Wolves Launch Official Complaint About Racial Abuse

Credit: Wolverhampton Football Club

Credit: Wolverhampton Football Club

By Stuart Iversen

Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club have made an official complaint to the FA and Walsall Football Club over racist abuse directed at their players.

They assert that Carl Ikeme and George Elokobi were the subjects of racial abuse at Banks Stadiums during the teams match on Saturday.

A statement on the Wolves website stated: “The complaint relates to a small number of individuals in the crowd at Saturday’s game and will not sour the good relationship that exists between the two clubs.”

Ikeme and Elokobi had both reported incidents of racial abuse during the game to members of Wolves management.

Walsall have also released a statement saying: “We are taking this matter very seriously and will fully co-operate with West Midlands Police and Wolverhampton Wanderers throughout this investigation.”

Froch vs Groves Press Conference

By Stuart Iversen

Carl Froch and George Groves have come face to face for the first time since their fight last year.  The meeting took place at a press conference earlier today, to promote their rematch at Wembley Stadium on May 31st.

The first fight between the pair saw Froch retain his WBA and IBF super-middleweight titles with a controversial stoppage.  This time round Groves is determined to even up the score.

“It was a stone-wall robbery last time.  Everyone knows it.  It brings me great joy that this is happening because otherwise this is not a fight that was going to take place.”

Froch meanwhile, is feeling rejuvenated after a Christmas off and is ready to hit the gym.  “I’ve missed the gym, I’ve missed boxing, I’ve missed hitting the bag, I’ve missed listening to (trainer) Rob (McCracken), working hard on the road runs and that’s bad news for George Groves because I’m now excited and looking forward to getting back in the gym and getting in the ring on May 31 and doing the business.”

The fight is expected to break the attendance record for a post-War fight with roughly 60,000 to 70,000 people expected.  Shattering the previous total of 55,000, set by Ricky Hatton’s fight against Juan Lazcano at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Westhuizen to leave Edinburgh

Credit: Edinburgh Rugby

Credit: Edinburgh Rugby

By Stuart Iversen

Edinburgh Rugby has confirmed that lock Izak van der Westhuizen will return to South Africa at the end of the season.

The 28-year-old signed at the start of the 2012/13 campaign from Free State Cheetahs.  However, his debut season in the capital was hampered by an ankle injury.  Despite this he has since gone on to make 19 starts in 24 appearances for the club.

Westhuizen said: “Scotland will always have a special place for me and I’ll be able to look back on a lot of good times.”

While head coach Alan Solomons added: “Sakki has done a splendid job for us this year and will continue to do so until the end of the season.  An opportunity has presented itself back in his home country that suits him and his young family.  I’m sure he will make a valuable contribution to the Kings.”

Hibernian Ladies Coach Dies

By Stuart Iversen

Morgan Lynn, a coach at Hibernian Ladies football club, has died after falling from the roof of her fifth floor balcony hotel room in Spain.  The 25-year-old was on holiday in Benidorm with two female friends when the tragic accident occurred.

Local police and the foreign office have confirmed that Ms Lynn fell from the balcony at around 3am, after her and her companions returned to the Hotel Gala Placidia, where they were staying.

Her parents Kenny, 49, and Wenda, 48, were today too upset to talk about the tragedy.

The club is yet to comment.

Team Paralympics GB win first Winter Olympics gold.

Sochi 2014 Paralympic logo

Sochi 2014 Paralympic logo

By Stuart Iversen

Kelly Gallagher has won Britain’s very first gold in the Winter Paralympics.  She claimed victory in the impaired super-G in Sochi with the aid of her guide Charlotte Evans, in a time of one minute and 28.72 seconds.

The 28-year-old from Bangor in County Down had previously taken the silver medal at the World Championships in Spain last year, but went one better in Sochi taking home the gold.

It was a huge turnaround in fortunes for the pair, who on Saturday had finished last in the downhill event.

Gallagher said: “We came last so we really had to work to pick ourselves up.  It was really hard coming from downhill into Super-G because they are similar speed events.”

The gold medal was only the start of the good news for Team GB, as Jade Etherington and her guide Caroline Powell took bronze in the Super Giant Slalom, adding to the silver they had previously won on Saturday.

Scottish Hockey Look Abroad For International Success

Scottish Hockey Mens Senior Squad credit: Davis

Scottish Hockey Mens Senior Squad
Credit: Davis

By Jonathan Davis

Scottish Hockey National League One is not good enough to support international sport says Scotland Internationalist, Callum Duke.

19 capped Duke said: “The best Scottish players, don’t play in the Scottish league.”

20 of the 28 players listed in Scotland’s senior men’s squad currently play their club hockey outside of Scotland, leading to worries that the domestic game in Scotland is suffering.

Duke, previously of Hillhead HC and Edinburgh University currently plies his trade in Germany with Frankfurt 1880. Duke said: “In Germany, everything is so much more professional. Everyone in your team is much better and there is a lot more competition for places.

“Everything is better, the tempo, the ball speed, the speed of the game, the speed that things change – your thought process has to be much quicker.”

The trend of players moving abroad to play is something that has certainly increased over recent years. Duke said: “I think in the past two years, maybe three, the amount of players playing abroad has doubled.”

The strength of the domestic leagues in England, Germany and Holland is of such a higher standard that it is now the natural progression for any player aspiring for the top of the game. Duke said: “Purely on hockey terms, if you want to improve and push yourself to the highest level possible, I would 100% play abroad.”

On the matter, Scotland Senior Men’s National Team Manager, Eugene Connolly said: “This is the best thing thing for Scottish International Hockey.

“If I take the example of Ireland. Ireland adopted this policy several years ago and their best players were playing in Holland, Belgium, England and Germany. This meant that Ireland reached the dizzy heights of 5th in Europe in 2011, and 6th in 2013, but friends in Ireland say that sadly this has diminished the quality of Irish club and inter-provincial hockey.”

Connolly speaks of the ethical conflict whereby for smaller nations, what may be best for the national squad, may be harmful to the state of the domestic game.

For now at least, in the lead up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the vast majority of Scottish Internationals will have to fly back from their respective clubs abroad for full-time training in April.

Connolly said: “If you look at our national league this year, there has been a leveling down and the overall standard is lower.

“From a national point of view it is very good (to have Scottish players playing abroad), but from the club point of view it is less so. But the irony is that it has actually made for a more exciting and open league than we have had for many years.”

Froch And Groves Verbally Spar Over Rematch

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Froch (L) and Groves (R) do battle, Credit: Sky Sports

By Fraser Ryan

The controversy surrounding Saturday night’s WBA and IBF Super-middleweight title fight has refused to dissipate, after George Groves claimed Carl Froch would lose his ‘credibility’ by not accepting a rematch.

Froch retained his titles this past weekend after the pair’s fight in Manchester was marred by referee Howard Foster’s controversial decision to stop the fight in the ninth round. Groves had been dominating much of the action, but the fight was stopped after the first spell of sustained pressure by Froch appeared to have Groves on the ropes.

Groves expressed his frustration during an interview with BBC Radio Five Live. Groves said: “His [Froch's] credibility will be shot to pieces if he decides to go a different route apart from fighting me. I feel for boxing’s sake this rematch needs to take place or Carl Froch will retire. I understand if he wants to retire. He took a hell of a lot of punches in that fight, maybe lasting punches. For his health, he needs to get a full check to make sure he is fit to box if that is what he decides to do.”

Froch then responded through an interview with Sky Sports in which he stated while he would give Groves a rematch, the decision was ultimately not up to him. Froch said: “I’m happy to honour the crowd, fans and George Groves with a rematch, if my trainer and promoter both agree. I don’t swerve or duck anybody. If George wants a rematch and it makes sense, then of course we’ll get it on. It’s not my decision.”

Promoter Eddie Hearn has said he is hopeful of booking the rematch next year, claiming it could be one of the biggest fights in UK history. Hearns said: “We have had a number of approaches from football clubs and outdoor stadiums… I think Froch v Groves II would be the biggest grossing outdoor boxing event of all time in this country.”

Celtic Humbled by Rampant Milan

Kaka celebrates his opening goal Creidt: Eurosport

Kaka celebrates his opening goal
Creidt: Eurosport

By Hamza Jabir

Defensive errors see team ‘contribute to their own downfall.’

Celtic’s Champions league campaign came to an abrupt end last night after a 3-0 home defeat to AC Milan. The comprehensive defeat cuts Neil Lennon’s side adrift at the bottom of group H with Ajax’ suprise 2-1 victory over Barcelona in Amsterdam meaning third place and the consolation of Europa League football after Christmas is an impossibility.

The Scottish champions went into the game with confidence due to apparent state of turmoil in their opponent’s camp. Milan did not have their troubles to seek after the club’s worst start to a domestic season in over three decades compounded by a supporters protest following Saturdays 1-1 home draw with lowly Chievo. However, Kaka and company rose to the occasion in emphatic style to boost their chances of qualification.

Neil Lennon was only stating the obvious when he attributed the defeat to a combination of school boy defending and profligacy in attack. First Kaka, then Christian Zapata took full advantage of Celtic’s disjointed zonal marking from corners to net with Mario Balloteli completing the rout late on. Virgil Van Dijk missed what can only be described as a sitter, hammering straight into Milan keeper, Christian Abbiati’s arms from six yards out. Beram Kayal, Charlie Mulgrew and Giorgios Samaras also squandered good opportunities.

Lennon said: “I do not think we were outplayed. Big moments in the game changed the course of the game and the psychology of the game. Milan took their chances when they came along. We had opportunities through Kayal, Mulgrew, Van Dijk and Forrest and snatched at them. That was the difference. I think tonight is symptomatic of our campaign – we missed good chances and I am really disappointed with the two goals we conceded from corners, I take a lot of pride in that and that’s the first time for a long time that someone has scored directly from a header against us.”

Despite his side’s European exit ,Lennon vowed to come back again next year for another crack at the Champions League group stage. He said this would preferably be done with a stronger squad.

Lennon said: “We had already lost some big players – Adam Matthews, Scott Brown, Nir Biton – and losing Kayal as well tonight, that’s three midfielders out of five. When your squad is not as big as some other squads it does tend to bite you. If we want to look to the future and continue to play in the Champions League then we have to improve the squad we have now and we have to improve our recruitment for next year. It’s never a forgone conclusion that you’re going to be in the Champions League. We do have some money and we want to spend it, preferably in the January window. We knew when the draw was made how difficult it was going to be. But we competed and we have competed again tonight. We will do everything we can to come back and compete again next year –that’s the target.”

Ronaldo to the Fore as Portugal Qualify

By Hamza Jabir

image source: Alex Morton/Action Images

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a devastating hattrick to ensure Portugal’s place at next years world Cup Finals in Brazil after a 3-2 win over Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden.

The tie had been billed as the battle between the two superstars, and for once the subjects lived up to the hype. Ronaldo opened the scoring on 50 minutes after latching onto a Joao Moutinho through ball and finishing ruthlessly to double Portugal’s one goal advantage from the first leg, also scored by Ronaldo.

Sweden rallied round their talisman Ibrahimovic and the PSG striker looked to have set up an unlikely turn around, grabbing two goals in 4 mintues. A close range header and a thunderous freekick meant the Swedes needed just one more goal to qualify. However two more clinical strikes by the Real Madrid man secured the victory and sadly for the neutral ensured Ibrahimovic will not feature at what would almost certainly have been his last World Cup.

In the other three European play offs, France overturned a two goal deficit by defeating Ukraine 3-0 in Paris. Goals from  Sakho,  Benzema and a Gusev own goal ensuring a historic win for ‘les Bleus’. Ten man Croatia ended Iceland’s fairytale with a 2-0 victory in Zagreb following a 0-0 draw in the first leg and Greece progressed 4-2 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw with Romania in Bucharest.

In the African qualifiers, Ghana progressed despite a 2-1 defeat to Egypt in Cairo, with the game little more than a formality after the black Stars 6-1 first leg victory in October. They are joined by Algeria after a Majid Bougherra header was enough to ensure an away goals victory over Burkina Faso after a 3-2 reverse in the first leg. Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Cameroon make up the rest of the contingent from the continent.

An Oribe Peralta hatrick ensured Mexico completed their rout of New Zealand with a 4-2 win in Wellington following on from last weeks 5-1 success. The final place at the finals is to be decided tonight as Urugauy host Jordan in Montevideo, however the tie is little more than a formality after the hosts 5-0 victory in Amman.

There was a mixed bag of results for the home nations with England, Scotland and Ireland all in friendly action last night. Scotland continued their revival under Gordan Strachan with a smash and grab victory over Norway in Oslo. A second half Scott Brown strike prolonging his sides unbeaten run to four games.

There was no such luck for Roy Hogdson’s England as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat to rivals Germany. A Per Mertesaker header consigning England to back to back Wembley defeats for the first time since 1972. Finally, Martin O’neil continued his solid start as Ireland boss with a 0-0 draw against Poland.

Bravehearts Triumph

Danny Brough was born in England but represents Scotland

Danny Brough was born in England but represents Scotland

By Stuart Iversen

Scotland claimed a remarkable 26-24 victory over Tonga last night at the Rugby League World Cup.  Having initially surged into a 20-4 lead at the break the Scots looked like they had been pinned back as Tonga scored four consecutive tries after the restart to take a 24-20 lead.  However, a last ditch Matty Russell try clinched a famous victory for the Bravehearts.

After the match Scotland coach Steve McCormack stated: “In the last 10 we held firm. My heart was in my mouth and I was not sitting comfortably, but we found a way to win. I am very proud to be associated with that.”

The Scotland team had previously courted some controversy, as only two players are associated to Scotland by birth and the rest are eligible through bloodlines. That didn’t stop them giving a compelling performance in wet and windy conditions at Derwent Park, where the largest crowd since 1994 gathered to witness the Scots victory in dramatic fashion.

The make up of the international squad draws comparisons to recent comments by Jack Wilshere, involving the English football team and the potential inclusion of Adnan Januzaj.

Wilshere controversially stated that only players born in England should be able to play for the international team.  An opinion that drew criticism from South-African born, English international cricketer Kevin Pieterson.

Tonga’s coach Charlie Tonga described the shock defeat as “a bit of a wake up call.”  Before going on to say “we now have to regroup and ask the boys to go out and do their best for the rest of the tournament.”

Meanwhile Scotland must now focus on Sunday’s return to Derwent Park for a match again Italy where they will be hoping to mantain their early momentum.

Kenyan athletes falls under the WADA microscope

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Increase in suspensions for Kenyan athletes using banned drugs.

By Rachael Bell

17 Kenyan athletes have been suspended for using performance enhancers since January 2012. This is a significant increase from only 2  between 2010 and 2012.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has said that it is ‘very frustrated’ with the Kenyan authorities. They are accused of failing to carry out a full inquiry of the alarming surge in athletes taking banned drugs. The issue will be brought up at the WADA world conference next month, which will be held in Johannesburg. The conference will focus on doping in sports. WADA have authority to rule if they are non-compliant with its code, but the organisation has no power to directly sanction the athletes. The International Olympic Committee are responsible for deciding if athletes are allowed to compete in future Olympic events.

Kenya’s government and national track Olympic organisations assured WADA’s president in October 2012 that they would appoint a task force to look into allegations of an emerging doping culture. WADA are still waiting for this action to be taken. The director of WADA’s African office, Rodney Swigelaar, has not been happy with the response, “We are very frustrated. It’s more than a year now since we went there and even longer since the rumours started.”  He also commented, “We have been extremely patient. Wherever these things happen, it’s our role to go in there and ask what is wrong and why people are not complying with the code.”

This week, the Head of Kenyan Athletics, Isaiah Kiplagat, stated “I can assure everyone that the government commission will start its work soon. We are hoping to start work before the WADA conference.” He added,  “Compared to other countries we do not have a serious problem.” Despite these remarks, WADA could decide to set up an independant audit of Kenya.

Increase in suspensions has lead to rumours of a widespread doping culture in Kenya. Last October a German TV investigation claimed that doctors in Kenya were suppling athletes with  banned drugs in return for a percentage of their winnings. Similar allegations were also made prior to the London 2012 Olympics. Moses Kiptanui, one of Kenyan’s greatest distance runners, spoke out in February to say he believed that the country had a major problem. Kiplagat gave a one week ultimatum for all foreign athletic coaches working in Kenya without permits to leave. He accuses them of being responsible for the latest drug use rumours.

The nearest WADA accredited blood testing laboratory is in South Africa. This has been a problem for Kenya. It makes collecting, transporting and analysing samples very difficult. The International Association of Athletics Federation carried out 725 tests on Kenyan athletes – 307 in competition and 418 out of competition. These numbers represent the increase in the scrutiny of  the countries top runners.

Edinburgh Derby Pre-Match Preview

Billy Brown

Billy Brown

By Hamza Jabir

Billy Brown claims pressure is all on ‘underachieving’ Hibs.

The build up to tonight’s Edinburgh derby took a tense turn yesterday as both camps indulged in a bout of mind games.

Hearts assistant manager Billy Brown opened the exchange by asserting that the pressure is all on Hibs manager Pat Fenlon and his side. He drew particular attention to the gulf in terms of experience between both sides, adding that he believed Hibs were underachieving given the quality of players at the club.

“I don’t think at this level there are any games with no pressure but Hibs are at home, there are not many young players in their team and they are playing a young team.  With the squad they’ve got you’d be expecting to be up in the top three or four so the expectations of the club are higher than where the team is at the moment.” said Brown.

“Reading the papers and listening to everyone, they are not giving us a chance. I would think if there is any extra pressure in a game like this, its not at this end of the city.”

Hibs captain James McPake questioned the substance behind Brown’s assertions and believes it is too early in the season to judge if his side are struggling to fulfill their potential.

“Billy said the exact same when he was here – that the pressure was all on Hearts!” said McPake.

“If the plan is to get into people’s minds then fair enough but I’ve got a lot more on my mind than listening to people say there is pressure on me.

“He might say we’re underachieving but is it two games in 10 we’ve lost? Again, that’s his opinion but I don’t need Billy Brown or anybody else to tell me how big this football club is.”

Hibs boss Fenlon was blunt with his reply when asked about Brown’s comments.

He said, “I’m not too interested in what he (Brown) has to say, i am just concentrating on my own club and getting us prepared for Wednesday night.”

“League games more important than Cup Final” – Pat Fenlon before Dons clash

Hibernian manager Pat Fenlon spoke to our sports reporter Joe Birchenall ahead of his sides fixture tonight at Easter Road. Fenlon’s charges face Aberdeen, a side who they have not beaten in the league since May last year. However, Hibs face the Dons on the back of a thrilling Scottish Cup semi-final win against Falkirk, which saw them claim a 4 – 3 victory despite finishing the first half three goals down. Fenlon, however, is keen to push on and to focus on remaining league games, saying he is disappointed to have finished outside of the top six.

Fenlon also discusses the breakthrough of youngsters Alex Harris and Danny Handling, his reaction to Neil Lennon’s SFA woes and the imminent departure of Hibs top scorer Leigh Griffiths.

Daley Triumphs in Edinburgh

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Teenage diver Tom Daley left Edinburgh with a win after finishing first in the 10m platform final in the World Diving Series on Sunday.

The 18 year old Olympian, who took home a bronze medal at London 2012, came out on top of a four man field, producing a high-scoring final dive to seal his victory.

Daly admitted that the win will give him a boost after a post-Olympic slump. “It’s great for where I am right now in my training cycle and the whole four-year cycle,” he said. “To be scoring so high at this stage in the game isn’t quite surprising because I knew I could do it but it does come as quite a nice reward after all the work I’ve been putting in.“

“I haven’t necessarily been seeing the rewards in training recently so to come here and dive well gives you that extra boost”.

Daley was competing in only his second major event since the London Olympics last summer. After a sluggish start to the competition he was cheered to victory by the Edinburgh crowd, producing a great fightback to overtake his Russian rival Victor Minibaev with a final score of 542.15.

The World Diving Series took place at Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Pool this weekend. It was the first major event hosted at the pool since its recent refurbishment at the cost of £37m.

Chris Hoy Retires From International Cycling

By Steven Robson

Chris Hoy announces retirement in Edinburgh.

Chris Hoy announces retirement in Edinburgh.

Britain’s most decorated Olympian has today announced his decision to retire from international cycling.

Sir Chris Hoy, 37, had a very successful 2012, after winning his fifth and sixth Olympic gold medals in the team sprint and keirin events. He also set the Olympic record in London for the 750 metres team sprint by managing a time of 42.600 seconds.

The Edinburgh-born athlete had hoped to compete for Scotland in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, but said his fitness would not allow it.

Speaking to the country’s media at Murrayfield stadium, Hoy said: “Nothing would have given me more pleasure than to have been at Glasgow 2014, but I don’t want to make up the numbers.

“It’s a hard time – one moment at the end of your career when you have to say enough is enough.”

Hoy does not believe, however, that his decision will hinder Scotland’s medal chances in Glasgow: “It’s not as if it’s a one man band. I’ve had my time in the sun, it’s time to let other athletes have their share. It will be a successful Commonwealth Games.”

Speaking of what the future might hold, the six-time Olympic Champion said that he would become an advisor to both the Scottish cycling team and the Scottish Rugby Union, as well as charity work, but quashed speculation that he may take on a great outdoor cycle route: “I’m not going to be cycling around the world.”

Asked what he thought his greatest career moment had been, he said: “To stand on the podium in Athens and to hear your name followed by Olympic Champion – that is what it is all about. But to cap it all off with my sixth gold medal – that was a special day too.”

Hoy said he would still be based in Manchester but would not rule out moving back to Edinburgh at some stage; he added: “I am going to cycle for the rest of my life, and I look forward to getting others to do that too.”

Hoy’s wife Sarra summed up the mood: “It is very emotional, but it is good to come out in the open and announce it.”

Spartans “disappointed” at league reconstruction

by Joseph Birchenall

Edinburgh community club The Spartans FC have expressed disappointment at the SPL’s failure to reach an agreement on leaugue reconstruction.badge

Depsite the fact that the club plays in the East of Scotland league, they have released the following statement:

“We are very disappointed to learn of the outcome of today’s SPL vote on league reconstruction. Like many involved in Scottish football, Spartans believe that something significant is needed if we are to safeguard and develop the game in this country. As an ambitious club we had, obviously, welcomed the idea of a pyramid structure and the prospect that our national leagues would become inclusive rather than exclusive. We had believed that other clubs felt the same and that this time action would accompany the rhetoric.

However, while this decision was disappointing, like all forward-thinking clubs, we will continue to look for opportunities to progress and strengthen the sport for all and endeavour to work with like-minded clubs to make it more equitable.”

We interviewed Spartans FC Chairman Craig Graham today:

D-Day for Dunfermline

by Tom Freeman

Dunfermline Athletic Football club could be plunged into administration tomorrow.

Today marks the deadline set by HMRC for the football club to pay a tax bill of £134,000. Yesterday the steering group set up to ensure short-term financial stability at the Pars admitted they had “run out of options.”

Club owner Gavin Masterton and the board met non-footballing staff this morning and will make a statement on the club’s future tomorrow.

On saturday goalkeeper Paul Gallacher told the club’s website:

“The Club is dying on its knees in front of me. It is disappointing to see and you just hope that somebody can come in with a package to get us out of this. It is really trying times. Hopefully over the weekend something can happen that can see us through to the end of the season.” It appears no potential saviour has come forward, and it is expected the club will release a statement later today.

Kevin McRoberts, of the Fife Free Press told us “The most likely outcome now is administration. I’m resigned to the fact that if I haven’t already seen their last game, then it’ll be Wednesday”

Our full interview with McRoberts here:

New Coaches – A Boost for Scottish Hockey

(Scottish Hockey)

(C) Scottish Hockey

Scottish Hockey has made its first announcement as part of the Professional Coaching Programme this week. Three coaches have been selected to work on a full-time basis with National League clubs.

The Professional Coaching Programme aims to improve the quality of hockey players in Scotland.

This will lead to stronger National League competitions and result in Scotland becoming more competitive at international level.

After a successful application three candidates were chosen to begin the programme.

Chris Anderson will coach Grove Menzieshill’s men, Sandy Keith will be in charge of Granite City Wanderers’ women, and John McKnight will be coaching men at Clydesdale Hockey Club.

Director of Scottish Hockey, Lee Cousins, believes their appointment will be rewarding in the long term. He believes that this programme will not only benefit players already affiliated to local hockey clubs, but will also help university players dreaming of becoming professionals.

Shaun Miller, men’s hockey captain at Edinburgh Napier University, believes the developments in coaching and a switch in focus to encourage the younger generation are necessary for the development of Scottish hockey

He said: “I think at school level we are missing out on a lot of people, I know at my old school hockey wasn’t anything big.

“They are starting to do it more at primary level but previously if you were not at a private high school you miss out. You almost get forced into the rugby and football background.”

The Professional Coaching Programme was established with the help of Aberdeen Asset Management. Its contribution is the largest ever investment in the development and growth of hockey in Scotland.

These developments are the beginning of Sport Scotland’s “Coaching Scotland 2011-15” strategy. The funding will ensure coaches are financially supported, allowing them to dedicate themselves to the improvement of Scottish hockey.

This is the beginning of a long process for Scottish hockey and the results of the new effort will only become evident after several years.

Miller believes there are already causes for optimism.

He said: “Scottish hockey is catching up. I’ve noticed that Scottish players are getting more recognition at international level. It’s becoming a bigger sport especially after the Olympics.

“For a smaller country we are getting there slowly. We are beginning to be recognised again.”

Audio Interview:

shiv das interview with napeir shaun Miller hockey1st xi captain – shaun miller

Scottish Rugby Hopes and Fears in Upcoming Lions Selection

Scotland Internationals will be looking to impress in the upcoming Six Nations tournament in order to be considered for British and Irish Lions selection for the Tour of Australia in June 2013.

In the wake of the main coaching position appointments, which saw Warren Gatland given the reigns as Head Coach, speculation surrounding future selection ensues. Gatland was joined by Andy Farrell, Graham Rowntree and Rob Howley as his assistants.

Nostalgic reflection upon past Scottish influence on Lions tours always flags up the great tour to Australia in 1989, where unbelievably compared to the present day state of Scottish rugby; all key figures in the team were Scottish. Led by Captain Finlay Calder, Head Coach Ian McGeechan and top scorer Gavin Hastings, the Lions triumphed in a 2-1 series victory. In subsequent tours in 1993 and 1997, the structure was much the same with a very large Scottish influence.

In recent years, starting with the 2001 tour, the amount of Scottish players and coaches has rapidly fallen. An obvious reflection of how Scotland’s on pitch success has been scarce at best. Since 2001 Scotland has never had more than four players selected for the squad. In 2009, initially there was only two in the form of Euan Murray and Nathan Hines. The additional two players were only added because of injury to other players.

When considering the potential Scotland candidates for the latest tour, Scottish hopes are slim at best. Many analysts and pundits, such as Jeremy Guscott ,only put second row Ritchie Gray as a Scot who should be selected. Anybody else has an outside chance at best.

Richie Gray wins his 26th Cap © AOL/SRU

Lions hopeful Ritchie Gray in Action. © AOL/SRU

However, SRU is optimistic:

“Scottish players who should be in contention for the Lions are winger Tim Visser, Lock Ritchie Gray and former Lion Euan Murray”. He went on to mention that players with an outside chance are Davie Denton, Mike Blair and Ryan Grant.

Regardless of the selection that does take place after the Six Nations in May, Scotland will undoubtedly continue to be the Home Nation with the lowest number of Lion selections. A painful truth for Scotland rugby fans which has been endured since 1997.

After dismal results and performances in the Autumn tests, the future looks bleak for the kind of impact Scottish players can be expected to make on the Lion’s squad. However, Warren Gatland comments that: “his coaching staff have planned selection meetings for pre, mid and post Six Nations.”

This emphasises the importance for Scottish hopefuls to impress during the Six Nations in order to get selectors interested and boost the morale of Scottish fans everywhere.

Champs Or Chumps? – BBC Sports Personality Of The Year 2012

Sports Personality Trophy.

Sports Personality Trophy.

The 59th edition of the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Award is almost upon us.

On 16th December we will find out who has won the annual prize that is never far from controversy.

There is no doubt that 2012 has been a special year for British sport, but only one person can be chosen as the winner.

Provided the BBC don’t bottle it, ignore the panel and give the prize to ‘Team GB’ due to the mere fact that we hosted the Olympic Games, this should be a very close contest thanks to the number of incredible achievements from British sportsmen and women this year.

Unsurprisingly the list is overwhelmingly Olympic- and Paralympic-centric – just one of the twelve nominees, Rory McIlroy, did not win a medal at London 2012.

Primarily because he couldn’t.

We asked Edinburgh residents who they would vote for and here are the top three:

1. Andy Murray

2. Bradley Wiggins

3. Jessica Ennis

Having voted for their ‘champs’ of 2012, we also polled people about who their ‘chumps’ of the year would be – we offered a list of sporting pariahs from the last twelve months and here’s what the capital’s citizens told us:

1. John Terry

2. Lance Armstrong

3. Hulk Hogan

Who would feature on your alternative shortlist? Was your favourite Olympic or Paralympic athlete absent?

Get in touch via our Facebook or Twitter page and let us know who would get your vote.

Olympic Athlete Unable to Train in Edinburgh

Napier Graduate Lynsey Sharp was turned away from Meadowbank Stadium this week as result of poor ground management.

The Olympic athlete who performed well in the Olympics over the summer, progressing to the semi-final of the 800m, has complained about the lack of professional facilities in Edinburgh.

Sharp said: “The sports facilities in Edinburgh are not up to scratch. Essentially, the track was closed and I couldn’t do my session because the groundsman was on holiday this week”.

Due to the adverse weather conditions this week the Meadowbank track was frozen.  However there is equipment available to de-ice tracks. If the facility had better ground management processes in place, Sharp could have trained despite the frosty conditions.

In June of this year Sharp, who graduated with a 2:1 in Law, was a model student and athlete who successfully managed to balance her intensive study and training.

Sharp Gets Set at Graduation Picture © Edinburgh Evening News.

The Napier Union president Tom Zanelli commented on the matter:

“Well to be honest I think it’s pretty disgraceful that the weather should have any effect on training facilities at that level”.

Sharp is one of the best athletes in Scotland, if not the UK, who needs to train daily. It is extremely important for athletes to follow a specific training programme routinely, therefore for one days training to be completely ruined it can severely affect development.

In further reflection on the incident Zanelli claimed:

“It’s something that needs to be addressed before younger, talented Scottish sportspeople move away down South due to poor facilities”.

In Edinburgh and indeed Scotland this kind of occurrence is not an isolated incident. There is the common opinion amongst elite athletes that Edinburgh Council and the Government withhold funding for sport. As a result, facilities such as Meadowbank are under staffed and outdated.

However government officials claim that a huge amount of funding has been injected into Glasgow in the build-up to the 2014 commonwealth games. Therefore as an unfortunate side effect of this it is apparent that facilities in Edinburgh are falling behind.

The newly elected Edinburgh Napier University Sports president Dan Parker took a more measured approach to problems with sporting venues in the city:

“Scottish weather has a negative effect on our teams and athletes. It hampers training and competition, from October onwards venues become flooded and frozen on nearly a weekly basis”.

What is worrying about this incident and the overall issue with sport in the capital city is that our home grown talent are constantly faced with barriers whether it be our local sporting facilities struggling to cope with the adverse weather, 0r simply a lack of funding made available to elite or amateur sportsmen and women.

Sharp admitted that when she has been unable to access the appropriate training places in the past due to poor weather conditions, she has been forced to train in a walkway which used to be an old railway. A rubbish strewn and dimly lit tunnel is hardly the kind of place an Olympic athlete should be training.

One of Edinburgh Napier’s strength and conditioning coaches, and past football professional, Alex Rawcliffe described the revelation as, “pathetic”.

He went on to say, “More of an effort should be made to implement preventative methods of reducing the effects of snow, ice, rain. It would be great if Scottish sport had access to more funding however most sports persons know that if they want quality services and facilities, they have to travel great distances to get them”.

If the Scottish government has a lack of available funding for the capital’s sporting centres then it is imperative that the organisation and structure of what is available is improved immediately.

Sharp, in one of her latest Twitter posts said “It would appear that, overnight, the groundsman is back from his holiday and they have acquired equipment to de-ice the track”.

The personnel in charge of procedures must be more urgent with their response to adverse weather conditions, otherwise our best athletes will continue to be at a disadvantage.

Edinburgh Looking for Revenge in Heineken Cup

visser

© SNS Scotland

French side Racing Metro visit Murrayfield tomorrow night as Edinburgh look to avenge last week’s defeat in the Heineken Cup.

Edinburgh have made eight changes to the side that lost in France.

Scottish centre Ben Cairns returns after long-term injury. As Edinburgh’s all-time top try scorer in the competition, he is a welcome addition to a team struggling for points.

Cairns is joined in the back line by New Zealand centre Ben Atiga, whilst Piers Francis and Chris Leck form a new half-back combination. Lee Jones and Dougie Fife have been brought in to replace injured wingers Tom Brown and Tim Visser.

Robert McAlpine replaces Sean Cox in the pack, joining forces with his former Scotland age-grade colleague, Grant Gilchrist, in the second-row.

Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley could not explain how his side lost 19-9 at Racing Metro last week, slumping to their third defeat in the competition.

Following last season’s surprise surge into semi-finals, Edinburgh have failed to win qualification from the group stages.

Tomorrow’s game offers the team an opportunity for an improved performance ahead of their Pro12 double header against Glasgow Warriors.

We spoke to Scotland Centre Matt Scott and Edinburgh Second Row Robert McAlpine ahead of the clash.

scott12

Matt Scott © Edinburgh Rugby 2012

mcalpine12

Rob McAlpine © Edinburgh Rugby 2012

What was the feeling amongst the squad after last Saturday’s defeat to Racing Metro?

Matt Scott – It was a feeling of great disappointment and frustration as we felt we played good enough rugby to win the game. Rugby games at this level are won by small margins, and unfortunately we didn’t get the majority of these small margins right.

Rob McAlpine – Everyone was pretty gutted after the defeat in Paris, the game was for the taking. We provided enough scoring opportunities to win the game, but didn’t manage to convert those opportunities into points. It was disappointing.

Is the pressure now off for tomorrow’s game with qualification looking unlikely, or are players still feeling the stress of the situation?

MS – I don’t think the pressure is ever really off when playing professional rugby. There has been quite a few changes for this game, and the new players that have come in will be looking to stamp down a marker for selection in the upcoming games.

RM – No, there is no pressure off at all. We are desperate to put in a performance against Racing Metro at home, and we owe it to our fans and supporters to get a result. Having the home advantage is a great help and we should hopefully get a result.

What has training been like this week, have you been working on anything in particular?

MS – Training has been tough as everyone is keen to get a win on the board in the Heineken cup. We have targeted a few areas that Racing are weak in, so the boys will be looking to exploit those.

RM – Training has been really good this week, especially with players stepping in and playing that have been out injured. Netani Talei (Fiji), Ben Atiga (All Blacks), Ben Cairns (Scotland), and Dimitri Basilaia (Georgia) all step in after time out injured.

What have the coaches been saying ahead of tomorrow’s game?

MS – They have been willing us to get a win in front of our own fans, particularly to gain some momentum going into the two Glasgow games, which are going to be really important in our season.

RM – .. Can’t answer too much about strategy..

Personally what do you think can be done tomorrow to get a result?

MS – I think if we get our set piece delivery better and hold on to the ball we will cause them all sorts of problems. They are a huge side and don’t like being moved around. Murrayfield is a particularly large pitch, so I’m sure you will see us using that on Friday.

RM – Racing Metro have a big forward pack and being able to move the point of contact and play a quick game we should expose weaknesses and create opportunities to score.

Finally, if you get a result tomorrow what kind of confidence would that give the team going forward?

MS – It would be great for momentum to get a win, especially against a team of racing’s calibre.

RM - The win would give us massive confidence going into the 1872 cup (Glasgow Edinburgh back to back matches) and will hopefully allow us to pick up where we left off in the Rabo Pro 12. Two wins from two against Glasgow would put us right back up in the mix in the table.

SCOTLAND’S MEN EXIT EUROPEAN CURLING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Tom Brewster at the European Curling Championships.

Tom Brewster © WCF Richard Gray 2012

Scotland’s teams have been enjoying mixed fortunes at the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships in Karlstad, Sweden.

The men’s team, skipped by Aberdeen’s Tom Brewster (above), struggled in their first European outing and were eliminated yesterday in the final day of group-stage play.

Despite winning their final game 8-5 against Hungary, the Scottish men were left with an overall record of four wins and five losses – they had to settle for a seventh place finish in a group of ten teams.

While this ensures qualification for this season’s World Championship in Canada, it was well below the high expectations of the team back home – Brewster and his rink were 2011 and 2012 Scottish champions and they have two World silver medals to their name.

For the 2012/13 season, Team Brewster have welcomed David Murdoch to their ranks –a move that has not gone down well with many curling fans.

The results from Karlstad furthered this criticism but Tom Brewster was defensive of Olympian and two-time world champion Murdoch: “We’ve not had a great season for various reasons. A lot of people are going to say it’s because we brought Dave into the team, but that’s got absolutely nothing to do with it.

“We’re just not making enough shots and that’s all. We’ve changed techniques, we’ve changed our style of play, and we’ve altered quite a few things. We’re still getting to grips with that and hopefully, come the Scottish Championships in February, we’ll be making more of the right shots. We have changed a lot and that takes time”

Brewster was realistic about his team’s performance over the week and reflected on how personally disappointing the event had been: “Qualification? That’s great. But ultimately we didn’t come here just to do that, we came here to win medals and we’re disappointed we’re not in the play-offs. At the end of the day we’re in this game to win medals, not just qualify. This is the first international competition I’ve been at and never medalled, so I feel not all that good about it”.

Scotland’s women, meanwhile, have had a great deal more success so far than their male counterparts.

Scotland's Women's curling team.

Scotland Women © WCF Richard Gray 2012

Eve Muirhead’s team (above) won gold at the Europeans in Moscow in 2011 and, as defending champions, they have looked hungry for a repeat performance.

Having beaten Russia this morning, Scotland conclude their group-stage campaign with seven wins and just two losses. This has earned them a play-off berth against home crowd favourites Sweden tomorrow afternoon – comfortable qualification for the World Championship in Latvia was secured several games earlier.

After this morning’s game, Muirhead said: “We came out sharp. We got the hammer and we took our two in the first end. Their three came out of nowhere – she played two perfect shots and got three on the measure. But we didn’t let that faze us, it wasn’t the end of the game so we got our two back and forced when we had to force, and got the ideal situation at the end”.

“We controlled it. I think even just our body language showed that we wanted it more. All in all, a solid performance by all of us. Our goal was to get into the 1-2 game, which we’ve done. The girls are playing great and leaving me simple shots, which I like”.

“Staying up in the premier league is not as easy as people think”

Dunfermline face Dundee United tomorrow. Propping up the premiere league, every game counts. Jim Leishman, ex-player and director of football at Dunfermline, talks relegation, Rangers and a rough year.

“With football you’ve got to get results. We’re bottom of the league. A lot of times its not just the manager’s fault. It would be totally unfair to say were bottom of the league because Jim MacIntyre’s not a good manager. Just eight months before, he won the first division championship and it was great. I was part of the celebrations, I saw the delight in the families, I saw the delight of the players.

“Loads of things determine what league position you are. If you’ve got 3 million pounds to spend on players and you’re still at the bottom of the league you can get judged, it’s your fault.

“In Jim MacIntyre’s case he had loads of injuries. He brought players in and some of the top players were getting injured within two games. Now that is just real hard luck. But the public judge on league positions, and results and unfortunately Jim paid the price for that.”

Is there still time for Jim Jefferies to save Dunfermline from relegation?

“When I took over we had three games to go and we were bottom and we managed to stay up. Jim’s got seven chances to keep us up. So we’ve just got to start winning and believing this week.

“Hopefully he’s better than me. That’s the objective; try to give the players a lift, a new voice a new idea. Hopefully it works in a positive way.”

“Would you have liked to be the manager?”

“No, dinnae! I’ve worn that t-shirt, been there, seen it, done it, and you know – no.”

Because the blame’s laid at the manager’s door?

“I get the blame for everything anyway. It doesn’t bother me now! No, it does. It upsets you. No, I’ve been a manager since twenty-nine, I’ve done loads of things. So I’m content with what I’ve done. I’m fine with the director role. Would I like to be in charge of real Madrid?” a dubious pause and Jim starts laughing. “No as big as the pars. I’m with the big team.”

Has Rangers paid off its full debt to Dunfermline?

“We’re due 83 thousand pounds, and we’ve received 40 thousand pounds. The other moneys on its way in April sometime. The (Pars) players have been paid their basic salary. There’s still due some money for bonus and appearance money which were hoping to get that paid as soon as we can.”

Does he think the future of Scottish football is in trouble?

“It’s been a strange year, talking about league reconstruction, going down to ten, going up to sixteen, staying at twelve. I think that started to become a negative, chatting about that all the time. I don’t think that helps.

“When you do your budgets at the start, you estimate how many supporters are gonna come through the gate. For different reasons this year, we haven’t achieved those figures.

Our first game we expected seven or eight thousand people. Then they changed it from the Saturday to the Monday evening. And we get five and a half. Then Hibbs, estimated 6000, but averaged 4100. So that was harsh. We lost that revenue, we had a postponed game, storm damage and them the Rangers thing hit. So these are things that you don’t plan for.”

Was scoring the last winning goal at Ibrox one of your career highlights?

“That was great. That was forty years ago, April 72, thats the last time they won at Ibrox.”

“But it does mean that if Dunfermline win now against Rangers, your record is broken.”

“They better not! No, of course you want them to win, but, I just milk it, I’ve had some good fun with it. Everybody expects me to say that now, but it was a great achievement. I was only young at the time, eh? We won four-three, I scored the first goal it was great,. Loads of things. I was a Dunfermline supporter, and signing for the club was an amazing feature. Promotion as a player. Promotion as a manager. Nowadays, staying up in the premiere league is a major feature. Its not as easy as people think.”

Lennon’s nail bombers convicted

Trevor Muirhead, 44, and Neil McKenzie, 42, have been convicted of plotting a nail bomb attack against Celtic manager Neil Lennon after a five week trial at Glasgow High Court.

The men were found guilty of conspiring to send the package. The pieces of mail they sent last year were designed to injure but actually the devices could not explode. McKenzie got “bomb making” tips from US television show The A-Team.

A bank of evidence was mounted against the two, including recordings from a police bug in McKenzie’s car which taped him boasting about “building a bomb”.

There is also CCTV footage of the unemployed builder buying parts including nails for the packages from local shops.

They had previously faced an allegation of conspiracy to murder before it was dropped.

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