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Confusion reigns after Suns and Grizzlies nearly trade for wrong player named Brooks

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The traded Trevor Ariza to the Washington Wizards on Saturday for Kelly Oubre Jrted with their 2-0 win at Norwich City.Gerard Deulofeu’s goal after 76 seconds after some lax defending from Emiliano Buendia set Watford on their way and Andre Gray’s close-range flick from a Deulofeu cross secured the points.But they had to survive and Austin Rivers, according to multiple reports. The deal capped a confusing series of events that unfolded Friday night when a proposed three-team trade fell apart over confusion about whether Dillon Brooks or MarShon Brooks would be included.

The trade, as proposed originally, would have sent Ariza from the Suns to the Wizards, Oubre from the Wizards to the , and Rivers from the Wizards to the Suns. The Grizzlies would have sent Wayne Selden to the Suns. A player named Brooks also was to be involved, but that ended up as the hiccup to the deal. The Suns thought the Grizzlies would be sending them Dillon Brooks. Grizzlies officials thought it was MarShon Brooks they’d be trading.

“What happened last night was unfathomable. I’ve never experienced this before,” Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace told reporters on Saturday.

When the confusion cleared, and all the sides had figured out the parts to the trade, Memphis wouldn’t trade Dillon Brooks, and the Sunsken about the positive influence of manager Unai Emery.The Gunners big money arrival has only come on as a substitute in their first two Premier League games of the season.But Pepe says Emery’s ability to speak French has helped him quickly adjust to didn’t want to acquire MarShon Brooks. The mixup happened because the Suns and Grizzlies didn’t talk to each other. The Wizards were the conduit of information and the identity of the proper Brooks got lost along the way, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. However, the Suns privately claim that they communicated with the Grizzlies directly and were clear about Dillon Brooks, a claim the Grizzlies flatly deny, Wojnarowski reported.

“That forced me to do something I’ve never done in 30-plus years working in this league with seven teams, is to drag two players out of a locker room and tell them they’ve been traded and then eventually have to come back and tell them, ‘Oh, no, you haven’t been traded,’” Wallace said.

MarShon Brooks is a 29-year-old journeyman from New Jersey, while Dillon Brooks is a 22-year-old Canadian who started 74 gap after he led Liverpool to their Champions League triumph last night.Liverpool defeated fellow Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 at the Estadio Metropolitano in Madrid on Saturday evening in an all-English Champions League final.Before Kloppmes in his rookie season last year.

The Suns signed Ariza, a 33-year-old swingman, to a one-year, $15m deal over the summer, and with Phoenix at 5-24 and building for the future with youngsters, he became a trade chip.

Steve Bartman, America’s most infamous fan, receives Cubs redemption

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Steve Bartman, the fan vilified and blamed for ending the team’s championship hopes in 2003, has been awarded a World Series rinew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.The young pair were outstanding in their Champions League triumph last season.”Both Andy and Trent [Alexander-Arnold] on the other side had incredible seasons,” Warnock told Liverpoolfc.com.”I think last seasong to commemorate Chicago’s title win last year.

The Cubs were mired in their legendary title drought – – when Bartman made his mark on history in 2003. The team appeared to be headed for the World Series when he stretched out to catch a foul ball with the Cubs leading late in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against the Miami Marlins. Bartman instead deflected the ball away from a Cubs fielder, the Marlins came back to win the game and then sealed a place in the World Series with victory in Game 7.

Bartman’s name later appeared online, and he and his family were given police protection. The governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, . The incident was infamous enough for ESPN to make a in 2011. Bartman, still scarred by the abuse he had received, chose not to appear.

Cubs management and players have repeatedly stated that Bartman was not to blame for the incident, and on Monday the team’s owner, Tom Ricketts, presented him with a championship ring.

“On behalf of the entire Cubs organization, we are honored to present a 2016 World Series Championship Ring to Mr Steve Bartman,” Ricketts and the Cubs said in a statement. “We hope this provides ardi is successfully rebuilding his relationship with the Inter Milan locker room, it has been revealed.The striker angered many senior teammates over the way he refused to take part in training for over a month after being sacked as captain in Februclosure on an unfortunate chapter of the story that has perpetuated throughout our quest to win a long-awaited World Series.

“While no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization. After all he has sacrificed, we are proud to recognize Steve Bartman with this gift today.”

For Bartman, who has been haunted by the incident, and has kept a low-profile for the last 14 years there was relief. “I humbly receive the ring not only as a symbol of one of the most historic achievements in sports, but as an important reminder for how we should treat each other in today’s society,” he said in a statement. “My hope is that we all can learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating, and to challenge the media and opportunistic profiteers to conduct business ethically by respecting personal privacy rights and not exploit any individual to advance their own self-interest or economic gain.”

The move was also welcomed by players. The former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster toldndan Rodgers has admitted to being disappointed by their January transfer window.The Foxes manager was hoping to bolster his squad as they push to finish in the top four of the league.Rodgers knows that his team will face tough tests in the second ha the Chicago Tribune: “I guess that is closure at its finest … To do something like that for Steve Bartman, who got ridiculed for something that any fan would have done, is pretty awesome.”

England didn’t beat Australia in the Four Nations. Will Great Britain do better?

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League fans envious of in a row when their national team hasn’t beaten the Kangaroos for a decade, have something to look forward to. Great Britain are coming back. Yes, I know, you’ve heard it all before. But this time it’s true – apparently. As union’s British and Irish Lions gear up to dominate the media next summer when they head to New Zealand, a relaunch of the League Lions is being planned, at last.

It’s nine years now since Richard Lewis brought the curtain down on the Great Britain story after 60 (at times) glorious years, 10 since GB played down under and 24 since an Ashes series was held in Australia. But I am reliably informed that plans are evolving for the return of Great Britain & Ireland and the Ashes, last competed for on these shores in 2003 when Great Britain contrived to turn three laighted with their 2-1 victory over Sampdoria on Wednesday night.Cristiano Ronaldo jumped 71cm off the ground to nod in Alex Sandro’s cross and win the game, after a Paulo Dybala volley had been cancelled out by Gianluca Caprari’s effort.“Dybala’s gte leads into three narrow defeats.

With World Cups down under next year and up here in 2021, an Ashes series in 2018 would most likely be in the UK. Alternatively, Great Britain could go back to Australia in 2020. With Australia’s players union still demanding a fallow year between World Cups, it will be one or the other, not both.

So what would a modern Ashes tour look like? The whole point of bringing it back would be to give players and fans a different experience to the Four Nations or World Cup. It would mean warm-up or midweek matches at provincial venues, and three Tests. While it would not go on any longer than the current four to five weeks, more could be packed in.

But how could Great Britain & Ireland look any different to England? Assuming they took the traditional rugby union Lions’ philosophy of having every home nation contributing, there would be management and players from all four camps, surely led by a British coach. If you were choosing it now, a Lions squad could include Scotland’s Matty Russell, Danny Brough and possibly eays the Armenian is the Gunners’ fourth best-paid player but has flattered to deceive at the Emirates since his 2018 swap deal with Alexis Sanchez, who moved to Manchester United in Mkhitaryan’s place.The 30-year-old, who earns £180,000-a-week, is cven Adam Walker, the Welsh flavour could come from Lloyd White, Ben Flower or Rhys Evans, and from Ireland, possibly Ben Currie and the Kings brothers from Warrington. None of these players would be guaranteed a spot in a GB XIII picked on merit alone, but the Lions should be more than that.

The main reason Great Britain was mothballed in 2007 was that it had become an all-English team anyway. Other than Tony Smith’s bizarre selection of Samoan Maurie Fa’asavalu in 2007, as far as I can fathom, Irishman Brian Carney is the only Great Britain player not born in England since Welshman Rowland Phillips played in Papua New Guinea in 1996, bringing to an end a century of union converts from the celtic nations.

Nowadays the celtic contribution to Great Britain – or rather the “British Isles XIII” as the crest on my cherished old GBRL shirt declares – will most likely be English-born. But they could certainly bring the spirit and grit missing from Wayne Bennett’s England side last month.

Goal-line drop-out

So that was the 2016 season. Farewell rugby league; see you again in February. Unless that is you live in or near Yorkshire, are into the women’s game or have Wednesday afternoons free. In which case, the season is just getting into its stride!

The 14-team Hull League remains in winter while the Pennine League may have shrunk a little since the RFL’s bizarre “summer season” campaign yet still has 54 teams up and running this year. That’s just one more than the number of university teams playing now, from Northumberland to Brighton. There are 41 sixth form and further education colleges playing, including newcomers Leyton Sixth Form and Sir George Monoux in Walthamstow, neighbours in east London.

I feel I need to find out more. Add 12 women’s teams (including Liverpool University), the Girls League and the Yorkshire Junior League and there’s rather a lot of competitive league being played in December and January after all.

Foreign quota

While our professionals are back in pre-season training, across the channel the action never stops – especially for Toulouse and Catalans. Both have their reserves in Elite 1 again, providing a testing ground for their best young talent which, in theory, will emerge into the sunlight in spring. Catalans’ reserves, coached by Jerome Guisset, have dispensed with the name Saint-Estève-XIII-Catalan, ending about 80 years of those two historic clubs, and want to be known as Catalans U23, a sorry and unnecessary Anglicisation. Les Baby Dracs pushed table-toppers Carcassonne all the way recently, coming from 26-6 down to lose just 28-20, with Belgium rugby sevens winger Marc Sowell Tchangue among their scorers. They will continue playing once the Elite 1 season ends in May, facing British reserve teams.

While Catalans’ second team are looking strong, Toulouse Broncos – AKA Toulouse Olympique’s reserves – are without a win in their opening seven games. Coach Sylvain Houles will no doubt fish out some exciting young talent as 2017 unfolds. Look out for a full-length interview with Houles here on the Guardian in the bleak mid-winter. Lezignan look strong again and have gone top, while Catalans play Toulouse in a friendly on 21 January.

Clubcall: Toronto Wolfpack

The Wolfpack are the club that keep on giving. Press launch, media release, new signing, breaking story; repeat. Who knows what will happen when they actually start playing. Since I was last with you they have signed a deal with cool Italian kit manufacturers Kappa; abandoned plans to share Bradford Bulls’ Tonge training base and instead decided to set up camp at Brighouse Rangers; announced pre-season fixtures at Hull FC and against Wigan; and signed a second American-born player, with 19-year-old Gold Coast Titans prop Jerome Veve joining Virginian flyer Ryan Borroughs in their ranks, alongside some chap called Fui Fui Moi Moi. The 18 trialists they are bringing over to Brighouse from the Americas include a 17-year-old from Vancouver Island and USA internationals Terrance Williams from Georgia and Casey Clark of Montana.

The Wolfpack might also cause a stir expected to replace Maurizio Sarri in the Stamford Bridge hotseat.”After the season he has had with Derby and with Chelsea’s transfer ban in place, there is no-one better equipped than Frank to succeed at Chelsea,” the 38-year-old was quoted in Chel in Manchester. They will play home Challenge Cup ties and any play-off games at Manchester Regional Arena, next to the Etihad. On 5 February, Wigan will provide the first visitors to the home of Manchester Rangers, the amateur club who the RFL apparently lined up to replace York City Knights in League 1 before former London Skolars GM Jon Flatman rescued York on Thursday night. Intriguing.

Fifth and last

The confirmation that USA and Canada have been granted hosting rights for the 2025 World Cup went down well. However, we will not have to wait that long to see major international action over the pond. Despite the Kangaroos supposedly bringing down the curtain on the Four Nations, there is discussion over there being one more – in 2019… in the US!

This would act as a first test of the Moore Sports International’s capabilities in hosting a major tournament and prove a leg-up for the professional league they hope to launch that year. Expect the fourth team to be a top Pacific nation or the US Hawks. The US are also in the running to host the first Intercontinental Cup, which looks like being delayed until 2022 to avoid Rugby Union World Cups in 2019 and 2023. That would be a practice run for the 2025 World Cup.

Ben Ryan on life after Rio: ‘Base Fiji team in Cornwall – they would love it there’

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There are still some flat earthers out there who think rugby at the Olympics is no big deal. That sevens players are just failed XVs merchants, that there is nothing for the abbreviated game to teach its big brother. They should spend a lunchtime hearing about the assorted offers Ben Ryan has received since his fabulous Fiji squad won their nation’s in Rio.

This week Ryan is in the United States offering consultancy advice to one of their highest-profile basketball sides. If there is a mutual attraction there is the potential of a permanent arrangement. Every self-respecting sevens team in the world has enquired about his availability. Rumour has it that Japan were ready to shower him with yen, with even New Zealanders speculating as to whether he should take over from Sir Gordon Tietjens.

En route back home to Brentford he stopped briefly in the US and encountered complete strangers in Austin and New York who insisted on buying him drinks. They had watched the Olympics on TV and wanted to say thank you to the ginger guru with the glasses. In addition to being honour and three acres of land, the island nation is also introducing a special seven dollar bill with his face on it. There is continuing interest being shown in the US and China in turning the extraordinary Fijian rags-to-riches story into a film. A Bob Marley-inspired remix – – is already out there.

Not bad for a 45-year-old former Newbury director of rugby who was let go from the Rugby Football Union in 2013 after a difference of opinion with the then elite rugby director Rob Andrew. So, as we sit in the hotel bar directly adjoining the RFU offices at Twickenham, how many offers has he had from Premiership clubs to sprinkle a little bit of South Sea stardust on their northern hemisphere skillsets? The answer is one tentative approach from a lower-ranked side seeking an attack coach, subsequently withdrawn because of budgetary constraints. Amid the debate about developing home-grown English coaches, the risk-averse instincts of their employers remains a major hurdle.

There has in fairness been interest from Pro12 teams and the possibility of assistant coach roles with a couple of Super Rugby franchises but Ryan, who has long wanted to return to XVs coaching in some capacity, is clearly wavering. Helping basketball to instil a rugby-style culture would be lucrative and professionally stimulating. “I might know nothing about basketball but I’m looking at relationships; whether they’re overcomplicating things. To be successful you have to play the long game, have good standards and stick with them.”

If the British and Irish Lions need an innovative skills coach next summer with a track record of beating New Zealand, they should look no further. Assuming, that is, the multifaceted Ryan is still available. What a waste it would be if one of England’s brighter coaches were to be lost to another sport at the peak of his powers.

The oenitez has opened the door to future return to Newcastle United.The Spaniard still sees a future for himself in English football.He said: “I expect to do well with Dalian Yifang and after that to come back to the UK.”I don’t know when. But you are alnly consolation is he would love to coach at another Olympics: “I’d like to give XVs a crack and I think I’m a better XVs coach but going to an was amazing. To know you can go to future Olympics is definitely a pull because it’s just another level. Having had success there shows you how global the Olympics is and how small rugby is by comparison.”

Whatever he does next, Ryan can sense the entire sport changing. Sevens may not transform the world but, as with Twenty20 cricket and Test matches, it has the potential to reshape the rugby landscape. “In 2023, if the guardians of the game are doing the right thing, the ball will be in play longer. The sport will be more athletic and it’ll mean you need multipositional players.” It is Ryan’s firm belief, for example, that Tom Mitchell and Dan Bibby, the playmaking energisers of GB’s sevens side, could play in any Super Rugby midfield; most Premiership XVs coaches would declare them too small. “The clubs look at sevens here and think: ‘We’ll send someone if they’re not very good or struggling to make it.’ That’s not the case in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa or Fiji. If it’s for inferior players why do people like Sonny Bill Williams struggle in sevens?”

There is much, much more. Ryan fears for the future of Fiji 15-a-side rugby if urgent measures are not taken by World Rugby to stem the exodus of players to foreign leagues and international squads. He believes there should be a Pacific Islands franchise in Super Rugby, as there now is for Argentina, to develop players, coaches and administrators alike. “Ask the players and the coaches if they would like a Pacific Islands franchise and they would say: ‘Yeah.’ But Super Rugby have been paying lip service to that idea for 20 years and it’s never happened. It needs World Rugby to say: ‘You’ve got to do this’ because that would be a game-changer. For the good of the game you don’t want Fiji getting worse at 15s and better at sevens. If Eddie Jones had 95% of his team not playing in England and he only had them once in a blue moon they wouldn’t be top of the tree. There’s no way.”

Alternatively, Ryan has an even more radical plan, albeit with some logistical hurdles. “If a Super Rugby franchise can’t happen, then transplanting a side into a domestic league in Europe – the Pro12 or the Premiership – would be the second option. Take a team of Fijian players, base them in Kent or Cornwall, and they would go. Look at somewhere like Cornwall. There isn’t a Premiership team and the islanders would love it there.”

So, reckons Ryan, would neutrals worldwide if rugby’s answer to the Harlem Globetrotters played together week in week out. “That’s how I explain it to Americans. It’s like the Harlem Globetors.PSG star Edinson Cavani has recently revealed that one of his dreams is to score a goal for Boca at La Bombonera like former Uruguayan striker Sergio Martinez.”Between River and Boca, I’m going for Boca,” Modric said on Un Metro Adelantado.”I prerotters but they’re in the NBA, winning games. It would be so exciting for the world game.”

Ryan has come a long way in every sense since his first meeting . If he is lured to basketball for a year or two and earns a truckload of dollars it could not happen to a nicer bloke. It would be even nicer to think that, one day, English rugby will wake up to the far-sighted coach right under its own nose.

Time to trust Slade as England No12?

England in Brighton, Eddie Jones’s seaside home from home. Short of relocating everyone back to Coogee Oval in Sydney’s eastern suburbs it is as close as you can get in the UK to the beachfront vibe he used to enjoy in his Randwick days. When it comes to identifying players at openside and inside-centre, however, recreating the grand old days of Wallaby plenty seems to be trickier. For whatever reason, Jones does not seem to be able to find many attack-minded English-reared 7s and 12s who fit his exacting criteria to play Test rugby in those positions. If Owen Farrell remains unavailable along with Manu Tuilagi, for example, will he trust Exeter’s Henry Slade at 12 or plump for the harder-running former league man Ben Te’o, regardless of the fact the latter has barely played this season following a concussion against Gloucester? A midfield of George Ford, Slade and either Jonathan Joseph or Elliot Daly would certainly cover plenty of creative bases, particularly with a powerful winger like Semesa Rokoduguni in the mix. Either way this is the autumn to take a closer look at England’s attacking options as opposed to playing safe.

All Blacks break the mould

People are talking about the All Blacks’ reserve XV being the second best te Napoli right back Elseid Hysaj.Spurs are reeling from the news that Juan Foyth will be out with an injury for several weeks.It leaves them short of defensive numbers, given the sale of Kieran Trippier earlier in the summer.Sky Sportssays a deal for am in the world. They may be right. What is beyond dispute is New Zealand, as the best sides do, are challenging the game’s supposed orthodoxies. When Argentina kicked off deep with 15 seconds left in the first half of Saturday’s 36-17 Test defeat in Buenos Aries, most teams would have caught the restart, taken the ball into contact and then booted it into Row Z to bring the first 40 minutes to a routine close.

Instead the All Blacks launched a thrilling attack from their own 22 that ended with a wonderful try for TJ Perenara. The sequence should be compulsory viewing for every age-group coach and player, not to mention a few Premiership ones.

Steph Curry’s record three-point streak ends as Lakers stun Warriors

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While the shouted and shoved each other with elation, Luke Walton managed to look unsurprised by the incredible upset unfolding before them.

The Los Angeles Lakers were battering the mighty . Walton’s championship-tested former team just cLeicester City defender Filip Benkovic could be on the move next month.The Telegraph says Derby County have launched a bid to sign Benkovic in January.The Rams are set to table a loan offer for the out of favour centre-half for the rest of the season.The Croatian is yet to feature in the Premier League this term.Benkovic has been with Leicester since 2018 and spent last season on-loan with Celtic.ouldn’t catch up to his young, hungry new squad.

Although it’s far too early in the season to truly celebrate anything, Walton thinks the Lakers’ future is fascinating.

Lou Williams scored 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers snapped Stephen Curry’s NBA-record streak of 157 games with a three-pointer during their 117-97 victory Friday night.

Julius Randle had 20 points and 14 rebounds, and D’Angelo Russell added 17 points for the rebuilding Lakers. They built a 21-point lead in the third quarter and hung on to shock the Warriors at Staples Center for the third consecutive season.

“It obviously feels better because they’re the best,” Walton said. “They’re as good as it gets … But it was just good to see the progress continuing.”

After his first meeting with his former team and his coaching mentor, Steve Kerr, Walton claimed the win meant nothing special to him – but he could understand why the Lakers and their fans might feel differently.

Los Angeles has made a habit of surprising the Warriors recently, but as Williams put it: “This one was valid.”

“We’ve got a lot of young talent here,” Williams added. “Finally it’s starting to look like we have some pieces in the right places.”

Kevin Durant scored 27 points and Draymond Green had 16, but the Warriors never led and couldn’t entirely close the huge gap in the second half while falling to 4-2. Golden State didn’t lose its second game under Walton last year until Dec. 30.

One night after Durant scored 39 points to beat his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates, the Warriors scored a season-low 15 points in the first quarter and never fully recovered.

“You don’t like the feeling at all,” Curry said. “But you’ve got to wrap your head around where you are in the season, and the good we’ve shown early innal legend Nigel Winterburn has revealed how close he came to joining Chelsea. Right-back Winterburn is one of the club’s most storied players, having made over 400 appearances in the red and white, winning three league titles and two FA Cups.But he the year, but also focus on the things we need to work on. Regardless of a game like last night or tonight, we still have some things we need to work on.”

Curry scored 13 points while going 0 for 10 from 3-point range, ending several incredible long-distance streaks. He had hit a three-pointer in every regular-season game since 11 November 2014.

Including the postseason, Curry had at least one three in 196 straight games, and he hanal.The Times says Arteta is ready to hold talks with Arsenal about replacing Unai Emery as boss.He is keen to talk to the Arsenal board about possibly replacing his compatriot at the helm at Arsenal.The report adds that Gunners chiefs are also interd also hit in 116 straight regular-season road games – both records.

“That was a cool little ride,” Curry said. “Would have loved to finish my career making one every game, but hey, start a new one. What was it, like two years? Kind of weird not to make one, but I will keep shooting.”

Eight months ago at Staples Center, the pre-Durant Warriors also lost 112-95 to the worst Lakers team in franchise history, one of Golden State’s mere nine losses last season. Another bad Lakers team also beat Golden State at home on 23 December 2014.

“It’s our annual beatdown at Staples by the Lakers,” Kerr said. “They do this every year. Let’s just give them credit. They came in sky-high with a ton of energy, played really well, and we were flat, right from the beginning.”

Dak Prescott continues strong start to lead Cowboys past Bears

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Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass, and the Cowboys beat the 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without injured quarterback Tony Romo over three seasons before the rookie fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott’swas a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he’s up to 99 throws without an interception to starenging Arsenal for Sampdoria defender Joachim Anderson.Arsenal have failed with two offers for the stopper and the Denmark international is open to a departure.Gazzetta dello Sport says Juventus, Tottenham, Arsenal and Lyon are all in contact with Sat his career.has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals in NFL history.

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox.

Making his 27th career start for his fourth different team, Hoyer was 30 of 49 for 317 yards — a good portion of that with the game out of each late in the fourth quarter — and threw for two scores to Zach Miller.

Rookie fourth overall pick Ezekiel Elliott had his first 100-yard game for Dallasnged the format of the tournament which will now be played once every four years.That means Liverpool – who beat Tottenham 2-0 in Saturday’s Euro showdown- will eventually face world’s best clubs.But not earlier than in 2021 – when the competition is, finishing with 140 yards on 30 carries and awhen he hurdled safety Chris Prosinski.

It didn’t even bother Prescott that Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith missed just the second game of his six-year career after his back tightened up during the week.

Prescott was 19 of 24 for 248 yards in Dallas’ first home win since last year’s opener, which was a Usmanov and Farhad Moshiri – for naming rights to a new ground.The Toffees revealed plans to build a new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock.The club confirmedAlisher Usmanov’s holding company, USM, will pay the club £30m this year for the option of becomweek before the first of two broken left collarbones that kept Romo out of 12 games last season. Romo is expected to miss about another month after breaking a bone in his back in the preseason.

Prescott hadfor the Cowboys, who have seven this season after getting eight all of last year, when they finished 4-12.

Because the Bears fell behind again, they couldn’t do much with the running game. They had just 15 carries for 73 yards and lost leading rusher Jeremy Langford to an ankle injury in the second half.

Why Real Salt Lake’s journalist ban damages the credibility of MLS

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Banning journalists seems to be something of a trend in American politics right now. Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Politico, and the Washington Post at one point or another over the past year or so, with the Republican presidential nominee serving banning orders like Oprah hands out book prizes. It’s an ethos that has seemingly seeped into American soccer, too.

Last week, Real Salt Lake last week of Salt Lake Tribune columnist Gordon Monson for Saturday’s league fixture against the New England Revolution. In response, the Tribune decided to remove all its staff from the game, instead covering RSL’s goalless draw against the Revs off the television.

The fact that such a sanction was imposed against Monson, who has been critical of the club’s owner, Dell Loy Hansen, is troubling. “The man with the deep pockets wants to run the club the way he wants to run it, not the way it should be run, not the way it’s best run. His ego is behind the wheel,” Monson wrote in August 2015. RSL maintains that Monson’s relationship with the club’s former owner – Monson co-hosts a sports radio show with Spence Checketts, the son of former RSL owner David Checketts – means he is a less than objective observer.

But this isn’t the way to go about things. That those in charge at should feel the sting of such condemnation isn’t surprising, particularly excited to be taking charge for their Carabao Cup clash with Aston Villa.Critchley will take charge of a youthful Reds team at Villa Park, with Jürgen Klopp and the first-team squad in Qatar to participate in the FIFA Club World Cup this week.Critchwhen Monson has more than once criticised Hansen, but serving banning orders helps nobody, least of all the club.

We can only hope that this practice does not spread throughout the league. As something of a crossover between the soccer world and the American sporting sphere, Major League Soccer has always been an anomaly of sorts. It borrows certain aspects of its identity from European soccer while retaining a distinctly North American character. Nowhere is that better demonstrated than iva says he’d welcome the chance to be registered with the club.Silva is in Madrid after completing his loan with Cruzeiro.He told Marca: “The truth is that I have a team, and it’s Real Madrid. There were some offers, but most have been just enquiriesn the league’s media approach.

In fact, is held aloft as an example of media relations done right – at least as far as soccer goes. Its sporting reputation might not transcend borders just yet, but the league is renowned in press circles across the globe for its accessibility and openness. That is seen as a manifestation of the American way and is welcomed by those who are not afforded such access in European soccer.

Using personal experience as a gauge, MLS clubs understand the role of the media and how it can be used to their own benefit. When I wrote a story prior to the first ever Hudson River Derby between the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC last year, players were actively offered up by both clubs for interview. Media days were arranged, with individual schedules accommodated for as clubs did their best to present whoever, whenever.

Much of this comes from MLS’s need to compete in a crowded media marketplace, against leagues and sports of longer-established heritage. But nonetheless, this is the image that Real Salt Lake are in danger of damaging. Furthermore, they’re hurting their own fans by blacklisting members of the local media, particularly writers for such locally important publications as the Salt Lake Tribune. If MLS clubs are desperate to ensure their roots touch their local communities, banning a loheffield United boss Chris Wilder says Jack Rodwell must work his way into their first team plans.Wilder says new signing Jack Robinson and Rodwell will not simply be handed appearances for Sheffield United this weekend in the FA Cup against Millwallcal columnist is at odds with that ethos.

European clubs are learning, but progress is slow. Manchester City hosted a media day to make the most of Pep Guardiola’s unveiling as their new manager, but even then the message still felt strictly controlled. MLS still sets the precedent, at least giving the impression of access and openness. And there is no league anywhere in the world that wouldn’t benefit from such a trait.

It’s therefore not the media Real Salt Lake are hurting with their actions, but fans, and the overall image of North American soccer as well. Journalists might be the target of such flak, but the real damage is felt elsewhere. Fans need the media to hold their teams to account. They also need the media to provide access, as well as an emotional link to those they watch play every week. It might sound like self-righteous hyperbole, but soccer needs the media as much as the media needs soccer.

This is why Real Salt Lake’s decision to ban Monson makes so little sense. Accessibility is one of MLS’s key selling points (the league is aware of Monson’s ban and says it takes access seriously). Players guest on fan podcasts, locker rooms are opened up to the press within minutes of the full-time whistle, with coaches and general managers even hosting Reddit AMA sessions from time to time. Without that selling point, MLS and North American soccer as a whole is a less attractive, less appealing product. It goes against the grain of the game’s media mantra in the United States and Canada. The MLS All-Star game in San Jose later this month will provide the perfect illustration of just how far ahead the league is in terms of its media approach. A week-long series of fan and media events won’t just act as promotion for the game itself, but for the league in general. This is the kind of thing at stake if RSL’s actions were repeated elsewhere.

Of course, MLS’s centralised structure helps with the organisation of such events, but clubs must recognise how important accessibility and positive media relations are to almost every aspect of North American soccer. Monson’s blacklisting is about more than just one journalist having his credentials stripped. This concerns the image and spirit of MLS. The disconnect exposed by Real Salt Lake’s media ban is about more than just one empty seat in the press box.

Athletes disappointed to find Pokémon Go inaccessible at Rio Olympics

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So the plumbing and electricity in the athletes’ village took several days to fix. Who cares?

But no ? That’s an outrage!

If there were ever a more “first world problem” for the Zika-plagued, water-polluted Rio Olympics, it’s Brazil’s lack of access to the hit mobile game, which has united players the world over.

Since to wild adulation in the United States, Australia and New Zealand this month, the game from Google spinoff Niantic Inc has spread like wildfire, launching in more than 30 countries or territories – but not Brazil.

For athletes and other visitors caught up in the wave, not having access is just one more knock against an Olympics that officials are racing to get ready. The opening ceremony takes place on Friday.

“I wish I could run around in the [athletes’] village catching Pokémon,” New Zealand soccer player Anna Green said. “I just can’t get it on the phone. It’s fine, but it would have been something fun to do.”

What will she do instead? “Train,” she replied.

Niantic didn’t reply to a request for comment on when the game might be released in Brazil. Ao Martinez says he deserves a shot at being their No1.Martinez has thrown down the gauntlet to team-mate Bernd Leno, after he claimed to be the more capable of the two keepers. Speaking to the Arsenal En America podcast this week, Martinez said: “He nd though social media rumours point to a Sunday release for the game, similar rumours in Japan resulted in heightened expectations and the sense of delay before its debut there last week.

This week, British canoer Joe Clarke – with a broken-hearted sad face – a screenshot of his player on a deserted map near the rugby, equestrian and modern pentathlon venues in Rio’s Deodoro neighborhood. The map was devoid of PokéStops – fictional supply caches linked to real-world landmarks. No Pokémon monsters to catch either: There was nary a Starmie nor a Clefairy to be found.

“Sorry guys no #pokemon in the Olympic Village,” French canoer Matthieu Peche, followed by three crying-face emoji. Getting equal billing in his Twitter stream was a snapshot of a letter of encouragement from French President Francois Hollande.

Players with the app already downloaded elsewhere appear to be able to see a digital map of their surroundings when they visit Rio. But without Pokéstops or Pokémon, the game isn’t much fun. It would be like getting on a football field – soccer to Americans – but not having a ball to kick or goals to defend.

Many competitors in the athletes’ village took it in stride, though. Canadian field hockey player Matthew Sarmento said it would give him more time to meet other athletes. But he would have welcomed Pokémon during downtime in competition, adding that “sometimes it’s good to take your mind off the important things and let yourself chill”.

Athletes might not get Pokémon, but they’ll have access to 450,000 condoms, or three times as many as the London Olympics. Of those, 100,000 are female condoms. Officials deny that it’s a response to the Zika virus, which has been linked to miscarriages and birth defects in babies born to women who have been infected.

In Pokémon countries like the US, Pokéstops are being used to attract living, breathing customers. In San Francisco, for example, dozens of bars, restaurants and coffee shops have set up lures that attract rare Pokémon, along with potential new patrons looking to catch them.

That’s presumably one reason why Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes – plagued by a host of bad news from player robberies to faulty plumbing – urged Niantic investor Nintendo to release the game in Brazil.

“Everybody is coming here. You should also come!” Paes , adding the hashtag #PokemonGoNoBrasil – “Pokémon Go” in Brazil.

His post generated responses such as this: “The aquatic PoJong says the players are still adjusting after a midseason change of coach.Quique Setien has been in the job for a couple of weeks now, having succeeded Ernesto Valverde, and De Jong was asked to compare the two.”There are differences,” the Dutchmankémon died with superbugs.”

Paes didn’t respond to requests for interviews.

One video circulating virally, with more than 3.5m views, shows one fan identifying himself as Joel Vieira questioning how Brazil can host the Olympics but not Pokémon.

“I can’t play! I am not allowed to know how it really feels to see the little animals on my cell phone,” he said . “Because we don’tl.The midfielder penned undisclosed terms this morning.Emery told Arsenal’s website: “Joe has progressed a lot in the last year. “He is technically strong and has shown the confidence to take responsibility and play his game whatever the occasion or have it in Brazil, yet. But we are having the Olympics.”

The Olympics kick off next Friday. Will Pikachu be there to witness it? The world is watching with baited Poké-breath.

Trailblazing NFL coach Dennis Green was far more than just a soundbite

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For many football fans, Dennis Green will be remembered for one thing. His when his Arizona Cardinals lost to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football is probably one of the 10 best coach blow-ups of all time. Most mentions of his name are quickly followed by the refrain: “The Bears are what we thought they were.”

riticising the players during their El Clasico defeat at Real Madrid.Quique Setien’s No2 is well known for his passionate style of management.Sarabia’s reactions on the bench throughout the match were caught by Movistar’s cameras.”He is doing nothing

But to recall Green, who , as a caricature from a video clip is unfair. He was far more than a guy who got mad after a nationally televised loss in a football game. He was an essential coach at an important time for the NFL. He made o has opened the door to a future move to Real Madrid.He was at the FIFA’s Best ceremony on Monday evening in Milan after being nominated for the Best FIFA Men’s coach award.It has been a poorly kept secret that Pochettino would be interested in a reone of the most cherished and lucrative destination jobs in professional sports – NFL head coach – a possibility for many African-American men who never thought such a chance was real.

Only two black men had ever coached an NFL team when the hired Green in 1992. One of those men, Fritz Pollard, was a player-coach in the 1920s. The other was Art Shell, who was hired by the Raiders in 1989. Unlike Shell, who lasted six seasons, Green became an institution in Minnesota, coaching there for a decade. He turned the Vikings into consistent winners, going to the playoffs in eight of those 10 seasons.

In January 1999, he narrowly missed becoming the first African-American coach to take a team to the Super Bowl when Vikings kicker Gary Anderson, who hadn’t missed a kick in two years, that would have sealed the NFC championship game. Two years later, his Vikings lost another conference title game, this time in New York.

He won’t be remembered as the most successful black coach. Both Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin hargen Klopp admits winning the Club World Cup will mean much more to opponents Flamengo and Brazilian football fans than those in England.The German believes that Flamengo will be “treated as heroes” and enjoy ‘a proper party’ if they lift the trophy,ve won Super Bowls. But Green went 113-94 in his career, his record undercut by three years as coach of the then-moribund Cardinals. He won four NFC Central titles at a time when many owners and general managers were hesitant to hire black coaches. He may not have gone to that elusive Super Bowl as a head coach but he made it easier for men like Dungy, Tomlin, Jim Caldwell and Hue Jackson to be hired.

The NFL is a better place because of Dennis Green.

Part of his success was that he embraced 49ers coach Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense, working with Walsh as an assistant after a failed run as head coach at Northwestern. For three years he was Jerry Rice’s position coach, taking the lessons of his work with Rice to Stanford where he was head coach for three seasons and then the Vikings where he managed Cris Carter and Randy Moss, helping turn both into NFL stars.

Instead, most people will think of Green and remember him shouting about the Bears. That was in the last season at Arizona, when the Cardinals’ dysfunction was in bloom. Hopefully he will be remembered for more than a video clip. He was a very good head coach at a time when football needed him to be one.

New Jersey rugby union experiment needs catalyst to get required reaction

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This is a big week for rugby union and the Six Nations is only a modest part of it. The first Premiership game to be staged outside Britain is taking place in New Jersey on Saturday, with an American audience being politely invited to come and see how and Saracens compares with watching the New York Jets against the New England Patriots. To say a cultural collision looms is an understatement.

It is fair, too, to suggest the timing could have been better. I for Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte.Ferrara says Conte would’ve preferred Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal.”Antonio explained it very well, Eriksen needs time to settle into and understand certain tactical mechanisms,” Ferrara told Tiki Taka.“Asht is not just that this historic occasion clashes with a moderately interesting fixture between England and Wales at Twickenham. The call last week by 70 “experts” for tackling to be outlawed in schools rugby attracted plenty of debate, none of it designed to encourage US soccer moms to steerBradley junior towards the muscular new sport on the block. “Where are your helmets, guys?’ will inevitably be the most-asked question Stateside this week.

Amid the usual rejoinders about American football tacklers leading with their heads and the resultant extra potenbion are on the hunt for Huddersfield striker Karlan Grant.The 22-year-old has impressed for Huddersfield in the Championship this season, notching 16 goals.West Brom wanted him in January, but could not get a deal done, perSky Sports.The outlet suggtial for concussions, though, rugby’s rulers would do well not to sound complacent.

Had Leicester’s game against Exeter been happening across the Atlantic rather than on a cold Mother’s Day in the east Midlands, the American reaction would have been widespread horror. Let us just say there are a few key areas rugby union needs to get right before it can hope to sell itself compellingly to a market already familiar with big blokes running into each other.

The mostld move for Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt.The European champions have been linked with De Ligt.And Carragher said, “Well I think he possibly will [become the world’s most expensive defender this summer].“Pierre van Hooijdonk is next door doing the obvious are the types of high hit with which felled the Chiefs’ Phil Dollman at Welford Road. It should be stressed Tuilagi’s tackle did not result in a card or even a penalty but even Manu’s England team-mates, watching in Bagshot, admitted they winced when they saw it. James Haskell, musing aloud on the issue of what constitutes a dangerous tackle these days, put it perfectly. “The problem was he hit him so hard he went to wrap his arms around and the bloke had already folded like a deckchair on the floor. Why would you penalise a bloke for doing that? That’s an incredible shot.”

Incredible, yes. Good for the game’s image? Maybe not. In almost the same breath Haskell was rightly pointing out that teaching young kids the correct tackling technique at the right age is absolutely fundamental. “I think we are creating a game where it’s important young kids are taught to tackle properly and understand that rugby is a physical sport. Making rugby a non-contact sport…you might as well just forget it and disband it. I think we have to make a stand at some point. We are a contact sport and people are going to get hurt. As long as it’s not someone running around straight-arming people or blindsiding people trying to rip your head off, these things happen. We need to understand that.”

Squaring this particularly awkward circle is probably the key to rugby’s long‑term future, certainly as a 15-a-side sport with mass appeal and ahealthy reputation for safety. Haskell is particularly instructive on the subject as someone for whom tackling did not initially come easy. “I remember being taken down to Maidenhead RFC at five years old and not wanting to get wet, muddy and kicked in the face. I didn’t like tackling for a long time. When I got to Wasps at 17 I went straight to [the former back‑row] Joe Worsley and said: ‘Listen, I’m not being funny, I can’t tackle very well, you’ll have to teach me.’ We spent a lot of time working on it.”

As Haskell also pointed out, rugby league has recently adjusted its law on what constitutes a dangerous high shot; relatively speaking, it is still higher than in union but there has finally been recognition that heads and brains are not indestructible. In union, as Haskell confirms, the tackle height can vary depending on the desired outcome: go low and your openside may have a better chance to nip in for the kill; go high and you might just dislodge the ball or prevent the offload. Better the former safety-wise but most of the time there is insufficient time in which to make a choice.

So let us pray that, when Irish and take to the Red Bull Arena, the body count is not too excessive, the spectacle is halfway decent and, additionally, the scrums mostly stay up. If not, north American patience may not extend much beyond the half-hour. It would also help greatly to hire a decisive TV match official; American sports are used to in-play breaks but some recent delays for TMO referrals in rugby have made the notoriously stop‑start Super Bowl feel like the Olympic 100 metres final. To reiterate, this is a big week. Mess it up and the American dream will remain precisely that.

Leicester City and Carolina Panthers: a friendship founded on underdog success

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Their bandwagon has beer. Charlotte gets the swag and the bromance, but Leicester City’s true Carolina hearts actually rest two hours north and west of Bank of America Stadium, nestled in a mountain range.

If ever an official mid-south Foxes supporters group were to see the light of day, the odds are good it would probably spring from Asheville, North Carolina, , a soccer-friendly burg of 83,000-plus that’s home to more than a dozen craft breweries. A burg where Chris Watts has been preaching the gospel of blue for more than 15 years now.

“It’s like a dream,” says Watts, a Leicestershire native who has called Asheville home since moving to the States almost two decades ago. “My brother’s a season-ticket holder and he gets to the games. I was over there in October, against Crystal Palace and Watford, and it was just unbelievable to see where we were. And you keep thinking, ‘Is this going to keep going?’ It’s a bit like a dream. At the same time, it’s brilliant.”

Pinch him, he giggles. And why the hell not? Watts has been a fan for more than 10 years and a Foxes fan for pretty much the last five decades, through thick, thin, and thinner. Some eight years earlier, he had shepherded a group of US friends back to Leicestershire for his 50th birthday and a series of matches in the Midlands, including a pair at the King Power, then the Walkers Stadium.

“Five minutes into the [match],” one of those friends, Tim Branson, recalls of his initial Foxes experience, “I saw four guys carrying out two.”

But he was hooked.

The second game, they got the skybox treatment. Watts landed a program signed by the team — which, as it turned out, would become the first Foxes side ever to be relegated from the Championship to the third tier of the English football pyramid.

“I’ve still got it,” Watts chuckles. “I’ve got a signed program, in a frame, of Leicester at their lowest.”

And look who’s laughing now.

The Panthers prepping for the biggest single event in North American sport, Super Bowl 50’s NFC gatecrashers. The Foxes are atop the most popular soccer league on the planet. First, they were cute. Then a curiosity. Then a fluke. Then a stubborn anamoly. They weren’t supposed to here, either of them.

The parallels are valid and real enough: they’d finished their previous seasons on an unexpected, almost desperate hot streak. They’d been dismissed by the experts, were under-appreciated outside their own province, middling brand names turning in gold-caliber performances, week after week, month upon month. looked at the Carolina Panthers, 3,924 miles and an ocean away, and saw — well, themselves.

“The beginning of the year, [Leicester City] didn’t have great expectations … and kind of the same goes for us,” says Panthers kicker Graham Gano, one of four Carolina players to receive customized Leicester City shirts from the surprise leaders last month. “They’ve done really well this year, and so have we. So they kind of thought their season was similar to ours and they pulled fArsenal hero Martin Keown has urged the club to move for Manchester United defender Chris Smalling.Smalling is currently on-loan with AS Roma.“Smalling is doing exceptionally well – £13 million, the price they are putting on his head, that’s not enough,” Keown said on BT Sport.”Arsenal could maybe do worse than to take him.”Smalling’s loan runs to June.or us and that’s how we got the jerseys.”

Before their NFC Divisional Round test against Seattle on 17 January, Panthers players turned up at work to find that the Foxes had sent over customized blue shirts for quarterback Cam Newton, cornerback Josh Norman, linebacker Luke Kuechly and Gano.

“Carolina have had an incredible season,” the Leicester left-back Christian Fuchs . “Like us, they ended last season really well and again, like us, some people didn’t expect them to do what they’ve done this season, even after the great start they had.”

Before long, they shared a narrative and a hashtag: #KeepPounding. The Panthers returned the favor, and Leicester shared pictures and videos on social media of striker Jamie Vardy, centre-back Wes Morgan, Fuchs and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel decked out in Carolina black, tossing and kicking an football around.

“They were natural at it,” Gano says. “It would be interesting to see them kicking field goals and what it would look like. Obviously, their form looks good, but I never saw the ball going through the uprights. It’s a little different swing than [it takes] to keep the ball under the posts. But I’d love to have an opportunity sometime to have a kick around with some of the pros over [there], and compare how I match up with those guys.”

But he thinks they’d probably be thick as thieves, espack from his shocking knee injury.The setback means Chambers’ season is over, with the defender to be sidelined for six to nine months.He posted on Twitter: “Devastated to end 2019 like this! If there’s one message I’d like to get across it’s that I’ecially after the Foxes posted a video to YouTube of Fuchs attempting a series of “keepy-uppis” with the oblong American ed to a multitude of Premier League clubs. The Ivorian wide man has been a key player for Crystal Palace since returning to Selhurst Park in 2014, and is perennially touted for a step up.Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur are among the clubs to hfootball.

“I was in the airport in Chicago and I’m sitting at the bar and got talking about football – American and English,” Watts recalls. “And I pulled up [the Fuchs video] to show a few others. It’s pretty neat to see an English soccer player, albeit an Austrian, keeping up an American football. They thought it was pretty cool.”

In one corner, the Panthers, unloved, slapped with 22-to-1 odds to win the NFC back in May and 40-1 to win the whole shebang. In the other, Leicester, dismissed almost universal preseason favorites to be relegated this term, 2000-1 odds to win the league at the start of the campaign.

“It’s not quite the same,” Watts says of the two franchises and their comparative roads. “But nobody was expecting the Panthers to be where they are. A lot of my friends, when they saw the stuff about the shirts [coming over], and then the Panthers sent shirts back the other way, it’s been neat.”

Carolina are playing in their first Super Bowl in 12 years; since 2003-04, 13 different NFL teams have qualified for the title game. Leicester are the first squad other than one of the “Big Five” clubs [Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea] to be leading the Premier League in the last week of January since Newcastle in 1995-96.

“Being on both sides, [the more remarkable story is] Leicester City, for me, just because of what they’ve had to do, the fight, where they’ve had to come from,” says Branson. “Going down to the third division and going back into the second and having to fight their way back to the top. Asheville’s got a single-A [baseball] club. It would be like them somehow winning and if they did promotions, getting promoted to the majors. In a little city like Asheville, it doesn’t happen very often.”

“You’ve got to have respect for them,” Gano says of the Foxes’ rise. “I haven’t been able to catch a ton of their games – we’ve been pretty busy over here, so I haven’t really had the opportunity to catch up with them.”

And, full disclosure, Gano is a Bayern Munich fan, having grown up bouncing from Scotland to Germany to Scotland to Canada as a Navy brat (“I used to have a thick accent,” he notes, without a trace of burr.) Born in Scotland, he also maintains a bit of a soft spot for Rangers.

“But I didn’t have a favorite English team,” the kicker says. “So I guess I can pull for [Leicester] now.”

After all, there’s plenty of room on the wagon. And in Asheville, the best beer on the continent never tasted better.

NFL playoff previews: talented Chiefs to upset Patriots and Manning to spur Broncos

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We all have dreams. For some people, that dream might entail winning the lottery. For Rams defensive end Chris Long, to make it on to a local news broadcast as a person buying lottery tickets. Happily for him, but even more so for us, dreams sometimes come true.

But perhaps your personal dream involves winning an online predictions game? If so, then you’ve come to the right place. I can tell you that a whopping 49 people called all four games correctly in our Pick The Playoffs contest on wild card weekend, which is way too many to list up here, but I will post the overall standings in the comments section imminently.

Until then, it’s time to make your picks for the divisional round.

Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots (Saturday 4.35pm ET/9.35pm GMT)

Cast your mind back to 29 September 2014. The Chiefs have just blasted the Patriots 41-14 in a game so lopsided that many of us struggled to make sense of it. if we were witnessing the beginning of the end of Tom Brady and New England’s era of dominance (but hey, ).

Bill Belichick and so did his team, guffawing all their way to another Super Bowl triumph. With hindsight, the lesson from that September game was not that the Patriots were slipping, but that Andy Reid has some good ideas for how to undermine them.

So you can believe Belichick when he says that these opponents present a “big challenge”. You can know that Brady is speaking from bitter experience when he praises the Chiefs’ ability to “force you into a load of bad football”. You can certainly buy that described Kansas City as the “worst possible opponent” for New England.

It’s not just that the Chiefs beat them so handily last time out. It’s not just that they are riding an 11-game winningderlecht player-manager Vincent Kompany is interested in signing veteran defender Ashley Williams.Kompany is eyeing the veteran to bolster his struggling side, according to reports.The former Manchester City captain has overseen just one win this sea streak, or that they demolished the Texans 30-0 last week. In the end, what will make the Patriots wary is simply the fact that the Chiefs are a talented, well-coached football team. One that runs the ball effectively, comes after you on defense and owns the second-best turnover ratio (+14) in the league.

The bookmakers make New England a five-point favourite, and understandably so. This team is 14-3 at home in the playoffs with Brady at quarterback. The injury situation, furthermore, looks favourable.

A wildcard bye gave the Patriots time to get healthier, and Julian Edelman is scheduled to return, although Rob Gronkowski missed practice Thursday with a knee injury. The Chiefs are still sweating on Jeremy Maclin, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Spencer Ware – each of whom has missed practice time since playing in the win over Houston. Such uncertainty makes me wary of picking the upset. But I’m doing it anyway.

Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals (Saturday 8.15pm ET/Sunday 1.15am GMT)

Some will call this a foregone conclusion. It is only three weeks since the Cardinals obliterated Green Bay 38-8 in Glendale, recording as many sacks of Aaron Rodgers as their opponents did points. There is a line of thought that says this gap is too wide to be bridged.

And perhaps it is. But then again, perhaps not. Did we not just watch the Vikings, beaten 38-7 by the Seahawks last month, come within one fluffed field goal of overturning the same opponents on wild card weekend? Granted, the second game was played in far more challenging weather conditions, but these were still the same teams.

The Packers have always been a resilient group under Mike McCarthy. They are one of only two teams – along with the Patriots – to have made the playoffs in each of the last seven years. Rodgers has endured a trying year amidst an offense decimated by injury, but in rallying the team from an 11 point deficit to rout Washington last weekend, he reminded us of why it is always unwise to write him off prematurely.

With all that being said, Arizona still have reasons to feel confident. No quarterback can orchestrate a victory when he’s lying flat on his back. If the Cardinals’ pass rush is even 50% as productive as it was in the last meeting, that would still be a significant upgrade on what Washington managed.

Green Bay are hopeful of having starting left tackle David Bakhtiari back in their line-up for the first time since week 15, which would be a major boost. I do think that this game is going to look drastically different to the previous meeting, and likely will be decided by one score. But I am still inclined to give the edge to the home team.

Seattle Seahawks @ Carolina Panthers (Sunday 1.05pm ET/6.05pm GMT)

It was a victory in Seattle last October that gave us the first real hint as to how good this Carolina team could be. Sure, they were already 4-0 before their trip to CenturyLink Field, but back then so were the Atlanta Falcons. It was one thing to beat up on mediocre teams, as the Panthers had to that point, quite another to overcome a 10-point fourth quarter deficit and defeat the reigning NFC champions on their own patch.

Cam Newton won over a few doubters that day, demonstrating that he had the composure to drag his team across the line in a hostile setting. It was a first big step on the way to establishing himself as the frontrunner to be named as this season’s MVP.

Voting for that award has already closed, so his performance in the postseason will not affect the outcome. But that does not mean he has nothing left to prove. Newton’s critics still argue that his postseason performances have been underwhelming thus far in his career. In three playoff games he has turned the ball over seven times, his only win arriving against an Arizona team featuring Ryan Lindley at quarterback.

It is possible that Newton might not need to play the starring role for his team to win this weekend. Carolina’s defense is formidable, and the only Seahawk who consistently found holes in it during that first meeting – Jimmy Graham – is unavailable. Even the potential return (far from guaranteed, at this stage) of Marshawn Lynch should not be overstated. The Panthers held him to a measly 54 yards on 17 carries the last time they met.

On the other hand, this is not the same Seahawks offense that we saw back then. with the best series of performances in his career, and he did it by spending more time in the pocket. He remains a brilliant freelancer – as we saw on the broken play that became a vital 35-yard gain against the Vikings, but he has more ways to hurt a defense than he did in October.

With the forecasts calling for temperatures of around 50F, the Seahawks’ new aerial assault is unlikely to be disarmed by the weather – as occurred in Minnesota. And if this were to become a higher-scoring game than anticipated, I might favour the team and the quarterback who have been here and done it before.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Denver Broncos (Sunday 4.40pm ET/9.40pm GMT)

Gary Kubiak did his best to nip any controversy in the bud, naming Peyton Manning over Brock Osweiler as his playoff starter more than a week ahead of time. But is a quick decision necessarily the right decision? Manning did a solid job as he returned to the field and rescued a win against the Chargers in week 17, but he has still not thrown a touchdown pass since November.

Would it not be fairer to give Brock Osweiler this chance after he steered Denver into the playoffs in the first place? Can we really blame injuries alone for Manning’s 17 interceptions in nine games to start the year? Then again, how could we overlook the fact that the Broncos went 7-2 in that stretch?

Overwhelmed by all these questions, local media seem to have given up altogether – of fourth-graders to offer a definitive verdict instead. The truth is that there might not be a right answer in this instance, since both quarterbacks’ performances have been imperfect. But with Osweiler missing practice due to a knee injury this week, Manning’s simple availability to prepare is a significant mark in his favour.

Either way, the Bro United.Di Maria was given the famous number 7 jersey when he arrived at Old Trafford from Real Madrid in 2014.But he failed to live up to expectations and was sold to PSG after just one season at the club.Di Maria told Ligue 1 on why he took the No.ncos might find themselves in a healthier position than Pittsburgh, for whom Ben Roethlisberger is hoping to start but presumably only if the team’s coaching staff can find enough duct tape to hold him together. This has been a bruising year for the Steelers signal caller, and even if he does make it through to Sunday he might have to do without top target (and, y’know, the league’s best receiver) Antonio Brown – who is working his way through the NFL’s concussion protocol.

There was optimism earlier in the week that DeAngelo Williamrs believe they will be counting Kylian Mbappe as a teammate next season.The France striker is a top summer target for Real Madrid and has also been linked with Manchester City in the French press this week.La Sexta says PSG players are convinced Mbas might at least return at running back, but that has receded in recent days. With all of these players healthy, I might have backed Pittsburgh, my preseason Super Bowl pick, to pull off another road win. But with so many key figures ailing, this feels like a bridge too far.

Largest police union renews call for NFL to end concealed-carry ban

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The United States’ largest police union has written to the National Football League asking the sporting body to reconsider its ban on carrying concealed firearms at its stadiums, in the wake of heightened fears of terrorist attacks.

The National Fraternal Order of Police has been lobbying the unsuccessfully since 2013, when the ban was introduced. But the recent attacks in Paris by Islamic State-affiliated operatives have prompted another push.

One of the Paris saw three suicide bombers attempt to enter the soccer stadium where the French national team, watched by their president, François Hollande, was playing a match. They were foiled as they tried to gain access, and blew themselves up.

Union president Chuck Canterbury sent a letter to the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, on 20 November, urging him “to rescind this policy, which weakens the safety and security of NFL players, personnel and fans”.

“The terrorist attacks and threats of attacks from organizations like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) are selecting targets based on the amount of death and injury they can inflict – mass murder and casualty events,” Canterbury wrote.

The letter : “Well-attended venues and areas are being deliberately targeted by the radical killers who do not intend or expect to survive the assault. Law enforcement, even when working r 1-1 Europa League draw at Vitoria.Martinez was just four minutes away from keeping his 11th clean sheet in an Arsenal shirt. The Argentine stopper had made a string of fine stops during Wednesday’s Europa League clash with Vitoria but then in the factively with highly trained and skilled security professionals, cannot be certain that all threats will be detected and neutralized.”

On a more local level, the Ohiregrets.Foster has enjoyed late career success with the Hornets.And he recalled to the club’s website: “…there was a tweet by Edwin van der Sar that got a bit of attention a while back. I said that goalkeepers are the hardest workers and he repliedo Fraternal Order of Police has the state’s leading football teams, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns, to overturn the policy.

The unions are especially keen for off-duty police officers to be permitted to takh Manchester United for the signature of Jadon Sancho.The 19-year-old forward spent two seasons at City’s academy after leaving Watford in 2015.BILD says Old Trafford chiefs have already met with Borussia Dortmund bosses to discuss a transfer, but Une concealed firearms to football games.

In New York City, the Sergeants Benevolent Association police union, has started a petition to overturn the ban on the basis that it “compromises public safety”, according to a local .

And Detroit police union leaders have also written to the NFL, saying: “Law enforcement officers often carry a weapon while off duty not only for their own personal protection but to provide a critical response when circumstances call for immediate police action,” according to a Detroit media .

The letter went on to say: “Current events, not least the unconscionable acts of terrorism we have recently experienced, only add to the desirability of having readily ­available armed law enforcement officers, even if they are not officially ‘on duty’.”

Currently, only the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys have been granted an exemption from the ban – the NFL concluded that Texas state law the league’s policy.

An attempt to overturn the ban in Minnesota was by an appeals court.

The NFL explained in a to Canterbury in 2013 that while the organization had every respect for members of law enforcement and did not consider off duty officers carrying firearms to be a risk to the public or players, “we believe that public safety inside our stadiums is best served by limiting the carrying of firearms to on-duty law enforcement officers specifically assigned to work the game”.

A spokesman has that stance in response to the latest flurry of lobbying by police unions.

A brief guide to … the complex rivalries of Midlands football

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With the Guardian’s unstoppable rise to global dominance** we at Guardian US thought we’d run a series of articles for fans wishing to improve their knowledge of the sports history and storylines, hopefully in a way that doesn’t patronise you to within an inch of your life. A warning: If you’re the kind of person that finds The Blizzard too populist this may not be the series for you.

** Actual dominance may not be global. Or dominant

Like the Oscar Peterson Trio, we get requests. And here’s reader Grant Tennille of North Carolina with another cutting-edge musical reference sure to go down a storm with the pop pickers of the internet age. “It would be fun to read about the Midlands, and all the rivalries within. I mean, everyone in the USA knows Robert Plant is a massive Wolves fan, but beyond that …”

Let’s start by splitting the region down the middle. To make it simple, we’re dividing the Midlands into two halves, based on the UK government’s . So we know Stoke isn’t really in the West Midlands but just for today we’ll go with .

The big clubs in the East Midlands are two-time European Cup winners Nottingham Forest, 1970s league sensations Derby County, and current Premier League leaders Leicester City. Also in the region: Notts County, the oldest professional club in the world and the team whose black-and-white-striped shirts inspired Juventus; Chesterfield, as a third-tier team, had there been goal-line technology back then; Northampton Town, who in the 1960s went from the lowest to highest divisions of the time, Fourth to First, and all the way back down again; and Mansfield Town, who don’t care for nearby Chesterfield much but keep themselves to themselves.

Nottingham Forest’s biggest rivalry should by rights be with Notts County, situated a stone’s throw away in the city, across the River Trent. But the pair rarely play in the same division, so most of the opprobrium is saved for . Forest and Derby contest the East Midlands derby (and yes, calling it the Derby derby would just confuse things unnecessarily).

Their rivalry today is mainly shaped by , who managed Derby to the 1972 league title and the semi-finals of the European Cup the following season. It was all going swimmingly until Clough had an argument with chairman Sam Longson over the keys to the office booze cabinet – , but not much more – and resigned. After unsuccessful but fabled sabbaticals at Brighton , Clough rocked up at Forest, leading the team to promotion, the league title, and two European Cups. Clough won a couple of League Cups at the tail end of the 80s with Forest, and retired in 1993. Forest haven’t won a major trophy since he left, though Derby landed the 74-75 league title under Dave Mackay (who made more changes to Clough’s team than he was ever given credit for by the neutral, ).

The pair did contest the 1898 FA Cup final, though. Derby were the hot favourites, having got to the showpiece at Crystal Palace after beating a pair of Midlands rivals – holders Aston Villa and – plus the Merseyside duo of Liverpool and Everton. Forest, on the othue semi-finalists are paying 15.7 million euros for Promes, significantly less than the 20.8 million euros that Sevilla paid Spartak Moscow for the winger last summer.However, with variables, the transfer could reach up to 17.2 million euros plus a per hand, had been the beneficiaries of a fortunate draw, West Bromwich Albion their only top-flight opposition en route to the final. Derby also had the double over Forest in the league, winning 4-3 away and thumping the not-so-Tricky-Trees 5-0 at the Baseball Ground on the Monday before the final. Sure enough, Forest ran out easy 3-1 winners and lifted their first FA Cup.

scored Derby’s consolation that day, though otherwise failed to make much of an impression. He’s the second greatest goalscorer of all time in the English top flight, his 317 goals only bettered by the 357 scored by Jimmy Greaves. But he won nothing. Derby made the final again the following year, but Bloomer missed a golden chance with the Rams a goal to the good against Sheffield United, and his team ended up losing 4-1. County made a third final in 1903, but Bloomer was injured and missed that one, which was lost 6-0 to Bury, still an FA Cup final record. There were suggestions that Derby had been jinxed by some travelling types who had been turfed off the land required to build their new Baseball Ground stadium ( of another Midlands team, Birmingham City), but good luck proving that.

Anyway, we’ve gone well off piste here. Forest aren’t wholly enamoured with Leicester either, and vice versa. That state of affairs that may or may not have its historical roots in Forest’s 12-0 win over Leicester in 1909, which remains the Foxes’ darkest day, but can be explained away by the whole team being still half-cut after a player’s wedding the night before. Leicester also keep a pot on a rolling boil for Derby, and they’ve had the better of that rivalry in recent(ish) years: four goals in the first 15 minutes of a 4-0 win the Premier League back in 1998, future Liverpool striker Emile Heskey the star man there, and a 2-1 win the First Division promotion play-off final of 1994, club legend Steve Walsh the two-goal hero.

Time to go west, but before we leave, anyone interested in Northampton Town’s Swinging Sixties – a story which features the captain of the 1958 Wales World Cup team, Barcelona, victories over West Ham’s future World Cup winners and, more importantly, local rivals Aston Villa – should read .

The West Midlands, then. A larger selection of big names here. The behemoth, whether rival fans like it or not, and regardless of how they’re doing right now, is Aston Villa. Also from the Premier League: Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion. Big clubs labouring in the Championship now: Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers. And other league concerns: Coventry City, the winners of the 1987 FA Cup and scorers of ; Walsall, whose 2-0 FA Cup win over the famous Arsenal in 1933 is still considered by many to be the greatest shock in the competition’s long history; Shrewsbury Town, (another for Grant Tennile there); Port Vale, Stoke’s lower-league city rivals; and Burton Albion, who held Manchester United to a goalless draw in the 2006 FA Cup while a non-league team.

We could draw a map of all the inter-club rivalries, but it’d make look like Route 66. Space and time constricts ently Manchester United striker James Wilson.The on-loan forward has spent this season at Pittodrie and is set to become a free agent.The Aberdeen-transfer-news-James-Wilson-Man-Utd” target=”_blank”>Daily Express says Derek McInnes wants to land the us to the bigger rivalries. We start in England’s second city, and the pretty intense brouhaha between the generally more blue collar Birmingham City and Aston Villa, who draw some of their support from well to do areas of the city such as Sutton Coldfield. Villa, the bigger club (sorry Blues), have registered more wins in the Second City derby. But on the other hand, Birmingham have a few trophies to show for it. They beat Villa in the final of the 1963 League Cup to win their first ever major trophy, Ken Leek their two-goal hero in a 3-1 aggregate win over two legs. Then in December 2010, Nikola Zigic scored late at St Andrews to beat Villa in the League Cup quarter finals; they went on to win .

This one’s got pretty nasty of late, though. Ask most folk of the first thing they think about when the Second City derby is mentioned, and it’ll be September 2002, the first game between the two sides for 15 years, Villa defender Olaf Mellberg throwing the ball back to keeper Peter Enckelman, the hapless netminder letting it roll into the net. Bedlam. Enckelman then had to deal with a Blues fan running onto the pitch and getting right up in his grille. You couldn’t have blamed Enckelman if he’d have battered the fan – professional sports stars tend to be a bit handier than oafs full of ale and pie – but the keeper retained a quiet dignity in the face of extreme provocation. OK, dignity is probably the wrong word, but you get the point. He didn’t retaliate, and .

Enckelman went on to play well for the next six months, restoring his reputation, only to make a perhaps worse blunder when Villa faced Birmingham again, bottling out of a headed backpass and allowing Geoff Horsfield to round him and roll the ball into an empty net. Sssh, nobody mention E, the man’s suffered enough.

Over to , up the road from Birmingham. Historically, their animosity was saved for Villa, this one going back a long way. The two teams contested the 1887, 1892 and 1895 FA Cup finals. West Brom were hot favourites for the first, but were defeated 2-0, losing the place completely after Dennis Hodgetts scored an unchallenged opener from an offside position. Having expected the referee to stop play before Hodgetts netted, or at least rule the goal out, the Baggies threw a three-minute tantrum. The referee didn’t budge. They never budge.

Five years later it was Villa’s turn as hot favourites. Sure enough, the result again went the other way, West Brom battering their Midlands rivals 3-0. John Reynolds was man of the match, and was absurdly accused by his own board of only putting in a shift at the big events, in the hope of getting a transfer. Reynolds, understandably piqued, left in high dudgeon. No guesses who he signed for: yep, Villa. Also plumping for the “bugger this” option was Villa keeper Jimmy Warner, who left England for good after being accused of throwing the Cup final on purpose, having bet heavily on West Brom.

Another three years on, and the 1895 final was decided in the first minute, the ball pinballing around the Albion area and clanking off a surprised John Devey. Reynolds was in the Villa winning side, a fact presumably noted by the Baggies board. Villa then proudly put the FA Cup on display in the window of local cobbler William Shillock, only for it , melted down for coins.

West Brom also enjoy locking horns with Wolverhampton Wanderers, and this rivalry – the Black Country derby – has probably superseded the Baggies-Villa one, simply because the teams, having both spent plenty of time out of the top flight during the last few decamp; Star reports that Podence is the main target for the Premier League side in the remaining days of the transfer window.The 24-year-old striker is much sought after, and he is preferred to Nelson Oliviera, who is another Wolves target.Wolves are hades, meet more often.

But despite it being primarily a lower-division phenomenon, the signature season came back in 1953-54. West Brom were under the yoke of Vic Buckingham, a coach heavily influenced by the famous Hungary team that thrashed England 6-3 and 7-1 and should have won the 1954 World Cup. Buckingham would go on to coach Ajax and Barcelona, but right now he was going for the English league title, and his West Brom team came within a hair’s breadth of becoming the 20th-century’s first league and FA Cup double winners. West Brom were a pretty pass-and-move team. Ronnie Allen and Johnny Nicholls had scored 55 goals between them by March, and the title looked on. But injuries scuppered their chances, they crumbled on the run-in, and were pipped at the post by a more tactically prosaic side: Wolves. West Brom did win the cup that year, at least, while Wolves went on to dominate the rest of the decade along with Manchester United.

So there you have it. Or at least some of it. Villa and Coventry don’t get on. Birmingham dislike Wolves, Stoke don’t have much time for Wolves or West Brom, Birmingham and West Brom don’t mind each other too much, Walsall get a few too many patronising pats on the head for their own liking, and everyone has it in for poor old Villa – something not helped in modern times by the fact that ever popular PM David Cameron is among their fans (). Yes, we’ve only just scratched the surface here.

A special Thanksgiving hat-tip to Matthew Lutz, , for his help with this article.And if you have any topics you’d like covered for future Field Notes, jot a note to

Andy Murray warms up for US Open by reaching Cincinnati semi-finals

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After a week playing in the dark, with thunder and lightning for occasional companions, burst into the warm midwest sunlight on Friday afternoon and heads for New York this week with renewed vigour and a smile on his face.

The glow of victory was still hard won, Richard Gasquet delaying by a set Murray’s progress into the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Masters, but the Scot looks good for a shot at his third title here.

Less than 16 hours after that finished closer to midnight than he would have liked, 10 days before the US Open – – Murray overcame early jitters to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in just over two hours.

If Murray reaches Sunday’s final, he will squeeze out Roger Federer from the second seeding and that will considerably boost his chances of adding to his 2012 breakthrough major at his favourite tournament outside Wimbledon. He won that with a bad back, against a rampaging Novak Djokovic; after surgery and a long recovery period, Murray is as fit now as he has ever been. His odds, surely, have shortened since then. It could be his time again.

“I think I did well to come through that one,” said Murray after the game. “I wasn’t feeling great last night. I had a much shorter warm-up today [after his late finish against Dimitrov]. I only hit fs of the Carabao Cup after beating Burton Albion.Despite making nine-changes to the side that beat Southampton 9-0 on Friday, the Foxes were dominant against the League One outfit.Kelechi Iheanacho opened the scoring after seven minutes, with Youri Tor like 50 minutes.

“It’s important in terms of seeding for the US Open. That would be nice, to have that locked up, knowing I’ll be on a separate side of draw to Novak and possibly Roger. It could still turn out I don’t have to play either of them, as I may notthis summer.The Mirror says Bournemouth are eying another raid on the Championship for Leeds midfielder Phillips.The Cherries have already signed defender Lloyd Kelly from Bristol City for £13m and are keen to add Phillipfailing to qualify for the Champions League this season.Tuttosport says Juve are eager to bring Paul Pogba back to Turin this summer and are concerned by reports the Frenchman is prepared to now stay and sign a new deal at Old Trafford.However, whiles, 23, to their rostrum of r make the semi-finals. I don’t take anything for granted. But if you do get there it’s slightly easier if you don’t have to come up against one of those two.”

Djokovic, , will still start as favourite at Flushing Meadows but he has to manage the sore elbow that inhibited him in Montreal and again in the third round here – which did not prevent him for defeat in the French Open final.

Djokovic has an unexpected opponent in the semi-finals, Alexandr Dolgopolov, whose quirky game was too much for the sixth seed, Tomas Berdych, the Ukrainian qualifier winning 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and a quarter.

• This article was amended on 25 August 2015 because Alexandr Dolgopolov is Ukrainian, rather than Russian as an earlier version said.