Dave Brailsford appears to be losing his grip as hands spin out of control | Richard Williams

Dave Brailsford appears to be losing his grip as hands spin out of control | Richard Williams

Early on a July morning in 2012 a small figure in black cycling kit left the village of Vielha, on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, and set off along the quiet two‑lane road towards the Col du Portillon, a winding tree-lined climb leading to the French border. The kit was that of Team Sky, but beneath the helmet and the sunglasses it was impossible to identify the rider, only to envy him the imminent experience of a picturesque climb. Just under five miles long, with gradients averaging 6.8%, the…

Read More

A decade on, did David Beckham's move to MLS make a difference?

A decade on, did David Beckham's move to MLS make a difference?

Wednesday marks 10 years since David Beckham confirmed he would leave Madrid and head to California to sign with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Then football’s most recognisable star, he arrived in Major League Soccer with the goal of improving the American game. Beckham promised to “make a difference” Stateside, but where did he fail and where did he succeed? Successes 1) He raised the profile of MLS Like it or not, MLS’s profile improved with Beckham in the league. At the time, the midfielder was a global superstar, a status…

Read More

Leicester board at crossroads as old ways start to look like the wrong ones | Paul Rees

Leicester board at crossroads as old ways start to look like the wrong ones | Paul Rees

“Happy new year to you all,” wrote Richard Cockerill in what turned out to be his final programme notes as Leicester’s director of rugby on Sunday. Less than 24 hours later, the club announced he had been sacked following the defeat by the Premiership club who have become as dominant this decade as the Tigers were in the 2000s, Saracens. Cockerill became the second director of rugby of a Premiership club to lose his job this season following Andy Robinson’s dismissal by Bristol and five sides are now under different…

Read More

We finally found out what's wrong with Aaron Rodgers: absolutely nothing

We finally found out what's wrong with Aaron Rodgers: absolutely nothing

Not long ago the football world appeared to have given up on Aaron Rodgers. Now with the Green Bay Packers winning the NFC North he’s a popular pick for league MVP. This is how the NFL works. Seasons are rarely coronations; they are more tests or perseverance. People get hurt. Knees and ankles and shoulders fail. Bodies ache. Plans dissolve into mayhem. Teams rise and fall. Winning is survival. And with a week between each game, few things on this planet are as susceptible to overreaction and hyperbole as America’s…

Read More

The year in football: highs and lows of 2016 – from Allardyce to Zlatan

The year in football: highs and lows of 2016 – from Allardyce to Zlatan

The year 2016 was a terrific one for the Premier League and a terrible 12 months for English football. Leicester City’s title success was every bit the fairy story, the perfect antidote to long held and justifiable fears that ordinary clubs could no longer dream of glory as the bigger institutions and the Champions League elite had effectively ringfenced all the prizes worth winning. The Foxes’ achievement was all the more remarkable for being totally unexpected, not just for the above reasons but because of the struggle against relegation the…

Read More

Struggling Oldham urgently seek a solution to their Boxing Day blues

Struggling Oldham urgently seek a solution to their Boxing Day blues

Hats off to Oldham Athletic’s captain, Peter Clarke, for attempting to sweeten a dog’s dinner this week. A sprinkling of optimism is sorely needed around Boundary Park where the club’s chairman, Simon Corney, was in such a steaming funk after elimination from the FA Cup by non-league Lincoln City on 5 December that he cancelled the club’s Christmas party. Oldham are bottom of League One, winless in seven league matches, subject to a transfer embargo and due to play at second-place Sheffield United on Boxing Day. But Clarke, keen to…

Read More

KJ Dillon's $16,255 dinner bill hints at pernicious side of NFL hazing culture

KJ Dillon's $16,255 dinner bill hints at pernicious side of NFL hazing culture

Here’s what passes for a good time in the NFL. A group of veteran players gather up an unsuspecting rookie and take him out to dinner. Over the next few hours they order heaping slabs of steak and bottle upon bottle of wine from the restaurant’s secret storage chest. After, they wash it all down with a couple bottles of Dom Perignon. When the bill arrives they propose a game. How about a little credit card roulette? Everyone throws their card in a hat and the waiter or waitress is…

Read More

Northampton alarm bells clang with winter of discontent looming | Robert Kitson

Northampton alarm bells clang with winter of discontent looming | Robert Kitson

For a grand old club with an enviable, newly enlarged stadium, the modern history of Northampton Saints RFC is strangely fraught. Every team has its highs and lows but the Saints are currently besieged on all sides, trapped by unhappy accidents and assorted misjudgments of their own making. The George North saga, Dylan Hartley’s suspension, looming European oblivion: there is not a lot of jaunty, jazzy marching in at Franklin’s Gardens right now. These have been particularly testing days since their 37-10 home drubbing to Leinster last Friday. Their England…

Read More

RG III and the Cleveland Browns are a tragedy made for each other

RG III and the Cleveland Browns are a tragedy made for each other

Nothing else had been working for the Cleveland Browns, so when Robert Griffin III returned from his latest significant injury, their coach Hue Jackson felt he needed “to know something more” about the quarterback who was once going to lead his team this season. At 0-12 he had nothing to lose … except another game. Predictably, the Browns lost on Sunday afternoon, and Griffin did not play well in what was only his second start in almost two years. In fact, the numbers will say he was something close to…

Read More

Goals are on the rise, but does this mean defending has become unfashionable? | Jonathan Wilson

Goals are on the rise, but does this mean defending has become unfashionable? | Jonathan Wilson

Manchester City have kept two clean sheets all season. Liverpool have kept three. Both sides may have come out of last weekend lamenting defeats that have allowed Chelsea to open a small gap at the top of the table but it could be argued that with defences like they have it is remarkable they are as high up as they are. But this, perhaps, is the modern way: defending in the old-fashioned sense has become unfashionable. “There is no modern generation,” José Mourinho growled in the summer of 2015 after…

Read More

Nico Rosberg drew the best from himself before bowing out as a F1 champion | Paul Weaver

Nico Rosberg drew the best from himself before bowing out as a F1 champion | Paul Weaver

For a driver who strove with such fierce diligence to win the world championship Nico Rosberg has given up its fruits very quickly; champion on Sunday, retired on Friday, he was not even a six-day wonder. For many years he has been one of the more anonymous of Formula One’s leading drivers. Now, finally thrust into the spotlight of glory, it is almost as if he could not stand the glare. In truth Rosberg knows how almost impossibly difficult it was to win the F1 title, how repetitive luck as…

Read More

Fidel Castro, cricket, and a crackpot Foreign Office plan for Cuba | The Spin

Fidel Castro, cricket, and a crackpot Foreign Office plan for Cuba | The Spin

El Comandante’s diplomatic pitch Once upon a time, they say, Fidel Castro played a game of cricket. It was in 1998, when Castro, then 71, was taking a short tour of Barbados. He and the prime minister of Barbados, Owen Arthur, were travelling from Bridgetown up to Paynes Bay on the west coast, where they were due to unveil a memorial to the men and women who died in the bombing of Air Cubana flight 455 22 years earlier. On the way they passed a cricket match. And, as the…

Read More

Jack Wilshere’s struggle to find a role and rhythm eased by Howe’s alchemy | Barney Ronay

Jack Wilshere’s struggle to find a role and rhythm eased by Howe’s alchemy | Barney Ronay

Here’s an interesting thing: just over eight years ago Arsenal thrashed Sheffield United 6-0 in the League Cup, famously fielding a team of gossamer-touch man-ducklings with an average age of 19, described by Arsène Wenger as the best crop of young players he’d ever had. The seasons passed, the ducklings drifted. The idea of an unceasing production line, M. Wenger’s school of the performing artistic back-heel steadily congealed. There has even been a temptation among some supporters to look back and shrug a little at such heady times, a state…

Read More

Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

1) Palace must start showing they can handle pressure In the freezing south-east London rain, Crystal Palace players chose to face the music. While Manchester City’s victorious megastars hurried silently to the team bus, a succession of Palace players fronted up. Connor Wickham, the goalscorer in the 2-1 defeat, said the spirit in the camp was still strong. “It’s times like this that will bring out the real man in us. We need to stand up and be counted.” Scott Dann, the captain, was dismayed after Kevin De Bruyne’s rolled…

Read More

Aitor Karanka lightening up and ever happier to be at Middlesbrough | Louise Taylor

Aitor Karanka lightening up and ever happier to be at Middlesbrough | Louise Taylor

Aitor Karanka sits facing a window, contemplating the pristine green training pitches at the bottom of the hill and the treetops defining dense woodland beyond. Middlesbrough’s manager is in the upstairs canteen at Rockliffe Park, the club’s training ground set in undulating parkland on the border between County Durham and North Yorkshire. Hidden away in a village south of Darlington and sharing its site with a luxury five-star spa hotel, Rockliffe tends to make Boro an “easy sell” to prospective signings and, almost exactly three years ago, Karanka proved no…

Read More

Football League your thoughts: Plymouth Argyle enjoy another away day

Football League your thoughts: Plymouth Argyle enjoy another away day

League One • Scunthorpe United’s Josh Morris scored his 15th goal of the season to down Coventry City and cement the Iron’s position at the top of the division. Morris may have arrived at the club on a free transfer over the summer but he’s proving pretty priceless to the Scunthorpe manager Graham Alexander at present. Morris’s former club, Bradford City, are not exactly goal-shy themselves, though, and put four goals past 10-man Rochdale to clamber into second – with Bolton Wanderers not in action until Sunday. Scunthorpe United’s Josh…

Read More

How the Chicago Cubs faced down history and killed a century-old curse

How the Chicago Cubs faced down history and killed a century-old curse

There was a baseball game last night. There are three stories to tell about it, and they’re stacked on top of each other, tottering, each bigger than the last and relying on the one below it to make sense. The first story: the Cubs took a 6-3 lead into the eighth inning of Game 7 of the World Series, and Aroldis Chapman blew it. Then he won the game. The protagonists of baseball stories are often pitchers; they’re the ones who fundamentally act to begin play. Even the hitter standing…

Read More