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Former Spurs starlet John Bostock is now on loan at Swindon but insists… I can still reach for the stars

Chased by the world at 15, former Spurs starlet Bostock is now on loan at Swindon but insists… I can still reach for the stars

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UPDATED:

01:01 GMT, 7 December 2012

At the age of 15 years and 287 days John Bostock became the most wanted teenager in world football.

Ronaldinho's signed boots were sent from Barcelona and shirts worn by Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas arrived in the post as part of the seduction process.

Now: John Bostock is at League One Swindon

Now: John Bostock is at League One Swindon

Then: Bostock at the London Nautical School

Then: Bostock at the London Nautical School

Bostock had just made his debut for
his boyhood club Crystal Palace and everybody wanted a piece of a kid
who learned his skills on the streets of Camberwell, south-east London.

Tottenham snatched him in the summer of 2008, paying 700,000 for his
talent and promising to take him all the way to the very top under
Juande Ramos.

Today, aged
20, he is on loan at League One side Swindon Town, fighting for his
place in Paolo Di Canio's team as they prepare to play in front of 6,000
fans at Doncaster Rovers.

'I'm desperate to be a footballer,' he admitted.

'I am a footballer. I want to be a top footballer. There have been
loads of setbacks at Tottenham, but then there are setbacks for players
at every club.

'I'm only human and I made a decision to leave Palace which I thought was the best for me.

'Palace fans were frustrated, but I didn't want to frustrate them – I'm
still a Palace fan and I went to every home game between the ages of
five and 15.

Bostock made his debut at 15 for Crystal Palace

Promise: John Bostock at Tottenham

Promise: Bostock at Crystal Palace (left) and Tottenham (right)

The lost boys

Freddy Adu – Age 23

Signed a reported $1m deal with Nike as a teenager and joined DC United at 14. He made the MLS All-Star team twice before joining Benfica and making his full USA debut. Loaned to Monaco, Belenenses, Aris and Caykur Rizespor before signing for Philadelphia Union.

Nii Lamptey – Age 37

Hailed by Pele as 'my natural successor' and signed for Anderlecht at 16. Scored on his Ghana debut and moved to PSV Eindhoven and then Aston Villa in 1994. He was cheated by his agent and, after playing for clubs all over the world, he returned to Ghana and now runs a football academy.

Florent Sinama Pongolle – Age 28

The U17 World Championship player of the tournament joined Liverpool in 2001 from Le Havre and scored four league goals. Moved to Recreativo de Huelva, then Atletico Madrid and Sporting Lisbon. He now plays for Russian side FC Rostov.

'Sometimes I look back and think what might have been, but I was a young player. I was hungry and I wanted to develop.'

He made a handful of Europa League appearances when Harry Redknapp
replaced Ramos, but his career has never taken off at Tottenham.

When he has the ball at his feet he
is still magical, but he has never been given the chance to thrive in
Tottenham's first team.

'When I joined Spurs I wanted to turn into the players I was playing
alongside – Berbatov, Modric, Palacios and Bale,' he added. 'They were
internationals and I aspired to be like them.

'They were some of the best players in
Europe and I was just a young man learning my trade. Before I left
Palace there was a lot of interest from some top clubs, but I was just a
young kid kicking a ball around and I tried to ignore the distractions.

'I was fortunate to have a good grounding from my parents, so that has helped.'

At times his life has been on warp-speed.

He spent the first year at Spurs living with a family near the club's
old training ground in Chigwell before he later shared an apartment with
his sister.

Bostock married when he was still a
teenager and that relationship has helped the devout Christian through
some difficult periods.

Euro test: Bostock in action against Dinamo Zagreb

Big match: Bostock made his competitive debut against Dinamo Zagreb in UEFA Cup

Chasing the dream: Bostock has also been on loan at Hull, Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford

Chasing the dream: Bostock has also been on loan at Hull, Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford

'Sometimes Harry (Redknapp) would call me into his office and tell me
where he wanted me to improve,' he added. 'I've been around for so long
that people think I'm much older, maybe 23 or 24 – but I'm not. I'm a
student of the game and I'm hungrier than ever.

'As a young player, when I made my Palace debut I dreamed of becoming a great player and playing at the highest level.

'I've had to dig really deep in the past four years and it's been a really challenging period of my life.

'There have been highs and lows, but
without challenges or resistance you can't improve. I feel as though I
am coming through.'

As part of his development strategy he was sent on loan to Hull, Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford.

It was a steep learning curve at first, adapting to the change of
environment after training with seasoned internationals at Tottenham
every day.

National service: Bostock training with England U19's

National service: Bostock training with England U19's

'This is the first time I have been on loan and been given the chance to play centre midfield, which is my best position,' he added.

'Playing football in League One is a totally different environment. I've had to adapt when the ball is up in the air a lot on a freezing cold day and develop other parts of my game.

'People want me to use my skill in the right areas and every manager I have worked under has tried to make me a more complete player. I have worked with some great people. Neil Warnock gave me my debut against Watford, Micky Hazard and Gary Issot at Palace worked with me between 13 and 16.

'Tim Sherwood, Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey all helped me at Spurs and Paolo Di Canio is a Premier League legend – he loves the game.'

After the challenge of competing for a place at Tottenham, Bostock is ready for the next one.

Harry Redknapp takes QPR job after Mark Hughes is sacked

SACKED! QPR finally fire Mark Hughes as Redknapp is handed reins (but not until after trip to Old Trafford)

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UPDATED:

16:53 GMT, 23 November 2012

Mark Hughes has been sacked as manager of QPR – and Harry Redknapp has been appointed as his replacement.

Hughes's assistant manager Mark Bowen will take Rangers, winless and rock-bottom of the Barclays Premier League, to Old Trafford tomorrow with former Tottenham boss Redknapp in the stands.

Redknapp will take formal charge of the team on Sunday.

Ready for a fresh challenge: Harry Redknapp arriving home on Friday

Ready for a fresh challenge: Harry Redknapp arriving home on Friday

Watching brief: Club shareholder Kamarundin Bin Meranun (left) and QPR chief executive Phil Beard (second left) watch QPR's Stephane Mbia train after boss Mark Hughes was sacked this morning

Watching brief: Club shareholder Kamarundin Bin Meranun (left) and QPR chief executive Phil Beard (second left) watch QPR's Stephane Mbia train after boss Mark Hughes was sacked this morning

Fury: Fans turned on Hughes following the defeat to Southampton at home

Fury: Fans turned on Hughes following the defeat to Southampton at home, his final game before being sacked today

WITH HARRY THERE'S HOPE

QPR are the only team out of 92 league clubs yet to win a match this season. But Harry has performed miracles before. When he took over from Juande Ramos at Tottenham the team had only two points and his only brief was to stop them slipping them into the Championship. He managed to finish in eighth place that very season, and took Tottenham to the Champions League two years later.

Hughes's position has been hanging in
the balance all week after defeat to Southampton at Loftus Road, a
match dubbed 'El Sackico'.

The
former Manchester United striker had been preparing his team for the
clash at Manchester United with the expectation that he would be on the
touchline.

However, owner Tony Fernandes finally snapped this morning, showing Hughes, who had replaced, Neil Warnock the door after 10 months.

Crisis talks were held at the club's Harlington training base on Monday evening.

But the decision was taken by the board to end Hughes' tenure as boss with the board aware that any increase in the five-point gap between QPR and Reading in 17th would make it harder to find a new boss to take charge.

On the ground: Beard watches training as shareholder Muhammad Amiruddin (right) shares a joke with a QPR staff memeber today

On the ground: Beard watches training as shareholder Kamarundin Bin Meranun (right) shares a joke with a QPR staff memeber today

Harry Redknapp photographed in Mayfair

Mark Bowen

The boss men: Redknapp (left) will take charge on Sunday, while Bowen
(right) will be in charge of the QPR team for the trip to Manchester
United tomorrow

On the brink: Mark Hughes took QPR training this week before being axed this morning

On the brink: Mark Hughes took QPR training this week before being axed this morning

FERNANDES TWEETS OF SUPPORT

Cracked: Tony Fernandes wanted to keep hold of Hughes, but finally snapped

OCTOBER 21 (QPR 1-1 Everton)
'Stop wasting your time and energy
on negative tweets. QPR needs time and stability. We have great squad
great manager great ceo. Takes time and a bit of luck.'

OCTOBER 29 (two days after Arsenal 1-0 QPR)
'I
honestly believe we have one of the best managers in the premier
league. And we are in for the long term. Whatever happens. We love QPR.
Ill be there at reading so rangers fans ill be available to meet and
chat. Trust me on this one. Keep the faith. Stability is the key.'

'Completely
right. Mark has my backing and the shareholders. We need a little luck
and no injuries. What’s written in the press is all rubbish. RT
@wayneoeyers: @tonyfernandes we must stick with Hughes. We haven’t been
playing poorly. The club needs stability, manager change would be
suicide!'

NOVEMBER 4 (QPR 1-1 Reading)
'We are doing
our best. Keep the faith. Need to get behind the team now. Positive
energy is what we need. RT @martingreen_qpr: Message to the entire QPR
team, staff, manager and **** head @tonyfernandes. Please don’t **** up
another one of my weekends.'

'A game of 2 halves. Players getting
used to premier league and different type of teams. Keep calm we will
come good. Plenty of time. Many opps to win the game. I’m calm. Won’t
please everyone. But as I keep saying stability is key.'

NOVEMBER 10 (Stoke 1-0 QPR)
'We
got to cut out errors. One error cost us and we got to take our
chances. Team played as planned. Must win next win. No panic. Table is
compressed. Defense was awful now fairly solid. Midfield strong. Got to
score now.'

'Keep the faith. Panic is not what the doc ordered.'

NOVEMBER 16
'Won’t
be happening. For the one millionth time. Hahaha. Stability. RT
@timnmcollins: @Jeffro_QPR @tonyfernandes @lieyaM_M Maybe you can
practice the “You’re fired” line on Mark Hughes #QPR'

NOVEMBER 17 (QPR 1-3 Southampton)
'I
feel gutted. I have put my heart and soul into this with my other
shareholders. And done all we can to give support to players and all
management. I can only apologise to the QPR fans. we keep fighting.'

'Let
me tell you Fans come first. Everyone including me let the fans down.
Many of us need a hard look at themselves. QPR has amazing fans. They
deserve better.'

A club statement this morning said the
Rangers board were now looking to appoint a replacement as soon as
possible, however Sportsmail is able to confirm that Redknapp is the new
manager.

The club's statement read: 'Queens Park
Rangers Football Club has today (Friday) terminated the contract of
manager Mark Hughes with immediate effect.

'This decision has been taken after
careful consideration by the Board of Directors, following numerous
meetings over the last few days.

'The Board of Directors wish to thank Mark for his commitment, hard work and dedication in his ten months in charge.

'Mark
has shown integrity and professionalism throughout his time here, but
ultimately the circumstances we find ourselves in have left the Board of
Directors with very little choice but to make a change.

'The Board will now be working actively to put a new managerial structure in place as soon as possible.

'Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki will take charge of the R's trip to Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday afternoon. 'The club will be making a further announcement in due course.'

Former QPR winger Richard Langley told
BBC Radio 5live: 'The frustration has been brewing and the main thing is
they've got such a talented squad at the moment and the results haven't
been coming so you can understand the frustrations at the club. They
haven't been playing as a team.'

Hughes has been walking a tightrope since QPR lost at Arsenal on October 27. Fernandes was set to sack him then but had a change of heart and has tried to support him.

They have not won all season but have an easier run of fixtures coming – and Redknapp will be licking his lips at that prospect.

The former Southampton and Portsmouth manager, who was snubbed by England after Fabio Capello left his post, will eagerly look forward to a new year clash with Tottenham, his most recent club.

QPR's chief executive Philip Beard was seen talking to the players during today's training session following Hughes' departure.

Former Manchester City boss Hughes oversaw 34 matches as manager at Loftus Road, winning just eight of those fixtures.

He managed to keep the club in the Premier League last season despite a 3-2 defeat at City on the closing day of the campaign, picking up memorable victories over Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham along the way.

Marquee signings such as Park Ji-sung, Junior Hoilett, Julio Cesar, Jose Bosingwa and Esteban Granero were brought in before the transfer window closed but Hughes could not bring the best out of his expensive talent.

DATES FOR HARRY'S DIARY…

Harry Redknapp will face his old club Tottenham for the
first time as QPR manager on Monday, January 14 at 8pm.

Happy New Year, Harry.

BEFORE THAT…

Man Utd (away) tomorrow, Sunderland (away) Tuesday, Aston Villa (home) Sat, Dec 1

Wigan (away) Sat, Dec 8, Fulham (home) Sat, Dec 15, Newcastle (away) Sat, Dec 22

Premier League preview – 10 reasons why we love it

Ten reasons why we love having the Premier League back in our lives

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UPDATED:

07:47 GMT, 16 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

It’s been one of the more exciting summers for sport with the Olympics and Euro 2012 competently filling the gap left behind by the end of the Premier League season.

But nothing quite beats the thrill accompanying the start of a new top flight campaign, so here Sportsmail lists ten things we are looking forward to most now football is back, and three we are not so keen on.

1) Forget England’s failures… again

Despite the FA doing their very best to remind us of England’s Euro 2012 defeat to Italy by setting up a friendly with Cesare Prandelli’s side, most fans are over the seemingly biennial penalty shootout exit. In fact they are more worried about their club’s star men coming through a pointless friendly in one piece ahead of the curtain raiser.

Paying the penalty: England lose yet another shootout, this time against Italy

Paying the penalty: England lose yet another shootout, this time against Italy

2) End of boring pre-season fixtures

We’ve all tried to get interested in pre-season but it mostly results in giving us more questions than answers. Experiments with tactics and youth cloud over the bigger picture and even high scoring wins (and lots of them) don’t guarantee a strong start to the season. Just ask Tottenham and Juande Ramos.

3) New signings and new stars

It’s a frightening scenario for defences but we can’t wait to see Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie team up for Manchester United. Elsewhere there are many big stars making their Premier League debuts including Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla and Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen. United have also brought in Shinji Kagawa as well as highly rated teenager Nick Powell – so watch this space.

Jumping ship: Van Persie will be wearing a Man United shirt this season

Jumping ship: Van Persie will be wearing a Man United shirt this season

4) Local rivalries renewed and closer than ever

When the season’s fixtures are announced, one of the first things you check is the local derby and when ‘that lot down the road’ visit your patch. But best of all is hardly anything separates the big guns in Manchester, Liverpool and north London this season. The local derbies could prove decisive in who claims bragging rights at the end of the campaign.

5) Jaw dropping goals

It doesn’t matter if you have been watching football for two months or two decades, the sight of a crisp passing move decimating defences or a 35 yard net buster never gets old. It’s going to take a long time before anyone forgets Peter Crouch and Papiss Cisse’s respective volleys from last season – but who is going to steal the show this time around

Taking the Papiss: Cisse celebrates his outrageous strike against Chelsea last season

Taking the Papiss: Cisse celebrates his outrageous strike against Chelsea last season

6) Goal line technology

Football is a step closer to moving into the 21st century. Goal line technology is likely to make its debut in the Premier League this season to finally bring justice to goal line decisions rather than pointless controversy. Sadly it’s unlikely to feature in the Champions League this term, with UEFA keener on sticking ten officials behind the goal line and on the roof of the net – they still wouldn’t see anything.

7) Surprise packages… there’s always one

Come on then, who foresaw Norwich and Swansea cruising to mid-table last season or even Newcastle’s strong challenge for a Champions League place Either way it was great to see and Britain loves an underdog. Whether it’s a surprising push for Europe or a Blackpool-style six-month cameo run of terrific form, we can’t wait to see who will go above and beyond their call of duty.

Against all odds: Swansea beat champions Manchester City last season

Against all odds: Swansea beat champions Manchester City last season

8) Unbelievable stuff here, Jeff!

For those of us who can’t afford season tickets or have access to a dodgy satellite feed, we can always rely on pundits like Chris Kamara to inform us of ‘unbelievable’ drama on a Saturday afternoons. Regardless of the action on the pitch, commentators like Martin Tyler still deliver the game like a thrilling novel while for raw emotion there is always Gary Neville’s carpe diem scream. Either way, the game is not the same without them.

9) Going back to football for pub debates

While the vast majority of the nation loved the drama and patriotic spirit that came with the Olympics, dissecting the sports over a pint or two with your mate Dave had its drawbacks. Trying to explain Judo’s Ippon or debating Tom Daley’s dives soon became difficult, so welcome back football. However, the on-pitch theatrics and simulation of some players may bring us full circle to Tom Daley again.

Ten out of 10: Manchester United's Ashley Young takes a dive against Aston Villa

Ten out of 10: Manchester United's Ashley Young takes a dive against Aston Villa

10) The transfer windows

Especially the summer one. The start of the season always indicates that the transfer window is soon to close and no matter how long it’s been in place, some managers just have to leave their shopping until the last minute. That’s good news for us though as we can see TV’s Jim White acting like a kid at Christmas as he informs us of a major transfer at 11.55pm on deadline day.

P.S But here is three things we don’t want to see…
1) Player simulation and referee clangers

Goal line technology may be one step closer but how many times are we going to see incorrect offside calls The marginal ones admittedly are not easy to spot but you know someone will score a crucial goal this season after being a clear two yards offside. Soft penalties and blatant fouls missed will also inevitably return, neither helped when players over react by needlessly clutching their face or leg while laying stricken on the turf.

Shocker: Clint Hill's 'goal' against Bolton wasn't given by the referee

Shocker: Clint Hill's 'goal' against Bolton wasn't given by the referee

2) Fans going too far

Without fans there wouldn’t be professional football – at least not as we know it. But at times last season they stepped out of line. No one is denying a right to protest but the hostile abuse that followed Blackburn boss Steve Kean was uncomfortable for us, let alone the Scot who had to employ a bodyguard. Elsewhere, racial abuse is still present while laser pointers being used to target players still pose health risks.

3) Player rows/handshake gate

As serious as some of the incidents were last season, we all would prefer to focus on the football rather than the verbal tirades that players have thrown at each other. On pitch spats will always go on but lessons from eight-match bans and court cases must be learned. And another thing, regardless of their reasons, do we really need another toe-curling incident of two players not shaking hands before a game

Everton 1 Tottenham 0: Jelavic strike launches Moyes" 10th anniversary party

Everton 1 Tottenham 0: Jelavic strike launches Moyes' 10th anniversary party

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UPDATED:

19:46 GMT, 10 March 2012

Everton striker Nikica Jelavic promised goals when he signed from Rangers in January and he duly delivered with the winning strike on his full debut against Tottenham at Goodison Park.

The Croatia international capped an impressive performance on his first start with a well-taken goal midway through the first half.

It extended Everton's unbeaten run to 10 in all competitions and they head into Tuesday's Merseyside derby at Anfield just two points behind Kenny Dalglish's side.

In the Nik of time: Jelavic scored his first goal - the winner - for Everton

In the Nik of time: Jelavic scored his first goal – the winner – for Everton

Match facts

Everton: Howard, Neville, Heitinga, Distin, Baines, Coleman (Jagielka 82) , Osman, Fellaini, Drenthe (Rodwell 65) , Cahill, Jelavic (Stracqualursi 78).

Subs not used: Mucha, Hibbert, Gueye, Anichebe.

Booked: Heitinga, Howard.

Goal: Jelavic 22.

Tottenham: Friedel, Walker, Kaboul, King, Assou-Ekotto, Bale, Sandro (Van der Vaart 68), Parker (Livermore 86) , Modric, Defoe, Adebayor (Saha 54).

Subs not used: Cudicini, Kranjcar, Rose, Nelsen.

Booked: Assou-Ekotto, Defoe.

Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)

Spurs, conversely, have north London
rivals Arsenal breathing down their necks and could see the gap to the
fourth-placed Gunners cut to just a point on Monday night.

This was their third successive league
defeat. The last manager to suffer that was Juande Ramos in October
2008 and it resulted in him being replaced by Harry Redknapp.

For all the talent the visitors had on
display it was Croatia international Jelavic who stole the headlines as
opened his account just 77 minutes into his Everton career, having made
just two previous substitute appearances.

When the 26-year-old arrived at
Goodison Park in a 5.5million transfer from Rangers in January he was
asked what he would bring to the club.

“Goals, goals, goals” was the response
and he started to deliver on that promise with a sumptuous strike
midway through the first half.

Jelavic had looked a threat from the
start, generally offering a willing outlet up front, and moments before
his goal he provided the knockdown from which Marouane Fellaini forced
Brad Friedel to save an angled shot with his legs.

Sticky situation: The Toffees earned three valuable points against Spurs courtesy of their recent signing

Sticky situation: The Toffees earned three valuable points against Spurs courtesy of their recent signing

Sticky situation: The Toffees earned three valuable points against Spurs courtesy of their recent signing

In the 22nd minute he played a pivotal
part with the sort of finish Everton have been missing since the sale
of Louis Saha in January.

The Frenchman was watching from the
bench, although David Moyes' claims he had a gentlemen's agreement with
Redknapp was disproved in the second half when the striker was sent on.

Leon Osman broke past Younes Kaboul
into the box and brilliantly took both Sandro and Ledley King out of the
game with his cutback which Jelavic clinically fired first-time past
Friedel.

Jelavic did not appear to be lacking
in confidence and with established free-kick takers Leighton Baines and
Drenthe standing over the ball he whipped in a right-footed shot which
was turned away by the diving Spurs goalkeeper.

Thumbs up: Everton chairman Bill Kenwright acknowledges the crowd who were celebrating their manger's 10th anniversary in charge at Goodison Park

Thumbs up: Everton chairman Bill Kenwright acknowledges the crowd who were celebrating their manger's 10th anniversary in charge at Goodison Park

Thumbs up: Everton chairman Bill Kenwright acknowledges the crowd who were celebrating their manger's 10th anniversary in charge at Goodison Park

Most of the threat before the match had been expected to come from Drenthe and Tottenham winger Gareth Bale.

Redknapp's decision to post the Wales
international on the right meant Drenthe had to be switched to the
opposite flank in order for Seamus Coleman to track Bale.

It also meant Moyes could keep a
closer eye on the Dutchman who excites and infuriates in equal measure
with his unpredictability.

Throughout most of the first half the
Everton manager instructed, cajoled and ordered the on-loan Real Madrid
midfielder into where he wanted him.

Happy anniversary: Moyes celebrated his big day with a win, but Harry Redknapp's side continued their slump

Happy anniversary: Moyes celebrated his big day with a win, but Harry Redknapp's side continued their slump

Happy anniversary: Moyes celebrated his big day with a win, but Harry Redknapp's side continued their slump

It seemed to work and only when Bale
briefly appeared on his usual left side shortly before the interval did
Drenthe display his less disciplined persona when well out of ear-shot
of Moyes.

Spurs were disappointing in the first half, Bale particularly so with his main contribution being two wide shots.

Jermain Defoe was also guilty of
wastefulness as he seemed destined to score until some late pressure
from John Heitinga forced him to shoot well wide.

The striker looked sharper immediately
after the restart as Howard twice had to save from him, the second
after Sylvain Distin had backed off and given him far too much room
inside the penalty area.

Luka Modric was also starting to look more threatening and he too was denied by a Distin block before also firing over.

Wobble: Tottenham aspirations of finishing third took yet another huge dent on Merseyside

Wobble: Tottenham aspirations of finishing third took yet another huge dent on Merseyside

Wobble: Tottenham aspirations of finishing third took yet another huge dent on Merseyside

Saha arrived in the 54th minute for
the ineffectual Emmanuel Adebayor but Defoe looked Tottenham's greatest
threat and his deflected shot briefly caused Howard a moment of concern
before he twisted his body mid-save.

While Tottenham's pressure was growing
the home side were still a threat and when Coleman burst from the
halfway line to tee up Osman Friedel had to save again.

Redknapp's decision to persist with
Bale on the right was not welcomed by the visiting fans, who sang
'Gareth Bale, he plays on the left' as the game entered its final
quarter.

From his right-sided position the
Welshman thought he had set up the equalising goal when he turned Benoit
Assou-Ekotto's cross into the path of Defoe but the striker was well
offside as he fired in from close range.

Saha should have scored it in the third minute of added time but hit a post. It would have been the cruellest of finishes.

Chris Hughton: Birmingham boss performing miracles

Team in need of a lift Birmingham boss Hughton is the man to fix it

Trailblazer. Role model. Lift engineer. It is safe to say there is a lot more to Chris Hughton than meets the eye.

Birmingham fans might like to add 'miracle worker' to a c.v. which 14 months ago did not have enough Barclays Premier League managerial experience on it to satisfy Newcastle United.

Hughton, 53, is the softly spoken, self-deprecating antithesis of Andre Villas-Boas, his opposite number on Saturday. Chelsea's rookie manager, fast-tracked into a world of high expectations, now finds himself fighting for his future and admitting he has lost the support of some of his players.

Calling the shots: Hughton has done a fantastic job in difficult circumstances

Calling the shots: Hughton has done a fantastic job in difficult circumstances

Imagine if Villas-Boas turned up for his first day at work last summer, met the squad and then watched 12 of them walk out in an asset-stripping exercise ordered by an absent owner who is facing money-laundering charges in Hong Kong.

When it happened to Hughton, he kept his thoughts private and set about recruiting replacements, either free or on loan, and somehow moulded them into enough of a team to fight a Europa League and an npower Championship promotion campaign.

Fittingly for a man who was a lift engineer as a teenager, he has been on the up ever since and is proving wrong the suggestion he was always destined to be an assistant manager.

'I did wonder about his ambition at one point,' admitted David Pleat, who was one of the seven managers at Tottenham who made use of Hughton's coaching abilities during his 28 years at the club.

Snow joke: Hughton spent many years as a coach at Tottenham but is now making a name for himself

Snow joke: Hughton spent many years as a coach at Tottenham but is now making a name for himself

Snow joke: Hughton spent many years as a coach at Tottenham but is now making a name for himself

'I felt there was a reluctance to look for other opportunities, but I never had any doubt about his ability,' added Pleat.

'When he went to Newcastle (after Spurs sacked him along with Martin Jol when Juande Ramos arrived), we'd often speak and he'd always be in his office at 9pm watching DVDs, looking for ways to improve.

'What happened to him there was a nonsense. Look at what he's done at Birmingham. For me, he is manager of the year.

'I was speaking to Cyrille Regis the other day and we were saying that Chris is a role model, a trailblazer for black managers who feel they can't get up the ladder.'

Early starter: Villas-Boas's route to the top was much shorter than Hughton's

Early starter: Villas-Boas's route to the top was much shorter than Hughton's

Brian Kerr, the former Republic of Ireland manager, appointed Hughton as his assistant for two years and stays closely in touch.

He said: 'Chris was an apprentice lift engineer as a youngster, so he knew the other side of it. As a black player in the British game he will have seen bigotry. As an Irishman, his family will have suffered racism. He has a natural sense of fairness and respect.'

Last month, Liam Ridgewell and Jean Beausejour joined the exodus from St Andrew's. But Kerr has faith in Hughton.

'He felt it was a good job and he could turn Birmingham into a better club. I believe he will.'