BBC BLOGS - Matt Slater

Archives for June 2011

Carson crisis leaves Blues adrift

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Matt Slater | 17:16 UK time, Thursday, 30 June 2011

Carson Yeung finally made good on his promise to make Birmingham City news in China on Thursday.

Sporting a club blazer, the Hong Kong-based entrepreneur strode into a room full of important people and delivered a performance guaranteed to ensure front-page exposure across the former British colony's news stands.

Sadly, this is the type of coverage only Aston Villa fans would wish upon the Blues, because Yeung was up before the beak on money-laundering charges: five of them, to be precise.

It should go without saying, of course, that the 51-year-old is innocent until proven otherwise but the no-smoke-without-fire risk to his reputation could not have come at a worse time for the Midlands club.

With the season little more than five weeks away, Birmingham City should be concentrating on rebuilding their squad, bedding in a new management team and reassuring supporters that May's relegation was just a temporary setback. But Yeung's spot of local bother practically ensures the club will spend the rest of the summer convincing everybody they are not in freefall.

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Greek football crisis adds to national blues

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Matt Slater | 15:54 UK time, Monday, 27 June 2011

An economy in pieces, a government caught in the headlights and there are rioters in the streets: it must be difficult for Greeks to believe in anything right now. Oh well, at least there's the football.

What's that you say? A match-fixing scandal, the sport's hierarchy in the dock, the start of the season in doubt...erm, anybody for wrestling?

Monday's slightly sensational revelation that Carlos Tevez has been "inadvertently dragged into" the Greek football crisis is just the latest chapter in a familiar tale of poor governance, sharp practice and brutish criminality. There is, of course, no suggestion of any wrongdoing on Tevez's part but the situation in Greece is dramatically different.

Bochum, Finland, phoney friendlies in Turkey, South Korea - football's match-fixing scandals are coming thick and fast and it is not just football, even sumo-wrestling is crooked now.

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Chelsea's gain is Porto's pain

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Matt Slater | 10:36 UK time, Thursday, 23 June 2011

I used to love Barry Fry. For six wonderful months in 1993, I was hooked on his tactical risk-taking, compulsive wheeler-dealing and look-at-me celebrations. He might have made his name at Barnet but he was Southend United's then, our cheeky chappie, and we were going places.

And then he left, taking coaches and players with him to Birmingham City. The swine.

This tale is hardly unique, and it is older than football (Judas's big-money move to FC Pharisee being an early example), but it is still catching people by surprise.

The latest group to suffer are FC Porto supporters. In Andre Villas-Boas, they had a fellow fan in the hot seat, the "chair of his dreams", and they were going to take on Europe's finest together.

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The making of McIlroy

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Matt Slater | 08:53 UK time, Tuesday, 21 June 2011

When Rory McIlroy blew a four-shot lead at the Masters in April, those still able to watch the gruesome images thought they could see a pattern amid the mayhem - the lad is too rash, the decision-making too wobbly and he can't putt.

But those who knew McIlroy best saw something different. They witnessed an irrepressible talent learn a bit more about his craft and a 21-year-old, already mature beyond his years, gain more experience of life's creeks and hollows.

And to get a second opinion on the putting, they called in Dave Stockton. The putting maestro met McIlroy a few weeks after his Augusta ordeal and 10 minutes later the young Northern Irishman's problems were over.

Ten minutes. That is all it took for Stockton to fix a slight flaw in McIlroy's hand position, remind him to slow down and give him the confidence to believe every putt is going in. Which is pretty much what happened at the US Open these last few days.

"I didn't do anything!" the American told me on Monday. "He already knew how to putt - I just made a few observations and perhaps gave him some belief to trust his instincts again."

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FA Cup: King of Beers v Health Fears

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Matt Slater | 10:58 UK time, Friday, 17 June 2011

Eating horse meat, buying Celine Dion albums, considering Sharon Stone to be a great actress: they do things differently in France and sometimes not just to be contrary. Take the sponsorship of sport, for example.

In the UK, we are quite happy for a whisky to sponsor a Formula One team, a brewery to back our premier racing event and now "the great American lager" to accompany our most famous football competition.

This could never happen across the Channel.

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An Olympic ticket free for all

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Matt Slater | 10:22 UK time, Friday, 10 June 2011

If, like me, you have been checking your credit card statement every day for the last fortnight and wondering when handball got so popular, worry not, there are a few Olympic events with almost unlimited vantage points still available.

Tickets for the marathon, triathlon and cycling's road race and time trial are still up for grabs at four price points: gratis, nada, nowt and zilch. And for 100,000 or so lucky
souls, you won't even have to go much further than your garden to watch the action.

Never being one to pass up a bargain, I thought I would get a head start on the herd by checking out where best to put my deckchair and cool box for the road race, London 2012's first big sporting event.

There was, of course, only one way to do this properly and that was to ride all 80 miles of the route, which meant I would need two support vehicles, five cameras, six production staff, sandwiches and a pair of two-time Olympians to lead out my sprint on The Mall.

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No Payne, no gain

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Matt Slater | 16:35 UK time, Wednesday, 8 June 2011

It happened almost four years ago but the memories still make me shudder. Moments earlier I had been nervous but excited about what I was going to do. And then it (the worst thing to happen to me since my Maths A-Level) happened and the assault on my self-esteem began.

My goggles had broken, you see, and I was a minute away from trying to swim almost a mile through a post-industrial soup in London's Docklands. The subsequent 40km ride and 10km run seemed as relevant to me right then as the spike a beheaded man's noggin would end up on centuries ago. So why, as my wife has reasonably asked, do it again?

Good question that, one I'm struggling to give a better answer to than the adolescent efforts I've come up with so far. Mrs Slater knows the Serpentine is "there" but doesn't understand what this has to do with her summer. I can only assume George and Ruth Mallory didn't talk much.

All this, of course, is just a long-winded way of saying I am doing the Hyde Park Triathlon on 7 August and, as with my efforts in 2007, will attempt to share some top tips (not mine) and must avoids (all mine) on how to prepare for one of Britain's fastest growing sports.

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