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David Beckham on Manchester United, Paul Scholes and leaving LA Galaxy

Beckham has the last word: Former England skipper talks about retirement, United and his dream to own a clubScholes retired too early, I won’t do thatClubs flash cash but United have historyI want to own a team not manage one…

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UPDATED:

08:28 GMT, 1 December 2012

Standing in the midst of a group of reporters with his back against a wall at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, David Beckham suddenly seems struck by his longevity as a footballer.

‘It’s amazing isn’t it’ he laughed. ‘Twenty years we’ve all been doing this. But I’m just thankful I’m still playing.

‘You guys are the same. You’re still reporting on games. You are probably thinking: “Oh sh*t, not again”. But this game never gets old for me. I never get tired of it.’

Still going strong: Beckham has made it clear that he wants to play on

Still going strong: Beckham has made it clear that he wants to play on

Still going strong: Beckham has made it clear that he wants to play on

Beckham

At 37, Beckham still hasn’t changed much. From Manchester to Madrid to Los Angeles (with a pit stop in Milan), Beckham’s career has been more eclectic than anybody would have imagined, but it’s clear the fire has not yet gone out.

He will play in the MLS Cup Final for LA Galaxy against Houston at lunchtime local time today – his final game for the club – and then quickly turn his head to stare down the next challenge.

Despite the aches and pains of an ageing athlete, retirement isn’t an option. Not yet. Events across the pond at Old Trafford in the first month of this year convinced him of that. ‘I saw what happened with Scholesy,’ he said, referring to Paul Scholes’s decision to reverse his retirement.

‘I plan to keep playing as long as I can because I know when Scholesy stepped away he came back and regretted stopping.

Old friends: Beckham in his United days with Scholes (centre) and Giggs (left)

Old friends: Beckham in his United days with Scholes (centre) and Giggs (left)

Old friends: Beckham in his United days with Scholes (centre) and Giggs (left)

‘You know when it’s time and obviously Scholesy realised it wasn’t his time at that moment and I’m the same. It’s not my time. It’s nice to see him and Giggsy still playing at Man U. They’ve had successful careers there and to see them playing like they do now is great. We grew up together and, like them, I want to play as long as my legs will take me.’

Thursday was pretty much ‘Beckham day’ at Galaxy training. A conditioning session in the Californian drizzle at 10am and then media commitments ahead of his final game after six seasons in the States. After all this time, he remains the MLS’s biggest media draw. They will miss him.

Beckham wasn’t due to speak to English journalists but, as usual, he found the extra time.

Although his plans were off limits, he did admit that he harbours ambitions to play in the Champions League again. ‘I think that because I always loved it,’ he said. ‘I still miss playing in it; they are the games you love playing in.

Centre of attention: Beckham took the time out to speak to English journalists

Centre of attention: Beckham took the time out to speak to English journalists

Beckham with a hat in training

‘We’ll see where I go next. If it’s a team that’s in the Champions League then it will be nice to be back. Wherever I’ve gone it’s been a big deal throughout my career. Whether it’s been going on loan to AC Milan or leaving Manchester United for Real Madrid or Real to here, it’s always been big news. This next move will be a move that is about the football. That has never been any different for me.

‘People say some of the moves have been about money but my answer is always the same, that my career has never been about money. I’m not money motivated, I just want to play for the best team and with the best players.’

It is remarkable to think it is almost a decade since Beckham left United.

‘I couldn’t have stayed, it wasn’t an option obviously,’ he said with a smile. Since that time, little has changed in England. United were top of the Premier League when he left and are top again ahead of this weekend’s games. ‘I’m not surprised by that, I don’t know why anybody is surprised by that,’ he said.

Up for the cup: Beckham will line up alongside Robbie Keane (right) for LA Galaxy for the last time

Up for the cup: Beckham will line up alongside Robbie Keane (right) for LA Galaxy for the last time

Up for the cup: Beckham will line up alongside Robbie Keane (right) for LA Galaxy for the last time

‘I’ve always said that money at football clubs is OK sometimes, but it doesn’t last forever. I think Manchester United are a club about history. Other clubs might have the money and might be able to pay players more but when Man United come calling it’s impossible to turn them down.

‘You see a player like Robin van Persie has spent the years he has at Arsenal but when Man United come knocking it’s impossible to say no. It doesn’t matter what other clubs are interested and what money is being thrown around.’

Beckham will one day take up an ambassadorial role at Old Trafford. ‘I’m sure that will happen in some way,’ he confirmed.

For now, though, he is looking forward to owning one of the MLS ‘development franchises’ (essentially one of the smaller, newer clubs) in the near future and keeping retirement at bay that little bit longer.

Mum's the word: Beckham did not discuss his future

Mum's the word: Beckham did not discuss his future

‘I wouldn’t say I’m scared of retiring,’ he said. ‘But I know I will miss it when I finish playing, of course. Every player and every professional person who walks away from a job misses it.

‘I’d like to be an owner because I don’t want to be a manager. Management has never interested me. I love playing and coaching but I would rather be an owner. In the MLS.’

Beckham is expected to spend Christmas in England. Indeed his wife Victoria and their four children have already left America for the UK.

It won’t be long before his next move becomes clear. Meanwhile he will have time to watch his best friend Gary Neville’s TV career blossoming.

‘He’s always loved to talk so it doesn’t surprise me,’ he laughed. ‘Sometimes he makes sense and sometimes you just have to ignore him.’

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Robbie Keane defends Giovanni Trapattoni

Players must take the blame, says Keane as Ireland skipper defends Trapattoni

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UPDATED:

22:33 GMT, 15 October 2012

He was sat next to the manager, so he didn’t really have any choice but to stand by him.

But while the defiant message from Giovanni Trapattoni was all about him, for captain Robbie Keane there is clearly a wider issue to address. Players’ Pride.

Keane was forced to sit in the stands in the Aviva Stadium on Friday night as his younger and more inexperienced team-mates were cruelly exposed to the lethal German machine and surrendered to record the worst result in Irish history.

Defiant: Keane addresses the media in Torshavn

Defiant: Keane addresses the media in Torshavn

On Monday, as part of his duties as captain, now he is fit again to reclaim the armband from John O’Shea, he was forced to sit on the top table in the Torsvollur Stadium and field repeated questions about his manager’s future.

For a man who is not renowned for his patience in the midst of such an intrusive media inquisition, Keane kept his cool and offered his support for the beleaguered man to his right, who somehow managed to smile throughout.

Asked if the players owed their manager a performance, and result, after Friday's debacle, the skipper said: 'Listen, everybody is in this together, of course we owe him. It’s clear to see and I don’t need to tell you the job he has done for the country.

'I think as players, we let ourselves down, we let our country down. And whether you are playing or not playing, we are all in this together.

'We are all going to be criticised together and it’s important that we all pay back together. Tomorrow, it will be interesting to see the separation of the men from the boys.

'It was not good enough on Friday and it’s important now that we stand up and be counted.

Mauling: Ireland were hit for six by Germany on Friday night

Mauling: Ireland were hit for six by Germany on Friday night

'As players you try to go out and do your best. The lads tried their best and it was not good enough. They know they let themselves down.

'Our main priority is Sweden and Austria. If we finish second, like we always try to do as we come up against teams who are superior to us – as happened last Friday.'

Ireland have returned to Torshavn, where the chill in the air is not just the maelstrom surrounding the Italian manager and his coaching staff.

There were torrential showers, bright sunshine and even a very little snow flurry during the day on Monday and when Ireland’s players finally took to the artificial pitch at six, the heavens really opened.

Of course little is known of the Faroes who suffered a late, and harsh defeat at the hands of Sweden here on Friday night.

Former Ireland boss Brian Kerr offered the Irish set-up his dossier on the Faroe players he managed in their last campaign and has warned anyone that will listen that this will not be a walkover.

Under pressure: Trapattoni (left) has had lots of questions to answer

Under pressure: Trapattoni (left) has had lots of questions to answer

But Keane, who of course played under Kerr many times, does not seem unduly concerned about the opposition, although he accepts Ireland should win and are expected to do so.

His interest, and that of the squad, is to make progress with a victory and put their World Cup campaign back on track. And to do it for themselves, the country, and the manager.

He added: 'We need a massive reaction. We have to have a massive reaction. When you lose in the manner that we did on Friday night, we have to.

'We are playing against a team where we are the favourites and we should win but it’s easier said than done.

'The players who are playing, the players on the bench and everybody involved has to stick together and try to rectify Friday night by getting a decent result.

'People probably expected us to be beaten by Germany but over the years the way we played against these big teams, it’s always been by one or two goals.

Pitch imperfect: Keane is not happy with the surface in Torshavn

Pitch imperfect: Keane is not happy with the surface in Torshavn

'But it was the manner in which we lost is why this game is even bigger. I think it’s a big test for everybody.

'Senior players like myself, John O'Shea and Keith Andrews, have been trying to rally the troops and trying the best we can to keep the spirit high because it's always tough when you lose a game in that manner.

'With the amount of young players we have, it's important that we get around them. We will see the reaction of the players tomorrow.'

Before going out to test his Achilles on the very spongy artificial surface, on which the collective Irish media had earlier had a laughable kickabout, Keane finished with another moan about the pitch, much to the consternation of the hosts, who have made significant investment, and improvements.

Keane said: 'I got an injection and at the moment it feels good but when you are playing on plastic pitches I'll be honest with you, you've probably heard me talking about it in America, they shouldn't be allowed in this day and age. I don’t think it's good for players but hopefully it holds up and I'm confident it will.'

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Corrie Sanders dies: Former heavyweight champion shot dead during robbery in South Africa

Klitschko conqueror Sanders shot dead during restaurant robbery in South Africa

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UPDATED:

11:02 GMT, 23 September 2012

South African heavyweight Corrie Sanders, who beat Wladimir Klitschko to win the WBO world title in 2003, has died after being shot during a robbery.

Sanders caused a major shock when he inflicted a second-round knockout defeat on Klitschko in Hanover nine years ago.

He gave up the belt later in the year and lost in eight rounds to the Ukrainian's brother Vitali Klitschko for the WBC title in Los Angeles in April 2004.

Tragedy: Corrie Sanders who beat Wladimir Klitschko in 2003 was shot dead in South Africa

Tragedy: Corrie Sanders who beat Wladimir Klitschko in 2003 was shot dead in South Africa

North West Police Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said that gunmen entered a restaurant in the town of Brits where 46-year-old Sanders was attending his nephew's birthday celebrations.

Brigadier Ngubane said: 'I can confirm Corrie and his family were celebrating his nephew's birthday, turning 21, and enjoying a meal last night. In the midst of the celebrations, at about 7.45pm in the evening, about three suspects came in.

Big win: Sanders knocked Klitschko down four times before a second round stoppage

Big win: Sanders knocked Klitschko down four times before a second round stoppage

'They were planning to commit an armed robbery.

'Then in the armed robbery they shot randomly. Corrie was shot in the hand and also the stomach.

'They fled with a digital camera and also a handbag of one of the people who was in the restaurant.'

Sanders was rushed to Kalafong hospital but died 'in the early hours of the morning', Brigadier Ngubane said.

There have been no arrests in the case, he added, but stated police are 'in hot pursuit'.

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Why I had to go: Captain classy Strauss bows out, saying he wasn"t up to it any more

Why I had to go: Captain classy Strauss bows out, saying he wasn't up to it any more

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UPDATED:

23:03 GMT, 29 August 2012

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It was apt in this Olympic year that Andrew Strauss should say he had ‘run his race’ when he took his leave from cricket.

There was to be no gold medal at the end of his very own marathon but nobody within the England cricket team has better embodied the Games ideal than their selfless, statesmanlike leader.

Strauss insisted it was his lack of runs, rather than the Kevin Pietersen text fiasco, that made him decide to go.

‘The driver of it all was my form with the bat,’ he said. ‘I haven’t played well enough for a long time now. For a captain to perform his role properly it’s important that he’s not a passenger and also that people are not speculating as to whether he should be in the side. I knew I wasn’t going to improve. I’ve run my race.’

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Time to declare: Andrew Strauss announced his retirement from all forms of the game at Lord's

Time to declare: Andrew Strauss announced his retirement from all forms of the game at Lord's

Relaxed mood: Strauss spoke with his usual calmness and assurance

Relaxed mood: Strauss spoke with his usual calmness and assurance

Strauss inherited the England captaincy in the midst of a crisis involving Pietersen and he leaves it three-and-a-half years later amid more KP-induced turmoil but this retirement from all cricket has little to do with the debilitating effects of that particular wheel turning full circle.

Sandwiched between the two Pietersen affairs has come a truly golden period in which Strauss became one of England’s most successful captains.

There have been home and away Ashes successes and the high of thrashing India to go top of the world last year, but Strauss’s powers have been on the wane since then and he has acted now to try to make sure his side’s concurrent slide can be arrested. As ever, he put the interests of Team England first.

‘It hasn’t occurred overnight,’ said Strauss as he sat between his boss Hugh Morris and his successor Alastair Cook at Lord’s.

A class act: Strauss takes the plaudits after retaining the Ashes in Melbourne

A class act: Strauss takes the plaudits after retaining the Ashes in
Melbourne and took England to No 1 in the Test rankings (below) after a 4-0 whitewash of India

A summer of strain on and off the field has contributed to Strauss's decision

A summer of strain on and off the field has contributed to Strauss's decision

‘It’s been a feeling that has grown in
the last six to 12 months and in the last few weeks it has become
apparent that this is the right time. I wanted to go on my own terms
with my head held high. This is the best time to do that. You just feel
it in your heart.’

Perhaps we should have seen this coming. Perhaps we should have realised a 2-0 defeat by South Africa coupled with a batting average of 17 from three Tests for the 35-year-old added up to the end. After all, that captain slayer Graeme Smith was in charge of the opposition and both Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan will tell you what happens when he is in town.

It was just that with Pietersen left out for disciplinary reasons and England wobbling all year, Strauss’s calm hand on the tiller seemed to be needed more than ever in India this winter. That this news came as a shock said everything about how, as Cook said, you can take some people for granted.

‘I go out with absolutely no regrets,’ insisted Strauss. ‘I’ve achieved a lot more than I thought I would. That makes me feel very proud and honoured. I like to feel I played the game in the right way and adhered to my principles. If people remember me for that I’ll be very happy.

Loss of form: Strauss has struggled with the bat in recent years

Loss of form: Strauss has struggled with the bat in recent years, averaging 17.83 against South Africa

Out of form: Strauss averaged 17.83 with the bat against South Africa
Strauss stat zone

24: Tests won as captain by Strauss out of 50. Only Michael Vaughan, with 26 victories in 51 Tests, has won more games as captain of England.

169: His top score in 85 innings as captain, against West Indies at St John’s, Antigua, in February 2009.

1,421: Test runs against Australia, more than he made against any other team (next best 1,408 against West Indies).

40.76: Strauss’s batting average as captain, almost identical to his overall Test average of 40.91.

100: Test caps won by Strauss, placing him joint-eighth on England’s all-time list with Graham Thorpe. Alec Stewart tops the list on 133.

6: Of his 21 Test hundreds were scored against West Indies, his favourite opponents. He didn’t manage a ton against Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.

11: Tests lost as captain, six of them in 2012 alone.

‘The last week or two haven’t been ideal but I like to think I’ve gone out at a good time. We may have lost that final Test but I’ve never been prouder of an England team. The way they played at Lord’s after all the distractions, the way they stuck together and the resolve and fight everyone showed was a fantastic way for me to go out. The players kindly got me a hundred bottles of wine for my 100th Test and I think they will furnish me very well in my retirement.’

There was a smile from Strauss but enormous sadness among all present. It did not quite end literally in tears, as it did for Hussain at Edgbaston and Vaughan at Loughborough, but there were plenty of metaphorical ones and a large elephant in the ECB rooms in the form of Pietersen. Has he ultimately driven his captain out of office with his ‘provocative’ texts about Strauss to South African players and his disloyal behaviour at Headingley

‘No, not in any way,’ insisted
Strauss. ‘I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I first spoke to
(coach) Andy Flower about it before the whole business reared its head.
It hasn’t been a consideration. What happened hasn’t undermined me in
the eyes of the team. It has been a difficult thing to deal with but
nothing that has made me more or less inclined to lead the side forward.
I knew my time was up probably before the South African series and
certainly by the end of it I knew it was time to go.’

Strauss
eventually made up his mind while on holiday with his family in the
aftermath of the Lord’s Test. He pulled out of Middlesex’s match at
Worcester on Monday night and then informed all at the ECB on Tuesday.
Significantly, there were no attempts by Flower nor anyone else to
change his mind.

Winning team: Strauss with England team director Andy Flower

Winning team: Strauss with England team director Andy Flower

There seems to be a four-year cycle for England captains, apart from Pietersen, and Strauss has pretty much reached the end of his.

The players were all informed, rather quaintly, in the form of letters hand-written by Strauss and given to them after they had lost to South Africa at the Ageas Bowl. He is yet to speak to them all personally about his decision but he will do. No texts, provocative or otherwise, nor emails for the England captain. He is not that sort of bloke.

‘It’s a hugely sad moment, saying
goodbye to team-mates and, in particular, Andy Flower, who has been a
great support for me and has taken the side forward in so many ways,’
said Strauss. ‘But it’s time for the team to refresh and think about how
best to regain that No 1 ranking. This is a great way for us to be able
to do that. If people still think I should be part of the side then
that validates my decision. I would have hated to have outstayed my
welcome.’

He was never
likely to do that. While Strauss goes off to spend time with his young
family, gets his golf handicap down and decides what to do next — the
smart money is on cricket administration but not commentary — England
must get ready for India and solve the Pietersen dilemma without the man
unwittingly at the centre of the row.

Doubling up: Strauss made a century in each innings in Chennai in 2008

Doubling up: Strauss made a century
in each innings in Chennai in 2008

‘Nothing has changed with Kevin,’ said Strauss. ‘There is a process to go through and it’s not going to happen overnight.’

So how would he advise Cook to deal with, shall we say, difficult individuals

‘I’m not going to answer that one directly in case it’s interpreted as being about a certain individual,’ said Strauss with a smile.

‘My advice to Alastair is to savour and enjoy the challenge of captaining your country. Throw yourself into it with everything you’ve got and have no regrets. I’ve got every confidence that’s what Alastair will do.’

New era: Strauss passes on the baton to Cook for the visit to India

New era: Strauss passes on the baton to Alastair Cook for the visit to India

Captain Cook: England's new Test captain was unveiled on Wednesday
Short and tweet

Michael Vaughan @VaughanCricket

Can’t believe Straussy didn’t Cry….. Lol

Phil Neville @fizzer18

Sad to c Strauss retire-didn’t c that coming at all been a great captain that’s for sure handled himself with class!!

Jonathan Agnew @Aggerscricket

Always feel sorry for the successor on days like this. Touch of ‘the King is dead, long live the King.’ And Cook faces a huge challenge now

Stuart Broad @StuartBroad8
Awesome guy, great leader, dependable batsman and a solid 1 slip catcher. Cheers Straussy you’ll be playing scratch golf within a year…
…Best Straussy knock for me was his 100 on the 1st day of the Ashes Test at Lords, allowed us bowlers to have a massive lunch!

Matthew Hoggard @Hoggy602

Andrew Strauss has been a fantastic servant to the game of cricket I am lucky to have played with him and one game with him as captain

Both Morris and Cook talked about dealing with the Pietersen issue ‘behind closed doors’, with the next step being talks between the batsman, Morris and Flower and it is clear that there is no softening of England’s hardline stance. If anything attitudes may have hardened, particularly among the players who will undoubtedly believe Pietersen may have played a part in the departure of the captain they held in such high regard.

Only pragmatism might save the errant star because without both him and Strauss, England’s top order is going to look mightily inexperienced when faced with the enormous challenge of taking on India in their own conditions.

It could easily be argued that England’s hopes of winning on the sub-continent may depend on somehow re-integrating Pietersen into a dressing room that remains openly hostile towards him.
Jonathan Trott may be promoted to open the batting alongside Cook but that would leave another gap in a middle order that already contains young players in Jonny Bairstow and James Taylor.

Yorkshire’s highly promising Joe Root has long been considered Strauss’s eventual successor but will England throw him into the deep end that India represents

Saga: Strauss and Kevin Pietersen (above left) have dominated the headlines of late

Saga: Strauss and Kevin Pietersen (above left) have dominated the headlines of late

Then there are the question marks over the fitness of Graeme Swann, who was left out of the remaining three one-day internationals against South Africa to rest his chronic elbow problem ahead of the World Twenty20. He will be replaced for now by James Tredwell but Swann, who will surely need another operation on that right elbow soon, is integral to England’s chances of thriving in India and beyond with a four-man attack. Over to you, captain Cook.

At least the new Test leader will have the enormous presence of Flower alongside him to drive the rebuilding process because Morris moved quickly to reassure everyone that the team director is in no hurry to follow Strauss out of the exit door.

‘Andy Flower still has enormous energy and enthusiasm for the job,’ said Morris, managing director of Team England. ‘He’s very excited about the challenges ahead over the next two or three years. Andy is fully committed to that. He’s really looking forward to working with Alastair with the Test team.’

Flower will have to do that, though, without the man who he has worked so well and so productively with since the beginning of 2009. The Flower-Strauss combo proved to be a cricketing marriage made in heaven and only time will tell whether he can truly have the same chemistry with Cook.

Debut ton: Strauss celebrates his century at Lord's in 2004

Debut ton: Strauss celebrates his century against New Zealand at Lord's in 2004

Iconic moment: Andrew Strauss catches Adam Gilchrist off Andrew Flintoff at Trent Bridge in 2005, in what became one of the defining moments of an epic series

Iconic moment: Strauss catches Adam Gilchrist off Andrew Flintoff at Trent Bridge in 2005, in what became one of the defining moments of an epic series

There was a round of applause from the media when Strauss left his final press conference — we hacks are usually too cynical for that sort of thing — and he was heard to say ‘well done mate’ to Cook as the pair disappeared from view.

The new captain is not as comfortable in the public eye as the outgoing leader and Strauss, a team man to the last, recognised that in giving him a pat on the back for his debut performance.

A cricketing statesman and a batsman good enough to score more than 7,000 runs and 21 Test centuries over 100 appearances, 50 of them as captain. Yes, Andrew Strauss will be missed, but the timing of his departure is perfect.

VIDEO: Andrew Strauss announces his retirement…

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Mark Hughes says Roy Hodgson"s England appointment could relegate QPR

That could send us down! Hughes' fury over early England appointment

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UPDATED:

16:20 GMT, 4 May 2012

QPR manager Mark Hughes believes the Football Association's decision to appoint Roy Hodgson as England boss in the midst of the relegation run-in could see his side get relegated.

The 64-year-old was named as Fabio Capello's successor on Tuesday, but will remain in charge of West Brom for the final two games of the Premier League season.

The Baggies' first match since the news broke will be Sunday's trip to Bolton, who sit in the relegation zone on goal difference.

New boy: Roy Hodgson's early appointment as England boss has annoyed Mark Hughes

New boy: Roy Hodgson's early appointment as England boss has annoyed Mark Hughes

QPR are level on points and in the place immediately above them and manager Hughes, while happy for Hodgson, is unhappy with the timing of the announcement.

'It is a great opportunity for Roy and I am really pleased for him,' the Welshman said ahead of the Hoops' match with Stoke.

'He has paid his dues, had a fantastic managerial career and I am sure he will do exceptionally well.

'I was a little bit disappointed that it came out this week.

'I felt people could have possibly kept it under wraps until all the league games were out of the way and all the issues that needed to be concluded were finalised.

'But that hasn't been the case, it has come out early and I hope that it won't have an impact on West Brom's performance.

Disappointed: Hughes (right) wishes the FA had waited to appoint Roy Hodgson until the end of the season

Disappointed: Hughes (right) wishes the FA had waited to appoint Roy Hodgson until the end of the season

'I would like to think they will go and work exceptionally hard for their manager, who has done a fantastic job for them and I am sure they will.'

Asked if he thought Bolton would have a slight advantage as a result, Hughes added: 'Well, you don't know until the game takes place.

'As a home side, you would anticipate that they would feel it is a big opportunity for them as we do being the home side in our fixture.

'It is about getting the job done yourself and we can't worry too much about what everybody else is doing at this point.

'If we get three points at the weekend, we will have done our job and can look ahead to the Man City game.'

While focusing on victory against the Potters, Hughes admits he did sit down to watch Wanderers' clash with Tottenham earlier in the week.

Ringmaster: Hodgson will try and get the Three Lions to put on a show at Euro 2012

Ringmaster: Hodgson will try and get the Three Lions to put on a show at Euro 2012

The match was Bolton's game in hand on their relegation rivals but the Reebok Stadium clash ended 4-1 to the visitors.

'I put myself through that,' Hughes said. 'I think everybody at this time of the season deals with it in different ways.

'I was of the view that I needed to sit through it and take it in and deal with it.

'From our point of view, had Bolton won that game it would have made it more difficult for us.

'But that didn't happen so we've got somewhat of a lift as a consequence and that obviously helps to make the game on Sunday so huge.'

QPR will have to wait to see whether Samba Diakite has recovered well enough from a virus to feature against Stoke, although Adel Taarabt returns after suspension.

Return: Adel Taarabt will be fit to play

Return: Adel Taarabt will be fit to play

The Morocco international missed last week's 6-1 thrashing at west London rivals Chelsea – a result the Hughes insists has been put behind them.

'I could have had a real inquest on it and gone over every goal and picked out every fault but I would have been there for quite some time,' Hughes said.

'I took the view to draw a line under it and accept that on the day we were not good enough to win that game.

'We can do absolutely nothing to rectify the Chelsea game so in a way it is a relief that the game is out of the way so we can focus on this one because that is very much our priority now.'

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Bahrain Grand Prix 2012: Force India caught up in petrol-bomb attack

Force India caught up in petrol-bomb attack as fears over troubled Bahrain race escalate

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UPDATED:

09:01 GMT, 19 April 2012

Fears over this weekend's troubled Bahrain Grand Prix intensified on Wednesday night after British-based team Force India was caught up in a petrol-bomb attack.

A crew from the Formula One team, who are based at Silverstone, was traveling back from the circuit to their hotel in Manama when the ordeal occurred.

Up in smoke: Bahrain is in the midst of social unrest

Up in smoke: Bahrain is in the midst of social unrest

The team was forced to take an alternative route back to their base, with 40 cars involved in the incident, and reports of at least one on fire.

Although nobody was injured, a shaken member of the Force India team will leave the Gulf kingdom as a direct result of last night's drama.

'One of our vehicles was momentarily caught up in some disruption on the way back from the circuit last night', a Sahara Force India spokesman told Sportsmail.

Star: Scottish driver Paul di Resta (left) races for the Silverstone-based team

Star: Scottish driver Paul di Resta (left) races for the Silverstone-based team

'Our van was not the target but arrived on the scene on one of the main highways.

'Within a few minutes the traffic continued moving and the van returned to the hotel. 'Everyone in the van is okay.'

Meanwhile, Bahrain International Circuit chairman Zayed R Alzayani, who earlier this week compared the political unrest in Bahrain to that of the London riots, moved to play down the incident.

'It was an isolated incident, and my wife was involved too,' he said.

'The protestors were not targeting the cars, they just happened to be there. Nobody was injured.

'I don't command the police; they know what to do better than I do. I have a race to run.'

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Demba Ba will overcome blip, says Alan Pardew

Misfiring Ba will be back among the goals soon, insists Toon boss Pardew

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UPDATED:

16:33 GMT, 12 April 2012

Alan Pardew is confident striker Demba Ba will rediscover his touch in front of goal after finding himself in the midst of an uncharacteristic drought.

The Senegal international followed up his seven goals in 12 Barclays Premier League appearances for West Ham with 16 for his new club by the first week of February either side of an ill-fated trip to the African Nations Cup.

However, Ba has not scored in his last nine games, while compatriot Papiss Cisse cannot stop and took his tally to a remarkable 10 in the same number of outings in Sunday's 2-0 victory over Bolton.

Bad times: Ba has struggled to find the net in his last nine games

Bad times: Ba has struggled to find the net in his last nine games

But Pardew still believes in Ba and said: 'The first goal at West Brom, Demba must have been a centimetre away from scoring, and when Cisse scored the second goal, he was actually fouled as he was going to score and it fell to Cisse, so he has been a little bit unlucky.

'But he is on penalties, he will be in and around the free-kicks and he is working as hard as he has always worked.

'He is in great form, there's no lack of confidence. His goal will come and then this will all be forgotten.'

Ba's lean spell is due in part to the formation Pardew has employed in recent weeks with the striker playing on the left side of an attacking trio with Cisse in the middle and the in-form Hatem Ben Arfa on the right.

His on-field relationship with January signing Cisse in particular is blossoming and Pardew could hardly be more pleased.

However, Ba was clearly unhappy at being replaced by Shola Ameobi, who went on to provide the cross from which Cisse found the back of the net yet again, 64 minutes into the Bolton game.

Pardew later revealed that it was always his intention to introduce Ameobi as the busy Easter programme drew to a close, and that either Ba or Cisse would be withdrawn.

He said: 'One of those two was definitely coming off and on this occasion, it was Demba.

Red-hot: In-form Papa Cisse can't stop scoring for Newcastle

Red-hot: In-form Papa Cisse can't stop scoring for Newcastle

'But on another occasion, it will be Papiss, and Demba is big enough and strong enough and bold enough to deal with that.

'Hopefully against Stoke, he gets the winning goal.'

The Potters' visit to Tyneside comes next Saturday with Chelsea's participation in the FA Cup semi-finals meaning the Magpies have no fixture this weekend.

They will head into it on the back of a five-game winning run which has taken them into fifth place in the table and level on points with Tottenham.

That has given them a chance of an unlikely bid for Champions League qualification, and they appear to be timing their run perfectly with their key players in good form.

Pardew said: 'Our front line is in great form. Even Shola, who isn't getting a start at the moment, every time he comes on, he looks like he should start.

'Shola, Demba, Cisse, Ben Arfa – and you could put [Yohan] Cabaye in that group as well – they are all in really, really good form.'

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Arsene Wenger is irreplaceable – Harry Redknapp

Wenger is irreplaceable, claims Redknapp on eve of derby

By
Sami Mokbel

Last updated at 12:42 AM on 25th February 2012

Harry Redknapp has warned moaning Arsenal fans to be careful what they wish for.

Tottenham go into Sunday's north London derby 10 points ahead of their bitter local rivals and for the first time in recent memory recognised as the capital's top club.

Below par: Arsenal go into Sunday's derby 10 points adrift of their rivals

Below par: Arsenal go into Sunday's derby 10 points adrift of their rivals

In contrast, Arsenal are in the midst of a below-par season, virtually resigned to a seventh consecutive trophyless campaign and in danger of losing their Champions League status.

The Gunners' disappointing year has left growing sections of supporters questioning whether Arsene Wenger is still the right man to lead the club.

Support: Redknapp believes Arsenal would be a weaker club without Wenger at the helm

Support: Redknapp believes Arsenal would be a weaker club without Wenger

But Redknapp insists the under-fire manager is irreplaceable, he said: 'Should Arsenal fans be careful what they wish for Without a doubt.They have had fantastic times. Fifteen years of Champions League football. It's incredible.

'They can't do any better than what they've got, can they Arsenal They can't replace Wenger. He has been amazing the job he has done there.

Momentum: Tottenham will travel to the Emirates as the favourites

Momentum: Tottenham will travel to the Emirates as the favourites

'Having said that, let's hope we can make it a miserable weekend for them.

'You say they've had a rough patch but they are still bang there. By their standards, yes, but you have to look at all the circumstances of what they've been through this year.

Victory at the Emirates will go a long way towards confirming Spurs' position as London's finest.

Redknapp said: 'It's the most important thing this year to be honest, finishing top club in London. I really want to be top London club and at least keep that third place if we can – anything above that is a bonus.'

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Matthew Upson"s move to Shanghai Shenhua faces delay

Pulis may delay Upson's Chinese take-away after failure to overturn Huth's red card

Matthew Upson's proposed move to Shanghai Shenhua may be put on hold after Stoke City failed to have Robert Huth’s red card overturned.

The England defender had opened talks with the Chinese Super League club who signed former Chelsea forward Nicolas Anelka last month.

But manager Tony Pulis seems set to keep Upson, 32, in the short term at least as Stoke are fighting to progress in three competitions and will be without Huth for three matches following his sending-off against Sunderland at the weekend.

Staying... for now: Upson will remain a Stoke player for the short term

Staying… for now: Upson will remain a Stoke player for the short term

Along with fixtures in the Barclays Premier League, Stoke face Valencia in the Europa League and a tricky FA Cup fifth-round tie against Crawley.

The Chinese club begin their season in three weeks and have described themselves as being ‘in the midst of discussions’ over the proposed move.

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Darren Bent and Laurent Koscielny: Picture of the week by Andy Hooper

Andy Hooper: My favourite image of the week… Darren Bent and Laurent Koscielny

Every
Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Sportsmail's top snappers Andy Hooper,
Graham Chadwick and Kevin Quigley will be showcasing their favourite
image of the week.

Here, Andy chooses this capture of Darren Bent and Laurent Koscielny as his standout selection…

Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny grabs the shirt of Aston Villa’s Darren Bent as he tries to run through on goal during the frenetic FA Cup fourth round tie on Sunday.

Among all the goals and celebrations, there are always personal battles to be won and this image shows Bent and Koscielny in the midst of theirs.

Andy used: Nikon D3, Lens 400mm, Exposure 1/800th of a second, F2.8, ISO 1250

Darren Bent and Laurent Koscielny