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This will be the first post on this website for over a year, we didn’t stop caring about sport, or even stop writing about sport, we just stopped using this site as our tool to do so. However these days I find myself in a place where I want to just say exactly what I feel without prejudice, without censorship and without remorse.

I am a Liverpool fan, and as explained many-a-time I am also a southerner, I was persuaded into being a fan by a cheeky Liverpudlian brickie working on my parents pub about a month before the European cup final against Roma in ’84, meaning I have been a fan for 28 of my 33 years. I am very proud to be a fan and am always critical when things are going bad (Souness’ spell in charge, Houllier’s bizarre hate for God (Robbie Fowler to the uneducated) and anything to do with Hicks and Gillett to name a few).

In December 2010  I wrote an article on this site praying for the end of Roy Hodgson as manager, after his tumultuous reign as the main man at Anfield, his negative counter attacking tactics worked wonders against Chelsea but made us vulnerable* against Blackpool twice, Wolves and Wigan to name a few. I NEVER thought that I would be writing the same article about Kenny, but here I am, doing it anyway.

*for vulnerable read rubbish.

Before I get bombarded with abuse please let me explain, when Kenny was put in charge after Woy left I was ecstatic, he was the perfect pick me up after such a dull run, and boy did it work, he injected life into the club, he risked youngsters who gave everything and never looked out of place, even Torres banged in a couple of goals, then it happened…. no, I’m not talking about buying Carroll, or selling Torres, or Gerrards long term injury. No, what happened was far, far worse, Kenny was given (click this link as you read the last line for full effect) a 3 year contract!!

Yes he is a legend ( a word banded about far too much, Bale is not a legend, neither is Tony Hibbert, nor Kevin Davies for that matter), and short of the reincarnation of Shankly I can think of no better person to steady said sinking ship, but just temporarily. We are after all talking about a man whose last real job in management was a very mediocre year at Newcastle when he manged to take them to the heady heights of 13th place in 1998 before being sacked (I am discounting his caretaker stint at Celtic, which I’m sure most Celtic fans are aswell) so he hardly comes back with a wealth of recent success.

Instead we give him a 3 year deal and carte blanche in the transfer market with a hundred million quid, I won’t start on the transfers because regardless of performance they are all class(ish) players, just not a class team.

It’s what Kenny does with them that I hate, take Henderson for example, an England cap to his name at the age of 20, suitors of the likes of both Manchester clubs and Chelsea, we strike while the iron is hot and we get our man, a 20 year old International midfielder with bags of qualities and heaps of potential, so surely he is nailed on for a Euro 2012 place you ask? No, instead he is pushed from pillar to post, centre mid, wide right, wide left, in the hole (they are all football terms, trust me), the reason he was rated so highly at Sunderland is because he nailed down a position and made it his own, at Liverpool he has been chastised by fans for underperforming, ARE YOU INSANE? it’s not his fault if he is one position one week, a different position the next week and on the bench the week after.

This goes for all the team, other than Reina, Enrique, Gerrard and Suarez, nobody knows when or where they will be playing from one game to the next, Rafa Benitez famously went 100+ games without naming the same side once but he only ever changed one, maybe two players at a time, Kenny changes 4 or 5 a game for no other reason than he can, confidence levels in the club must be knee high at the moment, either show some form of consistency or even finishing 8th is a pipe dream.

We should start now, not the end of the month, not the end of the season, now, in searching for a new manager, maybe Mourinho is out of reach, but lets find the best there is, make him an offer he cannot refuse (instead of another £20m squad player) and nail him down for next year so we can realistically look at challenging for the title sometime this decade.

The thing that bothers me more than Liverpool’s recent failings is this, I am a MASSIVE football fan, I put massive in capitals to emphasise just how massive a fan I am, I love watching football, whether it is a Premier League game, or a Blue Square Premier League game, I just love watching football, but since we’ve been playing so badly, and records of how bad we are doing are being broken weekly, I find myself less and less interested in watching, I haven’t watched Match Of The Day for 3 weeks now and I put the blame solely at the feet of Kenny Dalglish, I love the man, and will always love the man for what he has done for the club, but for me, the best thing he can do for the club at the end of the season……

…is resign.

Marcus J. Mitchell

It all started with a tweet.

A harmless tweet, or so I thought, reacting to the running cricket story being played out on BBC Radio Five claiming Graeme Swann (and this is the sport headline)

has attacked some of the tournament commentators for their scathing criticism after yesterdays defeat against Ireland, accusing some of them of short memories.

Now, having seen Michael Vaughan analysing the bowling performance after the India game, I, perhaps wrongly, assumed the “short memories” accusation referred to either Vaughan or Nasser Hussain (The two most recent converts to the commentary box; in fact, Vaughan, Nasser and Swann may have been on the first tour to South Africa under Duncan Fletcher, although I’m not sure.)

I can’t believe the interview the BBC are using, which is here is referring to the ridiculously negative Boycott or Botham (these two have been saying the same thing, over and over again, for years.)

And I was very surprised when the 2005 Ashes winning captain, and brilliant test match batsman Michael Vaughan, responded to the tweet with the type of biting fury usually reserved by Man Utd fans/manager after a dodgy penalty at Stamford Bridge. Here is the response,

Now before the pedants out there bombard the comments section referring to the lack of correct capitalisation or the missing “please” or “me”, imagine my initial delight when the smiling forehead (nothing wrong with that!) that is Michael Vaughan responds to my tweet; however, the delight soon turned to amused confusion when I re-read the tweet for a second time. Shit, I’ve been set up by the BBC and my knack of mis-assumption. VaughanCricket would never say anything bad about the England cricket team would he? It must have been Nasser! The traitor.

I’m quite rightly put in my place when MV responds again,

Fair point. I can’t argue with that, can I? Well, if you look a little further down Vaughan’s timeline, you find this photo of Bob Willis (arguably the worst reactionary cricket analyst I’ve ever seen, even worse than Beefy)

Now he might not have been in the commentary box, but he is in the studio, analysing the England vs Ireland match. This tweet from the cricket stat-man at Sky Sports confirms it,

So I’m not sure if Vaughan was himself being slightly pedantic, okay he wasn’t in the box, commentating on every ball, but he was still being critical of the bowling and fielding in the studio.

Now, my initial tweet was clearly praising the players (and Swann in particular)  for responding to the barrage of criticism that comes with a World Cup defeat. Especially when that negativity comes from ex-players who have only just removed their pads and packed up their bowling boots.

Here is a little CricInfo quote on Vaughan,

Vaughan was duly recalled, as captain, for the one-day series and retained for the World Cup in spite of a debilitating hamstring strain that reduced him to just three appearances out of ten in a victorious CB Series campaign. He limped his way through the World Cup (in 2007/8), in every sense of the word, becoming an increasing liability in the top order. Two months later he quit the limited-overs captaincy

So although playing through the pain is admirable, it doesn’t benefit the team when you become “an increasing liability in the top order”. Now like I said above, Vaughan was a wonderful batsman with the best cover drive you’re ever likely to see, but jumping ship from the field of play into the pundit’s chair and reverting to easy clichés, reacting to individual games without a broad sense of the bigger picture and then denying he’d made any such comments is disappointing coming from a captain famed for his innovative field settings and tactical captaincy. His record as England captain is second to none. I just wish, like Swanny, that some of the ex-players would remember what it was like when they were playing instead of reverting to lazy clichés.

Swann says it best in this tweet, and also the interview that was being repeated on the BBC Sport website and Radio Five,

Yet, the banter/putting in place/twitter spat, with Vaughan was to continue when he said this,

Again, pedants, I’m not a multi-seat vehicle used by teams to travel to away games or, thankfully, am I the coach of the England cricket team. That is my point though; England are the current World 20/20 champions, we’ve just trampled all over the Australian’s for the first time since I was born during the Ashes victory in Australia and we’ve already got a fantastic coach and captain.

Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss have overseen a radical overhaul of the cricket team. They are renowned for the detailed batting plans, bowling strategy and improving fielding standards. This may be hard to remember based on the recent performance against Ireland, Holland and India; our fielding has been rubbish and the bowling has been poor. I never once claimed I was “happy” with the England bowling during the Ireland game, nor did Swann – he admitted mistakes were made. Swann said they could have “bowled wider of off stump or more yorkers” and I’m sure there will be plenty of analysis by the England management/coaching team. However, reactionary media pundits clamour for selection changes, and when you take into account the bowling averages of the England attack it becomes obvious that the players are capable, so maybe there are other explanations.

Anderson:

Broad:

Bresnan:

Swann:

Yardy:

Looking at these figures, especially the overall ODI strike rates/averages shows that this England bowling attack has the capability to perform at this level.

Anderson, who has a reputation of conceding runs, especially on flat tracks like the one England played on versus India and Ireland, is also considered by the team management as an all rounder. Not because of his batting but because he’s the best fast-bowling fielder the world has ever seen. Broad, a brilliant three-pronged cricketer, with a strike rate in ODI’s better than most; is still only 24 and should be fresh after his two month break while Anderson and the others were finishing off the Aussies in the Ashes before losing the needless 7 match one day series. Bresnan, the star who replaced Broad (or Finn) in the test side, took five wickets against India on the flat track at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, including Sehwag. Swann is the highest ranked English bowler in ODI and test cricket, enough said. The only weak link seems to be Yardy – his stats don’t look that impressive, but his contribution to the 20/20 victory should be remembered.

Anyway, the main point I made to Vaughan was that credit must go to Kevin O’Brien, his innings was the best I’ve seen at a World Cup.

Taking apart the English attack,

Scoring his 100 off only 50 balls, a World Cup world record for the fastest ever 100,Enabling Ireland to recover from 111/5 and chase 215 off 150 balls scoring at more than 8 an over for half the innings. So, the bowlers were good enough to reduce the Irish to 111/5? Can we not give credit to a brilliant exhibition of batting? Or are the Irish minnows, meaning they get no respect because they don’t play test cricket?

The stats editor at CricInfo writes in more detail,

S Rajesh explains,

What transpired in the last 25 was truly incredible, as Ireland scored at a run rate of 8.93, and lost only two wickets while doing so, in the process achieving the highest successful run-chase in World Cup history. In the batting Powerplay, Ireland scored 62 without losing a wicket, which is the second-highest score in batting Powerplays in this World Cup, next to Pakistan’s 70 for 1 in their one-sided match against Kenya.

Kevin O’Brien blasted the fastest World Cup century, and he didn’t just edge past the earlier record; he utterly demolished it, bettering Matthew Hayden’s mark by 16 deliveries. In fact, only five batsmen have scored a quicker century in the entire history of one-day internationals.

And that is my point, which I made to Mr Vaughan after his claims of my delight with the England bowling,

I joined just over 3,000 fans at the Racecourse ground for this match, although I am not an official Wrexham fan, I still cheer for the home side like any other, wishing them to do well.

I decided before I left that I would write a match report for this game, little did I know I would happen upon one of the most eventful games I can ever remember, goals galore and almost as much action off the pitch as on it.

I’ll start by apologising for the length of this post, match reports aren’t normally this long but being as this game was so eventful, I felt the whole story needed to be told.

After seven straight wins expectation was high going into the double header against Crawley, but despite arguably being the better side over the two matches the dragons only took 1 point.

That leads us to todays match against Gateshead, the home side make two changes, Marvin Andrews comes in at centre back for Frank Sinclair and the hugely influential Jay Harris returns after suspension to replace Jamie Tolley. 

Wrexham (4-3-3) – Maxwell, McMillan, Ashton, Andrews, Creighton, Blackburn, Harris, Keates (C), Morrell, Mangan, Pogba. SUBS – Taylor, Sinclair, Cieslewicz, Tolley, Knight-Percival

Gateshead (4-4-2) – Deasy, Tavernier, Liddle, Curtis, Clark (C), Brittain, Nelthorpe, Turnbull, Gate, Fisher, Shaw. SUBS – Farman, Baxter, Winn, Wake, Gillies

Gateshead kicked off and before Wrexham had even touched the ball it was 1-0, Shaw appeared on the left hand side of the 18 yard box, tried a cross which came back off Andrews and he rifled it inside Maxwell’s near post with only 23 seconds gone. 1-0.

After nine minutes Wrexham have a corner which Keates plays low to the edge of the box but Harris puts it just over.

Wrexham are piling on the pressure now after 11 minutes Mangan coming in from the left wing teases the full back but his shot is deflected behind, from the resulting corner Andrews has a free header which he crashes against the crossbar.

However one minute later Wrexham equalise, a scramble after a corner and Keates slides a ball through to Mangan who in turn squares it to Morrell for an easy finish.

An eventful game is being almost overshadowed by an organised protest over the ownership of the club and ground, read more about that here.

With just 15 minutes on the clock its 2-1 to the away side, Wrexham fail to clear their lines which results in a tap in for Nathan Fisher.

Things go from bad to worse with a Brittain cross being handled in the area by the much maligned Andrews, Brittain stepped up to make it 3-1 to Gateshead.

The dragons had a chance on 21 minutes when Morrell received the ball inside the area, a clever turn but sadly a tame shot which was easily saved.

Wrexham seem to be doing a lot good work but for no return, a good move involving Keates and Blackburn sees the ball end up with Morrell, but his square ball is agonisingly out of the reach of Pogba.

Almost unbelievably after 32 minutes it becomes 4-1, a good run by Gate finds him free in the box and a quick square ball leaves Fisher with the easiest of chances to double his tally for the game.

The game quietens down for a while with chances being scarce before a hopeful cross by Tavernier into Wrexham’s area gets left by all defenders and Nelthorpe runs in unchallenged at the back post to make it 5-1.

As the board comes up saying 3 minutes extra to play Pogba starts a run from well inside his own half and takes a shot from all of 25 yards but just over.

Phil Turnbull tries the same from the opposite side with a little more success forcing a great save from Chris Maxwell, the resulting corner being cleared off the line by McMillan.

At half time it’s Wrexham 1 – 5 Gateshead.

A change of formation by Saunders at half-time as well as two substitutions, Tolley on for Pogba and Sinclair comes on for Blackburn as Wrexham start with a 3-5-2.

Four minutes in and Wrexham have a good chance, Ashton with a long ball into the box, which is knocked down by Morrell for Tolley to half-volley, but it was straight at Deasy in goal.

On 51 minutes Gateshead thought they had their sixth goal when Sinclair turned in a Brittain cross only for it to be given offside as Shaw was running ahead of him.

After an hour the demonstrations against the owners step up a gear, banners being waved with messages against the owners (this comes after an official notice on the Wrexham website banning negative banners) it seems to have been organised but I’m sure the score line wasn’t helping.

This clip doesn’t show it that well but you get the idea..

Wrexham have been far better this half and a chance is created when Sinclair puts a good cross in for Mangan but his header is weak and easily saved.

But just one minute later the fight back is on, a high cross into the area looks to be comfortable for the keeper but he drops it under the pressure of Taylors challenge and Tolley pokes it in to make it 5-2.

However any chance of that fight back is short-lived as Wrexham continue to fall apart, on 72 minutes a free-kick on the touchline is whipped in by Brittain and Shaw has a free header to make it 6-2.

Wrexham’s indiscipline starts to show as two quick yellow cards are issued, Sinclair for dissent and Ashton for a bad challenge on Brittain. The free-kick is played in and finds its way back out to Brittain who places a cross perfectly on the head of Shaw, he is unmarked to complete his hat-trick and make it 7-2.

Wrexham continue to make chances and on 83 minutes Morrell is put clean through by Keates but is stretching for it and Deasy makes a good save.

There are no more goals but as the board goes up to show two minutes of injury time the demonstrations step up another level as around 40-50 fans storm the director’s box to show their dissatisfaction with the owners. The stewards quickly step in and peace is restored.

The final whistle sounds and the game finishes 7-2 to Gateshead, talking to the assembled press nobody can remember Wrexham ever conceding seven at home before so this was a new record.

The protests continued outside the ground for a while after the game and lots of police turned up to make sure nothing got out of hand, it was a peaceful (but very loud) protest and eventually it all calmed down.

Needless to say it was one of the most astonishing games I have ever seen and I am privileged to have witnessed it, even if the result wasn’t what I, nor the 3,000 others at the racecourse wanted to see.

Man of the match: Martin Brittain, 1 goal and 4 assists showing a class above this league.

Marcus J Mitchell.

Here are highlights courtesy of the Wrexham Supporters Trust

A match that will live on in the memory, not for the brilliance of Spurs, but for the ineptitude of the referee, the frequent moments of rage, idiocy and finally the total lack of respect for the opponents – and, in particular, the Gattuso headbutt on Tottenham’s Assistant Manager Joe Jordan. A physical attack that, had it happened on the street, would be a matter for the police.

Regardless of the outcome of the second leg, the Spurs players can hold their heads high, as can the manager Harry Redknapp – a manager not renowned for his Champions League tactical mastery. The performance of his team, the organisation and discipline, the level-headed reaction to the Italian intimidation. They didn’t flinch from a plan.

For all his hot-headed idiocy, Gattuso’s major flaw was his weakness tactically. Compare the central midfielders positional discipline. Sandro and Palacios were perfect, looking at the Gattuso/Thiago Silva partnership you can see the pair drifting toward Van Der Vaart, nullifying the threat and distribution to the attacking trio for AC Milan of Robinho, Ibrahimovic and Seedorf/Pato.

The organisation down both flanks was also a crucial factor. Lennon/Corluka and Pienaar/Assou-Ekotto were both positionally outstanding and Lennon especially caused Antonini major problems down the right hand side.

Spurs’ domination was highlighted, rather surprisingly, in a goalless 1st half. AC Milan didn’t have one shot on target and couldn’t even force a corner. This led to Pato replacing Seedorf in the 2nd half to try and influence Milan’s threat going forward. The away side were unlucky not to score and territorial advantage was frustrating much of AC Milan’s possession advantage.

The passing chart below shows the possession, as expected, was edged by the home side, but it was the diagonal, middle-range, cross field balls looking for Crouch who regularly pulled off to the right to challenge Nesta, and Van Der Vaart was looking for the knock down, as was new signing Pienaar. The ability of Modric to keep the ball was an ideal substitution for ‘Arry’s team to play out the final 10 mins, and again could’ve been a factor in Gatusso losing his head at the final whistle.

Well played Spurs, and when AC Milan arrive at White Hart Lane, the Serie A leaders will have to take the game to Tottenham, and this could play right into Redknapp’s plans as they will have Bale and Modric starting, providing more opportunities for the counter-attacking pace of Lennon, Defoe and maybe Crouch.

Lawrence Donegan, writing about the Dubai Desert Classic, and the hype-fuelled, crowd-pleasing, three-ball of Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods, claims,

…if Thursday’s three-ball will inevitably fall short of expectations it should still provide a fascinating snapshot of where golf’s balance of power lies, particularly in relation to Kaymer, who many people believe is the best player in the world…

Does he have the game, and the fortitude, to withstand the scrutiny? If he does the answer is yes, and if he can go on to win the tournament on Sunday, then not even Martin Kaymer will be able to deny that Martin Kaymer is the best golfer in the world.

Well, Martin Kaymer might not deny it, but I will. Winning the Dubai Desert Classic – even if you do spend the first two rounds with Westwood and Woods, playing in front of a huge golfing galleries, the focus of all the media attention and scrutiny – does not make you the best player in the world.

Here is the current ranking,

Lee Westwood, golf’s current World Number 1. Well played Lee, you might say. Not me. How can a player who’s finished second in the last 43 major championships (or an equivalent record similar to our other recent sporting runner-up Tartan Tim) be classed as the best player in the world? Westwood even spent months on the sidelines injured. An injury that ruled him out of the final major championship of last year, the USPGA, a withdrawal that didn’t seem to have a negative impact on his charge to the top of the rankings. In fact, the injury, the six-week lay off before the end of last season (after his brief cameo at the Ryder Cup) and his consistent approach to not winning a major title, seemed to cement his place at the top of the golfing world. But how can this be I hear you cry? Well, let’s take a look at how the ranking system works,

The World Ranking Points for each player are accumulated over a two year “rolling” period with the points awarded for each event maintained for a 13-week period to place additional emphasis on recent performances – ranking points are then reduced in equal decrements (of 1/92nd of the original amount)  for the remaining 91 weeks of the two year Ranking period.  Each player is then ranked according to his average points per tournament, which is determined by dividing his total number of points by the tournaments he has played over that two-year period. There is a minimum divisor of 40 tournaments over the two year ranking period and a maximum divisor of a player’s last 58 events.

The winners of the Masters Tournament, the US Open Championship, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship are awarded 100 points (60 points for 2nd place, 40 for 3rd, 30 for 4th down to 1.50 points for a player completing the final round), and the winner of the Players Championship is awarded 80 points (points are awarded down to 1.20 points for 60th place and ties).

Pretty simple stuff? Hmmm… Ranking reward, for consistency, seems to be the jist of the above equation. A noble, but still counter-productive system that allows a player to repeatedly finish second or third, but still claim the top spot. Take a look at Westwood’s 2010 record for yourself,

You can’t beat the Nedbank or the St Jude. A barrage of top five finishes. However, the true test of golfing superiority has to be the major championships, and Westwood throughout his whole career, hasn’t won a single one. But as the world rankings suggest, is still considered to be the best player in the world.

I’m a huge fan of Lee Westwood. His first Ryder Cup outing with Nick Faldo in 1997, his incredibly successful pairing with Sergio Garcia in 2002 at the Belfry, his recent performance in helping the Europeans defeat the Yanks in Wales at the Celtic Manor (again after a period off with a calf injury) all contribute to my support. But what has always struck me, and I hope I’m proved wrong this season, is his ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Go over the number of  ‘close run things’ that have contributed to Westwood’s ranking success. In the majority of his runner-up major championship finishes, he’s had the chance to win. A steady back nine or a decent 18th hole tee shot. A regulation par, a cool head or a five iron straight down the middle would have secured victory. He didn’t. He found a way not to win. Because, as the rankings suggest, winning major titles isn’t everything in golf.

Am I being too harsh on Westwood? Maybe, and like I said above, I hope I’m proved embarrassingly wrong this season (and I’ll be the first person to print off this article, put it between two slices of wholemeal bread, and eat it, if he does claim a major victory.) Let’s consider tennis for moment, do you think it would ever happen that a player could climb to the top of the world rankings without winning one of the four major titles? No. So am I being harsh? Probably not.

As for Kaymer, he actually won a major championship, the USPGA title last August, so he would have more of a valid claim at being the best player in the world than Westwood. However, a bizarre sequence of events led to his victory.

The finale will be remembered for the controversy that befell Dustin Johnson.

Leading by one going down the last, the 26-year-old carved his tee shot into the crowd on the right, before grounding his club as he addressed his second shot on a patch of trampled sand.

Johnson explains the misdemeanour in more detail,

It never once crossed my mind I was in a sand trap, said Johnson, who led the US Open by three shots going into the final round at Pebble Beach in June, only to crash to a round of 82.

The only worse thing that could have happened is if I had made that putt on the final hole.

I just thought I was on a piece of dirt where the crowd had trampled it down. Obviously I know I can’t ground my club in a bunker but I should have looked at the rules sheet a little closer.

Stupid or naive? Well, considering

…the PGA of America put a notice in the locker room all week to remind players that every patch of sand was to be treated as a bunker regardless of its location

I’d say idiotic.

So Kaymer won his only major title by way of Mr Dustbinhead Johnson forgetting the rules? Not quite, but if a player can’t judge between a grassy patch of dirt that looks like sand or a sandy patch of grass that looks like dirt – then I for one would be claiming it the United States Professional Golf Association Major Default Championship #1. So that rules Kaymer out of world number one reckoning.

Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer I’ve ever seen. Will we ever see him rise to great heights of holding all four major championships at once, a feat referred to as the ‘Tiger Slam’ (insert your infidelity jokes as you please), I’m not so sure. I heard him on the radio today stating he no longer spends as much time on the practice ground – and that what time he does, is ‘focused’ and ‘more intense’ than his old sessions. That worries me. He now spends the majority of his time, since his new found love of all things moral, with his children. Good on Tiger. If he quits now, he’ll be regarded as the second best player of all-time. I can’t, with the drive and desire, the sheer single-minded domination and breathtaking skill the man has shown over the last 15 years, believe that he will quit until he’s overturned or equalled Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championship wins. The only thing stopping Tiger from completing his dream, is Tiger himself. If any sporting legend can spend less time practicing and still succeed, I dare to say it’s Tiger Woods. He is golf’s real number one.

*On a side note, if Tiger returns to the porn scene and forgets all about the game of golf, there are a few (other than Westwood and Kaymer) who could challenge this season.

Ricky Fowler was impressive in the Ryder Cup and on the US Tour last year, and as an outside pick, is one to watch.

Graeme McDowell, who had the bottle to sink the winning putt at The Ryder Cup, and claim the first European victory at the US Open since 1740, deserves a special mention.

Only an idiot would discount Phil Mickleson from being ranked number one at the end of 2011, so I’ll say he’s got no chance.

But if I had £10 to spare and I wasn’t allowed to pick Tiger Woods, I’d spend my hard-earned currency on Rory McIlroy to be World Number 1 at the end of the season. He’s probably the only player, ability-wise, who worries Tiger. He’s got it all, he can construct shots from nowhere, shape the ball both ways, brilliant touch around the greens – but has he got the bottle? The upcoming 2011 golf season will certainly give us the evidence to decide whether he’s the next Tiger Woods or the new Lee Westwood.

-GUEST POST-

Andy Murray, touted by many as the best British tennis player since Fred Perry, recently lost his third Grand Slam final without winning a single set, with a staggering set aggregate score of 9-0 over the three finals! Considering Murray’s recent form against Djokovic, having won the last three meetings, it appeared the Scot would certainly see his best chance of being the first Brit to lift a Grand Slam title since Fred Perry way back in 1936. However, it seems Andy suffers from the British disease of ‘lost bottle’. Perhaps not to that scale of the English football team but nevertheless he clearly lacks the ‘big game mentality’ required to be a world beater. It would seem he has the bottle of everyone’s favorite snooker loser, poor old Jimmy White. Murray, despite his youth, is in danger of becoming ‘poor old Andy Murray’ unless he can grow himself a set of balls (excuse the pun), man up and realise his potential.

How? Maybe Boris Becker hit the nail on the head by suggesting he needs a mentor. Boris should know, having won 49 titles in an illustrious career whilst still finding time to pose nude and have sex in cupboards. Maybe he needs to develop a personality! Poor Murray has the charisma of a lettuce leaf, a soggy one at that, but that’s him, could he change that? Sure he seems relaxed, but surely that’s a front? The frustration is immense and I do feel that if (when???) he finally breaks his duck, the Grand Slam titles will be flowing his way.

He certainly looks moody enough so maybe he should swear more, a la McEnroe, channel his aggression on to his opponent and the umpire, and anyone else who stands in his way! Attempt to scare the opposition into losing! If a player is confident he will have an aura around him, he lacks swagger and arrogance which all sporting greats have. Watch Federer stroll on to the court and you know he means business. He wins because he ‘knows’ he is the best, not because he ‘thinks’ he’s pretty good and might have a chance.

Murray looks uncomfortable and ill-fitting when he ambles on to Centre Court. The boy’s certainly not pretty enough either. Maybe he should channel his aggression in the gym, I know he’s beefed up a bit but he’s no Adonis, no Rafa Nadal! And that hair….. Need I say any more? Maybe its the pressure of his mother Judy turning up every time! Remember your first school play? I think I was a shepherd. One thing I am sure of is that I was shit! Desperate to impress my parents, all ending in the inevitable ‘Nevermind, we still love you Son.’

Murray claims he doesn’t care if he’s labelled a ‘bottler’ but the longer he goes without a Grand Slam title the more infamous he will become as the nearly man of tennis, sure he’s better than Henman ever was, but is that something to be proud of? On a positive note Agassi and Ivanisevic lost their 1st 3 Grand Slam finals and that didn’t seem to do them any harm (Ivanisevic won his fourth and last final, beating Pat Rafter after disposing of Henman in the semi, so perhaps not a great example) and Ivan Lendl lost his first 4 and then went on to win an impressive 8, nobody will remember him as a ‘bottler’!

In conclusion, it seems, Mr. Murray needs a new gym membership, a few sunbed sessions, to wear more vests, more aggression, a personality transplant and to tell his mother to politely ‘do one!’. I pray, for his own sanity, that he can take heed of this advice and maybe invest in an Adam Sandler box set to cheer himself up. Relax, stop taking yourself so seriously and, most importantly, WIN (a Grand Slam title!)
By Shaun Hurley

When we started this blog we wanted it to be a sports blog covering lots of different sports, so far we have covered football, tennis, snooker and cricket, there are other sports we intend to write about to keep this as varied as possible. We were also very careful to make sure this does not become a blog about Liverpool FC, there are plenty of LFC blogs out there and even we don’t want to have another one, however myself and George are both fans of Liverpool so it is inevitable that we are sometimes going to write about the club that we love (even our one guest post was by a Liverpool fan about Liverpool FC).

But at least this is a positive post as opposed to my last article about the Liverpool management which was posted on December 30. I wrote it in the aftermath of a 1-0 home loss to Wolves and begged for Roy Hodgson to either resign or be fired, Liverpool were languishing in 12th place and a relegation battle was a very real possibly, the league table tells it’s own story…

Then on 8th January every LFC fan got their wish, Roy Hodgson was sacked, to make the news even sweeter Kenny Dalglish was handed the task of turning this dismal season around. His first game in charge was the small matter of Manchester United at old Trafford in The F.A Cup, we lost 1-0 but the signs were encouraging. Then it was a trip to Blackpool who had turned us over at Anfield 2-1, a great start by LFC was rewarded with a brilliant Torres goal after 2 minutes, things were looking good for about another 5 minutes before the inevitable happened, LFC couldn’t take the game to the opposition and Blackpool capitalised, scoring twice before half time and holding on for their second 2-1 victory over Liverpool this season.

Were things changing though? Was Kenny’s influence starting to show? Were Liverpool beyond help? All good questions and you felt some would be answered at Anfield on Sunday 16th January (my 32nd birthday incidentally) when we faced Everton.

Only 10 minutes in I knew I was watching a different team, aesthetically they were the same as before but you could feel something different, it was like they had a new focus, a new enthusiasm, a new mentality, Kenny’s presence was starting to be a factor. Liverpool took the lead mid-way through the first half with a great strike by Meireles, his first LFC goal. It looked as though a victory was a formality but 1 minute into the 2nd half Distin scored from a corner, 6 minutes later Beckford scored (which was Ben Thornley’s fault!) and that gave Everton the lead, fortunately we were awarded a penalty from which Kuyt made it 2-2 and that is how it stayed. I said after the game that I would still have been happy even if Liverpool had lost as it was just so nice to see them playing well again.

Now what Kenny needed was a win and that was delivered only 6 days later with a very comfortable victory over Wolves at Molineux, it was a fantastic performance with one of the goals of the season from the ever improving Meireles. The game was overshadowed somewhat by the controversy surrounding the female assistant referee, Sian Massey and the comments made by Sky Sports presenter and commentator, Richard Keys and Andy Gray, I am not commenting on it,  just making reference to the fact it was at that game where the incident occurred.

Suddenly the table started to make better reading…

 

Obviously 10th is unacceptable, but it was unthinkable 3 weeks earlier.

Next game was home to Fulham, it wasn’t a great performance but enough was done to secure a 1-0 win, back to back victories and back to back clean sheets, the Steve Clarke effect was being felt as much as the Kenny Dalglish effect.

In between the Fulham match and the upcoming Stoke match was the end of the transfer window, I have already posted about it before so won’t go into it again, highlights were…Torres went to Chelsea, we got Carroll and Suarez, I am happy with it as are plenty of LFC fans.

Back to Stoke, we had been fundamently outplayed by Stoke in November and needed to keep this run going to banish the memories of that defeat, another goal from Meireles and a debut goal from Suarez coming off the bench meant a 2-0 win for LFC and another clean sheet.

This brings us to our last game before this post was written, Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the hype surrounding Torres was crazy, will he play? Won’t he play? Will he score? Will Carragher try to break his legs? In the end only one of these things happened, he played, well…sort of, 65 minutes of anonymity and he was substituted. Meireles was the hero once again as he pounced on a Cech error to score and Liverpool held on for a fantastic 1-0 win.

For the record that is now four wins from four, two home and two away, with no goals conceded, the instant impact that Dalglish is having is in such contrast to the negative, boring football employed by Hodgson, I like Hodgson the man, but he was the wrong man for this job and proved it so.

So exactly one month after Daglish was appointed and was asked “Do you think you can get Liverpool out of this relegation battle they are heading for?” he now gets asked the question “Do you think you can make the Champions league places?” Here is the current league table that proves the impact Kenny has had…

More enjoyable though than moving up the table and keeping clean sheets is the way LFC are playing, I have spent a long, long time watching Liverpool matches on TV and thinking ‘this is awful, I want to change the channel’ I never do and just endure the boredom. Not now though, now watching Liverpool is fun again, you can see how much the players are enjoying it, how much the Anfield faithful are enjoying it, you can even see how much Kenny Dalglish is enjoying it, and all of this has happened in just…. one month.

Roy Hodgson said during one of the darker times of his tenure that you need “plenty of time to get a new managers methods across”

No you don’t, you need to understand the club, understand how to handle the players, be tactically astute against other clubs, know how to speak to the media, know how to buy a player that will enhance the squad (that is not a dig at Konchesky, he always tried his best, its just his best wasn’t enough) but most importantly, you need to know you are manager of Liverpool Football Club…

…and that is something Kenny Dalglish definitely understands.

Marcus J Mitchell.

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