Friday, November 30, 2007

Roddick beats Tursunov; U.S. leads Davis Cup 1-0

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Andy Roddick got the United States off to a fast start in the Davis Cup final, beating Russia's Dmitry Tursunov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in the first match Friday.

Roddick threw his hands up in triumph after Tursunov's final return landed long on the hard court in Portland's Memorial Coliseum. The mostly pro-American crowd went wild.

Roddick, ranked No. 6 in the world, improved to 6-0 in Davis Cup play this year.

"It's kind of like 'so close but so far away.' There's no celebration,'' Roddick said. "It's one match. The celebration will be saved for when we win, if we win.''

Roddick took the first set after he hit an 146-mph serve that No. 34 Tursunov returned long, ending a game that went to deuce four times. Roddick let out a growl after holding serve, and the U.S. fans went wild.

Roddick went up 2-1 in the second set when Tursunov hit a forehand into the net to finish off the break. He won the set with back-to-back aces.

Roddick broke Tursunov again to start the third set. While he high-fived U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe, Tursunov threw up his hands in disgust.

"If there are 12-and-a-half thousand people behind you and you can use them to help you win a tennis match, you would be stupid not to, right?'' Roddick said. "Other than cheating, I'll do anything I can to win.''

Mikhail Youzhny was scheduled to play 13th-ranked James Blake in the second match on Friday. Bob and Mike Bryan face Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev in doubles on Saturday, before reverse singles on Sunday.

The best-of-five final is a culmination of a year's worth of international competition.

The once-dominant United States has 31 Davis Cup titles but none in 12 years, the longest span without an American victory. Pete Sampras last led the team to victory over Russia on clay in Moscow in 1995.

Roddick had 25 aces in the match, which lasted 1 hour, 53 minutes. Tursunov had eight aces.

Russia's captain Shamil Tarpischev pulled a surprise at the draw, leaving fourth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko out of the singles matches -- setting up the first match between Roddick and Tursunov.

"I wasn't playing my game,'' Tursunov said. "I was playing way too passive. I was playing not to miss.''

Davydenko comes into the Davis Cup final at the center of an investigation into unusual betting patterns during a loss to Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina at a match in Poland in August.

Betfair, an online gambling company, voided all bets on the match after unusually large amounts were wagered on the lowly ranked Argentine throughout the contest, even after he lost the first set 6-1. Davydenko retired with an injury in the third set.

Davydenko denies the allegations.

Tursunov is the lowest-ranked member of the Russian team, following Davydenko, No. 19 Youzhny and No. 33 Andreev.

Both Davis Cup teams include the same players from the semifinals, when the United States beat Sweden 4-1 and Russia defeated Germany 3-2.

The United States last hosted the Davis Cup final in 1992, in Fort Worth, Texas. Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Sampras and John McEnroe defeated Switzerland.

Memorial Coliseum, which seats about 12,800, has hosted two previous Davis Cup events, in 1981 and 1984, both U.S. semifinal victories over Australia.

Friday's event was full of pageantry -- as well as enthusiastic fans. With an obviously pro-United States crowd, the Russians had their own smaller, but very boisterous, contingent.

Billie Jean King presided over the coin toss, and Nike co-founder Phil Knight was among the spectators.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Yanks consider including Hughes in Santana deal

The Bidding For Santana Continues

A pivotal sticking point in the Yankees' trade talks with Minnesota about Johan Santana is the question of whether New York will include talented right-hander Phil Hughes in their offer.

And, within the internal discussions in New York's front office, there is a sense that the team is leaning toward putting Hughes in the deal.

"If they put Hughes in the deal," said one person familiar with the talks, "that could get it done for Minnesota."

Even if the Yankees and Twins build a framework for a Santana deal around Hughes, center fielder Melky Cabrera and another top minor league prospect, this would be only the first step toward completing the trade. Because Santana has a full no-trade clause, the Yankees may have to offer the two-time Cy Young Award winner a record-setting deal of something in the range of $25 million a year for six years.

Phil Hughes


Starting Pitcher
New York Yankees


2007 Season Stats
13 5 3 29 58 4.46

No pitcher has ever received a multiyear deal for more than $20 million.

Up until now, sources say the Yankees have been willing to talk about pitcher Ian Kennedy, Cabrera and others, but not top pitching prospects Joba Chamberlain and Hughes and second baseman Robinson Cano. The Red Sox have talked about a willingness to offer pitcher Jon Lester, center fielder Coco Crisp, minor league infielder Jed Lowrie and a minor league pitcher -- but Boston doesn't want to surrender center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury or pitcher Clay Buchholz.

But there is more pressure on the Yankees to acquire Santana or another veteran pitcher, because the projected Yankees' rotation, as of today, lacks experience, and because friends of left-hander Andy Pettitte believe there is a real chance that he is going to retire. The Yankees may not learn until late December or January about what Pettitte's plans are for 2008.

Those considerations may nudge the Yankees into adding Hughes to their offer for Santana.

The Yankees and Red Sox are also engaged in ongoing talks with the Oakland Athletics about Dan Haren, an accomplished pitcher who is a much cheaper option than Santana. Haren would cost, in prospects, a package comparable to what Santana is commanding, but he is already under contract for the next three years at $16.25 million (presuming his team exercises an option for 2010).

Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.


Sources: Angels, Marlins hit wall in Cabrera talks

In theory, the Angels and Marlins are as close as ever to a deal for Miguel Cabrera. But in reality, they're both so dug in on their positions, sources say they have no plans to talk again until after they both arrive at the winter meetings Sunday.

The Angels are still frustrated by what they felt were last-minute changes in Florida's asking price. So they've told the Marlins that if talks do resume next week, Florida will have to approach them, not the other way around. But that doesn't mean the Angels have lost interest in Cabrera, either.

The two teams appear to have agreed that second baseman Howie Kendrick and catcher Jeff Mathis would be part of any deal. So if they can settle on which young pitcher or pitchers the Angels would add to that package, they could still wind up making the biggest trade of the winter meetings.

Neither team has been willing to reveal precisely what happened when, according to Angels owner Arte Moreno, the Marlins twice increased their asking price as the teams appeared to be nearing a deal. But indications are that the dispute revolved around how many pitchers the Marlins expected to get back in the trade.

According to baseball men who have spoken with both teams, the clubs have talked about three young starting pitchers -- Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and the Angels' best pitching prospect, Nick Adenhart. But the Angels apparently weren't willing to trade two pitchers from that group without changes to the other half of the package.

So it's still possible that outfielder Reggie Willits, who could fill the Marlins' center-field vacancy, could be substituted for one of the pitchers when the teams resume discussions.

Or the clubs might be able to agree to a 3-for-1 swap. Other teams that have talked to Florida about Cabrera said the Marlins told them they would be open to a 3-for-1 deal instead of 4-for-1 "if it's the right three."

But before they can get down to those details, the Angels' and Marlins' first order of business may be simply to clear the air.

Senior writer Jayson Stark covers Major League Baseball for


Packers expect Favre to recover, start vs. Raiders

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre is expected to start against the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 9 and keep alive his record streak for consecutive starts.

Brett Favre


Green Bay Packers


2007 Season Stats
Att Comp Yds TD Int Rat
439 296 3323 22 10 97.9

"Just to quote the medical staff, his [starting] streak is not in danger. He'll be OK," coach Mike McCarthy said Friday, the day after Favre was knocked out of the Packers' 37-27 loss at Dallas with elbow and shoulder injuries.

His streak, which dates to 1992, stands at 249 games (269 including playoffs) and is a league record for quarterbacks.

McCarthy said Favre would have re-entered the game Thursday had something happened to Aaron Rodgers, who played in relief the last 2½ quarters.

Favre was diagnosed Friday with a bruised right elbow. He also aggravated a separated left shoulder, which he originally injured 15 years ago, on a hit by blitzing Cowboys cornerback Nate Jones in the second quarter.

McCarthy said the medical staff didn't indicate that Favre suffered any nerve damage in the elbow, which had been feared after the game Thursday night.

"It has more to do with the belly of the muscle around the elbow. It's not as severe as last year," McCarthy said.

Favre had nerve damage in the same elbow against the New England Patriots in November 2006 and didn't finish the game.

Favre, who hasn't finished seven games during the starting streak because of injury, was at Lambeau Field for treatment Friday.

After the game, he said that he lost feeling in the last two fingers of his right hand following the hit from Jones. He had started to regain feeling in the hand Friday, McCarthy said.

The coach is optimistic the extended break between games will allow the league's only three-time MVP time to heal.

"Anytime you have a player go down in the game and you receive the news this morning that he'll be able to play in 10 days, that's a big sense of relief, especially when it's your quarterback," McCarthy said.

The Packers have only two quarterbacks, with receiver Ruvell Martin as an emergency backup.

Rodgers directed two touchdown drives as the Packers rallied from a 27-10 deficit to get within 27-24 in the third quarter.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Source: Payout for A-Rod deal could reach $314M

As the New York Yankees and agent Scott Boras move toward a 10-year deal for Alex Rodriguez, the most important number is etched in stone: If Rodriguez achieves all the goals laid out for him, he will finish with a total payout of $314 million.

A source with knowledge of the negotiations said the two sides are getting "close" on a deal that will pay Rodriguez $275 million in guaranteed money, $30 million for milestones based on home runs, and $9 million in deferred money that the Texas Rangers owe Rodriguez in conjunction with his decision to opt out of his last contract.

In addition, the deal is front loaded, with Rodriguez expected to receive $32 million in each of the first three seasons. Boras and the Yankees are now down to negotiating the final contract language, the source said.

Rodriguez, 32, won his third career Most Valuable Player Award this season after hitting 54 homers and driving in 156 runs for the Yankees. Both he and Boras came in for major criticism when it was reported during Game 4 of the World Series that Rodriguez was opting out of the final three years of his deal with New York.

Rodriguez reportedly rekindled talks with the Yankees on his own on the advice of billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Now he's close to signing a deal that would easily eclipse the record 10-year, $252 million contract he signed with Texas in December 2000.

As the New York Times reported, Rodriguez will receive $30 million from the Yankees when he passes Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds on the all-time home run list. Rodriguez will receive $6 million for home run Nos. 660, 714 and 755, as well as the two home runs that tie and pass Bonds for the record.

Rodriguez, who has 518 home runs, needs 245 over the next 10 years to overtake Bonds's current total of 762. The chances of Bonds returning to play in 2008 and padding his total decreased significantly when he was indicted by a federal grand jury for perjury and obstruction of justice.

Teams are prohibited from paying bonuses to players based on statistical achievements, but Major League Baseball and the Players Association have apparently signed off on Rodriguez's bonuses because the Yankees are classifying his home runs as historical milestones.

"That mountain has been climbed," said a source.

As the Associated Press recently reported, Texas is obligated to fund $9 million as part of a deferred compensation provision in Rodriguez's old contract. The money will be paid to Rodriguez, with interest, in $3 million increments over the next three seasons.

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for His book "License To Deal" was published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.


Legendary daredevil Evel Knievel dies at 69

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Evel Knievel, the hard-living motorcycle daredevil whose jumps over Greyhound buses, live sharks and Idaho's Snake River Canyon made him an international icon in the 1970s, died Friday. He was 69.

Knievel's death was confirmed by his granddaughter, Krysten Knievel. He had been in failing health for years, suffering from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable condition that scarred his lungs.

Knievel had undergone a liver transplant in 1999 after nearly dying of hepatitis C, likely contracted through a blood transfusion after one of his bone-shattering spills.

Immortalized in the Washington's Smithsonian Institution as "America's Legendary Daredevil," Knievel was best known for a failed 1974 attempt to jump Snake River Canyon on a rocket-powered cycle and a spectacular crash at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. He suffered nearly 40 broken bones before he retired in 1980.

Although he dropped off the pop culture radar in the '80s, Knievel always had fans and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years. In later years he still made a good living selling his autographs and endorsing products. Thousands came to Butte, Mont., every year as his legend was celebrated during the "Evel Knievel Days" festival.

"They started out watching me bust my ass, and I became part of their lives," Knievel said. "People wanted to associate with a winner, not a loser. They wanted to associate with someone who kept trying to be a winner."

His death came just two days after it was announced that he and rapper Kanye West had settled a federal lawsuit over the use of Knievel's trademarked image in a popular West music video.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Vikings RB Peterson probable to play vs. Lions

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Adrian Peterson is all but a certainty to play on Sunday.

Adrian Peterson


Running Back
Minnesota Vikings


2007 Season Stats
Rush Yds TD Rec Yds TD
169 1081 8 15 220 1

Minnesota's rookie running back was listed as probable after Friday's practice to return to the field against Detroit after missing two games because of a torn lateral collateral ligament in his right knee.

"He had some soreness, which you would expect ... just from the inactivity," coach Brad Childress said.

Peterson said on a scale of one to 10, his soreness was a one.

"It's not going to slow me down," Peterson said. "I'm going to be out there going full speed. It's just a matter of feeling what it's like when I get hit."

Despite the two-game absence, Peterson still leads the league in rushing with 1,081 yards and is also first in the NFL at his position for Pro Bowl votes by fans.

Wide receiver Troy Williamson was listed as doubtful for Sunday's game because of lingering effects from a concussion. He missed Thursday's practice with persistent headaches and didn't participate on Friday, either.

Backup safety Tank Williams was ruled out with a knee injury, and backup linebacker Dontarrious Thomas (groin) and cornerback Antoine Winfield (hamstring) were down as questionable.

Defensive end Kenechi Udeze had another excused absence Friday related to the recent birth of his daughter, but Childress said he expected him to play against Detroit.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Cards agree to one-year, $2.85M deal with Izturis

ST. LOUIS -- Free-agent infielder Cesar Izturis agreed Friday to a $2.85 million, one-year contract with the Cardinals, a sign St. Louis may have decided to abandon trying to re-sign shortstop David Eckstein.

Cesar Izturis


Pittsburgh Pirates


2007 Season Stats
110 0 16 31 .302 .258

The 27-year-old Izturis won a Gold Glove in 2004 and was an NL All-Star in 2005. Eckstein combined with Brendan Ryan to play the majority of the games last year at shortstop, a position that accounted for 32 of the team's 76 infield errors.

Izturis is primarily a shortstop but has also played at second base and third base.

"We have always prided ourselves on being a sound defensive team," general manager John Mozeliak said. "Hopefully, Cesar can help us restore that. We've seen firsthand how important solid defensive play can be to a team's overall performance."

Eckstein, the World Series MVP in 2006, became a free agent after an injury-plagued season.

The switch-hitting Izturis batted .258 in 110 games last season with the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. He hit .276 with the Pirates after being acquired on July 19.

Izturis has a career batting average of .259. His best offensive season was 2004, when he batted .288 with a career-high 32 doubles, four home runs, 25 steals and 62 RBIs.

In addition to his base salary, Izturis can earn $650,000 in performance bonuses: $100,000 each for 400 and 450 plate appearances and $150,000 each for 500, 550 and 600 plate appearances.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Tuberville to Auburn fans: 'Don't panic or anything'

AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville told listeners to his weekly radio show that fans "don't need to panic or anything" amid reports that he could bolt to Arkansas to replace Houston Nutt.

Tommy Tuberville

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Tommy Tuberville is rumored to be going elsewhere, but tells Auburn fans not to worry.

"I'm not looking to go anywhere," Tuberville said on the show, which aired Thursday night but was recorded previously.

Arkansas has not contacted Auburn seeking permission to speak with Tuberville about the Razorback job, Auburn sports publicist Kirk Sampson said Friday.

Tuberville was in Arkansas on a previously planned hunting trip and was scheduled to return to Auburn on Friday. He is in talks with Auburn about a contract extension.

Athletic director Jay Jacobs said Auburn has agreed to lengthen the coach"s contract, but declinced to discuss details.

On the radio show, Tuberville said some changes are needed at Auburn, which he said needs a plan to improve its facilities.

"I've been here nine years and think I'm pretty experienced in what I feel and our staff feels needs to happen for us to go to another level, get back to Atlanta [to the Southeastern Conference title game] and win in Atlanta," he said.

But, Tuberville added: "People don't need to panic or anything."

"This is for the betterment of Auburn. Obviously, I always look out for my family, which is our coaches and our families. I want to make sure everybody is happy and healthy, but also has a chance to have success. We've had great success in nine years. We want the success to improve in the next nine years. I think everybody wants that."

Nutt was named head coach at Ole Miss after quitting at Arkansas.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


New Zealand thrash out-of-form SA

Second one-day international, Port Elizabeth: South Africa 209-9 (50 overs) lost to New Zealand 210-3 (38.4 overs) by seven wickets

New Zealand finally enjoyed a win on their tour of South Africa as they levelled the one-day series with a crushing seven-wicket victory.

Kyle Mills set the tone by removing Herschelle Gibbs second ball as New Zealand's bowlers found their range, restricting South Africa to 209-9.

A 154-run partnership between Brendon McCullum (81) and Jamie How (76) soon took the game away from South Africa.

Scott Styris and Ross Taylor finished it off as NZ won with 11.2 overs left.

More to follow.

Source: BBC Sport

Sports Personality contenders

Ten contenders have been named on the shortlist for the 2007 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

A public phone vote will decide the winner during a star-studded show on Sunday 9 December.

The programme, shown on BBC One from 1900 GMT, comes live from the NEC in Birmingham.

Here, we profile the 10 sportsmen and women on the shortlist.

Source: BBC Sport

Alexander to start vs. Philly

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Sports Personality nominations

A range of newspapers and magazine sport experts, plus a BBC panel, determined the shortlist of 10 contenders for the 2007 BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

They were collated into lists of 10 candidates, which are published below. Each name counted as one vote towards the final shortlist.

A public vote by phone will decide the winner during the show on BBC One, which is being broadcast from 1900 GMT on Sunday 9 December from the NEC in Birmingham.
The nominations are listed in alphabetical order by surname.

*Experts' Panel - Dame Kelly Holmes, Nick Faldo, Sir Steve Redgrave, Alan Hansen, Lord Seb Coe, Clare Balding, Jonathan Davies, Barry McGuigan, David Coulthard, Sir Trevor Brooking, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, Greg Rusedski

Source: BBC Sport

Source: Florida State, Bowden agree to extension

Florida State and coach Bobby Bowden have agreed to a one-year contract extension worth just under $2.5 million for the 2007-08 season, a source familiar with the deal said Friday afternoon.

Bowden's contract had been set to expire in January. He made about $1.7 million this year.

Bowden's deal also includes the potential for bonuses meant to reward him for success next year and also for career achievements.

It has been stated by Florida State president T.K. Wetherell that Bowden can coach at the school for as long as he desires.

Joe Schad is the college football reporter for ESPN.


He's a man! He's got a contract! Gundy extended

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was given a one-year contract extension Friday after leading the Cowboys to their second straight bowl game.

The extension would keep Gundy, who gained national notoriety for a postgame outburst in September, at the school through 2013. It is subject to approval by the school's board of regents next week.

"We appreciate the job Coach Gundy is doing and believe he and his staff are making progress in moving OSU football to the next level," said Marlene Strathe, the school's interim president, in a statement. "I am particularly pleased with the success our student-athletes are having in the classroom under coach Gundy's leadership."

Gundy, a former Oklahoma State quarterback, is 17-19 in three seasons as the Cowboys' coach. He led them to a 4-7 record in 2005 and then took them to the Independence Bowl last season. The Cowboys are awaiting their bowl destination after going 6-6 this season.

"During the 2005 season we won just one conference game," Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said. "We saw improvement last year and this year we were competitive in every conference game but the last one. That shows improvement to me."

Oklahoma State was in contention for the Big 12 South title this season before squandering a 21-point fourth-quarter lead in a 38-35 loss to Texas. The Cowboys finished the season with a 49-17 loss at Oklahoma last week and ended up in a three-way tie for third place in the division, behind the Sooners and Longhorns.

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the season, though, came after a 49-45 win against Texas Tech on Sept. 22, when Gundy used his entire postgame news conference addressing an Oklahoma City newspaper columnist who'd been critical of benched quarterback Bobby Reid. The rant, punctuated by a "Come after me! I'm a man! I'm 40!" outburst, made national waves and was a YouTube sensation. Reid was suspended for Oklahoma State's game against Kansas State four weeks later when he skipped practice.

On the field, the highlight was a 45-14 blowout at Nebraska -- the team's first win in Lincoln since 1960.

The Cowboys earned their fifth bowl appearance in the last six years against what's considered the nation's most difficult schedule by the NCAA. Four of the Cowboys' losses came against ranked opponents, and their wins came against Florida Atlantic, Sam Houston State, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Kansas State and Baylor.

It's only the second time in school history that Oklahoma State will have five bowl appearances in a six-year span, with the first coming when Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders was on campus.

This run began when current LSU coach Les Miles took the Cowboys to three straight bowl games, when Gundy was the offensive coordinator.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Reports: Mets send Milledge to Nats for Church

The New York Mets have dealt outfielder Lastings Milledge to the Washington Nationals for catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church, multiple media outlets reported Friday.

The Nationals announced they would hold a news teleconference at 3 p.m. ET to announce a trade.

Milledge, in parts of two seasons with the Mets, has a career .257 batting average (90 for 350) with 40 extra-base hits and 51 runs batted in.

Church, in 144 games last season, hit .272, one point higher than his career average in four seasons with the Expos-Nationals franchise. Last season, he had 128 hits, including 43 doubles -- tied for the team lead with Ryan Zimmerman -- and 15 home runs, and 70 RBIs.

An eight-year veteran, Schneider hit .235 with 21 doubles in 2007. In the field he had 53 assists, six errors and a .992 fielding percentage. He has a career .252 batting average in 757 major league games.


Niners QB Smith might not play again this season

Still experiencing pain in his right shoulder, San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Alex Smith might be close to resolving the issue of how best to treat the injury, and that could include the possibility of not playing again in 2007.

Alex Smith


San Francisco 49ers


2007 Season Stats
Att Comp Yds TD Int Rat
193 94 793 2 4 57.2
Smith told Bay Area reporters on Thursday that, even after nearly two weeks of rest, he still can't raise his right arm above his shoulder without discomfort. He will visit early next week with an orthopedist, and surgery remains a viable option for the top overall selection from the 2005 draft.

"Hopefully, we'll get some answers and clarity next week," Smith told reporters. "Those ligaments haven't healed at all. Hopefully, [the rest] will allow them to start healing. ... I really feel my collarbone moving when I come through on my throwing motion."

Smith, 23, suffered a Grade III separation of his right shoulder on Sept. 30. While he was rehabilitating the injury, he experienced pain in his right forearm. He hasn't played since a Nov. 12 game at Seattle and hasn't thrown since Nov. 18. reported on Nov. 20 that Smith, after being examined by Dr. James Andrews, was apprised by the noted orthopedic surgeon that the shoulder separation was not significantly improved and might actually be worse in some ways than when he initially viewed the original MRI of the injury three weeks earlier.

Andrews prescribed two weeks of rest and then a re-evaluation, and he acknowledged surgery might be necessary to correct the damage to the shoulder. Smith will meet early next week with either Andrews or Dr. Tim McAdams, the 49ers' team orthopedist. That follow-up examination could determine whether Smith undergoes surgery or continues treatment with the hope of playing again this season.

The three-year veteran has already been ruled out for Sunday's game at Carolina and 14-year veteran Trent Dilfer will make his third straight start.

"You would like to avoid surgery if at all possible, especially to your shoulder," said Smith, who emphasized that he would like to try to play again this season if that is feasible.

If Smith does have surgery, he will face months of rehabilitation.

Two weeks ago, Smith complained that his throwing arm was "killing" him and revealed that, in addition to the shoulder separation, he had developed tendinitis in his forearm. He had a cortisone injection for his forearm soreness but that did not markedly improve the condition.

Smith's agent, Tom Condon of CAA, suggested that the tendinitis, which kept Smith from being able to grip the ball properly and almost certainly contributed to his recent inaccuracy, may have resulted from an overly aggressive rehabilitation regimen on the part of the 49ers.

There was definitely some tension earlier in the month between Smith and head coach Mike Nolan. The quarterback broadly hinted that Nolan was perhaps not as supportive of him as he could have been. Nolan indicated that he may not have understood the seriousness of the injury and said that Smith wanted to play.

Both sides eventually agreed that, at the least, there was a lack of communication. Condon agreed that nobody had the correct information.

"The original MRI didn't show the severity of the injury, but Dr. Andrews said that's because Alex was laying down when he had the MRI," Condon said. "Whenever Alex sat up during the [Nov. 20] exam, his clavicle moved way up. That's not normal."

In his seven starts this season, Smith has completed 94-of-193 passes for 914 yards, with only two touchdown passes and four interceptions, for a passer rating of 57.2. Perhaps in part because of the shoulder and forearm injuries, the former Utah star has appeared to regress in some areas over his performance of a year ago.

Smith started the first four games of the season before sustaining the shoulder separation and then missed two games before returning to the lineup for three contests. With his arm clearly aching and his production waning, some opponents and teammates said Smith grimaced nearly every time he threw the ball.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for


Pumas miss out on Six Nations

World Cup surprise package Argentina have been told their future lies in the Tri-Nations rather than the Six Nations by the International Rugby Board (IRB).

The Tri-Nations is run by South Africa, New Zealand and Australia (Sanzar), who will negotiate a new TV deal in 2010.

And it will be several years at least before Argentina are admitted.

"In the short term there are major hurdles to the integration of Argentina into the southern playing structure," said the IRB.

The Pumas had a superb World Cup, becoming the first team from outside the Six Nations and Tri-Nations to reach the semi-finals.

Their performance let to demands from fans around the world that the South Americans, who do not have regular high-level competition, be included in either the Six Nations or the Tri-Nations as soon as possible.

As a consolation for missing out on quick entry to either of the events the Pumas have been awarded more Test matches each year.

They will be given nine matches a year, up from six, while it is expected they will also be entered into the Churchill Cup.

Among their new internationals will be two during the Six Nations window following the agreement of English and French clubs to release their Pumas for the matches.

One of the main stumbling blocks ahead of Argentina entering the Tri-Nations is the IRB's requirement for them to have most of their players based in the country.

At the moment Argentina's domestic game is amateur and as a result all of their top players earn their living abroad, almost exclusively in Europe.

"The Argentinian Rugby Union (UAR) has made a commitment to have their players contracted to the union and for the majority of their players to be based in Argentina by 2012," said the IRB.

Source: BBC Sport

Hirvonen leads in Wales Rally GB

Mikko Hirvonen won the first four stages of Wales Rally GB as Ford team-mate Marcus Gronholm edged ahead of championship rival Sebastien Loeb.

Loeb, needing only a top-five finish to secure his fourth world title for Citroen, took no risks in slippery conditions in the South Wales forests.

The Frenchman finshed third on day one, 2.9 seconds adrift of Gronholm.

"I don't need to push to the maximum," said Gronholm. "We just need to wait and see what happens to Sebastien."

Finland's Hirvonen finished day one 25.6 seconds clear of his compatriot Gronholm, who is competing in his final rally before retirement.

Stobart Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala, another Finn, was running in fourth place with Subaru's Norwegian Petter Solberg pushing hard behind him.

Loeb leads Gronholm by six points in the standings and has won eight rallies this season to the Finn's five.

Ford have already made sure of their second successive manufacturers' title.

"It will be a bit stupid in my situation to take lots of risks to try and win here," said Loeb on Thursday.

"I've not started a rally in this position before - normally when I start I want to go as fast as possible and go for the victory."

In Friday's first leg the drivers complete six timed stages, including one in full darkness, totalling 140.8 km mostly through the forests of the Vale of Neath.

Two spectators were taken to hospital in Swansea with minor injuries after a privately-entered Subaru driven by Briton Simon Harraway went off the track in the opening stage.

The crew were unhurt but the stage was stopped after the incident.

Source: BBC Sport

Chick Young's view

It is less than a thousand days until the opening game of the 2010 World Cup finals. That's plenty time for Scotland to go through at least a couple of new managers.

The job seems to be about as stable as a new-born foal, with the Scottish FA turning into a temp agency. Walter Smith and Alex McLeish used the position to fill their gap year.

It was a racing certainty that Big Eck wasn't just filling his case for the trip to the World Cup draw in South Africa, he was packing his bag for a move to England's Premier League.

You can't blame him really. Would you resist the seduction of a 300% hike in your wages?

Now a few nutcases are firing salvos at the SFA for its refusal to crank up the money to meet the earnings available in England. Aye, very good.

That'll work. Like it did for the neighbours with their megabucks pay packet to Steve McClaren, a man who couldn't have spotted a winning Englishman at the Battle of Flodden.

The SFA is controlled by a sensible wee thing called a budget. And blowing it to kingdom come in blind panic is not the answer. It doesn't have money because Scotland haven't qualified for a major finals - at best - for 12 years.

It's Catch 22. We don't get the money to spend on a top gaffer until a top gaffer wins a World Cup qualifying group.

The SFA is as right to stand its ground in this matter as it is wrong about its enthusiasm for the Celtic Cup, an anachronism of a tournament that will be about as thrilling as stamp collecting. And philately will get you nowhere.

This isn't even as exciting as the old Home Internationals, because England - rightly - have recognised that this is the Challenge Cup of international football.

At least in the old days Scotland were part of the headline event - Wembley or Hampden and head-to-head with the Auld Enemy.

In this new competition, the big fixture will be across the water as Northern Ireland and the Republic sort out their occasional differences on the football pitch.

The world has gone nuts actually. Fifa has, on the face of it, done the right thing by giving Africa a World Cup but then took the draw to a city - Durban - where the concierge at my hotel was so worried about my safety he wouldn't let me walk 100 yards.

"Please sir, take a taxi," he kept saying. I got to the stage I was hiring one to cross the road and began to wonder about whether I might have to get the driver to negotiate his 1980 BMW 3 series into the lift and along the corridor to my room.

There's never a dull moment in Durban, let me tell you that. They have such a problem with street crime that, by comparison, Glasgow has a halo over it.

But maybe it will be all right by the summer of 2010. Actually, I grew to like it, it is Africa's turn after all, and I remember writing this kind of stuff about Mexico ahead of 1986 - and that tournament was fine and dandy.

Back then, we were searching for a manager.

It's funny how, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Source: BBC Sport

Seahawks' Alexander will face Eagles on Sunday

SEATTLE -- Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren says running back Shaun Alexander will play in Sunday's game at Philadelphia.

Shaun Alexander


Running Back
Seattle Seahawks


2007 Season Stats
Rush Yds TD Rec Yds TD
149 492 2 12 56 0
Holmgren told KIRO Radio that Alexander has practiced very well this week and Holmgren says he's glad to have him back.

The 2005 NFL MVP missed three games with a sprained knee.

Backup Maurice Morris has played well in Alexander's absence and Holmgren says he'll continue to carry the ball as well.

Holmgren says the game against the Eagles is important as Seattle tries to make the playoffs. The Seahawks have a 7-4 record and a two-game lead in the NFC West. Philadelphia is 5-6.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Rogers stays, signs one-year deal with Tigers

DETROIT -- Kenny Rogers is staying right where he is.

Kenny Rogers


The 43-year-old left-hander ended his free agency Friday and will return to the Detroit Tigers for a third season. Rogers agreed to a one-year deal, representing himself in contract negotiations.

He was 3-4 with a 4.43 ERA in an injury-shortened 2007 season after helping the Tigers reach the 2006 World Series.

He was limited to 11 starts last season following surgery to remove a blood clot from his left shoulder and repair arteries. He went back on the disabled list later in the year with inflammation in his elbow.

For the first time since 2001, Rogers did not win at least 13 games.

The Tigers gave Rogers a $16 million, two-year contract before the 2006 season.

Over 19 seasons, Rogers is 210-143 with a 4.19 ERA and is a four-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


England hopes ended - Redknapp

Harry Redknapp says his arrest on Wednesday as part of an investigation into alleged corruption has ended his chance of becoming England manager.

The Portsmouth boss was one of five men arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and false accounting and has since protested his innocence.

He told BBC Radio Solent: "I'm not saying I would have got the job.

"But through no fault of my own, all this rubbish and disgusting treatment I've had has changed it all really."

Redknapp has guided Portsmouth to seventh place in the Premier League, currently the highest position of all English managers in the top-flight.

And the 60-year-old had said that no English club manager would reject the chance to take the England job should it be offered to them.

But he has now insisted that although he was flattered by links to the post, he was not actively putting himself in the frame.

He added: "I'm not saying I was chasing the job, I love the job I do here, so it wasn't a case of me wanting to leave here.

"But it was nice that people were talking about how well I'd done and how good I am at my job."

Source: BBC Sport

Zimbabwe stun Windies in Harare

First one-day international, Harare: Zimbabwe 274-8 (50 overs) beat West Indies 244-8 (50 overs) by 31 runs

Zimbabwe beat major opposition for the first time since revoking Test status, overcoming West Indies by 31 runs in the opening one-day match in Harare.

Elton Chigumbura took two early wickets to reduce the Caribbean team to 22-2 in the seventh over of their reply.

Even though Shivnarine Chanderpaul hit an unbeaten 127 it was not enough to help put the Windies back on track.

Asked to bat first, the hosts racked up 274-8, with Chamu Chibhabha hitting a career-best 73 from 85 balls.

Zimbabwe's cricket board decided to give up Test status in January 2006 after a group of senior players quit in protest at the way the game was run, leaving the side too inexperienced to play leading sides.

Several of those players, including former captain Tatenda Taibu and veteran spinner Ray Price, who spent the last two years in county cricket with Worcestershire, have since returned.

Zimbabwe have beaten Bangladesh four times on two tours in 2006 and '07 but have not beaten any other Test-playing side since stepping back from top level cricket.

Source: BBC Sport

NHL brass approves new schedule, sale of Preds

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- The NHL's board of governors approved the sale of the Nashville Predators and changed the league's scheduling format Thursday night to allow every team to face each other at least once every season.

Paul Kelly, the new executive director of the NHL Players Association, also addressed the league's owners during a late-afternoon session to open the board's two-day meeting at an elite resort on the Northern California coast.

After a three-year experiment in developing rivalries in hockey's far-flung outposts, the NHL voted to go back to the scheduling format used before the 2004-05 lockout, most notably decreasing the current eight games against every team's divisional opponents to six.

Starting next season, teams will play just 24 total games against their four divisional foes, 40 against the rest of the conference and 18 against the other conference -- one game against all 15 foes, and three home-and-home series against wild-card opponents.

"The sense of the board was we heard the concerns raised by some of the fans, and this was an attempt to be responsive to the concerns of our fans," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said, while still claiming intradivisional games draw the league's biggest crowds. "Every team will play every other team at least once."

After the lockout, the NHL returned with a determination to spark division rivalries with a top-heavy new schedule. But both players and fans grew to dislike the schedule's monotony and the reduced chances to see the other conference's biggest stars.

Last January, 22 of the NHL's 30 teams voted to scrap the intense divisional slate. The expected rivalries simply never developed, resulting in dull scheduling quirks such as the San Jose Sharks' three home games and four overall meetings with the Los Angeles Kings in November.

Meanwhile, each conference's biggest stars made fewer appearances on the other side of the continent, draining fan interest. Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby, now a third-year pro, will play his first regular-season games in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary next week.

"They're tired of seeing the same guys week after week," Kelly said of his players. "They would prefer to see those interconference teams two times, more than once."

Kelly even said the players would entertain the notion of an 84-game season -- allowing every team to play a home-and-home series against one division in the other conference each year -- if owners agreed to reduce the number of preseason games.

Bettman said the owners could be open to the notion, but it hasn't been formally proposed yet. The new scheduling format is binding only for next season, meaning further changes could be made next year.

The NHL also rubber-stamped the sale of the Predators to an investment group led by David Freeman, the CEO of a venture capital firm. Outgoing owner Craig Leipold attended the meeting, and Freeman -- who isn't allowed to attend a board meeting without a finished deal -- could formally close the sale with his group by Monday.

"Obviously from our standpoint it's a little bit of closure," Predators coach Barry Trotz said after Nashville's 6-5 win in Ottawa on Thursday night. "I think it'll be a big boost for us as a franchise and I think the local ownership is going to work hard to make us a viable market."

Freeman's group still needs approval from Nashville's Metro Sports Authority and the city council to implement the revenue-maximizing changes to the arena lease for the Predators, who lost $70 million in Leipold's 10 years of ownership, according to the outgoing owner.

"We're looking forward to welcoming David Freeman into the league," Bettman said. "We think local ownership, coupled with the good work the mayor has done to modify the lease term, bode very well for the future of this franchise."

Six months ago, Leipold had a deal to sell to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie for $220 million. But that transaction fell through in June when the co-CEO of Blackberry makers Research in Motion Ltd. started taking season ticket deposits in Hamilton, Ontario.

Bettman said the new owners group signed a standard consent agreement that includes provisions to keep the team in Nashville through the near future.

"We all love it in Nashville and I think for us players our main focus is just to play," Predators right wing Jordin Tootoo said. "There's nothing we can do about what goes on up top. Bottom line, we all want to be in Nashville."

Bettman also said the NHL salary cap will rise next season because of an expected increase in revenues, but the commissioner wouldn't cite a cap figure yet. The current cap is $50.3 million.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Vick co-defendants get 18, 21 months in prison

RICHMOND, Va. -- Two of fallen NFL star Michael Vick's co-defendants were sentenced Friday to 18 months and 21 months in prison on federal dogfighting conspiracy charges.

Quanis Phillips of Atlanta and Purnell Peace of Virginia Beach could have received up to five years in prison -- the same maximum Vick faces when he is sentenced Dec. 10.

Peace, Phillips and Tony Taylor of Hampton pleaded guilty last summer and agreed to testify against Vick, prompting the suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback to enter his own plea agreement a few days later. Taylor will be sentenced Dec. 14.

"You may have thought this was sporting, but it was very callous and cruel," U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson told Phillips.

Sentencing guidelines called for punishments of 12 to 18 months for Peace and 18 to 24 months for Phillips, who has a more extensive criminal record.

Prosecutors recommended sentences at the low end of the range because of the co-defendants' cooperation. But Hudson said he felt sentences on the high end of the range were appropriate because of the nature of the crime.

Hudson told Peace that he was concerned because a pre-sentencing report quoted Peace as saying he saw he nothing wrong with dogfighting.

All four men also face state charges.

According to court papers, Vick financed virtually the entire "Bad Newz Kennels" dogfighting enterprise at his 15-acre property in Surry County in rural southeastern Virginia and participated in executing several underperforming dogs by drowning, hanging and other means.

Vick publicly apologized for his role in the dogfighting operation and turned himself in Nov. 19 to begin serving his prison term early. He is being held in a state jail in Warsaw, Va.

The case began in April when a drug investigation of a Vick relative led authorities to the Surry County property, where they found dozens of pit bulls and an assortment of dogfighting paraphernalia.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Ronaldo on world player shortlist

Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo is on a three-man shortlist for Fifa's world player of the year award for 2007.

The 22-year-old Portugal winger is up against AC Milan's Brazilian star Kaka, who is the favourite, and Argentine Lionel Messi, who plays for Barcelona.

The award will be made at Fifa's world player gala in Zurich on 17 December.

The award is voted for by the managers and captains of the national teams of Fifa's member countries.

Source: BBC Sport

World Cup to remain at 20 teams

The International Rugby Board (IRB) has decided that 20 teams will compete at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

There had been suggestions before this year's event that only 16 teams would be allowed to play in four years' time.

There were concerns smaller nations would be uncompetitive in France, but their performances allayed these fears.

IRB chairman Dr Syd Millar said: "The developing nations at Rugby World Cup 2007 have produced significantly enhanced performances since RWC 2003."

The 2007 World Cup was won by South Africa, who beat England 15-6 in the final, but some of the most impressive performances came from teams previously considered to be 'minnows' in the world game.

Fiji defeated Wales to reach the last eight and were level at 20-20 with South Africa after an hour of their quarter-final, while Georgia came within four points of defeating Ireland in their pool game.

A further change means there will be 12 automatic qualifiers for 2011, rather than eight as has previously been the case.

That means both Wales and Ireland are guaranteed their places in New Zealand despite finishing third in their pools in France.

Tonga and Italy also join the automatic qualifiers, who include both England and Scotland.

Meanwhile, the IRB is set for further discussions over plans to introduce a so-called "world series" in an attempt to strengthen Test rugby.

Under the plan matches between the Six Nations and Tri-Nations teams, plus Argentina, would count towards an annual league ending in a Grand Final.

It is one of two options, along with a 12-team competition taking place over two years between World Cups, which came out of the IRB forum on the game's future this week.

The IRB said the delegates had asked the governing body to "further explore" the two possibilities.

Other points to have come out of the forum include:

  • Players guaranteed a minimum of 10 weeks' post-season rest

  • Test matches limited to 11 per year

  • English and French professional club seasons to finish by 31 May

  • Argentina to be fully integrated into international calendar over four-year period starting from 2008

  • Further investment and new competitions for emerging nations

  • A permanent Rugby World Cup window of September-October

    The forum also agreed that Argentina's future lies in the southern hemisphere, ruling out the possibility of the Pumas, who finished third at the World Cup, joining the Six Nations.

  • Source: BBC Sport

    The FA Cup online

    Follow the FA Cup second-round matches with live commentaries to UK users of the BBC Sport website.

    Links will appear on this page when the commentary, provided by BBC Local Radio and BBC Radio 5 Live, is available.

    Saturday 1 December

    1500 GMT
    Bristol Rovers v Rushden & Diamonds
    Burton Albion v Barnet
    Bury v Exeter
    Cambridge Utd v Weymouth
    Dag & Red v Kidderminster
    Hereford v Hartlepool
    Huddersfield v Grimsby
    Notts County v Havant & Waterlooville
    Oxford Utd v Southend
    Staines Town v Peterborough
    Swindon v Forest Green
    Torquay v Brighton

    Sunday 2 December

    1315 GMT
    Harrogate Railway v Mansfield

    1510 GMT
    Third Round draw

    Source: BBC Sport

    Hodgson quits as Finland manager

    Roy Hodgson has resigned as coach of Finland following their failure to qualify for Euro 2008.

    The Briton's exit could pave the way for an approach for the vacant manager's jobs with England, Scotland or the Republic of Ireland.

    Hodgson, previously an outsider to succeed Steve McClaren, was guarded over the England role this week.

    "I'll only give my opinion if I receive an offer or an invitation to speak to someone," he told BBC Sport.

    Finland, who have never qualified for a major finals, finished a close fourth behind qualifiers Portugal and Poland in Euro 2008 qualifying Group A.

    Hodgson's side won 24 points in Group A, in comparison to England who won 23 points in Group E.

    The Finnish FA said that Hodgson would help in finding his replacement.

    "The FA would have liked to have continued working with Roy Hodgson with whom Finland went so close to qualifying for the Euro 2008 finals," said a statement.

    The 60-year-old Hodgson has also been linked with the vacant Republic of Ireland job, while Scotland are also seeking a new coach following Alex McLeish's resignation.

    Hodgson led Switzerland to the World Cup finals in 1994 and has also coached club sides Inter Milan and Udinese in Italy as well as Blackburn Rovers.

    Earlier this week he said he would be happy to advise the FA over how to improve the game in England if they wanted to talk to him.

    "I'd be interested to hear their questions and answer them, but I don't put myself forward as somebody who wants to lecture the FA," he said.

    "But if I was asked that question, I'd make myself available, as any Englishmen would, or as I'm sure any international manager would."

    Source: BBC Sport

    Holloway column

    Listen to Ollie sound off!

    The Leicester manager gives his inimitable views on football and life in general in his weekly column.

    This week Ollie talks about his first two games in charge of the Foxes, including the memorable debut at Bristol City where he had a fight with a robin!

    He also gives his thoughts on working with Milan Mandaric and Paul Sturrock taking over Plymouth.


    I was a bit disappointed we didn't get six points out of six to be fair. But never mind, beggars can't be choosers.

    My first game at the Walker's Stadium was marvellous - 28,000 people there, it was a bit scary really.


    I went out first of all and got a few boos. Then I came out the second time just as the game was going to kick off and they've got their mascot on the pitch dressed as a robin.

    The song used to go: "When the red red robin goes bob bob bobbing along - shoot the person without a father, shoot the person without a father".

    So anyway, they booed the hell out of me and I turned and faced them and I bowed.

    And I looked up and there on my right-hand side was the robin, so I beckoned him over and adopted a boxing stance. I caught him on the beak, hit him in the belly and then he slapped me with his wing and before you know it I was giving him a hug and clapping their fans.

    To be fair, and I didn't expect it, nearly all of them started clapping me, which was magnificent. And then we beat them 2-0, which was marvellous!

    They were singing their songs to me as well - "Holloway, Holloway, Holly Hollo-way, he gets the ball and does ___ all, Holly Holloway".

    And there's another one that's even worse: "Cheer up Holloway, oh what does it mean to be a sad Gashead person-without-a-father with a s*** football team!"

    And just before the end, everything went back to normal when they were giving it "Eff off Holloway!" So I did - and effed off back up to Leicester!


    Good luck to him, fantastic. I'm glad they've got it sorted.

    There's not many people who walk in to a job when the team's fourth in the table. I'm delighted for him and I'm delighted for them.

    I didn't want to leave, but there were 28,000 in the ground the other day at Leicester, that was 17,000 more than I had for my last game at Plymouth. Surely people will eventually see that I can't be blamed for wanting that.

    I hope they'll realise that I was very proud of what I did, I meant every word of it and I've left them in a much better position than they were when I first took over. And that's all you can do as a manager.

    I'm a great admirer of Paul Sturrock and I heard what he said on the radio and he talks a lot of sense. I think he's going to help them and I'm proud to have left him that team.


    He likes that. It seems to wind him up, old Sav. He's a bit of a Leicester hero as well. Thanks for playing so well for Leicester me old son!

    It's funny what motivates you. I'm a bit like that myself. I don't really like being patted on the back, I think you find out more about yourself when you're up against it and that's Sav all over. That's what he likes, that's what he's all about. Brilliant.


    Jonaha132Welcome to the Foxes, Ollie. We met about six weeks ago the night of the Rugby World Cup final at the Hotel Astor in Plymouth. I asked you for a pic after the game and my parting words to you were "you should be at leicester!" I think I'll do the Lottery more often from now on!

    Ha ha! That's very kind of him. I'm very flattered that what I was doing at Plymouth got noticed. So well done to the lads down there and everybody at Home Park, but now I'm here and I can't wait to get properly started and build a team.


    Bluebeau2208: "Hi Ollie! A very warm welcome to Leicester City FC and sincere commiserations to the Plymouth Argyle supporters. With the reputation that Milan Mandaric has gained regarding the speed with which he gets through club managers, do you think you will have a long-term career at Leicester?"

    The secret to any relationship is starting off on the right foot. I went there with the intention of telling him what I really felt, not telling him what I thought he'd want to hear. I wanted to tell him what I would to do, what he's got wrong and what I would do to put it right.

    I understand Milan's biggest concern was that he wanted someone with experience of getting to the Premier League - and that's the only thing that wasn't reading right on my CV.

    I pointed out that if I hadn't have had some of my players sold away in the past I could easily have built a team that might well be there now.

    I think you'll find there's all sorts of people you have a perception of through the media, yet when you meet them yourself, they're totally different.

    I'm staying at the same hotel where Milan stayed when he first bought the club and I was speaking to the staff there who said he treated them all really special.

    He's a gentleman who really wants success and sometimes it burns so bright he gets a bit nervous, so now I want to take all the responsibility off him and make the decisions and help him choose the right people to take this club forward.


    PAFAWeluvu: "Hi Ollie, I actually thought you were a very genuine guy, as you came down to the Jennycliff Cafe often and I got to know you a bit. Why did you say that you would honour your contract unless the chairman said otherwise but then resign and go to someone lower than Argyle in the table? P.S. You did great for Argyle.

    That's a very good question. The fact is the chairman rang me up. He mentioned to me that Leicester had asked after me and I wouldn't have been an honourable guy if I'd said, no, I want to stay here.

    I thought the Plymouth people deserved someone who had the commitment that I had until that question was asked. That's the truth.

    The chairman at Plymouth knew my concerns about us moving forward. I won't say any more than that because I believe now they've got the man the chairman will listen to.

    He's a good friend of his, and to be honest I'm a little bit different to Paul Sturrock. I'm a little bit in your face and a bit forthright and get a bit angry sometimes, whereas Paul is totally calm.

    And maybe some of the things I suggested, he will be able to get them to do.

    Football's a very fickle game, you try and look after your family and do the best job you can, but I don't think there's anyone on this planet who could actually say I didn't give Plymouth my all - and everything I said was true at that specific time.

    What I didn't say was that I would stay as long as my ambition matched those at the club. I wanted everything yesterday - I'm a very impatient little pig.

    What I didn't want to do was have to lose some of my players to rebuild again and with the greatest respect, the Leicester job is something I've worked all my life for.

    Am I wrong or did Paul Sturrock leave the club as well a few years back? The fans have welcomed him back with open arms now and yet some of them were calling him 'Judas' at the time.

    I will be back to visit Plymouth. I will be on the Barbican and I will be down on The Hoe because I bloody well love it there. End of story.

    Ian Holloway was talking to Chris Charles.

    Source: BBC Sport

    Champions League set for revamp

    Uefa is set to revamp the Champions League on Friday with the top three clubs in the Premier League qualifying for the group stages from 2009.

    Under the plans, the fourth-placed side will now face a play-off against a team from another of Europe's leagues.

    The Scottish champions will also go straight into the group stages but the runners-up face two qualifying rounds.

    Previously in England, the top two sides qualified by right and the next two joined the third qualifying round.

    It is likely the fourth-placed Premier League side will face a tougher play-off compared to playing in the third qualifying round of the Champions League against weaker opponents.

    In Scotland, the champions have previously needed to come through a qualifying round.

    Source: BBC Sport

    FA scours globe for England boss

    Football Association chief Brian Barwick will consult a host of leading figures in the game in his search for a "world-class manager" for England.

    Barwick has canvassed the thoughts of England captain John Terry, Wales boss John Toshack, Uefa chief Michel Platini and German legend Franz Beckenbauer.

    He will also consult Steven Gerrard, Arsene Wenger, Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Bobby Robson and Sir Alex Ferguson.

    Former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is the current favourite for the job.

    Barwick and FA development director Sir Trevor Brooking will conduct a joint operation to appoint Steve McClaren's successor and will also seek the advice of former England managers Graham Taylor and Glenn Hoddle.

    The FA insists no shortlist has yet been drawn up.

    Ex-England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, now in charge of Manchester City, said he could understand the clamour for Mourinho but warned he would be taking on "the biggest job in football".

    "Mourinho has already shown that he is big with Porto and with Chelsea, so if he has been winning trophies for them, he can do it with England as well," said Eriksson.

    "But to be the England manager you must win every game, not do anything in your private life and hopefully not earn too much money.

    "They are the only qualities you need and if you have those, you are perfect.

    "I don't want to say that I am supporting Mourinho because I support everyone and it is not my job. But the biggest football job in Europe and in the world is to be the England manager.

    "The Champions League is big and it is fantastic, but to compare it to the World Cup? No chance. The World Cup is, and will be forever, the number one."

    The insistence on a coach with pedigree appears to rule out former England striker Alan Shearer, who has no managerial experience, but brings into the equation heavyweights such as Martin O'Neill and Fabio Capello.

    McClaren was sacked following England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008.

    England lost 3-2 to Croatia in their final game of the campaign when they needed a draw to book their place at next summer's finals.

    Source: BBC Sport

    Mayweather cools 'bad guy' role

    Floyd Mayweather has sought to repair his public image ahead of his Las Vegas fight with Ricky Hatton on 8 December.

    The WBC welterweight king has alienated many fans with his constant trash talk, while support for down-to-earth British challenger Hatton has been growing.

    Mayweather said: "Each fight has to have a good guy and a bad guy, but I'm just saying I believe in my skills.

    "Everybody's entitled to judge a person how they want to do, but I've got a good heart."

    The American added: "I never did anything illegal, and all I did was go out there to dedicate myself to the craft of boxing.

    "I conduct myself like a gentleman. I'm not out there pushing Ricky Hatton off the stage or shoving him.

    "When I fought Oscar de la Hoya I was the bad guy, but when I fought Zab Judah I was the good guy because he was even worse than I was.

    "Ricky Hatton is not a trash talker, Floyd Mayweather has been a trash talker for over a decade. I've been in 18 or 19 championship fights and I know what it takes.

    "That's the hand you're dealt and you have to deal with it. Everything is a struggle, but you don't let anything break your confidence."

    Mayweather, 30, seen as the world's current best pound-for-pound fighter, denied his brash confidence meant he was underestimating Hatton.

    "I don't overlook any of my opponents," he claimed. "I always approach every fight in a great manner and I am always pushing myself to the limit and trying to get the best out of myself.

    "I'll continue to do that. I always train hard and I dedicate myself so that in 20 years' time when my grandkids read stories about me they'll know that I was one hell of a good fighter."

    Hatton preferred to stay focused on the fight and insists he is well prepared for what Mayweather might throw at him.

    "The tactics are going to be clear; I'll be on the front foot and Floydy will be on the back foot," he said.

    "We might stand toe-to-toe for a bit - he likes to stand in there and make opponents miss and soak up shots - but I've got to be careful I don't put in too many punches the first six rounds and leave a bit of energy for the final six.

    "But, tactically, I think I know what he's up to and I believe I'm going to do it."

    Source: BBC Sport

    Hatton's battle with the bulge

    Although he claims that Ricky Hatton is like a Buddhist monk while in training, there must be times when Kerry Kayes looks at him in despair.

    The former bodybuilder, who is in charge of Hatton's diet and strength training, works in tandem with trainer Billy Graham to turn the takeaway-loving Mancunian into a prize fighter.

    But although Kayes has been working with Hatton for years, he knows he is always in for a shock the day Hatton rocks up for his first session in the lead-up to a big fight.

    "The worst condition he has turned up in was 40lb overweight," Kayes told BBC Sport.

    "Ricky had four fights in 2004 and because he yo-yoed up and down he lost more than his own body weight over the year.

    "The first few weeks he works with me more than Billy because I've got to get him in some sort of condition that Billy can work with."

    Hatton's knowledge of the local nightlife and takeaway scene has led some tabloids to call him 'Ricky Fatton', a dig at his shape when not in training.

    His fluctuating weight is amply illustrated by a picture which adorns his Denton gym of a portly Hatton sat next to late comedian Bernard Manning, both decked out with dressing gowns and cigars.

    Whether it serves as a reminder of what lies ahead once his gruelling training schedule is over, it is an image in stark contrast to the chiselled champion who is primed to take on Floyd Mayweather.

    The bout for the WBC welterweight title on 8 December will the second time Hatton has stepped up from his usual light-welterweight level of 140lb.

    In his previous encounter at 147lb, Hatton almost came unstuck before narrowly beating Luis Collazo on points, and it later emerged that Hatton had been tucking into the odd takeaway in a bid to bulk out his frame.

    But Kayes is well aware of the lessons learned and says 12 weeks of preparation will ensure Hatton is in the best condition of his life this time around.

    The question remains, however, as to whether he could be even better if he stopped letting everything go quite so dramatically between fights.

    Kayes has no doubt the 29-year-old would be an improved fighter if he avoided the marathon benders he is renowned for.

    But he claims Hatton's method of unwinding, although unconventional in the professional sporting world, has actually extended his career.

    "Everything is made about 'Ricky Fatton' and how he goes to excess when he's not in the gym and that's true, he loves his takeaways, he loves his beer and he loves his partying," says Kayes.

    "But the day he starts training he's a pleasure to work with because he takes it very seriously, he's a great student and he does everything properly.

    "Ricky's an extreme human being and when there's a fight there's immense pressure.

    "But when the fight is over Ricky pleases himself mentally. Then when he's fed up of that he pleases himself physically and I think they both go hand in hand.

    "It will shorten his career but Billy [Graham] doesn't want him fighting past 30 anyhow. Billy wants him to get out of this sport intact.

    "If people made Ricky become a Buddhist monk 52 weeks of the year, my guess is he would have probably retired by now."

    While Graham deals with workouts in the ring, Kayes is the lead man when it comes to the weight room.

    He says that weightlifting has allowed Hatton to hit harder than ever, something that paid dividends in his last fight against Jose Luis Castillo when Hatton knocked the wind out of the 33-year-old Mexican with the perfect body shot.

    "If you have more explosive power you're going to hit harder and I think we've proved that with Ricky," says Kayes.

    "If only Ricky was a weightlifter, I swear I could get him a world title in 18 months. He is a very strong kid and his leverage is suited to a weightlifter.

    "Strength is probably more important to his style of boxing than most boxers because he likes to work in close and push and shove and rag the opponent about, so weightlifting has been very good for his armoury."

    Some more good news ahead of Hatton's contest in Las Vegas is the fact that Hatton will be forced to avoid his traditional pre-match diet of a fried English breakfast.

    Any dietician would balk at the prospect of using bacon, eggs and sausages to prepare their athletes for peak performance.

    So once the weight is made, Kayes will be keeping a watchful eye on his charge to ensure Hatton is in the ring 28 hours later "bursting full of energy" with the right food in his system.

    Then, after 12 weeks' of hammering and chiselling, Kayes will witness Hatton contest the fight of his life before watching him slip into the layabout routine which has become his custom.

    "To be truthful," Kayes adds, "after the fight he'll get drunk and I'll probably be giving him something Sunday morning for his hangover."

    Kayes, however, is convinced the aspirin will be of the celebratory kind.

    Source: BBC Sport