Skip to content

The Sunday Stroll: 13 Feb, 2011

February 13, 2011

It has been quite a week, hasnt it?! Wikileaks-founder Julian Assange began his defence against allegations of sexual assault, the British government postponed the sale of 40,000 hectares of public forests, and amidst mass public protests, Hosni Mubarak stepped down from the Presidency of Egypt after 30 years in charge (quite literally). And, of course, the Irish public voted Jedward to become Irelands next Eurovision entrants. As every football fan’s favourite pitch-side reporter would say: ‘unbelievable scenes, Jeff’. Anyways, enough of the serious stuff – its time for a sideways glance at the last seven days in world of sport and this week’s The Sunday Stroll

West Ham United have won the bidding contest for the right to move into the Olympic Stadium after the 2012 London-hosted games. Key to winning the bid was that the Hammers would keep the running track around their football pitch – as opposed to bid rivals Spurs who would have removed it – which has enabled Olympic bosses to go through with their ‘legacy’ commitments to the athletics world. Unfortunately for West Ham however, the presence of a running track around the pitch has been shown to reduce the ability of the club’s fans to exert influence on match officials, meaning there is a chance those borderline penalty and yellow/red card decisions that can be the difference between a wins, draws, and losses (and ultimately, relegation and survival etc) might not go the Hammers’ way as frequently as they used to. As such, at some point for WHU there might be a temptation to rip out the track, which would understandably infuriate Spurs, who offered this delightfully-phrased snippet on the matter: ‘we should all expect to see the retention of this track firmly embedded and legally guaranteed by those entrusted with this legacy commitment, today and in the future.’ I.e. we lost because we said we wouldn’t keep the track… so West Ham better bloody well do so!…

Olympic organisers also announced the route for the cycling road race (click here for a link to the PDF of the route). It will begin and end on The Mall in central London, before heading out through south-west London and into Surrey, taking in places such as Richmond Park, Bushy Park, Hampton Court Palace, and a 15.5km (9.6 miles) circuit around Box Hill, which includes the National Trust’s Zig Zag Hill. For the public to be able to watch the likes of Mark Cavendish and co. up close whilst they tear around Surrey and London is one of real great reasons to be hosting these Games… we can’t wait.

Back to football briefly, and it would be remiss of us not to mention one of the most legendary weekends of Premiership football which happened last time out. Newcastle recovering from 0-4 down at half-time to Arsenal to share the points, league leaders United losing to basement club Wolves, Louis Saha bagging four goals as Everton emerged 5-3 victors over Blackpool, Liverpool winning away to Nando Torres’s new club Chelsea, Wigan narrowly scraping a win in the seven-goal thriller with Blackburn… it went on and on and on. In case you missed it, here’s the crème de la crème… Cheik Tiote’s late equaliser for Newcastle. Take a bow, son…

Remember how hacked off the nation was after the Fraudley ‘one-punch’ Harrison versus David Haye debacle a few months ago? These two Muay Thai fighters show the world how to sling it out. Not that we condone slinging metal trays at each other as an acceptable form of in-the-ring combat, but Fraudley – take note… these kids know how to fight…

In motorsport, the big news emanating from the end of last week rolling into this was the unfortunate crash and subsequent injuries suffered by F1 driver Robert Kubica whilst off rallying in his spare time. The Pole crashed shortly after starting the Ronde di Andora rally on Sunday morning, with a guard-rail going through the length of the car [a youtube reconstruction of the crash has surfaced] and causing numerous injuries to the F1 star, although his co-driver emerged unscathed. [Onboard footage from the following car appears below]. Kubica lost roughly 80% of his blood and suffered fractures to his leg, arm, elbow and shoulder, although the surgeons initial efforts were concentrated on saving his right hand which had been partially severed in the crash. Whilst the initial reports from surgeons suggest that this might have been a success, it is no guarantee that Kubica will return to the sport where he is not only hugely popular, but is widely regarded as one of the best in the business – although the Pole has targeted an end-of-the-year return. Several luminaries of the sport have questioned the wisdom of Kubica being allowed to indulge himself in such a risky pastime, especially so close to the beginning of the new F1 season, and whilst the debate gradually drifts towards who might replace the Pole for 2011 – Nick Heidfeld appears to be most likely – the thoughts and well-wishes of the F1 world remain firmly with Kubica in the hope that he will make a speedy and complete recovery. Szybkiego powrotu do zdrowia Robert….

Pre-season F1 testing continued this week, shifting to Jerez, with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa topping the timings on day one. After Fernando Alonso’s impressive performances in Valencia last week, Ferrari appear well-placed for a strong 2011 season – although, as is widely recognised, you cannot read too much (just yet) into pre-season form. Lewis Hamilton gave his new McLaren a first outing, finding himself over a second back from Massa – although this is probably attributable to the fact that McLaren were running set-up checks and evaluating reliability and functionality as opposed to chasing outright pace. On the second day, Mercedes’s Michael Schumacher set the morning pace with a light-fuel run, eventually finishing with a fastest lap four-tenths quicker than Massa’s best from the day before, although Schumi has since admitted to being ‘slightly concerned’ with his car’s apparent lack of front-running pace. Ferrari focused on longer runs, whilst Button’s first outing in the new McLaren saw him clock the third fastest time despite focusing primarily on acclimatisation, getting used to KERS, and set-up changes over longer runs. On Saturday, Nick Heidfeld surprised all by topping the timings in his first outing with the Renault team, closely followed by Alonso – who with 131 laps did considerably more than his rivals – and Schumacher. Heidfeld seems well placed to replace Kubica for 2011, whilst Alonso (and Ferrari) look in good trim for a shot at both titles this season.

Midweek internationals – England came from behind to defeat Denmark [click here for highlights]. It was a promising performance from the England side, especially given their largely underwhelming exerts from 2010; Jack Wilshere impressed on his full debut (Phil Noble (Reuters) praised him as a future Barcelona #4), Darren Bent scored (what else did you expect?), whilst Scott Parker and Ashley Young did their international prospects the world of good with decent second half substitute performances. Elsewhere on the friendly fixture card, Argentina needed an 89th minute Lionel Messi penalty to beat Portugal 2-1, France triumphed 1-0 over Brazil, Italy scored late as they drew 1-1 away to Germany, Iran recorded a surprise victory over Russia, and current World and Euro champions Spain emerged victorious from their encounter with Columbia. The narrow 1-0 margin of victory would have been larger had David Villa – one of the best strikers in the world – not missed this sitter:

Super Bowl XLV last weekend… and once we got past the shock of hearing Christina Aguilera balls up the lyrics to ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, the Green Bay Packers proceded to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and claim their fourth Super Bowl crown. The Packers triumphed 31-25, converting three turnovers into touchdowns in the process, and surviving a belated comeback attempt from the Steelers towards the game’s conclusion. In the battle of the quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers got the better of Ben Roethlisberger, completing ‘24 of 39 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions,’ and duly claiming the MVP award. If you missed it, highlights are below…

As the Cricket World Cup approaches, teams have been finalising their squads for the tournament. England have been hit by the news that key batsman Eoin Morgan will not be available for the competition following a broken finger sustained in the recent one-dayers Down Under. This, coupled with several other injuries (Swann, Broad, etc) and the loss of form for key personnel, has given England a far-from-ideal build-up to the tournament, which is, of course, in direct contrast to the recent Ashes-retaining tour to Australia where the side had near-perfect build-up and preparation. Not the best of omens perhaps. Regardless, here’s what England will be missing out on in Morgan’s absence…

Mind you, you can get your bottom Australian dollar that international cricketers are glad the World Cup isn’t being played at the WACA – check out the monster crack down the middle of this pitch (used in a 2xi game) and the incredible movement on offer for the bowlers as a result – unplayable in every sense of the term…

Meanwhile, arch-enemies Australia have not included Mike Hussey in their side. The left-hander – who was one of Australia’s few stand-out performers in the Ashes this winter – has been out with a hamstring injury but was expected to be fit for the third game. Hussey then voiced his disappointment over his exclusion from the party, stating ‘I maybe deserved a chance to have a go, but they obviously saw differently so it’s disappointing […] But it’s not a risk the selectors wanted to take. It’s a pretty hard pill to swallow, that’s for sure.’ His views were then rubbished by former team-mate Jason Gillespie, who suggested that Hussey ‘didn’t do himself any favours by coming out and whinging that he wasn’t selected. He should respect their decision. You can’t take your spot for granted.’ Poor ole Aussies eh. Yet more public disagreements between players and ex-pros. Tut tut…

Still, Shaun Tait makes the squad, and he’ll be hoping to pick up a few wickets, although one suspects they probably won’t come as easily as they did here…

There were remarkable scenes at the Newbury race course yesterday after the day’s racing was cancelled following the suspected electrocution of a number of horses in the parade area. Two horses – Fenix Two and Marching Song – died in the incident, believed to have been caused by broken undersoil electrical cables (with the electricity being conducted through the horses hooves). Two other horses were affected (Kid Cassidy was withdrawn after stumbling, and The Merry Giant was said to be ‘badly traumatised’) and a number of humans were said to have felt electrical shocks, but were fine as humans have a higher tolerance level for electricity than horses. An investigation has been launched into one of the more bizarre and tragic days in horse racing history…

Ski-jumping… not a sport for those with a fear of heights. Obviously. But, fear or no fear, we’re quietly confident that all will appreciate the sheer gargantuan insanity of the new 246.5m world record that was set by Norway’s Johan Remen Evensen at the FIS ski jumping World Cup on Saturday. Impressive / ridiculous / bonkers / ludicrous etc. etc. etc. The list goes on…

And finally – if you’re a goalkeeper, we’re fairly sure you’ll be able to empathise with Ebbsfleet United goalkeeper Preston Edwards. You spend the whole week preparing for the big game at the weekend, and then, just ten seconds after the kick-off, you get a hopelessly underhit backpass from your rather hapless left-back and bang – red card… game over. Poor fella. Still, at least Ebbsfleet had a reserve goalie on the bench they could bring on for the rest of the game eh. Oh, they didn’t?? Ahh…

As ever, cheers for reading folks. All the best, SB

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: