Archive | May 2015

1536 Jousting Games Match Preview: Henry VIII vs Earl of Essex

*Parody*

Henry VIII has been declared fit to joust and will face the Earl of Essex at Hampton Court on Sunday as the King hopes to keep his dreams of a top-four finish alive.

It has been a miserable few weeks for his majesty who suffered a horrific and almost fatal fall from his horse last time out in defeat to the Duke of Suffolk at Greenwich Palace.

The King forgot to close his visor and was subsequently knocked unconscious for almost two hours after being knocked from his horse which then fell on top of him.

The defeat leaves Henry fifth in Division One; two points behind rival the Duke of Norfolk as the race for European qualification intensifies.

Despite being unbeaten at home, Henry has suffered five defeats in his last six away from Hampton

Despite being unbeaten at home, Henry has suffered five defeats in his last six away from Hampton Court

Henry was eliminated from this year’s European Jousting League at the quarter-final stage last month following an embarrassing defeat to Philip II, King of Spain.

The King is in a defiant and bullish mood however as he hopes to bounce-back from his injury and end the campaign on a positive note.

“I am fit, I am confident and I am ready for all that comes my way. I will pray to God and he will see me through,” said Henry.

“I have had a new armour made and have a new horse to ride me to success. The defeat in Spain hurt, especially after progressing from what was a difficult group-stage but I’m only looking forward now.”

Henry has failed to land a lance on target in his last two jousts but insists he is in good form ahead of Sunday’s clash.

“I am only answerable to God so I do not like all of these questions but the Duke of Suffolk is a good friend and deserved his victory at Greenwich. Anything is possible in jousting but I am very confident going into Sunday’s battle.”

The King faces relegation favourite the Earl of Essex this weekend and is a joust which provides the perfect opportunity for Henry to return to winning ways.

The Earl of Essex has won just two jousts all season and is likely to be in Division Two next season

The Earl of Essex has won just two jousts all season and is likely to play in Division Two next year

A full-house will be in attendance at Hampton Court including the King’s new Queen Jane Seymour as Henry looks to continue his impressive home-form this campaign.

 

Odds

Henry VIII – 10 farthings/1

Draw – Evens

Earl of Essex – 24 shillings/1

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Challenge Cup Draw Adds Another Twist to the Micky Higham Saga

Warrington’s home-tie against Leigh in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup next month certainly raises a few questions.

Can Leigh add another Super League scalp to their impressive cup run? Will the Centurions make the semi-finals for the first time since 1971? And which side will Micky Higham line-up for?

Following persistent rumours in recent weeks of an audacious bid by Leigh to sign the veteran hooker from the Wolves with immediate effect, Warrington released a statement last week confirming that although a bid was made the club had rejected the move.

The 34 year-old is still a big part of head coach Tony Smith’s plans and is currently in his seventh season at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

In a Wolves side full of emerging young talent, Higham’s experience is key.

With fellow hooker and reigning man-of-steel Daryl Clark sidelined at the moment with a knee injury, Higham is required to step-up during the England international’s absence and dictate the play from dummy-half.

Youngster Brad Dwyer has been recalled from his loan at London Broncos, and although he impressed in the Wolves’ 52-10 Challenge Cup victory over Dewsbury, asking the 22-year old to bridge the gap left by Higham and Clark could prove to be too much responsibility.

Despite Warrington rejecting the bid last week, the saga rumbles on and Higham’s absence from the team on Friday night only adds to the speculation that a move could still happen.

Warrington first-team coach Richard Agar confirmed after Friday’s match that Higham was not in the right frame of mind to play and the player will sit down for talks with Tony Smith this week.

Agar told the press following the win away at Dewsbury: “Was Micky rested? You could say that.

“We’ve had a difficult week. I think it’s been well documented some of the stuff that’s gone on and we just didn’t feel that Micky was in the right place to play.”

It has also become apparent that Leigh approached Higham first rather than the club in the hope of persuading the former England international to return to the club which he started his career at.

Higham isn’t the first experienced Super League player the Centurions have chased this season after landing forward Gareth Hock from Salford earlier in the campaign.

The Championship leaders have also activated the option to extend 35 year-old Fuifui Moimoi’s stay at the club for a further year, with head coach Paul Rowley understanding the need for experience in order for his side to reach the Super League and then maintain their stay in the elite division.

Higham is also sought after as cover for vice-captain Sean Penkywicz who has been out of the side since the start of April through injury.

Leigh have won 25 consecutive matches; a run which dates back to last July. Their wins in the Challenge Cup over Wakefield and Salford indicate that they could succeed in the Qualifiers later this year and earn a Super League spot in 2016.

Whether Higham joins the Leigh side that challenges for a place in Super League next season or stays at Warrington to have one last attempt at Grand Final success this year remains to be seen.

When the Wolves and the Centurions line-up at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in five weeks time, Higham could well have switched allegiance and be looking to inflict misery on his current side.

Falcao: How much is he worth now?

In modern football, it’s difficult to put a price-tag on a player.

In the current football climate where David Luiz is worth £50m and Gareth Bale cost Real Madrid £5m more than it did to land Cristiano Ronaldo, arriving at a sensible valuation for a player is not easy.

At the start of this season, Radamel Falcao was one of the hottest prospects in world football with the reputation of being one of the deadliest strikers in the game.

His stats since moving to European football from River Plate in 2009 are nothing short of sensational and only add bewilderment to why his move to Manchester United this season has not worked out.

Falcao scored 41 goals in 51 appearances during his two seasons at Porto before a £35m move to Atletico Madrid in 2011. He excelled in the Spanish capital, netting 52 times in just 68 matches before his big money move to AS Monaco saw the French club paying a reported £52m for the Colombian’s services.

The striker scored 11 goals in 20 appearances in Ligue 1, but his time in France will be bitterly remembered for the anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered in January 2014 which subsequently saw him miss the World Cup last summer.

With financial fair play rules dictating that Monaco needed to offload their star players in order to balance the books, a deadline day move from Manchester United saw the Red Devils take Falcao on loan until the end of this season.

It was a move which suited all parties. Monaco were financially sound and no longer had to pay Falcao’s reported £250,000 a week wages.

As for United, it was a case of ‘try before you buy’ to see if the striker could still terrorise defences and be a prolific finisher following his long-term injury. United have the first option to purchase the player outright at the end of this season for somewhere in the region of £43m. Had Falcao been an abundant goalscorer in the Premier League, the fee would be justified.

However, the Colombia international’s time at Old Trafford has been frustrating and his lack of goals, threat up-front and minutes on the pitch all indicate that Louis van Gaal will not make Falcao a part of his plans for next season if £43m is the price to pay.

‘El Tigre’ has scored just four goals from his 25 appearances for United this season and hasn’t found the back of the net since January.

In Robin van Persie’s absence in recent months, Falcao has had more opportunities to show his worth but has failed to take his chance. Wayne Rooney has also been preferred up-front in recent months with Falcao only starting games when Michael Carrick has been absent, with Rooney shifting into a deeper midfield role.

In fact, 12 of Falcao’s 25 appearances have come from the bench and the lack of game time saw him play for the club’s Under 21’s side in March with his former agent reportedly saying the Colombian had described the experience as “weird”.

Falcao has played the full 90 minutes on just four occasions this season

Falcao has played the full 90 minutes on just four occasions this season

However, while the stats may point to a dwindling price-tag this summer, there is an argument that Van Gaal has not utilised his marquee striker enough.

As mentioned above, the forward has scarcely played the full 90 minutes this season. Falcao has been on the pitch 168 minutes fewer this season than last; a campaign which he missed the second half of due to suffering his ACL injury.

The service to the striker has been poor under Van Gaal’s philosophy also, with Falcao having only recorded 36 shots on goal this season. Compare that to the 108 shots he had on goal for Atletico Madrid three seasons ago and you get an understanding of why he has not been as prolific this campaign.

Falcao recorded 108 shots for Atletico Madrid in 2011/12 and 99 shots in 2012/13

Falcao recorded 108 shots for Atletico Madrid in 2011/12 and 99 shots in 2012/13

In fact, Falcao scored three goals on the most recent international break in wins for Colombia over Bahrain and Kuwait, proving that he has not lost his appetite for goal.

While Manchester United remain favourites with bookmakers to retain the striker, his performances and statistics cannot justify £43m being spent.

However, few clubs in world football could afford his services for that price-tag and should Monaco need to sell Falcao to comply with financial fair play rules, the striker could remain at Old Trafford next season at a discounted price.

Would United take the Colombian for £25m? Could they ask to extend his loan furthermore? And if Falcao’s asking price did drop which other clubs would be interested?

With European football returning to Old Trafford next season, Louis van Gaal will be looking to ensure his squad is strong enough to compete on both a domestic and European front.

There is a chance Falcao will retain the number 9 shirt at the club next season, but it won’t be at the expense of £43m.