Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

We'd like Holland to go all the way in this World Cup. Just, you know. Because.

We’d like Holland to go all the way in this World Cup. Just, you know. Because.

OK, Dear Reader, I have decided on the job I want in my next life.

Don't think we can bring ourselves to support Argentina for any reason. Then again ...

Don’t think we can bring ourselves to support Argentina for any reason. Then again …

It’s to be the guy who sits in a football stadium with a pair of binoculars as a “spotter” for the cameramen for those inevitable cutaway shots of beautiful scantily-dressed 18-25 year old women who are cheerfully sitting there looking stunning while they holler and hoot for the country, all festooned in team colours with their faces painted with flags and a big grin on their face. See, someone has that job. It’s not the Director, because he’s too busy looking at the overall coverage of the game, including those oh-so-vital flashes of “colour” – that’s what it’s called in the trade. You know the ones: the crying eight year old boy watching his life get ruined forever as his heroes ignominiously crash out of the tournament, the great tub of lard with no shirt, worker’s shorts and a sombrero clutching a vuvezela and a bottle of what looks suspiciously like what you’re not allowed to take into the ground, and, of course, the wannabee supermodels who have taken a day off their relentless rise to glamour stardom to bounce up and down looking all jiggly and happy while their boyfriends explain the offside rule to them. And it’s not the cameramen finding them either. Coz they’re pointing their cameras where they’re told to. Nope, there’s actually someone whose job it is just to scan the crowd and find the young ladies (80-90% of the job, I reckon), and just occasionally a crying kid or a nearly-naked middle-aged man so we’re not all bailed up for just being a bunch of dirty old pervs. We could do that. Giz a job, Mister.

Apparently this young lady from Korea is an instant sensation in Asia. And she thought she was just going to the footy.

Apparently this young lady from Korea is an instant sensation in Asia. And she thought she was just going to the footy.

Hey: it’s dirty work, but someone’s got to do it. Here’s an example of the process. http://www.sooziq.com/11964/world-cup-cameraman-impossibly-finds-the-pretty-girl-in-the-crowd/. Why anyone would think we’d want to look at her instead of some gigantic black guy in a Nigerian shirt I can’t imagine.

A young lady from Denmark. We tried all the puns we could think of about horns but couldn't come up with any that would be publishable on a nice blog. You do the math.

A young lady from Switzerland. Oh, those crazy, whacky Swiss. We tried all the puns we could think of about horns but couldn’t come up with any that would be publishable on a nice blog. You do the math.

 

We are reminded that some years ago a very funny video circulated via email of a couple having awkward sex waaaay up at the top of a stand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, thereby fulfilling two of Australia’s obsessions – sex and sport – in one convenient time-efficient hit. Should you need to, you can see it here:

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/80740298/. Oh go on, you may as well see it if you haven’t already.

Colombia are doing expectedly well at this World Cup and garnering a lot of interest. Can't imagine why.

Colombia are doing expectedly well at this World Cup and garnering a lot of interest. Can’y imagine why.

It’s quite tame and rather funny, though probably still not safe for work – but that will depend on your work, I guess. What you can’t hear on this webpage, which you could on the version of the clip that circulated by email, is the amused banter between the Director and the cameraman. “They are, you know.” “Nah, they couldn’t be.” “They bloody are.” So funny to think that they’re probably now married with kids – either to each other or someone else – and in relatively senior professional jobs, we bet. Ah, the careless joys of yoof.

Australia have been, er, holding their end up. So to speak.

Australia have been working hard, er, holding their end up. So to speak.

Anyhow, the young ladies of the World Cup are altogether tamer, but so much nicer for it, too. Bright young lasses all of them,
to be sure. Bringing a little light relief to the fevered tensions of the game, and all quite innocently. And that, M’lud, explains why we were in the crowd with our binoculars trained on the young lady from Columbia in Row ZZ 17 and we conclude the case for the defence. Talent spotting in crowds has a long and honourable (ahem) history, of course.

*mops brow* Pammie does her first TV commerical. Photo: Tumblr

*mops brow* Pammie does her first TV commerical.
Photo: Tumblr

Belgium’s most famous teen is not the first to shoot to global stardom after being spotted in the crowd.

In 1989 a certain Pamela Anderson, then a fitness instructor, attended a local football game in Canada.Footage of the blonde on screen was well received and her success with Playboy ensued.

The rest, as they say, is popular cultural history.

And more recently supermodel Kate Upton found fame after a friend uploaded a video of Upton dancing in the stands at an LA Clippers game.

Meanwhile, here is further evidence, should it be needed, of why England, compared to the rest of the world, are really just a bunch of losers.

Right.

Right.

 

Well no, that ain’t true. On reflection, that was the successful ten-fingers and ten-toes birth of the Fruit of One’s Loins. But last Saturday was similarly exciting, and for many of the same reasons.

To have your own horse – a horse you own, or at least, a horse of which you own the left nostril and right fore-hoof – win a race at a major city track is simply thunderously, life-changingly, breath-holdingly thrilling. Especially when accompanied by Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink and said Fruit O’Loins, neither of whom could historically be considered huge horse racing fans, but who are now swept up in the emotion of it all just like everyone else.

She’s been nursed along to this point. Some owners have dropped out along the way, impatient with her somewhat slow progress. The rest of us have hung in there, grimly muttering “She’s a big girl, needs time to mature.” As the starter heads to his position, the anticipation is almost unbearable. Will she load in the gate properly? (She has a habit of not doing so.) She does. An ironic cheer goes up from the “connections”, much to the amusement of the hardy souls braving the autumnal rain at Sandown. Will she get a jump? Can she make it from the outside barrier far enough in to be successful? She does. A huge start, settles nicely in second although it took a huge effort to get there from the outside barrier. Has she really got the lungs to win a 1600 metre race with a couple of other smart looking gee-gees in it after spending all that energy at the start? The trainer looks pensive, but excited. The trainer’s manager can’t even bear to watch. The jockey was confident heading out, but then again, he only looks about 12, so what would he know?

 

'At's my girl.

‘At’s our girl.

 

For the record, she hit the lead about 400 out and held on, showing real guts, and winning by a head. If you would like to watch the roughly 1 minute 40″ of heart-thumping action just click the link below.

http://www.racingnetwork.com.au/khutulun-takes-step-right-direction/tabid/83/newsid/19234/default.aspx

It takes a while to sink in. She actually won. A serious race, paying serious money, too. We have a racehorse on our hands, after all the wondering and worrying and hard work by the stables. And she simply seems to love running, to boot. She just seems to know what is meant for her, and gets on with it.

From here, fame beckons, and not just in the wildest imaginings of her over-excited owners. Texts turn up from “people who should know”. “Wow, what an effort.” “Blimey, mate, she looks really, really good.” The connections stand around, pinching themselves in half-disbelief. Probably one too many whiskies after in the bar, too, but who’s counting? Not today.

Khutulun – pronounced “Koo-too-lun” – which the commentator seems unable to master – was a warrior princess. Daughter of Kublai Kahn. A famous wrestler, horsewoman, and archer. Basically, one tough little lady with a heart of steel.

How very appropriate.

I feel like a kid who’s had ten red drinks and a bar and a half a bar of chocolate at a birthday party. I expect to come down by about this time next week. In the meantime, bear with me, Dear Reader. Normal service will be resumed when we find ourselves able to think about anything else but the feeling as she swept past the post …

You should try it. Really, you should.

One of the most famous commentators in the history of TV has died.

20131222-110029.jpg

For two generations David Coleman was witty, urbane, good natured, and polite. He was one of the first BBC presenters in any field to be truly relaxed in front of the camera, giving him a unique appeal and setting a tone for broadcasting worldwide. He was also an integral part of my childhood, and as is too often the case nowadays, his passing is a pressing reminder that none of us is getting any younger.

He was most famous for his frequent verbal gaffes, which made as much perfect sense as they did perfect nonsense. The satirical magazine Private Eye christened them “Colemanballs” – a term he is said to have enjoyed – and the column runs to this day.

Enjoy remembering some of the best:

“That’s the fastest time ever run – but it’s not as fast as the world record.”

“A truly international field, no Britons involved.”

“The Republic of China – back in the Olympic Games for the first time.”

“Don’t tell those coming in the final result of that fantastic match, but let’s just have another look at Italy’s winning goal.”

“He’s 31 this year – last year he was 30.”

“He just can’t believe what’s not happening to him.”

“In a moment we hope to see the pole vault over the satellite.”

“He is accelerating all the time. The last lap was run in 64 seconds and the one before that in 62.”

“It’s gold or nothing … and it’s nothing. He comes away with the silver medal.”

“There is Brendan Foster, by himself with 20,000 people.”

“Forest have now lost six matches without winning.”

“The front wheel crosses the finish line, closely followed by the back wheel.”

“And here’s Moses Kiptanui – the 19-year-old Kenyan who turned 20 a few weeks ago.”

“If that had gone in, it would have been a goal.”

“This evening is a very different evening from the morning we had this morning.”

“I think there is no doubt, she’ll probably qualify for the final.”

“Nobody has ever won the title twice before. He (Roger Black) has already done that.”

“Both of the Villa scorers – Withe and Mortimer – were born in Liverpool as was the Villa manager Ron Saunders who was born in Birkenhead.”

“And the line-up for the final of the women’s 400 metres hurdles includes three Russians, two East Germans, a Pole, a Swede and a Frenchman.”

“We estimate, and this isn’t an estimation, that Greta Waltz is 80 seconds behind.”

He will be sadly missed.

combined managers

UPDATE Voting is now CLOSED. 7.6% of people correctly predicted 1-1. Well done! Great game, too!

Fascinating game this weekend. Man United find themselves uncharacteristically half way down the table after a turbulent time with Moyes coming in as manager. Saints find themselves riding uncharacteristically high, currently placed fourth after a dream start under Mauricio Pochettino.

Last season Sir Alex Ferguson said Southampton were the best team to play at Old Trafford. Saints have already beaten Liverpool away this season.

So what will be the result this weekend? Can Saints do it again and keep their run going? Will United finally find some killer form with their awesome players. Will the two sides cancel each other out?

You predict! No prizes, just fun.

By the way, Artur Boruc should be fit in goal for Saints, as should young left back Luke Shaw.

125 years strong

125 years strong

As anyone knows who has wandered by Wellthisiswhatithink in the last couple of years, I am a fanatical, tragic, totally addicted, beyond help supporter of Southampton Football Club.

That’s why occasionally a post has no relevance whatsoever for anyone except my fellow football sufferers. This is one of those.

Now, if you didn’t vote for Saints to fill one of the three relegation positions … 18th-20th … then care to say who will fill them?

 

You have three votes in the second poll.

You have one week to vote in both polls!

Holding a multi-coloured flag is now a threat to state security.

Holding a multi-coloured flag is now a threat to state security.

Despite widespread criticism, Russia will apparently enforce a new law cracking down on gay rights activism when it hosts international athletes and fans during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, the country’s sports minister said Thursday, appearing to contradict assurances to the contrary from the International Olympic Committee.

Russia’s contentious law was signed by President Vladimir Putin in late June, imposing fines on individuals accused of spreading ”propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors, and even proposing penalties for those who express these views online or in the news media. Gay pride rallies also are banned.

”An athlete of non-traditional sexual orientation isn’t banned from coming to Sochi,” Vitaly Mutko said in an interview with R-Sport, the sports newswire of state news agency RIA Novosti. ”But if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable.”

So, it’s OK if you keep it in the closet, but being out and proud is no longer acceptable in “modern Russia”. Pfft. The country slides ever further back into the bad old past under Vlad’s dictatorial KGB-bred rule.

"That hat is SO Priscilla Queen of the Desert, darling."  " I knew you'd love it, big boy."

“That hat is SO Priscilla Queen of the Desert, darling.”  ” I knew you’d love it, big boy.”

Mutko emphasized that the law wasn’t designed to punish anyone for being gay or lesbian. But like the Russian lawmakers who authored the bill, Mutko said athletes would be punished only for propaganda, a word that remains ambiguous under the new law. The shameful treatment of peaceful protestors like Pussy Riot shows what the laughable disgrace that passes for a legal system in Russia is capable of.

Murko said: ”The corresponding law doesn’t forbid non-traditional orientation, but other things: propaganda, involvement of minors and young people.”

Whether or not a gay lifestyle is ‘non traditional’ – highly debatable if one looks at history, Ancient Greece anyone? – and whether or not portraying a gay lifestyle as acceptable to young people could be in any way considered propaganda or even wrong – surely they will emerge as better adjusted adults, regardless of their sexual orientation, if equipped with a balanced world view? – to see Russia moving emphatically in the other direction from the rest of Europe, the Americas, and much of Asia merely serves to stress that the country is a long, long way to conforming to modern notions of equity and equality.

The law specifies punishment for foreign citizens, to include fines of up to 100,000 rubles (US$3,000), prison for up to 15 days, deportation and denial of re-entry into Russia.

Four Dutch citizens working on a documentary film about gay rights in the northern Russian town of Murmansk were the first foreigners to be detained under the new law, although their case did not make it to court, according to RIA Novosti.

While activists and organizations supportive of gay rights have called for a ban on Russian-made products like Stolichnaya vodka in bars across North America, they have yet to find a unified response to the Sochi Games.

Instead of a boycott of the Olympics, athletes have made individual gestures and called for protests, such as a pride parade, to be held during the games. One wonders what Russian attitudes will be to a podium gay rights protest similar to the black civil rights protest at the Mexico Olympics.

Despite the obvious grey areas and potential for conflict, the IOC said last week that it had received assurances ”from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the games.” It pledged to ensure there would be no discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media in Sochi.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Thursday the committee continues to accept past assurances from the Russian government that the law will not affect athletes, officials or spectators during the games.

Gerhard Heiberg, a senior IOC member from Norway, also said Thursday that in winning the games, Russia and the city of Sochi had committed to preventing discrimination of any sort. But he issued a word of caution to the athletes.

”At the same time we always say to our athletes, ‘We do not want any demonstrations in one or the other direction. Please, you are there to compete and behave. Please don’t go out on the Net or in the streets,’” Heiberg said. ”I think it was very clear for London in 2012 and it will be very clear in 2014. Demonstrations in one way or another, no, but discrimination, absolutely not.”

(Definitely the case: whatever you do, if you’re a female, don’t flash your tits anywhere near the Olympics.)

More moral courage on display from the IOC. They really are an appallingly conservative organisation.

Oh well. So much for free speech. Just another small blow; just another small slip on the slope towards removing the right to protest, a trend we see gathering pace worldwide.

Your thoughts, Edward Snowden?

Meanwhile, all those – gay, straight, or anything in between – who are interested in sexual equality in sport and an end to homophobia will be interested in this campaign organisation.

And protests continue grow, including a spreading movement to stop using Russian products such as Stolichnaya and other Russian vodkas.

Luckily, I prefer Finnish vodka anyway, so that switch will be easy enough.

(With Associated Press, Yahoo and others)

Read more about Russia’s homophobic traditions here.

News again – in Australia, today – of a father of two severely injured by a single blow to the head.

It seems that every few weeks someone gets “king hit” somewhere or other, and ends up hitting their head on a kerb stone or the ground and either killed or severely injured.

I have written before about the dangerously casual acceptance of violent behaviour that now seems pervasive in society, and the fact that people everywhere, young men especially, need to understand that a single blow thrown in anger can ruin lives, including their own.

I blame both the acceptance of violence fostered by living in a society where violence is normalised through endless coverage of armed conflicts, (not to mention the ready use of armed conflict to resolve disputes), and also where scenes of violence are commonplace (but sanitised) in innumerable movies and TV shows. And also where what I call societal violence – allowing entire families to fall through any concept of a social safety net – is accepted with little comment across the political spectrum – where concern for those less able or less well off than ourselves has somehow become daggy and unfashionable. Where breast beating ferocity meets any attempt to devise a society which is fairer or more caring.

Violent behaviour of any sort should never be acceptable. Not everything about the “good old days” has been airbrushed in retrospect. There is little doubt in my mind – no, make that no doubt – that society is more violent in many ways than it was in my youth, in terms of casual violence against the person, rather than formal violent crime.

Yes, of course there was violence back then too – I just missed the “mods and rockers” era but remember full well what it was like to attend a football match with 20,000 skinheads. But those social movements were transient, and have largely been left behind us. Sadly, though, what has replaced them is a world where no one seems surprised to see someone – anyone – throw a punch, or react with fury, sometimes to the mildest of stimuli, in a vast range of environments. The prevalence of “road rage”, for example is just one example, where one is frightened to remonstrate no matter how politely with another’s poor driving for fear of inviting a tyre lever through the windscreen or worse.

The answer? Well, it’s a cultural issue, of course. It’s not about enforcement or interdiction. Young people simply need to be brought up to respect the values of a peaceable passage through this world, and to instinctively reject violence as a means of navigating their way through life, instead of instinctively resorting to it. And older people need to be reminded that the mores of their youth had real value.

Jordan+ClarkI balance that miserable little diatribe, however, with this great story from the UK, that a young cricketer has just become one of a remarkably elite group of players – only four previously, in the whole history of the game – to hit six sixes in an over in a competitive (professional grade) cricket match. Step forward, Lancashire’s Jordan Clark .

The English county club said in a statement on Wednesday that the 22-year-old had achieved the astonishing feat in a Championship Second XI game against Yorkshire to join an illustrious list of names.

For Americans reading this blog – or anyone else who doesn’t have a clue about cricket – a “six” is the highest scoring shot a player can achieve on any one ball: banging the ball right out of the playing area without it bouncing on the ground, for a score of six points (called “runs” in cricket). A bit like a home run in baseball, if that helps.

There are six balls bowled in each “end” or “over”, a subdivision of the game after which play moves to the other end of the pitch for six balls, then back again, and so on.

(And so on ad infinitum, some would say, especially those who don’t enjoy the fine nuances of the game.)

So for someone to score six sixes in an over is unbelievably difficult, a freak occurrence. Like one player hitting six home runs in a row. Most players would be glad for just the occasional six in their entire batting performance, no matter how many hours that may last, let alone six sixes in one over.

 

Anyhow, as you can see in this wonderful piece of classic TV, former West Indies all-rounder Garfield Sobers was the first man to do it, against Glamorgan in 1968, and Indian Ravi Shastri followed suit in 1985.

South Africa opener Herschelle Gibbs smashed six sixes in an over at the 2007 World Cup and Indian Yuvraj Singh did the same at the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup the same year.

If young Mr Clark does as well as those names, he will have a hell of a career.

Just a moment after the sinking of the teeth. Photo: AFP

Just a moment after the sinking of the teeth. Photo: AFP

I had thought to spend some time today yammering about – in the context of my mental meanderings on societal violence – Luis Suarez’s just announced ten match ban from the Premier League for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in last weekend’s English Premier League match at Anfield.

Liverpool were quick to react, with managing director Ian Ayre declaring: “Both the club and player are shocked and disappointed at the severity of today’s Independent Regulatory Commission decision.”

And then I decided, bugger it, I really can’t be bothered to talk at length about the obnoxious Suarez, or even my distress that Liverpool’s reaction wasn’t “Yup, he deserved it, and we’ve sacked the little twat.”

Especially since this is just the latest in a series of incidents from this astoundingly gifted but serially idiotic young man. Last year, remember, the FA banned him for eight matches and imposed a £40,000 ban for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. And in 2010 let us not forget he was previously suspended for seven matches in the Netherlands when he sank his teeth into PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal, leading to him being dubbed the “Cannibal of Ajax”. Should punishments escalate for repeated behaviour? Yes, they should, Mr Ayre.

So. Well done Jordan Clark, enjoy your moment. And Luis Suarez? Read the start of this article, and ponder. Long and hard. Do you want to be remembered as the finest attacking player of your generation, or just as an out-of-control infant? Hmmm?

Adam Lallana celebrates scoring against rock-bottom Reading on Saturday, flanked by four of Saints most improved players this season. But which three teams will fill the bottom spots come the end? Photo: saintsfc.co.uk

Adam Lallana celebrates scoring, flanked by four of Saints most improved players this season. But which three teams will fill the bottom spots come the end of this year’s titanic struggle against relegation? Photo: saintsfc.co.uk

So another critical weekend has passed in the English Premier League, all bar the Manchester derby later today, but let’s be honest, the race at the top of the table is all but over, even if teams are still scrapping over the final European Champions League qualification place, so all the real interest now switches to the incredibly congested and exciting – well, that’s one word for it – scrap at the bottom to avoid relegation in one of the last three places in the division.

Here’s the table after everything except the Manchester game.

Saints up to 11th - nosebleed territory

Saints up to 11th – nosebleed territory!

After three great wins on the trot, (the last being a vital “six pointer” against Reading courtesy of goals from Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana) my beloved Southampton look all but safe from the awful prospect of the drop now.

(I trust that is not tempting fate.)

This becomes ever more vital with the vast influx of cash planned from TV rights next year – Premier League clubs will have no excuse not to be swimming in cash in 2013-14. Anyhow, a win for Saints against West Ham next weekend would make survival virtually certain and could also thrust West Ham into all sorts of poo depending on other results.

West Ham do have a game in hand over most of the other threatened teams but it’s against Man Utd in ten days when United will still definitely be wanting a win. Meanwhile, also having a game in hand Wigan can overhaul Sunderland and get out of the bottom three but that game is against Man City, and they’ll still need points, too. So the table as it stands now looks pretty realistic. So, footie fan, who will go down?

I am going to assume that Reading and QPR have been cut adrift, but you may disagree. My pick to go down with them is Sunderland (especially being aware of Wigan’s and Martinez’s fabled determination) but I’d also be very nervous if I supported Norwich or Stoke, both of whom seem to have lost the plot somewhat at exactly the wrong time. Villa seem to have hit a vein of form, but they have been dreadful all season, so who knows? Newcastle surely can’t continue to hover around the bottom with the squad they’ve got, can they? A recent uptick would say probably not. Then again …

So, you tell me: which three teams will head to the Championship come the end of the season? Vote now! Everyone gets three votes of course: just click on the boxes next to three teams and press Vote. Simples!

The poll expires in one week, so vote today! When you’ve voted, feel free to leave a comment as to why you chose the teams you did …

What must be said is that this season’s competition shows once again what a great test of clubs the English Premiership is.

To have so many teams in genuine danger of the drop at this stage shows how the differences between one side and another are really quite marginal, and why, on their day, most teams can beat most other teams. Even if the top spot itself is really, over the course of a whole season, restricted to four or five teams with very deep pockets, even those top sides can come a cropper against a more lowly team who lift their game on the day, as with Saints’ huge recent wins against Liverpool and Chelsea.

This is what gives the league its worldwide fascination. Long may it be so!

Like many others, this is how I will choose to remember Lance Armstrong.

Like many others, this is how I will choose to remember Lance Armstrong.

Like everyone else, I have watched the train wreck that is Lance Armstrong’s last 18 months with horrified fascination and deep sadness.

First of all, let us hope that this doesn’t result in cycling being dropped off the map of world sports, for example at the Olympics. I think the dope testing regime in cycling now is so strict that the sport is probably as clean as it or any other sport is ever going to get.

What is interesting in this story (as told to Oprah Winfrey) is Armstrong’s insistence that he didn’t feel like he was cheating: he took growth hormone and so on to ensure a level playing field, implying everyone was taking it at the same time. Many of those guys are still racing … hmmm. Something may have to be done about that.

An event like no other on Earth, Le Tour enthralls, amazes, and entertains. Let us hope it emerges stronger, not weakened forever.

I really enjoy watching the Le Tour especially, and with what is asked of those guys it hardly seems credible that they don’t do something out of the ordinary to boost their oxygen carrying red blood cells.

And the list of what’s banned and what isn’t always strikes me as somewhat arbitrary.

Why is it – morally – OK to get a massage that gets extra oxygen to the weary muscle tissue but not to take a pill that has the same effect?

I am not making a judgement either way, I just find the whole controversy fascinating and confusing.

I also think the wilder criticism of Armstrong should be tempered by the fact that he is responsible for founding and promoting one of the biggest and most effective cancer charities in the world.

When the balance of his life is weighed, I suspect that will be his legacy, not this embarrassing and sorrowful end to his amazing career.

I wouldn't walk down it, let alone drive, let alone cycle down it at 80+ mph. No thank you. Nu-uh.

I wouldn’t walk down it, let alone drive, let alone cycle down it at 80+ mph. No thank you. Nu-uh.

Let us also say, it is highly unlikely that his doping enabled him to be as good as he was. Perhaps it enabled him to be a little better, or stay at the top a little longer.

But anyone who ever watched his steely determination in whatever terrain type in the Tour de France will know: he was a champion anyway.

He didn’t used to beat the other cyclists, he destroyed their determination to compete, he was all-conquering, he was the best that perhaps there ever was. Even Armstrong himself seems to understand this belatedly, with comments like “I didn’t know what I had”.

What a shame it all got ruined through a dreadful lapse in judgement. He has paid a high price. So has his sport.

THE former England cricket captain and veteran Channel Nine commentator Tony Greig has sadly died, aged 66.

Greig, who had a key role in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket revolution and was a distinctive voice in cricket broadcasting, suffered a heart attack at his home on Saturday and was rushed to St Vincent’s Hospital.

‘‘The staff of the emergency department worked on Mr Greig to no avail,’’ a hospital spokesman said.
Greig died about 1.45pm. It is understood he was surrounded by his family.

Greig was diagnosed with lung cancer in October and did not join the Channel Nine commentary team this summer.

After an initial diagnosis of bronchitis in May,  Greig had tests in October that revealed a small lesion at the base of his right lung. He had fluid removed from the lung and tests revealed he had lung cancer.

Last month, he spoke to the Channel Nine commentary team during their coverage of the first Test between Australia and South Africa in Brisbane. He was candid about the disease, saying, ‘‘It’s not good. The truth is I’ve got lung cancer. Now it’s a case of what they can do.’’  He had an operation later that month.

Richie Benaud, the iconic former Australian captain and doyen of cricket commentary, was told of Greig’s death by the Nine chief executive, David Gyngell. Benaud then broke the news to rest of the commentary team.

Benaud paid tribute to his long-time colleague. ‘‘The main thing I found is that he was the most entertaining commentator to work with … Tony always had a slightly different angle.’’

He described Greig as a dynamic cricketer, a fearless thinker and an entertainer. ‘‘I found him a fellow full of courage, that was before he was ill. He was full of courage because of many things that had happened to him in his cricket life and his outside life as well.’’ The last time Benaud spoke to Greig he was determined to beat his illness. ‘‘He was very upbeat about it and said, ‘I’m going to knock this thing off,’ and he wasn’t able to do it. So it’s first of all a shock and then sorrow particularly for Tony but for Viv and the … kids as well.’’

 

Fellow commentator Bill Lawry said: ‘‘World cricket has lost one of its best known figures. He’ll be greatly  missed right around the world. It’s not only the fact that he was a great all-round cricketer but because he was a great personality as well.’’

Born in Queenstown, South Africa, Greig trialled for Sussex in 1965 as a teenager and set himself the goal of representing England, which he did in 58 Tests between 1972 and 1977. He qualified to play for England through Scottish parentage.

He was a key figure in recruiting international players for World Series Cricket which began in 1977, but his controversial involvement cost him his England captaincy and his Test career.

For his work and loyalty, Packer promised Greig ‘‘a job for life’’, and Greig did indeed work for the rest of his life as a commentator for Channel Nine. The network described Greig as a ‘‘beloved’’ figure.

‘‘Tony Greig is a name synonymous with Australian cricket – from his playing days as the English captain we loved to hate, to his senior role in the revolution of World Series Cricket, his infamous car-keys-in-the-pitch reports and more than three decades of colourful and expert commentary,’’ a Channel Nine statement said. Nine had ‘‘lost part of its extensive cricketing DNA’’.

‘‘It’s a deeply upsetting time for his family and for everyone associated with Tony at Nine, and indeed for many, many others who came to know and love the man.”

In the statement, Vivian Grieg said, ‘‘Our family wants to extend our gratitude for the support and condolences we have received and would ask for privacy at this very sad time.’’

Writer John Birmingham perhaps best summed up the sentiment of Grieg’s many fans on Twitter with the comment:

‘‘That’s a big chunk of my childhood trailing along behind Tony Greig as he makes that last long walk back to the pavilion. *Stands. Applauds*’’

Tony Grieg was larger-than-life, both figuratively and literally. He was chirpy, larrikin, good natured, and generous. It seems, does it not, that the best often die tragically young? Anyhow, he will be sadly missed by anyone who loved cricket, and who admired his professionalism.

He brought his cheerful determination to everything he did.

It is not generally known, for example, that he was a lifelong sufferer from epilepsy, including once collapsing during a game. A friendly media and cricket establishment managed to get the story reported as heatstroke. His achievements, in that regard, are even more remarkable.

Safe paths, big fella.

(SMH and others)

Fist

This is a deadly weapon. We need to get the message out to our youth. And you know what? “One Punch Can Kill” sounds like a good starting point to me. As does, “Walk Away, Chill Out.

From AP

How many times have we all said “You know, I could kill that bloody referee!”

Tragically, now, a Dutch linesman has actually died after being beaten by players in the aftermath of a youth match the day before.

Richard Niewenhuizen

RIchard Nieuwenhuizen set out to run the line at a kids soccer game. Now he’s dead.

Richard Nieuwenhuizen collapsed and was rushed to the hospital hours after players from Amsterdam club Nieuw Sloten punched and kicked him.

Nieuwenhuizen’s club, Buitenboys, said the 41-year-old linesman died Monday evening but did not announce the exact cause of death.

Three players, whose ages range from 15 to 16, were arrested earlier Monday for alleged involvement in the beating in the town of Almere.

It remains unclear why the players beat Nieuwenhuizen, but they certainly weren’t justified. The police haven’t ruled out making more arrests as their investigation is ongoing. Meanwhile, Nieuw Sloten have already announced that they banned the players arrested from the club and pulled their team out of the league.

Apart from this terrifying loss of control by the boys concerned, this story highlights something that we are always concerned about at Wellthisiswhatithink, namely, that as little as a single blow can kill someone. Tragic cases happen all the time, they are in the news regularly.

Typically, one teenage boy hits another, usually fuelled by alcohol, and the next thing we know one boy is dead and another is on trial for murder or manslaughter, their life ruined. Two families destroyed.

We see campaigns, constantly, persuading youth not to carry guns or knives. Well, we think we are long overdue a broad public education campaign reminding boys – whatever they see in popular media, and surely the casual violence of continual fist fights in Hollywood movies must have de-sensitised us to the use of punching – that fist fights kill, and a single blow can be all it takes.

Zero tolerance for violence. Nothing else is acceptable.

I found this site, One Punch Can Kill, from Queensland, which is a start. Well done them. But we need a wider campaign reaching youth around the world. The yield will be hundreds if not thousands of young lives saved, and a similar number saved from having their lives ruined by a moment of insanity. Surely social media – YouTube, Facebook, would be perfect to get the message out to the right audience. And it should be reinforced at the places that matter – clubs, pubs, public transport, on the streets.

You may also care to checkout the Matthew Stanley Foundation. Matthew was just 15 when he died attending a party in Queensland. 1,000 people attended his funeral.

Great advice. Simple, memorable.

Great advice. Simple, memorable.

The Matthew Stanley Foundation are responsible for the “Walk Away, Chill Out”  campaign.

Walk Away, Chill Out.

If only we could get that simple message out there so EVERY young person hears it.

Ideas, comments, help, all welcome.

Olympic athletes from America and Iran remind us what international relations should be about. People. Individual people, writ large.

And good on them.

 

I award them both the Gold Medal for Sanity

Manchester United IPO: traders wore the club’s home jersey on the trading floor – but it didn’t help United’s stock price.

(From AP)

Man United shares flat on New York debut

Soccer club Manchester United has made a disappointing debut on the New York Stock Exchange, even after opening at a discounted price, with enthusiasm for the celebrated team overshadowed by its debt load and financial track record.

Many had expected that fans of most famous soccer club in the world would snap up shares, leading to a pop in early trading, but that didn’t materialise.

Some analysts had warned that the initial public offering was overvalued, particularly since the club is debt ridden and the family that owns them, the Glazers, retained almost total voting control over the team.

“There was a lot of wing flapping, but not much flying today,” said John Fitzgibbon, the founder of IPOScoop.com on Friday.

“It’s reflective of the overall IPO market; they may hit a couple of road bumps, but the deals are getting done.”

Manchester United shares ended the day’s trading on the New York Stock Exchange at $US14, unchanged from the level they were priced at by the offer’s underwriters late on Thursday.

The stock, traded under the MANU ticker symbol, had initially been expected to be sold for between $US16 and $US20 per share.

The $US14 per share price still valued the club at $US2.3 billion ($A2.18 billion), slightly higher than the record $US2 billion paid for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team earlier this year.

The 134-year-old soccer club expects to make $US110.3 million from its offering of 8.3 million shares. It will use $US101.7 million to pay down senior notes.

The Glazer family, which owns the team, is selling another 8.3 million shares separately.

The family’s 2005 leveraged takeover was valued at $US1.47 billion, much of it borrowed. United carried STG416.7 million ($A620 million) in debt as of March 31. It had no debt when it was bought by the Glazer family in 2005.

The Glazers are the American family that owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Malcolm Glazer is CEO of First Allied Corporation, a holding company with numerous business interests. His two sons, Avram and Joel, are co-chairmen of Manchester United.

After the stock offering, the Glazers will keep control of the team through Class B shares that have 10 times the voting power of the stock sold to the public.

Manchester United is one of the most renowned sports teams in the world. It claims 659 million followers and 26.9 million Facebook fans. Half of its fans are in Asia, where its games are televised and its replica shirts and other products are huge sellers. But analysts are more sceptical of the team, known as The Red Devils, as a financial commodity. It is not a high-growth company like a tech startup, but like some tech startups, it is heavily in debt.

Manchester United is hoping to expand its lucrative sponsorships and licensing deals. Earlier this month it announced a $US559 million, seven-year shirt sponsorship agreement with Chevrolet. But financial performance has been choppy. The team expects to report a loss for the year ended June 30, excluding a tax credit, with revenue down 3 per cent to 5 per cent.

And broadcasting and ticket revenue is largely dependent on how far the team goes in English and European cup competitions.

The IPO market has been chilled since Facebook’s disappointing debut in May.

Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands debuted below its expected offering price on Wednesday. On Friday, its shares slipped 63 US cents to end at $US12.86 in morning trading, still 17 per cent higher than its IPO price of $US11 per share.

One analyst said Manchester United’s flat opening is a signal that individual investors, who are typically attracted to well-known name brands on the market, are paying more attention to valuation and price.

“The bigger story confirms that individual investors felt so burned by the market – having been burned twice, by the financial crisis and then by Facebook – that they’re not willing to get burned again,” said Sam Hamadeh, CEO of PrivCo LLC, which researches privately held companies.

Personally I wouldn’t go anywhere near this stock – the Glazers have not been good for Man Yoo in my opinion. But I wish I’d had the money to buy my beloved Southampton when they went broke a few years back – now back in the Premiership and debt free. “May you live in interesting times”, says the ghost of Peter Osgood.

OK, this guy could have been called Braun, Schmidt or Schimmel.

But he wasn’t, he was called Feck. I mean, what are the odds? Taking off from the 3 metre springboard, up, twisty-twirly thingy, down, and flat on his back – splash – in front of the whole world.

It was all over YouTube, but sadly the International Olympic Committee have ordered all copies removed. Boooo! Meanies!

Just hunt, people, if you didn’t see it live, as I am sure it will turn up.

You can also see the incident here in time lapse … For some reason the video has vanished from here, too.

But all this interest does, at least, allow us one final pun.

“Feck. That hurt.”

Hypocrisy abounds at the Olympics, once more …

Sprinter Kim Collins is on his way home after the St Kitts and Nevis Olympic Federation pulled their greatest athlete out of the London Games citing disciplinary reasons. The 36-year-old, who won the 100m world title in 2003, was notable only by his absence with his lane empty as the 100m heats got underway at the Olympic stadium on Saturday.

A furious Collins said he’d been withdrawn from the Games for visiting his wife at a hotel and would never again run for his country, a small Caribbean nation, complaining he had been shown a lack of respect.

I reckon he looks one way cool dude. Actually most of them do. I must say, I really admired their ties when they were in the opening ceremony – even tweeted about it. I want a St Kitts and Nevis tie! Want!

“I could be wrong but I don’t see why it should be such a problem,” Collins said. “I would have better luck if I went out with some chick and came back and there wouldn’t be a bit of a problem. I honestly don’t see what is the big deal. I’m a grown man with kids, about to have grandkids.”

The St. Kitts and Nevis team said it “regrettably announced” that Collins, who it described as a “national hero,” was leaving the Olympics. Obviously seeking to de-focus on the “he visited his wife, oo-er missus”  side of the story, they commented:

“Mr. Collins departure is down to his repeated absences from training sessions and also for refusing to respond to repeated phone calls and emails by team manager and coaches,” it said in a statement. “Furthermore, Mr. Collins did not make an appearance for registration for his events at the Olympic Village (on Friday) as requested.”

Collins will not be hanging around in London for the 200m and sprint relay, having had the chance to race in the 100m wrenched away from him.

“I’m about to go and change my flight and go home,” Collins told a London radio station. “And see my kids who I haven’t seen for a while. For me it’s a done deal. I’ve been disrespected for too long for too many years.”

The opening ceremony flag-bearer for his country was apparently expected by his national federation not to leave the Olympic Village.

Whereas, if he had stayed, and presumably cheated on his wife, he would have been able to enjoy using as many of the 150,000 free condoms distributed to the athletes by British maker Durex as he liked – that’s 15 rubbers per athlete, so presuming they only use them with another person, that’s a lot of shagging going on, right there – not to mention the other miscellaneous makes of donated condoms floating around, (if you will forgive the mental image that rather unfortunate pun brings to mind), including the rather wonderful Boxing Kangaroo condoms donated for the Australian team, with the great slogan “For the gland downunder”.

Caroline Buchanan

So, random sex with some wired young athlete in the village so you can both get to sleep without Stillnox, no problem. Nipping to a nearby hotel for a bunk up with the missus. Scandalous, you’re out.

Snorts.

Anyhow, thanks to easy-on-the-eye Aussie BMX-er Caroline Buchanan, and her Twitter feed, we now know what the Aussie baby stoppers look like, or at least their dispenser.

Young Australians? Having sex in London? “Shurely shome mishtake?”, as Private Eye would have had it.

Roo Rubbers. Come on, admit you’re whistling a Men At Work song in your head right now.

Anyhow, Collins took to Twitter to vent steam over his sacking. In one tweet he remarked: ”Even men in prison get their wives to visit,” he tweeted. ”6 athletes and 9 officials. That ain’t enough to make some people happy. Omg.”

We hear ya, bro.

(Thanks to Yahoo and countless others)

As yet un-named filly, by Soldier’s Tale out of Great Tradition – any suggestions?

My experiences with owning horses have not been happy. I am currently “0 for 2″  in American terms, having bought a lot of oats and paid a lot of vets, but not seen either of my purchases actually get to a racecourse. But I am a sucker for a nice arse. What can I tell you? Look at those hindquarters, will you? She’ll stay for ever, I’m telling you.

Could you resist those eyes? I couldn’t.

Sire: SOLDIER’S TALE
Dam: Great Tradition
Sire of dam: Rock Of Gibraltar (Ire)*

Colour: Bay or Brown
Gender: Filly
Age: 1 year old
Foaled: 17 September 2010

(Libra – hmmm -  anyone know anything about horse astrology? She Who Must Be Obeyed is a Libran, so I must like Librans. They get on well with Geminis I am told.

According to one website:

Libra is the seventh sign of the zodiac, and is a cardinal air sign, which is ruled by the Venus. The Libra-sun horse is therefore naturally outgoing, charming and graceful. More than anything, this horse wants to be popular, and will seek to be on good terms with everyone. Your Libra-sun horse will actively go out of its way to initiate friendships. It is important to do activities together that give it a sense of companionship. In building your partnership with your Libra-sun horse, you will come to realize that it is innately indecisive, so will expect you to communicate constantly your intentions. Your Libra-sun horse will go out of its way to please you and accommodate all your demands, so it is important that you appreciate this, and treat it fairly and justly. Your Libra-sun horse will demand, in the most charming of ways that you give as much as it does. This horse’s aim is to seek balance in whatever it does. As Libra rules the kidneys and the lumbar region, the Libra-sun horse is prone to health problems in these areas. Generally this will only occur if your Libran horse’s needs for peace, harmony and fairness within the partnership are not met.

I will be on the phone to the trainer in the morning, insisting he hug the horse a lot. However, I think I am clutching at straws.)

Silks

Black, Gold Star, Checked Sleeves & Cap

Owners

Stephen Yolland and 19 other incredibly wise/foolish people – too early to say yet.

*PS Last night the footballing powerhouse that is, er, Gibraltar beat the hated Portsmuff 4-0 in a friendly. An omen, or what, huh?

PPS The horse is being trained by Luke Oliver at Caulfield through a great new horse syndication group called Grand Syndicates. They’ve got a really good deal on the go that just about anyone can afford who is in paid employment. If you’re mad enough to want to know more, email me at steveyolland@yahoo.com and I’ll tell you who to speak to.

Ricky Lambert scores last minute equaliser against Blackpool

Ricky Lambert scores a last minute equaliser against Blackpool in the 2-2 draw on 10 December 2011

I am perpetually bemused and amused by the propensity for otherwise reasonably sane people, oneself included, to become helplessly trapped in a cycle of despair and adoration for a group of sportspeople.

Currently, the football team which has been my deep love for more than thirty years – the “Pride of Hampshire”, Southampton FC, a.k.a the “Saints” – sit proudly atop the English Championship, the second tier of English soccer. If they continue to win more games than their rivals, then the end of the season will see the ultimate dream achieved, returning to the Premiership – the world’s greatest domestic football league – which they once graced for a remarkable 27 continuous years.

St Mary's Stadium

St Mary’s Stadium, home to Southampton FC, nestled in an industrial area near the famous port

Southampton’s story is that of a family club, once based around a Church football team – St Mary’s, now the name of their new stadium,and the origin of their nickname – way back in the 19th century, that has always punched way above its weight. At one point when I started supporting them (whilst at University in the ugly little south coast port city, so scarred by Nazi bombs in the 2nd world war) Manchester United used to make more from programme sales on a Saturday than Southampton made from ticket sales. The club nearly crashed out of existence altogether through financial troubles just a few short years ago, and have languished in the lower reaches of English football while they sort themselves out. These are heady days indeed.

Saints have always, with temporary diversions inflicted by misguided managers who rarely lasted long, been a club that preferred to play “total football”: football with genuine flair, football with what used to be called “Continental panache”, football to make you gasp with pleasure when it went right and cringe with pain when it went wrong. The roll call of great players who slotted comfortably into this unrealistically idealistic atmosphere almost beggars belief for a club of the size of Southampton – Bates, Gilchrist, Davies, Paine, Boyer, MacDougall, Moran, Osgood, Channon, Keegan, Wallace, Shilton.

Matt Le Tissier

Matt Le Tissier, perhaps the most talented footballer of his generation – perhaps any generation – and Southampton legend.

And, of course, the mecurially brilliant and sublime Matt Le Tissier. Or as he became universally known by Southampton supporters, “Le God”. Without question, the most gifted attacking midfielder the English game ever produced, who steadfastly refused multi-million-pound offers to move to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United with the simple words, “I like it here”.

It was this crazy, knockabout passion that led to Saints once memorably defeating Manchester United in the prestigious FA Cup Final, despite being a division below and a light year apart in terms of raw talent. It remains the only major trophy the club has ever won.

It is Saints’ generation-on-generation preference for bold, flowing courageous football, so often resulting in the team losing games 4-3 at the death knock of the 90 minutes as the defence streamed forward, looking for a winner, that led one supporter to memorably comment, “It’s not the despair that really gets to me, it’s the hope.”

So anyhow, last night, my beloved team were on the TV live, playing a team, Blackpool, that on current form they should beat easily. And true to the deadly obsession that is sports fanaticism, a bunch of us on the other side of the world from the actual match trailed loyally into a pub in Melbourne at 11.30pm in the pouring – torrential – rain, to once again undergo the ritual sacrifice of our sanity.

All ages, shapes, sizes and sexes. Actually, what was really funny was that in the streets and in the pub we were surrounded by cheery Christmas party revellers, many of them late teen, early 20s girls dressed in their best party finery – which means mini skirts that make handkerchiefs look excessively over-manufactured and legs that never seem to stop as they reach for the sky. Yet we only had eyes for the TV and every missed pass, crunching tackle, and woodwork-rattling shot. They must have felt their efforts to impress were entirely wasted. Or perhaps we were all gay? We certainly looked peculiar, decked out in red and white team shirts, and one bizarre fellow sporting a felt jester’s hat in team colours with bells. Yes, dear reader, that was me.

Bartosz Bialkowski

Bart Bialkowski – the stand-in keeper’s mistake gifted Blackpool a vital goal

And once again, Saints put us through the emotional wringer, with a performance that ran the full gamut of the sublimely talented to the horrifyingly inept and back again. They totally dominated the opening period, and scored a good goal from the latest hero to embody Saints’ spirit, Ricky Lambert. Then they let in two goals, one a well taken effort that was probably unpreventable, and one a goalkeeping howler that will haunt the lad concerned for the rest of his career. Stand-in keeper Bart Bialkowski somehow let an otherwise harmless shot squirm under his body and through his legs to give Blackpool the lead.  Perhaps the only consolation for the lad is the mishap occurred too late to be included in the “bloopers of the year”compilation DVDs out for Christmas.

Not until the second minute of five minutes added on to the normal 90 did Saints finally score an equaliser (seen above, again from “Goal Machine” Lambert). The relief in the Sherlock Holmes Tavern was palpable. And Saints’ nearest rivals, West Ham, contrived to lose, to boot. So we were still somewhat fortuitously top of the table, still with an unbeaten home record (although the current record-breaking run of 22 homes games won came to a sticky end) leaving us tragics in the pub buoyed up and near-salivating for next Sunday’s game against arch-rivals Portsm*uth.

(I have to write Portsm*uth and not the whole name of that benighted club, because it is a long-standing tradition amongst Saints fans that we never write their club name in full, which would pay them too much respect. They are more commonly referred to as simply “Skates” or “the fish fiddlers”, in deference to the belief that fishermen in the area used to acheive sexual satisfaction by having intercourse with the wings of the Skate fish, common in the area, (a type of small ray), which was supposed to mimic a human female sex organ. The fact that those fish were then on-sold to the locality, including Southampton, may well have something to do with the persistence of the mythology and the mutual dislike. Since time immemorial, the rivalry engenders more hatred and detestation than possibly any other in English football.)

I was left, driving home in the pouring, leaden, dark night, to reflect on what it is about supporting a sports team that makes it such a consuming and culturally-independent experience. Around the world, sport of all kinds, but especially the various codes of football, captures the hearts and minds of thinking, rational people and turns them into dribbling idiots, crying or laughing into their beer, and happily hugging smelly strangers indiscriminately.

I saw it again last night, when, in response to our manic shouting at the TV, (“Ref! You total bastard! Offside!”), the entire clientele of the pub started to forget what is was they were there for originally, and pay attention to the flickering images of inch high men running backwards and forwards, beamed live through unimaginably brilliant technology from the other side of the planet. By the end of the game, and Lambert’s last-gasp equaliser, they were all on side too, cheering, asking us if they could wear our colours, asking about the team and our star players, and cheerful adopting our lifelong allegiances as their own. As one colleague bemusedly remarked to me, “Not bad, another 30 new supporters who’ve never heard of us before.”

Yes, for a few brief minutes, we were the same tribe. We were the same religion. We believed the same things. We were the same town. The same country. The same world.

We were the same family.

Damn, it felt good.

Post Scriptum

Southampton were promoted back to the Premiership in late April 2012, returning to the top flight of English football – possibly, arguably, the best league in the world – after seven years away. A week before, Portsmouth were relegated to League 1, the old “Division 3″. As one wag remarked: “Normal service has been resumed”.

Southampton FCOK, it’s a personal obsession … so if you’re not interested in football just ignore this post!

But I’d love to know who people think are the greatest Saints players of all time.

As some of us would find it impossible to separate some of these, you can choose up to five of your “best of all time”. Comments welcome, too. The poll is open ended, so I’ll keep it running while people keep voting :-)

PS This is just a sample list: so please feel free to also leave adulatory comments about Adam Lallana, Tim Flowers, Alf Ramsey, John Sydenham, Anti Niemi, Ted MacDougall, Phil Boyer, Wayne Bridge, David Peach, Brian O’Neill, Peter Osgood, John McGarth, Theo Walcott, Joe Jordan, Ricky “Goal Machine” Lambert … etc etc!

Notes on the players in the poll

TED BATES
1937-53, 216 apps, 64 goals

“Mr Southampton” devoted his life to the club and did more to build Saints into a respected top-flight football club than any other individual. But he also played for the club for 15 years, joining his former Norwich City manager Tom Parker at Saints in 1937 on his nineteenth birthday. He was steeped in the club when, on June 8, 1940, he married Mary Smith at St. James’s Church and that evening watched Saints play Charlton Athletic at The Dell. After the war, Bates and the prolific Charlie Wayman were the club strikers but Bates played in every position, including in goal. In 1953, he retired from playing as Saints sank into the Third Division (South) and he began 50 years of backroom graft, from manager to chairman, until his death in 2003. In 2001 he was appointed MBE, and continued to play an integral part in Southampton’s affairs as the club relocated from his beloved Dell to their new St Mary’s stadium. After Bates’s 66 years of faithful service, there was a case for naming it Saint Ted’s. His statue stands outside the ground.

NICK HOLMES
1973-87, 535 apps, 64 goals

Think Saints, real Saints players, and you think Le Tissier, Channon, Benali, all local boys. And Nickie Holmes is right up there with them, born and bred and a one-team man. This man worked his socks off in midfield for 15 years, averaging 35 games every season, the tireless, skilled grafter working alongside the vision and passing ability of Steve Williams. Apart from 1976, he scored in the 1979 League Cup Final and became club captain in 1980 leading Keegan, Ball et all. McMenemy called him “a man for all seasons,” and the fans warmed hugely to his positive attitude and lopsided grin. Not quite the beard, however. Owner of one of the hardest bullet-shots from distance the league has ever seen.

PETER SHILTON
1982-87, 242 apps

Did you know that Shilts earned more caps for England playing for Southampton than any other of his clubs? (And yes, that includes Forest). At Leicester City, he actually scored against Saints, and for Forest played against Saints in the 1979 League Cup final, before coming to his senses and leaving the former European champions to join Southampton in 1982. In the McMenemy all-stars team, Shilton reached an FA Cup semi-final and finished runner-up in the old First Division. There’s not much else to say about Shilton: Saints had England’s No 1 at his peak and during our best ever league campaigns. No coincidence there.

ALAN SHEARER
1988-92, 158 apps, 43 goals

Silly bugger, if only he had stayed with Saints, who knows what he might have achieved in his career? But anybody who marks their professional debut with a hat-trick, as Shearer did against Arsenal in 1988, is likely to prove something special, and so it was with the lad who used to clean the boots at The Dell. Shearer was only 17 on his debut and he matured at Saints until sold to newly-promoted Blackburn for a then British record £3.5m – but it was still a bargain. And he refused to join Manchester United, which amused everybody at the time but Sir Alex Ferguson.

STEVE MORAN
1980-86, 217 apps, 99 goals

Some of his goals were memorable – a late strike at Anfield in 1981 to hand Saints a win at then invincible Liverpool, his hat-trick in the 8-2 demolition of Coventry in 1984 and, above all, his injury-time winner at Fratton Park in the fourth round of the 1984 FA Cup. It seemed for a while that Moran had the world at his feet and would go all the way, but after such a dramatic initial impact, his career waned as he suffered from continual back problems. It was a sad day when he left for Leicester City at still a young age. Moran’s career kicked off when McMenemy turned up to watch his son, Chris, play for Tyro League side, Sarisbury Sparks. McMenemy senior was so impressed by Chris’s team-mate, that he promised him a new pair of boots if he scored a second-half hat-trick – Moran duly obliged. He signed professional forms in August 1979, after finishing his schooling. Later that season he made his debut as a substitute against Manchester City, scoring with his first touch. He was blessed with having Channon and Keegan amongst his team mates and scored 18 goals from 30 starts in his first full season. Voted PFA Young Player of the Year in 1982.

DANNY WALLACE
1980-90, 323 apps, 79 goals

Small, compact and lightning quick, Danny wowed Dell crowds with his pace and superb individual goals. He burst into national prominence with both goals in the first match televised live from The Dell against Liverpool in March 1984. His first was an overhead scissors-kick and for the second, he threw himself in front of Alan Hansen to head home a superb cross from Mark Dennis. The first goal was named Goal of the Season. He made his debut aged only 16 years, 313 days in November 1980 at Old Trafford, the youngest ever for Southampton (a record broken by Theo Walcott in August, 2005). Danny’s fine form continued after that Liverpool game, and in April 1984, both he and Moran scored hat-tricks in an 8-2 demolition of Coventry City. His career culminated with him being picked to play for England and scoring in his only appearance in a 4-0 victory, over Egypt in January 1986. He eventually went to Man United for £1.2 million, then a record fee for a Southampton player, but in 1996 was sadly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

ALAN BALL
1976-82, 234 apps, 13 goals

Channon, Keegan, Ball… It still amazes some people that Southampton had such a stellar line-up three decades ago. Football and fun was their creed – with racing thrown in. McMenemy used to joke that training sessions were built around the horses for their benefit. Ball loved the club so much he had two spells as a player, then returned as manager. He first joined in 1976 from Arsenal, despite offers from several top-flight clubs. “I reckon McMenemy and myself were the only two people convinced I’d done the right thing,” he said in his autobiography. But he helped to get Saints promoted, missing just one of 42 games in 1977-78, and bringing on the silky skills and vision of Steve Williams. The second spell were the magic C, K and B years when Saints topped the old First Division for the first time. He left, aged nearly 38, only to return as manager, bring Le Tissier back into the team (who had fallen foul of Ian ‘Dunderhead’ Branfoot) and save Saints from relegation. Apart from Ted Bates, no other player/manager had such an impact on Saints. And while he is claimed by Everton, he was also one of ours, watching Saints against Charlton the weekend before he died, aged 61. The turn out for his funeral at Winchester Cathedral was immense.

MARK WRIGHT
1982-87, 222 apps, 11 goals

A winner through and through. He played for England 45 times, and only lost six. After leaving Saints for Derby County, the Future England Captain went on to Liverpool, captaining them to FA Cup success in 1992, and scored for England in the 1990 World Cup. And he learned it all at The Dell, becoming the best centre half Saints ever had. He made his debut at 18 in a 3-1 win over Leeds, in which Keegan scored twice. Player of the Year in 1982-83, Saints finished second in the old First Division the next season and Wright replaced Terry Butcher in the England line-up. “Mark matured into a graceful and poised defender – a hitherto unkown phenomenom in post-War Southampton back lines,” noted Saints history tome In That Number. He broke his leg in 1986 – a crack heard around the ground – which cost him a World Cup place, and while recovering Derby came sniffing. It cost the Rams a hefty £750,000 but it was still a bargain.

STEVE WILLIAMS
1976-84, 346 apps, 27 goals

Steve Williams was ahead of his time, a Fàbregas of his day. And like Le Tissier, he was another of a lengthy list of Saints who should have played more at international level. He started brilliantly as well, making his debut in a 1-0 victory over Portsmouth that contributed to Pompey’s relegation to the old Third Division. His vision and passing saw fans vote him Player of the Year in his first full season and earn him England Under-21 caps. At Saints, he played alongside Ball, whom he succeeded as team captain, leading Saints to an FA Cup semi-final in 1984 and runners-up in the old First Division. At his peak, Williams was transferred to Arsenal for a club record £550,000, but he was then struck by injuries. He did win a League Cup final against Liverpool but in January 1988, he fell out with manager George Graham and moved to Luton Town.

RON DAVIES
1966-72, 277 apps, 153 goals

When Sir Matt Busby was asked for his opinion on Ron Davies, the response was simple: “The finest centre forward in Europe.” Davies was twice top scorer in the old First Division during the 60s and his tally of 37 league goals for Saints in 1966-67 has not been bettered since. Between 1966-69, he scored 90 times in 123 league games. That quote from Busby came in August 1969 on the back of a stunning 4-1 victory for Saints over his United side, with Davies getting all four. As a result United lodged a then-massive £200,000 bid which was turned down by the Southampton board. A big but amiable giant, Davies was useful on the ground, but it was in the air where he inflicted most damage, although in Terry Paine and John Sydenham he was lucky to have two fine crossers of the ball. He also had a neat little sideline in the days before meg-bucks pay packets: he was a talented artist and his caricatures of his team-mates would be sold in the club shop and appear in The Echo.

TERRY PAINE
1956-74, 811 apps, 187 goals

“A fluke I think. It was a punt by Campbell Forsyth and as its coming, I read it – everybody might miss it. I’ve got on my bike early and it’s bounced. It’s bounced over the top of them and I just head it and stick it in the back of the net.” There have been many more spectacular goals in Southampton’s history but few more significant as Paine’s header that earned a 1-1 draw at Leyton Orient, thus elevating them to the old First Division for the first time in 1966. Paine was already an England regular, about to appear in the World Cup finals and, as a Hampshire boy, he had remained loyal to Saints. He went on to win ten caps for England and to break all club records, making 811 appearances. He was a superb winger, who could land a ball on a sixpence.

MATTHEW LE TISSIER
1986-2002, 541 apps, 210 goals

Saints are known for three types of player: old pros at the end of their career (Osgood, Rodrigues, George, Watson), the Academy kids sold on to balance books (Walcott, Bridge, Shearer, Oxlade-Chamberlain) and the loyal one-team players, of which Matthew Le Tissier was the biggest. The boy from Guernsey was simply Saints’ biggest ever class act. He could have gone to Spurs (or half a dozen other leading clubs) but stayed at Saints, a priceless act of loyalty that undoubtedly saved the club from relegation several times over. He missed only one penalty in his entire career, scored extraordinary goals (just ask Newcastle fans) and, like Channon, played for fun with a huge smile. Work-ethic managers like Branfoot missed the point: scared managers like Glenn Hoddle daren’t risk him for England, but smart managers, like Ball, told his players to fetch the ball and just put it at Tiss’s feet. He was repaid many times over. He was Le God, revered by fans and the last goal ever scored at the much-loved Dell was inevitably one of his specials – twisting impossibly to volley the ball into the corner in a 3-2 defeat of Arsenal. Simply the best. Apart from, perhaps:

MICK CHANNON
1966-82, 602 apps, 228 goals

It was always going to be between Le Tiss and Mick, but as much as Le Tiss was the epitome of Saints in the 1990s, so Channon was the backbone of the club in the 1970s. It’s a generational thing. Those aged in their 30s and 40s today would vote Le Tiss: those in their 50s or over for Channon. Just. He was there for the FA Cup Final in 1976, the first European excursions and gained 48 caps for England in his golden period of 1972-77. His arm waving, windmill goal celebration was copied by every boy on Southampton’s playgrounds, and his permanent enthusiasm and straight talking wed him to fans. He was Saints’ top scorer for seven consecutive seasons and his testimonial two days after the Cup Final sparked jubilant pitch invasions as a wildly over-packed Dell continued the weekend celebrations – it was one of the most special nights at The Dell. Channon was to move to Man City the following season but returned to The Dell for three more years in the top flight. He may love horses but he still passionately loves the club. And he is adored back.

Comments very welcome!

Player comments Steve Keenan, The Times

Fratton Park

The clouds are gathering over Pompey. Well, they've gathered, really.

Those with a passing interest in football – that’s the real football, I mean, where the foot contacts the ball, and the use of hands is restricted to two players out of 22 on the park – will have noticed that Portsmouth FC, traditional rivals of my team – Southampton FC – are broke.

Again.

This time for not paying their taxes. Not paying their taxes because presumably they were too busy paying inflated transfer fees and wages, so they could maintain an artificially exalted position in English football. (By artificially exalted, I mean, of course, anywhere higher than Southampton.) And now, they have to find a buyer, or they risk going really, truly, totally, finally broke, which I mean the club will cease to exist and their ground will be sold off for affordable housing or an ice-skating rink.

Which is where Southampton were a few years ago – within two days of vanishing altogether – until a kindly Swiss billionaire stepped into to save us. At the time, may Portsmouth fans were gleefully awaiting our permanent demise with glee that would make the witches in Macbeth toiling over their hubbling bubbling cauldron seem like cheerful old grannies on a seaside excursion. Ah well. que sera sera. Now it’s a case of biter, bit.

And needless to say, many Saints supporters are now cackling maniacally over the possible vanishing of our South Coast rivals, and the grinding of the faces of their fans into the blasted sands of a building site where Fratton Park, their antiquated home ground, used to be.

And yes. It needs saying. Without a word of a lie, the worst of the Pompey fans are awful. But then again, so are the worst of ours.

I suspect Pompey has more dreadful zombie fans than we do because it has always struck me as a rougher, tougher area generally. In its built form it is uglier than Southampton (and that’s saying something, after the Nazis demolished great swathes of both cities with indiscriminate bombing, and what arose in place of charming medieval homes and churches was mile after mile of disgusting concrete tower blocks and squat, low-rise concrete stores) and as far as I know Portsmouth has worse employment and more crime, and I have always found the residents to have a sizeable chip on their shoulder accordingly.

But no, for all that, I don’t want to see our nearest rivals disappear, for the sake of their real fans.

Sure, I’d be happy if they were in what we used to call Division Four, before Division One was re-named the Premiership and Division Two became the Championship, so good old Division Four was christened something called League Two – and I’d be glad for them to be mid table, too, with crowds of no more than 5,000 for a few seasons, to teach them some manners after their hubris in recent years.

And yes, I have experienced some horrid times with Pompey supporters, but then honestly so I have with so-called supporters from Tottenham, Leeds, Chelsea, Millwall, and others.

In the good old bad old days of the 70s and early 80s, it was quite common to see Bedford Place, a harmless little thoroughfare from Southampton Central Station up to the Saints home ground, which was called the Dell, boarded up from top to bottom on match days, otherwise every window would be smashed in, and the mass of fans would prevent any effective policing of the chaos at all.

When I went to the Dell to see us beat Man City once their fans were lobbing darts at random into the toilet queue I was in. Well, I think it was Man City. But it could have been any one of an enormous variety of clubs that still produced magic on the pitch while their fans behaved like crazed mental institution inmates on the terraces. Ah yes, the stepped concrete terraces with their murderous metal-pipe leaning posts, which could crush the life out of you as ten thousand fellow fans tumbled down the terraces behind you and towards the pitch if you weren’t smart enough to get out of the way, and which would ring with the chant “We’re going to have a riot!” “We’re going to have a riot!” And so we often did, although I never threw any punches myself. I was too busy running away, and I say that with no shame whatsoever. If you have never been in the middle of a pitched battle with thousands of young males armed with boots, knives, lumps of wood, metal bars, broken glasses and God knows what else then you can’t really comment on my instinct for self-preservation. I wouldn’t have enjoyed being at the Battle of Floddon much, either, and that was what it was like.

But despite having often been on the receiving end of abuse from fans of all clubs, and often brutally from those from Pompey, really hating people you don’t even know just for supporting another football club is sociopathic nonsense, and doesn’t make the world a better place.

That does not mean I have to like them, much.

And yes, I do love Southampton, because the most important years of the early part of my life were spent there, and I fell in love with the dirty, concrete clad mess of a place.

I understand its traditions, its history, the shared sufferings and joys of its people, and over much more than just football. For me, Southampton will always be uniquely my home, wherever I live. It was where I learned to love, whoever I chose to, and by my choice, and not because I was told to.

It was where I learned to think, and criticise, and analyse, and make my own mind up on the great issues of our lives. In short, this little red smudge on the map of docks and pubs and parks and semi-detached houses which Hitler tried to erase was where I turned from a child to a man, and then a particular type of man, a big part of which was to walk cheerfully to the Dell and squeeze into that tiny ground, on cold winter nights when the frost still sat on the pitch and the air was white with the breath of my fellow supporters and blue with their chants, and on one glorious day in May of 1976, it was where I wandered the streets of Above Bar with an unknown girl on my arm, celebrating the impossible toppling of Man United in the FA Cup Final.

And I fell in love – not with the girl, who I recall was named Sue, but who wanted nothing to do with me the next day after sticking her tongue down my throat most of that night – ah, the follies of youth – but with an idea of a place, with the very essence of a place, a place of civility, and memories, and a curious accent on the voices of its citizens, which would make anyone laugh, and should.

And the essence of Southampton and its immediate environs runs through my veins as surely as my blood still falteringly manages to do so, and it always will.

It pains me to say it, somewhat, but I am sure that’s just as true of people from Portsmouth too. In 1917, my grandfather received the DSC (one step down from a VC) for using his trawler nets to dredge Portsmouth Harbour of contact mines dropped by Zeppelins … in the second war my father sailed in and out of there regularly on the convoys that kept Britain alive in 1940 and 41, which is simply a reminder that what unites us is always greater than what divides us, even with Portsmouth.

And this is the only time that I ever have, or ever will, spell the name of that benighted place with all the letters typed out correctly. From here on, it will be back to Pomp*y, or Portsmou*h. And I will continue to regale all and sundry with the fact that the name of their hideous ground is a perfect anagram of “Krap, Nottarf”, and sing the songs of yesteryear about flying over said ground with the wings of a sparrow and the arse of a crow, and shitting on the bastards below. And when they lose, and we win, I shall be Happier than a Happy Person in Happy Town on International Lets Be Irrationally Happy Day.

But I don’t really want them to disappear, for the sake of the die-hards, the ironed-ons, the kids with tears in their eyes, and the grandads sitting next to them. Because I know they can’t help it either.

They’re hooked, for life, just like me. And we addicts should always support one another, in extremis, at least.

David Beckham

The hottest ticket in town this December will be to see David Beckham line up with his LA Galaxy team-mates against Melbourne Victory.

CARSON, Calif. (Saturday, November 26, 2011) – The MLS Cup 2011 champion LA Galaxy today announced their travel roster for the upcoming Asia Pacific Tour 2011, presented by Herbalife. The club departs tonight for Jakarta , Indonesia for the start of the three-nation tour, which will see the Galaxy play in Jakarta on Wednesday, November 30, in Manila , Philippines on December 3 and in Melbourne , Australia on December 6.

A total of 27 of the 30 players that helped the Galaxy win MLS Cup 2011 last week will be a part of the Asia Pacific Tour, with only the injured Sean Alvarado, Chad Barrett and Leonardo not flying with the club to Indonesia tonight. The roster is highlighted by MLS Best XI selections David Beckham, Landon Donovan, who was also the MLS Cup MVP, Todd Dunivant and 2011 MLS Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez, as well as postseason heroes A.J. DeLaGarza, Robbie Keane, Mike Magee, Josh Saunders and more.

The Asia Pacific Tour will open in Jakarta on Wednesday, November 30 when the Galaxy will face the Indonesia National Team at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium. Three days later, the club will travel to Manila to face the Philippines National Team at Rizal Memorial Stadium on Saturday, December 3. This will be the first appearance by the Galaxy in both Indonesia and Philippines.

Following those games, the Galaxy will head to Australia where they will conclude their three-game tour against Melbourne Victory of the Hyundai A-League in the Hyundai Melbourne Challenge. That game will be played at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne on Tuesday, December 6.

GOALKEEPERS (3) – Brian Perk, Donovan Ricketts, Josh Saunders

DEFENDERS (8) – Gregg Berhalter, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant, Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Frankie Hejduk, Dasan Robinson, Ryan Thomas

MIDFIELDERS (12) – David Beckham, Chris Birchall, Paolo Cardozo, Landon Donovan, Hector Jimenez, Bryan Jordan, Juninho, Dan Keat, Jovan Kirovski, Mike Magee, Dustin McCarty, Michael Stephens

FORWARDS (4) – Adam Cristman, Robbie Keane, Miguel Lopez, Jack McBean

HEAD COACH – Bruce Arena

For more information about the Galaxy’s Asia Pacific Tour 2011, visit the club’s official website at www.lagalaxy.com.

Melbourne tickets can be got here: http://www.ticketmaster.com.au/event/25004727DD0F29A9