McCulloch considers Gers rest

BY foxsports • January 7, 2013

Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti has confirmed the club will try to strengthen during this month's transfer window.

Inter missed the chance to close the gap on Serie A leaders Juventus, who lost at Sampdoria, as a first team decimated by injuries and suspensions went down 3-0 at the Stadio Friuli.

Both Moratti and head coach Andrea Stramaccioni had previously urged caution over excessive spending in the transfer window, with the club eager to offload high earners including Wesley Sneijder before bringing in expensive talent.

But following yesterday's events in Udine, and considering the continued absence of nine injured first-team players, Moratti held an emergency meeting at the club's head offices in which he conceded modest reinforcements would be targeted.

He told inter.it: "I can confirm that it will essentially be like that, where the names being discussed are good players.

"But it is also a window where - just like at other clubs - we certainly don't intend to spend too much.

"Listen, I think it's very important to weigh things up when we have everyone back fit because at the moment we're talking about new signings without considering that we might end up buying a player similar to one we already have.

"The most important thing is to get our players on the sidelines back fit. It's hard to assess things when we have 10 or 12 players missing through injury and suspension.

Inter are now nine points shy of Juventus having run the Italian champions close for much of the autumn, but only four points separate the chasing pack after a weekend of shock results.

"The fact the sides around us have dropped points means we're still in there, but we must not worry too much about that, we need to look at ourselves," he added.

"Perhaps I wasn't expecting to top the league but there was always the potential to do well, along with the belief of the players.

"We've got a good team though and, as I've said, it's crucial to get back players who we identified as important at the start of the season."

Inter have already signed veteran striker Tommaso Rocchi for an undisclosed fee, while reports in Italy have linked the club with a move for Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino.

The 21-year-old spent the first half of the campaign on loan with the Buddies but returned to his parent club last week ahead of their FA Cup third-round clash with Brighton.

While the Premier League side slid to a surprise 2-0 defeat against Gus Poyet's Championship outfit, Dummett fulfilled his boyhood ambition by making his first-team bow when St James' Park boss Alan Pardew introduced him a as a half-time substitute.

But the young defender believes he will improve further if he returns to Paisley for a second loan stint.

He now hopes to once more swap the black and white stripes of Newcastle for those of the Saints and is praying the deal is completed before Danny Lennon's men face Celtic in the Scottish Communities League Cup semi-final on January 27.

Dummett said: "I loved my time at St Mirren. For a Newcastle lad playing for the club, it's not easy moving away but St Mirren was the right choice.

"I played 19 games and picked up some really good experience of playing at a competitive level. I played in front of some big crowds like 40,000 at Celtic Park. There's no doubt that has helped my development as a player.

"I have definitely come back to Newcastle a better player.

"Danny Lennon is a really good manager and I can't fault a single thing about the club. It was his help that allowed me to make my debut for Newcastle.

"But I'm hopeful that I will come back to Saints for another six months. I've improved so much with them this season and I want to continue that development before going back to Newcastle a much better player in the summer.

"It's not in my hands but, if both sides can make it work, returning before the semi-final with Celtic is the plan."

Dummett replaced James Perch for the second half of Saturday's match at the Falmer Stadium but insists that even the pain of the cup upset could not take the shine off his big moment.

He said: "I was very proud. I'm a local boy and all local boys in Newcastle dream of playing for the club.

"It was a poor result for the team but inside I was buzzing for myself. It was a dream come true."

Dummett was the first player to benefit from a newly-struck affiliation deal between Newcastle and St Mirren that will see the best of Pardew's young talent head north in order to gain top-team knowledge.

Best pal and fellow Geordie recruit Conor Newton has also followed the road north and another Magpies teenager could soon join him.

Now Dummett has encouraged any youngsters offered the chance of a switch to Scotland to grab it with both hands.

He said: "There was guys from Newcastle coming to watch me and I also went back down a couple of times and spoke to the manager down there.

"He had been getting reports on me and was pleased with my progress. That was great to hear and he obviously meant it as he put me straight in the squad when I got back and then gave me the second half against Brighton.

"A lot of people see the SPL as a Mickey Mouse league but that's not how I view it. There are a lot of good players up here and a lot of good players at St Mirren.

"Conor Newton is already up here and if any other Newcastle lads were thinking about joining St Mirren on loan I'd definitely recommend it. The SPL doesn't get the credit it deserves."

Justin Richards is set to continue in attack for Oxford as James Constable serves the second game of his three-match ban.

The 32-year-old started for the U's against Sheffield United on Saturday having just returned for a second loan spell with the club on Friday.

With fellow forwards Deane Smalley and Jon-Paul Pittman still sidelined and Constable suspended, the Burton forward is set to continue alongside Tom Craddock at the Kassam.

But one new signing who will not feature against Southend is loanee Lewis Montrose who is cup-tied having already featured in the competition for parent club Gillingham this season.

Manager Chris Wilder is unlikely to make too many changes to his side but could recall Michael Raynes in the heart of defence and rest Michael Dubbery.

"We've just got to go and not get knocked out of two cup competitions in the space of a week," he told the Oxford Mail.

Midfielder Marc Laird is cup-tied for Southend.

Laird, who turned his loan switch from Leyton Orient into a permanent deal on Friday, sits out at the Kassam Stadium having played earlier in the competition for his former club.

On-loan striker Britt Assombalonga will be assessed ahead of the tie having missed Saturday's 2-2 FA Cup third-round draw at home to Brentford with his troublesome ankle and shin injury.

However, should Assombalonga even be passed fit then he will face a tough ask regaining his starting spot after Barry Corr stepped in and bagged a brace against the Bees to rescue an FA Cup replay.

The controversial Italian might even have claimed a hat-trick, but passed up the opportunity to take any of City's two penalties in the modest surroundings of City's academy base at Platt Lane.

Balotelli returned to first-team action after an absence of five games, four of them due to a virus, as a substitute in Saturday's 3-0 FA Cup win over Watford at the Etihad Stadium.

He had been involved in a training-ground bust-up with manager Roberto Mancini just two days earlier but the City boss, who was photographed grappling with the player, described the incident as "nothing".

Mancini said he was prepared to give Balotelli, who has been involved in a series of controversies on and off the field, "another 100 chances" to reform his ways and downplayed speculation he could leave.

His unexpected outing in the elite development squad's 4-0 win over Blackburn will help improve his match-fitness ahead of this Sunday's Premier League trip to Arsenal.

Balotelli is challenging for a place following confirmation over the weekend that last season's top scorer Sergio Aguero has torn a hamstring.

That could keep him out for several weeks, while Samir Nasri has one game of a three-match suspension remaining and Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure and back-up forward Abdul Razak are with Ivory Coast ahead of the African Nations Cup.

Yaya Toure, City's midfield driving force, has been treated at a clinic for a cough and a fever while at his country's training camp in Abu Dhabi, but his brother has said he is "back on his feet".

The defender added on City's website: "Yaya had a couple of days off. Apart from that, everything is going very well at the training camp and we are happy to be here."

City were short on senior numbers last weekend with defenders Maicon and Aleksandar Kolarov also on the sidelines with knee problems and Jack Rodwell and Micah Richards long-term casualties.

Portuguese teenager Marcos Lopes was handed a debut off the bench in the closing minutes and scored the third goal against the Hornets.

The club have confirmed that, at 17 years and eight days, Lopes became the youngest goalscorer in their history.

Saunders, who departs League One side Doncaster, was unveiled to the media at Molineux on Monday afternoon following a whirlwind 36 hours for the Black Country club after Solbakken was sacked on Saturday evening.

The embarrassing FA Cup third-round exit at non-league Luton proved the final straw for Wolves' hierarchy, following a dreadful festive period containing three successive defeats which had left Wanderers 18th in the Championship and with just three wins from their last 16 league games.

Solbakken only took charge in the summer and arrived in England relatively unknown, despite a short stint as a player at Wimbledon in 1997/98 and an established international career with Norway before spells in management with the likes of Copenhagen and Koln.

Following his sacking and Saunders' appointment, Morgan said: "Performances have fallen well below the standards we expect at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

"I didn't think appointing Stale was a gamble. It was out of the box. I think Dean is a very different character.

"The mistake, in hindsight, was a culture difference. Dean has played across British and European football. He knows a lot of the players already. He's a hard-working bloke.

"If you listen to Dean, then his football philosophy isn't rocket science. He asks the players to work hard. He's a hard-working guy and asks his players to do that."

Wanderers sold the likes of Steven Fletcher, Matt Jarvis and Michael Kightly in the summer following relegation from the Premier League last season, although Solbakken was allowed to reinforce his ranks.

It cannot be doubted that his efforts were thwarted by an horrendous injury list, with more than 10 players in the treatment room of late.

Asked whether he should have been given more time, Solbakken this morning simply told Sky Sports News: "Yes.

"It's the name of the game. I am not a bitter person but obviously I think it was the wrong decision, but I sincerely hope Wolves can climb the table and they will be successful."

Saunders arrives at Molineux as Wolves' fourth boss in less than a year after the dismissal of Mick McCarthy last February and the brief tenure of Terry Connor.

The former Wales striker gained coaching experience at Blackburn and Newcastle while he was also assistant manager to John Toshack in the international set-up for three years.

He began his management career with Wrexham in 2008 before taking over at Doncaster in September 2011 and although he was unable to prevent relegation from the Championship, he departs the Keepmoat Stadium with Rovers currently joint top of League One.

The 48-year-old wasted little time in the Wanderers hot seat having taken charge of training for the first time today ahead of Friday night's home clash against managerless Blackburn.

"I'm really proud to be manager of the club," Saunders said. "I'm a bit disappointed to be leaving some of the players behind (at Doncaster). I persuaded 13 of them to sign for me during the summer.

"I'm determined, I'm ambitious. I want to get back into the Premier League, that's the brief.

"There's no reason why the team cannot climb up the league.

"Looking at the league table, we are up against it, where we are. But three results and it's completely different.

"If you do that, you will be up there. We're nine points off where we want to be. The players have to stop feeling sorry for themselves and work."

Ryan Williams could make his long-awaited Morecambe debut in the midweek clash against the Daggers.

Williams trained with the Shrimps over the summer and appeared to have secured a contract in October, only for international clearance issues to scupper the deal.

But the former Rhyl and Chester man has now been given the green light to join up with Jim Bentley's squad and may come into contention.

Williams' fellow midfielder Andy Fleming will be available having missed the goalless draw with Bradford on New Year's Day through illness.

Jordan Burrow is hoping to retain his place after the forward made a first start since recovering from knee ligament damage against the Bantams.

Bentley must adjust to life without striker Richard Brodie and full-back Jordan Mustoe after the pair returned to Crawley and Wigan at the end of their respective loan spells.

Supporters have been offered free entry to the match as Morecambe look to address the issue of falling attendances.

Dagenham boss John Still must decide whether to keep faith with a winning XI or freshen his line-up for the trip north.

The Daggers bounced back from three successive defeats over the festive period to see off Accrington 2-0 on Saturday.

Still made two changes for the encounter, bringing in right-back Gavin Hoyte and striker Brian Woodall for Michael Spillane and Jake Reed respectively.

The Dagenham boss is again expected to be at full-strength for the encounter at Globe Park and is never one to tinker too much with his side, although a fifth game in 14 days will give him plenty to think about.

Spillane, Reed, Kevin Maher, Josh Scott and Billy Bingham are the leading contenders should Still look to change one or two around.

Talbot was forced off with the injury early in the second half of the Spireites' 2-1 defeat at Wycombe on Saturday.

A statement on the club's official website said: "Drew Talbot will see a specialist tomorrow (January 8). The club will update supporters further once Drew has visited the specialist."

Talbot, 26, has been a consistent performer for Chesterfield this season, starting all 32 of the club's games and scoring in the 3-0 win over York on Boxing Day.

Adams thumped in from 25 yards after just 14 seconds but Reading hit back through Adam Le Fondre and Noel Hunt before half-time.

Le Fondre then struck again from the penalty spot as the Premier League side ran out 3-1 winners.

Adams told the club website: "It was definitely the best goal of my career in terms of the strike itself and the importance of the game.

"I got the ball and they sort of backed off so I thought 'why not?' It was great to see it go into the top corner and the Broadfield was absolutely buzzing at that point.

"We lost goals at bad times when we were on top. We could have scored two or three before their first and then they got a second just before half-time.

"We feel very harshly done by for their third - the penalty - but I think the lads can be very proud of their performance.

"We are never going to win the FA Cup so this was a bonus game for us and I thought we did extremely well against some top players. The fans were magnificent too and I hope those that came for the first time come back and get behind us in the League One games."

The spotlight shone brightly on the Bantams during one of their finest hours last month when the 110-year-old League Two club stunned Arsenal in a thrilling penalty shoot-out triumph in the quarter-finals.

It has been a long 13 years since Bradford escaped relegation on the final day of the 1999/2000 season to survive a second campaign in the Premier League after a famous 1-0 home win over Liverpool.

The Bantams were relegated the following season. and then followed a calamitous slide into administration (twice) and English football's basement division. From top to bottom in seven forgettable seasons.

But not only were mighty Arsenal conquered in the previous round, top-flight Wigan also succumbed to Parkinson's penalty shoot-out kings, while Gianfranco Zola's Watford were undone by two late goals at Vicarage Road in round two - and the former Colchester, Hull and Charlton manager wants to give the whole city something to cheer again.

"That's really important for us," said Parkinson, 45. "It's a big club, a sleeping giant and we're trying to reawaken it.

"The win against Arsenal certainly reminded everybody that Bradford City is up and running and starting to get going again. Another really good performance tomorrow night would be great for the city again."

Parkinson, installed as Peter Jackson's permanent successor in the summer of 2011 and tasked by joint chairmen Julian Rhodes and Mark Lawn to get the club out of League Two, rebuilt the whole squad during the close season and, but for a 2-0 defeat at Barnet on Saturday they would be sitting in a play-off position.

Bradford are still only three points off an automatic promotion spot and Parkinson added: "The lads have been good. Obviously we lost on Saturday, but it was a performance where the lads gave everything, they just couldn't put the ball in the back of the net.

"We had a lot of chances, so I couldn't say that our focus was distracted at any point.

"We would have loved to have come into this game with three points from Saturday, unfortunately we didn't, but we can't let that detract from tomorrow night, or change the way we approach it because I want the lads to enjoy it, relish it.

"We've won a lot of games, there's been a lot of extra times and we've overcome a lot of challenges to get to this point."

Parkinson's key word during Monday's press conference at the club's Apperley Bridge training facility was "enjoyment", while the previous round's heroics against Arsenal have given his players a belief they can spring another huge upset.

"We're very excited," said Parkinson. "We've worked really hard to get to this stage and we're going to enjoy it.

"It's a tremendous achievement by everybody at the club. It's the first time in the club's history to be at this stage of the competition.

"It's going to be a tough challenge, but our aim tomorrow is to get to the second leg in two weeks' time still in the game."

The Bradford manager accepts a two-legged tie favours Paul Lambert's Villa, but knows what it takes to beat Premier League opposition.

"We've just shown the lads some footage from the Arsenal game, to remind them of the discipline and the shape of the team and how well we worked as a unit in that game," he said.

"But also, when we won the ball back we played with a calmness and that's important because we know that if you keep giving Premier League teams the ball back, it becomes a long night.

"We've got to be up for the game, committed, we've got to use the crowd to take us on to another level, but also we've got to play with that composure and calmness in possession.

"The lads have shown that they can compete against the best teams, we also know we have to be right at our best and Aston Villa will have to be well below par for us to progress, but anything can be achieved and we've got a group of lads who are going to relish the challenge."

McCulloch has been contending with the knock since damaging the joint in last month's 1-0 win over Queen's Park at Hampden.

He sat out the trip to Annan on January 2 but returned to the team for Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Elgin City.

Despite battling through the 90 minutes, the 34-year-old former Scotland international was far from his best and admits he may have to take another rest from top-team duties while it heals.

McCulloch - who has 22 goals already this season - told his club's official website: "I was struggling at the Queen's Park game at Hampden with my ankle. It was really sore and I was trying to protect it as much as I could.

"I then missed the midweek game at Annan and in the game on Saturday I could feel it a little bit when I was running.

"It's just something I'll need to have a look at and I know I need to do what is best for the team.

"If I'm not giving the side anything because of my ankle, it's up to me to suggest taking me out and we'll see how things go this week."

Meanwhile, Rangers have confirmed Ross Perry is to see a specialist after sustaining a broken nose in the Elgin match.

The 22-year-old defender suffered the break in a clash of heads with Elgin striker Stuart Leslie 15 minutes from the end of Saturday's Irn-Bru Third Division fixture.

Ibrox medics have ruled out any damage to Perry's cheekbone but a trip to the nose expert is required before they can accurately asses how long he will be sidelined for.


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