Tag Archives: division

Scottish football fans handed community service after violent clash in retail park

Fans spared jail over violent clash between Dundee and Hamilton fans in retail park

By
Matt Coyle

PUBLISHED:

14:30 GMT, 23 April 2013

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UPDATED:

16:36 GMT, 23 April 2013

A gang of hooligans who fought rival fans in a busy retail park as horrified families looked on escaped jail today.

The violent bust-up unfolded at New Douglas Retail Park in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, between supporters of Hamilton Academical and Dundee.

Two gangs of up to 30 'casuals' ran riot, battered each other and even spat at disgusted onlookers.

Shaun Murray, 27, Liam Fullerton, 18,
Daniel Weir, 21, Jamie Gilchrist, 29, all from Dundee, and Joseph
Roeves, 19, from Hamilton, were on trial at Hamilton Sheriff Court last
month.

Walking free: (left to right) Shaun Murray, Liam Fullerton, and Jamie Gilchrist must do community service

Walking free: (left to right) Shaun Murray, Liam Fullerton, and Jamie Gilchrist must do community service

They had denied fighting and causing fear and alarm on the day of a Scottish First Division match on December 3, 2011.

A jury found them guilty but on Tuesday they walked free from court after Sheriff Ray Small ordered each of them to perform 250 hours of unpaid work.

However he refused to hand down Football Banning Orders despite prosecutors asking for them to be imposed.

A 13-day trial had heard how shoppers and young children were forced to run into shops for cover as the violent encounter unfolded.

The gangs, who all dressed in casual clothes and wore no football colours, fought and launched bottles at each other. One innocent man who was with his young daughter was even spat at by one of the thugs.

Sales manager Sean Bicknell, 28, described how mayhem had erupted when the gangs clashed near Accies’ ground.

He
said: 'It was mayhem. I would describe it as a large scale disorder. It
wasn’t just one on one fights going on. It was four on one. My
impression was it was an organised event.'

Lyndsay Farrell, 31, from Motherwell, was shopping in the area at the time the fight broke out.

She told the court how she was forced to take cover in her car as the shocking incident spiralled out of control.

Scary scenes: The violence erupted at at New Douglas Retail Park in Hamilton, Lanarkshire

Scary scenes: The violence erupted at at New Douglas Retail Park in Hamilton, Lanarkshire

Miss Farrell said: 'I could see people in front of me who had a hold of one male. They were punching and kicking him and tried to drag him to the ground. A lot of them had bloody noses and things.'

Defence lawyers for all five men said the incident was out of character for them and only Roeves had a previous conviction.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Small said: 'We had to sit through a very lengthy trial about the activities and actions of the accused and particularly those who travelled from Dundee.

'I am in no doubt that those who travelled down got involved in a very unpleasant incident.

'I want to make it clear that if there was evidence that any of you had been personally involved in knocking anyone to the ground, throwing bottles or other violence you would be receiving a prison sentence.

'However it is unclear from the evidence whether you were directly involved in the disorder or were on the fringes but the fact you got involved means you deserve to be punished.

'I will impose a Community Payback Order of 250 hours to be completed over 12 months.'

Sheriff Small said he would tell Hamilton Accademical and Dundee FC of the convictions.

Ryan Devaney, 23, of Dundee had earlier walked free after the jury found the charge against him not proven.

Real Madrid 3 Galatasaray 0: match report – Cristiano Ronaldo scores

Real Madrid 3 Galatasaray 0: Classy Ronaldo and Co on course for semi-finals

PUBLISHED:

20:35 GMT, 3 April 2013

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UPDATED:

21:05 GMT, 3 April 2013

Real Madrid took a huge step towards reaching the last four of the Champions League by strolling to a comfortable victory over Galatasaray at the Bernabeu.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring early in the first half before Karim Benzema doubled the hosts' lead.

Substitute Gonzalo Higuain's second-half header put the result beyond doubt, and made Madrid's task in the second leg at the Turk Telecom Arena next Tuesday look far easier.

Up and over: Cristiano Ronaldo scored the first against Galatasaray at the Santiago Bernabeu

Up and over: Cristiano Ronaldo scored the first against Galatasaray at the Santiago Bernabeu

Up and over: Cristiano Ronaldo scored the first against Galatasaray at the Santiago Bernabeu

MATCH FACTS

Real Madrid: Diego Lopez, Varane, Ramos, Coentrao, Khedira, Ronaldo, Ozil (Modric – 80), Alonso, Essien, Di Maria (Pepe 86), Benzema (Higuain 65)

Subs not used: Adan, Marcelo, Arbeloa, Kaka

Booked: Essien, Modric, Ramos

Goals: Ronaldo 9, Benzema 29, Higuain 73

Galatasaray: Muslera, Dany Nounkeu, Kaya, Eboue, Altintop (Bulut 78), Inan, Felipe Melo, Riera (Amrabat 83), Sneijder (Zan 46), Yilmaz, Drogba

Subs not used: Iscan, Balta, Sarioglu, Kurtulus

Booked: Dany Nounkeu, Felipe Melo, Yilmaz, Drogba

Referee: Oddvar Moen

Attendance: 80,000

Galatasaray's coach and players had
insisted before the game that they would try to attack the Primera
Division champions and would not settle for holding out for a draw. They
were loyal to their promise in the first half, but it left them very
exposed at the back.

Madrid, who have the reputation for
being one of the best counter-attacking teams in Europe, were given a
generous amount of space by their opponents and made full use of it.

They had their first attempt on two
minutes, Benzema heading just over the bar after a cross from Angel Di
Maria, and they took the lead after just nine minutes.

Xabi Alonso supplied the ball up to
Mesut Ozil from his own half and the German played a one-two with
Benzema, which allowed him space to deliver an excellent low pass into
the path of Ronaldo, who calmly chipped the ball over goalkeeper
Fernando Muslera and into the net.

Gala played pretty football but
struggled to penetrate the Madrid backline and were limited to shots
from outside the area. Didier Drogba turned Raphael Varane on the
18-yard line and shot just over the bar, while Wesley Sneijder also
missed the target from 20 yards.

In the goals: Karim Benzema got the second for the hosts

In the goals: Karim Benzema got the second for the hosts

Sea of red: Galatasaray fans lit a flare to celebrate the occasion

Sea of red: Galatasaray fans lit a flare to celebrate the occasion

Ozil could have doubled the lead when
a long Sergio Ramos header out of defence led to Madrid attacking, but
the midfielder, receiving the ball from Ronaldo, could not put his shot
past Muslera.

Madrid's second goal arrived just
before the half-hour mark. Michael Essien, a surprise inclusion in the
starting line-up at the expense of Alvaro Arbeloa, delivered a high ball
into the box which fell at the feet of Benzema, who was in space, took
one touch to control the pass and slotted home from six yards.

Galatasaray's best chance of the half
fell to Emmanuel Eboue just before the interval. The former Arsenal
player burst through on goal but hit his shot straight at Diego Lopez's
legs.

Sneijder, unimpressive in the first
45 minutes against his former club, was removed at half-time and
replaced by defender Gokhan Zan – a move which saw Fatih Terim's side
switch to a back three, with Eboue pushing up to right midfield.

Struggle: Didier Drogba led the line for the visitors

Struggle: Didier Drogba led the line for the visitors

Three and easy: Gonzalo Higuain scored the third with a glancing header

Three and easy: Gonzalo Higuain scored the third with a glancing header

Three and easy: Gonzalo Higuain scored the third with a glancing header

The tactical change did not help the
visitors' attacking ambitions, and they went on to pose even less of a
threat after the break as they had before it.

Madrid also dropped their intensity
in the second period. Ronaldo and Di Maria both had chances to test
Muslera, the better of which fell to the Argentinian, but the goalkeeper
had little trouble with either effort.

Higuain came on for Benzema on 65
minutes and seven minutes later made the triumph secure when he headed
in a free-kick from Xabi Alonso.

Rough and tumble: Sergio Ramos (left) drags Didier Drogba to the floor in the second half

Rough and tumble: Sergio Ramos (left) drags Didier Drogba to the floor in the second half

Rough and tumble: Sergio Ramos (left) drags Didier Drogba to the floor in the second half

Jose Mourinho's side rode out the
final minutes of the game with little trouble. Alonso and Ramos both
picked up yellow cards which mean they will miss the second leg.

Achieving victory was much lighter
work for Madrid than their two hard-fought games with Manchester United
in the previous round but, barring a complete collapse in Istanbul, they
can be confident of reaching their third consecutive Champions League
semi-final under Mourinho.

Putting out fires: Sami Khedira (right) and Ramos tackle Burak Yilmaz

Putting out fires: Sami Khedira (right) and Ramos tackle Burak Yilmaz

Over you go: Ronaldo hits the deck after Semih Kaya (centre) backs into the Portugal forward

Over you go: Ronaldo hits the deck after Semih Kaya (centre) backs into the Portugal forward

AC Milan 2 Barcelona 0: Kevin Prince Boateng scores the winner

AC Milan 2 Barcelona 0: Forza Pompey! Former Premier League stars Boateng and Muntari strike with Messi off the pace

PUBLISHED:

21:36 GMT, 20 February 2013

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UPDATED:

22:11 GMT, 20 February 2013

AC Milan took a surprise first-leg lead in their Champions League last-16 tie against Barcelona.

While Barca top the Primera Division by 12 points, Milan lie third in Serie A – but Kevin-Prince Boateng's controversial opening goal set the Italians on their way at the San Siro.

And Sulley Muntari's superb second put Massimiliano Allegri's side firmly in the driving seat ahead of March 12's return leg at the Nou Camp.

Here we go: Kevin-Prince Boateng, (left) celebrates after opening the scoring

Here we go: Kevin-Prince Boateng, (left) celebrates after opening the scoring

Double trouble: Sulley Muntari celebrates after firing home the second goal

Double trouble: Sulley Muntari celebrates after firing home the second goal

Muntari flashed an early shot over the bar from long range for Milan.

Philippe Mexes made a vital cleaance
at the other end to prevent Jordi Alba's cross reaching Pedro Rodriguez
and though the same defender then handled Dani Alves' delivery, Pedro
had already been flagged offside.

Stephane El Shaarawy's poor touch saw a
good chance slip away but resulted in a corner, taken by the prolific
young striker, from which Boateng shot just wide.

Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati
held Xavi's well-struck 30-yard drive and El Shaarawy tracked superbly
to the left-back position to break up another Barca attack.

Appeal: Barcelona wanted a free-kick for handball in the build up but Boateng did not care

Appeal: Barcelona wanted a free-kick for handball in the build up but Boateng did not care

Takeaway: Muntari's goal means Milan have a 2-0 lead to bring to the Nou Camp

Takeaway: Muntari's goal means Milan have a 2-0 lead to bring to the Nou Camp

Mexes collected the first yellow card
for tripping Lionel Messi and as Barca pressed, Riccardo Montolivo
prevented Pedro's backheel reaching Cesc Fabregas.

Boateng's cross eluded a sliding El Shaarawy before a goalless half petered out somewhat.

Sergio Busquets was booked early in
the second period after fouling Giampaolo Pazzini, moments before the
controversial opening goal.

Montolivo's shot took two deflections,
the second off the raised arm of Cristian Zapata, before Boateng fired
low past Victor Valdes. Gerard Pique was booked for protesting to
Scottish referee Craig Thomson.

Off the pace: Lionel Messi struggled to make any impact

Off the pace: Lionel Messi struggled to make any impact

Patched up: Carles Puyol was erratic as Barcelona struggled

Patched up: Carles Puyol was erratic as Barcelona struggled

Messi blazed an uncharacteristically
wayward free-kick high into the stand before Andres Iniesta almost
charged down Abbiati's clearance in the six-yard box.

Valdes saved Pazzini's acrobatic
volley but at the other end, Iniesta fizzed a drive a foot or so wide
and Xavi curled a free-kick just over.

Head to head: Cesc Fabregas, is fouled by Boateng

Head to head: Cesc Fabregas, is fouled by Boateng

Ecstasy: Boateng celebrates after firing past Victor Valdes and in to the corner

Ecstasy: Boateng celebrates after firing past Victor Valdes and in to the corner

Rolling around: Messi (left) and Daniel Alves (right) lie on the pitch

Rolling around: Messi (left) and Daniel Alves (right) lie on the pitch

But it was Milan who found a second
goal with nine minutes remaining as substitute M'Baye Niang and El
Shaarawy combined to set up Muntari, who gave their beautiful approach
play the classy finish it deserved.

Carles Puyol, sporting a huge sticking
plaster on his forehead after a clash with Pazzini, headed Xavi's
corner wide as Barca sought an important away goal.

But it was in vain, with Milan in fact
having the best chance during five minutes of stoppage time as late
substitute Bakaye Traore wasted a three-on-two break.

Rough and tumble: The best player in the world could not help his side as they stumbled to a 2-0 defeat

Rough and tumble: The best player in the world could not help his side as they stumbled to a 2-0 defeat

That'll do: AC Milan's coach Massimiliano Allegri looks on as his team put on a show

That'll do: AC Milan's coach Massimiliano Allegri looks on as his team put on a show

Fun night: Mario Balotelli smiles, next to his girlfriend, model Fanny Robert Neguesha

Fun night: Mario Balotelli smiles, next to his girlfriend, model Fanny Robert Neguesha

Balotelli with his model girlfriend

Real Madrid take on Real Sociedad in La Liga

Mission impossible Madrid face daunting challenge to close 16-POINT gap on rivals Barcelona

By
John Drayton

PUBLISHED:

13:07 GMT, 5 January 2013

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UPDATED:

13:33 GMT, 5 January 2013

Real Madrid will start what many believe to be mission impossible when the Primera Division restarts for them tomorrow.

Jose Mourinho's side take on Real Sociedad with the gap between them and leaders Barcelona standing at 16 points.

For even the most ardent Madrid fan, a successful title defence would appear to be impossible, with the Champions League now the primary focus.

Back in action: Real Madrid train ahead of their match with Real Sociedad

Back in action: Real Madrid train ahead of their match with Real Sociedad

According to defender Alvaro Arbeloa, though, they just have to carry on as normal.

'Real Sociedad are in their best form and it is going to be a difficult match, but we will go into it with desire and belief.

'I just want to win all of our matches from now until the end of the season.'

One sideshow will be who Mourinho starts in goal. There was uproar before Christmas when the Portuguese opted to sit out Iker Casillas and go with Antonio Adam playing in the loss to Malaga.

'The fans will support Real Madrid because they are fans of Real Madrid and not just of Casillas,' said Arbeloa, trying to play down any possible rows.

'It is important that they support the players, but also that they support the team. Whoever plays will have the support of his team-mates.'

Speculation: Jose Mourinho could leave Real Madrid in the summer

Speculation: Jose Mourinho could leave Real Madrid in the summer

The lure of a third Champions League title is thought to be driving Mourinho on this season, while the Copa del Rey still remains an option.

Arbeloa does not look at it that way, however, and wants every game to be treated the same.

'If this team wants to win trophies, it is impossible to do that without competing and giving everything in La Liga, and so it is difficult to give everything in the Copa,' he said.

'You cannot pick one day to play well and relax on other days.

'I would just aim to win all the matches. It could be that the Champions League is an easier objective than La Liga, but we are not a team that goes onto the pitch without giving our all every weekend and then does in the Champions League.

Rested: Madrid return after the winter break 16 points behind Barcelona

Rested: Madrid return after the winter break 16 points behind Barcelona

'We have to face all the challenges in our path and to do that you have to win in all the competitions.'

Sociedad head to the capital upwardly mobile. They are seventh in the table and have been producing some eye-catching performances under Philippe Montanier.

Some have backed them to spring a surprise and, although he will not call this a chance, Sociedad midfielder David Zurutuza does acknowledge there have been worse times to play Madrid.

'I don't think there is any good moment to visit the Bernabeu, but yes, if I had to choose a time it would be now, because they are missing important players,' he said.

Queens Park 0 Rangers 1: Match report

Queen's Park 0 Rangers 1: Aird leaves it late as Gers sneak past 10 men at Hampden

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UPDATED:

15:02 GMT, 29 December 2012

A last-gasp goal from substitute Fraser Aird ensured Rangers' winning streak continued as they claimed victory over 10-man Queen's Park.

The clash at the national stadium looked set to end goalless before the injury-time strike sealed a 10th win in a row for the Irn-Bru Third Division leaders.

The Old Firm clash with Celtic may be the most famous in Scottish football but the original Glasgow derby actually took place between Queen's Park and Rangers.

Beter late than never: Fraser Aird celebrates his injury-time winner for Rangers

Beter late than never: Fraser Aird celebrates his injury-time winner for Rangers

MATCH FACTS

Queen's Park: Parry, McGinn, Little, Brough, Robertson, Gallacher, Anderson, Keenan, Watt (Connolly 75), Quinn, Shankland (McParland 89).

Subs not used: Lochhead, Bradley, Longworth

Booked: Watt, Brough, Gallacher, Anderson, Shankland, Connolly

Sent off: Brough

Rangers:
Alexander, Hegarty, Perry, Emilson Cribari, Wallace, Crawford, Black
(Aird 64), Hutton (Sandaza 71), McKay, McCulloch, Templeton.

Subs not used: Currie, Cole, Faure

Goal: Aird 90+2

Booked: Black,

Referee: William Collum

Attendance: 30,117

And, according to the official match-day programme, it is also the oldest surviving senior derby in world football.

The meeting between both clubs at Ibrox earlier this season saw the resumption of a fixture first played 135 years ago.

Today's match – in front of a crowd of 30,117 – was the first Hampden clash between the sides since November 1957, when Rangers came out on top as 4-2 winners.

Ally McCoist was forced to make two changes from the side which defeated Clyde on Boxing Day.

Andy Little was sidelined through injury, while Lewis Macleod revealed on Twitter before kick-off that he was ill with a virus, meaning he was absent for the first time this season.

Queen's Park had given Rangers a tough match at Ibrox in October and they looked well up for this encounter, carving out a couple of chances early on.

A free-kick 20 yards out provided an opportunity to put the visitors under pressure but Michael Keenan was wasteful with an effort that was well off-target.

Familiar surroundings: Gers boss Ally McCoist has been a regular visitor to Hampden Park over the years

Familiar surroundings: Gers boss Ally McCoist has been a regular visitor to Hampden Park over the years

David Anderson came closer when he tried his luck with a shot from just outside the box which fizzed across goal and just wide of the upright.

The best chance so far fell to Rangers when a lovely cross from the left from Barrie McKay set up David Templeton for a shot that flashed inches over the crossbar.

Robbie Crawford was not too far away when he met a Black cross 10 yards out and bulleted a header just over, as the first half ended goalless.

Getting tight: Rangers ace David Templeton (right) and Michael Keenan battle for the ball

Getting tight: Rangers ace David Templeton (right) and Michael Keenan battle for the ball

Rangers continued to push for the opener after the restart and a lofted effort from Lee McCulloch landed on the roof of the net, with Neil Parry untroubled in goal.

The goalkeeper was then called into action to make an impressive save to deny McKay, who unleashed a powerful drive after a one-two with McCulloch.

Queen's Park were dealt a blow when they were reduced to 10 men when James Brough picked up a second caution for a foul on Templeton after 56 minutes.

Start the party: Aird (No 17) leads the way as the Rangers players celebrate his late goal against Queen's Park

Start the party: Aird (No 17) leads the way as the Rangers players celebrate his late goal against Queen's Park

Parry reacted quickly again to snuff out another Rangers threat, this time racing off his line to block from Lee Wallace, who had been teed up by Templeton.

Aird had replaced Black and Francisco Sandaza was thrown into the action for Kyle Hutton with 20 minutes to go, with Rangers struggling to break down a stubborn Spiders side.

The Spanish striker was clearly aiming to make an immediate impact but his finishing let him down as he rifled into the side-netting.

Hard to handle: Paul Gallacher has a nibble at Templeton and the Gers player ends up on the deck

Hard to handle: Paul Gallacher has a nibble at Templeton and the Gers player ends up on the deck

The home side could have snatched the points when Aidan Connolly released Lawrence Shankland in plenty of space but his shot lacked power and was easily smothered by Neil Alexander.

Shankland had the chance to make amends with a free-kick that escaped the grasp of the Rangers goalkeeper but swerved past the far post.

Sandaza again rippled the side-netting for Rangers, before Aird grabbed the winner in injury time with a shot from just outside the area that squeezed past several bodies in the box and nestled in the bottom corner.

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova discharged from hospital

Barca coach Vilanova discharged from hospital after cancer op

PUBLISHED:

18:14 GMT, 22 December 2012

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UPDATED:

18:14 GMT, 22 December 2012

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has been discharged from hospital after undergoing an operation on his parotid gland on Thursday.

The 44-year-old, who also had a tumour removed from his throat in November last year, now faces six weeks of chemotherapy.

A Barcelona statement read: 'The Barca coach has left hospital this Saturday after Thursday’s operation.

Out of hospital: Barcelona Manager Tito Vilanova has been discharged from hospital

Out of hospital: Barcelona Manager Tito Vilanova has been discharged from hospital

'Given the post-surgery progress, Tito Vilanova has been discharged from hospital on Saturday afternoon. The Barca coach’s operation on Thursday went as planned.'

Barcelona announced on Wednesday night that Vilanova would be undergoing another operation on his parotid gland after a return of the illness was diagnosed this week.

The Barca boss, who took over from Pep Guardiola in the summer, was expected to remain in hospital for three to four days following his operation.

Well wishers: Fans hold a sign in support of Vilanova

Well wishers: Fans hold a sign in support of Vilanova

The Primera Division leaders, who have enjoyed their best-ever start to a season after dropping just two points in their opening 16 games, named assistant coach Jordi Roura to take interim charge while Vilanova undergoes his treatment.

Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova suffers tumour relapse

Barcelona boss Vilanova suffers tumour relapse… assistant team coach Roura steps in

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UPDATED:

20:07 GMT, 19 December 2012

Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova is to undergo surgery and a course of chemotherapy after suffering a relapse of a cancerous tumour he had removed last year.

The 44-year-old had a tumour on his parotid gland (the largest of the human salivary glands) removed in emergency surgery last November when he was the club's assistant manager.

During a recent medical check-up, it was found that the tumour had returned and Vilanova will have more surgery on Thursday before six weeks of chemotherapy.

Assistant coach Jordi Roura has been named interim boss during Vilanova's absence.

It was announced in April that Vilanova would take over as Barca coach following Pep Guardiola's decision to step down at the end of the season and take a year-long sabbatical from the game.

Stepping down: Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has suffered a relapse of a tumour he had removed last November

Stepping down: Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has suffered a relapse of a tumour he had removed last November

Vilanova was Guardiola's assistant
during four hugely successful years at the Nou Camp which saw Barca win
13 trophies, including two Champions League crowns and three Primera
Division titles.

Vilanova has enjoyed a superb start to his tenure in the hotseat,
helping Barca establish a nine-point lead at the top of the league
standings after winning 15 of their opening 16 games while drawing the
other.

Barca are also through to the knockout stages of the Champions League
and hold a 2-0 first-leg lead over Cordoba in their Copa del Rey last-16
tie.

The club cancelled a scheduled press conference involving Club President Sandro Rosell on Wednesday as the news broke, as well as the staff Christmas party.

A training session scheduled for 6pm UK time this evening, and which was open to the public for the first 15 minutes, has been closed off.

Barcelona
have announced that no decision will be made on a potential replacement
until Vilanova has spoken to the players.

The news broke on the same day defender Eric Abidal was given the all-clear to resume his playing career following a liver transplant.

VILANOVA'S RECORD AT BARCELONA SO FAR

Pld 27 W 23 D 2 L 2 (85.18% win ratio)

Successor: Vilanova replaced Pep Guardiola (right) as Barcelona manager in the summer

Successor: Vilanova replaced Pep Guardiola (right) as Barcelona manager in the summer

Messages of support flooded in for Vilanova from throughout the sporting world.

'Very sorry to hear the news,' Barca midfielder Xavi said on his official Twitter account.

Former tennis world number one Rafa
Nadal said: 'All my strength and support for Tito Vilanova! We are all
with you to overcome this next hurdle.'

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero ‏tweeted: 'We support you, #AnimoTito! We wish you the strength to overcome this moment.'

His Spanish teammate David Silva added: 'All my support and best wishes to Tito and all of the people in the world fighting every day against cancer. Be strong #AnimoTito'

Former Barcelona striker Gary Lineker tweeted: 'Very sorry to hear Tito Vilanova, the Barca coach, is undergoing surgery after a cancer relapse. Thoughts are with him.'

A statement on the Madrid website read: 'Real Madrid want to express their support and best wishes for the coach of FC Barcelona, Tito Vilanova, and wish him a very rapid recovery. Real Madrid offer their support to his club and to all his family.'

Good job: Barcelona are nine points clear at the summit of La Liga

Good job: Barcelona are nine points clear at the summit of La Liga

Vilanova was out of action for around
three weeks after surgery last year, but returned to the dugout to help
Guardiola for the last six months of the 2011-12 campaign.

The quietly-spoken Catalan said the experience had left him with a different perspective on life, at his presentation in June.

'I had an important operation a few
months ago,' he said. 'I spoke with the medics and my family about the
job, but they all said I was perfectly okay and there was no problem.

'Having overcome this operation it
gives me a different view on life. Perhaps, after what has happened,
training Barca will be like kids play.'

Barca released a press statement this morning announcing they had suspended all activities for today but did not go into details and did not mention Vilanova.

The club confirmed a further announcement would be made later today.

The statement read: 'Barcelona announce that it is has suspended the press conference from president Sandro Rosell planned for midday. As well as that, the media Christmas lunch has been cancelled.

'Later today the club will issue a further release. Until that time we will not make any announcement about this matter.

'We regret any inconvenience this decision may cause.'

Vilanova factfile

1969: Born September 17 in Bellcaire d'Emporda Girona.

1988: Comes through the Barcelona youth set-up along with fellow midfielder Pep Guardiola, but cannot break into the first team, playing for two years at Barcelona B.

1990: Joins lower-league Figueres.

1992: Moves to Primera Division Celta Vigo, but fails to hold down a first-team place.

1995: Leaves Celta.

2002: Retires from playing after short spells in the lower leagues with Badajoz, Real Mallorca, Lleida, Elche and finally Gramenet.

Tito Vilanova

2007: After working as technical director at Tarrassa, becomes Guardiola's assistant at Barcelona B. The pair help the team to promotion to Segunda Division B.

2008: June – Guardiola takes over coach of Barcelona and Vilanova comes with him as his assistant. The pair win the league, cup and Champions League in the first season in charge. Two more league titles, another Champions League crown and two Club World Cups follow.

2011: November 22 – Undergoes surgery on his parotid gland in Barcelona and spends three weeks recovering after being discharged.

2012: April 27 – Appointed as Guardiola's successor as Barcelona coach for next season after Guardiola announces he will not renew his contract.

June 15 – Signs a two-year contract to remain as Barcelona coach.

December 19 – Barcelona announce he would have surgery on the parotid gland for a second time on December 20 and faced approximately six weeks of chemotherapy. A club statement also said he could remain as coach dependent on his recovery during the treatment.

Michu given hope of Spain call-up by Vicente del Bosque

Uncapped Michu given hope of shock Spain call-up as Del Bosque heaps praise on 'superb' Swansea star

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UPDATED:

13:54 GMT, 19 December 2012

Vicente del Bosque has given Michu hope of earning his first international cap after the Spain manager lauded Swansea star.

Michu has set the Premier League alight since joining the
Welsh club from Rayo Vallecano for a paltry 2million this summer.

He currently sits joint first in the league top scorers’ list, alongside Manchester United's Robin van Persie, with 12 goals.

On fire: Vicente del Bosque has noticed Michu's rise to prominence with Swansea in the Premier League

On fire: Vicente del Bosque has noticed Michu's rise to prominence with Swansea in the Premier League

No Spanish player has scored more goals than the attacking
midfielder-cum-striker in any top-flight division in Europe, and Del Bosque,
who will be selecting his Spain squad to face Finland and France in March next year,
says the 26-year-old’s goalscoring prowess hasn’t gone unnoticed.

The former Real Madrid manager, who plans to make a trip to South Wales next month to watch Michu, told Spanish newspaper Marca: ‘Michu
deserves to be credited for his superb season.

‘The way he has stood out in the league at a club like
Swansea, which is not one of the top clubs, is exceptional.

‘He’s not an out-and-out striker and has been scoring a lot
of goals like he did for Rayo Vallecano.’

Michu’s hopes of playing for his country have also been
boosted by the fact that fellow strikers David Villa and Fernando Llorente have
been forced to watch from the sidelines for much of this season.

City and Tottenham target Llorente is attempting to engineer a move away from Athletic Bilbao in January, but the club’s president Josu
Urrutia moved to quash reports the wantaway hitman will make the trip to
England in the New Year.

Del Bosque said of the two forwards: ‘Llorente said he wants
to leave and you can see why Athletic de Bilbao cannot understand. Villa's
situation is not so problematic.

‘Bara has a lot of great players. I'm sure David will play
sooner or later, because a manager always plays his best players.’

Rubbing shoulders with stars: Vicente Del Bosque was next to Cristiano Ronaldo as the pair attended the National Sports Awards ceremony at El Pardo Palace in Madrid

Rubbing shoulders with stars: Vicente Del Bosque was next to Cristiano Ronaldo as the pair attended the National Sports Awards ceremony at El Pardo Palace in Madrid

Prolific: Michu has notched up 12 Premier League goals this season, making him the joint top scorer with Robin van Persie

Prolific: Michu has notched up 12 Premier League goals this season, making him the joint top scorer with Robin van Persie

Despite the problems with Villa and Llorente, Michu could
still struggle to force his way into the team, even if he does keep scoring at
a remarkable rate.

On a number of occasions in Spain’s winning European
Championships 2012 campaign, Del Bosque opted to start without a striker.

Although Michu also plays in midfield, the Swansea man has the unenviable task of competing with Barcelona quartet Cesc Fabregas, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio
Busquets and Real Madrid’s sitting midfielder Xabi Alonso for those positions.

The competition: Fernando Llorente is trying to force through a move from Athletic Bilbao in January

The competition: Fernando Llorente is trying to force through a move from Athletic Bilbao in January

Premier League chairman divided over financial fair play regulations – Charles Sale

Charles Sale: Top flight divided on financial fair play ahead of summit

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UPDATED:

23:21 GMT, 17 December 2012

There is considerable lobbying going on between the 20 Premier League clubs ahead of Tuesday’s chairmen’s summit over financial fair play (FFP), an issue that has split the elite division.

The PL executive, who need agreement from 14 clubs for rule changes, have put forward two proposals: a long-term broad acceptance of UEFA’s FFP break-even policy, and a shorter-term salary cap that will see clubs allowed only to increase wages by a gross 4million a year.

Supporters of the short-term plan are led by Sunderland’s Ellis Short — the first of the American owners to become so engaged in club business — and West Ham’s David Gold, who want a resolution passed before the January transfer window.

At speed: West Ham chief David Gold wants the situation resolved swiftly

At speed: West Ham chief David Gold wants the situation resolved swiftly

More from Charles Sale…

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15/12/12

Charles Sale: Net gain for Draper as LTA chief pockets 640k… four times more than the Prime Minister
13/12/12

Charles Sale: Arsenal follow United's lead by claiming packed stadium despite rows of empty seats at Emirates
12/12/12

Charles Sale: Leeds anxious as buyers GFH Capital fail to pay on time
12/12/12

Charles Sale: Portsmouth's court date with destiny could end in extinction
07/12/12

Charles Sale: Diamond League can add some sparkle to Stratford before the bulldozers move in
06/12/12

Charles Sale: Hearn is ready to throw in the towel over West Ham's Olympic Stadium move
05/12/12

Charles Sale: Channel 4 races to unload World Athletics Championships on the BBC
30/11/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Manchester United’s David Gill, Tottenham’s Daniel Levy and Arsenal’s Ivan Gazidis head those in favour of the long-term solution along UEFA lines.

Meanwhile, the four clubs most opposed to any FFP restrictions — Manchester City, West Bromwich, Fulham and Aston Villa — are under pressure to change their view that no interference works best.

Finance snub for live football

The BBC are understood to have spent well over 1m on their Sports Personality of the Year night at London’s ExCeL. Yet despite their lack of live football, the Beeb felt it too expensive to send a commentator to Japan for the Club World Cup final the same day.

Guy Mowbray, who was at the Stoke-Everton game the day before, did the commentary of Chelsea’s defeat by Corinthians in Yokohama from the television, which does not say much for the Beeb’s commitment to the national sport.

The BBC say they gained the rights for the tournament at short notice and sending a commentary team was not deemed worth it, especially with the focus on SPOTY.

Becks will wait until new year

David Beckham — whose appearance at Sports Personality to announce that Lord Coe had won the lifetime achievement award was a surprise even to the recipient — is not expected to make a decision on his playing future until after Christmas. But wherever he plays, his family will be based in London.

Meanwhile, British cycling overlord David Brailsford, tipped for a knighthood in the New Year honours, is expected to join Beckham, Andy Murray and Lewis Hamilton in Simon Fuller’s XIX sports management stable with Sir Clive Woodward when the tie-up between XIX and Brailsford and Woodward’s agent Tim Buttimore is finalised.

Waiting: David Beckham will wait until next year before deciding his future

Waiting: David Beckham will wait until next year before deciding his future

The big freeze

Sport England froze 10.3million on Monday, three years’ worth of Lawn Tennis Association grass-roots funding, with chief executive Jennie Price saying damningly: ‘Tennis has not performed well in terms of participation. Their plan simply wasn’t strong enough to justify the four-year investment.’

Yet the LTA have awarded a 640,000 package to chief executive Roger Draper for 2012, including a 201,000 bonus. An LTA spokesperson said: ‘This is not an appropriate comparison.’

Channel 4’s Rio rights

Sports Personality elevated the Paralympics to unprecedented heights. But that will not be enough for the BBC to reclaim TV rights for Rio 2016.

The International Paralympic Committee have opted to stay with Channel 4, with an announcement due soon. US network NBC, whose coverage of London’s Paralympics was minimal, are showing more interest for Brazil.

Turn over: Paralympians like David Weir will be on Channel 4 in Rio

Turn over: Paralympians like David Weir will be on Channel 4 in Rio

One love for Wiggins

Bradley Wiggins, Sports Personality winner in a stellar year with the charisma to join the band on stage at the SPOTY after-party, could have his pick of sponsors. But he prefers to have only his beloved Fred Perry Mod clothing deal, with all other endorsements worked through his Team Sky contract.

Youngsters living the high life

The FA spent 100m on their acclaimed national centre at St George’s Park that includes two hotels. But bizarrely, no dormitory accommodation, more suited to the junior sides, was factored into the planning, meaning youngsters must be given the run of the plush hotel rooms. The short-term plan when junior tournaments are taking place at SGP is to use dormitories at nearby public school Repton.

One Udinese fan made 600-mile round trip to Sampdoria Serie A clash

Loneliness of the (ONE) long distance fan: Solitary Udinese supporter makes 600-mile round trip to Sampdoria for Serie A clash

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UPDATED:

19:02 GMT, 11 December 2012

When Udinese travelled to Genoa for their Serie A game against Sampdoria on Monday, just one man showed up to support them in an otherwise empty away section.

The prospect of a 600-mile round trip from Udine in the North East of Italy to Genoa appeared too much for most Udinese fans, leaving this curly-haired fellow to plough a lone furrow in the away end of Sampdoria’s Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

Even though Serie A attendances have
been dwindling in recent years, with fans believing that the atmosphere
in stadiums has been killed off by stricter safety regulation and
hard-to-obtain supporter identity cards, just one man turning up to support an
away team is unprecedented.


Going it alone: Udinese's solitary fan for their Serie A match against Sampdoria

Going it alone: Udinese's solitary fan for their Serie A match against Sampdoria

Three points: It was a successful trip for this loyal follower as Udinese won 2-0

Three points: It was a successful trip for this loyal follower as Udinese won 2-0

Italy map

Serie
A attendances this season are amongst the weakest of the leading
divisions on the continent.

With an average attendance of 21,876, the Italian top division averages over
20,000 less than the German Bundesliga, which leads the way with an
average crowd of 42,299 people.

The
English Premier League comes in with an average attendance of 35,629
while Spain’s La Liga is lagging behind with an average of 29,665.

Udinese
fans have become further disillusioned with their own football club due
to a perceived lack of ambition from the club’s owners, with leading
players including Mauricio Isla, Kwadwo Asamoah and Alexis Sanchez all
sold in recent seasons.

But it proved to be a worthy trip for the supporter, as he saw Udinese secure a 2-0 win to take the club into 8th position in Serie A.

His presence was a source of amusement
for the home support, who, rather than subjecting him to any abuse,
instead cheered the man and he reciprocated their affection with an
enthusiastic wave.

Sampdoria midfielder Andrea Poli, left, and Udinese defender Dusan Basta battle for the ball

Sampdoria midfielder Andrea Poli, left, and Udinese defender Dusan Basta battle for the ball

Sampdoria forward Mauro Emanuel Rivero Icardi, right, holds off Udinese Brazilian midfielder Marques Loureiro Allan

Sampdoria forward Mauro Emanuel Rivero Icardi, right, holds off Udinese Brazilian midfielder Marques Loureiro Allan

Gaetano Berardi of Sampdoria, right, executes a sliding tackle on Udinese midfielder Emmanuel Agyemang Badu

Gaetano Berardi of Sampdoria, right, executes a sliding tackle on Udinese midfielder Emmanuel Agyemang Badu


Antonio Di Natale, left, celebrates his goal during the 2-0 win for Udinese

Antonio Di Natale, left, celebrates his goal during the 2-0 win for Udinese