A dramatic 2-1 victory over Stoke at St James’ Park eased the Magpies nine points clear of the bottom three with nine games to play, and left Pardew able to target Thursday night’s clash with Anzhi Makhachkala and a place in the quarter-finals. Defeat may have given him pause for thought ahead of a weekend meeting with Wigan. The 51-year-old said: “To be honest, I think we are done. You have got to get 40 points, of course, but we are now seven points from that with nine games left, and you would expect this team to follow through with the standard it has got now to be able to do that.” He continued: “But the bigger picture is to finish strongly like Everton [last season] and take it into next year, and we are showing some good signs in terms of doing that. We are looking no further than Thursday night because we could have a really special night here on Thursday now. We have got a great opportunity in that competition. We are in the last 16 in Europe. “We have had to battle through too many games – that competition is too many games for a Premier League team, I’m never going to change my opinion on that. “But we are down to the real nitty-gritty now. We have got a real quality team coming on Thursday and our fans are well-educated enough to know that it will be tough for us and we are going to need every one of them in here to make the atmosphere such that we squeeze through.” Jonathan Walters had fired Stoke ahead against the run of play from the penalty spot with 67 minutes gone. The Magpies refused to accept defeat and hit back when Yohan Cabaye curled a delicious free-kick in off the underside of the crossbar. Newcastle won it deep into injury time when Papiss Cisse ran on to substitute Sylvain Marveaux’s pass and slotted home the winner. Stoke boss Tony Pulis believes his side should have been awarded a penalty for Davide Santon’s first-half challenge on Ryan Shotton. Perhaps with more justification, he suggested that Cisse might have been sent off for an altercation with Marc Wilson and Ryan Shawcross. He said: “We are desperately disappointed. We could have had a penalty in the first half; the incident where Cisse was involved with Ryan and Willo – on another day, something could have happened with him and he might not even have been on the pitch. The referee deemed that it was alright. Fine, if he’s still on the pitch, we should defend better. “But I am disappointed, absolutely distraught with the result, but the performance and the effort and the commitment of the players was absolutely first-class.” Press Association Alan Pardew will focus fully on Europa League glory after seeing Newcastle all but end their fears of being dragged into the fight for Barclays Premier League survival.
The previous week the Belgium international was booed off in the FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Wigan and there has been speculation all season about his future at the club. However, Jagielka insists there should be no doubts about the 25-year-old’s determination to do his best for the Toffees, and told the Liverpool Echo: “He had a painful ankle problem before the City game and he could have milked it and missed the game before disappearing off on international week but he was desperate to play.” Everton defender Phil Jagielka believes Marouane Fellaini’s commitment to the club cannot be questioned after the midfielder played through injury in last weekend’s win over Manchester City. Press Association He added: “He strapped himself up and put in a great performance. You cannot question his commitment. “Felli has taken all the beatings for us throughout the season and he will feel sometimes like the world is against him. Sometimes it has been. “You can forget he is not that old. “He hasn’t grown up in the Premier League for all his career and hasn’t been at this level as long as others.”
Press Association There have been reports that the sizeable French contingent in the Magpies’ dressing room are at odds with the non-French players but Williamson feels that performance shows such talk is wide of the mark. “There has been a lot said about it, a lot of speculation but you could see the commitment and the euphoria after the game between the players,” he said. “There is a lot of passion now and we are a very tight bunch. Maybe a lot is said about it in the media but it is all rubbish because the lads are tight, everyone doing it for themselves as much as each other. “There is a lot of relief in the changing room and with the fans. It was a tough, tough game. We had to show resilience and character and I felt that is what was needed.” Williamson acknowledged the club’s fans have endured a rocky time this year, particularly compared the success of the previous campaign, which ended with Europa League qualification and widespread acclaim. But he feels those highs can be attained again. “We are aware of what they (the fans) have endured this season,” he said. “As players, maybe we have not hit the heights both personally and collectively but we just want them to know it wasn’t through a lack of effort and commitment. “Hopefully we showed them that and we can enjoy the last game, the fans can have a great day out and we can try to get a big scalp against Arsenal. “We’ve got the strength and depth and whether we add a few in the summer or not that is down to the manager, but I feel we have all the quality and the attributes to replicate what we did last year. I know it has been a tricky, tricky season but hopefully with a bit more of a rub of the green we can do what we did again.” Newcastle defender Mike Williamson believes his side’s 2-1 comeback win against QPR on Sunday proves there is no split in the camp.
He added: “He has helped the team, the team has been good. The players are better. I think he came to do a job and he did. He must be happy because he won a trophy with Chelsea.” City midfielder Gareth Barry, who scored the opening goal in the victory in New York, said: “It was a great spectacle and the supporters turned out in great numbers again. “It was about something other than the result. We’ve had a great few days. “Fans here and in St Louis have watched two great games with lots of goals and lots of attacking football. “I’m not sure our defensive coach will be too happy but it is great to see games like that. “It is a massive step for Manchester City to get involved with a club in the MLS. “Nothing like that has been done before. It’s exciting times for the club.” Press Association Benitez’s tenure as interim boss ended as Chelsea completed their post-season tour of the United States with a second successive loss to Manchester City, who were 5-3 winners at Yankee Stadium in New York two days after losing 4-3 in St Louis. But countryman Torres, who captained the team in the Big Apple, said of Benitez: “He came in in a difficult situation, personally, for him with the reaction of the fans and the team were not doing well at the time. It takes a bit of time to do better but after that, at the end of the season, the team was much better than at the beginning.” Chelsea striker Fernando Torres is convinced Rafael Benitez is leaving behind a better team than the one he took over.
Rooney is said to be furious at the comments of manager David Moyes, who during an interview last week appeared to indicate he regarded the 27-year-old as back-up to last season’s top scorer Robin van Persie. Moyes is not thought to be happy about the situation, believing his comments have been taken out of context. Press Association Nevertheless, he can hardly deny saying them nor dispute they have gone down incredibly badly with Rooney, whom sources told Press Association Sport is “angry and confused” about his treatment. As far as the 27-year-old is concerned, he is at the peak of his career and has no intention of playing second fiddle to anyone, or being reduced to the rank of a squad player. With four Premier League titles and a Champions League winner’s medal to his name, Rooney does not believe he has anything to prove at United. Yet he feels as though he has been put on trial by Moyes at a time when he should be concentrating his efforts on recovering from the hamstring injury that saw him sent home from United’s pre-season tour within hours of landing in Thailand on Thursday. After months of speculation about his future, and no statement of intent to stay from the player, it is now clear that unless there is some major repair work undertaken, Rooney will be leaving. The manner of United’s response is the first major test for Moyes and chief executive Ed Woodward since they replaced Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill respectively at the beginning of the month. Manchester United were maintaining a dignified silence on Wayne Rooney on Wednesday amid claims the striker wants to leave Old Trafford.
But speaking in a press conference in Malaysia, the midfielder said: “Triumphing in Barcelona is what I have been hoping for all my life, it’s been my dream since I was a child. “I am very happy at Barcelona and I haven’t spoken to any other club in the last two years.” Fabregas also defended not making a statement on his future in the midst of speculation about United’s interest. “I’ve been relaxed about it the whole time, I didn’t have to clarify anything because the only thing I was thinking about was staying at Barca,” he said. “I haven’t deceived anyone or hidden anything, I told the club’s press department that I would speak when it was my turn to speak to the press.” United responded on Wednesday afternoon when a spokesman said: “We appreciate Cesc is a contracted player at Barcelona and completely respect everything Cesc has said today.” Fabregas returned to his boyhood club from Arsenal in 2011 and helped Barcelona win last season’s league title as well as the previous year’s Spanish cup. He insisted there was never any truth in the speculation about him wanting a return to the Premier League. David Moyes’ side had two bids for the former Arsenal man rejected by Barcelona earlier this summer, while Nou Camp sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta declared at the start of the week that United had given up on trying to sign the Spain international. Fabregas ruled out a move away from Barcelona while at the Confederations Cup in June but kept silent after United made their interest in him official, prompting speculation that he was in favour of a transfer. Manchester United have confirmed they “respect” Cesc Fabregas’ claim that he wants to remain at Barcelona. “Stories have been invented,” he said. “I don’t know why speculation grew even after Tito (Vilanova, former Barcelona coach), Zubizarreta, Tata (Gerardo Martino, new Barca coach) and (Barcelona vice-president Josep) Bartomeu all said they wanted me to stay. “I was never given any sign from the club to make me think they didn’t want me, I have always felt wanted here. I spoke to Bartomeu, the president (Sandro Rosell) in person and Tata also told me he wanted me to stay and there’s been no problem.” Fabregas also denied that he had requested a new contract from the Catalan club and promised to try to improve his performances for Barcelona next season. “What I have to do is do everything better because I’m at the biggest and most demanding club in the world,” he said. Press Association
Press Association The 29-year-old returned to London at the end of last month, but he has since gone back to Togo, for “personal reasons”, according to Villas-Boas. When Adebayor, who is one of the club’s top earners, comes back on Monday, he will train with the reserves. “At the moment Ade is not with us, because we have granted him authorisation to stay up until Monday in his country for personal reasons, so he’s not going to be involved against Norwich (on Saturday),” the Tottenham manager said. “Up to when I find it appropriate, he will train with the development team. “He was a couple of weeks late in relation to the rest of the team, bearing in mind his personal tragedy. So at the moment, things stand as they are.” Adebayor spoke this week about his desire to become Tottenham’s first-choice striker, but the revelation that the former Arsenal forward was free to talk to other clubs suggests he does not feature in Villas-Boas’ first-team plans. Schalke and Besiktas were interested in Adebayor and Villas-Boas confirmed he was happy to let the striker leave. “There were opportunities, yes, for him to leave,” the Spurs boss said. “But he was not interested in them, so he didn’t. “We had to think about the situation so we presented the player and his agents the situations we were presented with.” Villas-Boas insists he has no personal issue with Adebayor, who has proved a divisive figure at other clubs in the past. But when offered a chance to promise that Adebayor would play for Spurs again, Villas-Boas only responded with: “There is a possibility.” The quiet way in which he delivered the response hardly smacked of a ringing endorsement, and when Villas-Boas was asked to assess the strength of his attacking options, there was no mention of Adebayor. “We have two great goal-scorers (Soldado and Defoe),” Villas-Boas said. Tottenham host Norwich on Saturday in what will be the first match of the post Gareth Bale era. After being peppered with questions about the now Real Madrid midfielder over the entire summer, it is clear that Villas-Boas wants to forget the saga. The Portuguese responded with a very blunt “no” when asked whether he felt any emotion at seeing images of Bale train with his new team. “What we have to do is move on,” the Tottenham manager added. In reality Spurs had moved on from Bale even before he departed. The club spent in excess of £100million replacing Bale with seven new signings. Soldado, Etienne Capoue, Paulinho and Nacer Chadli signed before the season began while Vlad Chiriches, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen were snapped up just before the defeat at Arsenal. Villas-Boas, who was accused of making too many changes too quickly at Chelsea, admits the new signings will take time to settle in. Indeed he forgot Chiriches’ name on Thursday when listing the players he had signed. He has no doubt about the potential of the new arrivals, though. “The expectancy is these players will become world stars,” he said. Villas-Boas showered praise on Eriksen, the £11.5million signing from Ajax. The Dutch club are famous for turning raw young talent in to stars and Villas-Boas thinks Eriksen has plenty of potential to go on to be a world-beater with Tottenham. “I think what happened with Christian is a bit like that happened with like Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart when they were at Ajax,” Villas-Boas said. “They reach a moment in their career where they become extremely important for their team and the club who goes and gets them does a great transfer move. “We expect great things of Christian Eriksen and we want to develop him into becoming that sort of important player for us as well.” Lamela and Eriksen are likely to make their full debuts against Norwich, but Chiriches will not play as Tottenham are yet to finalise a work permit for the Romanian defender. Gylfi Sigurdsson is a doubt due to a leg injury while Etienne Capoue and Aaron Lennon are out. The Tottenham manager revealed on Thursday that Adebayor has been ordered to train with the club’s reserves. Adebayor barely featured in pre-season following the £26million signing of Roberto Soldado and he was then given extra time off following the death of his brother in Togo. Andre Villas-Boas admits he was happy to let Emmanuel Adebayor leave Tottenham this summer.
Hughes insisted he knew nothing of the reasons for the incident but did reject the suggestion further intervention was needed to put an end to the apparent long-running animosity against the defender. “I don’t think that was the reason there was an incident but we haven’t really discussed that in terms of detail and what was said so I can’t enlighten you,” said the Potters boss. “Maybe there were a few petty things going on but they resolve themselves. “Sometimes it’s just better to get on with it. The half had finished and I would have thought the natural break in proceedings would have allowed everyone to calm down, which they did. “In the second half there was no inclination from anyone on either side to carry on. It’s just one of those things that flares up very quickly and is extinguished just as quickly.” Hughes takes his side to Sky Bet Championship side Birmingham looking for a Capital One Cup lift which will boost league form which has seen them take two points from the last six matches. “We are enjoying playing at the moment but we need to get results, we can’t keep patting ourselves on the back and say we are playing well we need to start winning,” added the Welshman. “I’ve always said cup competitions can help your league form so if you get on a good run in the cup it can filter into your league form so it is an important game for us. Stoke manager Mark Hughes has played down the weekend falling-out between captain Ryan Shawcross and Manchester United striker Robin van Persie. “We will be strong because I’ve always picked strong sides if you a look at the teams I’ve picked this year and in previous years at different clubs. “I’ve always tried to give the competition the respect it deserves and we are edging towards the latter stages so why wouldn’t we go strong? “I’ll make changes – some might be forced and others because I want to look at certain things – but we’ll go with a team capable of winning the game. “The competition has been quite good to me (he won it three times with different clubs) and I’ve always enjoyed cup competitions. “I’d love to be able to take Stoke to a Wembley final, that was the aim at the start of the season. “Birmingham are strong at home and caused an upset against Swansea so we won’t take them lightly but we feel we can progress. “Their crowd is passionate and demands that of them so it is not an easy fixture for us by any stretch of the imagination.” The centre-back was booked in the dressing room at half-time after a bit of pushing and shoving in the tunnel as the teams walked off at Old Trafford on Saturday. Reports suggested the bad feeling between the two continued after the final whistle and it has been claimed it was related to Shawcross breaking the leg of Aaron Ramsey – Van Persie’s former team-mate at Arsenal – in 2010. Press Association
“We’ve only got Giroud and sometimes Lukas Podolski can play in that position, but he’s not as good when playing as a centre-forward – he looked quite lost and it’s the same with Theo Walcott. “If Giroud gets injured for any length of time, then all the good work that has been done already could go out of the window. “Very much so I’d like (manager) Arsene Wenger to be active in January. If we don’t get a centre-forward…. “We have a history at Arsenal of long-term injuries and if that happens to Giroud then unless we get someone in January…. but I think the club is well aware of that. “You can’t have any weaknesses in your team (if you want to win the title) and that’s a potential weakness.” A 2-0 win over Liverpool has sent the club five points clear at the top of the table, but McLintock fears an injury to Olivier Giroud could prove damaging. “I was very disappointed that we didn’t get another centre-forward before the season started,” he told Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme. Press Association Former Arsenal captain Frank McLintock insists the Gunners must buy a striker in the January transfer window if they want to win the Barclays Premier League table.
His trainer Gillian Callaghan said: “We were delighted with him at Navan and I suppose ideally he’d prefer a good cut in the ground, but he ran well the last day on what was nice ground. “He is also in the Topaz Novice Chase (Grade One), but at the minute we are more inclined to go for the Paddy Power Chase.” Goonyella has been installed as the 10-1 favourite by the sponsors with the Paul Nicholls-trained Ruben Cotter, Nicky Henderson’s Prince Of Pirates and Jonjo O’Neill’s Alfie Sherrin sure to have their supporters if they run. Questions Answered has had his enthusiasm rekindled over hurdles of late and has been given the option by Eric McNamara. McNamara said: “He has won his last two handicap hurdles very well and we’ll see. He will also get an entry in the Pertemps Qualifier. We’ll decide what race he’ll go for a bit closer to the time.” Noel Meade’s promising Sword Of Destiny, Jim Culloty’s Spring Heeled and former Irish National winner Lion Na Bearnai are others in the mix. Silver By Nature and Sydney Paget have been given joint top-weight in the valuable Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown on December 27. Press Association Lucinda Russell’s 11-year-old Silver By Nature showed the fire still burned bright when chasing home the six-year-old Sydney Paget at Haydock last month, but the pair would be meeting on 13lb different terms if both ran. Home Farm and Sweeney Tunes are the next two on the list, followed by Mad Brian, second in the Troytown last time out on just his third run over fences.