first_imgSouthampton boss Ronald Koeman has criticised England’s “crazy” Christmas schedule, claiming the traditional fixture pile-up only favours the biggest clubs. Southampton have reaped the benefits of Koeman’s consistent selection policy this season. The Saints have started less players (15) in the league so far than top four rivals Arsenal (18), Tottenham (21), Liverpool (21) and Manchester United (22). Koeman believes the fixture congestion at Christmas plays into the hands of those teams with bigger squads at their disposal. “Does it favour the big clubs? Yes. They can change players much easier than other teams in the Premier League,” Koeman said. “It is worst for the clubs who haven’t got 24 players at the same level. “You have to change your team and I don’t like to change my team. I believe if the team is doing well you can change one or two positions but I don’t believe in changing my team in six or seven positions.” If Southampton want to keep pace with the sides at the top of the table, they may need to bolster their options in the January transfer window. “Our transfer policy in January doesn’t depend on winning and losing over the next month,” Koeman said. “It depends on the players we have – for example we know that Sadio Mane has to play at the African Nations Cup, Maya Yoshida will play in the Asian Cup but we don’t need a lot of players. “I am happy with the players we have. It depends on injuries if you need someone but it’s too early to make conclusions about that.” The Saints, who are second in the Barclays Premier League, face Aston Villa on Monday ahead of a testing month that brings games against Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea. Koeman’s side also have to play four games in nine days over Christmas including league fixtures on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day before the FA Cup third round on the first weekend in January. Press Association “It’s difficult because I don’t have experience playing that number of games in such a short time,” Koeman said. “I always used to be on holiday during Christmas and now we have a lot of games to prepare for. “I told the players, ‘honestly, I don’t have that experience’, it’s difficult. “We have to play December 26 and then again on the 28th, January 1 and then January 3 for the FA Cup – it’s crazy. “It’s not crazy to play at Christmas because I understand – we had that in Holland and the people like that. “I’d like that as well if I like football and support Southampton – I can have my Christmas meal then go to the stadium and watch Southampton, I am happy. “The problem is you have one day off between two games and that’s crazy, that’s impossible. “That’s my problem with the schedule because if it’s the 26th and the 29th, no problem, but it’s Friday and Sunday. That’s crazy, one day off, crazy.” last_img read more

first_img Press Association Leicester City Supporters Club chairman Cliff Ginnetta has insisted they do not want Nigel Pearson’s fan row played out like a “pantomime”. Ginnetta believes the majority still back the Foxes boss despite his angry exchange with a supporter on Tuesday and want to focus on beating the drop. The Leicester chief rowed with a fan during their 3-1 defeat to Liverpool which left them bottom of the Barclays Premier League. center_img But Ginnetta said, while Foxes fans wait for an apology from Pearson, he still retains their support in the fight against relegation. “He should put his hands up, admit he was out of order, apologise to the people and move on, that’s all everyone wants,” said Ginnetta. “We don’t want to make it a big thing or play it out like a pantomime, we just want to get on with winning games. “I’m sure the majority do (still support him), people are worried and moaning but that’s football fans, you’re never really happy. It’s the nature of the beast. “If you looked after the QPR game (a 3-2 defeat) there was no booing or shouting, they were applauding them off, the fans are right behind him and he has to remember that. He is popular but this arrogance spills over sometimes.” Pearson admitted he had been involved in a “spat” with a fan but said if they could not see his team’s efforts then they should stay at home. The club are investigating the matter although Ginnetta expects any outcome to be decided after the game at Aston Villa on Sunday. A City spokesman said: “We are aware of an incident that took place during Tuesday night’s match and are looking into the matter to establish a full and accurate account of proceedings. “Once the facts have been determined and suitably corroborated, we will decide what next steps, if any, should be taken.” last_img read more

first_img “You’ve got to keep on and when a chance comes along, you’ve got to take it. Hopefully now I can continue to progress with England. “Obviously it is good to get a win for England and good to get my first goal. It is a massive win for the team.” The goal was all the more special for Sterling given he grew up in the shadows of Wembley Stadium. “It’s been a long time coming to get my first goal, but I’m really happy and hopefully I can continue this with England,” he said. “I watched this stadium get built, so it was obviously pleasing to score at Wembley. It will live with me for a long time.” The 20-year-old impressed in Friday’s 4-0 victory against Lithuania, netting his first senior goal for the Three Lions in a one-sided Euro 2016 qualifier. Sterling will not, though, be travelling with Roy Hodgson’s side to Turin as an ongoing toe issue has ruled him out of Tuesday’s friendly against Italy. The winger – like James Milner, Leighton Baines and Danny Welbeck – has returned to his club, who next Saturday face a crucial match in the fight for the top-four. Defeat at Arsenal would be a hammer blow to Liverpool’s hopes of Champions League qualification – a match key man Sterling does not expect to miss. “It had been pre-agreed with the FA and obviously my club to get an injection after the game,” he said. “I will receive some treatment back at the club and go from there.” Asked if he would be okay for the trip to Arsenal, Sterling said: “Hopefully, yeah. “I will get this injection now and see how it goes in the next few days. Hopefully I will be okay for the Arsenal game.” It is a match Sterling will approach buoyed by a memorable night in front of a sell-out Wembley crowd. Lost amidst the excitement of Harry Kane’s goalscoring debut was the fact that the Liverpool attacker’s close-range effort was his first for England, coming on his 14th appearance. “Yeah, definitely (it has preyed on my mind) but obviously that’s part of the game,” Sterling said. Press Association Raheem Sterling has left the England camp after having an injection in his toe, but the Liverpool winger expects to be fit for next weekend’s crucial Premier League match with Arsenal.last_img read more

first_img Once given his head, Douvan sealed the deal in a matter of strides and passed the post seven and a half lengths clear without being extended. Mullins won this race with subsequent Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen a year ago, while the mighty Hurricane Fly claimed the third of his 22 top-level victories to date in the 2009 renewal. The master of Closutton believes Douvan could be the be the best of the lot, but whether he will remain over hurdles or go chasing next season remains unclear. Mullins said: “He could be anything. He’s way more efficient jumping than Faugheen ever was, or is, and that from a novice is extraordinary, really. “He’s just been like that all season and at home he has answered all our questions. “He’s an amazing athlete. He also has size and scope as he’s almost 17 hands. He’s extraordinary. “We didn’t know what he was but we knew he was better than anything else when we put him against the novices. Gail (Carlisle) rides him all the time and every time he came up the gallop he was quicker than anything else. “I can’t wait to get him over a fence but I’ll have to chat to connections. Press Association Willie Mullins hailed Douvan “as good as we’ve ever had” after another scintillating display in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival. After making it three from three for the champion trainer in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, it was little surprise the French import was a prohibitively priced 1-6 market-leader to end a tremendous season on a high, with Supreme third, Sizing John, rated his biggest threat. Ruby Walsh cut a confident figure throughout the Grade One event and loomed ominously alongside the strongly-ridden Sizing John in the straight. “Rich (Ricci, owner) has Faugheen for the Champion Hurdle but it’s a nice problem to have. “Some hurdles you didn’t even notice him come off the ground – when Ruby gave him a squeeze he flicked into overdrive. “He has to be as good as we’ve ever had. He’s not a Hurricane Fly type, he’s a chaser. “We’ll put him away now and decide whether he’ll stay hurdling or go chasing.” last_img read more

first_imgEddie Howe has overseen Bournemouth’s rise from League Two to the Barclays Premier League but believes the hard work is only just beginning as they prepare to face the elite of English football. Press Association The Cherries won the Sky Bet Championship last season to take their place in the top flight for the first time, and they will get their first taste when Aston Villa visit to open the season in August. Having masterminded the south-coast club’s rise during two spells in charge, the 37-year-old Howe knows the biggest challenges of his career await, with a trip to Anfield on the agenda in only the second week of the season. center_img “We had to work hard for every single point in League Two, League One and the Championship and are going to have to work even harder for points in the Premier League,” Howe said in the Bournemouth Echo. “I am under no illusions about how difficult it is going to be, but we will enjoy it and try to relish every moment of the experience we are going to face.” Bournemouth face a testing run-in, which could make-or-break their chances of staying up, taking on the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton in April, before finishing the campaign at Old Trafford. Howe added: ” Everybody connected with the club has waited a long time to see us in the top division and the publication of the fixtures really brings it home that we are there. “Whether you are a player or a coach, you should always want to test yourself against the best and we will certainly get the opportunity to do that next season. “We have got a tough start, a tough middle and a tough end – that is how difficult the Premier League is going to be, but it is where everyone wants to be. “There are so many great grounds and it will be a tremendous experience for everyone involved with the club.” last_img read more

first_img Press Association Pedro has been linked with a move to United, who are light on forwards following the departures of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao. Pedro is regarded as one of Spain’s best attacking forwards, but he faces the unenviable task of having to dislodge either Lionel Messi, Neymar or Luis Suarez to get into the Barcelona first-team. Busquets wants Pedro to stay at the Nou Camp, but understands why the 27-year-old is considering his options. “I have spoken with Pedro,” the midfielder told a press conference in San Francisco ahead of Barca’s friendly against United. “I think that as a team-mate and friend, I would like him to stay for a long time, but I understand that he has doubts. “He wants to play but there is a lot of competition. In our team we have the best players and it’s very difficult (to get into the team). “I hope he stays but the decision is his.” Pedro joined Barcelona’s youth team as a 17-year-old and then went on to enjoy success with the first team, winning the Primera Division five times and the Champions League on three occasions. The Tenerife-born player can operate across the front three, which is of interest to United manager Louis van Gaal, who wants to play 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 next season. center_img Manchester United target Pedro has “doubts” about his future at Barcelona, according to his team-mate Sergio Busquets. last_img read more

first_imgChristian Benteke brushed aside the controversy over his first Liverpool goal to reflect on a satisfactory home debut. “I must admit they were lively and dangerous, played well and had a couple of good chances.” Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe was aggrieved about the result – a second successive 1-0 loss in the top flight – but hoped his players would take plenty of encouragement from their performance. He said: “We know we need points and results – it is a tough league, an unforgiving league. We have seen that already. “But ultimately the performances and the general aspects of our play have been very good. Hopefully the bigger picture is it gives the players confidence they can succeed at this level, we can play our style of football and still be successful. Hopefully there is long-term gain there for us.” Opposite number Brendan Rodgers was impressed by the visitors and their attractive style, and believes they can make a similar impact in the top division to his old side Swansea. Rodgers said: “I think they are an excellent team. “It is very much the same situation as when I arrived at Swansea. After the first five games I think we hadn’t scored a goal and everyone was wondering if could we score and play that type of football to stay up. “In the end we stayed up comfortably and I think Bournemouth will be the same. They have some excellent players and a style of football that will give them an advantage. “These early games are tough, they are learning about the league but I am sure they will do very well and stay up.” That added to the Cherries’ frustrations after having a Tommy Elphick header harshly disallowed for a foul in the opening minutes, but they were no concern of Benteke’s. The former Aston Villa forward said: “It was important for me on my debut at Anfield to score and help the team win. “Now we have six points, we are top of the league and we want to keep going and work hard to stay there. “I’m settled. I am happy and I try to improve myself and be there for my team-mates.” As in their season-opening win at Stoke, Liverpool lacked fluency and were not convincing. They did have a spell of dominance either side of the goal, and captain Jordan Henderson clipped the top of the bar, but Bournemouth fought hard. Conceding the goal set Bournemouth back but they recovered in the second half and went close when the impressive Matt Ritchie smashed a shot against the outside of the post. Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel acknowledged victory was not straightforward. The Slovakian told LFC TV: “The win is all that counts and our three points are important. I am also happy that we kept a clean sheet again. The Reds’ £32million summer signing hit a disputed winner as the Merseysiders snatched a 1-0 victory over Barclays Premier League newcomers Bournemouth at Anfield. Benteke struck from close range after 26 minutes, a goal referee Craig Pawson allowed to stand despite team-mate Philippe Coutinho having appeared to be offside. Press Associationlast_img read more

first_img Defence coach Kiss believes “each hour matters” for loosehead prop Healy as he fights to beat his neck injury ahead of Ireland naming their 31-man World Cup squad. Healy is stepping up training on his protracted comeback from neck surgery in May, but Kiss remains unsure whether he will be fit for Wales’ Dublin visit on Saturday. Ireland must submit their World Cup squad on Monday, with Andrew Trimble passed fit after a foot sprain but Marty Moore is struggling with a foot problem of his own. “Cian is gradually being exposed to more and more rugby and he did a lot in the session today,” said Kiss. “I did some personal work with him at the end of the session around the contact area so some positive results are coming through there. “As has been the case all the way along he’ll get assessed this afternoon by the medics. “Then we’ll think forward from there about where he is going. “I’m not sure if we’d be able to say that’s a chance of playing (against Wales). “To tell you the truth today we did a bit of extra work in the contact area so he will be assessed by the medics again at the end of the session. “We want to give Cian as much time as possible. Press Association Les Kiss has admitted the clock is ticking on Cian Healy’s battle for Rugby World Cup fitness. “It’s funny because each hour matters for Cian at the moment and we’ve got people working on the rehab things. “He did more in the session today which is promising but we need to get it from the medics on that one.” Ireland launch their World Cup Pool D bid on Saturday, September 19 by facing Canada at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Kiss insisted Healy’s chances of World Cup selection do not simply rest on whether he is fit to face Wales at the Aviva Stadium this weekend. “When it comes down to the decision on Sunday night we’ll think about that one,” said Kiss when asked how much bearing form would take on final selection. “I don’t know if it’s about fairness or not, I think it’s about everything that’s been done. “I know the people we have working with him are experts in their area and we’ll take a lot of feedback from Cian and we’ll involve him in that decision and I’m sure with the type of info we’ll gather from all the areas will be enough to inform us to make a decision. “At this stage it’s every hour.” Leinster tighthead prop Moore’s latest injury struggle could pave the way for Connacht’s Nathan White to sneak into Ireland’s final World Cup ranks. Kiss has refused to rule Moore out of Saturday’s warm-up Test clash with Wales however, despite the 24-year-old still wearing a compression boot to help boost his recovery. “Marty is in a boot still. It’s there to protect the joint,” said Kiss. “He’ll train on Thursday and that will give him and us a good idea of where he is and that should be able to prove whether he is available on the weekend and that’s probably his important session. “Andrew Trimble has come up really good, he trained fully so he’s fit to go. “We know what Trimby has delivered in the past. “It’s a tight position in the back three.” last_img read more

first_imgGarry Monk has insisted Swansea are a “perfectly run club” after being taken to the Court of Arbitration for Sport by FC Utrecht over Michel Vorm’s transfer to Tottenham. The Dutch club confirmed on Thursday they will take the case to CAS in Switzerland but Swansea, who had a FIFA ruling over the issue in their favour earlier this year, say they have done nothing wrong over the Vorm transfer. “From our side everything is fine and I’m sure the club has followed everything to the letter,” Swansea manager Monk said at his pre-match press conference ahead of the Barclays Premier League visit of Everton on Saturday. “But t hose issues will be left to the club and not the footballing side with myself. “I’m not worried. We’re a perfectly run club and the decision earlier in the season from FIFA showed it was all okay. “I think that proves everything, and if they (Utrecht) want to pursue it that will be left to the chairman and the board and the administration side to deal with it. “It’s not really a focus for me, it’s up to the club and the chairman to deal with.” Utrecht general manager Wilco van Schaik said in August 2014 that Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins had told him Vorm had gone to Tottenham “for free”. Schaik told BBC Wales: “That’s unbelievable and unacceptable. Michel is a very reliable goalkeeper in the Premier League. “He is 30-years-old, in the prime of his life. He still had a two-year contract and has a good reputation. “Besides that, he’s a solid member of the Dutch squad. We want to have the 30 per cent as we agreed.” Swansea welcome Everton and their former manager Roberto Martinez on the back of their first defeat of the season at Watford last weekend. Monk accepts Swansea fell below the standards they had set in the opening weeks of the season when they beat Manchester United and drew at Chelsea during a four-game unbeaten start. “We never reached the levels we should have done to perform how we want,” Monk said. “We spoke about that when we came back in this week and I think it was a little bit of loss of focus of what we’re good at and the game plan we try to follow. “We just didn’t execute it and there’s no excuses from our end. “We’re aware of that and the players have responded well this week and hopefully we’ll get a reaction in the next game. “We’ve been good at home this season and we want to continue that.” Utrecht insist they are owed 30 per cent of whatever Swansea received for Vorm in July 2014, citing a sell-on clause in the deal when the goalkeeper arrived in Wales from the Netherlands three years earlier. Vorm left Swansea on the same day as defender Ben Davies, with forward Gylfi Sigurdsson going the other way, and Utrecht have questioned why Vorm, a Holland international with two years on his contract at the time, was given a zero value in the transactions. Press Associationlast_img read more

first_img Pellegrini said: “I think the performance was very good in midweek and we must try to repeat it tomorrow. I never complain about the amount of players that are injured but we have too many players (out), so to continue playing this way is very important for the trust the squad have. “All the games are difficult in the Premier League. It doesn’t matter which position the teams are in. You know you have to play with 100 per cent intensity and a lot concentration. Two or three balls decide the result.” Zabaleta has suffered a medial ligament strain similar to the one which sidelined him for a month earlier in the season but Pellegrini is hopeful his latest problem is not as serious. He said: “It is not so bad as the first one he had. We have now the international break (coming up) and probably he will be fit to return after the international break.” The performances of Iheanacho on the field and in training have also not gone unnoticed by his team-mates. Midfielder Yaya Toure, one of the cornerstones of the club’s success in recent seasons, has been impressed by his talent and his willingness to learn. Toure said: “I always say when you put a good player in a great team with good players around him then they will always perform well. “When I started at Barcelona it was always easy to play with great players and learn as well. They help you to progress. “I think for me, Iheanacho has the potential to progress and be one of the top players one day. He’s young and still learning. I am delighted for him and I always give him advice because Kelechi is fantastic. He is clever, he listens very carefully and he works hard in training.” He had previously shown glimpses of his talent by coming off the bench to score against Palace in the Barclays Premier League in September while he also had a goal against Bournemouth harshly disallowed. Pellegrini, speaking at a press conference to preview this weekend’s home clash against Norwich, said: “He didn’t impress me because I work with him every day, so I know what he can give to our team. Last season I think he was ready to do it. “We talked about his work permits but unfortunately for him he had a very serious injury in his ankles. That is why he couldn’t play last season. Now he is ready and I am very happy for him to demonstrate what he can do. But it is just one game, he must repeat, he must improve.” Iheanacho shone on City’s pre-season tour in the summer of 2014 but faced a long wait for paperwork to be ratified before he could play competitively. When clearance was given towards the latter end of last season, he impressed briefly for City’s elite development squad before being hit by injury. He was promoted to the first-team squad over the summer and, with senior attacking options limited in the absence of top striker Sergio Aguero, was given his chance in midweek. Pellegrini must now decide whether to retain the youngster in his side to face the Canaries. He said: “In the way he demonstrates what he can do, of course he has an option to start. It is not an easy position to start in this team because we have a lot of important players like David (Silva), like Kun (Aguero), but in this moment they are not fit, and for me it just depends on the performance of the players who start.” Premier League leaders City will hope to maintain the momentum from midweek although Aguero, Silva, Samir Nasri, Fabian Delph and Gael Clichy remain out and Pablo Zabaleta joined the injury casualties this week. But the Manchester City boss was unable to call on the highly-rated Nigerian striker because of a combination of work permit and injury issues. Iheanacho, 19, made a big impression on his first City start with a goal and two assists in Wednesday’s 5-1 Capital One Cup thrashing of Crystal Palace. Manuel Pellegrini claims he was ready to unleash teenager Kelechi Iheanacho on unsuspecting defences a year ago. Press Associationlast_img read more