Tag Archives: cheer

Manchester City full of festive cheer as they train on Christmas Eve

Merry Mario leads Manchester City training as defending champions gear up for festive period

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UPDATED:

15:40 GMT, 24 December 2012

Making up two points on leaders and fierce rivals Manchester United would have bought more than a hint of festive cheer to City's training ground on Christmas Eve.

And the presence of the club's very own crackers character Mario Balotelli gave the squad a lift, as did the sight of captain Vincent Kompany coming through the session.

In fact, so good was the spirit in camp that youngster Matija Nastasic, who has previously enjoyed a winter break in Italy, said he was relishing his first taste of England's traditionally busy Christmas schedule.

Christmas crackers: Manchester City got an early present when they made up two points on United

Christmas crackers: Manchester City got an early present when they made up two points on United

Christmas cheer: Mario Balotelli was put through his paces in the freezing cold of Manchester

Christmas cheer: Mario Balotelli was put through his paces in the freezing cold of Manchester

Christmas cheer: Mario Balotelli was put through his paces in the freezing cold of Manchester

The 19-year-old centre-back, who has
made a big impression since his arrival from Fiorentina in August, is
unfazed by the prospect of playing five games in the space of 15 days.

He
is also far from concerned by the fact the next two of those matches,
at Sunderland on Boxing Day and Norwich next Saturday, will involve
lengthy journeys.

'To me
it is not a problem,' said the Serbia international. 'I am always happy
when I am playing, so this time of the season makes me happiest of all!

Carlos the joker: Tevez was the one enjoying the Christmas Ever session the most, judging by his smile

Carlos the joker: Tevez was the one enjoying the Christmas Ever session the most, judging by his smile

Carlos the joker: Tevez was the one enjoying the Christmas Ever session the most, judging by his smile

'My father and mother are here, so I won't miss my family. I don't look at the two long away trips as a problem at all.

'Now we concentrate on the Sunderland game, and then we focus on Norwich – it's not a headache.

'The league in Italy stops, and we have a break, but playing here is no problem for me. I am looking forward to the next couple of games.'

City needed a last-gasp winner from Gareth Barry to beat Barclays Premier League bottom side Reading in the first of their festive matches at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Having gone into the game trailing leaders Manchester United by six points, the champions were in danger of handing their title rivals another boost until Barry headed home a contentious goal in injury time.

Reading felt Barry had fouled Nicky Shorey but City celebrated a valuable three points amid much relief and their joy increased later in the weekend when Swansea held United to a draw.

Although Reading showed commendable
resilience throughout, Nastasic felt victory was deserved for City's
obvious superiority and greater number of chances over the whole game.

Nastasic
said: 'We knew the game would be difficult because it was obvious they
would just come and defend, but we deserved the goal in the last minute.

'Reading
played 11 men behind the ball, in a small area which always makes it
very difficult to attack – but that was their game plan.

Space at the table: Roberto Mancini will no doubt be distracted on the big day as he prepares for Boxing Day

Space at the table: Roberto Mancini will no doubt be distracted on the big day as he prepares for Boxing Day

Hart stopper: Joe Hart will hope 2013 doesn't see a repeat of the odd mistake he made this year

Hart stopper: Joe Hart will hope 2013 doesn't see a repeat of the odd mistake he made this year

'We are a very strong team, self-motivated and full of confidence at the moment. What is important is that we keep the same attitude, if we want to win the Premier League. We won the game, and that is the important thing.'

Nastasic's consistent and unfussy performances are currently keeping England centre-back Joleon Lescott out of the City side.

There was even the unusual sight on Saturday of Lescott and captain Vincent Kompany – the heart of City's title-winning defence last season – on the bench as Nastasic partnered Kolo Toure.

Manager Roberto Mancini's regard for the player is evident and he is quickly becoming a fans' favourite.

Nastasic
said: 'It makes me happy if the fans think highly of me, and I just
want to keep playing the way I am – that is the objective for the whole
team, not just me.'

Kompany
was not risked against Reading as he continues to recover from the
groin injury he suffered in the Manchester derby defeat a fortnight ago.

Head for the top: Gareth Barry got the champion out of trouble with a late goal against Reading

Head for the top: Gareth Barry got the champion out of trouble with a late goal against Reading

Head for the top: Gareth Barry got the champion out of trouble with a late goal against Reading

Another teenager, Karim Rekik, was also deployed at left-back as both Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov were sidelined by niggles.

Their fitness will be assessed ahead of the trip to the Stadium of Light while controversial striker Mario Balotelli could come back into contention after illness last week but forward Samir Nasri is out with a hamstring injury.

The match marks the halfway point of the season and Mancini wants his side to start picking up the tempo.

The Italian said: 'We can work better but at the same time I think that we need to do more than last year. From the first six months we need to work better – that's individuals and the group.'

Millwall 1 Barnsley 2 – match report: Marcus Tudgay hits late winner

Millwall 1 Barnsley 2: Tudgay's late winner gives Tykes some seasonal cheer

PUBLISHED:

17:47 GMT, 22 December 2012

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UPDATED:

17:47 GMT, 22 December 2012

Marcus Tudgay's late goal condemned Millwall to a surprise defeat as Barnsley gave their npower Championship survival bid a welcome boost.

Tudgay struck in injury time after Chris Wood appeared to have salvaged a point for the Lions, who had lost just once in their previous 16 matches.
Barnsley led through a first-half goal from Stephen Dawson, shortly after Millwall's Darius Henderson had missed a penalty.

To make matters worse, the hosts had defender Adam Smith sent off for a rash challenge early in the second half.

Winner: Marcus Tudgay chips the advancing David Forde to give Barnsley all three points

Winner: Marcus Tudgay chips the advancing David Forde to give Barnsley all three points

Match facts

Millwall: Forde, Adam Smith, Shittu, Beevers, Lowry, Henry, Wright, Trotter, Feeney (Jack Smith 64), Wood, Henderson (N'Guessan 69). Subs not used: Maik Taylor, Dunne, Batt, Osborne, Malone.
Sent Off: Adam Smith (54).

Booked: Feeney, Beevers.

Goals: Wood 80.

Barnsley: Steele, Stones, Foster, Cranie (Wiseman 20), Golbourne, Dawson, Hassell, O'Brien (Harewood 73), Perkins (Done 84), Tudgay, Dagnall. Subs not used: Alnwick, Cywka, Greening, Rose.
Booked: Tudgay, Wiseman, Foster, O'Brien.

Goals: Dawson 31, Tudgay 90.

Attendance: 10,118.

Referee: Trevor Kettle.

Latest Championship results, fixtures and table

Wood tucked in his third goal in two
matches, and his 11th of the season, 10 minutes from time but Tudgay had
the last word as Millwall slipped out of the play-off places.

Millwall were surprisingly lacklustre
for a team in such fine form, unbeaten at home in their previous seven
games, and it was Barnsley who made the brighter start with two good
chances falling to Tudgay in the first 10 minutes.

First Lions goalkeeper David Forde
did well to tip Tudgay's shot round the post, then a mix-up in the
Millwall defence saw the ball fall to Tudgay again, but this time the
striker blazed his shot over the crossbar.

The hosts should have taken the lead in the 25th minute after Henderson was fouled in the area by Scott Wiseman.

But Henderson, back in the Millwall side after a spell out with a hamstring injury, blazed the spot-kick over the crossbar.

And the Lions were made to pay five minutes later when Barnsley broke at the other end through Tudgay.

The ball eventually fell to Jim
O'Brien, whose shot was well saved by Forde, but Dawson was on hand to
tuck away the rebound for his third goal of the season to give the
visitors the lead.

Millwall attempted to hit straight back and midfielder Liam Trotter shot narrowly wide from just inside the box.

On target: Stephen Dawson fires Barnsley into a first-half lead

On target: Stephen Dawson fires Barnsley into a first-half lead

Tykes goalkeeper Luke Steele was then called into action to make saves from Henderson and Shane Lowry.

Barnsley had chances to add to their
lead before half-time but Forde saved John Stones' effort and O'Brien
crashed a shot into the side-netting.

Millwall's task got more difficult 10 minutes after the interval when Smith was sent off after he lunged in on David Perkins.

It looked like a 50-50 challenge but referee Trevor Kettle deemed it to be two-footed and produced a straight red card.

Barnsley sensed the chance of a rare win and Perkins drove the ball goalwards but his effort was kept out by Forde.

Perkins then crossed for Tudgay but
his ambitious header from the edge of the area flew wide, before Chris
Dagnall missed the target from close range and Stephen Foster fired over
the top.

Barnsley were caught out 10 minutes
from time when Wood latched onto Dany N'Guessan's ball over the top and
coolly finished past Steele.

But all Millwall's hard work was undone when Tudgay rifled the winner past Forde in the 93rd minute.

The goal lifted the Tykes to the same
points tally as Tudgay's former side Sheffield Wednesday, although they
remain in the bottom three on goals scored.

Mario Balotelli ordered to show respect by Roberto Mancini

Man up, Mario! Now show some respect, Mancini tells Balotelli after convincing star to pay Man City fine

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UPDATED:

12:03 GMT, 21 December 2012

Roberto Mancini has told Mario Balotelli that he needed to show respect for himself and his responsibilities by accepting a 340,000 punishment from the club.

Earlier this week Balotelli dropped his fight against the fine for breaches of discipline, deciding not to take City to a Premier League tribunal ‘as a sign of respect for Roberto Mancini, the supporters and the club’, according to a club statement.

But Mancini believes that above all the controversial striker owed it to himself to admit he was wrong after Balotelli was banned for a fifth of City’s games last season.

Time to move on: Roberto Mancini told Mario Balotelli show respect

Time to move on: Roberto Mancini told Mario Balotelli show respect

Time to move on: Balotelli accepted the club's fine

Time to move on: Balotelli accepted the club's fine

'It’s normal that when someone makes a mistake he should take his responsibilities and Mario did this,’ said Mancini. ‘He respected himself, not me because it’s important for him to respect himself, very important.’

Balotelii was seen driving away from City’s training ground this morning after it was confirmed he is still too ill to play in tomorrow’s game at home to Reading.

Mancini insists the 22-year-old could still have a future at City despite speculation the Premier League champions will cut their losses and offload him in next month’s transfer window.

Christmas cheer: Roberto Mancini toast the press with a glass of Champagne during his press conference

Christmas cheer: Roberto Mancini toast the press with a glass of Champagne during his press conference

‘Like other players, if he deserves to have other chances he will have them,’ added Mancini. ‘If a player works well he deserves to have the chance to play.

'This weekend Mario unfortunately is ill. He came this morning but he can’t do anything.’

Balotelli will miss Saturday's game with Reading with a virus but there was good news for Mancini as captain and defender Vincent Kompany is hoping to prove his fitness after a groin injury and James Milner is also in contention.

Welcome return: Vincent Kompany is close to a comeback

Welcome return: Vincent Kompany is close to a comeback

Back in business: James Milner is in contention to play against Reading

Back in business: James Milner is in contention to play against Reading

As Mancini celebrates his third anniversary in charge today, the Italian admitted that he thought it would take longer to challenge Manchester United’s domination of English football following last season’s dramatic title race.

He said: ‘When I arrived here three years ago I didn’t think that maybe in two years we would win the Premier League and FA Cup. I thought that it would take maybe four or five years to win the Premier League because it isn’t easy.

'We changed things in England, and Manchester in particular, because for 20 or 30 years United won everything. We changed this because we did well. We’ve also made mistakes, which is normal, and we need to continue to work hard to improve our game.’

The Midlander puts on his red suit and hands out Christmas presents to clubs

All I want for Christmas is… The Midlander goes down the chimneys of eight clubs to spread some Christmas cheer

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UPDATED:

21:32 GMT, 13 December 2012

Just because it's the time of year and – quite frankly because I also really enjoy writing this type of piece – I'm handing out a few Christmas presents to our Midlands' teams.

It's meant to be light-hearted. It maybe a bit pointed, but if any offence is caused, I'm going to take the mickey out of myself too somewhere along the line….so what would we give to….

Paul Lambert

Paul Lambert

Gifts: Neil Moxley does his best Father Christmas impression and hands Villa manager Paul Lambert (left) a new creative midfielder and West Brom's Steve Clarke a dose of reality after a great start has become a blip

Carson Yeung (Birmingham City owner) I'm sure what Mr Yeung would value most this Yuletide is his liberty. Difficult to put a price on that, isn't it

What Birmingham City's supporters would value is clarity. It appears that the great sell-off continues to gather pace.

No-one is any the wiser as to how, why and when it will come to an end.

Until that situation is resolved, then Lee Clark is going to continue to have to make-do in the transfer market, I'm afraid, and frustrations will inevitably grow.

Funds: Nigel Clough (pictured) will be hoping that young starlet Will Hughes, who has attracted interest from Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, brings much-needed funds

Funds: Nigel Clough (pictured) will be hoping that young starlet Will Hughes, who has attracted interest from Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, brings much-needed funds

Nigel Clough (Derby County manager) After spending four seasons in charge of the Rams, the current manager's late father was mounting a First Division title tilt.

But then, Clough Snr operated in different times. I remain a fan of Clough Jnr – I think his squad is evolving – and the players he has signed have a desire to be successful.

It is a pity that won't be cut too much slack in the New Year. The word is that some funds will need to be generated.

I've not seen him yet – except on television – but if the rumours are right Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are tracking Will Hughes, then he must be half-decent.

Therefore, I wish for Mr Clough a clean and healthy balance sheet that gives him an evens-chance of pushing Derby upwards.

Paul Lambert (Aston Villa manager) Having witnessed a car-crash of a performance in the first home fixture against Everton, I feared for Villa.

I fear no longer but I'd be happier still if they had a playmaker who could really make a difference in the final third of the field.

The Scot deserves credit for his policy. A few players have certainly done themselves no harm. I've always liked Ciaran Clark. Chris Herd is a battler and should have been given a chance to establish himself as a right-back under Alex McLeish.

More from Neil Moxley…

The Midlander: Darren's situation has Villa Bent out of shape
07/12/12

The Midlander: Cunning Clarke has West Brom punching above their weight
22/11/12

The Midlander: Football is a results business… but it's never that clear cut for Clark and Clough
15/11/12

The Midlander: Was O'Neill a good Villa boss Let's end this debate once and for all…
08/11/12

The Midlander: Coventry can begin to paint rosy future with morale-boosting Wembley run
19/10/12

The Midlander: Pearson deserves so much more as Leicester target the Premier League
12/10/12

The Midlander: Bent mystery at Villa making life under Lambert very interesting
04/10/12

The Midlander: Baggies crashed out, but at least they took the Capital One Cup seriously
27/09/12

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But the former Blues boss went out and bought Alan Hutton instead. Expensive mistake, that. Nathan Baker has been a revelation and, obviously, Christian Benteke has caught the eye.

I have to say I'm a huge Matthew Lowton fan. This boy goes about his business in a quiet, effective and understated fashion. Where Lambert is lacking is someone with a bit of guile to take games such as the one against Stoke City at the weekend and open up defences or fire one in from the edge of the box.

So, it's a number ten for Paul Lambert. And a Wembley appearance Another League Cup triumph Fingers crossed.

Nigel Pearson (Leicester City boss) The easiest present of the lot to source. No boardroom interference…please.

Leicester's boss can be a crotchety so-and-so on occasion but if the Foxes' hierarchy can leave him alone, I have a feeling he will end up delivering this season.

From what I've seen, Danny Drinkwater has come on leaps and bounds and by securing a defender of Wes Morgan's quality, Pearson was always going to reap rewards in the medium-term.

I've a sneaky feeling the Foxes will be adding – hurray – to our Midlands' contingent in the top-flight next season.

Steve Clarke (West Brom head coach) I'd just like a dash of reality to be sprinkled all over Clarke's Christmas pud.

While everyone outside of the club appears to be getting carried away by a storming start to the season, it was always likely that the Baggies would suffer a slight blip somewhere along the way.

It seems that blip is now. The overall quality of Clarke's squad will see them finish well clear of trouble, but all this nonsense about Europe needs to be nipped in the bud early on.

The time to talk about that is April. The only other point is that Youssouf Mulumbu's form so far this season has been sensational. I do hope his presence is not missed during the African Cup of Nations.

Clarke won't get carried away, he's too experienced for that. But it will be interesting to see how he handles this, given that he's now number one in his own right.

Dispute: Coventry City need an end to the dispute over their stadium, the Ricoh Arena

Dispute: Coventry City need an end to the dispute over their stadium, the Ricoh Arena

Coventry City – the whole club – the board of directors, manager Mark Robins and his players and the long-suffering support – need an end to the situation with the stadium which, quite frankly, must be resolved to the benefit of the club.

I understand why the holding company was formed and the reasons for it. But it is a nonsense that the decision-makers at the Sky Blues do not have access to matchday revenues.

I have no axe to grind with ACL whatsoever. But I fear that before the end of the year this could all end horribly. I don't think ACL will offer the kind of rent reduction the club is seeking.

I'm not sure they can. They have a mortgage to pay themselves. So, it could get worse before it gets better. It's just such a sad situation.

But it's one the football club has to address, or else it will continue to chase its' tail, I'm afraid.

I just wish the fans some good cheer on the pitch. I have a feeling Mark Robins is going to get the Sky Blues going again.

Wolverhampton Wanderers – I could be glib, here. I could say, a tin of paint-remover for boss Stale Solbakken following that incident with his beamer the other week.

But I'm not going to. I wish him all the best as, from my admittedly limited dealings with him, he has been absolutely honest and truthful when fronting up Wolves' recent failings.

I loved his comment about fearing the sack. ('I was dead, why should that bother me') I also believe owner Steve Morgan is one of the game's good guys.

Despite the flak he continues to receive chief executive Jez Moxey most certainly is one of the good guys. Under his stewardship Wolves have always tried to act in a proper manner.

They may come up short on occasion – as they did with Mick McCarthy's sacking. But there were phone calls made to the press afterwards to dissect why the club had such a hard time of it.

They wanted to learn from their mistakes. Believe me, if only a few more were like that. I wish top six for Solbakken – and Morgan and Moxey too for that matter.

A signing or two in the New Year to add fresh impetus would be nice, too.

Fresh faces: Wolves manager Stale Solbakken (pictured) could do with some new signings to help their bid for an instant return to the Premier League

Fresh faces: Wolves manager Stale Solbakken (pictured) could do with some new signings to help their bid for an instant return to the Premier League

Nottingham Forest – see Leicester City. Leave Sean O'Driscoll alone. Let him manage the club. It will come right.

The financial bonanza that accompanies promotion to the Premier League distorts the thinking at some clubs.

And the word is that the Kuwaitis are getting frustrated – as the Thai owners at Leicester did last season.

Forest have improved markedly from last season when I thought they were going down.

But O'Driscoll – and Steve Cotterill – moved them away to safety. Let's just see where we are in February and if the manager wants to strengthen then, it might be an idea to let him.

As for yours truly, I need three things.

The first is a treadmill. After asking Mr Solbakken whether he was fit to do the job at Molineux following his heart scare, (and with the hindsight of what happened to Gerard Houllier, I thought it was a relevant topic) he challenged me to a race around the Molineux pitch. Ten times. Clearly I need to get fit.

Secondly, I'd like a pair of sunglasses. That way I could have hidden when, during an exchange involving Steve Clarke and a colleague who asked what Roy Hodgson had said after the Scot confirmed that the England coach had been in touch, I dropped myself in it.

I piped up: 'He just asked how his team was getting on.' I got a few laughs from the floor and none from Mr Clarke. I apologised and he was gracious. But that stare…

Lastly, I need a good book. My Albion-loving pal Chris Lepkowski has chartered West Brom's rise during the past decade in his tome: 'In pastures green.'

No-one has been closer to the events at the Hawthorns during the past ten years than Chris. And he's a good writer. So I'll settle for an afternoon reading that.

Until next week…

Nottingham Forest manager Sean O'Driscoll looks on

 Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson

Interference: Both Nottingham Forest manager Sean O'Driscoll (left) and Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson would benefit from a lack of interference by members of their respective boards

Liverpool FC players visit Alder Hey children"s hospital

Suarez and Co take time out of busy festive schedule to spread Christmas cheer at Alder Hey children's hospital

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UPDATED:

22:14 GMT, 12 December 2012

Liverpool’s players were able to take time out from their preparations for the busy festive period to spread some Christmas cheer to children at Alder Hey hospital.

The likes of Luis Suarez, Joe Allen and club captain Steven Gerrard took an afternoon out on Monday to put a smile on the young faces at the children’s hospital.

The team – with club mascot Mighty Red in tow – donned Santa hats and brought goody bags for the kids after finishing their morning training session at Melwood.

Pitching in: Joe Cole (left), Luis Suarez (centre left), Sebastian Coates (centre right) and Lucas Leiva (right) visited Alder Hey Children's Hospital with Santa hats and goody bags for the children

Pitching in: Joe Cole (left), Luis Suarez (centre left), Sebastian Coates (centre right) and Lucas Leiva (right) visited Alder Hey Children's Hospital with Santa hats and goody bags for the children

Enlarge

The whole gang: The Liverpool players travelled to the hospital on Monday after training in the morning

The whole gang: The Liverpool players travelled to the hospital on Monday after training in the morning

Excited: Steven Gerrard (left) and Andre Wisdom (right) signed autographs and chatted to patients and their families

Excited: Steven Gerrard (left) and Andre Wisdom (right) signed autographs and chatted to patients and their families

To make sure as many of the young fans got their chance to see the squad, the players split up into groups to make their way around the hospital, signing autographs and talking to patients and their families.

Staff at Alder Hey tried to keep the visit a secret, but word soon spread of the players’ imminent arrival.

Reds’ top goalscorer Suarez told the club’s official website: ‘It's so nice to come here and see the children. It's very important.

‘When you have children yourself, it makes you realise how lucky you are.’

Top secret The staff at the hospital were unable to keep the players' visit under wraps

Top secret The staff at the hospital were unable to keep the players' visit under wraps

Splitting up: Raheem Sterling, Daniel Pacheco, Pepe Reina, Suso and Conor Coady were one of the five-strong groups doing the rounds at hospital

Splitting up: Raheem Sterling, Daniel Pacheco, Pepe Reina, Suso and Conor Coady were one of the five-strong groups doing the rounds at hospital

Goalkeeper Pepe Reina echoed Suarez’s sentiments. He said: ‘As always, it's emotional to come here – but we're always happy to do anything we can for the kids. We enjoy seeing them smile.

‘As a human being you have a responsibility – not just as a footballer – it's about trying to be a good guy and helping others to be a little bit more happy.’

Gerrard added: ‘You have mixed emotions – it's nice to put smiles on people's faces and try and cheer the kids up, but some of the wards are really tough.

‘The cancer and intensive care wards are really difficult to cover but it's part of our job today. We enjoy coming here and spending some time with the kids.’

Allen, who himself became a father earlier this year, said: ‘It's very tough, but at the same time it's inspiring to see how strong the kids and their parents are.’

Regular visitors: Suarez and Co make trips to the hospital often

Regular visitors: Suarez and Co make trips to the hospital often

Red and blue unite: Cole (left) and Coates (right) were equipped with goody bags for a young Everton fan

Red and blue unite: Cole (left) and Coates (right) were equipped with goody bags for a young Everton fan

Spreading the cheer: The players posed for a photo with staff at the hospital

Spreading the cheer: The players posed for a photo with staff at the hospital

Darren Bent and Paul Lambert row – why is the Aston Villa misfit not playing

Revealed: The full transcript of how Paul Lambert explains his treatment of Villa's 24million misfit striker Darren Bent

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UPDATED:

13:49 GMT, 28 November 2012

With Aston Villa being the joint lowest goalscorers in the Premier League after the weekend's action, Tuesday night's home fixture against Reading afforded manager Paul Lambert the chance to improve that statistic.

Christian Benteke's late winner afforded the Scot welcome cheer as Villa collected their second home triumph of the season as they jumped out of the relegation zone following a 1-0 win.

Scroll down for the full transcript from last night's interview with Paul Lambert

Out of favour: Darren Bent has lost his place in the Villa side

Out of favour: Darren Bent has lost his place in the Villa side

Hot shot: 24m Bent has scored 22 goals in 47 appearances

Hot shot: 24m Bent has scored 22 goals in 47 appearances

But there was, once more, no place in the starting XI for Darren Bent. The England striker has scored over 100 goals in the Premier League, yet summer signing Jordan Bowery was given the nod ahead of the club's 24m record signing. Bent spent his evening watching from an executive box.

Despite several attempts by the assembled broadcast and print media to establish a reason for this, it seems no-one is the wiser.

The facts are that Lambert said he would get Bent firing once more upon his arrival at the club. Since then, he has been made captain. Following an ankle injury, he has been relegated to the bench and now is unable to feature at all. Of course, Paul Lambert can point to the scoreline as justification for his actions. That is his absolute right as manager of Aston Villa Football Club.

Just for the record, however, for all those Villa fans scratching their heads at Bent's exclusion, we are reproducing last night's post-match press conference verbatim – to prove to those who remain puzzled by the whole situation the questions have been asked.

Under pressure: Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert

Under pressure: Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert

Suited and booted: Bent watches the action from an executive box on Tuesday night

Suited and booted: Bent watches the action from an executive box on Tuesday night

Lambert on Bent… the press conference transcript in full

Press: While Benteke had a big game tonight people will wonder why Darren Bent wasn't in the squad tonight.

Paul Lambert: He was in the squad.

Press: But not on the bench, even.

Paul Lambert: It was the same on Saturday. I just picked the same group
that deserves the chance to keep going. I always do what I think is
right for the football club.

Press: You do realise that with ten minutes to go with the game
goalless, you have a 24m signing sitting in the stands. With respect to
Jordan Bowery, are you more likely to get a goal from him or Darren
Bent

Paul Lambert: But you can't talk about ifs, buts or maybes. The reality
is that we won. That's the game. I'll always make that decision. I'll
make an honest judgement who plays.

Press: That's accepted, it's your head on the chopping block if you
don't win. But just for the record, what's the problem with Bent

Paul Lambert: There's no point me saying it again, is there (Laughs)

Press: It was a big game tonight and we wondered why you wouldn't at
least have the safety net of a proven Premier League goalscorer on the
bench. What is the problem

Paul Lambert: Absolutely none.

Press: So you just don't fancy him as a player

Paul Lambert: I do. But I've told you before that I'll pick a game to
win. I have 25 guys to look after and the most important thing is this
club. I'll make decisions and I'll live or die by them. That's the
nature of the beast.

Press: How did he take it when you announced who was playing

Paul Lambert: I just read the team out. The lads who were going to take
the field of play and those on the bench, you have to get them focused
on the game. All I try to do is pick a team to win a game.

Press: There were reports he stomped off Are they right

Paul Lambert: No, honestly, I would tell you. (Laughter from the floor) (And then from Lambert)

Press: How is his attitude Is that a problem

Paul Lambert: Fine. I'll do what's best for Aston Villa.

Press: So what does he have to do to get back in, Paul

Paul Lambert: Any player that I have, you work hard, you stay in the side. You play on merit.

Press: So, he's just not working hard enough, then

Paul Lambert: I never said that, you did. I never said that. If people
aren't working hard enough, I need to pick people who will affect the
game.

Press: Will he be sold in January He clearly doesn't fit the bill for you…

Paul Lambert: Honestly, my main concern is winning games for this football club. Crowd are brilliant, right behind you.

Press: Can we clarify that you have no problem with his application

Paul Lambert: No, none.

Press: Will he get a chance before January

Paul Lambert: Everyone will get the same chance. I see them train every
day, at work every day. Then you try and pick a team that will win.

Press: You've been proved right, haven't you Benteke scored and Villa won…

Paul Lambert: That's the game, you live and die by your decisions to do your best for the club.

Press: Is he down at all, Paul

Paul Lambert: Who

Press: Your club record signing.

Press: You said he knows what he needs to do to get back in, has there been any kind of conversation between the pair of you

Paul Lambert: I've said I don't have any problem.

Press: There were reports he left the stadium after the team was announced…

Paul Lambert: I don't know anything about that. I haven't heard that, no.

Press: Can you see him playing again here

Paul Lambert: You never know. I'll keep saying it: I'll play a team and
squad to win. The game's about winning. I've got 26 guys, some are
injured. It's a team game. You need everyone to pull the same way and
that's what we will create here.

Press: If a player was to take the hump and leave the stadium following
the announcement of the team, would it be club policy to discipline him
(Interjection from Press officer, “It didn't happen.”)

Press: Can you understand why we ask these questions, he's a man you made club captain…

Paul Lambert: Yes, I understand the questions. I get them every Friday.
It's the same answers. It's boring for you. I don't know what else you
can write about it.

Press: To put it into perspective, this was a big game tonight. I know
you've said you don't look at the table but 28,000 people here tonight
were looking at it. We were looking at it, our offices in London are
looking at it. We are wondering why, a man the club signed two years
ago, to provide goals doesn't get a run under you, given the fact that
when you came in, you showered him with praise, then you made him
captain. Now, not only can he not get into the side, he can't get on the
bench I know you have 20-odd professionals to look after, but the
question remains when you are struggling for goals, what's going on

Paul Lambert: I know you have your jobs to do, I'll give you the same answer.

Press: But the fans want to know and we are conduits to them.

Paul Lambert: I'm trying to give you an honest answer. If I was going to
lie to you, honestly, I would. It's my decision. Is that all right

Press: Can we put it another way Villa haven't scored a lot of goals.
We are wondering why someone who throughout his career has scored a lot
of goals we are trying to understand the thought process you are going
through to make that. What is it, so we can understand it

Paul Lambert: I think the decision is one I will make. You can't please
people all the time. Stephen Ireland and Charles N'Zogbia might not be
happy. Shay Given, for instance. It's not easy. I'll say it again. I've
got other lads to look after. I've never had one problem with any of
them.
So there you have it.

Are you any the wiser

No, nor us.

Rhys Priestland is seeing a sports psychologist to regain form

Wales fly-half Priestland reveals he's having therapy to halt declining form

|

UPDATED:

01:05 GMT, 26 November 2012

Rhys Priestland has revealed that he is seeing a sports psychologist in a desperate bid to recapture his form.

The Wales fly-half has been severely criticised for his performances during Wales' run of sixth consecutive defeats and has now quit Twitter because of the torrent of abuse.

Following the 33-10 thumping by New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, Priestland said: 'After Samoa (which Wales lost 26-19) I did not want to leave the flat or see anyone, I felt I had let people down.

Desperate: Rhys Priestland is talking to a therapist to regain his form

Desperate: Rhys Priestland is talking to a therapist to regain his form

'The poor performances were a lot to do with me because I have been playing with blinkers on.

'I buried my head in the sand, cutting myself away and that has been the problem. One of the issues I have is I have not been asking for help.

'I have started to see the sports psychiatrist we used during the World Cup and he has been really good. A lot of the boys have been using Andy McCann so I thought I would give it a shot because I had nothing to lose.

'I have tried to address it and hopefully I can get back to the way I have been playing.'

Priestland was the surprise star of Wales' run to the World Cup semi-final last year but his form has been on a steady descent ever since and Warren Gatland's stubborn commitment to stick with him regardless is a cause of fierce debate in the pubs of Queen Street.

United: Priestland (right) says a number of the Wales team use a sports psychologist

United: Priestland (right) says a number of the Wales team use a sports psychologist

Alternative: James Hook received a massive cheer when he was introduced against New Zealand on Saturday

Alternative: James Hook received a massive cheer when he was introduced against New Zealand on Saturday

Wales have a very able deputy in James Hook and the Perpignan playmaker was greeted with one of the loudest cheers of the afternoon when he replaced Priestland with 13 minutes left to play.

Unfortunately, next week's game against Australia falls outside the official IRB Test window, so Hook has to return to his club in France.

With alternative Dan Biggar unlikely to be fit Wales must stick with Priestland for another week at least.

London 2012 Olympics archery: Larry Godfrey loses last 16 clash

Brit hopeful Godfrey tastes defeat in last 16 after losing one-arrow shoot-off

|

UPDATED:

09:01 GMT, 3 August 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

Great Britain's hopes of an archery medal are over after their last man standing, Larry Godfrey, was knocked out in the last 16 on a one-arrow shoot-off.

Godfrey came from behind to move within one set of victory but his Malaysian opponent Khairul Anuar Mohamad found his best form at the tail end of the match to tie at 5-5 across five sets.

That left one shot apiece to decide the match and while Godfrey hit a strong nine, Mohamad held his nerve to strike a dead centre 10.

Off target: Larry Godfrey lost his last 16 elimination match to Khairul Anuar Mohamad

Off target: Larry Godfrey lost his last 16 elimination match to Khairul Anuar Mohamad

Bow finger: Godfrey fell to a one-arrow shoot-oBow finger: Godfrey fell to a one-arrow shoot-off defeat at Lord'sff defeat at Lord's

Bow finger: Godfrey fell to a one-arrow shoot-off defeat at Lord's

Godfrey, drawing first, sent his opening shot into the nine ring and received a warm cheer from the Lord's crowd.

Mohamad shot eight and when the pair traded nines Godfrey, who finished fourth in the Athens Games of 2004, was in position to take the set.
But he sent his closing shot high into the seven and went 2-0 behind as Mohamad hit centre gold.

Godfrey did not let that affect his composure, shooting two nines and his first maximum to score 28 from a possible 30.

Mohamad looked to have shot 27 but saw an initial eight upgraded to nine by the judges to halve the set.

But Godfrey was warming to his task and dropped just one point in the third set, finding the inner ring twice.

Mohamad hit an eight first up in response and could not claw back the deficit to leave the score tied at 3-3.

Godfrey hit his fourth maximum to take control of the fourth set, following with a pair of nines, and Mohamad's third eight put the home favourite in front for the first time.

Victory in the fifth set would have put Godfrey through but his opponent was nerveless, reeling off a pair of 10s to score 28 and force a shoot-off.

Godfrey had the first attempt and will have been happy to have found the gold, but Mohamad's aim was true and Godfrey bowed out with a wave to the fans.

Wimbledon 2012: Andy Murray beats David Ferrer

Murray fights back to see off Ferrer and march into semi-final date with Tsonga

|

UPDATED:

18:43 GMT, 4 July 2012

Andy Murray was made to dig deep but battled past David Ferrer in four sets to set up a Wimbledon semi-final clash with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The British No 1 lost the first set on a tiebreak before nicking the second set, again on a tiebreaker.

A single break of serve was enough in the third set, while another tense and tight fourth set again went to a tiebreaker following a frustrating rain delay.

Murray emerged victorious and is now just one game away from a first Wimbledon final appearance.

He will play Tsonga in the semi-finals on Friday after seeing off Ferrer 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6.

More to follow.

Moment of glory: Andy Murray looks to the skies after seeing off David Ferrer in four sets

Moment of glory: Andy Murray looks to the skies after seeing off David Ferrer in four sets

Watch out Tsonga! Andy Murray celebrates during his win over David Ferrer on Centre Court

Watch out Tsonga! Andy Murray celebrates during his win over David Ferrer on Centre Court

Kate's feeling the tension: Prince William (right) and the Duchess of Cambridge watch Murray in action

Kate's feeling the tension: Prince William (right) and the Duchess of Cambridge watch Murray in action

Team Andy: Murray's father, William (third left), and girlfriend, Kim Sears, cheer their man on

Team Andy: Murray's father, William (third left), and girlfriend, Kim Sears, cheer their man on

On the attack: The British No 1 unleashes a forehand against his Spanish opponent

On the attack: The British No 1 unleashes a forehand against his Spanish opponent

Never say die: Ferrer chased down every ball in a typically dogged performance

Never say die: Ferrer chased down every ball in a typically dogged performance

Fans' eye: A view from the stands around Centre Court as Murray and Ferrer do battle

Fans' eye: A view from the stands around Centre Court as Murray and Ferrer do battle

Beaten: Murray stretches for a volley at the net but is passed by Ferrer

Beaten: Murray stretches for a volley at the net but is passed by Ferrer

Euro 2012: How England are getting ready for Italy

Revealed! How England are getting ready for the Italian job

|

UPDATED:

23:19 GMT, 21 June 2012

England are planning to defeat Italy on a computer screen before they even get on the pitch.

Sportsmail has learned of the
detail involved in Roy Hodgson's plans to win on Sunday and advance to
the semi-finals of Euro 2012.

Good cheer: Roy Hodgson (right) and assistant Ray Lewington

Good cheer: Roy Hodgson (right) and assistant Ray Lewington

Such is the swift turnaround of games here, Hodgson must quickly revise for the next examination, preparing the players for the threat posed by the Italians.

That includes absorbing the information supplied by Ian Butterworth, a former Norwich and Nottingham Forest defender and the England scout who has watched all three of Italy's group games.

Meanwhile, Gary Neville and Ray Lewington are working with the two England video technicians, Andy Scoulding and Steve O'Brien.

Scoulding is Liverpool's head of technical analysis and worked with Hodgson at Fulham, too. O'Brien is the Football Association's senior football analyst.

They studied Italy's matches, not just here at Euro 2012 but prior to that, searching for weaknesses and seeking an edge.

Back in training: England will have their first session on Friday since victory over Ukraine

Back in training: England will have their first session on Friday since victory over Ukraine

All the information is then condensed and will be presented in a 20-minute team meeting with the players.

The presentations are slick in their delivery, the coaches using infra-red zappers to make their points with carefully edited DVD footage of the team they are playing.

The aim, as one FA official explained yesterday, is not to overload the players with too much information at one time.

'Whatever the outcome on Sunday night, we won't suffer for a lack of preparation,' said the official and this was echoed by England goalkeeper Joe Hart.

'We're very well prepared,' said Hart. 'We know everything about all the teams we play against.' At times during a training session, Hodgson will direct a player much like a Grandmaster moves a chess piece. It will be slow and precise, such is the England manager's meticulous approach; his attention to detail.

As well as his coaching drills, he will surprise his players by calling them together to tell a joke now and again.

So far, so good: England are sticking to their game plan

So far, so good: England are sticking to their game plan

The other day he told the fable of the scorpion and the frog; of how a scorpion persuades a frog to carry him across a river by pointing out that they will both drown if he stings him.

Except that the scorpion does sting the frog and with his last breath, paralysis setting in, the frog asks why.

'It's my nature,' says the scorpion before they both slip beneath the surface of the water.

The point The players were laughing too much to digest what Hodgson was saying. But right now it remains in England's nature to play a certain way and their boss is sticking to that plan.

He leaves the players in no doubt as to the role they must perform; both as individuals and as a team.

When it comes to the final team talk, in the dressing room before they head out into the tunnel, Hodgson keeps things very simple.

He delivers a short, sharp speech to the group; a few rousing words.

/06/22/article-2162963-13B13C38000005DC-447_468x313.jpg” width=”468″ height=”313″ alt=”Well prepared: England goalkeeper Joe Hart” class=”blkBorder” />

Well prepared: England goalkeeper Joe Hart

There would be two recovery days after a game and it has been no different here, despite the short time to prepare between matches.

It is why those meetings – and the transfer of information to the players – is so important.

Today will be the first full training session since beating Ukraine, and they will follow a pattern that worked well for them earlier in the week by training here again on Saturday before flying to Kiev for a walk-round the Olympic Stadium.

Yesterday was more of a work-out for the reserves but Hodgson still had them taking penalties at the end.

He watched intently as Theo Walcott, Leighton Baines, Phil Jones and Stewart Downing took two apiece – all scoring twice against Robert Green. Walcot t and Baines were particularly impressive.

Hodgson, of course, has other tricks up his sleeve, not least his understanding of the Italians.

Chilling out: Mario Balotelli enjoys a rest during the Italian training session in Krakow ahead of facing England

Chilling out: Mario Balotelli enjoys a rest during the Italian training session in Krakow ahead of facing England

Yesterday Roberto Mancini went so far as to call the former Inter Milan and Udinese manager – who speaks fluent Italian – an 'Italian Englishman'.

'England wait for their opponents and hit them on the counterattack,' said Manchester City's manager.

'This is the kind of football that we, Italians, were masters at for a long time. We understood that winning is what matters at tournaments and Hodgson has always been a pragmatic coach.'

If Hodgson can conquer Italy, he will become the first England manager to beat a major football nation in a tournament knockout match away from Wembley.

'He's already broken the Sweden hoodoo,' pointed out an FA official who also happens to be a passionate West Bromwich Albion supporter.

'And last season he guided West Brom to their first win against Stoke in the league in 40-odd years and their first home and away wins against Aston Villa in my lifetime.'

He tells gags, he breaks hoodoos. Bring on Italy.

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