tim-sherwood-aston-villa-premier-league_3265211

Some people are just born leaders. They exude that aura around them that really makes others take notice and feel compelled to follow them.

Other people simply believe they should be leaders, talking the talk in the hope that somebody, anybody, will buy into the message and follow them down a road that has yet to be decided as yet.

People like Sir Alex Ferguson fit into the former, a man who just commanded respect from his peers and peons alike. Some may have questioned some of his decision making in the latter part of his career, but there was never any question as to whether people would follow him to the end of the earth, such was his character.

For the latter, read Tim Sherwood. A man who has managed to carve out a career in management based on little else than bluster, constantly talking up his own ability without ever doing anything to back up his credentials.

Sherwood is not a man who dropped down the divisions to hone his skills as a leader like so many before him, instead believing that his ‘experience’ working with the youth teams at Tottenham Hotspur made him ready to take the top job.

His self-confidence got him a crack at the top job at Spurs, taking over from Andre Villas-Boas and spending six months as a caretaker before being informed he had not done an adequate enough job to be given any longer.

Sherwood’s record at White Hart Lane was not bad, as he will constantly inform you, with talk about win percentages. But this was a Spurs side that, while shorn of the talents of Gareth Bale, was still packed with talent and should have been a match for any side in the division.

Sherwood will point to victories that continued to be narrow over the lesser lights of the Premier League, but when it came to pitting himself against the best sides in the division, the sides Spurs were trying to catch, his record was pitiful; losing games against top three Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea by an accumulated scoreline of 13-1.

Adebayor salutes Sherwood

Getting performances out of Adebayor has been Sherwood’s biggest success as a manager

He will claim to have resurrected Emmanuel Adebayor from the recycling bin at Spurs, but in truth, Sherwood is potentially as much to blame for the failings of many of Spurs’ ‘Magnificent Seven’ signed in the wake of Bale’s world record transfer to Real Madrid.

Eril Lamela was cast off with an injury that was never described as anything more than a ‘back injury’ for six months, whilst Nacer Chadli was another player made an outcast, with his performances the following season making a mockery of Sherwood’s treatment of him.

Paulinho, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches and Roberto Soldado have all now left the club and they fared little better under Sherwood, whose love of honest, hard-working English players can only have belittled their confidence further, with Soldado’s failure to emerge as a success the biggest craw in the throat of any Spurs fan.

With talk claiming Spurs players had given their verdict on Sherwood to Levy, the Spurs chairman offered no continuation to Sherwood in his current role and offered him another back in the backroom staff in North London, which was never to be of interest to man who had developed such a high opinion of himself like the former Blackburn captain.

Not only that, but the offer of taking the West Bromwich Albion job also proved of little interest to Sherwood, with Sherwood feeling that was too much of a step down for a man already eyeing the England job in the back of his own mind.

So nine months went by before Sherwood was convinced to end a sabbatical that lasted longer than his time in the game, with Aston Villa finally losing patience with the turgid ‘entertainment’ Paul Lambert was offering and giving Mr Personality an opportunity to cache those cheques his mouth was writing.

Sherwood Villa

It seems a long time ago that it all started so positively for Sherwood at Villa

There can be no doubt Sherwood had an initial revitalising tonic effect on a Villa side that were struggling to so much as score goals or launch meaningful attacks under the previous manager, but the wheels had already appeared to be coming off at the back end of last season.

Having secured survival, Villa went on a run of defeats to ensure they finished in 17th come the conclusion of proceedings, before being soundly thrashed by Arsenal in the FA Cup final, with the Midlands side barely posing even the faintest threat to the Gunners.

A summer in which we watched to see how Sherwood would handle his first proper transfer window (he was technically in charge throughout one at Spurs) was of great intrigue, and one that left us on the outside a little puzzled.

Sherwood called for Premier League ‘experience’, something he confused with has-been footballers, and doubled that up with a host of untested players mainly plying their trade in France, with few really exciting the imaginations of the fans.

With Swansea snatching up Andre Ayew on a free transfer, Villa opted to sign his less-talented younger brother Jordan for a figure reportedly close to the £10million mark, while people much more learned than me in regards to Ligue Un affairs were somewhat puzzled that either Idrissa Gueye or Jordan Veretout had attracted the attentions of the Villains.

Rudy Gestede was signed by Sherwood as ‘the best header of the ball’ in the league, but then either sat on the bench or played in a system that included no wingers, showing him up for the limited striker he is, able to dovetail well with Jordan Rhodes at Blackburn, but ineffective as a lone striker, especially when lacking any service.

Only £10m left-back Jordan Amavi could potentially be described as a success from the summer acquisitions, but Sherwood even found room to drop him to the bench, with Kieran Richardson once again shoe-horned into a defensive role, with the emphasis taken away from being defensively resolute, but needing an extra attacker.

Jordan Amavi

Amavi has probably been the only success of Sherwood’s first proper transfer window

One can sympathise that Sherwood was shorn of the spine of the Villa side over the summer, with Christian Benteke, Fabian Delph and Ron Vlaar all leaving the club, but just one success from the raft of players he did coax into joining is a pitiful response to losing your three top talents.

In addition to that, the final part of that spine Brad Guzan appears to have lost an awful lot of confidence since the arrival of Sherwood, having once been one of the finest goalkeepers outside of the elite six in the division.

But having won their opener in perhaps fortunate circumstances against newly promoted Bournemouth, Villa have picked up just one point since, a home draw against an equally hapless Sunderland side, losing eight fixtures, including a home derby defeat to West Brom.

Sherwood always spoke voraciously about his belief in himself to turn things around, but this was so frequently contradicted by other statements, such as being bored by his side, seemingly ignoring that it was his duty as manager to make his side entertaining to watch, if not to actually win games of football.

And so the axe has fallen on Sherwood, with the club languishing at the bottom of the table, with just one victory and four points on the board, with little sign of life within a luck-lustre squad.

His initial effect to keep Villa up last season has quickly dwindled, and it was perhaps telling that the statement from the club on releasing the news to the media only thanked him for his efforts last season, not quite as willing to offer any gratitude for his start to yet another torrid start to the season at Villa Park.

For a man so enamoured with win percentages after his dismissal from Tottenham, it would be remiss not to bring up a 26% win rate during his time with Villa, emerging victorious in just six of the 23 Premier League games he took charge of.

Sherwood Villa Stats

Sherwood’s stats with Villa don’t make for pretty reading

So what next for Sherwood? Rumours have linked him with the vacant managerial post at Swindon Town, and that might actually be a wise move for him, giving him a chance to actually hone his abilities as a manager away from the spotlight of the Premier League and build his way back up.

His reputation among the elite his damaged and now is the time for Sherwood to develop some humility and earn his credentials, instead of relying on the worry over a lack of British managers among the press to force him into the reckoning of any top flight job, knowing his gift of the gab may well talk himself into another high-profile failure.

Sherwood’s management career so far has focused on being all heart and very little head. It’s now time for him to take some time away from the high-pressured world of the Premier League and actually learn the skill of management before he makes any sort of return.

England Rugby

Deary me. If, like me, you happen to be an Englishman and a major sporting fan, 2015 has not been a year to celebrate.

It has been a year that has brought only disappointment, with people scurrying around to check their family tree and find out whether they can join the bandwagon of any of the other home nations, with more to celebrate as a Welshman or Northern Irish. Hell, even Scotland has had more to cheers this year.

The end of the year is fast approaching and therefore BBC will soon be announcing their candidates for their Sports Personality of the Year, and the depressing realisation is that very few Englishman will be remotely worthy of such an accolade, given the failure that has followed them around during the past 10 months.

This will come as something quite amusing to those born outside of that patch of land between Berwick and Land’s End, and one can understand their amusement at the failings of the English.

We are frequently a nation that smugly lauds our involvement in the humble beginnings of any major sport on the planet, claiming to have invented the game and stomping our feet wildly when other nations actually bother to practice and become better at it than us.

We are a nation of poor winners who can’t enjoy a victory without having to remind our opposition that they therefore suffered defeat. In defeat we are even worse, searching for excuses for our shortcomings and unfortunately seeming to resort to xenophobia on a large scale, given the cheek of that nasty nation for being better at controlling the ball, vehicle or just running in a straight line.

Eoin Morgan

Morgan endured a torrid start to life as England’s one-day Captain

This year has been even seen those excuses wane away due to the utter despair that has come from some truly rotten performances in tournaments that England were largely expected to challenge in.

England has three major team sports that really capture the imagination of the general public, and with football having already proven a major disappointment after their group stage exit at the World Cup the previous year, it was time for cricket and rugby to take centre stage and show those overpaid, over-privileged nancy boys how to truly represent their country.

Cricket was first up in February as the ICC Cricket World Cup came around in Australia and New Zealand, with a favourable draw seeing England looking at a nice coast through to the quarter-finals before really needing to dig in and see what they could achieve.

However, with Eoin Morgan captaining the side in controversial circumstances after Test captain Alistair Cook was axed from the side, England had an embarrassing campaign, with their only victories proving to be against minnows Scotland and Afghanistan.

This saw them absolutely thumped by Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, while they contrived to lose to Bangladesh as well to ensure they were unable to sneak through in the generous four qualification places available in a group of seven.

They may have had some form of redemption in the eyes of some by reclaiming The Ashes back from Australia in the summer, but it was a humiliation that very few could swallow. Or sulked and claimed limited-overs cricket doesn’t matter, despite England’s test form being somewhat average of late as well.

Webb Ellis Trophy

The Rugby World Cup was supposed to be a monumental occasion for England

With two down now, surely rugby was the way forward for England. Hosting the tournament we won in 2003 and reached the final of in 2007, Stuart Lancaster’s side were sure to bring pride back to this formerly proud nation, despite not necessarily being the strongest side on paper.

The daft notion of the tournament organisers saw host nations England and Wales both put into the same group to practically ensure one of them would be leaving proceedings early, given they were shoehorned in alongside tournament favourites Australia as well.

With Wales having been shorn of a number of key squad players in the build up to the tournament, it quite frankly should have been in little doubt that England went through to the quarter-finals, with their only issues proving to be disciplinary, with players being axed for proving it is not only footballers that are over-privileged idiots away from the pitch and getting in late night scraps with police officers.

But of course we know that is not the way things panned out, with England surrendering their advantage to lose late on against the Welsh, before being humbled by a superior Australia side, ensuring they became the first ever host nation to fail to make it out of the group stages at the Rugby World Cup.

England v Wales

Defeat to Wales proved a blow that England were unable to recover from

So what now for English sports fans, with our two back-up bastions of sporting decency proving so pitiful? Everything else any Englishman has excelled at appears to be an individual pursuit, namely in the case of Chris Froome and his Tour de France triumph, or our athletes who continue to exceed expectations.

Great Britain has done incredibly well to reach the final of the Davis Cup this year, but that would never have been possible without the genius of the Scottish Andy Murray. Or his brother Jamie for that matter. If you pick and choose when he is Scottish, you just lose out on this bandwagon.

Lewis Hamilton is achieving well in Formula One, but he comes across as a thoroughly dislikeable person to most still. Plus, again it is an individual sport. In which he drives a German car, with Mercedes having proven they are streets ahead of anyone else currently, having already sewn up the Constructors Championship.

With Wales and Northern Ireland being able to celebrate success in football by actually qualifying for a major tournament for the first time in donkeys’ years and the former being able to join Scotland in having a side in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup, there are reasons to be cheerful elsewhere throughout the United Kingdom.

Yet as the biggest and most populous nation in this little collective, England is struggling to find success in any of the sports they attach the most pride to their accomplishments.

The football team however have just qualified for the European Championships with a 100% record. Maybe it’s time to put all our hopes and dreams back on them? Deary me.

Brendan Rodgers

Alas, it finally happened, as the Liverpool axe finally swung on Brendan Rodgers, with his tenure in charge at Anfield coming to an end after months of speculation.

It was of no big surprise to many as he was reportedly given until this forthcoming international break to prove to the higher-ups that he was the right man for the job, having endured a difficult start to the season after another summer of heavy spending.

The front runners for the vacancy on Merseyside have proven somewhat predictable, with Jurgen Klopp looking almost certain to take over within the coming days, with Carlo Ancelotti having also been a favourite, if only as an alternative.

But while the speculation around his successor continues to swirl around the media gossip columns, what is next for Brendan Rodgers?

It’s always a difficult question to pose when any manager leaves a top job through no choice of his own, with that apparent failure in his role suddenly making him an unattractive option to other clubs of the same ilk.

But given Rodgers extreme self-confidence/arrogance (delete as applicable to you, dear reader), we find ourselves in that pickle in that he would perhaps not be too keen on taking a lesser job, as he is of the firm belief that he is more than capable of taking charge of a title challenger.

One only has to go back a couple of weeks for evidence of this, with Rodgers refuting claims of the sack by claiming he is “the same man who nearly won us (Liverpool) the title, but better.” These are not the words of a man prepared to spend his time headbutting the glass ceiling in the middle of the Premier League table.

Gerrard Slip

Did this widely ridiculed incident prove a turning point in Rodgers’ managerial career?

Rodgers does have that point regarding his ability as a manager, in that he was but a Steven Gerrard slip and a hashed performance at Crystal Palace from clinching Liverpool’s first league title since the dawning of the Premier League era. He built a thrilling side that possessed some of the world’s finest players going forward, playing some scintillating football before being pipped to top spot by Manchester City.

But his detractors will merely point to that season being the anomaly to his time at Anfield, with his other two completed seasons seeing him record eighth and sixth placed finishes, with his start to the new campaign seeing the Reds well down in mid-table, indicating more of the same before his dismissal.

That second placed finish was not met with anything resembling consistency, with the loss of Luis Suarez proving more than Rodgers was capable of dealing with, given his persistently poor success record in the transfer market.

Having already mocked Spurs for blowing their Gareth Bale money the previous summer, Rodgers spent over £110million on new players, with possibly only Emre Can emerging from the 2014/15 season with any credit. Mainly for the fact he was played out of position frequently.

The likes of Lazar Markovic flopped badly given the £20m price paid to Benfica, so much so that he has been loaned out to Fenerbahce, with Rodgers already seeming to have given up hope of turning that around. Neither Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert or Dejan Lovren looked comfortable in making the step ‘up’ from Southampton, proving another £50m poorly spent.

And even the most one-eyed of Liverpool fans could not fathom the logic behind recruiting Mario Balotelli to lead the line for the Reds. Much of Liverpool’s success in the 2013/14 season came from pressing high up the pitch, with the strikers expected to do just as much work as the midfielders; an expectation of Balotelli that seemed just ludicrous.

Mario Balotelli Liverpool

Who seriously expected this to work out well?

Having understandably lost one key player to the clutches of mega-power Barcelona, Rodgers could have been given some leeway for lowering expectations, but his subsequent splurging of the income on players not fit to improve the side and failure to keep on board his other star players has damaged his reputation.

Failure to deal well with the ego of Raheem Sterling, before reaching an untenable situation that required him to be sold, plus failure to manage the injury-prone Daniel Sturridge by constantly rushing him back help fix the mess unfolding at Anfield – these are things that won’t be looked upon favourably by clubs with high aspirations, with aims of being in the title hunt.

However, while he can be forgiven for not being interested in the mess that is Sunderland, Rodgers firmly believes he should still be managing a side in the top echelon of the division, with no requirement to drop down a level to rebuild his reputation.

Should he really be turning his nose up at the likes of Aston Villa or Newcastle (with both having very precarious looking managers currently), two huge clubs historically with a massive fan base and the potential to be better than they are currently faring?

These might prove better jobs for him to prove how great a coach he thinks he is, instead of the parody he became during the latter spells of his Liverpool tenure.

Rodgers-Brent

The Rodgers/Brent comparisons were frequently used to mock the Liverpool manager

Guillem Balague has mooted that a move to Spain might be an option for Rodgers, in the same way that David Moyes has tried to restore his credibility abroad with Real Sociedad.

In a way, that might be a good thing for him, taking himself out of the British media glare and purely focussing on actual management, instead of reliving his David Brent fantasies in front of a camera. Focussing on tactics and the art of defending, instead of stewing over what quasi-philosophical quote to relay the next time a microphone is pushed in front of his face.

This is something that has worked in the favour of Steve McLaren as well, but Rodgers must accept the top jobs will not come easily in Spain either. Italy and Germany are frequently reluctant to give the top jobs to people unproven in either their own country or in Europe completely; and it’s not as though the Northern Irishman boasts a CV littered with winners medals.

With his only real success as a manager having been maintaining the upward spiral Swansea were already on before the departure of Roberto Martinez, appointing Rodgers from here-on actually proves a major risk for any club with any ambition.

Hopefully time away from the media glare of Anfield gives Rodgers time to reflect upon his own ego and realise how little justification he has for such a high opinion of himself.

Realism is now required from the now ex-Liverpool boss, if he is to ever find another job that fits both his and the club’s needs.

TDD

It has been staple viewing for any football fan over the past few years to tune in to Sky Sports News and watch the drama unfold on Transfer Deadline Day, as clubs across England battle among themselves to get last minute business done and strengthen their squads ahead of the coming season.

It was entertainment for one and all to basically see these multi-million pound businesses realising that they hadn’t done their business correctly and there was still work to be done with just hours on the clock remaining. All by fax, apparently.

Sky Sports News was the place to be at on the final day of August and January, with their raft of reporters scouring the length of England to bring you the breaking news as and when every major deal broke and every surprise transfer leapt into materialisation.

But now it appears that the bubble has burst and it feels as though Sky Sports News has jumped the shark with it’s sensationalising of the final day of transfer dealings.

The people at Sky appeared to catch on to how popular the reporting of this day had become and opted to dress it up a little bit. Suddenly this was no longer a news programme, but had drifted into the realms of entertainment. The integrity of this news show has slowly disintegrated before our very eyes.

This has been something that has appeared to be on the way since HQ was added to the title of the channel, with the sofas and fancy gadgets supposed to engage the audience more and make it seem less of a ‘news’ show – but with Transfer Deadline Day, it really reached it’s zenith.

Even just those little things that drew us in at the start have slowly lost their appeal, becoming tired and repetitive to the point that you feel like it’s holding the show back. Any entertainment show (which this has become now) knows when a joke has become stale and freshens things up appropriately and it is time for SSN to address these things.

Jim White

A popular figure at first, Jim White has gradually lost favour with football fans

Things like Jim White to start off. At first there was a lot of charm to the way he got overly excited about the exchanging of contracts between two businesses, the way his voice leapt a couple of octaves upon the breaking of a rumour surrounding a Championship-based player.

It was endearing before the higher-ups sunk their claws into him, making him their designated face of Deadline Day and seemingly giving him a nudge to exaggerate those things that initially gave him appeal, taking it beyond a fun quirk into something far more annoying, as he now attempts to make beige details a fluorescent colour with his words.

For he is now stifled by the fact that things have changed within the football world. Clubs have gotten wise to the daft idea that they should attempt to fit in much of their major business within a 24 hour last-gasp window and now at least try to do their deals earlier on in the transfer window.

They will at least get things done in the final week of allowed business, leaving a host of highly-trained journalists shunted out around the grounds on Deadline Day repeating the same small titbits over and over again in a way supposed to draw some form of interest from the viewer.

SSN TDD

We no longer see this sight after fans took things too far last year

The poor sap stood at the Emirates merely repeating that Arsene Wenger hinted a couple of days ago that something, possibly could happen got the rawest of deals as Arsenal failed to so much as send a player out on loan on the final day of activity.

The man based at Liverpool’s Melwood training ground was faced with a similarly  soul-crushing task as he was entrusted with making young centre-back Tiago Ilori’s loan move to Aston Villa sound like a big deal, presumably cursing the fact he was even there, given the Reds had achieved their transfer business before June even came to an end.

Such was the paucity of things to actually report upon in those final two hours having drafted ‘the big guns’ on, that they even stopped to analyse the traffic numbers on the Sky Sports website, to strangely find that their transfer blog was the most widely visited page there. Quelle Surprise. The delved even further to find that Manchester United (the most widely followed British club worldwide) and their wrapping up of the Anthony Martial transfer was the most popular story from that blog. Cue millions of jaws dropping to the floor at that news.

Kate Abdo

Kate Abdo felt wasted in the prime role this year without the rest of Europe involved

Having recovered our mandibles from the carpet, we saw Kate Abdo completely wasted in her role towards the end. Abdo specialises in being multi-lingual and being able to translate news breaking from around Europe, but with the transfer window having shut a day earlier elsewhere in Europe, there was little to do. Especially as we didn’t even get a Scouser to talk to throughout the day.

Why Natalie Sawyer was demoted into an earlier seems strange, as that cheeky, knowing way she presents helps counteract the human time-bomb that is Jim White, dialling back the seriousness of the triviality that surrounds us all without breaking Sky’s sensationalism of the event at hand.

The one plus point of the day was the banning of fans from surrounding the poor reporters stuck outside following the purple dildo incident, with the sad group of delinquents having gotten worse and worse as time has gone on, each doing their best to get their faces on TV, screaming at the top of their lungs that John Walters has signed for their club.

But the reality is that Deadline Day has jumped the shark, as there just genuinely isn’t the drama necessary anymore to dedicate ones’ self to a sick-day in front of Sky Sports News in the hope that something major will occur. Do we honestly think people would give a damn about THAT Saido Berahino tweet if it had happened a day previously? Or if anything interesting had actually happened?

Bringing in ‘esteemed guests’ to provide idle guesswork about everything and anything has done little to whet the appetite, as the whole format has become a very dull affair, in which the vast majority of the participants have devolved into parodies of themselves.

Sky Sports News’ coverage of Transfer Deadline Day is no longer essential viewing, with the mild scraps of information that do occur being able to be recounted in a brief 5 minute read.

This will at least save you several hours wasted in front of a television being shouted at by a man that believes in a hype that has long since died out, with Jim White simply a running, unfunny joke these days and actual news being pushed aside to make way for devolving sideshow that is football.

Ennis Rutherford Farah

Athletics has been suffering a bad reputation for a while now, as doubts over the integrity of its competitors continue to surround the sport.

The worry that the ‘clean’ competitors that have achieved success only by not being caught is a pressing issue, and something that will be addressed by incoming IAAF president, Lord Sebastian Coe as he looks to restore some credibility to athletics.

With Justin Gatlin having returned now following his second doping ban and now running at a seemingly faster pace than he was whilst on his last batch, the doubts have resurfaced and many deemed it to be a ‘victory’ for the sport that he could not wrestle away World Championship gold from the charismatic and clean Usain Bolt.

But despite the sport being in disarray, the World Championships did show us one comforting thing: Britain’s greatest sportspeople are still based within the track and field spectrum.

Jessica Ennis-Hill

Ennis-Hill delivered World Championship gold despite only having a child 13 months ago

Gold was delivered once again by the three people responsible for that Super Saturday back in 2012, as Jessica Ennis-Hill, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford all delivered once again on the big stage.

Yet these successes were perhaps even greater than what they achieved in London three years ago, with all three athletes having undergone extreme stresses over the past 12 months in the build up to these prestigious championships.

Ennis-Hill for starters became the golden girl of London 2012 after her success in the heptathlon, with only cyclist Victoria Pendleton perhaps rivalling her for a place in the hearts of a jubilant home Olympic Games.

Fast forward three years and she has added the ‘Hill’ to her name after getting married and was forced to miss last year’s Commonwealth Games due to pregnancy.

Ennis-Hill gave birth to her son only in July last year, but she has since lost any baby weight she might have accrued, regained her strength and fitness and made her way back to the summit of the world’s greatest heptathletes to once again claim gold in the space of 13 months.

Mo Farah

Farah ignored the doubters to clinch double World Championship gold

Mo Farah has spent the past 6 months being dogged by accusations of doping himself after his coach Alberto Salazar was believed to have been involved in doping his athletes, with Farah having his achievements so far questioned.

Farah has vehemently denied any wrong-doing, but the whispers have persisted, with Farah pulling out of a Diamond League meeting only in June, citing emotional exhaustion for his withdrawal in the wake of such allegations.

The easy thing for the Somalia-born athlete to do was to again withdraw, in the knowledge that he may struggle to replicate his London feats under such intense scrutiny, and any success he might have being yet more ‘proof’ of his guilt.

Yet Farah did show up and has promptly defended his Olympic titles in the 5000m and 10000m races,  in a defiant display that put him out in the open and challenged anyone to question his integrity to the sport.

Greg Rutherford

Greg Rutherford now holds all four major long jumping titles

On to Rutherford and we see a man that always delivers when the crunch comes along, and while he has not quite had the same obstacles as the other two, is more than worthy of worship by us mere mortals as he excels at both personal and professional life with apparent ease.

Rutherford himself is only recently a father and has recently completely disrupted his entire training schedule to be closer to his family in the wake of his son’s birth, going to the point of building a long jump pit in his back garden.

Despite all those distractions and large points of isolation from the rest of the team and coaching staff, Rutherford has once again come up trumps, securing a feat that will live long in the ages of time.

His Olympic success was often dismissed as a fluke win due to the length of his winning jump, but his massive jump to clinch World Championship ensured he will go down in history as one of Britain’s greatest ever athletes, as he now currently holds all four major titles, with European and Commonwealth gold having been claimed in between the two big ones.

Only Linford Christie, Sally Gunnell, Jonathan Edwards and Daley Thompson have achieved the ‘Grand Slam’ of track and field gold medals, so Rutherford’s continued dominance in the long jumping scene is something that has to be admired; even more so given his continued dedication to being a family man as well.

With England footballers continuing to fail on the pitch and behave inappropriately off of it, cricket littered with inconsistencies and even now our rugby players (previously the bastion of proper behaviour compared to their footballing peers) seeing their World Cup preparations disrupted by assault and drink driving charges, British sport is in more need than ever of having more inspirational people to stand up and be counted in front of the next generation.

Chris Froome obviously deserves an honourable mention for his continued success in the wake of similar unfair accusations to Farah, Andy Murray is perhaps unfairly divisive among fans of tennis, but there is otherwise something of a dearth of ‘heroes’ within British sport.

The success of these three once again, after trying years for each of them is something to be celebrated, for more than just sporting reasons.

Dick Advocaat

Where’s the fun in mid-table mediocrity anyway?

Another season is underway and it already appears to be another year of foreboding and despair for anybody affiliated with Sunderland, with their opening two Premier League games having yielded zero points and seeing seven goals already conceded.

This has not been against top sides you would expect to be fighting for honours either. Leicester City and Norwich City have been the beneficiaries thus far; two sides heavily reckoned by pundits throughout the country to be figuring within the confines of the bottom three come the season’s conclusion, let alone simply embroiled within the relegation battle.

I wrote briefly within my pre-season predictions that Sunderland always look like they have a squad capable of being a comfortable mid-table side, but somehow find themselves struggling at the wrong end of the table, with the last two seasons seeing two new managers drafted in to save them from increasingly hopeless looking situations.

Yet for some reason I still found myself in a position where I backed Sunderland to survive comfortably, looking at their squad and being suitably impressed to suggest they would be strong enough to see off the promoted trio, and weaker members of the league – like Leicester.

They seemed to have a decent balance within their squad. They had some expensive foreign imports with international experience, like Emanuele Giaccherini and Jeremain Lens, both with plenty of caps for major nations in Italy and Netherlands respectively.

Emanuele Giaccherini

Emanuele Giaccherini has failed to justify the excitement upon his signing from Juventus

They have a number of players with plenty of Premier League experience at the top level such as Jermaine Defoe and John O’Shea, ably backed up but plenty of other players with many years in the top flight, with Lee Cattermole, Adam Johnson and Sebastian Larsson.

Added to that they have a number of players brought up from the Championship, like Liam Bridcutt and Will Buckley, and younger players eager to make their mark in the Premier League. This all put together should quite frankly equal a well-balanced squad capable of dealing with the stragglers in the division and the capabilities to produce upsets among the elite as well.

Just two weeks into the season and two abysmal defeats later and that assessment of the squad has been re-written throughout the media. Sunderland now have a bloated squad made up of expensive imports who cannot handle the pace and physicality of the Premier League, has-beens whose best has long gone and Championship players not good enough for this level.

Foolishly I even though Younes Kaboul might actually work out for them, in the same way that he rejuvenated his career at Portsmouth following his first disastrous spell at Tottenham Hotspur. After falling down the pecking order and having his attitude questioned at Spurs, one thought maybe things might pick up a bit again for him after dropping down to a place where expectations aren’t maybe so high. His performance against Norwich is already suggesting that this is a man who only plays well under the guidance of Harry Redknapp.

Younes Kaboul

Younes Kaboul has yet to impress since his summer arrival from Spurs

Speaking of the manager, I felt early on that Dick Advocaat was a more rational appointment than the livewires of Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet, but other opinions have suggested that view displayed the same short-termism as Sunderland have.

This after all was a manager who was more intent on retiring from football to spend more time with his family and had to be convinced to take the job. The Dutchman has only accepted a one-year deal to help steady the ship, something that will hardly motivate players on three-year contracts to prove their credentials.

Calls have already been made to splash the cash in order to fix this mess, but owner Ellis Short must be tired of pumping his money into the club without seeing any return on his money. Summer after summer Sunderland often prove to be one of the highest spenders outside the top six, yet continue to be one of the weakest squads in the division. It is something that must baffle the American owner.

So what is the solution for Sunderland? The manager can hardly be blamed after spending two months convincing him to commit. The players are all what the club wanted to bring in, with or without consultation with the manager.

Yet they seem doomed to spend their existence in this constant spiral in which the club looks set to break out of their funk and truly establish themselves as a Premier League side, yet always flatters to deceive and has to take drastic action to avoid relegation.

A constant cycle that has seen the fans already vote with their feet, their first home game of the season having a sparse crowd come the end as a very kind opening pair of fixtures have produced zero points and seven goals conceded when anyone would have predicted a minimum of four points for a side that should be stronger than it is.

I, among many, felt Sunderland should be comfortably mid-table again. But quite frankly it has come as no surprise for things to turn on its head so quickly.

For Sunderland fans, it is the hope that kills you. And the Black Cats are running out of lives.

barcelona-fc-winner-supercup-eurpe-2015

“All hail the great Barcelona,” they exclaimed upon the latest incarnation of the Catalan side raising the European Champions Cup aloft at the beginning of June, as Luis Enrique’s side defeated Juventus to win the competition for the fourth time in the past ten years.

It truly is a great accomplishment for any club to be so dominant in a competition that pits the best sides from around Europe in a fight to the death to be the last one standing come the end.

There has always been something special about the Barcelona success as well, more so that stood out from the remainder of the elite on the continent; the idea that they have become the symbol of an oppressed people, the congregation for Catalunya able to meet and be as one, completely separate from Spain.

Couple that with their success being so frequently built upon products of their own youth system, with their La Masia academy the example for any other side in the world of football, and you have a wonderful little story, with every victory meaning so much to players and fans alike.

Players like Carles Puyol, Xavi and Andres Iniesta have spearheaded this latest triumphant spell littered with trophies, all coming out of the Barcelona academy to join Lionel Messi as stars in a side already chock full of them.

It was a sight that the vast majority of neutrals could get on board with; this wondrous club that embraced local culture and built their success upon their own triumphing over the other big clubs in Europe, all bankrolled by mega-rich owners and buying their success.

The sight of Xavi lifting the trophy in Berlin was something most could get on board with, the mercurial legend playing his final game for the club before departing for Qatar to play out his twilight years. Three trophies came in his final season at Camp Nou, the second time he had achieved the treble in a fabulous career.

Xavi

Xavi said a tearful goodbye, but their is no local hero ready to take his place

While that departure felt like the end of an era on a personal note for Xavi, his was the latest of a number of club-bred legends to leave, without anymore being groomed to take the place.

Where there were points during the reign of Pep Guardiola that you could point to eight players that had emerged from La Masia in the starting line-up, the number is quickly dwindling.

There were still technically four that started in Tuesday night’s European Super Cup victory over Sevilla, but that is including Gerard Pique, who jumped ship at the thought of learning his trade in Barca’s B team and spent a few years in Manchester before heading back.

Of those four, the youngest and newest addition to the Barcelona first team to hold down a regular position is Sergio Busquets, now 27 and not exactly the new kid on the block.

With Pique having spent time away and Lionel Messi now having probably become bigger than the club/sport/planet and definitely being out for his own best interests at this stage, that leaves very few players that are Barca born and bred left capable of keeping Barca at the level they are.

One only had to witness Andres Iniesta going off with the score at 4-1 to notice the aura disappear from La Blaugrana, with Sevilla quickly finding renewed belief that this game was not yet over, pulling it back to 4-4 and forcing extra-time.

Sergi Roberto

Will Sergi Roberto be the next La Masia graduate to leave?

His replacement, Sergi Roberto is one that has come out of the academy, but has been simply on the fringes of the first team for three years now, failing to force his way into making any remarkable run of games and looking likely to be the next player to move on and try their hand somewhere else in the not too distant future.

Adama Traore is the latest to walk down this path after securing his move to Aston Villa, joining the likes of Gerard Deulofeu, Cristian Tello, Thiago Alcantara, Marc Muniesa, Martin Montoya, Bojan, Isaac Cuenca and even Cesc Fabregas (twice) in pursuing first team opportunities elsewhere.

There appears to be a definite shift in ideology at Barcelona from the club that won over the hearts of neutrals across the world with their own brand of football, with Barca seeming much more interested in a ‘Galactico’ style of player recruitment now, with high-profile and expensive signings such as Neymar and Luis Suarez pushing out people like Pedro, a man who has been with the club since the age of 17.

With the La Masia old guard either already left or approaching their twilight years and no more prospects being given a fair crack of the whip among increased expectations and expensive imported replacements, Barca are losing their aura and the respect of those around them.

Play great football they may still do, and that may keep plenty of people onside. But with that loss of aura comes a loss of respect from their peers; and with that, the potential for years of frustration, imbalance and upheaval, like their neighbours in the capital.