Archive for the ‘It’s that time of year again’ Category

Jumpers for Goalposts – May 5th

The boys are back and better than ever!

In a week that saw racism rows, a gun-wielding mascot, and diving Tom Daley would be proud of, a few games of football broke out!!

Join Sahil Jaidka, Colin Stone and Ewan McQueen as they are steered, somewhat carelessly, through the murky waters of British and European football by host Stef Meens.

As always, we’re also available on iTunes.

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In the pocket: has record-breaking Selby confirmed Hendry’s summer retirement?

Mark Selby has set two new records as he moves within one frame of victory at 12-5 against scot’s snooker legend, Stephen Hendry in the second round of the World Championships.

The Jester from Leicester became the first player ever to record six centuries in a 25-frame match at the Crucible, beating the record held by Hendry, and taking his tally to 54 for the season.

Selby had already compiled three centuries, taking him to a clear 7-1 overnight lead and after Hendry missed a black in the opening frame of the afternoon, the world number four went onto clear the table with a break of 100.

Selby had an impressive 127 win in the fourth frame of the second session, and although Hendry ensured the match would go onto a final session by winning two consecutive frames, Selby went on to break the record with a break of 117.

In the final frame Selby came from 70-22 behind to clinch the frame 77-76.

Not content with his new record, Selby had the audacity to reduce Hendry to the brink of defeat by forcing five snookers against him and then clearing the final red and all six colours to steal the final frame of the session. That gave him a formidable 12-5 lead over the scot.

It could be said to have been cruel and somewhat disrespectful of Selby to continue playing until the seven times world champion finally fouled himself into defeat, given his already healthy advantage.

The more sportsman friendly thing to do would have been to offer a handshake to signal the end of the frame and reconvened again on Monday afternoon. However, the fantastic finish to a tedious frame certainly justified the meanness of Selby.

The final frame in this session may have pushed Hendry to within a single frame of retirement, should the 42-year-old wish he does not wish to be part of the new world of snooker with its punishing schedule of worldwide minor events.

The scot admitted earlier this week that he has been in danger of dropping out of the top 16 all season – meaning he would have to play qualifying rounds for ranking events. This is a prospect which has never appealed to the seven-time world champion who has remained firmly in the top 16 since 1988.

Hendry has confirmed that even with a title win, he may contemplate retirement this summer – a defeat from Selby on Monday could confirm this retirement.

Ashleigh McGuinley

In the pocket: World Snooker Championship favourites

A preview of who is likely to make the headlines for all the right reasons at the 2011 Snooker World Championships.

With Neil Robertson crashing out of the running in the first round, it looks set to be a nail-biting two weeks at the Crucible. Who’s going to walk away with the victorious title on May 2? A few favourites…


Judd Trump

Current World Ranking: 14

The youngster nicknamed, Mr Haircut 100 is hoping he can make his mark when he makes his second trip to the Crucible four years after his debut.

After knocking out defending world champion, Neil Robertson in a 10-8 first round victory, the 21-year-old looks set for the big time.

The fearless youngster is another player to have a good start to the season, scooping his first major title in Beijing with victory over Mark Selby.

The hugely entertaining and exciting player is hoping to impress with not only his ever changing hairstyle but also with his skilful cuing.

Trump has proven that when he’s on his game he is unstoppable and after knocking his 100th century break in on his road to victory in Beijing, the rising star looks set to make a great outside bet for causing upsets in Sheffield.


Mark Williams

Current World Ranking: 2

Mark Williams is back and hoping 2011 will be his year. After slipping to 47th in the rankings two years ago and numerous talks of him putting down his cue for good, the dragon makes his return and looks set to fire his way through the tournament.

After making a promising start to the season with victory in the Players Tour Championship followed by further success in the first ranking event of 2011 in the German Masters, Williams is hoping he can maintain his level of play when he returns to the Crucible.

After a disappointing 10-9 defeat to world number one, John Higgins last year in the UK final which saw him lead 6-2, Williams needs to lay the past to rest and start a plan of attack to help him reclaim the title he last won eight years ago.

Despite facing tough competition in the form of Ryan Day in the first round, Williams will be hoping his smooth left-handed cuing arm will secure him the much sought after victory he is hoping for.

Regardless of a seasons of many ups and downs, opponents should not fooled by the Dragons mellow persona.


Ronnie O’Sullivan

Current World Ranking: 10

After a disappointing season resulting in a slip to 10th place in the rankings and never ending talk of early retirement, it is a certainty that all eyes will be on the three-time World Champion as he takes to the table.

After what seems like a string of bad luck, the ‘Rocket’ will be hoping he can make it past the first round unlike in the last four tournaments he has played in. Expectations are high for the former number one to redeem himself when he takes on Dominic Dale in the first round of the World Championships.

Famous for his unpredictable behaviour and huge breaks, fans are wondering whether this is the tournament that will see him fade into the background or prove why he has become a snooker legend by claiming his fourth world title exactly ten years after his first Crucible victory.

Whatever the outcome, one thing is for sure the ‘Rocket’ should never be ruled out regardless of what his cue is doing.

From erratic one minute to completely electrifying the next, this is one player that is worth the view.


John Higgins

Current World Ranking: 1

After one of the most difficult years of his personal and professional life, the Wishaw Wizard is hoping to go for his fourth world title when he takes to the table at the Crucible.

After receiving a six month ban and £75,000 fine last year, Higgins returned to competition in top form winning the second biggest tournament of the season, the UK Championship.

Getting off to a good start this season and crushing Stephen Hendry 5-0 in the semi-final of the Scottish Championships should stand the Scot in good stead.

After being quoted saying he has become a ‘stronger person’, the world number one will be hoping that strength travels with him as he prepares to pick up his cue once again.

Despite a year of ups and downs, the Wishaw Wizard is a snooker legend never to be reckoned with. In a bid to claim his fourth title, Higgins fancies his chances as much as the next.

Higgins is yet another spell-binding player to be watched.

 Ashleigh McGuinley

Jumpers for Goalposts – 19/04/2011

Stu Martinez is in charge for this weeks show and is joined in the studio by Elliot Busby, Ewan McQueen and Colin Stone.

Topics debated include Man City’s FA cup triumph, Stoke’s demolition of dismal Bolton, yet another Arsenal capitulation and a preview of this Sunday’s crucial Old Firm derby.

Don’t worry people, Stef Meens will be returning to the show soon.

We Don’t Give an F-Duct – Malaysia

Join Stef Meens and Elliot Busby as they take you through the weekends F1 action. The lads talk through all the hot topics following the Malaysia race, including Russian Vitaly Petrov’s outrageous rallying demonstration, Hamilton and Alonso’s crash, and Scotland’s very own Paul Di Resta.

Enjoy.

Also available on iTunes!

"The Rudderless Russian" - Vitaly Petrov

Jumpers for Goalposts – (12/04/11)

JFG is back with strong opinions and misled, ill-informed football banter.

Stef is back in the hot seat and is joined in Jumpers for Goalposts HQ by Elliot Busby, Stu Martinez and Ewan McQueen.

Also listen out for a cameo from our roaming European reporter Colin Stone, who has taken a tactical trip to Gelsenkirchen to take in the Schalke vs Inter game.

Up for discussion are the PFA awards nominees, Super Mario Balotelli (as usual) and Europe’s finest teams in the Champions League.

We also have a quick trip around Europe visiting the Serie A, La Liga and Bundesliga as the season hits the business end.

Hit us up on Facebook and/or Twitter, and remember to subscribe on iTunes.

Cycling for Brits and dummies: an introduction

Events like the World Cup or the Olympics unite billions of folk and their passion for sport. Some sports unite only a few nations. Cricket is more or less only enjoyed by the Commonwealth Nations and Rugby, in the Northern hemisphere, is most popular in the Six Nations Countries.

Another one of these curious sports that seems to attract the interest of a handful of European nations is cycling. Its mainland is Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands and most of all Belgium, the latter being a country most of the world forgot about.

However more and more people around the world are becoming cycle enthusiasts and the recent success of the Americans (Lance Armstrong)  and Australians (Cadel Evans and Robbie McEwen) have given a huge boost to cycling’s popularity in the ‘New World’.

Events like the Tour of California and the Tour Down Under will never reach the legendary status of the Tour de France or Paris-Roubaix (The Hell of the North) but all the sport’s stars are competing in these new races.

The Holy Grail – Tour de France

So why have the British Isles and Ireland stayed immune for the cycling virus? The chairman of the International cycling federation (UCI) is Irishman Pat McQuaid and in recent years the Brits have joined the peloton in the likes of time trial specialist David Millar, Tour de France contender Bradley Wiggens and last but not least, Mark Cavendish, who was the best sprinter of 2010 and has become one of the most popular riders in the peloton.

So in attempt to familiarize you with the Grandeur of cycling, Champions Chat will provide you with ‘Cycling for dummies and Brits’. The highlights of the race calendar and all the stars of the sport will be discussed in the months to come.

Here’s a quick peak for what to expect:

Iconic events like the Hell of the North, Le Grand Boucle, La Primavera and the Race of the Falling Leaves are the stages where athletes become legends and hero’s fall from grace. In the following months I will address the highlights of the cycling calendar and acquaint you with the leading actors in this sporting spectacle.

The year starts with The Spring Classics divided by the cobbled classics and the Ardennes classics. A combination of cold spring winds, rain, mud, broken tarmac and fierce climbs await the riders in one-day races which have an average distance of 260 kilometres.

The Hell of the North

After a tough spring the teams prepare themselves for one-week events such as the Dauphiné Libéré (nick-named the mini Tour de France) and the Tour of Switzerland to test their form for the highlight of the season: the Tour de France

Le Grand Boucle as it is also called is the Holy Grail of the sport. Also, the Giro d’Italia with its epic tales and the Spanish Vuelta with its impressive stages are truly great sporting events worth noticing. Preview, reviews and features on all the three ‘Grand Tours’ will be available on Champions Chat.

But the cycling calendar does not end in July after the Tour. There’s the Vuelta in September, a few weeks later  the World Championships in Copenhagen  after which the autumn classics with the legendary Tour of Lombardy in October will prove another climax in an exciting year of competition.

But sport isn’t just about the location or the events; it’s about the athletes, the hero’s that cycle more than 200 kilometres a day in all-weather conditions and all parts of the world.

It’s about the sprinters who after a whole day of cycling explode into human bullets and race to finish with speeds up to 80 km/h and make Chris Hoy look like a pensioner in a wheelchair. It’s about the nimble climbers who conquer the Alps and the Pyrenees like Sherpa’s (only without oxygen masks and entangled in a fierce battle for victory).

‘Cav’ and the art of sprinting

And it is about the all-rounders who triumph in the Tour, the Vuelta and the Giro after three weeks of gruelling challenges. They become part of the cycling legend that produced icons like Fausto Coppi (Il Campionissimo), Eddy Merckx (The Cannibal), Miguel Indurain (Big Mig) and of course Lance Armstrong (The Boss).

In short, cycling’s growing popularity outside its mainland is not without its reasons and if you keep an eye on Champions Chat, you’ll soon find out why!

Stef Meens

Why Rangers MUST win Sundays Old Firm game

Is my heart ready for another one?Yes, folks on Sunday it’s round four of SEVEN Old Firm games that will be played this season.

As a fan of the visitors on Sunday, I feel we must go there and win. As much as it pains me to admit, Celtic are playing some superb free-flowing football at the moment, having been unbeaten in 16 games since losing to Hearts in November.

I was one of the harshest critics of Lennon when he lost big games such as Ross County in April, Utrecht in August and the first Old Firm game. However, after winning the New Year game at Ibrox, he really has got them motoring.

On Sunday we must put the brakes on their supposed charge to the title. We had a big chance to do so last Sunday, but we blew it big time. No matter who we are playing, if they go down to 10 men, we must put the game to bed. It was criminal that we didnt and for the first time in a while, I started to doubt Walter. He must put that right on Sunday.

Forget all this rubbish about we have games in hand. We need points on the board and fast.

We put down a marker earlier in the season when we went there and won 3-1 in October. Usually I say I dont care how much we win by or who scores but I think we need to go and win by a similar scoreline to knock the stuffing out of them. If you look at their results after that game, they dont make good reading for Lennon. They lost to Hearts, only won in injury time against St Mirren and drew at home against Dundee Utd and Inverness.

Im looking at the timing of the game as well. Win this and we are two points behind with 2 games in hand. Lose it and we go 8 behind with fixtures piling up.

There is also the small matter of the cup replay at the same ground just 12 days later. Win on Sunday and we go into that with renewed momentum, lose on Sunday and the curtains on Walters final season could be drawn by April.

Smith will know he has been outwitted in the last two games and he’ll be hurting as much as the fans. Get it right, like he has so many times on Derby day and Lennon’s inexperience in a title run-in as a manager could be cruelly exposed.

Put simply, Walter is the greatest manager that Rangers have had in my lifetime. He will want to go out with a bang, not with a whimper. The run-in to a potential domestic Treble begins in 6 days.

We have signed players that are too good not to win a league title. Nikica Jelavic, El Hadji Diouf and Vladimir Weiss are all proven internationals and Premiership quality. I have freely admitted that some of Lennon’s signings have been superb such as Izaguirre and Hooper. However, they havent experienced a title-run in like most of the Rangers squad have and like Lennon that could prove fatal for the team in the East End.

I hope Rangers go there and attack. None of this 5-4-1 or 4-5-1 rubbish. We need to go there and put them under pressure from the first whistle. Look at their forums and some are already predicting the title is on the way to Parkhead. Some are saying they will win 5-0 on Sunday. We were the same around the New Year game and look what happened.

Lets hope history repeats itself as Ill end with this. Can you imagine Lennon’s celebrations in May if he does win the SPL?

That is a nightmare that I hope doesn’t become reality.

Ewan McQueen

Behold! It’s Six Nations time!

The start of the RBS 6 Nations is an exciting time for any rugby fan. For me, it signals the beginning of Spring. Although it may still be below freezing outside, the tournament brings fresh hope and entusiasm to the competing nations.

The old cliche, ‘the romance of the cup’ is rarely more evident than in this proud tournament. The mutual respect between rival fans is what makes it so special. Meeting England fans in an Edinburgh pub after beating them at Murrayfield proves this. Settling your differences over a pint, something that would not be found after an Old Firm game in Glasgow, or following a Liverpool-Everton match on Merseyside.

This years competition is being branded as one of the most open yet, with at least three of the six sides predicted to challenge for the title. 2011 could prove to be the year of the youngster in European rugby union. Every one of the 6 nations has their fair share of injury troubles, prompting the call-up of many new caps, and with the World Cup in the summer the youngsters will be keen to impress. See below a quick summary of all the competing nations, including past honours, injury troubles and their chances at claiming the title this time around.

France:

  • Favourites for 2011 6 Nations.
  • Won Grand Slam in 2010, which included a dominant 33-10 win over Ireland in Paris.
  • The only side with a clean bill of health.

England:

  • Last won the tournament in 2003, when Martin Johnson Captined the side to their first Grand Slam.
  • Viewed by many as equal favourites with France.
  • Very strong, physical forwards.
  • They are injury ridden however, missing 4 key forwards including Lewis Moody and Tom Croft.
  • Centre Mike Tindall has been handed the captaincy for the opening game against Wales on Friday (4th Feb).

Ireland:

  • 2009 Grand Slam Champions.
  • Had a relatively poor championship last year, but still managed 2nd place.
  • This year they have a lot of injury problems, with British Lions players Tommy Bowe, Rob Kearney and Stephen Ferris all out.
  • Ireland could easily slump this year, but are in good form having won their last two test matches, and will want to start strongly against Italy in Rome, on Saturday (5th Feb).

Wales:

  • Since winning the Grand Slam in 2009, Wales haven’t managed to finish higher than 4th.
  • Not considered serious title contenders.
  • They too are missing key players in the form of Leigh Halfpenny, Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins.
  • However, the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff is a fortress for the Welsh and any team can be humbled on it’s stage.

Scotland:

  • The Scots have never won the 6 Nations in it’s 10 year history.
  • Very good defensively, but struggle to score tries and therefore fail to beat the bigger sides of a regular basis.
  • However, Scotland won their last two tests against South Africa and Samoa, and have risen to 7th in the World Rankings.
  • Injured Graeme Morrison may return for the last two games of the tournament, and Johnny Beattie is only lacking in match fitness, so Scotland’s injury troubles are not as great as the other home nations.

Italy:

  • Very much the underdog of the tournament having finished bottom 7 times out of 10.
  • Italian rugby is growing quickly, helped by the induction of clubs Bennetton Treviso and Aironi Rugby into the Magners League.
  • They will also be boosted by the return of captain Sergio Parisse after he missed last years tournament through injury.

 

    Fixture List (All times GMT):

    Fri 4th Feb

    Wales v England – 19.45

    Sat 5th Feb

    Italy v Ireland – 14.30

    France v Scotland – 17.00

    Sat 12th Feb

    England v Italy 14.30

    Scotland v Wales 17.00

    Sun 13th Feb

    Ireland v France – 15.00

    Sat 26th Feb

    Italy v Wales – 13.30

    England v France – 17.00

    Sun 27th Feb

    Scotland v Ireland – 15.00

    Sat 12th March

    Italy v France – 13.30

    Wales v Ireland – 17.00

    Sun 13th March

    England v Scotland 15.00

    Sat 19th March

    Scotland v Italy – 14.30

    Ireland v England – 17.00

    France v Wales – 18.45

     

    Elliot Busby

    It’s that time of year again – Super Bowl XLV!

    It’s that time of year again when everybody becomes a football fan.  No I’m not talking about 22 men in shorts kicking a ball around the pitch, I’m talking about 22 men in full body pads, helmets and gum-shields tackling, blocking, throwing, running and touching down in one of the biggest sporting events of the year.  Yes, Super Bowl Sunday is upon us.

    This year will see the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Green Bay Packers in Texas and the duel in Dallas looks set to be a real battle as both teams are remarkably evenly matched in most areas of the game.

    The Packers came into the playoffs as a wildcard team but charged their way through Philadelphia, Atlanta and the Bears to earn their place in this year’s big game.

    Pittsburgh overcame Baltimore and the Jets to secure their position in the event for the eighth time, but despite holding the record for the most Super Bowl victories (a total of six) it is the Packers who go into Sunday’s match as favourites.

    This marks the fifth appearance for Green Bay who hold the record for 12 NFL titles overall, including three Super Bowl wins, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers is arguably in the best form of his career so far.

    However, up against a veteran Pittsburgh team who have 25 players with Super Bowl experience, including 11 starters still remaining from Super Bowl XL five years ago, anything could happen and Sunday’s showdown looks set to be a truly superb sporting spectacle.

    The magic of the Super Bowl however, not only lies within the beauty of the game, but also in the one-of-a-kind event that it has proved to be; and the 45th year of the competition looks set to be no different with the Black Eyed Peas headlining the infamous half-time show and the coveted 30-second advertising spots on television going for around $3 million each.

    So whether an American football fan or not, someone who knows the difference between a line-out and a touch-down or not, or even if you thought the Super Bowl was some kind of extreme bowling event that happens once a year, I urge you to stay up and witness what promises to become an instant classic both for what happens on and off the pitch.

    Super Bowl XLV will be shown live in the UK on February 6th from 2245 GMT on BBC 1.

    Jo Wilson

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