Monthly Archives: February 2010

Steve Borthwick shows John Terry how it’s done

When they needed it most, England received a match-saving golden yellow ticket. Tied at 3-3, it was the Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones who gave the hosts the chance to go in at half-time ahead and, therefore, in the ascendancy.

A turning point indeed, as Wales were looking the more threatening in what was largely a tight affair. That is up until the five minutes before the break when Jones received a yellow card and was sent to the sin bin for a clumsy trip on the England hooker Dylan Hartley.

It seems a captains job is not only to command his troops, but also the headlines. The England footballer John Terry was earlier in the week stripped of the captaincy by manager Fabio Capello, after the married man of twins bombarded the tabloids for a number of infidelities.

Then there is Steve Borthwick. The 30-year-old was appointed by England rugby coach Martin Johnson, as the nations captain throughout the Six Nations campaign. Yet some feel Borthwick is captain by default and the appointment was Johnson’s only option given the injury to Tom Croft – Borthwick’s only realistic challenger.

However, yesterday against Wales Borthwick showcased his key attributes. The Saracens lock was England’s main man in the lineout and continued to discreetly impose his authority when England needed a safeguard in possession, or when Wales were venturing to attack.

The England captain once admitted – “I’m a very anonymous person” – yet some who believe Borthwick lacks personality of say a Lawrence Dallaglio or Martin Johnson will keenly be swept aside by those who have worked closely with him in the game.

To put it mildly, his club Saracens feel there is no one around who could step in and do Borthwicks industrious work better. Saracens’ director of rugby, Brendan Venter, earlier explained just how important their captain will be throughout the season: “If we end up having a good season it’ll be because of Steve Borthwick.”

Borthwick, himself, confesses to being “boring” and that being made captain was down to his performances alone.

He said: “My understanding is it’s because of what I do as a player and the way I am around the group. I’ll just bring my hard work, my intensity, my attention to detail and my leadership. That’s what I do.” Simply put, he lets his rugby do the talking.

After yesterday’s win over Wales in the Centenary Test at Twickenham, England have, in the end, nonchalantly jumped the first obstacle in their efforts to lift the Six Nations come the end of March. Should England do so, it will take a brave Martin Johnson to end Borthwick’s tenure as captain beyond the competition.

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Beck to haunt Spurs?

The Leeds United frontman has hit five goals in as many games in the FA Cup this season

Tonight sees the FA Cup fourth round replay between Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur at Elland Road. First time round, it was that man Jermaine Beckford who grabbed a brace and taught a few Spurs defenders a lesson or two to force this evenings replay. The 26-year-old produced his best performance yet in the 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane, which culminated in the striker displaying consummate composure to despatch an injury-time equaliser from the penalty spot.

The magic of the FA Cup is widely understood to be alive intermittently, but the competition always seems to bring the best out of one team in particular, and this season it’s Simon Grayson‘s Leeds United. The former United player, now manager, is hoping his in-form striker – although someone else would be nice – can once again cause another cup upset by knocking out Harry Redknapp‘s men in front of their home supporters.

Jermaine Beckford looked destined to venture onto pastures new during the January transfer window, after hitting 18 goals in 22 league appearances so far this season. Add to that, the former Wealdstone player has notched an impressive 5 in 5 in the FA Cup.

It is not yet known whether Beckford will stay with United beyond the current campaign, but I’m sure Grayson would be delighted if the player and club could sort out a new contract for him. However, if Beckford continues his purple patch in the FA Cup tonight, and knocks out another Premier League side in the process, Ken Bates will surely find it a tough task matching the ambitions of a Premier League outfit.

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Same old Michael Schumacher

Former Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher did what he does best yesterday, by clocking up the third fastest lap time in Valencia. The testing programme ahead of the Formula One 2010 campaign marked the return to racing by the German, and it seems his three-year absence behind the cockpit hasn’t caused any ill-effect. His best lap time of 1min 12.947 sec also saw him beat his Mercedes GP teammate Nico Rosberg, whilst the day also witnessed the return to action of Felipe Massa.

Even at 41, it is still foolish to suggest the seven-times world champion is no longer cut out to compete on the circuit. Schumacher has already admitted that he still has that hunger like before, and on yesterday’s showing in Spain, he still possesses that archetypal German trait: determination. Away from the circuit the German dedicates his time to playing a number of other sports, which on evidence in Valencia, has kept him in sound shape.

Schumacher reminisced after racing yesterday saying that it was like making his debut all over again. If that is the case, then Schumacher may indeed have the fire in his belly to achieve something extraordinary in the Formula One 2010 season. On first showing, he still has the talent.

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Sebastien Chabal to miss Six Nations opener

Franch international Sebastian Chabal will miss his country’s Six Nations opener against Scotland on Sunday due to a back injury. The 32-year-old will be replaced by Toulouse youngster Yoann Maestri, 22, after the ex-Sale forward failed to recover in time despite taking no part in training over the weekend.

It is a major blow to Mark Lievremont’s men, and Chabal – the second lock to pull out because of injury, after Roman Millo-Chluski failed to shrug off a shoulder injury – is also disappointed to miss out. Chabal confirmed on Twitter that the injury is a “drag” which has forced him to “Return home and rest”.

Chabal will look to make a speedy recovery in time for France’s second game against Ireland at the Stade de France on Saturday  the 13th of February.

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Transfer window sees Premier League restoration

Patrick Vieira is one of many Premier League stars to have recently returned to England

The largely intrusive January transfer window is dormant for another year, and whilst Sky Sports News have been relatively quiet, the Premier League still welcome back a few memorable faces including Sol Campbell (Free, Arsenal), Ediur Gudjohnsen (Loan, Tottenham) and Patrick Vieira (Loan, Manchester City).

Today – the final day of the window – saw former Spurs and Middlesbrough striker Mido join West Ham United on loan for the rest of the season. Despite most deals happening on the cheap, there were one or two exceptions to the stringent “rule”. Adam Johnson finally signed for Roberto Mancini’s City in a reported £7m deal, whilst ex-Portsmouth goalkeeper Asmir Begovic moved to Spurs Stoke City for £3.5m on a four-and-a-half year contract.

But again, most clubs boycotted spending big and decided to save the little money they have for a rainy day. This year’s decline in transfer activity may well be down to financial adversity or that the players needed are just not available in an important stage of the season.  To the detriment of Sky Sports News it may be that the midseason window is becoming increasingly unpopular and will, therefore, slowly die out.

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