Tiote arrested on fraud charge
Ajax manager Frank de Boer realises his side are expected to make the most of home advantage when Steaua Bucharest visit the Amsterdam ArenA on Thursday night.
The Dutch giants consigned English champions Manchester City to an early exit from Europe by finishing third in Group D of this year's Champions League.
With the final of this season's Europa League being played in the Dutch capital, De Boer knows the home crowd will demand a solid performance and a defendable lead to take back to Romania.
"We should be favourites in our own stadium but let's see how it works out," the Ajax manager told a press conference.
"It is only after the first match that you can say who the favourite is going to be. It is in these type of matches, especially the away tie in Bucharest, when you become a better player.
"I have experienced that myself in 1992, when we played UEFA Cup matches in Turin and Genoa, these are wonderful experiences."
Ajax have no fresh injury problems following a 1-1 Eredivisie draw against Roda, while Steaua are in a commanding position at the top of their own domestic league, which is now on a winter break.
Chelsea, last season's Champions League winners, could await the winners of this tie should they overcome Sparta Prague.
De Boer added: "It (the winter break) may be an advantage that we have (match) rhythm in our legs but, on the other hand, they are mentally fresh as they start again.
"It says enough that Steaua are currently 10 points ahead as frontrunners in the Romanian league. They have a nice balance and usually play a 4-3-3."
Steaua coach Laurentiu Reghecampf has been preparing his squad at a warm-weather training camp in Turkey.
He told www.onlinesport.ro: "Everything is in place after what we did physically in the training camps, which were long and tiring.
"I am glad we suffered no big injuries and we believe we are ready."
A number of first-team regulars opted to move elsewhere following the financial collapse of the Light Blues, who were forced to call in the administrators 12 months ago before subsequently being consigned to liquidation.
In the week the club marks the first anniversary of one of its darkest days - administration was confirmed on February 14, 2012 - former captain Steven Davis revealed he would love to return to his boyhood heroes and play for Rangers again before the end of his career.
Davis sealed a switch to Southampton, who paid a fee for the Northern Ireland international.
McDowall said: "He's an ex-captain of the club and I know it was a wrench for him to leave.
"He's a top football player and I'd have him in a minute."
On the prospect of other former stars playing for Rangers again, he added: "We would certainly welcome them back because the guys who left are all good players.
"Whether the support would accept them, the players would need to win the support over again if they didn't.
"I couldn't say they are not welcome because they are good football players and it's a football club.
"We need to try to deliver the best for the supporters."
Rangers were forced to start from scratch in the Third Division this season after Charles Green's 'newco' failed to secure entry to the Scottish Premier League after liquidation was confirmed.
The departure of key players, such as Davis, Allan McGregor, Steven Naismith and Steven Whittaker, meant manager Ally McCoist was left with the task of building a squad comprising youth players and those willing to play in Scottish football's basement league.
Rangers sit 22 points clear in the title race but exits from all cup competitions - including a demoralising 3-0 defeat to Dundee United in the William Hill Scottish Cup - has resulted in criticism of both the manager and his players.
However, McDowall was keen to pay tribute to McCoist for the role he has played over the last year, insisting he has not been given the credit he deserves, while claiming the turmoil will help shape him as a manager.
The Gers number two said: "I think he's done an incredible job.
"It was always going to be hard for us taking over after Walter Smith and we were delighted to be part of the job Walter did.
"But for Alistair taking it on as his first job, it's a big deal, it's a big club with a lot of responsibility.
"The demands to win stuff is always going to be there.
"We knew that but to face what he had to face, and to do it in the manner he did it, he's not had the credit for it.
"But we certainly appreciate what he's done because he ran the club himself single-handedly for many months.
"It will make him a much better manager in the future."
McDowall added: "We've gone from working with international players to lads who were playing in the youth team.
"We've still got some senior guys who we managed to get - Ian Black, Dean Shiels, Fran Sandaza.
"But it's difficult enough to come into a club this size, to carry the badge and settle into a place like this.
"For them to come in when you've been put into the Third Division, to be put in with a load of younger players, it was always going to be difficult for those guys.
"They've had a bit of criticism, unfairly I think, because they need time to settle as well.
"To be fair to the lot of them, the younger ones and the senior guys, they might not have done well in the cup competitions but we always knew that was going to be a tough hurdle to get over.
"They are 22 points clear and they are doing their work. Our aim has always been to win the championship and we are on course to do that."
On this day in 2012, Rangers lodged their intention to go into administration at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
Twenty-four hours later, administrators Duff and Phelps were appointed after HMRC lodged a petition over the non-payment of PAYE and VAT since Craig Whyte's 2011 takeover.
Reflecting on the last 12 months, McDowall said: "It's incredible that it's been a year.
"We have been jumping hurdles ever since and it's been a difficult year.
"Our support has kept us going, they have been fantastic.
"I think people expected them to tail off after a few months but, to their credit, they have been absolutely phenomenal.
"They have given us and the team the strength to carry on and keep going."
The Hammers' 2-1 defeat at struggling Aston Villa was a fourth loss in six league games and left them in 11th place, with a seven-point cushion above the relegation zone heading into the final 12 matches of the season
West Ham host Tottenham on February 25 before taking on both Chelsea and Manchester United next month.
Austrian defender Pogatetz, who has signed on loan from Wolfsburg, is confident Sam Allardyce's men have what it takes to steer themselves away from trouble.
"We shouldn't panic. We are in a good position," Pogatetz said on West Ham TV.
"Obviously we know we have hard games coming up, but we are up to the task.
"Our performance was all right at Villa and if we can push on from that, we can put many more points on the board and achieve everything we want by the end of the season."
Allardyce used the break in domestic action caused by this weekend's FA Cup ties to take the squad away for some warm-weather training in Dubai.
Last season, it helped rejuvenate the squad for their end-of-season run in, which culminated in a victory over Blackpool in the npower Championship final at Wembley that secured promotion.
Pogatetz, 30, can only see positives from the change in routine.
"When I played in Germany for the last two years, we got a winter break and I think this is a similar break now," he said.
"The lads will enjoy the break and the warm weather. They can recover the bruises and knocks or whatever they have got and then make a fresh start next Monday when we are back.
"I think the group will really benefit from it."
West Ham's head of sports science and sports medicine Andy Rolls insists the trip will not have been used as a holiday.
He said: "We will train over there quite hard - there will be some double sessions and some gym time as well as pitch time. I think we will see the benefits again when we return.
"It has been a long season already and Christmas is always hard and we would been back for six or seven weeks before we played our first Premier League game back in August. The players need a break and a change of scenery."
Some of the West Ham squad remained in England, with defenders James Collins (hamstring), George McCartney (knee) and Joey O'Brien, who went off at Villa Park with a dead leg, continuing their rehabilitation at Chadwell Heath.
Kamara signed for the Canaries until May from the Major Soccer League, where he had been playing for Sporting Kansas City.
The 28-year-old Sierra Leone forward only had a couple of days training with his new team-mates before making his debut with a lively late substitute appearance in Saturday's goalless draw against Fulham at Carrow Road.
As Norwich were dumped out of the FA Cup by non-league Luton, there is no fixture until Barclays Premier League action resumes with the visit of Everton on February 23.
Kamara hopes by then, he will feel fully integrated into his new surroundings.
"It is a great time for the break, because it gives me a chance to work my way into the team and work my way in with the guys, and really try to learn a lot more," Kamara said.
"It is just the perfect situation for me and all I have got to do is just keep working hard, and that is what I always do.
"I believe that if I can show the coach that and what I can do, he is definitely going to give me my chance."
While it is difficult to gauge what lasting impact Kamara - who had an unsuccessful trial at Stoke in December - can produce on the Canaries fight to steer clear of the relegation battle below them, the signs were positive from the seven minutes or so of a debut against Fulham when his pace at least gave the visitors defence something else to think about for the closing stages of what was a drab affair at Carrow Road.
Chris Hughton also brought in Luciano Becchio from Leeds during the January window, and handed the Argentinean frontman a home debut following injury to Grant Holt.
The Norwich manager feels he has plenty of different options in attack - which are clearly needed given his side's miserly return of just one goal in the past six matches.
"Kamara is different to what we have got," said Hughton, whose team have drawn three matches in a row to stop a run of loses over Christmas.
"Becchio is somebody who needs service in and around the box. We all know what Grant (Holt) gives us inside and outside the box, while Simeon (Jackson) is a smaller, brighter player that has a little bit of pace.
"Kamara is one who has that bit of pace as well and he is very, very good in the air, but he can play in a wide position too so he gives us a good option right across the front."
The 26-year-old was stopped on Tuesday near the club's training ground on suspicion of fraud in relation to driving offences.
Following this, Tiote's car - a Chevrolet Camaro estimated to be worth around ?75,000 - was seized.
A Northumbria Police spokesman said: "At about 1.30pm on February 12, a car was stopped on Benton Park Road, Newcastle, and a 26-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of fraud in relation to driving offences."
The Ivory Coast international, who recently returned from the Africa Cup of Nations, signed from Dutch side FC Twente in 2010.
Police said inquiries are ongoing.