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Back pages | Anorak - Part 65

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Premier League news. Stories from the newspapers and BBC sport – sports news from tabloids Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Star, the Guardian, Daily Mirror, the times, daily telegraph

Alan Ball’s Eternal World Cup Glory

5.jpgFAREWELL Alan Ball. You came. You scampered about the pitch like a feisty Yorkshire terrier. You won the World Cup.

On a happier note, since those heady times of 1966 and all that, England have been routinely disappointing, bereft of ball control, cohesion, tactical awareness, ability and style. They also lack belief, but it is hoped that once they get the skills, the confidence will come.

As it is, Ball’s position as one of the small band of English World Cup winners is safe for some years, and certainly while Steve McClaren is in charge of the England team.

Ball was a worker with natural talent. Ball won.

And you can just imagine Ball, one always quick to remind all and sundry about his World Cup exploits, going up to St Peter and saying, “Fair dos, you’ve got the key to the Gates, your own sandals and a flowing white beard, but have you got a World Cup winners’ medal. Go on have you? I think not.”

Of course, in riling St Peter, Ball risks being relegated, something that occurred with alarming regularity in his managerial career…

Posted: 4th, May 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment (1)


Ultras Stupid: Vow To Kill Manchester United Fans

roma_fans.jpg“WE’LL KILL MAN UTD FANS.”

The Star’s front-page headline promises much. And none of it pleasant.

British book shops have shelves dedicated to the stories of sad men who see football fandom as a form of guerrilla warfare.

But this is not England. This is Italy, land of culture, fashion and the profiterole.

The Star has a picture of a fan of AC Milan. He is offering us his best Nazi salute. His head is wrapped in a hood. He is billed as one of the Ultras, a gang of inadequates who follow the Milan side.

And they have issued this proclamation: “Speak English and your dead.”

Of course, this could read “Speaka da Inglish and you is dead”, and it is tempting to turn to such anachronistic language given the circumstances.

“PLAY DUMB IF YOU WANT TO SURVIVE,” comes another headline deeper inside the paper. Not stupid dumb – something many travelling football fans can carry off with aplomb without the Star’s promoting – but mute.

Trouble has dogged Manchester United’s European adventure this season. And the Star feels duty bond to looks over it all.

There is a picture of a Manchester United fan bloodied and battered in Rome.

The paper looks at violence between Catania and Palermo. A policeman died. “All hell breaks loose”.

This is bad. United fans should be concerned. But do not worry. Palermo and Catania play in Sicily, which schoolboy geography points to being not all that near Milan, or even Rome.

But the Star wants to show the trouble. And who knows, a United fan may play dump enough to end up in Sicily for tonight’s match in Milan.

Posted: 2nd, May 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment


Bob Woolmer Poison: It’s Not Over Yet Says Sherlock

woolmer2.jpgWITH the Cricket World Cup ended under a dark cloud – the final finished with Sri Lanka’s players risking life and limb trying to hit a hard ball in the dark (unsurprisingly, they lost to Australia) – we return to the main story: the death of Bob Woolmer.

In “Woolmer ‘paralysed by poison”, the Express hears it claimed that the Pakistan coach was rendered powerless by poisoning before being strangled.

The BBC’s Panorama show has seen the preliminary toxicology reports that says poison was found in Woolmer’s blood.

Ans this is seen as a breakthrough. Woolmer was poisoned before being killed, eh? Not after? Although it has not been proven. But still, watch the show and find out what could have happened.

And there are expert views. Panorama hears chief investigating officer Mark Shields says he feels it would be difficult to strangle 6ft 2in Woolmer.

Calling upon his many years of experience, Shields tells the BBC: “A lot of force would be needed to do that.” (Ed’s note: Insert ‘No shit Sherlock’ here.)

And: “Bob Woolmer was a large man and one could argue that it was an extremely strong person, or maybe more than one person. But, equally, the lack of external injuries suggests that there might be some other factors.”

Good to know the case is making progress. And the BBC is making entertainment from it…

Posted: 30th, April 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment


‘I Am A Transsexual Sportswriter’: Jacqui Oatley Meet Mike Penner

jacqui_oatley.jpgWHEN JACQUI Oatley, 32, covered the Premiership game between Fulham and Blackburn on BBC TV’s Match of the Day football review, she proved to be every bit as sick as a parrot/over the moon as the show’s male commentators.

No comment on players legs. No comment on which two teams’ kits look best together on the pitch. No comment on getting grass stains out of nylon. Just the usual commentator stuff – game of two halves, rocket shots and crowds in raptures.

No big deal. And certianly no big deal compread to the news that LA Time staff writer Mike Penner will be from now on using the byline Christine.

Says Mike: “During my 23 years with The Times’ sports department, I have held a wide variety of roles and titles. Tennis writer. Angels beat reporter. Olympics writer. Essayist. Sports media critic. NFL columnist. Recent keeper of the Morning Briefing flame.

“Today I leave for a few weeks’ vacation, and when I return, I will come back in yet another incarnation.

“As Christine.

“I am a transsexual sportswriter.”

And Penner can do the job as well as ever he could. As Mike says: “Everyone who knows me and my work will be transitioning as well. That will take time. And that’s all right. To borrow a piece of well-worn sports parlance, we will take it one day at a time.”

Twat! Liquid football…

Over to you, Gary Lineker…

Posted: 28th, April 2007 | In: Back pages | Comments (3)


Manchester City And A New King’s Ranson

man_city.gifWHILE the future of Arsenal football club remains up in the air, Manchester City are themselves the subject of a new bid from none other than former player Ray Ranson.

The one-time Man City full-back eschewed the usual route of opening a pub and instead made his money from insurance and sports finance.

The 46-year-old is leading a consortium with a bid of £90 million which covers the club’s shares, loans of around £24 million to major shareholders John Wardle and David Makin and debts to other creditors.

City fans, frustrated by another season of mid-table disappointment, will be particularly pleased to hear that Ranson is apparently prepared to provide a warchest of £20 million for transfers.

The Merseyside-born millionaire twice tried to purchase Aston Villa a few years ago, but may well find himself succeeding with this City bid.

Posted: 24th, April 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment


Lottery The Loser In Olympic 2012 Money Marathon

millenni.jpgALMOST two years have passed since London was awarded the 2012 Olympics.

How has-been athletes, the construction industry and London mayor Ken Livingstone all rejoiced over the, apparently, momentous decision.

However, with the cost of hosting the event continuing to rocket, the heads of lottery-funded voluntary bodies have joined leading names in the arts world in demanding that the plundering of lottery money for the Olympics be investigated.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell’s recent decision to siphon off another £675m of lottery money from the arts, sports, heritage and good causes means that, so far, a whopping £2. billion of lottery funds has been diverted to pay for the Games.

Tim Lamb, chief executive of the Central Council for Physical Recreation, says: “If there is to be a real legacy of increasing participation in sport, it seems ironic, if not perverse, for money to be taken away from community sport to fund the Olympics”

Jowell is adamant, however, that her decision was the right one, “This isn’t about taking money from the lottery to build a new Trident. This is money from the existing good causes to an exceptional once-in-a-lifetime good cause.”

Taking lottery money to use for the arms trade? Why didn’t New Labour think of that one before they started blowing things up in Iraq?

Posted: 24th, April 2007 | In: Back pages | Comments (2)


Andrew Flintoff Drowns His Sorrows

flintoff.jpg“OWZPRAT!” says the Mirror as English cricket’s star player Andrew Flintoff perches on a bar stool.

England all-rounder Freddie is as versatile off the pitch as he is on it, taking on beer and Jaegermeister (35 per cent-strength notes the Mail) at the Piano bar in Barbados. England are out of the World Cup and Freddie has time on his hands.

“They were certainly the only shots Flintoff has got to grips with during the tournament – having failed dismally with the bat,” says the Mirror.

This is all too true. But to single Freddie out for criticism seems unfair given that English team spirit extended to the full XI agreeing to be as crap as one another and so diffuse blame.

But still the Mirror zooms in on Flintoff’s drinking session. The paper reminds us that in his early days at Lancashire his teammates used to call a drinking binge “Getting Freddied”.

And can we ever forget the story of how in preparation for England’s match against Canada, Flintoff commandeered a pedalo and set off to conquer South America.

As the Mail notes, after that not-in-the-least-bit-hilarious incident – a contrite and possibly hung-over Flintoff told us: “I’m ashamed and embarrassed. I’ve got to show this is the end of these sorts of incidents. I know it will take time to regain people’s trust.”

Says the Mail: “On this evidence, he may well be right.”

Posted: 24th, April 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment


Queen Elizabeth’s Arsenal

queen.jpg“GOD Save our gracious team, long live our noble team, God save our team…”

A song to warm the cockles as Arsenal fans wake up to the news that no less a person than Her Majesty the Queen supports the Gunners.

In the Sun’s front-page news (“QUEEN: I SUPPORT ARSENAL”), readers learn that Her Majesty is a follower of the London giants.

Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabreagas, a Spaniard by design, tells us: “It seems the Queen follows football and she told us she was an Arsenal fan. She appeared to definitely know who I was and we exchanged a few special words.”

Rightly what was staid in the Queen’s chambers stays in the Queen’s chambers.

All we can reveals is that, as is often the way with football fans, support runs along family lines and the Queen’s late mother was also a fan of the Gunners.

All hail the “GUNN EIIR S” says the Sun. And readers thrill to the news that Liz has followed the Arsenal for many a long season. As a “senior Royal source” tells us: “Her Majesty has been fond of the Arsenal for over 50 years.”

And: “Her late mother was a self-confessed Gooner, due largely to her admiration of their former player Dennis Compton.”

Hurrah!

And so it is that Her Majesty joins a long and illustrious line of Arsenal fans. As the Sun reports, The Queen is now in the company of her EastEnders’ namesake Barbara Windsor, favoured jockey Frankie Dettori, Joan Collins and Osama bin Laden.

Hurrah!

Phil Collins supports Tottenham Hotspurs.

Posted: 23rd, April 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment


Prime Minister’s Petitions – More Rejections

blair-computer.jpgANORAK’S regular look at those petitions appearing on the Prime Minister’s website

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to stop students calling male teachers sir when they dont have a knighthood – Max Zito
Rejected: It was intended to be humorous, or have no point about government policy

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Send Mr Hain on a world tour, apologising to everyone he meets – Paul Carlin
Rejected: It was outside the remit or powers of the Prime Minister and Government

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make Oliver Gover a Lord
Rejected: It was intended to be humorous, or have no point about government policy

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Allow Driver to run down Chavs on sight – Richard of Sefton
Rejected: It contained language which is offensive, intemperate, or provocative

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to get rid of the police state – Francis Warrick
Rejected: It contained language which is offensive, intemperate, or provocative; It contained false name or address information

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make sure that banana’s are peeled from the bottom to top – Ian Elgin of Banana Liberation front
Rejected: It was intended to be humorous, or have no point about government policy

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Posthumously award Bill Nicholson a knighthood – Ryan Pitson
Rejected: It was outside the remit or powers of the Prime Minister and Government (see cash-for-peerages etc.)

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Reconsider committing the United Kingdom to the absurd EU proposition to compel us to use low voltage fluorescent light bulbs that provide inadequate, cold, depressing light provided by ugly bulbs that don’t fit into standard fittings or are unusable in chandeliers and other artful light fittings – Buck Lopez
Rejected: It was similar to and/or overlaps with an existing petition or petitions (We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Save the traditional light bulb and retain freedom of choice)

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Make it illegal to smoke while driving – Patricia A Gwyther
Rejected: It was similar to and/or overlaps with an existing petition or petitions (We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Make smoking whilst driving illegal)

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to stop using global warming as an excuse to invent more taxes – Ben Ware
Rejected: It contained party political material

Posted: 22nd, April 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment (1)


England Out And Time To Refocus On Bob Woolmer

conch.jpgFRESH developments in the BOB Woolmer murder case.

As the Independent reports, a man has been seen. Security footage taken from the 12th floor of the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica, reveals a man.

The CCTV footage has been cleaned and enhanced and by detectives at Scotland Yard and, yes, the police can confirm that there is the figure of a man.

A a source tells the Independent: “The time of the footage and its location mean that this individual must be considered a suspect. Further work is being done on statements given by individuals to look at any inconsistencies. It is good progress.”

And interesting that it should coincide with England’s removal from the cricket World Cup, which provides this case with a colourful backdrop.

Deprived of shots of woman on conch-shell bikinis, England’s Freddie Flintoff going down with his pedalo and the Barmy Army turning the shade of raw ostrich meat in the sun, Scotland Yard’s offices revisit the film.

And this discovery has delayed the onset of the inquest. A spokesman at the Justice Ministry in Jamaica says: “The coroner has been advised that there are recent and significant developments concerning the death of Robert Woolmer.

“The coroner wishes that these new and significant developments be pursued with the utmost urgency, taking into account that the officer in charge has advised that these new developments are critical to the progress and the eventual results of the investigations themselves.”

This should give Sky television pundits something to discuss as they work their Barbados sun loungers. To date, breaks in play have seen heated debates on the palsied state of what must now be called Team England, Bob Willis’s mosquito bite and the sight of England’s Paul Nixon running into the surf topless with an equally underdressed Tim Abrahams, Sky’s cricket news man.

News of Woolmer on Sky Sports has been noticeable by its absence. Never once did David Gower, who fronts Sky’s package tour operation and advertorial, decamp to Jamaica.

But now with England out and the final approaching like the next drinks waiter he can make the mental journey, at least. And Woolmer’s matter can get the coverage it deserves…

Posted: 21st, April 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment


The Bob Woolmer Mystery’s ‘Poison Clue’

woolmer1.jpgTHE Bob Woolmer mystery is not over.

There remains the possibility that Woolmer was killed in a crime of passion. That he was offed by the Mafia. That he was assassinated by Al-Qaeda. That he was the victim of a bouncer in a late-night game of corridor cricket. (We still wait to see that CCTV footage from outside his hotel room.)

But the nets are closing in. “Poison clue in Woolmer hunt,” says the Express.

So he was poisoned!

Congratulations to those of you who guessed correctly. Anorak had opted for Osama bin Laden with the rogue vol-au-vent in corporate hospitality. But now we know.

Or do we?

The Express cites “Tests” which “confirmed” Woolmer was poisoned before he was strangled. Police are “working on the theory” Woolmer was incapacitated before his killer dealt the fatal blow.

Yes, a theory. And then the Express says, “It is believed that Pakistan coach Woolmer, 58, may have been silenced by a match-fixing mafia who feared he was about to expose them.”

Yes, “believed” and “may”.

Might it be that our Bin Laden theory is back on?

We concede that the infected finger food explanation is not yet established. And the express tells us Mark Shields, Jamaica’s Deputy Police Commissioner, has “refused to say poison has been found” in Woolmer’s remains.

Which make us wonder about that Express headline. Is it a message to deliberately mislead the killer? Or is it just wrong?

Whatever the truth, we remain keen to see that footage from outside the Woolmer hotel broom.

And that room service menu in full…

Posted: 16th, April 2007 | In: Back pages | Comments (2)


Carly Zucker Rates Friends And Family

carly-zucker.jpgIT’S been while since we last saw Carly Zucker, Wag to footballer Joe Cole.

It was back in July 2006 that we saw Carly perform her “sexercises” by a Miami pool. Carly’s footballer had just finished kicking a ball around in Germany and was looking to unwind.

Now Carly is in the pages of Hello!. Still wearing a tracksuit, Zucker is just returned from a friend’s wedding in Cuba.

“Friends are like family,” says Carly. “You stick with them. You can’t grow apart if you’ve got a true friendship. I’m a very loyal person.”

We could say that friends are not like family, what with you being able to choose your friends.

But Zucker has more to say. “We might not talk for six weeks on the phone, but if any of us are ever upset, we’re all together.”

So is she friends with any of the other Wags?

“I’ve got a really small frame,” says Carly. “But she clearly knows her own mind,” says Hello! by way of a repost. The inference that Randy Newman was right about short people is best ignored.

And, in any case, Zucker does not diet. “I eat, sugar, fat, carbs, protein,” says she.

Readers may not have any idea what those American-sounding foods taste of, and they may not be for everyone.

You may need to exercise as well as eat exotic foods to stay in shape. Carly is a part-time personal trainer. And, no, she has not produced a DVD work-out video – something an appearance in Hello! should remedy…

Posted: 13th, April 2007 | In: Back pages | Comments (3)


Stuck On You – Gemma Atkinson Throws Her Knickers At Cristiano Ronaldo

gemmaatkinson.jpgTHANKS to the wonders of the world wide web, news of Cristiano Ronaldo’s girlfriend Gemma Atkinson comes with a slideshow.

Now while mum and dad learn via the papery News of the World how Gemma likes to strip for her footballer, the web version allows daughter to ape Gemma’s moves in the training ground of her own bedroom and son to extend the sticky fingers of adolescence in his.

Now at last The News of the World can truly claim to be the family newspaper.

And here is Gemma to tell us: “I trained as a stripper for Hollyoaks so I’m really good. I’ve got a couple of wicked moves up my sleeve.”

Gemma, an assisted 32DD, is rarely seen in anything as demure as sleeves. But whatever the outfit, Gemma takes her clothes off to the dulcet tones of Lionel Richie. “He’s got a lovely voice,” says Gemma, “it gets me in the mood.”

But what’s this? GEMMA’S RE-UNITED,” announces the People’s headline. And no, Gemma has not been re-united with a favourite pair of knickers flung to the darker reaches of chez Ronaldo as Richie’s Stuck On You legato reached climax.

Gemma has been re-united with Manchester United’s Ronaldo.

It seems their relationship is not as smooth as a lap-dancer’s pole and the couple had a break in play. Why they split we are uncertain. But now they are back together.

And Gemma is stripping. This will keep Ronaldo happy. But what if he did cheat on her, for argument’s sake?

Says Gemma in the NOTW: “I’d dump him immediately. The best revenge is getting on with life and showing what a good time you’re having.”

Or, failing that, Gemma could always try locking Ronaldo in the house and playing Richie’s oeuvre at full throat. Or leaving her used knickers in the oven…


Posted: 8th, April 2007 | In: Back pages | Comments (76)


Did A Mango And Carrot Do For Bob Woolmer At Cricket World Cup?

woolmer-bob.jpgWE join the Sun outside the window of the room Bob Woolmer died in.

It’s is room 12 – 374, the foremost digits indicating the floor.

But the Sun is not risking life and limb to show its readers a picture of a “squashed carton of mango and carrot juice – “Did this contain poison” – and the “desk from where coach probably sent his last email”.

The Sun’s man on the outside has not fashioned suction pads for knees and hands from plungers, but is stood on a balcony. Although he must have climbed over another balcony to get here.

Is this the balcony from where Woolmer “dragged” a white plastic chair, now seen inside his room? “Did Woolmer have a meeting in his room?” Are the fingerprints on the glass from the killers, Woolmer or the Sun’s snapper trying to steady himself for the shot through the shut glass door?

Questions and more questions.

“A drinks fridge could indicate he hit the bottle to relieve his despair,” says the Sun. Remember that mango juice carton?

“Torn sheets could indicate violence or a restless night,” the paper goes on. “Pillows are missing, backing reports that police seized a bloodstained pillowcase.”

woolmer-hotel.jpgRight now the cops are plumping that seized pillow to within an inch if its sorry life. Will it talk? Let’s hope so.

But if Plan A fails, the Sun can call upon the know-how of ex-Flying Squad chief John O’Connor to explain all.

Says he: “Two chairs face the bed, showing people were talking to the person on the bed.” Brilliant! “But it does not point to anything aggressive.” The angle of the chairs is wrong, right?

“None of this is adding up,” says O’Connor. The pictures do not show a room that was trashed in a struggle for life as you might expect.”

Given the often legendary goings on in cricketers’ rooms, the scene is one of relative calm and order. And not an ashtray in sight.

It’s all very suspicious.

Posted: 3rd, April 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment


Bob Woolmer, The Trusty Shields Of Justice & Death By Shower

woolmer.jpgTHE Bob Woolmer murder has a new angle.

In “BOOZE RIDDLE IN BOB DEATH” the Star says Woolmer “drowned his sorrows with a bottle or whiskey before he was found dead”.

Is this the clue investigators missed? As Mark Shields, deputy commissioner of Jamaica’s police force, has suggested, “You know when you’re involved in any piece of work and you are right up against it, sometimes you can miss the most blindingly obvious.”

So here is Woolmer sat in the bar at his hotel drinking a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label. Pakistan have just lost to Ireland in the Cricket World Cup and Woolmer, coach of the defeated, is down.

Now look as Woolmer sways. Is he sat on a bar stool? The Star hears experts say how the tiny bone in Woolmer’s neck could have been broken in a “drunken fall”.

Accidental death? The Star says this would be a “huge embarrassment” to the aforementioned Shields who has said he is “100% certain”.

Fortunately, the papers are not confined to the business of facts and proof and can freely speculate on any number of reasons for Woolmer’s demise. To date, Woolmer has been offed by poison, strangulation, a crime of passion, drugs and al-Qaeda.

But was it all an accident?

Shields, as the Mail notes, is flying back to the UK for a holiday. “Don’t read anything into it,” says Shields. This break to see his children in the UK is “set in stone”. Says she: “I won’t change it for anything.” Shields will not be denied.

But the Mail does read things into it. It says Shield’s movements are “already being compared to the break taken by Cambridge Chief Constable Tom Lloyd, who went to France during the Soham investigation”.

The death of a man is now spoken of in the same breath as the evil murder of two girls?

The plot thickens. And the Express sees a “new twist”, just as it saw a “new twist” last week. It hears that Woolmer had a drink and may have slipped in the shower.

Did the “manual strangulation”, as indicated by the initial post mortem, result from a fatal tangle with a shower hose or a soap on a rope?

And here’s the Sun: “COPS NOT CLOSER TO BOB’S MURDER.” No new clues? Oh, come on. There must be something?

Thus challenged, the Sun talks of aconite, a white powder “used in the Middle Ages to cause death by asphyxiation”.

A new twist.

But in spite of so many helpful suggestions Shields is no closer to solving the case. But he is closer to his children. And, as the Sun says, Shields is closer to “local beauty Kenessa Linton, 24”.

Has she been DNA tested?

And what does she look like in the shower? Is there any CCTV footage?

Posted: 2nd, April 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment (1)


Hamid, Hamed, Hamad – Bob Woolmer And Third Man Malik: Update And Correction

UPDATE: The Anorak has just received a solicitor’s letter from a Mr Hamid Malik Zia’s representatives.

Anorak readers may not realise that this is the man referred to in the piece hereunder – his not being named such. Indeed, Mr Hamid’s name does appear as aforesaid in the Times’ article which can be read here – Woolmer police hunt three missing fans who met team.

Hamad Malik gets a mention in the Times of India – 3 Pak fans may hold key to murder.

The Daily Mirror – which Anorak quotes as its source – mentions Mr Malik in WANTED BY WOOLMER COPS Hunt for three hanger-on fans.

And here.

Mr Hamed Malik can be read about in the Daily Mail’s website – here (Daily Mail).

Or you can read the Sun – Fans vanished after Bob murder.

And again the Mail – Woolmer murder detectives search for three ‘gofers’, and Cricket murder police hunt three Pakistan team helpers

Or Hamid Malik here.

The Anorak wrote its piece in the belief that anyone reading a satirical site such as this would notice most the comment on the press – that they cannot even agree on a person’s name.

The comment “and it was murder” is meant as sarcastic, given that the only evidence for murder were the words of the police chief, who was certain. Of course Mr Woolmer was not murdered.

We wish no comment on Mr Malik at all – his name being incidental to the media hype. We are sorry he feels offended. We reported the story in good faith. And were not informed about Mr Hamid’s issue until today – Jan 15, 2008. Had he contacted us earlier we would have been all too willing to help him. We will try our best to help him now.

We only say that Mr Malik contacted the police on his return to the UK and was not required for interview. We are happy to confirm that Mr Malik was not named or sought by the police as a suspect in the investigation into the death of Bob Woolmer.

We said that before…

We trust this is an end to the matter.

————————————————————————

The article — and please note that sources are mentioned. We make notes where we believe we made an attempt at humour and irony:

NO declaration (Pun) yet in the Bob Woolmer murder case. But a new player is introduced. (Pun)

The Mirror looks at Hamid Malik, otherwise known to Mirror readers as Hamad Malik and to readers of the Sun as Hamed Malik. (Irony)

In the interests of justice, Anorak has made mention of all names, believing they could be one and the same person or else three people acting in consort. We await the arrival on the scene of Hamyd Malik with an eagle eye. (Humour attempt)

But to this Hamid character. The Mirror has a large photograph of his face. He is one of four “fanatical followers” of the Pakistan cricket team.

A family member of the man tells the Mirror they have spoken with him. “He is just hopping from island to island at the moment,” we learn. He is “enjoying the cricket”. And: “He is not aware that anyone is looking for him. He has not spoken to the police. We know 100 per cent he is not involved in anything.” (We give both sides of the report)

But there is controversy. The Mirror hears that Mr Malik was banned from amateur cricket’s Saddleworth and District League following a fight with one of his own players. The two years ban was extended indefinitely when Malik failed to show up at a hearing. He has never played for the Staley Cricket Club again. (Humour attempt)

Readers learn that Malik, who appears to be of middle-order years, lives with his mum.

Of course, it might be that his mum lives with him. But the Mirror is building a profile of the man and there is little time for niceties. (Irony attempt)

So do you know that man the police want to speak with in light of the Bob Woolmer murder? And it was murder (Sarcasm attempt). As investigating officer Mark Shields says: “It is very clear from the pathologist’s report that we are dealing with a murder investigation.”

Do you recognise Malik, who may be holidaying under one of his aliases? (Humour attempt)

Mr Malik contacted the police on his return to the UK and was not required for interview. We are happy to confirm that Mr Malik was not named or sought by the police as a suspect in the investigation into the death of Bob Woolmer.

Posted: 30th, March 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment (1)


Shining Like A Gemma Atkinson

gemma-atkinson.jpgGEMMA Atkinson, lover to footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, is sitting by a pool.

As the Star’s front page reveals (“Soap sizzler Gemma goes for bust”), the sun’s rays are turning her flesh a deep and vivid shade of orange.

But Gemma is not in danger. She can escape the merciless Spanish sun by sliding into the pool. Gemma is not all about taking risks. She knows preparation is all. Gemma comes equipped with two floatation devices attached to her chest.

These are “GEMMA’S MIGHTY OAKS” in the Sun. Gemma looks “spot on” in her leopard-print bikini. And her pal, Emmerdale actress Roxanne Pallett is a “cut above the breast” in a blue swimming costume.

“What a pair, of, er, Germs!” says the Star. Are they auditioning for “BOOBwatch”?

Hard to say. We don’t know where surgically-enhanced Gemma will go next. She’s a star. She shines day and night…

Posted: 29th, March 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment


Laden With Rumour – Bob Woolmer And Al-Qaeda

13osama.jpg“AL-QAEDA LINK TO WOOLMER MURDER.”

Bob Woolmer was killed by al-Qaeda? This is no small matter.

Afghanistan’s links to Pakistan are the stuff of war despatches, but did we ever believe Osama bin Laden and his horde were cricket fans? We know Bin Laden follows the Arsenal. But this is something new. Does the War on Terror break for tea? Will it be ended by a declaration?

Upset by Pakistan’s defeat to the Irish infidels, were orders given for al-Qaeda operatives to exact bloody and merciless revenge?

The hunt for Bin Laden goes on. And in light of the Sun’s news we suggest the Army’s listening devices in Afghanistan be recalibrated to pick up chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing” and “You’re not fit to wear the shirt”? Somewhere along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan a cricket fan is weeping into his replica kit.

dawood_ibrahim.jpgAnd above ground, the search is on for a Pakistan-based bookmaker. This turf accountant’s name is not given. But readers learn that he is “an associate” of Dawood Ibrahim.

Ibrahim comes with top billing, described as “one of the world’s most feared gangsters who has terrorist links”. He wasn’t at the World Cup but his brother Anees Ibrahim was. He was with the bookmaker.

And there is talk of a row between Woolmer and this shadowy betting man. An “official” tells us: “Bob Woolmer says he had thrown a bookie out of his room. He didn’t give a reason.”

Jamaica’s Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mark Shields, says now he has the names he will be investigating.

And we add a new line of inquiry to the matter.

Poison. Gambling. Murder. Cricket. Al-Qaeda. If someone can find a religious angle, we might just have an international bestseller on our hands…

Posted: 29th, March 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment (1)


Police stumped in Bob Woolmer “Crime Of Passion”

inzamam-ul-haq-21833.jpgVIDEO evidence has an established role in modern cricket and there is good reason to believe the Bob Woolmer case will be solved.

Mark Shields, the Jamaican’s policeman leading the hunt for Woolmer’s killer or killers, is studying CCTV footage of the areas adjacent to the crime scene.

But Shields, the fourth official, wants another opinion. And, as the Sun reports, a second post-modem on Woolmer’s cadaver is to be performed. Shields calls this routine. But can it ever be so?

And, as the headline goes – “WOOLMER ‘NOT MURDER’ RIDDLE” – there is a suggestion that the now former Pakistan team coach was not assassinated.

We hear from Tim Noakes, who was co-writing a book with Woolmer. He calls the idea that Woolmer was about to expose corruption in the game “ludicrous”. And he offers an alternative line of enquiry: “This smacks of a crime of passion – a moment of unexpected madness by someone.”

This is what gives the Sun its headline. Was Woolmer’s death a team building exercise that went too far? And why did the Sun overlook the chance for a more salacious headline?

The hunt continues. “Skipper remains silence,” says the Mirror’s headline. Pakistan’s captain Inzamam-ul-Haq is confronted by the Mirror. Inzamam is enjoying a curry in Southall, West London, a short distance from his Heathrow Airport hotel.

He refuses to respond. Is this an episode of “brooding silence”, of the type former Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan tells the Express followed one of Inzamam’s heated exchanges with Woolmer? “Revealed: Murdered cricket coach’s rows with his captain,” says the Express’ headline. 

Inzamam will not speak to the Mirror. He will not comment on Jundie Khan, Erfan Chaudhary, Tariq Malik and Hamad Malik, the hanger-oners being sought.

Helpfully, Tariq Malik is not so reticent. In “WE DIDN’T KILL BOB” Malik says he’s helping the police as best he can. And Chaudhary, pictured in grainy and shadowy form, says he wasn’t even on the island at the time of Woolmer’s stumping.

So who did it? Not at least two of the hanger-oners. And not any member of the Pakistan team. At least that’s what PJ Mir, Pakistan’s media manager says. “The Pakistan team has been officially cleared from the murder inquiry,” says he.

But Shields responds: “It’s too early to clear anyone, including the Pakistan team.”

So how did Woolmer die?

The net is being widened. The Star says all persons staying in the Pegasus Hotel at the time of Woolmer’s death will now be DNA tested.

And the video footage continues to be examined. The crowd await the verdict…

Posted: 28th, March 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment (1)


Bob Woolmer Murder – Hanger-Oners Wanted

woolmer1.jpg“WANTED BY WOOLMER COPS,” announces the Mirror’s front page.

Readers who had expected the Cricket World Cup to be about palm trees, sunburnt necks and women in conch-shell bikini tops instead see grainy images of three men.

The trio are, in no special order, Jundi Khan, Hamed Malik and Erfan Chaudhary. They are the “three hanger-on fans”.

Can there be a worse epithet to go by? There is nothing admirable in being a hanger-oner. At least stalker suggests a motive.

Thus labelled it would not surprise us if the three never surfaced again, remaining holed up in some suburban bedroom, secreted beneath an official Pakistan duvet cover and talking about the great days of Imran Khan’s hair by the light of a torch fashioned from, well, Imran Khan’s hair. Innocent men guilty only of liking cricket as much as tabloid readers like football.

“They hung around team for days..now they’re vanished,” says a headline further inside the paper.

“Fans vanish after murder,” says the Sun. They “vanished” the day Bob Woolmer died.

Do you know where the vanishing fans are? Study the picture. Jamaica’s deputy police commissioner Mark Shields says: “We are looking for them to eliminate them from inquiries.”

One of the three, Hamed Malik, is based in the UK. Chaudhary is believed to be back at his home in New York. And there is a fourth man. He’s called Tariq Milk. He lives in Jamaica. And he has come forward to help the police.

But before we condemn the men in their absence, the Sun wonders is they are the guilty parties. Perhaps – just perhaps – Woolmer was killed by a “silent assassin”.

Shields of the Yardies says it wasn’t a local killer, at least he thinks not. “The fact at it was manual strangulation, asphyxiation, doesn’t really fit the profile,” says he. “One would tend to find either firearms or knives as the favoured weapons.”

So we are back to the missing trio. “CRICKET MURDER: BRITISH SUSPECT ON RUN,” says the Star’s front page. This is, of course, more then presumptuous, it being far less than certain that Hamed Malik is running anywhere. Indeed, as a fan of a failed team – Pakistan are out of the World Cup – he may be expected to find a dark corner to weep in.

And we have yet to see the CCTV footage of the corridor at the Pegasus hotel, scene of Bob Woolmer’s murder.

Do the missing three feature? Are they fielding as the corridor is used for late-night cricket practice, a carpeted wicket?

As yet, we do not know. But, as with so much cricket and sport, we’ll amuse ourselves during the breaks in play…

Posted: 27th, March 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment


Bob Woolmer Murder – Video Evidence Asks How Was He Out?

07woolmer.jpgBOB Woolmer: “New twists.”

This is cricket’s most enduring whodunit since Shane Warne appeared in public with a fuller, shaggier and more highlighted head of hair.

And, as the Express says, there have been “new twists”.

News is that West Indies captain Brian Lara and one of his predecessors, Clive Lloyd, have been DNA-tested as part of the Woolmer murder inquiry.

And they are not alone. Also staying in the Pegasus Hotel, Jamaica, scene of Woolmer’s demise, were the Pakistani squad. All have given DNA samples.

So much for looking for traces of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. But what headlines if one of the samples reveals evidence of altogether darker form of foul play.

And there have been interviews. The police have questioned players from Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Ireland.

We imagine the players under the glare of the inquisitor’s 100 watt bulb:
Copper: Did you do it?
Player: Yeah, we gave it 110%. But I feel though we let the coach down today. The fans have ever right to vent their anger but, at the end of the day, I feel they went too far.

“GRILLED,” says the Mirror. And questions: “Why did Inzamam [Pakistan’s captain] change his room form the 12th floor to the 5th floor?”; “Why did Tarat Ali [Pakistan’s team manager] also move..and then check in again with a false name?”; “How and where did coach Mustaq Ahmed receive injuries to his face?”

658191.jpgAnd here is Pakistan’s media manager Pervez Mir to tell us what he thinks might have been the answer.

On Inzamam-ul-Haq’s room change: “He made the change before the attack on Bob and explained he wanted to be nearer to the other players on the fifth floor…”

Ali changed rooms because: “When I asked him why, he said it was after what happened to Bob he was scared.”

And on Ahmed’s cuts to his face: “These were sustained in practice on the morning of the Ireland game.”

Inzamam says that any suggestion any of the Pakistan team had a glove in Woolmer’s murder are “unthinkable”. It is “crazy”.

And here comes Inzamam, walking through Heathrow Airport. The team are heading back home and staying in a hotel on site. And Inzamam (booked in under the name Shirley Boycott) leads the way.

And while we look at that, police in Jamaica are looking at CCTV footage. “Unfortunately,” says Jamaica’s deputy police commissioner Mark Shields, it does not show the doors but shows the corridors at either end. It may give us an image or images of the killer.”

But it’s only a VHS tape. The quality is less then perfect. It is being digitally enhanced, before being despatched to the fourth official and other experts in video evidence.

And on it we may see Woolmer’s killer. “Could CCTV footage lead police to Woolmer’s killer?” asks the Mail.

Or will we just see Pakistan bowler Umar Gul charging down the corridor to deliver a ball to a waiting college. He bowls. The ball is struck hard. Woolmer appears. A stifled scream. Ouch! That looks nasty.

A shadow falls…

Posted: 26th, March 2007 | In: Back pages | Comments (5)


The Third Men – Bob Woolmer’s Murder

corridor.jpg

CRICKET’S dominance of the front pages continues as Bob Wooolmer’s murder occupies minds.

Was he killed by poison? Strangled? Was it suicide, a cry for help as he strove to understand the Duckworth-Lewis system?

While the matter makes the actual World Cup look like a sideshow – how innocent it was when privateer Flintoff was cricket’s shamfaced, shipfaced star – Michael Vaughan is talking to the Sun.

Vaughan, England’s captain when fit (not often), is asked to give his view on the subject of corruption in the game. Does it go on? Says Vaughan: “If I’m honest, yes, I think it does.”

“Vaughan: Cricket is corrupt,” announces the Sun’s headline. The source insides the Jamaican police says: “Information suggests rigging plans went awry when Ireland beat Pakistan. There is a suggestion that this sparked dark arguments and recriminations.”

Vaughan now speaks again. “I’ve never experienced it with any team or any players I’ve played with. I’ve never felt I’ve played against anyone who was doing it,” says he. “But my gut feeling is that there is still some kind of corruption in the game.

“I’ve never had any incidents or been involved in any conversations regarding fixing a game. I’ve never been approached and I hope I never will be.”

Not quite as the headline suggests, then. Cricket is corrupt as much as Michael Vaughan thinks it could be.

He goes on: “It’s not for me to talk about it because someone’s life has been lost and that’s what we should be looking at. Someone’s family is having to suffer.”

But isn’t this the very time to be talking about it?

Or are we waiting for the real debate to get underway when unfancied England win the tournament…

Picture: The Spine

Posted: 24th, March 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment


Bob Woolmer Murder – Broken Neck & Snake Venom

woolmer.jpgIF the plan was to make more people notice the sport, then this Cricket World Cup has achieved its objective by some distance.

For the few actually watching the show on Sky Sports, the biggest story was always going to be how fit the cricket into the holiday brochure.

With the commentary team bathed in sun and ensconced in a five-star beachside resort, viewers were treated to England’s Paul Nixon running into the surf topless with an equally underdressed Tim Abrahams, Sky’s cricket news man.

We live in enlightened times, and were encouraged to wonder how many of the travelling production crew were on a busman’s holiday, working the cricket around a civil partnership honeymoon.

But now that has been overtaken by news of Bob Woolmer, who began the tournament as Pakistan’s coach, and England’s coach-in-waiting, and ended it a murder victim.

As the Sun says: “IT WAS MURDER – Bob strangled in hotel room.”

Readers learn that Woolmer’s murder was “particularly horrific”.

Says Jamaican deputy commissioner Mark Shields: “Bob was a large man and therefore it would have taken some significant force in which to subdue him and cause strangulation. But of course, at this stage, we do not know how many people were in the room.”

Woolmer has died in “extraordinary and evil circumstances”.

There has been an autopsy. There’s a broken bone in his neck. Blood on the walls. Gashes on the face. Vomit. The report states Woolmer’s death was due to asphyxiation as a result of “manual strangulation”.woolmer10a.jpg

“STRANGLED & POISONED,” says the Star’s front page. “Test ace Bob murdered with snake venom in bath” – an added does of exotica into the blender.

“In due circumstances the manner of Mr Woolmer’s death is being treated by the Jamaican police as a case of murder,” says Shields.

While Sky’s team enthuse about the new sunloungers and the cameramen begin the quotidian search for a woman wearing a conch-shell bra, the Mail talks of murder.

It hears the words of Woolmer’s widow Gill. Says she: “Some of the cricketing fraternity, fans, are extremely volatile and passionate about the game and what happens in the game, and also a lot of it in Asia, so I suppose there is always the possibility that it could be that.”

Woolmer killed by a deranged and murderous fan after Pakistan were knocked out of the tournament by Ireland?

The idea of a cricket hooligan is an anathema to British readers. Cricket is a sport where men wear blazers and ties and so too their women. Lord’s, that bastion of cricketing excellence, is peopled by older men dressed for prep school. They eat salmon. The game breaks for tea. The crowd are allowed onto the pitch at the close of play.

175px-mcc_member.jpgIs a killer among the picnic baskets? Or a serial murderer?

The Express remembers Hansie Cronje, captain of the South African national cricket team in the 1990s. He was sanctioned for match fixing. He died in a plane crash. He was the only passenger aboard the plane.

Rumour. Speculation. Front-page headlines. Cricket has the lot. England’s footballers will really have to go some to regain their spot in the limelight.

England coach Steve McClaren should go all out for victory. Or else make ready to flee on a passing pedalo…

Posted: 23rd, March 2007 | In: Back pages | Comments (4)


It’s Not Over – The Bob Woolmer Mystery

wo3.jpgYOU have to feel some sympathy for Ireland’s cricketers.

There to make up the numbers, the Irish beat the might of Pakistan in the World Cup only to have their moment in the sun eclipsed by bigger news: Andrew Flitnoff’s booze cruise and Bob Woolmer’s death.

Or was Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, murdered?

There is a plot that unites Flintoff’s antics with Woolmer’s demise. It is, admittedly, a fanciful and macabre matter – a man has, after all, perished in suspicious circumstances. But are there missing moments from Flintoff’s night out? Is anyone above suspicion?

As the Guardian reports, Jamaican police are treating Woolmer’s death as suspicious.

“We’re going through a process of speaking to people, including members of the team,” Mark Shield, deputy commissioner of the Jamaican force, tells local radio.

There is talk of match fixing, of betting syndicates and of murder. “No, we are not saying that,” says Shield. “It’s the old adage – we have to keep an open mind.”

Pakistani team officials are heard telling reporters there has been blood and vomit in Woolmer’s room. A struggle? Poison? Linseed oil?

Says former Pakistani fast bowler Safraz Nawaz: “Woolmer’s death has some connection with the match-fixing mafia.”

The Guardian notes that at the time of his passing, Woolmer was writing two books – one on coaching, the other a sequel to his autobiography. Says Woolmer’s wife: “I have the manuscripts with me, but I have not read them. I cannot tell you when they will published but they are in the final stages.”

A book that would have garnered little interest beyond the world of cricket is now a whodunit?. What clues lie within the covers? What intrigue?

And while we speculate, here comes the team. A minute’s silence. Wet eyes. Sideways looks. And then Pakistan – who lost to Ireland – rack up their highest World Cup score of 349.

The vicissitudes of international sport, eh. One minute you can’t beat World Cup novices Ireland on St Patrick’s Day, the next moment you’re thrashing the relative might of Zimbabwe.

This is why we watch sport – to see the best and to see the shocks. Not that many of us are watching the actual matches; they’re on subscription-only satellite telly.

The bigger show is not…

Posted: 22nd, March 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment


Thar She Blows – Rachel Flintoff Lets Off Steam

flintoff1.jpgRACHEL Flintoff, wife of cricketing privateer Andrew Flintoff, says her man is “stupid”.

As has been recorded in the annals of sporting legend, Flintoff’s stupidity was to have stayed up late on a work night, drunk too much and set sail on a pedalo.

“Freddie!” screams the headline. “You’re a stupid bugger.”

Rachel, pictured in a grey top, staring into the camera and ruffling her brown hair, tells the Mirror the first things she’ll tell her husband is that he’s a ”stupid bugger”.

Says Rachel: “Andrew is extremely hardworking and extremely loyal… He can be in constant pain and covered in blisters and will still keep going for five more days.”

England management team should be thankful the pedalo capsized. Had Flintoff’s vessel been equipped with a pair of oars, it’s not hard to imagine the tireless sportsman fighting the pain barrier as he approaches the Colombian mainland.

But it’s good that he did not. England need Flintoff. And so does Rachel.

As Rachel, the face of Persil washing powder, tells us, she has a new bikini – “It’s brown and looks like leather. I’ve got about four really nice ones to take with me.”

Rachel is all set to join her husband out in the Caribbean sunshine.

Avast! Permission to come aboard? Splice the main brace and peddle like you mean it.

And don’t worry about the calluses on your hands, Flintoff – Rachel’s bikini can take it…

Posted: 21st, March 2007 | In: Back pages | Comment