Leicester back Ranieri despite relegation threat

Image result for claudio ranieri

 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.

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.

 

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.

Black Cats sack Adam Johnson

28-year-old winger Adam Johnson has today been sacked by Sunderland AFC after the footballer pleaded guilty to one charge of grooming and one count of participating in sexual activity with a child under the age of 16 years.

The Black Cats had announced earlier in the day that Johnson would be unavailable for their Premier League match on Saturday with Manchester United.

There could still be parts of the story to unfold as the midfielder will face two further counts of sexual activity with a child on Friday – but this is something he currently denies.

Sunderland released a club statement 7:35pm which read as follows:

“In light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.

The club will make no further comment.”

The Sunderland born player has also had his boot sponsorship deal with Nike severed today too, as many of those who were closely linked to him look to distance themselves from association quickly.

“Adidas can confirm that it has terminated its contract with footballer Adam Johnson with immediate effect.

“This follows his guilty pleas entered earlier this week.” A statement read.

Johnson had enjoyed his final game in Sunderland’s red and white having been a major part of the club’s fight back from 2-0 down at Liverpool, as he scored direct from a free kick to make the scores 2-1 – before Jermaine Defoe equalised seven minutes later to finish the game at 2-2.

Let’s take a look at how Twitter reacted (Including an old one from another Adam Johnson from around the time the story first unfolded):

(The views in the tweets do not necessarily match mine. Just thought they were share worthy.)

Luca Toni: The evergreen Italian

Inspired by Betway’s recent article nod to FA Cup cult heroes, we decided to change the scope slightly from England’s bloodied and battered stalwarts to Italy, and the colourful characters that have populated Serie A across the decades.

There have, of course, been many reluctant idols on the Italian peninsula, but perhaps none so intriguingly underrated as one currently on the verge of retirement: Hellas Verona’s Luca Toni.

Think classic Italian striker and perhaps Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti, even Gianfranco Zola or Antonia Cassano in his pomp, are the first on your dream team sheet; adaptable attackers, keen to work the channels and create, in the ilk of a ‘fantasista’, blurring the lines between playmaker and striker with abandon.

Yet, there have also been great goalscorers, of which pure poacher Toni is undoubtedly one, though the Verona man may gather dust in the archives of Serie A and Azzurri history, when situated next to more feted forwards such as Christian Vieri.

Here are a few reasons why it’s worth standing back and admiring this ageing artist of the Italian goal mouth, while you still can…

Luca Toni 1

A classic number nine on edge of extinction

As the game adapts and grows there are fewer of these Toni-style centre forwards than ever, with the fashion demanding fluid forwards that can do it all. However, as Andy Carroll occasionally shows in the Premier League, having a striker in the traditional mould can still prove to be a handy card up your sleeve.

Aggressive he may be, but Toni is no blunt battering ram. Yet, he is a fine focal point, a canny target man in the truest sense, albeit one with all the positive hallmarks of an unabashed hitman.

Strong with his back to goal, a torrid presence in his heyday for the opposition defence due to his stature and spirit and adept at holding up the ball, it is tough to think of a more effective foil for any wily winger pumping crosses into the box. Oh, and he is also pretty handy with his head.

Cast your mind back to last Serie A season, with the current and final campaign in Italy’s top-flight for Toni yet to prove fruitful, when the 6ft 4in striker found himself facing former club and champions Juventus.

Latching onto the ball in the Old Lady’s area, Verona’s old man pulled the trigger on a low finish like only a seasoned pro can. It was Toni’s 22nd strike of the term, ensuring he finished joint-top Serie A scorer aged an incredible 38, the oldest leading marksman ever to claim it in Italy, alongside young whipper-snapper Mauro Icardi.

Though, this is far from the first time tenacious Toni, a known gobbler of loose balls and half-chances, has been crowned Capocannoniere, with a first top scorer trophy awarded much earlier in his career during a first fledgling stint at Fiorentina; with this honour acting almost as a bookend to his time in Italian football.

 

Hitman heroics from the ultimate journeyman

Yet, despite individual accolades, plus being a World Cup winner with Italy in 2006 and a Bundesliga and DFB Pokal victor with Bayern Munich in 2008, there is still a smidge of snobbery regarding Toni’s career.

Indeed, the soon-to-be 39-year-old was once famously criticised by Mark Lawrenson for being: “Like 6ft 4in of blancmange…more Swiss Toni than Luca Toni.”

While the context of that comment was his international exploits with Azzurri, with Toni disappointing at Euro 2008, it appears that his outings in royal blue have impaired views on what has been an otherwise prolific career.

A return of 16 for Italy in 47 is nothing special, but 51 in 83 for Palermo, 57 in 99 over two Viola stints, plus 58 in 88 for Bayern Munich are stats not to be sniffed at. Luca Toni 2More than the tally, it is the importance and timing of those strikes which made Toni terrific, ensuring a cult status at several clubs. His journeyman nature, taking in 15 clubs across 26 seasons, beginning in Serie C with minnows Modena back in 1994/95 and now set for the final act with the Mastiffs in 2016, has perhaps prevented the veteran frontman from becoming a legend for any.

Though, that may not matter, when considering it was Toni’s club-record 30 goals which incredibly propelled Palermo to Serie A promotion in 2003, and a further 20 strikes for the Rosanero helped them to a first ever qualification for the UEFA Cup, leaving a lasting legacy still today for the Sicilians.

There was also the small matter of claiming the European Golden Shoe as the first Italian winner after notching 31 (the first time in half a century that a Serie A player scored more than 30 strikes in a season) for Fiorentina.

But take your pick of perfectly-timed Toni moments, for there are plenty: A 100th Serie A goal on his debut for Juventus – headed, of course, from 16 metres out; a rampant return to Viola, scoring as a super sub with his first touch versus Catania; grabbing the DFB Pokal extra-time winner for Bayern, with two last-gasp goals also for the Germans against Getafe in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals.

Outspoken antics and career’s end

For all his action on the pitch, Toni has never held back off the field either, and infamously ran into trouble when taking his Italian passion to Germany.

Reportedly fined for driving home at half-time after being substituted by then-Bayern boss Louis van Gaal, ticked off for slouching and then farmed out to Roma for apparent further disagreements with the coach, Toni saw his (until then successful) time in Bavaria come to an abrupt end.

His career never quite hit the same heights, until a recent renaissance with Verona, and Toni has always been outspoken about that fork in the road, providing some memorable gems like the ones below.

“Van Gaal simply didn’t want to work with me, he treats players like interchangeable objects,” Toni once told press before going on relate a story about Van Gaal’s changing room demeanour.

Toni reportedly also said: “The coach wanted to make clear to us that he can drop any player, it was all the same to him because, as he said, he had the balls.

He demonstrated this literally (by dropping his trousers). I have never experienced anything like it, it was totally crazy. Luckily I didn’t see a lot, because I wasn’t in the front row.”

Though, with the curtain about to be drawn on his distinguished career, Toni appears to have mellowed. As, the striker recently stated: “I think the time has come to stop.

“I hope to celebrate it by keeping Verona safe in Serie A. We want to do it; we should not give up now.”

With his side rock-bottom of Serie A and still winless, are there more Toni heroics left in the tank?