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A.F.C. Rhodrons

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Hook Road, Chessington, Surrey, KT9 1PL
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Football Team News

» Gary Lineker uses Prince Harry and Meghan Markle news to make Liverpool title statement
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have confirmed they will no longer use their HRH titles and Gary Lineker likened the situation to the Premier League
» Liverpool face Xherdan Shaqiri battle as Roma 'reignite transfer interest'
The Swiss midfielder has struggled to hold down a first-team place at Anfield, and Roma are now preparing to return with a fresh bid, having already seen a loan offer rejected
» Man Utd sent positive message over Jude Bellingham amid transfer interest in teenager
Birmingham City midfielder Jude Bellingham scored in his side's 1-1 draw with Cardiff before boss Pep Clotet discussed interest from Manchester United
» Leroy Sane 'sacks his agent' as Bayern Munich continue to chase transfer
Man City star Sane was being represented by David Beckham's agency DB Venture Limited, but has reportedly switched to LIAN Sports as rumours continue to surround his future
» Mikel Arteta furious after VAR denies Arsenal penalty against Sheffield United
Arsenal felt they were denied a clear penalty for a trip on Nicolas Pepe during the 1-1 draw with Sheffield United at the Emirates
» Jose Mourinho's Tottenham miles off top four - and will miss Christian Eriksen
Tottenham were held to a goalless draw away at Watford on Saturday and struggled without talisman Harry Kane, while Christian Eriksen looks to have taken his final Spurs bow
» PSG boss Thomas Tuchel gives update on Layvin Kurzawa as star 'agrees Arsenal transfer'
Kurzawa is out of contract at the end of the season and has attracted the attentions of Arsenal, who are keen to land the PSG defender for a cut-price fee this month, or on a free in the summer
» Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang makes Gabriel Martinelli prediction after Arsenal goal
Gabriel Martinelli filled in for Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang against Sheffield United and scored the opening goal
» Arsenal 1-1 Sheffield United: Gunners denied penalty in Blades draw - 6 talking points
Gabriel Martinelli's goal had put Arsenal into a commanding lead at the Emirates, but John Fleck's late volley ensured Sheffield United did not go home empty handed
» Arsenal 1-1 Sheffield United players ratings as Bukayo Saka heroics fail to inspire win
Arsenal took the lead on the strike of half time through Martinelli, but they were unable to extend their advantage after the break and were punished seven minutes before the end
» Erling Haaland scores 20-minute hat-trick on Borussia Dortmund debut
Borussia Dortmund pipped a number of clubs to sign Erling Haaland this month, including Manchester United, and he had a dream debut
» Man Utd could abandon Bruno Fernandes transfer for Jadon Sancho and James Maddison plans
Manchester United's pursuit of Bruno Fernandes has hit a wall with the Red Devils and Sporting Lisbon unable to agree on a transfer fee to sell the Portugal international
» Pep Guardiola provides fresh update on future amid claims he'll quit as Man City boss
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has never remained at the same club for more than four years, and the Spaniard is currently in his fourth season at the Etihad
» Bruno Fernandes transfer on the rocks as Man Utd fail to reach compromise with Sporting
Sporting Lisbon want £70million for attacking midfield star Bruno Fernandes, but Manchester United are understood to have made a bid £20million under this valuation
» Jack Stephens becomes Southampton's dressing room enforcer as Saints' high court judge
EXCLUSIVE: Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse has told of how teammate Jack Stephens dishes out the punishment when pals break club rules
» Arsenal 1-1 Sheffield United RECAP: John Fleck scores equaliser for Blades in second half
Arsenal dropped two points again following an excellent second half display from Chris Wilder's side
» Brescia sign midfielder amid Liverpool's transfer interest in wonderkid Sandro Tonali
Liverpool are said to be keen on signing £43million-rated midfielder Sandro Tonali this January, and Brescia have responded by landing a player in the same position
» Trio of Juventus stars 'pleading with Man Utd's Paul Pogba' to make transfer return
The French midfielder has been linked with a move away all season and the Serie A champions are one of his potential destinations
» Ashley Young sends message to Man Utd fans after sealing Inter Milan transfer
The 34-year-old sealed a six-month deal to join the Italian club on Friday following nine-and-a-half seasons at Old Trafford and praised the club's supporters
» Bruno Fernandes 'angry after phone call with president' amid Man Utd transfer saga
Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes played in what may be his final game for Sporting Lisbon on Friday night, as the Primeira Liga side were beaten 2-0 by rivals Benfica
» New Man Utd skipper Harry Maguire sends message to Liverpool
Maguire was made captain by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following Ashley Young's move to Inter Milan and has spoken out ahead of United's game against their bitter rivals
» Jamie Carragher makes Liverpool vs Manchester United prediction
Arguably the two biggest clubs in English football will face off at Anfield on Sunday as Liverpool welcome fierce rivals Manchester United to Merseyside
» Bruno Fernandes transfer to Man Utd 'stalls over bonus payments'
The Portuguese midfielder has been linked with a move to the Red Devils this month but the proposed deal appears to have suffered a setback
» Paul Gascoigne 'would love to be Newcastle Utd chairman' after beating demons with booze pellets
The former England star is a cult hero with Newcastle fans and clearly still feels a strong affinity towards the club he played for for three years
From

Football resources

» The FA
» BBC Sport
» SportsCoach
» Little Kickers
» Kiddikicks

Other sport news:

» Manchester City hit by Fernandinho own goal as Crystal Palace grab draw

If this goes down as the day Manchester City all but mathematically surrendered their title, frustration will surely be the searing emotion. They dominated Crystal Palace and looked to have overturned Cenk Tosun’s first-half strike via Sergio Agüero goals on 82 and 87 minutes. However Wilfried Zaha raced upfield with the clock in added time and the winger hit a cross at Fernandinho which the Brazilian turned beyond his own goalkeeper, Ederson.

This quietened the home crowd, and the draw means Liverpool can pull 16 points ahead of City if Manchester United are beaten on Sunday, with the leaders still having another game in hand to play.

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» Newcastle United v Chelsea: Premier League – live!

Chelsea’s defeat has given Manchester United extra incentive - not that they need it - to beat leaders Liverpool tomorrow. If they manage a result at Anfield, they’d move to within two points of the Blues, who stay on 39 points in fourth place. Newcastle move up to 12th spot on 29 points, seven clear of the relegation places. Hayden’s late goal has proved so precious.

Chelsea had done all the attacking, Newcastle all the defending. But the hosts made one last surge, Joelinton winning a corner that would prove decisive. Saint-Maximin’s deep cross was forced home by Hayden from close range, and the Toon will be bouncing tonight. A massive three points in their bid to stay clear of trouble. I wonder whether Kepa could have done better? Hayden’s bouncing header wasn’t the most powerful, and the keeper got a hand to it. But the points are Newcastle’s. Steve Bruce smiles warmly; Frank Lampard looks sick.

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» Raúl Jiménez proves a talisman in Wolves’ 3-2 fightback at Southampton

Just as it seemed Wolverhampton had run out of puff, they mustered the strength to launch a spirited second-half fightback to earn an extraordinary comeback victory. Adama Traoré proved the catalyst but Raúl Jiménez was the talisman again, impeccably steering home the winner having earlier rolled in the equaliser from the penalty spot.

Pedro Neto kickstarted a stirring retort eight minutes after the interval, at which point Southampton were two goals to the good. This was Wolves’ 39th game in a marathon season but they had no intention of making excuses and Nuno Espírito Santo, too, preserved some energy to toast victory with supporters at full-time.

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» Erling Haaland hits hat-trick in 23 minutes to rescue Dortmund on debut

• Norwegian teenager turns game as Dortmund beat Augsburg 5-3
• Lazio get 11th straight Serie A win by thrashing Sampdoria 5-1

Borussia Dortmund’s new signing Erling Haaland scored a sensational hat-trick in 23 minutes on his debut to help his team come from two goals down and beat Augsburg 5-3 on Saturday as the Bundesliga resumed after the winter break. The Norwegian teenager Haaland, who joined weeks ago from RB Salzburg for a reported €20m, scored his first goal with a low drive in the 59th minute, three minutes after coming on, to cut the deficit to 3-2.

Related: Casemiro at the double to help Real Madrid fend off Sevilla and top La Liga

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» Millwall fans’ homophobic chants lead referee to halt play in win over Reading
• Referee Keith Stroud alerted to fans’ chants in the East Stand
• Millwall were fined £10,000 last year over racist chants

Homophobic chanting from Millwall fans led the referee to halt play during the first half of their 2-0 win against Reading at the Den.

Related: Three arrested for homophobic and racist abuse at Brighton v Chelsea

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» John Fleck’s late strike stuns Arsenal to gain Sheffield United a point

For all the improvements Arsenal have made under Mikel Arteta, their inability to see a game out remains chronic. They lost a lead here for the third time in his six-game tenure, continuing a theme that has dogged a miserable Premier League campaign and makes a mid-table finish increasingly likely.

A goal close to half-time by Gabriel Martinelli, the brilliant 18-year-old who stood in ably for suspended captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, looked like being sufficient to win but John Fleck’s superbly taken equaliser, lashed in seven minutes from time, left Arteta frustrated again and provided fresh evidence of the redoubtable quality Chris Wilder has instilled in Sheffield United.

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» Jack Grealish’s strike earns Aston Villa a priceless point at Brighton

After the deluge, a draw that gives Aston Villa hope that the tide is turning in their season. Dean Smith’s side came into this game on the back of a 6-1 defeat by Manchester City and could have gone under again after Leandro Trossard fired Brighton into the lead. Instead they rallied and earned an equaliser thanks to a wonderful goal by Jack Grealish.

A typically excellent strike from their talisman was only one of the aspects of this game from which Villa could take encouragement, with others being their combativeness, a terrific late save from their new goalkeeper, Pepe Reina, and the fact that the draw was achieved without a recognised striker. That vacancy will soon be filled, as the Tanzanian forward Mbwana Samatta has passed a medical as the club puts the finishing touches to his £8.5m transfer from Genk. “The paperwork is being ticked off,” said Smith.

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» Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s equaliser earns draw for Everton at West Ham

Two hours before kick-off around 900 West Ham supporters gathered at the nearby Aquatics Centre to stage a protest against David Sullivan and David Gold. A decade of drift had sharpened the mood within an increasingly disgruntled fanbase and, as grievances were aired against the club’s divisive owners, it was hard not to fear that the London Stadium was going to witness one of its more chaotic afternoons.

In the event, however, a game that marked the 10-year anniversary of Sullivan and Gold buying West Ham trundled to a forgettable conclusion. There was no spark in the stands or on the pitch, merely a sense of ennui during a slog of a draw in front of supporters who lost faith in Sullivan and Gold’s ability to lift this unhappy club to the next level long ago.

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» Casemiro at the double to help Real Madrid fend off Sevilla

Julen Lopetegui returned here for the first time and befell the same fate as the men who preceded him. You have to go back 14 coaches and more than a decade to find the last manager to win here after Sevilla were defeated for a 13th consecutive visit. Yet this did feel different and Lopetegui – whose last job ended after 139 days with Real Madrid – departed angrily at full-time, not unreasonably convinced that his team could have had more.

Sevilla had an opening goal ruled out by the VAR and a wonderful last-minute opportunity for new signing Youssef En-Nesyri flash past the post.

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» Steve Cook hands Teemu Pukki a penalty as Bournemouth woes deepen

Norwich held on for a crucial victory over fellow strugglers Bournemouth that finished 10-a-side and featured the Premier League’s first pitchside VAR review. The referee, Paul Tierney, who sent off Bournemouth’s Steve Cook in the first half, consulted his monitor in the second before upgrading Ben Godfrey’s yellow card to a red. Both managers backed the referee on both dismissals.

Related: Raúl Jiménez proves a talisman in Wolves’ 3-2 fightback at Southampton

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» Transfer window January 2020 – every deal from Europe's top five leagues

All the latest deals and club-by-club guides for the top divisions in England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany.

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» Football League: Brewster opens Swansea account, Owls crash at home
  • Ayew winner sends Swansea fifth, Brentford held to stalemate
  • Rotherham go top, Campbell gets first Southend league win

On-loan Liverpool forward Rhian Brewster helped Swansea climb into the play-off places in their 2-1 victory against Wigan at the Liberty Stadium, with his first goal for the club since joining earlier this month.

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» Chelsea look to bridge the gap against Arsenal and reboot WSL title push

Emma Hayes’ side have to win their game against the Gunners to have a realistic chance of overhauling the leaders

If Chelsea lose at Arsenal on Sunday, their bid for a third Women’s Super League title will take a heavy hit. Things are tight at the top and defeat would mean Emma Hayes’s third-placed team would slip seven points behind the reigning champions, albeit with a game in hand. “I know the opponent well and I know the manager, I suspect he will throw a few surprises at me,” says Hayes of Joe Montemurro and his team. “So how do you prepare for a surprise? I don’t know, but I’m sure I’ll be ready.”

In a 12-team table it is harder to bridge such a gap. The problem for Chelsea is that should they fail to reclaim the crown Arsenal took from them, it will not have been lost in the head-to-head meetings with their title rivals. Instead, they will look back at the four dropped points to Brighton and Liverpool, who have 10 points between them after 12 and 11 games respectively, as the moments when the title slipped from their grasp.

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» Tottenham’s Gazzaniga saves Deeney penalty to earn draw at Watford

It is possible to read too much into the remarks of managers, but sometimes they give a new perspective on a match, particularly those as uneventful as this one.

So it was that in the cheery aspect of José Mourinho and the repeatedly pragmatic remarks of Nigel Pearson, you could perhaps better discern who had come out best from this stalemate. Watford are the team who have just clambered out of the relegation zone, as Pearson was keen to point that out. Spurs are chasing the Champions League, but with eight points the gap at the final whistle, it is receding ever more into the distance. For Mourinho to celebrate the performance of his players suggested someone keen to lower expectations.

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» QPR’s Nahki Wells hands wasteful Leeds defeat with controversial goal

Marcelo Bielsa denied that nerves are affecting his Leeds team after they were defeated 1-0 at QPR’s Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium. It was Leeds’s second successive Championship loss and continued an alarming run which has seen them win just one of their past seven games.

Nahki Wells’s controversial first-half goal secured the points for Rangers, whose goalkeeper Liam Kelly saved Patrick Bamford’s second-half penalty. The second-placed visitors ended the game with 10 men after Kalvin Phillips was shown a red card in the 88th minute for a challenge on Geoff Cameron, who missed three months of last season because of a tackle from the same player.

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» Liverpool v Manchester United: match preview

Football fans are naturally superstitious but funny things can happen when your team is on a long unbeaten run. Arsenal supporters will remember the “this is the day we are going to lose” mentality in the latter stages of the record 49-game streak in 2003-04. It could be a tricky looking away game, or perhaps an early kick-off, but usually it would just be against a bitter rival who you knew would enjoy ending your run more than anybody else. So it is entirely natural that Liverpool – unbeaten this season, unbeaten in 38 league matches and unbeaten in the league at Anfield since April 2017 – seem to be entertaining the fact they will lose to Manchester United on Sunday. True, United are the only team to take a point off Jürgen Klopp’s side this season courtesy of October’s 1-1 draw at Old Trafford but their inconsistent away form has seen them lose at Watford and Arsenal of late and there is little to suggest they can silence Anfield. Apart from the fact that this is football, of course. Paul Chronnell

Sunday 4.30pm Sky Sports Premier League

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» Burnley v Leicester: match preview

Burnley are in a bit of a tight spot, only three points above the teams in the relegation zone, without a win or even a draw since Christmas, and with Manchester United and Arsenal up next after Brendan Rodgers’ high-flying Leicester. Surprisingly beaten by Southampton last week, Leicester still look a good bet for a top-four finish. Burnley will have their work cut out if they are to pick up any points before February, particularly with Ashley Barnes out injured. Paul Wilson

Sunday 2pm Sky Sports Premier League

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» Derby hit out at EFL and claim financial fair play charges are unlawful
• Club says Football League agreed to stadium sale arrangements
• Derby say EFL feels it made a mistake but should not take action

Derby County have strongly rejected the charges brought against the club by the English Football League relating to the £81m sale of Pride Park to their owner Mel Morris in June 2018, and accused the league of acting unlawfully in bringing the charges.

In a strong statement, Derby said the EFL agreed in advance that the sale and its valuation were acceptable, and approved all other aspects of Derby’s 2018 financial submission under the Championship’s “profitability and sustainability” rules.

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» Premier League referees encouraged to use VAR monitors for red-card incidents
• Referees told to consult pitchside screens this weekend
• Jürgen Klopp welcomes greater use of monitors

After months standing idle at the side of Premier League pitches, VAR monitors look set to be called into action this weekend after referees were finally encouraged to use them.

The refereeing body the PGMOL this week spoke to Premier League referees and suggested they should in most circumstances consult their pitchside screens if VAR recommends a referee upgrade a yellow card to a red or change a sending-off to a booking.

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» Will Klopp’s team become the GLOAT (Greatest Liverpool Of All Time)? | Jonathan Wilson
Since Shankly, via Paisley, Dalglish and Benítez, Liverpool have had several outstanding sides. But how do they measure up?

Statistically, this is likely to be Liverpool’s greatest league season, which for a club with 18 championships is no small achievement. The only season that could conceivably beat this one came last year, when they did not win the title – a reminder that statistics must always be considered in context. Greatness lies not only in numbers.

And in a world in which Juventus can dispense with their manager after five successive league titles, and Barcelona sack theirs after two straight titles while top of the table, in which 95+ points has come to seem standard for a Premier League champion, it’s as well to be aware that domination of a domestic league does not mean quite the same thing that it did in the past.

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» Handshakes, dark suits and money-glaze: welcome to the Mendes supremacy | Barney Ronay
The Portuguese super-agent is busy closing deals this month, but is he starting to wield too much influence in football?

When Jorge Mendes got married a few years back a story emerged that Cristiano Ronaldo had given football’s most potent agent a Greek island as a wedding present.

It is hard to know the real truth of this. But it seems fitting, given Mendes’s deep-state mystique, that the legend of Ronaldo island has been recycled admiringly ever since, gaining resonance, layers, compound interest. Either way it seems likely Mendes would have enjoyed his Greek island in the expected style: loaning it to Lazio for five years, setting up a complex series of loans for its outlying archipelago, then selling it on to Turkey for six times the original price. Cristiano. You know me so well.

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» The goalkeepers’ union: why do they stick up for each other?

There are no union meetings, subs or walkouts, but goalies do share a sense of solidarity

By Will Magee for When Saturday Comes

James Shea tells a story that captures the fraternal spirit among goalkeepers. Back when he was a novice at Arsenal – before his meandering path from the wilds of non-league took him to his current club, Luton Town – new gloves felt like a luxury and, on an academy keeper’s salary, were still a significant expense. Shea asked Lukasz Fabianski if he could borrow a pair for training. A few days later, Fabianski turned up with a big box full of gloves with Shea’s name emblazoned on them.

It was far from a one-off act of kindness. There are many goalkeepers with similar stories. Football is so often a dog-eat-dog environment but many keepers testify to a different moral code. There is even a term for this tendency towards mutual support: the goalkeepers’ union. There are no subs, no union meetings and no walkouts, but many will bear witness to the sense of solidarity between the sticks.

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» ‘I felt tears in my eyes’ – how tiny Réunion team stunned French football | Paul Doyle
JS Saint-Pierroise, the amateur side from the Indian Ocean island, are the first club from a French overseas territory to reach the last 32 of the Coupe de France in 31 years

Until a couple of weeks ago JS Saint-Pierroise were best known, paradoxically, as a byword for footballing obscurity. They are the remote club from which a 38‑year‑old Roger Milla was summoned out of semi-retirement to take the 1990 World Cup by storm.

Since then several other dwindling strikers have followed in the Cameroonian’s footsteps but without the sensational late-career twist. Jean-Pierre Papin and Djibril Cissé decided a sojourn with the leading club on Réunion, an island in the Indian Ocean nearly 1,000km east of Madagascar, was a darling way to wind down their playing days.

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» Futsal: the thinking player's game that doesn't hurt the head

With a smaller, heavier ball, the game is played on the ground, which means less worry about head injuries

Gone are the days when primary-school children were condemned to wincing, eyes shut tightly in fear, as a heavy leather football smashed against their heads. But despite advances in technology making the balls lighter there is clearly more to be done to safeguard children. In Futsal, a Fifa-sanctioned version of five-a-side football, players use their heads more, even though the ball rarely touches it. Futsal is the thinking player’s game.

Related: Can heading a football lead to dementia? The evidence is growing

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» How Charlton fans united and ousted the club's unfit owner

After five years of turmoil, supporters at The Valley are now looking to the future with relief, apprehension and excitement

A film by Tom Brandhorst for Copa90

In January 2014, an unknown Belgian businessman called Roland Duchâtelet bought Charlton Athletic for £14m. With the club sitting 19th in the Championship, there was excitement among Charlton fans that, in the modern age of billionaire foreign owners, they might just be on the cusp of something great. But it wasn’t to be. Within two years, hundreds of Charlton fans were marching towards the Valley in a faux funeral procession, trailing behind a coffin that symbolised the death of the football club at the hands of its reckless owner.

To many Charlton supporters, Duchâtelet’s “regime” offers the perfect example of how not to run a football club: belligerently pursuing an unrealistic vision without any consideration for the fans until the club has been driven to ruin, both on and off the pitch.

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» 'A catastrophe': Klopp laments decision to move Afcon back to January – video

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp believes the decision to move the Africa Cup of Nations back to its traditional January slot is a 'catastrophe' for his team. The tournament was scheduled to be hosted by Cameroon in the summer of 2021, which clashed with the expanded Club World Cup, but has been switched because of concerns over the climate in the country in July. It is due to be held from 9 January to 6 February.

That is likely to mean Klopp will be without Senegal’s Sadio Mané, Egypt’s Mohamed Salah and Guinea’s Naby Keïta for some or all of the six-week period that includes preparations.

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» 'We've got players coming through': Solskjær explains Ashley Young's United exit – video

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær said the club wasn't ready to offer captain Ashely Young a two-year contract, explaining why the time was right for the former England international to leave. Solksjær said Young had been a 'good servant for the club', as he turns 35 this summer and moves on to Inter, where he's signed an 18-month contract. 

Young is the third United player to join Inter in the past six months, with Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sánchez also teaming up with Conte in Milan. The Manchester United manager then confirmed Harry Maguire as the club's new full-time captain, six months after his £80m move from Leicester, saying he'd been impressed by his strong leadership skills. 

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» 'Confidence has been a struggle': Harry Winks on Spurs' season so far – video

Harry Winks has admitted that confidence and consistency at Tottenham ‘has been a struggle’ this year after his side progressed into the next round of the FA Cup. Two goals from Giovanni Lo Celso and Erik Lamela earned Tottenham a 2-1 victory over Championship side Middlesbrough. ‘It feels like we get a run of a few good results, a few wins, and all of a sudden we have a run of poor results,’ said the midfielder.

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» Notts County's Michael Doyle scores stoppage-time winner from halfway – video

There was a stunning injury-time winner in Notts County's FA Trophy tie with Dagenham and Redbridge, as 38-year-old Michael Doyle's strike secured a 2-1 victory. After a poor clearance from Daggers goalkeeper Elliot Justham, the midfielder took a touch before striking the ball from just inside the halfway line into the net. 'In your life, in your career, Michael Doyle, you're 38 years old, have you ever scored a goal like that?' said the commentators. Well, he has, but this was still a beauty.

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» 'It was the only thing left I could do': Valverde apologises for cynical foul on Morata – video

Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde has apologised after his red-card challenge on Álvaro Morata in the Spanish Supercopa. Deep into extra-time, with the game tied at 0-0, the forward was running through on goal before he was cynically brought down by the Uruguayan. 'That was the only thing left for me to do, I tried other things but it didn't work out, he is a very fast player,' admitted the 21-year-old. Real Madrid went on to win 4-1 on penalties

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» Liverpool are 'probably the best team in the world', says Spurs' Mourinho – video

José Mourinho has said he is proud of his Tottenham players despite their 1-0 defeat to league leaders Liverpool. ‘We are talking about the best team in the world at the maximum of its potential,’ he said. ‘And in spite of that I think we deserved more than what we got’

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» David Squires on ... Melbourne Victory's coaching hot seat

Our cartoonist looks Marco Kurz’s dismissal and who may replace him in the long term

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» How Barcelona made a right mess of sacking Ernesto Valverde | Sid Lowe

The Barcelona head coach was eventually sacked late on Monday night after a day of waiting

Barcelona’s ex-manager took training on Monday morning, if only because he was not the ex-manager just yet. Besides, someone somewhere had to act with a little dignity. And what if it didn’t happen? He was certainly not about to make the decision for them, so Ernesto Valverde drove into San Joan Despí not long after 8am. At 11 he was out on the training pitch as normal, players gathered in a circle around him, which was one way to say: “Goodbye … probably.” By the time he drove out again he knew it was likely to be for the last time. But not because they had actually told him.

On Thursday night Valverde’s team had collapsed again. While they played better than they had so far this season, he got booed every time he appeared on the big screen. They were 2-1 up with nine minutes remaining against Atlético Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup in Jeddah – Barcelona lost 3-2. Echoes of Rome and Anfield, that recurring nightmare. Three times was too many. Two already had been but to almost everyone’s surprise the club did not act in the summer, instead keeping their coach. They did act now, just not particularly well. “A bit ugly,” was Andrés Iniesta’s verdict. “Unpleasant,” he called it.

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» Juventus evolution goes beyond Sarri's attire as they reach summit | Nicky Bandini

New clothes, ‘same dickhead’: for the third time in his career, Maurizio Sarri has his team in pole position at the halfway point

Maurizio Sarri had to update his wardrobe after taking over as manager of Juventus. A man who has always felt most comfortable in a tracksuit showed up for his first day of work in Turin sporting a shirt and tie. He soon confessed that his contract obliged him to wear such a uniform when representing the club away from the football pitch. For matches, a compromise was reached. Sarri’s sideline attire at Juventus has typically featured suit trousers and a zip-neck sweater.

Related: Barcelona in managerial limbo after Xavi Hernández turns down role

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» Monaco show PSG the folly of their Fantastic Four frontline

PSG started Mauro Icardi, Kylian Mbappé, Ángel Di María and Neymar against Monaco ... and conceded three goals

By Adam White and Eric Devin for Get French Football News

Ligue 1 finally had a showpiece occasion to be proud of on Sunday evening. The Olympico in November between Lyon and Marseille was fitfully entertaining, but the other big fixtures this season have been disappointing. The Classique was terribly one-sided, with PSG thrashing Marseille 4-0; Lyon’s 1-0 loss to PSG was a dour affair; and their derby defeat to St Étienne was no better. For all that Ligue 1 promised this season, the biggest occasions had too often been damp squibs. That was, until Monaco – playing their first league match under new manager Robert Moreno – rocked up at the Parc des Princes on Sunday night and drew 3-3 with PSG.

Having shifted away from Leonardo Jardim’s 3-5-2 formation, the former Spain boss lined his team up in what was either 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, depending on whether one viewed Aleksandr Golovin as a No 10 or an advanced central midfielder. The change of formation allowed Monaco to play more on the front foot and use the pace of Keita Baldé and Gelson Martins on the flanks. The Portuguese winger was also liberated from the onerous task of tracking back, something that had undermined his performances as a wing-back.

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» Melbourne Victory's decision to sack Kurz a mystery as much as it was obvious | Emma Kemp

The German coach was not afforded a full A-League season to adjust to the rigours of a big-budget club but poor results told their own tale

There was a moment on the touchline during Marco Kurz’s Adelaide United tenure when the notoriously flammable coach furnished one poor fourth official with what he must have perceived as the ultimate insult. “You’re only a fourth official ... in Australia,” the German bellowed.

As of Wednesday, assistant referees across the land were breathing easier after Kurz was relieved of his duties by Melbourne Victory just 13 matches into his two-year deal. That particular official was merely one in a long line to be on the receiving end of the relentless pitchside wrath of Kurz, a genuine gentleman in just about every setting except during one 90-minute spell each week.

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» Jets' secondment of W-League coach for men's team should not escape scrutiny | Ella Reilly

The postponement of Newcastle’s game last week may have been serendipitous but the optics of the decision were never good

It was with a touch of serendipity that Newcastle Jets’ W-League game against Adelaide United, scheduled as part of a double header last Friday, was postponed due to air quality and temperature concerns; coach Craig Deans – who has taken the reins of the club’s A-League team following the dismissal of Ernie Merrick – would not have been at the helm of the women’s team had the match been given the green light.

Theoretically he could be back in charge of his side for the rescheduled match on 1 February which, by the form books at least, the Jets should expect to get something out of. But the fact the W-League team have not played since Deans was made interim coach of the men’s team has meant the decision’s true impact has been somewhat obscured and the optics of it have largely escaped scrutiny.

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» History repeats itself for Balotelli and Inter at the start of 2020 in Serie A | Nicky Bandini

Balotelli scoring, Inter leading and racist abuse gave the new decade in Serie A an eerily familiar feel to the start of the 2010s

For Italian football, the decade began with a little bit of history repeating. It was Mario Balotelli who scored the first Serie A goal of the 2010s, and on Sunday he delivered the opening strike of the 2020s as well: spinning away from his marker in the 18th minute of Brescia’s game at home to Lazio, before dispatching Stefano Sabelli’s long pass with a first-time finish off his left boot.

Why always him? In truth, the slogan no longer feels apt. Balotelli has dazzled us only intermittently, the highs of a Premier League win and European Championship final in 2012 obscured by too many nondescript seasons since.

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» New year, new Espanyol? Barcelona draw offers hope at last | Sid Lowe

Abelardo’s side sense a ‘turning point’ in their season. It needs to be: no team has survived on fewer than 12 points at halfway

“Maybe I’m a masochist,” Abelardo Fernández had said and maybe that explains everything: it explains why they called and why he came; it might even explain why this could just work. That, at least, is the hope and at least there is hope now. The noise had just about died down, supporters heading home happy, when Espanyol’s new coach appeared, their third in half a season. It was almost midnight, cold outside, and his throat was raw but he was smiling. “You have a bad time of it, you suffer, but you enjoy it,” he admitted, “and I tell them to enjoy it too.” This time, they had. Espanyol are still the worst team in Spain, and by some way, but it’s a new year, a new them.

Before Saturday’s Catalan derby an I Will Survive remix boomed round Cornellà; by the end, some had started to believe they actually might. As the whistle went on a 2-2 draw, another song went round: “Yes, we can!” they chanted. Unable to beat Barcelona in the league in the 2010s, Espanyol had been unable to beat them at the start of 2020 too, but this wasn’t the same. Sometimes a draw feels like a victory. When they’re top and you’re bottom, when you’ve barely even drawn at home all season let alone actually won a game, you’ve blown a lead and you’re losing with two minutes left, is one of those times. When you’re desperate, searching for something, anything, to hold on to definitely is.

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» US Soccer wants coaches. It's a shame the feeling isn't mutual

Raphael Wicky is the latest coach to defect from a job at US Soccer to MLS. It’s a worrying trend as the federation attempts to rebuild itself

Earnie Stewart already had a busy 2020 in store when news broke at the end of December that Raphael Wicky had been hired as the Chicago Fire’s new head coach. Wicky had only been the United States’ Under-17 men’s national team boss since March but the Swiss still decided to jump ship, leaving Stewart with yet another position at US Soccer to fill heading into the new year.

In fact Stewart, US Soccer’s sporting director, has no fewer than five head coach positions to fill. The United States’ men’s soccer programme currently has vacancies at U-20, U-19, U-18, U-17 and U-16 level with Gregg Berhalter and Jason Kreis the only two head coaches on the books at this moment. The landscape is much the same on the women’s side, with five head coach positions also to be filled in the youth ranks.

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» Next Generation 2019: 60 of the best young talents in world football

Eidur Gudjohnsen’s son, the new Paul Pogba and Barça’s Ansu Fati are among our 60 most talented players in the world born in 2002. Check the progress of our 2018 picks | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014

Photographs by DZfoot, BackpagePix, Club Atlético Belgrano, EFE, EPA, Getty Images, Uwe Gruen/Hoffenheim, AMA/Getty Images, Rex/Shutterstock, Zuma Press/PA, FIFA, Tigres, Damir Krajac/CROPIX, Alamy, Daniel Reyes/Ecuafutbol, Reuters, Atromitos, Imago/PA, fotoBERNAMA, New Straits Times, José Alonso Paredes Sánchez, Agencja Gazeta, David Price/Arsenal FC/Getty, AP, Asian Football Confederation, Danubio FC and Championat Asia

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» Next Generation 2019: 20 of the best talents at Premier League clubs

The Guardian selects the best young players at each club born between 1 September 2002 and 31 August 2003, an age band known as first-year scholars. Check the progress of class of 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014

Photographs by David Price/Arsenal/Getty Images, Neville Williams/Aston Villa/Getty Images, AFC Bournemouth, Paul Hazlewood/BHAFC, Paul Dennis/TGS/Shutterstock, Clive Howes/Chelsea/Getty Images, Danny Loo/PPAUK, Emma Simpson/Everton/Getty Images, Nick Taylor/Liverpool/Getty Images, Manchester City/Getty Images, Ash Donelon/Manchester United/Getty Images, Jason Dawson/Jasonpix, James Wilson/Sportimage, Simon Bellis/Sportimage, Robin Jones/Digital South/Southampton FC, Tottenham Hotspur/Getty Images, Alan Cozzi/Watford, Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United and Sam Bagnall/AMA

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» Next Generation: after five years, how has our first full class of picks fared?

From Rashford to Tielemans, we check in on how our initial Next Generation players have got on before the 2019 ones are announced this week

In 2014 we decided that it would be interesting to pick the best young players from each Premier League club – as well as 40 from around the world – and follow them for five years to see how they progressed.

The idea was to try to get a sense of how difficult it is to become a professional footballer despite being one of the best in that country at the age of 16 or 17.

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» Harley Willard: ‘Iceland’s a good place just to concentrate on your football’

The winger, who was part of the Guardian’s first Next Generation in 2014, talks about rebuilding his career after being released by Southampton

Harley Willard made one of those sliding-doors decisions that can turn anyone’s life around last December. He had arrived at Heathrow airport, packed and ready for the 14-hour slog back to Phnom Penh, and at that point another season at the Cambodian club Svay Rieng felt like a trade-off he could just about stomach. The football there offered few real prospects but he had enjoyed the lifestyle and, after such an uncertain year and a half since leaving Southampton, surely his happiness was the most important thing.

Related: Next Generation: after five years, how has our first full class of picks fared?

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» The story of professional fouls: from Willie Young to Federico Valverde

The red card shown to Valverde in the Spanish Supercopa can be traced back to a foul in the FA Cup final 40 years ago

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog

When Atlético Madrid striker Álvaro Morata raced through on goal with a few minutes to play in the Spanish Supercopa final, the Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde knew what he had to do. Football constantly changes, but there is always room for classic shithousery. “It was something that I should not have done,” said Valverde. “I apologised to Morata, but it was the only thing I could do because he’s a very fast player.”

Valverde’s tackle may not have been in the spirit of fair play, but it worked out well for his team. He was sent off immediately but, by taking out Morata, he helped his teammates stay in the game and play for penalties. Real Madrid went on to win the shootout and Atlético were left wondering what might have been. Not that their manager blamed Valverde. “I told him that he did what he had to do at that moment,” said Diego Simeone after the game.

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» Camp Moo: Quique Setién goes from cows to Barcelona job in 24 hours
New Barça manager, who admits to having no CV or winners’ medals, on how he has always embraced the club’s philosophy

There are 3,537 people in Liencres, 9km west of Santander, or there were. Today there is one fewer. There are also a lot of cows. “Yesterday I was walking past cows in my home town; today I was at Barcelona’s training ground coaching the best players in the world, an enormous club,” Quique Setién said at his unveiling as the new manager at the Camp Nou in place of Ernesto Valverde. “I’m an emotional manand this is a special day,” he added, and it showed. There was humility, gratitude and at times even the sense that he was overwhelmed, still trying to digest the fact that this had actually happened.

Related: Barcelona appoint Quique Setién as head coach to replace Ernesto Valverde

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» Call the super-agent! How Arda Turan might try to get his career on track | Jonathan Liew

Arda Turan’s two-year loan at Istanbul Basaksehir has been cut short but he has no intention of returning to Barcelona. You can only imagine the conversation he might have with his agent …

At first Mino Raiola was surprised by the sound of his phone ringing. The fact that it was 1am was not the surprising part: as a football agent constantly on the move he had long since grown used to being called at all sorts of strange hours. Usually it would be one of his players with some practical issue: a leaky tap, no internet, a mysterious buzzing noise that would invariably turn out to be the fridge.

Some players wanted to talk business. A few – often players living abroad for the first time – just wanted to talk. One night, very late, Raiola answered his phone to Mario Balotelli, who in a meek voice explained that he was alone in his new house and desperate for company. So Raiola went round and together they sat on his sofa in silence, watching Michael Portillo’s Great Railway Journeys on BBC Four until Mario dozed off.

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» Football transfer rumours: Cavani to Manchester United or Spurs?

Today’s piffle is older than you think

While the world has been spinning Edinson Cavani has been quietly getting old in Paris. The once-galloping Uruguayan striker will be 33 in February! How did that happen? Cavani has been struggling with injury this season. Not that Manchester United seem to care. They would love to increase the average age of their squad by bringing the PSG forward to Old Trafford, particularly now that Ashley Young has downed tools to force a move to Inter. But there’s a snag. The brass-necked Parisians value Cavani – whose contract expires in the summer – at £30m! That’s a lot of a lolly. Spurs are interested too now that Harry Kane looks set for an extended spell in the treatment room.

One player who could pop up at Old Trafford this January is Bruno Fernandes, who seems to have been linked with a move to Manchester United from Sporting since the pre-internet days. It says here that he’ll be in the stands at Anfield on Sunday to watch his potential new team take on Liverpool. They might want to force him to put pen to paper on his £50m move before that one kicks off.

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» The Fiver | A square peg who has filled a dizzying array of Manchester United holes

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After the best part of a decade at Manchester United, it’s arrivederci to Ashley Young, who has departed for pastures new. Specifically, the verdant grass rectangle at San Siro, where he will line up for Internazionale. Young leaves Old Trafford with winners’ medals from the Premier League, Big Vase, FA Cup and Milk Cup a jingle-jangling in his pockets, a tidy haul considering he was signed towards the tail-end of the Lord Ferg era. Small wonder, then, that misty-eyed tribute has been paid on social media disgraces, with assorted United fans fondly recalling that time he slipped comically during a warm-up, that time he forgot how to take a throw-in against Tottenham and that time a bird flying high over Old Trafford did its business into his mouth.

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» Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 top scorers 2019-20

Keep up with the top scorers in European football’s leading five leagues, updated throughout the season

17 Jamie Vardy (Leicester)

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» Which footballers have suffered injuries playing other sports? | The Knowledge

Plus: top-flight careers over four decades, more big non-league gates and Garth Crooks presenting a politics show on BBC2

“After seeing Rory Burns miss an England cricket match because of an injury caused playing football, which footballers have missed matches playing other sports?” tweets Mattskating.

“Rangers’ Marco Negri suffered a serious eye injury playing squash with Sergio Porrini,” tweets Jono Bolton. “Before that, he’d scored 33 goals in 26 games.” Ah yes, February 1998 in Glasgow, with Rangers battling for a 10th consecutive league title. Negri takes up the story: “He was the wrong choice of playmate for squash because it should not have been a game in which winning became everything and yet with Sergio that was impossible … At a speed that felt like 100mph that sphere of hard, hot rubber cannoned off the concrete and straight into the centre of my eye.”

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» Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

Bournemouth need to find goals fast, Aubameyang’s red card has caused a headache at Arsenal and Ings is in England form

Bournemouth’s defending left a lot to be desired as they crumbled against Watford but their failure to penetrate Nigel Pearson’s improving side was equally alarming. No team has scored fewer goals in the Premier League this season and those front–foot displays of yesteryear – they scored almost 100 goals en route to promotion in 2015 and more than any team outside the top six last season – feel a distant memory following a ninth defeat in 11 league matches. “Historically we have always been free-scoring and we have always had goals in us,” their manager, Eddie Howe, said. “We have always had the ability – even if we have conceded first – to come back and win games. That is probably where the feeling has gone missing, the creativity and that feeling we are going to score. We have to do better in that respect.” Ben Fisher

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» The Dozen: the weekend’s best Premier League photos

Hero tatts and upside down play in this week’s roundup of the best top-flight pictures

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» Football quiz: career paths of the past decade – can you guess the player?

These well-travelled footballers have been around the block more than once in the past 10 years - see if you can name them

Portsmouth > Burnley (loan) > Leicester City > Middlesbrough > Derby County > Preston North End.

Jimmy Bullard

David Nugent

Dean Windass

Kevin Phillips

Barcelona > Roma > Milan (loan) > Barcelona > Ajax (loan) > Stoke City > Mainz 05 (loan) > Alavés (loan) > Montreal Impact.

Tuncay Sanli

Jordi Alba

Bojan Krkic

Stefano Okaka

Tottenham Hotspur > Toronto FC > Tottenham (loan) > Sunderland > Bournemouth > Rangers (loan).

Peter Crouch

Luka Modric

Rafael van der Vaart

Jermain Defoe

Blackburn > QPR > Doncaster Rovers > Market Drayton > Carlisle > Arles-Avignon > Washington > Ashton Town.

Morten Gamst Pedersen

Chris Samba

Pascal Chimbonda

Steven Nzonzi

Liverpool > Galatasaray (loan) > Sporting CP > Atlético Madrid > Rayo Vallecano (loan) > Stuttgart.

Jay Spearing

Fabio Aurelio

Daniel Ayala

Emiliano Insua

Portsmouth > Milan > Schalke 04 > Milan > Las Palmas > Eintracht Frankfurt > Sassuolo > Barcelona (loan) > Fiorentina.

Kevin-Prince Boateng

Niko Kranjcar

John Utaka

Nwankwo Kanu

Chelsea > QPR (loan) > Wolves (loan) > Hamburg > Nottingham Forest > New England Revolution.

Adel Taraabt

Michael Mancienne

Paulinho

José Bosingwa

Arsenal > Barcelona > Roma (loan) > Vissel Kobe.

Vito Mannone

Thomas Vermaelen

Alexander Hleb

Marouane Chamakh

Birmingham City > Stoke City > Crystal Palace (loan) > Norwich City > Derby County > Goztepe.

Jordon Mutch

Gary McSheffrey

Cameron Jerome

Marcus Bent

Fenerbahce > Toulouse (loan) > Galatasaray > Olympiacos (loan) > Blackburn Rovers (loan) > Bursaspor > Feyenoord (loan) > Feyenoord > Celtic > Coritiba > Corinthians > Lobos BUAP (loan) > Veracruz.

Tugay

Colin Kazim-Richards

Amine Linganzi

Jamie O'Hara

10 and above.

You're the best! Lionel Messi-level quizzing. Congratulations!

9 and above.

Very, very good. If this quiz was a stadium, there would be a statue of you outside.

8 and above.

Congratulations on an exceptional performance. You've earned yourself a testimonial at the very least.

7 and above.

Well done! You missed out on the title but you're in the Champions League, at worst.

6 and above.

A very respectable effort. You are the James Milner of quizzes.

5 and above.

Not bad, not great. A mid-table season in the Championship.

4 and above.

Definite room for improvement. The board have issued a public vote of confidence.

3 and above.

Disappointing. Knocked out in the qualifying rounds.

2 and above.

Two better than zero, you are still destined to end up on loan at Trabzonspor.

0 and above.

Your career never even began. But you probably still lie about having a trial with Stoke City.

1 and above.

A one-hit wonder. You are being sent on loan to a non-league club in Siberia.

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» The Joy of Six: football and the outside of the boot | Rob Smyth

From Brazilian screamers to an extravagant shank via Peruvian insouciance, we celebrate one of football’s most difficult skills

NB: The point of the Joy of Six is not to rank things, only to enjoy them

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» Peter Shilton: ‘Maradona’s the greatest player in history but I don’t respect him’
England’s most capped player has never forgiven Diego Maradona for his failure to apologise for the 1986 Hand of God goal

Fifty years since his England debut, and 30 years since his final appearance as one of the great World Cup goalkeepers at Italia 90, Peter Shilton is in a reflective mood. Having played more times for England than anyone, Shilton retains an even more impressive world record for the most appearances made by an individual in professional football. From 1966 to 1997 he played 1,390 professional games – with his closest rivals being Brazil’s Rogério Ceni, who played in goal 1,234 times, and the midfield maestro Xavi who made 1,135 appearances – mostly for Barcelona and Spain.

Related: Peter Shilton | Small Talk

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» Gareth Southgate sweating over injured captain he cannot replace | Ed Aarons

The England manager will be hoping fervently that Harry Kane is fit for Euro 2020 given the lack of like-for-like alternatives

It’s a scenario that must be causing even the usually unflappable Gareth Southgate sleepless nights. José Mourinho’s revelation that Harry Kane may not be back until “next season” after rupturing a tendon in his left hamstring in the defeat to Southampton on New Year’s Day will have set alarm bells ringing for the England manager a little more than 150 days before their opening match of Euro 2020 against Croatia on 14 June.

The Tottenham head coach’s admission that he is in the dark about the prospective date of Kane’s return could eventually prove to be a red herring designed to prompt chairman Daniel Levy into action during the January transfer window. Yet such has been the influence of his captain during the evolution of this youthful England side that Southgate will be hoping Mourinho’s throwaway line at the end of his press conference to preview Tuesday’s FA Cup replay against Middlesbrough was just that.

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» ‘The men were screaming. They made me feel I should not be a referee’

Sanaa Darawsha overcame adversity and abuse to become Israel’s top female Arab official. Now she wants to help other women in the country achieve their dreams

Sanaa Darawsha is recalling the most violent experience of her life, the moment in 2013 when she had to break up a fight involving three footballers and, in the process, took a stray elbow flush in the mouth. “It broke my teeth,” she says. “I had them fixed … but I want to fix them more.”

Darawsha taps the teeth in question and laughs for the first time on a bitterly cold afternoon at De Montfort University in Leicester. It is as if she is finally able to relax, having spoken for an hour about everything she has been through. It is serious stuff and, as such, no surprise that up to that point she too has been serious in tone and manner.

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