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'Michael Owen's Soccer Skills' and the rest of the week’s best sportswriting

Plus, the background behind Masters winner Danny Willett’s stunning triumph is examined.

Liverpool and England football star Michael Owen arrives at a London hotel, for the launch of his soccer skills book and video in 1999.
Liverpool and England football star Michael Owen arrives at a London hotel, for the launch of his soccer skills book and video in 1999.
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

1. “LEICESTER CITY’S DASH to an unlikely Premier League title is billed as football’s most romantic story in a generation but the Football League is still investigating the club’s 2013-14 promotion season amid strong concerns from other clubs they may have cheated financial fair play rules.

“The club’s owner, the billionaire Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who owns his country’s duty-free company King Power, bankrolled Leicester’s rise from the Championship with more than £100m after he took over the club in 2010.”

The Guardian‘s David Conn looks at the “strange finances” behind Leicester’s Premier League rise.

2. “At Birley Wood Golf Course, the council-owned facility in Sheffield where Danny Willett used to play as a youngster, they were not remotely surprised at his success at the Masters.

“If you can play here, you can play anywhere,” says Jonathan Pyle, the course professional, pointing out across the hillside course. “The greens here are just as small as Augusta. Round here, if your short game’s no good, you’ve got no chance. No way would the Masters course have fazed him.”

Writing in The Telegraph, Jim White looks at the background from which 2016 Masters winner Danny Willett emerged.

3. Among the wide-eyed boys and girls sat in front of Michael Owen on the Britannia Stadium turf was goalkeeper and Leeds United fan Jamie Hollingworth. Towering ungainly over his classmates, he harboured faint hopes of being the next, next Nigel Martyn between the sticks.

“I was a lad of 13 who’d been asked to be in a football programme starring Michael Owen as well as being on TV – I was overwhelmed,” says Jamie, 17 years on.

“I was really serious about becoming a professional goalkeeper. Like most lads growing up, you dream of becoming a footballer.”

Adam Hurrey, also known as @FootballCliches, remembers the short-lived football show, ‘Michael Owens Soccer Skills’.

4. “Famously, it was assumed that the opening match of Group E would be a virtual home game for the Italians.

“Not only was East Rutherford a stereotypically Italian area (It was there that Paulie Walnuts became convinced he’d seen a flying saucer, much to the derision of Ralphie Cifaretto) but the favourites had been hoarding match tickets ever since the draw was made. As one of the first seeds, they had automatically been assigned a place in Group E, and thus knew from a long way out that they’d be playing in New Jersey and Washington.”

Conor Neville of Balls.ie recalls the time when ‘Irish Fans Shocked The World And Filled The Giants Stadium For Ireland-Italy ’94′.

5. “On every NBA court, about 24 feet from the basket, there is a thin stripe of colored paint. The flat-sided semicircle it forms is the boundary between shots that count for two points and shots that are worth three.

“When the NBA added the lines in 1979, the players weren’t sure what to think. They sniffed and pawed at them like cats with a new toy. Only 3% of the shots they put up that season were 3-pointers.”

The Wall Street Journals Ben Cohen examines how The Golden State Warriors have revolutionised basketball.

6. “Adam LaRoche speaks with the kind of certainty that makes doubt seem like a disease. He can make his argument, and he can make yours too, talking his way through every side of a story like a guy working a piece of furniture down a tight stairwell: slowly, carefully, occasionally taking a step back to assess his progress.

“He’s sitting in a house outside Phoenix, his body across the couch like a flung coat. His wife, Jenn, and 12-year-old daughter, Montana, are out shopping; his 14-year-old son, Drake, is a nearly spectral presence: in the back by the pool, at the kitchen table, upstairs. Adam’s red beard is 3 inches shorter than it was before he retired from baseball nine days earlier. The trim makes him look slightly — only slightly — less like a Civil War cavalryman. He’s a Kansan who speaks with an unhurried drawl that seems to have arrived from points south.”

ESPN The Magazine profile baseball star, Adam LaRoche, who recently retired in unusual circumstances.

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