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Holden: Walsall must fight

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Tue, 11 Dec 2012 11:59:00

Hamburg coach Thorsten Fink is once again thinking about European football after last Friday's 2-0 win over Hoffenheim took the club into top-six contention with one game to go before the midway stage of the season.

Fink took over at Hamburg little over a year ago when they were struggling at the bottom of the table.

An immediate response to the change in coach saw the club surge up the table before Christmas and Fink, who had been keeping the expectations low,

started to dream of European football back then.

What followed was the worst second half of a season in the club's history, resulting in their worst ever final league position, yet Fink is tempting fate again by starting to dream once more.

"We have a shot at Europe," he said. "If other teams slip, then we have a chance."

Only one point separates Hamburg from fifth-place Schalke, but 12th-place Werder Bremen are still only three points behind them.

Therefore, Fink is not making his desire of playing in Europe an obsession, not least after seeing last season how quickly things can change.

"We are not making Europe out to be our goal," said Fink to the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper after his side picked up seven points in their past three games.

"Why should we? Our aim was a comfortable mid-table position and we should stick to that."

The move is part of a response by football's authorities to the Government's call for tougher action to tackle discrimination.

Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor said that the proposals included all players and managers having lessons on cultural awareness, including those newly arrived from abroad.

It follows two high-profile incidents of racist abuse last season.

Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches for racially abusing Patrice Evra. The Liverpool striker admitted calling the Manchester United defender 'negrito' but claimed that was acceptable in his native Uruguay.

Chelsea's John Terry was banned for four matches for racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand.

Taylor said: "Up until now we have had cultural awareness courses for our apprentices and the plan now is to extend these to senior players and coaches, including those coming from overseas.

"We want to make sure there there is no misunderstanding with regards to the rules and regulations on discrimination."

Taylor said the PFA were also in favour of contracts for players and managers having clauses warning that discriminatory language and behaviour was considered "serious gross misconduct".

The document containing the proposals is part of a joint response to the Government from the FA, the PFA, the Premier League and Football League, but still needs to be signed off by the FA board.

It comes on the day that Kick It Out chairman Lord Herman Ouseley accused the football authorities, Chelsea and Liverpool of a failure of "morality and leadership" over their handling of the incidents involving Terry and Suarez.

Lord Ouseley said Chelsea and Liverpool protected their players because they were "assets", even when they were alleged, and then proven, to have racially abused opponents.

"There is very little morality in football among the top clubs," Ouseley told The Guardian.

"Leadership is so important; you have to send a powerful message that racism is completely unacceptable. But there is a moral vacuum.

"The big clubs look after their players as assets. There was no bold attitude from them, to say that they would not put up with it."

Ouseley believes football's authorities should have made strong statements of disapproval after Suarez and Terry were found guilty, but added: "The condemnations have been mealy-mouthed.

"We want all players and fans to feel confident about reporting abuse. But the FA did not say anything about the lies and distortions which came out in John Terry's and Ashley Cole's evidence. Instead the players are protected.

"The Premier League could have set the tone; they and the FA do a good job in community work. But on this, I have not heard anything from the Premier League."

Ouseley also criticised Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and then Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas for supporting their players while their cases were being played out.

"We were observing the process but the managers were speaking out and sticking up for Luis Suarez and John Terry," Ouseley added.

"The FA should have asserted themselves, said they would not up with people disrespecting the process, but the FA were very slack and weak."

The Saddlers fell to their heaviest defeat of the season as they lost 5-1 at Coventry on Saturday, with their last success coming way back in late September.

The midlands side have slipped from sixth place in League One to 19th during that time, and veteran defender Holden is demanding they stop the rot now.

"It was a bad day all round," he told the club's official website, referring to the Ricoh Arena reverse. "We know that we've not performed as a group and we have to look at ourselves and work hard to pick ourselves up.

"The only thing we can do is come out fighting. We have to get our boots on, come out for the next game with a smile on our faces and put things right.

"The belief is still there. We showed what a good side we can be early on at Coventry but we lost our shape as the first half went on and gave ourselves a mountain to climb for the second half.

"We have a big job on our hands but we are determined to get back on track and start climbing up the table.

"There are two big home games ahead of us now and a chance to start putting things right and getting some points on the board. We will be ready for these games and determined to turn things around as a team."

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