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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 9 December, 2019

The Sunday Papers: some of the week's best sportswriting

Pursuit of Lance, a farewell to Páidí and the tactical innovations of the year in soccer. Get the kettle on there.

Top of the world ma': Katie Taylor meets the press this week.
Top of the world ma': Katie Taylor meets the press this week.
Image: INPHO/Donall Farmer

1. “Neville has been at Sky’s studios in west London since 9.30am, but he is still like a man on fast-forward, running ‘at 100 miles per hour’. His intensity, willingness to work hard and genuine vigour for his sport are startling. It seems the same qualities that characterised him as a footballer are the ones that mark him out as a pundit. ‘This is different to football,’ says the 37-year-old, ‘but there is  pressure — and I think that’s the thing that keeps me excited and stimulated. It’s got to be right. I think information and the detail are the most important things for me. Nice goals or a lovely finish or an incident, that will get done a thousand times by everybody else and there isn’t really much more you can say.

‘I prefer information. I try to do  it as if I was looking at it as a player  or a coach rather than as entertainment. I don’t think, really, I’m a perfect broadcaster by any stretch of the imagination. I think it’s more around the information for me. That’s all I can do. If you want a pretty face or a nice voice then don’t come here.’”

The Daily Mail’s Laura Williamson goes behind the touchscreen with Gary Neville and the MNF crew.

2. “It was an embarrassment to be at Vicarage Road on Sunday as that discordant Saracens drivel, a so-called tune “Stand Up…”, blared out at every stoppage, a blatant bit of gamesmanship to drown out the Munster hordes packed into Vicarage Road. There has been more atmosphere on the moon than at that dilapidated dump in recent years yet the first time a crowd manage to generate sound and fury it is hijacked by some nincompoop with a twitchy finger on the PA.”

The Telegraph’s Mick Cleary was not impressed by Saracen’s tactic of drowning out the travelling Munster fans last week. Not impressed at all.

3. “As a man I was drawn to him. He had courage and charisma and I’m glad of those few hours we spent now. If Kerry football has a foundation then the four O Se’s are the cornerstones upon which it is built. Paidi’s passing won’t change that only re-inforce it. Great men are an even greater loss I guess. We’ll shoulder this one together. Páidi I’ll take your words with me as I go. The wild west won’t be the same without you.”

Kingdom star Paul Galvin writes movingly on his own site about the late Páidi Ó Sé, who was buried this week.

4. “Nothing, perhaps, could have expressed the modern Spain’s disdain for orthodox centre-forward play, for their disregard of goalscoring as a measure of ability, than the fact that Fernando Torres won the golden boot – a moment of high-concept satire to rank alongside Henry Kissinger winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Although Corinthians signed Paolo Guerrero in the summer and moved to a 4-2-3-1, their side that won the Copa Libertadores earlier this year operated with a different kind of strikerlessness, the front two of Jorge Henrique and Emerson often drifting wide to turn 4-2-2-2 to 4-2-4-0. That complicated opponents’ marking structures and also meant that Corinthians could pin in the opposing full-backs, something that was vital to their fine defensive record.

The leader in strikerlessness, though, remains Barcelona and Messi.”

Jonathan Wilson, in the Guardian, explains slowly and patiently what were the most pronounced tactical innovations of 2012.

5. “Dealing with adulation — it’s not an everyday concern for the modern newspaper man. Ducking haymakers from cost-cutting management, sliding out of Leveson’s jabs, dancing with the guard high… journalists are really only conditioned to box off the back foot. Praise is something they can administer now and again. But to receive it? That’s contrary to nature. Oscar Wilde put it succinctly: ‘Whenever people agree with me, I think I must be wrong.’

Today, a whole lot of people agree with Walsh. He was right about Armstrong. Many of them weren’t. There’s satisfaction in bringing folks around to your point of view, especially after such a wearying quest for the truth. But as for his new and augmented status…

‘At a time when everybody hates journalists, I’m meant to be some kind of beacon. That’s a joke,’ he says, almost spits the words out. ‘Six years ago I would have been the guy quoting Marge Simpson to you: ‘There’s no shame in being a pariah.’”

Ronan Early‘s excellent interview with David Walsh — who has just released Seven Deadly Sins – in the Irish Post is the well worth your time.

6. “The first evidence of any animosity came during a Second Division victory for Leeds in 1962 over Tommy Docherty’s promotion-bound “Diamonds”, when United’s Eric Smith suffered a broken leg. Five years later the two met in an FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park and in the dying minutes, with Leeds trailing 1-0 to a Tony Hateley header, Peter Lorimer ‘scored’ from a 25-yard free-kick. But since the Chelsea wall had not retreated 10 yards, a rule more honoured in the breach than the observance, the ‘equaliser’ was expunged by the referee, Ken Burns.

Even Kenneth Wolstenholme, decidedly not an Alan Green when it comes to scorn for referees, said: ‘You’ll have to look in the rules book backwards to find a reason.’ Leeds got their revenge six months later, hammering Chelsea 7-0 in the league, but when they faced each other again in the FA Cup, in the 1970 final, Chelsea’s vengeance could be toasted from the trophy.”

Rob Bagchi traces the keen rivalry between Leeds United and Chelsea in the Guardian.

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