Harty on . . . England’s Ashes win, Albion and Rebels

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HAVING watched a three-day Test match capitulation in Barbados, followed by a similar one at the Lord’s Test and, despite being the ultimate sporting optimist, I’m still very pleasantly surprised that England have regained the Ashes.

They have done it with apparent ease, culminating in last weekend’s emphatic, and some might say humiliating, victory against the Aussies in the fourth Test.

It is a far cry from my visit down under 20 months ago, when England fell apart at the last Ashes series.

Comparisons with both series have immediately been made and I have to say, on reflection, in some ways the two are almost symmetrical.

Back in 2013-14, despite having won the Ashes at home the previous summer, the England team were a side in decline. A divided dressing room and, even in the 44.5 degree heat in Perth, you almost got the feeling that the ECB were trying to squeeze one more tour out of the side before the inevitable happened.

I think it’s very much the same with the visiting Aussies – a squad full of characters but not necessarily people you’d have round for Sunday lunch, skipper Michael Clarke being the prime example.

There’s no doubt about his drive and dedication to the sport but, for me, unfortunately the dye was cast when he threatened and abused Jimmy Anderson at the Brisbane Test when the game was all but over in the host’s favour.

The Australian cricket captain, is a position, like the England one, which has huge importance in the game in general. To behave like he did in Brisbane that day was an insult to the baggy green cap and every great cricketer who had captained the Aussies before him.

As great a player as he is, on his retirement he will be remembered for not only what happened in Brisbane but also the fact that he’s lost more Test matches than any other Aussie captain in history.

A steady start by the Albion, two 1-0 wins in league and cup, so nothing to get too carried away about but very much work in progress.

With the imminent arrival of German central defender Uwe Hünemeier, speculation will again surface about the possible departure of Lewis Dunk, further fuelled by the fact that he didn’t feature in Tuesday’s cup tie at Southend.

While some media outlets are reporting that the 29-year-old German is not a direct replacement for Dunk, my sources inform me that Fulham are very keen on signing him, so much so that it may get to the point where the Cottagers make Albion, along with Dunk’s personal terms, an offer they simply can’t refuse.

It all adds a bit of extra spice as the Albion travel to Craven Cottage this Saturday. The publication of the team sheet just after 2pm might suggest even more.

And, finally, owing to circumstances beyond the board’s control, Worthing FC start their home campaign this Saturday, against Faversham (3pm kick-off).

With Brighton on the road at Fulham, hopefully the crowd will be bolstered by a few ‘Albion locals’.

As well as possibly seeing the new 3G pitch for the first time, they will be able to enjoy the newly-refurbished 7HQ sports bar under the main stand, which includes an array of TV screens, showing live football on both Sky and BT.

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