Rotherham v Fleetwood preview
Fri, 12 Apr 2013 18:03:00
Tottenham midfielder Sandro says he is on course to recover from a serious knee injury in time to be fit for next season.
Last month, Sandro returned to his native Brazil to undergo rehab with former club Internacional on the injury he sustained against QPR in January.
"I've got three months to go," said Sandro. "I've started to run, I'm developing. Sometimes I try too much and the knee swells up. I have to listen to the doctor. I have to give the injury enough time, but I dream that I am playing."
The 24-year-old says he hopes he can regain the excellent form he showed before his injury on his return so he can earn a place in Luiz Felipe Scolari's Brazil squad for the 2014 World Cup in his homeland.
"I was in the best phase of my life as a player, so it was hard when I had the injury," he said. "Hopefully I'll be back playing with my club and then I can think about the national team. When I return I will be stronger."
Sandro also hopes to be returning to a side playing in the UEFA Champions League, although that is far from certain.
With six games to go, Tottenham are fourth in the table, but Arsenal are two points behind them with a game in hand.
"We have to fight to stay in fourth place," Sandro told Globo Esporte. "Last year was complicated. We did not classify because Chelsea were the champions of Europe.
"The Champions League is a different competition (to the Europa League). Everything the fans see is what the player feels... the entrance music, the stadia, the fans... everything is amazing.
"I made first played in the competition in 2010 when we beat AC Milan at the San Siro. We beat Inter Milan, too, and we only lost in the quarter-finals to Real Madrid.
"It was a really great experience. Hopefully the club will compete in the competition again."
The Royals host Liverpool at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday and while mathematically they are capable of bridging the eight-point gap to safety, in reality they are doomed to relegation.
Gerrard is the Liverpool player Adkins admires most - not least for the superb conditioning that has enabled the 32-year-old to play every minute of every Premier League game this season.
"You need to watch Steven Gerrard live to see how quickly he picks a pass out," Adkins said.
"His vision is superb but he also has the technique to deliver a full range of passes.
"He's a talisman for Liverpool and always has been. He drives them on and is a leader, taking a grip on the match when he needs to.
"When you talk about midfielders there are different types, but he's one you'd consider being in a starting XI of any all-time Premier League team.
"The fact he's played so much football shows how professional he's been in looking after his body. It's a testament to him.
"If you want to play games, then you need to look after your body."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was sacked by Reading in 2009 after just six months in charge, but Adkins doubts there will be any special desire to demonstrate to his former employers that they made a mistake.
"Brendan doesn't have anything to prove to us. He's a fantastic manager," he said.
"He was here, was very successful at Swansea and is doing a fantastic job at Liverpool. He's a footballing man who improves his players.
"He has teams that are really exciting to watch, so I don't believe he has anything to prove to anybody."
Adkins hinted that his players have the six matches left in Reading's season to prove they should remain in his plans for next season.
"Every player knows that the transfer window opens at the end of the season and that all clubs do business, moving people around. Here will be no exception," he said.
"The players have been spot on in training and the attitude of the players tells me they want to stay at Reading."
A statement on the club's official website on Wednesday made an appeal for ?1million of external funds to prevent the club from closing.
The League One outfit then released a statement from the board of directors on Thursday afternoon revealing they had held "positive discussions" with potential investors to secure the long-term future of the club.
And a new statement on Friday afternoon read: "As we did on Thursday, we have had another series of 'positive' meetings with potential investors into the football club on Friday.
"We can also confirm that the potential investors are also genuine Bury supporters and are as committed to the long-term future of the club as the board of directors are.
"Although discussions are still at an early stage, the board of directors are feeling positive that these discussions will bear some fruit towards the long-term future of this football club."
Bury currently lie bottom of League One and will have their relegation confirmed if they lose at home to neighbours Oldham on Saturday.
The were placed under a second transfer embargo this season in February after once again approaching the Professional Footballers' Association for a short-term loan.
Cod Army midfielder McGuire was a part of the Fleetwood side that progressed through the non-league pyramid to earn a Football League debut this season and enjoyed some memorable tussles with the Crawley sides Evans led along a similar path.
The 50-year-old Scot is now in charge at the New York Stadium, with an League Two play-off place that appears to have slipped through Fleetwood's fingers in recent weeks firmly in his sights.
"Steve Evans was at Crawley and won the league when we were in our first year in the Conference," McGuire said.
"He's a big character. We used to have a bit of banter with him - he'd be shouting stuff on to us, he's always on to the referee.
"He did well with his Crawley teams - FA Cup runs, they won the Conference, they got up (to League One) last year and that was basically his team. He's done well again, Rotherham are up in the play-offs.
"It'll be a good game. We've got a good squad, they've got a good squad so it'll be a competitive game. We've just got to make sure we turn up and do well."
The Shakers posted a dramatic statement on their official website earlier this week to publicly seek ?1million of public funds to prevent the club from folding, with subsequent "positive discussions" reported on that front.
Relegation to League Two would be confirmed by defeat to neighbours Oldham on Saturday, while a second transfer embargo of the season remains in place at Gigg Lane.
As such, Blackwell has been forced to bring in players on incredibly modest terms to fight what looks set to be a futile battle against the drop.
"One of the things I've been really inspired by this year is players have come here and played for nothing to get their careers back on track," he said.
"Everybody thinks that players earn a fortune, mega-fortunes and whatever. That is not the case now in the lower leagues and the worry is, we're talking about Bury, but it could be a few other clubs (in financial trouble).
"A lot of lads have shown that their desire to play the game is greater than the money aspect of it."
Former Derby and Preston centre-back Mawene was one of the Cod Army's leading performers during the opening months of the season, but a broken foot and subsequent setbacks during rehabilitation mean he is yet to play since Alexander arrived as Micky Mellon's successor at the Highbury Stadium early in December.
"We're unsure with Youl because he comes back and trains with us for a few weeks and then just gets a little setback," said Alexander, a former team-mate of the 33-year-old at Deepdale.
"It's difficult for Youl at the minute because he's a person who does everything right, professionally, away from the pitch.
"It's just that he keeps on picking up little injuries and it's through no want of trying to be fit. He's a fantastic professional but he's just been extremely unlucky.
"We're still waiting to see if he'll be able to play a part before the end of the season."
Wotte on Thursday said he was "stunned" to hear Lennon call for a panel of coaches to be established in order to suggest improvements because Celtic youth supremo Chris McCart is on an SFA performance panel.
The Dutchman also said that "not every first-team manager knows what is going on at youth level" and said some "need to educate themselves".
Wotte was responding to comments made following Scotland's World Cup exit last month when Lennon had questioned whether the hunger was there from youth to professional level and whether there was enough discipline instilled in youth-team players in Britain's academies.
Speaking ahead of Celtic's Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United, Lennon said: "I think he got sort of set up by some members of the press, however I will take issue with a number of his comments.
"One, I wasn't talking about the SFA - I was talking about the academy system in Britain, so he needs to look at the quotes before he gets a little bit insecure and paranoid about things.
"Another point is, I don't need educating about the Scottish game. I have been here for 13 years at the top end.
"And I certainly don't need to know what's going on at my club because I know it from top to bottom.
"So maybe Mark should have picked up the phone.
"When I was talking about a panel of people, I was talking about the game in general, not the SFA. I'm well aware Chris McCart is on a panel working with Mark.
"And I take umbrage with him on the point of facilities. He was saying we get four months of rain and snow. Well, we have been having that for 200 years but 25-30 years ago we were producing (Danny) McGrain, (Kenny) Dalglish, (Gary) McAllister, (John) Collins.
"My point is why are we not producing those players now?"
Wotte had told several newspapers: "Lennon said we need a panel of coaches but we already have one. John Collins, Steven Pressley, Chris McCart, Frankie McAvoy, Kenny Shiels and three or four of my staff are there.
"He didn't even know that his own club's head of youth was on the panel. I was stunned by that.
"He also said there's too much talk about facilities and that where Victor Wanyama came from there was none. But you must remember that in Kenya the sun is always shining.
"We have four months of hail, rain and snow here so we do need better facilities and more 3G pitches.
"I'm sure he had no bad intentions but people must educate themselves about what is going on."
Only goal difference keeps Latics out of the drop zone at present, while their financially-stricken north-west neighbours will have relegation to League Two confirmed by defeat.
"You could call it anything - a derby, a cup final," said boss Johnson. "The biggest game of the season? Of course it is.
"We've got to make sure that we're on song because if you're not you can get done in those games.
"We shouldn't be down there but you can't keep saying that because we are and it's proven over 41 games that there's something wrong. We need to make sure we address it and come through it very quickly."
Johnson once again pointed to fitness issues within his newly-inherited squad as they fell away to a 2-0 defeat at Preston in midweek having enjoyed much the better of the first hour.
"There's nothing that can be done about that now," he added. "How can you improve fitness with games Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday? Probably from the games, fitness gets maybe an extra one or two per cent every game but you always run the risk of over-cooking it."
A newspaper report earlier this week claimed chief executive Charles Green had asked Ally McCoist to consider removing assistant manager Kenny McDowall and first-team coach Ian Durrant from his backroom team.
The Light Blues boss later said no discussions had taken place with the Ibrox chief over the duo.
And, having delivered the Third Division title this season, McCulloch was keen to pay tribute to the work of the three men as the rebuilding job at the club continues.
He said: "Of course they are an integral part of going forward.
"From where the club was just over a year ago to today, we are much better off and that's the main thing.
"As players, we are behind the coaching staff. We have come a long way with them. We work hard with them every day.
"We go out to win on a Saturday for them, for ourselves and for the fans. Tomorrow will be no different."
McDowall stepped in for McCoist at today's pre-match briefing ahead of tomorrow's visit of Clyde.
But he refused to be drawn on whether he had any doubts over his own role at Rangers, saying only: "I've not got any comment to make on that."
The Rangers number two was also tight-lipped when quizzed on recent headlines relating to off-field issues.
Former owner Craig Whyte has claimed he was involved in the new company that took control at Ibrox last summer - months after his actions plunged the club into administration.
Green then found himself in hot water with the Scottish Football Association for allegedly breaching rules in relation to "offensive and racist comments."
Asked if Rangers' reputation had been dented over the last couple of weeks, McDowall replied: "It's not really my position to comment on that, I'm here to comment on the football side of things.
"We're delighted we've got to this stage of the season and we're 24 points ahead. We've got a game at home tomorrow against Clyde that we are looking forward to."
McCulloch was also keen to focus on matters on the park, ahead of the meeting with the Bully Wee.
He said: "As players in the dressing room, we remind ourselves quite a lot that we've just got to concentrate on doing what we're paid to do and that's train hard every day and try to win games on a Saturday.
"I think we've more than done that this season.
"As players and management, and as a club, we've had a really good season.
"The pressure is off slightly but, at a big club like Rangers, there is always going to be pressure on you to perform.
"At times last week against Queen's Park, we played really well and passed the ball well. Hopefully we can do that tomorrow.
"It's a tough game. We got our first away win of the season against them but they've got some good players.
"Hopefully the fans turn out and we can put on a show for them."
The title may be in the bag but McCulloch has admitted Scottish football's bottom tier was tougher than anticipated.
He said: "It's definitely been harder than we thought it would be.
"Not being disrespectful to teams, but I think the expectation levels were that we were going to win 4-0, 5-0, 6-0 in every game.
"We knew that wasn't going to be the case but we thought we would have played a little bit better in some individual games.
"There are a lot of youngsters in the dressing room, in the squad.
"People will say it's the same average as teams like Dundee United but it's different playing for Rangers.
"The young boys are playing in front of 48,000 every second week and, believe me, it's much, much harder."
The Shakers made a public appeal for ?1million of external funding to secure their future earlier this week and Blackwell was quick to point to the disparity between this and the latest hike in broadcasting revenue top-flight outfits are set to benefit from as of next season.
The 54-year-old, who also worked in dire financial circumstances at Leeds and Luton, stated the country's leading teams often benefit from developing their young stars by utilising the loan system in the lower leagues and urged for them to give something back.
He said: "Next year I think every Premier League club gets a ?30million uplift and yet you look at some of the players who are starring in the Premier League and they actually started in the lower leagues by coming from a Premier League club and being loaned down.
"If you lose clubs like Bury, that's exactly what won't happen (if they fold). We've had four or five loans this year and the lads have gone straight back into the first teams at Leeds and Wolves and places like that.
"So it's important, it's very important. We're going to have to be careful because I think if football doesn't sort itself out there will be a lot of clubs like this.
"If you look at the Premier League, every club that gets that ?30million uplift next year, if they all put ?1million in a pot and split it, half-a-million each between the teams in League One and Two, it would go a long way to saving football."
Southend are not expected to have any new injury or suspension problems, but boss Phil Brown has promised to freshen his ranks.
After last Sunday's Johnstone's Paint Trophy final defeat, Brown made four changes for Wednesday's 4-2 reverse at Rochdale, a result which all but ended the club's slim play-off hopes.
Mark Phillips, Ben Reeves, Marc Laird and Barry Corr replaced Bilel Mohsni, Luke Prosser, Gavin Tomlin and Anthony Straker, with the latter two taking their places on the bench at Spotland.
Mohsni and Prosser will be hoping for recalls having been rested altogether while the likes of Michael Spillane, Freddy Eastwood and Ryan Leonard will also be aiming to come in from the cold.
Brown will continue to give youth a chance and Mitch Pinnock and Seedy Njie will be involved.
Brown said: "I have been very impressed with their attitude and their ability in training sessions and they deserve to be involved.
"I'm not bringing them in just for the sake of it. They are two young players who have got ability.
"Daniel Bentley will also be involved so that means we've got three players who are all pretty young. It's a good sign for the club."
Bristol Rovers will be without Danny Woodards.
The defender has been ruled out for up to nine months after damaging his anterior cruciate ligament in the 4-1 defeat to Bradford in midweek.
Youngster Ollie Clarke could be handed a full debut in his place after coming off the bench at Valley Parade and impressing boss John Ward.
Skipper Tom Parkes is available after completing his two-match ban, while striker Oumare Tounkara and winger Ellis Harrison are expected to return after missing the midweek defeat due to knocks.
Ward's men must win if they are to keep their slim hopes of a play-off place alive. They currently trail seventh-placed Bradford by six points - and have a much inferior goal difference - with just three games left to play.
The Millers are three points away from third placed Burton with a game in hand and are firmly entrenched in a race for the top three along with the Brewers, Cheltenham and Northampton.
And the 27-year-old expects it to go down to the wire.
"I look at the other fixtures, I look at the league table, I know the importance of games," he said. "I look around the league, obviously our games are the most important, but I will have a look.
"You can never tell what is going to happen, there is no doubt it is going down to the last or second to last game of the season."
Steve Evans' side registered their first win in three with a 4-1 thumping of Exeter on Tuesday and Morgan has called on his team-mates to deliver a promotion-winning run of form.
"We need to go on a run," he added. "We haven't been on a long run during the season and it needs to happen now really and there is no reason why it won't with the group of players we have got.
"We can win all our games and go on and get third.
"There is no better time, we haven't done it and most sides that will get promoted will do it at some point in the season."
Rotherham boss Steve Evans has a host of returning players.
Skipper Johnny Mullins returns from a one-game ban, Claude Davis has recovered from his dead leg and Mark Bradley's foot injury has cleared up.
Midfielder Lee Frecklington is also fully over the virus which has kept him laid low in recent weeks and he is now fit to start.
However, Evans is within his rights not to start with any of them after Tuesday's 4-1 win over promotion rivals Exeter at New York, though that is unlikely.
Mullins is almost certain to return at right-back, with Davis set to come in at centre-back, allowing Kari Arnason to move up to midfield. That could mean David Noble missing out.
Daniel Kearns (Achilles) remains a doubt with the injury picked up last week and he will be assessed ahead of kick-off, but is unlikely to be fit.
The Millers will be eyeing victory to keep pace with the pack chasing the third automatic promotion spot, which includes Burton, Northampton and Cheltenham.
Gareth Evans is expected to be fit to face former club Rotherham when Fleetwood travel to the New York Stadium.
Evans had his contract with the Millers cancelled mutually around the turn of the year before joining Town, where he has clocked up 11 League Two starts to date.
The last of those came during last weekend's humbling 3-0 loss to Rochdale at the Highbury Stadium last weekend, where the 24-year-old hobbled out of the action early in the second half.
Manager Graham Alexander said: "Gaz Evans came off with a knock and there's a couple of little bumps and bruises but nothing major that will keep anyone out of contention."
To compound the misery that defeat, centre-back Nathan Pond received a straight red card during the closing stages and will be suspended for the final three games of the season.