EFL clubs approve proposals to increase number of homegrown players from next season

EFL clubs must increase the number of homegrown players on matchday team sheets from six to seven beginning from next season.

In a collective bid to help more players make the transition from academy to first-team football, EFL clubs have likewise agreed to introduce a requirement for at least one club-developed player to be named on each team sheet from the start of the 2018/19 season.

A homegrown player is characterized as a player who has been registered with an FA or FAW affiliated club for three seasons prior to his 21st birthday, while a club-developed player is one who has been with their current team for at least 12 months prior to the end of their U19 season.

The changes to the regulations, which aim to create a clearer pathway from clubs’ development programmes into the professional game, were formally approved at an EFL EGM in London following a meeting of all 72 clubs in February.

EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey stated: “I hope this latest commitment made by our clubs is further evidence of the EFL taking the initiative in looking for practical and effective measures that can be introduced to help managers and coaches in the ongoing development of young players.”

“It is imperative that we provide young players not only with a platform, but also with the belief that opportunities will be made available to progress from youth to senior football.”

“I am confident that this decision will have a positive and lasting impact on the future of football in this country.”

Source: http://www.skysports.com

Lee Selby says Carl Frampton showdown in Belfast ‘makes even more sense now’

Lee Selby trusts a fight with Carl Frampton has to happen because the Belfast star “really has nowhere else to go”.

The IBF featherweight world champion insists a showdown with Frampton has moved a step closer after the WBA ordered Leo Santa Cruz to take on Abner Mares.

Frampton had been looking for a decisive third fight with Santa Cruz after losing to him in Las Vegas in January, however Selby now insists the all-British fight should come first.

“Seeing as all the other champions are tied up, there isn’t really anywhere for Frampton to go,” Selby said. “It’s more realistic now and it makes even more sense now.”

“Frampton wants to fight in Belfast, I have no problem travelling there, so I can’t see why it can’t be made.”

“I think talks have been going on for a while between the Sanigars and the McGuigians, so I have to wait and see.”

“It would’ve been better if he’d have won the rematch with Santa Cruz because it would’ve been a massive unification fight but I am champion, so I will have a bit more negotiation power.”

“But even if he hasn’t got a belt and will be the challenger it is just as big. Frampton lost no credit losing to Santa Cruz and he is the biggest fight for me in the UK, without doubt.”

Selby admits he needs a big fight following his fight on the Haye vs Bellew undercard at The O2, on March 4.

The ‘Welsh Mayweather’ halted Andoni Gago in nine rounds, five weeks after he was supposed to make a mandatory defence against Jonathan Barros on the Las Vegas card, topped by Frampton’s loss to Santa Cruz.

He is still waiting to hear from the IBF, yet even recommends they could order the Frampton fight.

“The Gago fight was all about getting rounds in the bank after the Barros issue, but I need a proper fight,” he added.

“Barros was the mandatory but I don’t know where he’s at and to be honest, even if the IBF order a mandatory, Frampton is next in line. It has to happen, now.”

Source: http://www.skysports.com

Cristiano Ronaldo: I learned art of football at Manchester United

Cristiano Ronaldo has paid tribute to Manchester United for showing him “the art of football” and revealed how Sir Alex Ferguson surprised him on his arrival in England.

The Real Madrid forward moved to Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon aged just 18, however went on to help fire the club to an FA Cup, three successive Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy.

Ronaldo has consolidated his place among football’s elite during his time at the Bernabeu, taking his Ballon d’Or haul to four and becoming Real’s all-time top scorer, however admits his time in Manchester under ‘father figure’ Ferguson set him up for success.

“Alex Ferguson was a father for me in football,” Ronaldo said. “I learned many things, not just from the coach but the players.”

“I improved not just my skills but my body too.”

“In the five years that I was [at United] I learned the art of football. It was a dream for me.”

Ronaldo wore the No 28 shirt at his boyhood club in Portugal but described how Ferguson sprung a surprise by asking him to pull on the the No 7 – a number famously worn by David Beckham, Eric Cantona and George Best.

“I remember when I left Lisbon for England, Alex Ferguson said to me, ‘Listen, I want you to take the No 7’,” Ronaldo, speaking at the launch of his new Nike boots, said.

“I was surprised because I knew the guys who wore that shirt. I accepted the challenge, it was great.”

“It was the beginning of my success in football. It was probably one of the most beautiful moments in my career so far.”

Source: http://www.skysports.com

LEWIS HAMILTON ‘AT HIS BEST’ AS A MERCEDES DRIVER, SAYS TOTO WOLFF

World champions also argue against fears about lack of overtaking in 2017 after lack of passing moves in Australia.

Lewis Hamilton is at the peak of his powers as a Mercedes driver, according to his team boss Toto Wolff.

In spite of the fact that Hamilton was beaten by Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel in the season-opening Australian GP, Wolff, who described the three-time world champion as being “in a league of his own” during Friday practice at Melbourne, is convinced the Briton has never been better since joining Mercedes in 2012.

“Lewis is the best Lewis that I’ve seen in the last four years, both on and off track. He has become a pillar of this team and he proved that in Melbourne,” said Wolff.

The Mercedes chief likewise paid tribute to Valtteri Bottas after the Finn impressed on his Silver Arrows debut by completing only two seconds behind Hamilton at Albert Park.

“Valtteri has settled in well and performed at a high level, rising above all the pressure and seamlessly taking over from Nico,” Wolff added.

Meanwhile, Mercedes have called for patience after the 2017 season opener was blighted by a lack of overtaking.

“Was this indicative of things to come, or just a one-off? The answer is a bit of both,” argued the team.

“From what we have observed so far, there are factors that will actually make overtaking easier this year. The magnitude of the tow effect is stronger in 2017 thanks to the revised regulations.”

“Bigger cars equal greater wake. When the cars are charging down the straights, there will be an accentuated difference in speed when they enter the overtaking zone. The DRS effect too, is stronger.”

“Thanks in part to the larger rear wings the lap time benefit of DRS has increased over 30 per cent. This again will promote overtaking – especially at tracks with long straights like China and Bahrain.”

“Furthermore, there’s one key learning from Melbourne that has largely been overlooked. Sebastian Vettel was able to stick with Lewis throughout the first stint. Had he spent 16 laps tucked up behind the gearbox of another competitor in previous years, he would have ruined his tyres. Attack, and the rubber would have gone off very quickly. In this race, however, he was able to stay in the wake of Lewis’ car relatively comfortably and then push once he had clean air, ultimately taking the lead and the eventual win. That bodes well for closer pack racing this year.”

“After complaints that DRS has made overtaking too easy in Formula One, we’ll now see overtaking as a real game of risk. Drivers are going to have to be brave on the brakes, look after the car and hold onto it. If you’re going to overtake in this new era, you need to fight for it properly. That’s the way it should be. Perhaps it’s too early to write off F1 2017 just yet.”

Source: http://www.skysports.com

CHARLIE NICHOLAS: BRENDAN RODGERS IS CONTENDER TO REPLACE ARSENE WENGER AT ARSENAL

Charlie Nicholas says that Brendan Rodgers should be on the shortlist when Arsenal look to replace Arsene Wenger.

The Celtic manager is set to seal the Scottish title on Sunday if his side win at Hearts, live on Sky Sports, having already won the Scottish League Cup this season.

Celtic are unbeaten in domestic competition during Rodgers’ first season and, with a Scottish Cup semi-final to play against Rangers later this month, are on course for a historic treble.

Soccer Saturday pundit Nicholas played for both Celtic and Arsenal during his career and insists former Liverpool boss Rodgers must be considered for the top job when Wenger chooses to call it a day.

When asked if Rodgers would be a contender, Nicholas stated: “I apologise now to Celtic fans because they’ll be on my case, but of course he would.”

“He’s building his stock back up. He went to win things at Celtic and he’s got two trophies in the cabinet already, potentially a third is staring him in the face with the Old Firm derby coming up on Sky Sports.”

“It’s been interesting because Celtic have won the title without really working hard for it. He’s impressed. He’s got good energy.”

“Scott Sinclair was struggling in England and he’s made him grow again. Moussa Dembele for £500,000 was good value for money but it’s the progress of young talent, players like Stuart Armstrong, who for me is the player of the year in Scotland this season.”

“He’s the most improved player I’ve seen and it’s been such a quick turnaround under Rodgers.”

“Compliments to the players but Brendan has been absolutely fabulous. He’s been different class.”

“He’s on a decent salary and he’s deserved it and merited it, but absolutely, if Arsenal are looking at a list of names to replace Arsene, Rodgers would be on it.”

“He plays the Arsenal way. He played the same style at Liverpool and he probably should have won the league. Everything is there for me to say absolutely.”

Source: http://www.skysports.com

MIKKEL KESSLER ANNOUNCES RETURN TO BOXING AFTER NEARLY FOUR YEARS AWAY

Mikkel Kessler has announced his return to boxing and will rejoin the super-middleweight division after spending nearly four years away from the ring.

The 38-year-old Danish fighter decided to retire following his rematch defeat to Carl Froch in May 2013, but the four-time world champion confirmed his comeback at a press conference in Copenhagen, with a fight date and an opponent to be confirmed.

Kessler has moved back to the 168lb division, which contains the British trio of James DeGale, George Groves and Callum Smith.

IBF champion DeGale and Groves, who like Kessler is promoted by Sauerland, are yet to confirm their next opponents, with Smith expected to fight Anthony Dirrell for the vacant WBC title.

Kessler is well known in Britain for his fights against Joe Calzaghe and Froch, which saw him suffer a points defeat to the Welshman in 2007, while he fought to a unanimous decision win in his first bout with the Nottingham man in 2010.

Froch and Kessler would renew their rivalry at The O2 three years later, with ‘The Cobra’ exacting revenge with a points win, and the Dane’s only other defeat came against Andre Ward in his 49-fight profession.

Source: http://www.skysports.com/

JOSHUA VS KLITSCHKO: ANTHONY JOSHUA HAS STARTED A DOMINANT HEAVYWEIGHT ERA, SAYS ERIC MOLINA

Anthony Joshua is the ‘present and future’ of heavyweight division and will continue a dominant era with victory over Wladimir Klitschko, says former opponent Eric Molina.

IBF champion Joshua successfully defended his title with a knockout triumph over Molina in December to set up a enormous Wembley fight with Wladimir Klitschko on April 29.

In a battle of youth against experience, Joshua puts his 18-fight unbeaten record on the line against Klitschko, who enjoyed a 10-year reign as world champion, and Molina trusts ‘AJ’ might already have progressed past the veteran.

“He’s a great champion and I personally do not see too many heavyweights beating him, he’s very strong,” Molina exclusively told Sky Sports.

“One thing that Joshua has shown is, he’s getting bigger, better, faster, stronger, every fight.”

“I don’t want to disrespect Klitschko, but the torch is going to be passed that night. If it hasn’t been already, I think it’s going to officially get passed.”

Molina, who hopes to fight again this summer, extended Deontay Wilder into the ninth round before suffering defeat, and insists the WBC champion could be the only remaining fighter to stand in the way of Joshua.

Molina stated: “If he goes through Klitschko, which I believe that he can, there is only one fight left for him after that and that is the fight that everybody knows – the Wilder-Joshua fight.”

“After that fight, I don’t really see much else out there for him, maybe Tyson Fury, but yes definitely he is the present and the future.”

After patiently probing for openings, Joshua stopped Molina with a brutal assault in the third round, and the experienced Texan insists no tactical changes would have prevented this destructive conclusion.

“Had I attacked him, had I came out a little bit quicker, I think it was still going to end the same way,” said Molina. “There was nothing that I could have done, from what I brought to the table, and the way I fight.”

“I always fight a certain way. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and that’s the way boxing is.”

“If I had come out the gate and maybe pressed him a little bit more, I think it was going to be inevitable he was going to hurt me at any given moment, the same way.”

Source: http://www.skysports.com

CONOR BENN HAS BEEN SHARPENING RING SKILLS BEHIND CLOSED DOORS AND IS EAGER TO RETURN IN JUNE

Conor Benn says that he is a “completely different fighter” after sharpening his skills behind closed doors and hopes to resume his exciting ring career in June.

The 20-year-old welterweight fought six times during a busy begin to his professional career in 2016, but has spent time away from the spotlight to work on his technique with trainer Tony Sims.

Benn concedes that he needed time to refine his all-action style, although he still has a burning desire for battle, and has warned his rivals to expect a new and improved fighter when he makes his expected return at The O2 on June 3.

“I’m going to come back a completely different fighter,” Benn exclusively told Sky Sports. “When I turned pro, it was crash, bang, wallop.”

“Let’s have it with anyone, fighting every month, and I didn’t really have time to learn my craft.”

“It was about getting fit and dealing with the pressure, it wasn’t really about technique. Now I’ve been working on keeping my hands up, establishing my jab, and firing straight punches, instead of throwing leaping hooks and doing some madness.”

“I’m dying to get back out there, I miss that feeling. I went to the [Anthony] Crolla fight and thought about how much I miss being in the ring. I’m hoping June, when I’m ready, and that’s when me and my team think I’ll be ready.”

Despite a brief break from competitive action, Benn insists he has been maintaining a relentless training regime alongside the likes of Ricky Burns and Ohara Davies in the Sims gym.

Benn trusts that he has matured mentally and physically since making his debut in the paid ranks, just under a year ago, and is eager to showcase his greater punch power.

“It’s not like I’m sitting around chilling, doing nothing,” said ‘The Destroyer’. “I’m in the gym every day, still training twice a day, three times a day on Tuesday and Thursday. People are so quick to assume something, but they only see what I let them see – 10 per cent of my work ethic.”

“I came into the pro game as a little boy and I feel like the game has turned me into a man. If you put up a picture of my body from my debut and my body now, look how different it is. That’s just from hard graft.”

“My next opponent is going to feel it. I will prove what I have been working on.”

Source: http://www.skysports.com

MANCHESTER UNITED HOPEFUL PHIL JONES COULD COME BACK BEFORE THE END OF THE SEASON FOLLOWING TESTS

Manchester United defender Phil Jones could come back to action before the finish of the season, with tests on Tuesday recommending the injury to his toe is not as bad as first feared.

Sky Sports News HQ comprehends that further tests are planned at United’s Carrington training ground later this week to diagnose the full extent of his injury.

However, United are confident that the central defender will come back to first team action before the season’s conclusion.

Jones’ toe was damaged in a training-ground tackle with United team-mate Chris Smalling while the pair were away with England last week. The injury kept him out of England’s games against Germany and Lithuania.

Manchester United face nine games in April, beginning with West Brom at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Source: http://www.skysports.com

CHELSEA’S EDEN HAZARD WANTED BY REAL MADRID

Real Madrid want to sign Chelsea forward Eden Hazard, according to Sky sources, but talks between the clubs have not taken place.

The Stamford Bridge side do not comment on what they regard as media speculation and rumour.

As such, they have declined to offer a response to a report in Spanish newspaper Marca on Tuesday morning claiming they would be willing to sell Hazard to Real.

The 26-year-old is in contention to win his second PFA Footballer of the Year in three seasons after an excellent campaign for the Premier League leaders.

Having struggled to find form last term, the Belgian international has played an integral part in Chelsea’s rise to the summit, scoring 11 league goals so far.

Hazard signed a new five-and-a-half-year deal in February 2015, which means he remains contracted to the club for another three full seasons.

Real president Florentino Perez has set his sights on signing a new Galactico – and wants to bring in the Chelsea forward. Head coach Zinedine Zidane has already labelled the former Lille forward the third-best player in the world behind Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sky Sports’ pundit Davie Provan, talking on Premier League Daily, trusts the Spanish side would be acquiring a player coming into his prime if they were able to force a move.

He stated: “There is an attraction about Real Madrid that very few other clubs have.”

“If Hazard wanted to go to Real Madrid, I think Chelsea – even Chelsea – would be under enormous pressure to do some kind of deal.”

“At 26 years of age, he’s just about to come into the very best years of his career.”

“Whoever gets him – and hopefully he’ll stay with Chelsea – they’d be getting one of the world’s top players, who is probably going to get better over the next two or three years.”

It would be a breach of FIFA regulations for a club to approach a player without consent, however, there is no recommendation that has happened in this situation.

Source: http://www.skysports.com