Death of a Grecian – Adam Stansfield

Exeter City forward has tragically died from bowel cancer aged 31. Stansfield was diagnosed with bowel cancer following a series of tests for an abdominal complaint in April, after being admitted to hospital in March. The former Yeovil and Hereford front man scored seven goals in 19 games for the Grecians last season.

The League one side issued this statement, after their defeat to Championship side Ipswich 3-2 at St. James Park last night: “It is with great sadness that Exeter City Football Club have to confirm the news that Adam Stansfield passed away this evening. Our thoughts are with his wife, family and friends at this time.”

Exeter City has said it would open the Big Bank gates at St. James Park from 9:30am today for fans to pay their respects to the Tiverton-born forward. Stansfield joined Exeter on a free transfer in 2004 and made 150 first team appearances, scoring 39 goals. He will most fondly be remembered for scoring 2 goals on the final day of the 2006/07 season to secure Exeter’s promotion from the Conference back to the Football League.

The Exeter City forum,, contained messages of sadness and support for the striker, affectionately named Stanno. One member, named Herschel, said: “Oh dear god……..such a loss. R.I.P. Stanno, a true City Legend. Another called Grecian Lez wrote: “In tears, I say goodbye to a Grecian legend and may he rest in peace.”

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Martin O’Neill: The Nearly Man

Martin O'Neil Manager Aston Villa 2009/10 Aston Villa V Sunderland (1-1) 24/03/10 The Premier League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

On 4th August 2006, ex-Leicester and Celtic manager Martin O’Neill walked into a press conference with the media to confirm his appointment as Aston Villa manager and said this: “I am well aware of the history of this football club. Trying to restore it to its days of former glory seems a long way away – but why not try? It is nearly 25 years since they won the European Cup, but that is the dream”. 3 years and 5 days down the line, how well did O’Neill do and how far did he take the club?

In his first season at the helm, O’Neill improved the club’s points tally from 42 in the 2005/06 season to 50 in the 2006/07 season and finished 5 places higher up the table in 11th position. The season after, they narrowly missed out on the UEFA Cup and qualified for the Intertoto Cup with a sixth placed finish. They scored 71 goals, gained 60 points and were the third highest goal scorers in the Premier League for that year.

In the 2008/09 season, 25 games into the season, Villa were third in the table and on course for the Champions League. O’Neill then decided to prioritise Champions League qualification over anything else and fielded an unknown side against CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Cup. Villa lost that game and then failed to win their next ten Premier League games, falling off the pace and finishing 6th for the second season running.

Last season, Villa failed to qualify for the group stages of the Europa League, but faired well domestically, picking up wins over Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. They finished 6th again and got to the Carling Cup final where O’Neill lost. against Manchester United.

His stats as Villa manager are eighty wins, fifty losses and sixty draws in a 190 game managerial tenure at Villa Park. His win percentage was 42.11%, but failed to deliver any major trophies to the Midlands side. The only trophy O’Neill collected was the Peace Cup 2009, a pre-season tournament trophy.

Bruce Scott, head of the Yorkshire Lions Supporters Club, believes that O’Neill did a fantastic job in charge of the club. “O’Neill was the best thing the club has had for thirty years. It’s a big difference between winning all the time in the SPL and winning in England and he handled it well. I think a combination of being given a lack of funds and the imminent departures of Young and Milner just pushed him over the edge. In the end, as is with most things these days, it all came down to money.”

Comparing his achievements to his press conference greeting, O’Neill failed his expectations. However, if you look at the way he progressed Aston Villa from an 11th place finish the year before he arrived to regular Europa League place finishers, he has done a good job at Villa. The astute purchases of young English talent, including Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and James Milner, and the influx of young talent he produced through the side should stand Aston Villa in good side for the season. Even if the proposed moves away from Villa Park for Milner and Young go through, O’Neill has still left a solid defensive unit and a host of attacking excitement behind. O’Neill did a good job at Villa and the next manager will have to live up to some high expectations that the Villa fans hold.

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Holloway relishing shot at the big boys

QPR FC vs Blackpool FC Championship 08/08/09 Photo Nicky Hayes/Fotosports International Blackpool Manager Ian Holloway appeals for calm.

At 3pm on Saturday, Ian Holloway will settle into his place at pitch side and soak in the atmosphere of a half empty DW Stadium. He will look out onto the messy Wigan turf and see a string of Championship players plugging away on a pitch suited for rugby league. Holloway will look around and take a deep breath in and produce a broad, bubbly smile. For Holloway, this is home. He’s spent 28 years in football (13 as a manager) dreaming of being able to stand on the touchline as a Premier League manager and on August 14th, Holloway’s dream will become reality.

What he did last year begs belief. Holloway took a team of sub-average players and produced some mind-blowing attacking football, only failing to score in six games out of forty six. Holloway hired a squad made up of free transfers, loans and one marquee signing of £500,000 in Charlie Adam and unified them beautifully. He made the English press stand up and think that Holloway can actually manage teams successfully and is not just some Gloucestershire goofball who gives out iconic, yet idiotic quotes and is only good for maintaining survival.

The 47 year old has already said he will not change his ethos to attack and he will still set up his team to play free-flowing football against any opposition. Holloway said: “You won’t ever in my life in the Premier League, however long that may be, catch me standing toe to toe with someone as a boxer and just covering my face”.

‘Ollie’ also added: “I want to go to these big clubs and give them a good game but, whatever the score line, I’ll still be buzzing when we leave because I’m proud of my lads’ efforts”. The Kingswood-born gaffer has no fear. He’ll happily stand up against anybody and give out as much as he receives. Critics, including this writer, believe that Blackpool will not get into double figures and will perform worse than Derby County did in their ill-fated eleven point embarrassment in the 2007/08 season. However, Holloway has, jokingly, succumbed to the daunting challenge his team faces and said: “I was fuming at first when people said we wouldn’t get 10 points. But when I got the fixture list I said, ‘My God, where are we going to get 10 points from?’. The truth is, I can’t wait for the challenge. I’ve nothing to lose and that suits me better than having everything to lose.”

Frustration is starting to overcome Holloway, as he attempts to assemble a squad capable of challenging in the Premier League this season. He has a transfer list of around 40 players, he admits, but is having difficulty with the sudden trajectory of prices since Blackpool became a Premier League team. He exclaimed: “I feel like I’m a fella who was selling the Big Issue last week with my dog sat by me looking pretty hungry and I just picked up a winning Lottery ticket.” Producing another quote like that makes people laugh, but underneath the jovial exterior, you can see the annoyance from Holloway.

He has been used to scrimping and saving for players and carefully and astutely picking his targets, but with the Premier League status and money that is closely associated with Premier League teams, Holloway can’t bargain anymore. Holloway expects to have a few signings wrapped up in time for the first game with Mlada Boleslav midfielder Ludovic Sylvestre’s agent claiming his client is having a medical at Blackpool today. Other players rumoured with Blackpool are powerful striker Marlon Harewood and free agent Robert Koren.

Holloway has problems though. He has one scout, Billy Dearden, on his books and works with a backroom staff of four or five full time workers. Holloway recently sent Dearden to Hungary and it was the first time Dearden had ever been abroad, which shows the lack of experience within the Seasiders. Also, Holloway only has 17 players in his first team and will need to either draft in 8 new faces or bring up players from the youth team.

So, when Saturday comes, Holloway will be animated and lively as always from start to finish against Wigan, urging his boys on, feeling everything and through all the pain, heartache or triumph, he will still be in love with football and in love that he has a place at English football’s top table. However good or bad Ian Holloway’s season is going; he will always be buoyant and play his team with no fear. The rest of the Premier League can’t wait to see what comes at Bloomfield Road and neither can we.

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A new sponsor requires a new trophy

The new sponsor for the Football league, npower, has had one of the UK’s leading silversmiths, Ottewill, construct brand new trophies for the Championship and Leagues 1 and 2. All three trophies contain a new three handle design and are silver plated with gold handles. The Championship trophy stands 600mm high and weighs 12kg, whereas the League 1 and 2 trophies weigh 20kg and stand at 750mm high. The company’s marketing director, Kevin Peake, said: “We wanted a fresh design that reflected our excitement about becoming new sponsors. We think these new trophies do exactly that and we’re delighted to be unveiling the new designs to mark the first weekend of the new season.”

The question now is who is in the running to lift these trophies at the end of the season. Let’s start with the Championship. Any number of teams is in the running to lift the trophy this season, such is the competitive nature of the Championship. The bookmaker’s made Middlesbrough the favourites, closely followed by Nottingham Forest, but with both of those teams being beaten on the opening weekend, there will be dips in the form from the bookies. This writer believes that it will be between Burnley, Nottingham Forest and Ipswich. Burnley has a chance, because of their experience in the Premiership and that they have kept the nucleus of the side that went up from the championship. Nottingham Forest were in the mix last season and the experience that Roy Keane has will give Ipswich a massive chance.

In League 1, the outright favourites were Southampton, but their defeat to Plymouth at St. Mary’s dropped their odds slightly. Southampton will be the clear favourites with the firepower of Ricky Lambert and the playmaking abilities of Adam Lallana and if those two can overcome their injuries, the Saints should have a big chance. Sheffield Wednesday will also be in with a fighting chance, such is their prestige and talent within the team, and an outside bet would be on Phil Parkinson’s Charlton Athletic, after their fourth placed finish last season.

League 2 is also difficult to call. The only teams that looked like going up last season were Notts County, Rochdale and Bournemouth and all those teams fulfilled the expectations, alongside playoff winners Dagenham & Redbridge. Bradford are the bookies favourites, but time and time again, they are given all the odds, all the backing and do not provide, finishing 14th last season. The best bet would be Rotherham United. With an experienced manager in Ronnie Moore and the goals that Adam le Fondre provides, they will look to bounce back from their play off final heartache last season. Another good bet would be with Wycombe Wanderers. Peter Taylor at the helm is heavily experienced and they have exciting young players, such as Matt Phillips and Jon Paul Pittman, willing to learn from Taylor. The outside chance would go to Bury. They are a formidable opponent and if they can stop falling apart towards the back end of the season, they can push up to the title.

Whoever lifts the title, the npower Football League promises to provide excitement again and joy for those lifting the new npower trophies when May comes around.

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Fabregas Finally Commits Future

Aug 05, 2010 - London, England, UK - CESC FABREGAS.

Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas has confirmed he is staying with Arsenal for the new Premier League season. The Spain midfielder had been the subject of rumours about a move back to his boyhood club Barcelona, but the 23 year old has commited his future to the North London club.

Fabregas has confirmed that Barcelona had tabled two bids for him, but both were rejected by Arsenal, who kept a firm not for sale stance on Fabregas throughout the summer. The midfielder issued a statement to the fans of Arsenal, after admitting he was seriously tempted to move to Spain and play for the La Liga champions.

Fabregas said: “Firstly I would like to apologise to all the Arsenal fans for not speaking sooner about my future but I have not known what I was going to do until this moment.” He also added that he had had many conversations with Arsene Wenger and understands that “it is Arsenal’s prerogative not to sell me.”

I owe a lot to the club, manager and the fans and I will respect their decision and will now concentrate on the new season ahead with Arsenal. I am an Arsenal player and as soon as I step out on to the pitch, that is the only club I will be thinking about.”, Fabregas also said in his statement.

This news will be a massive relief for Arsenal fans, as they would definitely have struggled without their talismanic captain. However, Arsenal fans will be worried at where Fabregas’ head lies and whether or not this season will be his last in Arsenal team colours. Barcelona want their former player badly and I don’t think they will just stop now. I am fully expecting a bid next summer and if Arsenal do not win anything this year, expect Fabregas’ head to be turned again and he may jet off to Spain, leaving Arsenal in serious limbo.

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Nani Looking To Lead The Way

Apr. 07, 2010 - 05736103 date 07 04 2010 Copyright imago BPI Nani of Manchester United Celebrates Scoring The Third Goal PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxFRAxNEDxESPxSWExPOLxCHNxJPN men Football EC 1 Champions League 2009 2010 Manchester Action shot Single Vdig xsk 2010 horizontal Highlight premiumd Football.

Two seasons ago, Nani was hauled off at halftime in a lacklustre display against Tottenham. The Portuguese winger then watched his club come from 2 goals down to win 5-2 and keep their title charge alive. Fast forward to this summer and Nani has cemented his place as an exciting winger looking to emulate the large shoes of countryman Cristiano Ronaldo as the next United wideman. His performance against Arsenal in United’s 3-1 Premier League win last season really turned the screw for Nani and the Red Devils faithful saw the potential that Nani provides.

Nani himself is now finally convinced that the Red Devils fans have finally seen his true value. “I feel more confident in this club,” he said. “I realise where I am and I know I am doing well.” The wideman had a disappointing World Cup with Portugal as they were eliminated in the second round by eventual winners Spain. He is looking to put that disappointment behind him and improve on his performances last season. The winger said: “People saw a different player last season because I worked hard every day. I improved a lot but there is a lot to learn yet and I hope to start this season better than the last.”

Nani will look to play regularly in tandem with other electric winger Antonio Valencia and capture Nani’s third Premier League medal this season. If he produces the form he showed from Christmas onwards, he will be on the team sheet more often and could become a key player in United’s push to regain the title this season.

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“Glazers Will Not Sell”

The executive chairman of Seymour Pierce, Keith Harris, believes that a bid from the Red Knights to buy Manchester United would be totally pointless, as the Glazer Family have no intention of selling.

The Red Knights are a consortium of wealthy businessmen, who were interested in buying Manchester United, but have had stalling points due to the club’s uneconomical, financial situation. The consortium are still commited to buying the club, but Harris, who is part of the Knights, does not believe any bid would make an impression.

The message I thought came loud and clear from the current owners that they are not interested in selling it“, Harris said. “I’ve been around long enough in the trading business to know that for a trade to happen it requires a seller and a buyer who will meet. If the owner is not a seller and owns all of it and isn’t under pressure to sell it then there isn’t going to be a deal. Bids were tabled in the past and were declined. They obviously don’t feel under pressure or under desire to do it today.”

Harris is a die hard United fan, he openly admits, and would love to see his club become stable and financially powerful again. Although United attract millions of fans worlwide and their commercial revenue is still as powerful as ever, a portion of the money registered has to go to reducing the debt.

Recently, Harris came under public criticism by United chief executive, David Gill, over leaked news of the Red Knights’ bid for the club. Gill labelled Harris a publicity hound and Harris had the chance to respond to those allegations, but refused. “I wasn’t involved in the Red Knights going public. There was a reporter that got a wind of it. I don’t believe in these things going public until the right moment.“, Harris said. He also added that “personal assaults don’t have a place in business“, taking a subtle swipe at the United chief executive.

Whatever happens, it is going to take a long time to get Man United’s financial situation back to normal. With reported debts in excess of £800 million, the Glazers or potential new owners will have to pump money back into the club. This could take a huge number of years and English football will hope that the Old Trafford side do not follow the lines of Portsmouth and lower league clubs in plunging in finances and resulting in docked points and potential liquidation. Even if you hate United, it is a competitive league with them in it and they are, alongside Liverpool, one of the forerunners for European success and domestic dominance.

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