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Few would argue that footballers deserve the exorbitant wages that many of them receive. Samuel Eto’o’s contract at mega-rich Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala sees the Cameroonian forward take home a fee in the region of £250,000 a week, and he is far from alone in commanding that sort of money. Carlos Tevez is currently making around that figure despite being on strike at Manchester City and despite playing for the relatively small time L.A Galaxy, former England captain David Beckham is rumoured to earn roughly $40 million a year.

Emmanuel Adebayor attracted column inches recently, with few praising his refusal to drop rumoured wages of £170,000 in order to join Tottenham Hotspur. Adebayor’s reasoning was simple – “We all play football to get money”. Perhaps not a quote designed to curry favour with the romantics, but one that is rooted in the realism that is lost on them all too often. While Adebayor is of course generalising, he is largely correct. After all, who would put in the commitment required of footballers for no reward? I am not suggesting for one moment that the sacrifices made by professional footballers are equivalent to the hundreds of thousands a week that many of them earn, but I can say with some certainty that few of us would turn such fees down if offered. There are vast, some would say outrageous sums of money floating around the footballing world and it is not the players who are to blame – if it was not going to them it would certainly find its way to less deserving recipients. The fact is that we, as fans are one of many groups indirectly responsible for making football the big business that it is today – all the players can be blamed for is having the nous to try to earn as much as they possibly can. No one would dream of criticising a friend for earning a promotion or pay rise, however undeserved, so why is it acceptable to shun the professional footballers who entertain us on a weekly basis for what is essentially the same thing?

Football is a career lacking in the security that many others can boast. All it takes is a bad injury, or even a period of poor form and the dream could be over. For many footballers it seems to be a case of earning as much as they can, while they still can – hardly a surprise when many of the financial difficulties encountered by careless ex-pros are taken into consideration.

It is all too easy to characterise footballers as mercenaries, but that doesn’t mean that it is correct. They are not thieves; they certainly do not force us to part with the cash that ultimately pays for their wages. While I am sure that there are some who have taken a few clubs for a ride, there are just as many and almost certainly more who simply want to earn as much as they can in order to provide a comfortable and secure existence for their loved ones. Cheesy? Of course, but who could begrudge them that.

In the days where every act or sin committed by somebody in the public spotlight is highlighted in a matter of minutes, not many pieces of news genuinely shock me. Therefore when I heard the news that Gary Speed, the Welsh national football manager, had tragically died in an apparent suicide, I thought it was some sort of sick joke.

The former Welsh Captain and ex-Leeds, Everton and Newcastle midfielder was found dead at home by his wife, Louise, the mother of his two boys, early on Sunday 27th November. Remarkably, I had seen Speed the previous day on the BBC 1’S Football Focus magazine show. He was live in the studio and appeared cheery, relaxed and completely at ease with himself. This along with the recent upturn in the Welsh National team’s form in the previous few months makes his passing all the more sad and shocking.

For me, as a fanatical Newcastle United loving child, Gary Speed was one of my heroes. I used to have a poster of him up on my wall and I always made sure I wore the no.11 shirt when I played football for my school. He was a heroic figure for many, as I’m sure you’ve come to realise in the days since his passing. Countless tributes and kind words from Speed’s illustrious colleagues in the game have been attributed to the former Welsh Captain; ‘role model’, ‘model professional’ ‘good guy’ and ‘gentleman’ to name but a few, all of which go to show just how highly he was regarded as a player and more importantly as a man.

My memories of Gary Speed are of a man who commanded respect on the pitch without ever asking for it. A goal scoring, cultured midfielder who was quiet and unassuming yet oozed self-confidence and authority that made him that man in the team who you could trust with your life. These qualities seemed to be engrained in him as he made the step into management, firstly with a largely unsuccessful spell at Sheffield United but then more recently he seemed to making big strides with his national team, a recent 4-1 thrashing of Norway being the highlight.

Why then would a family man with his experiences, resumė and talent want to end it all?  That has been the question on all of our lips. As of today, the whole story surrounding his death is still vague and still just as shocking. Speculation and rumour will be rife until the real story comes to light. Indeed we may never know what drove Speed to his untimely passing but it again poses stark emphasis on the volatility of the human mind, in particular the minds of those in the sporting arena. The death of Robert Enke in 2009, the German no.1 Goalkeeper at the time, was a tragic loss. Then Dale Roberts, the Accrington Stanley ‘Keeper committed suicide last year. In both cases, the players had suffered personal loss or heartbreak. Whether Speed suffered similar misfortune is unknown, regardless, it raises questions surrounding depression and mental health in the sometimes lonely and ruthless world of professional sport.

 

Speculation aside, Speed leaves behind a loving family, adoring fans and a legacy which singled him out as the perfect role model for any up and coming footballer. He was a real football man and I’m sure all football fans are nothing but proud to call him ‘one of their own’ regardless of the colours he wore.

May he rest in peace.

Words by Thomas Rutherford

Following my brief hiatus from these pages and the world being denied of my thoughts, upon which so much depends, I thought it only fair to share my pearls of wisdom with you this week when I could be treated with more seriousness following the removal of that hideous moustache from my picture in the last issue!

 

Again, many stories have been flying around the sporting world of late, the most shocking of which being the tragic death of Gary Speed. He was a much loved and highly respected player, manager and football pundit who has most certainly left his mark on the game which he loved. As much as it pains me to admit, the article by Mr Rutherford (see below) is a must read to see just how much his passing meant to at least one adoring fan.

 

You may also remember in my last Foulds’ thoughts I, with assured confidence, told you of Shaun Edwards “looking forward to new challenges within Rugby” which I again assured you meant he was nailed on to be the next England Rugby coach, well… I was wrong, truly and utterly incorrect in so much as his name barely got a mention. Oh well, on to the next one! So I can now tell you with absolute certainty that Martin O’Neil will be the successor to Steve Bruce at Sunderland. The man is without doubt one of the best coaches in the game and this could be a great way for him to get back involved within English football. Added to that, the foundation is already there at Sunderland to allow him to impart his own personality onto an already capable squad and take them to that next level, as he so successfully managed to do at Villa.

 

Back to the England Rugby scene again, and how about the ‘leak’ of the RFU’s investigation into what went wrong at the World Cup? It certainly raises a lot of questions about the attitudes of some senior players at the World Cup. I think this certainly exposed the amateur strain that is still very much prevalent within Rugby, which in relative terms is still very young as a professional sport. That players representing their country are so money motivated – it is claimed that one of the senior players bemoaned the loss of £30,000 having just lost in the quarter final – presents a sad image for young aspiring players to look up to. Playing for your country is a bout pride and honour, ok I understand that money is what makes the world go round, but I think it being at the forefront of their thoughts whilst on the rugby field can only ever be detrimental to their performance. With Christmas now looming, for me it means an extravaganza of festive sport, endless football but most importantly for everyone the Darts World championship, which I again can tell you Phil Taylor will win (his previous 15 world titles aiding my crystal ball somewhat!). So I wish you all the merriest of Christmases and look forward to seeing you all that little bit plumper next term!

The latter part of 2011 was an exciting one for the University of Essex Golf Club. An influx of new members, regular training schedule and a vibrant social scene has seen the golf club’s stock rise within the university community. Go back 12 months and ask a random person on the squares if they knew Essex had a golf team, the answer would have probably been no. Well this year the tables have turned, the club is ‘kind of a big deal’ and most of you will no doubt have friends and lovers within the team. Some have even been saying that golf is the new rugby!

Onto on-course matters then and President Emily Irons has been quoted as saying she has been ‘delighted and excited’ at her clubs BUCS performances so far this season. Indeed, the first term’s matches have been very promising. The 1st team have continued to make steady progress in their outside bid for promotion. Always the underdogs, the experienced 1st side have been kicking at the heels of the league leaders since the opening fixture. Since that disappointing opening draw, the Blades have won 5 out of 6 matches, with that unfortunate loss being against the high-flying Hertfordshire side. Fresher Sam Mason, though inconsistent, has added a raw and talented edge to the side, exhibiting some huge hitting off the tee. While PHD student Christian Macmillan has been an assured presence, remaining unbeaten all year.

The 2nd team have also been putting in strong showings.  Under the captaincy of the ‘ice-man’ Jin Yoon, the inexperienced side have put in some valiant performances against some tough opposition. Despite only recording one victory (walkover), many of these new players should take heart from their offerings. Fresher’s Marius Thorvildesen, Sam Wells and Sophie Roberts have been excellent additions to the side, all three having registered a win apiece. This in a league where the opposition on paper, is considerably stronger.

With the prospect of promotion and Derby Day just around the corner, the Blades golfers are understandably chomping at the bit to get 2012 off to a flyer. The 2nd’s will be looking to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon and the 1st side will require many things to go their way of they are to make the jump up to next division.  But in a club where the mantra is ‘never give up’, nothing is impossible, that’s for sure.

If you want to come and try golf then you’d be more than welcome. Get in touch via email with either Emily Irons (eirons) or Thomas Rutherford (tpruth), failing that, log on to the SU website for more details.

Words by Thomas Rutherford

The University of Essex Rugby Club is topping the University form table with their first team and an improving second team. With half of the season complete and in the record books the firsts are desperate to achieve both an undefeated league championship and cup run to add. The New Year beckons with a difficult opening fixture against UCL 1st XI in the cup, an unbeaten counterpart a league above, however the Essex outfit remain upbeat about their chances. They welcome all-comers to Rugby Pitch 1 and fancy themselves against most teams in the BUCS Eastern Conference. The fixtures though begin with a third match up with the UCL second team, both times the Essex team proved to be superior in each area of the game. The league boasts one opponent who has the potential to be a banana skin for the Essex outfit; Universities at Medway firsts are unbeaten also, apart from their loss to the Essex side. The two form teams will meet in what will inevitably be the league decider in just the second week of this term. With home advantage the Medway side could prove to be more than a formidable opponent. If Essex go on to win this matchup it is more than likely that an unbeaten league campaign will be achieved.

The second team also has shown promising signs, with a difficult beginning with a team getting to know each other and learning week by week, they are surprising their opponents with performances that are both impressive and exciting to watch. Unfortunately, they were ousted in the cup by a team 2 leagues above but they still remain confident in securing a place in their league with the intention of gaining promotion following year. The second team are lying in a place in the league unrepresentative of their ability, suffering from the inevitable issues facing a team made up of predominantly first years. With the rapid rise in team chemistry and bonding the side really started to gel after a few weeks and are now a force to be reckoned with in their respective league.

The first team will be rebuffed by returning players of yesteryear who have been studying abroad and also with players returning from injuries that kept them out for the majority of the first term, these returning players should bring about new levels of competition for places and make the players work harder to impress. Not only this, there is a hunger to succeed, the mantle of being an unbeaten team come the end of the second term is one huge motivation. This includes success at the ever closer Derby Day in which the team is desperate to make up for their close and undeserved defeat on UEA grounds last year.

The first fixtures back has seen both teams continue to display their improvements with the 1st team overcoming a familiar opponent in UCL in a 46-22 victory and the 2nd team were beaten by two late break away tries against the side that only in October gave the Essex outfit a thrashing in their first fixture of 47-5 to a more respectable 22-29 defeat. These results show that the 2nd team has progressed leaps and bounds and the 1sts are still undefeated and showing no sign of stopping. Now the Christmas cobwebs have been dusted off we can all expect more of the same from the Essex Rugby Club this term.

 

Words by David Morgan Jones

With all of the University’s teams sitting in the bottom half of their respective leagues, the next part of the season couldn’t come soon enough for UEFC. All six outfits are extremely eager to show that the whole club will not take this season lightly, that despite their relatively poor start.

 

The1st XI have seen injuries play a major part in what has been a struggle of a season so far. Captain, George Maher and Shaun Brown have been huge losses to the team and have been out from football since well before the Christmas break. Although not winning a point in the first term, the team has battled bravely and refused to roll over easily, shown by the ability to score in every fixture apart from one. They are sure to be looking to take that next step and secure maximum points from the next five fixtures. The 2nd XI at one point were looking like embarking on a memorable cup run, but were eventually knocked out 2-1 by St Mary’s. Alphie Karatay’s squad may have only recorded one victory in the league but have played well and deserved more than just three points. Billy Layzell possesses a well settled 3rd XI and after a few experiments with tactics, they have everything in place to push on considerably. However, the team are currently sitting second from bottom due to dropping points against weaker teams (including those with players using only one football boot). Goals aren’t proving to be a problem for Layzell though, as players from all over the park are pitching in with some crucial strikes.

 

After finding themselves placed in a difficult league, Jack Bending’s 4th XI has seen some good performances capped with some good results. The turning point being the twenty minute comeback from 3-0 down, against Canterbury Christ Church, early on in the season. It is just a solitary victory over the UEFC 5th team that is proving to be the only three points so far. A lot of early mixing around with players led to some heavy defeats for James Bates’ 5th XI. Now though, it seems he has assembled a strong team that are looking forward to fighting back to get some points on the board. The squad will be itching for the return fixture against the 4th team, with league survival being the potential reward for the victor. The 6th XI’s fixture list sees every match being a local derby of sorts. The added incentive has affected the players well and Ben Grover and Lee Marshall’s team are sitting in third place. Promotion will not be ruled out if the players can gain victories in their coming games.

Words by Gary Finch

In recent weeks, perhaps even more than usual, it seems that the spotlight has been centred firmly on British referees – or to be more specific, their mistakes. The main point of contention seems to be the ruling on dangerous tackles, with Vincent Kompany’s sending off against Manchester United sparking much debate over what exactly should constitute a straight red card. The masses call for both clarity and consistency from our referees – which on the surface seems simple enough. The reality of the situation however, is a little murkier.

 

Take Kompany’s much discussed dismissal, awarded for a somewhat overzealous, if largely successful tackle on Manchester United’s Portuguese winger Nani. This was no Diego Maradona handball, a glaring mistake of the sort to unite an entire nation. This was simply a contentious decision, one that collective fandom found it tellingly difficult to classify. Again, consistency is called for from officials, from a body of fans who have themselves struggled to come to a collective decision. Referees should of course be operating on a level above the average fan, but they are only human. Some decisions will always be ambiguous and this does not reflect on the quality of officiating.

 

It seems glaringly obvious that those calling out Kompany’s dismissal as somehow ‘spoiling the spectacle’ would be the same supporters crying out for more protection were their team’s star player to be damaged by a similarly crude challenge. Had Nani himself not so deftly sidestepped Kompany’s lunge, the nation’s best supported club could have been without one of their brightest talents for, potentially months.

 

Had that been the case it seems likely that those calling for clarity and consistency would shuffle quietly to one side – quite possibly to join a baying mob calling for Kompany’s head. Situations like these often seem to require a villain – the problem being that fans often forget that without the referees that they victimise there would be no football at all. It now seems an instantaneous reaction to question refereeing decisions, a clear sign that their authority has been heavily compromised in recent years, with the figures that were once seen as all powerful overlords of the game reduced to little more than sounding boards for the frustrations of fans, players and managers alike. Football is not in need of any more scandal, and for order to be restored referees must regain a power that seems to have been lost somewhere along the line. Clarity and consistency? I think it is perhaps more important that you practise what you preach – an adage that the football fans who barrack officials would do well to keep in mind.

Words by Josh Tait

Imagine the scenario: You’ve left school at 16, and walked into your dream job. You only have to work for half a day, get free entry into a football match every weekend, and you get paid a very handsome salary for the trouble. This job is the only thing you’ve ever wanted to do, and it becomes all you live for. However, by the time you reach the age of 35, you’re no longer able to this job, and you have to give it up. This job is all you’ve ever known, so what are you going to do now?

This scenario is a very sombre reality for thousands of former professional footballers and for a long time has simply existed, with barely a thought for how the last generation of footballing idols are now filling their time. That is, until recently, when former Bradford City and Hull City star Dean Windass dramatically confessed to the world that he has suffered from depression ever since hanging up his boots two years ago, and has twice attempted to commit suicide since the start of the year as he struggles to come to terms with life after football.

In an incredibly candid interview with The People, the 42-year-old, who had a reputation of being something of a hard man during his career, confessed to “crying every day for two years since retiring” and feeling “in a hole that I honestly didn’t know how to get out of.” In the interview, Windass also confessed to turning to alcohol and having a fling with ‘a girl from the pub’ which ultimately ended his 18-year marriage. He also admitted the sudden death of his father last April and the death of fellow professional Gary Speed in November had also affected him and left him feeling he had no way out.

Windass says there are hundreds of footballers in the same boat, and wants the Football Association and the Professional Footballers Association to do more to help, and also highlights the fact that because professional footballers commit their futures to the game at such a young age, many retire and have a hard time finding work due to a lack of qualifications and other working skills. “There is nothing to get up for in the morning. I do my run in the morning but at midday, what do you do? I think fuck it; I’m going to go for a pint.”

As a fan myself, I have the utmost respect for Windass for being so open and honest about the struggles that he has been facing. For him to open up like this shows a real strength of character, and I think it is fantastic that he is being so candid about how is he feeling. He was an inspirational character for whatever club he was at in his playing days, and I genuinely hope that his strength and courage in speaking out about his depression will open the door so that both he and other former professionals facing similar struggles are able to get the help they need to get their lives back on track.

 

Words by Bruce Halling

So here we are again at the start of a fresh term all raring to go both academically and in your sport, right? Erm, whilst I’m sure we all start with the best of intentions in the New Year, them moment you step onto those training pitches on a freezing cold Monday evening is never a good one. Still, we’ve all got leagues to win and Derby Day too so there’s no letting up just yet.

Away from the bubble of University sport there has been plenty to talk about so far in this New Year. A big talking point at the moment is the outburst of information relating to depression in sport in the wake of Gary Speed’s tragic death. With the recent release of Freddie Flintoff’s ‘Depression in Sport’ it really highlights to the public the susceptibility of sports stars to these mental breakdown’s that you would not necessarily associate with someone earning money through their dream job. However, the pressures that all sportsmen are under is immense and I for one think it’s fantastic that sport is becoming ever more candid in exposing these realities to a naïve public which is otherwise ill-informed on such issues. I would highly recommend Bruce Halling’s article below for a more insightful look into the effects of depression from a man that it wouldn’t necessarily be expected.

Back out on the playing fields/courts and British tennis is back in the news again. When I say British tennis, obviously I mean Andy Murray’s quest for his first Grand Slam title in the Australian Open, although the other 5 British competitors did get some coverage after all being knocked out in the first round! As for Murray though, he has brought in the expertise of a new coach Ivan Lendl on a rather part-time basis. Now it seems to me that all Murray ever uses a coach for is to vent his somewhat pent up anger when playing like a classic Brit and folding to the pressure, however Lendl (known in his playing days for his ruthlessness) can hopefully bring an edge to Murray’s game to finally get him over the finish line. Anyway, the hard court is always his best shot so let’s keep our fingers crossed and see.

I can’t finish without mentioning the start to the most hectic part of the football season; the January transfer window. With inflated player prices and keen buyers with innumerable blank cheques in the pockets this annual circus is always a fun time for me and may be even more so with QPR’s new owners being openly willing to splash the cash, although it could be somewhat misguided with, at one point, talks of buying Wayne Bridge and his heft £90k a week salary. Still, anything to wind John Terry up, right?

So the best of luck to you all with the latest of your fresh starts and I hope you’re all building up to the inevitable thrashing of UEA come Derby Day!

On a warm, still day on the Essex University pitches Essex Mens 1st XV welcomed Medway University for the second BUCS league fixture of the season looking to build on their promising win the previous week.  With a slightly depleted team Essex were looking toward some untried Freshers to really step forward and make a claim for cementing a regular first team place in front of new coach Nick Lloyd. After last weeks big win against UCL 2nd XV Essex knew that they would be provided with a sterner challenge from Medway who had come off the back of a win themselves the previous week.

Essex won the toss and chose to kick to the opposition and with some excellent forward play soon had the ball back in their hands. As would prove to be a common theme throughout the game the Essex forwards bullied their way deep into the opposition 22 and were rewarded when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts for hands in the ruck from the Medway flanker, Jack Marlow duly converted the penalty to give Essex a 3-0 lead within the opening two minutes. No sooner had the game restarted than Medway were to find themselves under their own posts yet again. The Essex pack were really imposing themselves on this game in its early phases and utilised their superior size to the full when driving over flanker Joss Nunn to score the first try of the game, the try was converted by Jack Marlow. The early signs were encouraging for Essex and the game continued in this very one-sided vein for the opening 20 minutes with Essex adding one more score in this period. A simple yet effective backs move with the Essex backline moving the ball swiftly through the hands to the winger Nick York who outpaced his opposite winger on the outside to score in the corner, 15-0 to Essex. This try was a prime example of the forwards dominance creating space for Essex’s ever dangerous back line and was a perfect example of Rugby being made to look simple through perfect execution.  Essex scored once more before half-time, debutant Ashley Clarke-Walkin sprinting in from fully 60 metres after the backline again created an overlap, the try was converted meaning that Essex headed into the break in a comfortable position, leading 22-0.

 

With a solid lead going into the second half the game plan for Essex would have been to build on the foundations that they had laid and continue to assert their dominance over the opposition in the forwards, unfortunately that was not to be. Whether Essex came out expecting the victory was unclear however Medway suddenly seemed to pose a much bigger threat than they had for the duration of the first half. Despite Medway having their inside centre sin-binned for hands in the ruck early on, they were still first to put points on the board, springing on some loose handling by Essex in their own 22 to score in the left-hand corner. What happened next is a rarity in rugby as Essex were shown two yellow cards within the space of 2 minutes, the first of which was a somewhat contentious decision to say the least. With Essex down to 13 men the team showed a brave and resilient streak that will bode them well going towards future games. Essex didn’t concede a point during this 8 minute period with 13 men and in doing so managed to secure that Medway had too much to do going into the final 10 minutes 17 points behind. Medway did manage to get a consolation score meaning the final result was Essex 22- 12 Medway.

The acting captain for the day Adam Atkins had this to say after the game:

“We got off to a great start today and although I’m disappointed with how we played in the second half the boys still showed passion to keep out Medway when we were down to 13 players. If we combine that passion with the attacking rugby we know we’re capable of it should be a good season.”