Samaras happy to be a Hoop
Thu, 09 May 2013 17:11:00
Phil Jagielka has called on Everton to ensure that they kick on again this summer once David Moyes heads for Manchester United.
It has been a whirlwind 24 hours for all concerned at Goodison Park, with it announced on Thursday that Moyes is to succeed retiring Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
He has agreed a six-year contract with the Red Devils and will officially take their reins on 1st July.
Moyes will see out the 2012/13 campaign with Everton, with there still two games to come, and it is important for them to end the season as positively as possible.
The challenge facing the Toffees then will be to find a suitable replacement for Moyes and to continue to build on the positive foundations he has put in place over the last 11 years.
Jagielka is convinced they can do just that, telling Everton's official website: "Like the rest of the squad I have nothing but the highest regard for David Moyes.
"He is a first class operator on and off the training ground and on behalf of the players I would like to place on record my thanks for the work he has done improving the team.
"It was as much of a shock to the dressing room as I'm sure it was to Everton and our fans.
"All the lads wish him the very best for the future but we still have two important Premier League games to play and all our attentions will be focused on winning against West Ham and at Chelsea.
"Once the season is over we can collectively look forward in order to ensure we continue to build on the positive work of the past few seasons."
Third-placed Caley Thistle are looking to remain in pole position for a Europa League spot when they host United on Saturday and could wrap up their first European qualification if St Johnstone lose at Celtic Park earlier on.
Butcher has overseen a dramatic change in fortunes for a side which found themselves bottom of the table for a long spell during an injury crisis early last season.
And he believes his players will relish being in such a heady position in the penultimate match of the season, rather than fear the consequences of defeat.
Butcher, whose side edged a seven-goal thriller against Motherwell last weekend, said: "We have only lost three games at home this season - two to Celtic and one to Motherwell and they are the top two teams.
"It's been a remarkable run. If you look at last year we lost the first three home games. It's been a massive turnaround in fortune, style of play and attitude.
"This is not pressure, it's pleasure. It's pleasure being where we are and a pleasure winning, and hopefully we can replicate that on Saturday.
"The key thing for the players is to have no regrets - to go out and enjoy it, and win."
The striker has impressed while on loan at the Edinburgh club and was voted PFA Scotland young player of the year by his fellow professionals on Sunday.
Parent club Wolves ultimately have the final say on his future with a one-year option on his contract at Molineux.
However, former Hibs boss Collins says the best option for the 22-year-old could be an extended stay in the SPL.
The former Scotland midfielder said: "From an international point of view, if he's playing in the SPL and scoring goals every week, then Gordon Strachan is going to be aware of him.
"I don't think it really matters where you are.
"If you are playing well and scoring a lot of exceptional goals, then there is a good chance the Scotland manager will have his eye on you.
"He's a good fit for Hibs. He's the main man, he's very comfortable and relaxed and he knows the team needs him and he knows the fans love him.
"He's in a comfort zone - but a good comfort zone.
"I think if he goes down south he will be outside his comfort zone and I wouldn't bet money on him being a huge success.
"He's got talent, he's a good football player and he's got self-belief, which is so important."
Griffiths made his international debut in a friendly against Luxembourg last November.
The views of Collins were echoed by Strachan's predecessor Craig Levein.
He said: "When you're the Scotland manager, you get advice from a lot of people, as you can imagine.
"You have to use your own judgement and I feel, this season, in my eyes, he has become more of a team member than he'd been previously.
"He's working harder and I think he is getting the rewards for that and Hibs are getting the rewards.
"I've no doubt, if he continues in the vein that he's going, that Gordon will have a look at him and he might get a few games coming up."
The 29-year-old, who left Oxford at the end of the season, made 157 appearances for the Pilgrims between 2001 and 2008.
That spell at Home Park came to an end after he was found guilty of causing the death by dangerous driving of two children.
Following his release from jail in 2008 the shotstopper returned to football with Truro before signing for the U's in January.
"Although Luke made a dreadful mistake with unthinkable consequences, he has served his time and is totally remorseful," said Argyle chairman James Brent.
"While I respect others who have alternative views, from a moral standpoint, the board and I think Luke is entitled to rehabilitation.
"John Sheridan wanted to sign him and the club is totally supportive of that."
A statement on Argyle's official website revealed that, as part of the deal, McCormick will donate a significant sum of money and give his time to support a local children's charity.
The Bulgarian midfielder, who was diagnosed with the condition in March last year and is now in remission, on Thursday announced he will retire.
Tributes poured in for the fans' favourite, with former Celtic team-mate Lambert describing his friend as a "fantastic player" and "a nice guy with a heart of gold".
Petrov's priority will now be his health and work for his leukaemia charity, but Lambert revealed he is already mulling over a role for the popular captain.
"He'll be missed here but the door will always be open for him," said the Scot.
"I have some things in my head which I'm running over.
"I've something in my head I'm thinking about at the minute and it's not a sentimental thing at all. It's just some things my staff and myself spoken about, they know what I think."
Petrov will lead Villa out for their traditional lap of appreciation after Saturday's final home game against Chelsea.
Villa fans and their opposition counterparts have shown support for Petrov with 60 seconds of applause in the 19th minute of every game since he fell ill, in tribute to his squad number. Lambert knows Saturday's farewell will be particularly poignant.
"For him to lead out the team will be a great occasion," said the Villa boss.
"I think it will be pretty emotional for him when he does it on Saturday."
Lambert added: "Not having him around here during his illness has been huge blow, it can never be underestimated.
"Him not playing has been massive for this club. Having to try to replace someone like that - a footballer who is a fantastic player - has been hard.
"He has a heart of gold, he's nice guy. I knew him since he was 19 years of age and he first came to Glasgow and I had a good friendship with him.
"I played with him for nine years and he was always someone you knew you needed to be in the trenches with you."
In a statement released by Villa, 33-year-old Petrov, who signed for Villa from Celtic in 2006, said: "I've never been a person for making grand statements.
"I've only ever got on with my job, while remaining grateful to have great team-mates, great people around me and, most of all, a fantastic family.
"They have been powerful pillars of support when I have needed them most over the past year.
"To my wife, Paulina, and my sons, Kristiyan and Stiliyan, I love you very much and I will always for your constant love and support.
"Also to my mum and dad, my brother and Paulina's mum and the people who have been closest to me throughout this time - you know who you are and I love you all.
"Each and every day I thank God for giving me the opportunity to still be with my family.
"Football has been the other great love of my life, so it is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my retirement from the game.
"The emotions are overwhelming really, but the continued support of family, friends and the great people I have come to know will make it easier for me to move on from the only life I've ever known."
Supporters had also been planning further tributes at the last game of the season at Wigan.
Fans were planning to wear Villa, Celtic or Bulgaria kits and hold banners displaying 'Petrov 19'.
Petrov said: "I wish to thank the fans of Aston Villa and the Villa chairman, Randy Lerner, chief executive Paul Faulkner and manager Paul Lambert, also the fans of Celtic, the Bulgarian fans and fans of football all over the world who have helped me through the past year with their incredible displays of support and with their personal, moving messages.
"I would also like to thank all of the managers I have worked under and all of the team-mates I have played alongside."
The Blues' longest-serving player has made 289 appearances since joining from Ipswich in 2003 and the new deal entitles the fans' favourite to a testimonial as reward for his loyalty.
The 29-year-old had suffered a frustrating season because of injury but he is targeting a pre-season return.
"Nine-and-a-half years is quite a big chunk of your life to spend at one club so I'm delighted to be offered the opportunity to extend that for another year," he told Chairboys Player.
"I'm proud and honoured to have been able to have spent 10 years at one place, it's a big deal and to have spent it here is an even bigger deal.
"Some of the names that have achieved that and had a testimonial here over the years are big names within the club's history and I'm really proud and honoured to go into my testimonial year.
"I've been in the gym nearly every day and I'm working as hard as I possibly can to get fit as soon as I can."
The 24-year-old is approaching the end of his season-long loan at Upton Park from Liverpool and, despite a couple of injury setbacks earlier in the campaign, the England international has impressed during his time in east London.
It remains to be seen if Carroll will pen a permanent deal with the Hammers, with financial constraints and a yearning from the player to prove himself at Anfield likely stumbling blocks.
But the former Newcastle striker, who was named as co-chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold's player of the year at West Ham's awards on Wednesday night, admits he has had a great season.
"Coming down here to London, it's a long way from home but I've enjoyed every minute of it," he told West Ham TV.
"I knew a few of the lads down here already and all the others have welcomed me into the squad, so it's been great.
"It doesn't really matter what happens, I will work hard for the team I am playing for. This season has been great for me.
"When I'm fit, I try my hardest and I run about and put myself about and I feel that's what I'm about - if I didn't have that then I would have lost half of my game."
Two years ago, success in the competition heralded City's arrival among the elite of the English game.
Their Wembley victory over Stoke ended a 35-year trophy drought and they followed up by winning the Premier League in dramatic fashion last year.
The mood has changed this season as a result of failure to defend the title and disappointment in the Champions League, and consequently the FA Cup has had the feel of a consolation prize.
Kompany disputes that and, as City prepare to face Wigan at the national stadium, he is determined to made the most of the occasion.
The Belgium defender said: "Every single time it is something very special.
"You shouldn't take these kind of games for granted, they don't always keep coming.
"It is unbelievable for us to do it again, and for the fans it is unbelievable as well.
"We have to be respectful of every trophy we can get. If we win this one it will be massive for the club and something to cherish.
"If you win a trophy you should celebrate it, you consider it as a great achievement."
City began the season as favourites for the Premier League and confident of making an impact in Europe.
But their title hopes were comprehensively dashed by Manchester United and they finished bottom of their Champions League group.
Despite that, they look secure in second place in the table - last season aside, a position not attained since 1977 - and winning silverware would still constitute success.
Kompany said: "You can always do better and we have got next season to do that.
"You have to be respectful of what the FA Cup represents.
"If you win trophies it is something that will be remembered forever."
City are firm favourites with Wigan's progress to the final having been overshadowed by their struggle to avoid relegation.
Latics suffered a damaging defeat to Swansea in midweek and remain adrift of safety but, as they continue to earn plaudits for their style, Kompany remains wary of Roberto Martinez's men.
The 27-year-old said: "They are one of the more difficult sides we have played this season.
"You can see it's a team that doesn't fear keeping possession.
"When it's going well for them they are a very difficult team to play against. We have to be careful.
"When they played at Etihad, they were really good and caused us a lot of trouble.
"But we managed it really well in the end. We didn't concede and we won the game.
"I think they are a good team and if people think they will be easy then it is a mistake."
While Wigan toiled against Swansea on Tuesday, City were able to rest several players in their fixture against West Brom.
Manager Roberto Mancini made eight changes with Kompany among the key players left out.
Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy were also given the night off while Sergio Aguero and David Silva did not get off the bench.
There was some concern about Toure, with the influential midfielder having also been withdrawn at half-time of last week's game at Swansea through fatigue, but he has declared himself fit.
The 29-year-old, who scored the winner against Stoke in 2011, said: "I am good. Sometimes it is difficult to play all the games at the same level and sometimes you can get an injury.
"But we have worked on that, trying to keep injury far away and try to concentrate on delivering at the weekend.
"I am already fit. I started training three days ago and I am well in now.
"I want to deliver a good game and help the team to achieve something important."
Winger Scott Sinclair is out of contention after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot in shoulder but otherwise City have no major injury concerns.
Back-up goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon is expected to be selected ahead of England number one Joe Hart having played in all the previous rounds.
Midfielder James Milner believes cup success can be the springboard for more glory next season.
Milner, speaking at the club's pre-match media day, said: "We are bitterly disappointed how the league went this year.
"The main thing is that we win a piece of silverware at the weekend, do that and take the momentum of winning a trophy into next season and have a good league campaign.
"It's tough to get to any final. There's one game standing between you and a piece of silverware and it's an awesome feeling to win it."
Moyes, 50, has been given a six-year contract at Old Trafford while Sir Alex Ferguson will remain at the club as a director and ambassador.
Hodgson believes that will prove a help rather than a hindrance to Moyes.
He told talkSPORT: "I'm sure that being available for the new man he will be a Godsend in that respect because there is nothing he doesn't know about football and Manchester United.
"The amount of time he has given to younger managers in terms of advice and support, and the support he has given to the LMA (League Managers' Association) to protect those managers, you don't expect that from someone at the very top of his profession."
Hodgson also paid tribute to Ferguson and insisted that too much has been made of his qualities as a strict disciplinarian.
He added: "For me it's also his human qualities and I think those two are linked together, you don't become that successful and have such great relationships and build such good teams if you are just a so-called disciplinarian and hard worker.
"You also have to have a lot of human qualities so that people can relate to you and warm to you and I think Alex has that quality in abundance.
"I think that his enthusiasm and his energy are as great as ever and I am certain that won't diminish.
"His footballing qualities and everything he has achieved are never going to be equalled. The epithet 'the greatest' is very well deserved."
Chelsea's interim manager Rafael Benitez was a Merseyside rival of Moyes during his time as Liverpool manager and has also had a tempestuous relationship with Ferguson over the years.
He sees a good fit between Moyes and his new club but, perhaps unsurprisingly, stopped short of offering a gushing endorsement.
"He's a good manager," said the Spaniard. "I think that he will have a very good team, so I'm sure he will compete at the top and he can win trophies with a big club.
"It's not easy to find someone like Ferguson, but he's a manager with experience in the Premier League. He knows the players, he knows the club and the Premier League.
"It could be a good appointment, but it takes time to say."
Former United defender Henning Berg, meanwhile, believes Moyes is the perfect candidate to take on the enormous task of replacing Ferguson.
The Norwegian is an admirer of the way Moyes has gone about his business during an 11-year stay at Goodison Park and believes he could even bring some playing talent with him.
England left-back Leighton Baines has been strongly linked with the Red Devils before and Marouane Fellaini is known to covet a move to a title-chasing side.
"David Moyes is a very good choice," said Berg. "He's very similar to Ferguson as a manager.
"He's shown at Everton what he can do with limited resources and he will look to lead the club in the same way.
"Of course he might want to bring one or two (Everton) players with him but I don't think there will be too many changes.
"Most things are working at United at the moment so it's a smooth transition."
Brighton boss Gus Poyet, whose side are in the npower Championship play-offs, believes Ferguson will cast a long shadow for years to come.
"After Alex Ferguson, football in England is going to be different because of the personality, the power, the leadership and everything he has done in football," the Uruguayan said at a press conference.
"I am sure the Premier League next year is going to be totally different. Something is going to be missing.
"You cannot copy, you cannot get another Alex Ferguson. There is only one."
One player who will end up as a footnote in the Ferguson era is Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha. He will join the Red Devils in the summer and will go down as Ferguson's final signing.
His Palace boss Ian Holloway said: "It's the end of an era. A fantastic, great man who will bow out at the top. The best manager in my lifetime has suddenly stopped.
"I feel sad for Wilf as well as I'm sure he wanted one or two seasons with him.
"I had a chat with Wilf and I'm sure when it all settles down they will be in touch. He goes down as Sir Alex's last ever signing - it's not a bad one."
Moyes can build a "master and apprentice" relationship with predecessor Ferguson, according to former England boss Steve McClaren.
McClaren knows plenty about working closely with Ferguson, having served as assistant boss at Old Trafford for two-and-a-half years and he believes outgoing Everton chief Moyes is an inspired choice by the Red Devils.
Ferguson will not sever his 26-year association with the club completely, instead operating as both director and ambassador, and McClaren thinks the relationship between the two men will be key to success of the transition.
"I think it's a fantastic appointment," he told Sky Sports News.
"He has a near identical work ethic, character, competitiveness to that of Sir Alex but he's got that longevity at Everton - to build a club and sustain that success year in, year out, at their level.
"The key thing is he will have Sir Alex at the side of him and if they get on, as I know they do, it's the master and the apprentice.
"He has to be open to that help. The experience Sir Alex has got will be invaluable."
Ferguson's epic reign at United is widely considered to be an unmatchable feat in the modern game, but McClaren expects Moyes to be around for a long time to come.
"For football in general, it brings a bit of sanity back to the game," he said.
"United had a plan. It's not about short-term success, it's not about sustaining it for the next one or two years, it's the next 26 years.
"He could be the next manager to do that. That's how they're thinking."
The Greece international, 28, arrived at Parkhead on loan from Manchester City in January 2008, before signing a permanent deal the following summer, and is now the longest-serving player at the club aside from skipper Scott Brown.
While speculation surrounds the future of Hoops players such as Gary Hooper, Victor Wanyama and Fraser Forster, Samaras is "fully committed" to the Clydesdale Bank Premier League champions and will discuss an extension to his current deal, which finishes next year, at a time to suit both parties.
Speaking at Lennoxtown ahead of Saturday's SPL clash with St Johnstone at Parkhead, he said: "I have one more year of my contract and hopefully I will be here next season.
"Six years is a lot but it has gone in so fast and when you feel good at the club, people are looking after you and you feel you are part of a big family, I cannot see a reason to leave.
"But it is too soon to speak about a contract. When they are ready and I am ready then we will have a chat.
"But we have plenty of time, don't worry."
On the theme of possible changes at the Parkhead club, Samaras is not surprised that boss Neil Lennon has been linked with the vacant managerial post at Everton, following David Moyes' imminent departure to take over from soon-to-be-retired Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
He said: "I haven't heard anything but all I can say is that when you are playing at a high level like the Champions League and doing well then for sure people will come and watch the players or the manager or whoever is part of the team.
"That is normal. When you are doing well when people will come and watch you.
"But I don't know what he is thinking or what he wants to do."
Samaras is looking forward to Celtic being presented with the SPL trophy on Saturday, before they turn their attentions to the William Hill Scottish Cup final against Hibernian at Hampden Park later in the month.
"It is a great day for everyone, for all the hard work we have put in all season," said Samaras, who was recently voted player of the year by the club's supporters.
"It is day when the fans and enjoy the game, there is no pressure, just a celebration.
"Our mentality is to go and win every game. I know in the last couple of games we didn't have the best results but to be honest we are really focused for the cup final.
"It would be great to win the cup. Everybody is looking forward to that game."I have been six years at the club and I haven't done the double and I think now is the perfect timing."
Meanwhile, French defender Steven Mouyokolo has been training with the Celtic squad at Lennoxtown.
The 26-year-old centre-back is a free agent after his contract with Wolves was terminated by mutual consent in January.