UEFA Launch Investigation After Liverpool v Arsenal Champions League Tie Described As ‘Decent’

UEFA chiefs today announced they would be conducting an inquiry to investigate claims that the Champions League Quarter-Final second leg between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on tuesday was “a decent game”.

The investigation was launched after an unusual amount of reaction to the game was found to be positive. One spectator was heard to summise that the game was “actually not all that bad“, whilst another observed that he found it to be “quite a decent game, really“.

Suspicions first arose that the game might actually be alright when someone reported that he had heard a raised voice on the TV commentary. The viewer, who is seen by UEFA as key to their inquiry, said “It took me completely by surprise and I can’t remember what it was all about, but I know I heard it. Clive Tyldesley definitely described an incident in a louder voice than he had the previous one. What’s more, I thought I heard an ‘oh!’ from Jim Beglin too, but I can’t be sure about that at the moment. I may have been getting carried away“.

A UEFA spokesman confirmed that they are taking the claims seriously: “Usually there are one or two who go over-the-top in their assessment of a match, but we can’t afford to ignore this. Many people seem convinced that this was a decent game, and it’s our duty to look into it. Fans can rest assured that our investigation will be most thorough“.

The spokesman was asked about further claims that TV pundit Andy Townsend had actually described the game as ‘exciting’ and ‘a thrilling spectacle’ but was quick to play the story down, saying: “This is clearly hysteria. It is one thing to say that this could have been a decent game, but to imagine that vulgar hyperbole such as this might apply to a Champions League match, especially one between two sides such as Liverpool and Arsenal, is just crazy talk. Andy Townsend has seen a great deal of Champions League football in his broadcasting career and he would know better than to make such claims. I’m confident that Andy has been misquoted, and we will be contacting him for confirmation of this“.

As the news broke after the match, many began to raise concerns about the possible knock-on effect that this allegedly decent game might have for the rest of the tournament. The spokesman addressed this also: “If it turns out that this was a decent game then we’ll have to take it on the chin and move on with the tournament, but I’m confident that this is an isolated incident. I would consider further decent games to be highly unlikely, and fans should not be concerned if planning to view future matches in this season’s Champions League. On a reassuring note, we can announce here and now that there will definitely be no repeat of this in the semi-final when Liverpool play Chelsea“.

Jamie.

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Filed under Arsenal FC, Arsene Wenger, Chelsea FC, Comment, Europe, Football, Soccer, Sport, UEFA, UEFA Champions League

Hundreds Protest In London As Talentless And Unheroic Get Their Hands On Olympic Torch

Controversy hit the streets of London yesterday as hundreds arrived to protest against the decision to let faceless celebrity numbskulls carry the Olympic torch on the British leg of its journey to Beijing for the 2008 games.

Crowds massed in order to question the wisdom of allowing barely-famous non-personalities who have failed to ever display the talent or heroism associated with the legendary torch, to represent the nation as bearers on the occasion of its arrival in the UK.

Vocal enquries reportedly made by the crowds included “Who Are Ya?” and “Who The F**kin ‘Ell Are You?”.

One confused protestor actually made an attempt to rescue the torch thinking that its bearer was a thief, so unrecognisable was she as an appropriate personification of what the torch represents. The protestor explained: “I travelled 400 miles to see the torch carried by my hero, 5 times Olympic gold medallist Sir Steven Redgrave. Then I looked up and saw some random bird out of the crowd making off with it. I thought she was half-inching the Olympic torch! I had to do something!”

The protestor’s actions were not the only instance of confusion on the day. The crowd’s emotions went through extreme highs and lows and they watched the Olympic torch relayed between an 80-strong line-up of the heroic, courageous, talented, inspiring, vacuous, fly-by-night, morally empty, and limelight-seeking type.

Another protestor observed “I’ve never felt such mood swings in my life! One minute I’m watching Dame Kelly Holmes, and dreaming of one day emulating her double gold medal winning performance in Athens, then I’m daring to think that one day I too may become England’s greatest cricketer after seeing Kevin Pietersen. Just as I’m about to burst with all the inspiration on show, the torch gets passed to Denise Van Outen! Talk about being brought down to earth with a bump, I’m still feeling it this morning!”

This was to be a recurring theme throughout the torch’s journey, one moment in the hands of a champion, the next in those of a newsreader. The crowd’s failure to contain themselves quite understandable given the emotional rollercoaster ride they were given by the bizarre line-up.

When questioned about what the appearance of such wastes-of-space on this occasion meant for the London games in 2012, an official said: “The Olympic movement is about inclusion. We have to consider that not all young people out there may wish to achieve greatness in their lives. Some may wish to acquire wealth and fame by being a morally poisonous talent-vacuum, and doing a few magazine shoots.

“We in London think it’s very important to show the youngsters that there’s an achievable alternative to traditional ideas such as hard work. There may be those out there who are in agreement with Tina Turner that ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’. We must be seen to represent all views in society”.

Jamie.

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Filed under Athletics, Beijing 2008, Comment, IOC, Kelly Holmes, Olympics, Paralympics, Steven Redgrave

This is no National Lottery

It’s great to return The Sight Is In End with one of the truly great one-off sporting events imminent. Not much gets me more excited than a Grand National, in fact I don’t mind admitting I’m a bit of an obsessive when it comes to the world’s greatest steeplechase.

One thing annoys me terribly at this time of year, and that’s everyone referring to the Grand National as a ‘lottery’. Phrases such as ‘you’d have as much chance of picking the winner if you just stuck a pin in the newspaper’ become very common in the run up to a National, and it’s just not true! Sure, it’s tough to pick a winner, no one would argue otherwise, but you can certainly reduce the 40-strong field to a much more manageable number before you start getting your pins out.

And that’s what I’m going to attempt to do for you here in my Grand National preview, not so much advise you where to put your money, but steer you clear of the nags on which it would be thrown away.

As much as many ‘experts’ are loathe to admit it, there are some very common trends among Grand National winners which are impossible to ignore – and, importantly, these trends can expose big problems for some much-fancied runners.

Weight

The most major factor to look out for in the National is the horses weight. It’s at around 11 stone that the straw is placed that breaks a horses back in a National. Only one of the last 24 National winners have carried more than 11 stone – that was the exceptional Hedgehunter in 2005, and he was carrying 11st 1lb, just fractionally over. No more than about half a dozen 11 stone plus horses have even been placed (that a finish in the first 4) in a National in the last 10 years.

With each further pound of weight, the task becomes more impossible. There have only been 5 occasions on which the winner has carried more than 11st 5lbs in over 150 years of races, and two of those were Red Rum.

One thing you might hear mentioned this year is that the bigger weights have a better chance than usual due to a ‘compressed handicap’. What that means is the difference between the top and bottom weight is smaller, and as such the advantage to those with the smaller weights is not so great. They said this last year. In fact over the last 5 years or so, the handicap has become increasingly compressed, the number of horses carrying 11 stone plus has increased, as has the weight of the lowest ranked runner – and we are still yet to see it bring any advantage for the big weights.

If I was being conservative, I would say that 11st 3lb is the absolute maximum I would consider, and even then I’d still favour the runners carrying under 11st. Using 11st 3lbs as the cut off point, we can rule out the following horses for this years National:

Hedgehunter, Hi Cloy, Knowhere, Mr Pointment, Turko, Madison Du Berlais, Simon, Opera Mundi, Iron Man, Fundamentalist.

Age

One of the biggest no-no’s when selecting a National horse is to choose one that is not of the optimum age. It’s 67 years since the National winner did not fall between the ages of 8 and 12, on that occasion the winner was younger than 8 – you have to go back more than 80 years to find a winner older than 12. There are no real old-timers in this years race, but you can definitely rule out the following young pups, whose time may come one day, but not this year. These are all under 8 years of age:

Turko, Madison Du Berlais, Opera Mundi, Iron Man, No Full, Bob Hall, Milan Deux Mille, Nadover.

Generally, 9 and 10 year olds are much more successful in the race than anything else. 11 year olds have less success, but are definitely not to be ruled out. 8 and 12 year olds can win, but these are rarer occurrences. So 9-11 year olds are to be favoured ahead of 8 and 12 year olds. Interestingly, the hot favourite for this years race, Cloudy Lane, is an 8 year old. The 2002 winner Bindaree is the only 8 year old to win in the last 14 renewals.

The French

Horses which are bred or trained in France are cursed in the Grand National. There have been one or two recent French-bred runners up, but there has been no winner bred across the channel since 1909. There have been two National winners trained in France, and the last of these was in 1867.

So steer clear of the following gallic raiders:

Turko, Madison Du Berlais, Opera Mundi, Iron Man, Butlers Cabin, Vodka Bleu, L’Ami, No Full, Mon Mome, Kelami, Milan Deux Mille, Nadover.

Stamina

You can never be completely sure if any horse will still be full of running after 4 and a half miles, because there aren’t that many races run over such a marathon distance. But you do at least want a horse who has proved itself to have some reserves of stamina. The accepted distance a horse needs to win over to prove himself a decent stayer is 3 miles. So any horse that has never won over that distance must surely be a major doubt for 4 and a half miles. This eliminates the following:

Madison Du Berlais, Iron Man, Fundamentalist, Contraband, No Full, Bob Hall, King John’s Castle, Tumbling Dice, Milan Deux Mille, Nadover.

Are you keeping up? Well so far we’ve got rid of 22 horses, leaving you with 18 to choose from. Still tough work, but not as bad – and there are yet more stats which can help us reduce the field still further.

Class, experience, form and preparation are all factors which have linked recent National winners. All of the last 10 National winners had won a chase worth £17000 or more, and had run in at least 10 chases in their career. Other common criteria include at least one win in the current season, and to have been given a preparative race over hurdles – this suggests a horse which has been prepared specifically with the National in mind, and all the last 5 National winners have had this last factor in their favour.

Based on all of the above, I have chosen the following half-dozen horses which have everything going for them to run a big race in this years Grand National:

Comply or Die – Of all the fancied horses, this is one who really justifies his support. A recent winner of a classy 4 mile plus chase at Newcastle when carrying top weight, he comes to the race at the perfect time, as a 9 year old, running off a nice weight of 10st 9lbs and has good form against the favourite, Cloudy Lane. He’s the leading chance of 5 from the top-drawer Pipe stable. Has the perfect National winner’s profile.

Point Barrow – Remember him? He was joint favourite for last years race, but got no further than the first. He is less fancied this year, and yet there would appear to be no more reason to oppose him. Falling in the National is no barrier to making up for it at a later stage – last year’s winner Silver Birch fell in the 2006 race – and falling at the first can often be down to the chaotic way in which the horses dash for this obstacle. The horse won the Irish National in 2006, and that is a race which has proved itself an excellent Grand National trial in the past. It also suggests he’s in his best form at this time of year. Currently available at around 20-1, he could be the value of the race.

McKelvey – Second last year, and running on like a train despite picking up an injury towards the end of the race. Has done everything to prove that he can win a National, and as a 9 year old he now reaches the peak time to prove it. Does have to carry an extra half stone compared to last year but at dead on 11st, it shouldn’t be enough to rule him out. If the luck is on his side it could be his day this time.

D’Argent – Don’t worry about the name, he’s not French. This is the only National runner from the bang in form Alan King stable, and he is a horse likely to give you a great run for your money. Fantastic 11 year old stayer with proven class and stamina. Has a style of his own when it comes to jumping, which may be a concern over these giant fences, but it usually proves effective for him. If he stays on his feet, he’ll be running all the way to the finish.

Philson Run – Age is not on his side as a 12 year old, but last year’s 4th is not to be ignored. He’s looking to emulate 2004 winner Amberleigh House as a 12 year old winning the race the year after being placed, and he’s just the type that might do it. You won’t find a more reliable jumper and stayer in the field, and although I think he’ll find one or two too quick again at the finish, he’s a fantastic each-way bet.

Backbeat – My favourite outsider in this years race. He perhaps needs to take a big step up in class to win this, but I can see no reason why he won’t be placed. Another horse at a good age and weight, and this one is regarded as one of the best jumpers around – not the type of talk to be ignored at Aintree, as anything likely to get around safely could have a chance. Currently at around 66-1, he represents fantastic each way value.

And why I don’t like some of the big fancies this year:

The reason that Cloudy Lane will go off a comfortable favourite for this race, is that he has had a couple of serious recent wins that came too late for the handicapper to get his hands on him – which means he’s carrying far less weight than he should be for his current rating. I oppose him because I don’t think he’s done nearly enough to justify such a short price. Favourites don’t have a great record in the National, and neither do 8 year olds. Those facts are enough for me to favour others ahead of him.

As for last years third, Slim Pickings, if he didn’t have enough up the run-in carrying a light weight to beat Silver Birch and the injured McKelvey last year, I can’t see how he won’t find at least a couple too quick for him again carrying 11st 3lbs this time. I think he ran the race of his life last year, and might have missed his chance. I see no value at the price of around 11-1.

Another big fancy is Bewley’s Berry, who was going like a dream last year when he hit the floor at Becher’s second time round. He’s proven he can jump all the fences by finishing 2nd in the Becher Chase twice, but he just strikes me as a bit of a bridesmaid. For such a fancied horse, he has never actually won anything approaching a top class chase. We also never got to see what he had left for the finish last year due to the fall, and his previous form suggests he just starts to run out of steam a bit in the real marathons. If he gets round he could be up there, but he won’t win.

So, to my idea of the winner of this years Grand National. Forced to pick one, it would have to be Comply Or Die.

Good luck to everyone, and feel free to leave comments after the race if I have proved myself to be talking rubbish!

Jamie.

STOP PRESS:

Opera Mundi is now a non-runner for the race, (had no chance anyway, see above) and has been replaced by Ardaghey.

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Filed under BBC, Betfair, Betting, Grand National, Horse Racing, Opinion, Sport

Trescothick retires from international cricket

It’s eerie how things can develop. After writing about the plight of Marcus Trescothick on here a few days ago, it seems that his “stress-related illness” has finally beaten him, and he has announced his retirement from international cricket.

“I have tried on numerous occasions to make it back to the international stage and it has proved a lot more difficult than I expected,” he told the Somerset website. “I want to extend my playing career for as long as possible and I no longer want to put myself through the questions and demands that go with trying to return to the England team.”

Judging from a disasterous (if somewhat exciting…) start to the final Test in Napier, his absence makes you wonder what impact it could have on the Test side. Pietersen, much discussed for adopting a “mature” batting style recently, went back to his old self. Without doing so, England could have lost the game before lunch.

Anyway, that’s irrelevant. As conceded in the previous post, all that matters is if he gets better. Hopefully he will, and Somerset will reap the benefits, as well as Tresco himself. He will be remembered as perhaps the most consistent batsman England have had over the last decade, with an average of 43.79 from his 76 Tests.

David.

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Filed under Cricket, ECB, England, Marcus Trescothick, News, Somerset, Sport

The plight of Trescothick casts light on the smokescreen of sport

Marcus Trescothick is still unwell. He has just pulled out of the UAE tour with Somerset “to be with his family” according to Somerset’s chief executive Richard Gould. 

This is the third time Trescothick’s euphemistic “stress-related illness” has come to light concerning tours abroad, with Trescothick coming home during England’s tour of India in 2006. He later returned for England’s tours of Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but then ruled himself out of  the ICC Champions Trophy in India. 

He later dealt a major blow to England’s efforts in retaining the Ashes by breaking down and returning home after two warm-up games. 

Last season he broke the thousand run barrier for Somerset, which included an innings of 284 against Northants last May. 

For England, he averages 43.79 in his 76 Tests with a career best 219 against South Africa at the Oval in 2003. 

It’s unlikely Trescothick will ever return to the international set up unless he somehow gets better. This is worrying for England judging from some of the sub-standard batting performances in New Zealand so far, as well as the numerous poor performances we’ve seen in previous series since the Ashes tour of Australia. 

Of course, Trescothick’s mental wellbeing is all that matters, as duly noted by Paul Collingwood:

“It’s just really sad,” he said. “We just need to get him right, for his own sake really. We can be very selfish and ask whether he will ever play for England again, but it doesn’t really matter because we need to get him right.”

Trescothick is an example of the mental torment that can inflict sportsmen. The man who can hold it together in the most mentally taxing of sports, struggles to do so off it. It holds a strange, tragic poignancy. 

He shows that sportsmen, who look dominant and act as examples of human endeavour and hard-work, are actually vulnerable people (as shown through countless examples — too many to name here).

It’s something that needs to be remembered a lot more, especially with the amount of money that sport as an industry is now built upon. It’s so easy to forget now-a-days. 

His illness also shows how sport can mask reality. There is a separation of the two worlds but when they blur, it’s almost post-modern. You get trapped into this world of sport where reality seems to be put aside, yet it can be thrown right back at you at any time; by tragedy, incident, or your side’s victory/defeat.

When sport transcends that barrier between the two, that’s where it holds its power. But it’s dangerous, for crossing it can also make sport feel irrelevant, and mere escapism. Tresco is an example of the other, as shown by Collingwood’s comments.     

I hope he gets better soon. He should be known as the sportsman that can transcend the barrier through success, not because he suffers from that “stress-related illness”. 

David.  

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Filed under Comment, Cricket, England, Marcus Trescothick, News, Paul Collingwood, Somerset, Sport

We support Ground for a Pound

Apologies once again for the lack of posts over the last two weeks — it’s really beginning to get to me, actually. However, that will hopefully change within the next few days.

This is a quick one for you all. My home-town club Stockport County (although I’ll plainly admit that I’m a United fan, but I’ve been going to a lot of County games this season after a gap of a few years…) have launched an innovative and quirky way to try and raise £1 million and therefore begin the process of buying Edgeley Park back from Cheshire Sport, the double-glazing magnate Brian Kennedy’s sporting arm and owners of Sale Sharks.

County are one of the few clubs that are essentially owned by the fans, and Cheshire Sport have given the fans’ trust eight years to raise the £4.5 million needed to buy the 100+ year old ground back.

Anyway, the scheme is called Ground for a Pound and all it asks you is to buy a pixel of Edgeley Park (and some of the houses surrounding the ground…) for £1 sterling, in order to contribute towards the needed £1 million. After only being online for three days, the demand has been fantastic and it’s getting some decent press as well, notably in The Times and on Sky Sports. 

So, your quid could really help towards getting the ground back, and cementing the future of Stockport County.

Or buy a few pixels at once or maybe even one a week – up to you. If you want to advertise your business, website etc, then it’s cheap advertising for you, too, as all pixels act as a link.

And hey! Once they’ve raise the million, you could have your pixel selected and have the opportunity to name one of the stands!

‘The Sight is in End’ End – I dream… 

Go on!

www.groundforapound.com

David.

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Filed under Barclays Premier League, Edgeley Park, England, English Premier League, Football, Football League, Guinness Premiership, News, Rugby Union, Sale Sharks, Soccer

Eduardo leg break: Wenger retracts Taylor comments

“It was a highly emotional afternoon and we were all shocked by the injury to Eduardo,” he said. “On reflection, I feel that my comments about Martin Taylor were excessive. I said what I did immediately after the game, in the heat of the moment.”

(From Arsenal.com).

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Filed under Arsenal FC, Arsene Wenger, Barclays Premier League, Birmingham City, Eduardo, Football, Martin Taylor, News, Soccer, Sport