Tag Archives: defenders

Demba Ba begs Rafa Benitez to play him and Fernando Torres up front together for Chelsea

Play me and Torres up front… we'll blast Chelsea back into the Champions League, insists Ba

By
Andy James

PUBLISHED:

14:45 GMT, 19 April 2013

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UPDATED:

15:16 GMT, 19 April 2013

Demba Ba has told Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez that he and Fernando Torres are ready to start up front together in Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash against Liverpool.

Benitez has rotated the two strikers in a 4-2-3-1 formation since Ba joined from Newcastle in January but the pair combined effectively in the second half of last weekend's 2-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City.

Benitez faces a selection dilemma with Torres desperate to start at his former club and Ba's form in front of goal making him hard to ignore – but the Senegalese insists they can play together.

Ba

Torres

Partners in crime Demba Ba (left) has said he wants to play with Fernando Torres (right) up front for Chelsea

He told the London Evening Standard:
'When he came on the pitch against City he helped me a lot. We caused
them problems so I think we could play together.

'We combined against Brentford earlier
in the competition, too, so I don’t believe it would be a problem for
us. Most of the time we have to fight against the two central defenders
on our own. If you have an extra body there, it makes it easier.

'This is also very important in
football, to be able to control the game. I would understand if Fernando
wants to start against Liverpool. We’re not making the decision but I
would understand if he does.

One or the other: Ba (left) has rarely played with Torres, the two usually used as like-for-like replacements

One or the other: Ba (left) has rarely played with Torres, the two usually used as like-for-like replacements

Chelsea

Meanwhile, Benitez insists he is
focused only on the immediate future and not his past with Liverpool as
he prepares to take his Chelsea side to Anfield.

In a press conference on Friday the
Spaniard declined to assess Liverpool since his departure in June 2010
or to talk about events at Anfield ahead of his first return as an
opposing manager.

'I have a lot of respect, but I have to concentrate on my team,' Benitez said.

'I don't want any misunderstanding, so
I will concentrate just on Chelsea and the game and try to enjoy it,
especially if we can win.'

Job at hand: Rafa Benitez insists he is only focused on Chelsea ahead of his return to Liverpool

Job at hand: Rafa Benitez insists he is only focused on Chelsea ahead of his return to Liverpool

Benitez is expected to receive a warm
welcome in the week which marked both his 53rd birthday and the 24th
anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

He spent six years at Anfield, helping
Liverpool to the 2005 Champions League in his first season, the FA Cup,
the Community Shield and European Super Cup, while the Reds finished
second in the Premier League in 2008-09.

His family home remains on Merseyside
and he supports the campaigners in their fight for justice for the 96
supporters killed at Hillsborough in 1989.

His is a lasting bond with Liverpool, but Benitez's aim is to defeat his former club.

'I'm a professional and I am committed
with Chelsea until the end of the season, to win, to achieve our
targets,' said Benitez, who is out of contract at the end of the
campaign.

Flying the flag: Benitez is still a hugely popular figure at Anfield, having won them the Champions League in 2005

Flying the flag: Benitez is still a hugely popular figure at Anfield, having won them the Champions League in 2005

'I was there for six years, winning a lot of things together.

'They (Liverpool supporters) will
appreciate that, but at the same time they will try to support their
team and they will understand that I have to try to do my best and win.'

Benitez recently was quoted as saying
he wanted to return 'home' to Liverpool and that his wish was to move to
a top club, possibly in England next season.

That was interpreted by some as a possible return to Liverpool, but Benitez meant his family home.

For reasons of clarity, the Spaniard declined the opportunity to appraise Reds incumbent Brendan Rodgers.

'I have a lot of respect for Liverpool Football Club and all their managers,' he said.

'What I said clearly is Liverpool is
my home, my family is living there and because I don't want any
misunderstanding, I will not talk about the club, the position or the
manager's position or whatever. My family's there, it's my home.'

Premier League Boot Room: Teams, stats and Martin Keown opinion

The Boot Room: Space men fall for old one-two… why defenders MUST rethink how to stop crosses

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UPDATED:

22:44 GMT, 7 December 2012

For a few weeks now, every time I have watched the Premier League I have seen too many goals from crosses that could have been prevented.

Last weekend alone, the goals by Wayne Rooney for Manchester United v Reading, Jermain Defoe for Tottenham v Fulham, Daniel Agger for Liverpool v Southampton and Jamie Mackie for QPR v Aston Villa were among those caused by players being given too much space in the penalty area.

It is an increasing problem and one that comes from central defenders not knowing how to defend when they are up against one striker.

All too easy: Wayne Rooney's second at Reading was just one goal scored thanks to bad defending from a cross

All too easy: Wayne Rooney's second at Reading was just one goal scored thanks to bad defending from a cross

With most teams playing one man up front these days, central defenders are used to a system where one of them picks up the striker and the other waits for the runner from deep.

It works well but as soon as the ball is moved out wide, defenders seem to be obsessed with moving into space rather than marking players.

Imagine the ball is out on the left wing with one of the league’s best crossers — Gareth Bale or Leighton Baines, for example. What you now often see is the second centre half marking the lone striker and the first centre half dropping into space in line with the six-yard box but just in front of the near post. That defender isn’t marking anyone, he’s just marking air, hoping that the ball comes to him to clear.

TALKING TACTICS

You hear pundits all the time saying, ‘Oh, he’s taken up a great position there’, as the ball is cleared but there are plenty of other times when a second attacking player arrives late into space unmarked and is free to score.

Michu of Swansea is particularly good at it, intelligently finding space to knock the ball home unopposed. He uses the defenders like mannequins in a training session. The other possible outcome is that the second central defender finds himself trying to mark two men.

This concept of not marking a man goes against everything I was taught. My youth-team coach Terry Burton told us to get ‘touch tight’, or get within a yard of our opponent in case he gets the ball.

That way he has little time to do any damage and if the ball is put into the space instead, you can back yourself to get there first and clear the danger.

Standing where so many of these central defenders do now also goes against what my coach Steve Harrison taught me at Aston Villa. If the forward can see the number on your shirt — that is, he is behind you — then you can’t see him. That means you don’t know where he’s moving and you stand a poor chance of stopping him.

That’s what I am seeing now — too many defenders watching the ball and not their man when the ball comes into that corridor of uncertainty between the six-yard box and the penalty spot. A defender would be better off tucking in, in line with the frame of the goal so he is not so far away from the danger. Only if a winger beats the full back and goes towards him should he then move to close him down.

I shoot, they score

Hearing
that Jonjo Shelvey will play up front for Liverpool reminds me of when I
was briefly a striker for Brighton in 1985. It was a home game against
Charlton in the old Division Two and I scored in a 5-3 defeat at home. I
should have had a second too, chipping the keeper when I ran on to a
through-ball. It hit the post and my head was still in my hands when
they scored seconds later at the other end!

What's the score


Boot room

Boot room

BOOT ROOM TOP FIVES

TOP SCORERS

Michu. . . . . . Swansea 10
Suarez. . . . . Liverpool 10
Ba. . . . . . . . . Newcastle 10
Van Persie. . Man Utd 10
Defoe. . . . . . Spurs 9

MOST ASSISTS

Rooney. . . . . . Man Utd 7
Mata. . . . . . . . Chelsea 6
Hazard. . . . . . Chelsea 5
Ruiz. . . . . . . . . Fulham 5
McAnuff. . . . . . Reading; plus 6 on 4

MOST SAVES

Jaaskelainen. . West Ham 70
Al-Habsi. . . . . Wigan 55
Cech. . . . . . . . Chelsea 53
Mignolet. . . . Sunderl’d 50
Ruddy. . . . . . . Norwich 50

PASS SUCCESS %

Arteta. . . . . . . . Arsenal 93.0
Mertesacker . . Arsenal 92.8
Ferdinand. . . . Man Utd 92.7
Ki. . . . . . . . . . . Swansea 92.3
Britton. . . . . . . .Swansea 92.2

MOST FOULS

Fellaini. . . . . . Everton 41
Holt. . . . . . . . . Norwich 40
Arteta. . . . . . Arsenal 35
Adam. . . . . . . Stoke 34
30: Johnson Norwich; Yacob West Brom.

John Ruddy helped Canaries sing again

Ruddy good show! How hot stopper John helped Canaries sing again

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UPDATED:

22:45 GMT, 18 November 2012

John Ruddy was entitled to bask in the glow of victory against Manchester United and he pumped his fists in the air as Carrow Road rattled to the sound of his surname.

Norwich leaked 17 goals in the first seven games in an awful start to their second season back at the top, with a new manager and various new defenders at the club.

But a corner has been turned and Ruddy was unbeatable against United as Chris Hughton’s team defended stoutly to protect the lead they took through Anthony Pilkington’s header. He became the first player to score against United and FC United.

Safe hands: John Ruddy was the star of the show as Norwich beat United

Safe hands: John Ruddy was the star of the show as Norwich beat United

The goalkeeper exuded authority, commanding his back four, even tipping one over from team-mate Sebastien Bassong as Roy Hodgson looked on from the stands three days after Joe Hart’s standards slipped on England duty in Sweden.

'I've been impressed with John, especially in recent games,' said Hughton. 'Against United, it wasn’t so much saving one-on-one efforts, or turning it around the posts, it was about making good decisions.

'That’s a mark of a really good keeper when you have to make good decisions in a game where you didn’t have a lot of one-on-ones to make.'

Norwich have gone 333 minutes without conceding in the Barclays Premier League and there has been a distinct change since the mid-October international break.

They leaked nine in two games before the break but one in five since. They have also knocked Tottenham out of the Capital One Cup.

‘The Arsenal game kick-started our season,’ said defender Steven Whittaker. ‘It gave us a boost. You need to believe.’

Alex Ferguson says Manchester United defence must stop being bullied

Fergie warns his defence: Stop being bullied and toughen up

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UPDATED:

10:42 GMT, 16 November 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson has warned his Manchester United defenders to 'toughen up' after being alarmed at the way goals have been conceded this season.

Ferguson said he was especially unhappy at how Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke had 'bulldozed' Chris Smalling too easily last weekend.

The Manchester United manager issued a blunt message to his side ahead of their game at Norwich as he reflected on the way they once more went two goals behind at Aston Villa.

Aston Villa's Christian Benteke towers above Chris Smalling

Aston Villa's Christian Benteke towers above Chris Smalling

Chris Smalling looks like he didn't enjoy the experience on his return to action

Chris Smalling looks like he didn't enjoy the experience on his return to action

Javier Hernandez's razor-sharp finishing rescued the day and gave United a dramatic 3-2 win but Ferguson said: 'It has been our Achilles heel this season. The fact that we have players who can change the course of a game is always a huge advantage and that's exactly what Chico did when he went on at Villa.

'But the fact is, you can't take it as a gimme that you are going to come back every time and overturn a two-goal deficit. We've got to defend better and toughen up, plain and simple.

'That much was evident at Villa from the way they scored their first goal.

Rio Ferdinand battles with the powerful Belgian Benteke

Rio Ferdinand battles with the powerful Belgian Benteke

'Their centre forward, Christian Benteke, simply bulldozed Chris Smalling out of the way to set up what was a wonderful strike from the edge of the area.

'These are areas we have to improve on because we can't keep giving goals away.

'If we can sort that out, we'll be fine, because as a collective group, this squad is stronger this season and the younger players have more experience.'

Smalling prepares to lock horn with Benteke as United win 3-2

Smalling prepares to lock horn with Benteke as United win 3-2

He praised Norwich manager Chris Hughton for the job he has done. Norwich are four games unbeaten after a shaky start.

Wayne Rooney is a doubt with an ankle injury that forced him out of the England game, but Robin van Persie should be fit to play.Jonny Evans is doubtful for the
Carrow Road encounter, but the United boss had good news on Phil Jones.

The England defender has not played this
term after suffering a knee injury during pre-season. Jones is closing on a return, though, which could come
against Galatasaray in the Champions League on Tuesday.

'Phil has been training all week,' said Ferguson. 'We will take him to Turkey. That is a great start for
him.'

Hernandez will start after his match-winning cameo at Villa Park. 'Javier came on last week and changed the game
completely,” said Ferguson. 'He should start tomorrow.'

Arsene Wenger considers picking five defenders to boost Arsenal defence

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

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UPDATED:

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)

Sportsmail
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

Steven Gerrard is wrong: Everton are the pass masters

You've got it wrong, Stevie! Moyes' men – and not Liverpool – are the pass masters

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UPDATED:

23:19 GMT, 30 October 2012

Steven Gerrard undoubtedly left the field a frustrated and irritated man at the end of a Merseyside derby he felt his team should have won.

Not only had the Liverpool captain had to endure the usual taunts about his personal life from the fans at Goodison Park, he had also seen a late ‘goal’ for Luis Suarez incorrectly chalked off by an assistant referee.

But it is still hard to fathom his post-match comments, particularly the suggestion that Everton are a team reliant on long balls.

Passion: Steven Gerrard saw Liverpool pegged back at Everton, but was less than charitable about the Toffees' style of play

Passion: Steven Gerrard saw Liverpool pegged back at Everton, but was less than charitable about the Toffees' style of play

This is not the Everton that I saw on Sunday. Everton manager David Moyes has built a team of competitors, a team who are prepared, at times, to play to the aerial ability of the Belgian Marouane Fellaini.

To suggest, though, that Moyes’ side get results merely by imitating teams like Stoke City — as Gerrard suggested — is quite wrong.

Gerrard may be interested to know that, on Sunday, Everton enjoyed 56.2 per cent of the possession, had 16 shots compared to Liverpool’s 13, and completed 400 passes — 86 more than his Liverpool outfit.

Interestingly, 13.8 per cent of Everton’s passes were long, compared to Liverpool’s 16.6 per cent.

These are not the type of statistics that suggest Moyes’ team were merely asking their central defenders and full backs to hit the ball 50 yards upfield towards Fellaini every time they were in possession.

Focal point: But Everton were not guilty of long-balls to Marouane Fellaini

Focal point: But Everton were not guilty of long-balls to Marouane Fellaini

But Moyes has heard these suggestions before. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said it after a Fellaini header took his team down on the opening day of the season, and Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers added his own views on Sunday, albeit in a slightly more diplomatic fashion than his captain.

‘Everton are very direct at times and it’s up to you to deal with that,’ said Rodgers.

Perception is everything in football. Maybe Rodgers and his players felt as though they had spent all afternoon dealing with Fellaini in the air because he is such a handful. Certainly, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel were busy as Everton sent 34 crosses into the box compared to Liverpool’s 17.

Nevertheless it was Everton’s play on the ground that was most notable at the weekend.

Ground threat: Leon Osman was at the heart of Everton's moves and hit their first goal with this strike

Ground threat: Leon Osman was at the heart of Everton's moves and hit their first goal with this strike

With Leon Osman — all 5ft 8in of him — doing so much to begin Everton’s passing movements in the centre of the field, it was another Belgian, Kevin Mirallas, who joined from Olympiacos for 6million in August, who gave Liverpool endless problems down the left, at least until he was injured just before half-time.

Everton were great to watch at times and their second goal came from the left as Fellaini reached the byline to cross low for Steven Naismith to score. There were periods after that when Liverpool looked overrun on the floor in midfield as they struggled to get hold of the ball.

Gerrard is entitled to his views. He was also entitled to feel disgruntled that Liverpool hadn’t sneaked home with a 3-2 win.

Aggrieved: Luis Suarez was denied a third goal for offside, leaving Liverpool left to fume

Aggrieved: Luis Suarez was denied a third goal for offside, leaving Liverpool left to fume

The highlights reel does show, however, his side’s second goal coming from a set piece and that Suarez’s 93rd-minute ghost goal also arrived from a Gerrard free-kick lofted high towards the far post.

That’s a perfectly legitimate tactic, of course, and it’s also a great skill. If Liverpool had another striker apart from Suarez to aim for then maybe they may try it more often themselves.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Rio Ferdinand training after Kick It Out T-shirt row

We're friends again! Sir Alex and Ferdinand put Kick It Out T-shirt row behind them… but Rio could miss Braga clash

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UPDATED:

10:54 GMT, 22 October 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson and Rio Ferdinand were back working together in training 48 hours after the Manchester United defender refused to wear a T-shirt supporting the anti-racism Kick It Out campaign.

The defender defied Fergie on Saturday
ahead of United's 4-2 win over Stoke, leading his manager to state
publicly that the 33-year-old would be 'dealt with'.

All smiles: Fergie and Ferdinand have put the disagreement over the Kick It Out T-shirts behind them

All smiles: Fergie and Ferdinand have put the disagreement over the Kick It Out T-shirts behind them

But Ferdinand was at the club's
Carrington HQ as normal ahead of the Champions League encounter with
Braga at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

With Chris Smalling is still sidelined by a broken metatarsal, Sir Alex Ferguson has only Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and rookie Scott Wootton as fit central defenders.

And while the centre-back was part of match preparations, he could sit out the clash against one of the European competition's smaller teams.

In the wake of events, Ferdinand and Sir Alex Ferguson had a training ground summit on Sunday to thrash out their differences over the controversy.

Ferguson told Ferdinand he was disappointed — not that the defender did not wear the T-shirt, but that he didn’t warn him. Ferguson thinks this made him look foolish after he told the media on Friday that all his players would wear the T-shirts.

Ferdinand accepted this point and the two agreed to move on.

A United source said on Sunday night: 'Rio wanted to make it clear that he wasn’t deliberately trying to ignore his manager’s instructions while the manager just said he ought to have been told in advance.'

With so many other players choosing not to wear the shirt, Ferguson would risk a lengthy dispute if he tries to fine Ferdinand.

On Sunday afternoon Ferdinand’s brother Anton, along with five Queens Park Rangers team-mates, also refused to wear a T-shirt before the 1-1 draw with Everton.

Back to business: Fergie and Ferdinand share a laugh and a joke in training on Monday morning

Back to business: Fergie and Ferdinand share a laugh and a joke in training on Monday morning

Back to business: Fergie and Ferdinand share a laugh and a joke in training on Monday morning

Rangers boss Hughes will not be taking any action against his players as he voiced concerns of his own.

He said: 'It's a personal thing but my
personal view is that any campaign that focuses on trying to take racism
out of sport and football is a good thing and we should try to support
it.

'Everyone will have a view about whether or not enough is being done. Sometimes someone will take a personal view that what's being done is not enough but you'll never get rid of it totally.

Kicked into touch: Rio refused to wear the T-short ahead of the clash with with Stoke

Kicked into touch: Rio refused to wear the T-short ahead of the clash with with Stoke

Kicked into touch: Rio refused to wear the T-short ahead of the clash with with Stoke

'I don't think so. It's very, very difficult. There'll always be some idiot who feels that it's something they want to do.'

The man who started the debate over the value of the Kick it Out campaign is set to meet the group for talks.

Reading striker Jason Roberts suggested players should not back the campaign because it was ineffectual. Now it is understood Roberts intends to meet Kick it Out chairman Lord Ouseley this week to talk about ways to make the organisation stronger.

Badge of honour: Fergie sported the anti-racism message on his jacket

Badge of honour: Fergie sported the anti-racism message on his jacket

Opting out: Roberts also declined to wear the shirt before his game for Reading

Opting out: Roberts also declined to wear the shirt before his game for Reading

Rio Ferdinand was criticised by former United defender Viv Anderson, the first black footballer to represent England.

Anderson said: 'It's not just the football club, it's the FA, the players' union, the managers' union, they all back Kick It Out.

'I know Rio's not happy but you can’t have things all over the place because it doesn't achieve anything.'

Oh brother: Rio's brother Anton also decided against wearing the T-shirt

Oh brother: Rio's brother Anton also decided against wearing the T-shirt

Oh brother: Rio's brother Anton also decided against wearing the T-shirt

Anton Ferdinand, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Junior Hoilett boycott Kick It Out Campaign

Ferdinand latest to boycott Kick It Out campaign after QPR defender rejects shirt before Everton clash

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UPDATED:

15:12 GMT, 21 October 2012

QPR defender Anton Ferdinand and a number of his team-mates did not wear t-shirts in support of the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign ahead of their Barclays Premier League clash with Everton.

The 27-year-old was the victim of racial abuse from Chelsea skipper John Terry in a league match last October, with Terry accepting a four-match suspension and 220,000 fine relating to the incident earlier this week.

Ferdinand was joined in not wearing the t-shirt on Sunday by Rangers team-mates Shaun Wright-Phillips and Junior Hoilett, following the stance taken by Ferdinand's brother Rio prior to Manchester United's game against Stoke on Saturday and by Reading striker Jason Roberts.

Defiance: Anton Ferdinand refused to wear the Kick It Out shirt in the warm-up ahead of QPR's game against Everton

Defiance: Anton Ferdinand refused to wear the Kick It Out shirt in the warm-up ahead of QPR's game against Everton

Boycott: Ferdinand is the latest of a number of black players to reject the anti-racism campaign's shirts

Boycott: Ferdinand is the latest of a number of black players to reject the anti-racism campaign's shirts

Everton's Nigeria international Victor Anichebe was another who decided against showing support towards Kick It Out at Loftus Road, along with team-mate Sylvain Distin.

Manchester City defenders Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott also snubbed wearing the shirts before their victory against West Bromwich at the Hawthorns.

Sir Alex Ferguson had questioned Roberts' move to boycott the t-shirts after the striker stated his intention last week to refuse to don the jersey in his side's warm-up.

Rio Ferdinand landed himself in hot water with Feguson, after seeming to contradict his manager at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Ferguson said he was left 'embarrassed' by Ferdinand's decision, and assured viewers of the BBC's Match of the Day that his defender would be 'dealt with'.

Me too: Rio Ferdinand (left) opted to refuse to wear the shirt before Manchester United beat Stoke at Old Trafford

Me too: Rio Ferdinand (left) opted to refuse to wear the shirt before Manchester United beat Stoke at Old Trafford

No way: Micah Richards (left) rejected the shirt at the Hawthorns before Manchester City beat West Bromwich

No way: Micah Richards (left) rejected the shirt at the Hawthorns before Manchester City beat West Bromwich

Catalyst: Jason Roberts (left) was criticised by Sir Alex Ferguson for stating he would not wear the shirts ahead of Reading's clash at Liverpool

Catalyst: Jason Roberts (left) was criticised by Sir Alex Ferguson for stating he would not wear the shirts ahead of Reading's clash at Liverpool

Phil Jagielka wants England starting spot after John Terry retirement

Jagielka ready to stake his claim for the centre ground after Terry exit clears path

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 14 October 2012

For Phil Jagielka, the path is suddenly clear. A golden cluster of English central defenders has dispersed and the future can be his.

Jagielka has waited patiently as John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Jamie Carragher and Ledley King dominated the heart of England’s back four.

Grounded: Phil Jagielka knows England's trip to Poland will provide a real test for his team

Grounded: Phil Jagielka knows England's trip to Poland will provide a real test for his team

case for defence

Then there was Jonathan Woodgate,
Jagielka’s central defensive partner on his international debut in a
friendly in Trinidad, four years ago.

But as Roy Hodgson looks to build his World Cup team upon the bedrock of Joe Hart and two solid centre-halves, the Everton defender with Polish grandparents is pleased he did not pursue the option of playing for England’s opponents on Tuesday.

‘John decided to retire and there’s a few of us competing for the two spots,’ said Jagielka. ‘You’ll have to wait to see who takes the mantle of leading the back four but I’ll be chucking my name in the hat.

‘Gary Cahill had a great game the other night and Joleon Lescott had a fantastic European Championship. The lads coming in like Ryan Shawcross are going to keep us on our toes.

‘John and Rio seemed to play together for England forever, didn’t they They had a great partnership and there were a couple of others behind them.

‘You’re down a long list of players,
but time passes and you get your opportunities. I’ve just turned 30 and
I’m not exactly a young lad any more. I’d like to play on a more
consistent basis.’

Terry’s
retirement changed the landscape. For Hodgson, the Chelsea captain was
his senior centre-half and it was a matter of choosing a partner.

When
Cahill was injured before Euro 2012, he paired Terry and Lescott, who
gelled, but Jagielka has started all three games this season when Terry
has been unavailable.

‘As an England fan I was gutted to
hear John had retired,’ said Jagielka. ‘He’s been a fantastic player for
England and he’s put his body on the line for many years, but he had
his reasons. From a personal point of view it’s one less person to
compete with. As much as I was gutted, it was also an opportunity for me
to try and go higher up the pecking order.’

An
understanding with Lescott helped. Born a day apart in August 1982,
they developed through England’s youth ranks, though not always as
defensive partners.

Both were versatile. Jagielka started
in midfield, sometimes played right back and, later, when Everton
team-mates, Lescott might play left back.

Old pals: Joleon Lescott (back) is expected to line up alongside Jagielka in Poland

Old pals: Joleon Lescott (back) is expected to line up alongside Jagielka in Poland

Big shoes to fill: Terry's retirement has created a space to fill in England's defence

Big shoes to fill: Terry has created a space to fill

But when they have played together in central defence they have shown chemistry.

‘It just works,’ said Jagielka. ‘The communication, the way we play, one left-footed, one right-footed. It’s just one of those things when you play with someone and it clicks.

‘If you’re telling a person something and he’s listening, you’re on the same page. If sometimes you’re saying something and they’re not hearing it or decide to do something else, it puts you on the back foot.’

Hodgson is expected to revert to this partnership on Tuesday even though the pair were not at their best against Ukraine last month.

‘We were a little bit open,’ said Jagielka. ‘It was a difficult game with us conceding first. We weren’t particularly in control and their game plan worked really well. We looked back at the videos and saw what we could have done better and we move on.’

Poland glad John Terry is not playing for England

Terry's absence is big boost for Poland, claims scout Malowiejski

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UPDATED:

21:13 GMT, 14 October 2012

Poland will try to do to England in Warsaw on Tuesday night what Italy did to Roy Hodgson’s team at Euro 2012, according to Hubert Malowiejski, the man who has scouted England for Poland. Malowiejski has also identified John Terry’s absence as 'some kind of trouble for Roy Hodgson.'

Poland have beaten England only once in their history and have injury problems but Malowiejski said: 'England are a real team, but they have some problems. Some players are missing. There are some injuries and John Terry is no longer the captain.

'Against Ukraine, England were under pressure and they only saved a point in the last few minutes.

Absent: John Terry (left) retired from international football

Absent: John Terry (left) retired from international football

'We are analysing this precisely and we are also analysing England-Italy in the Euros because Italy took complete control of that game at times. This is interesting. That could be a key, though we are aware that we cannot copy Italy totally. They have quality defenders.

'I don’t know the whole John Terry story but for Poland it is better that he is not playing. I know the case but I don’t know the real reason. England can miss his mentality, that’s a factor. He has quality of course, maybe more than Lescott or Jagielka, but the main thing they miss without John Terry is mental. They miss his fight, his passion and his example when things do not go well. He is an inspiration for the rest of the England players, he has rescued many situations. He defends bravely.

Battle: England struggled to break down San Marino before winning easily

Battle: England struggled to break down San Marino before winning easily

'It is peculiar that England have no Terry or Rio Ferdinand, but we have to focus on the new central defenders. Terry missing is not a direct advantage for us, but it’s some kind of trouble for Roy Hodgson.'

The Poles are seeking inspiration from the manner in which Italy dominated England in the summer.

'There are two keys I think,' added Malowiejski, 'one is stopping Steven Gerrard and the other is stopping Wayne Rooney.

'Gerrard can change the tempo, he is the director, everything stems from him. It’s a problem for us that Rooney is back.

High flying: Poland are hoping to cause an upset against England

High flying: Poland are hoping to cause an upset against England

'But we will look to what Italy did. The Italians stopped Rooney from playing. But we cannot do man-marking, it is zonal marking.

'I think the game will be tactical, but you cannot be sure. It’s vital that we are solid and don’t give goals away.'

Poland have no Andrea Pirlo in their team but Malowiejski said that the Bordeaux playmaker Ludovic Obraniak 'can make decisive passes.'