English League 1

Blackwell: A stark warning

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Wed, 10 Apr 2013 16:19:00

Millwall defender Alan Dunne believes a post-match dressing down from manager Kenny Jackett will fire up his side for Wembley.

Jackett was furious after a stoppage-time goal condemned his side to a 2-1 defeat by Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night.

The Lions will now head into Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Wigan with a flea in their ear, and Dunne says they will be even more determined to perform.

"It might not do us any harm getting beaten and getting a rollicking," he said.

"Sometimes you get complacent. If we had won we might have got complacent going into Saturday. Getting beaten, we had a rollicking off the manager and it will fire a few of us up for Saturday. That's important."

Millwall were leading after Jimmy Abdou's second-minute goal but Miguel Llera levelled and Chris Maguire hit Wednesday's last-gasp winner to leave Jackett's side still in the relegation picture.

Dunne added: "The manager was disappointed with the two goals. Defensively we have been solid of late but they were sloppy goals.

"We have to learn from that and move on quickly. The Championship is out of the way for a week now so we can prepare for Wembley."

The Brazilian has made 208 appearances for the Reds since joining from Gremio in July 2007.

Lucas has had his injury problems over the past couple of seasons and was out from mid-August until December with a thigh problem.

It is less than two years since the 26-year-old last signed an improved contract but the midfielder took little persuading to agree a new deal.

"It's another long-term contract that I have signed, but it was the same feeling as when I first came here," he told Liverpool's official website.

"I am really delighted to have the opportunity to play for this club.

"It's where I think I belong and where I wanted to stay, so I am very happy and looking forward to a few more years here.

"It was an easy decision because after the long period of my career I have had here I would like to give the best of my time to this club.

"It was not a difficult decision to make and I am really looking forward to what will hopefully be a few more years with a lot of success."

Managing director Ian Ayre said the new contract was just reward for the Brazilian's commitment, as well as being important for manager Brendan Rodgers' long-term planning.

"It's fantastic. He has been such a great servant to the club and I think during the period he went through with his two injuries, he put so much work into it and the club supported him through it," he said.

"He just goes from strength to strength. We said throughout last summer and January, we wanted to keep our best, experienced players, and this is another great example of that.

"The manager has said several times that as well as having a great, young squad, it's important we have experience and it's important we have characters. People like Lucas fit that.

"He'll tell you he's still very young but in footballing terms he's experienced and a big part of the team."

In the last 10 months Luis Suarez, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Brad Jones, Raheem Sterling, Suso, Jonjo Shelvey, Martin Kelly and Andre Wisdom have all signed new deals with another in the pipeline for captain Steven Gerrard.

The clubs currently sitting respectively in 17th and 15th places in the table will now meet at the Stadium of Light on Monday, May 6 (kick-off 8pm).

Stoke were originally scheduled to play on Wearside on the previous Saturday afternoon.

The Black Cats head into this Sunday's derby trip to Newcastle only clear of the relegation zone on goal difference and without a win in nine games.

The Potters, who entertain champions-elect Manchester United the same day, are just three points better off and have tasted victory once in their last 13 league outings.

The Magpies head into Thursday night's quarter-final, second leg clash with Benfica trailing 3-1 after last week's trip to Lisbon, knowing a side which has not lost in 31 games in all competitions stands between them and their dreams of a place in the last four.

Only star-studded Barca have beaten Jorge Jesus' men by two clear goals this season, winning 2-0 in the Champions League at the Estadio da Luz in October three weeks before Spartak Moscow inflicted their last defeat.

But that is exactly what Newcastle will have to do at St James' Park if they are to reach the semi-finals, and while Pardew knows that will be a tall order, he is confident they can defy the odds.

He said: "There's only one team which has beaten them by two clear goals, and that's Barcelona, so that's the size of the task, so we are under no illusions there.

"This is a Champions League team, really, and if it weren't for Celtic's fantastic performance in the group, they could have been competing tonight in the Champions League.

"That's the quality we are up against. I don't think there are going to be many better sides that have played here than Benfica.

"They have a slightly different style to a Premier League team. They have some fantastic technical players - Gaitan, Rodrigo, Cardozo and Lima.

"They have a real, real threat on the counter-attack, and the game could get away from us, it could easily get away from us, so we have got to be very much on our guard that we approach it in the right manner, give ourselves a chance and try to get us to the end of the game in a position where we can get it back.

"I would still feel confident two goals down with 10 minutes to go, the way that we are and the potential we have in the group, and the way I can affect it off the bench."

In that respect, Pardew may have a joker in his pack with the surprise return of France international Hatem Ben Arfa from injury.

The 51-year-old had effectively ruled out the 26-year-old for the remainder of the campaign with the hamstring injury he aggravated in the 0-0 draw with Anzhi Makhachkala in Moscow on March 7.

However, he has returned to training and is likely to be used as an impact substitute.

Pardew said: "Hatem Ben Arfa has made an unbelievable recovery - he will be involved tomorrow.

"I am sure if he is needed, he will be somebody who can turn the game, so I have assets that have come to me maybe just in time."

Pardew's joy at Ben Arfa's return was tempered by the loss of central defender Steven Taylor, who has joined skipper Fabricio Coloccini on the sidelines with a knee problem suffered in training earlier today, although with Sunday's derby clash with Sunderland looming, he is hopeful of a swift recovery.

The manager said: "We don't think it's too serious, but he is certainly not going to be involved tomorrow."

Newcastle have made something of a habit in recent weeks of winning games at the death with Papiss Cisse contributing late decisive strikes against Stoke, Anzhi and at the weekend, Fulham.

Cisse said: "I tell myself as long as the referee hasn't blown his whistle, the game isn't over.

"I'm an attacker, that's my job - that's what I always tell myself. I have to be ready to score at any moment, so there's always a chance until the whistle goes that I can score."

Pardew will take another winner from the Senegal international whenever it arrives, but admits he has been urging his leading scorer not to leave it so late.

He said with a smile: "I keep telling Papiss to try to score before the 92nd minute - it's becoming ridiculous.

"He's a special goalscorer and a big threat to Benfica, I thought, in the first leg, and he will be tomorrow too."

Central defender Reid, sidelined with a back problem since suffering a spasm in the recent win over Leyton Orient, returned to full training this week.

"Paul Reid has trained with us and we did a double session on Tuesday and he has done it all, so that shows a really good sign for us that he could be available this Saturday," Iron manager Brian Laws told the club's official website.

Goalkeeper Sam Slocombe, who has missed the last six games due to a torn thigh muscle, is also close to a return to action.

Laws added: "Sam is in with us now and he has trained with us in the last couple of days.

"He has done a huge amount of kicking and we were waiting to see if there had been any reaction."

Laws drafted in Norwegian goalkeeper Erik Johansen on loan from Manchester City as cover for Slocombe.

And Vennegoor of Hesselink believes even the absence of Rangers from the SPL cannot weaken Lennon's "addiction".

The Parkhead club's traditional rivals re-emerged in the Third Division at the start of the season after their descent into administration and liquidation.

Without the usual championship challenge from Ibrox, Celtic have coasted through the league campaign with the occasional bump and are 15 points clear of Motherwell with five games remaining.

Lennon's side, who also reached the last-16 of the Champions League, are likely to clinch the title when they host Inverness in the first game of the post-split fixtures, and might even have claimed the trophy before then if the Steelmen slip up at Dundee United two days earlier.

Speaking in Glasgow ahead of Celtic's Scottish Cup semi-final clash with Dundee United on Sunday, Vennegoor of Hesselink, who won two SPL titles, a Scottish Cup and a League Cup in his three years at Parkhead between 2006 and 2009, spoke about his former team-mate Lennon's desire to win, regardless of circumstances.

"If you look how he (Lennon) did in the Champions League and in the league, he is doing his job really well," the former Holland international said.

"Sometimes you have slip-ups but they are 15 points clear so that says enough.

"I know Lenny a little bit and he will want to win the cup and get the double.

"As a footballer, there is a competitiveness, you want to win.

"It is like an addiction and if you win prizes you want to do it over and over.

"I think that is in the mind of Lenny and hopefully in the minds of a lot of players."

Vennegoor of Hesselink, however, admits the SPL table looks unrecognisable this season without Rangers and with Inverness and Ross County in the top six and Hibernian, Hearts and Aberdeen in the bottom six.

"I was reading the paper this morning and normally the table has Celtic, Rangers, Hearts, Hibs and now it is the other way round," said the Dutchman who, since retiring as a player last year, has occupied himself with occasional scouting and media work.

"It is massive difference from only three or four years ago and also a bit of a shame because you want a good league with a lot of competitiveness.

"I was an analyst on the Celtic versus Inverness game in February and Inverness were pushing for second place. Celtic played their fringe players and Inverness were played off the park.

"That's not to talk badly about Inverness but it is a shame. As a footballer, you want to win it by a mile but sometimes it is also about the competitiveness, that is why fans come to the stadium.

"As a fan you always want to win but sometimes the nicest game is a last-minute winner so it is a shame that is not really there.

"The semi-final is really important because that is where they can get their satisfaction from too, getting the double and getting that on your CV.

"I played football for 18 years and I was quite lucky to win some prizes but only won two doubles in my career."

Vennegoor of Hesselink revealed his indelible Celtic links mean he has been quizzed about the demise of Rangers back in his homeland.

He said: "It is a big issue. People refer to me as a Celtic player, not a PSV or Twente player, so my time here had a big impact.

"They (people in Holland) know that Rangers went down and the Old Firm is a match that you miss.

"Everybody in Europe or maybe even the world talked about the derby and it's not there.

"I think it is painful because as a footballer you want those intensity games but it is not there and that is a shame."

Defender Diamond and goalkeeper Tomlinson were left out of the side following the 7-1 mauling at the hands of promotion-rivals Port Vale on Friday and the Brewers ended their four-match winless run with a comfortable 2-0 win to move into the top three.

And Rowett has told the pair that they still have a big role to play as the club aim to secure promotion.

"They've been brilliant for us all season, both of those players," he told the Burton Mail.

"We've conceded 10 goals in two games so it doesn't take a genius to work out that we probably needed to do something about it.

"We just felt one or two took a battering in the 7-1 defeat and were maybe short of confidence.

"But those two players are going to be crucial for us as the season goes into the last few games and they've just got to react in the right way."

Green is facing a Scottish Football Association charge after being served a notice of complaint and has being given until April 17 to respond.

Regan said: "It's very surprising and it's very frustrating when we are all trying to build a stronger and more positive game for the future.

"It's not helpful for anybody irrespective of who it is to be using the kind of remarks that were used at the weekend but we need to give Mr Green the chance to explain himself and that's what we have done.

"We saw Mr Green's comments at the weekend and our compliance officer has chosen to issue him a notice of complaint. We have written to him to ask him for his feedback and asking for the background to comments he made and until we have got that it would be wrong to speculate on what happens next."

Regan added: "The Scottish FA have a very clear policy about dealing with any racist or discriminatory behaviour and it's in our strategy Scotland United.

"It's our job to engage with black and ethnic communities to build stronger relationships for the game therefore anything that challenges that is something that we take very seriously."

The notice of complaint refers to the Disciplinary Rule 66 and Disciplinary Rule 71 which guard against comments which bring the came into disrepute and those which are not in the "best interests" of the SFA.

Speaking in an article in the Scottish Sun on Sunday, Green, a Yorkshireman, said: "I was brought up in a mining community where whether someone was black, white, Catholic, Salvation Army, Protestant, made no difference.

"When I played at Worksop Town, the other striker was 'Darkie' Johnson. Now if I say that today I could go to jail.

"You know, Imran will come into the office regularly and I'll say "How's my Paki friend?"

Following the publication of those comments, Green released a statement insisting that he "deplores" racism and sectarianism, while accusing Show Racism the Red Card - which reported him to the SFA - of a "knee-jerk reaction".

In a statement on Monday, Green said: "It is unfortunate that Show Racism the Red Card has fallen into the trap of taking something out of context and giving a knee-jerk reaction.

"In the interview, I referred to the fact we are now living in a politically correct world where words and phrases that were once used are no longer acceptable.

"My use of the word 'Paki' was when I was referring to how I sometimes warmly address my colleague and friend Imran Ahmad when we meet, something we both know is light-hearted.

"I deplore racism and sectarianism and this football club does a huge amount of work in this area to help eradicate these problems."

The Northern Irishman said American owners Fenway Sports Group had the chance to appoint the Spaniard in the summer but opted to recruit him from Swansea instead.

Benitez, whose appointment as Chelsea interim manager earlier this season prompted an unprecedented hostile backlash from Blues fans, has suggested he could take charge of his former club again.

"My idea is to keep coaching a competitive team. Why not in England?" Benitez, whose success in winning the Champions League in 2005 means he still holds a special place in most Liverpool fans' hearts, told Spanish newspaper Marca.

"I will return to Liverpool one day almost certainly, I just don't know when, my daughters and wife are still living there."

Rodgers was appointed in the summer when FSG decided to dispense with Reds icon Kenny Dalglish and look for a different way forward.

Their faith in the appointment, even after a frustratingly up and down season, has given him the necessary confidence to not be intimidated by former managers looming large in the background.

Benitez is set to leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the season but the current Reds boss does not feel threatened.

"I haven't seen the statements but I've heard plenty of people talk about it," Rodgers said.

"Rafa had a successful time here in the period he was here and I think he will join a list of probably many managers throughout the world who would love to manage a great club - especially having been here before.

"Obviously that opportunity was there in the summer if the owners wanted to go down that route as Rafa was unemployed and not working.

"But they felt it best to go in a different direction and develop the club in a different way.

"And from that the board, players, myself and the club have all become one in looking to move forward and build success for the future.

"It is understandable any manager wanting to manage the club because it is truly a world-class football club.

"It is not a hindrance to me. Before I came here I had seen comments about Rafa wanting to be manager and I've seen comments while I've been here.

"But it doesn't affect me in my work or my job. My relationship is very strong with the players, we work very closely together on improving our football.

"We are very stable in terms of our board and the manager connection and we have some of the best fans in the world.

"It is a pleasure for me to be here at a truly remarkable club that many managers would want to manage, not just Rafael Benitez."

Rodgers has also dismissed a report winger Raheem Sterling has already been ruled out of this summer's European Under-21 Championships because of a thigh injury which has been troubling him in recent weeks.

"Not at this point, no," was his response when asked whether a decision had been taken on his international involvement.

"The medics wanted to take him out for a few weeks just to see where he was at with injuries. It has been an ongoing one.

"He's a very young player so we don't want to risk any long-term injury when there's no need.

"Of course you would rather have him in the squad to develop him, but this is a part of making sure we have a duty of care for him as a young player.

"When he shows signs of fatigue and a little bit of injury, we have to look at that and treat it in the best way we think possible.

"At the moment, that's to take him out."

Next month's Merseyside derby at Anfield, which could well decide which club finishes highest as Everton currently have a three-point advantage over their near-neighbours, has been moved back to Sunday May 5, kicking-off at 1.30pm for live television.

Wilshere is expected to return for the Barclays Premier League showdown at the Emirates Stadium after spending the last six weeks recovering from an ankle injury.

The 21-year-old is Arsenal's most influential figure but Johnson, who played non-league football for four years before joining Leeds in 2008, is relishing the prospect of their midfield duel.

"You want to play against the best and Jack is a terrific player, but on the day he's just another player in front of me who I want to beat," he said.

"I won't be fazed by how good he is, I'll try my best against him and hopefully we'll get the win."

Norwich have won just one of their last 16 Premier League matches to leave them casting anxious glances at the relegation battle unfolding below them.

Rejuvenated Arsenal are unlikely to offer any respite from their slide down the table - the Canaries are only four points above relegation - but Johnson is hopeful they can repeat the heroics they produced against the Gunners in October when they triumphed 1-0 at Carrow Road.

"No one expects us to go to clubs like Arsenal and Man Utd and win, but we've beaten both of them at home already this season so who says we can't do it away from home?" he said.

"We know it will be a hard game. If we get anything out of it, it will be a bonus.

"We work hard for each other and we got into Arsenal's faces at home. We upset their rhythm.

"We know it will be tough at the Emirates because they're on a good run of form, but if we go there and play like we did at Carrow Road, why can't we get a result there?"

Norwich have six matches to secure a third successive season in the Premier League with the fixtures against Stoke and Aston Villa key to their survival hopes.

"When you lose one and then a second, the pressure starts building. We went on a good run, going 10 games unbeaten, but that's in the past now," Johnson said.

"There are six games left and we view each one as a cup final. We have to treat every match as those it's the last game of the season.

"At this stage last season we were more or less safe, so we haven't been in this position before.

"The hardest thing is staying in this league. A lot of our players have come from the lower leagues and we don't want to go back there.

"It would be a great achievement for us to spend a third season in the Premier League.

"Everyone talks about second season syndrome, so to put that behind us and stay would be great."

Sturrock was replaced by Phil Brown two weeks before the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final, but spent the day with the League Two club's supporters for the game.

He travelled to the national stadium on the supporters' coach before sharing a drink and sitting among them during the match.

Sturrock told Echo News: "Sunday was a superb experience and a day I will never forget.

"In all my years in football, it was like nothing I had ever experienced before.

"I'd just like to say a massive thank you to all of the Blues fans. I hope they all enjoyed the day as much as I did.

"It was the perfect way to bring my time with Southend to an end."

Freezing temperatures in Kazan, 500 miles east of Moscow, have forced Rubin to play the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final at the Luzhniki Stadium, where Chelsea lost the 2008 Champions League final to Manchester United.

Rubin have already beaten Atletico Madrid, last season's Europa League champions, in the competition and have the 2012 European Cup-winning Blues in their sights, even though they trail 3-1 from the first leg in London.

"We understand the situation," Berdyev said.

"At the moment Chelsea has a very good advantage, but we can say that we're going to do everything possible we can do to win this game on the pitch tomorrow."

Right-back Oleg Kuzmin hopes all of Russia will support Rubin's cause, with two goals and a clean sheet enough to seal progress due to Bebras Natcho's away goal at Stamford Bridge.

"In this competition we're representing Rubin, we're representing Russia and we're happy playing here," Kuzmin said.

"We have the chance to fight tomorrow. They won in London because we made two mistakes which cost us two goals.

"We have chances tomorrow to win. We want to fight, we want to do everything well."

All three of Rubin's home group games were played in Kazan and they won all three, including against Inter Milan.

The knockout matches have taken place in Moscow, with a 50 per cent success rate - a 1-0 defeat to Atletico, which was enough to squeeze through on aggregate, and a 2-0 win over Levante in the last round.

Rubin had hoped to play Chelsea in Kazan, but a pitch inspection ruled it would not be possible.

"We think if we had played in Kazan, at first we'd have a full stadium with fans to support us and of course we'd have more chance to beat Chelsea," Berdyev added.

"We're feeling comfortable playing here and we hope that tomorrow our fans from Kazan will come to support us.

"We hope the fans of Moscow will come together to support us tomorrow."

Chelsea finally overcame the heartache of their penalty shootout loss to Manchester United last May in Munich with an unexpected first Champions League title.

But the Blues became the first holders to exit at the group stage earlier this season and John Obi Mikel recently admitted to struggling for motivation for Thursday night football in the second-tier competition.

Asked about Mikel's comments, Berdyev insisted Rubin have no such trouble.

"I can understand the players of Chelsea," Berdyev said.

"They are the last winners of the Champions league and I can understand that the Europa League is not too significant for them.

"For us, for our players, it's a big interest, a big motivation and we have no problems for these games."

Rubin have a full squad to choose from, with the exception of midfielders Yann M'Vila and Alexei Eremenko.

Asked about Chelsea's team, Berdyev was uncertain due to the rotation utilised by Rafael Benitez in a congested fixture schedule, plus the absences of Ashley Cole and Ryan Bertrand which mean the visitors may field an unfamiliar left-back.

Berdyev said: "We know perfectly the situation. We're waiting for tomorrow."

The coach also dismissed the potential impact of the artificial pitch.

"I don't think they have a problem because they're players of top level," he said.

"I don't think we have some advantage with the artificial field."

Rovers boss Ronnie Moore said they must win all of their remaining three games in the wake of last weekend's defeat to Doncaster to stand any chance, and McGinty agrees.

"Most of the boys have been fighting for their lives all season. I have just come in and I needed to get straight into that mentality. It is a difficult ask and I think we will all give it our best," the Manchester United youngster told Wirral News.

"We can still do it. Obviously we need other teams to lose but we can bounce back against Hartlepool and keep fighting to the end.

"It is a shame we lost the points at Doncaster but all the lads are still positive. Bring on Hartlepool.

"There are nine points still up for grabs and sixth place will do us. It would be a great achievement to get there."

Ardley's side have dropped to 21st in the league table with three consecutive defeats, leaving the Dons two points from relegation.

With just three games remaining, Ardley has issued a rallying call to fans to help guide the team to safety.

He told the club's official website: "People would not be human if they did not get butterflies in their stomachs about what might happen.

"We have to turn those nerves into positivity. We need to push that negativity aside.

"I am staying positive and I believe the players are too. I will lead them and I want the fans to come on board too.

"Together, I believe we can be a potent force. The fans can help us get over the line. We can all be heroes."

While 39-year-old team-mate Ryan Giggs has recently penned a one-year deal to extend his Old Trafford career into its 23rd season, Scholes has been hampered by knee issues recently.

The former England midfielder - a year younger than Giggs - retired from the game in May 2011 but reversed his decision within six months.

However, with United on course to reclaim the title from city rivals Manchester City, former skipper Robson believes Scholes may be ready to step back from the limelight once again.

But he does hope Red Devils boss Sir Alex Ferguson can persuade him to hang around a little longer for the benefit of the club's youngsters if nothing else.

Robson - who was in Glasgow to promote a charity match between former players from United and Rangers - said: "Giggsy has got another year, but he looks as fit as he was when he was 21.

"Scholesy I'm not so sure about. He's been having a few problems with his knee. So I think he might just call it a day.

"Only he can answer whether or not he may register again in case of emergencies. But because of his attitude and the way he goes about training it is good to have him around the place."

The Shakers board issued a statement on Wednesday pleading for external investment of ?1million to secure the club's long-term future.

Blackwell admitted that although the situation is beyond the control of himself and his players, Bury are desperately close to going out of business.

He told Sky Sports News: "We've just to get on with it. There's not a lot we can do about the financials, but we've known that for the last four or five months - we just do what we can.

"But we're at that point now where I think everyone is aware, especially from the statement issued today that if no financial support comes in quickly that there will be no professional football at Gigg Lane - that is a stark, stark warning.

"It's very frustrating for everybody concerned but now it's all about people focusing on saving Bury Football Club.

"The board are realistic. They're just working as hard as they can to get the finances on an even keel. The club is a big thing in a lot of people's hearts and we've got to try and keep it going."

The former Leeds and Sheffield United boss was also quick to point out that the state of the game as a whole needs to be addressed as more and more clubs run into financial difficulties.

"The finances aren't the best but we've got to work with the club and the fans to sort this out, but we could be talking about any club," he added.

"It would help if the Premier League clubs set aside ?1million, or half a million of this new money coming through and gave it to League One and Two clubs it would go a long way to solving a lot of problems - we've got to look at the finances in football."

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