Tag Archives: wearside

Steven Fletcher fit for Sunderland v Southampton

Sunderland hitman Fletcher shakes off ankle injury ahead of Saints relegation battle

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 20 December 2012

Sunderland top scorer Steven Fletcher has handed Martin O’Neill a welcome boost and will be fit to face Southampton after a full week of training.

The Scotland international has been struggling with an ankle injury and he was forced off in last week’s defeat at Manchester United.

His return to full fitness is vital for Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill ahead of Saturday’s visit to Southampton and stand-in skipper John O’Shea has now urged his team-mates to match Fletcher’s outstanding standards this season.

Goal machine: Steven Fletcher is fit for Sunderland as they travel down south

Goal machine: Steven Fletcher is fit for Sunderland as they travel down south

Fletcher has scored seven goals since his 12million switch from Wolves, and has been one of the Wearside club’s most consistent performers along with Danny Rose and Simon Mignolet.

Republic of Ireland international O’Shea has accepted Sunderland have been a let-down this season and have been embroiled in a relegation fight before a Christmas period which includes home clashes with Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.

He said: 'Thankfully we have got Steven Fletcher. I don’t know where we would be without his goals.

'He came here with a bit of a price-tag on his head, he settled in straight away, he’s a great lad who works hard. The manager has said he is a quiet lad who doesn’t say much but as long as he is scoring goals he can stay as quiet as he likes.

'His finishing is top drawer as he has shown with his goals. They have been really top class finishes. He has had to deal with having a big price-tag in his next few moves but that has not affected him one bit.

'Fingers crossed we keep him fit as much as we can. He has had a few little niggles but nothing major, thankfully. It’s up to the rest of the lads now.

Leader: John O'Shea will take over as captain in Lee Cattermole's absence

Leader: John O'Shea will take over as captain in Lee Cattermole's absence

'I’m sure Steven himself will want to
improve and he can do better. It’s about the whole team and squad –
especially when the manager makes or two changes, which he will during
this period.’

Sunderland
have won just three Premier League games in 25 under O’Neill and were
dragged into the bottom three earlier in the month.

O’Shea, who will captain the side at Southampton on Saturday in Lee Cattermole’s absence, believes a major improvement is within Sunderland’s capabilities.

He added: 'We keep talking after games about finishing well, but we have zero points from them. We can’t keep saying that and we have to make sure we do our jobs for the 90 minutes. We can’t keep doing what we doing or the end of the season will come round very quickly.

Pressure: Martin O'Neill has endured a tough season so far

Pressure: Martin O'Neill has endured a tough season so far

'The season has been stop-start. You think you are getting yourself going, then you suffer a defeat you’re not expecting and there’s a lot of room for improvement. There definitely is. We are not incapable of doing it.

'The top ten is not far away. We have seen where a team like Norwich have shot up the table with a good run and we are more than capable of that.

'You obviously hope at the start of the season you are up there competing for European positions and you are doing brilliantly but the reality is we were having a tough time last season as well.

'We are still in that tough spot at the minute. We will have to keep ourselves together to get out of it but we know we have the people and the manager to do it.'

Is Rafael Benitez turning Chelsea tide? – Michael Walker

Michael Walker: Whisper it quietly, but is Rafa turning the tide at Chelsea

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 9 December 2012

When it comes to Chelsea, there must be caution in trying to predict a period of time as long as the next five months.

But if Roman Abramovich can still that trigger-finger until April, it might just be that he has title contenders towards the end of it.

There must also be caution when assessing a victory at Sunderland, who slid into the relegation zone, but Chelsea got a lot right on Wearside.

Looking up: Rafael Benitez has won two games in the last week

Looking up: Rafael Benitez has won two games in the last week

Rafa Benitez got the first Barclays Premier League win of his reign. Fernando Torres scored his first league goals for two months. Oscar was excellent, the movement was fast and fluent. The claim that the title is a Mancunian two-horse race seemed premature.

Step back from the soap opera that Chelsea have become and assess what they possess: a superb, deep squad with hugely talented attackers, fine midfielders, experienced defenders and a leader of a goalkeeper in Petr Cech.

They have Frank Lampard coming back and John Terry soon to join him. They have signings lined up for January, perhaps more than we know. And they have a manager in Benitez, liked or not, who has proved that he can organise and motivate.

Yet Abramovich’s hire ’em, fire ’em methods have shot holes in the team’s reputation, because they are being marketed as also-rans, when they are not. True, they began the game 10 points behind Manchester United, but only 40 per cent of the season has gone. It is too soon to be calling such gaps insurmountable and Benitez is not convinced by the two-horse theory.

‘You have to remember last year that in January everyone was saying that Manchester City would win the title easily,’ he said. ‘And yet at the end on the last day they could have lost it and had to score in the last minute to win it.’

‘If we play at this level and at this intensity we will win games in a row and hopefully we will be there.’

On song: Fernando Torres has scored four goals in two games

On song: Fernando Torres has scored four goals in two games

CHANGING TORRES

Rafa Benitez arrived at Chelsea with the task of rejuvenating a beleaguered Fernando Torres on his to-do list. And with two goals at Sunderland — Torres’s first Premier League goals in 750 minutes of football — it seems the Rafa revival has begun…

4 – Since Benitez arrived, Torres has scored four goals in five games. He had seven in 20 before.

112.5 – The Spaniard’s minutes-per-goal ratio under Rafa, bettering his previous figure of 274.4.

80% – Torres’S shooting accuracy is up to 80 per cent since Benitez joined . . . 17 per cent higher than before in domestic and European matches.

22.5 – With Rafa, Torres shoots every 22.5 minutes, an improvement on his previous rate of 50.8 minutes per shot.

0 – Torres had not taken a penalty in English football before Saturday. But as Michael Walker pointed out in Saturday’s Sportsmail, he had form at Sunderland and scored three pens for Spain in the Under 16 European Championship in 2001.

0.7 – Torres’S goals-per-game ratio for Benitez. Under Roberto Di Matteo it was 0.4 and with Carlo Ancelotti just 0.1.

109.5 – In 83 games with Rafa, Torres scores a goal every 109.5 minutes. With Carlo Every 762.

A run of league games is just what Chelsea do not have, however. The club flew from North East to Far East for the Club World Cup. Chelsea’s first game is on Thursday. Their next Premier League game is Aston Villa at home on Sunday week. They could be parading a trophy.

It is unlikely that will appease all supporters, though. All afternoon at the Stadium of Light, the 3,000 away fans sang: ‘We don’t care about Rafa, he don’t care about us,’ and when that was put to Benitez, he replied: ‘I care about the team, I care about the club and everyone here, and I want to win. I will try to do my best from day one to the last day.’

On his personal website on Sunday, there was an ‘open letter’ in which Benitez thanked those who have sent ‘messages, emails, letters’. He is trying.

This display will do no harm.
Metaphorically and literally, Chelsea were flying. Effectively the
formation was 4-2-4 and Eden Hazard should have had a penalty before
Torres stabbed home an 11th-minute volley.

If
Point One of Benitez’s remit was to get more from Torres, he has begun.
It was not so much the finish, slick as it was, it was the fact that
Torres rolled Carlos Cuellar on the halfway line before making the
ground up to score from six yards.

The difference there was a 50million striker and a free-transfer centre half.

Sunderland
fought against their status, and Danny Rose (on loan) was impressive.
Adam Johnson had a very good game against Ashley Cole.

Big gun: 50m worth of striker is starting to function

Big gun: 50m worth of striker is starting to function

Johnson scored a cracking goal on 66
minutes but Sunderland had been undermined by defensive mistakes by Seb
Larsson and Phil Bardsley (both substituted).

But if Martin O’Neill’s side play like
this on Tuesday night at home to Reading, they should leap out of the
bottom three. They kept Cech busy.

The first error, by Larsson, enabled
Torres to score from the penalty spot to make it 2-0 — his first senior
penalty in England remarkably — and when Torres hit a post just after
half-time, Juan Mata followed up.

If
there was a quibble, it is that Chelsea are like two five-a-side teams
in one XI. Like every Chelsea manager, Benitez needs glue.

James McFadden could be denied Sunderland bow after fresh injury setback

McFadden could be denied Sunderland bow after fresh injury setback

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UPDATED:

13:42 GMT, 6 November 2012

James McFadden has suffered an injury
which seems likely to rule him out of impressing Martin O'Neill during
his short-term deal at the Stadium of Light.

McFadden, 29, was expected to take
part in Sunderland Under 21s' defeat to Southampton on Monday night, but he
pulled his hamstring in training on Thursday.

Injury blow: James McFadden

Injury blow: James McFadden

The Scotland international signed a short-term deal until the end of January last week.

However this latest injury setback could rule the ex-Everton striker McFadden out for the duration of his contract on Wearside and he misses Saturday's trip to Goodison.

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill said: 'I don`t know if we will see James in the team any time soon because on Thursday he pulled up with a hamstring.

'I hope it is not too serious, but he was certainly feeling it. So that is a setback.

'It is a real shame because James has worked exceptionally hard on his fitness and was enjoying the training.'

Young striker Ryan Noble has returned to Sunderland after completing his loan spell at Hartlepool United.

The 21 year-old striker has completed his month-long loan spell at Victoria Park, scoring once in eight games.

Paul Lambert backs Martin O"Neill to end Sunderland slump

Lambert backs O'Neill to end slump after Villa overrun Black Cats

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UPDATED:

18:53 GMT, 3 November 2012

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert backed Sunderland counterpart Martin O'Neill to get it right after inflicting a demoralising defeat on his side.

The Scot, who still refers to the Ulsterman as 'the Gaffer' after their time together at Celtic, was a happy man after seeing Villa claim just their second Barclays Premier League win of the season with a 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light.

Winner: Gabriel Agbonlahor scores the only goal of the game as Aston Villa beat Sunderland

Winner: Gabriel Agbonlahor scores the only goal of the game as Aston Villa beat Sunderland

In the process, he piled further
pressure on O'Neill, whose team have now won only one of its last 17
league games and managed just a single notable effort on target.

However, Lambert is convinced the former Villa manager will turn things around on Wearside.

He said: 'It's a tough, tough job, it really is a tough job. But if there's one person who will turn it around, it will be him.

'I have got the utmost respect for the Gaffer. I am not in a position to sit here and say I have got one over him or anything.

'It's a game of football I had to win and Aston Villa had to win, and we did it. It's a good three points.'

In a contest between two sides who
have found the going difficult in recent weeks, one goal was always
likely to be enough to claim the points, and it was Villa who snatched
the advantage 12 minutes after the break.

Christian Benteke, who had caused
problems all afternoon, climbed above Phil Bardsley at the back post to
head down Matt Lowton's cross and Gabriel Agbonlahor pounced to volley
into the roof of the net from close range.

Eyes on the ball: Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon and Aston Villa's Ashley Westwood battle for the ball

Eyes on the ball: Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon and Aston Villa's Ashley Westwood battle for the ball

It was scarcely more than the
visitors deserved after largely containing their hosts throughout, and
it was telling that the man who came closest to registering for the
Black Cats was skipper Lee Cattermole, who has never scored for the
club.

Cattermole's 84th minute effort was
Sunderland's only serious attempt on goal on another frustrating
afternoon for O'Neill's men.

Lambert, who had to withdraw
left-back Joe Bennett after just 11 minutes and then saw replacement
Eric Lichaj limp off 19 minutes from time, said: 'I thought we deserved
it.

Chance: Sunderland's Louis Saha heads wide as the home side fall to defeat

Chance: Sunderland's Louis Saha heads wide as the home side fall to defeat

'I thought we were excellent today
considering the knockbacks we took with the left-backs and Ashley
[Westwood] making his debut. I thought we were excellent.'

Benteke in particular caught the eye
with a powerful display which left Sunderland bruised and battered and
his manager searching for superlatives.

Lambert said: '”He could be anything he wants. He could be one hell of a player.

Gutted: Saha is stunned after failing to hit the target with his header

Gutted: Saha is stunned after failing to hit the target with his header

'I have always said he is playing in a Belgian national team at the minute that is top class, and he is in there on merit.

'He is playing extremely well and since he has come to this football club, he has been a revelation for us.'

O'Neill was still able to take
positives despite hearing his players booed from the pitch for the
second time in five days, but admitted the responsibility for finding a
solution lies with him.

Tussle: Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson and Aston Villa's Eric Lichaj fight for the ball

Tussle: Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson and Aston Villa's Eric Lichaj fight for the ball

He said: 'It's me, I'm the manager, I'm the manager of the football club, absolutely.

'Yes, it's difficult, it's been a difficult week for us, obviously, losing against Middlesbrough and then not scoring here.

'It's been a difficult week, but we will come through.

Happy days: Villa celebrate their narrow win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light

Happy days: Villa celebrate their narrow win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light

'We threw just about everything at them to try to get on the scoresheet, but it eluded us today again. But it will turn.'

The Black Cats thought they should
have been awarded a second half penalty for handball against Benteke,
but referee Mike Jones was not impressed, to O'Neill's obvious surprise.

He'll get it right: Martin O'Neill (right) receives the backing of Paul Lambert (left)

He'll get it right: Martin O'Neill (right) receives the backing of Paul Lambert (left)

He said: 'All the players around said it was a penalty. The referee has chosen not to give it, that's his prerogative.

'Interestingly, we did have a meeting
at the beginning of the season where referees came to speak to us to
tell us that if you have your arms in the air, even it's to avoid
something hitting your face, then there's the likelihood that they will
be giving a penalty.

'It wasn't today.'

James McFadden joins Sunderland

Sunderland snap-up former Scotland striker McFadden on a free

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UPDATED:

09:55 GMT, 26 October 2012

New start: Former Scotland international James McFadden has joined Sunderland

New start: Former Scotland international James McFadden has joined Sunderland

Free agent James McFadden has completed his move to Sunderland on a short-term contract.

Manager Martin O'Neill revealed on Thursday that the 29-year-old former Scotland international would put pen to paper within 24 hours, and the Black Cats have confirmed he has now done that as the attempts to rekindle his career.

Free agent McFadden spent six months at Everton last season after being released by Birmingham.

He will spend the next three months on Wearside as O'Neill assesses whether or not he can return to the form which brought him 48 senior caps.

Fabricio Coloccini played like Bobby Moore – Alan Pardew

Watching Coloccini was like seeing Bobby Moore! Pardew enthuses over Toon skipper

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UPDATED:

17:58 GMT, 21 October 2012

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew likened Fabricio Coloccini to Bobby Moore after seeing his captain turn in a superb display in a hard-fought derby draw at Sunderland.

The Argentinian had guided the 10-man Magpies to within 10 minutes of a second successive victory on Wearside when cramp forced his departure, and the Black Cats took full advantage to snatch a point at the death through Demba Ba's 85th-minute own goal.

But if Sunderland emerged with a face-saving point, it was the visitors who returned to Tyneside with a moral victory after playing for 65 minutes with a man down following Cheick Tiote's dismissal – the first for a Newcastle player in a competitive derby – for a foul on Steven Fletcher.

High praise: Fabricio Coloccini was hailed by Alan Pardew

High praise: Fabricio Coloccini was hailed by Alan Pardew

Pardew said: 'Maybe if Coloccini had stayed on, he would have seen that out. He was absolutely phenomenal today.

'If you want an example of a centre-half playing where you have got to head it, kick it, cover people, get in the right position and then have the calmness to play, that was your example.

'I come from a famous football club, West Ham, and that was like watching Bobby Moore today. He was terrific.

'You have also got to understand – and it sometimes goes a little bit under the radar – at the Premier League level, what is asked of you physically.

'If we had had 11, I think he could have made the game, but because we went down to 10, there was just too much work for him and both calves tightened up.

'But what a performance, seriously, one of the best he has given for me, for sure.'

Newcastle came within five minutes of claiming a second successive victory in enemy territory after Yohan Cabaye had given them a third-minute lead with a well-struck shot.

However, Tiote's premature departure for a reckless challenge on Steven Fletcher changed the game and although the Magpies defended manfully, they were undone at the death when John O'Shea's header hit the unwitting Ba and flew past Krul.

World Cup winner: Bobby Moore with the trophy

World Cup winner: Bobby Moore with the trophy

Really, Alan Pardew's comparison may be over the mark

Really, Alan Pardew's comparison may be over the mark

Pardew had no complaints about the sending-off which left his side facing an uphill task.

He said: 'I have kind of accepted in my mind to accept it. There is absolutely no doubt – and I know Cheick – that he has not tried to do the player, he is just late, if I am honest, and the referee has deemed that a red.'

Sunderland have now won just one of the last 16 derbies, but perhaps more worryingly, have tasted victory only once in the 15 Barclays Premier League matches they have played since March.

However, manager Martin O'Neill was relieved to have come away with a point after a performance which for too long caused the 10 men too few problems.

He said: 'Do you know what When we equalised, it was one of the best moments, it really was, and to be accompanied by that noise…

Impressive: Coloccini kept Steven Fletcher quiet all day

Impressive: Coloccini kept Steven Fletcher quiet all day

'There's an element of relief, but every derby game I have ever been involved in either here or in Scotland, there has always been an element of relief.

'In the second half, sheer pressure alone probably yielded us the goal rather than anything flamboyantly brilliant.

'We got the goal and maybe had enough time them to go on and win it, but in the circumstances with Newcastle being down to 10 men and having defended so strongly, that would have been harsh.'

Hatem Ben Arfa desperate for derby win

Ben Arfa desperate for derby win at Sunderland to kick-start Newcastle's season

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UPDATED:

17:13 GMT, 20 October 2012

Hatem Ben Arfa is hoping derby victory at Sunderland can belatedly kick-start Newcastle's season.

The Magpies head for the Stadium of Light on Sunday having won only two of their seven Barclays Premier League games this season to date, and although they have lost just two, they are struggling to find the consistent form which catapulted them into fifth place at the end of the last campaign.

However, a 1-0 derby victory on Wearside in August last year proved the catalyst for that surge up the table, and France international Ben Arfa is looking for a similar boost this weekend.

Eyes on the prize: Hatem Ben Arfa wants to snatch victory at Sunderland to get Newcastle's season going

Eyes on the prize: Hatem Ben Arfa wants to snatch victory at Sunderland to get Newcastle's season going

He said: 'We are confident because we know we have very good players in our squad. That's why we are confident.

'In the Premier League, we have to win to get more confidence. In the last few games, we didn't take a lot of points.

'We have to get our confidence back. We have to win consecutive games to have high confidence.

'We have very good players. On the pitch, everyone wants to do very well in this game.

'All the fans want to play this game, but they can't, and we going to give all our energy for this game.'

Ben Arfa has had only one taste of the derby experience during his time on Tyneside, coming on as a half-time substitute in the 1-1 draw at St James' Park in March to spark a fightback which helped his team come from behind to snatch a point.

As a result, the visit to the Stadium of Light will be his first, although the 25-year-old has been left in little doubt as to what to expect.

He said: 'Everyone in the club, even in the kitchen, has told me, 'Now you have to score' and 'Now you have to win'.

'It's the biggest game for Newcastle
this season. For the last week, every time I go into town, people have
talked just about this game.

'I'm
looking forward to playing this game. I'm very happy to play this game.
I'm sure every player wants to win this game for the fans.

'Last year, I played one half. I felt the atmosphere was very great, not like other games.

Final preparations: Ben Arfa and Newcastle readied themselves for the trip to the Stadium of Light

Final preparations: Ben Arfa and Newcastle readied themselves for the trip to the Stadium of Light

Last time out: Newcastle were well beaten at Manchester United before the international break

Last time out: Newcastle were well beaten at Manchester United before the international break

'I have never played in Sunderland before, so I will see what happens there, but I think it's going to be very hard.

'The fans from Sunderland are going to make a lot of noise.'

If Newcastle have largely failed to scale the heights they reached last season so far this time around, the same cannot be said of Ben Arfa, who has produced a series of electric displays to light up St James'.

He is the only Magpies man other than
striker Demba Ba to find the back of the net in a league game, scoring
the winner from the penalty spot against Tottenham on the opening day of
the season and a stunning equaliser against Aston Villa on September 2.

He
would dearly love to add to his tally this weekend in a game which
rivals the intensity of the showdown between Paris St Germain and former
club Marseille in his native country.

He
said: 'It's a similar atmosphere, but I think it's more intense here
because the cities are next to each other. I think it's amazing here.'

Newcastle
are likely to be boosted by the return of first-choice central
defenders Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor from injury, while keeper
Tim Krul is also in contention after working his way back from an elbow
problem.

Danger man: Steven Fletcher has been in exceptional form since signing for Sunderland this summer

Danger man: Steven Fletcher has been in exceptional form since signing for Sunderland this summer

Jordan Henderson hoping life at Liverpool will improve

Time to man up! Henderson aims to put rocky start at Liverpool behind him

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UPDATED:

15:15 GMT, 12 October 2012

Two years ago, Jordan Henderson was a hometown hero preparing to make his full England debut.

Fielded in an unfavourable holding midfield position by then manager Fabio Capello, he was kept on a tight leash by an impressive French side and struggled to properly impose himself on the game.

Much changed for the 22-year-old between that November defeat and his next call up 18 months later, stepping into Roy Hodgson's squad for Euro 2012 after Frank Lampard was ruled out with injury.

Mersey beat: Henderson hopes his Liverpool career is beginning to blossom

Mersey beat: Henderson hopes his Liverpool career is beginning to blossom

His 16million move to Liverpool in June 2011 bought with it a level of expectation he'd been without on Wearside, and Henderson would be the first to admit things have not gone according to plan.

He knows he has to up his game.

He said: 'There have been lots of ups and downs for me personally in the last two years, but without those setbacks you can't progress.

'I have definitely taken everything on board, become more of a man and developed my game a lot. With time and hard work I want to keep progressing.

'I know I need to have more of an impact on games if I am to play more regularly. I think I have done that recently. The last few times I have played with Liverpool I have been pretty relaxed so that will help me push on.

'I believe in my own ability, I have the confidence of producing the goods every time I play.'

Despite featuring twice for England in Poland and Ukraine, Henderson has been overlooked in the subsequent two squads, reverting back the Under 21s, who he will captain on Friday in the first leg of their Euro 2013 play-off tie with Serbia.

The change in scenery, though, doesn't bring a change in attitude.

Non-starter: Henderson is yet to begin a game under new boss Rodgers

Non-starter: Henderson is yet to begin a game under new boss Rodgers

'At Liverpool, something like the price tag doesn't have an affect, that it is nothing to do with me. There is pressure whenever and whoever you play for, like the 21s.

'Yes, I am one of the older lads in this team now but I am still under pressure to perform. It is different, but I am confident I can do well for both.'

Henderson is yet to start a Premier League game for Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers, with summer recruits Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin, as well as captain Steven Gerrard and the injured Lucas Leiva all vying for a share of the manager’s attention.

As the youngest of those, though, Henderson sees the fight as an opportunity to learn.

'You can take a lot from someone like Steven at club level – he is a great inspiration and role model for all younger players,' the midfielder, who was speaking at a 'Mars Just Play' session, said.

Work ethic: Henderson is now one of the oldest in Under 21s set-up

Work ethic: Henderson is now one of the oldest in Under 21's set-up

'As a person, he is a brilliant individual and someone for all of us to look up to. He is professional and goes about everything exact the right way, giving 100 per cent in training.

'To see someone like that who has been doing it for so long and still having that desire to improve is a great inspiration.'

Two hours before Gerrard leads England out at Wembley in the third of the seniors’ World Cup qualifiers on Friday, Henderson will do the same at Carrow Road with a group who hold aspirations of securing a place on the plane to Brazil in two years time.

'I wouldn’t want to leave the 21s behind, I enjoy this role as captain of the team, but obviously I do want to push on to the seniors.'

Both England and Serbia where unbeaten during qualifying for the tournament which is held in Israel next June.

'It is a different kind of football now,' Henderson adds. 'The two legs is a new style, a challenge.

'You have to be more ruthless, and with the home leg first you have to hope you get a good performance under you.'

Mars and The FA are offering a week of free Just Play sessions across the country from October 8. Search online for Just Play.

Republic of Ireland injury crisis is no excuse against Germany – Giovanni Trapattoni

Injury crisis will not be an excuse if Ireland lose to Germany, insists Trapattoni

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 8 October 2012

The Republic of Ireland have become embroiled in an injury crisis ahead of one of their toughest World Cup 2014 qualifiers against Germany.

But manager Giovanni Trapattoni is refusing to use the worst injury ravages of his reign as an excuse before the Germans have even landed in Dublin ahead of Friday's showdown at the Aviva Stadium.

The Ireland boss has finally turned to Aston Villa regular Ciaran Clark, who was left out of last month’s wins over Kazakhstan and Oman, however, he will not be attempting to call up recently retired veteran Damien Duff in an emergency and continues to overlook Norwich City’s Wes Hoolahan.

Fighting fit: Striker Shane Long (left) in training with the Republic of Ireland squad at Gannon Park on Monday

Fighting fit: Striker Shane Long (left) in training with the Republic of Ireland squad at Gannon Park on Monday

Following the weekend withdrawal of Wolves striker Kevin Doyle, Trapattoni’s worst fears were realised when seasoned campaigners Sean St Ledger and Glenn Whelan were both ruled out of this week’s double header against Germany and Faroe Islands with hamstring injuries.

Sunderland winger James McClean has also stayed in Wearside for treatment to a hip flexor problem and the former Derry City man is certain to miss both games.

The latest setbacks were the worst possible start to less than a week of preparations for the Italian coach and his squad who held their first training session in Malahide on Monday.

Stoke City striker Jon Walters missed morning training as a precaution while captain Robbie Keane and Russia-based midfielder Aiden McGeady are due in the team hotel today.

After training, Trapattoni admitted the injury problems will affect the squad’s preparations for the second qualifying match in their World Cup group. It offers the under-fire Ireland boss ready-made excuses for any defeat to the group favourites, and any embarrassment they may suffer in the Faroes next week.

But Trapattoni said: 'We don’t need to look for excuses.

'I wish to remember the final of the Champions League last season when the favourites, 100 per cent, were Bayern Munich. Bayern had 17 corners Bayern, Chelsea had three and Chelsea won the game and the Champions League. That is football.

Blow: Sunderland winger James McClean (centre) is certain to miss Ireland's double header

Blow: Sunderland winger James McClean (centre) is certain to miss Ireland's double header

'We need 11 players to give 100 per cent. Every one of us must give 100 per cent or I will need to change the team. I have spoken to them about their enthusiasm and giving 100 per cent commitment when we call them.

'We saw last month in Kazakhstan with Kevin Doyle what can happen when a player comes off the bench and scores. Intelligent players can wait for their moment whether they are on the bench, or not.

'I don’t think about the injured players now. All the injuries are being monitored by their club doctors and also by our doctor. Glenn wanted to be here, he’s very respectful of the Irish jersey, but he’s gone now for both games.

'We just need all the players available before we can pick a team. We have 24 players now and we have no other surprises.'

One surprise which was ruled out from the team camp was the possibility of Trapattoni’s assistant Marco Tardelli pursuing centurion Duff, who stunned the Italian contingent with his decision to retire after the Euro 2012 debacle.

Last month Tardelli said he had talked constantly with the Fulham winger, who has made a bright start to the new season, and believed he could be persuaded to return to the fold. But Duff will not be approached, despite the sparse squad available for this week.

Although stubborn Trapattoni is also refusing to look towards new blood like Hoolahan, who has also played regularly in the Premier League with strugglers Norwich City, he is determined to move on from the European Championship finals campaign this month.

He added: 'I believe the new campaign and the wins over Kazakhstan and Oman have calmed the disappointment of the Euros.

'I never wish to hear again about disappointment, disappointment, disappointment. It is finished now and we don’t need excuses.'

Martin O"Neill backs Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

O'Neill backs Kop boss Rodgers as Ulster duo prepare to go head-to-head

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UPDATED:

14:53 GMT, 14 September 2012


Vote of confidence: Martin O'Neill has backed Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers to turn the club's fortunes around

Vote of confidence: Martin O'Neill has backed Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers to turn the club's fortunes around

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill has backed Liverpool counterpart Brendan Rodgers to run the club his own way after a turbulent start to the season.

The two Ulstermen will go head to head at the Stadium of Light on Saturday evening three days after Rodgers' problems at Anfield were put into perspective by an independent report into the deaths of 96 of the Reds' supporters at Hillsborough in 1989.

It is certain to be an emotional occasion on Wearside, but once the whistle blows, the only concentration for the men on the field will be the three Barclays Premier League points at stake.

Rodgers' men currently sit in 18th place in the table having taken just one point from their three games to date, albeit from reigning champions Manchester City and with their new manager coming under pressure in some quarters with the Andy Carroll debacle still a topic for debate.

But O'Neill said: 'Brendan obviously has his style, which he brought to Swansea – I say brought to Swansea, it might have been there in the first place, but he certainly enhanced it.

'If I say so, their start to the season under [Michael] Laudrup now is maybe a continuation of that work.

'People can tinker with it whatever way they want, but it's worked very well.

'On the back of that, he has gone to Liverpool and obviously wants to stamp his authority – or his mark, rather than authority, perhaps – on Liverpool Football Club. Obviously, that's what you want to do as a manager.

'But I don't think he's going into it with eyes closed. He would have had a number of meetings there with the owners of the football club. He must have agreed to the way in which they want to work.

'I believe there's a fly-on-the-wall documentary – I haven't seen it, so I really can't comment on it other than some of the reviews that people have made about it in the newspapers. It couldn't, maybe, have been done without his consent.

'But whatever way he is doing it, it's entirely up to him.'

Mini-break: Sunderland have not been in action since the 2-2 draw at Swansea on September 1, when Steven Fletcher (left) scored twice

Mini-break: Sunderland have not been in action since the 2-2 draw at Swansea on September 1, when Steven Fletcher (left) scored twice

That six-part documentary, entitled 'Being Liverpool', is being aired in the United States this month and is said to shed light on Rodgers' managerial style.

O'Neill, of course, is several months further into the process of imposing his personality on his own club, and with two creditable draws at Arsenal and Swansea under his belt to date, heads into his first home league game of the campaign – Reading's visit on August 25 was postponed because of torrential rain – in positive mood.

He said: 'Liverpool come here with great tradition. I know the word 'legendary' is used almost as the throw of a dice now, but the club has legend and everything else that you could possibly think about behind it now, particularly over the last 50 years since Bill Shankly came in.

'It's a really proud tradition and it will be a highly-charged atmosphere.'

Winger Adam Johnson is battling to be fit after returning early from England duty with a thigh problem, but fellow midfielder David Meyler will hope for an opportunity after confirming his return from two serious knee injuries by making his first start for the Republic of Ireland against Oman in midweek.

Injury doubt: Adam Johnson is fighting to be fit for the Liverpool game after picking up a thigh injury on England duty

Injury doubt: Adam Johnson is fighting to be fit for the Liverpool game after picking up a thigh injury on England duty

O'Neill, who revealed he had turned down a series of offers for the player to go out on loan, said: 'David has had a really tough time with injury. Of course, I have only known him as he is making his way back from it.

'He might have seen how Fraizer Campbell has fought back from the injuries, but I am delighted for David.

'He is an exceptional lad, he is, honestly. You would be very happy with him around about the place.'