I never thought for one minute I’d be reading the Racing Post while eating breakfast, but that’s what I was doing on Thursday morning.
I know a lot of football people are into horseracing, but even though I came up trumps with my first big gamble at the age of 12 it’s fair to say I never really got the bug. That was in 1961 when I put two-and-six on Nicolaus Silver for the Grand National. I only chose him as he was a grey so I could pick him out on telly – it was black-and-white TV then.
But this week I was invited to Cheltenham by Talksport’s sponsors Coral Racing, so I sat down to study the form. As I don’t really understand form I picked out some nice names, allocated myself £20 a race, and set off for the course.
It is always interesting seeing a different sport close up. The build-up was exciting with everyone swarming in, although the fog was thick. To me that added to the atmosphere and it cleared in time for the racing. I heard there had been quite a few football people around the place, that some had enjoyed themselves and that by all accounts not all would remember doing so.
There were not so many on Thursday as that is a difficult day for football people being so close to the weekend, but I did an interview with Brighton’s Keith Andrews for the radio show and Michael Dawson dropped by before heading off to Tottenham’s match against Benfica (he’s injured, so was not playing).
We had a great spot, a box right over the finishing line. All the better to cheer my winners home, I thought. Lo and behold I won three races, including the big one. Most of the box backed Annie Power or Big Buck’s but it was me jumping up and down as More Of That came in.
That was the fourth race. With Fingal Bay and Dynaste coming in for me in the second and third races they were all looking over my shoulder to see who I’d backed in the fifth, but I picked a donkey just to confuse them. Even so, three winners from six is pretty good. The next time The Independent ring me up for a Grand National or Cheltenham tip to put in the paper maybe I’ll provide one.
We were back again yesterday morning, arriving through the fog again, to do Alan Brazil’s Breakfast Show from the course. It was a great setting for it and as you can see we celebrated with a bottle of champagne at the end. Fortunately I was driving home so I had a good excuse to abstain: at the end of a hard week’s broadcasting Alan deserved a celebratory tipple – even if it was 10am.
Blades and Wigan showed there’s still magic in the Cup
The idea that the FA Cup no longer has any meaning was put to bed last weekend. I was at Bramall Lane, where a fabulous 30,000-plus crowd were ecstatic at Sheffield United reaching the semi-finals. The only downside was that Charlton’s defeat gave their new owner an opportunity to sack Chris Powell, who I was sad to see leave The Valley. He’s got a lot to offer and I’m sure he’ll be back in the game soon.
Then we sat down to watch a cracker from the Etihad. Uwe Rösler has done a terrific job at Wigan but it wasn’t just the way his team played against Manchester City that impressed me. I thought he was really humble after the victory to say he owed a lot to Roberto Martinez. He could have taken the plaudits but he said Roberto had got it right last May – when William and I had a great day out at the FA Cup final – and did not see any reason to change tactics. Everyone will expect Arsenal to win the semi, but who’s to say we won’t get a Wigan-Sheffield United final?
Sherwood’s blast at Spurs stars could yet pay off
Tim Sherwood made it very clear what he thought of his players at Chelsea last week and you have to admire him for that. A lot of people said he was wrong to do it but sometimes you have to tell players the truth and hope they respond in the right way.
I’ve done it on occasion. Players have to look in the mirror when they play like that and accept it’s not all down to the manager. But I admit that I have usually done it behind closed doors because you know the same players you are giving a rollocking to will want to go through a brick wall for you in the next game.
However, sometimes you feel like you have nothing to lose in going public and Tim obviously felt that way. It didn’t really pay off against Benfica in midweek, but for Tottenham there is no better way to turn things around than by beating Arsenal. If Spurs win that game, you could argue Tim was right.