Sotherton must realise it’s innocent until proven guilty

I used to have a lot of respect for Kelly Sotherton.

Despite British athletics being a bit of a joke following the retirement of Linford Christie, Colin Jackson and Sally Gunnell, I was happy to see Sotherton land her World Championship bronze and Jessica Ennis claim a credible fourth place.

But then came the bitterness – the athlete in the silver medallist Lyudmila Blonska had served a two year ban for drugs in 2003.

And this was Sotherton’s response: “She has cheated once, who says she is not cheating again?

“We’re not interested when she’s there, we don’t support cheats. It tarnishes our event and we don’t support it.”

Considering the state of British atletics with the Dwayne Chambers and Christine Ohuruogu debacle, such comments not only seem unbelievably bitter but also incredibly hypocritical.

It may yet turn out that Blonska fails a drug test. If that is the case then such comments can be made but not before then.

She did wrong and served her time and needs to be treated with a little bit more respect.

Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Why isn’t Andy Cole is a Premier League legend?

Andy Cole recently completed his transfer from south coast side Portsmouth to top flight new-boys Sunderland and, even though he has constantly been written off, he will be among the goals again this season.

It’s shame that one of the greatest strikers to play in the Premier League is one of the most underated and I can’t figure out why.

Admittedly Cole does not possess the coolest head when in front of goal but he is still an awesome finisher.

How many strikers can score sublimely deft chips, powerful long range efforts and slide rule placed finishes?

The ‘5 or 6 chances to score a goal myth’ is totally unfounded. Cole scored goals for Blackburn, Fulham, Manchester City and Portsmouth and they barely make 5 or 6 chances a match.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s faith in the former Newcastle hitman spoke for itself. His lethal partnership with Dwight Yorke was one of the main reasons Manchester United were able to scoop their unprecedented treble in 1999.

A lot of the negative feeling towards Cole comes from the idiotic Skinner and Baddeil. On Fantasy Football League he was maligned, just like Jason Lee who had his career ruined, purely for the sake of ‘comedy’.

And arrogant Glenn Hoddle’s shabby treatment of him didn’t help either – strange to think he was keeping Teddy Sheringham out of the United site but couldn’t get anywhere near taking his England first team place.

Burt his record speaks for itself – 283 goals in 612 games, including a massive 34 in his first Premier Leagues season with Newcastle.

In fact only one man has a better Premeirship record – Alan Shearer.

So why is he not one of the most loved and revered players in English game with a sackful of caps to show for it?

England v Israel – what to do? Part One

Sure, it was a friendly, but England’s performance was symptomatic of some deeply burrowed problems.

Optimists will say it wasn’t competitive and that England didn’t have their full team out, but come on, seven of the starting eleven would be in the first choice team, while Germany played a side stricken with as many, if not more, injuries than England.

For 90 minutes England most certainly had the best of possession, but once again failed to convert this dominance into goals, there were plenty of chances, but they lacked quality in front of goal.

You could put this down, as BBC commentators did, to Michael Owen’s lack of sharpness, but how sharp do you have to be to head the ball in from 12 yards, or slide it in from an angle from 5 yards?

Others missed as well, admittedly those without the goalscoring pedigree as Owen, and the general team performance does not bode well for the rest of the qualifying campaign.

For a nation which boasts what many argue the greatest defenders in the world, we have let in a worrying amount of goals over the past year. Errors were made in the build-up to both German goals and it is these errors that we will be punished for in competitive games.

Beckham cannot start against Israel. As an emergency measure he did well in our two previous qualifiers, but the only reason we brought him back was to fill in the hole until a better option came along.

That option has presented itself in the form of Shaun Wright-Philips, who has been in excellent form for Chelsea and looked dangerous even playing on the left when he came on tonight.

Micah Richards must also start. He looked outstanding down the right hand side, providing an extra attacking element where it was not expected, and he would work well with Wright Philips who is no stranger to filling in at right-back.

Next time – England’s striking options, or lack there of

What is going on at the Lane?

If I were Martin Jol I would just up and leave Tottenham.

Jol took over at the Lane after Jacques Santini left the club in the lurch and quit after just a handful of games back in November 2004.

And since then Spurs have been fantastic.

They have assembled a first-class squad including four of the Premier League’s most talented strikers, have become a regular fixture in the UEFA Cup and, of course, established themselves as the best club outside the top four.

After bringing in Darren Bent for an astronomical fee in the summer it was clear that they would need to do well again this season – but so far they have been lacklustre.

Apart form the 4-0 victory over a hapless Derby County side destined for the drop, Tottenham have looked lightweight, especially in defence, and were soundly beaten at home to Everton.

But it has only been three games and the way they are treating Jol is nothing short of a disgrace.
No manager should have to accept his job being whored around Europe, especially if they have performed as admirably as the Dutchman has.

Just quit Martin – they don’t deserve you.

Two horse race?

It was interesting listening to the commentary on both the Man City v Man Utd and Liverpool v Chelsea games today. Besides from the two low-scoring yet entertaining games (oh, and it was never a penalty) a recurring theme from Sky Sports pundits seemed to be the reference to the gap in points between Man Utd and Chelsea.

I’m sorry, but is this really necessary at this stage of the season? Only three games in (two for some) and already Sky are pitching the idea of a titanic battle between last season’s top two.

I would understand if this was 20 games into the season and there was a gap between the two and the rest of the Premiership, but why do Sky seem to insist that the top two league positions are a foregone conclusion? If they feel compelled to draw comparisons between last season’s champions and their rivals, why not include their other rivals in the mix.

Liverpool and Arsenal have played a game less than United, yet they are two points ahead. Had results gone differently today ie. Arsenal and Liverpool won, would Sky have gone as crazy over the gap these teams had opened up over United as they have done at Chelsea going 5 points ahead? I doubt it.

For years media pundits have been pleading for a close title race yet the narrow-mindedness of some have written off a meaningful challenge from any other team outside of the Man Utd and Chelsea.

Man City have made a fantastic start as well, the only team in the Premiership to have a 100% record. Nevertheless Eriksson appears to have added a little discipline a side which may have surrendered the lead under such pressure in previous seasons.

Their team is looking very promising, and could very well be a surprise package in terms of European places, yet once again they seem to be regarded as something of a novelty at the moment while their richer and more successful rivals struggle to get up to speed.

Eriksson may be a joke at national level, but his record at Lazio speaks for itself, and he appears to have made a series of shrewd signings. The decision to move Micah Richards to centre-back was inspired too, he was simply brilliant today, and England will not miss the loss of the versatile Jamie Carragher too much if he can translate today’s kind of performance to international football.

Logic says that Man City will fall away from the top of the table, which will no doubt happen. When they do relinquish their place, hopefully the title run-in won’t be as predictable as Sky seem to believe.

Are Bolton the new Leicester?

Bolton are supposed to be a firmly established top six side and now, even though only three games have been played, they are rooted to the foot of the table.

The reason for this slump is obvious – the departure of Sam Allardyce.

I always knew that Big Sam was a fantastic manager – he should be in charge of England now rather the Newcastle – but it is only once he left Bolton that people begin to see how difficult his job truly was.

The situation is reminiscent of the plight of Leicester City following the departure of Martin O’Neill.

With O’Neill in charge Leicester, like Bolton, became a solid top Premier League outfit and even managed to win the club silverware.

It must be easier for managers like Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson, they manage rich clubs and they can afford the world’s top players and their success is easy to measure.

But for teams like Bolton and Leicester it becomes very difficult to become distinguished and not languish in mid-table obscurity – unless you somehow stumble across top class managers.

Both clubs became a by-word for smaller club success when really it was the managers that should have drawn all the plaudits.

Sometimes in football you don’t what you’ve got until it’s gone and I’m sure that fans of Bolton and Leicester know that more than anyone.

West Sham United: England’s most farcical club

The signing of Keiron Dyer has done little to shed West Ham’s reputation as the the most farcical club in the country.

Dyer is just the latest piece of a badly behaved jigsaw puzzle including Anton Ferdinand, Lucas Neill and Lee Bowyer – not the best to way divert controversy away from the club.

However, it’s not just disciplinary problmes that have dogged West Ham.

There are still serious doubts over whether they should even be allowed to compete in this season’s Premier League.

The Tevez and Macherano affair has hogged the football limelight for the last few months and will still not go away, even though the players have gone on to pastures new.

Still, in classic West Ham fashion, they did their utmost to get a fee for a player they clearly didn’t own. Surely the sensible thing to do would have been to let him quietly slip through the back door.

But it is the legal warngle with Sheffield United that encapsulate all that is wrong with the Hammers.

The Blades are, rightly or wrongly, trying to sue the Upton Park club for £50 million. Whether or not it is just sour grapes, I found West Ham’s comments strangely ironic.

If you missed it, they called them ‘desperate’.

What can be more desperate than signing Matthew Upson, Luis Boa Morte and Nigel Quashie on £100,000 a week and illegally acquiring two Argentinians to help you beat the drop?

I pity West Ham fans – they get more excitement outside their ground then they do in it.