Villa Park prepared for play-off
Celtic manager Neil Lennon may rest a number of players for
Sunday’s final game of the SPL season away to Dundee United as he
looks to keep his players fresh for the Scottish Cup final with
He also has injury problems to overcome, with defender Charlie
Mulgrew ruled out with a knee injury.
Right-back Adam Matthews is a major doubt as he is struggling
with a knock, while striker Lassad Nouioui remains on the sidelines
with a calf injury.
United striker Johnny Russell looks likely miss out as he is
still suffering from some stiffness having recently returned from a
Long-term absentees Gavin Gunning and Sean Dillon remain on the
But Keith Watson and Barry Douglas could feature at Tannadice
Park after injury to boost manager Jackie McNamara.
The SPL board will meet to determine whether Hearts should face
sanctions over the apparent financial collapse of their majority
The club could still face an 18-point deduction – and instant
relegation – if it is decided that SPL rules have been breached by
UBIG’s declaration of insolvency.
UBIG was on Thursday listed on a Lithuanian government website
of insolvent firms after reportedly declaring itself unable to meet
The firm owns about four-fifths of shares in Hearts and SPL
rules can lead to points deductions if an owner suffers an
The SPL has been consulting with its lawyers over its rules and
whether UBIG’s action breaches them.
The league has made no comment but it is understood the timing
of events will be crucial – if the developments of the last two
days are deemed to be an insolvency event which breaks the SPL
rules, then the punishment will be a points deduction this
However, court action is needed to trigger an insolvency event
in Scotland and the lack of news about any court proceedings in
Lithuania could work in Hearts’ favour.
The relationship between UBIG and Hearts will also come into
consideration. The club will argue that they have been
self-sufficient since early last year so have not benefited from
the funding of an insolvent company this season. However, they owe
UBIG about ?10million of their ?25million debt.
The cost-cutting measures continued at Tynecastle this week when
19-year-old right-back Fraser Mullen was told he would not be
offered a new contract in the summer despite making eight
appearances this season before a broken foot ended his season in
But Hearts midfielder Jason Holt insists his former youth-team
colleague will have no trouble picking up a new club.
He said: “It’s disappointing as Fraser is a good mate of mine.
We came through the youth team together but it’s not my decision,
that’s down to the club.
“I spoke to him the day he found out. It’s one of those ones
that he just needs time to take it in. He’s a good lad and I’m sure
he will not be short of offers.
“He’s a good player so I hope he does go on to bigger and better
things once he’s fit again from his injury.”
Holt and fellow Gorgie youngsters Callum Tapping, Jamie Walker
and Kevin McHattie have all made the most of the club’s financial
strains to grab first-team slots.
The club could yet put even more focus on their younger recruits
amid fresh concerns that developments in Lithuania could force the
club into administration.
But Holt knows such a crisis could yet open the door for other
youngsters, just as the 20-year-old found this term with 21
“Being a young boy growing up watching Hearts and going to the
games, it’s a dream now getting the chance to play for the team,”
“It’s been a massive season for us young lads coming through. We
knew that for a lot of us it would be a chance for us to make the
“I’ve managed to get a decent number of games under my belt.
Next season I’m looking to push on with a good pre-season under my
belt and make it a better one than my first.
“I’ve grown up a lot this year. Everyone will tell you that when
you move into first-team football that happens. You are dealing
with older people and the experience aspect comes into it. There is
a lot of pressure on your shoulders and you have to deal with
Hearts round off their season with a trip to Aberdeen tomorrow
but last week’s Edinburgh derby defeat to Hibs is still painfully
fresh in Holt’s mind.
Holt said: “Sunday’s defeat was a massive blow for me and
everyone at the club, the fans as well. The players know we weren’t
good enough and we will be looking to put the right next
“It felt worse than losing the cup final. Both were huge blows
but on Sunday it was an Edinburgh derby, both sets of fans were
there and we just didn’t perform well enough on the day. It’s
really disappointing because we let ourselves and the fans
Moyes, who is leaving the Merseyside outfit this summer after
over 11 years in charge to replace the retiring Sir Alex Ferguson
at Manchester United, has made it clear he is happy to offer
Toffees chairman Bill Kenwright assistance in the search for a new
manager at Goodison Park.
Among those being linked with the job are Alan Stubbs, David
Weir and Duncan Ferguson – all former Everton players that are
presently part of the backroom team.
And asked today if he would recommend members of that team to
Kenwright, Moyes said: “I would always recommend the people who are
“A lot of them know how the workings of the building (at the
training ground) are, how we move things forward and the restraints
the club has, so it is easy for them to deal with that.
“We (Moyes and Kenwright) speak a couple of times on the phone,
and if he has anything to say or wants me to help him, I will do
The 50-year-old stressed his confidence that Kenwright will “get
it right” when he appoints the new manager, and Moyes added: “I
think continuity at every club is important.
“You can’t always just have a complete clean slate and start
“But these are questions you need to wait to ask the chairman
about when the time comes.”
Kenwright vowed at Everton’s end of season awards ceremony last
night that Moyes’ work at the club would not be allowed to go to
waste, saying of the Scot: “When he came to me, when we first met
on my sofa 11 years ago, he said, ‘chairman, you’re not going to go
“Well, we didn’t go down and he’s kept us there (in the Premier
League) and taken us forward.
“And although we will miss him like there’s no tomorrow, I
promise you David, we will maintain what you have started. I
personally will not let you down.”
Another name that has been mentioned in relation to the Everton
post is that of current captain Phil Neville, who reports have
suggested Kenwright wants to be part of the new management
There has also been talk of Moyes taking Neville with him to
United – the club the 36-year-old defender departed for Goodison
Park in 2005. Neville announced last month that his career as a
Toffees player would not extend beyond this season, and he will be
on the England Under-21s coaching team at the European
Championships in Israel this summer.
Moyes – speaking this afternoon at a press conference to preview
his last match as Everton manager, Sunday’s Barclays Premier League
trip to Chelsea – said of Neville: “He is a great man. He is
someone who has been a great player and is a great ambassador for
“If Phil Neville could take a job up anywhere…he is really,
really good at what he does, he is going through his coaching
badges just now and he would be a good choice for any club.”
Moyes – today once again not taking questions on United, as has
been the case since it was confirmed last week that he will be
succeeding Ferguson – also confirmed that Neville has already
played his final game for Everton, with him not being fit enough to
feature in Sunday’s contest.
Neville misses out due to the knee problem that has been
sidelining him recently, while a knee complaint will also prevent
midfielder Leon Osman from being involved.
Everton, consistent top-eight finishers under Moyes, go into the
game knowing they cannot be moved from sixth spot.
The move by the Premier League could jeopardise the Blues’ tour
match against Manchester City in the USA scheduled for the day
The play-off will only take place if results on Sunday mean the
two London clubs are equal on points, goal difference and goals
A Premier League statement said: “Should a play-off be necessary
the Premier League has made arrangements for a single match to take
place at Villa Park on Sunday 26 May 2013.
“The match will take place early afternoon with a kick-off time
to be confirmed should results require the match to go ahead.”
Chelsea are due to play City twice in the USA – with the second
match at New York’s Yankee stadium on May 25, the day before the
The Premier League statement says both the clubs have been
It states: “In the event of results in the Chelsea v Everton and
Newcastle v Arsenal Barclays Premier League matches being a Chelsea
draw, and an Arsenal win by a single-goal margin having scored two
more than Chelsea, both teams would be level on points, goal
difference and goals scored.
“Under Premier League Rules this would lead to a play-off being
required to decide which club finishes third and fourth, thereby
determining which club enters the UEFA Champions League at the
group stage and which at the play-off stage.”
The Premier League has consulted with the two clubs throughout
the process of planning for this potential match with all parties
in agreement that, should it be required, it should take place as
soon as possible after the end of the season.
“Discussions with London-based stadia did take place as part of
that process but limited availability and calendar restrictions,
combined with wanting to use a large capacity ground that has
experience in organising and delivering neutral matches, meant
Villa Park was the most suitable choice.
“Tickets will be allocated equally between each club and will be
priced at ?20 and ?30 with concessions for children and senior
citizens priced at a 50% reduction.