Gonzo’s Betting Diary; Misery, Despair and Destitution

Ok, the despair has dissipated somewhat after Thursday.  I got two out of four right with Rubin Kazan and Ajax winning and had I gone for singles that would have been a small profit but I went with a fourfold so it wasn’t.  Dortmund were maybe hard done by, they conceded an early penalty then dominated throughout but couldn’t get back in the game at Krasnodar.  Fiorentina nearly won despite being reduced to 10 men, so at least my thinking was sound.

And now we go again, I still wouldn’t recommend following these picks this is just for fun now until I get back into the rhythm.  The gambling gods are not on my side right now but these things tend to turn at some point.

There are two away teams I really fancy in the Premier League on Saturday, Watford at Aston Villa and Everton at Bournemouth.  Villa were terrible in their defeat at Everton last time out, having held Man City in the previous round of fixtures, while Watford were unlucky not to take a point against Man United.  The Cherries, meanwhile, have a shocking home record but they are probably playing better than their results suggest, I just think Everton will be a bit too strong.

I also like the look of Stoke at Sunderland, despite their win at Crystal Palace on Monday.  The Potters have got a good away record (four wins in their last five, all 1-0) and Sunderland still look fairly poor to me, they rode their luck a bit at Selhurst Park.

Everton are 6/4, Watford are 9/5 and Stoke are 7/5 with Betfair, who aren’t the best price for all but seem to represent the best value as a treble, and that pays back at 16/1 or thereabouts. I’ll stick two points on this one as I continue my so far ridiculous chase of a profit.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.

Advertisements

Klitschko V Fury: Does the Challenger Have a Chance?

Tyson Fury was always destined to be a boxer.  The rest of his family have names like Peter and Hughie, more associated with rabbits and guys who bring you the news in musical form than men who make their livings destroying the faces of other men of a similar weight, but Tyson – that’s a name you give a guy who is going to be a fighter.

He might have been destined to make his career in a ring but could fate hand him a world title in Dusseldorf on Saturday?  Standing in his way, of course, is Wladimir Klitschko – a man who hasn’t been beaten in over a decade.

Fury has alluded to a belief that Klitschko is scared of him more than once but I doubt even he really thinks that.  I reckon the only person that scares the champ is his tiny and ridiculously hot fiancée, because everyone is a bit scared of the Mrs – it doesn’t matter if you’re a rank average writer struggling to scratch together enough money to eat or the heavyweight champion of the world.

That said; why did he never fight Nikolay Valuev? Or even Shannon Briggs (who still wants a crack)?  I don’t know, there are a few theories out there, but boxing is a strange world and the way it works at the moment is the top dogs get to avoid the guys they really don’t want to take on, until it becomes impossible.

Think Floyd Mayweather Jr for example, he dodged Manny Pacquiao until he was way past his prime and signed off against Andre Berto, again a few years too late.  I don’t really blame Mayweather, he was old himself he just wanted that 49-0, he’d paid his dos against the likes of De la Hoya, Marquez and so on earlier in his career. Strangely, I see Wlad as basically a heavyweight version of Pretty Boy at the end of his career, no real razzle dazzle, any desire to entertain long gone, but technically superb – and really fucking hard to land a clean shot on.

Granted he did fight David Haye, but he didn’t really fight David Haye.  Haye isn’t a natural heavyweight, having unified the cruiserweight division before stepping up, a fact many seem to ignore when they talk of the returning Londoner nowadays.  Klitschko had a big height and reach advantage and stayed at range for the majority of that fight, picking him off with jabs as the smaller man tried to find a way in – to me he never really had any intention of knocking Haye out, there was no way he was going to risk a hayemaker coming in.

But now he finds himself fighting Tyson Fury, who is somewhat of an enigma in the ring despite his 24 fights.  The clownish behaviour, the Batman imitating, the pseudo political ambitions and the sauna story, which I’m still not sure I fully comprehend, it’s all a smokescreen whether he realises it or not – my suspicion is he does.

I’ve watched loads of Fury fights and I have no idea how he’ll approach this.  He says he needs a knockout to get a win in Germany, basically Klitschko’s home arena, but maybe he won’t.  Maybe he’ll stay at range and use his longer reach to maximum effect, like he did to Dereck Chisora – twice.

In the second Chisora fight he switched to southpaw for long periods, as he has done in other fights, he’s a better boxer than people give him credit for – the man comes from a long line of traveller fighters and if you’ve ever been lucky (or unlucky) enough to see some of those guys firsthand you’ll know they’re about as tricky as they come, there’s no way that isn’t in his locker.  He has a 24-0 record with 18 KOs but the vast majority of those stoppages are TKOs or his opponent has retired – essentially his relentlessness rather than sheer power has forced his opponents into submission, they’ve been ground down by the size and weight he possesses or they’ve subconsciously (or even consciously) thrown in the towel as they can’t get a knockout and know they have been beaten in every round.

If he does go for the knockout can he get it?  Wlad has been taken down before by Lamon Brewster and, prior to that, the late Corrie Sanders – a hero both in and out of the ring.  So it isn’t impossible, but I just don’t see Fury as a guy who can land one killer shot and take Klitschko out, Sanders sent him down four times before he was awarded the win so it could well take more than one and his game’s changed since then, the defence has become almost impregnable.

If Fury does go in for some big shots you would imagine Klitschko will get a few chances to land some blows himself, certainly to the body and if he’s lucky he might open up the chin.  He’s got faster hands than you’d expect, Haye conceded that after their clash, and gets stoppages most of the time, with 16 in the last 22 (since the loss to Brewster) and 53 in 67 overall.

Height has become a big factor in this fight and it could work both for and against Fury.  On paper he’s got the advantage, but Klitschko’s speed could count for more against a bigger man and we’ve not seen much of that in recent years, as he hasn’t really needed it.  Fury has fought guys the size of Klitschko fairly recently, in the shape of Nicolai Firtha and Neven Pajkic, but they were nowhere near the same standard and the comparison or whatever experience that gave him perhaps isn’t worthwhile.

Maybe it comes across that I don’t really like Klitschko here but that’s not really true, I do like him as a guy and I respect him hugely as a boxer but he’s never really entertained me.  Like most I’d like to see him beaten at some point just to shake up the heavyweight division a bit.  I’m not a purist, I do put the spectacle ahead of the technical standard but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate that he is a master.  I give Fury a chance, not a huge one but he could do it.  He’s surprised me before – the first time he beat Chisora for one (Fury was the bookmaker’s underdog, just) – and I wouldn’t necessarily bet against him doing so again on Saturday.

The general consensus is a Klitschko win, probably by KO.  Fury is an outside bet by any method but the KO is considered the more likely. Most, it seems, aren’t expecting this to go the distance.  I’ve got a funny feeling Fury may attempt to outwork and outbox his older opponent this weekend though, whether it will work or not is the big question.

I had hoped to work my way to some kind of conclusion but I’ve ended up more confused than I was when I started out.  My head is telling me Klitschko will stop him, perhaps even quite early, which is how I felt when the bout was confirmed but the beauty of the sweet science is you never really know.   Come 10pm on Saturday in Germany it will just be the two of them in a ring, having the most honest conversation two men can have.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.

Gonzo’s Betting Diary; Misery, Despair and Destitution

In four short weeks I’ve gone from ‘betting tips’, to ‘betting ideas’ to ‘betting diary’.  Now the words misery, despair and destitution have had to join party for this unmitigated disaster of unprecedented proportions.

I could, and probably should, give up – but where’s the fun in that?  If you want to take my advice that’s your prerogative, don’t say I didn’t warn you – but if I was reading this garbage I’d slam my laptop shut and smash the shit out of it with the heaviest thing I could find.  All the while screaming ‘you’re a fucking moron’ over and over and over again until my lungs bled, because for the love of God who uses unmitigated and unprecedented in the same sentence?

Me, when I’ve titled as it turns out.

The Europa League is one of the hardest competitions to bet on.  You never know how seriously a particular team is going to take it, and which players a manager is likely to select.

But I need a win so I’m going for an ambitious fourfold, but with a small stake so let’s call this a 1 point bet.

I’m going to go for two of the 4pm kick offs, and Dortmund at Krasnodar at evens has tempted me.  Russia isn’t an easy place to go but BVB have got a much stronger squad, and a win would guarantee top spot in the group (as would a draw).   On the basis that Russia is a tough place to go I’ve also gone for Rubin Kazan at home to FC Sion, as Kazan need a win and they’re a tasty 13/10.

Fiorentina have been a strange one in Europe as they’ve won two away and lost two at home.  I think they’ll carry on that pattern and just nick it at Basel at 7/5.  My last call is Ajax at Celtic at 6/4, again it is a big ask but the Scottish side have been so poor in Europe and they have to win, as such I reckon the Dutch giants will hit them on the counter.

As a fourfold that pays out at 27/1 so if it lands I’m back in profit, fingers crossed.

Follow us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.

The Toughest Gigs in Football Management

It takes a special kind of guy, or a glutton for punishment, to manage a football team but some jobs seem damn near impossible.  There may be harder ones out there, but here I’m going to run through a few of the toughest.

Real Madrid

The Real Madrid manager’s job comes with a huge weight of expectation. With Barcelona as strong and talented as they currently are; winning the required amount of silverware simply isn’t realistic but nevertheless it is still expected – and demanded.  Carlo Ancelotti was probably their best boss in recent years and even he didn’t make the grade as Real showed little loyalty despite his La Decima success.

Then there’s the rumours of player power/unrest, an over-involved board and the supporters, who want entertainment as well as results. It all adds up to almost certain failure.  Rafael Benitez is the man in the hot seat right now and he got what looks like a stay of execution earlier in the week, but I’d be amazed if he lasts the season at the Bernabeu.

Sunderland

Sunderland have a big stadium, passionate fans and seemingly enough money to build a competitive Premier League team – but no one has managed to put all the pieces together.

Established names like Martin O’Neill and Dick Advocaat (although he was never seen as a long-term option) have failed to build anything substantial at the Stadium of Light and up-and-comers like Gus Poyet and Paolo Di Canio also haven’t worked out.

I never really thought much of Di Canio, that seemed a weird appointment, but Poyet arrived with a bit of promise and didn’t fare much better.  I don’t know exactly what the problems at Sunderland are, I’m not sure anyone does (plenty have offered their theories over recent years, Niall Quinn talked of ‘Gremlins’, Poyet said he knew there was ‘something wrong’ but never managed to pinpoint what that was, those thoughts were echoed ominously by Advocaat prior to his exit earlier this year…), but I do know Sam Allardyce has a huge job on his hands.  If anyone can help them avoid the drop and build something he’s the man, he did it at Bolton and West Ham, but even this may be beyond Big Sam.

Bolton Wanderers

What Allardyce built others have since demolished, leaving current Bolton boss Neil Lennon without a pot to piss in, probably literally.  The problems with Real and Sunderland are more long-term but what Lennon has now is arguably the toughest gig in football management.  He’s got no money for players and not only that – the club decided not to tell him the funds had dried up until around the time a loan move for a winger who can’t get in the Wolves team fell through.

The saving grace for Lennon is that the fans, largely, seem to understand.  The Wanderers faithful got some unfair criticism from various pundits and the press in general when Gary Megson left, when anyone who really saw what was going on there knew he was out of his depth.  The Leicester fans were ecstatic when he departed and the Sheffield Wednesday fans were disappointed when he arrived, which says a lot about his abilities – or lack thereof – as a manager.  If Bolton can get a new owner in Lennon’s job, theoretically, becomes a lot easier (unless the new man makes an immediate change, which isn’t beyond the realms of possibility) but at the moment he probably feels like he’s trying to climb a greased up ladder with his arms tied behind his back.  He might get so far – but sooner or later he’s going to slip back down again, cracking his face, his nuts or both on each rung on the way to the ground.

Palermo

Maurizio Zamparini bought Palermo in 2002 and since then they’ve gone through managers like I go through questionable metaphors. At my count they’ve had 28 in 13 years, which makes Sunderland look stable.  Delio Rossi was fired, hired and fired (resigned by ‘mutual consent’ technically) again within the space of five months and his replacement, current Lazio boss Stefano Pioli, lasted just 90 days.  I’m a huge fan of Zamparini – if you don’t know about him or want to know more, take a look at this – but I wouldn’t want to work for the guy.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.

UK Championship: The Contenders

The current format of the UK Championship sees 128 players battling for the title, if I was in charge I’d have qualifiers and start at a last 16 or 32 but I’m not Barry Hearn so that’s not my call.  The first round is a best of 11 frames though so you would imagine the cream will rise to the top but chances are there will be a few surprise casualties early doors (Ali Carter and Alan McManus fell at the first hurdle last year).  With that in mind maybe I’ll do another similar piece before the last 32 when for me the contest will start in earnest, but these are the guys I think are worth watching out for ahead of the start of the tournament tomorrow.

Stuart Bingham

Bingham has struggled for form since his Crucible success in the spring but as the world champion he’s got to have top billing here, especially in the absence of defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.  Bingham has to get used to being the man to beat now he’s taken the biggest prize in the sport and maybe he hasn’t quite managed it yet.  Previously he was one of the ‘other guys’ but now he’s a scalp for lesser known players.  He’s a top price 22/1 and could be worth some consideration, but with three losses in his last five matches he’ll need to find his form quickly.

Judd Trump

Trump is quite rightly ranked as one of the favourites and some bookies have him as short as 4/1.  You can get 6/1 though so it is worth shopping around.  On his day he’s easily one of, if not the, most exciting players to watch but his only ‘Triple Crown’ title came in the 2011 edition of this tournament, although he did get to the final last year, so perhaps overcoming the last hurdle of actually taking trophies still needs to be worked on for the ‘Juddernaught’.

The Other Favourites

Mark Selby and Neil Robertson are the other favourites according to the bookies, with Selby a top price 8/1 and Robertson 13/2.  These two are players I’m not drawn to watch personally but I do appreciate they are top quality, I just prefer more of a gung-ho approach.  That may be a little harsh on Robertson in particular as he is an exceptional break-builder, there is just something about his methodical style that doesn’t really grab me.  That aside, both are more than capable of taking the title.

John Higgins

Writing for the BBC, Stephen Hendry reckons Higgins is the man to beat heading into the UK Championship.  The Scot is available at 16/1 so if you agree with Hendry it might be worth looking into.  He’s already won two ranking titles this year so he’s in cracking form – but he hasn’t managed one of the big three since his last win at the World Championship back in 2011 and personally I’m not sure he’ll take another ‘Triple Crown’ title, regardless of what Hendry reckons.

The UK Championship is the fourth ranking tournament of the season. Higgins has two and the other title belongs to Kyren Wilson, who beat Ding Junhui and Mark Allen on route to the Shanghai final, where he overcame Judd Trump 10-9.  He also reached the Champion of Champions semi-finals so is in form. However, he’s only managed to reach the first round of one of the big three events three times (twice the last 128 in the UKs, which means very little) so anything in York would be a breakthrough of sorts and he’s priced at 80/1.

Mark Allen

When Bingham secured the trophy in Sheffield earlier this year he revealed a throwaway comment from Allen saying he had ‘no bottle’ proved to be a turning point for him in terms of going on and winning titles.  Bizarrely that statement could now apply to the Northern Irishman himself as he’s not really been able to convert his undoubted talent into titles, with just two ranking tournament victories to his name. He hasn’t managed one of the big three just yet but if I do have a flutter on this I think I might have a punt on Allen at 24/1, just because I feel he’s due a big win and that’s a big price.  It would be good for the sport too I feel as he is such a huge personality and one of the few who is really prepared to speak his mind.  He’s been in pretty good form this year having reached the final of the Champion of Champions event, the semi-finals in Shanghai and the quarters at the International Championship and shouldn’t fear anyone at the Barbican.

Ding Junhui & Shaun Murphy

These guys both deserve their own sections but I’ve gone on a bit here so I’ll wrap it up.  Ding had a pretty poor season last year but did reach the quarter finals at the Crucible and followed that up with a last eight appearance in Shanghai.  He’s also won the UKs twice so at 14/1 he could be worth a look.  Murphy seems to come alive in the biggest events (having won all three once) and shouldn’t be discounted at a top price of 10/1.

There are quite a few others worth a mention, Barry Hawkins at 33/1 for example, but this is already too long so I’ll call it a day for now.  I’ll try and do another preview either before the last 32 or the last 16 when it gets really interesting.

I’ve used Oddschecker for the best prices.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.

Jamie Vardy to Real Madrid doesn’t seem so crazy anymore

When Jamie Vardy was linked with Real Madrid at the back end of October my initial thought was ‘no way’, but now I’m not so sure.

Credit to him for matching Ruud van Nistlerooy’s record – in fact I’d argue he’s bettered it given he’s done it in the same season – and that’s obviously been noticed across Europe.

The claims of Real interest in the Foxes forward first emerged on fichajes.net and that’s why I was so sceptical to start with. These guys keep popping up with various rumours that get noticed and so far I can’t think of one they’ve got right but there’s always a first time.

When you wade through as much transfer speculation as I do you get an idea of which publications can be trusted, to a degree, and which are full of shit.

Fichajes fall into the latter category, but if you throw enough excrement at the ceiling some of it will eventually stick and Vardy to Real is no longer sounding quite so ridiculous.

He’s already gone from non-league to full England international and an almost guaranteed pick for Euro 2016 in less than four years, that’s Roy of the Rovers stuff.  Throw in a move to Madrid and it becomes Roy of the Rovers on acid but as the Premier League’s top scorer it would be a bit of a surprise if no one is thinking about a January move, and why not Real?

Is Vardy good enough to play for Real?

This is the big question and honestly I think he may just be.  I’ve not seen him play live (as in actually there, not just on TV) enough to know whether or not his off the ball movement and positional play is up there with the elite European players, but his touch and goal scoring ability, clearly, wouldn’t be out of place at the Bernabeu and any other aspects can be worked on in training. At 28 age is also on his side, just, but the key factor is his speed.

Vardy has clocked the fastest speed in the Premier League this season and if anything will have caught the attention of the Real scouts it’s that.  When you’ve got Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Cristiano Ronaldo in attack whoever plays with them has got to be able to keep up – and Vardy could.  He’d also be eligible to play in the Champions League and that may well come into Los Blancos’ thoughts when they’re looking for January additions.

Will Leicester let him go?

They won’t want to but if Real come calling there isn’t much you can do about it.  Vardy is under contract until 2018 so the Foxes would be due a hefty fee but they’re unlikely to stand in his way.

Anything else?

Marca keep talking him up.  Not necessarily in terms of a potential move to Real but they’re making a big deal over his goal scoring exploits.  When they talk about Real you have to listen, although sometimes I’m not sure if their reports are based on what is going to happen or what they’d like to happen.  Real tend to go for big names and Vardy doesn’t fall into that category just yet, unlike a Marco Reus or a Robert Lewandowski for example, but if Marca keep their attentions on him he will do.

Then there’s the Karim Benzema situation… if for any reason he becomes unavailable they would need a back-up and Vardy fits the bill there as far as I’m concerned.  Chances are they’ll want a striker in January and the Leicester star is the in-form guy in Europe, and probably more affordable than most of the other options.

Admittedly, I still don’t see this deal happening in January.  I’d give it about a 3/10 chance of going through but when the reports first emerged I put that at about 1/100. If he keeps scoring someone is bound to come calling and a Real Madrid bid no longer looks so ludicrous when you break it down.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.

Saturday’s bets

Sheffield United wrecked my treble last weekend, they did fight back to claim a 2-2 draw but apparently Southend could have been out of sight before they started their response so I don’t feel too hard done by.

It does leave me in a bit of a hole though, had I gone for singles as well it would have been a small profit but that’s irrelevant now, and like any true gambler I’m going to keep spinning that wheel until my number comes up.

Swansea V Bournemouth

Two teams struggling for form doesn’t make for a classic at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.  I feel for the Cherries, key forward Callum Wilson is a long-term injury victim, as are big summer buys Tyrone Mings and Max Gradel, and the January transfer window can’t come soon enough for boss Eddie Howe. It could be a case of trying not to let the season slip away from them before they do get a chance to strengthen but Swansea away is a tough task – despite their current slump.

Bournemouth have lost five of their six away games to date and I can see Swansea adding to their misery.  The Swans are 10/11 with most bookmakers and I’m tempted by Garry Monk’s men at just shy of even money.

Bristol City V Hull

The Championship’s early kick off sees pacesetters Hull City travel to Ashton Gate, where they face a Bristol City side with one of the worst home records in the division.  Granted, the Robins have picked up on home soil in recent weeks but the gulf in quality could tell here and I’m going to go for an away win.  Hull are 11/8 with a couple of bookies, the price on this one varies a lot so it might be worth having a look at oddschecker.

Espanyol v Malaga

I’m going to dip into Spain’s La Liga for my last one and I quite fancy a home win for Espanyol against Malaga.  Both could well be involved in the relegation battle at the end of the season but Malaga’s away form makes me think the Espanyol are good value at a best price 7/5.

I’m 6.84 ‘points’ down from 20 spent so far so it isn’t looking too good.  With than in mind I’m putting this on as a treble with a point as well, which pays out at 9/1 with the bookie I’ve gone with – there may be better odds I just can’t be bothered to shop around as it won’t be a huge difference.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.

Run, Falcao, run!

A couple of years ago Radamel Falcao was one of the most feared strikers in world football but that reputation is in danger of being erased if he doesn’t leave Chelsea.

He wouldn’t be the first world-class striker to fail at Stamford Bridge, look no further than Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres as prime examples.

I never really thought Shevchenko was suited to the Premier League myself, he was a little too slow and he arrived in west London when he was already on the decline.

Torres had also lost a yard of pace by the time he made his big money move to the capital and confidence was an issue for both of the ‘marquee-buy’ forwards.

I’m not sure it is such a mental issue for Falcao, which is a shame as he comes from a land where confidence comes in powdered form. Although a Jose Mourinho-managed Chelsea is not the place to get caught dipping into the booger sugar – just ask Adrian Mutu.

He had a torrid time at Manchester United last season too but again I don’t necessarily think he isn’t suited to the Premier League.  He wasn’t used enough by United boss Louis van Gaal, and when he was he was asked to play in a role he wasn’t really designed for – and it is the same at Chelsea.

At Atletico Madrid all he had to do was score goals, there was no dropping deep and working for the team in the way Diego Costa does.  That team was built to get him the ball, knowing that chances are – he’d score.

He had awesome records at Porto and Atleti, and a decent strike rate at Monaco too but since then the goals have all but dried up.  Personally, I think he moved to Monaco in the hope he’d spend a season in France and then be signed by Real Madrid, who were heavily linked with the Colombian but for obvious reasons Los Rojiblancos didn’t want to sell to their city rivals.  Whether or not there were any talks or assurances from Real prior to the switch to Ligue 1, I don’t know – but that was the talk at the time.

That move failed to materialise, possibly as a result of the injury that saw him miss the 2014 World Cup, he ended up in the Premier League and has probably regretted that ever since.  His future does remain up in the air, he is on loan at Chelsea until the end of the season but I can’t see the situation getting better there as long as Mourinho is in charge – that team is made for Costa, not a fox-in-the-box guy like Falcao.

A return to Monaco looks unlikely due to the cost-cutting of recent months/years after a brief period of incredible spending and they’ll be reluctant to stump up his wages again.  Whether or not another English club would be keen after his struggles at Old Trafford and for Chelsea remains to be seen but he could probably still get a big move to either Spain or Italy (Valencia have been linked a few times, maybe there’s something in that?), and I hope he does because that four or five year spell at Porto and then Atleti was one hell of a ride.

Rocket Ronnie O’Sullivan Ready To fire again, maybe

Ronnie O’Sullivan hasn’t given up snooker but he hasn’t offered any kind of time frame as to when he might make a return.

Previously, I covered his absence from the sport in a bit of depth so I won’t do it again and we’ll keep this fairly brief.

He hasn’t played since his quarter-final defeat to eventual champion Stuart Bingham at the World Championship and won’t be defending his title at the UK Championship.

Instead, he’ll be working as a pundit for Eurosport and he’s written a blog piece for them about his future plans.  Sort of anyway – you can read the full thing here.

He says he’s “coming to the end” of his career but crucially, doesn’t say that chapter is now closed.

Another big point is this:

“I don’t want the pressure of being the top man in snooker any more. I feel that should be left to the new generation of players.”

I’m not sure he will ever not be the ‘top man’ as long as he is still playing, such is his draw and appeal to even the most casual of snooker fans.  I do like the sentiment though and perhaps it is time for the likes of Judd Trump, Mark Allen, Ding Junhui, Bingham etc to step up – and the opportunity is certainly there with or without ‘The Rocket’, who admits he has a bit of ring rust to shake off after his lengthy absence from the professional game.

 “I know my game is way off where it should be in certain aspects. That’s natural as I’ve not played competitively for over seven months, but I can still pot a few.

“My safety game would need sharpening up, but that would come from a few competitive matches.

“My long game could also be better, but in the balls I still feel good, and that’s what keeps me going. I can make breaks and create opportunities. That’s what I love.”

I’d be amazed if he doesn’t have at least one more crack at the Crucible, it would be a shame if he just let his career fizzle out with hints of a return that never materialise.  Whether he would go into it saying it will be his last tournament I’m not so sure, that’s just putting extra pressure on yourself and in a game like snooker where mental strength can be key that’s just foolish.

Will he return this year?  That’s anyone’s guess.  There are enough tournaments for him to find his form between now and next spring, obviously, but he could leave it until 2017 and try and get most of a season in beforehand.  The Eurosport article isn’t particularly revealing as interesting as it is – but it does offer a glimmer of hope that he isn’t quite done just yet.

LeBron James and Self Sabotage

LeBron James may well go down as one of the best players the NBA has ever seen but I wonder whether he is always that helpful as a team-mate.

The Cavs lost at Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, and here’s what James said afterwards via the good people at cleveland.com.

“We didn’t win anything. We lost. We lost in the Finals. So, that’s enough motivation for myself. I think we need to understand that.

“Like, we lost in the Finals. We didn’t win. And the team that beat us (Golden State Warriors) looks more hungry than we are. So it shouldn’t be that way.”

Previously, he’s labelled their effort levels “half-ass”, and alluded to a sense of entitlement.

Don’t get me wrong – I love watching LeBron James play.  I don’t really buy into the whole ‘greatest of all time’ debate, it’s impossible to compare players when the argument transcends generations.  If pushed I would argue Michael Jordan was better but I don’t know if that’s just because he’s the guy who got me into basketball in the first place, or at least that Bulls team were, as a child in the north of England – which at that time was pretty rare and for a while the NBA felt like ‘my thing’ however ridiculous that may sound.  Am I too old, jaded and cynical to appreciate LeBron in the same way? Probably, and besides, there are far too many variables.  The only way we could truly judge would be to send LeBron back in time to Jordan’s heyday, or freeze His Airness cryogenically and wait for James to catch up in a couple of decades, neither of which is feasible.

But I’ve gone off point.  My argument is this, are these the kinds of comments he should be making about his team-mates – and if so should he be making them publicly?

Granted he’s not naming names but he doesn’t really have to – from the above quotes I take it as him saying “I’m trying, why aren’t you workshy freeloaders when Golden State have been tearing it up since the season started?”

For me these are the things coaches should say in public but players should keep in the locker room. The Warriors and San Antonio Spurs are pretty cohesive units, and so are Chicago – from where I’m sitting the Cavs’ only real rivals for the Eastern Conference – when they get their shit together, but Cleveland at this early stage seem to be lacking in the same spirit and James may be part of, rather than the solution to, that particular problem.

Cleveland are the bookies’ favourites but I reckon that’s just because the Eastern Conference is the weaker of the two and they’re taking it as a given that they’ll reach the Finals again, which may be true.  At this early stage though, a few cracks seem to be developing in the Cavs camp and maybe LeBron needs to find a way to help motivate his buddies other than publicly berating them if he is to win a third Championship and a first with the Cavs.

I could be wrong – I just know if I was on his team I might get a bit pissed off at having my desire questioned at regular intervals.

Follow us/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.