Seven days after succumbing to an horrendous 8-0 defeat at the St Mary’s Stadium – a reverse which the Barclays Premier League’s dubious goals panel has now ruled included three own goals – the Black Cats will line up against Arsenal at the Stadium of Light needing to make a statement. Poyet’s men had lost only one of their previous seven league games, a run which constituted a positive start to the season in the Uruguayan’s eyes, but much of the good work will be undone if they fail to find an antidote to the shock which has engulfed Wearside ever since. Manager Arsene Wenger maintains only a collective defensive effort can propel Arsenal back into the Barclays Premier League title race. The Gunners head to Sunderland, thrashed 8-0 last week at Southampton, boosted by a dramatic midweek victory away to Anderlecht in the Champions League, coming from behind with two goals in the final two minutes. The final result in Brussels, however, masked somewhat a largely average display, with few lessons seemingly learned from recent domestic failings which saw Arsenal need a stoppage-time equaliser to draw 2-2 at home to Hull. Defender Per Mertesacker believes the Gunners must not hide from the fact they ‘lack a few things football wise’ and need to improve overall confidence. Wenger, though, insists it is too easy just to lay all of the blame on a backline which has been hampered by injuries, with centre-back Laurent Koscielny set to be out for at least a month with an Achilles injury. “Until now we have been relatively consistent in our attitude and in our performances, but not efficient enough, neither defensively nor offensively,” said Wenger. “If you look since the start of the season we have only lost two games, to Dortmund and Chelsea, but we didn’t make enough points with our performances. “It is improving by getting everybody to put a bit more effort in to the defensive work, and that starts not only at the back, but up front and in midfield by increasing the level of defensive activity through the team. “We had to reshuffle the defence and (the players) getting used to playing together helps as well. “Last year we had 17 clean sheets and at the moment, we have only had one after eight (Premier League) games, so that is something which we are not on the same level defensively. “We train very hard and the spirit is right, the attitude is here. I believe more it is linked with confidence at the moment, but I cannot fault the attitude. “It (the win at Anderlecht) will help to improve confidence and I am sure that if we focus on our performance, the rest will come naturally.” England forward Theo Walcott is close to a comeback from the serious knee injury which ruled him out of the World Cup. Wenger, though, feels Walcott – who could play for the Under-21s again this weekend – needs a few more “kicks” before returning to the first team. “He has a game that exposes him and he needs to feel completely confident, but he is not far,” said Wenger. “Theo has to get used to contact again. He has been out for nine months, it was a big injury and it takes time to settle, to get used to being kicked again. “Fitness-wise, Theo is there, but to play a part in the game on the contact front I think he needs a little bit more time.” Gus Poyet admits he would love to be pulling on his boots against Arsenal on Saturday as Sunderland attempt to exorcise the ghost of their Southampton nightmare. Press Association It is a challenge the head coach insists his players, far from fearing, should relish. Poyet said: “It’s going to be great on Saturday. I would love to be playing on Saturday. “It’s the perfect game to go in there and put in the biggest effort you can put in on a football pitch and show that whatever happened happened and that’s it, and now we are moving on.” However, Poyet is refusing to view the debacle on the south coast as a reality check to focus minds on the task ahead. He said: “I don’t want reactions because that means you have done something bad. I prefer not to react. “But I do really trust the players, so I am really looking forward to the game. That’s the main thing for me.” Poyet’s options to change his side are limited, particularly at the back, where the addition of former Napoli full-back Anthony Reveillere has at least given him another body with Sebastian Coates and Billy Jones both on the casualty list. Midfielders Emanuele Giaccherini (ankle) and Ricky Alvarez (knee) are also still out.
Sam Allardyce believes West Ham’s record-signing Andy Carroll could be fit and ready to play again in “two to three weeks”. Carroll is now back in training and the plan is for the 25-year-old to play Under-18 and Under-21 games before returning to first-team action in mid-November. “It’ll be another two to three weeks, if he has no niggles or problems, before we talk about playing him in the team at any level,” Allardyce said. “We’ll try to get him through three or four behind-closed-doors games and if that goes all right then we would hope to have him back. “It’s been a long, hard road again for Andy and one he’s been too familiar with recently, sadly. “Hopefully he’ll have a major impact when he comes back again.” West Ham desperately missed Carroll last year as the Hammers’ lack of goals saw them dragged into a relegation scrap. It has been a different story so far this season, however, as summer signings Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia have added some much-needed fire-power up front, pushing Allardyce’s side up to fourth in the table. The former Bolton manager admits the team’s impressive start to the campaign means the club can afford to take extra care over Carroll’s return. The Hammers splashed out £15million to sign Carroll permanently in June 2013 but the England striker has started only 12 Barclays Premier League matches during an injury-ridden 16 months at Upton Park. The powerhouse centre forward missed the first five months of last season with a foot injury and is yet to feature in the current campaign after tearing ankle ligaments on the club’s pre-season tour of New Zealand. “Last time we got him back and he did his ankle but carried on playing so this time round we don’t want to (rush) him,” Allardyce said. “We’re hopefully going to get him back as quick as we can but we’re not going to rush him back because, touch wood, there’s no desperate need at the moment.” Sakho’s pace and finishing has revitalised West Ham’s attacking threat this season, with the Senegalese striker scoring in each of his last six games. Sakho and Valencia were both on target in the 3-1 victory at Burnley last weekend and Allardyce will be hoping for more of the same when the Hammers host Manchester City on Saturday. “From my point of view I thought it would have been a slower process but we wouldn’t have expected Enner Valencia to make such a big contribution either,” Allardyce said. “The pair of them have hit it off together – it’s not just the goalscoring, it’s the energy they give the team which is very important in today’s highly competitive game. “Your energy, intensity and sprinting capabilities are very important today in breaking down defences. “They turned the game for us against Burnley because we weren’t very good in the first half and then two beautiful crosses creates two goals. “That’s what you wish for, that’s what you dream of as a manager in the Premier League.” Press Association
Paul Fahey’s charge fought out a thrilling finish to the two-mile-six-furlong heat last October, eventually edging out Drive Time by just a nose at the line. His three other starts at the County Tipperary venue have yielded second places and while He’llberemembered is now an 11-year-old, he showed there is still plenty of life left in him with a cracking effort in the Cesarewitch at the Curragh last time. As a 50-1 shot, the Blue Ocean gelding finished off strongly for sixth place and he boasts the highest mark in the four-runner field. Moonshine Lad, who represents the in-form Gordon Elliott yard, is next best on the official ratings but he is on a perch some 10lb lower and they race off level terms here. Keep On Track and Ordinary Man complete the line-up. Moonshine Lad’s rider Paul Carberry has a potentially nice mount in the opening Holycross Mares Chase as he teams up with Down Ace. A winner of five successive races last year when with Fergal O’Brien in Britain, the seven-year-old now makes her debut over fences having joined the Noel Meade team. She was a point-to-point winner earlier in her career and after a fair run over hurdles on her debut for Meade, she can perhaps make the most of the weight she receives from Our Ned and the course winner Dazzling Susie. Carberry has a chance on his other assignment too, aboard Prima Vista in the www.thurlesraces.ie Beginners Chase, but another chasing newcomer could come to the fore here. Gigginstown House Stud and Mouse Morris’ Allied Victory boasts good credentials for this game as he’s a half-brother to Hear The Echo, who won the 2008 Irish Grand National for the same connections. He’llberemembered tries to repeat his victory of last year as he lines up in the Premier County Hurdle at Thurles once again. Press Association
The 35-year-old former England captain directed a jibe at a Twitter follower who criticised him last month, containing the word ‘sket’, which the Collins English Dictionary defines as “a promiscuous girl or woman”. After a Twitter user sent the message “Maybe QPR will sign a good CB (centre-back) they need one”, Ferdinand replied by saying ” get ya mum in, plays the field well son! #sket”. The exchange came on September 1, which was transfer deadline day. Press Association QPR defender Rio Ferdinand has been suspended for three matches and fined £25,000 for comments he made on Twitter, the Football Association has announced. Ferdinand was charged by the FA on October 14, and his punishment was announced on Wednesday. The FA said in a statement on its website: “Queens Park Rangers defender Rio Ferdinand has been suspended for three matches commencing with immediate effect, subject to any appeal, after an FA misconduct charge against him was found proven. “It was alleged a comment Ferdinand posted on his twitter account was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper. “It was further alleged that this breach was aggravated pursuant to FA rule E3(2) as the comment included a reference to gender. “Following an independent regulatory commission hearing on Wednesday 29 October, Ferdinand was also fined £25,000, severely warned as to his future conduct and ordered to attend an education programme, arranged by the FA within four months.” Ferdinand, who made 81 appearances for England, the last in June 2011, is a member of FA chairman Greg Dyke’s commission looking at how to improve English football. The former Manchester United centre-back was also considered by the FA as a possible candidate for a FIFA vice-president until David Gill, formerly United’s chief executive, opted to stand. Ferdinand, who has 5.9million followers on Twitter, has sent more than 14,000 tweets on the website and has been a pundit for the BBC and BT Sport. Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker, who avoided censure from the BBC last month following a series of Tweets in which he used profanities, appeared to express his surprise at the charge facing Ferdinand when it was announced. Lineker wrote: “Thanks to @rioferdy5 I’ve just learnt a new word. The most surprising aspect of this charge is that the FA knew what a ‘sket’ was.”
Alan Pardew wants to restore the spirit of his playing days after coming “home” to take over as Crystal Palace manager. Pardew was released from his Newcastle contract on Saturday morning and signed a three-and-a-half-year contract to return to the club he served for four years as a player. The former midfielder was part of a successful spell in the club’s history between 1987 and 1991, scoring the winner against Liverpool to take them to the 1990 FA Cup final. And the new manager said: “Without putting pressure on the chairman – because it’s difficult when the manager keeps talking publicly about players – I think we’re going to need a player or two and that’s what we’re going to try and do.” Pardew is the permanent successor to Neil Warnock, after Keith Millen took caretaker charge for the goalless draw against Aston Villa, and becomes Palace’s fourth manager in less than 18 months. Warnock succeeded Tony Pulis in the summer, with the former Stoke boss also serving less than a year before walking away in a dispute over transfer targets. Pardew will now be looking to steady the ship and c hairman Steve Parish told the club’s website: “We wanted a manager with a great track record and proven experience in the Barclays Premier League. “In Alan we have both these things as well as a man who has great affection for this club and shares my determination to take us to the next level.” Pardew’s departure signals the end of an eventful era at St James’ Park during which he took the club to fifth place in the Premier League and the quarter-finals of the Europa League, but also came in for concerted criticism from some fans. Owner Mike Ashley remained strongly behind him, though, even after he had been banned from the touchline and fined for head-butting Hull midfielder David Meyler in March. Pardew said: “It’s been a privilege to manage Newcastle United and I want to thank my captain, Fabricio Coloccini, and all the players, John Carver, Steve Stone, Andy Woodman and all the staff, all of whom have been outstanding servants to Newcastle United. “A special thanks also goes to the fans for all their support over the last four years. “I must also thank Mike Ashley and the board for their unwavering support during my tenure at the club.” Newcastle announced that Carver and Stone will again lead the team in the FA Cup tie at Leicester as the club continue to search for a new head coach. That title – as opposed to “manager” – indicates the club will seek to a recruit a man comfortable with working under a continental model with managing director Lee Charnley and chief scout Graham Carr taking care of recruitment. With the likes of Steve Bruce, Pulis and Tim Sherwood having already been ruled out, according to sources on Tyneside, St Etienne’s Christophe Galtier and former Mainz boss Thomas Tuchel have been linked with the club in recent days. However, Press Association Sport understands no approaches have yet been made. And in an interview broadcast on the club website, he said: ” I think the fans remember that era I was in, they admired the spirit and they’d probably like to see a bit more of that. Hopefully I can bring that back. “It’s been a while since I played here but it’s somewhere I know well and it’s close to my heart. “It was difficult because I’m leaving a big club in Newcastle (but) r eally and truly, my home is in this area and for me it’s what you would class, as close as you can as a manager, as your own club.” Pardew takes over a side in the bottom three that has not won for eight matches, since the 3-1 victory over Liverpool at Anfield on November 23. And he acknowledged: “It’s a little bit sticky at the moment and we need to find a way out of that. “The players have got great attitudes here, I’ve been very impressed. Can I help change that energy into more tangible results? “That might take a transfer, it might take a change of style a little bit, and that’s what hopefully a manager of my experience can do.” One target Pardew has been linked with in the January transfer window is Swansea striker Bafetimbi Gomis. Press Association
Scotland will play on four consecutive Saturdays from August 15, starting with a trip to Dublin. They then face a double header against Italy in Turin and Edinburgh before completing their preparations in Paris. Scotland head coach Vern Cotter said: “Clearly our priority at the moment is the forthcoming RBS 6 Nations, however we are pleased to confirm four matches against top quality international opposition ahead of the Rugby World Cup. “The games will allow us to rotate and test a large group of players throughout these preparatory matches in what is the last opportunity for everyone to put their hand up for selection.” Scotland open their World Cup campaign against Japan in Gloucester on September 23, before facing other pool rivals USA, South Africa and Samoa. Scotland have confirmed they will face Ireland, Italy and France in a four-match warm-up schedule for the World Cup. Press Association
Press Association Advocaat has won league titles in three countries during his lengthy coaching career, claiming the Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven, the Russian Super League with Zenit St Petersburg and two SPL trophies during his spell at Ibrox. But the nature of the challenge that awaits at the Stadium of Light is of a different order entirely. Poyet left the club a single point above the bottom three and reeling from a calamitous 4-0 home defeat by shot-shy Aston Villa. That result, and images of thousands of Sunderland fans pouring out of the ground in disgust, hastened what had already become an expected departure for Poyet. He was in post for 17 months, winning just 23 games from 75 at the helm. The Uruguayan was permitted to take training for one last time at the Academy of Light before being summoned for a meeting that confirmed his fate. Chairman Ellis Short released a short statement via the club’s official website, explaining the decision. In it he made reference to Poyet’s successful fight against the drop last term, as well as an unexpected run to the Capital One Cup final, but expressed disappointment at slipping once again into a survival scrap. “I would like to thank Gus for his endeavours during his time at the club, in particular last season’s ‘great escape’ and cup final appearance, which will live long in the memory of every Sunderland fan,” said Short. “Sadly, we have not made the progress that any of us had hoped for this season and we find ourselves battling, once again, at the wrong end of the table. We have therefore made the difficult decision that a change is needed.” The statement added that an announcement about Poyet’s successor would be made “in due course”. Sunderland are thought to have given some thought to an internal appointmentm with three-time caretaker manager Kevin Ball and development coach Paul Bracewell already on the pay-roll. But with QPR’s fortunes hardly having been improved by Chris Ramsay’s temporary promotion, the mood appears to have shifted quickly to an experienced campaigner in Advocaat. He would be presented with a similar problem to the one that greeted Poyet’s predecessor Di Canio when he arrived two years ago. The controversial Italian had even less time to secure top-flight status, but collected eight points from seven games to do the job. Sunderland had four more points then than their current haul of 26, but the survival threshold is likely to be low this term. As for Poyet he now joins the likes of Di Canio, Martin O’Neill, Steve Bruce and Ricky Sbragia in failing to turn around Sunderland’s fortunes in recent years. Dick Advocaat was travelling to Sunderland on Monday evening to discuss replacing Gus Poyet as the club’s manager, Press Association Sport understands. The well-travelled Dutchman, who has had two stints in charge of his national side and spent four years at Rangers, has been identified as the man to lead a late charge against relegation following Poyet’s dismissal. The Black Cats are moving quickly in their pursuit of the 67-year-old, with Saturday’s trip to West Ham one of only nine games left to lift them away from the Barclays Premier League drop zone.
The Poles currently sit on top of the pile, three points clear of Germany, Scotland and Ireland having claimed the scalp of the newly-crowned world champions in Warsaw in October. Martin O’Neill’s men, the Germans and the Scots are locked together behind them on seven points, but assistant manager Keane is adamant there will be only one approach as the Republic attempt to close the gap at the Aviva Stadium. He said: “It used to scare the home team! If you want to do well in any campaign, you have to have a decent home record. “I’m guessing a lot of teams have come here and enjoyed the Aviva, but it’s up to us to be on the front foot and get the fans behind us. The atmosphere will be brilliant, but it cant just come from the fans, it has to come from the players too. “But we will be making tackles, creating chances and putting bodies on the line, and that will get fans right behind us. “The old Lansdowne was brilliant, always a great atmosphere. But in terms of the atmosphere for Sunday? That’s the least of our worries. That will take care itself, I think it will be electric.” Keane met up with O’Neill, the rest of the staff and the players on Sunday for the first time since relinquishing his similar role at Aston Villa under former boss Paul Lambert, and he remains convinced he made the right decision. He said: “I hope so, that was the aim when I left Villa, to focus on Ireland a bit more. It was a chance to get to games and see the players a bit more often, so that’s not an issue. “I was always comfortable with the decision and I felt it was right for everybody.” Keane spoke to the media after a training session in which James McClean, Stephen Ward and Darron Gibson were unable to take part because of injury, and within hours, Everton midfielder Gibson’s persistent groin problem forced his withdrawal. A statement said: “The Football Association of Ireland today confirmed that Darron Gibson has withdrawn from the Republic of Ireland squad to face Poland on March 29 due a persistent groin injury. “Darron will return to his club today for treatment.” Full-back Ward’s ankle remains a concern, but winger McClean said he is “100 per cent” sure he will be fit after a scan on his left ankle on Tuesday revealed no lasting damage. Press Association He said: “A win would be nice after the disappointment of [November’s 1-0 defeat in] Scotland. “You can’t have too many draws. Some days, you get good draws and bad draws, like the one in Germany is no doubt a good one. But the mindset at home is to go win the match. “Afterwards, a draw might not be a bad result, but our mindset before the game is to go and get the win. The slip-up in Scotland is one that we don’t want to cost us too much, but the mindset with the manager, staff, players and fans behind us has to be to go try win the football match.” The Aviva Stadium will be packed to the rafters on Sunday as Ireland set about their task of hoping to rekindle the memories of their last major victory on home soil, the famous 1-0 win over Holland in which Jason McAteer’s goal set the nation on the road to the 2002 World Cup finals. Keane played in that game and set the tone for the afternoon when he thundered into a first-minute tackle on Marc Overmars. Asked if he could wield the same sort of influence from the sidelines this time around, he replied: “No, I cant tackle anyone can I? “No, it’s difficult, but we have good players and good characters. Creating a good tempo in the game can come from anyone. Some days it’s a tackle and others, please God, it’s goals.” Lansdowne in its current incarnation has perhaps proved less of a fortress than in its past, and Keane admits the Republic have to make life more difficult for visiting teams. Roy Keane insists the Republic of Ireland will head into Sunday’s Euro 2016 showdown with surprise Group D leaders Poland with nothing but victory in mind.
Manager Slaven Bilic paid tribute to the man who made his final appearance for the club as captain in Saturday’s 4-3 home defeat by Bournemouth at his pre-match press conference on Thursday morning after admitting he could not guarantee him the amount of football he wanted. Bilic said: “That is basically the only reason (he left). In the end, it is good for both parties. “It was not only this week. We had a few chats with Kevin, now he’s leaving and I can only say a big thanks to him for the club because he was a great captain and a great professional. “Even in the short period I experienced working with him, he was a brilliant professional, a hard worker and I wish him well on behalf of the staff, the players and the club.” He said: “This has been a fantastic time for me since I walked in the door. I’ve had just over four fantastic years and I’d like to thank everyone who has made it so easy for me to settle down here with my family. “My boy speaks like a Cockney now, so I don’t know if I’ll be moving back to Liverpool any time soon! “Since I’ve come here, it’s felt like home and it’s a real possibility that it’ll be home for a long time, so I thank everyone who has made that possible from inside the club to all the players I’ve played with. “People don’t see the staff behind the scenes who work so hard for us, and obviously I’d like to thank the fans too. “A little part of me wishes I was a bit younger when I came here so I could be part of what is going to be a fantastic transition going into the Olympic Stadium. I’ve seen all the videos and everything that’s gone into it, and it’s going to be something special. “It’s exciting times for the club and it’s about the boys now making sure they keep that Premier League status this season and building to ensure that they then go on and start challenging the European clubs, because that stadium will deserve it. “Thanks for everything.” Nolan, who signed off with his nickname “Nobby”, also revealed that Hammers’ Wembley play-off final victory over Blackpool which clinched their return to the top flight would go down as one of the best days of his career. The Hammers announced on Thursday that the 33-year-old, who captained them as they fought their way back into the Barclays Premier League at the end of the 2011-12 season, has left by mutual consent in the search for regular football during what remains of his playing career. Merseysider Nolan, who moved to Upton Park from Newcastle in June 2011, later expressed his thanks to the club and their fans in a statement released on the official website, www.whufc.com. Kevin Nolan has admitted his regret at not joining West Ham earlier in his career after deciding to leave the club. Press Association
Two goals from Daniel Sturridge and one from James Milner eased the pressure on Rodgers in a 3-2 win over Aston Villa, for whom Rudy Gestede scored twice. Rodgers has seen his position come under increasing scrutiny after some poor performances but he thinks there is an active campaign being waged against him. “I am pretty confident that there is a group of people that don’t want me here to be the manager,” he said. “Sometimes we haven’t lost games and the hysteria around it is pretty clear that there is maybe something else going on from behind. “I am talking about people outside of here (the club). “In all competitions we have lost less games than Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal. “We have lost two games, which is equivalent to Tottenham and Manchester United. “The hysteria around ourselves is interesting to note. Myself and the players stay very calm and work very hard knowing we will get our rewards. “We are very much together as a team and the supporters were fantastic today. “As supporters and players we got the victory. We are five points off the top and still with a lot of progress to make.” Rodgers’ comments suggest he is unhappy with his treatment in the media. Many former Liverpool players have been highly critical, although Rodgers would not offer any hint of who he was referring to. Whatever his argument with outside influences, there is no doubt Liverpool have received a boost from the return of Sturridge, who scored his first goals since March after a hip operation. “It is not rocket science. The last time we scored three goals was when he started against Tottenham (in February),” Rodgers added. “If you want to compete at the top you need quality. Daniel has shown in his time he is a real top talent. “I thought he was outstanding and I was disappointed he didn’t get a hat-trick. “His overall game and touch were outstanding and he had a great combination with Danny Ings. “That is the first time they have started and they showed that understanding that good players have.” While Liverpool are only five points adrift of leaders Manchester United, Villa are stuck in the bottom three. “If you score two at Anfield you expect to take something from the game but we didn’t do that,” said manager Tim Sherwood. “That is a major disappointment but it is something I expected. “It is a young group of players we acquired. The club decided it was the best way to go forward and I am very privileged to have the chance to work with them but it comes with its ups and downs.” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers claimed there are external forces at work with an agenda against him but he refused to say who he thought was behind it or why. Press Association