Sunday, 21 June 2009

Beckham content in the shadows

The recent England games were notable for the praising of the performance of players such as Wayne Rooney and Glen Johnson who are undoubtedly starting to come of age under Fabio Capello’s new look England regime.
However one player who went very much under the radar was the man who has dominated the headlines on both the front and back pages for the last ten years: David Beckham. Picked to play against Andorra in the place of the suspended Gareth Barry, the AC Milan man turned in a tidy performance.
For all the criticism that Beckham has received over the years he has undoubtedly become a fantastic ambassador for his country. He is quite happy to bide his time, uncomplaining when he finds himself reduced to five minute cameos for his country.
Beckham loves playing for England. He gives it everything he has and will continue to do so until Fabio Capello tells him enough is enough.
Unlike players such as Jamie Carragher, David Beckham will never turn his back on his country. If every England player showed as much effort, skill and commitment as he has over the years there would be more trophies and less dust in the England trophy cabinet.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Something to prove

For the first time in his managerial career Jose Mourinho goes into a pre season campaign finding himself very much under pressure in his role as manager of Inter Milan. No longer is he renowned around the world as the next great young manager, but has found himself usurped by the inspirational leadership skills of Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.
Instead he is quickly gaining a reputation for building, dull methodical teams, who whilst winning trophies, don’t win any friends.
In fact since Mourinho went to Italy he has done his very best to make himself as unpopular as possible, clashing with fans, managers, players and the media. He won the league but came short in the Champions League. That is another blot on his copybook. Inter signed him to win the European Cup and the fact was they didn’t even come close. The only reason they continue to win Serie A year after year is due more to the failings of the other teams around them than anything done by Inter Milan.
Next year Inter need to continue to dominate Serie A and need to show some form of improvement in the Champions League, but what’s more they need to do it in a style that Mourinho has previously shown himself to be unaccustomed to.
If not Mourinho will find himself shipped out of Milan with his tail between his legs and looking for another job.
It is time the so called ‘Special One’ started to justify his own hype.

Power to inspire

It is beyond reasonable doubt that the vast majority of sport’s films present in today’s society get an extremely bad press and rightly so. When I think of bad sports films I immediately think of the mediocre ‘Goal!’ films that have been in circulation in recent years. There have been many others aswell. Rocky III and Rocky V will forever remain etched in my memory as two of the worst sport’s films I have ever seen.
However, for every bad sports film there are undoubtedly some very fine ones. I was a big fan of the original Mighty Ducks film, aswell as enjoying films such as Raging Bull and the more recently made Friday Night Lights. A film about sport has a way to inspire perhaps like no other genre of film. There is one particular film that stands out for me above all others and that is Any Given Sunday. Despite it’s stellar cast including Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz it is a film that has gone very much under the radar.
The scene that makes this film great for me is just before the team go out and try and win the Superbowl. Al Pacino, who takes on the role of the downtrodden coach in the film, makes I think one of the finest and most inspiring movie speeches of all time in an attempt to motivate his players. Enjoy.

I don't know what to say really.
Three minutes
to the biggest battle of our professional lives
all comes down to today.
we heal
as a team
or we are going to crumble.
Inch by inch
play by play
till we're finished.
We are in hell right now, gentlemen
believe me
we can stay here
and get the shit kicked out of us
we can fight our way
back into the light.
We can climb out of hell.
One inch, at a time.

Now I can't do it for you.
I'm too old.
I look around and I see these young faces
and I think
I mean
I made every wrong choice a middle age man could make.
I uh....
I pissed away all my money
believe it or not.
I chased off
anyone who has ever loved me.
And lately,
I can't even stand the face I see in the mirror.

You know when you get old in life
things get taken from you.
That's, that's part of life.
you only learn that when you start losing stuff.
You find out that life is just a game of inches.
So is football.
Because in either game
life or football
the margin for error is so small.
I mean
one half step too late or to early
you don't quite make it.
One half second too slow or too fast
and you don't quite catch it.
The inches we need are everywhere around us.
They are in ever break of the game
every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for that inch
On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us
to pieces for that inch.
We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch.
Cause we know
when we add up all those inches
that's going to make the fucking difference
between WINNING and LOSING
between LIVING and DYING.

I'll tell you this
in any fight
it is the guy who is willing to die
who is going to win that inch.
And I know
if I am going to have any life anymore
it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch
because that is what LIVING is.
The six inches in front of your face.

Now I can't make you do it.
You gotta look at the guy next to you.
Look into his eyes.
Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you.
You are going to see a guy
who will sacrifice himself for this team
because he knows when it comes down to it,
you are gonna do the same thing for him.

That's a team, gentlemen
and either we heal now, as a team,
or we will die as individuals.
That's football guys.
That's all it is.
Now, whattaya gonna do?

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Ronaldo release to rejuvenate Rooney

Amidst all the headlines this morning about Cristiano Ronaldo leaving Manchester United for Real Madrid it comes as no coincidence to me that United have accepted the offer on the back of two outstanding performances from England's very own boy wonder Wayne Rooney.
For the past two or three seasons now Rooney has been forced to sit back and watch as Ronaldo has accumulated glory, headlines and personal accolades as Manchester United completed global domination of the game. Rooney, being the selfless character that he is, has willingly sacrificed himself for the good of the team, to allow the Portugese genius,to take centre stage. And no matter what anybody says about Ronaldo there can be no denying that he is the greatest foreign footballer to ever grace the Premier League stage. He has dazzled with his skills and goals, which were even more impressive coming on the back of the controversial incident with Rooney at the last World Cup.
However it has now become evidently clear that it is time for Ronaldo to move on. He has achieved everything he possibly can in the English game and the lure of Madrid is too much for a young man who grew up supporting the team. What is also clear is that despite concerns that Madrid are reverting to their former 'Galactico' era is that they could be on the verge of something very, very special and Ronaldo does not want to miss out on this.
What worried Manchester United fans must remember though, is that they have the greatest manager in the history of the game and that nobody leaves Old Trafford without the say so of the manager. With the £80 million they will receieve for Ronaldo the club will be able to secure the services of Carlos Teves and possibly lure Karim Benzema and Frank Ribery to the Theatre of Dreams and also buy the high quality holding midfielder they desperately crave in the continued absence of Owen Hargreaves.
The most important thing about the whole move is that Rooney can finally be let off his leash. For too long he has been forced out to the left, with defensive duties a key aspect of his role, preventing him from doing the damage higher up the pitch.
With Rooney playing back in his central role, it might not be too long before the working class lad from Liverpool usurps the Portugese superstar as the greatest footballer in the world.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Today saw history made in the world of professional sport as Roger Federer became the first man since Andre Agassi in 1999 to complete the full set of Grand Slam tournaments, and equal Pete Sampras’ record of Grand Slam titles.
In my mind, and that of other sports fans this undoubtedly places him above the shoulders of all the others and elevates him to the pantheon of the greatest male tennis player in the history of the game.
It seems that everytime Federer plays now he etches his name further into the history of the game.
However it is not the records and the amount of trophies racked up that makes him the most revered player to ever swing a racket. I, for one, think that Rafael Nadal will break every record Federer has ever set as long as he manages to stay fit and healthy, though his latest knee injury shows that this may not be possible. It is the way that the Swiss maestro plays that sets him apart from the rest. He plays with such a grace and elegance that is no longer seen in the modern game today. Players such as Nadal, Murray and Djokovic are counter punchers, who play from the baseline and wait for their opponent to make a mistake. Federer takes the game to his opponents and does so with such style that he has become a joy to watch.
After today’s victory it makes a mockery of those who said that he was finished as a player. He has played in the last five Grand Slam finals, winning two of them. Not bad for someone who is over the hill.
So now onto Wimbledon and the one that Federer really wants. Losing his title last year hurt him more than anything else in his career. He wants his title back. Only a fool would bet against him.