Paper Round
December 14, 2010

Ashes WAGS arrive in Perth

Posted by Jo Carter on 14/12/2010

England's cricketers are flying high in Australia, but with the arrival of their families for the Christmas period, the dynamic of the team is almost certainly going to change.

Flower welcomes 'good distraction'



Stuart Broad’s injury has forced England to change their winning side for the third Test starting here on Thursday, but that is not all that is different, writes Derek Pringle in The Telegraph. With most of the wives and girlfriends turning up on Monday, after a WAG-free six weeks, England have changed the environment in which they have played fairly flawless cricket.

Flower blossoms with the WAGs



The Sun leads with Andy Flower's claim that the arrival of the families would be no distraction whatsoever:
Far from distracting Andrew Strauss and his players, head coach Flower believes the wives, girlfriends and children will give a big lift.

Could the Wags hurt England's Ashes hopes?



The wives and partners have arrived Down Under – and it may not be good news for Andy Flower, writes Stephen Brenkley in the Independent.

The WAGs arrived yesterday. They brought with them the children. Thus, at a stroke was six weeks of intense male bonding ended. England's cricket tour of Australia will never quite be the same again in terms of its testosterone levels and if it results in a reversal of the present good fortune there may yet be hell to pay.

December 13, 2010

It's all about Tevez

Posted by Ben Blackmore on 13/12/2010

Didier Drogba may have gone from hero to zero, and Heurelho Gomes certainly took a stroll in the opposite direction, but the only thing dominating the back page of every Monday morning paper was Carlos Tevez's decision to quit Manchester City

Let me go or I quit



The Sun usually stick to a tight script, but on this occasion they've decided to go with a hard-hitting headline. Unlike them really.

It’s not about the money



Tevez, despite being offered a reported £280,000-per-week contract, claims the money is not an issue, something that clearly caught the eye of The Daily Telegraph.

Why I’m going



The Daily Mail have built strong links with Manchester City, so don't expect any inflammatory headlines from them

Tevez fans flames in City row



We're not quite sure why The Times have linked fire to the situation, but we're happy to roll with it.

Tevez rift is beyond repair



A bold statement by The Daily Mirror when one considers the ridiculous U-turn made by Wayne Rooney not so long ago.

December 12, 2010

Begrudging respect for the Magpies

Posted by Ben Blackmore on 12/12/2010

With the news of Carlos Tevez's transfer request arriving so late on Saturday, Sunday's headlines were a mis-match of begrudging pro-Newcastle rhetoric and schoolyard big talk...

Dew Reward



Alan Pardew is the subject of the The Sun’s attentions after he masterminded a 3-1 victory over Liverpool. You have to feel the headline-writers are gutted that Mike Ashley has not fallen directly on his sword.

Axe-mad Australia are just clueless



Former England batsman Alec Stewart sticks the knife into Australia as the Sunday Mirror gears up for the third Ashes Test. One wonders if he will be made to eat his words.

United don’t scare us



Boasting a ghastly picture of Samir Nasri, the Daily Star vamps up the trash talk ahead of Manchester United v Arsenal. In response, it's difficult to imagine Wayne Rooney is struggling to sleep at he prospect of facing Laurent Koscielny.

December 11, 2010

Khan's becoming a genuine champion

Posted by Ben Blackmore on 11/12/2010

Once maligned as an over-hyped boxer with no chin, Amir Khan is expected to do Britain proud this weekend when he attempts to wow the Las Vegas public against Marcos Maidana. For the Daily Telegraph’s Kevin Garside, Saturday marks the beginning of a new era for Khan...

“It’s my time” – a bold statement that chimes beautifully with sensibilities in Las Vegas. It was as close as Amir Khan has come all week to bombast, that cornerstone of boxing patois. It might be overstating the case to claim that Khan’s address at the head-to-head with Marcos Maidana was his Martin Luther King moment. It is fair to argue, however, that his measured words marked a departure of significance for a young British athlete making his way in the world.

There was deference and respect for his opponent, the implacable, iron-fisted Argentine sitting to his left. There was gratitude for the organisers and a balanced assessment of why his name is topping this bill. He has paid his dues as an amateur and as a pro. The message was this: it might be that public opinion does not yet accord with my own, but get there it will. You’ll see.
Khan is that rare paradox, a superstar awaiting rediscovery. The teenage warrior who warmed our hearts in Athens with the improbable heist of Olympic silver six years ago, somehow fell the wrong side of the rainbow. A narrative that played for him as a schoolboy trading leather with hairy-backed Kazakhstanis twice his age flipped negatively when the money started rolling in.

He probably did not help himself driving around Bolton at 18 with L-plates attached to a Range Rover. The 6-series convertible Beemer that followed was fatal for his hopes of blending into the community. Neither did the big house in the posh part of town progress the idea that Khan would not be corrupted by fame and fortune.

Envy was on the loose and spreading. Khan behaved, of course, as anyone would. The instinct to better one’s circumstances, to alter positively the terms and conditions of our engagement with life is a primal goal. His mistake was to be a chippy youth from the northern fringe of post-industrial Manchester one day and the next a teenage millionaire, a species guaranteed to put the nose of blue-collar Britain out of joint.

Spending big in Bolton the money that promoter Frank Warren provided on the signing of his first professional contract went down like a bad pie in the chip shop.
There is also the problematic matter of Khan’s ethnicity. Though it is taboo to raise this issue in some circles, the undercurrent of racial tension rippling along the north-Manchester axis on which Bolton sits is too important to ignore.

While one would like to believe that his background played no part in souring the love story, Khan would not be the first British Asian to suffer negative profiling. Khan, you will recall, made his professional debut nine days after the London bombings of July 2005. Those responsible were from the same demographic as Khan, teenage sons of Pakistani immigrants.
Khan denounced the perpetrators, distanced himself absolutely from Muslim extremism, proclaimed his essential Britishness, wore the flag of the Union on his shorts. Though the enlightened majority did not need convincing, the episode hardened prejudices elsewhere and complicated what should have been a tale of sporting gold.

When the inevitable adolescent skirmishes with life occurred, motoring misdemeanours in his case, there was in some quarters a depressing delight. The corresponding hiccups in the ring, the knock-downs inflicted by Willie Limond and Michael Gomez eroded his credibility further and then in September 2008, Khan ran into the career car crash that was Breidis Prescott’s right hand. Khan was gone in 54 seconds, a write-off according to many.

Here, in the countdown to his Las Vegas debut, Khan can smile at the memory. The two years of painstaking rebuilding under the aegis of Freddie Roach have drained the poison from the wound. It is now a technical issue to be deconstructed, an abstraction in the formula being developed by Roach that is transforming Khan into a great boxer.

“No fighter wants to lose, especially getting knocked out. I see more of that fight than any of my wins. Everywhere you go people just want to talk about the one you lost. I understand that. And I’m glad they do because it makes me realise that it if you make mistakes it can happen again, that you are not invincible. You can get hurt in boxing.”

Khan is Roach’s 25th world champion. The Wild Card gym he opened with actor Mickey Rourke is the most sought after finishing school in world boxing. Roach offers Khan the same sympathetic nurturing he received at Mick Jelley’s amateur gym in Bury. LA and Bury; that is some twinning of towns.

“I have so much trust in Freddie. If he says don’t throw a punch, I won’t throw it. That’s how much I trust him. He can see a fight, read a fight. If I had started my career with Freddie I might have been unbeaten. But things happen for a reason. If that defeat hadn’t happened I would be nowhere near as good as I am now. It motivates me.,” said Khan.

Six years on from his Olympic success, Khan is demonstrably a man, a good man at that. He has come through the first phase of new wealth. What we are seeing now is a dynamic graduate empowered by a sense of his own potential and relishing the responsibility that comes with being a grown up. All that remains is for the British public to catch up.

“When people ask me the question, ‘do you want to walk out of this game filthy rich or leave behind a legacy?’ I tell them I want to be remembered as a great champion and role model like Manny Pacquiao. We all fight for purses. It’s a business. Manny makes great money all over the world, but he is still humble and loves boxing. I want to follow in his footsteps.”


December 10, 2010

Pardew joins the Loony Toons

Posted by Jo Carter on 10/12/2010

After the surprise sacking of Chris Hughton on Monday, Newcastle layed down a marker of their ambitions with the appointment of Alan Pardew, so we take a look at the headlines in Friday morning's papers.

Fans hail new Messiah



'The problem I'm going to have initially is the players,' admitted Pardew. And the fans, says The Sun, who claim only a handful of supporters turned up to welcome the new Magpies boss.
'It was hardly Pardy time at St James' Park yesterday. Fans flocked to the ground to see Geordie Bobby Robson become boss in 1999. They did the same when home-town hero Alan Shearer signed three years earlier. But Alan Pardew's arrival left the locals cold... only a couple of supporters turned up to welcome him.'

Newcastle stars in revolt



The Daily Mirror claims Pardew will face a player revolt when he takes the reins on Friday.
'Pardew will hold a team meeting and training session on Friday morning and is also braced for fan protests against the turmoil caused this week before Saturday's home clash with Liverpool.'

You must be mad



While there were plenty of names linked with the job at St James' Park, the Daily Mail claims nobody really fancied the job.
Pardew said: 'I've had a lot of texts from other managers saying I must be mad coming here because of the tough agenda and the history of the ownership with managers, but it's a huge club and one of the top five clubs in the country, I would suggest.'

Time on his side?



He may have signed a five-and-a-half-year deal, but the chances of Pardew seeing out his contract are virtually non-existent, says the Daily Telegraph
'Pardew has been given a contract until 2016. That is a long time in the life of any football club. 'At Newcastle it is almost an epoch. In the last five and half years Newcastle have employed seven "permanent" managers...Elsewhere in the Premier League, who has lasted the length of Pardew's contract? Aside from the immovable objects Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and David Moyes - no one.'

December 9, 2010

The transfer silly season is underway

Posted by Alex Livie on 09/12/2010

It’s heading into December and as well as the season of good will, it is the season of transfer speculation.

Kop to Splash Cash on Ash


A lovely play on words from the Daily Mirror who claim Liverpool will make a January swoop for Ashley Young.
‘Roy Hodgson and transfer negotiator Damien Comolli are working on the ambitious project and hope to seal a £15m deal for the winger in Janaury.’

Houllier poised for £6m Keane bid


So if Young does depart, and that’s IF, then a void will need to be filled and the boys at the Daily Mail are claiming Gerard Houllier will make a move for Tottenham’s out-of-favour forward Robbie Keane.

Pardew has fight to win over Toon


It looks like Alan Pardew is the ‘experienced’ man Newcastle have opted to replace Chris Hughton with. Most of the tabs have picked up on a poll conducted by a north east paper where only 2% of fans canvassed were in favour of the appointment of the former West Ham boss. Seems like it could be the briefest of honeymoon periods.

Sackre Blues


Chelsea’s poor run of form continued with a 1-0 defeat at Marseille. Carlo Ancelotti has suggested his players are scared to play. The Italian has insisted he will not walk away, but The Sun’s headline gives an indication of what the Wapping team feel might happen.

December 8, 2010

Laughing Stock

Posted by Alex Livie on 08/12/2010

England have suffered a lot of pain on tours of Australia and to a man the papers are revelling in the brilliant win in Adelaide. It was a crushing innings victory, made all the sweeter by the sight of torrential rain drenching the Adelaide Oval later in the afternoon.

The Australian media have questioned the current crop and their English counterparts have put the boot in on the back pages.

LAUGHING STOCK


‘Can’t bat, can’t bowl, can’t field – Daily Mail

GO FOR THE JUGULAR



Andrew Strauss has told the triumphant England team to drive home their Ashes advantage – Daily Mirror

ON THEIR KNEES



Ricky Ponting is pictured with a rueful look on his face on the front of the Daily Telegraph’s sports pullout.

CUT OUT AND KEEP



The Times shows the scoreboard from the Adelaide Oval following England’s brilliant win.

December 7, 2010

Hughton sacking met with disbelief

Posted by Josh Williams on 07/12/2010

Chris Hughton's sacking as Newcastle United manager on Monday was one of the most surprising dismissals in recent memory, considering he'd taken the Magpies back into the Premier League and had established them in mid-table.

The Mirror, whose back page suggests that Martin Jol is set for imminent talks with Newcastle, goes with a "Barking at the Toon" headline - and there is an undercurrent of disbelief running through most of the sports pages in the dailies.

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is labelled "The Grinch" in the Sun, who also have an exclusive interview with skipper Kevin Nolan.

Columnist Richard Williams is particularly scathing in his comment piece in the Guardian, accusing Ashley of treating Hughton as a "disposable lightbulb".

Perhaps the hardest to manage of all England's leading clubs, Newcastle are built on legends and myths. Sometimes the owners and the fans find it difficult to differentiate between the two, and the task for a manager in the current era is complicated by a dressing room that has long given the impression of resembling the Augean stables. Given the club's inherent volatility, Hughton performed a great deal more creditably than his employers, whose bad decisions are now so numerous that it is hard to imagine them ever making a good one.
December 6, 2010

Australia looking like mugs

Posted by Jo Carter on 06/12/2010

With England on course for victory in Adelaide after amassing 1137 runs for six wickets in their last two innings, Martin Samuel in The Daily Mail claims England have every reason to be feeling smug.

Just before lunch on the third day, officers from the South Australian Police gathered on the hill of the Cathedral End where the rowdier elements congregate at the Adelaide Oval and swept purposefully through the crowd. Nobody knew what they were looking for. Bowlers, most probably.

Australia could certainly do with some if they are to stand any chance of regaining the Ashes.
The battle between England's top order and the Australian attack was always going to define this game, and sure enough all hope of Australian victory was removed over two and a bit brutal days.

Englishmen have learned not to tempt fate at this charming cricket ground, but even the most pessimistic Pom could find no reason to doubt the outcome here. The game was taken away from Australia by England's batsmen, most notably Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen, and the hosts biggest hope now is that rain will postpone a seemingly inevitable denouement.

Unless the bowling attack can regroup, England will retain the urn sometime soon and win the series after that either in Perth, Melbourne or Sydney. As it stands, Australia are up a gum tree; maybe even the old gum tree on Macfarlane Street that is regarded as the birthplace of the province.

Continue reading "Australia looking like mugs"

December 5, 2010

KP goes nuts in Adelaide

Posted by Jo Carter on 05/12/2010

With rain threatening to ruin England's chances of victory after a dominant start in Adelaide, Telegraph columnist Geoffrey Boycott reckons England need to get 400 runs on the board before declaring.

Another cracking day of England’s batsmen putting Australia to the sword. At no time were the Australian bowlers ever able to exert any pressure on England’s batsmen. Kevin Pietersen played superbly. A controlled, clinical batting display and then once he got his century dismissive aggression just took the game away from Australia.

I wish he would play like this more often. He didn’t give the bowlers a chance and he would be an even better player for England and himself. Paul Collingwood played a nice little cameo innings and surprised us all when he got out. Ian Bell was just smoothly elegant before the rain came.

Although time can be made up we have to keep in mind that this is a really flat nothingness pitch, and it could be difficult for England to get 10 wickets.

But the way Australia are playing, I still think England have a good chance of winning. I would get a lead of 400 before declaring. Wickets with the new ball will be priceless and then Graeme Swann has to get in on the act.

Continue reading "KP goes nuts in Adelaide"

December 4, 2010

The men who betrayed England

Posted by Tom Walker on 04/12/2010

It has been a shocking week for England where the World Cup is concerned. As the fallout continues after the 2018 World Cup bid spectacularly failed in Zurich, Owen Gibson from the Guardian names and shames the FIFA delegates who turned their back on England.

The morning after the night before, the shell‑shocked England 2018 chief executive, Andy Anson, shakes his head as he attempts to unpick why their core vote collapsed. "I still find it hard to understand what happened," he said. "I'm not going to beat around the bush – individual members promised to vote for us and didn't, clearly."

Perhaps appropriately for England's rollercoaster but ultimately doomed campaign Anson's final 24 hours swung from huge highs to crushing lows. On Wednesday night he had appeared to be having the time of his life as England's "three lions" – Prince William, David Cameron and David Beckham – lobbied executive committee members in the Baur au Lac hotel in an effort to capitalise on the momentum they believed they had generated. By the following afternoon he was ashen-faced as England's one executive committee member, Geoff Thompson, informed the bid team that they had been knocked out in the first round and garnered only two votes.

Anson insisted yesterday they had not been naive in taking at their word the executive committee members they had spent the past 20 months lobbying but did concede that perhaps England lacked real clout where it mattered. The smile and shake of the head of Russia chief executive Alexei Sorokin when asked whether he was surprised that England crashed out with just two votes said it all. "Russia did a lot of last-minute lobbying and votes appeared to switch at the last minute – we know some switched in the early hours of the morning," said Anson. "I hope [the British media] is a convenient excuse and they just had other reasons for going to Russia that they are not prepared to tell us about. Because for me it's a crap excuse."

Senior members of the bid team were convinced yesterday that the "night of the long knives" was a co-ordinated exercise designed to close ranks and punish the English bid team for their media. England's team thought that they had up to eight backers even allowing for 25% falling away that would be enough to see them through to the second round. But virtually every one of England's supporters vanished. As it happens, it was only Issa Hayatou, the Cameroonian who was featured in this week's Panorama programme cited by some as the reason for switching their vote, who stuck by England in return for their support in 2002 when he unsuccessfully tried to unseat Blatter.

Jack Warner, the Concacaf president who has revelled in his status as kingmaker of the English bid, shook hands with Cameron, had his picture taken with Prince William, then promptly took his three votes to Russia. As the equally bitter USA bid team for 2022 tried desperately to work out why their initial first round vote was so low, they pondered the possibility that Warner – and their own federation – may not even have voted for them. The Cypriot Marios Lefkaritis and the Ivorian Jacques Anouma did likewise. All four of those agreements were understood to be witnessed by several parties. A pledge made over a handshake between Turkey's Senes Erzik and Thompson was also broken. All went to Russia, except Erzik, who went to Holland/Belgium in what appeared to be a calculated effort to knock out England in the first round. Anouma, it is believed, switched his support after a meeting in the early hours with representatives of the Russian bid.

After the first round of voting Michel Platini, Michel d'Hooghe and Junji Ogura – all believed to be sympathetic to England at various points in the process – sided with Russia and so gave it victory over a Spain/Portugal bid that held on to the seven votes it started with but gained no more. They were secured through a pact with Qatar's 2022 bid that was the subject of so much conjecture but which Fifa's ethics committee could not find "sufficient grounds" to declare outside the rules.

As Anson again reiterated yesterday the parallel nature of the races was a problem. In a race where everyone needed something to trade, England – isolated without any natural alliances – could offer only one vote to trade. Thompson – honest and respected to some, invisible and ineffective to others – was insistent that he would not offer his vote to multiple bidders, as others clearly did.

Even here things went awry. Thompson agreed a pact with Chung Mong-joon that would see England support South Korea in the 2022 race, for the first round at least. It was sealed over a whisky with the prime minister and Thompson delivered his side of the bargain. The motivation for treachery was not personal gain but political expediency. Chung, a hugely wealthy member of the Hyundai dynasty and with close links to the ruling party came under pressure from the Korean government to vote for Russia because it needs Vladimir Putin's support in putting pressure on its neighbour North Korea.

Putin, heavily involved throughout the bid, put in long stints on the phone on the eve of the vote to Blatter and others despite not being there in person.

If, as it appears, the bid was essentially won and lost in the close confines of the black granite and chrome boardroom of the Fifa executive committee, why did Thompson not see what was coming? All agree that the Sheffield-born Thompson is a decent and honorable man. But, on the evidence of the past two years in general and the past week in particular, a quiet manner and a commitment to honesty will get you only so far at Fifa House. In comparison with the energetic Mohamed Bin Hammam, who against all the odds and with access to unlimited funds, pulled off the unlikely and to some unrealistic prospect of a World Cup in Qatar, or the supreme salesmanship and networking of Spain's Angel María Villar Llona, Thompson was never going to deliver. Perhaps England were never going to win, given their lack of influence and insistence on playing by the rules, but if that was the case it starts to look like folly to spend £18m and two years trying.

Thompson will hand over his seat on the Fifa executive committee to the Northern Irishman Jim Boyce, who is known to feel that Thompson has been badly dealt with by Fifa, in April under a pre-arranged deal between the home nations. Boyce, perhaps more charismatic, also styles himself as a straight dealer.

Thompson looked punch drunk by the end of a bruising day that had begun in such optimism as England's team dared to dream that the presence of the "three lions", their glossy films, pre-eminence in the technical reports and so on was any substitute for cutting binding deals with 22 untrustworthy individuals whose motivation was perhaps less about the best World Cup and more about what was best for them.

December 3, 2010

FIFA: A complete and utter sham

Posted by Ben Blackmore on 03/12/2010

England inevitably fell short in their bid to bring the World Cup home on Thursday, so cue the unadulterated hard-luck stories based on a lack of fairness and suggested corruption. Here former England boss Terry Venables gives his opinion in the Sun.

MAYBE we should not be that surprised Russia got the vote to stage the 2018 World Cup. After all, FIFA and the KGB are just about the last two secret organisations on the planet. Because when it comes to a political intrigue, espionage and a good old-fashioned bit of cloak and dagger, those in charge of football's governing body would certainly give Russia's secret service a run for their money. How else do you explain yesterday's announcement in Zurich?

If you had given the script to the director of the new James Bond movie, he would have turned it down and accused it of being too far-fetched. England beat the living daylights out of their rival bids, but were still met by Dr No. Unbelievable.

And, if we're being honest, unjust.

We not only best met all of FIFA's critieria for the bid, we also jumped through their hoops, bent over backwards and went way above and beyond the call of duty in an effort to bring the World Cup to our shores for the first time since 1966. Having previously received a rap across the knuckles from Jack Warner for being "too lightweight" and "not showbizzy enough", our future King and the Prime Minister were among the dignitaries who cleared their hectic diaries and overcame the Arctic conditions to travel to Switzerland to put our case to FIFA's executive committee.

And still it was not enough.

In fact, Prince William and David Cameron might as well have stayed at home because in the end it was clear Sepp Blatter and co had already made up their minds. And did they back what was by far the best bid in front of them? The one that matched all the criteria? The one that would deliver the best World Cup? The one that was totally assured? The one that could, if asked, put on a finals tomorrow?

Nope.

Instead they chose the country, whose Prime Minister Vladimir Putin did not even travel to Zurich for the vote. So much for backing his bid. Maybe he knew it was already in the bag. Well his decision not to attend the vote is almost as bizarre as FIFA's decision to give 2018 to Russia over England.

FIFA led us to believe the bidding countries would be judged on things like stadiums, IT networks, transport links, hotels, training facilities and communications. That was clearly not so. After all, who in their right mind would score Russia above England in any of those categories? To do so, would be farcical, as anybody who has ever been beyond the old Iron Curtain would tell you.

Once again we were led up the garden path. Annoyingly, not only did we have the best bid, we also had the best presentation. Yet all we returned home with was a certificate from FIFA. Against all the ethics of the beautiful game, on this occasion it appears the best was not good enough - and nor was it ever going to be. Had the decision been based solely on the bid, we would have undoubtedly won. But it clearly was not.

The bleeding heart liberals in Zurich, like they did with South Africa 2010, opted for legacy over logistics. Nothing wrong with that, just tell us before we waste all that time and money compiling a bid. Russia has never staged a World Cup before. And while the head nation of the former Soviet Union would undoubtedly benefit from the legacy of hosting football's biggest showpiece tournament, they have so much work to do to turn their country into one able to do so.

If the aim by FIFA all along was to give 2018 to a nation that had never held a World Cup before then fine. I just wished they would have told us and the FA at the outset. It would have saved us £15 million and a lot of heartache. Instead, the selection process became a charade - in fact a complete and utter sham.

England never got the 2018 World Cup, because we were never going to get it. It was what the French speakers in Zurich call a 'fait accompli'. And thanks to FIFA's secret agents we may never know exactly why we were refused the chance to host the tournament. I only know it is a great shame. A shame for England. A shame for football. And shame on FIFA.


December 2, 2010

An Oscar-winning performance

Posted by Jo Carter on 02/12/2010

D-Day has arrived: England find out their fate and whether another major sporting competition will be coming to the country. The man who helped bring the Olympics to London has called for an Oscar-winning performance from the team presenting the bid, writes Steven Howard in the Sun.

Sebastian Coe knows exactly what it takes to come out on top of the world here in FIFA's home city. He did it three times as an athlete, shattering the world mile and 1500 metres records at the Letzigrund Stadium in a golden spell from 1979 to 1981.

Some 24 years later, he would famously triumph off the track in Singapore as he delivered the 2012 Olympics for Great Britain. Now he is back in Zurich once more trying to work the same magic for England's 2018 World Cup bid.

Last night, as the bid hung in the balance following a bizarre attack on it by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Coe spelled out just what the England team have to do this morning to clinch the vote.

Coe, a 2018 ambassador, said: "We need five Oscar-winning performances from our speakers. We need messages that come over loud and clear. We need succinct films that illustrate the messages - and we need an emotional connection.

"All this is so important - even more so when there are no frontrunners and there is uncertainty about the outcome.

"We must also make sure we don't get swayed by what the others are doing or saying because all the presentations will be good.

"No one comes here with a crap presentation."

The Famous Five in whose hands England's 2018 destiny could lie are Prince William, David Cameron, David Beckham, bid leader Andy Anson and the generally unknown but eloquent Eddie Afekafe, a community project manager at Manchester City. They will each put England's case during a 30-minute presentation at 10am English time in front of the 22 FIFA executive members.

They will follow Holland-Belgium and Spain before Russia wrap up the proceedings for the £3billion honour of staging the 2018 World Cup.

Coe, a double Olympic gold medallist in Moscow and Los Angeles, said: "I know from my own experience that you CAN win votes at the last minute.You do this by commitment and showing you really want it badly.

"And the cast list here demonstrably proves that."

Continue reading "An Oscar-winning performance"

December 1, 2010

'Ugly' Cook doing ordinary things extraordinarily well

Posted by Jo Carter on 01/12/2010

Alastair Cook silenced his critics with an extraordinary double century to rescue a draw for England at the Gabba. In his Sun column his team-mate Graeme Swann explains why he spent the whole of Cook's innings lying on the floor, and why Cook is nicknamed 'Woody'.

Alastair Cook played one of the greatest Ashes innings in history for England. But, let's face it, he's as ugly as sin as a batsman.

He might be a handsome man with those dark smouldering looks but, when he straps on his pads, he is horrible to watch.

There are people in our team you'd pay to watch — the Bells, Pietersens and the Swanns!
Then there are some for whom you wouldn't cough up an Aussie cent — like Cook, Strauss and Trott. But they're the ones churning out the big hundreds so we don't care what they look like.

Cooky runs like Woody from Toy Story. Anybody who has watched the Toy Story movies and seen Woody chasing around will know exactly what I mean. He always wears those big shin pads under his trousers as he normally fields at short leg. Even when he's batting, his big pads flap around in the breeze.

He's a shocker. But what a player. He might have the face of a choirboy — in fact, he once sang at St Paul's Cathedral — but he is very tough indeed. He's had to be mentally strong as it was only two Tests ago there were widespread calls for him to be dropped. Then he scored a ton at The Oval against Pakistan and it all changed.

To get a double-century in Australia is incredible. He said it was his highest score in any cricket — he thinks. It must be nice if you have to think whether 235 not out is your best. I can tell you it would be mine! Cooky's worked out his game — you can tell by his wagon wheel that he plays to his strengths. Until he'd scored 210, he hadn't scored a run past the stumps at the bowler's end.

Jimmy Anderson and I joke that he tries to hit an off drive and the ball ends up going to fine leg. He didn't do anything extraordinary, he just did ordinary things extraordinarily well. His innings lasted ten and a half hours and I watched all of it lying on the floor. We bowlers are very superstitious when England bat.

So, if I get into a position that's comfy and we're not losing wickets, I won't move. I stayed in my spot on the floor — it was horrendously uncomfortable and my back was killing me by the end of the day. But who cares when England aren't losing wickets? Next morning, we went straight back into our positions. These superstitions are strange.

I spend most of the tour off the field with Cooky. He's the keeper of the darts board. Not surprisingly, he's already made jokes about hitting doubles. The board hangs on the back of Cooky's hotel room door and he and Jimmy are brilliant — they can checkout over 100, easily. I'm hopeless. My nickname is 'Shoplifter' because I never go to the checkout.

We took more out of the First Test than Australia and nothing has changed my mind that we can win The Ashes. On that last day, there was an hour or so when we were in complete control and you could see a few Aussie bowlers were at the end of their tether.

And Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting dropped catches, which you don't expect. If you're the team on the right side of it, you don't need to do anything other than let those little niggles take effect and create tension in the opposition. Australia had a tough couple of days and their Press is tearing them to pieces. But we know they'll come back twice as hard. This series will be a real dogfight.

Some people have criticised my bowling in Brisbane but I was happy after a poor start. I don't think the Aussies targeted me, they just hit a few bad balls when I pitched too short.

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