Aston Villa

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Aston Villa’s Steve Bruce seeks solace on pitch after torrid few months
Aston Villa’s Steve Bruce seeks solace on pitch after torrid few months
Aston Villa’s Steve Bruce seeks solace on pitch after torrid few months
Aston Villa’s Steve Bruce seeks solace on pitch after torrid few months
Aston Villa’s Steve Bruce seeks solace on pitch after torrid few months
Aston Villa’s Steve Bruce seeks solace on pitch after torrid few months
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa will head into the “life-changing” £170m shoot-out with Fulham facing the prospect of a financial nightmare if they fail in their promotion mission. Villa’s cash worries will be removed with victory at Wembley tomorrow, but defeat will see them under pressure to avoid breaking Financial Fair Play rules and being hit with a possible transfer embargo. With the stakes so high, it is arguably Villa’s biggest game since the 1982 European Cup Final. Steve Bruce, the manager, is acutely aware of the doomsday scenario. Captain John Terry would be expected to leave, while deals to permanently sign loan players Robert Snodgrass, Sam Johnstone and Lewis Grabban will be scrapped. The futures of stars including Jack Grealish, James Chester and Jonathan Kodjia will inevitably be plunged into doubt and it is understood that Villa may even have to consider selling their Recon Training Complex, if they fall short in the Championship play-off final. Mile Jedinak, the Australian international, has admitted the game is crucial to the club’s future. John Terry would likely leave Villa if they were not promoted Credit: Reuters “We haven’t spoken about it but everybody knows. Nobody is kidding themselves, people are aware of it, they know the situation. We are doing the right thing and making sure that doesn’t happen,” he said. “The game on Saturday is life-changing. You all know what Premier League football comes with and the reward of that. “It is a crossroads moment. It can go one of two ways: that’s what you’re dealing with. Some don’t take the time to think about it and that’s up to them. I can’t speak for everybody but that motivates me. I use that on the field to make sure I’m doing everything I possibly can. Is this game pivotal to Villa’s future? Oh yes, that goes without saying.” Tomorrow’s game is widely agreed to be the most valuable in world football and years of cost-cutting will be over for Villa if they emerge as winners. Bruce only spent £2.5million last summer, while raising £18million from player sales to ease a mammoth wage bill. He admits next season’s team will be “totally different”, if Fulham win. As one of Bruce’s most senior players, Jedinak will be crucial this weekend and has previous experience of the play-offs after winning promotion with Crystal Palace five years ago. Steve Bruce knows Aston Villa fans expect their club to be playing top-flight football next season Credit: Getty Images The 33-year-old has also triumphed in the face of incredible pressure, after scoring two penalties in Australia’s play-off victory over Honduras last year which clinched a place at the World Cup. “There’s pressure everywhere. I’ve done it in a World Cup where it’s 1-1 and you need to score to go 2-1 up against a Holland team that went on to make the semi-finals,” he said. “At that point in time with the Honduras penalty there were three or four players trying to kick the ball away and step on the mark. “The referee finally got everyone away and then it’s you, the ball, the goalie and where it’s going to go. You stay focused. There’s no secret. You have to stay focused and disciplined. “You get to that point through experience and having learned the hard way and had setbacks through your whole career, not just now when everyone sees it’s good.” Villa will end a two-year absence from the Premier League if they find a way past Slavisa Jokanovic’s entertainers, who are the favourites. A £4million signing from Palace in 2016, Jedinak said: “When I came to this club all I was thinking about was getting this club back. I want to be a part of that, hopefully for many more years to come. “There have been stumbles along the way and steps to get us there and we’ve been given this massive opportunity and it’s up to us now. “I’m glad I’m part of that to make sure that we see the job through. On Saturday you are going to have to see everybody’s last drop of sweat. Everyone is going to have to leave everything on that field for us to get the desired outcome.” Central to Villa’s hopes of a Wembley triumph will be homegrown talent Grealish, who has proven one of the Championship’s best performers this season. Grealish’s influence in the final weeks of the league campaign was crucial, with a winning goal against Cardiff in April reviving Villa’s previously flagging play-off bid. Jack Grealish has been pivotal for Villa this campaign Credit: getty images Bruce is backing the 22-year-old to flourish on the big stage and admitted he could even have been named in the World Cup squad. “I'd have thought he might have had an outside chance. They're all talking about [Fulham attacker] Ryan Sessegnon, which I can understand, but if you've watched us since Christmas then Jack’s got that ability to get you off your seat and go 'wow',” he said. “He can go past somebody and create something, which is quite unique in this country. I really hope that on the big stage he can go and perform to the level which he's been performing at. “I hope we can give him the platform in the years to come. He's a mad Villa fan, his family are Villa through and through so let's hope it can be positive for everybody.”
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa will head into the “life-changing” £170m shoot-out with Fulham facing the prospect of a financial nightmare if they fail in their promotion mission. Villa’s cash worries will be removed with victory at Wembley tomorrow, but defeat will see them under pressure to avoid breaking Financial Fair Play rules and being hit with a possible transfer embargo. With the stakes so high, it is arguably Villa’s biggest game since the 1982 European Cup Final. Steve Bruce, the manager, is acutely aware of the doomsday scenario. Captain John Terry would be expected to leave, while deals to permanently sign loan players Robert Snodgrass, Sam Johnstone and Lewis Grabban will be scrapped. The futures of stars including Jack Grealish, James Chester and Jonathan Kodjia will inevitably be plunged into doubt and it is understood that Villa may even have to consider selling their Recon Training Complex, if they fall short in the Championship play-off final. Mile Jedinak, the Australian international, has admitted the game is crucial to the club’s future. John Terry would likely leave Villa if they were not promoted Credit: Reuters “We haven’t spoken about it but everybody knows. Nobody is kidding themselves, people are aware of it, they know the situation. We are doing the right thing and making sure that doesn’t happen,” he said. “The game on Saturday is life-changing. You all know what Premier League football comes with and the reward of that. “It is a crossroads moment. It can go one of two ways: that’s what you’re dealing with. Some don’t take the time to think about it and that’s up to them. I can’t speak for everybody but that motivates me. I use that on the field to make sure I’m doing everything I possibly can. Is this game pivotal to Villa’s future? Oh yes, that goes without saying.” Tomorrow’s game is widely agreed to be the most valuable in world football and years of cost-cutting will be over for Villa if they emerge as winners. Bruce only spent £2.5million last summer, while raising £18million from player sales to ease a mammoth wage bill. He admits next season’s team will be “totally different”, if Fulham win. As one of Bruce’s most senior players, Jedinak will be crucial this weekend and has previous experience of the play-offs after winning promotion with Crystal Palace five years ago. Steve Bruce knows Aston Villa fans expect their club to be playing top-flight football next season Credit: Getty Images The 33-year-old has also triumphed in the face of incredible pressure, after scoring two penalties in Australia’s play-off victory over Honduras last year which clinched a place at the World Cup. “There’s pressure everywhere. I’ve done it in a World Cup where it’s 1-1 and you need to score to go 2-1 up against a Holland team that went on to make the semi-finals,” he said. “At that point in time with the Honduras penalty there were three or four players trying to kick the ball away and step on the mark. “The referee finally got everyone away and then it’s you, the ball, the goalie and where it’s going to go. You stay focused. There’s no secret. You have to stay focused and disciplined. “You get to that point through experience and having learned the hard way and had setbacks through your whole career, not just now when everyone sees it’s good.” Villa will end a two-year absence from the Premier League if they find a way past Slavisa Jokanovic’s entertainers, who are the favourites. A £4million signing from Palace in 2016, Jedinak said: “When I came to this club all I was thinking about was getting this club back. I want to be a part of that, hopefully for many more years to come. “There have been stumbles along the way and steps to get us there and we’ve been given this massive opportunity and it’s up to us now. “I’m glad I’m part of that to make sure that we see the job through. On Saturday you are going to have to see everybody’s last drop of sweat. Everyone is going to have to leave everything on that field for us to get the desired outcome.” Central to Villa’s hopes of a Wembley triumph will be homegrown talent Grealish, who has proven one of the Championship’s best performers this season. Grealish’s influence in the final weeks of the league campaign was crucial, with a winning goal against Cardiff in April reviving Villa’s previously flagging play-off bid. Jack Grealish has been pivotal for Villa this campaign Credit: getty images Bruce is backing the 22-year-old to flourish on the big stage and admitted he could even have been named in the World Cup squad. “I'd have thought he might have had an outside chance. They're all talking about [Fulham attacker] Ryan Sessegnon, which I can understand, but if you've watched us since Christmas then Jack’s got that ability to get you off your seat and go 'wow',” he said. “He can go past somebody and create something, which is quite unique in this country. I really hope that on the big stage he can go and perform to the level which he's been performing at. “I hope we can give him the platform in the years to come. He's a mad Villa fan, his family are Villa through and through so let's hope it can be positive for everybody.”
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has vowed to deploy his “best weapons” against Aston Villa as he looks to target 37-year-old John Terry in Saturday’s Championship play-off final. Jokanovic hopes his young forwards will be able to exhaust Terry and defensive partner James Chester in a game in which Fulham expect to dominate possession. The Fulham manager fielded an energetic front three of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ryan Sessegnon and Aboubakar Kamara, none of whom are older than 23, in their 2-0 semi-final victory over Derby County last week. “If you don’t make them tired, it will be easy for them,” said Jokanovic of Villa’s experienced defensive pairing. “I will try to use my best weapons at the end, the game can be long. And I am going to be ready on the bench too for what can be interesting situations.” The powerful Mitrovic, whose loan move from Newcastle United ends after this game, has scored 12 goals since joining Fulham at the end of the January transfer window. “He [Mitrovic] is a strong man and probably we need to make Terry move a little bit more, to stop him having the opportunity to use all his experience,” said Jokanovic, who played with Terry at Chelsea in the early 2000s. “It is going to be a great challenge. A Premier League striker against two Premier League centre-backs.” Jokanovic wants to make Aston Villa's defenders 'tired' Credit: PA Fulham have become known for their attractive brand of football under Jokanovic, but the 49-year-old insisted his side is capable of “parking the bus” if required. “We trust if we follow the style we have followed for these two years, we will be more close to winning the game,” Jokanovic said. “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. “My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful. “I believe that if we are confident for doing what we do always, we are going to have more chances to win the game.” Fulham have young, vibrant attackers Credit: pa The winner of the the final, which has been dubbed ‘the richest game in football’, will receive at least £160m in revenue following promotion to the Premier League. For Fulham, there is also the question of what will happen to the club if they do not achieve promotion this time around. They will no longer receive parachute payments from the Premier League next season and are likely to lose a series of key figures if they remain in the Championship. Captain Tom Cairney has interested a number of Premier League clubs and teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon would command a hefty transfer fee. There is also unease over the future of Jokanovic, who could be targeted by a top-flight club in the summer. Jokanovic gained promotion with Watford in 2015 but left the club before he had the opportunity to manage in the Premier League. “I have more connection with this club than with Watford,” he said. “These are memories, and it is behind me. I was really happy there and now I must continue to live my life and push myself and people around me to be successful.”
Slavisa Jokanovic: Fulham will target John Terry in play-off final
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has vowed to deploy his “best weapons” against Aston Villa as he looks to target 37-year-old John Terry in Saturday’s Championship play-off final. Jokanovic hopes his young forwards will be able to exhaust Terry and defensive partner James Chester in a game in which Fulham expect to dominate possession. The Fulham manager fielded an energetic front three of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ryan Sessegnon and Aboubakar Kamara, none of whom are older than 23, in their 2-0 semi-final victory over Derby County last week. “If you don’t make them tired, it will be easy for them,” said Jokanovic of Villa’s experienced defensive pairing. “I will try to use my best weapons at the end, the game can be long. And I am going to be ready on the bench too for what can be interesting situations.” The powerful Mitrovic, whose loan move from Newcastle United ends after this game, has scored 12 goals since joining Fulham at the end of the January transfer window. “He [Mitrovic] is a strong man and probably we need to make Terry move a little bit more, to stop him having the opportunity to use all his experience,” said Jokanovic, who played with Terry at Chelsea in the early 2000s. “It is going to be a great challenge. A Premier League striker against two Premier League centre-backs.” Jokanovic wants to make Aston Villa's defenders 'tired' Credit: PA Fulham have become known for their attractive brand of football under Jokanovic, but the 49-year-old insisted his side is capable of “parking the bus” if required. “We trust if we follow the style we have followed for these two years, we will be more close to winning the game,” Jokanovic said. “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. “My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful. “I believe that if we are confident for doing what we do always, we are going to have more chances to win the game.” Fulham have young, vibrant attackers Credit: pa The winner of the the final, which has been dubbed ‘the richest game in football’, will receive at least £160m in revenue following promotion to the Premier League. For Fulham, there is also the question of what will happen to the club if they do not achieve promotion this time around. They will no longer receive parachute payments from the Premier League next season and are likely to lose a series of key figures if they remain in the Championship. Captain Tom Cairney has interested a number of Premier League clubs and teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon would command a hefty transfer fee. There is also unease over the future of Jokanovic, who could be targeted by a top-flight club in the summer. Jokanovic gained promotion with Watford in 2015 but left the club before he had the opportunity to manage in the Premier League. “I have more connection with this club than with Watford,” he said. “These are memories, and it is behind me. I was really happy there and now I must continue to live my life and push myself and people around me to be successful.”
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has vowed to deploy his “best weapons” against Aston Villa as he looks to target 37-year-old John Terry in Saturday’s Championship play-off final. Jokanovic hopes his young forwards will be able to exhaust Terry and defensive partner James Chester in a game in which Fulham expect to dominate possession. The Fulham manager fielded an energetic front three of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ryan Sessegnon and Aboubakar Kamara, none of whom are older than 23, in their 2-0 semi-final victory over Derby County last week. “If you don’t make them tired, it will be easy for them,” said Jokanovic of Villa’s experienced defensive pairing. “I will try to use my best weapons at the end, the game can be long. And I am going to be ready on the bench too for what can be interesting situations.” The powerful Mitrovic, whose loan move from Newcastle United ends after this game, has scored 12 goals since joining Fulham at the end of the January transfer window. “He [Mitrovic] is a strong man and probably we need to make Terry move a little bit more, to stop him having the opportunity to use all his experience,” said Jokanovic, who played with Terry at Chelsea in the early 2000s. “It is going to be a great challenge. A Premier League striker against two Premier League centre-backs.” Jokanovic wants to make Aston Villa's defenders 'tired' Credit: PA Fulham have become known for their attractive brand of football under Jokanovic, but the 49-year-old insisted his side is capable of “parking the bus” if required. “We trust if we follow the style we have followed for these two years, we will be more close to winning the game,” Jokanovic said. “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. “My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful. “I believe that if we are confident for doing what we do always, we are going to have more chances to win the game.” Fulham have young, vibrant attackers Credit: pa The winner of the the final, which has been dubbed ‘the richest game in football’, will receive at least £160m in revenue following promotion to the Premier League. For Fulham, there is also the question of what will happen to the club if they do not achieve promotion this time around. They will no longer receive parachute payments from the Premier League next season and are likely to lose a series of key figures if they remain in the Championship. Captain Tom Cairney has interested a number of Premier League clubs and teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon would command a hefty transfer fee. There is also unease over the future of Jokanovic, who could be targeted by a top-flight club in the summer. Jokanovic gained promotion with Watford in 2015 but left the club before he had the opportunity to manage in the Premier League. “I have more connection with this club than with Watford,” he said. “These are memories, and it is behind me. I was really happy there and now I must continue to live my life and push myself and people around me to be successful.”
Slavisa Jokanovic: Fulham will target John Terry in play-off final
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has vowed to deploy his “best weapons” against Aston Villa as he looks to target 37-year-old John Terry in Saturday’s Championship play-off final. Jokanovic hopes his young forwards will be able to exhaust Terry and defensive partner James Chester in a game in which Fulham expect to dominate possession. The Fulham manager fielded an energetic front three of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ryan Sessegnon and Aboubakar Kamara, none of whom are older than 23, in their 2-0 semi-final victory over Derby County last week. “If you don’t make them tired, it will be easy for them,” said Jokanovic of Villa’s experienced defensive pairing. “I will try to use my best weapons at the end, the game can be long. And I am going to be ready on the bench too for what can be interesting situations.” The powerful Mitrovic, whose loan move from Newcastle United ends after this game, has scored 12 goals since joining Fulham at the end of the January transfer window. “He [Mitrovic] is a strong man and probably we need to make Terry move a little bit more, to stop him having the opportunity to use all his experience,” said Jokanovic, who played with Terry at Chelsea in the early 2000s. “It is going to be a great challenge. A Premier League striker against two Premier League centre-backs.” Jokanovic wants to make Aston Villa's defenders 'tired' Credit: PA Fulham have become known for their attractive brand of football under Jokanovic, but the 49-year-old insisted his side is capable of “parking the bus” if required. “We trust if we follow the style we have followed for these two years, we will be more close to winning the game,” Jokanovic said. “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. “My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful. “I believe that if we are confident for doing what we do always, we are going to have more chances to win the game.” Fulham have young, vibrant attackers Credit: pa The winner of the the final, which has been dubbed ‘the richest game in football’, will receive at least £160m in revenue following promotion to the Premier League. For Fulham, there is also the question of what will happen to the club if they do not achieve promotion this time around. They will no longer receive parachute payments from the Premier League next season and are likely to lose a series of key figures if they remain in the Championship. Captain Tom Cairney has interested a number of Premier League clubs and teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon would command a hefty transfer fee. There is also unease over the future of Jokanovic, who could be targeted by a top-flight club in the summer. Jokanovic gained promotion with Watford in 2015 but left the club before he had the opportunity to manage in the Premier League. “I have more connection with this club than with Watford,” he said. “These are memories, and it is behind me. I was really happy there and now I must continue to live my life and push myself and people around me to be successful.”
Aston Villa will head into the “life-changing” £170m shoot-out with Fulham facing the prospect of a financial nightmare if they fail in their promotion mission. Villa’s cash worries will be removed with victory at Wembley tomorrow, but defeat will see them under pressure to avoid breaking Financial Fair Play rules and being hit with a possible transfer embargo. With the stakes so high, it is arguably Villa’s biggest game since the 1982 European Cup Final. Steve Bruce, the manager, is acutely aware of the doomsday scenario. Captain John Terry would be expected to leave, while deals to permanently sign loan players Robert Snodgrass, Sam Johnstone and Lewis Grabban will be scrapped. The futures of stars including Jack Grealish, James Chester and Jonathan Kodjia will inevitably be plunged into doubt and it is understood that Villa may even have to consider selling their Recon Training Complex, if they fall short in the Championship play-off final. Mile Jedinak, the Australian international, has admitted the game is crucial to the club’s future. John Terry would likely leave Villa if they were not promoted Credit: Reuters “We haven’t spoken about it but everybody knows. Nobody is kidding themselves, people are aware of it, they know the situation. We are doing the right thing and making sure that doesn’t happen,” he said. “The game on Saturday is life-changing. You all know what Premier League football comes with and the reward of that. “It is a crossroads moment. It can go one of two ways: that’s what you’re dealing with. Some don’t take the time to think about it and that’s up to them. I can’t speak for everybody but that motivates me. I use that on the field to make sure I’m doing everything I possibly can. Is this game pivotal to Villa’s future? Oh yes, that goes without saying.” Tomorrow’s game is widely agreed to be the most valuable in world football and years of cost-cutting will be over for Villa if they emerge as winners. Bruce only spent £2.5million last summer, while raising £18million from player sales to ease a mammoth wage bill. He admits next season’s team will be “totally different”, if Fulham win. As one of Bruce’s most senior players, Jedinak will be crucial this weekend and has previous experience of the play-offs after winning promotion with Crystal Palace five years ago. Steve Bruce knows Aston Villa fans expect their club to be playing top-flight football next season Credit: Getty Images The 33-year-old has also triumphed in the face of incredible pressure, after scoring two penalties in Australia’s play-off victory over Honduras last year which clinched a place at the World Cup. “There’s pressure everywhere. I’ve done it in a World Cup where it’s 1-1 and you need to score to go 2-1 up against a Holland team that went on to make the semi-finals,” he said. “At that point in time with the Honduras penalty there were three or four players trying to kick the ball away and step on the mark. “The referee finally got everyone away and then it’s you, the ball, the goalie and where it’s going to go. You stay focused. There’s no secret. You have to stay focused and disciplined. “You get to that point through experience and having learned the hard way and had setbacks through your whole career, not just now when everyone sees it’s good.” Villa will end a two-year absence from the Premier League if they find a way past Slavisa Jokanovic’s entertainers, who are the favourites. A £4million signing from Palace in 2016, Jedinak said: “When I came to this club all I was thinking about was getting this club back. I want to be a part of that, hopefully for many more years to come. “There have been stumbles along the way and steps to get us there and we’ve been given this massive opportunity and it’s up to us now. “I’m glad I’m part of that to make sure that we see the job through. On Saturday you are going to have to see everybody’s last drop of sweat. Everyone is going to have to leave everything on that field for us to get the desired outcome.” Central to Villa’s hopes of a Wembley triumph will be homegrown talent Grealish, who has proven one of the Championship’s best performers this season. Grealish’s influence in the final weeks of the league campaign was crucial, with a winning goal against Cardiff in April reviving Villa’s previously flagging play-off bid. Jack Grealish has been pivotal for Villa this campaign Credit: getty images Bruce is backing the 22-year-old to flourish on the big stage and admitted he could even have been named in the World Cup squad. “I'd have thought he might have had an outside chance. They're all talking about [Fulham attacker] Ryan Sessegnon, which I can understand, but if you've watched us since Christmas then Jack’s got that ability to get you off your seat and go 'wow',” he said. “He can go past somebody and create something, which is quite unique in this country. I really hope that on the big stage he can go and perform to the level which he's been performing at. “I hope we can give him the platform in the years to come. He's a mad Villa fan, his family are Villa through and through so let's hope it can be positive for everybody.”
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa will head into the “life-changing” £170m shoot-out with Fulham facing the prospect of a financial nightmare if they fail in their promotion mission. Villa’s cash worries will be removed with victory at Wembley tomorrow, but defeat will see them under pressure to avoid breaking Financial Fair Play rules and being hit with a possible transfer embargo. With the stakes so high, it is arguably Villa’s biggest game since the 1982 European Cup Final. Steve Bruce, the manager, is acutely aware of the doomsday scenario. Captain John Terry would be expected to leave, while deals to permanently sign loan players Robert Snodgrass, Sam Johnstone and Lewis Grabban will be scrapped. The futures of stars including Jack Grealish, James Chester and Jonathan Kodjia will inevitably be plunged into doubt and it is understood that Villa may even have to consider selling their Recon Training Complex, if they fall short in the Championship play-off final. Mile Jedinak, the Australian international, has admitted the game is crucial to the club’s future. John Terry would likely leave Villa if they were not promoted Credit: Reuters “We haven’t spoken about it but everybody knows. Nobody is kidding themselves, people are aware of it, they know the situation. We are doing the right thing and making sure that doesn’t happen,” he said. “The game on Saturday is life-changing. You all know what Premier League football comes with and the reward of that. “It is a crossroads moment. It can go one of two ways: that’s what you’re dealing with. Some don’t take the time to think about it and that’s up to them. I can’t speak for everybody but that motivates me. I use that on the field to make sure I’m doing everything I possibly can. Is this game pivotal to Villa’s future? Oh yes, that goes without saying.” Tomorrow’s game is widely agreed to be the most valuable in world football and years of cost-cutting will be over for Villa if they emerge as winners. Bruce only spent £2.5million last summer, while raising £18million from player sales to ease a mammoth wage bill. He admits next season’s team will be “totally different”, if Fulham win. As one of Bruce’s most senior players, Jedinak will be crucial this weekend and has previous experience of the play-offs after winning promotion with Crystal Palace five years ago. Steve Bruce knows Aston Villa fans expect their club to be playing top-flight football next season Credit: Getty Images The 33-year-old has also triumphed in the face of incredible pressure, after scoring two penalties in Australia’s play-off victory over Honduras last year which clinched a place at the World Cup. “There’s pressure everywhere. I’ve done it in a World Cup where it’s 1-1 and you need to score to go 2-1 up against a Holland team that went on to make the semi-finals,” he said. “At that point in time with the Honduras penalty there were three or four players trying to kick the ball away and step on the mark. “The referee finally got everyone away and then it’s you, the ball, the goalie and where it’s going to go. You stay focused. There’s no secret. You have to stay focused and disciplined. “You get to that point through experience and having learned the hard way and had setbacks through your whole career, not just now when everyone sees it’s good.” Villa will end a two-year absence from the Premier League if they find a way past Slavisa Jokanovic’s entertainers, who are the favourites. A £4million signing from Palace in 2016, Jedinak said: “When I came to this club all I was thinking about was getting this club back. I want to be a part of that, hopefully for many more years to come. “There have been stumbles along the way and steps to get us there and we’ve been given this massive opportunity and it’s up to us now. “I’m glad I’m part of that to make sure that we see the job through. On Saturday you are going to have to see everybody’s last drop of sweat. Everyone is going to have to leave everything on that field for us to get the desired outcome.” Central to Villa’s hopes of a Wembley triumph will be homegrown talent Grealish, who has proven one of the Championship’s best performers this season. Grealish’s influence in the final weeks of the league campaign was crucial, with a winning goal against Cardiff in April reviving Villa’s previously flagging play-off bid. Jack Grealish has been pivotal for Villa this campaign Credit: getty images Bruce is backing the 22-year-old to flourish on the big stage and admitted he could even have been named in the World Cup squad. “I'd have thought he might have had an outside chance. They're all talking about [Fulham attacker] Ryan Sessegnon, which I can understand, but if you've watched us since Christmas then Jack’s got that ability to get you off your seat and go 'wow',” he said. “He can go past somebody and create something, which is quite unique in this country. I really hope that on the big stage he can go and perform to the level which he's been performing at. “I hope we can give him the platform in the years to come. He's a mad Villa fan, his family are Villa through and through so let's hope it can be positive for everybody.”
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa will head into the “life-changing” £170m shoot-out with Fulham facing the prospect of a financial nightmare if they fail in their promotion mission. Villa’s cash worries will be removed with victory at Wembley tomorrow, but defeat will see them under pressure to avoid breaking Financial Fair Play rules and being hit with a possible transfer embargo. With the stakes so high, it is arguably Villa’s biggest game since the 1982 European Cup Final. Steve Bruce, the manager, is acutely aware of the doomsday scenario. Captain John Terry would be expected to leave, while deals to permanently sign loan players Robert Snodgrass, Sam Johnstone and Lewis Grabban will be scrapped. The futures of stars including Jack Grealish, James Chester and Jonathan Kodjia will inevitably be plunged into doubt and it is understood that Villa may even have to consider selling their Recon Training Complex, if they fall short in the Championship play-off final. Mile Jedinak, the Australian international, has admitted the game is crucial to the club’s future. John Terry would likely leave Villa if they were not promoted Credit: Reuters “We haven’t spoken about it but everybody knows. Nobody is kidding themselves, people are aware of it, they know the situation. We are doing the right thing and making sure that doesn’t happen,” he said. “The game on Saturday is life-changing. You all know what Premier League football comes with and the reward of that. “It is a crossroads moment. It can go one of two ways: that’s what you’re dealing with. Some don’t take the time to think about it and that’s up to them. I can’t speak for everybody but that motivates me. I use that on the field to make sure I’m doing everything I possibly can. Is this game pivotal to Villa’s future? Oh yes, that goes without saying.” Tomorrow’s game is widely agreed to be the most valuable in world football and years of cost-cutting will be over for Villa if they emerge as winners. Bruce only spent £2.5million last summer, while raising £18million from player sales to ease a mammoth wage bill. He admits next season’s team will be “totally different”, if Fulham win. As one of Bruce’s most senior players, Jedinak will be crucial this weekend and has previous experience of the play-offs after winning promotion with Crystal Palace five years ago. Steve Bruce knows Aston Villa fans expect their club to be playing top-flight football next season Credit: Getty Images The 33-year-old has also triumphed in the face of incredible pressure, after scoring two penalties in Australia’s play-off victory over Honduras last year which clinched a place at the World Cup. “There’s pressure everywhere. I’ve done it in a World Cup where it’s 1-1 and you need to score to go 2-1 up against a Holland team that went on to make the semi-finals,” he said. “At that point in time with the Honduras penalty there were three or four players trying to kick the ball away and step on the mark. “The referee finally got everyone away and then it’s you, the ball, the goalie and where it’s going to go. You stay focused. There’s no secret. You have to stay focused and disciplined. “You get to that point through experience and having learned the hard way and had setbacks through your whole career, not just now when everyone sees it’s good.” Villa will end a two-year absence from the Premier League if they find a way past Slavisa Jokanovic’s entertainers, who are the favourites. A £4million signing from Palace in 2016, Jedinak said: “When I came to this club all I was thinking about was getting this club back. I want to be a part of that, hopefully for many more years to come. “There have been stumbles along the way and steps to get us there and we’ve been given this massive opportunity and it’s up to us now. “I’m glad I’m part of that to make sure that we see the job through. On Saturday you are going to have to see everybody’s last drop of sweat. Everyone is going to have to leave everything on that field for us to get the desired outcome.” Central to Villa’s hopes of a Wembley triumph will be homegrown talent Grealish, who has proven one of the Championship’s best performers this season. Grealish’s influence in the final weeks of the league campaign was crucial, with a winning goal against Cardiff in April reviving Villa’s previously flagging play-off bid. Jack Grealish has been pivotal for Villa this campaign Credit: getty images Bruce is backing the 22-year-old to flourish on the big stage and admitted he could even have been named in the World Cup squad. “I'd have thought he might have had an outside chance. They're all talking about [Fulham attacker] Ryan Sessegnon, which I can understand, but if you've watched us since Christmas then Jack’s got that ability to get you off your seat and go 'wow',” he said. “He can go past somebody and create something, which is quite unique in this country. I really hope that on the big stage he can go and perform to the level which he's been performing at. “I hope we can give him the platform in the years to come. He's a mad Villa fan, his family are Villa through and through so let's hope it can be positive for everybody.”
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa will head into the “life-changing” £170m shoot-out with Fulham facing the prospect of a financial nightmare if they fail in their promotion mission. Villa’s cash worries will be removed with victory at Wembley tomorrow, but defeat will see them under pressure to avoid breaking Financial Fair Play rules and being hit with a possible transfer embargo. With the stakes so high, it is arguably Villa’s biggest game since the 1982 European Cup Final. Steve Bruce, the manager, is acutely aware of the doomsday scenario. Captain John Terry would be expected to leave, while deals to permanently sign loan players Robert Snodgrass, Sam Johnstone and Lewis Grabban will be scrapped. The futures of stars including Jack Grealish, James Chester and Jonathan Kodjia will inevitably be plunged into doubt and it is understood that Villa may even have to consider selling their Recon Training Complex, if they fall short in the Championship play-off final. Mile Jedinak, the Australian international, has admitted the game is crucial to the club’s future. John Terry would likely leave Villa if they were not promoted Credit: Reuters “We haven’t spoken about it but everybody knows. Nobody is kidding themselves, people are aware of it, they know the situation. We are doing the right thing and making sure that doesn’t happen,” he said. “The game on Saturday is life-changing. You all know what Premier League football comes with and the reward of that. “It is a crossroads moment. It can go one of two ways: that’s what you’re dealing with. Some don’t take the time to think about it and that’s up to them. I can’t speak for everybody but that motivates me. I use that on the field to make sure I’m doing everything I possibly can. Is this game pivotal to Villa’s future? Oh yes, that goes without saying.” Tomorrow’s game is widely agreed to be the most valuable in world football and years of cost-cutting will be over for Villa if they emerge as winners. Bruce only spent £2.5million last summer, while raising £18million from player sales to ease a mammoth wage bill. He admits next season’s team will be “totally different”, if Fulham win. As one of Bruce’s most senior players, Jedinak will be crucial this weekend and has previous experience of the play-offs after winning promotion with Crystal Palace five years ago. Steve Bruce knows Aston Villa fans expect their club to be playing top-flight football next season Credit: Getty Images The 33-year-old has also triumphed in the face of incredible pressure, after scoring two penalties in Australia’s play-off victory over Honduras last year which clinched a place at the World Cup. “There’s pressure everywhere. I’ve done it in a World Cup where it’s 1-1 and you need to score to go 2-1 up against a Holland team that went on to make the semi-finals,” he said. “At that point in time with the Honduras penalty there were three or four players trying to kick the ball away and step on the mark. “The referee finally got everyone away and then it’s you, the ball, the goalie and where it’s going to go. You stay focused. There’s no secret. You have to stay focused and disciplined. “You get to that point through experience and having learned the hard way and had setbacks through your whole career, not just now when everyone sees it’s good.” Villa will end a two-year absence from the Premier League if they find a way past Slavisa Jokanovic’s entertainers, who are the favourites. A £4million signing from Palace in 2016, Jedinak said: “When I came to this club all I was thinking about was getting this club back. I want to be a part of that, hopefully for many more years to come. “There have been stumbles along the way and steps to get us there and we’ve been given this massive opportunity and it’s up to us now. “I’m glad I’m part of that to make sure that we see the job through. On Saturday you are going to have to see everybody’s last drop of sweat. Everyone is going to have to leave everything on that field for us to get the desired outcome.” Central to Villa’s hopes of a Wembley triumph will be homegrown talent Grealish, who has proven one of the Championship’s best performers this season. Grealish’s influence in the final weeks of the league campaign was crucial, with a winning goal against Cardiff in April reviving Villa’s previously flagging play-off bid. Jack Grealish has been pivotal for Villa this campaign Credit: getty images Bruce is backing the 22-year-old to flourish on the big stage and admitted he could even have been named in the World Cup squad. “I'd have thought he might have had an outside chance. They're all talking about [Fulham attacker] Ryan Sessegnon, which I can understand, but if you've watched us since Christmas then Jack’s got that ability to get you off your seat and go 'wow',” he said. “He can go past somebody and create something, which is quite unique in this country. I really hope that on the big stage he can go and perform to the level which he's been performing at. “I hope we can give him the platform in the years to come. He's a mad Villa fan, his family are Villa through and through so let's hope it can be positive for everybody.”
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has vowed to deploy his “best weapons” against Aston Villa as he looks to target 37-year-old John Terry in Saturday’s Championship play-off final. Jokanovic hopes his young forwards will be able to exhaust Terry and defensive partner James Chester in a game in which Fulham expect to dominate possession. The Fulham manager fielded an energetic front three of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ryan Sessegnon and Aboubakar Kamara, none of whom are older than 23, in their 2-0 semi-final victory over Derby County last week. “If you don’t make them tired, it will be easy for them,” said Jokanovic of Villa’s experienced defensive pairing. “I will try to use my best weapons at the end, the game can be long. And I am going to be ready on the bench too for what can be interesting situations.” The powerful Mitrovic, whose loan move from Newcastle United ends after this game, has scored 12 goals since joining Fulham at the end of the January transfer window. “He [Mitrovic] is a strong man and probably we need to make Terry move a little bit more, to stop him having the opportunity to use all his experience,” said Jokanovic, who played with Terry at Chelsea in the early 2000s. “It is going to be a great challenge. A Premier League striker against two Premier League centre-backs.” Jokanovic wants to make Aston Villa's defenders 'tired' Credit: PA Fulham have become known for their attractive brand of football under Jokanovic, but the 49-year-old insisted his side is capable of “parking the bus” if required. “We trust if we follow the style we have followed for these two years, we will be more close to winning the game,” Jokanovic said. “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. “My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful. “I believe that if we are confident for doing what we do always, we are going to have more chances to win the game.” Fulham have young, vibrant attackers Credit: pa The winner of the the final, which has been dubbed ‘the richest game in football’, will receive at least £160m in revenue following promotion to the Premier League. For Fulham, there is also the question of what will happen to the club if they do not achieve promotion this time around. They will no longer receive parachute payments from the Premier League next season and are likely to lose a series of key figures if they remain in the Championship. Captain Tom Cairney has interested a number of Premier League clubs and teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon would command a hefty transfer fee. There is also unease over the future of Jokanovic, who could be targeted by a top-flight club in the summer. Jokanovic gained promotion with Watford in 2015 but left the club before he had the opportunity to manage in the Premier League. “I have more connection with this club than with Watford,” he said. “These are memories, and it is behind me. I was really happy there and now I must continue to live my life and push myself and people around me to be successful.”
Slavisa Jokanovic: Fulham will target John Terry in play-off final
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has vowed to deploy his “best weapons” against Aston Villa as he looks to target 37-year-old John Terry in Saturday’s Championship play-off final. Jokanovic hopes his young forwards will be able to exhaust Terry and defensive partner James Chester in a game in which Fulham expect to dominate possession. The Fulham manager fielded an energetic front three of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ryan Sessegnon and Aboubakar Kamara, none of whom are older than 23, in their 2-0 semi-final victory over Derby County last week. “If you don’t make them tired, it will be easy for them,” said Jokanovic of Villa’s experienced defensive pairing. “I will try to use my best weapons at the end, the game can be long. And I am going to be ready on the bench too for what can be interesting situations.” The powerful Mitrovic, whose loan move from Newcastle United ends after this game, has scored 12 goals since joining Fulham at the end of the January transfer window. “He [Mitrovic] is a strong man and probably we need to make Terry move a little bit more, to stop him having the opportunity to use all his experience,” said Jokanovic, who played with Terry at Chelsea in the early 2000s. “It is going to be a great challenge. A Premier League striker against two Premier League centre-backs.” Jokanovic wants to make Aston Villa's defenders 'tired' Credit: PA Fulham have become known for their attractive brand of football under Jokanovic, but the 49-year-old insisted his side is capable of “parking the bus” if required. “We trust if we follow the style we have followed for these two years, we will be more close to winning the game,” Jokanovic said. “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. “My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful. “I believe that if we are confident for doing what we do always, we are going to have more chances to win the game.” Fulham have young, vibrant attackers Credit: pa The winner of the the final, which has been dubbed ‘the richest game in football’, will receive at least £160m in revenue following promotion to the Premier League. For Fulham, there is also the question of what will happen to the club if they do not achieve promotion this time around. They will no longer receive parachute payments from the Premier League next season and are likely to lose a series of key figures if they remain in the Championship. Captain Tom Cairney has interested a number of Premier League clubs and teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon would command a hefty transfer fee. There is also unease over the future of Jokanovic, who could be targeted by a top-flight club in the summer. Jokanovic gained promotion with Watford in 2015 but left the club before he had the opportunity to manage in the Premier League. “I have more connection with this club than with Watford,” he said. “These are memories, and it is behind me. I was really happy there and now I must continue to live my life and push myself and people around me to be successful.”
Aston Villa will head into the “life-changing” £170m shoot-out with Fulham facing the prospect of a financial nightmare if they fail in their promotion mission. Villa’s cash worries will be removed with victory at Wembley tomorrow, but defeat will see them under pressure to avoid breaking Financial Fair Play rules and being hit with a possible transfer embargo. With the stakes so high, it is arguably Villa’s biggest game since the 1982 European Cup Final. Steve Bruce, the manager, is acutely aware of the doomsday scenario. Captain John Terry would be expected to leave, while deals to permanently sign loan players Robert Snodgrass, Sam Johnstone and Lewis Grabban will be scrapped. The futures of stars including Jack Grealish, James Chester and Jonathan Kodjia will inevitably be plunged into doubt and it is understood that Villa may even have to consider selling their Recon Training Complex, if they fall short in the Championship play-off final. Mile Jedinak, the Australian international, has admitted the game is crucial to the club’s future. John Terry would likely leave Villa if they were not promoted Credit: Reuters “We haven’t spoken about it but everybody knows. Nobody is kidding themselves, people are aware of it, they know the situation. We are doing the right thing and making sure that doesn’t happen,” he said. “The game on Saturday is life-changing. You all know what Premier League football comes with and the reward of that. “It is a crossroads moment. It can go one of two ways: that’s what you’re dealing with. Some don’t take the time to think about it and that’s up to them. I can’t speak for everybody but that motivates me. I use that on the field to make sure I’m doing everything I possibly can. Is this game pivotal to Villa’s future? Oh yes, that goes without saying.” Tomorrow’s game is widely agreed to be the most valuable in world football and years of cost-cutting will be over for Villa if they emerge as winners. Bruce only spent £2.5million last summer, while raising £18million from player sales to ease a mammoth wage bill. He admits next season’s team will be “totally different”, if Fulham win. As one of Bruce’s most senior players, Jedinak will be crucial this weekend and has previous experience of the play-offs after winning promotion with Crystal Palace five years ago. Steve Bruce knows Aston Villa fans expect their club to be playing top-flight football next season Credit: Getty Images The 33-year-old has also triumphed in the face of incredible pressure, after scoring two penalties in Australia’s play-off victory over Honduras last year which clinched a place at the World Cup. “There’s pressure everywhere. I’ve done it in a World Cup where it’s 1-1 and you need to score to go 2-1 up against a Holland team that went on to make the semi-finals,” he said. “At that point in time with the Honduras penalty there were three or four players trying to kick the ball away and step on the mark. “The referee finally got everyone away and then it’s you, the ball, the goalie and where it’s going to go. You stay focused. There’s no secret. You have to stay focused and disciplined. “You get to that point through experience and having learned the hard way and had setbacks through your whole career, not just now when everyone sees it’s good.” Villa will end a two-year absence from the Premier League if they find a way past Slavisa Jokanovic’s entertainers, who are the favourites. A £4million signing from Palace in 2016, Jedinak said: “When I came to this club all I was thinking about was getting this club back. I want to be a part of that, hopefully for many more years to come. “There have been stumbles along the way and steps to get us there and we’ve been given this massive opportunity and it’s up to us now. “I’m glad I’m part of that to make sure that we see the job through. On Saturday you are going to have to see everybody’s last drop of sweat. Everyone is going to have to leave everything on that field for us to get the desired outcome.” Central to Villa’s hopes of a Wembley triumph will be homegrown talent Grealish, who has proven one of the Championship’s best performers this season. Grealish’s influence in the final weeks of the league campaign was crucial, with a winning goal against Cardiff in April reviving Villa’s previously flagging play-off bid. Jack Grealish has been pivotal for Villa this campaign Credit: getty images Bruce is backing the 22-year-old to flourish on the big stage and admitted he could even have been named in the World Cup squad. “I'd have thought he might have had an outside chance. They're all talking about [Fulham attacker] Ryan Sessegnon, which I can understand, but if you've watched us since Christmas then Jack’s got that ability to get you off your seat and go 'wow',” he said. “He can go past somebody and create something, which is quite unique in this country. I really hope that on the big stage he can go and perform to the level which he's been performing at. “I hope we can give him the platform in the years to come. He's a mad Villa fan, his family are Villa through and through so let's hope it can be positive for everybody.”
Aston Villa facing financial disaster if they fail to make Premier League
Aston Villa will head into the “life-changing” £170m shoot-out with Fulham facing the prospect of a financial nightmare if they fail in their promotion mission. Villa’s cash worries will be removed with victory at Wembley tomorrow, but defeat will see them under pressure to avoid breaking Financial Fair Play rules and being hit with a possible transfer embargo. With the stakes so high, it is arguably Villa’s biggest game since the 1982 European Cup Final. Steve Bruce, the manager, is acutely aware of the doomsday scenario. Captain John Terry would be expected to leave, while deals to permanently sign loan players Robert Snodgrass, Sam Johnstone and Lewis Grabban will be scrapped. The futures of stars including Jack Grealish, James Chester and Jonathan Kodjia will inevitably be plunged into doubt and it is understood that Villa may even have to consider selling their Recon Training Complex, if they fall short in the Championship play-off final. Mile Jedinak, the Australian international, has admitted the game is crucial to the club’s future. John Terry would likely leave Villa if they were not promoted Credit: Reuters “We haven’t spoken about it but everybody knows. Nobody is kidding themselves, people are aware of it, they know the situation. We are doing the right thing and making sure that doesn’t happen,” he said. “The game on Saturday is life-changing. You all know what Premier League football comes with and the reward of that. “It is a crossroads moment. It can go one of two ways: that’s what you’re dealing with. Some don’t take the time to think about it and that’s up to them. I can’t speak for everybody but that motivates me. I use that on the field to make sure I’m doing everything I possibly can. Is this game pivotal to Villa’s future? Oh yes, that goes without saying.” Tomorrow’s game is widely agreed to be the most valuable in world football and years of cost-cutting will be over for Villa if they emerge as winners. Bruce only spent £2.5million last summer, while raising £18million from player sales to ease a mammoth wage bill. He admits next season’s team will be “totally different”, if Fulham win. As one of Bruce’s most senior players, Jedinak will be crucial this weekend and has previous experience of the play-offs after winning promotion with Crystal Palace five years ago. Steve Bruce knows Aston Villa fans expect their club to be playing top-flight football next season Credit: Getty Images The 33-year-old has also triumphed in the face of incredible pressure, after scoring two penalties in Australia’s play-off victory over Honduras last year which clinched a place at the World Cup. “There’s pressure everywhere. I’ve done it in a World Cup where it’s 1-1 and you need to score to go 2-1 up against a Holland team that went on to make the semi-finals,” he said. “At that point in time with the Honduras penalty there were three or four players trying to kick the ball away and step on the mark. “The referee finally got everyone away and then it’s you, the ball, the goalie and where it’s going to go. You stay focused. There’s no secret. You have to stay focused and disciplined. “You get to that point through experience and having learned the hard way and had setbacks through your whole career, not just now when everyone sees it’s good.” Villa will end a two-year absence from the Premier League if they find a way past Slavisa Jokanovic’s entertainers, who are the favourites. A £4million signing from Palace in 2016, Jedinak said: “When I came to this club all I was thinking about was getting this club back. I want to be a part of that, hopefully for many more years to come. “There have been stumbles along the way and steps to get us there and we’ve been given this massive opportunity and it’s up to us now. “I’m glad I’m part of that to make sure that we see the job through. On Saturday you are going to have to see everybody’s last drop of sweat. Everyone is going to have to leave everything on that field for us to get the desired outcome.” Central to Villa’s hopes of a Wembley triumph will be homegrown talent Grealish, who has proven one of the Championship’s best performers this season. Grealish’s influence in the final weeks of the league campaign was crucial, with a winning goal against Cardiff in April reviving Villa’s previously flagging play-off bid. Jack Grealish has been pivotal for Villa this campaign Credit: getty images Bruce is backing the 22-year-old to flourish on the big stage and admitted he could even have been named in the World Cup squad. “I'd have thought he might have had an outside chance. They're all talking about [Fulham attacker] Ryan Sessegnon, which I can understand, but if you've watched us since Christmas then Jack’s got that ability to get you off your seat and go 'wow',” he said. “He can go past somebody and create something, which is quite unique in this country. I really hope that on the big stage he can go and perform to the level which he's been performing at. “I hope we can give him the platform in the years to come. He's a mad Villa fan, his family are Villa through and through so let's hope it can be positive for everybody.”
Fulham and Aston Villa go head to head in football's most lucrative game on Saturday but the EFL in general is in the midst of a revolution
Welcome to the English Football League revolution
Fulham and Aston Villa go head to head in football's most lucrative game on Saturday but the EFL in general is in the midst of a revolution
Fulham and Aston Villa go head to head in football's most lucrative game on Saturday but the EFL in general is in the midst of a revolution
Welcome to the English Football League revolution
Fulham and Aston Villa go head to head in football's most lucrative game on Saturday but the EFL in general is in the midst of a revolution
Fulham and Aston Villa go head to head in football's most lucrative game on Saturday but the EFL in general is in the midst of a revolution
Welcome to the English Football League revolution
Fulham and Aston Villa go head to head in football's most lucrative game on Saturday but the EFL in general is in the midst of a revolution
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Whatever the outcome, Steve Bruce has shown that Aston Villa are in safe hands
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Championship play-off final: Fulham are better than Aston Villa but in Wembley pressure cooker it might not matter
Aston Villa v Reading – Sky Bet Championship – Villa Park
The priceless moment a young Villa fan discovered he’ll be a Wembley mascot
Aston Villa v Reading – Sky Bet Championship – Villa Park
Ryan Sessegnon is set to feature for Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final against Aston Villa at Wembley.
Ryan Sessegnon’s washday feat shows news cycle is spinning out of control
Ryan Sessegnon is set to feature for Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final against Aston Villa at Wembley.
What is it? The so-called 'richest game in football.' Aston Villa and Fulham meet at Wembley to decide who will become the third and final Championship team to be promoted to the Premier League. When is it? Saturday May 26: a tasty appetiser before the main course of the Champions League final later that evening. What time is kick off? 5pm. What TV channel is it on? You can watch the game live on Sky Sport Football or Sky Sports Main Event. What's the team news? Ahmed Elmohamady is Aston Villa's only injury doubt going into the final. The full-back injured his hamstring during Aston Villa's semi-final first leg against Middlesbrough and manager Steve Bruce admits he faces a race against time to be fit for Wembley on Saturday. "The next 24-48 hours are crucial. He's trained for the past two days. He could be in contention," said Bruce. "We'll make a decision on Friday." Fulham also have no new injury concerns after their semi-final triumph over Derby County. Ryan Sessegnon boy wonder What are they saying? Steve Bruce on taking Villa back to the top flight Steve Bruce knows Aston Villa fans expect their club to be playing top-flight football next season Credit: Getty Images I've waited 20 years to work at a club like this. We're the fifth most successful club in England. On 26th May 1982 we won the European Cup. That's the expectation of this club. I'm at a great club, a big club that needs to be in the Premier League. To manage here has been an absolute pleasure. It's a great place with a lot of good people working at it. It hasn't let me down at all. I've enjoyed being associated with Aston Villa ever since I arrived. "My hope now is that I can get it moving even more in the right direction and make it even bigger. Let's get it up, build again for next season and take it to where it needs to be. Let's hope this is the start of a new beginning for us – in the Premier League. Slavisa Jokanovic on targeting John Terry Slavisa Jokanovic has admitted Fulham will look to target John Terry Credit: Reuters We are going to try to put against him some fast and some stronger players. I hope he will make some mistakes. This is the kind of impact I expect from his side. All of us can make mistakes. I expect some mistakes from his side and that’s it. When you talk about experience, you are talking about the past Terry is a fantastic player, Chester is a fantastic player. They have experience playing in this stadium. But probably they cannot be in their best level right now. We are the youngest team, the team with more energy. We believe in our style. We believe we can dominate the situation. Experience in life is important but it is not everything. What are the betting odds? Aston Villa 5/4 Fulham 8/11 Prediction The pressure will be firmly on Aston Villa as they bid to justify the huge outlay they have made on transfers in recent seasons. Expect a youthful Fulham side to capitalise on their opponents' nervousness. Score: Fulham 3-1 Aston Villa
Championship play-off final 2018, Aston Villa vs Fulham: What time is kick off and what TV channel is it on?
What is it? The so-called 'richest game in football.' Aston Villa and Fulham meet at Wembley to decide who will become the third and final Championship team to be promoted to the Premier League. When is it? Saturday May 26: a tasty appetiser before the main course of the Champions League final later that evening. What time is kick off? 5pm. What TV channel is it on? You can watch the game live on Sky Sport Football or Sky Sports Main Event. What's the team news? Ahmed Elmohamady is Aston Villa's only injury doubt going into the final. The full-back injured his hamstring during Aston Villa's semi-final first leg against Middlesbrough and manager Steve Bruce admits he faces a race against time to be fit for Wembley on Saturday. "The next 24-48 hours are crucial. He's trained for the past two days. He could be in contention," said Bruce. "We'll make a decision on Friday." Fulham also have no new injury concerns after their semi-final triumph over Derby County. Ryan Sessegnon boy wonder What are they saying? Steve Bruce on taking Villa back to the top flight Steve Bruce knows Aston Villa fans expect their club to be playing top-flight football next season Credit: Getty Images I've waited 20 years to work at a club like this. We're the fifth most successful club in England. On 26th May 1982 we won the European Cup. That's the expectation of this club. I'm at a great club, a big club that needs to be in the Premier League. To manage here has been an absolute pleasure. It's a great place with a lot of good people working at it. It hasn't let me down at all. I've enjoyed being associated with Aston Villa ever since I arrived. "My hope now is that I can get it moving even more in the right direction and make it even bigger. Let's get it up, build again for next season and take it to where it needs to be. Let's hope this is the start of a new beginning for us – in the Premier League. Slavisa Jokanovic on targeting John Terry Slavisa Jokanovic has admitted Fulham will look to target John Terry Credit: Reuters We are going to try to put against him some fast and some stronger players. I hope he will make some mistakes. This is the kind of impact I expect from his side. All of us can make mistakes. I expect some mistakes from his side and that’s it. When you talk about experience, you are talking about the past Terry is a fantastic player, Chester is a fantastic player. They have experience playing in this stadium. But probably they cannot be in their best level right now. We are the youngest team, the team with more energy. We believe in our style. We believe we can dominate the situation. Experience in life is important but it is not everything. What are the betting odds? Aston Villa 5/4 Fulham 8/11 Prediction The pressure will be firmly on Aston Villa as they bid to justify the huge outlay they have made on transfers in recent seasons. Expect a youthful Fulham side to capitalise on their opponents' nervousness. Score: Fulham 3-1 Aston Villa
Championship play-off final 2018, Aston Villa vs Fulham: What time is kick off and what TV channel is it on?
Championship play-off final 2018, Aston Villa vs Fulham: What time is kick off and what TV channel is it on?
Championship play-off final 2018, Aston Villa vs Fulham: What time is kick off and what TV channel is it on?
Championship play-off final 2018, Aston Villa vs Fulham: What time is kick off and what TV channel is it on?
Championship play-off final 2018, Aston Villa vs Fulham: What time is kick off and what TV channel is it on?
Championship play-off final 2018, Aston Villa vs Fulham: What time is kick off and what TV channel is it on?
How Fulham can beat Aston Villa and seal return to the Premier League
How Fulham can beat Aston Villa and seal return to the Premier League
How Fulham can beat Aston Villa and seal return to the Premier League
How Fulham can beat Aston Villa and seal return to the Premier League
How Fulham can beat Aston Villa and seal return to the Premier League
How Fulham can beat Aston Villa and seal return to the Premier League
How Fulham can beat Aston Villa and seal return to the Premier League
How Fulham can beat Aston Villa and seal return to the Premier League
How Fulham can beat Aston Villa and seal return to the Premier League
How Fulham can beat Aston Villa and seal return to the Premier League
How Fulham can beat Aston Villa and seal return to the Premier League
How Fulham can beat Aston Villa and seal return to the Premier League
John Terry’s commitment has turned Aston Villa jeers to cheers ahead of Play-Off Final
John Terry’s commitment has turned Aston Villa jeers to cheers ahead of Play-Off Final
John Terry’s commitment has turned Aston Villa jeers to cheers ahead of Play-Off Final
John Terry’s commitment has turned Aston Villa jeers to cheers ahead of Play-Off Final
John Terry’s commitment has turned Aston Villa jeers to cheers ahead of Play-Off Final
John Terry’s commitment has turned Aston Villa jeers to cheers ahead of Play-Off Final
John Terry’s commitment has turned Aston Villa jeers to cheers ahead of Play-Off Final
John Terry’s commitment has turned Aston Villa jeers to cheers ahead of Play-Off Final
John Terry’s commitment has turned Aston Villa jeers to cheers ahead of Play-Off Final
Frustration with the same old names and faces occupying Premier League jobs was a feature of last season, and could even prove a watershed moment in how fans think about their manager. Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are just three beneficiaries of the managerial merry-go-round, but a culture of safe appointments is just as true in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as their new head coach on Wednesday while Chelsea have a strong interest Maurizio Sarri and both feel like the 'next cab off the rank' of European coaches. The omnipotent gaffer is being phased out of the game, in favour of more democratic and collegiate structures with power shared between a technical director, recruitment guru and head coach. Here are 10 coaches who might find themselves in contention for jobs when the sacking seasons begins in autumn. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke) Dominic Tedesco led Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga Credit: AFP The head coach of the team who finished second in the Bundesliga is hardly an obscure selection, but 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco looks a cast-iron certainty to be considered for the next 'Big Six' job available. Born in Italy, Tedesco's parents emigrated to Germany when he was two years old. He never played football professionally but like Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann found a break in coaching at a young age. Appointed by second-tier Erzgebirge Aue in March 2017, Tedesco won 13 points from five games to guide them to safety. Schalke took a chance on him last summer and under his guidance the Gelsenkirchen club have qualified for the Champions League after a three-year absence. Regarded as a tactically flexible coach, one highlight of a superb debut season was a comeback from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the derby against Borussia Dortmund. Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta) Gasperini lasted only five games as Inter Milan manager in 2011, but has bounced back since then Credit: Getty Images Lasted only five games at Inter in 2011, but Gian Piero Gasperini has a warranted reputation for getting a lot from a little. He guided Genoa to Europe in 2009 but it is his work at Atalanta over the past few seasons that has really caught the eye. Benefiting from one of Italy's most productive academies, Giasperini's Atlanta recovered from losing four of their first five league games to finish fourth in 2016-17, achieving European qualification for the first time in 26-years. The 58-year-old coach ripped up the tactical rule-book, using a Dutch-style 3-4-3 that left opponents dumbfounded. Despite losing Franck Kessie to Milan last summer and other key players, Atalanta continued to punch above their weight with a seventh-placed finish. Giasperini is not the youthful up-and-comer some clubs crave, but any club looking to maximise meagre resources could do far worse. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) Giovanni van Bronckhorst was loosely linked with Arsenal before Unai Emery's appointment Credit: Getty Images The former Arsenal player received a ringing endorsement from Arsene Wenger last year and a glance at his record makes it easy to see why. Guided Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup in his first season before winning the Eredivisie in his second, coaxing the best out of a squad with a mix of talented youngsters and wise old heads such as Dirk Kuyt. Last season proved more challenging, but Feyenoord did rally late, winning their last eight league matches to finish fourth and claimed another cup. Ralph Hasenhüttl (free agent) Hasenhüttl stepped down as RB Leipzig head coach at the end of last season after two seasons in charge. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have made both made new appointments this summer, so Hasenhüttl must consider his next move. The Austrian guided the controversial Bundesliga newcomers to second-place and Champions League qualification with a brand of high-octane, progressive football. He may have fallen out with RB Leipzig's hierarchy over a new contract, but Hasenhüttl looks ideally suited to any club with a technical director-head coach set-up. Whether he can find a club that can unearth talent like Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg is another matter. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) Eddie Howe's name has not been mentioned for recent managerial vacancies Credit: Reuters Not an unfamiliar name, but one who seems to be drifting down clubs' lists. In the summer of 2016 there were reports that he was well thought of by Arsenal's hierarchy, and he was also linked with Everton - the club he supported as a boy. He was frequently spoken of as a potential England manager too. Several managerial vacancies have opened up in the last few months, and Howe does not seem to have been considered for any of them. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation in the intervening period, quite the opposite in fact, so his diminished status is curious. Bournemouth's last two league finishes are ninth and 12th - a commendable achievement. His record in the transfer market is patchy however, and there is also a risk that becomes institutionalised at Bournemouth. Familiarity breeds contempt. Tite (Brazil) Tite has been praised for his man-management of Neymar Credit: Reuters The quality of manager in international football is desperately low, but Brazil's Tite is one who looks capable of stepping into a top club job. Has galvanised a group of players rocked by a 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation on home soil at the hands of Germany. Following the oppressive Dunga, Tite has put an arm round a few of his charges and the result is possibly the best Brazil team since 2002. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho will lead the charge in Russia, with Roberto Firmino and Willian in reserve, supported by a likely midfield three of Casemiro, Paulinho and Rene Augusto. Dani Alves' injury is a blow, leaving the right-back berth free in a back four otherwise compromised of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Marcelo. In goal, they can choose between Alisson and Ederson. Not bad. Neil Harris (Millwall) Lee Johnson, Dean Smith and Paul Cook are all promising Championship managers, but Neil Harris has done a remarkable job at the Den against all the odds. Building upon the 'siege mentality' that is part of Millwall's essential character, and thanks in no small part to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison's strike partnership, Harris has taken the London club from League One to the brink of the play-offs. It would take a hell of an offer to tempt Harris away from Millwall however, where he enjoys legendary status. Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate) Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Gallardo could be the next successful Argentinian coaching export. Appointed River Plate manager in 2014, he has tucked away the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and the Recopa already. Gallardo has a reputation as an innovator too, becoming the first coach in Argentina's first division to appoint a female assistant as well as working with a neuroscientist to hone players' mental approach. Could be on Atletico Madrid's shortlist should Diego Simeone ever depart. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) There have been some recent whispers that Chelsea are interested in Slavisa Jokanovic Credit: PA There have already been whispers of Chelsea's interest, but if Fulham win their play-off final against Aston Villa and thrive in the Premier League then Jokanovic will be a wanted man. Fulham were without a doubt the best footballing side in the Championship last season, but Jokanovic also possesses an inner-steel that ensures discipline is not lost in all the pretty passing patterns. For clubs lost in the Premier League mid-table morass, Jokanovic would instill a style of play and an identity for fans to believe in. Rui Vitoria (Benfica) Has lifted two Portuguese championships and two cups in three seasons at Benfica, and at 48 Vitoria must surely be considering a fresh challenge. Losing out on the championship to Porto this season also has Vitoria under pressure Benfica are a dominant force, but a win percentage of 70% after 152 matches in charge remains impressive. Jose Mourinho's former assistant Rui Faria has been linked to the job, so that could free Vitoria to seek pastures new.
The 10 managers nobody is linking with vacant jobs...but should be
Frustration with the same old names and faces occupying Premier League jobs was a feature of last season, and could even prove a watershed moment in how fans think about their manager. Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are just three beneficiaries of the managerial merry-go-round, but a culture of safe appointments is just as true in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as their new head coach on Wednesday while Chelsea have a strong interest Maurizio Sarri and both feel like the 'next cab off the rank' of European coaches. The omnipotent gaffer is being phased out of the game, in favour of more democratic and collegiate structures with power shared between a technical director, recruitment guru and head coach. Here are 10 coaches who might find themselves in contention for jobs when the sacking seasons begins in autumn. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke) Dominic Tedesco led Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga Credit: AFP The head coach of the team who finished second in the Bundesliga is hardly an obscure selection, but 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco looks a cast-iron certainty to be considered for the next 'Big Six' job available. Born in Italy, Tedesco's parents emigrated to Germany when he was two years old. He never played football professionally but like Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann found a break in coaching at a young age. Appointed by second-tier Erzgebirge Aue in March 2017, Tedesco won 13 points from five games to guide them to safety. Schalke took a chance on him last summer and under his guidance the Gelsenkirchen club have qualified for the Champions League after a three-year absence. Regarded as a tactically flexible coach, one highlight of a superb debut season was a comeback from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the derby against Borussia Dortmund. Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta) Gasperini lasted only five games as Inter Milan manager in 2011, but has bounced back since then Credit: Getty Images Lasted only five games at Inter in 2011, but Gian Piero Gasperini has a warranted reputation for getting a lot from a little. He guided Genoa to Europe in 2009 but it is his work at Atalanta over the past few seasons that has really caught the eye. Benefiting from one of Italy's most productive academies, Giasperini's Atlanta recovered from losing four of their first five league games to finish fourth in 2016-17, achieving European qualification for the first time in 26-years. The 58-year-old coach ripped up the tactical rule-book, using a Dutch-style 3-4-3 that left opponents dumbfounded. Despite losing Franck Kessie to Milan last summer and other key players, Atalanta continued to punch above their weight with a seventh-placed finish. Giasperini is not the youthful up-and-comer some clubs crave, but any club looking to maximise meagre resources could do far worse. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) Giovanni van Bronckhorst was loosely linked with Arsenal before Unai Emery's appointment Credit: Getty Images The former Arsenal player received a ringing endorsement from Arsene Wenger last year and a glance at his record makes it easy to see why. Guided Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup in his first season before winning the Eredivisie in his second, coaxing the best out of a squad with a mix of talented youngsters and wise old heads such as Dirk Kuyt. Last season proved more challenging, but Feyenoord did rally late, winning their last eight league matches to finish fourth and claimed another cup. Ralph Hasenhüttl (free agent) Hasenhüttl stepped down as RB Leipzig head coach at the end of last season after two seasons in charge. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have made both made new appointments this summer, so Hasenhüttl must consider his next move. The Austrian guided the controversial Bundesliga newcomers to second-place and Champions League qualification with a brand of high-octane, progressive football. He may have fallen out with RB Leipzig's hierarchy over a new contract, but Hasenhüttl looks ideally suited to any club with a technical director-head coach set-up. Whether he can find a club that can unearth talent like Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg is another matter. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) Eddie Howe's name has not been mentioned for recent managerial vacancies Credit: Reuters Not an unfamiliar name, but one who seems to be drifting down clubs' lists. In the summer of 2016 there were reports that he was well thought of by Arsenal's hierarchy, and he was also linked with Everton - the club he supported as a boy. He was frequently spoken of as a potential England manager too. Several managerial vacancies have opened up in the last few months, and Howe does not seem to have been considered for any of them. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation in the intervening period, quite the opposite in fact, so his diminished status is curious. Bournemouth's last two league finishes are ninth and 12th - a commendable achievement. His record in the transfer market is patchy however, and there is also a risk that becomes institutionalised at Bournemouth. Familiarity breeds contempt. Tite (Brazil) Tite has been praised for his man-management of Neymar Credit: Reuters The quality of manager in international football is desperately low, but Brazil's Tite is one who looks capable of stepping into a top club job. Has galvanised a group of players rocked by a 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation on home soil at the hands of Germany. Following the oppressive Dunga, Tite has put an arm round a few of his charges and the result is possibly the best Brazil team since 2002. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho will lead the charge in Russia, with Roberto Firmino and Willian in reserve, supported by a likely midfield three of Casemiro, Paulinho and Rene Augusto. Dani Alves' injury is a blow, leaving the right-back berth free in a back four otherwise compromised of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Marcelo. In goal, they can choose between Alisson and Ederson. Not bad. Neil Harris (Millwall) Lee Johnson, Dean Smith and Paul Cook are all promising Championship managers, but Neil Harris has done a remarkable job at the Den against all the odds. Building upon the 'siege mentality' that is part of Millwall's essential character, and thanks in no small part to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison's strike partnership, Harris has taken the London club from League One to the brink of the play-offs. It would take a hell of an offer to tempt Harris away from Millwall however, where he enjoys legendary status. Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate) Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Gallardo could be the next successful Argentinian coaching export. Appointed River Plate manager in 2014, he has tucked away the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and the Recopa already. Gallardo has a reputation as an innovator too, becoming the first coach in Argentina's first division to appoint a female assistant as well as working with a neuroscientist to hone players' mental approach. Could be on Atletico Madrid's shortlist should Diego Simeone ever depart. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) There have been some recent whispers that Chelsea are interested in Slavisa Jokanovic Credit: PA There have already been whispers of Chelsea's interest, but if Fulham win their play-off final against Aston Villa and thrive in the Premier League then Jokanovic will be a wanted man. Fulham were without a doubt the best footballing side in the Championship last season, but Jokanovic also possesses an inner-steel that ensures discipline is not lost in all the pretty passing patterns. For clubs lost in the Premier League mid-table morass, Jokanovic would instill a style of play and an identity for fans to believe in. Rui Vitoria (Benfica) Has lifted two Portuguese championships and two cups in three seasons at Benfica, and at 48 Vitoria must surely be considering a fresh challenge. Losing out on the championship to Porto this season also has Vitoria under pressure Benfica are a dominant force, but a win percentage of 70% after 152 matches in charge remains impressive. Jose Mourinho's former assistant Rui Faria has been linked to the job, so that could free Vitoria to seek pastures new.
Frustration with the same old names and faces occupying Premier League jobs was a feature of last season, and could even prove a watershed moment in how fans think about their manager. Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are just three beneficiaries of the managerial merry-go-round, but a culture of safe appointments is just as true in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as their new head coach on Wednesday while Chelsea have a strong interest Maurizio Sarri and both feel like the 'next cab off the rank' of European coaches. The omnipotent gaffer is being phased out of the game, in favour of more democratic and collegiate structures with power shared between a technical director, recruitment guru and head coach. Here are 10 coaches who might find themselves in contention for jobs when the sacking seasons begins in autumn. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke) Dominic Tedesco led Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga Credit: AFP The head coach of the team who finished second in the Bundesliga is hardly an obscure selection, but 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco looks a cast-iron certainty to be considered for the next 'Big Six' job available. Born in Italy, Tedesco's parents emigrated to Germany when he was two years old. He never played football professionally but like Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann found a break in coaching at a young age. Appointed by second-tier Erzgebirge Aue in March 2017, Tedesco won 13 points from five games to guide them to safety. Schalke took a chance on him last summer and under his guidance the Gelsenkirchen club have qualified for the Champions League after a three-year absence. Regarded as a tactically flexible coach, one highlight of a superb debut season was a comeback from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the derby against Borussia Dortmund. Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta) Gasperini lasted only five games as Inter Milan manager in 2011, but has bounced back since then Credit: Getty Images Lasted only five games at Inter in 2011, but Gian Piero Gasperini has a warranted reputation for getting a lot from a little. He guided Genoa to Europe in 2009 but it is his work at Atalanta over the past few seasons that has really caught the eye. Benefiting from one of Italy's most productive academies, Giasperini's Atlanta recovered from losing four of their first five league games to finish fourth in 2016-17, achieving European qualification for the first time in 26-years. The 58-year-old coach ripped up the tactical rule-book, using a Dutch-style 3-4-3 that left opponents dumbfounded. Despite losing Franck Kessie to Milan last summer and other key players, Atalanta continued to punch above their weight with a seventh-placed finish. Giasperini is not the youthful up-and-comer some clubs crave, but any club looking to maximise meagre resources could do far worse. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) Giovanni van Bronckhorst was loosely linked with Arsenal before Unai Emery's appointment Credit: Getty Images The former Arsenal player received a ringing endorsement from Arsene Wenger last year and a glance at his record makes it easy to see why. Guided Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup in his first season before winning the Eredivisie in his second, coaxing the best out of a squad with a mix of talented youngsters and wise old heads such as Dirk Kuyt. Last season proved more challenging, but Feyenoord did rally late, winning their last eight league matches to finish fourth and claimed another cup. Ralph Hasenhüttl (free agent) Hasenhüttl stepped down as RB Leipzig head coach at the end of last season after two seasons in charge. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have made both made new appointments this summer, so Hasenhüttl must consider his next move. The Austrian guided the controversial Bundesliga newcomers to second-place and Champions League qualification with a brand of high-octane, progressive football. He may have fallen out with RB Leipzig's hierarchy over a new contract, but Hasenhüttl looks ideally suited to any club with a technical director-head coach set-up. Whether he can find a club that can unearth talent like Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg is another matter. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) Eddie Howe's name has not been mentioned for recent managerial vacancies Credit: Reuters Not an unfamiliar name, but one who seems to be drifting down clubs' lists. In the summer of 2016 there were reports that he was well thought of by Arsenal's hierarchy, and he was also linked with Everton - the club he supported as a boy. He was frequently spoken of as a potential England manager too. Several managerial vacancies have opened up in the last few months, and Howe does not seem to have been considered for any of them. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation in the intervening period, quite the opposite in fact, so his diminished status is curious. Bournemouth's last two league finishes are ninth and 12th - a commendable achievement. His record in the transfer market is patchy however, and there is also a risk that becomes institutionalised at Bournemouth. Familiarity breeds contempt. Tite (Brazil) Tite has been praised for his man-management of Neymar Credit: Reuters The quality of manager in international football is desperately low, but Brazil's Tite is one who looks capable of stepping into a top club job. Has galvanised a group of players rocked by a 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation on home soil at the hands of Germany. Following the oppressive Dunga, Tite has put an arm round a few of his charges and the result is possibly the best Brazil team since 2002. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho will lead the charge in Russia, with Roberto Firmino and Willian in reserve, supported by a likely midfield three of Casemiro, Paulinho and Rene Augusto. Dani Alves' injury is a blow, leaving the right-back berth free in a back four otherwise compromised of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Marcelo. In goal, they can choose between Alisson and Ederson. Not bad. Neil Harris (Millwall) Lee Johnson, Dean Smith and Paul Cook are all promising Championship managers, but Neil Harris has done a remarkable job at the Den against all the odds. Building upon the 'siege mentality' that is part of Millwall's essential character, and thanks in no small part to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison's strike partnership, Harris has taken the London club from League One to the brink of the play-offs. It would take a hell of an offer to tempt Harris away from Millwall however, where he enjoys legendary status. Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate) Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Gallardo could be the next successful Argentinian coaching export. Appointed River Plate manager in 2014, he has tucked away the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and the Recopa already. Gallardo has a reputation as an innovator too, becoming the first coach in Argentina's first division to appoint a female assistant as well as working with a neuroscientist to hone players' mental approach. Could be on Atletico Madrid's shortlist should Diego Simeone ever depart. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) There have been some recent whispers that Chelsea are interested in Slavisa Jokanovic Credit: PA There have already been whispers of Chelsea's interest, but if Fulham win their play-off final against Aston Villa and thrive in the Premier League then Jokanovic will be a wanted man. Fulham were without a doubt the best footballing side in the Championship last season, but Jokanovic also possesses an inner-steel that ensures discipline is not lost in all the pretty passing patterns. For clubs lost in the Premier League mid-table morass, Jokanovic would instill a style of play and an identity for fans to believe in. Rui Vitoria (Benfica) Has lifted two Portuguese championships and two cups in three seasons at Benfica, and at 48 Vitoria must surely be considering a fresh challenge. Losing out on the championship to Porto this season also has Vitoria under pressure Benfica are a dominant force, but a win percentage of 70% after 152 matches in charge remains impressive. Jose Mourinho's former assistant Rui Faria has been linked to the job, so that could free Vitoria to seek pastures new.
The 10 managers nobody is linking with vacant jobs...but should be
Frustration with the same old names and faces occupying Premier League jobs was a feature of last season, and could even prove a watershed moment in how fans think about their manager. Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are just three beneficiaries of the managerial merry-go-round, but a culture of safe appointments is just as true in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as their new head coach on Wednesday while Chelsea have a strong interest Maurizio Sarri and both feel like the 'next cab off the rank' of European coaches. The omnipotent gaffer is being phased out of the game, in favour of more democratic and collegiate structures with power shared between a technical director, recruitment guru and head coach. Here are 10 coaches who might find themselves in contention for jobs when the sacking seasons begins in autumn. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke) Dominic Tedesco led Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga Credit: AFP The head coach of the team who finished second in the Bundesliga is hardly an obscure selection, but 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco looks a cast-iron certainty to be considered for the next 'Big Six' job available. Born in Italy, Tedesco's parents emigrated to Germany when he was two years old. He never played football professionally but like Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann found a break in coaching at a young age. Appointed by second-tier Erzgebirge Aue in March 2017, Tedesco won 13 points from five games to guide them to safety. Schalke took a chance on him last summer and under his guidance the Gelsenkirchen club have qualified for the Champions League after a three-year absence. Regarded as a tactically flexible coach, one highlight of a superb debut season was a comeback from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the derby against Borussia Dortmund. Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta) Gasperini lasted only five games as Inter Milan manager in 2011, but has bounced back since then Credit: Getty Images Lasted only five games at Inter in 2011, but Gian Piero Gasperini has a warranted reputation for getting a lot from a little. He guided Genoa to Europe in 2009 but it is his work at Atalanta over the past few seasons that has really caught the eye. Benefiting from one of Italy's most productive academies, Giasperini's Atlanta recovered from losing four of their first five league games to finish fourth in 2016-17, achieving European qualification for the first time in 26-years. The 58-year-old coach ripped up the tactical rule-book, using a Dutch-style 3-4-3 that left opponents dumbfounded. Despite losing Franck Kessie to Milan last summer and other key players, Atalanta continued to punch above their weight with a seventh-placed finish. Giasperini is not the youthful up-and-comer some clubs crave, but any club looking to maximise meagre resources could do far worse. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) Giovanni van Bronckhorst was loosely linked with Arsenal before Unai Emery's appointment Credit: Getty Images The former Arsenal player received a ringing endorsement from Arsene Wenger last year and a glance at his record makes it easy to see why. Guided Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup in his first season before winning the Eredivisie in his second, coaxing the best out of a squad with a mix of talented youngsters and wise old heads such as Dirk Kuyt. Last season proved more challenging, but Feyenoord did rally late, winning their last eight league matches to finish fourth and claimed another cup. Ralph Hasenhüttl (free agent) Hasenhüttl stepped down as RB Leipzig head coach at the end of last season after two seasons in charge. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have made both made new appointments this summer, so Hasenhüttl must consider his next move. The Austrian guided the controversial Bundesliga newcomers to second-place and Champions League qualification with a brand of high-octane, progressive football. He may have fallen out with RB Leipzig's hierarchy over a new contract, but Hasenhüttl looks ideally suited to any club with a technical director-head coach set-up. Whether he can find a club that can unearth talent like Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg is another matter. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) Eddie Howe's name has not been mentioned for recent managerial vacancies Credit: Reuters Not an unfamiliar name, but one who seems to be drifting down clubs' lists. In the summer of 2016 there were reports that he was well thought of by Arsenal's hierarchy, and he was also linked with Everton - the club he supported as a boy. He was frequently spoken of as a potential England manager too. Several managerial vacancies have opened up in the last few months, and Howe does not seem to have been considered for any of them. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation in the intervening period, quite the opposite in fact, so his diminished status is curious. Bournemouth's last two league finishes are ninth and 12th - a commendable achievement. His record in the transfer market is patchy however, and there is also a risk that becomes institutionalised at Bournemouth. Familiarity breeds contempt. Tite (Brazil) Tite has been praised for his man-management of Neymar Credit: Reuters The quality of manager in international football is desperately low, but Brazil's Tite is one who looks capable of stepping into a top club job. Has galvanised a group of players rocked by a 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation on home soil at the hands of Germany. Following the oppressive Dunga, Tite has put an arm round a few of his charges and the result is possibly the best Brazil team since 2002. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho will lead the charge in Russia, with Roberto Firmino and Willian in reserve, supported by a likely midfield three of Casemiro, Paulinho and Rene Augusto. Dani Alves' injury is a blow, leaving the right-back berth free in a back four otherwise compromised of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Marcelo. In goal, they can choose between Alisson and Ederson. Not bad. Neil Harris (Millwall) Lee Johnson, Dean Smith and Paul Cook are all promising Championship managers, but Neil Harris has done a remarkable job at the Den against all the odds. Building upon the 'siege mentality' that is part of Millwall's essential character, and thanks in no small part to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison's strike partnership, Harris has taken the London club from League One to the brink of the play-offs. It would take a hell of an offer to tempt Harris away from Millwall however, where he enjoys legendary status. Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate) Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Gallardo could be the next successful Argentinian coaching export. Appointed River Plate manager in 2014, he has tucked away the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and the Recopa already. Gallardo has a reputation as an innovator too, becoming the first coach in Argentina's first division to appoint a female assistant as well as working with a neuroscientist to hone players' mental approach. Could be on Atletico Madrid's shortlist should Diego Simeone ever depart. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) There have been some recent whispers that Chelsea are interested in Slavisa Jokanovic Credit: PA There have already been whispers of Chelsea's interest, but if Fulham win their play-off final against Aston Villa and thrive in the Premier League then Jokanovic will be a wanted man. Fulham were without a doubt the best footballing side in the Championship last season, but Jokanovic also possesses an inner-steel that ensures discipline is not lost in all the pretty passing patterns. For clubs lost in the Premier League mid-table morass, Jokanovic would instill a style of play and an identity for fans to believe in. Rui Vitoria (Benfica) Has lifted two Portuguese championships and two cups in three seasons at Benfica, and at 48 Vitoria must surely be considering a fresh challenge. Losing out on the championship to Porto this season also has Vitoria under pressure Benfica are a dominant force, but a win percentage of 70% after 152 matches in charge remains impressive. Jose Mourinho's former assistant Rui Faria has been linked to the job, so that could free Vitoria to seek pastures new.
Frustration with the same old names and faces occupying Premier League jobs was a feature of last season, and could even prove a watershed moment in how fans think about their manager. Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are just three beneficiaries of the managerial merry-go-round, but a culture of safe appointments is just as true in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as their new head coach on Wednesday while Chelsea have a strong interest Maurizio Sarri and both feel like the 'next cab off the rank' of European coaches. The omnipotent gaffer is being phased out of the game, in favour of more democratic and collegiate structures with power shared between a technical director, recruitment guru and head coach. Here are 10 coaches who might find themselves in contention for jobs when the sacking seasons begins in autumn. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke) Dominic Tedesco led Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga Credit: AFP The head coach of the team who finished second in the Bundesliga is hardly an obscure selection, but 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco looks a cast-iron certainty to be considered for the next 'Big Six' job available. Born in Italy, Tedesco's parents emigrated to Germany when he was two years old. He never played football professionally but like Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann found a break in coaching at a young age. Appointed by second-tier Erzgebirge Aue in March 2017, Tedesco won 13 points from five games to guide them to safety. Schalke took a chance on him last summer and under his guidance the Gelsenkirchen club have qualified for the Champions League after a three-year absence. Regarded as a tactically flexible coach, one highlight of a superb debut season was a comeback from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the derby against Borussia Dortmund. Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta) Gasperini lasted only five games as Inter Milan manager in 2011, but has bounced back since then Credit: Getty Images Lasted only five games at Inter in 2011, but Gian Piero Gasperini has a warranted reputation for getting a lot from a little. He guided Genoa to Europe in 2009 but it is his work at Atalanta over the past few seasons that has really caught the eye. Benefiting from one of Italy's most productive academies, Giasperini's Atlanta recovered from losing four of their first five league games to finish fourth in 2016-17, achieving European qualification for the first time in 26-years. The 58-year-old coach ripped up the tactical rule-book, using a Dutch-style 3-4-3 that left opponents dumbfounded. Despite losing Franck Kessie to Milan last summer and other key players, Atalanta continued to punch above their weight with a seventh-placed finish. Giasperini is not the youthful up-and-comer some clubs crave, but any club looking to maximise meagre resources could do far worse. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) Giovanni van Bronckhorst was loosely linked with Arsenal before Unai Emery's appointment Credit: Getty Images The former Arsenal player received a ringing endorsement from Arsene Wenger last year and a glance at his record makes it easy to see why. Guided Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup in his first season before winning the Eredivisie in his second, coaxing the best out of a squad with a mix of talented youngsters and wise old heads such as Dirk Kuyt. Last season proved more challenging, but Feyenoord did rally late, winning their last eight league matches to finish fourth and claimed another cup. Ralph Hasenhüttl (free agent) Hasenhüttl stepped down as RB Leipzig head coach at the end of last season after two seasons in charge. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have made both made new appointments this summer, so Hasenhüttl must consider his next move. The Austrian guided the controversial Bundesliga newcomers to second-place and Champions League qualification with a brand of high-octane, progressive football. He may have fallen out with RB Leipzig's hierarchy over a new contract, but Hasenhüttl looks ideally suited to any club with a technical director-head coach set-up. Whether he can find a club that can unearth talent like Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg is another matter. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) Eddie Howe's name has not been mentioned for recent managerial vacancies Credit: Reuters Not an unfamiliar name, but one who seems to be drifting down clubs' lists. In the summer of 2016 there were reports that he was well thought of by Arsenal's hierarchy, and he was also linked with Everton - the club he supported as a boy. He was frequently spoken of as a potential England manager too. Several managerial vacancies have opened up in the last few months, and Howe does not seem to have been considered for any of them. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation in the intervening period, quite the opposite in fact, so his diminished status is curious. Bournemouth's last two league finishes are ninth and 12th - a commendable achievement. His record in the transfer market is patchy however, and there is also a risk that becomes institutionalised at Bournemouth. Familiarity breeds contempt. Tite (Brazil) Tite has been praised for his man-management of Neymar Credit: Reuters The quality of manager in international football is desperately low, but Brazil's Tite is one who looks capable of stepping into a top club job. Has galvanised a group of players rocked by a 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation on home soil at the hands of Germany. Following the oppressive Dunga, Tite has put an arm round a few of his charges and the result is possibly the best Brazil team since 2002. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho will lead the charge in Russia, with Roberto Firmino and Willian in reserve, supported by a likely midfield three of Casemiro, Paulinho and Rene Augusto. Dani Alves' injury is a blow, leaving the right-back berth free in a back four otherwise compromised of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Marcelo. In goal, they can choose between Alisson and Ederson. Not bad. Neil Harris (Millwall) Lee Johnson, Dean Smith and Paul Cook are all promising Championship managers, but Neil Harris has done a remarkable job at the Den against all the odds. Building upon the 'siege mentality' that is part of Millwall's essential character, and thanks in no small part to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison's strike partnership, Harris has taken the London club from League One to the brink of the play-offs. It would take a hell of an offer to tempt Harris away from Millwall however, where he enjoys legendary status. Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate) Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Gallardo could be the next successful Argentinian coaching export. Appointed River Plate manager in 2014, he has tucked away the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and the Recopa already. Gallardo has a reputation as an innovator too, becoming the first coach in Argentina's first division to appoint a female assistant as well as working with a neuroscientist to hone players' mental approach. Could be on Atletico Madrid's shortlist should Diego Simeone ever depart. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) There have been some recent whispers that Chelsea are interested in Slavisa Jokanovic Credit: PA There have already been whispers of Chelsea's interest, but if Fulham win their play-off final against Aston Villa and thrive in the Premier League then Jokanovic will be a wanted man. Fulham were without a doubt the best footballing side in the Championship last season, but Jokanovic also possesses an inner-steel that ensures discipline is not lost in all the pretty passing patterns. For clubs lost in the Premier League mid-table morass, Jokanovic would instill a style of play and an identity for fans to believe in. Rui Vitoria (Benfica) Has lifted two Portuguese championships and two cups in three seasons at Benfica, and at 48 Vitoria must surely be considering a fresh challenge. Losing out on the championship to Porto this season also has Vitoria under pressure Benfica are a dominant force, but a win percentage of 70% after 152 matches in charge remains impressive. Jose Mourinho's former assistant Rui Faria has been linked to the job, so that could free Vitoria to seek pastures new.
The 10 managers nobody is linking with vacant jobs...but should be
Frustration with the same old names and faces occupying Premier League jobs was a feature of last season, and could even prove a watershed moment in how fans think about their manager. Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are just three beneficiaries of the managerial merry-go-round, but a culture of safe appointments is just as true in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as their new head coach on Wednesday while Chelsea have a strong interest Maurizio Sarri and both feel like the 'next cab off the rank' of European coaches. The omnipotent gaffer is being phased out of the game, in favour of more democratic and collegiate structures with power shared between a technical director, recruitment guru and head coach. Here are 10 coaches who might find themselves in contention for jobs when the sacking seasons begins in autumn. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke) Dominic Tedesco led Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga Credit: AFP The head coach of the team who finished second in the Bundesliga is hardly an obscure selection, but 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco looks a cast-iron certainty to be considered for the next 'Big Six' job available. Born in Italy, Tedesco's parents emigrated to Germany when he was two years old. He never played football professionally but like Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann found a break in coaching at a young age. Appointed by second-tier Erzgebirge Aue in March 2017, Tedesco won 13 points from five games to guide them to safety. Schalke took a chance on him last summer and under his guidance the Gelsenkirchen club have qualified for the Champions League after a three-year absence. Regarded as a tactically flexible coach, one highlight of a superb debut season was a comeback from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the derby against Borussia Dortmund. Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta) Gasperini lasted only five games as Inter Milan manager in 2011, but has bounced back since then Credit: Getty Images Lasted only five games at Inter in 2011, but Gian Piero Gasperini has a warranted reputation for getting a lot from a little. He guided Genoa to Europe in 2009 but it is his work at Atalanta over the past few seasons that has really caught the eye. Benefiting from one of Italy's most productive academies, Giasperini's Atlanta recovered from losing four of their first five league games to finish fourth in 2016-17, achieving European qualification for the first time in 26-years. The 58-year-old coach ripped up the tactical rule-book, using a Dutch-style 3-4-3 that left opponents dumbfounded. Despite losing Franck Kessie to Milan last summer and other key players, Atalanta continued to punch above their weight with a seventh-placed finish. Giasperini is not the youthful up-and-comer some clubs crave, but any club looking to maximise meagre resources could do far worse. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) Giovanni van Bronckhorst was loosely linked with Arsenal before Unai Emery's appointment Credit: Getty Images The former Arsenal player received a ringing endorsement from Arsene Wenger last year and a glance at his record makes it easy to see why. Guided Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup in his first season before winning the Eredivisie in his second, coaxing the best out of a squad with a mix of talented youngsters and wise old heads such as Dirk Kuyt. Last season proved more challenging, but Feyenoord did rally late, winning their last eight league matches to finish fourth and claimed another cup. Ralph Hasenhüttl (free agent) Hasenhüttl stepped down as RB Leipzig head coach at the end of last season after two seasons in charge. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have made both made new appointments this summer, so Hasenhüttl must consider his next move. The Austrian guided the controversial Bundesliga newcomers to second-place and Champions League qualification with a brand of high-octane, progressive football. He may have fallen out with RB Leipzig's hierarchy over a new contract, but Hasenhüttl looks ideally suited to any club with a technical director-head coach set-up. Whether he can find a club that can unearth talent like Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg is another matter. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) Eddie Howe's name has not been mentioned for recent managerial vacancies Credit: Reuters Not an unfamiliar name, but one who seems to be drifting down clubs' lists. In the summer of 2016 there were reports that he was well thought of by Arsenal's hierarchy, and he was also linked with Everton - the club he supported as a boy. He was frequently spoken of as a potential England manager too. Several managerial vacancies have opened up in the last few months, and Howe does not seem to have been considered for any of them. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation in the intervening period, quite the opposite in fact, so his diminished status is curious. Bournemouth's last two league finishes are ninth and 12th - a commendable achievement. His record in the transfer market is patchy however, and there is also a risk that becomes institutionalised at Bournemouth. Familiarity breeds contempt. Tite (Brazil) Tite has been praised for his man-management of Neymar Credit: Reuters The quality of manager in international football is desperately low, but Brazil's Tite is one who looks capable of stepping into a top club job. Has galvanised a group of players rocked by a 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation on home soil at the hands of Germany. Following the oppressive Dunga, Tite has put an arm round a few of his charges and the result is possibly the best Brazil team since 2002. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho will lead the charge in Russia, with Roberto Firmino and Willian in reserve, supported by a likely midfield three of Casemiro, Paulinho and Rene Augusto. Dani Alves' injury is a blow, leaving the right-back berth free in a back four otherwise compromised of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Marcelo. In goal, they can choose between Alisson and Ederson. Not bad. Neil Harris (Millwall) Lee Johnson, Dean Smith and Paul Cook are all promising Championship managers, but Neil Harris has done a remarkable job at the Den against all the odds. Building upon the 'siege mentality' that is part of Millwall's essential character, and thanks in no small part to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison's strike partnership, Harris has taken the London club from League One to the brink of the play-offs. It would take a hell of an offer to tempt Harris away from Millwall however, where he enjoys legendary status. Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate) Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Gallardo could be the next successful Argentinian coaching export. Appointed River Plate manager in 2014, he has tucked away the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and the Recopa already. Gallardo has a reputation as an innovator too, becoming the first coach in Argentina's first division to appoint a female assistant as well as working with a neuroscientist to hone players' mental approach. Could be on Atletico Madrid's shortlist should Diego Simeone ever depart. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) There have been some recent whispers that Chelsea are interested in Slavisa Jokanovic Credit: PA There have already been whispers of Chelsea's interest, but if Fulham win their play-off final against Aston Villa and thrive in the Premier League then Jokanovic will be a wanted man. Fulham were without a doubt the best footballing side in the Championship last season, but Jokanovic also possesses an inner-steel that ensures discipline is not lost in all the pretty passing patterns. For clubs lost in the Premier League mid-table morass, Jokanovic would instill a style of play and an identity for fans to believe in. Rui Vitoria (Benfica) Has lifted two Portuguese championships and two cups in three seasons at Benfica, and at 48 Vitoria must surely be considering a fresh challenge. Losing out on the championship to Porto this season also has Vitoria under pressure Benfica are a dominant force, but a win percentage of 70% after 152 matches in charge remains impressive. Jose Mourinho's former assistant Rui Faria has been linked to the job, so that could free Vitoria to seek pastures new.
Frustration with the same old names and faces occupying Premier League jobs was a feature of last season, and could even prove a watershed moment in how fans think about their manager. Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are just three beneficiaries of the managerial merry-go-round, but a culture of safe appointments is just as true in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as their new head coach on Wednesday while Chelsea have a strong interest Maurizio Sarri and both feel like the 'next cab off the rank' of European coaches. The omnipotent gaffer is being phased out of the game, in favour of more democratic and collegiate structures with power shared between a technical director, recruitment guru and head coach. Here are 10 coaches who might find themselves in contention for jobs when the sacking seasons begins in autumn. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke) Dominic Tedesco led Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga Credit: AFP The head coach of the team who finished second in the Bundesliga is hardly an obscure selection, but 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco looks a cast-iron certainty to be considered for the next 'Big Six' job available. Born in Italy, Tedesco's parents emigrated to Germany when he was two years old. He never played football professionally but like Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann found a break in coaching at a young age. Appointed by second-tier Erzgebirge Aue in March 2017, Tedesco won 13 points from five games to guide them to safety. Schalke took a chance on him last summer and under his guidance the Gelsenkirchen club have qualified for the Champions League after a three-year absence. Regarded as a tactically flexible coach, one highlight of a superb debut season was a comeback from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the derby against Borussia Dortmund. Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta) Gasperini lasted only five games as Inter Milan manager in 2011, but has bounced back since then Credit: Getty Images Lasted only five games at Inter in 2011, but Gian Piero Gasperini has a warranted reputation for getting a lot from a little. He guided Genoa to Europe in 2009 but it is his work at Atalanta over the past few seasons that has really caught the eye. Benefiting from one of Italy's most productive academies, Giasperini's Atlanta recovered from losing four of their first five league games to finish fourth in 2016-17, achieving European qualification for the first time in 26-years. The 58-year-old coach ripped up the tactical rule-book, using a Dutch-style 3-4-3 that left opponents dumbfounded. Despite losing Franck Kessie to Milan last summer and other key players, Atalanta continued to punch above their weight with a seventh-placed finish. Giasperini is not the youthful up-and-comer some clubs crave, but any club looking to maximise meagre resources could do far worse. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) Giovanni van Bronckhorst was loosely linked with Arsenal before Unai Emery's appointment Credit: Getty Images The former Arsenal player received a ringing endorsement from Arsene Wenger last year and a glance at his record makes it easy to see why. Guided Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup in his first season before winning the Eredivisie in his second, coaxing the best out of a squad with a mix of talented youngsters and wise old heads such as Dirk Kuyt. Last season proved more challenging, but Feyenoord did rally late, winning their last eight league matches to finish fourth and claimed another cup. Ralph Hasenhüttl (free agent) Hasenhüttl stepped down as RB Leipzig head coach at the end of last season after two seasons in charge. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have made both made new appointments this summer, so Hasenhüttl must consider his next move. The Austrian guided the controversial Bundesliga newcomers to second-place and Champions League qualification with a brand of high-octane, progressive football. He may have fallen out with RB Leipzig's hierarchy over a new contract, but Hasenhüttl looks ideally suited to any club with a technical director-head coach set-up. Whether he can find a club that can unearth talent like Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg is another matter. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) Eddie Howe's name has not been mentioned for recent managerial vacancies Credit: Reuters Not an unfamiliar name, but one who seems to be drifting down clubs' lists. In the summer of 2016 there were reports that he was well thought of by Arsenal's hierarchy, and he was also linked with Everton - the club he supported as a boy. He was frequently spoken of as a potential England manager too. Several managerial vacancies have opened up in the last few months, and Howe does not seem to have been considered for any of them. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation in the intervening period, quite the opposite in fact, so his diminished status is curious. Bournemouth's last two league finishes are ninth and 12th - a commendable achievement. His record in the transfer market is patchy however, and there is also a risk that becomes institutionalised at Bournemouth. Familiarity breeds contempt. Tite (Brazil) Tite has been praised for his man-management of Neymar Credit: Reuters The quality of manager in international football is desperately low, but Brazil's Tite is one who looks capable of stepping into a top club job. Has galvanised a group of players rocked by a 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation on home soil at the hands of Germany. Following the oppressive Dunga, Tite has put an arm round a few of his charges and the result is possibly the best Brazil team since 2002. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho will lead the charge in Russia, with Roberto Firmino and Willian in reserve, supported by a likely midfield three of Casemiro, Paulinho and Rene Augusto. Dani Alves' injury is a blow, leaving the right-back berth free in a back four otherwise compromised of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Marcelo. In goal, they can choose between Alisson and Ederson. Not bad. Neil Harris (Millwall) Lee Johnson, Dean Smith and Paul Cook are all promising Championship managers, but Neil Harris has done a remarkable job at the Den against all the odds. Building upon the 'siege mentality' that is part of Millwall's essential character, and thanks in no small part to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison's strike partnership, Harris has taken the London club from League One to the brink of the play-offs. It would take a hell of an offer to tempt Harris away from Millwall however, where he enjoys legendary status. Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate) Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Gallardo could be the next successful Argentinian coaching export. Appointed River Plate manager in 2014, he has tucked away the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and the Recopa already. Gallardo has a reputation as an innovator too, becoming the first coach in Argentina's first division to appoint a female assistant as well as working with a neuroscientist to hone players' mental approach. Could be on Atletico Madrid's shortlist should Diego Simeone ever depart. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) There have been some recent whispers that Chelsea are interested in Slavisa Jokanovic Credit: PA There have already been whispers of Chelsea's interest, but if Fulham win their play-off final against Aston Villa and thrive in the Premier League then Jokanovic will be a wanted man. Fulham were without a doubt the best footballing side in the Championship last season, but Jokanovic also possesses an inner-steel that ensures discipline is not lost in all the pretty passing patterns. For clubs lost in the Premier League mid-table morass, Jokanovic would instill a style of play and an identity for fans to believe in. Rui Vitoria (Benfica) Has lifted two Portuguese championships and two cups in three seasons at Benfica, and at 48 Vitoria must surely be considering a fresh challenge. Losing out on the championship to Porto this season also has Vitoria under pressure Benfica are a dominant force, but a win percentage of 70% after 152 matches in charge remains impressive. Jose Mourinho's former assistant Rui Faria has been linked to the job, so that could free Vitoria to seek pastures new.
The 10 managers nobody is linking with vacant jobs...but should be
Frustration with the same old names and faces occupying Premier League jobs was a feature of last season, and could even prove a watershed moment in how fans think about their manager. Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are just three beneficiaries of the managerial merry-go-round, but a culture of safe appointments is just as true in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as their new head coach on Wednesday while Chelsea have a strong interest Maurizio Sarri and both feel like the 'next cab off the rank' of European coaches. The omnipotent gaffer is being phased out of the game, in favour of more democratic and collegiate structures with power shared between a technical director, recruitment guru and head coach. Here are 10 coaches who might find themselves in contention for jobs when the sacking seasons begins in autumn. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke) Dominic Tedesco led Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga Credit: AFP The head coach of the team who finished second in the Bundesliga is hardly an obscure selection, but 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco looks a cast-iron certainty to be considered for the next 'Big Six' job available. Born in Italy, Tedesco's parents emigrated to Germany when he was two years old. He never played football professionally but like Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann found a break in coaching at a young age. Appointed by second-tier Erzgebirge Aue in March 2017, Tedesco won 13 points from five games to guide them to safety. Schalke took a chance on him last summer and under his guidance the Gelsenkirchen club have qualified for the Champions League after a three-year absence. Regarded as a tactically flexible coach, one highlight of a superb debut season was a comeback from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the derby against Borussia Dortmund. Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta) Gasperini lasted only five games as Inter Milan manager in 2011, but has bounced back since then Credit: Getty Images Lasted only five games at Inter in 2011, but Gian Piero Gasperini has a warranted reputation for getting a lot from a little. He guided Genoa to Europe in 2009 but it is his work at Atalanta over the past few seasons that has really caught the eye. Benefiting from one of Italy's most productive academies, Giasperini's Atlanta recovered from losing four of their first five league games to finish fourth in 2016-17, achieving European qualification for the first time in 26-years. The 58-year-old coach ripped up the tactical rule-book, using a Dutch-style 3-4-3 that left opponents dumbfounded. Despite losing Franck Kessie to Milan last summer and other key players, Atalanta continued to punch above their weight with a seventh-placed finish. Giasperini is not the youthful up-and-comer some clubs crave, but any club looking to maximise meagre resources could do far worse. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) Giovanni van Bronckhorst was loosely linked with Arsenal before Unai Emery's appointment Credit: Getty Images The former Arsenal player received a ringing endorsement from Arsene Wenger last year and a glance at his record makes it easy to see why. Guided Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup in his first season before winning the Eredivisie in his second, coaxing the best out of a squad with a mix of talented youngsters and wise old heads such as Dirk Kuyt. Last season proved more challenging, but Feyenoord did rally late, winning their last eight league matches to finish fourth and claimed another cup. Ralph Hasenhüttl (free agent) Hasenhüttl stepped down as RB Leipzig head coach at the end of last season after two seasons in charge. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have made both made new appointments this summer, so Hasenhüttl must consider his next move. The Austrian guided the controversial Bundesliga newcomers to second-place and Champions League qualification with a brand of high-octane, progressive football. He may have fallen out with RB Leipzig's hierarchy over a new contract, but Hasenhüttl looks ideally suited to any club with a technical director-head coach set-up. Whether he can find a club that can unearth talent like Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg is another matter. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) Eddie Howe's name has not been mentioned for recent managerial vacancies Credit: Reuters Not an unfamiliar name, but one who seems to be drifting down clubs' lists. In the summer of 2016 there were reports that he was well thought of by Arsenal's hierarchy, and he was also linked with Everton - the club he supported as a boy. He was frequently spoken of as a potential England manager too. Several managerial vacancies have opened up in the last few months, and Howe does not seem to have been considered for any of them. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation in the intervening period, quite the opposite in fact, so his diminished status is curious. Bournemouth's last two league finishes are ninth and 12th - a commendable achievement. His record in the transfer market is patchy however, and there is also a risk that becomes institutionalised at Bournemouth. Familiarity breeds contempt. Tite (Brazil) Tite has been praised for his man-management of Neymar Credit: Reuters The quality of manager in international football is desperately low, but Brazil's Tite is one who looks capable of stepping into a top club job. Has galvanised a group of players rocked by a 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation on home soil at the hands of Germany. Following the oppressive Dunga, Tite has put an arm round a few of his charges and the result is possibly the best Brazil team since 2002. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho will lead the charge in Russia, with Roberto Firmino and Willian in reserve, supported by a likely midfield three of Casemiro, Paulinho and Rene Augusto. Dani Alves' injury is a blow, leaving the right-back berth free in a back four otherwise compromised of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Marcelo. In goal, they can choose between Alisson and Ederson. Not bad. Neil Harris (Millwall) Lee Johnson, Dean Smith and Paul Cook are all promising Championship managers, but Neil Harris has done a remarkable job at the Den against all the odds. Building upon the 'siege mentality' that is part of Millwall's essential character, and thanks in no small part to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison's strike partnership, Harris has taken the London club from League One to the brink of the play-offs. It would take a hell of an offer to tempt Harris away from Millwall however, where he enjoys legendary status. Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate) Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Gallardo could be the next successful Argentinian coaching export. Appointed River Plate manager in 2014, he has tucked away the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and the Recopa already. Gallardo has a reputation as an innovator too, becoming the first coach in Argentina's first division to appoint a female assistant as well as working with a neuroscientist to hone players' mental approach. Could be on Atletico Madrid's shortlist should Diego Simeone ever depart. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) There have been some recent whispers that Chelsea are interested in Slavisa Jokanovic Credit: PA There have already been whispers of Chelsea's interest, but if Fulham win their play-off final against Aston Villa and thrive in the Premier League then Jokanovic will be a wanted man. Fulham were without a doubt the best footballing side in the Championship last season, but Jokanovic also possesses an inner-steel that ensures discipline is not lost in all the pretty passing patterns. For clubs lost in the Premier League mid-table morass, Jokanovic would instill a style of play and an identity for fans to believe in. Rui Vitoria (Benfica) Has lifted two Portuguese championships and two cups in three seasons at Benfica, and at 48 Vitoria must surely be considering a fresh challenge. Losing out on the championship to Porto this season also has Vitoria under pressure Benfica are a dominant force, but a win percentage of 70% after 152 matches in charge remains impressive. Jose Mourinho's former assistant Rui Faria has been linked to the job, so that could free Vitoria to seek pastures new.
Frustration with the same old names and faces occupying Premier League jobs was a feature of last season, and could even prove a watershed moment in how fans think about their manager. Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are just three beneficiaries of the managerial merry-go-round, but a culture of safe appointments is just as true in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as their new head coach on Wednesday while Chelsea have a strong interest Maurizio Sarri and both feel like the 'next cab off the rank' of European coaches. The omnipotent gaffer is being phased out of the game, in favour of more democratic and collegiate structures with power shared between a technical director, recruitment guru and head coach. Here are 10 coaches who might find themselves in contention for jobs when the sacking seasons begins in autumn. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke) Dominic Tedesco led Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga Credit: AFP The head coach of the team who finished second in the Bundesliga is hardly an obscure selection, but 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco looks a cast-iron certainty to be considered for the next 'Big Six' job available. Born in Italy, Tedesco's parents emigrated to Germany when he was two years old. He never played football professionally but like Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann found a break in coaching at a young age. Appointed by second-tier Erzgebirge Aue in March 2017, Tedesco won 13 points from five games to guide them to safety. Schalke took a chance on him last summer and under his guidance the Gelsenkirchen club have qualified for the Champions League after a three-year absence. Regarded as a tactically flexible coach, one highlight of a superb debut season was a comeback from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the derby against Borussia Dortmund. Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta) Gasperini lasted only five games as Inter Milan manager in 2011, but has bounced back since then Credit: Getty Images Lasted only five games at Inter in 2011, but Gian Piero Gasperini has a warranted reputation for getting a lot from a little. He guided Genoa to Europe in 2009 but it is his work at Atalanta over the past few seasons that has really caught the eye. Benefiting from one of Italy's most productive academies, Giasperini's Atlanta recovered from losing four of their first five league games to finish fourth in 2016-17, achieving European qualification for the first time in 26-years. The 58-year-old coach ripped up the tactical rule-book, using a Dutch-style 3-4-3 that left opponents dumbfounded. Despite losing Franck Kessie to Milan last summer and other key players, Atalanta continued to punch above their weight with a seventh-placed finish. Giasperini is not the youthful up-and-comer some clubs crave, but any club looking to maximise meagre resources could do far worse. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) Giovanni van Bronckhorst was loosely linked with Arsenal before Unai Emery's appointment Credit: Getty Images The former Arsenal player received a ringing endorsement from Arsene Wenger last year and a glance at his record makes it easy to see why. Guided Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup in his first season before winning the Eredivisie in his second, coaxing the best out of a squad with a mix of talented youngsters and wise old heads such as Dirk Kuyt. Last season proved more challenging, but Feyenoord did rally late, winning their last eight league matches to finish fourth and claimed another cup. Ralph Hasenhüttl (free agent) Hasenhüttl stepped down as RB Leipzig head coach at the end of last season after two seasons in charge. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have made both made new appointments this summer, so Hasenhüttl must consider his next move. The Austrian guided the controversial Bundesliga newcomers to second-place and Champions League qualification with a brand of high-octane, progressive football. He may have fallen out with RB Leipzig's hierarchy over a new contract, but Hasenhüttl looks ideally suited to any club with a technical director-head coach set-up. Whether he can find a club that can unearth talent like Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg is another matter. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) Eddie Howe's name has not been mentioned for recent managerial vacancies Credit: Reuters Not an unfamiliar name, but one who seems to be drifting down clubs' lists. In the summer of 2016 there were reports that he was well thought of by Arsenal's hierarchy, and he was also linked with Everton - the club he supported as a boy. He was frequently spoken of as a potential England manager too. Several managerial vacancies have opened up in the last few months, and Howe does not seem to have been considered for any of them. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation in the intervening period, quite the opposite in fact, so his diminished status is curious. Bournemouth's last two league finishes are ninth and 12th - a commendable achievement. His record in the transfer market is patchy however, and there is also a risk that becomes institutionalised at Bournemouth. Familiarity breeds contempt. Tite (Brazil) Tite has been praised for his man-management of Neymar Credit: Reuters The quality of manager in international football is desperately low, but Brazil's Tite is one who looks capable of stepping into a top club job. Has galvanised a group of players rocked by a 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation on home soil at the hands of Germany. Following the oppressive Dunga, Tite has put an arm round a few of his charges and the result is possibly the best Brazil team since 2002. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho will lead the charge in Russia, with Roberto Firmino and Willian in reserve, supported by a likely midfield three of Casemiro, Paulinho and Rene Augusto. Dani Alves' injury is a blow, leaving the right-back berth free in a back four otherwise compromised of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Marcelo. In goal, they can choose between Alisson and Ederson. Not bad. Neil Harris (Millwall) Lee Johnson, Dean Smith and Paul Cook are all promising Championship managers, but Neil Harris has done a remarkable job at the Den against all the odds. Building upon the 'siege mentality' that is part of Millwall's essential character, and thanks in no small part to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison's strike partnership, Harris has taken the London club from League One to the brink of the play-offs. It would take a hell of an offer to tempt Harris away from Millwall however, where he enjoys legendary status. Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate) Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Gallardo could be the next successful Argentinian coaching export. Appointed River Plate manager in 2014, he has tucked away the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and the Recopa already. Gallardo has a reputation as an innovator too, becoming the first coach in Argentina's first division to appoint a female assistant as well as working with a neuroscientist to hone players' mental approach. Could be on Atletico Madrid's shortlist should Diego Simeone ever depart. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) There have been some recent whispers that Chelsea are interested in Slavisa Jokanovic Credit: PA There have already been whispers of Chelsea's interest, but if Fulham win their play-off final against Aston Villa and thrive in the Premier League then Jokanovic will be a wanted man. Fulham were without a doubt the best footballing side in the Championship last season, but Jokanovic also possesses an inner-steel that ensures discipline is not lost in all the pretty passing patterns. For clubs lost in the Premier League mid-table morass, Jokanovic would instill a style of play and an identity for fans to believe in. Rui Vitoria (Benfica) Has lifted two Portuguese championships and two cups in three seasons at Benfica, and at 48 Vitoria must surely be considering a fresh challenge. Losing out on the championship to Porto this season also has Vitoria under pressure Benfica are a dominant force, but a win percentage of 70% after 152 matches in charge remains impressive. Jose Mourinho's former assistant Rui Faria has been linked to the job, so that could free Vitoria to seek pastures new.
The 10 managers nobody is linking with vacant jobs...but should be
Frustration with the same old names and faces occupying Premier League jobs was a feature of last season, and could even prove a watershed moment in how fans think about their manager. Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are just three beneficiaries of the managerial merry-go-round, but a culture of safe appointments is just as true in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as their new head coach on Wednesday while Chelsea have a strong interest Maurizio Sarri and both feel like the 'next cab off the rank' of European coaches. The omnipotent gaffer is being phased out of the game, in favour of more democratic and collegiate structures with power shared between a technical director, recruitment guru and head coach. Here are 10 coaches who might find themselves in contention for jobs when the sacking seasons begins in autumn. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke) Dominic Tedesco led Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga Credit: AFP The head coach of the team who finished second in the Bundesliga is hardly an obscure selection, but 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco looks a cast-iron certainty to be considered for the next 'Big Six' job available. Born in Italy, Tedesco's parents emigrated to Germany when he was two years old. He never played football professionally but like Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann found a break in coaching at a young age. Appointed by second-tier Erzgebirge Aue in March 2017, Tedesco won 13 points from five games to guide them to safety. Schalke took a chance on him last summer and under his guidance the Gelsenkirchen club have qualified for the Champions League after a three-year absence. Regarded as a tactically flexible coach, one highlight of a superb debut season was a comeback from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the derby against Borussia Dortmund. Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta) Gasperini lasted only five games as Inter Milan manager in 2011, but has bounced back since then Credit: Getty Images Lasted only five games at Inter in 2011, but Gian Piero Gasperini has a warranted reputation for getting a lot from a little. He guided Genoa to Europe in 2009 but it is his work at Atalanta over the past few seasons that has really caught the eye. Benefiting from one of Italy's most productive academies, Giasperini's Atlanta recovered from losing four of their first five league games to finish fourth in 2016-17, achieving European qualification for the first time in 26-years. The 58-year-old coach ripped up the tactical rule-book, using a Dutch-style 3-4-3 that left opponents dumbfounded. Despite losing Franck Kessie to Milan last summer and other key players, Atalanta continued to punch above their weight with a seventh-placed finish. Giasperini is not the youthful up-and-comer some clubs crave, but any club looking to maximise meagre resources could do far worse. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) Giovanni van Bronckhorst was loosely linked with Arsenal before Unai Emery's appointment Credit: Getty Images The former Arsenal player received a ringing endorsement from Arsene Wenger last year and a glance at his record makes it easy to see why. Guided Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup in his first season before winning the Eredivisie in his second, coaxing the best out of a squad with a mix of talented youngsters and wise old heads such as Dirk Kuyt. Last season proved more challenging, but Feyenoord did rally late, winning their last eight league matches to finish fourth and claimed another cup. Ralph Hasenhüttl (free agent) Hasenhüttl stepped down as RB Leipzig head coach at the end of last season after two seasons in charge. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have made both made new appointments this summer, so Hasenhüttl must consider his next move. The Austrian guided the controversial Bundesliga newcomers to second-place and Champions League qualification with a brand of high-octane, progressive football. He may have fallen out with RB Leipzig's hierarchy over a new contract, but Hasenhüttl looks ideally suited to any club with a technical director-head coach set-up. Whether he can find a club that can unearth talent like Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg is another matter. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) Eddie Howe's name has not been mentioned for recent managerial vacancies Credit: Reuters Not an unfamiliar name, but one who seems to be drifting down clubs' lists. In the summer of 2016 there were reports that he was well thought of by Arsenal's hierarchy, and he was also linked with Everton - the club he supported as a boy. He was frequently spoken of as a potential England manager too. Several managerial vacancies have opened up in the last few months, and Howe does not seem to have been considered for any of them. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation in the intervening period, quite the opposite in fact, so his diminished status is curious. Bournemouth's last two league finishes are ninth and 12th - a commendable achievement. His record in the transfer market is patchy however, and there is also a risk that becomes institutionalised at Bournemouth. Familiarity breeds contempt. Tite (Brazil) Tite has been praised for his man-management of Neymar Credit: Reuters The quality of manager in international football is desperately low, but Brazil's Tite is one who looks capable of stepping into a top club job. Has galvanised a group of players rocked by a 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation on home soil at the hands of Germany. Following the oppressive Dunga, Tite has put an arm round a few of his charges and the result is possibly the best Brazil team since 2002. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho will lead the charge in Russia, with Roberto Firmino and Willian in reserve, supported by a likely midfield three of Casemiro, Paulinho and Rene Augusto. Dani Alves' injury is a blow, leaving the right-back berth free in a back four otherwise compromised of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Marcelo. In goal, they can choose between Alisson and Ederson. Not bad. Neil Harris (Millwall) Lee Johnson, Dean Smith and Paul Cook are all promising Championship managers, but Neil Harris has done a remarkable job at the Den against all the odds. Building upon the 'siege mentality' that is part of Millwall's essential character, and thanks in no small part to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison's strike partnership, Harris has taken the London club from League One to the brink of the play-offs. It would take a hell of an offer to tempt Harris away from Millwall however, where he enjoys legendary status. Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate) Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Gallardo could be the next successful Argentinian coaching export. Appointed River Plate manager in 2014, he has tucked away the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and the Recopa already. Gallardo has a reputation as an innovator too, becoming the first coach in Argentina's first division to appoint a female assistant as well as working with a neuroscientist to hone players' mental approach. Could be on Atletico Madrid's shortlist should Diego Simeone ever depart. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) There have been some recent whispers that Chelsea are interested in Slavisa Jokanovic Credit: PA There have already been whispers of Chelsea's interest, but if Fulham win their play-off final against Aston Villa and thrive in the Premier League then Jokanovic will be a wanted man. Fulham were without a doubt the best footballing side in the Championship last season, but Jokanovic also possesses an inner-steel that ensures discipline is not lost in all the pretty passing patterns. For clubs lost in the Premier League mid-table morass, Jokanovic would instill a style of play and an identity for fans to believe in. Rui Vitoria (Benfica) Has lifted two Portuguese championships and two cups in three seasons at Benfica, and at 48 Vitoria must surely be considering a fresh challenge. Losing out on the championship to Porto this season also has Vitoria under pressure Benfica are a dominant force, but a win percentage of 70% after 152 matches in charge remains impressive. Jose Mourinho's former assistant Rui Faria has been linked to the job, so that could free Vitoria to seek pastures new.
Frustration with the same old names and faces occupying Premier League jobs was a feature of last season, and could even prove a watershed moment in how fans think about their manager. Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are just three beneficiaries of the managerial merry-go-round, but a culture of safe appointments is just as true in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as their new head coach on Wednesday while Chelsea have a strong interest Maurizio Sarri and both feel like the 'next cab off the rank' of European coaches. The omnipotent gaffer is being phased out of the game, in favour of more democratic and collegiate structures with power shared between a technical director, recruitment guru and head coach. Here are 10 coaches who might find themselves in contention for jobs when the sacking seasons begins in autumn. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke) Dominic Tedesco led Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga Credit: AFP The head coach of the team who finished second in the Bundesliga is hardly an obscure selection, but 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco looks a cast-iron certainty to be considered for the next 'Big Six' job available. Born in Italy, Tedesco's parents emigrated to Germany when he was two years old. He never played football professionally but like Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann found a break in coaching at a young age. Appointed by second-tier Erzgebirge Aue in March 2017, Tedesco won 13 points from five games to guide them to safety. Schalke took a chance on him last summer and under his guidance the Gelsenkirchen club have qualified for the Champions League after a three-year absence. Regarded as a tactically flexible coach, one highlight of a superb debut season was a comeback from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the derby against Borussia Dortmund. Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta) Gasperini lasted only five games as Inter Milan manager in 2011, but has bounced back since then Credit: Getty Images Lasted only five games at Inter in 2011, but Gian Piero Gasperini has a warranted reputation for getting a lot from a little. He guided Genoa to Europe in 2009 but it is his work at Atalanta over the past few seasons that has really caught the eye. Benefiting from one of Italy's most productive academies, Giasperini's Atlanta recovered from losing four of their first five league games to finish fourth in 2016-17, achieving European qualification for the first time in 26-years. The 58-year-old coach ripped up the tactical rule-book, using a Dutch-style 3-4-3 that left opponents dumbfounded. Despite losing Franck Kessie to Milan last summer and other key players, Atalanta continued to punch above their weight with a seventh-placed finish. Giasperini is not the youthful up-and-comer some clubs crave, but any club looking to maximise meagre resources could do far worse. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) Giovanni van Bronckhorst was loosely linked with Arsenal before Unai Emery's appointment Credit: Getty Images The former Arsenal player received a ringing endorsement from Arsene Wenger last year and a glance at his record makes it easy to see why. Guided Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup in his first season before winning the Eredivisie in his second, coaxing the best out of a squad with a mix of talented youngsters and wise old heads such as Dirk Kuyt. Last season proved more challenging, but Feyenoord did rally late, winning their last eight league matches to finish fourth and claimed another cup. Ralph Hasenhüttl (free agent) Hasenhüttl stepped down as RB Leipzig head coach at the end of last season after two seasons in charge. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have made both made new appointments this summer, so Hasenhüttl must consider his next move. The Austrian guided the controversial Bundesliga newcomers to second-place and Champions League qualification with a brand of high-octane, progressive football. He may have fallen out with RB Leipzig's hierarchy over a new contract, but Hasenhüttl looks ideally suited to any club with a technical director-head coach set-up. Whether he can find a club that can unearth talent like Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg is another matter. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) Eddie Howe's name has not been mentioned for recent managerial vacancies Credit: Reuters Not an unfamiliar name, but one who seems to be drifting down clubs' lists. In the summer of 2016 there were reports that he was well thought of by Arsenal's hierarchy, and he was also linked with Everton - the club he supported as a boy. He was frequently spoken of as a potential England manager too. Several managerial vacancies have opened up in the last few months, and Howe does not seem to have been considered for any of them. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation in the intervening period, quite the opposite in fact, so his diminished status is curious. Bournemouth's last two league finishes are ninth and 12th - a commendable achievement. His record in the transfer market is patchy however, and there is also a risk that becomes institutionalised at Bournemouth. Familiarity breeds contempt. Tite (Brazil) Tite has been praised for his man-management of Neymar Credit: Reuters The quality of manager in international football is desperately low, but Brazil's Tite is one who looks capable of stepping into a top club job. Has galvanised a group of players rocked by a 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation on home soil at the hands of Germany. Following the oppressive Dunga, Tite has put an arm round a few of his charges and the result is possibly the best Brazil team since 2002. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho will lead the charge in Russia, with Roberto Firmino and Willian in reserve, supported by a likely midfield three of Casemiro, Paulinho and Rene Augusto. Dani Alves' injury is a blow, leaving the right-back berth free in a back four otherwise compromised of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Marcelo. In goal, they can choose between Alisson and Ederson. Not bad. Neil Harris (Millwall) Lee Johnson, Dean Smith and Paul Cook are all promising Championship managers, but Neil Harris has done a remarkable job at the Den against all the odds. Building upon the 'siege mentality' that is part of Millwall's essential character, and thanks in no small part to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison's strike partnership, Harris has taken the London club from League One to the brink of the play-offs. It would take a hell of an offer to tempt Harris away from Millwall however, where he enjoys legendary status. Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate) Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Gallardo could be the next successful Argentinian coaching export. Appointed River Plate manager in 2014, he has tucked away the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and the Recopa already. Gallardo has a reputation as an innovator too, becoming the first coach in Argentina's first division to appoint a female assistant as well as working with a neuroscientist to hone players' mental approach. Could be on Atletico Madrid's shortlist should Diego Simeone ever depart. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) There have been some recent whispers that Chelsea are interested in Slavisa Jokanovic Credit: PA There have already been whispers of Chelsea's interest, but if Fulham win their play-off final against Aston Villa and thrive in the Premier League then Jokanovic will be a wanted man. Fulham were without a doubt the best footballing side in the Championship last season, but Jokanovic also possesses an inner-steel that ensures discipline is not lost in all the pretty passing patterns. For clubs lost in the Premier League mid-table morass, Jokanovic would instill a style of play and an identity for fans to believe in. Rui Vitoria (Benfica) Has lifted two Portuguese championships and two cups in three seasons at Benfica, and at 48 Vitoria must surely be considering a fresh challenge. Losing out on the championship to Porto this season also has Vitoria under pressure Benfica are a dominant force, but a win percentage of 70% after 152 matches in charge remains impressive. Jose Mourinho's former assistant Rui Faria has been linked to the job, so that could free Vitoria to seek pastures new.
The 10 managers nobody is linking with vacant jobs...but should be
Frustration with the same old names and faces occupying Premier League jobs was a feature of last season, and could even prove a watershed moment in how fans think about their manager. Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are just three beneficiaries of the managerial merry-go-round, but a culture of safe appointments is just as true in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as their new head coach on Wednesday while Chelsea have a strong interest Maurizio Sarri and both feel like the 'next cab off the rank' of European coaches. The omnipotent gaffer is being phased out of the game, in favour of more democratic and collegiate structures with power shared between a technical director, recruitment guru and head coach. Here are 10 coaches who might find themselves in contention for jobs when the sacking seasons begins in autumn. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke) Dominic Tedesco led Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga Credit: AFP The head coach of the team who finished second in the Bundesliga is hardly an obscure selection, but 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco looks a cast-iron certainty to be considered for the next 'Big Six' job available. Born in Italy, Tedesco's parents emigrated to Germany when he was two years old. He never played football professionally but like Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann found a break in coaching at a young age. Appointed by second-tier Erzgebirge Aue in March 2017, Tedesco won 13 points from five games to guide them to safety. Schalke took a chance on him last summer and under his guidance the Gelsenkirchen club have qualified for the Champions League after a three-year absence. Regarded as a tactically flexible coach, one highlight of a superb debut season was a comeback from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the derby against Borussia Dortmund. Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta) Gasperini lasted only five games as Inter Milan manager in 2011, but has bounced back since then Credit: Getty Images Lasted only five games at Inter in 2011, but Gian Piero Gasperini has a warranted reputation for getting a lot from a little. He guided Genoa to Europe in 2009 but it is his work at Atalanta over the past few seasons that has really caught the eye. Benefiting from one of Italy's most productive academies, Giasperini's Atlanta recovered from losing four of their first five league games to finish fourth in 2016-17, achieving European qualification for the first time in 26-years. The 58-year-old coach ripped up the tactical rule-book, using a Dutch-style 3-4-3 that left opponents dumbfounded. Despite losing Franck Kessie to Milan last summer and other key players, Atalanta continued to punch above their weight with a seventh-placed finish. Giasperini is not the youthful up-and-comer some clubs crave, but any club looking to maximise meagre resources could do far worse. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) Giovanni van Bronckhorst was loosely linked with Arsenal before Unai Emery's appointment Credit: Getty Images The former Arsenal player received a ringing endorsement from Arsene Wenger last year and a glance at his record makes it easy to see why. Guided Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup in his first season before winning the Eredivisie in his second, coaxing the best out of a squad with a mix of talented youngsters and wise old heads such as Dirk Kuyt. Last season proved more challenging, but Feyenoord did rally late, winning their last eight league matches to finish fourth and claimed another cup. Ralph Hasenhüttl (free agent) Hasenhüttl stepped down as RB Leipzig head coach at the end of last season after two seasons in charge. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have made both made new appointments this summer, so Hasenhüttl must consider his next move. The Austrian guided the controversial Bundesliga newcomers to second-place and Champions League qualification with a brand of high-octane, progressive football. He may have fallen out with RB Leipzig's hierarchy over a new contract, but Hasenhüttl looks ideally suited to any club with a technical director-head coach set-up. Whether he can find a club that can unearth talent like Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg is another matter. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) Eddie Howe's name has not been mentioned for recent managerial vacancies Credit: Reuters Not an unfamiliar name, but one who seems to be drifting down clubs' lists. In the summer of 2016 there were reports that he was well thought of by Arsenal's hierarchy, and he was also linked with Everton - the club he supported as a boy. He was frequently spoken of as a potential England manager too. Several managerial vacancies have opened up in the last few months, and Howe does not seem to have been considered for any of them. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation in the intervening period, quite the opposite in fact, so his diminished status is curious. Bournemouth's last two league finishes are ninth and 12th - a commendable achievement. His record in the transfer market is patchy however, and there is also a risk that becomes institutionalised at Bournemouth. Familiarity breeds contempt. Tite (Brazil) Tite has been praised for his man-management of Neymar Credit: Reuters The quality of manager in international football is desperately low, but Brazil's Tite is one who looks capable of stepping into a top club job. Has galvanised a group of players rocked by a 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation on home soil at the hands of Germany. Following the oppressive Dunga, Tite has put an arm round a few of his charges and the result is possibly the best Brazil team since 2002. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho will lead the charge in Russia, with Roberto Firmino and Willian in reserve, supported by a likely midfield three of Casemiro, Paulinho and Rene Augusto. Dani Alves' injury is a blow, leaving the right-back berth free in a back four otherwise compromised of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Marcelo. In goal, they can choose between Alisson and Ederson. Not bad. Neil Harris (Millwall) Lee Johnson, Dean Smith and Paul Cook are all promising Championship managers, but Neil Harris has done a remarkable job at the Den against all the odds. Building upon the 'siege mentality' that is part of Millwall's essential character, and thanks in no small part to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison's strike partnership, Harris has taken the London club from League One to the brink of the play-offs. It would take a hell of an offer to tempt Harris away from Millwall however, where he enjoys legendary status. Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate) Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Gallardo could be the next successful Argentinian coaching export. Appointed River Plate manager in 2014, he has tucked away the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and the Recopa already. Gallardo has a reputation as an innovator too, becoming the first coach in Argentina's first division to appoint a female assistant as well as working with a neuroscientist to hone players' mental approach. Could be on Atletico Madrid's shortlist should Diego Simeone ever depart. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) There have been some recent whispers that Chelsea are interested in Slavisa Jokanovic Credit: PA There have already been whispers of Chelsea's interest, but if Fulham win their play-off final against Aston Villa and thrive in the Premier League then Jokanovic will be a wanted man. Fulham were without a doubt the best footballing side in the Championship last season, but Jokanovic also possesses an inner-steel that ensures discipline is not lost in all the pretty passing patterns. For clubs lost in the Premier League mid-table morass, Jokanovic would instill a style of play and an identity for fans to believe in. Rui Vitoria (Benfica) Has lifted two Portuguese championships and two cups in three seasons at Benfica, and at 48 Vitoria must surely be considering a fresh challenge. Losing out on the championship to Porto this season also has Vitoria under pressure Benfica are a dominant force, but a win percentage of 70% after 152 matches in charge remains impressive. Jose Mourinho's former assistant Rui Faria has been linked to the job, so that could free Vitoria to seek pastures new.
Frustration with the same old names and faces occupying Premier League jobs was a feature of last season, and could even prove a watershed moment in how fans think about their manager. Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are just three beneficiaries of the managerial merry-go-round, but a culture of safe appointments is just as true in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as their new head coach on Wednesday while Chelsea have a strong interest Maurizio Sarri and both feel like the 'next cab off the rank' of European coaches. The omnipotent gaffer is being phased out of the game, in favour of more democratic and collegiate structures with power shared between a technical director, recruitment guru and head coach. Here are 10 coaches who might find themselves in contention for jobs when the sacking seasons begins in autumn. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke) Dominic Tedesco led Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga Credit: AFP The head coach of the team who finished second in the Bundesliga is hardly an obscure selection, but 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco looks a cast-iron certainty to be considered for the next 'Big Six' job available. Born in Italy, Tedesco's parents emigrated to Germany when he was two years old. He never played football professionally but like Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann found a break in coaching at a young age. Appointed by second-tier Erzgebirge Aue in March 2017, Tedesco won 13 points from five games to guide them to safety. Schalke took a chance on him last summer and under his guidance the Gelsenkirchen club have qualified for the Champions League after a three-year absence. Regarded as a tactically flexible coach, one highlight of a superb debut season was a comeback from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the derby against Borussia Dortmund. Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta) Gasperini lasted only five games as Inter Milan manager in 2011, but has bounced back since then Credit: Getty Images Lasted only five games at Inter in 2011, but Gian Piero Gasperini has a warranted reputation for getting a lot from a little. He guided Genoa to Europe in 2009 but it is his work at Atalanta over the past few seasons that has really caught the eye. Benefiting from one of Italy's most productive academies, Giasperini's Atlanta recovered from losing four of their first five league games to finish fourth in 2016-17, achieving European qualification for the first time in 26-years. The 58-year-old coach ripped up the tactical rule-book, using a Dutch-style 3-4-3 that left opponents dumbfounded. Despite losing Franck Kessie to Milan last summer and other key players, Atalanta continued to punch above their weight with a seventh-placed finish. Giasperini is not the youthful up-and-comer some clubs crave, but any club looking to maximise meagre resources could do far worse. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) Giovanni van Bronckhorst was loosely linked with Arsenal before Unai Emery's appointment Credit: Getty Images The former Arsenal player received a ringing endorsement from Arsene Wenger last year and a glance at his record makes it easy to see why. Guided Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup in his first season before winning the Eredivisie in his second, coaxing the best out of a squad with a mix of talented youngsters and wise old heads such as Dirk Kuyt. Last season proved more challenging, but Feyenoord did rally late, winning their last eight league matches to finish fourth and claimed another cup. Ralph Hasenhüttl (free agent) Hasenhüttl stepped down as RB Leipzig head coach at the end of last season after two seasons in charge. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have made both made new appointments this summer, so Hasenhüttl must consider his next move. The Austrian guided the controversial Bundesliga newcomers to second-place and Champions League qualification with a brand of high-octane, progressive football. He may have fallen out with RB Leipzig's hierarchy over a new contract, but Hasenhüttl looks ideally suited to any club with a technical director-head coach set-up. Whether he can find a club that can unearth talent like Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg is another matter. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) Eddie Howe's name has not been mentioned for recent managerial vacancies Credit: Reuters Not an unfamiliar name, but one who seems to be drifting down clubs' lists. In the summer of 2016 there were reports that he was well thought of by Arsenal's hierarchy, and he was also linked with Everton - the club he supported as a boy. He was frequently spoken of as a potential England manager too. Several managerial vacancies have opened up in the last few months, and Howe does not seem to have been considered for any of them. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation in the intervening period, quite the opposite in fact, so his diminished status is curious. Bournemouth's last two league finishes are ninth and 12th - a commendable achievement. His record in the transfer market is patchy however, and there is also a risk that becomes institutionalised at Bournemouth. Familiarity breeds contempt. Tite (Brazil) Tite has been praised for his man-management of Neymar Credit: Reuters The quality of manager in international football is desperately low, but Brazil's Tite is one who looks capable of stepping into a top club job. Has galvanised a group of players rocked by a 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation on home soil at the hands of Germany. Following the oppressive Dunga, Tite has put an arm round a few of his charges and the result is possibly the best Brazil team since 2002. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho will lead the charge in Russia, with Roberto Firmino and Willian in reserve, supported by a likely midfield three of Casemiro, Paulinho and Rene Augusto. Dani Alves' injury is a blow, leaving the right-back berth free in a back four otherwise compromised of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Marcelo. In goal, they can choose between Alisson and Ederson. Not bad. Neil Harris (Millwall) Lee Johnson, Dean Smith and Paul Cook are all promising Championship managers, but Neil Harris has done a remarkable job at the Den against all the odds. Building upon the 'siege mentality' that is part of Millwall's essential character, and thanks in no small part to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison's strike partnership, Harris has taken the London club from League One to the brink of the play-offs. It would take a hell of an offer to tempt Harris away from Millwall however, where he enjoys legendary status. Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate) Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Gallardo could be the next successful Argentinian coaching export. Appointed River Plate manager in 2014, he has tucked away the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and the Recopa already. Gallardo has a reputation as an innovator too, becoming the first coach in Argentina's first division to appoint a female assistant as well as working with a neuroscientist to hone players' mental approach. Could be on Atletico Madrid's shortlist should Diego Simeone ever depart. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) There have been some recent whispers that Chelsea are interested in Slavisa Jokanovic Credit: PA There have already been whispers of Chelsea's interest, but if Fulham win their play-off final against Aston Villa and thrive in the Premier League then Jokanovic will be a wanted man. Fulham were without a doubt the best footballing side in the Championship last season, but Jokanovic also possesses an inner-steel that ensures discipline is not lost in all the pretty passing patterns. For clubs lost in the Premier League mid-table morass, Jokanovic would instill a style of play and an identity for fans to believe in. Rui Vitoria (Benfica) Has lifted two Portuguese championships and two cups in three seasons at Benfica, and at 48 Vitoria must surely be considering a fresh challenge. Losing out on the championship to Porto this season also has Vitoria under pressure Benfica are a dominant force, but a win percentage of 70% after 152 matches in charge remains impressive. Jose Mourinho's former assistant Rui Faria has been linked to the job, so that could free Vitoria to seek pastures new.
The 10 managers nobody is linking with vacant jobs...but should be
Frustration with the same old names and faces occupying Premier League jobs was a feature of last season, and could even prove a watershed moment in how fans think about their manager. Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are just three beneficiaries of the managerial merry-go-round, but a culture of safe appointments is just as true in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as their new head coach on Wednesday while Chelsea have a strong interest Maurizio Sarri and both feel like the 'next cab off the rank' of European coaches. The omnipotent gaffer is being phased out of the game, in favour of more democratic and collegiate structures with power shared between a technical director, recruitment guru and head coach. Here are 10 coaches who might find themselves in contention for jobs when the sacking seasons begins in autumn. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke) Dominic Tedesco led Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga Credit: AFP The head coach of the team who finished second in the Bundesliga is hardly an obscure selection, but 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco looks a cast-iron certainty to be considered for the next 'Big Six' job available. Born in Italy, Tedesco's parents emigrated to Germany when he was two years old. He never played football professionally but like Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann found a break in coaching at a young age. Appointed by second-tier Erzgebirge Aue in March 2017, Tedesco won 13 points from five games to guide them to safety. Schalke took a chance on him last summer and under his guidance the Gelsenkirchen club have qualified for the Champions League after a three-year absence. Regarded as a tactically flexible coach, one highlight of a superb debut season was a comeback from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the derby against Borussia Dortmund. Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta) Gasperini lasted only five games as Inter Milan manager in 2011, but has bounced back since then Credit: Getty Images Lasted only five games at Inter in 2011, but Gian Piero Gasperini has a warranted reputation for getting a lot from a little. He guided Genoa to Europe in 2009 but it is his work at Atalanta over the past few seasons that has really caught the eye. Benefiting from one of Italy's most productive academies, Giasperini's Atlanta recovered from losing four of their first five league games to finish fourth in 2016-17, achieving European qualification for the first time in 26-years. The 58-year-old coach ripped up the tactical rule-book, using a Dutch-style 3-4-3 that left opponents dumbfounded. Despite losing Franck Kessie to Milan last summer and other key players, Atalanta continued to punch above their weight with a seventh-placed finish. Giasperini is not the youthful up-and-comer some clubs crave, but any club looking to maximise meagre resources could do far worse. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) Giovanni van Bronckhorst was loosely linked with Arsenal before Unai Emery's appointment Credit: Getty Images The former Arsenal player received a ringing endorsement from Arsene Wenger last year and a glance at his record makes it easy to see why. Guided Feyenoord to the Dutch Cup in his first season before winning the Eredivisie in his second, coaxing the best out of a squad with a mix of talented youngsters and wise old heads such as Dirk Kuyt. Last season proved more challenging, but Feyenoord did rally late, winning their last eight league matches to finish fourth and claimed another cup. Ralph Hasenhüttl (free agent) Hasenhüttl stepped down as RB Leipzig head coach at the end of last season after two seasons in charge. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have made both made new appointments this summer, so Hasenhüttl must consider his next move. The Austrian guided the controversial Bundesliga newcomers to second-place and Champions League qualification with a brand of high-octane, progressive football. He may have fallen out with RB Leipzig's hierarchy over a new contract, but Hasenhüttl looks ideally suited to any club with a technical director-head coach set-up. Whether he can find a club that can unearth talent like Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg is another matter. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) Eddie Howe's name has not been mentioned for recent managerial vacancies Credit: Reuters Not an unfamiliar name, but one who seems to be drifting down clubs' lists. In the summer of 2016 there were reports that he was well thought of by Arsenal's hierarchy, and he was also linked with Everton - the club he supported as a boy. He was frequently spoken of as a potential England manager too. Several managerial vacancies have opened up in the last few months, and Howe does not seem to have been considered for any of them. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation in the intervening period, quite the opposite in fact, so his diminished status is curious. Bournemouth's last two league finishes are ninth and 12th - a commendable achievement. His record in the transfer market is patchy however, and there is also a risk that becomes institutionalised at Bournemouth. Familiarity breeds contempt. Tite (Brazil) Tite has been praised for his man-management of Neymar Credit: Reuters The quality of manager in international football is desperately low, but Brazil's Tite is one who looks capable of stepping into a top club job. Has galvanised a group of players rocked by a 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation on home soil at the hands of Germany. Following the oppressive Dunga, Tite has put an arm round a few of his charges and the result is possibly the best Brazil team since 2002. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho will lead the charge in Russia, with Roberto Firmino and Willian in reserve, supported by a likely midfield three of Casemiro, Paulinho and Rene Augusto. Dani Alves' injury is a blow, leaving the right-back berth free in a back four otherwise compromised of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Marcelo. In goal, they can choose between Alisson and Ederson. Not bad. Neil Harris (Millwall) Lee Johnson, Dean Smith and Paul Cook are all promising Championship managers, but Neil Harris has done a remarkable job at the Den against all the odds. Building upon the 'siege mentality' that is part of Millwall's essential character, and thanks in no small part to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison's strike partnership, Harris has taken the London club from League One to the brink of the play-offs. It would take a hell of an offer to tempt Harris away from Millwall however, where he enjoys legendary status. Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate) Another disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Gallardo could be the next successful Argentinian coaching export. Appointed River Plate manager in 2014, he has tucked away the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and the Recopa already. Gallardo has a reputation as an innovator too, becoming the first coach in Argentina's first division to appoint a female assistant as well as working with a neuroscientist to hone players' mental approach. Could be on Atletico Madrid's shortlist should Diego Simeone ever depart. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) There have been some recent whispers that Chelsea are interested in Slavisa Jokanovic Credit: PA There have already been whispers of Chelsea's interest, but if Fulham win their play-off final against Aston Villa and thrive in the Premier League then Jokanovic will be a wanted man. Fulham were without a doubt the best footballing side in the Championship last season, but Jokanovic also possesses an inner-steel that ensures discipline is not lost in all the pretty passing patterns. For clubs lost in the Premier League mid-table morass, Jokanovic would instill a style of play and an identity for fans to believe in. Rui Vitoria (Benfica) Has lifted two Portuguese championships and two cups in three seasons at Benfica, and at 48 Vitoria must surely be considering a fresh challenge. Losing out on the championship to Porto this season also has Vitoria under pressure Benfica are a dominant force, but a win percentage of 70% after 152 matches in charge remains impressive. Jose Mourinho's former assistant Rui Faria has been linked to the job, so that could free Vitoria to seek pastures new.
Alistair Mackintosh, Fulham’s chief executive, was speaking at a supporters’ meeting this week when he recalled an evening game, earlier in the season, in which Ryan Sessegnon had been selected by doping control to provide a sample after the match had finished. This can be a lengthy process, and by the time the 17-year-old had returned to the changing room, the entire team – including the kit man – had left for the night. So, Mackintosh said, the boy wonder of English football simply stuffed his muddy kit into his bag, fired up the washing machine at home and then returned it, fully ironed, the following day. It may not seem the most revelatory tale, but it does add further weight to a belief held within the club that it is Sessegnon’s impeccable attitude, as much as anything, that has allowed him to become one of the nation’s most exciting prospects. Ask Tom Cairney, for example, what makes Sessegnon so special, and there is an immediate reply. “It’s his mentality,” the Fulham captain says. “It’s a one-off.” Tim Ream, the Fulham centre-back, likens Sessegnon to a “35-year-old veteran”, while Slavisa Jokanovic, his manager, makes a deliberate effort to describe him as a “man” rather than a boy. Technically, Sessegnon has only just become a man. He turned 18 last week, four days after starring in the 2-0 victory over Derby County that sent Fulham to the Championship play-off final. Ryan (left) plays alongside his twin brother Steven (right) at Fulham Credit: PA Saturday’s meeting with Aston Villa will be his first game as an adult, yet he has played more matches and scored more goals this season than any of his Fulham team-mates. “He’s our top goalscorer,” as Cairney puts it, “and he’s just done his GCSEs.” Sessegnon has been liberated by a move to the left wing this season, and has played with such freedom that it has at times looked as if he was back in the cage in Roehampton, south-west London, where his footballing story begins. “We used to play from morning until night,” he told The Daily Telegraph this year. “There were times where you couldn’t even see the street lights, so you had to picture who was on your team.” Fulham were the local team and Sessegnon, with his twin brother Steven, was signed in 2008, shortly after his eighth birthday. Football is in the Sessegnon blood: of four brothers, three are footballers. The son of the oldest brother, meanwhile, has recently joined Fulham’s academy. A distant cousin is Stephane Sessegnon, the former Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion forward. As they began to progress through Fulham’s ranks, Ryan and Steven soon joined Coombe Boys’ School in New Malden, where an agreement with the club allows academy players some additional time for training. Ryan Sessegnon exclusive interview Ryan, whom Ream describes as “the quietest kid I have ever met”, was the more introverted twin at school, but was always diligent. “Ryan was quiet,” says Gary Rogers, the deputy headteacher at the school, where a picture of Sessegnon hangs at the main reception. “He always did his homework and he was down to earth. He had his head screwed on.” Naturally, the twins starred for the school team, winning the PlayStation Schools’ Cup in 2015, when Ryan scored twice in the final. Less than a year later, before he had turned 16, he was training with Fulham’s senior squad. He made his debut in August 2016, at the start of a season in which he still took the bus home from matches, and within a few weeks had become the first player born in the 2000s to score in the Championship. The hope in the Sessegnon household was that Ryan and Steven would break into the first team together, but Steven’s development was hampered by a knee injury that eventually required two operations. How Sessegnon compares in the Championship this year Steven, a more flamboyant player than Ryan, is now beginning to tread his own path, though, and was part of the England Under-17 side which won the World Cup last year, a few months after Ryan had won the European Championships with England Under-19s. As can be seen by his social media feed, Steven is endlessly supportive of his twin, and the pair live at home together, with their mother, Brigitte. Ryan has yet to pass his driving test, but the family home is close enough for them to walk to the training ground. Steven made his Fulham debut earlier this season, but is unlikely to feature this weekend in a match that has been dubbed “the richest game in football”. Brigitte, who prefers to watch games from home, will not be at Wembley either but there will no doubt be a feeling within the family that promotion would be a fitting reward for Ryan, who already appears well prepared for the rigours of top-flight football. How Sessegnon has improved since his debut season Tottenham Hotspur made an offer last year, while Manchester United are interested. Sessegnon was recently named the Championship Player of the Season and is one of only five players to appear in all 48 League games this season, including play-offs. He is strong, he is fast and, with 16 goals in this campaign, he is clinical. Comparisons have been made with Gareth Bale, another who started as a left-back, but Sessegnon is a different type of player. He relies more on his reading of the game than an ability to burst past players and smash the ball into the top corner, and it is noteworthy that so many of his goals are a result of positioning rather than technique. “I would call him a proper player,” Cairney says. “He’s effective.” The question is how effective he will be in the top division, which is where he will almost certainly end up, with or without Fulham. He has insisted that he wants to play in the Premier League with his boyhood club, but there is a clear expectation that this most grounded of youngsters will soon soar to the game’s highest levels.
Ryan Sessegnon: From quiet pupil to English football's teenage marvel
Alistair Mackintosh, Fulham’s chief executive, was speaking at a supporters’ meeting this week when he recalled an evening game, earlier in the season, in which Ryan Sessegnon had been selected by doping control to provide a sample after the match had finished. This can be a lengthy process, and by the time the 17-year-old had returned to the changing room, the entire team – including the kit man – had left for the night. So, Mackintosh said, the boy wonder of English football simply stuffed his muddy kit into his bag, fired up the washing machine at home and then returned it, fully ironed, the following day. It may not seem the most revelatory tale, but it does add further weight to a belief held within the club that it is Sessegnon’s impeccable attitude, as much as anything, that has allowed him to become one of the nation’s most exciting prospects. Ask Tom Cairney, for example, what makes Sessegnon so special, and there is an immediate reply. “It’s his mentality,” the Fulham captain says. “It’s a one-off.” Tim Ream, the Fulham centre-back, likens Sessegnon to a “35-year-old veteran”, while Slavisa Jokanovic, his manager, makes a deliberate effort to describe him as a “man” rather than a boy. Technically, Sessegnon has only just become a man. He turned 18 last week, four days after starring in the 2-0 victory over Derby County that sent Fulham to the Championship play-off final. Ryan (left) plays alongside his twin brother Steven (right) at Fulham Credit: PA Saturday’s meeting with Aston Villa will be his first game as an adult, yet he has played more matches and scored more goals this season than any of his Fulham team-mates. “He’s our top goalscorer,” as Cairney puts it, “and he’s just done his GCSEs.” Sessegnon has been liberated by a move to the left wing this season, and has played with such freedom that it has at times looked as if he was back in the cage in Roehampton, south-west London, where his footballing story begins. “We used to play from morning until night,” he told The Daily Telegraph this year. “There were times where you couldn’t even see the street lights, so you had to picture who was on your team.” Fulham were the local team and Sessegnon, with his twin brother Steven, was signed in 2008, shortly after his eighth birthday. Football is in the Sessegnon blood: of four brothers, three are footballers. The son of the oldest brother, meanwhile, has recently joined Fulham’s academy. A distant cousin is Stephane Sessegnon, the former Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion forward. As they began to progress through Fulham’s ranks, Ryan and Steven soon joined Coombe Boys’ School in New Malden, where an agreement with the club allows academy players some additional time for training. Ryan Sessegnon exclusive interview Ryan, whom Ream describes as “the quietest kid I have ever met”, was the more introverted twin at school, but was always diligent. “Ryan was quiet,” says Gary Rogers, the deputy headteacher at the school, where a picture of Sessegnon hangs at the main reception. “He always did his homework and he was down to earth. He had his head screwed on.” Naturally, the twins starred for the school team, winning the PlayStation Schools’ Cup in 2015, when Ryan scored twice in the final. Less than a year later, before he had turned 16, he was training with Fulham’s senior squad. He made his debut in August 2016, at the start of a season in which he still took the bus home from matches, and within a few weeks had become the first player born in the 2000s to score in the Championship. The hope in the Sessegnon household was that Ryan and Steven would break into the first team together, but Steven’s development was hampered by a knee injury that eventually required two operations. How Sessegnon compares in the Championship this year Steven, a more flamboyant player than Ryan, is now beginning to tread his own path, though, and was part of the England Under-17 side which won the World Cup last year, a few months after Ryan had won the European Championships with England Under-19s. As can be seen by his social media feed, Steven is endlessly supportive of his twin, and the pair live at home together, with their mother, Brigitte. Ryan has yet to pass his driving test, but the family home is close enough for them to walk to the training ground. Steven made his Fulham debut earlier this season, but is unlikely to feature this weekend in a match that has been dubbed “the richest game in football”. Brigitte, who prefers to watch games from home, will not be at Wembley either but there will no doubt be a feeling within the family that promotion would be a fitting reward for Ryan, who already appears well prepared for the rigours of top-flight football. How Sessegnon has improved since his debut season Tottenham Hotspur made an offer last year, while Manchester United are interested. Sessegnon was recently named the Championship Player of the Season and is one of only five players to appear in all 48 League games this season, including play-offs. He is strong, he is fast and, with 16 goals in this campaign, he is clinical. Comparisons have been made with Gareth Bale, another who started as a left-back, but Sessegnon is a different type of player. He relies more on his reading of the game than an ability to burst past players and smash the ball into the top corner, and it is noteworthy that so many of his goals are a result of positioning rather than technique. “I would call him a proper player,” Cairney says. “He’s effective.” The question is how effective he will be in the top division, which is where he will almost certainly end up, with or without Fulham. He has insisted that he wants to play in the Premier League with his boyhood club, but there is a clear expectation that this most grounded of youngsters will soon soar to the game’s highest levels.
Alistair Mackintosh, Fulham’s chief executive, was speaking at a supporters’ meeting this week when he recalled an evening game, earlier in the season, in which Ryan Sessegnon had been selected by doping control to provide a sample after the match had finished. This can be a lengthy process, and by the time the 17-year-old had returned to the changing room, the entire team – including the kit man – had left for the night. So, Mackintosh said, the boy wonder of English football simply stuffed his muddy kit into his bag, fired up the washing machine at home and then returned it, fully ironed, the following day. It may not seem the most revelatory tale, but it does add further weight to a belief held within the club that it is Sessegnon’s impeccable attitude, as much as anything, that has allowed him to become one of the nation’s most exciting prospects. Ask Tom Cairney, for example, what makes Sessegnon so special, and there is an immediate reply. “It’s his mentality,” the Fulham captain says. “It’s a one-off.” Tim Ream, the Fulham centre-back, likens Sessegnon to a “35-year-old veteran”, while Slavisa Jokanovic, his manager, makes a deliberate effort to describe him as a “man” rather than a boy. Technically, Sessegnon has only just become a man. He turned 18 last week, four days after starring in the 2-0 victory over Derby County that sent Fulham to the Championship play-off final. Ryan (left) plays alongside his twin brother Steven (right) at Fulham Credit: PA Saturday’s meeting with Aston Villa will be his first game as an adult, yet he has played more matches and scored more goals this season than any of his Fulham team-mates. “He’s our top goalscorer,” as Cairney puts it, “and he’s just done his GCSEs.” Sessegnon has been liberated by a move to the left wing this season, and has played with such freedom that it has at times looked as if he was back in the cage in Roehampton, south-west London, where his footballing story begins. “We used to play from morning until night,” he told The Daily Telegraph this year. “There were times where you couldn’t even see the street lights, so you had to picture who was on your team.” Fulham were the local team and Sessegnon, with his twin brother Steven, was signed in 2008, shortly after his eighth birthday. Football is in the Sessegnon blood: of four brothers, three are footballers. The son of the oldest brother, meanwhile, has recently joined Fulham’s academy. A distant cousin is Stephane Sessegnon, the former Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion forward. As they began to progress through Fulham’s ranks, Ryan and Steven soon joined Coombe Boys’ School in New Malden, where an agreement with the club allows academy players some additional time for training. Ryan Sessegnon exclusive interview Ryan, whom Ream describes as “the quietest kid I have ever met”, was the more introverted twin at school, but was always diligent. “Ryan was quiet,” says Gary Rogers, the deputy headteacher at the school, where a picture of Sessegnon hangs at the main reception. “He always did his homework and he was down to earth. He had his head screwed on.” Naturally, the twins starred for the school team, winning the PlayStation Schools’ Cup in 2015, when Ryan scored twice in the final. Less than a year later, before he had turned 16, he was training with Fulham’s senior squad. He made his debut in August 2016, at the start of a season in which he still took the bus home from matches, and within a few weeks had become the first player born in the 2000s to score in the Championship. The hope in the Sessegnon household was that Ryan and Steven would break into the first team together, but Steven’s development was hampered by a knee injury that eventually required two operations. How Sessegnon compares in the Championship this year Steven, a more flamboyant player than Ryan, is now beginning to tread his own path, though, and was part of the England Under-17 side which won the World Cup last year, a few months after Ryan had won the European Championships with England Under-19s. As can be seen by his social media feed, Steven is endlessly supportive of his twin, and the pair live at home together, with their mother, Brigitte. Ryan has yet to pass his driving test, but the family home is close enough for them to walk to the training ground. Steven made his Fulham debut earlier this season, but is unlikely to feature this weekend in a match that has been dubbed “the richest game in football”. Brigitte, who prefers to watch games from home, will not be at Wembley either but there will no doubt be a feeling within the family that promotion would be a fitting reward for Ryan, who already appears well prepared for the rigours of top-flight football. How Sessegnon has improved since his debut season Tottenham Hotspur made an offer last year, while Manchester United are interested. Sessegnon was recently named the Championship Player of the Season and is one of only five players to appear in all 48 League games this season, including play-offs. He is strong, he is fast and, with 16 goals in this campaign, he is clinical. Comparisons have been made with Gareth Bale, another who started as a left-back, but Sessegnon is a different type of player. He relies more on his reading of the game than an ability to burst past players and smash the ball into the top corner, and it is noteworthy that so many of his goals are a result of positioning rather than technique. “I would call him a proper player,” Cairney says. “He’s effective.” The question is how effective he will be in the top division, which is where he will almost certainly end up, with or without Fulham. He has insisted that he wants to play in the Premier League with his boyhood club, but there is a clear expectation that this most grounded of youngsters will soon soar to the game’s highest levels.
Ryan Sessegnon: From quiet pupil to English football's teenage marvel
Alistair Mackintosh, Fulham’s chief executive, was speaking at a supporters’ meeting this week when he recalled an evening game, earlier in the season, in which Ryan Sessegnon had been selected by doping control to provide a sample after the match had finished. This can be a lengthy process, and by the time the 17-year-old had returned to the changing room, the entire team – including the kit man – had left for the night. So, Mackintosh said, the boy wonder of English football simply stuffed his muddy kit into his bag, fired up the washing machine at home and then returned it, fully ironed, the following day. It may not seem the most revelatory tale, but it does add further weight to a belief held within the club that it is Sessegnon’s impeccable attitude, as much as anything, that has allowed him to become one of the nation’s most exciting prospects. Ask Tom Cairney, for example, what makes Sessegnon so special, and there is an immediate reply. “It’s his mentality,” the Fulham captain says. “It’s a one-off.” Tim Ream, the Fulham centre-back, likens Sessegnon to a “35-year-old veteran”, while Slavisa Jokanovic, his manager, makes a deliberate effort to describe him as a “man” rather than a boy. Technically, Sessegnon has only just become a man. He turned 18 last week, four days after starring in the 2-0 victory over Derby County that sent Fulham to the Championship play-off final. Ryan (left) plays alongside his twin brother Steven (right) at Fulham Credit: PA Saturday’s meeting with Aston Villa will be his first game as an adult, yet he has played more matches and scored more goals this season than any of his Fulham team-mates. “He’s our top goalscorer,” as Cairney puts it, “and he’s just done his GCSEs.” Sessegnon has been liberated by a move to the left wing this season, and has played with such freedom that it has at times looked as if he was back in the cage in Roehampton, south-west London, where his footballing story begins. “We used to play from morning until night,” he told The Daily Telegraph this year. “There were times where you couldn’t even see the street lights, so you had to picture who was on your team.” Fulham were the local team and Sessegnon, with his twin brother Steven, was signed in 2008, shortly after his eighth birthday. Football is in the Sessegnon blood: of four brothers, three are footballers. The son of the oldest brother, meanwhile, has recently joined Fulham’s academy. A distant cousin is Stephane Sessegnon, the former Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion forward. As they began to progress through Fulham’s ranks, Ryan and Steven soon joined Coombe Boys’ School in New Malden, where an agreement with the club allows academy players some additional time for training. Ryan Sessegnon exclusive interview Ryan, whom Ream describes as “the quietest kid I have ever met”, was the more introverted twin at school, but was always diligent. “Ryan was quiet,” says Gary Rogers, the deputy headteacher at the school, where a picture of Sessegnon hangs at the main reception. “He always did his homework and he was down to earth. He had his head screwed on.” Naturally, the twins starred for the school team, winning the PlayStation Schools’ Cup in 2015, when Ryan scored twice in the final. Less than a year later, before he had turned 16, he was training with Fulham’s senior squad. He made his debut in August 2016, at the start of a season in which he still took the bus home from matches, and within a few weeks had become the first player born in the 2000s to score in the Championship. The hope in the Sessegnon household was that Ryan and Steven would break into the first team together, but Steven’s development was hampered by a knee injury that eventually required two operations. How Sessegnon compares in the Championship this year Steven, a more flamboyant player than Ryan, is now beginning to tread his own path, though, and was part of the England Under-17 side which won the World Cup last year, a few months after Ryan had won the European Championships with England Under-19s. As can be seen by his social media feed, Steven is endlessly supportive of his twin, and the pair live at home together, with their mother, Brigitte. Ryan has yet to pass his driving test, but the family home is close enough for them to walk to the training ground. Steven made his Fulham debut earlier this season, but is unlikely to feature this weekend in a match that has been dubbed “the richest game in football”. Brigitte, who prefers to watch games from home, will not be at Wembley either but there will no doubt be a feeling within the family that promotion would be a fitting reward for Ryan, who already appears well prepared for the rigours of top-flight football. How Sessegnon has improved since his debut season Tottenham Hotspur made an offer last year, while Manchester United are interested. Sessegnon was recently named the Championship Player of the Season and is one of only five players to appear in all 48 League games this season, including play-offs. He is strong, he is fast and, with 16 goals in this campaign, he is clinical. Comparisons have been made with Gareth Bale, another who started as a left-back, but Sessegnon is a different type of player. He relies more on his reading of the game than an ability to burst past players and smash the ball into the top corner, and it is noteworthy that so many of his goals are a result of positioning rather than technique. “I would call him a proper player,” Cairney says. “He’s effective.” The question is how effective he will be in the top division, which is where he will almost certainly end up, with or without Fulham. He has insisted that he wants to play in the Premier League with his boyhood club, but there is a clear expectation that this most grounded of youngsters will soon soar to the game’s highest levels.
Fabian Delph says he left Aston Villa in 2015 because important signings were not made.
Fabian Delph cleared to fly home during World Cup for birth of third child
Fabian Delph says he left Aston Villa in 2015 because important signings were not made.
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
It sounds like one of those dreaded pub quiz questions: which player turned out for two clubs relegated and promoted in the same season? Lewis Grabban is hoping his name is added to the unique list of players to experience such a capricious campaign, as he prepares for Saturday’s Championship play-off final. Grabban will spearhead Aston Villa’s attack in the £170million shootout at Wembley, five months after playing on loan at crisis-stricken Sunderland. The 30-year-old striker scored 12 goals in 20 games for Chris Coleman’s strugglers, before he was recalled by parent club Bournemouth in January and then sent out to Villa for the remainder of the season. Sunderland’s relegation was “inevitable”, admits Grabban, as the club suffered the nightmare scenario of dropping into the third tier for the first time since 1987. Grabban had a fairly successful stint at Sunderland Credit: Getty images But he is now on the verge of helping guide Villa back to the Premier League after a rollercoaster 12 months he can never have envisaged. “It’s been a weird season and hopefully the relegation won’t go down too much on my record,” he said. “I don’t think anyone thought at the beginning of the season that Sunderland could do that. But everyone expected it after a certain amount of time and it didn’t look like anything was going to change. “They’re not the first big club [to go down] and won’t be the last. Leadership from the top of the club is important, so is investment. “Now I’m at Villa and one of the reasons I came here was to try and get promotion. If we do that, it will be a successful season.” Grabban has scored the goals to power Villa's promotion push Credit: PA Grabban has delivered the anticipated impact at Villa after signing on deadline day, scoring eight goals, and his experience has been vital during the final run-in. With Villa now possessing so many experienced campaigners, such as former England captain John Terry, Mile Jedinak and Robert Snodgrass, Bruce’s squad finally appears capable of coping with such high expectation. Grabban is one player fully in tune with the vagaries of the play-off rollercoaster: Saturday’s showdown with Fulham is the fifth play-off final of his career. Last season he was part of the Reading team which lost to David Wagner’s Huddersfield on penalties. “When you lose, you just want to go home, get out of the stadium as quickly as possible,” he said. “Winning with Norwich [against Middlesbrough in 2015] was the best day of my career. It’s a bigger achievement going through the play-offs than automatic. “You do the season, then you’ve got the pressure of three games to get through. We’ve got through the semi-final but the job is nowhere near done yet.”
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
It sounds like one of those dreaded pub quiz questions: which player turned out for two clubs relegated and promoted in the same season? Lewis Grabban is hoping his name is added to the unique list of players to experience such a capricious campaign, as he prepares for Saturday’s Championship play-off final. Grabban will spearhead Aston Villa’s attack in the £170million shootout at Wembley, five months after playing on loan at crisis-stricken Sunderland. The 30-year-old striker scored 12 goals in 20 games for Chris Coleman’s strugglers, before he was recalled by parent club Bournemouth in January and then sent out to Villa for the remainder of the season. Sunderland’s relegation was “inevitable”, admits Grabban, as the club suffered the nightmare scenario of dropping into the third tier for the first time since 1987. Grabban had a fairly successful stint at Sunderland Credit: Getty images But he is now on the verge of helping guide Villa back to the Premier League after a rollercoaster 12 months he can never have envisaged. “It’s been a weird season and hopefully the relegation won’t go down too much on my record,” he said. “I don’t think anyone thought at the beginning of the season that Sunderland could do that. But everyone expected it after a certain amount of time and it didn’t look like anything was going to change. “They’re not the first big club [to go down] and won’t be the last. Leadership from the top of the club is important, so is investment. “Now I’m at Villa and one of the reasons I came here was to try and get promotion. If we do that, it will be a successful season.” Grabban has scored the goals to power Villa's promotion push Credit: PA Grabban has delivered the anticipated impact at Villa after signing on deadline day, scoring eight goals, and his experience has been vital during the final run-in. With Villa now possessing so many experienced campaigners, such as former England captain John Terry, Mile Jedinak and Robert Snodgrass, Bruce’s squad finally appears capable of coping with such high expectation. Grabban is one player fully in tune with the vagaries of the play-off rollercoaster: Saturday’s showdown with Fulham is the fifth play-off final of his career. Last season he was part of the Reading team which lost to David Wagner’s Huddersfield on penalties. “When you lose, you just want to go home, get out of the stadium as quickly as possible,” he said. “Winning with Norwich [against Middlesbrough in 2015] was the best day of my career. It’s a bigger achievement going through the play-offs than automatic. “You do the season, then you’ve got the pressure of three games to get through. We’ve got through the semi-final but the job is nowhere near done yet.”
It sounds like one of those dreaded pub quiz questions: which player turned out for two clubs relegated and promoted in the same season? Lewis Grabban is hoping his name is added to the unique list of players to experience such a capricious campaign, as he prepares for Saturday’s Championship play-off final. Grabban will spearhead Aston Villa’s attack in the £170million shootout at Wembley, five months after playing on loan at crisis-stricken Sunderland. The 30-year-old striker scored 12 goals in 20 games for Chris Coleman’s strugglers, before he was recalled by parent club Bournemouth in January and then sent out to Villa for the remainder of the season. Sunderland’s relegation was “inevitable”, admits Grabban, as the club suffered the nightmare scenario of dropping into the third tier for the first time since 1987. Grabban had a fairly successful stint at Sunderland Credit: Getty images But he is now on the verge of helping guide Villa back to the Premier League after a rollercoaster 12 months he can never have envisaged. “It’s been a weird season and hopefully the relegation won’t go down too much on my record,” he said. “I don’t think anyone thought at the beginning of the season that Sunderland could do that. But everyone expected it after a certain amount of time and it didn’t look like anything was going to change. “They’re not the first big club [to go down] and won’t be the last. Leadership from the top of the club is important, so is investment. “Now I’m at Villa and one of the reasons I came here was to try and get promotion. If we do that, it will be a successful season.” Grabban has scored the goals to power Villa's promotion push Credit: PA Grabban has delivered the anticipated impact at Villa after signing on deadline day, scoring eight goals, and his experience has been vital during the final run-in. With Villa now possessing so many experienced campaigners, such as former England captain John Terry, Mile Jedinak and Robert Snodgrass, Bruce’s squad finally appears capable of coping with such high expectation. Grabban is one player fully in tune with the vagaries of the play-off rollercoaster: Saturday’s showdown with Fulham is the fifth play-off final of his career. Last season he was part of the Reading team which lost to David Wagner’s Huddersfield on penalties. “When you lose, you just want to go home, get out of the stadium as quickly as possible,” he said. “Winning with Norwich [against Middlesbrough in 2015] was the best day of my career. It’s a bigger achievement going through the play-offs than automatic. “You do the season, then you’ve got the pressure of three games to get through. We’ve got through the semi-final but the job is nowhere near done yet.”
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
It sounds like one of those dreaded pub quiz questions: which player turned out for two clubs relegated and promoted in the same season? Lewis Grabban is hoping his name is added to the unique list of players to experience such a capricious campaign, as he prepares for Saturday’s Championship play-off final. Grabban will spearhead Aston Villa’s attack in the £170million shootout at Wembley, five months after playing on loan at crisis-stricken Sunderland. The 30-year-old striker scored 12 goals in 20 games for Chris Coleman’s strugglers, before he was recalled by parent club Bournemouth in January and then sent out to Villa for the remainder of the season. Sunderland’s relegation was “inevitable”, admits Grabban, as the club suffered the nightmare scenario of dropping into the third tier for the first time since 1987. Grabban had a fairly successful stint at Sunderland Credit: Getty images But he is now on the verge of helping guide Villa back to the Premier League after a rollercoaster 12 months he can never have envisaged. “It’s been a weird season and hopefully the relegation won’t go down too much on my record,” he said. “I don’t think anyone thought at the beginning of the season that Sunderland could do that. But everyone expected it after a certain amount of time and it didn’t look like anything was going to change. “They’re not the first big club [to go down] and won’t be the last. Leadership from the top of the club is important, so is investment. “Now I’m at Villa and one of the reasons I came here was to try and get promotion. If we do that, it will be a successful season.” Grabban has scored the goals to power Villa's promotion push Credit: PA Grabban has delivered the anticipated impact at Villa after signing on deadline day, scoring eight goals, and his experience has been vital during the final run-in. With Villa now possessing so many experienced campaigners, such as former England captain John Terry, Mile Jedinak and Robert Snodgrass, Bruce’s squad finally appears capable of coping with such high expectation. Grabban is one player fully in tune with the vagaries of the play-off rollercoaster: Saturday’s showdown with Fulham is the fifth play-off final of his career. Last season he was part of the Reading team which lost to David Wagner’s Huddersfield on penalties. “When you lose, you just want to go home, get out of the stadium as quickly as possible,” he said. “Winning with Norwich [against Middlesbrough in 2015] was the best day of my career. It’s a bigger achievement going through the play-offs than automatic. “You do the season, then you’ve got the pressure of three games to get through. We’ve got through the semi-final but the job is nowhere near done yet.”
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
Duke of Cambridge admits Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of crunch final
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
Duke of Cambridge admits Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of crunch final
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
Duke of Cambridge admits Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of crunch final
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
Duke of Cambridge admits Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of crunch final
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
FILE PHOTO: Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa's John Terry celebrates after the match. Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
FILE PHOTO: Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa's John Terry celebrates after the match. Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes/File Photo
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa's John Terry celebrates after the match Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa's John Terry celebrates after the match Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
How much is the Championship play-off final REALLY worth to the winners?
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
How much is the Championship play-off final REALLY worth to the winners?
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
How much is the Championship play-off final REALLY worth to the winners?
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
How much is the Championship play-off final REALLY worth to the winners?
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry has started 32 league games for Aston Villa this season.
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry has started 32 league games for Aston Villa this season.
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has insisted he has not thought about his future beyond Saturday’s Championship play-off final, despite speculation that a string of key figures will leave the club if they cannot seal promotion to the Premier League. Jokanovic, who has turned Fulham into one of the Championship’s most attractive sides, has been linked with a move and is likely to be in demand this summer. Speaking ahead of the match against Aston Villa at Wembley, Jokanovic refused to discuss either his future or the prospect of key players leaving. Tom Cairney, Fulham’s captain, warned this month that the club needed to be in the Premier League next season if they wanted to keep the team together. Cairney has been linked with a move to West Ham United, while Ryan Sessegnon and Ryan Fredericks have also been targeted by top-flight clubs. Jokanovic, who has one year remaining on his deal, said: “I have a contract and that’s it. I am not thinking about the future. This game is so huge that I do not know what I am going to do on Sunday morning. “To be honest, I do not care. I am not thinking about this. I am only thinking about the job ahead of us. We want to fight to bring Fulham to the place we believe they belong.” The 49-year-old added that he believed Fulham could “dominate” Steve Bruce’s Villa with their high-intensity, possession-based style of football. Tom Cairney wants to be playing in the Premier League Credit: pa Fulham were defeated 2-1 at Villa Park in October, but won 2-0 when the sides met again in February. Jokanovic said his players would attempt to target Villa’s John Terry, the 37-year-old centre-back who played alongside Jokanovic at Chelsea from 2000 to 2002. “We are going to try to put against him some fast and some stronger players,” said Jokanovic. “I hope he will make some mistakes. This is the kind of impact I expect from his side. All of us can make mistakes. I expect some mistakes from his side and that’s it.” In Terry and James Chester, his defensive partner, Villa boast an experienced back-line, as well as former Premier League players Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Robert Snodgrass and Alan Hutton. Jokanovic, however, believes his younger side, who enjoyed a 23-game unbeaten run during the regular season, will have the required energy to overcome the more wily Villa, who finished fourth in the Championship, one place behind Fulham. “When you talk about experience, you are talking about the past,” Jokanovic said. “Terry is a fantastic player, Chester is a fantastic player. They have experience playing in this stadium. But probably they cannot be in their best level right now. “We are the youngest team, the team with more energy. We believe in our style. We believe we can dominate the situation. Experience in life is important but it is not everything.”
Slavisa Jokanovic unfazed by talk of Fulham players leaving if they do not get promoted
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has insisted he has not thought about his future beyond Saturday’s Championship play-off final, despite speculation that a string of key figures will leave the club if they cannot seal promotion to the Premier League. Jokanovic, who has turned Fulham into one of the Championship’s most attractive sides, has been linked with a move and is likely to be in demand this summer. Speaking ahead of the match against Aston Villa at Wembley, Jokanovic refused to discuss either his future or the prospect of key players leaving. Tom Cairney, Fulham’s captain, warned this month that the club needed to be in the Premier League next season if they wanted to keep the team together. Cairney has been linked with a move to West Ham United, while Ryan Sessegnon and Ryan Fredericks have also been targeted by top-flight clubs. Jokanovic, who has one year remaining on his deal, said: “I have a contract and that’s it. I am not thinking about the future. This game is so huge that I do not know what I am going to do on Sunday morning. “To be honest, I do not care. I am not thinking about this. I am only thinking about the job ahead of us. We want to fight to bring Fulham to the place we believe they belong.” The 49-year-old added that he believed Fulham could “dominate” Steve Bruce’s Villa with their high-intensity, possession-based style of football. Tom Cairney wants to be playing in the Premier League Credit: pa Fulham were defeated 2-1 at Villa Park in October, but won 2-0 when the sides met again in February. Jokanovic said his players would attempt to target Villa’s John Terry, the 37-year-old centre-back who played alongside Jokanovic at Chelsea from 2000 to 2002. “We are going to try to put against him some fast and some stronger players,” said Jokanovic. “I hope he will make some mistakes. This is the kind of impact I expect from his side. All of us can make mistakes. I expect some mistakes from his side and that’s it.” In Terry and James Chester, his defensive partner, Villa boast an experienced back-line, as well as former Premier League players Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Robert Snodgrass and Alan Hutton. Jokanovic, however, believes his younger side, who enjoyed a 23-game unbeaten run during the regular season, will have the required energy to overcome the more wily Villa, who finished fourth in the Championship, one place behind Fulham. “When you talk about experience, you are talking about the past,” Jokanovic said. “Terry is a fantastic player, Chester is a fantastic player. They have experience playing in this stadium. But probably they cannot be in their best level right now. “We are the youngest team, the team with more energy. We believe in our style. We believe we can dominate the situation. Experience in life is important but it is not everything.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has insisted he has not thought about his future beyond Saturday’s Championship play-off final, despite speculation that a string of key figures will leave the club if they cannot seal promotion to the Premier League. Jokanovic, who has turned Fulham into one of the Championship’s most attractive sides, has been linked with a move and is likely to be in demand this summer. Speaking ahead of the match against Aston Villa at Wembley, Jokanovic refused to discuss either his future or the prospect of key players leaving. Tom Cairney, Fulham’s captain, warned this month that the club needed to be in the Premier League next season if they wanted to keep the team together. Cairney has been linked with a move to West Ham United, while Ryan Sessegnon and Ryan Fredericks have also been targeted by top-flight clubs. Jokanovic, who has one year remaining on his deal, said: “I have a contract and that’s it. I am not thinking about the future. This game is so huge that I do not know what I am going to do on Sunday morning. “To be honest, I do not care. I am not thinking about this. I am only thinking about the job ahead of us. We want to fight to bring Fulham to the place we believe they belong.” The 49-year-old added that he believed Fulham could “dominate” Steve Bruce’s Villa with their high-intensity, possession-based style of football. Tom Cairney wants to be playing in the Premier League Credit: pa Fulham were defeated 2-1 at Villa Park in October, but won 2-0 when the sides met again in February. Jokanovic said his players would attempt to target Villa’s John Terry, the 37-year-old centre-back who played alongside Jokanovic at Chelsea from 2000 to 2002. “We are going to try to put against him some fast and some stronger players,” said Jokanovic. “I hope he will make some mistakes. This is the kind of impact I expect from his side. All of us can make mistakes. I expect some mistakes from his side and that’s it.” In Terry and James Chester, his defensive partner, Villa boast an experienced back-line, as well as former Premier League players Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Robert Snodgrass and Alan Hutton. Jokanovic, however, believes his younger side, who enjoyed a 23-game unbeaten run during the regular season, will have the required energy to overcome the more wily Villa, who finished fourth in the Championship, one place behind Fulham. “When you talk about experience, you are talking about the past,” Jokanovic said. “Terry is a fantastic player, Chester is a fantastic player. They have experience playing in this stadium. But probably they cannot be in their best level right now. “We are the youngest team, the team with more energy. We believe in our style. We believe we can dominate the situation. Experience in life is important but it is not everything.”
Slavisa Jokanovic unfazed by talk of Fulham players leaving if they do not get promoted
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has insisted he has not thought about his future beyond Saturday’s Championship play-off final, despite speculation that a string of key figures will leave the club if they cannot seal promotion to the Premier League. Jokanovic, who has turned Fulham into one of the Championship’s most attractive sides, has been linked with a move and is likely to be in demand this summer. Speaking ahead of the match against Aston Villa at Wembley, Jokanovic refused to discuss either his future or the prospect of key players leaving. Tom Cairney, Fulham’s captain, warned this month that the club needed to be in the Premier League next season if they wanted to keep the team together. Cairney has been linked with a move to West Ham United, while Ryan Sessegnon and Ryan Fredericks have also been targeted by top-flight clubs. Jokanovic, who has one year remaining on his deal, said: “I have a contract and that’s it. I am not thinking about the future. This game is so huge that I do not know what I am going to do on Sunday morning. “To be honest, I do not care. I am not thinking about this. I am only thinking about the job ahead of us. We want to fight to bring Fulham to the place we believe they belong.” The 49-year-old added that he believed Fulham could “dominate” Steve Bruce’s Villa with their high-intensity, possession-based style of football. Tom Cairney wants to be playing in the Premier League Credit: pa Fulham were defeated 2-1 at Villa Park in October, but won 2-0 when the sides met again in February. Jokanovic said his players would attempt to target Villa’s John Terry, the 37-year-old centre-back who played alongside Jokanovic at Chelsea from 2000 to 2002. “We are going to try to put against him some fast and some stronger players,” said Jokanovic. “I hope he will make some mistakes. This is the kind of impact I expect from his side. All of us can make mistakes. I expect some mistakes from his side and that’s it.” In Terry and James Chester, his defensive partner, Villa boast an experienced back-line, as well as former Premier League players Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Robert Snodgrass and Alan Hutton. Jokanovic, however, believes his younger side, who enjoyed a 23-game unbeaten run during the regular season, will have the required energy to overcome the more wily Villa, who finished fourth in the Championship, one place behind Fulham. “When you talk about experience, you are talking about the past,” Jokanovic said. “Terry is a fantastic player, Chester is a fantastic player. They have experience playing in this stadium. But probably they cannot be in their best level right now. “We are the youngest team, the team with more energy. We believe in our style. We believe we can dominate the situation. Experience in life is important but it is not everything.”
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Championship play-off final preview: Aston Villa v Fulham
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Championship play-off final preview: Aston Villa v Fulham
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Championship play-off final preview: Aston Villa v Fulham
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Championship play-off final preview: Aston Villa v Fulham
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Terry will make the difference... in Fulham's favour! - Jokanovic
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Terry will make the difference... in Fulham's favour! - Jokanovic
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Terry will make the difference... in Fulham's favour! - Jokanovic
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Championship - Fulham vs Aston Villa - Craven Cottage, London, Britain - February 17, 2018 Aston Villa's Robert Snodgrass in action with Fulham's Floyd Ayite Action Images/Paul Childs
Championship - Fulham vs Aston Villa
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Championship - Fulham vs Aston Villa - Craven Cottage, London, Britain - February 17, 2018 Aston Villa's Robert Snodgrass in action with Fulham's Floyd Ayite Action Images/Paul Childs
Aston Villa vs Fulham: Championship Play-Off Final 2018 prediction, preview, betting tips, odds, tickets, TV channel, live streaming online, start time, team news, line-ups, head to head
Aston Villa vs Fulham: Championship Play-Off Final 2018 prediction, preview, betting tips, odds, tickets, TV channel, live streaming online, start time, team news, line-ups, head to head
Aston Villa vs Fulham: Championship Play-Off Final 2018 prediction, preview, betting tips, odds, tickets, TV channel, live streaming online, start time, team news, line-ups, head to head
​Aston Villa's Jack Grealish has made the incredible claim that an injury he suffered before the start of the 2017/18 campaign almost caused him to lose his life. ​ The Midlands club were taking on ​Watford in a pre-season friendly match, and the 22-year-old ended up hospitalised after a fairly innocuous challenge from Tom Cleverley. He revealed, as quoted by the ​Mirror: "I took a kick to the kidney and it split in two places. It was pouring with blood, internally, for about five hours. ​...
Villa Star Jack Grealish Reveals He 'Almost Died' From Freak Injury Sustained Earlier This Season
​Aston Villa's Jack Grealish has made the incredible claim that an injury he suffered before the start of the 2017/18 campaign almost caused him to lose his life. ​ The Midlands club were taking on ​Watford in a pre-season friendly match, and the 22-year-old ended up hospitalised after a fairly innocuous challenge from Tom Cleverley. He revealed, as quoted by the ​Mirror: "I took a kick to the kidney and it split in two places. It was pouring with blood, internally, for about five hours. ​...
​Aston Villa's Jack Grealish has made the incredible claim that an injury he suffered before the start of the 2017/18 campaign almost caused him to lose his life. ​ The Midlands club were taking on ​Watford in a pre-season friendly match, and the 22-year-old ended up hospitalised after a fairly innocuous challenge from Tom Cleverley. He revealed, as quoted by the ​Mirror: "I took a kick to the kidney and it split in two places. It was pouring with blood, internally, for about five hours. ​...
Villa Star Jack Grealish Reveals He 'Almost Died' From Freak Injury Sustained Earlier This Season
​Aston Villa's Jack Grealish has made the incredible claim that an injury he suffered before the start of the 2017/18 campaign almost caused him to lose his life. ​ The Midlands club were taking on ​Watford in a pre-season friendly match, and the 22-year-old ended up hospitalised after a fairly innocuous challenge from Tom Cleverley. He revealed, as quoted by the ​Mirror: "I took a kick to the kidney and it split in two places. It was pouring with blood, internally, for about five hours. ​...
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa have invited the Duke of Cambridge to Wembley as they bid for royal backing in their £170 million shootout with Fulham. Prince William, an Aston Villa supporter, has been asked to attend Saturday’s Championship play-off final and is expected to respond in the next 48 hours. The invite was made by Keith Wyness, Villa’s chief executive, and the club are hopeful the future king will be at the national stadium alongside owner Dr Tony Xia. William was the guest of honour at Villa’s league game against Cardiff in April, sitting with former striker John Carew, and watched Jack Grealish score a spectacular winner. He could now attend his second game of the season, at Wembley, as Villa attempt to reach the Premier League after a two-year exile. Three years ago, before Villa’s FA Cup final against Arsenal – which they lost 4-0 under Tim Sherwood – William revealed the reasons behind his allegiance. Prince Williams is a proud Aston Villa supporter Credit: pa “A long time ago at school I got into football big-time. I was looking around for clubs. All my friends at school were either Man United or Chelsea fans and I didn’t want to follow the run-of-the-mill teams,” he said. “I wanted to have a team that was more mid-table that could give me more emotional rollercoaster moments.” Grealish is expected to play a big role having been hugely influential this season, fuelling hopes of a future England call-up. But he admits he feared for his career after a freak injury last year. The 22-year-old suffered a severely damaged kidney after an accidental collision with Watford’s Tom Cleverley during a pre-season game in July. Jack Grealish has been influential this season Credit: getty images “The doctor said he’d never seen an injury like it before – the only comparison he could make was racing and being kicked by a horse. The pain was unreal, I couldn’t sleep, walk, or anything,” he said. “I didn’t realise how bad it was and at one point I even feared I wouldn’t play again. “I was expecting to be back for the next week but the doctor said no chance - it was three to four months. The timing was awful. I know Clevs [Cleverley] from Villa and he couldn’t believe it. “It was such an innocuous incident and he was messaging me for days, feeling really bad. It was a total accident but something I’ll never forget. “To miss so much of the season was a nightmare, especially when the gaffer had been building me up so much over the summer. It just made me more determined to make an impact when I came back and, fortunately, I think I've done that.”
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa have invited the Duke of Cambridge to Wembley as they bid for royal backing in their £170 million shootout with Fulham. Prince William, an Aston Villa supporter, has been asked to attend Saturday’s Championship play-off final and is expected to respond in the next 48 hours. The invite was made by Keith Wyness, Villa’s chief executive, and the club are hopeful the future king will be at the national stadium alongside owner Dr Tony Xia. William was the guest of honour at Villa’s league game against Cardiff in April, sitting with former striker John Carew, and watched Jack Grealish score a spectacular winner. He could now attend his second game of the season, at Wembley, as Villa attempt to reach the Premier League after a two-year exile. Three years ago, before Villa’s FA Cup final against Arsenal – which they lost 4-0 under Tim Sherwood – William revealed the reasons behind his allegiance. Prince Williams is a proud Aston Villa supporter Credit: pa “A long time ago at school I got into football big-time. I was looking around for clubs. All my friends at school were either Man United or Chelsea fans and I didn’t want to follow the run-of-the-mill teams,” he said. “I wanted to have a team that was more mid-table that could give me more emotional rollercoaster moments.” Grealish is expected to play a big role having been hugely influential this season, fuelling hopes of a future England call-up. But he admits he feared for his career after a freak injury last year. The 22-year-old suffered a severely damaged kidney after an accidental collision with Watford’s Tom Cleverley during a pre-season game in July. Jack Grealish has been influential this season Credit: getty images “The doctor said he’d never seen an injury like it before – the only comparison he could make was racing and being kicked by a horse. The pain was unreal, I couldn’t sleep, walk, or anything,” he said. “I didn’t realise how bad it was and at one point I even feared I wouldn’t play again. “I was expecting to be back for the next week but the doctor said no chance - it was three to four months. The timing was awful. I know Clevs [Cleverley] from Villa and he couldn’t believe it. “It was such an innocuous incident and he was messaging me for days, feeling really bad. It was a total accident but something I’ll never forget. “To miss so much of the season was a nightmare, especially when the gaffer had been building me up so much over the summer. It just made me more determined to make an impact when I came back and, fortunately, I think I've done that.”

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