Tag Archives: lads

Paul Ince is new Blackpool manager

Ince 'over the moon' as Blackpool confirm appointment of former MK Dons manager

– present

Gordon Strachan and Gavin Strachan
Coventry – 1997-2001

'It’s great to be here,' said Ince.
'Considering I’ve watched the team play for the last 14 months, it’s
strange sitting here as the manager, having obviously watched Blackpool
as a fan as well as watching my son play.

'I’m over the moon though and
delighted, it’s great to be back on the training ground and great to be
involved with, and in charge of, a great bunch of lads.

'I’ve worked with a lot of players and
the spirit and togetherness of the lads is absolutely fantastic. I’m
glad I’ve been given the opportunity by Karl Oyston.'

Ince was the latest in a long line to
have talks with Oyston.

The 45-year old has been out of work since April
2011.

However, he impressed Oyston with his knowledge of Blackpool’s strengths
and weaknesses after watching every one of their games this season.

Paul was in the crowd last week to see 21-year-old Tom score for England Under 21s in their 4-0 win over Sweden.

Back in the game: Ince's last job in management ended with the sack from Notts County in April 2011

Back in the game: Ince's last job in management ended with the sack from Notts County in April 2011

Lionheart: Ince had a top class career as a player with England, Manchester United, Liverpool and Inter Milan

Lionheart: Ince had a top class career as a player with England, Manchester United, Liverpool and Inter Milan

But Ince Snr was spotted getting a clip round the ear from wife Claire
for sitting in silent appreciation of his son's goal on the rebound late
in the first half as though he'd seen him score for England a
million times before.

Claire, by contrast, was right on her feet and jumping about in
celebration – before whacking her husband to encourage him to liven up.

Bright future: England U21 star Tom Ince has attracted interest from Liverpool and Reading, among others

Bright future: England U21 star Tom Ince has attracted interest from Liverpool and Reading, among others

Bright future: Young Lion Tom Ince has attracted interest from Liverpool and Reading among others

Bright future: Young Lion Tom Ince has attracted interest from Liverpool and Reading among others

VIDEO Watch Paul Ince get a clip round the ear from his missus – for not celebrating son Tom's goal!

Martin Samuel: Why Milton Keynes Dons methods could make us play like Brazil

Small is beautiful at Milton Keynes… and it could make us play like Brazil

Victory Shield. Seyi Ojo went to Liverpool at 14 for a reported 1.5million. They must be doing something right. What they are doing, it seems, is evolving ideas. Micciche experiments with pitch sizes, with team numbers.

Not in any conventional way. Small areas, small teams, is the modern concept, and that alone is progress.

The days of a 10-year-old standing forlornly in the same size goal as Petr Cech, barely able to clear his penalty area with a goal-kick in ankle-deep mud, are thankfully over.

Contrasting styles: Brazil (above) and England (below) prepare for Wednesday night's friendly

Contrasting styles: Brazil (above) and England (below) prepare for Wednesday night's friendly

Contrasting styles: Brazil (above) and England (below) prepare for Wednesday night's friendly

The Football Association has, at last, addressed the in-built flaws in youth football and we should feel the benefits over the next 10 years.

The popular wisdom favours small-sided games in tight spaces. The logic is irrefutable. Players get more touches, more shots, more runs and more scoring opportunities playing four versus four than 11 versus 11.

Their ball skills are improved by
technical five-a-sides, rather than a war of attrition on a man’s size
pitch that promotes only the most athletically dominant.

What Micciche is attempting is stage
two. In the dome at Woughton Park worlds collide. Micciche has his
Under 16 MK Dons team playing 11-a-side, but on a reduced pitch 60
yards long by 40 wide. He has cones on the touchline marking two
invisible offside lines to compress play into the middle third. There is
no time, there is no space. To survive in this game, you really have to
be able to play.

Coaching guru: Micciche's ideas have seen MK Dons' academy flourish

Coaching guru: Micciche's ideas have seen MK Dons' academy flourish

An MK Dons kid is trapped on the near
touchline, ball at his feet, two lads bearing down on him. He gets out
of it with a lovely reverse pass.

‘You see, that, to me, is a goal,’ Micciche says. ‘At this age, you can swing your boot and the ball goes in, and everyone says “well done”. But it’s not necessarily progress, there’s no development. To see him do that, inside, I feel like we’ve scored, because he wouldn’t have tried it six months ago.’

Micciche, as his name suggests, grew up watching Serie A football on a giant satellite dish at home. Roberto Baggio was his man. He is not as steeped in the blood and thunder of English football as his contemporaries.

It is no surprise, either, that he started at Crystal Palace where John Cartwright was academy manager.

Cartwright, now retired, has been
advocating variations of games played in tight spaces for a long time.
From Palace, Micciche moved to Tottenham Hotspur working with Chris
Ramsey before arriving at Milton Keynes under director of youth Mike
Dove, who gave him a blank canvas.

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There are five pitches of varying sizes at Woughton Park and academy players of all ages get to use every one. Team numbers vary, too. Each player gets a turn training and playing with boys between one and three years older, and all have a homework file with a list of improvements. The most radical thoughts, however, involve space.

‘A lot of coaches don’t like limiting the space,’ admits Micciche. ‘They think it looks messy. Sometimes it does because we’re asking a lot technically. You might not always get quality, but when you do it is the highest quality.

‘And when they go out onto a full-size pitch again, it feels as if they have got all the time in the world.’
We watched a game together. Milton Keynes Dons versus Forest School. Pitch dimensions of 60 x 40 yards, two quarters nine-a-side, two quarters 11-a-side to feel the difference.

Players who looked competent when the team numbers were reduced were suddenly tested as room on the pitch shrank. There was a surprising impact physically.

‘It speeds the game up, but players then need to hold off defenders because they haven’t the space to simply outrun them,’ Micciche explains. ‘Also, in order to work through a compact space, they will need to move their feet and body quickly.

‘The intensity is great so they need to react and think faster. It becomes exhausting, but it makes them clever at finding space.’

A shot rattles against a crossbar.

‘The game has shifted,’ Micciche continues. ‘Nobody gets the ball in splendid isolation any more. It’s like rush hour in midfield, you might get 20 players in 40 yards of space, and the defenders are as fast and athletic as the forwards.

‘We need to recreate what these players are going to face in the future.’

The last time Brazil visited England, in
2007, the performance of Kaka in the heart of the play stood out. No
matter how many opponents surrounded him, he demanded the ball and his
team-mates were happy to provide it. He always found a pass. Spain and
Barcelona have that same quality.

Star man: Kaka was outstanding for Brazil at Wembley in 2007

Star man: Kaka was outstanding for Brazil at Wembley in 2007

‘We fail under pressure,’ Micciche adds. ‘That is a fundamental problem in English football. Once the game becomes tight, our approach lets us down.’

The first time Micciche tried out his theories, the opponents were a big Championship club. ‘It was an Under 12 game, a friendly, and I brought the dimensions of the pitch in, used smaller goals,’ he recalls. ‘We were 4-1 down at half-time and a couple of our kids were in tears.

‘I said that this type of football was going to ask different questions of them, that they had to think about how they would answer those questions.

‘We turned it around, and won in the second half. The next day they put in a complaint about us.’

Perhaps that is why as well as the standard league fixtures — MK Dons win some and lose some, like all academy teams — Micciche is happy to accept fixtures from stronger clubs, strong schools or even good men’s amateur teams.

Quick thinking: Micciche advocates playing on pitches of different sizes to help youngsters develop

Quick thinking: Micciche advocates playing on pitches of different sizes to help youngsters develop

‘It is important to play in as many
types of football as possible, with and against players of different
strengths and abilities,’ he says. ‘You need to challenge them all the
time. Sometimes we won’t have as many players on the field as the
opposition, or I’ll take my Under 16s to play a proper men’s team.
People say, “you can’t do that” but they learn from it.’

It is possible that, after tonight, it will again be said that English footballers are inferior. That the technique of the Brazilians is a class away.

There will be analysis and much you will have heard before.

Too many foreign players in the Premier League, an absence of passion for international football. We could tuck it away in a file marked: The Usual.

So explain this. Increasingly, there are foreign coaches who have passed through the English game, like Gus Poyet at Brighton and Hove Albion or Roberto Martinez at Wigan Athletic.

Pointing the way: Roberto Martinez has brought fluid, passing football to Swansea and Wigan

Pointing the way: Roberto Martinez has brought fluid, passing football to Swansea and Wigan

And their teams play. Martinez is the father of modern Swansea City, Poyet has taken Brighton to the brink of the Championship play-off places.

Neither developed teams in the lower leagues that were stuffed full of foreign imports. They took local players and improved them technically.

Martinez signed Ashley Williams from Stockport County. Will Buckley, one of Brighton’s leading lights, came from Rochdale via Watford.

Martinez and Poyet encouraged bog standard Football League players to play a high quality game. So why can’t this be done in international football, with players of twice the ability No doubt we’ll be asking those questions later.

Although if we did it earlier, the answers might be easier to find.

Hypocrisy rules for forgetful Joey

Joey Barton was sent off for Marseille at the weekend and took to his favourite medium to voice his displeasure. ‘Players who roll around when nobody touches them should be banned,’ he wrote. ‘I hate cheats.’ Gervinho of Arsenal, sent off after Barton play-acted, may have views on this subject. And if he can stop laughing he will surely give them to us.

Crying wolf: Barton sees red for Marseille (above) ... just as Gervinho did for Arsenal in 2011

Crying wolf: Barton sees red for Marseille (above) … just as Gervinho did for Arsenal in 2011 (below)

Crying wolf: Barton sees red for Marseille (above) ... just as Gervinho did for Arsenal in 2011 (below)

Sturridge highlights our problem with diving

On television and in just about every newspaper, Daniel Sturridge was the man of the match after Liverpool’s draw with Manchester City. And he did have an outstanding game. He also, however, committed one of the most blatant dives of the season, for which he was booked. If that had been Luis Suarez, the chorus of disapproval would have been deafening.

Instead, Sturridge collected his bottle of champagne and his printed accolades without too much fuss. So let’s not pretend we really care about cheating in football. If it mattered to us, there is no way Sturridge could have been the hero.

(And one last thing, there was also no reason for Liverpool to put the ball into touch on Edin Dzeko’s behalf on Sunday. That Sturridge scored Liverpool’s first goal while the Manchester City striker lay stricken is of no consequence. He wasn’t seriously hurt and there was no fear of head trauma. If City had won possession and wanted to put the ball out, up to them. But Liverpool had every right to play to the whistle, and Roberto Mancini’s complaints are groundless).

Booked: Sturridge looks to the floor after taking a tumble against Man City

Booked: Sturridge looks to the floor after taking a tumble against Man City

Wolves must realise they're in a dogfight

As Wolverhampton Wanderers plummeted towards the Championship last season, chief executive officer Jez Moxey insisted the club had the foundations in place for success. ‘This season will not create a situation where we are knocked off course from our medium to long-term objectives,’ he soothed.

Objective No 1 was to establish Wolves in the Premier League. At last look, Wolves were two points off relegation from tier two, 21st of 24. They have been passed by Ipswich Town, managed by Mick McCarthy, the manager they sacked a year ago.

On the day McCarthy took over at Portman Road, Ipswich were bottom and Wolves eighth. Still, it’s good to know the executive management have a plan. Otherwise, it would be easy to imagine they don’t know what they are doing.

Alarming slide: Wolves are just two points clear of safety in the Championship

Alarming slide: Wolves are just two points clear of safety in the Championship

Lock up Gillingham yob and put the ref on gardening leave

There is a very simple solution to the attack on Wycombe Wanderers goalkeeper Jordan Archer at the Priestfield Stadium on Monday night. It’s called five years. If the punishment on the Gillingham fan who jumped Archer was appalling, nobody would ever do it again.

As for referee Roger East, who booked Archer for kicking the ball away in frustration, even though he showed admirable restraint towards the pitch invader in the aftermath, he should be given the rest of the season off to consider his actions. Anyone so out of touch with human emotion should not be in charge of anything more testing than the roses in his garden.

Attack: Jordan Archer was jumped by a teenage Gillingham 'fan'

Attack: Jordan Archer was jumped by a teenage Gillingham 'fan'

BCCI stoop to new low

Responding to the 2-1 home Test defeat, the Board of Control for Cricket in India have banned a group of English county players from gaining experience on the spinning wickets of the subcontinent. The Global Cricket School in Pune has been told that no foreign cricketers can use the facilities without permission. The performance of Joe Root in the final Test in Nagpur appears to have been the clincher. Lovely, aren’t they And yet still cricket kowtows to the BCCI.

Harry Redkapp confident QPR will not be relegated

Redknapp confident that QPR will survive… despite only winning once this season and being eight points from safety

|

UPDATED:

19:04 GMT, 30 December 2012

Manager Harry Redknapp came out fighting after his QPR side were beaten 3-0 at home by Liverpool.

Bottom-of-the-table Rangers put in an abject first-half performance against the Anfield club, being taken apart by two-goal Luis Suarez.

QPR head into 2013 in big trouble and eight points from safety, with Redknapp yet to kickstart the revival many expected when he got the job last month.

Plenty of work to do: Harry Redknapp has it all to do if QPR are to avoid the drop

Plenty of work to do: Harry Redknapp has it all to do if QPR are to avoid the drop

The veteran boss himself has criticised his players since taking over, particularly after the pre-Christmas loss to Newcastle, but tonight he had changed his tune.

'I still feel we'll be okay,' he told Sky Sports 1.

'I think we will look to get one or two in, there are some good lads here anyway, I think it's possible. It's my belief we'll be okay.'

Redknapp had previously said he would not encourage owner Tony Fernandes to spend next month if his side remained in trouble, but tonight gave a nod to a change in policy, believing new players could make survival possible.

Frustrated: A dejected Adel Taarabt of QPR sees another game go by without a win

Frustrated: A dejected Adel Taarabt of QPR sees another game go by without a win

'It's not easy getting players in at this stage at the bottom of the league, but if someone is up for the challenge, it's a great chance,' he said.

'We need new faces and if we get the right players we can make a real effort. We have some hard games to come but there is a long way to go. You could have 10 games to go and need 20 points and it can be done.

'Don't give up, we have to keep believing, keep going. Those that are with us are with us, those that aren't, we'll try and do something.'

Rooted to the bottom: Taarabt reacts after a chance on goal is wasted

Rooted to the bottom: Taarabt reacts after a chance on goal is wasted

The former Tottenham boss also stood by his players when asked if they had not tried against Liverpool.

Suarez went past QPR's defenders at will and Liverpool should have had more than their three, but Redknapp would not condemn his men.

'It's difficult,” he said. 'It's easy to sit there and say there's no fight. It's easy to say that. We got moved about by better players. Suarez… What can you do when he does that to Clint Hill

'I think it's easy to say it was a lack of effort. We started the season getting beat five by Swansea. You can only get the best out of what you've got.'

Jose Bosingwa sickened QPR team-mates Ryan Nelsen and Clint Hill, says Harry Redknapp

You're a disgrace! Bosingwa blasted by his own sickened QPR team-mates

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UPDATED:

13:35 GMT, 26 December 2012

Jose Bosingwa has been slammed by his QPR team-mates for refusing to sit on the bench during their win over Fulham earlier this month.

The former Chelsea right-back’s strop resulted in a fine of two weeks’ wages (130,000) and he has also left his future with the club in jeopardy.

Manager Harry Redknapp is furious with the 30-year old, and didn’t hesitate to reveal what his disgusted other players thought of Bosingwa’s behaviour.

Disgrace: Jose Bosingwa refused to sit on the bench for QPR

Disgrace: Jose Bosingwa refused to sit on the bench for QPR

‘The good lads would be sick,’ he told the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle.

‘There might be one or two of his pals who might think ‘Well, you know,’ but the Ryan Nelsens and Clint Hills and all the good lads all thought it was a disgrace.

‘That’s the first time it’s ever happened to me as a manager and I’ve managed some pretty temperamental players. I’ve never known anyone to do that.

Good lads: Ryan Nelsen (right) and Clint Hill were among those disgusted, revealed Harry Redknapp

Good lads: Ryan Nelsen (right) and Clint Hill were among those disgusted, revealed Harry Redknapp

‘It was something new to me and not something I like.’

QPR want to offload Bosingwa this January but given the player’s high wage demands – Chelsea declined the opportunity to take up the extra year on offer on his contract in the summer – he may be low on bidders.

El Hadji Diouf agrees 18-month contract at Leeds in deal that will see controversial forward top wage United bill

Diouf agrees 18-month contract at Leeds in deal that will see controversial forward top wage United bill

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UPDATED:

17:31 GMT, 14 December 2012

El Hadji-Diouf has signed an 18 month contract extension with Leeds United.

It is understood that the new deal will make Diouf one the club's highest earning players, as revealed by Sportsmail, representing a significant raise from his current cut-price contract of 5,000 per week.

Leeds will be relieved to have secured the new deal, as Diouf would have been able to leave the club for nothing in January with his contract set to expire in January.

Senegal striker Diouf, 31, who will line up against Ipswich at home tomorrow, joined Leeds in August and has impressed manager Neil Warnock, contributing five goals in his 24 appearances since signing for the Elland Road side.

Gone clubbing: Leeds United's Senegal striker El Hadji Diouf is now at his seventh British club having agreed an 18-month deal at Elland Road

Gone clubbing: Leeds United's Senegal striker El Hadji Diouf, here letting fly against Southampton in the Capitasl One Cup, is now at his seventh British club having agreed an 18-month deal at Elland Road

Boss Neil Warnock told leedsunited.com: 'We're
delighted he's agreed everything and hopefully he'll enjoy the next 18 months
with us.

'Obviously it's a massive boost for everyone to know
we're going to have him around and this is what we've wanted to do.

'He's a match-winning player, and there aren't many of
them around.

'He's a player who can change a game and I'm delighted
we've been able to keep him.

'He's also fitted in really well, and he's been great
with the lads.'

The 31-year-old has scored five goals in 24 appearances for
the Whites after joining in the summer.

Key man: El Hadji Diouf looks to have earned an extended stay at Leeds

Key man: El Hadji Diouf looks to have earned an extended stay at Leeds

The controversial forward, who has often found his name in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, will now remain at Leeds until June 2014.

Diouf’s relative success at Leeds has been surprising, given the nature of his relationship with Leeds boss Warnock.

Former QPR boss Warnock famously launched an attack on Diouf, branding the forward a ‘sewer rat’ during his time at Blackburn after claiming he abused Ranger’s Jamie Mackie as he lay on the pitch with a broken leg in an FA Cup clash in January 2011.

However, it now seems that the two have patched up their differences, with Diouf remaining at Leeds for the foreseeable future.

Sir Bobby Charlton: Manchester City may have to suffer at Manchester United"s hands

Sir Bobby: This City side have not yet suffered pain at our hands… but they may have to

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 7 December 2012

It's the evening of May 14 this year and the occasion is Manchester United's player-of-the-year dinner.

The day before, the club had been beaten to the Barclays Premier League title by the last kick of Manchester City's season.

Sir Bobby Charlton takes the microphone and delivers an address that lifts the mood a little.

Beloved: Manchester United great Sir Bobby Charlton spoke to Sportsmail's Ian Ladyman ahead of Sunday's Manchester derby

Beloved: Manchester United great Sir Bobby Charlton spoke to Sportsmail's Ian Ladyman ahead of Sunday's Manchester derby

'City don't concern me,' said Sir Bobby. 'This is just a blip. We have the tools, the resolve, the determination to come back.

'Having said that, yesterday was horrific. It will take a while before the pain goes away.' It seems only appropriate to ask, then, 199 days later, as we talk in the build-up to the first Manchester derby of the 2012-13 season, whether the pain has indeed gone away.

'Yes, it has,' smiles England's most famous footballer. 'I have got over it but it took a while and it's been tough.

'We are not stupid at our club. They won it. It doesn't matter that it was right at the end of the game. We lost and it was a hard pill to swallow. Yes, it hurt. It hurt a lot. You feel it inside.

'City are a strong team. I don't like to compliment them too much, it doesn't come easily to me, but they have strong players and financially they don't have anything to worry about.

'They have enjoyed it so much being in the limelight. They are still enjoying it. We have just had to cope with it.

'But I have seen strong City teams before in my time. I have seen strong City players: Lee, Bell, Summerbee. You are not telling me that those lads wouldn't be able to take part in the City team now. Of course they would.

'The footballers at City at the moment haven't had the pain yet, have they The current lot haven't had to suffer at the hands of United's results.

'They may have to.'

Gearing up: Manchester City players, including captain Vincent Kompany, were in training on Friday ahead of the derby

Gearing up: Manchester City players, including captain Vincent Kompany, were in training on Friday ahead of the derby

Test: Sir Bobby says he is not too concerned about Manchester City, as Yaya Toure (right), Javi Garcia (centre right), Samir Nasri (centre left) and Mario Balotelli (left) train at Carrington

Test: Sir Bobby says he is not too concerned about Manchester City, as Yaya Toure (right), Javi Garcia (centre right), Samir Nasri (centre left) and Mario Balotelli (left) train at Carrington

Sir Bobby – as they call him at Old Trafford – sits at a table drinking coffee in a meeting room at the headquarters of his charity called 'Find A Better Way'.

We are here to talk about its work finding and removing land mines in war zones such as Bosnia and Cambodia.

And we are here to talk about Sir Bobby's first love, football, too.

Immaculately dressed in a grey blazer, Sir Bobby wears a maroon tie fastened with a perfect knot.

If he did that himself then he should give lessons. Now 75, United's first and most important ambassador plays and looks the part. He always does.

'It's a problem with City for us,
physically, though. They are a physically strong, big team and that
causes us problems. But I am not worried about them'

– Sir Bobby Charlton

As the talk turns to football and, specifically, his beloved United, he knows what is coming.

'It's a game everybody tries to play with me,' he says. 'The one about how long Alex Ferguson will stay. As soon as I finish talking to someone, they always ask it. It doesn't matter who they are.

'How long will he go on for When will he turn it in The answer is that I just don't know. The other clubs are hopeful that it will be soon, no doubt. But he's a genius the way he handles the players and looks after the players. He's unique.

'I go to every match and I'm amazed at the number of times that a player does something that Alex has taught them. These players, they don't forget. Everything Alex tells them, they take it in.

'If I was going out of the trenches he is the one I would want beside me. Nobody else. He has something inside him that everyone else wants.'

Let's get physical: Sir Bobby believes the likes of Vincent Kompany (centre) can provide a problem for them with their physicality

Let's get physical: Sir Bobby believes the likes of Vincent Kompany (above) and Yaya Toure (below) can provide a problem for them with their physicality

Let's get physical: Sir Bobby believes the likes of Toure can provide a problem for them with their physicality

Sir Bobby's relationship with Ferguson – the man he describes as 'my pal' – goes back to the start of the United manager's time at Old Trafford.

Sir Bobby was one of the three-man delegation that drove to Aberdeen in November 1986 to hire him. Sometime soon, though, Ferguson will retire. He will have to. Sir Bobby admits to some apprehension.

'It's something that's got to happen and yes, it will be a problem for us,' he says. 'It's a problem but we'll just have to try to solve it when it happens.'

Understandably, Sir Bobby is reluctant to talk about prospective replacements. The exchange we have about Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho, however, is interesting enough to be reproduced verbatim.

Did some of the things Mourinho do last season affect his chances I can't imagine a Manchester United manager doing some of the things he did.

'No,' says Sir Bobby. 'A United manager wouldn't do that. Mourinho is a really good coach but that's as far as I would go.'

You see some of the arguments he gets into. I can't imagine a United manager being allowed to get away with that.

'I think you are right,' comes the hesitant reply. 'In fact, you are right. I think he pontificates too much for my liking. He's a good manager, though.'

Your current manager likes him, doesn't he

Not yet: Robin van Persie has yet to gel fully with Wayne Rooney, accoring to Sir Bobby

Not yet: Robin van Persie has yet to gel fully with Wayne Rooney, accoring to Sir Bobby

'He doesn't like him too much though.' The last answer is accompanied by a laugh but the point has been made.

During a charity visit to Sarajevo five years ago, Sir Bobby began fully to comprehend the impact that land mines have on communities in countries affected by the fallout of war.

Seeing a football coach explain to children what to do if they suspected there was an explosive device on their pitch convinced him to get involved.

'That soldier was the first one that I saw who was actually trying to do something,' Sir Bobby recalls.

'If he could find a patch of ground and give the kids some coaching, he had to sit them down and tell them what to do if they came anywhere near a mine.

'It's horrific for kids and, of course, the victims. They're coming up to you to say hello. They've lost limbs.'

Sir Bobby's interest grew stronger when he visited projects in Cambodia and Vietnam.

He says: 'I can't tell you how horrific it is when you get close to a load of mines and see them going off. I'm coming back on the plane and I thought, “There must be a better way of doing this”.

'If you had to take all the mines out using current methods it would take you about 1,000 years. It was ridiculous.'

Bouncing back: United were beaten by FC Cluj on Wednesday

Bouncing back: United were beaten by FC Cluj on Wednesday

'I was really sick when Ronaldo left us. He wanted to be the biggest player in the world and didn't think he would get that from Manchester United. He would have, though'

– Sir Bobby on Cristiano Ronaldo

In fact, current estimates say there are 110million active land mines in place across the world. Using current technology, it would cost 19billion and 1,000 years to detect and clear them.

The aim of 'Find A Better Way' is self-explanatory. As well as improving the lives of victims, its primary aim is to find a more effective method of detecting and removing the mines.

'I wanted very much to do something and I was really taken aback when I went to Sarajevo,' he adds.

'It means that because of who I am some politician or whoever may be kind enough to back what we're saying. We've got a fantastic team and everything ready to go to start a process that, if it works, will be unique.'

Currently the charity is funding three research projects at Manchester University and one in Barrow.

Sir Bobby had been to Cumbria the day before our meeting. The encouraging news is that they believe they have developed a prototype probe that will be able to cut detection times by as much as 50 per cent.

This is clearly a space worth watching. Sir Bobby is listed on his Wikipedia page as 'the greatest English player of all time'.

'I don't agree with that,' he says. During the 28 years he has served as a board member at Old Trafford he has seen some players he believes to have been superior. In an interview with a magazine a few years ago, for example, he was asked to put together a team of all-time greats and, along with Moore, Beckenbauer, Platini and Di Stefano, he included former United captain Roy Keane.

'There are certain players that are talismen and when they go on to a football field they take everybody with them,' he explains.

Devastated: Sir Bobby said he was 'sick' when Cristiano Ronaldo left the club for Real Madrid

Devastated: Sir Bobby said he was 'sick' when Cristiano Ronaldo left the club for Real Madrid

'I go to every match and I'm amazed at
the number of times that a player does something that Alex has taught
them. These players, they don't forget. Everything Alex tells them, they
take it in'

– Sir Bobby on Sir Alex Ferguson

'Roy Keane just had that thing. He could change the game with the timing of one tackle. I played with some good players but I think I missed out by not playing with him.'

Keane's days as a player are long gone, of course. As for those current stars Sir Bobby would perhaps like to see back at Old Trafford, one name stands out.

'I was really sick when Ronaldo left us,' he says. 'He wanted to be the biggest player in the world and didn't think he would get that from Manchester United. He would have, though.

'He is scoring goals like I have never seen. He is just sensational. He shoots, he heads, he scores. He does all the things that anybody who loves football would like to see. He's magic. Who knows, maybe we would one day have the opportunity to get him back here.

'We played one game at Chelsea and he scored from 40 yards. The goalkeeper saw the ball from off his foot but it moved about three or four ways and the goalkeeper just couldn't get in position.

'The first thing in his mind when he gets the ball is, “Can I score” He doesn't think, “Can I pass it to somebody else”

'Maybe he would have frustrated me if I had played with him but as long as you are winning you can't criticise him, can you

'When we win at Old Trafford, Alex encourages the directors to go into the dressing room and speak to the players. I sometimes used to go in at that time but there wasn't much I could tell Ronaldo. I just used to say, “Well done”.

'I don't really give the players that much advice but Alex certainly doesn't ban me from doing it. If I say that I may mention something to a particular player he will say, “Yeah, go on”.'

Sir Bobby remains confident that United will regain their title this season.

'Matt Busby used to say to us that if we were six points from the lead at Christmas then we would win the league,' he recalls.

'This time we are not only there before Christmas but we will get better. It makes me confident.'

Despite this, Sir Bobby laments the recent absence of central defender Nemanja Vidic and has some interesting observations on the Wayne Rooney-Robin van Persie partnership.

Diminutive: City aren't all power and pace, as David Silva will look to create chances at the Etihad

Diminutive: City aren't all power and pace, as David Silva will look to create chances at the Etihad

'Our central defence has suffered,' he explains. 'Vidic is the one who controls everybody at the back. We have missed him.

'As for Wayne, somewhere down the line he will really bite the bullet and he will explode, in a good way.

'At the present time he seems to have a tiny thing about playing with Van Persie. The two of them maybe aren't gelling as well as everybody would have liked. But Wayne is a great player and he has everything at his fingertips. Why not go the whole hog and be the very best'

As our chat closes, Sir Bobby offers some general thoughts on English football. He worries about our reputation in the wake of recent events. He also offers little hope about our chances at the next World Cup.

'You can't sit here and say that it looks like we have a great chance, can you' he adds.

'We have to have some physically strong players to cope out there in Brazil and I have to say that I'm not hopeful.

'But I'm like everybody else. I will have been talked into it by the time it comes round.'

On Sunday Sir Bobby will be at the Etihad Stadium to witness the latest event in what has become a remarkable tussle between the two Manchester clubs for supremacy in the Premier League.

Genius: Sir Bobby admits that it will be a problem when Sir Alex Ferguson leaves Old Trafford

Genius: Sir Bobby admits that it will be a problem when Sir Alex Ferguson leaves Old Trafford

I ask him if events across town sometimes look a little chaotic.

'Yeah, that sums it up well,' he says. 'It's hard playing in this league. You need togetherness and that's what we have here. I don't know if others have that. We leave all that to Alex. He looks after it.'

On the field, though, Sir Bobby sees the threat. 'I think we knew they were improving their team,' he adds. 'The ownership of the club meant that at least financially they were going to build a good side. How could they not

'It's a problem with City for us, physically, though. They are a physically strong, big team and that causes us problems. But I am not worried about them.

'I watch us play and sometimes think that other teams have it all on to beat us. It's a hard life in the Premier League and last season was a hard pill to swallow.

'But we will be there at the end. We always are.'

Once quoted as suggesting that City's wealthy owner Sheik Mansour had bought the wrong Manchester club by mistake, it seems appropriate to ask if he really did say that.

Deadpan soon gives way to a smile. 'No, of course I didn't,' he says. 'Well, I might have done.'

To donate to Sir Bobby's charity or to find out more, go to: www.findabetterway.org.uk

On Wayne Rooney: Wayne has yet to gel with Van Persie, but he can be the very best

On Wayne Rooney: Wayne has yet to gel with Van Persie, but he can be the very best

On Jose Mourinho: He's a really good coach, that's as far as I would go

On Jose Mourinho: He's a really good coach, that's as far as I would go

On Cristiano Ronaldo: I was really sick when he left, he's just sensational

On Cristiano Ronaldo: I was really sick when he left, he's just sensational

WHEN CITY RULED MANCHESTER

When Manchester City won the title in 1968, it took rivals United three years and six games before they beat their neighbours again in the league.

In Sir Matt Busby's last match as manager, having taken over as a caretaker after Wilf McGuinness was sacked, Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best were all on the scoresheet as United won 4-3 at Maine Road.

But Sir Bobby will be hoping it doesn't take Sir Alex Ferguson's side six matches to topple Roberto Mancini's champions.

August 17, 1968 Man City 0-0 Man Utd

In the first Manchester derby after City won the title – and United the European Cup – 63,052 watched a goalless draw at Maine Road, with the home side's Colin Bell going closest when he hit the post.

March 8, 1969 Man Utd 0-1 Man City

United goalkeeper Alex Stepney clawed out Mike Summerbee's lob but could not stop the forward from tucking in the rebound to give City supporters bragging rights from a win at Old Trafford.

November 15, 1969 Man City 4-0 Man Utd

Two goals from Bell, another from Neil Young and a David Sadler own goal saw City thump Sir Bobby's United side in the mud at Maine Road (below).

No cigar: Sir Bobby played in the 1969 match at Maine Road when United were hammered 4-0

March 28, 1970 Man Utd 1-2 Man City

Brian Kidd equalised for United after Franny Lee had scored from the spot before Mike Doyle smashed in the winner for City from just inside the area.

The blue half of Manchester was able to celebrate again.

December 12, 1970 Man Utd 1-4 Man City

Doylr opened the scoring for City and Lee scored a hat-trick in a match that also saw Glyn Pardoe suffer a broken leg after a tackle from George Best.

May 5, 1971 Man City 3-4 Man Utd

At last… after five attempts United finally beat City, racing into a 4-1 lead thanks to a Best double and goals from Sir Bobby and Law. Lee and Ian Mellor closed the gap but United held on to end a painful run for their fans.

Thomas Ince: England U21s are stronger after Serbian scare

England are stronger after 'frightening' Serbian scare, says Ince ahead of U21 friendly

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 12 November 2012

Thomas Ince has spoken for the first time about the 'frightening' ordeal England's Under-21 squad suffered in Serbia but insisted the experience will make them stronger.

The Blackpool midfielder, who will win his fifth Under-21 cap on home soil at Bloomfield Road on Tuesday night in the friendly against Northern Ireland, was one of several black England players who were racially abused during the Euro 2013 play-off in Krusevac last month.

UEFA will hold a hearing in Nyon on Thursday week after charging the Serbian Football Federation with alleged racist chanting; the SFF and the Football Association were also both charged with failing to control their players after a brawl erupted at the end of a game England won 1-0.

Stronger: Ince was speaking ahead of England's U21 clash with Northern Ireland

Stronger: Ince was speaking ahead of England's U21 clash with Northern Ireland

That victory secured England their fourth consecutive trip to a Under-21 European Championship but that record-breaking achievement was barely mentioned in the aftermath because of a litany of appalling events.

Ince, 20, admitted to 'being scared' when Serbia's coaching staff charged onto the pitch at the final whistle and attacked England's staff but he took comfort from the way his team-mates stood together and he reflected on the events with great clarity and maturity.

'You have to look back and say it is something in your life that you experienced but didn't want to,' said Ince.

Clash: England's qualification was marred by ugly scenes after the game

Clash: England's qualification was marred by ugly scenes after the game

Andros Townsend separates his team-mate Danny Rose and Sasa Markovic

'People get put into those situations and you just have to do the best you can. It was frightening but all the lads behaved well in the manner expected of an England player.

'The rest of the fiasco is out of the way now and we are looking forward to the summer. The camaraderie was fantastic. We all got back into the dressing room and everyone was scared but we all stuck together and pulled each other through.

'We just wanted to get through the tunnel into the dressing room and back home to where we would be safe. Now you can look back on it as an experience that we have had but we were together and showed our maturity.

Centre of attention: England boss Stuart Pearce speaks to the assembled media on Monday

Centre of attention: England boss Stuart Pearce speaks to the assembled media

'I think a lot of players would say they had been (racially) abused but in the game you just have to deal with it. That's just the way it is. No matter what colour of our skin, we all stuck together and did well. Whatever happened off the pitch is nothing to do with us.'

The FA remain furious the game was held in a provincial town in a primitive stadium and their anger has been exacerbated by the Serbian police attempting to press charges against defenders Tom Lees and Steven Caulker and assistant coach Steve Wigley for 'acting violently at a sporting event'.

Ince was erroneously named as someone who could face charges from one report that came out of Serbia.

Under scrutiny: Danny Rose was subjected to racist taunts by the Serbian fans

Under scrutiny: Danny Rose was subjected to racist taunts by the Serbian fans

England team to face N. Ireland

(4-2-3-1 probable): Amos: Smith, Lees, Wisdom, Robinson: Henderson, McEachran: Townsend, Powell, Ince: Wickham.

Curiously, the FA are still awaiting official confirmation from Serbia that the charges will be followed up.

'The game was live on ESPN and we all looked after each other,' said Ince.

'There is no sight of any fighting from England players; it was all about sticking together and getting back into the tunnel. It was weird (to hear about the charge). I looked at it and I'm thinking, “I didn't do anything.”

''Whatever Serbia want to throw at people they can throw at people. Whether it is yourself or any team-mates you all stick together and do the best you can.'

Should England win tonight, it will be the first time since 1991 they have won every Under-21 fixture during a calendar year but Ince is already looking forward to next summer and potentially playing at in Israel at Euro 2013.

'I'm very excited and it is great to represent your country at my home ground,' said Ince.

'Everyone has to work hard and try to impress (Stuart Pearce) to try and get in the team for the summer. There is everything to play for.'

Paul Gascoigne wants coaching return

Gazza plans coaching comeback as troubled star eyes Bournemouth role

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UPDATED:

13:47 GMT, 5 November 2012

Paul Gascoigne is planning yet another football comeback as the former England midfielder considers a return to coaching.

Together with England physio Gary Lewin, Gascoigne, 45, is arranging a hip operation to help him get fit.

Gazza then hopes to coach children at League One side Bournemouth, according to the Daily Mirror.

Comeback: Paul Gascoigne wants to resume his coaching career

Comeback: Paul Gascoigne wants to resume his coaching career

He said: 'I might start doing my coaching badges again. When I’m coaching I need to twist and turn properly so I can show the lads some of the amazing things I used to do.'

The ex-Newcastle and Tottenham midfielder has battled an alcohol addiction since quitting the game and began his coaching career at Portuguese team Algarve United in 2005.

After a contract failed to materialise, Gascoigne took over at Kettering Town but lasted just 39 days in the hotseat.

Nick Evans signs new contract at Harlequins

Former All Black Evans commits to Harlequins for another three years

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UPDATED:

13:46 GMT, 1 November 2012

New deal: Evans

New deal: Evans

Nick Evans has ended speculation about his playing future by a signing a new three-year contract with Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins.

The New Zealand international fly half had been a subject of intense speculation linking him with a move overseas.

But Quins on Thursday announced the 32-year-old has agreed terms that will keep him at the Twickenham Stoop until 2016.

Evans, regarded as one of the most successful foreign signings made by any Premiership club, joined Quins from Otago four years ago.

He has now scored almost 1,200 points for Quins and was named the Rugby Players' Association player of the season last term.

'There is not a player, supporter or coach in the game in England, let alone Harlequins, who will not be delighted that Nick Evans has agreed to stay with us for another three years,' Quins rugby director Conor O'Shea said.

'The Aviva Premiership wants the best players playing in it, and Nick is one of the very best.

'He contributes so much to this club both on and off the field, and he is the perfect role model for all young players.

Key man: Evans helped Quins to win the Premiership last season

Key man: Evans helped Quins to win the Premiership last season

'While I know one of the main reasons he is staying with us revolves around his family, ultimately it is about his ambition to achieve things with this club.

'We have started something here and Nick wants to see it through. His decision to stay is a great early Christmas present for all Harlequins supporters.'

Evans added: 'Myself and my family are happy to have the opportunity to stay at Harlequins. I'm looking forward to continuing to play with a great bunch of lads and to working with a special coaching staff.

'There is no limit to what this team can achieve, and I am excited to have an influence both on and off the field.

Former All Black: Evans appeared 16 times for New Zealand between 2004 and 2007

Former All Black: Evans appeared 16 times for New Zealand between 2004 and 2007

'My decision was made easy by the ambition of this great club, the success we have had and the hunger to want more.

'The support I have had from the supporters has been amazing, and I will do my best to help the club stay one of the major forces in English and European rugby.'

Quins are currently top of the Premiership, while they launched their Heineken Cup campaign last month with successive victories over Biarritz and Connacht.

Evans went off injured during the Biarritz game almost three weeks ago, but it is thought a return to playing action is imminent.

Cristiano Ronaldo"s 100th Portugal shirt goes to Oliver Norwood – thanks to Rio Ferdinand

Ronaldo's landmark 100th Portugal shirt goes to rookie Norwood… thanks to Rio

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UPDATED:

07:28 GMT, 18 October 2012

It was a night no Northern Ireland player will forget in a hurry, but Rio Ferdinand helped make it even more memorable for one star-struck member of Michael O’Neill’s side at Porto’s Estadio do Dragao.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s shirt came second only to World Cup qualifying points as the night’s most prized possession, and the final whistle sparked a stampede towards Portugal’s Real Madrid winger.

Each request was politely declined, as Ronaldo explained the ultimate souvenir from a stirring Northern Ireland performance had already been earmarked for an unlikely recipient.

Dream come true: Ronaldo tussles with Oliver Norwood before swapping shirts with the Huddersfield man

Dream come true: Ronaldo tussles with Oliver Norwood before swapping shirts with the Huddersfield man

It was going to little-known Huddersfield midfielder Oliver Norwood, on the orders of Ferdinand.

The 21-year old former Manchester United junior, snapped up by Huddersfield last summer after failing to break through to Sir Alex Ferguson’s first team, described how he enlisted Ferdinand’s help to make him the envy of his Northern Ireland team-mates.

‘Rio and I have the same agent, and I knew he had kept in touch with Ronaldo from their days together at United,’ he said, after Northern Ireland’s 1-1 draw. ‘So I phoned him last week and asked if he could put a word in for me. I just explained how much it would mean to have Ronaldo’s shirt, and could he possibly see what the chances were.

Oh, what a night: Norwood celebrates Niall McGinn's opener in Porto

Oh, what a night: Norwood celebrates Niall McGinn's opener in Porto

‘I was hoping that might do the trick, but I wanted to make sure, so I went up to Ronaldo before the game and introduced myself. He just said: “Yeah, Rio spoke to me. Don’t worry – the shirt’s yours.”

‘A few of the lads went up to him at the end, but he was as good as his word. He wasn’t happy about the way the game had gone and wasn’t exactly in the best of moods, but he actually came over to me, shook hands and said: “I haven’t forgotten. You can have the shirt.”

‘That just rounded off a great night for me. I couldn’t have wished for a better keepsake from such a fantastic occasion. Of all the memorabilia I have picked up during my career, this is far and away the best.

Mixing it: Nani and Norwood battle

Mixing it: Nani and Norwood battle

‘I will frame it, as soon as I get it home, and keep it. It will have pride of place among all my football possessions. I will show it my kids and grandkids in years to come and tell them that’s the shirt Ronaldo wore in his 100th international appearance. I was on the pitch with him, and there’s the evidence. I’m absolutely thrilled with it, and I owe Rio for setting it up for me. It was so good of him, and I am really grateful.’

As a further boost for Northern Ireland, record goalscorer David Healy hopes to be back to full match fitness by the time they face Azerbaijan in their next qualifier, at Windsor Park on November 14.