Tag Archives: qualifiers

Roy Hodgson will "wait and see" if Rio Ferdinand has an international future after withdrawing from England squad for San Marino and…

Rio can do what he wants… but I can't guarantee he'll get another England invite, says Hodgson

By
Matt Barlow

PUBLISHED:

17:29 GMT, 21 March 2013

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UPDATED:

18:01 GMT, 21 March 2013

England manager Roy Hodgson has said he will 'wait and see' if Rio Ferdinand has an international future following the United defender's decision to withdraw from the national squad this week.

Hodgson's side take on San Marino on Friday with a depleted defence after Ferdinand withdrew from the squad to look after his chronic back problem.

But Ferdinand
sparked fresh controversy as Sportsmail exclusively revealed that the
Manchester United defender will fly to Qatar to work on a television
broadcast of Friday’s World Cup qualifier.

Waving goodbye Roy Hodgson said he will 'wait and see' if Rio Ferdinand has an international future

Waving goodbye Roy Hodgson said he will 'wait and see' if Rio Ferdinand has an international future

Unhappy: Hodgson is disappointed that Ferdinand is not with the England team

Unhappy: Hodgson is disappointed that Ferdinand is not with the England team

When pushed on Ferdinand's future as
an England player, Hodgson said: 'I think we should just wait and see, I
think it's more a question of how his injury situation will impact upon
him playing for England, so we'll have to wait and see what happens in
the future.

'At the moment it's speculation about
a longer-term future whereas my focus is on these next two games, which
are important for us in our bid to qualify. I am happy with the squad
we've got.'

Hodgson deflected questions on what he thought of Ferdinand's decision to miss the two World Cup qualifiers.

He said: 'I don't have any serious
thoughts on it. I was disappointed when he couldn't accept our
invitation. It would have been nice to have him here.'

Double header: England take on San Marion on Friday night before facing Montenegro next week

Double header: England take on San Marion on Friday night before facing Montenegro next week

Hodgson also refused to comment on Ferdinand's decision to embark on a 15-hour round trip to Doha to work as a TV pundit.

'As we all know he wasn't able to
accept the invitation so what he actually does now and how he operates
in the coming couple of weeks, that's his business and the club's
business.

'You're asking me questions that I
really don't want to go into. It really shows a lack of respect to some
extent for the players who are here,' he said.

'In this instance Rio made it clear
that he wasn't able to accept my invitation on this occasion and we will
see what happens in the future.

'What happens during this period of
time when he's looking after himself, it's up to us to look after
ourselves and do the job we've got to do in these next two matches.'

Plane stupid: Ferdinand pulled out of the England squad before agreeing to work as a TV pundit in Qatar

Plane stupid: Ferdinand pulled out of the England squad before agreeing to work as a TV pundit in Qatar

Hodgson also dismissed suggestions that Michael Carrick could step in at centre back to solve England's defensive crisis.

The England boss said: 'To accept that I would have to
accept we have problems in central defence. I think we have four very
good central defenders here.

'As far as I’m concerned I would be
loathed to start using people like Michael Carrick who has been selected
for his prowess as a midfield player.

'It would be harsh on those who have been selected as central defenders.'

Not interested: Captain Steven Gerrard is not dwelling on Ferdinand's withdrawal

Not interested: Captain Steven Gerrard is not dwelling on Ferdinand's withdrawal

England captain Steven Gerrard
believes the team have trained well without Ferdinand and is not
dwelling on the United defender's absence.

He said: 'I don't think it's for me to comment. That's something for the manager to deal with to be honest. I just look at the players in the squad and worry about them players really.

'Of course it's disappointing Rio's not here, because he's a fantastic player and he's in top form, and it would've been nice for him to be here, but he's not, we move on without him and training's been really good.'

Asked if England can cope without Ferdinand, Gerrard said: 'Yes I do, certainly on the evidence I've seen in training the last few days.

'Repeating what the manager said, the four guys have been working hard and training well and they are all pushing for places.

'I'm confident that they can not only do the job tomorrow but on Tuesday night as well.'

Rio Ferdinand to the rescue: Should Roy Hodgson name Manchester United defender in England squad

Rio to the rescue: Is it time for Roy to bring back Ferdinand for England Keown, Redknapp and Sportsmail's team of experts have their say

PUBLISHED:

10:46 GMT, 13 March 2013

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UPDATED:

11:00 GMT, 13 March 2013

Roy Hodgson is set to name his England squad for the World Cup qualifying matches against San Marino and Montenegro and fans are desperate to know if Rio Ferdinand will be in it.

Left out for 'football reasons', Ferdinand has not featured for the national team under Hodgson but, with former captain John Terry now out of the picture, he has been touted for a return.

The 34-year-old has been superb for Manchester United this season and here, Sportsmail's team of experts say whether they feel Ferdinand should take that form back on to the international stage.

Solid: Rio Ferdinand has been tipped for an England return after fine performances for Manchester United

Solid: Rio Ferdinand has been tipped for an England return after fine performances for Manchester United

MARTIN KEOWN

I would bring Rio Ferdinand back into the England squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. If Sir Alex Ferguson is picking him as his first-choice centre back for Manchester United, that is good enough for me.

Roy Hodgson is one of the only people who could get away with bringing someone back after not picking them for so long. Hodgson is such a nice man and would find the words to make it a smooth transition.

Ferdinand has every right to feel he should have been in recent squads and he’s the best central defender we have. On top of that, Phil Jagielka is out injured and Gary Cahill has suffered a dip in form. He would benefit from playing alongside some as experienced as Ferdinand.

Tiredness is less of a factor now that United are out the Champions League. Ferdinand has fewer matches to play between now and the end of the season than he would have expected so Ferguson should not have a problem with him playing for his country.

I would imagine Hodgson wouldn’t use him for both games because of the recovery time he needs and the only potential problem with that is whether it creates instability in the team. If someone else plays well against San Marino, do you kill their confidence by then dropping them

The answer is probably yes.

Young gun: Ferdinand made his England debut as a teenager - coming off the bench against Cameroon in 1997

Young gun: Ferdinand made his England debut as a teenager – coming off the bench against Cameroon in 1997

JAMIE REDKNAPP

What has he done wrong He seems to have handled his omission maturely… he lost the England captaincy and didn’t cause a fuss. He has played his way back into form. He wants to play for England and add to his 81 caps.

Judging him on ‘football reasons’, he has to be back in for the World Cup qualifiers, doesn’t he Montenegro is a challenge and their centre-forward, the Juventus striker, Mirko Vucinic is a handful as he proved to Celtic in the Champions League. But Rio has handled better strikers.

Okay, he is not the future, but he is the present.

MARK ALFORD

No. Stick by your footballing
reasons, Roy. I'd prefer it if you further explained them to us all, but
as I suspect your argument is that you're building a side – and
specifically a defence – that can win us the World Cup, please go ahead
and conquer. Rio's too old. Yes, he can still pick a pass and play but
he's past his best. He's lost a yard and that's what matters at
international level. In Roy, we trust… There's no other way.

Off the mark: Ferdinand (No 5) scored his first international goal against Denmark at the 2002 World Cup

Off the mark: Ferdinand (No 5) scored his first international goal against Denmark at the 2002 World Cup

Off the mark: Ferdinand (No 5) scored his first international goal against Denmark at the 2002 World Cup

NEIL ASHTON

Yes. He remains the outstanding England defender of his generation. If he can get two games against Real Madrid in the Champions League, he can play against San Marino and Montenegro in the World Cup qualifiers.

LEE CLAYTON

Yes. Pick your best players, qualify for the World Cup, then worry about his age, his ability to play back-to-back games in a short space of time and the future.

There is a risk that England’s future will be an end-of-season tour to the back of beyond while the World Cup is taking place in Brazil. We did that before, let’s not do it again.

Rio must play in Montenegro. What’s to discuss

CHRIS WHEELER

Yes. Forget his age, any personal
issues with the manager and the fact that he might not be the best man
for the job when the World Cup comes around. Ferdinand's performances
for Manchester United this season have proved he's still a defender of
the highest quality. That's all that matters so just go ahead and pick
him.

SAMI MOKBEL

Yes. Simply because he is without doubt one of the best four centre-backs available to Roy Hodgson.

It's been a while: Ferdinand's last England appearance was against Switzerland in June 2011

It's been a while: Ferdinand's last England appearance was against Switzerland in June 2011

DOMINIC KING

No. Roy Hodgson has made his decision
to preclude Ferdinand from international duty, so he should stick with
it. There is sufficient quality in the England team to negotiate a
tricky task without worrying about whether Ferdinand should play or not.
With Phil Jagielka injured, play Joleon Lescott and give the in-form
Michael Dawson a go. Ferdinand is England's past, concentrate on the
future.

NEIL MOXLEY

If he’s the best English player to fill the position – and I think he’s the best option at present – then of course he should be picked. I’m not one for ‘looking to the future.’ It’s a nebulous managerial cop-out. When is ‘the future’ What about the here and now

He’s fit, playing well and wants to resume his international career. What, really, is there to consider

On the box: Kelloggs made special cereal packets for the 2010 World Cup but Ferdinand missed the tournament through injury

On the box: Kelloggs made special cereal packets for the 2010 World Cup but Ferdinand missed the tournament through injury

JOHN EDWARDS

If he doesn’t, then ‘football
reasons’ will no longer wash as an explanation. With John Terry out of
the frame and Phil Jagielka and Chris Smalling injured, there is only
one logical choice alongside Gary Cahill.

Hodgson is to be applauded for
looking to the future, but there is a time and place for experimenting
with potential. A World Cup qualifier away to the group leaders is
neither. That rules out Steven Caulker, while the likes of Ryan
Shawcross, Michael Dawson and Joleon Lescott lack Ferdinand’s proven
pedigree when the international stakes are at their highest.

The San Marino game should be plain sailing, whoever gets the nod, but for 90 minutes in Montenegro, it has to be Rio.

ALEX KAY

Of course he should. Ferdinand is the
best English centre back around at the moment and knows how to keep his
head in big games. Also, the alternatives do not fill you with hope:
Joleon Lescott is in and out the team at Manchester City, Gary Cahill
has a wobble in him and Michael Dawson, though playing well, hasn’t
featured for England for a long time.

MIKE ANSTEAD

If
he’s good enough, then yes. With John Terry out of the picture, England
are seriously lacking top-level experience at the back – Gary Cahill,
Phil Jagielka and Co won’t worry the world’s best. Bring Rio back and
he’s still got time to forge a new partnership ahead of Brazil 2014.

TOM BELLWOOD

No. His inclusion would represent a kick in the teeth to those whose performances warrant place in the team and have a long-term future in the national set-up.

LAURIE WHITWELL

Yes. Ferdinand is by some margin the best English central defender playing regularly. He is managing his body well this season and is a major reason United's defence has tightened up in the second part of the campaign. The experience he brings to international football only adds to the compelling reasoning for selection. Surely you pick the best players on offer at any one point rather than worry about a future that is yet to be achieved.

DAN RIPLEY

Judging by Ferdinand’s current form and fitness, the Manchester United centre-back certainly deserves a recall to the England squad. His composure on the ball and experience would be a key asset to a Three Lions side that has yet to have a stable back four under Roy Hodgson’s reign. At 34-years-old Ferdinand isn’t the future, but Hodgson needs to pick a squad that can pick up two wins later this month, not one that is likely to lead England after Brazil 2014.

Decision time: Roy Hodgson is set to name his England squad to face San Marino and Montenegro

Decision time: Roy Hodgson is set to name his England squad to face San Marino and Montenegro

JOE RIDGE

Yes. It's crazy we're even asking this question. Along with Michael Dawson and Gary Cahill he's the only Englishman playing regularly at centre back for a top four club – and he's still head and shoulders above those two.
SUNNI UPAL

No. Ferdinand is 34 so it would make no sense going back to him considering he will be 35 by the time the World Cup kicks off next year. England have enough choices in defence and don’t need to turn back to someone who is in the twilight of his career. The decision was, rightly or wrongly, made a long time ago for ‘footballing reasons’ so let’s just stick to those reasons and move on.

Not spoiled for choice: Gary Cahill's form has dipped while Phil Jagielka (below left) is struggling with injury

Not spoiled for choice: Gary Cahill's form has dipped while Phil Jagielka (below left) is struggling with injury

Struggling: Phil Jagielka (left)

RIK SHARMA

No. Picking a defender who probably won't be worth taking to the World Cup itself would only be acceptable if qualification for said competition would be viewed as an achievement. For England it is a necessity. Roy needs to focus on the men for the years ahead.

DECLAN WARRINGTON

No, and particularly not if Hodgson intends on using him for no more than just the next two games. Despite his decline, Ferdinand remains a polished defender and has lately impressed but he's had another inconsistent season in which Manchester United have frequently conceded. Hodgson needs to look at the bigger picture and build a new-look side: in Gary Cahill, Steven Caulker, Phil Jones and particularly Chris Smalling he has several improving, quality options who are already good but need time to develop partnerships for the World Cup. He should stick with them.

BILL RUNGAY

Yes. Age is not an obstacle. He is on track to winning an inevitable sixth Premier League title along with his first FA cup medal whilst showing he is still one of the most solid defenders in the game.

Old head: Veteran defender Ferdinand has the experience of 10 years at United and 81 England caps

Old head: Veteran defender Ferdinand has the experience of 10 years at United and 81 England caps

Joe Allen wants shoulder surgery out of the way to return fully fit for Liverpool next season

No more stalling! Allen wants shoulder operation out of the way to help drive Liverpool forward next season

By
Simon Stone, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

18:42 GMT, 12 March 2013

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UPDATED:

19:17 GMT, 12 March 2013

Joe Allen is keen to get his shoulder operation done with so he can be fully fit for the start of next season.

The midfielder will be in Chris Coleman's Wales squad for the World Cup qualifiers with Scotland and Croatia when it is unveiled tomorrow.

However, the Liverpool man is facing an extended period on the sidelines at some point after discovering a recurrence of an old shoulder injury had deteriorated to the point where further surgery is required.

Open door: Liverpool's Joe Allen, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season, at the Astra production line today

Open door: Liverpool's Joe Allen,who is already looking forward the new season, at the Astra production line today

Speaking on a tour of the Ellesmere Port car plant of Wales team sponsors Vauxhall, Allen said: “It is something that needs sorting out.

'I had an operation a few years ago and unfortunately it is a recurrence.

'It has slowly deteriorated to the point where an operation is the only thing that can solve it.'

Liverpool will decide when Allen has surgery, which the 22-year-old estimates will keep him out for three months.

'I can play on, but it is all about the timing because I will be out for three months,” he said.

'Obviously, I don't want to miss the start of next season if I can but we will see what the club have planned because it is a reasonably long lay-off.'

With the Reds back in the running for a European place following Sunday's victory over Tottenham, Brendan Rodgers might be loath to lose Allen at this stage.

Injury: Brendan Rodgers confirmed that midfielder Joe Allen will undergo surgery

Injury: Brendan Rodgers today confirmed that midfielder Joe Allen will undergo surgery

Equally, the former Swansea man would benefit from a full pre-season at Anfield, given he did not join the Merseyside giants until after his Olympic commitments with Team GB.

And next week he will be fully focused on Wales anyway, as they look to build on an encouraging win over Austria last month by completing a World Cup double over Scotland on Friday.

That initial victory over the Scots in October effectively signalled the end of Craig Levein's reign.

It also marked the climax of a tortuous period for new Wales boss Chris Coleman, who had struggled to maintain the improvements made under Gary Speed.'These things take time,' said Allen.

'It was a difficult period for everyone in Welsh football but recent performances and results show we are moving in the right direction.

Shoulder-to-shoulder: Joe Allen came on as a sub against Tottenham on Sunday, where he came up against Wales international colleague Gareth Bale

Shoulder-to-shoulder: Joe Allen came up against Wales international colleague Gareth Bale on Saturday

'We have always had the talent and ability that's for sure.

'Now we are getting to the stage where we are benefiting from past experiences and we are ready to take it to the next level.'

Joe Allen was speaking on a tour of the Ellesmere Port car plant of Wales team sponsors Vauxhall. For more information go to www.vauxhall.co.uk

Phil Jagielka surgery blow for Everton

Everton defender Jagielka out for 'a couple of weeks' with badly gashed ankle

By
Andy Hampson, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

18:12 GMT, 2 March 2013

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UPDATED:

23:38 GMT, 2 March 2013

Everton defender Phil Jagielka faces two weeks out witha badly gashed ankle, manager David Moyes confirmed.

The England international was injured in a challenge from Adam Le Fondre in the opening minutes of Everton's 3-1 win over Reading on Saturday at Goodison Park.

Agony: Everton's Phil Jagielka lies injured after challenge from Reading's Adam Le Fondre.

Agony: Everton's Phil Jagielka lies injured after challenge from Reading's Adam Le Fondre.

Jagielka will certainly hope to be
fit to take his place in England's squad for their next World Cup
qualifiers, against San Marino on March 22 and Montenegro four days
later.

When pressed, Moyes later said Jagielka could be out for 'a couple of weeks, maybe'.

Le Fondre apologised after the game,
saying via Twitter: 'Fans were brilliant today! Shame about result!
Everton were class! Thoughts with jags never meant to catch him,caught
him late an apologised.'

Guilty: Nikica Jelavic is furious with Adam Le Fondre

Guilty: Nikica Jelavic is furious with Adam Le Fondre

Jagielka had to be immediately replaced,
and Moyes said: 'I genuinely haven't seen it again but I thought on the
pitch it didn't look good.

'Jagielka knew about it and it is a bad one. He will have surgery tonight to stitch up his ankle.

'It is a bad one because he is a key player for us.'

Moyes said he did not know how long Jagielka would be out but the 30-year-old must now be doubtful for next week's FA Cup quarter-final against Wigan.

The incident also reminded Moyes of some of the treatment goalkeeper Tim Howard received in the two previous cup matches against Oldham.

Howard was unable to face Reading after suffering a knock in the fifth-round replay win over over the League One side on Tuesday and was replaced by back-up Jan Mucha.

'I'm not happy with the challenges on the goalkeeper in the last two games that have put him out and I am not happy with the challenge today that puts Phil Jagielka out,' said the manager.

'I'm not one who minds challenges. I like a bit of that, if that's what it is.

'I don't mind robust challenges but not one that puts out arguably one of my best players.'

Howard's absence ended the American's run of 210 consecutive Premier League appearances.

Moyes said: 'I thought Jan did very well but it came about because the goalkeeper wasn't protected in the first game against Oldham and they felt it was right they could do that again in the second game.

'In the end the goalkeeper has been injured because of decisions which should have been deemed free-kicks long before.'

Reading manager Brian McDermott also said he did not get a clear view of Le Fondre's challenge on Jagielka but defended his player.

McDermott said: 'Adam Le Fondre is not that type of player, no way. He is a very honest type of player.

'I don't know what they are saying but there is no way Adam Le Fondre is a player that would `do` anybody.'

Diego Maradona close to becoming Iraq manager

Legend Maradona in line to become Iraq coach… who are ranked 92nd in the world

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UPDATED:

07:20 GMT, 21 December 2012

Diego Maradona is on the brink of becoming manager of Iraq.

The former Argentina boss, who is acting as a consultant for the UAE club Al Wasl that he used to coach, is awaiting the outcome of a meeting of the Iraqi Football Federation to be held on Friday.

Maradona has already set his sights on guiding the country, who are ranked 92 in the world, to the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

Who wants me Diego Maradona is in line to become the new Iraq manager

Who wants me Diego Maradona is in line to become the new Iraq manager

'Diego is really enthused and phones us every day,' agent Hernan Tofoni said. 'He doesn't just want to coach (Iraq) for the next six months but long term.'

'He is excited by the fact that it's a challenge and that he'd be going to replace Zico,' added Tofoni, referring to the Brazil great who quit as Iraq's coach last month.

Tofoni, a registered FIFA agent, said he put Maradona's name on the table when Iraq approached World Eleven looking for an Argentine coach and 'they liked the idea'.

He said there would be no obstacles for Maradona to leave Al Wasl, where he coached for 14 months until last July, to take up the Iraqi post.

Replacement: Brazil legend Zico quit the post earlier this year

Replacement: Brazil legend Zico quit the post earlier this year

Iraq have played at one World Cup finals, in 1986 in Mexico where Maradona led Argentina to their second title.

The Middle Eastern nation are third in Group B in the fourth round of Asian World Cup qualifiers. Japan lead with 13 points from five matches, while Iraq are equal on five points with second-placed Australia, who have a match in hand, and Oman.

The 52-year-old Maradona, one of the greatest players, has a modest record as coach.

Although he led Argentina to the World Cup finals in 2010, his side lost 4-0 to Germany in the quarter-finals.

Neil Lennon prepares to use Scott Brown

Brown in agony after Benfica defeat but Lennon prepares to use skipper for push in Europe

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UPDATED:

00:07 GMT, 24 November 2012

It might well have been a medical bulletin on the victim of an industrial accident. For Neil Lennon, there is no disguising the often hideous pain Scott Brown is having to endure in order to wear the captain’s armband.

'He can’t get up out of bed some mornings,’ said the Celtic manager. 'He can’t drive. He’ll probably just make it down the stairs and lie on the couch for three or four hours before he can actually get up and start walking about.

'That’s because of pain and cramps. It’s caused by inflammation of the stomach and pelvic area.'

Walking wounded: Scott Brown (left) was in pain after the 2-1 defeat against Benfica

Walking wounded: Scott Brown (left) was in pain after the 2-1 defeat against Benfica

The price of success can come in many forms.

Brown’s current physical plight is a direct consequence of a brutal fixture schedule that’s been unrelenting four almost four months, Champions League qualifiers and group games interspersed with domestic and international commitments.

Even supreme athletes like him have their breaking point. That ability to charge at opponents at breakneck speed only for the breaks to screech comes at a cost.

After he limped out of the defeat to Benfica on Tuesday, his manager felt his injury had 'run its course' and in short order it will be given the medical attention it requires in the form of an operation.

But having received an absolute assurance from medics that pushing that date with the knife back two weeks will in no way further harm the player, Lennon will ask Brown to go to the well once again.

It’s not every day that the last 16 of the Champions League is on the line, after all.

'We’re not doing any more damage to him. It’s just not getting any better,' Lennon added.

'With the lack of training obviously his condition deteriorates a little bit but he’s such a good athlete that he’s coped as well as he has done so far.

'What I don’t want is for him to be maybe 60 to 70 per cent fit and I take a gamble with him. I’d rather just put somebody in who’s fit and ready to play (against Spartak).

Back in the fray: Brown will be used again in Celtic's bid to progress to the last 16

Back in the fray: Brown will be used again in Celtic's bid to progress to the last 16

'He has been working really hard with the medical team and we are devising a programme for him for the next couple of weeks where he’ll get some game time and maybe have him really ready for Moscow.

'With the way the situation is, I’d imagine if we didn’t have Champions League football then we wouldn’t be going through this with him.

'We’d have rested him a lot more because we wouldn’t have such a build up of games.

'But it’s manageable. I mean, he’s out there training today.

'He doesn’t moan about it but that’s the problem sometimes. He’ll keep it to himself when I’d rather he told me. Then he’ll come to me and say “I was in bits yesterday” or “I can’t train today”.

'It was originally a stomach injury but it’s referring down to the hip and groin area so it needs sorting out. Joe Ledley is starting to show symptoms of it as well but obviously not as severe as Scott's.

'It’s just wear and tear from the demands of travelling. The physical and mental fatigue makes competing in four competitions a big ask but they are coping with it pretty well.'

Hard though it now seems to fathom, there was a time when the prospect of Brown being posted missing for such a mammoth match would not exactly have been met with a day of national mourning by the Celtic support.

These days, the understanding of Lennon’s desire to do all he can to ensure his skipper plays against Spartak is absolute.

Ready: Neil Lennon was in training ahead of Celtic's match against Inverness

Ready: Neil Lennon was in training ahead of Celtic's match against Inverness

Even if Victor Wanyama were not suspended for the Group G decider, Brown’s presence would be a matter of high importance to the manager.

Asked if he’d have been tempted to rest Brown if Wanyama had been available, Lennon replied: ‘No, because I’d like him to play anyway. We need players and, as close to his best condition as possible, he’s been brilliant for us.

'Certainly in the opening three games he had three brilliant games and he was fantastic for us and he‘s been playing the best football of his career – but this has really hampered him.

'I don’t think anyone now has any doubts that he is capable of being the captain. He has proved that over the last couple of years and I think he has won the support over.

'There were a few doubts about him for a while but I think now people see what a really good player he is. He has tidied up all the confrontational side of him on the pitch and the ill-discipline – he has matured a lot and has just been playing really well.'

Brown won’t be the only player who will be used sparingly against Inverness on Saturday, at Tynecastle on Wednesday then when Arbroath come visiting in the Scottish Cup next Saturday.

With four plates in the air, Lennon will mix and match his squad in the run-up to the Spartak game.

The deep-seated desire to progress in all competitions must be tempered with pragmatism and a sense of priority.

'They’re all important but ultimately the short-term aim would be the Spartak Moscow game,' Lennon conceded.

'First of all we have to get a team in our mind and then see how we go about balancing getting them ready for that.

Out: Victor Wanyama is suspended for the final Champions League match in Group G

Out: Victor Wanyama is suspended for the final Champions League match in Group G

'I would probably say that the majority of those who will play against Moscow – or who will be in contention for Moscow – wouldn’t play the weekend before against Arbroath.

'As regards these other two games, I want to be strong because they’re going to be difficult games for us.

‘If we can beat Arbroath in the Cup and regardless of what happens against Moscow we will be in the Europa League, so they’ve done very well so far.’

While the defeat in Lisbon was a marked improvement on many a European away day for Celtic over the past decade, the performance paled in significance with the overwhelming majority they’ve produced in Europe this season.

But with a home game against an already eliminated side to come, one in which a win would, in all probability, clinch qualification, there is no question of public castigation.

'I had a chat with them today about it,' Lennon continued.

All smiles: Lennon is ready to mix and match his squad before the Spartak Moscow match at Parkhead

All smiles: Lennon is ready to mix and match his squad before the Spartak Moscow match at Parkhead

'Sometimes it’s best to leave them to it and let them digest it themselves first. They know they weren’t at their best but they are punching well above their weight and still have a real fighting chance of qualifying.

'I know they can play better and I know they will play better at home. They know what’s at stake so it should be another great European night for us hopefully.

'We are delighted to be in Europe beyond Christmas but obviously we would like to take it further in the Champions league. Their efforts deserved but sometimes you don’t get what you deserve in football.

'We’ll have to play strong and well against Moscow because they are a very dangerous team who play really good football. But with us at home and knowing what’s at stake they’ll have to play really well to beat us.'

Luis Suarez can fire Liverpool to top four finish, says Jamie Carragher

Red hot Suarez can fire Liverpool to top four finish, insists Carragher

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UPDATED:

14:36 GMT, 18 November 2012

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher believes a top-four finish is still within the club's reach and the current form of striker Luis Suarez supports that.

The Uruguay international produced another scintillating performance in the 3-0 win over Wigan, scoring twice and having a hand in another goal as the Reds recorded only their fourth home win of 2012.

Suarez is now the Barclays Premier League's top scorer with 10 goals in 12 matches and while Liverpool still rely heavily on him for their attacking impetus a seven-match unbeaten run has them heading in the right direction.

Man of the moment: Jamie Carragher believes Luis Suarez can fire Liverpool to a top four finish this season

Man of the moment: Jamie Carragher believes Luis Suarez can fire Liverpool to a top four finish this season

Brendan Rodgers' side are now only four points behind perennial Champions League qualifiers Arsenal, in sixth, and eight behind surprise package West Brom, currently occupying fourth place.

'Teams are dropping points all over the place,' said Carragher.

'We look at it as if we haven't had a great start to the season but winning yesterday we're not too far of the top four, which is where we want to be.

'From our own point of view we want to push on and make a challenge for the top four.

'It seems like if everyone is throwing it away it is still up for grabs.'

Carragher came off the bench late on Saturday, which gave him chance to appreciate fully Suarez's performance.

His first-time strike from Raheem Sterling's cross was matched only by his cool finish when played through by Jose Enrique, who then clinched the result with his first goal for the club after he followed in the rebound from Sterling's shot.

Carragher rates Suarez as high, if not higher, than the great forwards he has played alongside at Anfield and feels he is irreplaceable.

'I think he is definitely right up there,' he told BBC Radio 5 Liver's Sportsweek.

'I can only talk about the players I've played with (Robbie) Fowler, (Michael) Owen, (Fernando) Torres and I think he comes pretty close to that list.

Big future: Carragher was impressed with Raheem Sterling's performance on the back of his England debut in midweek

Big future: Carragher was impressed with Raheem Sterling's performance on the back of his England debut in midweek

'It's not a great Liverpool side at the moment. The other players I've played with have played in sides that have won trophies and been near the top of the league.

'For him to do what he is doing in a side that is still building under the new manager I wouldn't swap him for anyone in the Premier League.

'I think what he does in our team and what he gives us no other player really could.'

Despite Suarez continuing to grab the headlines Rodgers was keen to ensure the praise was spread around the team.

'I thought Raheem was excellent. At 17 years of age he played 86 minutes for England in his first cap during the week and he could probably have played another game he is that fit,' said the Reds boss.

'I thought he was well supported by those around him but of course the goalscorer always gets top of the bill.

'I thought Jordan Henderson was outstanding when he came on (in a tactical switch after just 36 minutes).

'I thought we needed to flip our midfield around and I thought he was excellent.

'He has been really patient, he is learning all the time and he has a great part to play in our future going forward.'

Rodgers knows he needs to strengthen when the transfer window reopens but hopes by then his current players have put themselves in a position to be able to challenge for the top four.

Something to shout about: Jordan Henderson's display was praised by team-mate Carragher

Something to shout about: Jordan Henderson's display was praised by team-mate Carragher

'I am not going to say we are going to get five or six players in, it doesn't work that way,' he added.

'We know it is going to be very difficult this season in terms of transition in the group but we'll get some players in and with the players we have we'll work with them and see where it takes us.

'I am looking forward to pushing on now. Hopefully we will keep a strong squad and see what happens in January then we can have a great second half to the season.'

Having lost Ben Watson to a broken leg in a freak clash with Sterling Wigan manager Roberto Martinez also has an injury worry about captain Gary Caldwell.

'He is a concern because he has a little problem with his hamstring but we will get a better diagnosis on Monday,' said the Spaniard, who felt the midweek internationals had affected his side.

'I can't wait to get rid of all the distractions of international fixtures and concentrate on the league now until March.

'We can't wait to get back into a normal week and hopefully get the injured players back as quickly as we can.'

Luxembourg 1 Scotland 2: Red hot Jordan Rhodes

Luxembourg 1 Scotland 2: Red-hot Rhodes at the double as minnows nearly upset Tartan Army

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UPDATED:

21:49 GMT, 14 November 2012

Jordan Rhodes hit a first-half double as an attack-minded Scotland side began life after Craig Levein with a narrow friendly victory in Luxembourg.

Rhodes, who scored a hat-trick for Scotland Under-21s on his previous trip to the Stade Josy Barthel, headed home from close range on 10 minutes and then slotted a simple second.

However, Scotland failed to build on their lead and survived some nervous moments after Lars Gerson's well-placed free-kick brought Luxembourg back into the game 90 seconds after the break.

Doubling up: Jordan Rhodes struck twice to earn Scotland a narrow win

Doubling up: Jordan Rhodes struck twice to earn Scotland a narrow win

Both Scotland goals were followed by
cries of 'Are you watching Craig Levein' from the visiting support, who
vastly outnumbered the home fans in the attendance of 2,521.

Their mood was no doubt lifted by
caretaker manager Billy Stark's 4-4-2 formation with Kenny Miller
partnering Rhodes up front and Steven Naismith and debutant Andrew
Shinnie playing in advanced wide positions.

Levein, who paid the price for taking
two points from Scotland's first four World Cup qualifiers, had last
played two strikers from the start in a 2-1 win against Liechtenstein at
Hampden in September 2010.

Inverness midfielder Shinnie was the
only debutant in the starting line-up but there were rare starts for
Matt Gilks and Grant Hanley, while Charlie Mulgrew lined up in central
midfield.

Tucked home: Rhodes knocks in the second goal

Tucked home: Rhodes knocks in the second goal

Match Facts

Luxembourg: Joubert, Mutsch, Bukvic, Deville, Schnell, Janisch, Blaise, Gerson, Payal, Bettmer, Leweck.

Subs: Oberweis, Malget, Hoffmann, Peters, Da Mota Alves, Bensi, Laterza, Philipps, Jans, Turpel.

Goal: Gerson 47

Scotland: Gilks, Whittaker, Dixon, Berra, Hanley, Mulgrew, Fletcher, Shinnie, Naismith, Rhodes, Miller.

Subs: Samson, Webster, Barr, Davidson, Kelly, Griffiths, Bell.

Goals: Rhodes 11, 23

Referee: Cyrill Zimmermann (Switzerland)

The Celtic player saw a lot of the
ball in the opening stages as Scotland dominated possession on a pitch
that was already cutting up.

Rhodes had his first chance when
Luxembourg defender Guy Blaise missed his kick after Naismith had helped
the ball up the left, but the Blackburn striker was well wide as he
steered the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper.

However, Rhodes only had two minutes to wait for the opener after more poor defending.

Scotland worked the ball to Paul Dixon
on the left wing and he sent over an inviting cross which Ante Bukvic
turned against his own post. Rhodes was on hand to head the ball over
the line from close range.

Gilks made his first save in the 16th
minute after Naismith had lost right-back Tom Schnell at a short
free-kick. The defender sent over a deep cross that was met by Mario
Mutsch but the Blackpool goalkeeper got down to hold the header.

Mutsch soon fired wide from 22 yards after Scotland again found themselves a man short down their left.

Miller curled over after a Rhodes
lay-off before the Blackburn forward hit his second in the 23rd minute.
Shinnie collected Whittaker's cross from the right and hit the byline
before driving the ball towards goal.

His effort was blocked but fell for kindly for Rhodes who slipped the ball home with his left foot from six yards.

Rhodes to glory: The youngster is congratulated by his compatriots

Rhodes to glory: The youngster is congratulated by his compatriots

Miller was soon through on goal after a
series of short, sharp passes with Naismith but the flag was raised as
the striker shot straight at Jonathan Joubert.

Scotland continued to control
possession but they were almost caught out before the break when Mutsch
broke down the left and sent over a low cross to right-winger Charles
Leweck, whose drive was held by Gilks.

Kilmarnock midfielder Liam Kelly
replaced Mulgrew at half-time to make his debut but he soon gave away a
foul that allowed the hosts back into the game. The execution was superb
as Gerson curled his 25-yard free-kick into the top corner to leave
Gilks with no chance.

Scotland continued to dominate
possession but were making little headway with Naismith growing
frustrated at the number of fouls committed by the home defenders.

Scraped: Scotland only won by one goal against the minnow opposition

Scraped: Scotland only won by one goal against the minnow opposition

Leigh Griffiths became the third new cap in the 70th minute when he replaced Shinnie with Miller moving wide right.

Scotland soon had a let-off after a move broke down on the right with Whittaker out of position.

Hanley backed off after David Turpel
collected the ball and the Luxembourg forward turned and sent the ball
inside him and out to Mutsch.

The home captain's cross found Stefano
Bensi in a great position but Gilks did enough to unconvincingly palm
the header wide for a corner.

Battle: Charles Leweck (left) tries to keep up with Scotland's Paul Dixon.

Battle: Charles Leweck (left) tries to keep up with Scotland's Paul Dixon.

Before the match, Stark had signalled
his intention of making six substitutions but the game was in the
balance and Scotland's formation, now looking more like a 4-2-4, was
giving the hosts space to attack.

Rhodes thought he had his hat-trick as
he headed home Kelly's cross but the flag was immediately raised and
Bensi tested Gilks again with a 20-yard drive that the goalkeeper got
down well to hold.

Gilks then saved Turpel's header
before Murray Davidson won his first cap as the midfielder came on for
Rhodes to see help see out the match in injury-time.

Chamakh seeks to escape Arsenal nightmare by returning to Bordeaux

Chamakh seeks to escape Arsenal nightmare by returning to Bordeaux

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UPDATED:

10:54 GMT, 7 November 2012

Arsenal outcast Marouane Chamakh is eyeing an escape route back to Bordeaux.

The striker has started just one game for the Gunners this season, in the Capital One Cup against Reading.

Frozen out: Arsenal's Marouane Chamakh

Frozen out: Arsenal's Marouane Chamakh

The 28-year-old scored twice in that thrilling 7-5 Gunners comeback win but was back on the bench for Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Manchester United.

Chamakh may now push through a January return to his old club, reports the Daily Mirror.

He said: 'After Robin van Persie left, I thought I'd play more. But in two or three months, if nothing changes, I must make a decision.'

Russia coach Fabio Capello has left another Arsenal's Andrei Arshavin out of a 26-player squad to face the USA next week.

Arshavin has been frozen out by Capello during the team's perfect four-win start in World Cup qualifiers.

Manchester United buy out 40m DHL training kit deal in a bid to secure better deal

Man United buy out 40m training kit deal in a bid to generate more cash

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UPDATED:

22:03 GMT, 25 October 2012

Manchester United have bought back the sponsorship rights to their training kit.

When United announced they ahead done
a deal with DHL in 2010 worth 40million over four years, most experts
were astonished at the sum as it exceeded all the actual kits deals of
all their Premier League rivals outside of the elites group of present
and past Champions League qualifiers.

Big deal: DHL had paid 40m to sponsor training kit

Big deal: DHL had paid 40m to sponsor training kit

Since then though, United have done the eye-boggling 559m shirt deal with General Motors, who are paying a world record sum to replace AON as shirt sponsors in 2014.

And the Glazer family have taken the unusual step of buying out DHL, so certain are they of gaining even greater revenue.

'We have successfully negotiated an early buy-out of our training kit agreement with DHL effective 30 June 2013,' the club confirmed this evening.

Usual step: The Glazer family

Usual step: The Glazer family

'DHL will then continue as our global logistics sponsor.

'The significantly increased value of agreements concluded since entering into this agreement, such as our recent 559m world record shirt sponsorship with General Motors, leads us to believe that there should be strategic opportunities to further optimize the value of these rights.'