Aston Villa

Aston Villa slideshow

Nottingham Forest manager Aitor Karanka targets Chelsea forward Charly Musonda

Aitor Karanka, the new Nottingham Forest manager, has launched an ambitious bid for Chelsea forward Charly Musonda. Karanka wants to sign Musonda on loan for the remainder of the season after the 21-year-old attacking midfielder was cleared by Chelsea for a temporary move. Musonda scored against Forest in the Carabao Cup in September and Karanka will rival a number of Premier League clubs, including Bournemouth, Newcastle and Watford, for the Belgium Under-21 international. Karanka, who is also keen to sign a new goalkeeper and a centre-half, has admitted he is under pressure to take Forest back to the big time. Forest dumped FA Cup holders Arsenal out of the competition last Sunday but they have endured a long and painful exile from the top flight since their relegation in 1999. January 2018 transfer window Evangelos Marinakis, the club’s owner, wants to return soon and former Middlesbrough manager Karanka is ready to embrace the challenge after signing a two-and-a-half year deal. “The pressure is on me because I am here to get promotion.” he said. “The bigger the club is, the pressure is. The chairman and the owners are ambitious and a club like this belongs in the Premier League.” Karanka begins his City Ground reign on Saturday with a home game against Aston Villa.

Jamie Carragher calls Phil Neville’s time as coach under David Moyes a ‘f*** up’ in online feud

Soccer – Barclays Premier League – Aston Villa v Manchester United – Villa Park

Newcastle set to decide Peter Beardsley’s future next week

Peter Beardsley gestures from the sidelines during the Premier League 2 match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa in December 2016.

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hoping to take Leonardo Ulloa and Daniel Amartey on loan from Leicester City

Steve Bruce has launched a double raid on Leicester City for Leonardo Ulloa and Daniel Amartey. Bruce, the Aston Villa manager, wants to persuade the former Premier League champions to sanction loan deals as he moves to strengthen his promotion bid. Villa are restricted by Financial Fair Play rules in January but have the budget to sign two players on loan for the remainder of the season, and the Leicester pair are top targets. Ulloa, the striker, has had limited first-team opportunities under first Craig Shakespeare and then Claude Puel this season despite signing a new contract in the summer. Leicester would prefer Villa to agree a deal which becomes permanent in the summer, while Ulloa could be guaranteed more game time at the King Power Stadium if Islam Slimani leaves this month. Ghana international Amartey’s versatility appeals to Villa as he can play in defence, primarily at right-back, while he can also operate effectively in midfield. Amartey was signed by Claudio Ranieri in January 2016 for £5m from FC Copenhagen. January 2018 transfer window Bruce said: “There's nothing yet, but one or two things are bubbling. I think it will be more towards the end of January. “It's difficult to loan players right now, but two or three weeks changes things when players move around. We have to be patient, but there are one or two bubbling along.” Meanwhile, it has emerged that Villa’s Championship rivals Millwall have asked to take Tommy Elphick on loan. Elphick, 30, has struggled for games under Bruce but performed brilliantly in the victories over Middlesbrough and Bristol City. Villa may now opt to keep the former Bournemouth defender. 

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hoping to take Leonardo Ulloa and Daniel Amartey on loan from Leicester City

Chelsea Legend John Terry Reveals Mourinho Inspired Decision to Pursue Management

​Chelsea's legendary captain John Terry has revealed how Jose Mourinho inspired him to pursue a career in management, after playing under the former Blues coach for five years at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho's five years with Terry spanned across two separate spells as Chelsea manager with the pair boasting three ​Premier League titles together. The stalwart, now at 37-years-old is currently plying his trade at ​Championship side ​Aston Villa, after ending his illustrious Chelsea career last...

Chelsea Legend John Terry Reveals Mourinho Inspired Decision to Pursue Management

​Chelsea's legendary captain John Terry has revealed how Jose Mourinho inspired him to pursue a career in management, after playing under the former Blues coach for five years at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho's five years with Terry spanned across two separate spells as Chelsea manager with the pair boasting three ​Premier League titles together. The stalwart, now at 37-years-old is currently plying his trade at ​Championship side ​Aston Villa, after ending his illustrious Chelsea career last...

Chelsea Legend John Terry Reveals Mourinho Inspired Decision to Pursue Management

​Chelsea's legendary captain John Terry has revealed how Jose Mourinho inspired him to pursue a career in management, after playing under the former Blues coach for five years at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho's five years with Terry spanned across two separate spells as Chelsea manager with the pair boasting three ​Premier League titles together. The stalwart, now at 37-years-old is currently plying his trade at ​Championship side ​Aston Villa, after ending his illustrious Chelsea career last...

Chelsea Legend John Terry Reveals Mourinho Inspired Decision to Pursue Management

​Chelsea's legendary captain John Terry has revealed how Jose Mourinho inspired him to pursue a career in management, after playing under the former Blues coach for five years at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho's five years with Terry spanned across two separate spells as Chelsea manager with the pair boasting three ​Premier League titles together. The stalwart, now at 37-years-old is currently plying his trade at ​Championship side ​Aston Villa, after ending his illustrious Chelsea career last...

Nottingham Forest to confirm Aitor Karanka as new manager

Aitor Karanka is set to be confirmed as the new manager of Nottingham Forest. The former Middlesbrough manager is close to taking the job at the City Ground after beating off competition from Barnsley’s Paul Heckingbottom. The 44-year-old emerged as the favourite to take charge after the dismissal of Mark Warburton a week last Sunday and has impressed Forest’s board during negotiations. Forest secured a memorable FA Cup victory over Arsenal on Sunday under academy manager Gary Brazil, and it is thought he could be involved in the first-team after Karanka’s appointment. Karanka departed Middlesbrough in March last year and has recently been interviewed by West Bromwich Albion and Swansea. But he will make his return to management in the Championship, with his first game against Aston Villa this Saturday. Forest identified Karanka as the leading contender due to his record of improving teams defensively - a huge concern for the board during Warburton's final months. Middlesbrough were promoted to the Premier League in 2016 after conceding only 31 goals in the Championship.

Electrocomponents' Lindsley Ruth is bringing back speedy service with a smile

At the age of 15, Lindsley Ruth went into business for himself, selling water softeners that he’d asked a contract manufacturer to build. “I called it the Ruthamatic,” says the now 47-year-old chief executive of Electrocomponents. “I had T-shirts advertising it printed and sold it at the county fair. People bought five of them: I made about $1,500.” He’s come a long way since a county fair in his native Tennessee. Ruth took over the FTSE 250-listed business in 2015 with a mandate to get the supplier of electric and industrial components back on its feet after years of decline. Sitting on the leather sofas of his St Pancras office looking out on Google’s building across the square, the American describes Electrocomponents, which sells 500,000 different products, as a business that “lost its way 10 to 15 years ago”. “When I got here, I had a lot of weekends free, so I read all the annual reports, and went through the files,” he says, producing a slim A3 booklet, the annual report from 1967, the year the business listed. Ruth, whose imposing physical presence hints at a youth playing American football, reads out a passage: “Your company is fortunate, with a very hard-working, efficient and loyal staff, many of whom took the recent opportunity to become shareholders.”     Electrocomponents sends out 50,000 orders a day - usually with a 24-hour turnaround He runs through a potted history of Electrocomponents. It was founded in 1937 by J H Waring and P M Sebestyen, who met at Jewish group in London after fleeing Europe. They saw an opportunity servicing radios, and started the Radio Spares company after getting manufacturers such as GEC and Marconi to supply them with unbranded parts on the condition they never sold finished radios. A wartime government contract to repair radios drove growth and, after hostilities ended, they branched out and were soon doubling sales every five years. Ruth says his research painted a picture of a business – by that time called Electric Components Holdings – where the customer was king and service was crucial. “Salesmen were known as ‘Mr Speedys’ because of their fast deliveries,” he says. The founders built a “24-hour, service-with-a-smile culture”, according to Ruth – something vital when the majority of customers were industrial buyers who needed parts to keep production lines running. In the 1990s the business was a hot company – the share price topped 700p at the height of the dotcom boom – and an innovator with operations around the world. Instead of just offering its parts and tools to electrical engineers from phone book-thick catalogues, it launched a CD-ROM, and in 1998 launched what is thought to have been the first transactional business-to-business website. More than 500,000 products are offered withing Electrocomponents' range But then a malaise set in. Shares trended down, bottoming out at 125p in 2009, a level they only marginally bettered for the following six years. Eventually, the board decided it was time for a change. They looked across the Atlantic for someone to shake things up at the business, which has 13 distribution hubs around the world, fulfilling 50,000 orders a day – almost all of them within 24 hours – and generates sales of £1.5bn annually. A headhunter’s call got Ruth – then running Canadian electronics distributor Future Electronics along with its founder Robert Miller – interested in the Electrocomponents job. He met with the chairman a few months later while on a visit to the UK ostensibly to give his son, a Liverpool fan, his Christmas present of seeing them play away to Aston Villa. “My research showed it was a company that used to be great,” says Ruth. “I saw an opportunity to return it to that.” He talks fondly of Miller – “a genius in distribution who taught me 90pc of what I know. Canada’s Warren Buffett” – but decided his mentor was unlikely to hand over fully. “I talked to my wife and kids, and off we went,” says Ruth, recalling how he arrived in the UK the day before he started at Electrocomponents, renting a converted barn near the HQ, which was then in Oxford. A trip to the UK to Liverpool play Aston Villa helped make up Lindsley Ruth's mind that he would relocate from Canada for the Electrocomponents job Credit: Andrew Powell/ Liverpool FC/Getty Taking over in April 2015, he set about rebuilding the ethos of the company’s founders. “We’d gone from customer focus to internal focus,” says Ruth. “It was like a government agency and lost sight of profits – and as profits faded so did the smile and the 24-hour service.” His turnaround started with the headquarters relocating to London and a refocus on the customer. Ruth says he was stunned to discover daily sales reports were not available, only monthly figures: “I said, ‘We’re in the distribution business, we’re only as good as what we sold yesterday. When most of your orders are unscheduled and you’re delivering within 24 hours you need to know that stuff.” A management clear-out also ended what he calls a “culture of finger-pointing”. “Nine of my 10 direct reports have changed,” Ruth says. Asked whether this is a polite way of saying he sacked people, he smiles and says: “Yeah, but that doesn’t go over well in the UK. I once said something about termination to be told: ‘We don’t use the world terminate here.’” The rest was what he calls “basic distribution management”, eliminating PowerPoint for a month, killing bad meetings and committees, and cutting costs. “We moved back to typical model with employees who had lost the way leading the way,” he says. “A high-performance culture where we simplify and get stuff done.” The efforts have paid off. The share price has more than doubled since he started, with profits and revenues rising. The City is impressed at the results. A recent analyst visit to Electrocomponents’ US operation resulted in references to Ruth’s education at Texas A&M University. “A lot of cattle, not much hat,” said Stifel’s scribblers, referring to a Texan description of someone who “delivers rather than just talks the talk”. Electrocomponents As well as talking to industrial buyers, the company is targeting hobbyists through its RS brand. Ruth uses a giant, wall-mounted interactive computer to proudly run an advert showing grandchildren automating, rather than just repairing, their grandfather’s broken lawnmower using Electrocomponents’ parts. “It’s the maker movement. We’ve got to get the next generation more interested in electronics,” Ruth says. Building the brand presence includes YouTube videos as part of the company’s “For the inspired” campaign. These tell the stories of inventor Ben Ryan, who used RS products to develop a prosthetic arm for his newborn son, and Richard Browning, who built a jet-powered “rocket man” suit. The company also has a truck at roadshows to promote careers in electronics to youngsters. Richard Browning built his 'rocketman' suite with Electrocomponents parts Credit: TED Conferences Ruth estimates that the global electronics market is worth £5.1 trillion. “I think £380bn of that is available to us. Can we be 5pc, 10pc of that – and how quickly can we get there?” It’s a big leap from the current revenues. As to why customers depend on Electrocomponents’ model, he gives the example of a pacemaker. “Would you be OK buying a pacemaker if you weren’t certain about the parts inside it?” he asks. Electrocomponents is less worried about the potential rivals of today than it is about improving customer experience, as this is where Ruth says the business competes. Instead, he’s looking at rivals of five to 10 years’s time, thinking about Chinese groups such as Alibaba and Tencent. “You’ve got to simplify and improve,” he says, grabbing an old Motorola “brick” phone from a shelf by his desk. “We don’t want to become like these guys. A quarter in the digital world is like a year in the analogue world. If you take your eye off the ball someone will overtake you.” The next stage of Ruth’s plan for Electrocomponents is looking to new areas such as 3D printing, robotics, augmented reality and AI. It’s called Project Kodak, referring to the photographic business that failed to keep up with the digital revolution, because, he says: “We can’t become irrelevant.” “My father worked at Kodak for 35 years and as a kid I was brainwashed in the firm: it was a shock to see them go under,” Ruth recalls. “But we could have called it Project Motorola, Nokia or anything.” Ruth looks back to his US roots to describe the business. “The company is like a saying we had at Texas A&M: ‘From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.’” He might not be able to explain it, but the numbers Ruth is delivering do a lot of the talking for him. CV: Lindsley Ruth Job:Chief executive, Electrocomponents Lives: Hampstead, London. Family: Married, with son at Texas A&M University, and daughter in last year of school before university. Career: Recruited out of college to work for electronics components distributor TTI in the US, then took a job with TTI’s biggest customer Solectron, before joining Canada’s Future Electronics in 2002 and working up to become vice-president. Education: Degree in industrial distribution and MBA from Texas A&M University. Interests: Discovering his new home city. “London is a blast to walk around, I’ve travelled a lot but you never get to explore properly unless you live somewhere.”

Electrocomponents' Lindsley Ruth is bringing back speedy service with a smile

At the age of 15, Lindsley Ruth went into business for himself, selling water softeners that he’d asked a contract manufacturer to build. “I called it the Ruthamatic,” says the now 47-year-old chief executive of Electrocomponents. “I had T-shirts advertising it printed and sold it at the county fair. People bought five of them: I made about $1,500.” He’s come a long way since a county fair in his native Tennessee. Ruth took over the FTSE 250-listed business in 2015 with a mandate to get the supplier of electric and industrial components back on its feet after years of decline. Sitting on the leather sofas of his St Pancras office looking out on Google’s building across the square, the American describes Electrocomponents, which sells 500,000 different products, as a business that “lost its way 10 to 15 years ago”. “When I got here, I had a lot of weekends free, so I read all the annual reports, and went through the files,” he says, producing a slim A3 booklet, the annual report from 1967, the year the business listed. Ruth, whose imposing physical presence hints at a youth playing American football, reads out a passage: “Your company is fortunate, with a very hard-working, efficient and loyal staff, many of whom took the recent opportunity to become shareholders.”     Electrocomponents sends out 50,000 orders a day - usually with a 24-hour turnaround He runs through a potted history of Electrocomponents. It was founded in 1937 by J H Waring and P M Sebestyen, who met at Jewish group in London after fleeing Europe. They saw an opportunity servicing radios, and started the Radio Spares company after getting manufacturers such as GEC and Marconi to supply them with unbranded parts on the condition they never sold finished radios. A wartime government contract to repair radios drove growth and, after hostilities ended, they branched out and were soon doubling sales every five years. Ruth says his research painted a picture of a business – by that time called Electric Components Holdings – where the customer was king and service was crucial. “Salesmen were known as ‘Mr Speedys’ because of their fast deliveries,” he says. The founders built a “24-hour, service-with-a-smile culture”, according to Ruth – something vital when the majority of customers were industrial buyers who needed parts to keep production lines running. In the 1990s the business was a hot company – the share price topped 700p at the height of the dotcom boom – and an innovator with operations around the world. Instead of just offering its parts and tools to electrical engineers from phone book-thick catalogues, it launched a CD-ROM, and in 1998 launched what is thought to have been the first transactional business-to-business website. More than 500,000 products are offered withing Electrocomponents' range But then a malaise set in. Shares trended down, bottoming out at 125p in 2009, a level they only marginally bettered for the following six years. Eventually, the board decided it was time for a change. They looked across the Atlantic for someone to shake things up at the business, which has 13 distribution hubs around the world, fulfilling 50,000 orders a day – almost all of them within 24 hours – and generates sales of £1.5bn annually. A headhunter’s call got Ruth – then running Canadian electronics distributor Future Electronics along with its founder Robert Miller – interested in the Electrocomponents job. He met with the chairman a few months later while on a visit to the UK ostensibly to give his son, a Liverpool fan, his Christmas present of seeing them play away to Aston Villa. “My research showed it was a company that used to be great,” says Ruth. “I saw an opportunity to return it to that.” He talks fondly of Miller – “a genius in distribution who taught me 90pc of what I know. Canada’s Warren Buffett” – but decided his mentor was unlikely to hand over fully. “I talked to my wife and kids, and off we went,” says Ruth, recalling how he arrived in the UK the day before he started at Electrocomponents, renting a converted barn near the HQ, which was then in Oxford. A trip to the UK to Liverpool play Aston Villa helped make up Lindsley Ruth's mind that he would relocate from Canada for the Electrocomponents job Credit: Andrew Powell/ Liverpool FC/Getty Taking over in April 2015, he set about rebuilding the ethos of the company’s founders. “We’d gone from customer focus to internal focus,” says Ruth. “It was like a government agency and lost sight of profits – and as profits faded so did the smile and the 24-hour service.” His turnaround started with the headquarters relocating to London and a refocus on the customer. Ruth says he was stunned to discover daily sales reports were not available, only monthly figures: “I said, ‘We’re in the distribution business, we’re only as good as what we sold yesterday. When most of your orders are unscheduled and you’re delivering within 24 hours you need to know that stuff.” A management clear-out also ended what he calls a “culture of finger-pointing”. “Nine of my 10 direct reports have changed,” Ruth says. Asked whether this is a polite way of saying he sacked people, he smiles and says: “Yeah, but that doesn’t go over well in the UK. I once said something about termination to be told: ‘We don’t use the world terminate here.’” The rest was what he calls “basic distribution management”, eliminating PowerPoint for a month, killing bad meetings and committees, and cutting costs. “We moved back to typical model with employees who had lost the way leading the way,” he says. “A high-performance culture where we simplify and get stuff done.” The efforts have paid off. The share price has more than doubled since he started, with profits and revenues rising. The City is impressed at the results. A recent analyst visit to Electrocomponents’ US operation resulted in references to Ruth’s education at Texas A&M University. “A lot of cattle, not much hat,” said Stifel’s scribblers, referring to a Texan description of someone who “delivers rather than just talks the talk”. Electrocomponents As well as talking to industrial buyers, the company is targeting hobbyists through its RS brand. Ruth uses a giant, wall-mounted interactive computer to proudly run an advert showing grandchildren automating, rather than just repairing, their grandfather’s broken lawnmower using Electrocomponents’ parts. “It’s the maker movement. We’ve got to get the next generation more interested in electronics,” Ruth says. Building the brand presence includes YouTube videos as part of the company’s “For the inspired” campaign. These tell the stories of inventor Ben Ryan, who used RS products to develop a prosthetic arm for his newborn son, and Richard Browning, who built a jet-powered “rocket man” suit. The company also has a truck at roadshows to promote careers in electronics to youngsters. Richard Browning built his 'rocketman' suite with Electrocomponents parts Credit: TED Conferences Ruth estimates that the global electronics market is worth £5.1 trillion. “I think £380bn of that is available to us. Can we be 5pc, 10pc of that – and how quickly can we get there?” It’s a big leap from the current revenues. As to why customers depend on Electrocomponents’ model, he gives the example of a pacemaker. “Would you be OK buying a pacemaker if you weren’t certain about the parts inside it?” he asks. Electrocomponents is less worried about the potential rivals of today than it is about improving customer experience, as this is where Ruth says the business competes. Instead, he’s looking at rivals of five to 10 years’s time, thinking about Chinese groups such as Alibaba and Tencent. “You’ve got to simplify and improve,” he says, grabbing an old Motorola “brick” phone from a shelf by his desk. “We don’t want to become like these guys. A quarter in the digital world is like a year in the analogue world. If you take your eye off the ball someone will overtake you.” The next stage of Ruth’s plan for Electrocomponents is looking to new areas such as 3D printing, robotics, augmented reality and AI. It’s called Project Kodak, referring to the photographic business that failed to keep up with the digital revolution, because, he says: “We can’t become irrelevant.” “My father worked at Kodak for 35 years and as a kid I was brainwashed in the firm: it was a shock to see them go under,” Ruth recalls. “But we could have called it Project Motorola, Nokia or anything.” Ruth looks back to his US roots to describe the business. “The company is like a saying we had at Texas A&M: ‘From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.’” He might not be able to explain it, but the numbers Ruth is delivering do a lot of the talking for him. CV: Lindsley Ruth Job:Chief executive, Electrocomponents Lives: Hampstead, London. Family: Married, with son at Texas A&M University, and daughter in last year of school before university. Career: Recruited out of college to work for electronics components distributor TTI in the US, then took a job with TTI’s biggest customer Solectron, before joining Canada’s Future Electronics in 2002 and working up to become vice-president. Education: Degree in industrial distribution and MBA from Texas A&M University. Interests: Discovering his new home city. “London is a blast to walk around, I’ve travelled a lot but you never get to explore properly unless you live somewhere.”

Electrocomponents' Lindsley Ruth is bringing back speedy service with a smile

At the age of 15, Lindsley Ruth went into business for himself, selling water softeners that he’d asked a contract manufacturer to build. “I called it the Ruthamatic,” says the now 47-year-old chief executive of Electrocomponents. “I had T-shirts advertising it printed and sold it at the county fair. People bought five of them: I made about $1,500.” He’s come a long way since a county fair in his native Tennessee. Ruth took over the FTSE 250-listed business in 2015 with a mandate to get the supplier of electric and industrial components back on its feet after years of decline. Sitting on the leather sofas of his St Pancras office looking out on Google’s building across the square, the American describes Electrocomponents, which sells 500,000 different products, as a business that “lost its way 10 to 15 years ago”. “When I got here, I had a lot of weekends free, so I read all the annual reports, and went through the files,” he says, producing a slim A3 booklet, the annual report from 1967, the year the business listed. Ruth, whose imposing physical presence hints at a youth playing American football, reads out a passage: “Your company is fortunate, with a very hard-working, efficient and loyal staff, many of whom took the recent opportunity to become shareholders.”     Electrocomponents sends out 50,000 orders a day - usually with a 24-hour turnaround He runs through a potted history of Electrocomponents. It was founded in 1937 by J H Waring and P M Sebestyen, who met at Jewish group in London after fleeing Europe. They saw an opportunity servicing radios, and started the Radio Spares company after getting manufacturers such as GEC and Marconi to supply them with unbranded parts on the condition they never sold finished radios. A wartime government contract to repair radios drove growth and, after hostilities ended, they branched out and were soon doubling sales every five years. Ruth says his research painted a picture of a business – by that time called Electric Components Holdings – where the customer was king and service was crucial. “Salesmen were known as ‘Mr Speedys’ because of their fast deliveries,” he says. The founders built a “24-hour, service-with-a-smile culture”, according to Ruth – something vital when the majority of customers were industrial buyers who needed parts to keep production lines running. In the 1990s the business was a hot company – the share price topped 700p at the height of the dotcom boom – and an innovator with operations around the world. Instead of just offering its parts and tools to electrical engineers from phone book-thick catalogues, it launched a CD-ROM, and in 1998 launched what is thought to have been the first transactional business-to-business website. More than 500,000 products are offered withing Electrocomponents' range But then a malaise set in. Shares trended down, bottoming out at 125p in 2009, a level they only marginally bettered for the following six years. Eventually, the board decided it was time for a change. They looked across the Atlantic for someone to shake things up at the business, which has 13 distribution hubs around the world, fulfilling 50,000 orders a day – almost all of them within 24 hours – and generates sales of £1.5bn annually. A headhunter’s call got Ruth – then running Canadian electronics distributor Future Electronics along with its founder Robert Miller – interested in the Electrocomponents job. He met with the chairman a few months later while on a visit to the UK ostensibly to give his son, a Liverpool fan, his Christmas present of seeing them play away to Aston Villa. “My research showed it was a company that used to be great,” says Ruth. “I saw an opportunity to return it to that.” He talks fondly of Miller – “a genius in distribution who taught me 90pc of what I know. Canada’s Warren Buffett” – but decided his mentor was unlikely to hand over fully. “I talked to my wife and kids, and off we went,” says Ruth, recalling how he arrived in the UK the day before he started at Electrocomponents, renting a converted barn near the HQ, which was then in Oxford. A trip to the UK to Liverpool play Aston Villa helped make up Lindsley Ruth's mind that he would relocate from Canada for the Electrocomponents job Credit: Andrew Powell/ Liverpool FC/Getty Taking over in April 2015, he set about rebuilding the ethos of the company’s founders. “We’d gone from customer focus to internal focus,” says Ruth. “It was like a government agency and lost sight of profits – and as profits faded so did the smile and the 24-hour service.” His turnaround started with the headquarters relocating to London and a refocus on the customer. Ruth says he was stunned to discover daily sales reports were not available, only monthly figures: “I said, ‘We’re in the distribution business, we’re only as good as what we sold yesterday. When most of your orders are unscheduled and you’re delivering within 24 hours you need to know that stuff.” A management clear-out also ended what he calls a “culture of finger-pointing”. “Nine of my 10 direct reports have changed,” Ruth says. Asked whether this is a polite way of saying he sacked people, he smiles and says: “Yeah, but that doesn’t go over well in the UK. I once said something about termination to be told: ‘We don’t use the world terminate here.’” The rest was what he calls “basic distribution management”, eliminating PowerPoint for a month, killing bad meetings and committees, and cutting costs. “We moved back to typical model with employees who had lost the way leading the way,” he says. “A high-performance culture where we simplify and get stuff done.” The efforts have paid off. The share price has more than doubled since he started, with profits and revenues rising. The City is impressed at the results. A recent analyst visit to Electrocomponents’ US operation resulted in references to Ruth’s education at Texas A&M University. “A lot of cattle, not much hat,” said Stifel’s scribblers, referring to a Texan description of someone who “delivers rather than just talks the talk”. Electrocomponents As well as talking to industrial buyers, the company is targeting hobbyists through its RS brand. Ruth uses a giant, wall-mounted interactive computer to proudly run an advert showing grandchildren automating, rather than just repairing, their grandfather’s broken lawnmower using Electrocomponents’ parts. “It’s the maker movement. We’ve got to get the next generation more interested in electronics,” Ruth says. Building the brand presence includes YouTube videos as part of the company’s “For the inspired” campaign. These tell the stories of inventor Ben Ryan, who used RS products to develop a prosthetic arm for his newborn son, and Richard Browning, who built a jet-powered “rocket man” suit. The company also has a truck at roadshows to promote careers in electronics to youngsters. Richard Browning built his 'rocketman' suite with Electrocomponents parts Credit: TED Conferences Ruth estimates that the global electronics market is worth £5.1 trillion. “I think £380bn of that is available to us. Can we be 5pc, 10pc of that – and how quickly can we get there?” It’s a big leap from the current revenues. As to why customers depend on Electrocomponents’ model, he gives the example of a pacemaker. “Would you be OK buying a pacemaker if you weren’t certain about the parts inside it?” he asks. Electrocomponents is less worried about the potential rivals of today than it is about improving customer experience, as this is where Ruth says the business competes. Instead, he’s looking at rivals of five to 10 years’s time, thinking about Chinese groups such as Alibaba and Tencent. “You’ve got to simplify and improve,” he says, grabbing an old Motorola “brick” phone from a shelf by his desk. “We don’t want to become like these guys. A quarter in the digital world is like a year in the analogue world. If you take your eye off the ball someone will overtake you.” The next stage of Ruth’s plan for Electrocomponents is looking to new areas such as 3D printing, robotics, augmented reality and AI. It’s called Project Kodak, referring to the photographic business that failed to keep up with the digital revolution, because, he says: “We can’t become irrelevant.” “My father worked at Kodak for 35 years and as a kid I was brainwashed in the firm: it was a shock to see them go under,” Ruth recalls. “But we could have called it Project Motorola, Nokia or anything.” Ruth looks back to his US roots to describe the business. “The company is like a saying we had at Texas A&M: ‘From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.’” He might not be able to explain it, but the numbers Ruth is delivering do a lot of the talking for him. CV: Lindsley Ruth Job:Chief executive, Electrocomponents Lives: Hampstead, London. Family: Married, with son at Texas A&M University, and daughter in last year of school before university. Career: Recruited out of college to work for electronics components distributor TTI in the US, then took a job with TTI’s biggest customer Solectron, before joining Canada’s Future Electronics in 2002 and working up to become vice-president. Education: Degree in industrial distribution and MBA from Texas A&M University. Interests: Discovering his new home city. “London is a blast to walk around, I’ve travelled a lot but you never get to explore properly unless you live somewhere.”

Electrocomponents' Lindsley Ruth is bringing back speedy service with a smile

At the age of 15, Lindsley Ruth went into business for himself, selling water softeners that he’d asked a contract manufacturer to build. “I called it the Ruthamatic,” says the now 47-year-old chief executive of Electrocomponents. “I had T-shirts advertising it printed and sold it at the county fair. People bought five of them: I made about $1,500.” He’s come a long way since a county fair in his native Tennessee. Ruth took over the FTSE 250-listed business in 2015 with a mandate to get the supplier of electric and industrial components back on its feet after years of decline. Sitting on the leather sofas of his St Pancras office looking out on Google’s building across the square, the American describes Electrocomponents, which sells 500,000 different products, as a business that “lost its way 10 to 15 years ago”. “When I got here, I had a lot of weekends free, so I read all the annual reports, and went through the files,” he says, producing a slim A3 booklet, the annual report from 1967, the year the business listed. Ruth, whose imposing physical presence hints at a youth playing American football, reads out a passage: “Your company is fortunate, with a very hard-working, efficient and loyal staff, many of whom took the recent opportunity to become shareholders.”     Electrocomponents sends out 50,000 orders a day - usually with a 24-hour turnaround He runs through a potted history of Electrocomponents. It was founded in 1937 by J H Waring and P M Sebestyen, who met at Jewish group in London after fleeing Europe. They saw an opportunity servicing radios, and started the Radio Spares company after getting manufacturers such as GEC and Marconi to supply them with unbranded parts on the condition they never sold finished radios. A wartime government contract to repair radios drove growth and, after hostilities ended, they branched out and were soon doubling sales every five years. Ruth says his research painted a picture of a business – by that time called Electric Components Holdings – where the customer was king and service was crucial. “Salesmen were known as ‘Mr Speedys’ because of their fast deliveries,” he says. The founders built a “24-hour, service-with-a-smile culture”, according to Ruth – something vital when the majority of customers were industrial buyers who needed parts to keep production lines running. In the 1990s the business was a hot company – the share price topped 700p at the height of the dotcom boom – and an innovator with operations around the world. Instead of just offering its parts and tools to electrical engineers from phone book-thick catalogues, it launched a CD-ROM, and in 1998 launched what is thought to have been the first transactional business-to-business website. More than 500,000 products are offered withing Electrocomponents' range But then a malaise set in. Shares trended down, bottoming out at 125p in 2009, a level they only marginally bettered for the following six years. Eventually, the board decided it was time for a change. They looked across the Atlantic for someone to shake things up at the business, which has 13 distribution hubs around the world, fulfilling 50,000 orders a day – almost all of them within 24 hours – and generates sales of £1.5bn annually. A headhunter’s call got Ruth – then running Canadian electronics distributor Future Electronics along with its founder Robert Miller – interested in the Electrocomponents job. He met with the chairman a few months later while on a visit to the UK ostensibly to give his son, a Liverpool fan, his Christmas present of seeing them play away to Aston Villa. “My research showed it was a company that used to be great,” says Ruth. “I saw an opportunity to return it to that.” He talks fondly of Miller – “a genius in distribution who taught me 90pc of what I know. Canada’s Warren Buffett” – but decided his mentor was unlikely to hand over fully. “I talked to my wife and kids, and off we went,” says Ruth, recalling how he arrived in the UK the day before he started at Electrocomponents, renting a converted barn near the HQ, which was then in Oxford. A trip to the UK to Liverpool play Aston Villa helped make up Lindsley Ruth's mind that he would relocate from Canada for the Electrocomponents job Credit: Andrew Powell/ Liverpool FC/Getty Taking over in April 2015, he set about rebuilding the ethos of the company’s founders. “We’d gone from customer focus to internal focus,” says Ruth. “It was like a government agency and lost sight of profits – and as profits faded so did the smile and the 24-hour service.” His turnaround started with the headquarters relocating to London and a refocus on the customer. Ruth says he was stunned to discover daily sales reports were not available, only monthly figures: “I said, ‘We’re in the distribution business, we’re only as good as what we sold yesterday. When most of your orders are unscheduled and you’re delivering within 24 hours you need to know that stuff.” A management clear-out also ended what he calls a “culture of finger-pointing”. “Nine of my 10 direct reports have changed,” Ruth says. Asked whether this is a polite way of saying he sacked people, he smiles and says: “Yeah, but that doesn’t go over well in the UK. I once said something about termination to be told: ‘We don’t use the world terminate here.’” The rest was what he calls “basic distribution management”, eliminating PowerPoint for a month, killing bad meetings and committees, and cutting costs. “We moved back to typical model with employees who had lost the way leading the way,” he says. “A high-performance culture where we simplify and get stuff done.” The efforts have paid off. The share price has more than doubled since he started, with profits and revenues rising. The City is impressed at the results. A recent analyst visit to Electrocomponents’ US operation resulted in references to Ruth’s education at Texas A&M University. “A lot of cattle, not much hat,” said Stifel’s scribblers, referring to a Texan description of someone who “delivers rather than just talks the talk”. Electrocomponents As well as talking to industrial buyers, the company is targeting hobbyists through its RS brand. Ruth uses a giant, wall-mounted interactive computer to proudly run an advert showing grandchildren automating, rather than just repairing, their grandfather’s broken lawnmower using Electrocomponents’ parts. “It’s the maker movement. We’ve got to get the next generation more interested in electronics,” Ruth says. Building the brand presence includes YouTube videos as part of the company’s “For the inspired” campaign. These tell the stories of inventor Ben Ryan, who used RS products to develop a prosthetic arm for his newborn son, and Richard Browning, who built a jet-powered “rocket man” suit. The company also has a truck at roadshows to promote careers in electronics to youngsters. Richard Browning built his 'rocketman' suite with Electrocomponents parts Credit: TED Conferences Ruth estimates that the global electronics market is worth £5.1 trillion. “I think £380bn of that is available to us. Can we be 5pc, 10pc of that – and how quickly can we get there?” It’s a big leap from the current revenues. As to why customers depend on Electrocomponents’ model, he gives the example of a pacemaker. “Would you be OK buying a pacemaker if you weren’t certain about the parts inside it?” he asks. Electrocomponents is less worried about the potential rivals of today than it is about improving customer experience, as this is where Ruth says the business competes. Instead, he’s looking at rivals of five to 10 years’s time, thinking about Chinese groups such as Alibaba and Tencent. “You’ve got to simplify and improve,” he says, grabbing an old Motorola “brick” phone from a shelf by his desk. “We don’t want to become like these guys. A quarter in the digital world is like a year in the analogue world. If you take your eye off the ball someone will overtake you.” The next stage of Ruth’s plan for Electrocomponents is looking to new areas such as 3D printing, robotics, augmented reality and AI. It’s called Project Kodak, referring to the photographic business that failed to keep up with the digital revolution, because, he says: “We can’t become irrelevant.” “My father worked at Kodak for 35 years and as a kid I was brainwashed in the firm: it was a shock to see them go under,” Ruth recalls. “But we could have called it Project Motorola, Nokia or anything.” Ruth looks back to his US roots to describe the business. “The company is like a saying we had at Texas A&M: ‘From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.’” He might not be able to explain it, but the numbers Ruth is delivering do a lot of the talking for him. CV: Lindsley Ruth Job:Chief executive, Electrocomponents Lives: Hampstead, London. Family: Married, with son at Texas A&M University, and daughter in last year of school before university. Career: Recruited out of college to work for electronics components distributor TTI in the US, then took a job with TTI’s biggest customer Solectron, before joining Canada’s Future Electronics in 2002 and working up to become vice-president. Education: Degree in industrial distribution and MBA from Texas A&M University. Interests: Discovering his new home city. “London is a blast to walk around, I’ve travelled a lot but you never get to explore properly unless you live somewhere.”

Electrocomponents' Lindsley Ruth is bringing back speedy service with a smile

At the age of 15, Lindsley Ruth went into business for himself, selling water softeners that he’d asked a contract manufacturer to build. “I called it the Ruthamatic,” says the now 47-year-old chief executive of Electrocomponents. “I had T-shirts advertising it printed and sold it at the county fair. People bought five of them: I made about $1,500.” He’s come a long way since a county fair in his native Tennessee. Ruth took over the FTSE 250-listed business in 2015 with a mandate to get the supplier of electric and industrial components back on its feet after years of decline. Sitting on the leather sofas of his St Pancras office looking out on Google’s building across the square, the American describes Electrocomponents, which sells 500,000 different products, as a business that “lost its way 10 to 15 years ago”. “When I got here, I had a lot of weekends free, so I read all the annual reports, and went through the files,” he says, producing a slim A3 booklet, the annual report from 1967, the year the business listed. Ruth, whose imposing physical presence hints at a youth playing American football, reads out a passage: “Your company is fortunate, with a very hard-working, efficient and loyal staff, many of whom took the recent opportunity to become shareholders.”     Electrocomponents sends out 50,000 orders a day - usually with a 24-hour turnaround He runs through a potted history of Electrocomponents. It was founded in 1937 by J H Waring and P M Sebestyen, who met at Jewish group in London after fleeing Europe. They saw an opportunity servicing radios, and started the Radio Spares company after getting manufacturers such as GEC and Marconi to supply them with unbranded parts on the condition they never sold finished radios. A wartime government contract to repair radios drove growth and, after hostilities ended, they branched out and were soon doubling sales every five years. Ruth says his research painted a picture of a business – by that time called Electric Components Holdings – where the customer was king and service was crucial. “Salesmen were known as ‘Mr Speedys’ because of their fast deliveries,” he says. The founders built a “24-hour, service-with-a-smile culture”, according to Ruth – something vital when the majority of customers were industrial buyers who needed parts to keep production lines running. In the 1990s the business was a hot company – the share price topped 700p at the height of the dotcom boom – and an innovator with operations around the world. Instead of just offering its parts and tools to electrical engineers from phone book-thick catalogues, it launched a CD-ROM, and in 1998 launched what is thought to have been the first transactional business-to-business website. More than 500,000 products are offered withing Electrocomponents' range But then a malaise set in. Shares trended down, bottoming out at 125p in 2009, a level they only marginally bettered for the following six years. Eventually, the board decided it was time for a change. They looked across the Atlantic for someone to shake things up at the business, which has 13 distribution hubs around the world, fulfilling 50,000 orders a day – almost all of them within 24 hours – and generates sales of £1.5bn annually. A headhunter’s call got Ruth – then running Canadian electronics distributor Future Electronics along with its founder Robert Miller – interested in the Electrocomponents job. He met with the chairman a few months later while on a visit to the UK ostensibly to give his son, a Liverpool fan, his Christmas present of seeing them play away to Aston Villa. “My research showed it was a company that used to be great,” says Ruth. “I saw an opportunity to return it to that.” He talks fondly of Miller – “a genius in distribution who taught me 90pc of what I know. Canada’s Warren Buffett” – but decided his mentor was unlikely to hand over fully. “I talked to my wife and kids, and off we went,” says Ruth, recalling how he arrived in the UK the day before he started at Electrocomponents, renting a converted barn near the HQ, which was then in Oxford. A trip to the UK to Liverpool play Aston Villa helped make up Lindsley Ruth's mind that he would relocate from Canada for the Electrocomponents job Credit: Andrew Powell/ Liverpool FC/Getty Taking over in April 2015, he set about rebuilding the ethos of the company’s founders. “We’d gone from customer focus to internal focus,” says Ruth. “It was like a government agency and lost sight of profits – and as profits faded so did the smile and the 24-hour service.” His turnaround started with the headquarters relocating to London and a refocus on the customer. Ruth says he was stunned to discover daily sales reports were not available, only monthly figures: “I said, ‘We’re in the distribution business, we’re only as good as what we sold yesterday. When most of your orders are unscheduled and you’re delivering within 24 hours you need to know that stuff.” A management clear-out also ended what he calls a “culture of finger-pointing”. “Nine of my 10 direct reports have changed,” Ruth says. Asked whether this is a polite way of saying he sacked people, he smiles and says: “Yeah, but that doesn’t go over well in the UK. I once said something about termination to be told: ‘We don’t use the world terminate here.’” The rest was what he calls “basic distribution management”, eliminating PowerPoint for a month, killing bad meetings and committees, and cutting costs. “We moved back to typical model with employees who had lost the way leading the way,” he says. “A high-performance culture where we simplify and get stuff done.” The efforts have paid off. The share price has more than doubled since he started, with profits and revenues rising. The City is impressed at the results. A recent analyst visit to Electrocomponents’ US operation resulted in references to Ruth’s education at Texas A&M University. “A lot of cattle, not much hat,” said Stifel’s scribblers, referring to a Texan description of someone who “delivers rather than just talks the talk”. Electrocomponents As well as talking to industrial buyers, the company is targeting hobbyists through its RS brand. Ruth uses a giant, wall-mounted interactive computer to proudly run an advert showing grandchildren automating, rather than just repairing, their grandfather’s broken lawnmower using Electrocomponents’ parts. “It’s the maker movement. We’ve got to get the next generation more interested in electronics,” Ruth says. Building the brand presence includes YouTube videos as part of the company’s “For the inspired” campaign. These tell the stories of inventor Ben Ryan, who used RS products to develop a prosthetic arm for his newborn son, and Richard Browning, who built a jet-powered “rocket man” suit. The company also has a truck at roadshows to promote careers in electronics to youngsters. Richard Browning built his 'rocketman' suite with Electrocomponents parts Credit: TED Conferences Ruth estimates that the global electronics market is worth £5.1 trillion. “I think £380bn of that is available to us. Can we be 5pc, 10pc of that – and how quickly can we get there?” It’s a big leap from the current revenues. As to why customers depend on Electrocomponents’ model, he gives the example of a pacemaker. “Would you be OK buying a pacemaker if you weren’t certain about the parts inside it?” he asks. Electrocomponents is less worried about the potential rivals of today than it is about improving customer experience, as this is where Ruth says the business competes. Instead, he’s looking at rivals of five to 10 years’s time, thinking about Chinese groups such as Alibaba and Tencent. “You’ve got to simplify and improve,” he says, grabbing an old Motorola “brick” phone from a shelf by his desk. “We don’t want to become like these guys. A quarter in the digital world is like a year in the analogue world. If you take your eye off the ball someone will overtake you.” The next stage of Ruth’s plan for Electrocomponents is looking to new areas such as 3D printing, robotics, augmented reality and AI. It’s called Project Kodak, referring to the photographic business that failed to keep up with the digital revolution, because, he says: “We can’t become irrelevant.” “My father worked at Kodak for 35 years and as a kid I was brainwashed in the firm: it was a shock to see them go under,” Ruth recalls. “But we could have called it Project Motorola, Nokia or anything.” Ruth looks back to his US roots to describe the business. “The company is like a saying we had at Texas A&M: ‘From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.’” He might not be able to explain it, but the numbers Ruth is delivering do a lot of the talking for him. CV: Lindsley Ruth Job:Chief executive, Electrocomponents Lives: Hampstead, London. Family: Married, with son at Texas A&M University, and daughter in last year of school before university. Career: Recruited out of college to work for electronics components distributor TTI in the US, then took a job with TTI’s biggest customer Solectron, before joining Canada’s Future Electronics in 2002 and working up to become vice-president. Education: Degree in industrial distribution and MBA from Texas A&M University. Interests: Discovering his new home city. “London is a blast to walk around, I’ve travelled a lot but you never get to explore properly unless you live somewhere.”

Watford 3 Bristol City 0: Lee Johnson's giant-killing exploits come to a shuddering halt at Vicarage Road

Bristol City’s giant-killing exploits came to a shuddering halt at Watford where goals from Andre Carillo, Troy Deeney and Etienne Capoue gave the home side victory and avenged their 3-2 defeat by Lee Johnson’s men in the Carabao Cup in August.  City reached the semi-final of that competition after beating Watford, Stoke, Crystal Palace and Manchester United, and face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday in the first-leg of their semi-final.  With that game in mind, Johnson made seven changes to the side that lost 5-0 at Aston Villa last Monday, and gave debuts to youngsters Opi Edwards and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans.  Johnson’s assistant Dean Holden said: “We left a few of the lads at home because we felt they needed a rest. They should all be fit for Tuesday.”  One concern is Korey Smith, who scored the winner against United, but injured his shin after half an hour and did not return for the second half. “It was purely precautionary and we hope he’ll be fit to face City,” said Holden.  A full-strength Watford were in control throughout and took a deserved lead when Carillo scored in the 37th minute. The Peruvian showed great composure in the penalty area to sidestep Horour Magnusson and fire a low shot under the body of Luke Steele.  Watford and Bristol City at Vicarage Road Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steele made important saves to deny Capoue, Roberto Pereyra and Deeney, and showed bravery by diving at the feet of Tom Cleverley but could do little about the goals.  Watford came into the tie with seven defeats from nine games and only three wins in 12 home games.  Deeney, back from suspension, had only scored two goals previously, but made no mistake with a diving header from close range after a smart cross from Cleverley, and then set up Capoue for Watford’s third goal as the Frenchman shot home inside the area in the 85th minute.  Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes saves Credit: ACTION IMAGES The visiting fans maintained a sense of gallows humour to the end, chanting: “Manchester City, we’re coming for you.”  It will be a different side facing City, though. “It’s a great chance to play against one of the best teams in Europe at the moment,” added Holden. “We’ve beaten United already so it proves anything can happen. We’ll go there with a lot of heart.”

Watford 3 Bristol City 0: Lee Johnson's giant-killing exploits come to a shuddering halt at Vicarage Road

Bristol City’s giant-killing exploits came to a shuddering halt at Watford where goals from Andre Carillo, Troy Deeney and Etienne Capoue gave the home side victory and avenged their 3-2 defeat by Lee Johnson’s men in the Carabao Cup in August.  City reached the semi-final of that competition after beating Watford, Stoke, Crystal Palace and Manchester United, and face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday in the first-leg of their semi-final.  With that game in mind, Johnson made seven changes to the side that lost 5-0 at Aston Villa last Monday, and gave debuts to youngsters Opi Edwards and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans.  Johnson’s assistant Dean Holden said: “We left a few of the lads at home because we felt they needed a rest. They should all be fit for Tuesday.”  One concern is Korey Smith, who scored the winner against United, but injured his shin after half an hour and did not return for the second half. “It was purely precautionary and we hope he’ll be fit to face City,” said Holden.  A full-strength Watford were in control throughout and took a deserved lead when Carillo scored in the 37th minute. The Peruvian showed great composure in the penalty area to sidestep Horour Magnusson and fire a low shot under the body of Luke Steele.  Watford and Bristol City at Vicarage Road Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steele made important saves to deny Capoue, Roberto Pereyra and Deeney, and showed bravery by diving at the feet of Tom Cleverley but could do little about the goals.  Watford came into the tie with seven defeats from nine games and only three wins in 12 home games.  Deeney, back from suspension, had only scored two goals previously, but made no mistake with a diving header from close range after a smart cross from Cleverley, and then set up Capoue for Watford’s third goal as the Frenchman shot home inside the area in the 85th minute.  Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes saves Credit: ACTION IMAGES The visiting fans maintained a sense of gallows humour to the end, chanting: “Manchester City, we’re coming for you.”  It will be a different side facing City, though. “It’s a great chance to play against one of the best teams in Europe at the moment,” added Holden. “We’ve beaten United already so it proves anything can happen. We’ll go there with a lot of heart.”

Watford 3 Bristol City 0: Lee Johnson's giant-killing exploits come to a shuddering halt at Vicarage Road

Bristol City’s giant-killing exploits came to a shuddering halt at Watford where goals from Andre Carillo, Troy Deeney and Etienne Capoue gave the home side victory and avenged their 3-2 defeat by Lee Johnson’s men in the Carabao Cup in August.  City reached the semi-final of that competition after beating Watford, Stoke, Crystal Palace and Manchester United, and face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday in the first-leg of their semi-final.  With that game in mind, Johnson made seven changes to the side that lost 5-0 at Aston Villa last Monday, and gave debuts to youngsters Opi Edwards and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans.  Johnson’s assistant Dean Holden said: “We left a few of the lads at home because we felt they needed a rest. They should all be fit for Tuesday.”  One concern is Korey Smith, who scored the winner against United, but injured his shin after half an hour and did not return for the second half. “It was purely precautionary and we hope he’ll be fit to face City,” said Holden.  A full-strength Watford were in control throughout and took a deserved lead when Carillo scored in the 37th minute. The Peruvian showed great composure in the penalty area to sidestep Horour Magnusson and fire a low shot under the body of Luke Steele.  Watford and Bristol City at Vicarage Road Credit: GETTY IMAGES Steele made important saves to deny Capoue, Roberto Pereyra and Deeney, and showed bravery by diving at the feet of Tom Cleverley but could do little about the goals.  Watford came into the tie with seven defeats from nine games and only three wins in 12 home games.  Deeney, back from suspension, had only scored two goals previously, but made no mistake with a diving header from close range after a smart cross from Cleverley, and then set up Capoue for Watford’s third goal as the Frenchman shot home inside the area in the 85th minute.  Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes saves Credit: ACTION IMAGES The visiting fans maintained a sense of gallows humour to the end, chanting: “Manchester City, we’re coming for you.”  It will be a different side facing City, though. “It’s a great chance to play against one of the best teams in Europe at the moment,” added Holden. “We’ve beaten United already so it proves anything can happen. We’ll go there with a lot of heart.”

Stephen Ireland exclusive on gruesome leg break and recovery hell: 'I saw my tooth fly out of the ambulance - when I asked them to find it, they came back with a stone'

Stephen Ireland can remember the moment, with pin-sharp clarity, when his world was turned upside down. It was almost 20 months ago, on a spring morning during a training session at Stoke, five days before the end of the Premier League season when times were considerably better for manager Mark Hughes. Ireland went in for a 50-50 challenge with friend and team-mate Dionatan Teixeira and seconds later suffered the most excruciating pain, his left fibula and tibula completely shattered after an innocuous collision. Even now, as he prepares to make his first appearance in 609 days at Coventry in the FA Cup this weekend, the memories remain vivid. “I remember what happened as clear as day. It was a very relaxed session and in the last 15 seconds I was going for the tackle and nudged the ball off line and he [Teixeira] judged it wrong. “He kicked through with his heel on my shinbone. I heard it snap and knew instantly it was broken. I was hopping on my right leg and looked down at my left leg – the ankle and foot was like jelly, swinging. “I have quite a high pain threshold but this was something else. It was so gruesome. I’d have done anything to go back in time three seconds and pull out of the challenge. I knew it was going to be life-changing. Teixeira was sitting there, tears in his eyes and he’s now since passed away, God rest his soul [from a heart attack in November 2017]. Ireland hasn't played for 20 months Credit: Getty images “The thing that will stay with me for the rest of my life was lying on the floor and looking up at Phil Bardsley. He was standing over me, he grabbed his head with both hands and screamed ‘Oh my God’ dead loud. I knew from his reaction I was in trouble. It just felt like my time, part of my story and to see if I was ready for the challenge.” Lifted off the training pitch at Clayton Wood by team-mates, he was already preparing for an absence of up to nine months. As he waited for the ambulance to arrive, for what seemed like an eternity, the day then descended into high farce. “What happened next was like something out of a film, it was crazy. The ambulance took ages. I was waiting, getting more and more annoyed because I just wanted the operation. “We eventually got to the hospital and the paramedic ripped me so hard out of the ambulance that I bit down on my gas and air and one of my front teeth fell out. “It was like something out of a cartoon, I saw it flying out of my mouth, out of the ambulance and on to the floor. I was escorted to a bed in hospital and asking for them to please find my tooth. He came back with a stone... I went mad. “They finally found the tooth under the wheel of the ambulance. I was struggling to lodge it back in. I was just thinking ‘what’s next’. Well, I was getting married two weeks later. “We went ahead with the wedding but I can barely remember it. I wasn’t in a wheelchair but it wasn’t the same experience. I was on such a high dose of painkillers that I didn’t feel myself, emotionally.” The close support of wife Jessica, his two sons Joshua and Jacob, daughter Jess, plus Ireland’s agent Paul Masterton has been significant over the tough journey he has since endured. There have been frequent setbacks during the rehabilitation but he is now finally in a position to return, a remarkable story of courage, commitment and professionalism. Ireland celebrates a goal by revealing Superman pants Credit: Action images Retirement was never going to be an option for the midfielder, who first made his name at Manchester City and was the club’s player of the year in 2009, complete with those Superman pants. He admits the time spent earlier this year at Aspetar, the renowned sports injury clinic in Qatar, was pivotal to his recovery. “I was supposed to be there for two weeks but ended up extending it to three months. I was in isolation and away from my missus and kids which was really hard. I went without a mobile phone for almost a year. I was training from 8 in the morning until 8 in the night. I had one day off out of every ten,” he says. “It was challenging but I had to make the sacrifice. I needed it, mentally, to get me over the final hurdle. I wanted to do everything I could to make sure I played again.” The long, lonely period of rehabilitation was a difficult experience. “I’ve always been a determined person who pushes himself but I kept getting setback after setback. In my rehab I did my hamstring twice, my calf twice and my quad twice. They were harder to take than the leg-break. “I was close to playing a reserve game or completing a full week of training but kept getting a setback. You feel so close to the comeback and then you’re out for another month or two. It’s a vicious circle. Ireland is grateful for Mark Hughes's support Credit: PA “Retirement never came into my mind. I had bad days and some real lows but I still never thought about calling it a day.” Ireland, 31, also highlights the loyalty and support of Hughes, who was his manager at Manchester City when he produced arguably the best form of his career, and Stoke’s medical staff for helping him stay focused. He recently signed a new short-term contract and travelled with the squad for the game at Chelsea last weekend. But this Saturday at the Ricoh Arena could be the day when he finally pulls on a Stoke jersey again, his first appearance since May 2016. “You take it all for granted when you’re playing, being with the lads, the pre-match meal, the atmosphere in the grounds,” he says. “It means so much to me to be part of it again, it’s an amazing feeling. “I’ve been through a lot of hard times but feel I’m in the best shape I’ve been. I believe I could start a game now. I need some minutes to blow the cobwebs away. “The club have been brilliant and so supportive. The manager has been unbelievable too - I’m just praying he comes through this. Not to benefit me, but I know hard he works. “It’s a shame things have worked out like this but I really hope he gets the minimum four to five games to turn it around. Hopefully I can help repay him over the next few months because I’m making up for lost time.”

Stephen Ireland exclusive on gruesome leg break and recovery hell: 'I saw my tooth fly out of the ambulance - when I asked them to find it, they came back with a stone'

Stephen Ireland exclusive on gruesome leg break and recovery hell: 'I saw my tooth fly out of the ambulance - when I asked them to find it, they came back with a stone'

Stephen Ireland exclusive on gruesome leg break and recovery hell: 'I saw my tooth fly out of the ambulance - when I asked them to find it, they came back with a stone'

Stephen Ireland exclusive on gruesome leg break and recovery hell: 'I saw my tooth fly out of the ambulance - when I asked them to find it, they came back with a stone'

Stephen Ireland exclusive on gruesome leg break and recovery hell: 'I saw my tooth fly out of the ambulance - when I asked them to find it, they came back with a stone'

Stephen Ireland exclusive on gruesome leg break and recovery hell: 'I saw my tooth fly out of the ambulance - when I asked them to find it, they came back with a stone'

Stephen Ireland exclusive on gruesome leg break and recovery hell: 'I saw my tooth fly out of the ambulance - when I asked them to find it, they came back with a stone'

Stephen Ireland can remember the moment, with pin-sharp clarity, when his world was turned upside down. It was almost 20 months ago, on a spring morning during a training session at Stoke, five days before the end of the Premier League season when times were considerably better for manager Mark Hughes. Ireland went in for a 50-50 challenge with friend and team-mate Dionatan Teixeira and seconds later suffered the most excruciating pain, his left fibula and tibula completely shattered after an innocuous collision. Even now, as he prepares to make his first appearance in 609 days at Coventry in the FA Cup this weekend, the memories remain vivid. “I remember what happened as clear as day. It was a very relaxed session and in the last 15 seconds I was going for the tackle and nudged the ball off line and he [Teixeira] judged it wrong. “He kicked through with his heel on my shinbone. I heard it snap and knew instantly it was broken. I was hopping on my right leg and looked down at my left leg – the ankle and foot was like jelly, swinging. “I have quite a high pain threshold but this was something else. It was so gruesome. I’d have done anything to go back in time three seconds and pull out of the challenge. I knew it was going to be life-changing. Teixeira was sitting there, tears in his eyes and he’s now since passed away, God rest his soul [from a heart attack in November 2017]. Ireland hasn't played for 20 months Credit: Getty images “The thing that will stay with me for the rest of my life was lying on the floor and looking up at Phil Bardsley. He was standing over me, he grabbed his head with both hands and screamed ‘Oh my God’ dead loud. I knew from his reaction I was in trouble. It just felt like my time, part of my story and to see if I was ready for the challenge.” Lifted off the training pitch at Clayton Wood by team-mates, he was already preparing for an absence of up to nine months. As he waited for the ambulance to arrive, for what seemed like an eternity, the day then descended into high farce. “What happened next was like something out of a film, it was crazy. The ambulance took ages. I was waiting, getting more and more annoyed because I just wanted the operation. “We eventually got to the hospital and the paramedic ripped me so hard out of the ambulance that I bit down on my gas and air and one of my front teeth fell out. “It was like something out of a cartoon, I saw it flying out of my mouth, out of the ambulance and on to the floor. I was escorted to a bed in hospital and asking for them to please find my tooth. He came back with a stone... I went mad. “They finally found the tooth under the wheel of the ambulance. I was struggling to lodge it back in. I was just thinking ‘what’s next’. Well, I was getting married two weeks later. “We went ahead with the wedding but I can barely remember it. I wasn’t in a wheelchair but it wasn’t the same experience. I was on such a high dose of painkillers that I didn’t feel myself, emotionally.” The close support of wife Jessica, his two sons Joshua and Jacob, daughter Jess, plus Ireland’s agent Paul Masterton has been significant over the tough journey he has since endured. There have been frequent setbacks during the rehabilitation but he is now finally in a position to return, a remarkable story of courage, commitment and professionalism. Ireland celebrates a goal by revealing Superman pants Credit: Action images Retirement was never going to be an option for the midfielder, who first made his name at Manchester City and was the club’s player of the year in 2009, complete with those Superman pants. He admits the time spent earlier this year at Aspetar, the renowned sports injury clinic in Qatar, was pivotal to his recovery. “I was supposed to be there for two weeks but ended up extending it to three months. I was in isolation and away from my missus and kids which was really hard. I went without a mobile phone for almost a year. I was training from 8 in the morning until 8 in the night. I had one day off out of every ten,” he says. “It was challenging but I had to make the sacrifice. I needed it, mentally, to get me over the final hurdle. I wanted to do everything I could to make sure I played again.” The long, lonely period of rehabilitation was a difficult experience. “I’ve always been a determined person who pushes himself but I kept getting setback after setback. In my rehab I did my hamstring twice, my calf twice and my quad twice. They were harder to take than the leg-break. “I was close to playing a reserve game or completing a full week of training but kept getting a setback. You feel so close to the comeback and then you’re out for another month or two. It’s a vicious circle. Ireland is grateful for Mark Hughes's support Credit: PA “Retirement never came into my mind. I had bad days and some real lows but I still never thought about calling it a day.” Ireland, 31, also highlights the loyalty and support of Hughes, who was his manager at Manchester City when he produced arguably the best form of his career, and Stoke’s medical staff for helping him stay focused. He recently signed a new short-term contract and travelled with the squad for the game at Chelsea last weekend. But this Saturday at the Ricoh Arena could be the day when he finally pulls on a Stoke jersey again, his first appearance since May 2016. “You take it all for granted when you’re playing, being with the lads, the pre-match meal, the atmosphere in the grounds,” he says. “It means so much to me to be part of it again, it’s an amazing feeling. “I’ve been through a lot of hard times but feel I’m in the best shape I’ve been. I believe I could start a game now. I need some minutes to blow the cobwebs away. “The club have been brilliant and so supportive. The manager has been unbelievable too - I’m just praying he comes through this. Not to benefit me, but I know hard he works. “It’s a shame things have worked out like this but I really hope he gets the minimum four to five games to turn it around. Hopefully I can help repay him over the next few months because I’m making up for lost time.”

Stephen Ireland exclusive on gruesome leg break and recovery hell: 'I saw my tooth fly out of the ambulance - when I asked them to find it, they came back with a stone'

Stephen Ireland can remember the moment, with pin-sharp clarity, when his world was turned upside down. It was almost 20 months ago, on a spring morning during a training session at Stoke, five days before the end of the Premier League season when times were considerably better for manager Mark Hughes. Ireland went in for a 50-50 challenge with friend and team-mate Dionatan Teixeira and seconds later suffered the most excruciating pain, his left fibula and tibula completely shattered after an innocuous collision. Even now, as he prepares to make his first appearance in 609 days at Coventry in the FA Cup this weekend, the memories remain vivid. “I remember what happened as clear as day. It was a very relaxed session and in the last 15 seconds I was going for the tackle and nudged the ball off line and he [Teixeira] judged it wrong. “He kicked through with his heel on my shinbone. I heard it snap and knew instantly it was broken. I was hopping on my right leg and looked down at my left leg – the ankle and foot was like jelly, swinging. “I have quite a high pain threshold but this was something else. It was so gruesome. I’d have done anything to go back in time three seconds and pull out of the challenge. I knew it was going to be life-changing. Teixeira was sitting there, tears in his eyes and he’s now since passed away, God rest his soul [from a heart attack in November 2017]. Ireland hasn't played for 20 months Credit: Getty images “The thing that will stay with me for the rest of my life was lying on the floor and looking up at Phil Bardsley. He was standing over me, he grabbed his head with both hands and screamed ‘Oh my God’ dead loud. I knew from his reaction I was in trouble. It just felt like my time, part of my story and to see if I was ready for the challenge.” Lifted off the training pitch at Clayton Wood by team-mates, he was already preparing for an absence of up to nine months. As he waited for the ambulance to arrive, for what seemed like an eternity, the day then descended into high farce. “What happened next was like something out of a film, it was crazy. The ambulance took ages. I was waiting, getting more and more annoyed because I just wanted the operation. “We eventually got to the hospital and the paramedic ripped me so hard out of the ambulance that I bit down on my gas and air and one of my front teeth fell out. “It was like something out of a cartoon, I saw it flying out of my mouth, out of the ambulance and on to the floor. I was escorted to a bed in hospital and asking for them to please find my tooth. He came back with a stone... I went mad. “They finally found the tooth under the wheel of the ambulance. I was struggling to lodge it back in. I was just thinking ‘what’s next’. Well, I was getting married two weeks later. “We went ahead with the wedding but I can barely remember it. I wasn’t in a wheelchair but it wasn’t the same experience. I was on such a high dose of painkillers that I didn’t feel myself, emotionally.” The close support of wife Jessica, his two sons Joshua and Jacob, daughter Jess, plus Ireland’s agent Paul Masterton has been significant over the tough journey he has since endured. There have been frequent setbacks during the rehabilitation but he is now finally in a position to return, a remarkable story of courage, commitment and professionalism. Ireland celebrates a goal by revealing Superman pants Credit: Action images Retirement was never going to be an option for the midfielder, who first made his name at Manchester City and was the club’s player of the year in 2009, complete with those Superman pants. He admits the time spent earlier this year at Aspetar, the renowned sports injury clinic in Qatar, was pivotal to his recovery. “I was supposed to be there for two weeks but ended up extending it to three months. I was in isolation and away from my missus and kids which was really hard. I went without a mobile phone for almost a year. I was training from 8 in the morning until 8 in the night. I had one day off out of every ten,” he says. “It was challenging but I had to make the sacrifice. I needed it, mentally, to get me over the final hurdle. I wanted to do everything I could to make sure I played again.” The long, lonely period of rehabilitation was a difficult experience. “I’ve always been a determined person who pushes himself but I kept getting setback after setback. In my rehab I did my hamstring twice, my calf twice and my quad twice. They were harder to take than the leg-break. “I was close to playing a reserve game or completing a full week of training but kept getting a setback. You feel so close to the comeback and then you’re out for another month or two. It’s a vicious circle. Ireland is grateful for Mark Hughes's support Credit: PA “Retirement never came into my mind. I had bad days and some real lows but I still never thought about calling it a day.” Ireland, 31, also highlights the loyalty and support of Hughes, who was his manager at Manchester City when he produced arguably the best form of his career, and Stoke’s medical staff for helping him stay focused. He recently signed a new short-term contract and travelled with the squad for the game at Chelsea last weekend. But this Saturday at the Ricoh Arena could be the day when he finally pulls on a Stoke jersey again, his first appearance since May 2016. “You take it all for granted when you’re playing, being with the lads, the pre-match meal, the atmosphere in the grounds,” he says. “It means so much to me to be part of it again, it’s an amazing feeling. “I’ve been through a lot of hard times but feel I’m in the best shape I’ve been. I believe I could start a game now. I need some minutes to blow the cobwebs away. “The club have been brilliant and so supportive. The manager has been unbelievable too - I’m just praying he comes through this. Not to benefit me, but I know hard he works. “It’s a shame things have worked out like this but I really hope he gets the minimum four to five games to turn it around. Hopefully I can help repay him over the next few months because I’m making up for lost time.”

Stephen Ireland exclusive on gruesome leg break and recovery hell: 'I saw my tooth fly out of the ambulance - when I asked them to find it, they came back with a stone'

Stephen Ireland can remember the moment, with pin-sharp clarity, when his world was turned upside down. It was almost 20 months ago, on a spring morning during a training session at Stoke, five days before the end of the Premier League season when times were considerably better for manager Mark Hughes. Ireland went in for a 50-50 challenge with friend and team-mate Dionatan Teixeira and seconds later suffered the most excruciating pain, his left fibula and tibula completely shattered after an innocuous collision. Even now, as he prepares to make his first appearance in 609 days at Coventry in the FA Cup this weekend, the memories remain vivid. “I remember what happened as clear as day. It was a very relaxed session and in the last 15 seconds I was going for the tackle and nudged the ball off line and he [Teixeira] judged it wrong. “He kicked through with his heel on my shinbone. I heard it snap and knew instantly it was broken. I was hopping on my right leg and looked down at my left leg – the ankle and foot was like jelly, swinging. “I have quite a high pain threshold but this was something else. It was so gruesome. I’d have done anything to go back in time three seconds and pull out of the challenge. I knew it was going to be life-changing. Teixeira was sitting there, tears in his eyes and he’s now since passed away, God rest his soul [from a heart attack in November 2017]. Ireland hasn't played for 20 months Credit: Getty images “The thing that will stay with me for the rest of my life was lying on the floor and looking up at Phil Bardsley. He was standing over me, he grabbed his head with both hands and screamed ‘Oh my God’ dead loud. I knew from his reaction I was in trouble. It just felt like my time, part of my story and to see if I was ready for the challenge.” Lifted off the training pitch at Clayton Wood by team-mates, he was already preparing for an absence of up to nine months. As he waited for the ambulance to arrive, for what seemed like an eternity, the day then descended into high farce. “What happened next was like something out of a film, it was crazy. The ambulance took ages. I was waiting, getting more and more annoyed because I just wanted the operation. “We eventually got to the hospital and the paramedic ripped me so hard out of the ambulance that I bit down on my gas and air and one of my front teeth fell out. “It was like something out of a cartoon, I saw it flying out of my mouth, out of the ambulance and on to the floor. I was escorted to a bed in hospital and asking for them to please find my tooth. He came back with a stone... I went mad. “They finally found the tooth under the wheel of the ambulance. I was struggling to lodge it back in. I was just thinking ‘what’s next’. Well, I was getting married two weeks later. “We went ahead with the wedding but I can barely remember it. I wasn’t in a wheelchair but it wasn’t the same experience. I was on such a high dose of painkillers that I didn’t feel myself, emotionally.” The close support of wife Jessica, his two sons Joshua and Jacob, daughter Jess, plus Ireland’s agent Paul Masterton has been significant over the tough journey he has since endured. There have been frequent setbacks during the rehabilitation but he is now finally in a position to return, a remarkable story of courage, commitment and professionalism. Ireland celebrates a goal by revealing Superman pants Credit: Action images Retirement was never going to be an option for the midfielder, who first made his name at Manchester City and was the club’s player of the year in 2009, complete with those Superman pants. He admits the time spent earlier this year at Aspetar, the renowned sports injury clinic in Qatar, was pivotal to his recovery. “I was supposed to be there for two weeks but ended up extending it to three months. I was in isolation and away from my missus and kids which was really hard. I went without a mobile phone for almost a year. I was training from 8 in the morning until 8 in the night. I had one day off out of every ten,” he says. “It was challenging but I had to make the sacrifice. I needed it, mentally, to get me over the final hurdle. I wanted to do everything I could to make sure I played again.” The long, lonely period of rehabilitation was a difficult experience. “I’ve always been a determined person who pushes himself but I kept getting setback after setback. In my rehab I did my hamstring twice, my calf twice and my quad twice. They were harder to take than the leg-break. “I was close to playing a reserve game or completing a full week of training but kept getting a setback. You feel so close to the comeback and then you’re out for another month or two. It’s a vicious circle. Ireland is grateful for Mark Hughes's support Credit: PA “Retirement never came into my mind. I had bad days and some real lows but I still never thought about calling it a day.” Ireland, 31, also highlights the loyalty and support of Hughes, who was his manager at Manchester City when he produced arguably the best form of his career, and Stoke’s medical staff for helping him stay focused. He recently signed a new short-term contract and travelled with the squad for the game at Chelsea last weekend. But this Saturday at the Ricoh Arena could be the day when he finally pulls on a Stoke jersey again, his first appearance since May 2016. “You take it all for granted when you’re playing, being with the lads, the pre-match meal, the atmosphere in the grounds,” he says. “It means so much to me to be part of it again, it’s an amazing feeling. “I’ve been through a lot of hard times but feel I’m in the best shape I’ve been. I believe I could start a game now. I need some minutes to blow the cobwebs away. “The club have been brilliant and so supportive. The manager has been unbelievable too - I’m just praying he comes through this. Not to benefit me, but I know hard he works. “It’s a shame things have worked out like this but I really hope he gets the minimum four to five games to turn it around. Hopefully I can help repay him over the next few months because I’m making up for lost time.”

Stephen Ireland exclusive on gruesome leg break and recovery hell: 'I saw my tooth fly out of the ambulance - when I asked them to find it, they came back with a stone'

Stephen Ireland exclusive on gruesome leg break and recovery hell: 'I saw my tooth fly out of the ambulance - when I asked them to find it, they came back with a stone'

Premier League clubs should not disrespect the FA Cup - if winning an honour is not a priority what is the point?

There must be times when supporters of Premier League clubs in mid-table and below contemplate a difficult question: “What is the point?” Why go to a football match? To be entertained, presumably? Because you believe your side will score a few goals, beat the opponent and win a trophy in your lifetime? The more the Premier League has evolved, and the more cash coming into the game, the less sure I am enough top-flight clubs are using their wealth to win honours. Cup dreams are being killed by the idea avoiding relegation is the chief ambition. And what does that get you? In some cases the chance to re-live the same season on a loop, cup ambitions at best secondary or at worst of no consideration at all. The emotion which now dominates when taking on the big six is fear; fear of a heavy defeat, fear of being plunged into a relegation battle; fear of the sack; fear of losing TV revenue. The broadcasting deal has made English football the wealthiest in the world. This gives our clubs a chance to be more ambitious - to afford more creative players. When the next Deloitte money league table is published this month Premier League clubs will dominate the top 40 – and not just the top six. There were no Dutch or Portuguese clubs in the top 20 last year. Despite this there are too many Premier League games where the sole aim when playing the top sides is to defend, kill the spectacle and hopefully nick a goal from set-pieces. It is making many of those fixtures too repetitive. Too many teams playing the same way against the top six, including Newcastle against Manchester City Credit:  Getty Images Europe I know fans of some clubs prefer life in the lower divisions compared to when they were in the Premier League. There is greater certainty of watching their team play attacking football, pushing for the points to secure promotion or a play-off. There is more tactical variation, sometimes defending doggedly and on other occasions pouring men forward. Life at the top has become dreary existence for too many fans of clubs whose idea of success differs from those running their club.  I railed against this Premier League trend after Newcastle’s recent loss to Manchester City, but felt the same when seeing Everton fail to have a shot on target against Chelsea, and when Stoke effectively waved the white flag at Stamford Bridge – although in their case Mark Hughes’ team selection was more understandable given the fixture schedule. I appreciate the tactical merits - sometime the necessity - of setting up a team to play cautiously. I also realise such an approach can be a means to an end until a manager evolves his team, purchases more attacking players and changes the style. I would never argue against prioritising clean sheets. The problem for me is we now have too many teams playing the same way against the top six.  Wigan's 2013 FA Cup win also coincided with Premier League relegation three days later Credit:  PA My distaste for the fashion of unambitious Premier League football pales into insignificance when I see the attitude the same clubs take to the FA Cup, a competition in which every top flight club enters the third round with a chance. Those below the top six are most guilty of undermining the competition. I know some chairmen actively encourage their manager to forget about the cups. Recent years have seen the biggest clubs criticised for their ambivalent attitude to the FA Cup, especially in the early rounds. But since 1991, there have been only three years when Manchester United, City, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool failed to win it. Apologists for FA Cup rotation will argue Wigan won it in 2013 but went down, demonstrating it is foolish to progress. Did they go suffer because of the cup? Ask any Wigan fan if they would swap that Wembley win for five more years struggling in the top division. I would be genuinely interested in their response. It certainly did Roberto Martinez’s reputation no harm. He was appointed Everton manager on the back of it.  I don’t buy the idea the fixture schedule undermined Wigan’s survival chances, or that of Aston Villa when they made the final in 2015. Winning cup games can sometimes brings momentum that will help rather than hinder in the league. If West Bromwich Albion end their winless drought this weekend, surely their players will feel more confident on Premier League duty next weekend? You must play six extra games to win the trophy. Those who went out early in the League Cup, where players are also rested, would end up playing between 45 and 50 games this season (depending on replays) if they reached the FA Cup Final. They rarely play midweek. Are their players so unfit and so incapable of coping with this schedule?  I would ask Premier League chairmen and managers justifying mass changes today, what is the worst that could happen if you treat the FA Cup with more respect and play a few extra fixtures this season? The Champions League clubs play nearer 60 games and build their squad accordingly. They have better players, but there is no reason they should be fitter. There is no justification for the clubs outside of Europe to take the same approach. Their attitude is making it easier for the bigger clubs to progress despite the changes they make. I accept the festive schedule does not help the clubs - there are too many games around the third round - but this is a problem which extends into later rounds, too. I would ask Premier League chairmen and managers justifying mass changes today, what is the worst that could happen if you treat the FA Cup with more respect and play a few extra fixtures this season? If your club goes down, does the sky really cave in financially? Yes, the rewards are vast, but should clubs not be run in such a way to legislate for the possibility of going down? Three have got to go. It should be a disappointment rather than catastrophe. Would you not trust your manager and players to perform better in a lower division, using the parachute payments sensibly to return stronger? Look at Burnley, one of the few clubs who appear to have taken a rational approach when relegated three years ago. They stood by Sean Dyche, returned immediately and now sit comfortably this season. Not many do this, but not many keep their manager after relegation. Plenty of others should learn the lesson. The FA Cup has undergone changes to help protect it, reducing the number of replays for example. I would scrap replays entirely. But for all the calls for reform, there is an immovable fact which should ensure it is always taken seriously by every club. It is a trophy. Football, for as long as I have loved it, played it and watched it, is about winning trophies.  The sooner those handing in the team sheets today remember this, and get back in touch with how they felt as supporters when seeing their side on an extended cup-run, the better. 

Premier League clubs should not disrespect the FA Cup - if winning an honour is not a priority what is the point?

There must be times when supporters of Premier League clubs in mid-table and below contemplate a difficult question: “What is the point?” Why go to a football match? To be entertained, presumably? Because you believe your side will score a few goals, beat the opponent and win a trophy in your lifetime? The more the Premier League has evolved, and the more cash coming into the game, the less sure I am enough top-flight clubs are using their wealth to win honours. Cup dreams are being killed by the idea avoiding relegation is the chief ambition. And what does that get you? In some cases the chance to re-live the same season on a loop, cup ambitions at best secondary or at worst of no consideration at all. The emotion which now dominates when taking on the big six is fear; fear of a heavy defeat, fear of being plunged into a relegation battle; fear of the sack; fear of losing TV revenue. The broadcasting deal has made English football the wealthiest in the world. This gives our clubs a chance to be more ambitious - to afford more creative players. When the next Deloitte money league table is published this month Premier League clubs will dominate the top 40 – and not just the top six. There were no Dutch or Portuguese clubs in the top 20 last year. Despite this there are too many Premier League games where the sole aim when playing the top sides is to defend, kill the spectacle and hopefully nick a goal from set-pieces. It is making many of those fixtures too repetitive. Too many teams playing the same way against the top six, including Newcastle against Manchester City Credit:  Getty Images Europe I know fans of some clubs prefer life in the lower divisions compared to when they were in the Premier League. There is greater certainty of watching their team play attacking football, pushing for the points to secure promotion or a play-off. There is more tactical variation, sometimes defending doggedly and on other occasions pouring men forward. Life at the top has become dreary existence for too many fans of clubs whose idea of success differs from those running their club.  I railed against this Premier League trend after Newcastle’s recent loss to Manchester City, but felt the same when seeing Everton fail to have a shot on target against Chelsea, and when Stoke effectively waved the white flag at Stamford Bridge – although in their case Mark Hughes’ team selection was more understandable given the fixture schedule. I appreciate the tactical merits - sometime the necessity - of setting up a team to play cautiously. I also realise such an approach can be a means to an end until a manager evolves his team, purchases more attacking players and changes the style. I would never argue against prioritising clean sheets. The problem for me is we now have too many teams playing the same way against the top six.  Wigan's 2013 FA Cup win also coincided with Premier League relegation three days later Credit:  PA My distaste for the fashion of unambitious Premier League football pales into insignificance when I see the attitude the same clubs take to the FA Cup, a competition in which every top flight club enters the third round with a chance. Those below the top six are most guilty of undermining the competition. I know some chairmen actively encourage their manager to forget about the cups. Recent years have seen the biggest clubs criticised for their ambivalent attitude to the FA Cup, especially in the early rounds. But since 1991, there have been only three years when Manchester United, City, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool failed to win it. Apologists for FA Cup rotation will argue Wigan won it in 2013 but went down, demonstrating it is foolish to progress. Did they go suffer because of the cup? Ask any Wigan fan if they would swap that Wembley win for five more years struggling in the top division. I would be genuinely interested in their response. It certainly did Roberto Martinez’s reputation no harm. He was appointed Everton manager on the back of it.  I don’t buy the idea the fixture schedule undermined Wigan’s survival chances, or that of Aston Villa when they made the final in 2015. Winning cup games can sometimes brings momentum that will help rather than hinder in the league. If West Bromwich Albion end their winless drought this weekend, surely their players will feel more confident on Premier League duty next weekend? You must play six extra games to win the trophy. Those who went out early in the League Cup, where players are also rested, would end up playing between 45 and 50 games this season (depending on replays) if they reached the FA Cup Final. They rarely play midweek. Are their players so unfit and so incapable of coping with this schedule?  I would ask Premier League chairmen and managers justifying mass changes today, what is the worst that could happen if you treat the FA Cup with more respect and play a few extra fixtures this season? The Champions League clubs play nearer 60 games and build their squad accordingly. They have better players, but there is no reason they should be fitter. There is no justification for the clubs outside of Europe to take the same approach. Their attitude is making it easier for the bigger clubs to progress despite the changes they make. I accept the festive schedule does not help the clubs - there are too many games around the third round - but this is a problem which extends into later rounds, too. I would ask Premier League chairmen and managers justifying mass changes today, what is the worst that could happen if you treat the FA Cup with more respect and play a few extra fixtures this season? If your club goes down, does the sky really cave in financially? Yes, the rewards are vast, but should clubs not be run in such a way to legislate for the possibility of going down? Three have got to go. It should be a disappointment rather than catastrophe. Would you not trust your manager and players to perform better in a lower division, using the parachute payments sensibly to return stronger? Look at Burnley, one of the few clubs who appear to have taken a rational approach when relegated three years ago. They stood by Sean Dyche, returned immediately and now sit comfortably this season. Not many do this, but not many keep their manager after relegation. Plenty of others should learn the lesson. The FA Cup has undergone changes to help protect it, reducing the number of replays for example. I would scrap replays entirely. But for all the calls for reform, there is an immovable fact which should ensure it is always taken seriously by every club. It is a trophy. Football, for as long as I have loved it, played it and watched it, is about winning trophies.  The sooner those handing in the team sheets today remember this, and get back in touch with how they felt as supporters when seeing their side on an extended cup-run, the better. 

Premier League clubs should not disrespect the FA Cup - if winning an honour is not a priority what is the point?

There must be times when supporters of Premier League clubs in mid-table and below contemplate a difficult question: “What is the point?” Why go to a football match? To be entertained, presumably? Because you believe your side will score a few goals, beat the opponent and win a trophy in your lifetime? The more the Premier League has evolved, and the more cash coming into the game, the less sure I am enough top-flight clubs are using their wealth to win honours. Cup dreams are being killed by the idea avoiding relegation is the chief ambition. And what does that get you? In some cases the chance to re-live the same season on a loop, cup ambitions at best secondary or at worst of no consideration at all. The emotion which now dominates when taking on the big six is fear; fear of a heavy defeat, fear of being plunged into a relegation battle; fear of the sack; fear of losing TV revenue. The broadcasting deal has made English football the wealthiest in the world. This gives our clubs a chance to be more ambitious - to afford more creative players. When the next Deloitte money league table is published this month Premier League clubs will dominate the top 40 – and not just the top six. There were no Dutch or Portuguese clubs in the top 20 last year. Despite this there are too many Premier League games where the sole aim when playing the top sides is to defend, kill the spectacle and hopefully nick a goal from set-pieces. It is making many of those fixtures too repetitive. Too many teams playing the same way against the top six, including Newcastle against Manchester City Credit:  Getty Images Europe I know fans of some clubs prefer life in the lower divisions compared to when they were in the Premier League. There is greater certainty of watching their team play attacking football, pushing for the points to secure promotion or a play-off. There is more tactical variation, sometimes defending doggedly and on other occasions pouring men forward. Life at the top has become dreary existence for too many fans of clubs whose idea of success differs from those running their club.  I railed against this Premier League trend after Newcastle’s recent loss to Manchester City, but felt the same when seeing Everton fail to have a shot on target against Chelsea, and when Stoke effectively waved the white flag at Stamford Bridge – although in their case Mark Hughes’ team selection was more understandable given the fixture schedule. I appreciate the tactical merits - sometime the necessity - of setting up a team to play cautiously. I also realise such an approach can be a means to an end until a manager evolves his team, purchases more attacking players and changes the style. I would never argue against prioritising clean sheets. The problem for me is we now have too many teams playing the same way against the top six.  Wigan's 2013 FA Cup win also coincided with Premier League relegation three days later Credit:  PA My distaste for the fashion of unambitious Premier League football pales into insignificance when I see the attitude the same clubs take to the FA Cup, a competition in which every top flight club enters the third round with a chance. Those below the top six are most guilty of undermining the competition. I know some chairmen actively encourage their manager to forget about the cups. Recent years have seen the biggest clubs criticised for their ambivalent attitude to the FA Cup, especially in the early rounds. But since 1991, there have been only three years when Manchester United, City, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool failed to win it. Apologists for FA Cup rotation will argue Wigan won it in 2013 but went down, demonstrating it is foolish to progress. Did they go suffer because of the cup? Ask any Wigan fan if they would swap that Wembley win for five more years struggling in the top division. I would be genuinely interested in their response. It certainly did Roberto Martinez’s reputation no harm. He was appointed Everton manager on the back of it.  I don’t buy the idea the fixture schedule undermined Wigan’s survival chances, or that of Aston Villa when they made the final in 2015. Winning cup games can sometimes brings momentum that will help rather than hinder in the league. If West Bromwich Albion end their winless drought this weekend, surely their players will feel more confident on Premier League duty next weekend? You must play six extra games to win the trophy. Those who went out early in the League Cup, where players are also rested, would end up playing between 45 and 50 games this season (depending on replays) if they reached the FA Cup Final. They rarely play midweek. Are their players so unfit and so incapable of coping with this schedule?  I would ask Premier League chairmen and managers justifying mass changes today, what is the worst that could happen if you treat the FA Cup with more respect and play a few extra fixtures this season? The Champions League clubs play nearer 60 games and build their squad accordingly. They have better players, but there is no reason they should be fitter. There is no justification for the clubs outside of Europe to take the same approach. Their attitude is making it easier for the bigger clubs to progress despite the changes they make. I accept the festive schedule does not help the clubs - there are too many games around the third round - but this is a problem which extends into later rounds, too. I would ask Premier League chairmen and managers justifying mass changes today, what is the worst that could happen if you treat the FA Cup with more respect and play a few extra fixtures this season? If your club goes down, does the sky really cave in financially? Yes, the rewards are vast, but should clubs not be run in such a way to legislate for the possibility of going down? Three have got to go. It should be a disappointment rather than catastrophe. Would you not trust your manager and players to perform better in a lower division, using the parachute payments sensibly to return stronger? Look at Burnley, one of the few clubs who appear to have taken a rational approach when relegated three years ago. They stood by Sean Dyche, returned immediately and now sit comfortably this season. Not many do this, but not many keep their manager after relegation. Plenty of others should learn the lesson. The FA Cup has undergone changes to help protect it, reducing the number of replays for example. I would scrap replays entirely. But for all the calls for reform, there is an immovable fact which should ensure it is always taken seriously by every club. It is a trophy. Football, for as long as I have loved it, played it and watched it, is about winning trophies.  The sooner those handing in the team sheets today remember this, and get back in touch with how they felt as supporters when seeing their side on an extended cup-run, the better. 

Aston Villa Fan View: On track after back-to back wins

Championship - Aston Villa vs Bristol City

Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Bristol City - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - January 1, 2018 Aston Villa's Alan Hutton in action with Bristol City's Bobby Reid Action Images/Matthew Childs

Championship - Aston Villa vs Bristol City

Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Bristol City - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - January 1, 2018 Aston Villa's Robert Snodgrass in action with Bristol City's Joe Bryan Action Images/Matthew Childs

Stephen Ireland named in Stoke City squad for trip to Chelsea as midfielder's long-term injury nightmare nears end

Stephen Ireland named in Stoke City squad for trip to Chelsea as midfielder's long-term injury nightmare nears end

Stephen Ireland named in Stoke City squad for trip to Chelsea as midfielder's long-term injury nightmare nears end

Stephen Ireland is edging closer to ending his injury nightmare after being named in Stoke’s squad for the trip to Chelsea. Ireland has travelled with the squad for Saturday’s game at Stamford Bridge as he bids to make his first appearance since May 2016. The former Manchester City star has endured a frustrating wait after suffering a horrific double-leg break in training 20 months ago. But the 31-year-old has been named in Mark Hughes's match-day squad and could feature on the bench as Stoke battle a severe injury crisis. Hughes is without captain Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi, Kurt Zouma and Glen Johnson while defender Erik Pieters is also doubtfu for the game against the Premier League champions. Ireland has impressed Stoke’s medical staff with his progress in recent weeks and is targeting a start in the FA Cup tie at Coventry on Jan 6. Ireland has agreed a new short-term contract until the end of the season. Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years? Meanwhile, Stoke are set for a recruitment meeting next week as they assess targets for the January transfer window. Hughes is ready to rival West Ham, Newcastle and West Brom in the race to sign Liverpool striker Danny Ings on loan, while he is also prioritising a new right-back and a creative midfielder. But Stoke are adamant that Wales international Joe Allen is not for sale, amid interest from West Ham. Allen has been a key player this season and Stoke insist he will be not leaving the bet365 Stadium.

Premium-rate phone lines lured fans to call in and get all the gossip – but at 49p a minute

There are some concepts that the millennial generation will struggle to comprehend existed in the pre-internet era. That millions of people used to physically buy a single from Our Price and millions more used to genuinely care which record was No 1 in the charts at Christmas. The idea of having to walk or drive to your local Blockbuster to rent a film that you then had to return under pain of death. Perhaps most mystifying of all to anyone born in the 1990s would be the notion of premium-rate football phone lines in the guise of TeamTalk and ClubCall: paying up to 49p a minute to hear the latest gossip about your football team. Gossip is perhaps a generous description of what it offered. Frequently it was rehashed stories from that morning’s tabloids with a smattering of injury updates of dubious authenticity, but every so often there lurked a nugget of transfer gold. And that’s all it took to get you hooked. ClubCall was linked to Teletext, ITV’s punchier version of Ceefax. It promoted stories such as “Sensational swoop for Romanian star”. All you needed to do was dial 0870 … The trap is set. In your head, you are thinking Gheorghe Hagi. With clammy hands and a beating heart, you dial the number. The familiar intro music plays. By the time it finishes you are already 49p down. Then a presenter, taking as many unnecessary pauses as possible, runs through the main stories. Of course the identity of the Romanian is not revealed at this point, but the breathless manner in which the presenter talks it up means it must be big. It must be Hagi. Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years? First, though, an update on Steve Potts’s fitness that takes a solid two minutes. Then an account for the reserve team’s 2-2 draw away to Aston Villa, which is followed by an interview with the assistant coach. You become consciously aware that the second goal is being described in detail that a nuclear physicist would feel was a bit excessive. Another four minutes tick by. Finally the big reveal. This is it. It’s Hagi time. Only it isn’t Hagi time. It is Florin Raducioiu time. The sense of deflation is overwhelming. It promoted stories such as ‘Sensational swoop for Romanian’. All you had to do was dial 0870 The reporter informs you that there is competition for his signature for all over Europe. The phrase “goal machine” is used at one point. He has played for AC Milan so he can’t be that bad. Maybe he will be the next Hagi? Or George Weah? Still it won’t be long until the sense of buyer’s remorse begins. Only your parents were the buyers and in about a month’s time, when the BT bill comes through the post, there is going to be a finger pointed squarely in your direction. Protests that it could have been Hagi won’t wash, particularly as it wasn’t Hagi but Florin Raducioiu. Florin Raducioiu acheived cult status during his brief spell in England, though perhaps not among those who paid the phone bills  Credit: Getty Images  This pattern was repeated all over the country. There were dozens of stories of people failing to hang up and being landed with £200-plus phone bills. At one point, ClubCall was receiving 12 million calls a season. With clubs gaining a significant slice of the revenue in return for providing access, it provided almost as much revenue to the Premier League as Barclays, the title sponsors. TeamTalk was even floated on the London Stock Exchange. Like Blockbuster and Our Price, its business plan was left in tatters by the widespread introduction of broadband; but both TeamTalk and ClubCall are still going. In a time when the source of information on your club was limited to what newspapers were left in your newsagents, ClubCall and TeamTalk’s promise of immediacy and tantalising exclusivity was an intoxicating combination, particularly when you thought it  involved Gheorghe Hagi.

Premium-rate phone lines lured fans to call in and get all the gossip – but at 49p a minute

There are some concepts that the millennial generation will struggle to comprehend existed in the pre-internet era. That millions of people used to physically buy a single from Our Price and millions more used to genuinely care which record was No 1 in the charts at Christmas. The idea of having to walk or drive to your local Blockbuster to rent a film that you then had to return under pain of death. Perhaps most mystifying of all to anyone born in the 1990s would be the notion of premium-rate football phone lines in the guise of TeamTalk and ClubCall: paying up to 49p a minute to hear the latest gossip about your football team. Gossip is perhaps a generous description of what it offered. Frequently it was rehashed stories from that morning’s tabloids with a smattering of injury updates of dubious authenticity, but every so often there lurked a nugget of transfer gold. And that’s all it took to get you hooked. ClubCall was linked to Teletext, ITV’s punchier version of Ceefax. It promoted stories such as “Sensational swoop for Romanian star”. All you needed to do was dial 0870 … The trap is set. In your head, you are thinking Gheorghe Hagi. With clammy hands and a beating heart, you dial the number. The familiar intro music plays. By the time it finishes you are already 49p down. Then a presenter, taking as many unnecessary pauses as possible, runs through the main stories. Of course the identity of the Romanian is not revealed at this point, but the breathless manner in which the presenter talks it up means it must be big. It must be Hagi. Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years? First, though, an update on Steve Potts’s fitness that takes a solid two minutes. Then an account for the reserve team’s 2-2 draw away to Aston Villa, which is followed by an interview with the assistant coach. You become consciously aware that the second goal is being described in detail that a nuclear physicist would feel was a bit excessive. Another four minutes tick by. Finally the big reveal. This is it. It’s Hagi time. Only it isn’t Hagi time. It is Florin Raducioiu time. The sense of deflation is overwhelming. It promoted stories such as ‘Sensational swoop for Romanian’. All you had to do was dial 0870 The reporter informs you that there is competition for his signature for all over Europe. The phrase “goal machine” is used at one point. He has played for AC Milan so he can’t be that bad. Maybe he will be the next Hagi? Or George Weah? Still it won’t be long until the sense of buyer’s remorse begins. Only your parents were the buyers and in about a month’s time, when the BT bill comes through the post, there is going to be a finger pointed squarely in your direction. Protests that it could have been Hagi won’t wash, particularly as it wasn’t Hagi but Florin Raducioiu. Florin Raducioiu acheived cult status during his brief spell in England, though perhaps not among those who paid the phone bills  Credit: Getty Images  This pattern was repeated all over the country. There were dozens of stories of people failing to hang up and being landed with £200-plus phone bills. At one point, ClubCall was receiving 12 million calls a season. With clubs gaining a significant slice of the revenue in return for providing access, it provided almost as much revenue to the Premier League as Barclays, the title sponsors. TeamTalk was even floated on the London Stock Exchange. Like Blockbuster and Our Price, its business plan was left in tatters by the widespread introduction of broadband; but both TeamTalk and ClubCall are still going. In a time when the source of information on your club was limited to what newspapers were left in your newsagents, ClubCall and TeamTalk’s promise of immediacy and tantalising exclusivity was an intoxicating combination, particularly when you thought it  involved Gheorghe Hagi.

Aston Villa Fan View: Villains half term report

Tony Pulis expected to be named as Middlesbrough manager by new year

Middlesbrough hope that Tony Pulis will be in charge by the time the team face Aston Villa on Saturday.

Middlesbrough part company with Garry Monk despite win over Sheffield Wednesday

Middlesbrough have parted company with manager Garry Monk after just seven months in charge. The former Swansea and Leeds boss leaves after Boro were 2-1 winners at Sheffield Wednesday this afternoon. It was their 10th win in 23 Championship games this season. Boro are ninth, three points behind Aston Villa, who occupy the final place in the play-off places. Telegraph Sport understands that Tony Pulis is Boro chairman Steve Gibson’s first choice to replace Monk. Pulis is out of work after departing West Brom last month. Boro had hoped to bid for automatic promotion under Monk, having been relegated from the Premier League in May after just five wins under Aitor Karanka and then Steve Agnew. Tony Pulis is Steve Gibson's first choice to replace Garry Monk Credit: AP But they are far adrift of that target and have reacted by relieving Monk of his position two days before Christmas. The 38-year-old Monk managed Swansea in the Premier League between 2014 and 2015 before helping Leeds to a seventh-placed finish in the Championship last term. He was unable to agree an extension to his stay at Leeds under new owner Andrea Radrizzani, leaving last May before swiftly taking up the reigns at Boro. A statement read: "The club would like to thank Garry for all his hard work and dedication, and wish him all the best for the future. "The club's academy manager Craig Liddle will take temporary charge of first team affairs during the interim period while a successor is appointed." Middlesbrough play at home to Bolton on Boxing Day and Aston Villa on December 30.  

Middlesbrough part company with Garry Monk despite win over Sheffield Wednesday

Middlesbrough have parted company with manager Garry Monk after just seven months in charge. The former Swansea and Leeds boss leaves after Boro were 2-1 winners at Sheffield Wednesday this afternoon. It was their 10th win in 23 Championship games this season. Boro are ninth, three points behind Aston Villa, who occupy the final place in the play-off places. Telegraph Sport understands that Tony Pulis is Boro chairman Steve Gibson’s first choice to replace Monk. Pulis is out of work after departing West Brom last month. Boro had hoped to bid for automatic promotion under Monk, having been relegated from the Premier League in May after just five wins under Aitor Karanka and then Steve Agnew. Tony Pulis is Steve Gibson's first choice to replace Garry Monk Credit: AP But they are far adrift of that target and have reacted by relieving Monk of his position two days before Christmas. The 38-year-old Monk managed Swansea in the Premier League between 2014 and 2015 before helping Leeds to a seventh-placed finish in the Championship last term. He was unable to agree an extension to his stay at Leeds under new owner Andrea Radrizzani, leaving last May before swiftly taking up the reigns at Boro. A statement read: "The club would like to thank Garry for all his hard work and dedication, and wish him all the best for the future. "The club's academy manager Craig Liddle will take temporary charge of first team affairs during the interim period while a successor is appointed." Middlesbrough play at home to Bolton on Boxing Day and Aston Villa on December 30.  

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