Saturday 26 February 2011

Dean Richards - 1974 - 2011

Dean Richards

Former Tottenham and Wolves defender Dean Richards died on Saturday aged 36 after losing his battle with a long-term illness.

Richards, who also played for Bradford and Southampton, was forced to retire from the game in March 2005 after suffering from dizzy spells and headaches during his time at White Hart Lane.

A statement on the Wolves website read: "Everyone at Wolves was saddened to hear of the death of Dean Richards, who passed away this morning at the age of 36 after a long-term battle with serious illness."

The Premier League club, with whom Richards moved to in 1995 and made 145 appearances in a four-year spell, plan a tribute to the former England Under-21 international ahead of next Sunday's match against another of his former clubs, Tottenham, at Molineux.

Bradford-born Richards started his career with his hometown club, making over 80 appearances for the club, and the Bantams paid tribute to their former player, saying: "The club are truly devastated to hear of the death of former Bradford City fans' favourite Dean Richards."

Richards, who cost Spurs a whopping £8.1million (Dh48m) when they saigned him from Southampton in 2001, made almost 350 appearances in a career spanning 13 years before his retirement and returned to the game in August 2007 as a youth team coach with Bradford.

Ireland Lose Opener to Bangladesh

Ireland's opening World Cup game ended in a 27-run defeat to Bangladesh in Group B in Mirpur today.

Asked to field first, Ireland produced a superb bowling display after Tamim Iqbal's quickfire 44 as Andre Botha (three for 32) and 18-year-old spinner George Dockrell (two for 23) restricted the Tigers to a modest 205 all out.

In response, brothers Niall (38) and Kevin O'Brien (37) were the standout performers with the bat, but despite staying ahead of the run-rate, a steady fall of wickets ended their hopes.

Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan andMohammad Ashraful initially led the Bangladesh attack, picking up two wickets apiece, but it was Shafiul Islam's career-best figures of four for 21 that rocked the Irish lower half and clinched victory with five overs to spare.

Tamim and Imrul Kayes gave the crowd plenty to cheer about in the first powerplay as the total reached 50 in just 5.4 overs, but Ireland hit back with three quick wickets.

Kayes (12) was stumped smartly by Niall O'Brien off John Mooney before Junaid Siddique was run out for three attempting a quick single.

Botha made it three down when he had the dangerous Tamim caught slashing to point for 44.

Shakib struck three boundaries for his 16, but Botha nipped the skipper's innings in the bud, catching him off his own bowling.

Raqibul Hasan (38) and Mushfiqur Rahim (36) lent stability to the innings with their patient approach, taking 109 deliveries to put on 61 for the fifth wicket.

However, Ireland regained the initiative as Dockrell - who bowled one of the tightest spells of the tournament to date - removed Mushfiqur and newcomer Ashraful (one) in successive overs, while Andrew White's quick fielding saw Raqibul run out.

The last three batsmen added a crucial 49 runs before being wrapped up by Botha and Trent Johnston, who ended with figures of two for 40.

In reply, Ireland lost both their openers - Paul Stirling (nine) and skipper William Porterfield (20) - by the 10th over and were left reeling at 75 for three when Ed Joyce (16) was tamely caught and bowled by Ashraful.

Niall O'Brien was soon joined in the middle by his younger brother Kevin when White (10) was bowled by Ashraful and Bangladesh kept the pressure going with Niall's dismissal off a superb catch by Tamim.

Kevin kept things steady - notching up a useful 41-run stand with Botha - but was caught in the deep for 37 off Shaiful and three quick wickets then further deepened Ireland's woes.

Mooney (nought) was bowled by Naeem Islam and followed in similar fashion by Botha (22) off Shaiful, who also trapped Johnston lbw for six.

Fittingly, it was Shaiful who kicked off Bangladesh's victory celebrations when he dismissed Boyd Rankin for three.

Friday 25 February 2011

Inside View - Trent Johnston

Death by spin. Playing Bangladesh in their own backyard, you know exactly what is coming but that doesn’t make it any easier to bat against.

The Tigers love their stealth bombers and half of their squad seem to bowl slow left-arm. In fact, when our openers go out to bat it will more than likely be one seamer and one tweaker starting the innings.

Other teams, such as New Zealand and Zimbabwe, have already borrowed that idea in this World Cup but nobody invests quite so much faith in the dark arts of spin than Bangladesh in their national ground at Mirpur, where our tournament finally crackles into life today.

We’ll probably have to face 40 overs of spin out of 50, and we have tailored our training around that.

Now all of us are primed to do ourselves justice at a venue where we lost 3-0 when we toured here in 2008, but looking at our squad there is nobody better-equipped for this challenge than Andrew White.

The Instonians man, a late bloomer who made himself a fixture of the team in all formats last year, is an expert at the subtle cuts and sweeps that allow you to score runs when there is no pace on the ball, and he will be a key man in this paramount fixture.

Some have described it as a must-win but it’s not the be-all and end-all. The Dutch proved England are not a force when they scored 292 against them, and I think India and South Africa will leave the rest of us in Group B fighting over two places.

Bangladesh bowl well and field well on this pitch and we are going to have to play out of our skins to beat them — it will take another Pakistan performance circa 2007.

But having said that, if something goes wrong and we are beaten, we’ll still have five games left of which we will probably need to win three to get to the quarter-finals.

Four years ago, in fact, it was the win over Bangladesh that pleased me as captain most. It was the best all-round performance from an Irish team I have been involved with, and with the experience we have now there is no reason why we can’t reprise it.

I have to admit it’s been a pretty boring week. Outside training we’ve spent most of the time practising our putting along the hotel corridors, playing darts on John Mooney’s portable board or shooting some pool. Painful stuff.

We are the last team to get started, and I am desperate to get out there. At 36, training is something I wish I could get by without and it’s now 12 days since our last game.

A number of us spent a day with Plan Bangladesh, a charity who look after street kids, and that brought it back into perspective how lucky we are to be driven around like royalty here.

Every time we leave the hotel our team bus is accompanied by two cars in front and two 4WDs behind, which carry about 12 armoured personnel. And they surround us when we get off!

It’s all intended to keep us safe, but I can only hope our batters can shake off the pesky Bangladesh spinners a little more easily.

Courtesy Irish Daily Mail

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Puel Foils Real Madrid Once Again

Claude Puel fo Lyon

Real Madrid will still consider  Olympique Lyonnais as their bogey team in the Champions League after  the Spanish club escaped from the Stade de Gerland on Tuesday night with a draw - albeit with a vital away goal - in a match that saw the visitors take the lead in the 65th minute through substitute Karim Benzema.

Having looked comfortable following the break the goal settled Madrid until a series of substitutions in the last quarter by Jose Mourinho of Sami Khedira and Mezut Oezil for Lassana Diarra and Marcelo revived Lyon and led to their equaliser in the 83rd minute.

The arrival of Miralem Pjanic, scorer of the winning goal last season in the Bernabeu that ended Real's Champions dream of a home final - added to the tension in the dying minutes with Lyon applying all manner of means to break the deadlock.

In the end the Spanish side will have been happy to have flown out of the Rhone Capital with the spoils shared on the night.

Lyon Manager, Claude Puel, was pleased with the effort shown by Olympique Lyonnais after they rallied and with more cutting edge he felt they could have had more than Bafétimbi Gomis' 83rd-minute strike to show for their efforts. 

José Mourinho professed himself satisfied as Madrid avoided defeat at Lyon for the first time in their fourth visit – yet he acknowledges much work remains if his side are not to lose in the round of 16 for the seventh season running. 

Claude Puel, Lyon coach
"We produced a great game, a real spectacle. We dropped off the pace in the second half, when they played longer balls and put us under more pressure. They made the most of Karim coming on to score. After that we started to play our own game again and we finished very strongly to get the equaliser. It's a pity we missed opportunities, especially in the first half. Our final pass wasn't clinical enough. We deserved more because we gave our all. The scoreline is not satisfying but the performance was good."

"In the second half we saw a different Madrid, but in the first we created many chances by remaining compact and keeping our shape. Both defensively and offensively we are challenged by this team but we now have a chance to advance. It's not over yet. We know we will have opportunities in the second leg – we'll have to convert them."

José Mourinho, Madrid coach
"We're happy with the result but it could have been a lot better. The first half was an extremely ugly affair – as sometimes happens in these games – but the second belonged to us. We scored here for the first time and we also got our first draw. I knew it was going to be a tough, tight game with lots of pressing. When things began to open up a bit I threw on Karim. I'm happy he managed to score here on his return home; it's really fantastic for him personally and it was great for us as a team."

"A draw is a fair result tonight. In the first half Lyon left us little space and put us under a lot of pressure and we didn't play well. In the second, Madrid were the better team. We got much more space to play from deep, so we started creating chances.When we broke the deadlock, I thought we could get a second which would have all but taken us through – but at 1-1 the contest remains open. We have a slight advantage but Lyon are quality rivals."

"We will now be looking to the return at our stadium and we want it to produce the same effect that Lyon's home gives them. We are hoping for a memorable night at the Santiago Bernabéu to see us through to the next round."

Kidney Names Ireland XV

Ronan O'Gara

The Ireland team to play Scotland in the first RBS 6 Nations Championship game at Murrayfield, Edinburgh has been named. 

There are three changes to the side from the team’s last outing and all of those changes are in the backline. Tommy Bowe has recovered from his knee injury that ruled him out of the first two games of the championship and is named on the right wing in place of Fergus McFadden. 

There is a change at out half with Ronan O’Gara coming into the team to win his 106th cap for Ireland and Jonathan Sexton moving to the replacements. 

Tomas O’Leary has been ruled out due to a back injury, so Eoin Reddan comes into the team to start and Peter Stringer is named on the bench. 

Donncha O’Callaghan is named in the second row where he will win his 70th cap for Ireland while Brian O’Driscoll will captain the team for the 73rd time. 

IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Scotland, 2011 RBS 6 Nations Championship, Murrayfield, Sunday, February 27, kick-off 3.00pm): 

15 - Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster)
14 - Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)
13 - Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster) (capt)
12 - Gordon D'Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
11 - Keith Earls (Thomond/Munster)
10 - Ronan O'Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster)
9 - Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
1 - Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
2 - Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster)
3 - Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster)
4 - Donncha O'Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster)
5 - Paul O'Connell (Young Munster/Munster)
6 - Sean O'Brien (Clontarf/Leinster)
7 - David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster)
8 - Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster) Replacements:

16 - Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht)
17 - Tom Court (Malone/Ulster)
18 - Leo Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster)
19 - Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster)
20 - Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster)
21 - Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College/Leinster)
22 - Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster)

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Ally McCoist Next Rangers Manager

Ally McCoist will become Rangers manager at the end of the season, the Clydesdale Bank Premier League club have confirmed.

The club revealed McCoist, who scored 355 goals in 581 appearances for the club, had agreed a one-year rolling contract with Kenny McDowall stepping up from the coaching team to become his assistant.

Rangers chief executive Martin Bain told the club's official website: 'We are delighted to confirm Ally as our next manager when Walter Smith steps down at the end of the season.

'First and foremost Ally is a passionate Rangers supporter who has been a loyal servant to the club both as a player and more recently assistant manager. He has contributed greatly to our success over the past four years and that is why we feel he is the right man to replace Walter.

'When Ally joined Walter as his assistant in January 2007 he was always being groomed as the next manager. He is the unanimous choice of the Rangers board to take the club forward next season and when I offered him the position in December - during our Champions League trip to Bursaspor - he agreed immediately.

'Walter Smith is rightly regarded as one of the most successful managers in our proud history and what he has achieved during the nine-in-a-row years and more recently in his second spell as manager is nothing short of remarkable.

'I am sure the supporters would join me in thanking him for his commitment and loyalty and I know he will work tirelessly to continue the club's success in the remaining months of the campaign.'

McCoist said: 'It was an honour to pull on the Rangers jersey during my playing career. I have enjoyed working with Walter, Kenny McDowall, Ian Durrant and the backroom team as assistant manager and to be confirmed as the next Rangers manager is a dream come true.

'Over the past few years I have been privileged to learn from one of the greatest managers in world football and Walter's record speaks for itself.

'The success he brought to Rangers during nine-in-a-row and the last four years in difficult times has been unbelievable and he has rightly gained the respect of everyone in the game.

'I am delighted to be following in his footsteps and I will do everything possible to bring further success to this club. I have said it many times - Rangers is a special club with a great history and tradition and this is the proudest day of my career.

'The fans have backed me for almost 20 years as a player and assistant manager and as a lifelong Rangers supporter myself I look forward to rewarding their loyalty by bringing silverware to our club.'

Smith considered stepping down last summer after leading Rangers to a second successive Clydesdale Bank Premier League title.

But he stayed on to help the club through their financial troubles, which saw him unable to buy a player for almost two years.

McCoist's succession has been expected but never formally announced amid uncertainty over recent takeover interest.

Scottish tycoon Craig Whyte has been studying the club's accounts for several months with a view to making an offer.

Mourinho Ready for Lyon

Real Madrid players, who arrived in Lyon last night, enjoyed a morning walk on Tuesday around the Hilton Hotel in a city which has not proved a happy hunting ground for the Spanish club with the home club winning the first leg 1-0 last season in the Champions League.

In the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu Cristiano Ronaldo gave the home team hope at the with a goal inside six minutes. However, when Lyon emerged for the second half they were transformed and then levelled the tie.

In the 75th minute Pjanić rounded off an incisive move with a finish that ended Real Madrid's hopes of reaching the final in their home stadium also speeding up the departure of their manager at the time, Manuel Pellegrini.

This season the new man in charge is Jose Mourinho, winner of the 2010 tournament, and he arrives in Lyon with what he claims is a more balanced team.

"It's been six years since Madrid reached the quarter-finals. When I was at Inter, the club hadn't won the Champions League for more than 50 years. Is it possible to do it this year? We have to beat Lyon... Zinédine Zidane gave us a lot of advice in preparing for this game."

On Monday there was steady rain in the capital of the Rhone Region with a temperate of 9 degrees Celsius and a wind chill making it feel a few degrees cooler. Similar conditions are  forecast for Tuesday night's game which may better suit the home side.

Ahead of kick off the French club agreed to shorten the grass after Mourinho went down to the inspect the pitch with the match referee, Wolfgang Stark, following his press conference and said that the grass was too long.

Previous meetings
The clubs first met in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League group stage, Lyon prevailing 3-0 at home through goals from John Carew, Juninho Pernambucano and Sylvain Wiltord. The return finished 1-1, Carew cancelling out a Guti strike.

Lyon retained the upper hand at the same stage in 2006/07. Fred and Tiago earned a 2-0 home victory, before the sides drew 2-2 in Spain. Mahamadou Diarra, who had lined up against the Merengues 12 months earlier, scored against his old club as Madrid retrieved a two-goal deficit.

In last season's round of 16, Jean Makoun's 47th-minute solo effort gave Lyon a first-leg lead and although Cristiano Ronaldo levelled the aggregate scores six minutes into the return at the Santiago Bernabéu, Miralem Pjanić's 75th-minute goal sent Claude Puel's men through 2-1 on aggregate.

The lineups for last term's meeting in France on 16 February 2010 were:
Lyon: Lloris, Réveillère, Cris, Boumsong, Cissokho, Toulalan, Govou, Makoun, Pjanić (Källström 78), Delgado (Michel Bastos 89), Lisandro (Gomis 81).
Real Madrid: Casillas, Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Albiol, Marcelo (Garay 46), Mahamadou Diarra, Alonso, Granero, Kaká, Higuaín (Benzema 64), Ronaldo.

Sunday 20 February 2011

Madrid Close on La Liga Leaders

Karim Benzema

Real Madrid beat Levante at the Bernabeu on Saturday with goals from Benzema on 7’ and Carvalho on 41’ pulling within two points of the leaders, Barcelona. With Tuesday’s Champions League match against Lyon fast approaching, Xabi Alonso and Ozil were on the bench. against Levante’s five-man back line. 

Only six minutes in, Di Maria cruised past two defenders and curled in a low cross for Benzema to punch into the net. The chances continued to flow and Cristiano Ronaldo nearly scored twice but was stymied by Munua on both occasions.

Shortly before the break, Cristian Ronaldo "CR7" sent in a powerful free kick that met Carvalho’s knee and put the Whites up by two. Levante on the contrary did little to disturb Adan, who had one of the calmest first halves of his career.

Not much changed after the restart. Cristiano nearly had the team’s third by way of a header but Munua got a hand to it to keep the game close. 

Ozil and Adebayor stepped in for Kaka and Di Maria on 75’ with the German needing little time to dazzle. His combination with Ronaldo almost proved fruitful, but it wasn’t the Portuguese international’s night. Levante meanwhile continued being no cause for concern for Adan.

Real Madrid move within two points of the lead with the win and now turn their sights to Tuesday’s Champions League match against Lyon.

Saturday 19 February 2011

Real Look to Close Barca Gap

Real Madrid are confident thanks to their victory over Espanyol against all odds last week. The Whites will be looking to keep their excellent home run, but they will have to defeat a Levante side that' are currently on a good run.

Mourinho has a chance to retain the nine year record if the team if the team draws or wins the match. 

Iker Casillas is suspended for the game, but the coach confirmed Ramos, Carvalho, Albiol, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo will make the starting lineup. The Madridistas also look to keep up the good work in February having won all their games so far since the start of the month.

Levante previously played at the Bernabeu in the first leg of the Copa del Rey Last 16 and lost 8-0, but their three consecutive victories (one against Villarreal) will surely motivate them to try to win at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium this time around. 

They have not conceded a goal in their last three fixtures and are now out of the relegation zone, with a 2-point lead over Osasuna.

Javi Venta is suspended for the match and the injured Pallardo, Sergio, Larrea, Robusta and Rafa Jorda will not travel to Madrid. On the other hand, team top scorer Felipe Caicedo, who is in top form and having an excellent run, will play.

The match kicks off at 20:00hrs on Saturday in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Friday 18 February 2011

2011 Champions Final Tickets

Gary Lineker at 2011 Champions League launch

A total of 11,000 tickets will be on sale to the international general public exclusively via between Thursday 24 February and Friday 18 March. The net capacity of Wembley Stadium will be around 86,000, with each of the clubs in the final entitled to take up to 25,000 tickets to distribute directly to their fans.

UEFA fourth vice-president Marios N Lefkaritis was thrilled that this season's competition would conclude at such an iconic venue. "As a stadium the old Wembley was a truly global name, conjuring up fantastic football memories," he said. "The new Wembley, with its magnificent arch and great facilities, could wait no longer to host this final and offer almost 90,000 fans a unique display of football."

Representing The Football Association (FA), vice-chairman Barry Bright confirmed that the arch would be lit for all of the capital to see on 28 May, adding: "Wembley was built for historical occasions like this and we're looking forward to showing our stadium, which we believe is one of the best in the world, to the world. A European final in front of a capacity crowd at Wembley will be a very special event."

Lineker concurred: "London has so much history in terms of football, not just its successful clubs but also Wembley Stadium which is such an iconic venue across the world. The Champions League really comes to life in the knockouts and there are four English teams involved, three from London. It's an incredible statistic that a London team has never won the competition."

Fans of all nations are expected to descend on Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park for the UEFA Champions Festival, a week-long celebration in the build-up to the final that will feature an array of exhibitions and entertainment for people of all ages including football competitions and skills clinics.

The festival will shut its doors in the run-up to kick-off at Wembley, where the captain of one of the competition's 16 remaining clubs will follow in the footsteps of the five previous winners – FC Barcelona (1992), Liverpool FC (1978), AFC Ajax (1971), Manchester United FC (1968) and AC Milan (1963) – in lifting club football's most prestigious prize.

Related articles

Thursday 17 February 2011

Graham Taylor - Newstalk Pundit

Graham Taylor OBE

Graham Taylor OBE is probably best known for managing Watford Football Club when Sir Elton John was the Chairman at time the club went from the Fourth Division to the First in the space of five years. His other high profile role was as England manager. 

Born in Worksop Graham Taylor grew up in Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, a place he still regards as his hometown. The son of a sports journalist with The Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph, Graham found his love of football in the stands of the "Old Show Ground" watching Scunthorpe United, a team he still supports and is often seen at home matches. 

The style of football his teams played was often criticised by purists as being focused on the 'long ball' style of getting the ball quickly to physically powerful forwards, although unlike many long ball advocates, Taylor also liked to play with skilful wingers, who could beat defenders, hit the by-line and produce dangerous crosses into the opposition's penalty area. 

John Barnes was perhaps the archetypal Taylor player although viewed as being aesthetically unattractive by the often losing opposition, Taylor's style proved incredibly successful, even if less so when applied to international football. 

His last managerial role was manager of Aston Villa, which he left at the end of the 2002-03 season and Taylor now works as a pundit for BBC Radio Five Live and is chairman of Watford F.C.. 

In early 1965 Graham Taylor married Rita Cowling and had two daughters, Joanne and Karen. 

Managerial career 
Graham Taylor is the only manager to have twice led teams that amassed over 70 points in one Football League season under the League's original scoring system of two points for a win and one point for a draw. He achieved this with Lincoln City (74 points - 1976) and Watford (71 points - 1978). 

Lincoln City (1972–1977) 
Taylor was the youngest person to become a FA coach, at the age of 27 and became manager of Lincoln City, being the youngest manager in the league at the age of 28 in December 1972. Taylor led Lincoln to the Fourth Division title in 1976, during which the Imps set the league records for most wins (32), fewest defeats (4), and most points (74) (when 2 points were awarded for a win). 

Watford (1977–1987) 
In 1977, as a 32-year-old Taylor was hired to manage Watford by new owner Elton John having turned down an approach from First Division West Bromwich Albion in favour of a Fourth Division club, which caused a major surprise among many observers. Taylor led Watford from the Fourth Division to the First Division in only five years. 

Taylor also led Watford to the 1984 FA Cup Final, which they lost to Everton 2-0. 

Aston Villa (1987–1990) 
In June 1987, Taylor left Watford for a new challenge at Aston Villa, who had just been relegated from the First Division. It was a setback for the Midlanders, who had won the European Cup just five years earlier and had been league champions six years earlier. 

Taylor managed Villa back to the top flight with his first attempt, securing their safety in 1988-89 with a win on the final day of the league season. During his third season at the club Villa finished runners-up in the first division. 

England (1990–1993) 
At the 1992 European Championship Taylor took the highest managerial job in English Football without ever having won a major trophy - even though he had taken teams to second place in the league twice and an FA Cup final once. 

Despite some unease at his appointment, England lost just once in Taylor's first 23 matches (a 0-1 defeat to Germany at Wembley Stadium in September 1991). 

England struggled to qualify for Euro '92 and once in Sweden draws to face France and Denmark England needed a victory over Sweden to advance to the Semi-Finals. Howveer Taylor's poor relationship with striker Gary Linker was hurting team morale. 

In the last game of the tournament, a 2-1 defeat to the hosts, Sweden, Taylor substituted Lineker in what was to become his final game for England preventing him from possibly equalling Bobby Charlton's record of 49 goals for England. 

This led to media vilification of Taylor, including the "turnip" campaign by The Sun, which began the morning after the game under the headline: "Swedes 2 Turnips 1". During that campaign the back page featured an image of Taylor's face superimposed onto a turnip. 

In the 1994 World Cup campaign Taylor's relationship with the press was partially restored when he admitted his mistakes a few weeks after the finals. Honesty did not spare him a roasting from the press when England played a four-team Tournament in the U.S (United States Cup), which began with a 2-0 defeat in Boston to the USA and was reported by the tabloid press in Britain as "YANKS 2 PLANKS 0!". 

When the 1993-94 season began with a much improved performance and a 3-0 win over Poland it raised the nation's hopes going into what was now the crucial match against the Dutch in Rotterdam. The game was played at a furious pace and late in the second half with the game locked at 0-0 David Platt was fouled by Ronald Koeman as he raced in on goal. 

The German referee failed to sending the Dutchman off for a professional foul and just minutes later Koeman took a free kick outside England's penalty which was scored at the second attempt. With Dennis Bergkamp scoring just moments later the score was 2-0. 

Although England still had a chance to qualify if they failed to get a big score against part-timers, San Marino, and Taylor was to suffer the ultimate humiliation as after just 8.3 seconds of play they were a goal down. England took another twenty minutes to find an equaliser and eventually won 7-1, but the Dutch had won in Poland and England had failed to qualify. 

Taylor resigned on 24 November 1993. 

Wolverhampton Wanderers (1994–1995) 
Sir Jack Hayward appointed Taylor as manager of Wolves in March 1994, replacing Graham Turner even though he had been an unpopular figure in English football since his unsuccessful reign as national coach. 

But he took the Midlands club to fourth in Division One to qualify for the playoffs - their highest league finish since their last top division season 11 years earlier - where they lost out to Bolton Wanderers. They also reached the quarter finals of the FA Cup after a memorable replay penalty shootout victory over Sheffield Wednesday. 

After a poor start to the following campaign, winning just 4 from the 16 opening league games, he resigned in November 1995 due to supporter pressure. 

Watford (1996–2001) 
In February 1996 Elton John, who had recently bought Watford for a second time, appointed Taylor as General Manager at Vicarage Road and just over a year later he had appointed himself as the club's manager succeeding Kenny Jackett, who was relegated to a coaching capacity at the club. He won the Division Two championship at his first attempt. 

The following season Taylor won the Division One Play-off Final, beating Bolton Wanderers 2-0 at Wembley, and with it promotion to the Premier league, although Watford were relegated after one season. During this final season Taylor had become only the third manager to manage 1,000 league games in England, after Brian Clough and Jim Smith. 

Aston Villa (2002–2003) 
Taylor came out of retirement in February 2002 to return to his old job at Aston Villa, but retired for a second time after Villa finished the 2002–03 season in 16th place in the Premiership. 

He subsequently cited tensions in his relationship with the club's chairman Doug Ellis and argued for an overhaul of the club's upper management to allow the club to be more competitive. 

Post managerial career 
In 2003, Taylor became vice-president at League One club Scunthorpe United, his hometown club. Since 2004, he has worked as a pundit on BBC Radio Five Live, and has managed a team of celebrities for Sky One's annual series, The Match. 

His time at Scunthorpe has seen a turnaround in the club's fortunes. In his first season on the board, they narrowly avoided relegation to the Conference. The following season, they were promoted to League One. Two years after that, they were promoted to the Football League Championship as League One champions. 

Taylor returned to Watford on 23rd January 2009, being appointed to the new board as a non-executive director and was appointed interim chairman on 16 December 2009 

In Ireland Taylor is a regular Pundit for Newstalk.

ISC Announce €25.6M in Grants 2011

The Irish Sports Council announced a major funding package for 2011 with a total €25.6 million which will be invested into 57 National Governing Bodies of Sport, including 18 high performance sports, and 32 Local Sports Partnerships. 

€7.8 million will be invested in high performance athletes and sports in 2011, the crucial preparatory and qualification period in advance of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This includes €1.95 million under the International Carding Scheme, direct grants to 115 of Ireland's top athletes including Katie Taylor, Kenneth Egan, Derval O'Rourke, Jason Smyth and Grainne Murphy.

Mr. Kieran Mulvey, Chairman of the Irish Sports Council, announced the funding for the National Governing Bodies of Sport will be €12.1 million and for the Local Sports Partnerships will be €5.7 million. Mr. Mulvey commented; "Investing over €25million in the range of sports this year is a vote of confidence in the Irish sports sector. The Council believes that sport plays a central role in the social and cultural life of Ireland and will play a significant part in the economic recovery".

The Minister for Sport, Mary Hanafin said on-going Government investment is helping deliver a huge variety of sports around the country. "Everyone benefits from participation in sport and the funding being allocated today helps clubs and organisations throughout the country to deliver key services to increase participation and support sportsmen and women. The economic, social and health value of sport is well established and is something that must continue to be recognised, even in difficult economic circumstances. These 89 sports organisations are doing tremendous work nurturing a love of sport in young people and helping increase participation at every level while all the time supporting employment in the sports sector."

€5.8 million is being allocated to 18 high performance sports for the implementation of their Performance Plans. These plans provide a complete programme of support to elite athletes who also benefit directly under the International Carding Scheme. 115 individual athletes and 2 teams benefit under "Carding" this year. 

Eamonn Coghlan, who chairs the Council's High Performance Committee commented; "We were determined to maintain high performance funding levels in this critical year. Irish athletes won 30 medals in international championships competition in 2010, an incredible performance that demonstrates the effectiveness of the long term investment strategy of the Council".

In addition to the activities supported by today's announcement, the Council will be active in developing the sports sector with national agencies such as Coaching Ireland, the GAA, FAI, IRFU , Olympic Council of Ireland , Paralympics Ireland and Age & Opportunity. Specific funding relevant programmes will be announced later in the year.

Mr John Treacy, Chief Executive of the Irish Sports Council, said: "The Council's research demonstrates that the sports sector generates a significant return to the Exchequer investment by generating economic, social and health benefits. The governing bodies and sports partnerships are the main delivery agencies for sport and they will continue their excellent work in 2011".

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Antonio Adan Finally Gets Chance

Antonio Adan

Only two minutes into Sunday's match against Espanyol, Iker Casillas was sent off after seeing a direct red card. Jose Mourinho quickly turned to his bench and tabbed Antonio Adan for duty. It was the youth teamer's time to step up, and he didn't let anybody down. Following the match, Mourinho commented that "Adan debuted unexpectedly and performed fantastically. He looked like a veteran. Hats off to him." It was the culmination of fourteen years of grueling work in the Real Madrid youth system.

His road to the first team began in 1997 when he joined Real Madrid’s Under-11 side. Years passed and Adan moved his way up through the club ranks as well as those of the Spanish national team, who he captained to the U-19 European Championship title. Prior to becoming the first team’s third string keeper this year, he spent the 2005/06 season with Real Madrid C and the four ensuing years with Real Madrid Castilla.

By 2009 Adan was already participating in several workouts with the first team and was on the Champions League roster. But it wasn’t until 8 December 2010, when Real Madrid had already clinched a berth in the UCL Round of 16, that the keeper debuted against Auxerre following an injury to Jerzy Dudek. "It was very special after 14 years here at the club and something I will never forget," he said following the match.

And Sunday is surely to be another day the keeper will always remember. Even after stepping in for his unexpected La Liga debut, Adan performed majestically and aided his team in securing three crucial points against Espanyol. "I was ready. I want to thank the coach for having faith in me. I was very relaxed and I knew things would go well."

Adan’s career hasn’t been all fun and games however. Everything was put on hold in 2008/09 after he tore his ACL in his right knee. After sitting out more than half of the season, the keeper insisted that "the injury made me a much more mature." Once healthy, he continued putting in hours of hard work until finally earning a spot on the first team.

The academy holds a special place in Adan’s heart and he is a major proponent of its work. Over the last two years, the keeper has organized a U-10 tournament "inspired by my childhood and a similar tournament I used to participate in. I like to be here and share this moment with them. I am happy to be able to organize such initiatives and it pleases me to no end that teammates like Canales and Granero come out to help."

Nine years separate them, but Alfonso Adan is also a Real Madrid keeper playing on the U-14 side. Alfonso is a league stand-out just like his older brother was. The youngster has the perfect role model in Antonio, who represents all that it takes to make it to the first team.

Contador Ban Expected to be Lifted

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador will have his provisional one-year ban for failing a dope test lifted on appeal by the Spanish Cycling Federation, according to reports in Spain last night.

The 28-year-old three-time Tour de France champion (right), the outstanding rider of his generation, has been suspended provisionally since August after he tested positive for a small amount of the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol.

The Federation said it was unable to comment on the reports, but his team are said to be preparing him to race in the Tour of the Algarve, which begins tomorrow.

Spanish newspapers have reported that, according to sources close to the disciplinary committee, it had decided to accept Contador's appeal that he had inadvertently consumed the banned substance after eating a piece of contaminated meat during the Tour de France.

Once the decision has been communicated, the International Cycling Union and World Anti-Doping Agency have one month to decide whether to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Monday 14 February 2011

Real Madrid Win at Espanyol

Real Madrid taught a very important lesson to all those who said La Liga isn't a priority for this team anymore. Iker Casilla's red card on the 2-minute mark forced the Whites to showcase many of their values (hard work, epic nature, sacrifice, winning personality) to earn a very important victory over Espanyol tonight that reduces their distance with the leaders to 5 points.

Iker Casillas was sent of for marginally kicking Callejon on his right foot as he tried to clear the ball right outside the box. Other teams would have deflated following such a decision, but Real Madrid pulled rank and doubled their efforts to win.

Di Maria had to come off for goalkeeper Antonio Adan, who made his First Division debut tonight. Khedira soon had two chances to score the opener. Marcelo would net the only strike in the evening from a fantastic shot near the left post, after being assisted by Ronaldo (24'). Adebayor then had a chance to seal the match on the 39-minute mark, but his lobbed shot hit the crossbar.

Real Madrid concentrated hard in the second half and sycronised their movements in defence and attack, making extraordinary efforts to thwart Espanyol's counterattacks.

The Whites continued to have most of the chances on goal in the game. Adebayor came close to netting a second strike twice more, but Kameni defeated him on both counts. Espanyol didn't have many chances, but Adan proved to be a solid keeper, clearing all the shots that were on target.

Real Madrid made a great impression and took three very important points that keep them five points behind the leaders. They will now concentrate on defeating Levante next week at the Bernabeu.

Espanyol - 0  Real Madrid - 1

Thursday 10 February 2011

Russell Delights in Setanta Surprise

"It's a great opportunity," says UCD manager Martin Russell, in reference to the Club's last minute participation in the Setanta Cup with the first leg  of the First Round Tie against Lisburn Distillery being as soon as next 

Monday evening. Russell's still smiling even though his pre-season schedule has been catapulted into competitive match mode and, with the UCD Bowl unavailable, the game has been switched to Dalymount, kick off 7.45pm. 

The news from the treatment room is not the best either, with Robbie Benson, just voted the best young footballer in the country with the award of FAI Schools Player of the Year on Sunday, unlikely to make the squad through injury. Former Athlone team mate Tom O'Halloran is also unfit whilst Spanish defender Yael Haro, ex Drogheda United, who signed on Wednesday, must wait to see whether his registration will come through in time to be considered. Another newcomer, former Under 17 international Dean Marshall, and Darren Meenan, who has returned to UCD after a spell with Sligo Rovers, should be available. At least Marshall would be on familiar territory  after a spell with Bohs. 

Monday's game will see a swift reunion with his former UCD team mates for Distillery keeper Billy Brennan as the Irish League side, thanks to successful cup runs and postponements due to the recent snow, are set to play their fifth game in thirteen days. 

Part time football in the present climate is far from easy. 

The End of the Sporting Dream

Liam Buckley

On launching Sporting Football three years ago Liam Buckley fulfilled a personal and professional ambition of what he had always believed was possible in the League of Ireland. More importantly, he believed that any club he led should aspire to the high levels and as a result was fulfilling that particular dream when the club secured the FAI Cup in 2009. His vision was based on very practical experience learned at winning clubs such as St. Patrick’s Athletic, Athlone Town and Shamrock Rovers. 

On Wednesday that dream dramatically came apart for him and the playing staff when the club terminated contracts and withdrew from the Setanta Cup now unable to realistically fulfil the requirements for the Independent Licensing Committee which meets on Saturday. Unless another major benefactor materialises over the coming twenty-four hours. Something which Buckley himself has conceded as unlikely when he spoke earlier today. 

“Obviously this is the end of the road for the plan we started out with in 2007 and came into being with the support of Fingal County Council the following year,” he explained, “To see it finish in this way, bearing in mind the time and effort so many people have put into it, is very tough.” 

For those not old enough to recall his glory days in the early eighties at Glenmalure Park alongside Alan Campbell in the Shamrock Rovers attack, his efficiency and ability in front of goal was undisputed in the League of Ireland. It was this reputation that saw him attract the attention of continental football clubs, finally leading to a move to Belgian side Waregem in n the mid eighties after being a regular top scorer for “The Hoops” 

When he left in 1986 it was from the best club set up in Ireland which under John Giles and Noel Campbell encouraged skillful players ply their trade supporting them by good training facilities and guided by the professionalism brought back from England and Canada by Giles himself. So when Buckley went to Belgium to see things at the club with his agent Goyvaerts, it was the practical side that helped his decision with the stadium and training facilities an improvement of what he had at Rovers. 

Having decided to make the move he was rewarded with a opportunity to play in a UEFA Cup Semi-final against Inter Milan in his first season which then led to a transfer to Racing Santander in Spain two seasons later. His time at Racing saw him compete on a weekly basis in the same league as Real Madrid, Barcelona; Valencia and Athletic Bilbao – all within a couple of years of leaving Rovers.. 

For Liam though it was also an information gathering exercise that would form the basis of his managerial vision for a League of Ireland club where the day-to-day progress of a club needed to be both on and off the field. His experience taught him that winning matches alone could not guarantee a club a long-term future but it went a significant way towards it. Attracting the best players in any league was the real secret to success. 

Winning trophies attracted the players 

Buckley knew enough to realise that Sporting Fingal had a long road ahead when they set off in 2008 but as of that day it was also clear that the natural optimism of the manager equipped him well to make project a success within the local community – given the time. Tremendously competitive he was capable of delivering success as his passion and competitiveness are too often underestimated. Indeed, for him it was no surprise the Ford FAI Cup was won within a season of joining the league. 

But as a manager who portrays himself in a casual and easy going manner - often using very few words with the media – it takes a while to learn that beneath the Peter Pan looks lies a person who just loves to win. In that sense the ending of the Fingal project is particularly tough for him to comprehend with the news so raw and so fresh he repeats the clubs footballing achievements over the past 36 months. 

Few know that many years ago Buckley was attracted by the idea of working at Belfield Park when a vacancy arose at UCD AFC as in his mind the club had a great pitch, great training facilities and access to the student players that would allow training during the day. At a time when few clubs were full time the idea of a "professional model" would allow him implement the many ideas that could not be contemplated in "part time" clubs. In the end the opportunity never came to pass for him. 

Many years later it did and at Sporting Fingal he proved it could be done. The problem though was could it be sustained? Without reaching the Champions League knock out stages and earning the lucrative bonuses dues, such a model could no longer be financed in Ireland. 

For those who might revel in the in the demise of another League of Ireland club on the eve of a new season – albeit in the Airtricity era – they fail to recognise the achievement by and vision of Fingal County Council. The downside of the project however was the same weakness from day one and that was a lack of heritage, established fan base or natural community from which to draw support should the economics not add up during any given season. That void made the model unsustainable when compared many of the league clubs. 

Sadly, Buckley, Fingal County Council, the players and community ran out of time to establish a lasting legacy and the three year project looks set to end 

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Sporting Fingal to Issue Statement

Liam Buckley, Sporting Fingal 

The players of League of Ireland premier division side Sporting Fingal have been told by the club that their contracts have been terminated.

The 2009 FAI Ford Cup holders, who have only been in existence since 2007, were due to play Lisburn Distillery on Monday in the Setanta Sports Cup but they have now withdrawn from the competition.

Thirteen players are currently under contract with the north Dublin club and future participation in the Airtricity League of Ireland is now seriously in doubt.

A statement from the Professional Footballers Assopciation of Ireland expressed its disappointment that contracts, some of which have been signed very recently, are not being honoured.

The organising committee of the Setanta Sports Cup have confirmed that Sporting Fingal have withdrawn from the competition and will be replaced by UCD.

The Students will now face Lisburn Distillery in the First Round First Leg fixture that had initially been scheduled to take place between Sporting Fingal and the Irish League club on Monday, 14 February.

Sporting Fingal are reported to be releasing a statement on the matter later this evening.

Ireland Team to Play France

Jamie Heaslip returns for Ireland

The Ireland team to play France in the first RBS 6 Nations Championship game at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 3pm) has been named.

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has made one change to the team that started against Italy last Saturday, with the fit-again Jamie Heaslip returning at number 8.

Sean O'Brien moves to blindside flanker and Denis Leamy is named among the replacements in place of Shane Jennings. David Wallace, who touched down against France last year, completes the starting back row.

Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll is within touching distance of yet another career milestone - the Championship try-scoring record that has stood since 1933. O'Driscoll is one try short of equalling Ian Smith's record.

Click here for the Ireland v France head-to-head preview.

IRELAND Team & Replacements (v France, 2011 RBS 6 Nations Championship, Aviva Stadium, Sunday, February 13, kick-off

15 - Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster)
14 - Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
13 - Brian O'Driscoll (UCD/Leinster) (capt)
12 - Gordon D'Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
11 - Keith Earls (Thomond/Munster)
10 - Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College/Leinster)
9 - Tomas O'Leary (Dolphin/Munster)
1 - Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
2 - Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster)
3 - Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster)
4 - Donncha O'Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster)
5 - Paul O'Connell (Young Munster/Munster)
6 - Sean O'Brien (Clontarf/Leinster)
7 - David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster)
8 - Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster)

16 - Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht)
17 - Tom Court (Malone/Ulster)
18 - Leo Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster)
19 - Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster)
20 - Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
21 - Ronan O'Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster)
22 - Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster)