Pochettino named as new Spurs manager

Mauricio Pochettino has become Tottenham Hotspur’s new manager on a five year deal after parting ways with Southampton today.

The Argentinian replaces Tim Sherwood who was let go by Spurs at the end of the season.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy welcomed Pochettino’s arrival in a statement on the clubs website;

“In Mauricio I believe we have a Head Coach who, with his high energy, attacking football, will embrace the style of play we associate with our Club. He has a proven ability to develop each player as an individual, whilst building great team spirit and a winning mentality.

We have a talented squad that Mauricio is excited to be coaching next season.”

Pochettino added;

“This is a Club with tremendous history and prestige and I am honoured to have been given this opportunity to be its Head Coach.

There is an abundance of top-class talent at the Club and I am looking forward to starting work with the squad.

Tottenham Hotspur has a huge following across the world and I have great admiration for the passion the fans show for this team. We are determined to give the supporters the kind of attacking football and success that we are all looking to achieve.”

The Argentinian joined Southampton in January 2013 following the sacking of popular manager Nigel Adkins. Pochettino was a relative unknown in English football circles, however he had previously managed Espanyol in Spain.

He led the Saints to a respectable mid table finish during his first few months in charge, and followed that up with an impressive full season at the helm in which the south coast club finished eighth.

There had been concerns among Southampton fans that Pochettino might move on this summer after Nicola Cortese was released by the Saints owners in January. Cortese had been Southampton chairman and a key ally of Pochettino.

On top of this, last season’s impressive results have led to interest from larger clubs in some of Southampton’s stars such as Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana, diminishing Southampton’s prospects for next season.

Under Pochettino, the Saints played an attacking style of football with an emphasis on pressing opponents when not in possession of the ball. He’ll be expected to bring the same ideals to an arguably better squad at Spurs.

Fans of the North London club will hope that he can be the manager to get the most out of record signing Erik Lamela. The new manager’s compatriot endured a torrid first season at Spurs due to injury.

Pochettino will be joined at the club by the same back room staff he had with him at Espanyol and Southampton.

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Ireland v Turkey: 3 Reasons to be cheerful

1. Wes Hoolahan

The Norwich midfielder was the standout performer for Ireland at the Aviva yesterday. After a frustrating season which saw his chances limited at Carrow Road, Hoolahan was at the heart of much that was good about Ireland’s play. It was he who provided the perfectly weighted ball for Jonathan Walters consolation goal.

At 32 years of age, Hoolahan is hardly a long term solution to Ireland’s creativity problems. However for the upcoming Euro campaign, should he see enough game-time at club level, he will be a valuable asset to Martin O’Neill.

2. Plenty of chances.

Hoolahan aside, there was a creative spark to the Irish play that was rarely evident under Trappatoni. Ireland should certainly have been ahead before Turkey’s opening goal, after Aiden McGeady’s inch-perfect through ball to Shane Long led to a penalty shout that was inexplicably waved away.

McGeady regularly dazzles out wide before failing to whip in an accurate cross. Yesterday though he caused the Turkish defence some real concern with his final ball. Twice James McClean could have done better with efforts resulting from a McGeady cross.

Ireland as a team seem more patient under Martin O’Neill, preferring to pass the ball sideways and backwards and wait for an opening rather than just hoofing the ball forward and hoping the strikers can get a head on it. Several times yesterday Irish players attempted defence-splitting passes which were just a little too far ahead of their intended targets. The accuracy might not be there yet, but that’s what this run of four friendly games is for. Ironing out the creases.

3. Far from the finished product.

While O’Neill put out quite a strong team yesterday, there are still some key players and exciting prospects to join up with the squad either for the remainder of these summer friendlies or ahead of the Euro campaign.

Robbie Keane is busy scoring goals in the MLS but it’s a given what he can do at this stage. Richard Dunne and Kevin Doyle are other stalwarts who have just helped QPR attain Premier League status once more.

Most exciting however, is the prospect of seeing what Jeff Hendrick can do if given further opportunities in the Ireland set up. While he and Derby County team-mate Richard Keogh must be devastated following the Championship play-off loss to QPR, Hendrick’s performances for the Rams all season have earmarked him as a dynamic option in Ireland’s midfield.

Championship Playoff Final – The Irish Involvement

There may be higher profile games taking place in Lisbon and Cardiff today, but Wembley is the backdrop for the richest game in football. Whoever emerges victorious in the Championship play-off final between QPR and Derby county will be in line for a potential windfall of £100m as a result of playing in next season’s Premier League.

Derby finished in third place in the Championship after an impressive season under Steve McClaren, with Harry Redknapp’s QPR ending their campaign in fourth, five points further back. The Rams easily disposed of Brighton in the play-off semi finals, while QPR overcame Wigan in an edgy affair.

It’s an interesting day for football supporters from this neck of the woods, as there are six Irish footballers involved. Three on each team.

 Derby County

Richard Keogh

The centre-half will captain Derby in the biggest game of his career, hoping to lead the Rams to the Premier League for the first time since the ill-fated 2007/2008 season. That year Derby broke the wrong kind of records, finishing the campaign with a paltry 11 points.

Keogh has had a solid season at the back, playing the most games of Derby’s Irish contingent with 43 league appearances. He told thescore.ie during the week that captaining his side today will be something that lives with him forever.

Jeff Hendrick

The creative central midfielder hasn’t started as many games as Keogh for the Rams this season, but when he has been on the pitch he has been been a key contributor to the promotion push. He chipped in with 5 league goals, including one in an impressive rout of local rivals Nottingham Forest back in March.

Conor Sammon

Sammon gets a lot of flack from Irish fans but there’s no denying that he puts in a shift when called upon. He’s not the most technically gifted of players but there’s a lot to be said for honest graft. Steve McClaren obviously sees something in him, the Dubliner has made 42  appearances this season, scoring 4 goals and providing the assist for 3 more.

Queens Park Rangers

Richard Dunne

Dunne needs no introduction to Irish fans, and there’s no harm in having another look at what was arguably his greatest performance in the green of Ireland. This video shows a more subtle side to the Tallaght native however, and Derby County will undoubtedly be looking to keep QPR’s greatest creative threat pinned back today.

 

The former Aston Villa defender has been an almost constant presence in the centre of the R’s defence this year with 43 league appearances.

Kevin Doyle

After a disappointing final few seasons at Wolves, culminating in playing in the third tier of English football. A loan move to QPR in January has offered some respite, but Doyle is far from the player he was a few seasons ago. He’s not first choice at Loftus Road, behind Bobby Zamora, Andrew Johnson and top scorer Charlie Austin in the pecking order.

The Wexford man has 11 league appearances and two goals to his name since joining Harry Redknapp’s squad.

His first goal for the club came in his debut against Burnley.

 

Brian Murphy

The keeper was limited in his appearances this season due to Robert Green’s performances between the posts.  Nonetheless Murphy was called into action in two league games, as well as playing in the cup competitions too.

Luis Suarez could miss World Cup after knee injury

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is facing a race against time to be fit for Uruguay’s World Cup campaign after injuring his knee in training.

The PFA player of the year is set to undergo keyhole surgery this morning in a bid to aid his recovery. The operation usually takes two to four weeks to recover from.

If it takes the maximum four weeks, then Suarez would miss Uruguay’s opening game against Costa Rica on June 14th, and possibly the highly anticipated game against England five days later.

For Suarez fans there’s hope yet. He’s shown before that he can come back from the dead.

He’s not the only prolific South American striker struggling to be fit for the tournament in Brazil. Monaco forward Radamel Falcao is still not guaranteed to be match-ready for Colombia after suffering a cruciate injury early this year. He’s back in light training but has said himself that he won’t participate if he doesn’t feel he can contribute.

The former Atletico Madrid striker is someone neutrals definitely want to see at the World Cup.

 

 

Ireland squad for Argentina tour named: Madigan misses out

Joe Schmidt has named the Ireland squad for the two-test tour of Argentina next month.

Leinster out-half Ian Madigan misses out on the trip to the Southern Hemisphere, and instead will travel with the Emerging Ireland squad to Romania.

The move may surprise some supporters as Jonny Sexton could probably do with a rest after a long season. His first campaign as  Racing Metro player was preceded by the victorious Lions tour, and he’s also been on Ireland duty last November and during the Six Nations.

Paddy Jackson has been named as the second out-half on the Argentina tour. Schmidt named four uncapped players for the trip. They are Ulster forward pair Rob Herring and Robbie Diack, Munster front row Dave Cronin and Connacht scrum-half Kieran Marmion. Herring and Diack qualify for Ireland through residency.

Some experienced campaigners have been given the chance to rest and recuperate after a gruelling campaign. Tommy Bowe, Sean Cronin, Gordon Darcy, Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy won’t be on the plane.

Dave Kearney’s injury he picked up against Ulster at the weekend sees him miss out, with Munster’s Simon Zebo given the opportunity to show his worth to Joe Schmidt after playing no part in the Six Nations victory this spring.

Captain Paul O’Connell travels, but this is the first Ireland squad of the post Brian O’Driscoll era, with the talisman having retired from international rugby following the Six Nations.

In his absence, the outside centre spot is up for grabs. With Keith Earls, Darren Cave and Robbie Henshaw all on the plane and mooted as possible replacements at 13, it will be interesting to see who Schmidt auditions in Argentina.

The tests take place on the 7th of June in Resistencia and the 15th in Tucuman.

Ireland Squad:

Forwards:

Rory Best (Ulster), James Cronin (Munster), Robbie Diack (Ulster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Rob Herring (Ulster), David Kilcoyne (Munster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Martin Moore (Leinster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster), Paul O’Connell (Munster, captain), Mike Ross (Leinster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Damien Varley (Munster).

Backs:

Darren Cave (Ulster), Keith Earls (Munster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Felix Jones (Munster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Luke Marshall (Ulster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Jonathon Sexton (Racing Metro), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Simon Zebo (Munster).

Top 3 candidates to replace Tim Sherwood at Spurs

As predicted by all but Tim Sherwood, Tim Sherwood’s contract has been terminated early at Spurs. In the aftermath of Andre Villas Boas’ sacking in December, the former Blackburn captain was handed the reigns and an 18 month contract. No one seriously believed that Sherwood would remain beyond the summer, even if he did manage to win more than half of his games.

So who will replace Sherwood as the next victim of Daniel Levy’s itchy trigger finger?

As is always the way with managerial vacancies, there have been many names mentioned, the majority of which are utter nonsense.  The lack of Champions League football at Spurs next season will be a major factor in the recruitment of a new manager, so the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Diego Simeone will categorically not be gracing the White Hart Lane hotseat.

Louis van Gaal was hotly tipped to take over at Spurs this summer once his contract with the Dutch national side ended after the World Cup. However Manchester United look to have pinched him from under Levy’s nose as they look for a replacement for David Moyes.

Nevertheless, there are a few viable candidates for Spurs fans to mull over.

 

3. Rafa Benitez

spurs manager

Photograph: telegraph.co.uk

Say what you will about the man – and Chelsea fans had plenty to say last year- Benitez does a good job at the majority of clubs he managed.

He won two league titles and a UEFA Cup with Valencia, the Champions League and an FA Cup with Liverpool, a Europa League with Chelsea, and a few weeks ago his Napoli side won the Coppa Italia.

Not a bad record at all. He may not have had the best time at Inter Milan, but to be fair he took over from Jose Mourinho who had won the Champions League with the Nerazzurri. Chelsea fans disliked him as a result of his rivalry with the club during the Mourinho era, but Benitez came in and did a professional job, culminating in the Europa League final victory over Benfica in 2013.

The Spaniard has always talked up his love of England and may be tempted with a move back to London. However he has a quality squad at his disposal at Napoli right now so it would be quite surprising should he take the Spurs hotseat.

 

2. Frank de Boer:

de Beer ajax spurs

Photo: guardian.com

The 44 year old has enjoyed a successful spell at the helm of Ajax, after cutting his teeth coaching the club’s youth team and as Bert van Marwijk’s assistant at the Dutch national side.

With four Eredivisie titles to his credit as manager, the younger of the De Boer twins has done a good job in the Dutch league. In knock-out competitions, he has fared less spectacularly however. He has won just one Johan Cruijff shield during his tenure. Ajax are Champions League mainstays, but under De Boer have never progressed beyond the group stages.

De Boer hasn’t kept his cards close to his chest as regards the Spurs job. He said recently that he had been in contact with the club, something that didn’t go down too well with Tim Sherwood at the time. If De Boer does get the job he’ll see a few familiar faces in the Spurs dressing room. Cristian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen both played under the Dutchman at Ajax before making the move to North London.

1. Mauricio Pochettino:

pochettino southampton spurs

Photo: telegraph.co.uk

The footballing community couldn’t believe it when Southampton sacked Nigel Adkins in January 2013, with the side three points clear of the relegation and fresh off  a draw with Chelsea.

In Adkins place came Pochettino, a 40 year old Argentinian who had been out of work since leaving Espanyol two months previous. He was initially viewed as the man who had taken the job of an English manager, but that soon changed as he led Southampton to victories against Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.

In his first full season in charge, Pochettino’s side have consistently remained in the top half of the table, even occupying third place for a time. Southampton play an aesthetically pleasing brand of passing football, with Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert all stand out performers this season. It’s a club with a big future if they can hang onto Pochettino and their young talents.

If another club such as Spurs did come in for Pochettino in the summer, what could help engineer a move is the fact that Nicola Cortese, the chairman and ally of the manager, was fired in January. In the aftermath Pochettino was rumoured to be close to quitting but ultimately decided to wait until the summer to decide his future.

If he likes to build up a good working relationship with a chairman however, will he really be comfortable working under the notoriously difficult Daniel Levy?

Pochettino has been installed as the bookies favourite for the Spurs job, and fans will hope that if he does arrive at White Hart Lane he might bring one or two of the talented Southampton players with him.

The major complaint levelled against Spurs in the season just gone was their lack of attacking invention and urgency. Cristian Eriksen notwithstanding, the players found it very difficult to break teams down and as such goals were hard to come by.

Under Pochettino, Southampton hassle and harry opponents close to their own goal, so that when the Saints do get possession, the opposition is disorganised in defence and susceptible to quick passing movements. If the Argentinian did make the move to Spurs, he would have a talented midfield at his disposal that would be well suited to implementing such a game plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Underwhelming United, merry Mourinho and Sunderland’s sigh of relief: 3 talking points from the weekend’s Premier League action

Manchester United’s problems aren’t just managerial:

After such a convincing victory against Norwich last weekend, there were calls from certain quarters for Ryan Giggs to be handed the Manchester United manager post on a full-time basis. Sub-keeper Anders Lindegaard reckoned the Welshman could be the next Pep Guardiola.

Saturday’s loss at home to Sunderland has brought the Red Devils right back to earth, and highlighted the shortcomings on the field that will have to be addressed no matter who the manager is next season.

United have nothing but pride to play for at this stage of the season, but the ability to dominate sides in the midfield hasn’t been evident for quite a while. None of Carrick, Cleverley, Fellaini or Fletcher strike terror in the hearts of opposing teams the way Yaya Toure does for Manchester City, or Aaron Ramsey at his best for Arsenal.

Change may take place in the dug-out this summer, but personnel changes in the centre of the park are just as vital.

 

Jose Mourinho has a sense of humour:

In the aftermath of a turgid nil-all draw with Norwich on Sunday, Jose Mourinho complained that only one team had attempted to play football. Surprisingly, that team was Chelsea.

Norwich City have been absolutely awful in front of goal this season, and at Stamford Bridge they sat deep and attempted to catch Chelsea on the counter, rather than going gung-ho at a team that could punish them.

Sitting deep and hitting teams on the counter is something that Chelsea have done with varied results in the recent past. It worked against Liverpool and categorically didn’t against Atletico Madrid. It doesn’t matter if it’s pleasing to the eye, football is a results game and Mourinho’s teams exemplify that mind-set more than most.

The Portuguese coach knows full well the reputation his team has for playing negative football, and you can imagine him turning a corner after giving his post match comments about Norwich yesterday, and laughing his head off.

 

Sunderland’s detractors need to take a look at  themselves:

A team that takes 7 of a possible 9 points against the two Manchester Clubs and Chelsea deserves to stay up. Sunderland have done just that and with Saturday’s victory at Old Trafford they look almost certain to beat the drop.

Going into the game against United, Gus Poyet’s team had a cloud hanging over them due to the threat of a points deduction. Norwich, Cardiff and Fulham had joined to petition the FA regarding Sunderland’s fielding of an ineligible player.

The Black Cats had already been fined by the FA for playing Ji Dong-Won in four games at the start of the season without international clearance from FIFA, but the three teams below them were desperate to drag Sunderland deeper into the relegation dog-fight.

Unfortunately for them, there is no rule that forces the FA to dock points in a scenario such as Sunderland found themselves in. Fulham and Cardiff were relegated at the weekend, and Norwich are favourites to join them next weekend.

Sunderland have fought their way out of the relegation zone with their results in the run-in. If the teams below them want to lay the blame for their relegation somewhere, they’d be best served to look at their own performances.

 

 

 

 

 

Everton can hand Liverpool title advantage heading into Premier League final straight

Both the red and blue halves of Merseyside will be intently focused on the happenings at Goodison Park tomorrow.

It would be some twist to the tail-end of this Premier League season if Everton were to hand the impetus in the title race to their local rivals. Yet, should the Toffees beat Manchester City in tomorrow’s evening kick-off, Liverpool would be favourites to win their first championship in 24 years next weekend.

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility either. Manchester City’s record at Goodison Park is woeful, with one paltry win in the last 21 years. On the other hand, Everton have only conceded defeat twice at home this season.

Roberto Martinez’ men have had an excellent campaign, something acknowledged last weekend with the inclusion of full-back Seamus Coleman in the PFA team of the year. Two defeats in their last three games have halted their momentum however. The last defeat was a hard one for Everton fans to take, as their side handed Southampton victory through two own-goals.

That loss  at Southampton  has seen Everton’s Champions League aspirations all but vanish, however a win against City would put the pressure on fourth place Arsenal ahead of their game with West Brom on Sunday. Everton are currently four points behind the Gunners and will be hoping to take the fight for fourth to the last day of the season.

Chelsea’s win at Anfield last weekend has allowed Manchester City to take control of their own destiny once more. They are three points behind Liverpool with a game in hand and a superior goal difference. After the trip to Everton, they end their season with two home games against Aston Villa and West Ham.

David Silva is set to return to the City line-up having missed the win against Crystal Palace last weekend with an ankle injury. For Everton, Gareth Barry is ineligible to play against his parent club, and Sylvin Distin could miss out due to a hamstring injury.

The Toffees have received some good news on the injury front however with captain Phil Jagielka available for selection having been out since February.

 

Both the red and blue halves of Merseyside will be intently focused on the happenings at Goodison Park tomorrow.

It would be some twist to the tail-end of this Premier League season if Everton were to hand the impetus in the title race to their local rivals. Yet, should the Toffees beat Manchester City in tomorrow’s evening kick-off, Liverpool would be favourites to win their first championship in 24 years next weekend.

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility either. Manchester City’s record at Goodison Park is woeful, with one paltry win in the last 21 years. On the other hand, Everton have only conceded defeat twice at home this season.

Roberto Martinez’ men have had an excellent campaign, something acknowledged last weekend with the inclusion of full-back Seamus Coleman in the PFA team of the year. Two defeats in their last three games have halted their momentum however. The last defeat was a hard one for Everton fans to take, as their side handed Southampton victory through two own-goals.

That loss  at Southampton  has seen Everton’s Champions League aspirations all but vanish, however a win against City would put the pressure on fourth place Arsenal ahead of their game with West Brom on Sunday. Everton are currently four points behind the Gunners and will be hoping to take the fight for fourth to the last day of the season.

Chelsea’s win at Anfield last weekend has allowed Manchester City to take control of their own destiny once more. They are three points behind Liverpool with a game in hand and a superior goal difference. After the trip to Everton, they end their season with two home games against Aston Villa and West Ham.

David Silva is set to return to the City line-up having missed the win against Crystal Palace last weekend with an ankle injury. For Everton, Gareth Barry is ineligible to play against his parent club, and Sylvin Distin could miss out due to a hamstring injury.

The Toffees have received some good news on the injury front however with captain Phil Jagielka available for selection having been out since February.