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Posts Tagged ‘ Newcastle United ’

End of an Era As Ireland’s Greatest Calls It A Day

Ireland winger Damien Duff has announced his retirement from the international game, following in the footsteps of Shay Given.

The Fulham star brought an end to his 14 year stint in the Irish jersey ahead of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.

The 33-year-old earned his 100th and final cap when he led the national side against Italy at Euro 2012.

The Dubliner has been a regular in the side since making his debut against the Czech Republic in 1998.

Shay Given, the Republic of Ireland’s most-capped player of all time, announced his retirement earlier this month after an international career that saw him make 125 appearances for the Boys in Green. Doubts remain over the future of Richard Dunne while the Irish management team have hinted that captain Robbie Keane will remain in the fold.

Duff told the Football Association of Ireland’s website: “I found it very difficult to make this decision, not least for the respect in which I hold Giovanni Trapattoni.

“I have enjoyed so many good times in the green jersey and want to thank everyone involved, especially the fans for making the last 14 years so special.

“I want to wish Giovanni, Marco [Tardelli] and everyone involved with the Irish team every success for the future and will be supporting them every step of the way.”

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni said: “Damien will be missed by us and by Irish fans everywhere.

“He was immensely skilful and a great example to the players who come after him. I give him my warmest best wishes for his future career.”

Duff, who featured at both the World Cup 2002 and Euro 2012, will be remembered fondly by Irish fans for his skilful displays on the wing. The Ballyboden native was a handful for every opposition defence and Ireland’s World Cup opponents will no doubt be glad he has called it a day.

The former Blackburn, Chelsea and Newcastle star was arguably in his prime during the World Cup in 2002 when he was voted Ireland’s player of the tournament. The winger did his best to lift the spirits of a team plagued by infighting and scored a memorable goal against Saudi Arabia, after which he made a bowing gesture to the adoring Asian fans. To this day he is still revered for that gesture and held in high esteem by Asian football fans, some of whom have visited The Cottagers training ground in order to catch a glimpse of the star.

Tributes have been flooding in quickly for Duff, who will go down in history as one of Ireland’s greatest ever players.

Shortly after he announced his decision some of his Irish colleagues took to Twitter to offer their praise for the wing wizard and darling of Irish football.

Shay Given (@No1ShayGiven) “Sorry to see Damien Duff has retired from international football. It was an honour to play with such a great player & pro. Well done Duffer.”

Simon Cox (@SCoxy31real) “Sad to see the news about Duffers decision to retire I can say what a absolute gent and true pro he was. It was an honour to play with him.”

Sean St Ledger  (@seanstledger12)  “Really sad to hear of Duffers international retirement. He’s a true legend and it’s been an honour to play with him. He’ll be missed in camp.”

The Ireland squad to face Kazakhstan was announced shortly after Duff’s decision to retire. The following squad will travel to Astana on September 7th.

Westwood, Forde, Randolph, Wilson, O’Shea, St Ledger, O’Dea, Ward, Kelly, McShane, Gibson, McCarthy, Coleman, O’Brien, McGeady, Keogh, McClean, Keane, Doyle, Long, Cox, Walters.

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Boys In Green Look To Set Premier League Alight

The Premier League kicks off next weekend and Irish fans will have a keen eye on proceedings as the World Cup qualifiers loom. Following a poor Euro 2012 campaign, Irish fans will be eager to see the Boys In Green performing well for their clubs before Kazakhstan and Germany come calling.

Something that has become a recent trend is the number of Irish stars who are dropping down a level and this trend has certainly been prevalent this summer. Both Keith Andrews and Simon Cox have swapped West Brom for The Championship while Darren O’Dea scored a surprising move to Major League Soccer side Toronto FC. Of course with Wolves been relegated that further reduces the number of Irish players plying their trade in the top flight. Kevin Doyle, Stephen Ward, Stephen Hunt and Kevin Foley all look set to remain at Molineux and help the club bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt. Sean St Ledger, Keith Fahey, David Forde and Paddy Kenny will also be prominent features in the Championship this term while the likes of Robbie Keane and Aiden McGeady are still plying their trade outside the British Isles.

But what about those Irish players remaining in the Premier League?

Everton will be hoping to qualify for Europe this term and will be buoyed by the fact that they have retained the services of long serving manager David Moyes, who spurned the advances of Spurs after Harry Redknapp was dismissed from White Hart Lane. Moyes has added smartly to his squad given his limited resources with both Stephen Pienaar and Steven Naismith joining The Toffees. Much is expected of the free scoring Nikica Jelavic but this hardworking Everton outfit will be largely reliant on the skill and tenacity of Seamus Coleman combined with the graft and experience of Darren Gibson, who seems rejuvenated having left Manchester United last January. Shane Duffy will be hoping to establish himself in The Toffees defence following some superb displays last term.

Robbie Brady will be hoping to break into the senior international set up quite soon. The Manchester United player has enjoyed a solid pre season and Alex Ferguson sees him as an adequate competitor for Patrice Evra’s full back position. With Evra ageing, Brady’s time looks set to be on the horizon although few would have expected the winger to convert to a full back following his tremendous displays on loan at Hull City last season

James McClean will be hoping to maintain his sensational start to life in the Premier League with Sunderland. Martin O’Neill will have his first full season at the Stadium of Light and despite the lack of transfer activity on Wearside you can expect Sunderland to push for a top ten finish while enjoying a solid cup run. John O’Shea will continue to hold up the rearguard while Keiren Westwood looks resigned to a number two role yet again. David Meyler will be hoping to have an injury free season and catch the eye of Giovanni Trapattoni in the process.

Hope springs eternal at Villa Park as the new season ushers in the era of Paul Lambert as Aston Villa boss. The club have overhauled their managerial structure and have rid of some players who simply weren’t up to scratch. There is still a strong Irish contingent at Villa Park though and it remains to be seen whether Shay Given and Richard Dunne will pack in international football in order to further their club careers. Ciaran Clark will be hoping for another solid season while under 21 star Samir Carruthers may well break into the first team following his substitute appearances last term. Stephen Ireland will be looking to re-establish himself among the Premiership elite and could be a key player for Lambert who will be aiming for a top eight finish and perhaps a league cup win. Keep an eye out for Enda Stevens, Graham Burke and Derrick Williams, three upcoming Irish stars who may well burst onto the scene this year.

Fulham are another side hoping to crack the top eight this term following a ninth place finish last season under the guidance of Martin Jol. The Dutchman has done well to retain the services of Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele thus far as both players have courted interest from many clubs. Damien Duff and Stephen Kelly will be hoping to pick themselves up following Euro 2012. Duff will be looking to recover his form of old while Kelly, who recently signed a new contract, will be hoping to fend off new signing Sascha Riether to make the right back spot his own.

West Brom will do well to build on their tenth place finish from last term. Steve Clarke has taken over at the helm and opted to show Andrews and Cox the door. Steven Reid and Shane Long both remain at The Hawthorns and the latter will face increased competition for a starting berth this term following the arrivals of Markus Rosenberg and Romelu Lukaku.

Jon Walters will be hoping to set the Premier League alight this term following his appearances at Euro 2012. The striker will be hoping he can find the golden touch to fire The Potters to a better finish than last year. Glenn Whelan, Marc Wilson and Rory Delap all remain at the Britannia and will be key players as Tony Pulis’ side seek to build on a 14th place finish.

Wigan Athletic will be looking to avoid the drop again this season and will be delighted that manager Roberto Martinez has stayed with them. Martinez masterminded their terrific end of season form last year which saw solid wins over the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. With limited resources he will do well to repeat that feat. There will be a heavy reliance on James McCarthy, who was a key player last term and was forced to miss Euro 2012 due to his father’s illness. Conor Sammon is the only other Irish player at the DW Stadium but for all his apparent strength goals have been hard to come by for the ex League of Ireland star and he will need a big change if he plans on cracking Trap’s plans.

QPR have enjoyed a great summer with their new found wealth enabling them to buy talented stars such as Park Ji Sung and David Hoilett. It’s been all change at Loftus Road, particularly in the goalkeeper ranks where Paddy Kenny has departed for Leeds United. Brian Murphy remains with QPR as a capable deputy to new number one Robert Green. Mark Hughes side shouldn’t have to worry about having another relegation battle this season.

Norwich City will be hoping second season syndrome doesn’t strike this term. It’s been all change at Carrow Road with ex Ireland international Chris Hughton replacing Lambert in the dugout. Hughton will do well to keep the Canaries up and will be looking to Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington as key players in doing so. Both players excelled last term with Hoolahan the most impressive. The former Shelbourne star has been unlucky this past week as he was forced to withdraw from Ireland’s friendly with Serbia due to injury. Nonetheless, he will be buoyed by the fact that he has finally caught the eye of Trapattoni. Marc Tierney may well earn an Ireland call up in the near future and the full back is one worth watching.

Premier League newcomers Reading will be aiming for top flight survival this term but under the guidance of Irishman Brian McDermott many expect that to be a formality. Promoted last season as champions, this Reading side features a host of Irish players. Following an impressive season last year Ian Harte was widely tipped for a shock return to the Ireland set up for Euro 2012. While that never happened it won’t discourage the ex Leeds United star who will be hoping to show he still possesses the quality to compete in the top flight. Noel Hunt will be hoping to blaze a goal trail which will earn him a return to the Ireland side while Jay Tabb is another Irish star involved with the first team. Pierce Sweeney, recently signed from League of Ireland side Bray Wanderers, may feature this term while ex Shamrock Rovers ace Karl Sheppard has been loaned to Accrington Stanley.

Playoff winners West Ham United have returned to the Premier League and will have solid ambitions which won’t feature a relegation battle. Sam Allardyce has added some fine talent to his squad and has made Irish keeper Stephen Henderson permanent, following a loan spell from Portsmouth last season. Joey O’Brien is the only other Irish player at Upton Park and he will be hoping for a standout season having been called up to the Ireland squad for the upcoming Serbia game. The three times capped star hasn’t pulled on the green jersey in over four years and will be hoping he can re-establish himself within the Irish setup. The 26 year old certainly has time on his side and time will tell if he can live up to the hype that was associated with him during his days with Bolton Wanderers.

With the World Cup qualifiers fast approaching and Trapattoni open to shuffling his pack, the time is ripe for a new star to emerge and stake his claim for a starting place.

Irish Stars Abroad

Welcome to our first edition of Irish stars abroad. In our weekly column we will review anything and everything that happened on a match day involving any player who has links to Ireland.

It was quite an extraordinary weekend across World football, with a record of 41 goals been scored in 8 Saturday Premier League matches alone. Four Irish stars got on the scoresheet as part of that record, with some big shocks taken place and some delightful footwork from a rising star making every Irish fan smile.

Kevin Doyle scored the winning goal as Wolves became the first side to beat Manchester United in the Premier League this season. Nani had given United a third minute lead and it did look like the result was just a formality from there, with the leagues top team looking most likely to put the bottom team to the sword. However a George Elokobi goal some minutes later and Doyle`s header moments before half time ensured that Mick McCarthy`s men were back in the game. United failed to create anything in the second half and the former Ireland manager got a famous win over Sir Alex Ferguson.  

Leon Best proved to Newcastle United fans that there is life after Andy Carroll. Best scored the second goal of Newcastle`s miraculous comeback against Arsenal, moments after having a legitimate goal chalked off. The Magpies found themselves four goals down after 26 minutes but never gave up. A cracking Cheick Tiote striker three minutes from time completed the turnaround. 

James McCarthy bagged a brace as Wigan Athletic recorded a 4-3 home win over Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers.McCarthy showed great technical ability to fire home his second, when it seemed like the crowded defence would snare his opportunity.Keith Andrews was an unused sub for the away side.

Rory Delap played his part as Stoke City bagged to late goals to stun Sunderland.Irish international  Jon Walters came off the bench as two late Robert Huth goals sealed a 3-2 win at the Britannia.Delap`s throws wreaked havoc in the Sunderland defence,allowing John Carew to prod home the opening goal for the Potters. Both Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson were unused subs for Tony Pulis` men.

Richard Dunne and Damien Duff were on opposite sides as Aston Villa and Fulham played out a 2-2 draw at Villa Park.

Seamus Coleman was impressive again as Everton grinded out a 5-3 home win over Blackpool. Louis Saha stole the show with four goals, with a fifth been rule out after the Donegal native had played him in. Andy Reid did not feature for the Tangerines despite his impressive mid week showing.  

Shay Given watched from the bench as a Carlos Tevez hat trick guided Man City to a resounding 3-0 win over West Brom. Ex Ireland star Stephen Reid picked up a late booking for the Baggies,while he also gave away the penalty which the Argentine duly converted.

Two Irish strikers who didn`t get on the scoresheet this weekend were  Robbie Keane and Shane Long. Keane`s West Ham went down 1-0 to Birmingham City, while Long`s Reading side suffered a similar fate against Championship leaders QPR. 

In the Championship,Cork Native Damien Delaney opened the scoring for Ipswich Town as they ran out 3-0 winners over relegation threatened Sheffield United. The Blades Irish contingent of Michael Doyle,Stephen Quinn and Mark Yeates could do nothing to aid their cause. Former Ireland stars Mark Kennedy and Colin Healy also featured for the Tractor boys.

Andy Keogh opened the scoring as Bristol City thumped Sean St Ledger`s Preston side 4-0.

Kevin Kilbane hit the fourth goal as Huddersfield Town beat Exeter City 4-1 in League One.

Elsewhere in League One , Clinton Morrison grabbed an equaliser to ensure Gary Megson`s debut as Sheffield Wednesday manager didn`t get off to a losing start. They came back from two goals down to draw against MK Dons.  

In Scotland, Jon Daly opened the scoring as last year`s cup winners Dundee United dumped Hamilton Academical out with a 3-1 victory.

Both Adam Rooney and Richie Foran recorded a brace as Inverness walloped a hapless Morton side 5-1.

No Irish stars featured in the Old Firm Derby. Both Anthony Stokes and Graham Carey were unused subs as Celtic earned a cup replay after a fiery 2-2 draw that saw both sides reduced to ten men.

Top Ten January Transfers

What a month January was in the world of football. Few would have predicted half the moves that were made and certainly the quality of players available was better than before. Here Glenn Dowd analyses what he believed to be the top ten signings of the January transfer window.

1)Fernando Torres

Roman Abramovich`s decision to splash out E50 Million on Torres is a great investment, that signals Chelsea`s intent to maintain an end of season title run. One of two major signings that shook the world of football, Torres had been expected to stay at Liverpool where he was idolised by many. However after slapping in the transfer request, he got the move he craved.

2)Andy Carroll

Future England star is a ready made replacement at Liverpool for Torres. Carroll was destined to follow Alan Shearer as the new Toon messiah but jumped at the chance to leave Newcastle for Anfield. A fee of E35 Million raised many eyebrows, with the Geordie becoming the clubs record breaking signing.

3)Luis Suarez

The star of the 2010 World Cup has also linked up with Kenny Dalglish`s men. The Scot paid just over E22 Million to nab the Ajax striker. Certainly big things in store for the Uruguayan if he can get to grips with the Premier League immediately.

4)Edin Dzeko

City`s long pursuit of Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko paid off in January, with E27 Million sealing the deal for the Bosnian. Dzeko has already bagged his first goal for the club in the 1-1 FA Cup draw with Notts County and his goals will prove the catalyst should see maintain their title challenge.

5)Darren Bent

Few would have seen this coming. The thought off Darren Bent leaving Sunderland must have never crossed the mind of Mackem`s fans. But then it happened almost immediately and the once favoured hero of Wearside became the Villain, linking up with Gerard Houliier at Aston Villa with a price tag of E18 Million around his neck.

6)David Luiz

Chelsea`s relentless pursuit of Benfica Defender David Luiz eventually paid off at the eleventh hour on deadline day. E21 Million and Nemanja Matic were enough to ensure the Portuguese international would move to Stamford Bridge.

7) Stephen Pienaar

Definitely the bargain of the transfer window. With Stephen Pienaar`s contract coming to an end in the summer, Everton decided to cash in on their star player, after realising he would not renew his deal. The South African turned down Chelsea in favour of a move to Spurs,providing  a E3 Million bargain for Harry Redknapp.

8)Robbie Keane

The Irish striker has moved to West Ham on loan until the end of the season. He may well be the man to keep the Hammers up. Avram Grant has added some good signings in this window with Wayne Bridge,Demba Ba and Gary O`Neill all moving to Upton Park. Should the Hammers survive, Keane will sign a permanent contract.

9)Roque Santa Cruz

The Paraguayan has returned to Ewood Park, his first home in English football. After an unsuccessful spell at Man City, Santa Cruz welcomed a move back to Blackburn. The stiker has intially arrived on loan but if he can find his form again he will be an astute signing.  

10) Sulley Muntari

Few would have predicted somebody who won the Champions League last year to arrive at Sunderland, but thats what has happened. Sulley Muntari, the Ghanaian international, has arrived on loan at Steve Bruce`s side from Inter Milan. A valuable addition to any squad.

Four Draws On Derby Day as United Reclaim Top Spot

Ten Man Manchester United edged back to the top of the Premier League on goal difference after a pulsating goalless draw with Tottenham Hotspur.

Both sides had their chances to win the match but the main talking point at White Hart Lane came when United defender Rafael was sent off for a second bookable offence, although many will argue he should have walked after the first. United remain unbeaten in the Premier League this season, despite their failure to sparkle at times.

Elsewhere , Kenny Dalglish earned his first point as Liverpool manager as the Reds drew 2-2 with arch rivals Everton in the Merseyside Derby. The Anfield side took the lead when Raul Meireles powered home to give them a half time lead. Everton burst back into life at the beginning of the second half with two quickfire goals from Sylvain Distin and Jermaine Beckford giving David Moyes` men the lead.

Everton seemed on course to beat their rivals for the second time this season until Tim Howard felled Maxi Rodriguez in the box. Dirk Kuyt made no mistake from the penalty spot and the match finished with honours even, leaving both sides hovering four points above the relegation zone .

James Collins second half equaliser ensured the spoils were shared in the second city derby at St Andrews. Birmingham City had taken the lead shortly after half time after Roger Johnson found the net. The result was enough to move the Villans out of the drop zone for the moment.

In the final match of the day, a 94 th minute equaliser from Asamoah Gyan ensured Sunderland took a point from the Tyne-Wear derby. Kevin Nolan`s strike looked as if it would give Newcastle United a second taste of derby success this season but it was not to be as the Ghana international crept in to break Geordie hearts with the final kick of the game.

Premier League Preview

This weekend`s fixture list throws up some exciting derby matches as the Premier League resumes following last week“s FA Cup third round matches.   

 

West Ham V Arsenal

 

With the backing of their tremendous fans, the Hammers may well pull off a result in what would appear to be Avram Grant`s last match in charge. However, Arsenal will be eager to avenge their recent results, with a 1-1 FA Cup Draw with Leeds and a 1-0 defeat to Ipswich in the League Cup semi final leaving Gunners fans aggrieved.

 

Verdict: Draw

 

Liverpool V Everton

 

This Merseyside derby always serves us a tense battle and Kenny Dalglish will be eager to get his first win as Liverpool manager over their arch enemies. He will have to do so without the services of the influential Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. Dalglish will be hoping his side can improve on their disastrous midweek performance, where Blackpool came from a goal behind to beat the Anfield side for the second time this season.

Everton manager David Moyes will be hoping like Blackpool, that his side can do the double over Liverpool this season. However Everton may well struggle for goals as top scorer Tim Cahill is away on international duty with Australia. Expect the home side to edge this one with Fernando Torres putting his critics to shame.  

 

Verdict: Liverpool

 

Spurs V Man Utd

 

Man United travel to Spurs on Sunday for what should be an intriguing tie. United will find it tough against Harry Redknapp`s men and their unbeaten record in the Premier League this season faces a real threat.

 

Spurs will definitely frustrate the Red Devils, with a draw the most likely outcome.

 

Verdict: Draw

 

Chelsea V Blackburn

 

Chelsea host Blackburn Rovers at Stamford Bridge as they aim to put together a steady run of results following their desire form as of late. Roque Santa Cruz`s return to Lancashire will boost Steve Kean`s men and they will certainly be up for this match. However with their inconsistent form this season Rovers may just fall short.

 

Verdict: Chelsea   

 

Man City V Wolves

 

Roberto Mancini`s men will be aiming to crank up the pressure on Manchester United at the top of the table this weekend but they must not underestimate a Wolves side, who have beaten both Liverpool and Chelsea in recent weeks.

Mick McCarthy`s men will travel to Eastlands in a confident mood but the relegation candidates may well fall fowl to Edin Dzeko, with City`s new 27 million striker the catalyst for a title tilt.

 

Verdict: Man City   

 

Stoke V Bolton

 

Bolton travel to the Britannia Stadium this weekend hoping to maintain their push for  Europe. While the Trotters have produced some outstanding displays this term they may well come unstuck against Tony Pulis` men. A draw is the most likely result.

 

Verdict:Draw  

 

West Brom V Blackpool

 

Ian Holloway`s side will roll into the Midlands this weekend in confident mood after putting Liverpool to the sword in midweek. Blackpool have every reason to be confident ahead of this match as West Brom are on an alarming slide down the table after their early season exploits.

 

Verdict: Blackpool

 

Wigan V Fulham

 

Wigan will be eager to start putting more points on the board as they currently sit second bottom. A win over Mark Hughes` men may well move them out of the relegation zone but they must rely on results elsewhere. Fulham will provide stiff competition for the Latics as they are in a similar position. Should Roberto Martinez`s side win they will jump above the Cottagers but this match has draw written all over it.

 

Verdict:Draw

 

Sunderland V Newcastle United

 

Sunderland host their fierce rivals in the second Tyne Wear derby of the season, with manager Steve Bruce still smarting after the Geordies thrashed the Wearsiders earlier this season.

 

Sunderland may well fall short again with key players missing through injury and suspension. Newcastle are no different with Andy Carroll set to miss out yet they still possess the quality to to the double over their neighbours.

 

Verdict: Newcastle  

 

Birmingham City V Aston Villa

 

These two sides meet at St Andrews with only a point separating them. This season has proved to be a frustrating one for both sides as they languish in the bottom half of the table. For Birmingham, its been a case of lacking goals while for Villa it has just been one long slide under Gerard Houllier. Birmingham look set to appease their goal drought with the signing of Spurs striker Robbie Keane while Villa are in the market for some new players, with Jean Makoun of Lyon undergoing a medical at Villa Park.

The incentive is their for both sides but Alex McLeish`s men may prove too strong for Villa.

 

Verdict: Birmingham City

O`Neill Set For West Ham Post

Martin O`Neill is  set to replace Avram Grant at West Ham this weekend, according to Sky Sports News.

Speculation about Grant`s future has been rife over recent weeks with the Hammers languishing at the foot of the table. After hitting a recent vein of form it seemed the rumours would die down but after a 5-0 thumping at the hands of Newcastle United, the Israeli`s future was again thrown up in the air.

According to a source close to the club Grant will be sacked after today`s match with Arsenal, irregardless of the result. “Grant`s time in the dugout is up. The owners have a lot of respect for Avram but feel a change is necessary to secure the club`s Premier League status. Avram may well move upstairs with Martin taking over the managerial reins”.

According to sources, O`Neill has already met with the Hammers hierarchy. O`Neill left Aston Villa at the start of this season and has been on the lookout for a job ever since. If he is capable of repeating the job he done at Villa Park then the future will be bright for the London club.

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