Lomas plays down Saints record
Mon, 18 Feb 2013 18:15:00
Bayern Munich vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger believes there is an answer to those Arsenal fans pining for their past greats - Jack Wilshere.
Ahead of Tuesday night's first leg of the UEFA Champions League last-16 tie, Schweinsteiger has labelled Wilshere one of the best midfielders in the world.
And the Germany international believes Wilshere, 21, can be the cornerstone of a Gunners' resurgence after admitting they have lost ground on their European rivals in recent years.
"Yes the days are gone when they had players like Tony Adams or Thierry Henry - maybe they are still wishing for those players," he said.
"But they still have a good team. You only have to look at Jack Wilshere who is an excellent player.
"After he was out for so long, he is back now and showing his form.
"In his position, he is one of the best players there is."
Wilshere's long-awaited return to Arsenal ranks this season was celebrated by club and country after he missed more than a year with a persistent ankle problem.
Despite his tender years, Wilshere has been celebrated as one of the finest technical players to come out of this country in a generation and Schweinsteiger, who has 97 Germany caps, agrees.
"It has a lot to do with his size," he said.
"Your typical English player is over six foot - I would say that with Jack Wilshere he has different movements.
"He is dynamic, he has a good left foot and he has a good eye for his players around him. Those are his talents."
Schweinsteiger rubbished suggestions, however, that stopping Wilshere at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night will be enough to shut down Arsenal completely.
Wilshere, who signed a long-term deal at Arsenal in December, came off the substitutes' bench in Saturday's 1-0 FA Cup defeat to Blackburn after watching his team-mates fail to break down Championship opposition.
"I don't think one player makes a team - they do have 10 other players," he said.
"He is a very difficult opponent. We will try and minimise his influence on the game, but don't forget Arsenal is a very good team.
"Arsenal is not your classic English team. They have more of a European style with (Santi) Cazorla in there.
"I don't know why they haven't won a title for so many years because they have the capabilities.
"I would say Arsenal are still amongst the top-10 teams in Europe."
Drama has never been far away from the Italian during a colourful career that began with Lazio nearly 30 years ago, and he wrote another chapter of his story when he released a statement saying he had resigned from his post.
The 44-year-old, who guided the Robins to promotion in his first season in charge last term, has grown increasingly tetchy about the boardroom goings-on at the County Ground and on Monday night decided enough was enough.
Town have been the subject of a takeover bid for some time and Di Canio, who claimed to have first tendered his resignation last Tuesday, had pledged to stay if the deal was ratified by the Football League by 5pm on Monday.
No transaction was confirmed, though, and the former West Ham striker issued a statement through his agent, Phil Spencer, confirming he had quit.
"Last Tuesday, 12th February, I formally confirmed my resignation as manager of Swindon Town Football Club with immediate effect," said Di Canio.
"There have been a number of broken promises made by the club over the time that I have been manager of Swindon Town.
"Despite these problems, I have delivered everything and more that was asked of me, by achieving promotion last year as champions and competing this season for promotion to the Championship and being just three points from top place a year earlier than expected.
"I did not resign immediately, nor publicise my resignation after I had formally confirmed it as I did not want to jeopardise the negotiations for the sale of the club and I wanted to listen to what the proposed new owners plans were.
"Following discussions, my representatives put forward a proposal that would secure my future at the club until at least the end of the season and quite possibly beyond as well.
"This proposal actually reduced the club's contractual liabilities to me in the interest of saving Swindon Town FC. At a meeting last Friday the proposed new owners accepted and said they were very happy with the new terms.
"I entered into a temporary arrangement with the proposed new owners to continue in my role as manager but all this was agreed subject to Football League approval for the purchase of the club being granted by 5:00pm on Monday 18th February.
"At the time of issuing this statement, I have had no further contact from the proposed new owners and I have been told that unfortunately Football League approval has not been granted yet and therefore my temporary arrangement has ended and my resignation stands."
When initally asked to clarify Di Canio's resignation, a Swindon spokesman said they were unable to expand on the statement.
One of Di Canio's bugbears was the sale of Matt Ritchie to Bournemouth without his consent, a move indicative of the simmering tensions in Wiltshire.
Di Canio's success in the dugout has shocked some, with a number of observers considering him too hot-headed to manage a team.
As a player he courted controversy by pushing referee Paul Alcock to the ground while at Sheffield Wednesday, while he also had a number of disciplinary issues when at Celtic.
He joined Celtic in 1996 after an 11-year spell in his homeland where he struggled to establish himself with the likes of Lazio, his boyhood team, and AC Milan.
He left Wednesday for West Ham where he became a legend in the eyes of the United fans, scoring one of the Premier League's most memorable goals against Wimbledon.
After parting company with the Hammers he went to Charlton, before an emotional return to Lazio, although his time there was stained by his support of fascist movements and his association with the club's Ultras.
He retired from playing in 2008 and leaves Swindon sixth in League One, three points off top spot.
Swindon's current board eventually acknowledged Di Canio's resignation via a statement posted on their official website just after 10.30pm on Monday night.
They gave a nod to the situation surrounding Ritchie and said that Di Canio's assistant, Fabrizio Piccareta, will take the team against Tranmere on Tuesday.
The statement added that Piccareta would be in charge until the ownership situation has been cleared up, possibly hinting that Di Canio could yet return.
The statement read: "The board are disappointed that Paolo Di Canio has made the decision to resign at such a critical time for Swindon Town Football Club.
"We are also disappointed that the sale of the club has yet to be approved, but we hope the outstanding issues with the Football League will be resolved within a short period of time.
"It is worth noting that Matt Ritchie was sold due to the tremendous financial pressure the club is facing and in order to continue operating whilst the sale of the club went through.
"We understand the prospective new owners had reached agreement with Paolo Di Canio on bringing in loan players to strengthen the squad for a final push for the Championship.
"Until the situation has been resolved, Fabrizio Piccareta will be in temporary charge of the team as we travel to Tranmere Rovers tomorrow, where a win would see Swindon become leaders of League One.
"The board shares the fans' tremendous frustration at the events of the last few weeks and is determined to resolve these issues to ensure the best outcome for the club."
The former Blackpool and Leeds boss was sacked by Huddersfield last month following a winless run of 12 league matches, despite leading them to League One play-off final glory at the end of last season.
While acknowledging the prospect of waiting for another job at Championship level, Grayson felt the chance to take up the reins as Graham Westley's successor at Deepdale was too good to turn down.
"I got sacked by Huddersfield a few weeks ago, I've had a break and had a bit of a holiday but in that period of time I've been looking to get back," said the 43-year-old. "I love football, I'm a football man and I got itchy feet.
"I had one or two other opportunities to go to other clubs and had enquiries about going to other clubs, but once I spoke to the owners here I found a club that could match my ambitions as well as me matching theirs.
"I'm delighted to be here, I know that the club's got a fantastic tradition and history and hopefully we can get back to those winning ways and take the club back to where it belongs in the Championship, and hopefully beyond some day.
He added: "That (waiting for a Championship job) was a possibility but you can wait too long, you can have a breather and be out too long and suddenly you get a little bit forgotten.
"So I thought coming to Preston North End fitted the bill with a lot of things and I'm delighted to have done that.
"If it was a club that didn't have the ambition of trying to be successful then I wouldn't be here but it certainly inspired me to come."
The 23-year-old has not made a first-team appearance but has played for Cowdenbeath and Forfar on loan.
Gallacher told the club's official website: "It's really good to sign another contract. This is a great club to be at and I grew up supporting Rangers so I'm delighted to be staying on once again.
"I've been here for seven years now and I'm still waiting for my chance but hopefully it can come soon.
"We're not far from winning the league so hopefully we can do that and then I can get to play in one of the remaining games after that.
"It's down to the gaffer and (goalkeeping coach) Jim Stewart to decide whether that happens or not but I would love an opportunity to show what I can do."
Rangers manager Ally McCoist is hoping to sign Kilmarnock goalkeeper Cammy Bell on a pre-contract agreement and also trying to extend Neil Alexander's contract, stating he would send Gallacher on loan if both deals come off.
Gallacher added: "I'm glad the management have the trust in me to offer me an extended stay and I'm looking to repay them for that.
"There has been a bit of speculation about goalkeepers lately and Rangers are a massive club so you're always going to have that.
"That's something you get used to and accept. You take it as it comes but all I can do is do my best and hope things work in my favour."
Shiels last week said Ipswich were one of a number of English clubs competing with Rangers for the signature of the Scotland international, who is out of contract in the summer.
But Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy later denied any knowledge of the club's reported interest.
McCarthy told the East Anglian Daily Times: "It was a lie if he confirmed it.
"Do you want me to say it again? There's no truth in it - he's lying or he's telling fibs. Is lying too strong a word?
"I've not spoken to him and if somebody from this club has spoken to him, they've done it without me saying so. If that's the case, then I'm going to be pretty cheesed."
Shiels told STV on Monday: "An agent contacted me last week to say Ipswich were interested in Cammy and he also mentioned other clubs from England.
"I'm only relaying a message when I was asked the question about Cammy's future."
Director Sergejus Fedotovas hinted on Saturday that takeover talks were taking place with a number of interested parties.
But the club continued talks with Supporters Direct Scotland over the weekend over increased fan involvement in the club, currently controlled by Vladimir Romanov's UBIG group.
A statement on Monday stressed that supporter involvement remained a priority "provided it is productive and can demonstrate a secure path for the club's future wellbeing".
Fedotovas added: "We have a responsibility to protect the business and ensure that we give Hearts the best prospects for the future, even once the club has been sold.
"Our aim is to secure a solid and stable future for the club and we do believe that the supporters should play an integral part in this process.
"We must, however, not allow emotion to cloud sound business sense as our decision on who the club should be passed over to is a very important one when we are dealing with an institution as prestigious as this.
"Supporters can be assured that we will not rush this decision and we will maintain our positive communications with Supporters Direct, who have been integral in the overall discussions regarding possible supporter-control models."
In a statement on the Hearts website, SDS head Paul Goodwin said: "The meeting with Sergejus Fedotovas was productive and we agreed that the community ownership model was still an option that would be considered alongside any other offers that the club might attract.
"With that in mind we agreed to embark on a series of planning meetings over the coming weeks, working to see if a viable plan could be presented before the end of the season. The first of these meetings is scheduled for later this week."
The Parkhead club have had at times an uneasy relationship with the vociferous and political section of the Hoops support, who boycotted Saturday's 6-2 Scottish Premier League win over Dundee United at Parkhead, due to what they claimed to be "the continued police harassment of our members".
The fans' group released a lengthy statement airing their grievances which they say has led to a situation where "any relationship with the club has completely disintegrated".
Within the statement was criticism of Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell and Hoops boss Lennon for allegedly not addressing their concerns.
The Parkhead club responded with a statement which promised that "each incident or complaint will be investigated" while also saying: "Accusations suggesting that the Club is in some way involved in targeting supporters are ludicrous.
"These accusations have absolutely no foundation whatsoever and, of course, are very disappointing."
Ahead of Tuesday night's visit to St Johnstone in the SPL, Lennon, who has often backed the Green Brigade for the noise and colour they bring to home games especially, was looking for resolution.
He said: "I have had no direct contact (with Green Brigade). We did make an offer to speak to them a while back but they never came forward.
"There is no need for all this unnecessary conflict between any group of supporters and the club because we are moving well on and off the field.
"The club have always maintained an open stance on it, that if anyone has a legitimate complaint the club will look at it and deal with it as best they can and that has never changed.
"They (Green Brigade) are an important part of the club, they have brought an energy and a freshness to the stadium and I have been quite supportive of that.
"However, there is no collusion between the club or any of the authorities to dampen that.
"Our main concern is health and safety within the ground and, as I said, if anyone has a grievance, write to the club, who have helped in the past as best they can and have helped in a lot of ways and that stance remains open to the Green Brigade."
Strathclyde Police are aware of the Green Brigade's complaints but have yet to respond.
While Lennon was conciliatory in his approach to the Green Brigade, the Northern Irishman was unimpressed with reports which claimed UEFA were "irritated" by his threat to send a DVD of complaint about Spanish referee Alberto Mallenco.
The Celtic manager was raging at the official for not punishing severely enough the Juventus players who manhandled his men during the first leg of the Champions League last-16 clash at Parkhead last Tuesday, which the Italians won 3-0.
"I think it is a load of rubbish myself, there is no direct quotes from UEFA so I would disregard that story," said Lennon.
"We may not (send a DVD). We have compiled something but we might just do it through a phone call.
"All I want is clarification. If that is allowed in the game then fine, we will start doing it, or were UEFA happy with the referee's performance and some aspects of the game? That's all."
Lennon revealed skipper Scott Brown will see a specialist to ascertain whether or not he is to go under the knife.
The midfielder sat out the United game at the weekend with an abductor problem and will miss the trip to Perth.
Brown, however, has been bothered by an ongoing hip problem this season which was thought at one time to require surgery, but both problems are to be addressed.
Hoops manager Lennon said: "Scott will be seeing a specialist regarding his abductor and we will wait on the outcome of that.
"We will have a look at what he had before and he might require surgery, we are not sure yet, we will see what the specialist says but hopefully that won't be the case."
Celtic are 18 points clear of Motherwell at the top of the table but Lennon insists complacency won't be a problem.
He said: "We want to keep the run going.
"There has been no signs of complacency, we have our targets to reach and some players might have targets so we are pretty focused."
Strathclyde Police later responded to the fans' accusations.
Deputy Chief Constable Ruaraidh Nicolson said: "We are aware of claims by a specific group of Celtic fans of police harassment.
"We would actively encourage anyone who thinks they have been unfairly targeted to report their concerns to us and be confident that a thorough investigation will be carried out."
The Saints beat Neil Lennon's men 2-1 at McDiarmid Park in September and while they lost 5-0 when the two sides met in the Scottish Communities League Cup quarter-final at Parkhead the following month, Lomas men grabbed a 1-1 draw in the SPL when they returned to the east end of Glasgow in November.
St Johnstone's efforts have barely dented Celtic in their title quest - the champions are 18 points clear of Motherwell at the top of the table - but they have shown the way to the rest of the SPL.
However, the Northern Irishman will not reflect too long on the four points won against the Hoops, who are fresh from a 6-2 hammering of Dundee United at the weekend.
Lomas said: "We are not looking at it like that, we are looking at playing a very good Celtic team.
"They have players like Gary Hooper, Kris Commons, Joe Ledley, Victor Wanyama, Anthony Stokes - the list is endless.
"We will go into the game massive underdogs and it will take another mammoth effort from everyone if we are to get anything.
"When you play the Old Firm you have got to be at your maximum.
"You have to be disciplined, be brave in and out of possession, have a little bit of luck and take your chances when they come along.
"If Celtic get their noses in front then it is very difficult. They bounced back from the Juventus defeat to thrash Dundee United and they can do that against anybody on their day.
"But we are one of eight or nine teams who want to be up there behind them and we are looking forward to the game."
Lomas, though, admits he is still puzzled by Ross County manager Derek Adams' analysis of the Staggies' 1-0 win over Saints in Dingwall on Saturday, which left the Perth side in sixth place.
The former West Ham and Manchester City midfielder said: "I read some of Derek's quotes and he said his side dominated. I'm not sure where he got that from.
"I suppose football is all about opinions but their keeper was man of the match.
"On any other day we could have got three points and it just goes to show you that stats can lie.
"On every stat we were ahead but in the one stat that mattered, they got the goal.
"Their keeper made a few good saves, they had defenders getting blocks in and so all credit to them but I thought we were the better team."