Thursday, 28 February 2013

Cushing steps up recovery

Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing has revealed he is due to resuming jogging as part of his long road back from a serious knee injury. The Texans 2011 MVP tore his anterior cruciate ligament in October, cutting his season short and robbing the team of their influential defensive captain.

The Texans were severely weakened by the loss of Cushing last season, ending a linebacker partnership with J.J. Watt that was up there with any other in the entire league. Cushing was part of a defence that didn’t concede 25 points in any of the first five games of the season, but that figure was passed five times by opponents in the remaining 11 games without the 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year in the line-up.

Now well into his rehab, Cushing has admitted he is desperate to get back on the field with the Texans in time for next season.

“Right now I’m focusing on my rehab, getting back, getting my knee back to 110 percent and just really looking to the year coming up. I’m looking forward to getting back out there with the guys and playing football.”

"It's been a long, long journey and I still have a lot to go, but you know, it just makes me cherish playing that much more,” admitted the 26 year old.

Cushing sustained the injury playing against the New York Jets at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Oct. 8, a decent stone’s throw from the linebacker’s hometown of Oradell, N.J.

With next season’s Super Bowl to be played at the MetLife Stadium, Cushing will need no further motivation as he works his way back to full fitness in the hope of being part of a Texans team looking to bounce back from last season’s play-off disappointment.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Hernandez still not enough to fix Mariners

While there has been plenty of positivity surrounding the Seattle Mariners following the news that Felix Hernandez has agreed a new bumper seven-year, $175 million contract, it hasn’t done much to convince many people that the franchise will fare any better next season.

Amid doubts over the franchise’s owners commitment to building a successful franchise, CEO Howard Lincoln has made it clear agreeing a new deal with Hernandez was proof that the Mariners are trying to build a winning team and move forward.

“This signing, given the size and length of the contract, is the best evidence that the ownership group is committed to winning and doing what it takes to win,” Lincoln said.

“It ought to remove any doubts about how the ownership group feels and what its objectives are.”
Is it really enough, though? It takes more than having a star pitcher on the mound for a team to be able sustain a challenge throughout an entire season.

Not since 2009 have the Mariners finished higher than fourth in the AL West, and there is little to suggest Seattle will be able to really climb above their rivals next season. There is no doubt Hernandez is one of the best pitchers in the league, but he’s fighting a losing battle to single-handily turn Seattle into anything other than a fourth-placed team.

On paper, there are three better teams than Seattle in the AL West. In reality, there are three better teams than Seattle in the AL West. Unless Hernandez is joined by players capable of performing at his level, then the AL West is going to continue having three better teams than Seattle.

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Thursday, 21 February 2013

England Must be on Their Guard

Mike Brown has warned in-form England to be on their guard when a wounded France outfit visit Twickenham next weekend.

While England have begun their Six Nations campaign with a bang, their rivals from across the Channel offered little more than a whimper in the opening two weekends. A shock defeat in Italy and a home loss to Wales left France's championship hopes in tatters.

England will go into the clash with Les Bleus as hot favourites with the betting Six Nations after they built on December's famous victory over New Zealand with back-to-back wins over Scotland and Ireland.

Despite the gulf in form, Brown is expecting a typically hard-fought match between two teams with great history.

"France haven't had the best of starts, but they're a brilliant team who on their day can beat anyone in the world. Look at how many times they've beaten New Zealand when everyone's written them off, so they'll be a tough, tough test," said the England wing.

France head coach, Philippe Saint-Andre, has made five changes to his squad after his team's dismal start to the competition. Brown believes the travelling party will be determined to set the record straight on English soil.

"They have brilliant players throughout their squad and will be a wounded animal, which makes them very dangerous. But the boys are looking forward to it and hopefully we can do a job," added Brown.

An England win at Twickenham would keep them on course for a second Six Nations title in three years and a first Grand Slam since 2003. Another home match against Italy follows before England finish up against Wales in Cardiff on March 16. 

A victory at the home of last year's Grand Slam champions could well confirm England's status as the best team in the northern hemisphere, regardless of what the rugby odds say.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Zvonareva's Long Road Back

Few elite players have been as unlucky with injury as Vera Zvonareva. A mysterious viral illness badly disrupted her 2012 season and the Russian ended the year nursing a shoulder problem that was also frustratingly hard to diagnose.

Surgery was the only available option for Zvonareva, who now faces missing most of the 2013 season. She has now damaged three of the most important joints for a tennis player, having previously missed large chunks of seasons due to wrist and ankle issues.

These frequent injuries would not be so much of an issue for a younger player, but at 28, Zvonareva is one of the elder stateswomen of the WTA tour. She was in the top 10 as long ago as 2004. Most players are past their peak as they near their 30s, even when fully fit.

A full recovery is of course possible and Zvonareva need only look to compatriot, Maria Sharapova, for inspiration. The world number three had to remodel her serve and whole style of play after suffering persistent shoulder injuries, but was still able to claim the French Open crown last year.

It is easy to forget how high Zvonareva’s stock once was. In the volatile upper echelons of the women’s game, successive slam final defeats, at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2010, followed by a run to the 2011 Australian Open semi-finals, represents great consistency.

Only Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters stood in her way at these events and no one could argue with the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist’s year-end ranking of number two in 2010. She appeared set to take the next step as Victoria Azarenka has done, rather than regress as Caroline Wozniacki and others did when starting to reach full potential.

It will be a long time before we discover if Zvonareva can fully deliver on the talent she first showed when reaching the French Open quarterfinals as an 18-year-old. With years advancing and degrees to her name, she might decide the long road back is not worth treading.

Fans of tennis can catch up on the latest news from the court on the Betfair website ( Do not forget that you can find the best odds and picks for the four slams at

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Celtic must Forget Incidents for Champions League Second Leg

Celtic’s Champions League second leg with Juventus next week pits a wounded team desperate to overturn the wrongs they felt at Celtic Park against the smooth, sophisticated champions of Italy.

The TV cameras did their best to show how Juve defenders wrestled Hoops players to the ground during corners in the first leg, with referee, Alberto Mallenco, unfazed by the accused infringements.

So ‘bad’ was the apparent problem that Celtic even sent a DVD dossier to UEFA after the game, highlighting incidents they felt should have resulted in penalties being awarded in their favour.

Well, a week later, and UEFA have not yet acted upon the evidence and are unlikely to do so. This is the correct stance, for the European football governing body has more often than not stood by the decision of referees during matches – it creates consistency in the game and prevents every team retrospectively complaining each week.

Celtic will feel hard done by but they must forget these supposed injustices if they are to overturn their long odds on Betfair and avoid humiliation at the San Siro next week.

With Juve taking a 3-0 lead into the second leg this tie is all but over but Celtic will want to show pride in their performance and test the Serie A leaders to their limit. Scott Brown will show not lack of determination alongside Victor Wanyama, while Gary Hooper must be craving to get back at Juve’s man-marking defenders.

Unfortunately, Celtic, who are 19/2 to overcome the Old Lady with betting.betfair, will be frustrated by the Italians’ competitiveness but must not rise to it, for there is only one winner in a contest between a raging bull and the matador.

Hopefully, the tie goes by without a red card and Celtic can earn a goal for their travelling fans to cheer, but they must forget about the previous leg to do so.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Bob’s Grabs last-Gasp Success but Doesn’t Please Everyone

Willie Mullins’ talented stayer, Boston Bob, came back from an unpromising position at the final fence to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat as he finished fast and late to beat Texas Jack by just a nose in a thrilling renewal of the Grade 1 Dr P J Moriarty Novice Chase at Leopardstown on February 9.

Sent off the 6/4 market leader for the two-mile-five-furlong contest, Boston Bob appeared to be perfectly placed under Paul Townend for the majority of the contest, racing close to the pace until looking tapped for toe when the tempo rose approaching the third from home. 

In the soft to heavy ground, the leaders began to waiver going to the final fence and Townend, sensing all was not yet lost, conjured a tremendous late effort out of his mount. Bob responded in the most willing of fashions to run on strongly to pip the luckless Texas Jack in the very last stride to score by the minimum distance.

Mullins was quick to suggest that his winner will be better served by a sounder surface and appeared keen to let his Boston Bob take his chance in the Grade 2 Jewson Novices Chase at Cheltenham next month over a similar trip.

However, betting firms were divided on the merit of the win and the suitability of the nominated target, offering a range of odds between 8/1 and 14/1. 

It is a similar story for Boston Bob’s alternative, the three-mile Grade 1 RSA Chase, for which the gelded son of Bob Back is again available at widely differing odds, ranging from as short as 4/1 second-favourite, to 7/1. 

Clearly a horse who divides opinion, Mullins’ charge must let his racecourse performance do the talking and answer his critics in the best possible fashion at the showcase fixture.

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Friday, 8 February 2013

Chargers weigh up Vasquez deal

The San Diego Chargers are weighing up whether or not to burst the bank in order to keep right-guard, Louis Vasquez, from entering the free-agency.

While keeping the 25-year old at the franchise would appear to be a no-brainer, there are huge question marks as to whether Vasquez will be able to fit into the new-look offensive line that the Chargers have adapted.

After an injury-hit three years, Vasquez finished his first full season in the team as the Chargers’ best offensive lineman. 2012 may, however, be Vasquez’s last season in San Diego.

The appointment of Hal Hunter as offensive line coach has prompted the NFL betting odds writers to predict the Chargers will switch from the man-blocking scheme to a zone blocking one.

At 6ft 5in and 335 pounds, the youngster does many things well but covering ground quickly isn’t one of them. Zonal blocking doesn’t suit Vasquez’ game and that may force the Chargers to alternative options.

Rather than pay out a sizable figure to tie Vasquez to a new deal, that money may well be used to bring in players capable of fitting into the new system. 

It would be tough for Chargers’ fans who bet on NFL to see another young, exciting player leave, especially since Vincent Jackson, Michael Turner, and Darren Sproles have all gone on to star in the NFL after leaving San Diego.

But that shouldn’t mean the franchise pay over the odds to keep a player who isn’t going to fit into the new way of things.

Another year without being in the play-offs showed that the Chargers need to make some changes, and losing a player like Vasquez may be one of those changes that needs to be made for the better good.