Posted by: Pete Robertson | September 18, 2015

Chelsea vs. Arsenal Preview

Football is an unpredictable game. Who’d have thought that after 5 league matches, the reigning Premier League Champions Chelsea would already be 11 points adrift of Manchester City, and just 2 points outside the relegation places? The team that was so dominant on their way to the title just a few months ago, now have just a solitary win to their name and an incredible 3 losses, the same amount that they suffered in the whole of last season.

Last week a Steven Naismith hat-trick condemned the Blues to a 3-1 defeat against Everton, while the fixture before they suffered a home defeat to Crystal Palace. To put that into context, it was just the second defeat Jose Mourinho has been on the receiving end of at Stamford Bridge in 100 Premier League matches.

John Terry looks on after being subbed against Manchester City.

John Terry looks on after being subbed against Manchester City.

They’ve had off-field troubles this season too – the opening day row with club doctor Eva Carneiro made all too public and remains ongoing. On the pitch, they have looked unsettled and drastic moves such as John Terry being subbed off at half time during their 3-0 defeat to title rivals Manchester City only serving to highlight early cracks in last years’ solid armour.

And this Saturday they face Arsenal, a side who on their day can beat any team in Europe, let alone the Premier League. The Gunners have achieved back to back wins against Stoke and Newcastle respectively and, as ever it seems, occupy 4th in the league.

But what a difference a week can make in the never ending rollercoaster that is football. This Wednesday’s Champions League ties saw Chelsea dominate Israel’s Maccabi Tel-Aviv, winning impressively 4-0, while Arsenal floundered away to Dinamo Zagreb, losing 2-1.

Chelsea took the opportunity to rest some key players but didn’t lack any quality as a result, and this year their squad shows a depth that was arguably absent in the previous campaign. Centre back Kurt Zouma and Wednesday’s Man of the Match Ruben Loftus-Cheek showed that they are ready to mix it in the Premier League and will have sent a clear message to established team members that no one’s place is guaranteed. Striker Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas both hit the back of the net, they’ve brought in Falcao and Pedro to add to their attacking bite and Wednesday’s game could be the turning point that Chelsea needed to kick start their league title defence.

Arsenal, meanwhile, look thin on the ground. They badly needed a striker to come in during the transfer window which failed to happen, and instead are relying on the misfiring duo Olivier Giroud to lead the line. They have long-term absentees in Jack Wilshire and Danny Welbeck and the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are yet to make an impact this season.

Mouinho vs Wenger – Round 15.

They were the only club in the top 5 leagues in Europe not to sign an outfield player, and it may be starting to show.

There’s no love lost between the managers of these two London rivals and Arsene Wenger has only beaten Jose Mourinho once in 14 encounters, a 1-0 win in this seasons Community Shield. I don’t see that record being improved on Saturday, regardless of current league position. Chelsea remain a class act who will be challenging for multiple domestic and European trophies this season, even if they are 17th at the moment.

Their kick up the backside midweek will be the spark they need to get their season back on track, and I see them coming out on top on Saturday. My tip for the game is Chelsea to win 2-0 at 11/1, or add Diego Costa to a first goalscorer and 2-0 scorecast for 35/1. Catch the action on BT Sport from 12.45.

Pete
@pete_robertson

Posted by: Pete Robertson | February 2, 2013

Newcastle United and the French Revolution

During the January transfer window madness, there has been a a noticeable trend occurring at Newcastle United.

With five French signings coming to St James’ Park, it appears that manager Alan Pardew has kick started a French Revolution in the North East, with fans and players alike welcoming the French invasion with open arms.

New boy Moussa Sissoko must create chances for Newcastle to threaten going forward.

New boy Moussa Sissoko must create chances for Newcastle to threaten going forward.

And yet amongst all the imports, Pardew insists that he wants to keep a British core of the team. The manager points to young, English talent such as Sammy Ameobi and Adam Campbell as the future of the side, and the players which he ultimately wants to build a team around.

But that’s in the future, and this is the present. Newcastle are at the wrong end of the table, and with a small squad it was clear that quality and quantity were needed, and France is where they hope to have found both.

In Mathieu Debuchy, Moussa Sissoko and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Newcastle have brought in international players, and have backed that up with French youth internationals Yoan Gouffran and Massadio Haidara. Clearly the scouts have been hard at work… Add that to current internationals Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa and there is a deep set French influence.

The signings will ease the loss of striker Demba Ba, who moved to Chelsea earlier in the transfer window for £7.5m, but only time will tell whether or not they can truly fill the void. Last weeks win over Aston Villa was an encouraging start, but today’s match against Ba’s new Chelsea team will be a sterner test for the new look Geordies.

Good friends Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy - part of Newcastle's French Revolution.

Good friends Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy – part of Newcastle’s French Revolution.

Having gone through the hurt of relegation just a few years ago, it is pivotal  that the French imports understand that a repeat of that is simply unacceptable. But getting that message across to a dressing room where 40% of its occupants are French speakers could be difficult. They will need to adopt the culture, passion and language of football on Tyneside very quickly, and the reception they receive at St James’ today will show them just how much it means. If that doesn’t translate across the language barrier, what will?

I hope that the Newcastle team gels quickly and can settle down this season, secure their position in the Premier League, and have a much better season next year. But the chance of a British core to the side is a long way off, and it simply won’t be the case that they ever have a team with 11 Geordies.

But as long as the players give their all and the team achieves success, the fans will adopt any player as an adoptive Geordie, and that same chance will be offered to all the French players in the team. Look out for berets and  strings of onions today as the Newcastle faithful cheer, “Allez le Toon!”.

Posted by: Pete Robertson | June 8, 2012

Euro 2012: A Team by Team Preview

Group A

Czech Republic

Qualifying: The Czech’s made it to Euro 2012 after finishing 2nd in a tough group including Spain, and then a play-off win over Montenegro

Czech Captain Tomas Rosicky in action.

Key Player: Captain Tomas Rosicky will need to be on top form to give his side a chance going forward. In a team that could be short of flair and goals, the Arsenal man has the ability to create moments of magic.

Prediction: Will score a point or two, but equally won’t have enough in the locker to cause many problems. GROUP STAGE

Greece

Qualifying: Unbeaten during qualifying and eased through group F. Greece know what it takes to win this tournament and after such a strong qualifying will have high expectations.

Key Player: Giorgos Karagounis was part of the winning 2004 Greek side, and now, with over 100 caps to his name, his team will need to draw on his experience once again.

Prediction: Will push teams in their group all the way but don’t have the sort of quality needed to overcome them. GROUP STAGE

Poland

Qualifying: No qualification needed for Poland who co-host the tournament, but how will that lack of competitive matches effect them?

Key Player: Arsenal have found a gem this season in goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, and his national side will expect him to carry that form into the tournament.

Prediction: With home support and great team spirit will escape the group but no further. QUARTER FINALS

Russian youngster Alan Dzagoev

Russia

Qualifying: Just pipped the Republic of Ireland in their qualifying group, beating them 3-2 in Ireland along the way.

Key Player: Russia are strong in all areas but look out for youngster Alan Dzagoev who has the potential to light up Group A. The rest of the tournament should be put of full alert.

Prediction: Should win the group but will face the runners up of a strong Group B in the quarters. Will be unable to replicate their showing in 2008. QUARTER FINALS

Group B

Denmark

Qualifying: The 1992 Champions beat Portugal to top their qualifying group and have moved into the top 10 in the World as a result.

Key Player: Ajax’s Christian Eriksen may only be 20 years old, but he’s quickly establishing himself as a key player in this Danish side, and one that could cause problems for defenders throughout this tournament.

Prediction: In any other group I’d expect them to qualify, but in this tough Group B I think too much would be required of them. GROUP STAGES

Germany

German Thomas Muller will aim for another Golden Boot.

Qualifying: Germany won every game in qualifying and scored the second most goals. With form like that they’re being highly backed to go all the way.

Key Player: Difficult to choose just one for Germany, but in Thomas Muller they have a player who won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup and scores key goals in big matches.

Prediction: Will win their group ahead of Holland, but come up against a strong French side later in the tournament. SEMI FINALS

Netherlands

Qualifying: No one scored as many goals as Holland in qualifying which says all you need to know about this Dutch team, but that’s mainly thanks to an 11-0 win over San Marino.

Key Player: With such a talented forward line any one of their players has the potential to make the impact, but Robin Van Persie has ignited the Premier League this year and will build on that in the Euro’s.

Prediction: Second in the group to Germany but that could in fact help them go all the way. They’ll just fall short. RUNNERS UP

Portugal

Real Madrid and Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Qualifying: Second to Denmark in their group and needed a play-off win over Bosnia and Hertzegovina to make it to the tournament.

Key Player: Possibly the single most talented player in the tournament is the Portugese captain Cristiano Ronaldo. But do they rely on him too much?

Prediction: While Ronaldo has the ability to propel this team forwards, they are too much of a one man team. GROUP STAGES

Group C

Croatia

Croatian sensation Luka Modric.

Qualifying: Second in their group to Greece but then recorded a solid victory over Turkey to make their way to Poland and Ukraine.

Key Player: Luka Modric has been in dazzling form for Tottenham this year and is the man Croatia will turn to when they need a goal.

Prediction: Could be a surprise package this year, but will just lose out to Italy and Spain in the group. GROUP STAGES

Italy

Qualifying: Italy won their group to qualify for the tournament, including a 3-0 win over Serbia due to their match being abandoned due to rioting of Serbian fans.

Key Player: Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio will be expected to step up this tournament and lead a new Italy side by example.

Prediction: Will escape their group but won’t mount a serious challenge for the trophy. QUARTER FINALS

Republic of Ireland

Qualifying: Second to Russia in their group, but a kind play-ff draw against Estonia allowed them to progress to the tournament.

Key Player: With over 120 caps, much rests on the form, and fitness, of goalkeeper Shay Given. Without him they’ll leak too many goals.

Prediction: Did well to reach the tournament and will entertain in their group stage matches but go no further. GROUP STAGES

Spain

Spain’s Andres Iniesta scored the winning goal of the 2010 World Cup.

Qualifying: The only other team to win all their matches, Spain looked as dominant in qualifying as they did during their Euro win in 2008 and their World Cup win in 2010.

Key Player: Impossible to pick just one player, but midfielder Andres Iniesta scores key goals at key times and will become more of a presence the longer Spain are in the tournament.

Prediction: Spain enter the tournament as favourites following their wins in 2008 and 2010. But to win 3 in a row? Not quite. SEMI FINALS 

Group D

England

England’s hopes will rest heavily on goalkeeper Joe Hart

Qualifying: England were impressive in qualifying, winning the group and remaining undefeated. However, managerial turmoil and selection controversy could cloud their achievement.

Key Player: Arguably the best player England have at their disposal will have to be at his best. Joe Hart could be England’s best chance for success.

Prediction: Will come second in the group to France and will be living on borrowed time after that. QUARTER FINALS

France

Qualifying: Following a controversial World Cup in 2010, France are currently 21 games unbeaten and are the form team heading into the tournament.

Key Player: Midfielder Yann M’Villa is the engine of the French side and Laurent Blanc gets the best from the young Rennes player.

Prediction: With 21 games unbeaten and an up and coming, and more importantly harmonious squad, France are due a good tournament and will go all the way. WINNERS

Sweden

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will need to be at his very best.

Qualifying: Sweden made it to the Euro’s as the best placed group runner up, coming second only to the free scoring Netherlands.

Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic will need to be at his unstoppable best if Sweden are going to make any impression in the tournament.

Prediction: Will push opponents all the way but will rely too much on their main striker Ibrahimovic. GROUP STAGES

Ukraine

Qualifying: No qualification needed for the Ukraine who are co-hosting the tournament, making their way to their first ever Euro tournament along the way.

Key Player: As an absolute idol in Ukraine, Andriy Shevchenko will be under pressure to bring everything he’s got to the very biggest stage Ukraine’s ever been on.

 : Even home support won’t be enough for the Ukraine who could struggle to get a single points in a tough group.

Today at 1.30, a match kicks off that could decide the fate of Manchester United’s Premier League season. The funny thing though, is that they’re not even involved.

Instead it is Newcastle who host the current league leaders Man City, with the Red Devils knowing that a City win could effectively seal the title for the Citizens.

Man City captain Vincent Kompany heads his team to the top of the table.

Following their 1-0 win against United last weekend, it is City who lead the Premier League on goal difference. And with 8 goals difference between the goal differences of the two Manchester clubs, it would be almosts impossible for the Reds to overturn should City secure 6 points from their last 2 games.

And with a home game against QPR next week for Man City, it is today’s game where United will feel most confident of them dropping points.

Newcastle will prove even tougher opponents for the league leaders as they are playing for a Champions League spot of their own. With Arsenal dropping points against Norwich, 3rd place is very much up for grabs for the Magpies, meaning that any risk of finishing fourth and still not qulaifying due to Chelsea winning the Champions League could be nullified.

Newcastle number 9 Papiss Cisse has 13 goals in just 12 games.

Man City will have to keep January signing Papiss Cisse quiet if they want any chance of overcoming the Toon Army. The Senegalese striker has struck 13 goals in just 12 Premier League games, including a potential goal of the season midweek against Chelsea.

Combining with Cisse are Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye, who have pulled all the strings in recent weeks at the North East club, and Newcastle will be very aware that a win today would leave them in prime position for a top 4 finish.

Man City have all to play for today, and with the returning Carlos Tevez ironically being the man to lead their recent surge to the top of the table, today’s clash is all set for an explosive encounter.

Who will come out on top though?

Manchester United will be cheering for another moment of Cisse magic, and with it, Newcastle may just win them the title.

Who will win the Premier League? Which teams will fill the Champions League places? Let me know your thoughts – comment below…

Posted by: Pete Robertson | April 9, 2012

“Why Always Me?” A Step Too Far For Balotelli

A feature of the 2011-2012 Premier League season has been the antics both on and off the field of Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli.

From lighting fireworks in his bathroom to being double goal hero against Manchester United at Old Trafford, Balotelli has consistetly hit the front and back pages of the papers this year.

Mario Balotelli sees red, and pushes his manager one step too far.

But the latest chapter in the career of Super Mario could well be his last.

His 87th minute sending off against Arsenal has hit a nerve with his manager Roberto Mancini, who has responded to the incident by claiming that Balotelli will play no part in City’s final 6 games of the season and could be sold at the end of the season.

Mancini said “I need to be sure I always have 11 players on the pitch and with Mario this is a big risk”. So it would seem that 13 goals from 22 Premier League games is not enough to please the Manchester City manager, and that 2 red cards a season is too much, despite the players obvious talent.

It is the baggage that comes with Balotelli that makes him a handful for a manager too. From controversial celebrations, to pictures of him leaving strip clubs in the middle of the night before a game, he even was spotted wearing an AC Milan shirt while playing for San Siro rivals Inter!

And so while the quality of the striker is not in question, his passion, commitment and the baggage he brings causes his manager a whole world of problems.

So the next question is who would buy him?

If Roberto Mancini is keen to sell him, they have to find a club who would take what would be a massive risk in signing him.

"Why Always Me?" - Why do you think?

If I were a Premier League manager I wouldn’t go anywhere near Mario Balotelli. Why give yourself the stress when there are players who, while they may lack some of his natural talent, will give so much more to the team?

I don’t think there’s a team in the Premier League who would go for Balotelli, especially after his antics this season, so a move abroad in the summer looks like the only option. And sadly, this means we may have seen the last of the firework lighting, petrol paying, dart throwing, bib hating, high fiving, school bully mediating, women’s prison visiting striker in the Premier League.

Why always you Mario? Take a look in the mirror and find out.

What do you think about Mario Balotelli? Do you think he should leave Man City? Where will he be playing next season? Comment below and let me know what you think! 

Posted by: Pete Robertson | April 7, 2012

Woods Stumbles While The Rest Stay In The Hunt

Tiger Woods is undoubtedly one of the most successful golfers of all time.

With 14 Major Championships under his belt, including 4 Masters wins at Augusta, as well as a stunning win at Bay Hill last week in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, many tipped Tiger to win his fifth Green Jacket, and move to just one behind Jack Nicklaus in the list of all-time Masters Champions.

But yesterday’s second round of the 2012 Masters tells a very different story. Every part of Tiger’s game was off colour, from the driver right through to the usually hot putter. From the tee he missed fairways and greens, but it was putting where the dip in form, and confidence, was most notable.

Tiger Woods cut a despairing figure for much of his second round at Augusta.

Take the 4th hole for example. Woods is left with a 5 footer with a bit of right to left for par. Simple stuff.

The putt that followed was described by Sky Sports commentator Butch Harmon as one of the worst putts Tiger Woods has ever hit. From 5 feet, Woods left the ball a foot short and low of the hole. Painful to watch as a viewer, embarrassing if you’re Tiger Woods.

But after 36 holes he has still made the cut, and with a score of +3, is Tiger Woods out of contention?

Absolutely not. He may be 8 shots off the lead, but last year he made up 7 shots in the final round alone. If anyone can produce magic at The Masters and win from absolutely nowhere, it is Tiger Woods. And with the course playing quite slow this year, 2 rounds in the mid to late 60’s could be enough to see Tiger climb the leaderboard and be right in the mix come Sunday evening.

But what about the rest of the field?

With the course playing as it is, anyone level par or better is very much still in the hunt for the Green Jacket.

Anyone within 5 shots has a chance, but it is Rory McIlroy who will feel like he has the most to prove. His meltdown in the final round last year will not have been forgotten, and having made it to -4 after 2 rounds, he is in an ideal situation to make a charge for the lead at Augusta.

Or how about Sergio Garcia? For so many years the Spaniard has been tipped for a major, and now that the pressure is off a little, maybe 2012 will be his year?

20 years on, Fred Couples is in the hunt for his second Green Jacket.

But the fairytale will of course be Fred Couples. At 5 under par and joint clubhouse leader after 2 rounds, Couples is in a very strong position. And at 52 years of age, and 20 years since his last Masters win in 1992, a win for Couples would be a very popular choice among the Augusta patrons.

Whatever the final result, The Masters is proving once again why it is held in such high esteem as a golf tournament all across the world.

After last year’s thrilling finale, the 2012 Masters is set up to go the same way, but come Sunday evening only one man will have tamed Augusta to win golf’s ultimate prize.

Only one question remains. Who?

Who do you think will win the Masters? What are your thoughts on Tiger Woods’ performance so far? Does he stand a chance? Let me know your thoughts and comments below.

Posted by: Pete Robertson | January 28, 2012

Liverpool Relying on Cup Success to Hide a Failed Season

It’s been a good week to be a Liverpool fan. In back to back Anfield encounters the Reds have first swept aside Manchester City to reach the Carling Cup final, before beating long-term rivals Manchester United in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

But their league form doesn’t match up to their superb form in the domestic cups. With 7 draws at home from just 11 games, and 5 losses from 11 away from Anfield, the Reds have found themselves down in 7th place in the Premier League, with little hope of any title challenge from the Merseyside club this season.

In fact, their league form under Kenny Dalglish, who’s been in the job a little over a year now, has only been a slight improvement of that under his predecessor Roy Hodgson – surely the fans would have wanted more by now.

£35million striker Andy Carroll hasn't had the best start to his Liverpool career

Their league form looks especially poor when you consider the huge transfer fees they have been paying for players under Dalglish’s reign. Most notable of the lot is the £35 million they paid to Newcastle for Andy Carroll, but they have paid £23 million for Luis Suarez, £20 million each for Jordan Henderson and Stuart Downing, and £5 million for Charlie Adam. With all this investment and money spent on the squad, the fans would expect more than 4 wins from 11 at Anfield in the Premier League.

Their form hasn’t improved in the new year either. In January this year their league form has included a 3-0 loss at Manchester City, a 0-0 home draw against Stoke, and a 3-1 trashing at the hands of Bolton. One league goal in a month is no way to survive in, let alone challenge for the Premier League, especially with a £35 million striker leading the line.

The fans that fill The Kop every week might not mind as much if the home draws were against the top sides in the league, but, and I mean no discredit to the teams who have held them to draws, they simply haven’t been. Draws to Stoke, Blackburn, Swansea, Norwich and Sunderland are all games which the Reds would have had to have won if they were to mount any serious challenge on a Champions League spot, or even the title. 10 dropped points.

But despite their below par showing in the Premier League, ‘King’ Kenny has transformed Liverpool into something of a cup specialist side. With no European football this season, the fans turned their Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester City into something resembling a Champions League night at Anfield, with choruses of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” roaring around the stadium.

And it seemed to work too. While it was yet another draw at home, Steven Gerrard’s penalty in the first leg ensured passage though to the final on aggregate. The final against Cardiff City will be the first trip to the new Wembley for Liverpool,  and Craig Bellamy will be looking to score the winner against the team he played for on loan last season, just as he scored the winner against his previous employers in the semi-final.

Dirk Kuyt blasts home the winner against Manchester United in the FA Cup

Following this with a home win thanks to Dirk Kuyt’s late strike in the FA Cup over Manchester United, and Liverpool are suddenly looking to do the double, and secure European football next season along the way.

The only question is, will the Liverpool fans accept this, or will they see this season as it has truly been?

How do you think Liverpool’s season is going? What would you have expected from the new signings? Do you think Liverpool will win any trophies this season? Please leave your thoughts below…

Posted by: Pete Robertson | January 27, 2012

An Interview With Robin Cousins

Robin Cousins is a four-time British Champion, European Champion, three-time World Champion, and an Olympic Gold medallist. Now, promoting his new Holiday on Ice show, Tropicana, he took time out at auditions to have a chat to me for http://xpressradio.co.uk/.

I’m here with Olympic Champion Robin Cousins, Robin how are you?

Very well thanks.

Great. Now Robin, how did you get into figure skating in your youth?

A rather odd way through the back doors I have to say, I wanted to be Gene Kelly when I was a kid so took up gymnastics and dance classes. I put skates on for the very first time in Bournemouth as something to do on holiday with my family. Then I found out there was an ice rink being built in Bristol so I asked for some skating lessons for Christmas. That’s where the bug really caught me and here we are a couple of years later (laughing).

So just how difficult is it to get the top of figure skating? And what is the day to day life of a figure skater like?

It’s the same as the day to day life of any top athlete. If you have an idea of where you want to be you have to just love it and enjoy the process of learning the craft. You can’t do it because of what you think you might get out of it. The biggest thing for kids now is that they think “What’s in it for me?” before they decide if they like something or not. I tell them that you’ll regret taking something on because of what you might get out of it rather than because it’s what you want to do. If you don’t get the rewards at the end of it then you’ve done something you love anyway so haven’t lost anything. You have to train hard, learn from your mistakes, and be honest with yourself about what you’re going to get out of it.

Robin Cousins taking time out for a chat.

How much has the sport changed since you were Olympic Champion back in 1980?

In a nutshell, novice ladies aged 10-14 are expected to do what I was doing as Olympic Champion 30 years ago! It’s changed dramatically, and what the senior international skaters are doing now was literally science fiction when I was competing. Once a double spin in done, it only takes one person to do a triple before everyone realises it’s possible, it’s that kind of evolution. But now girls have to do triples, juniors too, and men doing quadruples, I find it mind-boggling! The biggest change though is the impact it has on the skater’s body. Now, you won’t find skater’s with a 20 or 30 year career like I had or Torville and Dean had, they now come in, compete for 4 years, win their Olympic medals and then they’re gone, because they can’t keep that level of fitness up.

I’m guessing then that it’s more difficult to get started in the sport nowadays? And shows such as Tropicana must help promote the youthful talent coming through.

Skating is one of those sports that you can do every day of the year if you want to. Ice, a coach, talent, and an ability to want to learn, that’s all you need. Using the internet you can look at what is out there, who is out there, even look at competition in Japan, America or anywhere else and think ‘ooh, they’re the same age as me but is doing much more training than I’m doing’. It allows you to keep things in perspective but also see where you need to up your game. Just being the best in your local club or even Great Britain isn’t enough anymore, we want people to compete on the World and Olympic stage. When Dancing on Ice or Holiday on Ice comes along with Tropicana it gives people , the opportunity to see skating live, see how fun it could be, see how good it can be to keep fit with your family. At this time of year we have a huge influx of people skating, the challenge is for the rinks and skaters to keep interested all year round, the rinks will be open all through the summer!

And Holiday on Ice and all the shows you put on must have the ultimate aim of advancing the best youth talent to give us better chances at Winter Olympics and World Championships in the future?

Absolutely! Again it’s about getting the word out and letting people know what’s available out there. What we’ve found with Holiday on Ice is that we have a lot of young skaters who have never competed in front of judges before and may not have the jumps, but they join the ice show and they blossom into great performers. We have soloists in our shows who have never been to an Olympics before, but we also have Olympic skaters who can’t deal with putting on eight shows a week! The show is great for getting kids who are forced to try and skate competitively and just letting them skate for fun!

So tell us about Tropicana.

It opens in Cardiff in February and I’ll be going in a few weeks’ time to put the show back together. This is my tenth production for Holiday on Ice and with Tropicana I’ve taken things I’ve enjoyed over the last ten years and put them together in the one show. The LED screen is phenomenal in terms of the backdrop and the content has been drawn to fit the music second-by-second. It uses the music of Barry Manilow but not just all the usual hits, there’s some more modern songs in there too and not just all sung by him but by other singers too! It’s a fun show and a great night out for the audience.

Well we really look forward to seeing it when it comes out. Thank you so much for talking to us.

Not a problem, thanks a lot!

You can listen to the full interview by downloading it from the iTunes Store. To listen just click here: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/xpress-radio/id421247395.

Also, listen out for From the Sidelines every Tuesday at 1-2pm. Find us at http://xpressradio.co.uk/ or on Twitter @xpressradiofts.

Posted by: Pete Robertson | January 27, 2012

Djokovic Sinks Murray in an All Time Classic

After almost 5 hours of battering tennis, it was the World Number 1, Novak Djokovic, who progressed into the final of the Australian Open, beating British Number 1 Andy Murray 6-3 3-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 7-5.

But in this case, the numbers simply do not tell the whole story. Going in to the match the Serbian was the clear favourite, but there were several times in the match where each player would fancy themselves to go on and secure victory.

After winning the second and then third set in a tie break, Murray led the Serbian both in terms of the score, but also mentally. Djokovic looked broken, exhausted and had the look of a man who was about to lose a tennis match. So for him to come back and win the 4th set in such a convincing fashion is testament to just why Nole is rated as the best player in the world.

Djokovic celebrates a hard fought win over Murray

On the other side of the coin though, after grinding out a tie break win in the 3rd, Murray looked tired in the 4th, chasing nothing and hitting too many errors. This is the set that the Scot will look back on in anger, and with a bit more of a push, this is the set where he could have finished, or at least worn, Djokovic even more.

And for a long time the final set looked to be going the same way. But at 5-2 down with Djokovic serving for the match, Murray pulled out what is quite possibly the best tennis he has ever shown, breaking Djokovic twice to move to 5-5, and even managing a break point which would have moved the Scot to 6-5 up and serving for the match.

But Nole is World Number 1 for a reason, and found another gear to pull away from Murray at the final hurdle. As he won the match, Djokovic collapsed to the ground, lying on his back in celebration. But after such a gruelling battle in a match that stretched almost 5 hours and finished well past midnight Melbourne time, I’m sure he’ll be spending the next few hours in the same position, recovering and rejuvinating before his final match up against the great Rafael Nadal on Sunday morning.

As for Andy Murray though, this is yet another Grand Slam where he has fallen short. Last year he made the final of the Australian Open, followed by semi final appearances at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US open, but still does not have that elusive Grand Slam victory to his name.

Murray played some of the best tennis of his career.

It’s been said before, but based on today’s performance, it really is a case of when, rather than if for the British Number 1. On his day he can beat anyone in the World, and I’m sure that a Grand Slam win isn’t too far away.

But today it was all about Djokovic. He was just too good for Murray today and will feel confident of retaining his title in the final on Sunday.

What did you think of the match? Will Andy Murray break his Grand Slam duck? And who will win the title at the Australian Open? All comments welcome…

Posted by: Pete Robertson | October 22, 2011

World Cup Dreams See Red For Brave Wales.

Alain Rolland shows Sam Warburton a Red Card

Wales saw their ambitions of being World Champions dashed at the hands of a 9-8 loss to France last Saturday. However, the match will be best remembered for one particular decision from referee Alain Rolland.

His decision to show Wales captain Sam Warburton a red card in the 18th minute of the match drastically altered not only the result, but also the spectacle.

Warburton’s tackle on French winger Vincent Clerc was a poor one, and in most circumstances a yellow card would have seemed a fair outcome on top of a penalty and 3 almost certain points to France. But for Warburton to be sent off, replays must have shown that he put Clerc down in a dangerous manner, that meaning that he drove his head or neck into the ground. However, replays showed that this was not the case, and that upon realising that the tackle was almost too good, Warburton released Clerc from the tackle, refraining from a dangerous spear tackle on the winger.

Wales Captain Warburton tackles France winger Vincent Clerc

Most impressive of all though was the response of the remaining Wales team after referee Rolland’s knee-jerk decision. Despite being a man down, Wales dominated the second half, and had numerous chances to even win the match. Had Stephen Jones’ conversion gone through rather than hitting the post, or one of James Hook’s penalty chances not gone wide of the uprights, Wales would have pulled off one of the World Cup’s most unlikely victories.

The 60,000 Welsh fans in the Millennium Stadium thought that full back Leigh Halfpenny had won the game with a long range penalty before replays showed that the ball dipped just under the posts.

Wales can be proud of their team. They may have lost the match by a single point, but they stood up to a strong French side after they lost their captain, and were Warburton to only have had a yellow card they may well have won the game and gone on to face the All Blacks in what would have been their first World Cup final.

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