Press Association Stirling, 22, has been touted as a possible England player in the future – and follow the path of Morgan in making the switch across the Irish Sea – and he underlined his growing status in Thursday’s tied first RSA Insurance one-day international in Dublin, when he hit his second century in as many games against Pakistan. “Without a shadow of a doubt that kid will go down in history as Ireland’s best batsman,” said Johnston. Veteran all-rounder Trent Johnston believes Paul Stirling can surpass Eoin Morgan and become the best batsman to come out of Ireland. “He’s one of the cleanest strikers of a cricket ball that I have ever seen, be it to play with, against or watch on TV. It’s just phenomenal. “I’d probably like to see him use his head every now and then instead of going for some of those careless shots. “But when he reins it in and plays cricket shots there is nothing better. “He loves playing Pakistan in Ireland – that’s two hundreds. I don’t know why he’s not playing more cricket for Middlesex. “They must have some players there because that kid is a freak. “He should go out and play that type of cricket every time he goes out to the crease. “That’s what is going to bring crowds back to cricket around the world – blokes like him hitting the ball.”
New Red Devils boss David Moyes is to send a select XI to the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday, August 13 to mark the occasion. Tate started his career at Old Trafford but joined Swansea for the first of two loan spells in 2002, before making the move permanent in 2004. Swansea have granted long-serving defender Alan Tate a testimonial against his former club Manchester United. Press Association The 30-year-old is one of a select band of players, along with Garry Monk and Leon Britton, to represent the club in all four divisions. Tate said: “I’m extremely grateful to the club and Manchester United for granting me this testimonial. “I spoke to Sir Alex Ferguson before he announced his retirement and he was really supportive.” He added: “I had some great times at Old Trafford as a schoolboy, apprentice and a young professional. “It proved the perfect grounding for me to develop my career at Swansea where the fans have always been fantastic to me. I hope it will be a great night.”
The Liverpool striker said he would be keen on a move to Real Madrid, but stressed that he had not received any offer from the Spanish giants. He told the Uruguayan television programme RR Gol: “Every player would like to play for a huge team, and Real Madrid is a huge team. Every player wants to reach the top and Real Madrid are one of the top clubs, but everything that has been said so far is just speculation, I haven’t received any concrete offers.” Luis Suarez has again spoken of his desire to leave the Barclays Premier League, where he believes he has been mistreated by the press and public. Suarez added: “I don’t know if I will become a Madrid player, the only thing I know is that I have a contract.” Suarez has revealed before that he is not happy with life in the Premier League, where he feels he has been chastised by the media for his conduct, and aired his complaints once again, and he said: “The press have made me feel bad since the moment I arrived in England, they have never judged me on how I play football, they judged me on my attitude.” Suarez also blamed his public perception for the reason he was not chosen as the PFA Player of the Year last season, adding: “They said I dived, moaned, postured, they said I was racist, they said everything. “They have never spoken well of me. That’s why, when people said that I could have been chosen as the best player in the Premier League, I said: ‘I’m relaxed, I know that in England I’m never going to be given an important prize’.” Although Suarez emphasised he enjoys playing for Liverpool and was particularly grateful to the support he has received from the Anfield faithful, he admitted his love for the club and its supporters may not be enough to convince him to stay. “When I was a kid I dreamed of playing for Liverpool. I have been able to play with great players who know me well and I would love to spend many more years at Liverpool,” he said. “Their stadium is spectacular, their fans are phenomenal. Their fans have tattoos of me. I could never have imagined that. “After the suspension the fans all supported me. That’s something I remember and it has made me think ‘Luis, forget it all and stay’. But I cannot forget it, because I have suffered, my family have suffered, and away from football I have a family that supports me, and these things hurt them.” Press Association
Sunderland have confirmed they have completed a deal for Le Havre midfielder El-Hadji Ba. A product of Le Havre’s youth set-up, Ba broke into the first team set-up at the beginning of 2012 and went on to make 12 league appearances. He follows Valentin Roberge, Modibo Diakite, Cabral, Jozy Altidore, David Moberg Karlsson and Duncan Watmore into the club, and the list of newcomers could be boosted further within the next 24 hours. Argentinian club Velez Sarsfield have confirmed full-back Peruzzi is also set to join the Black Cats. In a statement on their official website, www.selezsarsfield.com.ar, they revealed they have finally agreed a deal with the Premier League club for the 21-year-old’s signature. The statement said: “Velez Sarsfield and Sunderland Association Football Club have reached an agreement to transfer the player Gino Peruzzi.” Velez say the player and two club officials will head for the Stadium of Light on Thursday in a bid to finalise the transfer. The news will come as a major boost to Di Canio after it appeared that the proposed deal had stalled earlier this week The France Under-20 international has signed a three-year deal at the Stadium of Light and becomes the seventh man to join the club since the end of last season. He has already joined up with his new team-mates and manager Paolo Di Canio at their training camp in Italy. Velez Sarsfield full-back Gino Peruzzi will also head for England on Thursday with a view to completing his move to Sunderland. Press Association
Press Association Hanrahan brought his side back to within a point but hooker De Marchi surprisingly popped up on the end of a flowing move and outpaced Munster full-back Hurley to score. Half-time substitute James Downey quickly won a penalty from which Hanrahan cut the deficit and it sparked a dramatic second-half comeback. Butler’s try and Hanrahan’s conversion put Munster 19-18 up, before Stander’s try extended their cushion. Filippo Ferrarini wasted a three-on-one chance to bring Zebre back into the game and replacement fly-half Keatley converted his own try to round off Munster’s win Zebre went in at half-time 18-9 ahead after tries from Luciano Orquera and Andrea De Marchi but tries Paddy Butler, Denis Hurley, CJ Stander and Ian Keatley helped Munster to the win. Two JJ Hanrahan penalties gave Munster an early lead but Orquera halved the deficit and then crossed for the opening try after catching Munster off guard with a quick tap penalty. A second-half resurgence from Munster denied Zebre their first ever win in the RaboDirect Pro12 as the Irish province recorded a 43-21 victory.
“It would have been great for us if it happened, I’m a big admirer of the boy,” he said. “I’ve seen how disappointed he was, left the way he had been. That’s football and you never know what will happen in the next three or four months but if he became available again of course I would be interested.” Despite the final move for Long falling apart, Bruce successfully reshaped his promotion-winning side during a busy summer. He strengthened his squad in every position, bringing in 11 new additions and catching the eye when he persuaded England caps Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore to swap Tottenham for Hull. But through the loan market and free transfers he was able to do so on a budget of less than £15million. “We can’t complain,” he added. “I was at training today and I said ‘what a difference to 12 months ago’ to the squad of players we have here. “No disrespect to what has come before but that is when you recognise what the Premier League does. It forces you to bring in bigger and better players.” Hull have just one fitness concern heading into Saturday’s match, with goalkeeper Allan McGregor still struggling to shake off the groin complaint that kept him out of the Scotland squad. Press Association West Brom released a statement in the aftermath of the aborted transfer suggesting Hull had changed the terms of their initial bid, but a frustrated Bruce, addressing the issue for the first time ahead of Saturday’s Barclays Premier League clash with Cardiff, felt the clubs must have been close to getting the deal over the line. “I’m obviously bitterly disappointed that we didn’t get Shane Long,” said Bruce. “That would have been the icing on the cake in terms of the the squad we’re trying to get together. We thought at one stage we were really, really close. “He left the headquarters of Ireland, he didn’t get on a plane until 6.30pm, then I picked him up at Leeds Bradford Airport at 8.15pm for a medical at 9pm. “It was being battered back and forward (between the clubs). I’ve seen that happen over days, weeks and months and I knew dialogue was going on, but we must have been there or thereabouts (on valuation) or why would they let him go on a plane? Why would he be doing a medical if there was no chance of it happening? “But unfortunately it didn’t happen. That’s West Brom’s prerogative, he’s their player and they changed their mind for whatever reason. “I’m sure Shane is as disappointed as anyone, stuck at our training ground, left high and dry effectively.” Bruce was able to agree a deal to bring Egyptian striker Gedo back to the club on loan from Al Ahly, joining fellow recruits Danny Graham and Yannick Sagbo, but a renewed bid for Long could still be on the cards in January. Hull manager Steve Bruce admits he was left “bitterly disappointed” by the last-gasp breakdown of the deal to sign Shane Long. West Brom striker Long seemed to be on his way to the KC Stadium in a club-record deal on transfer deadline day but the Baggies pulled the plug with just an hour of the window remaining. It was a messy situation, with Long having left a Republic of Ireland get together on a charter plane laid on by Hull as talks continued.
Press Association Jason Quigley became the first Irish boxer in history to reach a World Championship final on Friday with victory over Russia’s Artem Chebotarev in Almaty. The Donegal middleweight will fight Kazakhstan’s Zhanibek Alimkhanuly for the title on Saturday after earning a unanimous decision with a display of slick counter-punching. Quigley said: “I kept my composure and kept on him and picked him off with better shots. I’m not going to let anybody get in my way now. “We went through the tactics last night. We knew he was going to come at me so the aim was to pick him off as he comes. I knew I had the skill and speed to beat him.” Quigley, who won the European title in June, is the only Irish or British fighter to make the finals after last-four defeats for Joe Ward and Andrew Selby on Friday. Ward was outclassed in his light-heavyweight semi-final by Cuba’s defending champion Julio De La Cruz, who won every round on all three of the judges’ scorecards. And there was heartbreak for Welshman Selby, who had to settle for a bronze medal after dropping a tight split decision to Uzbekistan’s Jasurbek Latipov in their flyweight semi-final. Earlier, Liverpool middleweight Antony Fowler was forced to withdraw from his semi-final against Kazakhstan’s Zhanibek Alimkhanuly due to a hand injury. Fowler had been due to take on the home favourite on Friday afternoon but injured his hand during his last-eight win over Stefan Haertel. Fowler, who only recently returned from a different injury to the same hand, was pulled out after extensive discussions between GB coaches and the medical team, and will have to settle for a bronze medal. Fowler said: “I am absolutely gutted I cannot compete today as I have been boxing really well and feel I could go all the way, however the coaches and medical team have told me it is not safe to continue.”
Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley insists the club have no intention of feeling sorry for themselves over their present plight. United are reeling from Sunday’s 3-1 defeat at Chelsea, which left them six points adrift of a Champions League berth and without skipper Nemanja Vidic for three games following his red card for a lunge on Eden Hazard. It means the Serbian will be suspended for Wednesday night’s Capital One Cup encounter with Sunderland, when United must overcome a first-leg deficit to reach the final and a probable showdown with in-form rivals Manchester City. Former United defender Gary Neville accepts Mata does not fit the usual tactical template for United purchases. But he knows the 25-year-old could bring an injection of positivity at a time when United appear to be enveloped in gloom. “Does he fit in with what I would call the typical philosophy of Manchester United? I would say no,” said Neville on Twitter. “Positives of signing a player like him are obvious-lift everyone (spark) creativity, knows PL, 4th place chances go up – fantastic player.” Mata would certainly bring additional competition to an area of the field where so many feel the Red Devils are deficient. After falling 14 points adrift of leaders Arsenal, it is now widely accepted United will not retain their title. Yet Cleverley feels if any club can achieve the impossible, it is his. “You can never rule Manchester United out,” he said. “This club has come from some mad positions in the past to go on and win things. “It is going to be very tough. I would say we will need to win every game from now until the end of the season to do it but you should never rule us out.” Press Association Neither Wayne Rooney nor Robin van Persie are likely to start given they have only just returned to training following groin and thigh absences respectively, although David Moyes must be tempted to include them given the avalanche of negative publicity that would accompany yet another setback. Little has gone right for new boss Moyes this season, but Cleverley is adamant United will not let their heads drop. “We can’t let it get our heads down,” he told Sky Sports News. “You have to feel for the new manager. He has had no luck at all. “But we are not going to feel sorry for ourselves. “We have to stand up and be counted. That starts with the Capital One Cup.” Moyes is already clocking up the air miles in a bid to make the additions so obviously required. The latest player to be linked with a move to United is Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata, who has failed to impress Jose Mourinho sufficiently to claim a regular starting berth and is beginning to fear for his World Cup place.
Chelsea boss Mourinho said last week that the Gunners get a certain ”influence” when it came to their schedule, something Wenger was eager to refute as he prepared for the trip to Southampton. “In the last five years all the objective studies that have been made show Arsenal had less rest than any other team in the top four,” he said. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hit back at old rival Jose Mourinho’s claim that his side get an easy ride on fixtures and says he would be willing to trade millions in television income for a greater say in how his team’s matches are scheduled. The Liverpool cup encounter is scheduled to be played on the weekend of February 15-16, just a few days ahead of the Champions League last-16 first-leg showdown with the Bundesliga giants on Wednesday, February 19. No date has yet been set for the Liverpool match but as one of the stand-out ties it is almost certain to be televised, which could see Arsenal preparing for the Munich clash with a Sunday afternoon kick-off against the Reds. The Gunners boss would like to see a rule set across all leagues to make sure everyone prepares the same ahead of key European ties. When asked if he felt more could be done to help his side prepare for European competition, Wenger said: “Let’s turn it the other way around, you cannot do less; because you do nothing. In other leagues (they help), yes. “I already suggested in a UEFA meeting to make sure in the Champions League that the teams have the same time of rest. “For example, in Porto they cancelled the games sometimes. The day before the Champions League they cancelled a game. For the competition it would maybe be better if all the teams had exactly the same rest.” Wenger believes that is necessary to factor in the highs and lows of football, which he compared to the life of a drug user. “Sometimes after a game you go on a high and it is like a guy who takes drugs. You go on a high, energy, you have to go down and to have a bit more time helps you to be up for it again,” he said. “We went out to Blackburn (in the FA Cup last season) and it was a humiliation and to recover from that in three days is very difficult.” With Arsenal still alive in three competitions – they can go four points clear in the Premier League on Tuesday if they win at Southampton – but as they look to earn a first trophy in nine years, Wenger is not planning to prioritise any competition. “We are not at a stage where we can have a choice,” he said. “We play the Champions League after the FA Cup – if I sacrifice the FA Cup and we go out in the Champions League you look stupid, so (the approach) is just to go for it and hope it goes well and keep, as long as you can, in all of the competitions.” The dispute over fixtures is not the first time that Mourinho and Wenger have disagreed with each other – in fact it is not the first time this month after the Portuguese said last week that complaining is “normal” for Wenger in light of comments he made about Juan Mata’s transfer to Manchester United. The exchange, though, is nothing to do with mind games, according to the Arsenal boss. “It is not mind games. It is opinions. But I don’t live with opinions, I live with facts. And the facts don’t depend on me or Mourinho,” he said. “It is depending on objective analysis. A day is 24 hours. And you count how many times you have rest between games. “I did (not) make this study, it was made by an independent company. I cannot influence that.” Wenger makes the trip south with a doubt over Jack Wilshere’s ankle, but he does have Mikel Arteta (calf), Aaron Ramsey (thigh) and Thomas Vermaelen (calf) fit again. “That is facts. It has nothing to do with my opinion. It is an independent company that made (the study) that shows Arsenal had less rest than any other team in the top level.” It is understood that the study Wenger referred to was conducted as part of an internal analysis of Arsenal’s fixture programme. He admits he would be prepared to accept a smaller sum from broadcasters if it meant greater control of when Arsenal played. “Nobody is to blame, it’s just the way the fixtures are sold,” the Frenchman said. “It is the television who decide. I cannot even blame the Premier League because the television has the last word. If they say for example they want Arsenal v Liverpool on Sunday, it will be on Sunday. “I can understand the television but the question you can ask, the way when it is sold, (clubs) take £50million less and keep the command.” When asked if he would do that, he added: “Yes, but I am in football.” February will see the Gunners face Liverpool twice – once in the Barclays Premier League and also in the fifth round of the FA Cup – as well as Manchester United and Bayern Munich. Press Association
Ireland only have five realistic chances to blood new players ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2015 run-in, according to boss Joe Schmidt. The RBS Six Nations champions have 10 Test matches before the traditional summer World Cup warm-ups, and the tournament proper starting in September 2015. Head coach Schmidt believes the relentless Six Nations schedule offers no opportunity for squad rotation. The former Leinster coach remains unfazed by the challenge to anoint Brian O’Driscoll’s successor for Ireland’s 13 shirt in that time-frame, with the talisman centre retiring at the end of the season. “There are 10 Tests to go ultimately towards the World Cup, five of those are the finals we play week to week in the Six Nations,” said Schmidt. “For us personally the Six Nations is massive, because it happens every year and that’s the one tournament you’ve got to be repeatedly good at. “The World Cup is once every four years. “It’s got to be kept in mind because it’s the peak, but those five Six Nations Tests, it’s probably the amount of pressure for those, it’s hard to go outside of the players who are in form and to keep continuity because it’s played over seven weeks. “So you don’t even get chance to catch breath. “I thought that we would have been able to give a little more opportunity without losing continuity during the Six Nations. “If we hadn’t played people against Italy they would have had two full weeks off, and that wouldn’t have been the best preparation for the deciding game against France.” Press Association Rejecting outside accusations of Leinster bias, Schmidt said he never even considers provincial background when selecting Ireland squads. Buoyed by the return to fitness of Stephen Ferris, Tommy Bowe and Donnacha Ryan, Schmidt said he would not rule out taking Johnny Sexton on the summer’s Argentina tour. Robbie Henshaw, Darren Cave and even Jared Payne, who qualifies through residency in November, can fight to succeed O’Driscoll next term, said Schmidt. The Kiwi coach said there is still time for fast-developing provincial stars like JJ Hanrahan at Munster to force their way into the picture ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015 to boot. “I don’t think the circle is as tight as people probably perceive it to be,” said Schmidt. “We would have discussed 55 to 60 names, now you can’t select that many but they are certainly part of discussions. “We are very open-minded, and we want there to be real competition for places, and we want to be able to keep an open mind in so far as the form of some of those younger players. “I don’t think the Argentina tour is the only time to try things, we will have the Guinness Series that follows it too. “They are the five Test matches that really give us an opportunity to get together a squad to try to defend the Six Nations now we’re in that position.” Former players and outside commentators have questioned whether Schmidt’s Ireland selections have weighed too heavily on his former club Leinster. The ex-schoolteacher himself is in no mood to agree. “For me I select Irish players: if people want to differentiate, if people want to divide that provincially, that’s their prerogative,” said Schmidt. “But as a group we’re just trying to select the Irish national team. “If people are going to be distracted by provincial loyalties, then that’s certainly something that’s not happening within the group. “There’s been a super unity within the group, and it’s probably always disappointing to get criticised. “I can totally understand the perception, but what I could guarantee is that we have all the stats, we watch all the games, and we try to do as much homework as we possibly can.”