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Wolves 0 Peterborough 3 – Match report

Wolves 0 Peterborough 3: Three and easy for Posh as they move towards safety

PUBLISHED:

17:37 GMT, 26 December 2012

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UPDATED:

17:37 GMT, 26 December 2012

Peterborough made it three momentous wins on the bounce as Wolves joined Cardiff and Bolton on the growing list of recent sides slayed by resurgent Posh.

Goals from Lee Tomlin, Tommy Rowe and Dwight Gayle did the damage as Darren Ferguson's side received the perfect Christmas present by lifting themselves off the foot of the npower Championship.

Wolves boss Stale Solbakken named Bjorn Sigurdarson on the bench following a thigh injury, but defender Georg Margreitter (hamstring) was again sidelined following another setback on the road to recovery.

Winning feeling: Tommy Rowe celebrates after scoring his goal as Peterborough edge towards another three points

Winning feeling: Tommy Rowe celebrates after scoring his goal as Peterborough edge towards another three points

Match facts

Wolverhampton: Ikeme, Foley, Johnson, Berra, Ward (Sigurdarson 46), Pennant (Davis 76), Henry, Doumbia, Sako,Ebanks-Blake (O'Hara 76), Doyle.

Subs Not Used: De Vries, Stearman, Batth, Forde.

Booked: Pennant.

Peterborough: Olejnik, Knight-Percival, Zakuani, Bostwick, Little, Newell (Ferdinand 81), Boyd, Thorne (McCann 86), Rowe, Tomlin (Swanson 81),Gayle.

Subs Not Used: Day, Alcock, Brisley, Kearns.

Goals: Tomlin 17, Rowe 43, Gayle 69.

Attendance: 23,033

Referee: Mark Heywood

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And it was the hosts who showed the early intent when an outswinging corner from Jermaine Pennant after five minutes was met by Roger Johnson and his header was smartly tipped over by Posh keeper Robert Olejnik.

At the other end, Carl Ikeme in the Wolves goal had to be alert to turn away a 12-yard effort from Gayle as Ferguson's side showed their own attacking inclinations.

It had turned into a full-blooded festive encounter with no quarter given by either side in the hunt for crucial Championship points.

And having weathered the early Wolves storm, the visitors took the lead after 17 minutes through Tomlin.

Joe Newell provided the opportunity and when his cross from the left was not dealt with, in nipped Tomlin to strike home his eighth of the campaign from 12 yards.

It could have got worse for the hosts three minutes later but George Boyd cleared the bar when well placed inside the penalty box.

Christmas cheer: Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson saw his side win again

Christmas cheer: Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson saw his side win again

Kevin Doyle was then ideally placed to net an equaliser but Olejnik denied the striker from only six yards.

Pennant fired over with a free-kick as Wolves looked to get back on terms before the break, but Ferguson would have been impressed with his side's application in the opening half.

Solid in defence, Posh also looked potent on the break and seven minutes from the interval, Newell had the chance of adding a second before a well-timed block by Johnson got in the way of his 18-yard effort.

Doyle twice went close to levelling, while Stephen Ward saw his effort parried by Olejnik as the half-time whistle approached and the visitors rode their luck.

But a sucker punch at the other end of the field doubled Peterborough's lead after 43 minutes. This time Boyd was the provider, Rowe finishing with aplomb from 20 yards.

Ward was replaced by Sigurdarson as the second half began, with Wolves well aware the next goal was crucial.

Pennant went close again for the home side, but it was Peterborough's day and after 69 minutes Mark Little's cross was met by Gayle to make it 3-0 and secure another valuable victory for Posh.

Newcastle 1 QPR 0: Match report

Newcastle 1 QPR 0: Shola strikes to ruin Redknapp's run as Toon leave it late to take points

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UPDATED:

17:16 GMT, 22 December 2012

Local hero Shola Ameobi came off the bench to hand Newcastle a welcome three points and manager Alan Pardew the perfect Christmas present.

The 31-year-old striker produced an assured 81st-minute finish just as it looked as though the Magpies would have to settle for a draw in a game they knew was a must-win affair.

It was no more than they deserved on a day when they dominated throughout, but too often lacked the guile of injured duo Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa.

Toon hero: Newcastle's Shola Ameobi celebrates scoring his sides winning goal with James Perch

Toon hero: Newcastle's Shola Ameobi celebrates scoring his sides winning goal with James Perch

Match facts

Newcastle: Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Anita, Tiote (Marveaux 77), Perch, Gutierrez (Obertan 60), Ba, Cisse (Shola Ameobi 61).

Subs Not Used: Harper, Bigirimana, Sammy Ameobi, Ferguson.

Booked: Tiote, Perch, Shola Ameobi.

Goal: Shola Ameobi 81.

QPR: Green, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Nelsen, Hill, Mackie, Mbia, Granero (Wright-Phillips 56), Faurlin (Derry 78), Taarabt, Cisse (Hoilett 64).

Subs Not Used: Murphy, Diakite, Traore, Onuoha.

Booked: Ferdinand, Hill.

Attendance: 50,180

Referee: Kevin Friend

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However, thanks to Ameobi, they got there in the end to claim just their second Barclays Premier League victory in eight attempts and condemn Harry Redknapp to his first defeat as Rangers boss.

The match kicked off on a pitch soaked by persistent rain, which showed little sign of abating, but with referee Kevin Friend having had two looks at it and seeing no reason not to start.

As the first half unfolded, there was clearly surface water, but it did not affect the roll of the ball unduly as the Magpies set about the task of winning a game they simply could not afford to lose or even, in the eyes of their manager, draw.

Roared on by a crowd of 50,180, the majority of whom were well aware of what was at stake, they set about their task with relish and dominated the opening 45 minutes.

However, the lack of a final ball cost them dearly as they were simply unable to convert a wealth of possession into goals.

Left winger Jonas Gutierrez was particularly guilty of failing to produce a telling cross on the numerous occasions on which he took aim, while overlapping full-back Davide Santon got into some promising positions down the same flank, but repeatedly picked out a hooped, rather than a striped, shirt.

Leaving it late: Shola Ameobi scores to win the game for Newcastle

Leaving it late: Shola Ameobi scores to win the game for Newcastle

In the event, Rob Green was as under-employed as Tim Krul despite finding his penalty area repeatedly besieged by the Magpies.

The game started promisingly for the home side with striker Papiss Cisse heading into the side-netting from Gutierrez's cross, although he did so having nudged defender Fabio da Silva in the back first and it would not have counted anyway.

Stephane Mbia was in the right place at the right time to clear Mike Williamson's goal-bound header from a Vurnon Anita corner three minutes later, although the Dutchman's ball was the sole cross of note he or any of his team-mates delivered before the break.

Fight for the ball: Adel Taarabt vies for the ball with Newcastle's Mike Williamson

Fight for the ball: Adel Taarabt vies for the ball with Newcastle's Mike Williamson

Indeed, Green's only real save came with 31 minutes played when he plucked Cheick Tiote's shot out of the air, although there was more than a hint of a cross about the Ivorian's attempt.

At the other end, Krul was effectively a spectator and he was called upon for the first time to field Alejandro Faurlin's corner with 11 minutes of the half remaining before then collecting Djibril Cisse's 43rd-minute scuffed volley.

But in the meantime, Anton Ferdinand had blocked a well-struck effort from leading scorer Demba Ba, who later wasted two free-kicks in quick succession, blasting both high over the bar, much to the frustration of the home fans.

Midfield battle: Cheick Tiote is tracked by Esteban Granero

Midfield battle: Cheick Tiote is tracked by Esteban Granero

QPR produced more inside the opening three minutes of the second half than they had in the entire first with Cisse forcing Krul to turn his low drive around the post and Mbia heading the resulting corner high over.

But as the half settled down, the visitors packed men behind the ball to frustrate their hosts, and were content to try to hit them on the break, a ploy which prompted the introduction of Shaun Wright-Phillips as a 56th-minute replacement for Esteban Granero.

Pardew made a double change on the hour, replacing Gutierrez and, to the clear disapproval of the home fans, Papiss Cisse, with Gabriel Obertan and Ameobi in the search for a breakthrough.

Getting it right: Harry Redknapp gives instructions from the sidelines

Getting it right: Harry Redknapp gives instructions from the sidelines

But it was Anita who very nearly made the difference with a 63rd-minute free-kick which Green could only palm away, mercifully for him into a sea of blue, rather than black and white, shirts.

The Rangers goalkeeper had to scramble away Anita's near-post corner two minutes later and Ba saw a shot on the turn deflected for a corner before Ameobi completely mistimed a header as the Magpies made another concerted push.

Ba could not generate enough pace to trouble Green with his 73rd-minute header from Obertan's cross, but when Ameobi's big moment arrived, he was not found wanting.

Sylvain Marveaux slipped the ball into his path on the right side of the penalty area and he steadied himself before curling a left-foot shot across Green and into the bottom corner.

Substitute Marveaux might have added a second two minutes later after being denied by Green, but there was no way back for Redknapp's men.

Tiote will miss the Boxing Day trip to Manchester United after picking up his fifth booking of the season but even that could not take the smile from Pardew's face.

All smiles: QPR owner Tony Fernandes watches on at St James' Park

All smiles: QPR owner Tony Fernandes watches on at St James' Park

Steven Gerrard to give dad 100th England shirt for Christmas

Gerrard is Father Christmas! Skipper's dad to get shirt from 100th game as present

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UPDATED:

10:57 GMT, 15 November 2012

Steven Gerrard will give the England shirt he wore when winning his 100th cap as a Christmas present to his father Paul.

Three Lions captain Gerrard achieved the milestone during 4-2 defeat against Sweden in the Friends Arena.

He became only the sixth England player to reach a century of appearances.

Centurion: Steven Gerrard won his 100th England cap in the friendly defeat against Sweden

Centurion: Steven Gerrard won his 100th England cap in the friendly defeat against Sweden

Gerrard said: 'To get there was a very proud moment for me. I have been really touched by all the support and all the good wishes I have had – from family, friends and everyone in the game.

'The shirt I wore during the game, I will give it to my dad. It will be a nice Christmas present for him.

'He has been with me since day one, shown me fantastic support. My dad has watched me kick a ball since I was seven.

'He always gave me the advice “you get out of your career what you put into it” and I've always taken that on board.

Leader: Gerrard (right) and his England team-mates take to the pitch at the Friends Arena

Leader: Gerrard (right) and his England team-mates take to the pitch at the Friends Arena

'All the way through, I've made sacrifices and tried to work hard and, every time I go onto the pitch, I give it everything I've got.'

Gerrard insists he still has plenty more to offer his country at the age of 32 – 12 years after making his debut.

He said: 'Are there more caps to go Yes, I feel good, I feel fit, I'm happy with my form in an England shirt so on I go and I'm looking forward to the next game.'

Gerrard believes England can take plenty of positives from their performance in a game where six players were handed their debut.

England led 2-1 before Zlatan Ibrahimovic took centre stage with three late goals to take his tally in the match to four.

Middle man: Gerrard put in a fine shift before coming off with quarter of an hour left

Middle man: Gerrard put in a fine shift before coming off with quarter of an hour left

Gerrard said: 'I thought we were terrific for large chunks of the game. There were a lot of positives.

'We did well for three quarters of the match and then we collapsed and fell away towards the end.

'I'm sure the manager will be happy with the character and the belief we showed even when we went behind. “We kept fighting and got ourselves in front against a tough team who were well organised in front of their crowd. “For three quarters of the game we were in control.

'The substitutes disrupted us but that happens in friendlies. I think overall it was a positive outcome. “There is more reason to be optimistic with some of the individual performances of the night.'

Cheers boss: Gerrard is congratulated by England manager Roy Hodgson after coming off

Cheers boss: Gerrard is congratulated by England manager Roy Hodgson after coming off

Gerrard admitted the newly-laid surface in the Friends Arena was far from perfect.

He said: 'I think we had trouble all night with our footing and controlling the ball, waiting for the ball to settle before you could pass it.

'But I think they are having teething problems with the surface like we had at Wembley to start with.

'I'm sure they will get it right but it is the same for both teams. We can't look at the surface as an excuse.

Fan-tastic: Gerrard signed a few autographs for supporters at England's friendly clash in Sweden

Fan-tastic: Gerrard signed a few autographs for supporters at England's friendly clash in Sweden

'We've got to hold our hands up and say an individual performance from Ibrahimovic won them the game but there is no reason to be down.'

Gerrard looked at home in the holding role as England hit back to lead 2-1 through goals from Danny Welbeck and Steven Caulker before Ibrahimovic's superb contribution.

He said: 'I was really happy with how it went for me personally. I thought I did well. “I was asked to play the holding role and felt comfortable.'

Nemanja Vidic could be back by Christmas

Ferguson set for Christmas present as United defender Vidic could be fit again by end of year

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UPDATED:

01:19 GMT, 10 November 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed Manchester United skipper Nemanja Vidic is on track to recover from his latest knee operation by Christmas.

The 31-year-old made his comeback from cruciate surgery at the start of the season but within a month was experiencing more discomfort, which condemned Vidic to yet another stint on the sidelines.

United have not exactly been watertight in the Serbian's absence, even if they have climbed to the Premier League summit and booked their place in the Champions League knock-out stages.

Christmas present: Nemanja Vidic could return from injury for the busy festive period

Christmas present: Nemanja Vidic could return from injury for the busy festive period

However, clearly, the return of one of the world's best defenders would have a positive impact on United's season.

And Ferguson expects to be welcoming his captain back during the packed festive programme.

'I think it's Christmas time for Vidic,' said Ferguson.

'If we get him back for Christmas, then I'll be happy.

'There's been no setback but we cannot take any chances after his cruciate.'

Without Vidic, United have at times looked light at the back.

Both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling missed the start of the Premier League season through injury, leaving Ferguson with only Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans to choose from in the centre of defence.

The Scot rested the pair for United's Capital One Cup tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago.

Instead he played rookie defenders Michael Keane and Scott Wootton in front of Anders Lindegaard.

Both deputised well until Wootton seemed to tire, giving Chelsea a last-minute penalty which Eden Hazard duly converted, taking the match to extra time.

Daniel Sturridge later latched onto an errant Wootton knock-down, allowing the former Manchester City striker to round Lindegaard. The match finished 5-4 to the Blues.

Integral: Manchester United have been light at the back without the Serbian's services

Integral: Manchester United have been light at the back without the Serbian's services

Kevin Pietersen back for India tour

Truce! Pietersen back for India tour as England hand axed star central contract

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UPDATED:

21:50 GMT, 2 October 2012

England will hand an extraordinary comeback to Kevin Pietersen by rushing him straight back into their squad for the four-Test tour of India.

Not only will Pietersen end his exile by being handed a new central contract either on Wednesday or Thursday, but England have decided to add him to the 16-man squad already named for one of the toughest assignments in cricket.

Welcome back: Pietersen will be handed a central contract by England

Welcome back: Pietersen will be handed a central contract by England

Coming in from the cold: KP hasn't played for England since August

Coming in from the cold: KP hasn't played for England since August

It was felt that the earliest Pietersen would be welcomed back after his bitter dispute with the England team and the ECB would be the relatively low-key tour of New Zealand that starts in February.

Yet England have grabbed the bull by the horns and decided there is no time like the present.

They want Pietersen to prove his commitment to the cause by potentially cutting short his time at the Twenty20 Champions League in South Africa with his Indian side Delhi Daredevils.

Campbell Gillies dies in holiday swimming pool incident

Racing in mourning as Cheltenham winner Gillies, 21, dies on holiday in Kavos 'swimming pool incident'

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UPDATED:

10:16 GMT, 26 June 2012

Campbell Gillies has lost his life on holiday in Kavos, Greece, just weeks after securing the biggest win of his racing career at the Cheltenham Festival.

He rode Brindisi Breeze in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March but tragically died in 'swimming pool incident'.

He arrived on holiday on Monday with fellow jockeys Henry Brooke, Nathan Moscrop and Harry Haynes and was due to celebrate his 22nd birthday on Wednesday.

Horror: Gillies lost his life while on holiday with fellow jockeys in Greece

Horror: Gillies lost his life while on holiday with fellow jockeys in Greece

His Cheltenham winner Brindisi Breeze was also killed last month after he jumped out of a paddock and was hit by a lorry on a nearby road.

His friend and fellow jockey Alexander Voy took to Twitter to pass on his condolences after learning the news.

He said: 'I can't believe it. You
only have one best friend and now he's gone. I'll never forget you
@campbellgillies, love you pal xxx.'

Gillies, who was also associated with
the Willie Amos-trained Lie Forrit, primarily rode for Perth handler
Lucinda Russell after joining her team in 2007.

Gillies' agent Paul Brierley said: 'At the present time, all I can say is there has been an accident.'

And BBC racing presenter Clare Balding tweeted her sorrow after hearing of the jockey's death.

She said: 'So
sad to hear that jump jockey Campbell Gillies has died in an accident
on holiday. He was a lovely guy & a fine, brave jockey.'

Tragedy: Gillies savoured victory at Cheltenham this year

Tragedy: Gillies savoured victory at Cheltenham this year

Gillies – whose brother Finlay plays rugby for
Glasgow Warriors – won 131 races in Britain and enjoyed his best ever
campaign in 2011-12 with 38 winners, and had ridden four winners so far
this season.

A club statement from Warriors said: 'Glasgow Warriors are deeply saddened to learn of the sad passing of Campbell Gillies, brother of Warriors hooker Finlay.

'A promising young jockey, Campbell shot to prominence when he rode Brindisi Breeze to victory in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle on Gold Cup day at this year's Cheltenham Festival.

'The thoughts of everyone at Glasgow Warriors are with Finlay and his family at this terrible time.'

Champion jockey Tony McCoy said on Twitter: 'Very sad news about Campbell Gillies. A very good jockey but an even better bloke. All our thoughts are with his family RIP.'

Gold Cup winner Sam Thomas was also on Twitter. saying: 'Saddening news about Campbell Gillies, a great pilot, a top guy and most of all a true gentleman. My thoughts go out to all his family.'

Liverpool slump as fortress Anfield stormed yet again

Fortress Anfield stormed yet again as visitors to Liverpool lose fear factor

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UPDATED:

22:49 GMT, 25 March 2012

Saturday's defeat by Wigan means Liverpool have won just five of their 15 home games in the Premier League this season – their worst home record since 1953. But it was the manner of the defeat that was as worrying as the result.

Four years ago, Liverpool appeared to be headed for a ruinous defeat against the same opponents but extricated themselves thanks to a barnstorming comeback when Dirk Kuyt and Albert Riera scored in the last 10 minutes to secure a 3-2 win. History is littered with examples of Liverpool salvaging improbable situations.

Fast forward to the present day, though, and the picture has changed dramatically.

Red faced: Liverpool slumped to a 2-1 home defeat against Wigan

Red faced: Liverpool slumped to a 2-1 home defeat against Wigan

When Wigan were protecting a 2-1 lead with 10 minutes to go on Saturday, the outcome – unlike four years ago – was never in doubt.

Why is Anfield no longer a fortress then A number of reasons.

For starters, Liverpool don't have a cutting edge. They have only scored 19 times in their 15 home games in the Barclays Premier League and a paltry record of five wins is their lowest since at this stage of a season since 1953.

Then there is the atmosphere. It used to be said during the club's glory years that The Kop would 'suck the ball over the line' when Liverpool turned the screw but rarely, if ever, does the stadium hum with that broiling noise that launched a thousand comebacks. Didn't Wigan's fans keep asking 'where's your famous atmosphere' Yes.

Challenge: Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish (left) is under increasing scrutiny

Challenge: Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish (left) is under increasing scrutiny

To give an example of how quiet it was, Jamie Carragher could easily be heard shouting directions, while a conversation Kuyt had with an assistant referee was also audible in the stands.

'It is still a fearful place,' argued exultant Wigan manager Roberto Martinez. 'In world football it has a unique tradition. The moment you starting thinking about where you are playing, the fear is there.'

Kenny Dalglish has often said Liverpool have been unlucky at Anfield. Was that the case again Absolutely not. Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi never had a saved to make after Gary Caldwell put the visitors in front for a second time, leaving Dalglish to claim his side were lacklustre due to a combination of playing three games in six days and a growing injury list.

But this slump can be put down to them lacking quality. While key players Lucas, Glen Johnson and Craig Bellamy have been missed, many supporters have lost faith in a number of last summer's expensive recruits.

16million midfielder Jordan Henderson, for one, is failing to win over The Kop, while Andy Carroll – who puzzlingly started on the bench – made little impact when replacing Henderson.

So where do they go from here Worryingly for Dalglish, Liverpool could find themselves in ninth place by the time they face Newcastle next Sunday.

If the situation is to change next season, more signings will need to be made. But on this evidence, Liverpool stand minimal chance of attracting genuine quality.

Match zone: Liverpool v Wigan

Ryan Giggs 1991-2012 Manchester United pictures

Ryan Giggs in pictures: 22 pictures from 22 different years as the Welshman makes his 900th appearance for Manchester United

The words 'All Our Yesterdays' come to mind, as Ryan Giggs prepares to make his 900th appearance for Manchester United.

The Welshman will pass yet another landmark when he plays for United against Ajax Amsterdam on Thursday night.

It's only when you look at past photographs that you sometimes appreciate the sheer longevity of his career. I think, from this collection, the picture of him clashing with Barry Venison at The Dell best illustrates it.

From the year he burst onto the scene as an exciting teenager, right through to the present day, Giggs has thrilled all genuine lovers of the game.

He has helped United to 12 Premier League titles in that time, along with two European Cups and a host of other trophies.

Here are 22 pictures from 22 years. All the way through from 1991 to 2012. The Giggs Years. What years.

1991

1991

1992

1992

1993

1993

1994

1994

1995

1995

1996

1996

1997

1997

1998

1998

1999

1999

2000

2000

2001

2001

2002

2002

2003

2003

2004

2004

2005

2005

2006

2006

2007

2007

2008

2008

2009

2009

2010

2010

2011

2011

2012

2012

David Moyes won"t see Mikel Arteta money

Everton boss Moyes admits he won't see Arteta money as banks swallow 10m

David Moyes will not be splashing the cash during the transfer window as Mikel Arteta's transfer fee has already been swallowed up to service Everton's debt.

Arteta joined Arsenal in a 10million move on deadline day last summer and manager Moyes maintains it was his decision to allow the Spanish midfielder to leave.

But when asked if he would have access to the cash to strengthen his squad, the Scot said: 'I don't think that is going to be the case. I think everybody knew at the time that the bank wanted the money. People knew that really.'

Big move: Mikel Arteta (left) quit Everton for Arsenal last summer

Big move: Mikel Arteta (left) quit Everton for Arsenal last summer

Moyes had hoped to use the loan market to add a striker and midfielder but a defender is now his priority after Phil Jagielka was sidelined for up to six weeks with a knee injury.

The Toffees face Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Wednesday night in the rearranged fixture from the opening weekend of the season.

Moyes' men are 18 points behind their opponents and he admits he is frustrated at failing to keep pace with Harry Redknapp's Spurs.

He said: 'It is a little bit sad they are starting to pull away from us a little bit more than I would like. I think it was only three or four years ago us and Tottenham were competing neck-and-neck for European places.

'It is frustrating because all managers will tell you when you are close and competing with teams you never like to see them go away from you, but we are looking at them going away from us at this present time.'

Referee Martin Atkinson, who sent off Jack Rodwell against Liverpool in October, takes charge of the game in north London while Mark Clattenburg will be the man in the middle for the weekend trip to Aston Villa.

Frustrated: Everton manager David Moyes

Frustrated: Everton manager David Moyes

Clattenburg has not refereed an Everton match since the controversial Merseyside derby at Goodison in 2007.

Clattenburg angered the home support when he sent off Tony Hibbert for a professional foul on Steven Gerrard after appearing to initially take out a yellow card before the Liverpool midfielder had a brief word.

He chose not to send off Dirk Kuyt for a high challenge on Phil Neville and turned down an Everton penalty appeal in injury-time with the hosts trailing 2-1.

'I don't pick the referees so it is not up to me and I don't think it is right that managers should choose who the referees are. It is up to the PGMO (Professional Game Match Officials) to choose.

'It is not my job I have to go with the people who pick them, but it would be interesting to see if they (Atkinson and Clattenburg) got the jobs at Goodison instead of away from home.'

Shay Given on the death of Gary Speed

Shay Given: I”ve got Euro 2012 to look forward to, but I have to be there for Speedo”s family…

It is a short sentence but it comes with a long, sad sigh. “You”ve got to keep living,” says Shay Given.

Often quotations look different when transferred to black and white and for the past month since the death of his great friend Gary Speed, Given has wrestled with words, what to say, how to say it and whether to speak at all. But he has witnessed the power of them, too.

Close friends: Given (left) with wife Jane and Louise and Gary Speed in May

Close friends: Given (left) with wife Jane and Louise and Gary Speed in May

That you”ve got to keep living sounds simple; bereavement, grief, they make it complicated. But this is how Given feels and it is a feeling he has transmitted to Speed”s family, in particular to Speed”s two sons, Eddie, 14 and Tommy, 13.

Given has not spoken publicly about his friendship with Speed and will not do so again. He is conscious of bringing anguish to Louise Speed and her family but he would like to say something just once. He slips between the present and past tenses when using Speed”s name.

“The last thing I want to do is cause upset,” Given begins. “I want to say something and I”ve been asked a lot about it. I want to remember Gary, speak of him as a friend. I don”t want to repeat the other great tributes that people have paid. But they”re true. Gary was a natural. I am proud to call him a friend.

“I”ll do it this once. I won”t go on.”

Raw emotion: Given is supported by Dunne and Collins and weeps as the Liberty Stadium fans applaud his friend

Raw emotion: Given is supported by Dunne and Collins and weeps as the Liberty Stadium fans applaud his friend

Shay Given

The memory of Given in tears at Swansea on the day of Speed”s death in November is one of the most troubling images of the sporting year. Alan Shearer had relayed the terrible news a couple of hours before kick-off. Craig Bellamy had called when Given was in the Liberty Stadium.

Aston Villa colleagues and fans had already started to show the care for which Given is hugely grateful. Villa thought the game would be postponed. Given”s head, as he says, was all over the place.

“We were told to keep getting ready but that it was going to be called off,” he explains. “But then it was definitely on. So you”re up and down. I was trying to get my head around it and I was all right in the warm-up.

“But then there was the minute”s silence, or the applause it turned into, and the man on the microphone started speaking about Gary. Dunney (Richard Dunne) and James Collins had their arms around me just keeping me up.

“I was just trying … But you can”t help how you”re feeling … Just devastating … It sunk in then.

“But then we had a game to play. I had to try to keep my eyes clear. Maybe I”d have been better heaving in my hotel room.

“It”s tough. It”s shock. The tears just come. You can”t keep it in.

“When Alan had called, he was kind of shaken as he spoke. I was shaking as I heard. It”s disbelief. Are you sure this is true

“But Gary”s best friend, John Ratcliffe, had called and it was true. This was about 20 minutes before the team meeting. I had to tell the gaffer (Alex McLeish) and he was shaken once he heard. I don”t know what he said at the meeting, I was in a daze.”

Newcastle United pals: Speed and Given

Newcastle United pals: Speed and Given

The sense of shock remains. Those distressing pictures of Given will be remembered, but in his mind”s eye is the image of Eddie and Tommy and when he said “You”ve got to keep living”, it was at the end of a furrowed-brow passage about the death of Given”s mother when he was five years old. Agnes Given is never far from his thoughts and is as close as ever since the morning of November 27.

“It”s tough,” Given repeats. “It”s hard for the boys, so hard. I”ll miss Gary but you can”t put into words how much they”ll miss him, how they”re going to cope. I don”t know what to say. You can say, “Everything”s going to be all right”, but they are going to have bad days. There”s no magic wand. Everything”s changed.

“I”ve told the boys about my mother. I lost her when I was five. I know how much it hurts.

“It”s hard even getting the words out.

“There are going to be tough months and years ahead but they need to know there”s support from relatives and friends.

“You just try to help because you never get over things like this; you”ve got to learn to live with it. You never get over losing your Mum at five years of age. It”s something my brothers, sisters and myself have had to live with.

“We have had to get on with our lives as best we can. Obviously we”d love our Mum to be here. It”s not going to change. We”d love Gary to be here, to pick up the phone to him now. It”s not going to be. We”ll always miss him. But you”ve got to learn, you”ve got to keep living.”

Given was at the Speed house the day after his death and, like others, has been around as often as possible and he is especially impressed by Speed”s best friend from childhood John – or “Basher” as all know him.

Given took Tommy, an Arsenal fan, to the Villa game 10 days ago. He was able to because he is injured, the 35-year-old goalkeeper suffering the first hamstring tear of his career against Manchester United the week after Speed”s passing.

“I”ve got to know the two boys a lot better over the past few weeks,” Given says, “and they”re a credit to Gary and Louise. Smashing boys, educated, well-mannered. On the Monday morning I went straight over to Gary”s house to see Louise and the boys. If it was the other way round Speedo would have done that for my family.

“I spent a lot of time with the boys that week. I couldn”t sleep all week, just reliving it. You think it can”t have happened but it actually has. I think the injury probably was due to the fatigue and stress – that”s what they say about those injuries.

“Hindsight says I shouldn”t have played but I know Speedo would have played. You think all those kinds of things as well. I could hardly walk after and it meant I thought I couldn”t carry the coffin.”

That worry eased. Given attended the private funeral and he says nothing other than he heard some words that were “inspirational”.

Devastated: Given needed a towel to wipe away the tears just before kick-off at Swansea

Devastated: Given needed a towel to wipe away the tears just before kick-off at Swansea

Given joined Newcastle United in August 1997, Speed joined five months later. They hit it off immediately, part of a close group that Sir Bobby Robson would later term his “blue-chip” players. Speed became an active supporter of the Fashion Kicks cancer charity Given established in memory of his mother.

“There were a group of us socialising together, and with our wives,” Given says. “We had time for each other. We”d go on holiday as lads to Portugal and Speedo was always my room-mate. He looked after me. Just basic stuff. Great memories now.

“I didn”t know him personally before Newcastle but I”d played against him. Usually he was the opposition”s captain but he would be quite friendly when you were walking out on to the pitch, asking if you were OK, things like that – that”s a first.

“It just shows you what a man he was. Genuine. He didn”t know me from Adam or Eve.

“Then when he joined Newcastle we were team-mates, but we were more than that. I”ve played with loads of people and you don”t stay in touch.

“But with Speedo, football brought us together but we had a real friendship built up over years and we did stay in touch.

Happier times: Given celebrates after reaching Euro 2012 with the Republic of Ireland

Happier times: Given celebrates after reaching Euro 2012 with the Republic of Ireland

“We”d got on straight away, he”s just that sort of character, very approachable, down to earth, he”s just a normal bloke. He”s like that with everyone.”

The quality of normality is part of the reason for Speed”s popularity, as was seen in the deep and nationwide reaction to his death. As Given says: “Even people who never met Gary were impressed by him.”

The events of November 27 have made Given pause and reflect upon his life and profession. He is more aware than ever that footballers are ordinary people with extraordinary gifts in a sport that provokes global fascination. He refers to “the bubble” that players live in and while that has luxurious material benefits, it is also intense.

“I don”t think of myself as famous but I suppose when you”re in the bubble of football it can seem like you”re not normal. But we are. Speedo was, he treated everyone the same. We don”t look at people as if we are more special than them, we just don”t. We have normal mates. We”re in the football bubble but we didn”t create it.

“With Gary, there”s been some speculation about outside pressures and I don”t think it is irrelevant.

Cruel blow: Given is currently out injured after suffering a hamstring tear

Cruel blow: Given is currently out injured after suffering a hamstring tear

“I”m coming towards the end of my career and it”s a worry what I”m going to do. People go on about footballers” wages – and I don”t have that financial worry – but I didn”t set off in football to make money, I did it because I really love playing football.

“I”ve just had my first Christmas at home for 16 years because I”m injured, and it was great being with the family, but I still missed playing. It”s part of our lives.

“Maybe there should be more awareness of what players do after playing, the gaps. Your professional life stops just like that. Gary was a human being, we”re all human beings. That doesn”t get highlighted but we do have everyday issues.”

An example of that ordinariness came when Given speaks of his and Speed”s last meeting.

“I met Speedo by chance a few weeks ago in Manchester. We hadn”t arranged anything, me and my wife and Gary and Louise, we just met and went for coffee. Looking back, I”m glad I did bump into him. We texted regularly, obviously, but we just sat down and caught up with things. He seemed fine, normal, the Gary Speed we all know.”

Dignified silence: Given is speaking for the first and only time about the tragic death of his close friend

Dignified silence: Given is speaking for the first and only time about the tragic death of his close friend

Given is as confused as the rest over the reasons for Gary Speed”s death at 42. But he has no time for internet theories and wants Speed to be allowed to, as the phrase states, rest in peace.

“That”s it. Gary”s gone. Louise and the boys, his sister Lesley, mother and father Carol and Roger, they need our support now. I will be there for them as much as I can.”

The living go on. Had November been different Given would have recalled it as the highlight of 2011, the month the Republic of Ireland reached the European Championship for the first time since 1988. Speed, the rising manager of rising Wales, knew what that meant.

But as it is, on the last day of 2011, Given looks forward to 2012 and says: “I just want to get fit and back playing for Aston Villa. The club have been great to me and I”ve had letters from fans which I really appreciate.

“Obviously then for Ireland we”ve got a huge summer ahead. November was a great month until the news. We”d qualified for the European Championship for the first time in nearly 25 years. But your heart”s breaking.

“You”ve got to look at 2012 with optimism and excitement but I”ve got to be there for Louise and the boys as well. Do what I can. I hope I can help.”

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