“They’re still talking, but there are no problems. The lawyers are finalising the contract. The paperwork is taking longer than expected,” Millen said. “Alan has held a staff meeting when he spoke about a number of things. He spoke to the players and then we had training. “We’re preparing for the game on Sunday and I’m sure Alan will be taking the game. He’ll be taking training on Saturday. We’re hopeful the deal will be done for Sunday.” Pardew will select the side to face Vanarama Conference side Dover and Millen insists his return to the club has captured the players’ imagination. “We’ve spoken about the team for Sunday’s game. He’s gone through the squad. He’s learning about the players, but he’s pleased with what he’s seen. He’ll pick the team,” Millen said. “Alan is excited because it’s Crystal Palace and the club means a lot to him, but it’s also exciting because of the group of players he’s inheriting. “There’s a buzz about the place. It’s exciting times and from the conversations I’ve had with him we’ll be looking to change a few things. “He knows what we’re about and is excited because he feels he can bring another dimension to our play, certainly from an attacking point of view. We all know we need to score more goals.” Pardew was expected to be unveiled as Neil Warnock’s successor on Friday – but the details of the contract that will prise him away from Newcastle are still being finalised. The former Eagles midfielder spoke to staff on a visit to the training ground on Friday morning and caretaker-manager Keith Millen insists official confirmation of his appointment is imminent. Pardew has also held talks over potential targets in the transfer window. “We’ve shared our thoughts with Alan. He has to assess the squad really quickly to see what we need. We’ve had a chat and he’s spoken to the chairman,” Millen said. “He’s seen the squad for the last few games, so he has a good idea of what we need, and he’s in agreement with what we thought. “There’s a list of targets, but I don’t know how far down the road we are. There are a few positions we’re looking, but it’s not a massive overhaul. “It’s more two or three players to enhance what we already have. The quicker we get players through the door the better.” Crystal Palace are confident Alan Pardew will be at the helm for Sunday’s FA Cup tie at Dover despite a delay in his appointment as manager. Press Association
Only Philippe Senderos (calf) and Libor Kozak (broken leg) are unavailable for the hosts. Sherwood twice missed out on the West Brom job and was linked with QPR before they appointed Chris Ramsey – Sherwood’s own assistant at Tottenham– as manager until the end of the season. Lambert was sacked after two-and-a-half years in the role, having only signed a new four-year contract in September. Villa have won just twice in their last 21 league games and are winless in 10 matches. Chairman Randy Lerner acted after Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat to Hull, which dropped Villa into the bottom three in the Barclays Premier League. Sherwood said: “It is a great honour to manage one of the biggest clubs in English football. “I can’t wait to get started and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.” Lerner also told the club’s official site: “While being forever conscious of the frustrations that we all suffer, we feel that a change that offers a positive, fresh approach will be very good for the club. “I know that Tom (Fox, chief executive) and many others at Villa worked very hard to recruit Tim in the face of severely limited time constraints and pounding pressure. “More importantly, I know further that internally we remain focused and committed to challenges we face, and I am deeply appreciative for that.” Press Association Former Tottenham chief Sherwood has been appointed as Paul Lambert’s successor after Villa acted quickly to replace the sacked Scot. Marshall will take the team for Sunday’s FA Cup visit of the Foxes, with Sherwood watching from the stands after signing a deal until 2018. Caretaker manager Scott Marshall insists Aston Villa will not hold back against Leicester – as incoming boss Tim Sherwood watches on. He has been charged with keeping Villa in the Barclays Premier League after they dropped into the bottom three on Tuesday. The FA Cup remains a secondary priority for the club but Marshall insists they are ready for a battle after two previous games with Leicester this season saw three red cards. Paul Konchesky was dismissed in the first game, only for the red card to be overturned, while Matty James and Ciaran Clark walked in Leicester’s 1-0 win at the King Power Stadium last month. James’ tackle on Jores Okore sparked a late scuffle between the sides in January and Marshall wants Villa to impose themselves. He said: “There’s a lot at stake – a quarter-final place – it’ll be competitive and you don’t want to take your foot out of anything. “It’s a Midlands derby, the clubs aren’t far apart and it’ll be a competitive game. “I don’t think there was much in the last one, certainly there was a bit of a gathering of the two teams but other than that there wasn’t much.” Christian Benteke could return after being on the bench for the last two games of Lambert’s reign while Ron Vlaar is fully fit after a knee problem.
Press Association Fears over Everton striker Arouna Kone’s knee injury have been allayed after scans revealed it was not serious. The Ivorian was substituted late in Sunday’s 2-1 win at QPR and with the 31-year-old having a history of knee problems, missing 14 months after one such injury last season, there was concern over his latest issue. However, the club have confirmed tests on the player determined no long-term damage. “A scan has confirmed that Arouna Kone’s knee injury is not serious,” said a statement on evertonfc.com. “But it is not yet known whether he will be fit for Everton’s next game, against Southampton on 4 April.”
Mourinho would not be drawn on an exact prognosis, but suggested Costa will miss the April 18 clash with third-placed United, which is followed eight days later by a trip to second-placed Arsenal. “It’s too early,” Mourinho said. “He has to go home, he has to wait 48 hours. He has to do all the scans again. “He will be out for sure a couple of weeks, but we have seven weeks until the end of the season. “Seven weeks and eight matches. For sure, in half of it he has to be with us.” The Blues responded from conceding a Charlie Adam goal from his own half and losing Costa to beat Stoke and move seven points clear in the title race. Stoke midfielder Adam’s 65-yard strike soared over Thibaut Courtois to cancel out Eden Hazard’s penalty opener before Loic Remy struck the winner after Costa had come and gone. Mourinho insisted his half-time introduction was not a risk, as Costa was fit to be included. Costa was not considered fit enough to start the 2-1 win over Stoke which sent Chelsea seven points clear. The striker was introduced at half-time but lasted just 11 minutes as his fragile hamstrings forced his withdrawal, with scans to determine the full extent of his injury to take place early next week. Press Association Jose Mourinho expects to be without Diego Costa for up to a month of Chelsea’s Premier League title run in – and the crucial contests with Manchester United and Arsenal. “I don’t say a gamble because we did every test, we did every scan,” the Blues boss added. “The player trained two days 100 per cent with the team, the medical department was convinced that he was ready. “The player was convinced he was ready, not for 90 minutes, but he was ready to play and to help the team. “Sometimes as a manager I have to risk things. Medical departments have to do the same, if they want to be top medical departments like our department is. “The safe medical department cannot work with me. People with fear, afraid to risk, cannot work with me. “My medical department is fantastic, they do fantastically well for us. “Today between them and the player and myself, things didn’t happen the best way, but I’m happy with that, because it’s football.” Mourinho’s side lead second-placed Arsenal by seven points, with United a further point behind in third, while holders Manchester City are nine points behind in fourth ahead of Monday’s trip to Crystal Palace. The Gunners moved to within four points with a comprehensive defeat of Liverpool, but Mourinho insisted Chelsea’s focus is on themselves. “Pressure (is) because we need to win six matches and we know that,” Mourinho said. “We’re not doing our countdown based on the points the second, the third, the fourth lose. “Our countdown must be made of our victories. At lunchtime (we needed) six victories and one draw, at dinner time five victories and one draw.” Mourinho described Adam’s effort as “probably the best goal of the season in the Premier League” and absolved Courtois of blame. The goalkeeper’s positioning was fine, according to Mourinho, who instead lamented an earlier foul on Hazard and Chelsea’s failure to press for the ball. “I didn’t enjoy, but it’s a goal every top player in the world would love to score,” Mourinho said. “It’s a fantastic goal, but we made a mistake. It’s a clear foul on Hazard, but we cannot stop waiting for the referee to give (it). “He (Courtois) was in the correct position, (but) when you lose possession of the ball you have to immediately react and to adapt your position. The goalkeeper has to adapt his position, the players have to press the ball. “Our reaction was to look for the referee and to wait for a foul.” Stoke boss Mark Hughes praised the audacity of Adam, but rued missing out on the Potters’ first Stamford Bridge point in 21 years. “It was an outrageous attempt and thankfully it’s gone in,” Hughes said. “At the time I wasn’t quite sure what he was attempting, but it became very clear. “Fantastic vision and technical ability to beat a goalkeeper of Courtois’ quality from that distance.” Stoke are 10th after a third straight loss, which came after an “uncharacteristic” Asmir Begovic error, when the goalkeeper rolled the ball out poorly, leading to Remy’s winner. “On the day he had a fantastic performance,” Hughes added. “That was his one mistake, and Chelsea had the ability and talent to capitalise on it. “When they get in a winning position, it’s usually very difficult to stop them.”
Benteke is likely to be a transfer target for big clubs in the coming months, with Liverpool the latest to be linked after his run of nine goals in eight games. Sherwood has no intention of selling the big Belgian but concedes if Benteke wanted to go and the money was right, he would be allowed to leave. Press Association “Every player and staff member is concentrated on avoiding relegation, anything else is just a distraction. “I know everyone wants the same thing because I watch the games and I think Aston Villa are playing the best football in England right now.” Villa face Everton this weekend just two points clear of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone. He said: “I haven’t heard anything about that, but it’s good news that people are talking about Christian again because he’s scoring goals and if he’s scoring goals for us, we’re happy. “I’ve no idea what he’d cost, because I don’t want to sell him. It would have to be a lot of money for anyone to take him from us. “He’d be too expensive for a great deal of clubs in the Premier League. But we’re not looking to sell our assets and he’s certainly one of those. “If a player doesn’t want to play for the club anymore and the club he wants to go to meet the valuation then I think it’s always best to let them go.” The former Tottenham boss added: “It would be about the market value of what’s out there but I have no intention of selling Christian. “He’s enjoying his football and I saw some positive things said by his agent, saying he had not talked to other clubs or seen any interest from other clubs and that Aston Villa were playing the best football out of any team in the league. I think he was spot on there.” Indeed, the 24-year-old’s agent Eris Kismet said this week his client was focused solely on Villa, where the forward has hit a purple patch after managing only three goals this season under Sherwood’s predecessor Paul Lambert. “At the moment, there is no interest,” Kismet told Sky Sports News HQ. Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood will not stand in Christian Benteke’s way if the striker wants a lucrative move to another club this summer.
That was certainly a pleasing seasonal reappearance for Kevin Prendergast’s filly. In her juvenile days, the daughter of Arcano did very little wrong in four outings. She finished second to subsequent Newmarket Guineas heroine, and narrow Oaks runner-up, Legatissimo, at Galway before getting off the mark at Leopardstown. The Friarstown runner is a consistent type with a couple of other runner-up finishes as well, including at Listed level. Prendergast was of the opinion that the lack of an outing counted against his charge in the big one at the Curragh, where she ended up a shade less than four lengths off the winner, Pleascach. That form got a boost when Qualify, four places behind Tamadhor, went on to pip the aforementioned Legatissimo at Epsom last Friday. One of two from the Classic generation in this five runner field, Tamadhor is top-rated on a mark of 106 and she drops back to what is possibly a more suitable seven furlong trip now. Michael Halford and Shane Foley bid to win this event for the third year in succession, and they are represented by 2014 victor, Slipper Orchid. The admirable six-year-old comes here on the back of a nice effort at Naas recently. Vitally Important was an impressive winner on that same June 1 card at the Kildare venue, but Geoffrey Chaucer could be a more formidable challenger. The Ballydoyle colt is assessed as being just 2lb behind Tamadhor, on 104, and though he needs to step up on what he has shown of late, the drop in trip and the addition of a tongue-strap could help. It must not be forgotten that Geoffrey Chaucer won the Group Two Beresford Stakes at two. Reported to have got “quite pacey” in his work, the four-year-old is a fascinating participant on the anticipated lively surface. Elsewhere, Vitello (6.00) and Stop And Linger (7.30) should be borne in mind for the couple of maidens on the card. The Book Tickets On-Line At fairyhouse.ie Race takes centre stage on Wednesday evening’s programme at Fairyhouse, with Classic form on show as Irish 1,000 Guineas sixth Tamadhor has her first outing since then. Press Association
The Alistair Whillans-trained Scottish challenger Pintura, another horse with previous form at the track when previously with Kevin Ryan, set sail for home in the straight, but Baraweez reeled him in and got up by a neck. Ellison said: “It’s horses for courses. We’ve had a hard week with him. He’d a bruised foot and was lame all week but my staff have done a great job and the vet here was also a great help. “He only came sound this morning and if the race was yesterday he wouldn’t have run. The lad cantered him two furlongs this morning and he was fine afterwards. “This course probably suits him because he travels well, although the ground was a bit soft for him today. He was very game, and the kid gave him a great ride. “He’ll come back for the race he won at Leopardstown in September, and back here again next year hopefully. “We love coming here as they do a great job and everyone is so friendly.” Baraweez landed the Irish Stallion Farms EBF “Ahonoora” Handicap for the second successive year as British raiders dominated the feature event on the final day of the Galway Festival. Brian Ellison’s charge was the 7-4 favourite to repeat his Ballybrit triumph of 12 months ago, having been placed in the Topaz Mile, also for the second time, on Tuesday. With Donnacha O’Brien keeping the ride, Baraweez was settled against the rail, before switching wide to mount his challenge rounding the home turn. Press Association
Press Association The 22-year-old Frenchman, who completed a big-money move from Marseille on Wednesday evening, could be in line for his first taste of action with the Magpies at Old Trafford on Saturday. However, head coach Steve McClaren’s assistant Paul Simpson is urging supporters to give him time to settle into the Barclays Premier League. Newcastle fans have been warned not to expect new signing Florian Thauvin to set the world alight straight away as he prepares for a debut at Manchester United. Simpson told nufcTV: “He’s a really talented footballer, somebody who we hope will add to the group and improve the group. “If he’s involved at Old Trafford on Saturday, we’re not expecting him to go and set the world alight straight away. But if we can get him involved, it will give the whole football club a boost, and the rest of the players because they want competition for places. “And I also hope it will give the supporters a boost because so far, we’ve only got one point. But the level of performance against Southampton gave us all a little taster of where we can get to and what levels can be achieved. “Hopefully with the new signings coming in, we’ll go into the rest of this period before January with a good group of players, a group of players who all want to be part of this football club, who all want to give 100 per cent every day in training and in every game that we have. “If we’ve got that, we can’t really ask any more of them.”
“I think he might be one of the last to sit on the chair that long,” Hiddink said. “Him being in charge regarding those nine years without a title means there is a lot of confidence from the board. And from both sides to see they can go into a future where they are stable, although not winning every year a title. “But there are many clubs fighting in England, it’s very competitive.” Wenger’s Arsenal ended the trophy drought by winning the last two FA Cups, but Chelsea have won all the major honours in recent years despite repeatedly changing manager as owner Roman Abramovich still searches for his ideal boss. The Dutchman spoke in general terms, but his comments could be applied to the Blues, who employed him in a caretaker role for a second time after Mourinho’s departure last month. Asked why Wenger’s longevity might be a thing of the past, Hiddink added: “I don’t know why. Maybe the instant result is required. “It depends on the club, on the philosophy and the calmness of a club. It’s always good to have men who are a long period in a club, to have them in very good management positions. “That doesn’t mean they have to be on the pitch always, but they can also be very good later in their careers as help for the buying and selling stuff of the club. “Then you maintain a philosophy, strategy in the club, which I think is important. “If you change – and the manager has a lot of influence, let’s say, on yearly or half-year basis to sign, not to sign, or to sell – then that might cause a bit of irregularity in clubs.” It was put to Hiddink that, after renewed conflict across London under Mourinho, peace had broken out. “Well, when the game starts there must be a lot of rivalry,” Hiddink added. “It’s normal in sport, but outside that when people are decent you have to respect them and you have to respect their work.” As the Gunners battle for the title, Chelsea sit 19 points behind Sunday’s derby opponents and closer to the relegation places than Champions League qualification. Manchester United and Liverpool have missed out on the top four in recent seasons, while Wenger’s Arsenal have qualified for a place among Europe’s elite for 18 consecutive campaigns. “That’s a big achievement – and meanwhile getting a cup as well,” Hiddink added. Arsenal, though, have not won a Premier League clash between the sides in eight attempts, since October 2011, and Chelsea’s chances are poised to be boosted by the availability of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa after their respective groin and shin problems. Hiddink, who is undefeated in his second spell but has only two wins in six games, said: “Chelsea have recovered a bit from the recent period. We are not on top yet, we want to do more.” Former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas is also finding form. Hiddink conceded the midfielder struggled with the pace of the game earlier this season – “That’s true, I agree,” he said – but believes Fabregas has shown his commitment of late after previously being the subject of fans’ frustration. “I think he gave the right reaction to perform,” Hiddink said. Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink believes Arsene Wenger may be the last of a dying breed. Press Association Wenger is closing in on 20 years at the Arsenal helm, a landmark which comes in October, while, in contrast, the Chelsea manager’s office could almost have a revolving door. Unlike predecessor Mourinho, Hiddink avoided antagonising Wenger when asked about the Frenchman’s position as boss of the Gunners and the nine years they had to wait for a trophy at the Emirates Stadium, where Chelsea play Arsenal on Sunday.
Ayoze Perez has committed his future to Newcastle by signing a new five-and-a-half-year contract which ties him to St James’ Park until the summer of 2021. Press Association He said: “It’s a special day for me, a big day for me. The truth is I’m really happy here, so it’s a good thing for me – and I hope it’s the same for the Geordie family. “Newcastle gave me everything and I’m really pleased to sign this new contract.” McClaren was equally happy to have ensured Perez’s extended stay on Tyneside. He said: “I am delighted that Ayoze has signed a new deal. He is a very good player with huge potential and someone we believe has a very big future at Newcastle United. “We are building this club for the long-term and Ayoze is a very important part of that.” News of Perez’s new contract came hours after the Magpies completed a loan deal for Roma striker Seydou Doumbia. The 28-year-old Roma frontman will spend the rest of the campaign at St James’ Park, subject to being awarded a visa, and Newcastle have an option to make the transfer permanent in the summer. Doumbia, who enjoyed hugely successful spells in Switzerland with Young Boys and in Russia with CSKA Moscow earlier in his career, has struggled to make his mark in Serie A, where he has made just 13 league appearances for the Rome club. The Ivory Coast international said: “I’m delighted to be a Newcastle United player. I’ve already started to prepare. I’ve arrived and I’m ready to go. “It has always been a dream to play in the Premier League and now that dream has come true, so I’m absolutely delighted. I am looking forward to helping the club get some wins and climb the table.” McClaren will hope Doumbia adds firepower to a team which has created chances in recent weeks, but not taken enough of them to ease itself out of the relegation zone. Newcastle have targetted West Brom’s Saido Berahino, for whom they tabled a £21million bid on Sunday, and have other options in addition to Doumbia. McClaren said: “It is no secret that we have been looking to add to our options in the striking area. We have been searching for a forward and were delighted when the opportunity arose to take Seydou on loan. “He is a natural goalscorer, someone who has scored goals in the Champions League and has played at the highest level. We believe he can make a mark in this team.” The 22-year-old former Tenerife striker, who has been linked with Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United among others, put pen to paper on Monday as head coach Steve McClaren continued his efforts to re-shape the squad. Perez, who has scored 12 goals in 63 appearances for the club, was thrilled to have tied up his future.