Tag Archives: expectation

Cheltenham Festival 2013: Sprinter Sacre wins Champion Chase

Superstar Sprinter Sacre romps to victory in Champion Chase with sensational run

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Geraghty said: 'He's a beautiful horse to ride. I've never ridden one as natural to jump. Things would have to go very wrong to go wrong.

'Once he's healthy and well, you get him relaxed and into a nice rhythm. He does the rest and he's a pleasure to ride.

Main man: Barry Geraghty steered Sprinter Sacre to victory over Sizing Europe who was 19 lengths behind

Main man: Barry Geraghty steered Sprinter Sacre to victory over Sizing Europe who was 19 lengths behind

Main man: Barry Geraghty steered Sprinter Sacre to victory over Sizing Europe who was 19 lengths behind

'I've ridden some brilliant horses over the years, but the ease and the grace that he does it with sets him apart.'

Henderson, greeting his 49th Festival winner, said: 'He's just very special. (I'm relieved) It's over.

'He just has that way of doing it.

'He finds it ridiculously easy – he just loves doing it.

'He loves to attack his fences. We are very lucky to have him.

'I hope people have enjoyed watching him.

'We've talked about Punchestown, and I'm sure Richie Galway (Punchestown manager) would like us to talk about it a bit more. He is a two-miler and I don't think Aintree really will be him.

'There's a nice Grade One in Ireland and maybe we go for that and then wrap him up.'

Crowd pleaser: Barry Geraghty takes the plaudits after his victory on board Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham

Crowd pleaser: Barry Geraghty takes the plaudits after his victory on board Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham

Caroline Mould's husband, Raymond, said: 'It's absolutely incredible.

'One lives in hope and expectation, but the reality is incredible.

'To see him do it like that is fantastic.

'What more can one say'

Sizing Europe's rider Andrew Lynch said: 'I tripped up on the path on the crossing, but I wouldn't use that as an excuse – the winner is some horse.

'I took it to him to see how good he was and my lad ran with great credit.'

Sizing Europe's trainer Henry de Bromhead said: 'We have been beaten by a phenomenon. We had a go, but came off second best.

Take a bow: Nicky Henderson was relieved after watching his charge justify favouritism

Take a bow: Nicky Henderson was relieved after watching his charge justify favouritism

'Andrew said he tripped on the path but that it made no difference to the result.

'He's still finished second in a Champion Chase and even at 11 he is still a very good horse, but we have been beaten by a special one.

'We made the decision to run in this (rather than Ryanair Chase or Gold Cup) and there is nothing we can do about that now.

'He was ridden to win the race. He jumped brilliant today and we know that he stays further so we will do whatever is best for the horse and I am sure Punchestown will come into it.

'He seems as good as ever, but the winner put us in our place.'

England v Fiji: Show no mercy, says Andy Farrell

Farrell demands England show 'no mercy' to Fiji as autumn internationals get underway

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UPDATED:

22:59 GMT, 9 November 2012

England will adopt a ‘no mercy’ mantra at Twickenham as they try to clinically dispatch Fiji and lay the foundations for a triumphant autumn series.

Stuart Lancaster’s men go into the first of four QBE Internationals as firm favourites to see off the under-cooked, weakened Pacific Island visitors, despite a lack of experience in the home ranks.

The game, in front of a capacity 82,000 crowd, will test the national team’s ability to deal with expectation and show they can take the step from being competitive to being utterly dominant at home.

Put through their paces: England were at Twickenham on Friday to prepare for their clash against Fiji

Put through their paces: England were at Twickenham on Friday to prepare for their clash against Fiji

Put through their paces: England were at Twickenham on Friday to prepare for their clash against Fiji

England know they must set the tone and win the match with room to spare. ‘We have to be ruthless and show no mercy,’ said coach Andy Farrell. ‘We’re after a performance.We’ve had two brilliant weeks of training. The boys are itching to get out there.

‘You will always look for that perfect performance but we haven’t played for five months so there will be a lot of learning to come out of this game for us. We can kick on for the rest of the autumn.

‘The boys are led well and they know exactly what they’re doing. They have brought fight and desire and intensity to their performances this year, but they understand that they have to improve now.

‘The intensity and passion have to be an absolute given, but to be the best, there is an extra 15 to 20 per cent there. The proof of our progress will be how we perform.’

No mercy: Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and Mike Catt are demanding the best from their team

No mercy: Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and Mike Catt are demanding the best from their team

Leading example: Chris Robshaw

Leading example: Chris Robshaw

Chris Robshaw, the England captain, agreed it was vital for him and his team-mates to be ruthless.

‘We have to take every opportunity we can,’ he said. ‘We can’t take 10 or 15 minutes to get into a game like we did in South Africa. We must make sure we deliver from minute one.

‘It is a different type of pressure. It is easy to go into a game when you are underdogs and have nothing to lose and you can throw the ball about. It is when people are expecting something that you have to perform.

‘That’s what we want to do as players. We need to stay positive throughout the game.’

England’s players were last night given their Test jerseys by former captain Will Carling. Among them was New Zealand-born No 8 Thomas Waldrom, who has marked his first Test start at Twickenham by flying his parents to London from Christchurch.

‘I don’t think it’s sunk in yet that I’m playing for England at Twickenham,’ he said. ‘It’s a very special occasion. I was only told on Tuesday, so it’s been a rush.’

The 29-year-old, who played for New Zealand age-group teams, qualifies through an English-born grandmother.

Celtic 2 Barcelona 1: Neil Lennon – I"ll never top this night

I don't know if I'll ever top this night, says Celtic boss Lennon after brilliant Barca win

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UPDATED:

00:24 GMT, 8 November 2012

Neil Lennon hailed his players as heroes after the shock result of the Champions League. 'It's one of the greatest nights in the club's recent history,' said Lennon.

'It was very poignant to be playing Barcelona on our 125th anniversary and we did so decimated by injuries.'

Lennon, who succeeded Tony Mowbray two years ago, has had a sometimes traumatic tenure at the Glasgow club.

Great night: Lennon guided Celtic to a famous win over Barcelona at Parkhead

Great night: Lennon guided Celtic to a famous win over Barcelona at Parkhead

He described Wednesday night as 'up there with anything I've done in my life, not just in football. As a manager I don't know if I'll top that – I hope I do.'

Celtic travel to Benfica in a fortnight as second team in the group. They may need only one more point to qualify for the even more lucrative knockout stages.

Shock result: The hosts saw off the challenge from Barcelona to win 2-1 on Wednesday evening

Shock result: The hosts saw off the challenge from Barcelona to win 2-1 on Wednesday evening

'We've got a chance,' added Lennon, 'a greater chance than we maybe expected.

'The problem now will be the expectation level. There's still a lot of work to do. But that's for the future.'

In unison: Celtic supporters will remember their side's win over Barca for years to come

In unison: Celtic supporters will remember their side's win over Barca for years to come

Lennon praised his goalkeeper, England squad man Fraser Forster, who made two outstanding saves from Lionel Messi.

'You need your goalkeeper to be fantastic to beat Barcelona. You need luck as well and Barcelona hit the bar and the post.

Hero: Forster denied Messi on two occasions

Hero: Forster denied Messi on two occasions

'But the difference between me and Tito Vilanova (Barca's coach) is that he can bring on Cesc Fabregas and David Villa, I bring on Tony Watt, an 18-year-old signed for 50,000 from a club called Airdrie.

'When I took the job on, I said I wanted to bring the thunder back and I've never seen an atmosphere like I did tonight.'

Hexham-born Forster, 24, recalled the heartbreak of the last-minute defeat when Celtic travelled to Barcelona.

He said: 'Words can't describe it. We put in so much effort in the Nou Camp and couldn't see it through, but tonight we did.

How can Martin O"Neill turn it around at Sunderland?

Second season syndrome: How can O'Neill turn it around at Sunderland

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 2 November 2012

Second season syndrome: Martin O'Neill roars during the midweek defeat to Middlesbrough

Hard times: Martin O'Neill roars during the midweek defeat to Middlesbrough

Martin O’Neill faces former club Aston Villa at the Stadium of Light after a disappointing start to his first full season at Sunderland.

O’Neill was the only manager the fans wanted when Steve Bruce was sacked 11 months ago and, as a proven, cup-winning self-confessed Mackem, he was supposed to take the club into a new era.

But this week’s embarrassing Capital One Cup defeat to Middlesbrough was a major blow and his under-fire team have the worst goals and shots on target totals in top flight European football, and all four divisions in England.

O’Neill cut a defiant figure at his press conference, saying: ‘I would expect to be judged over a season. People can say what they want, I can’t change it. The only way I can change it is by winning some football matches.’

Things need to change — and fast — but what is it that is going wrong at Sunderland

A CRISIS OF CREATIVITY

Adam Johnson, James McClean and Stephane Sessegnon all look terrified on the ball and are making basic mistakes. McClean was the sensation of last season but opposition scouts have identified his weaknesses and he is struggling. Most teams put two men on him and have realised that he struggles when forced to cut back on to his right foot.

Summer signing Johnson, brought in from Manchester City for 10million, has been a disappointment. He may have been affected by a thigh injury he picked up on England duty as well as the weight of expectation because of his price tag.

Sessegnon is one of the most naturally gifted players Sunderland have ever had. But he’s played more like Milton Nunez than Lionel Messi this season. He’ll say it’s not related, but fans are asking why he looks so disinterested since signing his new contract. Eight goals and nine assists last season have been followed by none this campaign.

Falling down: Stephane Sesssegnon (centre) has been unproductive this season

Falling down: Stephane Sesssegnon (centre) has been unproductive this season

A STRIKER LIGHT

Summer signing Steven Fletcher scored five in four, but has now gone four matches without a goal. And who is Sunderland’s second top scorer Newcastle’s Demba Ba, who scored an own goal in the derby draw. O’Neill clearly doesn’t feel he has many options to help Fletcher either. The club’s other strikers — Fraizer Campbell, Ji Dong-won, Connor Wickham and Louis Saha — have played just 406 minutes between them.

Solo effort: Steven Fletcher has netted five of Sunderland's six Premier League goals

Solo effort: Steven Fletcher has netted five of Sunderland's six Premier League goals

HOME DISCOMFORTS

The Stadium of Light crowd is notoriously difficult to please. Naturally pessimistic, Sunderland fans are at their worst when expectations are high, as they were at the start of the season. More than 40,000 are expected to bait Darren Bent, which will delight chairman Ellis Short, but they need to be patient and understanding. Attendances could dwindle unless performances and results improve.

O’Neill said: ‘The players are saying in the dressing room they’re a bit surprised (at the reaction) because they’ve only lost one game. Maybe they need to gamble a bit more and take risks. If you lose the ball once or twice, you have to have the confidence to go again.’

Fickle fans: The Stadium of Light faithful are tough to please

Fickle fans: The Stadium of Light faithful are tough to please

THE DRAW DEMONS
Sunderland by numbers

12: The number of shots on target Sunderland have had this season – the lowest in the league and 18 fewer than the next best team

42: Sunderland’s attempted shots this season, the lowest in the league.

0: The Black Cats are the only Premier League team not to have hit the woodwork this season.

28.57%: Sunderland have the worst shooting accuracy in the Premier League.

30: Sunderland have had the fewest shots off target in the league.

Finally Sunderland had their Messiah. A boyhood Sunderland fan, who can roll out the stats, matches and memories. Destiny may seem a bit strong, but that was what fans believed.

O’Neill said: ‘I came in last season and joked that having an affiliation with Sunderland might give me a couple of games.

‘I’ll be judged on football matches. I’ve completed 11 months here and my ambition is to build a side that fans can be really proud of and can actually make an impact in this league.’

He got off to a terrific start with Bruce’s under-achieving squad, winning 10 out of 17 games and reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

But they’ve never really recovered from the dreadful home defeat to Everton. They have drawn 11 of 16 games since, including disappointments at the tail-end of last season against Bolton and Wolves.

They are hard to beat but that’s not enough.

Tough to beat: Simon Mignolet saves from Stoke's Peter Crouch

Tough to beat: Simon Mignolet saves from Stoke's Peter Crouch

SO WHAT NOW

You can understand why O’Neill has persevered with his creative players. On their day, they win matches.

He says he will put it right on the training ground, but it’s a test of his famous man-management skills

O’Neill had a similar run in his first season at Villa, winning one in 13, and look how he transformed them.

He’s not about to walk out on this one. Sunderland mean too much to him. But he knows he needs to start finding answers soon.

Roberto Mancini: Manchester City critics don"t bother me

What pressure Mancini insists he won't listen to his critics despite City's slow start

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UPDATED:

10:07 GMT, 2 November 2012

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini claims to have taken no notice of his recent critics.

The Italian came in for some heavy flak last week after a loss to Ajax in Amsterdam left City needing a 'miracle' – in Mancini's own words – to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League.

City failed to get out of their group in their maiden Champions League campaign last year, and their latest attempt has been another underwhelming one with just one point gained from the first three games.

Work to do: Roberto Mancini's (centre) Manchester City have been below par

Work to do: Roberto Mancini's (centre) Manchester City have been below par

And despite remaining unbeaten in the Barclays Premier League, the champions have also been below par at the start of their title defence.

With much made of Mancini's ultimately doomed decisions to continually change formation in Holland – and accompanying speculation that was unsettling players – the pressure appeared to be growing on the former Inter Milan boss.

But that eased slightly with a hard-fought win over Swansea last weekend and Mancini, whom The Guardian claim held talks last season about taking charge of Monaco, claims not to have been affected by recent pressure anyway.

Mancini said: 'I don't read the newspapers. I know my job and I know when I make a mistake or do the right things.

'For this I talk with my club, my chairman and my staff, the other situations are not important.'

Mancini has always remained confident in his ability to deliver and he famously guided City to title success last season after they had been eight points off the top with six games remaining.

But after what was a first league win in 44 years for the club, Mancini cannot understand where all the pressure and expectation for instant Champions League glory is coming from.

He said: 'I don't know but maybe there are some that are happy for this, and some others that push for this.

Point to prove: City are struggling in the Champions League and are third in the Premier League table after some less than impressive performances

Point to prove: City are struggling in the Champions League and are third in the Premier League table after some less than impressive performances

'I don't know who or for which reason, but we are a young club for the Champions League. It could be that we lose some games.'

Mancini also points out that for all Ajax's domination, City did lead 1-0 in the Amsterdam ArenA and had chances to score a second before eventually crashing 3-1.

He said: 'Maybe we should do better because we didn't play well against Ajax, but when we were 1-0 we had two incredible chances to score the second goal.

'I think in that competition, when you have a chance, you need to score and close the game.'

Jordan Henderson hoping life at Liverpool will improve

Time to man up! Henderson aims to put rocky start at Liverpool behind him

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UPDATED:

15:15 GMT, 12 October 2012

Two years ago, Jordan Henderson was a hometown hero preparing to make his full England debut.

Fielded in an unfavourable holding midfield position by then manager Fabio Capello, he was kept on a tight leash by an impressive French side and struggled to properly impose himself on the game.

Much changed for the 22-year-old between that November defeat and his next call up 18 months later, stepping into Roy Hodgson's squad for Euro 2012 after Frank Lampard was ruled out with injury.

Mersey beat: Henderson hopes his Liverpool career is beginning to blossom

Mersey beat: Henderson hopes his Liverpool career is beginning to blossom

His 16million move to Liverpool in June 2011 bought with it a level of expectation he'd been without on Wearside, and Henderson would be the first to admit things have not gone according to plan.

He knows he has to up his game.

He said: 'There have been lots of ups and downs for me personally in the last two years, but without those setbacks you can't progress.

'I have definitely taken everything on board, become more of a man and developed my game a lot. With time and hard work I want to keep progressing.

'I know I need to have more of an impact on games if I am to play more regularly. I think I have done that recently. The last few times I have played with Liverpool I have been pretty relaxed so that will help me push on.

'I believe in my own ability, I have the confidence of producing the goods every time I play.'

Despite featuring twice for England in Poland and Ukraine, Henderson has been overlooked in the subsequent two squads, reverting back the Under 21s, who he will captain on Friday in the first leg of their Euro 2013 play-off tie with Serbia.

The change in scenery, though, doesn't bring a change in attitude.

Non-starter: Henderson is yet to begin a game under new boss Rodgers

Non-starter: Henderson is yet to begin a game under new boss Rodgers

'At Liverpool, something like the price tag doesn't have an affect, that it is nothing to do with me. There is pressure whenever and whoever you play for, like the 21s.

'Yes, I am one of the older lads in this team now but I am still under pressure to perform. It is different, but I am confident I can do well for both.'

Henderson is yet to start a Premier League game for Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers, with summer recruits Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin, as well as captain Steven Gerrard and the injured Lucas Leiva all vying for a share of the manager’s attention.

As the youngest of those, though, Henderson sees the fight as an opportunity to learn.

'You can take a lot from someone like Steven at club level – he is a great inspiration and role model for all younger players,' the midfielder, who was speaking at a 'Mars Just Play' session, said.

Work ethic: Henderson is now one of the oldest in Under 21s set-up

Work ethic: Henderson is now one of the oldest in Under 21's set-up

'As a person, he is a brilliant individual and someone for all of us to look up to. He is professional and goes about everything exact the right way, giving 100 per cent in training.

'To see someone like that who has been doing it for so long and still having that desire to improve is a great inspiration.'

Two hours before Gerrard leads England out at Wembley in the third of the seniors’ World Cup qualifiers on Friday, Henderson will do the same at Carrow Road with a group who hold aspirations of securing a place on the plane to Brazil in two years time.

'I wouldn’t want to leave the 21s behind, I enjoy this role as captain of the team, but obviously I do want to push on to the seniors.'

Both England and Serbia where unbeaten during qualifying for the tournament which is held in Israel next June.

'It is a different kind of football now,' Henderson adds. 'The two legs is a new style, a challenge.

'You have to be more ruthless, and with the home leg first you have to hope you get a good performance under you.'

Mars and The FA are offering a week of free Just Play sessions across the country from October 8. Search online for Just Play.

Andre Villas-Boas faces a challenge at Tottenham – Alex Ferguson

Villas-Boas has his work cut out at Tottenham, claims Ferguson

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UPDATED:

12:50 GMT, 28 September 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson believes Andre Villas-Boas has a big challenge on his hands at Tottenham.

After his ill-fated spell at Chelsea last season, Villas-Boas has now been given a job at another of England's top clubs, with the same question marks hanging over him that existed at Stamford Bridge.

As Villas-Boas must deal with the expectation created by Harry Redknapp's successful stint at White Hart Lane, it did not take long for the first criticisms to surface.

Up against it: Andre Villas-Boas hopes to take Tottenham to the top

Up against it: Andre Villas-Boas hopes to take Tottenham to the top

There were more grumbles following last week's win over QPR that catapulted Tottenham into the top half of the table, and now they head to Manchester United on Saturday looking for their first win at Old Trafford since 1989.

'He has a challenge,' said Ferguson.

'He wasn't at Chelsea very long, but he came to our ground early last season and his team tried to play football.

'That's his philosophy and I think he's carrying that out at Tottenham as well.

'He suits Spurs. They've always had a history of playing good football. I think he'll carry on that way.

'I hope they do well because it's a difficult industry these days, particularly for a young manager.

'It must be very daunting and challenging to go to a big club. It's full of risk because it's a results industry.'

Going to Old Trafford has been a daunting experience for Tottenham ever since Gary Lineker scored the only goal 23 years ago.

In the intervening period, the best they have managed are four draws, including the infamous Pedro Mendes 'goal that never was' in January 2005.

'Our record against Spurs is very good,' said Ferguson.

'Sometimes you have these situations where you get a team that you always get good results against.

Raring to go: Tottenham travel to Old Trafford on Saturday

Raring to go: Tottenham travel to Old Trafford on Saturday

'It was the same when I was at Aberdeen.

'It didn't matter what team I played against Dundee at Dens Park I would win. At one point I played them before a midweek European game and I played seven reserves and won 5-1.'

After recovering from the opening weekend defeat at Everton by reeling off four successive wins, United will hope their record against Tottenham holds this weekend as they look to put more pressure on early-season pace-setters Chelsea.

Not that everything is running entirely smoothly for Ferguson.

The loss of Nemanja Vidic for two months following knee surgery early this week means United have only Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans as fit senior centre-halves.

Scott Wootton did impress on his debut against Newcastle on Wednesday though. And it appears the Birkenhead-born 21-year-old has an important role to play over the next few days.

'Scott reads the game and passes the ball well,' said Ferguson.

'He was up against very experienced players on Wednesday, so his performance was a little bonus for us.'

Wootton will be in Ferguson's squad on Saturday, and will remain there until Chris Smalling has recovered from a broken metatarsal, which United hope will be after the next international break.

Return: Darren Fletcher made a successful comeback in midweek

Return: Darren Fletcher made a successful comeback in midweek

As he does have options, the potential loss of Antonio Valencia to an ankle injury is not too much of a worry for Ferguson.

And the United boss can definitely allow Darren Fletcher to ease his way back as he continues his rehabilitation from a chronic bowel complaint.

The Scotland skipper started his first game in 10 months in midweek.
Ferguson has selected Fletcher in Saturday's squad. However, Fletcher's next meaningful involvement is likely to come in Tuesday's Champions League encounter with CFR Cluj in Romania.

'Having played on Wednesday night and contributed so well I wouldn't think he'll start tomorrow,' said Ferguson.

'But he may get a place on the bench and he could possibly go to Romania and play against Cluj.

'That may be an ideal opportunity for him.” And when he is able to call on his fellow countryman on a regular basis, Ferguson knows he will have a very useful addition to his squad.

'The great thing about Fletcher the other night was that his enthusiasm was fantastic,' said Ferguson.

'He played a great part in the victory and in a role different from how we've used him in the past.

'Darren was always the type to get about the midfield players but on Wednesday he sat in front of the two young centre-backs and did a really good job.'

Papiss Cisse promises a burst of goals

I'll get back to my best: Cisse promises glut of goals after getting off the mark at Old Trafford

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UPDATED:

15:57 GMT, 27 September 2012

Papiss Cisse is hoping he can go on another memorable scoring burst to ease the pain of Newcastle's Capital One Cup exit.

After a stunning first half-season in the Premier League, when he bagged an incredible 13 goals in 14 matches, Cisse has found life tougher second time around.

Prior to Wednesday night's trip to Old Trafford, the Senegal forward had failed to score in six games this season and his place in Alan Pardew's starting line-up was coming under threat.

Off the mark: Papiss Cisse scored his first goal of the season in Wednesday night's League Cup tie at Old Trafford

Off the mark: Papiss Cisse scored his first goal of the season in Wednesday night's League Cup tie at Old Trafford

However, introduced as a second-half substitute against Manchester United, Cisse made an instant impact, nodding home Shane Ferguson's cross, and then rattling the bar with a textbook overhead kick.

And whilst his contribution was not enough to prevent the Magpies sliding to a 2-1 defeat, it is clear Cisse's confidence is starting to return.

'Yes,' the 27-year-old told www.nufc.co.uk, when asked if he thought he could now go on a goalscoring streak.

'I am very happy. For me it was very good to score.

'Two would have been very good but a goal didn't happen at that time.'

More to come: Cisse hopes the goal will help him rediscover the prolific form of last season

More to come: Cisse hopes the goal will help him rediscover the prolific form of last season

Although they are nicely wedged in mid-table, Newcastle have struggled to hit the heights this term.

Cisse's dip in form is one reason.

However, they are also dealing with the additional weight of expectation last season's fifth-placed finish has brought to a club where fans need little encouragement to get optimistic.

Anything lower than last year may be viewed as a relative failure.

Pardew realises he has to deal with that.

However, he is adamant Newcastle have a better overall squad now, which should enable them to ride over the kind of dip that eventually cost them a chance of Champions League qualification.

Long-term vision: Pardew has been awarded an eight-year contract at Newcastle

Long-term vision: Pardew has been awarded an eight-year contract at Newcastle

'You have to earn the right to play a certain level of football in the Premier League,' he said.

'We had a strong finish last season. But our depth this year is stronger.

'It is very difficult to improve on our starting XI from last year. But we didn't have it every week and it cost us.

'This time, I look at my group and know if I lose someone, I can replace them like-for-like.

'That is going to be very important as the season goes on, especially in the Premier League.'

Alessandro Del Piero looking forward to the challenge at Sydney FC

No fear! Del Piero looking forward to the challenge in Australia with Sydney

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UPDATED:

08:42 GMT, 17 September 2012

Alessandro Del Piero says he has no fear about what is expected of him in Australia and the hope that his star power will revitalise the A-League.

Del Piero spoke at his first press conference in Australia on Monday, saying he welcomes the pressure that will go with being the A-League's biggest name.

He said: 'I know there will be a lot of expectation and I love that. I played 19 years with Juventus and in Juventus you have to win every game, every year.’

Up for the challenge: Alessandro Del Piero says he is not put off by the expectation

Up for the challenge: Alessandro Del Piero says he is not put off by the expectation

The 37-year-old joined Sydney FC for a reported 1.2 million a year as the biggest signing in the history of the A-League.

He turned down offers from Southampton, among other clubs, to play in Australia and said he hoped to make a difference to Sydney FC and to the A-League.

'It was (an easy decision) because the project here is interesting,’ Del Piero said. 'I said 'yes', but I choose the best place I can choose for this moment and I think this now, and I'm sure I will think this at the end of the season.

‘Sometimes I decide with my feelings, but this decision was not only with my feelings, it was with the head and with the feeling, and I'm sure that's OK.'

Del Piero said he was determined to contribute to Sydney FC.

Mobbed: Del Piero is one of the biggest names to play in Australia

Mobbed: Del Piero is one of the biggest names to play in Australia

'All my life I play for winning. I'm here for winning … I'm here because I trust in the win,’ he said.

'First of all I am here for Sydney FC. Competing for Sydney FC. Then we hope, about the A-League growing up day by day … and this is hard work.'

Del Piero said he was aware that Australia's football culture has been based on post-war immigration from Europe.

'In everybody there is soccer blood and we hope to wake up that,’ he said.

Del Piero, a member of Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning team and who scored a club-record 286 goals for Juventus, is expected to help bring greater exposure -and spectators – to the struggling A-League, which has suffered from declining crowds and the folding of two teams in the past two seasons.

His impact was immediate and hundreds of fans turned out at Sydney Airport on Sunday, some waiting for hours, to welcome him on his arrival.

Here to win: Del Piero says he is aiming to win the A League title

Here to win: Del Piero says he is aiming to win the A League title

Del Piero's decision to play in Australia is being compared with David Beckham's impact on the game in the United States when he signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Sydney chief executive Tony Pignata, who traveled to Turin nearly two weeks ago to get Del Piero's signature on the contract, said he was pleased with the response of fans – more than 2,000 club memberships have been sold since Del Piero's contract was signed.

Welcome to Sydney: Del Piero is mobbed by fans at Sydney airport after touching down over the weekend

Welcome to Sydney: Del Piero is mobbed by fans at Sydney airport after touching down over the weekend

Pignata also said 15,000 Sydney FC jerseys with Del Piero's No. 10 and name on the back had been manufactured and were selling fast, with orders from around the world.

Del Piero is due to train with his Sydney teammates for the first time on Tuesday and his first official public appearance in Sydney is expected next Sunday – September 23.

His first game for Sydney could be against Newcastle next Saturday, a preseason match scheduled to be played in the Central Coast town of Budgewoi north of Sydney.

However, if Del Piero plays, it is expected to be moved to a larger stadium at nearby Gosford.

Sydney play their first-round match of the new A-League season at Wellington, New Zealand on October 6.

Michael Owen under no pressure from Stoke boss Tony Pulis

Stoke manager Pulis wary of heaping too much pressure on new boy Owen

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UPDATED:

13:17 GMT, 14 September 2012

Stoke boss Tony Pulis is mindful of putting too much pressure on new signing Michael Owen and has stressed the former England star is simply one of several options now at his disposal in attack.

The Potters completed the capture of Owen, who had been a free agent after his release over the summer by Manchester United, last week on a one-year deal and he could be set for his debut in Saturday's Barclays Premier League visit of Manchester City.

The 32-year-old striker, dogged by a catalogue of injury problems throughout his career, says he feels in good enough condition to feature and he will be assessed by Pulis ahead of kick-off.

No pressure, Michael: Stoke boss Pulis doesn't expect Owen to deliver from the outset

No pressure, Michael: Stoke boss Pulis doesn't expect Owen to deliver from the outset

While fitness is likely be a key factor in how much game time Owen gets at Stoke, he is undoubtedly one of the biggest names ever to join the Staffordshire club and there will be a considerable sense of anticipation among Potters fans about what he might deliver.

The weight of expectation on the ex-Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle frontman is something Pulis wants to try to ease, and the manager has been keen to emphasise that Owen is very much part of a group of forwards in his squad.

'I think by bringing Michael in now, we have got different options,' Pulis said. 'We'll see how it goes – I don't want to put too much pressure on him.

'I just want him to come and enjoy his football and get fit and sharp again at a club where he knows if he plays well, he will have an opportunity.'

Pulis also has Peter Crouch, Jon Walters, Kenwyne Jones, Cameron Jerome and Mamady Sidibe – who has not been included in Stoke's Premier League squad and might go out on loan – to call upon up front.

Of those, Walters and Jerome can also play out wide, but the flanks are another well-stocked department for the Potters and Walters has said this week he will 'relish the challenge' of trying to keep his place in the team.

Owen has been given the No 10 shirt
Pulis says he 'kept' for him even though 'loads of people wanted it',
and there has been plenty of talk about him potentially being paired
with Crouch, who he played alongside for England.

Strike partner: Owen could line up alongside Crouch

Strike partner: Owen could line up alongside Crouch

But Owen does not want to make any assumptions about what lies in store.

'I've played with Peter Crouch a number of times and we have always done well together – that's for all to see,' Owen said.

'But it would be disrespectful to say I am looking forward to playing with Peter.

'There's obviously a lot of good strikers here and there's nothing in my contract to say I'm starting every game. I have got no divine right to do so.'