The New Home Of Racing

It has been almost a year now since ITV struck a deal to show live horse racing on British terrestrial television — commencing in January 2017. This also means removing it from channel four screens, which had been racing’s long term home since 1985. After retaining the rights in 2012, channel four in most parts failed to elevate viewing figures beyond previous years, that despite plenty of fresh new innovations in its coverage and introductions of some high profile presenters and pundits.

So what can we expect from ITV’s new venture…

Content

ITV will screen 41 days of live horse racing on its main channel, including: The Grand National, The Epsom Derby, Cheltenham, Royal Ascot and all the Classics. Furthermore, they will also show additional meetings on ITV4, so in total ITV sport will screen a 100 race days each year. In addition to this a weekly magazine preview show will be a permanent fixture each Saturday morning on ITV4.

The New Team

The face of the main coverage will be fronted by Ed Chamberlin. Ed will be joined by Francesca Cumani for flat season coverage and At The Races Matt Chapman will bring his unique and enthusiastic approach as the betting and trackside reporter. Oli Bell will front the weekly magazine show, while Richard Hoiles and Mark Johnson will man the commentary box. Other members will include: Frankie Dettori, Hayley Turner, AP McCoy, Jason Weaver, Luke Harvey, and Rishi Persad.

Coverage starts on New Years day with action from Cheltenham and Musselburgh. It will be an interesting time for racing coverage and I look forward observing ITV’s transition and the way it chooses to present its material. Maybe they can turn the scales and improve the decreasing viewing figures that haunted its predecessor.

Tbilisi’s Forgotten Racecourse

So, after nearly three months in Tbilisi, Georgia, my time here is coming to an end. And one part of my stay I really wanted to write about was the old abandoned racecourse in the city or the Old Hippodrome as it is also known.

Many tourists will hear about the ancient religious history, numerous Cathedrals and the many reminders of former Soviet state occupation of Georgia, I however, was intrigued by something all together different. When I was first told about the existence of an old racecourse, I just had to set out and see what I could discover for myself.

My time spent living in the UK; I was really passionate about horse racing and in particular the flat racing season. Watching Royal Ascot on television was an annual event, as was Derby Day at the start of June each year at Epsom, and so the very mention of an old racecourse in Tbilisi, you can see why it caught my attention.

The Old Hippodrome Park is situated next to the Kakutsa Cholokashvili Highway and at first glance it just looks like a flat, vast open space of green land, in what is an otherwise built up, bustling City. As a keen runner, I decided first to explore the racecourse by running around its outer perimeter to get a feel for the place, and so, off I set.

Around each corner I discovered something different, from the dilapidated former grandstand to the rusting starting stalls that had been left behind to rust under some trees. As I ran, I could easily imagine the majestic thoroughbreds thundering down the home straight towards the finish line (see 200m picture – below). The park has a welcoming, but somewhat sad atmosphere, and I could not help but think about its previous use.

Built by architect, Iuri Kasradze, the old hippodrome first opened in 1959, before eventually closing its gates permanently in 2007. Currently it provides the local community with some valuable outdoor green space, a place to relax with family or friends, and it’s also a popular place for locals to exercise. There is unfortunately very little other information available about this once popular sporting venue, so I thought it best to try and tell the remainder of its story further or rather what it has become through my pictures…

2016/17 Premier League Norwegians

What ever happened to the Norwegian invasion of the Premier League (PL) in the 90’s? At one point in the 1998/99 season there were as many as 28 Norwegians signed to PL clubs. While this golden period may have long since passed, what can we expect from the current, albeit small number of Norwegians endeavouring to make a name for themselves in the PL. Markus Henriksen, Joshua King, Håvard Nordtveit, and Adama Diomndé will all be eager to make an impact this season for their respective PL clubs and so here is a brief guide about each…

Markus Henriksen
Henriksen made his name playing for his local club in Norway, Rosenborg BK. He caught the eye of many scouts in Norway, before finally securing a move to the Dutch Eredivise, and AZ Alkmaar. His most impressive form was the free scoring campaign he enjoyed for AZ last season. He finished with 15 goals in league and cup, and so a move away to a higher profile league was no real surprise.

img_0080While a loan move to Hull was a little more difficult to predict, it should be a positive move for him, with permanent papers due to be signed in January. It is not least a chance for him to showcase his footballing talents on the biggest stage in club football and Hull can expect: a hard working player, a creative eye for a pass and the 187cm Norwegian is certainly capable of achieving a double figure goals total for the Tigers this season.

Adama Diomandé
Another Hull player looking to make an impact is Adama Diomandé. Bought by Hull for £1.7 million in September 2015, after what was his most productive season of his career in Norway with Stabæk. Diomandé scored 17 goals in 21 appearances in the 2015 season for the Bærum based club and having actually left the club before before the season had ended, his final goal total would likely have been much more.

Joshua King
imageThe former Manchester United youngster showed plenty of early promise and often caught the eye with his lightening pace and more recently his strength on the ball. An aspect of his game that often lets him down, however is his lack of composure, despite this, King will definitely continue to bring something different to his Bournemouth team.

Håvard Nordtveit
Once touted as one of the most potentially talented defensive players not only in Norway, but Europe too, Håvard Nordtveit finally gets another chance at the Premier League. West Ham smartly completed the move in May, before perhaps Europe’s elite clubs could swoop. Signing a five year deal with the Hammers from the Bundesliga outfit; Borussia Munchengladbach.

imageThe West London club have got themselves a very dependable defensive midfielder and one who is equally adapt at occupying the Central Defender position or indeed any other defensive role if needed. Arguably, one of his major strengths is his ball playing ability: rarely panicked, always assured on the ball, and his pass completion ratios are impressive too. The big Norwegian really found his stage in Germany and he was an almost ever present for Gladbach, he will be sorely missed by them this season.

Other Norwegians of note this season in the English league system include: Martin Samuelsen – Currently on loan at Blackburn Rovers in the Championship from West Ham. The highly promising 19 year old has a huge future at his feet: confident, Skilful, with a lethal finish, and he showed these capabilities whilst on loan at Peterborough United last season in League One. Alexander Tettey – The industrious Norwich midfielder was the leading light of Norwegians in the PL last season and will again look for more of the same, but this time in the Championship.

An evening with the locals



20.00 Thursday 18th August 2016
FC Dinamo Tbilisi – PAOK Salonika FC

Venue: Dynamo Arena, Tbilisi, Georgia

Competition: Europa League Qualifying Play-Offs Round 1st Leg

FC Dinamo Tbilisi, while not a name most will be familiar with in the world of football, it is however, the biggest club side in the country of Georgia. So what better place to get my first taste of ‘geo’ football than here and with a ticket price of just 5 Georgian Lari (roughly £1.50), it was a bargain.

Thursday evening in Tbilisi and the mosquitos are out in force, as are the thousands of locals who have flocked to the Dinamo Arena to watch their local club. The event is the Europa League play-off qualifier first leg tie against PAOK Salonika FC of Greece. The stadium itself did not feel as big as its 54,549 capacity would suggest and you also felt relatively close to the action on the pitch, that despite the existence of the dreaded Olympic running track adorning its outer edge.

Not much of the game had elapsed and I got the feeling PAOK may be the stronger of the two sides on display. And it was not long before they made their dominance show; a thunderous header (pictured) by full back Leo Matos, after a well taken corner on 20’. Dinamo mostly restricted to skewed long range efforts, as they struggled to penetrate a well organised Greek back line.

img_2690-1
Dinamo did at least threaten more in the second half, particularly on the counter attack and they worked themselves into a number of dangerous positions inside the penalty area, only again failing to find the target. The game then went further away from Dimano’s grasp, when the Greek side won another corner in the 70th minute and after a number panicked attempts to clear the ball in the Dinamo area, the ball fell luckily, to Jose Angel Crespo, who poked the ball home from close range to make it 2-0. It then became more of a sit back and counter game for PAOK, then shortly after the introduction of Facundo Pereyra, the lightening quick wide man Diego Biseswar, got clear down the left and crossed smartly for Pereyra to slot home and put the game and indeed tie beyond all doubt.

(Full Time) FC Dinamo 0-3 PAOK

Goals: 20’ Matos, 71’ Crespo and 83’ Biserwar.

Attendance: n/a

FC Dinamo Tbilisi: Scribe, Lobjanidze (58’ Τevzadze), Amisulashvili, Tsintsadze (70’ Alvaro), Papunashvili (63’ Dvalishvili), Kiteishvili, Parunashvili, René Santos, Jighauri, Chelidze, Chanturishvili.

PΑΟΚ: Glykos , Matos , Crespo , Tzavellas , Leovac , Cimirot , Shakhov (67’ Biseswar ), Charisis (46’ Cañas ), Campos (81’ Pereyra ), Rodrigues , Athanasiadis.

*Pictures by Mathew Paul Gundersen.

The United Way vs The Mourinho Way

While the former Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid man: Jose Mourinho will not have been the most popular choice as the next manager of Manchester United, particularly in the minds of some United fans. It is, however, real and it has happened. Despite doubts over recruitment policy, youth opportunities and playing philosophy, I still find it difficult to envisage anything other than a success story playing out at Old Trafford in the coming seasons. In the months that followed this high profile appointment, reaction has been split amongst the United faithful. Indeed, some craving a return to the glory days sooner rather than years down the line. While others, the more hardened United fan and perhaps the fans with more patience and wanting a return to the traditional United approach of building the new team in a way that would encompass its years of tradition and history.

Justifying the appointment

Appointing the next manager of the club was made even more complicated by what had happened in the post Alex Ferguson era, to, what was the current vacancy and ultimately of course at the expense of Louis Van Gaal. The relative recent failures of both: David Moyes and LVG have almost certainly had a massive impact on the decision to appoint Jose Mourinho. Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward was under huge pressure to get it right with his third choice and whether it will develop into a story of success or failure, it could actually turn out to be his final managerial appointment at the club. With this in mind, risk taking was very much out of the question.

What can we expect?

Trophies! Well, it kind of goes hand in hand with any club that appoints Mourinho as manager. And like it or not, at some point there will be somewhat cautious, boring, well organised displays of ‘football’ on this journey back to the glory days. The former Porto man has made it work each time and it will likely be no exception at Old Trafford. Player recruitment is another criticism connected to the ‘Mourinho way’ and one which most fans will not be in favour of. Youth could be overlooked, or even neglected, in favour of big money signings and players, who are ready for the instant battle. *And as I write this, Paul Pogba completes his return to the club in a World record 104 euro transfer. 

Success

We United fans of a more traditional, almost sentimental mindset, choosing to adapt to the style of an unpopular choice of Manager is all we can do. All while hoping and willing Mr Mourinho to change his ways and adopt a more United way of approaching things. But will it happen? I doubt it and will I complain when the trophies return?  I am not sure I will.

Meet the author…

Mathew is a journalism student and freelance writer. *see ‘about me’ section for up to date description.

I would be most grateful for any follows, likes, or comments.

Happy reading. 🙂

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