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Andy Gray and Richard Keys, pictured in 2012.
Andy Gray and Richard Keys, pictured in 2012.
Image: PA

TV departures and clumsy texts along with the rest of the week's best sportswriting

Enjoy some of our favourite pieces from the last seven days.
Jan 31st 2021, 8:30 AM 12,513 3

1. So what was it like, inside the Sky Sports building, as tape after tape emerged of sexist comments from their two stars?

“It was like there was a murderer on the loose,” says one insider, “and bodies kept being found.”

Even senior staff were taken by surprise by the constant stream of leaks from inside their organisation. From that Saturday night, when “all hell broke loose”, the next few days had seen Sky Sports under more direct scrutiny than ever before. Its headquarters in Osterley, Keys and Gray’s own domain, was besieged by journalists from other organisations. Sky Sports had become the story.

Ten years on, The Athletic’s Jack Pitt-Brooke recalls the infamous departure of Richard Keys and Andy Gray from Sky Sports. (€)

2. It’s all worked out ok – thanks to a few very good people. The two years at TalkSPORT were special and I love working in Doha. The guys here are a delight and have given us remarkable support. The lifestyle is amazing. And at our Group, whether at beIN or Paris St-Germain F.C. or Miramax, we’re also at the beating heart of the global sports & entertainment agenda – shaping debate and the future of the industry, with the most incredible relationships across the world; it’s a real privilege. Only last week, we had Guy Ritchie and a range of Hollywood actors in Doha directing one of our new films – I can only assume Jason Statham was cast as Andy.

Needless to say, Richard Keys (believes he) has had the last laugh. His endlessly-entertaining blog is a worthwhile accompanying piece to the above. 

3. Omerta is a contract between enforcers and enablers. Lance Armstrong was an enforcer, a power-crazed, sociopathic bully whose standing was built on dishonesty. But he would never have prospered without the enablers – the dodgy doctors, the duplicitous regulator, the complicit teammates, the jackboot lawyers, the compliant, self-serving press. And so it is with racing.

Against the backdrop of the troubling Viking Hoard tale, Paul Kimmage of the Sunday Independent raises serious questions for racing journalism. (€)

4. Leading trainer Jim Bolger believes doping is a problem in Irish racing. Many agree with Bolger, though they are reluctant to say so publicly. There is also a belief in Irish racing, held by many in a position to know, that within the past five years a favourite for one of the handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival was stopped. No sedative was necessary. Just a jockey doing as he was told.

David Walsh of The Sunday Times also scrutinises the zeal of racing’s anti-doping procedures, saying it leaves questions hanging over the sport. 

5. Things took an ugly turn in the 2016-17 pre-season. Jan-Henrik Gruszecki, a former ultra who now works as a consultant to the Dortmund board, revealed last February that Tuchel mistakenly sent an angry text message about sporting director Michael Zorc that was meant to go to his agent Oliver Meinking to Zorc himself. “Their relationship was over at that point,” Gruszecki said. There were suggestions Tuchel had earlier shown himself uninterested in striking up a relationship with the fanbase and also missed a big club event, the 50th anniversary of the club’s 1966 European Cup Winners’ Cup final win. “He never wanted to be part of the history of the club,” Gruszecki felt.

Meuren and Schachter quote plenty of players in their book who found him superb as a coach but hard to deal with on a human level. Things went from being pushy and demanding to personal and unhappy. “In a sporting sense, Tuchel is untouchable,” former Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller said. “His training sessions were outstanding, he was a visionary. But on a human level, it didn’t work in some areas.”

For The Athletic, Raphael Honigstein profiles new Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, who isn’t beyond Sending A Text To The Person The Text Is About. (€)

6. “I’m thinking: ‘F*** this. I’m supposed to be playing a game tomorrow. I don’t want all of the confidence knocked out of me.’ I jumped in the car with a few lads to grab some lunch. When they were buying grub, I sent an expletive-ridden text to my girlfriend, venting about Cheika.

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“It was a brutal text message — ‘This guy is an eejit, I absolutely hate him etc.’ I was on an old Nokia, which prompted me to send the text to my most recent contact: Michael Cheika. And I pressed OK by mistake. I will never forget the feeling. My heart dropped to the bottom of my stomach.

“When the lads came back, they said that I was as white as a sheet. I told them what I had done and one of them — I won’t say who — asks me: Where’s Cheika now? He was training with the seniors. Then he says: Where’s his phone?

For The Sunday Times, Peter O’Reilly interviews Ross McCarron, who, eh, also isn’t beyond Sending A Text To The Person The Text is About. (€)

7. “We need to take Tyrell Robinson away and we would like to do it as quietly and delicately as possible,” came the instructions. “There is an issue we need to sort out.”

Still, though, there was no real explanation. “But he’s on the bench tonight,” Abbott replied. “Does he have to go now?”

Robinson, then 20, had just been out on the pitch, going through his drills. After playing so impressively in his first season at Bradford he was named their under-23s player of the year. He was the kid who had grown up in Arsenal’s system, trained with Arsene Wenger’s first team and graduated from the same academy as Ashley Cole, Jack Wilshere and many others.

But on that evening at Macclesfield in August 2018 he was still wearing his tracksuit as he was led away to the police car waiting outside the ground.

“I know what it’s about,” he told officers. “It was at my place. But I was out with my girlfriend.”

That was the first of many lies as Robinson desperately tried to find a way out of the chain of events that led to him standing in the dock at Bradford crown court on Tuesday and receiving a prison sentence of three and a half years.

Also in The Athletic, Daniel Taylor tells the story of Tyrell Robinson. (€)

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Gavin Cooney


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