Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman has revealed he has only one candidate in mind to succeed Malky Mackay, but was mischievously coy when it came to the subject of favourite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “I have a preferred candidate. I only have one candidate in mind,” he said. “I have not made an offer to anybody as such, but that does not mean I have not had discussions.” When asked if he had spoken to Solskjaer, he said: “I spoke to him many a time in the old days (when the Norwegian was at Manchester United). “I might have spoken to him recently, and I might not have.” He added: “You know what these things are like, they take time. We will do our work as diligently and as quickly as we can but I am reasonably optimistic that we will get things moving.” One man Dalman ruled out of contention is Turkish journeyman Yilmaz Vural. Vural’s agent has consistently touted him for the Cardiff job, but Dalman said: “I am not getting a Turkish manager, I can categorically state. There is a manager who keeps putting himself forward. It is not going to happen.” Dalman confirmed Mackay’s lieutenants David Kerslake and Joe McBride will remain in temporary charge of the team against Arsenal on New Year’s Day. Press Association Kerslake made it clear he has no aspirations to take the full-time job. He said: “I have been in the position for six hours and had three phone calls from the director, one from the chief executive, one from the chairman and one from the owner. That’s probably put me off for life! “They were all well wishes as well, by the way, but I have been a coach for 10 years. I love what I do. I love being on the grass with the players.” Cardiff should have taken all three points against the Black Cats after dominating the first hour and leading 2-0 through Jordon Mutch and Fraizer Campbell goals, only for the visitors to hit back through Steven Fletcher and Jack Colback late on. Owner Vincent Tan was pictured booing after the final whistle, however it was unclear if Cardiff’s players were his target. Kerslake praised how the team responded, having learned of Mackay’s sacking on television. Kerslake said: “The players are devastated in the dressing room. We got ourselves in a fabulous position and we should have seen the game out. “It is disappointing for us because we were 2-0 up. With eight minutes to go, we conceded a poor goal so there is work to be done.” Kerslake added: “The players found out (about Mackay) via the TV. I guess they are only human and they have probably been on the phone talking about it. “The way we came out the traps today they certainly put it behind them. “The manager has asked for that start for the last two-and-a-half years and to come out all guns blazing. For 35-40 minutes, we blew Sunderland away.” The sacking of Mackay has been widely condemned and ensured the spotlight was firmly on the home side, but there were no signs of any genuine venom being directed towards owner Tan, although there were several pro-Mackay chants and banners in evidence throughout the game. The former Manchester United striker and current Molde manager is the bookmakers’ favourite to take charge of the Bluebirds after Mackay’s dismissal on Friday. Dalman made an unexpected appearance in the post-match press conference room after the 2-2 draw with Sunderland, and said discussions have already taken place with his preferred candidate, but would not confirm whether it was Solskjaer.
Press Association “In football you never know but the normal thing is to continue improving.” City, with the experience of their 2012 title win behind them, their talented squad and financial muscle, head into 2014 as the league favourites. The club have bold ambitions to build on that and not only win more silverware, but establish themselves as England’s dominant footballing force. Pellegrini hopes to be the man to oversee that progression, but knows in such a tight competition that will not be straightforward. He said: “I think we must try at least. It is very difficult to be the dominant club here in England. “Chelsea is a very strong team, Manchester United is, Arsenal is, Tottenham, Liverpool – it is very important to be fighting to be the best team.” Pellegrini is also hoping striker Stevan Jovetic’s luck will finally turn in the second half of the season. The Montenegro striker was signed for £22million from Fiorentina in the summer but has made just five appearances due to various disorders. Jovetic had niggling injuries soon after his arrival and then had a long lay-off with a calf problem. His potential return in December was scuppered by illness and he is now out again with a hamstring injury. Pellegrini said: “I hope this will be the last time he is out and he can start playing normally. He is a very important player and we need him. “I suppose he has had very bad luck in his first part of the year. I hope that the second half will be very good for him.” Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is happy with his first six months in the job – but knows things must still improve. Yet the Chilean was also set the challenging task of winning five trophies in the next five seasons when he was appointed in the summer, and he knows further improvement is expected. Pellegrini, lured from Malaga after the sacking of Roberto Mancini, said: “It is unbelievable how fast the time goes. “Six months here is a lot of time, but it was very short for me. “Playing every few days the time runs, but after six months I am very happy and very settled here in England. “It is a good club. Working with the team, I always think the first months are the most difficult for a manager, or the players starting a new job. “To be in the position that we are now already, I think it is a very good start for the season. “But the important thing is to continue learning, always, not just this year but every year and not always in the Premier League, everything. “It is very important to be improving, always. City head into the second half of the 2013-14 season well placed, a point off the top of the Barclays Premier League and still involved in the Champions League and Capital One Cup. Pellegrini also appears to have fulfilled the stated requirement of the club’s hierarchy to improve the team’s style of football, with 82 goals scored across all competitions.
Tomas Oral and Werner Leuthard have arrived as first-team coach and conditioning coach, respectively, ahead of Magath’s first game at fellow strugglers West Brom this weekend. It is a match, Holtby says, they approach with renewed confidence brought by the man that managed him at Schalke. “I know him well,” the on-loan Tottenham midfielder told the club’s official website, www.fulhamfc.com. “He’s won titles in Germany and done some great stuff in the Bundesliga. He’s a very hard-working guy who wants 100 per cent from his sides. “We’re going to get the full German experience from him and I definitely think he’ll help us achieve our goal of staying up in the Barclays Premier League. “Training’s been good, although it’s definitely been a new experience for the English players. “Myself, Sascha Riether and Ashkan Dejagah [who also played under Magath] know all about him but in training he works you really hard and you always have to be on top of your game.” As good a manager as Magath may be, the bookmakers still make Fulham overriding favourites for relegation. Four points adrift of safety and bottom of the pile with 12 matches remaining, Holtby knows is it is crucial to bring three points back from the Hawthorns on Saturday. Press Association “It’s a massive game,” he said. “In Germany we call it a six-point game and I think you have a similar saying over here. We need to win this fixture. “We were unlucky against Liverpool where we should have taken something from the game, but now it’s not about complaints, it’s about getting points and winning these types of games. “I played against West Brom for Tottenham Hotspur in December and it’s going to be very hard. They’re very organised and very energetic.” Lewis Holtby is confident that Felix Magath’s arrival as first-team manager will see Fulham stave off relegation. It has been a hectic few days on the banks of the Thames, with head coach Rene Meulensteen’s 75-day spell at the helm brought to an abrupt end on Friday. The Dutchman’s exit from the club was confirmed on Tuesday evening, with Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins amongst those following him out of Craven Cottage.
Faugheen took the drop back in distance in his stride as he made all the running and demolished the opposition in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle. Faugheen was left to come home unchallenged by 12 lengths from his stablemate Valseur Lido, with the Mick Channon-trained Sgt Reckless third. Paddy Power promoted the winner to 5-1 co-favourite for next year’s Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Mullins said: “Vautour (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner) failed a late fitness test, he wasn’t right at the time of declaration so we put Faugheen in instead. On that ground I thought he was very, very good. “We’re not making any decisions on him, but you would have to consider staying over hurdles next season. “This trip is good enough as he is a keen horse who likes to get on with the job.” Walsh said: “The lad who rides him every day said he’d blow you away and he did. “I was fairly adamant the run in Cheltenham would improve him a hell of a lot, jumping-wise. “He’d won soft races and never been tested and today he jumped like a buck down the back. When I opened him up turning in, away he went. “It was a fair gamble dropping him back to two. It will have Willie scratching his head now. “Willie had been keen on him going jumping, we’re having a debate with what we are going to do with three or four of them, but you’d like to think he’d be in the mix.” Walsh added: “Those were good novices behind and he’s beat them by 12 lengths and it could’ve been 25. He’s a really good horse. “When I changed my hands off the home turn he started to lengthen and he was picking up to a fair rate of knots coming to the last. “He and Vautour are two different types, but the good thing is Willie Mullins trains the two of them, Rich Ricci owns the two of them, so I won’t have to worry about who to pick because they won’t run against each other!” Tackling two miles for the first time over timber, the unbeaten Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old jumped much better than he did when winning the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Ruby Walsh never had an anxious moment as the 1-2 shot asserted on the home turn and sealed victory by completing an almost foot-perfect round with a good jump at the last. Press Association
Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen is close to a £15million move to Barcelona, Press Association Sport understands. Club captain Vermaelen, who joined from Ajax in 2009, made 21 appearances for the Gunners last season. Niggling injuries and the form of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker limited his impact. However, despite being an unused substitute at Wembley, he did lift the FA Cup in May as Arsenal ended their nine-year trophy drought. The 28-year-old has made 150 appearances in all competitions, scoring 15 goals for the Gunners. Speaking on Thursday ahead of Sunday’s Community Shield with Manchester City, Wenger revealed interest from United and others. Wenger said: “Have we received bids? Yes. I can’t tell you who from but you will know very soon. “Are Man United one of the teams to have made an offer? I think they could be in the group. “Ideally, yes, we would like to sell him abroad and that is an option for us. “I don’t want to say how many offers we have but we have offers from abroad as well.” United are understood to still be interested, although a swap deal would not interest them, with rumours Arsenal enquired about defender Chris Smalling and striker Javier Hernandez. Now it seems the Nou Camp, and not Old Trafford, is Vermaelen’s likely destination. Wenger believes it is important for Vermaelen to play. “He could leave, it could happen, I’ve said that since the start of pre-season,” the Frenchman added. “He needs to play now. He has shown an outstanding attitude but he is in a position where we wouldn’t stand in his way if he finds an interesting opportunity.” The Belgium defender could complete a move to the Nou Camp over the weekend. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Thursday suggested the club’s preference was to sell the defender abroad, rather than to a domestic rival, with Manchester United rumoured to also be interested. Press Association
Press Association Dann’s positional misjudgement gifted Belgium strker Benteke the chance to fire the winner in Villa’s 1-0 Premier League victory at Palace on Tuesday night. The in-form defender has been touted for an England call, with boss Neil Warnock hailing him Palace’s “outstanding player” this term. Scott Dann has admitted he will never win an England call-up if he keeps giving away soft goals like Christian Benteke’s strike that consigned Crystal Palace to Aston Villa defeat. Benteke’s first goal after nine months battling knee surgery ended Villa’s nine-game winless streak, but dragged Palace back into the relegation mire. “It’s nice for people to talk about you in that way,” said Dann of calls for him to earn England recognition. “But as a professional you just get on with your job: I have just got to concentrate on my club form and make sure I don’t many any more mistakes like that. “The more consistent I can be for Palace, the more chance I have got. It is just a case of trying to keep improving and to keep doing the best I can.” Former Blackburn defender Dann raced out of his central position in Tuesday’s Villa clash to chase a lumped ball to the wing, but dallied when he should have booted out of play. Benteke raced in, picked his pocket, headed infield and side-footed past the helpless Julian Speroni, with Brede Hangeland backing off and handing him too much time and space to complete his finish. Palace boss Warnock admitted his defender should have “kicked it over the stand and not been ashamed”, and Dann has accepted responsibility for the goal. That solitary strike proved the winner on a low-quality night, with Palace wasting half-chance after half-chance in a frustrating night for manager Warnock. The otherwise-composed Dann offered a candid assessment of his costly error, pledging to sharpen back up. “Obviously I am disappointed to give the ball away there, it is uncharacteristic for me,” he said. “Ninety-nine times out of 100 I would clear that down the line so that, even if you do lose the ball, they will not go on to score. “But things like that happen in football and you have to learn from your mistakes, get on with it and take the rough with the smooth.” Palace have now slipped to five defeats in eight games and Dann admitted Warnock’s men face a tough challenge to hit back to form in Saturday’s league clash at Tottenham. “It is always a tough game at White Hart Lane,” said Dann. “They are a big club and have got a lot of top players. “They have just started picking up results but we need to sharpen up in the final third. “It is hard to take because we had a lot of the ball and had a lot of chances. “We probably should have put some of them away. We played well and dominated the game and they did not have many chances at all. “Even when we went a goal down I thought we looked in control and looked like we could have scored. “We got the ball into crossing positions but just could not get it right.”
Press Association Marney played 22 times for Burnley this year before his season was cut short by a serious knee injury he suffered against West Brom in February. The 31-year-old’s contract was due to expire next month, but Burnley revealed on Friday the midfielder had agreed a new deal that will run until the end of next season. The Lancashire club, who were relegated to the Sky Bet Championship last week, have an option to extend that deal by a further 12 months. Marney, who joined Burnley from Hull in 2010, is making “good progress” in his return from injury, Sean Dyche said on Thursday. The Burnley boss hopes the former Spurs midfielder will return to action at some point next season. Burnley have announced that midfielder Dean Marney has signed a 12-month contract extension.
Press Association However, Press Association Sport understands that while talks have taken place and are ongoing, they have not progressed to the point where a deal is anywhere near imminent. Indeed, that remains the case with all of the club’s top targets with the likes of QPR striker Charlie Austin, Wolfsburg’s Bas Dost and Aleksandar Mitrovic of Anderlecht remaining tantalisingly out of their grasp. That is not the situation McClaren had envisaged when he arrived at St James’ Park last month looking to play his part in a major overhaul of the squad following owner Mike Ashley’s pledge to address the deficiencies which very nearly led to disaster last season. The remaining members of the playing staff the former England boss inherited were due back for pre-season training on Monday after the bulk returned last Wednesday, and in an ideal world, there would have been several new faces on board by now. But negotiations have proved less than smooth, with Newcastle now targeting proven quality rather than the potential they have sought in recent years, meaning higher fees and greater competition. Charnley, who was handed the responsibility of recruiting McClaren, has also been delegated the task of bringing in new players and the clock is ticking. McClaren will send out his team for the first time at Gateshead on Friday evening before they head across the Atlantic for friendlies against club Atlas, Sacramento Republic and Portland Timbers. The presence of a major signing on that plane would go a long way towards raising spirits, although there will have to be a significant change in stance from at least one of the parties involved for that to become a reality. Meanwhile, sources on Tyneside have reacted to speculation that Liverpool will target France midfielder Moussa Sissoko this summer by insisting that no senior players will be leaving St James’ this summer until the new signings are in place, if at all. Newcastle head coach Steve McClaren is keeping his fingers crossed for a transfer breakthrough before he and his players head for the United States at the weekend. Managing director Lee Charnley has endured a frustrating summer to date with the Magpies having failed to land a single target despite making a concerted effort to do so. Reports over the weekend suggested that the club were in advanced talks with PSV Eindhoven over Holland international midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, a man they have been trailing for some time.
Press Association Twenty-year-old full-back Bellerin enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Gunners in the last campaign, making the most of the opportunity presented to him by Mathieu Debuchy’s injury. He made 28 appearances and scored twice after proving his worth on the right side of Arsenal’s defence. Hector Bellerin has signed a long-term deal with Arsenal, the FA Cup holders have announced. Arsenal signed Bellerin from Barcelona in the summer of 2011 and he was promoted to the first team a year ago. A short statement from Arsenal read: “Everyone at the club looks forward to Hector’s continued progress with the club.”
Eriksen produced two superb free-kick strikes as Spurs twice fought back from deficits to draw 2-2 at Swansea in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday. They were the Denmark midfielder’s first goals of the season after an injury-hit start to the campaign, but the 23-year-old has underlined his reputation as one of the best free-kick exponents in English football – even if he spoke about an Italian influence. “I’ve watched Pirlo taking free-kicks and he makes it look so easy,” Eriksen said. “When he’s there (over the ball) he knows what to do. “But everybody has a different position of doing it. I know I have my own and it’s working.” Eriksen said that he had not even been practising free-kicks because of a knee injury which ruled him out for a month until mid-September. “I’ve done it for many years but I haven’t really done it since I was injured – I think my practice was in the game because we had a lot of free-kicks. “But I know what feeling I have to step over the ball and score. I’ve always had a good shot and take free-kicks. “At Ajax I only took them at the end of my time there, but at some point it turned after a lot of training and a bit of focusing.” Spurs have lost only once this season, away to Manchester United on the opening day, and have now gone 10 games without defeat in all competitions. And Eriksen believes Spurs can maintain their progress with Mauricio Pochettino now in his second season at White Hart Lane. “There’s always been a good spirit here and, although some new lads have come in, everyone knows what they have to do,” Eriksen said. “It’s a good mix and with the more games we get the more we know each other. “We have had to learn a lot of things pretty quick but now we have the time to build on something and you can see we know what we’re doing. “Everything is still open because a lot of teams are losing points, but that makes it a fun season.” Swansea have gone four games without a league win but their performance against Spurs was a marked improvement on recent defeats at Watford and Southampton. And Spurs old boy Gylfi Sigurdsson believes they are still capable of finishing in the top half of the table. “We started the season really well but we have not been like ourselves the last three or four performances,” Sigurdsson said. “We have dropped points, which is going to happen in the season, and there is still a long way to go. “But if we play our style of football we will be in the top half of the table. “We go away now for the international break but we can build on this game and performance to keep the momentum going.” Press Association Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen has revealed studying Italian maestro Andrea Pirlo is the secret behind his dead-ball brilliance.