Luke Young’s England snub, England’s faltering 2018 World Cup bid, and “the reality is that depression is as prevalent among top sportsmen as it is among any other diverse group of people”

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “People expect more from me and it’s not easy. I could be doing better, scoring more, but just think, I make a huge game today but the next one, I’m not even sure that I will play. Such a situation breaks the confidence… [Ferguson] goes: ‘Nani, how could you miss this or this?’ No one is safe in the pitch. He treats all the players as equals. Even Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville get it but it takes longer with them because they are more experienced. And it is always with ‘Fuck this’ and ‘Fuck that’ back and forth. He is a very complicated guy, very complicated and he is tough. If things are OK, he will be OK. But if there is anything he believed to be wrong, you are screwed. He can go from complimenting you to just plain trashing you in a matter of minutes. I know it is still early and that there are lots of games to play this season but I never got to play the big matches like Liverpool, Manchester City or Tottenham and, if I don’t play those matches, I get sadder by the day. I also played through a foot injury so we’ll see if things improve from now on.” – Luis Nani.

Runner-up: “[Robinho] really thinks deeply about the club. He seems really happy and contented, even his family seems settled and he seems to be really at home. I’ve no indication where this speculation is coming from – maybe because he’s a big-name player. No way does he seem to want to go somewhere else, definitely not.” – Stephen Ireland.


Today’s overview: England’s friendly with Brazil is thrusted to the forefront of Thursday’s backpages, kicking off with Fernando Duarte’s tête à tête with Kaka. Kaka: “I am a huge fan of Stevie Gerrard, who has the heart of a lion and is the icon of the modern footballer with his ability to attack and defend so well.”

Will James Milner make the England World Cup squad? Kevin McCarra talks up the Aston Villa midfielder saying, “he is so versatile that the only spots he could not occupy unhesitatingly are centre-half and goalkeeper… It occurs to Milner that it could be adaptability that gets him to the World Cup next summer.”

In a move likely to irk many in England, Aston Villa right-back Luke Young has rejected the opportunity to play for the Three Lions. Dominic Fifield explains that “Young declined the chance to return to the set-up as he rates his own chances of making the cut for the World Cup squad as slim and has grown frustrated with life on the periphery.” Jason Burt adds “the FA was keen to play down any suggestions that Young’s decision was an embarrassment for the organisation, or that manager Fabio Capello was unaware the player had retired. The FA stressed that Young was merely asked to reconsider his stance.”

Unsurprisingly, the Daily Mail’s Matt Lawton takes a more biter view of Young’s England decision. “After appearances for England at Under 21 level and a further seven for the senior team, Luke Young might have felt a debt of gratitude towards the Football Association. .. Citing reasons similar to Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher, Young has told the FA he has no desire to be a bit-part England player. Even if an opportunity to wear the Three Lions with pride is something most of his contemporaries consider the ultimate honour.”

England’s 2018 World Cup bid appears doomed to failure amid squabbling amongst the chief protagonists.

Kevin Eason discusses how the British government may be torpedoing England’s 2018 World Cup bid by refusing to back the efforts financially. “With the Government yet to pay its share of the campaign fund, there is an increasing danger that England’s bid will be the most impoverished on show to Fifa’s executive committee and the FA will be forced to attempt to win over its 24 members on a budget that will be only about a third of the cash lavished on the London 2012 Olympics bid.” Yet, according to Jason Burt, “government sources on Wednesday night described that argument as a “smokescreen” to obscure more fundamental failings. Its reticence over funding has been fuelled by concerns at the lack of transparency of the bid’s finances, and the salaries of leading executives. [Lord] Triesman earns £100,000 a year for a two-day week, and the the salaries of top-five executives total more than £1million.”

Charles Sale interrupts the ‘he said, she said’ fighting to announce “the first casualty is likely to be the bid’s Government envoy, Richard Caborn, the former Minister for Sport, who pointedly has not been invited to Thursday’s meeting. It is hard to see how his involvement can recover from such a snub.”

The lead in the Independent sees Sam Wallace have an open and frank chat with former England coach, Steve McClaren. McClaren: “I used to think: ‘I want to be this, I want to do that’. What has tended to happen is that if you do a good job, opportunities come along. What they are, who knows? That’s football so I live by the day now and don’t think at the end of the season ‘I would like to do this or I would like to do that.'”

Dipping into more domestic issues, Lawrence Donegan decides to tear strips off Rangers and Newcastle for each club’s individual mismanagement. “Rangers and Newcastle these days are not so much football clubs as cautionary tales. Few beyond the diehards of north‑east England and (one half of) Glasgow care what happens to them, and those that do care will presumably have better things to do in straitened economic times than throw good money after bad.”

More bad news is handed out to Rangers, and Celtic, by Paul Kelso who notes how “plans for a radical overhaul of the English football pyramid based on an expansion of the Premier League to cover two divisions and the inclusion of Celtic and Rangers are expected to get a lukewarm reception from Premier League chairmen.”

Today is the day when Sir Alex Ferguson may receive his comeuppance for his recent spate of public outbursts against details how the United boss is looking to fight his corner. “While Ferguson regrets the personal nature of the attack and will point out that he has made two apologies to Wiley, he stands by his wider message that referees’ fitness must improve and will make that point clear during his personal hearing… Ferguson is hoping to escape with a fine and a suspended touchline ban.” According to Ian Herbert though, Fergie’s expectations fo rthe hearing are slightly different. “Ferguson will plead guilty to the charge and is hopeful that his punishment will be limited to a £25,000 fine and a suspended touchline ban. He is not expecting the FA’s independent regulatory commission to break with its previous practice of fining managers for media comments but not sending them to the stands.”

A day after the sad passing of Stuttgart and Germany goalie Robert Enke, Raphael Honigstein tries to make sense out of the terrible tragedy which no-one saw coming. “For the unsuspecting team-mates and the coaching staff, however, the numbness must be tinged with incredibly dark thoughts of regret. Football encourages a sense of responsibility for your colleagues; some players might feel that Enke’s desperate plunge in front of a train on Tuesday amounts to a failure in this regard. There is no easy way to negotiate these awful questions, no right or wrong, only shades of black.”

Continuing the sad reporting of Enke’s death, Roger Boyes adds “Enke’s suicide has shocked his country and triggered a national debate about the concealment of mental illness in high-profile sport.” Following on, Dr Mark Porter explains the illness in The Times. “Men are notoriously bad at seeking medical help or the counsel and support of their peers, and often find it particularly hard to discuss emotional and psychological issues such as bereavement and depression. “Real men” are not supposed to cry, particularly professional goalkeepers.”

Matthew Syed offers his insight into the existence of depression in sport. “The reality is that depression is as prevalent among top sportsmen as it is among any other diverse group of people, as is a sense of worthlessness, fear, anxiety and low self-esteem. Professional sport, in many ways, demands neurosis. It makes a virtue of the obsessional pursuit of perfection: just ask Jonny Wilkinson who, even now, after months as a Buddhist, finds it difficult to free his mind from the tiny errors he made in his last practice session.”

From the sad to the slightly more hopeful, Laura Williamson announces that “In a remarkable show of charity, ferocious Chelsea striker Didier Drogba has pledged a £3million donation to build a hospital. Drogba is handing over the fee he will receive for becoming the new face of Pepsi… Sportsmail understands Abramovich may even have offered to match the donation pound for pound.”

In the transfers we start with a definite lead (for once) as Louise Taylor carries Newcastle manager Chris Hughton’s quote on how he’d love to bring Sol Campbell to the Magpies.

Despite the quotes of Stephen Ireland (see “Runner-up” above), the generally understanding is that Robinho is still trying to force an exit from Eastlands in order to move to Barcelona. Daniel Taylor reports that “although the official line from City is that they have no intention of meeting the Catalan club or entertaining the idea of losing one of their better players, there are moves behind the scenes by Robinho’s camp to arrange talks.”

Talking out his backside, Michael Walker appears to lie with his headlining grabbing article entitled “Chelsea, United and Manchester City told: Come and get Ajax striker Luis Suarez.” (Number of quotes in the article – none!) Similarly hard to believe, The Sun report how “Arsenal are keeping tabs on Barcelona’s speedy winger Gai Assulin (pictured). The 18-year-old, who made his Israel debut at 16, snubbed a move to Chelsea in 2007, but has stalled over signing the new deal on offer to him at the Nou Camp.”

And the spurious rumours continue with The Sun suggesting that Liverpool are in the market for Carlton Cole, only for the Daily Mirror’s David Maddock to crash the party shouting “Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez wants Spurs striker Roman Pavlyuchenko on loan.”

Elsewhere, Tony Little farts “Steve Bruce has the green light to launch a £12million double raid for Adam Johnson and Maynor Figueroa,” The Sun chime with news that “Aston Villa are favourites to land Ipswich wonderkid Connor Wickham,” before the red-top separately states “Everton lead the chase for £13m-rated defensive midfielder Javier Garcia.” The Daily Mail also report that “Argentina midfielder Andres D’Alessandro claims Tottenham Hotspur are trying to sign him from Brazilian club Internacional.”

Finally, the Telegraph tell the distressing story of “Stephen Worgu, a highly-rated Nigerian footballer who plays for a Sudanese club, has been sentenced to 40 lashes for having consumed alcohol.”