Author: Phil Warden

John Motson: The Voice Of A Generation

John Motson: The Voice Of A Generation

John Motson’s recent death has been met with an indelible sadness for so many Football fans as we say goodbye the man who’s words painted a thousand pictures.

Know affectionately as Motty, he propelled himself into folklore in 1972 as Ronnie Radford’s long range rocket sent Hereford United through in what is still regarded as one of the greatest shocks in FA cup history, whilst Motson himself was on a one year trial with the BBC at that juncture and feared he would never make the grade.

However, with Hereford slaying the giant, and an always hugely enthusiastic John Motson providing the narrative he found his popularity grow extensively almost overnight as the man from Salford found his way into the hearts of the Great British public.

The word legend is often banded around in modern society, yet where he is concerned it almost seems to hand him a disservice, as his timeless voice transcended through generations of Football fans.

He provided insight and fascinating analysis from the gantry over a mind bending 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships, and 29 FA Cup finals.

His attention to detail for every instance and outcome of every match he covered never waned, as in an age before information was instantly accessible on the internet it was him who was always there primed and ready for every scenario as we watched the drama unfold for England across numerous major championships.

For every glorious moment it was Motty who somehow always found the right words and tempo in that iconic voice of his that would somehow heighten even the most euphoric moments.

He was there for the iconic run into the semi finals of Italia 90, Paul Gascoigne’s marvelous strike against Scotland in Euro 96, and the 5-1 trouncing of Germany in 2001 where Michael Owen would plunder a hat trick in a famous victory.

On the contrary, he was always able to find the right words in the face of crushing disappointment, which we have had more than our fair share of over the years.

The domestic game also benefitted enormously from John’s unique talents, as Match of the Day became a national institution, with him providing the lead role each and every Saturday on commentary which was essential viewing for any football fanatic.

Whilst the likes of Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard would have his epic equalizer against West Ham in the FA Cup final victory in 2006 accompanied by the perfect score in the form of his dulcet tones.

The list of iconic moments is truly endless, as it was always John who was there to hold your hand through both the good times and the bad.

He was as passionate as they come, and without his presence in the commentary box over the years I genuinely believe that the game of Football wouldn’t have trickled its way into the fabric of society so deeply in this country.

Ultimately Football is simply a game, yet it is built on a tapestry of connections that we as fans have with each other and the theatre that plays out on our screens on a weekly basis.

Alas with John Motson leading proceedings on the microphone we had the undeniable master when it came to providing the vocal soundtrack that brought the game and its artistry to life.

In my opinion he is a once in a lifetime character who’s passion and love for the game of Football always shone through at every match he attended.

For myself and many others John was an inspirational figure who proved that despite being the man who wore glasses and a sheepskin coat, it was possible to carve out a magnificent career in the game that he adored.

Motty may or may not have ever truly understood the gravity of his importance to our game in this country, yet it shouldn’t be underestimated, as the spoken word is so vitally important not only in sport but also in life as it shapes our opinions and emotions in the world around us.

He will be sorely missed by so many fans and spectators of the game as his passionate commentary has embedded itself into so many classic sporting moments that surely wouldn’t resonate as deeply if he hadn’t had been behind the microphone, and I sincerely believe those cherished memories will continue to hold weight in our minds despite his passing.

In closing his death is a truly sad day for Football as we and the game have to say goodbye to a truly iconic man who refreshingly earned the upmost respect of the Footballing fraternity without ever kicking a ball.

John Motson was simply the voice of a generation and I hand over the final statement to Gary Lineker whose poignant words on Match of the Day perfectly summed up the feeling in and around his death.

“He lived for Football, and we lived it through him”


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England’s Lionesses: Changing The Game

England’s Lionesses: Changing The Game

As the dust begins to settle on England’s Lionesses thrilling and historic victory over Germany in the final of Euro 2022, I feel that it is high time that we reflect on the enormity of their achievements both on and off the pitch. As with each stride to ending 56 years of hurt without a major trophy for this country, they have turned public perception of women’s football on its head.

The women’s game has spent many years as an afterthought which held neither the allure, skill, and excitement of the men’s game, which has long had a stranglehold as the world’s number one sport.

However, with such an exciting and highly skilled women’s European Championship now etched in the record books it is maybe time for the ladies to finally force their way alongside their male counterparts at the head of the table.

It cannot be ignored how the Lionesses captured this country’s imagination, as despite a nervy start to their campaign with a 1-0 victory over Austria, they eventually swept aside every single obstacle placed in their pathway, as no matter the quandary presented to them, these girls alongside their manager Sarina Wiegman found the solution time and time again.

The knockout stages saw this team as one of the lowest ranked left in the competition, yet it mattered not, as despite heading for defeat against a talented Spanish team it was Ella Toone who snatched a late equaliser sending the match into extra time.

Georgia Stanway would then take the mantle and drill home a spectacular winner in the 96th minute, a stirring fightback from the brink which embodied their sense of self belief to overcome adversity, handing England an eventual 2-1 victory.

The accompanying passion that exuded from stands at the Brighton community stadium, along with the skill set and standard of play between both teams made it a truly thrilling advertisement for the women’s game.

Sweden, a team ranked 2nd in the world, awaited in the next round and were expected to use their vast experience to outmaneuver an England side that was somewhat lacking in experience.

What unfolded was totally on the contrary, as despite a slow start, England slowly began to tighten their stranglehold on proceedings with a 1-0 lead at half time. Lucy Bronze added a second at the beginning of the second half and in the 68th minute came a stroke of pure genius from substitute Alessia Russo.

With her back to goal and seemingly on a road to nowhere, she conjured up an audacious backheel from out of nothing, which found its way through the Swedish goalkeepers legs and into the back of the net, it was a moment that belonged on the world stage of Elite football regardless of gender, as England eventually ran out 4-0 victors.

As if by fate we would face yet another meeting with old foes Germany in a Wembley showpiece final, 56 years on from the last time England have lifted a major trophy in Football, whilst the German team have won this championship an astonishing eight times.

With history against them the lionesses would fight against convention once again, yet this time it would be on the pitch against a fearsome foe.

With an atmosphere at fever pitch we witnessed a fiery and passionate final in front of a record 87,000 crowd, and in the 62nd minute it truly sprung into life as Ella Toone’s beautiful lob gave England a 1-0 lead. Yet as ever we were pegged back to 1-1 by German Striker Lina Magull’s cool near post finish with only 10 minutes left on the clock. It would be extra time once more, and as ever these women simply would not lie down in the face of adversity, as they pushed for a late winner.

In the 110th minute euphoria finally arrived in the shape of Chloe Kelly’s right boot as she emerged victorious in a fraught goalmouth scramble, poking home the winner, sending Wembley into pandemonium as the entirety of the England bench spilled onto the pitch to join her in a celebration that has since become iconic, as she tore off her shirt and waved it around her head in scenes in pure elation and joy.

When the celebrations began in earnest at the final whistle it was a monumental moment as the ladies had finally delivered where the men have agonisingly came up short on so many occasions.

For that alone they must receive huge plaudits as the enormity and pressure of big time sporting events has been known to eat up both teams and individuals alike, so to demonstrate such mental fortitude in the pressure cooker of a major final deserves special acclaim.

It can only serve to inspire a new generation of young girls and boys to follow their dreams and look to carve out a path into our national sport which sadly has been inaccessible for far too long for young girls.

In comparison boys have always been provided with every facet possible to enjoy and participate in the sport, which is unjust as this competition has served as a reminder of the talent that we possess in the female game in this country. Thus, we need to continue to nurture it as such by providing young girls the tools to play the game itself.

In my mind this tournament has served as a wake up call to anyone who believes that women’s sport as a whole is somehow inferior, as there is so many inspirational female figure’s across the world of sport and beyond, with it high time that Football holds itself accountable and regards these achievements in as much high esteem as its male counterpart.

The World Cup in 2023 is next on the agenda for this group of fearless and courageous players, who have emerged from this summers exhilarating European Championships as household names in their own right. Which is deservedly so, as attendance and television viewing figures reached an all time high for the women’s game and it would be a real pity if this momentum and enthusiasm ends here.

How these women have battled their way into this country’s hearts, minds, and affections must now draw a line in the sand, as this momentous victory has resonated with so many people across the country regardless of gender.

Alas, I believe that it is our duty as a nation to put any prejudice and any false impressions in the past and to embrace this new found appetite for women’s Football that these heroic Lionesses have rightly earned.

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Rory McIlroy: Breaking The Cycle

Rory McIlroy: Breaking The Cycle

Rory McIlroy’s quick fire achievement’s at the launch of his professional career saw him become a hugely popular winner, as he captured three out of the four major Golf championships available by the tender age of twenty five. A feat only shared with the most esteemed company, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

Such early whirlwind success suggested that it would simply be a matter of time before he would round off his growing collection with a Masters green jacket, joining only five other players to complete the coveted grand slam.

What has transpired since those heady early heights has been quite the opposite however, as he has continues to flounder at not only Augusta, but also at a host of other major tournaments in his quest to add to his trophy haul. Time and again it seems as if he presses the self destruct button whenever the winning post rears its head on the horizon.

To his credit he has picked up a number of victories on the PGA tour, but despite being a perennial top five finisher, it seems that it’s major competition where he has developed a serious mental block, as his killer instinct continues to elude him when it matters most, with his last victory coming at the PGA Championship in 2015.

It is tricky to surmise as to how Rory can halt this crippling trend which continues to plague his game to this very day. This has been a considerable source of frustration for the man himself, as he continues to scrutinise his own performances in his forage for solutions and answers.

There is surely no reason why one of the most naturally gifted players in the world cannot reclaim the glories of yesteryear, as all his performances are lacking is the ability to convert the chances that he creates for himself in the final straight.

This crucial ruthlessness is something that he has exhibited on many occasions in the earlier stages of his career, so it is more a case of reawakening this characteristic inside of himself, rather than reinventing the wheel.

He certainly isn’t lacking in any physical aspect as his distances from tee to green are a match for any of his fellow competitors, so I feel that it is the psychological side of his game that will need tweaking with in his attempt to return to the promise land.

This may be a far more reliable strategy than trying to emulate his fellow competitors, as he recently attempted to mimic Golf’s pantomime villain Bryson Dechambeau in order to gain more length off the tee. He later publicly declared that this was an unmitigated disaster, leaving his swing in ruins.

Rory’s initial rise to superstardom culminated in him replacing the iconic Tiger Woods as the face of the PGA tour video game franchise, which in turn has seen his fanbase and brand grow exponentially over the years. This may well have compounded his issues in recent times as the obligation to be a viable commercial commodity for his sponsors may well have taken a sizeable toll.

This status as a household name in the sport comes hand in hand with great expectation, which can only serve to stove the fire of internal pressure that every player must already deal with.

Unfortunately his inability to land the big prizes has now become the primary narrative whenever he steps onto a Golf course, as the burden that is heaped onto his shoulders at every event is now only akin to Tiger Woods in his pomp.

Golf requires an innate ability to perform under pressure and be able to maintain composure at the most pivotal of moments. So in order for Rory to replicate his earlier triumphs it may be time for him to try and rediscover the relaxed care free attitude that propelled him to so much success to begin with.

I feel that he should also draw great strength from his friend and fellow countryman Darren Clarke, who finally captured his first major trophy at the grand age of fourty two at The Open in 2011. His own unwavering self belief finally dragging him over the line despite toiling in Golf major mediocrity for over twenty years.

Therefore I believe that it is paramount that Rory continues to keep faith in himself and his undeniable genius, with it high time he released the shackles that he has straddled his own mind with over the last seven years.

This may bring a sense of joy and freedom to his game, as he already has a major trophy haul that many of his fellow professionals would be proud to call their own.

He also has father time on his side at the age of thirty to rediscover his own enjoyment of the game, which I also feel is a vital ingredient in an often volatile sport that manage’s to infuriate even the finest of players at times.

With the new major season now set to begin in earnest, we will see him continue his hunt for championship prosperity with a shot at that elusive US Masters title at Augusta in April.

With his likeable demeanor and raw enthusiasm for the sport it would be difficult to imagine a more well received recipient of a major title this year if the Northern Irishman can finally overcome the demons that have blighted his game for far too long.

Rory’s psyche will no doubt be placed under intense scrutiny at this competition and throughout 2022 by the media and the unforgiving nature of the sport itself.

Yet, it is my hope that he comes out swinging with renewed vigor and mental clarity, as he looks to finally conquer his own personal Everest and make his long awaited return to the pinnacle of the game once more.

Regardless of the outcome, the ground swell of support for him will surely continue to expand, as his status amongst enthusiasts of the sport has never been defined by merely silverware alone.

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British Boxing’s Finest Fighters: Top Five

British Boxing’s Finest Fighters: Top Five

Great Britain has produced a vast wealth of internationally renowned Boxing talent ever since its inception as a legitimate sporting profession in the early 20th century, spawning numerous World Champions across a plethora of weight divisions, whilst some of the sports most colorful characters captured our imaginations.

This list is by no means definitive and is simply a selection of my own personal preferences that have inspired myself and many others on both sides of the ropes.

Each of them are battle hardened warriors in their own right, and in my opinion are worthy additions to any list when discussing the finest ring generals of the last century.

Feel free to let me know your own top five or if I’ve missed any of your favourites in the comments down below.

5. Prince Naseem Hamed.

There has never been anyone quite like Prince Naseem Hamed, a man who brought an unprecedented number of eyes to the often overlooked featherweight division in the 1990’s.

The flamboyant entrances and spectacular front flip over the top rope before each of his bouts set the tone for what was always a guarantee if you tuned into a Prince Naseem fight, pure box office entertainment.

A multiple time World Champion, his unconventional Boxing style meshed with his arrogant and brash persona made him and each of his battles thrilling viewing. Despite his cockiness Prince Naz delivered between the ropes time and again with raw knockout power that stunned many for a man who stood at a mere 5ft 4in tall.

His defense was barely existent, as rather than the traditional gloves up guard, he would prefer to duck and dive, nonchalantly daring his opponents to land on his chin.

Eventually his luck would run out with such daredevil tactics, suffering a devastating loss to Marco Antonio Barerra in 2001 that he never truly recovered from, as soon after he retired from the ring.

However, for the ten years that he did compete, his style and showmanship exuded excitement like we’ve never seen before and he inspired an abundance of other British Boxers to lace up a pair of gloves.

Click on the numbers down below to continue the countdown.

Fallon Sherrock: Breaking Boundaries

Fallon Sherrock: Breaking Boundaries

Dubbed the queen of the palace after her stunning debut success at the World Darts Championships in 2019, Fallon Sherrock marked her return to arms at this years tournament on December 19th with an opening round clash with former BDO World Champion Steve Beaton.

With the return of spectators it is sure to be an action packed and star studded event, with so many contenders in prime position to mount an assault on the prestigious Sid Waddell trophy and the £500,000 jackpot on offer.

The standard of play has never been higher in the men’s game as astronomical averages are being set on a weekly basis, and this is sure to set the stage for a thrilling tournament.

Amongst that prestigious field sits Fallon Sherrock who has punched a path through the men’s game unlike any female has ever managed in the sport before.

Her appearance at the 2019 World Championship saw the first ever victory for a female at the tournament in its forty year history, an unforgettable moment that captured the imagination of every sports fan in the country.

She would eventually succumb to Chris Dobey 4-2 in sets in the third round of the tournament, yet her journey through those three rounds mattered so much more than the final destination, as Sherrock had finally shattered the glass ceiling for female athletes in a predominately male sport. Ladies had competed in this tournament previously but not one had managed to overcome such a monumental obstacle, and in doing so Fallon Sherrock became a overnight sensation and won an entire legion of fans in the process, both male and female.

Her groundbreaking performance laid waste to the notion that women cannot compete with men in elite level sports, whilst some naysayers believed her to be a flash in the pan.

Sherrock went on to silence any doubters however, with a series of hugely impressive outings in multiple televised events, most notably in September 2021 she became the first woman in the history of the PDC to reach the final of a televised tournament at the Nordic Masters, eventually falling to the mighty Michael Van Gerwen 11-7 on legs.

Her imperious form continued in earnest at last months Grand Slam of Darts, as she yet again barged down the door of male superiority by reaching the quarter finals of a major event filled with household names. Her narrow and subsequent 16-13 loss on legs to former World Champion Peter Wright was greeted with a shower of praise from fans and pundits of the game alike, as she continues to fly in the face of convention each time she steps onto the oche.

The next stop for her is a return to Alexandra Palace where Sherrock’s star shone so bright in 2019, and it is sure to be an emotional return for her after failing to qualify for last years event during the on-going pandemic.

Her strides forward as a competitor has been nothing short of remarkable, as the svelte lady in pink continues to make a mockery of any shallow belief that women cannot emulate the men at the highest level, and in doing so she has earned the respect of her male peers within the game.

To do so whilst placed under the microscope every time she steps up on stage deserves a huge amount of respect, as it cannot be easy to be thrust into the limelight so quickly. Yet she admirably seems to take it all in her stride as she continues her inspiring tale of success into the men’s game, where as previously women would only compete against each other in a separate tournament.

Much to their credit the Professional Darts Corporation are offering more opportunities to women than ever to battle it out amongst their male counterparts, and once again Lisa Ashton will also compete in this years World Championship, however she continues to be without a win in the tournament.

Ultimately though it is Fallon Sherrock who has taken her opportunities and ran with them, as she looks to build upon her budding reputation as a genuine threat in any competition that she enters. With a solid showing at this years World Championship we may also see her square off against the cream of the crop on a weekly basis in the Premier League, which would be yet another monumental first.

As far as I can see I would say that it would fully deserved as this pioneer for women’s sport continues to prove that she belongs on the big stage, rather than to have her participation treated as a mere sympathy act.

Her journey has shone the spotlight on what women are truly capable of when given equal opportunities and she has not just pushed against centuries old boundaries, she has smashed through them with great gusto. Thus, it is time to celebrate her marvelous achievements since her magical debut at Alexandra Palace in 2019.

Consequently, I feel that there are certain sports that would benefit from simply handing females the opportunity to compete, as it would see many more eyes on the product, and with Fallon Sherrock making such a positive impact in the world of Darts it can surely only inspire other women to participate in any sport that they wish.

Over time women’s role in society has changed and adapted enormously from just being mothers and wives in the not so distant past, as now we see them as people of power, friends, and important role models for many children in all walks of life. Alas, our attitude to women has changed so much over the last century and I feel it is time that sport echoes those sentiments and their achievements should be held in as much high regard as the men.

I do feel that has been prevalent over the last few years with the likes of Emma Raducanu deservedly gaining hero like status for her astonishing major win at the US Open tennis, but there is still some work to do as far as I can see in terms of equal pay and recognition in society as a whole.

What Fallon Sherrock has accomplished should be the first steps in the evolution of Darts and possibly other sports, as surely if you are talented enough to reach the required standard then you deservedly belong on that playing field regardless of gender.

I sincerely believe that Fallon Sherrock can continue to challenge the status quo at this years highly anticipated World Championship as she has quickly become a precious commodity to both Darts and sport in general, as her popularity has known no bounds as both male and female fans have taken her to their hearts.

It is now almost time for her to ruffle some feathers once more, and personally I am looking forward to what she can achieve at this tournament and beyond, as she blazes a trail that no female has ever travelled down previously.

Professional Darts requires an innate ability to perform under pressure and be able to harness mental clarity at pivotal moments, and from what I have witnessed it seems that Fallon Sherrock has these attributes in abundance as her quest for a maiden major title continues to gain pace.

Personally, I hope that she makes that giant leap sooner rather than later!

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Cristiano Ronaldo: A Freak Of Nature

Cristiano Ronaldo: A Freak Of Nature

Born in Madeira and made in Manchester, this anomaly in the world of sport continues to thrive week in and week out in elite level Football, despite his naysayers suggesting to the contrary as soon as the return to his spiritual home of Manchester United was announced.

With only weeks before the beginning of a brand new season in the Premier League, a competition viewed as probably the harshest and most challenging in Europe, it seemed as if his arrival was already deemed a failure in earnest.

Famous pundits and rival fans alike questioned the appetite and staying power of an ageing performer, who according to many wouldn’t be the same player who left the theatre of dreams twelve years previous and went on to become the most iconic performer in world football, with a career that spanned three of the most prestigious clubs and competitions in the game.

In that regard I would certainly agree with these supposed experts as it is Ronaldo himself who saw that in order to stay relevant and as devastatingly effective on the pitch as he has always been, he had to take it upon himself to evolve. This transformation took him from a right sided winger that relied heavily on devastating pace into a deadly and feared central striker.

In this current guise he surely has no equal in the current landscape of the game, even at the grand old age of 36. He certainly doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon either, as one record after another seemingly falls to this monster of a footballer on almost a weekly basis.

In comparison, the signing of Romelu Lukaku by Chelsea was heralded as a master stroke by manager Thomas Tuchel, and a relative snip at £98 million by the Football media who heaped praise on the powerful Belgian as a man who was the final piece of the Chelsea puzzle. An out and out goal scorer which the club were lacking despite being the current European Champions.

In contrast the signing of Ronaldo for £26 million was instantly labelled a nostalgia act that would be unable to withstand the physicality and robustness of the Premier League. His subsequent arrival would be to the detriment of the talent pool of young players coming through at the theatre of dreams, despite Cristiano actually outscoring the younger Lukaku in Serie A that season with 29 goals whilst playing for Juventus.

To suggest this notion was both disrespectful and foolish to a man that is a shining example to any sports person in any field, as he has simply dedicated his entire being into becoming the greatest player ever. Thus, if you were to look at a record of his astonishing achievements I find it extremely difficult to look any further than this Portuguese marvel for that accolade as his list of individual accomplishments is quite frankly ridiculous.

The most notable would however be that he is now the greatest international goal scorer ever to play the game with 115 goals for Portugal, a five time Ballon D’or winner, and the Champions League’s greatest marksman of all time with 139 goals.

Alongside those towering accolades he has also lead his country and club sides to barnstorming success throughout his remarkable career winning multiple championship’s with Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, and his home nation Portugal.

His mere presence can surely only bring out the best in any team mates that play alongside him, as his attitude and dedication as an athlete must surely make him a shining light to any fellow professionals who wish to capitalize on every ounce of talent that they possess. This man has poured countless hours into training and hard work to go alongside his god given talents and now we can all see the fruits of his labors.

Alas, his subsequent homecoming to Old Trafford lifted the club and its supporters across the planet into a state of euphoria as the Michael Jordan of Football finally embarked on his pilgrimage home.

The return to these shores has seen Cristiano silence the doubters and critics as he has done so time and again whilst under the microscope of the British media, as he continues to drag Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s stuttering Manchester United from the stale waters of mediocrity with his match winning exploits on a weekly basis.

He has given his heart and soul like no other at the club with his recent performances, yet he was derided as the man who would cause the club problems with his momentous return. Yet in my opinion it is surely down to the manager and the rest of the playing staff to provide him with the support he is crying out for on the pitch as it seems he is dragging the team along by the scruff of the neck by himself far too often.

It is an undoubted privilege as a Manchester United fan to have this once in a lifetime specimen back at the football club and I would suggest that many other fans feel the same regardless of their club allegiance.

It seems to me that football is currently being over run by clickbait and social media content that simply doesn’t reflect the views of true football supporters. Where snapshot clips from on the pitch or throwaway comments from pundits are hyped and promoted to an extent where they are seen as gospel on these platforms.

In contrast, I believe we must look to evaluate every players contributions across the entirety of 90 minutes based on what that performer brings to the table in every aspect of the game.

We are all entitled to voice our own opinions on the game and the players who participate in it, yet I prefer to form my own in accordance with the facts that are there for all to see, as Ronaldo has been simply outstanding upon his return with nine goals in eleven appearances. Whilst his never say die attitude must surely inspire and bring out the best in his team mates.

Admittedly he is no longer the dynamite heeled winger of yester-year, yet he still has outstanding ability in all facets of his game, powerful in the air, tricky, a ruthless finisher, and a turn of pace that defies his 36 years.

Thus, I would suggest that we sit back and enjoy this premiere athlete whilst we are still able to, as this seismic level of greatness cannot continue forever, yet with Cristiano Ronaldo you would certainly not put it past him.

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Euro 2020’s Greatest Hits: Top 10

Euro 2020’s Greatest Hits: Top 10

Taking place a year later than originally planned, Euro 2020 arrived at precisely the right time for a society that was clambering for an uplifting moral boost.

This showpiece event duly delivered by the bucket load, as we were spoiled with outrageous goals, tension filled drama, and one classic encounter after the other as Euro’s fever spread across the continent.

There is nothing quite like major tournament football that unites and brings people together as one, so here we take a look back at this competition’s finest moments.

10. Andrea Bocelli sings Nessun Dorma.

With a world so desperate to indulge itself in something that would evoke emotion and raise its spirits, these championships held in multiple cities across Europe would host the opening ceremony in the eternal city of Rome, where Italy would play Turkey in the tournament’s first match.

Andrea Bocelli rounded off the colorful ceremony by belting out the anthemic Nessun Dorma in a moment that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

For a world that had been locked down for so long it was almost as if this performance reignited our ability to think, feel, and express our passion for the things we love.

It was a perfect pre-cursor to the drama that would unfold over the next four weeks, as his spine tingling rendition lit a fire under the belly of each and every participating country. The excitement had begun in earnest as we all welcomed the theatre of major tournament football back into our lives once more.

Click on the numbers down below to continue the countdown.

Jose Mourinho: Special?

Jose Mourinho: Special?

With his recent departure from Tottenham Hotspur still fresh in the memory it would seem that once again Jose Mourinho has failed to seize the opportunity to revitalise a career that has evidently begun to stagnate after such a glorious and successful journey through the game.

Recruited by Roman Abramovich in 2004 to become Chelsea manager, his swagger and confidence was a breath of fresh air to English football as he famously declared himself the special one at his very first press conference.

No stone was left unturned in the psychological aspect of the game as he famously built a siege mentality around his players. Although his attitude somewhat bordered on arrogance it couldn’t be denied that his methods translated to monumental success on the pitch as he built a powerful team in his own image as the likes of Dider Drogba, John Terry, and Claude Makelele all ran through brick walls for their beloved manager en route to trophy laden success for the London side.

His tactics and innovative approach to every aspect of the sport drew comparisons to the late great Brian Clough, as Mourinho cast aside 4-4-2 and introduced a new fangled 4-3-3 system that pushed two wingers further forward in support of the lone frontman. This would go on to be replicated by many other teams and became the new standard in the game, due it’s difficulty to negate and Jose’s bulldozer like success with it.

Every press conference and interview made for box office viewing as his entertaining and sometimes cutting remarks were always available in abundance as he shared his philosophy on the game. Never afraid to voice his opinion and go against the grain, Jose became a hugely popular figure for many football fans in England as we admired his profound ability to back up many of his beliefs and prophecies of victory on the pitch.

When his eventual departure from Chelsea came in 2008 it was deemed a great loss to the Premier League, as we would no longer be privy to Jose’s fascinating soundbites and magnetic personality on a weekly basis.

Serie A and Inter Milan would be his next port of call and the subsequent three years at the club were once again a resounding triumph, as Mourinho once again flexed his managerial muscle, leading them to a magnificent treble in 2010. The club duly became the first Italian club in history to land the Scudetto, the Italian Cup and the European Cup all in one season.

Real Madrid would inevitably come calling as his unparalleled success as a manager in a variety of countries showed Jose to be a man who could adapt to new cultures and football methodology at the drop of a hat. His move to the Bernabeu was finalised soon after his European Cup victory, with Los Blancos paying a hefty financial compensation package for his services.

It is here in the Spanish capital that the very first cracks in the Mourinho foundations began to appear despite another era of success in La Liga, as he delivered every domestic trophy in his three years at the club.

However, Real Madrid is an institution that is geared towards European silverware, and domestic honours alone are not enough to satisfy the demanding fan base of one the worlds most successful teams.

The rapport he developed and nurtured with all of his players at past clubs was always crucial to his success, as his tough love and sometimes blunt criticism always seemed to be embraced by his players as he led them to glory. Yet in Madrid it seemingly had the adverse effect, as it served to create a divide and a fractured working relationship with the clubs galactico’s. Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, and Iker Casillas all having well publicized fall outs with the manager.

This internal power struggle between the manager and his players would see Jose eventually sacked, and as a return to London with Chelsea beckoned it would seem that a pre-cursor to the future had already been set at Real Madrid. As it seemed that Jose could no longer cultivate or motivate his players, who had previous bowed down to his managerial excellence, and now they seemed unwilling to follow his lead.

In my opinion Football in 2021 has shifted in a new direction, as society itself is now crying out for inclusion and positivity across the board as we have all endured a torrid time in this tiresome global pandemic. So to criticize and ostracize any player can only surely only breed negativity in not only the person himself but in the training camp as a whole, as the games primary ethos is built on teamwork. For me personally, I would suggest that to encourage and nurture yields the greater response from us as human beings in all walks of life.

It is where the great Alex Ferguson would often excel as he always knew when the time was right for an arm round the shoulder rather a than a rocket up the backside. He certainly recognized that in order to be a success it is a fundamental that any manager in any walk of life is able to communicate and build a rapport with his or her team, as one size no longer fits all in our modern world.

Thus, I feel that here is where Jose has been unable to halt the slide of his managerial failings as he has been unable to rectify and learn from his mistakes. His confrontational methods have been shown to be on a very rocky path after his experiences in Spain.

His return to Chelsea again resulted in a league title, as he built a new powerful team with the marquee signings of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa firing them to success. It wouldn’t last very long however as Mourinho’s failure to develop relationship’s based on mutual respect would rise to the fore all over again, with both Eden Hazard and Diego Costa falling foul of the manager. It was an all too familiar tale for Mourinho and he would part ways with the club in late 2015.

Jose would subsequently become Manchester United manager in 2016 and he delivered silverware in the form of a Europa and League Cup triumph. However, the hierarchy and support base of the club had been accustomed to dining out on gourmet football for decades via Alex Ferguson. He was a manager that genuinely seemed to care for his players and he had an emotional affinity to the club that Jose could never grasp in his short period at the club.

His cold and negative concepts alienated fans who wanted a return to its attacking principles that the clubs foundations had been built on through its rich history. He stubbornly refused to embrace that vision, and continued to place faith in the tactics that had brought him success nearly a decade earlier.

Public defamation of characters such as Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba were yet again on the menu as he created division within the club. Personally, I do feel that player power is a serious problem in the game that needs eradicating and the likes of Paul Pogba do not need their egos stroked any more than is already evident across social media. But to publicly humiliate your players is a sure fire way to create a palpable discord between both parties and is an almost certain recipe for disaster.

Manchester United would eventually see enough of this unsavoury approach and dismiss him in 2019, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replacing him in an effort to mirror a more measured and cultured approach.

Tottenham Hotspur would represent the last chance saloon for Jose in my opinion and with his recent sacking I would suggest that it is now final orders for him in the Premier League.

His surly and antagonistic approach never endeared him to the Spurs fanbase, as his attitude towards his players and negative tactics drew outrage once again. Both club record signing Tanguy Ndombele and fan favourite Delle Ali would be publicly lambasted in interviews by Jose, as it became apparent that the same tired old path was being tread once more which would lead to only one perceivable outcome.

Sure enough he was sacked by the club after just eighteen months, and he departed for the first time in his career without clutching silverware. Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur look to return to a far more serene work place environment with the appointment of the very likeable Nuno Espirito Santo.

As the world continues to change and evolve around us I feel that it is Jose’s stubborn refusal to accept the changing face of modern Football that has led to fans of the sport to question his standing in the game. His achievements leave me in no doubt that he is one of the greatest managers in the history of the sport, yet old father time waits for no one and it is his failure to evolve that has led to his recent shortcomings as his personal views and tactical approach are viewed as grossly outdated by many.

He is now penciled in to take the reigns at AS Roma as he makes his long awaited return to Serie A after a ten year hiatus, and it will be fascinating and compelling viewing to see if his own tried and trusted methods continue to amass clout a decade down the line in Italy.

Jose will always polarize opinion wherever he goes and if he revitalizes his approach at his new club we may well indeed see the return of the special one. However, it is a yarn we have been spun by the man himself many times before, as he always professes to have learnt from his previous misdemeanors, despite the mask soon slipping as soon as adversity looms on the horizon.

So in order for Jose Mourinho to maintain possession of the moniker he famously bestowed upon himself way back in 2004, it is about time that he realised the error of his own ways, and must surely reinvent his own footballing mantra.

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Boxing: The Celebrity Circus

Boxing: The Celebrity Circus

Over the course of the past year we have seen the rise of a disturbing trend amongst a sport that has seen some of the very finest warriors battle for supremacy and respect over multiple decades.

It is a discipline that commands commitment, heart, and a fierce desire if you are to reach the pinnacle of the fight game. Over many years and since my own childhood we have been fortunate to witness truly epic showdowns, and the rise and fall of many fantastic athletes that have sacrificed everything in order to become a World Champion.

Boxing itself is littered with inspirational role models that have struck a chord with so many people from all walks of life. Numerous fighters have had to break through from poverty stricken backgrounds to carve out a living, and many other people are bred into a world that can be so unforgiving. Alas, these boxers have given hope to the unfortunate, and credence to the motto impossible is nothing.

Going as far back as the 1960’s Muhammad Ali was the original maverick superstar that refused to conform to his expected status in that era’s society. He was an Olympic Gold medalist that turned professional and went on to win three World Heavyweight Championships, attained through some of the greatest showdowns in the sports lineage.

Ali dedicated his adult life to mastering the sweet science of Boxing. His outlandish and controversial attitude transcended the sport as his battles were not only waged inside the ropes, but also as he fought for social and racial equality for ethnic minority’s around the world. In doing so he left a untouchable legacy behind as the man who gave hope to so many.

Both Mike Tyson and Frank Bruno came from broken homes in the 1980’s and engaged in contests that thrilled nations as each man pushed their mind, body, and souls to the very limit for the opportunity to be crowned Champion of the world.

Iron Mike’s namesake Tyson Fury is another tale of inspiration and success that has been previously covered at this magazine. It ranks as an uplifting tale of triumph over adversity of the highest caliber.

You can also read that article here if you click on this link: Tyson Fury: The Real Life Rocky

With each of these names the common denominator is the fact that each and every victory has been bred through many years of hard work and great sacrifice.

Chris Eubank’s career in the 1990’s is one that I feel holds the most relevancy here however, as it would be intertwined with both tragedy and triumph. The most memorable feuds of his career would come with the Dark Destroyer Nigel Benn and Michael Watson.

Eubank vs Benn was a classic rivalry that encapsulated everything that we loved about the sport, barnstorming battles between men with a deep dislike for another, battle lines were drawn as two elite warriors in their athletic prime slugged it out. Eubank’s would narrowly escape with his championship after a win and a draw in the two fights.

Unfortunately the latter contest with Michael Watson is notorious for all the wrong reasons, as Watson’s loss resulted in hospitalization and a coma for the Londoner. In turn both himself and Eubank’s lives would never be the same again, as Watson’s near fatal injuries left him struggling to walk and talk for a very long time.

Thankfully he is now able to walk, talk, and communicate comfortably after many years of grueling physical and emotional therapy. However, he is confined to a wheelchair for the vast majority of his daily life.

Eubank’s himself confesses to carrying the guilt and mental scars for Watson’s suffering to this very day, despite both men touchingly becoming close friends after such a horrific incident.

This unfortunate tale must sound the alarm for any man or woman who choose to lace up a pair of boots and step into a Boxing ring. What these fearless warriors do is extremely dangerous, as their livelihood and very existence is placed on the line every time they head into battle.

People have lost their lives and many have suffered catastrophic life changing injuries. Therefore for any celebrity to think that they can waltz into a ring and glove up against any seasoned professional fighter is both foolhardy and reckless beyond belief. It is one thing for amateur’s to face one another, but when you have musicians and Instagram influencers calling out hardened combatants I fear that this current façade is going to only end in tragedy before too long.

Enter Jake and Logan Paul, two brothers barely out of nappies in the sport, sharing a total of four fights between them. Youtubers and former Disney actors by trade, they astonishingly share a belief that they belong in the same breath as the likes of the great Floyd Mayweather who retired undefeated after a glittering career. Having fought the most fearsome fighters of this generation such as Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, and Canelo Alvarez.

Both men are extremely vocal in press conferences and across social media, claiming to be knockout artists whilst calling out various UFC fighters, which I find laughable on so many different levels, as the reality itself speaks at a much higher volume.

Jake’s three victories have come against a fellow Youtuber, an ex NBA player, and a ageing retired UFC fighter. Whilst Logan’s one and only bout ended in defeat to another fellow Youtuber KSI. Thus, it is baffling as to how both men have the gumption to make such outlandish claims, as it has no basis whatsoever.

Jake and Logan Paul’s attitude itself is almost symbolic of this generation of Instagram influencers and Youtubers, as they look for instantaneous gratification through clicks and likes on social media platforms. So rather than through self dedication and commitment, both men feel they can bypass the core fundamentals of a discipline that takes many years to master and become an immediate overnight success.

Personally, I can only see the impending showdown with Mayweather ending in an embarrassing defeat for Logan Paul as the undefeated former World Champion is in another galaxy in comparison to the Youtuber. With that in mind I feel that Mayweather should not even be stepping into the ring with him, such is the disparity between the two.

It is a bout that is fraught with danger, and the criticism that could be heading his and Boxing’s way if Logan Paul suffers serious injury or worse would leave an indelible stain on such a highly regarded profession. Thus, I feel that it isn’t worth him tarnishing his own legacy with a man who simply hasn’t earned the right to be there in the first place.

Boxing itself does not need this kind of publicity, as true fans and supporters understand that this isn’t what the sports fundamentals and principles were built on. Furthermore, I feel that it is an affront and an insult to the legacy of the men and women who have devoted their precious time and energy to the sport and provided it with such a rich history.

The only way we can put a halt to this celebrity circus is to no longer pay lip service to this growing and concerning trend. It is said that money talks in life and it certainly does so in the world of Boxing and pay per view buy rates. Thus, if we the paying consumer refuse to draw our eyes and hard earned money to these glorified playground spats they will ultimately dwindle down to irrelevancy.

In turn, rather than watch celebrities cosplay for followers and likes, we can rightly focus our attention back to the real Boxing personalities that take part for passion, respect, and tradition.

Feel free to discuss any of the viewpoints down below.

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Conor McGregor: Living Dangerously

Conor McGregor: Living Dangerously

Ever since Connor McGregor’s explosive arrival into the bear pit of MMA and UFC, he has courted controversy and divided public opinion with his attitude and approach towards the most unforgiving of sports.

Arrogant, cocky, offensive, and disrespectful are just a few of the accusations that are levelled at the notorious one on a daily basis.

Multiple encounters with the law also suggest that McGregor has sailed perilously close to the wind in both his personal and professional life, and it seems that wherever he now goes there is drama lurking around the very next corner.

However, when placed under the microscope it would suggest that his career is a tale of triumph and inspiration. A man who dared to dream of a life outside the monotony of the rat race, a fighter who bucked the trend and set out to achieve his dreams through sheer desire and an unshakable belief in his own ability to become a superstar in the world of MMA.

Going against the wishes of his own father, McGregor believed in the power of positive thinking and gave up life as a plumber from an early age, pouring his heart and soul into the notion of becoming Ireland’s first fighting megastar. He was eventually signed to a UFC contract in 2013.

What followed was an unstoppable march to greatness, as McGregor’s star begun to shine majestically bright with one fight of the night performance after another. Coupled with his magnetic personality, it was hard to keep your eyes away from the the new Irish sensation, who not only talked the talk but would also strut the walk.

A World Championship opportunity eventually presented itself against the UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo, who had reigned supreme for seven long years with an eighteen fight undefeated streak.

McGregor brazenly predicted that Aldo would be knocked out within 10 seconds of the first round. Few could comprehend such disrespect to a humble and popular legend like Jose Aldo, and he was lambasted for his disrespect and foolhardy prediction.

McGregor would silence the naysayers once again however, as he delivered on his outrageous prophecy, dropping Aldo to the canvas with a knock out left hook after thirteen seconds of the opening bell. A new champion was crowned as a brave new dawn had risen in the UFC.

A fresh and captivating era in the sport was ushered in thereafter, as McGregor drew new eyes and ears to an already immensely popular sport. With his media appearance’s and marketability sending PPV buy rates through the roof anytime he headlined an event.

His pursuit of glory and legendary status would lead him to chase after a second championship at Lightweight, whilst still in possession of the Featherweight title, a feat never accomplished by any male or female in UFC history.

What followed was two thrilling brawls with Nate Diaz after initial opponent and reigning Lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos had to withdrew from the proposed bout with injury.

Diaz would win the first bout via tap out after a remarkable stand up brawl between the two, which left fight fans instantly clamoring for a rematch. McGregor emerged from the second clash narrowly victorious, with both showdown’s a monumental success in buy rates and media buzz.

Eddie Alvarez was McGregor’s next adversary as the quest to be double champion would not be denied. He subsequently dismantled Alvarez inside two rounds to become reigning World Lightweight and Featherweight Champion. Remarkably holding titles in two different weight classes simultaneously.

Eventually he would relinquish both belts and went on to face Floyd Mayweather in a much publicised Boxing match which he would lose in the 10th round. It was a highly commendable performance however, and it would further enforce his unmistakable self belief to face up to the most monumental challenges in combat sports head on.

When pouring over these facts I feel that that it is certainly not unjust to place Connor McGregor alongside the likes of Anderson Silva and George St Pierre as the greatest athlete of all time in UFC.

Each of those fighters dominated their division for a far superior timeframe, but did not possess the ability to draw a crowd like the brash and unreservedly unapologetic McGregor. Whilst neither held two titles at different weights simultaneously as previously mentioned.

It now remains to be seen whether the notorious one can reclaim the glories of yesteryear after returning from multiple apparent retirements. He has lost to both Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirer in convincing fashion, and here I believe lies the conundrum.

As is the case with elite level sports and in life itself, time passes by in the blink of an eye. Before we know it the gladiators of the past are chased down, and eventually overthrown by the new wave of hungry young pretenders to the throne, such is the great circle of life.

Stronger, badder, and fitter adversaries are always sure to chase the dream just as hard as Connor did himself in his earlier years. But it is a familiar tale in any sporting genre that once you scale the mountain top it often becomes even harder to maintain your threshold there. As motivation often tends to evaporate over the course of time, where the thrill of the chase can often outweigh the final conclusion.

Thus, it is now up to Connor himself if he wishes to either step aside for the new breed or make a stand to reclaim his kingdom.

The choice is certainly a tough one and echoes one of my favorite films of all time Rocky III, as the Italian Stallion ponders walking away from Boxing after a crushing loss to the fearless young upstart Clubber Lang.

Crippled by self doubt, he has money in the bank and riches beyond his wildest dreams, yet Rocky still makes the choice to come back and reclaim glory from his enemy. Personal pride and the hunt for success would mean more to him than fame and fortune ever could.

McGregor now faces a similar crossroads in his career, and must chose wisely which path he wishes to tread down next, as he relaxes in his Las Vegas based mansion that he has undoubtedly earned.

To re-discover that motivation requires a unique mindset, and as we speak he has signed on for the trilogy fight with Dustin Poirer as he attempts to make amends for his most recent defeat. If Connor emerges victorious it will be fascinating as always to see what he has set his sights on next.

However, I do believe that if he commits wholeheartedly to the next phase of his career, like he has done so in his pomp, then we could possibly see the resurgence of one of the greatest of all time in the UFC.

In closing, it is evident that Connor McGregor has walked a metaphorical tightrope throughout the duration of his personal life, and now many believe he will do so with the legacy of his own career, if his stubborn refusal to submit to old father time results in failure in the octagon.

Personally, I believe that if he should ultimately fall short in his return to arms it should not cast any doubt or aspersions over his huge achievements and impact in both MMA and UFC.

Rather than be derided for any future failings, he should be celebrated as a man who defied convention and became the most must see fighter of his generation, and for that reason I hope that his decision to fight on in such an unrelenting profession garners the respect it so fully deserves.

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