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Stephen Robinson bullish about Motherwell beating Celtic in Scottish League Cup final

This time last year, Stephen Robinson’s brief managerial career was disintegrating before his eyes at Oldham. Now, such are the mercurial twists of football fortune, Robinson has spent this week attempting to devise a way for Motherwell to end Celtic’s record-breaking run of successive domestic matches unbeaten – currently standing at 64 – and win the Betfred Scottish League Cup on Sunday, a twin feat that would guarantee the 42-year-old from Lisburn an enduring place in Scotland’s football chronicles. Some idea of the challenge facing him can be gleaned from the bookmakers’ odds of Motherwell as 11/1 against to defeat a Celtic side coming off the back of a 7-1 Champions League thrashing by Paris St-Germain. For Robinson, though, the prospect is one of sunlit uplands compared with the gloom he endured at Boundary Park. Six months into a job that he had been advised not to take, life at Oldham reached its nadir when a fan posted an online threat to Robinson's sons, Harry (now 17) and Charlie (now 13). The menace came in the form of a Tweet which read “#oafc tell Stephen Robinson I’m gunna murder his children.”  Having accepted the Oldham job on a high after being assistant to Michael O’Neill as Northern Ireland defied expectations at Euro 2016, Robinson admits that the adrenaline rush overwhelmed his judgment. “I’d come back from the Euros and had a big part to play in it and, you know, you think you’re invincible,” he said. “I was advised by certain people whom I’d worked with not to take it, but you do think, ‘It’s a chance in League One – go and manage’. To sign 23 players in a three-week period and play Millwall away in the first game of the season was a pretty impossible task. Motherwells' Louis Moult celebrates after putting his side a goal ahead in their semi-final against Rangers  Credit: Getty Images  “When I left Oldham (in January this year), we were bottom of the league but we were one point off safety because it was so tight. The remit was to get to Christmas, have four transfer windows and rebuild the whole football club. “Given the timelines it was impossible to be successful – and Oldham can be a very good club and the chairman has said since that there are no hard feelings – and football’s football. “My lad plays there now and people have been very good to him. I probably shouldn’t have taken the job without doing a lot of homework on it. “I just wasn’t in control of what was coming in and out. In the end, if you fail, you should die on your own sword as opposed to other people’s opinions and decisions. “Last Boxing Day my sons were getting death threats and there were tears on the team bus. We were beaten by Sheffield Wednesday away. At the time you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel with it but it has totally transformed me. “I had my reservations about going into management again but when you’ve got good people at this football club – which we have – that really want you to be successful, that was the deciding factor for me.” Brendan Rogers' Celtic side return to Scotland dejected following a thrashing against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League  Credit: Getty Images   Yet it was wholly serendipitous that Robinson should have found himself once more in charge of a football team. In February he was asked by Mark McGhee to become his assistant at Fir Park, but McGhee was sacked within two weeks and Robinson retained as interim replacement. “I was still raw from the situation at Oldham but Mark encouraged me to take it if it offered,” he said. In March, Robinson was appointed manager and supervised a summer transformation of the squad. The outcome has been extraordinary by the standards of a fan-owned club on a constricted budget. Motherwell are fifth in the Scottish Premiership and defeated Rangers at Hampden to reach Sunday’s final, having beaten Aberdeen in the quarter-finals and disposed of the Dons again with a 2-0 league win at Pittodrie last weekend. “We outplayed them and outperformed them,” Robinson said. “So why not? "Why can’t we surprise Celtic? In 64 games people have tried. We know that and I’m not going to give them any motivation but we’re going to concentrate on our strengths and I genuinely believe that our strengths are their weaknesses. “There is a real honesty about Scottish football. People in England don’t realise how big it is up here - the demands, the pressure and the fan bases. It’s a brilliant environment to play football in and I would encourage any young footballer to play football in Scotland because you get opportunities. “We topped our League Cup group by winning all four games. To then beat Aberdeen and Rangers - we have done it the hard way. Now we get a crack at the best team in Scotland. I’m proud to be at the front of it.”

Stephen Robinson bullish about Motherwell beating Celtic in Scottish League Cup final

This time last year, Stephen Robinson’s brief managerial career was disintegrating before his eyes at Oldham. Now, such are the mercurial twists of football fortune, Robinson has spent this week attempting to devise a way for Motherwell to end Celtic’s record-breaking run of successive domestic matches unbeaten – currently standing at 64 – and win the Betfred Scottish League Cup on Sunday, a twin feat that would guarantee the 42-year-old from Lisburn an enduring place in Scotland’s football chronicles. Some idea of the challenge facing him can be gleaned from the bookmakers’ odds of Motherwell as 11/1 against to defeat a Celtic side coming off the back of a 7-1 Champions League thrashing by Paris St-Germain. For Robinson, though, the prospect is one of sunlit uplands compared with the gloom he endured at Boundary Park. Six months into a job that he had been advised not to take, life at Oldham reached its nadir when a fan posted an online threat to Robinson's sons, Harry (now 17) and Charlie (now 13). The menace came in the form of a Tweet which read “#oafc tell Stephen Robinson I’m gunna murder his children.”  Having accepted the Oldham job on a high after being assistant to Michael O’Neill as Northern Ireland defied expectations at Euro 2016, Robinson admits that the adrenaline rush overwhelmed his judgment. “I’d come back from the Euros and had a big part to play in it and, you know, you think you’re invincible,” he said. “I was advised by certain people whom I’d worked with not to take it, but you do think, ‘It’s a chance in League One – go and manage’. To sign 23 players in a three-week period and play Millwall away in the first game of the season was a pretty impossible task. Motherwells' Louis Moult celebrates after putting his side a goal ahead in their semi-final against Rangers  Credit: Getty Images  “When I left Oldham (in January this year), we were bottom of the league but we were one point off safety because it was so tight. The remit was to get to Christmas, have four transfer windows and rebuild the whole football club. “Given the timelines it was impossible to be successful – and Oldham can be a very good club and the chairman has said since that there are no hard feelings – and football’s football. “My lad plays there now and people have been very good to him. I probably shouldn’t have taken the job without doing a lot of homework on it. “I just wasn’t in control of what was coming in and out. In the end, if you fail, you should die on your own sword as opposed to other people’s opinions and decisions. “Last Boxing Day my sons were getting death threats and there were tears on the team bus. We were beaten by Sheffield Wednesday away. At the time you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel with it but it has totally transformed me. “I had my reservations about going into management again but when you’ve got good people at this football club – which we have – that really want you to be successful, that was the deciding factor for me.” Brendan Rogers' Celtic side return to Scotland dejected following a thrashing against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League  Credit: Getty Images   Yet it was wholly serendipitous that Robinson should have found himself once more in charge of a football team. In February he was asked by Mark McGhee to become his assistant at Fir Park, but McGhee was sacked within two weeks and Robinson retained as interim replacement. “I was still raw from the situation at Oldham but Mark encouraged me to take it if it offered,” he said. In March, Robinson was appointed manager and supervised a summer transformation of the squad. The outcome has been extraordinary by the standards of a fan-owned club on a constricted budget. Motherwell are fifth in the Scottish Premiership and defeated Rangers at Hampden to reach Sunday’s final, having beaten Aberdeen in the quarter-finals and disposed of the Dons again with a 2-0 league win at Pittodrie last weekend. “We outplayed them and outperformed them,” Robinson said. “So why not? "Why can’t we surprise Celtic? In 64 games people have tried. We know that and I’m not going to give them any motivation but we’re going to concentrate on our strengths and I genuinely believe that our strengths are their weaknesses. “There is a real honesty about Scottish football. People in England don’t realise how big it is up here - the demands, the pressure and the fan bases. It’s a brilliant environment to play football in and I would encourage any young footballer to play football in Scotland because you get opportunities. “We topped our League Cup group by winning all four games. To then beat Aberdeen and Rangers - we have done it the hard way. Now we get a crack at the best team in Scotland. I’m proud to be at the front of it.”

Stephen Robinson bullish about Motherwell beating Celtic in Scottish League Cup final

This time last year, Stephen Robinson’s brief managerial career was disintegrating before his eyes at Oldham. Now, such are the mercurial twists of football fortune, Robinson has spent this week attempting to devise a way for Motherwell to end Celtic’s record-breaking run of successive domestic matches unbeaten – currently standing at 64 – and win the Betfred Scottish League Cup on Sunday, a twin feat that would guarantee the 42-year-old from Lisburn an enduring place in Scotland’s football chronicles. Some idea of the challenge facing him can be gleaned from the bookmakers’ odds of Motherwell as 11/1 against to defeat a Celtic side coming off the back of a 7-1 Champions League thrashing by Paris St-Germain. For Robinson, though, the prospect is one of sunlit uplands compared with the gloom he endured at Boundary Park. Six months into a job that he had been advised not to take, life at Oldham reached its nadir when a fan posted an online threat to Robinson's sons, Harry (now 17) and Charlie (now 13). The menace came in the form of a Tweet which read “#oafc tell Stephen Robinson I’m gunna murder his children.”  Having accepted the Oldham job on a high after being assistant to Michael O’Neill as Northern Ireland defied expectations at Euro 2016, Robinson admits that the adrenaline rush overwhelmed his judgment. “I’d come back from the Euros and had a big part to play in it and, you know, you think you’re invincible,” he said. “I was advised by certain people whom I’d worked with not to take it, but you do think, ‘It’s a chance in League One – go and manage’. To sign 23 players in a three-week period and play Millwall away in the first game of the season was a pretty impossible task. Motherwells' Louis Moult celebrates after putting his side a goal ahead in their semi-final against Rangers  Credit: Getty Images  “When I left Oldham (in January this year), we were bottom of the league but we were one point off safety because it was so tight. The remit was to get to Christmas, have four transfer windows and rebuild the whole football club. “Given the timelines it was impossible to be successful – and Oldham can be a very good club and the chairman has said since that there are no hard feelings – and football’s football. “My lad plays there now and people have been very good to him. I probably shouldn’t have taken the job without doing a lot of homework on it. “I just wasn’t in control of what was coming in and out. In the end, if you fail, you should die on your own sword as opposed to other people’s opinions and decisions. “Last Boxing Day my sons were getting death threats and there were tears on the team bus. We were beaten by Sheffield Wednesday away. At the time you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel with it but it has totally transformed me. “I had my reservations about going into management again but when you’ve got good people at this football club – which we have – that really want you to be successful, that was the deciding factor for me.” Brendan Rogers' Celtic side return to Scotland dejected following a thrashing against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League  Credit: Getty Images   Yet it was wholly serendipitous that Robinson should have found himself once more in charge of a football team. In February he was asked by Mark McGhee to become his assistant at Fir Park, but McGhee was sacked within two weeks and Robinson retained as interim replacement. “I was still raw from the situation at Oldham but Mark encouraged me to take it if it offered,” he said. In March, Robinson was appointed manager and supervised a summer transformation of the squad. The outcome has been extraordinary by the standards of a fan-owned club on a constricted budget. Motherwell are fifth in the Scottish Premiership and defeated Rangers at Hampden to reach Sunday’s final, having beaten Aberdeen in the quarter-finals and disposed of the Dons again with a 2-0 league win at Pittodrie last weekend. “We outplayed them and outperformed them,” Robinson said. “So why not? "Why can’t we surprise Celtic? In 64 games people have tried. We know that and I’m not going to give them any motivation but we’re going to concentrate on our strengths and I genuinely believe that our strengths are their weaknesses. “There is a real honesty about Scottish football. People in England don’t realise how big it is up here - the demands, the pressure and the fan bases. It’s a brilliant environment to play football in and I would encourage any young footballer to play football in Scotland because you get opportunities. “We topped our League Cup group by winning all four games. To then beat Aberdeen and Rangers - we have done it the hard way. Now we get a crack at the best team in Scotland. I’m proud to be at the front of it.”

First openly gay referee Ryan Atkin says Rainbow Laces is a start, but big-name players must do more

Ryan Atkin recalls a game at Stevenage this season when he was fourth official and afterwards was tweeted by a 12-year-old boy who had recognised Atkin after English football’s only openly gay professional referee spoke publicly about his sexuality for the first time in August. The message was to tell Atkin that the boy and his father had resolved that if there had been any homophobic abuse from the stands, which there was not, then the two of them would have confronted it on his behalf. It was, Atkin, 32, says, one of the many messages of support he has received since he came out from all across the game and beyond in what has been a largely positive experience for him in a sport which still does not have a high-profile openly gay footballer. Atkin referees in the sixth tier National League South, as well as some fourth official duties in the Football League and his next game is Watford Under-23s against their Millwall counterparts on Monday. He is a key figure in the Rainbow Laces campaign, supported by The Daily Telegraph, to make all sport, including football, a more welcoming and inclusive environment for LGBT people. Atkin is clear that while efforts have been made in tackling homophobia, more can be done. “I don’t think as much education has gone into inclusivity and acceptance. We have made great strides when it has come to racism and making sure we treat people from all ethnic backgrounds equally. For me the rainbow laces campaign is about the building blocks to making change.” Starting with West Ham’s home game against Leicester on Friday night, players will be invited to wear the rainbow laces to “Come out for LGBT” over a 10-day period, with support from Team GB, and governing bodies including those in cycling, rugby and cricket. The Premier League has announced a three-year partnership with LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall to promote equality in the game. Ryan Atkin is the first openly gay referee in English football  Credit: Christopher Pledger /The Telegraph  There will be rainbow armbands for Premier League captains and a rainbow theme for the fourth officials’ boards although Atkin, a senior manager with Virgin Trains East Coast in his day job, would like to it to go further with big names in the sport being explicit about their support for LGBT equality. “There are key players in football who could make a difference by saying simply that homophobic abuse and homophobic comments are not acceptable,” he says. “Gary Lineker wore Rainbow Laces on Match of the Day last year but he didn’t say those words. There are big names like Sir Alex Ferguson, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo but none of them have said it: that if you are going to be homophobic, then don’t participate in sport. It needs people who the younger generation look up to. These are the people who can challenge behaviours.” On the subject of the first high-profile gay footballer, Atkin points out that the modern players lead very private lives whether they are heterosexual or gay. “They might be comfortable with how they live their lives. How many stories do you read these days about footballers’ lives? This isn’t Hollywood. Why would they upset the life they have by coming out? It obviously we would be great for the LGBT community but we respect that people don’t have to do it.” Premier League captains will wear rainbow armbands in support of Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign  Credit: Reuters Among the 92 clubs of the Premier League and Football League, only Charlton Athletic have an affiliated LGBT-friendly team who wear the club’s kit and use their training facilities. Charlton Invicta play in the London Unity League and the Kent Sunday Junior Trophy and are run by player-manager Gary Ginnaw, 34, a cost lawyer and lifelong Charlton supporter. “For me having Johnnie Jackson [Charlton’s first team captain] come to our launch and speak on television about us, I’m incredibly grateful for all the club have done.” Ginnaw came out to family and friends when he was 24 and gave up playing football for his 20s because he did not want the scrutiny around his sexuality that he felt being in a team would bring. Being gay is not a pre-requisite to play for Charlton Invicta, and two-thirds of the team are heterosexual, rather it is a LGBT-friendly environment in which gay players can be certain of acceptance. “We played one game in the cup and my dad, who is my assistant manager, heard some comments beforehand from the opposition along the lines of ‘This is the gay team, we better watch ourselves’,” Ginnaw says. “After the game their perception was how well we had played. There are a lot of people who don’t know an openly gay man or woman. Until they meet you and speak to you they see we are not a bad team. Then views start to change.” Atkin says even more can be done to promote LGBT rights and end homophobia by key figures in football   Credit: Christopher Pledger /The Telegraph  Ginnaw is a passionate Charlton supporter and feels that the club’s strong history of fan activism means it would have an enlightened attitude towards a gay player, recalling just one incident when he heard homophobic language being used. “When the first big player comes out there might be a backlash,” he says. “The most important thing for him will be that he has the support of his team-mates, the fans and football authorities. In the end fans don’t care who a player is sharing his bed with, they care he’s doing his job well.” Many clubs now have affiliated LGBT supporter groups, including West Ham’s Pride of Irons which has a 194-strong membership. Their co-chairman Jim Dolan, 36, a banking consultant, says the club have been very supportive and last month they focussed on awareness to counter the potential for homophobic chants in the home game against Brighton and Hove Albion. It went so well that the club received a commendation from the Premier League. It is the small things that matter to fans: the club stock rainbow merchandise in their official store and for the LGBT Pride event in London in July sent along Hammerhead, the club mascot. “We have many in our group in their 40s and 50s,” Dolan says. “It is not just hip young people trying to change the world, its people who have come to games for years and sometimes put up with some horrible stuff. We are not new, we have always been there.”

First openly gay referee Ryan Atkin says Rainbow Laces is a start, but big-name players must do more

Ryan Atkin recalls a game at Stevenage this season when he was fourth official and afterwards was tweeted by a 12-year-old boy who had recognised Atkin after English football’s only openly gay professional referee spoke publicly about his sexuality for the first time in August. The message was to tell Atkin that the boy and his father had resolved that if there had been any homophobic abuse from the stands, which there was not, then the two of them would have confronted it on his behalf. It was, Atkin, 32, says, one of the many messages of support he has received since he came out from all across the game and beyond in what has been a largely positive experience for him in a sport which still does not have a high-profile openly gay footballer. Atkin referees in the sixth tier National League South, as well as some fourth official duties in the Football League and his next game is Watford Under-23s against their Millwall counterparts on Monday. He is a key figure in the Rainbow Laces campaign, supported by The Daily Telegraph, to make all sport, including football, a more welcoming and inclusive environment for LGBT people. Atkin is clear that while efforts have been made in tackling homophobia, more can be done. “I don’t think as much education has gone into inclusivity and acceptance. We have made great strides when it has come to racism and making sure we treat people from all ethnic backgrounds equally. For me the rainbow laces campaign is about the building blocks to making change.” Starting with West Ham’s home game against Leicester on Friday night, players will be invited to wear the rainbow laces to “Come out for LGBT” over a 10-day period, with support from Team GB, and governing bodies including those in cycling, rugby and cricket. The Premier League has announced a three-year partnership with LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall to promote equality in the game. Ryan Atkin is the first openly gay referee in English football  Credit: Christopher Pledger /The Telegraph  There will be rainbow armbands for Premier League captains and a rainbow theme for the fourth officials’ boards although Atkin, a senior manager with Virgin Trains East Coast in his day job, would like to it to go further with big names in the sport being explicit about their support for LGBT equality. “There are key players in football who could make a difference by saying simply that homophobic abuse and homophobic comments are not acceptable,” he says. “Gary Lineker wore Rainbow Laces on Match of the Day last year but he didn’t say those words. There are big names like Sir Alex Ferguson, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo but none of them have said it: that if you are going to be homophobic, then don’t participate in sport. It needs people who the younger generation look up to. These are the people who can challenge behaviours.” On the subject of the first high-profile gay footballer, Atkin points out that the modern players lead very private lives whether they are heterosexual or gay. “They might be comfortable with how they live their lives. How many stories do you read these days about footballers’ lives? This isn’t Hollywood. Why would they upset the life they have by coming out? It obviously we would be great for the LGBT community but we respect that people don’t have to do it.” Premier League captains will wear rainbow armbands in support of Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign  Credit: Reuters Among the 92 clubs of the Premier League and Football League, only Charlton Athletic have an affiliated LGBT-friendly team who wear the club’s kit and use their training facilities. Charlton Invicta play in the London Unity League and the Kent Sunday Junior Trophy and are run by player-manager Gary Ginnaw, 34, a cost lawyer and lifelong Charlton supporter. “For me having Johnnie Jackson [Charlton’s first team captain] come to our launch and speak on television about us, I’m incredibly grateful for all the club have done.” Ginnaw came out to family and friends when he was 24 and gave up playing football for his 20s because he did not want the scrutiny around his sexuality that he felt being in a team would bring. Being gay is not a pre-requisite to play for Charlton Invicta, and two-thirds of the team are heterosexual, rather it is a LGBT-friendly environment in which gay players can be certain of acceptance. “We played one game in the cup and my dad, who is my assistant manager, heard some comments beforehand from the opposition along the lines of ‘This is the gay team, we better watch ourselves’,” Ginnaw says. “After the game their perception was how well we had played. There are a lot of people who don’t know an openly gay man or woman. Until they meet you and speak to you they see we are not a bad team. Then views start to change.” Atkin says even more can be done to promote LGBT rights and end homophobia by key figures in football   Credit: Christopher Pledger /The Telegraph  Ginnaw is a passionate Charlton supporter and feels that the club’s strong history of fan activism means it would have an enlightened attitude towards a gay player, recalling just one incident when he heard homophobic language being used. “When the first big player comes out there might be a backlash,” he says. “The most important thing for him will be that he has the support of his team-mates, the fans and football authorities. In the end fans don’t care who a player is sharing his bed with, they care he’s doing his job well.” Many clubs now have affiliated LGBT supporter groups, including West Ham’s Pride of Irons which has a 194-strong membership. Their co-chairman Jim Dolan, 36, a banking consultant, says the club have been very supportive and last month they focussed on awareness to counter the potential for homophobic chants in the home game against Brighton and Hove Albion. It went so well that the club received a commendation from the Premier League. It is the small things that matter to fans: the club stock rainbow merchandise in their official store and for the LGBT Pride event in London in July sent along Hammerhead, the club mascot. “We have many in our group in their 40s and 50s,” Dolan says. “It is not just hip young people trying to change the world, its people who have come to games for years and sometimes put up with some horrible stuff. We are not new, we have always been there.”

First openly gay referee Ryan Atkin says Rainbow Laces is a start, but big-name players must do more

Ryan Atkin recalls a game at Stevenage this season when he was fourth official and afterwards was tweeted by a 12-year-old boy who had recognised Atkin after English football’s only openly gay professional referee spoke publicly about his sexuality for the first time in August. The message was to tell Atkin that the boy and his father had resolved that if there had been any homophobic abuse from the stands, which there was not, then the two of them would have confronted it on his behalf. It was, Atkin, 32, says, one of the many messages of support he has received since he came out from all across the game and beyond in what has been a largely positive experience for him in a sport which still does not have a high-profile openly gay footballer. Atkin referees in the sixth tier National League South, as well as some fourth official duties in the Football League and his next game is Watford Under-23s against their Millwall counterparts on Monday. He is a key figure in the Rainbow Laces campaign, supported by The Daily Telegraph, to make all sport, including football, a more welcoming and inclusive environment for LGBT people. Atkin is clear that while efforts have been made in tackling homophobia, more can be done. “I don’t think as much education has gone into inclusivity and acceptance. We have made great strides when it has come to racism and making sure we treat people from all ethnic backgrounds equally. For me the rainbow laces campaign is about the building blocks to making change.” Starting with West Ham’s home game against Leicester on Friday night, players will be invited to wear the rainbow laces to “Come out for LGBT” over a 10-day period, with support from Team GB, and governing bodies including those in cycling, rugby and cricket. The Premier League has announced a three-year partnership with LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall to promote equality in the game. Ryan Atkin is the first openly gay referee in English football  Credit: Christopher Pledger /The Telegraph  There will be rainbow armbands for Premier League captains and a rainbow theme for the fourth officials’ boards although Atkin, a senior manager with Virgin Trains East Coast in his day job, would like to it to go further with big names in the sport being explicit about their support for LGBT equality. “There are key players in football who could make a difference by saying simply that homophobic abuse and homophobic comments are not acceptable,” he says. “Gary Lineker wore Rainbow Laces on Match of the Day last year but he didn’t say those words. There are big names like Sir Alex Ferguson, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo but none of them have said it: that if you are going to be homophobic, then don’t participate in sport. It needs people who the younger generation look up to. These are the people who can challenge behaviours.” On the subject of the first high-profile gay footballer, Atkin points out that the modern players lead very private lives whether they are heterosexual or gay. “They might be comfortable with how they live their lives. How many stories do you read these days about footballers’ lives? This isn’t Hollywood. Why would they upset the life they have by coming out? It obviously we would be great for the LGBT community but we respect that people don’t have to do it.” Premier League captains will wear rainbow armbands in support of Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign  Credit: Reuters Among the 92 clubs of the Premier League and Football League, only Charlton Athletic have an affiliated LGBT-friendly team who wear the club’s kit and use their training facilities. Charlton Invicta play in the London Unity League and the Kent Sunday Junior Trophy and are run by player-manager Gary Ginnaw, 34, a cost lawyer and lifelong Charlton supporter. “For me having Johnnie Jackson [Charlton’s first team captain] come to our launch and speak on television about us, I’m incredibly grateful for all the club have done.” Ginnaw came out to family and friends when he was 24 and gave up playing football for his 20s because he did not want the scrutiny around his sexuality that he felt being in a team would bring. Being gay is not a pre-requisite to play for Charlton Invicta, and two-thirds of the team are heterosexual, rather it is a LGBT-friendly environment in which gay players can be certain of acceptance. “We played one game in the cup and my dad, who is my assistant manager, heard some comments beforehand from the opposition along the lines of ‘This is the gay team, we better watch ourselves’,” Ginnaw says. “After the game their perception was how well we had played. There are a lot of people who don’t know an openly gay man or woman. Until they meet you and speak to you they see we are not a bad team. Then views start to change.” Atkin says even more can be done to promote LGBT rights and end homophobia by key figures in football   Credit: Christopher Pledger /The Telegraph  Ginnaw is a passionate Charlton supporter and feels that the club’s strong history of fan activism means it would have an enlightened attitude towards a gay player, recalling just one incident when he heard homophobic language being used. “When the first big player comes out there might be a backlash,” he says. “The most important thing for him will be that he has the support of his team-mates, the fans and football authorities. In the end fans don’t care who a player is sharing his bed with, they care he’s doing his job well.” Many clubs now have affiliated LGBT supporter groups, including West Ham’s Pride of Irons which has a 194-strong membership. Their co-chairman Jim Dolan, 36, a banking consultant, says the club have been very supportive and last month they focussed on awareness to counter the potential for homophobic chants in the home game against Brighton and Hove Albion. It went so well that the club received a commendation from the Premier League. It is the small things that matter to fans: the club stock rainbow merchandise in their official store and for the LGBT Pride event in London in July sent along Hammerhead, the club mascot. “We have many in our group in their 40s and 50s,” Dolan says. “It is not just hip young people trying to change the world, its people who have come to games for years and sometimes put up with some horrible stuff. We are not new, we have always been there.”

First openly gay referee Ryan Atkin says Rainbow Laces is a start, but big-name players must do more

Ryan Atkin recalls a game at Stevenage this season when he was fourth official and afterwards was tweeted by a 12-year-old boy who had recognised Atkin after English football’s only openly gay professional referee spoke publicly about his sexuality for the first time in August. The message was to tell Atkin that the boy and his father had resolved that if there had been any homophobic abuse from the stands, which there was not, then the two of them would have confronted it on his behalf. It was, Atkin, 32, says, one of the many messages of support he has received since he came out from all across the game and beyond in what has been a largely positive experience for him in a sport which still does not have a high-profile openly gay footballer. Atkin referees in the sixth tier National League South, as well as some fourth official duties in the Football League and his next game is Watford Under-23s against their Millwall counterparts on Monday. He is a key figure in the Rainbow Laces campaign, supported by The Daily Telegraph, to make all sport, including football, a more welcoming and inclusive environment for LGBT people. Atkin is clear that while efforts have been made in tackling homophobia, more can be done. “I don’t think as much education has gone into inclusivity and acceptance. We have made great strides when it has come to racism and making sure we treat people from all ethnic backgrounds equally. For me the rainbow laces campaign is about the building blocks to making change.” Starting with West Ham’s home game against Leicester on Friday night, players will be invited to wear the rainbow laces to “Come out for LGBT” over a 10-day period, with support from Team GB, and governing bodies including those in cycling, rugby and cricket. The Premier League has announced a three-year partnership with LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall to promote equality in the game. Ryan Atkin is the first openly gay referee in English football  Credit: Christopher Pledger /The Telegraph  There will be rainbow armbands for Premier League captains and a rainbow theme for the fourth officials’ boards although Atkin, a senior manager with Virgin Trains East Coast in his day job, would like to it to go further with big names in the sport being explicit about their support for LGBT equality. “There are key players in football who could make a difference by saying simply that homophobic abuse and homophobic comments are not acceptable,” he says. “Gary Lineker wore Rainbow Laces on Match of the Day last year but he didn’t say those words. There are big names like Sir Alex Ferguson, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo but none of them have said it: that if you are going to be homophobic, then don’t participate in sport. It needs people who the younger generation look up to. These are the people who can challenge behaviours.” On the subject of the first high-profile gay footballer, Atkin points out that the modern players lead very private lives whether they are heterosexual or gay. “They might be comfortable with how they live their lives. How many stories do you read these days about footballers’ lives? This isn’t Hollywood. Why would they upset the life they have by coming out? It obviously we would be great for the LGBT community but we respect that people don’t have to do it.” Premier League captains will wear rainbow armbands in support of Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign  Credit: Reuters Among the 92 clubs of the Premier League and Football League, only Charlton Athletic have an affiliated LGBT-friendly team who wear the club’s kit and use their training facilities. Charlton Invicta play in the London Unity League and the Kent Sunday Junior Trophy and are run by player-manager Gary Ginnaw, 34, a cost lawyer and lifelong Charlton supporter. “For me having Johnnie Jackson [Charlton’s first team captain] come to our launch and speak on television about us, I’m incredibly grateful for all the club have done.” Ginnaw came out to family and friends when he was 24 and gave up playing football for his 20s because he did not want the scrutiny around his sexuality that he felt being in a team would bring. Being gay is not a pre-requisite to play for Charlton Invicta, and two-thirds of the team are heterosexual, rather it is a LGBT-friendly environment in which gay players can be certain of acceptance. “We played one game in the cup and my dad, who is my assistant manager, heard some comments beforehand from the opposition along the lines of ‘This is the gay team, we better watch ourselves’,” Ginnaw says. “After the game their perception was how well we had played. There are a lot of people who don’t know an openly gay man or woman. Until they meet you and speak to you they see we are not a bad team. Then views start to change.” Atkin says even more can be done to promote LGBT rights and end homophobia by key figures in football   Credit: Christopher Pledger /The Telegraph  Ginnaw is a passionate Charlton supporter and feels that the club’s strong history of fan activism means it would have an enlightened attitude towards a gay player, recalling just one incident when he heard homophobic language being used. “When the first big player comes out there might be a backlash,” he says. “The most important thing for him will be that he has the support of his team-mates, the fans and football authorities. In the end fans don’t care who a player is sharing his bed with, they care he’s doing his job well.” Many clubs now have affiliated LGBT supporter groups, including West Ham’s Pride of Irons which has a 194-strong membership. Their co-chairman Jim Dolan, 36, a banking consultant, says the club have been very supportive and last month they focussed on awareness to counter the potential for homophobic chants in the home game against Brighton and Hove Albion. It went so well that the club received a commendation from the Premier League. It is the small things that matter to fans: the club stock rainbow merchandise in their official store and for the LGBT Pride event in London in July sent along Hammerhead, the club mascot. “We have many in our group in their 40s and 50s,” Dolan says. “It is not just hip young people trying to change the world, its people who have come to games for years and sometimes put up with some horrible stuff. We are not new, we have always been there.”

Millwall tie a ‘must-win’ for Fulham, says Sheyi Ojo

The Anglo-Nigerian returned from injury to help end the Cottagers' winless run, and he is determined to keep the momentum going against the Lions

Millwall tie a ‘must-win’ for Fulham, says Sheyi Ojo

The Anglo-Nigerian returned from injury to help end the Cottagers' winless run, and he is determined to keep the momentum going against the Lions

Hull City manager Leonid Slutsky on the brink following draw with Millwall

Hull City manager Leonid Slutsky on the brink following draw with Millwall

Leonid Slutsky is fighting to save his job at Hull City after the club’s dismal start to the Championship season. The former Russia manager is close to leaving Hull after just five months and 18 league games, following Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Millwall. Hull have not won for five games and Slutsky has failed to show signs of mounting a promotion challenge after the club’s relegation from the Premier League. A number of players were sold in the summer as a result of the drop into the second tier, including Sam Clucas, Harry Maguire, Andrew Robertson and Curtis Davies. But Slutsky was still given funds to strengthen the squad, spending more than £12 million to rebuild the club and vice-chairman Ehab Allam believes a change is now needed. Nigel Adkins, the former Southampton manager, has emerged as an early contender to replace the 46-year-old. Slutsky has only managed four league victories and is expected to leave Hull shortly, with the East Yorkshire club just four points adrift of the relegation zone.

Ola Aina eyes improved Hull City result after Millwall stalemate

The right-back helped the Tigers to a share of the spoils at the Den and he is targeting a better outing on Saturday

Ola Aina eyes improved Hull City result after Millwall stalemate

The right-back helped the Tigers to a share of the spoils at the Den and he is targeting a better outing on Saturday

2 Tim Cahill (Millwall to Everton £1.5m)

If they can’t be homegrown, then get them as the bargain on the century. Arguably Everton’s best ever bit of business.

Duncan Watmore facing second season out after suffering identical cruciate knee injury

The Sunderland winger Duncan Watmore is facing another season out of action having sustained a suspected rupture of his anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee that he suffered an identical injury in December last year. Watmore, 22, was injured in Sunderland’s home draw against Millwall on Saturday, his sixth game back for the club following eight months away from action in rehabilitation from his cruciate injury sustained in December last year when the club were still in the Premier League. On this occasion, it is understood that Watmore suffered the impact when a Millwall player fell on top of him. He did not go off immediately but was eventually unable to continue and it was soon after the game that he was diagnosed with potentially the same cruciate ligament injury. He is due to have exploratory surgery on the knee towards the end of this week but the suspicion is that it is another rupture of the anterior cruciate which will mean he does not play again this season. It is a blow to the new Sunderland manager Chris Coleman, for whom Watmore would be one of those players the club were hoping could transform what has been a dreadful 18 months. The ultimate yo-yo clubs Watmore first ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in December last season playing against Leicester City. He had established himself as a first-team Sunderland player and part of the England Under-21 team that eventually went to the European Championships in the summer of this year, albeit without Watmore. Sunderland had tried to ease him back into first-team action and he had sat out the away defeat to Middlesbrough the week before returning to the first XI to face Millwall. Watmore had recently signed up to Juan Mata’s Common Goal programme, pledging one per cent of his salary to charity. He also represents one of Sunderland’s key current saleable assets should the club decide they need to raise transfer funds from player sales.

Duncan Watmore facing second season out after suffering identical cruciate knee injury

The Sunderland winger Duncan Watmore is facing another season out of action having sustained a suspected rupture of his anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee that he suffered an identical injury in December last year. Watmore, 22, was injured in Sunderland’s home draw against Millwall on Saturday, his sixth game back for the club following eight months away from action in rehabilitation from his cruciate injury sustained in December last year when the club were still in the Premier League. On this occasion, it is understood that Watmore suffered the impact when a Millwall player fell on top of him. He did not go off immediately but was eventually unable to continue and it was soon after the game that he was diagnosed with potentially the same cruciate ligament injury. He is due to have exploratory surgery on the knee towards the end of this week but the suspicion is that it is another rupture of the anterior cruciate which will mean he does not play again this season. It is a blow to the new Sunderland manager Chris Coleman, for whom Watmore would be one of those players the club were hoping could transform what has been a dreadful 18 months. The ultimate yo-yo clubs Watmore first ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in December last season playing against Leicester City. He had established himself as a first-team Sunderland player and part of the England Under-21 team that eventually went to the European Championships in the summer of this year, albeit without Watmore. Sunderland had tried to ease him back into first-team action and he had sat out the away defeat to Middlesbrough the week before returning to the first XI to face Millwall. Watmore had recently signed up to Juan Mata’s Common Goal programme, pledging one per cent of his salary to charity. He also represents one of Sunderland’s key current saleable assets should the club decide they need to raise transfer funds from player sales.

Millwall forward Tom Elliott fit for Hull visit after overcoming knock

Millwall forward Tom Elliott fit for Hull visit after overcoming knock

Chris Coleman takes his first training session at Sunderland and demands of players 'are you in or are you out?'

Chris Coleman took his first training session at Sunderland on Sunday and threw down the gauntlet to an underachieving group of players, saying: "I will find out pretty quickly who is in and who is out." The manager's job at the North East side has come to look like one of the hardest in football and many have questioned why Coleman would leave Wales to take it on. The former Swansea, Crystal Palace and Fulham player had enjoyed considerable success managing his national side, memorably guiding them to the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Although Wales had failed to qualify for the World Cup, the country's Football Association were keen for him to stay and met with him Friday. But Coleman said there had been a difference of opinion about the way forward. Gaffer: Chris Coleman congratulates Ashley Williams during the Belgium quarter-final Credit: AP "Having achieved what we'd achieved, I thought to take it on to the next level I needed to work slightly differently. And the powers that be in Wales saw it differently to me," he told the Sunderland website. "In my experience it was the right time for me to say, 'OK, that's as far as I'm going to take it'." Even so, it was surprise when Coleman agreed to join the club who are bottom of the Championship. However, Coleman has stressed how impressed he has been with his new digs. "I'm quite sure managers before me have said the same thing, but it really is all in place except what happens on the pitch and we've got to make sure we get that right." Coleman is Sunderland's ninth manager in the last six seasons and replaces Simon Grayson, who was sacked at the end of last month. Rubbish all over the place: Simon Grayson Credit: PA The 47-year-old, who has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal, takes over a club in crisis, with Saturday's 2-2 draw against Millwall giving them an unwanted English record of 20 consecutive home games without a win. Coleman led his first training session on Sunday morning and will be in charge of the side for the first time for Tuesday's trip to Aston Villa. He said: "Someone's going to turn this club around. Whether it's me or whether it's the next one, sooner or later this club will start climbing again, start playing in front of a full house again, get the city rocking and rolling. I want that to be me, of course. "You can go through your career as a manager and never manage a big club. I always wanted to have that experience of managing a big club, and here I am." New era: Chris Coleman oversees Sunderland training for the first time Credit: Getty "All right, we're bottom of the league. Deal with it, get on with it. It is going to be a big challenge and I haven't got a magic idea that's going to turn it around like [clicks fingers]. "I'm going to need all the supporters, all the staff, the players, everybody to come with me. It's such a big club that, when we gather momentum, it's pretty hard to slow it down, but the start's always the toughest part. "I'll find out pretty quickly I think who's really in and who's not, and whoever's not needs to go and play football somewhere else. It's a little bit daunting, but that keeps you on your toes."  

Chris Coleman takes his first training session at Sunderland and demands of players 'are you in or are you out?'

Chris Coleman took his first training session at Sunderland on Sunday and threw down the gauntlet to an underachieving group of players, saying: "I will find out pretty quickly who is in and who is out." The manager's job at the North East side has come to look like one of the hardest in football and many have questioned why Coleman would leave Wales to take it on. The former Swansea, Crystal Palace and Fulham player had enjoyed considerable success managing his national side, memorably guiding them to the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Although Wales had failed to qualify for the World Cup, the country's Football Association were keen for him to stay and met with him Friday. But Coleman said there had been a difference of opinion about the way forward. Gaffer: Chris Coleman congratulates Ashley Williams during the Belgium quarter-final Credit: AP "Having achieved what we'd achieved, I thought to take it on to the next level I needed to work slightly differently. And the powers that be in Wales saw it differently to me," he told the Sunderland website. "In my experience it was the right time for me to say, 'OK, that's as far as I'm going to take it'." Even so, it was surprise when Coleman agreed to join the club who are bottom of the Championship. However, Coleman has stressed how impressed he has been with his new digs. "I'm quite sure managers before me have said the same thing, but it really is all in place except what happens on the pitch and we've got to make sure we get that right." Coleman is Sunderland's ninth manager in the last six seasons and replaces Simon Grayson, who was sacked at the end of last month. Rubbish all over the place: Simon Grayson Credit: PA The 47-year-old, who has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal, takes over a club in crisis, with Saturday's 2-2 draw against Millwall giving them an unwanted English record of 20 consecutive home games without a win. Coleman led his first training session on Sunday morning and will be in charge of the side for the first time for Tuesday's trip to Aston Villa. He said: "Someone's going to turn this club around. Whether it's me or whether it's the next one, sooner or later this club will start climbing again, start playing in front of a full house again, get the city rocking and rolling. I want that to be me, of course. "You can go through your career as a manager and never manage a big club. I always wanted to have that experience of managing a big club, and here I am." New era: Chris Coleman oversees Sunderland training for the first time Credit: Getty "All right, we're bottom of the league. Deal with it, get on with it. It is going to be a big challenge and I haven't got a magic idea that's going to turn it around like [clicks fingers]. "I'm going to need all the supporters, all the staff, the players, everybody to come with me. It's such a big club that, when we gather momentum, it's pretty hard to slow it down, but the start's always the toughest part. "I'll find out pretty quickly I think who's really in and who's not, and whoever's not needs to go and play football somewhere else. It's a little bit daunting, but that keeps you on your toes."  

Chris Coleman takes his first training session at Sunderland and demands of players 'are you in or are you out?'

Chris Coleman took his first training session at Sunderland on Sunday and threw down the gauntlet to an underachieving group of players, saying: "I will find out pretty quickly who is in and who is out." The manager's job at the North East side has come to look like one of the hardest in football and many have questioned why Coleman would leave Wales to take it on. The former Swansea, Crystal Palace and Fulham player had enjoyed considerable success managing his national side, memorably guiding them to the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Although Wales had failed to qualify for the World Cup, the country's Football Association were keen for him to stay and met with him Friday. But Coleman said there had been a difference of opinion about the way forward. Gaffer: Chris Coleman congratulates Ashley Williams during the Belgium quarter-final Credit: AP "Having achieved what we'd achieved, I thought to take it on to the next level I needed to work slightly differently. And the powers that be in Wales saw it differently to me," he told the Sunderland website. "In my experience it was the right time for me to say, 'OK, that's as far as I'm going to take it'." Even so, it was surprise when Coleman agreed to join the club who are bottom of the Championship. However, Coleman has stressed how impressed he has been with his new digs. "I'm quite sure managers before me have said the same thing, but it really is all in place except what happens on the pitch and we've got to make sure we get that right." Coleman is Sunderland's ninth manager in the last six seasons and replaces Simon Grayson, who was sacked at the end of last month. Rubbish all over the place: Simon Grayson Credit: PA The 47-year-old, who has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal, takes over a club in crisis, with Saturday's 2-2 draw against Millwall giving them an unwanted English record of 20 consecutive home games without a win. Coleman led his first training session on Sunday morning and will be in charge of the side for the first time for Tuesday's trip to Aston Villa. He said: "Someone's going to turn this club around. Whether it's me or whether it's the next one, sooner or later this club will start climbing again, start playing in front of a full house again, get the city rocking and rolling. I want that to be me, of course. "You can go through your career as a manager and never manage a big club. I always wanted to have that experience of managing a big club, and here I am." New era: Chris Coleman oversees Sunderland training for the first time Credit: Getty "All right, we're bottom of the league. Deal with it, get on with it. It is going to be a big challenge and I haven't got a magic idea that's going to turn it around like [clicks fingers]. "I'm going to need all the supporters, all the staff, the players, everybody to come with me. It's such a big club that, when we gather momentum, it's pretty hard to slow it down, but the start's always the toughest part. "I'll find out pretty quickly I think who's really in and who's not, and whoever's not needs to go and play football somewhere else. It's a little bit daunting, but that keeps you on your toes."  

Chris Coleman takes his first training session at Sunderland and demands of players 'are you in or are you out?'

Chris Coleman took his first training session at Sunderland on Sunday and threw down the gauntlet to an underachieving group of players, saying: "I will find out pretty quickly who is in and who is out." The manager's job at the North East side has come to look like one of the hardest in football and many have questioned why Coleman would leave Wales to take it on. The former Swansea, Crystal Palace and Fulham player had enjoyed considerable success managing his national side, memorably guiding them to the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Although Wales had failed to qualify for the World Cup, the country's Football Association were keen for him to stay and met with him Friday. But Coleman said there had been a difference of opinion about the way forward. Gaffer: Chris Coleman congratulates Ashley Williams during the Belgium quarter-final Credit: AP "Having achieved what we'd achieved, I thought to take it on to the next level I needed to work slightly differently. And the powers that be in Wales saw it differently to me," he told the Sunderland website. "In my experience it was the right time for me to say, 'OK, that's as far as I'm going to take it'." Even so, it was surprise when Coleman agreed to join the club who are bottom of the Championship. However, Coleman has stressed how impressed he has been with his new digs. "I'm quite sure managers before me have said the same thing, but it really is all in place except what happens on the pitch and we've got to make sure we get that right." Coleman is Sunderland's ninth manager in the last six seasons and replaces Simon Grayson, who was sacked at the end of last month. Rubbish all over the place: Simon Grayson Credit: PA The 47-year-old, who has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal, takes over a club in crisis, with Saturday's 2-2 draw against Millwall giving them an unwanted English record of 20 consecutive home games without a win. Coleman led his first training session on Sunday morning and will be in charge of the side for the first time for Tuesday's trip to Aston Villa. He said: "Someone's going to turn this club around. Whether it's me or whether it's the next one, sooner or later this club will start climbing again, start playing in front of a full house again, get the city rocking and rolling. I want that to be me, of course. "You can go through your career as a manager and never manage a big club. I always wanted to have that experience of managing a big club, and here I am." New era: Chris Coleman oversees Sunderland training for the first time Credit: Getty "All right, we're bottom of the league. Deal with it, get on with it. It is going to be a big challenge and I haven't got a magic idea that's going to turn it around like [clicks fingers]. "I'm going to need all the supporters, all the staff, the players, everybody to come with me. It's such a big club that, when we gather momentum, it's pretty hard to slow it down, but the start's always the toughest part. "I'll find out pretty quickly I think who's really in and who's not, and whoever's not needs to go and play football somewhere else. It's a little bit daunting, but that keeps you on your toes."  

Millwall fans donate £2,800 to Bradley Lowery Foundation in memory of young Sunderland fan

Millwall fans donate £2,800 to Bradley Lowery Foundation in memory of young Sunderland fan

Championship Review: Millwall deny sloppy Sunderland, Wolves back on top

Sunderland remain rooted to the bottom of the Championship following a frustrating draw with Millwall, while Wolves are back on top.

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