Sports minister criticises FA over ‘sorry’ Sampson saga

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 19, 2017 with No Comments
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Greg Clarke and Martin Glenn

Martin Glenn and Greg Clarke faced questions from MPs in parliament on Wednesday

Sports minister Tracey Crouch has urged the FA to improve, after its handling of discrimination claims against ex-England women’s boss Mark Sampson.

She has previously warned the governing body could lose £30m-£40m of funding if it does not reform.

“I hope that the FA learns lessons from this whole sorry saga,” said Crouch.

She called on the organisation to ensure “that all in the sport and the wider public have faith in their processes and procedures”.

The Football Association apologised on Wednesday for racially discriminatory remarks made by Sampson to Eniola Aluko in 2014 and to her Chelsea and England team-mate Drew Spence in 2015, as a reopened investigation into their complaints was published.

But the organisation was subsequently described as “shambolic” as FA bosses faced difficult questions during a four-hour parliamentary inquiry.

“We have been clear that we expect world-leading standards of governance from all our national sports governing bodies,” said Crouch.

“This is why, alongside Sport England and UK Sport, we have drawn up a new code for sports governance that all publicly funded sports bodies, including the FA, must adhere to.”

A telephone conference call of the FA’s board to discuss Wednesday’s events was set to take place on Thursday.

FA sources have told BBC Sport the board is expected to back the current leadership.

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FA chief’s request ‘bordering on blackmail’ – Aluko addresses inquiry

FA ‘still not listening’

The FA has been accused by Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor of ignoring the issues raised by the Aluko case.

He made the comments after his organisation was criticised by FA chairman Greg Clarke.

“They didn’t listen to her then. They’re still not listening,” Taylor told BBC Sport.

Giving evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Clarke said he had a “fundamental problem” with the governance at the top of the PFA.

He said: “The PFA spends millions of pounds a year on the CEO’s salary and pension and they are walking away from alcoholics, from addicted gamblers. I will never look up to their governance, though I respect their people.”

Taylor said that was an attempt to deflect criticism and “was so unprofessional it was amazing”.

He said Clarke had “burned bridges” between the organisations and added: “We don’t need any lectures from the FA on good governance.”

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FA ‘still not listening’ to Aluko – PFA chief

‘Give Aluko a role’

Aluko, who has been caped 102 times but has not played for England since making her complaint against Sampson, could return to the team after interim head coach Mo Marley said she would “100%” consider picking the striker.

Former England players Gary Lineker and Trevor Sinclair have both called for Aluko to be given a role at the FA.

“Instead of trying to silence @EniAlu the @FA should give this impressive young woman a voice to change things from within the institution,” said Lineker on Twitter.

Sinclair told BBC Radio 5 live: “Eni has shown a lot of dignity. She’s very brave. The way she articulated herself was absolutely top drawer. She would be the perfect candidate for me to be on the board.”

Yunus Lunat, a former adviser to the FA’s race equality board, said the organisation had failed to address serious allegations.

“There’s a term – institutional discrimination – being bandied around here. If you analyse what has happened, it fits the term institutional discrimination to a tee, I’m afraid,” he said.

On Wednesday, the head of an anti-racism group had questioned whether Clarke was right in his suggestion that he had contacted him early in the case for advice.

Kick It Out chairman Lord Herman Ouseley told BBC Sport he spoke to Clarke on Thursday to clarify they had discussed the issue much later in the process.

“My assessment, which I gave to the FA, was: ‘You screwed up.’ It was a flawed investigation. You need to hold your hands up and apologise,” he said.

“They forgot that Eni Aluko was one of their employees. She’s on a contract. You have a duty of care to both [Aluko and Sampson], and I think they forgot that.”

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The FA needs radical reform – Neville

How did we get here?

Senior figures at the FA were in parliament on Wednesday to answer questions over their investigation into claims made by Aluko against Sampson.

Aluko initially made her claims in 2016 as part of an FA inquiry into its management culture.

The 30-year-old accused Sampson of belittling her and making racist remarks to both her and a team-mate. Aluko also said she suffered “victimisation as a result of reporting discrimination”.

Sampson, 35, said his conscience was clear, and denied being a racist.

He was sacked in September after evidence of “inappropriate and unacceptable” behaviour with female players in a previous role.

Prior to the hearing on Wednesday, the FA issued an apology to Aluko and Spence in light of new evidence surrounding race remarks made by Sampson.

An independent barrister, Katharine Newton, ruled Sampson made unacceptable “ill-judged attempts at humour” on two occasions to the players.

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I’m not a racist – Sampson

What did the FA say during the hearing?

FA chief executive Martin Glenn issued the initial apology to Aluko and Spence at the beginning of his stint in front of the MPs.

He then defended the FA, saying it “went about it with the right spirit”.

When pressed on whether the FA had failed in its duty of care, he said: “There have clearly been failings. I wouldn’t want to then say the organisation is failing.

“We have 900 members of staff. On balance I think we do a good job.”

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Lianne Sanderson said the FA had dealt with Eniola Aluko ‘shambolically and disgracefully’

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/41679824

Giroud stunner gives Arsenal narrow victory at Crvena Zvezda

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 19, 2017 with No Comments
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Olivier Giroud

Olivier Giroud has been directly involved in eight goals in his past eight European starts for Arsenal

Olivier Giroud’s stunning late strike gave Arsenal victory at 10-man Crvena Zvezda and kept them firmly on course to reach the Europa League knockout stage.

Giroud produced the game’s one moment of quality with an inventive overhead flick to hook the ball into the net.

The goal came five minutes after Milan Rodic was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Francis Coquelin.

Richmond Boakye had hit the post for the hosts in the first half.

Arsenal are top of Group H with nine points, four ahead of second-placed BATE Borisov.

This win was their third in as many Europa League games and followed a disappointing Premier League defeat by Watford at the weekend.

  • Relive Arsenal’s win at Crvena Zvezda

Arsenal give ideal response to Deeney dig

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Lyon win ups pressure on Everton boss Koeman

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 19, 2017 with No Comments
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Nabil Fekir

Everton conceded first for the fifth game in a row when Nabil Fekir scored from the spot

Lyon added to the pressure on Everton manager Ronald Koeman by winning at Goodison Park to leave the Toffees bottom of Europa League Group E.

Koeman’s side remain without a victory in the group stage, and have not won for four games in all competitions.

Ashley Williams looked to have earned them a draw just moments after sparking a scuffle, but Bertrand Traore flicked in a clever winner for the French side.

Nabil Fekir had put the visitors ahead with an early penalty.

There were signs of improvement from an underperforming Everton in a heated clash on Merseyside, with substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson striking the post with a free-kick with the game goalless.

But defeat leaves them four points behind second-placed Lyon, with a crucial trip to France to come in November.

Koeman on borrowed time?

Dutchman Koeman received a vote of confidence from the club’s board this week, having claimed he has the “total support” of majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright.

In an era of swift change at many top-flight clubs, every Everton manager since the turn of the century has had more than 100 games to prove their worth, and Koeman is only their seventh full-time boss since the Premier League began.

But Koeman – under pressure following a woeful start to their Premier League campaign – is likely to face greater scrutiny given that Everton have now made the worst start to a Europa League group stage by an English club.

Everton, whose defeat by Atalanta in the opening game was followed by a 2-2 home draw with Apollon Limassol, pulled level against Lyon when Williams headed in Sigurdsson’s free-kick before the Icelander hit the post from another set-piece.

Williams had barged into Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes moments before his equaliser, sparking a melee behind the byeline in which an Everton fan appeared to push a Lyon player.

More to follow.

Live Text

Match ends, Everton 1, Lyon 2.

Second Half ends, Everton 1, Lyon 2.

Corner, Lyon. Conceded by Cuco Martina.

Attempt blocked. Tanguy NDombele (Lyon) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Bertrand Traoré.

Corner, Lyon. Conceded by Jordan Pickford.

Attempt saved. Maxwel Cornet (Lyon) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the left is saved in the centre of the goal.

Hand ball by Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton).

Attempt blocked. Ashley Williams (Everton) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Sandro Ramírez.

Corner, Lyon. Conceded by Michael Keane.

Substitution, Lyon. Tanguy NDombele replaces Memphis Depay.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match Anthony Lopes (Lyon) because of an injury.

Attempt saved. Jordan Ferri (Lyon) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Kenny Tete.

Corner, Everton. Conceded by Kenny Tete.

Corner, Everton. Conceded by Fernando Marçal.

Corner, Everton. Conceded by Fernando Marçal.

Attempt saved. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Sandro Ramírez with a cross.

Corner, Everton. Conceded by Kenny Tete.

Tom Davies (Everton) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Houssem Aouar (Lyon).

Attempt missed. Ademola Lookman (Everton) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.

Attempt missed. Bertrand Traoré (Lyon) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses the top left corner. Assisted by Maxwel Cornet.

Foul by Mason Holgate (Everton).

Memphis Depay (Lyon) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Ashley Williams (Everton).

Bertrand Traoré (Lyon) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt missed. Ademola Lookman (Everton) left footed shot from the right side of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Tom Davies.

Goal! Everton 1, Lyon 2. Bertrand Traoré (Lyon) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Maxwel Cornet.

Foul by Mason Holgate (Everton).

Memphis Depay (Lyon) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Gylfi Sigurdsson with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Everton. Conceded by Mouctar Diakhaby.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Marcelo (Lyon).

Offside, Lyon. Marcelo tries a through ball, but Bertrand Traoré is caught offside.

Foul by Cuco Martina (Everton).

Kenny Tete (Lyon) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Substitution, Lyon. Maxwel Cornet replaces Myziane Maolida.

Goal! Everton 1, Lyon 1. Ashley Williams (Everton) header from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Gylfi Sigurdsson with a cross following a set piece situation.

Nikola Vlasic (Everton) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/41624819

Klopp enjoys ‘writing piece of history’ as Liverpool win 7-0

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 18, 2017 with No Comments
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Roberto Firmino

Roberto Firmino’s fourth-minute goal was his first in six games for Liverpool in all competitions

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said it was “nice to write a piece of history” as the Reds thrashed Slovenian side Maribor to record the biggest away win by an English team in the history of the European Cup.

The Reds dominated throughout to go top of Champions League Group E with a scintillating performance.

Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah both scored twice, with Philippe Coutinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Trent Alexander-Arnold also on target.

The win eclipses 6-0 away victories by Leeds United over Norwegians Lyn in October 1969, and Manchester United against Irish outfit Shamrock Rovers in September 1957.

“I was told about the record after the game and I didn’t know,” said Klopp.

“The wonderful history of this club can feel like a backpack at times so it is nice to write our own good piece of the history.

“It will be difficult to beat that record. It is quite rare to win 7-0 but it showed we did unbelievably well.”

How the goals went in

Liverpool opened the scoring on four minutes when Firmino finished from close range after Salah broke free down the right.

Coutinho made it 2-0 with a half-volley from James Milner’s pull-back before Salah scored twice, finishing off passes from Firmino then Alberto Moreno as the Reds led 4-0 at half-time.

Firmino added a fifth with a flicked header from Coutinho’s free-kick as the Reds claimed their biggest Champions League victory since an 8-0 home victory over Turkish side Besiktas on 6 November 2007.

Daniel Sturridge linked up with fellow substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain for the latter to score his first goal for the club to make it 6-0, and Alexander-Arnold sealed the rout with a deflected 30-yard strike.

  • Relive Liverpool’s win over Maribor as it happened

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Man City perfect in win over Napoli

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 18, 2017 with No Comments
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Gabriel Jesus scores Manchester City's second goal against Napoli

Gabriel Jesus has been directly involved in 21 goals in 20 starts in all competitions for City (15 goals, six assists)

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola felt his side’s 2-1 Champions League win over Napoli was a “perfect” performance against a side he rates as one of the best he has ever faced.

Billed as an encounter between the two most scintillating attacking sides in Europe, the game lived up to the hype, with goals from Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus earning an impressive City the victory.

Serie A leaders Napoli, who have won all eight of the games in the Italian top flight this season, were awarded two penalties in the game, with Ederson saving the first from Dries Mertens before Amadou Diawara scored the second.

“Today we won against an incredible team and to do that you have to make an incredible performance. If we hadn’t played at a very high level, we wouldn’t have won that game,” said Guardiola.

“They are one of the best teams I have ever faced, which is why I am so proud. It was perfect. It is impossible to beat them if you don’t make a good performance, and we did it, which is why I am so happy.

“I know before the game and now I know again, I am pretty sure they are one of the best teams in Europe at this moment.”

City have now won 10 successive matches in all competitions, matching their previous best run under Guardiola at the start of last season.

Their desire to play out from the back almost cost them on a couple of occasions but they held out for a win that leaves them top of Group F, three points clear of Shakhtar Donetsk, who won 2-1 at Feyenoord.

City underline their improvement

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Draw at Real shows Spurs ‘can handle’ highest level

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 18, 2017 with No Comments
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Harry Kane

Tottenham scored their first goal against Real Madrid after failing to score in their previous four meetings

Tottenham Hotspur showed they “can handle” playing at the highest level, striker Harry Kane said after his team took a big stride towards the Champions League knockout phase with a point at Real Madrid.

Spurs made the 12-time European champions fight back for a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.

The Premier League side led when Kane’s clever run forced Madrid defender Raphael Varane to divert Serge Aurier’s right-wing cross into his own net.

The Spanish champions equalised before half-time when Aurier’s rash challenge on Toni Kroos was punished with a penalty, Cristiano Ronaldo drilling in to extend his tally as the leading scorer in Champions League history.

“A point at the Bernabeu, you would take that every day of the week. It shows how far we have come as a team,” Kane, 24, said.

“We are happy. Of course they are going to have chances but we played well and made it tough for them.”

The home side increased their urgency immediately after the break as Spurs were pinned back, with visiting keeper Hugo Lloris producing stunning acrobatic saves to deny Karim Benzema and Ronaldo.

However, Spurs grew back into the contest and Kane – who has been linked with a move to the Bernabeu this week – almost scored a winner for the Premier League side.

The England striker found himself clean through on goal with 20 minutes left, but was denied by a superb fingertip save from keeper Keylor Navas.

The result moved Tottenham ahead of Madrid at the top of Group H at the halfway stage, having now scored more away goals than their opponents who also have seven points.

Significantly, the English side’s hopes of reaching the last 16 for only the second time were strengthened by Apoel Nicosia’s 1-1 home draw against Borussia Dortmund.

Tottenham are six points clear of 2013 finalists Dortmund and Cypriot side Apoel, who have both already lost to Spurs and remain winless.

Spurs show Real maturity

Travelling to face Europe’s most successful club in the imposing 81,000-capacity Bernabeu – where the home side had won 21 and drawn two of their previous 23 Champions League group games – has long been a daunting experience for visiting teams.

Spurs themselves suffered a hiding there in 2011, losing 4-0 in their quarter-final first leg, but returned with boss Mauricio Pochettino urging his vibrant team – last season’s Premier League runners-up – to prove they could compete with Europe’s elite.

They did exactly that in a disciplined display.

Spurs, backed by almost 4,000 supporters in the Spanish capital, had been given further optimism of a positive result by Madrid’s patchy home form.

Zinedine Zidane’s side have only won one of their four La Liga home matches this season, struggling to find a way through teams who sit back and defend deep.

Pochettino said before kick-off it was important for his team “to be brave”, illustrated by the Argentine’s surprising decision to start Spain striker Fernando Llorente up front alongside talisman Harry Kane for the first time.

At times the visitors had to defend in numbers – only to be expected against a side containing so much quality – and had the moments of luck needed by any team who leave the Bernabeu with anything.

But they also wisely chose their moments to attack their illustrious hosts, showing a maturity perhaps not seen by their supporters in recent European campaigns.

A point was no less than they deserved and will give them further confidence before the rematch at Wembley in a fortnight.

“It puts us in a great position and shows we can handle it at this level,” Kane added.

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‘Like asking Ryan Giggs to fight Mike Tyson’

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 16, 2017 with No Comments
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Garth's team of the week

Manchester City were magnificent in their 7-2 thrashing of Stoke, which meant they opened a two-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Earlier on Saturday, their city rivals United drew 0-0 at arch-rivals Liverpool, before champions Chelsea suffered a surprise loss at Crystal Palace, who recorded their first league win of the season and scored their first goals.

Watford continued their good start to the season with a 2-1 win over Arsenal, whose north London rivals Tottenham remained in third with a 1-0 defeat of Bournemouth.

Elsewhere Swansea beat Huddersfield 2-0 and there were draws at Burnley, Brighton and Southampton.

You can see the thinking behind my team below but, first, have a go at picking your own team of the week.

You can pick your own team of the week from the shortlist selected by BBC Sport journalists and share it with your friends.

Pick your XI from our list and share with your friends.

Goalkeeper – David de Gea (Manchester United)

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Northern Ireland will not be seeded for play-offs

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 16, 2017 with No Comments
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Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

Northern Ireland finished second behind Germany in their qualifying group

Northern Ireland have dropped below Denmark in the Fifa rankings, meaning they will not be seeded for the 2018 World Cup play-offs.

The Danes have moved up seven places in the rankings and will be seeded along with Switzerland, Italy and Croatia.

They will each be drawn against unseeded Northern Ireland, who dropped three places, Republic of Ireland, Sweden and Greece.

The draw will take place on Tuesday, 17 October at 13:00 BST in Zurich.

The games will take place on a home and away basis, with the first legs taking place between 9 and 11 November and the second legs between 12 and 14 November.

The first team drawn for each of the ties will be at home for the first leg.

Northern Ireland were 20th in Fifa’s previous rankings list but they lost to Germany and Norway in their final two group games on the way to finishing as Group C runners-up.

Meanwhile, Denmark beat Montenegro and drew with Romania in their last two World Cup qualifiers.

England have moved up three places to 12th in the rankings, Wales have dropped a place to 14th and Scotland have gone up 14 places to 29th.

Germany remain in the number one spot, with Brazil second and Portugal third.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/northern-ireland/41633678

Ashley puts Newcastle United up for sale

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Mike Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale

Ashley, who also owns retailer Sports Direct, has endured a fractious relationship with the club’s supporters since taking over in 2007

Newcastle United have been put up for sale with owner Mike Ashley hoping to conclude a deal by Christmas.

The Magpies have been relegated twice from the Premier League during Ashley’s 10-year reign.

After winning promotion last season, Rafael Benitez’s side are ninth in the top flight after eight matches.

“Newcastle United requires a clear direction and a path to a bright and successful future,” a club statement said.

Ashley, 53, has been a divisive figure at St James’ Park since taking over in 2007, with some supporters regularly protesting about the way the businessman has run the club.

Financier Amanda Staveley, 44, is a potential suitor, according to BBC Radio 5 live senior football reporter Ian Dennis, after being seen watching Newcastle’s 1-1 home draw against Liverpool earlier this month.

“It was clearly a signal of intent from her and her company,” Dennis added. “However, it is now a case of making sure the price is right for all parties.”

Newcastle’s statement added: “To give the club the best possible opportunity of securing the positioning and investment necessary to take it to the next level, at what is an important time in its history, its present ownership has determined that it is in the best interests of Newcastle United and its fans for the club to be put up for sale.”

Ashley also put the club up for sale in September 2008 following a series of protests by supporters angered by Kevin Keegan’s departure as manager.

He took the club off the market in December that year, but announced he wanted to sell again after relegation in May 2009 before again ending his attempt to sell the club five months later.

He said in 2016 that he “regretted” buying the club.

Ashley bought Newcastle for £134.4m in 2007. Their latest accounts – up to 30 June 2016 and before the club’s relegation to the Championship – showed a profit of £900,000 and turnover of £126m in 2015-16.

“To give an incoming owner the maximum possible flexibility to make meaningful investment in the club, including in its playing squad, the sale process will give interested parties the opportunity of deferring substantial payments,” added the statement.

“A process will now commence of identifying new ownership for the club that will be capable of delivering the sustained investment in and dedication to the club that is necessary for it to achieve its ambitions.”

Andrew Henderson, a partner at Ashley’s legal representatives Dentons, said the current owner could help with “additional funds in the short term” to complete a sale.

“Assuming an appropriate person can be found to take the club forward, on exactly how payments are structured – how much would be payable on day one, how much would be payable down the line – there is a real, genuine desire from our point of view to put the club in the best position going forward,” he added.

Ashley’s turbulent reign at Newcastle

May 2007: Takes over at St James’ Park

January 2008: Manager Sam Allardyce sacked and replaced by Kevin Keegan. Dennis Wise named director of football

September 2008: Keegan resigns and Joe Kinnear installed as interim manager, sparking fans protests. Ashley puts club up for sale

December 2008: Takes club off the market

May 2009: Newcastle relegated to Championship

November 2009: Ashley renames St James’ Park the sportsdirect.com @ St James’ Park Stadium

April 2010: Under new manager Chris Hughton, Newcastle win Championship and return to Premier League

December 2010: Hughton sacked with club in 11th place in league table. Alan Pardew appointed successor

November 2011: St James’ Park renamed Sports Direct Arena after Ashley’s own company

May 2012: Newcastle finish fifth in the Premier League under Pardew

October 2013: Club bans journalists from the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, The Journal and The Sunday Sun

May 2015: Ashley says he will not leave club until it has won a trophy

May 2016: Newcastle relegated from the Premier League for the second time during his reign

April 2017: Newcastle seal promotion back to the Premier League

Analysis

BBC Sport chief football writer Phil McNulty:

The news that Newcastle United is now formally up for sale will gladden the hearts of every member of the Toon Army.

Owner Mike Ashley has been locked in a loveless marriage with Newcastle United’s vast support almost from the day he took control at St James’ Park in 2007.

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez is a hugely popular figure among the fanbase after restoring them to the Premier League this season, where they have made a solid start.

The Spaniard, however, has endured an uneasy relationship with Ashley in recent months as Newcastle United only carried out limited transfer business after winning promotion.

And fans fear Benitez, who they regard as their best managerial hope of success for years, might be lured away from Tyneside if his ambitions are not fulfilled under Ashley’s regime.

If Newcastle can attract ambitious owners and big investment, Benitez – who has had run-ins with hierarchy in the past it should be stressed – might be able to tap in even more successfully to the huge potential this club possesses.

And Newcastle’s fans will hope that comes sooner rather than later to allow the club to move on from Ashley’s often controversial time in charge.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/41643718

Seven-goal Man City display best since I arrived, says Guardiola

Posted by Warren Fyfe on October 15, 2017 with No Comments
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Manchester City

Manchester City have scored 29 times in their first eight league games of the season

Manager Pep Guardiola hailed Manchester City’s thumping win over Stoke as the team’s finest display since he became manager as his side opened up a two-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne was sensational, providing two assists and one of the passes of the season that led to the second goal as Guardiola’s men returned from the international break to treat the home support to a stunning performance.

“I am happy for the victory, we had to focus after the international break, to start well,” said the Spaniard, who joined the Citizens at the start of the 2016-17 campaign.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Guardiola hails ‘best performance’ of City reign

“We didn’t lose easy balls, we play fast and simple. That’s why I am very pleased. It is the best performance since I came here.”

Stoke boss Mark Hughes added: “They were quicker, stronger and anticipated things far quicker than us, and in the end we had no answers to the questions they posed to us.”

City scored three times in the first period and had 83.5% of the possession in what was arguably the most one-sided Premier League half this season.

Gabriel Jesus was the first to find the net when he nipped in ahead of Mame Biram Diouf to prod home. De Bruyne then threaded a ‘no-look’ pass into the path of Leroy Sane, who fed Raheem Sterling to slot in.

It was 3-0 by the 27th minute when Spain midfielder David Silva fired home after more good work from Sterling and Sane.

The only surprise of the first 45 minutes was when Diouf’s deflected shot reduced the deficit.

Relive the action from the Etihad Stadium

De Bruyne dazzles in 100th Man City game

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