McLeish: A welcome surprise
Fri, 28 Dec 2012 17:30:00
Dundee United full-back Keith Watson hopes to prove his fitness to play in Sunday's SPL clash with St Mirren at Tannadice.
Watson went off nursing a shoulder injury in the Tayside derby draw against St Johnstone on Boxing Day.
Winger Gary Mackay-Steven is still out after breaking his hand recently while Sean Dillon is set to be sidelined again as he struggles to get over a thigh injury.
St Mirren will be without Kenny McLean, whounderwent minor knee surgery on Friday and is expected to be sidelined for a number of weeks.
Marc McAusland and Jim Goodwin are both back from suspension, while Paul Dummett could also come into contention after missing the Boxing Day draw at Inverness with a muscle complaint.
The 19-year-old full-back signed a first professional contract at Victoria Park in the summer and has penned a fresh deal.
Holden made his debut against Tranmere in April 2011 and has gone on to make 15 senior appearances so far.
The youngster has impressed new boss John Hughes and has subsequently been awarded with the offer.
Official Adam Crysell came to visit the Weston Homes Community Stadium on Friday as did U's boss Joe Dunne and Swindon assistant manager Fabrizio Piccareta.
Speaking to Colchester's official website Crysell described the pitch as 'completely unplayable' and, with further rain forecast, the game was called off.
No new date has been announced.
Benitez, now interim manager at Chelsea, is set to receive a hostile reception at Goodison Park on Sunday, from fans who will not have forgotten one infamous taunt in 2007.
The Spaniard referred to Everton as one of the Premier League's "smaller teams" after they held Liverpool to a frustrating goalless draw at Anfield.
Overall, Moyes clashed 14 times with Benitez during the latter's six-year spell with the Reds. Everton only managed to win three of those games, all at Goodison.
"It was always tough because Liverpool had a great team," Moyes said. "It was always hard to get the better of them. They had a tremendous team, and still have.
"I think he (Benitez) always wanted to be in the Premier League. I think he enjoyed his stint here.
"I think, like a lot of people who come to this country, he enjoyed the honesty and the way the Premier League is played.
"I think he has bided his time to get another job."
Benitez has started to turn around the form which prompted Chelsea to sack his predecessor Roberto Di Matteo last month.
The Londoners have won six of their last seven games in all competitions, with the one defeat in that sequence being in the Club World Cup final.
The run has also included an 8-0 thrashing of Aston Villa and seven goals from the often maligned ?50million man, Fernando Torres.
Moyes said: "I think it is a great club - they are European champions.
"If you go there you have always got a chance of winning games with the quality and level of players they have got.
"I don't think it is any surprise that Chelsea are winning games.
"He (Benitez) is doing a very good job. He has inherited a really good team, some very good players. You would expect him to win games.
"Fernando Torres is an excellent player.
"I don't know the goings-on at Chelsea and I don't know enough about Fernando Torres to give you any real valued opinion - I just know he has always been a really good player."
Moyes hopes to have midfielder Darron Gibson available for a game which could see Everton leapfrog third-paced Chelsea with a victory.
Gibson is eligible after he and West Ham's Carlton Cole successfully appealed against red cards for high tackles in last week's meeting at Upton Park, but he has been troubled by a thigh strain.
On the sending-off Moyes felt common sense had prevailed, even if he was not sure an appeal would succeed.
He said: "I wouldn't say it was expected but I think most people in football will have seen both incidents as yellow cards and not sendings-off. They got to the right decision in the end.
"He (Gibson) has been really important since he came. His record in the team is really good.
"He has done really well, we are pleased with him.
"But we are always looking for more from him. I think he has got a bit more in the locker and hopefully we will get that out of him."
Everton are fifth in the table at the halfway stage having finally shaken off their tag as slow starters.
The Merseysiders are now well placed to challenge for a Champions League place if they can repeat their strong finish of recent years.
Moyes said: "I think we have done okay, I think we have played well at times.
"I'm a bit disappointed in the middle of that we didn't get a few more victories when we maybe could.
"But we have been on a pretty good run and are pretty consistent in what we do.
"I can't ask for an awful lot more. The players have done really well."
Moyes was dismissive of fresh speculation concerning the future of left-back Leighton Baines.
A new report has claimed this weekend's opponents Chelsea are now interested in the England international but Moyes said he had not read it and "it will be wrong".
Meanwhile, the agent of John Heitinga has been quoted as saying the Dutch defender is unhappy at the club.
The 29-year-old has made just eight starts this season.
Rob Jansen told Voetbal International Radio: "Heitinga is certainly not happy with what's happening at Everton, and we do not hide it. We are looking for a solution.
"If an appropriate situation arises for a transfer, we will certainly not ignore it."
Defeat at Stoke on Boxing Day meant the Northern Irishman has exactly the same points haul - 25 - from 19 league matches as that of the now England manager.
Hodgson did not make it past 20 league games as defeat at Blackburn in early January 2011 put an end to a difficult and much-criticised six months in charge.
Rodgers benefits from a position of greater strength as he was the choice of owners Fenway Sports Group in the summer and while his record may not be as good as predecessor Kenny Dalglish, he is working to a different set of objectives than those given to the Scot.
He is a long way from his position becoming under threat and insists progress has been made with plenty more to come.
"I don't think about them to be honest, it is not something I am overly worried about," he said of comparisons with Hodgson's record.
"I have been brought in here to do a job and the owners have been brilliant with me.
"The backing I've had from supporters has been incredible considering and that is the most important group really.
"They recognise what is going on, they understand like I would understand the frustration.
"Any comparisons I don't really focus on and it is difficult to compare the two groups because there is a lot of youthfulness in this group but yet still a lot of growth left in the team.
"There is a lot of progressing to do because we're 10th in the table and this is a club which wants to be at the very top but the only way you can do that is by reconstruction of the work and building the squad.
"That is what is going to take a bit of time. I always say it's like a good meal - I'm not a great cook but a good meal takes a wee bit of time but also to offer a good meal you need good ingredients.
"That is something we will do over time and hopefully put a nice meal on the table for supporters."
A deal for Chelsea forward Daniel Sturridge has virtually been done while the club are still pursuing Blackpool winger Tom Ince.
However, club sources told Press Association Sport "to treat as rubbish" comments by Birmingham chairman Peter Pannu suggesting the club were in talks with Liverpool over goalkeeper Jack Butland.
"I understand there are talks with Liverpool, I understand that Everton might be interested, Southampton gave me an offer in the past, I know not whether they want him," Pannu told the Birmingham Mail.
Speculation has linked Butland with a move to Anfield for weeks but earlier this month Rodgers stressed he was not looking for another goalkeeper in January.
Only a fortnight ago second-choice goalkeeper Brad Jones signed a new contract and while rumours persist about Jose Reina's future it seems inconceivable Rodgers would let him go in January, if at all.
"We certainly won't be able to do everything in January that would help us, but we'll be able to make some additions that will help the group," said the Reds boss.
"We can look forward to that and then review it again in the summer.
"There are very few names we have actually enquired about, but we're hoping we'll be able to do something in January pretty early on.
"We need that wee bit more experience, especially at the top end of the field.
"We're hopeful we can do that and then we'll see what else January can bring for us.
"We won't be spending a great deal of money. It'll be between January and the summer time that we can look at progressing the group and then hopefully go again."
The 31-year-old has been with the Iron since September after agreeing a short term stay and Laws is keen to retain his services beyond January.
Hawley has scored five goals during his time at Glanford Park, striking up a promising partnership with Leon Clarke, and the club are working hard to thrash out fresh terms with him.
"We are hopeful that we will be able to announce something within the next 48 hours or so," Laws told the club's official website.
"I have sat down with him and his agent and we have made him an offer. We would all like Karl to stay at the football club because it is obvious what he brings to the team.
"Not just in terms of his goals but also in what he brings out of others. He is very well liked and a popular face in the dressing room."
Sean O'Driscoll, only in the job five months, was given the boot by Forest's Kuwaiti owners on Wednesday night, just hours after their 4-2 Boxing Day victory over Leeds had left them eighth in the Championship - just one point off the play-off places.
Chairman Fawaz Al Hasawi quickly stated he had made contact with a Premier League manager that evening and had planned a meeting for Thursday, with McLeish duly appointed last night and unveiled to the media this afternoon.
The Scot said: "It is a terrific opportunity to come to a club of Nottingham Forest's magnitude.
"It is always nice to get a job (like this) because normally you are waiting on somebody maybe in a bit of difficulty. And it is not the case with this job. It looks an absolutely wonderful challenge for me.
"It has been a whirlwind and a surprise but a very welcome surprise."
McLeish, 53, enjoyed a welcome break after being sacked by Aston Villa at the end of last season, bringing the curtain down on a difficult spell at the Premier League which ultimately ended with their top-flight survival.
McLeish admits his time at Villa Park came amid "a catalogue of horrors" but that he was ready to get back into the game.
The former Scotland boss revealed he was offered a couple of posts, even some abroad in the past week or so, but that they were not the right challenge.
He now takes up a 12-month rolling contract at The City Ground, but the reaction of Forest fans - albeit nowhere near the scale of Villa supporters following his cross-city switch from fierce rivals Birmingham - has not been one filled with joy.
McLeish is fully aware of that and knows the only way to get fans fully on board is by winning games.
However, his hopes of doing that on Saturday could be dashed with Forest's home clash against Crystal Palace subject to a 9.30am pitch inspection due to a waterlogged playing surface.
"Winning games is obviously something that helps to get fans behind you," he said. "I know that in any given job...it is not as if I'm Jose Mourinho walking in here and it is a unanimously popular decision. At times you have to realise that some of the fans are maybe not with you but if you win games and you can play the kind of football they produced against Leeds in the second half the other day there is no reason we can't get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet."
Other figures connected with Forest and McLeish have also wished him well.
Fellow Scot Paul Lambert, who succeeded him in the hot seat at Villa, said: "It (Forest) is a massive club with history, it's huge.
"Alex has been in the game longer than I have, the management side, and done well. You wish him good luck in his next job."
Meanwhile, Manchester City assistant manager David Platt, who led the Reds himself between 1999 and 2001, added: "It's certainly a club that could go in the right direction.
"What they did years and years and years ago in winning European Cups is not repeatable for a small club but it is a Premier League club in everything but status."