Tour De Yorkshire: Was it worth the hype?

As the second stage of the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire made its way through York, there was a palpable sense that the event could never live up to the Tour de France’s visit in 2014.

Last July, the city was alive and a truly international spectacle, with tourists coming to York from all over Europe and beyond. The streets were filled with people standing four to five deep, even on the outskirts of town, two hours before the race passed through.

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Scenes in the centre of York before the Tour de Yorkshire

As with 2014, there was a sense of occasion around the city, but prior to the race this year there was not as much advertisement in the same places as the Grand Départ.

The Tour de Yorkshire felt like an altogether more civilised affair. There were still large crowds in the city centre, but the ‘rolling roadblocks’ put in place made the event have a much more temporary feel to it.

This sentiment was echoed by Jack Saunders, a shop assistant in York city centre, who said that “the town is definitely busier than usual, but it is nothing compared to last year. This just feels quieter.”

Festival on the outskirts of York prior to the 2014 Tour de France
Festival on the outskirts of York prior to the 2014 Tour de France

Having been to both events, it was plain to see that the public were not as attached to the Yorkshire Tour, especially as it was the inaugural running of the race, so there would be no previous barometer as to how the race would go.

As a spectacle, the race was very much on a level with the Tour de France, with the cyclists going at blistering speed around York and the excitement of the crowd adding to it.

Visibly smaller crowds in 2015 for the Tour de Yorkshire
Visibly smaller crowds in 2015 for the Tour de Yorkshire

Only time will tell if the Tour de Yorkshire has staying power and room for growth, but if they continue to attract big names such as Sir Bradley Wiggins and Marcel Kittel, there is no reason why the event cannot become a focal point in the cycling calendar.

 

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Where does Raheem Sterling’s future lie?

Talks over Liverpool starlet Raheem Sterling’s proposed new contract have been stalled until the end of the season, amid rumours of several clubs expressing interest in the England international.

Sterling’s representative has made it clear that Sterling will resume talks in the summer, with his current deal expiring in 2017, and manager Brendan Rodgers said “I am sure (the situation) will be resolved and the concentration for Raheem is now on his football”.

Reds manager Brendan Rodgers insists that the 20 year-old’s best option is to stay with the Anfield club, as he believes Sterling will benefit most from being first-choice in the Liverpool set-up.

Real Madrid and Chelsea have been the clubs heaviest linked with Sterling, but assuming he does leave Liverpool, the question remains as to whether he would make an impact at either club.

Chelsea would appear to be an ‘easier’ team for Sterling to break into, with his versatility opening him up to a variety of roles, but his biggest success has arguably come in the ‘number 10’ role behind the striker, a position currently occupied by Oscar at the Blues.

It is plausible that Sterling could displace Oscar in the Chelsea team, or possibly work alongside him, but Chelsea did bring in winger Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina as competition for Willian on the wing. If Oscar remains the preferred choice, it would be difficult to see Sterling surpassing Willian, Eden Hazard and Cuadrado to start at Stamford Bridge.

It is a similar story for Real Madrid, with the Spanish giants opting for a 4-3-3 system that would mean Sterling having to force his way past one of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale or Karim Benzema in the pecking order to be played in his preferred attacking role, which at this time does not seem likely, barring a spectacular summer transfer for any of those players.

Rodgers also said in February that Sterling had received an ‘incredible’ offer, but warned that he would not be paid “too much too young”. It is arguable that Sterling’s worth to Liverpool is greater than the rumoured £90,000 per week offer he has been given, especially as other clubs could offer him more.

While staying at Liverpool may not be the most financially profitable option for Sterling, it may well be the best choice to further his career as he moves into his peak years.

England leave World Cup in shame – Change has to happen now

Some have been calling it the worst ever performance by an England team at a World Cup. Some others might not go that far, but the word ‘disaster’ seems apt.

The post-mortem has already begun into the string of dire performances that led to England’s departure, with several pundits and ex-players crying out for a ‘blank slate’ to be drawn in English cricket, if there is to be any chance of success in the future; following England’s third group-stage departure in the last five World Cups.

The entertaining-yet-humbling 15-run defeat against Bangladesh will tell you all you need to know. Bangladesh went into that game with a sense that they wanted to win more than England, and that translated with their deserved victory.

Peter Moores and Paul Downton have been on the end of stinging criticism regarding their positions within English cricket, as well as fending off a campaign spear-headed by serial critic Piers Morgan calling for the return of ousted batsman Kevin Pietersen, after he was controversially sacked from the national side last year.

Captain Eoin Morgan has said he has “no regrets” about England’s poor run in the competition, and he remains defiant about the success of the coaching staff, shifting the blame onto his players: “The personnel we have are the right personnel. We haven’t clicked. We haven’t had guys in form.”

As for Morgan’s future as captain, he admitted that the decision is out of his hands, having taken over from Alastair Cook in December, with limited success on the field.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan has not held back in his views surrounding the team either, calling England a “punch bag”, and fellow pundit Jonathan Agnew calls for the need to build the team for the 2019 World Cup around promising players such as Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali and James Taylor.

So, what is the answer then? You could argue that further personnel changes within the ECB and the national team setup would bring a long-term benefit, but having an inner stability may also have its merits.

Would Kevin Pietersen’s presence galvanise the team? He is still arguably England’s best player, but the ‘baggage’ that would go with another reinstatement into the team could be too much to handle, and at 34, his time left in the national setup is limited.

Whatever does happen in the near future, it’s likely to ruffle a few feathers in the ECB…

A (Not Very) Brief History of 2013, Before Everyone Else Attempts One…

After the dizzy heights of national pride experienced in 2012, you would be forgiven for thinking that 2013 would be a bit of a let down. Like a hangover, if you will. If we’re honest, things didn’t start too well as it was discovered that Iceland had been feeding us horse instead of beef in their lasagne dishes and the like. Easy mistake to make, obviously, both cows and horses have four legs, and are relatively large, so why not? By that logic, don’t be surprised if you see a Rhino Moussaka pop up as a ready meal some time soon…

The state of affairs didn’t improve when the goings on of some of Britain’s most famous TV faces from the 1970s were found to have involved a large quantity of utterly deplorable child sex offences. I’m sure the world has heard enough of Jimmy Savile’s name over the course of this year, but nothing ruins a reputation more than being a serial sex offender. It’s all well and good when you’re dead, it’s almost like you think you got away with it… but the world will always know now.

While I’m on the subject of certain dodgy individuals in positions of power, the Catholic Church was forced into choosing a new Pope after the bizarre resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in February. Unless I misread somewhere, the job of the Pope is held until you’re dead. A bit like paying taxes or sitting in front of the television waiting for a weather report to be wrong, just so you can write in and complain. (If there’s anyone out there that actually does that, PLEASE don’t bother…)

It seemed that the only good news in Britain came from sport. The British and Irish Lions rugby team actually beat Australia over the course of three matches, and a (currently) British man ACTUALLY won Wimbledon. Even the English cricket team won the Ashes, but then lost it again. We can gloss over that for now…

In other news, a baby that is more powerful than any single one of us (despite the fact that he is barely six months old as I write) was born. It’s not as if you couldn’t have heard about little baby George, because his name was all over the place. The media took it upon themselves to speculate about every last detail, and the sheer boredom that can come with six hours of broadcasting with no real news took its toll on journalists, as well as anyone that would’ve bothered to have sat through the running commentary of poor old Kate’s labour. To any women reading this, imagine if you were going through childbirth and there were copious amounts of cameras outside the hospital trying to predict what was happening at every given moment. Madness.

In the rest of the world, Robert Mugabe “won” the Zimbabwean election, while Kim Jong-Un got his uncle executed in an attempt to prove his worth on the world stage. Vladimir Putin was caught on camera topless for no apparent reason yet again, Barack Obama has been pretty quiet, and Boris Johnson continues to live in his own little world. As per usual, then. 

Somehow, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) made such strong gains in local elections this year that they were the third largest political party existing at that point. Until they were uncovered as racists, sexists, homophobes etc… but they still remain more popular than Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats. Which isn’t all that hard, but still.

In other news, Miley Cyrus thought it would be a good idea to use a foam finger in the complete wrong way and appear naked in a music video in order to get attention. A song raising an important issue in nature became very popular, making people think about what a fox might say. To this day, no one knows. A woman threw eggs at Simon Cowell and the X Factor song got to Christmas Number 1. Shock, horror etc…

One of the greatest figures in world history to have ever lived died in December as well. Even the great Nelson Mandela couldn’t have everything his own way at his own memorial service when a fake sign language interpreter managed to get through every bit of security going to pretend to know how to sign.

In short, then, 2013 hasn’t been all that great for the world. But the one solace that we can take from this is that Justin Bieber has said he’s retiring. If that isn’t something to be joyous about, I don’t know what is. Happy 2014, everyone.

Diary of a Fresher 2013/2014- Part 3…

So the end of the first semester is upon us and I can’t quite believe how close Christmas is. Because Christmas seemed to creep up on us so quickly, in an effort to make my floor more festive, I took the liberty of buying of what was imaginatively named “Snow in a can;” with which I sprayed on door windows around the floor. Rather than appreciating my handiwork, people unknown to me thought it would be a good idea to write obscene words in the snow within hours of the decoration being up. I was only trying to add some cheer, but hey ho (ho ho…)

In any case, workloads have been relatively heavy, and this culminated in my first proper student all-nighter last night, in order to finish my last essay. 6.19am was when I finally finished. I thought I would shut my eyes for a few minutes afterwards, the next thing I knew was it was suddenly 1 o’clock. Always good. Unlike normal people, I’ve been, let’s say, ‘blessed’ with an ability to not actually find anything to write about until a deadline is approaching. Not the worst trait to have as a journalist, I think (sincerely hope), but it doesn’t exactly help the blood pressure…

With different courses finishing at different times, goodbyes have already been said to some, and the floor definitely feels emptier. That said, my time to leave is tomorrow and I’ll definitely miss the flatmates/friends from the course over the Christmas period. I’m sure this is the same in other places, and as I’ve said previously in this little series, it feels like we’ve all known each for a lot longer than we have done, which means everyone has grown pretty close quite quickly.

As much as I have enjoyed uni life so far, it will be nice to spend some time at home. There are only so many pasta dinners/late nights a man can take… so a bit of time to recharge will do some good. 

Another piece of good news is that I have Fridays off in the second semester, which means I will be able to go home for the odd weekend to break up the time at university; which I haven’t been able to do at all so far. Seeing most people I live with go home for most weekends does leave the place quite empty, and with, frankly, not a lot to do over a weekend. I’m almost certain that my flatmates (that do stay over a weekend) will agree with me as well. 

However, back to now and it is a strange feeling I’m experiencing at the moment. It’s a mixture of excitement to go home again, to get back to my job, sadness at leaving uni for Christmas; and, I can’t stress this enough, massive-bags-under-the-eyes tiredness. But, a night in your own bed is probably the best thing many people can experience, and it is SO underrated…

A Little Tribute to the “Little Master”

Select sportsmen and women over time have been held in the regard as “The Greatest of their Generation”, even fewer can be seen as “The Greatest of all time”, but the best person to ever play a sport is a position that is much debated, and no one is ever universally in agreement as to who that person is. But today saw the curtain drawn on the career of a cricketer that can certainly be put into the ever-continuing “Greatest of all time” debate.

332 international matches, 17,189 runs and 50 centuries. Well, double those statistics and you’ll get the career numbers of the “Little Master” himself, Sachin Tendulkar. People have run out of superlatives to describe Tendulkar’s career. The number of records that he has amassed is, quite simply, staggering by anyone’s standards:

  • 15,921 Test Match runs, making him the all-time top scorer
  • 200 Test Match appearances, leading the all-time list
  • 51 Test Match 100’s
  • 18,426 One-Day International (ODI) runs, all-time top scorer
  • 463 ODI appearances, an all-time high
  • 49 ODI 100’s
  • 62 ODI Man of the Match Awards, with 15 Man of the Series Awards, he leads both of those lists
  • Played at a record 90 different venues
  • The only player to take more than 150 wickets and score more than 15,000 runs in One-Day Internationals
  • Scored 2,560 runs at the Cricket World Cup, an all-time high, at an average of 56.95
  • Has played with and against 989 International Cricketers (141 Indian, 848 opponents)

(Statistics courtesy of indiatimes.com)

Australia legend Shane Warne called Tendulkar “The greatest player I’ve played against”, a sentiment that has been echoed by West Indies hero Brian Lara. Praise doesn’t come much higher in the cricketing world, and tributes have been flooding in from the world of sport for the “Master Blaster,” be it through Twitter or otherwise. India team-mate Yuvraj Singh added “Everybody talks about his records, but the standard he set off the field was incredible.”

India sees Sachin as almost God-like, and he is now being rewarded with India’s highest civilian honour for his services to the sport and his country, the Bharat Ratna. He has set even more records from this award, by being the first sportsman to receive the award, and at 40 is the youngest person to do so as well. 

Quoting advice from his late father, Tendulkar was told from a young age to “Chase your dreams, but don’t find short-cuts.” 

Tendulkar gave an emotional 20-minute farewell  in front of a filled-to-capacity Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai today, saying that “My life between 22 yards for (more than) 22 years, it’s hard to believe that that wonderful journey is coming to an end.”

Very true, Tendulkar’s playing days are now over, but the time for his records to be revered throughout history begins now, as a cricketer, and as a man.

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Fresher 2013- Part 2

So tuition is now firmly underway, and time is definitely moving a lot faster. Hard to believe that I’ve been living here for almost a month already! Looking around and from speaking to people, I think it’s actually starting to hit home to most of us that being at university isn’t just about drinking and going out. Who knew?

Time passing will bring different kinds of challenges in every sense of uni life. I know I’m not exactly end of third year, but hey ho. For a start, you’re actually learning again, and that can be an issue in itself! But as previously alluded to in the first post of this little series, the flatmates are there to help each other get through everything that can possibly be thrown at you. Which is always handy as a nice safety net.

But one particular path that we all must cross at some point is the subject of hair. Being the son of a hairdresser, paying for a haircut is something I’ve never had to worry about, nor have I had the dilemma of watching a stranger cut my hair completely contrarily to how I asked it to be done. But I decided to be the ‘guinea pig’, and be the first one from the hall to try the local barber.

I had a thought to myself over the summer, and worked out a little philosophy for myself to live by: If you can afford to pay a little bit more for something, do it. Because nine times out of ten, you’re more than likely to be better off than when you pay half the price for something that will only last half as long/be half as good in general.

Being a student, I now almost see it as my duty to be perpetually skint. So I decided to go against my own advice and choose the cheapest local barber I could find. Bad idea. In short, I essentially paid a distinctly reasonable (I think, I’ve never known the price of a trim!) £9.50 for a very friendly Italian man to ignore how I asked for my hair to be done, and for him to quite literally attack my hair with clippers and scissors for half an hour. It would’ve been less than that had he not decided to have a tea break half way through to chat to his mate, while I sat in the chair scared for my life… I had asked for the top of my hair to be trimmed very slightly but even my trademark quiffe has now disappeared! I’ll now spend what I saved on a hat for the foreseeable future, methinks. On top of that, after the haircut he decided to slap some product in what was left of my hair, and slicked it back to make me look that bit more sleazy. Cheers, Claudio…

Weekends in halls are a decidedly different experience from that of midweek; particularly during the day. From my side anyway, being around 300 miles away from home doesn’t exactly lend itself to simply popping home for the weekend, like most of my flatmates can do. Nor does it exactly fill any friends from home with an immediate urge to come and see me up north either, which is completely understandable. I would be lying if I said that it isn’t a lot quieter at weekends, especially when there’s no football on that we can go and watch! But I suppose that’s just part and parcel of living away from home. There are good days and there are not so good days, but once again that’s when friends come in handy! (I know, I even made myself cringe with that one…)

With this newfound independence of living away from home, I have discovered one thing: I’m terrible at ironing, washing, and just generally keeping everything tidy in my room. Who knew that my parents would actually be right about me being useless at domestic everyday tasks? You can’t fault them for trying to teach me but there’s only so much they could do… I guess I’m just going to have to step up a bit. This could go one of two ways…