World Cup in Rustenburg on June 12.
Assistant boss Ray Wilkins said afterwards: "He has taken quite a nasty knock. It wasn't a foul but it was a very strong challenge and he was slightly off balance.
"He has got a slight problem with his ankle but we will get back to Cobham and assess the situation."
But that was before yesterday's scans revealed a fracture. Now the club are saying he will be lucky to be back before the end of the season.
The night before we saw Manchester City see off Bolton 2-0 with Bridge, Cole's England understudy, playing the second game of his comeback and looking reasonably competent.
With Cole out of the England clash against African champions Egypt, Bridge should get the call - which will see him in the dressing-room with Terry (above), the axed England captain.
Axed, of course, because he had an affair (including an alleged abortion) with the mother of Bridge's child, Vanessa Perroncel. England coach Fabio Capello decided that was an affair too far for his team leader - but Terry says he will continue to "give his all" for England as non-captain.
For Terry, now on a Valentine's Day dash to his wife Toni and three-year-old twins who fled to Dubai when the story broke, the whole thing is becoming a Bridge too far.
After scoring the winner against Burnley and impressing against Hull and Arsenal, the strain started to show last night as Terry was taken apart by Everton's Louis Saha. The Frenchman, who missed a 44th minute penalty, escaped for the first goal, a header, and twice picked up on missed clearances from Terry, scoring the winner off the second blunder in as many minutes.
For a man of Terry's stature, it was a nightmare ninety minutes. As Everton boss David Moyes said afterwards: "Saha should have had four."
Terry now gets a week off, missing Chelsea's FA Cup fifth round clash with Cardiff, as he attempts to patch up his marriage. He looked like he needed it last night, Wilkins insisted: "If there were mistakes by John, I'm sure it will be the slightest of blips."
The whole evening was a blip for the Blues, and things weren't much better for chasing Manchester United, who drew 1-1 with Aston Villa, had Nani sent off for nothing and saw Ryan Giggs fracture his arm.
That gave Arsenal the chance to close the gap in a hardfought 1-0 win over Liverpool with Abou Diaby scoring the headed winner. Quite how referee Howard Webb missed Cesc Fabregas's late handball on the edge of the box, I shall never know.
Spurs failed to close the gap on Liverpool in the battle for fourth place, allowing Wolves to do the double over them with a 1-0 win at Molineux while West Ham relieved their relegation fears - and calmed the nerves of new owners David Gold and David Sullivan - with a 2-0 win over Birmingham, sold by Gold and Sullivan in November.

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Wednesday, 10 February 2010

England rely on Swann for a face in the Test rankings... but not a batsman in sight

ENGLAND remain without a single batsman in the world's Top Twenty according to the latest Reliance Mobile ICC Rankings.

India’s Gautam Gambhir stays on top despite scoring just 13 runs in the innings defeat to South Africa at Nagpur last week - Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla, who put on a record third wicket partnership in that match, are both closing fast.

Amla scored a Test best 253 not out to break into the top 10 and is now just behind the great Sachin Tendulkar.

The bowling rankings are more encouraging for England fans with spinner Graeme Swann staying fifth with seamers Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom also in the top twenty.

But paceman Dale Steyn, who took 10 wickets at Nagpur (including a Test best 7-51 in the first innings) remains out in front and is now officially the best bowler in Test history on strike rate.

Swann also features in the all-rounders ranks after his Test best 85 at Centurion against South Africa last December, but he remains a long way adrift of the masterful Kallis and New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori.


Rank (+/-) Player Team Points Ave HS Rating

1 ( - ) Gautam Gambhir Ind 840 55.46 886 v SL at Kanpur 2009

2 (+1) M Jayawardena SL 836 53.96 883 v Ind at Ahmedabad 2009

3 (+1) K Sangakkara SL 835 55.10 938 v Eng at Kandy 2007

4 (+4) Jacques Kallis SA 825 55.16 935 v NZ at Centurion 2007

5 (-3) Graeme Smith SA 823 50.55 843 v Eng at Johannesburg 2010

6 ( - ) Virender Sehwag Ind 811 52.62 854 v SA at Kolkata 2004

7 (-2) Michael Clarke Aus 805 50.19 855 v Eng at Headingley 2009

8 (-1) Ricky Ponting Aus 783 55.67 942 v Eng at Adelaide 2006

9 ( - ) Sachin Tendulkar Ind 778 55.35 898 v Zim at Nagpur 2002

10 (+13) Hashim Amla SA 775 ! 44.47 775 v Ind at Nagpur 2010

11 (-1) S.Chanderpaul WI 765 48.70 901 v NZ at Napier 2008

12 (-1) Ross Taylor NZ 763 42.15 775 v Pak at Wellington 2009

13 (-1) Mohd Yousuf Pak 761 53.07 933 v WI at Karachi 2006

14 (-1) Younus Khan Pak 754 50.09 880 v SL at Lahore 2009

15 (-1) AB de Villiers SA 735 43.67 745 v Eng at Centurion 2009

16 (-1) Rahul Dravid Ind 720 53.75 892 v Pak at Kolkata 2005

17 (-1) Mike Hussey Aus 709 53.04 921 v WI at Kingston 2008

18 (-1) T Samaraweera SL 707 51.14 747 v Ind at Kanpur 2009

19 (-1) Simon Katich Aus 706 44.91 720 v Eng at Cardiff 2009

20 (-1) VVS Laxman Ind 696 45.70 753 v Aus at Sydney 2004


Rank (+/-) Player Team Points Ave HS Rating

1 ( - ) Dale Steyn SA 891 23.04 897 v Ind at Ahmedabad 2008

2 ( - ) Mitchell Johnson Aus 780 28.45 825 v Eng at Cardiff 2009

3 ( - ) Mohammad Asif Pak 757* 23.20 792 v Aus at Sydney 2010

4 ( - ) M Muralidaran SL 752 22.71 920 v Ban at Kandy 2007

5 ( - ) Graeme Swann Eng 732* 30.69 756 v SA at Durban 2009

6 ( - ) Zaheer Khan Ind 722 ! 33.02 722 v SA at Nagpur 2010

7 ( - ) Morne Morkel SA 680* 32.26 691 v Eng at Johannesburg 2010

8 (+1) Stuart Broad Eng 673* 35.38 697 v SA at Durban 2009

9 (+3) Paul Harris SA 671* 33.41 705 v Eng at Centurion 2009

10 (+1) Stuart Clark Aus 668* 23.86 863 v WI at Bridgetown 2008

11 (-1) Makhaya Ntini SA 665 28.82 863 v Ind at Durban 2006

12 (-4) Harbhajan Singh Ind 653 31.30 765 v NZ at Wellington 2002

13 ( - ) James Anderson Eng 639 34.80 710 v Aus at Edgbaston 2009

14 ( - ) Shakib Al Hasan Ban 626* 29.39 633 v Ind at Chittagong 2010

15 (+1) Daniel Vettori NZ 613 33.61 681 v Aus at Auckland 2000

16 (+1) Danish Kaneria Pak 599 34.27 723 v Eng at Multan 2005

17 (+1) Jerome Taylor WI 598* 35.64 717 v Eng at Kingston 2009

18 (+1) Peter Siddle Aus 597* 31.53 617 v Eng at The Oval 2009

19 (+1) Chris Martin NZ 592 33.61 643 v Eng at Lord's 2004

20 (+1) Ryan Sidebottom Eng 590* 28.24 769 v SA at Lord's 2008


Rank (+/-) Player Team Points HS Rating

1 ( - ) Jacques Kallis SA 469 616 v Pak at Durban 2002

2 ( - ) Daniel Vettori NZ 412! 412 v Pak at Napier 2009

3 ( - ) Graeme Swann Eng 306*/* 307 v SA at Durban 2009

4 ( - ) Mitchell Johnson Aus 302 384 v Eng at Cardiff 2009

5 ( - ) Shakib Al Hasan Ban 295*/* 303 v Ind at Chittagong 2010

*Indicates a provisional rating

! Indicates a career-best rating

For information on the ICC Player Rankings go to:

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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Battle of the Gunslingers: Wilshere the kid has the edge over Vieira the veteran... but City win, Pompey lose their Grant

MANCHESTER CITY'S predictable 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers, courtesy of a Carlos Tevez penalty and an Emmanuel Adebayor clincher, equally predictably left Owen Coyle fuming.
But those of us of an north London bent were more intrigued by the midfield battle of Gunslingers: the veteran Patrick Vieira, recently arrived at Eastlands from Inter Milan, against Luke Wilshere, on loan from Vieira's old club Arsenal.
French World Cup-winner Vieira, born in Senegal 33 years ago, still has the height but lacks the legs of his Arsenal heydays next to Emmanuel Petit and Gilberto Silva. He looked, in his second appearance back in the Premier League, like the fire which once blazed so brightly had gone out.
Yet there he was, shuffling around the pitch ahead of the superb Steve Ireland. Curious.
Wilshere, making his first start for Bolton, was dynamic, busy and feisty as he eagerly sought to help Wanderers recover from the early penalty.
It came when the excellent Adam Johnson, the former Middlesbrough winger with one eye on a shock place in England's World Cup squad, was brought down by Paul Robinson.
But in the end it was Vieira's inch-perfect long-ball for another former Arsenal man, Emmanuel Adebayor, that clinched it as the Togo striker, caught up in the Cabinda shootings, made it 2-0 with a brilliant finish.
And that was it. Game, set and match to Vieira, despite his advancing years. Shortly afterwards Wilshere was taken off in the 77th minute - with Andy Gray admitting on Sky: "He brings quality to this side. He's a neat, tidy footballer."
Makes you wonder why the young Englishman isn't still at the Emirates Stadium playing ahead of expensive foreign non-entities like Denilson, Tomas Rosicky and Samir Nasri. But who am I to tell Arsene Wenger how to pick his side?
Vieira said: "It was hard but do I look that old? Obviously we're strong enough to finish in the top four."
Coyle, who abandoned Burnley for Bolton in January, felt his side were denied two penalties and claimed: "All the decisions went against us."
At Portsmouth, boss Avram Grant was sent off in their 1-1 draw against Sunderland. Grant, caught up in a Thai Massage row in recent days, rubbed referee Kevin Friend up the wrong way after seeing Ricardo Rocha sent off.
Friend originally showed Algerian Hassan Yebda the red card for the challenge which led to Darren Bent's goal (above) from the penalty spot - but, as a true Friend should do, he did the right thing and sent off the right man. But Grant was fuming and his half-time rant was enough to consign him to the grandstand, where he struggled to find a seat.
Sunderland had Cattermole sent off in the second half but even with ten versus ten, rock-bottom Pompey, facing a winding-up order today, couldn't find the net.
It was only when David Mayler's dismissal left Sunderland with nine they found the space for Jamie O'Hara to set up Aruna Dindane for the late, late equaliser.
Grant gathered his players in a huddle at the whistle and said: "I cannot fight against all the world."
Fulham had few problems, scoring three without reply against Burnley, much to my old coach Roy Hodgson's relief. Danny Murphy, David Elm and Bobby "Bobatov" Zamora got the goals at Craven Cottage.
Hardly a shock result though. Burnley last triumphed at Fulham when they were both Third Division clubs in October, 1980. Burnley's first scorer in a 2-0 win that night was an 18-year-old Brian Laws - now a very worried manager on the way home to Turf Moor.
At the JJB, Wigan went ahead through Paul Scharner but Tuncay levelled for Stoke in a 1-1 draw.
Oh, and what about the much-neglected Johnsons Paints Northern final? Leeds, slowly subsiding after their FA Cup shock over Manchester United, contrived to lose it and Carlisle will go to Wembley despite losing the match 3-2 on the night.
That result left the tie at 4-4 after extra-time and Carlisle won the penalty shoot-out 6-5 in sudden-death with defender Shane Lowry, on loan from Aston Villa, having the crucial spot-kick blocked by Adam Collin.
Greg Abbott, clearly in shock, said afterwards: "We have competed against a massive club and won. The penalty shoot-out was pretty scary but that's Carlisle all over."
Southampton join them in the final after being MK Dons 3-1 in the Southern Final at St Mary's to take the tie 4-1 on aggregate.
Best story of the night? West Brom - 2-0 winners against Scunthorpe - went top of the Championship on goal difference from Newcastle, beaten 3-0, yes 3-0 at Derby. What? The Rams were 18th in the table! Surely the Toon can't mess up their promotion charge now?

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Grim news for South Africa and West Ham as Premier League gears up for whacky Wednesday

SOUTH AFRICA’S already frail World Cup hopes took an alarming turn for the worse this week with the news that West Ham striker Benni McCarthy’s 31-year-old knee may let him down before the big kick off against Mexico in Johannesburg on June 11.
McCarthy, who completed his controversial £2.5m move from Blackburn days before the January transfer window closed, limped off during his West Ham debut at Burnley on Saturday.
He had a glorious chance saved off the line in a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat - and is unavailable for the Hammers in their crucial Premier League clash against Birmingham tomorrow night.
My Upton Park source tells me: “Benny’s not looking good. That knee is a problem. South Arica may bfe in trouble if they think he’s going to be their major World Cup striker.”
The injury is not believed to be related to the knee injury McCarthy suffered against Fulham in November 2007 or any of the long-running problems which have ruled him out of so many internationals for South Africa in recent years.
But coach Carlos Alberto Parreira is insisting he will only pick a fully-fit McCarthy after his repeated spats with the Bafana Bafana (The Boys, The Boys) management.
When McCarthy left Ewood Park after refusing to train during his final days at Blackburn, former boss Sam Allarydyce insisted: “Benni’s not getting any younger. The legs are not quite as good but the talent is still there.
“When he came to Blackburn he scored 23 goals in his first year and hasn’t quite replicated that since.”
McCarthy’s problems add to Parreira’s woes – his side moved up from 85th to 81st in the FIFA rankings this week after friendly wins over Zimbabwe and Swaziland in Durban last month, but they remain the lowest ranked World Cup hosts in history.
While their cricket team celebrates crushing the world’s best Test nation India at Nagpur by an innings and their rugby Springboks hold the World Cup, the football side faces abject failure as they prepare for the biggest sporting event in the Rainbow Nation’s history.
Parreira is in England this week to encourage the Premier League clubs to release their players for a pre-World Cup camp in Brazil next month. With Kevin Pienaar sent off during Everton’s 1-0 defeat in the Merseyside derby defeat against Liverpool on Saturday, it’s been a tough trip
And things aren’t much better at West Ham, where new owners David Sullivan and David Gold – who were in charge at tomorrow’s opponents Birmingham until their buy-out last November – claim to have taken over a club heading for financial meltdown.
Sullivan said today: “One of the player facilitators, a guy who drives players around, is on £50,000 a year, the car park manager is on £70,000 a year. We’ve had to make redundancies and there are more to come.
“We are asking everyone to take a 25 percent pay cut at the end of the season – and any unhappy players will be sold.”
Boss Zola – who has picked up just six points in 10 games - hit out at the timing of Sullivan’s intervention as the club battles against relegation, but the new owners are unlikely to be deterred.
With the club £110m in debt following the Icelandic banking crisis which brought down the previous owners, Sullivan added: "Gianfranco is highly paid and I think all managers in the Premier League are overpaid. I can't believe the contracts I've inherited.
"The club is in a mess and we all have to pull together. If we go down, I can't even consider the situation. "It'll be Armageddon if we are relegated. It'll be worse than Newcastle."
Tomorrow night also sees huge top-of-the-table clashes in the Premier League with Liverpool travelling to Arsenal in the big battle for third place while Manchester United are at Aston Villa and leaders Chelsea go to Everton. And Portsmouth? The Premier's bottom club play Sunderland tonight knowing the club could be wound up in the morning. And that's not wound up as in "highly motivated" it's wound up as in "financially unviable".

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Monday, 8 February 2010

Suddenly the tabloids are being all nice to Mr Terry and Ms Perroncel. So much for press freedom!

WHAT worries me about this morning's press coverage of the John Terry/Vanessa Perroncel affair is just how soft the tabloids have gone since the French underwear model received her hush money on Friday.
Incredible. The Mirror say the poor lass wants to be reunited with the father of her three-year-old Wayne Bridge, The Sun have got some mushy stuff about Toni and John Terry both getting shirty, it's all so nicey-nice now.
Just like Max Clifford, the famous (and talented) publicist would want it. The money (allegedly £800,000 according to the Mirror and The Sun, the News of the World said £750,000 yesterday) seems to have brought an end to the great quest for press freedom.
Suddenly the Mirror have stopped searching for what they called last week "Terry's second Chelsea wife" and the Sun's investigation into "the fifth Chelsea lover of Ms Perroncel has gone strangely silent.
Weird isn't it? Can it be that the whole thing was just a tawdry tabloid tale, generated by Mr Clifford until his client was satisfied? And who exactly paid this hush money? John Terry? But according to today's Mail there is a suggestion the poor £150,000-a-week axed England captain is struggling for money because of his huge outgoings.
Is anyone going to investigate where this money came from to keep Ms Perroncel quiet? Could it be that our brave investigative journalists on the tabloids are happy to just let the truth be hushed up... for cash?! Surely not.
I stand by what I've said throughout this sad tale. John Terry - as he proved again during the 2-0 win over Arsenal yesterday - can captain the side at the World Cup no matter what he might get up to off the field. He was captain of Chelsea yesterday and the crowd loved him during a faultless performance - and he made the first of Didier Drogba's two goals.
The journalists today all make a big point of how well Terry played despite the pressure - if they'd read this blog, they'll have noticed he scored the winner at Burnley on the day of the first revelations, was impeccable against Hull during the week. And when he was under similar pressure last year over revelations about his mother's shop-lifting and his father's salesmanship, he thrived too.
Fabio Capello has done the big, brave thing and sacked Terry as captain. But the story was no more than yet another tabloid publicity stunt to make money all round. And Rio Ferdinand now offers a succulent target for the next set of shock-horror revelations.
Clearly, Rio has been a good lad since his early days when allegations and missed drugs tests surrounded the lad from Peckham, who now does a lot of work for charity and anti-knife crime organisations.
But no footballer is spotless. The News of the World and Max Clifford know that.
Terry is history. Job done. Bring on the next victim. It's the way of the world. But I suspect Mr Capello, a devout Catholic, didn't quite realise that.

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Sunday, 7 February 2010

Terry refuses to buckle as Drogba takes Arsenal apart once more

IT took just seven minutes of Chelsea's 2-0 win over Arsenal at Stamford Bridge today for John Terry to prove the point I've been making all week. Under incredible pressure, the axed England captain can produce the goods on the field. It matters not that he is the subject of continuing media speculation, that he gets booed at every touch, that he has been publicly humiliated this week.
At Chelsea today, it was his towering header over Arsenal's otherwise impressive Alex Song which set up the opening goal for Didier Drogba, the Ivory Coast striker who loves to score against the Gunners.
That's why Fabio Capello's decision to axe Terry before the World Cup is flawed. Okay, we all understand the reasons for it - the relationship with Wayne Bridge's former partner was always going to be a problem - and the Italian has proved he is omnipotent in the England camp.
But you won't find a better man than Terry to lead the World Cup campaign this summer. His morals can be questioned and even on £150,000 a week his bank balance may be under pressure, but the man is a mountain on the field.
So too is Drogba of course. He scored his second after 22 minutes when Frank Lampard set him free on the breakaway. The Drog had plenty of work to do from there, but he went past two and smashed it in with his left foot. 2-0. End of story. There was once a time when a man called Nwanko Kanu from Nigeria scored a hat-trick to help Arsenal to a 3-2 win over the Blues in October 1999.
But Chelsea haven't thrown away a 2-0 lead since then and certainly these Blues didn't let it slip.
Expensively constructed, well led by Carlo Ancelotti (who has stuck by Terry), they will remain Manchester United's only true rivals for Premier League supremacy.
And Arsenal, despite having most of the possession in the second half, revert to their customary position under the miserly Arsene Wenger. Well run, economically put together, but not real contenders.
Five years without silverware will soon become six. Third place may be defended despite pressure from Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa.
But for Arsenal fans, these last two Sundays, featuring emphatic defeats at the hands of United and Chelsea, have been hard to swallow. Sure, today was better than the 3-1 defeat at home to Sir Alex Ferguson last week, but how many times must we sit hear saying: "Arsenal were the better side but they didn't win, they don't have the firepower."
Without a genuine striker or a world class goalkeeper, Wenger continues to stick to his spending plans, if spending nothing can be called a plan.
And he does well to keep them in the Champions League shake-up year after year with players like the ineffective Denilson, dropped today, playing a major role.
But there will come a time when Arsenal fans want more. When they want something in the trophy cabinet. Much like England fans really.
And whatever you might think of John Terry's personal life, did you see him make a mistake at the back today?

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Saturday, 6 February 2010

A tale of two World Cup captains: Johnson finds salvation, Terry seeks redemption

NICE to escape the John Terry saga for ball of a different shape today. Started off on Sky News talking to Will Carling and Gareth Edwards outside Twickenham before the Six Nations opener between England and Wales. Then watched a cracking 30-17 England win after scoring in Goldhill Baptist's 5-2 win on Chalfont St Peter common (I don't score often these days, sorry).
Yup, Nick Powell and I were on Sky News this morning, daring to put our nation's rugby hopes ahead of the tawdry tale surrounding our football captain before the World Cup in June.
And they were good old sporting stories too - Ricky Flutey's injury has seen Toby Flood drafted in at centre and Wales have big problems up front. If England hadn't won this one, as Will Carling twittered me this morning "the vultures will be circling" around World Cup winning captain Martin Johnson in his bid to become a valid international coach.
It nearly happened at 20-17 with eight minutes left when James Hook ran through half the England side to score and then converted. But Delon Armitage produced a vital interception, Toby Flood and Matt Tait ran the ball and James Haskell ran in for his second try and it was game over, Johnson saved.
And erm... talking about World Cup winning captains, Nick picked up on The Sun front page on Sky News this morning. There was Terry, a few hours after being told by Fabio Capello he was not longer England captain, saying: "If they're a one percent chance of me being World Cup captain, I'll fight tooth and nail for it."
Terry was signed up as The Sun's World Cup columnist a month ago. Little did they know their sister paper, the News of the World, were on the verge of exposing his affair with Wayne Terry's former missus Vanessa Perroncel.
Terry of course, has no chance of being our captain when the side flies to Rustenburg on June 1 before their opening Group C game at Bafokeng Sports Palace before the opening game against the USA on June 11.
Especially if there's any truth in the Daily Mirror's front page splash this morning, which suggests Terry paid Perroncel £800,000 to end her bid to sell the story.
No doubt there will be more revelations tomorrow before the big game between Chelsea and Arsenal. But for now let's just concentrate on England's epic rugby win. It feels more wholesome.

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Friday, 5 February 2010

Terry sacked as England captain, it's official. Capello: "I would like to thank the FA for letting me take this decision"

JOHN TERRY was sacked as England captain this afternoon at Wembley after a 12-minute meeting with coach Fabio Capello.
In a statement, Capello said: "After much thought I have made the decision that it will be best for me to take the captaincy away from John Terry.
"As a captain with the team, John Terry has displayed extremely positive behaviour.
"However, I have to take into account other considerations and what is best for all of the England squad.
"What is best for all of the England team has inspired my choice and John Terry was notified first."
Capello went on to say thanks to the FA for "allowing me to make the decision".
This blog suggested Terry was going at noon after receiving an email detailing further allegations to come against the £150,000-a-week Chelsea defender.
Rio Ferdinand - Capello's vice-captain - will be captain for the friendly against Egypt at Wembley on March 3.
Terry's demise was announced at around 3.30pm. I was on Sky News with, amongst others, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, PFA chief Gordon Taylor and the News of the World's Neil Ashton for about half-an-hour by phone discussing the decision.
Ashton, once a Sunday League team-mate of mine with the Warriors in Amersham, said the Terry family will not want to buy the News of the World on Sunday but Perroncel, according to Max Clifford, has now decided not to sell her exclusive story to the papers.
In a nicely worded statement she said her main concern was her three-year-old fathered by Wayne Bridge. Bit late in the day for sentiments like that, I would argue.
When the story of Terry's affair with Perroncel broke on Saturday after his super-injunction was over-turned, there was a groundswell of opinion against the immoral Chelsea leader.
But as the days passed, Ms Perroncel lost some of her allure as she joined forces with arch-publicist Clifford and hawked her story around for £250,000.
The mood changed. Why ruin England's World Cup preparations by getting rid of the captain when the woman involved apparently slept with FIVE Chelsea players (according to The Sun) and has been dabbling with celebrities like the dark-haired bloke out of Steps since her teens?
Suddenly the underwear model was the bad lass, despite a tearful reunion with Wayne Bridge, father of her child and Terry's former Chelsea team-mate. We were ready to write off Terry's affair - which allegedly featured an abortion and a £20,000 payment - as just another footballer going astray with a temptress.
Even his wife Toni, who fled to Dubai with the Terry twins after the story broke, publicly said she would forgive him when he flies over for Valentine's Day, missing Chelsea's FA Cup clash with Cardiff on February 13.
But today the mood changed. And there are several reasons for it, not all of them publishable at this point.
Word reaches me that Terry may indeed have slept with another team-mate's wife at Chelsea. The woman is a model and a mother. Hilarious. Not.
On top of that, Perroncel has apparently slept with "another household name" at Chelsea. The Mirror made that allegation on Wednesday. I have the name. Actually two. One of them is really going to shake things up.
On top of that, also in the top-secret email naming these names, came the allegations over Terry's use of a box at Wembley. Certain claims were made. Now, 24 hours later, if you read this morning's Daily Mail back page, you'll see further details of that. Terry's minders are offering to hire the box out to a third party for around for £4,000, which is "strictly prohibited".
The Daily Mail suggests this is "so much more serious" than his personal problems. I'm not sure I agree with that. The email I've seen also suggests further revelations with more women, coming on top of the eight already listed in most papers so far. I was going to keep the email to myself until the box story emerged this morning. But it looks all too accurate.
Poor old Terry. He must have thought he was slipping out of the noose when Stuart Pearce, Capello's closest English ally and the England Under 21 manager, came out on Tuesday saying Terry should keep the captain's armband (available for £4 at the Wembley shop).
But with further revelations now a promise rather than a threat, Capello - a devout Catholic and a disciplinarian nicknamed "Generalissimo" in Italy - decided to act before Sunday's exclusive hits the streets.
And the new captain? Rio Ferdinand. The Manchester United centre-back has been injured for weeks. And he was banned one game into his comeback.
What worries me now Terry is gone is that his successor will get it in the neck from the tabloids, who will remember his lengthy ban for missing a drugs test three years ago. And ultimately it won't just be Terry and Bridge who suffer. It will be England's long-cherished World Cup dream in South Africa.
Terry was the best man for the job. The only one capable of playing under such intense pressure, as he will have to do again when Chelsea play Arsenal on Sunday. Watch this space.

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Thursday, 4 February 2010

After Tiger Woods and John Terry... it's President Zuma! He's fathered his 20th child by the daughter of a World Cup organiser

AT last news to knock John Terry off the blog. Another astonishing pre-World Cup tale, another sorry sporting sex saga. After Tiger Woods and Vanessa Perroncel... it's South Africa's president Jacob Zuma joining the top scorers' list.
Turns out Zuma, 67, has fathered his 20th child with the daughter of World Cup chief and important local football official Irvin Khoza. There was a huge furore when Zuma married again a couple of months ago, taking his current tally to three wives (see picture, he's second from the right).
Now he may have to resort to publicist Max Clifford to get him out of another huge controversy, just as Perroncel has after her affair with Terry - her partner Wayne Bridge's former Chelsea team-mate - was revealed last Saturday.
Zuma said yesterday that having the child, born in October to the 39-year-old daughter of his long-time friend Khoza, was a private matter. He said: "The media is making money out of the matter, questioning the right of the child to exist. The matter is now between the two of us, and culturally, between the Zuma and Khoza families."
But Nokuzola Mndende, director of the Icamagu Institute which promotes African culture, said: "Polygamous marriage is like any other marriage, it doesn't allow extra marital affairs. If a man wants to take another wife he has to follow certain procedures.
"An extra-marital affair is beyond race, religion or culture. It's a weakness of men."
A survey last month by the TNS market research firm questioned 2,000 people in South African cities and found that 74 per cent feel that it is a problem for a man to have more than one wife at a time. Opposition parties have accused Zuma of compromising South Africa's Aids prevention efforts, which promote condom use and faithfulness to a single sexual partner.
Since Zuma took office in May, he has made repeated public statements about the need to fight the disease. But four years ago he admitted to having extra-marital sex without a condom, saying that he had showered to prevent infection.
On Wednesday he argued that it was "mischievous" to accuse him of undermining the Aids campaign, vowing again to "intensify our efforts to promote prevention, treatment, research and the fight against the stigma attached to the epidemic".
Quite where John Terry stands on all this - given that he helped Ms Perroncel abort their love child - is unknown. He's staying quiet as the Clifford/Perroncel duo finalise a £250,000 deal to reveal further details of their affair on Sunday morning, probably in the News of the World.
At that point, The Sun suggests, a fifth name could be added to the underwear model's list of Chelsea conquests which currently includes Bridge, Terry, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Adrian Mutu.
But this morning's Mirror accuses Terry of having a second affair with a team-mate's wife.
England boss Fabio Capello, a devout Catholic, flew back to London from his Swiss home this morning and refused to comment on the furore but his assistant and Under21 boss Stuart Pearce has gone public with his view that Terry should remain the nation's captain going into the World Cup.
The suggestion is his private life shouldn't enter in to it. Terry is our best captain. At least South Africa's elected leader will understand how he feels.

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Wednesday, 3 February 2010

And then there were five Chelsea lovers. But Vanessa denies it all.

French model Vanessa Perroncel today dismissed claims in the Sun newspaper suggesting she has erm... enjoyed the company of FIVE Chelsea players.
Amid rumours of another big name conquest, the undeniably attractive underwear model is now alleged to have slept with Romanian striker Adrian Mutu and Iceland's Eidur Gudjohnsen before her having a child with Wayne Bridge and an abortion after her affair with Bridge's former team-mate and England captain John Terry.
Now it really is getting seedy. But what do you expect when you hire Max Clifford to help you with publicity? Apparently Clifford and Perroncel are on the verge of agreeing a £250,000 deal with a Sunday newspaper (either the News of the Screws or the Male on Sunday) where, doubtless, she will reveal the name of her fifth Blue move.
I said it on Sky News twice last night and I'll say it again tomorrow morning on their Sunrise programme - sometimes you have to consider the role of the woman in these scenarios. For every afffair these immoral footballers have, there is a woman. And Vanessa (above) is all woman, though she denies this morning's "five-a-side" splash in the Sun as "nonsense".
Whatever she might think and however Bridge, now at Manchester City, might feel, the latest allegations ease the pressure on Terry as England boss Fabio Capello prepares to return to England from his Swiss chalet in the morning.
The FA's Lord Triesman has said he will leave Terry's fate in the hands of his "Generalissimo" and despite Capello's devout Catholic views, he is now expected to leave the Chelsea man in charge after a stern warning about his future conduct. Or so I am led to believe.
Quite what we do about the mystery fifth Chelsea player - who must be sweating buckets at the moment - I'm not sure.
But when Manchester City take on Chelsea on February 27, Bridge may find himself outnumbered. And when England pick their side for the March 3 Wembley friendly against three-time African champions Egypt on March 1, expect Terry to have the capital C after his name. That's C for captain of course.
Terry, who had an injunction on the story over-turned last Friday, remains silent on the whole topic. He scored the winner against Burnley last Saturday despite the lurid headlines and was the best defender on display in the 1-1 draw at Hull last night.
Booed with every touch and cheered only when he received a yellow card, Terry appears capable of playing under extreme pressure. In fact he appears to thrive on it.
He scored against Manchester United the day his mother and mother-in-law were arrested for shop-lifting and captained his country at Wembley after his father was exposed in a video dealing drugs last year.
Capello may yet shock us all and behead Terry before the clash with managerless Egypt, but he should know this: If Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard get the captain's armband, they'll be put under huge scrutiny by the Sunday tabloids, who put circulation ahead of patriotism.
Terry stands four months short of becoming a potential Bobby Moore character in the nation's sporting history. His England team-mates apparently consider the possibility of ending our 44 years of footballing hurt of far greater importance than any hurt suffered by Mr Bridge-too-far.
According to Ian McGarry in The Sun, 13 of the 16 England players asked said they would stand by Terry. Three said it was none of their business. And my old paper, the London Evening Standard, reckon Gerrard, Lamps and Rooney are all reluctant to take the armband from Terry under these circumstances.
Have a stern word, Fabio. But don't ruin our World Cup preparation. Wintertime in South Africa, with a Group C line-up consisting of the USA, Algeria and Slovenia means we have never had a better chance of emerging as world champions in the last 40 years.
That should be the priority. Judgement day for Terry will come. But not until long after he's hung up his football boots.

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Tuesday, 2 February 2010

John Terry will miss the FA Cup fifth round - to spend Valentine's Day with the Missus. And a good thing too.

JOHN TERRY will miss Chelsea's FA Cup fifth round clash against Cardiff on February 13 - so he can spend Valentine's Day with his wife Toni.

Toni and her three-year-old twins are in Dubai - they flew off when news broke of the England captain's affair with Vanessa Peroncel, the former partner of England squad member Wayne Bridge, who left Chelsea for Manchester City last year.
Chelsea have said from the start they would support their captain through the current turmoil and allowing him to miss the Cardiff clash.
Tonight played at the KC Stadium, and was booked in the 1-1 draw against Hull, having scored the winner against Burnley over the weekend despite the furore going on around him.
And I've been at Sky News, watching the game on a live feed, having already been on once talking about his future as England captain. I'm about to go on again at 10.45pm with a recorded piece for Sunrise in the morning. I'm backing the man, who played well again last night. He has to remain our nation's footballing leader, despite his failings.
Initially I was sceptical. Now, having read what the average fans and readers of this blog think - not to mention my own 13-year-old Charlie - I've come the full circle.
Forget what the moralists are saying. Keep Terry in charge. His potential replacements as captain, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard, all have various skeletons in their cupboards.
All footballers think they're above the law, above morality. We've made them like that. It's the modern world. As I just said on Sky, the Royal Family, Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods have all been there, done that.
Sure, Terry ended up doing it with his former team-mate, but Bridge is by no means a vital part of the World Cup squad. And his partner Vanessa, mother of his child and former best friend of the Terrys, is hardly covering herself in glory either.
The woman who allegedly aborted Terry's love child has now turned to Max Clifford for help with her publicity - and the bidding is ongoing. Not exactly saintly, but that nice Mr Clifford says his client, a lingerie model, is "upset" by thoughts of how Terry's wife and her former partner Bridge might be feeling following the reports of the affair.
I bet she is. In truth, it's the other names on Vanessa's list of conquests (another Premier League star is sweating heavily, according to the Mirror) which Max will be looking to maximise. Best John and Toni have a good Valentine's Day and Ms Perroncel - who apparently met with Bridge today - can spill the beans without too much damage. Then we can concentrate on the World Cup... and the Terrys can concentrate on their twins.
Terry's major problem could be Capello's religious views. The Italian, 69, is quoted as saying: "I'm very Catholic and I am not all in favour of the current law on abortion.
"I like the Pope, the Church needs a traditionalist turn.
"I am someone who prays twice a day, in the morning and evening, wherever I find myself."

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Monday, 1 February 2010

Have a look at this, latest edition of Soccer Week magazine in South Africa...


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