English League 1

Flynn straight back to work

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Sun, 28 Apr 2013 11:22:00

Werder Bremen's director of sport Thomas Eichin has reaffirmed his backing for under-fire coach Thomas Schaaf.

Eichin's backing comes in spite of a winless run which now stretches back to early February.

Sunday's 1-0 defeat at Bayer Leverkusen was Bremen's 10th game in a row without a win and it left them just two points clear of the Bundesliga relegation zone with three matches of the season remaining.

Next weekend, they host 17th-placed Hoffenheim in a pivotal relegation battle with the pressure mounting on Schaaf, whose near 14-year reign is on the brink of collapse.

However, he continues to enjoy the backing of the people who have to make that decision with Eichin insisting no change will be forthcoming.

"None of us had spoken about this being a final game," he said. "We made it clear before the game that we will be continuing with Thomas Schaaf.

"There is nothing else for us at the moment. We all want to get out of there together, and I am sure we can do it better with him than without him."

Eichin, who has yet to taste victory since being appointed as the club's new director of sport earlier this year, has called for unity in the club's unlikely and unexpected battle against relegation.

"We've all got to stick together and focus on how we go into our next game," he told Sky television.

"We've got to work well this week and prepare ourselves to be courageous and passionate in our next match."

That is no small task either considering the morale levels at the northern club who will now go a third season without qualifying for Europe.

The suspension of Marko Arnautovic and Eljero Elia, who were both stopped by police in the early hours of Friday morning, contradicts the sense of unity Eichin is pleading for, however.

"I am lost for words," said Clemens Fritz. "We all know what is at stake and we had been working intensively hard during the week, and then two days before a game this happens. That's not on."

But Laudrup remains mystified as to how the man he views as the best signing in years failed to get on the shortlist.

The Tottenham winger is joined on the shortlist by Manchester United's Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick, Chelsea's Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, plus controversial Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.

But Bale is the favourite to scoop the main prize in London after a stunning campaign which has seen him rack up 24 goals and put Andre Villas-Boas' side in contention for Champions League qualification.

Swansea manager Laudrup, who was no stranger to individual accolades during his illustrious playing career, believes the Wales international would be the most worthy recipient.

"It's not easy to pick the player of the year," he said. "Do you pick someone who has won something? Or do you take one who is so important for their team?

"If you want to take one from the champions, it would Van Persie - he's the top scorer.

"But then Bale and Suarez have maybe been more important to their teams and where Liverpool and Tottenham are right now.

"It's difficult. Liverpool are not going to qualify for Europe, so I would go for Bale.

"It is true Spurs have not won anything, but I think he's a fantastic player who has had a fantastic season."

A few eyebrows were raised when Michu's name was not included on the shortlist for the PFA prize.

The Spaniard has scored 21 goals during a stunning first season with Swansea, helping them to win the Capital One Cup and spend the majority of the season in the top 10 in the Premier League.

Laudrup refused to openly criticise Michu's omission, but praised the impact of the man he signed for a bargain fee of just over ?2million last summer.

"It's true every manager wants their player nominated but basically it's all from big clubs and that's very often what you see," he said.

"I don't know what's right or wrong, but I think we can all agree Michu has been outstanding this season - much more so than anybody expected and he has won a trophy too.

"He has not been nominated but I think we all recognise how important he is for our team, and everybody in football now recognises that maybe he has been the best buy for many, many years. There is so much quality there with him."

But Laudrup was critical of the timing of the awards, believing they should not be decided until the conclusion of the season.

"We don't know what can happen with five games to go," he said.

"What happens if Tottenham lose a couple of games and finish fifth?

"You can't give awards away when things are not finished because things can change in two weeks in football.

"All we know is Manchester United are champions and Swansea won the League Cup.

"You can't ask someone pick the best player or manager when there are still things to be sorted.

"There are still so many ifs and buts. Who is going to win the FA Cup? Who will qualify for the Champions League? Will Chelsea win anything?

"Bale has had a huge impact on the season but for me it would be a world of difference if Spurs don't make the Champions League."

With the score at 0-0, the Bees were awarded a 95th-minute penalty that would have denied Rovers automatic promotion but the hosts contrived to miss the spot-kick before Rovers raced up the other end to score on the break.

And with Bournemouth only drawing at Tranmere, Flynn's men went from the prospect of having to face a play-off campaign to champions in the blink of an eye.

After claiming such a remarkable triumph, Flynn could have been forgiven for celebrating in style but the Welshman insists he had no trouble getting back to work this morning.

He told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme: "I enjoyed my night last night, obviously, but back to work this morning that's for certain."

While the manager may have had a reserved celebration, his players are sure to have made the most of their moment, and Flynn was delighted for his troops after many of them were part of the side that was relegated from the Championship last season.

"The lads have earned it and deserved it for the season they've had and what they've put in," he went on.

"Last year was a disaster, any relegation is a disaster but in many ways it was a difficult period for the club but to bounce back so quickly and do so well, it was even more enjoyable."

He added: "It was a difficult season for them last year. They tried a few things and it didn't come off.

"The fans were superb in terms of the support they have given the club when things aren't going well and things weren't going well last year and to give them something back like this, it means so much.

"The squad are so proud to play for the club which means a lot to them and a lot to the fans."

James Coppinger was the man who grabbed the vital goal after breaking forward with team-mate Billy Paynter and Flynn joked that divine intervention may have played a part in the late winner.

"Right in front of me in the dugout hunched on his knees was Billy Paynter who's come over, and I said him 'what are you doing here?' and he said 'I'm praying'.

"And the clearance actually went straight to his foot and he was through on goal and we were two-on-one with the goalkeeper.

"It was an amazing scene to be fair."

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