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Kell Brook v Devon Alexander: Sheffield fighter not fazed by underdog status

Brook unfazed by underdog tag ahead of maiden world title shot against Alexander

Phil Barnett, Press Association


17:19 GMT, 15 January 2013



18:03 GMT, 15 January 2013

Kell Brook knows he will be the underdog for the first time in his career when he travels to Detroit charged with dethroning IBF welterweight champion Devon Alexander next month.

The unbeaten Sheffield star puts his perfect 29-0 (with 19 knockouts) record on the line when he goes to America for his maiden world title tilt.

Some bookmakers see the fight as even but many experts predict the younger but more established American Alexander will have too much for the British challenger.

Underdog: Kell Brook, flanked by promoter Eddie Hearn and his coaching team, knows he faces a tough task against Devon Alexander

Underdog: Kell Brook, flanked by promoter Eddie Hearn and his coaching team, knows he faces a tough task against Devon Alexander

Brook, however, is undaunted by the idea.

'It's the first time in my career I've been the underdog but it doesn't matter to me,' said the 26-year-old.

'He's the champion and people are expecting him to keep the title but we know differently. I'm going to show him – and the world – why people call me the Special One.

'I'll go out there and won't be denied.'

The pair were scheduled to fight this weekend until an ankle injury suffered by Brook forced a five-week postponement to February 23.

He insists he is fully recovered and has been on a training camp in the Canaries as part of his intense preparation.

'The ankle is fantastic now, I'm fully prepared and fully healed,' he said.

'It's helped me because it's given me more time to get prepared and everything's fallen into place with my new team who are helping with my conditioning and making me into even more of a monster.

Fists of fury: IBF king Devon Alexander (left) stands in the way of Brook's first world title

Fists of fury: IBF king Devon Alexander (left) stands in the way of Brook's first world title

'My dietician Dave Stache has even moved in with me to oversee everything. That's a real sacrifice but this is a world title fight so it's well worth it.

'I want to make sure that when the bell rings I'm in the best shape physically and mentally I can be.

'If he has to live with me, so be it. Anything to get the job done and believe you me, the job will be getting done.'

Brook added: 'I'm going over to his backyard but I wouldn't want it any other way.

'Going to the champion's country and taking his title off him on his own patch is going to feel so good. It's going to be the icing on the cake going there to do the business.

'I've got to do whatever it takes to win, whether that's make it a dogfight or a technical fight. Whatever happens in that ring, the job will get done.

'I'm getting more confident by the day and by February 23 I'll be a man on a mission.'

Blackburn Rovers crisis: players revolt, Shebby Singh under pressure

Revealed: From boardroom split to player revolt, the inside story of crisis engulfing Blackburn

Senior players revolt after poor start to season
Derek Shaw wants controversial Shebby Singh out
Club no closer to naming successor to Henning Berg



09:07 GMT, 31 December 2012

Crisis club Blackburn are in greater disarray than ever after being rocked by a bitter boardroom split and a growing revolt among senior players.

Managing director Derek Shaw flew to India at the weekend to try and convince the club’s owners Venky’s to end the farcical reign of their global advisor Shebby Singh.

Former Preston chairman Shaw, an experienced football administrator, has become increasingly frustrated at being marginalised by Singh and has brought matters to a head by confronting the owners over it.

Controversial: Blackburn's global advisor Shebby Singh is under pressure

Controversial: Blackburn's global advisor Shebby Singh is under pressure

While Shaw fights his own personal battle, and tries to oust the controversial Singh, Venky’s are facing just as big a problem trying to quell mounting unrest in a disillusioned dressing room.

Several senior players were reluctant to drop into the Championship, after last season’s relegation, but relented after Singh urged them to give it until Christmas for the club to demonstrate their ambition about trying to bounce straight back.

Most feel that, far from seeing
evidence of Singh’s predicted revival, Blackburn have continued to
decline after the shambolic handling of appointing a successor to Steve

The mood was not
helped by the presence of untried Asian coach Judan Ali at their
training ground at the end of last week, and several are now ready to
jump ship and seek a move in the January transfer window.

Though Singh denied Ali was about to
become part of the coaching team at Ewood Park, the continuing fiasco of
the management set-up at Blackburn, a contentious issue that has been
allowed to tear the club apart ever since Sam Allardyce was sacked, has
caused ructions at board level and in the dressing room.

Protest: Blackburn fans make a point

Protest: Blackburn fans make a point

When the vilified Kean finally decided he’d had enough earlier this season, Shaw is understood to have favoured a move for Blackpool boss Ian Holloway but was overruled by Singh, who bizarrely went for Henning Berg, despite the former Blackburn defender being sacked for almost relegating Lillestrom.

That was the last straw for Shaw and
prompted his trip to India for showdown talks with Venky’s, while
Blackburn’s players have been just as dismayed by the ensuing decline in
fortunes that prompted Singh to acknowledge his folly and axe Berg
after just 10 games in charge.

With little sign of the
desperately-needed managerial know-how being recruited, other than
suggestions that one-time Aston Villa caretaker-boss Kevin MacDonald
might be added to the coaching staff, several disaffected players are
now ready to push for a move in the next few weeks.

Singh appeared on BBC Radio
FiveLive’s 606 phone-in on Saturday night and flew into a rage after
being quizzed about his input on the training pitch.

Co-presenter Darren Fletcher asked if
he had taken training on Friday, and it clearly touched a nerve, as
Singh shouted down the line:
‘Oh come on, give me a break. How stupid is that Surely no-one believes
that. I did not take training yesterday. That is really stupid for
anyone to even think that.

‘That is downright stupidity to even
suggest that. I was at the training ground because of my
responsibilities, but on the pitch, I have no involvement whatsoever.
Listen to me, I did not take training.’

Singh appeared to confirm that he was at loggerheads with Shaw and also took the rap for the disastrous appointment of Berg.

Asked to define his role, he said: ‘It
is difficult to explain when it is not a conventional title, but I am
pretty much trying to put the club back on a proper footing. I am
fighting enemies from inside and outside the club. Inside every club,
you find that not everyone is fighting the same cause. Individuals have
their own agenda. This is common everywhere you go.

Over and out: Blackburn sacked Henning Berg after ten matches in charge

Over and out: Blackburn sacked Henning Berg after ten matches in charge

‘I make the decisions, with the owners’ blessing and endorsement. It upsets a lot of people, but unfortunately that’s the way it is. The final decision about appointing Henning Berg was mine, but results were very poor and performances were not the best. A decision had to be made on how long you can put up with that.

‘You always think you have made the right decision, but it doesn’t always work out. I do not agree that 57 days was not long enough. It was 10 games. To me, 10 games is a lifetime. I got it wrong on that one. I will hold my hands up and say that, but it is not the end of the world. We still have to soldier on, and the team can still progress.’

Singh attempted to clarify the situation over Ali, saying: ‘I had a chat with him nine weeks ago, and he was interested in visiting the club to see how things were done. He came here to observe training and how the club functioned. Every coach wants to know that as part of their education.

'The timing (of his visit) was not right, unfortunately, but he is a friend. We enjoy talking about football, but it was not the plan that he would be part of the coaching set-up, and I don’t know why people think there is something happening.’

Judan Ali denies Blackburn Roves links

Ali forced to deny Blackburn links as Rovers continue search for new boss



13:34 GMT, 29 December 2012

Judan Ali has denied he is set to become part of the coaching set-up at Blackburn.

Ali, a 39-year-old amateur and youth coach, became a figure of intrigue yesterday following reports himself and former Aston Villa assistant boss Kevin MacDonald were set to take up roles at Ewood Park in the wake of Henning Berg's sacking as manager.

Rovers' global advisory Shebby Singh was forced to deny these claims and rejected the notion that he took training alongside Ali ahead of today's npower Championship trip to Barnsley, despite both men being present at the club's Brockhall training base.

Ali bye bye: Rovers are looking elsewhere for their new boss

Ali bye bye: Rovers are looking elsewhere for their new boss

Having arranged a watching brief with Singh and controversial owners Venky's to further his education as a coach – a journey that has seen him work in locations as diverse as India, St Kitts and Latvia – Ali insists he simply finds himself in the middle of the latest storm to engulf Blackburn.

When asked whether he was being lined up for a position at Rovers, Ali said: 'Not at all. I've had no intentions of coaching here.

'It's for my personal development, observing how a professional club is operated and structured for elite players.

'I want to see how it compares with those I've been with in eastern Europe, in India and in the Caribbean.

'For me it's almost a once in a blue moon opportunity to be at a professional outfit such as Blackburn Rovers.

'I've not come here to look at the playing side of the business at all. It's to see how the club is, the facilities, the sports science.

'I've not come in to critique, judge or even take notes on how the training sessions are delivered by any members of the coaching team.'

Singh when you're winning: The Rovers chief has denied links with Ali

Singh when you're winning: The Rovers chief has denied links with Ali

On whether he was involved in any discussions regarding MacDonald or any other potential candidates, Ali added: 'I'm not privy to any of this information. I don't have any input on the playing side of the club and I strictly can say that I'm being transparent.

'It's a time of volatility or controversy or whatever you want to call it and I happen to be at the centre of it all.'

In reports linking him with Blackburn, Ali found himself referred to as a Bollywood actor owing to his part in 2007's 'Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal' – a label he is amused by given he has never taken on a conventional acting role.

The film is based on his experiences as a youngster in London from an ethnic minority background trying to make the grade as a professional footballer.

Ali was a trainee at Arsenal and failed to find a club in England following his release, eventually joining Spanish minnows Murcia.

'I ended up working on the movie to recruit and coach and train the footballers and the actors in the movie,' he explained.

'I found myself being part of the cast by default, purely because I was on the pitch most of the time.

'The directors and producers agreed with each other it would be more beneficial to put me in the football kit and film me while I was on the ground rather than me coming on and going off.

'I was never against that, I enjoyed it. It was a great experience.'

Ronaldinho to make film with Blackburn owners Venky"s

Venky's always said they'd get Ronaldinho… and now they've finally signed him up! (Sorry Blackburn fans, it's just for a movie)



21:40 GMT, 28 December 2012

Blackburn Rovers owners Venky's persuaded Ronaldinho to put pen to, er, ball when he arrived in India to promote his new film.

The Brazilian World Cup winner has signed up with their film arm to make Ronaldinho versus Aliens, an animation inspired by Space Jam, which starred Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny.

The identity of the cartoon superstar to work with Ronaldinho is still a secret but if Venky’s, who are also poultry packers, haven’t signed up Rocky from Chicken Run, they’re missing a trick.

Ronaldinho was one of Venky's most ambitious transfer targets when they took over at Ewood Park in 2010, and now they've finally got their man. It's a shame for Rovers fans that he won't be playing any football, however.

This had better not be a Blackburn contract... Ronaldinho (second left) pens an autograph on Friday

This had better not be a Blackburn contract… Ronaldinho (second left) pens an autograph on Friday

Meanwhile, the appointment of Blackburn's new coaching team is on hold as a simmering boardroom battle at Ewood Park threatens to escalate into all-out civil war.

The club's global advisor Shebby Singh and managing director Derek Shaw have been at odds since Singh's arrival in the summer, and Shaw has flown to India to urge the club's owners Venky's to ditch the flamboyant Malaysian following this week's sacking of manager Henning Berg.

Toon idol: The Brazilian star unveils a poster publicising his movie made with Blackburn's owners

Toon idol: The Brazilian star unveils a poster publicising his movie made with Blackburn's owners

Toon idol: The Brazilian star unveils a poster publicising his movie made with Blackburn's owners

Singh is said to be unperturbed by events but the plan to install Kevin MacDonald as head coach alongside Judan Ali cannot proceed without Shaw approving the contracts.

Ali was at the club's Brockhall training ground on Friday and MacDonald expects to join him even though he is understood to have reservations about the arrangement.

Ali, who is set to become English football's first British Asian coach, is better known for his role in a Bollywood movie.

Harry Redknapp plans QPR shake-up as Mike Rigg leaves

Redknapp hopes to add Ferdinand to backroom staff as Rigg leaves QPR



10:44 GMT, 21 December 2012

Harry Redknapp is stepping-up a shake-up of his backroom team after technical director Mike Rigg was on the brink of leaving the club yesterday.

Rigg arrived at Queens Park Rangers shortly after Mark Hughes' appointment as manager in January, but he is set to be the latest member of the sacked Welshman's staff to depart Loftus Road.

Shake up: QPR boss Harry Redknapp is planning to change his back-room staff

QPR boss Harry Redknapp is planning to change his back-room staff

And Redknapp, who replaced Hughes in November, will now look to install trusted aide Ian Broomfield as his new chief scout.

The 65-year-old is also closing in on former QPR striker Les Ferdinand, who he wants to join his coaching team.

Sportsmail exclusively revealed Redknapp's interest in both Ferdinand and Broomfield.

Redknapp (right) with trusted assisstant Kevin Bond, is looking to add les Ferdinand and Ian Broomfield to his staff

Redknapp (right) with trusted assisstant Kevin Bond, who has been with Redknapp at several clubs, is looking to add ex-QPR striker Les Ferdinand and Ian Broomfield to his staff

Adam Gemili could fund coaching privately – exclusive

EXCLUSIVE: Rising British star Gemili ponders private route in bid for London stay



23:34 GMT, 25 November 2012

Fastest British teenager in history: Gemili

Fastest British teenager in history: Gemili

British sprinter Adam Gemili will consider funding his coaching privately to stay in London under the guidance of Michael Afilaka, who has lost his full-time coaching job as part of UK Athletics' restructuring programme.

The world junior 100 metres champion – the fastest British teenager in history, who reached the Olympic semi-finals this summer after training full-time for only seven months – is adamant he wants to continue working at Lee Valley in Enfield and carry on his education.

But the facility is set to offer Lottery-funded athletes only basic medical support after a radical shake-up which will see most services for elite athletes centralised at Loughborough University.

UK Athletics will announce this week there will be only eight full-time jobs. Gemili, 19, receives only around 13,800 a year in Lottery funding owing to his age and the fact he missed out on a place in the Olympic final by 0.04 sec.

Gemili, who learned of Afilaka's dismissal via Twitter while attending the IAAF's Centenary welcome dinner in Barcelona on Friday night, said: 'I'll still be training with him. I won't be moving up to Loughborough.'

Chris Ashton back for England against Australia

Ashton the only change as winger returns for England against Australia



10:20 GMT, 15 November 2012

Chris Ashton will return to the international stage against Australia on Saturday after his one-match ban which ruled him out of England's opening autumn Test against Fiji.

The recall of the explosive Saracens wing is the only change in an England team who are looking to continue winning ways after defeating Fiji last Saturday, 54-12.

As reported by Sportsmail this morning, Ashton takes over in his normal position of right wing while Gloucester's Charlie Sharples, who scored two tries against Fiji, moves to the left flank in place of Ugo Monye.

Welcome back: Chris Ashton is named in the England XV to face the Aussies at Twickenham

Welcome back: Chris Ashton is named in the England XV to face the Aussies at Twickenham

England team v Australia

Goode (Saracens); Ashton (Saracens),
Tuilagi (Leicester), Barritt (Saracens), Sharples (Gloucester); Flood
(Leicester), Care (Harlequins); Marler (Harlequins), Tom Youngs
(Leicester), Cole (Leicester), Palmer (Wasps), Parling (Wasps), Johnson
(Exeter), Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), Waldrom (Leicester)

Subs: Paice
(London Irish), Wilson (Bath), Vunipola (Saracens), Launchbury (Wasps),
Wood (Northampton), Ben Youngs (Leicester), Farrell (Saracens), Brown

Ashton missed the Fiji match because of a ban imposed after he collected three yellow cards for dangerous play since the start of the season in Premiership games for Saracens.

The third came last month in his first return to Northampton, his former club, since he left for Saracens last summer.

His poor disciplinary record has brought a rebuke from head coach Stuart Lancaster this week that he must improve his tackling technique.

Lancaster stressed in announcing his team on Thursday that his coaching team had thought long and hard before deciding on making just one change.

He explained: 'To select 23 from a squad of 30 plus who have trained so well, with such intensity and focus, was difficult but it's a good position to be in.

'The 'team first' mentality of all our squad has impressed us greatly. We were pleased with lots of aspects of our performance last week.

On the move: Charlie Sharples switches to the left after scoring two tries against Fiji

On the move: Charlie Sharples switches to the left after scoring two tries against Fiji

'But we know we need to improve this week and, by having some consistency in selection, we allow those players to demonstrate we can step up to the next level against what will be a very tough Australian side.'

Lancaster hopes the expected capacity crowd of 82,000 will get behind England again.

'The crowd at Twickenham last week were brilliant and we can't wait to get back there and take part in what I am sure will be a very exciting Test match.'addCustomPlayer('heicdtovt78m17bvybbez1kgu', '', '', 636, 480, 'perfheicdtovt78m17bvybbez1kgu', 'eplayer16');

Arsene Wenger considers picking five defenders to boost Arsenal defence

EXCLUSIVE: Wenger considers scrapping classic back four in plans to reinforce defence



01:09 GMT, 14 November 2012

Arsene Wenger is considering ditching his trusted 4-3-2-1 formation in an attempt to tighten up Arsenal’s leaky defence.

The Gunners manager is toying with the idea of playing with five defenders, similar to the formation Roberto Mancini has tried to introduce at Manchester City this season.

Torn to pieces: Dimitar Berbatov ran rings around Arsenal's defence, including Per Mertesacker (left)

Torn to pieces: Dimitar Berbatov ran rings around Arsenal's defence, including Per Mertesacker (left)

understands Wenger planned on making the switch for last week’s
Champions League clash against Schalke after his side’s defensive
troubles during the 2-1 defeat against Manchester United.

The Frenchman held a training-ground meeting to discuss the idea with his coaching staff.

It was eventually decided there was not enough time to implement the system on the training field ahead of the clash in Gelsenkirchen.

But it is understood the change of formation is still very much in the forefront of Wenger’s thoughts as his side continue to struggle defensively.

When Arsenal’s first-choice defenders are fit, the back five would consist of: Bacary Sagna at right wing-back, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen as the three central defenders and Kieran Gibbs as left wing-back.

In days gone by: Tony Adams and Wenger celebrate the 1998 Premier League title

In days gone by: Tony Adams and Wenger celebrate the 1998 Premier League title

Whether or not Wenger and his coaching team decide to press ahead with the change remains to be seen, but the mere fact he is considering such a shift in tactics underlines how concerned he is by the club’s creaky back line.

The Frenchman will have just two days to prepare his side for Saturday’s crucial North London derby due to the international break, which will cause major problems in trying to reshape his defence in time.

Shift: Arsene Wenger may play with five defenders

Shift: Arsene Wenger may play with five defenders

However, after conceding just one goal in their opening four games, the Gunners have shipped 15 in their last seven outings and Wenger knows improvements have to be made to rectify the problem.

Wenger admitted his defence looked ‘fragile’ after Saturday’s 3-3 home draw against Fulham.

Case for the defence: Mertesacker joined the Gunners in the summer of 2011

Case for the defence: Mertesacker joined the Gunners in the summer of 2011

And the 63-year-old will hope to have first-choice keeper Wojciech Szczesny and Gibbs back for Saturday’s clash against Andre Villas-Boas’ men as he looks to shore up his defence.

Meanwhile, Theo Walcott, who pulled out of the England squad with a glute injury, is expected to be fit.

Boost: Theo Walcott is expected to be fit after missing England duty with an injury

Boost: Theo Walcott is expected to be fit after missing England duty with an injury

David Ginola admits interest in becoming Halifax manager

I'd even manage Halifax! Ex-Spurs favourite Ginola desperate to break into management



17:27 GMT, 2 November 2012

Fans of Tottenham and Newcastle will remember David Ginola as a skilled winger that terrorised defenders, but the Frenchman is set to swap trickery for tactics after revealing plans to enter football management.

The former France international has not featured in a prominent role in the game since retiring as a player at Everton in 2002 following a short spell at Aston Villa.

But the 45-year-old has stated his desire to become a manager after completing a coaching course in Wales.

Spurs legend: David Ginola became a firm fan favourite at Tottenham

Spurs legend: David Ginola became a firm fan favourite at Tottenham

Ginola spoke to Ian Wright on Absolute Radio, revealing he hoped to fulfill his ambition within two years and would even be interested in a job at Halifax should the chance pass him by.

Ginola said: ‘Well I passed my CNB licence in Wales, I need to spend some time at Spurs doing my hours for the A licence this year, it will take some time and hopefully next year I will be able to be involved with a club and wind up being a manager in the next year or two.

'Why not [after being questioned about being manager of Halifax] I mean it’s a learning process anyway, it’s not because you’ve been playing football for so many years at the top level, in the top league like the English Premier League, it’s that you are capable of doing good.

‘There’s not so many former players who have been successful as managers, there’s just a few.

'It doesn’t mean a thing, you just have to learn, you just have to understand, it’s a different position, a different attitude, you’ve got different issues. As a player you think about yourself, as a manager you think about others.’

Ginola joined Newcastle in 1995 before moving to Spurs two years later. It was in north London the Frenchman arguably enjoyed his best years in England, winning the 1999 League Cup and the Football Writers' and Players' Player of the Year in the same year.

Absolute Radio Rock 'N' Roll Football with Ian Wright features on Saturdays from 5pm on 1215AM

Craig Levein sweats on Scotland future as Joe Jordan eyes return to the dugout

Open to offers: As Levein sweats, Jordan eyes return to the dugout



00:52 GMT, 2 November 2012

Return: Jordan

Return: Jordan

Joe Jordan spoke of his burning desire to return to the dugout as a manager — as Craig Levein’s job remained hanging in the balance.

Levein’s future as Scotland manager was still shrouded in mystery yesterday after members of the SFA Board met to discuss his position following the national team’s dismal start to the World Cup qualifying campaign.

Jordan, along with Gordon Strachan, Walter Smith and Alex McLeish, has been mooted as a possible successor if a line is drawn under Levein’s three-year reign.

But, while Jordan steadfastly refused to be drawn on his interest in the post should Levein be sacked, he admitted to being open-minded about where the next chapter of his footballing life lies and said he ‘wouldn’t close any door’.

Currently out of work after leaving his coaching role with Tottenham in the summer, Jordan hasn’t managed a team since a caretaker spell at Portsmouth four years ago.

Despite spending much of the past decade as part of Harry Redknapp’s backroom teams at Portsmouth and White Hart Lane, the 60-year-old has retained an ambition to be his own man at some stage.

‘In respect of my future, I’d like to think I wouldn’t just be pigeon- holed,’ he said.

‘If I’m fortunate enough to get opportunities, I’d look at what they are irrespective if that’s being a manager that makes the final decision or someone that’s part of a coaching team. I wouldn’t close any door.

‘I have been an assistant and I have been part of a coaching group for a number of years but I wouldn’t like to be labelled just like that. I would just like to get back involved in football.’

Legend: Jordan netted for Scotland in three World Cup finals

Legend: Jordan netted for Scotland in three World Cup finals

The man who famously scored in three World Cup finals started his managerial career at Bristol City before spells with Hearts and Stoke.

But, having subsequently been part of the set-ups that won the FA Cup with Pompey and took Spurs into the Champions League, Jordan believes he is now better equipped to handle all that management could throw at him.

Asked if he felt he’d make a better manager nowadays, he replied: ‘Without any shadow of a doubt, yes. Definitely, no question, because you learn an awful lot when things don’t go particularly well, also.

‘I have worked at the lower levels, with teams where the expectation has been realistic, and with Spurs, where the expectation is high, and at Portsmouth, where the expectation was just: “Please survive, stay in the division”.’

Jordan believes Levein should be backed all the way by the nation.

‘For as long as he’s manager, we should get behind him,’ he said.

On a knife edge: Levein is fighting for his future

On a knife edge: Levein is fighting for his future