Goodbye Don Valley Stadium

After 23 years, it's time to say goodbye.

After almost 23 years, it’s time to say goodbye. (Photo courtesy of ‘newsteelconstruction.com’)

In its almost 23 year history, it’s held everything from Football matches, Gigs, A World Student Games and even a Reality TV show. Don Valley Stadium was the second largest athletics stadium in the UK (the largest being the Olympic Stadium), and has been an integral part of Sheffield and the surrounding area ever since it’s opening, but now that integral part to the city, has now come to an end.

The stadium was built costing £29 million, and is now being demolished because it’s ‘unsustainable’ to run and manage. It’s said that it will save Sheffield City Council £700,000 a year.

Campaigners from Save Don Valley Stadium made a last ditch attempt to save the stadium a few days ago, but unfortunately lost their fight to take over the running of the Stadium as the city council turned down an application from the action group. They wanted to have the site listed as an ‘asset of community value’ which would’ve prevented the stadium from closing. We now know that the closing will in fact go ahead.

This decision has created much controversy, and so it should. Sebastian Coe spent a lot of his childhood in Sheffield, and so it pains me whenever I hear the phrase ‘Olympic Legacy’. It pains me because I know on the whole people are getting more involved in sports since the Olympics, but yet we’re closing down fantastic training facilities such as Don Valley and even smaller facilities such as Herringthorpe Stadium in Rotherham. Don’t get me wrong; I understand that it’s not Lord Coe’s fault that Don Valley is closing, I just find it ironic that we’re babbling on about how we need to provide opportunities to future generations, and yet we’re cutting opportunities for people to get involved in Track & Field by forcing them to train elsewhere. Many people including Olympic Champion Jessica Ennis-Hill and her trainer Tony Minichiello have made their opinions clear. Minichiello states the closure of the stadium is ultimately ‘pushing Jess out of the city’.

And that’s what I want to leave on. Most of the training Jessica Ennis-Hill will have done for her to earn the Olympic Gold will most likely have been at Don Valley Stadium. The Sheffield Eagles Rugby League team will have to find a new home. Now that the stadium is gone, we’re cutting the chances of seeing another rising ‘Jessica Ennis-Hill’ at a future Olympics. Personally, I’m deeply saddened to see this monument to Yorkshire, and U.K sport, shut down. But most importantly, how well is the planned ‘Olympic Legacy development’ going to fill the void?

The Sorry State of Sheffield United

Is his time at Bramall Lane coming to a premature end?

Is his time at Bramall Lane coming to a premature end? (Photo courtesy of ‘bbc.co.uk’)

7 seasons ago, Sheffield United were in the top flight of English Football. They were rubbing shoulders with the big boys, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, and on a cold December’s night in 2006 they even beat Arsenal. How do I know it was a cold December’s night? Because I was there. I was there as a proud Season Ticket holder at ‘beautiful downtown Bramall Lane’, with a sold out capacity of over 32,000 when we beat Arsenal 1-0. I figured this was a sign of bigger things to come for ‘The Mighty Blades’. I was wrong.

The club now resides 22nd in the Sky Bet League One. We’re in the relegation zone, just above Notts County and Gillingham and we’re losing to the likes of Carlisle United on a regular basis, struggling to get home crowds above 17,000.

By now, some say that we’ve been knocked down a peg or two since the Premier League days; somebody should tell Kevin McCabe who doesn’t really understand yet the trouble the club is in. He states that he aims for the club to be back in the Premier League in “3 years.” You’ve got to admire the ambition, or loathe the denial. We all know that to eventually break into the Premier League, you first have to get out of League 1. So why is it that David Weir insists on playing the same ‘tippy-tappy’ type of football you actually expect to see in the Premier League? It’s almost as if we still believe we’re better than League One and therefore don’t need to conform to that style of football, but there’s that operative word again, ‘denial.’

I understand I’m biased, but many people say that (apart from Bradford City) Sheffield United are perhaps the unluckiest club in England. We were relegated from the Premier League on the final day of the season in the wake of the Carlos Tevez scandal and we haven’t won a Championship Play-Off final in our history. To top it off, we’ve had 8 managers in 7 seasons since Neil Warnock’s departure. With David Weir, I with many other Blades, thought we would finally get some stability with the club and perhaps things were looking up, but by judging this season already it’s clear to me that we’re going to be in a relegation dogfight, and we’ll be lucky to stay in League One. That is unless the club does something about it.

With the addition of the new Saudi Arabian Co-Chairman, Prince Abdullah Bin Musa’ad, we have guaranteed fiancial stabilty whilever we’re pushing forward. However, the Prince stated on BBC Radio Sheffield that anything other than the Premier League will mean he doesn’t make any money from this investment. Personally I think he might be waiting a hell of a long time for any sort of return.

Whatever the opinions of the board and the staff at Sheffield United, one thing’s clear; change is needed, urgently, 22nd in the old Third Division is simply not good enough. Whether it’s ridding League One of the Tippy-Tappy Tactics of David Weir, or making some thrifty player purchases like Marlon King, there’s no doubt that the change is needed. As an avid fan, it’s good to see the club is using it’s initiative in making it’s first tentative steps to becoming ‘The Mighty Blades’ once more by making Prince Abdullah Co-Chairman, but there’s a long road ahead and you can make as many backroom staff changes as you like; it all starts and ends with winning Football matches.

Who will be ‘Il cane superiore’ in Ferrari?

Is Kimi going to overtake Alonso as the Number 1 for Ferrari? (Photo courtesy of 'indiatimes.com')

Is Raikkonen going to overtake Alonso as the sole Number 1 driver for Ferrari? (Photo courtesy of ‘indiatimes.com’)

5 days ago, the BBC reported that Kimi Raikkonen was moving teams from Lotus Motorsport to Scuderia Ferrari. Here we are today, and as we now know it, next season Ferrari will have two number one drivers. This has created some speculation as to how the relationship between the drivers and Ferrari is going to work, most notably, what is Fernando Alonso’s role now, and will he get all the support he feels he needs?

I can understand Alonso’s concern. After driving with Felipe Massa for 4 years, I’d be upset if there was now an actual title contender on my team. Let’s face it, they don’t call Raikkonen ‘The Iceman’ for no reason. He is as cool as you like, and the main point, he gets the job done. I think that even if he wasn’t from Finland he’d still be dubbed Iceman, he’s just that good.

Alonso on the other hand is a little more flarey. With one more world championship than Raikkonen, some might say he’s the more established driver. But unlike Raikkonen who’s known to be quite introvert and focused on a race weekend, Alonso likes to show off his various card tricks. Just one of his ways to relax, and it shows this season, with Alonso pipping Raikkonen in the standings by 35 points, but with 7 races left of this season a couple of unfortunate retirements is all it takes and everything is level between these two.

The most interesting thing for me next season is to see their relationship. These two get on well with each other. But then again, a team order is all it takes for a partnership to become strained. Look at Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel. These two were both more or less considered to be the Number 1 drivers in Red Bull. They used to get on quite well, but Vettel decided not to listen to a team order when Webber was leading him in Sepang. The team ordered both drivers to hold position after the final pit stops of that race. However, Vettel chose to ignore the order and drive straight past his team-mate with 13 laps to go to take victory. And that’s the question out of this new Ferrari partnership. Are they going to be true professionals, or is it a case of who’s got the bigger ego?

Both of these drivers are long standing veterans of Formula 1. They started their Formula 1 careers in 2001. They’re both roughly the same age (Alonso 32, Raikkonen 33). But most importantly, they’re both World Champions. Alonso is more than likely not winning the title this season. For him, it’s more about consolidating for next season. And consolidate he will, he has to; because it’s going certainly to be an explosive season next year.

7 Years with No ‘Tour De France’ Champion.

It’s been officially been announced today, Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his 7  ‘Tour De France’ Wins. As well as being stripped of his titles, Armstrong now has to refund his total prize money of approximately $7 Million. But what happens now? Is there just a 7 year void of there being no champion?

One must still admire the work for Armstrong’s  charity, ‘Livestrong’, of which will still create solutions to help people suffering from Cancer. He still cares deeply for this and me personally, I am incredibly saddened by his latest turn of events. I looked up to Lance Armstrong, and I still do to some extent. He may have taken the performance enhancing drugs, but let’s not forget he still had to actually go out there and win them championships. He went out and won championships but I think everyone will agree, there’s much better ways to win and I am certainly not an advocate for ‘doping.’ I have no place for it.

Lance Armstrong at the 2004 ‘Tour De France.’ (Photo Courtesy of latimesblogs.latimes.com)

One thing from all this I do not agree with however is having a big void for 7 years, but unfortunately there’s not much choice as it’s to my understanding that some years the winner would technically now be someone 6th overall and not even on the podium. We should all register that it’s not just Armstrong who partook in ‘doping’ however he’s had the most publicity as he’s won the most titles.

I am deeply saddened by this situation, what do you think?

Barnet… For Sure?

Edgar Davis at the Barnet training ground (Above) (Photo courtesy of ‘mirror.co.uk’)

Struggling Barnet of League 2 have recently signed a big name, however it’s not a new player, he’s the new joint-head coach. But what’s made Edgar Davids make this interesting decision that’s shook the lower-league British football world?

In my mind there are two very simple reasons why he’s made this choice. The first is that he obviously wants to become a full-time coach/manager and everybody has to start at the bottom and work their way to the top… this is the case literally for Davids as Barnet are at the bottom of League 2 and subsequently the whole of the British Football League. If he wants to work his way up from the bottom, he’s got that this season.

The second reason, he lives 1 mile away from Barnet. He’s a local. Even though he’s dutch, Davids has spent a lot of his playing career in London. In the mid 2000′s he was a part of Tottenham Hotspur. His next stint in London after that was joining Championship side Crystal Palace in a 7 game stint. However his finest moment came in 1995 in the form of winning the Champions League with Ajax.

But take notice of one sentence at the top of the blog, “joint-head coach”. He has to work with former Charlton, Gillingham and Peterborough coach Mark Robson. Here’s what Davids had to say about Robson, “Mark has experience, he has a football philosophy and likes to keep the ball on the ground, On that level, we agree. We will clash. It’s not a case of if.”

One thing’s for sure this season for the ‘Bees’, it’s going to be interesting this new dynamic duo. They’re aiming for a mid-table finish in League 2, where do you think they’ll finish?

Olazabal says Ryder Cup ‘not over’… Really?

Ian Poulter celebrating at the Ryder Cup 2012. (Photo courtesy of uk.reuters.com)

If one’s going to be pedantic then technically it’s not over; but it’s some mountain to climb unfortunately for Team Europe as they now have to win 8 of the 12 Singles matches today. There’s only ever been one comeback from a 10 – 6 deficit before, and it was Team USA making the comeback at Brookline in 1999…

Yesterday however, there was a late resergence  from Europe following examples from Ian Poulter with his 5 Birdies in a row and utterly heroic putting yesterday, and remembering the late great Seve Ballesteros, possibly one of the most positive Golfers of all-time.  But as much as it pains me to say this, we need to follow the example of the 1999 USA Team, Europe need to start the final day off to an absolute flier and need to create some amazing Approach and Putting opportunites. If they can do this, USA will be shook and there will certainly be a very real chance of re- creating a Brookline-esq Ryder Cup finish.

As well as the Approach and Putting, Europe needs to make use of it’s World seeded Number 1 Rory Mcllroy, and it’s virtually un-seeded Nicolas Colsaerts. Rory obviously has a presence about him as he’s the World number 1, and he should be a real game changer for the singles matches today. Nicolas however is the surprise package. I don’t think many expected such a complete Golfer from a rookie, including me. But maybe I should’ve had more faith in Olazabal, there’s a reason he picked who he picked.

However the day goes today it’s most probably going to be a very climatic ending to, let’s be honest, a mostly one-sided Ryder Cup. That’s why if Europe make this Brookline-esq comeback, it’ll be that more heroic. Do you think Europe will retain the Cup, or will USA maintain their dominance.

UFC Needs “The Next Big Thing” Back.

Brock Lesnar celebrating a Title defence. (Photo courtesy of prowrestlingpowerhouse.com)

Last night, Jon “Bones” Jones beat Vitor Belfort by a Submission in the fourth round and retained his Light Heavyweight Championship. This was the main event for UFC 152, and in my opinion it was a great headline match for an amazing event. Even the co-headline match last night was for the UFC Flyweight Championship between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benevidez, which re-affirms UFC’s place at the top of the MMA pantheon. Every weight class in the UFC from Light Heavyweight down to Flyweight is unbelievable… but I’ve missed a weight class.

Since pugilism first hit audiences and television screens, the most hyped events were usually the Heavyweights. The reasoning was simple, Heavyweights knock each other out. This has carried through to MMA.

In January of 2007, a legend announced his return from retirement at the age of 43. In his first match back from retirement, he beat Tim Sylvia, a 6ft 8in giant, by unanimous decision. This made Randy Couture, the former Light Heavyweight Champion, a now Heavyweight Champion. Randy made the title relevant again and he defended his coveted title until 2008, what he didn’t realise was that he had to face “The Next Big Thing.”

Randy had already shown the night against Tim Sylvia wasn’t a fluke, as he also defended against a very game Gabriel Gonzaga. But this next competitor wasn’t Gabriel Gonzaga, he is simply, Brock Lesnar. Brock simply hammer-fisted Randy’s face in the Second Round of their fight to get the TKO victory.  The former WWE “Superstar” became a crossover champion and made the UFC Heavyweight Championship even more relevant than before and one of, if not possibly the most talked about Championship in the World.  Lesnar was one of the most dominant champions in UFC Heavyweight History and only solidified this when he won possibly the most hyped UFC event of all time, UFC 100. Brock won the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship, consolidating both titles and became the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion.

Brock was ‘numero uno’, and looked as if no one could stop him, until Cain Velasquez shocked the world in 2010 with a surprise victory. After the demoralising loss, Brock became ill with diverticulitis and never won a UFC match since. Brock subsequently left after his last fight with Alastair Overeem, and rejoined “Pro Wrestling.” WWE.

Ever since Brock’s departure, the Heavyweight Division has never had that same electricity and excitement. Brock isn’t just a fighter, he’s a global brand, one that in my opinion is sorely missed in the UFC. He’s got extensive experience at cutting promos, and he’s just a damn good fighter. There’s now rumblings that he may return. All I’m saying is I really hope this is true. Do you think Brock will return to the UFC?