Premier League

Mancini: City owners back me

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Sat, 16 Feb 2013 07:56:00

Kal Naismith has become the latest player to commit his future to Rangers.

The striker is now tied to the Third Division club until 2015 after signing a two-year contract.

And Naismith's decision to sign on comes days after Fraser Aird and Chris Hegarty did likewise.

Naismith told the club website: "It's brilliant to be staying on at the club, and staying for two years is great as the gaffer is showing a bit of faith in me.

"Hopefully in that time I can get a chance in the team, take it and kick on, becoming a first-team member.

"I feel that I know what I want now and I know what I need to achieve to make it as a footballer.

"I'm ready to try to do that. I'm trying to be more professional about things so I'm training hard and trying to get in the team."

Football was left to once again examine its last great taboo as Rogers, capped 18 times by the United States and a 2008 Olympian, wrote on his blog that he had been afraid of revealing his sexuality - and he now wants to live a new life outside of the game.

"Secrets can cause so much internal damage," he wrote. "People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay.

"Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently."

He added: "Now is my time to step away. It's time to discover myself away from football."

Rogers left Elland Road last month by mutual consent after returning from a loan spell with Stevenage, but his old team-mates quickly took to Twitter to send their support.

"Full respect to @robbierogers and good luck in the next chapter of your life whatever you choose to do," wrote full-back Adam Drury

Striker Ross McCormack added: "Wow... Fair play to @robbierogers for coming out. Must of took great courage!!! Take care mate and stay strong!"

Defender Zac Thompson, out on loan at Bury, said: "A lot of respect for @robbierogers Good luck in what ever you choose to do next mate. All the best".

Leeds defender Jason Pearce added: "Fair play mate- and good luck in whatever you do next pal. Good to have met you. All the best x"

His revelation also drew praise from former Whites winger Robert Snodgrass and striker Dominic Poleon, now on loan at Sheffield United.

No British-based professional player has come out since ex-Norwich and Nottingham Forest striker Justin Fashanu in 1990. He committed suicide eight years later aged 37.

While the Professional Footballers' Association and other organisations continue to work with gay players within the game, none of them has wanted to go public.

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the PFA, told Press Association Sport: "I'm pleased that Robbie's come out for his own sake. We do have players who've said that, while they are gay, they don't feel comfortable enough to come out.

"It's not dissimilar to many black players, and we need to create a safe environment for them on and off the field. If there is abuse, that needs to be dealt with by all the football family.

"It's no bad thing that he's been brave enough to come out. We know of players who are playing who are gay who've not had that confidence as yet. But, as the rest of the world becomes more civilised, hopefully that will come."

That view was echoed by Ruth Hunt, director of public affairs for lesbian, gay and bisexual charity Stonewall, who said: "It's great that Robbie now feels able to be open about his sexuality but it remains a shame that no professional player feels able to be out during their career.

"Homophobia remains rife in football and we must work together to stop it for the sake of the game."

Arena Coventry Limited (ACL), who manage the stadium on behalf of joint owners the Alan Edward Higgs Charity and Coventry City Council, announced on Thursday that talks with the League One club's owners Sisu had "collapsed".

A statutory demand for ?1.1million in unpaid rent stretching back 10 months was issued to the Sky Blues in early December - a figure which now stands at more than ?1.3million - and ACL chairman Nicholas Carter warned "now is the time for Sisu to pay up or sell up and get out of Coventry".

ACL also claimed Sky Blues directors had backtracked on a verbal agreement made between the two parties towards the end of January to primarily cut the ?1.28million annual rent to ?400,000, as well as waive more than ?300,000 of the debt amid other details including a revised share of matchday revenue.

The feud was stepped up a notch yesterday as Coventry saw their bank accounts frozen by ACL, who have issued the club with interim Third Party Debt Orders in a bid to recoup the money owed to them.

In light of the latest developments, Coventry have made their first official comment.

A statement on the club's website read: "Despite the recent campaign by ACL to force the football club into a deal that would be completely disadvantageous, Coventry City Football Club remains committed to work through to the conclusion of a deal that is acceptable to both parties.

"This deal must take into consideration matchday revenues to support the need for a squad which is strong and competitive and yet still complies with Financial Fair Play and salary cap rules.

"Therefore, we again propose to invite a leading expert in football finance - such as Deloitte - to act as mediator and help drive through a deal which makes sense."

City, consigned to third-tier football for the first time in 48 years when they were relegated from the Championship last May, left their Highfield Road home in 2005 to take up residence at the 32,000-seater Ricoh Arena.

Torres has one goal in 13 matches after Thursday night's Europa League last-32 first-leg 1-0 win at Sparta Prague - a match during which the World Cup winner missed opportunities and was subjected to the anger of visiting Blues fans.

While many Chelsea supporters have lost faith in Torres, Benayoun, like interim manager Rafael Benitez, has backed his former Liverpool colleague.

"You can understand it is not easy, from being the top striker at Liverpool - he was unbelievable, you gave him the ball and you knew he would score," Benayoun said.

"But he had a bad time in the beginning at Chelsea. When he came in, he was on the bench, then on the pitch.

"He did not get the confidence when he came in. And with the ?50million above his head, it is not easy for any player."

In three and a half years at Liverpool, after being signed from Atletico Madrid by Benitez for a fee of ?20m, Torres scored 81 goals in 142 matches before moving to Stamford Bridge on the final day of the 2011 winter transfer window for ?50m on a five-and-a-half-year deal.

There have been glimpses of his capabilities at Chelsea, but not consistently. He has scored 25 goals in 134 appearances - 15 of them this term.

Torres netted seven times in six games in December, but his only goal since was the equaliser which forced Sunday's FA Cup fourth-round replay with Brentford.

Benitez has praised Torres' work-rate and attributed his barren streak to the role he has to perform as a lone striker, but the Spain international could be removed from the firing line for Sunday's encounter, with Demba Ba and Victor Moses available.

Benayoun said: "For me, he is still one of the best strikers in the world.

"You do not change so quick from being the best player, one of the best in the world, to a player that some people say is not good enough for Chelsea.

"He has had good spells, bad spells, and has 15 or 16 goals already. That is not bad, but hopefully he will finish with 25.

"He just needs to believe in himself. It would be good to get his confidence back and be his old self.

"Hopefully he will get a few more soon and you will see the real Fernando Torres."

Like Torres, Benayoun has struggled to reach the same heights since moving from Anfield to west London.

The Israel international had a spell on loan at Arsenal last season and was at West Ham during the first half of this campaign, the latter stint being marred by a knee injury which limited him to six appearances.

He has now made three substitute appearances since returning to Chelsea, where he is under contract until the end of the season.

Benayoun said: "I knew I would come back, but I was injured, so it took me a while to get fit. Now hopefully I will get more opportunities."

The champions' failure to win any of their last three games has left them with a 12-point gap to bridge if they are to catch Manchester United in the Premier League.

Despite that faltering title defence Mancini has rubbished suggestions his job is on the line and says his critics "don't understand football".

And the first manager since 1968 to deliver City a league title does not feel under pressure from chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak.

The 48-year-old said: "I speak with Khaldoon every week.

"He is like me. When we lose he has my mentality, he is upset and disappointed but this is normal and it's correct in football.

"After you lose you can't be happy for 24 hours but after that you need to think about the future.

"We have a good relationship. At this moment they aren't happy because when you lose you can't be happy but I think they are happy with our job over the three years."

The dismal 3-1 defeat at St Mary's has sparked fresh speculation over Mancini's future at the Etihad Stadium.

Some critics have even suggested the 48-year-old could be dismissed if npower Championship side Leeds dump City out of the FA Cup at the fifth-round stage this weekend.

In an outspoken attack, former City and England defender Danny Mills even said Mancini's successor could be appointed by Thursday if the season takes another downturn on Sunday.

But Mancini, who ended City's 35-year trophy drought in 2011 and followed up with a first league title in 44 years last season, brushed aside such suggestions.

He said: "I don't know what I should say about this. We started our project three years ago.

"We won the Premier League maybe too quickly because usually it is four or five years for a team like City to do this.

"All the people who talk about this don't understand football.

"Because if Manchester City should sack me, the other 20 teams in the Premier League should be without a manager."

Mancini reacted angrily to his side's performance at Southampton and was heavily critical of the players.

He now expects a reaction as Leeds visit.

He said: "I think that the players know they didn't do their job at Southampton and sometimes it is important they take the responsibility.

"I think that we have some players that can do better than this year but I am sure I have a good team and at the end of it we will win something.

"It will be different because it's the FA Cup but it won't change for us because results are always important and there is always pressure.

"The players will respond, I'm sure about this."

As for the title race, Mancini claims it is not in his nature to concede defeat.

He believes that if the deficit can be cut before City travel to Old Trafford on April 8, further league success remains possible.

Mancini said: "I think that is a difficult moment because we lost seven points in three games but in football sometimes it is strange.

"When you think it is finished, three or four games can change everything.

"While we have the points available to win, we should believe in ourselves.

"We play the derby in April and from now until then we have six games and we need to look at what happens in the next six games.

"If we reduce the gap before the derby... but it's not important to look at the table. It's important to win, win, win."

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