English League 2

Sturrock wants play-off push

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Fri, 22 Feb 2013 16:36:00

Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino hopes to persuade winger Jason Puncheon to sign a new contract.

The 26-year-old arrived at St Mary's from Plymouth having played for no less than seven clubs and he failed to immediately settle, leading to further loan spells with Millwall, Blackpool and QPR.

Despite criticising club chairman Nicola Cortese on his return to Saints in January 2012, Puncheon gradually became a first-team regular and has impressed in the Premier League this season.

With Puncheon's contract up in the summer, Pochettino said through an interpreter: "I myself haven't spoken anything about his contract.

"I've only recently arrived so my first priority has to be the whole of the team, not just one player. There are certain movements that were already happening with players when I arrived.

"In the coming weeks we will be speaking at a club level with the appropriate people to decide on the matters of players at the club.

"Puncheon is a player I am counting on and he is a player that has certain qualities and skills that are good for the team so, yes, I'd like him to stay."

He added: "I always think that in football it is not just one person signing any players. It is the club signing the players.

"Now I am the manager here and I will probably bring in some players.

"Some players will work out so maybe sometime in the future I may be thanked, but then there will be players that didn't work out. That is how football really is."

One of the clubs linked with a move for Puncheon is Newcastle, who host Southampton on Sunday, and Pochettino added: "It will be down to the player to make that decision. I've said before that we will make decisions on the future."

City had hoped to build on last season's Premier League title success by bringing in Robin van Persie from Arsenal, but lost out to rivals Manchester United.

The champions were also linked with other big names such as Javi Martinez, Eden Hazard and Daniele di Rossi but instead brought in Jack Rodwell, Matija Nastasic, Maicon, Scott Sinclair and Javi Garcia to mixed success.

With City now trailing United by 12 points at the top of table with 12 games remaining, their hopes of retaining the title are fading and it could be argued what happened last summer cost them.

Mancini told The Guardian: "It's important to realise we have made some mistakes.

"I have made some mistakes and the players have made some mistakes.

"But the first reason is because we didn't do what we should have done in the summer transfer market - we worked really badly in the market."

Mancini's words could be interpreted as criticism of Brian Marwood, the club's former sporting director who has since switched to a role in charge of the Academy.

Mancini expects better recruitment this summer following the arrival of former Barcelona figureheads Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain as chief executive and director of football respectively.

He said: "Ferran came from Barcelona and understands what it needs to be a top club. Txiki played football and knows football.

"They are good men. For this reason, I am optimistic about our future. We now have people who know their football."

Strikers Edinson Cavani and Radamel Falcao of Napoli and Atletico Madrid respectively could be among City's targets this summer and Mancini admires them both.

He said: "Cavani and Falcao would work in England. They have experience. Both players are 26, 27. They are good enough to play in England."

Sinclair is also yet to make his mark at the club having made just two league starts but Mancini concedes his had not given him enough opportunities.

He said: "I haven't given him a chance. It's not his fault. He's working well every day and he hasn't caused any problems. I'm very sorry."

The Shakers, who had a month-long sanction placed on them in December, will be unable to bring in any new players after they obtained a short-term loan from the Professional Footballers Association to help meet the club's costs.

Commercial director David Manchester told the Bury Times: "I can confirm at the moment we are in a transfer embargo. We have received a temporary loan again from the PFA to see us through the next three months with our ongoing expenses.

"Like many businesses at the moment we have a temporary cashflow problem which we need help with in the short term."

The Buddies are set to play Hearts in the Hampden final on March 17 but Lennon is concentrating for the moment solely on a top-six finish in the SPL.

A 1-0 home defeat to Hibernian last week kept Saints second bottom of the table, 15 points ahead of Dundee, who parted company with manager Barry Smith on Wednesday.

The Paisley boss is looking for improvement when he takes his side to St Johnstone on Saturday.

"We have good quality and I certainly believe we failed to show those qualities last week," said Lennon.

"If any of our players have a notion that they can dwindle by until the final - which I don't think is the case - then we certainly won't be at our best on cup final day. We are at our best when we are at it week-in, week-out.

"We have cup final places to play for but the standard of football last week was certainly not our best and not acceptable for important games coming up.

"The players know that and will look to rectify it on Saturday.

"We have a very important game on March 17 but where our bread and butter is and where primarily you are judged upon, is our league position.

"Generally the level of performances since November have been excellent. We have bad days but to get nine or 10 players under-performing is very unusual.

"But after a poor performance, we have always seemed to come back with a positive performance or a result and that is certainly our aim.

"We have a chance of breaking into the top six in the next seven games and we are looking, like many teams, to put a good run together.

"St Johnstone struggled early in the season but managed to go on a fantastic run of five straight wins and have stayed in the top half of the table since.

"If we managed to put that run like that together that would guarantee a top-six finish."

Lennon believes Dundee have gambled in changing their manager in a bid to pull themselves out of the relegation zone but the former Cowdenbeath boss is looking up the table, rather than behind him.

He said: "From their board's point of view, maybe it is the last roll of the dice.

"Maybe they will get someone to come in to give them a little bit of a lift.

"But we can't concentrate on or have any influence over what happens at any other football club.

"We can only make sure that we can control our own future and our own destiny and we sit at this moment in time two or three points better off than we were last season so it shows how competitive the league campaign is."

The Shrimpers' chief was ecstatic with his side's display in their dramatic tie with Leyton Orient on Wednesday, and he has called on his side to improve their league form and book another trip to Wembley.

"I can't wait to go to Wembley for the first time, I'm as excited as the players but now we must focus," he told the club's official website.

"We need to get promotion to League 1 this season and we're a little off the pace at the moment.

"It's important we turn that round, we can use the success of Wednesday as a tonic for picking up our form in the league."

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