Union Jack’s Sporting Roundup February 2010

NEW YEAR’S SPORTING HONOURS LIST

BRITAIN’S sporting competitors were amongst the chosen in this year’s New Years Honours list. The new Formula One champion Jensen Button received the MBE, and the Brawn team-owner that made it possible, Ross Brawn, gets the OBE. Button, 29, scored six grand prix victories to give him the 2009 title. Scottish rugby veteran Ian McGeechan, who took part as coach and player on seven Lions tours, received a knighthood. Gymnast Beth Tweedle, 24, who grabbed two gold medals at the recent world championships gets an MBE, as does England’s women’s cricket captain Claire Taylor. Scottish golferCatriona Matthews, 40, won the British Women’s Open last year at Royal Lytham St Annes, just 11 weeks after giving birth to daughter Amy, gets the MBE.

BRITAIN READIES FOR WINTER OLYMPICS

This month, Britain sends 55 athletes to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, February 12-28. Britain’s best performance at the winter Olympic games was at Chamonix, France in 1924, where a total of four medals was achieved. This year amongst the British competitors, it has been noted that standards are high and expectations remain firm that Britons will be amongst this month’s medals.

It has been more than 25 years since Torvill & Dean took gold in the ice dancing, but Scottish brother and sister duo, Sinead and John Kerr have shown continual improvement. In the skeleton, Shelley Rudman took silver during the last winter Olympics in Turin, and was also silver-medalist in the recent world championships.Nicola Minichello and Gillian Cooke claimed the gold medal at last year’s womens world bobsled championships at Lake Placid, while David Murdoch will lead Scotland’s curling team and reigning world champions into the Olympic fray. Then there is snowboarder and cross-country athlete Zoe Gillings who has been place five times in recent world cup events and speed skater John Eley who scored silver at the world championships in 2006.

ENGLAND TIE SOUTH AFRICAN TEST SERIES

England saw out the old year of 2009, with a resounding victory over South Africa in the second Test match at Durban, where an innings and 98 run victory put them 1-0 up in the series. South Africa 343 and 133. England 574 (Alistair Cook 118, Ian Bell 140)-9 dec. A desperate and successful last wicket stand at Capetown, enabled England to draw the third Test.

AUSSIES WIN PAKISTAN SERIES

Rick Ponting became the winningest Test skipper in cricket history, after Australia won the 42nd Test match under his captaincy, when the Aussies beat Pakistan by 170 runs in the first Test match at Melbourne.

Australia 454 (Simon Katich 98)-5 dec and 225 (Shane Watson 120 not out)-8 dec. Pakistan 258 and 251. At Sydney, Ponting made it 43,after the Aussies took the series after winning by 36 runs. Australia 127 and 381 (Mike Hussey 134 not out) Pakistan 333 and 139.Australia won the series 3-0 at Hobart, winning by 231 runs. Australia 519 (Rick Ponting 209, Michael Clarke 116)-8 dec and 219 (Simon Katich 100)-5 dec. Pakistan 301 (Salman Butt 102) and 206.

TENNIS: HOPMAN CUP

Laura Robson and Andy Murray reached the final of the mixed team Hopman Cup, January 2-9, in Perth, Australia, but were beaten 2-1 by Spain in the final. 15-year-old Robson, a former junior Wimbledon champion, upset Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez 6-1,7-6 (8-6) but Andy Murray lost his first match of the tournament toTommy Robredo 6-1,4-6,3-6. The Spanish pair won the doubles 7-6 (8-6) 7-5. The British duo beat Kazakhstan, Germany and Russia to win Group B, and a place in the final.

MURRAY REACHES FOURTH ROUND IN MELBOURNE

The first Grand Slam of 2010, the Australian Open at Melbourne, January 18-31,saw Andy Murray cruise past South African qualifier Kevin Anderson in three sets. He then knocked out two Frenchman Marc Gicuquel andFlorent Serra to reach the second week of competition and the fourth round.

For the first time in twenty years, two British women reached the second round of the singles. British number one Elena Baltacha beat France’s Pamela Parmenterand then Ukrainian number 32nd seed Kateryn Bondarenko in a three setter, but lost to number three seed Dina Safina. Kate O’Brien beat Austria’s Patricia Mayr 6-3,6-3, but went out to Jelena Jankovic in the next round.

NUMBER FIFTEEN FOR PHIL, NUMBER TWO FOR WOLFIE

Phil Taylor was in scintillating form as he strove for his fifteenth world darts crown at the Ladbrookes.com. PDC World Darts Championship at the Alexandra Palace, December 18-January 3. Three time former championJohn Part and winner in 2008, fell 4-1 in the second round to Kirk Shepherd. Taylor powered passed Steve Hine, Robert Thornton, Adrian Lewis and Mark Webster, losing just one set on his way to the final. Aussie Simon Whitlock edged five time world championRaymond van Barneveld 6-5 in a tight semi-final. Taylor did not have it all his own way in the final as the unseeded Australian remained competitive throughout, but the reigning world champion conquered 7-3, and another world darts championship was his.

The BDO World Darts Championship at the Lakeside Leisure Centre, Frimley Green, January 2-10, saw former champion and England skipper Martin Adams and number three seed making his 17th consecutive appearance at these championships. Martin “Wolfie” Adams who was a losing finalist in 2005, won the 2007 title, and this year, proved the man of the tournament. The Peterborough thrower at 53, the oldest man in the contest, beat the unseeded Dave Chisnall 7-5 in a thrilling and extremely close final.

FA CUP: TRAUMA AT OLD TRAFFORD & ANFIELD

The third round of the FA Cup, January 3-4, favoured the big guns where 12 premier clubs drew home ties. It did not favour Manchester United however, who were ousted by the only goal of the match at Old Trafford, where Jermaine Beckford’s 19th minute netting gave Division One leaders, Leeds Utd, the surprise result of the third round. A crowd of 74,000-plus watched in astonishment as Sir Alex Ferguson’s 23-year reign at United, that included never losing a third round FA Cup tie or losing to a lower-division club crumbled. Fergie’s record collapsed under the confident assault of a Leeds side that entered the contest with a run of 15 unbeaten games under their belt.

There was misery for Liverpool too, who held Reading1-1 away, but lost the Anfield replay 2-1. Reading scored all three goals. A Betrand own goal in the 18th minute gave the Pool the lead. But Sigardsson fired in a penalty to level the score, while Shane Long broke the Kop’s heart in extra-time with the winner.

Four of the remaining non-league sides drew away games, which proved the demise of all of them.Sunderland easily over-came Barrow 3-0, Stoke Citybeat York 3-1, Southampton’s only goal of the game pushed Luton Town out and Notts County beat Forest Green 2-1. Goal-feast of the round, was Preston’s 7-0 routing of Colchester Utd at Deepdale, where a second half hat-trick by Jon Parkin had fans thoroughly delighted.

CARLING CUP

The semi-finals of the English League Carling Cup were delayed after ice and snow caused postponements. AJames Milner goal gave Aston Villa a 1-0 overBlackburn at Ewood Park, January 14, while six day later a goal-feast ensued at Villa Park with the midlanders winner 6-4. Blackburn had Chris Samba sent off, and the strain of ten men proved too much to bear. Carlos Tevezscored twice against his old club Manchester United, as rivals Manchester City won the home leg 2-1. Ryan Giggs put United ahead in the 17th minute, but the sky blues would not be intimidated. The second leg was a far different affair with United 3-1 winners and Wembley-bound after goals from Scholes, Carrick and Rooney. Tevez scored for City.

SCOTTISH SOCCER

Dundee United coach Craig Levein, was installed as the new manager of Scotland, following the firing of George Burley in November. Burley failed to deliver a World Cup place in South Africa. Levein was capped 16 times for Scotland. The 45-year-old began his managerial career atCowdenbeath in 1997. Terms at Hearts, Leicester Cityand Raith Rovers followed, before his latest move to Dundee United. Levein commented that all Scottish players would be considered for selection, including Kris Boyd, Lee McCulloch, Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor who for one reason or another would or could not play under the Burley regime. His priority will be Scotland’s qualification for the 2012 European Championships.

The January 3, Old Firm derby at Parkhead, proved predictably tense and a 58,300 crowd were forced to wait until late in the second half before goals brought the encounter to life. Aussie striker Scott McDonald put a header away in the 79th minute putting Celtic ahead, but two minutes later Lee McCulloch leveled for Rangers, and both clubs shared the points.

The big freeze, January 9-10, witnessed only six of the 16 scheduled fourth round Active Nation Scottish Cup matches could take place. Hibernian sent junior sideIrvine Meadow out 3-0,while Aberdeen beat Hearts 2-0. Dumfermline trounced Stenhousemuir 7-1, but it was not enough to get them in the next round. The Pars substituted suspended Calum Woods in the 51st minute, and they never got the paperwork correct for the match. The SFA overturned the result and gave the match to Stenhousemuir. Coach Jim McIntyre called it “excessive punishment,” and said they would appeal. Hamilton Accies scored three goals within four-minutes of each other on the break, but Rangers’ Lee Miller got a brace for a 3-3 tie. The replay at Ibrox went to extra-time withSteven Whittaker getting two in less than a minute for a 2-0 result. A Niall McGinn goal after 35 minutes gaveCeltic a 1-0 away victory at Morton.

The fifth round is February 6-7.

AFRICAN NATIONS CUP

The scheduling of the African Nations Cup in Angola, January 10-31, aggravated many top European clubs who lost African players in the midst of tight championship races. Chelsea and Portsmouth lost four players apiece, while other top clubs including Fulham, Barcelona, Inter-Milan lost players too.

Requests to reschedule the African Cup tournament to June, by European clubs have fell on deaf ears at CAF, which regards the tournament as its biggest money earner and sees the alternative June, as too wet a month in Africa. The contest got off to a disastrous start when the Togo team bus was riddled with gun-fire in which three people died. Manchester City’s Emmanuel Adebayor was on board and said the whole team was deeply traumatized and it was impossible for the side to continue in the competition. The government of Togo immediately ordered them home.

After years of civil war, the Angolan hosts spent a billion dollars show-casing this event, including four brand new stadiums built courtesy of China. With tickets ranging from $2.50 to $13 apiece, it’s highly unlikely that Angolawill make a profit, but the government’s public relations machine is making the most of this occasion. The format of sixteen nations in four groups of four, (minus Togo) resulted in eight quarter-finalists scheduled for January 24. Angola v Ghana, Ivory Coast v Algeria, Egypt vCameroon, and Zambia v Nigeria.

MONEY PROBLEMS CONTINUE TO PLAGUE BRITISH CLUBS

International financial consortiums have been seen as the saviour of struggling soccer clubs as lack of money and rising debt threaten the very existence of many top clubs. In years gone by, clubs were owned by loyal local businessmen, but that trend has changed drastically. The Glazer family took over Manchester United in a controversial swoop, that still genders opposition today. June 09 revealed debts of £716m for what is regarded as the richest club in the world. Last month, a bond issue successfully raised £504m, but most clubs are not as lucky.

Portsmouth were unable to pay their players three consecutive times over the new year, and they are fighting an order from the HM Revenue & Customs (for unpaid taxes) to wind up the club. Dubai businessman,Sulaimen al Fahim bought the club in August, but quickly resold it to a Saudi consortium headed by Al al Faraj, who has yet to set foot on British soil and see his investment. Portsmouth is presently banned from the transfer market, as it has not paid for many of the players it recently purchased.

West Ham’s Icelandic consortium CB Holdings went under during Iceland’s devastating economic down-turn, and with debt reputedly at £110m and one Icelandic bank looking to get rid of 70 percent of the stock; the Hammers future looked uncertain. Last month however, former Birmingham City owners David Sullivan andDavid Gold leaped in feet first to takeover one of London’s fashionable clubs.

Championship side Watford nearly went under in December, when former chairman Jimmy Russo, wanted a £4.88m loaned repaid that he had lent the club under his tenure. Russo managed a million pound emergency survival loan to the club the end of November, but a changes in the boardroom, saw him resign, and his previously loaned money became an issue. The new board finally paid Russo his money back with the clock ticking dangerously close to bankruptcy. Money is very tight at this club.

Simon Jordan took over at Crystal Palace in 2000, and saved the club from inevitable administration. After nearly ten years in charge, problems are emerging. Twice last year they were banned from the transfer market because of unpaid fees, and the players went unpaid for the months of November and December. Jordan says its an unusual circumstanced cash flow delay, and is only temporary. Observers note that Palace has been selling players to make end meet for some time now.

A Middle-Eastern conglomerate called Munto Financeheaded by Roger Trembling took-over Notts County in July 09, promising all manner of good things. Former England coach Sven Goran Ericksson was brought in and former England mid-fielder Sol Campbell was lured to play at the second division club. But things did not go well. Campbell played one game and left, Hans Backewas signed as the new manager, but resigned after seven weeks. A financial crisis arose later in the year, where Roger Trembling ,made a buyout deal with Munto and became his own CEO. Ericksson remains, but the clubs money problems remain also.

LATE SPORT

Andy Murray beat John Isner 7-6 (7-4) 6-3,6-2, to reach the last eight of the Australian Open Tennis Championships in Melbourne…The fourth round of the FA Cup, January 23-24, brought joy to championship sideReading, when a goal by Gylfi Sigurdsson three minutes from time gave them a 1-0 win over premier league’sBurnley. It was a struggle for three other premier sides. Division one leaders Leeds Utd, managed a 2-2 tie atTottenham, Wigan were held 2-2 at Notts County, andCrystal Palace drew by the same scoreline atWolverampton Wanderers … Olympic yachting gold medallist Ian Percy and Andrew Simpson proved their pedigree once again by winning the Star class, world yachting championships in Rio de Janeiro.

BRITISH RELAY TEAM FINALLY GET WORLDS GOLD MEDALS

Thirteen years after Britain lost the 4×400 relay at the World Championships to a drug-tainted American team, the runners will receive their gold medals.

The US quartet was disqualified after runner Antonio Pettigrew admitted using performance-enhancing drugs. The British team was upgraded from second to first in the results from the 1997 championships in Athens.

Retired British runners Roger Black, Jamie Baulch, Iwan Thomas and Mark Richardson will receive the gold medals at a ceremony organized by UK Athletics.

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