Tag Archives: troubled

Captain McMillan among EIGHT players axed by stricken Scottish side Dunfermline

Captain McMillan among EIGHT players axed by stricken Scottish side Dunfermline

PUBLISHED:

18:58 GMT, 28 March 2013

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UPDATED:

18:59 GMT, 28 March 2013

Captain Jordan McMillan has confirmed that he is among eight players made redundant by crisis club Dunfermline

The defender used his Twitter
account to reveal that he had been axed by the Scottish First Division side.

McMillan wrote: 'The news is true i
have been made redundant with immediate affect but loved my time at club
as captain hope boys do well rest of season.'

Axed: Dunfermline's Jordan McMillan leaves East End Park after being told he is being made redundant

Axed: Dunfermline's Jordan McMillan leaves East End Park after being told he is being made redundant

Dunfermline players had been called
to a meeting with the club's interim administrator to learn which of
them will lose their jobs.

Players and staff reported for a 4pm
meeting with Bryan Jackson, who had warned of 'brutal' cuts after being
appointed by a court on Wednesday.

The last walk Dunfermline players trudge off after defeat to Falkirk last night

The last walk Dunfermline players trudge off after defeat to Falkirk last night

PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart and manager Jim Jefferies were also at the meeting at East End Park.

The club applied to go into administration to avert being wound up over an unpaid 134,000 tax bill.
Jackson, who has performed the same role at Clyde, Clydebank,
Motherwell, Dundee and Portsmouth, said: 'I'll be honest and say this is
as bad a situation as I've seen at a football club. It's going to be as
challenging as anything I've done in the past.

More to follow

Charity: Dunfermline staff are appealing for donations to the club due to their current financial situation

Charity: Dunfermline staff are appealing for donations to the club due to their current financial situation


Angry: Dunfermline fans express their opinions with a banner calling the situation an 'insult' to the club

Angry: Dunfermline fans express their opinions with a banner calling the situation an 'insult' to the club


Request: Roy Barry (second right) asked if Sir Alex could help in any way

Troubled times: The board are appealing for fans to support the team through the choppy waters

Patrick Collins: The anti-Wenger mob should be careful what they wish for

The anti-Wenger mob should be careful what they wish for

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UPDATED:

00:46 GMT, 16 December 2012

So, farewell Arsene Wenger. Not yet perhaps but soon, very soon, if the pack has its way.

Defeat at Bradford City, in what some of us still call the League Cup, was apparently the last straw.

It seems that the Arsenal manager must fall on his sword. Failing that, he must be shown the door.

Troubled times: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under fire

Troubled times: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under fire

Either way, he has to go. Don't take my word for it; listen to the people.

One red-top tabloid, which knows a bandwagon when one comes clattering by, organised a highly scientific opinion poll.

This 'damning' exercise revealed that around 60 per cent of respondents believed that Wenger's time was up.

Considering it was taken in the hours
after Bradford, and plainly included a hefty cargo of drunks, comedians
and Tottenham supporters, some might think the manager came out rather
well.

More from Patrick Collins…

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08/12/12

Patrick Collins: Football's silent majority must set the tone, not the bigots who just want to be noticed
01/12/12

Patrick Collins: Richie McCaw, Dan Carter… your boys took one hell of a beating!
01/12/12

Patrick Collins: Tears follow tragic mistake that turned into an ordeal for brave Hatton
25/11/12

Patrick Collins: Let's hope Pep has the right answers when Roman comes calling
24/11/12

Patrick Collins: How 65 seconds of confusion cost England their chance
24/11/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Yet the weight of informed opinion
was against him.

Somebody called Tim, who is apparently a spokesman for
the Arsenal Supporters' Trust, announced: 'His inability to delegate or
seek help from others has resulted in a stale environment where best
practice is no longer to the fore.'

We must wonder how 'Tim' can speak so confidently of such private matters.

But in the current climate, even impertinent middle-management clichs find an audience.

Which takes us, quite seamlessly, to Stewart Robson, who played for Arsenal more than a quarter of a century ago.

Robson declared himself 'embarrassed' by Wenger. 'In my view,' said Robson, 'it was time up for him three or four years ago … Tactically Arsenal are all over the place, they are under-prepared defensively and he doesn't understand the game well enough.'

Now, most will acknowledge that losing to Bradford was mildly disgraceful, that a good many of Arsenal's displays this season have been sub-standard, that the performances of players such as Gervinho, Chamakh and Santos are incomprehensible and that the manager's recent transfer dealings are heavily at odds with his glittering track record in this department.

And Wenger must know that he has made enemies.

He is not 'clubbable', he has never sought membership of that managerial cabal which likes to gather after matches to swap cosy anecdotes, curse grasping players, endorse amenable agents and slurp expensive red wine.

A frosty winner and a graceless loser, the Arsenal manager has offended most of his contemporaries down the years with his distaste for conspiratorial small talk.

He will expect no mercy in these mean and trying times.

Yet Robson's portrayal of Wenger is clearly an absurd caricature.

The man who 'doesn't understand the game' has won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups.

That same inadequate innocent has secured Arsenal a place in the Champions League for 15 consecutive seasons.

Think about it: not since Tony Blair's first administration was in its opening year have Arsenal failed to qualify for Europe's major competition and even then they played in the old UEFA Cup.

The consistency is staggering, the achievement extraordinary, especially when we reflect that he has also effectively built a glorious stadium and encouraged his sides to produce some of the most enthralling football the modern British game has seen.

Staggering consistency: Wenger with the FA Cup and Premier League trophies in 2002

Staggering consistency: Wenger with the FA Cup and Premier League trophies in 2002

In recent memory, the teams of Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas, back to Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira have set standards of excellence which speak of inspired coaching and sensitive development.

Yet this is the man whose head is currently being demanded by an avenging posse.

Loud of voice and short of memory, they seek a manager who will take them to 'another level'.

Well, in a spirit of helpfulness, I have compiled a random list of men who may be open to offers of employment.

Assuming that Pep Guardiola is unavailable, it includes the likes of Avram Grant, Roy Keane, Kenny Dalglish, Alan Shearer, Iain Dowie and Mark Hughes.

These may not be the kind of candidates who would slide snugly into the shoes of Arsene Wenger.

Clearly, I have no stake in this particular argument.

But we are considering the future of an authentic visionary, one of our most brilliantly accomplished football managers.

And so I say to the avenging mob: be very careful what you wish for.

The Dazzling Dozen in a truly great year

When you want to know what kind of sporting year it has been, you look at the BBC Sports Personality contenders.

Great year: Bradley Wiggins

Great year: Bradley Wiggins

In lean times, when achievements are modest, the odd, frivolous option sneaks on to the list; a darts player here, a snooker champion there. Not this year.

Eleven golden Olympians and Rory McIlroy: never has there been such an extravagant outpouring of talent.

So many candidates, several with gold at their necks, were reluctantly passed over.

There was no place for the extraordinary Alastair Cook, nor for a single representative of the national game, despite the winning of the Champions League.

That's the kind of year we've just lived through.

And if, when the votes are counted, Bradley Wiggins climbs to the top of the rostrum, just ahead of Mo Farah and Andy Murray, then I suggest that the matchless glories of 2012 will have been accurately assessed.

Football must see beyond money if it wants to tackle its problems

English football has a few problems. Nothing important. Minor issues involving racism, thuggery and a failure to understand the grotesque figure it is currently cutting.

The coin that sliced open Rio Ferdinand's eyebrow was symbolic of the problems which beset the game.

Disgraceful: Ferdinand hit on the head by coin from the crowd

Disgraceful: Ferdinand hit on the head by coin from the crowd

Disgraceful: Ferdinand hit on the head by coin from the crowd

Football is perhaps the last area of recession Britain in which a coin is seen not as an asset but a weapon.

Those whose task it is to portray the 'product' in its most sympathetic light – Sky TV and the Premier League – are at pains to point out that we have travelled far from those grim days of the Seventies and Eighties.

Yet still the echoes linger. Just listen to the young gentlemen at West Ham taunt the Liverpool fans with: 'Sign on, sign on with hope in your hearts. And you'll never get a job.'

It carries the authentic stench of Thatcher's Britain. The simplest reform becomes a matter for debate.

Gordon Taylor, of the PFA, makes the unarguable suggestion that nets should be erected by the corner flags, so that his members might be protected from coin-hurling idiots.

He is instantly shouted down by Steve Kelly of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.

Unarguable suggestion: Gordan Taylor

Unarguable suggestion: Gordan Taylor

'I don't think nets would bring safety,' says Kelly.

'The next thing would be wire mesh, then fencing, and we all know what that meant.'

It is drivel; trite, illogical drivel. Yet we sense that football will succumb to such foolishness rather than do the right thing.

And so a fine man like Lord Herman Ouseley walks away from a game which has been swamped by the self-interest of the major clubs.

And David Bernstein, at the FA, sees his reforming instincts cynically sabotaged by those whose sights rarely rise above the bottom line.

Yes, football has problems. Such a pity that it shows so few signs of recognising them.

P.S.

When they told Geoffrey Boycott that Yorkshire would stage the 'Grand Depart' of the 2014 Tour de France, he thought they were having him on.

Assured by his Test Match Special colleagues that this was indeed the case, he started to warm to the prospect: 'Riding up and down the Dales, it teks some doing, does that.'

He racked his brain for a famous cyclist.

Then he cackled, wickedly: 'Will that Lance Armstrong be coming'

Very Yorkshire; flattered by being chosen yet not overly impressed. I'm not sure the Great Race knows what it's in for.

Cazorla: We can"t go on dropping points like this and expect to get near the title

Cazorla: We can't go on dropping points like this and expect to get near the title

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UPDATED:

23:37 GMT, 1 December 2012

It is rare for Santi Cazorla to frown. Everything is perceived in a positive light in Cazorla's world, even the freezing weather, which reminds him of home in Asturias, a mountainous region in Spain notorious for its hard winters.

Only when the topic of Arsenal's recent form – the dropped points against Fulham, Aston Villa and Everton followed by yesterday's 2-0 defeat at home to Swansea – comes up, is there a degree of tension.

'We don't know exactly what the problem is,' says Cazorla. 'It's true that we're inconsistent. I believe that to challenge for the Premier League, those games can't get away from us. Take the Fulham game, we were 2-0 up. You can't then be drawing within five minutes. Those points aren't coming back.

Troubled times: The talented Santi Cazorla is having a difficult debut season at Arsenal

Troubled times: The talented Santi Cazorla is having a difficult debut season at Arsenal

'And the other day against Aston Villa, there's a game which I believe we really had the desire to win, because these are points that we can't let get away. Then you see City, United winning on those days. That's the difference. To fight for the title, it's about taking points from those teams.

'It's a little bit frustrating. We're a good team, good players, training well. But there are moments in those games when we don't know how to control them. There's a significant gap between us and United and City. They've got away a bit. We have very little margin for error.'

This is not Cazorla's usual demeanour. Most of the time he looks as though he is thoroughly delighted with life. He's one of those footballers who seem to take a genuine pleasure in his trade and to appreciate his good fortune.

Video: A piece of Cazorla magic

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It could be because he is 27 but only now playing at a major European club despite being one of the world's finest midfielders. At 21, Cesc Fabregas was a global icon at Arsenal, while Cazorla had failed to make a breakthrough at Real Villarreal and was being loaned out to Recreativo de Huelva. The equivalent in England would be a spell at Blackpool.

It might be that, at 5ft 6in, he is grateful to play in an era when height and strength are not prerequisites for success. Even in Spain, the land that pioneered a generation of diminutive footballers who changed the way the game is played, he was almost passed over.

'There was an era when everything was
more physical,' he says. 'There were lots of Spanish teams who didn't
want to sign me because of my height when I was 15, 16 years old.
Football has changed now. It's not so focused on height but on
technique.'

Disappointment: Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta of Arsenal during Saturday's defeat by Swansea

Disappointment: Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta of Arsenal during Saturday's defeat by Swansea

But probably his attitude is because his parents have impressed on him the privilege of his profession. He comes from the small village of Lugo de Llanera in Asturias, a region in northern Spain famed for its mining and which is suffering immensely in the recession. He met his girlfriend, Ursula, there at school and they have been together since they were 18. And his father, who died at 48 of a heart attack, worked as a coal-miner.

'I value what I have a lot more because of the sacrifices made by my mother and father,' says Cazorla. 'I'm lucky to have football. My father was 16 when he worked in the mines. That's practically a child, going down the mines. That's like another era. That's hard. That's something that made a big impression on me to value the opportunity I had to play football. It's very hard work. I understand how hard and dangerous it is.'

He undoubtedly takes a joy in what he does. If you search YouTube, you can find one of the more outrageous nutmegs you will ever see, performed by Cazorla on Giourkas Seitaridis, mention of which makes him laugh, but with pleasure rather than spite. Cazorla flicks the ball up with one foot and then jabs it with the other through the legs of Seitaridis. It all happens so quickly, it requires slow motion to appreciate the skill. 'I've tried it very often but it hasn't always come off!' he says, smiling.

On the ball: Cazorla has impressed this season

On the ball: Cazorla has impressed this season

He laughs often, while vigorously disputing the widely held belief that he tells the worst jokes in the Spanish national team. Cazorla played in the 2008 and 2012 Euro triumphs but missed the World Cup win through injury. He has 50 caps, but the era of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Fabregas, David Silva and Juan Mata means he is engaged in the world's most competitive fight for a starting place.

'We're very conscious of that, and that being a part of this national team is a privilege. Getting a game is tough. You have some of the best in the world in your position. You don't go thinking you're not going to play but you know what the situation is. That means you value your opportunities.'

Nothing will temper his enthusiasm. Even mention of the departures of the likes of Robin van Persie and Fabregas, the fact that many believed Arsenal could not meet their trophy-winning ambitions is turned into a positive. 'Van Persie and Fabregas, they might have been thinking that way. If I remember right, it's eight years without a title. Then when clubs like Barcelona and United come along, these are big clubs.

'But so are Arsenal, they are always in contention for the Premier League, for the Champions League. At a club like this, you always think you can win titles. Hopefully, we can. The squad are capable of it.'

England, it seems, suits him. He enthuses about his new home in Hampstead and the opportunities for playing football on the heath with his two-year-old son, Enzo. He is even genuinely enthusiastic about playing Stoke away. 'Lots of people told me about Stoke, with their long throw-ins, and that the ball would be in the air all the time,' he says. 'There are teams who build their game around the physical aspect.

'Against Everton last week, a lot of the play was based around getting the ball up for Fellaini. It's as physical here as I imagined it would be, but it's great football.'

He recently spoke to Swansea's Michu and Pablo Hernandez, close friends and yesterday's opponents, about their new environment. 'We're delighted with the Premier League,' he says. 'It's faster, maybe more lively. In Spain, the game is more tactical. What you don't see here are matches like some of Barcelona's, when the other team is defending almost all the time with 11 men.'

And with his move has come new status back home. 'It's hard to explain,' he adds. 'My friends and my family in Spain tell me there's so much more about me in the papers now than when I was actually there,' he says.

'Sometimes you are valued more when you're away than when you are in your own country.'

No such problems in England. Most recognise him as one of the most gifted performers in the Premier League. And if he can help Arsene Wenger's side through their current slump and, ultimately, end that eight-year trophy hiatus, that would surely erase any frowns at Arsenal.

Kenny Dalglish Liverpool sacking revealed… on TV – Nick Harris

Dalglish's Liverpool sacking revealed… on TV

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UPDATED:

08:04 GMT, 2 September 2012

Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish’s
sensational summer sacking will be revealed in the opening episode of a
controversial fly-on the-wall documentary about the club to be screened
later this month, Inside Sport can reveal.

The American TV network FOX promised
‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ when announcing a ground-breaking
documentary about the club earlier this year. And while some Liverpool
fans and insiders are likely to be uncomfortable that the inner workings
of Anfield will be laid bare, the show will deliver on its
no-holds-barred promise.

A spokesman for Fox tells Inside Sport:
‘The first episode of the series covers LFC’s quest for the FA Cup
final through to the hiring of new manager Brendan Rodgers. Coverage of
former manager Kenny Dalglish’s dismissal is included in the first
episode and the subject is addressed directly.’

Troubled times: Kenny Dalglish sees his Liverpool plans starting to unravel

Troubled times: Kenny Dalglish sees his Liverpool plans starting to unravel

Top clubs tend to do their business in
secret, with controversies hushed up, dissent kept in-house and the
washing of dirty laundry done strictly in private.

But as FOX Soccer’s executive
vice-president David Nathanson told me in April, its account of
Liverpool’s ups and downs between early May and now ‘is not a soft
promotional piece. This is the inner workings revealed for the first
time’.

Hence the six-part series, which is called 'Being: Liverpool’,
will be a ‘warts and all’ behind-the-scenes story of events, including
the FA Cup final defeat by Chelsea in May (when some Liverpool fans
booed the National Anthem), the sacking of much-loved Dalglish, the
pursuit and hiring of a new manager and Liverpool’s summer tour to North
America, when Rodgers first laid out his philosophy to his new charges,
not without hiccups.

Warts and all: Brendan Rodgers will be shown laying down the law to his young charges

Warts and all: Brendan Rodgers will be shown laying down the law to his young charges

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Dalglish, 61, remains a revered figure
for his two periods as manager, the second of those ended by the Fenway
regime of US owner John Henry in mid-May.

Dalglish flew to the USA for
face-to-face talks about his future with Henry, then returned with his
fate apparently still not resolved, only for the cameras to capture the
decisive moments of his sacking.

Dalglish said his dismissal was
handled in an ‘honourable, respectful and dignified’ fashion, although
it is not known whether he expected it to feature in the TV documentary.

The Fox spokesman said the final cut of the first episode ‘is still being edited and post-produced’.

One intriguing question that the show
should answer is whether Henry seriously courted Roberto Martinez, of
Wigan, before offering Dalglish’s job to Rodgers. Martinez says he was
made an offer, while Fenway has always insisted Rodgers was the only man
offered the job.

The TV series will be broadcast in the
UK by Channel 5, with a provisional scheduling date for the first
episode of September 22, six days after it first airs in the US.

A ‘sneak peek’ of one episode,
temporarily available on YouTube then removed, suggested the show will
not pull punches, with a clip of Rodgers giving 17-year-old Raheem
Sterling a verbal dressing-down and threatening to send him home from
the USA tour for having a bad attitude.

Inner workings: Viewers will see how John Herny and Tom Werner moved to remove and replace Dalglish

Inner workings: Viewers will see how John Herny and Tom Werner moved to remove and replace Dalglish

Champions League ban edges closer for over-spending City

The most daunting part of the Champions League draw for Manchester City was not being put in a group with Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax, but a chilling public warning from UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino about their new Financial Fair Play rules.

Infantino made a point of interrupting the draw to stress that UEFA ‘will not hesitate to take action’ against clubs breaching FFP rules. And that is bad news for City, who, Inside Sport can reveal, remain on course to miss ‘break even’ targets by a big margin.

City’s financial losses for last season — when Sergio Aguero’s late, late goal won them their first league title since 1968 — are expected to be about 100 million when the club publish their financial results later this year. Further losses are likely for 2012-13, with anything from 50m-100m being feasible depending on how successful City are.

Costly success: City win the Premier League

Costly success: City win the Premier League

Whatever happens, City look certain to fall way outside the €45m losses limit — 35.6m at today’s exchange rate — that UEFA will allow for the two-year period 2011-13 under FFP. This is the first ‘monitoring period’ for FFP, after which UEFA will punish errant clubs. UEFA have said punishments will range from warnings, fines, transfer bans or even expulsion for a year or more from their competitions, including the Champions League. The more severe the breach, the bigger the punishment. If City were more than 100m above the allowed losses, they would be in serious trouble.

City have always insisted that Sheik Mansour’s ‘project’ required ‘accelerated investment’. And they feel their many good works locally — their youth development plans and the regeneration of a poor part of Manchester — should help mitigate losses, not to mention the fact that those are ‘trending’ in the right direction, from 197m loss in 2010-11, to about 100m in 2011-12 to perhaps 50m in 2012-13.

City sources insist it is not FFP, per se, that has prevented another massive summer splurge on new players; rather that it was always the plan to ‘finesse’ their impressive squad by this stage, not change it wholesale. So, despite spending 52m, they have found some targets ‘resistible’, including Eden Hazard because of a 6m agent’s fee demand and Robin van Persie because of huge wage requirements.

Rio is next for Toff of the track
Heading for Rio: Lawrence Clarke

Heading for Rio: Lawrence Clarke

Lawrence Clarke, the Team GB Olympic hurdler known as the ‘Toff of the track’ because of his Eton schooling and because he is heir to the baronetcy held by his father, Sir Tobias Clarke, has told Inside Sport that he briefly thought about quitting after the Games.

The 22–year-old became an overnight favourite with the British public after unexpectedly reaching the 110m final — where he was the only European, let alone the only Briton — and then astonished everyone, himself included, by finishing fourth.

‘I’ve had one moment since the Games
when I did think, “Is it going to get any better than this”,’ he said,
referring to the ‘incredible, almost surreal’ noise generated by 80,000
fans supporting him in the Olympic Stadium for his big race.

Inspired
by his Games experience, however, his sights are now set on trying to
win a medal in Rio in 2016. ‘That was always the aim, London came too
early for me,’ he says. He says he is quite happy for team-mates to rib
him with greetings of ‘Tally ho, old boy’ or ‘Will Jeeves be bringing
your blocks today, sir’.

National inquiry

Animal welfare campaigners will meet MPs on Tuesday to seek legislation changes that they hope will see the Grand National scrapped ‘within two or three decades’.

About 20 MPs will hear from Animal Aid expert Dene Stansall — a horse-racing enthusiast whose grandfather was an Aintree bookie — as he details the dangers of this particular race.

Official figures show that National Hunt racing leads to four deaths out of 1,000 horses racing. The National’s death rate is 23 in 1,000.

Polls show public opinion is swinging, from 41 per cent in 2003 to 45 per cent by 2011 who believe it ‘cruel’.

‘It’s a long path from an early day motion for better animal welfare to the National being stopped but, within two or three decades, I can see it being scrapped,’ said Stansall.

James Collins happy to be back at West Ham

Irons man: After troubled times at Villa Park, Collins is a happy Hammer again

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 24 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

As a former Cardiff player, James Collins doesn’t expect it to be easy going to Swansea but last November everything changed.

Collins had just checked out of the team hotel and climbed on board the Aston Villa bus when Shay Given came over to tell him about Gary Speed’s death.

The game, a goalless draw, went ahead and passed in a blur and on Saturday Collins will retrace those steps to the Liberty Stadium for the first time since.

Main man: James Collins returns to Swansea with West Ham on Saturday

Main man: James Collins returns to Swansea with West Ham on Saturday

‘It was tough to play that day and it will be strange to go back,’ said the West Ham defender. ‘Every time I’d go down to Swansea, I’d meet Speedo or he’d be there watching.

‘Looking back, he was such a great player and a great man and even in the short period we had with him as Wales manager he had a big influence on everyone around him. It’s tough but everyone’s trying to move on.

‘I’m looking forward to going there and hopefully getting rid of some of those memories because it was a horrendously sad day.’

It might help that Collins returns with a different team, having left Villa Park in the summer and signed for a second time for West Ham.

Swansea were among the clubs interested when it became clear he was on his way out of Villa but he grabbed the chance to move his family back to Essex. Everyone at the training ground seems to agree it’s good to have ‘Ginge’ back at the club.

‘As soon as West Ham were interested, that was it,’ said Collins, 29. ‘I got the vibe, and I think a couple of other players got the vibe that our time at Villa was done.

‘We didn’t have the best couple of years. They were looking for a change and I was looking for a change to kick on again and coming to West Ham was great.

In the thick of it: Collins (centre) does battle against Aston Villa last weekend

In the thick of it: Collins (centre) does battle against Aston Villa last weekend

WATCHING BRIEF

Swansea v West Ham
Kick-off: 12.45pm, Liberty Stadium.
TV: LIVE on Sky Sports 2 from 12.30pm.

‘It’s exactly the same. A lot of the staff and the players are the same. It’s had a lick of paint and that’s about it. It might not be the greatest training ground in the world but you can feel the love for football here. I think the spirit of the great players who’ve trained here through the years has rubbed off.’

West Ham offers Collins an opportunity to move on from a Villa career punctuated by drink-fuelled incidents, for which he was fined by the club.

When pressed on accusations of a booze culture at Villa, he says: ‘There wasn’t at all. Go to any club and people go out on a Saturday night. There certainly weren’t people drinking there when they shouldn’t have been, in the lead-up to games. As professionals, we wouldn’t do that. The situation we were in meant people were looking for those sort of things, looking for excuses.’

Of the row last year which led to fines for him and Richard Dunne, he adds: ‘That was dealt with in the club, a long time ago. It didn’t have an effect on the way we were playing. It was a football argument that got out of hand, that’s all.’

Return: Collins rejoined West Ham this summer after a spell at Villa Park

Return: Collins rejoined West Ham this summer after a spell at Villa Park

Collins first arrived at West Ham in 2005, part of a 3.5million deal which also included Danny Gabbidon from Cardiff, and can recall heady times. Relatively speaking, of course.

An unused substitute in the FA Cup final at the end of his first season at the club, he enjoyed three top-10 finishes out of four before financial crisis gripped the Hammers and they took Villa’s deadline-day offer of 5m, in August 2009.

‘I wasn’t desperate to leave at all,’ said Collins. ‘I didn’t really play when I first came but I broke into the team and was really enjoying it.

‘Unfortunately, the club were in financial trouble and on the day I was the only person anyone was interested in. They got a bid and that was me on my way, up to Villa.’

Under Martin O’Neill, Villa finished sixth but the manager quit on the eve of the next season and things seemed to unravel.

Mixed fortunes: Collins (left) endured both highs and lows at Villa

Mixed fortunes: Collins (left) endured both highs and lows at Villa

‘Martin O’Neill was superb for me,’ said Collins, reflecting on his eight managers in seven years at two clubs since leaving South Wales.

‘He’s the manager I’ve learned the most from.

‘If you played well for Martin he’d make you feel like the best player in the world, like you could do anything, but he wouldn’t be shy if you had a bad game. You’d feel like the worst player in the world.

‘It’s thanks to him that I’m able to come back to West Ham a better player but the last two years at Villa haven’t been anywhere near what a club of that stature needed.

‘Martin leaving a couple of days before that season started didn’t help. He had his reasons but it unsettled the squad a little bit. We got in a rut, we couldn’t win games and it spiralled.

‘You never say it but you know you’re in trouble and it was nerve-racking, going into games, knowing we needed the points. You’re down there and you get to Christmas and you’re still down there and you get to March and you’re still down there, it’s so hard to get out of the rut.

International star: Collins would like to feature more often for his native Wales

International star: Collins would like to feature more often for his native Wales

‘It’s a pressure game and it becomes harder to get points and before you know it there are three games left. People say you’re too good to go down but no-one is.’

West Ham certainly know this. The are back in the top flight after a year in the Championship.

‘We’re not looking at relegation at all,’ said Collins, who has signed for four years. ‘If anything, we’re looking at being top 10.’

Swansea’s arrival in the Premier League, finishing 11th in their debut season and starting the new campaign with a 5-0 win at QPR, has boosted Welsh football.

‘School for me meant a lot of rugby, really,’ said Collins. ‘With my size, you’d think I’d be in the scrum but I was an outside-half, believe it or not. I did enjoy it and my dad’s a big rugby fan.

‘I wasn’t massively into football but I was playing for Newport Schools when I was about 14 and a Cardiff scout came along and asked me if I fancied going down there.’

Tribute: Swansea and Villa players hold a minutes silence for Gary Speed

Tribute: Swansea and Villa players hold a minutes silence for Gary Speed

Collins has not played for Wales since their defeat against England in March 2011, sparking rumours of his international retirement, but wants to add to his 39 caps.

‘I need to be playing more games for Wales,’ he said. ‘It might not look like it from the outside but I’ve had niggles when the games have come along.

‘Welsh football is doing great. Since Speedo took over, the changes he made and the professionalism he brought in has been massive for Welsh football.

‘There was a bit of an uproar with the players in the Olympics but it was a great opportunity to play in a big tournament and hopefully that experience will stand them in good stead and help Wales to qualify. It’s the best team we’ve had for a long, long time.’

Out of the tragedy, Welsh football is thriving and Collins won’t mind if the Swansea fans give him a bit of stick. He might even be relieved, if it means normality is returning.

Others who went back

Capital One Cup: Sheffield Wednesday produce comeback to beat Oldham as Nottingham Forest see off Fleetwood

Capital One Cup round up: Owls beat Oldham as Forest edge past Fleetwood

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UPDATED:

23:20 GMT, 13 August 2012

Sheffield Wednesday produced a fantastic second-half fightback after going two goals down to see off Oldham 4-2 in the first round of the Capital One Cup.

The npower Championship side were two goals down after just 26 minutes as Jordan Slew marked his debut with a strike from close range and Jean Yves Mvoto put the League One side firmly in control with a fine header.

But Jermaine Johnson and Chris O'Grady – both former Oldham players – rescued them after the interval, the latter bagging a brace before Michail Antonio completed the win.

Comeback complete: Chris O'Grady scores Sheffield Wednesday's third goal

Comeback complete: Chris O'Grady scores Sheffield Wednesday's third goal

Graham Westley left the Deepdale dugout to a standing ovation after his new-look Preston team booked their place in the second round with a 2-0 defeat of Huddersfield.

Westley endured a troubled time after taking over at Preston last season but saw his side make the perfect start to the new campaign when Jack King headed home after 29 minutes.

Nicky Wroe, a summer signing from Shrewsbury, then doubled the lead five minutes before the break to help the League One side into the next round.

Pushed all the way: Dexter Blackstock scored as Nottingham Forest saw off Fleetwood

Pushed all the way: Dexter Blackstock scored as Nottingham Forest saw off Fleetwood

A second half goal from Dexter Blackstock gave Nottingham Forest a narrow victory over Football League newcomers Fleetwood Town.

Blackstock earned his side a passage into the second round with the only goal of the game after 57 minutes.

The experienced Andy Reid produced a superb delivery from the left which was met by the unmarked striker at the far post.

His first header was well saved by Scott Davies but the rebound fell perfectly into his path and he stroked the ball into the empty net from close range.

Ravel Morrison to join Birmingham on loan from West Ham

West Ham bad boy Morrison set to be snapped up by Birmingham on loan

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UPDATED:

00:16 GMT, 6 August 2012


On the move: Ravel Morrison

On the move: Ravel Morrison

West Ham midfielder Ravel Morrison is set to join Birmingham on loan.

Blues boss Lee Clark has snapped up the controversial 19-year-old in a bid to boost his Championship promotion campaign, according to the Birmingham Mail.

The former Manchester United youngster joined the Hammers in January for a fee that could rise to 1million but has a chequered off-the-field history.

Morrison, whose United was due to expire at the end of the season, stunned Sir Alex Ferguson by demanding a huge new contract despite making just three first-team appearances.

Ferguson expressed his exasperation with the talented but troubled teenager, describing his demands as 'unrealistic'.

Morrison hit the headlines for the wrong reasons again in February when he was fined 7,000 by the FA in response to a homophobic remark made on Twitter.

Euro 2012: Greece hoping to lift troubled nation

Greece hoping to lift troubled nation by evoking spirit of shock 2004 triumph

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UPDATED:

17:41 GMT, 6 June 2012

Greece are determined to lift the mood back home during Euro 2012 with the country's huge debt woes causing worry and fear, says striker Giorgos Samaras.

The Euro 2004 champions face co-hosts Poland in the tournament's opening game in Warsaw on Friday.

'I don't like to say big words or throw promises around,' he told a news conference. 'We are all thinking about the (deciding Euro qualifier) against Croatia and how we managed to help people celebrate and escape from their daily problems for a while.

Greece is the word: Giorgos Samaras (right) in training with Sotiris Ninis

Greece is the word: Giorgos Samaras (right) in training with Sotiris Ninis

'That is what we will try to do again. I do not know how far we will go and what we can do but with our joy of playing football we want to give joy to Greeks.

Euro 2012

'We are a young team and the atmosphere in the squad is outstanding and that is where everything starts.'

Eight years ago Greece caused a huge surprise by claiming an unlikely success in Portugal, while also riding a wave of enthusiasm ahead of the Athens Olympics a month later.

Just warming up: Greece's squad at the Stadium in Legionowo on Wednesday

Just warming up: Greece's squad at the Stadium in Legionowo on Wednesday

Now, the country is on the brink of bankruptcy and with talk of a potential euro zone exit swirling, is facing a second general election in less than two months with sharp austerity measures angering Greeks.

'I see all the messages we get sent from our fans and that is additional motivation for us,' said defender Avraam Papadopoulos. 'We want to make the people happy who are with us during good times as well as bad times.'

Rory McIlroy out to arrest alarming slump in form at St Jude Classic as final US Open warm-up

McIlroy out to arrest alarming slump in form at St Jude Classic as US Open defence looms large

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UPDATED:

12:47 GMT, 2 June 2012

In 15 years as a professional Tiger Woods has never missed back-to-back cuts. Rory McIlroy has now missed three in a row.

And if three becomes four next week then the 23-year-old really does have a problem.

After crashing out of the Memorial Tournament following a second round 79 world number two McIlroy has one more chance to build some confidence heading into his defence of the US Open title.

He is the only player in the world's top 16 entered for the St Jude Classic in Memphis, an event he decided to play in only after his early exit from the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Bridge over troubled water: Rory McIlroy's form is far from ideal with the US Open fast approaching

Bridge over troubled water: Rory McIlroy's form is far from ideal with the US Open fast approaching

Nobody was that shocked when the run started with scores of 72 and 76 in the Players Championship at Sawgrass. McIlroy has yet to make a cut there, he has no great liking for the course and he was coming off a play-off at Quail Hollow.

But when he had rounds of 74 and 79 in the European Tour's flagship tournament to crash out by eight shots eyebrows were raised – even more so afterwards when he admitted: 'I might have taken eye off the ball a little bit'.

A trip the following day to see girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in Paris before she began the French Open came only after he had put in some hard work in the gym and on the range.

That hard work has continued, but it is not bearing fruit yet.

'I don't feel like the scores are actually reflecting how I'm hitting the ball,' he said at Muirfield Village.

'I hit some good shots. It just seems like every time I go out there I make one or two big numbers and that sort of throws me.'

Thrown off guard: McIlroy was not on the money at the Memorial Tournament

Thrown off guard: McIlroy was not on the money at the Memorial Tournament

McIlroy battled back for an opening 71 after running up a quadruple bogey seven on his third hole of the day, then in his second round he came to grief with another seven on the long 11th and another double bogey shortly afterwards.

'I just need to keep working on it and try and string 18 good holes together, then two days, three days and ultimately four.

'I'm definitely hitting the ball better than I did last week, so I can see an improvement there, but I've still got a long way to go.'

It is generally agreed that a US Open is not the place to try to find your game, so Memphis takes on crucial importance. From there it will be straight onto the demanding Olympic Club in San Francisco.

The last time McIlroy missed three successive cuts was in August 2008 when he was 19.

He bounced back from that in his very next tournament, starting the European Masters in Switzerland with a 63 and leading by four with a round to play.

wise words: Luke Donald had some encouragement for McIlroy

wise words: Luke Donald had some encouragement for McIlroy

That week actually ended with him messing it up in a play-off, missing a putt of barely 18 inches, but the way things are at the moment he will certainly take being in a play-off again next Sunday.

Luke Donald, who took the number one spot back off McIlroy by retaining his title at Wentworth, played the opening two rounds with McIlroy in Ohio.

'He's obviously frustrated – this game does that to you,' he said. 'He's not far away. He made a couple of careless errors, but I'm sure once he posts one solid run of maybe a couple of rounds or a tournament this will be a blur and he'll forget about it quickly.'

Referee Mike Dean: I should have sent off Carlos Tevez in Joey Barton brawl

I should have sent Tevez off… ref admits mistake in Barton brawl

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UPDATED:

21:23 GMT, 25 May 2012

Referee Mike Dean has revealed he would have sent off Carlos Tevez if he had been afforded a full view of the clash between the Manchester City striker and QPR midfielder Joey Barton on the final day of the Premier League season.

Barton was on Wednesday handed a 12-match ban for his dismissal and violent reaction at the Etihad Stadium on May 13, when City beat QPR 3-2 to win their first league title for 44 years.

Scrap: Referee Mike Dean says he would have sent Tevez off

Scrap: Referee Mike Dean says he would have sent Tevez off

QPR have said that Barton, now the subject of an investigation by his club following the incident, would not appeal against that decision.

Later, the Football Association published the full report by the independent regulatory commission into the case, which revealed Barton's ban was divided into a four-match ban for the dismissal for elbowing Tevez, given it was his second red card of the season, a five-match punishment for kicking out at Sergio Aguero, and a three-match punishment for attempting to headbutt Vincent Kompany.

Troubled times: QPR could kick thug Barton out of their 25-man squad list

Troubled times: QPR could kick thug Barton out of their 25-man squad list

Tevez appeared to strike out at Barton initially, and Dean, via video link, told the regulatory commission that it was a red-card offence which had gone unnoticed.

In the report, which is signed by commission chairman B.M Jones, it is stated that: 'Mr Dean was questioned about the “Tevez” incident for which Mr Barton was dismissed.It was confirmed that neither the referee nor the assistant saw the alleged incident of Mr Tevez striking Mr Barton although Mr Barton immediately made representations to Mr Dean that is what happened, and such comments by Mr Barton can be clearly seen in the video.

Take that: Joey Barton was slapped with a 12-match suspension

Take that: Joey Barton was slapped with a 12-match suspension

'The commission accept that Mr Barton was aggrieved by the action of Mr Tevez and Mr Dean confirmed that had the incident been seen by the officials as shown by the clip supplied by Mr Barton, it would have been an automatic red card.

'The commission find that this does not however excuse the subsequent action by Mr Barton in relation to Messrs Kompany or Aguero.'