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SIR GARETH EDWARDS: The tries JJ Williams scored were just incredible

SIR GARETH EDWARDS: The tries John James Williams scored for both Wales and the British & Irish Lions during his career were just incredible

  • Former Wales and British & Irish Lions player JJ Williams has died at the age of 72 
  • Williams scored five tries in seven Tests for the British & Irish Lions in his career
  • The winger was known for his frightening speed and was a rugby icon in his era

John James Williams would have been a great in any era as he had such speed.

He was a couple of years younger than me and I met him when I represented England schools athletics — while I was at Millfield — and he was with the Welsh schools. 

He turned to me at a presentation in front of some dignitaries and said ‘traitor!’ Little did we think that a couple of years later we would be in the same Wales rugby team!

Wales and British & Irish Lions winger JJ Williams (above) passed away at 72 on Thursday

The winger played 30 times for Wales during a six-year international career from 1973 

He moved from outside-half as a schoolboy to wing and had the knack of being in the right place at the right time.

Some of the tries he scored on the 1974 Lions tour to South Africa were incredible.

The try I remember most was against Ireland in 1978 that sealed us a Triple Crown and set us up for a Grand Slam. 

We were under the cosh but, with minutes to go, I made a run, released John. He had it all to do in the 25 yards left but got into the corner for the winning score.

The tricky Williams scored five tries in seven Tests for the British & Irish Lions in his career

He lived near me in Porthcawl for a few years and would knock on the door at six o’clock on a winter night and say ‘Gar, do you fancy a few sprints on the front?’

We ran under the light of the lamp-posts and did 10 150-yard sprints with a walk back. 

After six I said: ‘John, I’ve never felt better. That’s enough for me!’ He replied: ‘No Gar, we’ve got another six to go!’

Williams was known as a fast player and was a great in his era due to his frightening speed

He was hard-working all round and it was a pleasure to know him. It is fitting Wales are playing in Llanelli on Saturday, but such a shame no one will be there to remember him.

My thoughts are with John’s wife, Jane, and the family. We knew John was pretty poorly, but it is a shock all the same. 

The more I think about it, the more I am lost for words.




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Gareth Bale 'was the ONLY Real Madrid player to REJECT a pay-cut'

Gareth Bale ‘was the ONLY Real Madrid player to REJECT a pay-cut’ to his £500,000-a-week wages at the height of the coronavirus pandemic… with rest of the dressing room ‘accepting 10% cut without hesitation’

  • Gareth Bale was the only Real Madrid player to refuse to take a pay cut this year
  • The club asked the players and staff to take a 10 per cent cut due to coronavirus
  • Welsh star was unwilling to forfeit 10 per cent of his £500,000-a-week salary
  • Those that did accept a pay cut helped the club save a total of 50million euros 

Gareth Bale was reportedly the only Real Madrid player that refused to take a pay cut earlier this year as the club struggled with the financial ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic.

With the club losing revenue due to the suspension of football, the staff and players were asked to accept a 10 per cent cut to their annual salaries, with that rising to 20 per cent if the league was unable to continue.

It is believed that the entire first-team were in agreement over the wage reduction, except Bale. The Welshman was advised by his representatives to refuse the cut on his mammoth £500,000-a-week wages.

Gareth Bale was the only Real Madrid player to refuse to take a pay cut amid the pandemic

Sergio Ramos was responsible for liaising between Real Madrid chiefs and the squad but it was Zinedine Zidane who helped the players recognise the importance of helping the club, according the Cadena Ser via Marca.  

Bale, who had a difficult relationship with Zidane and the club’s fans, is reported to have been the only Madrid player who wanted to keep getting paid his full salary.

The players and staff who did forfeit 10 per cent of their wages helped the club save just under 50million euros (£45m). 

Zinedine Zidane had helped the other players recognise the importance of helping the club

Bale, who earns £500,000-a-week, was unwilling to part ways with 10 per cent of that cash

Bale, who became the most expensive footballer in history upon signing for Real Madrid seven years ago, was pocketing £24million a year at Madrid – and would have saved the club £50,000 a week if he agreed to the reduction. 

The Welsh forward has always been a controversial figure in the Spanish capital and following a turbulent time at Real Madrid, Bale was finally offloaded as he returned to Tottenham in the summer. 

Bale will likely make his second debut with Spurs against their London rivals West Ham on Sunday.




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Gareth Bale is 'one of the best in the world,' insists Casemiro

‘He’s one of the best in the world… top five without a doubt’: Casemiro heaps praise on former team-mate Gareth Bale… and insists he ‘got along very well with everyone’ in the Real Madrid dressing room during time in Spain

  • Gareth Bale is ‘in top five without a doubt’ insists former team-mate Casemiro
  • The Brazilian also insisted Bale ‘got on well’ with everyone at Real Madrid 
  • Bale left Real Madrid on loan this summer to re-join old side Tottenham Hotspur 

Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro has insisted Gareth Bale ‘got along very well with everyone’ and dismissed suggestions he was an outcast in the dressing room.

Bale departed Madrid on loan this summer to return to Tottenham and there were multiple reports over his relationship with the rest of the squad in Spain.

But Casemiro has come to the defence of the Wales international and said he is in ‘the top five in the world without a doubt’. 

Gareth Bale’s time in Madrid has been defended by his former team-mate Casemiro

The Brazilian (right) went on to add he feels Bale remains ‘a top five’ talent when on form

‘He got along very well with everyone,’ Casemiro told Movistar Plus’ programme ‘Vamos‘.   

‘When he plays, if he’s focused, he’s one of the best in the world, top five without a doubt. 

‘It’s a pleasure for me to have shared the dressing room with someone like him. I hope it goes well at this stage at Tottenham. 


Bale was reported to be an outsider in the dressing room but Casemiro (left, with Bale) dismissed such talk and went on to thank Bale for helping secure so many trophies

‘I thank you for the ‘chirlos’ [screamers] you scored in the finals. When I think of Gareth, I remember those good times.’ 

The Welshman produced some major moments for Real Madrid, scoring in multiple Champions League finals, including a stunning overhead kick to seal the 2018 final against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. 

He departed Spain this summer having won a total of 13 trophies in seven years. 

Luka Modric, who plays alongside Casemiro in Real Madrid’s midfield, echoed the sentiments that Bale was far from a pariah in the dressing room. 

‘I have been here with Bale for a long time,’ Modric told El Partidazo del Cope.

‘He’s a spectacular, shy guy. The press are judging him for his recent years, but you have to remember him for everything he has given. 

Luka Modric (left) came to the defence of Bale (right) for his time with Real Madrid

‘He has not had any problems in the dressing room. He spoke Spanish with us. People quickly forget what Bale has done. Gareth didn’t socialise much, but in the dressing room he was fine. I’m sorry many forgot what he has done.’

Bale is yet to feature for Jose Mourinho’s side since his arrival but it seems he is edging closer to making his second Spurs debut. 

Bale has been suffering with a knee injury sustained while playing for Wales last month, meaning his highly-anticipated Tottenham return was delayed. 

Spurs face London rivals West Ham next in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon and Bale could feature.




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England boss Gareth Southgate hails 'pivotal' Harry Maguire

Gareth Southgate hails ‘pivotal’ Harry Maguire as England boss insists Manchester United captain is still a ‘big, big player’ for his side

  • Gareth Southgate has hailed the return of the ‘pivotal’ Harry Maguire 
  • Maguire is set to feature for the first time in 11 months against Belgium 
  • The defender has endured on-field and off-field issues since his last appearance
  • The Manchester United captain played in the 6-1 defeat to Spurs last week 

England manager Gareth Southgate has hailed the return of his ‘pivotal’ centre-half Harry Maguire after a torrid period for the Manchester United captain.

Maguire — a cult hero in England’s run to the World Cup semi-final in 2018 — will be under particular scrutiny against Belgium today in his first international appearance for 11 months.

Since then, the defender has been convicted of aggravated assault during a summer holiday in Mykonos and he was withdrawn from England’s previous squad in August as a result.

Gareth Southgate has hailed the return of the ‘pivotal’ defender Harry Maguire to England

His legal team have subsequently launched an appeal which will lead to a retrial but Maguire’s problems have continued on the pitch this season and his mistakes were blamed for Manchester United’s humiliating 6-1 defeat by Tottenham at Old Trafford last weekend.

Southgate is sticking by the 27-year-old, however, and insists England’s improved performances over the last three years have been largely down to Maguire.

‘We’re delighted to have him back with us. He’s an absolute top player,’ said Southgate, who will use him in a three-man defence that worked well in Russia.

The Manchester United captain is set to make his first England appearance in 11 months

‘He’s been pivotal to every good performance that we’ve had over the last few years and the success of the team, a lot of that has resided on having his stability and ability to bring the ball out from the back. We couldn’t have more faith and belief in what is possible for him. He’s a big, big player for us.

‘There’s obviously a lot changed in his life, a lot that he’s gone through over the last couple of months. He faces a different level of scrutiny on his performance because he’s the captain of Manchester United but he’s absolutely outstanding as far as we’re concerned.’

Ironically, Maguire will line up with Harry Kane, the Spurs striker who scored twice in the demolition of United.

Southgate insisted that Maguire has been ‘absolutely outstanding’ as far as he is concerned

Southgate accepts that picking some players up after poor results is part of his job as an international manager, with Liverpool losing 7-2 at Aston Villa just a few hours after United’s collapse.

‘We had a lot of players coming in after a weekend where there were some incredible results really and difficult days,’ said Southgate.

‘As an international team, that is one of the things you pick up, the consequences of club performances and the level of confidence of players and where they might be. Players might have had injuries, difficult matches, they may not have been selected.

‘You are dealing with all of that and trying to get them all on track.’




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Gareth Southgate: England boss desperate for fans to return to stadiums

Gareth Southgate has revealed his heartache at fans not being able to attend England games and hopes their safe return to stadiums can happen as quickly as possible.

Southgate named a new-look England side for Thursday’s friendly win over Wales, including debuts for Dominic Calvert-Lewin – who scored the opening goal – and Bukayo Saka.

But the absence of supporters took away from what was a memorable moment in those players’ careers.

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  • Stoney: Football in danger of being destroyed without fans

“The other night was a classic example of why we miss it so much,” said Southgate.

“To have so many lads making their England debuts and some of them scoring their first goals, playing at Wembley in front of nobody is such a shame for them, not being able to share those moments. They’re moments that live with you forever.

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“We know what it would mean for the game. We don’t have a game without fans really – that interaction, the atmosphere. The level of performance goes even higher when fans are in the stadium. We’re all hoping that can happen as quickly as possible.

“Equally we all understand how complicated a decision that is. I don’t envy the government with trying to deal with the complexity of the virus, to walk into the office every day and have those sorts of complicated decisions to make across so many industries and aspects of life is incredibly difficult. I don’t want to add to their worries.”



England
Belgium

The possibility of reopening sporting venues at capacity is one of the key issues that will be discussed when Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden MP goes before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee on October 15.

The government initially planned for the return of some spectators to sports venues in England from October 1, only for the plans to be scrapped as coronavirus cases began to rise.

“Football will try to push its case and I’m sure feel it can bring fans back safely,” said Southgate. “But we also have to accept we’re trying to combat a very dangerous virus.”

Abraham and Sancho available for selection

Southgate confirmed Tammy Abraham and Jadon Sancho could return in Sunday’s UEFA Nations League fixture Belgium, live on Sky Sports.

Abraham, Sancho and Ben Chilwell missed the Wales game after they breached coronavirus regulations by attending a party at Abraham’s London flat.

Southgate says he has now drawn a line under that incident.

“Tammy and Jadon both trained this morning, so everybody is available,” said Southgate.

“They’ve obviously missed a bit of training, so that’s a concern in terms of their load through the week.

“But that situation is done, they’re back with the group and we move forward.”

Speaking about Chilwell, who will not play against Belgium due to a non-Covid-related illness, Southgate said: “Ben will be tested today (Saturday) and we will have to wait for the results of that tomorrow and then we can make a decision.”

Rashford awarded MBE for services to vulnerable children

Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford has been awarded an MBE for services to vulnerable children in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours list was due to be published in June, but was pushed back to enable nominations for people playing crucial roles during the first months of the crisis.

Rashford, 22, successfully lobbied the Government into a U-turn over its free school meals policy during lockdown, ensuring children in need would receive meals across the summer.

“Firstly it’s an amazing achievement,” said Southgate. “Wonderful for him and his family but he didn’t start this project to get recognition. It’s something he had been affected by and cared passionately about.

“For someone of his age to be able to make the difference he has is a phenomenal achievement. We’re all very proud of him.

“We gave him a special round of applause this morning. As a group we’re very close, we’ve watched him grow up, even though he’s still only 22. You can only marvel at what he’s achieved and the difference he’s made.”

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Gareth Bale's agent tips Tottenham to battle for the Premier League

‘Tottenham have a good squad, and with his help they will get very close’: Gareth Bale’s agent tips Spurs to battle for the Premier League as he claims Welshman is still one of the best players in world football

  • Gareth Bale rejoined Tottenham on a sensational loan deal from Real Madrid
  • The Welshman agreed a deal to go back to Spurs for around £13million-a-year
  • His agent, Jonathan Barnett, believes Bale can make a huge difference for Spurs 
  • Bale has yet to feature for Tottenham since rejoining due to a knee injury 

Gareth Bale’s agent believes the Welsh winger can make such a difference for Tottenham that they will fight for the Premier League title this season.

Bale rejoined Tottenham in a sensational loan move from Real Madrid this summer, after agreeing a deal to return to north London for around £13million.

Bale has yet to feature for Spurs second time round as he continues to step up his return to fitness following a knee injury, but Jonathan Barnett believes Jose Mourinho’s side will be a different animal when he finally steps back onto the pitch.

Gareth Bale is waiting for his second Tottenham debut after being sidelined with knee injury

When asked about Bale’s ambitions during his second stint at Tottenham, Barnett told Sky Sports: ‘Win the Premier League, without a doubt.

‘Tottenham have got a good squad, a great coach and with Gareth’s help I’m sure they will get very close. You only have to see the results from last week to see that it’s open.

‘It kills me to say that because I’m an Arsenal supporter, but that’s the reality.

‘He has nothing to prove to anybody. He’s won more than anybody else. He was one of the best three or four players in the world and I think he still is.

Tottenham thrashed Manchester United 6-1 last time out in the Premier League at Old Trafford

Jonathan Bartnett (above) believes Bale can help Tottenham fight for the Premier League title

‘If he succeeds, great, If not, he’s been there and done it. But, I think he will succeed.’

Bale has been given a chance to get his career back on track after falling massively out of favour under Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid.

The Welshman claimed four Champions League trophies, and two La Liga titles during his time in the Spanish capital, but only played a bit-part role last season as Madrid secured domestic glory after failing to secure a move away last summer.

But now he will be desperate to reignite his career under Mourinho at Spurs after watching on from the sidelines at Madrid.

Bale enjoyed brilliant individual success at Spurs before joining Real Madrid back in 2013




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Luka Modric defends Gareth Bale's Real Madrid spell, says he spoke Spanish with team-mates

Luka Modric has defended Gareth Bale’s seven-year spell at Real Madrid and insisted he should be remembered for his “extraordinary” influence at the club.

Bale has returned to Tottenham on a season-long loan from Real, ending – for now – speculation regarding the 31-year-old’s future after a turbulent few years in the Spanish capital.

The forward fell out of favour with head coach Zinedine Zidane, and was close to joining Chinese side Jiangsu Suning last summer before enduring his poorest season at Real in terms of minutes played in 2019-20.

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Real went on to win La Liga, Bale’s second league title on top of four Champions League trophies, and Modric says the “shy” Welshman’s contribution has been forgotten in recent years.

“I have spent a lot of time with Gareth, almost all of my professional career: four years at Tottenham and seven years here. What I can say about Gareth is that he’s an amazing guy,” Modric, who joined Real from Spurs a year earlier than Bale in 2012, told COPE.

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“He’s a little bit shy, his personality is very similar to mine. What has been said about him lately is not fair, maybe he’s judged for the last few years, but what he did in Madrid is extraordinary.

“For me he’s always going to be remembered as a player who did a lot for this team, for this club. A lot of things have been said, but Gareth never had any issue with anyone in the dressing room, he’s a wonderful guy.

“He spoke Spanish, for example, he did not give any interviews, but in the dressing room he would joke a little bit and he talked with us, and everybody was really happy with him really. But for sure, in the last few years a few things came up and maybe they forgot what he’s done for this club. But in a few years’ time he will be remembered as an incredible player, an important player for Real Madrid.

“Everybody has his own behaviour, and does things their own way. Gareth was like that, he would not really connect with the rest of us but I’m telling you, it was really good to have him in the changing room and I’m very sorry that everything he’s done has been forgotten in the past year.”

Bale joined Madrid from Spurs in what was a world-record £86m transfer back in 2013, and he went on to score a stunning winner against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final a year later.

A month later in 2014 Bale scored in the 4-1 Champions League final win over Atletico Madrid, their first European triumph in 12 years.

On top of two league titles, Bale added three more Champions League medals to his collection, the last of which saw him score twice – including a stunning overhead kick – when coming off the bench in Real’s 3-1 win over Liverpool.

Could Bale stay at Spurs?

Last month Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett admitted his client’s career in Madrid had effectively come to a close.

Asked if Bale could stay at Spurs beyond his one-season loan, Barnett told talkSPORT: “Yeah, there are lots of opportunities; it’s up to him.

“The most important thing is for him to enjoy his football and that he’s playing well. As long as that’s happening, it’ll all be fine.

“He’s a mature man now and he knows what he wants out of life.

“He’s probably the most successful footballer Britain has ever produced, and there’s lots of things he still wants to do with his life, so we’ll have to wait and see.”

International Break? Not For Super 6!

During the brief international break, there is still £250,000 up for grabs with Super 6. Play for free, entries by 3pm Saturday.

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