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Sir Alex Ferguson hails Sam Allardyce before Manchester United v West Ham

'Tell me someone else who could have done that': Fergie hails Allardyce for remarkable West Ham turnaround ahead of Old Trafford clash

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UPDATED:

10:30 GMT, 27 November 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed 'underrated' West Ham manager Sam Allardyce before his Manchester United side welcome them to Old Trafford on Wednesday.

The Red Devils boss also blasted the Hammers man's critics, saying he was the only man who could have brought the side back to the Barclays Premier League so quickly after relegation.

Allardyce took over at the start of the 2011-12 season and drove the team to promotion from the Championship, via the play-offs.

Good job: Sir Alex Ferguson praised his old friend Sam Allardyce for his performance at West Ham

Good job: Sir Alex Ferguson praised his old friend Sam Allardyce for his performance at West Ham

West Ham sit eighth in the table with an impressive 19 points from 13 games but are in the middle of a tough run of games now.

'Big Sam went to Upton Park a year and a bit ago and the cynics said he’s not a West Ham manager as he doesn’t play football,' said Ferguson.

'What was his mandate To get them up into the Premier League as quickly as possible and he got them up within a year. Tell me someone else who could’ve done that

'He’s also had to rebuild the team and get two or three players out because of their salaries. He’s very underrated, it’s as simple as that. There’s a sort of impression about him being a certain type of manager.

'It’s not really fair and I’m pleased he’s back in the Premier League.'

Although Allardyce did well at Bolton his next two appointments were not as successful, at Newcastle and Blackburn.

However after the Lancashire side sacked Allardyce they took a rapid decline under Steve Kean and ended up getting relegated.

'The Blackburn situation was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen but I think Sam was more disappointed with what happened at Newcastle.

Solid: Allardyce (left) got West Ham promoted and is doing a good job in the top flight

Solid: Allardyce (left) got West Ham promoted and is doing a good job in the top flight

'He was unlucky that a new owner came in and wanted a certain type of manager. He didn’t get a chance in his first really big job with the expectation and fan base up there – he didn’t get a chance to do the job right.'

Although West Ham went down 3-1 away at Tottenham on Sunday there was a positive in that big target man Andy Carroll struck his first goal in a claret and blue shirt since joining on loan from Liverpool in the summer.

Much derided striker Carroll cost the Reds 35million in a deal scoffed at because of his failure to live up to the price tag.

Open for business: Andy Carroll scored his first West Ham goal on Sunday

Open for business: Andy Carroll scored his first West Ham goal on Sunday

'I think it’s up to the boy to improve himself,' said Ferguson. 'I think he only played something like a dozen games for Newcastle and then he had to deal with a 35m transfer to a club like Liverpool when he’s young. It’s quite a big jump for him you know.

'I’d certainly not sign that kind of player for that kind of money. We’ve gambled on young players in the past, maybe a couple of million or whatever, but when you get that level – 35m – you really have to do a bit more homework and see how he is in his second season maybe.

'It’s not a lot of games that he’s had. He’s a big lad, a great header of the ball, aggressive and is a big bugger. You know he’ll be a handful for defenders for us on Wednesday.'

Tim Cahill wants Everton return

Cahill plots January return to Everton after New York Red Bulls' season comes to an end

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UPDATED:

09:48 GMT, 20 November 2012

Tim Cahill wants to return to Everton on loan in January.

The Australian left Goodison Park in the summer to join MLS side New York Red Bulls but the forward is keen to stay active after the Bulls' season came to an end following defeat to DC United in the play-offs.

And the 32-year-old has made no secret of his desire to move back to the Premier League with the Toffees.

Move: Tim Cahill (left) joined the New York Red Bulls in the summer

Move: Tim Cahill (left) joined the New York Red Bulls in the summer

'I know I have a lot more to offer,' he said.

'The main thing is that I get to enjoy to MLS but I also get the chance of joining back up in the Premier League and playing in the best league in the world.

'There is no shadow of a doubt, I am eager to come back.

'Hopefully something can be done (with Everton). It would be nice but it is not down to me.

'I have to respect that sometimes the ship has sailed.'

Blast from the past: Cahill hopes to rejoin Everton in the January window

Blast from the past: Cahill hopes to rejoin Everton in the January window

Cahill has scored just once in 12 games for his new side and admits to keeping an eye on Everton's progress this season.

'I am so happy for Everton and nobody more than the chairman and manager whose rewards are starting to show,” he added. 'The biggest thing I miss is the derby.

'There are two great teams in one city and when I watch the derby it gives me goosebumps.'

Catalan Dragons 50 Bradford 26: Bulls playoff hopes end in France

Catalan Dragons 50 Bradford 26: Bulls playoff hopes end in France

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UPDATED:

16:44 GMT, 8 September 2012

Bradford`s gallant bid to make the Super League play-offs ended in France as a victory for the Catalan Dragons ensured Wakefield will finish in the top eight.

Having fought the odds all season owing to the off-the-field troubles at the club, Bradford went into today`s game knowing that because of a six-point deduction they had to win and hope Wakefield then lost at Salford.

Future in doubt: Bradford coach Mick Potter

Future in doubt: Bradford coach Mick Potter

However, with the Dragons running in 10 tries, Wakefield`s result became irrelevant, with Bradford`s plucky attempt coming to nothing.

Were it not for the deduction, issued to them after they entered administration in July, Bradford would have made the grade by some distance.

Their season is now over, though, and the focus will shift to the future of coach Mick Potter – who worked for free for two months after being made redundant – and a number of leading players.

Wakefield`s reward – barring a huge points difference swing – is a visit to Leeds next weekend, while the Catalans, fourth-placed finishers, will take on Wigan.

World Cup Brazil 2014: Your essential guide to qualifying

The Road to Brazil! Your essential guide to the European qualifying groups for the 2014 World Cup

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UPDATED:

10:25 GMT, 7 September 2012

From Reykjavik to Ta'Qali, Glasgow to Moscow, this weekend stadiums right across Europe will see 53 nations starting out on the road to the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

There are nine groups in all, with the group winners guaranteed automatic passage to South America. The eight runners-up with the best records will enter two-legged play-offs in November next year to determine the other four European qualifiers.

Here, Sportsmail takes a closer look at the nine qualifying groups.

Ones to beat: Every nation will be aiming to succeed Spain as world champions at Brazil 2014

Ones to beat: Every nation will be aiming to succeed Spain as world champions at Brazil 2014

GROUP A

Teams (FIFA World
Ranking): Croatia (9), Belgium (40), Serbia (42), Wales (45), Scotland
(47), FYR Macedonia (97)

Opening Fixtures: Croatia v FYR Macedonia (Zagreb, Friday 19:15); Wales
v Belgium (Cardiff, Friday 19:45);
Scotland v Serbia (Glasgow, Saturday 15:00)

Key fixture: Croatia
v Belgium (October 11, 2013) – The two favourites to qualify will meet in
Zagreb late in the group schedule and the match could well determine who will
progress to the finals in Brazil automatically and who will face the lottery of
the play-offs.

Favourites: Following
the (admittedly questionable) logic of the FIFA World Rankings, Croatia start
as favourites, though nothing can be taken for granted in a tight group with a
talented young Belgian side and two Home Nations determined to end long waits
to qualify for a major tournament.

Croatia have the upper hand in that they
reliably do make finals, the latest of which was Euro 2012 when they were
within a goal of reaching the quarter-finals from a tough group also featuring
Spain and Italy. However, new coach Igor Stimac, who replaced Slaven Bilic
after the Euros, cannot afford any early slip-ups.

Dreaming of Brazil: Nikica Jelavic, of Everton, scores in national colours for Croatia

Dreaming of Brazil: Nikica Jelavic, of Everton, scores in national colours for Croatia

Play-off
contenders: Belgium will push Croatia every inch of the way, as Marc
Wilmots and his ‘Golden Generation’ aim to end a major tournament drought
dating back to the 2002 World Cup. Belgian players are the flavour of the month
in the English Premier League at the moment, with summer arrivals Eden Hazard
and Jan Vertonghen joining established names like Vincent Kompany and Marouane
Fellani. The challenge now is to harness all this individual talent into an
effective team.

Star player: Eden
Hazard – Has made an electrifying start to his Chelsea career and, should
Belgium make it, would definitely grace the World Cup stage.

Young Star: Belgium's Eden Hazard challenges Wayne Rooney in a pre-Euro 2012 friendly with England

Young Star: Belgium's Eden Hazard challenges Wayne Rooney in a pre-Euro 2012 friendly with England

GROUP B

Teams (FIFA World
Ranking): Italy (6), Denmark (10), Czech Republic (19), Armenia (53), Bulgaria
(89), Malta (139)

Opening Fixtures: Malta
v Armenia (Ta’Qali, Friday 19:00); Bulgaria v Italy (Sofia, Friday 19:45);
Denmark v Czech Republic (Copenhagen, Saturday 19:15)

Key Fixture: Denmark
v Italy (October 11, 2013) – As with Group A, the two group favourites are to
meet in the penultimate round of fixtures.

Favourites:
Cesare Prandelli’s Italy embark on the road to Brazil with mixed feelings –
pride that a team who weren’t expected to sparkle reached the final of Euro
2012, and despair that this side were then taken apart by Spain. But with the
abundant attacking talent at their disposal, there will be no excuses for them
not to make it out of this group.

Play-off contenders:
Denmark held their own in the Group of Death at Euro 2012, beating a
lacklustre Netherlands and running Portugal and Germany close, so their tenth place
in the world rankings is no fluke. Morten Olsen has a strong squad to call on,
including Michael Krohn-Dehli, who did well at the Euros, and the up-and-coming
Ajax playmaker Christian Eriksen.

Star Player: Mario
Balotelli – Let’s be honest, the World Cup would not be the same without him.

Thunderbolt: Mario Balotelli scores his second goal against Germany in the Euro 2012 semi-final

Thunderbolt: Mario Balotelli scores his second goal against Germany in the Euro 2012 semi-final

GROUP C

Teams (FIFA World
Ranking): Germany (2), Sweden (18), Republic of Ireland (26), Austria (49),
Kazakhstan (142), Faroe Islands (154)

Opening Fixtures: Kazakhstan v Republic of Ireland
(Astana, Friday 16:00); Germany
v Faroe Islands (Hanover, Friday 19:45);

Key Fixture: Germany
v Republic of Ireland (October 11, 2013) – If the Republic of Ireland are still
in with any hope of qualifying, it’s likely they’ll have to get something from
this game in Cologne.

Favourites: Ten
wins from ten in Euro 2012 qualifying, three wins from three in the Group of
Death and a great performance against Greece in the quarter-finals – it was all
going so well for Germany until Italy unleashed Mario Balotelli. Joachim Low
still has the second best team in Europe and qualification campaigns are
usually a breeze for them, so they should make it with plenty to spare. In fact, it is a sign of Germany's ceaseless ambition that Low has been talking this week about overseeing a 'revolution' in their style of play – as if they're THAT bad…

Forward thinking: Germany coach Joachim Low has a new blueprint for the future

Forward thinking: Germany coach Joachim Low has a new blueprint for the future

Play-off contenders:
Sweden and the Republic of Ireland will vie for the play-off spot. Sweden’s
Euro 2012 finals fizzled out with defeats to Ukraine and England, while the
Irish will be keen for another taste of the big tournament action having made
many friends in Poland and Ukraine, despite some heavy defeats.

Star Player: Mesut
Ozil – German playmaker who continued to get better and better. Was a star
performer in both Germany’s qualification campaign and group stage matches at
Euro 2012.

GROUP D

Teams (FIFA World
Ranking): Netherlands (8), Turkey (35), Hungary (37), Estonia (55), Romania
(57), Andorra (199)

Opening Fixtures: Estonia v Romania (Tallinn, Friday 19:00); Andorra
v Hungary (Andorra La Vella, Friday 19:30); Netherlands v Turkey (Amsterdam,
Friday 19:30)

Key fixture: Turkey
v Netherlands (October 15, 2013) – The Dutch will hope to be through by this
final round of fixtures, but Turkey could be pushing for the play-off place.

Favourites: Most
certainly Holland, despite their atrocious Euro 2012. They should possess all
the class necessary to negotiate this group and qualify as winners with quite a
bit left. Coach Louis Van Gaal also has lots of strength in depth in all
positions within his squad.

Play-off
contenders: Looks like a straight shoot-out between Turkey and Hungary for
the play-off space. The Turks aren’t anywhere near as strong as some of their
teams in the recent past, but they have a greater hope of reaching a big
tournament than Hungary, who haven’t been at a World Cup since 1986. What’s
more, Holland scored nine goals past Hungary in the qualifying for Euro 2012.

Star Player: Robin
Van Persie – Part of a Dutch side packed with attacking class, Van Persie is
likely to be scoring plenty for his country and new club Manchester United.

Goal machine: Robin Van Persie, seen here with Scott Parker of England, will be integral to Holland's hopes of qualifying

Goal machine: Robin Van Persie, seen here with Scott Parker of England, will be integral to Holland's hopes of qualifying

GROUP E

Teams (FIFA World
Ranking): Switzerland (20), Slovenia (24), Norway (34), Albania (84),
Iceland (118), Cyprus (135)

Opening Fixtures: Slovenia v Switzerland (Ljubljana, Friday
19:30); Albania v Cyprus (Tirana, Friday 19:30); Iceland
v Norway (Reykjavik, Friday 19:45)

Key fixture: Norway
v Switzerland (September 10, 2013) – In a very open, if frankly uninspiring,
group, all the sides will be looking to take points off each other. Two of the
favourites to qualify meet in Oslo at the business end and this could go a long
way towards deciding the winner.

Favourites: Not
really much in it, but Switzerland will be hoping to make amends for failing to
reach Euro 2012, their first absence from a tournament finals since 2004.
Ottmar Hitzfeld leads a side full of reasonably familiar names, including Captain
Tranquillo Barnetta of Schalke, Gokhan Inler of Napoli, Xherdan Shaqiri of
Bayern Munich and the best known, Arsenal’s Johan Djourou.

Swiss role: Napoli's Gokhan Inler in action against England

Swiss role: Napoli's Gokhan Inler in action against England

Play-off
contenders: A toss-up between Norway, who are long overdue a finals
appearance, and Slovenia, who finished a disappointing fourth in qualifying for
Euro 2012.

Star player: Xherdan
Shaqiri – The Yugoslavian-born winger impressed with his performances for Basel
in recent years and was snapped up by Bayern Munich in the summer as they aim
to reclaim the Bundesliga title.

GROUP F

Teams (FIFA World
Ranking): Portugal (4), Russia (13), Israel (75), Luxembourg (106),
Azerbaijan (107), Northern Ireland (129)

Opening Fixtures: Russia
v Northern Ireland (Moscow, Friday 16:00); Azerbaijan v Israel (Baku, Friday 17:00); Luxembourg v Portugal (Luxembourg,
Friday 19:45)

Key fixtures: Russia
v Portugal (October 12, 2012) – Early in the schedule but could decide the
direction of the group.

Favourites: Has
to be Portugal who, inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo, got out of a difficult group
at Euro 2012 and matched Spain in the quarter-finals only to see their chances
dashed in a shoot-out. They had a few difficulties in qualifying for that
tournament but shouldn’t encounter too many problems in this group, especially
considering the wealth of attacking flair at coach Paolo Bento’s disposal.

Play-off
contenders: Second strongest in the group by some distance are Russia, who
will fancy their chances of getting to Brazil through the play-offs. They are,
of course, now guided by Fabio Capello, who never had many issues getting
England through the qualifying phase.

Star Player: Cristiano
Ronaldo – Who else (Assuming he sorts out his present unhappiness with life at
Real Madrid)

Penalty heartache: Cristiano Ronaldo looks on incredulous after Portugal are beaten by Spain in a Euro 2012 semi-final shoot-out

Penalty heartache: Cristiano Ronaldo looks on incredulous after Portugal are beaten by Spain in a Euro 2012 semi-final shoot-out

GROUP G

Teams (FIFA World
Ranking): Greece (11), Bosnia-Herzegovina (30), Slovakia (45), Latvia (94),
Lithuania (116), Liechtenstein (149)

Opening Fixtures: Liechtenstein
v Bosnia-Herzegovina (Vaduz, Friday 18:00); Lithuania v Slovakia (Vilnius,
Friday 19:15); Latvia v Greece (Riga, Friday 19:30)

Key fixture: Bosnia
v Greece (March 22, 2013) – Clash between the two group favourites mid-way through
the fixtures which could decide the group winner.

Hopes of a nation: Edin Dzeko will lead the line for Bosnia as they aim to qualify for their first tournament final

Hopes of a nation: Edin Dzeko will lead the line for Bosnia as they aim to qualify for their first tournament final

Favourites: Most
certainly Greece, who went above and beyond expectations at the Euros by
getting through their group only to be handed a footballing lesson by Germany. Off
the back of this, they’ve been drawn in a group which gives them every chance
of reaching Brazil despite not really having any stellar names.

Play-off
contenders: Likely to be Bosnia, who reached the same stage in the last
qualification cycle, only to be heavily beaten by Portugal. Will be determined
to make up for that disappointment by emerging from this weak group.

Star Player: Edin
Dzeko – Manchester City’s striker also
has a good international scoring record and will power Bosnia’s bid to qualify.

GROUP H

England, Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, San Marino

Click here for the full lowdown on England's opponents

GROUP I

Teams (FIFA World
Ranking): Spain (1), France (15), Belarus (76), Georgia (86), Finland (96)

Opening Fixtures: Georgia
v Belarus (Tbilisi, Friday 18:00); Finland v France (Helsinki, Friday 19:30)

Key fixture: France
v Spain (March 26, 2013) – Match in Paris will provide France’s biggest
opportunity of leapfrogging defending champions Spain to top spot

Favourites: Obviously
Spain, who have been imperious in their last three tournaments to the point
where you pity any side playing against them. With classy players right through
the side, and an excellent coach in Vicente Del Bosque, they should prove too
strong for France and the rest of the group will be a stroll.

Play-off
contenders: In any other group, France would probably be tipped to finish
top but the play-off berth has to be the target. They were beaten 2-0 by Spain
in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012. Still, with two fewer fixtures in this group than all the others and an expectation to gain maximum points from those against Belarus, Georgia and Finland, Didier Deschamps will expect to make the play-offs without drama. It then depends on who they meet there.

Star player: Andres Iniesta – You could choose a number of names from the Spain squad, but Iniesta was the best player at Euro 2012 and is the recently anointed European Player of the Year.

Euro Star: Andres Iniesta was crowned the best player in Europe last week

Euro Star: Andres Iniesta was crowned the best player in Europe last week

Stuart Pearce relaxed over England future

Pearce relaxed over England future as FA yet to open contract talks with Under 21 boss

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UPDATED:

22:52 GMT, 5 September 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Stuart Pearce is prepared to let his contract run down after insisting he is not concerned the FA have yet to open talks about a new deal.

The England Under 21 head coach has ten months left on the two-year term he signed in July 2011 and there is a sense that Pearce’s position has become vulnerable.

He is no longer involved in the senior set up and never went to Euro 2012 after Roy Hodgson appointed Ray Lewington and Gary Neville to be his assistants.

Another job Stuart Pearce took control of Team GB's football team at the 2012 Olympics

Another job Stuart Pearce took control of Team GB's football team at the 2012 Olympics

On his way Pearce aims to take the England Under 21s to the playoffs

On his way Pearce aims to take the England Under 21s to the playoffs

Pearce, though, is relaxed about the situation. His prime concern is for England to secure a spot in the play-offs for Euro 2013, which they will do if they win in Azerbaijan on Thursday and then follow up against main Group 8 rivals Norway in Chesterfield next Monday.

‘I will just wait for the tournament to finish to speak with my employers to say ‘what do you think’ what I think and (ask) are we both happy with how things are going’ explained Pearce, who has been the Under 21s head coach since 2007.

‘I can’t see (the time to talk) changing from my side or the FA’s side. Come next summer, if I am going into the tournament with only a month left on my contract, I won’t get itchy.

Out in the cold: Pearce is not part of Roy Hodgson's (right) back room staff in the England senior squad

Out in the cold: Pearce is not part of Roy Hodgson's (right) back room staff in the England senior squad

‘I am not that way inclined. We will let it run. If they are not happy with me, they will come and see me and we will get something organised accordingly.

'I’m fortunate. I’ve had fantastic support here, particularly from my back up staff. They are as good as I have worked with.’

Once this latest round of fixtures is over, Pearce is hopeful he will finally be able to get together Hodgson to build up a working relationship after the events of hectic summer.

‘Roy came to a couple of the games in the Olympics,’ said Pearce. ‘We have had a bit of dinner a couple of times to talk about the individuals I think will be helpful to him and the fixtures I feel where we will need to be strong.

‘We have not spent a deal of time together but that is not through not wanting to. It has just been the fact we have been involved with two different tournaments.’

Brief tenure: Pearce took control of the England senior squad after Fabio Capello left the post

Brief tenure: Pearce took control of the England senior squad after Fabio Capello left the post

Deutsche Bank Championship leaderboard: Live leaderboard

Deutsche Bank Championship leaderboard: Keep up to date with the latest scores

The FedEx Cup play-offs continue this week with the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston.

Webb Simpson took the title last year and you can keep track of all the latest scores right here.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LIVE LEADERBOARD

Defending champ: Webb Simpson won last year's Deutsche Bank Championship

Defending champ: Webb Simpson won last year's Deutsche Bank Championship

Huddersfield 12 Bradford 34

Huddersfield 12 Bradford 34: Gale stars as Bulls keep marching towards play-offs

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UPDATED:

16:44 GMT, 19 August 2012

Scrum-half Luke Gale kept cash-strapped Bradford in the hunt for the Stobart Super League play-offs by inspiring them to a third straight win.

Gale, at the heart of Bradford's attacking play, scored a first-half try and added three conversions to leave the Bulls 18-6 up at the break.

Karl Pryce touched down twice after the interval to give the Bulls some breathing room as Huddersfield lost for the first time in three matches.

Squeezed out: Bradford block off Eorl Crabtree

Squeezed out: Bradford block off Eorl Crabtree

Bradford, battling Hull KR and Wakefield for the final top eight spot, fell behind early on when ex-Bulls star Joe Wardle dived over from Greg Eden's pass.

The Bulls were unlucky with some neat moves, notably on 11 minutes when a defence-splitting pass bounced off the posts and to a Giants player.

But the match seemed to turn on 12 minutes when Huddersfield's Keith Mason was let off with a warning for retaliation.

He threw the ball into the face of an opponent, which seemed to make Bradford up their game and go into the break deservedly ahead.

A flowing move involving Gale and Heath L'Estrange saw Shaun Ainscough dive over from Pryce's final pass on 21 minutes.

Gale was also involved in the move which led to substitute Matt Diskin bagging a controversial try on 35 minutes.

Huddersfield complained about an obstruction in the build-up, but referee Thierry Alibert allowed play to carry on and the Bulls took full advantage.

Pryce and Brett Kearney then helped set up Gale under the posts on the hooter, with the former Harlequins RL star adding the extras.

Huddersfield, coached by former Bulls legend Paul Anderson, gave Bradford a bigger percentage of away ticket sales to help their survival battle.

It prompted a big turnout, with Bradford fans making up about a third of the 7,477 crowd.

The Giants, looking for the win which would confirm their own play-off berth, were nearly back in it on 59 minutes.

Scott Grix started a flowing move which ended with Leroy Cudjoe putting Jermaine McGillvary in for a try, only for it to be ruled out for a forward pass.

The influential Gale then kicked a 40-20 just seconds later, with Kearney capitalising from the tap-in with a brilliant solo try in the left corner.

Gale converted and was at again on 70 minutes when Pryce went over unchallenged to finish the contest with a 14-point individual haul.

Cudjoe scored a late converted consolation for Huddersfield, but Pryce had the last word on the hooter after an acrobatic pass from Elliott Whitehead.

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce eyes winning start against Aston Villa

Allardyce wants winning start from new boys West Ham against Lambert's Villa

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UPDATED:

12:49 GMT, 17 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

West Ham's Sam Allardyce is hopeful of getting Premier League life off to a winning start but insists his side will not take Aston Villa for granted.

The Hammers secured their return to the top flight via the play-offs last season, bouncing back at the first attempt after relegation under Avram Grant.

First up for the east Londoners are Villa and, while quietly confident of three points, Allardyce rejected the notion that the fixture is an easy one.

Hammer time: West Ham are looking to mark their return to the top-flight with a win over Aston Villa

Hammer time: West Ham are looking to mark their return to the top-flight with a win over Aston Villa

'Everybody thought that Cardiff City at home was a comfortable start last season and we got beat 1-0 in the last minute,' he said.

'I don't think there is any kind of comfortable start in the Premier League.

'I think there is a possibility that we can get off to a good start if we give a good performance.

'What we are looking for a good performance by our players and that might give us a chance to win the first game here at Upton Park at the start of a new Premier League season.

'I think we all need to be a little apprehensive, certainly myself because it doesn't matter how good or bad I think we are, I won't really know until we play Barclays Premier League games.'

While West Ham will be making their return to the top flight, the match will also mark Paul Lambert's first match at the Villa helm since leaving Norwich.

'I am expecting a pretty determined and well organised side,' Allardyce said.

Start me up: Sam Allardyce is wary of the threat Paul Lambert's Villa side will possess

Start me up: Sam Allardyce is wary of the threat Paul Lambert's Villa side will possess

'Paul's record in terms of moving into a new club and producing results almost immediately stands there in front of everybody.

'I think that he will get them playing a system that suits the players and playing the best they possibly can play.

'For us it's about making sure we are on top of our game because we're obviously playing a well-established Premier League side.

'While we have got some players with Premier League experience, it's been a year since we have been there.

'We are looking forward to getting back there and hopefully we can deliver in terms of expectations and, of course, try and win as many games as we can, starting with the first one.

'The first game is as important as the last game, and if you can win the first game it gets everybody off to a nice, pleasant start.

'You try and get three points in the bag and try and move forward.

'It builds the confidence of all the players at a club and it gets rid of any anxiety anybody may have, or at least reduce what they have of can they really reproduce in the Premier League and produce performances, as last time we were there we were relegated.'

Jack Collison will miss Saturday's opener after aggravating an existing knee injury towards the end of last season, which has seen him miss pre-season.

Fellow Wales international James Collins is fit to face his former club after a groin injury, but manager Allardyce revealed his summer signings from overseas, Alou Diarra and Modibo Maiga, will not start.

Liverpool 3 FK Gomel 0 (agg 4-0): Brendan Rodgers and Fabio Borini feel at home as Steven Gerrard hits 150

Liverpool 3 FK Gomel 0 (agg 4-0): New boys Rodgers and Borini feel at home as Gerrard hits 150

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UPDATED:

20:57 GMT, 9 August 2012

New signing Fabio Borini and captain Steve Gerrard scored in the first-half as Liverpool eased their way into the Europa League play-offs.

New boss Brendan Rodgers received a warm welcome from the Kop before his first competitive home game in charge.

And Liverpool, leading 1-0 from the first leg of the third qualifying round tie, doubled their advantage with Borini's 21st minute strike before Gerrard put the result beyond doubt by scoring his 150th goal for the Reds just before half-time.

Defender Glen Johnson added a third in the 72nd minute.

More to follow

Just Fab: Borini celebrates his early strike

Just Fab: Borini celebrates his early strike

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Nice one: New manager Brendan Rodgers celebrates

Nice one: New manager Brendan Rodgers celebrates

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Manchester United continue their pursuit of Tottenham target Moutinho

Manchester United continue their pursuit of Tottenham target Moutinho

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UPDATED:

21:58 GMT, 5 July 2012

Manchester United are continuing to monitor Porto midfielder and Tottenham target Joao Moutinho.

The Red Devils are understood to have opened talks with the Portuguese club over a deal for the attacking midfielder, who is rated in the 25million mark

After bringing Nick Powell and Shinji Kagawa to Old Trafford in the close season, Sir Alex Ferguson told MUTV earlier this week that he hopes to add two more faces – with Moutinho widely rumoured to be a top target.

In demand: United want Moutinho

In demand: United want Moutinho

'We're working on one or two things but there's nothing really to tell you to be honest.

'We always try to get our work done at the end of the season – we spent a good deal of time sorting the deal with Shinji and we'd agreed a deal with Nick Powell before the play-offs which was a good move by us because the boy had an outstanding final at Wembley.

'When you don't get deals done immediately and you're negotiating with a club over a long period, then you can't expect to just snap your fingers and get it done,' he said.