Sport In a stew: Downing is counting on a Cup win to build confidence

Being known as a "Cup team" is a mixed compliment, implying the ability to raise your game for one-off occasions, but never to sustain it. If Wigan Athletic, FA Cup winners relegated within a week, are newcomers to the genre, West Ham United have been at it rather longer.

Hurst strikes vexed note in oddball show

Mike Rowbottom finds the 1966 World Cup roadshow having some trouble attracting a crowd

Ethelred ready to save England's day

St George's Day came and went last week and the backlog of unslain dragons continues to grow. This applies particularly in sport where he has long neglected his work and the thought is irresistible that if only England hounded their patron saint like they do their managers they might get some results of a more encouraging nature.

diary : Free grog ... Lord Lumberjack ... spot the ball

Ahoy! Today the Captain brings you more exciting news from New Labour, the party for patriots. You may remember a certain lofty derision on the Left at a Tory suggestion that May Day should be replaced as a bank holiday by Trafalgar Day. But that was then. Now, and it warms an old Captain's heart to tell you, Nelson is New Labour. So much so that John Spellar, the shadow defence minister, has demanded to know what plans the Government has for 2005, the bicentenary of Trafalgar. And the scandalous answer: none. Spellar, mindful of "this great historical figure", demands that something be put in train before it is too late. He is open-minded about what. When the Captain puts forward his Big Idea - a free shot of grog for every man, woman and child in the country, he does not entirely rule it out, which no doubt means Mr Tony Blair will be on the blower shortly, telling him off. Meanwhile, in the interests of truth and curiosity, I telephone Labour HQ at Walworth Road to discover what plans the Party has to celebrate May Day this year. And the interesting answer: none. I'm finding it a bit difficult keeping up.

England closer to goal

Ian Ridley says that criticism of Terry Venables is both unfair and unhelpful

Hand over at Waterloo reunites Hurst and ball

Geoff Hurst was reunited yesterday with his hat-trick ball from the 1966 World Cup final. Unless, of course, it wasn't.

World Cup ball bounces back from '66

In a move that would delight every Euro-sceptic, England's World Cup winners of 1966 are asking the Germans: "Can we have our ball back?" With the 30th anniversary of English football's most famous day fast approaching, a frantic search has been launched for the ball with which Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick when Alf Ramsey's team beat Germany 4-2 in the World Cup final.

Hitch-hiker's guide to the Channel

Getting a lift via Le Shuttle is the easy part. Landing in France is another story. By Simon Calder


Michael Buerk knows all about rescues; 999 saved his career.

Bruno's flashback to the future

Harry Mullan questions the Briton's belief that he can alter the course of history

Tranmere lead chase for Rush signature

Tranmere Rovers, of the First Division, are preparing to move for the Liverpool striker Ian Rush.

The global village people down at Upton Park

Norman Fox assesses one club's attempts to stay ahead in a game of changing rules

CHRISTMAS radio Trumpton Riots

Trumpton Riots

England move with the times

INTERNATIONAL VERDICT: Venables' vision takes shape n Brown's basic appeal n Republic on the rocks n Wales await new blood


While the country's rugby union team continues to evoke national pride, its cricketers and footballers are still subject to endless speculation. After a topsy-turvy weekend, Independent writers test the temperature of our national games; Glenn Moore says poor technique and defensive confusion led to downfall of Vena bles' team at Wembley

Is Scargill the one to save the British apple? apple farmers

MY FRIEND Ken has been bemoaning the fate of Britain's apple farmers. Six thousand acres of orchards have been grubbed out this year, and the Cox has all but disappeared from southern England.
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Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?