Posts Tagged ‘Joel Durston’

The Alternative Wimbledon Round-up

In Sport on July 7, 2011 at 2:24 PM

With Djokovic’s and Kvitova’s somewhat surprising wins, so comes to pass another Wimbledon Championships. As usual, it showcased out-of-this-world tennis and much more: shock upsets, drama, redemption, exciting youngsters, acrobatics, hijacked interviews, tantrums and great sportsmanship. TAY details the good, the bad and the ugly of this year’s tournament…

Men’s champion: Novak Djokovic – A little overlooked by some despite his stellar record this season, Djokovic surprised many to take his first Wimbledon title. The second seed’s ultra-solid game built a great return of serve and dogged defence proved too much for all comers, even Nadal, as he swept to an emotional Wimbledon victory without being taken the distance in the entire tournament.

Men's champion - Novak Djokovic

Men's champion - Novak Djokovic

Women’s champion: Petra Kvitova – 21-year-old Kvitova firmly cemented her place as the rising star of women’s tennis with her victory at Wimbledon, in the process, becoming the first female leftie to do so since her idol and compatriot Martina Navratilova in 1990. With a great all-round game, notably a huge serve and forehand, she swept away Sharapova in straight sets in the final and won many admirers.

The Goran Ivanisevic good bloke award Pt1. – Fan’s favourite: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Frenchman’s big game and big heart won over nearly all neutrals this year. He has a real ‘go big or go home’ style, with humungous, high-risk groundstrokes, the cliché of ‘good touch for a big man’ and spectacular diving acrobatics. What endeared this Muhammad Ali lookalike just as much though was his winning smile, exuberant celebrations and sense of sportsmanship (more later). So much so that for once the crowd were probably against the great Federer during Tsonga’s remarkable Quarter Final comeback against him (more later too).

The comeback of the century award: Though Kvitova won the hearts of many, semi-finalist Lisicki perhaps won more for her incredible story. She had shown her promise as a 19-year-old by getting to the Wimbledon quarters two years previously, but in between had been plagued by a recurring ankle injury to the point of having to learn to walk again. Allied with a big game and some unerring drop shots, this year she reached the semi-finals in a nice moment of circularity, her cheerful and emotional return from injury making it all the more sweet. Indeed, such is her upbeat nature, she even often smiles after losing a point. When asked about this, Becker said that he couldn’t do that and simultaneously be a champion. Whether Lisicki can is a question for years to come…

Fan's favourite, Lisicki

Fan's favourite, Lisicki

Best match (men’s): Though there was some great tennis on display in the semis and the final, I doubt posterity will have it that any of them go down in Wimbledon folklore as a classic. A match that might though is Tsonga’s amazing, quarter final comeback from 2 sets down against Federer, especially if it goes on to mark the swansong (‘swanTsong’?) of Federer’s glittering career. Tsonga became the first player in 179 attempts to beat Federer from 2 down with a breathtaking array of tennis in going for the lines and diving round the court as if it was a bouncy castle.

Best match (women’s): As with the men’s games, many of the ‘best’ women’s game came in the earlier rounds. My picks of the bunch would be either Bartoli’s Fourth Round victory over Serena Williams or her loss to Lisicki in the quarter finals. For all of the exhilarating tennis in the former, my pick would probably have to be the latter, in which Lisicki won 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1. The match had a strange atmosphere as it was played on centre court which sounded eerily quiet aside for the seemingly apocalyptic rain blocked out by the roof. Bartoli also proves an odd, yet intriguing spectacle on court, with all her bouncing around and mimicking of shots; Andrew Castle even felt it necessary to assure viewers that she is in fact “perfectly well adjusted”! Nothing odd about the tennis though, as Lisicki’s power-game and Bartoli’s plucky double-handed shots provided a thrilling contrast of styles.

Men’s dark Horse: Qualifier Bernard Tomic leapt onto the men’s tennis scene with a hugely impressive tournament that saw him reach the quarters. On his way, he dispatched Andreev in five and Davydenko, Soderling and Malisse in straight sets. Most impressive was his third round victory over 5th seed Soderling. Admittedly, Soderling was feeling the effects of earlier Diarrhoea, but Tomic’s big, flat forehand and tireless running would have tested Soderling or any of the top 10 at their best. As indeed Tomic did against Djokovic, before eventually succumbing to the Serbian’s iron-will in the 3rd and 4th sets.Certainly one to watch…

Female dark horse: Could easily be Kvitova or Lisicki for reasons already discussed, but honourable mention needs to go to the Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm who, at the grand old age of 40 and three quarters, was by some distance the oldest player in the women’s draw. Her presence at Wimbledon is even more remarkable when it’s considered that she retired at a relatively youthful 26, only unexpectedly returning to professional tennis twelve years later in April 2008. After beating ‘our own’ Katie O’Brien in straight sets in the first round, she fought gallantly against the power of Venus Williams, eventually losing 8-6 in the third, but winning many fans in the process.

The Goran Ivanisevic good bloke award Pt2. – Sportsmanship: Tsonga’s tight four-set second round victory over Bulgarian youngster Grigor Dimitrov ended with the Bulgarian youngster flat out on the floor in exhaustion and despair after a very Tsonga-esque diving volley. In a show of sportsmanship reminiscent of Freddie Flintoff’s to Brett Lee, Tsonga hurdled the net to help pick Dimitrov up literally and metaphorically, with encouraging words and a warm embrace. So quintessentially ‘tennis’ that it could warm even the coldest heart.

The John McEnroe rage award (Men’s): Following a long, typically slip-sliding rally which ended with a slightly over-hit backhand slice from Djokovic, the Serbian proceeded to give his racket three almighty smacks against the ground. Needless to say, the racket broke and he is in line for a fine, but it shouldn’t cause too much of a dent (ahem) in his tournament winnings of £1,100,000.

The John McEnroe rage award (Women’s): Always known for not being everyone’s cup of tea, Serena Williams was in the papers again for her off-court thoughts this year. First, she bemoaned not being put on centre or no. 1 court and on her fourth-round exit to Bartoli, displaying very British sarcasm, she gave a very curt answer to an interviewer who had the temerity to ask if it was good thing for the women’s game that she lost given her lengthy absence: “Yeh, I’m super happy that I lost..go tennis *rolls her eyes*”.

Joel Durston

The Recycla-ballers

In Culture, Opinion, Satire, Sport on June 20, 2011 at 1:27 PM
[Although used to fan mail, this letter bemused Patrick more than most.]


This week gave us the new ‘Premier League Free Transfer List’ – a list of all the out-of contract Premiership players . Indeed, the name is actually slightly misleading and may be more accurately termed ‘released players list’. It includes several players who are on the list as ‘free transfers’ as a mere bureaucratic necessity following their decision to retire. This season, examples of such include the revered Edwin Van Der Sar and Paul Scholes, as well as the slightly less revered Gary Neville. The majority of the 125 players on the list, however, are merely those whose contracts have run out and whose services are no longer deemed necessary by the club, or at least not worth the player’s asking price (for wages). Some of these are youngsters who haven’t quite lived up to the expectations of them in their younger years and many are older players who the club feel, essentially, can’t hack it anymore.

In light of the ridiculous sums being spent on players such as Torres and Carroll, the presence of ‘good’, and even some ‘great’(or, at least, once great) players in this list illustrates the strange, even dichotomous, nature of the transfer market. Having been brought up by a mother who often said the classic ‘what about the millions starving in the world’ line, not only to make me and my brother eat our greens, but also as a sincere declaration, the profligacy of the transfer market that the list demonstrates disappoints me a little. It is somewhat analogous to buying a load of shopping and forgetting about a lot of it, leaving it to go past its use by date (admittedly, the analogy falls down as players can be ‘re-used’).

Now, I understand the inherent difficulty of predicting necessary squad numbers and player form, not least in football where teams are so prone to injuries, and that it is unrealistic to ask clubs for too much good will in contracts and playing time for out-of-favour players, especially in these hard economic times. Nonetheless, this wastefulness seems a shame. So, with my dreams of top-flight football and my dear mother’s love of recycling in mind, I resolved to try to make the most of this situation by creating a team of such players, based around the great Patrick Vieira, as suggested by a friend. Thus, the idea for ‘The Recycla-ballers’ was born….

Joel Durston
Recycla-ballers Headquarters
34 Recycle Lane

Dear Patrick Vieira,
Let me start by me saying that, as a fan of Arsenal and indeed football, I am a great admirer of yours. Your constant talismanic presence and sometime leadership has been a joy and inspiration to watch, especially during your time in the ‘Invincibles’-era Arsenal team. Yes, there have been a few mistimed challenges which have resulted in early baths, but I’m sure these have all been honest attempts for the ball as I get the distinct impression you are a good sportsman and a positive role model. Indeed, it is because of your honourable humanitarian work and position as FAO Goodwill Ambassador that I believe you will find my new venture, ‘The Recycla-ballers’, of interest.

‘The Recycla-ballers’ is an idea that sprang from a conversation with a friend, and now business partner, Jamie Walker, about the new Premiership Free Transfer List, which I was shocked to see that you were on. However, I feel this idea may provide solace. After seeing great names on this list, we came up with the idea of creating a football team out of all these players, whose services have been deemed tragically no longer necessary by their erstwhile owners.

The reasons for this are threefold. Of course, I would be lying if I made out this venture was entirely selfless, as, like 95% of males, it has always been my dream to play top-flight football which this opportunity affords. The second reason is to revitalise the careers of great players such as yourself, which have been cut short in their twilight, seemingly just because their former owners are too short-sighted to see the simple truth that ‘form is temporary; class is permanent’. Perhaps most important though is the pioneering role (in football at least) the team will play in promoting sustainability. By its very nature, this team, if successful, will prove that clubs need not obtain new players through extortionate sums which have pushed top-flight football to breaking point and priced many honest fans out of the game. Furthermore, on a more general level, I envisage the team will promote the need for sustainability and recycling, which are of course both extremely important in our world, where global warming is unfortunately such an issue.

As such, the team will be non-profit. I envisage it will be financed by different companies and organisations who want to partner us in delivering our powerful message. We would probably have to start off in a low division in the Brighton, Hove & District Football League (where I am currently resident), but I am confident with the quality we would have we would rise up the leagues quickly. Indeed, my cousin’s team were only founded a few years ago and recently promoted several divisions due to the ease with which they were beating their rivals. As we do this, the awareness and support of ‘The Recycla-ballers’ would no doubt grow exponentially. Due to the project’s organic roots, I would be a liar if I said you would not have to take a bit of a pay cut from what you were on at Manchester City. I was hoping, however, you would want to do this for the unique, powerful message it could send the world of football and indeed the world in general. Besides, Brighton’s nearer to France and nicer than Manchester…

Well, now you’re probably thinking ‘that’s great ‘n’ all, but sacré bleu… who in Zidane’s name is gonna play?!’ Ah well dear Patrick, you will not be disappointed there. I am currently in the process of writing to other prospective players for what I am confident will be a great team. In goal we could have Richard Kingson – vice-captain and most capped player for Ghana. One can only assume he was released due to the usually spot-on Ian Holloway misattributing the blame for Blackpool’s recently leaky defence. In fact, Richard did very well to emerge from the season with his stellar reputation largely intact, considering.

At full-back we should have both Jlloyd Samuel and Ricardo Gardner; both very solid defenders short-sightedly overlooked in their twilight by Owen Coyle. As for centre back, I am in correspondence with Matthew Upson and Jonathan Woodgate; both superb centre-halves with strong domestic records and 29 England caps between them – a figure which would no doubt be much higher were it not for injuries which have unfortunately plagued both their careers, particularly Woodgate’s. Both are fighting fit now, however, and would provide a super-solid foundation to the team.

In midfield, we could have Zolta Gera and your good friend Robert Pires rolling back the years on the wings and myself and you in the middle of the park. Coming from an extremely competitive football hotbed as a kid, I was, alas, overlooked by professional scouts, but have since forged a successful domestic track record with great teams such as Inter Mias, The Business F.C and Gape Athletic. Being a team player, I have played in many different positions, even a season as keeper, but see myself best fitting in to ‘The Recyclables’ as a player-manager in the middle. I may not be the quickest, or even the strongest, but I have the vision, intelligence and also a bit of trickery á la one Juan Román Riquelme. With your fine self, in the words of the Ian Holloway, carrying the piano and myself playing it, we could forge a great partnership similar to the one you did with Freddie Ljunberg in the ‘Invincibles’ team.

As for the strikers, I was hoping to get Johan Elmander, but he went to Galatarasay. I am, though, hoping to get John Carew to partner the aforementioned Jamie Walker. I feel these two could form a great partnership, with John Carew’s strength and aerial presence a perfect foil for the self-proclaimed ‘short powerhouse of a goalscoring prodigy’ that Walker undoubtedly is. Hopefully, the remaining squad positions will be filled by Dean Kiely, Marcus Hahnemann, Jody Craddock, Danny Gabbidon, Jonathan Spector, Jason Koumas, James McFadden, Lee Bowyer, Nigel Reo-Coker, Sebastian Larsson, Kevin Phillips and Mwaruwari Benjani.

As I say, I am currently in correspondence with the players mentioned above and prospective media partners (which I cannot name at present for legal reasons), but I am writing to you Patrick in this project’s infancy because I feel you could act as a catalyst for this pioneering project. Your involvement in the team would of course be fantastic, but any help, contacts or advice you could offer would be invaluable too.

Yours sincerely,

Joel Durston.