The Royals have become the bookies’ favourite for the drop following an emotional week in which boss Brian McDermott and his assistant Nigel Gibbs left the club. The Reading players were left shocked by the news, with Dolan revealing morale had initially been “floored”, as owner Anton Zingarevich sought to turn the club’s fortunes around. With a replacement still to be courted and time running out the odds are, however, stacking up against the club. “I’ve asked for focus. We’ve got a Premier League to stay in and that’s our goal now,” Dolan said. Following a weekend in which their immediate relegation rivals all won – including Wigan’s stunning FA Cup quarter-final success at Everton – their five-game losing streak in all competitions has arguably left them as the most vulnerable of the bottom clubs. With nine games remaining Reading are four points adrift of safety, ahead of the resurgent QPR on goals scored only, while they are yet to keep a clean sheet in the league in 2013. It hardly gets any easier for them either with a horror fixture list sending them to champions-in-waiting Manchester United on Saturday, before a trip to Arsenal immediately after the international break. Even if the new manager is installed before then no Premier League club has survived the drop when replacing their boss in March. It is grim reading for the fans at the Madejski Stadium but Dolan is determined to keep spirits high. He added: “There are nine games to go to stay up. We have a realistic target to stay in this league. To do that we need to climb two places in nearly a quarter of the season. “We have to be clear about what we want to do. I am positive we can stay up – 100 per cent positive. The players were floored at the start of the week but they realise the importance for the club. We need to be in the Barclays Premier League next year. “It is in everyone’s interests from the owner, the board, the players, and Brian and Nigel to stay in the Premier League. If we do that then they’ll get even more credit.” Reading caretaker manager Eamonn Dolan has warned his players they cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves if they want to avoid relegation from the Barclays Premier League. Press Association
He added: “We’ve been very honest with him and he’s been very honest with us. “There is always going to be instances, particularly leading up to the summer (transfer) window, when people are quoted or asked these questions.” Suarez was also quoted to have said he was “very happy” at Liverpool and Ayre insisted that while other clubs may come knocking he expects the 26-year-old to remain at Anfield. “We are very pleased to have Luis and long may that continue,” he said. “He also says in the same interview that he feels he is in an elite team at Liverpool. “Every player is going to get approached by clubs because that is the nature of the game. “Every player has a choice – that’s part of the game. He has a four-year contract with us and we hope he will see that through.” Press Association Liverpool have “no desire” to sell Luis Suarez, according to managing director Ian Ayre. Suarez’s future at Anfield made headlines on Thursday morning after it was reported he would be willing to talk with other clubs following an interview in his native Uruguay. But Ayre told BBC Radio Five Live: “You can read into the comments – it was given in his native language so I think maybe it was a bit lost in translation. We’ve been consistent with Luis. Last summer he signed a new four-year contract and we have no desire to sell Luis. He is a fantastic player and a great contributor to our team.”
Former Liverpool winger John Barnes has branded talk of Luis Suarez never playing for the Reds again as “ridiculous” after the Uruguay forward’s bite on Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic. There have since been calls from some quarters for the Anfield club to sack the star striker, who was last week shortlisted for the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year award, but Barnes believes that would be a step too far. The former England international told BBC Radio Five: “He has to suffer the consequences of his actions – that’s all he has to do. I’ve heard talk about him not playing for Liverpool again, which I think is ridiculous. I’ve heard talk about him bringing the good name of Liverpool down, which is also ridiculous – he’s brought his own good name down.” Suarez apologised first via his Twitter account and then through a statement issued on the club’s official website for the incident, which happened before he scored a dramatic equaliser seven minutes into stoppage time to make the final score 2-2 at Anfield. The club also issued an “unreserved apology”, saying the 26-year-old’s behaviour was “not befitting of any player wearing a Liverpool shirt”. Barnes added: “If you’re saying because of what he’s done he should never play for Liverpool again, who should he play for? “Whoever signs him, it’s going to reflect badly that they sign a player who Liverpool deem from a moral perspective not good enough. “So Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona… they can sign him? But we can’t have him? If you’re questioning his moral character, what you’re actually saying is that if he can’t play for Liverpool he can’t play for anyone, which is ridiculous. “The reflection on Liverpool is their response to the actions and their response is right. The response from (managing director) Ian Ayre and the club is ‘it’s completely unacceptable and we will not accept it’.” The player looks set to face a lengthy ban for the incident, with Barnes saying Liverpool should wait until the Football Association has dealt with the matter before possibly dishing out their own sanctions. Press Association
Stoke midfielder Steven Nzonzi has handed in a transfer request just two days after manager Tony Pulis left the club. Press Association Pulis departed the club on Tuesday after seven years in charge. Stoke have not yet appointed a replacement but whoever it is will surely want Nzonzi, who was named the club’s young player of the year, on board. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Asmir Begovic has hinted he will be joining Liverpool this summer, according to reports. Quoted by The Sun, he said: “I want to start preparing on July 10, with all the players of Liverpool.” The highly-rated goalkeeper said earlier this season he expected to be sold following the arrival in the transfer window of England goalkeeper Jack Butland. The 24-year-old Frenchman only joined from Blackburn last summer, but has already set his sights on a move away from the Britannia Stadium. Stoke chairman Peter Coates told the Daily Telegraph: “I can confirm that we have received a written transfer request from Steven Nzonzi. We are not unduly worried about the situation as he is our player and has three years remaining on his contract.”
Manager Arsene Wenger should not be trusted to spend Arsenal’s summer transfer budget, according to former Gunners midfielder Stewart Robson. Arsenal are determined to improve the side ahead of next season to mount a long-overdue assault on the Barclays Premier League title, and chief executive Ivan Gazidis has talked about “an escalation in (the club’s) financial firepower” that would allow them to move for a stellar signing. But Robson, who came through the Arsenal youth system but left long before Wenger’s arrival, feels some of the manager’s recent deals should not inspire much hope. Speaking to talkSPORT, Robson said: “I am not expecting any marquee signings at Arsenal. There is a lot of talk about it, but I don’t know if I would trust Arsene Wenger with that money.” He added: “Over the last few years some of the players that he has said were going to be world class haven’t ended up like that – people like Philippe Senderos, Denilson, Marouane Chamakh, Armand Traore, Sebastien Squillaci, Nicklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela, Emmanuel Eboue, Park Chu-young, Lukasz Fabianski, Gervinho and Andre Santos. “Over the last two seasons they have spent some money on Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski, Mikel Arteta, Nacho Monreal, Per Mertesacker and Andre Santos. They haven’t been top-class players. “Arsene Wenger doesn’t appear to want to sign the top-class players, or what other people would describe as top-class players. “He goes out and says: ‘I can buy you cheaper players for a better price who are going to be world-class players in the future’, but that hasn’t been the case in the last few years. “Some of the players who he has bought have regressed under him like Andrey Arshavin and Thomas Vermaelen. Nacho Monreal hasn’t been a good signing and Andre Santos has been hopeless for them. “Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski are past their best and Gervinho is another player who they spent a lot of money on and hasn’t really come to the fore.” Arsenal’s wage bill of some £143millon was around 61 per cent of their overall revenue but is set to be reduced this summer by the confirmed expected departures of Arshavin, Denilson and Squillaci, while several other surplus fringe players should also be offloaded – such as Chamakh, Bendtner and Korean forward Park. Wenger has already begun his summer rebuilding plans, pushing through a deal for France Under-21 forward Yaya Sanogo, on a free from Auxerre, and Arsenal are said to be tracking several other high-calibre reinforcements in the Premier League and across Europe. Press Association
“Hopefully we can tie something up with Villarreal soon. We are optimistic about that happening.” De Guzman was one of the star men for Michael Laudrup’s side last season and his performances earned the him a call-up for the Holland national side, with who he has gone on to make five appearances. Press Association Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins is hopeful the club can bring midfielder Jonathan de Guzman back to the Liberty Stadium. De Guzman made an instant impression in south Wales following his arrival on a season-long loan from Villarreal last year, scoring eight times in 45 appearances in all competitions. And the club are determined to bring back the 25-year-old back to the club, with reports suggesting the Swans are close to securing another year-long loan deal. “I have met with Jonathan’s agent and he is comfortable with where we are at,” said Jenkins to the South Wales Evening Post.
Starting from the 10th, the world number two missed short putts to bogey the 11th and 12th before hitting back with a birdie on the short par-four 13th. At one over par he was three off the early lead shared by English duo Mark Foster and Paul Waring, Australian Andrew Dodt and American Tyler McCumber, son of former US Tour player Mark McCumber. McIlroy won five times last year, including his second major title in the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, but has struggled to reproduce that form in 2013. The 24-year-old finished 41st in the US Open at Merion a fortnight ago and yesterday apologised for throwing a club and bending his nine iron out of shape during a final round of 76. The nine iron – one of the Nike clubs he controversially changed to in a multi-million pound deal in January – has since gained a new shaft, but McIlroy’s putting was more the problem as he dropped two shots in his first three holes. Rory McIlroy’s bid for a first win of the season got off to a slow start today as light rain greeted the early starters in the first round of the Irish Open. Press Association
The left-back has also been courted by Lyon, and Louvel did not rule out the Champions League qualifiers returning to hijack the deal. “We were close to an agreement with Lyon, it has not happened but you never know,” he said. “Right now, the only club we are in agreement with is Sunderland and it is now up to Benjamin Mendy to make his choice.” Arsenal have also been linked with the highly-rated teenager. Sources on Wearside played down claims that their interest in the defender is at an advanced stage, but confirmed he is very much in the club’s sights as they attempt to boost the playing staff at both senior and development levels. Sunderland have been without a specialist left-back for some time, with loan signing Danny Rose having plugged a gap – which has also been filled at times by midfielders Kieran Richardson and Jack Colback and right-back Phil Bardsley. It would come as no surprise even if manager Paolo Di Canio did manage to land the Longjumeau-born player if he also opted to bring in a more senior man for the same position in a bid to give the cover the club has lacked for some time. Sunderland have agreed a deal to sign Le Havre’s teenage defender Benjamin Mendy, according to the French club. Press Association Despite being only 18, Mendy has significant experience having made 57 appearances in the last two seasons in Ligue 2 and represented France at Under-16 to Under-18 level. Le Havre president Jean-Pierre Louvel told Radio Monte Carlo: “We have reached agreement with Sunderland for the transfer of Mendy. It’s now up to him to reach an agreement with them. We are okay.”
Press Association Christian Eriksen wanted to “be part of” Andre Villas-Boas’ Tottenham project and so swapped Ajax for the London club on Friday night. The Denmark midfielder capped a frantic day at White Hart Lane when he became the club’s third signing in 24 hours, joining Vlad Chiriches and Erik Lamela. Eriksen has moved for an undisclosed fee and, even though his arrival gives another nod towards Gareth Bale’s impending departure to Real Madrid, a switch to Tottenham’s new-look squad was much to his delight. “Everyone has followed the development of Spurs and it’s something I want to be part of,” he said. The 21-year-old has already represented his national team on 37 occasions, scoring four goals, and was a key player for Ajax, having moved there from Odense in 2008. He made 161 appearances and helped the Amsterdam side win three successive Eredivisie titles from 2011, and signs for a Tottenham side that bolstered their ranks immeasurably on Friday. Chiriches became the club’s fifth summer purchase on Friday morning when he completed his £8.5million move from Steaua Bucharest and four hours later, Tottenham confirmed that they had signed 21-year-old Lamela for fee thought to be around £25.8million.
“To win the Champions League, you need five or six world-class players,” he told several national newspapers. “Look at Bayern Munich, they have it. Look at Barcelona, who had it in the past and Real Madrid, who have maybe got it now. That’s the level you have to be at to win it. We’ve not got that yet but what we have got is experience.” The Red Devils began their Champions League campaign with a 4-2 home win over Bayer Leverkusen earlier this month and face a difficult assignment away to Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday. They have not enjoyed great success in either of their previous two European campaigns under former boss Sir Alex Ferguson, going out at the group stage in 2012 and losing in the last 16 to Real Madrid last season. Domestically, United’s start to the campaign is their worst since the 1989-90 season – one which ended with Ferguson’s first silverware as the club won the FA Cup. The defeat to West Brom was their first home loss to the Baggies since 1978. Manchester United manager David Moyes has questioned whether his team have sufficient class to win the Champions League this season. United have lost three of their opening six games in the Barclays Premier League under Moyes, with the latest setback coming in a 2-1 home defeat to West Brom at Old Trafford on Saturday. The Premier League champions were unsuccessful in their pursuit of a number of summer transfer targets, with interest in Cesc Fabregas, Leighton Baines and, finally, Ander Herrera all coming to nothing, and Moyes is concerned that his squad may lack the quality to challenge for Europe’s top club prize. Press Association