By Stewart Weir
Bob Carolgees and Spit the Dog. Picture: eSkeleton
Blackpool Tower Circus was once home to Charlie Cairoli. Oh, and Mr Norman’s multi-coloured budgies. This weekend, it’s multi-coloured balls which are centre stage, as snooker’s eagerly-awaited Shoot Out takes place.
The top 64 players in the world, a knock-out format, each match decided in one frame. It was fast, furious, and probably exactly what TV wanted. What no-one wanted was another match tarnished by the inference of suspicious betting patterns.
World Snooker, the sport’s governing body, announced the match between Jimmy Michie and Marcus Campbell had been flagged up by bookies concerned by the number of bets placed on Campbell to win.
It’s not what snooker needed. Or Michie for that matter. Rumours were rife afterwards that he had retired from the game with immediate effect, as was the subsequent speculation over his innocence or guilt.
No-one is sure whether Michie has quit or not, while his status is under investigation. What can’t be questioned is Michie’s ability to attract the wrong kind of attention.
In 1998, betting was suspended for his match against Mark Gray, when Gary was backed down from 11/10 to 3/1 on. And in 2000, Sean Storey was heavily backed to beat Michie at the Scottish Open, which he duly did. On both counts, Michie was deemed not to have breached any disciplinary rules.
And in the LV Cup, Harlequins beat Wasps in Abu Dhabi in the first UK domestic rugby fixture played overseas.
Scores of supporters signed up for the trip. Of course travelling abroad for club rugby fans is nothing new. The European Cup has meant weekends away in Ireland, France and Italy. But the UAE is something a bit new.
Of course, football fans have been doing it for much longer. However, there preferred mode of transport is the good old coach or bus, something that would be a tad uncomfortable and impractical for a trip to the Gulf.
I mean, you can just imagine the bus convener for the Abu Dhabi trip telling his load; “We’ll only be stopping the once for a pish – and that will be in Bulgaria!”
Recession, what recession? The January football transfer window closes but not before fantasy football becomes the reality.
In the biggest deals of all Fernando Torres leaves Liverpool for Chelsea for £50 million, with some of that cash – £35 million of it – used to bring Andy Carroll from Newcastle to Anfield.
That price tag in an instant made Carroll the eighth most expensive player in history. Of course, there is a colossal difference in being the eighth most expensive player and the eighth best player of all time.
Only Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic; Kaka, Torres, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Hernan Crespo have cost more.
Staggering, given that Carroll wouldn’t make the top eight of all-time English players, or Liverpool players, or probably even Newcastle centre forwards.
However with £35 million dangled in front of them, and transfer request written in his best writing by the player, it was an offer Newcastle couldn’t ignore.
But Newcastle claim, quite vehemently, that did not want to sell Carroll. That explains why Magpies owner Mike Ashley used his own helicopter to drop Carroll on Merseyside before the deadline.
Five-time Olympic champion swimmer Ian Thorpe confirms his retirement is over and that he will compete at the 2012 London Olympics. Great news for those who enjoy Olympic sport, great news for Seb Coe and Boris Johnson, not so good news if you spend all your time facedown in a 50m pool.
The “Thorpedo” quit five years ago. But his return to competition was sparked after a trip to the London Olympic swimming venue, and not by being chased by a series of agents brandishing lucrative endorsement contracts.
Former Olympians returning to the fold is nothing new, even in the pool which is seen more as a young man’s game.
I recall 20-something years ago being put on the trail of a certain David Wilkie, the 1976 gold medallist from Montreal who was attempting to gain selection for Seoul. Seemed to be going swimmingly well, the budding Olympic correspondent and the former champion, that was until it came time for racing the qualifying clock. We were closer to South Queensferry than South Korea after that …
I made my feelings known about El Hadji Diouf a week or so back. So imagine my pleasure when I found him signing a loan deal with Rangers on Monday. Come Wednesday, he was making his Ibrox debut against Hearts.
The newspapers had been full for a few days of their take on the arrival of the Senegalese striker, leading Walter Smith to comment on the negativity surrounding Diouf’s past. “In Scotland, it’s not unexpected, the reaction you get. Better treatment than a serial killer, I suppose, but there you are.”
Smith was referring to the mentions of Diouf’s previous indiscretions, which include spitting at rival fans. Walter also hired David Healy as a partner for Diouf, although maybe Bob Carolgees would have made a better double act …
I recall going abroad with various football teams, gathering at airports where before departure, players would line up like wee school laddies to be handed their travel documents. It all looked a terribly organised system, until you realised it was done for a purpose, namely, that fitba players couldn’t be trusted to remember their own passports and flight tickets.
So I for one am not surprised when it emerges that Tottenham’s captain Ledley King has to delayed a groin operation at a German clinic by a week because he was unable to find his passport. His boss Harry Redknapp explained it away as it being “a long story”.
But before we only mock footballers, the same thing happened to world snooker champion Neil Robertson – a far travelled Australian – who also missed his flight to Berlin for the same reason.
He however did manage to find his passport and travelled a day late, though he didn’t need a groin op, even though he missed his balls when losing to Anthony Hamilton.
Having been released by Rangers on Monday, Hearts sign defender Andy Webster on a two-and-a-half year deal. I doubt any of the regulars at Ibrox will notice life without him as they’ve not really seen much of him anyway. Even when he was performing with Dundee United on loan last term, he had to sit out games against those who held his contract.
I was hosting a radio show when Webster invoked a little-known transfer clause to join Wigan – a “foreign” club for the purposes of the transfer regulations – in the third year of a four-year contract.
We discussed how like Bosman, Webster would be synonymous with certain contractual scenarios, and would probably end up with ‘Rule’ suffix.
But no. He hasn’t been a sub let alone a suffix. Back at Hearts, and with his old boss from Tannadice in charge of Scotland, he can probably look forward to an international call in a day or two …