Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Can Ponting afford to lose Ashes series?

Andrew Strauss' England tour Australia with their best chance of success in a quarter of a century. Pundits, experts, and former players on this side of the world are all resoundingly in accordance that Strauss and his team will bring home the urn. The first part of this blog will look at England's chances, and assess whether the overwhelming optimism surrounding the team is justified, before looking at the other side of the all-important coin, and see that England would underestimate at their peril the ability, and most importantly hunger, of the Australian side and its talismanic, yet controversial leader Ricky Ponting.

Pundits and former players in England seem in clear agreement that England are a superior side to Australia, so much so that they will win the series on their opponents' own soil. Former captains Gatting and Vaughan have confidently predicted England victories while Jonathan Agnew expects a 3-1 triumph, looking at Swann's ability and the frailties of the Aussie batting line-up, Michael Hussey and Marcus North in particular, as deciding factors. 

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

What is driving Rooney out of Old Trafford?

Addressing the Associated Press ahead of his side Champions' League match against Bursaspor, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson made it clear that he would be answering questions on Wayne Rooney's future. Reports and rumours that Rooney wanted to leave became reality, a harsh one for Ferguson and anyone involved with Manchester United as a football club.

Rooney has it all at United. He is the best-known, and currently most gifted, player at one of the world's most successful and most renowned clubs, and is paid accordingly. Adored by the fans, Rooney is (rightly or wrongly) equated with the all-time greats of one of the UK's most prestigious and treasured sporting institutions, all under the tutelage of one of the most respected coaches in the game. At Old Trafford he has, and can continue to win major trophies at both domestic and European level. Why would he possibly want to leave?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Balancing sustainability and fairness in higher education (The Browne Report)

Published today, the Browne Report looking into university reforms delivered, as widely expected, the recommendation that tuition fees be vastly increased. The verdict is that the government would underwrite university fees of £6,000 a year. More importantly, the Browne review concludes that universities could charge more if they so wished, seeking to introduce a cap at £12,000 per year. Browne branded the document as 'securing a sustainable future' for higher education. In terms of money, this may be true, but what does it mean for the students?

Business Secretary and senior Liberal Democrat Vince Cable has accepted the plans, an obvious dichotomy but one not strictly relevant to this piece. He describes the previous party opposition to any rise in fees as 'no longer feasible'. This is to say either this country's finances have taken a drastic turn for the worse in the five months since the election, or by 'no longer feasible' he means it's no longer a stance the party can take while in coalition with the Tories, likely the latter. It would appear that in government the likes of Cable are having to perform a drastic U-turn from their previous position as being reasonably respected politicians.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Clegg seizes opportunity but jeopardises Lib Dem future

In light of his speech to his party conference in Liverpool, this article is an attempt to put what little knowledge of politics I have into an analysis of Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats' role in the coalition government so far, addressing the extent of their success in balancing faithfulness to their voters and policies with 'playing politics', and accepting their role as a minor power, but a power all the same.

There can be no doubt that Clegg made the right decision entering government with the Conservative party. As the leader of a party whom the public had resoundingly rejected at the election, polling 23% and losing five seats, well short of both hopes and expectations, he had the choice of quasi-leading the Liberal Democrats through the wilderness of minor opposition, or trying to influence Conservative policy-making in government, in so doing allow for both greater public representation in government, and a chance, if a minor one, for a measure of progressive politics to prevail. This was an opportunity Clegg could not pass up.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

What Nadal’s victory means for tennis

On Monday, Rafael Nadal made history by winning the US Open for the first time, completing a career Grand Slam. At 24, he is the second youngest player behind Rod Laver to achieve the feat, and suddenly his list of records, as well as his trophy cabinet, is starting to compare with that of Roger Federer, the man with the greatest records of all. The victory is his third major title in a row, making him the first man to win these three consecutively since Laver in 1969, and the first to do so on three different surfaces. This article looks at how Nadal's fantastic fortnight changes tennis history, and what it means for its future.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

US Open Preview

Who will win the US Open? There are now more genuine contenders to win major titles, and beat some of the greatest players in tennis history, than at any point in my time as a true fan (which began with the classic Wimbledon of 2001), and even before then. It promises to be a great tournament, with, by my reckoning, 7 realistic contenders, which makes it the most exciting, open, and unpredictable major for years.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Hungary game will teach us nothing

This post is in expansion of ideas upon the previous, and an attempted response to some of the feedback received. 'Why Capello...' was not an attempt to answer all of the national teams on and off-field problems in one article, but to highlight that the England boss has other and more important issues to solve than just brining in a few fresh faces.

That said, this post will focus more closely upon what it will take Capello to get our national team playing better, he himself having admitted he does not know how to do so. While my last entry looked at Capello's 'new' squad and some problems surrounding it, it did not look at any tactical changes required in the England setup. This is our problem: (I promise I'll write more optimistic articles in the future)

Monday, 9 August 2010

Why Capello can’t solve his problems with one young squad

Ahead of England boss Fabio Capello’s first squad announcement since the team’s humiliating World Cup campaign, pundits, former players and fans had been calling for change, an influx of fresh, attacking-minded talent to a side which looked desperately off-the-pace in their record World Cup defeat to an electric German side. Capello fulfilled this expectation. Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott are in - two players who, in hindsight, Capello made a mistake in not taking to South Africa. They, as well as new faces Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Bobby Zamora, will inject some much-needed youth and pace into England, who, behind Brazil, landed in South Africa with the second-oldest squad of players. Some younger talent in Gary Cahill and Ashley Young has also been added at the expense of some of our World Cup flops. These look like positive changes from Capello, but has he got it right this time? Do his changes go far enough? Are they too drastic? Most importantly, is this new, younger side the answer to the problems of our national team the fans have been looking for?