U21s – Manchester United 4-1 Bolton Wanderers

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Manchester United in action against Bolton
Manchester United fought back from a goal down against Bolton Wanderers to finish comfortable 4-1 winners in the Under-21 Premier League.

Will Keane marked his return from long term injury to score the equaliser – following a Conor Wilkinson opener for the visitors – just before half time. The Reds were much improved in the second half with a goal from Tom Thorpe and two from Jesse Lingard.

Bolton started brightly and almost went ahead when Jan Gregus’ free-kick clipped the bar. Soon after United conceded a penalty when Ben Amos brought down Tom Youngs in the penalty area. With the same two players involved, the Reds’ keeper made up for his error with a fantastic save to his left denying Youngs.

The Lancashire side took the lead when Wilkinson finished with a left-footed driving effort. Will Keane netted the equaliser after Larnell Cole’s effort on goal from a corner hit Lingard and fell kindly for Keane who smashed the ball home.

The hosts doubled their tally when Lingard delivered a side-footed effort, from a Tyler Blackett cut-back, past Jay Lynch in the Wanderers goal. Adnan Januzaj, who made his Premier League debut for the first team at the weekend, put in another impressive display in front of David Moyes, and it was the Belgians free-kick which Thorpe headed home for the third goal.

The scoring was complete when Lingard won the ball inside the opposition half and impressively went alone, finishing with a low drive past the keeper for his second of the night.

With six points from three games for Michael Joyce’s side, tonight’s win moves them up to eighth in The Barclays Under-21 Premier League a point off Wolves and Arsenal.

Barclays Premier League Under-21, top 10

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Barclays U21 Premier League: Competition format explained

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Wembley Stadium set to host all-German 2013 Uefa Champions League Final

Wembley Stadium
The finishing touches are underway as Wembley Stadium is transformed ahead of hosting the Uefa Champions League Final – for the second time in three years.

A fan park has also been set up for the thousand of ticketless fans expected to arrive into London.

The final, between last seasons runners up Bayern Munich and 1996-97 winners Borussia Dortmund, will take place two years after Wembley last hosted the 2011 final between Manchester United and Barcelona.

The English National stadium will hold the event to mark the 150th anniversary of The Football Association and will be the seventh time the stadium has hosted a European final since 1963.

Wembley Stadium was announced as the venue of the final on 16 June 2011 and will make history for being the first stadium in the tournament’s history to host the final twice in three years.

It will be a proud moment for German football, in what is the first time two German sides have reached the Champions League Final.

The Dortmund fans will be seated in the east side of the stadium and Bayern in the west, with around 25,000 tickets allocated to both sets of fans and 9,000 sold as part of worldwide ballot earlier this year.

Favourites Bayern, were clear winners of the Bundesliga title. They won in record fashion, finishing 25 points ahead of Saturdays opponents.

Mario Gotze, who is set to move from BVB to the Bavarians, is unavailable with a thigh injury for what would have been his last game for the club.

The 20-year-old sustained the injury during the 2-0 semi-final second leg defeat to Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

Wembley Stadium
Wembley Stadium ahead of the Champions League final

‘You’re the tenth coolest man in Britain but what I want to know is…’ – An interview with Soccer AM’s Tubes

Tubes Soccer AM -SkySports.com

He is the gangster rapping, dance off dancing, straight faced all round funny guy at Soccer AM. Interviewing Hollywood’s and the Premier League’s finest are weekly occurrences for the recently crowned tenth coolest man in Britain 2013, voted ahead of the likes of Noel Gallagher, Robbie Williams and Plan B.

Tubes, who got his nickname from the band Peter and the Test Tube Babies, has gone from production runner to rapper at Sky Sports after starting at the age of sixteen. The assistant producer on the highly popular Saturday morning football show likes to spark more unique answers from interviewees with his particular styles of interviewing. I recently got a behind the scenes insight into the show whilst also discussing rapping, football and how it feels to be alongside David Beckham in the top ten coolest men in Britain. Thankfully he didn’t restrict me to one question only.

Tell me a bit about what goes into the show during the week and what your role involves?

“In my role, I look after the football side of it. I have to book the football guest each week, which means a lot of phone calls. I’ve never used a phone so much in my life but yeah it’s fun. Obviously when you get people like Adebayo Akinfenwa who we’ve got tomorrow (Saturday 11th May) it’s a good one for the hardest man in football, which is cool and then I also interview footballers as well. This week I did Mark Schwarzer and I like to find out different things, not just your bog standard questions. Like this week, for example, I found out he (Schwarzer) has had the same pair of shin pads since he was 19 years old which is interesting.

“On the other side of that I do the rap stuff, which is fun, especially when it’s someone like Denzel Washington who basically tells you to do one but mucking around. So that’s my role and I enjoy it, I’m not the sharpest knife but I love football, so I’m pretty lucky.”

You were recently named the tenth coolest man in Britain as part of a poll in Zoo magazine, how did you feel when you found out?

“Rocket mentioned early on I was third in some poll in Zoo which I thought was mad. He encouraged people to vote for me, I had nothing to do with it. I ended up finishing tenth which was amazing and I was just happy to finish above Noel Gallagher because he’s the coolest guy in the world.”

How did you become such an integral part of the rap game and where did it all begin?

“I used to be a character called Peter the Test Tube Baby which was years and years ago (on the show). One afternoon (Tim) Lovejoy called me up. I was working as a runner for the sports library, just doing every Saturday for free since, I was sixteen at the time. Lovejoy said, ‘Come upstairs, that little bugger Rocket’s gone on holiday skiing, I like you, we like you, so we want to make you a character.’ I went ‘Oh here we go’, and he said ‘There used to be a band called Peter and the Test Tube Babies‘. I’d never heard of them, and he went, ‘So you’re Peter the Test Tube Baby.’ I went, ‘Right, what’s that?’ So he said ‘Basically you’ve got to come out with a can of beer and bring the balls out.’ I thought that sounds all right but, ‘You’re in a nappy.’ It was November at the time, so I nearly caught pneumonia.

“I did that for three years and then Lovejoy went, ‘I’m bored of that’, and so was I. Also I nearly died from the cold and I had frosted nipples, and couldn’t walk properly but it was fun, so Lovejoy said, ‘Look you’ve got one question, one question only, do what you want with it but you’ve only got three chances, if it’s not good enough you’re out.’ First question was the worst question ever, I walked up there, so nervous, shaking, and the question was to Frank Worthington. I literally just walked on the stage, Lovejoy said, ‘Alright Tubes who’s your question for?’ I said ‘It’s for Frank. Hi Frank, did you score more on or off the pitch?’ Frank Worthington just looked at me and went, ‘On.’ and I just walked off. Everyone thought, ‘What was that?’ Lovejoy just went you’ve got two more chances.

“So I used to go to school in Surrey, which is quite a nice part of the world, but you get these people who think they’re really streetwise but actually they live in a four million pound house or whatever and they all used to say, ‘You alright bruv, what you saying’, and all that. I’d be like, ‘I know your Mum’s got a Lamborghini, I don’t understand why you’re talking like you come from the ghetto’, but it made me laugh. So I thought I’m going to incorporate that nonsense speech into the question. I think I said, ‘Rough it up rude boy you’re coming on fresh you nahh’, and everyone just creased up laughing, so that’s how it started. Then I’ve carried on doing it ever since.”

How do you prepare for, and write your raps?

“I just literally write them on the day; it’s not a whole week of prep. I haven’t got a lyrics book, I just roll up and think what rhymes with that and what can I do to make it hopefully amusing, that’s it.”

Have you always done it that way?

“I’ve never written a rap down on a piece of paper, I’ve always done it the night before or in the morning. You’ve got to keep the lyrics fresh in your mind. Know what I mean?”

My favourite ‘Tubes Question’ was when you interviewed 50 Cent the first time. What was that like to interview such a world famous fellow lyricist?

“It was brilliant, I wasn’t nervous but I was just intrigued to see what he’d be like. You hear all these stories like he’s been shot like 54 times and survived. So I got to a hotel and I’ve never seen bigger men than his people. They were like the size of this edit suite, standing outside the door and I’m like, ‘I’m here to see 50 Cent’. I walked in and he was nice as pie, he didn’t really get what was going on but then the second time I went back to see him, he was like ‘Heyyy, how you doing?’ I was like I’m chilling with 50 Cent, have some of that. So that was interesting.”

Who’s been your favourite person to interview and given the best reaction so far?

“The best reaction was from Denzel Washington. I turned up basically and when you arrive at these junkets, you turn up to a nice hotel which is heavily overpriced. I’m basically wearing jeans and trainers with everyone else all suited and booted sat around this waiting room talking like they know Denzel Washington. They were like ‘Yeah, me and Denz, we met at Cannes last year.’ I sit in the corner with my Asda black shirt on and they all look at me and said ‘Are you actually doing Denzel Washington today?’ So I said ‘Yeah, I’ve not just come to sit around a hotel.’ So they said ‘He’s hard work, he will not like you.’ Oh well that sounds like quite good fun then so as I walked in they were all saying ‘Good luck.’

“He basically plays along brilliantly and at the end of the interview, the door opens and he’s got me in a headlock saying ‘Don’t mess with me Toobes’, but mucking around and laughing saying ‘You’re the man’, and all that. All these people in suits were shocked and astounded so I said ‘He wasn’t that bad’, so that’s probably my favourite.”

How are your raps and unique interview technique received from celebrities – do you think they enjoy something different?

“I’ve seen Bruce Willis say I’m hungry and four grown people literally poo themselves and run to try get some food. It’s not them but they’re so heavily protected and looked after and when someone like myself goes in there and asks them something completely random, they like it because they’re bored of answering the same questions from different interviewers all day. So I suppose it is what the shows about and I think the celebrities do quite like it sometimes because they are bored.”

You started interviewing footballers in a more sit-down interview format recently. Who has been the best footballer you’ve interviewed so far?

“I love doing the sit-down interviews with players and, as I say, I did Mark Schwarzer yesterday, and I did Gareth Bale last week – the day after he won all those awards – he was nice. Michael Owen was a lovely bloke, well funny as well – dry sense of humour. Joey Cole was great, Kevin Keegan – I thought he wasn’t going to like me but we were spraying perfume on each other by the end of it – it was well fun. Kyle Walker as well was great.”

Have you interviewed any Chelsea players and with you being a fan, does it have more significance when you do?

“Not done many interviews with Chelsea players, no. I want to get (Frank) Lampard though. I do have to admit it does ‘Juan Mata’ a bit more for me.”

As this season’s end approaches, it’s been another successful campaign for Soccer AM in its 18th year. The football show has been an enormous part of Sky Sports since it first aired in 1995.

The substantial ‘Tubes Question’ remains an entertaining, comical addition to the show. The Surrey-born rapper recently added another element to his game with a more formal sit down style of interviewing and it’ll be interesting to see if there’s a lean more towards one approach in the future. The Chelsea fan, along with the rest of the show’s crew, will soon enjoy the summer off and prepare to come back stronger than ever next season.

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U21s – Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur

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Manchester United host Tottenham Hotpur
Manchester United narrowly overcame league-leaders Tottenham in a 1-0 victory on the Reds’ debut at the Salford City Stadium in the Under-21 Premier League.

Ryan Tunnicliffe scored the only goal after 56 minutes, in a game free for supporters. Sir Alex Ferguson watched from the stands and would have been pleased to have seen the young side limit Spurs to few clear cut chances. The London side’s best effort came from a Christian Ceballos free-kick which clipped the top of the bar in the second-half. Warren Joyce’s side can take huge positives from their evening’s display, with goalscorer Tunnicliffe, Adnan Januzaj and Jesse Lingard all looking particularly impressive in a well organised United side.

A power cut late in the first-half caused a floodlights outage but after a brief pause in play and consultation, the final five minutes of the half were completed without the need for artificial light.20130415-111300 PM.jpg

Last season’s Premier Reserve League North winners have now kept a clean sheet in seven of their last eight games and move above Liverpool into second place, five points behind tonight’s opponents, with a game in hand.

Manchester United’s under-21 side now await a clash with Liverpool which was due to be played at Old Trafford on Friday but has been postponed after the Merseyside club’s involvement in the FA Youth Cup.

Barclays Premier League Under-21, top 8

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Barclays U21 Premier League: Competition format explained

Wigan Athletic squad return revitalised from Tenerife ahead of FA Cup clash with Huddersfield

  Roberto Martinez
Roberto Martinez
Roberto Martinez’s men, who with 12 Barclays Premier League games to go sit second-bottom of the table, enjoyed top facilities in a Tenerife training camp last week.

The Wigan Athletic players, who face Huddersfield Town in the fifth round of the FA Cup tomorrow, were criticised for posting pictures on Twitter of themselves relaxing, but the Latics manager insists his squad conducted themselves professionally throughout.

Despite criticism, the Spaniard was quick to state the advantages of the training camp and the benefit it has had on his players. 

“I understand certain pictures on social media sites can send the wrong message but the players were very professional. We took advantage of being together for such a long period. We worked a lot more than we would of done here because of the weather and I’m sure the players, and the captain especially, were quick to come out and apologise if any wrong message was sent to the fans.”

Martinez, who was speaking at his manager’s press conference on Friday, also found the time away as an ideal opportunity to review any injuries, while also redefining the squad’s focus going into the closing stages of the season.

“The players had some time to rest as you’d imagine and if they can do that with a bit of sun it can really help their bodies. But overall it was a very positive time, not only for the group dynamics which is always important, but also the work which we put in. Being able to assess everyone individually will give us a real good focus, and advantage for the final third of the season”

It’s the first time Wigan have reached the fifth round of the FA Cup since 1987 and the former Swansea City manager rates the competition very highly along side Premier League survival.

“We are in a fascinating fight, we have twelve games to achieve our aim and we’re involved in another cup competition. The fifth round of the FA Cup, you can’t take it lightly and it’s something that as a group we are ready to look forward to and make sure we have a real strong competitive edge throughout the squad in every single game we are involved in.”

The Wigan manager doesn’t view the FA cup as a distraction but instead as a positive influence which can help overturn his side’s current poor league form of only five victories, six draws and 15 defeats in 26 games this season.

“We are taking this as a help to find our best form in the league. I don’t think both competitions should pull against each other, it’s the opposite, both should help the team in the same direction”

The 39 year old, who has been in charge at the DW since 2009, is wary of the ‘feel good factor’ at Huddersfield with the appointment of new manager Mark Robins and appreciates the threats the Yorkshire side posses.

“We’ve been very impressed with Huddersfield Town so far. I’ve seen a few games, in the previous round, there was a good performances against a very good Leicester side. I think they’re a very dynamic team, they work extremely hard, got a very good combination up front and they’ve got players who can go past players with ease in one-on-one situations. As a team at their own place they’re going to be a very tough team to play against as you’d imagine at this time in this competition.”

The injury situation is easing somewhat for Wigan as they enter a defining stage of the season. Antolin Alcaraz, Emmerson Boyce, Adrian Lopez and winger Ryo Miyaichi all have a chance of returning this weekend as they look to bolster the Athletic squad.

“Boyce, Alcaraz and Miyaichi are starting to work with the group and they could be involved on Sunday, none of the them are likely to play ninety minutes but they could be involved.”

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Manchester United’s Director of Communications Phil Townsend talks Reds off the pitch

Manchester United Director of Communications Phil Townsend believes the rivalry between United and City is a “good thing” for the Premier League.

The Manchester rivalry has intensified in recent years, and after Manchester City overcame their neighbours to win the Premier League in an emphatic late comeback on the final day, this sets up the most enthralling bout yet between the two sides next season.

Townsend believes the competition between the top teams is a positive advert for the league in general.

“The fact that it’s a more exciting and a closer product than the Spanish or Italian League, it’s a major part in its popularity and value to television companies around the world, ” he said. “I think it is a good thing for the Premier League as a whole, there are several teams now who are capable of winning the league.”

The Red’s Director of Communications believes the club has become more proactive on the commercial side since he arrived. After the club recently announced followers of 659 million across the world, he spoke about how it has become easier to communicate with such a large fan base.

“The mobile partners that we have in 45 countries, allow you to literally bring the team and action to the palm of someone’s hand as people obviously carry mobile phones around. Through that, it’s possible to speak directly to supporters.”

The Old Trafford board member made it clear, ahead of next season’s pre-season tour, how not only is a global fan base important but also local supporters. Last year’s ‘Champions 19 Tour’ visited places across the world but also to the local community.

“What is also important is the Manchester legs of the tour, so it went to schools in Stretford, Urmston, Flixton and places like that. There was never an ignoring of the local fan base. It was a global thing but very much for the whole Manchester United family.”

Old Trafford
Old Trafford

Townsend, who has been at the club for eight and half seasons, reiterated how important Old Trafford is to the club.

“Old Trafford is one of the key assets of the club. The centenary celebrations that we had in 2010 were reflective of the value everybody sees in Old Trafford, you wouldn’t want to change it. You go to say the Emirates Stadium, the concourses are larger, the seats are probably bigger but for me, it doesn’t have the feel of Old Trafford.”

Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated 25 years in charge of Manchester United last season and the club dedicated this achievement by changing the name of the ‘North Stand’ to the ‘Sir Alex Ferguson Stand’. Townsend, who was studying his A-Levels when Sir Alex took charge, said it was completed with great secrecy with only a few people knowing about the change.

Sir Alex Ferguson during the new stand name unveiling

“It was David Gill’s idea and he drew people in as and when necessary. We were able to source a company, the company was never told in what order the letters would be appearing. They were just sent a random array of letters,” he explains.

“They assembled them in blocks of three, those blocks were erected in a certain order and the guys putting them up didn’t know. Whilst they were putting it up it was covered so the CCTV cameras in the stadium couldn’t pick it up and see it.

“I think the fact the manager didn’t know was, firstly astonishing but also added to the sense of occasion on the day as he was staggered by what he was seeing.

“I think it achieved everything we wanted it to, we probably kept that more quiet than Paul Scholes’s return in January, because even his team-mates didn’t know. So it shows even in football you can keep secrets from people some of the time.”

The planned Sir Alex Ferguson statue is on course to be up by November time.

“The plan for that will probably be for in or around the 26th anniversary to unveil that. It will be like, in terms of size and feel, the Sir Matt Busby statue and will be outside the Sir Alex Ferguson stand,” Townsend explains.

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BOA announce Great Britain’s Olympic cycling team

Dave Brailsford and Sir Clive Woodward announce GB’s Olympic cycling team

The British Olympic Association (BOA) today announced the 18 cyclists set to represent team GB in London later this year. David Millar, who served a two-year suspension in 2004 after admitting to using the banned blood booster EPO, was picked after being made eligible for selection due to a recent ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

One of the most successful British Olympic teams in Beijing four years ago also includes the likes of Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Shanaza Reade.

Team GB cycling performance director, David Brailsford on selecting Millar said:

“Ultimately it’s the BOA’s team, the BOA decides its policy and the policy that they decide is who eligible. They tell me who’s eligible, line them up against the wall, and I have to pick the fastest team, that’s my job.

“It’s not for me to take a personal point of view to that, professionally I’ve been told who to pick from and it’s my job to pick the fastest team so it wasn’t difficult at all in that sense.”

The 48-year-old also spoke about the challenge of selecting a team for a home Olympics.

“Obviously the added dimension of a home games, does make this [the selection process] different,” he explains.

“Whilst of course we’re focused on winning and that’s what we’re all about, I do think for these Games, the teams got to take on a broader aspect.

“I know that we’ll fight tooth and nail to win, I also think it’s important we do it in a fair play way.”

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Shanaze Reade, Geraint Thomas, Sir Chris Hoy and Liam Phillips

Brailsford, who was selecting his third Olympic cyclist team, spoke about the Olympic legacy he hopes the team can create.

“I’m sure it’s a team everyone can get behind and hopefully buy into the inspirational part of what this Olympic Games is all about and try inspire a new generation of young cyclists.”

The British Olympic Association’s Director of Elite Performance, Sir Clive Woodward, praised the team for their hard work ahead of the Games.

“When you hear the strength of the team Dave has announced, I think we’re all incredibly proud of what British cycling are doing for the whole of British sport and the example they are showing for all sports in terms of their leadership,” he said.

Sir Chris Hoy spoke about how great it is to be part of the team taking part in London 2012 later this year.

“It’s a huge honour to be selected to represent your country at an Olympic Games and it’s even more special to know I’m definitely part of the team for London 2012.

“This will be my fourth Olympics but my first home Games, and it’s going to be an amazing experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us.”

The Men and women’s road teams have been shortlisted and are set to be named later this month.