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Andrew Strauss to quit as England
captain? ECB calls news conference
Speculation is mounting that Andrew Strauss may step down as
England Test captain on Wednesday Page 2

England plummet from the peak as
Hashim Amla plunders 150
England’s 10-match run of victories came to a halt with a shudder
when they were defeated by 80 runs by South Africa in the second
ODI at the Rose Bowl Page 2

Theo Walcott rejects Arsenal deal, alerting
Manchester City’s interest
Talks over a new contract for Theo Walcott have broken down, and
Manchester City and Liverpool are interested in signing the winger
Page 3

Oscar Pistorius:                             Ian Westwood and                             Youth revolution aims           Ronnie O’Sullivan
Paralympics will                             Tim Ambrose keep                             for better England              found guilty of missing
change perceptions                           Warwickshire on                              players – but will it           tournaments with no
about disability Page 4                      course for title Page 5                      work? Page 7                   excuse Page 10

US Open 2012: Britain’s                      David Masters and                            Paralympics 2012:               US Open 2012: Andy
Johanna Konta beats                          Graham Napier of Essex                       Oscar Pistorius shows           Murray takes on
Timea Babos on debut                         combine to exploit                           what Paralympians can           hungry Ivan Dodig in
Page 5                                       Derbyshire Page 6                            achieve Page 8                  second round Page 10 © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                                          
Registered in England and Wales. No. 908396. Registered office: PO Box 68164, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1P 2AP
Page 2 G24 Sport                                                               Wednesday August 29 2012 02:00 GMT

                                                                     together again in the same England team.
                                                                         The row which broke after the text messages Pietersen
Andrew Strauss to quit as England                                    sent about Strauss to members of the South Africa team, but
captain? ECB calls news conference                                   concerns wider issues than his relationship with the Test
                                                                     captain, has already cost England the services of a key player
• Speculation mounts that Strauss may                                for that third Test at Lord’s – when they were displaced from
step down                                                            the top of the world five-day rankings. He has also been omitted
                                                                     both from the current one-day series against the Proteas,
• Move follows talks with ECB officials at
                                                                     which continues at The Oval on Friday, and from the squad for
Lord’s                                                               England’s defence of the world Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka next
Andy Wilson                                                          month.
                                                                         Time is also running out before the England selectors and
                                                                     the ECB management must agree on which players are to be
                                                                     offered central contracts for the next 12 months, with Flower
                                                                     suggesting last week that those decisions – in addition to the
                                                                     selection of the squad for a four-Test tour of India later in the
                                                                     autumn – would have to be made before the t20 team leave for
                                                                     Sri Lanka on 13 September.
                                                                         As things stand, that India tour is due to be Strauss’s
                                                                     next international commitment, as the 50-over team is now
                                                                     captained by Alastair Cook, and Stuart Broad will lead the
                                                                     defence of the world t20 title.

                                                                     England plummet from the peak as
South Africa’s Hashim Amla acknowledges the crowd as he
walks from the pitch after being caught out by England’s Tim
                                                                     Hashim Amla plunders 150
Bresnan for 150 at the Rose Bowl. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/
Getty Images                                                         • South Africa 287-5; England 207
The international future of Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen or       • Tourists win by 80 runs
possibly both should become a good deal clearer at lunchtime at
                                                                     Vic Marks at the Rose Bowl
Lord’s on Wednesday when Hugh Morris, the managing director
of England cricket, makes a statement to a hastily-convened
media conference. Despite no official confirmation, what
previously seemed unthinkable now seems all too possible
– that Strauss, one of the most successful captains in England’s
recent history, after winning Ashes series at home and away,
has decided to step down.
    The England and Wales Cricket Board called the conference
at 10.18pm, when the dust was still settling on another
nightmare day in the Pietersen saga, at least from their point
of view – as England were dumped from the top of the world
one-day rankings after a crushing defeat by South Africa in
Southampton, led by Hashim Amla’s superb 150. It was hours
after the absent rebel Pietersen had struck a superb century for
Surrey in a County Championship match in Somerset.                   South Africa’s Hashim Amla walks off in celebration after his
    That inevitably prompted further debate over the rights          innings of 150 during the second ODI against England at the
and wrongs of Pietersen’s continued omission, but it may turn        Rose Bowl. Photograph: Tom Hevezi/AP
out that the late and mysterious withdrawal of Strauss from          England’s 10-match run of victories came to a halt with a
Middlesex’s Championship game in Worcester was much more             shudder when they were defeated by 80 runs by South Africa.
significant. England’s Test captain had declared his intention       This means that England are suddenly No3 in the ODI rankings,
to play in that game, in an effort to rebuild his confidence after   a situation that can be amended with a win on Friday at The
a lean series against South Africa, at the press conference he       Oval. Of more concern was the margin of victory. They were
conducted in the immediate aftermath of the third Test defeat        thrashed rather than merely beaten.
at Lord’s last week.                                                     The timing was not perfect – a defeat seldom is – but the
    Then on Monday night, it emerged that Strauss would not be       England management would have preferred their middle order
playing at Worcester after all, with the ECB saying only that he     to have been more resilient on a day when Kevin Pietersen
was not yet ready to return. He is understood to have held talks     was lording it at Taunton. Logically this observation has no
with senior ECB officials at Lord’s during the day on Monday,        relevance since Pietersen has not been part of the one-day set
with no apparent urgency to begin the face-to-face discussions       up all summer, but it will be irresistible to many.
with Pietersen which both Strauss and the team director Andy             Hashim Amla, their tormentor during the Test series, proved
Flower have said are a necessary first step to the pair playing © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                            
Page  G24 Sport                                                                Wednesday August 29 2012 02:00 GMT

an equally daunting problem for England with a white ball. He         He was also shrewd enough to bring back his faster bowlers
hit a delightful 150 from 124 balls. Having opened the batting he     in the middle of the second innings in the gloaming, when
was out with two balls of the innings remaining. He was the sole      the floodlights have yet to take full effect (this is one of the
candidate for the man of the match award.                             handicaps of this quirky 1pm start for a floodlit match). The
    A target of 288 was always challenging; soon it was patently      England batsmen struggled to pick up the deliveries of Wayne
insurmountable as most of England’s batsmen on the south              Parnell or Lonwabo Tsotsobe during this period.
coast came, saw (with the exception of Alastair Cook, bowled              So South Africa’s tour goes from good to better. This victory
second ball they hung around for half an hour or so) and were         means that their side are now top of all three ICC tables: Test,
conquered. Not many batsmen have ended up on the losing               50 overs and 20 overs. England, meanwhile, must hope to
side after plundering such a score as Amla compiled although          demonstrate at The Oval that this performance was just an
Charles Coventry of Zimbabwe cracked an unbeaten 194 against          aberration. But they are not playing a rusty, under-prepared
Bangladesh in Bulawayo in 2009 to no avail (not many people           Australia this time. Only their best will do.
know that). But Amla’s efforts were never going to be wasted by
this highly motivated touring team.
    As they have done all tour South Africa coolly assessed their     Theo Walcott rejects Arsenal deal,
situation and reacted accordingly. With some hesitation AB de         alerting Manchester City’s interest
Villiers chose to bat first, which was proven to be the correct
decision on a dry pitch that became increasingly friendly to spin
bowlers. Then his batsmen, with Amla somehow managing to
                                                                      • Contract worth £75,000 a week turned
be both majestic and self-effacing, recognised the need for a         down by representatives
firm foundation and the benefits of not being too greedy.             • Manchester City and Liverpool interested
    England also read the pitch correctly, making a late decision     in signing winger
to include Samit Patel rather than Chris Woakes, but they did
                                                                      Dominic Fifield
not always help themselves. Craig Kieswetter did not have his
best day behind the stumps. He dropped Amla twice – on 42
and 92. Both were tricky chances and an even more difficult one
before de Villiers had scored also went astray. On a good day
Kieswetter would have taken at least two of those.
    For England the spinners usually commanded respect.
Occasionally their seamers were treated with disdain as Amla
produced a brilliant reminder that brute force is not essential
for success in the one-day game. While Graeme Smith laboured
a little in an 89 run opening partnership, Amla cruised, opening
and closing the face of his bat with perfect coordination.
    There were some magical strokes, which usually sent the
ball into vacant areas behind the wicket. Did KS Ranjitsinhji
leg glance like this? Late in his innings Amla also glided the ball
down to third man with the face of his bat more deftly than           Theo Walcott played in Arsenal’s goalless draw at Stoke City
any contemporary figure can manage. Here was a conjurer,              on Sunday but has now rejected an offer of £75,000 a week.
seemingly defying reality. Occasionally there were echoes of          Photograph: Marc Atkins/BPI/Corbis
Mohammad Azharuddin but some of the shots were of Amla’s
                                                                      Manchester City are considering making a bid for Arsenal’s Theo
own making.
                                                                      Walcott with the champions conscious his future at Arsenal is in
    Smith, patently enjoying being in the ranks, was his most
                                                                      serious doubt after discussions over a new deal broke down.
productive ally, but all the other South Africans chipped in as
                                                                         There has been no official offer from City but Roberto
Graeme Swann with two wickets and Patel gave warning that
                                                                      Mancini admires the forward with the Italian having retained
England’s chase would never be straightforward.
                                                                      an interest in Walcott throughout the summer. With Adam
    Swann produced the perfect off-break to bowl the
                                                                      Johnson having departed for Sunderland and his initial
inexperienced Dean Elgar but even that little triumph hardly
                                                                      replacement, Scott Sinclair, having seen his move from Swansea
seemed to help the cause. Elgar had been proceeding so slowly
                                                                      City to the Etihad Stadium break down, Walcott’s potential
that there was a case for keeping him in. Swann should have
                                                                      availability may move Mancini to lodge a bid, although
had de Villiers out, caught when reverse sweeping for 21,
                                                                      Liverpool have also been linked with the England international.
but Umpire Taufel missed an obvious nick and England had
                                                                         Walcott’s future at Arsenal has been in the balance for some
profligately used up their review for a speculative lbw earlier in
                                                                      weeks. The player has entered the final 12 months of his deal at
the innings.
                                                                      the London club but, after a period when negotiations over an
    After Cook’s early dismissal England only flickered. Ian Bell
                                                                      extension were put on hold, his advisers reopened discussions
hit five sweetly-timed boundaries before being bowled all too
                                                                      with Arsenal last Friday and a final five-year offer worth around
easily by the left-armer, Robin Pietersen. Kieswetter and Patel,
                                                                      £75,000 a week was duly put to the winger. However, it is
who enjoyed a late flurry, demonstrated that they could score at
                                                                      understood Walcott’s representatives informed the club over
the required rate but they could not stay in long enough.
                                                                      the weekend that they would be rejecting that proposal.
    De Villiers shuffled his bowlers cleverly with both of his
                                                                         Further talks took place on Tuesday but, while Arsène
part-time spinners, Elgar and JP Duminy picking up wickets.
                                                                      Wenger is instinctively keen to retain Walcott’s services, he and © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                              
Page  G24 Sport                                                                   Wednesday August 29 2012 02:00 GMT

the club’s hierarchy have now made it clear that they will look
to sell the winger before Friday’s deadline unless they receive a
clear indication that he is ready to commit his future.
                                                                       Oscar Pistorius: Paralympics will
   Arsenal, who have stressed to Walcott that they invested            change perceptions about disability
considerable faith in the winger when signing him from
Southampton in 2006, would seek to raise about £15m                    • Britain ‘deals with disability in a really
through Walcott’s sale rather than allow the 23-year-old to            amazing way’
leave for nothing next summer, and would be willing to enter
                                                                       • Fans will have ‘phenomenal experience’
negotiations with both Liverpool and City. A move to the
champions is far from outlandish. City had believed Walcott
                                                                       says sprinter
may have demanded assurances he would be a first choice                Andy Bull
starter which with the abundance of talent at Mancini’s disposal
would have been difficult to give. Now, with Walcott having
rejected Arsenal’s latest offer that dynamic has changed.
   Roberto Mancini is attempting to bolster his squad with an
injection of pace before Friday’s cut-off – the manager said on
Sunday after being held to a 2-2 draw at Liverpool that it was
crucial that the club sanctioned more signings if they were to
retain any hope of winning the league.
   But their long-mooted move for Sinclair is currently on hold
after a bid of £6.2m was rejected by Swansea City. Sinclair was
omitted from the Welsh club’s squad for Saturday’s win over
West Ham United and has informed the Swansea chairman,
Huw Jenkins, that he will not be signing a new contract, yet
no agreement has been reached over a fee for the 23-year-old
                                                                       Oscar Pistorius thinks his Olympic Games experience will
former Chelsea winger. “We haven’t actually agreed any deal
                                                                       provide him with an edge over his Paralympic adversaries.
with Manchester City at the moment,” Jenkins said.
                                                                       Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP
   “I would have thought if they really wanted to sign Scott
Sinclair they would have dealt with it a little bit better than they   The next 12 days could change the world. That was the message
have. But that’s their business. But it has dragged on too long        offered up by the infectiously enthusiastic Oscar Pistorius
and I hope one way or another it will be concluded in the next         ahead of the Paralympic Games opening ceremony.
couple of days.”                                                           Pistorius, the South African star of the Games, believes other
   With that move apparently stalled, Mancini will consider            countries will learn a lot from Britain’s enlightened approach to
switching targets to Walcott – a player with 28 England caps           hosting the 2012 Paralympics. “The UK is definitely a country
who has also interested Chelsea in the recent past – given his         which deals with disability in a really amazing way,” Pistorius
prospective availability. Losing Walcott would represent an            said. “There are a lot of people that are going to watch these
untimely setback for Wenger, who has lost Robin van Persie to          Games around the world that are going to be forced in a way to
Manchester United already this summer and sanctioned Alex              see these Paralympics through the eyes of the people of the UK.
Song’s departure for Barcelona.                                        And I think that is a great thing. There are a lot of people here
   The Frenchman stressed only last week that the winger was           that don’t focus on the disability any more, they focus on the
“very important” to the club’s future, which makes Arsenal’s           athletes’ ability.”
delay in opening talks all the more baffling.                              “I think this will be one of the most accessible Paralympics
   Walcott has made 222 appearances for Arsenal, scoring 42            we have had,” Pistorius added. “The audiences will take away
goals, since his switch from Southampton though the suspicion          a phenomenal experience, seeing inspirational sport, not
remains that the London club have yet to coax real consistency         focusing on the disability but focusing on the ability, and the
from the player.                                                       triumphs and disappointments. I believe this Paralympic Games
   The player had indicated towards the end of last year that          is going to change many people’s perceptions not just about
he wished to remain at the club and requested talks, though            Paralympic sport, but about people living with disabilities. It
those formal discussions did not commence until after his              is going to completely change people’s mindsets. I am just so
participation in Euro 2012 with England.                               excited to see the impact this will leave around the world.”
   Tottenham sign Dembele, page 42                                         Just a little over a fortnight after Pistorius, 25, made history
                                                                       by becoming the first double-amputee to run in the Olympics,

                                                                       where he reached the semi-finals of the 400m, he is going to be
                                                                       competing in four events at the Paralympics. He will be running
                                                                       in the 100m, 200m, 400m, and in the 4x100m relay. He says he
                                                                       will be happy just to make the podium in the 100m, but will aim
                                                                       for gold medals 200m and 400m.
  From Beirut to Big Brother, Murdoch to                                   He thinks that his Olympic experience will give him a little
  Millionaire,                                                         edge over his rivals, simply because he will already have had
  discuss the hot topics in the media on                               a taste of running in front of the 80,000-strong crowd. “The
  not one, but two blogs Organ Grinder and                             Paras have been sold out for many weeks and I know there will
                                                                       be the same passionate crowd there, so hopefully I can use that © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                                
Page  G24 Sport                                                                Wednesday August 29 2012 02:00 GMT

experience to my advantage for the first race or two.”                rock-like legs, the ballast that drives her heavy ground strokes.
    Pistorius is an undeniably inspirational figure, partly because   Like Heather Watson against Li Na on the first day, Keothavong
he does not sugar coat his words. He admitted that there “is still    could not sustain the quality of her shot-making under
a long way to go” in terms of transforming attitudes towards          sustained pressure. On balance and recent evidence, Watson, at
disability around the world. But he believes these Paralympics        20 and owner of a stronger all-round game, has a much better
will be a sizeable step forwards. “I think the UK is at the           chance of breaking through.
forefront when it comes to education surrounding disability.              Robson won in style on day one, in straight sets against
I believe that is the only way to get over the stigmas and the        the American qualifier Samantha Crawford, and can celebrate
feeling it is a taboo subject that a lot of people have had.”         with an appearance on Arthur Ashe, against Kim Clijsters this
                                                                      afternoon, ahead of Andy Murray’s appearance in the last match
                                                                      of the evening.
US Open 2012: Britain’s Johanna Konta
beats Timea Babos on debut
                                                                      Ian Westwood and Tim Ambrose keep
• Sydney-born Konta wins 6-4, 7-5                                     Warwickshire on course for title
• Anne Keothavong thrashed by Angelique
Kerber, 6-2, 6-0                                                      • Warwickshire 298-5 v Nottinghamshire
                                                                      Brian Halford at Edgbaston
Kevin Mitchell at Flushing Meadows

Britain’s Johanna Konta on her way to a 6-4, 7-5 win over Timea       Warwickshire’s Tim Ambrose was unbeaten on 64 at stumps.
Babos at the US Open. Photograph: JOHN G. MABANGLO/EPA                Photograph by Philip Brown/Reuters Photograph: Philip
The upside of being good enough to qualify for the US Open
is the opportunity to play on a grand stage against the best          Warwickshire took a significant stride towards the
players in the world. For British debutant Johanna Konta,             Championship title with a solid opening day’s work with the
born in Sydney to Hungarian parents before taking up British          bat against Nottinghamshire. With three games remaining,
citizenship in May, that chance turned into the best day of her       Nottinghamshire are one of only two teams with realistic hopes
career when she beat the exciting young Timea Babos (a bona           of reeling in the leaders.
fide Hungarian) 6-4, 7-5 on Tuesday.                                      As they play Warwickshire in two of those matches, their
    Konta, ranked 203 in the world, converted the third of            fate is largely in their own hands but failure to beat the Bears in
three match points to wind it up on Court 15, watched by a few        Birmingham would reduce their hopes to a sliver. This match
diehards and friends, in 107 minutes, and joins Laura Robson in       will take a lot of winning by Chris Read’s side after their seamers
the second round. Babos, 19 and rising through the ranks at 59,       made only sporadic inroads on a good batting track on the first
has hit the fastest serve on the women’s tour this year, 120mph,      day. Warwickshire closed on 298 for five after winning a crucial
so Konta did well to tame it in a close and enthralling match.        toss which gave their batsmen the chance to shape the match
    The downside to exposure to tennis at this level, meanwhile       and their bowlers some important further rest after getting
— as Anne Keothavong has discovered on three visits to                home from a CB40 game in Scarborough at 12.30am.
Flushing Meadows — is that it is an experience forged in                  While never completely dominant, enough of their batsmen
fire, and the Londoner’s tormentor this time, the sixth seed          contributed to build a strong position. With rain expected to
Angelique Kerber, was merciless in executing a first-round win        take time out of the game on Wednesday, Warwickshire would
in just 54 minutes. Keothavong, ranked 81 in the world, won her       be dismayed to lose from this position. Sentenced to bowl first
two games in the first set. The second went in a blur.                a good batting track, Nottinghamshire were happy enough to
    Keothavong fought hard, taking Kerber to deuce in the first       collect two wickets before lunch but Ian Westwood, with 81
game and saving a match point in the last before succumbing           (164 balls, 11 fours), and Jim Troughton (40, 64 balls) prevented
to the inevitable, along the way chasing down the barrage of          a collapse by adding 83 in 22 overs for the third wicket. Paul
heavy artillery that peppered her lines, wide and deep. But her       Franks removed both in an impressive burst from the City End.
chances against an opponent four years younger and physically         Armed with a ball more than 50 overs old, Franks deviated it
in a different suburb were some way slimmer than Kerber’s             enough to dismiss two well-entrenched batsmen and, at 178 for
                                                                      four, leave the game finely balanced. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                              
Page  G24 Sport                                                               Wednesday August 29 2012 02:00 GMT

    Nottinghamshire scented an opportunity but the former            new ball in the evening sunshine, Masters plucking out two
England pair Tim Ambrose and Rikki Clarke make up an                 of Derbyshire’s top three before Napier weighed in with the
experienced mid-order engine room and they rebuilt with a            wicket of nightwatchman Tony Palladino – for whom this was a
measured alliance of 102 in 30 overs. The latter (47, 93 balls)      frustrating day against his old county.
edged a steepling delivery from Luke Fletcher with the new ball          Palladino had opened up with 48 Championship wickets,
but Ambrose, whose form this season and last is close to that        having shown for the second consecutive season that he is a
which forced him into the England team a few years ago, saw it       fine county cricketer, even if he is destined to be remembered
through to the close. He followed his brilliant 87 in the rain and   far more widely as the whistleblower most responsible for the
gloom of Scarborough the day before with a fluent unbeaten 64        exposure of Danish Kaneria, and the jailing of his former team-
(109 balls, 11 fours) and has power to add on Wednesday when         mate Mervyn Westfield. He quickly moved to 49 by having Jaik
Warwickshire will strive to bat the opposition out of the game       Mickleburgh caught behind in his third over, but was unable to
– and the title race.                                                add to that wicket in the remainder of the innings.
    Nottinghamshire must strike early. Elsewhere in Division             Mark Turner, a skiddy seamer who has had previous stints
One, Lancashire’s relegation trouble looked to be deepening          with Derbyshire and Somerset, and signed a new two-year
when they slumped to 11 for four against Durham at Liverpool.        contract with Derbyshire during the lunch interval, seemed
Tom Smith (86, 177 balls), with support from Gareth Cross and        to beat both Owais Shah and Adam Wheater for pace, and the
Kyle Hogg, led a recovery to 221 for six by the close which will     former Yorkshire left arm spinner David Wainwright continued
give their bowlers something to work with.                           his excellent first season in the Midlands by exploiting the
    With the leaders Warwickshire to play next week, struggling      dampness in the pitch to end with four for 64.
Worcestershire badly need to beat Middlesex at New Road                  Essex may yet pay in what seems likely to be a low-scoring
in the current game and Daryl Mitchell’s century kept them           game for gifting two of their wickets, the captain James Foster
afloat on Tuesday. The captain batted through the day for 129        running himself out when apparently well set by going for
out of 295 for eight, defying Toby Roland-Jones, who collected       a non-existent single to mid-on, and Masters last out for 35
another four wickets in his impressive season.                       seeking an equally ambitious second. But Masters, the angular
                                                                     34-year-old who took a staggering 93 Championship wickets
                                                                     last season, always seemed likely to prove a handful on this
David Masters and Graham Napier of                                   pitch, and so it proved as Wayne Madsen was bowled and the
Essex combine to exploit Derbyshire                                  Australian left-hander Usman Khawaja brilliantly snapped
                                                                     up at second slip by Tom Westley. The way Essex celebrated
                                                                     suggested that they still fancy their chances of making a late
• Essex 245; Derbyshire 28-3                                         run to snatch promotion either with, or at the expense of,
Andy Wilson at Derby                                                 Derbyshire.

Graham Napier of Essex weighed in with runs and wickets
against Derbyshire. Photograph: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Derbyshire, the unglamorous county who have so often been
used as convenient whipping boys by those who seek to run
down domestic cricket, have moved quietly to the brink of
earning promotion for the first time in their history, in any
competition, largely through the skilful exploitation of the
                                                                       Compare and buy
                                                                       Use our free independent
green, seaming pitches that have predominated in this wet              comparison services to switch
summer. However the suspicion after an action-packed first day
at the old Racecourse is that against Essex, they may be hoist by
                                                                       suppliers and save money on
their own petard.                                                      all your household bills.
    David Masters and Graham Napier had already done their   
bit to frustrate the Peakites by making the top two individual
scores as Essex recovered from 113 for five to a defendable total,     compareandbuy
sharing an eighth-wicket stand of 74 that was comfortably the
highest of the innings. Then they combined again with the © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                           
Page  G24 Sport                                                             Wednesday August 29 2012 02:00 GMT

                                                                   which currently stands at 39%.
                                                                       “The EPPP will make coaches more accountable for their
Youth revolution aims for better                                   training; they have to record the evidence, set clear, detailed,
England players – but will it work?                                regularly reviewed objectives for every young player,”
                                                                   explains Terry Westley, the Premier League’s senior club youth
Elite Player Performance Plan will bring                           development support manager. “That happens in other sports.
science to training while U21 League offers                        This is a culture shift in football; some coaches are complaining
                                                                   about the increased paperwork, but it can only help.”
‘pathway’ to progress for younger players
                                                                       The programmes have been developed in co-operation with
David Conn                                                         the Football Association, although the FA’s director of football,
                                                                   Sir Trevor Brooking, lost his long turf war with the clubs for
                                                                   the FA to lead youth development. Both the EPPP and the new
                                                                   U21 League are Premier League initiatives. The FA’s role, based
                                                                   around its training HQ at St George’s Park in Burton-on-Trent, is
                                                                   to produce the coaches.
                                                                       “The EPPP has brought in improvements I am happy to
                                                                   support,” Brooking says. “For some time our 16-year-olds
                                                                   have not been good enough, given the size of the country. I
                                                                   am obsessed with the need to improve skills at the foundation
                                                                   stage, 5-11, and youth development stage, 12-16. The void in all
                                                                   our teams, up to the senior national team, is in the attacking
                                                                   third: we need talented individuals at 16 able to become top
                                                                   strikers and No10s.”
                                                                       The U21 League has been introduced as a competitive
Everton play West Ham United in the new U21 League, which
                                                                   stepping stone across the gap between youth football and the
has been introduced to try and improve the players below
                                                                   rarefied first teams of the Premier League, now staffed by some
first-team level. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the
                                                                   of the world’s top international players. With no commitment
                                                                   from clubs to reduce the number of overseas players they
The sun shone on Everton’s pristine Finch Farm training            sign, the argument is that the young players themselves must
complex on Sunday, although it did not bless the club’s Under-     improve, and the U21 League will provide a “pathway”, and
21 hopefuls, who were eclipsed 5-1 by the speed, skill and         time, for them to do so.
evident appetite of West Ham’s sparkling youth. This was a             Although Everton’s match against West Ham was not open
second formidable win for West Ham’s young professionals in        to the public – just to a cluster of middle-aged scouts, lining
the Premier League’s new venture this season – the Barclays U21    the length of the pitch – most games are intended to be, and
League – which has replaced the old reserve league as part of      at least two must be played at a club’s main stadium. Arsenal,
English football radical overhauling its youth development.        Manchester City and Chelsea have already played Under-21
    This trumpeted revolution for improving England’s home-        matches at their first-team stadiums and the fixtures are mostly
grown players, the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP),           free to enter. So the new league is aimed at giving fans, some
arrives by coincidence after the soul-searching that followed      of whom are priced out of first-team matches or unable to get
England’s underwhelming efforts at this summer’s European          tickets, the opportunity to see their clubs’ young players in
Championship. Rows over the reduced up-front compensation          action, and the players experience performing in competitive
Premier League clubs will have to pay for lower division clubs’    matches, watched by crowds.
youngsters (payments increase if players progress to the               Premier League clubs commonly loan young players to
first team) have largely overshadowed discussion of EPPP’s         League One or Two clubs – vital, according to Everton’s Under-
principles.                                                        21 coach, Alan Stubbs, for them to learn that “making a mistake
    Topically, given British athletes’ landmark successes at       matters – there are consequences”.
the Olympics, the new system seeks to import for football the          Westley describes the U21 League as “a small step” to bridge
science of other sports. At its head is the Premier League’s       the gulf, its principal merits organisational; the games are
director of youth, Ged Roddy, who has been recruited from          staged at the weekends to complement a first-team schedule,
the University of Bath, which runs “podium” excellence             and the league is national, not regional, as was the now-
programmes with substantial lottery funding for elite athletes     scrapped reserve league. Clubs can field an over-21 goalkeeper
who competed in the Olympics.                                      and three over-age outfield players.
    The Premier League is emphatic that its clubs are committed        “It is an alternative to sending players out on loan, if
to upgrading youth development, earmarking £320m over the          the games are played in the main stadium with supporters
next four years to the improved facilities, coaching, education,   watching – the loan system will still be used where it’s right for
welfare, intensive monitoring and target-setting regimes which     the player,” says Westley. West Ham’s Under-21 team, with the
the EPPP requires.                                                 striker Rob Hall, a loan player at Oxford United and MK Dons
    The gap between the supreme quality of facilities and          last season, the winger Blair Turgott and central midfielder
experience the few top youngsters will enjoy and the grassroots    George Moncur all outstanding, relished Sunday’s game, while
playing fields whose local-authority budgets are being cut again   Everton struggled for coherence. Afterwards Stubbs praised
is eyewatering. A stated aim of EPPP is to increase to 50% the     EPPP’s efforts to make coaching more professional, but said
number of Premier League players qualified to play for England, © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                           
Page  G24 Sport                                                                 Wednesday August 29 2012 02:00 GMT

he worries about the culture in which young players – who can
earn up to £150,000 a year even at this level – are developing.
“It is often difficult to get them to respond to adversity,” said
                                                                     Paralympics 2012: Oscar Pistorius
Stubbs. “I worry that some players get too much too early and        shows what Paralympians can achieve
are protected a bit too much.”
    John Bowler, the chairman of Crewe Alexandra, one of the         Advances in prosthetic limb technology
most distinguished lower division clubs for developing young         may make it possible for others to compete
players, said he acknowledges EPPP as a step forward, but the
                                                                     on a level playing field with non-disabled
mathematics still mean Premier League clubs’ academies will
have a much higher failure than success rate. Clubs can recruit
                                                                     athletes in the future
30 players in each age group from under nine to under 14, 20 at      Andy Bull
each of under 15 and under 16, 15 in each year from under 17 to
under 21.
    Yet there are still only 25 in a first-team squad which senior
players, many from overseas, can occupy for more than a
decade. “The whole system needs to be properly monitored,”
Bowler argues. “Will it deliver more better players, and what
happens to the young people who do not make the grade? I am
concerned about them.”
    Westley argues that the education and welfare now being
provided by Premier League clubs is vastly superior to youth
programmes of the past, and players are given the best
opportunities. “All these things, the coaching and new technical
culture, will be the start of improving things,” he says.
    Great as the investment is, it all nevertheless sounds
                                                                     Oscar Pistorius competed at the London 2012 Olympic Games
uncomfortably similar to the promises made when the 1997 FA
                                                                     with the same design of prosthetic limb that he has used since
Charter for Quality introduced academies, allowing clubs access
                                                                     1996. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
to very young children. Instead of improving the England team
– the stated founding purpose of the Premier League – the top        “It was my luck (perhaps my bad luck) to be the world chess
clubs narrowed opportunities by buying ready-made stars              champion during the critical years in which computers
from abroad. For the gilded youth of Everton and West Ham,           challenged, then surpassed, human chess players,” wrote
displaying their skills in the sunshine, and the English game        Garry Kasparov in The Chess Master and The Computer tinyurl.
at large, it remains uncertain whether the EPPP and the U21          com/c7ngksv . “Before 1994 and after 2004 these duels held little
League will indeed furnish a better future.                          interest. The computers quickly went from too weak to too                                        strong. But for a span of 10 years these contests were fascinating
                                                                     clashes between the computational power of the machines
                                                                     (and, lest we forget, the human wisdom of their programmers)
                                                                     and the intuition and knowledge of the grandmaster.”
                                                                         Oscar Pistorius is used to questions. In fact, he likes
                                                                     to encourage people to ask them. “When I am at home I
                                                                     sometimes go to the shopping centre to get groceries after
                                                                     training in the evening, still in my athletics pants,” he says.
                                                                     “And I will see a kid staring at my legs, and immediately the
                                                                     parent will turn the child away and say ‘don’t stare, don’t

                                                                     stare.’” He understands why people react that way. They have,
                                                                     he says, been doing it for decades. But it still annoys him.
                                                                         “That child has no preconceptions, no appreciation of the
                                                                     idea of disability, and all of a sudden they are learning to think
                                                                     ‘OK this is something we don’t do, something we don’t talk
                                                                     about.’ It forms a negative association,” Pistorius explains.
  The Guardian digital edition                                       “So I go up to that parent and child and I say ‘Hi, my name is

  Read the Guardian on the web                                       Oscar, and these are my cool prosthetic legs.’” Usually he tells
                                                                     them that his other ones “got bitten off by a shark”, unless, he
  exactly the way it was printed.                                    adds with a sly grin, “the mother is beautiful, then I tell them it
  With award-winning Guardian                                        happened because I didn’t eat my vegetables. Then I always get
                                                                     a good thumbs up from her.”
  photography accessible from                                            It is not the everyday questions Pistorius is tired of, but
  anywhere in the world.                                             the hypothetical ones. His career poses plenty of those too: Is
                                                                     Pistorius the first of many Paralympians who will be able to run,                                      jump, and throw to a level that makes them able to compete in
                                                                     the Olympics? Or is he a one-off?
                                                                         In 1985, Garry Kasparov was able to play 32 simultaneous © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                             
Page  G24 Sport                                                               Wednesday August 29 2012 02:00 GMT

matches against the world’s best chess computers and win             ratify such advances. They are guided by the principle that all
every one. Twelve years later he lost his match against IBM’s        technology must be universally available and, crucially, must
supercomputer Deep Blue. “Today,” Kasparov has written,              ensure that “human performance is the critical endeavour not
“for $50 you can buy a home PC program that will crush most          the impact of technology and equipment”. That, though, can be
grandmasters.” That transition took a little less than 20 years.     a hard line to draw.
    At the Olympics, 400m gold medallist, Kirani James,                  In coming years the IPC’s technical committee can expect to
finished 15 places ahead of Pistorius, in a time that was 1.06sec    be very busy indeed. Advances in prosthetic limb technology
quicker than Pistorius’ personal best. In 20 years’ time,            have been accelerated by the research and development done
however, will the Olympic champion still be so far ahead of          to improve the lives of amputees returning from Afghanistan
Pistorius’ own successors? Will technology have narrowed the         and Iraq. The US military’s Defense Advanced Research
gap, or even made it disappear altogether?                           Projects Agency has been running a Revolutionizing Prosthetics
    That, funnily enough, was exactly the same leap forward          program since 2006.
that Pistorius mentioned in his pre-Paralympic press                     “The vision for the programme was to restore as much
conference. “Now,” he said, “the new debate in Paralympics           natural limb function as possible,” explains Colonel Geoffrey
is about developments in prosthetics: ‘Do you think that in 20       Ling, the programme manager. Under Ling’s guidance, DARPA
years…?’” Pistorius is not interested in that question. He has       has developed technology which enables “direct brain-control-
spent too much time fighting to be able to use his own Cheetah       of-prostheses experiments with spinal-cord-injured patients”.
running blades to worry about a future that does not affect him.     They have been developing powered limbs, which can be
“Ultimately that doesn’t matter,” he says. “The prosthetic leg       controlled by thought.
that we have is the one that is deemed to be fair. I am not and          Richard Hirons, a clinical specialist who works for Ossur,
I am sure a lot of my competitors aren’t looking to make the         says that “In the normal arena of rehabilitation for amputees,
improvements through technology. They are happy with what            the concept of replacing lost muscles, of providing powered
we have.”                                                            prosthetics, isn’t outrageous, it is fair. It is replacing like with
    Pistorius shies away from that question because he does          like.” Pistorius, Hirons explains, is essentially just using a
not want people to make the mistake of thinking it is the            “simple curved piece of carbon fibre” to run on. In the near
technology that made him capable of running as fast as he            future, however, the IPC will have to start making rulings on
does. He has spent enough time, energy, and money fighting           the legality of more complex prosthetics, the offsprings of those
that battle already, in press conferences, laboratories, and         being developed now in DARPA’s laboratories. Hirons describes
courtrooms across South Africa, Europe, and the USA. He              it as “augmented sport”.
rightly argues that his speed comes from a combination of                Hirons admits that now “we are knocking on the door now
dedication, professionalism, and talent. “Paralympic athletes        in terms of exploring that technology for regular use, but as a
have been able to run in state and national events I have just       concept I always say there is nothing to stop your imagination
been hard working and talented enough to compete on an               turning it up to 11 and saying ‘can we better than the able-
international level,” he says. “It’s not that I’ve done it to open   bodied at sport?’” The answer, as Kasparov will tell you, is
the doors, the doors have always been open.”                         surely yes. It is simply a question of how long it will take.
    That is not quite true. In March 2007, he ran the 400m in a
new personal best of 46.56sec. Had it been almost any other
runner, no one would have noticed. Because it was Pistorius the

performance sent ripples all around the athletics world. Two
weeks later the sport’s governing body, the IAAF, introduced a
special amendment to rule 144-2(e), prohibiting the use of “any
technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other
element that provides the user with an advantage over another
athlete not using such a device.” There were motivated by the
fear that Pistorius could be setting a precedent. In November          Eat right
of that same year, the Cheetah blades Pistorius uses to run on
were made illegal in able-bodied competition. It took him, and
                                                                       Join the Guardian’s health and
his lawyers, four months to overturn that decision.                    dieting club, Eat Right and
    “As far as my prosthetic leg goes, the model that I have used
has been made since 1996,” Pistorius says. “That prosthetic
                                                                       we’ll design you a personalised
leg has been tested. That is the one with which we went to the         healthy eating plan from just
Court of Arbitration for Sports hearing with. So that prosthetic       £2.99 a week. Membership
leg is allowed to be used by any amputee.” In fact Pistorius is
so committed to his principles that at these Games, his rivals         includes shopping lists, menus,
are using more up-to-date technology. Pistorius still uses a           expert advice and 24 hour
standard model, but the manufacturer, Ossur, has started to
tailor blades to the requirements of individual athletes and           support to help you achieve
events, so there is one set designed for running the bend,             your health and fitness goals.
another for the straight, and another again for the long jump.
    The International Paralympic Committee, who must decide
what technology is and is not permissible for use, has to © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                              
Page 10 G24 Sport                                                               Wednesday August 29 2012 02:00 GMT

Ronnie O’Sullivan found guilty of                                     US Open 2012: Andy Murray takes on
missing tournaments with no excuse                                    hungry Ivan Dodig in second round

• Governing body issues suspended fine                                Andy Murray’s next opponent in the 2012
and warning                                                           US Open has known some hard times, and
• World champion failed to show for eight                             will be a tough adversary as a result
events in 2010                                                        Kevin Mitchell at Flushing Meadows
Press Association

                                                                      Andy Murray in his first round victory over Alex Bogomolov
Ronnie O’Sullivan has been issued with a warning for failing          Jr, which has lined him up against Croatia’s Ivan Dodig.
to attend eight tournaments in 2010. Photograph: Laurence             Photograph: Ella Ling/AMA/ Ella Ling/AMA/Matthew Ashton/
Griffiths/Getty Images                                                AMA/AMA/Corbis

Snooker’s governing body has handed the world champion,               Ivan Dodig, who had to sleep rough in his early days on the
Ronnie O’Sullivan, a suspended fine and issued him with               tennis circuit, retains a street hunger that Andy Murray will
a warning after finding him guilty of failing to attend eight         respect when they meet in the second round of the US Open on
tournaments in 2010.                                                  Thursday.
    O’Sullivan, arguably the sport’s greatest ever talent, was            “Ivan went through stuff like that,” the Scot from a down-
charged with not having a reasonable excuse for withdrawing           to-earth background said of the Croat’s hardships when he
from 11 events between August 2010 and March 2012.                    was trying to break into the mainstream of their sport. “He
    The 36-year-old presented medical advice at a hearing with        slept under bridges, in train stations and all sorts when he was
the World Professional Snooker and Billiards Association, and         younger because he didn’t have enough money. Eventually
it was declared in a subsequent statement that it “could not be       people break through because they are hungry and don’t have
shown that he did not have a reasonable excuse in relation to         anything else to fall back on.”
his late withdrawal from one event in 2011 and two in 2012”.              Medjugorje, a magical town near the Croatian border in
    He was, however, found “not to have a reasonable excuse in        Bosnia-Herzegovina, is famous for more than being Dodig’s
relation to the eight late withdrawals in 2010”.                      birthplace. When Ivan was four, the Virgin Mary is said to
    As a result O’Sullivan was found to be in breach of the sport’s   have appeared to six young children there and thousands of
rule 1.3, which declares a member must play in a tournament           Catholics from all over the world have visited it every year
in which he has entered, and was given a suspended fine of            since then, in the expectation of another sighting. Whether the
£1,000, a formal warning, and told to pay £1,000 costs.               spirituality has touched him or not, Dodig has a serene air about
    World Snooker has long tried to get O’Sullivan, a four-time       him and voices his tennis philosophy with conviction.
world champion, to comply with its regulations, but it was only           “We are all human beings,” he says, “we all have a chance.
in July that he agreed to return to the main Tour and sign a          If you go on court with that thought, you can beat anyone. Of
player’s contract.                                                    course it’s going to be tough, but I have to focus on my own
                                                                      game. I have to risk a lot and hope that everything goes in.

                                                                          “I have had experience against top 10 players. I beat [Jo-
                                                                      Wilfried] Tsonga on grass and [Robin] Soderling. So we will see.
                                                                      I like to play these matches.”
                                                                          His biggest win was over Rafael Nadal in Canada in 2011.
                                                                      The mystery about him is not his anonymity (he was keen after
  Fantasy League Classic                                              a quick win over Hiroki Moriya on day one to go to the main
  Manage a squad of 16 players and a budget                           interview room rather than one of the smaller ones reserved for
  of £75 million. £75,000 worth of prizes to                          lesser-known players) but the fact that his obvious talents have
  be won in weekly, monthly and overall                               not brought him more success.
  competitions. Beat your nearest and                                     Dodig, who is 27, lives in considerably enhanced
                                                                      circumstances now, in Zagreb, although he has rarely © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                                             
Page 11 G24 Sport                                                     Wednesday August 29 2012 02:00 GMT

transferred the belief of others into anything more tangible
than kind words and a pat on the back, as his world place of 118
shows. He puts his recent tumble in the rankings down to a back
injury, but says he is fit and training properly again.
    As Murray recognises, Dodig has a desire driven by
tantalising proximity to money and fame. After eight years as a
pro he has earned $1.3m, which is about a 20th of Murray’s prize
money, and, spread across all those years, not as big a bonanza
as it might sound.
    “I could be wrong,” Murray said on Tuesday night, “but I
think [Marin] Cilic [also a native of Medjugorje] helped sponsor
him. Not everyone has the backing of a rich federation to help
them travel and get coaching, and he was maybe an excellent
athlete who didn’t understand the game that well. Sometimes
things just click – and guys are definitely coming through much
older than they did.”
    Murray looked a lot better towards the end of his first-round
win over Alex Bogomolov Jr than he did in a splintered start,
although he was more comfortable with his performance than
some of his critics. “I just didn’t serve at all well [in the first
set] so I will be on the practice courts working on that. From
one end, the sun was right in your eyes early on, so you could
choose to take something off [the serve] and just get it in, but
that wasn’t working so I went for more on the serve and made
more errors. I will make sure I don’t serve like that against
    “He’s a big guy. He serve and volleys a lot, especially on his
first serve. You don’t see that much. He’s a very good athlete,
He moves really well. On a hard court he can pretty much do the
splits. He’s very flexible and a tough guy to play against because
he’s unorthodox.
    “He gets further and further back and can get pushed around
a little bit. Maybe he’s the one who has to do more running, so
that will be one of the plans, to keep him on the move.”
    Away from the court, Murray has been taken aback by the
increased interest in him since he beat Roger Federer to win
Olympic gold in London. “I had a cameraman – I have no idea
who he was working for – waiting outside the hotel the other
day. At first he congratulated me on the gold medal and then
asked me whether I had seen the pictures of Prince Harry yet
and what I thought of the crown jewels.
    “I am not used to having people hanging about outside my
hotel in New York. I actually did say ‘no comment’. That was my
answer and then I ran away.”
    There will be nowhere to hide in the second round, for either
player, but Murray would have to play pretty badly to lose to
Dodig, whatever his moving back story. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012                                  

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