Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Should 2019-20 league leaders be champions?

It’s been a debate that has for the most part dominated the entirety of the last months. Since the January COVID-19 outbreak started to spread, it soon became clear that the future of some of the league tournaments taking place would become uncertain. Teams who are a point clear at the top of their league with as many as ten games to play – is it really fair that they get handed the league?

This is a debate that shows no sign of stopping, either. For every Rio Ferdinand who says leagues should be void, there’s a voice saying the total opposite. It’s hard not to look at this through the eyes of the team(s) we support, too; how can you really say, for example, that you want your biggest rivals to be given a title?

But at the same time, how could anyone realistically say someone like Liverpool isn’t going to win the league here?

It’s a nightmare scenario, but one that has to be dealt with – and soon. There really is no opportunity for teams to hide from this; they need to find a solution and to bring closure to the season. The view of many is that leagues should be called as they are; there will be winners and losers in that situation, of course. But is it really any worse than, say, writing off a full season of football?
How can fans who have spent thousands travelling to and from games find any kind of solace in the idea that the leagues would be voided?

If a league is any more than 60% finished, then it would be fair to say that it could be called. However, while this means that some teams would likely to win leagues they might not have otherwise, and other teams relegated who may have stayed up, these are unique and trying times.
From what we hear, though, the consequences of voiding a season would be far greater than the consequences of declaring all standings early.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Amateur Riders in the Grand National

The Grand National was first run, as the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, in 1839 and before World War I was regularly won by amateur riders. However, throughout the twentieth century amateur participation in the Grand National gradually tailed off and the last amateur to win the world famous steeplechase was Marcus Armytage, on Mr. Frisk, in 1990.

In fact, the current race conditions stipulate that, to be eligible to ride in the Grand National, amateur riders must have ridden at least 15 winners, at least 10 of them in steeplechases. Of course, amateur riders do still ride in the Grand National but, in the last decade or so, it’s been left to three modern Corinthians, one male and two female, to fly the flag for ‘gentleman’ or, indeed, ‘lady’, riders at Aintree. As such it's unlikely that you'll see amateur rider success in your Grand National 2020 best bets. Though in future years who knows.

Sam Waley-Cohen first hit the headlines when riding Liberthine, owned by his father, Robert, into fifth place behind Silver Birch on his first ride in the Grand National in 2007. On his next attempt, in 2009, his mount Ollie Magern fell at the second fence, but Waley-Cohen was back again in 2011, riding another horse owned by his father, Oscar Time, into second place, beaten just 2½ lengths, behind Ballabriggs. Oscar Time would prove a good servant for the family, finishing fourth behind Auroras Encore in 2013 and fifteenth, as a 14-year-old, behind Many Clouds two years later. In between times, Waley-Cohen rode erstwhile Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run, who was in second place when falling at Valentine’s Brook on the first circuit. He has since failed to complete the course.

Another Amateur rider, Katie Walsh didn’t make her debut in the Grand National until 2012, but then made an immediate impact, partnering 8/1 joint-favourite Seabass, trained by her father Ted, into third place, beaten a nose and 5 lengths, behind Neptune Collonges and Sunnyhillboy.

Despite having what Walsh Snr. described as ‘glassy’ legs, he returned to Aintree the following year and was sent off outright favourite for the National, only to bitterly disappoint and trail in a well-beaten thirteenth of seventeen finishers. Katie Walsh never improved on her debut effort, but did complete the course on three of her four subsequent attempts in the National and has still achieved the highest placing of any female rider in the history of the race. She has paved the way for others to pick up from where she left off.

Nina Carberry, like Katie Walsh, rode in the Grand National six times, making her debut on Forest Gunner, who finished ninth, and last, in 2006. However, despite completing the course on three of her subsequent five attempts, her best-placed finish was seventh on Character Building in 2010, although the 10-year-old was never a factor, and ultimately beaten 37 lengths in the famous renewal won by Sir Anthony McCoy on Don’t Push It.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Manchester United vs Manchester City

With this being one of the most celebrated fixtures in English football, it’s odd to see so little riding on it. For United, a win against City would help to keep them moving towards a UEFA Champions League spot once again. For City, a win would be ideal to help close the gap to Liverpool once again. However, with both teams likely having their focus across multiple competitions still, it’s hard to see this having the intensity of previous derby games.

Manchester United news

After a 1-1 draw with Everton last weekend, the Red Devils could do with a win to get them back in flowing form. They’ve been strong in the league recently, having overcome a run of results that had put them firmly out of contention for the top four previously in the season.

With Chelsea faltering recently, United could do with putting together a consistent run of results. Their last league games have given them an impressive run of results, though, with United only drawing to Wolves and Everton recently.

In terms of injuries, expect Dan James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka to miss out.

Manchester City news

The Citizens are in a good place themselves, having seen off Sheffield Wednesday with relative ease in a 1-0 win in the FA Cup in midweek. Having got a chance to rest some players and to come at United fully refreshed, it’ll be interesting to see how City get on.

The Blues have been in strong form recently, beginning to look far more like their old selves. Having won at the Santiago Bernabeu, too, Pep Guardiola and co. are likely looking at continuing a very impressive run of recent results.


Score draw. Both teams will go for it, but with focus more on other things for both teams to an extent it’s hard to see it being the usual high intensity we come to expect. It should be a good game, but it won’t have the intensity we usually associate with such a high class derby.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

I'm A Celebrity 2019 Voting Figures

Better late than never on this one. For those who were tuned into the latest series of I'm a Celebrity, it was certainly a lesson in getting your votes in! I say that because there was just 1% between winner, and eventual Queen of the Jungle Jacqueline Jossa, and runner up Andy Whyment of Coronation Street fame. Even Roman Kemp in third place was essentially almost as popular. Check out he figures below:

  Third place freeze
Jacqueline 36.97%
Andy 33.89%
Roman 29.15%

Final vote
Jacqueline 50.61%
Andy 49.39%