Senin, 31 Desember 2012

Adkins' pride at Ox development

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Former Saints star

The 19-year-old is a graduate of the south coast club's fabled academy system, following in the footsteps of players like Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott.

Oxlade-Chamberlain made his name under the tutorship of Adkins, helping Saints secure automatic promotion from npower League One in 2011.

Much has changed since the winger's 15million move to north London, with the teenager now an England international and Southampton once again back in the top flight.

Oxlade-Chamberlain makes his first return to St Mary's on Tuesday and Adkins is proud of the winger.

"I think he will get a fantastic reception," the Saints boss said. "He is one of the players that came through out system.

"We are excited watching him play. We'd love him to still be at Southampton, but he is an Arsenal player now and an England international.

"I went to watch him against Reading the other night and he was exhilarating, with his acceleration to go away, a desire to get on the football. He is a joy to watch.

"I think everybody at Southampton is proud of what he is doing now.

"Everybody at the football club has had a role and a responsibility to play in Alex's development, but it is down to him as well. He is an exciting young talent."

Walcott is another former Saints academy graduate due to return to his former home tomorrow.

Both featured for the Gunners in September when they ran riot against the newly-promoted side, beating them 6-1.

Saints may be in the bottom three heading into tomorrow's game, but they are a different proposition now due to a new-found sturdiness and confidence,

"We have improved and grown in maturity all the way through," Adkins said.

"Obviously we had a baptism of fire coming into the Barclays Premier League when you look at the fixtures we had at the start of the campaign.

"We have only lost two of the last nine games, which is important and both of th em were narrow 1-0 defeats.

"I think we have got a group of players that have become more accustomed to the level that we are at.

"At Arsenal we did all right for the first half an hour and then Jos Hooiveld got injured and I had to bring Maya Yoshida on for this debut.

"He had only had one day's training with us and for 15 minutes Arsenal gave us a good doing, but we have improved.

"We have grown in maturity and we are looking forward to the next run of fixtures we've got."

Adkins will also have half an eye on potential business with the transfer window reopening tomorrow.

He today confirmed Saints had a 6million bid rejected for Birmingham goalkeeper Jack Butland in the summer following recent comments from City's acting chairman, Peter Pannu.

Adkins would not be drawn on whether he would make another move for the England goalkeeper and was similarly coy when asked about reports linking Southampton with Cagliari defender Dav ide Astori.

"I am aware of him, I know he is a good centre-half," Adkins said of the Italy international.

"We haven't put a bid in as far as I am aware and I don't think we've made any enquiries about him.

"You've asked me if I know about him and I know about him. We've got a very good European scouting network now.

"There are lots of players that we talk about, we are aware of, we scout but it doesn't mean we're going to buy them or make any inquiries.

"You need to be aware of them and that is something we have developed a lot over the last 12 months.

"Paul Mitchell has come in as head of recruitment from that point of view and it is something we've improved a hell of a lot of.

"We have a lot more contacts, a lot more of contacts we can ask, which is important."

Minggu, 30 Desember 2012

Jones hails Potters' spirit

Kenwyn Jones: Praised his side's fighting spirit

The Potters went into the game having conceded only four times at home in nine previous Premier League games, and on the back of victory over Liverpool.

However, they went on to ship three in the first 36 minutes against the Saints.

Jones briefly brought the scores level at 1-1 with a neat backheel, his third goal in four games, but it was in the second half where Stoke really showed their spirit and determination.

Matthew Upson made it 3-2 in the 67th minute and, although Steven Nzonzi was sent off shortly afterward, the hosts kept pushing and got their reward in the 90th minute when Cameron Jerome crashed a brilliant 30-yard volley in off the bar.

Jones, who is keeping Peter Crouch out of the side, said: "I think in the second half we needed to come out and show some pride, not just for ourselves, but for the fans. I think we were on a great run and we paid the price for a slow start.

"We haven't been conceding that many all seaso n and it was a shock to the system that we started like that. Everyone picked themselves up in the second half and we came out and saved the game."

Stoke boss Tony Pulis was furious with Mark Clattenburg's decision to send off Nzonzi for a challenge on Jack Cork.

It was certainly an ill-advised tackle but the midfielder did not actually appear to make contact with his opponent, although Cork's reaction told a different story.

Pulis criticised Cork after the match, and Jones said: "I believe he (Nzonzi) got sent off for the action because in no way did he touch the guy.

"In football nowadays, you can't do stuff like that and he paid the price. I think it was a bit too much by the player to be rolling around like that when he didn't get touched."

The point made it 10 games unbeaten for eighth-placed Stoke, who have not lost at home in the Premier League since February 4.

Like Jones, Jerome has often had to make do with opportunities of f the bench, and the Trinidadian praised his fellow forward for what will certainly be a contender for goal of the season.

"All credit to Cameron for coming on and saving the game," said Jones.

"He's been working hard in training and he deserved his goal.

"I hope it's goal of the season. I'll be happy for him if it is. It was a wonderful strike, a wonderful goal and it saved us a point."

Defensive stability has been key to Stoke this season but they were forced into changes on Saturday with captain Ryan Shawcross and full-back Geoff Cameron suspended, so Upson and Ryan Shotton came in.

The Potters were also missing full-back Marc Wilson, who broke his leg in October, and Pulis said: "We were three top players short, so it was always going to be difficult.

"Matty hasn't played for ages and obviously you want centre-halves to get used to playing with one another. It took him 45 minutes to find his feet but I'm pleased he got the goal, he's a great lad."

The result dropped Southampton back into the bottom three, but midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin felt it was a positive point even if it could easily have been more.

He said: "It was a crazy game. I think we are all a bit disappointed. When you look at the game we were 3-1 up, we could have scored the fourth one and we could have killed the game off.

"But I think before the game everyone would have been happy with one point and we need to take the good things. You don't have a tougher place to go in the league than Stoke City, and it's a good point."

Schneiderlin also admitted Saints were lucky to get away with what should have been a penalty after Fonte handled the ball in a challenge with Jones.

"I'm going to be honest and I'm going to tell you it was a handball," said the Frenchman.

"But for the (third) Stoke City goal it was a handball as well, Peter Crouch controlled the ball with his hand, so it's 50-50."

Sabtu, 29 Desember 2012

Stoke's Cameron Jerome denies Southampton victory with stunning late goal in 3-3 draw

Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez: On target in Southampton's 3-3 draw with S

Jerome flashed home a sensational 25-yard effort to cap a Stoke comeback from 3-1 down at half-time, a rally all the more impressive considering that they had Steven N'Zonzi sent off with 20 minutes to play.

After a quiet start, the game burst into life in the 10th minute when Southampton made the most of the first real chance, the dangerous Rickie Lambert popping up at the far post to convert a Guly do Prado cross that eluded a number of defenders.

Kenwyne Jones had a good chance to level moments later but he poked a shot over the bar after N'Zonzi's effort had been deflected into his path.

The equaliser did arrive on 16 thanks to a lovely bit of skill from the big striker, who cleverly flicked Ryan Shotton's low cross past Kelvin Davis with his back-heel.

Southampton restored their lead eight minutes later when Lambert's precise cross was knocked on to the bar by a desperate attempted clearance by Robert Huth and fell nicely for Jay Rodr iguez to tap home from a yard out.

Their forward pressure paid off again nine minutes before half-time when Lambert's knock-down was diverted past Begovic by Andy Wilkinson, leaving Stoke's previously proud defensive record - just four goals conceded in nine home games - in tatters, although they were without regulars Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron.

Stoke proved more positive early in the second half but, bar a Jonathan Walters shot that was blocked by Maya Yoshida, they struggled to put Davis under much pressure before a lengthy delay caused by a nasty clash of heads between Wilkinson and Huth that left both bloodied.

More defensive hesitation almost gave Southampton a fourth before Huth scrambled back to block a Rodriguez effort with Begovic stranded way off his line.

Begovic redeemed himself by denying Rodriguez a second goal, blocking his effort with an outstretched foot, and do Prado will be kicking himself for missing an open goal when the rebound fell perfectly for him on the volley.

Stoke got themselves back into the game 23 minutes from time when a corner eventually fell to Matthew Upson to squeeze a shot past Davis after Jones' original effort had been blocked.

Seconds later home fans were aggrieved not to get a penalty when Jose Fonte, who had already been booked, appeared to get away with a clear handball in the box after Jones went in for a header.

Their hopes were not helped on 71 when N'Zonzi was shown a straight red card for an over-the-top tackle on Jack Cork, who was lucky the midfielder didn't make too much contact with his knee.

Stoke refused to lie down and forced a series of corners, along with another appeal for a penalty for a possible handball by Yoshida, and they had a Cameron Jerome effort correctly ruled out for offside.

But the equaliser arrived in stunning fashion with 10 seconds left of the 90 minutes when another sub Peter Crouch combined with Jerom e, who lashed an unstoppable half-volley past a helpless Davis into the top corner and made it 10 top-flight games without defeat at home this season for Tony Pulis' side.

Crouch came close to snatching all three points in injury time, forcing Davis into an unconvincing save, and Southampton were eventually thankful to scramble the ball clear and leave with a point.

Jumat, 28 Desember 2012

Nigel Adkins urges Southampton to maintain discipline against Stoke

Nigel Adkins: Says his Southampton side must play football against Stoke

The South Coast club lead the Premier League's Fair Play table after collecting just 15 bookings in their opening 19 games.

It could even land them a surprise place in the Europa League at the end of the season, with the domestic winners of the three best-placed national associations in the UEFA Respect Fair Play rankings qualifying.

However, Adkins is only focused on ending Stoke's 10-month unbeaten home run when the sides meet on Saturday.

But he knows the fourth-bottom Saints cannot afford to give away needless fouls against the Potters as they aim to move further away from the bottom three.

"The only way we can beat Stoke is by playing good football," said Adkins.

"If you give away stupid free-kicks you are playing to their strengths and will get punished.

"We are proud of disciplinary record, although I have not even thought about it taking us into Europe."

Kamis, 27 Desember 2012

Southampton boss Nigel Adkins happy with Boxing Day draw against Fulham

A late penalty from Ricky Lambert secured the Saints a hard-earned point after Dimitar Berbatov's early opener for the hosts.

Adkins said: "The players have shown a good resolve. When you come away from home to leave with something is important.

"If you look at the second half I think we've had a good amount of possession, a few opportunities.

"We scored a penalty but I think in the second half we looked like the team likely to go on and win the game.

"It is about picking up results. At the start of the campaign we played eight out of the top 10 in our first 10 games of the season.

"The goals against column consistently now is more reduced to what it was.

"There's a togetherness about everybody and maybe we are not getting punished like we were at the start of the campaign but there's a growing experience.

"The players are working very hard for each other and we are maturing all the time."

Rabu, 26 Desember 2012

Southampton appoint Terry Paine as Honorary President

Terry Paine: Southampton legend named Honorary President

Paine, who made a record 815 appearances for the Saints between 1957 and 1974, will act as an ambassador for the club both at home and abroad and will take on his new role from 1 January.

The 73-year-old, who lives in South Africa, will be presented with his new title by the family of ex-Southampton manager Ted Bates on New Year's Day before the game against Arsenal.

Chairman Nicola Cortese told Southampton's official website: "I can think of no one more deserving of this prestigious title than Terry Paine.

"Terry and I have remained in permanent contact since the takeover of the club in 2009 and he has always been very supportive of what we do here at Southampton.

"To me he is a real 'Mr Southampton' having dedicated many years of his life to our great club, so it is a pleasure to award him with the formal role his continued support deserves.

"Terry has great integrity, and commands respect and affection wherever he goes. I am sure he will fulfil his role as Honorary President with the enthusiasm and energy that epitomised his performances as a player."

Paine said: "It is a great honour for me to be named Honorary President of Southampton Football Club.

"I've been bursting with pride since Nicola offered me the role. Everyone has been coming up to me asking if I'm OK because I have been bounding around with a permanent smile on my face for the past week."

Selasa, 25 Desember 2012

Fulham v Southampton preview

Nigel Adkins: Looking to make a point at Fulham

Adam Lallana is again likely to be missing as he continues to struggle with a knee injury.

The Saints captain sat out Saturday's 1-0 home defeat to Sunderland and looks set to miss out on the trip to Craven Cottage.

But Nigel Adkins' side appeared to come through the defeat to the Black Cats without any new knocks.

Fulham boss Martin Jol is likely to make changes after a disappointing 4-0 defeat at Liverpool on Saturday.

Steve Sidwell is available again after serving a one-game suspension at Anfield and is expected to be restored to the starting line-up.

But Bryan Ruiz is a doubt and Mahamadou Diarra remains on the sidelines with Damien Duff for the Cottagers.

Senin, 24 Desember 2012

Davis hopeful of festive cheer

Kelvin Davis: Confident ahead of Fulham trip

Saints saw a mini revival abruptly ended by a 1-0 home defeat to Sunderland on Saturday, although they will spend Christmas outside the relegation zone.

The loss also maintained a three-point gap between themselves and 16th-placed Aston Villa - something Davis is looking to close quickly, starting at Craven Cottage.

"In terms of Christmas, I think the games we've got are winnable," he said, referring to the trip to Stoke and visit of Arsenal that follows.

"We go into those games fully intending to set our stall out so we can win those games. That's what we'll ask of ourselves.

"Who knows if Dimitar Berbatov is the man to watch out for against Fulham. I am not sure if he has scored many this season, has he?

"He is a top class player but he is not their only player. He didn't play against us down here and we conceded two goals so they've got quality all over the pitch.

"They wouldn't have been in the Premier League for this amo unt of time if they weren't quality so we will obviously pay them respect, but it is about turning up on the day, performing and taking the three points."

The Sunderland game was Davis' second back in goal after being recalled to Premier League duty.

The 36-year-old has been a mainstay in the Saints side that rose from npower League One to the top flight but was dropped four matches into the season, having conceded 14 goals.

Paulo Gazzaniga and Artur Boruc have both enjoyed stints between the sticks since and Davis is keen to hold onto his first-team berth.

"When you are used to playing week in, week out, which I have been certainly at this club over the past three or four seasons, it is always difficult," he said.

"But I accept that you can't always have it your own way and that the right thing to do is to keep your head down and work as hard as you can.

"Obviously I looked at myself and what I was doing. I felt that in terms of whe re I was, I am 36, it is about maintenance and staying on top of yourself physically.

"I felt that if I stayed in good shape and carried on doing what I was doing my time would come again.

"It is not my decision, it is a decision the manager takes."

One key difference to the Saints side Davis lined up behind when he returned earlier this month was the defence.

Having let in 28 goals in their opening 10 matches, they have now only conceded five in the last seven.

"We've got a bit more experience," Davis said. "We've worked very hard on the training ground and players have played a few games with each other now.

"Basically it is getting up to speed with the Premier League and how it can be.

"We have had to learn very, very quickly and it is a harsh league, the Premier League.

"We found that out against Sunderland. Half a chance and it goes in so it is about improving all the time and I think we are still doing that."

Sabtu, 22 Desember 2012

Steven Fletcher scored the only goal as Sunderland beat Southampton 1-0 at St Mary's

Steven Fletcher: Scored the only goal of the game before the break

The first half was dominated by Southampton but the home side failed to create any clear-cut chances. They were made to pay five minutes before the break, when Fletcher converted his first opportunity of the match. Stephane Sessegnon's shot was mis-hit and fell to the Scottish striker, who converted in a fashion which has become customary this season.

The second half was just as frustrating, Sunderland nullifying any threat from the home team, who were particularly disappointing with their set-piece and crossing delivery. Time after time the first man was hit.

Southampton did create occasional chances in the last 10 minutes, but could not break down a resolute defence that gave the visitors only their second away league win since February.

The game pitched together the two sides directly above the relegation zone, and was billed pre-match as a relegation six-pointer. Nigel Adkins had Adam Lallana out with a knee injury, whilst his opposit e number Martin O'Neill welcomed Danny Rose back after a lay-off.

Sunderland almost took the lead after less than thirty seconds, with a Sessegnon shot fabulously tipped wide by Kelvin Davis, but Southampton were soon into their stride. Lambert had a free-kick deflected just wide and Gaston Ramirez tried on multiple occasions from outside the box, but there were no clear-cut chances.

With the game meandering towards the break, Sunderland scored against the run of play. A ball was played to Sessegnon in the area, and the forward scuffed a shot straight to the feet of Fletcher. Fletcher had been holding his back throughout the first period, but finished beautifully past the helpless Davis from fifteen yards.

Southampton made early changes during the second half, but they struggled to find their rhythm as the crowd began to groan at the lack of quality from both teams. Jose Fonte had a header cleared from near the line, but the Saints struggled to get suppo rt for Rickie Lambert up front.

The home side's set-piece delivery was particularly disappointing, and opportunities to threaten were consistently wasted by hitting the first man. The game reached the last fifteen minutes without Simon Mignolet being tested sufficiently.

Southampton did have occasional late chances, but Sunderland defended immensely in order to hold out for a well-earned victory, and the 2,000 travelling supporters were rewarded for their 300-mile journey.

< td align="center">Shots on Target

SouthamptonTeam StatisticsSunderland
01st Half Goals1
5Shots off Target3
5Blocked Shots2
0Yellow Cards3
0Red Cards0
76.2Passing Success72.7
60Tackles Success75
55.8Territorial Advantage44.2
446Total Passes330
31Total Crosses20
183Lost Balls166
54.91st Half Poss.45.1
60.82nd Half Poss.39.2

Southampton manager Nigel Adkins expressed his disappointment after defeat to Sunderland

The Saints never really got going in a game during which they had just two shots on target, and were felled by a first-half finish from Steven Fletcher.

Adkins conceded that his side had failed to demonstrate enough creativity to justify anything from the game after Sunderland had scored.

"It was uncharacteristically flat from us today," said Adkins.

"Whatever we tried to and endeavour didn't give us the opportunity to score goals today.

"The goal we conceded before half-time we should have done better with, and it gave them something to hang onto.

"They did that very well."

Southampton only sit outside the relegation zone on goal difference, although they do have a game in hand on their rivals.

Cork explains Saints turnaround

Jack Cork: Has been an integral part for Saints' recent good form

The south-coast club's return to the top flight did not get off to the best of starts, with just one win to their name after 10 games.

They conceded 28 goals in that period but have since shored up at the back and have suffered one defeat in their last six matches, conceding just four goals in the process.

That turnaround has coincided with Cork's return from injury but the midfielder was keen to avoid any praise, instead highlighting a change in approach as the reason for the improvement.

"When you're going through a bad patch, the thing you do is look at everything you are doing wrong and try and put it right," Cork said.

"The manager came in and said 'what do you lot think we're doing wrong?' Everybody put their own input in, we changed things we needed to change and it worked for us.

"A couple of months ago we had a few talks and we had a few things around the training ground and stuff.

"We all decided as a team what we n eeded to do to put things right.

"We focused on different things at the training ground, a lot more people spoke up.

"We created little groups and stuff at the training ground to talk about certain issues.

"I think just everything has come together at the right time when things when were looking bad and somehow we all just pulled together and started picking up a few results in big games we had."

Such performances saw Saints secure victories against sides around them and Cork believes a new-found defensive resilience has been key to that revival.

"The team just seems a lot more defensively assured," he said.

"We have not conceded as many goals as were at the start of the season.

"We just look a lot more confident in our defensive play and obviously with the attacking players we've got we always know we're going to score.

"As long as we stopped conceding goals, we always knew we would start picking up points because the attackers always do their jobs for that."

Saints will be looking to continue their impressive form when another struggling side come to St Mary's on Saturday.

Sunderland have lost three of their four matches this month, including last weekend's 3-1 defeat at Manchester United.

Saints, by contrast, have had a two-week break due to their scheduled fixtures against Chelsea being postponed due to the west Londoners' World Club Cup commitments.

"It has given us a little bit of time to recharge our batteries and getting going again for this busy month," Cork said.

"If you look at it another way, it gets you out of the flow of the games.

"We were on a half-decent run and maybe having that game last weekend would have kept the game going.

"We'll have to see and hopefully the game has done as good and go into the next game with the same sort of confidence."

Jumat, 21 Desember 2012

Southampton's Jack Cork tells Luke Shaw to ignore Premier League elite

Luke Shaw: Impressing at Southampton, and his team-mates and manager are despera

17-year-old Shaw is reported to be a target of Arsenal and Chelsea in the winter transfer window after impressing in his seven appearances for Southampton so far this season.

The defender's inclusion has coincided with a period of only conceding six goals - in vast contrast to their early season defensive troubles where they shipped 26 goals in their previous nine matches.

The young left-back has already been likened to Tottenham star Gareth Bale, who also came through Southampton's academy, by team-mate Adam Lallana.

Cork, himself a Chelsea academy product, said: "I think the best thing for Luke would be to stay here - everything is set up for him to play in the Premier League.

"He will only improve here and playing will help him. As long as he works hard, he will go as far as he wants."

Saints boss Nigel Adkins had already stated his intention to hang onto Shaw earlier this month, saying: "Luke is very happy where he is. He is in the first team, he has got great people around him and his future is very bright.

"If Southampton are in the Premier League, there is no better place for any of our young players. They have more chances of first team football here than elsewhere."

Don't miss any live and exclusive football coverage this festive season. Click here to visit Sky Sports' Festive Calendar

Kamis, 20 Desember 2012

Adkins coy over Lallana injury

Adam Lallana: Knee problem

Adkins would only reveal the Saints captain would miss this weekend's match against Sunderland.

The 24-year-old limped off in the first half of the 1-0 defeat of fellow strugglers Reading on December 8 with a knee complaint.

There has been no official word from the club since then on the severity of Lallana's injury, leading to speculation that it could rule him out for several months.

Adkins was peppered with questions about the issue throughout the 15-minute press conference, admitting that the problem was not as bad as first feared and that he knows when the attacking midfielder is likely to return.

However, any hope of finding out the official prognosis today was dashed by manager Adkins.

"Adam is still in his knee brace," he said. "He is progressing well and is now off the crutches.

"He won't be available for Saturday's game against Sunderland and that is all I need to say."

Asked for further clarification, Adkins added: "That is all we are going to say.

"We're just going to say he is out for the Sunderland game and you can ask me the next question ahead of the next game."

The Saints boss was more forthcoming when it came to Lallana's importance to the team.

"He is obviously the captain of the team, an instrumental character," Adkins said.

"He has got in the England set-up this season but we've got other players as well.

"Gaston Ramirez played there ever so well there when we played Reading, but we've got several players that can play in that position as well.

"Like all teams, you are going to suffer from injuries at certain stages, it is how well you can deal with it.

"I believe we have got several very good players that can play in offensive positions, especially where Adam plays."

The indications are, though, that Lallana could be back sooner rather than later, with midfielder Jack Cork suggesting a first-team return could so on be in the pipeline.

"Adam hasn't trained this week and it is up to the manager if he plays this weekend or not," he said.

"We will just have to see what the manager is thinking about Adam."

Lallana will be Southampton's only absentee for the visit of Sunderland this weekend.

Frazer Richardson and Richard Chaplow have overcome their respective injuries to feature, while Paulo Gazzaniga is back in contention after a shoulder complaint.

The Argentinian's return will give Adkins a headache on who to play in goal after Kelvin Davis kept a clean sheet against the Royals last time out.

"Paulo has been on the training ground," he said. "Today he had a proper training session.

"Kelvin played against Reading because Paulo was out of injured. He came in and did very well.

"He kept a clean sheet and put a good performance in so we've got good competition for places and that is important."

Rabu, 19 Desember 2012

Lee Clark says Birmingham's Jack Butland worth 'substantial' figure

Jack Butland: Thought to be attracting Premier League interest

Butland was the subject of a reported 6million bid from Southampton in the last transfer window which was turned down by the Championship club.

That offer came before the 19-year-old England international had even appeared in a Blues shirt, having spent time on loan at League Two Cheltenham last season.

The youngster, who was included in Roy Hodgson's England squad for Euro 2012, has since established himself as Clark's first-choice keeper, notching up 22 appearances so far this season.

Premier League clubs including Liverpool and Everton have been linked with January swoops for the shot-stopper but Clark is keen to keep him at St Andrew's and says any bids will have to be significantly higher than in the summer if a club is to prise him away.

He told the Daily Mirror: "By the time the window opens he'll have played 25 or so Championship games.

"We would be looking for an even more substantial figure than we were offered in the summ er - even though I certainly don't want it to come to that."

Clark added: "Ultimately, it's down to the board. He's the future and the type of player I'd rather build my team around."

Don't miss any live and exclusive football coverage this festive season. Click here to visit Sky Sports' Festive Calendar

Selasa, 18 Desember 2012

PL chairmen agree controls

Man City: Reportedly remain opposed to spending controls

However the exact details of the spending controls has yet to be agreed - specifically around how much wealthy owners can put into the club to cover losses, sources close to the process have disclosed.

The club chairmen have now asked PL executives to bring back detailed plans on the spending controls for the next meeting on February 6, and on proposals to cap wage rises for players in the short term.

It is understood Manchester City, Fulham and Aston Villa remained opposed to any controls but approval by only 14 of the 20 clubs is needed for the moves to go through.

Sabtu, 15 Desember 2012

On-loan Nottingham Forest striker Billy Sharp has become a father again

Billy Sharp: Happy news for the on-loan striker

Sharp, who is currently on loan to Forest from Southampton, and his partner Jade Fair are celebrating after the birth of a baby boy.

Both mother and baby are doing well and the couple have named their baby Leo Sharp.

It is happy news for the couple who were devastated after their first baby, Luey Jacob, died in hospital aged just two days last October.

In a statement released on behalf of the Luey Jacob Sharp Foundation today, Sharp said: "Jade and I are absolutely delighted with the safe arrival of our beautiful boy Leo.

"As everyone knows, we tragically lost our first son, Luey Jacob Sharp, so the birth of Leo makes this special time for our family especially poignant.

"We would like to thank our family and friends for the support they have given us throughout Jade's pregnancy.

"We are thrilled to become parents and we welcome Leo into our world with lots of love and are looking forward to starting family life together with our son."

The Luey Jacob Sharp Foundation helps families affected by gastroschisis, an abdominal-wall defect usually picked up by week 14 in pregnancy and the cause of which is still unknown.

Last year Sharp played for former club Doncaster just days after losing Luey on October 29. He called his goal in that match the most important of his career.

After scoring, Sharp lifted his shirt to reveal a message which read: "That's for you, son."

He tweeted later that night: "My goal tonight was the most important goal of my career dedicated to my brave boy luey jacob sharp I love u son sleep tight.thatsforyouson."

Jumat, 14 Desember 2012

Celtic boss Neil Lennon thinks Gary Hooper is close to agreeing a new contract

Gary Hooper: Good form this season has seen striker linked with English clubs

A total of 12 goals in all competitions so far this season has led to speculation linking Hooper with a move south of the border.

The Bhoys boss laughed off talk earlier in the season that the 24-year-old, who joined Celtic in 2010, was set to leave for Liverpool.

Hooper moved to Parkhead from Scunthorpe, whose former boss Nigel Adkins is said to be interested in teaming up with the Englishman at Southampton.

"I think we can get an agreement pretty soon," Lennon told the Daily Record.

"I speak to Gary once a week on it and he's comfortable with it. I hope to see (Celtic chief executive) Peter Lawwell in the next day or so and he'll come up with a solution. I certainly don't think we're far away."

Lennon also admitted he would be comfortable if he did not bring in any new faces in the January transfer window.

"I'd like to add to the squad," he added. "To strengthen the left-hand side in the full-back or wide area. But if I don 't, I'm pretty happy with what I have."

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Kamis, 13 Desember 2012

Premier League: Snodgrass' strike gets Norwich a point away at Southampton

Rickie Lambert: broke the deadlock just after the half-hour mark at St Mary'

Rickie Lambert put the hosts into the lead at St Mary's just after the half-hour mark when he prodded home a loose ball in the Canaries' penalty area.

The Saints were full value for their lead at that stage and looked set to go in at the break a goal to the good until Gazzaniga gifted the visitors an equaliser.

The summer signing from Gillingham failed to get down in time to deal with Robert Snodgrass' free-kick, allowing the ball to squeeze between his body and the ground.

All eyes were focused on Mark Clattenburg before the game, as the referee took charge of his first match since Chelsea alleged he used inappropriate language towards John Obi Mikel during their match against Manchester United on October 28.

The official enjoyed a fairly comfortable comeback, although both teams had complaints about the goals they conceded. He showed a yellow card to a player from each team and also rejected appeals from Norwich for a late penalty after Luke Shaw's desperate tackle on Snodgrass in the area.

The point means Chris Hughton's side have now drawn their last four away games in league action, a feat the club have not managed since the 1979/80 season when none of their line-up were actually born.

For Southampton they have at least now taken seven points out of their last nine, though they will perhaps look back on a chance missed to make it three victories in a row.

In truth, though, they never hit the same heights as they managed in their impressive triumph over Newcastle at home on Sunday. While dominant for long periods, they failed really to test Mark Bunn, standing in for the injured John Ruddy, in the visiting goal on enough occasions.

Indeed, their most meaningful attack of the first half resulted in them taking the lead, Lambert in the right place to stab home after Adam Lallana's free-kick from the left flank had struck him on the arm and then ricocheted off his former Rochdale team-mate, Grant Holt, back into his path.

Norwich pulled level on the stroke of half-time as Snodgrass' rather tame set-piece squirmed past Gazzaniga, though the 20-year-old did make make amends to some degree in the second half with a close-range save to keep out a Holt header at the far post. Southampton, too, felt the decision to award the free-kick for the goal was harsh on full-back Nathaniel Clyne.

Despite the best efforts of both teams a winner couldn't be found in the second half, Bunn diving acrobatically to his right to paw away a low, curling effort from Jason Puncheon before Shaw's last-ditch lunge stopped Snodgrass from getting a chance to score his second of the night.

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SouthamptonTeam StatisticsNorwich City
11st Half Goals1
2Shots on Target5
6Shots off Target4
2Blocked Shots3
1Yellow Cards1
0Red Cards0
77.7Passing Success71.1
80.8Tackles Success70.6
49.8Territorial Advantage50.2
498Total Passes360
27Total Crosses22
187Lost Balls198
60.41st Half Poss.39.6
55.42nd Half Poss.44.6

Southampton boss Nigel Adkins refuses to be too critical of Paulo Gazzaniga

The Saints looked to be on course to record a third straight Premier League win when Rickie Lambert prodded a loose ball home after 31 minutes.

However, the hosts were pegged back at St Mary's when Robert Snodgrass' free-kick crept under the body of goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga and into the net.

Adkins felt it was not a foul in the first place, insisting that full-back Nathaniel Clyne had actually got the ball, rather than the man, just as the half moved into injury time.

"I thought we were right on the front foot (in the first half)," he said.

"I thought we were right on the front foot and moved the ball about brightly. We scored a good goal through Rickie Lambert and could have scored one or two more.

"Unfortunately the game has changed for us bang on half-time with the goal we have conceded.

"I don't think it's a free-kick, Nathan made contact with the ball first and the direction of where the ball has gone indicates that.

"But the referee has made the decision and then we've got to save it. We haven't saved it. That gave them a big lift in the second half and I thought they were the better team.

"All in all, it's another point and I think that's eight in the last four games.

"It was a game of two halves. The first was very exciting for our supporters but in the second we couldn't break Norwich down."

Adkins, however, refused to be too critical of Gazzaniga, the 20-year-old summer signing from Gillingham who failed to keep out Snodgrass' effort.

"You will always highlight the goalkeeper when any ball goes in the net, but he will learn from that," the former Scunthorpe boss added.

Rabu, 12 Desember 2012

Southampton defender Dan Seaborne extends loan deal with Charlton

Dan Seaborne: Loan deal with Charlton extended

Seaborne has won three and drawn one of the four matches he has played in since making the temporary move to The Valley.

The 25-year-old was forced to sit out the final match of his original loan spell, last Saturday's 2-2 draw against Brighton.

But Seaborne will get the chance to extend his unbeaten run in the Charlton team after a fresh deal was struck.

Lambert disappointed by draw

Rickie Lambert: Felt Saints deserved win

After wins against QPR and Newcastle, Saints came into the game with heightened expectation and new-found momentum.

Nigel Adkins' side were on course for another three points when Lambert prodded home his sixth of the season, but Robert Snodgrass' leveller earned the Canaries a 1-1 draw and a point.

"I am definitely frustrated not to get the three points," Lambert said.

"I thought we played really well in the first half and I thought we were definitely going to win it.

"We've come in disappointed at half-time and felt we could have pushed on in the second half.

"We haven't managed to do that so, yeah, I am disappointed."

Much of the talk before the match surrounded Mark Clattenburg, who returned to frontline refereeing for the first time since Chelsea alleged he racially abused John Obi Mikel against Manchester United.

Norwich manager Chris Hughton and several players were frustrated he missed Lambert's handball in the build-up to the opener, but the striker laughed off his role.

"I am not sure exactly where it hit me but obviously I just carried on and put it in the back of the net," he said.

"Obviously I am just looking at the ball, it's hit me and it has landed there. You've just got to play to the whistle."

As well defending himself, Lambert stood up for Saints goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.

The 20-year-old Argentinian has been found wanting on several occasions this season and was at fault for Snodgrass' leveller, with the midfielder's free-kick somehow beating him at the near post.

"He didn't have to apologise to us," Lambert said. "You could see he was disappointed.

"He has done really well the last few weeks and it was a just little lapse in concentration.

"He is more disappointed than us and these things happen. It is how you respond to it."

The draw extends Southampton's unbeaten run to four matches and Norwich's to eight in a ll competitions, much to manager Chris Hughton's delight.

"I think it was a fair result," the Canaries boss said. "I thought Southampton were better in that first period and we took a little bit of time to get going.

"We were stung a little bit by the goal, but I thought we were very good in that second half.

"As the game opened up, I thought we defended very well and if anybody was going to score on the break I thought it was going to be us.

"I think it was nothing less than we deserved, to get back into the game."

Selasa, 11 Desember 2012

Southampton boss Nigel Adkins to keep faith with Paulo Gazzaniga for Liverpool game

Paulo Gazzaniga: Offered backing by Southampton boss Nigel Adkins

Gazzaniga was at fault for Norwich's equaliser in midweek as he allowed Robert Snodgrass' free-kick to squirm under his body and into the net.

Adkins has a lot of faith in his summer signing from Gillingham and is set to stand by Gazzaniga for the game at Anfield.

"Paulo is only 20 years old and is improving all the time - he is going to be a top goalkeeper," said Adkins.

"We have changed the goalkeeper a few times this season, but all our points have been picked up when Gazza has been in goal.

"I always say you have to be allowed to make mistakes, but it has not fazed him.

"He has shown great maturity by holding his hands up and saying, 'I should have saved that' and that is very pleasing."

Southampton boss Nigel Adkins hopes Adam Lallana returns against Sunderland

Adam Lallana: Facing an anxious wait over his knee injury

Lallana picked up a knee injury during last weekend's win over Reading and the club are sweating over the full extent of the problem.

Southampton do not have a game until December 22 when Sunderland visit St Mary's, giving Lallana extra time to recover from the injury, and Adkins is hoping his skipper will be able to make a speedy recovery.

"We will assess the injury in the next few days but the good news is that we do not have a match now until December 22 so he has extra time to recover," said Adkins.

"Had there been a game this weekend, who knows? Adam's knee is immobilised and we will see how he gets on."

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Schneiderlin relishing Gerrard clash

Morgan Schneiderlin: A big fan of Gerrard's

Gerrard has come under scrutiny of late, having yet to reproduce his best form under Brendan Rodgers - epitomised by the fact the once free-scoring midfielder has just a single league goal to his name this season.

However, Gerrard is still adored by the Liverpool faithful and also by one of those set to line up against him on Saturday.

Schneiderlin began to follow the Merseysiders in his native France due to the influence of Gerrard and cannot wait to pit his wits against the England star.

"It is a bit extra special to play Liverpool," said Schneiderlin, whose side's manager Nigel Adkins and top scorer Rickie Lambert are both ardent Liverpool fans.

"In France when you watch TV, you had to choose between Liverpool and Manchester.

"A lot of people six or seven years ago chose Manchester United, I chose Liverpool because I used to, and I still, love Steven Gerrard as a player.

"It will be special and I can't wait to play against him, but unfortunately he is going to feel bad because we're going to bring back three points.

"I will treat him like another player on Saturday. I just want to confront him and see what I can do against him.

"Of course, he is one of the best players in the world and that's what I want to play against every game. The best."

Schneiderlin pinpoints Gerrard's finest hour seven years ago as the reason for his soft spot for Liverpool.

"I remember the day when Liverpool played AC Milan in the Champions League final," he said.

"I was in the academy at Strasbourg and we all watched the game in the same room and it was just an amazing atmosphere.

"There were 42 young players watching that game and it was an just amazing moment.

"In France you have got a lot of Premier League games you can watch, almost every big match is on French TV, so I always watched Liverpool."

While Liverpool come into the game on the back of a defeat at Tottenham, Saints are in the midst of a four-match unbeaten run.

Recent performances have been a far cry from those at the start of the season and Schneiderlin believes there is a growing momentum at St Mary's.

"It is very good when you look at the start of the season," he said.

"It was very tough, very hard but we have grown in confidence. Now we have been unbeaten in four games, it is very good.

"We want to carry that on as far as we can. Even after the first few games we showed that we had something.

"We made some mistakes that cost us and we realised that we are capable of, playing in this league.

"Everyone has worked very hard in the training ground and we just learned very quick.

"We make less mistakes and we are playing better as a team. We want to carry on."

Schneiderlin also insists under-fire goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga has the backing of his team-mates, despite a number of high-profile recent gaffes.

"W e know that everyone is going to make mistakes," he said.

"When you are goalkeeper you are more exposed because it is a goal straight after.

"Paulo is only 20 years old so he is a very good player. Against Newcastle he saved us a goal that could have brought them back into the game.

"You can't really say anything. I know he is going to learn quick and hopefully save a couple against Liverpool."

Senin, 10 Desember 2012

Luis Suarez facing ban after booking in Liverpool win over Southampton

Time to celebrate: Daniel Agger is mobbed by team-mates after scoring what prove

After a dominant, although not inspiring, performance, Liverpool got the goal which proved to be the winner through Daniel Agger's 43rd minute header.

However, Suarez, the striker upon whom Liverpool have become dependent, was cautioned in the second half for a foolish deliberate handball.

The yellow card was the Uruguayan's fifth of the season and he will therefore serve a one-match ban in his club's next game against West Ham United.

Liverpool's victory, which came in the wake of the midweek defeat at Tottenham, was only their third at home this season and they made it back-to-back league wins at Anfield for the first time since September 2011.

But in truth it should have been far more comfortable than it actually was, which is a familiar story where Liverpool have been concerned.

They had 14 shots in a totally one-sided first half, although Southampton could easily have had a goal of their own with Rickie Lambert's long-r ange shooting threatening to catch out Jose Reina.

The restoration of Lucas Leiva to the Liverpool side as defensive midfield linchpin after a three-month absence with a thigh injury transformed the dynamic almost immediately.

However, it took a double-dose of Uruguayan intervention to eventually help break the deadlock two minutes before the break.

Saints' South American summer signing Gaston Ramirez flattened international team-mate Suarez on the edge of the penalty area and, although the Reds striker crashed his free-kick onto the crossbar it rebounded to Johnson, whose cross was met by Agger's scoring header.

Southampton, having undertaken damage limitation in the first half, came out positively after the break and Liverpool struggled to reassert their dominance.

Such was Liverpool's desperation to score the second and give themselves some breathing space, Suarez instinctively tried to punch in Gerrard's fast-moving cross.

< p>It proved costly as his subsequent booking ruled the side's leading scorer out of next Sunday's trip to West Ham, who beat Chelsea earlier on Saturday.

LiverpoolTeam StatisticsSouthampton
11st Half Goals0
8Shots on Target1
11Shots off Target6
4Blocked Shots2
2Yellow Cards0
0Red Cards0
85Passing Success72.2
78.9Tackles Success64.7
49Territorial Advantage51
555Total Passes302
28Total Crosses16
162Lost Balls158
66.71st Half Poss.33.3
632nd Half Poss.37

Adkins rules out Shaw sale

Luke Shaw: Attracting interest

The 17-year-old is the latest product of the Saints' academy system to generate plenty of interest, with reports suggesting the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City linked with a January move.

Southampton have been forced to part with the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the past, but a standing outside of the top flight made it almost impossible for them to block sizeable bids.

Having returned to the Premier League after a seven-year absence, the Saints are now looking to build towards a brighter future.

Shaw is very much a part of those plans and will be offered improved terms at St Mary's once he turns 18 next summer, with a three-year professional contract enough to tie him to the club for now.

Adkins is aware that interested parties may decide to test Southampton's resolve once the transfer window re-opens in the New Year, but he has made it clear that the days of having to make a profit on ho me-grown talent are long gone.

He said: "Luke is very happy where he is. He is in the first team, he has got great people around him and his future is very bright.

"If Southampton are in the Premier League, there is no better place for any of our young players. They have more chances of first team football here than elsewhere."

Minggu, 09 Desember 2012

Southampton move out of the bottom three with narrow win over Reading

Jason Puncheon scores the game's only goal

Jason Puncheon drilled the ball across Adam Federici in the 61st minute for the only goal of the game, having seen a first-half header harshly chalked off for a foul on the Reading keeper.

Brian McDermott's side posed little threat, with their best chance coming in first-half stoppage time when Hal Robson-Kanu headed against the post.

Southampton made two changes to the side that started at Anfield, Kelvin Davis replacing the injured Paulo Gazzaniga and Jay Rodriguez in for Gaston Ramirez, who had spent much of the week in Uruguay following a family bereavement. Reading were unchanged form the side that started the defeat to Manchester United last week.

The home side looked the more likely to open the scoring early on, but they failed to really hurt Reading despite their vastly superior possession.

Puncheon proved to be a nuisance for Southampton, putting in several decent crosses in the opening stages with Morgan Schneiderlin havi ng the best chance when he was just unable to get on top the ball at the near post.

Adam Lallana, skippering the side despite the recall of club captain Davis, showed why he is said to be attracting a lot of interest from other clubs, driving a half-volley chance straight at Federici.

Jay Tabb was Reading's unlikely goal threat, making a couple of breaks from midfield and shooting straight at a largely underemployed Davis.

But the home side looked to have broken the deadlock after 33 minutes when Puncheon rose at the far post to nod a corner home. Referee Jon Moss immediately blew for an infringement, penalising Maya Yoshida for a push on Federici, but the decision looked a harsh one.

However the visitors nearly made amends for a toothless first half in stoppage time when Robson-Kanu's header struck the left-hand upright. Davis was rooted to the spot, but a goal for Reading at this stage would have been hard on Southampton.

Lallana's impres sive first half display ended early when he limped off with a knee injury, but Southampton shrugged off the loss of their talismanic midfielder and continued to look much the better side after the break.

Puncheon had already forced Federici into a good save when he finally gave his side the lead they had deserved. Rickie Lambert fed Nathaniel Clyne, and the right back in turn passed to Puncheon, who broke in from the right to shoot low across Federici into the bottom corner of the net.

Jobi McAnuff curled a shot wide of Davis' left-hand post in response, and Robson-Kanu put a weak effort on the turn straight at the Southampton keeper, but it was the hosts who continued to look likelier to score.

Puncheon drilled a low shot from long range wide before substitute Guly Do Prado found the roof of the net from distance. The Brazilian had another chance in the closing stages, but was denied by a fine save from Federici down to his left.

Saints continue d to dominate and were good value for their win, whereas Reading ended the game looking at a long, hard winter with a crucial trip to fellow strugglers Sunderland looming on Tuesday.

SouthamptonTeam StatisticsReading
01st Half Goals0
5Shots on Target2
10Shots off Target4
3Blocked Shots0
0Yellow Cards0
0Red Cards0
78.1Passing Success64.7
68.2Tackles Success80
56.5Territorial Advantage43.5
465Total Passes232
25Total Crosses24
175Lost Balls178
64.21st Half Poss.35.8
68.92nd Half Poss.31.1

Puncheon: Saints on the march

Jason Puncheon (c): We're starting to overcome our nerves

Saints' return to the top flight after a seven-year absence was hardly ideal, with just one win in 11 matches leaving them 19th.

Nigel Adkins' side shipped a league-high 29 goals in the process, but a new-found defensive resolve has resulted in a dramatic change in fortunes and they are now up to 15th in the table.

Southampton have only conceded four goals in their past six matches and collected their second clean sheet in Saturday's 1-0 win against fellow strugglers Reading.

Asked what has changed at the club, winger Puncheon said: "I think it was nerves.

"I'll be honest, as a team coming into the Premier League, I think we were a bit nervous, a bit shaky.

"We didn't find our feet or our rhythm and now we have found that and that is showing as a team.

"We haven't got a bad defence. A few of the boys playing in that back four played in the team last season and how many clean sheets were there last season? Now we are gelling a nd that is showing.

"It is definitely onwards and upwards now. We look forward to the Sunderland game. It is a home game so we need three points again."

Puncheon has flourished for Saints this season and scored the decisive strike on Saturday in a match in which he also saw a first-half header harshly chalked off.

"It was a deserved win," he said. "We could have won by more but we got the three points and that was the main things for us.

"I wasn't too sure at the time why my first-half goal was disallowed. The ref said there was a push but it wasn't me.

"At the end of the game everybody said it was a clear-cut goal and it should have counted.

"It was good to score, though. Me and Clyney (Nathaniel Clyne) are working up a good relationship. We're gelling, getting better and better as the games go on.

"He has picked me out really well and I have slotted it across the goalkeeper."

Puncheon's form has led to some observers touting him as a potential option for Roy Hodgson's England side.

His former boss at Barnet, Paul Fairclough, has backed him for a call-up and Saturday's performance will not have harmed his chances given England Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce was in the crowd.

"I don't worry about those sort of things. That's out of my hands," Puncheon said.

"The only thing I worry about is putting on the Southampton shirt and performing week in, week out.

"It is always nice to get mentioned but you don't let those things get in your head."

Sabtu, 08 Desember 2012

Nigel Adkins felt Southampton rose to the challenge in the 1-0 win over Reading

Nigel Adkins: Praised Southampton's team spirit after win over Reading

Jason Puncheon had a first-half header ruled out, but he would not be denied as his goal after the break propelled Saints up to 15th in the Premier League table.

Adkins believes his players are now relishing the challenge of competing in the top-flight after a difficult start to the season.

"It is a good three points for us," the Saints boss said. "It is important to win our home games, especially against the teams close to us in the league.

"I thought we thoroughly deserved the victory today and, in fact, I would have liked us to have scored some more goals from the opportunities we created.

"All-in-all, we've got to be happy with the clean sheet and three points. The players stepped up to the mark.

"There might be talk [of pressure] on the outside, but the players deserve all the credit.

"They work really hard on the training ground and there is a great togetherness about them.

"They've gone out and put on a very good performance. I think if we can keep concentrating on our performances and what we want to do, we give ourselves an opportunity to go and win."

Adkins was particularly pleased with Puncheon's performance, but felt the right-winger could have finished with more goals.

"It was a great goal, I am delighted with it," said Adkins.

"Jason could have had a few more. He had a few opportunities and a perfectly good goal disallowed as well.

"But the goal is off the training ground and we have a midfield player dropping out in between the defender and the full-back.

"We get somebody in the pocket, our full-back playing up high and wide player coming inside. Good quick play and an excellent goal."

Southampton wait on Adam Lallana after captain suffers knee injury against Reading

Adam Lallana: Faces tests on a knee injury

Saints moved out of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win courtesy of Jason Puncheon but Lallana left on crutches to mar the win.

"We've got him in a brace and he is on crutches at the moment," manager Nigel Adkins said. "That is standard procedure.

"He has got a knee injury and what we will do is assess that over the next 24 to 48 hours and that will give us a better prognosis to how long potentially he will be out for.

"It could be short, it could be longer. We don't know so we won't guess at the moment."

Fontes: Saints must turn on style

Jose Fonte: Sticking with attacking style

Both sides have struggled since securing automatic promotion from the Championship last season and sit in the bottom three heading into the St Mary's clash.

Saints are a place, and three points, better off and know that victory could propel them out of the relegation zone.

The last time Saints faced a fellow struggler they beat QPR 3-1 in west London and Fonte believes such experience stands them in good stead.

"It is a massive game for both of us," the Portuguese defender said. "We are aware of the pressure.

"It is going to be an energetic game, tough for both of us, but we look forward to it.

"We have been preparing ourselves very well this week and we have our game plan and we will try and win the game on Saturday.

"It is a lot of pressure [in these kind of games]. You have to try and stay calm and know your game plan well, know your job.

"You know what you have to do and as a team, work hard to get the better of th em. It is as simple as that."

Sometimes the quality of football can be sacrificed in such high-pressured matches, but that is not something Fonte expects from Southampton.

"The attitude has to be 100 per cent but our philosophy is to play attractive football, to play a passing game," he said.

"That's what we've been doing for the last three years. We have to do continue that. That's what we train every week to do.

"The players that we have they like to dribble, they like to pass it around and create chances like that, although we always have the option of going direct to Rickie Lambert, which is a great way out for us.

"But we like to play attractive football, as I said, and pass it around so we will try and do that."

That attacking mentality has seen Saints score freely since the start of the season, but things have not been so straightforward at the back.

Nigel Adkins' side shipped 28 goals in their opening 10 matches but th e backline has improved vastly recently, conceding only four in the past five games.

"We've been working hard as a team to stop that," Fonte said. "The fact we haven't changed the players a lot helps because we start to gel more and understand each other more.

"We are very pleased that we have been stopping the goals. As a team, we've been doing well and we want to keep it that way."

It has been a steep, and often harsh, learning experience for centre-back Fonte, who pinpoints his experience with Saints in League One as helping him make the step up.

"There was many games that stand out," he said. "Dagenham and Redbridge away in January is very hard.

"We went there with the right game plan and won. Wycombe away was hard, too. They are tough grounds to go.

"It makes you grow as a person and as a player. It is a different experience.

"It's nothing like the Premier League, that's for sure. It made me a better player. We also know that we don't want to be in League One.

"If we want to keep playing in the Premier League and in the best stadiums against the best players in the world, we need to work very hard. We don't want to go back."

Kamis, 06 Desember 2012

Nigel Adkins confirms Gaston Ramirez will be involved for Southampton against Reading

Gaston Ramirez: Should feature for Southampton against Reading this weekend

The 22-year-old returned to Uruguay this week after the passing away of a family member.

But the Saints boss has allayed fears the 22-year-old could miss the match with the Royals as he will arrive back in England on Friday morning.

"Gaston went back to Uruguay last Sunday for compassionate reasons," said Adkins.

"He is back on the training ground tomorrow morning so we will have a good chat with him then.

"He has done a bit of training over in Uruguay so that is beneficial and I am sure he will be desperately wanting to play at the weekend.

"We'll have a good chat with him in the morning about how he is feeling but, knowing Gaston, he'll want to play."

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Selasa, 04 Desember 2012

Adkins happy to take positives

Nigel Adkins: Pleased with progress

Adkins saw his side's four-match unbeaten run come to an end at Anfield but remained positive after claiming Saints have made notable strides since their early-season hammering at the Emirates Stadium.

"The big thing is that at the start of the campaign when we were coming away from home we ended up getting beat by five or six up at Arsenal," he said.

"The lads are growing all the time in confidence, we're on a good run at this moment in time.

"It was a case of making sure we gave ourselves an opportunity to get something from the game and we had that all the way up to the final whistle with the scoreline.

"There's positives that we will take from it, believe you me."

Senin, 03 Desember 2012

Ivory Coast winger Abdul Kader Keita is keen on a move to the Premier League

Abdul Kader Keita: Hoping to join a Premier League club

Keita recently departed Qatari club Al Saad and is on the lookout for a new side, with Sunderland, Southampton, QPR and West Brom all linked with the 31-year-old.

A number of top French clubs are also thought to be keen on the Ivorian but the forward, who has already played in Ligue 1 with Lille and Lyon, would rather join the English top-flight.

He is keen to pit himself against some of the Premier League's top left-backs, including Ashley Cole and Patrice Evra.

Keita said: "I would love to test myself against the best left backs of this world, who are all in the Premier League; Cole, Evra, (Gael) Clichy, (Leighton) Baines.

"Hopefully that dream will come true for me in a couple of weeks' time.

"My agent is working on it in England."

Reds away, Saints host holders

FA Cup: Draw for third round made on Sunday

The draw for the third round of the competition was made at Wembley on Sunday by Fabrice Muamba and Ledley King.

Two non-league sides must fight it out for the right to host Liverpool.

Lincoln and Mansfield drew 3-3 at Sincil Bank on Saturday and the replay will carry the bounty of a lucrative home meeting with Brendan Rodgers' men.

Rafael Benitez's Chelsea will begin their defence of the trophy with a tough-looking all-Premier League tie at St Mary's.

The two sides have yet to meet in the league this season and last met in the FA Cup in 1977 when Saints knocked out the Blues in a third-round replay.

Perhaps the most attractive third-round tie, though, sends Manchester United to West Ham.

Sir Alex Ferguson's 11-time winners beat the Hammers 1-0 in the league last week, but the two have enjoyed some memorable cup battles over the years, including when Paolo Di Canio scored the only goal of a surprise 1-0 West Ham win in 2001.< /p>

Premier League champions Manchester City host Gianfranco Zola's Watford, while Arsenal, whose last trophy was the 2005 FA Cup, must head to Swansea, the side who sent them off their own field to a chorus of boos with a 2-0 win on Saturday.

There is a tie for the nostalgics at White Hart Lane where Tottenham have been paired with Coventry, evoking memories of City's famous 3-2 final win over Spurs in 1987.

Everton face would-be giant-killers in the form of Cheltenham or Hereford, who play on Monday.

Elsewhere for the Premier League sides, 2011 finalists Stoke head to Championship leaders Crystal Palace, Newcastle travel to Brighton who beat them last season, and Fulham are at home to Blackpool.

Seven-time winners Aston Villa welcome Ipswich to the midlands, Bournemouth travel to Wigan and Reading go to Crawley, whose director of football is former Royals boss Steve Coppell.

Bottom-of-the-table QPR lock horns with West Brom, Norwich go to Championship strugglers Peterborough and 1973 winners Sunderland are at Bolton.

Hastings United, the lowest-ranked team left, have the lure of a trip to Middlesbrough if they beat Harrogate Town in a replay, while Barrow or Macclesfield will be at home to Cardiff.

The other games put Charlton up against Huddersfield, Barnsley against Burnley, Leicester against Burton and Millwall against Preston.

League One leaders Tranmere go to Derby, Aldershot face Rotherham or Notts County, Sheffield United head to Accrington or Oxford and Nottingham Forest play Oldham.

Hull boss Steve Bruce, a winner with Manchester United, will host Leyton Orient, Blackburn meet Bristol City, Leeds and Birmingham lock horns, Bury or Southend meet Bradford or Brentford, Wolves go to Luton and finally, MK Dons go to Sheffield Wednesday after beating AFC Wimbledon 2-1.

FA Cup third-round draw in full:

Crystal Palace v Stoke, Brighton v Newcastle, Tottenham v C oventry, Wigan v Bournemouth, Fulham v Blackpool, Aston Villa v Ipswich, Charlton v Huddersfield, Barrow or Macclesfield v Cardiff, Barnsley v Burnley, Manchester City v Watford, Swansea v Arsenal, Leicester v Burton Albion, Millwall v Preston, Cheltenham Town or Hereford United v Everton, Derby v Tranmere, Crawley v Reading, Aldershot v Rotherham or Notts County, Middlesbrough v Harrogate Town or Hastings United, Accrington or Oxford United v Sheffield United, Southampton v Chelsea, QPR v West Brom, Peterborough v Norwich, Lincoln City or Mansfield v Liverpool, Bolton v Sunderland, Nottingham Forest v Oldham, West Ham v Manchester United, Hull City v Leyton Orient, Blackburn v Bristol City, Leeds United v Birmingham, Bury or Southend v Bradford or Brentford, Luton v Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday v MK Dons.

Ties to be played over the weekend of 5 and 6 January, 2013.

Minggu, 02 Desember 2012

Nigel Adkins insists Southampton have belief after defeat by Liverpool

The former Championship club on Saturday suffered a 1-0 defeat at Anfield, where Daniel Agger's header late in the first half proved to be the difference.

But Adkins was pleased with his team, who surrendered a four-game unbeaten run in the Premier League which had followed a previous record of eight defeats in 10 matches.

The Southampton boss thought there were positive signs in his relegation-threatened players refusing to sit back despite being dominated by Liverpool for long periods.

"That is probably as good movement as we have played against this season," said boyhood Liverpool fan Adkins.

"So from our point of view, we have come a long way, because we want to get points but we have managed to stay in the game."

He added: "The players are improving all the time. There is a lot of belief about ourselves and we look forward to the next games."

Agger's header came in the 43rd minute and Adkins was disappointed with the timing of the goal.

"We pressed them towards the end of the game, which was good," he said. "There were a few 'oohs' and 'aahs' in that respect.

"A goal just on half-time, from our point of view, obviously, we would have liked to have gone in at half-time at 0-0."

Sabtu, 01 Desember 2012

QPR join big guns on agents' fees list

QPR and Chelsea: Among the big spenders on agents' fees

City were the biggest spenders on 10,537,982 - up from 9,663,700 - with Liverpool second having shelled out 8,600,444 - an increase from 7,000,242.99.

But it was Rangers, who brought in a number of high-profile signings over the summer including Julio Cesar, Park Ji sung, Jose Bosingwa and Esteban Granero, whose payments stood out, with their figure having almost trebled from 2,499,214 in 2010/11.

Tottenham (6,595,905) were fourth on the list, followed by Champions League winners Chelsea (6,490,382), Arsenal (5,580,873) and West Ham (4,436,992), while Manchester United's figure dropped to 3,681,580 from 4,457,103.

Promoted Southampton had the lowest figure (646,106), with Swansea - last year's lowest spenders - second-bottom of the list despite their payments having risen from 248,633 to 1,100,845.

The overall amount spent by the 20 top-flight clubs was 77,003,130 (806 transactions), compared to 71,868,749.94 (765 transactions) for the pre vious 12 months.

Payments made by each Premier League club to agents in the period October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012 (amounts shown include payments made by clubs on behalf of players):

Arsenal 5,580,873

Aston Villa 2,730,539

Chelsea 6,490,382

Everton 3,092,891

Fulham 2,581,208

Liverpool 8,600,444

Manchester City 10,537,982

Manchester United 3,681,580

Newcastle 3,485,503

Norwich 1,248,725

QPR 6,818,688

Reading 2,167,833

Southampton 646,106

Stoke 1,717,266

Sunderland 2,173,762

Swansea 1,100,845

Tottenham 6,595,905

West Brom 1,341,301

West Ham 4,436,992

Wigan 1,974,305

Total: 77,003,130

Payments made by each Premier League club to agents in the period October 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011:

Arsenal 4,648,532.17

Aston Villa 3,163,320

Blackburn 4,227,056.93

Bolton 1,941,896.08

Chelse a 6,457,747.37

Everton 2,931,127.10

Fulham 951,245.50

Liverpool 7,000,242.99

Manchester City 9,663,700

Manchester United 4,457,103

Newcastle 6,380,488

Norwich 710,251.75

QPR 2,499,214

Stoke 2,207,698.11

Sunderland 3,735,384.29

Swansea 248,633

Tottenham 7,571,815.27

West Brom 1,305,576.38

Wigan 659,800

Wolves 1,107,918

Total: 71,868,749.94

Jumat, 30 November 2012

Gaston Ramirez would move back to Italy, but insists he is happy at Southampton

Gaston Ramirez: Would consider move back to Italy one day

After struggling with injuries since arriving from Bologna in the summer, Ramirez - who is Southampton's record signing - has impressed massively in recent weeks.

Speaking to Tuttomercatoweb, he admits he would contemplate a move back to Serie A but he insists that he is very happy in the Premier League.

"In Bologna I was fine, but now I think about Southampton," he said.

"Coming back to Italy? In England I discovered a fantastic football. But in life never say never, in Italy, as well as in England, there are many important teams."

Reports in Italy have linked him with Fiorentina and he admits he has been impressed by them under coach Vincenzo Montella.

"Me to Fiorentina? It would be nice, they are playing very well and I like coach (Vincenzo) Montella. In every game the team are having fun, they have great quality. Why not? I'd come back in Italy, I like it and I was fine there."

Paulo Gazzaniga set for Southampton start against Liverpool as Lucas returns

Lucas: Liverpool midfielder set to return

The Brazil international has finally recovered from a thigh injury, while Joe Cole has overcome a hamstring problem which forced him out of the midweek defeat at Tottenham.

Defender Andre Wisdom, on the bench at White Hart Lane after a knee injury, could come back into contention for a starting place.

Under-fire goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga looks set to start for Southampton again when they travel to Merseyside on Saturday.

The 20-year-old Argentinian has come under increasing scrutiny following a number of recent high-profile mistakes, including the one that saw Norwich grab an equaliser in midweek.

Danny Fox could return from a knee complaint, while Frazer Richardson and Richard Chaplow are closing in on a return.

Kamis, 29 November 2012

Southampton boss Nigel Adkins excited about trip to Liverpool

Nigel Adkins: Southampton manager looking forward to facing Liverpool at Anfield

The Southampton boss was born in Birkenhead and was also on the books of Liverpool as a young goalkeeper before he joined Tranmere Rovers.

He now returns to his old stomping ground as a Premier League manager and is both proud and excited by the prospect of leading Southampton out at Anfield on Saturday.

"It will be good to go there," he said. "I was a schoolboy at Liverpool. I had the option to stay there before I decided to go to Tranmere Rovers, which was important from my career point of view.

"We are obviously steeped in tradition on Merseyside: you're either red, blue or the white of Tranmere.

"You are either a Liverpool supporter or an Everton supporter, but you're always going to be a Tranmere supporter if you're from Birkenhead.

"Going to Merseyside is going to be great for everybody and great for all our supporters to go to Liverpool, a club steeped in tradition.

"Obviously they're going through a transition at this moment in time, but it is a game that we'll look forward to as we do every single game in the Barclays Premier League."

The Saints boss, who played at Anfield three times as a player, tried to downplay the personal importance of his managerial debut at the famous old ground, although admitted he has fond memories of his time there.

"This shouldn't be about me and Liverpool," he said. "It should be about Southampton, shouldn't it?"

Rabu, 28 November 2012

Luke Shaw is not thinking of leaving Southampton like youth stars before him

Luke Shaw: Being linked with a high-profile move away from Southampton

Like the Spurs ace, 17-year-old left-back Shaw came through the Saints' esteemed youth academy and the youngster is already attracting reported interest from the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Bale, who also started out as a left-back before moving to the wing at Tottenham, made the move to White Hart Lane as a teenager in 2007, while fellow ex-Saints youngsters Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made similarly high-profile transfers to Arsenal.

But despite being linked with a move to a top Premier League club, Shaw says he has no intention of leaving Southampton.

He told the Daily Star: "Seeing my name linked with those big clubs was crazy. I tried not to pay attention to it because I don't want it to get into my head.

"When the stories came out I was happy at Southampton and I am still happy. It is great club and I want to be here.

"We give youngsters chances and other clubs don't ha ve what we have here at Southampton.

"I have been here since I was seven and I have loved every bit of it.

"There have been a few players to come through our academy and go on to success and that is what we aspire to be like."

Selasa, 27 November 2012

Norwich keeper John Ruddy doubtful for game against Southampton

Rickie Lambert: Should be fit for Southampton

Saints' top scorer picked up the leg injury in Sunday's 2-0 defeat of Newcastle but trained on Tuesday and should be involved against the Canaries.

However, the game could come too soon for Danny Fox after missing Sunday with a knee complaint, while Frazer Richardson and Richard Chaplow are also expect to remain sidelined.

Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy is doubtful for the trip to St Mary's due to a thigh injury.

Ruddy was replaced towards the end of Saturday's 1-1 draw at Everton by Mark Bunn, who will deputise if the England keeper fails to recover in time.

Centre-half Michael Turner will again miss out due to a shoulder injury and he is also unlikely to be fit to face his former club Sunderland at the weekend.

On-loan striker Harry Kane is still sidelined with a foot injury, but defender Russell Martin is available again following his back problem.

Nigel Adkins praises Southampton's progress following win against Newcastle

Goals from Adam Lallana and Gaston Ramirez either side of half time handed Adkin's men back-to-back wins - following their 3-1 success at QPR last weekend - and saw them move out the relegation zone.

"It was probably a better performance than last week," said Adkins.

"There was a good momentum about us and we carried that on today. It was a good performance.

"We scored two, but could have scored some more. The crowd were great, the players were great and we got a clean sheet.

"We've been progressing all the way through. Last week I spoke about a growing maturity about the group of players and I think we're progressing well.

"Our confidence has been good since the start of pre-season, but you've got to get yourself ready as quickly as possible to reach the level the Premier League is at.

"The players are doing that and doing that very well at this moment in time. We know we're in the hardest, toughest and most desirable league to be in.

"We worked very hard to get here and we'll continue to keep working hard. We have a forward momentum about ourselves."

Senin, 26 November 2012

Lallana: Saints adapting to Prem

Adam Lallana: Starting to adapt to the Premier League

Saints ended a seven-year top-flight exile thanks to back-to-back promotions under the stewardship of manager Nigel Adkins.

That reign looked in jeopardy heading into last weekend's trip to QPR after a miserable start in which they collected just five points from their opening 11 matches.

However, skipper Lallana believes Saints have turned the corner after winning 3-1 at Loftus Road and then defeating Newcastle 2-0 yesterday.

"We had a tough start and we feel we should have probably been a little higher up the league," he said.

"We've led in a lot of games this year but just not seen it out. We are adjusting to the standard and it is showing by the results we're getting.

"We will just keep working hard and learning still. It is the first season for a lot of us in the top flight but we'll come to terms with it."

Lallana scored the opener in Sunday's defeat of Newcastle and was involved in the second, playing though Jason Punc heon to cross for Gaston Ramirez.

The latter became Southampton's record signing when he joined from Serie A outfit Bologna for upwards of 12million.

Lallana believes Ramirez is already starting to pay back his lofty price tag and predicts there is even more to come from the new boy.

"We started a little bit sloppily in the first 10 minutes but when we got into the game and found our feet we were creating chances," he said. "It could have been four or five goals.

"My goal came as Clyney (Nathaniel Clyne) had a shot from distance but then the composure Ramirez showed to set me up was brilliant.

"He is a top-class player and the more he finds his feet he will take this league by storm.

"It is a pleasure to play with him and he brings out the best in the other lads, like Rickie Lambert, Jason Puncheon and myself.

"We're learning off him. He has great ability, that continental flair."

The Southampton frontline has been work ing to great effect all season and their shaky defence is at last showing signs of life.

Having conceded 28 goals in their opening 10 matches, the backline has only been breached twice in the last three matches - a sturdiness epitomised by their first clean sheet yesterday.

"It was a good win all round and if you keep clean sheets you'll pick up points and win games," Lallana added.

"We haven't done that bar that (game) and it is the start of a big week for us.

"We've got Norwich on Wednesday night here [and then Liverpool away] so to back it up with another three points and that will take us further away from the drop."

While Saints will be looking to make it three wins on the bounce in midweek, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is hoping for a response at Stoke.

"It was tough for us," he said.

"I thought the intensity of Southampton was hard for us to cope with.

"There is no doubt we're lacking a bit of confidence and tha t showed in the first half.

"We came out in the second half with renewed spirit and should have really equalised, although perhaps not deservedly.

"But we're struggling and really up against it in terms of numbers and it is difficult.

"I think confidence is low due to results. We've conceded first on a number of occasions and that's costly for us in the Premier League.

"At this level that is a huge factor and Southampton deserved to win. Really we haven't got anything to argue about."

Minggu, 25 November 2012

TT's Premier Picks: Pardew under pressure

Tottenham: Celebrate Defoe goal

Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 0

One week they score five, the next they look like it would take them a month to accumulate that tally. Arsenal were back to their Jekyll and Hyde best at Villa Park on Saturday.

Arsene Wenger's men appear clueless when faced with the task of breaking down a stubborn side that is prepared to get men behind the ball and chase a point with their lives, rather than come at them and go all out for a win.

In fairness to Villa, they could have taken all three points against the Gunners, but Brett Holman saw a stinging late drive touched onto the crossbar by Wojciech Szczesny.

Villa probably did not deserve to win, but defeat for Arsenal may have offered them another kick up the backside - with past lessons failing to be heeded.

Olivier Giroud sits too deep to be a lone frontman, with it important for him to have pace and trickery in and around him if he is to pose problems.

Arsenal did have plenty of f lair on the field at Villa Park, but the likes of Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta endured afternoons to forget.

Wenger insists that he is not reading too much into increasingly common under-par performances from his side, but there is only so many dour goalless draws you can sit through before fingers start to be pointed - be that from the stands, which was the case on Saturday, or in the boardroom.

Chris Burton

Chelsea 0 Man City 0

New interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez was the subject of protests from fans at Stamford Bridge, where there was a negative atmosphere. The Spaniard must surely see this as unproductive and it remains to be seen whether he will be able to win over the club's followers.

Former Liverpool boss Benitez's appointment may be unpopular but he has already improved Chelsea's defending. The shielding work of Ramires and John Obi Mikel helped keep David Silva quiet as the European champions recorded a first clean sheet in 11 games.

Fernando Torres showed no signs of making an immediate improvement following the arrival of his former Liverpool boss, Benitez. The 50million striker's body language was again questionable and he hardly got a touch up against Vincent Kompany. It would be interesting to hear what Benitez thinks is wrong with Torres.

Pete Fraser

Everton 1 Norwich 1

No Plan B - that is the real feature that emerged from Everton's failure to beat Norwich. They started well, indeed almost dominated the opening 45-minutes at Goodison Park.

Their midfield was busy as they created a number of chances - but things were turned on their head in the second 45 as Norwich got to grips with the home side.

Steven Naismith and Stephen Pienaar buzzed around Nikica Jelavic - but he was soundly marked out of the game by Sebastien Bassong and Ryan Bennett, and with no outlet Everton were found wanting - if Europe is their aim, a big improvement and revised tactic book will be needed.

Norwich can take a huge amount of positives from the game, although they must be wary that most sides would have put them to the sword after their disappointing opening half.

Graeme Bailey

Man United 3 QPR 1

QPR stand-in manager Mark Bowen made five changes to the side who lost to Southampton in Mark Hughes' final game in charge and it made a clear difference.

There was a more committed spirit and defensive organisation in the first half. Will Harry Redknapp stick with these changes?

Darren Fletcher's header to make it 2-1 to United was a special moment for the Scot, who scored his first goal in more than a year after his career threatening chronic bowel problem. He also looked at home in midfield and could now be a regular starter.

QPR conceded three goals in eight minutes and set-pieces remain their Achilles Heel but it is also worth noting their collapse ca me shortly after Armand Traore had to leave the field. He was sorely missed.

Pete Fraser

Southampton 2 Newcastle 0

Eyebrows were raised when Newcastle handed Alan Pardew an eight-year contract on the back of one successful season in the Premier League, and Mike Ashley may soon be looking for a loophole in that agreement.

The Magpies suffered a third straight defeat on Sunday, with Southampton proving to be far too strong in a one-sided encounter at St Mary's.

Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse look a shadow of the deadly strike force which struck fear into the heart of Premier League defences last season, while injuries to key men have left Pardew light on graft and guile.

Injuries can be offered as an excuse, with Newcastle's success last season built on their ability to name a settled side and offer rests at suitable junctures.

That is not the case this term and Pardew desperately needs to rediscover the winning formula if he is to avoid mounting pressure falling on his shoulders, with 14th place in the division not good enough for the Toon Army.

Southampton, meanwhile, are finally starting to turn performances into results and could be about to make an impressive surge up the top-flight standings.

It would be foolish to read too much into back-to-back victories over rock bottom Queens Park Rangers and out-of-sorts Newcastle, but the displays of Gaston Ramirez, Jason Puncheon and Adam Lallana suggest the Saints have found their feet and will be a force to be reckoned with over the busy festive period.

Chris Burton

Stoke 1 Fulham 0

After just one win and six draws from their opening ten league games, Tony Pulis' men have now stepped up a gear, claiming seven points from their last three matches.

Charlie Adam was again the hero, notching the decisive strike on 26 minutes - his second goal in three games for the Potters after his winner against QPR in the last home match.

The Scotland international proved a real livewire throughout and Pulis will be delighted he has also now found his scoring boots for his new side after his summer switch from Liverpool.

At the other end, skipper Ryan Shawcross put in a strong defensive display and showed the form which recently earned him his first cap for England.

Dimitar Berbatov was again the Cottagers' main man, and could have earned his side a point with a late strike only for Asmir Begovic to produce a good stop.

But the Cottagers were not allowed time to produce too many of their slick passing moves and gave the ball away too easily at the Britannia.

Fulham now have two London derbies coming up against Chelsea and Tottenham in the coming week and Jol will be demanding an increased effort to halt his side's slide down the league.

Steve Pass

Sunderland 2 West Brom 4

The West Brom bandwagon marches on and after an impressive 4-2 victory at Sunderland on Saturday the time has surely come for the critics to stop labelling their magnificent start to the season as little more than a "fluke".

The Baggies, under fledgling manager Steve Clarke, have now won eight and drawn two of their 13 league games to sit third in the table.

The Premier League this season is little better than average so there is every chance than an unfancied team could force their way into the top four as teams such as Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal struggle.

Their football is free-flowing at times, but they can also dig in when necessary - and it will be in the coming months.

Defensively they look solid, there is creativity in midfield and in Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie there are certainly goals.

It certainly has all the ingredients of success, so fluke? I don't think so.

Simon Crawford

Swansea 0 Liverpool 0

An intriguing contest be tween two sides who preach the same philosophy failed to deliver on its promise, as Swansea and Liverpool played out a goalless stalemate on Brendan Rodgers' return to the Liberty Stadium.

Rodgers will have been pleased to see his Reds side just about win the possession battle, but with the chances not quite falling for Luis Suarez on this occasion there was a lack of cutting edge.

Liverpool's performance drove home another reminder, if one were needed, that Suarez needs some support in attack, while the decision to play Jose Enrique in front of Stewart Downing did not work as neither player excelled.

Swansea carved out opportunities of their own and the way Pablo Hernandez and Michu played again demonstrated just how shrewd Michael Laudrup was in the transfer market with his raid on the Spanish market.

Hernandez, in particular, appears to be developing into a Premier League star, while Swansea appear increasingly difficult to beat and will be thi nking they can push on to cement a place in the top half.

Lewis Rutledge

Tottenham 3 West Ham

Jermain Defoe stole the show at White Hart Lane as Tottenham ran out comfortable winners against a distinctly average West Ham. The lone striker netted a brace to take his tally for the league season up to seven and his first was a real treat for the home fans, scoring from distance after an incredible run from the right side of midfield.

Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey were also extremely impressive as Tottenham showcased a free-flowing attacking performance. They linked up nicely for the second goal, and both hit the crossbar during the course of the ninety minutes.

It could have been different however if Lloris hadn't continued the form he showed against Lazio in midweek. West Ham breached the home side's defence more than they should have done and a team with more cutting edge in front of goal would have definitely scored more than just the one.

As for West Ham, Andy Carroll will receive a confidence boost after scoring with a good header late on. He won everything in the air and deserved his goal. However, the rest of the team offered little and Big Sam will be hoping for less of these type of performances if The Hammers are to build on their exceptionally strong start to the season.

Oliver Bell

Wigan 3 Reading 2

This could be a massive win for Wigan come the end of the season thanks to Jordi Gomez's injury-time goal.

Wigan came into the game on the back of two straight defeats, but they showed great resolve to come from behind at half-time to win 3-2.

The game was clear evidence of why both sides are struggling at the wrong end of the table as they showed they are too easy to score against.

It is great that Roberto Martinez and Brian McDermott are sticking to their principles to play open attacking football, but it leaves their respective sides too open to the opposition.

Scoring twice away from home Reading will feel they should have taken at least a point from the game, but Gomez's late goal ensured they were unable to build on their maiden win of the campaign against Everton last time out.

Roberto Martinez has masterminded two great escapes from relegation in the last two seasons, but on this evidence it looks like both these sides will be fighting to save themselves from the drop come May.

Pete O'Rourke