Trent Alexander-Arnold Fears No One in Bid to Be a Big Name at Liverpool


London- Trent Alexander-Arnold introduced himself to Franck Ribéry last week with a challenge from behind that left the seven-times Bundesliga champion on his backside and glaring at his marker. He was met with an impassive stare but would get to know all about the 18-year-old defender as Liverpool impressed not only in attack when beating Bayern Munich 3-0 at the Allianz Arena. Arrival announced to the former France winger. He will not be the only one this season.

“I try not to pay too much respect to the players I am playing against,” says Alexander-Arnold, confirming precisely what that early exchange with Ribéry in Munich had indicated. “I think that is what can affect you. You have to go out there and focus on yourself and not who you are up against. It was obviously going to be a tough task going up against a world-class player and one of the best. You just have to see it as a chance and that is what I do every time the manager picks me. I just have to take the opportunity and show why I deserve that chance. I tried to do that against Bayern.”

Unsurprisingly, there was no feedback from Ribéry. The teenager adds: “He didn’t say anything [about the foul] and I didn’t think of asking him for his shirt as a souvenir or anything. I just went straight into the changing room because that is what I am used to doing. The whole game was tough for all of us, they are an excellent side but we stuck to our task well and finished how we wanted to. You could see from our attacking play against Bayern there are a lot of exciting things to come in the near future.”

The near future for the boyhood Liverpool fan, who grew up close to the club’s Melwood training ground in West Derby, is expected to involve the third Premier League start of his career when Jürgen Klopp’s team begin the new campaign at Watford on Saturday.

Nathaniel Clyne has missed most of pre-season with hamstring and back problems while Joe Gomez has been deployed at centre-half and full-back this summer. Alexander-Arnold is not favourite to start at right-back at Vicarage Road by default. Long thought of as first-team potential by Liverpool’s academy coaches, he underlined his promise in 12 appearances for Klopp’s side last season and has continued his development in pre-season. Clyne was destined to face a serious challenge to his starting role from Alexander-Arnold this season regardless of fitness.

“I’m not sure whether I will get that opportunity but I am hoping to take it if I do get it,” Alexander-Arnold says. “There is still time before the first game and I will be fighting for that position, as will all the other lads. There are a lot of strong players here and we could put two different teams out at the start of the season. But hopefully the chance comes. You just hope for the opportunity. If I do get told I am playing against Watford I will look to take that chance.”

A starting role on the opening day would be fitting reward for Alexander-Arnold’s efforts this summer and for the sacrifice he made. Having broken into Klopp’s squad last season it was decided he should miss the European Under-19 Championship in July despite featuring regularly for England in qualifying. The reasoning, which also applied to Tom Davies at Everton, was that Alexander-Arnold needed a rest before embarking on a full pre-season at senior level.

The decision has paid off, albeit while leaving a bittersweet taste as England lifted the trophy for the first time in their history with a 2-1 defeat of Portugal.

Alexander-Arnold explains: “I played a lot during the qualifying games and to not be there to lift the trophy with the team was a little bit … it hurt a little bit. I watched the whole tournament and I thought we deserved to win it. I was watching like a fan on the edge of my seat, hoping we would dig deep and get that win. When they did I was made up to see them lift the trophy. I spoke to the lads and wished them all the best with the celebrations. I said it was a shame not to be there but the focus during pre-season was to focus on club football and that is what I have done.”

England lies ahead. The immediate aim for Alexander-Arnold is to follow Klopp’s instructions on how to secure his place at Liverpool. “The main piece of advice is about my defending,” says the former under-18s captain, who is also comfortable in central midfield. “It is a big part of the game and first and foremost I am a defender so to try to nail that down he has been helping me throughout the pre-season. I hope I can improve some more.”

The Guardian Sport

Morgan Schneiderlin: ‘Now It’s Up to Us, the Everton Players, to Do the Job’


London- Morgan Schneiderlin is a graduate of the Ronald Koeman school of blunt talking. “You can buy as many players as you want,” he says of the unprecedented investment in Everton’s first team and the possibility of six new faces featuring against Stoke City on Saturday. “But if you don’t have a good performance, it’s for nothing.” Time, then, for the manager’s new-look team to start gelling.

The Premier League opens amid greater optimism than usual this year at Goodison Park, where season tickets sold out three months ago, though it has been tempered in the past month. Since Wayne Rooney became Everton’s sixth summer signing on 9 July, only the free agent Cuco Martina has arrived and Koeman’s frustration that three transfers remain outstanding – Gylfi Sigurdsson, a new striker and left-sided defensive cover – was evident following Sunday’s friendly against Sevilla. “I heard every time that ‘Everton is spending £100m, £100m, £100m’, but I saw the list and I think we’re 16th in the league for spending and we got £95m for Lukaku,” he said. “We’ve only spent £7m. It’s a different picture than the media is talking.”

Koeman’s argument ignores the growing wage bill but his team’s performances have strengthened his case that expectations do not tally with the current make-up of his squad, even in pre-season. Everton were pedestrian in both legs of their Europa League third qualifying round win over Ruzomberok of Slovakia and the manager’s search for balance, creativity and pace continued during the 2-2 draw with Sevilla. Schneiderlin’s optimism remains intact, however, and he objects to what he believes is a rush to judgment.

“You can’t judge us now,” says the French midfielder. “You will have to judge us by September or October. First of all the transfer window is not finished and I believe we are going to add more players before then. Also, I don’t think one player in the Premier League is going to be 100% and reaching his peak on the first game of the season. I don’t think one team is going to be 100% either. I don’t think it’s possible to judge us yet. You can do in a couple of weeks but not now.

“Since Sunday I have heard a lot of remarks about pace. You have to judge that but I think we have good players. Like I said, we will see on 31 August what players are going to come in but, for the moment, it looks good. Of course we need one or two more pieces to get the puzzle right but it will come.”

The 27-year-old was part of the first wave of big spending by Everton this year when he arrived from Manchester United in a deal worth up to £24m in January. What he was sold then by Koeman, the chairman Bill Kenwright and the major shareholder Farhad Moshiri has been backed up by this summer’s recruitment.

“I spoke with a few clubs in January and then, when I spoke to Everton, they told me straight away that they have ambition, that they wanted to do something great in the summer to improve the team and to break into the Champions League in the next few years,” says Schneiderlin. “So I was very convinced by the way they were speaking and the way they see things. That’s one of the main reasons I came here.

“It’s very nice for the football club. I think for a long time Everton didn’t get as many players or have as much transfer activity as this season, so it’s very exciting for the club. It’s very nice to read about in the paper and everything but now it’s about talking on the pitch. Everyone can be excited but now it’s up to us, the players, to do the job.”

Even without a successful resolution to the Sigurdsson saga and quest for a new striker, Koeman faces a challenge to integrate half-a-dozen signings into a team seeking to improve on last season’s seventh-placed finish. Schneiderlin believes recruiting players with European and international experience will hasten the process.

But with games against Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United following Stoke in the Premier League, and a Europa League play-off against Hajduk Split home then away on Thursday and Thursday week, the demands are constant.

“It will take time,” cautions the former Southampton and United midfielder. “We need to know each other better, to know players’ movements, their strengths, their weaknesses and where they like the ball to be played. It takes a bit of time to get there and you need the games but we also need to do it quick because the season starts now. You could see in the friendlies and the Europa League qualifier that we are not 100% yet in the way we are playing.

“It is important we get to know each other off the pitch as well. We had two training camps that helped and a trip to Tanzania where we were away for a week and got to know each other better, but we are talking and working together every day on the training pitch. We can always have a coffee together too to get to know each other but it’s like every co-worker – sometimes you become good friends and socialise together and sometimes not.”

Koeman has not set his Everton players a target for the season other than to compete for European qualification and share the responsibility of replacing Lukaku’s goal threat following his move to Old Trafford. “It was not so great for us that Romelu might move but we wish him good luck,” says Schneiderlin. “Hopefully, that will free more players to score goals because last year we relied on him a lot for scoring goals.”

The Everton midfielder adds: “We want to do better than last season so that means breaking into the top six. That’s our ambition but there are hopefully going to be extra games with the Europa League so we will have to see how we cope. I think we have a squad that’s big enough to cope but we will have to see.

“We want to progress and get to know each other better. There has been a lot of movement this summer with players coming in. Yes we want to break into the top six but a lot of teams have strengthened this summer so it is going to be a very interesting season. I will be able to tell you more about the strength of the team after a couple of weeks and a few more games but the aim is to be better than last season.”

Schneiderlin was talking at an Everton in the Community football session. Everton in the Community uses the power of sport to inspire people across Merseyside and improve their life chances

The Guardian Sport

Tottenham Need to Find Their Bearings Quickly as Wembley Tenants


London- The irony was not lost on Mauricio Pochettino. “Remember when I first came to Tottenham and I was criticised for saying the White Hart Lane pitch was too small for us?” the manager said. “And now, people are saying that Wembley is too big?”

Pochettino’s comments came last season, when his team’s travails at Wembley – their temporary home for European matches – were under the microscope. It was a regular talking point, one of those things that become a thing, much to the annoyance of the manager who finds himself caught up in them.

The mind went back to John Toshack and how, when he was managing Wales, he would routinely lament the difficulty of finding the right balance, whether between defence and attack, established players and new faces or any number of other teasers. “If I pull the blanket over my head, my feet get cold,” Toshack would say. “And if I push it over my feet, my head gets cold.”

The joke was Toshack ought to find a bigger blanket and Pochettino must now do something similar, as he considers the Wembley factor and what can justifiably be billed as a season-defining issue. Tottenham will play all of their home matches at the national stadium while the building work on their new ground is completed.

Pochettino prefers to play on a bigger pitch, such as Wembley, as it better allows his team to unpick visiting sides who sit deep and mass men behind the ball. He made this point back in October 2014, in the early months of his Tottenham tenure, when his team were struggling at White Hart Lane – on what was one of the tightest pitches in the Premier League.

“Our style means we need a bigger space to play because we play a positional game,” Pochettino said. “It’s true that White Hart Lane is a little bit tight and it’s better for the opponent when they play deep. We need time to adapt to our new set-up and to understand better our position on the pitch.”

On the other hand Pochettino has built his success at Tottenham as much on what his players do when they do not have possession; the way that they press, often in packs, to win back the ball – the higher up the pitch, the better.

The old White Hart Lane, as it must now be called, measured 100m x 67m whereas the Wembley surface is 105m x 69m, making it larger than any in the Premier League. Wembley is 8% bigger than White Hart Lane or, to put it another way, Pochettino’s players have 545 square metres more to cover at the national stadium. Consequently they must work harder to close down opposing teams and it is no great stretch to say that it is more difficult for them to impose their pressing style at Wembley.

The contrast last season between Tottenham’s results at White Hart Lane and Wembley was like night and day. At the Lane their record in all competitions read: P23 W21 D2 L0. At Wembley it was P5 W1 D1 L3, with one of the defeats coming in the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea.

Pochettino said that his players had fed off it being the final season at White Hart Lane, with all of the attendant energy and emotion, but the reality was they had come to be perfectly in sync at the stadium. According to Pochettino, they had needed time to adapt. How they adapted.

Perhaps, the same thing can be said about them at Wembley. Take the small details, which are so crucial at the highest level. At White Hart Lane Toby Alderweireld, for example, would hit those long diagonal passes with unerring accuracy. It looked almost instinctive. The central defender was familiar with his frames of reference, such as the distance between the touchline and the stands. Space and perspective are key. Did he play that ball quite so effortlessly at Wembley? Alderweireld and his team-mates must recalibrate their bearings.

Pochettino is a slave to his preparations and he said last season that his squad would train at the club’s Enfield base before European ties on a pitch that had been modified to replicate the dimensions of Wembley. In fact, Pochettino does this before any away game. Wherever Tottenham are playing, be it Selhurst Park, Anfield or The Hawthorns, the training pitch will be marked out to match. As an aside, they would not be allowed to change the dimensions at Wembley to mirror those at White Hart Lane.

Tottenham do not have an agreement with the Football Association to train at Wembley and so Pochettino will continue to use his replica pitch approach in Enfield, even if this cannot simulate the overall national stadium experience. The club do have a friendly at Wembley against Juventus on Saturday 5 August, after they return from their tour of the United States at the end of the month.

Pochettino had said in May that he was keen to work at Wembley. “It’s important for us to start training and to get a feel for Wembley,” he said. “That will be fantastic for us. It’s impossible now to decide which day we will start there but it is in our plan to start to train at the training ground and then to try to move there [to Wembley] for a few days to train – not just for two days. We need to plan the training sessions with the organisation at Wembley.”

The FA would be open to having the discussion with Tottenham about them using Wembley to train but, for now, the big date for the club is Sunday 20 August when they play their first Premier League game at the national stadium, against Chelsea. They are scheduled to kick off the season at Newcastle United on 13 August. There is the belief within the club the Wembley factor has been overplayed. Nobody can dispute the importance of a positive start.

Guardian Sport

Do Chelsea Really Need New £34m Signing Antonio Rüdiger?


London- Since arriving in London, Antonio Conte has had one definitive wish: to sign a centre-back schooled in his homeland. In Antonio Rüdiger, to an extent, he has finally got that man.

Yet, Conte would have preferred Leonardo Bonucci and there is a lingering sense that Chelsea have again had to settle for second best in this transfer window, even after winning the title so convincingly. They have stumbled over a number of targets this summer – most notably Romelu Lukaku – and the manager is unimpressed.

Rüdiger has been linked with the club for some time now but his arrival seems like a move designed to appease Conte in the short term. Chelsea needed to make a signing and, while a transfer for Monaco midfielder Tiemoué Bakayoko remains close, a deal for the Roma defender has proven more straightforward.

Conte has been keen to bolster his backline with a player who can quickly adapt to his tactical demands and, in that sense, Rüdiger should fit the bill. However, the 24-year-old Germany international is far from the finished article. After moving to Roma from Stuttgart in 2015, he took some time to adapt to a league that, from a defensive standpoint in particular, is different to any other.

While his versatility is certainly an asset, it has also held him back. He has often been asked to cover at full-back, which has restricted him from a run of games in what is clearly his strongest position. Thirteen of his 25 starts in Serie A last season came at either right or left-back, and while he is capable in both roles, Rüdiger is a centre-half.

A relatively meagre rating of 6.78 from full-back last season rose to 7.00 when he was stationed at the heart of the Roma defence, but such a modest figure shows he still has plenty of room for development. He looked more comfortable when deployed in a back three under Luciano Spalletti last season and his ability to play either side of the middle man is likely to have been key to Conte’s interest. It will offer Chelsea the opportunity to shift César Azpilicueta to a right wing-back role too, which would internally upgrade another position within the squad.

Conte’s relentless coaching has improved players such as Bonucci and, more recently, David Luiz. Rüdiger has the potential to develop in the same under Conte, but it remains an expensive risk to take on a player Chelsea don’t really need. He has the physical attributes to make a success of his time in England but his timing in the tackle is questionable: he committed as many fouls per game as he made tackles last season (both 1.7). No Roma player was penalised more often than Rüdiger, which is a rare statistic for a defender to top. He picked up seven yellow cards and one red in 26 league appearances, as well as a further dismissal in the Europa League.

Over the last two seasons, Rüdiger has committed more individual errors leading to a shot or goal than any other Roma player (six), and the third most of any outfielder in Serie A in that time. All in all, he took more time to settle in Rome than his new employers will hope to give him in London.

Rüdiger’s arrival also spells trouble for the young defenders currently at the club. Nathan Aké has has already been allowed to leave – making a £20m switch to Bournemouth – while the futures of Kurt Zouma and forgotten man Andreas Christensen – who has spent the last two seasons on loan at Borussia Mönchengladbach – have been cast into doubt. Zouma has had his injury problems in recent times but Christensen has really impressed during his time in the Bundesliga and would have hoped to make an impression at the Bridge this season. They both may have to seek opportunities on loan if they are after regular action.

The difference in quality between the three players makes Chelsea’s decision to spend £34m on Rüdiger seem curious. While Zouma spent the majority of last season on the sidelines, he started 21 Premier League matches the campaign before, with tackles per game (1.3) the only key metric in which he fared worse than Rüdiger’s (1.7) figures from the 2016-17 season. Indeed, the 22-year-old Frenchman averaged more interceptions (1.6 to 1) and clearances (5.3 to 3), and he committed considerably fewer fouls (0.4 to 1.7) and was dribbled past less often (0.3 times per game to 0.7).

Christensen also averaged fewer tackles than the new man (1.5) but at the expense of far fewer fouls (0.6), while his anticipation – 2.3 interceptions per game – and distribution are far superior to Rudiger’s. In fact, his pass accuracy of 91.5%, from 62.8 passes per game, was the third best in the Bundesliga last season, and well in excess of Rudiger’s 83.3%. The Danish international is still just 21, but he has only missed six Bundesliga matches over the past two seasons, while also picking up valuable experience in both the Champions League and Europa League.

Rudiger’s acquisition will send a message to players on the fringes at Chelsea that it will be increasingly difficult to make the breakthrough. That, of course, is no new experience for youngsters at the club. However, like David Luiz before him, the new signing has matured over the last year or so. Chelsea will hope he can follow suit and iron out the mistakes and indiscretions that, on paper, make his signature seem like the panic buy the Brazilian’s was billed as last summer – when he was signed for £34m.

The Guardian Sport

Sol Campbell: ‘I’m Prepared to Go to a Non-league Club and Just Get a Win Bonus’


London- During his playing days Sol Campbell went about his business, on and off the pitch, with ice-cold assurance, so it is gripping, on a warm afternoon in west London, to hear him speak with burning desperation about his desire to become a manager. The former England defender may look relaxed as he sips a cappuccino outside an Italian restaurant off the King’s Road but it soon becomes clear that he is at his wits’ end about, as he puts it, “building another career”. Campbell has standing, qualifications and coaching experience but he cannot make the breakthrough and such is his frustration that the 42-year-old is willing to offer his services for free.

“It’s proving difficult and if I have to start at the bottom, I will,” he says. “People may think that I just want to manage in the Premier League but I’m prepared to go to a non-league club, and if they can’t pay me a salary just pay me a win bonus. I’m up for that. I won’t be up for that four or five years down the line but definitely for the first year, as long as it’s a good club with ambition. I’m itching to start, I just need a chance, even just an interview in which I can say: ‘Take me for free and I’ll show you what I can do.’”

It was in May 2012 that Campbell called time on a playing career that earned him 73 caps and two Premier League titles with Arsenal and he has largely spent the proceeding five years preparing for a life in management. A course with the Football Association of Wales earned Campbell a Uefa pro licence and then in February he took up an invitation to become assistant coach of Trinidad & Tobago, working alongside the former Wrexham, Swansea, Crewe and T&T centre-half Dennis Lawrence as part of the island’s attempt to qualify for next summer’s World Cup.

“It’s going really well given the budget and infrastructure we have is limited,” says Campbell. “With the head coach Dennis, Stern John [a fellow assistant coach and a former T&T striker] and a few others, the quality of training has been excellent and we’ve gone toe to toe with some of the big countries only to have been let down by some interesting decisions from officials.

“I go over in two-and-a-half-week blocks and usually eight days before the game we’re building up for. I mainly work on the defensive side but I’m also there to add a general level of quality to the setup. I’ve enjoyed the challenge.”

Alongside his work in the Caribbean, Campbell has visited Italy to watch training sessions at Sampdoria and Milan and travelled to the United States to observe his former Arsenal team-mate Patrick Vieira manage New York City. Each experience has been enriching and strengthened not only Campbell’s desire to manage but his openness to doing so abroad. To that end he is planning to develop his language skills. “A little bit of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French,” he says. “Something that gives me a base to work from.”

But the ideal scenario for Campbell would be to secure a job in England, because he has a young family, so he can continue his ambassadorial work with Arsenal and because that is where he spent the entirety of a playing career that began at Tottenham Hotspur in 1992, ended at Newcastle United in May 2011 (he officially called it a day 12 months later) and in between earned him a reputation as one of the finest central defenders of his generation. Familiarity breeds comfort but for Campbell the search for a post on these shores has become increasingly disheartening.

“I’ve spoken to a couple of agents to help get the word out that I’m available but so far there’s only been tentative inquiries,” he says. “Some clubs may be thinking: ‘We don’t want to talk to Sol because of his history,’ but that’s what an interview is for – meet the person and get to know what he’s actually like. If I don’t impress you in an interview then fine, but at least give me that chance. That’s all I want; to talk to a chairman or owner about my philosophy and what I can do for their team. I’m a winner. I love to build. I’ve got great ideas. I’ve got the passion. I’m very diligent, and if given a chance I’ll work my rear end off to be a success.”
Campbell’s passion is emphatic and what also catches the attention is his mention of “history”, which, it becomes obvious, is in reference to his outspokenness on British football’s attitude to race. In an interview with the Guardian in September 2013, Campbell suggested “archaic” attitudes to black players in this country would force him to begin his coaching career abroad and six months later, in an extract from his biography that appeared in the Sunday Times, he accused the Football Association of being “institutionally racist”.

In both instances it can be argued Campbell has a point, and as for opportunities for black coaches the situation has, if anything, got worse. In September 2013 there were four British and Irish BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) managers working across England’s 92 professional clubs – that figure is now down to two: Chris Hughton at Brighton & Hove Albion and Keith Curle at Carlisle United. Last month Heather Rabbatts stood down as a nonexecutive director of the FA because of her frustration at the lack of British black coaches in football.

Campbell would, then, be within his rights to stand by his views but he is keen to stay away from such controversy. “I don’t want to rub anyone up the wrong way,” he explains. “I’ve got to the stage where I don’t want to keep banging the same drum. I’m a doer and I just want to do it. Whatever attitudes, prejudices, stereotypical ideas that are in front of me, I will break them. But the only way I can break them is by getting a job, and if I need to start in the gutter, I will start in the gutter and work my way up. Money isn’t an issue.”

And how would a Sol Campbell-led side, here or abroad, perform? “Very defensive but amazing on the counterattack,” he says. “Like Arsenal of old.”

There follows a chuckle, with Campbell clearly aware that replicating the style of play that made him, Vieira and others not only title winners under Arsène Wenger but invincibles is easier said than done.

Campbell is serious, however, when tackling the assertion that one reason he may struggle to break into management is because of the widely held view that great players generally fail to become great managers. “Zidane. Cruyff. Rijkaard. Pep. Even Deschamps – they’ve all achieved a heck of a lot as managers and they were all great players,” he replies. “So no, I’m not buying that. It’s about being given a chance, that’s all I want. And once I get into the system, that’s it, I’ll be flying.”

The Guardian Sport

John Terry Out of His Comfort Zone, Ready for New Chapter at Aston Villa


London- John Terry needed no reminding of the day when he was booed off by Aston Villa supporters while lying on a stretcher. It was 11 May 2013, and has gone down in the history books as the game when Frank Lampard became Chelsea’s all‑time leading goalscorer. For the visiting captain, however, it was a less enjoyable experience. “I think the [chant] was ‘let him die’,” Terry said, laughing while wearing his new Villa tracksuit.

Outside of Stamford Bridge, where Terry spent 22 years and racked up more than 700 appearances, there have been plenty of insults thrown at the central defender over the years. Villa Park, where Terry will be playing next season after signing a one-year contract with the Championship club, was no different in that respect. “Quite hostile” is how Terry described his memories of playing at the ground. “I’ve been on the receiving end of that [atmosphere] and thrived on it,” he added.

Both parties will take little time to patch up their differences, now that they are on the same side. That is how football generally works and on that same theme it was interesting to hear Terry’s answer to a question about whether after everything he has achieved in his career, including winning 15 major trophies at Chelsea, he feels fully appreciated in the game. “Maybe not. I don’t know,” he said. “I think that’s a decision for you guys [the media] to make, or the supporters. I’ve run out at Villa Park many times and given as good as I’ve been given and wound people up, and I understand that.

“But when I walk down the street, whether it be a Tottenham supporter or an Arsenal fan, they will say: ‘I don’t particularly like you but you’re a good footballer and I appreciate what you’ve done in the game.’ That’s the message. But what I do get a lot when you spend time and have photos with people’s kids is: ‘You’re actually a nice guy.’

“People see you in a way and put you in a bracket of ‘right, he’s an arsehole.’ But that’s not me. You grow up over the years as well, and you live and learn as a human being, as a professional and a player. I’ve given as good as I’ve got over the years from supporters all over the country and at the end of the day when I retire, if they turn around and say, ‘He was a decent player,’ that will do me.”

By Terry’s own admission it will be a strange feeling to wear another club’s shirt and experience everything that comes with being the new boy. He flew out to Portugal with Steve Bruce, the Villa manager, on Monday afternoon to join the squad on their pre-season training camp, and was dreading the thought of having to sing in front of everyone as part of the sort of initiation ceremony that he has enjoyed laughing at over the years at Chelsea.

At the same time, Terry said that he was genuinely excited at the prospect of a move that “takes me out of my comfort zone”. There were no shortage of offers on the table for him, but Terry claimed that joining another Premier League club was out of the question, because he was unable to contemplate playing against Chelsea next season. Teams in China and Major League Soccer also showed an interest, as did Villa’s bitter local rivals, Birmingham City.

Terry admitted that he got himself into a bit of a state over the decision – “I pretty much wasn’t sleeping” – before Bruce convinced him with his regular text messages that Villa was the right move.

“I wanted it to be that once I decided, then I was 100% in,” Terry said. “I’m not 50-50 or 70% – Aston Villa will get 100% of John Terry this year.” With Terry expected to earn around £60,000 per week on a contract that has an option to be extended for another 12 months – plus huge incentives to be paid if Villa win promotion – the former England international will be picking up a Premier League salary in the Championship. Bruce believes, however, that Terry is “worth every penny” because of the contribution he can make as a leader as well as a player to a squad that finished 13th in the second tier last season and struggled to handle the level of expectation.

For Terry, who turns 37 in December, that challenge cannot start quickly enough. “It’s down to me to perform week in, week out to prove to the players I can still play. I’m not one of them players at the end of his career looking for a pay day. I would be somewhere else if that was the case. The ambition, really, is to get us back to the Premier League and if I can, then that would be an unbelievable achievement.”

The Guardian Sport

Wayne Rooney: A Manchester United Great Who Departs to Muted Applause


London- The oddity of Wayne Rooney’s glittering 13-year Manchester United career is that he departs for Everton to only muted applause. Despite a record that features a glut of trophies and personal achievements a strong sense of “Ta-ra Wayne, it’s about time” prevails among supporters.

This can be traced to the perception Rooney never adopted the fitness regime required to reach the heights of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and the disquiet he caused when twice in three years nearly exiting the club.

This is a footballer who last season passed Sir Bobby Charlton’s mark to rank as United’s record scorer with 253 goals; a footballer who claimed five Premier League titles, the Champions League, the Europa League, the FA Cup, three League Cups, the Fifa Club World Cup, was twice PFA Young Footballer of the Year and voted the 2010 PFA and Football Writers Player of the Year; a footballer who arrived as the 18-year-old starlet who seemed destined to become a global great and registered a debut hat-trick against Fenerbahce in September 2004; a footballer whose aerial volley against Manchester City Sir Alex Ferguson described as the best he witnessed at Old Trafford in 26 and a half years as manager.

That finish came in February 2011 and Rooney’s fall in the eyes of many of the United congregation began with the saga of four months before. On 20 October 2010 Rooney questioned United’s ambition when stating he wanted to leave. Further insult to this injury came when his preferred destination emerged: Manchester City, many fans’ bitterest rivals. Two days later came a scarcely credible Rooney U-turn. This featured him agreeing a new contract at United and apologising to Ferguson and team-mates for his behaviour.

It began the reservations among United devotees, though. The bottom line was Rooney had doubled his salary to £180,000 a week and so his questioning of the club was viewed as a cynical act of brinkmanship aimed at squeezing the best terms possible.

Rooney vowed to rebuild trust with supporters but in the six years since the relationship has remained uneasy, suffering a gradual, irreversible decline.

This was accelerated in summer 2013, following Ferguson’s retirement that May. Towards the end of the campaign Rooney had fallen out with the manager and entered the close season again wishing to depart despite David Moyes now being in charge.

This time another fierce rival – Chelsea – was his intended new club. In autumn 2010 the faithful had not wanted Rooney to go. Now, though, unconditional love was replaced by an acceptance that it might be best if he did.

When the episode once more closed with the Liverpudlian staying and the following February he agreed a bumper new deal – a basic £250,000 a week – this killed any lingering love felt for him among a large constituency of fans.

This erosion of affection was caused by another factor: the perception of a steep decline in Rooney’s powers. In February 2014 he was 28 and should have been at his peak. Yet despite that campaign ending with 17 league goals, his highest tally in the following three years – 12 – came the next season, with the last two featuring eight and five.

It is rare now to hear unqualified praise for Rooney the player. Mention the man-boy who arrived in August 2004 and it is different. United fans freely gush about the menacing tyro whose blistering turn of pace and firebrand mentality tore up contests.

This last point is of particular note. Perhaps the most telling observation Moyes made during an ill-fated tenure of 34 league matches was what he told Rooney when persuading the forward not to go to Chelsea. “He came up to my house. I said to him: ‘If you ask me what’s missing – I think you’ve gone a bit soft,’” the Scot said.

Moyes’s view proved prescient. The late-career Rooney is a footballer whose mental edge has become as dulled as the zip that was also once a prime asset.

Under José Mourinho last season the fall-off was dramatic. Suddenly Rooney’s legs were heavy and he was reduced to a lumbering spectator of many of the games he played in.

Mourinho may have executed a shrewd ploy when replacing Louis van Gaal last summer. In an opening press conference the Portuguese killed any notion Rooney could move back into midfield, stating “with me, he will never be a No6”. Mourinho insisted Rooney remained a finisher, watched as he managed one goal in his first seven matches and dropped him for a 4-1 win over Leicester City on 24 September. This ended Rooney’s status as an automatic starter and United’s captain eventually lost his England place and with it leadership of the national side.

To find Rooney’s last moment of unadulterated brilliance in a United shirt rewind to 15 March 2015. This was also, though, a microcosm of Rooney’s chequered time at the club as it began with a Sunday newspaper splash that featured him being knocked out in his kitchen by Stoke City’s Phil Bardsley.

In the afternoon Rooney responded with a vintage goal in a 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at OId Trafford. Collecting the ball near halfway Rooney was again the rampaging force of his youth as he made a mug of Eric Dier with a veer to the left, before allowing Hugo Lloris no chance.

The recent revelations that Rooney lost £500,000 in a casino illustrated his private life still lacks cast-iron discipline. But, in time, memories of the off-field indiscretions and slights against United should fade.

Then fans will surely recall how the £27m that Ferguson paid Everton for Rooney allowed them to witness the best years of his generation’s finest domestic footballer, a player who has a case for being one of the greats in the United firmament.

The Guardian Sport

Everton Hoping Early Deals Can Help Them Bridge Gap to the Top Four


London- There is no doubt which Premier League club have made the quickest start in the race to do business in the summer transfer window. One might not go as far as Robbie Fowler, who believes Everton’s resolve and targeted investment are making the rest of the league look stupid, though there is plenty to admire in the way Ronald Koeman and his club backers go about their business.

Everton have made five major signings before most clubs are properly back from their holidays, although Henry Onyekuru will be going straight out to Anderlecht on loan. The others offer straight-down-the-middle solidity, almost literally since Koeman has brought in a goalkeeper, centre-half and striker. Everton set their transfer record when they signed Jordan Pickford for a fee that could rise to £30m, though the former Sunderland player has long been regarded the best English goalkeeping prospect around and if he fulfils his potential he will soon start to look a snip even at that price.

The club then paid roughly the same amount, £25m going on £30m, for the 24-year-old Michael Keane, another proven performer at the right age with no shortage of admirers and a promising future. By Everton standards this is a huge level of investment, particularly as the Holland midfielder Davy Klaassen has also been signed for around £24m, but as soon as someone meets Southampton’s asking price for Virgil van Dijk, or perhaps when Romelu Lukaku finally gets his inevitable move to a club in the Champions League bracket, Everton’s outlay is likely to be dwarfed.

It has not all been big spending either. Picking up Sandro Ramírez from Málaga for a fee of around £5m could be the sharpest piece of business of the summer so far, even if it is unlikely the former Barcelona striker on his own will be able to fill the hole Lukaku leaves. To an extent Everton have been rebuilding in the knowledge that they will have to react and reshape once their leading scorer departs, and to an extent they have been spending in the expectation of a large fee being received before the end of the window. They will probably need to recruit again once Lukaku goes. Koeman is still an admirer of Gylfi Sigurdsson and there are even reports of a move for Olivier Giroud, though regardless of what happens later in the summer it is never a bad idea to have your principal targets identified early and to bring them in with a minimum of fuss in time to take part in a full pre-season.

Were there a prize for this sort of thing, Everton would have just put themselves in pole position, with other clubs still dithering and debating at the back of the grid. Perhaps Everton also deserve some sort of industry award for having the foresight to recruit Steve Walsh from Leicester as football director and head of scouting. Football does not work quite like that, however, and one has to assume that the real prize Everton are after is a place in the top four. “It will be a big season for us,” Sandro said on arrival, possibly a little prematurely. “Everton have made some big signings, I’m excited about being able to compete here and win plenty of silverware. Hopefully we can achieve that aim of getting into the Champions League.”

Any player is entitled to be optimistic upon joining a new club for a considerable fee, and there is perhaps no harm in being unrealistically so, but were this an Alfred Hitchcock film the menacing music would now be building to a crescendo. Were it a Vic and Bob show there would be tumbleweed rolling across the set. Players do not generally move to Everton to win “plenty of silverware”. That has not been the case since the mid-80s, and even then the revival under Howard Kendall was a relatively short-lived affair, bookended by underachievement and far less distinguished managers. In the 21 years Sandro has been around Everton have not won a thing. Their last glimpse of silverware was the 1995 FA Cup, a couple of months before he was born.

Everton have a capable, go-ahead manager, it must be admitted, and a top-four finish seems an achievable ambition for a club of Everton’s stature and spending power, yet it cannot have gone unnoticed that Arsenal and Manchester United managed to miss out last season. That’s the Arsenal currently vying with Real Madrid to pay more than £100m for Kylian Mbappé, and the Manchester United who boast the world’s most expensive player in Paul Pogba and could well end up paying a similar amount for Lukaku.

It was put to Koeman when he arrived on Merseyside this time last year from Southampton that there seemed to be little anyone could do to elevate Everton beyond fourth-best team in the north-west. They would never be able to match the spending power of the Manchester clubs, and could hope to overtake Liverpool only on the few occasions when standards at Anfield slipped. The manager did not disagree, though Leicester had just won the league at the time so anything seemed possible.

What happened in Koeman’s first season at Goodison was that the six clubs with regular Champions League experience strengthened and improved, leaving an improved Everton still best of the rest, a nailed-on seventh. That is not good enough for Koeman, never mind the owners or fans, but it is not difficult to see the same pattern repeating itself this season. This time Everton will have to cope with the demands of the Europa League, too. They may even try to win it, and take the Manchester United route to Champions League qualification, though such a plan would inevitably have implications for their league aspirations. José Mourinho, with all the resources at his disposal, ended up having to prioritise at the end of last season. It is unlikely that Everton would be able to prosper on two fronts, and it will be interesting to see how Koeman approaches the European competition.

Yet for now, before a ball has been kicked, Everton followers can at least take satisfaction in their club doing something right. They should be a tougher proposition this season, and with their fighting spirit and the ability to make Goodison a difficult place to visit, they could prove a surprise package in 2017-18. As long as everything continues to go to plan. Any unpleasant surprises, such as potential buyers driving down Lukaku’s price or perhaps even looking elsewhere for a striker, could make life more interesting still before the start of the season.

The Guardian Sport

Rachel Yankey: ‘There Aren’t Enough Female Managers. Barriers Need to be Broken Down’


London- Would Rachel Yankey like to become the first female manager in the Premier League? “Look, it’s not an ambition of mine. It’s not as if I sit there and think ‘that’s what I want to do’. If I was good enough to go in there and get a job … but right now, I’m nowhere near good enough.” So that’s not a no, then.

Once the record caps holder for England, the winner of six League titles and nine women’s FA Cups, recipient of the OBE and, still, one of the few names in women’s football to have widespread public recognition, Yankey can also do a passable impersonation of a politician. But while she may not be willing to give an interviewer a headline, she is certainly doing everything within her capability to change the perception of female coaches in the national game (and yes, that means the men’s version of it, too).

There are, as it stands, 29 women in England in possession of a Uefa A coaching licence. This compares with a total of 1,484 men. In the women’s professional game, the England team is managed by a man, Mark Sampson, while of the 20 clubs in the two tiers of the Women’s Super League there are only five female managers. In the men’s game, there is not a single female coach at any of the 92 league clubs.

Yankey is giving interviews as the figurehead for an initiative, launched by the online bookmaker Betfair, to fund 50 female coaches to their Uefa B badges. It comes alongside the FA launching its women’s “Gameplan for Growth” this year which announced a head of women’s coaching development to focus on the recruitment and deployment of female coaches in England.

For many years already, Yankey has been ploughing the furrow herself. She took her Uefa B licence while playing for Arsenal and is in the process of taking her Uefa A qualifications, in the hope of tipping that coaching total up to 30. She has coached at a grassroots level since she was a teenager. She has also presented no fewer than 60 episodes of Footy Pups, a CBeebies TV show that combines the adventures of an animated football team with Yankey teaching real-life skills to a group of mixed-sex primary school children.

“The whole way through my career, even when I was a 16-year-old at Arsenal, I’ve played football but I’ve coached kids as well,” she says. “I’ve always worked in schools and, I suppose, in the latter stages of my career, particularly at Arsenal these past few seasons, it’s been more about teaching the youngsters what was important.”

It is fair to say then that Yankey is as well-placed to talk about development within our national game as anyone. Her analysis is that the barriers to expanding the number of female coaches are manifold, but not necessarily insurmountable, the main problem being less an absence of qualifications and more a lack of jobs at the end of it.

“It costs quite a lot of money to get on to your coaching courses,” she says. The cost of training for a Uefa B licence, for example, is £1,000; for Uefa A it is £5,000. “By the time you get to your A licence, that’s taking football very seriously. That’s you saying you want a job that’s going to repay [the debt]. Now, are there the jobs out there, the opportunities for women where you’re going to actually get something? I’m not sure.

“I suppose it takes open-minded, brave chairmen and women to offer those opportunities. Because everyone wants that experience. When you look at the Premier League, if a team needs a manager it’s always the same names going round. So I think you have to be quite a strong person to offer a job to the new person. I know this is not what we’re talking about but it’s also the case with the number of black managers. There’s not enough black managers, there’s definitely not enough female managers. Why is that? I don’t know, but those barriers need to be broken down.”

Yankey does not want positive discrimination and is firmly against token appointments – she would like a situation where the best candidate gets the job. Having more women with coaching credentials, she says, will help to establish a more level playing field.

Yankey left Arsenal last winter after 11 years and 151 appearances and currently has no club. Now 37, she firmly insists she has not retired as a player. But hidden under the table across which we are talking is a complicating factor, the blooming bump containing her first child, due in August. Yankey says she has not made a decision about when she might return to the game but has had conversations with WSL clubs interested in taking her back.

Speaking with Yankey feels like talking to an Olympian or a footballer from an age well before academies and image rights. The way in which she approaches most questions about her career is simply to talk about the enjoyment the game has given her. It is a reminder that this is the same person who, at the age of eight, shaved off all her hair and called herself Ray so she could get a regular game when only boys’ teams were available. It is obvious she is also motivated by giving things back. And there is a sense that, despite all her trophies and accolades, Yankey feels she has not been able to do all she would have wanted to do in the pro game.

This is particularly the case with her international career which, after 129 caps, came to an abrupt end under Sampson in 2013. “I feel that I could have been given more of an opportunity to offer what I had as a footballer. Not just on the pitch but off it. I feel that I could have been offered more of an opportunity to give that to the team. But again, that’s the manager’s choice.”

As much as Yankey is animated by football at the highest level, she is similarly passionate about what happens in the school playground. To change the perception of female coaches, she says, to change the perception of women’s football at the professional level, it is necessary that football is understood as a game for both sexes, and that starts with children.

“There are many things we need to do to make sure that it’s seen as OK for females to play football, and seen as the norm for that to happen at an early age. The amount of parents I’ve spoken to about Footy Pups where they have told me their son or daughter has gone out into the garden and the first footballer they have wanted to be was a female. That’s got to be a massive change.

“But at the same time you hear some of the youngest kids say things like ‘football is for boys and ballet is for girls’. And I wonder: ‘where have you got that from? You must have got that information from somewhere …’ I think the governing body, the coaches, the school teachers, the parents, everybody has to play a part. It has to be done together, we all have to appreciate that football is a game for all and that anybody can play it.”

That is not to say that different genders cannot bring different qualities to the game. Despite several attempts, Yankey will not endorse my plan for a gender-neutral form of football. “Once you get to a certain age men can kick the ball further, men can run faster. So no, not for me.” But on the other hand, she believes that women coaches could bring more than just technical skills to some of those 92 football clubs that currently see fit to look elsewhere.

“I think there are different ways to coach. I think there can be a different way of thinking, a different way of seeing things. Perhaps [female coaches can bring] more empathy. You’re talking to players and understanding what’s going on, how they’re feeling. As a manager you’ve got so much pressure, maybe women handle pressure in a different way. I’m not saying either is right or wrong. But I think there are different ways, so to have a coaching team that is diverse is surely better than everyone being the same.”

The Guardian Sport

Romelu Lukaku: £75m is Never a Bargain but Everton Striker is Worth It


London- Romelu Lukaku has been an obvious transfer target ever since he turned down the lucrative contract Everton offered him in March, doggies in shop windows have been less conspicuously for sale, yet when reports began to emerge that Manchester United were confident of a £75m deal it still came as something of a surprise.

Chelsea had been thought favourites to sign him, for a start, and with Everton insisting no agreement has yet been reached with United there is still a chance a significant bid will arrive from that quarter.

Some are even suggesting Everton are keen on opening an auction to drive the price higher. Many at Everton believed a return to Chelsea was on the cards, and when Lukaku gave his reasons for stalling on a new deal at Goodison – “I don’t want to stay at the same level, I want to improve and I know where I want to do that” – it seemed reasonable to assume that the club now managed so impressively by Antonio Conte was the one he had in mind.

If so, especially as Conte may have played a part in edging Diego Costa towards the door, Chelsea could be embarrassed if United manage to tie up a deal for Lukaku this weekend. Costa will not be staying, Chelsea need a goalscorer and United seem to believe they are on track to sign a reliable one for considerably less than the £100m Everton were asking. Should Lukaku turn up in red and not blue at the start of the season, José Mourinho will have put one over his successor as Chelsea manager before a ball has been kicked, without even having to pay over the odds.

Of course, it is hard to dress up a fee of £75m as any sort of bargain, though in the present climate Lukaku is probably worth it. He scored 25 Premier League goals last season, he is only 24 years old and at his best he can terrorise defences through sheer physical presence and power. He is not exactly a new Didier Drogba but he is a close approximation, and for a coach like Mourinho who likes to play with a big, obvious target at the front he was always going to be of interest once Zlatan Ibrahimovic was ruled out.

The Swede was hugely successful at Old Trafford last season though his game is based on anticipation, timing and getting on the end of things. There were times last season, even with Ibrahimovic up front, when United became bogged down through a shortage of creativity in midfield. Lukaku is not a remedy for that – there were occasions when Everton were similarly ineffective – though he is the type of player who can produce something unexpected when he receives the ball, even in unpromising situations. Lukaku can make things happen, often on his own, and once he finally makes the step up to a club in the Champions League bracket his confidence will only improve if he can establish himself as the main point of attack.

At that level he will be tested as never before, and after three years spent as the big fish in a relatively small pool at Everton he will have to stand comparison with some of the best strikers in the world.

He is not as quick as Kylian Mbappé or as unstoppable as Luis Suárez, and perhaps he does not possess the all-round game of a centre-forward such as Robert Lewandowski. Yet Lukaku is four years younger than the unsettled Bayern Munich player, he can score with both feet and is strong in the air, and there is plenty of time and scope for further improvement. Everton are certainly going to find him hard to replace, and to judge by their interest in Olivier Giroud they are not even looking for an identical type of striker.

Prolific goalscorers who are 6ft 2in and around 15st are simply not that easy to come by. Because of his imposing stature it is easy to characterise Lukaku as a blunt instrument, a big fella up front, a prominent target at which to aim hopeful long balls. He can operate in such a way, in fairness, he has good touch and positional awareness and can not only hold the ball up until support arrives but usually play a decent pass to set up an attack.

Yet Lukaku is more like a youthful Wayne Rooney than a reincarnation of Duncan Ferguson. He is at his best with the ball at his feet, running at defenders and more often than not making inroads through his pace and control. The possibility of Lukaku linking up with players of the calibre of Juan Mata and Paul Pogba is quite an exciting one, and should the United move go through there is every chance of him becoming an instant crowd favourite at Old Trafford through his appetite for work and willingness to take on defenders. At Everton opponents would frequently detail two players to look after him, and that in itself would often create useful space for somebody else.

Lukaku probably knew all along he would be faced with a choice between his former club and his former manager. Contrary to reports suggesting the parting from Mourinho at Chelsea was acrimonious, the pair have retained respect for each other over the past three years. Mourinho said at the time that Lukaku aged 20 was not ready to be Chelsea’s first choice striker, and Lukaku aged 24 has accepted the wisdom of that.

“Choices were made by me, not by them [the Chelsea hierarchy],” the player has said. “Three years ago I was not ready, but several good seasons have changed the situation.” Everton have been principal beneficiaries of those seasons, and they stand to make a handsome profit on a player they signed for £28m but always accepted they had little chance of keeping indefinitely. Everyone will gain, in fact, except the club or clubs that end up missing out. Lukaku arrives for the next stage of his career in peak condition.

The Guardian Sport