Saturday, 30 January 2010
Reports in the newspapers today suggest that John Terry has had an affair with the ex-girlfriend of former Chelsea teammate Wayne Bridge. The consequences are severe. Calls for JT to be stripped of the England captaincy have been made ever so clear, and it is rumoured that Bridge has expressed no desire to play in the same team as his former friend. Yes, I am a Chelsea supporter, and I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed or shocked by Terry's antics, in fact a player I used to and still do idolise has gone significantly down in my favourite players list. However, does an off-field and private incident mean that John deserves to lose his dignity and self-respect on the field? I believe not.
The man is without doubt, our country's best defender. So to consider sacking him from the squad completely is one ridiculous claim. Many others across the land have called for him to stripped of the England captaincy, and I again have to disagree with this. Why you ask? Well it would seem close to idiocy to change captains right before a World Cup, one which we are one of the favourites to win, and we are in this situation because of the leadership of Fabio Capello and a certain John Terry. Regardless of what the man has done off the pitch, to sack him as skipper before a major tournament and cause even more unrest between a squad, who may have to adapt to a new captain in time for June seems to lack any sense. Even neutrals and some John Terry "haters" would have to understand this point. Besides we have no suitable replacement. Frank Lampard is a great vice captain but to have him as captain, I feel would bare too much on his shoulders. Steven Gerrard, a suitable candidate given his captaincy experience at Liverpool, but without a Liverpool shirt on, Gerrard's performances prove inconsistent, lacking the heart which he gives for the Kop, and at times just a shadow of the player he should be for England. Many people may disagree with my last suggestion, but after having watched him captain the side against Brazil, Wayne Rooney showed the maturity and flair, and despite defeat I was overall pleased with his performance and attitude. Captaincy could be the making of him, but his inexperience makes him unsuitable to take the reins at such an important time. That leaves only John Terry. He must be captain in South Africa for the sake of our fans travelling to the tournament, and if Capello had to really consider his position concerning this disastrous incident, then it should be considered after the World Cup.
I watched today's match against Burnley and I can truly say Terry was not his normal self. His first half booking, and 'wandering' into referee Phil Dowd at a corner emphasised his lack of concentration. I've always admired his fight, his character and his spirit to do well for Chelsea but his first half looked lost in a team he should be leading, and a team which he has been in since 2001. The Burnley fans didn't help his cause either. Booing from the first minute until the last seemed something he had to accept, and it was only an incident involving Ashley Cole in the second half which saw the boos diverted for a brief moment, and a moment for Terry to gather his thoughts and concentrate on the game at hand.
No man on this planet can criticise Terry's on-field displays. They show heart, passion and a determination to be the best he can be. There is no argument that Terry's reputation off the field will be shattered for the rest of his life, and has already lost him one friend, and probably will more. However, on the field of play he is one of the most respected players of the past five years.
His character to come back today and score the winner in a somewhat lacklustre display by Chelsea proved his worth on the field. Chelsea started brightly and took a first half lead through Nicolas Anelka, a goal which took 11 seconds to leave the hands of Petr Cech via Joe Cole and Florent Malouda before hitting the back of the Burnley net. Burnley livened up dramatically in the second half and a cutting ball from Robbie Blake, combined with an unbearable mistake from Alex saw Steven Fletcher cast home an equalise. For reasons unknown Alex stormed off the pitch after the final whistle, but his personal performances must have seen me shout some frustrating abuse at the television numerous times throughout the 90 minutes.
After holding Arsenal to a draw and defeating Manchester United at Turf Moor, Burnley looked like they were going to produce another shock result and come away with a point. However, in the 82nd minute a lovely turn and cross from lively substitute Daniel Sturridge forced Jensen to pary it out for a corner. A corner which combined Chelsea's two greats in Lampard and JT. Lampard's corner was perfectly executed, and saw John Terry powerfully header home to give his side all 3 points. He created the twist of all twists in a day which saw him go from making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, to making the headlines for the right reasons. Carlo Ancelotti said: "The professionalism of John Terry improves the image of the club". How right he is.
One thing I noticed during these, quite frankly, frantic last moments was Terry's celebration. For a player so passionate, he was secluded in his celebration. A simple jog to Frank Lampard followed by a stroll back to his defensive line showed pleasure at the goal, but dismay at other things. Every on field Chelsea player gathered to show their support for their captain, whose on-field quality had just put them ahead, but Terry's face told the whole story. It was one of regret at what he had done to his once good friend Wayne Bridge, and of course his family. Yet, on the other hand, it showed a matter of respect for the situation his private life was in, and probably even more importantly his reputation. He definitely silenced the Burnley fans, fans which I called "boring" in the 66th minute for their constant abuse towards our leader.
Do not get me wrong, what JT has done is not good enough, especially with the girlfriend of our former left back Wayne Bridge. Many men and women have affairs, but this one burdens increased severity. The fact that Terry and Bridge were once best friends, and that they could both be travelling to South Africa in June together causes tension. Footballers may seem robotic, but they are humans. They are programmed to put their personal problems aside whilst focusing on their jobs, however their human sides will come out, and I think Terry's came out today.
He knows he has done wrong, and part of me believes he is sorry for the pain he's caused. It's up to him to either fix or soften the problem. There may be a time where all is forgotten, and Terry and Bridge become respectful of each other again. One thing needs to raised again though. We all make mistakes. We're all human. Terry is in a long list of names to make a mistake, but his football career does not deserve to be punished for his antics. Without Terry, England have no leadership and certainly no backbone in defence. Capello knows this. JT's career hangs in the hands of one Italian man. But is it an Italian man willing to let his captain's football do the talking, or an Italian man who insists on listening to the demands of our so-called supportive English fans, fans who may never actually know the whole story?
When asked about the Chelsea squad's response to the allegations about John Terry, Carlo Ancelotti added: "The players will never lose their trust in him". Maybe Mr Capello should look to his Italian counterpart Ancelotti for some much needed words of wisdom.
Monday, 25 January 2010
Now I may be very mistaken in believing that Romelu Lukaku is a mutant or a ninja, however he is certainly a teenager, and he is one of the hottest strikers in Belgium. On first view, many people claim he is pushing twenty years of age, well take four away from that and you have Lukaku's age.
Sixteen years old, and already the Belgian has ploughed his way to 10 senior goals for Belgian giants Anderlecht in a small amount of 18 games. A sensational record for what many people would consider a minor, and at an age in which I referee football matches. It is amazing for any young player to experience just a minor success in professional football, but to have repetitive successes at the highest level of the greatest sport on the planet is a highlight worth emphasising.
Lukaku's youth career is one of the most successful I have ever seen from any footballer. Not many players can ever say they scored more goals than they played in their career, but the Anderlecht 'boy' defied the odds to prove a threat to every youth team possible. A record of 68 goals in as many games for Brussels, and then 121 goals in 88 matches for Anderlecht is beyond belief. Inisde these goals, 26 of them were scored in 17 games, against players four and five years older than Lukaku himself, an unbelievable effort from a player yet to physically and mentally peak in football, and as a human being.
On the 24th May 2009, Lukaku came on as a substitue to make his first senior appearance against Standard Liege, and he scored his first senior goal in the 89th minute against Zulte Waregem. Since then he has become the third youngest player to compete in a UEFA competition after coming on as a substitute against Ajax in December in this year's Europa Cup.
Along with this, Lukaku already had four caps for Belgium Under-21s side, scoring on his debut against Slovenia including plenty of players who are 5 years Lukaku's senior.
Despite mainly entering matches as a substitute, Lukaku has attracted major interest from many european giants, including Chelsea, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Manchester United, Arsenal and Barcelona. Only weeks ago there were reports in Belgium that Chelsea had offered close to £10 million and a one-year loan back agreement with the Belgian outfit, however no more on that suspected offer has been revealed from either party. It is claimed the English club see Lukaku as an ideal replacement for Didier Drogba in his ability to score goals on regular occasions, and his out and out strength. At 6 ft 2, and weighing close to 14 stone, he certainly has the physicality which has made Drogba a worldwide hit, and friends close to Lukaku state that the striker's favourite player is in fact the 31-year-old Ivorian. He wouldn't be the first young player in the world to idolise a Chelsea star with Russian playmaker Alan Dzagoev seeing Frank Lampard as his admiration.
This begs the question if Chelsea's squad quality is too hot to handle for the greatest clubs worldwide. Their mixture of priceless experience and promising youngsters makes them a force in which the greats fear. Yet, it also makes them a star attraction for many futures of football. John Terry is living proof of this. Rejecting an offer from Huddersfield in his younger days, to stay and fight for a Chelsea place has seen him become arguably the best defender on the planet along with captaining both club and country.
One argument I will make for Lukaku. I do not think he is ready for the big time. Despite his outstanding record, the youngster is still developing as a person and as a footballer. I believe it is everybody's best interests that he stays in Belgium working on improving and perfecting the insane ability that he already has in his power. I'm not the only one to think that, Lukaku's father believes that his son should finish school and at least stay in Brussels until he reaches 18. Romelu's contract runs out in May 2012, by which time he will be 19, and even though he has the option to review another two years with arguably Belgium's most successful side, it would make perfect sense for Lukaku to move on, but for now, to stay would be the right decision.
Anderlecht's manager Ariel Jacobs, when asked by Sportsmail if Lukaku would stay at the club until he was 18, he replied: "It's maybe not realistic, but the thought is". Nevertheless, despite being one of the most promising prizes to climb the youth ladder, Jacobs says that Lukaku has to be treated like any other young player in order for him to progress naturally, and this includes cleaning the boots of the older players after matches. Respect to Jacobs from myself, he knows when a player is spoilt and when a player's reputation is never bigger than the club itself. He probably knows this but in case he doesn't, Lukaku still has masses to learn. At 16, I was spending the majority of my Sunday afternoons occupying the right back position...of the subs bench. I would occasionally start against the lower league sides, but on most days I'd have to wait 75 minutes to gain my five minutes of pitch glory. Lukaku is parading along the greatest stage of them all, professional football.
I could say I envy him, but I would be lying. Any new footballer to grace a huge reputation is no foe of mine. His introduction only prolongs the death of my beloved sport another twenty years.
Lukaku's brilliance has pressured Belgium's team manager Dick Advocaat to contemplate calling the young man up to the squad for the next European qualifying campaign. Again, this may be a step too far for a boy who still occupies his school classrooms. Advocaat may make the decision to not choose him, however clubs around Europe may not wait too long to sign the young man up, and with some of Europe's finest involved in the chase, Anderlecht may have to give in to the prospect of millions of pounds entering the club's bank account.
Many Thanks for reading
(Despite this post being about Lukaku, I will take a small time out to wish Paraguayan striker and recent Sunderland target Salvador Cabanas the very best on his recovery after he was shot in the head after a bar fight in Mexico City earlier today. The latest is that he is in intensive care, but reports he is brain dead were denied by a spokesperson. Get well soon Salvador Cabanas!)
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Some of his greatest attributes overwhelm players that have years of experience. His ability to dribble, take players on with confidence and create plenty of chances for his team-mates are important skills for any footballer, however the way in which Dzagoev plays suggests that it is of a routine for him, rather than seizing random opportunities.
Dzagoev has already had an active childhood. After his parents moved from Georgia to Beslan, Alan attended a school in the town. Many readers may not recall the events of 2004 when a Beslan school was taken hostage by rebels demanding an end to a then-war. In all the confusion, it was reported that Dzagoev's school was the one attacked, so his father rushed to the school only to find that it was a false alarm and it was in fact another school which had come under attack. Nevertheless, his father took him home at fear of another attack on other schools.
This next part of his story encouraged myself to mainly write about him. At the age of 16 he was spotted by coach Yuri Oskin at an academy funded by Chelsea Roman Abramovich. Ironically Dzagoev has claimed one of his footballing idols is in fact Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard because of the way he plays suits the style of Dzagoev. Recent links with giants Real Madrid have forced the young attacking midfielder to ponder his near future at CSKA, however he has expressed a desire to move to Chelsea after claiming he has always been a fan of them. But, with manager Carlo Ancelotti suggesting that he has no plans to make any signings in the January transfer window, Dzagoev may have to continue to ply his trade in Russia gaining valuable experience before making the expected move to a great western European club. Yet, a recent injury to holding midfielder Michael Essien may force Ancelotti into signing the Russian hot prospect sooner than expected.
Performances of quality have earned him admirers across the planet, and he is gaining a fast-growing reputation between managers, fans and players alike. At 19, the prospect of having Dzagoev in at the tip of professional football for at least another 15 years seems unbelievable, but the reality is he has the potential to play until he is 34, and perhaps even longer at the highest level professional football can provide. One significant performance that caught my eye this season was CSKA's Champions' League visit to Old Trafford which ended in a 3-3 draw. Dzagoev scored one of the goals and provided the assist for another which put CSKA into an important 3-1 lead, however after 70 minutes the young Russian play-maker was substituted, one which proved to be a mistake as Manchester United pulled the game back to earn a point and progress to the Champions' League knock-out stages. Just that match proves what a huge impact Dzagoev has on the Moscow team, and the creativity that he is capable of. Some of the greatest teams in the world have gone to Old Trafford and failed to score more than one goal, Inter Milan and Barcelona just to name a couple, so for a Russian side to go and score three is a fantastic achievement and without doubt would not have been done without the presence of Dzagoev.
Born on 17th June 1990, Dzagoev shares the same birthday as Winchester University's very own Journalism student, Jake Gable. However, Mr Gable would need some form of miracle to share a similar comparison on the football pitch as the Russian 'wiz-kid'. Played primarily in an attacking midfield role, one which his idol Frank Lampard occupies at Chelsea, Dzagoev thrives supporting the strikers with his powerful runs, combined with his mental toughness and passion make him a threat for any opponent.
Alan made his international debut against Germany in 2008, after Guus Hiddink called him up to the squad. He came on as a substitute which made him the youngest ever outfield player to play in the Russian shirt at 18 years and 116 days old. Hiddink described Dzagoev after the game as a "really clever player", however Dzagoev described his performance as a "flop" after experiencing defeat. This can show two sides of any footballers: the sulky, embarrassed player; or the player who is determined to show more. In Dzagoev's case, it doesn't just highlight, it emphatically emphasises his will and determination to be the best he can and knows he can be. That is why the young man is so well admired by many great clubs across Europe. It is also this attitude which has seen him 15 goals in 47 Russian Leagues, and almost doubled that in assists.
I like this man a lot. I am a huge fan of the young Russian, and what attracts me to him more is his desire to join my beloved Chelsea Football Club. Let's hope Mr Ancelotti does the deed, before any one of our rivals takes one of football's biggest talents in the current world.
Anyone wanting to see a bit of Dzagoev in action, here is a link to a video I found on youtube of him playing for CSKA Moscow last season ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phWhL-l75ns&feature=related )
Many Thanks for reading
Sunday, 17 January 2010
Many people have their jobs, or even studies to occupy their time, and my so-called 'job' has not been available for a little while. I am a referee and sadly in this weather, matches are not coming around too often. My one chance to earn that extra bit of cash needed for social events has been thwarted by this angel and demon we call snow. Before university, I relied solely on the income of refereeing, and most weekends I was earning £50-75 officiating games from U7s to U15s. Now my Sundays are filled with the depressing boredom of sitting around waiting for Monday's antics to show up to relieve me of my pain.
Despite previously stating today wasn't as active as I'd like it to be, I did have a change in routine for once. Staying at my dad's, I was immediately given the task of helping him take down his thousands of Christmas lights from the house. Yes, I have over-exaggerated with the thousands, but let's just call them a fair few for the time being. After labouring for a good hour and a half, we completed the deed and then headed to the event which I had prepared myself for with anticipation and focus-Darts at my grandparents' house! There was money on the line, something I wasn't going to let slip my grasp. In previous three-way ties between my granddad, dad and I, my dad was usually the lucky man to come away with the coins. How differently today would unfold. The first two games I played there was no money up for grabs, but it enabled me to gain some early form before going into what I call the 'crunch' matches. I slaved away to victory against my dad, thundering the darts into the board in what I can only describe as a Jelle Klaasen style of dart throwing. Next was my toughest test. Against the father of the father. The man I see as a genius dart thrower, the odds of me staying on the board and retaining my form looked limited.
I started fantastically, hitting consecutive 100s forcing my granddad into an early state of shock at the quality I was portraying, quality which forced my dad into claiming: "He's been practising in the pubs at uni hasn't he?". Again his judgement was wrong. It was my typical form after a long stay away from throwing the mini javelins. I knew that to have any chance of winning the last two games and claiming the designated prize, I had to carry my form with me into the next hour of darts.
One hour and twenty-six minutes later, and my record of two wins out of two had been turnd into two wins out of five. I had three disastrous final pre-money matches which saw me struggle to find the 20 on too many occasions, so my opponents thrived on my mis-fortune to obtain vital momentum heading into the crunch clashes. The time soon arrived where we all put our pound coins in and the game commenced. Simple rules, start on a double and finish on a double. I immediately found my touch by hitting my favourite double 6 then hitting 20 with the next two darts. My dad on the other hand, despite scoring well throughout the day, struggled to hit that important double to enable him to score. By the time our two games of darts for the grand prize had finished, both my dad and I had finished £2 poorer, and my granddad, with a grin on his face, managed to flourish an extra £4 to what he had at the start of the day.
Many reading this will find it impossible to believe how I can talk so long about a game of darts, but there's a moral behind this post. My darts performance today is a perfect example of how a usual Sunday entails. It starts off well, enjoying the occasion and another day of living, but as the hours pass, the quality of the Sunday heavily decreases, into a state of the unknown or to an extent a sense of disbelief at how atrocious they can sometimes be. My darts display began with a flourish, only to end like a 0-0 draw at a football match you have paid £50 for-a shambles!
Today was different. I enjoyed myself, and in the winter it is little things like this that make Sundays was they should truly be. Sundays should be a fun day, one which doesn't follow the stereotypical view that just because it is religious, we shouldn't enjoy our day. For now I will find new ideas of creativity to entertain me on these dismal days, but it is only three months until my Sundays become one of the most important days for me. In three months, the cricket season starts and every Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday, my day will be filled with nothing but cricket.
Many Thanks for reading
Balázs Dzsudzsák is a 23-year-old Hungarian left-midfielder who first made his name at his home country club of Debrecen, the team most known for playing Liverpool in this season's Champions League. He made his professional appearance at the age of 17 in the Hungarian third division, but Dzsudzsák has come a long way since then to achieving his goal of becoming one of the greatest Hungarian footballers of our time. He signed for PSV in 2007 after the departure of then legend Kenneth Perez encouraged the Dutch champions to speed up the official signature, originally due to go through in October 2008. Scout Piers de Visser classed Dzsudzsák as an "incredible talent and a modern left-winger" after signing a five-year contract following his move from Debrecen.
Do not get me wrong, this player is unknown to many, and I myself have only had the pleasure to watch him play on only few occasions. So why write about him? I write about him because recent links with European giants has encouraged me to research and learn more about the highly-rated midfielder, a midfielder who 'hugs' the left hand side for my AC Milan side on the internet game website "soccer manager". Dzsudzsák has, as recent as this last week expressed a desire to move to Spain should an formal offer come in from one of Athletico Madrid or Valencia. These are just two of the teams who have shown an increased interest in the young player, with Real Madrid and Premier League side Arsenal another two who have been rumoured to have shown an attraction to his style of play which has seen him hit 23 goals in 66 games for PSV. He told Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf: "When I heard the rumours linking me with Real Madrid, I was really delighted about the news".
Despite increased concern from PSV fans that Dzsudzsák's departure from Holland may be sooner than expected, the Hungarian remains adamant that Eindhoven is like a home, and he wants to focus on improving his game before joining a European giant. His 2009 form has earned him praise across the planet, scoring a hat-trick in February 2009 in a 6-0 victory against ADO Den Haag, and with even more importance in October, the Hungarian proved vital in his side's victory over arch rivals Ajax to record a 4-3 victory, a game which Dzsudzsák scored twice and provided one assist. This match earned him the title of "World Player of the Week", and a place in the world team of the week starting line up. Other attributes have seen him claim Eredivise's best kick-taker four times in a row, and the player with the most assists in the division for 2009, offering 15 in 32 games.
His rapid development into an impressive player has seen him become a key member of the PSV squad, and a regular figure of Hungary's starting line up, where he made his first international appearance in 2007, and scoring his first international goal a year later, both against Greece.
What is known about Dzsudzsák is if a European side want him now, they will need to raise over £10 million to secure his services, and with his performances and reputation growing day by day, signing him now would be an acquisition of almost the highest calibre.
Many Thanks for reading
Friday, 15 January 2010
Forget the millions Florentino Perez has spent on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso this summer gone. Forget the high profiles of these players and the expectation surrounding the Spanish capital following the beginning of the new 'Galacticos' era. If asked who Real Madrid's best current player would be, my opinion would not match those of many Madrid fans or many football fans across Europe. My answer would be Gonzalo Higuain.
Without doubt, Higuain's best season to date had to be last season (08/09). Notching up 23 goals for Real Madrid, 22 of these coming in the league is more than just a positive sign for the future of the former River Plate forward. As well as making an immediate impact in his Real Madrid career, the Los Blancos player made an even bigger start in his international career. When called up to the squad, it could be said that Diego Maradona's side were in dire straits, facing elimination from the World Cup qualifiers with only two matches to play, and loss of faith from the South American country's fans looked ever so present.
Fortunes seemed to change with the introduction of Higuain. His 47th minute strike against Peru on his debut forced a much needed victory, and his impact in the final game against Uruguay created scenes of joy for the Pumas as they gained victory to qualify for South Africa 2010.
The Madrid man has to compete with some of the greatest strikers in the world for a place in the Argentinian set-up. Along with Lionel Messi, Maradona has at his hands the talents of Diego Milito, Carlos Tevez, German Denis, Rodrigo Palacio and his son-in-law, Sergio Aguero. Higuain's form has prospered since his inclusion in the side, and in December, the same month as his birthday, Gonzalo enjoyed some of his best form at the Bernabeu, reaching ten goals with a brace against Real Zaragoza.
What a lot of people reading this won't know is Higuain had the option to play for France. He was born in the French town of Brest and in 2006 he rejected calls from both countries to play after claiming he was indecisive as to which nation he wanted to play for. Much of the French media starting seeing Higuain as a younger version of David Trezeguet, after he chose to play for France despite his father being Argentinian. Even the French national side were preparing themselves for the unveiling of one of the hottest prospects in world football by assigning him the number 20 shirt for their game against Greece. However, in 2007 French fans were stunned to see Higuain shun them after revealing his love to play for Argentina.
It could be argued that Higuain made the wrong decision in choosing Argentina due to the high inatke of young, quality strikers reaching international level, and with France stumbling in world football, it looks unlikely that Les Bleus can rely on the ageing Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka for too much longer.
To conclude this profile, Higuain's Madrid career has started with a bang, shipping in over 40 goals in just under 95 appearances. The 13m euros that Madrid signed him for from River Plate may certainly have doubled in the space of three years. At 22, he has a career worth keeping an eye on, and one I intend to continue admiring. I remember watching Madrid last season, and Higuain scored all 4 goals in their 4-3 win against Malaga, in what was one of the most fantastic displays I had seen all year.
It was also Higuain's strike that won the the league title in the 2007/08 season, replacing Javier Saviola in the 67th minute. After assisting Arjen Robben to an equaliser in the 88th minute, Higuain himself popped up to score the winner against Osasuna and secure the league title for Madrid.
I am certainly a huge admirer of his talents, as are many of my friends. Recent links with Arsenal and Juventus are proof that his qualities are not going unnoticed, but for now, I think he is best in La Liga working with some of the best players in the world, perfecting his already superb footballing ability.
Many Thanks for reading
Friday, 8 January 2010
Despite Graham Onions not making a significant impact throughout the five days, his defiance to play for a draw, one which mirrored his heroics a couple of weeks earlier at Centurion will live long in the memory of this year's tour of South Africa. On both occasions after saving each test match, Onions celebrated by turning and punching the air in the direction of the England dressing room, a sign of relief and joy to the English, yet a sign of sorrow and disbelief to the South Africans. To any non-cricketing fans, many of you reading may feel the series is in South Africa's hands. How wrong you are! England lead the series 1-0 with one game to play so a draw is guarenteed, however coach Andy Flower and skipper Andrew Strauss have urged the fans that victory is all they intend to achieve from the last test in Johannesburg.
What an achievement it would be for Strauss' side. To beat Australia and South Africa in a test series within six months would surely rocket England up the test rankings, and to be considered one of the mot dangerous threats in test match cricket. However, even in the greatest of sides, there are flaws to the structure of the team and however controversial this may sound, I believe England's current flaw is Kevin Pietersen. A total of six runs in two innings, including a second ball duck is horrendous for a player who has been seen as the country's most talented bastman for the past four years. Players like Ravi Bopara and Ian Bell have been constantly questionned by the media and the coaching staff about their form, however when it comes to Pietersen nobody seems interested. It seems people are afraid to doubt him because of the huge ego the South-African born player has. I say it's time to change. Pietersen's form has been diabolical, not throughout this tour but in the Ashes he gave away his wicket in idiotic fashion on more than one ocassion, and his lack of major run scoring in recent years shows there should be calls to axe him or either start working on his 'over-ambitious' technique.
Back to the test match, and a superb bowling performance from my favourite bowler James Anderson resorted the Proteas to only 293 in first innings. The ever resilient Jacques Kallis playing his way to a well constructed 108. However, England failed to take advantage and after losing Andrew Strauss in the first over I sat there at 8.40am on my sofa with an immediate sense of disbelief. Alastair Cook offered some resistent by adding 65 and Matt Prior playing his way to 76 but all England could muster was a measley 271, thanks mainly to Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn who notched up five and four wickets each respectively.
The South Africans took control and despite the prompt dismissal of the out of form Ashwell Prince, captain Graeme Smith proved why he is considered one of the world's top bastmen with a class 183, supported superbly by Hashim Amla (95) and Kallis, who hit 46 in a total of 447 for 7 declared, leaving England four sessions to bat. As I continued to sit there, eyes motionless yet glued to the television I remained hopeful that despite requiring the highest run chase in history, we could somehow come away with a victory, and this hope would soon become nearer to a reality. We started brilliantly. Cook passed 50 for the second time in the match, and even though struggling against the pace of Steyn, Strauss continued to hit runs on a regular basis, however like any ordinary England fan, whatever sport it may be, my dreams of victory soon became shattered. Cook played an atrocious shot to be dismissed for 55, then Strauss soon followed for 45. By the time I had time to compose myself for the final day, before you know it we had gone from 101-0 to 160-5, losing Trott, Pietersen and nightwatchman James Anderson in the process.
Fortunatly for England fans, Anderson entered blocking mode and used up 52 balls to score his 9 in what was now being called a rescue mission rather than an attempt at victory. All hope seemed lost and by this point I had turned channel to watch Only Fools and Horses and Jeremy Kyle. Oh how I regret turning that channel when I look back because enter the ever-reliable Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell who managed a partnership of 112 off over 300 balls. Collingwood contributing 40 off 188, and Bell striking 78 off 213. Without doubt it was this partnership which saved the test for Strauss' men. It isn't the first time Collingwood has been involved in a rescue mission though, in the first Ashes test in Cardiff he played a remarkable innings to bat for over five hours, meaning Anderson and Monty Panesar could block out the Australian attack, and at Centurion, Collingwood was alongside Graham Onions when the Durham bowler blocked the last ball from Makhaya Ntini to salvage a draw.
Even though overs were shrinking fast and with 4 wickets remaining, South Africa tested England's resolve and dismissed Collingwood and Prior in quick succession to leave he test match on edge. With three overs remaining, Stuart Broad was dismissed by spinner Paul Harris, and then four balls later Ian Bell made his only error of the day by needlessly playing a ball which barely threatened the Warwickshire man, resulting in an edge to Smith. The South Africa captain looked to have a sense of victory in his eye. He batted superbly, and his on-field specials were something to behold. Enter Graham Onions who thwarted the Kolpaks of a first test win, now endured with the same task of seeing out the bowling attack. Partnered by Graham Swann, both bowlers prodded away, blocking every ball in sight and leaving any wide deliveries.
Tension overwhelmed my body, as it came to the last ball. I couldn't watch. I actually had my head behind the pillow, watching with a tragic bond of anticipation and anxiety. In came Morkel, to the crease, bowled, and wide of the off-stump which Onions easily watched fly past his person. Now I could relax. We had drawn the test match. Onions replicated the celebration he did at Centurion, and the look on the South African players' faces told the story, that they didn't have that final thrust to dismiss England. The Barmy Army celebrated like we had won the World Cup, jumping for joy with a sense of chaos. It was a sign of relief.
Make no mistake about it, our resilience as a side has improved dramatically under Strauss's reign, but our performance in Cape Town was not one the fans want to see any time soon. Our batting line up was too inconsistent and if it wasn't for match performances from Cook, Bell and Collingwood, the series would be level. I never saw the result as a good one. I saw it as one we got away with, and were lucky to get away with. Strauss has vowed for victory at the Wanderers when the test begins on the 14th, now let's hope he manages to keep his word.
Many Thanks for reading
Tuesday, 5 January 2010
Friday, 1 January 2010
Before I start I am going to dedicate this blog to my stepbrothers, Jack and Henry, who are without doubt big Doctor Who fans. Enjoy.
New Year's Day is one David Tennant is going to remember for the rest of his life. Not to follow the typical mannerism which surround the day, it being the first day of a brand new year, but it symbolises his death as one of the greatest characters to ever grace our television screens.
When Tennant replaced Christopher Eccleston to become the tenth doctor, lots of expectation was riding on the 38-year-old's shoulders. However he underestimated the odds to become, without question, the greatest timelord of all time. The Scotsman's reign came to an emotional, yet highly respected end, exactly five years after his incarnation alongside Billie Piper. Yet this, at his death, the Doctor stood alone and despite being accompanied by actor Bernard Cribbins (Wilfred Mott) and old timelord friend-foe The Master (John Simm) throughout the epsiode, his death from BBC's screens emphasised a lonely end to arguably the most charismatic and popular Doctor since its inception.
His final act as a timelord required previous viewing time over past stories from the last five years. It was a very complex storyline, consisting of The Master's previous appearance on the BBC when his control of the Tardis and the paradox machine earned him ultimate power, until a year long intervention from The Doctor's then-companion Martha Jones thwarted The Master's reign of terror. His return to our screens this year sparked scenes of shock to most but joy to others. Simm played him perfectly, adding serious mannerisms to his general wise and on ocassions funny actions. When I first saw The Master a couple of years back, I didn't see him as one of the great enemies of our favourite timelord, I saw him as a cheeky man, yet diseased with the sound of drums constantly in his head-this being the name of one of the episodes when he first returned in 2007.
It was revealed in the New Years episodes that The Master's burden-the drumbeat-was the work of the timelords. Thought to be destroyed in the time war, they returned using the signal within The Master's head along with theirs and The Doctor's homeplanet, Gallifrey. The Timelord president, played by James Bond and Hot Fuzz star Timothy Dalton, and his authority within the position made the episode one to remember. Despite a short Doctor Who career, Dalton made an immediate impact claiming that he was bringing "the end of time itself", however his goals were soon a thing of the past after The Doctor destroyed the connection between Earth and Gallifrey, and The Master (pictured below), realising his true life in befriending The Doctor, who saved his timelord 'friend' from death at the hands of the president.
I wanted in this blog to reveal my true impressions of Tennant, and his impact as a timelord. I feel he portrayed the role in the way no other actor could. He became the Doctor, and the Doctor became him. It reminded me kind of like Jekyll and Hyde, two personalities, in this case one Scottish actor, and the other an English timelord. To all Doctor Who fans, one thing is for sure that Tennant is what many people call "the irreplacable", he was the best and not even Doctors of the past or the future can ever deny him that title.
As for Tennant's predecessor, his first few minutes as a timelord didn't impress me. Whereas when Eccleston regenerated into Tennant, my main focus was the arrival of the new Doctor, yet in 2010 my attention was glued to the emotional end of the greatest Doctor of all time, rather than the introduction of one who, in my eyes, made a measley first impression amongst myself and other viewers. I believe Matt Smith will have the potential to become a great player of the Doctor, but his work is cut out if he is ever to recreate the impact David Tennant had on his producers, directors, fans, critics and audience alike.
I wouldn't say I've been an amazing fan of the programme since its first release, however Tennant inspired me to watch it. One episode and I am away, into the storylines and understanding the sub-plots. Many great actors, comedians and occasions have joined with the Doctor over the past five years, and I expect many more to join Smith on his ventures through time and space.
Many Thanks for reading