The story of 2011 in our sporting quotes

IAN COLE wraps up the sporting year by trawling through some of the things they said, and perhaps sometimes wished they had not said

“Just a thought! Woke up with Liverpool manager lying beside me! Twenty years since that happened!” Marina Dalglish, Kenny’swife, Tweets her excitement, despite her husband curtailing their luxury cruise holiday to take over at Anfield.

Andy Gray: dismissed for "unacceptable and offensive behaviour", according to Sky

“Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule” Andy Gray, the Sky Sports commentator, and some of the remarks in conversation with Richard Keys which led to the pair being sacked.

“The supporters have travelled up and got behind the team, so who better to celebrate with? These are the laws, but this one is stupid and has to be changed” Avram Grant, the West Ham manager, after Frederic Piquionne’s second yellow card for over-celebrating his goal at Everton.

“Look, I’m no David Beckham. I might have had the odd look in Tesco’s, but nothing more. I know that in a few weeks the Champions League will be back on, everything will die down and people will forget the Ashes” Alastair Cook, England’s Ashes hero, puts his celebrity status in perspective.

“Gary Neville was one of the most consistent players in Premier League history. He was also one of the biggest pains in the arse” Graham Poll, former Premier League referee, sums up the career of the former England and Manchester United right back.

“I don’t enjoy firing people – it’s not my style” Milan Mandaric, Sheffield Wednesday owner, parts company with Alan Irvine, his 14th manager in 12 years.

“Alan Sugar isn’t always right you know. Anyone had an Amstrad computer?” David Sullivan, West Ham co-chairman.

“I told him it was an interesting way to end your Test career, but I think he knew I was joking. I’ve already had a word with him and I’ll see him again on Tuesday” Martin Johnson, England rugby coach, on Chris Ashton’s try-scoring dive.

Sepp Blatter (with Pele): no crisis here

“Crisis, what is a crisis? We are not in a crisis. We are only in some difficulties and these will be solved” Sepp Blatter, the FIFA President, in denial over corruption in the world football body.

“We don’t like them and it’s better to say that than be hypocritical. We appreciate our Italian cousins, with whom we share the same quality of life. We appreciate the Celts and their conviviality. But this insular nation, who drape themselves in their flags, their hymns, their chants, their traditions… We all have one thing in common. We don’t like the English” Marc Lievremont, France rugby coach, ahead of the Six Nations clash with England.

“I’d like to thank Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – without whom I couldn’t have won” Ed Hawkins, the SJA Victor Chandler Sports Betting Writer of the Year, thanks the Pakistan cricketers who provided him with so much rich material in 2010.

“You want a fair ref. I don’t know how he got this game. When I saw who was refereeing, I did fear the worst. It’s been three years in a row now down here. You hope you get a really strong referee in games like this. And we didn’t. The penalty was so soft. Deary, deary me” Sir Alex Ferguson is in trouble with the FA after this criticism of referee Martin Atkinson following Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat at Chelsea.

“I’ll just make sure the referee can count to 10, then I’m the unified heavyweight champion of the world. Wladimir Klitschko is getting violently knocked out” David Haye starts the hype early for his July world title fight. Haye lost convincingly.

“There is no room for amateurism in professional sport. It was do or die at some fences. If you don’t pick up you will be eating grass. It’s a surreal moment. Sometimes, achieving your dreams is difficult to comprehend” Sam Waley-Cohen, who as jockey of Long Run became the first amateur rider to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup for 30 years.

“I’ve been, with respect, a better player. I always got picked and played pretty good. So I’ve not been in that position where my quality of play has been poor and got to me mind-wise” Geoff Boycott, now a BBC radio pundit, with his opinion of Michael Yardy’s early departure from the World Cup with depression.

“If some stupid fans don’t understand and appreciate such a gift they can go to hell. I don’t want them to be fans. If they don’t understand and don’t believe in things I believe in they can go to Chelsea. They can go anywhere else” Mohamed Al Fayed, the Fulham owner, is disappointed the statue of Michael Jackson he commissioned to stand inside Craven Cottage does not receive unanimous acclaim.

“Tendulkar has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years. It’s time we carried him on our shoulders” Virat Kohli as India’s World Cup winners carry Sachin Tendulkar around Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium.

“If I ever meet his father I’m going to congratulate him and ask him where his brains come from” Ginger McCain, four times the winning trainer at the Grand National, after his son Donald trained this year’s winner, Ballabriggs.

Question of sport: Hugh Robertson, far right, addresses an SJA audience

“I’d like to play for Great Britain in the Olympic hockey final against Australia – and we’d win by a cricket score” Hugh Robertson, the Minister for Sport, asked at the SJA’s Olympic Question Time debate which event he would like to take part in at London 2012.

“That was a disgraceful call. That was Paul’s dream. Of course it’s a cut, but I’ve seen worse shaving. It was shaping up to be a great fight. If you accept it was an accidental clash of heads, which I do, the fight should have been continued. The referee must understand he has discredited boxing” Barry Hearn, in his role as boxing promoter, sees his fighter, Paul McCluskey, stopped by referee Luis Pabon in his WBA light-welterweight title fight against Amir Khan.

“He’s a real top pro, a proper good bloke, family man, role model. Not a moment’s problem, just gets on with it. It’s brilliant to see an English boy win it” Harry Redknapp in praise of the Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year, West Ham’s Scott Parker. In September, Parker signed for Redknapp’s Spurs.

“You can love Savage or loathe him – a bit like me really. But he’s done well to make a living with the ability he’s got. He is long past his sell-by date” Neil Warnock, the QPR manager, after Robbie Savage leads Derby to a point at the Championship leaders.

“He’s doing a lot of work with the strength and conditioning people. His legs are like those floodlight pylons over there” Don Topley, the former Essex bowler, on 6ft 7in schoolboy son Reece, 17, who had two five-fors in his first three Championship games.

“I don’t like to see a horse sweating between its back legs like that. It’s a certain kind of sweat and it suggests a horse knows what’s about to happen and thinks it’s going to hurt” John Francome provides too much information in his role as a Channel 4 racing pundit.

“They can do what they like at Old Trafford. I’m annoyed to be even saying their name because this is about us. It’s about Manchester City winning the FA Cup” Joe Hart, City’s England goalkeeper, resents having to share an FA Cup victory with coverage of Premier League games played on the same day.

“The fat lady is singing and, unfortunately, I do not like her tune” Ian Holloway and his Blackpool team receive a standing ovation from a packed Old Trafford after relegation from the Premier League.

“I feel lower than a snake’s belly at the moment. But the fire is still burning inside me, don’t you worry about that” Dave Jones‘s Cardiff loses in the Championship play-offs for a second successive year.

“We’ve reached the stage where an English team playing in a European final can probably rely on more support in Malaysia than at home. Should we be surprised that few beyond Old Trafford will take pleasure from a Manchester United win? Times change and football changes. We’re so much more grown up than we used to be, don’t you think?” Martin Samuel, the SJA Sports Writer of the Year, recognises that Barcelona’s Wembley victory was applauded in many parts of Britain.

“A lion cannot stay in the cage. He has to be on the pitch” Paolo Di Canio, appointed as manager at Swindon Town.

“There is no bad feeling with any of the associations that did not vote for me. I am the president of FIFA with 186 votes. I’m proud. Don’t worry about the English” Sepp Blatter, re-elected unopposed in a one-horse race.

“What Hamilton did goes beyond all boundaries. He is completely mad. If the FIA does not punish him I do not understand the world any more. You cannot drive like this. It will result in someone getting killed” Niki Lauda, three times world champion, leads the criticism of Lewis Hamilton’s overtaking in the rain at the Canadian Grand Prix.

“David Haye the person pisses me off. But, I admit it, I’m having flamingos – not just butterflies – in my stomach about facing David Haye the boxer” Wladimir Klitschko with a rare touch of honesty ahead of the heavyweight title fight.

“If you let Rafa get on top of you, he’s like an express train” Sue Barker at Wimbledon.

“Twitter is for attention seekers and clowns” Charles van Commenee, UK Athletics head coach, on the announcement via the social media messaging service by Phillips Idowu that he would not be competing for his country at the European Team Championship in Stockholm.

“It’s disrespectful. Not just to the Queen, but to the horses” Sir Peter O’Sullevan, doyen of racing journalists, on an outbreak of drunken fighting close to the Royal enclosure at Ascot.

“I don’t really care what people think or say or do. I did my best and it wasn’t good enough”

Caroline Wozniacki: Major-less world No1

, world No1 in women’s tennis but still to win a Major, loses in Wimbledon’s fourth round.

“I think it was nerves that made me nervous” Andy Murray.

“When I was a kid and I was very weak I needed that little extra power to hit the ball over the net. I think that became part of my breathing and movement. Your body is a machine, right? It makes noises. I have to exhale to hit the shot. I don’t want to annoy anybody. It’s natural. I do it in tournaments, I do it in practice” Victoria Azarenka tries to explain her excruciating screams when hitting the ball.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m in a zoo when I walk out to the paddock… ‘awwhh look, it’s a girl one’” Hayley Turner, via @Hayleyturner123 on Twitter, on life as Britain’s top woman jockey.

“Look at me, I feel good. I feel strong and when I see guys out there who are smaller than me I start thinking I can come back and knock out most of them. Then I talk myself out of it” Lennox Lewis, 45, former world heavyweight champion, is tormented watching the build up to Haye-Klitschko.

“I don’t do it to prove anyone wrong. I do it for the satisfaction that we got in that final half-hour of the game. You can’t replicate that. It’s why you play the game” Alastair Cook captains England to a 3-2 victory over Sri Lanka in the one-day series and receives his man-of-the series award from Michael Atherton, who had described him as a “plodder” in one-day terms.

“I’m really disappointed with Mr Levy’s attitude towards me. He was cold and in an arrogant way made it clear he wasn’t interested in anything I had to say. His attitude only reinforced my view that I’m not making a mistake in my desire to move on” Luka Modric’s all-summer-long transfer to Chelsea didn’t happen. Instead, he inspired Spurs to third in the Premier League.

Winning smile: Darren Clarke fulfils a lifetime's ambition

“I have 294 messages and the writing is far too small for me to look at them in this state, so I may look at them tomorrow at some stage and figure them out” Darren Clarke, hungover, the morning after his stunning win in the British Open at Royal St George’s.

“When you see the kids today and the speed they hit the ball with their driver, it’s just a different sound. They go ‘whoosh’. That’s the difference. Mine’s a thud. But the thud works every time” Tom Watson, five-time Open winner, still high on the leader board at Sandwich, aged 61.

“People have basically put the gold medal around my neck already. It’s still a year to go and so much can happen, and it’s not one of those events like hurdles or something. It’s seven events and there are so many things that can go wrong. People don’t understand sometimes” Jessica Ennis, who would lose her heptathlon world title in Daegu in August.


“I had already started a cheese sandwich, so it was definitely tea” Graeme Swann, England spinner, after Ian Bell is run out by India, having walked off for tea. India allowed Bell to be reinstated.

Rebecca Adlington: world as well as Olympic 800m freestyle champion

“This is why I get up at five in the morning. It makes it all worth it. I couldn’t ask for a better support team. I’m such a lucky girl” Rebecca Adlington, who added world championship 800 metres freestyle gold to her Olympic and Commonwealth titles.

“The taxis will be ready. The theatres will be ready. The hotels will be ready… in fact, we might just call a snap Olympics now and catch the rest of the world on the hop” Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, in bullish mood at the One Year to Go party in Trafalgar Square.

“When she lifted the lid of the box containing the new Olympic medals you might have thought she was opening a tin of pungent dog food for the corgis” Alan Hubbard describes Princess Anne’s reaction to the London 2012 medal design in his Independent on Sunday column.

“I consider myself fully English as a rugby player, but you never lose that Samoan side to just come out of the line and smash people” Manu Tuilagi makes his England debut.

“I’m not happy in Manchester. I don’t like the city. With the boss and the rest of the team I’m okay, but the city is not up to my taste. I’m looking at this experience as part of my growing up on a personal level” Mario Balotelli, still scoring, still causing trouble at Manchester City.

“I don’t want to use the word embarrassing. But it was embarrassing” Toby Flood, England fly half, after the embarrassing 19-9 defeat against Wales in a World Cup warm-up.

Usain Bolt: false start to legend status?

“I thought I was in Swan Lake. I saw all these swans, so I gave them a lot of space” Eva Fabian, American swimmer, samples the hazards of the Serpentine in the Olympic open water trial event.

“This world championships is going to be the first step to becoming a legend. You have to take that first step before you can take the second, which will be the Olympics. A lot of people have said I’m a legend now, but I don’t look at it like that” Usain Bolt, fastest man in the world, speaking a couple of days before his false start in the world championships 100 metres final.

“We are in a good place going to the World Cup. I am content with everything and have an enthusiasm and excitement I have never had before” Jonny Wilkinson heads for his third World Cup after England’s 20-9 warm-up win over Ireland.

“Of all the people it could have happened to, it had to be me, the slow starter in the 400. I’m broken, you can all see I’m broken. I’ve nothing else to say” Christine Ohuruogu, Olympic champion, is disqualified after a false start in the world championships.


World champion Dai Greene presents the SJA's JL Manning trophy for a lifetime achievement to his coach, Malcolm Arnold

“He knows what it takes to create a world champion. There are no short cuts. We work in partnership. I have a lot of respect for him, he has a lot of respect for me, so we work well together. Considering he’s 71 years old he keeps me on my toes quite well” Dai Greene, world champion 400m hurdler, pays tribute to his coach Malcolm Arnold, who has been training world-beaters for 40 years. In December Greene presented Arnold with the SJA’s JL Manning Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Sport.

“It’s a world championships and if I had to take silver anywhere I’d want it to be here, because next year is the Olympics and I want gold there. I was devastated after the javelin. I knew I’d thrown it away. I haven’t shed any tears, but I might do soon” Jessica Ennis loses her heptathlon world title in Daegu.

“I’m absolutely flippin’ livid. I was just looking at a few photos – and I’m in most of them. When I said I was going nowhere two of them grabbed me by the arms. You couldn’t make it up” David Lloyd, former Lancashire cricket captain and Sky TV commentator, is ejected by security heavies from the pavilion at Old Trafford.

“Don’t listen to the British press. They are more miserable than me, and that takes some doing” Martin Johnson, England rugby manager, arrives in New Zealand for the World Cup.

“That was Sebastian Vettel nearly going into the back of one of the Virgins” David Coulthard during his BBC F1 commentary.

“When we did cross-country he would run alongside the other lead runners because he didn’t know where he was going, so he would often get outkicked at the finish because he didn’t know where it was. Another time he sped off in the wrong direction from the start. He really struggled to understand anything” Alan Watkinson, Mo Farah’s first PE teacher, on the schoolboy who was to become 5,000 metres world champion.

“Rugby players drink beer. Shock, horror” Martin Johnson’s reaction to his England World Cup players being pictured in a late-night bar while in New Zealand.

“My father was a great ambassador for club and country and even if I get to be half as good as he was it would be some achievement” Jonny Bairstow, the Cricket Writers’Club Young Player of the Year, son of the late Yorkshire and England wicketkeeper-batsman David, wins England’s final one-day international against India with a cavalier innings.

“Everyone saw the stroppy dad, the mouthing off dad, the saying-too-much dad… But to me he was a loyal, very straight man. He valued friendship beyond price. He was just my dad” Donald McCain after the death of his father, Ginger, the trainer of Red Rum, who died, aged 80.

“I can tell you who is my girlfriend, but I cannot tell you what I do with my girlfriend. This is a difference” Novak Djokovic, the new world tennis No1, preferring not to discuss his private life.

“I like Twenty20. For one thing, it means I can stay in bed until 4pm” Graeme Swann, who captained England in their two end-of-season matches against West Indies.

“I think the media overestimate themselves. The boys are out there playing rugby. They addressed last week’s events last week. It seems a long time ago to us” Martin Johnson, England manager.


“He’s a disgrace to football. He epitomises what most people think is wrong with modern football. It is totally unacceptable. It’s all about him, him, him” Graeme Souness, former international, manager and now Sky pundit on Calos Tevez, suspended and fined by Manchester City for refusing to warm-up as a substitute in a Champions League match.

“The sooner he leaves the country the better. Within a few months he’ll be kissing another badge” Neil Warnock, QPR manager, on Tevez.

“Losing by six goals can certainly take the steam out of your sails” Ray Wilkins on Sky Sports.

“With all the reports of dwarf-throwing, drinking and mixing with women with big boobs, it’s been like an old-fashioned tour for real men” John McCririck, TV racing pundit, on the England rugby team’s escapades at the World Cup.

“I had my nose flattened. I’m not sure if it’s broken but it has ruined my good looks. My big fear is that it makes me look like Mike Tindall. At least I’ve got my hair” Jamie Roberts, Wales centre.

“After three years he has taken this team backwards. He had never managed or coached any team. It was a crazy idea” Stuart Barnes, former England fly-half turned Sunday Times pundit, is fiercely critical of Martin Johnson after England’s quarter-final exit.

25 years at United: Sir Alex Ferguson

“It’s something you don’t think is going to happen, it’s a bit of a fairytale to last so long” Sir Alex Ferguson on his 25 years as Manchester United manager.

“I’m not happy, absolutely. I spoke with him. He made a silly mistake and he said sorry. More than that I can’t do. I can’t enter into the head of Wayne Rooney when he plays” Fabio Capello, England manager, after Rooney is sent off against Montenegro and picks up a European Championships ban.

“If your manager’s not good enough, that’s your country’s fault. Get a better manager. Do the coaching qualifications better. I think it’s a form of cheating at international level and it’s embarrassing” Jamie Carragher, former England defender, believes the England manager should be English.

“I’m gutted, but there was no malicious intent. As soon as I hit him his body weight took control and, next thing, I was walking off into the stands” Sam Warburton, Wales rugby captain, sent off in the World Cup semi-final defeat to France.

“Three notches lower than a funeral” Peter de Villiers, the South Africa coach, on the mood in the Springboks dressing room after the defending World Cup champions’ quarter-final defeat by Australia.

“I was down the Waikato River whitebaiting. I think Ted [coach Graham Henry] had missed me a couple of times and then I finally got a call from Milsy [Mils Muliaina] and he said, ‘Start answering your phone, you idiot’, so that was sort of the message I needed” Stephen Donald, the All Blacks’ third or fourth string fly half, after getting a surprise call-up to play in the World Cup final.

“It’s like cutting off my head and my legs. We are civilised people. It is 2011, not 1800” Christophe Soumillon, French jockey fined £55,000 and banned for five days at Ascot for breaching racing’s new whip rule.

“I am willing to be criticised for being flexible. Margaret Thatcher used to have a way of negotiating. She just said no. I’m not like that” Paul Roy


Anton Ferdinand nor John Terry exchange words that will take more than a handshake to fix

“We fully back John. He spoke to Anton after the game. For us it was end of story. It’s just a big misunderstanding and something blown out of proportion. I find it strange when people don’t trust the words of a representative from your country. The clubs are in touch with each other and for us the matter is over” Andre Villas-Boas, manager of Chelsea, after an incident during the match at QPR between his captain, John Terry, and Anton Ferdinand. Seven weeks later, Terry was charged with “a racially aggravated public order offence”.

“There is no racism, but maybe there is a word or gesture which is not the correct one. The one affected by this should say ‘this is a game’ and shake hands” Sepp Blatter, who feels that players who suffer racial abuse should simply shake hands with their abuser.

“My aim was to shove it right up that black arsehole” Steve Williams, former caddie to Tiger Woods, sparks a race storm in golf.

“Having the chance to win a gold medal doesn’t come around very often. Players, if given the opportunity, should go ahead and do it” Aaron Ramsey, the Wales skipper and Arsenal midfielder, makes it clear he wants to play for Great Britain at London 2012.

“It seems unfair. I feel there is only this scandal because of who Mike is linked to. It happened the day after a game, they didn’t have another game for a week. Mike was always fit for the matches” Phil Tindall, bewildered dad of Mike, who was fined £25,000 and thrown out of English rugby’s elite performance squad for his antics in a New Zealand bar during the World Cup. Tindall’s fine was reduced on appeal.

“Whenever I watch him play, to me David Luiz looks like he’s being controlled by a 10-year-old in the crowd on a Playstation” Gary Neville tackles his new job as a Sky Sport pundit as comfortably as an accomplished former England right-back during Chelsea’s 2-1 home defeat to Liverpool.

“There is no way a game of football is more important than grieving” Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager with a true sense of perspective, after leaving Welshman Craig Bellamy out of his side on the day that Gary Speed was found dead.

“The crowd’s support was fantastic. It was because of them I was bawling my eyes out” Shane Willliams, the Wales wing, after saying farewell to international rugby against Australia at the Millennium Stadium.

“It is always a privilege to attend the annual Derby Awards lunch organised by the Horserace Writers’ and Photographers’ Association. You meet a much superior class of hooligan there and the pleasure is invariable compounded in the company of Sir Peter O’Sullevan, who at 93 continues to work tirelessly for his equine charitable trust” James Lawton, The Independent.

“We have agreed that any player who boards the plane to the European Championships will not be considered for selection for Team GB. It is a sensible football decision when you consider the demands on players” Stuart Pearce, England assistant coach, ends the Olympic dream of the likes of Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere.

“I feel like my kids on X-mas day! So juiced!!” LeBron James, the Miami Heat star, Tweets after hearing that a tentative deal had been reached to end the NBA’s lockout and play a shortened season starting December 25.

“People say Ferguson always does what is right for Manchester United. I don’t think he does. I think he does what is right for him” Roy Keane, former Manchester United captain.

“Sir, I wish to complain forcibly that last Sunday’s letters didn’t include a complaint about Rod Liddle” Sunday Times letter-writer Kevin Platt of Sheffield.