Back pages | Anorak - Part 94

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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

Golden Oldies

‘YOU join us in 2049, where Lord David Beckham of Dolce & Gabbana is about to renew his wedding vows with Lady Posh in a pay-per-view Golden Balls event sponsored by Eazy Dentures, ‘for the tooth with added bite’.

Taking the piss

‘I give you this Tiffany gold and diamond ring as a symbol of our vows, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honour you,’ says David.

The vow is promptly translated into 52 of the world’s most popular languages. When peace is restored, it’s time for Victoria to speak.

‘I give you this CD of my greatest hits as a small yet tasteful medallion of our eternal love.’

She turns to the camera built now into David’s forehead. ‘In buying this CD, you the people of Earth will know that you support us in our love. And I think that is something really important.’

A screen drops down from behind the effigy of Jesus (with football boots and David Beckham tattoo). David and Victoria kneel before it. The rest of the world follows.

The screen flickers into life and we see pictures of David and Victoria’s greatest moments. There’s the original wedding, the births of Brooklyn, Romeo and Real.

And there’s the video of the day he signed for Madrid, the tour of Asia and the footage of David pissing into a cup on his medical examination for the Spanish giants.

Oh, you haven’t seen that? Well, you should have subscribed to the Real Madrid TV channel, where the medical was relayed live yesterday.

The entire thing was, as with all things Beckham, sponsored, and the Spanish health insurance company Sanita were happy to pick up the £250,000 tab, and keep Beckham free from germs.

The rest of the video was familiar to all. The shot of David leading England to victory in the Best Dressed Team section of the 2006 World Cup; his Giorgio Armani tattoo (with washing instructions and official logo); and his conversion to Islam and subsequent marriages to Ulrika Jonsson, Kathryn Blair and Geri Halliwell.

What happens to David next is anyone’s guess. Although, you can bet it will come with a label and a large marketing budget.

Posted: 2nd, July 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

Chelsea Pillage

‘KEN Bates, the man who helped transform Chelsea from a second division outfit into a leading Premiership football club, is gone.

Ken Bates – in his reserved seat

Bates has sold his controlling stake in Chelsea Village for £29.6 million. And the new owner, as seen in the Mail, is one Roman Abramovich, a Russian oil magnate.

Looking for obvious puns about Chelski, and finding them on the front page of the Sun, we turn to the back of that paper, where former Blues’ favourite Peter Osgood is happy to see Ken go.

‘Thank God for that,’ says Osgood, who was sacked from Chelsea’s hospitality staff last year.

‘Ken Bates is not the nicest man in the world and I don’t like the way he treats people. I’ve never been a fan of his.’

Liked and loathed, Bates was at least a character, a rare breed in a game where corporate facelessness now provides the game’s chairmen.

But what of the new man in charge?

The Express profiles Abramovich, ‘a new breed of Russian’, and hears Bates say that he’s good news for the club.

‘With this guy’s help and financial muscle we can be one of the top four or five clubs in Europe,’ says Bates.

Or the new broom could just realise the potential of the ground, sell it off and move the entire operation to Mitchum or Moscow, those hotbeds of Chelsea fervour.

Things are always less certain than the Ken Bates’ hype.

And it remains less than clear whether Tim Henman will be victorious in this year’s Wimbledon.

In readiness for today’s match between Tim and Sebastien Grosjean, the Sun puts the game in perspective.

‘Blimey…I’m Bigger Than EastEnders,’ says the headline, created in light of Monday’s performance, when Henman’s victory over David Nalbandian delayed the soap opera by one hour.

If he can now delay his departure until he’s lifted the cup, we’ll all be grateful…

Posted: 2nd, July 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

Tiger Feat

‘FOR the seventh time in eight years, Tim Henman has reached the quarter-final at Wimbledon – a record practically unsurpassed in recent years.

Flying the flag

Given the amount of pressure Henman is now under to give Britain its first men’s singles champion for three-quarters of a century, the feat is nothing short of remarkable.

And in his past four visits to the quarter-final, the British No.1 has every time progressed to the semi-finals, losing there on each occasion to the defending champion.

For the moment, Henman’s thoughts will not stray beyond Wednesday when he meets the winner of the Grosjean-Ferrero match.

But the defeat of Andre Agassi means that Henman could easily find himself as the highest seed in the bottom half of the draw when he steps out to play tomorrow.

That is not to say that there are not plenty of obstacles in his path to reaching the final.

Sebastien Grosjean, who leads Juan Carlos Ferrero by two sets to one overnight, beat Henman a couple of weeks ago at Queen’s.

Mark Philippoussis, who played magnificently to defeat Agassi, beat Henman when they last met at Wimbledon – in the fourth round in 2000.

And then there is Alexander Popp, who has only played one Wimbledon before in 2000 when he reached the quarter-final.

There are a lot of things Henman will be delighted about following his match against David Nalbandian, whom he had never previously beaten.

But his serve, which he lost five times in four sets yesterday (including three times in a row) is still a major worry.

Against the likes of Philippoussis, a single service break is pretty well the difference between success and defeat and Henman needs to get more penetration on his delivery.

Whether Henman can go further this year than he has been before is highly doubtful, but even if he doesn’t his is a magnificent achievement.

It is only when he is no longer a challenger that his record in SW19 will be recognised – and the championship itself will regain a bit of sanity.

Posted: 1st, July 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

No Quarter Given

‘HOT flushes all round this morning as housewives’ favourite Tim Henman dominates the back pages after his fine win over David Nalbandian.

A Hen Party

The Sun reminds us all that Henman is now in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon for the seventh time in eight years, an excellent record for Britain’s sole tennis hope.

Tim’s chances of winning have been greatly enhanced by the failure of Andre Agassi, who had been favourite to win the title.

The Sun watches the charismatic American fail to beat the big-serving Australian Mark Philippoussis, losing in five sets.

Add to this the fact that the crowd are behind Henman and the Chiswick Challenger’s chances look even better.

The Henmaniacs, who queue for tickets and paint their faces in the manner of Russian escort girls, are praised by their hero in the Mirror.

Henman says that the crowd ‘were really phenomenal’. He goes on: ‘The noise was really incredible and that really helped me.’

And an enthusiastic crowd can be expected when David Beckham takes his medical in Madrid.

The Sun says that the urine sample and heart test will be sponsored by Spanish private health company Sanitas.

The firm has paid an ‘incredible’ £250,000 for the right to stick their name on Beckham’s vial of urine in an examination that will be screened live on Real Madrid’s own TV station this afternoon.

Presumably, the golden liquid from Golden Balls will then be auctioned off by the droplet, sold as a cure for impotence, shyness and other sporting ailments.

Posted: 1st, July 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

The Rules Of Engagement

‘BY popular demand (how I’ve pleaded), we are pleased to relive British tennis’ most famous moment since Cliff Richard made it rain.

”Come on, Timmy!”

Take it away, Greg Rusedski. ”I can’t do anything if the crowd f***ing call it. Absolutely f***ing ridiculous. At least replay the point. F***ing ridiculous. F***ing ridiculous. F***ing ridiculous.

”It’s f***ing ridiculous. F***ing ridiculous. Some w**ker in the crowd changes the whole match. Well done. Well done. Absolutely sh*t”.

He swears like a native does that Greg – and no native of Canada either, but one born and bred on British filth.

We all know by now that he swore because some idiot had called ”Out!” when the ball hit by his opponent Andy Roddick was marginally good, causing Greg to pause and lose the point.

Now step forward the man with the foghorn voice and dodgy vision, Lithuanian Evaldas Zilionis.

With a name like that, you almost expect him to offer up a cheery ”Hello, Peeps”. Instead he just pleads ignorance.

”I don’t understand the rules, but I was trying to get the point replayed.” In mid-point? And what’s a point, anyhow, when you don’t understand the rules? As an admission of culpability, it’s a failure.

And one spotted by the crowd gathering in on Mr Zilionis, who, as the heckler says, ”were calling me a moron”. ”Yes, I feel a bit of a moron,” agrees Mr Zilionis.

So which of Rusedski or Zilionis behaved the worse? Is the reaction excused by the cause?

The feeling is that it is. Showing passion when you are losing a match is easily excusable. Rusedski resorted only to verbal violence.

But Mr Zilionis cannot be so readily forgiven. Like a football fan who goes to the match equipped with a whistle, and blows it at will, Zilionis has taken things too far.

But in answer to his claim of ignorance, let’s fill him in on one key Wimbledon rule.

The crowd must wait until the point is over, or the non-British player is about to serve, and then scream something out. ”Come on, Timmy,” usually does the job.

Failing that, a rendition of Summer Holiday is the done thing.

Posted: 30th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

Raining On Tim’s Parade

‘TODAY, weather almost certainly not permitting, Tim Henman will walk onto Centre Court for his eighth fourth round match at Wimbledon in eight years.

Andre Agassi does his hilarious impersonation of Tim Henman

And once again we will get our face painted, put a Union Jack hat on and collectively scream ‘Come on, Tim’ as we try to propel the Tiger into his seventh quarter-final.

The Independent recalls that only Mark Philippoussis in 2000 has beaten Henman at this stage of the tournament.

And his list of victims, which includes Pat Rafter, Richard Krajicek, Jim Courier and Todd Martin, is a highly impressive one.

To that list Henman will have to add the name of last year’s runner-up David Nalbandian if he is to realise his dream of winning the tournament this year.

However, the Guardian says the weather and the match scheduling, which has Henman out last on Centre Court to maximise the BBC’s ratings, could count against the No.10 seed.

Also, he has never beaten the Argentine (although they have only met twice), so when he does eventually get on court, he will start off as underdog. Or undertiger.

Britain’s interest in the Winter Olympics is normally confined to a group of Scottish housewives with their brooms out.

We certainly couldn’t care less normally where the event is held, but the Guardian reports on how we should all be crossing our fingers that Vancouver gets the nod for the 2010 games.

The Canadian city is the red-hot favourite, but its success ‘could sound the death knell’ for New York’s bid to host the 2012 games.

If, however, Salzburg gets the gig, then Barbara Cassani’s job of convincing the IOC to bring the games to London in 2012 ‘will begin to look like a mission impossible’.

Meanwhile, Olympic champion Denise Lewis’s decision to continue to work with discredited coach Dr Ekkart Arbeit has attracted criticism from the highest quarter.

IOC president Jacques Rogge said it was ‘not a good idea’ for Lewis to associate herself with a man who was a major figure in East Germany’s state-controlled doping regime of the 1970s and 1980s.

And the Telegraph believes that what was originally portrayed as a little local difficulty could have implications for London’s Olympic bid and British sport as a whole.

Finally, the Times reports that Andrew Caddick has managed to pick up a back injury while recuperating from a foot injury and is likely to miss the whole of the South Africa series.

And Fifa, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to ban players taking their shirts off to celebrate a goal.

It’s good to see that with everything going on in football, someone has got their priorities right.

Posted: 30th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

Death In The Afternoon

‘THERE are truly shocking pictures on the front of the papers this morning of Marc Vivien Foe, the Manchester City midfielder who collapsed and died during a match yesterday.

”I never touched him, ref”

The 28-year-old had a suspected heart attack towards the end of the Confederations Cup game between Cameroon and Colombia.

And the Sun shows the referee and two Colombian players frantically trying to summon medical help for the prone father-of-three.

The Mirror says Foe was walking unchallenged in the centre circle when his heart suddenly stopped. He collapsed and never regained consciousness.

He was carried on a stretcher off the pitch and to the medical room where doctors battled in vain for 45 minutes to revive him.

Meanwhile, the game carried on in his absence with his team-mates unaware until they came off the pitch that he was dead.

And even amid tragedy sport does carry on with Tim Henman powering through to the third round at Wimbledon.

Yet again, Henman is the lone British representative in the draw for either of the singles.

For him it is a case of ”business as usual”, but the Express hears him hold out some hope that his former coach David Felgate will turn things round.

”He has as good a chance as anyone because I know how brutally honest he can be and how tough he will be on some of the players,” he says.

”I’m sure it will be a shock to them, but we have got to break out of the rut we are in.”

Zimbabwe’s cricketers broke out of their rut yesterday as they recovered from 15-4 to overhaul England’s 191 in the first of the Nat West one-day internationals.

Grant Flower’s unbeaten 96 was the match-winning innings and prompts the Mail’s headline: ”England’s Weeds Are Shown up By Flower.”

But, despite an ”insipid” performance by England, Michael Vaughan has ruled out an emergency call to Graham Thorpe to boost the side’s batting.

However, he said he might drop down to No.5 in the batting order to try to lend experience lower down.

”Obviously I am a little bit worried, but we have inexperienced players and have got to give them a little leeway. But we have got to learn a little bit faster than we have been doing.”

This weekend’s match against South Africa would be a good time to start.

Posted: 27th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

Balancing Act

‘TWO brilliant innings by Marcus Trescothick have allowed England to gloss over what is a fundamental problem in their one-day batting line-up – not enough batsmen.

Vaughan worries about his top order

His quick-fire 86 in the second of the matches against Pakistan had effectively won the match for England before the middle-order was exposed.

And his unbeaten ton in the third of the three matches saw England home after the middle order had been blown away by Pakistan.

However, England cannot expect one man (or even two or three men) to get all the side’s runs.

And, looking at the line-up at the moment, it seems that that is what they are expecting.

I argued before – and yesterday’s defeat by Zimbabwe just emphasises the point – that England need another specialist batsman in the side.

With an inexperienced Vikram Solanki opening and Jim Troughton or Robert Key coming in at No.4, the top order batting looks frail.

There is a lot of sense in promoting Andrew Flintoff to No.5 – he is a much better batsman than the lower middle order slogger he has at times been cast as.

But that can only work if the batting round him is stronger than it is at present.

Michael Vaughan insists he will stick with the personnel who have been selected for the series – and he is right to do so.

Bringing back Graham Thorpe would be seen as a panic measure and would send out the wrong signals, even though it is clear the side would be better for his return.

But he does need to alter the balance of the side if England are to achieve their objective, which is building a team for the future.

Posted: 27th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

Out Of Order

”’I CAN’T do anything if the crowd f***ing call it. Absolutely f***ing ridiculous. At least replay the point. F***ing ridiculous. F***ing ridiculous. F***ing ridiculous.

”I’m telling you, man. She’s as thin as a f***ing rake”

”It’s f***ing ridiculous. F***ing ridiculous. Some w**ker in the crowd changes the whole match. Well done. Well done. Absolutely sh*t.”

Thanks to the Independent for reproducing that tirade, as delivered by Greg Rusedski to an incredulous and unapologetic umpire as he slumped to defeat at Wimbledon.

The key question now for Rusedski is what fine he will earn for his outburst. Staying with the Independent, readers learn that the maximum fine under All England Club rules is $10,000.

Which is about $426 per asterisk.

Of course, it is not right and proper to make light of so public a fit, but Rusedski was, as the Times says, incensed by a voice calling ”out” from the vicinity of the line judge when the ball was in.

Rusedski lost the point to Andy Roddick and a considerable amount of his cool. And with that went the any hope of salvaging the match.

Back to more important Wimbledon matters, the Times watches Daniela Hantuchova, the No.9 seed, lose to Shinobu Asagoe 12-10 in the deciding set.

”My God, she’s thin,” is the assessment of the Slovakian’s performance by the paper’s resident tennis watcher.

”She’s about an inch wide,” says Alison Kervin. ”She weighs less than a feather.” Her arms are so tiny they ”look almost doll-like”.

Alison really knows her tennis. And one question remains to be answered: ”Why would an athlete allow herself to become so terrifying thin?”

Answer: To allow the likes of Alison Kelvin and fat women to talk about tennis like they know which end of the racket is up.

The papers should stick to what they know about: football. And the Guardian says that Paul Gascoigne has been threatened with legal action by his Chinese club Gansu Tianma.

It seems that Gazza has not been seen in China since football was suspended following the outbreak of the Sars virus.

A representative for the player says his client has not returned because he is in dispute over his pay.

”********* ***** ******* ****,” he said.

Posted: 26th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

No-One For Tennis

‘EARLIER this week the BBC’s coverage of Wimbledon tennis was interrupted for a few words from newly-converted tennis fan Nell McAndrew.

No, Nell, that’s a stool, not a tennis racket

Nell, a model whose quest for publicity recently saw her ”marry” Dale Winton, was now available to talk up the summer sport.

She’d never played it, save for an exhibition match with Tim Henman, in which she made an exhibition of herself.

Nell, Britain’s answer to Anna Kournikova, was soon joined by a man, a fashion designer, who had created a range of tennis T-shirts.

The gear was nothing too special, although the TV presenter Craig Doyle said he thought it was ace.

The only notable thing was that the clothes were black, like the man who had designed them. Here was Wimbledon breaking a written rule – the one about white clothes – and an unwritten rule – the one about black people.

Of course there are black faces at Wimbledon. There are the Williams sister for starters. And for finishers.

But they get less press than the menopausal fans who flag wave for Tim Henman. These fans are an embarrassment to the sport. To them it is a hobby, up there with macramé and scrabble.

This is not Henman’s fault, he can only do his best, but he must be concerned that his appeal goes little further than the Beaconsfield Cake Club.

It is, perhaps, a product of how the game is sold. To the BBC, the channel that covers Wimbledon, the domestic Grand Slam event is a chance for lots of cheap sun-kissed telly.

It is fronted by Sue Barker, the most boring presenter of all time – the epitome of how introverted a sport becomes when it employs sportspeople as journalists.

She chortles at the sight of patriotic men in Union Jack waistcoats. She creases up at the mere mention of Henman Hill, delighting in what she would doubtless call the ”very Britishness” of it all.

We should, however, be thankful that she is not one half of a double act. Had Sue married Cliff Richard, her former and seemingly only boyfriend, we might have been lumbered with tennis’ answer to Richard and Judy.

”This is just great,” says Cliff to his livin’ doll. ”Look! There’s a Union Jack,” splutters Sue, excited as a puppy to see the flag now used as a picnic blanket on the aforesaid Hill. ”Groovy,” says Cliff.

So please let’s change things before they get any worse. Tennis is a sport, and should be treated like one.

If Britain is ever to produce a champion it will need to be at the new all-inclusive All England club. And not the last refuge of the Empire culture.

Posted: 26th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment (1)

Different Time Zones

‘HAD Manchester United adopted the same policy towards their managers as many continental clubs do to theirs, Alex Ferguson would today probably be no more than a footnote in the club’s history.

”Allo, Allo”

His name would have been mentioned in the same breath as Dave Sexton and Tommy Docherty and Ron Atkinson.

As it is, United persevered with the Scot when results were not going for the club and have been rewarded with eight league titles, a European Cup and several domestic cups.

With the record Ferguson has, there would be no question of United sacking their manager, despite the fact that he has only brought the continent’s greatest prize to the club once.

Compare United’s treatment of Ferguson with Real Madrid’s treatment of Vincente Del Bosque.

He is the manager who in the four years since he took over from John Toshack has guided the club to two European Cups, two league titles, one European Super Cup and one World Club Championship.

And he is, from the day after he saw his Real side clinch the league title, a man out of a job.

Of course, Del Bosque has been helped by having many of the world’s best players to call upon – Zinedine Zidane, Raul, Ronaldo, Luis Figo etc.

But that in itself brings problems and the manner in which Del Bosque has managed to meld these massive individual egos into a team says a lot for his skills as a manager.

It may be that the new coach, whoever he may be, will be able to take Real on to even greater heights, but the contrary is also true.

Club president Florentino Perez is the toast of one half of Madrid having made the club undoubtedly the best in the world, but that popularity will only last for as long as they are winning.

If the new coach does not have early success, it may not just be him who gets it in the neck from the fans – Perez will rightly start feeling the heat too.

Posted: 25th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

Paper Tiger

‘EVER the showman, Tim Henman delighted his legion of suburban fans on Henman Hill with his 6-2, 7-6, 3-6, 6-1 victory over the lesser talents of Tomas Zib.

Tim crushes a fly with his bare hand

Surely the papers will be full of how Grrreat Tim is and how he put the roar back into tennis.

But none if it. The Guardian says that, if this is to be Henman’s year of triumph, he ”could hardly have made a worse botch of it”.

The paper even senses that the overriding feeling among his fans was of relief and not joy. Nor a typical hot flush.

The Independent continues the theme, announcing by way of a headline that ”Henman survives a battle against uncertainty”.

But Henman is certain of one thing. ”The bottom line is I haven’t been good enough,” he says.

That’s a candid assessment of the reasons why he has not been Wimbledon champion. But the signs are that he’s not getting better and is now battling age and a sore shoulder as well as some of the world’s best talents.

But British tennis is not all about Tim Henman. Really, it is not. It is about middle-class values, belonging to a club and Jamie Delgado, the man in the Telegraph’s eye.

The paper watches as the man who was once Britain’s best young prospect takes a set off the great Andre Agassi. And he must be delighted. After all, the paper hears him enthusing about just being there.

”Oh, it’s unbelievable,” said Jamie before his defeat, ”just what you always dream of. It’s as good as your wildest dreams.”

If tennis dreams are made of just being there, what do wild tennis dreams consist of – being there naked save for a well-placed strawberry?

And talking of also-rans, the Times says that Tottenham Hotspur are set to sign a player.

News is that Spurs are inching towards a £8.3 million deal for Helder Postiga, the Porto and Portugal forward.

These are heady times indeed at The Lane…

Posted: 25th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

Tall Order

‘WHAT’S 6ft 10in high and likes to beat Australians? No, it’s not Martin Johnson – he is a bit smaller than that.

Daniela Hantuchova also won yesterday

The answer is Croatian tennis player Ivo Karlovic, who yesterday knocked defending Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt out of the tournament.

The Times salutes the lofty one, showing him taking the acclaim for his historic win. Ranked as the world’s 203rd best player, Karlovic was given no chance against the world’s No.2.

But sport can throw up the unexpected, and yesterday it did just that.

Hewitt, as the Independent says, has become only the second defending men’s singles champion and top seed ever to lose in the first round.

The first was Manuel Santana of Spain, who in 1967 lost to American Charlie Pasarell.

History lesson over, the Telegraph returns to current matters, revealing that Juan Sebastian Veron is eyeing a move from Manchester United to Italy – anywhere in Italy.

”I’m flattered that a few teams are looking at me,” says the man who arrived with much hype and pomp for £28 million in 2001.

But the real shock move is the Real shock move – the news that Real Madrid have released their manager Vincente Del Bosque from his job.

The Guardian says that the man who has just led the whites to a league title, and a total of seven trophies in just over three years in charge, is out of a job.

But the search for the man to take over from him has the paper pointing the finger at Manchester United.

No, not Alex Ferguson – the thought of his gruff manners taking charge of the Madrid finery is too ridiculous. No, the man in the frame is Carlos Queirox, Fergie’s number two.

Looking at the scurry to the United exit is all very interesting, but it should not be allowed to deflect our attention away from the fact that Australia has suffered something of a sporting double whammy.

First the rugby, now the tennis. Next minute they’ll be losing their grip on the one world sport that puts them on the map: rugby league.

Posted: 24th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

A Lack Of Colour

‘WHEN David Beckham went to Spain, he just became another Manchester United fan who lives a long way from the club he purports to support.

A Spurs fan

The statistics from the FA Premier League’s National Fan Survey say that, on average, Manchester United fans live 99 miles away from Old Trafford.

And this figure does not take into account the legion of United fans that we are continually told live and breathe the club in Thailand and deepest Laos. These are the fans who actually go to Old Trafford with a season ticket.

More than 80,000 supporters from last season’s 20 Premiership were asked to fill in a form about what they do and do not do.

The overriding statistic is that, since only around 29,000 fans responded, the majority of fans care not a jot for surveys.

We can also suppose that of the thousands who did, there exists a certain degree of falsehood.

It’s not a perfect science. But we are able to see a few trends.

United have the fewest number of season ticket holders who were born within 20 miles of the ground (around 55%), which is the same as Southampton, a club that until Portsmouth’s resurgence were the only decent side south of the capital.

Sunderland top this table, with over 90% of its most loyal fans being born and bred in the locale.

Top of that list, Sunderland are bottom of at least one another – the one that reveals the typical male supporter’s income.

Sunderland fans are the poorest in the top flight (although they are now one of the poorest in the second by dint of their recent relegation). Only 5% of their supporters earn in excess of £50,000 annually, and 77% earn less than £30,000 a year.

The richest are fans of Tottenham Hotspur, who can boast that 32% of their supporters earn in excess of fifty grand per annum, putting them ahead of Chelsea (2nd) and Arsenal (3rd).

Indeed, of the 20 clubs, the top seven are all from the south of England, with only Southampton (5th placed) interrupting a string of London clubs and their wad-waving fans.

Other stats show that Manchester United have the highest proportion of married support, while West Ham, Everton and Arsenal have the most single fans. Make of that what your will.

These singletons should head to Middlesbrough, home to the highest concentration of female support (21%) and away from Arsenal, which has the lowest (8%).

But the real talking point must be that, on average, only 2% of fans are from an ethnic background, with 98% of all fans polled ticking the box marked ”white”.

Tottenham and Arsenal have the highest proportion of non-white fans with 6% apiece, but this is still lower that you’d expect given the number of black footballers.

Posted: 24th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

England Expects

‘GREAT teams are measured, in the end, by what they win and this England rugby team so far has only one Six Nations grand slam and a couple of Six Nations championships to its credit.

Winner takes all

In 1999, Clive Woodward asked to be measured by the team’s performance in the World Cup and was duly pilloried when England lost to South Africa in the quarter-final.

But after England’s back-to-back victories in New Zealand and Australia, even the notoriously partisan antipodean press have had to admit that this England side is genuinely world-class.

What is more, Jeff Probyn, the Fred Trueman of English rugby, had to admit that this side was as good as, even better than, the side in which he played in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The fact is that this current side are a class above that side, partly as a result of professionalism, partly as a result of the coaching and partly because they are a far more complete XV.

However, that side did have the distinction of winning three grand slams and reaching the final of the World Cup in 1991.

Whether this side are the best side in the world is a moot point. If they don’t win the World Cup, their No.1 ranking at the moment is an irrelevance.

As the Will Carling side would acknowledge, winning is what counts.

And the bookies, who are in most instances a shrewder judge than world rankings, are still not convinced.

England remain second favourites for the World Cup behind the All Blacks – and deservedly so.

There is no doubt that both they and Australia will improve for the Tri-Nations series coming up before October.

England, on the other hand, have only three internationals – two against France; one against Wales – all of which are likely to be used to experiment with fringe players, before they kick off against South Africa.

However, one thing this England side has got is a belief in itself – a belief that can only have been strengthened by the last two weekends.

It is still a very tall order for England to win the World Cup in the southern hemisphere, but at least we know for sure now that this side is capable of doing so.

And, if nothing else, this tour has achieved one thing – it has at last made the arrogant Aussies and Kiwis sit up and take notice of what is without doubt a very good rugby side.

Posted: 23rd, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

Tiger, Tiger

‘WIMBLEDON opens its gates this morning, a guarantee, normally, of three things – rain, an outbreak of Henmania and more pictures of Anna Kournikova.

”Same old balls, please…”

This year, however, the greyest cloud over SW19 is the threat that next year’s championships will not take place with the players threatening to boycott the event in a row over money.

The Mail says a rival charity tournament would be held over Wimbledon fortnight next year unless the ATP receives a larger chunk of money from the four grand slam events.

The last time a Wimbledon boycott was held was in 1973 when Brit Roger Taylor got to the semi-finals of a tournament won by Czech Jan Kodes.

A boycott could be the only way Tim Henman manages to get further than the semi-final stage he has reached in four of the past five years.

However, enough of such dispiriting talk, particularly after a great weekend for English sport.

England’s rugby players confirmed their position as the World No.1 side with an emphatic win over Australia in Melbourne, but coach Clive Woodward is not resting on his laurels.

In the Mail, he warns that there are no guarantees the players who beat the All Blacks and Wallabies will be in the squad for the first World Cup match.

”Fifteen players have been inked in,” he says. ”That means we have 26 competing for the final 15 places. They’ll be put under severe pressure as part of the process to see how they respond.

”We’re all pretty good under pressure. We thrive on it.”

England’s cricketers also thrived on pressure yesterday, as a young side held their nerve to win the decisive one-day match against Pakistan.

Man of the match was Marcus Trescothick, whose unbeaten 108 saw England home with an over and a half to spare.

Skipper Michael Vaughan admitted to the Express that his side had had a bit of luck. ”To fight back from 1-0 down and beat this lot shows the character of the side,” he said.

”There is not a lot between the two teams and we had slightly the better of the conditions at The Oval and here.”

Another lucky British winner was Lennox Lewis, who retained his world heavyweight championship in controversial fashion after his opponent Vitali Klitschko was stopped in the sixth round.

The Ukrainian claims that a head-butt by Lewis was responsible for the cuts on the left side of his face which were the reason for the fight being stopped.

But Lewis tells the Sun that, if Klitschko wants a rematch, ”it will give me a chance to batter the other side of his face”.

Sentiments far removed from the genteel surroundings of the All England Lawn Tennis And Croquet Club, where a tiger is getting ready to roar.

Come on, Tim. Grrrrr!

Posted: 23rd, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

All Guns Leaving

‘READING today’s headlines, you’d be excused for thinking that Arsenal are cashing in and putting up the closed signs.

The England pack weigh in

The Express says that Leeds United want the Gunners’ Sylvain Wiltord plus £3m in cash to see that Harry Kewell heads to Highbury.

The Star leads with the news that ”Now Real Want Vieira”. The ”Now” seems a little unnecessary given that for the past three years Real Madrid have been in hot pursuit of the Arsenal captain.

And inside the Express, which seems to have a hotline to the Arsenal camp, readers learn that Barcelona, still sore from losing out on the David Beckham deal, are targeting Thierry Henry.

We also hear in the same paper that Robert Pires, who will captain France tonight as they play Japan, is wanted by Valencia and, yep, you guessed it, Real.

As Arsenal turn into a feeder club for the big Spanish outfits, the Sun takes a look at the warm-up for England’s rugby union match against the Australians.

And it sees Irish referee David McHugh in the centre of a ”protocol row”.

On the eve of the kick off, McHugh will be the guest of the Australian Rugby Union at Melbourne’s Savoy Ballroom.

It seems the Aussies are pulling out all the stops to make sure their boys can swan it over the Poms for a while longer.

It’s just a shame that Lennox Lewis is too busy to be drafted into the English pack. How we would thrill to the sight of Lennox showing Nathan Jones what a flying punch really looks like.

But we must not wish for such things. Violence is only part of sport when it is within the rules. And Lewis will legally use his fists in Saturday’s bout with the dangerous Vitali Klitschko.

The Mail calls the Ukrainian challenger a ”plodding behemoth”, a hulking robot who looks more like the ”tragic monster in the ring than Dr Frankenstein in the throes of creation”.

Meanwhile, Lennox has ”dancing feet” and ”does not scare easily”.

He sounds not a little unlike Jonny Wilkinson.

Posted: 20th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

Skinning The Wallabies

‘BEATING New Zealand at rugby on their own patch was sweet. But there is something sublime about even the idea of smashing the Wallabies.

”Last into the showers is a girl…”

The likes of David Campese, the ‘hand of God’ Australian whose act of pragmatism cost England dear in the 1991 World Cup, are delighting in doing the English team down.

The overwhelming phrase they use in an English context is boring. England are dull. England are a bunch of orcs. England are ugly. If England win, it will be a dark day for rugby.

Well, look to the Heavens boys and those gathering black clouds because England have the best chance of beating the Aussies in an age.

The language from the Australian camp belies fear. They are at home and are expected to win. Unlike in Britain, the Australians breathe sport. Sport is what gives their country so much of its presence in the world.

If the British didn’t play rugby and cricket against them, ask yourself how often the antipodeans would make a British news bulletin?

They need the British because they need competition for the sports in which they undoubtedly excel. And England – who because of cricket bear the brunt of the Aussies’ assault – are too happy to accept the role of loser.

If England win on Saturday, the Australians will take it hard. A nation raised on whingeing Poms – who, in truth, barely utter a whimper as they are smashed to smithereens by McGraths and Gillespies – will be upset by their own whingeing.

It has already begun. Eddie Jones, the Wallaby coach, is playing his get out of jail card.

”It’s really important we have one of the most influential referees in the world and I hope he will be very strict in enforcing the ruck and tackle,” he says.

”If he does that, there will be clean ball for both sides. If he doesn’t, it might be quite an ugly affair.”

Ah, ugly. That would be another reference to England, seen Down Under as the ugliest side ever.

But at least the hosts will show how us to play fair, picking the likes of Nathan Gray at fly-half, a man remembered for his flying elbow which punctured Richard Hill’s head in a Lions match.

They like to play fair do these Aussies. And let’s just hope that when England hit the winning points, they behave like the gentlemen and non-moaners they are.

We can learn a lot from the Aussies. So let’s begin with leaning how to beat them…

Posted: 20th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

Looking To The Future

‘ENGLAND have four years before the next World Cup arrives, by which stage the fact that they lost against Pakistan in their first match under Michael Vaughan’s captaincy will be long forgotten.

A welcome sight for England cricket fans

The challenge is to develop a group of players by 2007, all of whom have not only the ability but also the experience to compete with the world’s best.

The match on Tuesday night against Pakistan was just the first step on a long road, during which several names will no doubt fall by the wayside.

There are excuses for such a young side, but the batting was certainly a disappointment, especially after a decent start.

Andrew Flintoff is clearly a much batsman than a late-order slogger and promoting him to No.5 might help in the short term.

However, in the longer term, I suspect that England will have to find another top-order batsman who can bowl if the balance of the side is to be got right.

When Paul Collingwood is fit again, he will no doubt return to the side, but the danger is that England’s middle order will then consist of too many all-rounders and too few specialists.

Where England do look a decent side at the moment is in the bowling department.

Flintoff may not be the most penetrative bowler, but he is very hard to get away, as he demonstrated in the World Cup where he was the most economical of all the bowlers on display.

Darren Gough won’t be around in 2007, but at the moment he is still well worth his place in the side and will help bring along some of the youngsters.

James Anderson looks set to develop into an excellent player for England and will only get better the more games he plays.

Obviously, England will need to win their fair share of games while they are developing. Confidence, after all, is an important ingredient of a successful side.

But in the meantime, there is some truth in the old adage about winning not being as important as how you play the game.

Posted: 19th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

Slim Pickings

‘TAKING it as read that the back pages will be about you know who (and if you don’t, how we envy you), we turn to the story that immediately follows.

Another thin excuse for a shot of Daniela Hantuchova

The Sun hears news that Spurs are still in business and that Glenn Hoddle is every bit as popular as he was when in charge of the England team.

Stefan Freund has accused the Spurs manager of lying to him when he said he was part of the team’s plans for next season. And it is an accusation that seems based on some fact, as we read that Freund has been released by Spurs and is now looking for a club.

”It’s clear Hoddle has a problem with man management,” says Freund. ”The players who have gone…are players who say something in the dressing room and he can’t handle that.”

The German does, though, reveal that he shares a common goal with Hoddle’s Spurs, saying, ”My target now is to stay in the Premiership”.

But the main news of the day is that the Mirror has joined the Mail’s campaign to tell the world how thin ”tennis babe” Daniela Hantuchova is.

”It’s a thin line between being fit..and being anorexic,” says the headline, the words attributed to Virginia Wade.

And with no Anna Kournikova to ”Phwoarr!” at, it’s time for another shot of the Slovakian player’s crotch.

It’s a nice touch and shows that, even without Anna around, the sports pages know how to cover woman’s tennis.

Of course, men’s tennis is as strong as a Tim Henman backhand. But it could be stronger, especially if Tiger Tim listens to the words of ”former Wimbledon bad boy” Ilie Nastase.

Speaking to the Express, the Romanian says that if Henman wants to win Wimbledon, he needs to toughen up.

He will need to run around the house naked three times before going to bed, chanting ”I am the Tiger” as he goes.

And he will also need to convince the rest of that he can do it. And that is some job. Come on, Timmy. Grrr!!!!

Posted: 19th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

No Anna

‘TO paraphrase the legendary Sporting Times’ mock ”death of English cricket” headline, we signal the death of women’s tennis.

Good shorts, Daniela – but could you do something about the top?

Burn the bra and put it in small A-cup, this is the day when women’s tennis died.

Anna Kournikova has pulled out of Wimbledon because she has hurt her back. How this crippling injury came about is not known, but it’s unlikely to have involved picking up a championship trophy or leaping the net in triumph.

In other sports the loss of the world’s 77th best – and falling – player would be a mere blip on the radar, but in tennis terms it’s a disaster, the death knell of the female game.

What now will the papers have to write about with Anna not in attendance? We half expect woman’s tennis to disappear completely from the papers, replaced with more shots of David Beckham.

A shot of Becks hitting a tennis ball with his wife Victoria would give the game some exposure. But it would not be enough.

It is panic stations in the world of tennis, and scouts are looking up skirts and down tops for the next star of the game.

Daniela Hantuchova is one option. She’s tall, not at all bad looking and is from the frozen wastes of East Europe. She is also stick thin, which gives us something to focus on.

We will hear about her 44-inch long legs. And then we will hear that they are too thin. There are rules about 44-inch long legs, and Daniela’s will be seen as rule-breakers.

The Mail has already started the ball rolling, saying how the ”legs of Bratislava” have become the ”spindles of Slovakia”.

It’s all building up in time for the Wimbledon championships.

But something is still missing. If Daniela could just tighten the top and raise the hemline of her skirt, the sport of women’s tennis might attract the attention it is accustomed to.

Come on, Daniela, it’s for the good of the game…

Posted: 18th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

Out! Out! Out!

‘READING today’s news that David Beckham has been signed by Real Madrid evokes memories of the last days of Margaret Thatcher’s regime.

Putting the pain into Spain

Such is the boredom with hearing, seeing and breathing in the Beckham nonsense that it’s a wonder no paper begins with the headline: ”Beckham. Beckham. Beckham. Out! Out! Out!”

For those readers who mistake Beckham for the sports pages, the newspapers have all placed the news of the England captain’s £25 million sale from Manchester United to Madrid on the front cover.

Readers get ”El Becko” in the Star; ”Sold” in the Mirror; and ”Yes, he’s on his way at last” in the Mail.

On the back pages we see more pictures of Beckham and more pictures of his wife, the limpid Posh. Dressed like her husband in dark jacket and white vest, the Posh one flicks her hair (Mail) and aims for the cameras.

So let’s change the tune and give it a hearty: ”Posh. Posh. Posh. Gone! Gone! Gone! Yipppeeee!!”

This leaves us with time to look at the Sun and see England lose the one-day cricket match to Pakistan. Michael Vaughan, England’s new one-day captain, will have better days than these.

England scored a low 209 for nine wickets of their allotted 50 overs. It would never be enough against a spirited Pakistan side, and so it proved to be. It was, nonetheless, close and England were only killed off with four balls left to go.

But the big news should be Saturday night’s big heavyweight bout between Lennox Lewis and the hulking Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko.

The Express features the great white hope in conversation, hearing of his four languages and PhD.

We learn of his love for the Ukraine, even though he now lives in sunny California. And of his respect for Lewis.

Over in the Sun, Lewis is reading about Beckham. ”I am always going to be 10 times more famous than David Beckham,” says Lewis.

Perhaps so. But he should concentrate more on his preparations for a tricky fight than the moves of a footballer.

But at least if he loses, we’ll know who’s to blame. That’s right – Posh.

Posted: 18th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

Word Games

‘BEING a sports journalist must be as easy as learning how to spell Beckham.

Anna suspected someone had turned the heating up

Showing how easy that is, all the papers ignore the welter of sporting activity, tales of the men and woman who are playing actual games, to spell out the word ”Beckham”.

The Sun even finds that too taxing and shortens the entire thing to ”Becks”, a masterstroke of brevity and the sub-editor’s art.

Very soon the letter ”B” will be all that appears on the backpages. And after that perhaps nothing, save a Real Madrid-like whiteness.

And that would be appropriate because the story that passes for news is that Beckham, Becks or B is off to Real Madrid.

The Mirror says that if/when he goes to Spain, Manchester United will ”only” get £18m for him. How United will survive on so meagre a sum is beyond our understanding.

And if that’s grim, take a look at the Mirror’s other story, this time about Arsenal’s Nigerian player Kanu.

Having summoned the IT department to locate the underused un-Beckham letters ”n” and ”u”, the paper reveals that Kanu is being offered £1m to leave Arsenal.

So desperate are the Gunners to rid themselves of their lackadaisical striker that they are offering to pay him seven figures to go.

Yes, we know, a million pounds is an insult, tantamount to a slap in the face. But football is undergoing a dip in fiscal fortunes and tough choices are being made.

And it’s the same with Wimbledon. Well, not yet, but very soon the tennis tournament will be put of business, as the Express brings the grim news that Anna Kournikova – the world’s only female tennis player – has pulled out of Wimbledon.

In tears, the Russian-born ace has been forced to withdraw from this year’s Wimbledon because of a niggling back injury.

And no Anna means two things: the death of tennis and lots more Becks.

Posted: 17th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

In England’s Defence

‘WHAT does Australian rugby coach Eddie Jones know about Premier League football? Not very much, it seems.

Billy Whizz

He has welcomed the England XV to Australian shores following their historic 15-13 defeat of the All Blacks with a misdirected barb ahead of this weekend’s match with his Wallabies.

”They’re playing that Premier League soccer,” he said. ”Get down the other end and have a few set plays and take what they get down there.”

Anyone who has watched any Premier League football recently will not have a clue what Jones is on about.

And nor will anyone who has watched England’s recent performances on the rugby field.

It is true that England were poor in attack, especially behind the scrum, at Wellington.

But the All Blacks didn’t create a whole lot more – and they are supposed to have the most exciting and creative back line in world rugby.

Indeed, the only try of the game came from a kick and chase from the Kiwis, which should not have counted anyway as the chaser was clearly offside.

Australia know that any victory against the All Blacks in New Zealand is a very impressive achievement and the quality of the English defence will have made a mark.

However, if they think that there is no more to England’s game than a solid defence, a big pack and Jonny Wilkinson’s boot, they might be in for a shock on Saturday.

Conditions in Melbourne will hopefully be better than they were at Wellington, where rain and swirling wind made life difficult for both teams.

Both sides will then be encouraged to attack each other out wide – and give us the chance to see Ben Cohen and Jason Robinson and Joe Roff and Wendell Sailor in full flow.

In fact, it should be just like a Premier League football match – flowing from end to end with pace, skill and plenty of passion.

We hope Eddie Jones enjoys it.’

Posted: 17th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment

All Right

‘ENGLAND’S win against the All Blacks elevates the rugby union team to a new plateau of excellence. When faced with the best, the team dug deep and won.

England are unstoppable

And New Zealand on their own patch are the best. England are top of the world ranking – and were going into last Saturday’s match at Wellington’s Westpac stadium – but the All Blacks are always tops at home.

At least that’s what the Kiwis have been brought up on. The All Blacks play at home and the All Blacks win. They had lost once to England on home turf, but that was back in 1973, a result widely considered a fluke.

When England went down to 13 men, we expected the Kiwis to rack up the points. In an eight-minute spell with two spare men on the field New Zealand scored no points. To rub salt into the wound, England scored three.

But still the mood said that the Kiwis would win. With the shirt comes the legend. Deep in every Englishman’s psyche lies a seed that was planted in their youth: the Kiwis are the best there is.

The danger was that England would suddenly realise that they were up against the revered All Blacks. A splash of water – or in Josh Lewsley’s case, a kick in the head – would wake them from the dream of victory.

The game bought to mind images of Muhammad Ali, with the Kiwis in the role of the Louisville Lip. Like Ernie Shavers, England had hit the champion hard. The champion had wobbled.

Here was the crunch point. Would England back off like Shavers had done, unable really to comprehend that the legend was reeling? Or would they seek to press home their advantage?

Over to Martin Johnson, England’s captain on the day. He knew that many thought England would crack after the Kiwis had scored the game’s only try.

”Let’s crack them, let’s not fold,” he told his team-mates. And so it was.

At the vital moment, England realised that they were no longer just another side on the up; they are the best in the world.

And to be the best you take on everyone, reputations and all. As a result, it’s no longer merely hopeful to say that this England side can win the World Cup.

Posted: 16th, June 2003 | In: Back pages | Comment