AFC Wimbledon winger Scott Wagtaff unveiled a bold new look ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie against Millwall after holding up his end of a bargain wagered before the previous round.
Wagstaff vowed to dye his large lumberjack beard if the Dons beat West Ham in round four, which they duly did – shocking their Premier League opponents with a 4-2 victory at Kingsmeadow in which the man of the hour scored two goals.
Sure enough, the 28-year-old opted for a strong half blue/half yellow colouring in homage to the club’s famous colours.
The venerable Ashley Cole got himself on the score-sheet in the FA Cup on Saturday afternoon, notching Derby County’s consolation goal in their FA Cup defeat against Brighton & Hove Albion.
Making just his second appearance for Derby after signing on a free transfer in January, Cole was afforded a full 45 minutes to make a mark at the AMEX.
Trailing by two goals to nil, the 38-year-old defender popped up in the box to pull one back in the 81st minute after coming on at half-time.
Honestly, we’d be fibbing if we said the goal was spectacular in any way, but Tom Huddlestone’s clipped through-ball and Cole’s instinctive finish (and impassioned celebration) were both nice enough.
That was actually Cole’s first ever goal in the FA Cup, though it’s perhaps worth mentioning that he has actually won the thing no less than seven times.
Alas, two first-half goals from Anthony Knockaert and Jurgen Locadia respectively saw the Seagulls seal the win at Derby’s expense, sending Chris Hughton’s side through into the draw for the quarter-finals.
It wasn’t long before the youngsters – came forward, most probably still giggling and enormously proud of their handiwork.
However, instead of reading them the riot act, Fylde accepted that they’d been “well and truly had” by Jak, Tom and Timo, and decided to treat the three lads to a mountain of free goodies, including replica shirts and other various goodies from the club shop.
Well, it’s been a hell of a ride.
I guess the moral of the story is to follow your dreams, I think?
With things going well, Barcelona have extended the contract of coach Ernesto Valverde until the end of next season, with the option of a further year.
There have been nigh-on constant discontented rumblings over Valverde ever since his arrival in 2017, the season in which he won a La Liga and Copa Del Rey double.
However, Barca have sought to cement the ex-Valencia boss’ position in the Camp Nou dugout by offering him improved terms.
The club announced the news on social media only to be met with a barrage of righteous indignation from “fans” clearly upset by the retention of a manager who has their side six points clear at the top of the league.
What followed was an entirely predictable deluge of reaction gifs, exaggerated despair, wanting-to-die-themed memes and #ValverdeOut hashtags, such is football fandom in 2019 – faux hysteria in the quest for internet points.
Among the very worst, most asinine online supporters (let’s face it, these creatures aren’t attending matches week in, week out), Barca have proved once again that they are right down there.
Arsenal suffered an embarrassing loss against a team that haven’t played a competitive match since mid-December in their first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.
On a ragged pitch, Unai Emery’s side were unable to break down BATE Borisov, who scored on the stroke of half-time and then sat deep for the remainder of the game.
Stanislav Dragun notched the decisive goal from a set piece, shrugging off a meek challenge from Sead Kolasinac to head over Petr Cech at the near post…
Despite Mesut Ozil finding himself left out of the squad once again, the Gunners still fielded a fairly strong side in Belarus, with Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Lucas Torreira and Denis Suarez all making it onto the pitch at various points.
Indeed, Lacazette thought he’d managed to coax an equaliser early in the second half only to see his effort chalked off.
UEFA look set to rumble Sergio Ramos’ little ploy to free himself up for the Champions League quarter-finals after the Real Madrid captain appeared to get himself deliberately booked against Ajax on Wednesday night.
Marco Asensio put Real 2-1 up with just a few minutes to play, shortly after which Ramos – judging the result to be in the bag – went steaming into Kasper Dolberg on the halfway line and duly picked up a yellow card for his troubles.
Speculation was immediate that Ramos had got himself cautioned on purpose to instigate a one-match ban that would keep him out of the second leg at the Bernabeu but clear his slate as and when Los Blancos made it through to the last eight.
Quiero dejar claro que me duele más que a nadie, que no he forzado la tarjeta, como tampoco lo hice contra la Roma en mi anterior partido de @ChampionsLeague, y que apoyaré desde la grada como un hincha más con la ilusión de poder estar en cuartos.#HalaMadridhttps://t.co/zL0Heok5Vp
“Yes, the truth is that seeing the result, it was something I had in mind. I would be lying if I said I didn’t force [the booking],” Ramos said.
“It’s not about underestimating the opponent, but sometimes it’s about making decisions – and I’ve decided that.”
Anyway, it’s now for UEFA to decide whether or not to exact further punishment on Ramos as, according to their very own disciplinary regulations, players face a two-game suspension “for clearly receiving a yellow or red card on purpose”.
That was the exact same fate that befell Dani Carvajal, Ramos’ teammate at Real, when he was shown a ‘tactical’ yellow card against APOEL in last season’s Champions League group stage which was later deemed to be wholly deliberate.
Will UEFA have the wherewithal to meter out a consistent sanction? Honestly, we’re not overly confident.
Fans of 2013-era Premier League gossip columns will no doubt remember Oscar Cardozo as the striker who was routinely linked with moves to the likes of Tottenham and Man City without ever coming remotely close to joining either side.
Having left Benfica some time ago, Cardozo is now 35 and plugging away in his native Paraguay with Club Libertad, who were in Copa Libertadores action on Wednesday evening.
Indeed, Libertad trounced Bolivia’s The Strongest 5-1 in the second leg of their qualifier, with Cardozo adding his side’s fourth goal in the 87th minute.
We’d estimate that the veteran target man somehow managed to score from a range of about 60 yards without the ball bouncing even once.
Hell of a hit, that.
There was still time for Carlos Cuogo to add a fifth for Libertad in stoppage time, thus securing them a fairly dominant 6-2 aggregate win.
They will now face either Deportivo La Guaira (Venezuela) or Atletico Nacional (Colombia) depending on who emerges victorious from their tie, to be concluded this evening.
We’d also like to take a one moment to salute Libertad coach Leonel Alvarez, whose barber clearly has just one image of Billy Connolly on the wall of his salon…
Son Heung-Min opened the scoring just two minutes after the restart with his 11th goal in his last 12 appearances.
The finish was exquisite in and of itself, but just keep an eye on Son’s movement in the build-up – a touch, a glance, a sprint into the space and then enough composure to send a side-foot, nonchalant volley back across the goalkeeper.
Superb. The Korean forward really is at the peak of his powers at the moment. He’s as important to this Spurs team than anybody else.
Jan Vertonghen, impressive as an auxiliary left wing-back, added a second in the 83rd minute when the Belgian connected with Serge Aurier’s deep cross to volley past Roman Burki.
Despite being unfairly denigrated by many fans for essentially not being Harry Kane, Fernando Llorente demonstrated just how effective he can be by providing an attacking focal point after coming off the bench.
The big Basque striker also managed to grab himself a well-deserved goal just a few minutes before full-time by getting a head to Christian Eriksen’s in-swinging corner…
After watching them have to battle back from the brink to even make it into the knockout phase, Mauricio Pochettino branded his players “heroes” in the aftermath.
Of course, there is still work to be done (the second leg is in Dortmund on 5th March) but with Spurs visibly progressing under a gifted manager, you’d have to install them as favourites to reach the quarters.
Rice has today issued a thorough, respectful statement announcing he wishes to be considered for England selection from henceforth.
This has been an extremely difficult decision and, in all honestly, not one I expected to making at this stage of my career.
In recent weeks and months, I have discussed the situation with the people that mean the most to me.
Like many people around the world, I consider myself to be of mixed nationality. I am a proud Englishman […] However, I am just as proud of my family’s Irish heritage and my affinity and connection to the country.
Therefore the national team I choose to represent is not a clear-cut, simple selection. Particularly not for a young lad who never dreamed of being in this position.
The defensive midfielder, who has excelled for the Hammers so far this season, shared his thoughts on social media.
Having been informed of Rice’s decision, Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy told BBC Sport:
Declan rang me today and said he has decided to give it a go with England. Good luck to him.
All seems fairly amicable between the two associations, and Rice comes across as a thoughtful and humble individual.
Along with the likes of Phil Foden, Harry Winks, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Lewis Cook, James Maddison et al, it’s good to see such a promising, versatile defensive player added to England’s plentiful midfield options in and around the Under-21 bracket, too.
An England Under-21 eligible list, as 2018 ends.
Strength in depth like nothing we've seen for a long time. Every outfielder listed has had top-flight league minutes this season. pic.twitter.com/I5cTM2DENM
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted that he is out of ideas when it comes to salvaging Alexis Sanchez after the Chilean put in another pallid cameo performance against PSG in the Champions League.
Sanchez replaced the injured Jesse Lingard at half-time but was largely anonymous in the second half, contributing little of note, much to the chagrin of his coach.
Speaking after the game, Solksjaer addressed the issue in front of the assembled media:
I can’t do anything about Alexis Sanchez. When he plays he needs to find himself.
We know there’s a quality player there.
Might we suggest a gap yahr backpacking through Thailand, or perhaps a soy-based yoga retreat in the mountains of Tibet?
The more we see of latter day Sanchez, the more he looks ready for MLS or the Chinese Super League. The technique is there in flashes, but the inclination and application – the relentless aggro that once propelled him – clearly is not.
The truth is he was beginning to look shot during his final season at Arsenal, and as the insipid performances continue to stack up, perhaps it’s time to realise that there isn’t anything left to salvage.
At 30, he may, without wishing to sound overly dramatic, be finished at the very top level.
PSG brought Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s undefeated run as interim Manchester United manager to an end with a succinct 2-0 win at Old Trafford in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
On an evening in which Thomas Tuchel got his plan of attack right from the off, a stultified United were often reduced to bystanders as goals from Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe gave PSG victory on foreign soil.
United’s cause wasn’t helped when both Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard went off injured within five minutes of half-time, with the subsequent introduction of Alexis Sanchez once again proving somewhat akin to being reduced to 10 men.
Kimpembe then put the Parisians ahead in the 53rd minute when the defender came flouncing in at the far post to volley Angel Di Maria’s corner past David De Gea from point blank range.
Mbappe soon doubled the lead on the hour mark, galloping through the middle at full chat to get on the end of another inch-perfect Di Maria centre.
Just two minutes later it took a trademark De Gea reaction save to prevent Mbappe adding to his tally – a goal that would have seen him score his 15th Champions League goal and therefore move past Ronaldo Nazario’s career tally at the tender age of 20.
From that point PSG began to idle and slow things down while maintaining full control as United were pretty much left to their own devices – the travelling fans goading their hosts with choruses of ‘Ole!’ as passes were exchanged and minutes were wicked away.
However, there was still one more flashpoint left to come as the home side were actually reduced to 10 men in injury time when Paul Pogba was shown a second yellow for once again crucially mistiming one of those ‘leg dangle’ things he does.
And so it ended 2-0 to the Ligue 1 champions, with United – by Solskhjaer’s own post-match admission – facing a “mountain” of a second leg if they intend to continue fighting on the European front this season.
Pogba will definitely be missing through suspension, but United might also be without Martial and Lingard depending on the severity of their respective muscular injuries.
Honestly, depleted as they were, it’s difficult to see PSG, who look far more seasoned, letting this one slip from this particular vantage point.
With PSG in town to play Manchester United in the Champions League, Angel Di Maria suffered the ignominy of losing out to Ashley Young in a physical battle between two men who are essentially made of papier mache
Indeed, the Argentinian whisp, booed from the offset by the Old Trafford crowd, found himself head-over-heels, sprawled in the front row when Young used all of his 60kg bulk to shunt him over the touchline…
Bit risky by Young, especially given that he had already picked up a yellow card earlier in the first half.
Karma fans will be heartened to know that, as things stand, Di Maria is up on the deal having supplied both assists for PSG’s two goals.
Of all the loving tributes that have been pouring in for Gordon Banks today, Pele’s farewell to his “magical friend” is perhaps the sweetest Pies have read.
The pair, of course, have been forever entwined since their shared nano-second during the 1970 World Cup group stage when Banks made that miraculous save to deny Pele’s goal-bound header.
On learning of his old mucker’s passing, the 78-year-old Brazilian icon took to Facebook to share his thoughts, revealing that he remains “glad” Banks saved his shot, for it kick-started decades of friendship between the two.
Pele’s message in full:
For many people, their memory of Gordon Banks is defined by the save he made against me in 1970. I understand why.
The save was one of the best I have ever seen – in real life and in all the thousands of games I have watched since.
When you are a footballer, you know straight away how well you have hit the ball. I hit that header exactly as I had hoped. Exactly where I wanted it to go. And I was ready to celebrate.
But then this man, Banks, appeared in my sight, like a kind of blue phantom, is how I described him.
He came from nowhere and he did something I didn’t feel was possible. He pushed my header, somehow, up and over. And I couldn’t believe what I saw. Even now when I watch it l, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe how he moved so far, so fast.
I scored so many goals in my life, but many people, when they meet me, always ask me about that save. While it was indeed phenomenal, my memory of Gordon is not defined by that – it is defined by his friendship. He was a kind and warm man who gave so much to people.
So I am glad he saved my header – because that act was the start of a friendship between us that I will always treasure. Whenever we met, it was always like we had never been apart.
I have great sadness in my heart today and I send condolences to the family he was so proud of.
Rest in peace, my friend. Yes, you were a goalkeeper with magic. But you were also so much more. You were a fine human being.
Bloody hell Edson, we’re tearing up here.
Looking at photos of Banks and Pele together in subsequent years, smiling away, embracing one another, the bond and mutual admiration is immediately obvious.
These is probably Pies’ favourite mini-sequence, with Pele finally getting his own back on his old adversary at Wembley in 2000…
As well as being a fine goalkeeper, it’s well established and well documented that the late Gordon Banks was a thoroughly nice bloke to go with it.
Just one example of Banks’ gentlemanly courtesy has been offered by former Leicester Mercury reporter Lee Marlow, who recalled a conversation that the Foxes legend once had with his son, himself a budding goalkeeper.
As the transcript shows, Banks was more than willing to offer the youngster a wide array of thoughtful advice.
I interviewed Gordon Banks when I was at the Mercury.
I told him my lad played in goal.
I didn’t put his response in the story but it was so lovely I transcribed it and gave it to my son.
It’s still on his bedroom wall today.
God bless you, Gordon Banks x pic.twitter.com/ItGZmqQwTQ
Hello Lucas, your dad told me that you want to be a goalkeeper? Good lad. We always need good goalkeepers.
Here’s some advice from me…
First of all, you have to work hard. Being a goalkeeper is not easy. But the more you play, the more you practice, the easier it gets.
The more you play, your eyes will get better at spotting the angles. You begin to know where the ball will go. This is called anticipation – great goalies have good anticipation.
The eyes pick up the direction of the ball, how it floats through the air, and send messages to your brain and then to your hands. Keep practising and you’ll get better and better at this.
Always know where you are in the goal, narrow the angles down, make it as hard for the striker to score as possible.
Play with a smaller ball. Playing with a bigger ball will seem much easier if you’ve been used to playing with a smaller one.
Play games like table-tennis – that will help you sharpen your reflexes and hand-eye co-ordination. Throw a tennis ball against the wall and catch it.
And be brave – you have to be brave to come out for crosses, or dive at the feet of a centre forward trying to score past you.
And be brave, too, if you lose or make a mistake. We all make them – I made some mistakes – but I never let anyone see that I was upset.
Good luck, Lucas.
He could have fobbed him off with a few platitudes and a pat on the head, but Banks instead went into great detail about what it is to be a goalkeeper in the interest of helping an aspiring youngster on his way.
Rafa Benitez was left fuming after a contentious 95th-minute equaliser from Wily Boly saw Wolves escape from Newcastle with a point on Monday night.
After Isaac Hayden had put the Toon ahead midway through the second half, Wolves levelled deep into injury time when Boly got above Martin Dubravka to nod in Adama Traore’s looping cross from close range.
However, the leaping Boly definitely appeared to at least lay a hand or two on Dubravka as he scrambled for position underneath his own crossbar…
With the final whistle sounding just seconds after the restart, Newcastle manager Benitez came stomping onto the pitch to share a few breezy opinions with referee Graham Scott and his linesmen.
Rafa continued on a rolling boil during his post-match interview:
In England they don’t understand the rules. I can say many things but it will not change anything.
I didn’t like the challenge at the end. You have to protect the keeper. We have been here for years and it’s still very difficult to explain that.
However, he did also concede that his goalkeeper could have been a little stronger under duress from Boly:
These kinds of balls you can do a little bit better – just punch the ball and finish.
It was not very clear watching the replay, but it’s something we have to defend better.
We know that it is England and people will come against the ‘keeper so he has to be strong enough.
Maybe it’s just because we’re English and don’t fully understand the rules, but that certainly looked like a case of weak goalkeeping.
Boly may have had his arms out, but that didn’t prevent Dubravka from jumping. He just got caught underneath the ball without the necessary room in a crowded six-yard box to rectify his positioning.
Aaron Ramsey may well have hit the jackpot with his impending free transfer to Juventus if the latest reports over the size of his contractual agreement are to believed.
An update on the precise terms of Ramsey’s pre-contract agreement with Juve comes via David Ornstein, BBC Sport’s infallible font of all things Arsenal.
Ornstein reports that the deal, signed in January, will ensure the Welsh midfielder becomes the highest-paid British player of all time with weekly wages of “over £400,000-a-week”.
Aaron Ramsey today signed pre-contract agreement to join Juventus in summer. 28yo penned 4yr deal after passing 2-part medical late Jan. Wales midfielder leaves Arsenal 30 June after 11yrs. Set to become all-time highest-paid GB player (basic salary), just over £400kpw #Juve#AFC
Christ, we knew it was big, but £400,000 a week? That’s approaching lunacy for a 28-year-old on a four-year contract. Ramsey has suddenly rocketed from a bargain(ish) freebie to a concerted risk of a signing.
It was thought that Gareth Bale would remain the highest-paid Briton in world football (£350,000-a-week at Real Madrid) but Ramsey’s new deal catapults him beyond his fellow countryman.
To put the numbers in some kind of perspective – which is fairly difficult – Cristiano Ronaldo currently earns somewhere in the vicinity of £535,000 every seven days at the Bianconeri in basic wages.
The next highest earner on the list is Paulo Dybala, who is purported to earn approximately £120,000 per week.
Ramsey’s a bloody good player, but that is insanity.
In a frankly gutting turn of events, Tottenham have announced that their new White Hart Lane stadium will not boast a special VIP cheese bar.
What’s more, the club have sworn that there were never any plans to install such a room at any point during the conceptualisation of the designs.
The Guardian reported in 2017 that the new Lane would feature several posh things, including one-way glass panels lining the tunnel to allow approximately 100 paying fans the chance to observe Spurs players as if they were locked inside some kind of nightmarish ‘human enclosure’ with enjoying a fine-dining experience in return for an entirely reasonable £30,000 a season.
We were also promised a “cheese room” for supporters/clients to select their own “specially sourced half-time cheeses” at half-time during matches.
However, after attempting to follow-up on what progress has been made in the subsequent two years, the Guardian have been informed by Spurs that there is no cheese room at their new stadium, nor were there ever any plans to install one.
Has the ridicule prompted a U-turn? No, insist Spurs. They were never going to have the cheese room in the first place – a story that has more holes in it than a full-flavoured emmental.
Unbelievable. It’s always the real, cheese connoisseur football fans who end up paying the biggest price.
Guess we’ll just have to continue sneaking our matchday wheel of gourmet Brie de Meaux through the turnstiles like common peasants.
Paul Scholes has been named as new manager of League Two side Oldham Athletic, the very club he supported as a lad.
The former Manchester United man had to seek clearance from the Football League before taking the job due to concerns his ownership stake in non-league side Salford City might constitute a conflict of interests.
However, following a meeting on Friday, Scholes has now been officially sworn in by the Latics on an 18-month deal…
Minor update: Salford have confirmed that Scholes has resigned his position as a director but maintained his 10% share in the club)
Of course, the rational expectation is that this may end up going fairly badly but it’s possible having a player of Scholes’ calibre and renown being involved on a day-to-day basis could also prove to be a massive boon/motivation for the Oldham squad.
The Latics are currently 14th in League Two, some nine points off the play-offs at the tail end of a crowded middle pack.
We only hope that Jose Mourinho is on hand to criticise his every move from this point onward.
Congratulations are due to Luke Varney, who has been named as Cheltenham Town’s player of the month for January.
The 36-year-old striker scored four goals in seven league appearances over the course of the month, helping the Robins secure two important victories that saw them pull away from the League Two relegation zone.
As such, Varney was named player of the month over the weekend after claiming 60% of the vote in the club’s social media poll.
With Foley due to come to the UK to appear at a wrestling show on the weekend of 12th March, the 53-year-old hardcore superstar has confirmed that he plans to attend United’s Championship game against Brentford earlier that same day.
Proving once again that fun will not be tolerated in the Premier League, Man City have formally apologised to Chelsea for their mischievous selection of post-match music in the wake of Sunday’s tie between the two sides.
Swiftly after City had railed their visitors 6-0, the hosts played ‘One Step Beyond’ by Madness – Chelsea’s victory song – over the public address system at the Etihad.
The power play was warmly greeted by most right-minded fans on social media as an expert example of the football rustle. However, City’s top brass were reportedly altogether less enamoured.
According to the Evening Standard, “senior City officials” ordered the song be cut short and offered their immediate apologies to their Chelsea counterparts for “what could be interpreted as an act of gloating.”
That’s precisely what it was, and that’s precisely why it was so fantastic.
Manchester United will end the day in the top four of the Premier League for the first time since the opening day of the season after yet another convincing display, this time away to struggling Fulham.
United came into the game eight league games unbeaten under interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and took the lead after just 14 minutes, with the rejuvenated Paul Pogba scoring a fine effort at the near post.
That goal came after the hosts almost took the lead themselves in the first minute, with Luciano Vietto firing wide after being set up by Andre Schurrle.
Just after the hour-mark, Pogba would score again, this time from the penalty spot after Juan Mata was fouled in the box by Maxime Le Marchand, a player who had a game to forget.
The game would end 3-0 to United, a result which seems them leapfrop Chelsea into fourth place in the table, with Solskjaer making it a record-breaking 25 points from his first nine games with United, more than any other boss in their first nine games in charge of a team in the Premier League.
Bayern Munich defender Javi Martinez has made the outlandish – if not entirely serious – claim that he created the original concept of the vastly successful ‘Hunger Games’ franchise.
For the uninitiated, the Hunger Games are a series of novels written by American novelist Suzanne Collins which were later turned into a series of equally lucrative movies starring Jennifer Lawrence as some kind of bow-wielding dystopian child warrior.
Discussing his love of writing with German magazine Socrates, Martinez said:
Writing is a great pleasure for me, even as a teenager I started to write a book.
And believe it or not, the plot was pretty much the same as ‘The Hunger Games’.
It was strange (to see the Hunger Games movie).
I was sitting in the cinema and thought: ‘It does not exist, that’s my idea, which I had years ago, the creators must have stolen my computer!’
While most would instantly realise that Martinez wasn’t airing a wholly serious grievance, the Bayern player still faced a significant amount of backlash on social media, with people pointing out that Hunger Games was actually inspired by a Japanese film called ‘Battle Royal’ that was in turn inspired by a novel written in 1999 when Martinez was just 10 years old.
The Spaniard then actually felt the need to clarify that he was joking by following up on Twitter with a photo of him reading ‘Night Over Water’ – another book shamelessly “stolen” from him, this time by author Ken Follett.
Werder Bremen have announced that they will wear a special kit for their Bundesliga game this coming weekend to celebrate their 120th anniversary.
Umbro will ply Bremen with a one-off “spliced” shirt for the match against Augsburg on Sunday, which is vaguely reminiscent of the jumbled shirt that Inter Milan are planning to wear in the derby against AC Milan in March.
While it’s not actually comprised of tatters of retro strips, the Bremen shirt is distinctly green and vivid in what Umbro claim is a deliberate homage to the “loudest fans in the league”…
Photo: Umbro/Werder Bremen
The shirt is available online but only in a limited batch of just 1899, in reference to the year in which the club was founded.
It ain’t cheap either, with each one costing €118.99 a pop.
Tempted as Pies may be, we’ll pass. After all, we’re probably going to need to eat this month.
Sadly, it was confirmed late on Thursday that Emiliano Sala’s body had been recovered from the bottom of the English Channel.
While we all knew it in the pit of our stomach, official news came through from the relevant authorities that the body retrieved from the submerged plane wreckage was indeed that of the Argentinian striker.
After what must have been a tumultuous night, Sala’s former club Nantes acknowledged the difficult realisation in an emotional statement posted on Friday morning:
There are difficult mornings, nightmarish awakenings where unfortunately reality catches up with us. Emi has gone away.
Arriving on the banks of the Edre in July 2015, Emiliano Sala has won the hearts of supporters in Nantes. Through his work, his anger and limitless kindness, he finished top scorer for the last three seasons.
The national and international tributes that have been offered to him are due to the person and the player he was. We are losing today a friend, a talented player, an exemplary teammate.
We do not forget in this drama the pilot and his family and trust the authorities to continue their research.
FC Nantes, its leaders, staff, and players present the families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson their deepest condolences.
We will never forget you, Emi.
Nantes club president Waldemar Kita also added that he now intends to retire Sala’s shirt number as a lasting homage to their late friend.
I do not have the words, it’s a tragedy, I’m devastated.
Emiliano left his mark, which is why, like many fans, I want to honour him again by removing the No.9.
Nice touch. It’s precisely this kind of thing that shirt retiring should be preserved for.
For those out of the loop, Keisuke Honda is currently on the books at Melbourne Victory as well as juggling a part-time second job as manager of the Cambodian national team.
The Japan international signed with Victory last August but has seen his involvement limited by injury to the extent that, with a return to action anticipated this weekend, the club felt it necessary to re-introduce the 32-year-old midfielder to the national press.
Unfortunately, while speaking of his excitement to be involved in the cut and thrust again, Honda’s English pronunciation let him down at a key moment, leading to a sea of raised eyebrows out in the media pit.
Thankfully, Victory coach Kevin Muscat was on hand to make the goal-line save and clear up the confusion…
Discussing his injuries, Honda said: “I have to take care of myself. It’s bad but it’s real. It’s *fact*” – though it’s fairly clear what everybody else present thought the 32-year-old had just exclaimed!
Doesn’t help that we’re talking about a room full of people with Australian accents here, too.
For the record, Honda soon laughed the incident off and promised to do better next time…
I will study English harder… anyway thank you FOX sports for a great opportunity to improve my English.
Known colloquially as the Sharks, Colombian top flight side Atletico Junior (or ‘Junior de Barranquilla’ as they’re more commonly referred) wanted a mascot that embodied their nickname’s sense of icy cold predation.
What they actually ended up with is Tiburon Willy (Willy the Shark) who, while not being overly vicious, is certainly not an anthropomorphic fish bound by any social conventions.
He dances, and when he dances he dances hard…
Willy’s aggressive gyrations, humping and power-thrustage have got him into trouble on several occasions in recent years, with opposing fans and teams not taking kindly to his unique brand of partisan rabble-rousing.
Indeed, he was fired by the club in 2009 for besmirching the shirt of a rival team immediately after a match, first ‘ravaging’ it with his teeth before using it to, well, just watch the video…
Basically, Willy was – and may well still be – a bit of a pest.
To think, just a few decades ago, he was essentially just an elaborate cardboard hat.
When Arsenal quite literally slugged it out with Manchester United at the “Battle of Old Trafford” in October 1990, the penal consequences looked like they might upset the Gunners’ title drive.
Only two players were booked in the wake of the 21-man brawl. However, after an FA tribunal held the following month, United were docked one point and Arsenal, who were in Liverpool’s slipstream at the top of the Division One table, were docked two.
This saw them fall eight points behind leaders Liverpool (and just one point above Tottenham in third), leading to Arsenal defender David O’Leary to posit that the FA’s unprecedented ruling would ensure the “champagne would be out” at Anfield.
To this day, it remains the only instance in the history of the English Football League that a club have been docked points for player misconduct.
Anyway, with a demoralised squad to drag out of the doledrums, Arsenal manager George Graham gathered his players at the training ground for a timely cage-rattle.
Adopting a slightly unfamiliar positive tone, the famously stony Scot proceeded to lay it on the line in no uncertain terms…
Yes, we know what you’re thinking. Steve Bould with a full head of hair is just wrong on an elemental level.
As for Graham’s stirring pep talk, it most certainly did the trick, as the Gunners came racing back to claim the title, ultimately going on to finish seven points ahead of Liverpool – thanks in part to a dominant 3-1 win over United in the reverse fixture at Highbury in early May.
‘The Battle’ went onto set the scene for many grizzly Arsenal-United skirmishes that followed over the prevailing years, right up until hostilities between the two clubs began to thaw in the 2010s.
Barca have played in white on their travels before, but not since the 1960s. The colour has since been unofficially “outlawed” by the club due to it’s more immediate association with their eternal Royalist rivals.
Indeed, so deep-seated is the hatred of all things Real that when Kappa introduced a white stripe along the sleeve of Barca’s 1992 home shirt, there was uproar among the more fervent section of the fandom. Since then, white has been avoided like the plague.
It shouldn’t be glossed over that Nike’s 2020/21 effort is also extremely hideous and could have quite legitimately rejected on those grounds too.
Inter Milan are supposedly preparing to take to the field in a dashing one-off kit when they play AC Milan in the derby in mid-March.
According to Corriere dello Sport, the Nerazzurri will wear a special “mash-up” strip – a spliced collage of home shirts from the 1990s to the present day – to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the club’s partnership with Nike.
Photo: Footy Headlines
Inter first signed up with Nike in 1998 in a strange season of split loyalties that saw them wearing Nike strips in domestic competition while continuing to wear Umbro strips in Europe.
Since then, Nike have been firmly in control, pumping out numerous variations of the famous blue and black stripes.
Fans will be able to see them all (or at least swatches of most of them) in one place when Inter take on their dearly beloved neighbours at the Giuseppe Meazza on Sunday, 17th March.
Newport came with seconds of dropping into the non-league in 2017 thanks to a last-minute goal against Notts County on the very final day of the season. Under Mike Flynn, they currently occupy stead middle ground down in the fourth tier.
The Exiles generally outplayed Tony Pulis’ sluggish outfit and eventually heaved their way to a 2-0 victory thanks to a couple of second-half goals from Robbie Willmott and Padraig Amond, the latter being an absolute beauty…
Excellent finish. Such a difficult skill to connect with a moving ball that sweetly on such a drenched pitch.
We’ve most definitely been here before but it’s being reported that Eden Hazard has finally made a decision over his future at Chelsea in so far that he doesn’t intend to have one beyond June.
As part of a career retrospective interview set to air on French radio station RMC on Wednesday night, Hazard has said: “I know what I will do. I have made my decision.” – with many taking that as a clear signal that the 28-year-old is on his way to Real Madrid at the nearest available juncture.
According to Matt Law of the Telegraph, the interview was recorded around two months ago, since which point Hazard has maintained a deliberate coy air while facing questions about his future from the English media – to keep everybody guessing.
Below are just a selection of quotes attributed to Hazard regarding his plans over the past year or so…
“I can decide if I want to stay or go, but Chelsea will make the final decision – if they want to let me go. You know my preferred destination” – July 2018
“I have two more years of contract and we will see what will happen. Leave this year? I will not leave. I’m fine here, we’ll see what happens in a year or two” – August 2018
“Real Madrid is the best club in the world. I don’t want to lie today. It is my dream since I was a kid. I was dreaming about this club. We will see” – October 2018
“I want to win the Ballon d’Or. That’s why I want to go [to Real Madrid], maybe” – November 2018
“I do not want to have any regrets at the end of my it’s a decision I’m going to make, I do not know when, but I’ll take it” – December 2018
“You know me, I’ve always loved Real […] we’ll see what happens” – December 2018
“Why not (join Real)? You know what the answer is so you don’t have to ask the question. I won everything in England but that doesn’t mean I’m leaving. I’ve always said that I want to explore something different [after the Premier League], but there are also things that make me want to stay” – January 2019
You get the picture. You can almost hear the eyelashes fluttering from here.
It is thought the RMC interview is set to confirm the Belgian’s intention to leave Chelsea at the end of the season and finally fulfil his dream of signing for Real Madrid.
What’s more, the Telegraph add that Real have “given Hazard the assurances he needs” over a large bid that will be forthcoming at the end of the season, with Chelsea still looking for around £100million despite the player having just 12 months left to run on his contract.
It’s all a little reminiscent of Antoine Griezmann’s ridiculous ‘Le Interview’ saga last summer, in which the French striker reportedly recorded two separate video messages – one confirming he was staying put at Atletico Madrid, the other confirming he’d be leaving for Barcelona – which were leaked to the press before the big reveal was made the following month.
These little teases just love the drama, don’t they?
Presenting Pies’ pick of the most boring, stultifyingly dreary players in the Barclays Premier League.
It’s all totally subjective and unnecessarily cruel for the most part, but what can we say? We’re in a bad mood.
In we delve…
Danny Drinkwater (Chelsea)
Chooses to prolong his self-inflicted purgatory at Stamford Bridge despite now having had plenty of opportunity to join West Ham as the prophecy demands. Very boring behaviour from a very boring individual.
One note, one tempo, one pass. Influence on games vastly overstated by disconnected tactics nerds. Talented and capable of much more but prefers to play safe at jogging pace in his cosy, complacent rut.
Generic English centre-back of the most generic order. Heads things. Blocks things. Short-sleeved in all weather. Steams on cold days. Likes golf. Owns two CDs, both in the driver’s side door pocket of his car: Michael Jackson Hits and ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’ by U2.
Like George McCartney before him, Chambers is one of those indistinct defenders who is hard to keep track of. Who does he play for? Arsenal? Fulham? West Ham? Is he actually just Carl Jenkinson by another name?
The German FA have fined Borussia Dortmund to the hefty tune of €62,000 for their fans’ pyrotechnic bombardment during an away game against Fortuna Dusseldorf earlier in the season.
Dortmund lost 2-1 at the Esprit Arena on 18th December but that didn;t stop their travelling supporters from having a rare old pyro-party, with flames seemingly engulfing their section of the stadium at one point.
The DfB are attempting to crack down on the use of flares and fireworks at German matches and recently introduced a tariff that fines clubs €1,000 per flare spotted during any given match.
According to Westfalischer Anzeiger, Dortmund fans lit 36 “pyrotechnic elements” before kick-off, causing the start of the match to be delayed by nearly two minutes.
Further displays during the match mean Dortmund have been fined for 44 separate offences, plus a little extra for being repeat offenders.
Indeed, the club have now been fined a running total of €130,000 by the DfB since September 2018 having been charged and found guilty four times.
Creating an intimidating atmosphere is one thing, but that kind of money-haemorrhaging just isn’t sustainable.
Liverpool saw their lead over Man City at the top of the Premier League table reigned in to just three points after managing an underwhelming draw against West Ham at the London Stadium on Monday night.
With City winning at home to Arsenal at the weekend, the pressure was on the Reds to match that result in east London.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side started well and defended deep but it was the visitors who would score the opening goal on 22 minutes, with Sadio Mané turning and firing home from inside the box.
The goal came after some fancy footwork saw Adam Lallana set up (a very offside) James Milner, who in turn laid one on for Mané.
7 – James Milner has registered 81 assists in the Premier League, the seventh-highest total in the competition and one more than David Beckham (80). Provider. #WHULIVpic.twitter.com/G2abkYhmHv
Having made his debut at the weekend, Peter Crouch has now been extended the formal Burnley welcome of having a sausage named in his honours.
As of Monday, Heys Family Butchers, just across the road from Turf Moor, will be producing the ‘Red Hot Robot’ in tribute to Crouch and his signature goal celebration.
The elongated sausage, which we are told is ideal for hot dogs, consists of shoulder pork marinated with chillies, paprika, jalapeño peppers, tomato, garlic, onion and a dash of lemon juice.
We usually only do celebratory sausages for players or managers when they have achieved something at the club, but Crouchie coming to Burnley has really caught the imagination and doing a Mexican themed sausage is something we have not done before.
We are well aware Crouchie loves nachos so these will compliment them perfectly.
Sounds delicious. A fitting tribute to one of England’s most unorthodox strikers.
Heys already produce a special Burnley sausage pack which contains eight ‘Claret Clouter’ sausages, as well as other similarly on-theme meat products.
Pies’ favourite must be the Dyche Deluxe, which is a slightly misshapen slab of raw sausage meat that has had one end dipped in neon orange fish-finger crumbs.
When a 38-year-old Peter Crouch moving to Burnley is your biggest story, you should perhaps begin to realise that ‘Transfer Deadline Day’ doesn’t actually exist to provide 24 hours of rolling entertainment for a television audience.
It’s simply the final day of a seasonal window in which football clubs around the world are permitted to sign and register new players – some bloody weird ones, n’all.
As far as January 2019 is concerned, here’s a few of the odder moves you might have glossed over amid the vapidity of it all…
Yannick Bolasie to Anderlecht
After failing to impress at Aston Villa, Everton have chosen to farm Bolasie out a little further afield for the remainder of the season.
Apparently the transfer was only approved by the Belgian FA with roughly 30 seconds of the window left.
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Undisputed four-star general of Chelsea’s loan army, Piazon’s January switch to Chievo will preserve his impeccable record of spending every single season since his arrival at Stamford Bridge in 2012 ‘elsewhere’…
It’s meant to sound like they are announcing a big move to a new club, except the tweet’s accompanying caption and insistence on @-ing Huawei kind of punctures any potential pretence.
There’s also the unfortunate truth that neither of them can convincingly portray professional footballers, despite spending the majority of their lives working in that precise field.
At least Cole is able to emote like a human being, as opposed to Owen, who gives the impression of a chronically dull man parroting lines while letting his imagination wander to which colour Range Rover he intends to buy with the proceeds: Titanium grey or Polished silver.
Owen’s efforts are further undermined by the fact that he appears to have tweeted out his decision to switch to a Huawei phone from his Apple iPhone.
In the immortal words of Neville Southall: “Yeah, nice one Michael.”