Easton eager to show fight

BY foxsports • February 14, 2013

Gary Naysmith and Ryan Jack will both be added to the squad for Aberdeen's Clydesdale Bank Premier League game against Dundee on Friday night.

Naysmith (hamstring and calf) and Jack (broken foot) are both in contention for the clash at Pittodrie after recovering from their respective injuries.

Boss Craig Brown has no fresh injury worries but will be without the suspended Mark Reynolds.

Dundee manager Barry Smith has two unnamed doubts for the game, while striker Steven Milne is battling to overcome a rib injury.

Dundee are still without long-term injured players Stephen O'Donnell (knee), Mark Kerr (knee), Davide Grassi (knee), Jamie McCluskey (Achilles) and Carl Finnigan (knee).

The 43-year-old had transformed the Sky Blues' season after being installed as Andy Thorn's successor in September, steering them from a potential relegation battle in League One to the fringes of the play-offs.

But the Terriers, who sacked Simon Grayson three weeks ago after going 12 games without a win, were granted permission to approach Robins on Tuesday after Coventry had rejected an initial approach.

Nigel Adkins, sacked by Southampton last month, had been installed as the early favourite to replace Grayson, but Huddersfield maintained Robins had been their first choice and he was unveiled on Thursday as the club's fifth manager in as many years at their Canalside training headquarters.

"It was a considered decision," said Robins, who alluded to the current rent dispute between the club, Arena Coventry Ltd - the owners of the Ricoh Arena - and Coventry City Council.

"I spoke to the owner, I sought assurances and didn't get any assurances from the owner of Coventry," he said.

"I absolutely wish them all the best, they work their socks off and as I've said before that club needs support from Coventry City Council.

"That led to a decision to want to speak with Huddersfield and that's how the decision has been arrived at."

Riether, 29, is currently on loan from German club Cologne but has impressed for Fulham since joining in the summer.

The former Wolfsburg full-back has already featured 29 times for Martin Jol's side, but could still be plying his trade back in Germany next campaign.

"Nothing is decided yet," he told German magazine Kicker. "Fulham can activate a clause, and I also have to agree.

"As things stand now, I will return to Cologne in the summer. But I have to consider and talk to both clubs.

"I wanted to become a starter (at Fulham), and I managed to do that. I am proud I have become a fans' favourite. But of course I can still do better, and that's what I am trying to do."

Riether was also full of praise for his fellow Barclays Premier League players and believes the style of football in England compliments his own abilities more than in his native country.

"The players here all have an amazing individual quality," he said.

"Even smaller clubs take on high-profile players for a lot of money - there are also fewer dives here.

"The football here suits me. Moreover, the club is very friendly and I received a warm welcome."

Riether has made the right-back position his own since moving to Fulham, with the likes of Stephen Kelly moving away from the club due to Jol's preference for the on-loan German.

Despite his current status at Craven Cottage, Riether admits it did take him time to settle and tackle the language barrier.

"It wasn't easy with the language," he said. "At first, I got nothing of what our Scottish assistant coach [Billy McKinlay] said, and the football is different."

The young Scots kick off on March 25 with a home match against Luxembourg and they will also face Holland, Slovakia and Georgia in Group Three, with the group winners and four best-placed runners-up from the 10 qualifying groups progressing to the play-offs.

Scotland were undefeated at home in the 2013 qualifying campaign as they finished second in their group, narrowly missing out on a play-off place for this summer's finals.

Speaking at St Mirren Park, which will again host the home games, Scotland Under-21 coach Stark said: "You know it will be a very difficult task because you need to win five games out of eight, six to be guaranteed and you go into every game knowing that there is no margin for error at all.

"The previous squads have not been too frightened about it, they have not been too far away.

"I would love to think this squad could take that final step and get us to finals but it is going to be really difficult.

"You feel by getting so close with the last squad that, if you kept working with them, you could maybe just find that wee bit extra but then they become too old and you have to start again.

"There is a big element of the new but we have some continuity from the last squad with the likes of Stuart Armstrong, Lewis Toshney, Tony Watt and Kenny McLean, and that is an important aspect.

"I think there is a good nucleus and good strength-in-depth in a squad who are capable of winning games."

Discussions had been ongoing for months between Sisu, the League One club's owners, and Arena Coventry Limited (ACL), who manage the stadium on behalf of joint owners the Alan Edward Higgs Charity and Coventry City Council.

A statutory demand for ?1.1million in unpaid rent stretching back 10 months was issued to the Sky Blues in early December - a figure which now stands at ?1.347m - and ACL chairman Nicholas Carter has warned "now is the time for Sisu to pay up or sell up and get out of Coventry".

ACL claim three club directors have backtracked on a verbal agreement made between the two parties towards the end of January to primarily cut the ?1.28m annual rent to ?400,000, as well as waive more than ?300,000 of the debt amid other details including a revised share of matchday revenue.

Thursday's statement, suggesting City in response proposed alternative terms in a U-turn on that verbal agreement, also alleges an email sent by Coventry chief executive Tim Fisher stated the club had "no option but to build a new venue".

All of this comes on the same day as manager Mark Robins departed the club and agreed to take over at Championship side Huddersfield.

Amid a lengthy official statement, ACL chairman Carter said: "To spend many hours engaging in positive and constructive discussions, leading to a detailed point by point discussion of a proposed Heads of Terms Agreement resulting in verbal agreement and handshakes all round; only to then renege when it came to signing the agreement, is truly reprehensible behaviour.

"There's simply no point in continuing these discussions while the club, under Sisu's ownership, continues to behave in this manner. We will only be prepared to resume these conversations if John Clarke, Tim Fisher and Mark Labovitch sign up to the deal to which they agreed.

"If the club directors can't or won't follow through on the agreement they participated in creating, then we suggest to them that the time has come to consider offering ownership of CCFC to an outside buyer better placed to run the club's financial operations. Make no mistake, now is the time for Sisu to pay up or sell up and get out of Coventry."

Coventry vice-chairman Clarke was unavailable for comment, while there has been no official statement yet made by the club in response to ACL.

The Canaries squad returned to Norfolk today following a warm-weather training break in Abu Dhabi which Hughton hopes will rejuvenate the group ahead of the closing 12 matches of what has been a campaign of extremes.

After failing to win any of the first seven league outings, Norwich then went on an unbeaten run from mid-October until they stuttered again losing all four of their top-flight games over Christmas and were then dumped out of the FA Cup at home by non-league Luton.

Hughton has at least been able to steady what looked a fast-sinking ship by guiding his men through three fixtures without defeat, albeit all draws and scoring just one goal.

Norwich host Everton when league action resumes on February 23, and they will aim to protect a slender six-point cushion over third-bottom Reading.

Hughton knows from here on in, it is all about pushing through the fabled 40-points barrier by any means possible.

"We have got 12 games left, and whichever way we get the points, we have to get them," Hughton said.

"There is only one priority and target - to make sure we are in this league next season."

"We went through a difficult period at the beginning of the season, then a very good period where we didn't lose for 10 games, now we are finding wins that little bit harder.

"All you hope is to rectify that by doing the work on the training pitch. We are working on all aspects."

Hughton maintains the trip to the Middle East was not a holiday.

"It has been work," he said.

"We allowed them to play golf for one afternoon, but apart from that it has been training and very worthwhile.

"We would not be coming out here if we did not think it was of benefit to us."

Hughton handed January signings Luciano Becchio and Kei Kamara, on loan from Major League Soccer side Sporting Kansas City, home debuts against Fulham in a match which lacked spark in the final third from either team.

With captain Grant Holt set to be available again after a back spasm ruled him out of contention last weekend, Hughton could well deploy a double strike force against Everton in a big to get back on the goal trail.

Scotland winger Robert Snodgrass feels Holt and Becchio, his former team-mate at Leeds, have the qualities to strike up a potent partnership.

"In the first couple of minutes against Fulham where I whipped one right across the face of goal, you would think with two strikers in there you have got a better chance of scoring," he said.

"It is up to the manager to decide how, but I know both Luciano and Grant are out-and-out goalscorers, so it only bodes well for us."

The Seasiders are still searching for a new manager to replace Michael Appleton following his departure to Blackburn last month.

Steve Thompson is currently in caretaker charge at Bloomfield Road, but the club are thought to be keen to bring in a new manager as soon as possible.

Blackpool have been linked with several names since the departure of Appleton, but have so far been unable to bring in a replacement

Ince is now thought to be in pole position for the role after opening talks with the club's hierarchy.

The former England international is keen to get back into management and the fact that he is unattached appeals to Blackpool.

If Ince takes over at Blackpool it will see him link up with his son Tom at Bloomfield Road.

The 19-year-old midfielder has been an important player for Orient this season, chipping in with three goals in his 38 appearances for the League One outfit.

Odubajo's deal contract was due to expire at the end of the campaign and O's manager Russell Slade was keen to see the youngster put pen to paper.

He told the club's official website: "We're really pleased with Moses signing. He has made great progress this season and continues to improve enormously all the time. There is definitely more to come from him, and there is no doubt in my mind that one day he will play at a higher level.

"It's a signing that I'm sure will prove to be a massive asset for us not only for now but looking forwards as we continue to build a team for the future.

"There was a lot of interest in him as you can imagine as he is such a talented lad so it's all the better that he has signed and got things sorted. We really are delighted."

The midfielder is out of contract in the summer and has not yet accepted an offer to remain at McDiarmid Park.

The 24-year-old says he is in talks with other clubs and has yet to make a decision on where he will be playing his football next term.

Davidson impressed during Monday's 3-1 win over Hibernian and, for now, Lomas is willing to settle for more of the same.

"It's down to Murray, its up to him what he does," said Lomas.

"If you looked at the level of his performance against Hibs, as long as he keeps playing like that we will be delighted.

"We would like to keep him but that's Murrays prerogative.

"We're happy he's back from injury. He played fantastically well the other night and we hope he keeps it up until the end of the season."

Davidson has been targeted by Rangers in the past and was again linked with the Glasgow giants in December.

The Ibrox club are under a transfer embargo but can secure players on pre-contract agreements before registering free agents on September 1.

However, Lomas has refused to be concerned about a possible swoop by the Third Division leaders.

He added: "It's not a worry because you can't do anything about it. There is no point worrying about something you've got no control over.

"Our focus is on trying to finish as high as we can this year."

The Dons' pitch has cut up badly in recent months and this week's rain and snow will ensure the surface is still not conducive to good football.

Dundee have tried to play their way out of trouble but fell 15 points adrift last weekend after losing 2-0 at home to Ross County.

And Easton hopes the heavy Pittodrie park works in their favour as their relegation battle becomes critical.

"I've seen it a couple of times and we have spoken a bit about it during the week," the former Hamilton and Burnley left-back said.

"It's not a pitch to be playing attractive football but it's a game where we are going to have to go in, regardless of how the pitch is, ready to fight for our lives.

"It might work out to our advantage. It is going to turn into a battle and it's really about who wants it more.

"We really need to want it more."

Easton has bad memories of Pittodrie this season having suffered a hamstring injury in October less than four minutes into his second appearance for Dundee.

The 24-year-old did not return to the first team until last month and his absence was typical of a season that has seen Barry Smith do without the likes of captain Stephen O'Donnell and forward Carl Finnigan for most of the campaign.

But Easton feels he can now fully contribute to a revival as Dundee aim to give themselves a glimmer of hope.

"This season has been frustrating because I missed nearly all the first half of the season," he said.

"Since the turn of the year I have been in every game. I've been happy with how I'm playing. My fitness has been getting better and better so hopefully it can keep improving and we can turn that into good team performances.

"We have had more than our fair share of players out with middle to long-term injuries, which is tough for the whole team and the manager.

"We have done what we can but obviously find ourselves bottom of the league.

"It's important we don't get too disheartened. If you look at the table, it's not the best, and we know it's going to be hard, but if we get a few wins on the board before the spilt we will leave ourselves with a wee chance anyway."

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