FM: Hooper too good for Norwich

FM: Hooper too good for Norwich

Published Jan. 24, 2013 1:15 p.m. ET

Mubarak Wakaso's penalty was enough to give Ghana a 1-0 victory over Mali in Group B in the Africa Cup of Nations in Port Elizabeth.

Wakaso scored from the spot in the first half after Emmanuel Agyemang Badu had been brought down in the area at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

However, the midfielder could find himself in trouble with FIFA after celebrating by pulling his shirt over his head to reveal a T-shirt with the words "Allah is Great!"

Wakaso was shown a yellow card for his celebration, ruling him out of Ghana's final group game, and could face further sanctions as FIFA rules prohibit players from making religious or political statements during a game.


In a first half low on clear-cut chances, referee Noumandiez Doue was the central figure and was faced with a number of big decisions.

The first came after just seven minutes when goalkeeper Ghana goalkeeper Fatau Dauda handled the ball outside the penalty area as defender John Boye attempted to shield the ball back to him with Seydou Keita lurking.

However, the referee produced only a yellow card - much to Keita's annoyance - and the same player then curled the resulting free-kick narrowly wide of the post to compound his fury.

Ghana eventually settled and Badu saw his header catch the outside of the post after he had done well to get on the end of a free-kick from Wakaso, who had slipped as he played the ball in.

And just four minutes later Ghana took the lead following another major decision for the referee.

Asamoah Gyan attempted to find Badu in the area and he was brought down by Adama Tamboura, although replays suggested Tamboura had initially connected with the ball as he slid in.

Doue pointed to the spot and Wakaso calmly stroked the spot-kick home, even though goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa went the right way.

Mali had beaten Niger in their opening group game but looked short of ideas and never seriously threatened to get back into the contest in a poor second half which featured more yellow cards than chances.

Ghana attempted to increase their lead and Gyan shot narrowly wide before Badu saw a free-kick pushed wide by Samassa, while substitute Solomon Asante also flashed a shot the wrong side of the post in the closing stages.

His previous contract had been set to expire on January 31, but Vassell has impressed recently-appointed manager John Sheridan sufficiently to be offered the chance to stay at Home Park.

The 19-year-old attacker made eight substitute appearances last season.

The former Scotland international made only four substitute appearances during an injury-hit stint at McDiarmid Park after leaving Hearts in the summer.

A club statement read: "The contract between St Johnstone FC and Craig Beattie has been terminated by mutual consent. The club wishes Craig every future success."

The 29-year-old recently spent time training with Notts County with a view to a move but was not deemed fit enough by the npower League One club's manager, Keith Curle.

Schmeichel was part of the last United side to win the tournament at Wembley in 1999, the second part of that fabulous Treble, after which the Denmark keeper quit for a short stint with Sporting Lisbon.

He left behind a massive controversy as the Red Devils - as European Cup winners - were invited to the first Club World Championship in Brazil by FIFA, a tournament that clashed directly with the FA Cup third round.

United felt it was impossible to fulfil fixtures in both competitions at the same time, and with the FA desperate for Sir Alex Ferguson and his team to represent England in Brazil and curry favour ahead of the 2006 World Cup host vote, the Old Trafford outfit backed out of the world's oldest cup competition.

Looking back, Schmeichel believes it was a big mistake and contributed massively to the shine being taken off the competition.

Speaking to promote 'Dancing with United' on behalf of the Manchester United Foundation, Schmeichel said: "The FA made a massive mistake not letting United sit out the third round when they went to Brazil.

"That would have made everything easy.

"But by leaving the European champions and defending FA Cup winners out of the competition the FA degraded the FA Cup.

"Clubs started to think about the FA Cup in a different way and play their reserves and younger players."

Allowing United a bye into the fifth round was one of the proposals put forward by then Red Devils chief executive Martin Edwards.

When that was rejected by the tournament committee, withdrawal was the only option given Ferguson had ruled out the option of picking a team made up of youth players, fearful of the damage to their careers should United be drawn against Arsenal or Chelsea, who subsequently went on to win the competition.

Only now does Schmeichel feel the competition has got its lustre back.

But he accepts it will never challenge the dominance of the Champions League.

"One of my greatest lifetime ambitions, from being a small kid, was to play in an FA Cup final for Manchester United, at Wembley, and win it," he said.

"I didn't think about winning the English championship. It was the FA Cup final.

"I don't think many players are dreaming that dream any more.

"The FA Cup went through a very tough period, but now it is back and Manchester United have an important game in it against Fulham on Saturday."

There are still problems for the FA though, including the knowledge that should either United, Chelsea, Liverpool or Tottenham draw at the weekend, their fourth-round replays will be held on the weekend of the fifth round as there is no alternative space in the calendar.

However, Schmeichel has more pressing issues to address, namely getting in shape for 'Dancing with United', the club's version of Strictly Come Dancing.

Former United wide-man Quinton Fortune has also confirmed his entrance, whilst Ulrika Jonsson is the latest celebrity to sign up, joining Coronation Street duo Antony Cotton and Jennie McAlpine and Schmeichel's intended partner Camilla Dallerup.

In addition, Gary Neville will be one of the judges, a role he has received such grief for following his damning analysis of David de Gea's performance at Tottenham on Sunday.

"Gary has gone from being one of the world's best full-backs to becoming a fantastic broadcaster," said Schmeichel.

"He has learned to project himself, and that is what judging is all about.

"I have no idea how much he knows of dancing but, knowing Gary, I am sure he will prepare properly, probably watching the last five series' of Strictly Come Dancing.

"I expect him to deliver his opinions with a flourish, probably like Bruno (Tonioli)."

Reports this week had linked the former Portsmouth man with a move away from the County Ground but Di Canio revealed there are no offers on the table.

"There wasn't even any official request and not even any amount of money that they are ready to spend for Ritchie," the Italian told the Swindon Advertiser.

"Some news also came out about what happened last year. Some reports were ?400,000, some were ?500,000, that we rejected. No, last year a club came and they proposed to us nearly ?1million for Ritchie.

"That is the truth. This is the only offer we have had. Last year a club came with a deal close to ?1million. This year we did not receive any offers from any club."

Meanwhile Di Canio confirmed that on-loan Charlton midfielder Danny Hollands will spend six weeks on the sidelines recovering from a microfracture in his foot.

Celtic this week rejected a second offer for the former Scunthorpe player and manager Neil Lennon revealed the latest figure was "nowhere near" ?6million.

Hooper has shown his goalscoring exploits in the Champions League with crucial strikes against Spartak Moscow to help Celtic into the last 16 and McGarvey does not believe the Englishman should swap a double-header against Juventus for a potential relegation battle.

McGarvey said: "He is only 24, he is scoring goals in the Champions League and the Scottish Premier League. He can do no more than he is doing.

"He could be getting a call-up into the England squad soon because he is scoring goals in the Champions League, which is the top league in world football.

"For English clubs to offer ?5million is an absolute joke."

McGarvey, who left St Mirren for Liverpool before joining Celtic, added: "I wouldn't go to Norwich. But, if you are getting double the wages you are getting at Celtic, it would be very difficult to say no.

"What person in the world would say no to double their wages if they went to England?

"It's very difficult for Celtic to compete with the English Premier League because they have so much money, but Celtic have a bit of Champions League money and have held on to their players well in the last couple of years and have made more than ?20million from the Champions League because of that.

"I think Celtic will try to hold on to him.

"If he scores against Juventus and helps Celtic into the last eight, that would make Celtic another five or six million. You have to look at the agent, he will be egging him on to go because that makes him money. He will be getting pressured from both sides.

"If Manchester United came in and offered ?15million then I would think about that but if he stays at Celtic he will be in the Champions League every year and pit his wits against the best players in the world."

McGarvey believes Hooper, who has scored 22 goals this season, could play for one of the top teams in the Barclays Premier League and used the example of Ki Sung-yueng, who left Celtic Park for Swansea in a ?6million deal last summer.

"Ki went down to Swansea and is playing out his skin, and Hooper is a much better player than Ki," McGarvey said.

"You have got to remember Chelsea and Man City couldn't get in the last 16 so the Champions League is a higher quality than the English Premier League.

"So if he can do it in the Champions League he can do it in the English Premier League."

McGarvey was at Hampden today promoting Celtic's Scottish Communities League Cup semi-final against St Mirren, which takes place at the national stadium on Sunday.

McGarvey won Scottish Cup winners' medals with both teams but does not believe there is any chance of the Paisley side causing an upset.

"The only thing that can beat Celtic is being overconfident in the game and I don't think Neil Lennon will let that happen," he said. "I can't see Celtic getting beat."