Kruse sorry to see Osieck depart

Bayer Leverkusen’s Robbie Kruse has expressed his sympathy for ousted Australia coach Holger Osieck.

But the 25-year-old has backed the Socceroos to give a good account of themselves at the FIFA World Cup.

Osieck was axed by Football Federation Australia after overseeing successive 6-0 defeats in friendlies away to Brazil and France in September and October.

Kruse made his international debut during the German coach’s tenure, going on to become a first-team regular, and was sorry to see him go.

“I feel bad for Holger Osieck, he led us toward the World Cup in Brazil, and now is not in charge anymore,” Kruse told the Leverkusen website.

“In previous friendlies we lost against France and Brazil 6-0 (in) each game, he had to leave afterwards. Obviously these were tough opponents he chose, he could (have chosen) easy teams as well, but he wanted to see how we would deal with that pressure. And we are facing such strong teams in the World Cup anyhow.

“We are aware we might have the toughest group with the Netherlands, Spain and Chile, no-one really expects much from us, but who knows, maybe we can cause some damage and surprise Chile in the first match.”

After earning a move from Melbourne Victory to German club Fortuna Dusseldorf in 2011, Kruse made another step up when he signed for traditional Bundesliga heavyweights Bayer Leverkusen in April.

“If I look back I have to admit it was a very emotional year in my career,” he said.

“Now that this year is over, I can also say that it has been one of my most successful ones.

“However it didn’t start well, we played a disappointing second part of the previous campaign with Fortuna (Dusseldorf), even though the first half of it was quite good. The outcome was relegation, of which I felt sorry for the fans and club.

“For me personally it was a weird situation: On one hand I was sad about being relegated with Dusseldorf, on the other I was looking forward to my move to Leverkusen and playing Champions League. I enjoyed myself in Dusseldorf … I’m grateful they gave me (a) chance. But then I was really looking forward to my new (move to) Leverkusen and the next step of my career.”

Kruse was honoured with an individual accolade from FFA in November, and hopes his success overseas can serve as an inspiration to aspiring players back home.

“I am very proud to be Footballer of the Year in Australia,” he said.

“I feel honoured, and I am proud to be an Australian. I think this award will encourage many young talented players to try their luck in Europe.”

Tue 31 December, 2013
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Confident Hughes eyeing Everton scalp

Stoke City boss Mark Hughes believes their confidence at the Britannia Stadium can help them to victory against Everton on New Year’s Day.

Hughes’ side head into the clash having won just once in their last five outings, but they have not lost a league game on home soil since September’s defeat to Norwich City.

Their previous top-flight games at the Britannia Stadium have seen wins over Chelsea and Aston Villa.

And the Welshman sees no reason why their form can’t continue when Roberto Martinez’s impressive Merseyside outfit come to town on Wednesday.

Hughes told Stoke’s official website: “We’re enjoying playing at home at the moment, we’re getting great support and we want to carry on the good run of form we’re on at the Britannia.

“The Villa game was a big game for us. Everyone recognised the importance of it and we were able to take the game away from them quite comfortably in the end.

“We were happy with what we produced there and we need a similar performance against Everton and the games that follow.

“We’re up against a top team who are playing well with confidence but we’re at home and our confidence is good; the last couple of games haven’t dampened our enthusiasm whatsoever.”

Tue 31 December, 2013
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Ridgewell targets home comforts

West Brom defender Liam Ridgewell hopes the club can break their winless run at home to Newcastle United on New Year’s Day.

The Midlands club have not tasted success in nine games, a run which has seen Steve Clarke sacked as head coach and West Brom sink to 15th in the Premier League.

But Ridgewell wants to put an end to the disappointment when Alan Pardew’s men come visiting, having secured morale-boosting draws in their last three games.

“In the dressing room we’ve been rallying around, making sure everyone is together and everyone knows what they have to do,” Ridgewell told the club’s official website.

“A lot of the players have been in this position before and everyone has been saying their bit and trying to make sure everyone is on the same page and going in the right direction.

“Tomorrow (Wednesday) is another home game and we want to try and do well in our home games.

“We’ve got to try and pick that up and get going again.

“We’ve earned two very good draws over Christmas and now we need to turn draws into wins, and try and move out of the position we’re in at the moment.

“Everyone is trying to do that from 10th-place down.

“We just need to keep going and stick together.

“Everyone seems to be beating everyone else at the moment and you just have to get as many wins under your belt as possible to give yourself some breathing space.”

Tue 31 December, 2013
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Koren urges Hull to concentrate

Hull City captain has urged his side to maintain their concentration despite an impressive start to their Premier League season.

At the halfway point in the campaign, Hull have outperformed their fellow promoted clubs considerably, sitting 10th in the table with Cardiff City and Crystal Palace 16th and 17th respectively.

After rounding off 2013 with a 6-0 mauling of Fulham on Saturday, the Yorkshire club will travel to Liverpool on New Year’s Day – a team they beat 3-1 on home soil on December 1.

Hull’s first ever Premier League campaign in 2008-09 also saw them get off to a quick start, but they only survived by a point come the end of the season.

And Koren has warned his colleagues of the perils of complacency.

“We’re halfway through the season now and we’ve got points on the board. It’s been a really good start,” the Slovenian told the club’s official website.

“But this is the Premier League and we know we have to keep up our concentration in every game because we know that three points are available every time we play.

“From past experience, we know that this is a really tough league. You can go three or four games without getting a result and then there are problems.

“Hopefully we can keep going as we are with the good performances and getting points for those.”

Tue 31 December, 2013
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Chelsea post record financial results

Chelsea have posted record-breaking financial results for 2013, despite their UEFA Champions League exit and lavish transfer spending.

The London club raked in £255.8 million in the 12 months to June 30, an all-time high turnover, although that ultimately resulted in losses of £49.4m.

Despite their finances being in the red, the club confirmed they still expect to comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play criteria.

That figure is in stark contrast to their results from the previous year, which saw them turn a profit for the first time under the ownership of Roman Abramovich – although their 2012 Champions League triumph was factored into those results.

Under the guidance of Champions League-winning coach Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea failed to make it out of their pool in Europe’s premier club competition last season, finishing third in Group E behind Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Rafael Benitez ultimately guided the club to success in the UEFA Europa League, but the competition does not hold significant financial benefits in comparison to its more illustrious counterpart.

Chelsea’s close-season spending is reported to have amounted to near £70m – with the likes of Willian, Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel signed on multi-million pound deals.

Samuel Eto’o also signed on a free transfer on Anzhi Makhachkala, although his one-year contract is thought to be worth £7m.

A 19 per cent rise in commercial income accounted for nearly £80m in the club coffers, a figure that delighted chief executive Ron Gourlay.

He told the club’s official website: “For Chelsea FC to achieve a record level of turnover despite our first group-stage elimination from the Champions League shows we have structured our business and are growing in the correct way for long-term stability.

“Our philosophy is we build upon success on the pitch and although in these financial results we haven’t repeated the sizeable profits made the previous year from player transfers, we believe the age profile of the existing squad means we will benefit from that investment for many years to come.

“A successful team builds awareness around the world and our increased commercial revenues in 2012-13 and new or extended partnership deals demonstrate we are working hard to capitalise on that.”

Tue 31 December, 2013
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Lambert surprised by Sunderland struggles

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has conceded he is surprised to see Sunderland prop up the Premier League table.

The Stadium of Light outfit have endured a poor season, and lie bottom of the table at the halfway stage of the campaign with just 14 points ahead of Villa’s trip to the north east on New Year’s Day.

Sunderland have improved in recent fixtures however, with three draws and a win in their last four outings.

And Lambert sympathises with opposite number Poyet after successfully staving off relegation himself last season.

“They are a club (that) not a lot of people would not have to be where they are,” said Lambert.

“Gus has gone in there after another manager change and has tried to pick the club up.

“It’s tough when you are down there, we were down there last season and you have to grind through it, but it is a big job.”

Villa’s best performances have generally come away from Villa Park this season, with the club losing just three times on their travels in the league.

The Midlands outfit will now look to repeat last season’s 1-0 triumph at the Stadium of Light.

He added: “There is always pressure playing at home because of the fanbase but our away form has been pretty good, and we have had a few big players not playing for us.

“But our away form has been pretty good and there is less pressure there as you don’t have the majority of the crowd on your side.

“We did well there last season and we will go and try and win there again.”

Tue 31 December, 2013
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Caceres not seeking Juve exit

Martin Caceres has no desire to leave Juventus despite interest from Roma and Napoli, the defender’s agent has confirmed.

Caceres, 26, joined Juventus from Sevilla in July 2012 but has made just six appearances in all competitions for Antonio Conte’s men this season.

The Uruguay international is thought to be considering his future in Turin ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but representative Daniel Fonseca insisted Caceres is not interested in a move.

“Roma, Napoli and other big clubs asked about Caceres,” Fonseca told Tuttosport.

“However, Martin is in love with Juventus and wants to remain in Turin.

“Of course I expected him to play more, because he is a very strong defender, but it’s only normal at a big club like Juve to have a large squad full of quality.”

Tue 31 December, 2013
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Acerbi appeals against doping ban

Sassuolo defender Francesco Acerbi has officially appealed a doping ban, after suffering a relapse of testicular cancer.

Acerbi was found to have abnormal levels of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in his blood stream – a substance produced by cancerous cells – after his side’s Serie A match with Genoa on December 1, incurring a suspension from the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI).

Although a naturally occurring substance, hCG produces effects similar to anabolic steroids, and is therefore a banned substance in many sports.

However, a Sassuolo statement from December 20 confirmed Acerbi’s relapse, which is thought to have resulted in the elevated levels of hCG in his system.

Acerbi is undergoing treatment, and would not have been able to play regardless, but he will remain officially suspended until his hearing on January 8.

The former Milan man, who received an Italy call-up in August 2012, has previously professed his innocence and expressed anger at being labelled a drug cheat.

Tue 31 December, 2013
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Meulensteen promised funds by owner Khan

Fulham head coach Rene Meulensteen has been assured funds will be available to improve the playing squad in January by owner Shahid Khan.

The Craven Cottage outfit have slumped into the Premier League’s bottom three at the halfway stage of the season, with only 16 points garnered from 19 matches.

Fulham’s latest outing in the top-flight came in a humiliating 6-0 defeat at Hull City, with all six goals coming in the second half.

Meulensteen has busy working on his backroom team in recent weeks with Alan Curbishley appointed first team technical director, and Ray Wilkins hired as assistant head coach.

The Dutchman now plans to put forward a list of players to Khan he feels can steer Fulham to Premier League survival.

He said: “We’ve got a nice, dynamic staff around me, with some young guys that I know from a long time ago that understand my principles and values, and I’ve got Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins in as two people with vast experience in management.

“All that can only contribute to making sure we’ve got a better chance of staying in the Premier League.

“I’ve been assured I’m going to get the support I need. Whatever funds I don’t know, we haven’t really spoken about that.

“He (Khan) knows how important it is for us to stay in the Premier League, and with the additions of Alan and Ray it will make our case even stronger, that if we do think we need to improve and we need support, that we can put an even stronger case forward.

“We might have a wish-list to some extent, but it may very well not be possible. We’ll look at every opportunity, and everything that will improve us, we’ll put a case forward for it.”

Fulham continue their bid for survival at home to fellow strugglers West Ham on Wednesday.

Tue 31 December, 2013
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Hughton eyeing additions not sales in January

Chris Hughton is looking to add to his Norwich City squad in the January transfer window, rather than allowing players to leave.

The Norwich boss has seen interest in his squad with the likes of Anthony Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan reportedly attracting overtures from Aston Villa and Swansea City.

But former Newcastle United manager Hughton is merely focusing on strengthening his squad should the opportunity arise, but only if he can attract the right calibre of player to Carrow Road.

“The talk normally around this time is of players coming in and that generally is all we are interested in,” said Hughton.

“You can never anticipate what deals happen in a window, but our focus is on decisions we need to make regarding players coming in, certainly not going out.

“I expect to be busy with phone calls and watching plenty of DVDs, but we will only do anything if it is right for us in any position of the squad to strengthen to secure ourselves going into the end of the season, then we will do.

“But we won’t bring players in for the sake of it and those are the assessments we make.”

Norwich travel to Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day, looking to complete a double over the London outfit following a 1-0 home victory on November 30.

But Hughton is aware his charges face a difficult task against a side that has looked revitalised under new manager Tony Pulis.

“They have felt the effects of a new manager coming in with different ways, and they have made themselves harder to beat, which we found at Carrow Road,” added Hughton.

“Tony is somebody that is used to this division, but it has to be about our philosophy going into the game and we have to make sure we give ourselves every opportunity like we have done in recent games away from home.”

Tue 31 December, 2013
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