Tuesday 27 November 2012

Gary Will Never be Forgotten - Coleman

Wales manager Chris Coleman says Gary Speed will never be forgotten as Welsh football prepares to mark the first anniversary of the former manager's death today.

Former Wales, Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United midfielder Speed died at the age of 42 a year ago, prompting a huge outpouring of grief from within the game for a popular and respected figure.

Speed had overseen a run of four wins in five games as Wales manager, and his former team-mate and friend Coleman has faced the unenviable task of replacing him.

The former Fulham manager admits Welsh football is still in shock at Speed's untimely death.

"Forget the football, Gary was a great guy, different class," said Coleman. "I was lucky enough to have known him for a long time. He's greatly missed - I still miss him. I will always miss him.

"I can't believe it's a year ago. You don't ever forget something like that. I will probably never get over it. You try to deal with it as time goes on. But you don't forget someone like Gary. We never will.

"It will be a difficult day and Christmas will be difficult for his family, but we are all here to support them."

Since Speed's death Wales have secured just one win, the World Cup qualifying defeat of Scotland last month.

And Coleman is more aware than most of the challenge his squad have faced in trying to get over the loss of their former manager.

He said: "I think people forget about the players. People just think they have to go out and get results. Of course, Gary's death was bound to have affected them.

"Players hold a lot of their emotions in. The dressing room is not the place where you show emotion. You hide everything. They will have dealt with it in their own time and space. It's been very hard for them and the players have handled it really well.

"You can't prepare for something like that because you don't think it will ever happen. When it happens it is a massive shock and surprise."

Football Association of Wales staff will meet tomorrow to remember Speed at the governing body's headquarters in Cardiff. Flowers will be laid and an image of Speed will be lit up outside the building.

Coleman said: "As a staff at the FAW we will go out for lunch to remember Gary.

"It's fitting that we do. It's about remembering someone we were very fond of. We will celebrate Gary's life, but I'm sure there will also be some tears.

"A lot of the staff in the offices knew Gary for 18 months. I knew him for 30 years. All of us have a relationship with him and all had the same opinion. He was a great guy."

In a statement FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford added: "We not only lost the National Team Manager, we also lost a friend and colleague.

"Our thoughts today, as they are every day, are with Gary's family - his wife Louise, sons Ed and Tom, his parents Roger and Carol and his sister Lesley."

Coleman was speaking at a 24-hour cycle by former Wales midfielder Matt Jones in memory of Speed.

The 32-year-old has already completed a series of half-marathons, the London marathon, a run up and down Mount Snowdon, and a sky-dive, raising thousands of pounds for charities supported by Speed, including the Bobby Robson Foundation, the John Hartson Foundation and the Spinal Injuries Association.

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Sunday 25 November 2012

Rafa Makes a Point at the Bridge

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Rafa Benitez could not inspire Chelsea to victory over Manchester City in his first game in charge and was the subject of protests from some fans in a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge.

The Spaniard has succeeded the sacked Roberto Di Matteo on an interim basis and his former connection with Liverpool has made him unpopular in London.

Sections of the Chelsea support held up banners against Benitez and they also stood and applauded in the 16th minute, which was Di Matteo's shirt number in his playing days, before the game ended in a forgettable 0-0 draw.

Sergio Aguero wasted the best chance of a turgid Premier League encounter in driving rain, which the visitors had the better of in the first half but the home side the second.

The draw moved unbeaten champions City to within a point of new leaders Manchester United, leaving Chelsea fourth.

Benitez has shored up the Blues' defence during his four days in charge but he has his work cut out to get them playing the scintillating football demanded by the watching Roman Abramovich - and to get Fernando Torres scoring.

But that is nothing compared to winning over the fans on today's evidence.

Chelsea's stadium announcer was drowned out by jeers as he appealed for calm in order to pay tribute to former Chelsea boss Dave Sexton, whose death was confirmed on Sunday.

There were also expletive-laden chants of "you're not wanted here", and signs reading 'Benitez out' - coupled with songs and banners hailing the sacked Di Matteo.

The off-field action was of more interest than events on the pitch, where, although Chelsea kept a first clean sheet in 11 games, they never truly looked like scoring.

Torres, who worked with Benitez at Liverpool, was closely marked by City captain Vincent Kompany and the Spaniard again appeared shadow of his former self.

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Vettel Seizes Third World Title

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The 2012 Formula 1 season has ended with a heartbreaking near-miss for Fernando Alonso after an afternoon of relentless drama finally ended with Sebastian Vettel's crossing the line in sixth place to claim his third title.

Interlagos has staged its own share of dramatic season finales but nothing like this - not even when Lewis Hamilton won the 2008 title at the final corner of the season. 2012 Interlagos may not have had a single moment of equal, but it had everything else and more as the rain fell and chaos descended.

Where to begin? How about the first lap when Vettel turned into the Williams of Bruno Senna and a World Championship of trouble as he spun to the back of the field? Where next? Try lap 25, when the Safety Car was deployed ostensibly on account of the amount of debris that had been left strewn across the circuit but very possibly to allow the world to recover its breath back after what were very arguably the 25 most action-packed laps in the sport's history.

And then? How about the sight of Force India of Nico Hulkenberg sliding into the race-leading McLaren of Lewis Hamilton to trigger an accident which briefly saw Alonso propelled into a position to win the World Championship before Vettel, his RB8 still carrying the deep scars of his first-corner crash, recovered through the field to secure the World Championship by the small but rather significant matter of three points as the race ended behind the second Safety Car of the afternoon.

As if that wasn't quite enough, controversy continued to rage about Vettel's pass around Kamui Kobayashi underneath what appeared to be yellow flags but were later identified as yellow-red warnings that the track was slippery.

"He thoroughly, thoroughly deserves this championship," endorsed team boss Christian Horner while team-mate Mark Webber hailed a "very, very special" achievement that saw Vettel crowned the youngest three-times champion in F1's history.

How different it might have been, though, with Vettel's car suffering substantial damage after being rammed first by Senna and then the Sauber of Sergio Perez.

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Ponting Needs Form for Ashes

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Australia batsman Ricky Ponting says he will miss out on the Ashes tour of England if his form does not improve.

The 37-year-old has scored only 20 runs in three innings during theAussies' home series against South Africa.

"I live in the real world and I know that if I'm not making runs I might not see the summer out, so I definitely won't be in England," said Ponting.

"I've got no illusions or disillusions about where I'm at, or where my cricket's at."

Ponting impressed for state side Tasmania before the series against the Proteas, registering successive first-class scores of 85 not out, 162 not out and 60 not out in the Sheffield Shield.

But the former captain has failed to transfer that form to the Test arena and in the first innings of the second Test in Adelaide, ended up lying flat on the wicket after being bowled by Jacques Kallis.

"I felt like I got a pretty good ball," said Ponting, who has scored an Australia record 13,366 runs in 167 Tests.

"The disappointing thing with me in this Test series is that coming in I felt really good.

"My Sheffield Shield stuff was really good and I felt like I was batting better than I had in a few years."

Ponting has been the losing captain on his last two Ashes tours, while a visit to England in 2013 would be the fifth time he had made the trip for the Baggy Greens.

"I haven't spoken to selectors about my immediate future and they haven't spoken to me about it either.

"I am sure that conversation is going to come in the near future."

Australia are closing in on victory over South Africa in Adelaide, with the Proteas closing day four on 77-4 in pursuit of an unlikely target of 430.

Success would give the Aussies a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, meaning South Africa would have to win the final match in Perth to avoid being replaced by Michael Clarke's men at the top of the world rankings

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Dave Sexton 1930 - 2012

Former Chelsea and Manchester United manager Dave Sexton has died, aged 82.

Sexton led Chelsea to victory in the 1970 FA Cup and then to the European Cup Winners' Cup title in 1971.

He went on to coach the England Under-21 team between 1977-90, leading them to successive European titles in 1982 and 1984, and again from 1994-96.

"It is a sad day for English football," said Football Association director of football development, Sir Trevor Brooking.

"Anyone who was ever coached by Dave would be able to tell you what a good man he was, but not only that, what a great coach in particular he was.

"In the last 30-40 years Dave's name was up there with any of the top coaches we have produced in England - the likes of Terry Venables, Don Howe and Ron Greenwood. His coaching was revered."

Sexton began his managerial career at Leyton Orient in 1965 but it was during a seven-year spell with Chelsea that he made his name.

He won the club's first FA Cup trophy with a 2-1 replay victory over Leeds at Old Trafford after the first match had ended in a 2-2 draw at Wembley - David Webb scored the winner in extra time after Peter Osgood's late equaliser had cancelled out Mick Jones's goal for United.

A year later, Sexton's Chelsea lifted the European Cup Winners' Cup - Real Madrid were the opposition and Ignacio Zoco's last-minute goal cancelled out Osgood's opener, leading to another replay.

Again, Chelsea triumphed 2-1 with Osgood and John Dempsey scoring before half-time.

Chelsea tweeted: "RIP David Sexton - Chelsea manager 1967 to 1974 who guided us to our first FA Cup and European trophy - the Cup Winners' Cup."

He left Chelsea for QPR in 1974 and led the west London team to their best league finish of second in the 1975-76 season, one point behind champions Liverpool.

The club said on Twitter "QPR is desperately saddened to learn of the passing of former R's manager Dave Sexton. The club would like to extend its deepest condolences to Dave's family and friends at this sad time. May he rest in peace #RIP"

In 1977, he moved to Manchester United but was sacked in April 1981 after four years without winning a trophy at Old Trafford - although he did win his final seven games in charge.

He ended his full-time managerial career at Coventry in 1983 but continued his England Under-21 coaching in a part-time capacity.

Sexton was awarded an OBE for his services to football in 2005.

Sexton's managerial career
1965: Leyton Orient
1967-74: Chelsea
1974-77: QPR
1977-81: Manchester United
1977-90: England U-21
1981-83: Coventry
1994-96: England U-21

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McIlroy Wins DPWT Championship

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World number one Rory McIlroy capped a sensational 2012 by birdieing the last five holes to win the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

The Northern Irishman won his fifth title of the year after a 66 took him to 23 under, two clear of Justin Rose.

Rose holed eight birdies and an eagle in a course record 10-under-par 62.

Fellow Englishman Luke Donald, who led overnight with McIlroy, shared third with Charl Schwartzel on 18 under after closing with a one-under 71.

"I couldn't have wished for the season to end any better," said 23-year-old McIlroy who won his second major at the US PGA Championship in 2012 and emulated Donald's feat from last year of winning the European and American money lists.

"Coming here with the [European Tour's] Race to Dubai wrapped up I wanted to win the tournament trophy too and that's what I've done.

"It's a great way to finish a great season."

What had been expected to be a two-way shoot-out for the title between McIlroy and Donald was quickly turned into a three-way battle when Rose hit four birdies on the front nine to jump to 15 under.

McIlroy, who began on 17 under, bogeyed his opening hole, while Donald three-putted the third to record his first bogey of the tournament - and first in 103 holes on the Jumeirah Golf Estates course.

Rose meanwhile was holing a sixth birdie on the 13th before knocking in a five-foot eagle putt on the 14th to move one head of McIlroy on 19 under and two clear of Donald, both of who missed birdie chances on the 10th.

McIlroy levelled with a birdie on 11 but Rose inched ahead by matching that on the 15th and the world number seven unwittingly doubled his advantage by parring the 16th and 17th while McIlroy was bogeying the 13th.

Donald's challenge had already faltered with a bogey on the 12th and although birdies on the 14th and 16th gave him hope of making a late surge, he found the greenside stream with his second to the par-five 18th.

Rose, needing a par on the the last hole to break the course record, went one better, expertly judging a tricky 100-foot putt down the slope from the back of the green to leave himself a six-inch tap-in birdie to set the clubhouse lead on 21 under.

On his putt, Rose said: "I was one roll away from looking like an idiot.

"As soon as the ball got to the top of the hill and started to roll down I started to get goosebumps because I thought it was going in."

However, Rose's lead was short-lived as McIlroy holed birdie putts from three and 20 feet on the 15th and 16th to draw level before hitting a five-iron to six feet on the par-three 17th to set up his fourth successive birdie and he wrapped up the victory with a curling 10-foot putt on the last.

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Robinson Calls Time on Scotland

Andy Robinson has ended his three-and-a-half year reign as Scotland's head coach after a disappointing run of results.

He was clearly stung by Scotland's 21-15 defeat by Tonga on Saturday when he warned there would be "consequences".

In a statement issued on Sunday, Robinson spoke of the "privilege" of being in the Murrayfield role and thanked supporters, players and staff.

Scottish Rugby will begin their search for Robinson's replacement immediately.

The defeat by Tonga in Aberdeen followed two other autumn Test defeats, by New Zealand and South Africa at Murrayfield, no disgrace considering that pair's lofty ranking in world rugby.

But Scotland needed two autumn Test wins from three to secure a top-eight seeding for the World Cup in 2015.

Instead, they have slipped to 10th, two places ahead of the Tongans.

The team have lost 10 of their last 13 matches, including being knocked out of the World Cup in New Zealand last year at the group stage for the first time.

A 2012 Six Nations wooden spoon followed, losing all five games, but Robinson and the team were boosted by a trio of wins in Australia, Fiji and Samoa in the summer tour.

However, the home defeat by the team from the South Pacific was the final straw for Robinson, who had been in charge of the national team since June 2009 and whose contract was due to run until the World Cup in three years' time.

After the match he spent 10 minutes in discussion at the side of the Pittodrie pitch with Mark A grim-faced Robinson told the BBC after the game: "I'm very angry - there will be consequences because of this performance. It reflects on me.

"I've got to look at myself, as has everybody involved."

Having mulled things over on Saturday night, Robinson issued a statement on Sunday morning.

It read: "It's been a privilege to be the head coach of Scotland and I'd like to thanks the fans, players, coaches and staff for all their support over the years.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the players and the coaches in the last few years.

"I believe I have left the team in a better position than when I took over and have great confidence in the players and the coaches for the future.

"I am very disappointed by our recent results but I have belief in the players to develop into a winning team."

Dodson issued a statement saying "a change in head coach is required to take the team forward and build towards the Rugby World Cup in 2015".

And he added: "I have passed onto Andy Scottish Rugby's thanks for his hard work and commitment during his term as national coach.

"Andy has overseen some fine results as Scotland head coach since he was appointed in June 2009 but the recent defeats have been very disappointing.

"Andy is an outstanding leader and a fine coach and we wish him well

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