“We’ve been able to get a settled team together and been able to get a lot of quality work done on the training ground. “They’re a great group to work with, they work really hard every day and they’re starting to get the rewards for that. “We’re fortunate we have intelligent players who are able to follow the plan we have for each game.” The Baggies’ upturn in form will be tested to the full in the coming weeks as they host in-form Newcastle before games against Chelsea and Arsenal. “I’m not satisfied with what happened on Tuesday night, I’m still hurting about that,” Irvine said. “But the fact is if we had played the same team and gone down to Bournemouth, perhaps gone to extra-time, we would have been risking problems at the end of this game against Leicester. “Every time I turned round Nigel (Pearson) was putting on another forward and clearly we were going to be put under pressure if we were ahead. “We needed players who were physically and mentally ready to cope with that and I thought they did really well. “Had we lost here today I still would have felt it was the right decision (to rest players against Bournemouth).” West Brom have now lost only once in their last six league games – a run that also included victories over Tottenham and Burnley. After a disappointing start to the campaign, Irvine’s side have turned their fortunes around and climbed to 10th in the table. “We’ve got to a situation where we’ve had a proper group to train with and where everyone is starting to get to know each other,” Irvine said. Alan Irvine believes West Brom’s 1-0 victory at Leicester vindicated his decision to rest 10 players for the Baggies’ Capital One Cup defeat to Bournemouth in midweek. West Brom were beaten 2-1 by the in-form Cherries last Tuesday but bounced back to claim a valuable three points at the King Power Stadium thanks to Esteban Cambiasso’s second-half own-goal. Irvine’s selection demonstrates the club’s focus on Barclays Premier League survival this season and the Baggies boss believes the rotation did pay dividends against the Foxes. Press Association
Press Association The Serbia midfielder has become a key member of a squad which Terry continues to lead with great authority. The 34-year-old Blues captain is entering the final six months of his Chelsea contract, which was extended for a year last summer. “We will try to prepare ourselves for that game and I hope we will continue to win.” Jose Mourinho has no injury concerns or suspensions, but must determine how best to utilise his squad with matches against Tottenham and Watford, in the FA Cup, in the following seven days. “They are good. They are strong. They are human,” Mourinho told Chelsea TV. “We have to try to find this balance between the good condition they have and the human side of it. “Everyone will be a bit tired, but at the same time smiling you are not so tired. “(Eden) Hazard, (Cesc) Fabregas, Oscar, Willian, Diego (Costa) – they are happy guys on the pitch and they express that happiness in the way they are playing football. “I think it’s not a drama. We have to go for it.” Nemanja Matic hopes to play alongside John Terry for many years to come at Chelsea. Terry, who scored for a second successive game in Friday’s 2-0 defeat of West Ham, is bidding to lead Chelsea to a fourth Premier League title in 10 seasons, but a first since 2010. “John is a big player, he’s our captain and he deserves everything,” Matic told Chelsea TV. “He’s one of the best central defenders in England ever. It’s good to have him in the team. I hope he will continue for a few more years like this.” Should Terry’s form continue it is likely his Chelsea career will be extended in the summer, but his primary focus is on the here and now. So, too, is Matic’s ahead of Sunday’s trip to Southampton, where Chelsea will bid to finish 2014 on a high and begin 2015 on top of the Barclays Premier League. “We are focused always on the next game,” Matic added. “We look at this like a new challenge, like a new opportunity to show our quality and we will continue like this. “We had some stretches in the dressing room (after the West Ham win) and we are already focused on Southampton.
Stoke are set to complete their third signing from Barcelona in less than two years, according to the agent of Morroccan winger Moha El Ouriachi. Press Association “We thank Barca for the deal they offered the player and the efforts they have gone to try to renew his contract,” El Ouriachi’s agent, Raul Verdu, told Catalan newspaper Sport. “But another proposal was really interesting on both a professional and economic level. “Moha has the option of joining the first team squad at Stoke and that was irresistible.” El Ouriachi has represented Spain at youth level and Sport reported that Stoke have agreed to pay the necessary training compensation to bring the pacey left winger to the Barclays Premier League. Both Bojan and Muniesa have settled well at Stoke, although the former – who had scored five goals in 18 appearances following his shock move last summer – was ruled out for the rest of the season after damaging cruciate knee ligaments in an FA Cup tie at Rochdale in January. Defender Muniesa has made nearly 40 appearances since joining from Barcelona in the summer of 2013 but has not featured since tearing a hamstring in the FA Cup defeat at Blackburn in February. Peter Odemwingie hopes to play for Stoke again before the end of the season after battling back from a serious injury. The Nigerian striker, who made a significant impact during the second half of last season when he joined the Potters in a swap deal with Kenwyne Jones, has been out with cruciate knee ligament damage since the end of August. “I’m joining the team (in training) again and it’s a big step in my rehab,” Odemwingie told Sky Sports News HQ. “It’s just a bit over six months and I’m really pleased because it’s a bit earlier than some players. “I hope to be mentally right but it looks OK. “I’m not scared and hopefully I can get one or two games before the end of the season.” Odemwingie, 33, scored five goals in 15 games after joining from Cardiff in January 2014 but was injured soon after playing for Nigeria at last summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Hughes has confirmed Victor Moses is unlikely to play again this season. The winger, who has spent the season on loan from Chelsea and has made 23 appearances for the Potters, suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury in last weekend’s 1-1 Barclays Premier League draw at West Ham. It is understood Hughes will press ahead with plans to sign the Nigeria international on a permanent basis this summer but, for now, the 24-year-old has returned to his parent club for treatment. “It may well be that Victor’s season is over unfortunately because of the type of injury he has got,” Hughes told the club’s official website, www.stokecityfc.com. “He might get back but at the moment we’re probably thinking that he won’t make it. “It’s a shame because Victor has done really well since he’s been with us. “He was our shining light in the early part of the season and then unfortunately he got a couple of quite serious injuries that held him back, and in the end he hasn’t been able to finish the season with us. “He’ll look back on his time with us and think he’s made an impression and done well and we’d agree with that because he’s been a really important figure for us this season.” Potters manager Mark Hughes, the former Barcelona striker, has already snapped up Bojan Krkic and Marc Muniesa from the Nou Camp and teenager El Ouriachi now looks to be on his way to the Britannia Stadium this summer. The 19-year-old Barcelona B player is apparently keen to seek first-team action rather than extend his contract with the Spanish giants.
Rebranding the FA Cup would not take away any of the romance from the world’s oldest knockout football competition, according to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. The Football Supporters’ Federation would not oppose the name-change if the income was spent in the right way, with the FA maintaining all the money it raises is ploughed back into grass-roots football. Wenger guided Arsenal to FA Cup success for the fifth time last season, and will be back at Wembley to try to lift the famous trophy once again when they tackle Aston Villa on May 30. The French coach believes such commercial deals are now an inevitable part of modern-day football, with Arsenal’s main sponsors also the Middle East airline. B ut Wenger suggests so long as the fairytale continues on the pitch with giant-killings and shocks throughout the rounds, then the FA Cup will lose none of its integrity, however it is branded. “Will the name change? Certainly because of the sponsorship that looks to be the fate of the world that we live in,” Wenger said. “Personally for me it will remain the FA Cup, but what makes the quality of the FA Cup is the games you get and the quality of the competition. On that front I think it is a top quality.” Steve Bruce took Hull into the 2014 FA Cup final, where they were beaten 3-2 by Arsenal after extra-time having raced into a 2-0 lead. The Hull manager see no issue with whatever the competition will eventually be labelled. Press Association “We are frightened of change. I never thought Arsenal would leave Highbury and go to the Emirates, that Manchester City would leave Maine Road and go to the Etihad, that the FA Cup would be called the Emirates FA Cup. However that’s what change is, if you don’t have to move with the times you get called a dinosaur,” he said. “We can all like and admire tradition and history, but some things you have to go with the flow.” Tony Pulis guided Stoke to the 2011 FA Cup final, where the Potters lost to Manchester City. Pulis, now in charge at West Brom, took a pragmatic view of the situation. He said: “Money controls everything, money speaks today and life is changed and you have to accept that. If the FA go for it they will go for it because of the money.” The Football Association insists no sponsorship deal has been finalised for the FA Cup, which has been without a main sponsor since the previous contract with Budweiser expired, but a proposal is understood to have been discussed at a board meeting which could see a £ 30million three-year package with the airline Emirates come to fruition. The controversy surrounds renaming the competition as the Emirates FA Cup – previously its main sponsorship deal was referred to as the FA Cup with Budweiser.
Having been farmed out on loan and developed physically, it looked like the 22-year-old would finally get a chance to shine at Old Trafford last season. Van Gaal handed Lingard his debut in United’s opening game of the campaign against Swansea, only for his afternoon to be cut short by an Ashley Williams tackle. When the winger returned to the field six months later it was on loan at Derby in the Championship, making him all the more determined to add to his sole United appearance. Lingard is certainly aiding his cause in the Czech Republic, where on Sunday he stylishly netted England’s late winner against Sweden in the European Championship. “I’m looking to stay at Man United and get some games under my belt there,” Lingard said. “I’ll see what the boss says when I get back. I’ve always wanted to play for Man United and that’s still my ambition. “I was unlucky to get injured at the start of last season and I’ll never know where I would be know if I hadn’t got that injury. “Scoring goals like this can only help. It gets your profile up and other teams see you as well as Man United. It can only be good for me. “I kept in contact with Louis Van Gaal last season and spoke to the Under-21 manager a lot. He was guiding me and giving me confidence.” Lingard is likely to have another chance to impress on Wednesday when the Young Lions take on Italy in their final Group B match. Jesse Lingard is determined to prove his worth for Manchester United after injury robbed him of the chance to impress Louis van Gaal. The winger was replaced in the starting line-up against Sweden despite impressing in the defeat to Portugal, but could again find himself starting from the outset after his game-changing display and Alex Pritchard’s injury. “You’re always disappointed not to start for your country, but that’s the gaffer’s decision,” Lingard said. “I knew I had to make an impact as soon as I came on the pitch and luckily I did. Getting the win is massive for us, and says a lot about our team spirit. “It’s up to the gaffer who starts. He knows what he’s doing and we respect his opinion, but obviously I’m hoping to start.” Press Association
The likes of Manchester United, Tottenham and Real Sociedad were all heavily linked with a move for the former Bournemouth youngster – but it was Liverpool who won the race for his signature and Ings did not want to be anywhere else. “As soon as I knew that Liverpool were interested, it was a no-brainer,” he told LFCTV. “It was the only club on my mind, to be fair. And now that it has happened, it’s fantastic for me and my family. “It’s a special club, everybody knows it. With all the history that’s here…it’s definitely a massive step in my career and I’m over the moon.” No Liverpool striker reached double-figures in terms of league goals last season, with an injury-hit campaign for Daniel Sturridge leaving the England international with just four. Last summer’s new arrivals Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli managed two and one respectively, whilst wantaway winger Raheem Sterling scored seven and former skipper Steven Gerrard topped the charts with nine. But Ings is looking forward to playing alongside Sturridge, who was much more impressive the previous year as he scored 21 goals in a lethal partnership with Luis Suarez. “He’s an unbelievable striker,” Ings said of Sturridge. New Liverpool striker Danny Ings insists he only ever had eyes for Anfield. “He is one of those players who has come through the ranks, he has not had it easy. Now he’s here and he’s established; he’s a fantastic, talented football player I can learn from.” James Milner, Roberto Firmino, Adam Bogdan, Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez have also all joined Brendan Rodgers’ ranks at Anfield this summer as the club look to improve on last season’s sixth-placed finish. Whilst Ings will be looking to add goals, he decided to relieve any weight on his shoulders by turning down the chance to wear an iconic squad number – opting instead for number 28. “I had a chat with my agent and a few friends and we thought that moving to such a big club like this, you need to take all the pressure off yourself,” he added. “Taking one of the low numbers does make a difference, because some of the players that have worn those shirts have been superstars and world-class players. “So it was important to start with a high number and my reason is to work my way down. When I achieve success here, that’s when I’ll take a shirt like that; until then, I’ll keep number 28, keep my head down and work hard.” The 22-year-old moved to the club from relegated Burnley at the end of his contract, with a fee for the England Under-21 international set to be decided by tribunal. Having scored 11 Premier League goals for Sean Dyche’s struggling side as they finished 19th in the table and dropped back down to the Championship after just a single top-flight campaign, Ings was attracting interest from across Europe. Press Association
Van Gaal has therefore set up a contingency plan by signing Romero on a free transfer. The Dutchman says it was only logical to sign the Argentinian on a three-year deal given De Gea’s future is still unresolved. “I think that in our circumstances, with the threat that David de Gea is going to Real Madrid, we have to prepare our season and I think Sergio Romero can fulfil that because you have to handle very quickly when it may happen with David de Gea,” the United manager said. Van Gaal knows Romero well. He signed the 28-year-old for AZ Alkmaar in 2007 and employed him as his number one for two seasons. The pair crossed paths again last summer when Romero denied Van Gaal’s Holland a place in the World Cup final with his penalty-shootout heroics in Sao Paulo. “He is a very good choice,” Van Gaal said. “He is the Argentinian goalkeeper. He has international experience. “I saw him in the World Cup because he stopped our penalties very good and that is why were not in the final, but I remember him especially from my former time and I know what he can do. “He is a very dominating goalkeeper. His stature is also tall and he gives a lot of confidence to the players. “Of course, he has to learn English because that is also a problem always with a foreigner. He is very good with his feet so he fits in our profile. I have a lot of confidence that he can fulfil what we are expecting.” If De Gea stays, there is no guarantee Romero will get much playing time. “I have of course spoken with Sergio and also with David and with me always the best shall be in the line-up so you have to fight and I think in a top club as Manchester United you need always competition,” Van Gaal said. Romero, who was released by Sampdoria earlier this summer, said: “I am absolutely delighted to join Manchester United. “To play for the biggest club in the world is a dream come true for me.” Louis van Gaal claimed he was forced into signing Sergio Romero because of the uncertainty surrounding David de Gea, who could still leave Manchester United for Real Madrid, according to the Dutchman. Madrid want to sign De Gea, but United insist they will only do a deal with the 10-time European champions if defender Sergio Ramos comes to Old Trafford in return. Although such a deal seems unlikely at the moment, particularly with Ramos having been named Madrid captain recently, the situation could change before the transfer window shuts at 6pm on September 1. Press Association
Scrum coach Feek conceded Ireland can ill afford to take on the Pumas without Sexton, if there is any realistic chance the Leinster playmaker can stay the course in Cardiff on Sunday. Sexton spent Wednesday’s Ireland session running, and will be given Friday’s training to prove he is sufficiently past his groin strain to start against Argentina at the Millennium Stadium. Ulster powerhouse Iain Henderson could start at blindside flanker, with Donnacha Ryan partnering Devin Toner at lock. Chris Henry is likely to start at openside flanker in O’Brien’s stead, with Jordi Murphy and Rhys Ruddock to contest the back-row berth on the bench. Feek described Keith Earls as “just a bit battered” as the Munster flyer continues to recover from a bruising clash with France and juggernaut centre Mathieu Bastareaud last weekend. “We’re going to see how he goes, we’re looking after him a bit and it’s not too bad but we’ll see how he goes on Friday as well,” said Feek of Earls. “He’s just a bit battered, that’s all. It’s not too bad. “At this stage, you want to do the best to make sure everyone is fit and available.” Greg Feek has hinted Ireland are ready to risk Johnny Sexton for their “do-or-die” quarter-final with Argentina, even if the linchpin fly-half is not 100 per cent fit. Press Association Ireland could therefore now name Sexton in their team on Friday lunchtime, to give the combative outside-half every chance of being ready for their pivotal World Cup showdown. “Johnny did about three-and-a-half kilometres of running today, so that’s a positive,” said Feek. “We’re quietly confident and we’ll see how he goes on Friday. “When you start to accumulate a number of games in a row, in the Six Nations you usually get two matches and then a week off, while in November you get three but you can still mix it around. “But here it’s do-or-die type stuff, so there might be some allowances around a few things, especially with our medical staff and strength and conditioners, they’ve got a good feel on things as well.” Ireland must do without injured duo Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony for the rest of their campaign, while bullish back-rower Sean O’Brien is banned for Sunday’s Pumas clash. Ireland are understood not to have any intention to appeal O’Brien’s one-week sanction, for punching Pascal Pape in Sunday’s 24-9 victory over France. Feek insisted Ireland can cope with what has to be a major pack reshuffle for this weekend’s last-eight battle.
Although reports suggest that new deal contains a release clause which could be triggered by Madrid in the future, De Gea has insisted he is enjoying life at Old Trafford. “I felt in that moment that to extend my contract was the best thing to do,” he said on ESPN Deportes. “I’m really happy now, at one of the biggest clubs in the world, where I feel loved by the fans. “Nobody let me down or disappointed me — these are things that happen. You must look forward, and I am very happy now. “During the market anything can happen, it can all change inside a minute. Football is like that. There were difficult moments, strange moments, but they help you to mature. To be stronger.” De Gea described Van Gaal as “hard and strong” but also a “joker”, and said he had a normal relationship with the manager despite his near exit. “From the first I day I came back, after all that happened, he gave me a lot of confidence, told me I would play, to relax and keep doing what I had done before,” he said. “He is a joker, makes a lot of jokes. Now and again likes to do something so that there is a good mood. But we talk mostly about football.” De Gea also thanked United’s fans for helping him settle back in to the first team. “The first game I returned, after all that had happened, was impressive,” he said. “The way Old Trafford received me, it made the hairs stand up. It’s very difficult to describe what that day was like. I really appreciate it.” David De Gea is “really happy” at Manchester United and has thanked manager Louis van Gaal and the fans for helping him settle back in after the dramatic collapse of his move to Real Madrid. The 25-year-old Spain goalkeeper was left out of United’s team by Van Gaal at the start of the season ahead of an anticipated return to Spain, but the deal fell apart in the final moments of the transfer window. De Gea’s future was initially uncertain but Van Gaal reinstated him and he has signed a new United contract which runs until 2019. Press Association
Saracens hope to stage their Champions Cup quarter-final at Allianz Park rather than Twickenham after storming into the knockout phase with a 33-17 victory over Ulster. “We’re relaying on some planning applications to go through and the goodwill of the town council here,” director of rugby McCall said. “Hopefully we will have out first-ever quarter-final in Barnet. It would make a significant difference to us to play here rather than Twickenham, which is probably where we would be. “It would be wonderful to have 15,000 here for a one-off occasion. Fingers crossed common sense prevails.” Owen Farrell was named man of the match in front of England head coach Eddie Jones, despite an off day from the kicking tee that saw him miss four of his nine shots at goal. Farrell’s vision and athleticism were the source of the 53rd-minute try scored by Duncan Taylor that swept the match beyond Ulster’s reach and the 24-year-old is expected to start the RBS 6 Nations opener against Scotland at inside centre. “I thought Owen was brilliant, he was outstanding. When he missed kicks….he just puts it behind him and then gets the next one over,” McCall said. “He usually gets the really important ones over. He had a great game. “The speculation seems to be that he will play 12 for England at Murrayfield. Clearly he has the skill set to do it if you want that kind of 12 there. He’s a brilliant rugby player.” Billy Vunipola, Taylor, Maro Itoje and Schalk Brits helped themselves to tries as Saracens secured a home quarter-final despite having one game left to play, in Toulouse on Saturday. “Ulster had probably the best defence we’ve come up against all season. It took everything we had to break them down. To score four tries against them was a big achievement. It was a good win for us,” McCall said. Ulster head coach Les Kiss admitted his team were taught a lesson at Allianz Park and feels Saracens are the greatest threat to Toulon’s reign as champions. “We’re extremely disappointed, to tell you the truth. They teach us a lesson each time we play them. There is a ruthless efficiency about them,” Kiss said. “At the beginning of the season I said the one team that will challenge Toulon will be Saracens. Each week my belief in that statement becomes stronger.” Mark McCall’s men are 11 points clear at the summit of Pool One with their bonus-point demolition of the Irish province – their fourth maximum five-point haul in five group games – guaranteeing home advantage in the next round. Tournament rules state that only venues capable of holding a minimum crowd of 15,000 can be used for a quarter-final, meaning Allianz Park would have to be temporarily expanded by 5,000 seats. Press Association