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Soccer

Scottish football suspension extended to June 10

The Scottish football season at all levels of the game has been suspended further until June 10 at the earliest due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Football has been suspended indefinitely in the country, from the professional game down to recreational level, since March 13.

A SFA statement read: “It has unanimously agreed to extend the suspension at all levels of the game from professional to recreational until at least 10 June.

“The board had initially suspended football until further notice and with a stipulation of April 30 at the earliest, in order to give member clubs greater certainty on player welfare and wellbeing, as well as financial clarity.

“Since the announcement on 19 March, the Joint Response Group has received daily updates from the Scottish FA’s Medical Consultant, Dr John MacLean, based on his discussions with medical colleagues in Scotland and the United Kingdom, as well as within UEFA and the World Health Organisation.”

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Soccer

Ahmed Elmohamady exclusive: Break gives Aston Villa chance to reset

The postponement of football has given Aston Villa the chance to reset in their fight to avoid relegation from the Premier League, insists Ahmed Elmohamady.

Speaking to Sky Sports from his home during lockdown, the Villa wing-back discussed a range of subjects, including his home training, the best opponents he’s played against, and a look back at two of his most important contributions in a Villa shirt.

Elmohamady, who recently celebrated 10 years in England and is the longest-serving Arabic player in the Premier League, is seeing the positive side of the unprecedented break to football.

‘A fresh start for Villa’

Villa had lost five games on the trot before football was postponed, and sit two points from safety in the Premier League table, with a game in hand and 10 remaining. Elmohamady believes the break will do Villa good, particularly as last season’s Player of the Year John McGinn will have recovered from his ankle break…

“I do believe this break could give us a fresh start to play the final 10 games of the season, and give everyone a chance to reset.

“We went through a tough period before the season stopped, and this break would allow the likes of John McGinn, who is a key player for us, get back to full fitness and help us for the final 10 games.

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“I do believe we can come back fresh and that this break was needed for us, ready to fight for the remaining games.

“We do have a strong team spirit in the team. It’s something that has always been here and is created from the manager, staff and senior players downwards.”

‘The most I’ve seen my family!’

Elmohamady is glass half full despite the practical difficulties of lockdown, saying this is the most he has been able to see his family in recent years, while also keeping fit with the club’s training programme and his own routine…

“The club have given us a training programme, I’ve been running and training every day, working hard. It’s been good because I’ve been able to play with my kids and spend some time with the missus. I’ll be honest, this is the most time I’ve spent with my family kids in a long time, and it has been great!

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Had to be done #stayhome #staysafe

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Had to be done #stayhome #staysafe

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“I’m an international player, meaning in recent years I haven’t been able to spend much time at all with the family in the summer. In 2018 we had the World Cup in Russia, and in 2019 we had the Africa Cup of Nations, which took up a good eight weeks of my time.

“So it has been really nice to spend some quality time with the kids and the missus, relaxing and enjoying quality time I would have been able to do before.

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“We have needed the break and downtime, I think. I am being positive about the situation, and of course I am looking forward to returning to the games.

“Of course I miss the games and miss the ball, but I’ve been able to get out particularly with my son, constantly playing games, or board games with my kids to keep myself busy. I am looking forward to playing competitively again, but for the time being I am making the most of this.”

‘Crossing ability is repetition… plus a bit of Arabic!’

Two of Villa’s finest moments in recent years have been born from the right boot of Elmohamady. His wonderful assist for Anwar El Ghazi’s header set Villa on their way in the Play-Off final win over Derby last May, and a similar fine delivery for fellow Egyptian Trezeguet sent them to Wembley again with a last-gasp 2-1 win over Leicester in the Carabao Cup semi-final in January.

Elmohamady described how a language trick helped for Trezeguet’s winner, and says the key to his crossing ability is repetition…

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Job Done, Back to the big league 🤪

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Job Done, Back to the big league 🤪

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“It’s repetition, crossing the ball over and over again in training, I just take a load of balls and practise. It has been a strength for me and something I don’t rest on and want to keep doing.

“For the play-off final goal, I said to Anwar: ‘I’m going to be putting 10 or so crosses into the box, so be ready!’ and he was when it mattered. It was one of the best days in my career. Of course, I prefer to play in the Premier League.

“For Trez’s goal against Leicester, we talk in training about this cross, and when I take the ball on the right he says to me “far post” but in Arabic so nobody could understand. It worked!”

“Believe it or not I actually started out as a striker early on, and played there for the Egypt National Team U17s, and playing at the Olympics. I was then moved to right-back and had one of my best games there, so I’d played on the right ever since, either at right wing-back or right-back. It was by luck!

“Steve Bruce brought me to England and played me on the right wing, and I am able to play in both positions. I like to attack more than defending, and to play in attacking sides. Obviously as you get older you defend more, and I am happy doing that now.”

‘Hazard, Cole the best’

Elmohamady has been in England for 10 years, making nearly 400 appearances for Sunderland, Hull and Villa.

In that time, playing both as a winger and full-back, the 32-year-old has come up against world-class opposition, but who was the best?

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Soccer

The Nevilles quiz: How well do you know Gary, Phil and Tracey?

They’ve been around English sport for almost three decades, but our quiz will tell you how well you really know the Neville siblings…

Manchester United, Everton, Valencia and England Women – plus Sky Sports, of course – the Neville brothers have been a mainstay in the footballing world since the Class of ’92.

They joined sister Tracey, former head coach and player with England’s netball team, for a special Off Script which you can watch here – but first, give our quiz a go and see how much you know about one of English sport’s most famous families!

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Categories
Tennis

Andy Murray and wife Kim lay down the 100 volley challenge

Andy Murray and his wife Kim lay down the 100 volley challenge – will Roger Federer and his wife Mirka be next?

Murray has been active on social media with his latest tweet asking all players and fans to take up the 100 volley partner challenge.

He said: “A challenge to all tennis players and fans… The 100 volley challenge. There was no bickering during the filming of the video, although I think the last volley was aimed at my head… I can’t be the only one that wants to see Rog and Mirka hitting a few balls together..”

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Rugby

Lee Blackett named Wasps head coach on permanent basis

Wasps have appointed interim boss Lee Blackett as the club’s permanent head coach.

The 37-year-old stepped up from his position as attack and backs coach to replace the outgoing Dai Young on a temporary basis in February.

During his interim spell, Blackett won three of his four matches in charge to move within two points of fourth-placed Northampton before the coronavirus pandemic curtailed action, enough to earn a new contract on a full-time basis.

Blackett has reshaped his coaching staff, with Pete Atkinson joining as head of performance when his current contract with the Italian Rugby Union expires.

Richard Blaze, currently working with the England Women’s team, also takes up the position as forwards coach, replacing Andy Titterrell who has left the club.

“The last few months have been fantastic, and I can’t thank the coaches, players, staff and supporters enough for the support they’ve given me,” said Blackett.

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Soccer

Timothy Fosu-Mensah: Manchester United trigger one-year contract extension

Manchester United have triggered the extra-year option on Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s contract, keeping him at Old Trafford for at least another 12 months.

The Dutch defender’s deal was due to run out at the end of the current season but United have moved to extend his contract.

Fosu-Mensah, 22, has not appeared in the first team since the final game of the 2016/17 campaign but his extension follows similar decisions taken by Manchester United in the cases of Eric Bailly and Nemanja Matic.

The defender’s spent time on loan at Crystal Palace and also Fulham where he sustained a serious knee injury that has kept him out of football for almost a year.

More to follow…

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Categories
Rugby

Coronavirus: Players at Welsh regions agree 25 per cent pay cut

Players at the four Welsh rugby regions have agreed to take a pay cut of 25 per cent while the sport is suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The deal, brokered between the Welsh Rugby Players’ Association (WRPA) and Welsh rugby’s Professional Rugby Board (PRB) will be backdated to April 1 and last three months.

Full-time staff at the four regions – Cardiff Blues, Scarlets, Ospreys and Dragons – will also have their pay cut at varying levels. However, players who earn £25,000 per year or less will not be subject to any reductions.

Barry Cawte, the chief executive of the WRPA – whose staff will also take 25 per cent pay decreases – said: “The WRPA exists to look after the welfare of players, but it is clear that extraordinary times call for measures such as those agreed this week.

“I can only say how proud I am of our members, who from the beginning expressed a desire to do whatever was needed to help protect the games and their colleagues.”

The independent chair of the PRB, Amanda Blanc, added: “I would like to put on record my thanks to the WRPA, the regional chairs, and the WRU for their efforts in helping reach this decision.

“Rugby is a team sport and it is gratifying to note that all parties, from players to senior coaches and executive staff, agreed to terms which will help us safeguard the future of our game.

“For our professional players in particular this has been a really tough decision, they are at the very sharp end of our business, but they are also our biggest cost.

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Rugby

Miles Harrison’s Rugby Fantasy Land: Full-backs- Serge Blanco vs Christian Cullen

Tune in for the third instalment of Miles Harrison’s rugby fantasy land. A XV of Golden Oldies in the era pre-1994 before Sky Sports began covering rugby, vs a XV of ‘Young Ones’ that Miles commentated on. Next, it’s the full-backs…

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These are teams with players who raise the spirits, ones that get you out of your seat. This could be down to their flair, skills and speed or because of their power, strength and physical presence.

These fantasy teams are not claiming to have the very greatest players in their positions although in all cases they are inevitably truly great players, the selection is about making sure that these teams would play the most amazingly entertaining rugby that the selector could possibly dream of.

Next up, the full-backs: Serge Blanco, who featured 93 times for France between 1980 and 1991, won Grand Slams in 1981 and 1987 and captained France at the 1991 Rugby World Cup.

And opposite him is former All Black Christian Cullen, who picked up 58 caps for New Zealand between 1996 and 2002 and scored 46 tries in that time as one of the most potent backs in the history of the sport.

I hope you have a great trip to Fantasy Land and that, at least for a moment or two, it takes your mind off what’s happening in the world at this time. Stay safe and healthy, Miles.

The Golden Oldie: Serge Blanco

15. Blanco – I remember seeing Serge Blanco on Rugby Special playing for France against Wales at junior level and thinking: ‘Oh, my goodness, what a talent’.

He quickly established himself in the full national team and the world had a truly amazing talent on its hands. Whatever the era, he is one of the most charismatic players to ever wear an international shirt. And, by the way, Jean-Baptiste Lafond would step in if Blanco was injured. Loved them both.

The Young One: Christian Cullen

15. Cullen – I first saw Christian Cullen up close when I called the Hong Kong Sevens in 1996 and, in rugby terms, it was love at first sight.

Then, in the years that followed in the full-sized version of the game, Cullen went on to redefine the full speed swerve and, to many, attacking full-back play in general. He played as if he was the one sitting in the stand seeing everything that was on.

For me, to leave out another great favourite of mine and another Rolls Royce full-back, Andre Joubert, proves just how much I loved the play of the Kiwi. He was a once in a generation player.

Selection is by its very nature a very personal choice and, coupled with that thought, is the fact that you can’t look back over all the years and not miss a few. This is where you come in. I want your selections and for you to tell me who I might have missed and exactly why you have made your choices? @skysportsmiles

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Soccer

Tottenham’s furlough decision ‘stupid’, says Jamie O’Hara

Former Tottenham midfielder Jamie O’Hara has criticised the club’s “stupid decision” to use public money to pay some non-playing staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

The north London side have faced a public backlash after 550 non-playing employees, some of whom have been furloughed, were made to take a 20 per cent wage cut while the players’ salaries currently remain untouched.

Tottenham posted profits of £69m last year and are the eighth richest club in the world with owner Joe Lewis worth an estimated £3.9 billion, leading to disgust from fans over their furlough decision.

An angry O’Hara, who played for Tottenham for six years from 2005, told Sky Sports News: “It’s disappointing from Spurs – they’ve got a billionaire owner.

“I’d understand it if you’d go further down in terms of the leagues and you see teams struggling financially at the moment.

“But for Spurs, they’re a big club, they’re properly-supported and I think they should’ve looked after their staff through a massive part of it.

“If it’s costing them £500,000 a month to look after the staff they’ve got there on full pay, then if this situation lasts for three months you’re talking about £1.5m.

“So is it worth damaging the reputation, which is global, for that sort of money when the club is so profitable?

“It seems a stupid decision to me.”

Spurs have told Sky Sports News they will “continue to review their position” after the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust urged chairman Daniel Levy to follow Liverpool by reversing the decision.

We have been saying consistently @SpursOfficial – pause and rethink. We are now saying it clearly and in public – do not further damage the Club’s reputation, listen to your fans.

Reports have also suggested the club’s senior players are unhappy with the club’s stance, but O’Hara believes they are partly to blame for the situation.

“I’m disappointed in the players,” he added. “They’re the money-earners there.

“Come on now, if you’re a big player at Tottenham you look after your own and for me, it’s the first and foremost thing you should be doing in this situation, so I’m surprised.

“Maybe Daniel Levy is put in a bit of a situation where he’s waiting for the players to take pay cuts, so he’s got to do something and try to save money as he’s a businessman.

“If I was there I’d be asking that question and hopefully some of them are, like Harry Kane and Dele Alli.

“They’re big players at the club and earn a lot of money – they should be looking after the staff.

“Tottenham is not just about the players, it’s about everyone at that football club – the financial team, the corporate side, the marketing, the stewards, the chefs – everything about what makes the club great is all the people that work there, so the players should be the first people to make sure they’re looked after.”

Further problems emerged for Spurs on Tuesday when pictures and video on social media appeared to show some players ignoring coronavirus lockdown guidelines by flouting social distancing rules during part of their workout in a public park.

Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho was pictured doing a session with midfielder Tanguy Ndombele on Hadley Common.

O’Hara said of the incident: “I’m really surprised at this moment in time, with the scrutiny Spurs are under, that they’ve gone to a park in their Tottenham training kit and have done a session running next to each other.

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Fighting

Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury? Deontay Wilder has ‘not communicated’ willingness to waive right to a rematch

Tyson Fury’s camp have “not heard” Deontay Wilder would step aside to allow an undisputed championship fight against Anthony Joshua.

IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Joshua would be “extremely interested” in facing the new WBC holder Fury, according to his promoter Eddie Hearn, “if Wilder is “willing to take that step-aside money”.

But Wilder is fully committed to a third fight with Fury, according to the Brit’s US-based promoters Top Rank.

Asked if a deal could be struck with Wilder to waive his right, Top Rank president Todd DuBoef exclusively told Sky Sports: “I have not personally had any conversations about that. It is not on my radar.

“I am working with Wilder’s representatives on coming up with new potential dates in late-summer or early-fall for the Fury fight. We are speaking about potential venues too.

“That fight breaking up as a result of [Joshua vs Fury] fight? I have not been privy to any conversations about that. I have not heard that they are willing to step aside. Nobody has communicated that.”

Fury dismantled Wilder in a one-sided second fight in February, 14 months after they drew their first meeting.

The trilogy, which Wilder is entitled to, has been postponed due to coronavirus and is now targeted for October.

Joshua will meanwhile defend his belts against Kubrat Pulev with a date still being finalised.

“We are contractually obligated to Wilder at this point. Pulev and Joshua are contracted,” DuBoef said.

“There is too much uncertainty across the board, with everything, to speculate on [Joshua vs Fury] happening. In a perfect world without this virus then I could possibly see a path [to Joshua vs Fury] but right now I don’t see it.

THE NIGHT FURY LOST?🤔

John McDermott claims he beat @Tyson_Fury in their first fight in 2009… do you agree?

📖Read the full story: https://t.co/DeMX1UCgqZ
📺Watch the full fight: https://t.co/n4kXK7LWO5 pic.twitter.com/RW1NfAy3aQ

“We are obligated to the Wilder camp and we are concentrating on that.

“It is so cloudy even with two matches but to make a third match? That’s even cloudier. It’s really hard to see through the clutter to see [Joshua vs Fury].”

The ongoing pandemic could disrupt the traditional locations and markets for major boxing, DuBoef believes.

“Does the UK or the US recover quicker? In the US will the hotspots like New York or California recover? What parts of the world will this pandemic be more under control?

“This is all connected to the global healing which will dictate the locations that we all do events in.

“The wheels are in motion [for Fury and Wilder’s third fight], we’ve put our flag in the ground for a date hoping that between now and then, the dust will have settled and we are all working to a system that is tested and proved.

“We have to be nimble and flexible to see how this plays out because there is a lot of uncertainty.

“The new normal will be established eventually, everybody is champing at the bit.”

🇮🇹 "What was he good at? You can't put your finger on anything…" 🇮🇹

But @ClementeRusso handed Olympic heartbreak to @BronzeBomber

How?

Joshua’s promoter Hearn had previously told Sky Sports: “The situation is a little bit out of our hands in that, if [Fury’s promoter] Bob Arum and [Wilder’s adviser] Al Haymon can talk and make Wilder wait a little bit, we would absolutely love to go into that fight next.

“A lot of it depends on Wilder. If he’s willing to take that step-aside money. That’s a conversation to be had with Bob Arum and Al Haymon to see if that’s even possible.

“If it was possible and there was a way to make Pulev wait, which I think is probably an easier job, then for sure, I think Joshua would be extremely interested in moving straight into the Fury fight. I think in an ideal world, we have that fight next.

“It’s always been the case, but if we can fight Pulev in July, we’d love to fight Fury in November, December. At the same time, I think there’s so much uncertainty at the moment, this is the kind of situation that might make people say – ‘I think now is the time.’

“Wouldn’t it be great to bounce back to our sport with a fight like that secured, cemented. I can’t tell you there’s been conversations about it, but it’s definitely something that I’ve thought about and if Mr Arum can come back to us and say, ‘I’ve spoken to Deontay Wilder and yes, there is a deal to be done, or let them work that out, and let’s talk.’

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