Premier League

Rodgers roused by Reds recovery

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Thu, 13 Dec 2012 19:38:00

Hernanes' future at Lazio continues to be called into question, but his agent says the midfielder is happy where he is.

Reports in Italy suggest that the Brazilian is a January transfer target for Inter Milan, while a number of other clubs are also said to be closely monitoring his situation.

Hernanes has spent the last two years in the Italian capital, during which time has made over 100 appearances for Lazio.

His representative insists the 27-year-old is intent on taking in many more outings, despite rubbishing claims that talks regarding a new contract could soon be opened.

"I'm not planning any meeting with Lazio and we are not thinking about an extension to his contract, because there is no need," Joseph Lee told calciomercato.it.

"His current deal expires in 2015 and there is plenty of time to talk about it.

"The future? Hernanes is happy in Rome, and with the new coach, and the team is going well. There is no reason to think about a move."

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The much-travelled striker linked up with the Lilywhites over the summer after dropping into the free agent pool.

He impressed during pre-season, earning himself a short-term contract.

The 32-year-old has netted on a regular basis for Preston in their League One campaign and Graham Westley had been hoping that he would agree to stay on.

Sodje is, however, understood to have turned down the chance to commit himself to the club, according to Sky Sports.

He has been working on a month-to-month contract and has snubbed the opportunity to prolong that agreement.

The goalkeeper, 20, who was tied to the club until the summer of 2014, has penned an extended deal that will keep him at Brunton Park until 2015.

Boss Greg Abbott told the club's official website: "Mark keeps improving and that is good news for all of us.

"We have seen already this season that he is ready to do a job and we think he is just going to get better and better.

"This gives him a chance to really focus now and to push himself on even further."

The Newcastle-born keeper has made 13 appearances for the Cumbrians this term.

Serbia have been fined 80,000 euros (£65,000) and ordered to play a match behind closed doors following racist chanting and violence towards England's Under-21 players.

FA general secretary Alex Horne said the sanctions did not send a "strong enough message" about racism, and that the governing body will appeal against two-match and one-match bans for Steven Caulker and Tom Ince respectively.

Rio and Anton Ferdinand also criticised the sanctions on Twitter contrasting it with a 100,000 euro and one-match ban handed to former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner for displaying a betting firm's logo on his underpants during Euro 2012.

UEFA's control and disciplinary body also banned four Serbian players and two coaches for varying terms after ugly scenes marred the end of the European Championship play-off in Krusevac in October.

Horne said: "We are disappointed with the sanctions levied by UEFA with regards to the racist behaviour displayed towards England's players.

"Let's be clear, racism is unacceptable in any form, and should play no part in football. The scenes were deplorable and we do not believe the sanction sends a strong enough message."

Anton Ferdinand tweeted: "Wow UEFA ain't serious with their punishment... So showin a sponsor is worst than racism and fighting!"

His brother Rio added: "Uefa are not serious at all on racism. Fines do not work at all. They have zero impact on federations/clubs/fans/players £fact.

"Uefa need to talk to this generation.....they don't seem to be up to date on this issue?? Harsh punishments needed as a deterrent £simple."

Sports minister Hugh Robertson, who had written to UEFA president Michel Platini demanding tough action for the racist abuse, also expressed his disappointment.

Robertson said: "I am disappointed in the punishment that has been handed to the Serbian FA given the widespread racist abuse that England's Under-21 team suffered that night. Racism is completely unacceptable and we need tough sanctions to help combat it."

The FA had reported the racist abuse to UEFA plus a number of other incidents.

Full-back Danny Rose, who was dismissed after the final whistle for kicking the ball away in anger, complained he had been subjected to monkey chants throughout the match and as he left the pitch.

Serbian FA secretary general Zoran Lakovic appeared to suggest that the UEFA official prosecuting the charges had also demanded tougher action.

Lakovic said in a statement: "If we take into account what the drastic proposed penalty by the disciplinary inspector Jean-Samuel Leube we have not been hit so hard.

"I believe that this is a final warning to all of us who work in Serbian football, including coaches and players and fans, because for even the smallest mistake UEFA can now impose the most rigorous punishment."

Lord Herman Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out, condemned the sanction as "a paltry slap on the wrist", adding: "Again we haven't seen decisive action from UEFA."

Piara Powar, executive director of European anti-discrimination body FARE, said UEFA had failed to display the necessary leadership.

Powar said: "We are disappointed in the totality of the sanction handed out to the Serbian FA. The original offences warranted a more severe collective punishment than a ban on spectators for one match.

"This is a moment in which leadership to challenge discrimination is needed from all authorities. This sanction falls short of that objective.

In relation to Ince and Caulker's bans, the FA said they were surprised at the action and that the players had merely protected themselves.

Horne added: "It is The FA's vehement belief that its players and staff acted correctly in the face of provocation, including racist abuse and missiles being thrown.

"We are therefore surprised to see that two of our players have been given suspensions. We shall await UEFA's reasoning but it is our intention, at this stage, to support our players and appeal these decisions."

England Under-21 head coach Stuart Pearce added: "I am concerned to see our players suspended by UEFA and we will continue to support them. I maintain that our players played no part in the aggression. From what I witnessed our players and staff were forced to protect themselves in the violent scenes that followed the game."

Serbia fitness coach Andreja Milunovic and assistant coach Predrag Katic were both banned for two years, part of the ban being suspended for three years in each case.

Four Serbia players were also banned - Goran Causic for four matches, Ognjen Mudrinski and Filip Malbasic for three and Nikola Ninkovic for two.

Serbia and the FA have three days in which to lodge an appeal - while UEFA themselves can also appeal against the control and disciplinary body if they too think the independent commission have been too lenient.

Early fixtures against the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United contributed to the Reds' worst opening to a league campaign for more than a century.

It has taken a while to claw their way back but they head into this weekend's fixtures only four points adrift of fourth place.

Last Sunday's win at West Ham was the first time in almost a year Liverpool had won back-to-back league matches and having progressed to the last 32 in the Europa League, Rodgers senses something of a turnaround.

"You're always striving to have more and be better but as I sit here today, having experienced the last six months, I'm quietly pleased with how it's evolving," said the Northern Irishman, who took over from Kenny Dalglish in June.

"We're a long way off where I want us to be, of course, but we've shown we're making good progress.

"By all accounts Liverpool have had a disastrous start but we're four points off the top four and if we had a little bit more luck, we actually could be in there now.

"The great encouragement is we're only going to get better.

"I hope that we finish this year strongly. 2012 has been an emotional year for the football club, we want to finish it on a high.

"We can then go into the next six months and push on, because that's when you take care of business and in particular the last 10 games.

"If we can arrive in January in and around that top four then we can really put our foot to the floor, when the confidence will be improved even more and players will be aligned with what we're trying to achieve.

"I believe we can have a good second half of the season."

There was some more good news for the club after goalkeeper Brad Jones signed a new contract, joining the likes of Luis Suarez, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Jonjo Shelvey who have all extended their deals since Rodgers' arrival in the summer.

The Australia international believes he has proved himself to Rodgers after the manager initially cast doubts over his long-term future at the club.

"When he came in I don't think he was too sure about whether I was going to stay or not and I had to prove to him I was worthy of being here," Jones told liverpoolfc.com.

"He was very honest with me at the start and said maybe things weren't going to work out.

"But he was then just as honest to come and say to me I'd done well and proved myself to him.

"That's what you want from your manager - somebody that's honest, that you can talk to and is going to help you progress as a player.

"He's a big influence. He's a very positive guy and somebody that wants to be amongst the players, talking to them and making sure they know what he wants.

"I'm happy to stay on and happy the club have been supportive with me and seen enough to want to keep me here longer."

Jones has made 10 appearances so far this season, by far his best run in the side having amassed a total of just 14 since joining from Middlesbrough in 2010.

Despite his up and downs at Anfield he hopes to be part of a successful side over the coming years.

"Obviously there was a difficult time in the middle of that and three managers in that space of time is difficult because football is very much about opinions," he added.

"Some people rate you more than others and I think I've found that in my time here at Liverpool - some managers have thought more of me than others.

"I said when I signed here it was a dream come true. It was something I'd wanted as a young boy - and that hasn't changed.

"I want to stay here as long as I can. At the minute, the club is on a progression and we're improving a lot.

"It's a good time to be here and I'm sure in the next couple of years I'll be part of a successful squad."

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