Saturday, 31 December 2016

Index 2016

25.02 The EU: Should we stay or should we go?
19.03 IDS brings down shapeshifter Osborne's house of cards
13.07 The Brexit month of political May-hem
US Presidential election
11.02 Year of the outsiders
02.03 Trump towers over his rivals on Super Tuesday
08.11 Preview: Clinton on a knife-edge
10.11 Triumphant Trump beats complacent Clinton
05.05 Election 2016: the full results

06.08 Great expectations for Team GB
06.08 Sport-by-sport guide
08.08 Team GB roll of honour
07.09 On a level... aren't they?
08.09 Paralympics GB roll of honour

Season 2015/16
02.01 Arsenal lead Leicester at the halfway stage
07.05 Leicester City - from 5000/1 to number one
02.06 For the record
Euro 2016 and England aftermath
10.06 The Guide
22.06 Complete results sheet
10.07 Final: Éder strikes as Portugal break their duck
30.07 50 years of hurt
01.10 Grubby Allardyce got what he deserved
03.04 Touching Distance
05.08 ¡Viva La Rafalution!
20.10 The greatest day at Gallowgate
27.02 FIFA looks to turn a fresh leaf under Infantino

26.01 Improving England left with lessons still to learn
16.03 Shouldn't T20 cricket be solely a franchise sport?
09.10 On the demise of Durham
24.07 Froome completes Tour de France hat-trick 
05.10 Americans end their Ryder Cup pain
Horse Racing
10.04 Grand National: Teenage kicks Rule The World
Rugby Union
06.02 Six Nations shared between BBC and ITV
11.07 Dominant Murray produces a masterclass at Wimbledon
World Snooker Championship
17.04 The O'Sullivan paradox 
01.05 Selby seals second Crucible title

14.05 Eurovision finds its way back home
09.06 An annotated guide to the Blaydon Races
31.12 Index 2016

Thursday, 10 November 2016

US election 2016: Triumphant Trump beats complacent Clinton

Click the map to create your own at

232California (55), Colorado (9), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maine (3), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), Minnesota (10), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), New Jersey (14), New Mexico (5), New York (29), Oregon (7), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Virginia (13), Washington (12) + DC (3)
Donald TRUMP
59,769,452 (47.5%)
306Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arizona (11), Arkansas (6), Florida (29), Georgia (16), Idaho (4), Indiana (11), Iowa (6), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Maine (1), Michigan (16), Mississippi (6), Missouri (10), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), North Carolina (15), North Dakota (3), Ohio (18), Oklahoma (7), Pennsylvania (20), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (38), Utah (6), West Virginia (5), Wisconsin (10), Wyoming (3)

MAVERICK Donald Trump pulled off possibly the most sensational win in American electoral history yesterday after defeating Hillary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States.

With Arizona still counting, and Michigan and New Hampshire classed as virtual dead heats, the final result in the Electoral College is yet to be confirmed. 

However, if the current positions in each of those states holds, Mr Trump will eventually prevail 306 to 232, as above.

By contrast, in the popular vote, it is highly likely that Mrs Clinton will be confirmed as the winner, making it the second presidential election out of the last five in which the winner of the most votes has failed to gain the keys to the White House.

For the record, George W Bush beat Al Gore in 2000 despite losing the popular vote - something which my preview blog mentioned. 

In fact, the Democrats have won the popular vote in six of the last seven elections, missing out only in 2004 when incumbent Mr Bush defeated John Kerry. 

But all of these facts will be of little comfort to Mrs Clinton. The hopes of the 69-year-old becoming the first ever female US President now appear to be dashed forever

The election night itself made its customarily quiet start as states such as Maryland and Massachusetts for the Democrats, and Tennessee and Texas for the Republicans, were allocated to their respective columns.

Just after 3am GMT, with no swing states yet called, Mr Trump held a 140-109 lead in the Electoral College. But then came the first blow for Mrs Clinton. 

Ohio - a state which has backed the winner of every presidential election since 1960 - lived up to its bellwether reputation by being called for Mr Trump.

And, startlingly, the 70-year-old billionaire took the Buckeye state by nearly a nine-percent margin, a 12-point turnaround from four years ago when Barack Obama won it for the Democrats.

Better news followed for Mrs Clinton as she secured the electoral votes from Colorado and then, narrowly, from Virginia. However, early reports from Michigan and Wisconsin hinted at yet more trouble for her in the Mid West.

At 4am GMT, the Pacific coast states declared and the massive haul of 55 electoral votes from California put Mrs Clinton into the lead in the Electoral College.

But, as soon as the cheers over the California result were dying down at Clinton HQ in New York, North Carolina was declared for Mr Trump. 

Thereafter, it became one-way traffic in terms of the most important results. Mr Trump took the perennial swing state of Florida just after 4.30am GMT, and followed it up by securing neighbouring Georgia just before 5am GMT. 

However, the last knockout blows for Mrs Clinton were still yet to come.

Shortly after 7am GMT, Mr Trump would became the first ever Republican candidate to win an electoral vote in the north eastern state of Maine, which splits its vote by district. More crucially still, he then became the first Republican to win Pennsylvania since 1988.

Within minutes of that, it became clear Mr Trump had, in fact, repeated this feat in Wisconsin - and those 10 electoral votes were enough to put the Republican over the magical mark of 270 officially. 

Notably, Mrs Clinton had not visited the Badger state even once during the general election campaign. 

True, Wisconsin had been so reliably Democrat for the last 28 years that it might have seemed a waste of energy and resources - and, yes, this point relies a lot on hindsight. 

Nevertheless, such complacency, looking back, now seems astonishing. After all, the Mid West has threatened to drift away from the Democrats for years. 

In the 2012 election, Mr Obama arguably only secured the support of Michigan after he promised a bailout to the world famous but now much suffering automobile industry in Detroit.

Unfortunately, for such areas, the decline in manufacturing has gone on for so long now that there is a sense of permanency about it. 

Small-town America - including many places in the rust belt - can be a hopeless, desolate place for their mainly white working class communities.

And it should therefore come as no surprise that this is where the roars against the establishment and the political elite have been at their loudest.

Some commentators have called it a whitelash but such analysis is far too simplistic and the complaints of these people - who just happen to be white, working class - are as much about economics as race.

Indeed, analysis of the white vote will not on its own explain the election result as a whole. 

For a start, the Clinton campaign also struggled to enthuse enough black or Hispanic voters with turnout for the Democrats well down on the last two elections.

Certainly, though, it was in the Mid West where this election was lost by Mrs Clinton - in Michigan and Wisconsin especially, where she had also earlier lost both Democratic primaries to another political outsider Bernie Sanders

Of course, it is impossible to know at this stage if Mr Sanders would instead have beaten Mr Trump. Surely, though, a Sanders candidacy would have given those angry anti-establishment voters in the Mid West something more to think about.

For a start, he may have paid those people some attention and listened to their concerns so that they did not simply lash out and desperately cross their ballot against Mr Trump's name in the vague hope that something somehow might change.

After all, even many Republican voters have admitted Mr Trump was, at best, a rather dysfunctional candidate for them.

The New Yorker, nonetheless, was still good enough to win - and, with Republicans having also retained control of both the House and the Senate, it would be fair to say the world became an even more uncertain place this week.

It could be a long four years with Mr Trump as President - and, following an election which changed the shape of the political map in America, it might well be eight.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

US election 2016: Clinton on a knife-edge

THE MOST bitter and divisive US Presidential election in decades mercifully draws to a close overnight as America decides between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Democrat candidate Mrs Clinton still holds the lead in almost all of the national polls - but, as election day has got closer, so undoubtedly have those polls.

Moreover, the popular vote is not even the decisive factor. It is possible, as George W Bush proved against Al Gore in 2000, to lose in terms of the total number of votes and yet still win the election.

The reason behind this is the electoral college system in which a candidate requires 270 electoral college votes to win.

Based largely on the population of a state, demographics across America have resulted in the majority of states becoming either dependably blue for the Democrats or reliably red for the Republicans.

As such, it can be safely predicted that California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), New Jersey (14), New Mexico (5), New York (29), Oregon (7), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Virginia (13), Washington (12), and the District of Columbia (3) will all fall into Mrs Clinton's column for a total of 204 electoral college votes.

Likewise, Mr Trump can expect to win Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arkansas (6), Idaho (4), Indiana (11), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Missouri (10), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (38), Utah (6), West Virginia (5), and Wyoming (3) for an overall tally of 164.
However, the map of swing states - where the turnout of a candidate's vote really counts - is far wider in 2016 than it was in 2012.

Also, four years ago, incumbent Barack Obama could count on holding the upper hand in nearly every single so-called 'purple' state

But, for Mrs Clinton this time around, that is simply not the case. 

Indeed, on the eve of the election proper, Florida (29), Nevada (6), and North Carolina (15) are complete toss-ups. 

Worse still, she trails in Arizona (11), Georgia (16), Iowa (6), and Ohio (18), all of which are thought to be up for grabs.

Fortunately for Mrs Clinton, she continues to have far more pathways to victory than Mr Trump.

Converting narrow leads in Colorado (9), Michigan (16), Minnesota (10), New Hampshire (4), Pennsylvania (20), and Wisconsin (10) would be enough for Mrs Clinton to become the first ever female President of the United States without her needing any of those other swing states.

Click the map to create your own at

And if Mrs Clinton managed to pull off a win in Arizona, Florida or North Carolina, Mr Trump would find it just about impossible to succeed.

On final analysis then, Mrs Clinton is still a clear favourite in this election. 

Nevertheless, victory - if it does indeed arrive - will have been nowhere near as comfortably achieved as expected.

This has been a bruising campaign for the 69-year-old former New York senator right from the primary season when she faced an unexpectedly tough challenge from Bernie Sanders.

Having eventually won that race, Mrs Clinton has since been dogged by accusations that she may have breached federal rules during her time as Secretary of State by using a private email account for official business.

For the record, Mrs Clinton was cleared in July after a systematic analysis by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

But astonishingly, 11 days before the election, the FBI announced that newly discovered emails had come to light and it was re-opening its investigation.

On Sunday, FBI director James Comey cleared Mrs Clinton again. Nevertheless, the resurfacing of the story chimed well among some wavering voters with Mr Trump's repeated assertion that his opponent is corrupt.

And, consequently, it has dashed any possibility of a Clinton landslide, something had started to look increasingly during the month of October.

Yes, just a month ago, all the heat was on Mr Trump as a recording from 2005 was released in which he used explicit language, and claimed he could kiss and grope women because he is "a star".

Mr Trump, who had been accused of sexism on several occasions, later apologised for the remarks, claiming they did not reflect who he was.

But the damage was done and many Republicans withdrew their support including 2008 nominee, Arizona senator John McCain, and former Secretary of State in the Bush administration, Condoleezza Rice.

Somehow, it got worse for Mr Trump. In the days following the release of the tape, a steady stream of women came forward to suggest the recording did, in fact, reflect who he was.

Fighting fire with fire, Mr Trump held an impromptu press conference with women who have accused Mrs Clinton's husband, 42nd President Bill Clinton, of sexual assault.

It was the day, the BBC declared, that this election had gone down the drain - but, arguably, Mr Trump has never risen above the cesspit.

At the very launch of his bid for the presidency, he demonised Mexican immigrants as rapists and has constantly threatened to build a wall on the border between Mexico and the United States.

Meanwhile, his response to the San Bernardino terrorist attack in California was to "ban all Muslims" from entering the country. 

It is perhaps then no wonder that Mrs Clinton - despite her own imperfect campaign - still finds herself ahead.

Even then, though, an overnight victory - unless it is totally overwhelming - may not be the end of it. 

Mr Trump already on record saying he will not necessarily accept a result which does not go in his favour. Additionally, he has repeatedly claimed the election is rigged against him

Of course, the 70-year-old has already made so much investment, both financially and emotionally, to his tawdry campaign - and he has already suffered so much damage to his reputation. 

As such, being additionally labelled as a bad loser would, at this stage, barely make him flinch.

Ultimately then, this election may not, in fact, finish overnight after all. The best tip right now would be to brace yourself.
Coverage on BBC One begins at 11.15pm with the equivalent results programme on ITV starting slightly earlier at 10.40pm. Both broadcasts run through until breakfast news begins at 6am.

All times are GMT (number of electoral votes)

00:00 Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia (60)
00:30 North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia (38)
01:00 Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, DC 01:30 Arkansas (178)
02:00 Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming (156)
03:00 Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Utah (21)
04:00 California, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Washington (82)
06:00 Alaska (3)

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The greatest day at Gallowgate

20 October 1996 - FA Carling Premiership
Newcastle United 5 Peacock 12, Ginola 30, Ferdinand 63, Shearer 75, Albert 83
Manchester United 0

Newcastle United Pavel Srníček - Steve Watson (Warren Barton 87), Darren Peacock, Philippe Albert, John Beresford - Peter Beardsley, David Batty, Robert Lee (Lee Clark 87), David Ginola - Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand Subs not used Shaka Hislop, Faustino Asprilla, Keith Gillespie Booked David Batty
Manchester United Peter Schmeichel - Gary Neville, David May, Gary Pallister, Denis Irwin - Karel Poborský (Paul Scholes 66), Ronny Johnsen (Brian McClair 66), Nicky Butt, David Beckham - Ole Gunnar Solskjær (Jordi Cruyff 56), Eric Cantona Subs not used Raimond van der Gouw, Phil Neville Booked Nicky Butt, Eric Cantona, David May, Peter Schmeichel, Paul Scholes 
Attendance 36,579 at St James Park Referee Steve Dunn (Bristol)
Live on Sky Sports.

“ON a day when Newcastle would have taken 1-0 against Manchester United, here they are looking for number five with Philippe Albert... ohhhhh! Absolutely glorious!”

A DISTINCT sense of unease filled the pre-match atmosphere back in October 1996 when Manchester United arrived on Tyneside.

Many Newcastle fans were still reeling from the Magpies' capitulation in the 1995-96 title race in which the Red Devils had managed to overturn a 12-point deficit on their way to winning the Double.

And then, in August - as if to rub Newcastle's noses in it - Manchester United produced a masterclass at Wembley to hammer Kevin Keegan's forlorn team 4-0 in the Charity Shield.

Most worryingly, the season curtain raiser seemed to lay waste to the argument that the £15m signing in July of Alan Shearer was the final piece in the puzzle for Newcastle. Manchester United were the superior side by far that day under the Twin Towers.

The defending champions subsequently arrived at St James Park for the 10th league game of the season still unbeaten.

Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel - who had produced a series of brilliant stops to deny Les Ferdinand in the equivalent fixture in March - had not conceded in around nine hours of football.

But Newcastle, to their credit, had recovered well from a slow start and a 2-1 away win over Sunderland in the last ever derby at Roker Park had instigated a sequence of six straight league successes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, the men in black-and-white made the faster start - and, after Ferdinand had seen his shot deflected wide, Keegan's men got their just desserts on 12 minutes.

Darren Peacock was the unlikely scorer from the resultant corner, only just forcing his header over the line from a knockdown by Shearer despite the efforts of Dennis Irwin.

Schmeichel had finally been beaten - and the crowd, already loud, erupted and became even louder.

Of course, Keegan's team were not the sort of side to sit on a 1-0 lead. Attack for Keegan was always the best form of defence.

In any case, everyone at St James that day seemed to know instinctively that this match, being played at a lightning pace on a skiddy pitch, was not going to finish with only one goal.

So it was vital then that Newcastle found some breathing room in the match.

After half an hour, the breathing room arrived. French winger David Ginola was the sole architect of a typically magical second, turning Gary Neville on the edge of the left-hand side of the box before unleashing a fierce right-footed drive into the top corner.

Soon after, another venomous shot followed as Shearer beat Schmeichel all-ends-up, only to see his effort smack the post. Nonetheless, 2-0 at the interval was more than satisfactory.

Inevitably, Manchester United came back into the match at the start of the second half, enjoying most of the ball.

Karel Poborský forced a fine save from the now tragically late Pavel Srníček before Steve Watson cleared a goal-bound Eric Cantona effort.

The Red Devils were getting on top for the first time - and it was becoming clear that Newcastle needed a third, if only to swing the game fully back in their favour.

Again just when it was needed the goal arrived, this time from Ferdinand.

It looked as if the Londoner's one-man odyssey against Schmeichel was never going to see success when he headed a pinpoint Peter Beardsley ball wide.

But, within minutes of that, Shearer had fashioned a superb cross from the byline - and set up Sir Les for a towering header which went in off the underside of the bar. The Blaydon Races rang around the stadium.

Shearer finally got one for himself 12 minutes later, starting the move for his goal with a gorgeous cross-field ball to Beardsley who obliged by a whipping a rasping shot at Schmeichel.

The Dane - again - was equal, and he produced a double save to deny Ferdinand. The ball, at Shearer's feet only yards out, was only ever going to end up in the net, however.

It was 4-0, the same score in reverse as in the Charity Shield with - coincidentally - the same Newcastle starting line-up as exactly 10 weeks earlier.

Still, the Magpies probed. David Batty put a chance narrowly wide before the coup de grâce truly arrived with seven minutes remaining.

Philippe Albert had hardly made one of his notoriously cavalier advances all game - but, with the match won, the big Belgian suddenly found himself around 35 yards from goal.

Finding plenty of space, the centre-back strode forward and appeared to be lining up a shot. Schmeichel - still on his toes - took a couple of quick steps forward to meet the angle.

But, instead of a low drive, Albert crafted a delicate chip which sailed high over the goalkeeper and drifted serenely into the abandoned net. 

The crowd, of course, was anything but serene - and, if Sky commentator Andy Gray was at his most clichéd in describing the fifth as the icing on the cake, he and Martin Tyler had - in fairness - ran out of words. 

In cliché terms, Albert's chip would maybe more accurately be described as the sweetest cherry on top of the cake. 

Simply, for me personally, it was one of the most unforgettable moments of my childhood. 

I had watched the match, at the age of 13, in a noisy social club with my uncle - and, as the goals went in, I became increasingly amazed and was eventually high on several pints of Coca-Cola, as well as adrenaline and life. 

It certainly took me a while to get to sleep that night.

Even now, it does not really matter that Newcastle could only again finish runners-up to Manchester United at the end of that season.

Purely in isolation, this was the most wonderful payback for the heartbreaking end to the previous season as well as the humiliation of the Charity Shield defeat.

Undoubtedly, that Collymore goal live on Sky in April 1996 was the most deflating moment of the Entertainers era under Keegan.

It was the moment when it started to become clear Newcastle were not going to win the Premier League - or indeed anything - under the most talismanic figure in their history.

Equally, though, that Albert chip on 20 October 1996 was the antithesis of the Collymore strike. 

It was the most glorious moment on, perhaps, the greatest day at Gallowgate.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

On the demise of Durham

A gloomy Riverside Stadium in Chester-le-Street
ENGLAND began their series away in Bangladesh with a bang on Friday, winning the opening One Day International by 21 runs after a stirring late comeback.

Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes hit a maiden ODI century while there was a crucial five-fer on debut for 25-year-old Nottinghamshire seamer Jake Ball.

It was an exciting win at the start of a potentially tricky series with two more One-Dayers scheduled ahead of three Test matches and then a full winter tour of India.

But it was also a victory undermined by events earlier this week which resulted in the demotion of Durham County Cricket Club to Division Two of the County Championship.

On the surface, the decision to relegate Durham seems fair enough.

Bailed out to the tune of £3.8m by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), this relegation appears no different to the Football League deducting points off its teams for going into administration, something which has happened with some regularity since 2000.

However, Durham's overall punishment - which includes points deductions in all competitions for 2017 - was surely far too harsh in that it also renders the whole of next season almost pointless.

Most crucially, though, it seems to have entirely escaped the ECB as to how Durham have landed themselves in this situation.

The awkward truth for the governing body is that it is complicit.

THE DEMISE OF DURHAM The sanction in full
(1) Relegation to Division Two of the County Championship for 2017. Further deduction of 48 points to be made at the start of the 2017 season.
(2) Four-point penalty in the T20 Blast and a two-point penalty in the One-Day Cup in the 2017 season.
(3) All non-player related ECB competition prize money due to Durham for the 2016 season to be refunded to ECB or withheld until all debts owed by the club to ECB have been settled.
(4) Durham to be subject to a revised salary cap from April 2017 to April 2020 under the ECB’s Team Salary Payment (TSP) Regulations, set at a level to be determined annually by the ECB Board.

After all, here is exactly what has happened: in 1992, Durham became the first new county to be given First Class status for 70 years.

The award, however, came on the proviso that the club would construct an international standard ground.

In this matter, Durham delivered on their side of the deal - although, to this day, the location of the Riverside Stadium in Chester-le-Street, rather than the city of Durham itself, is rather baffling.

Nevertheless, Durham also invested in an academy which has produced the likes of Paul Collingwood, Steve Harmison, Mark Wood, and Stokes - all local lads who have gone on to make international appearances.

And, in 1999, the Riverside held its first One Day international - Pakistan v Scotland in the World Cup.

In 2003, it hosted its first ever Test, England v Zimbabwe, and everything seemed to be going to plan. By 2009, though, Sophia Gardens in Cardiff and the Rose Bowl in Hampshire had both also joined the Test circuit.

The problem then was that there were suddenly nine Test-standard venues for a total of seven Tests per year, two of which were allocated to Lord's.

In an ideal world, the ECB would have forced Lord's to give up one of its matches - but the history of the ground and its ability to attract a large capacity crowd in London always made this unlikely.

As such, with eight grounds competing for only five matches, the remaining Tests should have been allocated on a completely fair rota basis.

Instead, the ECB saw the chance to make a quick buck and so provoked a bidding war for each of its matches.

Inevitably, the more powerful counties usually won the right to stage the more attractive games - leaving the likes of Durham to bid for early- or late-season affairs, none of which would have been their first choice.

Of course, it was not always like that - in 2013, Durham staged an Ashes Test which England won to seal the series. In doing so, though, the club had paid through the nose for the privilege.

The system, quite frankly, was and still is unsustainable - and there is a feeling that Durham are probably better off out of it, the Riverside having now lost its Test status.

At this rate, though, Durham will not be the last victims - indeed, they were not the first.

In Cardiff, Glamorgan allowed the taxpayer to pick up the bill with the local council writing off the debt. Meanwhile, Warwickshire owe Birmingham City Council around £20m and have already benefited from a "repayment holiday".

Even Yorkshire - the most powerful of all of the counties - found itself £24m in debt, only to be saved by a single benefactor Colin Graves. Hampshire, with Rod Bransgrove, were similarly fortunate.

It is clear then that there are inherent structural problems in the domestic set-up.

Unfortunately, the response of the ECB has been typically closed-minded, a criticism which could be levelled at the sport of cricket as a whole.

There is really no point in putting cricket up against football in terms of comparisons - yes, the latter also has issues with its greed and bad governance but it will also always have far more reach and ability to make money.

However, a far better comparison can be made with rugby union. Of the two sports, cricket started its World Cup first - in 1979 - but, despite this, the tournament has only once featured as many as 16 teams.

By contrast, the Rugby World Cup - which began in 1987 with 16 teams - has had 20 competitors since 1999.

The expansion decision came despite a series of maulings for lower ranked nations in 1995, including an infamous 145-17 thrashing for Japan at the hands of New Zealand.

But, in the last 20 years, the weaker nations have gradually improved, and Japan are probably the biggest example of this.

Last autumn at the World Cup, the Red Cherries even beat South Africa, and the Japanese will also become the first Asian nation to host the tournament in 2019.

Of course, cricket - like any sport - is not averse to its shock results - but, despite their efforts, the likes of Ireland and the Netherlands have largely been left out in the cold.

All of this may seem to have little to do with Durham. However, all that is being pointed out here is that it is dangerous for administrators to take decisions which close the doors on apparent outsiders.

Stokes, still aged just 25, may continue steaming in and thumping boundaries for England for some years yet.

But, having acted so brutally against Durham and damaged their relationship with the north east at large this week, the ECB is unlikely, at best, to enjoy the benefit of another player like Stokes from the region in the next generation.

At worst, professional cricket in the north east could just about die off entirely.


ODI series

07-Oct(1) England 309-8 beat Bangladesh 288 47.5 by 21 runsDhaka
09-OctSecond ODIMirpur
12-OctThird ODIChittagong
Test series

20-24 OctFirst TestChittagong
28-01 NovSecond TestMirpur

Test series

09-13 NovFirst TestRajkot
17-21 NovSecond TestVisakhapatnam
26-30 NovThird TestMohali
08-12 DecFourth TestMumbai
16-20 DecFifth TestChennai
ODI series

15-Jan-2017First ODIPune
19-Jan-2017Second ODICuttack
22-Jan-2017Third ODIKolkata
T20 series

26-Jan-2017First T20IKanpur
29-Jan-2017Second T20INagpur
01-Feb-2017Third T20IBangalore

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Americans end their Ryder Cup pain


UNITED STATES recorded their first Ryder Cup win since 2008, and only their second since the turn of the millennium, with a 17-11 thrashing of Europe at the Hazeltine Golf Club in Minnesota.

Rookie Ryan Moore hit the winning stroke as the Americans ended their drought with their biggest win in the competition since 1981.

Naturally, the run-up to the weekend had focused on the Americans' lack of recent success and it was even suggested that this was a contest which they simply could not afford to lose for the sake of the long-term future of the tournament. 

In actual fact, though, there was no need to worry. Indeed, the feeling of the Americans' being on top pervaded the event even before it began.

Europe chose to field six rookies, a record for a visiting team - while the United States were far better prepared having set up a task force to identify the issues behind their poor performances.

American captain Davis Love III also had experience in that he had engaged in the same role before - even if that had been the epic home collapse at Medinah in 2012. In fairness, even then, his team had played the better golf over the first two days.

Then there were a couple of other little signs to suggest that this was not going to go so well for the Europeans.

Justin Rose had to pay a heckler $100 after the crowd member successfully holed a putt which Rory McIlroy had missed in practice. 

Meanwhile, Danny Willett was forced to apologise for an outburst by his brother Peter on Twitter in which he referred to American golf fans as a "braying mob of imbeciles".

The Masters champion was subsequently left out of the opening foursomes pairs on Friday, and his form seemed affected by the furore across the whole weekend.

As it happened, Willett probably could not have done any worse in those foursomes which finished 4-0 to the United States. It was the first time in 41 years that the Americans had swept the opening session.

Youngsters Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth enjoyed a flagship victory over Rose and Swede Henrik Stenson in the first match while Rickie Fowler scored his first Ryder Cup victory at the ninth attempt alongside Phil Mickelson.

Furthermore, Fowler and Mickelson defeated Europe's biggest fish McIlroy and Andy Sullivan in a match which the holders had led from early on.

And the Europeans were simply blown away in the bottom two matches.

Thankfully, in the afternoon fourballs, there was a response from Europe as Rio 2016 gold and silver medallists Rose and Stenson, paired again together, got revenge on Reed and Spieth in a dominant 5&4 win.

Spanish pairing Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello also dominated their match against JB Holmes and Moore to win 3&2.

And, though Martin Kaymer and Willett were hammered by Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka, McIlroy and Thomas Pieters ensured Europe would come out on top in terms of the session at least.

The Northern Irishman and the Belgian combined ranks to defeat Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar 3&2, and thus began a successful pairing which was repeated in both sessions on Saturday.

McIlroy and Pieters won both of their points on Saturday to make it three out of three as Europe continued to wipe out their deficit.

Rose joined forces with debutant Chris Wood to win 1up in the third match of the morning foursomes.

Then the Spaniards Garcia and Cabrera-Bello somehow managed to halve a match having been four down in 11 holes.

The Americans' sole success was through their handy partnership of Snedeker and Koepka who defeated Stenson and Matthew Fitzpatrick 3&2.

But the 2½-1½ session for Europe meant the United States' overall lead was down to one point. Was it time for the hosts to panic?

Perhaps it was - especially as Europe restored parity on the afternoon when McIlroy and Pieters sealed a 3&1 win on the 17th against Koepka and Dustin Johnson.

After that, though, it all went wrong again for Europe. Mickelson and Kuchar always looked to have enough against Kaymer and Garcia before, in the third match of their trilogy, Reed and Spieth saw off Rose and Stenson in a tight match 2&1.

However, the big result of the session saw Holmes and Moore beat Willett and Lee Westwood 1up with Westwood missing vital putts to lose the 17th hole and halve the 18th hole.

Even a 9-7 deficit would have given Europe some serious hope going into the Sunday singles. As it was, a 9
½-6½ overnight score left the holders with the proverbial mountain to climb.

Of course, in the run-up to the final day, there were countless mentions of Medinah - but Love, back then, had made the costly error of holding back his stronger and more in-form players in anticipation of a big finish.

Instead what happened was a weak top order was blown away by Europe - and then the bottom order could not cope with the pressure. Love was certainly not going to make that same mistake again.

For European captain Darren Clarke, the Sunday decisions were also simplified. Just like four years ago, early points were required in the hope of causing a collapse. McIlroy, Stenson, Pieters and Rose were a clear top four.

It did not quite work out, however. Reed inflicted upon McIlroy his first defeat in Ryder Cup singles, holding his nerve to win 1up following a titanic battle.

And, though Stenson and Pieters both won - and Cabrera-Bello convincingly beat Walker to close the gap to 10½-9½, that was always as good as it was ever going to get for Europe.

An oddly out-of-sorts Rose surprisingly went down to Fowler after the latter made a vital birdie on the par-five 16 before Koepka completed a fine Ryder Cup debut with a 5&4 thrashing of Danny Willett.

Next finished Mickelson and Garcia having halved a super quality match in which they both finished nine-under for the round, having shot a best ball score of 58. Certainly, neither player deserved to lose.

Unfortunately, though, the Europeans in the lower order were not competing anywhere near as well.

Snedeker and the two Johnsons all held leads at the turn for the back nine against a trio of rookies - Sullivan, Wood and Fitzpatrick - and none of them was relinquished.

German Kaymer grabbed a consolation point, overturning an early three-hole deficit to beat Kuchar - but, by then, it was already too late. The Americans had already won.

The tipping point came just after 10pm BST as 43-year-old wildcard Westwood, incredibly, fell apart again.

Moore, from two down, won the last three holes for a 1up victory in a match which will surely also be Westwood's last Ryder Cup appearance as a playing member.

A fine servant to European golf in the Ryder Cup has he been over the years but this weekend also reminded us why, in 23 years as professional, he has never won a major.

Skipper Clarke, undoubtedly, must share some of the blame in having taken the easy option to pick one of his closest friends on the circuit.

It was not his only mistake. His other older wildcard pick, Kaymer - though one of only four European winners in the singles - also badly struggled on the first two days while Clarke's support team was also thought to be a cosy cartel of his closest mates.

Not that the weekend was without any positivity for Europe. Pieters, with four points, and Cabrera-Bello, with two-and-a-half, made outstanding first appearances in the competition.

But there was a distinct lack of depth in the Europe team which was exposed brutally on the final day.

The Americans, of course, played superbly and, at times, it felt as if they were barely missing any putts at all.

And, coming in the week that the legendary Arnold Palmer died, it was understandable that many could not easily contain their emotion in the closing ceremony.

So, has the tide of Ryder Cup history turned once again in the Americans' favour? At this stage it is far too early to say.

After all, the United States' last victory in Europe came way back in 1993 at the Belfry so it must surely be their next aim to win away without such partisan support.

Europe still has a fine recent record of which to be proud - but, after this chastening weekend, must look to the next generation.

The 42nd edition of the Ryder Cup will take place in Paris, France for the first time on 28-30 September 2018.

Singles (Sunday)
United States7½-4½Europe
Patrick Reedwon 1upRory McIlroy
Jordan Spiethwon 3&2Henrik Stenson
JB Holmeswon 3&2Thomas Pieters
Rickie Fowlerwon 1upJustin Rose
Jimmy Walkerwon 3&2Rafa Cabrera-Bello
Phil MickelsonhalvedSergio Garcia
Ryan Moorewon 1upLee Westwood
Brandt Snedekerwon 3&1Andy Sullivan
Dustin Johnsonwon 1upChris Wood
Brooks Koepkawon 5&4Danny Willett
Matt Kucharwon 1upMartin Kaymer
Zach Johnsonwon 4&3Matthew Fitzpatrick

Foursomes (Friday)
United States4-0Europe
Jordan Spieth/Patrick Reedwon 3&2Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson
Phil Mickelson/Rickie Fowlerwon 1upRory McIlroy/Andy Sullivan
Jimmy Walker/Zach Johnsonwon 4&2Sergio Garcia/Martin Kaymer
Dustin Johnson/Matt Kucharwon 5&4Lee Westwood/Thomas Pieters

Fourballs (Friday)
United States1-3Europe
Jordan Spieth/Patrick Reedwon 5&4Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson
JB Holmes/Ryan Moorewon 3&2Sergio Garcia/Rafa Cabrera-Bello
Brandt Snedeker/Brooks Koepkawon 5&4Martin Kaymer/Danny Willett
Dustin Johnson/Matt Kucharwon 3&2Rory McIlroy/Thomas Pieters

Foursomes (Saturday)
United States1½-2½Europe
Phil Mickelson/Rickie Fowlerwon 4&2Rory McIlroy/Thomas Pieters
Brandt Snedeker/Brooks Koepkawon 3&2Henrik Stenson/Matthew Fitzpatrick
Jimmy Walker/Zach Johnsonwon 1upJustin Rose/Chris Wood
Jordan Spieth/Patrick ReedhalvedSergio Garcia/Rafa Cabrera-Bello

Fourballs (Saturday)
United States3-1Europe
Dustin Johnson/Brooks Koepkawon 3&1Rory McIlroy/Thomas Pieters
JB Holmes/Ryan Moorewon 1upDanny Willett/Lee Westwood
Phil Mickelson/Matt Kucharwon 2&1Martin Kaymer/Sergio Garcia
Jordan Spieth/Patrick Reedwon 2&1Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson

All statistics below were correct at the start of the 2016 Ryder Cup
UNITED STATES (Captain: Davis Love III, Vice-captains: Tom Lehman, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson)

AgePoints rank
Ryder Cup record
World rankingMajors
Dustin Johnson3214-3-021
Jordan Speith2322-1-142
Phil Mickelson46316-19-6155
Patrick Reed2643-0-180
Jimmy Walker3751-1-3161
Brooks Koepka266Rookie220
Brandt Snedeker3571-2-0230
Zach Johnson4086-6-2282
*JB Holmes34102-0-1210
*Rickie Fowler27110-3-590
*Matt Kuchar38124-5-2170
*Ryan Moore3320Rookie310
(*captain's wildcard selection)

EUROPE (Captain: Darren Clarke (NIR), Vice-captains: Thomas Bjørn (DEN), Pádraig P. Harrington (IRE), Paul Lawrie (SCO), Ian Poulter (ENG), Sam Torrance (SCO))

Ryder Cup 
record (W-L-H)
World rankingMajors
Rory McIlroy (NIR)27126-4-434
Danny Willett (ENG)2823Rookie101
Henrik Stenson (SWE)40315-4-251
Chris Wood (ENG)2847Rookie320
Sergio Garcia (ESP)3617418-9-5120
Rafa Cabrera-Bello (ESP)3275Rookie300
Justin Rose (ENG)362669-3-2111
Andy Sullivan (ENG)2958Rookie500
Matt Fitzpatrick (ENG)2269Rookie440
*Thomas Pieters (BEL)24911Rookie460
*Martin Kaymer (GER)3111134-3-3482
*Lee Westwood (ENG)43151420-15-6 420
(*= captain's wildcard selection)

Hazeltine National Golf Club, Minnesota, USA (Par 72, 7628 yards)












Matches 18
Europe 10
United States
Tied 1


1979The Greenbrier, VAEurope11-17United States   United States
1981Walton Heath, EnglandEurope-18½United StatesUnited States
1983Palm Beach, FLEurope13½-14½United StatesUnited States
1985The Belfry, EnglandEurope16½-11½United StatesEurope
1987Muirfield Village, OHEurope15-13United StatesEurope
1989The Belfry, EnglandEurope14-14United StatesEurope
1991Kiawah Island, SCEurope13½-14½United StatesUnited States
1993The Belfry, EnglandEurope13-15United StatesUnited States
1995Oak Hill, NYEurope14½-13½United StatesEurope
1997Valderrama, SpainEurope14½-13½United StatesEurope
1999Brookline, MAEurope13½-14½United StatesUnited States
2002*The Belfry, EnglandEurope15½-12½United StatesEurope
2004Oakland Hills, MIEurope18½-9½United StatesEurope
2006K Club, IrelandEurope18½-9½United StatesEurope
2008Valhalla, KYEurope11½-16½United StatesUnited States
2010Celtic Manor, WalesEurope14½-13½United StatesEurope
2012Medinah, ILEurope14½-13½United StatesEurope
2014Gleneagles, ScotlandEurope16½-11½United StatesEurope

*Originally scheduled for 2001 but delayed for a year following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Subsequent tournaments have been played on even-numbered years.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Grubby Allardyce got what he deserved

GREEDY Sam Allardyce made history this week by resigning as England manager after just 67 days and one match.

Unsurprisingly, that makes it the shortest ever reign of any Three Lions head coach.

Allardyce, of course, was left with little choice, and he jumped before he was set to be pushed out by the Football Association following damaging revelations released as part of a wider series of investigations into football corruption by the Daily Telegraph.

In an undercover interview, Allardyce was caught on camera giving advice to reporters posing as Far East businessmen on how to “get round rules” about third-party ownership of players.

He added that it was “not a problem” to bypass the rules introduced by the FA in 2008, and told the reporters he knew of certain agents “doing it all the time".

But, perhaps most critically of all, Allardyce was seen to be chasing money.

On the tape, filmed at some time between his appointment and his first match, the 61-year-old clearly offers to fly out to Asia four times a year to address investors in a firm that wanted to buy footballers.

For this, he appears to agree a fee of £400,000 a year - despite the fact that he had already signed a contract worth £3m-a-year with the FA. It was hardly as if he needed the extra cash.

The Telegraph released its story late on Monday night with the FA immediately requesting a full transcript of the secret recordings. By the end of Tuesday night, Allardyce had left his post by "mutual agreement".

Frankly, anything short of that outcome would have left the FA in an extremely hypocritical position.

After all, it was the FA - maybe more than any other body in world football - which had called on FIFA to ban the third-party ownership of players, something which the world governing body eventually did last year.

Unabashed, Allardyce has since defended himself, claiming "entrapment has won" - and, incredibly, it is a view which appears to have garnered some sympathy for him in some quarters.

True, Allardyce did not break any laws - and the undercover means used by the Telegraph to obtain their information will always cause some people discomfort.

But it is surely better to have an active investigative media exposing corruption - rather than one which placidly acquiesces.

Moreover, it is hardly as if investigating corruption in football is a new topic for this particular newspaper, as a spokesman for the Telegraph pointed out.

"We began looking into corruption in English football last year after receiving information about specific managers, officials and agents - before Allardyce was appointed England manager."

The spokesman added: "We have an obligation to investigate important stories that are clearly within the public interest and adhere to our industry codes of practice in doing so."

Remember also that, while there is no suggestion that Allardyce acted against any of the laws of the land, he did totally undermine his employer in greedy act of gross stupidity.

After all, undercover reporters posing as shadowy businessmen is hardly a new watershed for the world of journalism.

Indeed, on that basis, this whole episode - going right back to when England were dumped out of Euro 2016 and subsequently appointed Allardyce - has been pretty baffling.

Having expressed my fears for the future of English football just over two months ago on the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final, Allardyce's ego may have - by chance - pointed the team in the right direction.

First, though, Gareth Southgate has been made caretaker for at least four games to the end of the calendar year, evidence seemingly of the existence of the Peter principle.

The Peter principle is a concept which concludes that an employee who stays long enough at an organisation will eventually be promoted to a station above their ideas or competence.

However, in fairness to the FA on this occasion, there were very few valid alternative options for the short-term. Instead, it is the next decision which is the vital one for the FA.

With Southgate seemingly willing to remain in place for as long as the process takes, England could do a lot worse than call on Arsene Wenger at the end of his Arsenal contract next summer.

Coincidentally, Wenger today celebrates exactly 20 years in charge of the Gunners - but, to the disgruntlement of some of their fans, he seems to have fallen into a comfort zone there.

Nevertheless, Wenger's principled approach is exactly what England need after this damaging period - and it surely should not matter that he is a foreigner given his vast knowledge of the English game.

A highly technical coach, he would possibly even eliminate the fear felt by players by giving them genuine confidence on the ball.

Consequently, England might therefore even stand a chance of genuinely challenging again at major tournament finals.

Of course, the problems in football are far more widespread than just the England job. As the Telegraph continues slowly to leak its stories, the view that greed is endemic at the top-level of the game is simply unavoidably reinforced.

And yet, in a world where Premier League television rights were sold for a record £5.14bn, it seems inevitable that good money and bad will continue to slosh around the game, regardless of how many more newspaper articles there are for now.

No doubt then this topic will be revisited by the media in the years to come, which is all the more reason for the FA to complete due diligence ahead of any of its future appointments.

Curiously, Allardyce will surely be the only permanent England manager ever to hold a 100% record at the end of his tenure.

But, having failed even once to lead the Three Lions out at Wembley and destroyed for himself what was supposedly his dream job, it will always be a shameful record.

It was a shameful appointment in the first place.


YearPWDLWin %
Walter WINTERBOTTOM(1946-1962)13978332856.1%
Alf RAMSEY(1963-1974)11369271761.1%
Don REVIE(1974-1977)29148748.3%
Ron GREENWOOD(1977-1982)5533121060.0%
Bobby ROBSON(1982-1990)9547301849.5%
Graham TAYLOR(1990-1993)381813747.4%
Terry VENABLES(1994-1996)231111147.8%
Glenn HODDLE(1996-1999)28176560.7%
Kevin KEEGAN(1999-2000)1877438.9%
Sven-Göran ERIKSSON(2001-2006)6740171059.7%
Steve McCLAREN(2006-2007)1894550.0%
Fabio CAPELLO(2008-2012)42288666.7%
Roy HODGSON(2012-2016)563315858.9%
Sam ALLARDYCE(2016)1100100.0%