Tag Archives: robbie

Premier League players continue to choose the MLS over mid-ranking European careers

Beckham sprinkled his stardust and more players are crossing the pond – so is the MLS booming or is the US just a place Premier League careers go to die

season – more than regularly pack in to watch Chelsea and not
far off the number who turn up at Anfield – you begin to
understand his excitement.

MLS crowds generally were up last
season. An average attendance of 18,807 made for the seventh-most
popular football league in the world in terms of bums on seats.

Biggest star in the Galaxy: Beckham moved to Los Angeles amid a blaze of publicity in 2007

Biggest star in the Galaxy: Beckham moved to Los Angeles amid a blaze of publicity in 2007

David Beckham

Hollywood ending: Beckham and his sons celebrate the MLS Cup win in his final game

Hollywood ending: Beckham and his sons celebrate the MLS Cup win in his final game

Paltry television viewing figures for MLS in the US remain a
cause for concern, however, as evidenced by a drop in the number who
watched the 2012 MLS Cup from the previous season’s final. Not even
David Beckham’s walk off into the sunset could save that one.

No talk of MLS progress is complete without referencing Beckham’s legacy of course. Having arrived at LA Galaxy from Real Madrid in 2007, the world’s most bankable footballer played a defining role in building the profile of the league.

Even when things weren’t going right on the pitch, Beckham was still selling the Galaxy brand and putting MLS in places it had never before been able to reach.

Beckham made everything to come possible. Seven new MLS franchises launched during his five years in LA, and the increased profile he generated for the league has helped lure the likes of Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, Carlo Cudicini and Alessandro Nesta to bring their considerable reputations in his wake.

Keane to raise the profile: The Ireland striker (left) has followed Beckham to America

Keane to raise the profile: The Ireland striker (left) has followed Beckham to America

Republic of Ireland striker Keane has
won two MLS Cups in two seasons at LA Galaxy and was named in the
league's best XI for 2012.

Among the other ex-Premier League players to
be found in the US include former West Brom midfielder Giles Barnes, now
plying his trade at Houston Dynamo, and Wales striker Robert
Earnshaw, who arrived at Toronto FC this season.

Former Arsenal and Manchester United full back Mikael Silvestre is another recent arrival. The Frenchman signed for Portland Timbers this season, whose goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts will also be a familiar name to those who follow the lower reaches of the English game. And then there's Tim Cahill, the Australian who left Everton to join Henry at New York Red Bulls in 2012.

New York Red Bulls team-mates: Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, respectively once of Arsenal and Everton

New York Red Bulls team-mates: Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, respectively once of Arsenal and Everton

Tim Cahill

Tim Cahill

It’s not just the quality of players
arriving in the MLS that we should be looking as testament to progress.
There’s also the evidence supplied by MLS graduates able to adjust to
supposedly superior leagues when they leave.

Carlos Bocanegra, Clint
Dempsey and Michael Bradley are shining examples. Brek Shea is early in
his career at Stoke but already being talked about as a potential
Premier League game-changer. Meanwhile, American goalkeepers are
everywhere.

Could the
Premier League one day have enough faith in the MLS to use it as a
feeder league It may be a natural next step, especially when you
consider the desire of English clubs to market themselves aggressively
in the US market.

Premier League exports: Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and Mikael Silvestre

Premier League exports: Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and Mikael Silvestre

Everywhere you look there are signs the MLS is building slowly on its foundation — one laid on the back of the US hosting the 1994 World Cup.

We shouldn’t expect a league to compare with the best in Europe any time soon, but well-planned growth is pointing towards a product that will only get better in time.

Perhaps the biggest achievement of Beckham’s time in American will be seen if the MLS continues to grow without him.

Robert Earnshaw

Giles Barnes

In a land far, far away: Robert Earnshaw and Giles Barnes are both plying their trade in MLS

League One round-up: Oldham beat Hartlepool 3-0 in Lee Johnson"s first game in charge but Gary Johnson"s Yeovil lose 2-0 to Swindon

League One round-up: Johnson's Oldham era starts on a high… but his dad's promotion tilt with Yeovil suffers a blow

By
Graeme Yorke

PUBLISHED:

22:20 GMT, 19 March 2013

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UPDATED:

22:39 GMT, 19 March 2013

LEAGUE ONE RESULTS

Bury 2-0 Stevenage

Crewe 2-1 MK Dons

Oldham 3-0 Hartlepool

Yeovil 0-2 Swindon

New Oldham boss Lee Johnson marked the first match of his managerial career by taking the Latics out of the npower League One relegation zone with a 3-0 win at home to fellow strugglers Hartlepool on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old, the son of Yeovil boss Gary Johnson, is the youngest manager in the Football League following his appointment on Monday.

On the rise: Swindon beat Yeovil 2-0 to move into third place in the League One table

On the rise: Swindon beat Yeovil 2-0 to move into third place in the League One table

LEAGUE ONE TABLE

League One

And he saw his new side go in front
after 17 minutes through Robbie Simpson's header, with Jean Yves Mvoto
nodding home a second shortly before the half hour.

Jose Baxter finished the visitors off in the 69th minute. The win took Oldham a point above the drop zone.

Gary Johnson could not match his son's success, though, as his Yeovil side slipped to a 2-0 defeat at home to fellow promotion hopefuls Swindon.

Adam Rooney's 77th-minute penalty opened the scoring and James Collins made it two deep into stoppage time as the Robins moved to within a point of the top two, three ahead of their opponents.

Bury moved off the foot of the table, and sent Portsmouth bottom, as two late goals earned them a 2-0 win at home to Stevenage.

Steven Schumacher missed a 20th-minute penalty and it looked like that might be costly until Craig Jones broke the deadlock in the 82nd minute and Jonson Clarke-Harris made the points safe in the last minute.

Mathias Pogba scored twice as Crewe came from behind to beat MK Dons 2-1.

Patrick Bamford headed the Dons into a 31st-minute lead, but Pogba levelled nine minutes later and got the winner six minutes from time.

The Dons finished the match with 10 men thanks to Antony Kay's 86th-minute sending-off.

Home defeat: Gary Johnson's Yeovil were undone by second-half goals from Adam Rooney and James Collins

Home defeat: Gary Johnson's Yeovil were undone by second-half goals from Adam Rooney and James Collins

Robbie Keane wants Frank Lampard to replace David Beckham at LA Galaxy

Keane desperate for Lampard to ditch Chelsea and replace Beckham at LA Galaxy

By
Graeme Yorke

PUBLISHED:

00:22 GMT, 13 February 2013

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UPDATED:

08:05 GMT, 13 February 2013

Los Angeles Galaxy striker Robbie Keane is hoping Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard will come in to replace former England captain David Beckham at the MLS club.

Galaxy have not yet replaced Beckham with another big-name, big-money player but they have been linked with England stalwart Lampard who looks likely to leave Chelsea when his contract expires at the end of the season.

'I am sure they have someone in the pipeline. I think it is important for the team to get big-name players in and if we get Frank it will be good – he's been on fire. Hopefully we can get him,' Ireland striker Keane said.

Cruising: Frank Lampard has been in great form for club and country, but looks set to leave Chelsea

Cruising: Frank Lampard has been in great form for club and country, but looks set to leave Chelsea

Lampard, 34, has scored 10 goals in his last 15 games for club and country.

He netted in Chelsea's 4-1 victory over Wigan Athletic in the Premier League on Saturday and grabbed the winner in England's 2-1 friendly triumph over Brazil on Wednesday.

England manager Roy Hodgson said after the game that Lampard should stay in Europe to maintain his chances of playing in the 2014 World Cup.

The player has expressed a desire to prolong his 12-year stay at Chelsea.

An established international midfielder with an eye for goal is exactly the kind of player the Galaxy need, with their attempts to sign Brazilian Kaka from Real Madrid not having made any noticeable progress.

Keane said Beckham would be missed in the MLS after he joined Paris Saint-Germain last month.

The
37-year-old former Manchester United and Real Madrid player spent six
years with the Galaxy before he signed a five-month contract with PSG in
January.

The transfer, however, prompted suggestions it was a marketing or business-led deal.

'It's not really hard to understand,' said Keane. 'It's very simple, he loves playing the game.

'Why
would he not go to Paris They are top of the league, they have a great
manager (Carlo Ancelotti) who he knows very well after playing for him
on loan with AC Milan. It makes sense regardless of all the other stuff.

'People
are always going to question it because he is such a big figure but I
know him personally and I know he just loves playing the game. What's
wrong with that' added Keane.

Moving on: David Beckham was in Valencia to watch his new team Paris Saint-Germain in action

Moving on: David Beckham was in Valencia to watch his new team Paris Saint-Germain in action

Void: David Beckham (left) played alongside Robbie Keane (right) at LA Galaxy

Void: David Beckham (left) played alongside Robbie Keane (right) at LA Galaxy

PSG have a six-point lead at the top
of Ligue 1 and Beckham watched from the stands when they beat Valencia
2-1 in Spain on Tuesday night in the first leg of their Champions League
last-16 tie.

Keane played alongside Beckham for
two MLS seasons, winning the championship both times, and believes his
former team mate can pick up another title this season.

'He still has passion for the game and he is still a quality player,' said the Irishman. “He is going to a team that is probably going to win their league.

'It's not a bad place for him to be – hopefully he wins that league too because he has won in Spain, England and America. I hope he does it.'

VIDEO: Comedian John Bishop hit in the face by blindfolded Robbie Fowler

VIDEO: Comedian Bishop sees funny side after being hit in the face by Fowler during blindfolded penalty shootout

By
Richard Sharpe

PUBLISHED:

01:09 GMT, 12 February 2013

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UPDATED:

14:18 GMT, 12 February 2013

John Bishop had the Kop in stitches on Monday night after the comedian and Liverpool fan was hit in the face by a ball kicked by Anfield legend Robbie Fowler.

The unlikely duo graced the pitch at half-time during Liverpool's 2-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion.

Fowler and comedian Bishop were on the pitch at Anfield during the break to support Liverpool's 'Seeing is Believing' initiative.

Scroll down for video

Doing their bit: John Bishop (right) and Robbie Fowler (left) took penalties while blindfolded

Doing their bit: John Bishop (right) and Robbie Fowler (left) took penalties while blindfolded

Fowler, accompanied by his son Jacob, and Bishop took penalties while blindfolded during the interval to support the charity.

Liverpool had replaced their usual 'Standard Chartered' sponsors with the slogan 'Seeing is Believing' to raise money for the charity which seeks to eradicate avoidable blindness in developing countries.

The jerseys the players wore during a smash-and-grab defeat by West Brom will be auctioned to aid the cause.

Hijinks: Fowler lifts his blindfold to see how Bishop is getting on

Hijinks: Fowler lifts his blindfold to see how Bishop is getting on

Reds captain Steven Gerrard said
before the match: 'You realise at the time how difficult it is without
your sight. Especially doing activities.

'We were involved in a penalty shootout using a blindfold and it's so difficult.

'It
was really enjoyable to take part and very important for myself and the
club as well to play our part and try to help these people.'

Video Stand-up comic John Bishop gets whacked in the face with a football

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Ian Harte calls Giovanni Trapattoni a clown

You clown! Harte slams Trapattoni after claiming Republic boss 'didn't know he was Irish'

and World Cup 2014 campaigns.

The former Leeds, Levante and Carlisle United left back, 35, who earned the last of his 63 Ireland caps in 2007, has not been considered for selection since Trapattoni took over from Steve Staunton five years ago.

In a question and answer session on Twitter, Harte tweeted: ‘To all the people asking if I have retired from international football.no I haven’t trap didn’t even know I was Irish #whataclown’.

'Clown': Trapattoni has come in for heavy criticism since Euro 2012

'Clown': Trapattoni has come in for heavy criticism since Euro 2012

Back to his best: Harte has impressed for Reading in the Premier League this season

Back to his best: Harte has impressed for Reading in the Premier League this season

Two years ago Harte claimed that
Ireland’s predominantly Italian back-room staff had admitted to one
Irish player that they were unaware Harte was an experienced
international who had played in the 2002 World Cup Finals under Mick
McCarthy.

Trapattoni later dismissed Harte’s criticism during the pre-match press conference on Tuesday night, saying: 'I know him and saw many games and two years ago he was old enough.

'We have Stephen Ward and we welcome back Greg Cunningham now just as we knew about Kevin Kilbane. We know this.

'I don’t answer him. Which manager thinks about Sammon, Hendrick Ask manager of Harte who these players are.'

Meanwhile, Derby striker Connor Sammon will make his debut against Poland tomorrow night.

The former Wigan forward, sold by Roberto Martinez in the summer, has been handed his first game for the Republic ahead of Wolves striker Kevin Doyle.

Sammon, called up by manager Trapattoni last week, has impressed in training in Dublin over the last two days.

He will partner West Bromwich Albion
striker Shane Long from the start in the Aviva Stadium. Captain Robbie
Keane has been left out of the World Cup warm-up game – Ireland face
Austria and Sweden next month – as he prepares for the new MLS season.

Trapattoni said: 'He is robust and
quick. The big man they are not generally so agile and sensible with the
ball. He can defend the ball very well up front and attack their
defence quickly.

Veteran: Harte has earned 63 caps for the Republic, scoring 12 goals

Veteran: Harte has earned 63 caps for the Republic, scoring 12 goals

Veteran: Harte has earned 63 caps for the Republic, scoring 12 goals

'He can also play. He is big and bold
and strong but usually such players are not so quick. I hope he can
continue because we have been impressed over the two days with us and
with his club.'

The Ireland manager has left out Sunderland keeper Keiren Westwood after he failed to get a move out of Wearside during the January transfer window.

Millwall keeper David Forde, who has been a regular this season, takes his place and could now play his first competitive games next month. Veteran Shay Given will be available next month but Trapattoni looks set to ignore his availability for international matches.

Is this what Chelsea fans have been waiting for? 7m flop Marin launches into horror challenge 4 minutes into first league start

Is this what Chelsea fans have been waiting for Marin launches into horror challenge… just four minutes into his first league start, and SIX MONTHS after joining for 7m

By
Frank Foster

PUBLISHED:

21:40 GMT, 2 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

22:14 GMT, 2 January 2013

Chelsea winger Marko Marin was lucky to escape a red card in the
opening stages of his first Premier League start against QPR on Wednesday night.

The former Werder Bremen man has struggled to break into
the first team at Stamford Bridge since his 7m move to the European
champions in the summer.

And he was fortunate not to heading back to the dressing room after only four minutes against relegation strugglers QPR.

Lucky boy: Marin was only cautioned after flying into a studs up challenge on Stephane Mbia

Lucky boy: Marin was only cautioned after flying into a studs up challenge on Stephane Mbia


Fringe player: The German international has struggled to make an impact for his new side since his 7m move in the summer

Fringe player: The German international has struggled to make an impact for his new side since his 7m move in the summer

Having lost control of the ball on the right hand side, the German lunged at Stephane Mbia with all studs showing.

Despite the severity of the challenge referee Lee Mason opted to only produce a yellow card, a decision that would surely have angered QPR boss Harry Redknapp as his side looked to enhance their chances of survival with a victory at Stamford Bridge.

For all the world though it looked like Mbia was lucky to
escape a serious injury and the commentary team on 5 live were convinced
that the tackle deserved a sending off.

Referee Lee Mason decided only to show Marin a yellow card for the challenge

Referee Lee Mason decided only to show Marin a yellow card for the challenge

Robbie Savage said the player should certainly have been sent off. And former Tottenham boss David Pleat said: ‘It’s reckless, he’s
lucky.'

Having not appeared in the league since Chelsea's goalless draw with
Fulham on November 28, Marin has been rumoured to be close to
loan switch back to the Bundesliga with Beyer Levekusen.

The presence of fellow new boys Eden Hazard, Oscar and Victor Moses
have limited the opportunities for Marin to make an impact for Rafa Benitez' side.

It has been reported in recent weeks that the 23-year-old is set to join Beyer Levekusen on loan this month

It has been reported in recent weeks that the 23-year-old is set to join Beyer Levekusen on loan this month

Injuries have also played a part in the 23-year-old's lack of playing
time and while stressing he sees his future as a Chelsea player, the
German did not entirely rule out a loan move in the January transfer
window.

'I could imagine a loan deal,' he said. 'It could be
an ideal option to get me playing more regularly and help me with my
general development.

'But I think at this time it is out of the question
and I won’t be heading back to the Bundesliga.'

Marin's miserable start to life at Chelsea continued when he was substituted for Hazard after a n hour of the match, which QPR surprisingly won 1-0.

Where do Aston Villa and Paul Lambert go from here?

After their drubbing by Wigan, where do Aston Villa and Lambert go from here

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 30 December 2012

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There would be few prizes for guessing the topic of conversation as Aston Villa’s decision makers gathered for a summit meeting yesterday.

Owner Randy Lerner, chief executive Paul Faulkner and manager Paul Lambert would have but one subject in mind: where on earth do we go from here

Oh, to have been a fly-on-the-wall at Lerner’s converted farmhouse in the north Warwickshire countryside as the latest depressing episode in Villa’s history was dissected.

What now It was a case of it never rains but it pours for Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert as they slumped to a dire 3-0 defeat by Wigan on Saturday

What now It was a case of it never rains but it pours for Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert as they slumped to a dire 3-0 defeat by Wigan on Saturday

Fifteen goals conceded in three matches. The heaviest defeat in the club’s history at Chelsea. Back-to-back home reversals to Spurs on Boxing Day and relegation rivals Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

In 2010, as Gerard Houllier fought with Villa’s senior players, Lerner was backed into a corner and stumped up 18million with 6m add-ons to purchase Darren Bent and guarantee Premier League survival.

Twelve months ago the situation was not as desperate. But Alex McLeish still asked for, and received, temporary assistance in the shape of Robbie Keane. Villa limped over the line to safety, the club damaged by the bitterness surrounding a misguided managerial appointment.

After a change of policy to bringing in young and hungry players under Lambert, the club once more find themselves at a crossroads.

Several senior players are currently sidelined through injury. Another clutch of first-teamers have been marginalised at the manager’s discretion and there is a third group whose top-flight experience extends to half a season. The situation is crying out for decisive action.

Rock bottom: Villa's Stephen Ireland (left) and Chris Herd don't know where to look as Wigan take control of the match

Rock bottom: Villa's Stephen Ireland (left) and Chris Herd don't know where to look as Wigan take control of the match

Bizarrely, it is little more than two weeks since Villa won 3-1 at Anfield. It was in the week building up to that game that Lambert’s team defeated Norwich City to confirm a spot in the League Cup semi-finals against Bradford City. Incredibly, Wembley beckons.

But so, on the form of the past week, does relegation.

Of course, Lambert can do little about the series of injuries that have befallen key players.

Ron Vlaar, Gabby Agbonlahor, Charles N’Zogbia and Darren Bent are all on the treatment table.

The problem for Lambert is that these absences are recent. Villa were hardly pulling up any trees in the Premier League with their help.

And Bent finds himself in two groups. First, among those senior players who are missing through injury. However, he can also count himself among those who have been marginalised. When Lambert arrived, he did so with a promise to get the club’s star striker firing again.

Grim outlook: Some embarrassed faces on the Villa bench as they lose to Wigan

Grim outlook: Some embarrassed faces on the Villa bench as they lose to Wigan

He promptly made him captain.

Suddenly, Bent was dropped. Not just from the team, but from the squad. What happened

Lambert had tried to replicate what he had done with his previous club, Norwich City. When the former Champions League winner (as a midfielder with Borussia Dortmund) arrived at Carrow Road, he identified Grant Holt as the man who could keep order in the dressing room and set a good example.

When Lambert asked Bent to do the same at Villa, the club’s manager was disappointed with the response.

He was then faced with a dilemma. Should he allow the England international to continue in a role to which he clearly wasn’t suited Or does he exert his managerial authority and teach Bent a lesson

Too easy: Wigan's Ivan Ramis celebrates opening the scoring after three minutes

Too easy: Wigan's Ivan Ramis celebrates opening the scoring after three minutes

With so many young professionals, Lambert chose the second option. Bent is now recovering from a hamstring injury. And the Scot is under severe pressure. His honeymoon is over. The issue remains.

In fairness, Villa supporters have bestowed the most generous of mandates on Lambert to produce winning football.

‘We’ve had some really heavy defeats,’ said Brett Holman, who is as straight-talking as his Australian background would suggest, ‘we are in a dip.

‘People might say we lack Premier League experience, but they weren’t saying it after we beat Liverpool at Anfield.

‘It could help if you have a couple of players who have 200-300 league games behind them.’

Just a dip: Brett Holman (centre) defended Villa's young team

Just a dip: Brett Holman (centre) defended Villa's young team

And so to yesterday’s meeting. Lerner is reluctant to keep footing the bill for huge losses but appreciates he may need to dig deep to avoid a relegation battle once more.

Lambert wants an experienced centre half, an energetic, ball-winning midfielder and another striker. All preferably with Premier League experience.

But which player, of any experience and quality, is going to see Aston Villa as a good career move

Of course, Villa could always do nothing. Tough it out.

But with three cup-ties in January, not to mention home games against fellow relegation candidates Southampton and Newcastle, it would be a bold gamble.

Warren Gatland discusses Lions selection

It wouldn't bother me if I picked 15 English players, says Lions head coach Gatland

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 29 December 2012

Warren Gatland will travel to Australia from his New Zealand home this week as his quest to become the first British and Irish Lions head coach in 16 years to win a Test series begins in earnest.

The 49-year-old former All Black hooker and current Wales head coach, a man who helped Waikato to a 38-10 win over the Lions in 1993, plans to share a beer with fellow Kiwi and Wallaby head coach Robbie Deans when the Lions backroom staff conduct a reconnaissance trip Down Under before returning ahead of a Six Nations tournament that will define his squad selection.

There are so many questions to be answered, such as the make-up of the back row. ‘Can you pick it’ Gatland asks. ‘Because right now I haven’t got a clue.’

Fill the shirt: Head coach Warren Gatland is planning a recce Down Under before picking his Lions squad

Fill the shirt: Head coach Warren Gatland is planning a recce Down Under before picking his Lions squad

But in many areas the former Ireland coach, who also led Wasps to domestic and European success and twice guided Wales to Grand Slams, has made up his mind.

Take the composition of the squad. ‘I’d imagine there will be 35 players made up of a 19 to 16 split between forwards and backs, possibly 20 to 15,’ he reveals. ‘We’ll have three hookers, three 9s, three 10s and an extra prop. It means that in nearly all other positions there’ll be two players fighting it out for one spot.’

Gatland is adamant all four home nations will be represented in the squad, but all politics will go out of the window when it comes to the Test starting XV. ‘It wouldn’t bother me if I picked 15 Englishmen if I thought they were best equipped to beat Australia,’ he says. ‘I don’t think the make-up of the team is the main criteria for getting the job done, although I believe all four nations should have representations in the squad for the morale of the tour. That’s why I hope that Scotland enjoy a good Six Nations because I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn to say representation for the Scots is challenging.’

In deciding his best approach, Gatland has sought advice from two of his predecessors; Sir Ian McGeechan, his boss on the 2009 tour to South Africa that ended in narrow defeat, and fellow Kiwi Graham Henry, who was also Wales coach when he led an ultimately unsuccessful tour to Australia in 2001.

Lion's share: England will be represented in the starting XV

Lion's share: England will be represented in the starting XV

Lion's share: England will be represented in the starting XV

‘Graham told me that coaching the Lions gave him some of the most valuable lessons he ever learned, lessons that he put to good use when he won the World Cup last year for New Zealand,’ says Gatland. ‘He also boosted my confidence by saying how I’m miles more experienced than he was at this point. He was appointed Lions coach 18 months after taking over in Wales. I’ve been coaching in the Northern Hemisphere for the vast majority of the last 24 years.

‘New Zealand try to claim me as a Kiwi coach but, while I was a Kiwi player, I’m most definitely a Northern Hemisphere coach, and very proud to be so.’

The memories of four years ago when Gatland, as forwards coach under McGeechan, saw the Lions lose narrowly are still raw. ‘I’m still hurting from that,’ he says. ‘I recall the tiniest of details, like a lineout the ref deemed wasn’t straight to a Bryan Habana try. I’ll swear until my very last day it was straight.

‘And I’ll never know how Schalk Burger wasn’t sent off, or at the very least sent to the bin, for gouging in the second Test.

‘But I’m proud of what we achieved in 2009 when we put the pride back into the Lions jersey, and regained the respect from the rest of world rugby.’

Second coming: Gatland was part of the Lions coaching team in 2009

Second coming: Gatland was part of the Lions coaching team in 2009

This is in reference to the ill-fated tour of New Zealand in 2005 when Sir Clive Woodward split management and playing staff into midweek and Test groups, resulting in a 3-0 series whitewash.

Gatland, in the forefront of the modern game when it comes to coaching Wales, is more of a traditionalist with the Lions.

‘You have to be more old school for a scratch team who meet up the day after many have played in cup finals and who have been kicking lumps out of each other just a few weeks before,’ he says.

‘Every member of the squad will get to start one of the first three games. That way they won’t throw their toys out of the pram like they did in 2005. It will be good for squad morale.

‘Likewise, I’ll make sure we have a few beers. We’ll have to get the balance right – obviously what happened with England at the World Cup didn’t work out too well – but it’s important the boys enjoy each other’s company and bond.’

For now, Gatland has to choose the right players. He intends to see all four countries as much as possible during the Six Nations, starting with England against Scotland at Twickenham on February 2. He also plans to watch training, although he is wary of his ties with Wales.

Class of 2013: Gatland with his coaches (L-R) Graham Rowntree, Rob Howley and Andy Farrell

Class of 2013: Gatland with his coaches (L-R) Graham Rowntree, Rob Howley and Andy Farrell

‘Stuart Lancaster has offered to let me spend a day watching England train, as has Declan Kidney with Ireland,’ he says. ‘It’s important people feel comfortable and know me well enough to realise I’m not going to go running back to Wales with trade secrets. That would insult me and the coaches’ integrity. If anything, my problem is trying not to be too hard on the Welsh to prove I’m totally unbiased.

‘The coach’s input is vital. I know the players and I can see their stats but I’ll need help to choose the right personalities, an ingredient just as important on a Lions tour.’

He wants consistency from all contenders during the Six Nations, something which has been lacking.

‘If I’d picked the squad after the 2012 Six Nations then there would have been a lot of Welsh Grand Slam winners in it,’ he adds. ‘After the autumn this wouldn’t be the case. If I have the England win over New Zealand in mind then a lot of those guys put their hand up.

‘If we get it right on and off the field we will have a hell of a team, and if that’s the case then we’ll beat Australia. It’s my job now to make sure that happens.’

Harry Redknapp offers transfer targets a challenge

Redknapp admits all he can offer January targets Diame, Ba and Keane is the challenge of helping QPR beat the drop

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UPDATED:

13:14 GMT, 29 December 2012

Harry Redknapp admits all he can offer QPR's transfer targets is the potential satisfaction of rescuing the club from a seemingly hopeless position.

Rangers are six points adrift of safety in the Barclays Premier League and are hoping to avoid a third successive defeat when they host Liverpool on Sunday.

Redknapp insists the club must sign new players in next month's transfer window if they are to survive in the top flight with Demba Ba, Brede Hangeland and Robbie Keane reported to interest the QPR boss.

Top target: Harry Redknapp hopes to lure the likes of Robbie Keane to Loftus Road

Top target: Harry Redknapp hopes to lure the likes of Robbie Keane to Loftus Road

But the 65-year-old admits his only sales pitch during negotiations will be to convince prospective new arrivals they could be part of something special.

'I tell players: “Look, there are mugs around like me. Come and have a challenge, please. Come and do something”. If we keep this team up now we'll have had a fantastic end of the season,' he said.

'I walked on that pitch at Wigan as Portsmouth manager in 2006 when we had escaped relegation and it was the best day ever.

'It was fantastic and I want to do the same at QPR. That's my dream – all I think about at night is trying to keep this team up.

'I'd love it so much if we kept QPR up. It has consumed my whole life, it's all I want. It gets me up, it gets me down.

'I've been sitting at home over Christmas being no fun to anybody and I was thinking, “Should I put myself in this position, should I put my family in this situation again”

'But you do as you want to have a go and if I could be a part of the team that can pull it off that would be fantastic.

'That is the message I want to send to any player: “Come and we'll have a great time if we can turn it round – let's see if we can”.'

Realistic: Redknapp knows that a relegation battle isn't the most appealing prospect

Realistic: Redknapp knows that a relegation battle isn't the most appealing prospect

Interested Fulham's Brede Hangeland could be added to bolster QPR's leaky defence

Interested Fulham's Brede Hangeland could be added to bolster QPR's leaky defence

Redknapp has steered Portsmouth and Tottenham away from relegation in the past and knows QPR require a major change in fortunes if they are to be added to his success stories.

'When you're in the bottom four and cut adrift like we were then it's so difficult,' he said.

'We need a run of games from where we are now. We need to show top six or seven form to get out of it.

'We are still in there and while there's hope we have to keep going and believing. I still believe we can do it.'

QPR's survival bid received a shot in the arm with Adel Taarabt's omission from Morocco's squad for the African Nations Cup.

The 23-year-old, who scored both goals against Fulham two weeks ago in the club's only Premier League victory this season, is now available for matches against West Ham, Norwich, Manchester City and Swansea.

Morocco coach Rachid Taoussi stated that the reason he overlooked Taarabt was because he refused to meet him after travelling to London to see the playmaker.

It's begun: Redknapp is already stepping up interest in West Ham midfielder Mohamed Diame

It's begun: Redknapp is already stepping up interest in West Ham midfielder Mohamed Diame

Moving south Demba Ba is another target at Loftus Road

Moving south Demba Ba is another target at Loftus Road

Redknapp said: 'I'm delighted, it's fantastic news. I thought he might be going but he's a talent when he plays like he does at Fulham. He can win games for you.

'I don't know what happened. I swear I haven't got a clue. I never discussed it with anybody.

'The first I knew about it was when I was driving in and heard on the radio that he hasn't been selected and I thought, “Oh, that's good”.'

Redknapp spoke in glowing terms of Luis Suarez, the Uruguay striker who will spearhead Liverpool's assault on Loftus Road.

'My God, the man is fantastic, an unbelievable player,' he said. 'There are a lot of people who don't like Suarez, but as a player he is right up there. He could play for any team in the world.

'He gives everything – effort to start with and he never stops working. When he loses the ball he is like a little kid, he chases the ball to get it back. That enthusiasm, he's fantastic.'

Big ask: Redknapp knows he must buy in January if Rangers are to beat the drop

Big ask: Redknapp knows he must buy in January if Rangers are to beat the drop

Dimitar Berbatov of Fulham shows shirt saying Keep Calm And Pass Me The Ball

Keep Calm And Pass Me The Ball: Fulham hitman Berbatov delivers special message to his team-mates… and then gets booked for shirt stunt!

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UPDATED:

16:49 GMT, 26 December 2012

Revealing a slogan underneath a team jersey usually means a footballer has something to say, but Dimitar Berbatov’s was a simple instruction.

The Fulham man’s ‘Keep Calm And Pass Me The Ball’ t-shirt, or rather, scrawled message on the front of his thermal wear, was unveiled as he celebrated scoring against Southampton.

It raised a few smiles – we can give the guy credit for humour – but referee Phil Dowd wasn’t in the mood for laughing and booked him for removing his shirt.

I'm the man! Berbatov issues an instruction to his teammates

I'm the man! Berbatov issues an instruction to his teammates

Main man: Fulham players celebrate with the Bulgarian

Main man: Fulham players celebrate with the Bulgarian

Booked: Referee Dowd wasn't in the mood

Booked: Referee Dowd wasn't in the mood

He's now netted six goals for the
Cottagers who are enduring a miserable spell in the Premier League, and
his stunt is worthy of cult appreciation.

He’s not alone – Manchester City
joker Mario Balotelli’s ‘Why Always Me’ t-shirt had fans asking if he
was tiring of the limelight, as unlikely as that sounds.

But while they’re commended for
comedy value, neither the Italian nor Berbatov’s cheeky confidence will
earn places in the hall of t-shirt fame alongside Robbie Fowler’s nod to
the beleaguered Liverpool dockers or Ian Wright’s ‘179 Just done it’,
when he broke the club goalscoring record at Arsenal.

Perhaps Berb’s next one could read
‘Pass Me The Ball To My Feet’, however, given his misplaced header from
six yards out, just minutes later.

Six of the best: Berbatov netted his sixth goal for Fulham

Six of the best: Berbatov netted his sixth goal for Fulham