Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert insists his players cannot use youth and inexperience as an excuse any more. Lambert’s two years in the job have seen him place great faith in players who are relatively young, lacking in Barclays Premier League experience or both. With Villa having ended each of the last two seasons in 15th place, the Scot is in no doubt an improvement is needed in 2014-15 and over the summer he has notably brought in signings with plenty of action in the division under their belts in Joe Cole, Philippe Senderos and Kieran Richardson. It also appears that seasoned English top-flight campaigners already on Villa’s books but previously out of the first-team picture, such as Alan Hutton, Darren Bent and the fit-again Charles N’Zogbia, will be getting a look in this term. And at his pre-match press conference ahead of the club’s Premier League opener at Stoke on Saturday, Lambert said about the rest of the squad: “They are not young any more. They have had two years of it. “You can’t keep going with that excuse. You stand up and take it now. You can only get away with that for so long. “(Eighteen-year-old midfielder) Jack Grealish is young. But the rest – they are men now.” Villa started last season in impressive style with a 3-1 win at Arsenal, and Lambert would gladly take a repeat outcome this time around. But he is also mindful that a good opening result is of little consequence if it is not built upon, given Villa lost their next three league games after the victory at the Emirates Stadium, and seven of their last nine at the campaign’s conclusion. “The last six or seven weeks of the season were ridiculous,” Lambert said. “I don’t want to go through that again. “We had a hard start, but we only picked up three points. You need to try to get as many points as you can from the beginning.” It has been a summer of uncertainty in many ways for Villa, particularly with the club still owned at this point by Randy Lerner despite his announcement in May that he was intending to sell. Nonetheless, Lambert is adamant the midlands outfit are “really healthy”. “This is a fantastic club, and the state of the club is what it is,” the manager said when asked about the situation with Lerner. “The club is a really healthy place. “The main thing for me is to get the team going and improving a lot on what we did last year. “As I have said before, the last two years have not been good enough. We have to aim a lot higher than that. As a group, everybody, we have to do better.” Press Association
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
A newspaper claimed the Brazilian had been forced out the country after playing for the club without the necessary paperwork.QPR says this isn’t the case and Sandro is currently on holiday.However they do admit to being in touch with the Home Office about an issue relating to the midfielder.
Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error “So, yes, this will be the longest trip,” James said Tuesday, implicitly projecting the Lakers into the Finals.How will it affect competition? Performers, at least since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, crave immediate feedback. A frenzied home crowd drives them all beyond their ambitions, at times. The really good teams use road hostility for the same purpose.The problem with the “road” is not just a foul-mouthed fan. It is the quiet time leading up to the game, the mental isolation. How does it work when everyone is a roadie?“They’re used to playing for a higher seed and getting home-court advantage,” Van Gundy said. “It will be fascinating to watch it play out.”Legend has it that a scrimmage among 1992 Dream Teamers, in Monaco, was the best game Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson ever played. It’s a legend because nobody saw it.“The teams will generate their own energy,” Jackson said. “The best in the world will show out on the court.”Baseball is struggling with autophobia as well. When the Dodgers cut a Giants lead to 5-4 in the ninth in real life, the torrential noise from all the stadium decks can drive a young pitcher from the mound by itself. And closers can no longer pump themselves up with theme songs and joyful noise on their trot to the mound.How will the coaches coach? If Team A goes on a 10-2 run, will Team B call a timeout to keep the fans at bay, or is it more likely to keep playing? How carefully will the coaches disguise their play calls? Will we think differently of certain players when we hear what they’re actually saying?“There’s something like 39 mics around the court that will pick up everything,” Van Gundy said. “It will make it easier for the other team to know what’s coming. And how will the players handle it mentally?”James says his body “completely shut down” in the spring after reaching “sixth or seventh gear,” and his engine is more combustible than most.The stars will remain stars. The others might be more questionable, but name any week of a typical NBA season, even a playoff season, that is played with uniform precision.In the end, the fans face the most adjustments. No longer can they celebrate or agonize communally. Will a Lakers win be as important, as valuable, if there’s only one pair of hands clapping?“It’s 2020,” said Javale McGee, with a shrug. “The whole world has a lot on its shoulders.”Wisely, the NBA created a new world. Now we see if it supports life as we knew it. With nearly a full season in the books, this will not be a “yeah-but” champion.“You can make the case that, if all goes as planned in the bubble, this will be the toughest championship to win,” said Mark Jackson, who analyzes ABC/ESPN games with Jeff Van Gundy. “If there’s an asterisk, maybe it should go the other way.”Say what you will about the fast test results that the privileged jocks get but no one else can. The NBA, NHL, MLS and WNBA have gone to unforeseen lengths to determine a champion and to make sure these short-term professionals do not lose a year of their careers, which are severely pro-rated.The networks assault us with this endless, pointless LeBron vs. Jordan debate, but you don’t clarify that argument if you let a virus deprive James a chance for another title at 35.The NBA is spending $150 million on the Orlando bubble itself and losing more than $1 billion in revenues atop that. A champion will be identified no later than Oct. 13. Aside from Olympic years. James never has been separated from his family like this. Where were they all standing when the music stopped?The Lakers were sitting on top of both the Western Conference and the rim, knocking away shots like kings on a mountain. The Houston Rockets, also known as Smurfin’ USA, were trying to find a title by running through everyone’s legs.The Milwaukee Bucks, a fiery dumpster for so long, were setting historic standards for creating garbage time. And the Clippers had learned to win in between guest appearances by Kawhi Leonard.The music comes back on Thursday night, with the dance floor moved to Orlando, with the players comfortable but locked down nevertheless. No fans, no home courts, no long flights. Emotions must be homemade. Escape will be impossible.