Maple Leafs’ John Tavares on integrity of Stanley Cup: ‘It will be as deserving as any player or team before’

Toronto Maple Leafs forward John Tavares was in the middle of the league’s return-to-play discussions with the National Hockey League Players’ Association as a member of the Return to Play Committee. On Tuesday, the NHL announced plans for how action could resume.

If the playoffs do happen, Toronto would face the Columbus Blue Jackets in a best-of-five play-in series for a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Leafs captain said keeping the integrity of the Stanley Cup was discussed heavily in a call with reporters Wednesday.

“I think anyone who gets their name on it wants to earn it like the players did before and I think we all feel given the circumstances for it, it’s not going to perfect considering we had to pause the season,” Tavares explained. “We came to the conclusion that this is the best one, whether it’s perfect or not I think can be up for debate but I think we’re going to get to our normal 16-team playoff.

“I think it’s going to be a very worthy and deserving Stanley Cup champion and it will be as deserving as any player or team before.”

Discussions are still ongoing on whether to make the first round of the playoffs a best-of-five or a best-of-seven series, but Tavares’ personal view would be to play all four rounds of the playoffs in a best-of-seven series.

Stanley Cup playoffs 2020: Everything you need to know

On Monday, the NHL announced its plans to enter Phase 2 of its return-to-play protocol which would allow players to train in groups of six or fewer. Because of the extensive layoff, Tavares is wary of the injury risks players face as training ramps up.

“I think the uniqueness of our sport, unlike maybe some of the other sports where running and jumping is really a lot of the major things that you do, a lot of that you can do at home or kind of out in open space and whatnot,” Tavares described. “Obviously for us being on the ice is a big hurdle and as we started discussing with the Return to Play Committee a number of weeks ago, we really wanted to be more on the cautious side than obviously being aggressive.

“It’s obviously something we’ve never really done before but we’re going to try to make the most informed and cautious decision, the best decision that we possibly can to make sure we’re keeping guys healthy and safe. We want the quality of the hockey to be really high and when guys haven’t been on the ice for two and a half months, and then you’re jumping right into a very highly competitive competition, we really want to make sure that everyone’s prepared.”

If the Leafs return to action, general manager Kyle Dubas expects the team to be nearly at full health. Ilya Mikheyev (wrist) and Jake Muzzin (hand) haven’t been fully cleared to return to play, but he expects both to be ready if play resumes. Forward Andreas Johnsson is recovering from knee surgery, which he underwent on Feb. 19. The Leafs put his timetable for recovery at six months so he could see a return to action should Toronto be playing in August.

Tavares said it’ll be a huge boost for the team to be nearly at full strength.

“I think as you get close to the playoffs, traditionally, there’s always nicks and bruises and things guys are dealing with that, not just us but around the league, every team is going to be pretty much at full strength,” Tavares said. “I think we know when we looked at our team on paper heading into training camp this year, we were really excited about not just our back end, but really top to bottom.

“Group has been built, and certainly we’ve had some great surprises. Some guys elevated over the course of this year that only makes our club better so we got tremendous steps that are only going to continue the competition and help our preparation as we hopefully can get back to the competition in a number of weeks.

“That’ll definitely be a really good strength for us to have everyone healthy and ready to go and have that depth.”

If the Stanley Cup is awarded this year, it’ll be a road unlike any team has taken before. Dubas is embracing the chaos of the 24-team playoff and is excited for his team to compete for a championship.

“I think there are going to be a lot of interesting results in the qualifying round, just given the nature of things and the delay between the teams last played and different changes to the roster,” Dubas told reporters. “It is unique. I think we’re certainly going to embrace it as a unique experience but also as a tremendous opportunity for our team and for our group.”

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Globetrotter Hadleigh Parkes is all set for Japan move

Globetrotter Hadleigh Parkes is all set for Japan move — but centre admits Wales farewell is tinged with regret as coronavirus prevents send-off

  • Hadleigh Parkes sealed move from Scarlets to Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan 
  • That means the 32-year-old centre has likely played his last game for Wales 
  • Parkes will join a number of other players in Japan including George Kruis 
  • Coronavirus shutdown of sport means Parkes will not play a farewell game 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Ever the adventurer, Hadleigh Parkes is off exploring again — but he is determined this will not be his last week as a Welshman.

‘I was talking with my neighbours the other day who are big Welsh rugby fans,’ says New Zealand-born Parkes, after it was confirmed he would be giving up his Wales career to move to Japan.

‘They asked, “Who are you going to support?”

Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes, with wife Suzy and daughter Ruby, is moving to play in Japan

New Zealand-born Parkes is giving up Wales career to play for Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan

‘I’ll be supporting Wales and make sure my daughter Ruby does as she was born here. I’ll need a bit of back-up in my house!’

It was confirmed on Monday that the 32-year-old will join the growing exodus east to play for Panasonic Wild Knights — the same team as England lock George Kruis.

The harsh reality of coronavirus means Parkes’ departure is sudden. On Tuesday the removal men are emptying his house in Pontcanna while he stays away.

By now, the majority of Parkes’ belongings are on a container ship destined for New Zealand and on Saturday he will fly back to the land of his birth — leaving Wales behind.

The 29-cap back admitted the move to Japan felt very sudden and wanted a better send-off

‘Now we’re pretty much done, my wife Suzy and I are pretty sad,’ says the 29-cap centre.

‘It would’ve been nice to play one last game, or even to see the boys at training, but the real thing we’re sad about is not being able to say goodbye to our friends with a big barbecue or something. We’ve got a Zoom prize-giving tonight with the Scarlets — a black-tie event! Black-tie isn’t quite the priority to have in the hand-luggage to New Zealand, so I might be in a vest or something!

‘We’ve had to bring our flights forward as we heard Qatar Airways might be stopping flights in June. There’s a lot we can’t control, so unfortunately that’s the way it is.’

Parkes and his family brought forward their flights in case travel is stopped amid coronavirus

It will be a mammoth journey. The Parkes are travelling with departing Scarlets coach Brad Mooar, his wife and three kids via Qatar and Sydney. Once in Australia — the only route to New Zealand at present — they will have to wait in a hotel organised by the New South Wales authorities for 36 hours to catch a rare flight to Auckland.

Then they will have to isolate for 14 days. So there will be plenty of time for Parkes to reflect.

Signing for Scarlets in 2014, Parkes won PRO14 with the region and then international caps

He has achieved plenty. Brought over to the Scarlets by new Wales coach Wayne Pivac, he won the PRO14, made his Test debut on the day he qualified on residency in December 2017, then became a key part of the 2019 Six Nations Grand Slam and recent World Cup.

While packing, he has found more than 160 programmes from his games in Europe and plenty of shirts that have stirred great memories.

‘I’ve always kept Wales and Scarlets jerseys,’ he explains. ‘I found the ones from the PRO14 finals and laid them out — it was quite emotional remembering the good times.’

Parkes made his international debut as soon as he qualified for the country on residency

Parkes played a key role for Wales as they reached the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup

The veteran admitted that the World Cup gave him a new perspective on playing in Japan

As ever with those who switch allegiance to a new country, there has been criticism of Parkes playing for Wales. The Kiwi has tempered that through his commitment and humble nature.

‘There were a few things said with me qualifying on the day,’ he recalls. ‘I wasn’t that nervous for the game but I was nervous for the anthem as I knew a lot of people would be watching.

‘Rhys Patchell had been teaching me it and I really wanted to make sure I did it justice having been given the honour and opportunity.

‘I managed to do it and I’ve loved singing it ever since.’

Now he is off, some are bound to criticise again. ‘The people’s opinions who matter to me are my friends and family and everyone has been supportive,’ he says. ‘Walking past people in the street they say, “Thank you and all the best” so 99 per cent are amazing. Wales has been home for us.’

Parkes and his wife explained how they enjoyed exploring each area he has played rugby in

Hadleigh and Suzy have always been explorers — Parkes has now played in New Zealand, South Africa and Wales.

He has loved travelling to the Gower Peninsula, the Lake District, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Iceland and more. So when Panasonic called in February, it turned his head.

Pivac still wanted him as part of Wales’ elite 38-man squad, but, partly due to wanderlust but mainly for his young family, Parkes plumped for another adventure.

‘Suzy and I are very family- orientated,’ he explains. ‘My parents would come over for a couple of weeks each year, but after Ruby was born in November I saw them with Ruby and how they were helping out Suzy, it clicked that we wanted Ruby to have a lot more special times with cousins and grandparents. The off-seasons are a lot longer in Japan so it will be easier.’

Wales boss Wayne Pivac had wanted Parkes to stay in Wales’ elite squad for next season

Having decided, he needed to tell the man who had gifted him his Welsh chance in the first place. Pivac. ‘He didn’t answer, so I thought, “s***”,’ says Parkes. 

‘He rang back five minutes later and was so genuine, saying, “Good on you Parkesy, I’m proud of you. You’ve done outstandingly over here so I wish you all the best”. 

‘That was special. You’d like to think you could get to another World Cup but the management could turn around and say, “We don’t want you” in six months. I didn’t want to think, “What if…?”

‘The World Cup made people realise Japan is such an amazing place. The people were so friendly, the cuisine is amazing and the rugby is good, too. There might be more who use it as an option during their careers. It’s an exciting time for rugby over there. My wife and I both thought it would be a great adventure for a young family.’

He will go to Japan in October to prepare for the new season in January — joining the likes of Alex Goode, Freddie Burns and Kruis out east.

The Kiwi adventurer might be leaving with a heavy heart, but it is a heart that still beats for Wales.




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Week with Warnie Episode 4 | Shane Warne opens up on how most famous moment split him apart

Shane Warne is an undisputed cricket great – eight years after his international debut, he was named one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Decade and remains Australia’s highest wicket-taker in international cricket.

But a series of off-field scandals plagued the leg spinner’s career, and have given him two distinct identities – the cricket legend, and the controversial sporting personality.

Warne did not anticipate the intense media surveillance that came with being a high-profile athlete, which resulted in spot-fixing accusations and the infamous phone texting saga.

Everything changed for Warne in the 1993 Ashes series. Before that tour, Warne had only played 11 Test matches, and was still relatively unknown.

It was during his first delivery of the opening match at Old Trafford that Warne produced the Ball of the Century.

The unforgettable delivery pitched outside leg, ripped past Mike Gatting’s defensive prod and clipped the top of off stump.

The Ball of the Century.Source:Getty Images

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The “Gatting Ball” made Warne a global sensation – but stardom comes at a cost. In episode four of Fox Cricket’s A Week With Warnie, the 50-year-old revealed how the classic moment gave him a split personality.

No longer was Warne just a talented cricketer, but the media suddenly became infatuated with his life off the field as well.

“That ball changed my life. Suddenly there was interest about how I spent my time,” Warne said.

“I remember going to the Windmill Pub in London. I went for a pint with Merv (Hughes) … When I came out, there was, without a word of a lie, probably 25 to 30 photographers just taking pictures.

“As I was walking 100 yards to the hotel, they were in the middle of the road. I’m going, ‘Merv, what the hell is going on here?’

“The next day was about ‘Shane Warne was at the pub’. I was getting critiqued about what I was wearing, I had ‘10 things you don’t know about Shane Warne,’ and I’m reading it going, ‘That’s not true, I didn’t know that about me!’”

Shane Warne claimed 708 Test wickets, the most for any Australian in history.Source:News Corp Australia

Warne “resented” the ongoing media surveillance early in his career and was unsure how to handle the “overwhelming” scrutiny.

“I found that I didn’t understand how (the media) worked, and I resented it,” Warne said.

“I had to read these things about myself that weren’t true, which was quite tough to take.

“Some of my actions in the mid 90s and towards the end of the late 90s — I acted in a sort of arrogant, pretty ordinary fashion all the time.

“I live in the moment, so sometimes you don’t think about the consequences, and that was probably most of my trouble. I didn’t think what the consequences were or what effect it would have on other people.

“It was a selfish thing. I did what I wanted to do, and that got me into a bit of trouble.”

Warne’s off-field scandals are well-known, and although the leg spinner regrets those “horrible” mistakes, he is particularly ashamed of the impact it had on his family.

“I’m not proud of all of my decisions … I made some horrible mistakes and choices,” Warne said.

“Some of the things were really hard to take.

“I let my family down, I embarrassed my children … but that’s something I have to live with.

“But for all of those bad choices I’ve also been very proud of all the good things I’ve done. I’ve done a lot of good things, but sometimes people like to harp on about the bad things because it’s a better headline.”

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan says it's 'too early' to host games in capital

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tells the Premier League it is ‘too early’ to host matches in the capital again as he fears the extra burden football will put on the NHS

  • The Premier League remains in talks with the Government over Project Restart 
  • But London Mayor Sadiq Khan says he is against staging games in the capital
  • He stressed that it was ‘too early’ to be in discussions about the sport’s return
  • London has been hit hard by the coronavirus although cases are coming down  
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says it is ‘too early’ for Premier League matches to be staged in the capital.

The English top flight are still in talks with the Government about Project Restart with aims of getting the season back on track on June 12 and a plan to stage games behind closed doors and in neutral venues.

But in the latest setback to proposals to complete the domestic campaign, Khan said he would be against games being played in London because the country was still ‘in the grips of this crisis’ with many people still dying from coronavirus.   

Sadiq Khan is against staging Premier League games in London in June and says it’s too early

London has been hit particularly hard by the deadly disease, with fatalities in the thousands, and Khan stressed that, even though he wants to see his beloved Liverpool lift the title, the focus had to be on the NHS and the health of the nation.

His spokesman told the Evening Standard: ‘Sadiq is extremely keen for the Premier League and professional sport in general to resume. 

‘However, with the country still in the grips of this crisis, and hundreds of people dying every day, he believes that it is too early to be discussing the resumption of the Premier League and top-flight sport in the capital.

‘As a Liverpool fan, Sadiq of course wants the Premier League to return, but it can only happen when it is safe to do so, and it cannot place any extra burden on the NHS and emergency services.’

The Mayor opposes matches in the capital, such as the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Despite being a Liverpool fan, Khan said it was crucial that a burden was not placed on NHS

He is concerned about an extra burden being place on emergency services during the crisis 

Boris Johnson detailed in his blueprint to bring the UK out of lockdown that sports would be permitted to return from June 1 but that spectators may not be allowed until a vaccine is found.

However, a solid date for a Premier League comeback is yet to be earmarked as clubs continue to debate the best way for action to resume. 

League chief Richard Masters said there was an ‘ongoing dialogue’ with Government and police about football’s return and that the matter was still a live topic among clubs – some of which are opposing a plan to finish the season at neutral grounds.

‘I think everybody would prefer to play home and away if at all possible,’ he said on Monday. ‘And I think it’s clear to see that some clubs feel more strongly about that than others.

‘It is an ongoing dialogue and obviously since Covid-19 became an issue we’ve been talking to the authorities about the conditions in which we could get the Premier League back up and running and taking all that advice on board.’

West Ham’s London Stadium is a contender to host neutral Premier League games in London 

Premier League CEO Richard Masters said there was still an ‘ongoing dialogue’ about a restart

He said a number of clubs had argued that it may be easier to police their games at their own stadium rather than at a neutral venue.

‘I think some of our clubs would argue that in relation to policing their own fans that they have a good relationship with them, and that they encourage their own fans not to turn up outside their home venues while they’re playing behind closed doors, and they’re in a better position to control that, but it’s not a matter of convincing (the Government and the police), this has to be a decision that’s come to mutually.’

It is understood eight to ten ‘approved’ venues had been put to the clubs as the only safe way to complete the season – with West Ham’s London Stadium one of the contenders in a shortlist that also includes Wembley. 

The head of the UK’s football police unit, Mark Roberts, has insisted the issue is ‘not a big deal’

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts of South Yorkshire Police, the UK’s national football policing lead, had told clubs debating the fairness of neutral venues to ‘get a grip’ in a situation where thousands of people have died. 

Roberts said: ‘We need to temper things. When you see people arguing the integrity is so important that ‘”we played them away and now it’s neutral” or “they had their fans and we can’t have ours”. 

‘It might be a big deal in football terms, but in broader society where we have lost 30,000 people and growing that’s not a big deal. 

‘Some people in football need to get a grip and recognise there’s a bigger picture here.’




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JOFRA ARCHER: I can't wait to see the guys

JOFRA ARCHER: I can’t wait to see the guys… and playing for Manchester United was a dream come true!

  • Jofra Archer has been involved in talks over resuming international cricket
  • He is excited by the prospect of rejoining his England team-mates this summer 
  • Bowler says his British bulldog Griff has been keeping him busy during lockdown
  • Man United fan was asked to represent the club in the FIFA 20 ePL Invitational 

The other day I was on a Zoom call with the rest of the England squad about the prospect of getting back to playing international cricket this summer.

I don’t want to get my hopes up too high, too soon, and won’t do until dates are actually penned in but personally there was nothing within what we were told that concerns me, really.

There wasn’t much chat amongst ourselves because it was one of those calls on which everyone is muted, so that the medical people could speak without background noise.

Jofra Archer has been involved in talks about resuming international cricket this summer

While we have yet to be given a provisional date, we know that any anticipated start we do receive could be pushed back further into the summer and it has been stressed that the most important thing is the health of the players.

So, I’d be very happy to undergo coronavirus and temperature tests daily. Obviously, if you got infected, you would have to leave the group. And the prospect of being all together in a hotel for several weeks does not bother me at all. I haven’t seen the guys in a while and I am sure it will feel more like a reunion than a term in prison.

Yes, it will be hard to play in a stadium without supporters but I understand it is necessary for things to start that way as we won’t be able to test every single fan wanting to come into the ground.

Although the crowd is an aspect we can sort out later, I think it will be one of those things you don’t realise how much you need until it’s gone. Take it away, and we will realise how much the supporters mean to us.

Archer is excited by the prospect of rejoining team-mates and says it will feel like a reunion

Playing in complete silence will take some getting used to, I would imagine, so I think it might be useful to play some music, some simulations of a crowd, something to create an atmosphere.

The best solution, if we do have to play behind closed doors, might be to have cheers and clapping when someone hits the ball for four or a wicket falls. These are the little things that will make it as normal as possible even though it won’t be a normal occasion.

But it’s got to the stage where I don’t really care about much else than playing right now. It feels like we’ve already missed half a summer. And my feeling is that if we can just get a start, at some point, things will only get easier. For me, starting is the hardest part.

I’m not really sure how my elbow is as yet. I guess I’ll have to bowl seriously to really find out. It feels fine after a lengthy period of rest but I’ve not done anything of any kind of intensity as yet.

The fast bowler admits that playing behind closed doors is going to take some getting used to

Just a bit of stuff with a tennis ball, bowling at the wall. But a tennis ball is nowhere near as heavy as a cricket ball and, until I get to that process, I won’t know for sure.

For the moment, it’s just baby steps. I’ve been out in the car park bowling the equivalent of about eight overs at a time – then it gets kind of boring, and I come back in. I’ve thought about chalking some stumps on the wall but, to be honest, it’s that long since I’ve seen any I’ve forgotten what they look like!

The scan on how my stress fracture has healed will have to wait until everything has eased up. With all the coronavirus stuff around, I don’t want to be in a hospital right now.

But I’ve been running almost every other day – a combination of 2km runs, tempo runs and sprints from my England training programme – down at Waterhall playing fields, where Brighton Rugby Club play. Sometimes I see Chris Jordan out doing the same runs.    

Archer has been working out at Waterhall playing fields, where Brighton Rugby Club play

The big thing I miss is playing matches. Otherwise, my life is pretty much the same. Because if I’m not at cricket, I’m at home. And I’m quite accustomed to being by myself.

I’ve got my Xbox, and CJ’s British bulldog Griff for company – and that’s more than enough to keep me occupied. Griff spends so much time with me that he thinks he lives here, to be honest.

It all started a while ago. The two of us live in the same apartment block in Hove and when I saw CJ in the lift one day, Griff just followed behind me. Now when he’s put in the lift, he knows exactly where to go.   

That dog’s got it good with two flats to live in and two lots of food. Thing is, you can’t fill him. He eats whatever you give him straightaway and whenever you’re in the kitchen he’s man-marking you – and I mean touch-tight. Particularly if you get the cheese out of the fridge. He loves it. I thought I’d grown a tail at one point.

The 25-year-old says looking after his British bulldog Griff has been keeping him occupied

It is now a year and a week ago since I made my England debut in Ireland. I was a little bit nervous because I knew what was coming up. All the talk was of selection for the World Cup and the Ashes was following soon after. In any other year, I would probably have been a bit more relaxed.

Seeing my first wicket on Twitter – Mark Adair, bowled – brought back memories. Not least of how cold it was. But I would so love to be back out there now.   

Instead, my competitive action has been confined to indoors. As a Manchester United fan, it was an honour to be asked to represent them in the ePL Invitational – playing FIFA 20 against other Premier League clubs – this past week.

There were quite a few people they could have asked but they chose to ask me – not knowing how good I am at the game. If they had known, they probably wouldn’t have!

I actually felt ok playing against the Premier League footballers but I am pretty scared about playing guys in my own squad. I don’t tend to because some of them are actually good. The likes of Moeen Ali, CJ too. Some, not so. Adil Rashid thinks he’s good but he’s junk, and Tom Curran is the worst by far.

Archer was asked to represent Manchester United in the ePL Invitational last week

I have supported Man United all my life. Living in Barbados, you get quite an even spread of football fans to be honest. There are even West Ham fans – I guess they have family connections.

But Wayne Rooney was the man for me because he scored a lot and when I used to play football I played a similar position up top. I used to try to be him whether it was in the back garden or playing for the school.

I play Xbox a lot and have just signed a deal with Veloce to have my own gaming channel online. This tournament used Play Station. Switching between the two takes a minor adjustment – the same buttons are used but the shape of the controller is a bit different – but I want no excuses.

I got a decent win under my belt to start off with, beating Newcastle’s Rolando Aarons 4-1, but then lost a 4-3 thriller in the last minute against John Egan, of Sheffield United.

At FIFA, I am not a bad loser. The same can’t be said for Call of Duty, though. I get upset and want to throw the remote. That’s serious for me and thankfully none of the England lads have beaten me as yet. I look forward to being back amongst them. 

To find out more about Jofra’s affiliation with Veloce, head to www.veloce-esports.com.


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Mike Tyson vs Danny Williams 2 in the pipeline as Brit’s agent ‘awaits answer’ from legend

Mike Tyson could soon have an opponent for his proposed comeback to boxing after former opponent Danny Williams revealed he wants to fight the 53-year-old for the second time.

Williams defeated Tyson via fourth-round knockout in 2004 toward the end of the latter’s legendary career.

Tyson then retired a year later after losing to Kevin McBride in the sixth round of their clash.

Williams, however, still boxes to this day and last fought in November.

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The Englishman, 46, has a record of 54-28, while Tyson retired with a record of 50-6.

But Williams has confirmed he wants to fight Tyson again, stating that his agents have been in touch with the self-proclaimed ‘Baddest Man on the Planet’.

“I can confirm that a few of my agents have put my name up to fight ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson,” Williams said.

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“We are still awaiting an answer but it’s definitely a fight I want.

“I’m very interested in facing Mike Tyson again.”

Tyson said last week that he was considering fighting again in charity bouts because of how good he felt during his training sessions.

“I’ve been working out, I’ve been trying to get in the ring,” Tyson said in an Instagram Live session with rapper T.I.

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“I think I’m going to box some exhibitions and get in shape.

“I want to go to the gym and get in shape to be able to box three or four-round exhibitions for some charities and stuff.

“I do two hours on cardio, I do the bike and the treadmill for an hour, then I do some light weights, 300, 250 reps.

“Then I start my day with the boxing thing.

“I go in there and hit the mitts, 30 minutes, 25 minutes, start getting in better condition.”

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Neville details how Sir Alex inspired United during Arsenal rivalry

‘Sir Alex always felt that players like Thierry Henry and Robert Pires had an air about them that they couldn’t be tackled’: Gary Neville details how United boss singled out Arsenal stars to motivate his troops during fierce rivalry

  • Gary Neville has revealed how Sir Alex Ferguson inspired United against Arsenal 
  • The two clubs enjoyed a fierce rivalry in the late nineties and early noughties 
  • Neville said Ferguson would pinpoint Thierry Henry and Robert Pires 
  • He also told his players to not allow Arsenal’s stars to referee the game 

Gary Neville has revealed how Sir Alex Ferguson used to rally his Manchester United troops in the midst of the club’s intense battle with Arsenal for top spot in the Premier League. 

The two clubs enjoyed a fierce rivalry in the late nineties and early noughties, with United and Arsenal winning the league title five and three times respectively.

While Arsenal became the only Premier League club to become invincibles in 2003-04, it was United who tended to get the upper hand between the two teams. 

Gary Neville has shared how Sir Alex Ferguson inspired Man United during the Arsenal rivalry

United and Arsenal shared a fierce rivalry lead by Ferguson and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger

And Neville, who was a key figure in United’s defence during that period, revealed how Ferguson utilised his psychological mind games to get the best out of his group of players in the build up and during those famous contests, singling out Thierry Henry and Robert Pires as motivation for his stars.

‘Sir Alex always felt that players like Thierry Henry and Robert Pires had an air about them that they couldn’t be tackled,’ Neville said via Metro.  

‘He said he didn’t see players getting around them or tackling them. He said the opposition were too busy planning how to swap shirts with them. That would psychologically get into our heads. 

Neville revealed how Fergie singled out Thierry Henry and Robert Pires to motivate the troops

‘He’d say things like “I don’t want Vieira refereeing this game today, or Adams, or Keown” – he’d say little things like that without ever encouraging us to intimidate the referee. 

‘People thought that happened but it didn’t. But those little things were the difference in matches. Sir Alex always said ‘find a way to win’ – there was an element of madness to us in the final 10 minutes of matches but that’s the risks he took to win matches. 

‘Not just in title run-ins, Sir Alex would identify weaknesses in the opposition, work out what kind of records we’d have under certain referees, at certain grounds – he would really pinpoint the areas of weakness in the opposition.’

He would also warn his stars to not allow the likes of Patrick Viera to referee games

Ultimately, United would emerge as the stronger force, with Arsenal making way for Chelsea as the Old Trafford club’s strongest challenger in the league. Neville said Ferguson’s mental warfare ensured his United side always had an edge.

‘There were certain points he’d identify mentality issues with certain people within the game that would contribute to the game. He was very much into the detail of the battle on matchdays – the mental battle,’ he added. 

 


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Wright-Phillips: I was 'emotionally broken' after joining Chelsea

‘On the way down to London, I cried like I was 12′: Shaun Wright-Phillips admits he was left ’emotionally broken’ after joining Chelsea from Manchester City… and reveals he had previously snubbed his dad’s club Arsenal to make the move

  • Shaun Wright-Phillips joined Chelsea from Manchester City for £21m in 2005
  • Move came as a shock to the winger who thought he would spend career at City
  • The former England international stated Jose Mourinho was ‘a revelation’ to him
  • He claims he turned down move to his father Ian Wright’s former club Arsenal 

Shaun Wright-Phillips has admitted he planned to spend his whole career at Manchester City before he was caught off guard in being sold to Chelsea.

The forward was one of England’s rising young stars at the time of the 2005 move that cost Jose Mourinho’s newly crowned Premier League champions £21million.

Despite a series of excellent showings for City that had helped him force a way into the England side, Wright-Phillips – the son of legendary Arsenal striker Ian Wright – admitted he though his sale to Chelsea was because City no longer wanted him.

Shaun Wright-Phillips joined Chelsea from Manchester City for £21million in 2005


Wright-Phillips previously came through the Manchester City ranks, becoming a key player

‘Maybe I was a little naive, but I thought I’d be at City for my whole career, he told FourFourTwo.’ Then Chelsea made a bid for me and City said they were accepting it.

‘I took it as, “OK, obviously you don’t want me at the club any more”. On the way down to London, I cried like I was 12. I cried for an hour – I was emotionally broken. A few months later, I found out the truth behind what happened: City had no choice but to sell me, because they were possibly about to go into administration or something along those lines. Chelsea was a new chapter in my life.

‘I loved it there and the supporters were tremendous with me. I had some tough times, but they always cheered for me.’

Despite being rotated in and out of the first-team by Jose Mourinho during his time at the Blues, he was adamant he was given a fair opportunity to impress at Stamford Bridge

The new issue of FourFourTwo is out on Wednesday, April 29

Wright-Phillips was just 23-years-old at the time of the move and he went on to play 125 games for the Blues over the next five years, winning the Premier League and the FA Cup.

However he admitted he struggled to adapt to not being the key player in the side like he was at City as he was often rotated in and out of the first team.

Despite this he was full of praise for his first Blues manager in Mourinho, and insisted he was offered opportunities to impress when asked if he was given a fair chance at Stamford Bridge by the current Tottenham Hotspur boss.

‘Yes, I did. Mourinho was a revelation for me,’ he added. ‘He was so premeditated in so many ways. We played Spurs in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, and on the Thursday before the game he said, “This is the team, but be ready: if we’re losing, I’ll bring you on, we’re going to draw, and then we’ll go to White Hart Lane and win the replay.” That’s exactly what happened. I scored in the replay, too.’

Wright-Phillips admitted he had previously snubbed Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger (left) before deciding to join Mourinho at Chelsea

Before joining Chelsea, Wright-Phillips claimed there was also interest from Arsenal, but that Arsene Wenger’s uncertainty in only wanting to sign him in January meant he quickly snubbed the option to move to Highbury.

Wright-Phillips continued: ‘They came in for me at the same time as Chelsea, but Arsene Wenger wanted to wait until January. I’ve always been brought up to strike while the iron’s hot, because you never know what’s going to happen a week later.

‘If I’d got injured, I might have missed both opportunities. Dad told me, “Son, of course I’d love it if you played for Arsenal, but we’ve got to take you where you fit best.” We didn’t have to make a choice – Arsene made the decision for us.’ 

This month’s FourFourTwo features the 100 Greatest Managers Ever, and is available to buy in shops and online from Wednesday, April 29. Also in this month’s issue, the inside story of Blackburn’s title win 20 years ago and The Curlett Cup – Liverpool’s forgotten trophy. For an exclusive MailOnline subscription offer, which includes three issues of FourFourTwo for £3 and free download, go to: https://www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk/mailonline/




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Morata says playing van Dijk is 'like you hit a mountain'

‘When you go against van Dijk it seems like you hit a mountain’: Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata includes Liverpool star among the three toughest defenders he’s faced

  • Alvaro Morata’s career has taken him from Spain, to Italy, to England and back
  • Atletico Madrid striker managed to get the better of Virgil van Dijk this season
  • The 27-year-old also namechecks Giorgio Chiellini and Sergio Ramos in list 

Alvaro Morata has named the three toughest defenders he’s come up against in his career so far – and there’s a place for Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk.

The Spaniard’s playing days so far have taken him from Spain, to Italy, to England and back to his homeland again.

But there are few who have made such an impression on the Atletico Madrid striker as last year’s PFA Player of the Season.

Alvaro Morata said going against Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk is like hitting a mountain

Morata has named the Liverpool centre-back as one of his three toughest opponents

Juventus veteran Giorgio Chiellini and Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos also make the cut. 

‘Chiellini, I don’t know if he does it on purpose, but when he meets me, he always destroys me,’ Morata told AS.

‘Sergio Ramos is also a tough defender, while when you go against [Virgil] Van Dijk it seems like you hit a mountain,’ the forward said.

The 27-year-old also namechecked Spain and former Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Ramos

The Atletico Madrid striker admits that Juventus veteran Giorgio Chiellini ‘always destroys me’

Morata was team-mates with Chiellini in his days at Juventus and has also lined up alongside his Spanish compatriot Ramos during his days at Real Madrid.

The former Chelsea man came up against van Dijk this season when Atleti drew Liverpool in the last-16 of the Champions League.

The 27-year-old was able to get the better of his opposite number this time as Atletico stormed to a 4-2 aggregate victory over the European champions. 




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Fernandes insists Man United incomings must share his 'hunger' to win

‘I want people hungry for titles’: Bruno Fernandes insists that any new players joining him at Manchester United must share his desire to win ‘everything’

  • Bruno Fernandes has enjoyed a mightily impressive start to life at Old Trafford 
  • Star man says anyone joining him at Manchester United must have same hunger
  • Fernandes insists he wants to win ‘everything’ with his new club going forward 
  • United are unbeaten since January and the tide has turned in recent months 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Bruno Fernandes insists that any new players joining him at Manchester United must be hungry for titles after admitting he is desperate to win ‘everything’ at the club.

Fernandes has been a shining light for the Old Trafford outfit since arriving in January, winning the Premier League’s Player of the Month award for February.

The coronavirus lockdown has halted his progress, although when football does eventually return Fernandes is under no illusions about what he desires.    

Bruno Fernandes immediately won the Premier League’s Player of the Month at United

Fernandes (second left) insists any new United players must share his desire to win trophies

‘I want to win everything. I’m hungry to win everything. I came to Manchester to win, to win titles, league, Champions League, everything,’ Fernandes said in a Q&A with supporters on United’s official website.

‘We know the potential Manchester have, because we are a young team, young players, but we’ve got a lot of quality.

‘It doesn’t matter if we’re young and the others have more experience than us, because we have also experienced players who can help the youngest. 

‘The mix we have now and in the future, I don’t know what will happen in the next season, of course Manchester is a big club and normally they buy someone because you are a big club and everyone wants to come here.’

Fernandes says he wants to win ‘everything’ at United, from leagues to Champions Leagues

Fernandes’ arrival has coincided with a huge upturn in United’s fortunes on the pitch

And if United do secure more big-name signings, Fernandes is keen to point out that they must share his and the rest of the squad’s desire to win. 

‘We already have a big team, but whoever comes needs to come to win,’ he added. ‘Just to focus to win, I want people hungry for titles and everything. I feel this now in the group, everyone wants to win.’

United have endured a topsy-turvy time under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but Fernandes’ arrival appears to have steadied the ship and the team are unbeaten since the end of January.

In that time, they have won eight of their 11 matches, moving up to fifth, hot on the heels of Chelsea in the Champions League spots just above them. 




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