Premier League

Clarke: Albion not on the beach

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Thu, 18 Apr 2013 17:15:00

Sheffield Wednesday are looking to fend off interest from a host of clubs who are keen on starlet Ayo Obileye.

The 18-year-old midfielder began his career with Chelsea, but he left the Premier League club when he was 16.

Wednesday moved quickly to snap him up and he has now progressed through the youth ranks at Hillsborough and he has already made his senior debut for the club.

However, Obileye's current youth deal expires this summer and as yet he is yet to sign a professional deal.

Wednesday are looking to tie him down to a long-term deal - but Sky Sports understand there is big interest from a number of Premier League clubs.

Arsenal, Tottenham, Southampton, Queens Park Rangers, Stoke, Aston Villa and Swansea are amongst the clubs believed to be monitoring Obileye's situation.

The three players' current deals expire on June 30 but the club have triggered 12-month options to keep them on board for next season.

Manager Simon Grayson told North End's official website: "I am delighted we have extended the contracts of Bailey, Will and Jeffrey and I am sure they are delighted as well.

"They have all contributed to the football club over the season. Bailey has been outstanding since we arrived - he and Paul Huntington have formed a really strong relationship and contributed to very few goals conceded.

"Will has been a revelation with his performances and the goals he has scored from the wide areas and Jeffrey has affected the games over the last few weeks.

"They are all young, hungry players, looking to improve and we will give them that guidance and work with them to make them good players."

The centre-half was sent off following an off-the-ball clash with Blades forward Dave Kitson during Tuesday's dramatic 2-2 draw in which team-mate Clayton Donaldson and United's Harry Maguire also saw red.

Bees manager Uwe Rosler was confident the appeal would be successful, saying: "I have seen the DVD. Tony was fouled. Kitson wrestled him down. Tony had his arm up but there was no movement.

"We will definitely appeal and I think we have a good chance, after seeing the footage, that justice will be done."

But the Football Association rejected the appeal and Craig will now be suspended for Brentford's final two matches and the play-off first leg if they are involved.

The Leyton Orient chairman wants his League One club to groundshare with the Hammers, who were confirmed as the stadium's tenants last month.

Hearn revealed Orient would not be moving away from Leyton as a result of West Ham's move onto their doorstep in 2016 - the Olympic Park is about half a mile from their Brisbane Road ground - and instead vowed to "fight from our own back garden".

He made his latest move by offering 1,500 free season tickets to youngsters and students to boost the club's fanbase.

"We are not going to be bullied by the big boys," he said.

"We have enough resources and enough friends on our side to take this fight well into the next decade, if necessary.

"We want a groundshare at the Olympic Park and we think we have an unanswerable case for that being the real legacy of the Olympics."

The 44-year-old announced his arrival in style on Sunday when, in just his second game at the helm, he guided the Black Cats to a 3-0 victory over Newcastle at St James' Park, their first on Tyneside for 13 years.

Fans have been buzzing ever since, and Di Canio, as is so often the case for the central figures in Tyne-Wear triumphs, has been elevated to the red and white pantheon.

However, the Italian is adamant that one victory, or even saving the club from relegation to the Championship, should not afford him that status.

He said: "I don't want to be a hero now. I don't want to be a hero when we stay up, I don't want to be a hero next year.

"It's easy for the fans to call the players, the manager, heroes if they do the right things and an incredible job.

"Maybe one day of we win something, they can call me hero, but it's not the time now, even if we stay up. It's not the time for a single game.

"I understand what it means - I used to do the same as a Lazio fan. We won the derby, [Bruno] Giordano was a striker who scored an incredible goal and he was my hero.

"I know, but it's not enough for me, not even if we stay up. If we stay up, it would be a fantastic step to build a good future.

"One day, in 10 years' time if I became the best manager in this club's history, they can call me hero, otherwise it's not enough, one game, two games, 10 games, 20 games.

"In 10 years' time, they will decide if I can be called hero, even if I don't like anyway this adjective, 'hero'.

"But when I deliver a special, special thing, maybe they can call me hero."

Di Canio's laudable pragmatism reflects the position in which he inherited Sunderland from predecessor Martin O'Neill.

They remained outside the Premier League relegation zone only on goal difference and had not won in nine games as they headed for St James', and the three points with which they returned, priceless as they were, may count for little if they lose to Everton at the Stadium of Light.

That is something they have done 12 times in their last 16 league meetings.

Di Canio said: "I have to be honest, obviously the day after Newcastle, I saw a very good mood. It was fantastic for the players.

"But I was more happy two days later when we started again with a training session together because, to be honest, I saw them really focused and really concentrated on the next match.

"I was worried the day before I met them because I was thinking, 'I don't know them, I haven't known them for many years, so I don't know how they will react'.

"That can be a poison instead of an extra lift, but to be honest, the way they have done things in the last few days has made me very happy because I have seen them really focussed for the next match."

Lennon was found guilty of misconduct during the SPL game against St Mirren on March 31, the Scottish Football Association has confirmed.

A Disciplinary Tribunal found the Northern Irishman had breached part of Disciplinary Rule 203 in his use of offensive language against Saints skipper Jim Goodwin although no sanction was imposed.

However, Lennon had a three-match suspension hanging over him from last season which will now be served, although the former Celtic skipper has five working days to launch an appeal.

If Lennon does not appeal before the weekend he will be in the stand for Celtic's SPL home game against Inverness on Sunday where the Hoops can clinch the title.

The Parkhead boss was suspended for three matches in May 2012, having been found guilty of breaching three rules after rushing on to the pitch at full-time following the Hoops' Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Hearts at Hampden to confront referee Euan Norris.

Lennon also received an additional suspended three-match ban which was to come into effect if any act of misconduct was committed by him before the end of this season.

The 25-year-old former Charlton goalkeeper has been a key part of the Fir Park side since moving north of the border on a free transfer in 2010.

However, his three-year deal expires at the end of the season and McCall is bracing himself for the Irishman's departure.

Ahead of the SPL clash with Dundee United at Tannadice, the Steelmen's boss said: "I would be absolutely delighted if we managed to keep Darren but I think it is a slim possibility.

"There is a strong possibility that Darren Randolph will move on.

"Darren has been outstanding for us and if I was managing in the Championship now I would go for him straight away - and that's not me trying to off-load him.

"I have been surprised that we have not had offers for him over the 18 months.

"He is not only an outstanding goalkeeper, he is a really good guy, he is composed, he gets about his job, never lets us down - you would think I am his agent but I am not.

"But I would be extremely surprised if he didn't have very good options."

Asked about the report claiming Motherwell were looking at St Mirren keeper Craig Samson as a replacement, McCall said: "We will be looking for someone to vie with Lee Hollis.

"So it is certainly an area we will need to look to get competition in.

"I don't know where this Samson thing came from.

"He is a good goalkeeper but I have had no contact with anyone regarding him."

When it was suggested to Randolph that he would definitely be leaving the club at the end of the season, the keeper said: "Am I? We have another five games left and I am the same as the other players out of contract."

Randolph admitted that regular football - as well as which of his out-of-contract team-mates would be leaving - is likely to influence any decision he makes.

He said: "Wherever it, is I want to play. That's why everyone is in football, to play.

"So wherever I can do that I will be there.

"If we could keep the core of the team then I suppose it will make it easier to decide I suppose."

McCall insists United will not be too affected by their 4-3 extra-time William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Celtic at Hampden Park last week.

He said: "I think they will be good. They were terrific (against Celtic) and they on their day they are as good as anything in this league.

"But I'm sure they will be looking at our forwards, James McFadden, Chris Humphrey, Henrik Ojamaa, Michael Higdon and players like Nicky Law and Keith Lasley, so it has the makings of an open game."

The 48-year-old replaced Brian McDermott at the Madejski Stadium in March with the club marooned in the bottom three of the Premier League, and their situation remains bleak heading into Saturday's clash at Norwich.

Adkins, who saw his side earn a battling 0-0 draw at home to Liverpool last weekend, is pleased with the effort the squad have put in since his arrival - even though they are currently at the foot of the table and 10 points from safety.

"It's a very short space of time to implement our ideas, we're still on page one," he said.

"There is a smile on the players' faces and a determination - they're putting the effort in too. Confidence can be affecting in different ways when you're at the wrong end of the table.

"What we have to do is keep looking positively forward, the implementation of playing in a different way to maybe what they have been accustomed to doing.

"The players are taking it all on board and working hard. In any game a player needs to be at their fittest and technical they have to be good.

"How far have Reading come? It's so hard to establish at this moment in time. We have a lot to do and the way we are approaching it is one game at a time.

"We've had a very good progression in the three games and the lads are working hard. If we can get a momentum about ourselves then we have to keep doing that."

Former Southampton manager Adkins is hoping the progression he has witnessed since his appointment can continue against Norwich, themselves struggling for form in the run-in.

"I think what we have to do is concentrate on ourselves, one game at a time," he added.

"It will be nervy towards the end, but the Norwich game is the important one now. If we keep building then I would like to think we will have the opportunity to win that game.

"We have got a lot to do, we are well aware of that and we will not hide away from that fact.

"We have just got to keep building on the things that we have been doing and see if we can get some momentum.

"We got a good point on the board and a clean sheet in our previous game and we just have to try and build on what has been happening."

Royals goalkeeper Adam Federici, who could return to the squad in time for the trip to Carrow Road, has said the players are looking forward to changing their game but agreed with Adkins that new plans cannot be brought in overnight.

"Every manager has their own philosophy - the manager wants to pass the ball and we're looking forward to adapting to it," he told the club's official website.

"These things take time, we are looking forward to challenge of changing the way we play and moving forward as a club. We'll continue to work hard every day and I'm sure we will move forward.

"It's good to be settled, we know what we're doing. The work's been great, everyone's been enjoying it, we've got structure to team and we're all looking forward to the next game."

Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Morgan Schneiderlin, Jason Puncheon and Kelvin Davis have all committed their long-term future to Saints in recent months.

Boruc has now followed suit, and it is believed that highly-rated left-back Luke Shaw is also set to pen a five-year deal on his 18th birthday in July.

Boruc's deal was due to expire in the summer but he ended mounting speculation over his future by penning a two-year extension.

"I am very happy and to be honest I am quite proud that I am part of the great ambitions of this club," the Poland international said.

"I am looking forward to the next couple of months and couple of years hopefully. I am really pleased I am here.

"I enjoy playing in the Premier League and as a club I believe we can achieve a lot, to be honest. I am looking forward to it."

Saints look all but certain to be plying their trade in the Premier League again next season and have spoken of their big ambitions for the future - something Boruc is confident they can achieve.

"I don't think [Champions League is too big an ask]," the former Celtic goalkeeper added.

"We're playing Swansea this weekend and they show playing totally different football that you can achieve a lot.

"I think we are heading to this with our new manager. We are showing a lot of good work and I think the results we are getting are very good as well so, yeah, why not?

"You need to ambitious in your life to achieve your ambitions.

"You never know what is going to happen - it is a funny story with football.

"Everybody has great ambitions and you need to work hard to be in that position. I do believe that we can achieve it."

Few could have predicted the clamour for Boruc to stay after what was a difficult start to life on the south coast.

In only his second game for the club, Boruc was subject of an internal investigation into allegations he swore at home fans and threw a water bottle at them.

He was dropped from the side after that match with Tottenham and only returned to the starting line-up on New Year's Day, although has since established himself as number one.

"It was a bit of a roller coaster," Boruc said.

"I am glad it ended this way.

"That was the past and I will do everything to make the club better.

"Obviously we are going to try to win every single game and I can assure you I will give 100 per cent like always."

Boruc has started every match since Mauricio Pochettino replaced Nigel Adkins as Saints manager in January, becoming an integral part of the team.

"I am very happy and he deserves it," the Argentinian said.

"In the three months he has been here, he has been crucial for us.

"It is especially important for a goalkeeper to face the last games of the season with the confidence of the club, knowing he will be here for two more years. It suits his competitiveness."

The 19-year-old has started two of the last three matches, both away from home, and earned plaudits for his performances.

Loan spells at Championship clubs Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds have helped the academy graduate gain more pitch time this season but Baines has no doubts the youngster's future lies with the Toffees.

"He has an abundance of talent but the manager is trying to pick the moments when to play him," said the England left-back.

"Nothing fazes him. He is such a good player and does not get fazed by any occasion.

"That is why he has started a couple of big games away from home and that underlines that he is starting to get the trust.

"He has been around the first team for a long time. He has a hell of a lot of ability and is young. He will be a top player for the club."

A draw at Arsenal in midweek has not done irreparable damage to Everton's hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League, although they dropped another point to four adrift of the pace after Chelsea's victory.

They head to Sunderland on Saturday for a match Baines knows they have to win if they are to stand any chance of remaining in the hunt by the time they head to fellow Champions League chasers Chelsea on the final day of the season.

"That is quite a few games away so it is hard to talk too much about it," he said.

"What we are taking about is keeping in touching distance. We need to keep winning and keep ourselves in the mix."

Baines is wary of the effect new manager Paolo Di Canio, and the derby win over Newcastle, has had on the Black Cats.

"It looks like he has given them a lift - they got a great result on the weekend," he added.

"It will be a tough game. They are not out of trouble. I have been down there myself you want to be safe with games to go, ease yourself of the pressure.

"They will match us for work-rate. We have to keep winning as well."

Despite losing their last two matches, the Baggies remain in eighth spot, a legacy of an impressive first-half of the season that had fans optimistically talking about a European challenge.

Though they were unable to maintain that form, West Brom were never bothered about what was going on at the bottom of the league, where half a dozen clubs remain concerned about accompanying relegation certainties Reading and QPR into the Championship.

In a highly competitive league, that alone remains a feat to be acknowledged.

And Clarke knows there are plenty of others who with they could say the same, including Saturday's visitors to The Hawthorns, Newcastle.

"There are a lot of teams below us who would like to be sitting where we are just now, with the confidence and security of knowing they were in the league next year," said the Scot.

"The work we did in the first-half of the season is paying dividends now.

"I said in the first-half of the season that you have to balance the season as a whole.

"It doesn't matter when your good spell is, you will always have one. We had a prolonged good spell and we are getting the benefits now.

"It is important we don't let the season just drift away."

Although top flight clubs have an incentive to compete right to the end of the season given they all receive ?755,000 per place, Clarke has other targets in mind.

Matching last season's points total for a start, which would in turn bring the half century into view. In addition there is a record for home wins in a season, which could be achieved against Newcastle on Saturday.

"It has been a reasonably good season for us," he said.

"We don't want it to just fizzle out. We don't want the last six games to drift.

"We have to give ourselves a target. One win would give us a record number of home wins in the Premier League. We would also reach 47 points, which was last year's total. It would bring us closer to 50 points.

"But I don't want to settle for 50. We have six games left. There are 18 points up or grabs. We have to get as many as we can and finish with as many points as we can."

Against the backdrop of pessimistic pre-season predictions, Clarke's first season as a manager in his own right has been an impressive effort.

Yet, with speculation intensifying around Jose Mourinho's potential return to Chelsea, there is a school of thought suggesting Clarke could be lured back to Stamford Bridge, where he spent three years as the charismatic Portuguese's assistant from 2004.

It was not a subject Clarke was interested in talking about today though.

"I have no idea what Chelsea are going to do in the summer," Clarke said.

"They have an interim manager in place just now and I am sure they will be focussed on finishing the season well.

"What they do after that is down to them."

Clarke confirmed striker Peter Odemwingie would miss the Newcastle game with a knee injury, whilst 16-year-old Izzy Brown, who was on the bench for a home defeat to Arsenal a fortnight ago, is struggling with a groin strain.

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