Tag Archives: consistent

Julio Cesar: I"m staying in London, even if QPR go down

Cesar: Even if QPR are relegated, I'll be staying in London

By
Declan Warrington

PUBLISHED:

15:41 GMT, 9 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

17:11 GMT, 10 April 2013

Julio Cesar has revealed he is determined to remain in London, even if QPR are relegated from the Premier League.

The talented Brazil goalkeeper was a surprise summer signing at Loftus Road and has been one of their rare transfer successes and even rarer consistent performers over the course of a disastrous season.

Such is the likelihood that QPR are to be relegated back to the Championship, Cesar has been reported as being on the verge of a move to AC Milan, whose cross-city rivals Inter he left last summer.

Classy: Julio Cesar used to be considered one of the world's best goalkeepers

Classy: Julio Cesar used to be considered one of the world's best goalkeepers

Stopping short of committing himself to QPR, however, Cesar is adamant he regardless wishes to continue to play in the Premier League and insists he has no intention of undermining his time at Inter by moving to Milan.

'I'm still an Interista in my heart,' he told Corriere della Sport. 'I’m learning a new language in London, the city is beautiful and my family is happy.

'I was certainly not treated well by Inter. I love Italy, but I’ve been won over by the environment here.'

On his knees: But even he cannot save QPR's season from disaster

On his knees: But even he cannot save QPR's season from disaster

Cesar's apparent desire to remain in London significantly limits his options if he is to remain in the Premier League but it is not unthinkable that he will secure a suitable move.

Fulham were in January interested in recruiting a new goalkeeper although Mark Schwarzer's return to form means that stance may have changed, West Ham had attempted but failed to sign Paul Robinson and the Arsenal future of Wojciech Szczesny remains uncertain.

Should Watford gain promotion to the Premier League there is also a chance he could join their growing overseas contingent but the likelihood of each remains to be seen.

Carlos Tevez facing jail threat after arrest on suspicion of driving while disaqualified

City striker Tevez could face jail after arrest on suspicion of driving while disqualified

Tevez was banned from the roads for six months in January

Police confirm a 29-year-old man was arrested on ThursdayMaximum penalty is six months in prison and 5,000 fine

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Reliable: But the forward is a consistent performer when selected

Reliable: But the forward is a consistent performer when selected

Frank Lampard now set to be offered fresh Chelsea deal in shock U-turn by Roman Abramovich

EXCLUSIVE: Lampard set to be offered fresh Chelsea deal in shock U-turn by Abramovich

By
Neil Ashton

PUBLISHED:

10:28 GMT, 7 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

11:39 GMT, 7 February 2013

Roman Abramovich has made a sensational U-turn over the future of Frank Lampard and opened talks over a new contract.

Lampard, who scored the winner for England in last night’s 2-1 victory over Brazil, had been told he could leave Chelsea at the end of the season.

Incredibly, Chelsea made their move for the fans’ favourite last week and talks about him staying are at a preliminary stage.

VIDEO: Scroll down to watch Lampard's stunning winner for England v Brazil

Still got it: Frank Lampard is mobbed after scoring the winner for England against Brazil last night

Still got it: Frank Lampard is mobbed after scoring the winner for England against Brazil last night

Net gains: Lampard fires past Brazil's goalkeeper Julio Cesar to hand England victory at Wembley

Net gains: Lampard fires past Brazil's goalkeeper Julio Cesar to hand England victory at Wembley

Sources at Stamford Bridge insisted this morning that the talks were ‘positive’ and the club will formalise the fresh talks with a firm offer.

The precise terms of the new deal for Lampard, 34, have yet to be discussed, but the initial meeting with Chelsea has taken place.

Abramovich, who is in Malaga on business, is aware of the fans’ protests against the decision to release the midfielder after 12 years at the club.

Lampard has scored 10 goals in just 17 Barclays Premier League appearances this season after recovering from injury.

Centre of attention: All eyes have been on Lampard's next move as his Chelsea deal winds down

Centre of attention: All eyes have been on Lampard's next move as his Chelsea deal winds down

Goal king: Lampard is on a golden run of goals despite Chelsea's difficult season

Goal king: Lampard is on a golden run of goals despite Chelsea's difficult season

He is now second in the list of all-time leading scorers at the club and is just five goals from equalling Bobby Tambling’s record of 202 in a Chelsea shirt.

The midfielder has been one of the club's most consistent players this season and supporters have begged Abramovich to give him a new deal.

Chelsea’s owners is becoming increasingly sensitive about his popularity at the Bridge and is determined to put his club back at the top of European football.

That process began when he changed his mind about Ashley Cole and gave England’s left back a new one year extension to his contract.

Lampard is next in line and talks are expected to resume within the next week after Chelsea made their shock move to keep him. A Chelsea spokesman declined to comment this morning.

Green light: Roman Abramovich has now given the thumbs up to a new deal for Lampard

Green light: Roman Abramovich has now given the thumbs up to a new deal for Lampard

Although Lampard has consistently told Blues supporters he wants to stay in various interviews, the midfielder believed his career at Stamford Bridge would be over in the summer.

Lampard’s future is time sensitive because he already has a number of offers from other clubs around the world.

Paris Saint-Germain, coached by former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, are the latest club to put down a marker for the midfielder.

LA Galaxy, who have offered Lampard a two-and-a-half year deal, are pushing for an answer. The MLS season starts in March, but the player will have commitments with Chelsea until the end of the season and also with England.

Roy Hodgson’s side play a friendly against the Republic of Ireland on May 29 and then travel to Brazil on June 2.

Bradley Wiggins knighthood in Honours List

Don't call me Sir Brad! Knighthood caps stunning year for Wiggins …but Le Tour and Olympic hero stays cool as ever over honour

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UPDATED:

09:26 GMT, 29 December 2012

Bradley Wiggins has been rewarded with a knighthood after winning the Tour de France and Olympic gold – but immediately warned: 'Don't call me Sir Brad!'.

Wiggins followed his historic win in France, the first by a British cyclist, by winning a fourth gold medal and first on the road while Ben Ainslie was also knighted after becoming the most successful Olympic sailor of all time with his fourth successive gold.

Scroll down for videos and a full list of Olympic Honours

Bradley Wiggins

Bradley Wiggins

Champagne moments: Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France (left) and then Olympic gold in London

Wiggins said: 'It's not something I'll use on a daily basis but it's nice to have in the trophy cabinet as the ultimate accolade as a sportsman, being knighted by your country for not only the success this year but 12 years now of consistent work and performing – four Olympic Games, seven medals.

VIDEO Sir Bradley not entirely comfortable being called that yet

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'It's quite something really. I never ever imagined that I would ever become a knight so it's an incredible honour but there's a slight element of disbelief, and it will take a while to sink in.'

Ainslie announced his Olympic retirement last month and will now concentrate on the America's Cup, which Britain has never won.

The 35-year-old said: 'This is an incredible honour. When I set out Olympic sailing 20 years ago, I never would have dreamt this would happen.

Unstoppable: Ben Ainslie won his fourth successive gold medal at the London Olympics

Unstoppable: Ben Ainslie won his fourth successive gold medal at the London Olympics

'I couldn't have achieved this honour without the support of all the people who have helped me throughout my career and so I hope they can also take some pride in this moment.'

All the 2012 gold medallists end the year with an honour, although seven athletes who had previously received honours, including Sir Chris Hoy, were not recognised further this time.

Along with Ainslie and Wiggins, inspirational British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford is also knighted after he once again masterminded a stunning medal haul as well as leading Team Sky to a one-two in the Tour de France.

Brailsford is renowned as a team player and admitted to being not entirely comfortable with an individual honour such as this.

High praise: David Brailsford will also receive a knighthood for guiding the cycling team to stunning success

High praise: David Brailsford will also receive a knighthood for guiding the cycling team to stunning success

He said: 'I can totally understand it with Chris (Hoy) when he won his three gold medals, or with Brad, because to have done what he has done is pretty amazing.

'But I guess it does feel a little bit uncomfortable given the hard work that everyone puts in that there is an individual recognition rather than a group recognition. That is a bit of a challenge – but it is a great honour nevertheless.'

VIDEO Sir Dave Brailsford: 'It's going to take getting used to'

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A fourth knighthood goes to David Tanner, the performance director for British Rowing, who also oversaw a record medal haul as Britain's rowers won four golds and nine medals in all.

Four Olympic stars are made CBEs, including the king and queen of British athletics, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis, after they lit up the Olympic Stadium.

London was the swansong for cyclist Victoria Pendleton, who added a second Olympic gold and is made a CBE after playing a trailblazing role for women sprinters on the track.

Poster girls: Jessica Ennis (above) delivered gold in the heptathlon while Victoria Pendleton also triumphed

Poster girls: Jessica Ennis (above) delivered gold in the heptathlon while Victoria Pendleton also triumphed

Victoria Pendleton

Rower Katherine Grainger receives the same honour in the year she finally made it gold with Anna Watkins in the double sculls following three successive silvers.

The Scot said: 'I am surprised and delighted to receive this new accolade, which, for me, brings 2012 to such a wonderful conclusion.

'In the last few months it has been become wonderfully apparent just how much our Olympic achievements have meant to everyone up and down the country.

'I fully appreciate this new accolade and I'd be thrilled if it helps with the efforts of everyone on Team GB to produce a meaningful legacy.'

Looking good: Rower Katherine Grainger will receive a CBE after winning gold with Anna Watkins

Looking good: Rower Katherine Grainger will receive a CBE after winning gold with Anna Watkins

Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins

Three of Britain's double gold medallists have been awarded OBEs – dressage star Charlotte Dujardin and cycling couple Jason Kenny and Laura Trott – along with tennis' Andy Murray, who was both a gold medallist and a grand slam winner in 2012.

Murray revealed after his triumph that his friends had been teasing him about the possibility of a knighthood – something he definitely was not expecting.

The world No 3 said: 'A lot of my friends have been messaging me about it and I don't really know what to say. I think it should take more than one or two good tournaments to deserve something like that. It would probably be a bit rash.'

Apart from Hoy, rowers Pete Reed, Tom James and Andrew Triggs Hodge, cyclists Ed Clancy and Geraint Thomas and show jumper Nick Skelton, all other gold medallists receive MBEs.

Among them is long jumper Greg Rutherford, who joined Ennis and Farah in winning gold in an unforgettable Super Saturday night in the Olympic Stadium.

Super Saturday: Mo Farah (above) and Greg Rutherford (below) won gold medals on an unforgettable night

Super Saturday: Mo Farah (above) and Greg Rutherford (below) won gold medals on an unforgettable night

Greg Rutherford

He said: 'I am delighted and feel very proud to be receiving this great honour. This has been an incredible year for me and winning a gold medal at a home Games was a dream come true.'

Also honoured with MBEs are 51-year-old three-day eventer Mary King, who won team silver in London, and gymnast Louis Smith, now a three-time Olympic medallist.

'This year has been like no other for so many reasons,' said the 23-year-old, who this month added the Strictly Come Dancing title to his Olympic gongs.

'For me it's obviously one I'll never forget and I wasn't sure it could get any better but to be awarded an MBE is the icing on the cake and without a doubt the proudest moment of my life.'

Dancing king: Louis Smith won silver at the Olympics before appearing on Strictly Come Dancing

Dancing king: Louis Smith won silver at the Olympics before appearing on Strictly Come Dancing

Boxer Nicola Adams – the first woman to win a boxing gold medal in the history of the Olympics – was also awarded an MBE.

'It is really good to receive such a prestigious honour,' said Adams, 30, from Leeds.

'Everything is all a bit surreal for me.

'It has been an incredible year. To have achieved so much in that time – it is really hard to put it into words how amazing this year has been.

'I have won an Olympic gold medal and have met the Queen.'

Pioneer: Nicola Adams (right) was the first woman to win a boxing gold medal

Pioneer: Nicola Adams (right) was the first woman to win a boxing gold medal

Two-time London 2012 Olympic champion Jason Kenny meanwhile received word of his OBE while in Australia training for further glory.

The 24-year-old from Bolton won sprint and team sprint gold at the Olympic Velodrome in August as Britain's cyclists won seven out of 10 titles on the track.

Kenny, who received an MBE after winning his first Olympic title in Beijing in 2008, was at a training camp in Perth, Western Australia when his mother opened an official letter from the Palace detailing his New Year Honour while he was on the other end of the phone.

'My mum opened a letter for me whilst I was in Perth,' he said.

'It's something really special that you don't ever plan for. It's something you can share with the family and something really nice when it comes along.

Team work: Jason Kenny (left) won double gold at the velodrome

Team work: Jason Kenny (left) won double gold at the velodrome

'It's a great honour and it's not every day you get to go to Buckingham Palace, so to get that invite is really special.'

A number of coaches also receive MBEs – Malcolm Brown for triathlon, shooting's Ian Coley, equestrian performance director Will Connell, Paul Hall for gymnastics, David Howlett for sailing, boxing's Rob McCracken and Paul Thompson and Robin Williams for rowing.

The men and women who brought the Games to London and made it happen feature heavily in the honours, too, led by organising committee chair Lord Coe, who is made a Companion of Honour.

He described the list as 'a wonderful end to this unique Olympic and Paralympic Year'.

He said: 'It recognises the achievements of our sportsmen and women who inspired the nation.

Recognised: Lord Sebastian Coe was honoured after bringing the Games to London

Recognised: Lord Sebastian Coe was honoured after bringing the Games to London

'This year's list also recognises those behind the scenes at LOCOG for outstanding leadership and delivery of the world's largest sporting events.

'I am incredibly proud of them all and our partners who made Britain proud this summer.'

Coe's deputy, Sir Keith Mills, is made a Knight Grand Cross while LOCOG chief executive Lord Deighton becomes a Knight Commander.

Other figures to receive honours include LOCOG's director of sport Debbie Jevans and London 2012 director Neale Coleman, who are both made CBEs, while communications chief Jackie Brock-Doyle becomes an OBE.

OLYMPIC ATHLETES HONOURED

Knighthood

Ben Ainslie – sailing
Bradley Wiggins – cycling

CBE

Katherine Grainger – rowing
Jessica Ennis – athletics
Mo Farah – athletics
Victoria Pendleton – cycling

OBE

Charlotte Dujardin – equestrian
Jason Kenny – cycling
Andy Murray – tennis
Laura Trott – cycling

MBE

Nicola Adams – boxing
Tim Baillie – canoeing
Laura Bechtolsheimer – equestrian
Scott Brash – equestrian

Alistair Brownlee – triathlon
Steven Burke – cycling

Luke Campbell – boxing
Peter Charles – equestrian
Katherine Copeland – rowing
Helen Glover – rowing
Alex Gregory – rowing
Carl Hester – equestrian
Philip Hindes – cycling
Sophie Hosking – rowing
Jade Jones – taekwondo
Anthony Joshua – boxing
Peter Kennaugh – cycling
Dani King – cycling
Mary King – equestrian
Ben Maher – equestrian
Ed McKeever – canoeing
Joanna Rowsell – cycling
Greg Rutherford – athletics
Louis Smith – gymnastics
Heather Stanning – rowing
Etienne Stott – canoeing
Anna Watkins – rowing
Peter Wilson – shooting

Stoke City defence among best in Europe

Europe's meanest defences: Bayern, Juventus, PSG, Malaga and… Stoke

|

UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 23 December 2012

It was not the prettiest way to earn a point, but Stoke City will not care about that. The goalless draw for Tony Pulis’s side at Tottenham was their eighth consecutive match unbeaten – their best run since returning to the top flight in 2008.

‘You have to respect them,’ said Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas. ‘I admire other types of football, but you have to respect Stoke.’

The foundation of their form has been defence: the best in the Barclays Premier League in terms of goals conceded (just 13 in 18 games) and clean sheets (nine). Here is a closer look at what Villas-Boas calls one of the ‘best defences in Europe’.

Cornered: Kyle Walker of Spurs faces a wall of Stoke defiance

Cornered: Kyle Walker of Spurs faces a wall of Stoke defiance

HARD WORK

Stoke’s work-rate is frightening. They chase and hurry their opponents, closing them down within seconds, and get back into position quickly. They tired a little during the second half against Tottenham, but you could not help but applaud and admire Stoke’s work ethic and intensity at White Hart Lane.

‘We do work very, very hard,’ said Pulis. ‘There’s a great spirit among the lads. They’ve had a Christmas party by themselves – everybody turned up and had a great night and they took the wives out and had a great night with their wives.’

CONSISTENT SELECTION

Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth have started every Premier League game in central defence for Stoke this season. Compare that to Steven Caulker of Spurs, who has partnered Michael Dawson, William Gallas and Jan Vertonghen.

Leading by example: Captain Ryan Shawcross marshals the back four

Leading by example: Captain Ryan Shawcross marshals the back four

Stoke’s success is based on each player knowing their role in the system, while the manager offers constant reminders as he barks instructions from the touchline.

‘We spend a lot of time on our system,’ said Pulis. ‘And if the players don’t, they don’t play.’ Simple.

DEFENDING DEEP

Stoke’s back four seem to squeeze the final third of the pitch, leaving no space behind for their opponents to exploit. It took Tottenham at least 20 minutes to realise Jermain Defoe was not going to be effective playing as the most advanced striker because there was no opportunity to sprint on to a through ball – or anything delivered over the top.

Emmanuel Adebayor was sent up to do aerial battle with Shawcross and Huth, but there was no chance for Defoe to pounce on the second ball.

WHO’S GEOFF CAMERON

Stoke’s right back on Saturday used to play for Rhode Island Stingrays. The USA international has been quietly impressive since his move from Houston Dynamo last summer. Not many players frustrate Gareth Bale so much that he moves to the right wing.

The gaffer: Pulis gives his instructions from the touchline

The gaffer: Pulis gives his instructions from the touchline

64 keeping it clean.jpg

HEIGHT

Aaron Lennon had no chance on Saturday, did he Stoke’s back four lines up like a rugby second row: Cameron (6ft 3in), Huth (6ft 3in), Shawcross (6ft 3in) and Wilkinson (5ft 11in). They seize advantage at corners and set-pieces and force opponents to play the ball to feet.

PLAYING ON THE COUNTER

Stoke counter-attack with pace, power and discipline, something Kenwyne Jones and Jon Walters did particularly well on Saturday. But Stoke average less than a goal a game this season as the joint lowest scorers in the top flight along with QPR and Aston Villa. They have scored only 15 goals.

NO-ONE LIKES US, WE DON’T CARE

Stoke revel in their reputation as the so-called enemies of football. It can work against them sometimes when it comes to refereeing decisions, but Tottenham knew exactly what to expect on Saturday and yet still could not break them down.

Villas-Boas said: ‘If it was easy, then Stoke wouldn’t have one of the best defences in Europe. They’ve proved that. There’s no space behind, they’re well organised, they do well on the counter and through crosses they are taller than you.

‘When you play through passes, they outnumber you.’

Demba Ba and Simon Mignolet among frontrunners for North East player of the year – Northern Exposure

Has Demba set the Ba highest or has Mignolet pulled out all the stops Player of the year crown up for grabs

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UPDATED:

16:26 GMT, 19 December 2012

The voting slips will go out for the North East player of 2012 this week.

And although anyone from Newcastle United, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool United, Carlisle United and even Darlington has a chance, there are of course a few leading candidates.

But only a few.

For the first half of the season, you could take your pick of the Newcastle squad, while there were a couple of worthy candidates at Sunderland. The second half is less clear cut. It hasn’t been a great six months.

Partners in time Newcastle strikers Demba Ba (left) and Papiss Cisse (right)

Partners in time Newcastle strikers Demba Ba (left) and Papiss Cisse (right)

Newcastle’s No 1 is Tim Krul and the young Dutchman has been arguably the most consistent performer for Alan Pardew at both ends of the Barclays Premier League.

Handed the opportunity, if not the actual shirt, by Pardew at the start of last season, Krul was simply outstanding behind a Newcastle back four which had to contend with the loss of Steven Taylor for most of 2012.

Not only has he proved himself an excellent shot-stopper when it counts, Krul has a real presence about him, and a confidence which is an absolute necessity in any top flight goalkeeper. He has kept Steve Harper out of the side, and has earned the right to be named Newcastle No 1 now.

And he has maintained it throughout the year. If it had not been for Krul, and, admittedly, some very un-world-class finishing, Manchester City would have been even more rampant last week but Krul, using his whole body, kept the champions at bay.

Sorely missed: Yohan Cabaye's injury has deprived Newcastle of a top midfielder

Sorely missed: Yohan Cabaye's injury has deprived Newcastle of a top midfielder

The current player of the year is Fabricio Coloccini, who has had another excellent year – or nine months at least.

Another man who makes his presence felt in the Newcastle side, as both centre-back and captain, the Argentina international was the undoubted leader of the team which finished fifth last season.

Very little got past him, but he has struggled on occasions this season, particularly when he has perhaps not been fully fit, and even dared to make a few mistakes. Perhaps he has been trying too hard. Taylor is suffering another long-term injury and has been missed over the last two months and at times Coloccini has been doing two players’ jobs. When he concentrates on one, there are not many better centre-backs in the Premier League.

Cheick Tiote is a replication of his skipper.

Another essential component of the Newcastle team, he was near faultless at times last season, and even his disciplinary problems, which are very much on-going, can be overlooked. He likes a tackle, he likes to win the ball and keep it and when he is suspended, he is sorely missed.

Tim Krul

Simon Mignolet

No 1's to watch: Tim Krul (left) and Sunderland's Simon Mignolet (right)

But like Coloccini, Tiote has not reached the standards he set when he first joined the club, never mind of last season. He has missed his tackles and given the ball away. Hit by injury that kept him out for the first two months, he has struggled to find his rhythm and exert his influence on matches for Newcastle. There were indications against Manchester City that he is getting back to his best.

Sadly Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa were both missing against City, and will be absent for the difficult Christmas period.

Cabaye is just a very good footballer, which he proved in his first English league season, and then in the European Championship finals for France. His injury was a real blow to Pardew and Newcastle.

He is very nearly the perfect midfielder because he can do just about everything, tackle, score, pass to keep possession or open a chasm in the opposition’s defence. No wonder Manchester United and Arsenal have been eyeing him with envy until his knee injury.

Hot and cold: Stephane Sessegnon has failed to hit the heights of last season

Hot and cold: Stephane Sessegnon has failed to hit the heights of last season

Ben Arfa meanwhile has the wow factor, as his brilliant goals against Blackburn and Bolton highlighted. Newcastle supporters, brought up on Waddle, Ginola and Robert, love him. He wins matches when he is at his best, and he has been at his best for most of the year.

And that brings us finally to Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.

Alan Shearer raised questions about their partnership on Match of the Day and the former No 9 is not the first critic to notice that the pair don’t seem to be able actually to play together, score in the same games and show any sort of telepathy as a front pair. Pardew, for the moment, is reluctant to pick them in that role.

Fans have been asking quite openly if they even like each other – which was never an issue for Sheringham and Cole at Manchester United but has led to very different halves of the year in their case.

Cisse was on fire when he first signed, scoring an incredible 13 goals in 14 games. This season he has two in 15, and to go back to the City game again, he blasted his side’s best chance of an equaliser with a dreadful wild shot. It was an opportunity he took for fun last season, as his wonderful two goals at Chelsea demonstrated.

More from Colin Young…

Northern Exposure: Sunderland must see the light at the end of the tunnel and stick with O'Neill
11/12/12

Good news: Deadly Demba's scoring streak revives Newcastle… Bad news: That 7.5m release clause has the big boys circling (again)
04/12/12

Northern Exposure: Sunderland No 1 Mignolet needs to bounce back from his mistake
27/11/12

Northern Exposure: Peaceful Newcastle fans got raw deal from police in Bruges… now it's time to speak up
21/11/12

Northern Exposure: Why Newcastle could finally be tempted to make their move for old boy Carroll
13/11/12

Northern Exposure: Just how can O'Neill reverse Sunderland's fortunes
06/11/12

Northern Exposure: Wear-Tees derby may not be as mad as the big one but there's all to play for
29/10/12

Northern Exposure: Time to come up for air before next Newcastle v Sunderland battle
22/10/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Ba had scored 15 before his fellow Senegal international arrived, and added just one more after January. This season, he has certainly re-discovered his pre-Christmas touch, with 11 goals so far. Newcastle need him to stay, and to keep scoring.

If you could put Ba and Cisse together as one player, he’d win the award by a mile. Putting them together as a partnership is a priority for their manager.

Like Krul, Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet has seized his opportunity to be No 1 with two very safe hands.

The Belgium keeper, who like the Newcastle man faces stiff competition to be the regular first choice for his country, has had to be consistent to keep Keiren Westwood out of Martin O’Neill’s team.

And the fact his error against West Brom was the first he has really made since Westwood’s New Year’s Day illness speaks volumes for his consistency and performances. Historically, Sunderland supporters like their goalkeepers and Mignolet could be up there with the best over time.

He has certainly been O’Neill’s best performer over the 12 months, although others have had their moments.

James McClean was sensational in his first season but has inevitably found it tougher this campaign. Defenders know how to play against him and perseverance alone has not been enough. But O’Neill has preserved, confident he can hit the heights again.

He has done the same with Stephane Sessegnon whose form last season I put up with the best ever seen in a Sunderland player. There have been too many games this season when it’s hard to believe it is actually the same footballer. But like Ben Arfa, he wins and changes matches. Sunderland need the real Sessegnon to step up now.

It says something about Sunderland’s current woes that new signings Danny Rose and Steven Fletcher have been their best outfield players. Sadly for them, it won’t be enough to claim the coveted North East award whose roll-call includes Shearer, Quinn, Phillips, Given, Keegan, Beardsley, Juninho, Ferdinand and Allon.

Who is it going to be this year

Everton should sell Leighton Baines but keep Marouane Fellaini to fund Champions League push – Neville Southall

Sell Baines to fund Champions League push but keep Fellaini, Southall tells Everton

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UPDATED:

18:27 GMT, 18 December 2012

Former Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall believes defender Leighton Baines could be the player to be sacrificed in order to fund the club’s bid for Champions League football.

Southall thinks the Toffees need three players in January if they are to sustain a top-four challenge.

Midfielder Marouane Fellaini is the player who appears to be attracting most interest from other clubs but Baines has regularly been linked with Manchester United over the last 12 months.

Star performer: Leighton Baines has long been one of Everton's key men

Star performer: Leighton Baines has long been one of Everton's key men

Force of nature: Marouane Fellaini's goals have fired the Toffees this season

Force of nature: Marouane Fellaini's goals have fired the Toffees this season

Southall feels it would be easier – and cheaper – to find a solution at left-back but ideally he would not want Baines, one of Everton’s most consistent performers over the last few years, to leave.

'I’d like to see them buy three players, at least, or get three players on loan,' said the former Wales international, speaking at the launch of The Football Pools 90 Day Community Challenge at St Helens Junior Football Club, who received funding of 50,000 to makeover their club.

'They need a striker for definite, a midfield player who can pass – a more expansive midfield player – and a defender.

'We’ve got to this position now where, if they get two or three players, they can push on, finish fourth and get the Champions League.

'I don’t mind him (Moyes) selling one if he brings two in because that makes sense.

'If you are going to sacrifice anyone, Leighton Baines may be the one to go.

'You’ve got Phil Neville to fill in (at left-back) and you’ve got Bryan Oviedo you could get away with there.

Legend: Former keeper Neville Southall (centre) was at Everton for 17 years

Legend: Former keeper Neville Southall (centre) was at Everton for 17 years

'I would hate it but you can’t do Fellaini at the moment because it would cost twice as much to replace him.

'But I’d rather they add than take away, because if you’re taking away you’re saying to the fans “We don’t care, we’re just going to sell” and I don’t think that is right at all.'

Southall has been impressed by his former club’s performances this season, which has kept them within two points of third place.

But he believes they cannot afford to stand still and for all their attacking invention he thinks they require more guile to make them genuine top-four contenders.

'They have upped their performances and the reason for that is they have got goalscorers,' he added. 'They’ve kept it tight before because they didn’t have that cutting edge but now they have goals all over the pitch.

'I don’t think we have anyone with that vision. (Darron) Gibson is not bad to be fair but he’s not there every week.

'Maybe by next season he would be ideal but he’s picked up a few injuries here or there.

'Jelavic can change a game on his own but I’d like to see someone with a bit of drive and personality.

'I’d like to see them have someone who can take the game by the scruff of the neck and make an impact. Someone like the character of Andrei Kanchelskis but a midfielder who can drive the team forward, maybe make a few tackles – someone like a Steven Gerrard for Everton.

'They don’t seem to have someone who has that drive inside them yet.'

Rory McIlroy named 2012 European Tour golfer of the year

More glory for Rory as world No 1 McIlroy is named European Tour golfer of the year

PUBLISHED:

15:06 GMT, 18 December 2012

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UPDATED:

15:06 GMT, 18 December 2012

World No 1 Rory McIlroy has been named the European Tour golfer of the year.

McIlroy succeeds Luke Donald as winner of the coveted award, having also replicated the Englishman's previously unprecedented achievement of winning both the Race to Dubai and US PGA Tour money list in the same season.

The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland captured his second major title in August, winning the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island by a record eight shots, matching the winning margin of his maiden major triumph in the 2011 US Open.

Glory boy: Rory McIlroy celebrated his second major success by winning the PGA Championship earlier this year

Glory boy: Rory McIlroy celebrated his second major success by winning the PGA Championship earlier this year

McIlroy also won three times in America before playing a vital role in Europe's stunning Ryder Cup victory at Medinah, while he ended the year in style with five closing birdies to win the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

'Everyone who knows me knows how special the 2012 season was,' McIlroy said.

'A couple of wins, including a major, and consistent performances in big events all helped me win The Race to Dubai for the first time.

'To win that was a massive highlight of an amazing season and I hope it will be the first of many. Now, to have been named as The European Tour Golfer of the Year puts the icing on the cake.

Over to you: McIlroy succeeds Luke Donald as winner of the coveted award

Over to you: McIlroy succeeds Luke Donald as winner of the coveted award

'It is a very special honour indeed and you only need to look down the list of players who have preceded me as the winner of this award to see precisely why; quite simply, it is a Who's Who of golf and I'm delighted to now be a part of that in the history books.

'We play golf because we relish the opportunity to win major championships and world-class tournaments around the globe. But when we do that, to be recognised for these achievements is a great thrill and I thank all the members of the panel who voted for me.'

Charl Schwartzel fires moves into joint lead of Alfred Dunhill

Schwartzel fires brilliant 64 to move into joint lead of Alfred Dunhill

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UPDATED:

17:35 GMT, 14 December 2012

South African Charl Schwartzel could claim to be the consistent player in golf right now.

The 28-year-old shares the halfway lead with France's Gregory Bourdy after a sparkling second round 64 in the Alfred Dunhill Championship on home soil at Leopard Creek.

After finishes of fifth, third and second in the past month Schwartzel won the Thailand Championship by 11 shots last Sunday against a field that included Bubba Watson, his successor as Masters champion this April, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.

Charl Schwartzel

Scott Jamieson

Looking good: Charl Schwartzel (left) is in the joint lead, while Scott Jamieson (right) is also in the hunt

He was 25 under par there and is now already 13 under on a course where his record includes one win and four second places.

'It was there for the taking and luckily enough I took advantage early on,' Schwartzel said after grabbing an eagle and six birdies and keeping a bogey off his card for the second day running.

'I could have made a few more, but we can't get too greedy. All in all a very good round and I've put myself in a very good position.'

Schwartzel is 73 under for his last 4 1/2 tournaments and even after adding a 65 to his pacesetting opening 66 Bourdy did not under-estimate the size of the task facing him over the weekend.

'Charl is a great player, one of the best in the world,' the 30-year-old world No 184 said. 'You have to do the job over four rounds and that is difficult. But I'm feeling great and I've played two good rounds.'

In the swing: Robert Rock plays out of a bunker on the 13th hole

In the swing: Robert Rock plays out of a bunker on the 13th hole

After being overtaken when Schwartzel played his first 11 holes in seven under, making his eagle at the 541-yard 18th, three-time European Tour winner Bourdy pitched in for an eagle two on the sixth and converted curling 25-foot birdie putts at the fifth and eighth.

Darren Fichardt's 68 left him in third place four strokes adrift of the leading pair, with fellow South African Louis De Jager and England's Steve Webster one further back.

Webster lost a play-off for the rain-shortened Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban last weekend and the player who beat him there, Scotland's Scott Jamieson, is also going well again at six under.

Louis Oosthuizen climbed from one over to five under, but the 2010 Open champion went in the lake at the last for a bogey six and 67.

One of the sub-plots of the week is George Coetzee's bid to stay in the world's top 50 and so earn a US Masters debut next April.

Coetzee will resume three under, but Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, one of the players who could have denied him, crashed out on 10 over after an 80.

Leighton Baines injury blow as Everton prepare for Manchester City

Baines blow for Everton as defender faces fitness fight ahead of Manchester City clash

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UPDATED:

10:33 GMT, 29 November 2012

David Moyes is sweating over the fitness of Leighton Baines ahead of Everton's trip to face Manchester City on Saturday.

Baines has been the Toffees' stand-out player in the last two seasons and provides a real attacking thrust down the flank.

However, Moyes now faces the prospect of heading to the Etihad Stadium without his most consistent performer after the defender picked up an injury in the 1-1 draw against Arsenal.

Star man: Leighton Baines has been in superb form for Everton

Star man: Leighton Baines has been in superb form for Everton

'Leighton's got a hamstring injury. He felt it in the game and played on in the last 10 or 15 minutes,' said Moyes.

'I felt we put in a lot of energy (in the game) but it might take its toll.

'We've got Gibbo (Darron Gibson) and Hibbo (Tony Hibbert) back and that has eased it a little bit but I am worried about Nikica Jelavic (ill) who has not trained since Saturday and on Tuesday I was not playing him.'

Theo Walcott put Arsenal ahead after just 52 seconds but Marouane Fellaini's seventh Barclays Premier League goal of the season drew them level on the half-hour before former Toffees midfielder Mikel Arteta appeared to bring down Steven Pienaar, only for referee Mike Jones to award a corner.

Blow: Baines will be missed if he is ruled out with a hamstring injury

Blow: Baines will be missed if he is ruled out with a hamstring injury

'It was a penalty. We played Arsenal, who are a really good team, but we also had very few decisions go for us,' Moyes said.

'Sometimes referee's decisions change the games: in some games something might go in your favour but we were never going to get that.

'We got nothing whatsoever and anything we were going to get we had to earn on our own because we were not going to get a jot.

'There was an incident when the ball got chipped into the box later on and he gave a push on Fellaini.

Leveller: Marouane Fellaini was on target for Everton against Arsenal

Leveller: Marouane Fellaini was on target for Everton against Arsenal

'I've had a chance to see it and it was never anything like it. I found that one as mystifying as any really.

'We found it a difficult night from that point if view but the players played really well throughout.'

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was pleased to leave Goodison Park with a point despite his side dominating the last 10 league meetings, winning eight and drawing just two.

'It was a game of big physical intensity, we had a good start and after that I felt Everton came back into it and their direct game was always a threat,' he said.

Concern: David Moyes will be keeping his fingers crossed Baines is passed fit

Concern: David Moyes will be keeping his fingers crossed Baines is passed fit

'There are regrets on the goal we conceded but 1-1 is a fair result and it is a good point here.

'We needed to show great spirit to get away with a point and I am pleased with the effort they put into the game.'

Arsenal lost Laurent Koscielny to a groin strain after just four minutes and Wenger said he expected the centre-back to be out for three weeks.