Leicester back Ranieri despite relegation threat

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 With their recent defeat at home to Manchester United leaving them just a point above the relegation zone, manager Claudio Ranieri is coming under severe pressure from supporters as the Foxes look to rediscover their form of last season. However, despite their recent struggles, the Italian boss has received the backing from the club, with the club set to fight in both the Champions League and Premier League over the coming weeks.

Just over six months ago, Leicester were celebrating the biggest day in their history, with Captain Wes Morgan lifting the Premier League trophy for the first time after a remarkable campaign. However, with the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez failing to rediscover their form from last year, as well as N’Golo Kante continuing to show just how much of an asset he is with league leaders Chelsea, the Foxes are now among the favourites for relegation. For those of you wishing to back Ranieri’s men to steer clear of the drop zone, you can find all football competitions at one place including UK, International, European and other Leagues.

 Wins for fellow strugglers Hull City and Sunderland last time around only compounded Leicester’s misery, with just two points separating the bottom six in the Premier League table. Relegation for the Foxes would make them the first club to drop down to the Championship having won the title the previous year, with Rainieri keen to justify his winning of the FIFA Coach of the Year Award in 2016.

With a Champions League Round of 16 tie against Spanish La Liga side Sevilla to look forward to, Claudio Ranieri would likely trade wins against Swansea City and Liverpool in the coming weeks with European progression. Leicester’s players have been criticised widely in the press, with Arsenal’s legendary striker Ian Wright calling them “lazy”. Other reports suggest that the Italian boss has lost the support of his dressing room, with a reported ban on chicken burgers upsetting some of the players.

The former Chelsea boss, previously known as the “tinkerman”, will be hoping that his latest idea will get the players motivated, with boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr set to meet the Leicester squad during his time in the UK. With just five wins from their 24 Premier League fixtures to date, the presence of the unbeaten American can certainly not have a negative effect on the team.

Denis Shapovalov receives fine for umpire incident

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Umpire Arnaud Gabas after the hit. Photo Credit: Dailymail.co.uk

Canadian tennis star Denis Shapovalov has been fined £5,600, after he hit the umpire in the eye with a ball during his Davis Cup match against Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund.

Shapovalov was losing 6-3, 6-4, 2-1 when he sensationally hit the ball in anger. The 17-year-old had no intention of hitting umpire Arnaud Gabas, and has since stated that he was attempting to hit the ball out of court in frustration.

The moment of madness meant that GB were awarded a default win, prompting the youngster to release a statement apologising for “letting his country down”.

The fine is broken down into two different disciplinary sections: $2,000 is for the default, and $5,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct. Shapovalov will feel lucky, as he escaped the maximum fine of $12,000, because the incident was deemed to be unintentional.

The default handed GB the progression in the Cup, after Vasek Pospisil had beaten Dan Evans to make it 2-2 overall, setting up the decider between Shapovalov and Edmund.

The video of the incident happening quickly went viral on social media, and can be seen below:

In happier news, Tickets for Roland Garros are now available for purchase, and with the tournament now just a few months away it’s definitely time to consider making your purchase.

Novak Djokovic is the early favourite at 9/5, with Rafael Nadal at 11/4 and world number one Andy Murray 4/1.

Ivanovic leaves Chelsea after nine years

Бранислав Иванович продолжит карьеру в «Зените»
Credit: Zenit St Petersburg

Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic has left Chelsea after nine years with the Blues, having signed a three-and-a-half-year deal with Russian side Zenit St Petersburg for an undisclosed fee.

Ivanovic joined Chelsea in 2008 from Lokomotiv Moscow, and went on to feature in over 350 first team games for the team.

Chelsea fans can look back fondly on his impressive career with the club, which included an medals list of the following: Champions League winners, Premier League title x2, FA Cup winners x3, League Cup winners, Community Shield and their Europa League success in 2013.

First team opportunities had become increasingly sparse, and the 32-year-old had only made six starts for table-topping Chelsea so far this season.

Ivanovic managed mark what was his final appearance for the Blues with a goal, as he scored in the 4-0 victory over Brentford in the FA Cup at the weekend.

Another club stalwart in John Terry was one of the first players to make a tribute to ‘Brana’, who he described as a ‘legend’.

Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Tuesday night, but should have taken all three points if not for a missed penalty by Diego Costa.

The Blues host Arsenal this Saturday at 12:30, and this along with the rest of the Premier League scores are available to be followed at popular site SBAT.com.

Bruce: “I left for the sake of the club.”

Photo credit: Mirror.co.uk

Former-Hull City manager Steve Bruce has claimed he left his position at the Tigers for the “sake of the club”, and proclaimed his delight at the “unwavering” support the fans have given him since he took up the difficult decision to resign.

Bruce will go down as one of the, if not the, most successful manager in Hull’s history, after he twice led them to the Premier League, including a Championship Play Off final victory over Sheffield Wednesday earlier in the summer.

The 55-year-old also led the Tigers to their first ever FA Cup final back in May 2014, but despite taking a two-goal lead their opponents on the day, Arsenal, fought back to eventually take a 3-2 victory in extra-time.

It has been reported that his decision to leave the club despite having just gotten them back into the Premier League was due to a ‘break-down in relations’ with the clubs vice-chairman Ehab Allam.

The latest statements from Bruce himself have come in an open letter he penned for the Hull Daily Mail.

“It was a decision I had to make for the sake of the club.

“The last 12 months have been very tough and it felt like the right step for the club to move forward in a different direction and with someone else in charge.

“It is rare for a manager to have the backing I’ve had from fans. It’s been unwavering. One of the abiding memories was the reaction of supporters the day we were relegated on the final day of the 2014-15 season.

“They applauded us off the pitch when you’d expect them to have been ripping the roof off.” He concluded.

Hull City stepped up their preparations for the upcoming Premier League campaign when they defeated local rivals Scunthorpe United 2-0 at Glanford Park on Saturday, with Shaun Maloney and Mo Diame the goal scorers.

Despite an impressive pre-season so far, the club are heavily backed to be in a relegation battle once the season begins. You can get the best football betting advice from football-bookmakers.com to help you decide who you will be making you bets for the season with.

Danny Welbeck suffers yet more injury heartache

Photo credit: @Arsenal on Twitter

Poor Danny Welbeck will once again disappear under the radar for a substantial amount of time, after the striker was ruled out for around nine months following a knee injury suffered during Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

Arsenal today announced that tests following the injury showed “significant cartilage damage”, and the 25-year-old has now had surgery too.

However, the injury is not the same that the unlucky former-Manchester United star suffered earlier in the season, which saw him miss a total of seven months of this campaign.

Gunners manager Arsene Wenger had admitted after Sunday’s game that he was “worried” by the injury, and his fears have become a reality sadly.

There had been calls for Welbeck to be chosen by Roy Hodgson for the 23-man England squad in France this summer, after he came back from his previous injury to score five times in the second half of the season.

Due to the length of his previous knee injury, many had forgotten just how lethal he can be, but he showed his worth to the Arsenal side as his goal saw his side on their way to a 2-1 defeat of eventual champions Leicester City back in February on his return.

The good news though, is that Welbeck seems to be in good spirits and confident that he can bounce back from this huge set as he posted this update to his 20,000 Twitter followers:

Arsenal’s Alex Oxelade-Chamberlain was also ruled out last week with a knee injury, and like Welbeck, will miss England’s Euro 2016 campaign.

All the best for your recovery Danny.

Sexism in football is still there; but we’ve come a long way

Football has had its horns locked in a fierce battle with its sexist prejudices for decades, with the sport keen to be able to tell the world that it does not mind that women want to be involved, nor does it mind that they want their opinions aired. But in the cases of Shelley Kerr and Sarah Winterburn it has highlighted that although sexism cases are less frequent, they are still occurring – but not all females in football experience this negativity, as proved by Irish international Stephanie Roche.

BT Sport presenter Lynsey Hipgrave was lambasted with sexist abuse for expressing her thoughts on a football incident during a La Liga match between Barcelona and Celta Viga in February 2016. She gave her opinion like many other followers of the sport did, but because she was a woman, she was told to “get back in the kitchen” and “make some sandwiches”. The case only managed to highlight the fact that football still has a sexism problem, whether the sport as a whole believes it has moved forward or not, it is still there.

A survey conducted by Women in football indicated that of the 661 women who were interviewed, and were involved in football in roles such as coaching or being a match official, 35% believed they were underpaid in comparison to males conducting a similar job, whilst 28% thought women were unfairly treated in the organisations they worked in.

Shelley Kerr is largely a success story for women in football. She became a pioneer for women in football in August 2014 by becoming the first female in Britain to manage a men’s senior team. Capped 59 times by Scotland during her playing career, she was appointed as the head coach of Stirling University’s football programme, who play their matches in the Scottish Lowland League.

Kerr said she had the utmost respect from her players from day one, which shows the strides that football as a sport has made in exiling sexism, but mentioned that for all of the positives, there have still been the negatives.

“There was a lot of profile around my appointment and I even had some photographers come and ask me if I’d wear high heels for pictures, which was just ridiculous.

“There have been a few occasions where from the touchline there has been sexist chants made, but I have to say it hasn’t been from football supporters, but more so from other sports teams that have been watching at the University. On the whole though, I have to say it’s been very good.”

Football needs more high profile cases where women are accepted and judged on nothing more than the credentials they possess, the way they want their team to play, and not the gender they are, just like Kerr has experienced.

“That was the one area that I would say was extremely positive from the first morning that I was introduced to the guys. The players were very receptive to me as a coach and to my philosophies, so my gender has never been a problem.”

In 2015 the Women’s World Cup took place in Canada, and the hype centred on the English team in this country helped to raise the profile of the ladies’ side of the game. Then, on the back of the World Cup, women’s football took another step forward as FIFA 16 was released with 12 of the women’s national sides included in the game for the first time ever. Although on the larger scheme of things it may not be seen as something that shows victory for the girls and the end to sexism, what it does do is help to show the sport is moving in the right direction.

It’s not uncommon to hear a female voice on match highlights these days, but when Sarah Winterburn first took an interest in reporting on the sport 20 years ago, she was seriously outnumbered in the press boxes at games, and experienced first hand what is frankly frowned upon today.

“In press conferences it was quite common to have managers dismissing questions from women, or answering the question and putting ‘darling’ on the end. But if that happened now it would be on Twitter in five minutes, and there would be an uproar.”

Within five minutes on the phone with the editor of the hugely successful Football365 website, you got a sense of her relief at the way the attitudes towards women have changed since she first started in the industry. But one thing she did stress was that the amount of females taking an interest in reporting on football is still fairly low in comparison to males.

“You get used to there being maybe one other woman there now, but I’m still probably outnumbered by 10/1 at least.”

Sunderland-forward and Irish international Stephanie Roche was in good company at the FIFA Puskas award ceremony in 2014, when she was nominated alongside James Rodriguez and Robin van Persie to have scored one of the top three goals in that year. The 26-year-old even received compliments on her finish at the dinner table from legendary Italian Allesandro Del Piero, who’d “recognised her from the video of the goal.”.

Roche eventually came second, but her experiences at the event prove that sexism is slowly being banished from the association of football.

“In Ireland it was a huge thing, because not only was I the first woman to be nominated for the award, I was the first Irish national to do so, too. I think everybody was proud so that made me proud to represent Ireland and women’s football.”

Roche admits she may be one of the luckier females to play the sport, as she struggled to recollect any negative experiences from her career to date.

“Women are doing a lot of things that they wouldn’t have been doing 30-odd years ago, so it just shows how altered things are now. I’m happy it’s now accepted that women are going to play football, and generally do all the things that men can do.”

After hearing from three credible voices associated with women’s football, it’s easy to see that the positive experiences the ladies are enduring out shadow the negative, misogynistic views of the minority, and that football should be proud that together it is doing a good job of silencing sexism.

Sexism and racism will never stop Annie Zaidi from achieving her dream

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Women have faced an uphill struggle for decades as they have tried to become a reputable part of the footballing community, but for Annie Zaidi the task plunged into new depths as she struggled to shrug of not only sexism, but Islamophobia too. But any obstacles that step in her way will not stop her from trying to achieve her dream of being the one to replace Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

Opportunities for women with an ethnic background to get involved in football are still at an all-time low, despite racism and sexism being frowned upon in the current day and age. Research from the Fare Network found that of the ‘Elite level clubs’ playing in England, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, 96.6% of the senior coaches are white men.

Research conducted by Sports Coach UK led them to make the statement that “Female coaches say football can be like an ‘old boys network’ where women have to prove their knowledge in order to gain the respect of male coaches.” Although possibly not true in all cases, Zaidi’s experiences would suggest the research they conduct isn’t far wrong.

Newcastle was the destination where one of her first chances to coach men presented itself. Zaidi was studying at Durham University at the time, and claims the chance was somewhat a baptism of fire into the world of football coaching.

“For four or five weeks they didn’t like it. After the tragedies of 9/11 and 7/7 and because I was wearing a headscarf I was a more visible Muslim. I had to gain their respect rather than them just respecting me straight away.

“I came away from tackles with broken ribs and swollen ankles, and it was just a nightmare. Because I’m a feisty one the more I fell down the harder I got back up, and eventually that gained their respect.” She mentioned.

Taking those hits was all worth it in the end, and she believes the wider effect that her ability to get back up after being knocked down showed will have helped to educate those players in Newcastle to appreciate her as a coach for her ability, rather than her sex or race.

“Eventually I realised that football was just not a game. It was breaking down social barriers and creating communication.

“They won’t see a Muslim woman in a headscarf and automatically think she is a terrorist like they might have. They will appreciate women coaches now too.” She claimed.

Her love for the sport stems from being a younger sister to two keen football enthusiast brothers, who gave her little choice but to take up the sport so she could remain involved with her siblings. But despite beginning to love the sport, her opportunities to take it further back then were lacking.

“Me being me I had to fit in and I had to join in with the lads. It was a hobby that I loved but sadly there weren’t really any opportunities for girls to play back then, especially for a girl with a different coloured skin.

“It was a bit like me against the world. I’m a bit of a feisty one and I’d always say that they could take my bib and my ball away from me, but one thing they could never take away is my passion. If someone tells me I can’t do something, I’ll do it anyway to prove them wrong.” She stated.

Zaidi was awarded the Helen Rollason Award for inspiration at the Sky Sports Sportswomen of the year awards in 2015, and received plaudits from high-profile male figures in the sport at the ceremony such as David Beckham, Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey.

“I was taken aback by the comments that Sir Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey said about me. I think their words were more overwhelming and heart-warming than the award itself.

“My Grandfather since the award has promoted me to being his favourite Grandchild of the 10 he has got, because back in Pakistan everyone knows about David Beckham. I’d love to know why I wasn’t already his favourite, but that’s another story.” She joked.

The ambitious coach has already gone a long way to achieving her ultimate goal of coaching at the top level in the men’s game, and currently coaches the under-11 girls at Leicester City’s academy, something she describes as her “proudest moment to date”.

Although happy with her current lifestyle, Zaidi like anyone aspires to become bigger and better than she is now, and hopes her determination and grit will get her to that destination.

“My ultimate goal is to get my A license and get a job full time in the men’s game. Arsenal is my dream though.

“This season I’ve got more trophies for being a good coach than Arsene Wenger has, so why not. I’d love to meet him and talk to him and pick at his brain though.” She concluded.

Arsenal’s senior side is the dream, but for Zaidi to have an impact at a professional level in the men’s game would almost certainly show the footballing world that sex or race are not an obstacle if your passion is football.

 

Robbie Hunter-Paul: “When it came to training, I’d train the house down.”

Photo courtesy of: Examiner.co.uk

From the comforts of home in Tokoroa, New Zealand, where walking around the town barefoot was the norm, to the bright lights and fast moving pace of the City of Bradford in the North of England, where Robbie Hunter-Paul and his family were subject to a few gazes of disbelief as they walked around the city centre without wearing so much as sandals on their first day there.

It was safe to say Hunter-Paul had made a big change to his life, and at such a young age. But his move to Bradford Bulls would ignite the start of hugely successful career at the top of the Rugby League game in England, which spanned over the course of 17 years.

The 40-year-old was only 18 when the move to the Bulls came about, and to understand the cultural differences that was about to become a reality for him, he tuned in to Sky Movies to watch the Bradford based film Rita, Sue and Bob too.

“We were one of the first families in our neighbourhood to get Sky as we followed the Rugby League in Australia.

“I knew nothing about the culture in England, and I knew less about a city in the North of England called Bradford. Rita, Sue and Bob too is a British cult classic about a guy who sleeps with babysitters on a council estate in Bradford, and that was my introduction.

“You can imagine as an 18-year-old who was brought up as a mummy’s boy, that after watching that I had a firm grip on my mum’s skirt as I got off the plane when I arrived.”

The former Scrum-half believes British people are among the most tribal in the world, although he claims they don’t even realise to what effect. Hunter-Paul pinpoints his success as Captain of the Bulls at such a young age as being down to managing all of his teammates personalities, no matter where they had come from, no matter what ‘tribe’ they were a part of.

“Depending on what side of the street you grew up on in Britain, you will go ‘Nah I’m not speaking to that lot over there’. The melting pole which is a professional rugby team, you have so many different backgrounds and cultures.

“When it came to training, I’d train the house down. Very few people trained as hard as I did. Off the field I was very focussed, but when it came to being able to communicate on those different levels, I was able to do that. I was also wise enough and smart enough to know that 18 years of age, I didn’t know it all.”

1996 turned out to be a phenomenal year for the Kiwi, when he ended the season as the the Bulls top try scorer, before winning the man of the match award and the Lance Todd Trophy, after scoring three tries in the Challenge Cup final against St Helens.

“When I scored the first try I rolled over and there was a wall of 30,000 Bradford fans, it was just amazing. We were losing at this point so it got us back into the game and within 2 points. It was rock star moment.

“Do you know why rock stars do what they do? Put aside the money, it’s because it feeds that kind of adrenaline and endorphin release. It’s the strongest drug on the planet, and you can never replace that.”

Although throughout his career Hunter-Paul worked hard to never make costly mistakes, he’s reminded daily of one in a Grand Final between Leeds and Bradford where he fumbled the ball around the Bulls own 22 with only minutes to go, a mistake that eventually led to the Rhinos overturning the Bulls lead and winning the final.

“My father taught me one of the best lessons in life. He told me that if I made a mistake it’s not your fault, but if you make it again it damn well is. Because you should have learned from the first time you made that mistake.

“Did I always learn from the first mistakes? Hell no. Show me someone who didn’t. The people who are of the elite understand failure, they understand losing and making a mistake. Most of the time it’s the best lesson learnt. Did I let that mistake beat me up? No, I just had to move on.”

You don’t need to be a world class sportsperson to understand sibling rivalry. You fight, squabble and kiss and make up countless times before you grow up into men, and even then not a lot changes. Robbie played alongside his brother Henry at the Bulls, but they had to face up against each other as rivals too.

“He’s the best player I’ve ever played with or against. The way he was able to transcend his game to international level was exceptional. He’s a very driven man, and I picked up some of my skills from him.

“It was hard having to compete with someone growing up who was two years my senior, and two years physically more developed than I was, but playing with him every day developed me as a player.”

With his career in England blooming, a personal dream of the New Zealanders that stemmed back to being a six-year-old was about to become a reality in 1997, as he was set to represent his country for the first time. Not even his initial self questioning of his worth of wearing such a shirt would hamper one of the proudest days of his life.

“It was such an honour to lead the Haka against England, the other half of my life. That was a truly joyous day, and one of my proudest moments as a rugby player.

“I remember stood in front of my shirt whilst it was on the hook, and suddenly things go through your head like ‘am I even worthy of this jersey?’.

“Then the doggedness and drive that got your there in the first place comes out and says ‘snap out of it you pussy, pull this shirt off the hook and put it on.’ I was lucky to have a long stint as a New Zealand international, but you have to earn it.”

Although he came to England with little knowledge of the culture, he remains resided here, married to an English wife, with English children, and will be seen as legend that will forever have his story written in the Bradford Bulls history books. He may have moved to the country originally for his Rugby career, but he is quite happy to admit he stayed for the people – And thankfully he now has enough shoes to not worry about those looks of disbelief that shoe-less day it all begun.

Police make arrest in connection to Chris Brunt coin throwing indicent

The Police have made an arrest in connection to the coin throwing incident, in which West Bromich Albion midfielder Chris Brunt was struck by the object after his side lost 3-1 at Reading on Saturday.

Brunt’s side were beaten comfortably by Reading, with the result sending the Royals into the FA Cup Quarter finals against the odds. The Northern Ireland international was heading towards the travelling faithful to hand a supporter his shirt when he was hit in the face, leaving a visible mark immediately.

Throwing a coin at a player is shocking enough, but the fact the coin was thrown the traveling Albion fans makes the case 10x worse. Brunt has made over 300 appearances for the club and is one of the longest serving players. He told the press of his “disgust” at the coin thrower, and was “ashamed” by the whole thing.

Thankfully, Thames Valley Police said the man was arrested on Tuesday, also announcing that the arrest was part of a joint operation held with the Hampshire Police department. The club have also announced that they will impose the “severest of actions” on the guilty party.

A case of ‘monkey see monkey do’, Chelsea fans were also guilty of coin throwing this weekend, as they pelted Manchester City player David Faupala and his teammates on Sunday as they celebrated their equaliser at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea’s statement following this incident stated they would impose lifetime bans for the offenders.

 

Adam Johnson’s court hearing live

Photo courtesy of the BBC.

Today Adam Johnson appears at Bradford Crown Court for two child sex offences and Josh Halliday, a journalist who is in court, has been tweeting some pretty intriguing stuff from throughout the hearing.

Here they are, starting from the very first:

So he took advantage of the fact she was a big fan of his. Disgusting.