Tony McCoy will travel to Chepstow more in hope than expectation on Wednesday afternoon as he continues his search for the two winners that will see him reach the astonishing total of 4,000 in his career over jumps. The 18-times champion jockey drew a blank from three rides on Tuesday at Exeter – the track at which he rode his first British winner back in 1994. McCoy has two booked rides at the Welsh venue, the Rebecca Curtis-trained El Macca in the R.A.B.I. Gateway Project Maiden Hurdle and Jonjo O’Neill’s Mission Complete, who could be appropriately named should he land the NFU Mutual Supports R.A.B.I. Handicap Hurdle. Assessing his chances, McCoy said: “El Macca is named after a friend of mine Steve McManaman (former England, Liverpool and Real Madrid winger) – I’m not sure he’s got as much ability as Steve had but hopefully he will run okay. “I’m not sure how much of a chance Mission Complete has got. I’d be surprised. “It could go on, and I’ll be lucky if I have a winner (at Chepstow).” On the chances of hitting the 4,000th and then his beloved Arsenal winning in the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund, he said: “It would be good, really good (for both to happen). “We did well at the weekend against Liverpool and have come together well as a team. Dortmund are one of the favourites and if Arsenal got a result there it would be a good one.” William Hill spokesman Jon Ivan-Duke said: “We were 5-1 for AP McCoy to reach the 4,000-winner milestone at Exeter and racegoers were slightly disappointed not to see him reach the landmark. “The betting suggests he’s less likely to achieve the feat on Wednesday – he’s 22-1 to ride his 4,000th at Chepstow. “That could look a huge price if he picks up a spare ride or two – all bets already placed with William Hill at 22-1 would still stand.” Press Association
The Toffees struggled in the first half at Goodison Park after Aiden McGeady hit a post and trailed to Leandro Bacuna’s 34th-minute opener. But Everton were a different prospect after the break and pulled level through substitute Steven Naismith 16 minutes from time before Kevin Mirallas earned a 2-1 win with a spectacular free-kick. Roberto Martinez described Everton’s victory over Aston Villa as the most satisfactory three-point haul of the season. “And we are a team that when we enjoy ourselves we are quite difficult to play against. I think that’s what we proved in the second half.” In the absence of Romelu Lukaku and new signing Lacina Traore, Mirallas took over striking duties, and it was generally not a happy experience for the Belgian. But he had the last word, picking himself up after being fouled by Ciaran Clark five minutes from time and placing the ball beyond the reach of Brad Guzan from 30 yards. Leighton Baines has made such strikes his speciality but the England man had a watching brief this time. Martinez said: “Kevin found it very frustrating, as you would expect. He was surrounded by Aston Villa players and we couldn’t get into the final third. “They were trying to stop us really high up the pitch. Kevin was working extremely hard without getting any sort of joy. “I think Kevin Mirallas’ quality is as good as Leighton Baines, obviously with different feet. It would be difficult to separate them. “What I like about the two players, more than the technical aspect, it’s the meaning of scoring a goal to get three points. They’ve both got that mentality of controlling the moment and that’s something you need to be born with.” Villa went into the match on the back of a very different derby experience after beating West Brom 4-3 on Wednesday, and manager Paul Lambert felt they deserved something at Goodison. He said: “The first goal was really poor from our point of view. I think the second goal you hold your hands up and say it’s a world-class free-kick, and you can’t do anything about that. “I don’t think we deserved to lose the game. We took the sting out of the crowd and frustrated Everton, who are a good side. “In the first half, other than Aiden’s shot against the post, there’s not a save that Guzan’s had to make, and we scored a really good goal.” The victory, coupled with dropped points for Tottenham and Manchester United, repaired some of the damage from Tuesday’s Merseryside derby hammering by Liverpool. Everton climbed back to fifth place and to within a point of Liverpool, albeit having played a game more. Manager Martinez said: “From our point of view it’s the most satisfactory victory of the season. “You could see in the first half we were very cagey and wary and that stopped us getting on the ball and having the fluency that we normally have. “When you hit the post and then you concede a goal, it becomes a real test of character, and I thought the way we reacted in the second half was one of the most pleasing aspects that you can have as a manager. “With the character and the talent and the desire in that dressing room, I couldn’t be prouder. It’s a moment to get really excited about the end of the season after that sort of performance.” Martinez denied their first-half display was a hangover from the 4-0 defeat at Anfield, blaming tactical changes he tried to implement. The Spaniard said: “It was my fault more than anything. In the first half we were too responsible. There were too many players who wanted to do the right things without enjoying themselves. Press Association
Joe Kinnear has insisted Newcastle only sold Yohan Cabaye to Paris St-Germain because he was desperate to leave. Press Association The Magpies’ director of football has once again become the target of fans’ fury after the club sold Cabaye, arguably manager Alan Pardew’s best player, to the big-spending Ligue 1 outfit earlier this week and failed to replace him before Friday night’s transfer deadline. But writing in his programme notes ahead of Saturday’s derby clash with Sunderland, Kinnear said: “Of course it is disappointing that Yohan Cabaye has moved on after two and a half seasons at St James’ Park. “We didn’t want to sell him, make no bones about that, but Yohan made it very clear to us that the opportunity of playing Champions League football and being part of the sporting project at PSG was something he wanted. “On that basis, we felt that if we received an acceptable bid for him, then it was the right decision for the club to do business. “Yohan benefited hugely from his time with us. He flourished as a player and his move to PSG comes as a result of the performances he put in during his time at the club. “But for us, now is the time to look forward, not back. We have a number of highly talented midfielders within our ranks.” Kinnear was appointed to his post in June last year and is yet to make a permanent signing, with on-loan strikers Loic Remy and Luuk de Jong the only two men to arrive at the club since.
Howard said the priority was to get themselves back on track after the disappointment at St Mary’s Stadium. “Hopefully we’ll brush it aside as a one-off and we’ll have it all to do against Manchester City,” he told the Liverpool Echo. “It will be wide open, a tactical battle with top players on display. “Those games take care of themselves. Those are the easy games to play in. “Gareth Barry (on loan from City) won’t be there but we can cope.” Howard is confident there will be no hangover from a second defeat in three games. “The manager has been brilliant in that regard. He dismisses things very quickly, both brilliant performances and bad ones. “We’ll get it out of the way and have a good week of training again. Press Association Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard insists Saturday’s visit of Manchester City will be an easy game to play in simply because of the quality of opposition. “We’ll be focused from Monday to deal with what City have to throw at us.” Captain Phil Jagielka, who has not played since the end of February because of a hamstring problem, is expected to return to face City as Everton’s injury list continues to grow. Martinez had eight players unavailable through injury against Southampton and with Barry ineligible against his parent club this weekend the Spaniard has recalled forward Apostolos Vellios from Blackpool after just two appearances since joining them at the end of last month. But Everton received some good news on Leighton Baines late on Monday, with the England defender likely to face City. “Leighton Baines is set to be fit for this weekend’s game against Manchester City,” said a statement on evertonfc.com. “The England international was assessed over the weekend, but has reacted well to the problem, meaning he should be fit for Saturday’s crunch Goodison clash.” The self-inflicted 2-0 defeat at Southampton damaged the Toffees’ dreams of Champions League football but a point against Manuel Pellegrini’s team will at least guarantee a return to the Europa League for the first time since 2009. They could also do neighbours Liverpool a huge favour by taking points off City, which would give the Reds renewed hope of winning the title for the first time in 24 years.
Victory over Hull may have all but assured Aston Villa safety from relegation, but manager Paul Lambert remains in the dark about owner Randy Lerner’s intentions for the club. Press Association Speculation that Lerner will look to sell the club this summer has been growing since he released a vague statement last month which indicated only that he would clarify his own position at the end of the season. With Barclays Premier League football now virtually assured following the 3-1 victory at Villa Park, all eyes are on the American businessman’s next move. “They came through it and if they came through that they can come through everything in their careers. “I thought they were outstanding and we deserved to win.” Hull boss Steve Bruce, whose side slipped below Villa and into 15th place after their third successive game without a win, admitted FA Cup final fever has had an effect on his side. Attention in East Yorkshire has been focused firmly on the May 17 trip to Wembley since last month’s semi-final success over Sheffield United, but Bruce has been battling hard to keep his players on the task at hand. As yet, it is a battle he has been losing. “I’ve said for the last couple of weeks we have to keep focused,” he said. “The whole city is talking about the FA Cup final and why shouldn’t it be? But it’s been very, very difficult to keep a lid on it when we’ve still got a little bit of work to do. “It’s at the forefront of everybody’s mind and that’s only human nature because it’s something we’re all looking forward to. “But we didn’t do enough to win this game. We were so sloppy, awful in our defending. “We didn’t get started and didn’t show that resilience you need to win a game or draw a game in the Premier League.” But Lambert, whose own future is uncertain as a result of perceived instability at the top, has no inside track. Asked what developments he expected at boardroom level, the Scot said: “You’re asking me a question I can’t give an answer to and that’s me being honest. “The chairman will come out and say what he’s going to say and I really don’t know what he will say. His statement is what it is. I understand what has gone on in the last few weeks and I’m pretty sure people will find out soon.” Lambert was more comfortable reflecting on footballing matters, with a first win in seven matches delivered by Ashley Westwood’s opener inside the first minute and a pair of headers from Andreas Weimann. Pressure had been mounting by the week and Lambert was pleased to see the response he wanted both on and off the field. “The crowd was excellent,” he said. “I think people were probably thinking there would be some animosity towards myself – and if that happens you’ve got to accept it – but the start we got put everybody in a good frame of mind. “This game was huge. I’ve been involved in some massive games before, but the pressure on this one was incredible.
It will be manager Martin O’Neill’s last opportunity to run the rule over his players before the competitive games start with the Republic preparing for friendlies against Turkey, Italy, Costa Rica and Portugal later this month and into June. The Republic of Ireland will face Oman as part of their preparations for the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. Press Association Ireland will entertain Paul Le Guen’s men at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Wednesday, September 3, four days before their opening qualifier in Georgia. The two sides last met in September 2012 when goals from Robbie Brady, Alex Pearce, Shane Long and Kevin Doyle secured a 4-1 win at Craven Cottage.
After eight years at the helm, Lerner announced on Monday he was now looking to sell up, believing it time to seek “fresh, invigorated leadership”. After purchasing Villa for £62.6million from Doug Ellis in 2006, it is understood Lerner has slapped a price tag of around £200m on the club, with Bank of America Merrill Lynch appointed to organise the sale. Aston Villa fans have called on owner Randy Lerner to orchestrate a quick sale, but to also ensure the new buyer has the club’s best interests at heart. Press Association For now Villa, along with manager Paul Lambert, are in limbo. It is why fans behind the Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust (AVST) are anxious for Lerner to swiftly move on in order for the club to plan for next season and beyond. A statement from AVST read: “We would like to place on record our gratitude for all he (Lerner) has done with regards to the infrastructure of the club and his significant investment in Aston Villa over the past eight years. “AVST wish Mr Lerner the very best in his future endeavours. We are sure all Villa supporters appreciate the great respect he has shown for the club’s traditions and heritage during his time here. “We are also sure that, with this in mind, he will make it a consideration of the utmost importance that these traditions should continue to be respected by whomever he passes his custodianship to. “We would ask the sale is completed as quickly as possible in order that the new owner can put his team in place, and make the required changes to ensure Aston Villa become a competitive force on the field again.”
There are bigger names at Glasgow 2014 and there are surer medal prospects, but few can match Northern Ireland tandem rider Dave Readle for overcoming adversity on the way to the Commonwealth Games. Press Association Readle will pilot visually impaired team-mate James Brown in the para-cycling disciplines starting on Friday, marking the culmination of a remarkable journey. He has suffered devastating injuries, long periods out of competitive sport during which he retrained as a psychologist and even now is battling a form of skin cancer, but will line up at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome having achieved an ambition that so often looked impossible. “I began working for British Cycling as a performance psychologist in 2008 and I just started riding, almost at random. I just had a go. “I was that bad they were laughing at me at the track. They actually told me I needed to go away and learn to ride a bike. “But I got back on. It was an unusual start, but I ended up making the 2009 world championships and I won a silver medal (in the tandem 1,000m time-trial).” Despite that success, constraints on time and finances forced Readle to prioritise his psychology career and, at London 2012, he was among the Olympic and Paralympic support staff rather than among the competitors. It was Readle, memorably, who tried in vain to calm Jody Cundy during his infamous meltdown in the velodrome. Then, at the start of this year, he received the call from Brown and invited to make a comeback as his tandem pilot. It was a chance he could not turn down, even if it meant putting back his latest treatment for ongoing skin cancer. “I’ve been undergoing treatment but I decided to defer the latest lot,” he added. “They’ll be coming to cut some more out of me after the Games. “But this was the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s an honour and a privilege to be involved. “Over a lifetime of being told you can’t do things, I’ve learned anything is possible. It’s perseverance, the ability to take knocks and dust yourself down – it’s never giving up. “If the outcome for me is a medal, great. If not, then that’s fine as well because I get the bigger picture. “For me it is more about being able to share and enjoy the Commonwealth Games with all the people who’ve helped and supported me and all the other athletes I’ve worked with over the years.” Liverpool-born Readle was first close to qualifying as a shot-putter for the 2002 Commonwealths in Manchester when he was forced out of contention in brutal fashion. “I ripped my pectoral muscle clean off my chest while bench-pressing before the 2002 Games. At the time, I was well on course to earn a place,” he told Press Association Sport. “It killed, really bad. It’s a really rare injury – only a small percentage of people have done it, but you certainly know about it when it happens. “After that I took a year out, completed my studies in the United States and started working to become a teacher.” A simple life in the classroom was never on the cards for Readle, though, and he soon found an opportunity to put himself to use at a newly expansive British Cycling. Feted sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters was already consulting with the organisation and soon found a willing protege. “I went to Steve and said, verbatim, ‘how do I do what you do?’. I basically said ‘give me a job’,” Readle explained. “If it wasn’t for Steve and his advice, I could never have had the chance to pursue the career I did. He was very supportive.
The midfielder has backed the striker to terrorise the Gunners ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final. Benteke has 12 goals in his last 12 games heading into the Wembley showdown, including one in their 2-1 semi-final win over Liverpool in April to fire Villa into their first FA Cup final for 15 years. “He’s a Villa fan, Villa through and through, he said he used to stand on the Holte End, to have a fan in your team, that’s what you’d want on FA Cup final day. But he does need to forget he’s a fan, he’s a professional player now. “In training, as soon as you saw him you knew he had something. On that FA Cup semi-final the whole world was watching him, and I thought he was man of the match. “He believes in his ability and so he should, he’s a special talent and he’s got the world at his feet. If he can keep playing like that, he can go anywhere.” Press Association And Westwood believes Benteke has his fear factor back after struggling for form and fitness before Tim Sherwood’s arrival, following an Achilles injury over a year ago. He said: “I’m sure he does. I think he’s back to full fitness now, he was struggling with his Achilles early on and people didn’t see that, they just expected him to walk back in and fire in the goals. “But he’s back to his best now, bullying defenders and I’m sure they’ll have sleepless nights, they won’t want to be playing against him. “We know how good we are, if we play like we can do we can match anyone. We’ve got internationals throughout the team, Fabs (Fabian Delph) and Clevs (Tom Cleverley) are on form, Christian is a real handful for anyone, I’m sure they’ll be having sleepless nights about him.” Benteke spearheaded Villa’s recovery under Sherwood as they survived in the Barclays Premier League, eventually finishing 17th following Sunday’s 1-0 final-day defeat to Burnley. He and Jack Grealish were trusted by Sherwood to keep Villa up with academy product Grealish becoming a regular. He shone during Villa’s semi-final at Wembley, setting up Delph’s winner, and Westwood believes the 19-year-old is in line for stardom. “He’s a special talent, the way he just glides past you in training, you feel like whacking him, he floats past you with his hair,” said the 25-year-old. “He’s a great lad, I’m sure he could be our match winner at the end of the day. Ashley Westwood has warned Arsenal they should be having sleepless nights before facing Christian Benteke.
Northern Ireland’s clash against Romania has been billed as the country’s biggest match in 30 years and manager Michael O’Neill accepts victory would represent “a massive stride” towards Euro 2016. O’Neill is mindful not to overfeed the hype machine but realises victory at Windsor Park on Saturday would leave his team in a handsome position. “I’ve said all along that we have to take each game as it comes – the same old manager speak, same old manager answers – but this is a game where we can really take a massive stride,” he said. “Our objective is to get to 18 points as soon as possible and we have the opportunity to reach 15 this weekend. “Equally, if the result doesn’t go our way we’d still be second in the group with four games to go. “With regards to the hype and what’s being said it doesn’t really influence me, and I don’t think the team think about that. “It’s not as though it’s a ‘last chance saloon’ type of game. The best way to describe it is that the upside of winning far outweighs the downside of losing and that’s a nice position to be in.” O’Neill finished fifth in his maiden campaign, picking up just one win and seven points, but has overseen a dramatic shift in fortunes since being awarded a new deal by the Irish FA. He pitched for a top-three finish in Group F, enough to bring a play-off place, but three points would see his side spend the summer on top of the pile. O’Neill’s side have been one of the continent’s surprise packages in qualification, collecting 12 points from a possible 15 in Group F to sit second behind their weekend opponents. That haul is more than Italy or Germany have managed from the same number of games and the same as Spain, a remarkable return for a nation ranked among the fifth seeds when the draw was made, and hopes of a first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup are reaching fever pitch in Ulster. “Our objective last September was to be in the top three,” he said. “With the results we’ve had so far that objective is now to finish in the top two. “If we were to win the group, fantastic, but our main aim is to maintain the gap that exists between ourselves, Hungary and Finland. “If we can increase that deficit it will have been a positive weekend for us.” The match will once again take place in a stadium that is in the midst of a dramatic reconstruction, with just two stands in place following the demolition of the Kop. Having already won both their matches since building work began, O’Neill has no qualms about the environment but hopes the unusual scene might unnerve the opposition. Asked by a Romanian journalist if the state of Windsor Park was an issue for his side, O’Neill laughed: “No, you should have seen it before! “It’s not been a problem for our players, but hopefully it is for the Romanians. It’ s slightly unnatural but the players have coped well and won the last two home games. There’ll be 10,000 fans, an excellent atmosphere and hopefully a positive result.” Press Association