ASHLEY COLE is considering quitting football as he lies in a Biarritz rehab centre, conetemplating his post-operative ankle - and a divorce from the nation's darling, Cheryl Cole.
Sunday, 28 February 2010
ASHLEY COLE is considering quitting football as he lies in a Biarritz rehab centre, conetemplating his post-operative ankle - and a divorce from the nation's darling, Cheryl Cole.
Saturday, 27 February 2010
THE weekend is barely half-done and already we've had so much dramatic action - from Wayne Bridge refusing to shake John Terry's hand before Manchester City's shock 4-2 win at Chelsea (pictured) to Aaron Ramsey's horrific injury as Arsenal won 3-1 at Stoke.
Frank Lampard gave Chelsea the lead as they dominated for the early exchanges but Carlos Tevez equalised as City - apparently disrupted by the hullaballoo over Bridge and Terry, began to settle.
Thursday, 25 February 2010
I GOT IT wrong on Sky News this morning. I called Wayne Bridge a wimp when they rushed me in to Isleworth for a first response to the news. The statement was gloriously straightfoward and to the point. And it has got the entire football-speaking world talking.
HERE'S what I posted on the absorbing Planet Rugby Forum this morning: "Sorry to start a new thread, but I've had emails from Planet Rugby posters asking for my response. Have read the arguments since Daily Mail article yesterday and thought I'd offer this.
Chris Foy is a good bloke, a football writer who worked hard to replace Peter Jackson when he retired as the Mail's rugby guru. Like Jacko, he is not the kind of journalist who simply does what the RFU asks.
If the instances he quotes about Cipriani aren't true he will be sued. He must have had a good source... or two. But make no mistake, this is a direct reponse from Martin Johnson and Co to Cipriani's quotes when he decided to go to Melbourne.
Without question Cipriani has burned his bridges with the current regime at all levels, particularly with his open support of Wales (Gwlad readers will love that)... but I suspect by then Cipriani had already given up on an England future under MJ.
Here's my view: Cips is a new generation rugby player. Ambitious, selfish, impatient. He doesn't fit in with Martin Johnson's regime or MJ's idea of what a rugby player should be. But that doesn't make him a talentless twat, just a petulant fool. Football puts up with such characters if they have the talent, cricket does too (you should have seen Kevin Pietersen batting against selector Ashley Giles in nets on tour in December, and then there's Craig Bellamy).
Given that Shaun Edwards is his coach at Wasps, Cipriani wouldn't have got away with the way he behaved with the Saxons at club level. Edwards would have torn him off a strip. Inside the club, Cipriani is respected for working hard... most of the time.
The fact remains that Cipriani, after his treatment at the hands of a very mediocre England set-up, had no choice other than to pursue his career overseas at what he perceives as the top level. If he succeeds at Super 15, he will have proved his point to MJ and the doubters.
I still think it's a brave move, the kind of thing top sportsmen (and ordinary people in all walks of life) do when the road ahead is blocked.
Whether Cipriani has the talent to comeback with his status restored after tales like this, I'm not sure.
What I do know is that Cipriani was picked out as a major talent at every level as he progressed through the ranks. I hope he makes it in Melbourne. It's a big ask.
But rugby needs to find a place for the Big Charlie rugby player to survive. Cipriani, like Stuart Barnes and Gavin Henson, believes he can behave as he does and win our respect on talent alone.
These are just the ramblings of a sports fanatic, I'm not saying I know better than anybody else on here. But for the good of rugby I hope Cipriani is the toast of the Super15 when he goes Down Under. I have my doubts."
"Danny Cipriani was hailed as the saviour of English rugby when he broke into the national side as a prodigiously talented 20-year-old.
Two years later, his hopes of a long international career lie in tatters after he broke two of the commandments in England - you don't cheer for Wales and you don't mock the living legend that is Martin Johnson.
Cipriani, 22, has long been seen as an outsider in the rugby world - his love of the celebrity life and his relationship with model girlfriend Kelly Brook, 31, were met with derision in many quarters.
But he has gone a step too far by cheering for Wales against England, and mocking national coach and World Cup winner Johnson.
Critics say he is a traitor, and after his vocal support for England's historic rivals was reported back, it is understood he has no chance of playing for his country's first team while Johnson is in charge.
Cipriani last week announced a move from London club Wasps to the Melbourne Rebels in Australia for £170,000 a year, which scuppered plans for an immediate future in the England squad.
But it was his behaviour earlier this month while surrounded by fellow players from the England Saxons, the country's 'B' team, which sealed his fate.
Last night a source close to the England squad said: 'Cipriani was in Italy with the Saxons preparing for their game against the Italians.
'The senior team were playing Wales at Twickenham, so the Saxons got together in front of a TV in their hotel to watch.
'Danny was shouting at the screen throughout - in support of the Welsh.
'And when Adam Jones scored for Wales, Danny was jumping up and down in celebration.
'He was also making barbed comments whenever the cameras showed Johnson in the stand.
'The rest of the team were appalled. They thought he was behaving like a complete twit.'
Some observers will see this latest debacle as simply the culmination of the young star's increasingly arrogant behaviour.
Former England captain Will Carling recently said he had decided not to become Cipriani's manager, adding: 'I do not believe Danny's focus is on playing for England'.
Cipriani's high profile makes him popular with sponsors - he has a reputed £1.2million deal with Adidas - but it is not appreciated by many in the rugby world.
Two years ago, he was axed from the England team because he was seen leaving a nightclub two days before a match against Scotland.
In October 2008, Cipriani was punched by Wasps team-mate Josh Lewsey during training, and other squad members are said to have scrawled disparaging comments next to his name in the changing rooms.
One Wasps source said last year: 'There are a lot of Danny Cipriani types in football - but they stick out like a sore thumb in rugby. It does not go down well.'"
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Forget the Wayne Rooney, Barcelona, the World Cup, the FA Cup replays... Jose is all that matters tonight. And he's taking on the world.
TWO of the best sides in Europe meet at the San Siro tonight. But Jose Mourinho has made sure only one man matters. And he won't be on the field of play.
Ah, the Special One. Not content with his third ban of the season in Serie A (this one a three week suspension for showing a hand-cuffed salute after a referee's decision last weekend), Mourinho has seen fit to accuse Chelsea's Italian boss Carlo Ancelotti of being a member of Italy's footballing mafia.
The Italians are up in arms about Mourinho's behaviour as he apparently angles for a move to Real Madrid next season. And there he was at Internazionale's training ground at Pinatina yesterday making sure we knew who the focal point of tonight's clash really is.
Responding to Ancelotti's claim that the whole of Italy will be backing Chelsea tonight because of him, Jose said: "If Ancelotti says that it's because he knows or because somebody told him. Or because he belongs to the clan."
There was more of course. There always is with Mourinho, the man thrown out in his days as a player because his dad - a Portuguese international goalkeeper - put him in the first team. The players revolted. Then he was promoted again, from Bobby Robson's interpreter to top European manager. Further revolt.
The Champions League with Porto followed, then two Premier League titles with Chelsea. Still revolting though. And now, widespread revulsion in Italy: "I'm offering them a challenge. I'm waiting for a referee to come here and say I insulted them.
"To my face. I'm interested to see if they would be brave enough."
Never forgetting that he is the man who made Chelsea great of course, even though Roman Abramovich eventually turfed him out: "You ask me what system Chelsea will play. The same systems Chelsea have played since I joined the club in 2004. Nothing has changed.
"Then I look at my old players - men like John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. John and Frank perform week after week, year after year.
"They look as if they are never tired of playing well. Did I make a little contribution towards that? They say yes and I think they are right.
"I thank them because they never forget my contribution. They are good players because, yes, they are good anyway and because they have worked very hard.
"When I speak with people at Chelsea they always say that the culture of working very hard every day has not changed.
"The players have kept their strong mentality. The years may be passing but they are like Port wine - the older the better."
"The most beautiful thing in football for a coach is the passion and respect of his players - and the passion and respect of his supporters.
"That happens with me all the time - in Porto, Chelsea and Inter. That makes me proud."
"But I know what will happen in the San Siro in this match. I know Didier will break his legs for his team. And it's the education I gave to the players."
So yes, forget European Cup holders Barcelona, held by Stuttgart last night. Forget Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, scorer of two more headed goals against West Ham as he heads for the Golden Boot. Forget England's training camp in Rustenburg. In fact, forget the whole looming World Cup. And you can certainly ignore the FA Fifth Round replays - Aston Villa v Cyrstal Palace, Stoke v Man City, Spurs v Bolton, West Brom v Reading - which aren't even on the television tonight.
There is only one subject of fascination in the footballing globe. Tonight on ITV. Jose. The Special One. Taking on the world.
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
worse today with the news that West Ham striker Benni McCarthy's
31-year-old knee is showing little sign of being ready for the big kick off against Mexico in
Johannesburg on June 11.
McCarthy, who completed his controversial £2.5m move from Blackburn days
before the January transfer window closed, is "seriously doubtful" for tonight's clash with Manchester United and has yet to complete a game for the Hammers since his £2.5m move from Blackburn.
a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat on 10 February - and has been unavailable ever since.
My Upton Park source tells me: "Benni's not looking good. That knee is a
problem. South Arica may be in trouble if they think he's going to be their
major World Cup striker."
The injury is not believed to be related to the knee problem McCarthy
suffered for Rovers against Fulham in November 2007 or any of the long-running problems
which have ruled him out of so many internationals for South Africa in
But Carlos Alberto Parreira is insisting he will only pick a fully-fit
McCarthy after his repeated spats with the Bafana Bafana (The Boys, The
When McCarthy left Ewood Park after refusing to train during his final days
at Blackburn, former boss Sam Allarydyce insisted: "Benni's not getting any
younger. The legs are not quite as good but the talent is still there.
"When he came to Blackburn he scored 23 goals in his first year and hasn't
quite replicated that since."
McCarthy's problems add to Parreira's woes - his side moved up from 85th to
81st in the FIFA rankings after friendly wins over Zimbabwe and
Swaziland in Durban last month, but they remain the lowest ranked World Cup
hosts in history.
While their cricket team held the world's best Test nation
India to a drawn series and their rugby Springboks hold the World Cup,
the football side faces abject failure as they prepare for the biggest
sporting event in the Rainbow Nation's history.
Kevin Pienaar remains South Africa's real beacon of hope despite being charged with drink driving today. Perhaps understandably, he was pulled over by the police on Merseyside after starring in Everton's shock 3-1 win over champions Manchester Unitedc on Saturday.
''He was arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning and charged later that day.
''Steven Pienaar from Woolton will appear at Liverpool City Magistrates Court on March 9, 2010.''
We are confident that the facilities are on track to meet all of the national team and FIFA’s obligations.
Chief Communications Officer
2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee
Monday, 22 February 2010
THE SUN call it "as dump", the Express "Shambles"... the Daily Mail and Mirror have had a go today too. All lambasting the state of England's World Cup training camp currently under construction at Phokeng, near Rustenburg in deepest, darkest South Africa.
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Saturday, 20 February 2010
Friday, 19 February 2010
DANNY CIPRIANI confirmed today what this blog has known for a couple of weeks now - that's he's off to join the new Super 15 side, Melbourne Rebels.
When the link was first suggested last month, England boss Martin Johnson immediately said Cipriani would stand no chance of selection if he went to Australia. Big deal. Johnson has succeeded in utterly destroying the Wasps' fly-half's career while creating a deeply unimpressive side around a series of fly-halves far older and less talented than Cipriani, still just 22.
Johnno's tried his former Leicester pals Andy Goode and Toby Flood, and has ended up with fellow 2003 World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson playing at No10 in the current Six Nations. And the side hardly sparkled with Wilko's fading boot at the fulcrum in Italy last Sunday. Cipriani, the progressive choice, finds himself demoted to second choice for the Saxons.
Apparently there are tensions in the camp over Dangerous Danny. He dates Kelly Brook, he sometimes goes out at night, he's trendy and often neglects to shave. Yes, he takes risks, as our picture shows. Not quite Johnno's cup of tea.
Quite rightly, Cipriani has gone off to improve himself in a standard of rugby certainly better than the Guinness Premiership and arguably better than the Heineken Cup, which Wasps failed to qualify for this year.
Cipriani said: "I am still young enough to go away and experience something completely different. Leaving Wasps is very hard, this is my home."
"I see this move as the next step in my career and would never rule out coming back to play in England.
"If I did, the first place I would look at is Wasps, and we have already talked about that as a possibility for the future.
"I believe in the coaches and the players here and it will be very difficult to leave, but the decision has been made easier by having the support of (director of rugby) Tony Hanks and (head coach) Shaun Edwards."
And in a direct response to Johnson, he said: "I have been given no indication that I am pushing for a place with England at the moment.
"So it is up to me to ensure I am in contention in the future by challenging myself in new realms. I want to be the best player I can be."
A quick history of Cipriani's seven-cap international career reveals he came into England contention when he won the Heineken Cup with Wasps in 2007 and helped win the Premiership in 2008.
After two caps as a replacement when Brian Ashton was head coach, he had to wait for his first start after being dropped for going out in Mayfair after midnight a few days before the Six Nations game against Scotland.
But when his first Test start did come, at the expense of Wilkinson, Cipriani destroyed Ireland. Then came that horrendous ankle injury against Bath at Adams Park in May, 2008 - I was there, you could hear the screams echoing across the ground.
After a quicker-than-expected rehabilitation, Cipriani looked all set to resume duties at fly-half for England but then came the fall out with Johnson amid reports of a behind-closed-doors rift. He wasn't even picked for the summer tour to Argentina, despite the galaxy of stars rendered unavailable by the Lions tour to South Africa.
Quite how Melbourne will do in the new, expanded Super 14 - which features regional franchises from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, is anybody's guess. Perth, another Aussie Rules dominated area in Australia, have struggled to make headway. But the Rebels will be led by no-nonsense former Wallaby boss Rod Macqueen and Cipriani insists: "The chance to play in a completely different tournament against different players at this time in my career will help me develop on and off the field."
Wasps, who have also lost England wing Paul Sackey to Toulon this week, issued a statement saying Cipriani leaves "with the club's understanding and support" adding he "made clear his ambition to return to England in the future and a return to Wasps down the line has already been discussed".
Wasps boss Tony Hanks said: "Obviously we are disappointed that Danny is leaving, especially as he has worked hard on a return to form on the back of a couple of nasty injuries. However, knowing his reasons are based on rugby and personal development, we as a Club support his decision.
“Working with him for the last few weeks around this decision, we have looked at it more as a Wasp going on a sabbatical."
Me? I remember when the rugby world was your oyster under Brian Ashton three years ago when we met in Bath to chat about your glowing future. I say good luck Danny. The Super 15 is a tough old slog, lots of travelling, plenty of world class players. I hope you dominate the lot of them. And force Johnson to change his mind about you before the 2011 World Cup. If he lasts that long.
Thursday, 18 February 2010
Bull believes Terry will come under intense pressure from the hard-working Wolves striker Kevin Doyle. The 26-year-old, signed last summer from Reading for a club record £6.5million, is “the business” according to Bull, who still holds all the scoring records at Wolves.
Bull, 44, said: “Look, I watch this lad every week, he’s the business. I’d put him in my side, even if I was at Manchester United or Arsenal.
“He’s been working up front on his own. He runs hard, chases everything – and he’s a real sniffer in the box. He’d be a handful for anyone – and I can see John Terry getting at least a booking on Saturday trying to keep Doyle quiet.”
With Wolves coming off the back of a 1-0 win over Spurs and Chelsea losing 2-1 to Everton in their last Premier League clash – when Terry was at fault for both Louis Saha goals – Bull insists: “I can really see Wolves pulling off another of those shock results.
“I know it’s going to be hard, but the way Mick McCarthy has got them playing against the big clubs – giving 100 percent, rolling up their sleeves, working for each other – suggests to me Chelsea are in for a hard time.”
With financial problems hitting clubs from Cardiff to Portsmouth, Southend to Notts County, Bull says: “I felt for Mick in the transfer window. It’s a struggle when you can’t sign big players, but he’s got those boys working. Wolves are young, eager, keen – and McCarthy knows some of the players demanding the big money out there won’t roll up their sleeves and give their all.
“I watch every Wolves home game and I travel to the away games sometimes too – I can tell you there are no big-time Charlies in this team. But Chelsea have two great strikers – Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka – so it will be tough. Half a chance and they’ll have you.”
Chelsea play old boss Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan next Wednesday and Bull insists: “If Wolves can take something off them on Saturday, it will shake Chelsea’s confidence before one of their biggest games in recent years.
“With the Champions League coming up after the Wolves game, they’ll want a win and they’re a great side. But Wolves got a 0-0 draw against Liverpool last month, they’ve beaten Spurs twice and they can produce another upset if they work as hard as they did against Spurs last time out.”
Worryingly, Wolves were crushed 4-0 at Stamford Bridge when the teams met in November and, with 10 goals, nobody has scored less at home this season.
Doyle (pictured) is top-scorer with just six strikes this season and Bull, who scored a record 250 in 474 League games for the club, grins when he is reminded of how much he cost when he moved from West Brom in 1999: “It was a joint deal with Andy Thompson,” he recalls, “And they paid £65,000. Doyle cost £6.5m. That’s how times have changed. But given the way he works on his own up front, Doyle will prove he’s worth that. I’m sure of it.”
On the thorny subject of Terry and Manchester City’s Wayne Bridge, Bull – who played for England in the 1990 World Cup despite never reaching the top flight with Wolves (they failed at the play-offs in 1995 and 97) – said: “They have to get their heads together. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter what has happened off the field.
“Terry has proved he can play well no matter what is happening in his life, now Bridge has to show he can put England first. They may already have sorted this out. They have to for the sake of our World Cup hopes.”
Terry, who missed Chelsea's FA Cup win over Cardiff last weekend to see his wife Toni in Dubai, has fallen out with Bridge since news of the Chelsea captain’s relationship with Vanessa Perroncel – the mother of Bridge’s son – broke three weeks ago. While Terry lost the captaincy, Bridge was rumoured to be considering international retirement over the affair.
But Bull reckons all this could just make the squad stronger. He recalls: “In 1990 we were under incredible pressure off the pitch. But we pulled together for Bobby Robson. We worked as a team and we got to the semi-finals.
“That’s what this England team have to do in South Africa this summer. Bond together. Don’t let anything affect them. And that’s what I expect them to do.”
Steve Bull was speaking at the launch of Sportingbet’s Wolves accumulator www.sportingbet.com/wolves. Every time you beat Bully in the Sportingbet accumulator (predicting match result, match scoreline and first goalscorer), you earn a free £5 bet. But you’ll have your work cut out. Bull laughs: “I have a little flutter on the horses and football but I’m worried Sportingbet are going to fire me - my account is bulging at the moment, I must be doing something right!”
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
IN THE end, it wasn't about 34-year-old David Beckham, it was about 24-year-old Wayne Rooney. And it will be all about Rooney for the next six months.
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
ANDREI ARSHAVIN'S hamstring. Alex Song's knee. William Gallas's back. Thomas Vermaelen's leg. Manuel Almunia's hands. Cesc Fabregas's future. Porto are laughing before tomorrow's Champions League clash against once-mighty Arsenal at the Estadio do Dragao.
Monday, 15 February 2010
MUST be a hell of a dressing room at Chelsea. If you believe everything the tabloids are currently throwing at us every morning, it's packed with international footballers taking pictures of themselves naked to blonde models.
First we had the John Terry story - his affair and subsequent abortion with Wayne Bridge's ex-partner Vanessa Perroncel resulted in him losing the England captaincy.
Then, when French underwear model Ms Perrroncel had been paid an alleged £750,000 to stop, The Sun switched targets to Ashley Cole, married to the nation's darling, Cheryl Tweedie.
Today were are told he sent naked pictures of himself to a SECOND blonde, and apparently Cheryl didn't spend much time together on Valentine's Day.
Page five of The Sun has a magnificent picture of ultraslim Cole, pictured from the chest down with just a pair of underpants on. Mouthwatering stuff it ain't.
Elsewhere, on page nine, Terry and wife Toni are pictured in a pool in Dubai, where they are patching up their marriage. Allegedly. In front of the cameras.
Other papers add further spin to the Chelsea goings-on. The Mail claims Ashley and Cheryl are now living apart and has accused Terry of play-acting throughout the trip to Dubai.
Of course the former England captain had to miss Chelsea's FA Cup fifth round tie over Cardiff to sort things out with Toni, his childhood sweetheart.
While he was away, having blundered in their last Premier League game against Everton (Terry was at fault for both Louis Saha's goals in a shock 2-1 defeat), the Blues crushed Cardiff to reach the quarter-finals on the road to Wembley.
And that of course, resulted in a last eight clash with Manchester City, who drew with Stoke over the weekend and will need a replay to reach Stamford Bridge next month.
Why is this relevant? Because Bridge moved to City last January, leaving Vanessa in London with his son. Somewhere around this point in our tawdry tale, his former pal Terry began stopping off at their Oxshott neighours for post-training hanky-panky.
Over the weekend, the News of the World assured us Bridge refuses to respond to Terry's calls or texts about his betrayal. But now we have the prospect of Bridge v Terry in the Premier League on February 27, the pair of them in the England dressing room together for the friendly against Egypt at Wembley on March 3, followed by the FA Cup quarter final the weekend after.
Yes, having been at loggerheads for a few months, they'll now be forced to see eachother three times in a week.
The tabloids are lapping it up. I assume the fans are too. A Man City source tells The Sun today: "Wayne acted with dignity and he doesn't need anyone to tell him what this FA Cup game would mean.
"If City needed any extra motivation to beat Stoke and get back to Stamford Bridge, this will be it."
Meanwhile Ashley Cole, whose broken ankle sustained against Everton last week has left a place for Bridge at left-back in the England team - possibly for the World Cup too - has to hope Cheryl will invite him for a let's-make-up holiday in an expensive overseas resort sometime soon. Though he will be in a plaster cast after undergoing surgery on Friday, so it may be uncomfortable for both of them.
The real football stories - like Crystal Palace being robbed of victory over Aston Villa by a dodgy decision , England struggling to overcome Italy in the Six Nations and David Beckham preparing to take on Manchester United for Milan in the Champions League tomorrow, must remain on the back burner.
That's what happens when you have the Premier League leaders’ high profile stars making silly mistakes away from home.