Premier League

Shearer: O'Neill timing 'bizarre'

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Sun, 31 Mar 2013 12:08:00

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is hoping to see Steven Gerrard pen a new contract, with extension talks planned.

The Reds skipper still has 12 months left to run on his current deal, but Rodgers is eager to tie him to terms which would allow the talismanic midfielder to see out his career at Anfield.

He claims Gerrard still has 'a lot more to give' and feels Liverpool should be looking to reward a man who has given loyal service to the club throughout a distinguished 15-year career.

Rodgers said: "Steven has a year left and that is something he and I are about to discuss.

"Then, I will take things through to the board upstairs.

"There is no doubt that Steven is a player who has given so much to the club, but he has also got a lot more to give.

"It just emphasises how selfless Steven is that he hasn't wanted to talk about a contract because his focus has been on the team and improving his own game.

"But, obviously, I want him to know that he is very much a part of what we are doing here and a new contract is something we will look at between now and the summer."

Professionalism



Rodgers added: "Steven is in the same category as (Ryan) Giggs purely because of his professionalism.

"Players that go beyond a certain age have looked after themselves since they were 19 or 20. It's not by accident.

"These players sleep and rest in the afternoons. They eat the right things and keep their bodyweight the same. When it comes to the point when other players get injured and can't go on, they keep playing because they've looked after themselves.

"That is down to professionalism and commitment to their profession. Steven comes in every single day at the same time. He's like clockwork. He gets in early, lets the medics assess him, eats the right foods and is ready to train at 10.30am.

"I have never seen him give less than 150 per cent. He never has a lazy day.

"Steven is an incredible player and I have never even thought about replacing him because he has many more years left in him."

It was confirmed over the weekend that Premier League heavyweights Chelsea and Manchester City would meet in St Louis on May 23, just four days after the end of the season, and six before England take on the Republic of Ireland at Wembley.

The match in the USA is hardly ideal for Hodgson as it means up to eight members of his squad - although more likely five or six - may not get the rest he would hope for prior to meeting for key fixtures, including a trip to Brazil on June 2.

Yet Hodgson has no doubt he is entitled to have the players, even if the situation is slightly more complicated than he thinks.

"As far as I understand it, the period of time in May and June are FIFA dates," he said.

"When there are FIFA dates and international matches, the first call on the players is to their international teams.

"These are two bona-fide matches.

"A lot of the teams are playing qualifiers, so I don't think I need have any worries about the players I select coming to play for England.

"They are aware that we need to prepare well for the autumn matches." Hodgson's problem is that the games England have scheduled fall outside of the actual international window.

Indeed, whilst England are taking on Brazil at the world famous Maracana Stadium, the Spanish domestic season will be drawing to a close.

World Cup qualifiers, including Montenegro's home clash with Ukraine, take place the following weekend, with the Confederations Cup, in which Spain, Italy, Brazil and Mexico are amongst the competitors, arranged for later in June.

It means Hodgson cannot stop his Chelsea or Manchester City contingent heading to the States, nor any of his other players who may be required for club duties.

Little wonder the England coach wants his senior players around this summer.

After all, Tuesday's draw in Podgorica left plenty of areas to work on ahead of the four vital autumn games that will determine whether England reach the World Cup without needing the safety net of those hazardous play-offs.

"I have not given any thought to the summer," said Hodgson.

"You will understand that we have just had two important qualifiers and gone home with four points.

"It has been a cul-de-sac for me. Now I have six or seven weeks to concern myself with who plays against Ireland and who goes to Brazil."

It was a rather unfortunate use of the phrase cul-de-sac, for that is exactly what England seem determined to head down in their approach to international football.

Season after season, England fail to reach their true potential. And almost always it is due to an inability to adapt to the nuances of the international game.

Yet again in Montenegro, they showed a startling inability to retain possession against a decent side who given the circumstances could have been expected to perform far better in the second half than the first, when they were completely outplayed.

Montenegro's own play showed signs of nerves. Yet they were assisted by England's desire to push forward in search of further reward when they were already a goal ahead.

It was an approach lifted straight out of the Premier League, and the reason why England's domestic competition is the most exciting in the world.

Sometimes more is required than a simple hunger for goals. Sometimes games need to be closed out, or crowds silenced, possession retained for the sake of it, purely to induce frustration in opposition ranks and make it easier to find gaps yourself.

"Our ball retention wasn't too bad against San Marino. Our ball retention wasn't too bad against Brazil," said Hodgson.

"Our ball retention in the first-half (against Montenegro) wasn't too bad.

"I refuse to accept that just because everyone's judgement is that we didn't play as well in the second half as we did in the first, it is suddenly all about ball retention.

"How big a sample are we going to use? Twenty-five or 30 minutes, or half a dozen games?

"Maybe we can do it another way. We might forget the second half completely and go back to Brazil or San Marino.

"My point is every time the team has a period when we don't play to the high levels of expectation, you don't suddenly start suggesting everything we are doing is wrong.

"It might have something to do with our opponents.

"We weren't playing a poor team. A lot of those players are playing at the very highest level.

"If they were available for transfer, many of the Premier League teams trying to sign them up."

The Black Cats announced the move on Saturday night after their 1-0 defeat by Manchester United saw them slip deeper into relegation trouble with the club sitting just a point clear of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone with seven games left to play.

The Wearside club's next game sees them face Chelsea before a north-east derby against fellow strugglers Newcastle.

Shearer expressed astonishment that Sunderland had released O'Neill with just seven matches left to retain their top-flight status.

Speaking on BBC1's 'Match of the Day', the former Newcastle striker and manager said: "It's bizarre. They have gone down the route that Reading have (sacking Brian McDermott).

"I look at him in the last few weeks and normally he comes on telly, we see him upbeat, looking forward to things.

"To me he's been down, he's not been his usual, energetic self - whether he's known that something is going on behind the scenes I don't know.

"They are on a terrible run of form but it is the timing of it I find hard.

"I think he might have missed his right-hand man John Robertson, who for the first time hadn't been with him at his side.

"For whatever reason didn't choose to go to Sunderland like he'd been with all his other clubs with him so I think he has probably missed him as well."

Fellow pundit Alan Hansen added: "The rewards for success and the penalties for failure have never been greater.

"Next season the new Premier League deal - if you are left behind, if you go down a division you are in massive trouble.

"You've got QPR, you've got Reading, you've got Southampton and now Sunderland: there are seven games to go.

Are they better with Martin or without him? I always thought Sunderland would be safe...for the first time today they were really poor.

"I think they are in massive trouble."

Stan Collymore played under O'Neill at Leicester and he too believed the Northern Irishman had missed having Robertson at his side.

He told talkSPORT: "Martin O'Neill is a dictatorial manager in the style of a Sir Alex Ferguson or a David Moyes - in other words he deals with everything.

"He knows the cost of everything, he wants total control of everything.

"John Robertson was the conduit between player and manager. When I was at Leicester I would go out and do the training with Steve Walford and everything would be quite jovial.

"John Robertson would watch training, perhaps go in a couple of times to see the manager who probably wouldn't even come out until the last 10, 15 minutes of the session where everything got much livelier because it was unusual for the gaffer to come out and oversee training - like Sir Alex Ferguson or like David Moyes - and what John Robertson would do would be to report back.

"Who's looking sharp, who's not looking so sharp and I think in terms of this season Martin O'Neill just hasn't looked himself.

"He hasn't had that sounding board with John Robertson, Robbo decided not to make the trek up north and from what I understand JR almost had enough of the modern-day footballer.

"I think that has had a massive impact."

Former Sunderland player Michael Gray said on Twitter: "So where do we go from here Sunderland? Do we just keep sacking managers or do we start pointing the finger at the players..!!!"

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