From Back To Scrum: The Alteration Of Tom Youngs

10 11 2012

England kick-off of their autumn internationals this Saturday with a modest test against Fiji. The bruising encounter against the Flying Fijians will prove an initial examination for Stuart Lancaster to discover just how prepared his inexperienced side are before the triple-header against the world’s top three. These tests will not be encountered flippantly. World rankings in other sports might be farcical and maligned, but for England it is pivotal to ensure they remain in the top four before the 2015 World Cup seedings are formulated come the end of this year. This is to ensure their passage through the group stage is as feasible as possible, and avoiding the powerhouses such as New Zealand prematurely. England need to showcase to the fans that they have learnt from their mistakes from the Six Nations and South Africa. When Lancaster announced his team on Thursday morning, the name on the team sheet for the Fijian game which has caused most intrigue is that of Youngs. Not Ben, however, who has returned from injury quicker than expected; but his older brother Tom.

The boys grew up on a farm in Norfolk and were always destined to play rugby. Their father Nick played scrum-half and represented the Red Roses on six occasions. Ben Youngs told fond anecdotes at the team’s hotel in Surrey on Thursday how the two brothers would play ‘attack vs. defence’ out in the fields. Tom’s younger brother happily admitted he did not have the farming endeavour of his sibling, and how this grit and fortitude drove him to make it as a professional. Tom recollects how his first game at hooker went “I remember playing my first 90 minutes for Nottingham and just running around like a headless chicken. I wanted to become the best hooker in the Championship, and making sure I set little goals has been important in my career.”

Remarkably, his career has not followed the archetypal rugby path because Youngs converted from playing as a centre to the front-row. After the suggestion from former Leicester Tigers Coach Heyneke Meyer’s that both he and the club would have faith in him if he made the move, Youngs was given a few weeks to deliberate the decision “My dad said: ‘It’s your career, your life. Go ahead and do it if you want to give it a shot.” A move to Nottingham on dual registration allowed him the freedom to learn the arts in the lower division. “It was a matter of setting small targets and taking small steps. I had my head shoved up my arse on more than one occasion, but I was always able to go back to Leicester and talk things through with the top players there.” He also ensured his coaches reviewed tapes of his games and were analytical on his performance; keen to seek out where he was making mistakes. Was there much hesitation in his decision to alter position? “I was a hard-running centre who enjoyed tackling and knew how to pick a decent line, but I couldn’t kick. I didn’t have the skills to really make the grade in midfield. I’m glad I made the switch, although I wouldn’t say it’s been easy.” His first outing as a number two was actually against his parent club in a friendly; an occasion he is not likely to forget in a hurry “The Leicester front row that day was Marcos Ayerza, George Chuter and Martin Castrogiovanni, all of them internationals. I was on painkillers for a week.”

Brothers In Arms – Ben and Tom Youngs.

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The Crazy Spending Of The January Transfer Window

13 10 2011

The transfer window is a period the tabloids love with their continuous volumes of rumours to fuel the avid fan with belief his team is going to invest heavily in a top class forward, finally. The window at the turn of the year is traditionally one which sees low costs moves, usually mid-table clubs investing heavily to help avoid the drop. But this January saw an anomaly in England; big signings. Fernando Torres (£50m), Andy Carroll (£32m), Luis Suarez (£22m), David Luiz (£25m), Darren Bent (24m) and Edin Dzeko (£27m) all moved for prices above £20m, in deals you would generally expect to see in the summer. But what was the general trend across Europe?

The difference between the other European nations was drastic. With UEFA implementing new financial regulations next season in which clubs cannot spend more than their annual turnover, it seems the powerhouses of England – riddled with debt – wanted to make one last splurge. Overall in January a reported £225m was spent in the Premier League, a record amount which even surpasses the previous milestone of £175m which was set back in 2008, mainly due to Manchester City’s spending. The Citizens would be part of proceedings once more, but the big spenders were Chelsea. Russian oligarch Roman Abramovic has been reluctant in the past few seasons to invest, hoping the influx of youth signings under Frank Arnesen would be promoted and provide an ending to the Jose Mourinho years of economically draining investments.

Over in Spain money was spent, but not in large quantities. Barcelona’s sole purchase was young Dutchman Ibrahim Affelay from PSV Eindhoven who cost roughly €2m, while Real Madrid’s recruitment was the flimsy loan signing of Emanuel Adebayor from Manchester City. Malaga, under the ownership of a Qatari millionaire, helped spice up the transfer window signing six new players, the most costly being former Arsenal forward Julio Baptista who returned to Spain from Italy for  €3m.

Giampaolo Pazzini Celebrates After Scoring A Goal For His New Club

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Manchester United Player Focus – Antonio Valencia

16 09 2010

On Tuesday evening Manchester United opened their Champions League campaign with a 0-0 draw against Scottish side Rangers. There were a few talking points, firstly how Coach Sir Alex Ferguson rotated with his squad and made 10 changes to the line-up from the Everton game, bringing up accusations of arrogance and where his priorities lie – with a Premier League clash against rivals Liverpool on Saturday. Secondly how Rangers performed marvellously to frustrate and stifle United with a disciplined defensive performance, which the Red Devils are used to from travelling teams. Questions arose as to how good this squad really is and how they did not have somebody to unlock the tight knitted defence. Unfortunately the headline was not one people will have comfort in seeing.

Luis Antonio Valencia caught his foot in the turf while under-pressure from Kirk Broadfoot and dislocated his ankle, an injury which is likely to rule him out for the remainder of the season. It evokes sour memories for United fans, as only four years ago Alan Smith picked up the same injury when blocking a shot from Liverpool full-back John Arne Riise. The worry is not if he will recovery from the injury physically – thankfully medical advances in football mean the chances are he will recover – it is that recovery from such an injury is fraught with psychological implications. Since his setback Smith has moved on to Newcastle United, but it is fair to say he is not the same player he was pre-misfortune. He is not alone in that.

Valencia Has Made An Impact At Old Trafford

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Silva Can Take Manchester City To The Promise Land

15 07 2010

The flirtatious affair with English football, which has seen the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool battle for his signature over the past couple of years has finally been concluded. The unlimited budget of oil rich Manchester City has acquired a player that they could have only dreamed of four years ago.

Born in Arguineguín, a town in the Canary Islands, David Silva was signed to Valencia CF at the age of 14, a club which not only had him on their books, but also his father who is currently part of the stadium security. His development was fast, at the age of 17 he was already playing first team football on loan to SD Eibar, but it was the following season at Celta Vigo when Los Che realised they had a prodigy. After joining the newly promoted side it only took two substitute appearances before he was integral to their sixth place finish, resulting in UEFA Cup football the following season.

Silva Is All Smiles Ahead Of His Move To Eastlands

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