TALKING SPORT - Ben tells it like it is

Phil Wilkinson
Phil Wilkinson

LET’S be honest, Ben Watson would find it nearly impossible to get on the wrong side of Wiganers.

This is the man who delivered an FA Cup to our town, making him – under any circumstances – all-but immune to criticism. Ever.

But today, he’s gone even higher in my estimations. Because he is telling it like it is.

We all still hope that Latics will turn their campaign around and drag themselves back into the play-off picture.

They’ve certainly got the playing squad to do so, and a manager in Malky Mackay who knows what it’s like to win promotion from the Championship. But the fact remains Latics remain rooted in the drop zone with Christmas decorations already up in many houses.

And before they can even start to think about regaining their top-flight status, they have to address the here and now and drag themselves out of the relegation mire.

Watson says the players ‘have realised that’, and that is the first step – hopefully of many – to putting right the wrongs of a disappointing campaign to date.

THE move to double the ban of athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs should be welcomed.... even if it presents fresh problems. I’ve long felt an unfairness to the fact an athlete who takes a ‘recreational drug’ – like cocaine or marijuana – gets the same, mandatory two-year ban as someone who takes, say, steroids.

Smoking pot is wrong. But it’s not cheating. Well, that’s all set to change.

But the trouble is, it will only apply to those who have “intentionally” used banned substances. Cue a deluge of claims by Russian athletes saying they have had their drinks mysteriously spiked with rocket fuel.

THE BBC is right to say it is “inevitable that many very worthy sports-people” will not make the shortlist for the Sports Personality of the Year. Because as a country, we are blessed with some amazing talent.

But still, the decision to leave Sam Burgess from the panel reeks of ignorance. As if, maybe, they just forgot to look at rugby league.

Because Burgess carried Souths to their first Premiership in four decades and won man of the match in the Grand Final. If a Brit had made a similar impact in NFL, NBA, or any other top league in the globe, I’m sure he would make the list ahead of, say, Carl Froch, who had just one fight in 2014.

Still, not to worry.

Now Burgess has started his career in rugby union, would anyone be surprised if he gets his recognition next year instead?

THE NRL is discussing cutting the number of substitutions from 10, to eight or even six, by the start of 2016.

It’s a good move, but that’s not the point. The fact they are free to alter how their competition is played – without worrying about taking their game further away from the sport played in Super League and in Tests – is further evidence of just how toothless the sport’s international body is.

It wouldn’t happen in other sports. And it shouldn’t happen in a sport with only two professional competitions.