Who won the NASCAR race yesterday? Full results for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

Chase Elliott was cruising to what would be a uniquely satisfying win in the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night given what had happened a few days prior.

Until he wasn’t.

Elliott, who was wrecked by Kyle Busch in the closing laps at Darlington on Wednesday night, was leading with just a few laps to go at Charlotte Motor Speedway when his Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron spun out with a flat tire and brought out a caution. Elliott pitted under yellow, allowing Brad Keselowski to assume the lead and beat Jimmie Johnson to the checkered flag to win the Coca-Cola 600.

COCA-COLA 600: Complete highlights from Sunday night’s race

“That’s got to be a joke,” Elliott said on his radio when the caution came out for Byron’s spin. Added Elliott after the race regarding his team’s decision to pit before overtime: “You just try to make the best decision you can. Those guys are just going to do the opposite of whatever we do. That’s just a part of it. You make decisions and you live with them. It wasn’t the pit call — I think being on offense is fine.
 
“Like I said, those guys are going to do whatever’s the opposite of what you do.”

Who won the Coca-Cola 600?

Brad Keselowski pulled away from Jimmie Johnson in overtime to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway after Chase Elliott surrendered the lead by pitting.

“I feel like I’ve thrown this race away a couple of times, and I thought we were going to lose it today,” Keselowski said after the race. “I know we’ve lost it the way Chase lost it, and that really stinks, and today we finally won it that way (by staying out).
 
“It’s major. It’s the Coke 600. That only leaves one major for me, the Daytona 500. We’re checking ‘em off. We may not have been the fastest car today, but, whoa, did we grind this one out. The pit crew on the yellow before the last had a blazing stop to get us up front.”

NASCAR at Charlotte results

Below are the complete results from Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600, which became the longest race in NASCAR history when it reached overtime and a total of 405 laps.

Johnson’s car failed post-race inspection, so the No. 48 team was relegated to a last-place finish.

Average speed of race winner: 135.042 mph

Time of race: 4 Hrs, 29 Mins, 55 Secs. Margin of Victory: .293 Seconds.

Caution flags: 8 for 52 laps.

Lead changes: 20 among 11 drivers.

Lap Leaders: K. Busch 1-54; A. Bowman 55-159;J . Johnson 160-162; J. Nemechek 163; R. Preece 164; R. Stenhouse Jr. 165; A. Bowman 166-223; M. Truex Jr. 224-255; B. Keselowski 256-262; M. Truex Jr. 263-277; J. Logano 278-302; A. Bowman 303; M. DiBenedetto 304-306; J. Logano 307; M. Truex Jr. 308; M. DiBenedetto 309-311; M. Truex Jr. 312-350; J. Johnson 351-353; B. Keselowski 354-362; C. Elliott 363-400; B. Keselowski 401-405.

Leaders summary (driver, times lead, laps led): Alex Bowman 3 times for 164 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 4 times for 87 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 54 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 38 laps; Joey Logano 2 times for 26 laps; Brad Keselowski 3 times for 21 laps; Matt DiBenedetto 2 times for 6 laps; Jimmie Johnson 2 times for 6 laps; Ryan Preece 1 time for 1 lap; John Hunter Nemechek 1 time for 1 lap; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage 1 top 10: 88, 19, 9, 8, 22, 18, 3, 48, 24, 1

Stage 2 top 10: 88,19,18,24,9,20,22,3,12,48

Stage 3 top 10: 22, 88, 12, 48, 19, 18, 20, 2, 3, 24

Material from the NASCAR Wire Service was used in this report.

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Neutral venues back on the agenda ahead of Project Restart meeting

Neutral venues back on the agenda as Premier League clubs set to discuss using a combination of grounds to allay police concerns at crucial Project Restart meeting on Thursday

  • The Premier League season could be finished using a combination of venues 
  • A proposal to use ‘home/away and/or neutral venues’ is back on the agenda
  • All 20 clubs are to discuss the idea at Thursday’s Project Restart meeting
  • There will also be a vote on proposed financial settlement with the broadcasters 

The Premier League season could be completed using a combination of home grounds and neutral venues in a dramatic new twist to Project Restart. 

Sportsmail has learned that a proposal to use ‘home/away and/or neutral venues’ is on the agenda for the potentially decisive meeting of the 20 clubs this Thursday, when they will also be asked to provide approval in principle for the Premier League’s preferred resumption date, fixture list and plans for allocating league position in the event of curtailment. 

There will also be a formal vote on a proposed financial settlement with the broadcasters.

Neutral venues are back on the Project Restart agenda ahead of Thursday’s crucial meeting 

A combination of home and neutral grounds could be used to allay public order concerns

While a heated discussion over whether to the follow the EFL in using points-per-game to allocate places in preference to a weighted model had been expected to dominate Thursday’s meetings, the unexpected return of the neutral venues debate provides another potential source of disagreement. 

The Premier League’s proposal to play all 92 remaining matches at neutral stadiums came close to killing Project Restart in its infancy last month before Tottenham and Chelsea led a revolt begun by the bottom six clubs to force a re-think, which was accepted by the Government.

Sportsmail has been told that the Premier League are now considering a hybrid model in which a handful of fixtures could be moved to a neutral venue in order to allay any lingering public order and safety concerns. 

Whilst the majority of games would be staged on home grounds as planned certain high-risk matches could be switched to reduce the likelihood of fans congregating, and any potential flare-ups.

Liverpool’s tie with Crystal Palace could be played at a neutral ground should they win the title

Liverpool’s next two fixtures could fall into that category, as they are due to resume with the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park before a home game against Crystal Palace which could see them win the Premier League title. 

But there are also potential issues for other clubs. The Metropolitan Police may not sanction Arsenal’s north London derby at Tottenham or Chelsea’s trip across the capital to West Ham given the historic enmity between those clubs’ fans, while Wolves’ visit to Sheffield United could attract a crowd given its impact on European qualification for next season.

This mixed model would present obvious question marks regarding the integrity of the competition, but could still be accepted as a compromise required to get the season finished. 

Crucially, by maintaining the majority of home matches it would enable clubs to protect their commercial income, whilst alleviating fears of triggering mass gatherings. All the clubs contacted by Sportsmail on Sunday said they would wait to study the Premier League’s proposals in detail before deciding on their position, but did not dismiss it.

In addition to voting on the broadcasting settlement the clubs will also discuss how to sanction any breaches of the Government-approved training protocols, and whether to extend their financial support to the EFL beyond their existing solidarity and parachute payments.

Wolves’ visit to Sheffield United could attract crowd given impact on European qualification 




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The 10 worst heavyweight champions of all time

From the man who ruled for all of 64 days before being ousted by Mike Tyson to Charles Martin’s embarrassing reign and the average Joe professional who once dethroned Muhammad Ali – here are the WORST heavyweight champions of all time

  • There’s been some legendary fighters to have ruled as heavyweight champion
  • But not every man to capture a major heavyweight belt has been a world beater
  • Sportsmail takes a look at the worst champions in boxing’s blue-riband division

It could be down to the senseless number of world titles up for grabs in these modern times or the fact that one punch can change it all in heavyweight boxing, but throughout history there have been some truly shocking and unlikely rulers of the sport’s blue-riband division.

Becoming the heavyweight champion is widely seen as the pinnacle of all sporting achievements, but not every man to have claimed a major belt has been cut from the same cloth as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson or Wladimir Klitschko.

We are in a golden era of heavyweight boxing now with the likes of Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua helping to restore the glory days.

But it hasn’t always been the cream-of-the-crop fighters who have reigned supreme in the land of the giants.

Here, Sportsmail compiles a list of the 10 worst heavyweights to have been crowned world champion.


We are in a golden era with Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury helping restore boxing’s glory days

This is the short tale of when a prince became king, promised to conquer all and then got dethroned after faltering in his first expedition. 

Charles Martin was only given a world title shot because a boardroom of people decided he was next in line after Tyson Fury was stripped of the IBF belt.

Vyacheslav Glazkov was the man pitted against him. The Ukrainian, though smaller in stature, was fancied to take home the belt, but in the second round suffered an horrific knee injury. Unable to stand, he was subsequently pulled out in the third.

Charles Martin got a rude awakening when his reign as champ was ended by Anthony Joshua

Martin was floored twice before being stopped in the second round of his first title defence

Martin, who had got the shot on a technicality, was then handed the belt without breaking a sweat. Talk about the silver-spoon treatment.

The southpaw American ventured across the pond to make his first defence against Anthony Joshua only to leave swiftly with his tail between his legs. 

Joshua demolished Martin with ease in just two rounds and ended what was one of the strangest and shortest heavyweight reigns in history.

James Buster Douglas

James Buster Douglas will forever hold a place in boxing folklore for knocking out Mike Tyson in the biggest upset in heavyweight history.

No one will ever forget that night.

Douglas came into the fight with an undistinguished record and was facing the most feared man on the planet at that time.

James Douglas stunned the world when he sent Mike Tyson tumbling and out for the count

Douglas’ win was the biggest upset in heavyweight history but his reign would be short-lived

It was supposed to be a knock-over job for Tyson. But Douglas tore up the script and fulfilled his own dream by becoming world champion.

He secured a mega fight against Evander Holyfield next but was horribly out of his depth and was stopped in the third round.

Douglas would never scale those heights in the ring again and bowed out in 1999 as one of the unlikeliest men to hold the undisputed heavyweight championship. At least he will always have that famed night in Japan.

Tony Tucker 

For ability and talent alone, Tony ‘TNT’ Tucker far exceeds most on this list.

This was a man who had real amateur pedigree, finishing his career with 115 wins and just six defeats before turning over to the pro ranks.

As well as skill, Tucker possessed dynamite in his fists, claiming 47 knockouts from his 57 victories as a professional.

Tony Tucker was relieved of his world heavyweight title by Tyson just 64 days after winning it

He also took heavyweight greats Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis the full distance, so he certainly belonged at world level.

Unfortunately, his place in boxing history will always be defined by the fact he is the shortest reigning world heavyweight champion ever.

Tucker ruled for just 64 days as the IBF champion before being outpointed by Tyson in a relatively close fight. 

Bermane Stiverne

Bermane Stiverne is another on this list to win the world heavyweight title and then lose it immediately.

The American was crowned WBC champion after stopping fringe-level fighter Chris Arreola midway through their contest for the vacant belt in 2014.

He came unstuck against Deontay Wilder in a very watchable 12-round clash eight months later.

Bermane Stiverne was crowned WBC champion after stopping Chris Arreola back in 2014

Stiverne lost his title against Deontay Wilder and was flattened in their rematch years later

Stiverne returned to winning ways in late 2015 before vanishing off the scene for two years.

His comeback in 2017 was a re-run of his intriguing encounter with knockout artist Wilder but this time he was grossly out of shape and gunned out in the first round.

He is now a gate-keeper in the heavyweight division and last fought in 2019, losing to British hopeful Joe Joyce. 

Primo Carnera   

He was a modern-day giant of his time but dodgy dealings and suspicious match-making left plenty of question marks over his legitimacy.

At 6 ft 6, Carnera towered over most heavyweights of the 1930s era and on more than one occasion held a six-stone advantage over his opponent – he was the heaviest man to ever win a world title before Nikolai Valuev become champion in 2005.

With a professional record of 89 victories and 14 defeats, Carnera looks, on the face of it, to have been a worthy champion.

Primo Carnera pictured flooring Jack Sharkey during their world title fight in New York in 1931

Carnera (L) was a giant of his time but was alleged to have been run by mobs (not pictured)

He also still boasts the record for winning more fights by knockout than any other heavyweight titlist in boxing history (72).

Carnera claimed the NBA, NYSAC, The Ring, and lineal heavyweight titles after knocking out Jack Sharkey in 1933 but his reign was short-lived as he lost the belts after making just two successful defences.

He was stripped of his titles by Max Baer and was reportedly knocked down during that fight 12 times. Carnera was backed by a group of prosperous but shady entrepreneurs and was alleged to have been mob controlled with the majority of his fights reportedly being fixed.

Siarhei Liakhovich

The Belarus heavyweight enjoyed a decent amateur career and even represented his country at the 1996 Olympic Games.

But his professional career, aside from the night he became world champion, was far from spectacular.

Siarhei Liakhovich claimed the WBO world title after earning a unanimous points decision over Lamon Brewster in 2006.

Siarhei Liakhovich became an unlikely champion in 2006 and is pictured here with Don King

The Belarus heavyweight became a gatekeeper and was beaten by Robert Helenius in 2011

He was soon vacated as champion though, Shannon Briggs stopping him in the 12th round in what was his first defence.

Liakhovich lost his next fight against Nikolai Valuev and was used as a stepping stone for upcoming heavyweights towards the backend of his career. 

Robert Helenius, Bryant Jennings, Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz Jr all beat Liakhovich between 2011 and 2014. He last fought in 2019, being stopped by Canadian Simon Kean, and his current record stands at a modest 27 wins and 8 losses.  

Leon Spinks

An Olympic Gold medallist who once defeated ‘The Greatest’ but had the record of a journeyman, Leon Spinks is an enigma who defied all logic.

His shock victory over Muhammad Ali in 1978 in what was just his eighth professional fight remains even today one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight history.

The win saw Spinks become the first and only man to strip Ali of a world title in the ring.

Leon Spinks is held aloft after shocking the world to strip Muhammad Ali of his world titles

Ali avenged his defeat months later and Spinks’ career was consigned to the gutter afterwards

Ali avenged the defeat by dazzling his way to a points win in the rematch seven months later, with a record 2 billion people tuning in to watch the fight.

Spinks gained notoriety for the calamity which befell his career following the loss to Ali. 

Although he would challenge for the heavyweight world title again, in 1981, and the cruiserweight belt five years later, Spinks was left crumpled in a heap on both occasions and would finish his career with a record of 26 wins and 17 defeats.

Ingemar Johansson

Ingemar Johansson’s right-hand was appropriately described as the ‘Hammer of Thor’.

The late great Floyd Patterson knew all about taking a right-hand flush from Johansson. He was floored seven times in one round in his world title stoppage defeat against the big-punching Swede in 1959. 

They say revenge is a dish best served cold but Patterson wasted no time in righting the wrongs and left Johansson out for the count in an immediate rematch and a succeeding trilogy bout.

Ingemar Johansson viciously battered Floyd Patterson to become the champion in 1959

Patterson got his revenge by leaving the Swedish boxer knocked out cold in their rematch

Johansson’s reign as champion had lasted just shy of a year and although he bounced back after the consecutive defeats against Patterson, he would never scale those heights again.

He was even floored by journeyman fighter Wim Smoeak in 1961 and called it quits just four more fights after his greatest night. 

A colourful character outside the ring, Johansson was renowned for his penchant for night clubs as opposed to fight clubs and even had a hit-record back in his native Sweden.

Corrie Sanders

Another unlikely champion, Corrie Sanders seized his moment and then faded into boxing obscurity.

The South African was questionably sanctioned to face Wladimir Klitschko for the WBO world strap in March 2003 despite having only fought three rounds in the two years prior. 

Sanders was given only a puncher’s chance but stunned the world by blitzing the Ukrainian inside just two rounds.

Corrie Sanders upset the odds to destroy Wladimir Klitschko and become the world champion

Vitali Klitschko avenged his brother’s defeat by stopping the South African in his next fight

Determined to prove his knockout win wasn’t a fluke, Sanders targeted Wladimir’s brother Vitali next.

But lightning didn’t strike twice and Sanders was brought crashing back down to earth after being completely dominated and dismantled in eight rounds.

Sanders was known for being a heavy hitter and was hailed by Klitschko and Hasim Rahman – who he had floored in a closely fought knockout defeat earlier in his career – in the years after his retirement, but as champions go, he would be filed under the very ordinary.

Shannon Briggs  

‘Let’s go Champ’ has become Shannon Briggs’ relentlessly irritating campaign slogan to remain relevant.

Briggs thinks if he keeps shouting loud enough and long enough, opportunities will arise out of the blue.

That, unsurprisingly, has not worked so far. After all, his career began 28 years ago and even at the height of it, Briggs was not considered one of the major players in the heavyweight division.

Lennox Lewis left Shannon Briggs on his backside during their world title fight back in 1998

Briggs lost WBO world title in his first defence against Russian heavyweight Sultan Ibragimov

His own catchline could have only been accurately directed at him for all of 126 days: that’s how long his reign was as the WBO heavyweight champion.

He has had four world title fights in his career and won only one of them, losing to Lennox Lewis, Sultan Ibragimov and Vitali Klitschko.

Briggs has won 60 times during his pro career but has no outstanding names on his record aside from George Foreman and Ray Mercer, who were far past their prime when they shared the ring with him.  




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The rules Serie A are planning to use to resume the season

Team photos and mascots banned, a mandatory eight-question form on COVID-19 symptoms for anyone attending games and a possible yellow card for spitting! The rules Serie A are planning to use to resume the season

  • Serie A is working towards a return in order to complete the 2019-20 season
  • Team photos will be abolished and mascots will not emerge with the players
  • Players risk being awarded a yellow card if they fall foul of the rules on spitting
  • Sportsmail looks at the protocol the league is looking at to get games back on 

Having seen the Bundesliga in Germany resume their 2019-20 season, Serie A chiefs are looking to follow suit.  

The Italian Football Federation has decided teams in the country’s top three tiers must complete the 2019-20 season by August 20, with the 2020-21 campaign scheduled to begin on September 1.

But with a desire to finish the current campaign – with Juventus just one point ahead of Lazio in the title race – a number of strict measures need to be introduced to ensure the safety of players, coaches and others who are allowed to attend.  

Handshakes will be banned and superfluous contact banned under new Serie A guidelines

In a bid to get games back on behind closed doors, Serie A will have a series of strict rules

Meanwhile, Italian Minister of Sport Vincenzo Spadafora has confirmed decisions made regarding league competition will be ratified in a council meeting on May 28.

‘The Italian Football Federation has expressed its willingness to restart and complete its national professional competitions, marking August 20 as the deadline for Serie A, B and C to close their competitions,’ a FIGC statement read.

‘Ahead of the restart of sporting activity, it will be the Federal Council’s competence to determine the criteria whereby competitions will be finalised.

‘Finally, as a result of what has been sanctioned, the 2020-21 sporting season will start on September 1.’ 

Team photos would breach social distancing and substitutes will be required to wear masks and be separated by at least 1.5 metres, as has been seen in Germany. 

Sportsmail looks at the rules that are to be introduced to ensure a safe transition back to playing games.  

ENTERING THE STADIUM

Everything from the moment players, staff and media arrive at the stadium to navigating through the facility will be strictly monitored. 

Protocol will see increased hand-sanitising stations while there will be rules to ensure social distancing is respected throughout. 

The teams will enter the pitch separately to avoid meeting in the tunnel, as is typical under normal circumstances. 

Handshakes will be prohibited, team photos will be scrapped, and there will be no mascots to accompany the players onto the pitch. These rules represent a new phase of football in Italy.

Only 300 people will be allowed at games and medical checks and a questionnaire will be key

MANAGERS WEARING MASKS

Much like has been seen in Germany, it will be imperative for substitutes and coaches on the bench to keep at least two or three places away from each other. 

Everyone must wear a mask while not in action on the pitch. 

Managers will only be able to remove their mask to give instructions to his players but in doing so, he must provide the instructions at a distance of at least one and a half metres. 

ONLY 300 PEOPLE IN THE STADIUM… AND NO CONTACT WITH REFEREES!

There will be a maximum of 300 people in the stadium and there will be no contact with the referees before the start of the match. 

Monumental stadiums that can hold up to 80,000 people will be reduced to a small. number of key workers. 

The 300 people allowed to intend does include the players and the non-playing staff of the two teams. 

Team photos, such as this Lazio one from October, will be scrapped under new guidelines

There will be gel dispensers dotted across all areas of the stadium, as well as in the changing rooms, to ensure cleanliness. 

Anyone who is involved in the day will have to undergo a health check by completing a questionnaire on symptoms of Covid-19 – it includes eight questions. 

Journalists who are eligible to attend games will not be able to access the press room. It will remain closed.

SPITTING COULD LEAD TO POSSIBLE YELLOW CARD

To ensure players avoid contact with saliva, it will be strictly forbidden to spit while on the pitch.

It is an unhygienic habit that has been visible for many years in football but with the current public health situation, a hard line will be taken if players are seen to be spitting. 

There will be no more handshakes and the toss of the coin to choose the side of the pitch and who has the ball will no longer be key parts to starting the match.

In another measure to observe social distancing where possible, during the match it will be forbidden to protest decisions and go within less than 1.5 metres of the referee.

Referees will be protected by social distancing with appeals required to be at least 1.5m away

INCREASED CHANGING ROOM SPACE

For the changing rooms, the plan is to open up adjacent rooms and as allow for as many chairs as possible to ensure adequate social distancing.

The rooms must be disinfected regularly – even between the end of the first half and the beginning of the second. 

Players will only be able to use single showers, without ice tubs or a whirlpool. Only referees may enter the referees’ room.




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The top 10 final-day showdowns in European history

David Beckham’s glorious Real Madrid swansong, Ronaldo’s tears at Inter Milan (and don’t forget Agueroooooo!)… 15 years on from ‘Helicopter Sunday’ seeing Rangers snatch the league from Celtic, the most dramatic final-day title wins in European history

  • Celtic conceded twice in the dying moments in 2005 to hand Rangers the title
  • But there have been many other dramatic final day showdowns across Europe
  • David Beckham’s Real Madrid had to come from behind to win LaLiga
  • But Inter Milan’s Ronaldo was left empty handed after final day loss in 2002 
  • Arguably England’s most dramatic encounter featured Sergio Aguero’s heroics 

It’s the time of year where usually in some corner of Europe we can expect to see a dramatic final day title decider. 

One of the greatest of them all came 15 years ago today when Rangers snatched the title from Celtic’s grasp in dramatic fashion in what is now famously known as ‘Helicopter Sunday’.

But how does it compare against other famous day finales where the title seemed to go on a country tour before landing at its final destination? Sportsmail looks as the greatest final day showdowns in Europe where you didn’t know where to keep your eyes. 

Rangers snatched the title away from Celtic in dramatic fashion in the 2004-05 season

It appears some things never change in Spanish football. After a close title battle between Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid throughout the year, the final day in 1992 came down between the former two, with Real a point ahead.

With just two points awarded for a win Barca needed to defeat Atletic Bilbao, while hoping relegation threatened Tenerife at home could deny Real victory.

With an equal head-to-head record with their rivals, goal difference was in Barca’s favour heading into the final day should the top two finish level on points.

Despite Barca winning 2-0 it didn’t look like being a factor when Real also raced out in front away from home by the same scoreline.

Tenerife hit back before the break but Real still looked on course for the title until they collapsed to concede twice with just over 10 minutes to play to hand Barca the crown. A year later they would once again lose against Tenerife with Barca picking up the pieces once more on the final day. 

A Barcelona side featuring Hristo Stoichkov (above) won LaLiga before going on to win the European Cup and complete a double

Stuttgart break Dortmund hearts after Frankfurt choke (1992)

Hard to imagine in the Bayern Munich-dominated world now but there was a time when the Bundesliga was arguably Europe’s best league for serving up final day drama.

Take the 1991-92 season for instance when heading into the final day, Frankfurt, Borussia Dortmund and Stuttgart went into their last fixtures all level on points.

Frankfurt had the advantage on goal difference but choked against an already relegated Hansa Rostock to lose 2-1 and miss out on a first ever Bundesliga title.

With Stuttgart being held in Bayer Leverkusen, Dortmund looked set to capitalise as they led 1-0 over Duisburg. They were just four minutes from the title until Guido Buchwald popped up to head in a Stuttgart winner and hand them just their second Bundesliga crown.

Stuttgart players celebrate winning the 1992 Bundesliga title in the dressing room

Bayern strike in stoppage time (2001)

And yet Stuttgart’s late show may not even be the best Germany has to offer. Heading into the final day of the 2000-01 season a Schalke side chasing a first modern day Bundesliga title had to win against soon to be relegated Unterhaching and hope Bayern Munich lost in Hamburg.

Schalke did their bit. Just. Battling back from 2-0 and 3-2 down to eventually win 5-3. But with Hamburg and Bayern still goalless heading into the final minute, all looked lost.

Then Hamburg scored, prompting wild scenes in Gelsenkirchen with Schalke fans pouring onto the pitch to celebrate.

But with mere seconds left there was a devastating final twist. Bayern won an indirect free-kick, and with a touch laid off to Patrik Andersson he fired home an equaliser to score the only goal of his Bayern career and snatch the title away from Schalke in the most dramatic fashion.

Patrik Andersson (left) celebrates with Owen Hargreaves after his stoppage time goal earned Bayern Munich the 2001 Bundesliga at Schalke’s expense

Ronaldo’s Rome ruin (2002)

The script was in place. Ronaldo’s magic would finally capture a domestic trophy at Inter Milan by helping them win the Italian top flight for the first time since 1989.

Inter went into the final day top of Serie A but they were far from nailed on to win the title. They were just one point ahead of Juventus and two ahead of defending champions Roma.

They would travel to the Stadio Olimpico too in their last game, not to face Roma but their main rivals Lazio. However with Lazio needing a win to secure a European spot, they were in no mood to roll over and deny Roma back-to-back titles.

As it was they didn’t need to worry. Although Roma won 1-0 at Torino, Juventus’s 2-0 victory at Udinese ensured their reign as champions was over.

It meant Inter had to win and despite taking the lead twice it was they who suffered ruin in Rome as they crumbled to a 4-2 loss thanks to a double from former Manchester United midfielder Karel Poborsky, with Diego Simeone and Simone Inzaghi hitting second half strikes.

Shortly after Inzaghi’s 73rd minute effort, Ronaldo was substituted and was left in tears on the bench in his final game for Inter who ended the season in third.

Ronaldo was left distraught after failing to win the title with Inter Milan in 2002

Goals scored edges Norway thriller (2004)

Forget winner takes all. Norway’s final day title decider in 2004 was a case of who could score the most goals.

Heading into their final fixtures Rosenborg and Valerenga were level on points but also level on goal difference. With Rosenborg having scored more goals it was they who had the slender advantage when they kicked off at home against Lyn.

Late in the game they led 3-1, but news soon filtered through that Valerenga were 3-0 up following a late strike against Stabaek.

Needing a goal to win the title for a 13th consecutive year, they poured forward and were rewarded a minute from time to snatch the title by the slimmest of margins of goals scored.

Rosenborg players line up before a Champions League game with Arsenal in 2004

‘Helicopter Sunday’ (2005)

‘There are moments in your career you can’t forget and that was one of them. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that day.’

Sportsmail’s Chris Sutton still cannot get over the nightmare of how Celtic blew the title from a winning position on the final day of the Scottish Premier League season in 2005 and giftwrap Rangers the title.

He had fired the Bhoys into a 29th minute lead at Motherwell and that looked to be enough heading into the last two minutes despite Rangers also winning 1-0 at Hibernian.

The helicopter was already on its way to Fir Park to hand Celtic the title before a Scott McDonald equaliser two minutes from time stunned the visitors, who then conceded again two minutes later in a dramatic collapse.

A swift change in direction from the chopper put it on course for the capital where Rangers held on at Easter Road to secure the title. 

Didier Agathe (left) and Neil Lennon stand dejected following a final day defeat at Motherwell

Beckham signs off with silverware (2007)

David Beckham’s Real Madrid career had its ups and downs but he looked like he would be heading for LA Galaxy without a trophy to his name at the Bernabeu following his blockbuster arrival four years earlier.

Yet having battled back from the fringes of Fabio Capello’s squad, he had helped spur Real Madrid into a title charge heading into the final day of the 2006-07 season.

Madrid realistically knew they had to win against Real Mallorca to deny Barcelona the crown, especially as their rivals were playing rock bottom minnows Gimnastic.

Of course, Barca cruised to a 5-1 win, but Madrid stuttered falling behind early on. Beckham had endured one of his poorer games of the season but his replacement on the night ensured he could still end his Madrid career with a winners’ medal.

Jose Antonio Reyes came on in the second half to net a brace on the way to a 3-1 victory and hand Capello’s side the title. 

Draped in a St George’s flag, David Beckham celebrates winning LaLiga in 2007 along with manager Fabio Capello and team-mate Fabio Cannavaro

Louis van Gaal’s unfancied heroes choke (2007)

Some Manchester United supporters may find it hard to believe but back in 2007, Louis van Gaal was on the cusp of pulling off a magnificent achievement by landing unfancied AZ just their second ever top flight title.

They went into the final day level on points with Ajax and PSV Eindhoven but with a comfortable goal difference to ensure that victory would be enough for the title.

However, Van Gaal’s side suffered defeat against minnows Excelsior, meaning Ajax were in pole position on goal difference. They saw off Willem II 2-0 but were left stunned when PSV recorded a 5-1 thrashing over Vitesse Arnhem to snatch the title with a superior goal difference of just one. 

Louis van Gaal reacts during his AZ side’s final day defeat at the hands of Excelsior

Aguero spares City blushes (2012)

Few of us need reminding of the details of this, but this is classic example of why instead of helicopters the Premier League opts to have multiple trophies that can be lifted at various grounds.

Manchester United looked to have had the job done. A professional performance in a 1-0 win at Sunderland meant that at full-time they could taste the champagne of another Premier League title victory.

You could forgive the early, if a little cautious, celebrations too as the only team that could deny them the title were local rivals Manchester City who in a must-win game were losing 2-1 at home to QPR as their game ticked into stoppage time.

City’s equaliser in the second minute of stoppage time through Edin Dzeko came just as the United game was coming to a close but any remaining smiles among the United players and fans at the Stadium of Light soon turned to anguish and horror once they found out Sergio Aguero had completed a remarkable turnaround a few seconds later at the Etihad and earn City their first top flight title for 44 years on goal difference.

Sergio Aguero’s last gasp strike against QPR in 2012 claimed the title for Manchester City

Big spending PSG denied first title in 18 years (2012)

It’s hard to think of anything other than the French title heading to the French capital these days but in 2012, PSG had just started flexing their new found financial muscle in the hope of winning their first title since 1994.

They enjoyed an excellent campaign but despite spending £82million, including a French record of £37million for Javier Pastore, they were seen off by a Montpellier side who had an annual budget of just £29million but featured Olivier Giroud in attack. 

Heading into the final day Montpellier were top and needed just a draw at rock bottom Auxerre to claim a first ever top flight crown. PSG did their bit in seeing off Lorient 2-1 but there was a slight twist to proceedings.

Despite leaving it late to claim three points, PSG still did not know their fate at full-time, with Montpellier’s match delayed three times due to crowd disturbances.

But as PSG stars looked on at big screens they could do nothing to prevent Montpellier coming from behind to win 2-1 thanks to two John Utaka strikes to help his side land a shock maiden French crown. 

Olivier Giroud celebrates with a fan after helping Montpellier win the French top flight




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How the Premier League will be kitted out next season

Liverpool’s huge £70m Nike contract gives them the top deal to match their team, Everton are keeping it retro with cult classic Hummel… but will new pretenders like Castore snap any clubs going free? How the Premier League will be kitted out next season

  • Liverpool will be wearing Nike next season after sealing a record-breaking deal 
  • After legal battle with New Balance, a £70m-a-year agreement will go through
  • Everton have also struck a new partner, having swapped Umbro for Hummel 
  • Newcastle and Watford are both currently without a kit deal for 2020-21 season 

Liverpool will start next season in Nike shirts thanks to the biggest kit deal in Premier League history in the latest indication of a powershift at the top of the English game.

Having been given the green light after winning their court battle against New Balance, their £70m-a-year deal will commence this summer, trumping the current biggest agreement held between Manchester United and Adidas.

It is the surest sign yet that the tide is turning with regard to commercial appeal in the top flight, but it is not just at the top where clubs are improving their income through kit manufacturers.

Liverpool stars are set to be kitted out in Nike next season after the club struck a record deal

On the other side of Merseyside Everton have announced their next venture, swapping Umbro for Hummel and a £10m-a-year contract.

‘It is really important that we drive maximum value from our commercial deals and this is a Club-record deal for a technical partnership for Everton,’ said Denise Barret-Baxendale, the chief executive, emphasising the significance of their deal.

It makes the Toffees the first club outside of the traditional Big Six to reach eight figures a season for their manufacturer contract.

Everton will also  be wearing a new manufacturer, after swapping Umbro for Hummel

Despite that, they are still some way off catching up with the division’s leaders.

Manchester United, who held the record until Liverpool’s groundbreaking deal, still command £75m a season from their contract with adidas. That deal is in place until 2025.

Behind them are rivals Manchester City, with the reigning Premier League champions’ deal with Puma worth £65m a year in a partnership that will continue up until 2029.

With the Reds deal with Nike, City will be the only team in the Big Six next campaign to not have a contract in place with neither the American brand or adidas.

Manchester United’s deal with adidas had previously been the most expensive in the league

Manchester City are one of the top earners, with their Puma deal worth £65million a year

Nike will still have their deals in place with both Chelsea and Tottenham, the former holding an agreement until 2032 worth £60m each term, while the latter’s is worth £30m, going up until 2033.

Arsenal’s £60m-a-year contract with adidas runs up until 2024.

With so many long-term deals in place, there is little room for competition to disrupt the monopoly held by the two sports manufacturing giants at the top of the Premier League.

It creates an interesting conundrum for the likes of Castore, a luxury sports brand that has set its sights on challenging Nike and adidas in arenas such as England’s top flight.

Castore founders Tom (left) and Phil Beahon (right) have stated their ambition to work with Premier League sides

The company’s founders have already expressed their desire to work with top-flight sides in the next two years.

With a desire to work with teams challenging for trophies and Europe, there are options on the horizon.

Newcastle United could appear an appetising venture should their pending takeover be finalised, backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, with their current deal with Puma expiring this summer.

Watford are also in the same position, with their adidas deal expiring at the end of this season.

Newcastle United will be in the market for a new manufacturer with their Puma deal expiring

Watford’s agreement with adidas is also set to expire this summer and will need a new partner

PREMIER LEAGUE KIT DEALS

1.  Liverpool – £80m per year, Nike (contract expires: N/A)

2. Man United – £75m, adidas (2025)

3. Man City – £65m, Puma (2029)

4. Arsenal – £60m, adidas (2024)

5. Chelsea –  £60m, Nike (2032)

6. Tottenham – £30m, Nike (2033)

7. Everton – £10m, Hummel (2023)  

8. Southampton – £9m, Under Armour (2023) 

9. Newcastle – £6.5m, Puma (2020)

10. West Ham – £5m, Umbro (2023)

11. Crystal Palace – £4m, Puma (N/A)

12= Aston Villa – £3m, Kappa (2022)

12= Leicester City – £3m, adidas (N/A)

12= Wolves – £3m, adidas (2022)

15. Norwich – £2.5m, errea (2024)

16= Brighton – £1.5m, Nike (2022)

16= Burnley – £1.5m, Umbro (2022)

18. Bournemouth – £1m, Umbro (2022)

19= Sheff Utd – £750k, adidas (2021)

19=  Watford – £750k, adidas (2020) 




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Rodman hits out over The Last Dance and Jordan criticism

‘Mentally, I don’t think they were strong enough’: Dennis Rodman fires back at former Chicago Bulls team-mates who said criticism of Michael Jordan was edited out of Netflix show ‘The Last Dance’

  • Netflix’s series ‘The Last Dance’ has been a hit but there has been criticism
  • Former Chicago Bulls star Horace Grant labelled it a ‘so-called documentary’ 
  • It has been claimed that criticism of Michael Jordan was edited out of the show
  • But Dennis Rodman has hit back at his former team-mates over their ire 

Dennis Rodman has fired back at his former Chicago Bulls team-mates and said they were not mentally strong enough to deal with Michael Jordan after criticism of ‘The Last Dance’.

Rodman was part of the ultra-successful Bulls side that won three straight championships in 1996, 1997 and 1998, completing a second ‘three-peat’ in the process and was featured heavily in the recently released Netflix series.

Despite its popularity, the documentary has attracted criticism due to its supposed pro-Jordan slant – with the legendary player having served as a producer.

Dennis Rodman has been discussing his time with the Chicago Bulls on Good Morning Britain

The former basketball player discussed ‘The Last Dance’ with Piers Morgan on the show

Rodman was part of the ultra-successful Bulls side that managed a second ‘three-peat’

Horace Grant, who left the Bulls in 1994, described it as a ‘so-called documentary’ and suggested Jordan was painted in a better light than reality.

‘I would say [the documentary was] entertaining, but we know, who was there as team-mates, that about 90 per cent of it [was] BS in terms of the realness of it,’ Grant said on ESPN 1000’s Kap and Co podcast.

‘It wasn’t real – because a lot of things [Jordan] said to some of his team-mates, that his team-mates went back at him. But all of that was kind of edited out of the documentary, if you want to call it a documentary.’ 

But Rodman has defended Jordan from the likes of Grant and hinted that they believed the star had thrown them under the bus.

Michael Jordan and the documentary have attracted criticism from other Bulls team-mates

Speaking on Good Morning Britain this morning, Rodman said: ‘It was amazing to see the documentary. 

‘You saw Michael Jordan and (coach) Phil Jackson… one time I said, “You know what I need to take a break I need to go to Vegas for a weekend – I have to get my mind right”.

‘I didn’t need that. I just wanted to get that. Phil Jackson said, “Let him go”. Michael said, “If anyone needs a vacation, I do”. They said, “Go ahead” and gave me 48 hours.’

‘Of course I didn’t take 48 hours – I took like four days.

Rodman defended Jordan and suggested other team-mates were not mentally strong enough

‘He didn’t really pull me on that because I had already that will to win because I came from winners in Detroit and San Antonio. 

‘The players were a little upset because they felt Michael was throwing them under the bus. “You guys wasn’t doing what I want you to do, I’m the greatest, I’m determined to win no matter what”. 

‘The next thing you know Michael starts to talking about the whole team… the team-mates I played with. 

‘Mentally I don’t think they were strong enough to handle that, because Phil Jackson is a laid back coach. Michael is more like, “I’m going to do it watch me be famous”. I didn’t care because I was already famous.’

Rodman also hailed Jordan’s determination and competitiveness, no matter the sport

Asked what made Jordan such a good player, Rodman continued: ‘I think his determination… he just wanted to win so bad, no matter what it is. 

‘It can be tossing pennies against the wall, it can be who can sweep the fastest, spin the bottle…

‘I think he was beyond his years, transcending. I trusted him in a different way off the court. 

‘Everybody wants to be like him, I hate to say the cliche but everyone wants to be like Mike.’ 

Former team-mate Horace Grant claimed that ’90 per cent’ of the documentary was ‘BS’

Rodman then clarified that he was still close with Jordan and Scottie Pippen, seeing the former regularly in Florida, New York and California.

Grant isn’t the only Chicago Bulls man left dismayed by ‘The Last Dance’.

According to ESPN Radio host David Kaplan, Jordan’s most integral team-mate, Scottie Pippen, is ‘beyond livid’ and ‘angry’ at his portrayal in the series.

The second episode details how Pippen is embroiled in a fierce contract dispute with the Bulls and he delayed surgery on his ankle until the beginning of the 1997-98 season, which kept him sidelined for two months. 

Jordan labelled Pippen’s decision ‘selfish’ and it is that, according to Kaplan, that has sparked Pippen’s ire.

‘Pippen felt like up until the last few minutes of Game 6 against the Jazz (in the 1998 NBA Finals), it was just ‘bash Scottie, bash Scottie, bash Scottie”‘ Kaplan said.

Scottie Pippen (second left) is reported to be unhappy with his portrayal in the documentary

Kaplan also claimed on his ESPN 100 radio show that Pippen ‘didn’t know what he was getting himself into’ regarding the series overall.

The Last Dance director Jason Hehir responded to recent criticism earlier this week and made it clear that Jordan himself was not directly involved in producing the 10-part series.

‘There is never one moment where Michael Jordan or his representatives said you cannot talk about this subject, or this is off-limits,’ he told the Athletic.

‘Don’t ask this question. There wasn’t one moment that they said take this out because it doesn’t reflect well on Michael.’




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The one ACC team Michael Jordan wanted to beat most while at North Carolina

It doesn’t take much to tick off Michael Jordan.

As we saw repeatedly in “The Last Dance,” His Airness could hold a grudge against anyone — he’d even create fictitious slights by opposing players — and use that bitterness to fuel his competitive drive.

MORE: The greatest Michael Jordan game you definitely don’t remember

It turns out that drive goes back to well before his days as a professional. As a senior in high school, Jordan had caught the attention of big schools all over the country, with the most interest coming from Atlantic Coast Conference programs.

Everyone knows that Jordan chose to play for Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith at North Carolina, where he helped lead the Tar Heels to the 1982 national championship as a freshman by knocking down the go-ahead shot from the left wing with 18 seconds remaining in regulation. But what if he had chosen differently?

As it turns out, Jordan had interest in another ACC school: Maryland.

The Terrapins, also coached by a Hall of Famer in Lefty Driesell, were national contenders at the time as well. They’d finished first in the 1979-80 ACC regular season and were runner-up to UNC in the 1981 ACC Tournament, losing a one-point thriller in the final.

‘LAST DANCE’: We wanted to see more about these seven topics 

Maryland was also interested in recruiting Jordan, though not as much as the young shooting guard might have liked. According to Buzz Peterson, Jordan’s roommate at North Carolina, Driesell dangled his last scholarship spot in front of three recruits: Jordan, Peterson and Jeff Adkins.

“(Driesell) says, ‘I’ve got one scholarship left, and the first one who takes it gets it,'” Peterson told Washington City Paper.

That apparently didn’t sit right with Jordan (shocker, right?). To pile on, Peterson and Adkins were named Parade Magazine All-Americans in 1981 while Jordan was left off. Adkins ended up taking that scholarship offer from Driesell, and Jordan and Peterson went to UNC.

As if that wasn’t enough motivation for Jordan, he got a little more incentive to hate the Terps at the 1981 McDonald’s All-American Game. Jordan put together a 30-point performance on 13-of-19 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 shooting from the free throw line to go with six steals and four assists. He also made the game-winning free throws with 11 seconds remaining to help the East All-Stars beat the West 96-95.

But the co-MVP honors went to Maryland commit Adrian Branch (24 points for the East) and Aubrey Sherrod (19 points for the West), who went on to play for Wichita State.

With all that in mind, it’s pretty easy to figure out which team was on Jordan’s mind when he looked at UNC’s schedule and saw the Terrapins twice every year.

“He was interested in Maryland,” Peterson said. “Maryland was the one that he would talk about.”

Jordan used that anger as fuel, posting a 5-1 record against the Terrapins in his three years of college. 

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FA have the greater regrets in appointing Sven-Goran Eriksson

Sven-Goran Eriksson admits he ‘made a mistake’ in leaving Lazio to take the England job… but after squandering the talents of the ‘Golden Generation’ and stealing the headlines with his romantic trysts, it’s the FA who ended up with the greater regrets

  • Eriksson says he ‘maybe made a mistake’ in leaving Lazio for England job in 2001
  • The Swedish manager had won several trophies with his talented Lazio side
  • But the appeal of becoming England’s first foreign manager proved too strong
  • However, Eriksson’s five-and-a-half years as England boss weren’t successful
  • England’s so-called ‘Golden Generation’ crashed out in three quarter-finals
  • And Eriksson’s private life and romantic liaisons chiselled away his credibility

Hindsight is that most wonderful thing but surely it hasn’t taken Sven-Goran Eriksson a whole 20 years to conclude that he should have stayed with Lazio and not succumbed to the lure of managing England.

The Swede admitted on an Italian radio show this week that ‘maybe I made a mistake’ in swapping his stylish and successful Lazio team for what was arguably the most unforgiving job in world football back in 2001.

‘A few times I thought to myself it might’ve been better to stay at Lazio and in Italy,’ he said. ‘But when an offer from the England team comes along, that’s once in a lifetime.

Sven-Goran Eriksson with David Beckham after England crashed out of the 2006 World Cup, losing on penalties to Portugal. His tenure promised so much but delivered little 

The Swede, who was the first overseas manager of the England team, settles into his office at the FA’s headquarters in Soho Square after being appointed in 2001 

‘I thought that I couldn’t say no and would’ve regretted it for the rest of my life if I had turned it down.’

Well, Sven, it’s probably fair to say that lingering feeling of regret is mutual. England expected much of you but the overwhelming sensation, looking back on that five-and-a-half year tenure, is one of crushing disappointment.

All one of the most gifted collections of English footballers ever assembled had to show for that era of apparently boundless promise were three quarter-final tournament exits.

Somehow, this assortment of genuinely world class footballers, who frequently excelled for their clubs and were serial winners of major prizes, regressed into playing hopelessly sterile football whenever they slipped on an England jersey.

England may have lost just one qualification match during Eriksson’s tenure yet were reliably afflicted with stage fright whenever a fixture of importance and high-pressure arose at a tournament.

The optimism of Sven’s early months, peaking with that electrifying 5-1 win over Germany in Munich, soon faded into the usual going-through-the-motions ennui witnessed under so many managers that had come before.

Eriksson was a popular figure at Lazio, having guided them to a series of major prizes

Eriksson waves farewell to the Lazio faithful at the Stadio Olimpico before heading to England

Eriksson was greeted with a man dressed as John Bull as he arrived for his first day at work

Sven at Lazio 

July 1997-January 2001

Matches 136

Wins 78

Draws 32

Losses 26

Win percentage 57.35

HONOURS

Serie A 1999-2000

Coppa Italia 1997-98, 1999-2000

UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup 1998-99

UEFA Super Cup 1999

UEFA Cup runner-up 1997-98 

It was reflected in the manner of the man himself. That ice cool Swedish persona was seen as a virtue initially but there were more lively water bottles in England’s dug-out and it really didn’t sit well with a country that demands a bit of passion and engagement from its national team boss.

There was also Eriksson’s stunning ability to turn those long, dull gaps between international fixtures into a tabloid feeding frenzy by embarking on various romantic trysts that ultimately destroyed any public respect for him.

If it wasn’t for the achievements of Gareth Southgate these past two years, however, Eriksson’s England legacy would have continued to be embellished.

His appointment certainly wasn’t the only one the Football Association blazers came to regret.

Eriksson is the centre of attention ahead of England’s World Cup qualifier with Germany

Michael Owen’s hat-trick earned England one of their greatest victories of modern times

England’s unforgettable 5-1 win in Munich offered hope Eriksson could deliver success

Sven’s England record 

2001-2006

Matches 67

Wins 40

Draws 17

Losses 10

Win percentage 59.7

World Cup 2002

Lost 2-1 to Brazil in quarter-final 

European Championship 2004

Lost on penalties to Portugal in quarter-final 

World Cup 2006

Lost on penalties to Portugal in quarter-final 

At least Sven ensured England reached tournament finals, unlike Steve McClaren, and at least he could communicate with his players, unlike Fabio Capello.

Roy Hodgson fared no better in his tournament track record but had a far inferior crop of players to work with and the less said about Sam Allardyce the better.

His win percentage of 59.7 from 67 games in charge certainly stands up to scrutiny. Only Sir Alf Ramsey can better it over such a lengthy period of games.

But all considered, given the lack of achievement and paucity of performance coaxed out of the stellar players at his disposal – David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and Ashley Cole to name a few – Eriksson might as well have stayed at Lazio.

In a 2013 interview, Eriksson revealed he had only one regret about his time as England manager. ‘I should have taken mental help, sports psychology for penalty shoot-outs, but I didn’t because I thought for 2006 we wouldn’t need it. Big mistake.’

David Beckham’s last-gasp free-kick against Greece sent England to the 2002 World Cup

Eriksson with a rare glimmer of emotion as he salutes the Old Trafford crowd after qualification

It was a mistake, given the considerable collection of penalty shootout-related scars on the Three Lions, but if that’s his only regret then Sven has a very different memory to everyone else.

It’s long forgotten now just how Eriksson’s appointment in January 2001 – four months after Kevin Keegan offered his resignation in the Wembley toilets after losing 1-0 to Germany in the old stadium’s farewell game – was.

On his first day in the job, Eriksson was greeted by a John Bull character outside the FA’s headquarters in Soho Square. Wearing a Union Jack waistcoat, he held up banners reading ‘FA, hang your heads in shame,’ ‘No surrender’ and, bizarrely, ‘We wanted Terry Venables.’

It’s easy to forget how breaking a 130-year run of only having Englishmen pick the England team to appoint a foreigner was a divisive issue at the time.

But the FA were chuffed to attract a manager of such impressive pedigree. Not only was Eriksson svelte, unruffled and urbane, with a CV that spanned three countries, he’d previously won something (unlike Keegan) and didn’t hold controversial views about reincarnation (unlike Glenn Hoddle).

Rumours of Eriksson’s relationship with TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson emerged in 2002

Eriksson returned to his long-term partner, the Italian lawyer Nancy Dell’Olio 

Eriksson said this week his Lazio side ‘were one of the best in the world’ and he was probably correct.

With the likes of Juan Sebastian Veron, Diego Simeone, Alessandro Nesta, Marcelo Salas, Pavel Nedved and Sinisa Mihajlovic in their ranks, they’d won Serie A, two Italian Cups and the last ever European Cup Winners’ Cup.

But that ‘once in a lifetime’ chance to manage England, and the £3million salary that came with it, proved too good to turn down.

Eriksson soon revitalised a long-failing England side, that thumping win over Germany offering great optimism and flipping the qualifying group for World Cup 2002, even if it took Beckham’s last-minute free-kick against Greece to avoid a tricky play-off with Ukraine.

But there’s always some distraction in the lead-up to England playing at a tournament and this time it wasn’t just Beckham’s broken metatarsal.

Eriksson was out of his depth as England crashed out of the 2002 World Cup to 10-man Brazil

David Seaman’s horrendous misjudgement of Ronaldinho’s free-kick cost England in 2002

(Left to right) Nicky Butt, Michael Owen, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand after England’s exit

The intimate details of his affair with TV host and compatriot Ulrika Jonsson dominated front and back pages for weeks before Eriksson scuttled back to long-term partner Nancy Dell’Olio, an Italian lawyer.

Eriksson demanded his private life should remain private but the job was too much in the white hot glare of the spotlight for that to wash.

On the pitch, England laboured through their World Cup group but gathered momentum by battering Denmark.

In the quarter-final with Brazil, England led through Owen but David Seaman’s hapless misjudgement of Ronaldinho’s flighted free-kick five minutes after half-time saw them trailing.

Eriksson reacts during England’s quarter-final loss on penalties to Portugal at Euro 2004

Hopes had been high for England’s talented ‘Golden Generation’ at the tournament in Portugal. Back Row left to right: Michael Owen, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Sol Campbell, Wayne Rooney, David James, Frank Lampard. Front Row, left to right: Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary Neville

Beckham reacts after missing his penalty kick in the shoot-out defeat to Portugal in Lisbon 

‘We wanted Winston Churchill and we got Iain Duncan Smith,’ Southgate famously said of Eriksson’s limp half-time team talk but it was his dithering over subs and tactics when Ronaldinho was sent off with 33 minutes left that ultimately cost England.

England will likely never have a better chance to win a World Cup. If they’d overcome 10-man Brazil, they would have faced Turkey in the semi-finals and a Germany team they’d recently thrashed 5-1 in the final.

Eriksson’s affair with FA secretary Faria Alam was all over the papers during 2004

Eriksson continued but a year later was spotted with Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon, leading to paper speculation he was about to reap the rewards of Roman Abramovich’s arrival.

In the end, the FA were the ones that panicked, tabling an extended contract until 2008 at £5m-a-year.

And when an England side that were booed off at Upton Park after losing a friendly to Australia and could only draw 2-2 at home to Macedonia before scraping qualification for Euro 2004, the omens weren’t good.

So it proved. Recovering from opening night defeat to France, a team powered up by 18-year-old Rooney swept aside Switzerland and Croatia to set up a quarter-final with hosts Portugal.

Again England squandered an early lead given them by Owen before Sol Campbell saw a goal disallowed in extra time and the inevitable exit on penalties.

The talents of the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ were patently going to waste but sacking Sven was too expensive for the FA to contemplate.

He laboured on but when details of his affair with FA secretary Faria Alam emerged two months after the tournament, another chunk of credibility was chipped away.

There was an easy tabloid contrast to be drawn between his impassive observations from the bench and apparent energy behind drawn curtains.

The 2006 World Cup saw England crash out again to Portugal after Rooney’s red card

The ‘Golden Generation’ had seen their best chance of winning a tournament fade to dust

By the time the 2006 World Cup rolled around, Eriksson had been duped by the News of the World’s ‘Fake Sheikh’ Mazher Mahmood, betraying confidences about players and clubs. 

FA chief executive Brian Barwick cut short Eriksson’s contract, with a reduced pay-off, and told him to deliver success in the tournament in Germany.

By this time the likes of Gerrard and Lampard should have been at their peak, driving England to glory, but instead Eriksson’s tactics were conservative and predictable, the performances lacklustre.

He never did solve the puzzle of how to squeeze his best midfielders into the same side, even though Scholes retired from international football in 2004.  

Eriksson scratches his head as the loss to Portugal signalled the end of his time with England

Amid a WAG circus that overshadowed the on-pitch action, it was Portugal who put paid to England’s dreams, again in the quarter-finals and again on penalties. 

Remarkably, they scored just one of their four kicks with both Lampard and Gerrard missing and the best hopes of the ‘Golden Generation’ had turned to dust. That night in Munich seemed a lifetime away. 

‘I always thought I did a good job with England,’ Eriksson would say almost a decade after his exit. ‘But people at the time didn’t think so. They had had enough of the Swedish guy only making the quarter-finals.’

In reality, that was only the half of it.




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The Undertaker explains his Brock Lesnar confrontation at UFC 121

The Undertaker has revealed that he intentionally confronted Brock Lesnar at UFC 121 in 2010 and claims WWE chairman Vince McMahon was in on the plan.

Taker was sat cageside with his wife as Lesnar was beaten by Cain Velasquez in the main event.

But after Lesnar had left the Octagon following his loss, he crossed paths with his WWE rival on the way back to the dressing room.

The Undertaker stopped midway through his interview, stared at Lesnar and said: ‘You wanna do it?’.

Fans were left to guess the meaning behind Taker’s question, but the 55-year-old has now revealed that the exchange was an attempt to bring Lesnar back to the WWE.

‘I was there to pick a fight. I was sat there personally to pick a fight,’ The Undertaker told ESPN.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=zjHtxPew5Os%3Fversion%3D3%26rel%3D1%26fs%3D1%26autohide%3D2%26showsearch%3D0%26showinfo%3D1%26iv_load_policy%3D1%26wmode%3Dtransparent

‘I was unaware that Dana had no clue what was going to happen, which I felt horrible about after the fact.

‘I thought there had been some kind of discussion between him and Vince [McMahon].

‘At that time, Brock was so hot in the MMA world. Obviously, it was like, ‘you know what, why not try it?’.

‘There was no personal animosity, really. But it was basically me saying, ‘you left our world, I’m gonna come into your world and call you out’. That was it.

‘Obviously it was a huge media storm, and it’s all your fault!’

Asked if he wanted a real fight with Lesnar, Undertaker replied: ‘Like a wrestling fight… I was trying to get him back in my world.

‘I’m pretty gutsy but my days of getting in the Octagon are far past me, I mean I am smart enough to realise that.

‘I thought if I could get somebody who was on… obviously there was so much history there because of his run with WWE, then his success in UFC, this is huge, if we could make it happen, that’s what it was all about.

‘He knew I was going to be there, I don’t know how much he knew about what I was going to do.

‘And it worked out because where I was at, he could’ve went another way, I got really lucky that he came by us.

‘If you watched it back Michelle, my wife who was with me, kinda nudged me and [said] like, ‘here he comes’.

‘Because I don’t even know that I would’ve done the interview if I hadn’t have been in the right spot. It worked out perfectly for you and perfectly for me.

‘He came right by me, and I was like, ‘you wanna do this?’. There it was, man. It blew up. You were in the right place at the right time, and I got lucky.’

Asked if he spoke to Lesnar after the surprise confrontation, The Undertaker said: ‘Yeah, it wasn’t a good night for him personally but on the way out I didn’t tell him much about that but I checked on him, made sure he was okay, was like, ‘we’ll see what happens down the road, bro’. One of those kinda deals.’

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