Shoulder op likely for Gerrard

Bolton skipper Kevin Davies has turned down the opportunity to

join Toronto FC when his contract at the Reebok Stadium ends in the

summer.

Former Blackburn defender Ryan Nelsen, who is Toronto’s coach,

has been keen to lure the 36-year-old striker to the MLS

outfit.

Davies, who will end his 10-year stint at Bolton this season,

did contemplate the switch before deciding against linking up with

Nelsen.

“It has been a complete roller coaster since first speaking with

Ryan Nelsen on 18th April. As it stands today I will not be leaving

for Toronto FC as reported,” Davies said.

“My young family and I were naturally very excited about the

opportunity of going to Toronto on a short-term deal but after

legal advice we felt that certain obstacles put in our way were too

large to overcome.

“Whilst it has been the toughest month of my 10 year BWFC career

I remain, as I always have done, 100% committed to the club.

“I will be ready if the manager needs me and hopefully have a

part to play in helping the club return to The Premier League.

“I have some fantastic memories of the last 10 years and feel

honoured to have been the captain of this great club for the last

five years. Hopefully it will finish with a fairy tale ending.”

The 22-year-old Republic of Ireland midfielder is aware that

champions Manchester United are reportedly the latest to join the

lengthening list of top-flight clubs who are believed to be keeping

tabs on him.

McCarthy joined Latics from Hamilton four years ago and signed a

new five-year contract in 2011 after developing into a key player

for manager Roberto Martinez.

During his short time in the game he has become adept at

focusing on the job in hand which, again this season, is the

Latics’ survival as Wigan sit in the relegation zone, three points

behind Aston Villa albeit with a game in hand.

“I don’t want to talk about speculation,” said McCarthy.

“The most important thing is to keep Wigan in the Premier League

and that is all I am concentrating on.

“I am happy at Wigan, it is a great club to be at.

“I am learning all the time. Roberto Martinez and the coaching

staff have been different class and there are a great bunch of boys

at this club.

“We are three points adrift and there are massive games coming

up but I am confident enough because our recent performances have

been good.

“Against Man City we were brilliant at times but perhaps we

haven’t had the rub of the green and maybe we have not been taking

our chances. “So we have been putting in good performances but now

we need points.

“We need a few results but we are looking forward to the

challenge.”

McCarthy believes Wigan’s experience in battling at the wrong

end of the table may prove crucial in the final analysis.

The Lancashire club have five games to maintain their eight-year

stay in the Premier League, starting with the visit of Tottenham on

Saturday.

However, the Glaswegian believes the relegation battle may well

go down to the last day of the season when they take on Villa.

“It is in our own hands and if we go about our business the

right way then we’ll be fine,” he said.

“We have the experience of being in this position before and we

have a good squad who will be giving it our all.

“Hopefully we get enough points not to go into the last game

against Aston Villa needing a result but if we do then so be

it.”

Such is McCarthy’s focus on Premier League survival that he

cannot yet contemplate the FA Cup final against Manchester City at

Wembley next month.

“The gaffer spoke to us, saying that we need to concentrate on

the league so we can’t be thinking about the FA Cup final,” he

said.

“But everyone knows how massive it is to stay in the Premier

League.

“We need to get points on the board and the FA Cup final will

take care of itself.”

The England defender has had another excellent season but his

performances did not do enough to see him recognised by his fellow

professionals in the PFA Player of the Year nominations.

None of the six selected are defenders but Howard insisted

Baines’ contribution was vital to the team.

“With Bainesy at left-back it’s not a glamour position and I

think it’s hard sometimes to see just how effective he is,” he

said.

“He’s our key cog. We’ve got (Marouane) Fellaini and (Steven)

Pienaar and those guys, and obviously Kevin Mirallas, can produce a

bit of magic.

“But without Bainesy this team doesn’t go. It’s just hard

sometimes for people on the outside to see that.”

Howard insists the squad have not felt sorry for themselves

after last weekend’s defeat at Sunderland effectively ended their

chase for Champions League qualification.

European football is still a slim hope for David Moyes’ side

through fifth place in the league, although that looks increasingly

more difficult as they trail Tottenham by five points having played

one match more.

“We won’t let one setback knock us,” Howard told evertonTV ahead

of this weekend’s visit of Fulham, against whom they have won 12

and drawn one of their 13 meetings at Goodison Park.

“We have to perform at home, we know that, and when you are on

your home pitch you have to push the tempo.”

The quartet have been shortlisted for the association’s Player

of the Year gong having been nominated by their fellow

professionals, whose votes will decide who succeeds Celtic’s

Charlie Mulgrew.

On-loan Wolves frontman Griffiths has scored 25 goals during his

temporary Easter Road switch this season, with his double over

Falkirk earlier this month helping to fire the Leith outfit to the

William Hill Scottish Cup final for the second season running.

Fir Park striker Higdon, meanwhile, is the Scottish Premier

League’s top marksman overall with 24 top-flight strikes and 25

overall, helping propel the Steelmen up to second in the SPL

standings.

And McGinn has also enjoyed a breakout season since former

Pittodrie boss Craig brown converted him from winger to deadly

poacher following his switch Brentford in the summer, bagging 19

goals for the Reds in the process.

Inverness playmaker Shinnie has also had a season to remember,

earning himself a summer move to Birmingham with a series of

influential displays for the Highlanders and a career-high tally of

15 goals so far.

In the Young Player of the Year category, Victor Wanyama is SPL

champions Celtic’s only award nominee.

He will face competition from Griffiths – who will hope to

emulate former Hoops players Shaun Maloney and Aiden McGeady by

winning both the senior and young player prize in the same year –

as well as Dundee United pair Stuart Armstrong and Gary

Mackay-Steven.

The winners will be announced and presented with their awards at

the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow on Sunday, May 5.

PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart commented: “This is

the top award for players. There is no greater honour in football

than to be voted the best player in your country by your fellow

professionals.”

Bale has attracted the attention of Real, Barcelona, and a host

of other sides after firing in 28 goals for club and country this

season.

Bigger clubs have come calling for Tottenham’s top stars in

recent years, with differing outcomes. Manchester United

successfully prized Dimitar Berbatov away from White Hart Lane in

2008, but Spurs managed to hold on to Luka Modric – for a year at

least – despite Chelsea’s interest two summers ago.

Walsh, who played for Tottenham for four years, thinks chairman

Daniel Levy could play hard-ball in his attempt to keep Bale just

as he did with Modric, who was made to stay at White Hart Lane

despite his attempt to push through a move to Chelsea.

“He has three years left on his contract so Tottenham are in a

position where they can say, ‘You’re not going anywhere. We are

going to keep you’,” said Walsh, who was speaking at a Football

Pools event in Frome, Somerset.

“Daniel Levy has been quite hard-nosed on a couple of other

occasions in the past so I don’t think Tottenham are just going to

roll over.

“He didn’t let Modric go that summer and that might be what they

have to do with Bale.”

Bale, who is odds-on favourite to be crowned PFA Player of the

Year on Sunday, once again showed his worth last weekend when he

helped inspire Spurs to a stunning comeback against Manchester

City.

The Londoners went behind to Samir Nasri’s goal, but Bale played

in Clint Dempsey to equalise and then scored Tottenham’s third

after Jermain Defoe had put Spurs 2-1 ahead.

City were in control for most of the game but the three-goal

salvo turned the contest on its head in a matter of minutes.

Still fifth in the table, Spurs cannot afford to take their foot

off the accelerator in their last five games, but Walsh admits the

manner of the win over last year’s champions will give Andre

Villas-Boas’ squad a big psychological boost ahead of a tough run

in.

“The players will be able to draw strength from it and belief

from it,” Walsh said.

“They will say, ‘We won’t give up because we know we can turn it

around’. Because they have done it against Manchester City, it will

be in the memory bank for when they need it and they will need to

be strong mentality in the business end of the season.

“Fourth spot gets you into a competition and it gets you a big

amount of money.”

Like Bale, Jermain Defoe also returned from injury to star in

the City win. Walsh thinks the striker, who missed the previous

three games with a pelvis problem, should start Saturday’s game

away at Wigan ahead of Emmanuel Adebayor, who has drawn criticism

for his performances in recent weeks.

“I think it will be Defoe who starts,” he said. “Now you have a

glad to be back, confident Defoe going into the Wigan game. That

might be what Tottenham need.”

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The 18-year-old, who was offered a first professional contract

at Boundary Park two weeks ago, was named in the starting XI by Lee

Johnson with their League One status already having been

secured.

And despite the defeat, the right-back was left thrilled with

his outing.

“It was a great experience to play and to make my league debut,”

he told the club’s official website.

“It is something I will never forget and I loved everything

which came with it.

“I have had a taste and now want to kick on and play more games.

I will be doing a lot of fitness work in the summer so I am in good

shape when I report back for pre-season training.

“I knew I was in the squad but was only told I was playing when

we arrived at the hotel for our pre-match meal. It was probably

done to prevent me having too long to think about playing and to

become nervous.”

The Gunners have agreed to a guard of honour for the newly

crowned Barclays Premier League champions ahead of Sunday’s

showdown at the Emirates Stadium – but Langton warned Robin van

Persie should expect a “hot reception”.

United sealed a 20th domestic championship on Monday night when

they beat Aston Villa 3-0 at Old Trafford, where former Gunners’

captain Van Persie smashed a hat-trick.

The title winners have traditionally been clapped out onto the

pitch in their next match, with United having done so themselves in

2005 for Chelsea, who then returned the gesture two years later,

and also Arsenal when they came to Highbury back in 1991.

However, with passions still running high among some of the

Emirates Stadium faithful by the manner in which Van Persie left

last summer in a ?24million move, there have been suggestions those

disgruntled fans will turn their backs when the teams come out from

the tunnel in protest.

While AISA chair Langton believes the club are right to show

United respect of their achievements, she can understand why

emotions will boil over as far as Van Persie is concerned.

“I think we have to give the guard of honour, as I don’t want us

to look as though we are being petty by not giving the guard of

honour,” said Langton.

“For it not to happen and for supporters not to acknowledge the

Manchester United team as they come out would actually boost Robin

van Persie’s ego.

“I would rather us just acknowledge them and then get on with

the game – otherwise the focus will be on Robin van Persie, rather

than the Arsenal team, which is what we are supposed to be going

there to support.

“Having said that, the reality is he will get a hot

reception.”

Langton added: “Football is a game of passion and emotion, and

there are a large amount of supporters who feel very strongly about

the circumstances in which Robin van Persie left.

“We had the seven years of him being injured with us, then he

had his one injury-free good season, and at the end of that he

decided to leave.

“The statement he came out with when he left, which I think he

felt showed he identified with supporters, actually showed how very

far removed he was from supporters.

“He completely called it wrong, he did not appreciate how

Arsenal supporters felt about him and about the club.

“He alienated himself from supporters by the way in which he

brought about his move, that is still felt very strongly by Arsenal

supporters and is what is going to generate the response that he is

going to get when he comes back on Sunday.”

Van Persie has continued his fine goalscoring form this season,

chalking up 28 in all competitions and is in line to collect the

Premier League’s Golden Boot once again.

Langton, however, feels Van Persie’s rhetoric and body language

have gone little way to calming any tensions.

“He has also not been terribly respectful towards Arsene Wenger,

with the celebration after he scored that penalty (against Stoke),

when he ran over to the touchline and embraced (Sir) Alex

Ferguson,” she added.

“It sends out a message that Arsene Wenger has not been the one

who brought him to the stage he got to now, recognising who got him

to where he is today.

“When he came to us he was a slight persona non grata in

Holland, where he had difficulties at Feyenoord. It was a risk

buying him, and without question Arsene Wenger has made him into

the player he is today.”

Arsenal – who must do without striker Olivier Giroud for three

games after the Football Association on Tuesday rejected his appeal

against a red card at Fulham – retain a slender one-point lead over

fourth-placed Chelsea and are two ahead of north London rivals

Tottenham, albeit having played a match more, as the battle for

Champions League qualification looks set to go to the wire.

Langton feels the Gunners will move to improve their squad over

the summer, when Wenger is said to have a ?100million warchest at

his disposal.

“There is an acknowledgement by the club that something needs to

be done to bridge the gap,” she said, “but the hierarchy and

supporters still have faith in Arsene Wenger to identify who is

needed to do that, rather than it just being about that we need to

buy high-profile players.”

Giroud has impressed in his first Arsenal season, netting 17

goals following a ?13million summer move from French champions

Montpellier.

The 26-year-old, though, took some time before he finally found

the net, in a Capital One Cup tie against Coventry.

He told Arsenal Player: “It is very special for a striker to

score because whether it is a big game or not, it is always the

same sensation.

“You feel better after you score, you feel more relieved and you

try more things, you are more confident – it is like a drug, and

you are so peaceful after.”

The Pompey Supporters’ Trust (PST), who rescued Portsmouth from

the brink of going bust last week, started by naming Guy

Whittingham as their permanent manager on a one-year rolling

contract on Wednesday.

New chairman Iain McInnes said the 48-year-old was “the

unanimous choice of the board and the fans”.

Whittingham, a south-coast legend from his time as a striker at

Fratton Park, was appointed caretaker boss in November after

Michael Appleton quit for Blackpool.

He took over a club in administration for the second time in

three years with estimated debts of ?60million and, courtesy of

another 10-point deduction, on their way to a third relegation in

four seasons.

Whittingham has only been able to field youngsters, loanees and

free agents on month-long contracts – Pompey have used more than 50

players this season – but, having found a settled side in recent

weeks he guided them to a run of just two defeats in 10.

Pompey, who lifted the FA Cup in 2008 and were still in the

Barclays Premier League just three years ago, will kick off next

term in the bottom division.

They may still be sifting through the wreckage left behind by

various previous owners but, at what is now the country’s biggest

fan-owned club, hopes are high of quickly moving back in the right

direction.

“You’ve got to aim for promotion, of course you have,” said

Whittingham.

“But first and foremost the aim is not to go back to where we

have been. We wouldn’t wish what happened to us on any football

club.

“The expectations are that teams who go down bounce back up.

They can but you have to do it the right way and make sure there is

an infrastructure to support this club for a long time to come.

“I’m pretty confident of keeping the players, I think all of

them want to stay.

“We also have the advantage of starting the season on a level

playing field – we were worried about the 10 points coming off next

season – so that helps recruit players as well.

“We don’t want to be down here too long. We want to rebuild this

club. A lot of clubs now are winning promotion then going on and

doing it the following year. We have to make sure we don’t overdo

ourselves, but it’s an aim we have to have.”

Electronics businessman McInnes, a Pompey supporter for over 50

years, vowed the club would not find itself in financial meltdown

again.

“We are here because the club got in a mess, because it

overspent and was mismanaged and we will make sure none of those

things happen again,” he said.

“We have seen what people who are not Portsmouth fans have done

to the club, and we want to turn that on its head.”

The 32-year-old, who has featured in every minute of the Reds’

34 Premier League matches so far, has been playing through the

problem this season.

“It’s looking more and more likely that he might require

surgery,” Liverpool first-team coach Mike Marsh told the club’s

official website.

“He has been playing with a shoulder injury for quite a while

now. We’ll try to find the right time for him to get it fixed

properly.

“It’s not ideal timing, it’s going to take quite a while for him

to heal. It’s a funny injury – it’s pretty similar to Joe Allen

(who has already had surgery which has ruled him out for the

remainder of the campaign).

“If it needs repairing, it needs repairing and when he’s back

fit, he’s back fit. There’s not much we can do about it.”

If, as expected, he undergoes an operation Gerrard is likely to

miss internationals against the Republic of Ireland at Wembley on

May 29 and Brazil in Rio de Janeiro on June 2.

While Gerrard will soldier on until the end of the season there

are other players finally returning to fitness.

Forward Fabio Borini, who has not played since dislocating a

shoulder in February, has been training this week while Raheem

Sterling – who has not featured since March 31 – has rejoined the

group.

“The long-standing injuries that we’ve got are on the road back

to recovery,” Marsh added.

“One or two are a little bit closer – Fabio Borini has joined

in, Raheem Sterling is now back out on the pitch and Martin Kelly

(out since September after cruciate knee ligament surgery) is also

outside. We’re back to almost a full complement.”

Borini has a chance of making the bench for Saturday’s match at

Newcastle, which will boost the squad after fellow forward Luis

Suarez was banned for 10 matches, subject to appeal, for his bite

on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.

“He had the all-clear from the surgeon and joined in during the

last couple of days and it’s looking really good,” Marsh said of

the Italian.

“He might be included on the bench at the weekend, it might be

the week after.

“He’s coming to the time when he can be included off the bench

pretty soon.

“It’s been difficult for him – he’s picked up a couple of

serious injuries (he also broke a foot in October) which kept him

out for the majority of the season.

“We’ve hardly been able to use him so it will be like an extra

player. We’re looking forward to that.”