Tottenham: Tom Huddlestone's parting shot at Villas-Boas

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Tom Huddlestone has taken a parting shot at Andre Villas-Boas, accusing the Tottenham boss of ignoring him.

City in a £5.25million deal – a record fee for the Premier League new boys – because he became so frustrated at being left in the wilderness by the Spurs manager.

“No, I didn’t feel I got a fair crack of the whip,” said the England midfielder, 26.

“I’d play some games and the results were good and my personal performances were good, and then I’d find myself out of the team for six or seven weeks without any explanation.

“That’s disappointing. I’m not one of those players who goes and knocks on the manager’s door every Monday morning if I’m not playing.

“I just get my head down, graft hard during the week and try and get in the team at the weekend.

“I didn’t speak to him this pre-season. I just knew the club’s feelings that they were happy for me to go if the right bid came in.”

Jake Livermore is also going from to East Yorkshire – on a season-long loan in his case – and Huddlestone questioned Spurs’ policy of off-loading English players.

“The first few years I was there, the philosophy and policy were to buy young British players, such as myself, Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale, Michael Dawson, Jermaine Jenas, and players like that,” said Huddlestone, who will make his debut at Chelsea on Sunday.

“Now Steve Caulker has gone sold to Cardiff], they’ve let me go, Jake has left and it has gone the opposite way – buying more established international players. I’m not sure if it is good for the club.

“It will be difficult [for Tottenham]. They’ve let a few players go who were used to the Premier League week in, week out. Bringing players in from abroad, as we’ve seen in the past, can take them a while to settle.

“You could see it happening last season. David Bentley left, Jermaine Jenas left [for QPR in January] and they were ready to accept a bid [also from QPR] for Michael Dawson.”

Joe Hart's England v Scotland clanger brings a clear warning from manager Hodgson

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Joe Hart has been given a public warning as England boss Roy Hodgson told him: “I will be watching your form.”

Hart’s status as the Three Lions’ unchallenged number one came after his howler gifted James Morrison Scotland’s opener in Wednesday’s Wembley friendly.

Having returned from Euro 2012 with his status underpinned, Hart has now kept just three clean sheets – two against San Marino and one in Moldova – in his last 11 appearances.

The Manchester City star has conceded 11 goals in the past 12 months and while he apologised to Hodgson in the England dressing room at half-time, the return of Ben Foster from self-imposed exile means Hart is under pressure for the first time since establishing himself as first choice.

After , Hodgson said: “Joe was gutted. I thought we defended the goal poorly – and I am not talking behind people’s backs there, because I said it in the dressing room.

“We didn’t do a good enough job in front of him. Those balls have got to be blocked, we have to get out quicker and put our bodies in the way.

“The first thing he said to me at half-time was to apologise for letting in the goal.

 

“It is not a perfect world. Good players make mistakes. People you wouldn’t dream of missing a goal chance miss tap-ins and keepers who are very good throw them in.

“The important thing for Joe is to get a good start to the season with Manchester City. We still believe in him.

“But I would contest the view he doesn’t have competition. Ben Foster is a good goalkeeper, and now we have John Ruddy back [from injury] as well, while Jack Butland has talent.

“I wouldn’t leave Joe out of the next game [just] because he made that mistake but like everyone else, the competition for places is getting stronger.

“Joe’s place is as much open to competition as anyone else’s – I can’t give guarantees.

“I hope I am not going to be the type of guy who chops and changes at every mistake but I will be watching him closely in the coming games. Hopefully he will produce a few wonder games for City.”

In front of Hart, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka gave another uncertain display, with Hodgson suggesting it is finally time for Manchester United’s Phil Jones to step up to the plate.

 

Jones replaced Jagielka for the final six minutes and Hodgson added: “We’d have liked to have seen more of him.

“We think he is a very fine player. We like him very much. But if Phil (Jones) is going to play centre-back for us, we need to see him and assess him at centre-back.

“At the moment he has been a victim of his own versatility. If he is going to knock Jagielka and Cahill off their perch he is going to have to perform in the Premier League.

“I haven’t had an awful lot of chance to see him there. But I do regret missing the opportunity there.

“We were not happy with the mistakes we made but in some ways it was a good lesson for us – this is what we risk coming up against in the next three matches at home.

“On the balance of play, we might be creating more goal chances and having the lion’s share of possession but we have to be very careful that when these teams do break out we are not presenting them with a goal.

“Scotland didn’t have to work hard enough for their goals. I didn’t need to tell the players that, they are more than aware and hold their hands up if they make a mistake.”

As for match-winner Rickie Lambert, the Southampton striker seems likely to be .

Hodgson said: “Rickie has a lot of technical ability, even if he doesn’t have really zippy pace in his game.

“But he understands the position he is playing in, has the technique to deal with the ball and he can score goals.

“Time will tell whether he can add to that cap. He will have to accept the competition will get stronger but it was nice that he had his chance and wonderful he took it.”

Liverpool reject Stewart Downing baffled by how quickly Brendan Rodgers sold him to West Ham

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Stewart Downing has slammed Brendan Rodgers for going back on his word to keep him at Liverpool.

And the new West Ham winger is adamant that money played no part in his decision to leave Anfield.

Mirror Sport understands that Downing has actually taken a pay-cut and was desperate to get regular first-team football after signing a four-year deal.

Downing was baffled to hear comments from his former manager on Thursday that he had been offered ‘an incredible deal at West Ham and has taken that decision to go’.

The 29-year-old clearly has a different take to the story and after, he claims, being told that he was a key part of Rodgers’ plans this season, he feels the Liverpool boss had a change of heart over his future and was happy for him to leave.

Downing featured heavily for during the pre-season campaign and was preparing for their opening game against Stoke on Saturday.

But when West Ham made their interest known, Liverpool quickly accepted their £6million offer and Downing knew Rodgers had no plans to play him.

“I spoke to the manager and he said he wanted me to stay. So I’m disappointed that one minute I was staying and the next minute I’m gone," said Downing.

“It was a surprise because it happened so quick. One minute I was in the starting XI for Liverpool, and the next I was on my way to London.

“I was playing in the team and playing regularly and that’s why I was surprised to be told that a fee had been accepted. It is normally when you are not playing, or you are not in the squad is why you leave.”

When asked if he was surprised to hear Rodgers’ comments that he had been offered an ‘incredible’ deal at West Ham and wanted to leave because of it, he replied: “I don’t know about that.

“Obviously, I’ve got a four-year contract but having the opportunity to play was the big thing. At my age, I need to play. And in a World Cup year, I need to be in with a chance.

“Maybe for the club it was an ­unbelievable offer, I don’t know.”

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With England facing crucial World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine next month, Downing knows he has the ideal chance to force his way back into the senior squad if he manages to find his best form again at Upton Park.

England manager Roy Hodgson has showed he is ready to recall players who are hitting top form, and Downing feels he has the perfect opportunity to do that playing alongside the likes of Andy Carroll, once the striker is fit, and Matt Jarvis.

He added: “I always watch the England games. I think most players would think they can bring their qualities to the team.

“I went to the Euros and didn’t play and I haven’t been picked since, which is a bit strange. That’s why I think I’m moving at a good time with a year leading up to the World Cup I have a chance to play. It is up to me now.

“I didn’t play with Andy as much as we would have liked (at Liverpool) but I am looking forward to it. His strengths suit me, crossing and having someone in the box who will head it. I know he is a favourite here so hopefully he can carry on his form.

“He asked me if I was coming. I am glad he is here. He is probably happy I am here. He is a friend. If you are friends off the pitch you generally do well on it.”

Arsenal: Mikel Arteta faces six weeks out with a thigh injury

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Mikel Arteta has dealt Arsenal a devastating injury blow – which will put even more pressure on Arsene Wenger to buy new faces.

Midfielder Arteta suffered a suspected torn thigh muscle in training and, if worst fears are confirmed, could be out for six weeks.

That would be a hammer blow for , coming on top of existing injury worries for Saturday’s opening fixture at home to Aston Villa.

Bacary Sagna, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott are all carrying knocks, while Santi Cazorla is also a doubt after scoring for Spain in their win over Ecuador in South America on Wednesday.

Gunners boss Wenger, also without injured defenders Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal, is keen to strengthen his squad after a raft of departures this summer affected its depth.

He said: “There are 18 days to go [until the window closes on September 2], so that is a long time in the transfer market and we will be active.

“I cannot certify what the number of players coming in will be, but we will be active until the end.”

Meanwhile, it’s time for them to ‘grow up’ and end their eight-year trophy drought.

Fantasy Football tips: It's your last chance to register before week one of Fantasy Football!

Oh yes, dear friends, Mirror Fantasy Football is back and it is better than ever! Welcome to a new season of our blockbuster game where despite the Premier League having missed out on some big names this summer, and arguably the league’s best player poised to leave, there is plenty be excited about.

We’ve got competitive football back for one! No more Saturday’s wincing at perma-tanned buffoons selling antiques on BBC One and no more Sunday afternoons hopelessly burning low-quality burgers (notionally beef, but we all know it’s horse) over that hopeless charcoal pit of shame that you like to call your barbecue.

Fantasy Football has become an enormous part of the new season and as well as adding extra interest to your footballing weekends (why else would you cheer a goal by the Swansea right-back you’ve never heard of?) we’ve teamed up with Betway to provide you with some great punting offers that will enable you to rack up the pounds as well as the points. Let’s go, shall we…

  GOALKEEPER: PETR CECH

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Big, safe hands and the only goalkeeper to wear headgear – what’s not to like? Jose’s return should further shore Chelsea up, and Petr Cech will be a big part of that. Even if he insists on swearing at us.

DEFENDER: VINCENT KOMPANY

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The leader of the best defence in the league last season is always going to represent a fairly handy defensive pick, and if he can rediscover his goalscoring form of two season back then he’s a no-brainer.

Or a Wayne Rooney as they’re also known.

MIDFIELDER: JACK WILSHERE

Mike Hewitt 

Jack the lad needs a season to stay fit, and if Arsene Wenger can dust off his chequebook and sign some midfield reinforcements to allow Wilshere to play higher up, goals and assists will come.

STRIKER: ROMELU LUKAKU

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Brilliant in a mid-table WBA side, Lukaku has since dazzled for Chelsea in pre-season and may well be the first-choice striker for the Blues. This will mean goals, and more crucially for you, points!

EUROSTRIKER: CRISTIANO RONALDO

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Whether or not a certain Welsh imitation arrives at the Bernabeu, Cristiano will still be the main man in Madrid, and should continue to score unprecedented amounts of goals.

Rickie Lambert's parents' joy at rise from beetroot factory to England hero

Mike Hewitt

The parents of last night proudly declared: “It’s only what he deserves.”

Maureen Lambert and husband Ray were still celebrating after their striker son, 31, bagged the winner with his first touch against Scotland at Wembley on Wednesday night.

The 31-year-old scored with his first touch at Wembley after coming on as a substitute against Scotland to seal a dramatic 3-2 victory for Roy Hodgson’s men.

And Maureen reflected on how her son’s humble beginnings, once working in a factory putting lids on jars of beetroots had helped keep him down-to-earth throughout his colourful career.

Southampton marksman Lambert, from Liverpool, held down a job at the now-defunct beetroot plant in Scarisbrick, just outside Merseyside, to fund driving up and down the country to matches as he struggled to make the grade in the game.

Then earning him just £20 a day while on the books of Macclesfield, Lambert scrapped his way through his career before his champagne moment on the world stage at Wembley this week.

Maureen said: “We all went down to Wembley, about four car loads all from Merseyside, all of his friends and family.

“It was brilliant.”

 

Father Ray said: “We were sitting with the family and when he scored me and the missus got up and hugged each other.

“We were made up. She was crying and I was nearly crying. We’ve had a few proud moments – we will always be proud of him.

“His nephews are trying to take after him now. Hopefully his lads will take after him too.”

The call up to the England squad came on a big day already for the Lambert family as that morning Rickie’s wife had given birth to their third child.

And on top of becoming a father once more, news of the national team call-up left the Southampton forward bouncing with joy.

Ray said: “He phoned me up and it was a bit of a shock. He was like a kid in the sweet shop, so happy and it was so lovely.”

Maureen added: “It was lovely, he had only just had a baby and then he got the call up.

“We knew about the baby because that was at 4.30am, then he just rang us at about 1.15pm on the day and said his manager had just rang him up to say that he had been called up.

“He was so excited, he felt like a little kid. It’s only what he deserved. I always said that he was going to the Premiership.

"When we were at Liverpool FC and I was with the mums I used to say I will be in my 50s before he became famous.

“I just knew from when he was little. He was lovely growing up, he was well-managed and always playing football.”

 

Lambert, from Kirkby, Merseyside, was freed by his hometown club Liverpool at 15 and trawled the lower leagues with stints at Stockport County, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers.

Father Ray added: “It’s been a long and hard journey, especially when he had to get money himself and pay for travel expenses, but he is a down to earth lad.”

In 2009, he moved from Bristol Rovers to Southampton for £1m and earned a full England cap after scoring 15 goals in the Premier League last season.

Robbie Savage's Premier League predictions: Find out his picks for the title, Europe and relegation – Robbie Savage

Here we go – a new Premier League season is upon us, so it’s time for Soothsayer Sav to put his head on the block and make his predictions for the season ahead.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me – and please bear in mind this forecast is based on squads as they are NOW, not when the transfer window closes on September 2.

But just to be on the safe side, I shall gird my loins, take cover in the air raid shelter and assume the position.

My choice as champions are…

MANCHESTER CITY Manuel Pellegrini on Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo, Fernandinho and Stevan Jovetic, and there will be more cash available in January to sustain their title challenge. City want their title back and, on paper, they look the team to beat.

2) CHELSEA The attention has been on , and it will be no different to his first spell – the Special One will keep them in the headlines and the title race. They will take some stopping and they will be hard to beat.

3) MANCHESTER UNITED As I said , David Moyes deserves time to cultivate a squad in his own image, but the Rooney soap opera has been unsettling for United and they need a marquee signing. Why not break the bank for Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale?

4) TOTTENHAM With or without Bale, , spending close to £60m on Paulinho, Roberto Soldado, Nacer Chadli and Etienne Capoue. AVB has done some quality shopping and there could be a changing of the guard in north London.

5) ARSENAL They have paid for the stadium and there is a big war-chest sitting in the bank… so where are the big signings? While , others have strengthened. As things stand, they are in danger of breaking that long run of top-four finishes.

6) LIVERPOOL Why should for asking to move when he believes a clause in his contract entitles him to leave to pursue Champions League football? The saga has dragged on and Liverpool have not been busy enough in the market to break into the top four.

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7) SWANSEA To hit the ground running in the Europa League, , was massively encouraging. Wilfried Bony and Michu will be a great partnership and the Swans will fly even higher than last season.

8) EVERTON I wish him all the best, but Roberto Martinez will find David Moyes a hard act to follow. Defensively, his Wigan side were poor and Goodison fans are not used to seeing their team spring leaks at the back. Martinez has plenty to prove.

9) WEST HAM Matt Jarvis on one wing, and Andy Carroll in the middle is an exciting prospect. David Gold and David Sullivan have dug deep, and if Carroll stays fit, a top-half finish is not beyond the Hammers.

10) SOUTHAMPTON Scandalous as Saints’ treatment was of Nigel Adkins last season, I like the way Mauricio Pochettino presses high up the pitch and Victor Wanyama will add steel in midfield. The club have made huge progress.

11) ASTON VILLA Keeping hold of Christian Benteke was huge – if Villa had lost him, I would have put them in my bottom four and strapped on the tin helmet again! With Benteke safely in the fold, they will be comfortable in mid-table.

12) WEST BROM Although Romelu Lukaku has gone back to Chelsea, and are good signings and their goals will help deliver another solid season at The Hawthorns. I doubt if Albion will threaten the top six this time, but they are nobody’s pushovers.

13) NORWICH Had they been idle in the market I would have feared for Norwich, but . Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper should be worth their weight in goals, and Nathan Redmond has exciting potential. I think they will do all right again.

14) NEWCASTLE There are too many French players in the dressing room and they are not going to adapt to English football’s mentality if there are cliques. I don’t think they will struggle as badly as last season, but fasten those seatbelts because it could be a bumpy ride.

15) CARDIFF Malky Mackay broke the club’s transfer record three times in a week, which shows they mean business. Home form will be the key, but Cardiff are streetwise enough to survive and experienced Craig Bellamy will be a key influence.

16) FULHAM No disrespect, because they are all gifted players, but if you put Adel Taarabt, Bryan Ruiz and Dimitar Berbatov in the same team, who is going to win a tackle? The club is under new ownership, and they will be in trouble unless they make Craven Cottage a fortress.

17) SUNDERLAND Paolo Di Canio’s first full season as a Premier League manager is , fantastic or crash-and-burn. I hope I’m wrong, because his charisma is so endearing to neutrals, but I fear it might all end in tears.

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18) STOKE The Potters are about to find out about life after Tony Pulis… and they may not like it. Mark Hughes has not been that busy in the transfer market, and I’m not impressed much by his signings. Peter Crouch aside, I don’t know where the goals are going to come from.

19) HULL The owners want to – what’s that all about? I fear Steve Bruce won’t have enough quality. He has signed Curtis Davies for £2.25m and Danny Graham on loan, among others, but it’s going to be a long winter for them.

20) CRYSTAL PALACE Much as I love Ian Holloway, I’m afraid he is trying to keep Palace in the Premier League with a squad of Championship players. Ollie did brilliantly to win promotion, but if , what was the question?