Kean still in charge of Blackburn – for now

25 September 2012 19:02

Blackburn Rovers have confirmed that Steve Kean will remain in charge for the side’s Championship clash with Charlton Athletic this weekend.

Reports had suggested that Kean had been sacked on Monday after failing to match the club’s 16-point target after seven games, however, he is yet to be relieved of his duties.

When Blackburn’s global advisor Shebby Singh was asked about Kean’s long term future he told BBC Sport: “No comment.”

Singh also told BBC Radio Lancashire that the situation at Ewood Park was worsening ‘by the day’ and increasing rumours about the manager’s status prompted his intervention.

He added: “We have people heading up different departments whose responsibility it is to step in but unfortunately it escalated at such a fast pace that, before you know what happened, it hits you in the face.

“It should not have been allowed to escalate like that but it did and the situation gets worse by the day.”

Despite Rovers’ relatively good start to life in the Championship, discontent continues to swirl around Ewood Park, where a crowd of just over 13,000 fans attended their clash with Middlesbrough on Friday, more than 9,000 below their average attendance last season.

Singh added: “Financially now it is not a good situation because the fans are staying away. The club needs revenue to survive.

“I guess with having played seven games now I think it is a situation which is not a very pleasant one and I suppose it is my bosses, the owners of the club (Venky’s), who have to make an assessment.”

Positive signs for in-form Ba

25 September 2012 16:31

Demba Ba has sent out a message to Newcastle United’s upcoming opponents: “I’m better than last season.”

The Senegalese striker was a standout star for the Magpies in the first half of the 2011-12 Premier League campaign, before his form tailed off following the Africa Cup of Nations.

However, the former West Ham man has been back among the goals for Alan Pardew’s side at the start of this term, and Ba feels that he is playing even better than his purple patch of 12 months ago.

“I feel good, I’ve had some good games and I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing,” he told Newcastle’s official website.

“I think I’m in better form than last season so I’ll just continue to do what I do.

“Yohan (Cabaye) last Monday, the ball he gave me, and Hatem (Ben Arfa) on Sunday – when you have balls like this it’s easier to score some goals.”

After Newcastle’s impressive tilt at the Champions League places last season, there has been talk that they will struggle to match that level this time out.

However, following their win over Norwich at the weekend the Magpies are just one point shy of their tally at the same stage last season, and Ba thinks they are well placed to mount another challenge for Europe’s elite club competition.

“We’re on the road to what we did last season and we just want to keep doing what we do best and get as many wins as possible, especially at home,” the 27-year-old said.

“Sunday was important because our start was not too good but not too bad. Our start was average and we needed a win to make a good step forward.

“And we have that win. It was not easy but we have it and we’re very happy that we have three points. That’s always the main thing in this sport.”

Robben: Afellay right to move to Schalke

25 September 2012 16:23

Bayern Munich attacker Arjen Robben believes Ibrahim Afellay made the right decision to leave Barcelona for Schalke on a one-year loan deal.

Robben was slightly surprised to see his Dutch international team-mate start from the bench in Schalke’s last two games, but is confident that the transfer will eventually benefit Afellay.

“I was a bit surprised that he wasn’t part of the starting XI against Olympiakos and Bayern, but I believe Ibrahim has made the right decision to join Schalke,” Robben was quoted as saying by NUsport.

“Maybe he still needs a bit of time to get used to his new surroundings or the coach is giving him a bit of time to settle in.

“He has signed for a beautiful club in a fantastic competition, though, the Bundesliga demands a high level of fitness, and the national team coach really values fitness as well. It’s a good thing for Oranje that he’s moved to the Bundesliga.”

Afellay has made three league appearances for Schalke so far, but has yet to find the net for his new club.

Evra: I have never taken my place for granted

25 September 2012 16:18

Patrice Evra says he is ready to ‘fight’ for his place in the Manchester United starting XI after the arrival of youngster Alexander Buttner.

The former Vitesse Arnhem player, who joined the Old Trafford outfit during the summer, made his debut against Wigan two weeks ago – marking the occasion with a goal and an assist.

Evra was reinstated from United’s Champions League exploits and recent trip to Anfield and, despite being Sir Alex Ferguson’s first-choice left-back since 2008, he asserted that he has never taken his place for granted, and has no intention of giving it up now.

“It is too easy for people to say that now we have bought another left-back Patrice Evra will have to fight for his place. Patrice Evra has always fought for his place,” the 31-year-old said.

“Football is like a pyramid. It is easy to reach the top of the pyramid but to stay there is the hardest part.

“If someone is there or not I will fight because you have to respect the shirt. When you play for Manchester United that is the big challenge.

“When I hear people say Patrice never had someone to fight him for his place I think they have bad memories.

“They forget very quickly how I got to become Manchester United’s left-back. I fought with two great players in Gabriel Heinze and Mikael Silvestre.”

After failing to win a trophy last season, United are smarting and Evra says that the pressure to succeed comes from the high standards set by Ferguson.

“When you play for Manchester United any year you don’t win the title you feel like you haven’t done your job,” Evra said.

“I am not special. If I end up on the bench it will be because I didn’t play well. I accept that. Even if we lose I will always blame myself.

“This year the boss will give no presents to anybody. It should be difficult for him to pick his 11 players.

“Maybe last year there wasn’t enough competition on every part of the pitch.”

Xavi set to extend stay at Barcelona

25 September 2012 15:49

Barcelona are ready to open contract talks with influential midfielder Xavi, according to the player’s agent.

The Spain international’s current contract is due to expire in the summer of 2014, and the Catalans are eager to hold on to the 32-year-old beyond the expiry date of his current deal.

Xavi has made well over 600 appearances for Barcelona since making his official first-team debut in August 1998, helping the club to the La Liga crown, the UEFA Champions League, the Spanish and UEFA Super Cup, and the Copa del Rey.

“Barcelona have informed us of their intention to open talks over the extension and improvement of Xavi’s current contract,” agent Ivan Corretja told Esport3.

“They want Xavi to remain part of Barcelona’s first team and this is the right moment to open negotiations. His contract expires in 2014, so waiting until the end of the season would be too late.

“We have always reached an agreement on previous occasions and have never had problems. The most important thing for Xavi is to know that the club still count on him. I don’t expect any problems.”

Xavi scored the important opener against Granada on Saturday to ensure they maintained their 100 percent record in La Liga.