Hearts future clouded in doubt
Thu, 16 May 2013 21:07:00
Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy admits his first England call-up is a dream come true but recognises he may need Premier League football to ensure his international future.
The 23-year-old has been included in Roy Hodgson's 22-man party for the forthcoming friendlies against Republic of Ireland and Brazil.
And McCarthy, who will compete with fellow shot-stoppers Ben Foster and Joe Hart for a playing role in the games, is understandably delighted.
"I am over the moon to get the call," he told Sky Sports. "Growing up as a young boy, you dream of playing for your country. I have got that opportunity now."
McCarthy earned his selection after impressing Hodgson despite Reading's relegation from the Premier League.
The form of the goalkeeper, who has two years left on his contract at the Madejski Stadium, has also caught the eye of Liverpool among other clubs if reports are to be believed.
But while McCarthy knows staying in the Premier League would boost his England credentials ahead of the 2014 World Cup, he is in no rush to leave Reading.
"Obviously it is going to help," he said when asked about staying in the top flight to aid in international future.
"It is where the best players are. It gives you more opportunity of playing for the national team.
"But I have still got two years left at Reading. They are my club at the moment so we will have to see what the future holds."
The former City, Arsenal and France midfielder has been working as football development executive at the Etihad Stadium since retiring as a player two years ago.
The move to take charge of what is effectively the City reserve team follows the departures of manager Roberto Mancini and a number of his backroom staff this week.
Attilio Lombardo, the former Italy, Sampdoria and Crystal Palace player, had been the coach primarily responsible for the EDS.
Vieira's move from an administrative position underlines his desire to move into coaching after completing his UEFA B licence last year.
The 36-year-old, who will officially take up the role on June 1, said: "After spending two years working across a number of areas of the club and with a particular focus on the youth academy, I feel honoured and privileged to have been offered this role.
"This marks a new chapter both in my career and in my life and I am looking forward to it immensely.
"My passion for the development of young talent has only grown in my time at City and I am pleased to be able to play my part in helping to shape the footballing future for Manchester City."Vieira, who is now hoping to attain his A licence, won the World Cup as a player in 1998 and the European Championship two years later among 107 international appearances.
He won nine domestic league titles including three with Arsenal, with whom he also won the FA Cup four times.
A fifth FA Cup came at the end of his career with City in 2011.
City chief executive Ferran Soriano said: "Patrick is a world champion and it is a great honour that he has chosen Manchester City to begin his football management career.
"I have seen him carefully considering options and choosing to coach for the best reasons; he has a love of the game and a willingness to continue to learn and transmit his knowledge and experience to young footballers.
"Patrick's role is of the highest long term importance for the Club.
"The ability of the Academy, the elite development squad and the first team to work together using the same football concepts is key to our success and sustainability."
Soriano's statement suggests, as had been rumoured, that the club are intending to implement the same style of play from junior sides up to the first team.
In the statement which announced Mancini's sacking on Monday, the club had also referred to a desire to "develop a holistic approach to all aspects of football at the club".
Vieira's appointment also indicates that the first-team manager will have less influence over the coaching of other parts of the club in future.
Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain, both former Barcelona executives, arrived at City earlier this season and the changes they intend to make are starting to become apparent.
Mancini's exit on Monday was followed by that of first-team coach David Platt, his former Sampdoria team-mate.
Defensive specialist Angelo Gregucci, Ivan Carminati, Fausto Salsano, Massimo Battara have also left along with Lombardo.
Manuel Pellegrini, who has indicated a desire to leave Malaga at the end of the season, is the firm favourite to succeed Mancini.
City are also reported to be interested in Malaga midfielder Isco, with whom Pellegrini shares an agent.
The Columbian has been linked with the likes of Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United in recent months as well as, most recently, Monaco.
But Falcao, 27, has played down the rumours ahead of Atletico's Copa del Rey final against city rivals Real Madrid on Friday.
"I don't know anything, and the only thing that I have in my mind and keep concentration is on Atletico de Madrid.
"I don't know anything. I keep myself apart of what is being said. If it was for the press, I have already been transferred to all the teams in Europe like Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United.
"I don't find true any news that is being said about me".
He added: "Last year happened the same. During the Final at Bucarest was said that if we didn't get qualified to the Champions League I was going to leave Madrid.
"The only real thing is that I am in contract until 2016, all the rest is only speculation. I don't know anything about Monaco, I have my mind focused where I am ".
The Uruguayan is believed to have had a series of disagreements with the club's board over his transfer budget for the summer.
But Brighton declined to reveal the reasons behind the suspension of Poyet, who has three years remaining on his current contract.
A club statement read: "Brighton & Hove Albion has confirmed that it has suspended its manager, assistant manager, and its first team coach from their duties.
"The club will now follow its internal procedures with regard to this matter and will make no further comment at this time."
Poyet's future on the south coast was already the subject of intense speculation linking him to a number of vacancies.
He admitted he was "considering his options" following Brighton's play-off semi-final defeat by Crystal Palace on Monday.
The 45-year-old is reportedly on Everton's shortlist to replace David Moyes when he departs to take over at Manchester United in the summer, while Stoke and Fulham are also reported to be interested should they dispose of their current managers this summer.
Poyet's suspension comes on the day he was nominated for the Championship Manager of the Month award after the Seagulls went unbeaten in April, recording three wins and three draws to finish fourth.
HODGSON COMMITTED TO COLE OFFER
England coach Roy Hodgson will not let Ashley Cole's recent stand-off with the Football Association prevent him asking the full-back if he wants to be captain for the friendly against the Republic of Ireland.
Cole was fined ?90,000 by the Football Association for the offensive Tweet he posted in October after an independent regulatory commission of the governing body investigating the John Terry racial abuse case had questioned his evidence.
Despite that controversy, Hodgson is set to offer Cole the chance to lead out the team against Dublin after he won his 100th cap against Brazil in February.
"If we were to take into account everything that appeared about players that could have been regarded as vaguely defamatory against ourselves, we wouldn't have a team," said Hodgson.
"He felt he had been let down in some way and he apologised.
"I haven't spoken to him yet but most players, when they receive their 100th cap, do get given the honour of captaining their country.
"Last time I spoke to Ashley about it he was more than happy to stay in the shadows rather than seek the limelight."
As expected, Andy Carroll is back in Hodgson's 22-man squad, which travels to Brazil after the Ireland encounter for a symbolic meeting with the World Cup hosts at the famous Maracana Stadium on June 2.
There was a surprise in Thursday's announcement, though, in the form of a first call-up for young Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, who had such an outstanding climax to the campaign.
"Alex did well in the games I have seen him play and from the reports I have received of him, this is a good chance to bring him in behind Joe Hart and Ben Foster and see how he copes in the senior squad," said Hodgson.
Yet Hodgson also made it clear McCarthy cannot anticipate a first cap.
For he views the fixtures as a vital part of his team's preparation for their four autumn qualifiers that will determine whether they gain direct entry to the World Cup, have to get there through the play-offs, or not even make it at all.
"I am looking at these as preparation games rather than friendlies," Hodgson said.
"I want to give the players I feel will be important to us in the autumn qualifiers a chance to play and not to have a situation where you are trying to use 18 players in every game, and instead of playing for long periods people are only getting a 15 to 20 minute cameo."
Carroll's return comes on the back of some fine end-of-season performances for West Ham.
Yet his combative style has not always found favour with continental referees, who tend to clamp down hard on the physical aspect of the game.
Hodgson does not view that as a problem for the Geordie, who excelled at Euro 2012 and clearly has the capacity to unsettle defences in the way no other member of his squad can.
"You don't necessarily fill your team with players who are virtually clones of each other," said Hodgson.
"It is very important to have some members who can give you another dimension.
"Since Andy has come back from injury, he has been in our thoughts.
"I am not concerned about his playing style.
"There is always going to be room for a centre forward of his class and type.
"He is good at holding the ball up and very good at attacking crosses, not only in the opponents' penalty box but also our own."
Hodgson's plans for the next fortnight have been complicated somewhat by the knowledge players from Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham are required to jet off as soon as the Premier League campaign is over on Sunday to fulfil contractual post-season obligations in the United States in City and Chelsea's case, and Bermuda for Tottenham.
It means a third of his squad will effectively be getting straight off a plane and heading to St George's Park next Sunday, hardly the payback envisaged by the Football Association when they arranged the forthcoming games earlier than the international window in order to get the players on holiday quicker.
One of those affected is another potential captain in Frank Lampard, who today ended speculation about his future by signing a one-year contract extension with Chelsea.
"There was a worry for a while because we didn't quite know where he was going to end up," said Hodgson.
"It is okay when players are playing in England or one of the major European leagues. But if they are in far-flung places it is a lot harder to keep a check on them.
"Frank's qualities are eternal. He has scored 203 goals and so many in the Premier League. Bobby Tambling was quite lucky to get a few of his in a lower division.
"We talked a lot about Sir Alex and not seeing his like again. You could say the same thing about Frank."
The 30-year-old has established himself as a key part of Martin Jol's side this season, making 34 Premier League appearances.
On leaving Cologne, Reither said: "Thanks to the FC. The club and the city have grown on me during my time in the Cologne.
"I am pleased after a first season in England and am focused on my other tasks in Fulham. I wish FC Cologne only the best and the imminent promotion to the Bundesliga."
The 29-year-old has endured more famine than feast in front of goal since his ?50million January 2011 move from Liverpool, but netted his sixth goal in six Europa League appearances as the Blues won the trophy with a 2-1 win over Benfica in Amsterdam on Wednesday night.
"It's been a good season for me," Torres told Chelsea TV.
"Top scorer in the team, winning a trophy, scoring in the final. Things are becoming normal."
Torres, who will bid for his first Premier League goal since December in Sunday's final game of the season at home to Everton, has now netted 21 times this term.
Chelsea, the 2012 Champions League winners, began the season in contention for seven trophies; the Europa League was the unexpected eighth and final opportunity for success, which arrived courtesy of Branislav Ivanovic's late winner.
Torres said: "We were expecting to win much more this season. We were playing for finals and it's not been easy.
"At the end I think we can say it's a good season, but we're looking forward to the next one."
The first silverware opportunity was against Torres' former club, but Atletico Madrid won the European Super Cup last August. It is a trophy Chelsea will bid for again in August, against the winners of the May 25 Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
"Winning the Europa League we have the chance to play in the European Super Cup again and try to do better than we did this season against Atletico," Torres said.
Torres praised the Chelsea supporters for their patience this term, with him personally and with the team.
He added: "I have no complaints about the fans. Not at all. They have been with me from the first day, especially when I most needed from the first season.
"It's not been an easy season for Chelsea fans, after going out of the Champions League and losing many important games.
"Now they can enjoy with the team. They can hold the Champions League and the Europa League (titles at the same time), just for a week.
"We must be very proud and they are too very proud of the team."Many fans were less than welcoming to interim boss Rafael Benitez, Torres' former mentor at Liverpool, who will leave the Blues later this month.
"They have always been good with me," Torres said.
"When Rafa came he did not have an easy position. To do his job in the situation was not easy. I think it's a good end for him as well, winning a trophy for Chelsea."
Torres hopes Chelsea can finish on a high in their 69th game of the season on Sunday to make certain of automatic qualification for the Champions League next term.
"The team is tired and on the pitch it's not easy to play as many games and as many important games in the last three or four weeks," he said.
"We didn't do well in the beginning and we have to work harder at the end of the season.
"We have one more important game coming because we need to secure this third place."
Former England skipper Beckham has announced he is hanging up his boots at the end of the season.
The 38-year-old's last game for Paris Saint-Germain, on May 26, will be against Ligue 1 side Lorient and not - as some fans seem to think - against League One Leyton Orient.
So the O's sent out a message on their official Twitter feed reading: "Already had a few phone calls but to clear things up Beckham's last game is against FC Lorient not us."
The Lithuanian investment firm was listed on a government website of insolvent firms after reportedly declaring itself unable to meet its liabilities.
The club are no longer reliant on the company for external funding but they do owe it ?10million.
And the insolvency of club owners can lead to a points deduction under Scottish Premier League rules.
The SPL declined to comment on Thursday night but it is understood league officials are consulting with lawyers as to the facts of this case and whether they impinge on their rules.
If deemed to fall foul of insolvency rules before Sunday's season finale, Hearts would be deducted a third of last season's total - 18 points. Hearts are 13 points above bottom club Dundee and would be relegated.
The club were tonight monitoring developments.
A statement read: "Heart of Midlothian Football Club can today acknowledge it is aware of a report circulating in Lithuania relating to its parent company UAB Ukio Banko Investicine Grupe (UBIG).
"The club is seeking clarification regarding UBIG's current situation and as such, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."
The SPL updated its insolvency rules last summer but the effect of an owner suffering an insolvency event is not immediately obvious.
Rule A6.12 appears to state that the board can act in such situations if it is decided that it needs to protect the integrity and continuity of the league; the reputation of the league; and "the relationship between such owner and operator and the Group Undertaking concerned, also include any Group Undertaking of such an owner and operator taking, suffering or being subject to an Insolvency Event and/or an Insolvency Process."
In their defence, Hearts will point out that they have not required external funding from UBIG since early last year.
It is understood they believe they are in a position to trade normally and that suppliers are being paid and they are up to date with tax.
The club survived a winding-up order over a ?450,000 tax bill before Christmas - with the help of more than ?1million raised by fans - and negotiated a repayment plan for a separate ?1.6million tax bill.
But the developments continue a chain of concerning events in Lithuania that have spiralled since Vladimir Romanov's personal finances collapsed. Romanov resigned from the board of UBIG after his bank went into administration.
UBIG controls about four-fifths of Hearts' shares and is owed about ?10million of the club's debt. A further ?15million is owed to Ukio Bankas, which was recently declared bankrupt, although the bank has launched an appeal.
Manager Gary Locke earlier admitted he might have to seek out the advice of Rangers manager Ally McCoist, who coped with an administration process last year that ultimately saw his team forced to start again in the Irn-Bru Third Division.
Before the UBIG news broke, Locke said: "Yeah, I could be spending a bit of time with Ally in the summer. I might phone him for a bit of advice.
"Hopefully that is not the case. We are certainly moving in the right direction in terms of the wages which are now sustainable."