Friday, January 22, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Sean St Ledger, the Ireland defender, believes that Fifa has created a dangerous precedent by failing to punish Thierry Henry for the handball that sent France to the World Cup finals at Ireland’s expense.
Henry’s reputation might never recover from the sleight of hand that helped France to earn a place in South Africa after a Fifa disciplinary committee ruled in Zurich last night that it had no power to sanction him.
“I don’t want players to get banned, but [the decision] promotes, ‘If you can get away with it, do it,’ ” said St Ledger, who played in the 1-1 draw at the Stade de France in November.
“I’ve seen [the incident] again today and I still think he intentionally, the second time, handballed it. I still feel a bit hurt from it.”
Ireland had lost the first leg of the World Cup play-off 1-0 in Dublin. They led 1-0 in Paris, forcing the game into extra time, when Henry’s handball led to William Gallas scoring the decisive goal.
The incident caused outrage, with the FAI demanding a replay and then to go to the World Cup as a 33rd team. Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, referred to it as “blatant unfair play”. Fifa dismissed Ireland’s demands but did agree to have another look at the possibility of using video evidence in the future, and referred the handball by the Barcelona striker to its disciplinary body. But a Fifa statement issued last night said that it had no basis on which to punish Henry.
“The disciplinary committee reached the conclusion that there was no legal foundation for the committee to consider the case because handling the ball cannot be regarded as a serious infringement as stipulated in article 77a of the Fifa disciplinary code,” the statement said. “There is no other legal text that would allow the committee to impose sanctions for any incidents missed by match officials.”
The decision means that the 32-year-old former Arsenal player will not face a ban for any of France’s matches in the World Cup finals this summer.
Ireland had been angered even before the match by Fifa’s decision to seed the play-offs, allowing teams such as Portugal and France to avoid each other.
Asked for his opinion on yesterday’s ruling, St Ledger said: “I think it’s a poor one.
“They said they’ve got no legal foundation but they still had the power to change the rules and introduce the seedings. I think if they have got that kind of power to change that rule I don’t understand why they haven’t got the power to make a ruling here. It’s confusing but at the same time not surprising.
“It won’t surprise me if France go on and win the World Cup.”
Henry’s defence yesterday argued successfully that Fifa’s disciplinary code does not give the committee the power to punish such incidents.
The decision will be welcomed by those who argued it was unfair for Henry to be singled out when so many other players commit handball offences and are not punished. Bernard Escalettes, president of the French Football Federation, said he hoped the verdict would draw a line under the incident.
“Thierry Henry not being punished is not astonishing, it is logical,” Escalettes said.
“There is nothing in the Fifa rules permitting a punishment, and Fifa are bound by their rules. I hope that this is the end of the story, I hope so with all my heart.”
By Jeremy Wilson
Arsène Wenger paused to gather his thoughts when asked recently to name the quality that convinced him of Arsenal's ability to break the Premier League dominance of Manchester United and Chelsea. "Hunger," he said eventually.
It was shortly before Christmas and, at the time, few shared Wenger's confidence. His team had been 11 points behind Chelsea at the beginning of December and the memory of last season's disappointments and internal problems remained fresh in the mind.
Yet, come 9.45pm on Wednesday, Arsenal need only a repeat of Sunday's 2-0 away win over Bolton to be top of the Premier League for the first time since the opening week of the season. It has been some turnaround, particularly in the midst of injury crises both in attack and midfield.
"We refused to give up, continued to fight and believed in our strengths," said Wenger. "The biggest test in our camp was the mental strength and solidarity of the players. We have a great solidarity, a great team spirit. Why should we stop here when we have taken so many points from our opponents? Now we have a chance to keep that momentum going."
Cesc Fabregas has come to embody that increased resilience and, like Wenger, he pinpoints the collective desire within a group of players who, having largely grown up together, are still waiting for their first silverware.
"I'm sure other teams will think the same as us, that they can win the league, but there will be no team that wants to win it more than us, for sure," said Fabregas. "We have to go game by game, take it easy. Let's not get too carried away. There are many, many games where you can lose or win points. We have to be ready for Bolton again – no excuses."
A range of factors explain Arsenal's enhanced staying power. An extra year has left them more able to cope when their opponents adopt physical tactics, while the signings of Thomas Vermaelen and Andrei Arshavin have also brought added steel and quality.
It has contributed to a transformation in the atmosphere at the Emirates, notably among a home fanbase that can be difficult to please. The key, though, remains Fabregas, who is beginning to assume the sort of talismanic influence at Arsenal of Thierry Henry. With 13 goals already from midfield, he is a convincing early candidate for player of the season.
Wenger refuses to join that debate but does regularly pinpoint his captain's extra physical strength and ongoing desire for self-improvement.
Even after a virtuoso display on Sunday, Fabregas was not satisfied. "I am happy with the team's contribution, I will never be happy as an individual because you can always do better but the team was really good," he said.
Yet as the chance to go top of the Premier League beckons, a different sort of pressure suddenly rests on the young shoulders of this Arsenal squad. It is one thing to produce results to get back into contention, quite another to maintain that momentum when the finishing line is coming into sight.
As Wenger has consistently said, capturing that first trophy together will be the most difficult. It will also be the most important and was one of the main reasons why Sol Campbell, a winner of silverware at Tottenham, Arsenal and Portsmouth, was recruited.
By Derek Pringle
The grim spectre of the Ashes whitewash three years ago is what has driven England's selectors to rest Andrew Strauss.
At home, Bangladesh will not be the walkover many assume, but England will see that as a small and justifiable risk to take if Strauss and his team defeat the Australians in 12 months' time.
The primacy of the Ashes is the motivating factor here. Last time England defended them in Australia, Andrew Flintoff was made captain ahead of Strauss with dreadful consequences.
Floored by the 5-0 drubbing, the England and Wales Cricket Board set up an inquiry, the Schofield report, whose main finding was that England's cricketers played too much cricket.
To remedy this, Schofield advocated fewer games: a suggestion ignored by the ECB, who have brazenly committed their players to more cricket.
To minimise burnout in their ever-expanding universe they need to rotate players, a system that appears to have begun with Strauss and James Anderson, who is being rested from the Bangladesh tour to cure a chronic knee problem.
The England captaincy is a gilded appointment and, predictably, some of those who have held its office have been critical of Strauss for abandoning his team. Michael Atherton, who captained England in 54 Tests, said that fatigue and dips in form come with the territory while Nasser Hussain said the job is meant to consume you 24/7, 12 months a year.
Players have always missed tours in the past but the last captain to do so was Ray Illingworth, who absented himself from the 1972/3 tour of India and Pakistan.
At the age of 40, Illingworth felt he needed a rest and to spend time with his two daughters, something Strauss, with two young children, will also feel under pressure to do. The selectors didn't hold it against Illingworth and he was brought back in as captain the next summer, beating New Zealand but losing to the West Indies.
So far so similar except that Illingworth reckoned his tour fee was less than he earned from his winter job. Strauss's central contract will ensure he will be handsomely remunerated while resting, yet more grist to the mills of those who think modern players are mollycoddled.
Great honour or not, the demands on captains such as Strauss are far greater than in Illy's day. Andy Flower, the team director, and Geoff Miller, the national selector, recognise the dangers of overload, which makes them far more enlightened than the selectors 40 years ago.
Back then there wasn't a tour of equivalent status to Bangladesh, which makes it the perfect opportunity to rest your most important player.
Indeed, you could spin it further by suggesting that Alastair Cook's appointment as captain for Bangladesh, far from preparing him to take over from Strauss, is actually helping to prolong his time at the helm.
Most recent captains reckon there is a four-year shelf life to the job. England's goal of being the No1 team in the world will take at least that long.
If the selectors see Strauss as the man to take them there, and to beat Australia away for the first time in 24 years, resting him now could prove a masterstroke.
Ruud van Nistelrooy continues to be linked with Tottenham, while Wayne Rooney could be presented with a tempting offer by suitors Barcelona.
David Beckham has told Manchester City he would never play for the club, no matter how much they offer him.
Chelsea are desperately trying to get Michael Essien back to London amid growing fears the Ghana midfielder's season is over.
Gary Neville says Sir Alex Ferguson was right in refusing to sign Carlos Tevez - because the striker was not worth the money.
Younes Kaboul is now a £10million target for French club Lille - with Portsmouth desperate to sacrifice the Frenchman to raise cash.
Jermaine Beckford is planning to walk out on Leeds this summer to join Everton.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is ready to sign Kenwyne Jones from Sunderland in a £12million deal.
Gianfranco Zola is in fear of being axed as West Ham manager.
Hull are ready to move veteran Kevin Kilbane on to Sheffield United in a money-saving transfer.
Fulham's loan move for Roma striker Stefano Okaka has collapsed.
Owen Coyle's bid to sign Jack Wilshere for Bolton is on hold because of Arsenal's injury problems.
Southampton have had a £200,000 bid for Southend striker Lee Barnard accepted.
Burnley have flown in Monaco striker Frederic Nimani for talks ahead of a possible loan move.
Newcastle boss Chris Hughton is preparing a £750,000 bid for Sheffield Wednesday defender Mark Beevers.
Harry Redknapp is negotiating a deal to take Ruud van Nistelrooy on a loan deal to Tottenham from Real Madrid.
Arsenal have held talks with the father and agent of Spanish whizzkid Sergio Canales over a potential move from Racing Santander.
Wolves are trailing £3million-rated Stoke striker James Beattie.
Everton are giving a trial to Norway left-back Knut Olav Rindaroy, 24.
Michael Essien will fly back to England in the next 48 hours with Chelsea fearing he could be out for up to six weeks with knee ligament damage.
Fulham are closing in on Lincoln's rising young Scottish star Graham Hutchison.
Portsmouth manager Avram Grant has put himself on a collision course with the club's owners after promising David James he will be played while he is still at Fratton Park.
The Glazer family have gone cap in hand to Manchester United's players - effectively asking them for a multi-million pound loan.
David Gold, David Sullivan and Karren Brady are celebrating after closing in on their West Ham dream.
Fernando Torres has urged Rafa Benitez to buy a top Spanish striker - as the Liverpool boss weighs up a £12million swoop for Kenwyne Jones.
Birmingham have been told they can have Celtic winger Aiden McGeady - at the right price.
Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp has strongly denied making a bid for Manchester United keeper Ben Foster.
Barcelona are ready to offer Wayne Rooney £8million a season - after tax - to lure him from Manchester United.
David James has been told: drop your wage demands if you are so desperate to get out of Portsmouth to save your World Cup dreams.
Hull boss Phil Brown has challenged bad boy Amr Zaki to prove his critics wrong after signing the striker on a five-month loan deal from Egyptian club El Zamalek.
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce is ready to sacrifice Kieran Richardson in a bid to land Maynor Figueroa.
David Gold and David Sullivan are expecting to complete their takeover of West Ham - and will assure Gianfranco Zola his job is safe.
Chelsea face an anxious wait to learn the extent of a knee injury to Michael Essien amid fears he could be out for the rest of the season.
Gary Neville has declared Carlos Tevez's financial demands made it impossible for him to stay at Manchester United.
The Glazer family could take out more than £600million from Manchester United's revenues over the next seven years in dividends, interest payments and fees arising from the club's bond issue.
Portsmouth's owners will discover whether they have been successful in overturning a winding-up order issued over unpaid tax by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.
The Glazer family can take almost £130million cash out of the club next year alone if enough lenders sign up for the bond they have launched to borrow £500million for United.
Manchester United captain Gary Neville has reopened the debate surrounding the loss of Carlos Tevez across the city last summer, suggesting ahead of the keenly anticipated Carling Cup semi-final first leg at Eastlands on Tuesday night that the financial demands of the Argentine's representatives were too great for him to stay.
Celtic number two Mark Venus has claimed Aiden McGeady could be sold in January - if the price is right.
Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson has slammed critics who claim he has been slow to appoint a new boss.
David Gold and David Sullivan have completed their takeover of West Ham United.
The former Birmingham City owners will take a 50 per cent stake in the club after meeting CB Holdings’s £100 million asking price and are expected to have the final say on all club matters.
The takeover comes with a threat of a change in the dugout at West Ham, who have debts of £80 million resulting from the collapse of Landsbanki, the Icelandic bank in which Björgólfur Gudmundsson, the former owner of West Ham, held a 41 per cent stake. However, Gianfranco Zola, whose team lie fifth from bottom of the Premier League, has vowed to confound his critics and received backing from Carlton Cole, the England forward.
Gold and Sullivan left Birmingham City in November after Carson Yeung, the Hong Kong businessman, completed his buyout.
The package offered by the pair was preferred to a series of other offers, including interest from Intermarket, an investment company, who made the highest bid but was unable to prove that it had sufficient money for a takeover. An American group, favoured by the banks that are owed nearly £50 million by West Ham, withdrew because its request for exclusive talks was rejected. While Tony Fernandes, a Malaysian airline entrepreneur, failed to deliver.
Straumur, the Icelandic bank that owned the club, had begun talks to sell a part or a full stake after realising it could become exposed to liabilities should the club be relegated this season. Had a deal not gone through, West Ham would have had to find about £10 million by April to meet other liabilities, such as transfer payments and may have been forced to sell players.
The club's ownership was transferred to CB Holding, standing for "Claret and Blue" in June last year when Gudmundsson, the club's then owner, went bust. Straumur, a Icelandic bank, held a 70 per cent stake in CB Holding, with the remainder owned by Byr/MP Banki and Landsbanki, which together are owed about £16 million by Gudmundsson. They claimed to have a three-year plan to run the club, aiming to recoup the money it is owed when the financial climate improves.
It is an embarrassing fall from grace for Gudmundsson, who stepped down as chairman and who has lost about £500 million because of the effects of the credit crunch. He had hoped that his takeover would lift West Ham to Champions League contention, but the club paid a heavy price for overspending on transfers and wages.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Italian coach welcomes Chelsea challenge
Carlo Ancelotti admits he is 'honoured' to have been charged with the task of guiding Chelsea to glory.
The Italian moved to Stamford Bridge last summer, having cut his coaching teeth in his homeland.
Successful spells at Juventus and AC Milan helped him to establish a reputation as one of Europe's top bosses, bringing him to the attention of Chelsea.
The Blues have struggled to establish stability in the dugout since Jose Mourinho left the club in 2007, but have high hopes for their latest recruit.
Their judgement appears to have been well founded, with Chelsea continuing to lead the way in the Premier League title race and well-placed to launch an assault on the UEFA Champions League crown.
Much of the credit for their success this season has been laid at Ancelotti's door, with the Blues back to their free-flowing best.
The affable Italian insists owner Roman Abramovich deserves to take more credit for the upturn in fortune than he does, but admits he is loving life at one of English football's most prestigious clubs.
"This team is the owner's team, it's not mine," Ancelotti said after watching his troops hammer Sunderland 7-2 on Saturday.
"It is the team of Roman Abramovich and I am honoured to train this team.
"He likes to see Chelsea play like we did today.
"If we continue to play like we did it will be very difficult to lose a game."
'Mancio' throws down the gauntlet...
By Adithya Ananth
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has challengedRobinho to train harder or risk being sold to another club.
The Brazilian was called into action early on during the recent 2-0 loss to Everton at Goodison Park, as Roque Santa Cruz had to be taken off due to injury. But the diminutive hitman was himself substituted on 51 minutes, adding further to the speculation surrounding his future with the Citizens.
Mancini did little to cover for his player, insisting that the £32.5 million signing must earn his stripes on the training ground if he wishes to continue plying his trade in a Sky Blue jersey.
"All players try to work hard during the week in training and that is the most important thing," Mancini is quoted in the Daily Mail as saying.
"If he wants a future here, then, yes, that is what he has to do.
"I thought Robinho could have been a big player for us here, but sometimes a player is on form and sometimes he is off.
"I wanted to change the situation in the second half and if that means taking him off, then I will. I cannot worry about him, only about the result."
Andy Murray was satisfied with his performance as he brushed aside South African Kevin Anderson to reach the second round at the Australian Open despite the fifth seed struggling with his serve.
Andy Murray claimed a 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 win over the qualifier and despite his struggles the Scot had the measure of Anderson's usually reliable serve and broke eight times during the match to seal an easy win.
"I got here 10 days earlier than I've done in the last three years," said Murray. "I feel good and I think that match proved it [but I'd like to have served bit better."
Murray faulted with 65 per cent of his first serves, which was a concern, and he will have to improve on that later in the tournament. However, Anderson could not hold on to his serve which was broken eight times.
"He didn't get broken in the whole of qualifying," Murray added. "He's 6ft 8in and it was a tough first round for me, so I was a bit nervous at the start but got off to a good start and broke him straightaway."
With strong support from the Melbourne Park crowds, Murray is optimistic he can have a good run in the season's opening grand slam.
Discussing the crowd's backing for him, Murray said: "I've never done that well (at the Australian Open) but hopefully I can go a little better this year and hopefully it will make the difference."