Editors Blogs

The Final Countdown…

The Final Countdown…

Harry became Sports Editor in September 2016.

Thus far 2017 has proved a pretty incredible year for sport, especially locally.

Sutton United’s mazy cup run took us all by surprise and we followed it every step of the way with live reports from the stadium in each round. We only hope that the club are able to use the revenue to bring in some fresh faces this summer to try and make a real promotion push next season, that is, as long as they don’t get dragged into this season’s relegation battle.

In the Championship, Fulham are making a late promotion surge after loitering in the mid table for most of the season. They are just one point behind Sheffield Wednesday and the play off places, and have been are in a great form in 2017. QPR and Brentford’s middle of the road seasons are epitomised by the fact that their points tallies are equidistant from the relegation zone and the play offs and separated only by goal difference.

Wimbledon’s season seems to have successfully meandered into the mid table which isn’t a bad return for their first season in the third tier. The Don’s will also take great joy in the fact that they look set to finish above their MK rivals for the first time in their short existence.

After a great start to life in the National League South, it looks like Hampton and Richmond’s season has tailed off too heavily and it’s looking very unlikely that they’ll make the play off’s but then again, as a newly promoted side to the division they’ve given themselves a solid platform to build upon for next year and with a bit of luck they’ll be able to invest the money they received for Nicke Kabamba and Jamal Lowe to bring in some new blood that can propel them into automatic promotion next year!

Chelsea have been virtually unstoppable under Antonio Conte and look certain to take the Premier League Crown this season.

Chelsea seem to have pretty much wrapped up the Premier League title and I can only see their margin widening if I’m being frank. There won’t be any slip ups by Conte’s boys as far as I can see. Harry Fell’s prediction is that they’ll be officially uncatchable with 5 games to spare. I hope I’m proven wrong. Make of that what you will.

The 6 Nations this year were very successful for our Men’s and Women’s teams with the Men equalling a record 18 unbeaten games and the Women achieving the Grand Slam to win their first title in 5 years.

In Cricket, England’s one day game continues to improve after a series whitewash over the West Indian’s in the Caribbean. Who knows how we’ll fare this summer with the Red Ball but I have a funny feeling that Joe Root is gunna do the business as captain and I personally think we’re going to have a very good summer as England prepare for The Ashes tour this winter.

The F1 2017 season starts this weekend with the Australian GP and Lewis Hamilton will be looking to make a point in Melbourne as he aims to regain F1 title after losing out to Nico Rosberg last season.

Surbiton Ladies are the reigning Investec Women’s Hockey League Champions.

Surbiton Ladies and Wimbledon Men’s sides have already guaranteed themselves top spots in their respective Premier Division’s with both sides looking to successfully defend their titles at the end of season finals in a month’s time. Teddington Men’s look well set to join them at the final’s weekend as they head up the East Conference going into the last weekend of regular fixtures. Wimbledon Ladies also look likely to be at the finals weekend also as they only need to take a point from their clash with bottom of the table, Northampton Saints, to book their place.

And finally, the oracle that is the Mighty Stevie Zetter was correct in his prediction of a Tony Bellew victory at the O2 as the rest of us were all shocked by David Haye’s huge fall from Grace. Onwards and upwards though, I am beyond excited for the super fight of the decade in a month’s time where we hope that Anthony Joshua will do the business on Wladimir Klitschko to earn complete supremacy in the heavyweight division.

Now, onto the good stuff:

 

Phil joined the Sports Team in September 2016.

The Common Dominator… by Phil Aizlewood

There’s been a lot of noise about formations this season – myself guilty of getting all too interested in the resurgence of the fabled 5 at the back. At the end of the day [a classic footballer cliché, I know], it seems football is purely a case of who scores more than who. Well yes, it is. But the beautiful game is evolving; tactically, strategically & positively, positionally. Gone are the days of midfielders that genuinely do lung-busting box-to-box shifts, or defenders that simply defend. It’s all about stardust, charisma & being the maverick and/or maestro in your specific position – DMF, AMF or even False frickin’ 9. Commercially, of course, these fluid fan-favourites generate immense interest & demand copious column inches – think David Luiz, Pogba, Messi – a startling spine of sumptuous, silky operators. To his credit, Luiz can be found often doing ‘proper’ things now like tackling, but the theme remains – sex[y] sells, and skilful players are more sought after in this [show] business..

N’golo Kanté has contributed hugely to Chelsea’s return to the top.

How delightful, then, to see that the ‘ugly’ part of the game is still actually alive & well and its Chief Ambassador is potentially proving, that it’s the most important component. I’m talking about a man, a player, a phenomenon. A footballer who I believe, is a footballer second to his ability as an athlete – not to do him a disservice, but his engine & energy enables the entire team to feel 10-20% more confident than any other opponent at all times. His very presence on a pitch is genuinely worth two top-level bodies & in top-class sport, the margins are so minute, that he slams them shut in the most dignified of manners.. his name, is N’Golo Kanté – and he’s a freak of the nicest possible nature. And no, I’m not a huge fan of jazz or even brass of any kind, but I really need to blow my own trumpet at this juncture.

When Leicester beat Man City last February at The Etihad, much was made of Riyad Mahrez & his wonderful individual goal in the 3-1 win for The Foxes. It was arguably the match of the season, the match when the league & even the nation started to believe that they could really – yes, really – win the title. They did, by 10 points – “because of Vardy’s goals & Mahrez’s magic”, we read & will no doubt recall. But it was after that game a year ago this week, that I said to my friends that it was Kanté who was the difference & Kanté who deserved the plaudits. He was their only significant addition to the starting XI that had spectacularly scraped themselves away from relegation just 6 months before. From watching the Premier League every damn week since August 1994, I had never seen anyone adapt so quickly, so easily and so destructively. Bergkamp struggled for the first 4 months. Falcao failed. Shevchenko shanked most of his shots. N’Golo Kanté – previously unknown N’Golo Kanté, unfashionable & unassuming – played at 100mph for 94mins for 38 games last season and won the the league with 5000/1 outsiders. Sir Alex Ferguson, The Godfather himself, said he was “the best player in the league.” as they ultimately cantered across the finish line. I mean, this imagery seems so very apt – to me, he is a marathon man, he’s Mo Farah in the middle of the park and it’s this incredible, unmatchable zest, which is why Chelsea now sit pretty and Leicester look nervously over their shoulder. He’s the Common Denominator – or the Common Dominator, if you will..

Costa and Hazard have been prolific this season.

To Vardy & Mahrez, think Costa & Hazard – dynamic, devastating duos who have somewhat traded places and form in the blink of an eye. Have teams worked ‘Vahrez’ out? Was José the problem for dastardly Diego? Yes, perhaps to both. But surely, surely the answer is less sinister & startlingly simple: Kanté played behind both of them when they firing on all cylinders. His omnipresent arrival to every 50/50 encourages the enigmatic ones to be more free, more confident in their final third endeavours. Why? Because if their wizardry doesn’t work out, N’Golo will look for you, he will find you, and he take that ball back. Now, players may not be TAKEN [I went there] by surprise by the petit pest from Paris anymore, but that hasn’t made him any less easy to play against. His statistics since he arrived from Caen in July 2015 are staggering. No step overs, no scissor-kicks, no strops. His appeal is as boring as it is box-office and yet this winning formula sees no signs of stopping. He’s made more tackles in the past 3 seasons than any other player – and he’s only played in 1 & a half of those: 253 in 59 games. His Blues Brother, Nemanja Matic, is 2nd in this little league – he has 252 in 91 games. Do the maths will you? It’s late & I’m tired but it’s hard to talk so gushingly about a baddie from The Bridge..

In short – he’s 5ft 6 – I can’t say I didn’t warn people. On August 6th 2016, I sent this message to my buddy Dom about the upcoming season: “Kanté makes Chelsea contenders. On his own.” Naturally, he scoffed and sent something about Rent & Boys & them finishing 10th.. but I was certain in what I had seen last season. He’s currently 3rd favourite to win PFA Player of the Year but I tell you what, the great Philipp Lahm is right when he said that, “[Individual] prizes have become a popularity contest for strikers and attacking players.” I’m not saying that trend will buck in April, but if even the world’s best DMF can’t challenge them succesfully, what hope does anyone else ever have..? P.S. He should have to transfer to a new club every season to deliver the title. Anfield next maybe? Sorry, I couldn’t resist..

 

Henners joined the Sports Team in Summer 2016

The End of Captain Cook by Henry Thomas-Aldridge 

Alastair Cook has had numerous ups and downs whilst leading the England test team. I wanted to talk about his best moments as captain, his century drought and who might be the next captain. Possibly his best moment as captain also turned out to be during his first tour as captain. England travelled to India, where historically they had suffered, but Cook led from the front as he scored three hundreds and was named man of the series. He also was victorious in two Ashes series however did suffer a whitewash whilst down under.

Cook took over the reigns after Andrew Strauss’ resignation in 2011. Both are quite stubborn characters and occasionally one could see flaws in the openers batting and his use of tactics during games. Sometimes Cook was overly cautious as captain or wasn’t able to restrict or end top-order collapses, many of which were initiated by Cook being the first to go. He was unable to score a single century during 2014, he was heavily criticised and many thought he should be dropped to regain form, however he stayed resolute and defeated the Aussies when England were happened to be underdogs.

Ali Cook has stepped down as England Captain after a largely successful reign

His time as captain has been slightly tarnished by the fact that his win percentage is only the fourth best out of the six captains who have been captain for more than 40 tests, and this was with all the talent that he had on offer. Players like Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler and James Anderson have all produced match-winning performances during his tenure but occasionally these players did not provide their experience when Cook needed support. Former Vice-Captain, Joe Root has become the new Test Captain and personally I think he’s good fit, however I am afraid that his batting, which has not reached its full potential, will suffer as a result. Is it slightly too soon for England’s best batsmen to become test captain? Only time will tell. Alistair Cook is England’s all-time leading run-scorer, now that he doesn’t have the shackles of the captaincy potentially weighing him down, maybe he can go on to score the most runs by a player in test cricket. Let’s hope so.

 

Dougie joined the team in October 2016.

The Dog Fight by Dougie Critchley

There are only 10 games left of this unremarkable Premier League season. I say unremarkable only in comparison last season, which saw Chelsea implode and the Premier League crown going to Leicester City. Even now it seems impossible, a different world.  
But this season has shown it to be a complete fluke. The big boys responded, spent big and we are left with a League very much divided in thirds. The top six, the middle eight and the bottom six. 
Chelsea seemingly have the title wrapped with just under a third of the season to go so the main intrigue and talking points will surround the race for the top four and the battle to avoid the drop. Currently 10 points separate the bottom six teams but who knows what will happen in the run in. 

Swansea have seen an upturn in fortunes since Paul Clement took charge

Swansea and Hull have been rejuvenated by the fresh impetus and tactical cohesion imposed by their new managers. Sunderland are masters of the art of escape and both Leicester and Crystal Palace are seemingly being inexorably sucked towards the plug hole. The demise of Leicester, everyone’s second favorite team, has been sad to watch. The spark, the energy, the Kante, three crucial ingredients have been lost.

As to who will go down it’s anyone’s guess, but here’s mine!
My prediction: 
-15th Leicester City
-16th Swansea
-17th Sunderland
-18th Crystal Palace 
-19th Middlesbrough
-20th Hull

Chris became Assistant Sports Editor this January.

FA Cup 5th Round – Sutton Utd v Arsenal – Match Report by Chris Reidy

I was lucky enough to be one of the 5,000 in attendance at Gander Green Lane to witness Sutton v Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round.

After #piegate it seems as though the actual match itself has been forgotten but nobody will be able to take away this amazing run by the Us.

On Wayne Shaw and the pie/pasty incident I will say this. Both Wayne Shaw and the betting company involved have not covered themselves in glory.

However, it is easy to see how Shaw got carried away with himself in the heat of the moment and it is a shame it has taken away the attention of the Sutton players who put in such a valiant performance that night.

Wayne Shaw was sacked by Sutton Utd following the #piegate scandal.

Perhaps we will never know if it was a bit of fun by Shaw, a planned stunt organised with the company or an opportunity to make a few quid, but let’s be honest, it did make for a great picture.

Enough has been talked about Shaw and his pie so let’s get back onto that night.

The atmosphere around the ground was electric before the game with kids running around excitedly, stewards handing out free t-shirts and people arriving two hours before kick-off to soak it all in.

Press members enter the ground at the same entrance as the players and when I arrived there were hundreds of fans waiting in preparation for the Arsenal team to arrive.

Nobody took my picture as I walked through, but the fans were forced to wait a while as Arsenal’s bus got held up on Gander Green Lane due to the congestion in the area.

The evening was a chance to see our old editor Kai Chappell and the off-the-pitch moment of the night occurred when an on-edge security-guard asked him not to ask the Arsenal player’s for autographs once they arrived into the club.

It’s the only time I have felt older than Kai.

Eventually the Arsenal players arrived, rushed into the tight corridors of Sutton FC by security guards, to the amusement of the Sutton staff, and the night was ready to commence.

Sutton were fantastic on the night but Arsenal’s quality told in the two goals that they scored.

For all that Arsenal had the ball, they looked their most dangerous on the break after Sutton went forward and that told with the first goal eventually finished by Lucas Perez.

The moment of the evening that left me feeling very strange was Roarie Deacon’s 25 yard strike that crashed off the crossbar.

Theo Walcott netted his 100th Arsenal goal in this game.

Down 2-0 at the time after Theo Walcott’s 100th goal for Arsenal, the noise that would have erupted would have been immense and even as an Arsenal fan, I felt disappointed that the shot did not find its way into the back of the net.

Many, including Arsene Wenger, expected Sutton to tire in the latter stages of the game but they ploughed on to the end and always looked in the game.

Sutton Football Club experienced a night that they may never have again as now they turn their attention to staying in the Vanarama National League.

Although, with the class, spirit, quality as well as the revenue they have picked up throughout this famous cup run, I would not rule it out.

 

Steve hopes to fair better at ‘Better than Zetter’ in 2017 after a poor 2016.

Super Bowl History by Steve Zetter (Deputy Editor)

The New England Patriots produced the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime and claim a fifth title in the most dramatic of circumstances.

The Patriots trailed by 25 points in the third quarter but recovered to level at 28-28 and force the extra period – the first in Super Bowl history.

Quarterback Tom Brady led the recovery, finishing with a record 466 yards on route to being named the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player for a fourth time.

The turnaround was completed when James White scored on a two-yard run – taking his personal haul for the game to 20 points.

The previous biggest deficit overcome by the eventual Super Bowl champions was 10 points, a record emphatically shattered by the Patriots on an incredible night at Houston’s NRG Stadium, which also featured a spectacular half-time show by Lady Gaga.

Edelman made the catch of the Superbowl which proved to be a pivotal moment in the game.

A key moment came with the Patriots trailing 28-20 with 2:28 remaining in the final quarter when Julian Edelman made a miraculous catch for a first down, somehow grabbing the ball under pressure from three opponents after it was tipped into the air by Falcons cornerback Robert Alford.

Lady Gaga started her performance on the stadium roof, singing ‘This Land Is Your Land’ – a song choice interpreted by some on social media as a commentary on the US government’s immigration policies – before abseiling down to begin her set in earnest

The multi-million-selling artist ran through some of her most famous hits including ‘Born This Way’ and ‘Poker Face’

It was a typically spectacular half-time show featuring more than one seamless costume change

Much of the talk before the game centred on whether Brady could become the first quarterback to win five Super Bowls, but such thoughts were swiftly pushed to one side once the game began as the veteran struggled to find a rhythm.

The first quarter whipped by with hardly any stoppages and no points scored, both defences on top, but come the second quarter the momentum shifted emphatically in favour of Atlanta, who boasted the best regular-season offense and, in quarterback Matt Ryan, the NFL’s MVP.

Atlanta went ahead when Devonta Freeman capped an impressive half by rushing for a touchdown, while Ryan connected with Austin Hooper for the second a short time later.

Brady, meanwhile, was labouring, struggling to connect with his receivers and cutting an increasingly frustrated figure as half-time loomed.

Tom Brady brought his side back from the brink to complete the greatest Superbowl comeback in history, winning a record 5th Superbowl in the process.

When Alford intercepted Brady for an 82-yard touchdown, the writing appeared to be on the wall – with a 21-point lead already double the highest deficit ever overcome in a Super Bowl – although a late field goal at least gave the Pats a sliver of hope at the interval.

Certainly the omens looked good for Atlanta at the start of the second half with Tevin Coleman’s score taking their advantage to 28-3, but that was the cue for New England’s fightback to begin.

White scored what seemed like a consolation touchdown late in the third quarter, a feeling only heightened by Stephen Gostkowski’s failed extra-point attempt, but still the Pats kept coming.

A Gostkowski field goal was backed up by Brady’s touchdown pass to Danny Amendola, with the successful two-point conversion from a White rush closing the gap to eight points.

With Atlanta rattled, Brady marched the Patriots 90 yards upfield via Edelman’s stunning catch to present White with a one-yard rushing touchdown, which was followed by a vital two-point conversion catch by Amendola that took the game to overtime.

James White is the sixth man to score three touchdowns in a single Super Bowl

Notable statistics from the game included:

  • Tom Brady becoming the first quarterback to win five Super Bowl rings – and just the second player in history along with Charles Haley
  • Brady breaking his own Super Bowl record with 43 pass completions
  • Brady also becoming the first player to win four Super Bowl MVPs, on a record seventh appearance in the game
  • Brady’s 466 passing yards surpassing the previous record of 414 set by Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XXXIV
  • James White finishing with 14 receptions, the most by any player ever in the Super Bowl. His 20 points is also a record
  • New England’s Bill Belichick setting a new record for Super Bowl games as head coach (seven) and wins (five)
  • The Patriots scoring 19 unanswered points in the fourth quarter – including a pair of two-point conversion

 

Chris is currently out of action for the Surrey Snakes with a pulled hamstring.

Leicester City, From Champions to the Championship? By Chris Reidy

Leicester getting relegated doesn’t equal a fluke – it adds to the legend!

As the Champions of England slip closer and closer to the relegation spots, there is a feeling doing the rounds that maybe Claudio Ranieri’s title win with the Foxes was a fluke.

Oh it’s the beautiful game but boy can it be cruel.

Can a team’s achievements over 38 games be called a fluke? A team assembled from lower league players, premier league castaways and foreigners only Football Manager experts had a clue about.

If Arsenal or Tottenham had won the league with a point more than Leicester last season, would people call it a fluke?

What Leicester did last season was extraordinary. Freakish. You could bet your house on, although you probably wont get 5000/1, that the likes of it will never happen again.

The Tinkerman unfortunately lost his job last month but so far it’s proven to be the correct decision.

It is fair to say that if Leicester are relegated, it will initially tarnish their achievements of last year. That much is inevitable.

But it only should do shortly, as it would then become apparent, if it were not so already, how crazy and magical that achievement really was.

Leicester were nearly relegated in the season before they won the title – in a season after promotion. Sure you know this already, but it does not hurt to realise it again.

If they finish in those dreaded spots, it just shows the extent of the team spirit, momentum, determination and belief showed in order to pull off a miracle. Of course it was not going to be replicated.

Not many saw this fall from grace coming and the only person who currently looks great from this situation is N’Golo Kante.

Their other talisman Jamie Vardy looks a shadow of his former self and will need to rediscover the form that propelled him to world fame.

If Leicester go down, it would be fair to call them a one hit wonder. But what a hit it was and let’s take nothing away from it. Did someone say Macarena?

March 25th, 2017

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