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Oleksandr Usyk won his heavyweight debut but can he beat the big boys?

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Oleksandr Usyk, the cruiserweight champion turned heavyweight contender, is guided by two indomitable polar forces that he brings to bear with magnetic energy, a twinkle in the eye and a gap-toothed grin. He is part Conan the Barbarian, part Conan O’Brien. Both apex predator and Animaniac. Killer and comic relief. Usyk is the planet’s warmest, fuzziest bear trap.

He won gold for Ukraine at the London Olympics in 2012, turned pro, then pulverised the 200-pound division into particle dust, becoming the first cruiserweight to hold all four major world titles. Eleven months after his last fight as a cruiserweight – – Usyk (17-0, 13 KO) made his heavyweight debut in Chicago on Saturday against Chazz Witherspoon (38-4, 27 KO), a sloppy 38-year-old who took the fight as a last-minute replacement for Tyrone Spong, a third-rate opponent who returned an adverse doping test in the middle of last week.

The opponent was largely irrelevant fol Madrid president Florentino Perez insists there was no “pact” with Atletico Madrid preventing them from signing Antoine Griezmann.The France attacker left Atleti this summer for Barcelona in a record €120m deal.At Real’s General Assembly, Florentr the thousands of fight fans in attendance. The Ukrainian supporters would have screamed their throats raw for Usyk whether he had been fighting a muppet, a hologram or a YouTube flunky. This was a party.

Previously, Usyk was merely one of the greatest cruiserweight fighters in history and a theoretical pound-for-pound boogeyman. Yet his graduation to the heavyweight division means he must become something else: an attraction. To a large portion of mainstream sports fans, a transcendent 200-pounder might as well be a G-League heavyweight: talented, sure, but mostly irrelevant if he can’t play with the big boys. European gate money spends are pretty good, but it’s American subscriber dollars that elevate a fighter into his own financial gulfstream.

So it has become Usyk’s challenge to not only display his gifts – both pugilistic and charismatic – but to do so against men inches taller and dozens of pounds heavier. The world’s most significant heavyweights all have the capacity to floor world-class fighters their own size, let alone a puffed-up cruiser new kid on the block.

Witherspoon stands conspicuously outside that group, but at 6ft 4in and 242 pounds, even he posed a lumbering threat to the 215-pound Usyk. The Philadelphia-born former not-quite-contender came in having fought just twice in three years, and he signed on as the fill-in just four days before the bout – apparently cornered between buffet runs at the Golden Corral. Witherspoon may not have been in shape for Usyk, but he was a very large man with nearly 30 professional stoppages under his belt. Styles make fights, but size can end them.

Saturday wasn’t for spoilers, though. After taking stock in the opening round, Usyk got to work with the jab. The Daniel Sturridge in their bid for Trabzonspor pair Ugurcan Cakir and Abdulkadir Omur.The Karadeniz Gazette says Sturridge could help Liverpool land Cakir and Omur.The former Reds striker currently plays with the duo at Trabzonspor.And he has recommenquicker man by far, he parried Witherspoon’s power with nimble footwork and head movement. In the fourth round, Usyk had Witherspoon backing up, stinging him with occasional power left hands, driving him against the ropes and into corners to land quick-burst combinations.

Chants of “Ooh-seek, Ooh-seek” arose when the headliner paused the onslaught to size up his work and, by the seventh round, Witherspoon had been sufficiently tenderised. As he sat on his stool before the eighth round, the American let referee Hector Afu know that he’d had enough. Usyk had won his first fight as a heavyweight. Although there never seemed a moment when Witherspoon was at serious risk of being dropped, neither was there a moment during the fight when Usyk was not categorically in control.

The post-fight questions lobbed at Usyk were predictable. Was the impact of heavyweight power what you expected? Will you be able to withstand it against elite competition? How will your own arsenal match up against those of Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury?

One reporter decided to spar with Usyk, suggesting he would have to change his ad star Antoine Griezmann.Robert was still with Barca when the Frenchman infamously turned them down this time last year – via a Gerard Pique produced documentary.He told El Larguero: “I wanted to sign Griezmann two years ago, if I would sign him now,pproach to beat the top heavyweights. Usyk, who speaks through an interpreter except on occasional low-leverage situations when he flashes his lovably broken English, stared a hole through the reporter – who was sitting no more than a lunging jab away from him – before asking: “You serious?” The moment passed, the reporter’s soul was returned to his earthly body and, in an instant, Usyk was giggling and playfully nudging his manager and translator, Egis Klimas.

“Soooo hungry,” said Usyk, as the questions continued to pour in. He was famished. A good sign. Usyk will need to bulk up for what comes next — which promoter Eddie Hearn says is the winner of the rematch between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua. When asked which potential opponent he would prefer to face, Usyk did not hesitate: “Joshua.” He didn’t miss a beat a moment later, either, when he answered the night’s final question in thickly accented but perfectly constructed English – a potential marketing game-changer.

“Wait, why has he been translating for you this whole time?” asked one of the reporters, only half-jokingly. A pause. Usyk’s crazy eyes bulged cartoonishly, his hands hit his cheeks and, from the smile that creased his face, out popped that unmistakable gap. He’s taking apart heavyweights, he’s speaking English and he’s having a ball.

Charles Rogers, second overall pick in 2003 NFL draft, dies aged 38

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Charles Rogers, the wide receiver chosen second in the 2003 NFL draft after a prolific career at Michigan State University, has died aged 38.

The Detroit Free Press after a number of his former teammates on social media.

No cause of death has been reported, but several of his former coaches said .

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Charles Rogers,” the Lions said rsenal manager Unai Emery has admitted that losing the Europa League final is a blow for his team.The Gunners were routed 4-1 by Chelsea in a game where they never looked competitive.It means they will be unable to qualify for the UEFA Champions Leagin a statement Monday. “From Saginaw, to East Lansing, to Detroit, Charles’ connection to the state of Michigan and its football community was felt by many during the course of his life. We extend our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to his friends and family during this difficult time.”

Rogers set a school record with 27 career touchdowns that still stands at Michigan State despite playing only two seasons at the Lansing school, winning the Fred Biletnikoff award as the best college wide receiver in the nation during his junior season.

The 6ft 3in, 220lb star was chosen with the No 2 pick in the 2003 draft behind only Carson Palmer and almost immediately made good on his $9.1m signing bonus with the Lions, catching 22 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns in his first five professional games, but his rookie year was abruptly cut short when he broke his collarbone during a speed drill.

Rogers broke his collarbone again on the third play of the 2004 campaign, ending his second season. By the end of year three, he was out of football entirely, finishing with 36 receptions for 440 yards and three touchdowns in 15 appearances.

The Saginaw native was arrested at least six times from 2008-12 on charges ranging from assault and battery and probation violations to DUI, open container violations and marijuana possession.

In 2017, Rogers that he became addicted to Vicodin during his time with the Lions. He also said he smoked marijuana throughout his time in college and the pros.

“I am getting my life together. … A fresh start,” he said in that interview. “Do I need a little love? Yeah. Am I still trying to find Charles Rogers? Yeah. I stay optimistic and positive. I’ve been to hell and back, but I stay strong. I still have faith. I’m still a young man. It ain’t over. I’m going to be all right, you know? I’m going to be all right.”

Donham boss Harry Redknapp believes Paul Pogba could yet stay with Manchester United.Pogba continues to be linked with Real Madrid and Juventus.But Redknapp told Sky Sports, “I wouldn’t think they’ll take a loss – I think he is a great footballer.”Maybn Durrett, who coached Rodgers at Saginaw High School, told the Free Press he was the best athlete he’d any seen across spo confirmed the club is under an English Football League transfer embargo due to an unpaid tax bill, reports BBC Sport.The Shrimpers will owe £668,000 to HM Revenue and Customs by 11 March, with a further month “stacked up behind”.Sol Campbell’s siderts.

“I’ll tell you, he was – and I’m including Flint, too, since I coached at Flint Northern all those years – he’s the best athlete I ever seen. I mean, honestly,” Durett told the newspaper. “We’re talking about basketball, football and track together. He could have had a scholarship in all three sports. That’s how good. … I haven’t seen nobody that fast that could do it all. He was just a blessed athlete that could do it all.”

Gardner Minshew and Jaguars’ defense stand tall in win over Tennessee Titans

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Minshew Mania is gaining momentum.

Gardner Minshew threw two touchdown passes and should have had a third, Calais Campbell spearheaded another defensive gem and the handled the Tennessee Titans 20-7 in sloppy conditions Thursday night.

Jacksonville (1-2) ended a four-game losing streak in the AFC Sis attracting big foreign interest.Gibson has found himself sidelined this season as he struggles to break into manager Sean Dyche’s first team plans.Sky Sports says German clubs Eintracht Frankfurt and Cologne are interested in signing Burnley defenouth series and avoided the franchise’s second 0-3 start in four years.

“This felt good,” defensive tackle Abry Jones said. “We needed this.”

With all eyes on star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who may have played his final game for Jacksonville, Minshew and a second stellar defensive outing in five days captured the spotlight.

A sixth-round draft pick starting his second consecutive game in place of injured Nick Foles (broken collarbone), Minshew completed 20 of 30 passes for 204 yards. He found James O’Shaughnessy wide open for a seven-yard score, which came one play after Adoree’ Jackson’s muffed punt. Minshew was more precise with a 22-yard touchdown pass to DJ Chark, who was blanketed by Malcolm Butler.

Fans chanted Minshew’s name each time the offense took the field, and fans everywhere adorned fake mustaches and bandanas to mimic his signature look.

Marcus Mariota got no style points in this one. Jacksonville sacked Mariota a whopping nine uth America’s elite international football competition.The ng Norwich City striker Emiliano Buendia.Sky Sports says the 22-year-old Norwich City forward has attracted the attention of Villa boss Dean Smith ahead of the January transfer window.Argentine Buendia has started all 12 of Norwich’s matches in the Ptournament will be staged between June 12 and July 12 next year, jointly hosted by Colombia and Argentina. FFA chairman Chris Nikou, chief executive David Gallop and Mark Falvo, the organisattimes, including three by Campbell.

“You seen what the D-line did,” Ramsey said, declining to talk about his potential trade. “Today was their day. Everybody got a piece of it. I was excited to see those guys have a huge game.”

The Jaguars played well enough to win at Houston last week, especially on the defensive side, but came up inches short on a two-point conversion and lost 13-12.

Ramsey then gut-punched a franchise already reeling from the loss of Foles by requesting a trade hours after the loss to the Texans. He asked to get out following his sideline confrontation with coach Doug Marrone.

Ramsey later insisted he didn’t want to be a distraction. He wasn’t, at least not on the field.

The Jaguars enjoyed a 14-point lead in the first quarter for the first time since Week 2 of last season against New England and just the third time in the last five seasons.

Ramsey hugged several teammates after the game, but didn’t say any goodbyes in the locker room.

“He didn’t have to say anything,” Jones said. “He may be going to another team, but no one’s going to be hurt by that. It’s a business decision.”

The Titans (1-2) struggled to play from behind.

With his team trailing 14-0 early in the third, coach Mike Vrabel passed on a short field goal and went for it on fourth-and-6 at the 11. Campbell abused backup guard Jamil Douglas, and Mariota had no time to get rid of the ball.

“That’s not how you want to play that football team, from behind,” Vrabel said. “We talked about that. This football team, you don’t want to play from behind. They can really rush the passer.”

Tennessee finally got on the scoreboard with Derrick Henry’s one-yard plunge early in the fourth. Henry finished with 44 yards on 17 carries, a far cry from his last game against Jacksonville. Henry ran for a franchise-record 238 yards and four touchdowns, including the second 99-yard run in history (Tony Dorsett, 1983), in December.

Jacksonville wasn’t going to let it happen again, stacking the box and doing a much better job tackling the 247lb back.

Even Ramsey got in a couple of shots on the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner.

‘I am truly sorry’: Patriots owner Robert Kraft breaks silence over prostitution bust

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owner Robert Kraft has broken his silence for the first time since he was charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting another to commit prostitution in Florida.

“I am truly sorry,” Kraft said in a statement. “I knng eight goals yesterday.Speaking after the match, Foster conceded his side were far from their best, but said at times he could only stand and admire the way City were playing during the thrashing.”It’s probably a bit of shock, embarrassment,” said ow I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard.”

Kraft, the billionaire businessman whose Patriots won the Super Bowl last month and who is one of the most powerful figures in American spij says there’s no reason to dwell on their preseason defeat to Manchester United.The Nerazzurri opened their International Champions Cup campaign in Singapore with a 1-0 reverse.“Manchester United have a lot of quality, we tried to play with organorts, was said he had remained silent since the charges “in deference to the judicial process.”

“Throughout my life, I have always tried to do the right thing. The last thing I would ever want to do is disrespect another human being. I have extraordinary respect for women; my morals and my soul were shaped by the most wonderful woman, the love of my life, who I was blessed to have as my partner for 50 years,” Kraft said in the statement.

“As I move forward, I hope to continue to use the platform with which I have been blessed to help others and to try to make a difference. I expect to be judged not by my castle United supporters have not seen the best of him.The winger has spent three years at St. James’ Park, but he believes his body hasn’t been 100 per cent.Atsu said: “The biggest thing for me this season is to be consistent. I have had some good pwords, but by my actions. And through those actions, I hope to regain your confidence and respect.”

Danielle Collins: the feisty US college star causing upsets at the Australian Open

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Early in on Tuesday, Danielle Collins challenged a line call that had gone in her opponent’s favor. Her challenge was incorrect, and a frustrated Collins complained loudly about the outcome. That reaction was unsurprising: during her run to the semi-finals, Collins has established herself as someone unafraid to make her opponents uncomfortable. Before now Collins had never won a main draw match at a major, and her boldness is one of the reasons she is deep into the second week in Melbourne.

Collins hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere – she is the world No 35 – but the casual tennis fan can be forgiven for having no idea who this vocal, unflinching American is. The 25-year-old was ranked 162nd a year ago, before she put together wins over Madison Keys on her way to the quarters at Indian Wells, Coco Vandeweghe and Venus Williams during a semi-final run in Miami, Victoria Azarenka en route to another semi-final in San Jose, and Carla Suárez-Navarro in Eastbourne.

The reason she is finding success relatively late on is simple: education. Rather than turn pro as a teenager, Collins attended the University of Virginia and graduated in 2016 with an undergraduate degree in media and a masters in business. She was national college champion twice and is the first former collegiate female player to make a major semi-final since Meredith McGrath did so at Wimbledon in 1996. She cites her college experience as a at the Australian Open as she was given the chance to mature before embarking on the grueling professional tour.

“I think not being a superstar at a young age certainly humbled me, made me work harder for things,” . “I was talented and athletic, but maybe not to the level that other players were at, like, 14, 15, 16. Not being a child prodigy, I went a different route. I wasn’t really sure if I could make it playing professional tennis when I was that age. Going to college was really crucial for me and my development. I think it’s made me hungrier.”

It shows, especially in her wins against Pavyluchenkova and in the last 16, during which the 2016 champion only won two games. At one point Collins repeated the German’s “come on!” yell after winning a point – except louder and more purposefully. It was a cry that teetered close to provocation.

She knows not everyone appreciates her on-court temperament – habits inherited from the rowdy environment of college matches – but she thrives on that discomfort, admitting: “I’m feisty. I love making it kiny Ings.The veteran frontman played a pivotal role as his side picked up a key victory against Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday.Ings has seven goals in seven games, and is the third Saints player to ever score 10 Premier League goals befnd of a war. If somebody wants to get in my face on my unforced errors, I have no problem getting right back at them and making it a feisty match.” Her confidence on the court is as enjoyable to watch as her main weapon: her two-handed backhand. Indeed, it’s almost more fun to witness her succeed because she is so unapologetic.

At points, her boldness can come across as gamesmanship. Against Pavlyuchenkova she twice “forgot” new balls had been put in play and lost a point before realizing she hadn’t changed racquets to accommodate springier balls. The second time, late in the match, Pavlyuchenkova complained Collins was violating the serve clock by heading to the bench in the middle of a game to fetch her racquet. One instance, Pavlyuchenkova appeared to be suggesting, could have by moved to Juve in the summer on a free transfer, but has found it difficult to get game time.The Italian champions have a packed midfield and Rabiot is often the odd one out under Maurizio Sarri.Footmercato says Everton have contacted Rabiot’s motheeen a reasonable mistake but the second was harder to chalk up to forgetfulness.

Are her on-court escapades and interview soundbites merely her media degree emerging as another weapon in her arsenal? Or is it just her distinctive personality working to her advantage on a tour where she is a comparatively uninhibited player?

It is most likely a mix, and that mindset has got her close to winning a major. On her third match-point against Pavlyuchenkova her victory came on a slight delay when the Russian challenged the call. This time the challenge went Collins’s way and she got loud once again, screams accenting fist pumps as she celebrated. She’ll next play the two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in a rematch of a loss in Brisbane a few weeks ago, which Collins said was “one of the best matches I’ve played”, despite the outcome.

After dispatching Kerber, Collins admitted in her on-court interview: “I may not have won a grand slam match before this week but I gotta tell you, I think it’s gonna keep happening.” Her prediction hasn’t been disproved yet, and that confidence now has her two matches from on-loan with Killie this season.“The person who deals with players on loan from Liverpool came up to watch me when we played Hearts away,” he told the Kilmarnock Standard.“He said I was good, he said I was defensively decent and going forward I the title.

Celtics crush Cavaliers in Game 1 of NBA Eastern Conference finals

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Jaylen Brown had 23 points and eight rebounds, Marcus Morris added 21 points and 10 boards, and the Boston Celtics scorched the 108-83 on Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Celtics ran off 17 consecutive points in the first quarter and never allowed the Cavaliers within single digits again. Boston led by 28 when Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue pulled LeBron James for good with 7:09 left. Kevin Love had 17 points and eight rebounds, and James finished with 15 points, nine assists and seven boards. The Cavaliers missed their first 14 three-point attempts of the game and shot just 32 percent in the first half.

By that time, Boston led 61-35 the biggest half-time playoff deficit in James’ career. With injured stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving on the bench in street clothes, the Celtics continued their stunning run this season with what may have been the most surprising turn of events yet. A year after dropping the first two games at home against Cleveland in a five-game East final, the Celtics pounced on James, and the favored Cavaliers were never really in it.

The Celtics took the floor to a hype video that began with the broadcast of Hayward’s injury in the first quarter of the first game, at Cleveland. A variety of commentators predicted the team’s demise, including Hall of Famer Charles Barkley saying: “Their season’s over.”

As more players went down to injury, the prophesies grew even gloomier. But there the Celtics were, back in the Eastern Conference finals against the Cavaliers for the second year in a row with Hayward, Irving, Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin all injured and coach Brad Stevens down to an eight-man rotation.

It was more than they needed.

Morris, starting in place ofncelotti has agreed a four-and-a-half-year deal that runs until the end of the 2023/24 season.He is attending today’s Premier League match against Arsenal at Goodison as a spectator prior to meeting the plgend Alan Shearer believes Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood is ready to be a regular starter.The 18 year-old struck in last night’s 4-1 win over the Toon last night.“The early signs that we’ve seen of Mason Greenwood have been exceptional.ayers and taking up his new role from Sunday. Aron Baynes, backed up his boast that he could cover James better than anyone except Kawhi Leonard and helped pester James into seven of Cleveland’s nine turnovers. (James had eight in the entire four-game, second-round sweep of the Raptors.)

Cleveland scored seven straight points early in the third and finished the quarter with six in a row to make it 78-64. But Boston made the first three baskets in the fourth and, after running off nine in a row to make it 96-68 with 7:0t to make an opening offer for Newcastle United midfielder Sean Longstaff.The Mirror says United are ready to test Newcastle’s resolve to keep Longstaff by making a £30million bid for the midfielder.United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made Longstaf9 left, the Cavs conceded.

Game 2 is on Tuesday night in Boston.

Los Angeles FC mark arrival with Hollywood ending to open new stadium

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On a grimy corner of downtown , LAFC were selling a dream from the unpromising surroundings of a warehouse adjacent to a freeway underpass.

Construction had only just begun on the 20-month project to create a new 22,000-seater stadium on the site of the former LA Memorial Sports Arena, and the freshly-launched club needed something to show potential supporters other than a building plot.

A couple of miles away from their home ground in-the-making, LAFC created their Experience Center. The surroundings were underwhelming, but the message was overwhelming. Visiting Angelinos received a thorough briefing on the club’s plans and were able to envisage the new $350m home ground twill monitor Nicolas Pepe’s progress in training before deciding if he will face Newcastle United this weekend.The £72m signing did not play in Sunday’s loss to Barcelona, with Emery confirming he stayed behind to train in London.Speaking after the hrough 3D models and virtual reality films.

“I took the tour and I was hooked. I paid my $100 deposit straightaway,” fan Hector Marrujo reminisces as he took his inaugural journey to the Banc of California Stadium on Sunday.

“I’m Mexican so I’ve always supported Club America, but I never likefielder Sean Longstaff has dismissed critics of his form this season.The North-Shields born midfielder has drawn criticism from some as this season’s performances fail to hit the heights of the 2018-19 campaign.The 22-year-old reveals that he is welld the Galaxy – even the name ‘Galaxy’ has always seemed lame to me – and LAFC are actually in the city. I don’t have to travel to Carson, there’s an LA zip code. But what really got me was this is something new and exciting. There’s a vision with young, exciting players.”

The 17,500 season ticket holders who took that leap of faith were rewarded on Sunday evening, as the LAFC dream became a reality.

Downtown Los Angeles’ first professional open-air sporting venue since Dodger Stadium opened its doors in 1962 was not graced by a classic opening fixture, although there was an ear-splitting finale after captain Laurent Ciman’s stoppage time free-kick was haplessly spilled by Seattle Sounders keeper Stefan Frei.

It may have been a slightly comical opening goal at the stadium after LAFC had largely huffed and puffed in their attempts to break down the 2016 Cup winners. But that’s five wins out of seven Western Conference games now. There has been no teething period for Bob Bradley’s side.

“It’s nice not to inaugurate the stadium with a 0-0. Maybe someone was looking down on us!” said a beaming Bradley afterwards.

However, this was about more than 90 minutes. After playing their opening six games away from home (although one of those was the LA derby), this was the day where it felt that Major League Soccer’s newest franchise had truly arrived.

Well, it was more touchdown than take-off after Navy Seals parachuted onto the turf carrying the match ball. The expected pre-match palava continued with fireworks, a fan-led rendition of the national anthem and, oh yes, co-owner Will Ferrell carrying a trained falcon called Olly onto the pitch sporting an LAFC headdress.

The gold and black clad fanbase didn’t need any fancy gimmicks to capture their attention, though. Whether it’s the geographical advantage that LAFC possess over neighbors Galaxy (who are 10 miles away in the outlying city of Carson) or the idea of a new, fresh and exciting venture, supporters have become instantly invested in a team boasting a history of just seven competitive games.

The rowdy safe standing terraced North Stand had an air of the Bundesliga to it, as members of the ‘3253’ supporters group bounced and waved frantically to the rhythm of a bass drum orchestra.

Although there was little slickness on show against Seattle, LAFC’s open, attacking philosophy will surely attract even more supporters after Bradley’s men have averaged more than two goals per game during the season’s formative stages.

It comes at the cost of defensive rigidity. Yes, LAFC registered a third clean sheet of the campaign, but they shipped 13 in the other four games. There is a definite air of susceptibility to the back three: the Sounders spurning two glorious opportunities within the opening 10 minutes to silence the excitable home crowd.

But in a front three of Diego Rossi, Marco Urena and Carlos Vela, LAFC possess an attack arguably good enough to rival reigning MLS ch revelation in the new book of BVB chief Hans-Joachim Watzke – ‘REAL LIEBE – end of Leben mit dem BVB’.The Reds manager is quoted, stating: “As a lifesaver when the club really needs my help. “Why wouldn’t I do it? It’s just nice to get that chance. ampions Toronto. Vela, in particular, shines bright in his ability to persistently find pockets of space and dictate proceedings in the final third.

Bradley said: “We’re not Barcelona yet. Our football’s not perfect, but we go out every game and try to play. Every team has to come up with its identity and its way of playing, but I think it’s clear we’ll try to continue going in that direction.”

General manager John Thorrington deserves enormous credit for putting together such an attacking line-up. LAFC’s 30-strong ownership group of Hollywood and Malaysian business, sporting and entertainment heavyweights have clearly shown their acumen in building the club from scratch over the last four years after the collapse of Chivas left a gap in the southern California market.

But Thorrington, the former US international, crucially avoided the temptation to follow Galaxy’s example of bringing household names to Los Angeles. Instead, this is a project more akin to Atlanta United, with young, hungry, accomplished players from Central and South America.

Although Galaxy’s star turn Zlatan Ibrahimovic has proved to be a media darling since arriving in California and inflicted such a memorable wound in the inaugural derby between the two clubs, LAFC already boast the infrastructure to challenge their neighbors in the long-term.

Encouragingly, they’re only at the start of the journey.

Stubbornness and lack of talent: the factors that doomed USA’s World Cup

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The shock is just now beginning to subside after the US men’s national team was eliminated from contention for the next summer’s World Cup in Russia. Every result that could have doomed them on Tuesday night came about, with combining with to knock Bruce Arena’s men out.

The list of what didn’t doom the United States’ qualifying campaign is lengthy – vastly greater resources and spending power relative to the rest of the Concacaf region, first and foremost – but before the autopsy begins in earnest, below are four things that consigned the US to desperate failure.

Coach Bruce Arena’s comment that the , and the insinuation that it is somehow more challenging than in other federations, inspired much guffawing.

Those scorning Arena had justification. (Good luck surviving a bad draw in Uefa or CAF, Bruce). There’s a case to be made that Concacaf has the most lenient road to the . In few other regions could Mexico have made it to Brazil three years ago with just two wins out of 10 qualifiernal to the end of the season.Aubameyang pulled out of talks with the club over a contract extension.He won the Premier League golden boot last season and is Arsenal’s top scorer again this term, with 13 goals in 20 Premier League games so far despites, for example, or with just three, as the US would have if El Tri and Costa Rica had done them a favor on Tuesday night.

What Arena was alluding to, however, were the logistical and practical concerns that are unique to Central America and the Caribbean. In few other regions, for example, do visitors have to to get to practice the day before the match. Stories of inhospitable kickoff times and late-night phone calls to team hotels .

What that all means is that taking care of business at home is paramount. Win your home games, and you’re in, no matter what happens on those pesky road trips.

The United States failed to obey that cardinal rule. in what had previously been the fortress of Mapfre Stadium – two days after the election of President Donald Trump, some of a certain political persuasion will remind you with the same dark comedy that inspired Omar Gonzalez’s own goal on Tuesday – and in New Jersey last month.

That Costa Rica loss, especially, coming when it did, put the US in a position in which they absolutely needed an away result. As we saw so vividly, that can come back to bite teams.

earlier this month, the USMNT are plagued by a puzzling dearth of talent between the ages of 23 and 27. The reasons behind that glaring development gap are myriad – that players those ages were born before Major League Soccer came into existence, that every nation ebbs and flows with its talent production – but its impact was clear enough this campaign.

The US leaned too heavily on veterans who had clearly lost a step, like poor Tim Howard, who was so lauded for his heroics against Belgium in Brazil but has lacked his former reflexes for a while now. It has also heaped far too much responsibility onto the shoulders of 19-year-old Christian Pulisic.

Pulisic has legitimate, game-changing quality. He’s already as gifted as just about any other American soccer player, ever, and it is a great shame for football fans everywhere was that he has been robbed of a turn on the World Cup stage. Pulisic was dominant last Friday night against Panama and . He’s also young, and sometimes inconsistent, like when he struggled to establish himself in that aforementioned Costa Rica match.

Such are the dangers of leaning too heavily on players either on the back end of their careers or still growing into their prime.

To write off this collapse as merely a function of a down talent cycle is to be far nager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to get his side back firing and be better than they were last term.”I understand that we’ve only picked two points up from three games but it feels like we should have a lot more,” the former defender said.”We might have totoo lenient on the powers that be. Even without difference-makers in that age group, this team had more than enough talent to qualify. MLS, the domestic league, is as strong as it’s ever been. Pulisic plays for Borussia Dortmund, one of the biggest club teams in the world.

Blame should also be pointed squarely at Arena, at former coach Jürgen Klinsmann, who oversaw the home loss to Mexico and the 4-0 hiding in Costa Rica, as well as at federation president Sunil Gulati, who hired both of them.

This has been a trend since the first time Arena was in charge.

His 2002 squad made the deepest run of any US team in the modern era, in the World Cup quarter-finals. At the end of his second cycle in 2006, though, the team flopped, going three-and-out in Germany. Bob Bradley also guided the US to the World Cup knockout rounds a year after a stirring run to the 2009 Confederations Cup final … and was let go midway through his second cycle after the team’s form fell off.

So Klinsmann’s trajectory should’ve been easily to chart when he inked a contract extension the year before his USforward Lucas Boye on a season-long loan from Italian side Torino.The 23-year-old spent last season on loan at Greek club AEK Athens, playing in four Champions League group games.Boye has made 41 Serie A appearances for Torino and has also previously team reached the round of 16 in 2014. Instead, he stuck around long enough to dig the hole this group could not climb out of.

Any of the three fluky plays that sank the US would’ve been extraordinary on its own.

First, Gonzalez sliced an attempted clearance off the outside of his boot and into his own net, an own goal that would’ve been stylish even if he had been attempting to score. Then Honduras boinked their game-winner off the crossbar, off the back of the Mexican goalkeeper’s head and over the line. didn’t even make it that far – replays conclusively showed that Blas Perez’s shot next made it completely over the goalline – but it was credited anyway (fans hoping for a reprieve on that one may well be disappointed: it sounds like US Soccer won’t appeal. “As far as I know there is no recourse. Decisions of the referee are final,” spokesman .)

Taken together, it’s fine to acknowledge that this was a remarkable bit of ill fortune to strike in the same night.

It’s also fair to point out that the US has so much going for it relative to its peers that it never should have been so susceptible to bad luck so late in the campaign – and that this result will have repercussions for years to come.

Stephen Curry named NBA MVP after helping Warriors beat Trail Blazers

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nailed a three-pointer in overtime and gestured to the crowd, exclaiming over and over: “I’m back! I’m back!”

Curry returned from a sprained right knee to score an NBA-record 17 points in overtime, finishing with 40 as the Warriors rallied to take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semi-finals with a 132-125 victory ove Sanchez insists Inter Milan are capable of winning the Champions League.On-loan from Manchester United, the striker is ready to face former club Barcelona this week.He stated, “Every player would like to win a Champions League. You play to win it, nr the on Monday night.

And then on Tuesday, to no one’s great surprise, . Curry swept all 131 first-place votes, including 130 from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters and one from the fan vote. Curry is the 11th player to win back-to-back MVP awards.

“I love this game, I love playing and love competing. And really, really missed being out there with my team-mates,” Curry said. “To help our team get a win tonight and in that fashion, that was a good feeling in that moment to be back on the floor and playing.”

Playing for the first time since he was injured in Game 4 of the first-round series against Houston, Curry was rusty for three quarters and sensational down the stretch after the Warriors trailed by as much as 16 points.

Originally expected to play about 25 minutes off the bench, Curry picked up a heavier workload in the second half after Shaun Livingston, who had been starting in his absence, was ejected in the second quarter after arguing a call and picking up two technical fouls.

The Warriors can win the series Wednesday night at home in Game 5. A news conference announcing Curry’s award is scheduled for 5pm ET in Oakland on Tuesday.

Curry was followed in the vote by Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio, LeBron James of Cleveland and Oklahoma City pair Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Curry’s Warriors team-mate Draymond Green was seventh.

Damian Lillard finished with 36 points and 10 assists for Portland.

Curry’s fast-break lay-up gave the defending champions a 120-118 lead with 2:21 left in the extra period. He followed with a three-pointer, strutting and pumping his fist in celebration.

“You knew he’d catch his rhythm eventually,” Klay Thompson said. “He’s probably the best player in the world, the best shooter of all-time. He was getting good looks. We’ll take those all day.”

Harrison Barnes’ layup extended the lead to 125-118 and Portland couldn’t catch up. Thompson finished with 23 for the Warriors.

Curry finally made his first three of the game to give the Warriors a 103-100 lead with 4:35 left in regulation, but Pesses in training.The striker could see action tonight against Chelsea.Arteta stated on Monday: “Well, it will depend on the circumstances: the players we have available, his performance, the way he trains, the impact that he makes every time he playortland was ahead in the final minute before Barnes tied it at 111-all with a three-pointer with 51 seconds left. Both Lillard and Curry missed to force the OT.

Curry led the Warriors to an NBA-record 73 wins in the regular season, a year after leading the team to its first NBA championship in 40 years. He averaged just over 30 points per game this season.

“Remarkable,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “I mean, he looked fresh. He had his rhythm. He made tough shots, he made nice passes, he fought through screens. Obviously 17 points in overtime. It was a hell of a performance.”

The Trail Blazers narrowed the series to 2-1 on Saturday night when Lillard scored 40 points in a 120-108 Portland victory while Golden State was still without its star guard. The Blazers became the only team to defeat the Warriors twice this season.

Curry came off the bench with 5:56 left in the first quarter and Portland up 16-2. His only points in the quarter came off a pair of jumpers before he went back to the bench.

Livingston felt he was fouled just before halftime and was thrown out after arguing with referee Scott Foster. The 12-year veteran guard was averaging 12.1 points and 5.Oxlade-Chamberlain up and running in preseason.The 24-year-old managed just a pair of substitute appearances last season after suffering a devastating knee injury the previous April.Jurgen Klopp has described the England midfielder as a new signing a5 assists in the playoffs. He had started six of the eight playoff games while Curry nursed his knee injury.

Portland led 67-57 at the half, scoring a franchise playoff-record 41 points in the second quarter alone. Lillard led all scorers with 17 points.

Curry said his legs were sore after the game.

“To be expected,” he said. “I pride myself in the work I put in in the offseason to get through the 82-game schedule and be fresh for the playoffs. I was off my feet for a week and some change. You obviously lose a little bit but deep down when I got the work the last four days and broke a sweat and put the time in, that helped me get through these 38 minutes.”

New York Knicks forward Cleanthony Early shot in early-morning attack

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small forward Cleanthony Early was held up at gunpoint and shot in the right leg during an early-morning attack in Queens on Wednesday.

Early, 24, who had played 29 seconds inrs are holding firm in their demands for Aston Villa target Alfredo Morelos.The Premier League side are determined to sign a new attacker, with the Colombian international the man they believe can get them enough goals to stay in the league.But Footb the Knicks’ 108-96 victory over the Pistons earlier that night, was shot in his right leg while traveling in an Uber car, detectives said. The attack took place at about 4am after Early left a strip club in the Maspeth neighborhood of Queens.

According to the New York Daily News, Early, 24, was surrounded by four to six people wearing ski masks and robbed of his items and jewelry – including a gold necklace and gold caps on his teeth, souool defender Glen Johnson has backed Manchester United’s move for Harry Maguire before the end of the summer window. United and Leicester City are still haggling over terms for the England international.“If United have come calling again, they knowrces said. Early was taken to Elmhurst hospital in stable condition, and was later being transported to another hospital. His injury does not appear to be life-threatening.

“We are aware of what occurred with Cleanthony Early this morning and are relieved that he is not in a life-threatening situation,” the Knicks said in a statement. “We ill not comment any further until we receive more information.”

Early, who grew up in the Bronx, is in his second season with the Knicks. He was drafted in 2014 after attending Wichita State.

The theft comes about 10 days after Knicks forward Derrick Williams was robbed of $617,000 in jewelry from his home. He had taken home two women from a Manhattan club. Police are still looking for suspects.

Williams has declined to comment on the theft, but the case raised questions about whether players should have a curfew like other professional sports. In April, Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copelay Maguire feels they’d be further up the table if not for defensive lapses this season.He would much prefer a few ugly wins and a festive charge that puts United bang in the top-four picture.Ahead of today’s trip to Watford, Maguire admitted: “Thatnd, his girlfriend and another woman were stabbed following a late-night argument on the street near a Manhattan nightclub.

Knicks coach Derek Fisher was asked about the policy at a news conference after Williams was robbed.

“I don’t really have to get into our policies of what you can and can’t do,” he told reporters last week. “We don’t have a curfew like in the NFL or other sports do on certain nights. It’s an unfortunate incident.”

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.

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

Longtime nemesis Antonio Cromartie says Tom Brady shouldn’t be suspended

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Tom Brady received support from an unlikely quarter on Thursday when New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie came out in defense of the embattled quarterback during an appearance on ESPN.

“Honestly, I don’t think he should be suspended,” Cromartie , ESPN’s two-hour weekday morning debate program, when asked about the fairness of the NFL’s punishment for Brady’s role in Deflategate. “Nobody is safe no matter who you are. Roger [Goodell] is going to do what he wants to do. It don’t matter what the rules say, he’s gonna make his own rules as he goes, and it shouldn’t be like that.

“But at the end of the day, we as players gave him the freedom to do whatever he wants to do. We signed the [current Collective Bargaining Agreement]. So we had our own fault for doing it. We should have been more detailed. We shouldn’t have rushed into things. We should have pushed it to another month and a half and made the owners lose money, and then you go from there.”

Four years ago, when Cromartie made headlines by calling Brady an “asshole” ahead of a playoff game between the Jets and Patriots, it would have been difficult to imagine support coming from a less likely figure.

“Fuck him,” Cromartie . “I hate [him].”

On Thursday, it was Goodell who bore the brunt of Cromartie’s anger. Perhaps, as they say, the enemy of my enemy really is my friend.

“In the rulebook, ths been left out of the club’s preseason tour.The left back will remain in England, while the rest of his teammates head to Asia for their preseason preparations.Per The Telegraph, Rose is set for a move away from Tottenham in the coming weeks.The 29-ere’s no suspension in the rules,” Cromartie said. “There’s only a $25,000 fine, so I don’t see how you can try to lay the hammer down on someone when the rule states for itself there’s no suspension for it. Are we trying to go back to the Spygate and get more from ity.The Arsenal-next-manager-Mikel-Arteta-Man-City-assistant-Pep-Guardiola-EXCLUSIVE”>Daily ExpressArsenal-next-manager-Mikel-Arteta-Man-City-assistant-Pep-Guardiola-EXCLUSIVE”> says Arteta is in the middle of a tug of war between Manchester City andthat? Or are we just leading back to us, saying ‘Well, I have full control of everything. I made the rules as it goes, rather than follow the rules of what’s already been written.’”

Cromartie is not the first Patriots rival to back Brady. Bernard Pollard and Terrell Suggs have also come out in support of the Neify for the Champions League.“Deciding to leave the Milan bench isn’t easy, but it’s a decision I had to make,” Gattuso told La Repubblica.“There wasn’t a precise moment when I came to this decision: it was the sum of these 18 months as coach of w England quarterback.

Pittsburgh Steelers re-sign linebacker James Harrison to two-year deal

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The have re-signed linebacker James Harrison to a two-year deal, bringing back the 36-year-old l also see Arsenal host Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds, while Manchester United visit Premier League rivals Wolves.Chelsea host Nottingham Forest and Tottenham will travel to Middlesbrough.Reigning champions Manchester City face a trip to League Two side Porwho had 5.5 sacks last year.

The team announced the deal on Sunday, and Harrison shared a picture of himself signing the c Sharp equaliser.Chris Wilder’s visitors, back in the top flight for the first time since 2007, looked set to leave the Vitality Stadium empty-handed after defender Chris Mepham’s first Cherries goal.With time ticking away, the 33-year-old Sharp, whoontract on Instagram and Twitter.

The five-time Pro Bowler will be entering his 13th season after spending the winter training in Arizona. This offseason, there were no questions about whether Harrison wanted to return. He came back to the Steelers in 2014 after a brief 18-day retirement. Harrison played in 11 games last season.

The team had been searching for depth at linebacker his year away on-loan with Boca Juniors.Mac Allister has reported for duty at Albion’s training base.He said: “I have changed a lot in the year since I signed for Brighton. My time at Boca helped me mature and learn a lot of things.“I think it r already, and the need amplified when Jason Worilds decided earlier this month to retire at the age of 27, skipping a massive payday on the open market.

Our favourite things online this week: from Wimbledon views to slam dunks

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Forrest Allen, one of the foremost basketball coaches in the early 20th century, was no fan of the slam dunk. He set out his case for raising the hoop an extra two feet off the ground in an article entitled “Dunking Isn’t Basketball” for Country Gentleman magazine in 1935. “Those tall fellows were leaping at the 10-foot baskets and were literally ‘dunking’ the ball into the hoop, just as a doughnut is inelegantly dipped into the morning coffee,” he wrote, with an air of haughty despair. “And I say that is not basketball. My conception of the game is that goals should be shot and not dunked.”

Allen is not alone i Di Francesco has left Sampdoria.A Samp statement confirmed they and Di Francesco had severed their ties by mutual consent.The former Roma boss only moved to Marassi over the summer, but six defeats and only one win from seven Serie A games have leftn opposing the slam dunk. Over the past century, various new rules have been proposed to end the practice: no backboard, a convex backboard, a smaller basket, a bigger ball, a smaller ball, a height limit, a one-point zone near the basket, a no-scoring zone near the basket, and a height cap that would limit a team to an aggregate of 30 feet for its five players. has detailed the history of the anti-dunk brigade in this article for the increasingly essential .

Long live the slam dunk.

Sports photographers usually have a clear view of the action. They do not have to wrestle with jubilant fans, peer around pillars or steady their cameras while dodging beer spilled by the boisterous drunkards sitting behind them.

Kieran Doherty, who won for his series , eschewed the advantages that come with being a professional photographer when he went to Wimbledon last summer. He turned up for the championship with nothing more than a camera and a ground pass.

With no chance of capturing close-ups of grunting players, he had to wander around the outside courts and seek out angles usually missed by the press pack. Doherty saw the championship from the vantage point of the everyman but with the eye of a grand master. It’s not hard to see why these original, ingenious photos took the top prize.

You might want to sign ’ petition about the Premier League paying their staff the living wage. He has a point:

Jay Beatty has won the Scottish Premiership’s Goal of the Month award, which is quite an achievement given that he is only 11 years old and his goal came from the penalty spot during the half-time interval.

“Wee Jay” is no stranger to the limelight. The young Celtic fan, who has Down’s syndrome, was plucked from the crowd by Georgios Samaras last May as the players and fans celebrated winning the league. His star has been on the rise ever since. Samaras invited the Beatty family to watch Greece at the World Cup but they had to turn down his offer to go on their family holiday.

Jay is a busy boy. He travelled to Spain to pick up a special award from El Mundo Deportivo earlier this month. When the Barcelona president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, offered him the chance to walk out on the turf at the Camp Nou and meet the players, Jay had to decline politely. Celtic were playing Partick Thistle that night and he wanted to fly back home in time to watch the match on TV. That’s loyalty.

What makes winners win? A sheer, unadulterated, bloody-minded obsession with victory, argues in this piece for :

has been a prg Christan Eriksen.The Danish international has failed to sign a new contract at Spurs, meaning he will be out of contract next summer.Real Madrid and Manchester United have been linked with the attacking midfielder.Pochettino said: “I hope he will [ofessional photographer for over 40 years. He has seen a few things in his time, as discovered when he interviewed him for . Here is Leech’s advice to aspiring photographers:

Choose a 3pm kick-off on a Saturday. Choose Enfield Town v Leiston.

The best young female pole vaulters in the US are identical twins. The 18-year-olds, Lexi and Tori Weeks, who spoke to of the , say they improve each other, would be lost if they were parted and dream of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics together. Good luck to them.

When between Ebbsfleet United and Bromley FC spilled on to the streets, local residents had their cars and property damaged to the cost of £1,000. The , but in the meantime, the people who run the website have set up to help raise some funds for the local people who were affected by the vandalism.

Mike Bandry, who is trying to raise £1,000 in the next three weeks, believes that “non-league football is a community” and that supporters should club together to help the innocent people affected: “What better way for our community to club together and restore the faith of local residents who have been affected by the vandalism. Mindless acts of individual and group stupidity will ultimately end up hitting the pockets of innocent bystanders, let’s give them a hand.” Any fn be pleased with the way they’ve finished the season.Azpilicueta, who has captained the side on the pitch, reflected on a chequered campaign.”Obviously in this season we have had up and downs, we have arrived in the final of the Carabao Cup and lostunds left over will be passed on to a charity of Ebbsfleet United’s choice, so give generously.