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Could 2016’s Grand National be the biggest yet?

Posted on | January 20, 2016 | No Comments

With less than three months until the Grand National, many of the nation’s bookmakers, trainers and racing fans will be looking forward to this top racing event with an added level of excitement.

This is because there have been a number of innovations for the 2016 Grand National that look odds-on to make this the biggest racing extravaganza that the UK has ever seen.

Television exposure

One of the biggest changes to the Grand National in 2016 looks to be the way that the start time of the race has been delayed by one hour to begin at 5.15pm. This move has been made in an bid to maximise the viewing audiences so that the racing event can attempt to achieve the ten million audience viewing figures that were achieved when the race was held during the glory years of the BBC.

However, since Channel 4 have made moves to become the leading horse-racing broadcaster, it has had to compete against the BBC’s football-related content and this move has been welcomed by racing fans with many bookmakers offering odds on how many will tune in to watch this epic racing event.

Female developments

In recent years there have been more than a few tabloid newspapers that have sought to portray the Ladies’ Day events in somewhat unflattering terms. However, this year looks to further the progress of women jockeys as there have been many recent notable occurrences of female success in this traditionally male sporting domain.

One of the most triumphant female performances was by Katie Walsh who came third in the 2012 Grand National on Seabass, and fans can follow the fate of the current female jockeys in the latest Grand National odds that are being updated daily on the Coral website that offers a tempting range of betting options on this fascinating event.

The ultimate racing event

However, despite all of these developments, it’s the sheer scale of the Grand National that makes this racing’s best-loved event. Already tickets for the event are selling at a much faster rate than last year, and it’s expected that even more than 152,000 spectators will attend the Aintree racecourse in during the three days of intense racing, beating last year’s record.

And with the prize money once again topping well over £1 million, it’s expected that the 2016 Grand National will be odds-on for being the best yet!

FC Barcelona 5th Trophy in 2015

Posted on | January 5, 2016 | No Comments

FC Barcelona have managed to win the fifth trophy in 2015, after beating South American champions River Plate 3-0 in the final of FIFA Club World Cup. The European Champions qualified easily to the finals after 3-0 victory against Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande.

The Uruguayan striker, Luis Suárez,  managed to score all three goals of the semifinal, proving once again that he deserved every penny that were paid for him.

In Sunday’s match football betting fans were expecting a more balanced game but that was not the case. And that was due to the fact that both Messi and Neymar, who were missing the semifinal, have played.

Messi opened the score line  in the 36th minute and Suarez make the double in minutes 49th and 68th.

With this success, Barcelona became the first team in the world who won the FIFA Club World Cup trophy three times. The first trophy was won in 2009 after a victory against Estudiantes 2-1 while the second was in 2011 against Santos 4-0.

This is the fifth trophy of the year for Luis Enrique’s men as they won La liga, Copa del Rey, Champions League and European Super Cup.

The Spanish giants missed the chance to win the sixth trophy of the year, Spanish Super Cup. Atletic Bilbao have won the trophy with 1-5 the overall score.

Are We Still Calling a Fluke? Leicester City Edition

Posted on | December 11, 2015 | No Comments

Leicester City is meeting Chelsea in the Premier League this Monday, and if you had tried to tell anyone some 15 weeks ago that the Foxes would be firmly at the top of the League and the Blues would only occupy the 14th place, well, frankly not a soul would have thought it was plausible. And yet, here we are.

A lot of people argue that Leicester hasn’t had to face enough tough opponents yet – which does bring up a fair point to the table. Their only loss was a 2:5 vs Arsenal, and then both Man United and Tottenham concluded in 1:1, with most of the teams beaten being middle or bottom dwelling.

The upcoming match against Chelsea, however lacklustre the latter has been lately, should be one of the first markers to indicate whether this impressive achievement was highly dependent on a successful schedule. After that, Week 18 and 19 will bring games against Liverpool and Man City respectively, which should clear up any doubts that may still linger.

However, nine wins, five draws, and only one loss in 15 weeks of the League is not something that can be completely written off as just a fluke. Leicester City must have gotten something right, and it seems like one of these rights came in a form of Jamie Vardy, who has just been named Premier League Player of the Month.

With 14 goals in 15 appearances, the English striker has certainly made a name for himself. The only other player that comes anywhere close to him in scoring is the midfielder RiyadMahrez with 10 goals in 14 games – apart from them, not a single teammate scored more than two goals. It‘s safe to say that these two getting injured would probably bring the whole campaign down.

While keeping up a performance like this for 15 consecutive weeks is certainly more than a lucky streak, there were a few things that definitely helped with that. Namely, three of the toughest opponents are yet to come, the squad has been relatively healthy, and energised by a surprise leader.

The only thing to do now is wait. Even though Leicester is #1, Chelsea are still regarded as favorites in their upcoming clash by the UK-licensed bookie TonyBet who has given the Blues the odds of 143/100 at winning. The Foxes are not that far behind though with 21/10 – and who knows, maybe they may just go ahead and win the entire League. Wouldn’t that be something!

Built on Sand: The House of Lancaster

Posted on | November 19, 2015 | No Comments

Stuart Lancaster had integrity, passion and excellent PR skills. But he never possessed what mattered most.

If a man is charming, likable and says all the right things, he’ll always start a new job on the front foot. Employers can be fooled. If a candidate impresses at interview, and seems easy to work with, it’s easy to get carried away and overlook things like qualifications and experience.

That’s exactly what happened when the RFU were charmed by Stuart Lancaster back in 2012. The like the cut of his jib, and his relaxed patriotism, and the cultural fit seemed too good to fail. They believed he’d learn on the job, and become a success, because they wanted to believe he would.

Easy option?

The RFU could have appointed a heavyweight like Jake White or Nick Mallett, but these characters were likely to be demanding – a bit like Sir Clive Woodward. The RFU didn’t want another headache, albeit a World Cup winning one, on their hands.

It wasn’t just the RFU who were impressed by Lancaster. The media were equally culpable. He seemed like a breath of fresh air after the snarling Martin Johnson. But nobody stopped to think. Who is this Stuart Lancaster? What has he achieved in the game?

The harsh reality was ignored. Before being handed the England reins, the grand sum of Lancaster’s achievements were thus: one season in premiership in which his side won just two games. Lancaster had never won a trophy; he had achieved nothing in Europe; he had a CV too thin for most premiership clubs let alone the national team.

Instead the RFU pretended that Lancaster’s vision – which basically amounted to pride in the shirt, discipline and hard work – was somehow revolutionary. There was just one problem: all national sports teams work hard and show pride. It’s the minimum requirement. What actually separates the men from the boys is tactical acumen, clear thinking and man management.

Inexperience shows

Lancaster lacked in all these key areas. He never understood how he wanted England to play. Selection was rarely consistent. Injuries didn’t help but Lancaster never, at any point, knew what his best side was. He went into the World Cup pool match as narrow favourites against Wales, with a 10, 12 and 13 combination that had never set foot on a rugby field together before.

England’s coach also panicked under pressure. In a year when George Ford excelled at fly-half, and expanded England’s game, Owen Farrell was inexplicably recalled at crunch time. What’s more, his substitutions always often seemed premeditated and nonsensical.

Lancaster’s man management was also found wanting. After rejecting calls to select Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon, ostensibly because choosing outsiders at the last minute would unsettle the squad, he inexplicably called up Sam Burgess at the eleventh hour at the expense of the deserving Luther Burrell.

Meanwhile, Lancaster shunned the brilliant but somewhat disruptive personalities England needed. Part of a coach’s brief is to manage difficult but talented individuals. By excluding the likes of Dylan Hartley and Manu Tuilagi on disciplinary grounds, Lancaster avoided this challenge altogether.

Overall, Lancaster’s tenure was one of muddled thinking both on and off the pitch. Progress was either fleeting or non-existent. Four consecutive 2nd place finishes in the Six Nations reveals its own story. England always blew it with the big prize in sight.

While England probably didn’t have the playing talent to win the 2015 World Cup, the semi-finals should not have been beyond them. England are the richest rugby nation, with the biggest pool of players, in the world. Lancaster never had the pedigree to make the most of the resources available. He was charming to the last, but charisma can only take a team so far.

 

Salford City-Manchester United: Surely it can’t happen, can it?

Posted on | November 10, 2015 | No Comments

Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville – names synonymous with the FA Cup.

With 16 winners medals between them, and arguably the finest goal to have ever graced the competition – here’s looking at you Mr Giggs – the former Manchester United quintet are among the most decorated performers in English football.

In fact, the Red Devils have failed to lift the trophy since all five were involved in a 3-0 victory over Millwall at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium back in 2004 – shortly before Butt departed for Newcastle United and 12 months prior to Phil Neville’s switch to Everton.

Their association with the grandest of knockout tournaments has, however, been rekindled this year, even with their respective playing days having come to an end.

No longer can they directly influence proceedings out on the field, but they are looking to make something of a splash off it.

In 2014, it was announced that United’s famous Class of ’92 – minus one David Beckham – had agreed a deal to purchase Salford City, along with billionaire businessman Peter Lim.

As local lads made good, this could have been considered a fleeting fancy, an idea which made sense at the time, allowing them to get involved with a community close to that which made them superstars, but ultimately one that would fall by the wayside as media and coaching commitments took priority.

Anyone who tuned in to catch the recent BBC documentary featuring the famous five and their efforts with Salford thus far will, however, have realised that this is no gimmick, that Neville and co are fully committed to their duties and as passionate about their football club as they ever were with United, England and Wales.

They want this venture to be a success and will be doing all they can, without meddling in the finer points of coaching and team selection, to ensure that the right tools are offered to those charged with generating results.

It has been a tale of so far, so good on that front – with promotion secured in 2014/15 and welcome publicity generated during a memorable cup run this term.

In front of the television cameras on November 6, the Northern Premier League Premier Division part-timers stunned League Two opponents Notts County 2-0 – a side ranked 59 places above them in the League ladder.

A spot in the second round of the FA Cup was secured on the back of that triumph, meaning they are now 90 minutes away from a potentially money-spinning clash with one of the Premier League elite.

 

Standing in their way are Hartlepool United – a team currently five points and four places behind Notts County in the fourth tier standings, suggesting that anything is possible when cup competition returns to the humble surrounds of Moor Lane.

It is safe to assume that FA Cup betting markets, experts and followers will be fully behind their cause, with a remarkable footballing fairytale unfolding in Greater Manchester.

Who knows, were they to edge their way past Hartlepool, Giggs, Butt, Scholes and the Nevilles may find themselves paired with familiar faces over at Old Trafford.

Anything, we are often told, is possible in the FA Cup, so who is to say that the fabled magic of the competition cannot deliver a Salford City versus Manchester United clash at the third round stage to capture the imagination and have us all daring to dream?

Should Fifa introduce video replay?

Posted on | August 18, 2010 | No Comments

The video replay one of the most discussed topic in football in the recent years.

Everyone expects from the referees to be perfect, or at least to reduce the mistakes during the games but it looks that this is a very hard task to do. So everyone tries to find solutions, and Fifa is pressed from all sides to come with an alternative.

In the first phase Fifa tried the system with 6 referees, tested it in Europa League, but even this solution doesn’t seem to be better. There were also speculations that the ball should contain a chip to signal when the ball passes the line of the goal but the solutions is not well seen by the specialists.

So at the moment it looks like the only viable solution is the video replay.Regarding the video replay the opinions are divided with a plus for it. Fifa is pressed to take a decision especially after the World Cup mistakes, when some of them proved to be crucial.

So after rugby, basketball, tennis or american football we might have video replays also in football. This decision would bring advantages but not only.

At advantages we can mention fewer mistakes that can decide games and fewer scandals. On the other side the spirit and the charm of the game would suffer.  Imagine for example a game show with a similar setup – a Who Wants To Be Millionaire Online Game for example would take so long and become boring. Also the game could have more than 10 minutes of additional time which could determine the players to lose their patience  awaiting for the verdict, the fluidity of the game could also suffer.

The final decision will be taken in November but there are chances for a positive answer.

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