Month: November 2014

Leicester must part ways with Pearson to progress

Despite being a newly promoted side who were not expected to pull up any trees in the Premier League, Leicester City need to dismiss manager Nigel Pearson to make any sort of impact this season.

Saturday was a missed opportunity for the club to climb out of the relegation zone as they lost to fellow Premiership new boys Queens Park Rangers 3-2 at Loftus Road with the Rs leapfrogging Leicester in the table.

The Foxes are currently bottom of the top flight in English football, one point off that elusive spot of 17th and safety.

City have secured some credible results in the first half of the season, most notably two draws at home to Everton and Arsenal (2-2 and 1-1 respectively) as well as a famous 5-3 win over Manchester United but missed chances against teams around them could prove costly.

Crystal Palace away (2-0) as well as Burnley (2-2), West Brom (0-1) and Sunderland at home (0-0) have all ended without three points for Pearson’s men in what could turn out to be end of season “six pointers”.

In fact, before this weekend, Leicester had previously gone five games without even scoring a goal.

Pearson's finest hour

Pearson’s finest hour

Given the underdog nature of Leicester’s ambitions for this campaign, the initial sacking could seem harsh at first glance but clubs have taken the bold step before – and it has paid dividends.

Southampton opted to dismiss their boss somewhat unfairly in the 2012/13 season but are now flying high.

The South Coast club sacked Nigel Adkins, a man who guided the club to the Premier League from League One via back-to-back promotions, in January 2013 when they were 15th to widespread criticism but the Saints went marching into eighth in Mauricio Pochettino’s solemn full season at St.Mary’s.

Under Ronald Koeman, Southampton are mounting a surprise title challenge going into 2015.

Dreams of the top four may be a stretch too far for Leicester but Crystal Palace’s exploits could be a more realistic ambition.

Although Ian Holloway decided to depart Palace of his own accord, the Eagles looked down and out when Tony Pulis entered Selhurst Park a year ago last week. Palace finished 11th in May with Pulis being nominated for Manager of the Year.

In Tony they should trust: Pulis worked wonders at Palace last season

In Tony they should trust: Pulis worked wonders at Palace last season

Palace were tipped to struggle pre-season following the shock departure of Pulis the week before the season started but seem stable under Neil Warnock and are 14th at the moment.

Pulis seems to be the man Leicester want to take over at the King Power stadium and while Foxes fans will no doubt be forever thankful to Pearson for returning to the club to guide them back to where they feel they belong, it looks like one step too far.

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Pele’s health not as bad as first feared

Football icon Pele has announced through his Twitter page that he is “doing fine” and is not in intensive care despite earlier reports.

Pele, who is widely considered as the best footballer ever, won three World Cups in his career and scored 77 goals in 92 games for his native Brazil.

He tweeted: “Hello everyone, I want to take this opportunity to let you know that I am doing fine.

“I was not put into intensive care today, I was simply relocated to a special room within the hospital for privacy purposes only.

“While I appreciate all the visitors that came to see me, I really need to continue my treatment and recovery in peace.

“I am blessed to receive your love and support, and thank God this is nothing serious.

“I am looking forward to spending the upcoming holidays with my family, and will start the new year with renewed health, with many international trips already planned! Thank you!”

The 74-year-old is currently in a Sao Paolo hospital receiving treatment for a urinary infection.

Hull City 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Livermore ‘8, Kane ’61, Eriksen ’90)

A controversial red card shown to Gaston Ramirez cost Hull dearly as Tottenham came from behind to rise to 10th.

Ramirez received for his marching orders for kicking out at Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen in an off the ball incident but there did not seem to be much malice in the coming together at all.

Ex-Tottenham midfielder Jake Livermore rifled the Tigers in front after just eight minutes but Harry Kane equalized soon after the hour.

Christian Eriksen settled the occasion with an angled shot past Allan McGregor in the 90th minute to leave Hull fans cursing referee Craig Pawson.

Livermore’s strike against his former employers was an impressive one, lashing into the bottom corner from distance after Ahmed Elmohamady’s cross was headed away by a Tottenham defender but only into the path of Livermore who punished the error.

Hull could and should have doubled their lead soon after with a flurry of chances, first Robbie Brady was denied by Hugo Lloris who got down quickly to deny the Republic of Ireland International and then Hatem Ben Arfa blazed over from near in as a result of Lloris poorly pushing a Brady effort straight at the feet of the 27-year-old.

The red card inevitably put Hull under the cosh though and Tottenham eventually clawed one back when Kane tapped home Eriksen’s free-kick that came back off the post.

Roberto Soldado’s worries in front of goal continued too with his best chance coming when he glanced a shot wide 25 minutes before the end and he was substituted by Paulinho 15 minutes later as his wait for his first Premier League goal since March continues.

Hull City: McGregor, Davies, Dawson, Robertson, Elmohamady, Huddlestone (Rosenior ’64), Brady (Quinn ’87), Livermore, Ramirez, Ben Arfa (Meyler ’57), Jelavic

Subs not used: Harper, Chester, Sagbo, Hernandez

Bookings: Livermore ’62, Huddlestone ’63

Red Cards: Ramirez ’50

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Dier (Chiriches ’45), Fazio, Vertonghen, Davies; Dembele (Lennon ’59), Mason, Eriksen, Lamela, Kane, Soldado (Paulinho ’78)

Subs not used: Vorm, Ball, Ceballos, Stambouli

Bookings: Dier ’33

Red Cards: None

Man of the Match: Christian Eriksen

Crystal Palace 3-1 Liverpool (Gayle ’17, Ledley ’78, Jedinak ’81, Lambert ‘2)

Liverpool’s Selhurst Park curse continued as Crystal Palace cruised to a win to climb out of the bottom three while the Reds are now winless in four.

Late strikes from Joe Ledley and an astonishing Mile Jedinak free-kick sealed the three points for Palace despite Liverpool taking the lead after just two minutes.

Rickie Lambert scored his first goal in Liverpool colours to give his boyhood club a dream start before Palace pegged them back.

It was a goal made in Southampton with Lambert latching onto Adam Lallana’s through ball before tucking the ball past Julian Speroni.

Dwight Gayle took the wind out of Liverpool’s sails soon after though, equalising 15 minutes later when he turned in the rebound from Yannick Bolasie’s fierce strike off the post for his fourth goal in his last three games against Brendan Rodgers’ side.

Palace had to wait a little longer for their second but it was well worth it, Bolasie, who terrorised Liverpool all game, flicked the ball over Dejan Lovren and then squared it to Ledley who was never going to miss from point blank range.

Jedinak completed the scoring when he curled in a corker of a free-kick nine minutes before the end.

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Kelly, Delaney (Hangeland ’36), Dann, Ward, Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie, Puncheon (McArthur ’76), Gayle, Chamakh

Subs not used: Hennessey, Bannan, Zaha, Campbell, Johnson

Bookings: Hangeland ’84

Red Cards: None

Liverpool: Mignolet, Manquillo, Skrtel, Lovren, Johnson, Gerrard, Allen (Can ’74), Coutinho, Lallana (Borini ’72), Sterling, Lambert

Subs not used: Jones, Toure, Moreno, Lucas, Markovic

Bookings: Skrtel ’53, Manquillo ’61

Red Cards: None

Man of the Match: Yannick Bolasie

Scotland 1-3 England (Robertson ’83, Oxlade-Chamberlain ’32, Rooney ’47, 85)

Scotland’s wait for a win over arch rivals England stretched to 15 years as two goals propels Wayne Rooney to third in England’s all-time top goal scorer list.

Goals number 45 and 46 for Rooney, coming after 101 caps, leapfrog the England captain ahead of Jimmy Greaves and he is now four away from overtaking Bobby Charlton’s record amount of 49.

His first made it two-nil two minutes into the second half following Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s opener with a low, stooping header inside the six yard box after Luke Shaw’s shot from the outside of the area was blocked before deflecting off Andy Robertson into the path of Rooney who was never going to miss.

Number two came five minutes before the end after James Milner’s pass from the right hand side of the area was cut back by half-time substitute Adam Lallana into the feet of Rooney to tap home.

Oxlade-Chamberlain initially opened the scoring with a guided header 32 minutes in.

It was a goal made in Arsenal with Oxlade-Chamberlain glancing in Jack Wilshere’s floated cross from the left.

Robertson went some way to atoning for his error that led to England’s second by scoring himself with seven minutes to go, capping off a one-two with Johnny Russell.

England were worthy of their win, dominating the display from start to finish with Chris Smalling heading over a Stewart Downing corner before Danny Welbeck was denied by David Marshall with a low drive inside the first five minutes of the match.

Scotland: Marshall (Gordon ’45), Whittaker, Robertson, R. Martin, Hanley (May ’66), Maloney (Russell ’81), Mulgrew, Brown (Fletcher ’45), C. Martin (Morrison ’45), Naismith, Anya (Bannan ’61)

Subs not used: Bryson, Berra, Dorrans, Greer, Burke, Gilks, Macleod, Forsyth, Paterson

Yellow Cards: Mulgrew ‘46

Red Cards: None

England: Forster, Clyne, Shaw (Gibbs ’66), Milner, Cahill (Jagielka ’45), Smalling, Wilshere (Barkley ’87), Downing (Lallana ’45), Welbeck (Sterling ’66), Rooney, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Lambert ’79)

Subs not used: Chambers, Foster, Henderson, Walcott, Berahino

Yellow Cards: None

Red Cards: None

Manchester City 1-2 CSKA Moscow (Toure ‘8; Doumbia ‘2, ’34)

Sparks flew in an explosive night on a bad tempered bonfire night clash where Manchester City ended the contest with nine men looks to have left their dreams of qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League in tatters.

Fernandinho, who came on as a half-time substitute, received yellow cards in the 62nd and 70th minute in a mad eight minutes for the midfielder.

Yaya Toure was shown his marching orders nine minutes before the end for stupidly shoving Roman Eremenko when the CSKA Moscow man disposessed him.

Toure was already on a yellow that he picked up 16 minutes earlier but his push merited a straight red.

A brace from Seydou Doumbia either side of Toure’s free-kick provided goals in an eventful evening at the Etihad.

Doumbia, who scored both of CSKA’s goals in the 5-2 defeat the last time these two met at the Etihad, opened the scoring with just two minutes played when he headed home Bribas Natkho’s free-kick.

His effort, coming after just 90 seconds, is the quickest goal of this season’s competition so far.

Toure levelled the scores with his first goal in nine Champions League outings six minutes later but Doumbia hit back again with 34 minutes on the clock.

Five of Doumbia’s 10 Champions League goals have now come against City.

Pontus Wernbloom, who was shown a yellow card after 28 minutes, pulled back Sergio Aguero 77 minutes on the clock but Sergei Ignashevich was booked instead in a case of mistaken identity on a night where very little went in City’s favour.

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Kompany, Clichy, Navas (Nasri ’45), Toure, Fernando (Dzeko ’65), Milner, Jovetic (Fernandinho ’45), Aguero

Subs not used: Cabellero, Sagna, Boyata, Mangala

Yellow Cards: Fernandinho ’62, Toure ’65, Aguero ‘89

Red Cards: Fernandino ’70, Toure ‘81

CSKA Moscow: Akinfeev, Fernandes, Ignashevich, V.Berezutski, Schennikov, Wernbloom, Dzagoev (Efremov ‘86), Eremenko, Natcho, Musa, Doumbia (Milanov ’66)

Subs not used: Chepchugov, Berezoutski, Nababkin, Cauna, Bazelyuk

Yellow Cards: Wernbloom ’28, Ignashevitch ’77, Eremenko ‘79

Red Cards: None

Man of the Match: Seydou Doumbia

PREVIEW: Manchester City vs CSKA Moscow (19:45 BST)

MANCHESTER City go into their fourth game of this season’s Champions League still looking for their first win of the group stage.

Manuel Pellegrini’s men have two points from a possible nine going into tonight’s clash at the Etihad, seven fewer than leaders Bayern Munich.

Opposition CSKA Moscow only have one point themselves, which they picked up in the reverse of this fixture, a 2-2 draw in Russia on October 21.

Russian champions CSKA fought back from two goals down, although Bedras Nacho’s equaliser from the spot four minutes from time came in controversial circumstances as Seydou Doumbia went down easily in the box.

That game was played in a near- empty stadium due to a ban on CSKA fans for racist abuse.

Premier League holders City have won four of their last five matches in the league, their most recent three points coming in the 1-0 Manchester derby win at home to Manchester United with Sergio Aguero’s goal separating the sides.

Moscow meanwhile are without a win in two domestically following a 0-1 home defeat vs Zenit St. Petersburg and a 3-3 draw against FC Ufa

Frank Lampard is expected to be fit for City and could make his first appearance since the Citizens’ 4-1 win over Tottenham.

Eliaquim Mangala and David Silva are also in contention to return but Aleksander Kolarov will definitely sit out the match with a calf injury.

CSKA however will be without Kirill Panchenko and Rasmus Elm who have knee and stomach problems respectively.

 

Swindon Town have found their ideal captain in Nathan Thompson

At 23-years-old, Nathan Thompson is the second youngest captain in League One leading the youngest side in the division, Swindon Town – a team with an average age of just 22, but while experience at the County Ground may be low, the ambitions are high.

“I look at the talent and potential we have in our team and I think the Championship is where we belong”, Thompson insists.

“The ethos of football we play is different to any team in League One, and arguably the Championship and Premier League too. In my opinion it is the way ‘the beautiful game’ should be played and, when we are in form, the opposition can’t compete with us.”

It is big talk from the sprightly Swindon skipper who seems completely unfazed at the task of captaining such a youthful side.

“The fact I’m the longest serving player (at the club) helped me take to the role and my team mates have been extremely supportive of me, so I’m grateful they’ve helped make the transition a smooth one”.

His team mates may well be the secret to his success but it was Thompson that took the plaudits after Town’s 0-3 win at Chesterfield last Tuesday night.

Swindon’s two games previous had ended in a 2-3 loss and a 2-2 draw on their own patch to Rochdale and Colchester respectively in what were disappointing results considering the Robins were the fourth best team at home in League One last season.

Thompson missed those two games due to a suspension but his return match ended with Swindon securing their first clean sheet since September 27 where they beat Barnsley by the same score at Oakwell.

This is even more impressive given the fact that Thompson is now playing a sweeper role in a three man defence instead of his favoured full-back position.

Nathan Byrne, arguably Town’s stand out performer so far this season, is occupying Thompson’s right wing-back spot while the left has been covered by former loanee from Liverpool Brad Smith and now Amari’i Bell who has joined temporarily from Birmingham City.

“Throughout pre season I trained in the wing-back position and I only switched to centre back a couple of training sessions before our first game”, Town’s back-to-back Player of the Year explains.

“It was a shock but I didn’t have time to dwell on it – which I think has helped me. As time’s gone on and I’m learning more about the position, my confidence has grown and I enjoy the new role I play during games”.

This attitude is a testament to Thompson’s character who genuinely gives his all for the club he has been at since the age of 12.

When asked how he felt about being awarded Swindon’s Player of the Year award for two years running he responded:

“What makes this award so special is that it’s voted for by the fans, and each game I try to give 100% for them and the club, so to be recognised in this way is very humbling indeed.

Top of the Tree: Rockin' Robin Thompson with the first of his Player of the Year awards

Top of the Tree: Rockin’ Robin Thompson with the first of his Player of the Year awards

“It goes without saying I’m immensely proud to captain a club that I’ve been at not just for my professional career, but for my Centre of Excellence years and youth development too. I take the role extremely seriously – working hard to ensure the team morale is high – so that this team gives back to the fans and the club.”

Giving back, as he puts it, is clearly very much at the forefront of the man’s mind as he is also an ambassador for the girls’ Centre of Excellence as he “feel(s) it’s important to show them I was in a similar position once, and with perseverance they could be in my boots one day too”.

Said perseverance and more importantly hard work have reaped the awards for “Thommo”, something he did not forget as he recalled the time he first put pen to paper on a professional deal for the Wiltshire side in 2009.

“When I think back to to when I first signed my professional deal this club had a very different ethos in developing young players. The average age of the first team was around 26 and not many players remained at the club past their scholar.

“While there were occasions of concern and anxiety (that he would never get his chance at Swindon), I had a very strong support network around me and that helped me to keep focused and determined to break into the Swindon Town first team.

Interest from Premier League teams Arsenal, Everton, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur around that time did not distract him either.

“One thing I have learned is to keep attention focused on my game and, at that point in particular, leave off-field discussions to my parents and third parties.

“It’s often seen where youngsters leave lower league teams to join top flight clubs and too often it’s unsuccessful. Therefore, while it’s always flattering to have interest from these sorts of clubs, the last thing I wanted to do was get carried away so I was committed to establishing myself at Swindon.”

That sort of attitude will be music to the ears of many a Swindon Town fan I’m sure. The future of SN1 is in a safe pair of feet with Nathan Thompson with a wise and selfless head on those young shoulders too.

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