Tag Archives: discontent

Arsene Wenger and Theo Walcott hug and make up after Arsenal win at Reading

Wenger and Walcott hug and make up after Arsenal's win at Reading (…but the fans still need some convincing)

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UPDATED:

11:20 GMT, 18 December 2012

The wrangling over a new contract goes on, but is seems all is forgiven between Arsenal's Theo Walcott and his manager Arsene Wenger.

The fans, however, may take a little more convincing.

The 23-year-old was outstanding on Monday night as the Gunners bounced back in style from last week's Capital One Cup exit to Bradford with a 5-2 win at Reading.

Friends again: Arsene Wenger warmly thanks Theo Walcott after his excellent performance in the 5-2 win at Reading as he is subbed off with five minutes to play

Friends again: Arsene Wenger warmly thanks Theo Walcott after his excellent performance in the 5-2 win at Reading as he is subbed off with five minutes to play

Discontent: This banner calling for Wenger to leave was unfurled in the Arsenal end at the final whistle

Discontent: This banner calling for Wenger to leave was unfurled in the Arsenal end at the final whistle

Arsene Wenger banner

Walcott capped the performance with the fifth goal and then had an embrace with his manager as he left the field with five minutes to play.

His excellent display was a timely reminder to the negotiators that increasing his present 75,000-a-week wages in a new deal may be a price worth paying.

But at the final whistle, and despite the result, a section of Arsenal fans made clear that it's time for a change in the dugout.

A red banner was unfurled reading: 'Arsene. Thanks for the memories, but it's time to say goodbye.'

It reflects the growing feeling in recent months that Wenger's 16-year tenure at Arsenal should be brought to an end as the club look at an eighth season without silverware.

Wenger has been targeted by disgruntled fans during home matches at The Emirates this season when Arsenal have failed to win.

Embrace: Both Wenger and Walcott expressed a desire to resolve wrangling over a new contract after the Reading win

Embrace: Both Wenger and Walcott expressed a desire to resolve wrangling over a new contract after the Reading win

After the match, Wenger was full of praise for Walcott's performance and said he still hopes to thrash out a deal before the winger's contract expires in the summer.

Chelsea, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs have been linked with the England international.

Wenger said: 'I believe he has been educated at Southampton and Arsenal and he has become a top player. I hope that when he considers his future he will consider Arsenal is the best place for him and sign for us.

'I do not want to come out on details of Walcott's contract but simply say our desire and will is clear and he knows that. Hopefully we can get to a happy ending.

Celebration time: Walcott celebrates scoring Arsenal fifth and final goal at Reading, capping a fine individual performance

Celebration time: Walcott celebrates scoring Arsenal fifth and final goal at Reading, capping a fine individual performance

'I believe we have a good core of young English players. We couldn't keep the good core of young foreign players.

'We hope we will be capable of building a team around the young English players and achieve something together.

'It is not my decision – it is Theo's decision as well. If it is my decision it is quickly done.'

Walcott was coy on the status of his contract negotiations: 'Talks are ongoing and it's going to be a slow process. It's taking a long time but hopefully something will happen soon.'

Twickenham crowd must match Welsh noise makers – Chris Foy

Crowd at HQ must roar to silence wails of the Welsh

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UPDATED:

23:22 GMT, 6 December 2012

It must be some kind of record. Almost three years before England v Wales at the next World Cup and the mutual antagonism is already evident.

When the draw was made on Monday for the
2015 tournament, Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis caught
the host nation on the hop by offering to stage the Pool A clash between
the old foes in Cardiff. England’s stunned response was of the ‘thanks,
but no thanks’ variety.

Let’s cut through the sabre-rattling here. The game will not take place in Cardiff. That scenario is unthinkable. It is England’s event and although much is made of the organisers being independent of the RFU, conceding home advantage to their near neighbours is a non-starter.

Turn it up: Twickenham Stadium needs to bring the noise against Wales

Turn it up: Twickenham Stadium needs to bring the noise against Wales

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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

The Millennium Stadium will be used as a World Cup venue on the simple basis that it suits English requirements. It satisfies the need for a geographical spread of matches. The West Country has a passion for rugby but lacks big stadiums, so taking games to Cardiff ticks a strategic box.

While there is no realistic prospect of England v Wales taking place there, Lewis will lobby strongly for the Millennium Stadium to host Wales v Australia. He will press his point on the basis that the home of Welsh rugby is ‘the best rugby stadium in the world’. He’s right. It is.

Located in the heart of Cardiff, on matchdays it is the heart of Cardiff, with a loud pulse all of its own. Twickenham is bigger, but the Millennium’s stands are steeper and closer, creating an intensity of atmosphere which is enhanced when the roof is shut.

So much is about the people. In Cardiff, there is fervent support, in London it is more passive.

Many Twickenham patrons turn up to be entertained, as if at the opera, while their Welsh counterparts embrace an interactive experience. There are contrasting demographics and they create a contrasting backdrop.

England’s players talk dutifully of wonderful support, but in truth they largely have to perform for their crowd, rather than feed off vocal backing.

Even when the hordes responded to the Haka last Saturday by singing Swing Low, there was one full-throttle rendition, then an almost apologetic second take which petered out into murmuring near-silence.

Ultimately, the England v Wales pool game at the World Cup won’t be staged at the Millennium, but perhaps the away players from the ‘host’ nation would be more inspired by the commotion if it was.

Commotion: There is normally a great atmosphere in the Millenium Stadium

Commotion: There is normally a great atmosphere in the Millenium Stadium

How are the Lions looking

Now that the dust has settled on the autumn Tests, it’s another opportune moment to predict how the Lions might line up for their first Test against Australia in June.

Based partly on form and partly on long-standing personal preference, a possible matchday 23 is listed below. One striking factor is the physical power of what would surely be the most imposing threequarter line the Lions have ever mustered, plus a bench role for that great wasted Welsh talent, James Hook.

Chris Foy’s latest Lions matchday Test squad: Halfpenny; Visser, Tuilagi, Roberts, North; Sexton, B Youngs; Healy, Hartley, Cole; Parling, Gray; Wood, Heaslip, Warburton (capt). Replacements: Best, Corbisiero, A Jones, Lawes, Robshaw, Phillips, Hook, Foden.

Wasted talent: Chris Foy would include James Hook on the bench

Wasted talent: Chris Foy would include James Hook on the bench

Captain Chris tackles his critics

Among modern sporting cliches, ‘he does his talking on the pitch’ is particularly well-worn, but it was a fitting summary of Chris Robshaw’s defiant work last weekend.

He had been lambasted for a close call at the end of England’s defeat against South Africa, but the national captain presented a stoic face and responded with stirring deeds in the epic win over New Zealand.

Once again, his leadership was confirmed by the raft of post-match data, which showed he was England’s leading carrier and second in the tackle count, with 19, missing none. What was most illuminating was that Robshaw hit 27 rucks, while blindside flanker Tom Wood led that list with 39.

This indicates that the back-row balance was right. Put these two together and they cover all bases required of a 6-7 combination, with a blurring of the demarcation lines, which works well.

This may present problems for Tom Croft when he is fit to press for a recall, as the rangy Tiger is a different beast entirely and his lesser impact at the breakdown means he may struggle to break up the Wood-Robshaw axis.

Stepping up: Chris Robshaw showed his worth against the All Blacks

Stepping up: Chris Robshaw showed his worth against the All Blacks

The Last Word

One of the most daunting challenges for World Cup organisers will be to sell out large stadiums in the north, but it appears the RFU aren’t rushing to assist. There have been suggestions that, prior to the tournament, a major Test could be relocated to a northern venue such as Old Trafford, but that concept now appears to be on ice. The reason is — shock, horror — money.

RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said: ‘There are financial imperatives. If Xmillion doesn’t come in because we don’t play at Twickenham, how many regional development officers is that worth I don’t think we would be dashing to do it (play in the north).

Also, is a single match really going to transform things’

First of all, it is outrageously simplistic to say moving a Test up north = less revenue = reduction in grass-roots funding. The RFU spend a lot of money on a lot of things, not just development officers. Old Trafford’s capacity is only 6,000 below Twickenham’s and it has ample corporate facilities, so why not take a modest monetary ‘hit’ for the good of the game The answer is tied up in considerations such as the debenture scheme at HQ, which discourages an ‘away-day’ Test.

Ritchie cannot dismiss that concept, then argue — as he did — that taking the Saxons up north is a viable solution. Only the senior team against ‘A’-list rivals will have the desired effect.

Watford 4 Barnsley 1: match report

Watford 4 Barnsley 1: Terriers trounced in latest Troy story

PUBLISHED:

17:33 GMT, 1 December 2012

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UPDATED:

17:57 GMT, 1 December 2012

Striker Troy Deeney celebrated his 100th appearance for play-off hopefuls Watford with a pair of goals against struggling Barnsley.

Deeney headed in after just 10 minutes, and after midfielder Mark Yeates had produced a slide-rule finish from a tight angle just before the hour mark, Deeney struck again seven minutes later to take his season's goal tally to eight.

Going close: Watford's Fernando Forestieri takes a pop at the Barnsley goal

Going close: Watford's Fernando Forestieri takes a pop at the Barnsley goal

Match facts

WATFORD: Almunia, Hall, Hoban, Ekstrand, Cassetti, Yeates, Hogg, Chalobah (Battocchio 71), Pudil, Deeney (Geijo 81), Forestieri (Vydra 66). Subs not used: Bonham, Dickinson, Murray, Mujangi Bia.

Goals: Deeney 10, 66, Yeates 59, Vydra 83 (pen)

BARNSLEY: Steele, Cranie, Foster, McNulty, Golbourne, Mellis (dawson 32), Greening (O'Brien 81), Buzsaky, Davies, Sinclair (Noble-Lazarus 70), Tudgay. Subs not used: Alnwick, Wiseman, Cywka, Stones.

Goals: Tudgay 90+4

Referee: Fred Graham

Att: 11,335

The latest Championship table, results and fixtures

Substitute Matej Vydra rounded off a
one-sided second half by converting an 83rd-minute penalty after he had
been hacked down from behind by Jimmy McNulty.

On-loan striker Marcus Tudgay did manage to notch a consolation goal for the visitors in stoppage-time.

The win saw the in-form Hornets extend their unbeaten record to seven matches and move into the top six on goal difference.

But Barnsley face a winter of
discontent, having now gone nine matches without a victory and being
dragged ever closer towards the bottom three.

Deeney had come off the substitutes'
bench to score against Barnsley's South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield
Wednesday in midweek and having been restored by manager Gianfranco Zola
to the starting line-up he wasted little time putting the in-form
Hornets in the driving seat.

He got away from his marker far too easily and stooped to head in Marco Cassetti's excellent 10th-minute corner.

It was the fourth time in three matches that Barnsley had conceded a goal from a set-piece.

The visitors twice came close to levelling matters from two Akos Buzsaky corners.

The first one saw leading scorer
Craig Davies produce a superb 15-yard header that Watford skipper Manuel
Almunia managed to claw away, with the ball grazing the post on its way
behind.

Then from Buzsaky's second delivery,
ex-Arsenal stopper Almunia produced an equally fine save to keep out
Tudgay's close-range header.

Luke Steele prevented Watford from
increasing their lead in the 24th minute, going full-stretch to push
away a fierce 25-yard right-footer from Fernando Forestieri.

Sinclair should have brought Barnsley level in the 39th minute when he was sent clear by Buzsaky.

Sinclair's touch was rather heavy as
he rounded Almunia and from a tight angle he saw his shot brilliantly
blocked on the line by the covering Tommie Hoban.

While the opening 45 minutes had been
very even, Watford dominated the second half – as Barnsley endured a
defensive horror show.

Yeates brilliantly found the bottom
corner from a tight angle in the 59th minute, before Forestieri teed up
fellow forward Deeney for a 16-yard finish in the 66th minute.

And Vydra, having replaced Forestieri, beat goalkeeper Steele from the spot seven minutes from time.

Tudgay notched his second goal in as
many matches with a smart finish for Barnsley in stoppage-time, but it
was no more than a consolation.

Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna not on Arsenal"s 2013 calendar fuelling exit rumours

EXCLUSIVE: Is Theo out of the picture for 2013 Walcott omitted from Arsenal's new calendar as fears over imminent exit grow

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UPDATED:

02:41 GMT, 28 November 2012

Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna have been omitted from Arsenal’s official 2013 calendar, fuelling speculation they will become the next big-name players to leave the club.

Walcott, who had been on the front cover in each of the previous four calendars, is stalling on a new five-year deal worth 75,000 a week. Meanwhile, Sagna’s future remains far from certain as he enters the final 18 months of his contract.

Manager Arsene Wenger said the club had started talks with the France full back. ‘We are hopeful. He had some big injury issues but with him and (Carl) Jenkinson, you need two players and we want to keep them,’ he said.

Movember contender: Theo Walcott wont be in Arsenal's calendar

Movember contender: Theo Walcott wont be in Arsenal's calendar

Arsenal's 2013 calendar

But Inter Milan want to sign the right back with Arsenal ready to listen to offers for Sagna next summer if a new deal cannot be agreed.

It is the absence of Walcott from the calendar that will cause the biggest stir given his status as one of Arsenal’s poster boys.

Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski, Wojciech Szczesny, Aaron Ramsey, Andre Santos, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Per Mertesacker have all been included.

In September, the club sent out
‘Junior Gunner’ membership packs with Robin van Persie on the front,
despite the fact he left the club in August, causing major discontent
among fans.

Arsenal insisted the omission of Walcott and Sagna from the calendar bears no indication over their futures.

Walcott,
23, is hoping for an instant recall for Wednesday clash against Everton
after recovering from a shoulder injury with Arsenal wanting to bounce
back from Saturday’s disappointing goalless draw at Aston Villa.

Wenger was heckled by his own supporters at Villa Park, but the 63-year-old insists he is unfazed by the disgruntled fans.

On their way Andrey Arshavin and Bacary Sagna are two more players that could be heading for the Arsenal exit door

On their way Andrey Arshavin and Bacary Sagna are two more players that could be heading for the Arsenal exit door

‘That some fans are not happy when you play 0-0 at Aston Villa, I can understand because I am not happy,’ he said.

‘But look, I am not worried about me. I am worried about the club and the team, and to do the best for the club and the team.

‘I think I have always shown my 100 per
cent commitment and loyalty to this club. I can only give my best and
let people judge. The criticism does not hurt at all.’

Jumping for joy: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is one player who is part of Arsenal's future

Jumping for joy: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is one player who is part of Arsenal's future

Toby Flood toe injury rules him out of New Zealand clash

Flood blow for England as toe injury rules fly-half out of New Zealand clash

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UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 25 November 2012

Stuart Lancaster's autumn of discontent looks set to get even worse after first-choice playmaker Toby Flood suffered a serious toe injury that looks certain to rule him out of next week's clash with New Zealand.

The fly-half suffered the injury in the early stages of his side's 16-15 defeat by South Africa at Twickenham as England suffered their second loss to a Southern Hemisphere side in a week and their fourth in six games under coach Lancaster.

Black day: Toby Flood was forced to come off just after half-time against South Africa

Black day: Toby Flood was forced to
come off just after half-time against South Africa

Yesterday's defeat, following on from last week's 20-14 loss Australia, ended in controversial fashion as England captain Chris Robshaw instructed Flood's second-half replacement, Owen Farrell, to kick a penalty with a fourpoint deficit on the scoreboard and less than two minutes remaining.

Robshaw appeared to change his mind after initially opting to kick to the corner, telling frustrated Farrell to instead kick for the posts, leading to confusion and a needless delay.

Farrell, who clearly wanted to kick for the corner in the hope of securing a drive over try from a line-out, kicked the three points on offer, but with the seconds ticking down, England lock Mauritz Botha dropped the ball from South Africa's restart and the Springboks were able to hack the ball into touch to claim a narrow victory.

It added up to another miserable afternoon for Lancaster, who was last night considering his options at fly-half after Flood had an X-ray and was spotted leaving Twickenham with his right foot in a protective boot.

While the X-ray revealed no break to the bone, it is understood that Flood suffered ligament damage in a collision with two South African players and he will be out of action for up to four weeks.

That will rule him out of Saturday's clash with the world champion All Blacks, giving Lancaster an extra headache following his side's latest disappointment. Flood missed two kicks out of four at goal yesterday as England were unable to capitalise on a glut of firsthalf possession.

This meant they were unable to claw their way back from a 16-9 deficit just after half-time when South Africa Willem Alberts scored a fortuitous try.

Graeme Swann praises batting of Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen

Swann full of praise for 'class' Pietersen as tourists look to push on

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UPDATED:

14:00 GMT, 24 November 2012

Kevin Pietersen proved just why all the effort to reintegrate him as an England player was worthwhile.

The point was certainly not lost on Graeme Swann, for one, after Pietersen and captain Alastair Cook had batted their country into a position of relative strength on day two of the second Test against India at the Wankhede Stadium.

Swann (four for 70) had good cause for personal celebration, after becoming the first England off-spinner to take 200 Test wickets as the tourists bowled India out for 327.

Digging in: Graeme Swann praised the batting Kevin Pietersen which put England in a good position

Digging in: Graeme Swann praised the batting Kevin Pietersen which put England in a good position

He even dismissed Cheteshwar Pujara (135) for the first time in the series, after almost 18 hours of vain previous effort from England.

But it was the unbroken stand of 110 between Cook (87 not out) and Pietersen (62no), in a stumps total of 178 for two, which most cheered England.

While captain Cook once again demonstrated all the virtues so evident in his rearguard 176 in Ahmedabad last week, Pietersen was back to his swaggering best too following a worryingly fretful and unsuccessful first Test back.

'Kevin today showed what a class player he is. We all know how good a player he is,' Swann told BBC Test Match Special.

'It is great to see him being so positive and playing some old-fashioned KP shots.'
Swann was depicted in many quarters as one of the senior players with whom Pietersen needed to rebuild strained relations after his summer of discontent.

But that does not mean he is not thankful to have the South Africa-born batsman back on his side.

'I'm sure he'll be keen to dig in tomorrow, as will Cookie, and make this partnership massive,' he added.

'It's very important … you don't get to 30 for three, 30 for four, sending shockwaves through the changing room.

'If you get off to a good start, and have guys at the crease who are comfortable, it does have a calming influence.

'Apart from me having my pads on as nightwatchman, it was a very calm changing room.'

Cook is showing once again that captaincy suits him, in the infancy of his tenure in permanent charge of the Test team.

'I said before the series that if Cookie's batting could blossom as a captain, as it did in the one-day arena, we'd be a very lucky team,' added Swann.

'He's batted magnificently in the three innings he's played so far.'

As for his own achievement – fellow off-spinner Harbhajan Singh today became his milestone Test victim – Swann still feels as if he is living the dream.

While Duncan Fletcher was England coach, there seemed little prospect of Swann winning favour, but that all changed in time for him to make his debut at the age of 29 in 2008.

In a good place: Graeme Swann chipped in with four wickets

In a good place: Graeme Swann chipped in with four wickets

'Five years ago, I wouldn't have dreamed of taking 200 Test wickets,' he said.
'I'm absolutely over the moon the way my career has panned out for me.

'The change at the top (came) just at the right time for me, and it's been a great four years. I've enjoyed every minute.'

He is also delighted to be bowling again with his former Northamptonshire team-mate Monty Panesar, who finished with five wickets today.

'Monty bowled magnificently,” added Swann.

'It's great to see, because I'm a big advocate of playing two spinners – I love playing with Monty.

'I just love it when he takes a wicket.

'That face like a man possessed, when he got Sachin Tendulkar out yesterday, I've never seen a man so wound up in my life as Mont there – it was brilliant.'

India, meanwhile, must reassess after their first really tough day of the series.

'The target was to get 350,” said Pujara.

'We tried our best, but I still think we had a decent total on the board.

'We needed more wickets, but a couple of decisions went against us.'

The tireless number three finally made a mistake, and was stumped off an arm ball – giving Swann another reason to smile.

'It's very nice to finally dismiss him,' he said.

'It doesn't normally take three innings of a Test series to get a man out.

'But we've done it now, so we hope that's taken the finger out of the dam.'

England have reason to hope the tide has turned too for them, and Pietersen especially.

Roberto Mancini tells Manchester City players they are the problem not the system

My tactics Put Micah on bench! Mancini tells City stars they are the problem – not the tactics

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UPDATED:

22:02 GMT, 26 October 2012

Roberto Mancini has responded to rumblings of discontent from within his own dressing room by warning his players that they are not good enough for Manchester City if they cannot adapt to his tactics.

Micah Richards questioned his manager’s decision to switch from a flat back four to using three central defenders during Wednesday’s damaging Champions League defeat by Ajax in Amsterdam.

Having initially taken the blame for failing to prepare properly for the match, Mancini came out fighting on Friday and insisted that the players — not the system — were the problem.

Scroll down for video

I'm in charge: Roberto Mancini barks out the orders in training at Carrington on Friday morning

I'm in charge: Roberto Mancini barks out the orders in training at Carrington on Friday morning

Listen up: Mancini gives his squad a good talking to as they prepare to face Swansea on Saturday

Listen up: Mancini gives his squad a good talking to as they prepare to face Swansea on Saturday

Chins up: City are still reeling from Wednesday night's crushing defeat against Ajax

Chins up: City are still reeling from Wednesday night's crushing Champions League defeat against Ajax

The Italian also suggested that Richards, who was making only his third appearance of the season after a long injury lay-off, should stay on the bench in future until he has a better grasp of the team’s tactics.

Asked if the players should be able to adapt to different systems, Mancini replied: ‘Good players Yes.

‘If you are a top player it’s not important what system you use. If you don’t understand then you’re not a top player and you can’t play for a top team.

‘It’s not important what Micah said after the game because we work hard every day at tactical situations and all the players know the system.

‘Maybe Micah doesn’t know this because it was the first (Champions League) game for him because he was out for two-and-a-half months.

‘Probably he worked less than other players, but maybe next time we play this system Micah can stay on the bench and we will use another player until he knows the system well.’

In the aftermath of another defeat that leaves City’s hopes of qualifying from Group D hanging by a thread, Richards upset his manager by saying: ‘That’s twice we have gone to a back five and conceded but the manager likes it. It’s something we’ve not worked on a lot.’

Mancini insisted that City have used three centre backs ‘a minimum of 50 times last year’, and pointed to this season’s Community Shield win over Chelsea and a battling 3-2 FA Cup defeat by Manchester United in January as two examples.

He also hit back at the critics who pointed out that Ajax scored their third goal just five minutes after City had taken off Joleon Lescott.

‘We conceded a third because we made a stupid mistake one versus one, not because we changed the system,’ said Mancini.

Winter is here: City players return to training on Friday wearing snoods

Winter is here: City players return to training on Friday wearing snoods

Yaya Toure

Mario Balotelli

Fashion victims: Yaya Toure and Mario Balotelli wear snoods in training

IT MUST BE WINTER… SNOODS ARE BACK

You might well want to hide your face when you’re lying bottom of your Champions League group. But Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure and Mario Balotelli have all known chillier times and despite the midweek debacle at Ajax, they should still be too hot for Swansea City on Saturday evening.

‘When you are losing 2-1 away, the manager should do something. Sometimes if you want to change the game you have to change something on the pitch.

‘When we want to be more offensive we leave only three defenders back but, I repeat, we played this system a minimum of 50 times last year and it’s not new. We’ve changed the result every time with this system.’

Asked if he welcomes feedback from the dressing room, the City boss added: ‘It’s not important to talk because every player knows the system. Every player. I talk with the players, with my hair dryer in this hand!’

Mancini acknowledged that a team with the best defensive record in the Premier League for the past two seasons need to regain some stability at the back, starting with today’s game against Swansea at the Etihad.

Under scrutiny: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini (centre) on Friday morning

Under scrutiny: City manager Roberto Mancini (centre) arrives at Carrington early on Friday morning

Captain Vincent Kompany, the bedrock of last season’s title success, and Lescott have been particularly disappointing this term.

Quizzed over his best defence at present, Mancini replied: ‘I don’t have a best defence.’

But he vowed that City will overcome their latest setback, even if Champions League progress now appears to be beyond them.

‘In two years we’ve won three trophies and after one defeat you think that we can go down’ he said. ‘I don’t think so. We are strong enough for this.’

Crushed: City suffered a humiliating Champions League defeat against Ajax on Wednesday night

Big blow: City's European campaign is in tatters after the heavy defeat in Amsterdam on Wednesday night

Outspoken: Micah Richards claimed City's players did not like Mancini's defensive tactics after the loss to Ajax

Outspoken: Micah Richards claimed City's players did not like Mancini's defensive tactics after the loss to Ajax

VIDEO: Mancini remarks on Richards, Ajax and Swansea

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Black players urged to support Kick It Out campaign and scrap breakaway plan

Divided we fail! Don't go it alone in racism fight, black players urged

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UPDATED:

21:57 GMT, 23 October 2012

The FA have joined Government ministers and senior football figures in urging black players to get behind the Kick It Out campaign and abandon plans for a breakaway union.

FA chairman David Bernstein and general secretary Alex Horne warned against 'fragmentation' as a breakaway began to take shape.

Peter Herbert, who chairs the Society of Black Lawyers, confirmed Sportsmail's exclusive story by telling the BBC discussions about forming a group – that he referred to as the 'Black Players' Association' – had taken place.

Snub: Rio Ferdinand, who was an unused substitute in the win over Braga on Tuesday, has boycotted the Kick It Out campaign

Snub: Rio Ferdinand, who was an unused substitute in Manchester United's win over Braga on Tuesday, has boycotted the Kick It Out campaign

Bernstein said: 'Great passions are involved here. I hope sense prevails and people can work together. Fragmentation isn't in anyone's interest. We support Kick It Out in every respect, both morally and financially. Do I hope players stay in Kick It Out Yes I do. Fragmentation would be a shame. At the same time we have to understand the moral issues and people have to be able to make their own choices but, in the interests of everybody, I hope it doesn't lead to fragmentation.'

As Sportsmail revealed, a draft constitution for a new group exists, with players as high-profile as Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand supporting the initiative.

It is understood that the players involved are determined to press ahead with plans for the BFA after becoming disillusioned with the game's governing bodies.

Leading the way: Terry returned to captain Chelsea on Tuesday night

Leading the way: Terry returned to captain Chelsea on Tuesday night

There is particular discontent with what is considered the lenient punishment of John Terry for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.

'I have great respect for Anton Ferdinand and Rio Ferdinand and I understand their sensitivities,' said Bernstein.

'They have had a pretty rough time. Anton has had a very difficult time, as have his family. The fact this has taken so long – even though I would justify the process – certainly hasn't helped.'

Herbert said: 'There comes a point in any community's life or experience where enough is enough. People appear to have decided they have to do something more vigorously.'

Making his point: Chairman of the Football Assocation David Bernstein warned against fragmentation

Making his point: Chairman of the Football Assocation David Bernstein warned against fragmentation

PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle said he will hold talks with the players in an attempt to avert the growing crisis.

Reading striker Jason Roberts, who has been among the most vocal players during the demand for change and led the T-shirt boycott of Kick It Out last weekend, is in regular dialogue with Carlisle.

Carlisle said: 'I've had a number of conversations with Jason over the past few months and the most recent was on Sunday. Jason explained one or two things to me, but I don't know what the full intentions or requests of this breakaway group are.

'The threat is very real because the proposal is there and the discussions have been had. We have been having meetings with Jason and we have been desperately trying to get Rio into the meetings. We will have discussions with them and we need to know exactly what it is they want.

Centre of attention: Roberts is among a number of black players to snub the Kick It Out campaign

Centre of attention: Roberts is among a number of black players to snub the Kick It Out campaign

'Whether this is a movement that is in full flow and whether they think it is going to happen irrespectively, or whether it is something where they are trying to instigate change within the organisations that are in place.

'It has the potential to be divisive as when you establish a black players' union it would instantly define 'us and them' and that's something we need to work against.'

FA general secretary Horne claimed the FA are one step ahead of the world's leading football authorities in helping to combat racism.

'We are ahead of the game when it comes to tackling the issue of racism compared with other countries,' he said.

Urge: Hugh Robertson called on football's black players to unite behind the campaign

Urge: Hugh Robertson called on football's black players to unite behind the campaign

'We are always willing to co-operate and the English FA is a preferred partner, along with Germany, to assist FIFA with different issues.'

Sports minister Hugh Robertson suggested the breakaway group was a notion cooked up by 'hotheads'.

Robertson urged the game's black players to unite behind Kick It Out. He said: 'This is a moment for cool heads, not hot ones. Whatever the frustrations, the best way to advance this agenda is to get behind those bodies and to help them carry this work on. Footballers are individuals and take their own decisions. I acknowledge and support the work done by the anti-racism bodies, particularly Kick It Out, and I would urge everybody to get behind them.

'I absolutely understand why the temperature is raised and why they feel very strongly but I think it is important we back Kick it Out and continue to make progress.'

Chris Foy: This legacy could make kids losers

This legacy could make kids losers

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UPDATED:

22:35 GMT, 27 September 2012

Legacy. It's the sporting word of the
year. In the warm afterglow of the London Olympics, it has become a
cherished, six-letter symbol of British vision.

But in rugby, there are grave
concerns about legacy. Three years from a home World Cup which could
galvanise the sport as never before, there is unrest about the
management of future generations.

girls tag rugby

Word reaches this column of widespread discontent with the revamp of mini rugby up to Under 12 level. An RFU investigation into this formative stage resulted in a change of emphasis to smaller pitches and smaller teams, with the accent on core skills and decision-making. It's difficult to argue with the logic, which is in tune with the formula in other leading nations.

Following trials, the new model has been adopted around the counties. But there is a groundswell of alarm over what is seen as a move away from the principle of competition.

County officials have held meetings with club coaches to preach the new mantra but the message is being distorted. Many junior festivals are being arranged without finals or trophies, and in at least one case organisers have decreed that they won't even keep score during games.

Understandably, many parents are up in arms. Emails seen by Sportsmail lambast the system as 'absolute tosh', 'shocking' and 'disappointing', and 'another example of the namby-pamby society we live in'. There is a feeling that children must learn how to win and how to lose as preparation for adult life.

But the RFU insist this perception of the revamp is wrong, with rugby development director Steve Grainger saying: 'We'd like to reassure people that we're not “anti- competitive”. Tournaments, trophies and getting more children enjoying the game are at the heart of what we do.'

Somehow, the message is not filtering through. The confusion must be addressed, quickly. The commitment to develop skills in junior players is welcome but the context of competition cannot be removed. If it is – by accident or design – children and their parents will simply look elsewhere for that competitive 'fix'.

Ford stuck in neutral

George Ford of Leicester

Johan Goosen will start at No 10 for South Africa on Saturday, after graduating from the 2011 junior World Cup – where he scored the same number of penalties (10) as George Ford.

The English fly-half went on to win the IRB's World Young Player of the Year award but while Goosen serves as his country's playmaker, Ford will be on the bench for Leicester.

Again. He had a 15-minute cameo at London Welsh, seven minutes against Worcester and has been an unused replacement twice. Richard Cockerill can pick who he likes and he is backing Toby Flood, but a precocious talent is going to waste. Ford is in the Saxons squad but cannot put pressure on England's senior fly-halves if he can't get a game.

His Leicester contract expires at the end of the season and he is highly likely to move on.

It's all about the timing

There was something convenient about ERC's decision to confirm on Monday that the 2014 European finals would be held in France.

The announcement came a fortnight before the next talks aimed at resolving the TV rights row which is threatening the future of continental club competition – with French allegiance viewed as crucial.

The Heineken Cup final was last held in France in 2010, and in 2001 before that, with a block on the promotion of the title sponsor contributing to the scarcity of such showpieces there. Now it will return just four years later.

If there is a defined rota, why are these announcements trumpeted one by one And what about the talk of taking finals to Italy If the detail in the announcement is not cause for cynicism, the timing surely is.

Farrell shows his value

Anyone in doubt about the qualities Andy Farrell will offer England now he is back in the national coaching hierarchy should have heard him speak at the launch of a sponsorship agreement designed to enhance the development of young players. Normally, these occasions generate polite gratitude and corporate-speak but Farrell spoke with real passion in recalling his own formative years in rugby league. If that is how he can talk at a business-like function, his comments in the final minutes before a Test match must be truly inspirational.

The last word

Hardly a week goes by without a Welsh player being linked with a move to France and the latest to consider his options is Jamie Roberts. The Cardiff Blues centre is sure to ignite a transfer frenzy, given his status as a Grand Slam-winning Lion. Roberts, an outstanding player, is also a bright, articulate figure who will soon qualify as a doctor. If he departs, it will be emphatically the biggest loss yet to the game in Wales. Given his standing and qualities, the WRU should consider contributing to his salary in return for ambassadorial duties. Roberts would not be worse off – in any sense – for moving on, but Welsh rugby would be.

NFL and Referees Association reach agreement to end dispute over pension pay

NFL and Referees Association reach agreement to end dispute over pension pay

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UPDATED:

12:15 GMT, 27 September 2012

The NFL and NFL Referees Association have reached an agreement which means temporary officials will no longer take charge of matches.

The dispute over a collective bargaining agreement, largely due to a disagreement over pension payments, had seen replacements drafted in from lower division college, high school and semi-professional football.

But their performances have led to a raft of controversial calls and criticism over the opening three weeks of the new season.

Problem solved: The Referees Association and the NFL have reached an agreement

Problem solved: The Referees Association and the NFL have reached an agreement

A new eight-year deal has now been agreed and although it still needs ratifying by the officials – that is expected over the weekend – the regular referees are due to return, starting with tonight's clash between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told www.nfl.com: 'The long-term future of our game requires that we seek improvement in every area, including officiating.

'This agreement supports long-term reforms that will make officiating better. The teams, players and fans want and deserve both consistency and quality in officiating.

Future's bright: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the agreement supports the long-term goals of the game

Future's bright: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the agreement supports the long-term goals of the game

Future's bright: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the agreement supports the long-term goals of the game

'We look forward to having the finest officials in sports back on the field, and I want to give a special thanks to NFL fans for their passion. Now it's time to put the focus back on the teams and players where it belongs.'

The discontent with the temporary officials came to a head on Monday when a controversial call settled the meeting between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers.

The Seahawks won 14-12 after a Packers defender and Seahawks receiver fought for the ball on a final 'Hail Mary' pass play.

Officials missed an offensive pass interference call and then decided there had been simultaneous catch by the two players. Under NFL rules, that gave Seattle the touchdown and the win.

No longer required: Replacement officials were standing in for the referees

No longer required: Replacement officials were standing in for the referees