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Joe Mason: Bolton sign Cardiff striker on loan for second time

20 February 2014
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Cardiff City striker Joe Mason has joined Championship side Bolton on loan for a second time and will remain with them until 12 April.

The 22-year-old

played eight games during a loan spell with the club

earlier in the season, scoring once.

Since returning to Cardiff, he has featured only once under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer –

a winner against Bolton in the FA Cup.

Dougie Freedman’s Bolton are 19th in the table and host Watford on Saturday.

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Man Utd boss left cursing his luck and Fergie Time in reverse

10 February 2014
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After losing 10 games this season David Moyes is becoming accustomed to disappointment as the Manchester United manager who faces the arguably impossible job of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson said in his recent autobiography that he used to point to his watch in games to spook opposing teams, as if to say “we’re coming for you”. Such was his team’s capacity to score late on, those added-on minutes even came to be known as “Fergie Time”.

But when Moyes’s side

conceded a 94th-minute equaliser

against bottom-of-the-table Fulham on Sunday, it was as if the concept was working in reverse.

This is the fourth time under Moyes that United have let in a crucial late goal. Southampton and Cardiff both earned last-gasp draws, with Swansea knocking them out of the FA Cup at Old Trafford courtesy of a 90th-minute effort.

No wonder the United manager wore the look of a man in disbelief, a man who has started to question whether there is some greater force at work.

Having completely dominated against Rene Meulensteen’s stubborn side, United eventually recovered from Steve Sidwell’s early opener to score twice in as many minutes through Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick.

Such was the relief after the most one-sided match at Old Trafford this season, Moyes and his assistant Phil Neville turned to the jubilant home fans and started double fist pumping the air.

It was similar to the celebrations displayed by Ferguson and his sidekick Brian Kidd when United scored in stoppage time in a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday during their run to a first Premier League title in 1993.

It was to be beaten, though. Given that he worked alongside Ferguson for five years, Meulensteen probably has a better grip of “Fergie Time” than anyone in the Premier League and he got his taste of it from the opposition bench when he leapt to celebrate Darren Bent’s header.

“It’s been a bit like that this season so far,” Moyes admitted afterwards. “But today was probably as bad as it gets. We completely dominated the game and being 1-0 down was bad enough, but the amount of attempts and chances and the play we had, how we didn’t win the game comfortably, I’ve no idea.”

Conceding so late on is a troubling trend. But reaching a point where the manager cannot understand why his side is not winning must be becoming worryingly familiar for United fans. Moyes admitted a similar point when they lost at Stoke in their previous match.

Winning just three of nine games in 2014 has led him to a stage where he also confessed in his programme notes that his focus was now on next season’s Champions League.

That has seemed the limit of United’s ambitions for a while, but it is significant that, until now, Moyes has deflected questions about whether his side can still challenge for the title.

More concerning, however, is that even a top-four spot is looking increasingly out of reach.

Fourth-placed Liverpool are nine points ahead of their rivals from down the East Lancashire Road but that gap could increase this week.

The Reds visit Fulham on Wednesday, while Moyes takes his side to face Arsenal, who will be smarting from a

5-1 thrashing at Anfield.

When Moyes suffered consecutive home defeats by Everton and Newcastle in December, he said the team would turn their form around.

But mentions of his side’s misfortune have increased in volume since the turn of the New Year and reached their loudest yet after Sunday’s result.

Without question, United battered Fulham – but at what point does a performance stop being about luck and more about the approach?

Against Fulham, United sent in 81 crosses, the most in a Premier League match since 2006. Only 18 reached their intended target, though, as visiting centre-backs Johnny Heitinga and Dan Burn continually headed clear.

At one point Moyes had five attackers on the pitch as they chased the game, but two of them were 5ft 7in Juan Mata and 5ft 9in Javier Hernandez. English defender Burn is 6ft 6in.

Meulensteen said afterwards: “Their game plan was straightforward. They put crosses in from wide angles. We defended it well. If you are well organised, it can be easy to defend against.”

When I put it to Moyes that he might have considered a different approach, he bridled.

“I think if you are going to look at the stats and pick out the number of crosses, you need to look at the number of passes,” said the Scot. “I don’t think we just went out and crossed the ball.

“And a lot of people would say that one of the big things about Manchester United is that they do play with width, it’s in their genes here, so if we are talking football, I would probably discuss your point differently.”

United always relied on getting the ball to the flanks under Ferguson. But £37m record signing Mata is a player who shows his craft in the width of the penalty box. He is someone who can unlock the door with a neat one-two on the edge of the area.

In this United team he has been deployed in a wider position and has had to drop deep to get on the ball. Although he has only played three games, there are signs he is beginning to click with Van Persie and Wayne Rooney.

There are other issues that Moyes must address if his side is to challenge for fourth spot, though.

Nemanja Vidic returned from suspension but there were signs it might have been a good decision not to offer the Serb another contract after he was roasted by Fulham’s youthful strikers on more than one occasion.

Replacing the centre-back at the end of the season is a longer-term issue, but the more pressing concern is how Moyes can get his attacking players clicking. It could take a change to a 4-2-3-1 formation where his team can dominate midfield against better teams and get Mata on the ball more regularly.

The United manager still appears to have the support of the fans, who were fully behind the team as the club

again trialled their singing section, 

but there was a smattering of boos at full-time.

For a United team in transition, the disturbing aspect might be that with wholesale changes expected in the summer, it could get worse before it gets better and using luck as an excuse will have long worn out.

Especially if Moyes misses out on a Champions League spot.

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Man City v Chelsea: Time for Jose Mourinho to park the bus?

2 February 2014
Last updated at

Barclays Premier League

  • Venue: Etihad Stadium
  • Date: Monday, 3 February

Manchester City have swept all before them at Etihad Stadium in the Premier League this season, winning all 11 home games so far and scoring 42 goals in the process.

With the sort of attacking form they showed in

demolishing title rivals Arsenal 6-3

before Christmas, the feeling is City could steam-roll their way to the title.

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho no doubt

sees things differently

but how can his side, who are only three points behind Manuel Pellegrini’s men in the table, stop them?

BBC Sport football pundits Robbie Savage and Mark Lawrenson consider Mourinho’s likely approach – and whether it will work.

Savage: Stifle City and cut off Silva service

To deal with Manchester City, I think Jose Mourinho will have to park the bus, sit deep and try to hit them on the counter.


spoke of West Ham playing “19th-Century football”

to stop his side in midweek.

In fact, as one historian pointed out

in an article on the BBC Sport website,

football from that era was actually very attacking – and I’d be surprised if it is the approach Chelsea adopt at City.

They will sit deep, as they did at both

Manchester United



They came away with a clean sheet and a point from both those games, and a point at City will be a very good one.

Against United and Arsenal, Chelsea stifled the opposition midfield and it worked.

However, the Blues will still have to be careful if they employ that tactic on Monday because if City are forced to go wide, they can still cause problems with their dangerous full-backs.

Aleksandar Kolarov has vastly improved going forward while Pablo Zabaleta is a key weapon for them. So if you stifle the middle, you still have them to deal with.

Another danger with Manuel Pellegrini’s side is that if you do go at them, they can hit you on the counter-attack. I think Blues midfielder Ramires has the legs to track back with Yaya Toure, but City just have so many other options.

David Silva is a key player and when he gets in between the lines to play those dangerous through-balls, how do you mark him?

Chelsea’s best move, then, is to frustrate City but, when they do go forward, to prey on the left side of Manchester City’s central defence.

City are one player short in that position for me. I think that to go to the next step – to be real contenders for the Champions League – they need to improve that area of their team.

But overall, they just have too much for Chelsea and I think they will win 2-0.

Lawro: Mourinho will not fight fire with fire

Whenever a Jose Mourinho team is playing another top side away from home, he always lines them up the same way – in a 4-3-3 formation that can appear more like a 4-5-1.

The trio he uses in midfield are primarily sitters, not attacking players, and I don’t think Mourinho will go to the Etihad and fight fire with fire to try to combat Manchester City’s attacking power.

I think he will leave one of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Willian out of his starting XI and I also think he would take a point now.

Continue reading the main story

The difference could be David Silva. In this City team, he is sensational because he finds himself little holes in which to play

Mark Lawrenson

His thinking will be that given

Chelsea beat City at Stamford Bridge,

a draw on Monday will mean he takes four points out of six off his title rivals – and against all the top teams that seems to be the rationale that decides his approach.

Can he pull it off? I am not sure. City are just awesome at the moment.

Mourinho’s main aim will be to make things really difficult for City but, with the way Pellegrini’s men are playing, I am going to back City to win it.

The difference could be David Silva. In this City team, he is sensational because he finds himself little holes in which to play.

Silva makes it look so easy and creates so much time for himself that I don’t think there is another player quite like him in the Premier League.

Chelsea fans might say “we’ve got Eden Hazard”, but Silva is different. He turns so quickly when he picks up the ball that he always seems to be running at the opposition. He drifts past people and his vision is outstanding too.

When he is on song, fully fit and on his game then City go up a gear.

He is an absolute star and, when he isn’t in the team in the games against the really top teams, he is the player City miss the most.

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Vincent Kompany: Man City quadruple a matter of time

16 January 2014
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Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany says it is only a matter of time before the club complete a record haul of four major trophies in a season.

City boss Manuel Pellegrini

wants to mark his debut season in England by securing all four trophies

they are in.

And Kompany, 27, says it is inevitable that City will do the quadruple at some stage in the near future.

“We can’t promise it will happen now, but eventually it will have to happen,” said the Belgium defender.

“We are the players at the moment who have been chosen to do it. If it’s not us then it will be other players.

“This club definitely has a target to win every competition possible.”

Pellegrini’s side are second in the Premier League table,

lead West Ham 6-0 after the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final

and face Barcelona in the Champions League last 16.

They progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday with a

5-0 replay victory over Blackburn Rovers.

City’s neighbours Manchester United

secured the treble

of Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup in 1998-99.

Kompany also credits Pellegrini,

who replaced Roberto Mancini as manager last summer,

with the greater attacking intent City have shown this season.

City have scored 99 goals this season from 33 matches and average four goals a game at home, with 64 from 16 fixtures.

“He’s very offensive-minded and I think that’s shown in our results and the way we play,” Kompany said.

“I think we have been one of the best teams to watch in the Premier League so far.”

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Gus Poyet: Sunderland are running out of time in survival bid

21 December 2013
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Sunderland are running out of time in their efforts to avoid relegation, says manager Gus Poyet.

The Black Cats will be bottom of the table on Christmas Day, and just one team – West Brom in 2004-05 – have avoided Premier League relegation in those circumstances.

“We are losing time, we are losing games,” Poyet said.

“I said we needed to win 11 games to think, ‘Can we get to 40 points?’, and we can’t win a football game.”


defeated Chelsea after extra time

in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday, but could only draw

0-0 with Norwich

on their return to Premier League action.

Just four of Poyet’s team’s 19 shots were on target and Wes Brown was sent off in injury time after a rash tackle on Ricky van Wolfswinkel.

Poyet said: “This is where we are. The quality is what you see, there is no more.

“I was not expecting this. I have always said I hate excuses. Until now for some reason, we have always had an excuse and people can use it.

“Today, we have not. Today was a day to win and we didn’t, so we are responsible for where we are.

“It’s getting more and more difficult, so who are you going to blame?

“It would be very nice if somebody could tell me why we are at the bottom, and if you think it’s because of me, I’ll take it if it’s not personal.”

Brown had Sunderland’s best chance, nodding the ball against the post after a goalmouth scramble. Phil Bardsley also had a good opportunity but headed straight at goalkeeper John Ruddy.

Poyet added: “I expect somebody to score. It doesn’t have to be Ki [Sung-Yueng] all the time, but it has to be somebody.

“The decisions in the last 30 metres were scary, and that was unexpected. Players who needed to have a shot were taking three touches; players who needed to take a touch tried to shoot when their backs were to goal.

“I have no explanation. There were things that happened on the pitch that are difficult to explain.”

The Uruguayan declined to comment on Brown’s sending-off but Norwich boss Chris Hughton thought referee Martin Atkinson made the right decision.

He said: “The challenge was certainly reckless.”

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Tottenham needed time to gel – Sam Allardyce

17 December 2013
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West Ham manager Sam Allardyce claims it would have taken a “miracle worker” to have got the best out of Tottenham this season.

Spurs sacked coach Andre Villas-Boas

on Monday following indifferent form after signing seven players in the summer.

“You would have to be a miracle worker to get everybody functioning to the best of their ability,” said Allardyce.

“They’ve arrived from foreign countries in a different culture and an arena that they’ve never played in before.”

Tottenham were seventh in the Premier League when they decided to dismiss Villas-Boas and Allardyce believes there is a “lack of patience in the game today”, which he blames on the financial rewards on offer.

Allardyce will take his Hammers side to play Spurs in the quarter-final of the Capital One Cup on Wednesday.

“To get the [Spurs] team playing together and understanding each other in such a short period of time is nearly impossible,” said Allardyce.

“I think the fruition of the change around at Tottenham starts more next season, not this season.”

Allardyce’s own position has been questioned with his side just a point and a place above the Premier League relegation zone.

He has not been helped by injuries to

striker Andy Carroll,

who has not played a game this season, centre-back Winston Reid and winger Stewart Downing.

Midfielder Kevin Nolan is also serving a three-game suspension.

“I don’t fear for my job,” said Allardyce, who says he plans to bolster his squad in the January transfer window.

“There’s always going to be a time when there’s a difficult period and my responsibility is to manage the players through that.

“My particular situation will ease and will get better as long as we get our injured players fit.”

He added: “We have the same amount of clean sheets that Everton have had so it doesn’t take a genius to know what our problem is.

“We’ve been a few goals short of what would have been a very good position in the league.”

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Wear-Tyne derby: Could football call time on early kick-offs?

Police control crowds in NewcastleTrouble flared in Newcastle city centre in April

This weekend Sunderland play Newcastle United for the first time since more than 100 fans were arrested after trouble following a game last season. Like that fixture, Sunday’s match will kick off earlier than many fans would like, but do early starts still prevent violence?

April’s Tyne-Wear derby at St James’ Park will be remembered for events both on and off the pitch.

Sunderland won on Tyneside for the first time in almost 13 years and the aftermath of the game is still making its way through the courts.

Several Newcastle fans received prison sentences, including one man who was jailed for a year after he admitted punching a police horse, and two 12-year-old boys are now among the youngest in the country to have football banning orders.

It came as some surprise to fans, then, when Sunday’s match between the fierce rivals was originally scheduled for 16:00 GMT by Sky Sports, but no one connected to either club was shocked when the kick-off was brought forward to 13:30 for safety reasons.

Early kick-offs are unpopular with fans attending games and some have questioned whether they still serve their purpose of reducing drinking time.

‘Little correlation’

Kevin Miles from the Football Supporters’ Federation said he was “yet to be convinced” the measure was still relevant.

“The fact is that once you give agencies like the police additional powers of this kind, they’ll be very reluctant to relinquish them,” he said.

“From what I can see there appears to be little correlation between the time a game starts and the numbers of arrests made, especially at derby games.

“The last Tyne-Wear derby was an early kick-off, yet the number of arrests was among the highest ever. Added to that was the fact the less than 10% of those arrested had actually attended the game.”

Home Office statistics released this month revealed more Newcastle fans had been arrested than any other club during the 2012-13 season, with the figure vastly inflated by the trouble following Sunderland’s 3-0 win on Tyneside in April.

The figures showed football arrests had risen by 4% but the number of fans held for alcohol-related issues was down from 800 to 549 year-on-year.

Geoff Pearson from Liverpool University has researched the impact of alcohol restrictions on football crowds and found fans observed in a study would go to “extraordinary lengths” to overcome “practical and legal measures”.

He said early kick-offs did reduce the alcohol consumed, although perhaps not as much as police forces would like.

“Fans will start earlier, but if you have a 17:30 kick-off, fans belonging to that drinking sub-culture are going to drink for about five hours before the game, whereas if you had a midday kick-off, they’re not going to be drinking for as long.

“They might start at 10:00 maybe, but they’re not going to be consuming the same amount.

“What does happen is that over the course of the day an early kick-off means there’s going to be more drinking time in total.”

Mr Pearson said early kick-offs could lead to volatile situations for “same city derbies” where fans would mix long after the game

‘Get tanked up’

Fans on either side of the Wear-Tyne divide point to relaxed licensing laws as an example of why the measure may now have less of an impact than in the past.

Gary Stephens, a former chairman of Sunderland’s fan liaison group, believes early kick-offs should be scrapped.

“They absolutely do not work”, he said. “As far as drinking goes, you can’t stop it. Pubs can open whenever they want, now that we’ve got 24 hour drinking. But even if they didn’t, people can simply go to the supermarket, get tanked up and still cause trouble.”

Of its 384 licensed premises, Sunderland Council said 67 were able to serve alcohol before 11:00 BST.

It has rejected one temporary application to serve from 08:00 BST on Sunday after objections from police.

Barry Rogerson at Newcastle Magistrates' CourtBarry Rogerson punched a police horse after April’s derby at St James’ Park

Northumbria Police’s operations commander for Sunday’s game Ch Supt Steve Neill said “public safety and the welfare of fans” was the “absolute priority”.

“We sometimes seek earlier kick-off times for the derby to reduce the length of time people have to consume alcohol and to help prevent the likelihood of crime and disorder,” he said.

Mark Jensen, editor of Newcastle fanzine The Mag, said he had not found any football fan that had “anything to say” for early kick-offs.

“It’s crazy in this day and age that a crowd of around 50,000 can be inconvenienced just because of the risk a small minority might cause trouble.

“When there’s so much money in football and the police have CCTV and all their other resources it does seem mad that you can’t have a match after a certain time.

“Police will always play the public order card but after the match at St James’ Park in April that seems to have been blown out of the water.”

Ch Supt Neill said the police priority was for “supporters to be able to enjoy the game”.

He will join fans of both clubs in hoping Sunday’s talking points are generated purely on the field.

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