But Sullivan believes the 59-year-old deserves credit for adopting a diamond formation which has brought the best out of the likes of Stewart Downing, as well as new signings Alex Song, Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia. “There is a lot of optimism about the place now,” Sullivan told the Evening Standard. “I genuinely believe we have the best squad since we’ve been at the club. We’ve signed some high-energy, younger players and we have discovered the ‘West Ham way’. “He (Allardyce) changed the style after that to a diamond formation. Sam made that decision so he deserves the accolades because, had it not worked, he would have been castigated.” Victories over Liverpool and QPR, as well as an entertaining draw at Hull, have followed the new formation as Allardyce starts to win over his detractors. With a move the Olympic Stadium coming ahead of the 2016/17 season, the pressure will be on to not only keep West Ham in the Premier League but to be a club striving for trophies – and Allardyce will hope to be the man who takes them into their new home. The owners opted to keep him at the helm at the end of last season despite the clamour to see him sacked but, with Allardyce’s current deal expiring in the summer, it will depend on results between now and then as to whether he leads West Ham into a fifth season. “We have a policy – and it’s as much for Sam as us – that we sit down at the end of the season, maybe a bit earlier if we’re safe, and judge things over an entire season,” Sullivan added. “We’ve always done it that way. Last year I was being asked at various times if Sam would be going but my answer was always that we’d look at it at the end of the campaign. We’re very loyal to our managers “We always talk on a Monday or the day after a midweek match and if he has a problem he calls me. We all want the same thing and that is the best for this club. Sam wants to be successful and he’s very flexible at looking at ways to achieve that. The change in formation was not my idea – he’s the one who made that bold decision to change the strategy.” Co-chairman David Sullivan has praised manager Sam Allardyce for re-introducing the ‘West Ham way’ at Upton Park. The Hammers sit seventh in the Barclays Premier League, having won three of their opening seven fixtures, and Allardyce was backed in the transfer market over the summer – with a change in approach earning plaudits in recent weeks. It is a far cry from last season when, in the midst of an injury crisis, the club’s fans were calling on co-owners Sullivan and David Gold to replace Allardyce – with many pointing at the style of play as their main gripe with the former Bolton and Blackburn boss. Press Association
West Brom have moved to end the misunderstanding over their tweet about Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini. The Belgium international then scored just three minutes after coming off the bench at half-time. United keeper Anders Lindegaard accused the club of a “complete lack of knowledge, class and respect” from his own Twitter account. But Albion insist the tweet was taken out of context, with the club intending to joke about the possibility of Fellaini being naked – amid the cold outside temperature – under his tracksuit. A statement read: “In response to incorrect and mischievous reporting, we would like to clarify that our initial tweet about Marouane Fellaini was made as the player removed his tracksuit top. “That was in preparation for his introduction to the game during a period when night-time temperatures were dropping significantly. “We are extremely disappointed that our tweet was taken out of context by mischief-makers. “And that’s not least on a night when two teams showed such a commitment to strident and attacking football to once more underline the quality and entertainment value of the Barclays Premier League.” Press Association The club want to draw a line under the matter after a message they posted on Twitter during their 2-2 draw with United on Monday was retweeted 20,000 times. The Baggies had written from their official account: “Fellaini has now taken his tracksuit off, fortunately he has a Man Utd strip on underneath.”
The Gunners may not provide any players for Michael O’Neill’s squad but an agreement between the club and the Irish Football Association is already paying dividends. O’Neill has been keen to prepare his players using the best possible facilities before away games and a deal was struck with the Barclays Premier League side ahead of the first match of the current campaign in Hungary. Press Association “Aberdeen don’t have their own, we report to the stadium then train at different facilities.” Despite a 100 per cent record so far, including successive away wins in Hungary and Greece, McGinn would be delighted with a draw at second-placed Romania. That would ensure top spot heading into the new year and continue Northern Ireland’s eye-catching start to qualification. “When the fixtures came out with the three tough away games early on I think you would look at 10 points from four games and grab it with both hands,” said McGinn. “It would be a dream start. We believed in ourselves and the performances and results have come. “It’s great to be a part of it because it puts our nation on the map.” Victory in Budapest, as well as their next two games, has propelled the squad to the top of Group F and they returned for another training camp at Arsenal ahead of Friday night’s clash in Romania. For the likes of injured captain Steven Davis, who plies his trade for Southampton, or West Brom trio Chris Brunt, Gareth McAuley and Chris Baird, the surroundings may not be too unfamiliar. But the same cannot be said of every member of a squad that draws from all four tiers of the English games as well as the Scottish Premier League. Aberdeen winger McGinn is among those who has savoured the experience. “It’s been great to have the chance to train at Arsenal, it helps bring a real buzz to the week,” he said. “The likes of myself and some of the other lads don’t get the chance to use facilities like that every day so it’s something to enjoy and to cherish when you do. “The base is light years ahead of most of the Scottish league in all fairness. “There’s probably only half a dozen SPL teams who have their own training ground. Niall McGinn has hailed Arsenal’s role in helping Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 push.
Carver said: “I am not going to give up, throw the towel, walk away from it. I have not lost my self-belief. “I still feel I am the best coach around. I tell you, I ain’t lost my belief – and the day I lose my belief is the day I will do something totally different. I will walk away from it or retire. “I would be wasting my time if I lost that.” Carver’s claim is unlikely to placate fans in open revolt over both the way the club is being run by owner Mike Ashley, and a season which has spiralled out of control and is threatening to end in disaster. Last Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at resurgent Leicester, during which defenders Mike Williamson and Daryl Janmaat were both sent off, the former prompting a remarkable post-match reaction from his head coach, proved the final straw for many. However, Carver survived a Sunday meeting with managing director Lee Charnley and has repaired bridges which appeared to have been destroyed to the dressing room with skipper Fabricio Coloccini issuing an open letter – Carver revealed the captain’s missive was unsolicited and hand-written – to fans pleading for their support over the remaining weeks of the campaign. Alan Pardew’s former assistant said: “Let’s get to the summer, then everyone can have their opinion and say what they want to say. Not a problem. “But I am not having any distractions with what goes on in the outside world with the press, the fans, whoever it is, nobody. I still believe in my own ability and the day I don’t, I might as well do something else.” The 50-year-old Newcastle head coach finds himself in the thick of a Barclays Premier League relegation battle after guiding the Magpies to eight successive defeats, a run which has left them just two points clear of the drop zone with three games left to play. But he firmly believes that given the right tools to do the job, he is as good as anyone around. John Carver insists he will walk away from football the day he feels he is not the best coach in the business. Saturday’s home clash with West Brom represents a potentially pivotal moment in the club’s season, and it appears that out of adversity, an uneasy sense of unity has formed, although just how that translates into positive action on the pitch remains to be seen. Asked about Ashley’s assessment of the situation, Carver said: “I have not had the conversation with him. He sent a message through Lee to say he was 100 per cent behind me. “I have a good relationship with Lee – we are both honest and frank and he has been so supportive.” Carver’s dissection of his team’s efforts at the King Power Stadium – and particularly those of Williamson – was withering, and he is hoping it elicits a response at St James’ Park this weekend and beyond. He said: “The only proof will be in the pudding when we get to the end of the three games. That’s the only way we’ll tell whether it’s worked or not. “If somebody does it, and we win the next three games, they’re a genius because of what’s happened, in one sense. In the other sense, it would be because the players got together, and it’s got nothing to do with the manager. “It’s all about the players. If that happens, great. We all want the same result, and that’s Premier League football.” Williamson will play no part in the next two games because of his second red card of the season, but he and Carver have resolved their differences. The older man said: “There are no hard feelings. Every morning, we have come in, we have shaken hands, looked each other in the eye and just got on with it because we are professional.” Papiss Cisse is available after completing a seven-match ban, but he is still working his way back from a knee problem, while Siem De Jong, who has made two appearances as a substitute after an eight-month lay-off, is a doubt with a thigh injury. Press Association
Norwich are hopeful Martin Olsson will be fit for the start of the new season after confirming the left-back has undergone shoulder surgery. “As soon as the season finished Martin had an operation on his shoulder, which was an ongoing issue for him,” Neil said on Norwich’s official website. “There were a couple of games last season where he played through the pain. We needed to make sure for Martin’s sake that it stopped being an ongoing issue. “He’s well into his rehab now, which is going well. The operation was successful; it’s just a case of how quickly we can get him back, we’ll know more in the next few weeks as we continue to monitor his progress. He’ll be back in contention as close to the start of the season as possible.” Meanwhile, Olsson’s fellow 2013 summer arrival Ricky van Wolfswinkel again looks set to depart Norwich on loan. The club’s record signing scored just once in his debut season before spending last year at St Etienne and the Holland international has now been linked with a temporary move to former club Sporting Lisbon. The 27-year-old had an operation on a niggling issue in the wake of City’s play-off victory over Middlesbrough as the Canaries secured an immediate Barclays Premier League return. Having moved to Carrow Road from Blackburn in 2013, Olsson is now an established name at the club and manager Alex Neil believes he could have the Sweden international in his squad for the opening day fixture against Crystal Palace on August 8. Press Association
Marko Arnautovic’s strike clinched a 1-0 victory at Aston Villa on Saturday, a third straight success for Mark Hughes’ side. Stoke had failed to win any of their opening seven games but have now beaten Fulham in the Capital One Cup and sealed victories against Bournemouth and Villa in the Barclays Premier League. Johnson set up Arnautovic for his second-half strike and believes Stoke must continue their improvement. “We’ve played well in the last few games and probably not picked up as many points as we should have done,” he told Stoke Player. “We go into every game searching for the win, we got that and it is now something to build on when we come back from the international break. “We had to dig deep late on, but that was always going to happen when they’re fighting for the game and throwing everybody forward. “The lads were brilliant. We all put in a shift and at times played some very nice football.” Hughes’ side moved five points above Villa who remain rooted in the relegation zone after their first eight games. They are four points from the safety line and have not won since the opening day, earning just a point in their seven outings since. Boss Tim Sherwood came under fire from fans after the game and admitted his side are yet to seriously impress. He said: “They are there in patches, not on a consistent basis I will be honest. I see good possession in patches. It’s a little bit boring at times – passing the ball square and backwards too much. “I want it passed forward. Sometimes you need someone on the pitch who can open people up – drop their shoulder. At the moment, we haven’t got that.” Press Association Glen Johnson has urged Stoke to build on their Villa victory as the Potters kick-started their season.
McClaren said: “I don’t think frustrated is the word – angry, disappointed… Two decisions have cost us a game in which we were totally dominant, looked a very good side, frustrated the crowd – it was a perfect performance in the first half.” Newcastle went into first-half stoppage time having bossed the game, but crucially without having made it tell, and they were stung in devastating style twice within seconds. Midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum was left appealing in vain for a penalty after Lee Cattermole appeared to handle the ball inside the box and then haul him to the ground with referee Madley unmoved. However, he had no hesitation in pointing to the spot at the other end seconds later after Coloccini leaned rather too heavily on Steven Fletcher as he tried to shepherd the ball back to goalkeeper Rob Elliot, rubbing salt into the wound by also producing a red card. McClaren said: “It’s simple: he is wrong in my opinion. Referees are part and parcel of the game and you control your performance – you can’t control the opponent or the referee and they can affect the result. And they have done today – not so much the opponent, but definitely the referee. “I have seen lots of challenges like that in the game, in every game and, outside the box, they are never given. It’s a double whammy – a penalty and 10 men. It made it very difficult. “We need an experienced referee for this and I think in both instances, he was a little too quick to make a decision.” Adam Johnson dispatched the penalty with the minimum of fuss to set up a second half in which Billy Jones and Fletcher added two more to wrap up the win. A furious Steve McClaren criticised referee Robert Madley after seeing Newcastle slip to a record sixth successive derby defeat by Sunderland in controversial circumstances. The Magpies head coach hit out at the official for not awarding his side a penalty and then pointing to the spot at the other end and sending off skipper Fabricio Coloccini as the Black Cats broke in an explosive conclusion to the first half at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland took full advantage of what manager Sam Allardyce later admitted had been a stroke of good fortune to run out 3-0 winners and claim their first Barclays Premier League victory of the campaign at the 10th attempt. Allardyce became the fourth straight Sunderland boss after Paolo di Canio, Gus Poyet and Dick Advocaat to bounce back from defeat in his first game in charge by beating Newcastle in his second, and he could hardly have been more delighted. The 61-year-old said: “We have taken full advantage of a piece of good fortune. I did think it was a foul, personally. “I have had a look at it and I think if he hadn’t have made contact with him, Steven Fletcher would have scored on his left foot, on his better side. “It’s a bit harsh, sending him off, though, but that’s the rule, sadly, and we have taken full advantage of that today. “We got a harsh decision last week against us; we’ve got one that perhaps has gone for us this time. But the big thing is that we have taken advantage of it. “When the Sunderland fans wake up tomorrow, they won’t be worried about that, will they? Because we have won and we have kept the record going. “Six wins on the trot, the fourth manager to be in charge of the club on his second game and beat our local rivals – I find that a bizarre statistic, but it’s very nice to have kept it going.” Press Association
Press Association Sherwood was dismissed as manager on Sunday, with MacDonald succeeding him on a temporary basis, after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat by Swansea left them bottom of the Barclays Premier League. Villa were eliminated from the Capital One Cup on Wednesday after losing to Southampton by the same scoreline, but, despite their poor results so far this season – they last won a league fixture on August 8 – MacDonald is concerned that Sherwood’s absence could inhibit the club elsewhere. The former manager, in a previous role as Tottenham’s technical director, was credited with the development of a generation of players that includes Steven Caulker, Jake Livermore, Danny Rose and Andros Townsend, and had also been key in Jack Grealish regularly featuring at Villa. According to MacDonald, Villa’s youth players were again becoming a priority at the club, but after Sherwood’s departure that may no longer be the case. “We had discussed it,” MacDonald said after Wednesday’s defeat at Southampton. “I was going to move sideways to work with the development side because we have a big belief between us, with Tim, myself, (and coaches) Tony McAndrew and Ben Petty from further down, about how we were going to develop the players. “That was good for me, I could get my hands dirty a lot more, but it was always a plan that we had. I’m disappointed because Tim was very, very good to me. “The other thing that people tend to forget: they always tend to think that whatever team it is, it’s Aston Villa first team. Well it’s not, it’s Aston Villa Football Club, so I’ve moved a couple of the younger coaches up to work with me (while overseeing the first team) but then of course we’re short on the other side.” Ray Wilkins’ summer arrival as Sherwood’s assistant manager had allowed MacDonald, who nurtured Gary Cahill, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Gareth Barry into the first team during a previous period at the club, to concentrate on the Under-21s and below and there is no guarantee that he will return to doing so when a new manager is appointed. “It becomes quite difficult for everybody, but this is why we’re involved in the coaching side because we want to do it, and we want to make sure that nobody misses out,” he said. “You have to take care of the schoolboys who are coming through, you have to take care of the Under-18s, the Under-21s, because every day they miss a chance to play and train, they miss a chance to practice and become better.” Kevin MacDonald has revealed that Aston Villa’s sacking of Tim Sherwood could undermine the club’s plans to improve their youth development system.
Alan Pardew is hopeful the imminent investment in Crystal Palace with herald a new era for the Barclays Premier League club. Press Association “The players and my team also deserve some credit to to get us in the position where we have got this kind of backing.” Parish, who helped save the club from bankruptcy in 2010, will remain in charge of the day-to-day running of Crystal Palace while a reported £50m will also be invested in the stadium. “I think the important part in the negotiations was Steve’s position,” added Pardew. “I think it was very important that the slight nuances in the game are understood by Steve and I can get a message to him which is sometimes not easy to translate to people who do not understand the Premier League. “So, he can filter through all the information that I give to the guys so they can make a sensible and judged decision. “We are making decisions which have a low-risk factor and that is something we have done well at this football cub. We have signed players at the right money, at the right time, and that is why we have such a good squad.” American businessmen Josh Harris and David Blitzer are set to purchase a reported £100million controlling stake in the Selhurst Park outfit. The deal will see the duo, who already own the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, hold an equal 18 per cent share in the club with Steve Parish, who will remain as chairman. Speaking ahead of Palace’s Barclays Premier League clash against Stoke, Pardew said: “I have been involved to some degree with Josh and David. We have met. I see they have a passion for this football club which has grown over the last 18 months. “It goes alongside the passion the chairman has and myself for the football club, and together we hope it might embark on a new era for the football club. “Hopefully our fans – who have had a great couple of seasons – can now look forward to the future with expectation. “I look at clubs like Bolton and the current situation they are in, and I think about this football club and how a phoenix can rise, and we want to keep rising.” Pardew is approaching his one-year anniversary in charge at Palace. He guided them to an impressive 10th-place finish last season, and they are sixth ahead of their trip to Stoke on Saturday. And the former Newcastle manager revealed the investment deal was on the agenda when he agreed to take charge of Palace in January. “There was a very strong feeling that the guys would come on board,” Pardew said. “I needed to be part of that to understand what Steve Parish’s vision for the football club was. If it wasn’t that vision that he sold me, I probably would not be here, so Steve Parish deserves a lot of credit for where this football club is.
“I am grateful to Pat Fenlon and Shamrock Rovers F.C. for giving me the opportunity to finish my career back home – they have some exciting plans for the club for the future and I wish them well. I had hoped to play for one more year but it was not to be. “Thank you to all the many fans for your support over the years. “I would like to especially thank my wife Elaine, my children, my parents Gerard and Mary and my family for being, and continuing to be, my biggest supporters.” The 36-year-old came through the youth system at Blackburn, before moving onto Chelsea, Newcastle and then Fulham. Duff won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and League Cup during his career, in addition to helping the Cottagers to the 2010 Europa League final. Press Association Former Republic of Ireland winger Damien Duff has called time on his 20-year playing career. The winger won 100 caps for Ireland, representing them at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2012, and returned home to join Shamrock Rovers in July. Duff penned an 18-month contract after leaving Australian outfit Melbourne City, but has brought his time with the Dublin club to a premature end. “After much deliberation, I have today decided to bring my professional football career to an end,” he said in a statement released by Shamrock. “My heart wants me to continue playing but my body has finally won the battle and told me to stop. “I’ve lived every young boy’s dream and I know I am a very lucky man. “I would like to thank everyone who has helped me along the journey from schoolboy football in Dublin and moving to England as a teenager right up to today. “I am extremely proud to have won 100 caps for my country – it was always my greatest pleasure to represent Ireland and I have many magical memories from my international career. “While I have finished playing, I am progressing with my coaching badges and will stay involved in the game for many years to come.