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Middlesbrough 1 Blackburn 0 match report

Middlesbrough 1 Blackburn 0: Boro bounce back and pile the pressure on Berg

PUBLISHED:

17:37 GMT, 26 December 2012

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UPDATED:

17:44 GMT, 26 December 2012

Lukas Jutkiewicz struck the game's
solitary goal midway through the second half as Middlesbrough bounced
back from Saturday's npower Championship defeat at Leeds to keep their
automatic promotion hopes alive.

Polish striker Jutkiewicz struck for
the second successive game with a clinical low finish from the edge of
the penalty area to lift Tony Mowbray's side up to third, within a point
of second-placed Hull.

Christmas cracker: Lucas Jutkiewicz scores the winner

Christmas cracker: Lucas Jutkiewicz scores the winner

Match facts

Middlesbrough: Steele, Friend, Woodgate, Bikey (Rhys Williams 46), Hoyte, Ledesma, McEachran (Smallwood 56), Leadbitter, Emnes (Bailey 72), Jutkiewicz, McDonald. Subs Not Used: Leutwiler, Thomson, Halliday, Miller.

Booked: Ledesma

Goals: Jutkiewicz 67.

Blackburn: Kean, Henley, Grant Hanley, Dann, Martin Olsson, Rosado (Dunn 79), Murphy, Lowe, King, Rhodes, Kazim-Richards (Rochina 83). Subs Not Used: Usai, Givet, Pedersen, Etuhu, Vukcevic.

Booked: Henley.

Att: 22,882

Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

Latest Championship table, fixtures and results

Blackburn, who have now won only once under manager Henning Berg in 10 matches, were made to pay for missed chances and continue to slide down the table after securing just one point from their last six fixtures.

Rovers' late substitute Ruben Rochina was denied a late equaliser when Middlesbrough goalkeeper Jason Steele kept out his free-kick, but the home side were also guilty of some wasteful finishing.

Defender Andre Bikey and Argentinian striker Emmanuel Ledesma returned for Boro, while Portugal Under-21s international Diogo Rosado made his first start for Blackburn with midfielder Danny Murphy and defender Grant Hanley also recalled by Berg.

Middlesbrough made the brighter start as Jutkiewicz and Ledesma both fired over the crossbar from inside the penalty area before 16-goal Blackburn striker Jordan Rhodes fired a shot just off target at the other end.

Rosado then tested Steele with a swirling, angled drive from 35 yards that was well held by the Boro goalkeeper and in a see-saw opening Jutkiewicz's header from Ledesma's cross was gathered by Blackburn goalkeeper Jake Kean.

Close call: Jordan Rhodes is kept out by Boro defence

Close call: Jordan Rhodes is kept out by Boro defence

Middlesbrough defender George Friend and midfield team-mate Grant Leadbitter both fired in shots from outside the area, but the home side were given a let-off in the 24th minute when Rhodes spurned a gilt-edged chance from close range.

Boro continued to rain in shots from long range. Rosado, again from more than 30 yards, striker Scott McDonald and Ledesma all tried their luck from distance before the break, the latter's well held by Kean in the 35th minute.

Both sides went in search of the game's opening goal in an even contest, but the score remained goalless at the interval.

Mowbray replaced Bikey with Rhys Williams during the interval and the latter was straight into the action, blocking Rovers striker Josh King's goalbound effort before Murphy's 20-yard shot was well held by Steele.

Jutkiewicz was next to waste a golden opportunity when he headed wide from six yards from McDonald's telling cross in the 50th minute, while Rovers striker Colin Kazim-Richards saw his header saved by Steele before blazing the rebound over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.

Jutkiewicz dragged an angled shot wide and forward team-mate Marvin Emnes arrowed a 25-yard effort off target, but in the 67th minute Boro broke the deadlock.

McDonald pulled the ball back towards the edge of the penalty area from the left and Jutkiewicz buried a low, right-footed shot into the bottom corner for his seventh goal of the season.

Blackburn boss Berg replaced Rosado with David Dunn in the 78th minute before fellow midfielder Jason Lowe fired a low angled shot just wide and moments later visiting goalkeeper Kean denied Boro a second when tipping McDonald's close-range effort over the crossbar at full stretch.

Rovers almost snatched a point in the final minute, but Rochina's goalbound free-kick was brilliantly saved by Boro keeper Steele.

Bolton 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1: Mamady Sidibe strike keeps Wednesday out of relegation zone

Bolton 0 Sheffield Wed 1: Sidibe strike keeps Wednesday out of relegation zone

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UPDATED:

18:22 GMT, 26 December 2012

Mamady Sidibe scored his first goal in almost three years to present Sheffield Wednesday with their third victory on the run and keep them out of the relegation places.

The Malian striker nearly retired after suffering a string of serious knee injuries but found the net with a classy header, two days after extending his loan from Stoke to cover the Christmas period.

In a game which lacked the punch of a typical Boxing Day fixture, the 33-year-old’s goal was a moment to cheer, not least for the 3,852 Wednesday fans who had made the trip from Yorkshire to Lancashire without the aid of public transport.

Winner: Sidibe scored the only goal at Reebok Stadium

Winner: Sidibe scored the only goal at Reebok Stadium

Match facts

Bolton: Bogdan, Mears, Ream, Knight, Ricketts (Alonso 73), Eagles (Sordell 73), Andrews, Spearing, Petrov (Lee 66), Ngog, Afobe.

Subs Not Used: Lonergan, Butterfield, Pratley, Riley.

Sheff Wed: Kirkland, Buxton, Gardner, Llera,
Reda Johnson (Mattock 76), Antonio (Jermaine Johnson 90),McCabe, Prutton, Helan, Sidibe (O'Grady 76), Lee.

Subs Not Used: /12/26/article-2253412-16A8843B000005DC-967_468x318.jpg” width=”468″ height=”318″ alt=”Trouble: Wednesday are fourth from bottom and two points ahead of the relegation zone” class=”blkBorder” />

Trouble: Wednesday are fourth from bottom and two points ahead of the relegation zone

And in a first quarter of misplaced passes and dud attacks, Ngog’s strike on 14 minutes was the only time either goalkeeper was tested. The former Liverpool striker ran at the backtracking Wednesday defence before firing a left-foot strike across goal which Chris Kirkland did well to palm away.

On 25 minutes, the Yorkshire side scored from their first chance of merit. Right-back Lewis Buxton was given far too much space by the corner of the box and his flat cross invited Mamady Sidibe, who had stolen in front of Tim Ream, to power a header past Adam Bogdan.

It was the 6ft 4in Malian’s first goal since February 2010, when he netted in Stoke’s 3-0 rout of Blackburn. The 33-year-old has endured a torrid time with knee injuries, missing the entirety of last season, and considered giving up football.

But on Christmas Eve, he extended his loan with the club until January 19 and this Boxing Day goal, after all his troubles, was a rather festive way to celebrate. Indeed, his merriment was such that he lost a glove, which he had to run 20 yards to retrieve.

Problems at home: Bolton have lost their last two Championship matches at Reebok Stadium

Problems at home: Bolton have lost their last two Championship matches at Reebok Stadium

Not long after, Miguel Llera flashed Keiran Lee’s corner past the post and four minutes before the interval Kieran Lee twisted and turned in the area and tested Bogdan with a low shot.

Bolton’s only other chance came in added time, when Martin Petrov’s free-kick was punched clear by Kirkland.

The half-time whistle brought not-so pantomime boos from the home crowd. Bolton emerged with more effectiveness, if not the goal craved.

On 52 minutes Afobe roasted Anthony Gardner with pace and pulled back for Ngog, who could only chest goalwards. As the ball spun wide unmarked Petrov was unable to touch it in. In the 71st minute a deep cross from the left from Chris Eagles was met by Afobe but his shot was bundled away by Kirkland. The 19-year-old did not deserve to be on the losing side.

Freedman rolled the dice and brought on Chung-Yong Lee for Petrov and Marvin Srodell for Eagles to move into a more attacking formation. But despite the switch clear-cut chances remained at a premium.

With 13 minutes remaining Sidibe, doubtless tiring after only his fourth start of the season, was replaced by Chris O’Grady. He soaked up the applause from the away section as he made way.

The final 10 minutes saw pressure without real purpose from the hosts. Ngog’s soft header wide was the best of the chances but the day belonged to Sidibe.

Nottingham Forest 4 Leeds 2: Billy Sharp scores twice

Nottingham Forest 4 Leeds 2: Sharp caps happy Christmas with brace in convincing victory

PUBLISHED:

14:14 GMT, 26 December 2012

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UPDATED:

14:37 GMT, 26 December 2012

Billy Sharp capped a fine fortnight by striking twice as Nottingham Forest turned on the style either side of half-time to send in-form Leeds spiralling to defeat at the City Ground.

The striker's wife had given birth to their son on December 14 after a period of heartache that began with the death of their first child, who was just two days old, last summer.

Forest, who had slipped to 11th place after taking only four points from their previous five matches, were the latest side to make a mockery of the form book in the npower Championship after Sharp converted a late first-half penalty to cancel out Paul Green's early opener for Leeds.

Sharp fired his second of the game soon after the restart and a three-goal blitz in nine minutes – Rodolph Austin scored a clumsy own goal and Dexter Blackstock headed home the fourth – stunned the visitors, who had celebrated the completion of last week's takeover by Dubai investment bank GFH Capital with victory over Middlesbrough on Saturday – Leeds' fifth win in their last six league games.

Hotshot: Sharp's double proved the difference in Forest's victory

Hotshot: Sharp's double proved the difference in Forest's victory

Match facts

Nottingham Forest: Camp, Hutton, Ward, Collins, Halford, Cohen, Guedioura, Majewski, Reid, Sharp, Blackstock.
Subs: Darlow, Harding, Gillett, Moussi, McGugan, Cox, Lansbury.

Leeds: Kenny, /12/26/article-2253315-16A7EA1A000005DC-511_468x323.jpg” width=”468″ height=”323″ alt=”Mobbed: Sharp's Forest team-mates celebrate after he scored” class=”blkBorder” />

Mobbed: Sharp's Forest team-mates celebrate after he scored

Leeds striker Luciano Becchio's header
from Drury's cross was comfortably gathered by Camp, while at the other
end visiting goalkeeper Paddy Kenny pulled off a fine save in the 28th
minute to keep out Forest defender Elliott Ward's goalbound header.

Forest deservedly equalised in the
44th minute. Referee Lee Probert did not hesitate in pointing to the
spot following Lees' challenge on Sharp and the Forest striker picked
himself up to send Kenny the wrong way with the subsequent penalty for
his eighth goal of the season.

Forest, suitably perked, looked the
more dangerous side after the break and stole into a two-goal lead
within 12 minutes of the restart.

Spot on: Sharp's penalty brought Forest level

Spot on: Sharp's penalty brought Forest level

Blackstock headed a long clearance
brilliantly into the path of Sharp, who coolly rounded goalkeeper Kenny
and rammed home his second goal in the 54th minute and three minutes
later an out-of-touch Austin swung a clumsy leg at Forest defender
Ward's cut back and lashed the ball into the roof of his own net.

Worse was to come for Leeds. Forest
midfielder Andy Reid ghosted passed right-back Sam /12/26/article-2253315-16A7E9C8000005DC-370_468x286.jpg” width=”468″ height=”286″ alt=”Agony: Leeds players saw Forest overtake them in the Championship table with victory” class=”blkBorder” />

Agony: Leeds players saw Forest overtake them in the Championship table with victory

Ecstacy: Forest are well-placed to challenge for promotion in the New Year

Ecstacy: Forest are well-placed to challenge for promotion in the New Year

Darts at Alexandra Palace – why everyone loves it

Why even the Queen loves darts at Christmas in the madhouse of the Palace (that's Ally Pally, of course…)

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UPDATED:

10:35 GMT, 26 December 2012

Friday night at the Palace. Her Majesty the Queen sweeps into the room, with Philip, Charles and Camilla in tow. All in her presence greet her with curtsies and cheers before spontaneously bursting into a hearty rendition of the national anthem.

But Her Majesty suddenly stumbles in her heels, loses her stately poise and crashes into Charles. The four-pint pitcher of Carlsberg she was balancing on her handbag sloshes down Camilla’s dress.

A great mocking cheer goes up from those nearby – from Mario and Luigi, from the six traffic cones and from Captain America.

Then the thudding beat kicks in, the lights go up and a party like nothing ever before seen at the Palace starts. The guests at the back start doing the Poznan, Spiderman is dancing Gangnam style on a table with a Christmas tree and the Royals spill more lager as they chant ‘Oi Oi Oi’ in chorus.

Festive fun: The Ladbrokes girls warm the crowd up at Alexandra Palace before Christmas

Festive fun: The Ladbrokes girls warm the crowd up at Alexandra Palace before Christmas

Playing second fiddle: The action on the oche is often competing for the limelight

Playing second fiddle: The action on the oche is often competing for the limelight

The Queen is in most nights, they all are. How could they stay away It’s brash, bombastic and brilliant. It’s fancy dress, froth and frolics. It can only be darts.

For six years now, sportsmen with a build closer to Henry VIII than Adonis have congregated at the Alexandra Palace just before Christmas to chance their arm at the Ladbrokes PDC World Championships.

And while the thousands in the sell-out crowd let off steam, 72 players from around the globe compete on the oche for a 200,000 jackpot and the honour of being crowned the first world champion of the sporting year.

A very British sport played in every pub from Penzance to Penrith feels snuggly at home at a place christened by its Victorian benefactors as the “Palace of the People” – but behind-the-scenes and away from the glare of the Sky cameras, the tournament has the feel of a travelling show.

Just a couple of days before the first darts were thrown, the great auditorium in which darts legends such as Phil Taylor, Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld perform was full of nervous students sitting accountancy exams.

Stand-out dress: Pals enjoy a beer in their Where's Wally outfits

Stand-out dress: Pals enjoy a beer in their Where's Wally outfits

Sealed with a Kiss: This rock 'n roll fan didn't hold back with his fancy dress gear

Sealed with a Kiss: This rock 'n roll fan didn't hold back with his fancy dress gear

The stands and the 120ft stage were assembled through the night. The rigs, jibs and cameras are painstakingly positioned by an army of Sky Sports technicians within hours of the start. The “best seat in the house” studio from which Dave Clark fronts broadcasts to every continent of the world is a precarious Meccano set of steel scaffolding, perspex and black drapes.

Underneath the 200ft tall ceilings of the Palace’s great function rooms, underneath the iconic classical frescoes, the Sky trailers, screens and endless miles of cables are wheeled in alongside the incalculable gallons of ale and the well-stocked pantries of pie and mash.

This fleeting feel to what is the annual highlight of the sport only adds to the earthy, all-embracing and all-round enjoyable nature of darts. It’s a formula that the sport’s head honcho, Barry Hearn, has got nailed down.

‘99.9 per cent of fans who come to the Ally Pally are there to have a good time,’ he says. ‘There’s a lot of worry in people’s lives at the moment – they’re worried about their job, about paying the bills, about affording things for Christmas.

‘But they can come here on their Christmas party or with their family, forget about all those things for a while and have a good time while not breaking the bank.

Girls night out: But most of the crowd are guys enjoying a beer with their mates

Girls night out: But most of the crowd are guys enjoying a beer with their mates

Making their point: Fans are encouraged to write their signs for the cameras

Making their point: Fans are encouraged to write their signs for the cameras

‘It’s a sport for the people because the players are just like them, just normal blokes. It’s not like football, where they jump in to a Ferrari, speed off, have a crash and then jump into their second Ferrari. I remember when Phil Taylor – the 15-time champion of the world – was earning 75 a week as a lathe operator in Stoke-on-Trent.

‘It’s that kind of game that’s open to anyone, it’s a classless sport which is enjoyed by everyone from the bloke down the pub to the Royal family.’

It’s funny that Hearn should mention the Royals – and I don’t mean those in fancy dress. Sat up in the Sky studio, surveying the magnificent arena below, Dave Clark beams as he recalls the moment last year when Adrian Lewis, caught up in the euphoria of winning a second successive title, unwittingly planted a wet celebratory kiss on the forehead of Prince Harry, who had come backstage to congratulate him.

‘That’s the beauty of this sport,’ says Clark, who has fronted Sky’s annual 100 hours of live coverage for a decade now. ‘You never know what’s going to happen. It’s unscripted drama and entertainment the entire time, both up on the oche and up here in the studio. We never prepare anything, it’s all spontaneous and based on the strength of character of these players.’

The excitement on this occasion is about the 23-year-old Dutchman Michael van Gerwen, just one of a good 10 players who have a feasible chance of winning the Sid Waddell Trophy in an incredibly open field.

The dark and claustrophobic commentary booth underneath the studio is a quieter place this year in the absence of Waddell, the “Voice of Darts” for 40 years who passed away in August. The trophy is a fitting tribute to him and the description of it – “made from the same Eritrean marble as used by Michelangelo in the Sistine chapel” – almost passable as one of his inimitable soundbites.

Where's Darth Vader Fans queue up to see the darts stars walk up to the stage

Where's Darth Vader Fans queue up to see the darts stars walk up to the stage

The future's darts, the future's orange: Dressing up is part of the fun

The future's darts, the future's orange: Dressing up is part of the fun

While the coverage may not be scripted,
Clark and the commentators can fall back on a 75-strong team who produce
the polished final product screened around the world. The Sky trailers
are like NASA mission control, with the producers able to see about four
dozen different feeds and every conceivable angle.

Throwing up on the oche, even when there’s nobody in the audience, is like a daunting experience – like being caught up in the glare of a great eye. It’s no wonder the players sweat under the heat of the lights, while every expression is captured by a bank of camera lenses trained at every part of your body.

For the semi-finals and finals, eight additional cameras for Sky’s 3D coverage will further magnify the scrutiny. There’s going to be a camera directly above the board, to create the effect that the darts are being flung straight through your TV screen.

The feeds are stitched together by a team who sit and control in a tiny trailer for five or six hours without pause, every second committed to industrial-sized hard drives (no tapes any more) linked by giant fibre optic snakes of wires. Replays are captured in a split-second and on air before you can yell ‘One hundred aaaannnddd eighty..’

‘Everywhere around the world, from the USA to New Zealand, people are watching the darts,’ says Hearn. ‘Watching darts take off over these last few years have been one of the most satisfying moments in my life and my career.

Leading the way: Top players like Phil Taylor are adored by the Alexandra Palace masses

Leading the way: Top players like Phil Taylor are adored by the Alexandra Palace masses

‘In some countries like Germany, we
started off playing tournament in front of 50 people. Now we get 3,000
or more. Over a million watch every night in Holland (the Dutch TV
companies have started bringing their own equipment and have colonised
part of the press tent).

‘Where next The Middle East and Japan – we’ll take the superstars there, go global!’

Back in the auditorium, the 'jimmy jib' boom camera makes another sweep over the audience as ‘Chase the Sun’ – the song by Italian electronica outfit Planet Funk discovered entirely by chance by a Sky producer to become a metaphor for darts – kicks in again.

It captures the fans dancing on their chairs and waving their red signs with long-mulled over messages scrawled on them in black marker pen, it captured the dodgy dress sense and the dodgier dance moves. It even captures the bouncers turfing people out seemingly at random for getting a bit too involved in it all.

From the pub to the Palace, this travelling, sporting show of darts is genuinely unlike anything else.

The Ladbrokes World Championship is live on Sky Sports HD including the semi-finals and final in 3D. Join the conversation at #Ladbrokesdarts.

Leyton Orient first match called off as weather wreaks havoc with sport

More frustration for Orient as they're first to fall foul off the wet weather across England

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UPDATED:

19:07 GMT, 25 December 2012

Leyton Orient led the way with the first weather postponement of the Boxing Day fixture programme as the forecast of more heavy rain threatened further disruption.

The League One side called off their home clash with Swindon at lunchtime on Christmas Day after downpours in London overnight.

Raining on our parade: The sports calendar has been affected by the weather

Raining on our parade: The sports calendar has been affected by the weather

It has been a frustrating week for Orient boss Russell Slade, who took his team to Notts County last weekend only to have the game controversially called off, even though both managers and the players felt the pitch was playable.

That match was one of 13 League fixtures which fell foul of heavy rain and clubs will be hoping there is no repeat at a time of the year which is traditionally lucrative in terms of attracting fans.

There was also a major casualty in racing, with Thursday's Welsh Grand National at Chepstow succumbing after six inches of rain fell in the area.

The race, which was due to be the BBC’s farewell, has been re-arranged for January 5 and will be screened by Channel 4.

Michael Laudrup would lead my Premier League special XI – Martin Keown

Premier League Bootroom: Laudrup's the leader of my surprise packages

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 25 December 2012

Christmas is a time for good things so I’ve picked an XI who have played exceptionally well this season. Some have received more plaudits than others but all have surprised in one way or another. And all have done something a bit special this season.

Christmas Crackers XI

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa)

It was a surprise that Guzan was selected ahead of the very experienced Shay Given at the start of the season but Paul Lambert should be commended for his choice. Guzan has dealt well with the pressure of Given lurking in the background and played with real self-belief. Five clean sheets for a team that has struggled is no mean feat.

Right back Pablo Zabaleta (Man City)

He has seen off Maicon and Micah Richards to become the champions’ No 1 right back. Zabaleta is Mr Dependable. Close behind him as a surprise package is Carl Jenkinson, whose improvement for Arsenal has been amazing. His performances are not apologetic anymore and he deserves to be in the Arsenal starting XI.

Left back: Leighton Baines (Everton)

Only one candidate in this position. Everything has come together for Baines, who gets better and better each year. The precision of his decision making when he goes forward has improved. The weight and timing of his passes are excellent. Add to that his crossing and free kicks and he has to be in my side.

Must have: Leighton Baines has been superb as usual, from his crossing to his decision making

Must have: Leighton Baines has been superb as usual, from his crossing to his decision making

Centre backs: Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Sebastien Bassong (Norwich)

Vertonghen
has become the leader in Spurs’ defence. He dictates the line and has
shown great leadership to help Andre Villas-Boas implement his
high-pressing system. He is good on the ball too and has proved to be a
very good signing.

Bassong
left Spurs in the summer for Norwich and has been the key to their
improved defensive performances. He was caught ball-watching too often
at Tottenham but has been dominating as Chris Hughton’s side have kept
five clean sheets. He has also chipped in with three goals.

Midfield: Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Oscar (Chelsea), Marouane Fellaini (Everton)

Cazorla has arrived in English football and been a joy to watch. You have to admire his ambidexterity. It’s impossible to distinguish which foot is his strongest. Defences are fearful of his through passes and are now standing off him, which has seen him shoot more.

Oscar is another summer import and is a lovely footballer. He seems unperturbed by anyone around him — people try to dispossess him but they can’t. He has an effortless style, is always looking for the ball and is going to be a phenomenal player. He, more than anyone, has brought a change in Chelsea’s style of play.

Fellaini has benefited from Tim Cahill’s departure as the Belgian is now playing further forward. He brings the ball down on his chest like Niall Quinn used to — he plucks it out the air with such great control. He then uses his huge frame to protect the ball. He’s playing with extra inspiration this season and is scoring crucial goals.

Liquid: Santi Cazorla can play with either foot, is creative, clever and something special

Liquid: Santi Cazorla can play with either foot, is creative, clever and something special

Front three: Michu (Swansea), Christian Benteke (A Villa), Robin van Persie (Man Utd)

The transition Michu has made since arriving from Spain has been incredible. He keeps performing and is very cool in front of goal. Quality players find time on the pitch and he does that in the box. He has given a boost to Swansea’s attacking threat.

Benteke is so fast and powerful and has justifiably kept Darren Bent out the side. I haven’t yet seen a defender who knows how to handle him.

Van Persie was under pressure after a big-money move to United from Arsenal but he has been excellent and there seems to be a real hunger in him. He wants trophies and that motivation is helping drive the rest of the United squad.

Magic Michu: The attacker is cool as a cucumber in front of goal

Magic Michu: The attacker is cool as a cucumber in front of goal

Coach: Michael Laudrup (Swansea)

Following Brendan Rodgers was not going to be easy at the Liberty Stadium. Yes, it took the players some time to get used to his ways, but Laudrup has taken them on to another level, particularly going forward. That is no mean feat.

Another level: Michael Laudrup has driven the players forward at the Liberty Stadium

Another level: Michael Laudrup has driven the players forward at the Liberty Stadium

What's the score

Fixtures

Fixtures

Martin O"Neill says every day is Christmas Day for footballers

Every day's like Christmas Day! O'Neill delights in role he can play passing on the good times

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 25 December 2012

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill claims every day must feel like Christmas for footballers.

The European Cup winner had his players in for training as usual on the big day, ahead of Boxing Day's clash with Manchester City at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland are hoping to replicate last New Year’s Day’s win over the champions, and O’Neill knows half a day away from their families is a small sacrifice for today’s millionaires to pay for the enormous rewards which would have seemed implausible to his mentor Brian Clough and his Forest team-mates.

Points mean presents: Martin O'Neill says every day is like Christmas Day for footballers, so he doesn't mind dragging the Sunderland squad in for training on the big day

Points mean presents: Martin O'Neill says every day is like Christmas Day for footballers, so he doesn't mind dragging the Sunderland squad in for training on the big day

Points mean presents: Martin O'Neill says every day is like Christmas Day for footballers, so he doesn't mind dragging the Sunderland squad in for training on the big day

And although he admits he has aged ahead of time and can only briefly enjoy his favourite time of year, O’Neill would recommend management as the nest best thing for a footballer.

He said: 'I think that it is the most phenomenal life you can get, especially if you have couple of years which are successful.

'I was lucky enough to be at Nottingham Forest and we had couple of successful years in Europe and that was fantastic.

'Every player has to enjoy the career. You get paid to stay fit and healthy and as long as you do not have to endure serious injury it is a great career.

'And if you are one of those players thinking of going into management I have one piece of advice: “forget about it”. That was a joke, I promise it was a joke.

'It is genuinely great if young players want to step into management and think they can do it. The playing is the ultimate and management is ok by comparison. To play and be involved in a successful side and win trophies or cups, is really great.

'You actually get a different feeling as a manager, in a sense that you have that responsibility if you end up winning something, you feel it is really good because it is your team but playing is the enjoyment.

High times: O'Neill (left) was part of the all-conquering Nottingham Forest team managed by the legendary Brain Clough

High times: O'Neill (left) was part of the all-conquering Nottingham Forest team managed by the legendary Brain Clough

'You only have to worry about yourself. That is what my wife said to me recently. She said it wasn’t great in the days I was playing and when my only complaint was seeing Cloughie on Monday morning to ask why I weren’t in the team.'

Sunderland and O’Neill are sweating on the fitness of England winger Adam Johnson so he can face his former team. He has a dead leg which forced him off in the win at Southampton, and has responded slowly to treatment.

O’Neill added: 'He is positive and making progress so we will see. We were hoping the would clear up and it has not done.'

Merry Christmas from John Terry, Vincent Kompany, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and James Anderson

Merry Twitmas! How the world of sport celebrated the big day, including Kompany, Anderson and Poulter

PUBLISHED:

22:02 GMT, 25 December 2012

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UPDATED:

22:02 GMT, 25 December 2012

Even sports stars take Christmas off, and thanks to Twitter we've been able to get a glimpse inside their lives on the big day.

Here, Sportsmail picks out the best from around the world, including Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, golfer Ian Poulter, rugby ace Danny Care and Olympic champions Greg Rutherford.

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI @CaroWozniacki

‘Fits perfectly lol! “@McIlroyRory: Merry Christmas everyone!! From the #geekandthenerd @CaroWozniacki’

Wozniacki and boyfriend Rory McIlroy in their his and hers T-shirts.

Happy couple: Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki

Happy couple: Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki

ANTON FERDINAND
@anton_ferdinand

‘@rioferdy5 yeah got it and its just come out the oven’

Anton reassures his brother Rio that he has the gammon under control.

Gary Lineker @GaryLineker

‘2 hours in the oven and still the turkey is cold. Helps if you put the oven on right My only job. Oops!’

England’s former star striker isn’t as clinical in the kitchen.

ANTON FERDINAND TWITTER PICTURE

GARY LINEKER TWITTER PICTURE

Vincent Kompany @VincentKompany

‘Merry Christmas!! Just arriving at the training ground here for a Christmas Day training session.’

While many tweeted about their new gifts and Christmas dinner, City’s captain showed he was a true pro.

John Terry j26terry (Instagram)

Chelsea captain John Terry used the photo-sharing app Instagram to post this mocked-up picture of him and Frank Lampard enjoying some old-school gifts.

JOHN TERRY TWITTER

Greg Rutherford @GregJRutherford

‘Currently in bed contemplating training… I should crack on. But my bed’s so warm’

Even Olympic gold medallists struggle with the cold.

Tim Cahill @Tim_Cahill

‘U get dressed in the dark again captain.’

The former Everton star retweeted this picture of Phil Neville and his wife. Cahill was not impressed with Neville’s outfit.

TIM CAHILL TWEET

TIM CAHILL TWEET

Jason Roberts @JasonRoberts30

‘My sock drawer is overflowing.’

Nice to see even footballers can’t escape one of the great stereotypes of Christmas.

James Anderson @JimmyAnderson9

‘Merry
Christmas everyone! I’m up waiting for my youngest to wake up. Cant
believe she has chosen today to have a lie in!!’

There was a
role-reversal at the England bowler’s house.

Josh McEachran @JMcEachran20

‘Aww
just spoke to my great nan on the phone! She’s just made me so happy
:)’

The Chelsea midfielder, on loan at Middlesbrough, clearly got some
good vouchers for Christmas.

Danny care @dannycare

‘Check these bad boys out’

It takes a brave man to flaunt a pair of tartan slippers. Let’s just hope the England and Harlequins scrum-half does not get a shoeing from London Irish on Saturday.

DANNY CARE TWITTER PICTURE

DANNY CARE TWITTER PICTURE

Rio Ferdinand @rioferdy5

‘Spent 50 on batteries today, screw driver hasn’t been put down for 2hours. The getting toys out and un-screwing them isn’t annoying much!’

Rio experiences one of the great Christmas morning traditions.

Ian Poulter @IanJamesPoulter

‘8.02 Florida time & only 1 out of 6 kids are awake what a result. Who says kids are excited at Christmas.’

Christmas in Florida and children who sleep. No need to show off, Ian.

Darron Gibson @D_gibson4

‘“@Dcartashian: Merry Xmas!!! Xxxx”’

The
Everton midfielder is pictured with his girlfriend Danielle Carter. We
just hope he won his bet for wearing the reindeer jumper.

DARREN GIBSON TWITTER PICTURE

DARREN GIBSON TWITTER PICTURE

Frank Lampard and John Terry post Christmas present picture and Chelsea players record video messages

Blue Christmas: Terry posts picture of him and Lampard having a whale of a time

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UPDATED:

12:15 GMT, 25 December 2012

Chelsea captain John Terry was clearly in the Christmas spirit as he posted this picture of himself and Frank Lampard on his Instagram account.

The mocked up pic shows Terry having the time of his life with a Scalextric set and Lampard enjoying himself on a child's tricycle.

Scroll down for video

Top Crimbo: John Terry and Frank Lampard play with toys in this mocked up picture the Chelsea skipper posted

Top Crimbo: John Terry and Frank Lampard play with toys in this mocked up picture the Chelsea skipper posted

Although these would be fine Christmas gifts for anybody, Chelsea fans would rather Lampard was presented with a new contract.

He scored a cracker against Aston Villa from outside the box in Chelsea's 8-0 triumph on Sunday night.

Chants of 'sign him up' and 'Super Frankie Lampard' reverberated around the stadium as the fans made their point to Rafael Benitez and Roman Abramovich.

Other Chelsea players also got in the Christmas spirit by recording some short messages for this video below.

Season's greetings: Ashley Cole and David Luiz (below)

Season's greetings: Ashley Cole and David Luiz (below)

David Luiz

Oscar, Oriol Romeu, Cesar Azpilicueta, Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Gary Cahill, Juan Mata, David Luiz and Terry all offered their supporters season's greetings.

Luiz had to tell his rowdy team-mates to 'shut up' as they were making too much noise while he recorded his segment.

Fan favourites: Juan Mata and Petr Cech (below) wished the supporters good tidings

Fan favourites: Juan Mata and Petr Cech (below) wished the supporters good tidings

Petr Cech

Players also took to Twitter as well to pass on their messages.

Victor Moses said: 'Merry Christmas everyone have a lovely day', while Ashley Cole added: 'Merry Christmas people have a lovely day and make sure you drink lots of wine and beer #enjoy'.

Mario Balotelli"s brother Enoch Barwuah arrested for assault in Italy

Balotelli's brother Enoch arrested for assaulting two policemen in Italy

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UPDATED:

13:31 GMT, 25 December 2012

In trouble: Mario Balotelli's (left) brother Enoch Barwuah (right) was arrested in Italy for assaulting two police officers

In trouble: Mario Balotelli's (left) brother Enoch Barwuah (right) was arrested in Italy for assaulting two police officers

Manchester City star Mario Balotelli's brother appeared in an Italian court on Christmas Eve accused of assaulting two policemen.

Enoch Barwuah, 20, who had trials with Stoke City and Sunderland before signing for Salford City last month, was held after a brawl at a bar and kept in custody until his appearance before a judge.

The court heard how he had been attacked as he drank in a bar in Brescia with his sister Abigail by a man who ripped his shirt but Barwuah then turned on police who had been called by the owner.

Officers said they found him in the street shirtless and barefooted and when they approached they were kicked and punched, while their squad car was also damaged in the incident.

The court bailed Barwuah to his home address in Brescia until January 3, when he will have a fast track trial accused of a assault and resisting arrest. At his hearing he apologised and said his reactions had been 'unjustified' but he had become concerned after his sister 'felt ill' during the attack.

Barwuah is Balotelli's younger brother and apart from Abigail he also has a sister Angel – they remained with his natural parents while he was adopted as a baby by a wealthy Italian couple.