Latest sports news from Phil Matthews for Friday, May 24, 2013:
Two of the four lighting rigs that have been built by local university students from recycled materials, including lamps seized by Nottinghamshire Police, were delivered to Meadow Lane on Wednesday.
In what has been a fantastic community initiative, Notts have been helped by Nottinghamshire Police, who supplied the lamps which had been seized in cannabis raids, as well as Ailsen Ltd, who provided the workspace for the rigs to be constructed, RH Commercial vehicles, who helped transport the rigs, a local golf club who supplied the wheels and of course the students themselves from Nottingham University.
The quartet – Tom Gallagher, Max Keizer, Janice Leung and Mark Mennear, have produced four lighting rigs, two with retractable arms that will serve large parts of the pitch and two smaller builds that will be used primarily to encourage grass growth in the goalmouth areas of the Meadow Lane playing surface.
Cat Podesta, of the Mechanical Engineering Society at Nottingham University, helped bring the project together after an initial discussion with the club, identifying the students that would work on the rig, in their own time alongside their studies, as well as dealing with a great deal of the administrative work needed to get things moving.
She explained to the Notts County official website: “It all started when I got contacted by Notts County about the possibility of the project and then I sent out an email to lots of Mechanical Engineering Society members. [We then had] interviews and the lucky four were chosen and they started doing work around November time. Literally all of the work that has been done has been in their spare time and I couldn’t be more thankful to them for doing that.”
Wear on the pitch, particularly in the area in front of the Derek Pavis Stand, has been an on-going issue for Notts and several ideas have been tried in the past to alleviate the problem. However, the addition of these new lighting rigs, which effectively produce a false sunlight and encourage grass growth, should see a dramatic improvement in the level of remedial work that the groundstaff are able to carry out on the pitch during the forthcoming season.
In rugby news, departing Nottingham Rugby ace Tim Streather has been named the RFU Championship Player of the Year. The 24-year-old centre picked up the award in London last night, beating off competition from Leeds Carnegie's Stevie McColl and Jersey's Guy Thompson. It caps a great season for Streather, who has already been named in the Championship Dream XV and sealed a move to top Premiership club Saracens.
"It really doesn't get any better than this," he told the Nottingham Post. "I was shocked and thrilled just to be shortlisted, so to win it is an incredible feeling. It's such a huge honour - I'm really chuffed to get it ahead of the two other guys who played so well for their clubs this season. There are a lot of people I have to thank, starting with everyone at Nottingham."
He was a key player as Nottingham achieved their highest-ever finish in the Championship of second place to reach the semi-finals of the play-offs for promotion into the Premiership for the first time.
The winners of the Europa League will qualify for the following season's Champions League from 2015. It means there's the potential for five English teams to compete in the same competition. UEFA's move is designed to boost the Europa League's prestige. It will also avoid last year's situation, where Tottenham failed to qualify because of Chelsea's Champions League victory, despite finishing in the Premier League's top four.
Laura Robson will play former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the opening round of tennis' French Open. The Dane has dropped to number 10 in the world and has also lost her last four matches on clay. Heather Watson will play unseeded Swiss Stefanie Voegele and Elena Baltacha meets New Zealander Marina Erakovic.
Bath rugby union hooker Rob Webber will captain England for the first time in Sunday's non-cap international against the Barbarians. Head coach Stuart Lancaster has named a side with a mix of youth and experience, which includes a first appearance for rugby league convert Kyle Eastmond.
Today's stage of cycling's Giro d'Italia has been cancelled because of "adverse weather conditions". Stage 19 was due to take in some brutal mountain climbs, but snow is lining the route. Meanwhile, Italian cyclist Danilo Di Luca has tested positive for E-P-O. The former Giro winner is competing in this year's event, but failed an out of competition test before the race began. Di Luca risks a lifetime ban, having already serving a suspension for taking a banned substance in 2009.
Jockey Eddie Ahern has appealed against the British Horseracing Authority's decision to ban him for 10 years. He was found guilty of conspiring to commit a corrupt or fraudulent practice and not riding a horse on its merits. Ahern was also adjudged to have passed on information that the horse involved wouldn't win a race.
South Africa's James Kingston has a one shot lead at the start of the second round of golf's PGA Championship at Wentworth. He carded an impressive 6-under par yesterday. Of the British big guns, Lee Westwood and Paul Casey are among a clutch of players on 2-under. Rory McIlroy hit a 2-over, and defending champion Luke Donald had a horrible time carding a 6-over 78.
A big change in the prize available to the Europa League winners is set to be announced today. UEFA are expected to confirm that the team that lifts the trophy will qualify for the Champions League - from 2015 onwards. The move is designed to give a boost to Europe's second-tier competition, and it could mean 5 English teams playing in the Champions League.
England take 1-nil lead into the second, and final, Test against New Zealand, which begins at Headingley later. Alastair Cook says he expects another tough game against the tourists. But the Kiwis have big injury problems with wicketkeeper BJ Watling, spinner Bruce Martin and former captain Daniel Vettori all missing out.
Graham Onions gave the England selectors a timely nudge in cricket's County Championship Division One yesterday. The Durham pace bowler took 5 for 39 as Middlesex were bowled out for 196.
Meanwhile Somerset captain Marcus Trescothick said he was devastated after his side lost inside two days to Sussex by an innings and 116 runs yesterday.
Newcastle are a step closer to a return to rugby union's Premiership. They won the first leg of the Championship play-off final 18-9 at Bedford Blues. The return match takes place next Wednesday at Kingston Park.
Vincenzo Nibali takes a 4-minute lead into a re-routed 19th stage of cycling's Giro d'italia. Two climbs in the Dolomite mountains have been scrapped because of snow and ice. Reports suggested windchill temperatures could have hit minus-20 on the climbs.
Christian Benteke's future at Aston Villa leads the backpage of The Sun this morning. He says the club can't make him stay, and that if a team "like Arsenal" come along, he'd want to reach a compromise to allow him to leave.
Several papers report that Manchester City's chief executive, Ferran Soriano, expects the club to win five trophies within the next five years. He wants the new manager to "deliver good football".
On a similar theme, The Daily Mirror pictures sacked boss Roberto Mancini, with the headline "you failed with a better team than United". The same paper reports that UEFA will order Premier League footballers to give blood samples next season to rid the game of drug cheats. The European governing body wants to introduce biological passports.
The Daily Telegraph claims there are plans to introduce a pilot panel of former referees to allow authorities to take retrospective action for incidents seen by officials. They'd study video evidence to punish players.
And jockey Frankie Dettori could return to horse racing in time to ride in the Derby a week on Saturday, according to The Guardian. His solicitor is hopeful he'll received his new licence soon.