Formula Onzzzzzzzzzzzz.

March 6, 2011

Red Bull's 2011 car


Normally, this blog is devoted to the proper sports, that being football, boxing and occasionally, a bit of cricket. We tend to leave the world of Formula One alone, mainly because I don’t class it as a proper sport (no human endeavour, beyond the technical). Another big reason that I don’t talk about F1 too much is because it’s about as boring as Scottish football.

This isn’t about slagging Formula 1 off though, it remains mystifyingly popular and who am I to criticise it?

Actually, I know I’m being harsh on the petrol heads, because the one thing F1 is good for is a laugh. Formula One is the “actor” of the sports world, faintly ridiculous to everyone, but convinced of it’s own importance. Really, who actually cares about Formula One? The drivers are all about as interesting as a Dominic Brigstocke stand up show, and the cars, while nice looking, are so imbalanced it eliminates the prospect of any actual competition on the track.

Now, to give the billionaire circus midget, Bernie Ecclestone, his due, he acknowledges that his sport is about as gripping as a thalidomide hand job, so he’s come up with ways to make his sport more interesting. His latest wheeze is to propose artificial rain.

You read that right, artificial rain. Not a return to manual gearboxes and clutch pedals, nothing as prosaic as that, just artificial rain. Not a balancing of the budgets, which would give the smaller teams an equal crack at the points, but artificial rain.

The response has been predictably sniffy, Mark Webber has declared the idea to be unsophisticated and everybody else has been convulsed with laughter at the idea that in order to make the races interesting you have to fiddle about with the track and simulate rain.

I think it’s a brilliant idea, but personally I don’t think it goes far enough. I suggest that the tracks be replaced with a massive dodgem arena. I also think that the drivers should be made to drink half a bottle of JD before they take to the track, maybe we’ll get a spectacular “Senna” moment.

It's on....maybe.

I suppose it was too much to ask that Matthew “Ricky’s brother” Hatton (41-4-2, 16KO) would defeat the unbeaten Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (36-0-1, 25KO).

It would have taken a near miracle to see Hatton beat Alvarez, especially considering that the fight took place in a hostile arena to Hatton and with Hatton being considerably outweighed by Alvarez. Still, kudos to Hatton, he saw an opportunity and he went for it, if only more boxers had that attitude.

Speaking of which…

Vladimir Klitschko (55-3, 49KO) has pulled out of his planned fight with unbeaten British prospect, Dereck Chisora (14-0, 9KO), citing a lingering abdominal injury. David Haye’s next potential opponent, Ruslan Chagaev (27-1-1 17KO), has been refused a license to box in the UK due to his medical history (he was found to have contracted Hepatitis B)

Naturally, this opens the door for an intriguing Chisora/Fury matchup, which should happen fairly quickly.

However, this finally means that we should see Vladimir Klitschko step in the ring with David Haye (25-1, 23KO), with plenty of time for promotional work, this will be, undoubtedly, the biggest fight in British boxing history.

Now, I’m not one for making predictions, generally I get them wrong and look like a bit of a tit. But the sheer magnitude of the fights we’re facing over the next 9 months has forced my hand, so I’m going to make three predictions here and now.

Get ready…

Carl Froch v Glen Johnson, I see an easy decision victory for Froch here. Johnson IS a quality fighter, but he’s well past his prime and has 14 losses against his name. If Froch approaches this fight with the same game plan as he had with Abraham, he should dominate the former light-heavy champion.

Dereck Chisora v Tyson Fury, Got to be a Chisora KO (Round 8), Chisora has fought at the higher level and carries a brutal punch, if he gets inside the gypsy, it’ll be a short night’s work for Chisora.

Davis Haye v Vladimir Klitschko, For all the talk of Haye’s explosive power and fast hands, he’s never fought a boxer as complete as Klitschko. I don’t see Haye winning and I feel that this one goes to the judge’s cards. I’ll say it’s a fairly comprehensive defeat on points for the Londoner.

Fury and Harrison, Mental.

February 23, 2011

The last I saw of Audley Harrison (27-5, 20 KO), he was lying flat on his back after David Haye sparked him out inside 3 rounds. You’d have thought that after his humiliation he’d have faded away into much deserved obscurity. But no, Audley Harrison recently catapulted himself back into the public eye with his recent musings about Tyson Fury (14-0, 10 KO). Speaking on Twitter, the Olympic Champion stated:

“Fury’s got quick hands, but he’s not ready for me yet. He makes too many mistakes. After calling me out, I noticed in the post fight interview he didn’t call my name.”

Hmmm. Well, he may have a point there. I saw Fury’s fight against Marcelo Luiz Nascimento last Saturday night, and to be honest, Fury looked amateurish, no wonder Harrison fancies his chances. That said though, he probably fancied his chances against Haye and we all know where that ended. It’s quite astonishing to me that Audley Harrison would try to gee up interest in a potential match with Fury, surely he must know that he’s finished as a credible boxer?

Fury though, has quietly dropped Harrison as a potential opponent, knowing that he needs a decent bout, he’s started pointing at Dereck Chisora as a good fight for him. The problem with that though is that Chisora has the slightly more pressing matter of Vladimir Klitschko to contend with.

Now, boxers making ludicrous claims are all part and parcel of the sport, but incredibly Fury has alleged that Chisora is ducking him by taking the fight against Klitschko!

OK, so for Fury’s benefit, here’s what actually happened. The Chisora beat Danny Williams for the British title being a late replacement for Sam Sexton. After he beat Williams, he beat Sexton for the second time as Sexton was his mandatory challenger. Chisora isn’t due to defend his title until March 2011 at the earliest, in the meantime he fights Klitschko. Fury complaining that Chisora is refusing to face him is absolute balderdash, Chisora knows that Fury is the next mandatory challenger and has already said that he’s happy to fight Fury after he fights Klitschko.

While Fury is waiting to get in the ring with “Del Boy” Chisora, maybe he should work on developing those boxing skills. I seriously feel that if Chisora and Fury meet up anytime soon, Chisora would seriously damage Fury.

Money, Debt and Stupid Fans

February 22, 2011

Picture the scene.

Somewhere in Nyon, deep in UEFA’s headquarters, a throaty laugh erupts from a non-descript office. You open the door to find Michel Platini, chuckling down the phone, tears rolling down his jowly face. After he’s composed himself, he utters;

“Mon Dieu, I cannot believe zis stupid people. I jerst peek a numberre out of my derriere, and zis people, zey pay it!”

I rather imagine that at this point Platini peels off his mask to reveal a reptilian face, because he’s surely not of this planet if he believes £150 is a decent price for a ticket.

The problem is of course, that they can charge £150 for a ticket, in the same way that they can also charge £300 for a ticket. Why can they do this? Simple, because football fans are truly the cash cows of the sporting world.

Football fans, never has there been a more deluded bunch that has ever walked this planet. For years you’ve been shelling out for football kits at the rate of three every two seasons, and enjoying it. Grinning and bearing the continual season ticket price until it gets to the point where a season ticket at Arsenal can cost you the business end of £2000. Liverpool currently fans going mad for the fact that their club has shelled out over £30 million pounds for a player who isn’t even an England regular. Manchester City fans not even remotely bothered about the fact that their club has effectively become the plaything of the UAE royal family. Wages going up past £200k a week, A WEEK!! When Fabrizio Ravanelli joined Middlesbrough, he was pilloried for the fact he earn’t £52k a week, nowadays a player of his quality could easily expect to triple that.

And debt, so much debt.

Over half of all the debt in European football is owned by the Premiership, with the majority of Premiership clubs now being subsidised directly by their owners, it’s almost like they’ve forgotten how to be proper businesses. Spending cash they don’t have, chasing success that’ll never be theirs,  because ultimately, it’s the same few clubs that win everything. Manchester City will never have the same long term success that Manchester United has enjoyed. Why is this? Because money can only go so far, Manchester United have succeeded because they had a core of players and a manager who were (are) solely dedicated to the club, money is a factor, but how much did Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and David Beckham cost?

I don’t have any sympathy for football fans who now complain about the price of tickets, you’ve only yourselves to blame. Personally I think you should stop demanding your club spends money it doesn’t have and start demanding some fiscal responsibility.

Klitschko v Haye (courtesy of Reuters)

If there’s one thing most boxers are obsessed with, it’s their legacy. Some boxers are lucky in that they faced career defining fights seemingly every other month. For a period in the seventies, it was apparently the case that Muhammad Ali couldn’t cross the road without being involved in some epoch shattering dust up.

The flip side of this is that there are some boxers who, despite having all the tools, never quite cemented their place in the minds of the fans. Some point the finger at Joe Calzaghe, undefeated of course, but lacking the win that really would have catapulted him into the boxing stratosphere. Even today, heated debate surrounds Calzaghe, he’s rather like the Marmite of boxing as he splits opinion like no other boxer. What’s Calzaghe’s legacy? It seems that his legacy is the intense argument that surrounds his record.

And it’s down this road that David Haye finds himself jogging. He knows, as well as everyone, that he needs to get some quality “ring time” with a Klitschko brother (either Vlad or Vitali, Haye can’t afford to be fussy). Now, I’ve always been critical of Haye, I think his profile in this country is far more than he deserves, especially considering that Carl Froch has actually fought the better opposition and had the better performances.

The strange thing is that a date for a Vladimir Klitschko v David Haye has already been proposed, July 2nd.  Vladimir is convinced that he’ll walk through Dereck Chisora on the 30th April, treating the Briton as a “tone up” for the super fight against Haye. Haye could easily side step his mandatory challenger, Ruslan Chagaev with a pay off. Indeed, Vladimir Klitschko is actually claiming he could fight three times in 2011 as he also intends to face Tomasz Adamek in September this year. And to make it even more interesting, Adamek is actually a former Cruiserweight and Light Heavy champion,

The Haye party line is that the Klitschko’s will be forever linked with not fighting David Haye and that their legacy will be forever tarnished by them not meeting. That’s a rich line coming from the fighter who has yet to face a “live” opponent.

David Haye, I say, will get a thrashing from any of the Klitschko brothers, although Vladimir may let him leave the ring on his own steam, I genuinely think Vitali could seriously damage “The Hayemaker”.  I’m loath to make predictions, but I think Haye loses to both Klitschkos, Vladimir by round 10 and Vitali to KO Haye by the 7th.

The big bun fight between West Ham and Tottenham came to an end this week with the news that West Ham would be named as the preferred club to take over after 2012. Of course, this is jolly good news for West Ham, who’ll surely have one of the nicest stadiums in The Championship. Personally, I’m a bit off with the idea of our Olympic legacy being left in the hands of a pair of pornographers, but that’s just me.

 What’s really sticking in my craw here is that West Ham’s move to the Olympic Stadium will surely put out of business one of London’s oldest pro football clubs, Leyton Orient.

Leyton Orient are the closest club to the new stadium, geographically speaking, the introduction of a Premiership team into what would be Orient’s usual catchment area (to use a school term) would see Orient fold within a decade as they struggle to attract new fans.

There have been rumblings regarding compensation being paid out to Orient, but nothing has been confirmed. If compensation were to be paid out to Orient, how much would suffice? A one off payment of £15 – £20 million has been mooted, but is that sufficient? It’d get them through the short to medium term for sure, but what next? Orient can’t compete with West Ham when it comes to people picking who they’ll support. They’ve no glorious history to bank on, no star players to speak off and no celebrity fans (unless you count Bob Mills).

I hate to sound like Johnny Miserable, but I genuinely fear for the future of Leyton Orient. The Olympic Park Legacy Committee has ensured that we won’t end up like Montreal-esque “White Elephant”. But in doing so, they could well have dealt a “Hammer’s”* blow to one of our oldest football clubs.

*Do you see what I did there?

A Good News Story (At Last)

January 26, 2011

Simon Jones (Courtesy of Getty)

Of course, it’s perfectly understandable.

Keys and Gray have obviously been the big story for the last few days, it natural that you may well have missed one of the most intriguing comebacks in English sport.

Cast your mind back my friend to the balmy summer of 2005 and “The Greatest Ashes Series Ever”, while we all cooed over the performances of Andrew Flintoff, it was actually the then Glamorgan swinger, Simon Jones, who was impressing the cricket aficionados with his exquisite brand of reverse swing bowling.  What’s often forgotten in the aftermath of that series and the “Freddie-Mania” that ensued is that Jones could well have ended the series as England’s leading wicket taker if he hadn’t missed the final test at the Oval.

And then what?

Well, Jones found himself injured; it started with his ankle which he damaged in the second innings at Trent Bridge. He injured his ankle again in the nets just before the first test on the India tour in 2006. He had surgery on his knees in Colorado that ruled him out of the Ashes tour in 2006/7 (a result of the horrific cruciate ligament injury he sustained in Brisbane in 2002) and just as he seemed to be getting himself back together he suffered another knee injury. Indeed, it seemed like there was no cricketer more cursed than Simon Jones.

Of course, time has moved on, the much vaunted English bowling attack of 2005 eventually retired, lost form or dropped out of favour. Ashley Giles (The Spinner) became Director of Coaching at Warwickshire. Andrew Flintoff left the sport after the Ashes series of 2009 to become a celebrity. Matthew Hoggard quietly dropped out of favour and hasn’t played for England since 2008 and Steve Harmison has flirted with the England squad, making cameo appearances here and there, but has surely played his last test for England.

This leaves Simon Jones, well, let me inform you that Jones is still playing and playing phenomenally well for Hampshire. Indeed, in one recent 20/20 match for Hampshire he took four for 10 in four overs. This bodes well for the England team, Jones was easily as good a swinger of the ball as a prime Waqar Younis and he could have been one of England’s great quicks, if it hadn’t been for his rotten injury luck.

It’s doubtful that the now 32 years old Jones would last a full test match, it doesn’t even seem that the England team need him, with an established bowling attack of Swann, Bresnan, Tremlett, Broad and Anderson, but with the punishing schedule ahead (The World Cup looms large), could we see Jones making a dramatic comeback by filling one of the one day slots?

Maybe…I hope so!

Well, Andy Gray eh? Sacked! Richard Keys, resigned!

Where do we stand? Either the “Sky Sports 2” are irredeemably sexist dinosaurs who have no place in our thrusting, dynamic society or they’re simply hapless victims of carefully orchestrated media outrage and hysterical public opinion.

Let’s look at the facts, Andy Gray, and Richard Keys made off colour comments regarding the officiating capability of Sian Massey, the referee’s assistant for the match at Wolves last Saturday. Also, videotape of Richard Keys making what could only be described as unfortunate comments about Jamie Redknapps’ former girlfriend to a work colleague has emerged.While it could be argued that their utterances aren’t in the best possible taste and have no place in the dynamic, thrusting society we live in today. I ask, is it in proportion to sack Gray and pressurise Keys into resigning?

Well, my answer is “No, no it isn’t”.

What we have here is a re-hashing of Gordon Brown’s “That Woman” incident. Old G.B referred to one of his supporters as a “bigoted woman”, during the middle of an election campaign. Now we know that Brown lead his party to electoral defeat, but he still has employment as an MP in Westminster. Where’s the difference? Why are Gray and Keys being hauled over the coals of public opinion while Brown is still able to represent his constituents?

Who knows? But what I find most disturbing about all this is the lack of people who are willing to defend Gray and Keys. Are people not concerned that two men have lost their jobs over privately held views, accidentally made public? If a corporation like Sky are prepared to take this sort of step with two of their most highly paid and identifiable front men, what would stop another corporation doing the same thing to their employees?  Can you imagine? Being disciplined or even sacked, for merely holding an unpalatable opinion, that way tyranny lies.

 George Orwell wrote in “1984”, “You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”. It turns out that Orwell, was closer to describing modern day living then even he would have imagined.

And that, Dear Reader, should concern you more than any of Gray and Key’s ramblings.

Mercenary? Moi?

January 25, 2011

If there’s one word that’s used with gay abandon in the footballing world, it’s “Mercenary”, Mike uses it himself in his return to blogging.

In the footballing parlance, a mercenary is a player who “sells out” their current club, in order to join another; usually the new club will offer the player in question far more money than he is currently earning.  More than most other sports, football has a rich tradition of mercenaries from Winston Bogarde to Sol Campbell, Sven Goran Eriksson and Darren Bent. All held as traitors by the fans, all of them considered mercenaries.

Why though? Where a football fan sees a mercenary, why do I see a normal urge to maximise your earning potential? Do we not live in a society where one is entitled to take their skills and sell them to the highest bidder? Why should Darren Bent be forced to trudge along at The Stadium Of Light when he could be earning far more money at Villa Park? Darren Bent never professed a great love of Sunderland, he isn’t a Mackem, he comes from Tooting for God’s sakes. 

Basically, what happened to Darren Bent happens in companies and in the general working sphere all the time, he got head hunted. The money involved is astronomical, but Bent was essentially head hunted by Aston Villa and Sunderland couldn’t have done a thing about it. This is the way of the world; if you have a talent that people are prepared to pay for why shouldn’t you sell it?

Castigating a player for being a mercenary is childish at best and regressive at worst. It also reveals the strange doublethink that some people have about this subject. Money isn’t always a pleasant thing to discuss, but until we get over these outdated notions of loyalty that infect the beautiful game, I’m afraid that “Mercenary” will be a word we’ll see time and time again.

“Tikkaboo Son”

January 25, 2011

Gray and Keys - Yesterday

Mike’s back blogging, thank God! That’ll give me the kick up the backside I need.

So here’s my first entry for a while, and it’s about the biggest story in football at the moment. As I type, Richard Keys and Andy Gray are facing increasing pressure from their employer, Sky, regarding sexist comments made about Sian Massey, the referee’s assistant at Molyneux last weekend. Of course, there’s a delicious irony at play here that Keys and Gray would find themselves censured by, of all companies, News Corp. The same company that owns The Sun, which, as we all know, still proudly has its daily “Page Three” feature.

The notion that Sky would suddenly jump on the sexist bandwagon is utterly nauseating to me and it’s not just Sky, its Rio Ferdinand, who described their views as “Pre-historic”. This would be the same Rio Ferdinand who happily filmed a group sex session with Frank Lampard, Kieron Dyer and two other women. The next time Rio feels the need to sermonise from the gospel according to Harriet Harman, he should take a good long look at himself in the mirror and then decide to keep his mouth shut.

This is the problem though, women have been treated as little more than objects for so long by football, footballers and the general mainstream media, that when something like this happens, it all seems a little false to me. Is Sky genuinely angry about Keys and Gray? Of course it isn’t, it’s sorry they’ve been caught out, undoubtedly, but hardly sorry for what they said.

So please, Sky, spare us all the ridiculous posturing, you don’t really care about what Keys and Gray said. Just bring them back, and we’ll forget all about it.