Monday, 27 August 2012

Premier League Week 2 review

The one thing I hate most about the Premier League and the 24 hour sponsored Sky Sports News coverage, is the need for status and position amongst fans.  After one game, we have to suffer the Premier League table with teams on top based on the fact they scored more goals than other victorious sides.  My belief is that the relegation zone should not be thrust into our screens until the start of December, when the games come thick and fast which can influence the position based on injuries and colder weather.

After the first week, though those happiest with there work obviously were the teams who won, some more convincingly than others; Swansea, Fulham, Everton, West Brom and Chelsea were over the moon; whilst Man City were lucky to get past newly promoted Southampton, with a 3-2 victory but the loss of Sergio Aguero for a suspected month due to a knee injury.

So week 2 is not really week 2 for Chelsea, who played there third weekend game at home to Reading early due to their involvement in the European Super Cup in Monaco on Friday.  After an initial scare and blunder by Petr Cech, Chelsea came back from 2-1 down to win 4-2.

So what else happened this weekend?

1. Chelsea lay down a marker
Okay, Newcastle had less than 48 hours to prepare for this game due to their own European travels.  Yet they came up against a confident Chelsea side, thanks in part due to the creative invention of Eden Hazard who is making everyone look better around him.  Fernando Torres is looking hungry, due to him being top dog and not having to compete with Didier Drogba.  Juan Mata is being given creative licence without doing much with it due to Hazard's great first week in England.  Defensive solidity remains in the form of Gary Cahill in spite of John Terry's neck injury which ruled him out.  Three wins from three is nothing ominous, but is still a good start.

2. Is Rooney's injury a blessing in disguise?
Wayne Rooney suffered a severe gash on his inner right thigh above the knee due to an errant stud by Hugo Rodallega in injury time during Man United's 3-2 win over Fulham.  Rooney started on the bench, as Ferguson granted Robin Van Persie a start on his home debut.  Rooney is set to miss a month of action, including both of England's World Cup qualifiers in September.  Yet for Ferguson, this could be a god send to a side to integrate a new style of forward into the United way without the trouble of rotating and worrying if they can co-exist.  RVP can go about his business, and build up some good links between himself, Ashley Young, Nani and the impressive Shinji Kagawa.

3. Teams refuse to be beaten
West Bromich Albion will consider the first week a great one. Steve Clarke's side followed up their home victory on opening day versus Liverpool with a point at Tottenham thanks to a last minute equaliser by James Morrison that prompted an 11 man bundle in the centre circle, a sign of Baggie resilience and togetherness.  In spite of a torrent of Tottenham attacks from Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe, Spurs could not get the second goal. Clarke threw on Romelu Lukaku whose size and power worried Vertonghen in defence.  This resilience must be instilled by Clarke, a defender himself who refused to be beaten himself as a player, in contrast to Mark Hughes at QPR who has chosen to build his side from the front rather than shore up his leaky, creaky defence.

4. Arsenal are nearly in crisis
Okay, two games and two points would be fine.  You have not lost a game yet, but you have not won a game either.  You seem to be difficult to break down in defence, yet you have not scored a goal either.  The departure of Van Persie was expected, and the tight wad Wenger did spend money on Lukas Podolski and Oliver Giroud as suitable replacements; yet Arsenal seem to miss that creative impetus in their midfield with the continued absence of Jack Wilshere.  Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain is coming on, yet the enigmatic Theo Walcott is again awol without warning.  Due to recent history, a point at Stoke is not bad considering no players were injured, but the lack of goal threat less than last week versus Sunderland will be a worry.  But only a worry if they go to Liverpool and fail to score next week.

5. Liverpool still can self-destruct
Last season, Liverpool endured a terrible season yet they somehow still won a trophy.  The omens are better for this season, Brendan Rodgers has entered hoping to instil the Swansea ethic to Anfield and bringing Joe Allen with him will be a good move.  Rodgers started in coaching with youth, so Raheem Stirling will prosper under him.  Yet Liverpool with all the belief in them in front of the home faithful played very well against the Champions Man City in a 2-2 draw, yet somehow conspired to throw away victory.  A fumble off of Martin Kelly fell to the feet of Yaya Toure to poke home the first equaliser.  Then having regained the lead thanks to Luis Suarez's beautiful free-kick, goalscorer Martin Skrtel played a blind backpass aiming for Pepe Reina which was both soft and off target, except straight to Carlos Tevez's feet who easily rounded the stranded keeper for his 100th PL goal.

6. Laudrup > Rodgers
Michael Laudrup must think this PL lark is easy, considering he has been at the helm for two games, eight goals and none conceded.  Like Rodgers, Swansea keep the ball in possession making it difficult to win the ball of them, then soak up any pressure thrown their way followed by a brisk counter-attack and ruthlessness in front of goal.  Swansea punched above their weight last season, getting goals from many people but in new signing Michu they have a goal-snatcher in the Lineker vein; who can sniff up mistakes or score crackers as well.  The 3-0 victory at home to West Ham was helped by two defensive lapses, yet the dominance was not something you would have seen from Rodgers' side last season.

Monday, 20 August 2012

England v South Africa Test review

South Africa completed the series victory on English soil at Lords today in quite convincing fashion.  The 2-0 test series win lifts the Proteas above England in the ICC Test rankings and England's one year hold of the title Best side in the world has been relinquished.

Whilst England lost, credit should be given to a South African side who have dominated England in all facets of the game across three games starting at the Oval when we marvelled at Hashim Amla's incredible triple century - the first by a South African; the drawn test match at Headingley which was overshadowed by the Olympics and the backroom politics involving Kevin Pietersen and whether he did or did not text tactical banter to the South Africans regarding his teammates.

At Lords, England had to win the test match to not only level the series, but to salvage the No.1 ranking.  Having had S.Africa on the ropes at lunch on the first day at 66-4, South Africa managed to get to a score of 309 thanks to Vernon Philander's 61 runs.  The total should have been 50-60 runs less than that.  England could only sustain a six run lead thanks to the wonderful maiden half century from Jonny Bairstow eventually dismissed for 95.

A facet of South Africa this year has been the ability to take wickets at vital moments.  In the first innings at Lords, captain Strauss looked like he was playing himself into form and then one from Morkel got through two balls before lunch.  Prior having done most of the hard work with Bairstow then succumbed to the first ball of the second new ball, when they needed solidarity.  Oddly enough, he was caught by Kallis when bowled to by Philander, an identical dismissal occured in the 2nd innings. The wicket that ended England's valiant run chase of the required 346.

Over the three tests; England had few moments of sunshine, and South Africa have done to England what they have done to many teams in recent years.

At the first test England were undone by scoreboard pressure as they did against Australia when down under.  England were in first on a flat Oval pitch and despite 115 from Alastair Cook and 60 from Matt Prior could only score 385.  South Africa mustered 637-2; Graeme Smith 131, Amla's magnificient 311 and Jacques Kallis' 182.  England had to reach 252 to make S.Africa bat again, yet only Bell offered resistance with 55 as we lost by an innings and 12 runs. Dale Steyn took 5-56 to complete the destruction.

Changes were made for Headingley as a personally conflicted Ravi Bopara made way for debutant James Taylor who has been earmarked for test cricket for some time.  England also though dropped Graeme Swann for an all seam attack, which in hindsight was a knee-jerk reaction, considering it did spin for Tahir, and Kevin Pietersen took 3 wickets himself.  This sort of selection decision is unlike England in the past, they stick with a formula and consistency of selection putting faith in the players selected to put it right; England were worried by Swann's dodgy right elbow, which did not flare up in the Lords test.

During Headingley, England dropped numerous chances dolly ones by their own standards which reached a pinnacle down under led by Paul Collingwood.  Unfortunately, in this series safe hands such as Alastair Cook at short leg, Strauss in the slips and Anderson have all been guilty of bad glaring chances.  If you take all the runs those South African batsmen accumulated after being dropped, it amounts to 500 runs in the series. South Africa amassed 1,974 runs in the series, that is nearly 25% of their runs given to them.
Never did it count more than at Lords when Amla was dropped by Prior on 2, he scored 121.

England will feel that they should have won the Lords test but due to the refusal to take opportunities, the silly run out involving Jonathan Trott and James Taylor on the last day, and the lack of bowling firepower in contrast to the unit bowling of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and new discovery, Vernon Philander (who can also bat), England can think of themselves as a team that lost the test and series because they did not meet their own formidably high standards they set themselves in recent years.

Credit should not be withdrawn from South Africa though, all men have played their part in this series triumph at one point or another.  Alvaro Petersen's 182 at Headingley was a daddy hundred that frustrated England, helped by JP Duminy's invaluable unbeaten 48 at number 8 in the same innings. Perhaps Jacques Rudolph did not do as well, but no matter in a team when someone picks up the baton.

Congratulation to South Africa on a deserved triumph, next for them is a test series in Australia who seem resurgent at the moment under Michael Clarke, should be a brilliant series for bowling.  As for England, after nursing their wounds is a four test tour to India; with some decisions to be made.  Whilst Bairstow and Taylor have shown glimpses, the question remains about Kevin Pietersen's involvement.  Decisions need to be made and changes attempted now as the Ashes return next summer.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Tyrann Mathieu

Here is a link to my newest post for 1amsports website (, about the dismissal of Tyrann Mathieu from LSU Tigers for substance abuse.

I am the US College Sports writer for this website; so expect some articles weekly regarding College Football moving into the Basketball arena come November/December.

It is a great website, full of like-minded individuals who love US sports and they cover all your favourites - MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL and Nascar also.

So please click on the link and enjoy:


Monday, 13 August 2012

Beautiful Brutality Interview

With his new book released, I was granted the opportunity to ask Adam Smith a few questions about the genesis of the book and a few more in respect to his time in boxing covering it for Sky Television.  I found Mr. Smith to be enlightening and entertaining with his passion for the sport, which is mirrored in the book itself which I can heartily recommend:

1.      What was the idea for the book?
I am passionate about boxing and passionate about families. Always wanted to write a book – and this seemed like a different and interesting combination

2. Why did you focus on the family side mostly?
Those closest to the fighters go through so much – but are often forgotten. The relationships are fascinating…

3. Was it always your intention to make it part biographical?
I have been in the sport for 20 years, and I am also a family man. I felt that dovetailed nicely – and enabled me to tell some of the stories that I have been so fortunate to be involved in through my engrossing work at Sky

4. Where would you put the value of a good family in terms of a good boxer - along with conditioning, talent, skill?
So important. Obviously the fighter has to have talent, dedication and huge desire – but a family structure and support is, I believe, fairly crucial to success. Particularly love and guidance in those early years too.

5. Are boxers born or bred?
Both. Genes help – look at Floyd Mayweather – but talent can be honed – like Ricky Hatton, Carl Froch….

6. Who is the best boxer you have ever seen from ringside?
Floyd Mayweather. Dazzling. Brilliant.

7. What is the best contest you have ever seen from ringside?
The best fight in terms of pure drama was Naseem Hamed and Kevin Kelley’s 7 fight knockdown war at Madison Square Garden.
The greatest fight I have commentated on – Diego Corrales – Jose Luis Castillo 1.

8. Where do you sit in the Mayweather-Pacquiao debate? Will it ever happen?
Probably. But too late now. They could have had a trilogy. Always felt Mayweather would be too classy.

9. What is the current state of boxing?
Some exciting things going on as always – Froch, Khan, Brook, Price in UK and Ward, Broner, Alvarez, etc in US/Mexico.
Need more excitement in the heavyweight division. PED’s worrying, and have to be flushed out.
We are looking for bigger, deeper shows on Sky with real pick-em fights.

10. How well will Team GB do in boxing at the Olympics (male and female)?
Very well. 10 fabulous, healthy and talented athletes. All 7 men and all 3 women are primed and ready, and could each win a medal. Luck’s needed of course, but I think we are looking at at least 5 medals. Watch out for Anthony Joshua to be one of the stars of the Olympics.  This will produce another great cycle for boxing here…..

Just to clarify Adam's predictions he was spot on with the prediction of 5 medals and Anthony Joshua winning Gold - under the stewardship of Rob McCracken Great Britain won three Golds - Joshua (Super-heavy), Luke Campbell (Bantam) and Nicola Adams (Women's fly); one silver - Freddie Evans (Welter) and one bronze, Anthony Ogogo (Middle) at the 2012 Olympics.

Beautiful Brutality: The Family Ties at the Heart of Boxing is out now in hardback from Bantam Press.