Speculation has centred on the future of manager Ian Holloway since Monday night’s 4-1 home defeat to Fulham. Palace have taken just three points from eight Barclays Premier League matches since their promotion to the top flight. Palace’s short statement announcing the 5.30pm press conference in Soho did not specify the reason for the press conference. Crystal Palace have announced the club will hold a press conference in central London on Wednesday afternoon. Press Association
“Jermain is one of the best strikers this league has ever seen and he is a fantastic professional,” Sherwood said. “When he doesn’t start he is always ready to come on and when he does come on he wants to change the game and show that he is good enough. “We have an abundance of options up front. Robbie (Roberto Soldado) has scored goals wherever he has been and Ade (Emmanuel Adebayor) has been good also, so there is competition for places and there will be even when Jermain leaves.” Tottenham made hard work of their win on Saturday. In the first half they were outplayed by Palace, who would have gone ahead had Jason Puncheon not blazed a penalty high and wide following a foul by Mousa Dembele on Marouane Chamakh. Dembele admits Spurs need to up their game in the coming weeks against better opposition if they are to maintain their push for Champions League qualification. The Belgian said: “Against other teams we would have lost the game. It’s difficult to know why we started so slowly. We were not good in the first half. “We played sloppy balls. We weren’t concentrated. In the dressing room the gaffer told us (at half-time) we needed to concentrate more and work harder and I think we did.” Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood is sure Jermain Defoe’s game will not deteriorate when he moves to Canada. Defoe began his Spurs swansong in fine style on Saturday, scoring in a hard-fought 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. After months of speculation, Tottenham confirmed this week that Defoe will leave White Hart Lane at the end of February to join Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise Toronto FC. Press Association David Beckham’s international career began to unravel when he crossed the Atlantic, but Sherwood thinks standards in the MLS have improved greatly since then, and that Defoe will still be good enough to challenge for a place in England’s World Cup squad this summer. “I think we have to give a bit more credit to the MLS. I don’t think it’s a c*** league,” Sherwood said. “I think it’s OK. Jermain needs to play regularly and he sees that as the place where he will get it. “I am sure playing in the MLS won’t hinder him from being in the England squad. Wherever he plays he will score goals.” Defoe is something of a cult hero at Tottenham. The 31-year-old is the club’s fifth-highest scorer of all time with 143 goals in 362 appearances. The England striker, who has been at the club for a total of nine years over two spells, has become something of a peripheral figure of late though. Defoe has started just three Barclays Premier League matches this term, but to his credit he has not kicked up a fuss.
Details of protests planned by Cardiff fans for March 22 over the club’s change from blue to red shirts have been released. The Welsh outfit play Liverpool at Cardiff City Stadium in the Barclays Premier League at 3pm that day and a group of home supporters are set to march to the venue from the nearby Admiral Napier pub an hour before kick-off. Having reached the ground, they then plan to sing “pro-blue songs” and give a “show of blue pride” outside the main reception area. It is proposed that they will then once again make their point known from the stands from 19 minutes and 27 seconds into the match with scarves, flags and songs. Cardiff won the FA Cup, their only major honour, in 1927. A statement on the Cardiff City Supporters Club website said of the protest: “It will be an opportunity for all Cardiff City fans to show that they do not support the rebrand of the club’s colours and strongly desire a return to Cardiff City’s traditional blue kit and Bluebird badge. “The march is backed by all major fan groups and will be supported by members of The Cardiff City Supporters Trust, The Cardiff City Supporters Club, Cardiff City Forum, Cardiff City Online and Bluebirds Unite. “In addition all other supporters groups, individual supporters and their families are invited and encouraged to attend. “The one and only objective of the march is for fans to display a mass show of pride in Cardiff City’s heritage and tradition and to peacefully demonstrate our strong desire to return to our blue kit with Bluebird badge.” Cardiff owner Vincent Tan’s controversial decision to change the team’s shirts from blue to red and badge from a bluebird to dragon design took effect from the start of the 2012/13 season. Press Association
There were glimpses of O’Driscoll’s brilliant sleight of hand, but some ‘industrial language’ from the veteran centre also earned him a talking to from Rolland. Although Leinster improved approaching the mid-point of the half, Munster’s scrum was becoming a weapon with a strong shove near the 10-metre line setting Keatley up for his best strike of the night. Madigan snapped back three points with a difficult penalty from the left, before Kilcoyne forced another scrum penalty out of Mike Ross and Keatley’s kick split the posts. Leinster increased the tempo in sight of half-time, Luke Fitzgerald chasing down an O’Driscoll dink over the top and the resulting five-metre scrum – Ross getting the call this time – saw Madigan half Munster’s lead. The Leinster out-half, who missed a kickable chance in injury time, quickly got his side off the mark in the second half – his half-back partner Eoin Reddan’s break doing the initial damage. The penalty count against Munster increased with David Foley singled out for not rolling away. Madigan mopped up with the points to bring Leinster level at 12-12. The pressure increased on Munster when Kilcoyne was sin-binned for the same offence as Foley’s, with Leinster beginning to build momentum in and around the 22. They moved ahead for the first time when the increasingly influential Jennings took the ball up and his offload out of the tackle sent O’Driscoll scampering over from a few metres out. Madigan converted for a 19-12 scoreline, but 14-man Munster countered superbly with CJ Stander spearheading a drive for the left corner. They came away with an important three points from Keatley. O’Driscoll’s night was ended by injury past the hour mark and the Leinster defence had to withstand some energetic running from the likes of Zebo, Keith Earls and speedy replacement Gerhard van den Heever. Munster kept pressing and Ross’ high tackle on Stander gleaned them another three points from Keatley, before a crossing call against O’Donnell allowed Madigan to close out Leinster’s 10th-straight win. Press Association Ian Keatley’s fifth and sixth penalties of an unblemished night with the boot set up a frantic finish at 19-18, but a 79th-minute kick from Ian Madigan made certain of the home win. The visitors had opened up a 9-0 lead by the 22nd minute with two of Keatley’s opening three penalties coming from Munster’s assertive scrum. Matt O’Connor’s home side ended the first half with a two-thirds share of possession. Two Madigan kicks closed the gap to 12-6 by the interval, before O’Driscoll and man-of-the-match Jamie Heaslip drove Leinster to a hard-earned comeback victory. There were some notable absentees for this top-of-the-table clash, Cian Healy, Martin Moore and Dave Kearney missing out for the hosts while Munster captain Peter O’Mahony pulled out just before kick-off. A hamstring twinge sidelined O’Mahony as a precautionary measure with the province hosting Toulouse in Europe next week, and hooker Damien Varley retained the captaincy from their win over Benetton Treviso. The injuries were not just confined to the players as French referee Pascal Gauzere had to be replaced during the week by Ireland’s own Alain Rolland, the ex-Leinster scrum-half who is retiring from refereeing at the end of the season. A typically robust opening saw blood falling from a wound on Paul O’Connell’s face within two minutes. Before temporarily departing, he helped Munster win a scrum penalty and Keatley’s close-range kick put them ahead. A second successful penalty followed from inside the 22, rewarding half-breaks from Simon Zebo and Tommy O’Donnell as Munster’s positive start continued. Brian O’Driscoll scored the only try of another full-blooded interprovincial derby as Leinster pushed five points clear of Munster at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 following a 22-18 win. O’Driscoll has made a habit of scoring in this fixture – he struck twice against Munster last season and was also the match winner at the Aviva Stadium in 2010. The Irish provinces’ latest duel was initially going Munster’s way until Leinster turned things around, with Shane Jennings putting O’Driscoll over for the decisive 57th-minute try while Munster prop David Kilcoyne was in the sin-bin.
A comprehensive 3-0 victory over Arsenal on Sunday took them to within a point of the fourth-placed Gunners with a match in hand and significantly raised their prospects of qualifying for the Champions League for only the second time. Having already beaten Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal this season, Everton’s position in the hierarchy is moving to a place where regular victories over the Premier League’s so-called big sides are no longer classed as a surprise. “It is a big win,” said Baines. “We knew that if we hadn’t won it was going to be a tough uphill battle to finish higher in the league but we have now worked ourselves into a position where it is in our own hands with the game in hand. “You could see from the performance and effort level how much we wanted to win. “It is one of the best performances because of the commitment and desire to win, combining that with the quality we showed. “Having got the third goal we controlled periods of the game and kept a clean sheet, which against a team like Arsenal was a notable effort. “It showed we had all aspects of the game: that we could show some quality in our attacking play, get some goals, we could dig in and fight when we needed to and we showed we are capable of doing all of those things to win a game. “We are perfectly comfortable being underdogs or having the expectation – it is probably nice to have that little bit of expectation to drive us on. “We are aware of the task in hand and we have some tough games to play but they are here at Goodison where our form has been exceptional and we will have confidence going into those games. Defender Leighton Baines believes Everton will embrace the growing expectation surrounding the club and lay down a significant marker in their history. Press Association “We have done well against a lot of the big sides. We have done well against Arsenal in the league, done well at United and played well at Goodison against Chelsea and Tottenham so we have held our own in that group against what you consider the top sides. “We have a few games left to try to push on and the fact we are in this position is great for us.” Entry into Europe’s elite would be a major step for Everton both on and off the field as in addition to the financial rewards it brings it also elevates the club to a new level in terms of potential transfer targets. But the players have to remain focused as the Toffees will have to extend their club record-equalling run of six successive league wins much further to gatecrash the top four. “We have a game in hand (at home to Crystal Palace) coming up and until we get to that point where we have played the same amount of games and have worked ourselves above Arsenal then it probably still feels like we are playing catch-up,” added Baines. “It is hard because you don’t want to get ahead of yourself and start thinking about the Champions League too much but we all know what it means to any club, particularly one who hasn’t been competing in those circles for a long time. “It would mean great things but we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves at this point. “You look at the top four and it changes. Liverpool have worked themselves into that bracket and United are not quite there at the moment but they will come back stronger. “We will try to work our way in among that pack if we can but it has always been difficult because we haven’t always had the funds to go and spend but if we could get into a competition like the Champions League then it would help in that aspect. “It raises the bar a little bit and makes the club more appealing to potential signings and gives the manager, the chairman and the board a little more scope financially to push themselves in the market more. “There are a lot of things that qualifying for a competition like that can do but there is still a lot of work to be done for us to get there.”
Charlie Adam’s sweet 87th-minute strike ensured Mark Hughes’ Stoke ended their Barclays Premier League season on a high with a 2-1 win over West Brom at The Hawthorns. A frustrated McAuley was given a stern ticking-off by referee Lee Probert for hacking down Peter Odemwingie on the halfway line then Morrison did his best to drag the Baggies out of their end-of-season torpor with a shot that strung Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen’s hands on the stroke of half-time. Mel’s men made a brighter start to the second period but they were almost hampered by the exploits of Foster, who came close to hurling the ball into his own net after gathering from Odemwingie on 50 minutes. The Baggies grabbed the equaliser they just about deserved in the 56th minute when Dawson raced into space on the right and sent in a cross which Sessegnon met with a sweet shot past Sorensen and into the net. Arnautovic responded almost immediately with a shot from the Stoke left which flashed inches past Foster’s left-hand post, but the Baggies largely retained control and could have gone ahead with two chances in as many minutes. First Sessegnon headed a Dawson shot straight at Sorensen then Youssouf Mulumbu worked into space on the right side of the Stoke box and unleashed a fierce drive which crashed back off Sorensen’s right upright. Baggies substitute Victor Anichebe blazed over the bar before Adam drifted across the retreating West Brom rearguard before hitting a low shot across Foster and into the corner of the net for the winner. Substitute Adam, an 80th-minute replacement for Jon Walters, lashed a left-footed shot from the edge of the box which beat Ben Foster and grabbed a deserved victory for the visitors. It was a sad end to the season for the Baggies and in particular boss Pepe Mel, who is due to meet chairman Jeremy Peace next week in a bid to thrash out his future. Stephane Sessegnon’s 56th-minute effort had looked likely to earn Mel’s men a point after Stoke had gone ahead through Gareth McAuley’s 22nd-minute own goal. For all the irrelevance of the game barring the impossibility of a 17-goal swing involving doomed Norwich at Carrow Road, both sides – and their supporters – had done their best to make it a memorable one. Stoke might have been missing winger Oussama Assaidi due to a knee injury but they dominated the first half with a brand of slick, passing football few could have imagined at the same stage last season. The Baggies had the first chance when Graham Dorrans’ corner from the right was headed down by Craig Dawson and Sessegnon pounced at close range only to see his effort ricochet off Steven Nzonzi and strike the underside of the bar. James Morrison almost found Saido Berahino in front of goal then Sessegnon had a shot deflected but after a frantic first few minutes the visitors seized control of the game. Walters flashed a shot across the face of goal which was brilliantly saved by Foster, then Geoff Cameron dug out a deep cross from the right which Walters headed inches wide. Stoke grabbed the lead in fortuitous fashion in the 22nd minute when Nzonzi fed Marko Arnautovic on the left and his attempted cross hit McAuley and deflected into the net past a helpless Foster. If there was a degree of luck about the visitors’ opener it was more than deserved on the basis of their dominance of play in the first half-hour. Press Association
Manager Arsene Wenger is convinced Arsenal left-back Kieran Gibbs has what it takes to follow Ashley Cole and become a mainstay for club and country. “For a long time it was Ashley Cole (for England), (there was) no discussion. Now it is a bit more open.” Wenger continued: “It is a good example (for Gibbs) to follow because Ashley is top. “You see stories about Ashley Cole, but on the day of a game, when it mattered and when you had to be there, he was always there. You have to respect that.” Arsenal will be without Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey for at least a month because of a hamstring injury picked up against Spurs, while captain Mikel Arteta is also sidelined by a calf problem. England’s Jack Wilshere, however, has recovered from a twisted ankle. Wenger maintains the club, having brought in a new fitness coach Shad Forsythe, who worked previously with the German national team, continue to take advice on possible causes for any soft tissue injuries, even to analysing the Emirates Stadium playing surface. “We are getting things together, getting a report on all the different opinions, what happened to him (Ramsey). It is a real concern” said Wenger. “We made a lot of changes, in the way we prepare, in the way we work on prevention for injuries. “We have not found out why it happened. “When you work on the prevention for injuries it’s a question mark ‘why do you get the injuries?’ “We know a lot more than 18 years ago than when I arrived, but still not enough to predict 100 per cent scientifically what happens to everybody.” Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Wenger will have been at Arsenal for 18 years. The French coach, who turns 65 in October and last season marked 1,000 matches in charge, insists he “never looks back”, but continues to believes in the “huge potential” of his current squad. The Gunners boss has never won the Champions League, reaching the 2006 final where they were beaten 2-1 by Barcelona in Paris. “It is much more predictable today, the outcome of the Champions League, than it was 10 years ago. It is harder to win it, but as well more exciting,” Wenger said. “If you make a poll tomorrow and say to people ‘give me four clubs who will win the Champions League’, then 80 or 90 per cent of people will say ‘there are these four clubs’. “I don’t think that we are one of the four who will be favourites to win it, but football is strange – and not always predictable, so let’s first qualify from the group stage and then we will see.” Gibbs, however, is the only English left-back with Champions League action this season, as Arsenal prepare for Wednesday’s Group D tie against Galatasaray at the Emirates Stadium. Wenger believes Gibbs – with only three senior England appearances, the last coming after a three-year absence against Germany in November 2013 – can go on to emulate Cole, who was first choice for both Arsenal and then Chelsea while earning a century of international caps. “Kieran looks to me that he’s going into second gear now and he realises that he can trust his body, he can trust his talent,” said Wenger of the Arsenal Academy graduate. “He has such a great potential that now if he just lets it go, because he can dribble as well, because when he arrived at the club he was 16 and he was a winger, midfielder, and I saw that potential didn’t really come out. “I saw he was intelligent and maybe I could transform him into a defender. It was a bit similar to Ashley Cole. “We try always to show him confidence. “I let Gael Clichy go because he was a young, English left-back. That’s the main reason I left Clichy go. I wanted to give him a chance. “Against Tottenham on Saturday he showed his personality to impose himself on the game and took the game by the scruff of the neck for a long period in the second half and that’s what you want to see from him because all the talent is there. Gibbs has shaken off recent injury setbacks and is now a solid member of the Gunners defence. Following the international retirement of Cole after not being selected for the World Cup by Roy Hodgson, Everton’s Leighton Baines and, if fully fit, Manchester United teenager Luke Shaw look set to be the preferred options for the European Championship campaign, which continues next week against San Marino and then Estonia. Press Association
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has warned his side they will face another “big sweat” against Hull when Barclays Premier League action resumes on Saturday. The Gunners will tackle the team they beat after extra-time in last season’s FA Cup final looking to close back up on the top four following defeat away to leaders Chelsea before the international break. Wenger knows all too well what problems Hull will pose, having watched on from the touchline at Wembley in May as Steve Bruce’s men raced into a 2-0 lead before Arsenal mounted the comeback to end a nine-season trophy drought. The summer arrivals of players like Hatem Ben Arfa, Abel Hernandez and Mohamed Diame arguably make the Tigers more of a threat this time around. “The Hull game for us is a remembrance of a big sweat because we played against them in the cup final in a very difficult game,” Wenger said. “They could not use (Nikica) Jelavic in the cup last season, and since then they have bought Diame, Hernandez – they have bought some good players. “When you look at their team sheet now, they look like they can beat anybody so I expect a tough game. “Look at the quality of players they got in, you can say they bought top quality.” Midfielder Jack Wilshere believes Arsenal cannot afford to drop their guard against a side looking to cement their place in the top flight for another campaign. “Hull were a good team last year, but have improved their squad and have got a year of experience in the Premier League,” the England midfielder said on Arsenal Player. “They’re going to be a hard team to play against because their players will want to do well at the Emirates.” After such a promising start, Arsenal have once again been hampered by an injury crisis. Mesut Ozil is not expected to play again for at least two months after suffering a knee injury at Chelsea which was confirmed while on international duty with Germany. Defender Laurent Koscielny returned early from the French camp after an Achilles problem flared up again. With Calum Chambers serving a one-match suspension on Saturday, Spain international Nacho Monreal is likely to be drafted across to centre-back alongside Per Mertesacker. Captain Mikel Arteta should be available again following a calf problem. Midfielders Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry were set to feature for the under-21s against Blackburn on Friday night following their knee injury problems. Wales international Aaron Ramsey should be in contention to travel to Belgium ahead of next week’s Champions League tie against Anderlecht after limping off against Tottenham on September 27 with a hamstring injury. Hull manager Steve Bruce hopes to relive the club’s “greatest day” on Saturday, but is hoping to leave with a different result. Their last game against Arsene Wenger’s side was the FA Cup final in May, Hull’s first ever appearance on that stage and arguably the grandest occasion in the Tigers’ history. They did not disappoint on the day, taking a dramatic two-goal lead inside just eight minutes at Wembley before the Gunners reeled them back in and sealed a 3-2 win through Aaron Ramsey’s extra-time winner. Anyone associated with Hull would be forgiven for reminiscing about the cup run and the thrilling showpiece as they make their way back to London, Bruce included. “The last time we played against them it was the cup final…it was the greatest day for a lot of people,” he said. “The final was a marvellous occasion for everybody. We played to our maximum and it was extra-time before we lost. “Everyone had a wonderful day but we lost and it could have been so much more. “We were close to pulling off one of the big shocks in an FA Cup final but it didn’t quite happen. “To go 2-0 up in a cup final was quite remarkable but we just ran out of steam. We gave a hell of an account of ourselves and if we can repeat that on Saturday that will be great.” Bruce has few obvious injury concerns heading into the match, with goalkeeper Allan McGregor and long-term absentee Robert Snodgrass the only players left in the treatment room. But he faces a balancing act managing a squad that has clocked up plenty of air miles during international break. Diame, already a key player following three goals in his first four games for the club, played for Senegal in Tunisia on Wednesday and was scheduled to return to England just 24 hours before the Arsenal match, while Sone Aluko also had a short turnaround following Nigeria duty. Bruce will be sorely tempted to use Diame if at all possible, but admitted to erring in his use of Uruguay striker Abel Hernandez last month. Press Association
Ince, who Pearce knows well from his time as England Under-21 manager, joined Hull from Blackpool in the summer but has found first-team opportunities limited at the KC Stadium and has not been involved in Steve Bruce’s squad for the past month. Ince is a proven quality at Championship level, having scored 18 goals for Blackpool during the 2012/13 season – a campaign which saw him named the Football League Young Player of the Year. Reds boss Stuart Pearce has been in talks with the Barclays Premier League club for several days and on Thursday morning an agreement was reached for the 22-year-old winger to move to the City Ground on a deal until December 28. Pearce is keen to breathe new life into his side’s promotion push, following a seven-match winless run in the Sky Bet Championship, and Ince will go straight into the Forest squad for Saturday’s trip to Huddersfield. Press Association Nottingham Forest have completed the loan signing of Hull midfielder Tom Ince.
Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea has backed Nick Easter to continue playing for some time after the veteran number eight inspired a 24-18 Champions Cup victory over Leinster. “I’ve always said he can still play for England because he can cover a few positions and is an old head. Sometimes when you’re in those sorts of games you need those old people around,” O’Shea said. “We’ve a lot of youngsters who are learning on the hoof, but when Nick plays like that he’s a very special player. I’m very fortunate that he’s been at the club in the time I’ve been here. “He’s at the tail end of his career, but he’s still got a few more years left in him. (Leinster lock) Brad Thorn is playing aged 40, so he can keep on going.” Wing Aseli Tikoirotuma crossed for the game’s only other try, Nick Evans slotted a penalty before limping off with a groin injury, replacement fly-half Tim Swiel kicked eight points and Danny Care landed an opportunist late drop-goal. Quins, who dominated the scrum to atone for their set-piece horror show at Bath last weekend, have a 100 per cent record in Pool Two ahead of Saturday’s return match in Dublin. Victory avenged the infamous ‘Bloodgate’ defeat by Leinster in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup five and a half years ago and O’Shea was delighted by the display. “We’ve had a tough couple of weeks and not the greatest start to the season, but sometimes you have to show some fight and we did,” he said. “Our scrum has been outstanding and then last weekend happened. That was a great reaction from the pack. Press Association Easter was named man of the match after carrying the fight to the three-times European champions and scoring the momentum-shifting opening try that broke the 9-9 half-time deadlock. O’Shea believes the 36-year-old’s experience could still be an asset for England – he has not played for the Red Rose since the 2011 World Cup – and predicts retirement is still some time away. “When you have your backs to the walls, we have the catchphrase ‘one shot, one kill, and we don’t want to die wondering’. “We now Leinster will come firing back, but our belief will grow from this. It will be an unbelievable contest for us next week.” Evans is a doubt for Saturday’s trip to the Aviva Stadium, but England prop Joe Marler is expected to be fit after sustaining a shoulder injury. Leinster finished with a losing bonus point and head coach Matt O’Connor lamented his team’s shortcomings at the scrum. “That was as good as Nick Easter has played in the last 25 years! Full credit to Quins, I thought they played very, very well,” O’Connor said. “We didn’t control set piece and with a French referee away from home that’s massive. “We thought it would be a lot closer contest up front and the beauty of sport is that we have a week to fix it.”