Author Archive for Alan Smith


Gordon Reid: ‘I’m not trying to make it about me but about the sport’

The wheelchair tennis Rio gold medallist could be the latest Scot to become a world No1 if he is successful in this week’s Masters tournament but knows his brilliant 2016 means extra pressure will be on him

Gordon Reid had never heard of wheelchair tennis when he was diagnosed with transverse myelitis. As a 13-year-old, he had long been a keen able-bodied player at his local club in Helensburgh but presumed his time on the court was at an end due to a spinal cord condition that appeared from nowhere one Friday evening, when a group of friends had called round.

Related: Gordon Reid savours golden year of conquering all in wheelchair tennis

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Southampton v Everton: Premier League – live!

2.04pm GMT

Hello. There was no time to write a preamble for this game because Arsenal v Bournemouth is ongoing. But rest assured, once that finishes I’ll be here with all the team news for Ronald’s Return.

Meantime, here’s Paul Wilson on Koeman

Related: Ronald Koeman focuses on Everton rather than his return to Southampton

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Arsenal v Bournemouth: Premier League – live!

1.25pm GMT

So the big team news is a recall for Arsenal’s Mathieu Debuchy, who starts at right back for the first time in more than a year. Alexis Sánchez will lead the line instead of Olivier Giroud, and there are no real surprises in Bournemouth’s team.

1.21pm GMT

Arsenal: Cech; Debuchy, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Elneny, Xhaka; Walcott, Özil, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Sanchez. Subs: Gibbs, Gabriel, Ramsey, Giroud, Ospina, Iwobi, Coquelin.

Bournemouth: Federici; A Smith, Francis, S Cook, B Smith; Gosling, Ake, Arter; King, C Wilson, Stanislas. Subs: Pugh, Afobe, Allsop, Fraser, Mings, Mousset, Ibe.

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‘What’s this geezer doing? He’s hopeless’ – the Ali Dia story, 20 years on

Two decades after his one Southampton appearance, Ali Dia is the most famous phoney in the history of British football. But how did the move come about? And where is he now?It is 20 years this Wednesday since Ali Dia graced the Premier League for 53 wo…


Milan v Internazionale: Serie A – live!

6.49pm GMT

Milan: Donnarumma; Abate, Paletta, Gomez, De Sciglio; Kucka, Locatelli, Bonaventura; Suso, Bacca, Niang. Subs: Gabriel, Plizzari, Ely, Zapata, Antonelli, Honda, Mati Fernandez, Poli, Sosa, Pasalic, Luiz Adriano, Lapadula.

Internazionale: Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Miranda, Medel, Ansaldi; Brozovic, Mario, Kondogbia’ Candreva, Icardi, Perisic. Subs: Carrizo, Melo, Jovetic, Biabiany, Ranocchia, Banega, Santon, Eder, Murillo, Gnoukouri, Nagatomo, Barbosa.

2.13pm GMT

Hello. Milan and Internazionale have both been rather ordinary for a couple of seasons now but this derby still commands worldwide attention and for the first time in a long time there is significance beyond local bragging rights.

Victory for tonight’s home team would move them second, five points behind Juventus, while Inter could be already out of contention for a European spot with defeat. They sit 11th presently and have already had a change of manager. What a game for Stefano Pioli to begin.

In the summer of 1984, two of football’s most distinguished names earned record-breaking moves to Serie A. Diego Maradona left Barcelona to join Napoli for £6.9m (then a world record fee) and Internazionale paid Bayern Munich £4.7m for Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Accompanying the duo was Mark Hateley, who arrived from Portsmouth.

Milan paid the Second Division club £1m for the 23-year-old English forward. Hateley was bought to replace his compatriot Luther Blissett, who had spent one dismal season at the club and earned cult status among fans for being a super-bidone (rubbish). Though Hateley had enjoyed a prolific season on the south coast, scoring 22 goals in 38 games, the fact that Milan plundering the English second tier for attacking talent shows how badly they were struggling.

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Middlesbrough v Chelsea: Premier League – live!

3.04pm GMT

Middlesbrough: Valdes; Barragan, Chambers, Gibson, Da Silva; Traore, Forshaw, Clayton, De Roon; Ramirez; Negredo. Subs: Guzan, Espinosa, Fischer, Nsue, Leadbitter, Downing, Rhodes.

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard. Subs: Begovic, Ivanovic, Terry, Chalobah, Fabregas, Oscar, Batshuayi.

1.57pm GMT

Remember that Saturday evening in late September when Chelsea were brutally dismantled by Arsenal and it seemed that Antonio Conte had more work than initially bargained for to return them to title challengers? Yeah, well since then Chelsea have won every game to an aggregate score of 16-0. A sixth victory in a row here would move them top of the table, a point clear of Manchester City and Liverpool. Early days and all that, but they have the look of contenders.

Middlesbrough should not be completely discounted this afternoon, though. They have stifled both Arsenal and City in recent weeks to earn draws and have also beaten Bournemouth at home, although the head to head record makes for grim reading. Not only have Chelsea won the past half dozen meetings but it is more than a decade since Boro last scored in this fixture – Mark Viduka finding the net in a 2-1 win in August 2006. (Obvious caveat: today’s hosts have spent much of that period in the second tier).

Related: Eden Hazard: ‘If I ever leave Chelsea, it will be after winning the league’

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Martin O’Neill wants Ireland on ‘front foot’ against Austria despite absentees

• Jonathan Walters could start, with Shane Long and Daryl Murphy injured
• ‘I don’t actually know how you play for a draw,’ said O’Neill

Defeat for the Republic of Ireland in Vienna on Saturday would not be fatal in a group that appears destined to go down to the final set of games, but it would still represent a considerable blow, not least because Austria are stacked with problems of their own.

Martin O’Neill’s side have accrued a very respectable seven points from the first available nine without performing especially well. However, the bluntness in attack that pervaded the slender wins over Georgia and Moldova last month is unlikely to be good enough against an Austria team who are still smarting from their dismal European Championship and struggling to recapture the pre-tournament form that led to many hailing them as dark horses to win that title in France.

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Why are Benfica refusing to pay a small Swedish club €250,000?

The 26th richest club in the world signed Victor Nilsson Lindelof in 2011 for a small fee but claim they do not need to pay Vasteras any add-ons because the player has signed a new contract with them

When Victor Nilsson Lindelof made his first team debut for Vasteras as a 16-year-old in a 3-0 win over BK Forward in 2010, the Swedish third-tier club immediately knew they had a gem on their hands. The defender played a big part in their promotion that season but, inevitably, it did not take long for some of Europe’s superpowers to circle around the small city 90 minutes north-west of Stockholm.

In 2012 Benfica, the world’s 26th richest club, signed the teenager for a nominal fee – understood to be around €60,000 – with numerous add-on clauses factored in. Lindelof settled well, impressing in their reserve side, and eventually broke through to Benfica’s first team last year. “This is a dream,” he said on moving. Yet for his former club it has become something of a nightmare.

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Two thirds of Checkatrade Trophy games fail to attract crowds above 1,000

• Several clubs record new lowest attendances during EFL Trophy
• Only two of 24 games attracted more than 1,500

The unpopular Checkatrade Trophy set several new unwanted records as supporters continued to boycott the revamped Football League Trophy, though there was some amusement at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea Under-23s defeated Oxford United in a 34-attempt penalty shootout. The game had finished 1-1 after 90 minutes but Chelsea’s 19-year-old goalkeeper Bradley Collins scored his second attempt before then saving Oxford’s next attempt to send the hosts through 13-12.

Related: The revamped EFL Trophy is a complete and utter failure – and here’s why | John Ashdown

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Andy Murray v John Isner: Paris Masters final – live!

10.16am GMT

Let’s all bow at the feet of Andy Murray, the new world No1. What a year 2016 has been for the Scot and he will look to add another title here before next week’s season closer, the Grand Tour Finals at London’s O2. Enough has been written over the past 24 hours about Murray and where he ranks in the pantheon (see link below), so let’s focus on today’s game for now.

Murray has a 100% record against John Isner and leads 18-3 on sets. The American, who will finish as his country’s best player again, has been playing well but is still unlikely to cause Murray too many problems on current form. In Vienna less than a fortnight ago Murray won 6-1 6-3 en route to the title and he also advanced in straight sets at the French Open earlier in the year. This would be Isner’s first Masters 1000 title, Murray has already won 13. However this particular gong has evaded him, losing to Novak Djokovic, the now former No1, in last year’s showpiece.

Related: Andy Murray is the 26th men’s No1 in tennis – but how does he compare? | Kevin Mitchell

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Real Madrid v Leganés: La Liga – live!

11.03am GMT

3 min: Real enjoy a spell of possession at the back but Leganes break the play up and Insua hopelessly shoots wide from silly range.

11.02am GMT

2 min: Not a bad start from the visitors, who attack down the left through Szymanowski before he runs out of room and gives Real a goal-kick. He will be key if Leganes are to get an unlikely result here.

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Football transfer rumours: Manchester United to sign José Giménez?

Today’s fluff is half-baked

After almost a decade at Stamford Bridge Branislav Ivanovic will be used to hearing London Calling every time he plays in the capital, but this the week the Serbia defender has learned The Clash had more than one song. “Should I stay or should I go?”

Ivanovic is determined to stay at Chelsea and fight his way into Antonio Conte’s three-man defence having not started since the 3-0 defeat at Arsenal, prompting the manager to change his formation. They have won every game since, crucially keeping a clean sheet in all four. However, Crystal Palace are said to have firm interest in the 32-year-old and come January who is to say his mind will not have changed. “If I go there will be trouble. And if I stay it will be double,” he maybe did not say.

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Jamie Vardy crashes Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s Ballon d’Or party

Leicester striker flies flag for England internationals but real interest lies in battle for the title of world’s third-best player in which Gareth Bale and Antoine Griezmann are contenders

The Ballon d’Or is back in France Football’s possession, even though they contrived to elongate the release of this year’s shortlist to such an extent it made Fifa’s ceremonies seem snappy in comparison. At the conclusion of the nine-hour announcement on Monday there was still an air of predictability about it all.

Barring the most surprising result in the award’s 60-year history, Cristiano Ronaldo will be named the world’s best player for a fourth time on 9 January, with Lionel Messi trailing behind. While there were a couple of notable omissions from the list, which will not be cut to three as in previous years, all of the world’s best attacking players are present.

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Southampton suffer raw deal as Premier League confirms Christmas TV schedule

• TV changes mean Claude Puel’s team to play three games in six days
• Saints fixture with Spurs moved from Boxing Day to 28 December

The Premier League have announced a slew of fixture changes in December and January to facilitate live TV coverage, with Southampton perhaps the biggest losers. Claude Puel’s team are to play three times in six days on account of their Boxing Day fixture with Tottenham being moved to 28 December. They also host West Bromwich Albion on New Year’s Eve before travelling to face Everton on 2 January.

Spurs’ other two games have been put back. They will now play Watford away on 1 January and host Chelsea on 4 January.

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Marcel Kittel: cyclists with severe asthma should compete in Paralympics

• German sprinter says there is no place in ‘elite sport’ for asthmatics
• André Greipel rails against Team Sky over TUE scandal

Marcel Kittel and André Greipel have condemned the use of therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) in cycling, with the former suggesting those who suffer from “bad asthma” should compete in the Paralympics.

Kittel, the 28-year-old Etixx-Quick-Step rider, told Süddeutsche Zeitung that those with severe cases of the respiratory condition should not compete in “elite sport”.

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Can Gerard Piqué really be blamed for quitting Spain after the 2018 World Cup?

Barcelona defender’s pro-Catalonia stance has encouraged the internet trolls, and he has decided that after Russia 2018 it will no longer be worth it

It may have been a spur-of-the-moment overreaction and Gerard Piqué would not be the first Spain centre-half to be talked out of retirement after Carles Puyol’s U-turn in 2010, but if he sticks by his decision to stop playing international football in 2018 can he really be blamed?

The Barcelona player, one of the best defenders to have played for Spain, has long been vilified for taking a strong pro-Catalonian independence view and the poisonous reaction to him cutting the sleeves off his full-length shirt as opposed to wearing a short-sleeved one that bears the country’s flag during the 2-0 win against Albania on Sunday night was the final straw.

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Holland v France and more: World Cup 2018 qualifying – live!

7.51pm BST

Goal: Greece lead Estonia in Tailinn thanks Vasilios Torosidis.

7.50pm BST

3 min: Gameiro wins France’s first corner by placing sufficient pressure on Karsdorp. Payet’s delivery is headed wide by Varane.

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Wales v Georgia: World Cup 2018 qualifier – live!

5.07pm BST

5 min: Bale delivers a long throw that is easily claimed by Loria, who is quick off his line, pre-empting what was to come. The Wales fans are “de de de-ing” to Zombie Nation.

5.05pm BST

4 min: Georgia’s best player in Dublin was Tornike Okriashvili, who is very tidy in midfield. He is starting in a No10 role here but often drifts wide.

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Gareth Farrelly: ‘I still think all the time that I am part of the 10% that live’

The midfielder whose goal kept Everton up in 1998 on dealing with the life-threatening illness that struck eight years ago, his chequered career and why he turned his back on football for a career in law

Eighteen years have passed and Gareth Farrelly has been through the wringer since, but he can still recall the “weird and surreal” day he kept Everton in the Premier League with vivid detail. It was the final afternoon of the 1997‑98 season and Howard Kendall’s team required at least a point against Coventry to survive. The boyhood Evertonian was not known for finding the net but he was there when his team’s needs were at their greatest, scoring his only league goal for the club in a 1-1 draw to keep them up and send Bolton down.

Yet such is the remarkable nature of Farrelly’s story that the significance of that one shot, the type of moment many players would declare to be their greatest, is a minor segment. The six-times Republic of Ireland international became a manager at 28 not too long after falling out with Sam Allardyce at Bolton, whom he helped to promotion having earlier relegated them, and a couple of years later prompted a change in Fifa’s transfer rules.

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Jonathan Walters warns Ireland are in no-win situation against Moldova

• Attacker likens World Cup qualifier to cup ties with lower-league clubs
• Martin O’Neill short of midfield options after Robbie Brady’s concussion

The Republic of Ireland rarely tend to do things the easy way. Martin O’Neill’s team may be able to put it up to some of the world’s best, as Italy and France will attest to following the European Championship, but too often they struggle against the lesser teams.

That age-old problem was obvious against Georgia, a team sandwiched between Thailand and Puerto Rico in Fifa’s rankings, on Thursday and, before the trip to Moldova on Sunday, Jonathan Walters said that such fixtures are no-win situations.

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