Behich signs with Bursaspor

29 January 2013 03:45

Full-back Aziz Behich has left Melbourne Heart to join 2010 Turkish Super Lig champions Bursaspor for an undisclosed transfer fee.

Heart announced on Tuesday that they had agreed to the transfer of the Socceroos defender and he will available for Bursaspor’s clash against Turkish giants Galatasaray this weekend, pending an international clearance.

Behich, 22, made his A-League debut for Melbourne Victory in 2010, making five appearances, before being signed by Heart later in 2010 on an seven-week contract – which was then updated to a full-time contract.

“To make a move to a club that plays Champions League football is a dream come true and I really can’t thank Melbourne Heart enough for giving me this opportunity,” Behich said.

“I have loved my time at Melbourne Heart and all the support that I have received from the members since I joined.

“I will miss them and miss being around my old team-mates.”

After being converted from a winger to a full-back, Behich established himself a first-team regular at Heart, winning his first Socceroos selection in November 2012 and named in the PFA Team of the Year the same year.

Heart coach John Aloisi was shattered to lose Behich at a crucial time in the season but proud of his rise since joining the club.

“To take Aziz from the state leagues of Victoria to face the likes of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder is something Melbourne Heart can be enormously proud of,” he said.

“It hurts to lose him at this stage of the season but how can you stand in the way of a player fulfilling his dreams.

“It’s a great opportunity for the club to continue to grow and a chance for Aziz to establish himself as a genuine international for Australia.”

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Griffiths up for late season challenge

29 January 2013 03:39

Sydney defender Adam Griffiths says Sydney FC are well prepared for Saturday’s vital clash with Newcastle Jets.

The Sky Blues face a defining fortnight in their season, starting with an away match with the fifth-placed Jets before returning home to take on champions Brisbane Roar the following weekend.

With just two points separating fifth from ninth place on the A-League table, victories against teams in-and-around the eighth-placed Sky Blues will be pivotal in the quest for a top six berth.

Sydney were last just a few weeks ago but kept their season alive with back-to-back wins and face another do-or-die scenario over the next 12 days.

“For a while now it’s been important for us to win most of our games so this game is no different,” Griffiths said on Tuesday when asked how crucial the next fortnight was for Sydney FC.

“So every game is important from here on in.

“Every team in the league is beatable. That’s why it’s such a good league at the moment. It’s very competitive and any team can win on its day.

“It’s going to be a tough match up in Newcastle; both teams are fighting for the finals we’ll be looking to get the three points.”

With defenders Tiago Calvano and Fabio suspended after they were sent off in the 3-1 loss to Melbourne Victory on Saturday, Griffiths is likely to be drafted straight into the starting side to face his former club.

It’s been a frustrating first season at Sydney for the 32-year-old, who has managed just nine starts due to hamstring and knee injuries.

But after returning off the bench against the Victory on the weekend, Griffiths said he is fully fit and eager to show his talent over the remainder of the campaign.

“The last (injury) was just a knock on the knee and it was disappointing because I tried to play but it wasn’t right,” he said.

“Now I’ve made sure it’s right so it doesn’t happen again. I’m feeling good and feeling sharp again.

“Hopefully I can kick on now and get some form coming into the finals.

Asked about facing his former club, where he won an A-League title in 2008, Griffiths said: “It’s always good to play against your old team, especially when you have good memories there.

“The fans are always brilliant up in Newcastle. They’ve stuck by their team through good times and bad.

“But I’m with the Sky Blues now and everything is for them and wanting to beat Newcastle Jets on Saturday.

“….We’ve got the majority of the team fit now so we’re starting to find some rhythm again and looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Veteran midfielder Brett Emerton underwent scans on his hamstring injury on Tuesday, with the club expected to find out the extent of the problem on Wednesday morning.

Due to the pair of suspensions, Rhyan Grant is likely to switch from the right to left-back to cover for Fabio, with Trent McClenahan favourite to start on the right-hand side of defence.

Walcott ready for Reds battle

29 January 2013 03:22

Arsenal forward Theo Walcott has underlined the importance of Wednesday’s clash against Liverpool, with both teams fighting for fourth spot.

The 23-year-old is predicting an ‘intense’ encounter, and has called for the need to be focused from the off at The Emirates.

“It’s going to be an intense game,” Walcott told Arsenal’s official website.

“Both teams are fighting for that fourth position and are very close together. But I think the way we played at home the other day (against West Ham) shows that we are strong enough to beat them.

“Yes (the momentum is growing). It has been up and down, there have been patches of brilliance, but we need to do it in every game.

“We have tended to start slowly and then wake up and that’s something we need to get out of our system. It’s about being concentrated.”

Walcott, who has netted a career-high 17 goals in all competitions so far this season, recently signed a new contract with Arsenal to extend his stay at the Emirates Stadium until 2016 and affirmed his happiness with his performances this term.

“I’m definitely enjoying my football,” Walcott continued. “I think the last two years have been strong as well but I’ve always enjoyed my football, no matter what.

“I always listen to the right people and always enjoy every time I get a chance to play.”

Grella hangs up his boots

29 January 2013 02:48

Former Melbourne Heart midfielder Vince Grella has spoken of his frustration at the horror run of injuries that forced him to retire.

Grella, 33, retired on Monday after tearing his calf in what turned out to be his only appearance for Heart against Western Sydney Wanderers at the weekend.

The former Socceroo, who signed with Heart in October, had hoped to revive his career in the A-League after an injury-plagued stint with English club Blackburn Rovers.

“It was a crushing blow, but I’d done everything in my power to give me the best possible chance to be successful,” he said on Tuesday.

“When I realised that I couldn’t be successful anymore, I made the decision not to play on.

“Ending in this way and not ending because of a lack of passion or a lack of enjoyment in playing football, but because of a physical problem that doesn’t allow you to compete anymore – that’s what leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.”

Grella said he was in no doubt about his fitness before the Wanderers match and comfortable with his decision to hang up the boots.

“I work really hard, and not just this time, but all the previous times that I’ve made comebacks I’ve always been confident,” he said.

“I tried and left no stone unturned. It’s been frustrating because I’m a competitor and I’ve always tried to compete at the top level as often as possible.

“But to enjoy those really good times, you’ve got to be able to accept the really bad times.

“For me now, it’s just about getting back to the family and having a couple of months off to the refresh the mind.”

Grella, who described Australia’s win over Uruguay to qualify for the 2006 World Cup and his Serie A debut as career highlights, said he wanted to remain involved in football in some capacity.

The former Empoli and Parma man said French legend Zinedine Zidane was the best player he played against, while Socceroos stalwart Mark Bresciano was the best he played alongside.

Pochettino digs deep for Saints´ challenge

29 January 2013 02:28

New Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino is clear on how he wants to take the club forward.

The Argentine was named as the successor to the sacked Nigel Adkins and he is determined to succeed.

“We have our own work ethic. And we have our own philosophy as to where we want to take this club,” he said.

“We have goals and ambition and we want to work with the team to achieve those goals. But that doesn’t mean we want to go against or to do anything contrary to what was being done before.

“It’s not about that. It’s more about our philosophy, and how we want to take the team forward and how we want to achieve these goals.”

Despite their opposition to Adkins’ dismissal, supporters will have been encouraged by the start to life under Pochettino.

But following their 0-0 draw at home to Everton, things will only get tougher for the 40-year-old.

The Saints travel to Manchester United on Wednesday, before encounters with relegation rivals Wigan and Premier League champions Manchester City.

“Every single match that we play is important to us. No doubt they are going to be very tough and complex games against Manchester City and Manchester United,” he said.

“The glamour factor does not dictate how we play. The main thing is that we go out with a winning mentality. We want to win every single game.

“We definitely respect all of our rivals, and our aim always has to be to get the three points.”

Pochettino has already shown faith in his new side by saying that adding to the squad isn’t a priority.

But there has been one arrival at St Mary’s after Vegard Forren arrived from Ole Gunnar Solakjaer’s Molde.

The Norwegian had already agreed to join the Saints before Adkins was sacked.

“I never spoke to Nigel (Adkins). I knew there was a change but also that the new manager wanted me here. So for me it wasn’t any problem. I was just very happy to be here and have the opportunity to play for Southampton.”

Southampton are four points above the Premier League drop zone and an unlikely victory over Alex Ferguson’s men could lift them to 13th.