Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I would like to say that it was a committed game. I didn’t see many bad tackles in the game. But this one was horrendous and I am very sad. I am proud of my team today and sad as well because to lose a player of that quality at 19 years of age when he is just starting his career is just horrendous. It is difficult to accept. He is the third player we have lost to tackles that are not acceptable – Abou Diaby, Eduardo and now Ramsey today. That is not football for me and I refuse to live with that. I cannot do anything about it. The players are professional they have to respect the rules and each other. The players who don’t do it have to be punished. Ramsey is a young, fantastic talent… A three-match ban is just ridiculous. But I would prefer to give my support to Ramsey rather than to play the judge. For a boy of 19 with his talent to be kicked out of the game like that is beyond words. I cannot even enjoy the win tonight because it is so sad to see that… The players were shocked. You could see that they moved away from him. For five minutes, we did not go anywhere because we did not play. After that we got back into the game… It is a bad fracture. He will be transferred to London tonight to see if he needs emergency surgery. He will be out for a long time.” – Arsene Wenger.
Runner-up: “We learned from when it happened to Eduardo, we lost a lead that day… It’s very difficult to stand up but we showed character and knew if we won we still had a lot to say [in the title race].” – Cesc Fabregas.
Fabio Capello quote of the day: “Until the World Cup, John Terry will not be the captain again. After the World Cup? If I remain as England manager? I think not. I asked for the captain to set an example for the young people; for the children and the fans. What he did was not good. I told him this and he understood.”
Today’s overview: Two stories dominate following a day of high drama and incident in the Premier League. The Sundays begin to grapple with Aaron Ramsey’s horror injury which marred Arsenal’s win at Stoke. Incredibly, the injury to the Welshman has taken some headlines away from the non-handshake between Wayne Bridge and John Terry as a number of columnists back Bridge and castigate Terry. Elsewhere thereÂ are Carling Cup final previews and transfer gossip.
We start with the injury to Aaron Ramsey. John Aizelwood reports from the Britannia: “The history books will record that two goals in stoppage time meant Arsenal triumphed at Stoke City. As victories go, though, it could hardly have been more pyrrhic. It will be remembered not for Arsenalâ€™s doughty resurrection after going a goal behind, but for a shocking challenge by Stokeâ€™s Ryan Shawcross on Aaron Ramsey, who was taken to hospital after several minutes of treatment with a compound fracture of his right leg. Shawcross was sent off, driven home by his mother from the Britannia stadium in tears and later called up to the England squad.”
Rob Shepherd dramatically adds in the News of the World: “Aaron Ramsey’s career hangs in the balance this morning after the teenager broke his leg in a horrific injury at Stoke. The Arsenal youngster’s right leg was shattered by a sickening Ryan Shawcross tackle in the Gunners’ 3-1 victory. Ramsey, 19, lay on the grass in agony with his leg held in place only by his sock in horrific scenes reminiscent of Arsenal team-mate Eduardo’s broken ankle two years ago almost to the day.”
Predictably, Ryan Shawcross has come out and said there was no malice in the tackle. “There was absolutely no malice in the challenge. I would never, ever go out to hurt a fellow professional. I am deeply upset that Aaron has suffered such a bad injury and my thoughts are with him. I would like to send him my best wishes too for a speedy recovery.”
The biggest story in the Sundays is Terry v Bridge. David Walsh analyses who came out on top between Terry and Bridge. “Everyone has an opinion on the Terry-Wayne Bridge mess but if forthright views were plentiful at the Bridge, there wasnâ€™t much forgiveness from the Bridge, Manchester Cityâ€™s that is. He came, shook the hand of every Chelsea player but refused the hand of his one-time best friend Terry. That was his first act of defiance, his second was to help his team to an astonishing victory.” Scott Murray brings a blow-by-blow account of Wayne Bridge v John Terry.
Henry Winter offers high praise to Wayne Bridge. “Revealing character in adversity, Bridge was the model of respect towards his old club, showing commendable restraint when City scored. When TÃ©vez swept in his penalty, making it 3-1, Bridge allowed himself a discreet clenching of the fists but initially resisted the temptation to join his jubilant team-mates hurtling towards TÃ©vez. Lescott ran past, grabbed Bridge’s hand and didn’t let go, half-dragging the left-back towards the euphoric throng. TÃ©vez embraced Bridge and then pointed repeatedly at him, highlighting his support for a popular colleague during such difficult times. TÃ©vez himself has private concerns, as his premature-born baby lies in a hospital on the other side of the globe, yet he still thought of Bridge. Impressive.”
Patrick Collins argues that “football does not deserve a decent man like Bridge.” “It is the reason we fell in love with the game as children and hold fast to that infatuation through our adult lives. It has something to do with excellence and endeavour, but there is something yet more fundamental: at its best, football reveals character. And last week, it revealed the character of Wayne Bridge; curiously humble and patently decent. In his understated fashion, he has done the sad old sport some service. He deserves our understanding and our respect.”
Dominic Herbert reveals in the News of the World why Bridge quit England. “The Manchester City star told friends he would feel ‘guilty’ in the eyes of three- year-old Jaydon if he ever lined up in the same side as John Terry. Bridge told a friend: ‘I’ve had to make this decision for Jaydon’s sake. In ten years’ time, how could I look him the eye and say, ‘Yes, that man tried to ruin our lives… but I still played in the same team as him’? ‘I would rather be remembered as a good dad than somebody who played in the World Cup. People expect me to be able to shrug this off but it’s not just about me. It’s about Jaydon and what I can tell him when he’s old enough to understand.”
James Corrigan sums up the importance of the non-handshake. “I liked Richard Keys’ drum roll the best. “Coming up, the most eagerly awaited Fair Play handshake of all time.” It captured the absurdity of the non-event superbly. Keys actually downplayed it; this was the most eagerly awaited handshake since Yitzhak Rabin reluctantly touched flesh with Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn. Alas, President Clinton wasn’t at Stamford Bridge to do the cajoling. Although reading some reporting in the build-up, it is a surprise he was not persuaded. So Wayne Bridge ultimately refused the hand of John Terry. And the symbolism ran up the Kings Road with all the gusto of the great flood. Fifa’s Fair Play procedure will never be the same again…”
Jonathan Northcroft reveals that “John Terry’s turbulent season took a dramatic turn for the worse yesterday with the Chelsea skipper learning that he will never regain the England captaincy under Fabio Capello, while his failings as a player were partly to blame for a devastating 4-2 defeat by Manchester City.”
Piers Morgan doesn’t hold back in attacking JT in the Mail on Sunday. “You can always tell when a sportsmanâ€™s arrogance has reached unbearable, boiling-point proportions because they start talking about themselves in the third person. Thus it was with John Terry, who gave an extraordinary interview in which he said: â€˜Iâ€™m on a mission and nothing is going to distract me. I want to win the Champions League and Premier League for Chelsea and World Cup for England. Iâ€™m not ashamed to admit it. I wouldnâ€™t be John Terry if I felt any differently.â€™ I actually laughed out loud when I read that. The only mission Terryâ€™s been on recently â€” that he ought to be ashamed of â€” is, of course, the mission to seduce his England teammate and best friend Wayne Bridgeâ€™s girlfriend. A mission that has caused terrible damage to the significantly more important mission of improving Englandâ€™s chances this summer.”
Showing himself to be the nice guy of football, Gary Lineker attempts to put a defence together for JT. “Terry may look strong and commanding but he is still a human being and he will have all sorts of emotions going through his head: contrition, regret, whatever. The microscope has been on him for weeks and heâ€™s making mistakes we have not seen before. It could be due to a lack of concentration or a lack of confidence but something is clearly not right.”
Paul Hayward in The ObserverÂ plays up Hilario’s role in the Manchester City victory. “One Chelsea player clearly sympathetic to Bridge was the stand-in goalkeeper, Henrique HilÃ¡rio, whose reactions to City’s first two goals will have the Stamford Bridge medics swarming round the injured Petr Cech to restore his fitness. First HilÃ¡rio was beaten by a weak bobbling shot from Tevez moments before half-time, then he allowed Bellamy to shoot across him from an acute angle to give City a 52nd-minute lead.”
Hugh McIlvanney analyses “Football’s love affair with sleaze” following events at Stamford Bridge yesterday. “Sports reporters must have gone to Stamford Bridge yesterday feeling they were as likely to focus mainly on the match as the representatives of OK! and Hello! would be to concentrate on the solemnities of the service at a pop starâ€™s wedding. Plainly, they were bound to think, the play was not the thing. The soap opera was, and once the usual pre-game ritual of perfunctory handshakes had been given the predicted dramatic charge when Wayne Bridge bypassed John Terry, the erstwhile close friend who had an affair with the mother of Bridgeâ€™s young son, nobody could doubt that the afternoonâ€™s script had introduced a new definition of sexy football.”
Not to be left out, Ashley Cole also hogs some headlines today by threatening to quit the game altogether. Paul Smith: “Depressed Ashley Cole has told pals he may quit football. The Chelsea star, dealing with the collapse of his Âmarriage to pop star wife Cheryl Cole, is at a Biarritz rehab centre recuperating from the broken ankle he Âsustained three weeks ago. The fact that his divorce was sparked a by a series of love cheat exposes has piled more pressure on the 29 -year-old England international. Coleâ€™s confidantes admit he is in turmoil and has talked about walking away from football. They believe they will eventually persuade him to battle on.”
There are no shortage of features on the Carling Cup final. David Walsh speaks to Aston Villa’s dynamo James Milner who says:Â “My parents were Leeds fans, uncles the same, and they didnâ€™t like Man United. Thatâ€™s the way you were brought up. Iâ€™ve always loved playing against Man United. Iâ€™ve always been desperate to win against them, thatâ€™s the Leeds in me. Every team looks to when they are playing Man United because they are so big and what theyâ€™ve done over the last… well, for as long as I can remember, is quite remarkable.”
A number of papers report Martin O’Neill’s comments yesterday that he won’t succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. The News of the World also interview Gabriel AgbonlahorÂ and Phil Shaw speaks to Brian Little in The Independent.
Paul Wilson features Wayne Rooney and how international managers are only talking about one man. “Fabio Capello does not want to say too much more about John Terry or Wayne Bridge, and who can blame him? Ahead of his last England friendly before he settles down to select a World Cup squad, the Italian would much rather talk about Wayne Rooney, as most of his counterparts in international football management are doing. ‘I see the other managers quite a lot, at meetings and conferences,’ Capello explains. ‘Always they come to me and say the same thing â€“ ‘You have one fantastic player’. Vicente del Bosque, Giovanni Trapattoni, they ask me always about Rooney.'” There is talk however that Sir Alex Ferguson will pick Michael Owen ahead of Wayne Rooney at Wembley this afternoon.
Ian Ridley looks ahead to the Green and Gold demonstration planned for Wembley today. “It will be the largest collection of green and gold Wembley has seen since Norwich won the League Cup 25 years ago.
And we will know at the end of today whether the Glazers’ canary can survive the poisonous atmosphere of the pit.
Despite a large amount of other football news, Portsmouth don’t escape attention in the Sundays. James Piercy reveals that “Storrie’s nephew was on the staff as Pompey’s ‘player liaison officer’ – on an incredible Â£60,000 a year. Paul Mullally hired cars, did odd-jobs and ensured the players stayed on top of bills. It was just one of a number of posts at the club where the wages were, to say the least, generous.”
Paul Hayward urges the Premier League to take more control. “This is the moment when the Premier League have to decide whether they want to be a proper regulatory body or a secretariat overseeing a free-for-all. While they decide whether to be more like the NFL or NBA in America or stay as the TV deal-makers in a hucksters’ paradise they will hope that the punters in Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi and Africa have not noticed that one of the 20 masters of the universe hasn’t got 30p to use the loo at a London station.”
The always excellent Rod Liddle takes a sideways look at racism in football. “There was another example of anti-racist vigilance in the football world last week. A T-shirt shop in Scotland was raided by police for selling South Africa 2010 shirts emblazoned with the legend ‘Anyone But England’. This was suspected of being a racist slur against English people. Can you think of a more stupid prosecution? The shop, needless to say, was doing an extremely good trade, earning valuable revenue and thus slightly reducing the enormous welfare payments which we, down here, donate to the Scots every year for their heroin and pies.”
Transfer gossip is in fairly slim supply today, presumably because there is some real football to report on.
The NOTW reveal that Liverpool have signed QPR wonderkid Raheem Sterling and that Jamie O’Hara is determined to look for a new club once he returns to Spurs. The Mail on Sunday add that Marouane Chamakh is set to sign a four-year deal at Arsenal.
The Sunday Mirror report some of the least exciting transfer rumours for a while: David Moyes wants to hold on to Jack Rodwell and West Ham will not stand in the way of Robert Green leaving in the summer.
Not to be left out The People claim Manchester City have targeted Jermain Defoe in a swap deal for Craig Bellamy and if John Carew is left out of the Aston Villa side today he will head for the exit in the summer.