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

Hibernian.

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

broken leg.

Long-term absentees Gavin Gunning and Sean Dillon remain on the

sidelines.

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

shareholder, UBIG.

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

its liabilities.

The firm owns about four-fifths of shares in Hearts and SPL

rules can lead to points deductions if an owner suffers an

insolvency event.

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

season.

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

March.

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

first-team run-outs.

“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,”

Holt said.

“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

breakthrough.

“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

it.”

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

season.

“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

down.”

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

around me.

“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

so.”

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

again.

“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

down.’

“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

structure.

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

the club.

“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

before.

The play-off will only take place if results on Sunday mean the

two London clubs are equal on points, goal difference and goals

scored.

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

play-off date.

The Premier League statement says both the clubs have been

consulted.

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.