Sport

At Lansdowne v Ballynahinch in AIL

Lansodwne v Ballynahinch 15 March 2014 005

BOD from the Irish UN in the Lebanon

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Come on Ireland

Ireland v Italy

Glasgow’s Crazy Spending. – lost £14.4 in the Scottish fourth division.

Rangers borrow £1.5m from Sandy Easdale and Laxey Partners

Board member Easdale lends £500,000 and Laxey £1m
Loans to aid cash flow repayable by 1 September 2014

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Rangers are on course for promotion from League One but their problems off the pitch are still a major concern. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager, admits his plans for next season have been left in limbo while Graham Wallace carries out his 120-day review of the club.

The chief executive at Ibrox Park is just over halfway through the period of calm he asked for to examine how the League One leaders’ off-field business operates and to draw up a plan that will put the club on a level footing. He has already secured a £1.5m loan announced morning from the football board chairman Sandy Easdale and investment group Laxey Partners which will keep the club afloat until they bank season-ticket monies at the end of the season.

But with Rangers certainties for promotion to the Championship this season, McCoist has had to put preparations for next term’s push for the Premiership on hold until after Wallace finishes his review. Asked if his preparations have been left in limbo, the manager said: “I think that is a fair point, absolutely. But I understand the fact Graham has asked for 120 days and I think we should respect that and certainly give him that.”

Wallace’s 120-day period ends on 18 April and McCoist believes he will still have time to get his squad into shape before the new season starts. “I would hope we would have enough time to make the preparations we need after the 120-day review is completed,” he said as he prepared for league game at Stranraer. “We are keen to get the football side of things moving and to continue to move forward. There are lots of issues we have to address on the scouting, medical, transfer and contract fronts.

“On our side of the business we are keen to get moving, so I would be very hopeful that we would have enough time.”

The club’s record scorer admitted to slight concerns that the club had to borrow money from Easdale and Laxey Partners but said he had been assured it was part of a plan drawn up by the board to see the club out of danger after last year’s £14.4m loss.

McCoist added: “How beneficial this will be for the club is not really a question I can answer – that’s one for the chief executive and the board – but I have been told it’s part of a plan that they had. I would hope it would be a positive step but to my knowledge, it will not have any impact on my plans for the squad. I will have a better idea of what we have for next year’s budgets in terms of players coming in after Graham has completed his 120-day review.”

Easdale has offered Rangers a £500,000 sum on a no-fee basis, while Laxey Partners will lend the club £1m, with both sums secured against the Edmiston House and Albion car park facilities near Ibrox.

The loans are repayable by 1 September and Laxey Partners, the club’s single-biggest shareholder with an 11.64% stake, stands to make £150,000 on its part of the deal.

However, the details of the agreement have drawn fresh criticism from the Ibrox support – the three main fan groups joined forces to express concern about the “unduly onerous” terms. In a statement, the Rangers Supporters Association, Rangers Supporters Assembly and Rangers Supporters Trust said: “We have been contacted by a number of Rangers supporters, who are also current shareholders, indicating they would have provided a secured loan of £1.5m on more favourable terms than the combined Laxey Partners/Easdale loans.

“The terms of the Laxey loan in particular seem unduly onerous.

“We are concerned that not all shareholders are being treated equally. Fans and shareholders both deserve an explanation as to why other shareholders were not approached to provide this loan. The three groups call on Rangers, or the nomad Daniel Stewart, to clarify the matter. Either in public or through a direct meeting with fan representatives. We have contacted both companies with our concerns.” The Isle of Man-based hedgefund may opt to take repayment in the form of fresh shares, but that would require shareholder backing at an AGM. Rangers say the cash will be used for working capital over the “next few months”.

The League One leaders’ raised £22m when they were floated on the stock market in December 2012, but the former financial director Brian Stockbridge sparked concerns the club might be heading into administration for a second time last year when he claimed the club would be down to their last £1m by April after burning through the rest of their eight-figure stockpile in little more than 15 months.

But the money loaned to them will now tide them over until season-ticket renewal payments start arriving at the end of the season. A club statement added: “The directors of Rangers, having taken advice from their nominated adviser, Daniel Stewart & Company plc, believe that the terms of the Laxey Facility are fair and reasonable as far as shareholders are concerned.”

ROG and Wife Jessica at Dinner

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Thomas Finney, footballer, born 5 April 1922; died 14 February 2014

Sir Tom Finney obituary

Versatile Preston North End and England winger with a rare capacity for controlling the pace of a football match

Tom Finney in 1949

 

Tom Finney playing for Preston North End in 1949: his friend Bill Shankly said that he “would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age … even if he had been wearing an overcoat”. Photograph: Colorsport/REX

Tom Finney, who has died aged 91, was perhaps the most complete British footballer of all time, yet he failed to win a single major honour for either club or country. Blessed with exquisite balance, skill and tactical intelligence, he played the game with a grace – or indeed good grace – given to very few: he was never booked, sent off or even ticked off by referees. Stanley Matthews may have been the public’s favourite, but to purists Finney was the greater all-rounder.

In the era of the maximum wage and before players enjoyed freedom of contract, there were many single-club players. So integral did Finney become to Preston North End, staying there from the age of 14 until retirement at 38, that when he went the club virtually went with him, relegated to the second division, never to return.

His brilliance inspired and often carried the team. Bill Shankly, an established right-half for Preston when Finney joined (and later manager of Liverpool), said of his friend: “Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age … even if he had been wearing an overcoat.” It was classic Shankly hyperbole, though few who saw Finney play would disagree with the sentiment.

Finney had a glittering career, but little silverware to show for it – the price he paid for loyalty. The only medals he collected were for the 1941 Wartime cup (not regarded as a full football honour), when Preston beat Arsenal 2-1, and the 1951 Second Division championship.

He even remained loyal to Preston when the Italian prince Roberto Lanza di Trabia made him an unimaginable offer to play for his team, Palermo, in Sicily. The prince had seen Finney play for England while they were touring Italy in 1952, and was so impressed he offered him a £10,000 signing-on fee, wages of £130 a month plus a bonus of up to £100 a game, a Mediterranean villa, a sports car and unlimited travel to and from Italy for his family. At the time, Finney was earning £14 a week with Preston (reduced to £12 in the summer close-season) plus a bonus of £2 for a win and £1 for a draw. To top up his wages, England’s best footballer ran a plumbing business on the side.

The club refused the transfer outright, even when a £30,000 fee was offered as compensation. Its desperation to hold on to Finney became apparent just a year after he retired. Deprived of its most inspirational figure, this historic small-town club – founder members of the Football League in 1888 and its first-ever champions – went into long-term decline.

Finney was born a street away from Deepdale, the home of the club he would come to embody. He was a slight, sickly boy, hampered by an infected gland in his neck. It was removed when he was 14, and shortly afterwards he gained a trial with Preston. Despite standing just 4ft 9in and weighing less than 5 stone, he was offered a contract to join the ground staff, but his father insisted that he learn a trade. So he signed instead as an amateur part-timer, and became an apprentice plumber – an occupation that would run parallel with (and outlast) his football career and lead to his nickname, the Preston Plumber.

Finney turned professional just after the outbreak of the second world war, which would steal years from his career. He had two excellent feet. A natural left-footer who began as an inside-left, he was switched by Preston to the right wing.

During the war he served with the Royal Armoured Corps and was a tank driver in north Africa and Italy, where he took part in the battle to capture Argenta in April 1945. He was also selected to play for several forces sides in Egypt, once lining up for the Eighth Army against the actor Omar Sharif, who was playing for King Farouk’s team.

Finney was given a relatively quick discharge from the army – not to play football, but because plumbers were needed to help with reconstruction. He made his long-delayed league debut for Preston at the age of 24 against Leeds United on 31 August 1946, the opening day of the first postwar season. It was the first of 473 competitive appearances for the club, in which he scored 210 goals.

Many comparisons were made between Finney and Matthews, whom he initially displaced on England’s right wing. Matthews was a showman, dubbed “the wizard of the dribble”, an out-and-out winger who would hug the touchline. Finney was more versatile, playing in all five forward positions over the course of his career, and could score as well as create goals.

In his autobiography, The Way It Was, published just after his death in 2000, Matthews wrote: “To dictate the pace and course of a game, a player has to be blessed with awesome qualities. Those who have accomplished it on a regular basis can be counted on the fingers of one hand – Pelé, Maradona, Best, Di Stéfano and Tom Finney.”

Finney made his England debut in a 7-2 trouncing of Northern Ireland in 1946, the first of 76 appearances in which he scored 30 goals, then a record. England looked strongest when both wingers were deployed, with Matthews on the right and the versatile Finney playing out of position on the left. The first time they played this way was in May 1947 in Lisbon against Portugal, who were routed 10-0. Matthews was irresistible, but Finney was in such devastating form that his direct opponent, the Portuguese captain and right-back Álvaro Cardoso, walked off the field in the first half, demanding to be substituted, and would never play for his country again. A year later, the pair outclassed Italy in Turin, Finney cutting in to score the last two English goals in a 4-0 humiliation of the holders of the World Cup, last competed for in 1938.

Finney appeared in three World Cups, though none was truly satisfactory. The imperious English Football Association had not entered the first three tournaments, held before the war, and had its comeuppance when it deigned to enter in 1950 in Brazil. England beat Chile in their first game, but then lost 1-0 to the US, a team of part-timers. The team then lost their final group game, also 1-0, to Spain, and were knocked out.

In 1954, in Switzerland, Finney helped England reach the quarter-finals and scored their second goal when they lost 4-2 to Uruguay. Four years later, in Sweden, he was injured in the opening match against the Soviet Union, which put him out of the rest of England’s disappointing tournament. Despite his injury, Finney stayed on the field to put away the penalty that gave England a 2-2 draw.

Finney’s personal milestones included being named footballer of the year in 1954, at the age of 32. He collected the award on the eve of the FA Cup final, a game for which he, and much of the nation, hoped he would finally obtain a winner’s medal. But Finney, normally so at home at Wembley, played what he later described as his worst ever game for Preston, as they lost 3-2 to West Bromwich Albion.

In 1956, a new Preston manager, Cliff Britton, moved Finney to a deep-lying centre-forward position. Making use of his balance, passing and ability to glide past players, Finney was able to play a more pivotal role in the team. He was a revelation, playing some of the best football of his life, and in 1957 became the first player to be voted English footballer of the year for a second time.

That season, he scored 27 goals in 40 games, as Preston, usually to be found mid-table, finished third in the league. The following season he scored 26 goals and the team were runners-up. They dropped to 12th in 1958-59, when he was able to play only 16 league games, for half a dozen goals.

Throughout his playing career Finney continued to build up his plumbing business, which was very much a going concern by the time he retired in 1960 – this when he had just completed a season in which he played 43 games, scoring 21 goals. He became president of the club, a magistrate and chairman of his local health authority. In 1998 he was knighted.

He married Elsie Noblett in 1945, and they had a son, Brian, and a daughter, Barbara. Elsie died in 2004.

• Thomas Finney, footballer, born 5 April 1922; died 14 February 2014

IRB World Rankings

1 New Zealand 93.81

2 South Africa 89.34

3 Australia 86.88

4 England 85.18

5 France 82.05

6 Ireland 81.05

7 Wales 79.10

8 Samoa 77.34

9 Argentina 76.44

10 Scotland 75.26

Russian Ice Skater

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What is Nigel doing?????

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