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What's it like when Steph Curry shows up at a pickup game? 'Even the adults were screaming'

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What's it like when Steph Curry shows up at a pickup game? 'Even the adults were screaming'

It started like any other pickup basketball game at an open gym — players sweating on the court, others waiting on the sidelines and spectators casually observing. Jessica Brogan, who had attended similar practice-like sessions with her two hoops-hungry sons, said it began as a “normal open run.”

However, on this particular Saturday, there was unusual electricity in the air at the Life Time gym in Folsom, Calif., as rumors circulated in the greater Sacramento community that a global basketball star was in town and might swing by. Still, there was reason to doubt it.

“I didn’t even tell my kids about it because I hear that kind of stuff all the time and it doesn’t pan out,” Brogan said.

Others, like Berry Roseborough IV, a basketball trainer in the area who works with college and pro players, were more sure. Roseborough received a call from Marcus Kirkland, who was organizing the session, asking him to recruit his best players because of the expected attendance of this special guest.

On the morning of June 8, Roseborough called his pupils in town without revealing too much, just enough.

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“You’ll probably be mad if you miss it,” Damarion Vann-Kelly said Berry told him.

Vann-Kelly had a hunch, one that grew after Kent Bazemore — a G League player who spent 10 seasons in the NBA — walked in. About 10 minutes after Bazemore arrived and with a game underway, the screams began: It’s Curry. It’s Curry.

“All the little kids are screaming,” Vann-Kelly said. “Even the adults were screaming.”

Sure enough, Stephen Curry, wearing a light gray hoodie pulled over his head, walked in.

“I look up while we’re playing and I’m like — excuse my language — but, ‘Oh s—, Steph just walked through the doors,’ ” Roseborough said. “And you could feel it. … You feel all the energy in the gym radiating. Everybody’s almost in shock.”

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Brogan looked at her sons’ faces. Braxton, 13, turned red when he noticed the four-time NBA champion, and Easton, 10, grew wide-eyed and broke into an ear-to-ear smile when he realized it was Curry stretching nearby, she said.

It’s not unheard of for NBA players to join amateur pickup games as a way for them to stay tuned up, especially during the league’s offseason. Players with college and pro experience, including Bazemore, regularly attend the runs Kirkland organizes in the Sacramento area. The two met at a gym in 2022 and stayed in touch, according to Kirkland, bonding over a shared love of basketball and a desire to pass that love on to others in their community.

Bazemore encouraged Curry, who was in the area for his daughter’s youth volleyball tournament, to drop by the gym, Kirkland said. Curry, whose NBA season ended in April with the Warriors’ Play-In Tournament loss to the Sacramento Kings, will make his Olympic debut at the Paris Games next month as the United States men go for their fifth straight gold medal.

“We’ve had a lot of (NBA players) come to our runs but never anyone of the caliber of Stephen Curry,” Roseborough said. “That was like ‘Wow.’ ”

Brogan called it a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” for her family.

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During a roughly two-hour session, Curry put on a masterclass. He and Bazemore teamed up, playing five-on-five against Kirkland, Vann-Kelly, Roseborough and others. Brogan and her sons watched in awe along with a growing crowd that became so large that security asked people to leave, she said.

Naturally, Curry delivered. Roseborough said he noticed Curry’s pace and how simple his game is.

“He didn’t do anything more than he needed to do in that moment,” Roseborough said. “His pickups — basically how you pick up the ball before you get into your shot — they were just so fast like you couldn’t even see them.

“Then his release. He’s getting his shot off in, had to have been, .3 seconds or less. It doesn’t matter if it’s contested. It looks the same every time. It’s coming off the same finger every time.”

Added Vann-Kelly, 17, a 6-foot-5 guard with Division I and pro aspirations and a recent graduate of Monterey Trail High: “He was making all of them. It was nothing but net. How (Curry) attacks, you can just tell why he’s at the pro level. All his moves are perfected. He has great patience, great skill overall.”

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During one game, after Curry crossed up Kirkland for a step-back 3-pointer that rimmed out, Curry got the ball back off a pass and then made the game-winning 3 on his next attempt. He reflexively celebrated with his iconic “night night” gesture. A clip of the moment, shot by Brogan and posted to her Instagram, went viral.

“He’s a generational player, his IQ,” Kirkland said. “He’s just different.”


Markus Kirkland guards NBA icon Stephen Curry during a pickup game in Folsom, Calif., on June 8. (Courtesy of Markus Kirkland)

But it wasn’t only Curry’s viral shots and elite ballhandling that left the gym buzzing. He impressed in another sense, according to those who were there. They noted how Curry introduced himself to each player and shook their hands. He asked for their names and told them not to be nervous.

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“Guys were trying to give him the ball so he could do all the scoring and he was telling them, like, ‘No, we play team basketball. We’re not gonna play like that,’ ” Roseborough said. “He was actually setting up other guys to score. He was giving confidence to the players and other people that were there.”

After a series of eight or nine games — largely dominated by Curry and Bazemore, Kirkland said — the two took photos with the other players and the kids Kirkland invited to watch, including Brogan’s sons.

“He just made everybody around the building feel good,” Roseborough said. “He made everybody that was in there feel comfortable. And that was crazy to me, just how his energy really affected everybody in the building that much.”

(Top photo of Steph Curry and Kent Bazemore with other players: Courtesy of Marcus Kirkland)

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Coco Gauff to be flag bearer for Team USA at Paris Olympics

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Coco Gauff to be flag bearer for Team USA at Paris Olympics

Coco Gauff will become the first tennis player in history to act as Team USA flag bearer when she joins LeBron James at the opening ceremony for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Gauff, 20, is the world No. 2 and defending U.S. Open champion. She will also become the youngest American flag bearer in Olympic history, overtaking Cindy Nelson, who fulfilled the role at the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Games in Austria.

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Gauff is representing Team USA in the women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles, joining world No. 6 Jessica Pegula in the women’s doubles and men’s No. 11 Taylor Fritz in the mixed event.

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She had initially been selected to play in the Tokyo Games, but a COVID-19 diagnosis forced her to sit out in 2021.

The favorite for the singles title is world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who has won the last three French Open titles at Stade Roland Garros in Paris, the venue for the Olympic tennis events. Swiatek has an 11-1 head-to-head record against Gauff, including a recent victory in the semifinals of this year’s French Open in June.

Gauff, who won the women’s doubles title at that tournament with partner Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, will hope to defeat her during the Games, where Siniakova will play with Wimbledon champion and 10-time doubles Grand Slam winner Barbora Krejcikova.

The draws for the tennis events will take place Thursday at 11 a.m. in Paris/5 a.m. ET.

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'Bleak', 'Gutting', 'Disastrous': What was your Premier League club's worst transfer window and why?

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'Bleak', 'Gutting', 'Disastrous': What was your Premier League club's worst transfer window and why?

When transfer windows go right, they can set a manager and a team up for a successful season or kick off a new era.

When they go wrong, however, they can go very wrong.

From the early departures of managers after a disappointing summer to relegations or even financial turmoil, a disappointing transfer window can prove disastrous for clubs.

Having already brought you our selection of the best transfer windows for each club last week, now it’s time to look at those that didn’t quite work out so well.


Get the latest transfer news on The Athletic¬

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Worst window: Summer 2015

If there was a window to sum up the frustrations with Arsenal’s passivity in the market it was summer 2015, when their only signing was a 33-year-old goalkeeper.

Though that goalkeeper was Petr Cech — who later kept 16 clean sheets to win the Golden Glove — the 2015-16 campaign was one of opportunity. Arsenal’s traditional rivals faltered and they finished second, 10 points behind Leicester City and there has always been a thought of ‘what if’ had they invested in even one outfield player that summer.

A close runner-up is the summer window of 2011. Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy — all entering their mid-20s — left despite being vital parts of Arsene Wenger’s side. Arsenal then signed Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and although their deadline-day dash brought Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker, it was a scattergun end to a gutting summer.

Art de Roché

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Should Arsenal have gone stronger in summer 2015? (Ian Kington/AFP via Getty Images)

Worst window: Summer 2015

The summer of 2015 was when everything went wrong. The season started — and basically ended — in Bournemouth on the opening day, where new signing Rudy Gestede scored the only goal to give Villa three points and the only sense of optimism in an altogether horrendous campaign, finishing rank bottom with 17 points.

That opening-day win served as a false dawn, with Micah Richards captain and one of 12 new signings that joined. Gestede came and went, the three Jordans — Ayew, Veretout and Amavi — became annoyingly good once they left Villa, as did a young Adama Traore.

Scott Sinclair was already on the slide and Joleon Lescott’s time at Villa would be known for his apparent accidental tweeting of a new car immediately after relegation was sealed. Idrissa Gueye was the only solid buy. A bleak summer.

Jacob Tanswell

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Worst window: Summer 2022

Bournemouth’s hit rate since their first promotion to the Premier League in 2015 has been good, based on recruiting unearthed gems and, recently, young talent from abroad.

Still, Scott Parker’s brief top-flight stay in 2022 was littered with in-fighting and squabbles over recruitment, exacerbated by the ownership flux, with incoming owner Bill Foley waiting to be rubber-stamped.

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It meant Parker had what he viewed as little support in the market, claiming his side were “under-equipped”. Goalkeeper Neto and midfielder Joe Rothwell signed for free, while resources stretched to sign Marcus Tavernier and Marcos Senesi — two good players who are flourishing under Andoni Iraola, but not who Parker wanted.

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Jacob Tanswell


Worst window: Summer 2022

Fans thought the 2020 window had been a disaster after Brentford lost the Championship play-off final to their west London rivals Fulham and then sold Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma. But Ivan Toney and Vitaly Janelt arrived and Brentford finished the season by winning the play-offs so it looks far better in hindsight.

The reverse logic could be applied to 2022. Keane Lewis-Potter, Aaron Hickey and Mikkel Damsgaard were signed for around £45million ($58.1m at today’s conversion rates) combined but injuries and dips in form mean they have not shown their best. Thomas Strakosha arrived as competition for David Raya but left after two years having made more appearances for Albania (12) than Brentford during that time (six). Ben Mee joined for free but Christian Eriksen turned down a contract to join Manchester United.

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It may be too soon to definitively call this their worst window in history but it certainly stands out as being below par by Brentford’s lofty standards over the last decade.

Jay Harris


Worst window: January 2018

Brighton’s business has not always been as good as it has been in the majority of recent windows.

The outcomes were sketchy when they were still finding their feet as a Premier League club after promotion in 2017.

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In January 2018, they splashed out around £14million on Jurgen Locadia, a club-record outlay at that time. The forward proved a big disappointment, playing only 46 games and scoring six goals. Brighton make big annual profits now, but they were still incurring substantial losses back then, so it was a costly mistake.


Jurgen Locadia was a club-record signing at the time (Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

The same was true of Alireza Jahanbakhsh in the summer of 2018 for £17million from AZ Alkmaar, but fans still fondly recall the Iran winger’s overhead kick against Chelsea. Also, his arrival was accompanied by Yves Bissouma and Jason Steele.

Andy Naylor


Chelsea

Worst window: Summer 2017

The disastrous summer of 2017 still sparks shudders in Chelsea supporters.

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Fresh from winning the Premier League title, Antonio Conte felt he had earned a big voice in Chelsea’s recruitment. He submitted a list of high-profile targets that included Romelu Lukaku, Virgil van Dijk, Alex Sandro, Radja Nainggolan and Kyle Walker.

Chelsea tried to bring Lukaku back from Everton but were outflanked by Jose Mourinho and Manchester United, before pivoting to Alvaro Morata of Real Madrid. Conte also had to settle for Davide Zappacosta (Torino), Tiemoue Bakayoko (Monaco) and Danny Drinkwater (Leicester City), with the latter pair becoming liabilities long before they were released as free agents.


Danny Drinkwater was among Chelsea’s 2017 signings (Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images)

The sale of Nemanja Matic to United for £40million aged well but deprived Conte of vital midfield experience. The club also took a loss on sending Juan Cuadrado back to Serie A and sold Nathan Ake to Bournemouth for £20million — much less than his peak transfer value.

Liam Twomey


Worst window: Summer 2017

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A memorable window for all the wrong reasons with Palace’s new manager Frank de Boer sacked 10 days after it closed, just four games into the Premier League season — all of which his team lost, all without scoring.

Mamadou Sakho joined from Liverpool for £26million after an excellent loan spell in the second half of 2016-17 but was unable to reach those same levels again. Jairo Riedewald arrived from Ajax for £8m, and although he proved to be an excellent mentor for the club’s younger players, his contribution on the pitch was limited. He did, however, spend seven seasons at Palace covering various positions and made 106 appearances in all competitions.

Midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek impressed to such an extent on a season’s loan from Chelsea that he made the England squad for the following summer’s World Cup, but Timothy Fosu-Mensah struggled at right-back after being loaned from Manchester United.

The squad had been insufficiently strengthened in this window but De Boer’s replacement Roy Hodgson was still able to guide them to an 11th-place finish.

Matt Woosnam

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Everton

Worst window: Summer 2017

There is an obvious answer here for anyone who follows Everton; one that shines a light on the glaring dysfunction of the Farhad Moshiri years.

Let’s go back to the summer of 2017 and the arrival of not one, not two… not even three… but four No 10s in the form of Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klaassen and Nikola Vlasic.

Mad, right? Well, that’s what happens when so many different people are feeding into the recruitment process — owners, board members, managers and other staff — and each one gets a pick. The bizarre splurge left Ronald Koeman’s side lacking balance — particularly out wide — and also led to financial problems later on.

A case study on how not to do your recruitment.

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Patrick Boyland


Davy Klaassen failed to impress (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Fulham

Worst window: Summer 2012

There have been some bad windows at Craven Cottage in recent years.

The summer of 2015 did bring Tim Ream, Tom Cairney and Ryan Fredericks, but it also brought nine other new players, the most notable of which was Jamie O’Hara. January 2014, meanwhile, saw a record fee spent on a striker, Kostas Mitroglou, who would play only 151 minutes (three appearances, zero goals) in the club’s unsuccessful fight against relegation.

But the winner here is the one at the start of the 2012-13 season.

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It set in motion a tricky decade, as Fulham sold Clint Dempsey and Mousa Dembele, their crown jewels at that time, to Tottenham Hotspur and their only signing that paid off was Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian striker was a popular addition, but on his own couldn’t stem the tide.

This window marked the start of a downward spiral which would end in relegation the following season, and then four years in the Championship.

Peter Rutzler


Worst window: Summer 2020

Both of Ipswich’s summer windows pre-relegation featured costly mistakes: in 2001, destabilising a unified squad, and in 2018, replacing Championship players on the cheap with those of predominantly League One quality.

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But for the sheer volume of underwhelming signings, the 2020 summer transfer window takes it.

After ending the previous season 11th in League One — the club’s lowest finish since 1953 — just three permanent signings were made. David Cornell, Oliver Hawkins and Stephen Ward on free transfers in a feeble attempt to escape the third tier.

Only Ward became a regular and striker Hawkins managed just a single goal. All three left the club after one season.

Ali Rampling


Leicester City

Worst window: Summer 2021

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After just missing out on Champions League qualification in the previous two seasons, Leicester were looking to push to the next level as 2021-22 approached.

The business they did that summer may not have set the wheels in motion for a decline which brought relegation less than two years later, but it certainly was a factor. A total of £55million went on Patson Daka, Jannik Vestergaard and Boubakary Soumare, while Ryan Bertrand joined on a free.

Besides a few promising moments, striker Daka has not had the impact expected, and midfielder Soumare has also been a disappointment. Denmark international centre-back Vestergaard looked at first to be a disaster of a signing until his performances in the Championship last season earned him a new contract. Champions League winner and former England international Bertrand’s spell at Leicester was a mishap, due mostly to injuries, and he retired this summer aged 34.

The reality for clubs of Leicester’s stature is they must be prudent in recruitment and reinvest after selling a major asset. They cannot afford to get it wrong.

In summer 2021, when they didn’t sell a major asset, that’s exactly what happened.

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Rob Tanner


Worst window: Summer 2010

Rewind 14 years to the 2010-11 pre-season, and Liverpool were in a mess. Rafael Benitez’s reign had just ended, debts were piling up under the hated ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, and fan protests were gathering pace.

Liverpool appointed Roy Hodgson as manager at the start of July and, with money tight, what followed proved to be a dreadful transfer window.

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The hype that surrounded signing Joe Cole on a free transfer from Chelsea proved misplaced, as the England midfielder flopped badly. Milan Jovanovic was another free-agent arrival that summer who ended up costing Liverpool a fortune in wages.

The names Christian Poulsen (£4.5million from Juventus) and Paul Konchesky (a reported £3.5m from Fulham) still send a shiver down a Kopite’s spine as they struggled badly and looked completely out of their depth.

Raul Meireles (£11.5million from Porto) was the only one of the new arrivals to give the club any kind of return on their investment.

It was all too much for star midfielder Javier Mascherano as he pushed through a move to Barcelona before the deadline. You could hardly blame him.

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James Pearce


Paul Konchesky was one of Liverpool’s stranger signings (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Worst window: Summer 2012

City famously built on their 2011-12 Premier League title by bringing in Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell, Matija Nastasic, Scott Sinclair and Maicon.

In fairness to them, this was the same summer they also tried to sign both Robin van Persie from Arsenal, losing out to Manchester United, and Eden Hazard of Lille, who chose new European champions Chelsea instead.

City were clearly trying to put the hammer down and cement their place at the top of English football (not to mention the fact that a few months later they were pushing hard to bring in Pep Guardiola from Barcelona as manager, not long after Roberto Mancini’s finest hour).

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They obviously felt the signings they did make in that window, including two young English players seen as having bags of potential, would be able to take the club forward, but none of the moves worked out and summer 2012 has gone down in history as a missed opportunity.

Sam Lee


Jack Rodwell’s move to City did not work out (Paul Thomas/Getty Images)

Manchester United

Worst window: Summer 2013

It’s the obvious answer. Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill, the chief executive, had both departed at the end of the 2012-13 title-winning season. David Moyes had arrived from Everton as the new manager. Thiago Alcantara, Leighton Baines and Ander Herrera (who they did sign a year later) were pursued but eventually fumbled before Marouane Fellaini arrived on deadline day… for £4million more than the £23m release clause which ran out a month earlier.

A special mention to the summer(ish) window of 2020-21.

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Disrupted by Covid-19 and a mere 35-day gap between completing one season and beginning another, United pushed and pushed and pushed for Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, but to no avail. Instead, Edinson Cavani, Donny van de Beek, Alex Telles and Facundo Pellistri arrived in an assorted grab-bag.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did well in the season that followed, with United runners-up in the Premier League and Europa League, League Cup semi-finalists and reaching the last eight of the FA Cup, but the club missed a crucial opportunity to back their manager while rivals were in a mild state of flux.

Carl Anka


Worst window: Summer 1997

John Barnes. Stuart Pearce. Ian Rush. How is that a bad window? Because this was 1997, not 1990. Barnes was 33, Pearce was 35 and Rush was 35.

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Far worse windows (summer and winter windows were introduced in 2002) were to come in terms of talent, but this was the tipping point for the next two decades: the Kevin Keegan bubble had burst, replaced by Kenny Dalglish’s stultifying pragmatism. Jon Dahl Tomasson and Shay Given also arrived, but out went David Ginola and Les Ferdinand, and Alan Shearer had a long-term injury.

The boom was over, contraction taking hold, a club being deflated like a soiled airbed after a festival.


John Barnes joined Newcastle at the wrong end of the 1990s (Clive Brunskill /Allsport via Getty Images)

Pearce was fine, and Barnes played in all but one of Newcastle’s Champions League matches, including the 3-2 win against Barcelona. Barnes was also Newcastle’s top scorer in the league, but with just six goals — the Entertainers had been thoroughly dismantled.

The Champions League run ended at the group stage and Newcastle finished 13th in the Premier League. Joylessness loomed. The sad cherry on top? Signing Paul Dalglish. Nice work if you can get it, which you can if your dad’s the manager.

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Andrew Hankinson


Worst window: January 2020

Before Cooper, there was Sabri Lamouchi. The old line about being able to cope with the despair but it’s the hope you can’t stand, was perfectly encapsulated for Forest fans by the 2019-20 season.

Under Lamouchi, Forest enjoyed a brilliant first half of that season. There were a few dips here and there but, by the end of January, they were not just ensconced in the unfamiliar surrounds of the play-off places, but knocking on the door of the automatics too. The first XI was good, but the thing that might have pushed them over the line was a few quality additions that January.

It would be unfair to blame the players who did arrive for the eventual collapse that would see them miss out on the play-offs in that Covid-interrupted season. But it did feel fitting that one of them, the striker Nuno da Costa, scored an own goal in the 4-1 home defeat to Stoke on the final day, which drove a stake through the already pretty dead heart of Forest’s promotion hopes.

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Nick Miller


Worst window: January 2018

Six words from January 2018 that are enough to bring back nightmares: Southampton sign Guido Carrillo for £19million.

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A few years on from the dreamy days of beating Inter Milan in the Europa League and Southampton’s infamous black box seemed to be faltering. Locked in a relegation battle under Mauricio Pellegrino — remember him? (Sorry for the reminder, these were desperate times.)

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Needless to say, striker Carrillo, the only arrival in that window despite the sale of Virgil van Dijk, was not the answer. He scored zero goals at a cost of £1.9million per appearance.

Nancy Froston


Tottenham

Worst window: Summer 2013

Supporters had to deal with the pain of waving goodbye to Gareth Bale in 2013 and, to make matters worse, Tottenham wasted the £85million they received from Real Madrid. Roberto Soldado scored 24 times for Valencia in La Liga during the 2012-13 season, which is more than he managed (16) across 76 appearances for Spurs in all competitions.

Erik Lamela is a cult hero but never truly fulfilled his potential following a £30million move from Roma. Paulinho lasted two years before he moved to China after barely making an impact. Nacer Chadli was a useful option from the bench but Etienne Capoue and Vlad Chiriches struggled.

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Apart from Lamela, the only other signing who qualified as a success was Christian Eriksen. He spent seven distinguished years with Spurs and was part of the team that came close to winning the Champions League in 2019.

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Jay Harris


Worst window: Summer 2022

In the summer of 2022, West Ham spent £165million on Gianluca Scamacca, Lucas Paqueta, Emerson Palmieri, Thilo Kehrer, Maxwel Cornet, Flynn Downes, Alphonse Areola and Nayef Aguerd — the most they had spent in a window.

But integrating eight players into the team proved difficult for manager David Moyes, which led to West Ham losing five of their first seven league games.

Scamacca and Kehrer have since joined Atalanta and Monaco respectively, Cornet has been an underwhelming signing, while West Ham are open to offers for Aguerd and Downes could rejoin Southampton having returned from his season-long loan. Only Paqueta, Palmieri and Areola have improved the side.

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Roshane Thomas


Worst window: Summer 2011

It may seem difficult to beat the summer of 2022, when Wolves spent a combined £80million on Matheus Nunes, Goncalo Guedes and Nathan Collins. But at least that side avoided relegation.

Eleven years earlier came a window just as poor but with worse consequences as Wolves broke up the limited but spirited squad Mick McCarthy had built and signed the higher-profile duo of Roger Johnson and Jamie O’Hara.

It was supposed to take the club to the next level — but the next level was down. Two relegations in two seasons were the result of disturbing the dressing-room dynamic.

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Steve Madeley

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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'Take your time, you d*ck': 15 years of defending and deserving Andy Murray

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'Take your time, you d*ck': 15 years of defending and deserving Andy Murray

This feature has been updated upon Andy Murray’s confirmation that the Paris Olympics will be his final tennis tournament.


Andy Murray made you care.

That was his superpower. There were better players in his era; there were more stylish ones. But none possessed the ability to make you invest emotionally in their matches as much as Murray did.

As someone British, and the same age as Murray, I probably would have felt a degree of kinship however he’d played. But it went a lot deeper than that.

When he arrived on the scene as a scruffy 18-year-old in 2005, Murray seemed to experience tennis as I’d always experienced it: as an unbelievably frustrating sport that seemed almost designed to wind you up. Murray would moan and berate himself and do all the things that felt to me entirely natural. Why wouldn’t you scream in anguish after missing a shot you knew you should have made? That wasn’t odd. Even saying “Take your time, you d**k” after missing a serve, as Murray once did, wasn’t that odd to me. It was everyone else who was odd, somehow pretending that they were OK when they messed up.

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Andy Murray’s emotions on court were part of his magnetism (Elsa/Getty Images)

Defending Murray against accusations of dourness, rudeness, and surliness that arose from his on-court demeanour became a bit of a passion of mine around this time. The fact a lot of people didn’t get him only made me get him even more and when those anti-Murray views became more entrenched after he joked that he would be supporting “anyone but England” at the 2006 World Cup, so did my defence of him.

For me, very much a committed England supporter, comments like this just showed off his dry sense of humour and his ability not to take the media circus too seriously. On the court, his complete determination, raw emotions and supreme athleticism added to his appeal — even if the habit that he could never kick of berating his team was a bit much. Murray was not perfect, but that was kind of the point — throughout it all, he was a potent combination of the superhuman and the relatable.

When we thought Murray was about to retire in 2019, friends reminded me of my habit from the mid-to-late 2000s: spending student nights out earnestly trying to explain to unsuspecting revellers why Andy Murray was misunderstood. In the same period, I remember making this point to a woman in Bedford who was trotting out the usual lines about how rude and boring he was. Eventually I relented, but in my mind, she had shown her true colours: how one felt towards Murray was a genuine bellwether for me about what they were really like. If you were unable to look beyond the lazy tropes about him, then that was you pretty much written off.


Murray beamed around the world during Wimbledon 2009 (Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

On the flipside, bonds were strengthened with those people who could see how great and thoughtful Murray really was. “If you don’t like Andy Murray then we can’t be friends” became a good mantra to live by.

Clearly, this was all unhinged. But that’s the thing: Andy Murray made you care.

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Fifty Shades of Andy Murray


Now, England have reached another final and fallen at the last, and Murray has said farewell to Wimbledon after withdrawing from the singles tournament and making one last appearance with his brother Jamie in the doubles. He’ll play his final tennis tournament at the Paris Olympic Games, and I’ll no longer feel that I have to convince all and sundry of how special he is.

On those student nights and in my early days as a real adult at the end of the 2000s, it was apparent that Murray, a phenomenally talented player in his own right, had been dealt a hand of almost unprecedented difficulty. He was competing with two of the best players of all time in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal; with Novak Djokovic, who was emerging and about to go supersonic; and with the weight of British tennis history growing heavier and heavier as his talent sharpened and the margins got finer. Murray was not a demigod like the elegant Federer or the muscular Nadal, but rather a man, growing into his ill-fitting clothes and trying to compete with them. Murray played the role of the outsider giving absolutely everything to stay on their otherworldly level perfectly.

At times he resembled Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in The Revenant, snarling and battling in the wilderness to stay alive, only for another terrifying beast to jump out at him moments later. And we were right there, living it with him. I remember watching his miraculous recovery against Richard Gasquet at Wimbledon in 2008 from the corporate marquee at the tournament where I was supposed to be working. Seven months later I stayed up until around 4am to see him lose to Fernando Verdasco in five sets at the Australian Open, in one of those infuriatingly tetchy and drawn-out defeats he would sometimes suffer at that time.


Andy Murray after his 2010 Australian Open defeat to Roger Federer (Jon Buckle/PA Images via Getty Images)

As he grew as a player, he was belatedly winning the hearts and minds that I couldn’t in those university nightclubs. Before he was crying on Centre Court at Wimbledon — as he delivered the “I’m getting closer” line that would become prophetic after losing the 2012 final to Roger Federer — he was crying in the Rod Laver Arena in Australia after losing to the same opponent in that final in 2010. “I had great support back home in the last couple of weeks, sorry I couldn’t do it for you tonight,” Murray said.

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“I can cry like Roger, it’s just a shame I can’t play like him.”

It was winning the 2012 Olympic gold medal — avenging his Wimbledon defeat to Federer on the same court — that secured him a place in most peoples’ hearts. He could soon and suddenly do little wrong, winning his first major at the US Open a month after the Olympic triumph, then ending Britain’s 77-year wait for a Wimbledon men’s champion the following summer, putting everybody watching through an excruciating final game. Speaking in Andy Murray: Will to Win, a new BBC documentary, he explains how much Wimbledon meant to him, but also to everybody watching him.

“After I won it was just relief,” he says. “It was my most important match, as I believe if I was sitting here today having not won Wimbledon, then everything else I achieved in my career wouldn’t matter.”

Another Wimbledon title and another Olympic gold, plus the Davis Cup and the world No 1 ranking, followed in the next few years. He was Team GB’s flag bearer at the 2016 Rio Olympics and between 2013 and 2016, Murray won three out of four BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards — voted for by the public and a sign of the complete transformation of perceptions about his, well, personality.


The Scot claimed his second gold by beating Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in four sets (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Murray had well and truly gone mainstream.

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Sometimes doing that can bring out the worst in people, but Murray used his greater profile to talk about issues that mattered to him. Like gender equality, about which he has spoken frequently — including when he took the then and still unconventional step of appointing a female coach in Amelie Mauresmo, before defending her from the misogynistic criticism that followed.

He was also a great support to his compatriots, practising with them, offering advice, watching their matches even if it was late and cold and he was playing the following day. A couple of weeks ago, a day after suffering a bad injury at Queen’s, he was courtside watching the Scottish 17-year-old Charlie Robertson playing pre-Wimbledon qualifiers. In 2016, a few days after winning his second Wimbledon title, Murray flew to Belgrade to join up with the British Davis Cup team for their tie against Serbia. He was in no state to play, but there he was, cheering on his mates and acting as ball-boy in training.


On a personal level, I was now covering tennis professionally, getting to see Murray up close after following him from a distance. Never meet your heroes? Not so much. Murray was generally extremely impressive with the media and I was sat a few seats away when he reminded a journalist that only no American “male player” had reached a Grand Slam semi-final since 2009. Murray called out others, like commentator John Inverdale at the Rio Olympics, for similar slip-ups around the Williams sisters, eventually playing with Serena herself in the Wimbledon mixed doubles in 2019.

That “male player” line came after Sam Querrey beat Murray in the 2017 Wimbledon quarter-finals and the defeat represented the end of one chapter and the beginning of another for the Scot. Murray was the world No 1 at the time and a shoo-in for the closing stages of Grand Slams, but his hip was damaged beyond repair and Murray would never be the same again.

The next time he played was 11 months later, ranked No 156, post-first hip operation and with his movement hugely hampered. He tried and failed to get fit for Wimbledon and six months later was so broken at the 2019 Australian Open that he revealed that the end could be nigh. The event even put on a retirement celebration for him. Murray wasn’t quite done though and after a hip resurfacing operation, he came back and somehow won an ATP title nine months later in Antwerp.

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Since then there’s been a lot of struggle and it’s sobering to think of how long Murray has been so physically disadvantaged. It’s seven years since the first hip injury in 2017, barely shorter than the eight-year period when he was reaching major finals. For people of a decent age, the only Murray they’ll really remember is the one of the last few years, raging against the dying of the light and unable to have another deep run at a Grand Slam tournament — the third round is his best progress since 2017.

Winning that title in Antwerp with a hip replacement still has to rank as one of the outstanding achievements of his career and last summer he then climbed to a highest-ever post-operation ranking of No 36, which is a remarkable achievement considering the depth of talent and athleticism on the tour.

He still managed to produce one last mind-bending win at a Grand Slam — the epic, near six-hour, five-set comeback against Thanasi Kokkinakis at last year’s Australian Open, which finished after 4am local time and exemplified everything that made Murray who he was on a court. He had what felt like a magnetic attraction to drama; only two days earlier, he had been involved in another marathon win, this time over Matteo Berrettini, saving a match point in a contest that lasted more than four and a half hours.

Murray, fittingly, marked the Kokkinakis win with both a point of truly impossible defence and a soundbite for the ages: “It’s so disrespectful that the tournament has us out here until three, f****** four in the morning and we’re not allowed to take a piss.”

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“The GOAT when it comes to pure WTFery” I called Murray at this time, and at this point covering football, not tennis, my phone lit up with messages from fellow Murray acolytes during the Kokkinakis match saying, “Are you watching this?”

Many others would have been sending and receiving similar messages because this was what Murray did. He brought people together, united by a feeling of being part of a club that had always loved and understood him when others didn’t. Of messaging one another in the early hours when he was playing in Australia or the U.S. and asking: “You still watching?”

Of course we were. Just as whatever their job, so many would have been sneakily watching him playing Jordan Thompson at Queen’s hoping for some late-career fireworks. They didn’t arrive. Instead, there was more injury pain, a neural issue in his back that hampered him even walking up the stairs to the court and disappointment his many fans felt acutely as he tried once again to battle through the pain. He couldn’t recover from the subsequent surgery in time for this year’s Wimbledon.

It’s hard to imagine the sport without Murray, whose career lasted just over half my life. Players come and go all the time, but in individual sports, unlike team ones, you don’t make a decision in childhood about who you root for and then stick with it for life. You don’t know who you will have an affinity with until you watch them and often the ones you have that connection to surprise you. It’s a deeply personal thing and that’s what makes it special and powerful. People whose views you normally agree with can feel the exact opposite to you about a certain player because the chemistry is different.


The knowledge he had finally done it, after winning his first Wimbledon in 2013 (Bill Murray/SNS Group via Getty Images)

And so you find yourself arguing with them about those players in the early hours of the morning while others look at you and think, “What are you doing with your life?”

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But that’s the thing: Andy Murray makes you care.

(Top photos: Clive Brunskill, Rob Carr, Shaun Botterill / Getty Images; Design: Dan Goldfarb for The Athletic)

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