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Special report: Maddy Cusack – why her family want a new investigation into her death
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Special report: Maddy Cusack – why her family want a new investigation into her death

It is the heartbreaking story of a talented and popular footballer, her tragic death and the investigation into a family’s complaints about what they believe caused her emotional anguish.Maddy Cusack’s death in September sent shockwaves throughout the sport and plunged Sheffield United into a state of mourning for their longest-serving player. As her parents, David and Deborah, tried to get through their first Christmas without their eldest daughter, fans launched a petition to retire her No 8 shirt as a permanent tribute.“She fell in love with Sheffield United, the fans and the city of Sheffield,” Deborah told a memorial service in October. “Maddy became Miss Sheffield United and adored every minute of it. This was her home, the place she envisioned she would hang up her boots one day.”Cu...
Michigan stymies Michael Penix Jr., Washington to claim first national championship since 1997 season
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Michigan stymies Michael Penix Jr., Washington to claim first national championship since 1997 season

By Lauren Merola, Max Olson, Austin Meek, Jim Trotter and Nicole AuerbachIt’s been 26 years, but finally, no one has it better than Michigan.The Wolverines rushed for 303 yards and held flame-throwing Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. in check to emerge as the College Football Playoff national champion with a 34-13 defeat of the Huskies on Monday night at NRG Stadium in Houston. The win marked Michigan’s first national title since 1997 and the completion of a long-anticipated return to the top of college football under head coach Jim Harbaugh.The Wolverines, who entered the night ranked second in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game, held the Heisman Trophy runner-up Penix to 255 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on 27-of-51 passing, well below the usual output from th...
The Super Bowl winning coach and his family who have fallen in love with Wrexham
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The Super Bowl winning coach and his family who have fallen in love with Wrexham

Where does a former NFL coach with a Super Bowl title to his name go on holiday for the new year? Wrexham, of course.Paul McCord and his family swapped Florida for north Wales to take in the League Two match against Barrow after becoming passionate fans of the club through the documentary Welcome to Wrexham.It meant leaving behind the Tampa sunshine and daytime temperatures of 22C (71.6F) for highs of 9C but Paul, wife Mindy — a successful coach in women’s lacrosse — and nine-year-old son LJ couldn’t have been happier.“Being here in Wrexham to celebrate the new year meant so much,” says Paul, a member of the coaching team who took the Baltimore Ravens to Super Bowl glory in 2001. He sports the commemorative ring he received after the 34-7 victory over the New York Giants.“This is our secon...
Bird, ‘The Wire,’ a life sentence paroled and a Colts game 40 years in the making
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Bird, ‘The Wire,’ a life sentence paroled and a Colts game 40 years in the making

Bleary-eyed from 16 hours on a Greyhound bus, he strolled into the stadium running on fumes. He’d barely slept in two days. The ride he was supposed to hitch from Charlotte to Indianapolis canceled at the last minute, and for a few nervy hours, Antonio Barnes started to have his doubts. The trip he’d waited 40 years for looked like it wasn’t going to happen.But as he moved through the concourse at Lucas Oil Stadium an hour before the Colts faced the Raiders, it started to sink in. His pace quickened. His eyes widened. His voice picked up.“I got chills right now,” he said. “Chills.”Barnes, 57, is a lifer, a Colts fan since the Baltimore days. He wore No. 25 on his pee wee football team because that’s the number Nesby Glasgow wore on Sundays. He was a talent in his own right, too: one of his...
Behind the scenes with Curt Menefee, ‘leader’ and ‘therapist’ for ‘Fox NFL Sunday’
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Behind the scenes with Curt Menefee, ‘leader’ and ‘therapist’ for ‘Fox NFL Sunday’

LOS ANGELES — Terry Bradshaw spills a cup of coffee, but Curt Menefee doesn’t flinch. Menefee leans toward a tray not visible on television for some tissue to help clean up as Bradshaw continues to make a point about the Cincinnati Bengals.Howie Long helps with the cleanup, and Bradshaw keeps talking. Jimmy Johnson listens intently.Menefee then ribs Bradshaw about needing another cup of coffee, and Johnson uses coffee as a transition to talk about the Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks.“So Terry spills coffee on live TV … now, how do you react?” Menefee said shortly after while sitting in a dressing room at Fox Studios. “Instead of going into panic mode, we made it part of the show, and we laughed it off and had some fun with it.”It’s a funny moment in the studio. And Menefee, the longt...
Valencia’s Nou Mestalla ‘ghost ground’: After 15-year delay, will it finally be built?
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Valencia’s Nou Mestalla ‘ghost ground’: After 15-year delay, will it finally be built?

The cheers rang long and loud around Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium as fans celebrated Hugo Guillamon’s late equaliser against Barcelona in their final home match before La Liga’s Christmas break.Four kilometres away, on the other side of Valencia’s old city centre, all was quiet around the site of the Nou Mestalla — where the club’s half-built new home has sat untouched for the past 15 years.Through all that time, one of La Liga’s most storied clubs has found itself stuck in this bizarre situation — unable to raise the money to finish a modern new ground, unable to sell its historic home.Meanwhile, a team used to competing at the highest level in national and European competition has found itself fighting relegation, with the club’s historic debts becoming ever more difficult to deal with.On...
Michael Penix Jr. led Washington to soaring heights while overcoming deep lows: ‘I was scared to play’
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Michael Penix Jr. led Washington to soaring heights while overcoming deep lows: ‘I was scared to play’

The Athletic has live coverage of Texas vs. Washington in the College Football Playoff at the Sugar Bowl. He has come further than any star player in college football the last two years — 3,064 miles and from two wins to the College Football Playoff — but on a dreary Monday in Seattle in April, Michael Penix Jr. showed much more than tangible measurements of the depth of his journey. It’s one even his parents at the time didn’t fully realize. But now, days before Penix leads No. 2 Washington in the CFP Semifinal Sugar Bowl against No. 3 Texas, everyone can appreciate it.Penix had a spectacular debut season for the Huskies in 2022, leading the nation in passing and helping turn a 4-8 team into an 11-2 squad that finished No. 8. The lefty launching balls deep downfield didn’t just vex rival ...
The football stadiums that never were
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The football stadiums that never were

Peter Storrie can remember visiting the London studio of Herzog & de Meuron, the renowned Swiss architects, and being shown a striking vision of Portsmouth’s future.“It was something else,” he tells The Athletic. “They put it up on the screen for us and it certainly had the wow factor.”This was 2007 and the ambitious plans were for a new 36,000-capacity stadium on the city’s docks. Storrie, then chief executive, had accepted that Portsmouth would need to leave Fratton Park, the club’s home since 1899, and a proposed relocation could hardly have been more impressive.Located in between the Spinnaker Tower and the historic naval base, a £600million waterfront project that would include apartments and restaurants promised a transformational impact.“This will be the most spectacular stadium...
NFL’s best touchdown celebrations of 2023: A favorite from all 32 teams
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NFL’s best touchdown celebrations of 2023: A favorite from all 32 teams

Scoring touchdowns during each offensive possession is the unspoken goal for every NFL team. For decades, celebrations have been the norm in accompanying touchdowns. It goes back all the way to the 1960s with Homer Jones and his touchdown spike.Touchdown celebrations have become a choreographed production for some teams. Think back to the 1980s when Washington’s “Fun Bunch” made enemies after its group of players participated in a jumping high-five after a score. And think recently when the Seattle Seahawks did their best New Edition and *NSYNC impersonations, or when the Minnesota Vikings decided to play a game of Duck, Duck, Goose in the end zone.GO DEEPERThe NFL's most memorable TD celebrations: Deion Sanders' high-step, the Ickey Shuffle, moreThe 2023 NFL season has had its share of me...
NFL playoff picture after Week 16: Ravens close in on AFC’s top seed; NFC up for grabs
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NFL playoff picture after Week 16: Ravens close in on AFC’s top seed; NFC up for grabs

The Baltimore Ravens scored their most impressive victory of the season Monday night, defeating the San Francisco 49ers 33-19. Along with making them look like worthy Super Bowl contenders, the victory puts them in a fantastic position in the AFC. At 12-3, they’re a game ahead of Miami and have a chance to clinch the top spot next week in a game against those very Dolphins.Meanwhile, the 49ers’ loss sends them to 11-4 and a three-way tie atop the NFC with the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions. The 49ers own the tiebreaker over both, but with two games to go, there’s still time for the Eagles or Lions to make a move.As for the rest of the NFL, Week 16 saw plenty of movement in the playoff picture. Let’s take a look at where things stand as we enter Week 17.Listed odds to make the playof...