That was pathetic! Merstham boss lays into players, saying they ‘betrayed the football club’ after defeat against ten men

This piece was published in the Surrey Mirror and online on getSurrey (, while I was studying my NCTJ Diploma in London with Press Association.

An “embarrassment”, a “disgrace” and “pathetic” was how Merstham manager Hayden Bird described his side after they blew a one-goal lead against local rivals Dorking Wanderers at Moatside.

Ryan Hall had initially put the Moatsiders ahead in the 22nd minute with his seventh goal of the season after Jerome Beckles was sent off for the hosts, before Tom Tolfrey and Chris Boulter scored in the second half to give Dorking the three-points.

“I think the team were an embarrassment” said Bird. “They betrayed me, they betrayed the footballing philosophies, and from minute one to minute 93 I thought they were a disgrace.

“They didn’t play to the idea, they didn’t play to the philosophy, they ignored what they did in training and they can’t play against ten men.

“It was too appalling for me to even discuss.”

When asked about why his team had struggled to play against ten men, Bird pulled no punches. “They’re clearly not good enough” he said.

“And today they’ve been nicking a living. That’s taking a wage under false pretenses as far as I’m concerned and they’ve betrayed me, they’ve betrayed my work, and they’ve betrayed Merstham Football Club.”

Not to be drawn on what punishment, if any, will be handed out to his players or changes he will make to the side going forward, Bird slammed his side’s work ethic.

“You won’t win a league game at this level if your levels are that horrifically poor.”

Bird was also reticent to discuss the quality of the refereeing performance, something both him and Marc White seemed unhappy with throughout the game, with White receiving a talking to from the officials in the first half.

When asked, Bird said “I have my views on the referee but I don’t want to talk about the referee because there were three teams on the pitch today.

“There was Dorking, there was the referee and the linesmen, and there was Merstham, and Merstham were by far the worst team.

The only four players to escape Bird’s fury were the four unused substitutes, with the Moatsider boss blaming the rest of them entirely. “I think all of the players who played were absolutely pathetic,” he finished.


JP Moberly confident of croquet success in Australia

This was published in print and online by The Student, and is a transcript of a longer interview for which is embedded at the bottom.

If I mentioned croquet to you it’s likely that you would imagine the sport of the rich, the slightly greyer haired, and the spiritual home of Pimms and triangular sandwiches. However, you would be mistaken.

The world of Golf Croquet is cosmopolitan, global, and growing, and Edinburgh University is home to one of the world’s up-and-coming Golf Croquet players, fourth year Civil Engineering student JP Moberly who, at 22, is the world number nine in his sport.

“Although there’s a lot of imagery of cucumber sandwiches in country estates it’s actually pretty ferocious; there can be some cussing under the breath!” said Moberly, when I met him in Teviot before he flew out to Australia for the 2017 World Championships which started on 25 February.

Moberly is your typical student, originally from Durham, and doesn’t come close to into any pre-conceived stereotype of the sport he plays.

He started playing only six years ago when, at a family dinner, his godparents brought out a croquet kit instead of the traditional Easter Sunday walk. An afternoon of croquet and a Google search for his local club later and Moberly was hooked.

“The feeling when you get a hoop when you’re aiming for it, that’s a great feeling, and also when someone is right in front and you knock them out and they’re hating you for the next few minutes, that’s also a great feeling.

“It was a bit of a long shot but it turned out that Croquet Durham Club was formed three or four years before that and it was a 10-minute walk away from my house, so I went the next day and have been playing ever since.”

“Usually the first reaction I get when I tell people I play croquet is people laughing in my face, but once I start talking about it they think ‘oh that’s pretty cool’; they have no idea that there are opportunities to go play croquet on the other side of the world. To be honest I didn’t know that either.”

Moberly plays Golf Croquet rather than the more traditional version of the sport, Association Croquet; the difference between the two he likens to test and T20 cricket.

“In Association Croquet you have to get both of your balls through all of the hoops before your opponent does where you almost build a break. Whereas Golf Croquet you just have to get a certain number of hoops before your opponent does on alternating strokes. It’s a bit like comparing pool to snooker, or T20 cricket to a test match.”

This is not the first time Moberly has gone to a World Championships: in 2015 he was awarded a wildcard to play in the competition in New Zealand. He narrowly missed out on progressing past the first ‘block stage’ round, finishing fifth, where the top four of eight blocks of 10 progress to a straight knock-out competition. This time around though he is the seventh seed, off the back of a very successful 2016 season that saw him rise to inside the top 10, he is quietly confident.

“I’m feeling fairly confident, officially there are only six people more likely to win so I feel like I’ve got a chance. My first aim is to get out of the block stage,” he said.

“It is very much a confidence game, and I know it is very competitive. I know that if I play well and if I’m in the top 10 I know there are going to be a lot of other good players up there as well.”

“If I take the first few days, get a few wins, get into my stride, then yeah, I’m confident of progressing but I don’t want to shout it from the rooftops, keep it on the down-low!”

FreshAir Sport

FreshAir Sport is produced, presented and run by me. We cover the likes of professional football clubs Hearts, Hibernian, and Edinburgh City, professional Pro12 rugby club Edinburgh Rugby, professional ice hockey club Edinburgh Capitals, as well as lower level and University sport. Below is one of the live shows from late 2016.

Hearts’ Arnaud Djoum aims to make impression in Africa Cup of Nations

This was written for The Scotsman, and published in the Scotland on Sunday and online on The Scotsman’s website.

The Africa Cup of Nations is often regarded as a mere distraction by some and an inconvenient disruption by others, but this year’s edition of the competition has more chance of making an impact on Scottish fans, as it will have a representative from the SPFL at the competition.

Hearts midfielder and fans’ favourite Arnaud Djoum will be eager to make an impression following his call-up to the Cameroon squad that will face the host nation Gabon, Guinea-Bissau and Burkina Faso in Group A of the competition.

Djoum, who was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, before moving to Belgium at the age of four, had been completely off the radar of the Indomitable Lions boss Hugo Broos during a professional career that started brightly at Dutch side Roda JC.

In Holland the midfielder played more than 100 games, and gained five caps for Belgium’s youth sides, before moves to Turkish side Akhisar Belediyespor and Polish club Lech Poznan brought about a minor stagnation.

Since his arrival at Hearts in September 2015, however, his form has picked up and has brought him to the attention of Broos, Cameroon’s Belgian coach attending games at both Celtic and Aberdeen this season to personally assess the midfielder.

Three caps have since followed, and despite high-profile drop-outs from the Cameroon squad that include Liverpool’s Joel Matip and West Brom’s Allan Nyom, Djoum is there on merit rather than luck.

Former Hearts goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi will also participate in Gabon. The Algerian joined the Tynecastle club at the end of the 2005 summer transfer window when Vladimir Romanov’s funds were put to their fullest and most scattergun use (11 players were signed by the club in that window, seven on the final day, including future regulars Jose Goncalves and Bruno Aguiar).

M’Bolhi never played for Hearts, but has gone on to play almost 50 times for his country, including Algeria’s 0-0 draw with England in the 2010 World Cup, and was named man of the match for his 11-save performance when Algeria took Germany to extra time in the 2014 World Cup. He will appear in his third Africa Cup of Nations this year.

English clubs will be the heaviest hit by the competition, with 35 players from the Premier League and Championship receiving call-ups. Arsenal will be without midfielder Mohamed Elneny who joins up with Egypt, Manchester United will miss the impressive Eric Bailly who will turn out for the Ivory Coast, and Leicester City have released their star man Riyad Mahrez and 2016 signing Islam Slimani who will both appear for Algeria.

The biggest losers are Newcastle United, who will be without the talents of midfielders Mo Diame (Senegal), Christian Atsu (Ghana) and defenders Achraf Lazaar (Morocco) and Chancel Mbemba (DR Congo).

Read online here:


New world champion Nico Rosberg retires from Formula One

This piece was written for The Scotsman, and was published online. I also wrote a longer piece on Rosberg’s retirement for The Scotsman, which you can find here;

New Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg has announced his retirement from the sport with immediate effect.

The 31-year-old German won his first and only world title on Sunday at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, beating Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to the title by five points. Rosberg has said that he is not willing to make a similar sacrifice again having achieved the ultimate prize in the sport.

In a statement released on his Facebook page he said: “I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right. “This season, I tell you, it was so damn tough. I pushed like crazy in every area after the disappointments of the last two years; they fuelled my motivation to levels I had never experienced before.

“My proudest achievement in racing will always be to have won the world championship with this incredible team of people, the Silver Arrows.”

His retirement leaves an empty race seat at Mercedes that will need to be filled before pre-season testing for the 2017 season begins in Catalunya in February.

Most of the top drivers, including the likes of Sebastian Vettel, have long-term contracts with their current teams, and would cost Mercedes a lot to sign.

German youngster and Manor driver Pascal Wehrlein, who is part of the Mercedes young-driver programme, could be in line for a promotion far earlier in his career than expected.

Read here:

Penicuik archer Joe Seez wins Scotland call after title triumphs

This was published online and in print by the Edinburgh Evening News.

Penicuik Archers shooter Joe Seez is setting his sights on the Olympics after being selected to represent Scotland’s junior squad at the National Indoor Championships in Stoneleigh next month.

Seez, who recently turned 15, won both the Scottish Under-16 and Overall Boy titles at the Junior, Under-21 and Novice Scottish Archery Championships in Montrose earlier this year.

The youngster was delighted with his success, saying: “I was so happy to win the Under-16 boys title, and then to also be awarded overall junior boy was amazing. It’s incredible that I beat such strong competition.”

With Tokyo 2020 on the horizon, Joe revealed his Olympic ambitions. “I’d like to continue to shoot for Scotland, but would also like to shoot for Great Britain, travel the world and shoot in the Olympics one day.”

Joe started shooting four-and-a-half years ago when he was inspired by demonstrations at the town’s Gala Day. He now attends the Scottish Junior Archery Academy and is being coached by the University of Edinburgh’s Alistair Whittingham.

This year alone, Joe has broken two Scottish records at Under-16 level, one of which had stood for seven years.

The next major step for Seez is next month’s National Indoors where he will shoot alongside and against some of Britain’s most talented young archers.

“I’m really looking forward to the challenge of shooting against the top archers in the UK,” he added.

Read here:

Zorro inspired Viktoria wins Scottish Open fencing title

This was published online and in print by the Edinburgh Evening News.

University of Edinburgh Fencing Club swordswoman Viktoria-Luise Koch has won the Scottish Open in the Epee class.

The 22-year-old Swiss fencer beat champion Alison Timmins 15-13 in the final at Oriam to win the competition for the first time.

Koch said: “The final itself was quite exciting because it was on a big piste with dimmed lights and very eerily silent compared to the rest of day where everyone is competing around you.

“It was a fantastic event. Scottish Fencing really outdid themselves.”

Koch started fencing when she was seven after taking the sport up, inspired by their grandfather’s collection of ‘Zorro’ films. She revealed: “We used to watch the films as kids and I was a bit tomboy-ish, so I decided to try the sport and fell in love with it!”

Koch continues the success for Edinburgh University at the event after 2013 graduate Calum Johnston won the men’s Epee for a fourth consecutive year, beating Jamie Firth 15-12.

Johnston, 24, is a member of Linlithgow Fencing Club, and won the British Championship in April earlier this year. He will represent Scotland in the 5 Nations competition on November 5.

“Winning it for a fourth time is special,” said Johnston. “I think only two others have done that so to be in such exclusive company is a really great feeling.”

In the Foil class, Keith Cook won his 12th Open, while Chloe Dickson successfully retained her crown from earlier in the year, as did Stephen Rocks in the Sabre. Jennifer Sancroft won in the women’s Sabre class.

Read here: