Sports news comment.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

John Terry just been announced as England Captain

"John has all the attributes an international captain needs: leadership, authority, courage, ability, tactical awareness and a total refusal to accept second-best" - Steve Mclaren commenting on the appointment of John Terry as the new England Captain.
John Terry’s route to becoming captain of England was one that only a few years ago would have seemed highly unlikely. Yet after a summer as one of the few English players to return from the World Cup with their reputation enhanced, he now seems like the obvious choice to succeed David Beckham.

Born in Barking on the 7th December 1980, Terry is the rare thing that is a modern day one-club footballer. His career not only mirrors the rise of Chelsea from mid table team to International super club, but his presence as captain retains an important link with the traditions of the club.

As part of the Chelsea Youth set up, Terry, initially a midfielder, always stood out; winning the clubs young player of the year award in 1999, making his first team debut against Aston Villa in the Worthington Cup that Year.

By the 2001/02 season he had established himself in the first team making 49 appearances and had already made a reputation as a strong defender who could score crucial goals, with the winning goals in both the Quarter Final and Semi Final of that seasons FA Cup. This led to his selection for the Under 21 international team in which he was eventually named captain.

With this rapid rise in prominence came other distractions and in January 02 Terry was charged with Affray for an incident in a Kensington Nightclub along with 2 other footballers. Subsequently cleared of all charges in August 02; Terry’s career was at a crossroads.

It would have been very easy for him to have developed the wrong sort of reputation, reaping the rewards that even an average premiership player can get. Instead the 2002/03 season saw Terry put in consistently strong displays at the heart of the Chelsea defence earning him his International debut as a substitute against Serbia and Montenegro in June 2003.

Winning the PFA Player of the year award for the 2004/05 season saw him cement his place in the international team and his combination of strength, tactical awareness and leadership abilities helped dispel the notion that Chelsea won the premiership on the back of their wealthy owner’s cheque book. His transformation from academy prospect to club leader also shows that the influx of foreign stars does not always hamper the development of genuine English talent.

At 25 and with the possibility of another 2 world cups within his grasp, John Terry seems ideally placed to return the focus of the captaincy back towards on field leadership instead of the more media focused spokesman of his predecessor; perhaps proving wrong those who think the golden generation passed with the ending of the Eriksson-Beckham era.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The hypocrisy of performance enhancement

The subject of performance enhancement has hit the headlines again, whether it is The Tour de France winner testing positive for Testosterone, or the return to representing his country of Dwaine Chambers, the issue of drugs cheats seems to be a straightforward one, if they cheat and they are caught, then they should be punished, right? Well not necessarily so.

The issue of performance enhancing drugs in sport is one that has perhaps drifted, with some assumptions meaning that those who police sports may have lost sight of their intended purpose. So lets revisit this subject. What is the purpose of policing (and punishing) athletes who use illegal performance enhancing drugs.

As I see it there are two reasons to discourage this:-

Physical long term effects

Seeking a performance advantage, particularly through the use of chemical substances should be outlawed on the pragmatic basis that if there are proven risks to the athletes health. Normally this will be when there is a short term increase in performance with a long term impact on health.

Athletes by definition are so focused on their short term performance that they have to be protected from themselves. Any substance or practice where there are question marks about its long term effects must be prohibited, however the effect of these drugs can sometimes be no worse than the footballer who plays on whilst injured, taking painkillers to mask the pain but risking severe damage to their long term health.

Indeed the recent case of Floyd Landis raises such a point; it is very likely that his Tour de France Victory will be taken from him as a result of his failed drugs test.

If we take the long term health argument then logically Landis should have been disqualified long before that amazing assault on the mountains for his admission that he was in constant pain and would already be requiring a hip operation once the Tour was over. Surely his hip condition poses a greater threat to his long term health than the injection of what is after all a naturally occurring chemical?

It has to be born in mind that the health argument will always lose credibility when an athlete such as Alain Baxter can have an Olympic medal taken from him for mistakenly taking a nasal spray whilst George Best can be enshrined in sporting folklore for drinking himself to a premature and lonely death.

Ethical Impact of ‘Cheating’

This seems to be the most popular reason put forward for the policing and punishment of offenders. People who use substances such as EPO, Nandrolone and Epitestosterone are commonly referred to as ‘cheats’ for their insistence on gaining an advantage. Nevertheless, isn’t the nature of competitive sport, all about gaining that competitive advantage?

Where, for example, does a ‘supplement’ end and a ‘performance enhancing drug’ begin?

What about ‘visionaries’ such as Clive Woodward who won a rugby world cup on the basis of meticulous planning and a ruthless attention to every detail.

Surely that England rugby team, with its significantly larger player base and obscenely larger budgets were obtaining more of an unfair advantage against other nations with their ice baths and nutritionists than Floyd Landis could ever have hoped to achieve?

There is possibly even an argument that would encourage the use of drugs such as EPO and steroids for teams such as the Japanese rugby team as a way of levelling the playing field against the established powerhouses of the game who themselves currently obtain an unfair advantage?

So, as it stands the assumptions that those who use drugs are the only cheats doesn’t really fit. There are two options left to try to salvage top level sports.

Ban all technological advances leaving sports to be simple but unable to develop and progress (possibly withering and dying) or;

Lift the ban on drugs and ensure that, whilst the athlete’s welfare is paramount, all performance enhancing initiatives are welcomed as long as they are open to public scrutiny based on individual health and safety.

Agree disagree? Send me your comments?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A new polish for England ‘Golden Generation’ of footballers

Not since Ron Greenwood has the appointment of the new England football manager been met with such indifference and even, in some quarters, pessimism.

Admittedly it comes off the back of a very disappointing world cup campaign where not only did England fail to progress to the acceptable level of a semi final but failed in any of their matches to play as the coherent bunch of Premiership stars they should be.

However the appointment of Steve Mclaren in the role appears to be a sound one and brings a host of benefits to the role, which have been overlooked so far.

Mclaren is the only England manager to have experience of coaching at international level before taking full charge of the team. This was the sort of apprenticeship that even the champion’s league cannot provide.

The unique nature of international football, with its 2 year cycles and long gaps in qualifying culminating in an intense month of activity that defines your success or failure means that even the most experienced and successful club managers may not be able to adapt to the role of the national manager. Indeed this is a charge that could reasonably be levelled at his predecessor in the role.

There is an argument that says Mclarens suitability would have been enhanced had England succeeded at the world cup; it can be argued however that there is more to be learnt in failure than there is in victory. Being number 2 to Erickson brought with it some frustrations but also gave Mclaren the luxury of learning these lessons without being fully exposed to the scars of them.

The root cause of England’s failure was not down to Poor resources. It cannot be argued that this England team did not have sufficient time to prepare, they had the best facilities and with truly world class players such as Ferdinand, Terry, Lampard, Gerrard, Beckham and Rooney they did not lack technique or big match experience so wholesale changes are not necessary.

Erickson’s task was a much more revolutionary one; he inherited a team that was disorganised and low in confidence after Keegans ill fated reign. Eriksson, it must not be forgotten, transformed a team that was in danger of not qualifying for major championships into one which not only qualified for tournaments but was perceived as being underachievers when they consistently qualified for the knockout stages of the last three major tournaments.

Some say Eriksson wasted a golden generation of talent but he discovered and persevered with this generation to the point that come the next tournament most of them will still be within their prime years and will have had the experience of the past tournaments to call on. Mclarens task is therefore more of a polishing job on the tarnished golden generation building greater tactical cohesion and flexibility, while looking to develop more strength in depth from the new generation of footballers such as dean Ashton and Scott Parker.

We may find come South Africa in 2010 that Mclarens appointment was one of the more inspired decisions of the FA’s.

What do you think? Leave me your comments?

Welcome to my Blog world

Welcome all to my Blog world!!

The purpose of this site ? well there are three:-

1) I always had a desire to be a sports journalist but as I grew older I thought I would grow out of this desire and got a 'Proper' job. unfortunately the desire has just grown as I have. so rather hopefully over time I want this to serve as my C.V./Job application/work experience all rolled into 1.
2) As a way of passing the time I found writing my own articles to be an immensely rewarding thing. Even knowing no one would really read them just researching and putting them together was a very enjoyable process. this allied to my love of discussing different opinions on a wide range of sports and provoking reaction from others with my own opinionis the main motivation for this project.
3) as well as provoking others into thinking and possibly commenting and would get an enourmous sense of acheivement even knowing that just one other person (who is not related to me!) has read my postings and has enjoyed it (even if they didnt agree with it) so I do like to think as with all proper journalists that I am writing for an audience and because of that I welcome feedback on topics anyone might want me to touch on.

I aim to be topical cover a broad range of sports but also one of my major interests is a more intelligent approach to sports journalism other than just the gossip and rumour more of the reflection and analysis of sporting action and events that have taken place; commenting on it and provoking (hopefully!) some form of reaction in anyone who happens to stumble across this!

so thanks for getting this far and I hope to get this full of articles in a very short space of time.

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