Pompey looking to the future
Wed, 24 Apr 2013 16:16:00
Bolton skipper Kevin Davies has turned down the opportunity to join Toronto FC when his contract at the Reebok Stadium ends in the summer.
Former Blackburn defender Ryan Nelsen, who is Toronto's coach, has been keen to lure the 36-year-old striker to the MLS outfit.
Davies, who will end his 10-year stint at Bolton this season, did contemplate the switch before deciding against linking up with Nelsen.
"It has been a complete roller coaster since first speaking with Ryan Nelsen on 18th April. As it stands today I will not be leaving for Toronto FC as reported," Davies said.
"My young family and I were naturally very excited about the opportunity of going to Toronto on a short-term deal but after legal advice we felt that certain obstacles put in our way were too large to overcome.
"Whilst it has been the toughest month of my 10 year BWFC career I remain, as I always have done, 100% committed to the club.
"I will be ready if the manager needs me and hopefully have a part to play in helping the club return to The Premier League.
"I have some fantastic memories of the last 10 years and feel honoured to have been the captain of this great club for the last five years. Hopefully it will finish with a fairy tale ending."
The 22-year-old Republic of Ireland midfielder is aware that champions Manchester United are reportedly the latest to join the lengthening list of top-flight clubs who are believed to be keeping tabs on him.
McCarthy joined Latics from Hamilton four years ago and signed a new five-year contract in 2011 after developing into a key player for manager Roberto Martinez.
During his short time in the game he has become adept at focusing on the job in hand which, again this season, is the Latics' survival as Wigan sit in the relegation zone, three points behind Aston Villa albeit with a game in hand.
"I don't want to talk about speculation," said McCarthy.
"The most important thing is to keep Wigan in the Premier League and that is all I am concentrating on.
"I am happy at Wigan, it is a great club to be at.
"I am learning all the time. Roberto Martinez and the coaching staff have been different class and there are a great bunch of boys at this club.
"We are three points adrift and there are massive games coming up but I am confident enough because our recent performances have been good.
"Against Man City we were brilliant at times but perhaps we haven't had the rub of the green and maybe we have not been taking our chances. "So we have been putting in good performances but now we need points.
"We need a few results but we are looking forward to the challenge."
McCarthy believes Wigan's experience in battling at the wrong end of the table may prove crucial in the final analysis.
The Lancashire club have five games to maintain their eight-year stay in the Premier League, starting with the visit of Tottenham on Saturday.
However, the Glaswegian believes the relegation battle may well go down to the last day of the season when they take on Villa.
"It is in our own hands and if we go about our business the right way then we'll be fine," he said.
"We have the experience of being in this position before and we have a good squad who will be giving it our all.
"Hopefully we get enough points not to go into the last game against Aston Villa needing a result but if we do then so be it."
Such is McCarthy's focus on Premier League survival that he cannot yet contemplate the FA Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley next month.
"The gaffer spoke to us, saying that we need to concentrate on the league so we can't be thinking about the FA Cup final," he said.
"But everyone knows how massive it is to stay in the Premier League.
"We need to get points on the board and the FA Cup final will take care of itself."
The England defender has had another excellent season but his performances did not do enough to see him recognised by his fellow professionals in the PFA Player of the Year nominations.
None of the six selected are defenders but Howard insisted Baines' contribution was vital to the team.
"With Bainesy at left-back it's not a glamour position and I think it's hard sometimes to see just how effective he is," he said.
"He's our key cog. We've got (Marouane) Fellaini and (Steven) Pienaar and those guys, and obviously Kevin Mirallas, can produce a bit of magic.
"But without Bainesy this team doesn't go. It's just hard sometimes for people on the outside to see that."
Howard insists the squad have not felt sorry for themselves after last weekend's defeat at Sunderland effectively ended their chase for Champions League qualification.
European football is still a slim hope for David Moyes' side through fifth place in the league, although that looks increasingly more difficult as they trail Tottenham by five points having played one match more.
"We won't let one setback knock us," Howard told evertonTV ahead of this weekend's visit of Fulham, against whom they have won 12 and drawn one of their 13 meetings at Goodison Park.
"We have to perform at home, we know that, and when you are on your home pitch you have to push the tempo."
The quartet have been shortlisted for the association's Player of the Year gong having been nominated by their fellow professionals, whose votes will decide who succeeds Celtic's Charlie Mulgrew.
On-loan Wolves frontman Griffiths has scored 25 goals during his temporary Easter Road switch this season, with his double over Falkirk earlier this month helping to fire the Leith outfit to the William Hill Scottish Cup final for the second season running.
Fir Park striker Higdon, meanwhile, is the Scottish Premier League's top marksman overall with 24 top-flight strikes and 25 overall, helping propel the Steelmen up to second in the SPL standings.
And McGinn has also enjoyed a breakout season since former Pittodrie boss Craig brown converted him from winger to deadly poacher following his switch Brentford in the summer, bagging 19 goals for the Reds in the process.
Inverness playmaker Shinnie has also had a season to remember, earning himself a summer move to Birmingham with a series of influential displays for the Highlanders and a career-high tally of 15 goals so far.
In the Young Player of the Year category, Victor Wanyama is SPL champions Celtic's only award nominee.
He will face competition from Griffiths - who will hope to emulate former Hoops players Shaun Maloney and Aiden McGeady by winning both the senior and young player prize in the same year - as well as Dundee United pair Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven.
The winners will be announced and presented with their awards at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow on Sunday, May 5.
PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart commented: "This is the top award for players. There is no greater honour in football than to be voted the best player in your country by your fellow professionals."
Bale has attracted the attention of Real, Barcelona, and a host of other sides after firing in 28 goals for club and country this season.
Bigger clubs have come calling for Tottenham's top stars in recent years, with differing outcomes. Manchester United successfully prized Dimitar Berbatov away from White Hart Lane in 2008, but Spurs managed to hold on to Luka Modric - for a year at least - despite Chelsea's interest two summers ago.
Walsh, who played for Tottenham for four years, thinks chairman Daniel Levy could play hard-ball in his attempt to keep Bale just as he did with Modric, who was made to stay at White Hart Lane despite his attempt to push through a move to Chelsea.
"He has three years left on his contract so Tottenham are in a position where they can say, 'You're not going anywhere. We are going to keep you'," said Walsh, who was speaking at a Football Pools event in Frome, Somerset.
"Daniel Levy has been quite hard-nosed on a couple of other occasions in the past so I don't think Tottenham are just going to roll over.
"He didn't let Modric go that summer and that might be what they have to do with Bale."
Bale, who is odds-on favourite to be crowned PFA Player of the Year on Sunday, once again showed his worth last weekend when he helped inspire Spurs to a stunning comeback against Manchester City.
The Londoners went behind to Samir Nasri's goal, but Bale played in Clint Dempsey to equalise and then scored Tottenham's third after Jermain Defoe had put Spurs 2-1 ahead.
City were in control for most of the game but the three-goal salvo turned the contest on its head in a matter of minutes.
Still fifth in the table, Spurs cannot afford to take their foot off the accelerator in their last five games, but Walsh admits the manner of the win over last year's champions will give Andre Villas-Boas' squad a big psychological boost ahead of a tough run in.
"The players will be able to draw strength from it and belief from it," Walsh said.
"They will say, 'We won't give up because we know we can turn it around'. Because they have done it against Manchester City, it will be in the memory bank for when they need it and they will need to be strong mentality in the business end of the season.
"Fourth spot gets you into a competition and it gets you a big amount of money."
Like Bale, Jermain Defoe also returned from injury to star in the City win. Walsh thinks the striker, who missed the previous three games with a pelvis problem, should start Saturday's game away at Wigan ahead of Emmanuel Adebayor, who has drawn criticism for his performances in recent weeks.
"I think it will be Defoe who starts," he said. "Now you have a glad to be back, confident Defoe going into the Wigan game. That might be what Tottenham need."
:: Frome Town AFC won a ?50,000 grant from the Football Pools to renovate their facility in 90 Days. Play The Football Pools now at www.footballpools.com. For more information email email@example.com
The 18-year-old, who was offered a first professional contract at Boundary Park two weeks ago, was named in the starting XI by Lee Johnson with their League One status already having been secured.
And despite the defeat, the right-back was left thrilled with his outing.
"It was a great experience to play and to make my league debut," he told the club's official website.
"It is something I will never forget and I loved everything which came with it.
"I have had a taste and now want to kick on and play more games. I will be doing a lot of fitness work in the summer so I am in good shape when I report back for pre-season training.
"I knew I was in the squad but was only told I was playing when we arrived at the hotel for our pre-match meal. It was probably done to prevent me having too long to think about playing and to become nervous."
The Gunners have agreed to a guard of honour for the newly crowned Barclays Premier League champions ahead of Sunday's showdown at the Emirates Stadium - but Langton warned Robin van Persie should expect a "hot reception".
United sealed a 20th domestic championship on Monday night when they beat Aston Villa 3-0 at Old Trafford, where former Gunners' captain Van Persie smashed a hat-trick.
The title winners have traditionally been clapped out onto the pitch in their next match, with United having done so themselves in 2005 for Chelsea, who then returned the gesture two years later, and also Arsenal when they came to Highbury back in 1991.
However, with passions still running high among some of the Emirates Stadium faithful by the manner in which Van Persie left last summer in a ?24million move, there have been suggestions those disgruntled fans will turn their backs when the teams come out from the tunnel in protest.
While AISA chair Langton believes the club are right to show United respect of their achievements, she can understand why emotions will boil over as far as Van Persie is concerned.
"I think we have to give the guard of honour, as I don't want us to look as though we are being petty by not giving the guard of honour," said Langton.
"For it not to happen and for supporters not to acknowledge the Manchester United team as they come out would actually boost Robin van Persie's ego.
"I would rather us just acknowledge them and then get on with the game - otherwise the focus will be on Robin van Persie, rather than the Arsenal team, which is what we are supposed to be going there to support.
"Having said that, the reality is he will get a hot reception."
Langton added: "Football is a game of passion and emotion, and there are a large amount of supporters who feel very strongly about the circumstances in which Robin van Persie left.
"We had the seven years of him being injured with us, then he had his one injury-free good season, and at the end of that he decided to leave.
"The statement he came out with when he left, which I think he felt showed he identified with supporters, actually showed how very far removed he was from supporters.
"He completely called it wrong, he did not appreciate how Arsenal supporters felt about him and about the club.
"He alienated himself from supporters by the way in which he brought about his move, that is still felt very strongly by Arsenal supporters and is what is going to generate the response that he is going to get when he comes back on Sunday."
Van Persie has continued his fine goalscoring form this season, chalking up 28 in all competitions and is in line to collect the Premier League's Golden Boot once again.
Langton, however, feels Van Persie's rhetoric and body language have gone little way to calming any tensions.
"He has also not been terribly respectful towards Arsene Wenger, with the celebration after he scored that penalty (against Stoke), when he ran over to the touchline and embraced (Sir) Alex Ferguson," she added.
"It sends out a message that Arsene Wenger has not been the one who brought him to the stage he got to now, recognising who got him to where he is today.
"When he came to us he was a slight persona non grata in Holland, where he had difficulties at Feyenoord. It was a risk buying him, and without question Arsene Wenger has made him into the player he is today."
Arsenal - who must do without striker Olivier Giroud for three games after the Football Association on Tuesday rejected his appeal against a red card at Fulham - retain a slender one-point lead over fourth-placed Chelsea and are two ahead of north London rivals Tottenham, albeit having played a match more, as the battle for Champions League qualification looks set to go to the wire.
Langton feels the Gunners will move to improve their squad over the summer, when Wenger is said to have a ?100million warchest at his disposal.
"There is an acknowledgement by the club that something needs to be done to bridge the gap," she said, "but the hierarchy and supporters still have faith in Arsene Wenger to identify who is needed to do that, rather than it just being about that we need to buy high-profile players."
Giroud has impressed in his first Arsenal season, netting 17 goals following a ?13million summer move from French champions Montpellier.
The 26-year-old, though, took some time before he finally found the net, in a Capital One Cup tie against Coventry.
He told Arsenal Player: "It is very special for a striker to score because whether it is a big game or not, it is always the same sensation.
"You feel better after you score, you feel more relieved and you try more things, you are more confident - it is like a drug, and you are so peaceful after."
The Pompey Supporters' Trust (PST), who rescued Portsmouth from the brink of going bust last week, started by naming Guy Whittingham as their permanent manager on a one-year rolling contract on Wednesday.
New chairman Iain McInnes said the 48-year-old was "the unanimous choice of the board and the fans".
Whittingham, a south-coast legend from his time as a striker at Fratton Park, was appointed caretaker boss in November after Michael Appleton quit for Blackpool.
He took over a club in administration for the second time in three years with estimated debts of ?60million and, courtesy of another 10-point deduction, on their way to a third relegation in four seasons.
Whittingham has only been able to field youngsters, loanees and free agents on month-long contracts - Pompey have used more than 50 players this season - but, having found a settled side in recent weeks he guided them to a run of just two defeats in 10.
Pompey, who lifted the FA Cup in 2008 and were still in the Barclays Premier League just three years ago, will kick off next term in the bottom division.
They may still be sifting through the wreckage left behind by various previous owners but, at what is now the country's biggest fan-owned club, hopes are high of quickly moving back in the right direction.
"You've got to aim for promotion, of course you have," said Whittingham.
"But first and foremost the aim is not to go back to where we have been. We wouldn't wish what happened to us on any football club.
"The expectations are that teams who go down bounce back up. They can but you have to do it the right way and make sure there is an infrastructure to support this club for a long time to come.
"I'm pretty confident of keeping the players, I think all of them want to stay.
"We also have the advantage of starting the season on a level playing field - we were worried about the 10 points coming off next season - so that helps recruit players as well.
"We don't want to be down here too long. We want to rebuild this club. A lot of clubs now are winning promotion then going on and doing it the following year. We have to make sure we don't overdo ourselves, but it's an aim we have to have."
Electronics businessman McInnes, a Pompey supporter for over 50 years, vowed the club would not find itself in financial meltdown again.
"We are here because the club got in a mess, because it overspent and was mismanaged and we will make sure none of those things happen again," he said.
"We have seen what people who are not Portsmouth fans have done to the club, and we want to turn that on its head."