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Sir Chris Hoy retires from cycling

A Knight to remember: British cycling's Olympic golden boy Hoy rides off into the sunset after stellar career

: February – Wins sprint and keirin at London World Cup, an event which doubles as the Olympic test event. April – Wins keirin world title in Melbourne. Claims bronze in the sprint after being beaten by Kenny in the semi-final. August 2 – Wins fifth Olympic gold medal in London 2012 men's team sprint bringing him level on golds with Sir Steve Redgrave. August 7 – Wins the men's keirin at London 2012, his second gold of the Games and his sixth Olympic gold medal in total making him Britain's most successful Olympian.

2013: April 15 – Calls a media conference for April 18 in Edinburgh, where he is announces his retirement from competitive cycling.

'The desire to race in Glasgow was there, but when I started training again my body wasn't responding,' said Hoy. 'London took an incredible toll. I squeezed out every drop, really emptied the tank' – and in doing so, he won two gold medals, taking his tally to a record six Olympic golds, one more than Sir Steve Redgrave.

'I didn't want to turn up in Glasgow and not be successful,' Hoy continued. 'I didn't want to spend a year-and-a-half putting Sarra (his wife) and everything else to one side. And I don't want to be there to get a tracksuit and wave to the crowd — I wouldn't enjoy that.'

Although Hoy says there was no epiphany, if he had to pick one moment when his thoughts settled on retirement, it came – paradoxically enough – on a bike ride.

It was last month, towards the end of an eight-week holiday with Sarra, as they toured Asia and Australia.

'We were doing a road trip from Cairns to Adelaide,' says Hoy. 'The car had a roof rack with bikes, of course, and I was riding every day, first thing in the morning but also eating what I wanted and relaxing.

'As we got close to Adelaide, we stopped and I got the bike off and rode the last 100km. It was in the Barossa Valley, through the vineyards. Stunning. And I thought, “Yes, this is more like it.”

'I realised that I was associating the bike with pleasure, rather than the pain of training. It reminded me why I got into the sport in the first place.'

And it beat battering his body into
submission in a velodrome. As Hoy explains: 'People think that if you're
a good cyclist or tennis player or rugby player that you simply get out
of bed and do it.

'But you become good at it because of what you do day
after day, year after year. It's why I know I can't just turn up in
Glasgow and be competitive. Your body eventually says,: “Enough”.'

After London 2012 Hoy said he
desperately wanted to carry on to Glasgow, by which time he will be 38. But what
most didn't know at the time was that his build-up to his fourth
Olympics had been so difficult.

He was struck down with a back injury
just weeks before the Games, forcing him to return early from a
training camp in Germany. Then he mistakenly booked a flight home for
the wrong day, forcing a detour to Glasgow and a long journey for Sarra
to drive from their home in Cheshire to collect him.

Next morning, Hoy was called into the
Manchester Velodrome for a meeting with Dave Brailsford and Shane
Sutton.

'You're not riding the sprint,' Sutton told him. 'And the way
you're going, you're not riding the keirin, either.' Hoy was defending
Olympic champion in both events.

Flying the flag: Sir Chris Hoy of the leads out Great Britain at the 2012 Opening Ceremony

Flying the flag: Sir Chris Hoy of the leads out Great Britain at the 2012 Opening Ceremony

Gold star: Hoy shows off his medal after the Men's Keirin Track Cycling Final last year

Gold star: Hoy shows off his medal after the Men's Keirin Track Cycling Final last year

Pedal to the medal: Hoy during the keirin at the London Games

Pedal to the medal: Hoy during the keirin at the London Games

Victory parade: Hoy (right) and Sarah Storey are interviewed by Helen Skelton (left)

Victory parade: Hoy (right) and Sarah Storey are interviewed by Helen Skelton (left)

Sealed with a kiss: Hoy with his wife Sarra Kemp after winning a gold medal in the Velodrome last year

Sealed with a kiss: Hoy with his wife Sarra Kemp after winning a gold medal in the Velodrome last year

THE FUTURE FOR A KNIGHT RIDER

Sir Chris Hoy says he is looking forward to 'a bit of relaxation and living a more balanced life,' though he will also be working as an ambassador for Glasgow 2014 and Glasgow's Youth Olympics bid in 2018.

He is launching his own 'HOY' bike range at the end of May, and says he will step up his commitment to two main charities, Unicef and the Scottish Association for Mental Health.

Then there is motor racing. He competed in three races in Melbourne recently, finishing third in the series, and will take part in the Radical SR1 Cup, over four weekends from June.

'It's a hobby, not something I necessarily see myself doing to a great level. I love it. It reminds me of my early days racing BMX.'

In the end, making it to London at
all was an achievement. Acting as flag-bearer for Team GB at the Opening
Ceremony was an honour. And winning two gold medals, in the team sprint
and keirin, was a triumph.

'I enjoyed the post-Olympic period
far more than after Beijing,' says Hoy. 'It didn't come as such a shock.
But once I'd had my fill of eating, drinking, going to functions and
not exercising, I was desperate to get back into the routine of
training.

'In the autumn I was back in the gym
and on the track. I went to Perth for a training camp, then raced in
Rotterdam at New Year. But my body wasn't responding as I hoped it
would. It was nothing to panic about but I found when I pushed myself
harder I was nailed.

'I felt fit and healthy but I'm talking
about subtle differences and fractions of a second. Some days I'd wake
up feeling great but it was just little things; getting up in the
morning and really aching from a hard training session the day before.

'I didn't want to go to Glasgow and
not be capable of winning. I would enjoy seeing the event and the crowd
but I can do that better from the sidelines and I hope to have a role
as an ambassador or mentor. I'll certainly be there. But by not
competing it'll allow someone else to come into the team and I won't be
stealing the limelight. It won't be me plus team-mates.'

Hoy says he would like to mentor GB athletes at the Rio Olympics as well, 'If they'll have me.'

On
the eve of going public with his decision, Hoy said he had no doubts.
'I'm not in two minds. I'm content. I can walk away at the top level
without any lingering regrets. I would have loved to have a gold medal
from Glasgow, maybe a kilometre world record as well, but you've got to
realise when the time has come to stop.'

Winning personality: Chris Hoy with the 2008 2008 BBC Sports Personality Of The Year trophy

Winning personality: Chris Hoy with the 2008 2008 BBC Sports Personality Of The Year trophy

Oh what a Knight: Hoy with the Knighthood he received from the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace in 2008

Oh what a Knight: Hoy with the Knighthood he received from the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace in 2008

Asked what he would miss, Hoy said: 'The team, the banter, the routine. I like routine, turning up at the track and seeing the same guys, and being part of that team and being on a journey together.'

It is a journey that has seen cycling move from the margins to the mainstream, with Hoy arguably the central figure in this sporting revolution.

'When I think of how cycling was when I started and then think where it is now, it's been a hell of a ride,' he said.

And the things he won't miss 'The way you feel in the morning after certain sessions, gym sessions in particular, which leave you with residual soreness for several days,' he said.

'Waking up with that muscle soreness, knowing you've got to do it all again, I'll not miss that.

'But that's a very small price to pay for the highs you get from working hard,' Hoy added. 'People say it's a sacrifice, but it's not a sacrifice. You choose to do it, but it's going to be nice to put something else first for a change and get a bit of balance in my life.'

Hoy said he would continue cycling 'to keep myself fit and fight the beer belly'.

As for the future, Hoy has charity commitments, he is launching a range of bikes and becoming an adviser to the Scottish Rugby Union. He will also act as mentor to the Scottish team at Glasgow 2014, and said he would relish a similar role with Team GB at the Rio Olympics – 'if they'll have me'.

Triple crown: Chris Hoy celebrates winning his third gold medal of the 2008 Olympics in the men's sprint final

Triple crown: Chris Hoy celebrates winning his third gold medal of the 2008 Olympics in the men's sprint final

Golden boy (and girl): Triple gold medallist Chris Hoy (left) and double gGold medal-winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington arrive home from Beijing

Golden boy (and girl): Triple gold medallist Chris Hoy (left) and double gGold medal-winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington arrive home from Beijing

Modest to the last, he rejected the
label of 'Britain's greatest Olympian'
despite being the only one with six
gold medals – one more than his
own choice as No 1. 'It's subjective,
but I think Sir Steve Redgrave is the
greatest. To keep going for five consecutive
Games and be at the top, to
me that is a far greater achievement
than winning multiple medals at one
games.'

In the end, in equally typical Hoy
fashion, he said he had no doubts
about retirement. 'I'm not in two
minds. I'm content. I can walk away
at the top level without any lingering
regrets. I would have loved to have a
gold medal from Glasgow, but you've
got to realise when the time has come
to stop.'

BOA chairman Lord Coe paid tribute to
Hoy, saying: 'Throughout his remarkable career, Sir Chris Hoy has
exemplified the values that define an Olympic champion. His pursuit of
excellence has been tireless. His respect for opponents, and commitment
to clean competition, has been unwavering.

And his dignity in victory has set
an example that generations of Team GB athletes will strive to emulate.
Chris is an icon and he has earned a revered place among our nation's
greatest sporting heroes.

'His
gold medal triumphs this past summer in London are two of the defining
moments of the Games, and were a source of pride and inspiration for
millions throughout our country.

'We
are grateful that Chris has chosen to continue his association with the
British Olympic Association by serving as a Glasgow 2018 Champion in
its bid to host the Youth Olympic Games.

'As
he transitions now from his unparalleled competitive career and takes
on a series of new and different challenges, we wish Sir Chris the very
best for continued success, and we thank him for his commitment to Team
GB and the Olympic movement.'

LIFE AND TIMES OF SIR CHRIS HOY – IN HIS OWN WORDS

My three favourite memories

'I can't choose three, so can I have
four The first is 1999, the World Championships in Berlin, and our
first medal in the team sprint. I had this feeling of euphoria and
disbelief.

That the three of us [Craig MacLean and Jason Queally were
his teammates] could have a world championship silver medal, seemed
incredible. It was the first British sprint medal since the Reg Harris
era. There was a feeling that there may be possibilities beyond that,
but I remember thinking: if I do nothing else, I can always say I won a
world championship medal. It's weird to think that now.

'The second is winning the kilo at the
2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. My first individual title, and so
close to home. There were so many Scottish folk in the crowd, too. To
beat the Olympic champion [Queally] on home soil was special. I felt I
was stepping out of the shadow of Jason and Craig.

'The third is my gold medal in the kilo
at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The moment that meant most, and which I
remember most vividly, was when I was waiting to step on to the top step
of the podium and I heard my name followed by “Olympic champion.”

'Then, finally, winning gold in the keirin at London 2012. What an amazing way to finish it off.'

My 3 toughest opponents

Jason Kenny

'Jason, my young British team-mate and
good friend, also became one of my toughest opponents. He never has any
fear. He is never affected by pressure, never intimidated. The way he
stepped into the team in Beijing was amazing.

'He took it in his stride
and never fussed about anything. His attitude always seems to be that he
has nothing to lose. And he is the same in any situation. He also has
an incredible turn of speed and acceleration.'

Arnaud Tournant, France

'He was the one I looked up to when I
started doing the kilo [in 2001]. He had an aura about him, and although
he seemed more human after Sydney, where Jason [Queally] beat him, he
was still the benchmark.

'I never managed to beat his world record but we
had some amazing battles. I beat him by a thousandth of a second in at
the world champs in Copenhagen [2002], then he was second to me at the
worlds in Melbourne and in Athens [both 2004]. He's a big, big
personality, a real showman. A really tough opponent, but off the bike
we became good friends.'

Theo Bos, Holland

'Theo is so classy, he had so much style
and flair, and he was almost unbeatable before 2008. When I beat him in
the quarter finals at the world championships that year it was a
turning point for me.

'Knocking him out in Olympic year, in front of a
home crowd [in Manchester], was massive for me. It was also the
beginning of the end for him. He stopped track racing and now rides on
the road.'

My three non-cycling sporting heroes

Gavin Hastings

'Rugby was my sport in my early teens
and Gavin Hastings, 'Big Gav', was my first sporting hero, before Graeme
Obree. Hastings went to the same school as me [George Watson's College
in Edinburgh. Hoy captained Edinburgh Schools at under-15 level]. He was
a great player and a great Scottish captain. Having since had the
honour of meeting him, he is a lovely guy, too.'

Roger Federer

Federer is one of the guys all sports
people aspire to be like. His longevity, his record, the way he handles
himself. He's not a guy who, if he gets beaten, disappears. He's a
classy player and a classy professional athlete.'

Michael Johnson

'The Usain Bolt of his era. I admired
his approach to training. Listening to him talk about his methodical
approach, and his mindset, it was something I could relate to. And he
was just awesome to watch.

'Even more than the 100 metres with Bolt, the gap
would open up, the race was his, and it was a race for second place. It's a
shame he wasn't in the same era as Bolt because it would have been
great to see them go head-to-head over 200m.

Sir Chris Hoy talks of his historic sixth Olympic gold win

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VIDEO: Watch Hoy win his sixth Olympic gold medal at London 2012

Salford City Reds sack head coach Phil Veivers

Salford sack head coach Veivers after just five games of the Super League season

By
Aidan Mccartney

PUBLISHED:

14:07 GMT, 3 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

17:55 GMT, 3 March 2013

Salford City Reds have parted company with head coach Phil Veivers with the club bottom of Super League.

The 48-year-old's dismissal comes following their fourth loss in five games as the Reds went down 38-4 to their fellow strugglers London Broncos on Friday.

The announcement came today just five weeks after the club was taken over by racehorse owner Dr Marwan Koukash who has big plans for the future of the club.

In a statement on the club’s official website, CEO Ed Farish said: ‘We have had to look at the whole business and what is right for the Club.

Dismissed: Veivers has been stood down as coach of the Reds

Dismissed: Veivers (pictured) has been stood down as coach of the Reds

‘The results speak for themselves and it was felt a change must be made to allow our progression to continue on the field as well as off it.

‘We thank Phil for his efforts during an extremely difficult close season and wish him all the best for the future.’

After Friday’s embarrassing defeat Dr Koukash had warned that ‘things have to change and changes will be made.’

Dramatic: Salford had secured their first win of the season last weekend after defeating Hull KR 38-34

Dramatic: Salford had secured their first win of the season last weekend after defeating Hull KR 38-34

The decision comes after only one Reds win since July and the side have started the season in disastrous fashion sitting at the foot of the Super League ladder having conceded almost 200 points.

Head of Youth Development Alan Hunte will take over the coaching duties for the trip to Wakefield next weekend.

After making Australian Ed Farish his chief executive and appointing New Zealanders Andrew Chalmers and Graham Lowe to his board of directors, Koukash seems certain to go down the same route with Veivers' successor.

Lowe, who succeeded Steve Simms as director of rugby, returned to Auckland yesterday and is expected to lead the search for the new man.
National coaches Tim Sheens (Australia) and Stephen Kearney (New Zealand) are both without club ties but are unlikely to be available until 2014 as they focus exclusively on preparations for the 2013 World Cup.

Sheens has spent the last seven days in Britain and Ireland on a fact-finding mission and confirmed to Press Association Sport that he would be looking to get back into club coaching after the World Cup, ‘whether that be in Australia or England’.

Former New Zealand coach Brian McClennan, who took Leeds to Grand-Final glory in 2008 and 2009, could come into the reckoning, along with former Great Britain boss Brian Noble, who is keen to get backing into coaching after leaving Crusaders at the end of 2009.

Peter Odemwingie in training ground bust-up with Albion teammate

Wantaway striker Odemwingie in explosive bust-up with Albion teammate over failed move

By
Neil Moxley

PUBLISHED:

23:09 GMT, 8 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

23:58 GMT, 8 February 2013

Peter Odemwingie and West Brom team-mate Steven Reid had a fierce bust-up after the Nigeria forward’s aborted move to QPR.

Odemwingie was yesterday fined 75,000 by West Brom after his appearance at Loftus Road on deadline day.

And the striker, 31, confronted Reid in the treatment room at the club’s training ground on Thursday.

Outcast: Peter Odemwingie (right) was summoned back to training during the international break

Outcast: Peter Odemwingie (right) was summoned back to training during the international break

Odemwingie was angered by comments attributed to Reid after last Sunday’s defeat by Spurs in which it was suggested that he would not be made welcome.

But Reid stood his ground, insisting the striker would have to work hard to win over the rest of the team.

Close eye: Steve Clarke watches Odemwingie in training

Close eye: Steve Clarke watches Odemwingie in training

Manager Steve Clarke said: ‘I don’t know what went on. If there has been a row between Steven and Peter, then I’m sure it was an honest row.

‘If you are telling me someone in this building is letting out stories, that fact is more upsetting for me than the fact that Steven and Peter had an exchange of words.’

Anger: West Brom fans are furious with Odemwingie

Anger: West Brom fans are furious with Odemwingie

Brendan Rodgers arrives at court to support son Anton charged with sexual assault and voyeurism

Liverpool boss Rodgers arrives in court to support son charged with sexual assault and voyeurism

By
Paul Collins

PUBLISHED:

13:31 GMT, 21 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

13:50 GMT, 21 January 2013

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was at the Old Bailey today as his son Anton arrived to face trial accused of sexual assault and voyeurism.

The offences are alleged to have taken place at the Jury’s Inn hotel in Brighton, East Sussex, in July 2011.

Brighton and Hove Albion players Rodgers, 19, Lewis Dunk, 21, George Barker, 21, and former team-mate Steve Cook, 21, who now plays for Bournemouth, deny the charges.

Trial: Anton Rodgers has arrived at the Old Bailey on charges of sexual assault and voyeurism

Trial: Anton Rodgers has arrived at the Old Bailey on charges of sexual assault and voyeurism

Trial: Anton Rodgers has arrived at the Old Bailey on charges of sexual assault and voyeurism

Trial: Anton Rodgers has arrived at the Old Bailey on charges of sexual assault and voyeurism

The players are alleged to have assaulted a woman at the hotel. Rodgers, Barker and Cook are on bail.

The trial is not due to open in front of a jury until tomorrow.

Strolling: Rodgers walks to the court

Anton Rodgers, 19

Brighton defender Ben Sampayo, 19, has been told no further action will be taken against him over the alleged incident after he was arrested.

A sixth player, Seagulls midfielder Tommy Elphick, 24, was released without charge following the original arrests in January.

The charges come after a four-month investigation by Sussex Police.

Manchester City return 900 tickets to Arsenal

Champions Man City return almost HALF of 2,000 tickets for Arsenal match after fans are asked to pay 62

By
Joe Ridge

PUBLISHED:

15:24 GMT, 8 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

15:52 GMT, 8 January 2013

Manchester City have returned 900 unsold tickets of the 2,000 allocation for Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with Arsenal at the Emirates.

The champions were expected to sell out their away tickets but it appears travelling fans have been put off by the 62 Arsenal are charging each fan.

Arsenal were revealed to be the hosts of English football's most expensive day out by the BBC's Price of Football survey back in October.

London calling: City lost 1-0 on their last visit to the Emirates

London calling: City lost 1-0 on their last visit to the Emirates

Back in blue: Belgian defender Boyata

Back in blue: Belgian defender Boyata

Meanwhile, City have recalled defender Dedryck Boyata from his loan at Eredivisie side FC Twente.

A statement on their official website read: 'The Belgian defender could well continue his education at another club in the coming weeks having played just eight games for Steve McLaren's side.'

The 22-year-old spent also last season on loan with Bolton, but was unable to prevent the Trotters being relegated to the npower Championship.

City have also revealed that Italian striker Luca Scapuzzi, 21, has joined Serie B side AS Varese on loan until the end of the season.

Gary Bowyer and Terry McPhillips to remain in charge at Blackburn until end of January

Bowyer and McPhillips to remain in charge at Blackburn until end of January

By
Dominic Farrell, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

12:34 GMT, 3 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

17:29 GMT, 3 January 2013

Blackburn's search for a third manager this season is to be placed on the backburner after the npower Championship club announced Gary Bowyer will lead them for the rest of January.

Bowyer, the reserve team boss at Rovers, took charge alongside youth-team counterpart Terry McPhillips after Henning Berg's stint in the Ewood Park hotseat was brought to an end on the back of one win in 10 games as Steve Kean's successor.

Back-to-back victories over Barnsley and Nottingham Forest with six goals scored have followed to move Blackburn back to within five points of the play-off places.

Staying on: Blackburn have won their last two games under Bowyer and McPhillips

Staying on: Blackburn have won their last two games under Bowyer and McPhillips

Bowyer is set to address the media on
Friday morning ahead of Saturday's home FA Cup tie with Bristol Rovers,
while league fixtures against Wolves, Charlton and Brighton complete the
month he has to stake his claim.

The former Rotherham full-back found himself thrust into the role of
caretaker manager as senior coaches Eric Black, Iain Brunskill and Bobby
Mimms were also shown the door along with Berg, and global advisory
Shebby Singh paid tribute to the job Bowyer, McPhillips and the
remaining Ewood staff have done in the circumstances.

He told BBC Radio Lancashire: 'I have got to defend my backroom staff who have done an excellent job over the past two games.

'The likes of Gary Bowyer and Terry McPhillips have been working their socks off over the last week to 10 days.

'We are not short-handed in any departments. We have got people who are extremely happy and accepting the challenge.

Axed: Henning Berg was sacked after just 57 days in charge

Axed: Henning Berg was sacked after just 57 days in charge

'I will disagree with anybody who says that (we are short-handed).'

Singh also stated Blackburn's next permanent manager will be offered an
initial deal until the end of this season with the incentive of an
extension if specified targets are met.

The latest high-profile name to be linked to Rovers is former England
manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, who suggested an interest in the vacancy
when quoted by the Lancashire Telegraph this morning.

Eriksson's representative Athole Still was coy on the prospect of
Eriksson making the move to east Lancashire but confirmed his client is
interested in a return to the dugout.

He said: 'I've no comment on (the Blackburn link) at the moment. I know about it but that's all I can say.

'It's not a question of the Championship or anything. He is interesting in getting back to management at a good club.'

Arsenal to talk with Southampton about Luke Shaw transfer

EXCLUSIVE: Arsenal step up pursuit of 5m-rated Shaw with talks to be held TODAY

|

UPDATED:

22:24 GMT, 31 December 2012

If Arsene Wenger has anything to do with it, Luke Shaw will be Arsenal’s next Saint.

Gunners officials will use New Year's Day's trip to St Mary’s to hold talks with Southampton in their attempts to land the 17-year-old left back.

Arsenal will make an offer for Shaw this month and it is hoped Tuesday’s discussions will pave the way for the club to end their two-year quest to land the latest jewel to emerge from Southampton’s ultra-productive academy.

Shaw thing: Luke Shaw has been tipped to be better than Gareth Bale

Shaw thing: Luke Shaw has been tipped to be better than Gareth Bale

'We produce some technically-gifted players but not as many as Southampton,' said Wenger. 'It is exceptional what they have done. The three wingers [Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott] and Luke Shaw, that is a good way to study what they have done.

'The question of Southampton’s academy set-up is a very good one because they have done a fabulous job.

'Why It is down to the quality of their scouting, the quality of their coaching and education. They have fantastic scouting.'

Wenger and his chief scout Steve
Rowley knew they had to have Shaw – tipped to be even better than Bale –
as soon as they first saw him.

Arsenal saw a summer offer rejected by Saints chairman Nicola Cortese,
who knows the youngster will soon be worth a small fortune. Chelsea, are
also keen.

Whether he can resist Arsenal’s
advances this month remains to be seen, but what is for certain is that
Shaw is an England regular in the making.

Should Shaw arrive at the Emirates Stadium, he will not be short of a friendly face willing to take him under their wing.

Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain both make emotional first returns to the club that gave them their big break on Tuesday.

The elder of the two's impact on the Gunners has been well-documented this season – but his fellow former Saint has had to bide his time.

Saints made it easy: Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have both taken the step into international football after moving to Arsenal from their first club Southampton

Saints made it easy: Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have both taken the step into international football after moving to Arsenal from their first club Southampton

An exceptional first campaign with Arsenal resulted in him gatecrashing England’s Euro 2012 squad. But only now are we starting to see the form that persuaded Roy Hodgson to take a punt on Oxlade-Chamberlain in the summer.

The 19-year-old was excellent in Saturday’s win over Newcastle, scoring his first Premier League goal of the season in the 7-3 win.

And his return to the form that made him England’s joker in the pack last summer does not surprise his manager, who insists he knew Oxlade-Chamberlain would be a top player the minute he set eyes on him.

‘The first time I watched him was on tape, he was at that level where he played he looked lightning quick and a good dribbler as well and we like that,’ said Wenger.

‘I had enthusiastic reports about him and we sent different people and everybody said he is something special.

‘When I saw him you could see in his movement and first touch that he had something special. ‘

Macclesfield allege Ryan Jackson was racially abused by Barrow player

Macclesfield allege defender Jackson was racially abused by Barrow player

|

UPDATED:

20:24 GMT, 30 December 2012

Police are to launch an investigation into allegations of racial abuse at the FA Cup second-round replay between Macclesfield and Barrow.

Officers were also called in to stop a post-match punch-up between both sets of players in the tunnel following an afternoon of bitter insult-swapping.

Macclesfield of the Blue Square Bet Premier claim that defender Ryan Jackson was racially abused by an opponent during Saturday’s 4-1 win.

Striker Amari Morgan-Smith tweeted: ‘So, according to the Barrow players it’s alright to call one of the lads a Jaffa cake on the pitch!! #headsgone’.

Stormy: Mathew Barnes-Homer celebrates his goal against Barrow

Stormy: Mathew Barnes-Homer celebrates his goal against Barrow

The Cheshire club confirmed that they had reported their rivals to the referee Phil Gibbs and to the police and want action taken.

Chief executive John Harris said, via the Macclesfield website: ‘The club are aware that the matter has been reported to both the police and the FA and will offer both its fullest support in dealing with the matter.

‘We are very disappointed that this has overshadowed an excellent performance on the pitch, but we remain staunchly opposed to all forms of racism, which we believe has no place in football, or indeed anywhere.’

Feelings have been running high between the two clubs since the original tie on December 19 when Macclesfield manager Steve King alleged that skipper Nat Brown had been called a ‘monkey’ by some Barrow fans.

Claim: Ryan Jackson was allegedly racially abused by a Barrow player

Claim: Ryan Jackson was allegedly racially abused by a Barrow player

The FA are investigating that incident too with Barrow promising to take action if any of their fans were shown to be guilty. At the time chairman Brian Keen said: ‘This is a decent, family community club and there is no place for racism.

‘We will investigate and, if we can identify any culprits, they will be facing as stern a punishment as we can dish out.’

Supporters from Cumbria yesterday flooded their forums with accusations that an English Defence League banner was on display at Moss Rose on Saturday and say that Brown went over to that section of the ground to acknowledge home supporters.

They also complained that the public announcer was being deliberately provocative by hailing former Barrow trialist John Paul Kissock as the ‘non-League Messi’ after he scored.

Macclesfield earned themselves a third-round tie against Championship leaders Cardiff in a match which survived three pitch inspections.

Henning Berg sacked by Blackburn

Berg sacked by Blackburn after just TWO months as Ewood Park crisis deepens

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UPDATED:

13:28 GMT, 27 December 2012

Henning Berg has been sacked by Blackburn after only two months in the job at Ewood Park.

The former Rovers player replaced Steve Kean in September but has not been able to get the club firing since taking over.

Blackburn lie 17th in the table and Indian owners Venky's were hoping for a promotion push after investing in the summer.

Tim Sherwood, Tottenham's technical co-ordinator, is one of the names being considered for the vacancy.

Out: Henning Berg watched his side lose 1-0 at Middlesbrough on Boxing Day

Out: Henning Berg watched his side lose 1-0 at Middlesbrough on Boxing Day

Berg's impact

When Kean left the club were third. Today, they are 17th.

A year before he took the job, Berg said it would be 'madness' to work under Venky's and that 'no manager with credibility' would take the job on.'

Maybe he should have taken his own advice.

Games played: 10
Games won: One
Games lost: Six
Games drawn: Three
Goals scored: 10
Goals against: 18
Highest victory: 4-1 v Peterborough, November 17
Worst defeat: 4-1 v Cardiff, December 7
Win percentage: 10 per cent

Former boss Kean resigned at the end of September, claiming his position at the club was untenable.

But when he left, Blackburn were third and had only sunk to new depths under Berg.

Reports were circulating in the Indian
press on Thursday morning, with Venky's chief Balaji Rao saying: 'We
have not been doing well and dropping points and losing matches quite
often.'

Berg paid the price for Blackburn's awful form by becoming the second boss to be fired in the space of 24 hours after Nottingham Forest axed Sean O'Driscoll.

A Blackburn statement read: 'Blackburn Rovers FC has announced the departure of manager Henning Berg, assistant manager Eric Black, first team coach Iain Brunskill and goalkeeping coach Bobby Mimms with immediate effect.

'This decision has been taken following a very disappointing sequence of results. The club thanks the four men for their efforts and wishes them every success for the future.'

Pressure had been building at the
club and just a couple of weeks ago Berg had stormed out of the
Christmas party after he was made to wear a stocking on his head and
dance on stage.

It was
hoped the party for the players and more than 200 staff in a suite at
Ewood would lift morale but it backfired spectacularly.

Although Blackburn's owners have been
criticised heavily since taking over in Lancashire, they believe they
are right to act in a bid to halt the club's slide.

When the DJ decided to play some games, one of the club’s executives volunteered Berg to go up on stage.

The
43-year-old Norwegian reluctantly wore the Christmas stocking but grew
visibly angry and uncomfortable when he was made to dance as well.

Gone so soon: Berg was only appointed two months ago

Gone so soon: Berg was only appointed two months ago

Stunned

Tottenham keeper and former Blackburn hero Brad Friedel tweeted:

'I can't believe what I'm seeing going on at Blackburn. Giving a mgr 2 months I guess football never ceases to amaze at times.'

The final straw came when someone attempted to put a Michael Jackson wig on his head. Berg ripped off the stocking and left the stage.

Meanwhile, Rovers Action Group secretary Mark Fish admitted his 'great delight' at the decision to let Berg go.

He told Sky Sports News: 'He was a fantastic player for the club, but for whatever reason it just didn't work out for him here.

'It's difficult to say what. Perhaps the expectations from the fans, outside influences maybe. Henning Berg just didn't have the nous to get the job done I don't know.

'He just couldn't get the team playing, he couldn't get them fighting. But someone needs to come out now and hold their hands up.

'There were a lot of people involved in the process. A lot of good, better candidates were overlooked for this position.

'But they (Venkys) seemed determined to bring in an ex (Blackburn) player and it just hasn't worked out the way they had hoped.

'Why didn't Berg bring in his own coaching staff It was my understanding that he would bring his own people in with him.

'But as it ended up he was left with Steve Kean's men to help out. Someone has to come out and explain why this has happened.'

When asked about the remainder of the season, Fish was adamant that Rovers can still achieve their goal of promotion back to the Premier League.

'Do I think we can do it Yes. Absolutely, we've got the ability in the squad to still get the job done. You've only got to look at Reading last season.

'We need to have one of those runs. Also, the stands are empty. We need to be picking up results and getting people back through the gates again.'

Sunderland to consider loan move out Ji-Dong Won, the first hero of 2012

Whatever happened to Sunderland's first hero of 2012, Ji the City slayer

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 25 December 2012

Ji Dong-won may have been forgiven for believing that his dramatic late winner against Manchester City would kick-start his Sunderland career.

But while Martin O’Neill leapt high into the air when the South Korea striker bundled the ball round Joe Hart on the first day of 2012, the Sunderland manager has barely played him since.

Good old days: Ji Dong-Won's Sunderland career has failed to take off since his memorable goal against Manchester City on the first day of 2012

Good old days: Ji Dong-Won's Sunderland career has failed to take off since his memorable goal against Manchester City on the first day of 2012

The 21-year-old, who was signed by
Steve Bruce from Chunnam Dragons 18 months ago, played only six games
after New Year’s Day and has yet to feature at all this season.

Hundreds of Korean visitors still go
to the Stadium of Light hoping to see the South Korea Olympic squad
member, only to find him forlornly sitting in the stands in his club
suit and tie.

Ji, who is also a cult figure with
Sunderland supporters, has been linked with a move back to Chunnam
Dragons and O’Neill admitted the striker may have to go out on loan to
revive his Sunderland career.

O’Neill said: ‘It has been tough for
him. He has had a difficult time trying to learn his trade and I have
to look at that, realise how young he is and how far away from home he
is but he has the makings of a player.

‘He has found it difficult to cope with the physical aspect but he has natural talent and it is really up to him.

‘There have been a number of inquiries about our players and all I can say is that it has been a frustrating time for him.

‘He played in the Olympics, didn’t always start the games but he perhaps thought after that goal it would be lift-off time.

‘If there was a possibility of a loan
spell I would give it some consideration, although I can’t at the minute
while we consider in-coming players.’