Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stoke set to delay Sidibe surgery

Mamady Sidibe
Sidibe joined Stoke from Gillingham in June 2005

Stoke City striker Mamady Sidibe will wait until the summer before having an operation on a cruciate ligament injury, reports BBC Radio Stoke.

The 29-year-old suffered the injury prior to a reserve match at Aston Villa on 23 March.

Surgery to cure the problem would rule the Mali international out of action for at least six months.

Sidibe was out of action for three months earlier this season with an unrelated knee injury.

Club officials are keen to delay an operation, in case the former Gillingham man is needed to play a part in Stoke's final eight games.

Sidibe has scored four goals in 24 appearances for the Potters this season.

Craigan is ruled out of qualifier

Northern Ireland v Slovenia - World Cup qualifier
Venue: Windsor Park Date: Wednesday, 1 April Kick-off: 1945 BST Coverage: Live on Radio Ulster medium wave and BBC Sport Website, live text commentary online and score updates on BBC Radio 5 Live

Stephen Craigan
Stephen Craigan (left) with NI manager Nigel Worthington

Defender Stephen Craigan has been ruled out of Northern Ireland's crucial World Cup qualifier against Slovenia at Windsor Park because of a calf injury.

The Motherwell player sat out training on Tuesday and his unavailability was confirmed on Wednesday morning.

George McCartney will now come into the starting team at left-back, with Jonny Evans set to to partner skipper Aaron Hughes in the centre of the defence.

Winger Chris Brunt is suspended so Steve Davis will return to midfield.

Grant McCann is likely to move to the left of midfield, with Davis occupying a place in the centre.

McCartney and Davis were both suspended for Saturday's 3-2 win over Poland in Belfast.

Bellamy jealous of Irish success

Venue: Millennium Stadium Date: Wednesday, 1 April Kick-off: 1945 BST
Coverage: Full commentary on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online, live text commentary on BBC Sport website & mobiles and live on Sky Sports 1

Criag Bellamy
Craig Bellamy is to win his 57th Wales cap against Germany on Wednesday

Craig Bellamy admits he is jealous of Group Three leaders Northern Ireland's 2010 World Cup qualifying success.

The Wales captain all but conceded qualification defeat after their 2-0 defeat to Finland on Saturday.

Wales face Germany in Cardiff on Wednesday and he wishes the Millennium Stadium could replicate the intimidating Windsor Park atmosphere.

Bellamy said: "You want to be part of the atmosphere at Windsor Park, when you watch Northern Ireland it hurts."

Northern Ireland, whose estimated population of 1.75m is much less than Wales' 2.9m, beat Poland 3-2 at their Windsor Park fortress on Saturday to lead Group Three by a point from Slovakia.

Wales, though, were booed off by a section of their supporters following a dismal 2-0 Group Four qualifying defeat to an aging Finland side at a less than third full Millennium Stadium.

Toshack cagey on Wales fallout

"We haven't got the atmosphere," admits Bellamy.

"We aren't generating anything. What a nice place to come and play at the moment. Opposition teams must be very comfortable here.

"You come to a nice city, a very good stadium. No pressure. No atmosphere.

"They go out there and just play against a team that, at the moment, isn't going to force the issue.

"You see the difference in Northern Ireland. Windsor Park is a tough old place. The pitch isn't good. The changing rooms are terrible. The atmosphere is fantastic.

"As a player I'm a bit envious of that."

Northern Ireland host Slovenia on Wednesday expecting a full house in Belfast while the Welsh FA hope that 30,000 visit to the 72,500 Millennium Stadium watch the national team play Germany.

Bellamy will lead the team he criticised after Saturday's disappointment in Cardiff, standing by his outburst at an under-achieving squad.

John Toshack
John is the manager, he believes how we go forward and he has been very good to me. I am very much behind him and the way he does things

Wales captain Craig Bellamy

The Manchester City striker said: "Maybe I could have chosen my words differently, but I still very much believe in what I said. I could have worded it differently, but I have to put up with that.

"Sometimes you cannot be honest in football, you have to duck questions and be as diplomatic as you can.

"But for me that is now easy. I am emotional and I try to be honest as much as I can. Basically I do not like letting people off.

"We were all disappointed and frustrated, and I say things. I am old enough to know that such comments allow people to have a dig back, but I can handle that.

"For the first time we had players coming in and we looked like we were getting somewhere and then suddenly after Finland it's all deflated and all the promise seems to have gone.

"As a manager and as players we are all going to come into some flak.

"We must do a lot better now than we did against Finland.

"Whatever the tactics and formations, you still have to perform to the best of your ability.

"We've been down because of the disappointment of Saturday. We let a lot of people down and a lot of people are not shy and want to let us know about it.

Despite his obvious discontent, Bellamy retains his support for Wales boss John Toshack.

"John is the manager, he believes how we go forward and he has been very good to me," he said.

"I am very much behind him and the way he does things.

"Things will be questioned, rightly so, but the last few years have been bad for Welsh football. We have not had enough players and that has been a problem.

"But we will be more fired up for Germany, otherwise it will be a very uncomfortable evening and we could get badly turned over."

Spurs reveal new stadium designs

New Tottenham stadium
Artist's impression of Tottenham's new stadium

Tottenham's new stadium will have a 58,000 capacity, with the ground designed to seat spectators close to the pitch to maximise its atmosphere.

"Having the fans up close can lift the team," said striker Robbie Keane.

The full planning application for the new ground, which will be adjacent to their current White Hart Lane stadium, is due in the next few months.

The new plans also include a 150-room hotel as well as a public square that could be used for community events.

The new ground will be adjacent to Spurs' current White Hart Lane home.

"Too often new stadiums are surrounded by empty, dead space and we did not want that in Tottenham," said Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy.


"Instead, with these new plans for the public square and public space, we have embraced the opportunity to create something truly special for local people."

The public space could be used for a temporary ice rink or street markets.

The latest plans will be revealed as part of a second public consultation, taking place from 2 to 7 April.

GB call up Canadians for Worlds

Sheffield Steelers' Jody Lehman
Lehman has been in inspired form for the Steelers this season

Canadian duo Jody Lehman and Shane Johnson will make their Great Britain bows at April's World Championships in Poland after becoming British citizens.

Netminder Lehman, 33, helped Sheffield Steelers win this year's Elite League while Johnson, 35, has been a Belfast Giants defenceman since 2000/01.

But Giants player-coach Steve Thornton has pulled out with an injury, so Phil Hill of Cardiff Devils is on standby.

Steelers duo Robert Dowd and Mark Thomas are also in the 29-man squad.

Dowd, who made his GB debut in November's pre-Olympic qualification tournament, has been rewarded for a stunning season and will play for the first time at the World Championships.

Team-mate Thomas is recalled to the squad after an absence of three years.

Late decisions will be made on Jonathan Phillips, another Steeler, who is about to become a father, while Coventry Blaze forward Tom Watkins, who has been out with a broken hand, faces a fitness test.

The team will take on Finland's Under-23 side in two warm-up games on Tuesday, 7 April in Sheffield and in Coventry a day later.

GB play Ukraine, Italy, Holland, Romania and Poland between 11-17 April and head-coach Paul Thompson will cut the squad down to 23 before the championships.

Great Britain squad:

Netminders: J Lehman (Sheffield), S Lyle (Belfast)
Defencemen: S Johnson (Belfast), D Meyers (Nottingham), B O'Connor (Coventry), D Phillips (Belfast), M Richardson (Nottingham), M Thomas (Sheffield), G Walton (Belfast), J Weaver (Coventry)
Forwards: G Chambers (Basingstoke), D Clarke (Nottingham), R Cowley (Coventry), R Dowd (Sheffield), J Hewitt (Sheffield), D Longstaff (Newcastle), M Myers (Nottingham), G Owen (Briancon, France), J Phillips (Sheffield), C Shields (Belfast), A Tait (Sheffield), T Watkins (Coventry).

Netminders: S Murphy (Manchester - travelling reserve), N Craze (Belfast)
Defencemen: K Horne (Edinburgh), L Jamieson (Coventry)
Forwards: P Hill (Cardiff), M Levers (Nottingham), L Mitchell (Hull).

Strike threat clouds England game

James Anderson
James Anderson practises at the Beausejour Stadium

England's final one-day international could be in jeopardy due to a dispute between the West Indies Cricket Board and the Windies Players' Association.

The Wipa has rejected the WICB's latest proposals over players' salaries and the infrastructure in domestic cricket.

It has called for further talks to prevent the possibility of strike action disrupting Friday's game.

The tour finale is due to be staged in St Lucia's Beausejour Stadium, with the one-day series tied at 2-2.

"It is hoped that negotiations may be continued and resolution of the outstanding issues achieved without further delay," said a Wipa statement.

England levelled the one-day series on Sunday thanks to Andrew Strauss' unbeaten 79.

It was only England's second victory of an arduous winter.

Shearer to become Newcastle boss

Breaking news

BBC Sport understands that Alan Shearer will be appointed as Newcastle manager until the end of the season.

Magpies legend Shearer, 38, has been continually linked with a return to the club but has been critical of the current structure at the club.

Chris Hughton is currently in caretaker charge of the club as interim manager Joe Kinnear recovers from a triple heart bypass.

The Magpies are currently 18th in the table with 29 points from 30 matches.

Shearer scored 206 goals in 404 appearances during a 10-year playing stint to earn legendary status on Tyneside after joining for a record £15m fee from Blackburn.

The former England striker, who retired from playing in 2006, has made no secret of his desire to become a manager one day.

However, Shearer, now a pundit on BBC TV's Match of the Day, is believed to be put off from returning to St James' Park by the regime of owner Mike Ashley - which he described as "strange" in March.

In September 2008 he rejected an offer to join the coaching staff at St James' Park.

Both on and off the pitch, Newcastle have lurched from one crisis to the next this season following the departure of Kevin Keegan early in the campaign.

Following a fans' backlash over Keegan's exit, Ashley raised the possibility of selling the club, before deciding to stay on.

Key striker Michael Owen has been involved in just four games this year due to an ankle injury, while Charles N'Zogbia moved to Wigan in the January transfer window after a high-profile bust-up out with Kinnear.

Hughton also denied Ashley had come to dressing room after the game to speak to the players.

Henson's Lions hopes in jeopardy

Gavin Henson suffers before departing the fray at Coventry
Henson suffered ankle ligament against Gloucester on Saturday

Wales centre Gavin Henson's chances of touring with the British and Irish Lions this summer could be in doubt.

The Osprey is out for six weeks with an ankle ligament injury picked up in the EDF semi-final against Gloucester.

Lions coach Ian McGeechan names his touring party on April 21 but Henson will be sidelined until early May.

"Gavin has suffered damage to the ligaments on both the lateral and medial sides of his right ankle," said Ospreys physio Chris Towers.

"Although the injury is not so severe that he will require surgery, he will require a spell of at least two weeks in a walking cast before he can start to gradually get back to normal activity.


"At this stage, in light of the nature and extent of the ligament damage, we are predicting a four to six week spell on the sidelines before Gavin will be ready for action again."

Henson, who made one Test appearance for the Lions in New Zealand four years ago, has endured an injury-ravaged season, starting just two of Wales' nine internationals.

Ian Gough suffered a hip injury in the 17-0 defeat against Gloucester but the Ospreys insist the Wales lock will be fit for their Heineken Cup quarter-final.

They play defending champions Munster on Sunday, 12 April.

With Henson out and Gough doubtful the Ospreys could be seriously under-strength if for the crunch showdown at Thomond Park.

Full-back Lee Byrne is already facing a race against time to be fit, while the Ospreys are already without long-term casualties lock Ian Evans, prop Duncan Jones and Scottish wing Nikki Walker.


Gough left the field just 26 minutes into their EDF Energy Cup defeat, while Henson departed two minutes before half-time.

On Gough's injury Towers confirmed: "Ian Gough suffered a haematoma in his hip region.

"Although the injury is low in severity, it is quite limiting in the short term. However, he will make a full recovery in time to face Munster in the Heineken Cup."

McGeady is ruled out for Republic

Italy v Republic of Ireland - World Cup qualifier
Venue: Stadio San Nicola, Bari Date: Wednesday, 1 April Kick-off: 1950 BST Coverage: Score updates on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Sport website; Live on RTE

Aiden McGeady
Aiden McGeady will miss Wednesday's qualifier in Bari

Republic of Ireland winger Aiden McGeady has been ruled out of the World Cup qualifier against Italy in Bari because of a knee injury.

The 22-year-old Celtic player sustained the injury in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Bulgaria at Croke Park.

Manager Giovanni Trappatoni is also without his other winger, hamstring injury victim Damien Duff.

Wolves striker Andy Keogh is likely to replace McGeady in the starting line-up for Wednesday's Group Eight clash.

Shay Given, Robbie Keane and Richard Dunne sat out training on Monday as a precaution but all three should be available.

Dunne gave the Republic an early lead against Bulgaria in Dublin but the visitors levelled through Kevin Kilbane's own goal with 16 minutes left.

The result leaves the Republic two points behind the Italians after five games.

Italy moved clear at the top thanks to a 2-0 away victory over Montenegro.

Murray eases into Miami quarters

Sony Ericsson Open, Miami
Date: 25 March to 5 April Coverage: Updates on BBC Radio 5 Live, live scores/text commentaries on BBC Sport website & mobiles. Live on Sky Sports.

Andy Murray in Miami
Murray overcame Troicki in straight sets in St Petersburg last year

Andy Murray made brutally short work of Viktor Troicki with a 6-1 6-0 thrashing to progress to the quarter-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.

The Scot dominated the opener with his opponent claiming his final service game to narrowly avoid a whitewash.

And Troicki, his serve malfunctioning badly, was further humiliated in the second set and failed to win a game.

Murray will face either his Australian Open conqueror Fernando Verdasco or Czech Radek Stepanek in the last eight.

The 23-year-old Troicki is at a career-high world ranking of 41 and is set to climb higher following his run in Florida, but he was extremely poor against Murray, who had won their only previous meeting.

Murray had started slowly in his second and third-round matches but he broke Troicki's first service game and secured a second successive break with two fine returns to move into a 4-0 lead.

The Scot had two points to complete a love set, but Troicki came up with some big serves to finally get on the board after 27 minutes. It was only a temporary reprieve, however, as Murray easily served out the set.

Troicki's Achilles heel was his serve, with his first-serve percentage at 25% in the opening set and his second serve repeatedly sitting up for his opponent to hit.

The second set continued in the same vein with Murray again taking full advantage of Troicki's woes to break in the first game. The Serbian battled hard to try to hold on to his serve but again he was unsuccessful as Murray eased to a 3-0 lead.

Troicki fought back from 0-40 to 30-40 in his next service game but another short second serve was a gift for Murray and he served out for an easy victory in less than an hour.

US and Jamaica agree sprint clash

Usain Bolt
Bolt dominated the field in the men's sprint events in Beijing

Two team sprint showdowns between a Usain Bolt-led Jamaica and the best athletes from the United States will take place in 2010.

Two events - one in each country - are planned for May and June next year.

Men and women will race in the 100m, 200m and 400m, two hurdles distances, three relays and the long jump.

"We feel the stars will be aligned, literally and figuratively, next May and June for this to really take off," said US athletics chief Doug Logan.

"We will be working with the Jamaican federation, our athletes and other stakeholders over the next 12-plus months to put together a top-tier event," added Logan, the chief executive of USA Track and Field.

The Beijing Olympics last year showcased a showdown between Jamaican and US sprinters, with the former coming out on top.


Bolt was the undoubted star, outshining Americans Shawn Crawford and Walter Dix as he stormed to a gold and world record double in the men's 100m and 200m.

There were also gold medals for Jamaicans Shelly-Ann Fraser and Veronica Campbell-Brown in the women's 100 and 200m respectively, while Bolt helped Jamaica break the world record held by the United States in the men's 4x100m relay.

"We look forward to taking on our American friends in head-to-head competition in 2010," said Jamaican federation president Howard Aris.

"We are confident that this kind of team competition, featuring the most exciting events in athletics, will prove captivating to fans around the world."

Live - Murray v Troicki

Sony Ericsson Open, Miami

Fourth-round latest:



* Denotes server


To get involved use 606 or text us your views & comments on 81111 with the word TENNIS before your message. (Not all contributions can be used)

By Ben Dirs


Murray 1-0- Troicki
Just the odd cotton wool cloud overhead and it's Murray to serve first. Long rally to kick off with and Troicki cracks first, putting a forehand into the middle of the net. Troicki nicks a point back, but Murray holds pretty easily, Troicki going wide with a backhand. It's hotter and steamier than a mug of Ovaltine in Miami, but Murray will still prefer this to last week's final in Indian Wells - it was gusting that day.

1836: My, this is some spot to play tennis. The Tennis Center at Crandon Park, adjacent to Ocean Drive, a light wind bustling across the court, it's all a bit country club. Lovely.

1830: Evening. It's Andrew Murray against Serbian world number 41 Viktor Troicki in Miami, and the British number one might have a grapple on his hands. Troicki upset number 14 seed David Nalbandian on Saturday and beat Tomas Berdych in Indian Wells last week. Murray, however, has won their one previous encounter - 6-3 6-3 in St Petersburg last year.

Van Persie reveals contract hopes

Arsenal's Robin van Persie
Van Persie has played a key role in Arsenal's season with 16 goals

Robin van Persie is prepared to sign a new three-year deal with Arsenal - if they match his trophy ambitions.

The Dutchman is in talks to extend his contract, which has 18 months to run.

A deal worth a reported £80,000 a week is on the table but the striker insists money is not an issue.

"Financially Arsenal's last offer is fine, but that isn't everything for me. It's about my ambitions and how they can be fulfilled," he told Uefa's Champions Magazine.

"In the last four years I've only won one prize, the FA Cup, and that is too little. I want to push through to achieve more," he said.

Van Persie, who came on as a late substitute in that 2005 FA Cup win over Manchester United, has reportedly been stalling over a new deal.

"In the last four years I've only won one prize, the FA Cup, and that is too little. I want to push through to achieve more."

Arsenal striker Robin van Persie

Barcelona are said to be monitoring the situation, but the forward has hinted that Arsenal need only to splash out in the transfer market to convince him his future lies in north London.

He said: "I'm still in negotiations with Arsenal, and it's going well - in a very positive atmosphere. There are further meetings planned.

"The club and I want the same, and it's our intention to achieve that.

"We have all the other factors in place - fantastic stadium, dedicated support and money in the bank.

"Now it's about making that final push. I certainly feel I can play an important role in taking Arsenal to a higher level."

The 25-year-old joined the Gunners from Feyenoord in 2004 and despite being dogged by injuries in the last three seasons, he has gone on to make 170 appearances, scoring 59 goals in the process.

A tally of 16 goals in all competitions this season has made the forward an indispensible member of manager Arsene Wenger's young squad.

Arsenal are currently fourth in the Premier League and are still in the chase in two cup competitions, with an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea and Champions League quarter-finals against Villarreal to come.


Van Persie's role in those crucial games in April will depend on how the striker responds to an injury picked up on international duty last weekend.

The forward suffered a groin strain in the Netherlands' World Cup qualifier victory over Scotland on Saturday.

Van Persie scored in that match but was forced to miss Wednesday's game against Macedonia and has returned to north London for treatment.

Pietersen unsure over tour future

Kevin Pietersen and Andy Flower
Pietersen has done plenty of soul-searching during the Caribbean tour

Kevin Pietersen has said he would not go on another extended England tour like the one in West Indies, without his wife, singer Jessica Taylor.

Explaining his comments on Saturday that he was "at the end of his tether" he said it was partly down to frustration at England's poor results.

He added: "I've never said I want to miss a tour and there's no way I will ever miss a tour. I love touring.

"But there's no way I'll be without my wife for 11 weeks again."

Pietersen, 28, will be fit to play in the one-day series decider, and tour finale, in St Lucia despite a back spasm sustained on Sunday.

He said the England team's general failure to win matches, whether in India before Christmas under his leadership - or in the West Indies since then - had left him drained.

He said: "The first half of the winter was a shambles under my leadership. We didn't come close to winning a game in India and we didn't come close to winning a game here before we won on Sunday - except for the mathematical error on the West Indies' part in Guyana.


"The comments were born from the frustration of that. We all want to go home, but it does not stop the commitment we all put in on a daily basis.

"I am absolutely 100% passionate about playing for England. I absolutely never take it for granted about wearing the three lions on my chest.

"The second part of the frustration was I hadn't seen my wife since 21 January. It's the longest period of time I've been away from her."

Pietersen also explained how he sat down with the tour management to request a 48-hour break between Test matches to be with wife Jessica, 28, who used to be with group Liberty X, who he married in December 2007.

"We decided it probably wouldn't be a good idea for the team going forward," he said. "There were no arguments, no nonsense, no disappointment on my behalf.

"I have been totally supportive of everything that has happened on this tour."

McCoy waits on National ride

Tony McCoy
McCoy's 2008 National mount, Butler's Cabin, is entered once again

Tony McCoy will leave punters guessing until as late as possible over his chosen mount for the Grand National.

The 13-time champion jockey has made no secret of his desire to add this race to his catalogue of success and has the choice of four JP McManus-owned horses.

Butler's Cabin, a warm order in the betting for Saturday's big race, appears the most attractive option.

But McCoy fell from the nine-year-old 12 months ago and is thought to be considering a switch to L'Ami.

Butler's Cabin, trained by Jonjo O'Neill in Gloucestershire, was travelling superbly for McCoy before parting company with his jockey in an uncharacteristic fall at Becher's Brook on the second circuit.

He has been quietly campaigned in shorter handicaps this term and is priced at around 9-1 for the four-and-a-half miler.


L'Ami, trained in Ireland and a 20-1 shot, has had a fine season but has a history of poor jumping and was another to fall in the 2008 National.

McManus' racing manager Frank Berry insists there is no rush for McCoy to decide which of the owner's four entries he will ride.

But it would be a big shock if he went for either Can't Buy Time (40-1) or Reveillez (100-1).

Berry said: "There is no pressure for Tony to make up his mind, because we have jockeys ready for the other horses. I'm sure he will wait to see what the ground is on Thursday morning.

"Butler's Cabin jumped well for a long way last year and has come back and run a good race in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham.

"He's a bit higher in the weights this year but he has come out of his last race well - and you would have to be pleased with him."

He jumps fences the best way for a National horse, he's not extravagant and is quite a clever horse

Brooklyn Brownie's trainer Malcolm Jefferson

L'Ami made it only as far as the second fence 12 months ago, ending the riding career of Mick Fitzgerald with a crashing fall.

Berry said of the 10-year-old gelding: "He's been round the cross-country courses a few times since and he has got sharper at it. He's fit and well, so I hope he will run a good race."

Meanwhile, Malcolm Jefferson believes Brooklyn Brownie (33-1) could go well, having finished second over the giant fences in the Grand Sefton back in November.

The trainer said: "I just thought we'd give him a run over the National fences, because he's always had the appetite to jump. He ran well to finish second, and I said to his owners then if everything went right we would aim for the National - and that's what we've done.

"He jumps fences probably the best way for a National horse, because he's not over extravagant and he is quite a clever horse. Over four-and-a-half miles, you never know - but he ticks a few boxes."

Iceland game is massive - Burley

Venue: Hampden Park Date: Wednesday, 1 April Kick-off: 1945 BST
Coverage: Full commentary on BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio 5 Live and online, live text commentary online and live commentary on BBC Radio nan Gaideal. Highlights on Sportscene on BBC ONE Scotland at 2245 BST.


Burley says Iceland match a 'cup final'

Scotland manager George Burley says the World Cup qualifier against Iceland is a "massive game" for his side.

And he admits that defeat at Hampden on Wednesday would be a huge blow in their attempts to reach South Africa 2010.

"It's a massive game for the country, not one for caution, I've got to treat it like a cup final," said Burley.

"I think qualification will be very difficult if we don't get the three points tomorrow night. We've got to be really positive."

Burley has secured just one victory in his eight games in charge, which came against the Icelanders in Reykjavik last September.

Both goal-scorers from that 2-1 win - Kirk Broadfoot and James McFadden - are missing this time through injury.

However, as far as the Scotland coach is concerned, that win will count for little when the sides meet at Hampden.

"Iceland are a good side, they work hard, beat Macedonia, and got a good 2-2 draw in Norway," he said.

"They've had some good results, and no doubt they'll make it very difficult for us. We'll have to be at our best to win.

"Tomorrow night's game is going to be completely different to the Dutch game.

"We'll be looking to be on the front foot, put them under pressure for the whole game, and hopefully win the match."

Eidur Gudjohnson
Scotland maintain Gudjohnsen is not the only Iceland threat

Scotland assistant manager Terry Butcher agrees that victory for Burley's side is imperative.

"It was always a game we wanted to get three points from and it doesn't matter how we get them, as long as we get those three points," Butcher said.

"We don't have to play fantastic football, as long as we score one more goal than Iceland, then everyone can breathe a sigh of relief.

"All the other teams in our group have two games in June, so we have to win."

Scotland and Iceland are locked on four points from four matches, eight adrift of runaway Group 9 leaders Netherlands, while Macedonia and Norway trail behind, having played a game less.

Butcher believes it is vital the side improve their defending at set-pieces, after being caught out by the Dutch during Saturday's 3-0 defeat in Amsterdam.

"It was particularly disappointing to concede that second goal," he said.

"We know what we have to do. Set-pieces could be a big factor on Wednesday, and we are working on that.

"We have to have that awareness - and we will need that at Hampden."

We're going to have to come out and attack and try to play to our strengths

Alan Hutton
Scotland defender

Eidur Gudjohnsen converted a late penalty for the home side to ensure a tense finish and the Barcelona star is the visitors' main threat.

However, coach Steven Pressley is confident of extending Scotland's run of victories against Iceland to six from six, despite the presence of Gudjohnsen.

"He's obviously a top player but we handled him exceptionally well in Reykjavik, when we had Scott Brown in a defensive midfield role," said the veteran Falkirk defender.

"Scott seems to relish that job and he certainly nullified Gudjohnsen that night.

"It's not just about Gudjohnsen - they have many talented players. But I think, if we're at it, we will certainly win the game.

"We're at home and we need to impose ourselves .

"I'm sure Iceland will try to contain us and the emphasis will be on us to go and win and I believe we have the players to do the job."

Spurs defender Alan Hutton is expected to start after appearing for the final half hour against the Dutch and he is also anticipating a defensively-minded approach from the visitors.

"We're going to have to come out and attack and try to play to our strengths," said the full-back.

"We need to take the game to them and go and make things happen."

Volandri has drugs ban overturned

Filippo Volandri
During his ban Volandri's ranking has fallen to 161 in the world

Italy's Filippo Volandri has had his three-month suspension for using a banned substance lifted after an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Court also confirmed that Volandri will be restored the ATP points and earnings he lost during his ban.

The International Tennis Federation banned Volandri in January after a sample he provided at a 2008 ATP Tour event contained too much salbutamol.

The 27-year-old blamed his failed test on an inhaler he takes for asthma.

"The nightmare is over," said Volandri, who has been as high as number 25 in the world rankings. "The Court of Arbitration recognized my good faith. I used the drug only for therapeutic needs and the ban was excessive."

The only punishment that Volandri will incur is the loss of the points and earnings he won at at the tournament in Indian Wells a year ago where he failed the initial test.

Ballesteros talks of cancer fight

Seve Ballesteros
Ballesteros started his fourth round of chemotherapy on Saturday

Champion golfer Seve Ballesteros says life has given him "a second chance", in his first interview since undergoing emergency brain surgery last year.

Speaking to Spanish sports paper Marca, he offered an emotional thank you to thousands of well-wishers in Britain.

The five-times major champion says he has made good progress in his recovery, but still has a long way to go.

"The way I look at it, this is the biggest battle of my life," he said. "This is the sixth major."

Ballesteros spoke about the "tremendous shock" of being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour in October last year after collapsing twice during a trip to Madrid.

Photographs taken at his home in northern Spain show a scar on his right temple - evidence of the four life-saving operations he underwent.

'Very loved'

Ballesteros, who has won 87 career titles - including three British Opens and two US Masters - appeared notably thinner, and his hair was short from ongoing chemotherapy.

eve Ballesteros, left, gets the Masters green jacket from last year"s winner, Fuzzy Zoeller, after winning the 1980 Masters in Augusta, Ga., in this April 13, 1980 file photo
He now weighs 75kg (165lb), same as when he won his first Masters aged 23

But he came across as typically determined, recalling that his first words after the initial operation were: "I always win".

Describing a regimented daily routine of exercise and cognitive therapy, he said: "If I think about it objectively, I have been lucky... The proof is that I am alive and that I can do many things, that I can talk, that I can think perfectly."

He said he had found the post-operative treatment "incredibly hard" at times and had had some low moments.

Having received over 300,000 messages of support, the 51-year-old singled out British fans for special thanks.

"The UK is my second home," he said, "and the people have always made me feel very loved."

Ballesteros said he recently picked up a golf club for the first time in five months: "I wasn't too bad," he joked.

He described his road to recovery in golfing parlance.

"It is the longest par-72 in the world, this is the truth," he said. "This has to be admitted and faced."

Maul preserved after laws review

Wales begin a maul against Australia last November
The maul changes have been controversial

The controversial rule change which led to the maul almost becoming extinct is set to be rejected by rugby chiefs.

An International Rugby Board conference has discussed the impact of the experimental law variations (ELVs) being trialled around the world.

After two days of review, 10 ELVs have been recommended to be passed into law.

But the variation allowing mauls to be pulled down was thrown out while the ELV which sees most offences penalised with a free-kick is to be reviewed.

More to follow.

ELVs recommended to be passed into law:

Law 6 - Assistant referees allowed
Law 19 - Kicking directly into touch from ball played back into 22 equals no gain in ground
Law 19 - Quick throw permitted in any direction except forward
Law 19 - Positioning of player in opposition to the player throwing-in to be two metres away from line-out and the line of touch
Law 19 - Pre-gripping of line-out jumpers allowed
Law 19 - Lifting in the line-out allowed
Law 19 - Positioning of receiver must be two metres away from line-out
Law 20 - Five-metre offside line at the scrum
Law 20 - Scrum-half offside line at the scrum
Law 22 - Corner posts no longer touch in goal

ELVs not recommended:

Law 17 - Maul, head and shoulders not to be lower than hips
Law 17 - Maul, pulling down the maul
Law 19 - Freedom for each team to determine line-out numbers

ELVs sent for further examination:

Sanctions and free-kicks

Rosberg criticises twilight races

Nico Rosberg in action as the shadows lengthen at the Australian Grand Prix
Nico Rosberg in action as the shadows lengthen at the Australian Grand Prix

Williams driver Nico Rosberg has criticised the decision to start races late in the afternoon as he believes twilight racing is too dangerous.

Like Sunday's opening race in Australia, the Malaysian Grand Prix is starting at 1700 local time to catch a bigger television audience in Europe.

But Rosberg said: "Twilight racing is not the way to go."

Rosberg also warned that this weekend's race in Malaysia could be halted because of heavy rain.

The 23-year-old German finished in sixth place in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday but was concerned as the light faded at the end of the race.

"In Melbourne it was obvious that it just increases the danger so much," said Rosberg, who finished second in Formula 1's first night race in Singapore last year.


"The visibility is so difficult, you can't even see the edges of the track in some corners. I was driving into the sun and that's not what racing is about. So I really hope they reconsider that.

"Even moving it forward by one hour or something will help us massively. It was just the last part of the race that was the really problematic time."

And with the Malaysian Grand Prix taking place this weekend, Rosberg has warned that the late start combined with the threat of possible tropical downpours could cause problems in Kuala Lumpur.

"If the monsoon comes down, the race is going to have to be stopped because we can't race and drive with that amount of water," he added.

The Williams team are not yet using the new energy storage and power boost system (Kers) but Rosberg says he wants it available as soon as possible.

The technology stores energy that would have been wasted while braking and allows drivers a boost of an extra 80bhp for seven seconds each lap and Rosberg said: "It was clear in Melbourne that, especially for racing, it's a very beneficial thing to have.

"I was really struggling to hold behind me people with Kers and also to overtake people with Kers was difficult for me.

"It's definitely something we need to push hard to get on the car. I'm not sure when it's going to happen but hopefully soon.

"But also that makes it interesting for the racing, some teams have it and some teams don't. It's just a big mess and that's what the spectators need."

2012 Aquatic Centre's wave roof lifted

Artist's impression of the roof of the Aquatics Centre
The Aquatic Centre with wave-shaped roof is expected to be a 2012 icon

Workers have begun the process of lifting the 2,800 tonne wave-shaped roof of the 2012 Olympics Aquatics Centre in east London.

The lift is one of the "most complex" construction challenges, the Olympic Development Authority (ODA) said.

The steel structure will form the basis of the 11,000 sqm (118,400 sq ft) column-free roof.

The 17,500-seat venue with two 50m swimming pools will form the gateway to the Olympic Park in Stratford.

The venue will also have a diving pool and tower.

A 30m (98ft) steel truss weighing more than 70 tonnes is already in place on top of the southern wall and has been connected with the first sections of 15 steel trusses which will form the base of the roof.

The design of the roof is iconic and will be one of the lasting images of the London 2012 Games
Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee

The roof will finally rest on the two concrete supports and will slide into a 5m (16ft) wide wall.

David Higgins, chief executive of ODA, said: "The Aquatics Centre is on track to be a fantastic gateway to the Games and provide swimming and diving facilities in legacy that London does not currently have.

"The lift of the sweeping wave-shaped roof is one of the toughest construction and engineering challenges on the Olympic Park."

The centre's architect Zaha Hadid described the work as a "key milestone".

"The roof of the Aquatics Centre reflects the fluidity of water and will provide an inspirational legacy for all Londoners well beyond the 2012 Games."

Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee, said: "The design of the roof is iconic and will be one of the lasting images of the London 2012 Games."

Craigan is doubtful for qualifier

Northern Ireland v Slovenia - World Cup qualifier
Venue: Windsor Park Date: Wednesday, 1 April Kick-off: 1945 BST Coverage: Live on Radio Ulster medium wave and BBC Sport Website, live text commentary online and score updates on BBC Radio 5 Live

Stephen Craigan
Stephen Craigan (left) with NI manager Nigel Worthington

Stephen Craigan is an injury doubt for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Slovenia at Windsor Park after sitting out Tuesday morning's training session.

The Motherwell defender is nursing a calf injury and is rated '50/50'.

If Craigan is unable to play, George McCartney would come into the team with Jonny Evans likely to join Aaron Hughes in the centre of defence.

Winger Chris Brunt is suspended for the game so Steve Davis is set to return to the team after a one-match ban.

Grant McCann is likely to move to the left of midfield, with Davis occupying a place in the centre.

McCartney was also suspended for the 3-2 win over Poland.

Manager Nigel Worthington told the BBC that he would have fielded the same team which beat the Poles on Saturday, if everyone had been available to him.

"We will assess Stephen in the morning and give him every chance," said Worthington.

Referee Broad returns to cricket

Chris Broad
Broad has faced a backlash after criticising Pakistan's security efforts

English match referee Chris Broad will return to cricket on Wednesday for the first time since being caught up in February's terrorist attack in Lahore.

Broad, 51, is to referee three matches on the opening day of the ICC World Cup Qualifier taking place in South Africa.

Seven people were killed and seven Sri Lankan players and a team official wounded when armed men attacked a bus taking them to the Gaddafi Stadium.

Broad, who was among those attacked, criticised security after the ambush.

His comments led the Pakistan Cricket Board to make an official complaint, with chief operating officer Saleem Altaf saying: "We believe Broad made unwarranted critical remarks about the security."

The former England batsman was travelling to the Gaddafi Stadium along with fellow match officials Simon Taufel, Steve Davis, Nadeem Ghouri and Ahsan Raza when his bus came under fire.


The driver of Broad's vehicle was killed in the attack and local umpire Raza was seriously injured.

Broad will take charge of the games between Scotland and Ireland in Benoni, Canada versus Oman in Pretoria and Namibia against Uganda in Krugersdorp.

He will also officiate in all four of the other matchdays during the opening round of the 19-day tournament.

Johnson chases more NI success

Northern Ireland v Slovenia - World Cup qualifier
Venue: Windsor Park Date: Wednesday, 1 April Kick-off: 1945 BST Coverage: Live on Radio Ulster medium wave and BBC Sport Website, live text commentary online and score updates on BBC Radio 5 Live

Damien Johnson and NIgel Worthington
Damien Johnson alongside the NI manager Nigel Worthington.

Damien Johnson is savouring the moment as Northern Ireland build up a head of steam during their World Cup campaign.

The team captain has helped the side secure successive victories over San Marino and Poland, and he wants more.

"I am delighted to be back and thrilled we won in that manner on Saturday. I was very proud," said Johnson.

"Hopefully we can take that performance into Wednesday against Slovenia. We need to take advantage of Windsor Park as the atmosphere is second to none."

The 30-year-old Birmingham midfielder won his 50th cap for his country in the 3-2 win over the Poles on Saturday, and he expects the same style of play from Wednesday's opponents.

"I think Slovenia will play in a similar vein to Poland. They have done well and taken points off teams, so they will be dangerous," said Johnson who has now fully recovered from back surgery that saw him sidelined for a long spell.

"Bit it's nice to have the points on the board. That's important. "We know it is a tough group. The Czech Republic and Poland are strong teams and Slovenia and Slovakia are no mugs.

I know the boys are up for this one, especially after the Poland win

Damien Johnson

"Qualification would be a great achievement, but we are a long way from that. We have got to go to Poland and the Czech Republic. We have got Slovenia, which is our next game, and that is where our focus is at."

Johnson says that every player has to be play to his best ability if they are to surprise everyone and qualify for the finals.

"We need everyone playing to a high level, and with Northern Ireland you have to get in opposing players' faces and outwork them.

"Manager Nigel Worthington mentioned that point last week in the build-up to the Poland game.

"The bottom line is that this is a game we need to win and I know the boys are up for this one, especially after the Poland win."

Falcons call up Wilkinson for Cup

Jonny Wilkinson
Wilkinson injured himself initially in the defeat by Gloucester in September

Newcastle Falcons have re-registered fly-half Jonny Wilkinson and lock Geoff Parling for the latter stages of the European Challenge Cup.

The duo were withdrawn from their European squad because of injury but boss Steve Bates has restored them for April's quarter-final at Saracens.

Meanwhile flanker Will Welch has signed a new one-year deal with the club.

The Newcastle University history student made his first-team debut against Newport Gwent Dragons.

Parling has agreed to join Leicester Tigers at the end of the season, while Wilkinson has been linked with a move to France.

England suffer Bent injury scare

WORLD CUP QUALIFIER: England v Ukraine
Venue: Wembley Stadium Date: Wednesday, 1 April Kick-off: 2000 BST
Coverage: Full commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and online, live text commentary on BBC Sport website & mobiles. Live on ITV1

Darren Bent
Darren Bent gave England a fresh injury scare in training on Tuesday

Darren Bent limped out of training on Tuesday ahead of England's World Cup qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley.

Bent, 25, who was called up to replace the injured Emile Heskey, only lasted five minutes of training, though it is not known how serious the problem is.

Peter Crouch is set to partner Wayne Rooney in attack on Wednesday after recovering from a dead leg suffered in Saturday's 4-0 victory over Slovakia.

Rio Ferdinand is expected to be fit to partner John Terry in defence.

Ferdinand could have played against Slovakia but England coach Fabio Capello decided not to risk the Manchester United defender, while Shaun Wright-Phillips is also available after a minor ankle knock.

Crouch limped out of Saturday's 4-0 win over Slovakia with a dead leg and may start against Ukraine after Heskey pulled out because of a hamstring injury.

Alternatively, Capello may opt to play Rooney as a lone forward, with Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard in close support.


Rooney goes into the game on the back of winning the England Player of the Year fans' award for 2008. He will collect his 50th cap against Ukraine.

Tottenham striker Bent, who was called up to the squad as a replacement for Heskey late on Saturday, was likely to be among the substitutes and his fitness will now be assessed by England's medical staff.

Bent has won four caps for England and was part of the England team that won in Germany last November.

But Carlton Cole, who replaced Heskey after 15 minutes on Saturday but lasted only 20 himself, is definitely out with a thigh problem.

Ukraine, who are unbeaten in their three Group Six qualifiers to date, are expected to include former Chelsea striker Andrei Shevchenko in attack.

Shevchenko, 32, has only started two Serie A matches for AC Milan this season but is determined to make a mark in his first Wembley appearance.

"This is a big game for us and I dream of scoring at Wembley because it would be my 40th goal with the national team," he said.

"The national team gives me an opportunity to do what I love doing, which is to play football. But for the national team coach it is not easy to put a player on the pitch who isn't playing."

Neville set for Man Utd comeback

Manchester United defender Gary Neville
Neville has made only 12 league appearances in the last two seasons

Manchester United defender Gary Neville moved closer to full fitness after completing an hour for the reserves against Newcastle United on Monday.

The defender, 34, returned in the 3-3 draw at St James' Park following a two-month lay-off with a groin injury.

Neville could now be in contention for Sunday's Premier League clash with Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

Teenage striker Federico Macheda, who has yet to appear in the first team, hit a hat-trick for Manchester United.

Macheda, 17, fired a last-minute equaliser to draw the visitors level after Danny Guthrie had given the home side the lead for the second time in the match.

And it's given...

Neville's return to action will be a timely boost for manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who is already without right-backs Wes Brown and Rafael and has seen his side lose consecutive league matches for the first time since 2005.

Neville, like Brown, has not featured for the first team since the 1-0 victory at home to Everton in the Premier League on 31 January.