Editor's Blog
May 25, 2010

England do not do convincing

Posted by Alex Livie on 25/05/2010

So England were unconvincing in beating Mexico. What's new? The last time England were convincing was arguably against Germany in 2001.

England do not do convincing. England do not pass teams off the park and score beautiful goals that leave you with a warm feeling in your stomach. That sort of thing is best left to the Spains and Brazils of this world.

Fabio Capello does not have the players at his disposal to play the beautiful game. There is no Leo Messi, no Kaka, no Cristiano Ronaldo and certainly no Xavi and Iniesta. If you want your team to pass the opposition to sleep and win beautifully, go find another team.

What England do do is work hard pressing the ball and grinding teams down. England have Lampard and Gerrard, two good players, but cut from a different cloth from the aforementioned set of top-class stars.

England may win the World Cup, I very much doubt it simply because their inability to keep the ball will see them punished by a good side, but whatever they achieve will not be done convincingly.

May 22, 2010

Grab on Blackpool and enjoy the ride

Posted by Alex Livie on 22/05/2010

Blackpool has a Tower, a Winter Garden, a big dipper or two and now it has Premier League football.

Clubs see the Premier League as the place where fortunes can be made but you hope Blackpool take a leaf out of the book of Burnley rather than copy the model of Hull City.

Burnley may have had just one season in the top flight, as opposed to Hull's two, but the Clarets head back to the Championship far better equipped to fight a promotion battle than a Hull or a Portsmouth. Yes Burnley were found wanting on account of a lack of quality on the field, but they could have spent millions more and still ended up in the same position.

Having seen Blackpool on a couple of occasions this season, it is clear their squad will need bolstering. But they have a manager in Ian Holloway who has built a tremendous team spirit and they play football in the right way.

Bloomfield Road has changed massively from when I stood on the away terrace on the odd freezing January day but it will still be a daunting trip for some of the world's elite and they have to make it a fortress.

But win or lose, let's just hope Blackpool don't get carried away and gamble all. Just enjoy the ride.

May 17, 2010

Long live King Rafa

Posted by Alex Livie on 17/05/2010

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Masters 1000 title No.18 came his way on Sunday and it is clear that Rafael Nadal is back operating towards the peak of his powers.

There were those, myself among them, who feared for Nadal when he limped out of the Australian Open with yet another knee injury. It appeared that injury would rob the game of, in my opinion, the greatest player to pick up a racket.

But he has battled back and the way he did another job on Roger Federer in Madrid suggests that Slam No. 7 will be heading Nadal's way at the French Open.

He is a different beast away from the debilitating surface that is concrete and looks untouchable on clay. And if he manages his schedule in the manner he has since Melbourne then he will surely have a big summer on grass.

The US hard-court season will offer the likes of Federer and Andy Murray the chance to hit back. Nadal would be well advised to limit his play on concrete to the big events, sacrificing titles if needs be, as his longevity is vital for tennis. The game needs stars and Nadal is the brightest of all.

May 8, 2010

A King size problem for Capello

Posted by Alex Livie on 08/05/2010

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Fabio Capello has a looming problem on his hands in the shape of a certain Ledley King.

Capello names his provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup on Tuesday and King must feature. The Tottenham man has produced consistent excellence this season and in recent games has proved that his notoriously brittle knees can stand up to the rigours of games in quick succession. His display during Tottenham’s win over Manchester City was top-drawer in the way he shackled Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor, but it was no flash in the pan. He has been doing the same all season.

The problem Capello faces is that not only should King be in the squad, on current form he should be in the team.

If all defenders available to England were fit for selection, four centre-backs stand head and shoulders above the rest: Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, King and Jonathan Woodgate.

Woodgate is out of the picture due to injury, which leaves two from three and herein lies the problem for Capello. The odd one out would appear to be Ferdinand, but he is the England captain and can he drop the England captain if he is available?

King and Ferdinand are alike in terms of playing style, comfortable on the ball and great readers of the game. Terry is the no-nonsense ball winner and as such it should be either King or Ferdinand partnering Terry.

Ferdinand’s position in the team would have been guaranteed 12 months ago, but a series of injuries have blighted his season and as a consequence he has not looked as assured when he has been available for Manchester United. He is likely to play in the final game of the season and as such prove his fitness, but that alone should not guarantee him a place in the team.

Capello has to pick the best players available and on form it is King and Terry, but will he make that tough decision to axe his captain in the same way he stripped Terry of the captaincy for an off-field incident earlier in the season?

May 2, 2010

A plea for consistency

Posted by Alex Livie on 02/05/2010

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Henry Cecil had a 25th Classic in his pocket, but before the famous flag could be flown over Warren Place the 1000 Guineas was ripped from his grasp by the Newmarket stewards.

Jacqueline Quest scored by a nose from Special Duty, after the two had duelled throughout the final furlong, but the finish caught the attention of the stewards as Jacqueline Quest drifted to her right, taking Special Duty with her, and Tom Queally was guilty of not pulling his whip through to his right hand.

The stewards took the view that the result had been affected by the actions of Jacqueline Quest and took the decision to reverse the placings. It was the right decision, as the margin had been so slight it was almost certain that Special Duty had been hampered, and it should not matter whether it was a Group One race at the headquarters of racing or a selling race at Folkestone on a Tuesday afternoon.

But that is where the problem lies as there have been far worse incidents that have occurred in the past that have gone unpunished. The British Horseracing Authority are attempting to boost the image of racing with an initiative called ‘Racing For Change’. That’s all well and good, but there is no possible way that the image of racing can be improved if the people that matter, the paying customers, have no faith in the system.

The majority of backers of the two horses will have gone away from the 1000 Guineas fairly happy, as Special Duty was a well backed 9/2 favourite whereas Jacqueline Quest was an unconsidered 66/1 shot. But there will be those who are aware that more serious breaches of the rules go on day in, day out that are not punished.

Cecil is a master of his art and will take the decision with good grace, but there may not be good grace in the future if one of his horses is carried across the track in a selling race at Folkestone on a Tuesday afternoon and is not awarded the race.

All we can ask for is consistency. But will we get it?

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