Victory at Newcastle would secure at least fourth place in the Barclays Premier League for Arsenal, and Podolski added: “We are in the fight for the Champions League places and for third place, so now will prepare for the next match.” England forward Theo Walcott continued his impressive campaign with goal number 21 against Wigan, and manager Arsene Wenger accepts he has something of a selection poser as Giroud returns from the ban imposed after a red card at Fulham on April 20. “I am happy to have him back,” Wenger said on the club’s official website, www.arsenal.com. “He has been out for a while now and missed some games so he will be full of enthusiasm and can help us at some stage. “Is it from the start or coming on? I don’t know yet.” Arsenal look set to be without midfielder Mikel Arteta (calf) this weekend. Jack Wilshere, the England international set for summer surgery to clear up a niggling ankle problem, is on stand-by. “In one game you can always compensate. It is more of a problem when a guy like that (Arteta) misses 10 games,” Wenger said. “(For) one game, we will find the resources to do without him if we have to. “I am convinced we can because he was out for a while during the season and I played all sorts of combinations. Arteta was out and we played (Aaron) Ramsey and Wilshere. A few times I played (Francis) Coquelin and (Abou) Diaby, so we had a few combinations that could work.” The German forward netted a brace in the 4-1 win over Wigan on Tuesday night, which pushed the Gunners back above Tottenham and also confirmed relegation of the FA Cup winners. However, with France striker Olivier Giroud available again after a three-match suspension for Sunday’s crucial end-of-season clash at Newcastle, Podolski could be moved back out to the left flank. Podolski, 27, who has produced consistent displays since his summer move from Cologne – with 16 goals in all competitions – told Arsenal Player: “We needed the three points (against Wigan) and got the three points so we are looking forwards to the next match now. I am always happy with a goal, but the three points were more important for us.” Lukas Podolski does not care who scores the goals to fire Arsenal into the Champions League next season – so long as they get there. Press Association
Press Association The Aidan O’Brien-trained Mars was stepping down in class after being campaigned at the highest level this term, claiming third in the St James’s Palace Stakes and fourth in the Eclipse at Sandown last time as well as finishing sixth in the Derby. He was sent off the 8-11 favourite for this nine-furlong heat and still looked to be travelling well on the heels of the pace-setting Scintillula, but when Joseph O’Brien gave him the signal to push on, Scintillula went with him and battled gamely on the rail for Kevin Manning. Scintillula (6-1) turned in a gutsy performance to defeat hot favourite Mars in the Group Three Jockey Club Of Turkey Meld Stakes at Leopardstown. Mars soon dropped away and that allowed Scintillula, who was making a swift reappearance having finished a close-up fourth in last weekend’s Irish Oaks, to triumph by two and three-quarter lengths. Winning trainer Jim Bolger said: “She’s come right now and she’s hardy. In the spring time she wasn’t right. I thought we may have got a different result if we had made the running last Saturday.” The ground eased before the off after a sharp rain shower and Bolger admits it had been a worry. “It was a concern but I was happy with the way she picked up,” he said. “We could look at the Give Thanks Stakes at Cork (August 6) for her.” Joseph O’Brien felt the change in ground had gone against his mount. He said: “He hated the ground. I quickened to go upsides the winner but in the straight the ground is soft, he was all over the place and couldn’t really get a hold of it. He’s been running consistently well on good ground. “He was on the bridle for the first five or six furlongs, but I knew my fate five furlongs from home. As soon as I let him down, he went nowhere.”
hold – checking 3rd par with Rory Press Association A quick scan of his record – played 13, won only one – does the former Shamrock Rovers boss few favours, with defeats in Luxembourg and Azerbaijan in the last two World Cup qualifiers particularly disappointing. But there is more to the story, with O’Neill working hard behind the scenes to strengthen the Northern Ireland set-up from the bottom, while also overseeing a changing of the guard in the senior side. Talks will resume after Tuesday’s final qualification match in Israel, and Taylor hopes they go well. “I strongly believe the way forward is with Michael at the helm and leading us into the Euros,” Taylor told Press Association Sport. “I really feel if he carries on then everyone will be better for that continuity. “It’s going to take time, no question. Some of the young lads coming into the national side are not even playing club football, but we have a small pool of players and it’s not as though we can go out and sign someone, so you do the best you can. “Michael is very, very passionate. He’s hurting as much, if not more, than anyone else. “If you take the blip in Luxembourg out of it, the performances in all the other games – irrespective of the results – have been strong. “It is a period of transition at the moment. It’s a young squad and although the results haven’t always come the lads have set a standard of performance – getting the win against Russia, going very close to a result against Portugal. “The lads will learn from this campaign.” If O’Neill does get the chance to continue his work with Northern Ireland, it is highly likely he would ask Taylor to stay on in his backroom staff. At 42, the former Fulham and Birmingham goalkeeper is only just starting to get used to the idea of his playing days being over, but he would be keen to remain involved at club level even if he was offered a full-time role by the IFA. “I sat down with Michael and he asked me to help out for five games. If he stays that doesn’t necessarily mean I stay on, we’ll have to sit down and talk. “I had hoped to play again this season but I’ve had a niggle with my shoulder and it’s set me back a bit. The coaching is something I’m very keen to progress with and there’s no reason why I couldn’t combine Northern Ireland coaching with a job at a club.” O’Neill, whose position would be strengthened by a second competitive success against Israel, will have to do without suspended trio Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley and Oliver Norwood, but is hopeful there will be no further withdrawals. Chris Brunt and Martin Paterson both sat out training on Sunday due to minor knocks from the Azerbaijan game but are not thought to be serious doubts. “Brunty and Martin won’t be training but it is just precautionary and we expect both to be fine for the game,” he said. “The lads who played can do very little work two days after a game anyway, it’s more of a recovery session for them but the lads who didn’t play can do a little more. “The majority of work for the match will be done the day before the game.” Northern Ireland coach Maik Taylor has called for the Irish Football Association to hand Michael O’Neill a new deal despite the side’s troubling run of results. Taylor, who is working on a short-term deal as goalkeeping coach less than two years since winning his last cap, believes O’Neill needs to stay on when his contract expires at the end of the year.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has warned his players not to let discipline become an issue if they want to stay in the team. He said: “I try not to put it on a different level to anything, not because I want to give it more or less importance because we need to keep improving. “We need to keep getting better. We need plenty of things, we need to do better for longer periods during the game, not only 45 minutes. “It’s another game, another important test against a very good team, so use it as another step forward. It’s quite important. “I know if you put in the balance would you prefer to win on Sunday… That’s too easy. “I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, I don’t know what is going to happen on Sunday. First things first – let’s play tomorrow and try to win tomorrow.” Press Association The Black Cats will head into Wednesday night’s Capital One Cup fourth-round tie against Southampton with midfielder Lee Cattermole and full-back Andrea Dossena frustrated bystanders as they each begin three-match bans. Both men were sent off within minutes of each other in the first half of Saturday’s 1-0 Barclays Premier League defeat at Hull which left the club still deep in trouble, and they will not be available again until Sunderland travel to Aston Villa on the final day of this month. Poyet’s predecessor Paolo Di Canio’s attempts to enforce his brand of discipline off the pitch proved hugely unpopular during his brief, but ill-fated reign, and the Uruguayan is more concerned with the behaviour of his players on the field of play. He said: “For me, it was a surprise. I need to analyse from the moment I came here, it was all right. I’m not saying it was perfect, but it was not bad. “Now so many things happened in this game that I’m trying to take it as a one-off. Of course, we need to talk about it and sort it out – it shouldn’t happen again. “But we are human beings, the players on the pitch, and they are the ones who need to control themselves. “We can talk and talk and bring in whoever you like, psychologists, psychiatrists or whatever, but then the one on the pitch is the player and the one who makes the tackle or the reaction is the player. “If they learn, great; if they don’t, then they are going to have a problem to play in the team because they are going to be more out than in.” The double suspension will force Poyet into a reshuffle for the Saints’ visit to Wearside, while keeper Keiren Westwood is rated at only 50-50 as he attempts to shake off the after-effects of his collision with Tigers’ defender Paul McShane at the weekend. However, while the cup may not be the Black Cats’ main priority this season, the manager is hoping the game can help to forge a level of consistency ahead of Sunday’s daunting clash with Manchester City.
The club made a profit after tax in 2012/13 of £9.9million – up from £1.4million in 2011/12 – even though spending on player transfers increased. Turnover also rose by £2.4million to £95.9million with commercial revenue rising 24.2 per cent to £17.1million, while Newcastle’s total wage bill fell from £64.1million to £61.7million and the wage-to-turnover ratio has dropped to 64 per cent below the Premier League’s 70 per cent average. Newcastle have made a profit for the third year in a row as the club cut spending on player wages and increased their commercial income. The club’s debt remains the same in the form of a £129million interest-free loan from owner Mike Ashley. A statement from the club’s board said they were striving to comply with UEFA’s financial fair play (FFP) rules and the Premier League’s new spending controls. The statement said: “As supporters will be aware, finances are a significant issue for all football clubs given the introduction of financial fair play into the Premier League in addition to UEFA’s regulations. “Complying with FFP continues to be a key influence on strategy and something we have been working hard at over a number of years. “Everyone at this club wants to finish as high up the Barclays Premier League table as they possibly can. If the club can sustain itself as a ‘top 10’ team year-on-year with a stable structure and the right finances, it gives itself every chance of pushing even further. “The process requires patience but we remain absolutely committed to growing the club in a responsible and sustainable way.” Newcastle purchased six senior players in the 2012/13 financial year – all in January 2013 – at a cost of £28.7million, partially recouped by £11.1million from the sale of Demba Ba, Leon Best and Fraser Forster. Matchday turnover rose by 15.9 per cent to £27.8million, but the cub’s income from TV money dropped by eight per cent to £51million, reflecting the impact of their 16th-placed finish in the Premier League last season. Press Association
Midfielder Charlie Adam has been suspended for three matches after being found guilty of violent conduct. Press Association “Stoke City’s Charlie Adam will serve a three-match suspension with immediate effect after an FA charge for violent conduct was found proven,” said an FA statement. “The incident with Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud, which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video, occurred during the fixture between the two sides at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday 1 March 2014. “Adam had denied the charge, but it was found proven at an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing today (Wednesday 5 March 2014).” Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes was unhappy the club’s attempt to defend the player against the charge failed. “I am extremely disappointed for the effect that this is going to have on Charlie and on the football club,” he told stokecityfc.com. “However, I am not surprised because clubs like ours very rarely succeed in appeals to the FA. “We put together a strong defence which was based upon the facts, which were that Charlie needed to plant his foot and in changing direction his eyes followed the ball at all times. “How can anybody other than Charlie say what intent was there? How can the FA possibly justify this decision in the light of recent incidents which were far worse at other clubs, which have gone unpunished?” The suspension means that Adam will be forced to sit out the forthcoming Barclays Premier League games against Norwich, West Ham and Aston Villa. The Scotland international was punished for his stamp on Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud during Saturday’s 1-0 win at the Britannia Stadium. Referee Mike Jones did not see the incident but it was picked up on television footage and although the Potters said they “vigorously appealed” the Football Association’s decision to punish the player, an independent panel upheld the charge against the 28-year-old.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has been charged with improper conduct by the Football Association after going on to the pitch during the defeat at Aston Villa on Saturday. Mourinho was sent to the stands by referee Chris Foy after going on to the pitch following a red card being shown to his player Ramires. The FA said in a statement: “It is alleged the Chelsea manager’s behaviour in re-entering the field of play in or around the 90th minute of the fixture and approaching the match referee amounted to improper conduct.” Press Association Mourinho has until 6pm on March 24 to respond to the charge. The FA rule book says managers must not leave the confines of their technical area during the match. After the game, Mourinho pointed out several people had gone on to the pitch. The Chelsea manager said: “I was two-three metres inside the pitch or four-five metres, but there was like 10 persons there. It was me, my two assistants, (Villa boss) Paul Lambert, Paul’s assistants.. “And there was [Gabriel] Agbonlahor, who come in and made an aggression on Ramires from behind. “So if I was sent off because I was on the pitch, I ask why not the others, especially one player that made an aggression on another one, Agbonlahor on Ramires?” He was sent to the stands after Ramires’ red card for a studs-up challenge on Karim El Ahmadi. Mournho also confirmed he had tried to speak to Foy after the game. He said on Monday: “I tried to speak to Mr Foy twice. I tried to speak on the pitch and I tried in the dressing rooms. “In the dressing rooms I tried to ask politely, can you give me five seconds? And he refused.” Mourinho’s sending-off was his second of the season – he was fined £8,000 by the FA following his touchline dismissal against Cardiff in October.
Brendan Rodgers admitted the winning penalty awarded to Liverpool in their 2-1 win over West Ham could be considered a “bit contentious”. And the Reds boss insisted his side fully deserved to take all three points away from Upton Park as they kept up their title challenge. In a highly controversial contest, Steven Gerrard converted two penalties either side of Guy Demel’s equaliser to take the Reds back to the top of the Premier League with five games of their season to play. Rodgers’ side have netted 90 goals in their 33 league matches this season but the Reds boss was most satisfied with his players’ battling qualities at Upton Park. “I thought we were clearly the dominant team and deserved to win,” Rodgers said. “When I first came here people were talking about the ideas and it was all football, and they probably never understood that the big part of the game is our defensive pressure, to press the ball and get it back quickly. “At times you have to defend and we’re happy to do that. It was a different type of game today.” Rodgers added: “West Ham are very, very difficult to play at Upton Park so we had to contain the physical battle and then we had the opportunities to control and dominate the ball and I thought we did that really, really well.” The game’s physicality was personified by Hammers striker Andy Carroll who looked eager to make an impression after leaving Liverpool for West Ham in a permanent transfer last summer. The England forward believes his former club will go on to lift the Premier League title this season. He wrote on Twitter: “We were unlucky not to get something today against this season’s champions.” West Ham manager Sam Allardyce was disappointed with the performance of the officials and believes his players deserved credit for their display. “Obviously there are two decisions today – one that goes against Liverpool and one that goes against us and that ends up with controversy, frustration, aggravation and the players losing their cool,” Allardyce said. “We gave all we could give and we tried our best to upset Liverpool’s winning streak and to stop them getting their ninth win on the trot. “Unfortunately they’ve won the game on two penalties rather than their attractive football that they normally play. “The players have to take a lot of credit for that but we are disappointed we didn’t get anything out of the game.” Liverpool captain Gerrard could be a league winner for the first time in his career, but he is being wisely cautious. Gerrard said on Sky Sports 1: ”I am not convinced (Liverpool will win the league) just yet. “We have very hard games to go, we’ve got a huge game next week. We’ve got to give everything we can.” He added: ”There is great resolve, character and togetherness from the squad.” The first spot-kick, given for a James Tomkins handball, was the least disputed of the three goals but Demel’s leveller was less clear-cut as referee Anthony Taylor appeared to overrule his assistant referee who had flagged for a foul in the build-up. With the match hanging in the balance, it was then Liverpool’s turn to enjoy the rub of the green as Jon Flanagan was brought down in the box by Adrian and the West Ham goalkeeper was penalised despite getting a touch on the ball. “When you play against West Ham the referee will get called into more decisions because of the nature of West Ham’s style – they’re very physical and they ask a lot of questions,” Rodgers said. “We got a couple of decisions that I thought were penalties. The first one was clear, the second one if you analyse it we’ve got the reward for our enterprise and committing bodies forward. “The young full-back (Flanagan) makes a great run, Lucas plays a wonderful pass and I think if you break it down and look at it in slow motion Jon gets a touch and goes past the keeper. “The keeper gets a little nudge with his elbow on the ball but then as Jon’s gone past him, the keeper catches his foot and he goes over.” Rodgers added: “As the manager who gets it you’re pleased and if you don’t get it, it’s a bit contentious.” The win means Liverpool are now two points clear of Chelsea at the top and four points ahead of Manchester City, who have two games in hand and play at Anfield on Sunday. Press Association
Playmaker Samir Nasri, who opened the scoring in the final game, paid tribute to the influence of manager Manuel Pellegrini. Pellegrini has impressed in his first season in English football after taking over from the sacked Roberto Mancini last summer. Asked what the main differences were from last year’s team, when City finished runners-up in the league and FA Cup, Nasri said: “Do you want me to be honest? The atmosphere, the manager and the confidence. That is the difference between last year and this year.” Elaborating on what Pellegrini had brought to the club, Nasri said: “He trusts the players. The philosophy we played all season is just about all the quality we have in this team, that is the big difference.” Goalkeeper Joe Hart, who was named in the England squad for this summer’s World Cup earlier in the day, also spoke to the crowd. Hart was asked about the spell last autumn when he was dropped from the side after a period of bad form. The 27-year-old said: “It has been a good season, a tough season, but one I have enjoyed. “It was difficult for me personally but the beauty of this team is that we have got people who can fill in at any time. “Costel (Pantilimon) was absolutely fantastic when he played, I got taken out of the team. “He’s been brilliant, a pleasure to work with, the same as Richard Wright, and Xabi (Mancisidor) has come in and been a great coach. “As a goalkeeping unit we are really blessed at this club and I am proud to be part of it.” The bus tour set off down Peter Street and Deansgate before heading for Exchange Square, where a large crowd had also gathered. Weather for the event was good with blue sky and sunshine. After completing the celebrations, the team were due to fly out to Abu Dhabi, homeland of club owner Sheikh Mansour, for a short post-season tour. Kompany, who scored the second goal in the 2-0 win over the Hammers, said: “This is a team that is growing and we have done it in style. “Everyone keeps saying, ‘They have won the league and they have done it in style’. “That is what I like about it. That is what I want us to do again in future, keep winning in style.” Asked by the event compere if more trophies would follow, the influential defender added: “Has to be more, always more.” City’s title hopes took a knock last month as they lost at rivals Liverpool and were then held to a draw by Sunderland. Their fate fell out of their own hands but they seized on a slip-up by Liverpool to finish strongly and supplant their rivals Manchester United as champions for the second time in three seasons. Kompany said: “We never gave up, we always believe. “Together we did it, we knew we could, and until the end we fought and we brought the Premier League back to the city, and in the colours it should always be.” Thousands of supporters filled Manchester’s Albert Square and then lined surrounding streets as the team began an open-top bus tour from outside the town hall. Fans relived City’s season of glory, which was completed on Sunday as the side beat West Ham to clinch the title, thanks to big-screen replays before players addressed the crowd and then boarded the bus. Press Association Captain Vincent Kompany promised supporters more silverware as Manchester City took to the streets to parade the Barclays Premier League trophy and Capital One Cup.
Rory McIlroy has turned his back on social media and enlisted the help of Jack Nicklaus as he aims to win two of the year’s remaining major championships. McIlroy switched off his phone and even gave away his laptop to cope with the aftermath of his split from fiancee Caroline Wozniacki last month, an approach which paid instant dividends as he won the BMW PGA Championship just four days later. The former world number one’s phone will remain silent during this week’s US Open and his Twitter account will be less active for the “foreseeable future”, McIlroy opting to revert to more old-fashioned means of communication with 18-time major winner Nicklaus. “I spent two hours with Jack Nicklaus last week in his office in Palm Beach and had a great conversation about everything; business, golf, brand, the whole lot,” McIlroy revealed in his pre-tournament press conference at Pinehurst on Wednesday. “And I got a lot from that. “He said to me ‘How the hell can you shoot 63 and then 78 (in the first two rounds of Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament). I said I wasn’t meaning to, Jack. I’m trying not to! “He said to me he was never afraid to change things up in the middle of a round if it wasn’t going well. (If) he felt like he wasn’t swinging well, he’d make a swing change right then and there. “I had a great conversation with Jack and I feel very honoured that I’m able to call him up for advice if I need to. He’s been very generous with his time. Some of the things he said to me, I’m really thinking about going into this week. He was a great US Open player (winning four) and hopefully some of those little nuggets of wisdom that he passed on to me might help this week.” McIlroy initially approached Nicklaus during the Memorial Tournament, where he went on to finish 15th, only to have to change his plans at the last minute. “I blew him off, actually, to be honest,” McIlroy added. “I was supposed to go for dinner at Jack’s house on Tuesday night, but I got in a little bit late, so decided to leave it until Wednesday morning and met him at his office. “He’s always been really generous with his time with me, offered any sort of advice that I wanted or needed. To have that at my disposal has to be an advantage in some way. I don’t ring him up, I ring his secretary up and say, ‘I’d like to schedule a meeting, please.'” Having struggled in the majors last year – memorably describing his golf after missing the cut in the Open Championship as “brain dead” – McIlroy had targeted doubling his tally of two major titles in 2014. The 25-year-old recorded his best-ever finish of eighth at the Masters without ever being in contention, but believes he is close to the form which justifies being made favourite for a second US Open title this week. “You have to go back to Padraig Harrington in ’08 to have a multiple major champion in a single year,” McIlroy added. “It doesn’t happen that often. But I feel like my game is in a good enough place where I can definitely give myself a chance to do that. “After the season I had in the majors last year, I was coming in this year and making them a real priority. I want to get in contention. I want to feel the buzz of being there on the last day of majors and having a chance to win and being more consistent. “I’ve got three majors left this season and they’re the biggest tournaments in the world and you want to try to do as well as you can in them and you do everything you can to prepare the best way possible. I wouldn’t say there’s anxiousness, but I feel like it’s getting to the point where I should be at least contending again. “It’s only been five majors since I won at Kiawah (in the 2012 US PGA Championship), so it’s not that bad. But even if it doesn’t happen for me this week, getting myself in contention and feeling that buzz of having a chance, that’s really what I want to do.” Whether McIlroy can do that at Pinehurst remains to be seen, with the firm, fast conditions and treacherous “turtleback” greens set to pose the world’s best players an extremely tough test. McIlroy highlighted the difficulty of the greens by saying there may be just five pins he can attack in 72 holes, but insists he is “relishing the challenge” of grinding out pars rather than decimating the field with a string of birdies. “It’s going to be a test of patience and I think I am better equipped than I was a few years ago,” added McIlroy, who tees off at 7.40am on Thursday with 2010 winner and fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, along with 2012 champion Webb Simpson. “The US Open I won (by eight shots at Congressional) was abnormal. It was wet. It was low scoring. I haven’t won a tournament whenever it’s been like this. That’s why I’m relishing the challenge. It’s conditions that I haven’t won in before and I’d love to be able to prove to myself, prove to other people that I can win in different conditions. It’s a great opportunity to do that this week.” Press Association