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Sporting drama at its best - and our game

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Dan Walker | 17:24 UK time, Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Sport at the very top level, played by gladiators at the peak of their powers, is a captivating spectacle.

The US Open tennis was a great example. During the semi-final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, my wife came into the living room to discover why I was whooping like a banshee.

Even though my eyes were closing during Monday night's final and I needed to be up at the crack of dawn, I pressed on, intoxicated by the quality of the talent on display and the developing battle between Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

I would suggest that last week's England v Wales charity match at Pride Park for the John Hartson Foundation perhaps lacked some of the 'watchability' that made the tennis so unmissable.

It was a real pleasure to play in the game that ended in a 6-0 England win and showcased the foundation's work in raising the awareness of testicular cancer - a condition John battled through after being diagnosed in 2009 having ignored a lump for four years.

On the pitch, our success was largely down to the fact that Steve McManaman and Stan Collymore oozed class in midfield and Dion Dublin and Chris Sutton provided nothing short of rock-solid security at the heart of the defence.

Before the game, I was having a chat with Harry Redknapp in the dressing room. Part of the conversation involved me explaining how famous Idris Elba was. It became clear 'The Wire' had passed 'Arry by and he was obviously watching football while 'Luther' was on.

Joe Calzaghe, Dan Walker

Joe Calzaghe had only been down four times in his career - until he met Dan

Once we'd asserted that Mr Elba was A-list, attention turned elsewhere and the question of "where do you want to play, Dan?" was asked. What I should have said was "anywhere but right or left-back, boss" but what came out was "anywhere, boss".

In 30 years of playing the beautiful game, I have never filled in at full-back and, as Lee Dixon regularly testifies, "it's a lot more difficult than it looks". It helped that Dion Dublin was pulling the strings at centre-half but I did feel a little lost on occasions. That's the excuse I'm using for the two horrendous back-passes I produced that almost let the opposition in and have kept the Football Focus office amused for the last week.

I managed to get 70 minutes in and my greatest contribution came within a few minutes of replacing Cousin Elba. Joe 'The Backheel' Calzaghe was marauding down the left wing and as the ball ricocheted around our box I heard the voice of Dublin say "you've got to deal with him, Dan". I decided to shepherd the ball out of play but Calzaghe was having none of it and opted for some illegal manhandling.

Natural instinct took over and I found myself head-locking the boxing legend and dragging him to the floor with me. Upon regaining my composure, I realised that this wasn't perhaps the wisest course of action. I know that Big Joe could have floored me with a single paw to the chin but I think he was intimidated by my incredibly muscular frame and reach advantage!

During the second half, McManaman was encouraging me to get forward at every opportunity but such was the lack of expectation from the ITV4 director that on the one occasion I made a Cafu-esque run and got the ball, he decided the viewers would rather watch Ian Wright sipping an isotonic drink on the bench!

My wife texted me afterwards to say she was very proud, my dad rang to tell me he'd missed it and my mates got in contact to inform me how slow and rubbish I was. The post-match discussion revolved around Dave Beasant's terrible decision to save Hartson's penalty. Beasant was ostracised by his team-mates and even Redknapp had a little dig at the big stopper before telling the rest of us the we "played triffic".

The great news was that 1000s of people came along to support, loads of money was raised for charity and hopefully awareness was raised about the importance of checking your testicles and taking speedy action if you find anything.

In terms of the show, this week we are back to our normal time of 1215 BST and you'll be able to hear from Leonardo on big spending PSG, Uwe Rosler on Brentford, Gabby Agbonlahor on being Villa's longest serving player at just 24 and - fresh from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Gary Oldman on Millwall.

We'll also preview the first Old Firm game of the season and take a look at Paul McGrath's new single. We'll also be talking to Rio Ferdinand on Friday so now is the time to get in any questions for him. I'm sure he has plenty to say as usual.

Any questions or comments fire away in the comments section and you can find me on Twitter:


  • Comment number 1.

    Wish I'd seen the match. Even though Wales got hammered.

    Any info on refreshments, snacks and such like, perhaps even an after game reception? Are you ditching the "food" subtext this season?

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 4.

    Just checked my testicles and all three appear to be in perfect order.

    Top effort, Dan! What you lacked in footballing prowess you certainly made up for in comedy and enthusiasm! And all for a great cause.

    By the way, spell check: 'floored' not 'flawed.' Sorry to be a Grammar Nazi, just wanted to get in there before someone less nice than myself did :-)

  • Comment number 5.

    Good to hear the turn out of boys for Big John... what a man..

    Used to watch Sutton fill in at either center mid or center half for Celtic.. the man was always a giant anywhere on the park..

    Look forward to seeing your take on the first Celtic and Rangers game Dan..

    Chubby Checker

  • Comment number 6.

    Didn't catch the "big match" of last week alas, but sounds like it was fairly entertaining.

    A question for Rio... does he think people are getting a bit too carried away with the start both Manchester teams have made this season, and is perhaps the results last night a bit of a reality check for everybody, including them?

    Michael Finnegan

  • Comment number 7.

    I always find it amusing how some people are 'allowed' to be rehabilitated

    John Hartson

    Stan Collymore

    whilst others are ostracised for indiscretions for life.

    Ashley Cole & El Hadji Diouf spring to mind.

    Sir Arthur Wellesley

  • Comment number 8.

    Did you win any headers against John Hartson?

  • Comment number 9.

    # 7

    you talk of Hartson and Berkovic.. why not bring up the time Shearer kicked Lennon in the head whilst he was on the ground and no action was taken afterwards and it was widely known due to his captaincy of England..

    Your argument is fairly null and void when you use Diouf as an example.. maybe if he showed some willingness to be rehabilitated it would stand up but the fact he continues to court and accept controversy due to his contemptable antics would show that there is no reason to show any sympathy toward him

  • Comment number 10.

    #9 Mikey

    Yes, you could mention any number of people, and no, I'm not here to defend any of them.

    But, it is the double standards that I find so galling. Have the ones I mentioned showed some willingness to be rehabilitated, or have they just employed better agents....

  • Comment number 11.


    I take your point about double standards but also the point made by #9. The two examples you give, Diouf and Cole haven't exactly endeared themselves to the public in any way whatsoever. Both are just thoroughly unpleasant men. I know you would agree on Cole if he didn't play for Chelsea.

  • Comment number 12.

    #11 PulpGrape

    What should they do to endear themselves to the public? Do they had a responsibility to endear themselves to the public in order to be not treated like lepers?

    Hartson had the terrible misfortune to be ill, but does that in itself endear him to the public? Don't recall him being too visible before that.

  • Comment number 13.


    True to an extent although no matter how much I disliked a player, I don't think I could ever begrudge them some good feeling after a life threatening illness.

    Players don't have a responsibility to endear themselves to the public, Wayne Rooney does not have a responsibility to act as a role model and not swear into TV cameras but you can't make people believe what you want them to. Unless he plays for your club, a player who has a track record of being petulant (eg Cole) will always be hated by the majority and villified by the media.

    Di Canio for example, while I admired some of his footballing skill during his playing days I never particularly liked him as a human being not least for some of his political views. However, now he is manager of the team I support I obviously like him and back him every game.

    We're a fickle bunch, plain and simple.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Pulpgrape & stevedave86

    You're probably both right, and maybe it's semantics, but the differing treatment of people in similar circumstances does rather annoy me. Not sure why it should, but it seems to!

    Anyway, let's compare and contrast:-

    Ashley Cole - considered to have the morals of a gutter rat - England's most consistent performer for years - personally lambasted at every opportunity.

    Wayne Rooney - considered to have the morals of a gutter rat - arguably England's most naturally talented player, but can be quite inconsistent - personally heralded as England's great white hope and barometer for future success as every opportunity.

    I just don't get it. Maybe I never will.

  • Comment number 16.

    First OF game? Like some Scottish Courts these past weeks, I Hope you didn't use the phrase 'risk of insolvency' Dan!!

    On other issues, the one Hartson/Berkovic training ground incident seems pretty dated, tame and quaint compared to some of the tablid excesses of footballer celebrity culture these past couple of seasons. I suspect he just grew up as a person and his public image during his time in Scotland was always very positive and personable.

  • Comment number 17.

    wow wow wow wow slow down guys

    Paul mcgraths new single?

    will it stand up to john barnes?

    Ike Turner

  • Comment number 18.

    #16 Rob04

    Isn't Collymore's incident similarly dated? You haven't chosen to mitigate that one.

    Also, what tabloid excesses do you refer to that are comparable to the supposed transgressions of those mentioned?

  • Comment number 19.

    MrBlueBurns.. I agree with your sentiments I looked like I didnt due to your original choices.. I also agree with your statement about their employing of good PR/agents probably helping them.. the grovelling apology also helps as I think it allows the public to still see them as people when they admit to the mistakes..

    Your example of A Cole seems to be a result of jealousy in my opinion.. his problems have been mostly in his personal life so should have no bearing on his pro life..

  • Comment number 20.

  • Comment number 21.

    Anyone else noticing how interaction on BBC Sport seems to be almost dying and yet the number of BBC News articles that you can comment on seems to have increased?

    Bring back 606!

  • Comment number 22.

    Why do people keep saying bring back 606 for? They were stopped ages ago, and everytime I had a look and considered commenting on, it seemed to be full of frankly many horrible people. Some of the comments were preposterous at times! Now you still get plenty of them anyway on the blogs and comments, but it's not half as bad most of the time as it seemed to be on those 606 blogs.

    I must admit that Dan's blogs don't seem to get as many comments these days although it's not always helped by whoever deals with such things that sometimes they don't go up until Friday, and other times they go up at strange times of the day meaning people can't get used to a regular day. Also, they're not always on the front page and can get lost in all the other articles and blogs.

    Finally, this blog seems to have been hijacked on the topic of people considered to be "not very nice", being polite. All because of the references to John Hartson. The man is a lot older and more mature than he was at the time of his previous indiscretion(s), and it seems a bit opportunistic to drag up his past when the man is trying to do what he can for cancer research having come so close to dying from it.

    Some of you need to be a lot less tribal when it comes to former/current players and actually take the time to think from a less judgemental point of view. I certainly wouldn't advocate the acts of violence against somebody else. However, in most "civilised" societies where people do something wrong and are then punished for it, are we then meant to demonise them for the rest of their lives or do we hold out the hope that people can change and become better than what they were?

    Grow up.

    Brian Walden

  • Comment number 23.

    Managed to watch the match for around 25 seconds until I lost the will to live and reverted back to Eastenders on BBC1.

    Like Bluebird, I find it amusing that the indiscretions of both John Hartson and Stan Collymore seem to be glossed over. For next year’s match why not go the whole hog and get John Leslie in nets, Garry O'Connor in centre-mid and Leslie Grantham as coach.

    All for a good cause mind.

    Ryan Giggs

  • Comment number 24.

    #22 Eric Morecambe

    Firstly, it's not just Hartson, but mostly, I don't think you've understood the argument at all. I'm all for people being given second chances etc etc but I just wonder why some people are rehabilitated in the eyes of the media and some are not. And it's certainly not tribal.

    As for 606, a big part of the reason for it's closure was cost cutting. But, as I said, it would seem that the moderators are now employed by BBC News rather than BBC Sport. It's an expression of disappointment as much as anything and who know's, if there's enough support, maybe they'll bring it back. See what happened to BBC 6 for a good example of that.

    Margaret Thatcher

  • Comment number 25.

    #23 David Clark

    These matches don't run themselves though.

    Why don't we get Richard Bacon to deal with the white lines.

    Janet Ellis

  • Comment number 26.

    #24 MrBlueBurns

    I do understand the argument, but it's clear it's not just the media who "rehabilitate" some and not others, it's your average Joe on here and elsewhere too. It's patently obvious that for some, anyone who has committed an indiscretion is stuck with that for life and is incapable of being seen in any other light than the one cast by what they have done in the past.

    Are you saying that everytime John Hartson (sticking to him being that this is how this topic started in the comments) is on the television, radio, or is mentioned in print, that his encounter with Berkovic should be mentioned everytime? How many times do you think everybody needs to be reminded of it? If he is being interviewed because of what he is trying to do regarding cancer, is it necessary to bang on about what he did, or should it instead focus on something positive that he is trying to do?

    If we apply the philosophy that #23 seems to be hold, if you do something either illegal or immoral once, you're forever tarred with the brush of that.

    The whole thing is absurd. It's basically saying that because John Hartson is now engaged in more positive activities, it is therefore an attempt to make himself look like a decent person when in reality he must be a violent thug because of something he did previously. Like I said before, the premise of the point of view being put forward is that once you've done something bad, you're always bad.

    It's nonsense. Some people who do bad things continue to do bad things, but you can't apply that to everybody.

    Richard Littlejohn

  • Comment number 27.

    #26 Eric Morecambe

    I take your point, but let me give you an example.

    Why is the emphasis on that story about a skirmish, which I believe was something about nothing, rather than the emphasis being on the thrust of the second to last paragraph?

  • Comment number 28.

    #27 MrBlueBurns

    Somebody in the public eye who does something like that in public is bound to draw attention for it. It's the sort of thing you see people do on programmes like Traffic Cops, but of course because he is a well known figure, it will be reported on. I don't think the article should have focussed on the charity function and then simply mentioned as an aside, that he had been abusive towards police officers. That would then be saying that famous/rich people should receive favourable reporting because of them being famous/rich.

    Some people do stupid things when they're drunk, and often come to regret their actions once sober again - this probably means they should be more careful about when and where they are drunk! An incident like that, taken in isolation doesn't automatically make him universally bad, although I personally wouldn't approve if someone I knew behaved like that. If it were part of a regular pattern of behaviour, then it would be obvious that should be dealt with.

    Oliver Reed

  • Comment number 29.

    All credit to John Hartson for highlighting and helping to fight cancer. Anything that can be done to fight this awful illness is good in my book.

    As for player's perceptions from the media, it's a tricky one and a very interesting discussion!

    Mr blueburns mentioned Diouf, well how many people know that Diouf donates hundreds of thousands of pounds to charities in his native Senegal? Does this redeem him?

    To label someone bad or good is a bit to black or white for me! Most things are a shade of grey! Although one thing is true, the media does have it's favourites. Compare the reaction to Beckham's nightime activities and Ashley Cole's.............

    I'm sure if you dug long enough you could even find some reedeming qualities for Cole and Rooney!

    Gabriel Batistuta

  • Comment number 30.

    The media are very fickle when it comes to players` misdemeanours (is that spelt correct???). Gazza had his fair share of problems, but most people actually feel sorry for him. Maradonna had his problems too, but most in the british media have not redeemed him.

    Always remember when ITV got Maradonna in as a pundit for the half time talk. Before the match it was like,`We have an exclusive interview with Maradonna...don`t miss it!`

    Come half time they just asked him about his hand of God goal v England in the 86 world cup. They only talked about that. Nothing else. Not even mentioning his second goal v England in the same match. What could Maradonna say to respond to that? That was bad journalism. Here was arguably the greatest player to ever play and they could only talk about that one thing.

    We need to remember that footballers are just human after all. Just that they get paid WAY too much money, which doesn`t help.

    Questions to Rio Ferdinand:

    What are his plans for life after playing?, youth development, punditry or growing tomatoes in the greenhouse?

    What is the strangest/funniest pre-match ritual he has witnessed from another player?

    Does Fergie ever tell any jokes?

    What did/does he think about Leeds United`s route from Champions League semi-final to where they are now/have been?

    Eirik Bakke

  • Comment number 31.

    A question for Rio....does the contrast in style between the end-to-end premier league and possesson-orientated international football hinder England's progress.

  • Comment number 32.

    Right that's it, you have forced me into this, time to do this Astaire style!

    Heaven, I'm in heaven, And my heart beats so I can hardly speak.

    Anyone for coffee?

    Oh and dan can you ask rio what he did with my clippers, they haven't been the same since that weekend......

    Ella Fitzgerald

  • Comment number 33.

    Well quite a discussion going on with MrBlueburns and companions.
    And why- oh why, once again was Andy Connor moderated out at #2? I read his entry before it was pulled and did not see anything wrong with it at all.

    DAN CAN SHED ANY LIGHT ON THE CRITERIA THE MODERATORS USE FOR DECIDING WHAT IS AND IS NOT ACCEPTABLE? ohh, and by the way, great shot of Calzaghe taking you to the ground.

  • Comment number 34.

    Afternoon all.

    Thanks for your comments. I've been all over the place this week.

    Not sure what all the moderation criteria are. If you swear you get clobbered and you generally have to be careful you don't libel anyone.

    Interesting debate on the vilification of some and the praise of others. I haven't expected people to get quite so animated by it.

    Hope you enjoy the show tomorrow. Should be a beauty.

    See you at 12:15 on BBC 1.

    Pablo Aimar

  • Comment number 35.

    Seems that you and Robbie Savage get on quite well. I liked the dig about Derby playing quite well since Robbie retired, though he didn't seem too pleased. With all the prancing about and the theatrics I'm sure Derby are pleased he's no longer with them and has taken up dancing instead.

    Danny seems to have taken to punditry like a duck to water and it almost seems a shame that he'll soon be fit enought to go back to playing.

  • Comment number 36.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


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