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Paul Lambert settlement reached between Norwich City and Aston Villa

Norwich and Aston Villa finally reach settlement over Lambert's controversial summer switch

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UPDATED:

21:56 GMT, 23 December 2012

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert and his former club Norwich have agreed a settlement over the dispute regarding his departure from Carrow Road.

Lambert and Norwich were both suing each other for breach of contract and the issue was due to go before a Premier League tribunal next month, but has now been resolved.

The Scot left Norwich in the summer after three successful years in which he led the Canaries to successive promotions and 12th place in the Barclays Premier League.

Settlement: Lambert saluted the Norwich fans on his return to Carrow Road

Settlement: Lambert saluted the Norwich fans on his return to Carrow Road

Lambert has always believed he did nothing wrong in the sense he was entitled to talk to any interested clubs.

Villa were also adamant that they acted in a proper manner and would have met the terms of Lambert's contract.

The two clubs issued a statement on Sunday evening which read: 'Paul Lambert, Norwich City and Aston Villa have agreed settlement in respect of the dispute regarding Paul Lambert's departure from Norwich City.

'Villa will pay Norwich City the original amount as agreed in the contract between Paul Lambert and Norwich City, and Norwich City will pay Paul Lambert the bonus he was entitled to after completion of the 2011/12 season.

Turning back the clock: Lambert celebrates promotion in May 2011

Turning back the clock: Lambert celebrates promotion in May 2011

'This represents a final settlement of all claims and disputes between the parties. No further comment will be made.'

Lambert had been upset when Norwich chairman Alan Bowkett made the dispute public at a fans' forum earlier this season and claimed he had left all of his previous clubs in a similar manner.

But Lambert said before the recent Capital One Cup quarter-final between the clubs that he hoped agreement could be reached in the dispute and that has now happened.

Chelsea admit regrets over Mark Clattenburg race row

We got it wrong over Clattenburg, admit Chelsea… but still no apology for starting ref race storm

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UPDATED:

19:22 GMT, 27 November 2012

Chelsea have at last admitted they ‘regret’ being so quick to accuse Mark Clattenburg of racially abusing two of their players — but they have STILL not apologised for making the accusation public.

The club held secret peace talks with Clattenburg and his 15 elite referee colleagues on Monday.

Bruce Buck, the Stamford Bridge chairman, travelled to the National Football Centre at St George’s Park on the request of all Premier League match officials.

Dragged through the mud: Chelsea say they regret the way they acted over the Mark Clattenburg debacle

Dragged through the mud: Chelsea say they regret the way they acted over the Mark Clattenburg debacle

Allegations: Chelsea claimed Clattenburg had referred to John Obi Mikel as a 'monkey'

Allegations: Chelsea claimed Clattenburg had referred to John Obi Mikel as a 'monkey'

They met in a bid to repair the damage
caused by the false accusations of racism that were levelled against
Clattenburg. At some point during the meeting Buck shook hands with the referee.

Part of the discussion even focused on the possibility of Clattenburg taking charge of a Chelsea game in the future.

Referee's union Prospect welcomed the joint statement by PGMOL, the Premier League, and Chelsea.

National secretary Alan Leighton said the use of the word 'regrets' in the joint statement were tantamount to and accepted by Clattenburg and the Select Group as an apology.

'This was an important move forward in confirming Chelsea's recognition of Mark's integrity and impartiality,' he said in a statement.

Leighton said the referees 'welcomed the opportunity to express their concerns about the way that Mark had been treated'.

He added: 'In a thoroughly professional manner, they explained what the impact had been in real terms and that there could be no repetition of the events.'

The joint statement read: ‘A meeting took place on Monday afternoon at St George’s Park between Professional Game Match Officials Limited, the Premier League and Chelsea Football Club.

‘PGMOL were represented by General Manager Mike Riley and all 16 Select Group referees, the Premier League by Chief Executive Richard Scudamore and Chelsea FC by Chairman Bruce Buck.

Trip: Bruce Buck (left) went to St Georges to speak to Clattenburg and the other referees, as well as Mike Riley and Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore

Trip: Bruce Buck (left) went to St Georges to speak to Clattenburg and the other referees, as well as Mike Riley and Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore

This is a joint statement from all parties.

‘Following the completion of the
investigation by The FA into the case involving Chelsea FC and Mark
Clattenburg, the Premier League and Chelsea FC requested, and PGMOL
agreed, to meet in order to discuss the issues surrounding the reporting
of the allegation.

‘There
was a constructive and open discussion. The club regrets not having
given more consideration before issuing a statement on the evening of
Sunday 28th October.

The club also regrets the subsequent impact the intense media scrutiny had on Mark Clattenburg and his family.

‘The referees accept that, given Chelsea
FC had received a good faith claim from one of their employees, the club
had an obligation under FA rules to report the allegation.

‘There was recognition by all parties that the impartiality and integrity of refereeing in this country remains paramount.

Chelsea FC made it clear they would welcome Mark Clattenburg back to Stamford Bridge in the future and PGMOL would have no issue in appointing him to a Chelsea FC match going forward.

‘It was a thoroughly professional meeting. All parties now believe it is time to draw a line under this incident, learn from it and move on for the good of all Premier League clubs, players and match officials.’

The Football Association last week decided to take no disciplinary action against Clattenburg following an investigation into Chelsea's allegation he used 'inappropriate language' against midfielder John Obi Mikel, while the police also shelved a probe into the matter.

Graham Poll: Emmanuel Adebayor had to go, but so too did Luis Suarez

Adebayor had to go, but 'Jekyll and Hyde' Suarez should also have seen red

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UPDATED:

00:03 GMT, 19 November 2012

Three – that’s the magic number!

This weekend’s refereeing in the Premier League was about three red cards and three penalties.

It began with the clear cut dismissal of Emmanuel Adebayor in the north London derby.

It was interesting to see how refereeing technique has changed with the possibility of verbal communication with assistant referees.

Off you go: Emmanuel Adebayor was red-carded against Arsenal after opening the scoring

Off you go: Emmanuel Adebayor was red-carded against Arsenal after opening the scoring

Five years ago a tackle like Adebayor’s would have illicited a quick red card as we were expected to make an instant decision in such cases to avoid retaliation, particularly in a derby atmosphere.

On Saturday we saw Howard Webb take his time and consider the challenge as well as consult with the assistant with the best view.

Up at Anfield Luis Suarez again showed his ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ nature with a superb display of finishing and then a studs showing stamp down on Wigan’s David Jones.

It was a clear red card challenge which went unpunished and as it was in clear view of the match officials it will not be reviewed.

I would rather have all such incidents and decisions reviewed after the game, to get them right in a consistent manner.

You too: Brede Hangeland saw red for a lunge against Sunderland

You too: Brede Hangeland saw red for a lunge against Sunderland

HANGELAND'S SET TO END

Brede Hangeland has not missed a league match for Fulham since April 2011 and if he appeals his red card he might extend that run.

The dismissal looked fair at full speed as he appeared to dive in studs first but when slowed down the decision looks harsh.

Hangeland is in control of his left leg and drops it down before he reaches Lee Cattermole.

His right leg stays low and in fact makes contact with his own leg.

Suarez is a wonderfully gifted player
who needs to learn not to make such challenges and a three match
retrospective ban would be a good start.

It would be interesting to see what such a panel would make of the red card for Fulham’s Brede Hangeland.

His
30th-minute dismissal looked fair at full speed as he appeared to dive
in studs first but when slowed down the decision looks harsh.

The Norwegian centre half was in control of his left leg and drops it down before he reaches Lee Cattermole and his right leg stays low and in fact makes contact with his own leg.

Of course the referee, Lee Probert did not have sight of replays; if he had I think he would have been content with a yellow card.

However, if Fulham appeal I would think that Probert will stand by his decision as it is not ‘an obvious error’ but for consistency I would think that missing Hangeland for final hour of the match would be sufficient punishment rather than missing another three games.

So, the three serious foul play tackles saw one correctly dismissed, one missed and one harshly dealt with and the penalties reviewed were not dissimilar.

Off the hook: Luis Suarez scored two against Wigan, but might have been sent off for a challenge

Off the hook: Luis Suarez scored two against Wigan, but might have been sent off for a challenge

Michael Oliver missed a penalty for Chelsea for a clear illegal charge which will do nothing to dispel Chelsea fan’s belief that referees will give them nothing following the Mark Clattenburg incident – which must surely be brought to a conclusion in the next day or two.

At Reading, Everton manager, David Moyes was at his diplomatic best after Martin Atkinson waved away another clear penalty after a hand ball blocked Nikica Jelavic’ goal bound shot.

Finally, a contender for the strangest penalty of the season as assistant referee Adrian Holmes indicated a handball from a corner and left referee Jon Moss with no alternative but to award Manchester City a spot kick to settle the Champions nerves at the Etihad.

To be fair to Holmes, Villa defender Andreas Weimann did lift his arm towards the ball but pulled it away well before any contact.

Good week for………

Anthony Taylor, who I highlighted in my Friday preview.

Any referee who can oversee a defeat for Manchester United and not incur the wrath of Sir Alex Ferguson is clearly having a very good season. Interesting that the Manchester based referee is happy to referee both teams from his home City.

Fine form: Anthony Taylor controlled the match between Manchester United and Norwich brilliantly

Fine form: Anthony Taylor controlled the match between Manchester United and Norwich brilliantly

Bad week for ………

Mark Clattenburg who is still waiting to see if he will be charged following Chelsea FC’s complaints over his comments three weeks ago.

He is now watching World Cup 2014 rival Howard Webb re-establish his world class teamwork with assistants Darren Cann and Mike Mullarkey, brilliant at the Emirates on Saturday, whilst not able to repair his damaged reputation.

Police clear Oldham"s Lee Croft of racially abusing ball boy

Police clear Oldham's Croft of racially abusing ball boy after lack of evidence

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UPDATED:

11:01 GMT, 25 October 2012


Bust up: Lee Croft (left) lost his temper with a ball boy at Sheffield United earlier this month

Bust up: Lee Croft (left) lost his temper with a ball boy at Sheffield United earlier this month

Oldham midfielder Lee Croft will not face police action after he was accused of racially abusing a ball boy.

The allegation was made following the Latics' 1-1 draw away to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on October 13.

Croft vehemently denied any wrongdoing and was backed by his manager Paul Dickov.

A statement released on Oldham's official website read: 'South Yorkshire Police have found no evidence to support such allegations and they do not intend to take any further action in relation to this matter.'

The statement continued: 'It has been an extremely difficult time for Lee who has received the full support of the club and all his team-mates while these totally unfounded allegations have been investigated.

'The club would like to place on record its thanks to South Yorkshire Police for the thorough and expeditious manner in which it has completed its enquiry.'

Speaking at the pre-match press conference for Latics npower League One trip to Crawley this weekend shortly before the news was announced, Croft thanked his team-mates and Dickov for their support over the past two weeks.

'It's been hard, obviously, but I've just tried to get on with it,' he said. 'Coming in and getting on with my football, the lads have been brilliant.

'The gaffer has been good with me and the club as well, so it's been okay.'

Police probed an incident late in the game at Bramall Lane where Croft, now with Oldham, went to retrieve the ball for a throw-in as his side pressed for their late equaliser in a 1-1 draw.

He became angry when the ball was kicked back on to the field beyond him by the ball boy, who is 14 but has not been named.

Croft appeared to say something, although the ball boy did not react at that point. At the end of the game Croft went to shake his hand. At first the ball boy took it but then yanked his hand away, apparently on realising it was Croft.

Sheffield United are said to have received up to nine complaints following the game, including some from stewards who were in the vicinity. It was reported to the police who launched an investigation.

Croft, 27, admitted at the time to losing his temper, saying he apologised to the boy.

Hristo Stoichkov investigated over alleged assault of journalist

Barcelona legend Stoichkov investigated over alleged assault of journalist

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UPDATED:

13:56 GMT, 10 October 2012

Hristo Stoichkov is under investigation by police in Chicago for allegedly assaulting a journalist.

Buglarian newspaper Trud Daily said a Chicago police officer confirmed they had received a complaint from Svetlozar Momchilov, owner of the US-based newspaper Bulgaria Now, adding that the charge was listed as battery.

Momchilov was quoted as saying he was punched by Stoichkov during Chicago Fire soccer club's 15th anniversary party at the Chicago History Museum on Monday, after asking him for an interview.

Under investigation: Stoichkove has been accused of assaulting a journalist

Under investigation: Stoichkove has been accused of assaulting a journalist

Barcelona legend Stoichkov, who is now a coach at Litex Lovech, played for Chicago Fire between 2000 and 2002.

The flamboyant Stoichkov is considered the best Bulgarian footballer of all time but is also known for his aggressive manner on the field and frequent arguments with referees and other players.

In 2006, The Dagger, as Stoichkov is known in Bulgaria, was sued by a former student in Washington DC, whose leg he broke in a violent tackle during a match against DC United in 2003.

In 2008, Stoichkov, who led Bulgaria to the semi-finals at the 1994 World Cup in the United States, allegedly attacked a Bulgarian photographer in a Barcelona restaurant.

Former glories: Stoichkov won the Champions League under Johan Cruyff

Former glories: Stoichkov won the Champions League under Johan Cruyff

London 2012 Paralympics: Tim Pearson is aiming for "12 in 2012"

The Medal Machine: He already has nine golds, now Pearson is aiming for '12 in 2012'

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UPDATED:

22:04 GMT, 28 August 2012

For the British equestrian with the largest haul of gold medals, one horsepower is never going to be enough.

Which is why Paralympian Lee Pearson CBE has got Jeremy Clarkson — and Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson — in his sights.

‘I want to take on Jeremy Clarkson in a car and then make him ride a horse against me — one horsepower — can you imagine that’ says Pearson, who has nine Paralympic gold medals (28 in all major championships) and would love to make it ‘12 at 2012’.

Born to ride: Lee Pearson with Gentleman at his Stoke stables

Born to ride: Lee Pearson with Gentleman at his Stoke stables

Another triple gold performance in London would also put him one ahead of Grey-Thompson, Britain’s legendary Paralympian, who has 11 golds, four silvers and one bronze.

‘Clarkson is always showing off about his 500 horsepower cars or whatever. Yes, that is one of my life’s missions: to take on Jeremy Clarkson — and beat him. I think he will dislike me, then I can wind him up even more.

‘I just love cars. It was buy a farm or buy a race car and I did the sensible thing and bought a farm.

‘Driving a fast car is all about feel and it’s the same with a horse. When I am riding I feel what the horse is doing. I feel every leg, every muscle, the tension in the horse’s jaw down the rein. You need to feel if it is going sideways enough, going forwards enough, backwards, everything.’

At ease: Pearson relaxes at his home

At ease: Pearson relaxes at his home

Pearson was born with arthro-gryposis multiplex congenita, where his arm and leg muscles are just scar tissue. As a gay, disabled sportsman, with a forthright manner, who loves fast cars and owns an 800cc quad bike, Pearson ticks a lot of boxes, as well as blowing away a few prejudices about how disabled people are expected to behave. First and foremost, Pearson is an elite sportsman with serious ambitions.

Pearson, 38, says: ‘For every one of my medals I worked my guts off. I have been classed as a medal machine as I have also got European and worlds — 28 golds in total. So I do work like a dog to achieve them.

‘At my first Paralympics, in Sydney, they pulled a number out of a hat to find out what horse you rode. And while people say horses don’t realise if you are disabled, they do realise if you have got empathy and talent, strength, stupidity and bravery. So you can imagine that a bunch of about 120 disabled riders jumping on to a bunch of horses they don’t know was quite entertaining! The structure changed for Athens, partly because Greece couldn’t supply the number of dressage horses required.

‘Athens was my own horse, Blue Circle Boy, and at Beijing it was Gentleman, who is the most awkward, nasty horse you have ever known. At Beijing he was trying to get me off. Until we went into the arena and the atmosphere was so big that he went, “S***, I had better behave”.’

In the saddle: Pearson puts Gentleman through his dressage paces

In the saddle: Pearson puts Gentleman through his dressage paces

Lee Pearson's Paralympic haul

On top: Pearson in Beijing

On top: Pearson in Beijing

Winner of the ‘triple triple’ in equestrian dressage (Grade 1)

Beijing 2008: gold in team dressage, individual dressage and freestyle dressage.

Athens 2004: gold in team dressage, individual dressage and freestyle dressage.

Sydney 2000: Gold in team dressage, individual dressage and freestyle dressage.

Pearson is relaxing in his farmhouse kitchen just outside Stoke-on-Trent. It is a scene Come Dine With Me viewers will see later this week, when Pearson takes on four fellow Paralympians in the Channel 4 cookery competition.

The CBE is framed behind him, next to the Paralympic golds and his MBE and OBE. A new honour was bestowed after every Paralympic success.

‘Our sport is perceived to be elitist and I now live on a nice farm that I have worked seriously hard to afford but sometimes it is actually difficult to get sponsorship because some people think you are already loaded, whereas I am just a bloke from Stoke who has done good, marketed myself quite well and got a good sponsorship deal but I still have a mortgage. People don’t realise how hard you have to work at this.

‘Mum and Dad had to fight to get me into mainstream school. Eventually the authorities gave in and said I could go if I had a lady to follow me around to make sure I was OK and to carry my bag.

‘My mum said, “You are having a laugh, as if he is not weird enough, he is going to be very weird having this person following him around”.

‘Mum and Dad made the decision that they
were going to try to give me the same opportunity as my two able-bodied
older brothers. It was just seen as a hurdle to get over and we would
get over the hurdle one way or another.

‘There are different ways to cope,’
added Pearson, who was a Child of Courage in 1980, when Margaret
Thatcher famously carried the six-year-old upstairs on a visit to
Downing Street.

‘Although my body is knackered, I have a real great sense of feeling. Except when I fall off.’

This seems to be a regular occurrence for Pearson, who took 12 weeks off last year after breaking his back. ‘Halfway through a session my horse just launched into the air and as he hit the ground he went at a flat-out gallop across the arena, leaping like a rodeo horse. I am doing like 30 miles an hour, about 20 feet in the air, thinking this is going to hurt.

Courage: Pearson meets Margaret Thatcher in 1980

Courage: Pearson meets Margaret Thatcher in 1980

‘At A&E they said nothing was broken, go home and rest and take pain-killers. Two weeks later I was still in pain so went to a private clinic and had a scan. I had cracked three vertebrae and crushed a fourth.’

And then he cracked a rib tripping
over a chicken. ‘She hadn’t gone to bed so I picked her up, then I don’t
know what happened, I slipped on chicken s*** I think, my crutches were
in the air, the chicken was in the air, I was in the air and I landed
in a load of aviary wire and cracked a rib.

‘I
told myself that I was getting all my accidents out of the way last
year to have a clear run this year. I also joke that I was able-bodied
when I started!’

Coming
out was almost as traumatic for Pearson, who had to break the news to
his parents. ‘It was quite difficult because Dad was a lorry driver, a
typical bloke,’ he says.

‘He took it very badly, but so did I. I didn’t want to be gay. I didn’t want to be disabled but you are kind of given your lot.

‘My mum was quite confused and said things like, “Are you sure, can’t you just hide it”.

‘I
am quite a masculine person. I would see a good-looking couple walking
down the street and think she’s pretty, but I’m eyeing him too. That is
what I was always fighting with. I decided to give in.

‘If I could flip two switches and be able-bodied and normal I probably would.’

Joe Hart interview: England"s No 1 is getting used to life in the spotlight

Hart: People think Andy Carroll is just some hooligan from up north. But I love the way he plays football

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UPDATED:

22:18 GMT, 25 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

He is young, rich and famous — the undisputed No 1 for England and a Premier League champion, too. He’s got doting fans, a gorgeous girlfriend and has just become the promotional face of a major video gaming company, replacing Wayne Rooney, who was dropped after seven years to make room.

If there is a downside to being Manchester City’s blond, 6ft 4in goalkeeper Joe Hart at the moment, it is hard to spot.

And yet with all the adulation of being English football’s new golden boy comes responsibility, particularly in the aftermath of the Olympic Games, where the Premier League’s millionaire stars have been compared unfavourably to their humble, gold medal-winning counterparts.

Cover star: Joe Hart is one of the faces of the new computer game FIFA 13

Cover star: Joe Hart is one of the faces of the new computer game FIFA 13

Ahead of Sunday’s Premier League game against Liverpool at Anfield, where Hart can expect the usual amount of heckling and wind-ups from a vociferous home crowd, he accepts that the way he conducts himself — along with the other elite players in the game — will come under scrutiny.

‘It doesn’t change the way I am but I do totally understand how you’re looked at as a footballer, especially by children,’ he admits. ‘I don’t claim I can shape their lives, but there’s no harm in having good manners and being seen to play the game properly.

‘It’s not about putting on grand gestures or going out of the way to make yourself a role model, it’s just about conducting yourself in a good manner. I’ve always found that you can enjoy your life a lot more if you can get on with people. If I don’t get on with someone I don’t necessarily go out of my way to be best friends, but you learn as you grow up how to get on with people.

‘If crowds give you abuse there’s no point standing there and giving it them back, you just move on. You try to spend your energy on things that are positive.’

Flying high: Joe Hart's form helped City win the Premier League crown last season

Flying high: Joe Hart's form helped City win the Premier League crown last season

JOE HART ON…

… Sunday's big clash with Liverpool
They gave us a bit of a pounding last season and knocked us out of the Carling Cup semi-final. Liverpool would never struggle to get up for a game against us, and the 3-0 defeat at West Brom last week might motivate them even more.

…Team-mate Carlos Tevez
His situation has obviously changed from last season — because he's here for a start! The summer of 2011 was an uncertain time for him but that hasn't happened this time. He seems quite happy to be here when I speak to him. He’s still a quality player and he's hungry to play for us.

… His pal Andy Carroll
People don’t know him, they think he’s just some hooligan from up north. He is anything but — he's a gentleman. The (headed) goal he scored against Sweden at Euro 2012 was the goal I would love to score. Everything was perfect about it and that is what he can do.

Hart has already needed to heed some valuable lessons in his short career. City manager Roberto Mancini warned him about his future behaviour when a drinking session with team-mates was captured on video during a golfing trip to Scotland in 2010. Other pictures of Hart ‘enjoying’ himself on holiday by dancing on a bar also emerged.

‘There are plenty of downsides in life for anyone, including me,’ said Hart. ‘Everyone has their own personal worries. Everyone has normal families, with normal arguments. But in football things are going really well and that’s what I want to maintain. That’s one thing I can keep on top of.’

On the pitch, Hart’s career to date reads like Roy of the Rovers with gloves on. Post-David Seaman, English goalkeeping was in the doldrums when Stuart Pearce signed a teenage Hart from Shrewsbury for 700,000 in 2006.

When the club were bought by owners from Abu Dhabi, some of the world’s best players arrived and everyone else left, except for Hart and Micah Richards, who represented ‘old City’ in the FA Cup win in 2010 and last season’s never-to-be-forgotten Premier League title win, clinched by Sergio Aguero’s goal in the final minute of the season against QPR.

Hart lapped up the glory in the summer before going to Euro 2012. But now he’s looking ahead rather than back and last Sunday’s fright against Southampton, which City won 3-2 after falling behind, will have got rid of any cobwebs.

‘Winning the league again and more trophies has got to be the aim,’ he stresses. ‘It’s so quickly forgotten if you’re that team that win the Premier League only once.

Dream goal: Hart says he wished he had scored the type of goal that Andy Carroll did against Sweden at Euro 2012

Dream goal: Hart says he wished he had scored the type of goal that Andy Carroll did against Sweden at Euro 2012

New man: Hart says Carlos Tevez is a changed man and wants to be at Manchester City

New man: Hart says Carlos Tevez is a changed man and wants to be at Manchester City

‘No disrespect to Blackburn but that happened to them and they are not regarded as a Manchester United or an Arsenal. We’re obviously a good side at the moment. We’re very strong, but you need to build that legacy for the future.’

Hart’s most immediate test is at Anfield on Sunday against a Liverpool team who City beat only once in four attempts last season.

It’s a task he believes will be made easier if Anfield manager Brendan Rodgers once again leaves out his battering ram of a centre-forward Andy Carroll, Hart’s England team-mate from the summer in Poland and Ukraine.

Lions roar: Hart has established himself as the first choice goalkeeper for England

Lions roar: Hart has established himself as the first choice goalkeeper for England

‘I love Andy. I love the way he plays football,’ says Hart. ‘I love the way people don’t know him, they think he’s just some hooligan from up north. He is anything but, he’s a gentleman.

‘I have introduced him to my friends and they can’t get over what a good person he is. On the football pitch, he loves to get stuck in and give everything. He’s obviously got his issues at the moment with the manager at Liverpool, but that comes in football.

‘I’ve had times when I have had to look elsewhere and I’m sure that may happen in the future. At the moment it’s happening with Andy. If he starts or comes off the bench, you know you are in a game. If you speak to centre-halves, I don’t think they would want to play against him.

Winning the big one: Hart celebrates Sergio Aguero's winner against QPR to win the Premier League title

Winning the big one: Hart celebrates Sergio Aguero's winner against QPR to win the Premier League title

FIFA 13 cover

‘He might not please everyone but he is a hell of a good player and a hard player. I would back him to succeed whichever way it turns. If he stays at Liverpool, there is no reason why we can’t see him in that starting line-up and everything is resolved.’

Hart acknowledges defending set-pieces may be easier for City if the 35million striker is watching from the bench.
‘At corners, he comes steaming in from 10 yards back while I’m trying to keep someone else from pulling me to the floor. Yeah, he is a great player and a great asset for anyone who has him.’

At international level, Hart has won 22 caps, losing only once in a friendly against Holland under caretaker Pearce. It seems astonishing that only two years ago, Fabio Capello preferred David James to Hart as a starter at the World Cup. But, given the longevity of goalkeepers, Peter Shilton’s record of 125 caps could come under threat should Hart stay clear of serious injury.

‘It’s nice for people to say that. but I know from the inside how quickly things can change in football,’ said Hart. ‘I’m only where I am because someone else lost his place, so I’m fully aware that I need to play well to keep mine,’ he said.

‘Nothing is a given, especially given the standard in the two sides I play for. City want to be one of the best sides in Europe and England are one of the best international teams about.’

Watch Joe Hart unveiled as the UK cover star of EA SPORTS FIFA 13 at www.youtube.com/EASPORTSfootball. FIFA 13 is released on Friday, September 28 and can be pre-ordered NOW at www.game.co.uk

Norwich boss Chris Hughton wants to spoil Martin Jol"s opening day

I want to spoil opening day for my good friend Martin, admits Hughton

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UPDATED:

17:17 GMT, 17 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Norwich manager Chris Hughton admits he owes a debt of gratitude to Fulham boss Martin Jol, but will go all out to beat his good friend at Craven Cottage on Saturday.

Hughton worked alongside Jol during his spell in charge at Tottenham from 2004 to 2007, before then stepping up into managerial roles with Newcastle and Birmingham before Norwich came calling earlier this summer after Paul Lambert left for Aston Villa.

The 53-year-old has nothing but respect for Jol, who had spells at Hamburg and Ajax before coming back to the Premier League with Fulham in June 2011 after Mark Hughes' departure, guiding the west London club to ninth place.

However, that admiration will not stop Hughton aiming to get the Canaries off to a flying start and a first victory for his new club.

Making their day: Chris Hughton signs autographs during training

Making their day: Chris Hughton signs autographs during training

'I had three enjoyable years with Martin at Tottenham, working closely with him,' said Hughton. 'He was very successful, having two fifth-place finishes.

'I have also learned a lot from him, so he has played a very good part in where I am in this moment.

'You pick up about what it is to be a good manager. Martin is on the training pitch every day, tactically he is very good.

'He is great with the players, has high demands off them and wants to play the game in an attractive manner.

'Martin is a winner and has been successful wherever he has been.'

Looking forward: Martin Jol at a pre-season friendly between his Fuilham side and Wycombe

Looking forward: Martin Jol at a pre-season friendly between his Fuilham side and Wycombe

Hughton, though, will put that relationship to one side when kick off at the Cottage comes around.

'There are almost two sides to it, because I am a really good friend of his, but also a rival manager,' he added.

'When it came out we were playing Fulham on the first day, of course it is something you have a laugh and a quick joke about.

'But just because he is a good friend of mine does not make any difference – we will want to win and do well in the game against them as much as we will in any other game.'

With Lambert's departure, Norwich – who finished 12th last season following their promotion – have found themselves the pundits' favourites for the drop.

Hughton, though, will pay little attention to the doom mongers, having yesterday added former Manchester City left-back Javier Garrido to the club on a season-long loan from Lazio to supplement the summer arrivals of Steven Whittaker, Jacob Butterfield, Robert Snodgrass and Michael Turner into the Norfolk club.

'It is hard to avoid stuff, but everybody has their opinions. Maybe last season, everybody thought Norwich would struggle and that was not the case,' said Hughton.

Eye for goal: Orlando Sa scores for Fulham against Norwich last season

Eye for goal: Orlando Sa scores for Fulham against Norwich last season

'If you end up taking everything on board which you read and you see, then you would be permanently depressed.

'The overriding thing is you have to want to accept what the challenge is, and hopefully come through it.'

Hughton added: 'If we have had a good season, then that will be the answer to all the questions.

'All you can do is what you think is right – for us, that is about improving the quality we have within the squad, and preparing ourselves right for every game, keeping everybody level-headed – that means making sure you do not get too carried away with a good result and perhaps even more importantly you do not get too down with a bad result, because there are going to be some.

'The players will go into the season knowing how tough it is going to be, but you hope you can put things together to get enough good results.'

Stuart Broad: I had no involvement in parody Kevin Pietersen Twitter account

Broad says he had no involvement in Pietersen parody Twitter account

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UPDATED:

17:43 GMT, 14 August 2012

Stuart Broad has denied having any involvement in the parody Kevin Pietersen Twitter account after one of the Nottinghamshire all-rounder's friends came forward to accept responsibility on Monday night.

Richard Bailey alleges he was behind the spoof Twitter account – KP Genius – sending up Pietersen's personality in the third person, which was closed down after the England batsman was perturbed some of his team-mates followed it.

Denial: Stuart Broad has distanced himself from the fake 'KP genius' Twitter handle

Denial: Stuart Broad has distanced himself from the fake 'KP genius' Twitter handle

'Following last night's statement by Mr Richard Bailey that he was responsible for creating a parody Twitter account in Kevin Pietersen's name, I would like to confirm that I had no involvement in this whatsoever,' Broad said in an England and Wales Cricket Board statement.

The parody account was closed down last week and Bailey, who says he is from Nottingham and is better known by his handle of @Bailsthebadger, apologised for any offence caused and exonerated any professional cricketers from involvement.

Yet his friendship with Broad has been brought into question, prompting the 26-year-old to respond.

Angry: Kevin Pietersen was said to be furious at the account

Angry: Kevin Pietersen was said to be furious at the account

Broad added: 'I met with the managing director, England Cricket, Hugh Morris this morning and assured him that I did not play any role in the creation of this account or provide Mr Bailey with any information regarding Kevin Pietersen or the England team.

'As has been widely reported Mr Bailey is a friend of mine, but we had no conversations regarding this issue at all and I am pleased that he has now decided to close the parody account down.'

Morris added: 'Having discussed this matter with Stuart, I am fully satisfied that he acted in a professional manner at all times and did not breach any confidences regarding fellow England players.

'ECB also accepts the apology Mr Bailey offered last night to the England team via his Twitter account and his reassurances that no professional cricketers were involved in the creation of this site.'

Chris Coleman defends Ryan Shawcross move

Coleman stands up for his bid to bring Shawcross into Wales fold despite Ramsey rivalry

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UPDATED:

22:14 GMT, 14 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Chris Coleman has defended his decision to try and recruit Ryan Shawcross for Wales, despite the lukewarm reception it received from captain Aaron Ramsey.

The country's head coach was unrepentant on Tuesday as he stood by his decision while the Arsenal man claimed he was 'over' the tackle by Stoke City's defender two years ago which had placed his career in jeopardy due to a double fracture.

Coleman's side begins its qualification for the World Cup finals in Brazil next month and although he cannot fast-track Shawcross into the squad, he is keen to press ahead with October's fixtures in mind.

Option: Ryan Shawcross could soon be a new Wales star

Option: Ryan Shawcross could soon be a new Wales star

Coleman's predecessor, Gary Speed, also enquired about bringing the Potters' defender into the Wales fold. Two other approaches prior to that have also been re-buffed, as Shawcross was believed to be holding out for a call-up to the England squad.

But the Red Dragons' coach made no apology saying: 'The bottom line is that we want to go to Brazil. How are we going to do that

'Well, we need the best players we can possibly get our hands on. We need the best players and the strongest squad.

'Ryan is a Premier League centre-back and has been for two or three seasons in the toughest league in the world.

'I've not had a conversation with Ryan Before I do, I'll have another conversation with Aaron. He handled the first one in a mature manner.

'We know there's an issue there. But you don't have to like each other to play together.

Defence: Chris Coleman backed his Shawcross plans

Defence: Chris Coleman backed his Shawcross plans

WALES V BOSNIA

Predicted line-up: (4-3-3) Myhill, Matthews, Gunter, Williams, Taylor; Ramsey, Allen, Ledley; Bellamy, Morison, Bale.

Referee: M Borg (Malta)

'You have to have an edge. This is a group of men. I don't expect Aaron and Ryan are going to be best mates. As long as they respect each other and work hard for each other on the pitch, that's all that matters.'

Asked about the situation, Ramsey said: 'There isn't one. He's (Coleman) is the manager and he makes the decisions.

'I am the captain and I am a player. Ultimately, it's up to him.

'I'm over what has happened. And I've moved on. It's up to the manager to do what he feels is right for the team. It's his decision.'

But Ramsey confirmed that he and Shawcross had not been in contact since the centre-half's initial attempt to say sorry.

'I had a text off him straight after I done my leg but that's it,' he said.

On a more positive note, Coleman said he was delighted with the form shown by Gareth Bale in training.

He has not received any request from Spurs' boss Andre Villas-Boas to rest the winger and he looks certain to start against Bosnia in Llanelli.

Coleman added: 'Sometimes you see a player from afar and think he is good. But when you work with them, you see something more.

Unmoved: Aaron Ramsey neither backed nor criticised the plans

Unmoved: Aaron Ramsey neither backed nor criticised the plans

'In training, Gareth has done two or three things that took our breath away. (Ryan) Giggsy used to do it, but there have not been too many others.

'We would come away with Wales and Giggsy would do something and we would just laugh because we all knew he was on another level.

'We are in the presence of something similar, something special, with Gareth. Look at him, he's six foot plus, he's a racehorse, but he has this amazing ability as well.'

Coleman hopes that a good result at Parc-y-Scarlets, and a positive start to the qualifying effort, will bring supporters back to the national side in their droves and see the side return to playing at the Millennium Stadium.

He said: 'The quicker we start and the better we do in the first three or four games, then we can try and bring the Welsh public back.

'Ideally we will be playing at the Millennium Stadium in front of packed houses again sooner rather than later.

'That's what we want to get back to, but we only get back to that if we are successful, and we know that.'