Premier League

Ruddy could return for Norwich

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Thu, 02 May 2013 17:31:00

Reading manager Nigel Adkins insists the club will not be forced into selling players following their relegation from the Premier League.

Adkins is already planning for a Championship campaign in 2013/14 - even though the Royals have three matches remaining this season - after last weekend's goalless draw with QPR condemned them to the drop.

Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak is among the players tipped to leave the Madejski Stadium, but Adkins insists Reading will determine what happens during the summer transfer window.

"We will want to do the business we want to do, that's the important message," he said.

"Yes we will be in the Championship next season, but this is a well-run club and whatever business we do is because we want to.

"Like every club you cut your cloth accordingly and players who were on Premier League wages won't be on them in the Championship, which is prudent business.

"We want to be successful and we are ambitious. If players leave, it's because we'll allowed them to make leave.

"It will be our decision, it's our business and we don't have to sell.

"Now that we know what division we're in next season we're able to establish some processes to move this club forward.

"Conversations have been going on, but they'll remain private and confidential.

"What is important is that we give ourselves the chance to get back in the Premier League because it's the competition everyone wants to be in."

Adkins continued: "This club has always been run prudently and that's important. Good conversations have been had with the owner and there's a lot of ambition at this club.

"What we must do is keep building on the successes of the past, because the last 10 years have been very successful in the history of the club.

"The greatest lesson we've learned this season is that we must keep moving forward. You must keep evolving and build on your successes."

But, although the Baggies boss is not viewing Saturday's meeting with struggling Wigan in those terms, he expects his side to go all out for a victory that would leave Villa smiling.

Paul Lambert's men are five points clear of Wigan, who occupy the final relegation place, and would be elated if West Brom can inflict another defeat on the Latics, regardless of their motivations.

"For us, Saturday is all about getting three points for us," he said.

"Aston Villa did themselves a big favour on Monday night with a great result against Sunderland (a 6-1 victory).

"They've got it in their own hands and they don't need any help from us.

"It's in Aston Villa's own hands and their last result certainly helped them.

"If they get the points they require they stay up anyway (regardless of other results)."

Wigan, meanwhile, are fighting for their lives.

They have completed unlikely escape acts in the last two seasons and need to defy the odds once again to retain their top-flight status.

They may view sides such as West Brom, who are safe but not in the European shake-up, as something of a softer touch given they are playing for little but pride in the remaining fixtures.

But Clarke insists they would be mistaken, especially after seeing his men dismantle Southampton 3-0 away last time out.

"I don't think they'll get an easy game here," the Scot said.

"Not too many teams come to the Hawthorns and get an easy game and I don't think that will be the case this weekend.

"Maybe Southampton thought that last week, that it was a mid-table clash with nothing on it.

"We certainly went down there and showed them it mattered to us and that we wanted the points.

"It's no different this time. We have our own ambitions and our own targets. We like to finish the season well and play well in front of our own fans.

"The game against us, I can assure you, will be difficult because we've been good at home."

Clarke is all too aware of Wigan's reputation as a team who produce spirited displays when they are needed the most.

This season, their battle against the drop is further complicated by the small matter of the FA Cup final on May 11, but Clarke believes that they are well used to managing the rigours of a scrap at the foot of the table.

"The cup final will take care of itself. They've got league matches they have to look at," he said.

"Wigan are a team who are, and maybe this is not the right word, quite comfortable down there fighting.

"Over the years they've always been in the lower reaches and they know what they have to do to get out of it.

"They've got a manager in Roberto Martinez who doesn't panic and he knows there are points still to be had.

"They are a team who still produce good football even though they are struggling in their league position."

A Saints statement said Perth chiefs were "delighted" after midfielder Millar signed a two-year contract extension while 19-year-old Caddis has also penned a new 12-month deal.

Millar moved to McDiarmid in 2008 after a five-year spell with Morton, while midfielder Caddis was farmed out to Cowdenbeath by boss Steve Lomas in January to gain first-team experience.

The Tannadice club lodged an appeal with the Hampden chiefs after the left-back was sent off in the 1-0 defeat to Derek Adams' team.

Douglas was dismissed by referee Kevin Clancy for a tackle on Ivan Sproule during the match in Dingwall that was deemed "serious foul play".

At an SFA fast track tribunal, it was ruled that Clancy had made the correct decision and the automatic two-match suspension would stand.

Douglas will now miss the SPL matches against St Johnstone and Inverness.

The Yorkshireman was accused of breaching two rules after he was quoted in a newspaper report referring to former Ibrox commercial director Imran Ahmad as his "little Paki friend".

Green - who resigned from his position at Rangers last month - has 30 days to pay the fine.

Lord Justice Goldring made the decision after hearing conflicting arguments at a preliminary hearing last week in support of holding the hearing in either the North West or London.

In a written direction, the judge said: "I have concluded that it would be right for the inquests to be held in the north-west. It would not be helpful further to identify a location at this stage."

Britain's worst sporting disaster unfolded at Sheffield's Hillsborough Stadium on April 15 1989 during Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest as thousands of fans were crushed in the ground's Leppings Lane terrace.

A split emerged between two separate campaign groups last week, with one side pushing for the inquiry to be held in the capital and the other calling for it to take place in the North West.

Some 71 families from the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) want the hearing to be held in London, while a smaller group from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC) asked for it to take place in the North West outside of Liverpool or Manchester.

Margaret Aspinall, HFSG chairwoman, said: "To be honest, I personally don't mind where it is held. I'm quite happy wherever it is held as long as everything goes accordingly and we get the right verdicts on the death certificates."

Last December, verdicts of accidental death from the original inquest in March 1991 were quashed.

The action was taken after the Hillsborough Independent Panel studied thousands of documents and reported that there had been a huge cover-up of what happened at Hillsborough and its aftermath.

Lord Justice Goldring, recently appointed as coroner to the fresh inquests, last week said the new inquests would be held in early 2014.

Explaining why he has chosen to hold the inquests in the north-west, the judge said: "The hearing is bound, it seems to me, to take several months. If it is held in London, those who wish to follow it in person will be away from home and living in hotels for a very long time.

"It is plainly not a practicable solution for someone to commute from Liverpool or the North West on a daily basis."

He went on: "I can not see how anyone with work or caring responsibilities can spend long periods away from home in a hotel in London."

Lord Justice Goldring said for those who are older or unwell, travelling to London would not be comfortable or easy.

He added: "Video-links are second best."

Michael Mansfield QC, who represents the 71 HFSG families, argued that animosity and rivalry among football clubs in the North West could impact proceedings, while London would be best suited to accommodate the international interest.

But Lord Justice Goldring said: "I have no doubt that a location can be found in the North West without the risk of actual or perceived prejudice.

"If there is a jury, those of us with experience of them know perfectly well that with proper and clear directions they soon put behind them anything they may have read or thought and concentrate on the evidence before them."

Kenny Derbyshire, HJC chair and Hillsborough survivor, said: "It's a very good decision. We're made up with it.

"The families didn't want to have to move down to London, so this is for the families.

"I've spoken to a number of families today and they're delighted."

Commenting on calls to hold the inquests in London, Mr Derbyshire added: "With two campaign groups, unfortunately you will get disagreements from time to time. But I'm sure everyone will be delighted with the decision."

The Blades were only denied a place in the Championship by a penalty shoot-out in last season's final against Huddersfield but they have struggled for form in recent weeks, taking just seven points from a possible 24 ahead of the visit of the Glovers.

And Johnson, who led his side to their highest ever finish this season, insists the pressure is off ahead of the first-leg of their League One play-off semi final..

"We aren't the ones that are expected to win it either at Sheffield United or if we get to the final," he said.

"We are certainly going to be the underdogs, in that way we aren't the ones under pressure because no one expected us to be where we are.

"I think they will be two cracking games but the pressure is on them. They are desperate to get promoted and we know that."

Despite the match being screened live on Sky Sports and taking place on a Friday night the Glovers faithful are expected to travel in their numbers and Johnson admits they could make a difference.

"People know we need them up at Sheffield," he said. "Sometimes if you can get a couple of thousands of your supporters, even if they are in a group with 30,000 home supporters, they can make a noise because they are up for it.

"It'll be nice to take a great band of followers up to Sheffield. I know they'll give us great support and we'll appreciate it."

The Gunners must again do without 17-goal hitman Olivier Giroud when they travel to relegated QPR for Saturday's late afternoon kick-off as the Frenchman continues his three-match ban.

German Lukas Podolski was preferred down the middle against Manchester United last Sunday, but it was Walcott who fired the home side ahead inside two minutes before the new Barclays Premier League champions recovered to draw.

Walcott, 24, is the club's leading scorer with 19 in all competitions, which included hat-tricks against Reading and Newcastle.

The pacy England international hopes to make the most of any more opportunities which come his way.

"I played a few games there and I would like a few more towards the end of the season," Walcott said in the official Arsenal matchday programme.

"I scored a lot of my goals this season when playing up front, so I have shown what I can do and it is up to the manager to do what he sees is best.

"I am sure another chance will come.

"I set a 20-goal target for the season, but the biggest goal for me is to help Arsenal finish third or fourth."

Podolski produced a solid display at the head of the Arsenal attack against United, if without any real chances to add to his 14 goals, and was replaced by Gervinho for the closing stages.

Wenger accepts he has a tactical decision to make again this weekend, but feels Podolski has all the attributes need to lead the line effectively.

"I believe so, he has the qualities because he is a good finisher," Wenger said on Arsenal Player.

"He has a good technique and because we have a game based on very quick combinations, I believe he can be a part of that. Overall I am convinced in the coming games he will show it.

"A definite decision has not been made, but if there is an opportunity then there is a good chance I will do it."

Wenger feels collectively the team deserves credit for continuing to maintain an attacking threat, with 99 goals from 50 games in all competitions this season, despite the departure of talisman forward Robin van Persie for United last summer.

"You want to know that you can score at least two goals in every game because it gives you a good belief," the Gunners boss said.

"Overall, and considering we lost a world-class striker, I believe we have compensated quite well."

Arsenal's much-maligned defence has also tightened up as the Gunners moved through an unbeaten eight-match run which has taken them back into the top four of the Premier League, a point behind Chelsea and two ahead of Tottenham, albeit having played a match more.

Walcott believes having a much-more settled rearguard - which has often seen captain Thomas Vermaelen left on the bench - provides the basis of consistency.

"What it comes down to is that if you keep clean sheets, you are going to win games," he said. "The likes of Manchester United have shown that very effectively.

"In recent years we may have faded slightly at the end of games with the pressure of being 1-0 up, losing late on at Fulham last season for example. But I think everyone here is very focused on doing their jobs correctly.

"If we all work hard for each other then good things should hopefully follow."

Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is still sidelined by a rib problem, but other than long-term absentees such as Abou Diaby, Wenger expects to have a full squad for the run-in.

The Arsenal manager added: "It is a good position. We have done well recently.

"Maybe we benefit from the fact there is only one game per week, so the squad is a bit more stable injury-wise."

The Bees' shattered players had their awards dinner on Sunday night, just 24 hours after their agonising last-minute defeat by Doncaster which secured promotion for Rovers and condemned Brentford to the play-offs.

But Rosler's side travel on Swindon on Saturday for the first leg having put the drama of the previous weekend, when Marcello Trotta missed the last-gasp penalty which would have sent Brentford into the Championship, firmly behind them.

"After the game I wasn't sure having our after-season ball was the right thing to do, I wondered how the players would respond," said Rosler.

"But after what happened on Saturday it was the best thing that could have happened. Everyone got together; players, supporters, relatives. It was a very good way to turn things around.

"On Monday we started to train, Tuesday's training was very good and now we are back to normal.

"If we had an established squad of players aged 28-35 it might have been different but we have an age group of around 22 and 23, so they are young, they forget quickly and they are hungry for success.

"That is the nature of this squad and that makes it easier to kick on again."

Fulham loanee Trotta, 19, was the fall guy after insisting he took the spot-kick ahead of designated penalty-taker Kevin O'Connor, only to blast it against the crossbar before Rovers broke to the other end and James Coppinger slid in the winner.

But Rosler added: "There are no issues with Marcello, with Kevin and with the whole squad. I have spoken to them both. We are taking the responsibility together and Marcello is in very fine form."

The forward, 21, has made 33 appearances for the Saddlers this season, scoring seven goals, but has been deemed surplus to requirements by boss Dean Smith.

Richard Taundry, Aaron Williams, Connor Taylor and Jake Jones have also been released.

Further talks are taking place with Player of the Year Will Grigg, who became the first Walsall man to bag 20 goals in a campaign in 12 years as the midlands club narrowly missed out on a play-off place in League One.

Negotiations also continue with Febian Brandy and Adam Chambers, who, like Grigg, are also out of contract this summer.

Craig Westcarr, James Chambers and Ben Purkiss and youth-team players Jake Heath, Danny Griffiths and Liam Roberts have each been offered new deals.

Experienced defender Dean Holden has also been given a new playing contract which includes the role of a development coach overlooking the club's 18-21 year olds, while Walsall will also be taking up contract options on Ben George and Kieron Morris.

The 26-year-old goalkeeper, who made his single England appearance last year, has not featured for the Canaries since the draw at Everton on November 24 after needing surgery on a torn muscle in his thigh.

However, after stepping up his rehabilitation in recent weeks with a couple of matches for the Under-21s side, Hughton revealed Ruddy is "fit and available" for a match which could see Norwich secure their top-flight status.

"What we are conscious of is he has been out for a long time, but John has had a period of training now and has played some development games, so we will make the decisions in house," said Hughton.

"Also, I have to think about Mark Bunn, who overall has done very well for us.

"I have to consider all of those things, but I am very conscious of where John is at this moment."

Norwich head into the clash with Villa, and former manager Paul Lambert, within touching distance of safety on 38 points.

Despite the Canaries' poor current run of only two Premier League wins this year, Hughton's men remain difficult to beat at home, having not lost in Norfolk since a 1-0 defeat by Chelsea on Boxing Day.

"It is an opportunity for us to get valuable points at this stage of the season, and our home form has been very good," said Hughton, whose side are six clear of 18th-placed Wigan, albeit having played a match more.

"We have continually said it is always going to be in our hands.

"It is nice when other results go for you, with other teams not picking up points, but it is always about what we do.

"We have three games left, two at home, and for us to be exactly where we want to be next season it will be about us getting the points and not having to rely on anyone else."

Hughton added: "Generally on most occasions you would like to think that one more win would be enough now, but we are in a season where it is that unpredictable that I dont think any of us can be sure."

Villa have won three of their past seven to move out of the drop zone, now five clear of Wigan after they thumped Sunderland 6-1 on Monday night, when Belgian striker Christian Benteke crashed in a hat-trick.

"I was there at the game and Villa will come here on the back of a very good performance," Hughton said.

"But we have to concentrate very much on ourselves and what we need to do to win. We have a fabulous crowd and they will again get behind us, like they did against Reading, so we have to look at the positives."

Defender Sebastien Bassong is expected to be fit after an ankle problem, but fellow centre-half Michael Turner (groin) remains out.

Forward Kei Kamara will play the last game of his loan spell from Sporting Kansas City, with no confirmation yet of whether the deal will be made permanent.

Hughton said: "We have until Monday to make the decision, and there have been conversations between us, but those will be kept private as we concentrate on the job in hand, and that is making sure we put ourselves in a position on Saturday where we are going to get a result."

Hughton, meanwhile, also "absolutely dismissed" reports winger Anthony Pilkington was set for a summer move to Stoke and that West Brom were planning to hijack Norwich's ?8million transfer of Dutch forward Ricky van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon should the Canaries get relegated.

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