Tuesday, 26 May 2009

And the Winner of the Richest Prize in Football is....Burnley!

61 games, 25 players used and two minutes away from a Carling Cup Final against the World, European and English Champions would normally be enough for one season, for any normal small town club, but not Burnley, whose 1-0 win against Sheffield United won them the right to play in the biggest league in the world and compete against the best every week, not just in cup competitions. 

Owen Coyle has done something that has to be a kin to a miracle at Turf Moor who compiled his squad, spending just £2.5million pounds, and will next season see his side walk out against the biggest earners in the world. 

Only Manchester United have played more games this season than Burnley, with their Champions League Final against Barcelona tomorrow night being the 66th game of their season, which has seen them compete in seven competitions, reaching at least the semi final in all of them, and so far winning four of them (including the Community Shield).

Now, I don't need to tell you what the major differences are between Burnley and Manchester United, so for Coyle to coax his team through a 61 game season, and only use 25 players in the process is, without a shadow of a doubt, verging on miraculous, and it just goes to show to the likes of Manchester City and the Chelsea's of this world that you don't need big money to be successful. 

Burnley have come through this season because of their spirit and their togetherness. They fight for each other and are more like a family than colleagues, and that has shown in some of their more high profile matches this season, including yesterdays play off final. 

4-1 down after the first leg against Tottenham Hotspur in the Semi Final of the Carling Cup, no one in their right mind would have honestly believed that they would be able to pull off a 3-0 victory to take the tie into extra time, and with a little more experience, Burnley may have been able to hold on those last two minutes, which would have seen them through on the away goals rule, and seen them walk out at Wembley against Manchester United.  

Wins against Fulham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham will only have given Coyle's side a taste of what is to the come for Burnley, who despite these encouraging results will need a lot of investment if they are to survive the gruelling Premier League. £60 million pounds should do it, shouldn't it?

That's the price tag that is placed on a place in the Premier League, with its increased television revenue and sponsorship that sees matches beamed all over the world, and for the first time in the 18 year history of the Premier League, people in Asia and America will be able to see how a little Lancashire side called Burnley get on against the might of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea next season.

In previous years Burnley have had to sell one decent player every season in order to stay afloat, they will not have to worry about that this season and if Coyle is wise with his money, and the clubs chairman isn't too frugal with what he gives the Scotsman, there is no reason why Burnley cannot repeat Hull and Stoke's example from this season and stay up. 

In terms of sheer size, Burnley are quite likely one of the smallest clubs to have ever graced the Premier League, along with maybe the likes of Bradford City and Swindon Town, but in terms of heart, togetherness and a sheer will to win, they can take on and beat the best. 

One question that will be raised is whether the young squad of Burnley will be able to recover from their long, tough, season in the Championship, and be fit, and ready, for an even tougher season in the Premier League? Adrenaline will no doubt get them through their first couple of games, but should Burnley start the season poorly the knives will almost certainly be out for Coyle and his men. 

Sunday, 24 May 2009

What now for Newcastle United?

There have been some big clubs that have found themselves in the bottom three of the Premiership, once the final whistle has been blown on the final day. 

Leeds United, West Ham United, Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forrest, among others, have all seen the trap door to the Championship open below them, and for 40% of the teams that have been relegated from the Premier League since its inaugural season in 1992/93, it was to be their last visit to the top division of English football. 

Newcastle United, without any shadow of a doubt, can rank themselves along with the likes of West Ham and Leeds, as being another big, big club to have been found wanting come final day. 

Leeds have slipped further and further down the pecking order, languishing in League 1 for yet another season, West Ham United managed to bounce back at the second time of asking, after losing out in the playoffs first time around, they managed to win the title the following season, and have never looked back, but what will the fate of Newcastle be come next season, when they line up against the likes of Peterborough, Scunthorpe and Doncaster?

A whole host of people, whether they be neutral or Newcastle fans themselves, in hindsight, would probably argue that relegation from the Premier League is what the club needed if they were to ever move forward, after recent years of constant chopping and changing at managerial level, all the way to board room level, never allowing one man to mould the team into his own. 

Alan Shearer was seen as the saviour of Newcastle when he came in, set with the task of keeping Newcastle United in the Premier League, with just eight games remaining to work his magic.

Five points from a possible 24 was never going to be enough, with Shearer's only managerial victory coming at home to Middlesbrough, who themselves find themselves looking forward to a season in the Championship next year. 

The first thing that Newcastle will have to do is slash the wages at the club. The likes of Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Mark Vidulka don't come cheap, and with the wage structure at the club having to drastically be reduced, players leaving the club is an inevitability. 

Owen, Martins, Vidulka, Damien Duff, Kevin Nolan are just five players who I consider to be Premier League class, and it would shock me if more than one of those players hung around to get Newcastle out of the mess, that they have ultimately put the club in. 

The next issue that the club will have to face is who is going to be the man to take them forward?

When Shearer came in, his tenure was to last the final eight games of the season while Joe Kinnear recuperated from his heart surgery, but in the weeks leading up to today many people are of the belief that Shearer will stay on, a choice that no Newcastle fan would have a problem with. 

One question you will have to ask, though, is will Shearer have the experience and nous to get Newcastle out of the Championship, which is one of the most competitive leagues in the world, where literally anyone can beat anyone.

On top of that the Newcastle team that walked out today at Villa Park will almost certainly be nothing near the team that will walk out on the opening day of the Championship, with many new players coming into the club, almost as quickly as the high profile players go out the door, and who ever the manager is at the time will have a tough task moulding this new group of players into a team, that can compete in the Championship and carry the pressure that comes with playing for a big club whatever the level. 

For the club to really move forward, though, the board room shenanigans will have to come to an end.

When Shearer came back to the club it was like Mike Ashley thought that he was back in favour with Newcastle fans, like he was when he brought in Kevin Keegan, but Newcastle fans aren't that stupid and are not going to forget what Ashley has done with the club so far. 

With Ashley's extortionate price tag, that he is placed on the club, it doesn't seem that anyone is too keen to part with their money, especially in these troubled financial times, and the task of selling the club is only going to have been made tougher with today's relegation. If the club is to be sold, Newcastle fans have two hopes, one that a billionaire oil tycoon turns up and fancies a toy, or that a true Newcastle fan, through and through, has the money required to buy the team and build it back to what it once was. 

Newcastle, as a team, have more than enough potential to bounce back at the first attempt, but as the stats show it isn't always a foregone conclusion that a team from the Premiership will bounce back once they go down to the Championship.

Apart from Leeds, there will have been no other side in the history of the Premier League that will have had to go through so much change in the three month period between the seasons, following relegation to the Championship, and because of this, Newcastle fans may have to wait more than a year before their team can bounce back. 

As long as Ashley can sell to the right person, who has the correct intentions for the club and a fair bit of patience, get a manager in who knows how to succeed at Championship level and coach a team through a tough and demanding 46 game season, and slash the wages to the extent that, should they not come back first time, it isn't a disaster, then the future for Newcastle is bright. 

For now though a few more drinks are probably in order for Newcastle fans, but they shouldn't look at this moment as a dark day for the club, but they should see is as the rebirth of Newcastle United, as they try and right the wrongs made by all that have gone before them. 

Jenson Button: Worthy World Champion?

I know its a bit presumptuous to assume that Jenson Button will become the Formula 1 World Champion for 2009 but after this afternoons win at the Monaco Grand Prix, which he led from start to finish, Button has now opened up a 16 point lead from team mate Rubens Barrichello, just six races into the season, that is championship form in anyone's eyes. 

Those who are new or don't really know a lot about Formula 1 will be thinking, roughly, the same as me, how has Jenson Button all of a sudden come good? 

Button has been on the F1 scene now since 2000, when he started his fledgling career with Williams. Since 2000 Button has been with Williams, Benetton, Renault, BAR and Honda, and in his eight seasons with those five teams he managed to collect one win, in 2006.  

This season alone Button has managed five wins from the opening six rounds of races in 2009, not bad considering that Button and the rest of the Honda team were resigned to the fact that they may not have a team to work for this season, after Honda decided to pull out of the Championship following the financial crisis that has affected so many car manufacturers across the world. 

Ross Brawn, the former Ferrari and Benetton supremo, though, saved the Honda team, and seemingly Button's career, when he decided to acquire the team, which he was team principle of anyway. 

Formula 1 bosses have been doing all that they can to try and change and make Formula 1 more competitive and a closer run thing. For years the Championship has been dominated by the likes of McClaren and Ferrari, with Renault having some recent successes with Fernando Alonso, but these changes that have been brought in by the F1 bosses have had an opposite effect, in the sense that McClaren and Ferrari are not dominating, but have had no effect in the sense that one team is still dominating the proceedings. 

Jenson Button has had many a critic in his career, and has up until now never shown his potential under his previous teams, but this year, Button and his Brawn GP have adapted the best to the new rules, and Button now has a car that he can compete with and show what he is made of. 

Button fans are obviously enjoying this new found success and have known, since Button came onto the circuit, that given the right car he would be able to compete with the best on the grid. But with all these changes that have limited the performances of World Champion Lewis Hamilton and the Ferrari boys, if Button is to continue his form that he has shown so far this season, will his title be merited, as arguably the best drivers in previous years have been unable to compete due to the rule changes?

The old philosophy from football of you can only beat whats put in front of you can be applied to all sports, even F1. Button has had the luck of having a car that can compete and win races, a car that he has never had before, and despite the fact that the usual names of McClaren and Ferrari aren't keeping up to pace with the Brawn GP team, should not take too much away from Button's achievement. 

There will always be some people in F1 circles who will question the merit of the title should Button win the Championship in November, and in some aspects, this year is a poisoned chalice for whoever wins the title because of the amount of chances that have been made and implemented for the first time this season.

Button looks odds on to win the title come November but should anyone else be able to take the title from Button and the Brawn GP team, they will have to go along with the fact that they have won the title under contrasting circumstances to the likes of Alonso, Hamilton and Raikkonen of previous years. 

An imaginary asterix will be placed next to '2009 World Champion Jenson Button'*, winner of a changed championship. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

It's Squeeky Bum Time

The final weekend of the Premier League season is upon us and with the Title race concluded, after Manchester United picked up the point they needed to clinch the title at home to Arsenal on Saturday, all the worlds attention now turns to the bottom of the league and who is going to plummet to the Championship next season. 

West Bromwich Albion lost their battle against the drop, despite a spirited comeback towards the end of the season, with the trap door being opened by Steven Gerrard and Dirk Kuyt, resigning them to another yo-yo season back towards the Championship. 

The other two places, though, are still up for grabs, although this is not a prize that anyone in football wants, and with four teams still left in the running for the drop we're now going to look ahead to this weekends fixtures and see who is most likely to avoid the drop and who is the most likely to join the likes of Peterborough and Plymouth in the Championship next season. 

Final Day Fixture: Away vs West Ham United
Middlesbrough, for all intense and purposes, need a miracle. They currently sit second bottom of the league, three points from safety, with a worse goal difference than Hull's, who currently are sitting pretty in the coveted 17th position. 

Boro's away form this season has also been, well, pretty poor, but they can live off the memory of their FA Cup win at Upton Park earlier this year, when Stewart Downing finally figured out how to hit the back of the net. 

Downing though hasn't scored in the league this season, which has been one of the many disappointing factors in Boro's season. Their top goalscorer is Sanli Tuncay, who has six goals to his name, and the club as a whole have only managed to score 27 goals all season, which, by any ones standards, is a poor return. 

West Ham, were fighting for 7th place in the league, which brings a Europa League place for next season, but with back to back defeats by Liverpool and Everton they now cannot attain that place and effectively have nothing to play for, but on the final day of the season in front of their home crowd you would expect them to want to put on a performance. 

Boro will be going for it, they have no other choice, needing a five goal swing to have any chance of staying up, but I think that Gareth Southgate and his young team are going to be counting the cost of not scoring enough goals and drop out of the Premier League for the first time in 10 years. 

Result: West Ham United 1 vs 1 Middlesbrough
Prediction: Relegation

Newcastle United
Final Day Fixture: Away vs Aston Villa
What on earth has happened to Newcastle United?! Every week they come out and something inside of me thinks that they have a good enough team to win a fair few matches in the Premier League, but week in week out they seem to do the complete opposite. 

Everyone, including me, begrudgingly thought that after their massive win against Middlesbrough last week that they would go on to beat Fulham, who's away record in recent years has been pretty below standard, and steer themselves clear of the pack, so like every single other presumption I've had about Newcastle this year, they went and lost.

Newcastle can, though, go into the last game feeling pretty confident about staying up because of two reasons; One being that they are playing a Villa side, who once dreamt of Champions League participation next season and within a few short weeks now find themselves fighting to keep 5th place ahead of Everton. With just one win in 14 matches, Newcastle have to feel that they have a chance of getting something out of the game on Sunday. With a better goal difference than Hull, a point may be all that they require to stave off relegation; Reason number two for being confident is the fact that Hull host the Champions on Sunday, not the best team you would want to be playing on the final day, when you really, really, need a result. 

I think though that even a result at Villa isn't going to be enough for Newcastle, and I'll explain in a moment why not when I discuss Hull's chances, but I think this one is going to be another draw, but not enough to pull Newcastle away from the Championship. 

Result: Aston Villa 2 vs 2 Newcastle United
Prediction: Relegation

Hull City
Final Day Fixture: Home vs Manchester United
Now, many Hull fans will have read at the beginning of the season who they were to be facing on the final day of their first Premier League season and probably took a sharp intake of breath, but last weeks point against Bolton Wanderers wasn't the only thing that Hull fans would have been celebrating last week, but the fact that Manchester United sowed up the Premier League title would have been a huge relief for Hull fans. 

Three days after the game against Hull, Manchester United travel to Rome to face Barcelona in the Champions League final, and it doesn't take a brain surgeon to realise what the priority is going to be, come Sunday. 

Manchester United's squad, though, has so much depth that Hull will still have a lot to deal with. Unfortunately, even for me, a Manchester United fan, I cant begin to fathom who would be the ideal starting 11 for Manchester United, so picking a second string is difficult in itself, but what is for sure is that Sir Alex is capable of picking two teams and you can bet your life on the likes of Ronaldo, Rooney, Berbatov, Vidic, Van Der Sar and the like, not being in the team come 4.00pm at the KC Stadium. 

Hull showed a lot of grit and fight to come back against Bolton last weekend and looked the most likely to get the winner, and if it wasn't for another superb performance by Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen then Hull would of been all but safe by now. 

With the home crowd behind them, and the tantalising prospect of facing up against the newly crowned champions of England, I think that that and the fact that it will almost certainly be Manchester United's second string will be just enough to see Hull over the finishing line. 

Result: Hull City 1 vs 0 Manchester United
Prediction: Safety

Final Day Fixture: Home vs Chelsea
Following the departure of Roy Keane in the middle part of the season, few would have predicted that Sunderland would still find themselves where they are currently after the good start Ricky Sbragia had to his managerial career at the Stadium of Light, but after defeat to Portsmouth on Monday night they still find themselves not quite safe, and have the terrifying prospect of Chelsea on Sunday to contend with. 

Them, like Middlesbrough, have been struggling to score goals this season, not in the magnitude that Boro have, but in recent weeks its been the poor finishing in front of goal that has cost them. Two weeks ago, Sunderland should of been past the finishing line and well ahead of Bolton at the Reebok but chance after chance, almost all of which fell to Kieron Richardson, went begging and they ended up scrapping a draw from the game. It was more of the same last night with some good chances being created, but not being taken against Portsmouth.  

Chelsea will want to put on a show for their soon to be departing manager Guus Hiddink, and there will be some players who will still be trying to persuade the Dutchman that they are good enough to warrant a place in the FA Cup Final side for the following weekend, so on that basis I am almost certain that Sunderland will lose to Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, but I think the other results will go for them and they will stave off relegation by one point, and sit in 17th come the final whistle, almost staving off relegation by default.  

Sunderland to lose, but to stay up by the skin of their teeth, Niall Quinn will need to invest a little bit more of his money into the club if they are to improve next season, or it could be another frustrating tale for the Makems

Result: Sunderland 0 vs 2 Chelsea
Prediction: Safety....just! 

This season has seen more twists and turns than spaghetti junction, and I'm sure that there will be more twists and more turns on the final day than we have seen for quite some time. It makes for a fantastic weekend of football to look forward to, but for fans of Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Hull and Sunderland its going to feel like the longest 90 minutes of their lives. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Murray aims to break Domination of Top 2

When the ATP rankings were published on Monday, there was a new man sitting next to the number 3. Andy Murray leap frogged Serbian Novak Djokovic to become, officially, the third best player in the world.  

For months no one disagreed with the notion that Murray was one of the top three best players in the world and despite the obvious talents of Djokovic, Murray has now, without doubt, surpassed the young Serb. 

The next step now is to go even further, as Murray is not content with settling for the number three spot, despite being the first Briton to reach this ranking in the open era.  

Above him though are the current holders of all four grand slam titles.  
Rafael Nadal, the owner of the Australian, French and Wimbledon titles, currently lies at the top of the tree, ahead of the US Open Champion, and arguably the best tennis player ever to string a racket, Roger Federer.  

Murray's record against Federer is a sign that when Murray says he wants to be inside the top two, his aim isn't too far fetched. In eight meetings on tour, Murray has beaten Federer on six occasions, showing that Murray can mix it with the best and beat them.  

However for Murray to reach his target and take one more step towards the number one ranking he will have to do something that no British man has done, not just in the open era, but since 1936...win a Grand Slam.  

The question is though when, and more importantly where, will Murray pick up his first major?

As mentioned previously on this blog, the chances of anyone other than Nadal winning at Roland Garros at the end of the month is none to none (and yes I meant to write none to none), so you can count out the French Open title, and even if Nadal wasn't there, Murray wouldn't be one of the favourites to win the title anyway, despite his clear improvements on clay.  

Wimbledon, a month later would be a better opportunity, and a fairytale venue for the Brit to win his first Grand Slam, but in the shape of the top two, Nadal and Federer, you find two men who have only lost to each other in the last three years on the grass, and Nadal, in last years Wimbledon Quarter Final, gave Murray a lesson on how to play on grass.  

For Murray to do what he has to do, to even contemplate breaking into the top two, his best bet is at the US Open in September.  

Murray was losing finalist at Flushing Meadows last season, and states that his favourite Grand Slam is the US Open, and his game is clearly most suited to the higher bouncing hard courts than the grass courts that zip and the clay courts that do the exact opposite and slow everything down.  

There is no one who is brave enough to honestly say that Murray will never win a Grand Slam, however it's not likely to come this year, but its more likely than any other year previously, and if Murray is to reach his stated aim, of breaking the top two men in the world over the past 6 or 7 years, then he must pick up at the very least one of what those two above him have in abundance, one of the greatest prizes in tennis.  

Over the years Murray has always been outspoken about his targets, reach the top 100, reach the top 75, reach the top 50, reach the top 20, reach the top 10, reach the top 5 by this date, and this date and so on, and so far, Murray has achieved every target he has set, so if he says he aims to break the top two and split apart the two most dominant men in the recent history of men's tennis, then who am I to bet against him?

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Big Game, Big Referee?

After Chelsea's late, late, away goals defeat to Spanish giants Barcelona, in their Champions League Semi Final 2nd leg at Stamford Bridge last night, all the talk was about two things. 

First was Didier Drogba's four letter tirade at the Sky Sports camera's after the game, but in the most part it was about the poor refereeing display of Norway's Tom Henning Ovrebo. 

Ovrebo missed what seemed to be at least two stick on penalty decisions for Chelsea, and even when he did give a crucial decision to the Blues, he got it wrong again, sending off Barcelona defender Eric Abidal for fouling Nicolas Anelka, when video replays showed that Abidal had made minimal contact at best and Anelka seemed to trip himself up, with Ovrebo sending Abidal off for being the last man. 

The foremost question on a lot of people's minds, as well as the lips of Sky's Andy Gray, was should referee's from small footballing nations be allowed to officiate such big matches as a Champions League Semi Final, between two of the biggest teams in Europe, if not the world? 

No offence to the Norwegien league, but even officiating a top table clash between Rosenborg and Molde (the current top two in the Tippeliagen) cannot even begin to compare to a clash between Chelsea and Barcelona, on a stage such as the Champions League, with a place in a Rome Final against the current World and defending European Champions (thought I'd get that one in somewhere) at stake. 

Again, no offence, but the level of football in the Norwegian League cannot possibly be at the standard and the speed of a similar match in the English Premier League or in the Spanish La Liga, and because of that, referee's such as Ovrebo can't possibly be used to officiating a match of this standard. 

It could though be seen as discrimination to suggest that if a referee comes from one country that we should assume that they are not good enough for the big events, but I think some common sense needs to be used, as one bad performance has cost Chelsea and lucrative place in a Champions League Final. 

Ovrebo in his own right is a good referee but on a weekly basis he will be officiating matches between the likes of Molde, SK Brann, Rosenborg and the like, and his decision making and speed of thought is simply going to be set to the standards he has in his home league. 

UEFA probably feel that there isnt a problem here, and Im sure Michel Platini is quite happy with how things turned out (for reasons he hasnt exactly kept secret) but if UEFA do feel there is a problem then the solution is simple, assign referee's based on the magnitude of the event, the teams involved, and the league they officiate. 

Let's look for a moment at the English Premier League. 

When matches between Manchester United, and Liverpool or Chelsea or Arsenal take place, who referee's them? Nine times out of ten it will be Howard Webb or Mike Dean who are the top two referee's in the country, they are also near the top of the list when it comes to appointing officials for the big events, like Howard Webb will this year be officiating the FA Cup Final. 

For years UEFA have had a star rating on venues, and its this star rating that comes into consideration when deciding where to host a major event. For example this years Champions League final will be being held at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, which is a UEFA five star rated venue, and its this principal, that may work with matches, in deciding how important they are and who needs to be at the centre of everything. 

Chelsea have lost out on a rematch with Manchester United because of a poor display from a referee from a country who's league is at a very low standard compared to the Premier League and La Liga, but UEFA still entrusted him to take control of these two mammoth sides and call it down the middle and fairly, and even the untrained eye could see some of the glaring mistakes that Ovrebo made in the 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge. 

Maybe its time for UEFA to use the common sense approach, big game, appoint a big ref from a big league. 

Monday, 4 May 2009

Magic Weekend...for the Premier League?

This bank holiday weekend saw the return of Rugby League's 'Magic Weekend', where all 14 Super League teams play a round of league games over two days, at the same venue. 

In recent years, since this concept was thought up, all the matches have been played at the Millennium Stadium, with the weekend originally being coined as 'Millennium Magic', but this year the titans of Super League moved to Murryfield to compete over the two days. 

The question that I am posing here though, is would something like this work for the Premier League? 

In the last year or so Richard Scudamore has been babbling on about taking the Premier League abroad and adding an extra round of matches in the process, taking the Premier League to new lands and expending their ever increasing selling power. 

But with discontent amongst the majority in the game, regarding this idea, why not have something that’s a little bit closer to home, and wouldn’t require having to add another game onto the calendar. 

Wembley would be the obvious choice and I'm sure the FA would instantly see the pound signs lighting up in front of them if such an idea was posed. Just imagine if 30,000 fans from each Premiership club came down for the weekend, each buying a ticket at, say, £20 for the game and neutral day tickets for £50, that would be, £600,000 a game from fan's (£12million in total) and another £1.5million a day for the neutral tickets. Naturally some of that would have to go to the clubs themselves, but that’s still a lot of money. 

We have mentioned before on this blog that Wembley would be a great day out, and there will be some clubs in the Premier League who may have never been to Wembley, old or new, or at least not for a long time. 

People would ask the question about travel but football fans travel the length and breadth of the country for league games anyway so there is no reason to assume that fans of teams like Newcastle, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, and the like, will not want to travel down to Wembley. 

The sponsorship possibilities will also be pretty endless but there would be some logistical questions that would need answering.  Where would 600,000 fans stay, with games having to kick off early there will be some fans that will need to stay over the night before for games? 

Would there be enough personnel to police the event and to keep rival fans Liverpool/Everton, Newcastle/Sunderland, Arsenal/Tottenham etc apart? 

Those are just two of the questions that would need to be answered before something like this could possibly happen. This however is just an idea, an idea of mine, and the likelihood that anyone within the game will think of such an idea and try and implement it is unlikely, but it could work and it has the potential to make for one brilliant, money spinning, magic weekend of football.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Make or Break time for Hatton

Tonight see's the much anticipated bout between Ricky ‘The Hitman’ Hatton, and Manny ‘The Pacman’ Pacquiao at the infamous MGM Grand, in Las Vegas, the venue for Hatton’s one and only professional defeat to Floyd Mayweather Junior. 

Under the tutelage of Floyd Mayweather Senior, Hatton will be looking to not repeat his below par performance that saw him knocked out in the 10th round by Mayweather Jnr last year. 

Pacquiao, who is heralded the best pound for pound boxer in the world, since the retirement of Hatton’s conqueror, Mayweather Jnr, is coming off the back of an impressive victory over ‘The Golden Boy’ Oscar De La Hoya a few months ago. 

Going into this contest, neither man has come out as a clear favourite, with a lot of experts saying that tonight’s fight will come out as a draw. 

I’m not one to sit on the fence myself normally, but with my lack of boxing knowledge it’s hard for me to pick a winner as well, despite these two being two boxers that I know a little bit about. 

For Hatton though, in my opinion, tonight’s match-up is make or break for his career. 

There is no denying that Hatton has had a stellar career and to only lose one match in 46 is a brilliant achievement, but winning a top, top, level match up against the likes of Mayweather Jnr or Pacquiao will be the defining moment of his career should he manage to achieve it. 

Pacquiao’s main threat is his speed, much like Mayweather Jnr; Hatton’s main threat is his power, and in his match against Mayweather Jnr the one disappointment was that Hatton was reluctant to throw body punches, and for a man of his power and precision, Hatton’s body punches will win him matches. 

Hatton believes that he is in the best form of his career, and there have been many encouraging words coming out of the Hatton camp recently, but more recently there have been rumours about differences in the camp between Hatton and Mayweather Snr. 

Hatton will know, much like Amir Khan knew going into his match against Marco Antonio Barrera, that he has to win tonight, for him to put the icing on a magnificent cake that is his career, and he will need to win tonight because matches like these, that will be watched my millions, if not billions, around the world do not come around often. 

Comments coming from the Hatton camp seem to suggest that Hatton wants another crack at Mayweather Jnr, despite him being retired at this present moment in time, but for Hatton to gain that money spinning encounter against one of the most charismatic boxers of our time, he needs to get past The Pac Man tonight. 

Should Hatton lose, the rematch with Mayweather Jnr is very unlikely and the rumours about Hatton possibly retiring will come around again, but whether your optimistic about tonight, or a pessimist like myself, there’s no doubting that there will be a whole host of people up till the crack of dawn, cheering on Hatton, hoping it will be worth the Sky Box Office fee of £14.95 and the lack of sleep.

Friday, 1 May 2009

More Changes in F1

After all the changes that went on over the winter in order to make Formula 1 more competitive (ironic considering the dominance so far of Brawn GP) as well as to cut cost's, the FIA have now brought in yet another rule change, to help the cause.

With the current financial crisis causing massive repercussions on the car industry, the FIA have decided to implement a salary cap as of next season, which will allow all teams a budget of £40million. 

This however ISNT mandatory, but teams that do comply will be given perks, which come in the shape of greater technical freedom and unlimited out-of-season testing. 

The cap will also hopefully encourage new teams to participate in the 2010 season, with up to 26 cars lining up on the grid in Melbourne come next March. 

So is this cap concept a good thing for the sport? 

Well in terms of wider participation, yes, the more teams the more drama, you would assume, and the more competition can only be good for the sport. 

We have though already seen how the major teams have struggled so far this season with this seasons rule changes and it will put into question if these teams will be able to get their head around this seasons rules, under the budget that comes in next season. 

World Champion Lewis Hamilton's best finish this year is 4th for his McClaren team, and as for Ferrari they are also having a tonne of problems with Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa picking up three points between them (well Raikonnen has all of them, just to be fair).

McClaren and Ferrari though are the makers of their own downfall this season, with both teams publicly admitting that it was their continued focus on last years title bid that has lost them valuable time in the making of a car for this season, with the new rules. 

You would like to think that McClaren and Ferrari will learn from their mistakes, and with the cap coming in, they will surely be forced to plan early for their 2010 car's, and with McClaren and Ferrari not being up to pace with the likes of Brawn GP and Toyota, they will presumably not have any title ambitions to concentrate on for this season.