Tag Archives: dissatisfaction

Cristiano Ronaldo linked with Manchester United return after rejecting Real Madrid deal

Manchester United on red alert as Ronaldo snubs fresh contract at Real Madrid

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UPDATED:

11:40 GMT, 28 December 2012

Cristiano Ronaldo has refused to sign a new deal with Real Madrid and could be targeted for a dramatic return to Manchester United.

The Portuguese striker has indicated he will snub Real’s offer on the table, and plans on seeing out the final two years on his contract. In doing so, the Galacticos could stand to lose their 80million star for free, in 2015.

The likelihood of anyone matching what Real snapped him up from Old Trafford for in 2009 is slim, which could force a cut-price sale.

Moving on Cristiano Ronaldo has refused to sign a new contract at Real Madrid

Moving on Cristiano Ronaldo has refused to sign a new contract at Real Madrid

Paris Saint-Germain and their seemingly limitless transfer funds are leading the race to sign the 27-year old, believed to be willing to part with up to 90m. It would break transfer world records if it went through, although there are few indications this will happen.

The Ballon d’Or finalist has been offered a contract extension until 2018, increasing his salary by 50 per cent to a whopping 15m a year, but reports of his increasing dissatisfaction in Madrid suggest he will be ready to leave as soon as the end of the season.

Interestingly, despite scoring 23 goals in all competitions for the La Liga champions, his image in Spain has taken a few dents.

He blamed those within the clubs for him feeling ‘sad’ in the capital, claiming they have not provided enough support for him.

Thumbs up: Ronaldo is still a firm favourite with fans at Old Trafford

Sir Alex Ferguson recently revealed he would love to re-sign Ronaldo for Manchester United

Thumbs up: Sir Alex Ferguson recently revealed he would love to re-sign Ronaldo for Manchester United

United meanwhile, will certainly keep close tabs on his touted movements. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has confessed he would ‘love’ to bring Ronaldo back one day, but talk is already circulating of him returning along with Madrid coach Jose Mourinho to succeed Fergie, in the coup of the decade.

Ronaldo is still good friends with with former United team-mate Patrice Evra, who said: “He’s done amazing things in Madrid, but has not received the respect he deserves.”

Real defender Raul Albiol, however, hopes it is nothing but speculation, before referring to lingering unrest at the Bernabeu.

‘I don’t know if he’s going to renew his contract or not,’ he told reporters.

‘But Cristiano Ronaldo is the best in the world and we want him by our side as long as possible.’

Albiol has appealed for the club to move on from the controversy caused by Mourinho’s decision to drop stalwart goalkeeper Iker Casillas for deputy Antonio Adan.

‘After 10 years as a starter, the day that Casillas was a substitute surprised everybody. But I think the controversy was too much. Even Iker said that.

‘We must forget these things that happen outside the club and do our best to win things in 2013. Mourinho took the decision and that’s that.

‘We will continue training to be at our best level. We must be united. We all want the best for Real Madrid.’

Wolves boss Stale Solbakken has his car vandalised and tactics questioned

Car paint attack pours more pressure on under-achieving Wolves boss Solbakken

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UPDATED:

22:45 GMT, 29 November 2012

Stale Solbakken is beginning to feel the heat at Molineux on and off the pitch after his car was vandalised and his tactics were questioned by Wolves’ players during a post-match inquest.

The first foreign boss to take control of the Black Country club awoke on Thursday morning to find paint had been tipped over his black BMW after a dreadful run of form.

There were muted grumblings among supporters the lowest gate in five years at Molineux saw Millwall triumph on Tuesday night as the Norwegian attempted to arrest a slide that has seen Wolves fail to win any of their last nine matches.

Under pressure: Stale Solbakken's Wolves are on a miserable run of form

Under pressure: Stale Solbakken's Wolves are on a miserable run of form

But that dissatisfaction has manifested itself in vandalism. Solbakken is living in an apartment in the city suburb of Tettenhall and he awoke to find paint had been tipped over the his car.

The police have been called to investigate and Solbakken said: 'For me this does not affect in any way the good reaction I have had from Wolves' supporters since I've been at the club.

'I fully accept there will be questions asked by fans after our recent run but this is about protecting my family and that is why we have called in the police.

'I will repeat though I have nothing but praise for the support I have had even during the bad times we have had recently.

'I think Wolves fans are fair and reasonable and I am committed to bringing them the success they deserve.'

Revolt: Fans are staying away and the players are unhappy at the tactics

Revolt: Fans are staying away and the players are unhappy at the tactics

Speculation that Solbakken had seen his own methods questioned during a post-match debrief were rebuffed by the club, although the former Wimbledon midfielder did admit that players had spoken out.

He added: 'We have a team meeting with the players after every match and they are always encouraged to give their views.

'At this meeting, I asked them why they felt we had been unable to reproduce our second-half performances in the first-half of matches and that was the main focus of the meeting.

'We all know results have not been good enough recently. We had an open dialogue. We are 100 per cent together and that has not changed.'

India v England second Test analysis – The Top Spin, Lawrence Booth

Home is not so comforting after all as Dhoni's plan backfires

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UPDATED:

12:19 GMT, 27 November 2012

England v India – pictures

We are unable to carry live pictures from the First Test in Ahmedabad due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations.

The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.

MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.

One of England’s most famous wins must also rank as one of India’s most wretched defeats. This series, if local TV is to be believed, was all about revenge – not just for fact of the 4-0 loss in 2011, but for the manner of it, played out in what many Indians have convinced themselves were conditions tailored for an English triumph.

And so India, egged on by MS Dhoni, decided two could play at that game. They denied England any meaningful practice against spin during the three warm-up games – a tactic akin to county sides picking four slow bowlers at home against India – and chose three frontline tweakers for the first time in a Test since the visit of Australia in 2003-04.

Dhoni even expressed dissatisfaction with the pitch at Ahmedabad, despite it being precisely the kind of surface on which England have traditionally struggled: slow, ankle-low, flat as a roti.

Back to the drawing board: Dhoni's plan to spin England out backfired spectacularly

Back to the drawing board: Dhoni's plan to spin England out backfired spectacularly

More from Lawrence Booth…

The Top Spin: Spooked England were beaten in their minds in Ahmedabad
20/11/12

The Top Spin: India preparations leave England in a spin, but for Cook's charges the warm-up has barely begun
13/11/12

The Top Spin: Why India are clinging to faith in England's ineptitude against spin
06/11/12

The Top Spin: England's batsmen show they are still struggling to get to grips with spin
24/09/12

The Top Spin: England voyage into the unknown on a wing and a prayer
18/09/12

The Top Spin: Bears, Twitter and textgate… a review of the summer that was
10/09/12

The Top Spin: KP's England future is more dependent on his attitude than he may realise
03/09/12

The Top Spin: Strauss's future uncertain after mid-table mediocrity takes hold at precisely the wrong moment
21/08/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Had he really wanted to rub English noses in it, he would have demanded three more pitches just like that one. Instead, eyes lit up in the first over of the Test, when Jimmy Anderson – as well as removing Gautam Gambhir – had Matt Prior taking the ball above his shoulder.

Bounce: it’s the one ingredient designed to bring England into a Test match in Asia, because it encourages both strokeplay and attacking spin bowlers. India, it turns out, have only one: Pragyan Ojha. England, miracle of miracles, have two.

In the post-match press conference Dhoni stuck manfully to his line about wanting Indian pitches to turn from the first ball, because – he says – this renders the toss less important. Either he’s being genuinely philanthropic or hopelessly disingenuous. Lamentably for India, Plan A backfired. And there was no Plan B.

India can quite obviously still win this series, but it might do their long-term prospects the world of good if they stopped taking refuge in the old chestnut of home advantage.

Let’s rewind for a moment to 2011, the series in which England supposedly knocked them over on a succession of obliging greentops.

Lord’s, the venue for the first Test, is no such thing. It happens to be one of the truest surfaces in the world. India’s problem in that game was the early injury to an unfit Zaheer Khan.

At Trent Bridge, India twice blew match-winning positions, reducing England to 124 for 8 on the first day, then eyeing up a decisive first-innings lead when they reached 267 for 4 themselves. That they lost by 319 runs had little to do with the conditions.

Famous win: England twice came from behind to beat India at Trent Bridge last year

Famous win: England twice came from behind to beat India at Trent Bridge last year

THE TOP SPIN ON TWITTER

For cricket-related snippets from England's tour of India, go to twitter.com/the_topspin

At Edgbaston, England scored 710 for 7 against an Indian attack containing three seamers. Again, if that really was a seaming track, it was simply the case that India failed to exploit it.

And at The Oval, they lost seven wickets after tea on the final day on a typically flat Kennington pitch and with the game ripe for the saving.

But the narrative that emerged from that series was a convenient one: India had been diddled by home advantage. What hope did they have

At Edgbaston, Gautam Gambhir suggested life would be less congenial for England when they arrived in India. And at Ahmedabad, it most certainly was. Yet England, to their eternal credit, refused to panic, even if Stuart Broad betrayed their tetchiness on Twitter.

Here, though, we come to another twist: England’s win in Mumbai was essentially the work of four men, with a little help from Nick Compton. And all four played out of their skins.

Bowled him: Gautam Gambhir loses his wicket at Edgbaston last year

Bowled him: Gautam Gambhir loses his wicket at Edgbaston last year

To apply the law of averages, you might think Alastair Cook is due a failure at Kolkata after scoring 357 runs at 119 in the first two Tests, while Kevin Pietersen’s extra-terrestrial innings tend not to occur more than once a series. (This is not a dig, just an observation.)

Equally, it remains unclear who should partner Anderson as the second seamer at Eden Gardens. Will Steven Finn be fit Will Broad be in the right frame of mind Will Tim Bresnan even be considered

Just as the Ahmedabad win glossed over India’s own deficiencies, so Mumbai runs the risk of over-inflating England. The champagne-glass half-full will have tasted sweet last night.

But the glass half-empty tells you that the normally grounded Jonathan Trott looks at sea against spin, Ian Bell will have to start again – assuming he returns in place of Jonny Bairstow – and Samit Patel is yet to make a serious impact.

And that is the beauty of a Test series longer than three matches. This series has time for the subplots to work their magic or do their worst. England can either make history – or repeat it.

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS

No laughing matter

Even in the aftermath of England’s historic win in Mumbai came a sense of the touchiness that has been close to the surface ever since the loss in Ahmedabad. Speaking about England’s constant claims over the past few months about how their batting has improved against spin, Alastair Cook suggested that ‘you guys were probably laughing a little bit’ – as if the media were walking around revelling in the latest collapse.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s no fun writing the same old story time and again. If there was any laughter at the Wankhede, it came from a mixture of pleasure and relief: the best tale is the most unexpected one.

Backs to the wall: Cook felt the media were against England after Ahmedabad

Backs to the wall: Cook felt the media were against England after Ahmedabad

Enough is enough

What has happened to the umpiring in this series At times, the lbw and bat-pad decisions have resembled guesswork. When Aleem Dar turned down Monty Panesar’s appeal for the wicket of Pragyan Ojha, who had gloved him to backward short leg, he almost deserved our sympathy.

While the BCCI’s objection to the DRS looks more absurd by the howler, could it be that umpires who have grown used to officiating with the comfort blanket of technology have subsequently lost their bearings without it With DRS, a mistake does not remain a mistake for long; without it, the pressure is on. The need for the ICC’s other Full Members to drag India into line is more urgent than ever. Don’t hold your breath.

A twisted kind of logic

Why does Kevin Pietersen’s for-the-ages 186 demand an apology from those who suggested England were right to drop him in the summer Answer: it doesn’t. It takes a wilfully bone-headed type of logic to claim that KP has shown England what they have been missing, since he was never dropped for a lack of runs in the first place.

Beer we go: England celebrate their win in Mumbai

Beer we go: England celebrate their win in Mumbai

If that proves a little tricky to grasp, then this should be more straightforward: it was Pietersen himself who retired from one-day international and Twenty20 cricket, Pietersen himself who warned that the Lord’s Test against South Africa could be his last. The one good thing to come from the texting furore was that it brought to a head tensions that had been simmering for months. Now, can we just get on with enjoying the rest of his career

Let’s hear it for Tests

On the same day that England were beating India in Mumbai, South Africa completed a fantastic rearguard in Adelaide, where Test debutant Faf du Plessis batted for 14 minutes short of eight hours to make a mockery of those who claimed the game was already Australia’s. The two matches had as much in common as the batting of Cook and Pietersen – yet both contrasts were a reminder of the endless fascination of Test cricket. We’re lucky to have it.

Hugo Lloris snub angers France with Tottenham in internal chaos

Chaos reigns in AVB's ranks while French are hopping mad over Lloris snub

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 4 September 2012

The Tottenham reign of Andre Villas-Boas was under attack on Tuesday night amid criticism from Didier Deschamps and hints of chaos and discontent from within the camp.

France manager Deschamps reacted angrily to the idea that his captain Hugo Lloris may not get into the Spurs team after his 12million deadline-day transfer form Lyon.

Jermain Defoe offered a glimpse of the instability which left players unsure who might be next to leave.

Fears: Hugo Lloris faces a fight with Brad Friedel for the No 1 jersey at Spurs

Fears: Hugo Lloris faces a fight with Brad Friedel for the No 1 jersey at Spurs

French national football team's French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris

And, in an echo of the communication breakdown which marred his brief tenure at Chelsea, there has been dissatisfaction at the way Villas-Boas has dealt with certain popular individuals, in particular Michael Dawson.

Players have taken their complaints to coaches and members of the backroom staff but Deschamps claimed he was taken aback that Villas-Boas had backed veteran goalkeeper Brad Friedel to fend off the challenge of Lloris and keep his place in the team.

Deschamps said: 'I saw what Villas-Boas said and these statements surprised me.

'If I comment, it will make an echo on the other side of the Channel. I’m not going to create a problem that I don’t have to today, I have other problems to solve, but, if it happens, it deserves consideration.

'I do not want Hugo put in this situation. He did not appreciate the statements. You all know the value of Hugo. He is focused on these two games [for France] and I hope that after it will go well for him.'

Spurs in turn were angry at what they perceived to be a thinly-veiled threat from Deschamps.

It has been a turbulent summer at White Hart Lane since they finished fourth and fired Harry Rekdnapp.

Villas-Boas was brought in with the
freedom to impose his blueprint on the team but the manager was not
impressed when chairman Daniel Levy failed to close the transfer of Joao
Moutinho from Porto on transfer deadline day.

Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart,
Sebastien Bassong, Giovani dos Santos, Vedran Corluka, Niko Kranjcar and
Stephen Pienaar have all been sold this summer, Ryan Nelsen and Louis
Saha were released and Ledley King retired.

Concerns: France coach Didier Deschamps believes Lloris is unhappy

Concerns: France coach Didier Deschamps believes Lloris is unhappy

Dawson almost joined them, hours after being confirmed as club captain, and Tom Huddlestone was close to joining Stoke on loan before the deal fell through.

Defoe said: 'I had my wisdom tooth out one day, came in and Tom had gone to Stoke. Someone else had gone as well. I said to the lads: “I miss one day and all the players are going”.

'You walk in, see the lads and don’t know if you would see them the next day.'

Plenty to ponder: Andre Villas-Boas has a tough decision to make in goal

Plenty to ponder: Andre Villas-Boas has a tough decision to make in goal

Defoe was also linked with transfers
as Tottenham chased Brazilian striker Leandro Damaio but he started the
season in good form and signed a new three-year contract last week.

'I had two years left on my contract,'
said the England international. 'Every day I would walk out of my house
and fans would come up to me and ask whether I was staying. I would
have loved to have turned round and say I was but I was not too sure.'

Once Villas-Boas said he was part of his plans, it was an easy decision for Defoe and he backed the new manager, despite a haul of only two points from the first three games of the season.

Defoe said: 'When the new manager comes in with different tactics and a different way of playing, it can be difficult. There will be a lot of changes and sometimes it takes time.

Revealing: Defoe shed some light on Spurs' innards

Revealing: Defoe shed some light on Spurs' innards

'It takes time for the manager to get used to the players. We have played a different formation and a lot of players at the club haven’t played that formation before.

'It is such a long season and I’m sure we will come through fine. We have good players and we have made some good signings. It is a matter of time. I honestly think he will do well. He just needs a bit of luck.

'Against West Brom, I thought we would win the game but we conceded a late goal and it was the same at the weekend. It has not been an ideal start, to be honest.

'Two home games against teams people would say we should be getting the three points. But, it is important for us to stay together and to keep doing the things we are doing. I am sure it will come good.'

Cameron Jerome could quit Stoke

Jerome will consider quitting Stoke over lack of first-team opportunities

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 2 May 2012

Cameron Jerome is hinting at a summer exit from Stoke City after admitting his frustration at playing a bit-part role at the Britannia Stadium.

The former England Under-21 international has completed just five full games for the Potters since making a 4m move from Birmingham City last August.

But he has made himself a firm favourite with Stoke's fans, grabbing eight goals this season despite being used sparingly by boss Tony Pulis.

Time to go Cameron Jerome (left) could leave Stoke in the summer

Time to go Cameron Jerome (left) could leave Stoke in the summer

Jerome grabbed a point on Tuesday night against Everton, using his strength and pace to good effect.

But he emerged afterwards to voice his dissatisfaction at a lack of opportunities.

'I've not had the run of games I would have like,' he said. 'To be honest, I think I've been hard done by.

'I think I've made a big impact this year – certainly in the Europa League. I've played most of the games and scored a few goals.

'But I've not been given a fair crack of the whip or what I think is a fair run in the side.

'In my eyes, the rotation policy's not been fair. That's my personal opinion.

'I train hard and I see what goes on in training.

'And coming on for ten minutes here and there means it is a hard to make an impact in the Premier League.

'I've not spoken to the manager about it at all. I've not spoken to him about playing. He picks the side.

Leveller: Jerome earned his side a point against Everton

Leveller: Jerome earned his side a point against Everton

'You try to break in. It just seems that no matter what I do, I can't get in.

'It's something I'll have to address in the summer because I'm not really happy about not playing.

'I've not really thought about leaving. But considering me age and the fact I'm in my prime at 25, I want to play first-team football regularly.

'I think there's probably ten or 11 others in that dressing-room who feel the same as me.

'And if it was a case of rotating fairly, I'd be happy. But I'm not getting a look in, regardless of how other people perform, or of how the team perform.

'I come on, week in, week out and make an impact. But I never get a start. I'm puzzled.

'I know Stoke will be strengthening in the summer so we'll have to see what that brings. And I'll have a conversation with the manager if and when it's appropriate to do so.'

Alex McLeish fighting to save his job at Aston Villa

Down and you're out: McLeish has three basement battles to save his job at Villa

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UPDATED:

22:02 GMT, 25 April 2012

Alex McLeish has been given three games to save his job as Aston Villa manager after the club slid to the brink of the relegation zone.

The club backed McLeish by issuing a public statement following unprecedented scenes on Tuesday night. But the backing was not unequivocal in what amounted to a decided shift in Villa’s position.

Villa fans were united in their condemnation of the former Rangers manager during the 2-1 defeat by Bolton as the 1982 European champions slumped to within three points of the drop zone.

On the brink: McLeish is facing the sack

On the brink: McLeish is facing the sack

Boos and chants rained down from all four stands as fans mounted a public show of opposition to the manager.

THE NUMBERS DON'T LIE

1 win at Villa Park since November

3 times they’ve scored more than two goals in a Premier League match this season

1 player with more than five Premier League goals this season, and that’s injured striker Darren Bent

A joint statement from owner Randy Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner read: ‘We very openly acknowledge the frustrations of Villa fans and share in them completely.

‘Our horizon is the next three games. We continue to be in control of our own destiny. We will continue to support and rely on our manager and the squad but we are conscious, as is everyone at the club, that this is a very trying time for those who love Aston Villa.

‘We hope Villa fans will continue to show their great support.’

McLeish met Lerner and Faulkner immediately after Tuesday’s game, and their dissatisfaction with the evening’s events was discussed.

The manager said in the post-match press conference that the owner and chief executive retained their confidence in him.

Downward spiral: Villa keeper Shay Given reacts to their latest defeat

Downward spiral: Villa keeper Shay Given reacts to their latest defeat

But the prospect of relegation is real and the statistics make damning reading.

Villa have gleaned just 13 points from the last 16 matches, averaging a shade more than one goal per game. They have found the net just seven times in their last 10 outings and only relegated Wolves have worse current form.

Lerner is worried by the prospect of relegation in light of a 54million loss in the latest accounts. He was so concerned last season that he allowed Gerard Houllier to smash the club’s transfer record in bringing 24m striker Darren Bent to the club.

Contrasting emotions: Bolon's Kevin Davies celebrates victory after the final whistle as Aston Villa players stand dejected

Contrasting emotions: Bolon's Kevin Davies celebrates victory after the final whistle as Aston Villa players stand dejected

Having seen his relationship with previous boss Martin O’Neill disintegrate to such an extent that an industrial tribunal resolved their differences, the American chose what he considered the more affable McLeish as the Northern Irishman’s successor, despite having to hand over 2m in compensation to rivals Birmingham.

However, McLeish’s record since arriving from Scotland has been hit and miss. Two relegations from the top flight in three seasons with Birmingham were offset by promotion and a Carling Cup win.

‘Just imagine what he could do with a chairman who supports him,’ cooed Villa non-executive director Charles Krulak.

Not living up to the price tag: Charles N' Zogbia is one of McLeish's signings that has not paid off

Not living up to the price tag: Charles N' Zogbia is one of McLeish's signings that has not paid off

But McLeish’s signings have fallen short. Only Shay Given has come up to scratch as Brad Friedel’s replacement, but Alan Hutton and Charles N’Zogbia have disappointed and Robbie Keane’s star flickered only briefly.

Even those Villa fans who were prepared to give McLeish a chance following his move from the blue half of the city have been proved right in their original objections. A dreadful run with injuries has not helped but the manager’s failure to play an attractive style of football has only reinforced the prejudices against him.

He maintains he does not set up his sides to play negatively but the statistics say otherwise.

If Villa do scrape over the line, McLeish’s position is likely to be reviewed anyway.
Stewards waded into the Holte End on Tuesday to try to retrieve a banner which read: ‘Get the ’Eck out of here.’

That served to increase the volume of the disaffection. If fans start to vote with their feet, even a reasonable end to the campaign might not save McLeish.

The damning statistics 1

The damning statistics 2

Robbie Savage says Steve Kean can keep Blackburn up

Kean can keep Blackburn up! Former Rovers star Savage backs under pressure boss

Former Blackburn midfielder Robbie Savage has come to the defence of Rovers boss Steve Kean and believes the under-fire Scot can keep the club in the Premier League.

Blackburn are inside the bottom three and have been involved in a relegation scrap all season.

Still going strong: Steve Kean has endured a tough tenure as Blackburn boss

Still going strong: Steve Kean has endured a tough tenure as Blackburn boss

Fans have shown their dissatisfaction by staging protests against the 44-year-old and club owners the Venky’s.

But Savage believes that the Glaswegian has performed well in difficult circumstances, including having to deal with outgoing stars and tight transfer restrictions, and is not getting the full credit he deserves.

‘It’s been Steve Kean against the world,’ Savage said. ‘He is a fantastic coach, and the players like him. How many teams go to Anfield and Old Trafford and pick up four points That was amazing.

‘They’ve got Yakubu who has done more than what anyone thought, they’ve played without [Chris] Samba and lost Ryan Nelsen to Spurs – he was injured.

‘David Dunn doesn’t play every week who is probably one of their most influential players and they’ve got a lot of young kids who have come through and done exceptionally well.

Time to go: Blackburn fans have staged protests against Kean and the Venky's for the majority of the season

Time to go: Blackburn fans have staged protests against Kean and the Venky's for the majority of the season

Kean was an unpopular choice to replace Sam Allardyce at Ewood Park after the current West Ham boss was sacked with the club mid-table in December 2010.

The Scot kept Rovers up on the final day of last season, but he has failed to win over the fans. A low point came in a 2-1 home defeat to Bolton before Christmas where Kean was victim of hostile protests from the home crowd during the game.

Savage, who played for Rovers between 2005 and 2008, believes the experience had made him a stronger manager and that he has the full support of the players going into the final stages of the season.

Backing five-a-side: Savage hopes to help develop more local football pitches for young players

Backing five-a-side: Savage hopes to help develop more local football pitches for young players

‘I respect him hugely with what he has been through, I think no manager deserves to go through that. I think he has answered a few critics. I believe he could keep them up over Wolves, Wigan and Bolton. I still speak to a few of the boys and there is togetherness at the club.

‘Steve Kean has turned it around and I was a critic of his. I just felt Blackburn were that bad at the beginning of the season.

‘The fans' hatred towards the club, not so much the players, and towards him was getting out of hand.

If I was him I would have walked but it takes a brave man to do what he has done and sit through it and believe what he is good at that and to prove that. Fair play to the guy.

‘I think after surviving that game against Bolton he probably has the safest job in the Premier League – if there is one!’

Blackburn, who are only in the bottom three on goal difference, host Aston Villa this weekend.

Robbie Savage has teamed up with Pepsi Max to launch ‘Transform Your Patch’ – a campaign which aims to regenerate around 165 outdoor spaces across the UK with the help of the public. To vote for Robbie Savage and 5 a side football pitches visit www.transformyourpatch.com

Manchester City don"t expect Aston Villa protests to affect game

Mancini expects Villa to be fully focused as City look to end poor away run

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini does not expect a protest by Aston Villa fans to weaken his side's opponents on Sunday.

A section of disgruntled Villa supporters are planning to demonstrate against manager Alex McLeish prior to their Barclays Premier League clash with title-chasing City at Villa Park.

But whatever their dissatisfaction, Mancini believes the mood will have changed by kick-off and does not think the Villa players will be unsettled.
When asked if City could capitalise on any uncertainty, Mancini said: 'We would hope to but I don't know this.

Wrap up warm: Manchester City train ahead of their clash with Aston Villa

Wrap up warm: Manchester City train ahead of their clash with Aston Villa

'It won't change our opinion, it will still be a difficult game.

'They lost their last game against Newcastle and so we will need to play a good game if we want to win against Aston Villa.

'When the game starts their supporters will support their team, always.'

Mancini was heavily critical of himself after City were beaten at Everton in their last away game.

The Italian took the blame for the loss by saying he underestimated the Merseysiders and did not prepare the team properly.

He insists he and the players cannot afford to repeat any such errors as they attempt to hold off the challenge of Manchester United over the closing months of the season.

He said: 'I know what my job is but I am human. Sometimes I can make mistakes, like the referee, like the players.

'Everyone can make a mistake sometimes. It is important the players understand this and they put everything on the pitch.

'When you think that you have made some mistakes, after you prepare better.

Attitude: Mario Balotelli remains suspended as City travel to Villa

Attitude: Mario Balotelli remains suspended as City travel to Villa

'If you made some mistakes, I don't think you can do the same mistakes against Aston Villa.'

The 1-0 loss at Goodison Park continues to rankle with Mancini as, despite his admission of errors, he still feels City's performance warranted more.

He said: 'We didn't deserve to lose that game but there are some moments you cannot win and, for this reason, sometimes we should understand if we can't win, we should not lose.'

City have been title favourites since their 6-1 thrashing of United at Old Trafford last October but have been unable to pull clear at the top.

In the past two months they have lost at Chelsea, Sunderland and Everton as well as dropping points at West Brom.

They got their campaign back on track with a comfortable 3-0 defeat of Fulham last weekend but the battle remains tight.

He said: 'For us it was really important to beat Fulham with a clean sheet.

Under pressure: Alex McLeish

Under pressure: Alex McLeish

'But I think every game from now until the end will be very difficult.

'Sometimes you play against top clubs, sometimes you play against teams playing for relegation, so for this reason I think it will be very hard.

'We know the season is long and we have another 14 games, every game is difficult.'

Mancini also intends to ignore the rivals to concentrate solely on City's own performances.

Mancini, who claimed he 'didn't see' United's 3-3 draw at Chelsea last week, said: 'We can't think about the other teams. We can lose our strength by thinking about the other teams.'

City are boosted by the return of captain Vincent Kompany from a knee injury while Samir Nasri is also fit after a groin problem.

Striker Mario Balotelli is again missing as he completes a four-match ban for a stamp on Tottenham's Scott Parker.

Mancini expects to have midfield inspiration Yaya Toure and his brother Kolo, the defender, back from the African Nations Cup for Thursday's Europa League trip to Porto.

Joey Barton blasts Neil Warnock

You didn't know what you were doing! Barton hits out at former QPR boss Warnock

QPR’s Joey Barton has blasted former manager Neil Warnock by claiming he can think of 'a million reasons' why he was sacked.

Warnock was dismissed from Loftus Road earlier this month after a poor run of results that saw the west London side drop near the bottom three in the Premier League.

Unhappy times: Joey Barton (right) soon fell out with Neil Warnock after arriving in the summer

Unhappy times: Joey Barton (right) soon fell out with Neil Warnock after arriving in the summer

The former Sheffield United boss this week claimed his sacking came after the club's owner, Tony Fernandes, was ‘slowly poisoned from outside the club and no doubt from within the club as well.’

But Barton, made captain by Warnock after arriving from Newcastle last summer, took to Twitter to voice his dissatisfaction of life under the 63-year-old as well as hail the promise under new manager Mark Hughes.

The midfielder said: ‘If I talked about Neil, he'd do well to get another job. Twitter cost him his job I can think of a million other things! #shutitwarnock

‘Looking forward to the game against Wigan tomo. 1st time in a while we actually have a plan and seem organised. #3ptsneeded

‘Lost his job and the guy is blaming everyone but himself! Embarrassing, time to look in the mirror mate. Last thing we need right. Big week.

The former Manchester City midfielder later added: 'Not a big fan of people that try to make scapegoats out of others. If u live by the sword, u die by it.'

Return: Barton was back at Newcastle last week to see his QPR side lose 1-0

Return: Barton was back at Newcastle last week to see his QPR side lose 1-0

Warnock refused to be drawn into discussion on his relationship with the 29-year-old when speaking of his sacking earlier this week.

Warnock said: ‘I don’t want to get into talking about Joey Barton. Joey talks about himself enough. I just want to talk about positive things about the club.’

Barton returns from a three-match suspension this weekend as the Hoops prepare to host Wigan in Hughes’ first league game at Loftus Road since taking over.

Betfair backlash after Leopardstown in-play betting error

Betfair face backlash as punters miss out on millions after in-play betting error

Betfair face a backlash from punters after the bookmakers declared all bets are void following an incredible in-play betting error.

The gambling firm faced an unprecedented multi-million pay-out after odds of 28-1 were offered in-play on a runaway 13-8 favourite at Leopardstown.

There were bizarre scenes in the in-running betting world with a freakish amount traded on Betfair in the 2pm woodiesdiy.com Christmas Hurdle.

A total of 1,642,094 was matched at 28-1 on Voler La Vedette, who went off the 13-8 favourite on-course and won very easily.

In-play mistake: Andrew Lynch steers runaway favourite Voler La Vedette to victory at Leopardstown

In-play mistake: Andrew Lynch steers runaway favourite Voler La Vedette to victory at Leopardstown

Even more strangely, the Betfair graph showed over 21million was offered to back Colm Murphy”s mare at those odds, even though she was always in contention and looked the obvious winner even before the final flight.

This meant one layer could potentially have lost 600million in only a few minutes if all of the money had been matched.

Betfair suspended the market in order to investigate, with many of the exchange”s members in a state of shock on the website”s forum.

After lengthy discussions, it was revealed this was due to a technical error, and that all bets on the event would be cancelled.

A statement from Betfair customer services read: “Customers betting in-play on this race will have seen that Voler La Vedette was available to back at 29 when the in-running market was suspended, and that a considerable sum was matched on the clear winner at that price.

“An investigation has revealed that this was due to an obvious technical failure which allowed a customer to exceed their exposure limit.

“In accordance with our terms and conditions, all in running bets on this race, both win and place, will be made void.

“We fully appreciate the dissatisfaction this will cause many customers, and apologise for a very poor customer and betting experience.”