Steve Bruce vows to fight for Newcastle job: football countdown – as it happened

Job Overview

2 months ago

Steve Bruce vows to fight for Newcastle job: football countdown – as it happened

The Guardian

And that’s it for today everyone. Thanks for reading. Let’s leave the last word to Steve Bruce who took the time in his press conference today to call out those who predicted his sacking by Newcastle’s new owners. He shall go to the ball... for one last dance at least.

You go get ‘em Steve.

“It’s been difficult, of course. But I hope [those predicting my exit] are getting a slap now from your bosses, to say, ‘You haven’t done your job’. Whoever your source was, didn’t get it right.”

Southampton v Leeds: The duo have managed just a single Premier League victory between them this season. Will we get a winner on Saturday?

Aston Villa v Wolves: Match preview here for Saturday’s 3pm midlands derby at Villa Park.

A must-read here from Barney Ronay.

On page 34 it states, with a startling clarity, that 37 people died unnecessarily because of the decision to stage the Champions League match between Liverpool and Atlético Madrid at Anfield on 11 March, just as the shutters were going down all over Europe.”

Arsenal v Crystal Palace: A homecoming for Patrick Vieira. Monday night will be emotional for the Palace boss, who won three league titles and four FA Cups with the Gunners.

Leicester v Man Utd: Another match preview. United are looking to extend their unbeaten away run in the league to an eye-popping 30 games. They’ve won 19 of those. Not sure Solskjær gets enough credit for this.

Everton v West Ham: It’s the David Moyes derby on Sunday and the man himself has been heaping praise on rival boss Rafa Benitez - a former foe in the duo’s Merseyside derby days.

Rafa had his number to be honest and the historical head-to-heads show Benitez winning 11 of their 17 clashes and drawing three.

“I have great respect for Rafa because of the level of clubs he’s managed,” said Moyes.

West Ham boss David Moyes.
West Ham boss David Moyes. Photograph: Alex Pantling/PA

“He did an exceptional job with Liverpool and made it really difficult for me when I was manager at Everton. Thankfully, by the end of my time there, we had got above them a couple of times!

“You don’t manage the clubs Rafa’s managed if you’re not very experienced and good at your jobs.”

Everton continue to be short up front with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison again absent. There’s better news in defence with full-backs Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman both fit again.

Moyes was a little coy on team news but the West Ham website says this:

“David Moyes could be without two right-backs for the trip to Everton. Vladimír Coufal returned home early from international duty with the Czech Republic, while Ryan Fredericks is still recovering from the thigh injury he suffered in the Carabao Cup third-round win at Manchester United on 22 September.

“The fitness of Club captain Mark Noble is also being assessed after missing the Premier League fixture with Brentford before the international break.”

Man City v Burnley: Another 5-0? Check our preview.

Here’s Jamie Jackson’s story on Pep Guardiola saying Raheem Sterling is free to leave.

It’s time for The Fiver!

Watford v Liverpool: Here’s our preview of Saturday’s early kick-off but first an anecdote.

Jon Moss takes charge and I had quite the surprise earlier this week when I popped into his record shop - The Vinyl Whistle - in Headingley and bumped into cruise ship favourite and Loose Women stalwart Jane McDonald. Apparently, she was doing a feature for Channel 5 about her childhood in Yorkshire and love of vinyl, and had asked to film in there. Jon would probably like me to add that US indie rockers, We Are Scientists, had played a live set in his shop the previous night.

Anyway, back to Watford v Liverpool team news.


A heartening story from earlier this week.

Norwich v Brighton: Team news for the big one at Carrow Road on Saturday.

Norwich expect to have Mathias Normann available after the defensive midfielder did not join up with Norway during the international break to continue treatment for a minor abdominal issue. Kosovo forward Milot Rashica (knee) should also feature.

Midfielder Todd Cantwell (Achilles) is available again along with Poland winger Przemyslaw Placheta after recovering from a pre-season coronavirus infection, while full-back Sam Byram (hamstring) continues his own rehabilitation and defender Christoph Zimmermann may need ankle surgery.

Brighton boss Graham Potter.
Brighton boss Graham Potter. Photograph: John Walton/PA

Brighton trio Yves Bissouma, Enock Mwepu and Adam Webster are all in contention to return to action having resumed training.

Midfielders Bissouma and Mwepu have not featured since Albion’s win over Leicester on September 19 due to knee and groin problems respectively, while defender Webster suffered a hamstring issue at Brentford the previous weekend.

Forward Danny Welbeck (hamstring) and Steven Alzate (ankle) are facing long spells on the sidelines after requiring surgery, having each been forced off in the 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace on September 27.


Quiz time! Test your knowledge here. Seven of the 11 questions are about football so it qualifies for this blog. Five or fewer open to debate.

Newcastle v Tottenham: The folk at Opta have been crunching the numbers ahead of Sunday’s clash.

  • This will be Newcastle boss Steve Bruce’s 1000th game in charge across his managerial career (W376 D254 L369). He’s won just four of his 26 encounters with Spurs in all competitions (D9 L13), with each victory coming in the Premier League with a different club (Birmingham, Wigan, Sunderland, Newcastle).
Steve and Nuno.
Steve and Nuno. Photograph: Molly Darlington/Action Images via Reuters
  • Tottenham are averaging 10.4 shots-per-game under Nuno Espírito Santo in the Premier League so far, and have a conversion rate of 8.2%. By comparison, they averaged 15.7 shots under Mauricio Pochettino (11.8% conversion), and 11.2 under José Mourinho (15% conversion) in the competition.

2030 World Cup bid: Story here from PA Media.

MPs are to examine next week whether public money committed to considering a UK and Ireland bid to host the 2030 World Cup represents good value for the taxpayer.

The cross-party Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee will question funding body UK Sport on Tuesday about the £2.8million of Government money allocated to a feasibility study on whether to bid for the tournament.

The committee will also look at how hosting major cultural and sporting events can help the UK maximise ‘soft power’, and also the cost to the BBC of securing the rights to such events.

The witnesses called include UK Sport chief operating officer Simon Morton and the director of BBC Sport Barbara Slater.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged the £2.8m towards the feasibility study earlier this year and said at the time: “We are very keen to bring football home in 2030. I do think it’s the right place.

“It’s the home of football, it’s the right time. It will be an absolutely wonderful thing for the country.”

FIFA is expected to outline the bidding regulations for the 2030 World Cup in the second quarter of next year.

World football’s governing body is currently consulting over plans for biennial World Cups, starting from 2026.

The plans have been fiercely opposed by European confederation UEFA. Its president, Aleksander Ceferin, has said European countries could boycott the tournament if the plans go forward.

The Football Association is reportedly interested in bidding for Euro 2028, but it is understood its priority remains the 2030 feasibility study.

UK Sport said in May it had earmarked 97 events across 44 sports, including 46 world championships, that the country had an interest in hosting between now and 2031.

As well as the men’s football World Cup in 2030, the UK Sport plan also included the 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup and the 2031 Ryder Cup in golf.

Morton said at the time: “These events aren’t just part of our strategy, they’re also aligned to the Government’s strategy and we have been really encouraged by the Government’s manifesto commitment to build on the UK’s fantastic track record of hosting the biggest international sporting events.

“These events will play an important part not just in our economic recovery from the pandemic, but in our social recovery.”

The six Nordic countries published a position paper outlining their opposition to biennial World Cups on Friday.

They argued the plans would push the Women’s Euro and Women’s World Cup out of the public spotlight and said that associations could not expect clubs to release players if they had not agreed to the calendar.

The paper concluded: “If a majority in FIFA decides to adopt a proposal on biennial FIFA World Cups, the Nordic football associations will need to consider further actions and scenarios that are closer to our fundamental values than what the current FIFA proposal stands for.”

Brentford v Chelsea: Blues boss Thomas Tuchel is another Premier League boss feeling the effects of international break.

Brazil defender Thiago Silva is out of Saturday evening’s trip to Brentford after a late return from South America while Antonio Rudiger has come back from Germany action with a back injury.

In better news, Romelu Lukaku has been passed fit after suffering muscle soreness while away with Belgium.

Thomas Tuchel speaks to the press on Friday.
Thomas Tuchel speaks to the press on Friday. Photograph: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC/Getty Images

Here’s Tuchel’s philosophical take: “We knew beforehand when Thiago would come back and when he would travel, so it’s nothing new. He will be back, this afternoon, hopefully, safe, Thiago from this match in Brazil.

“So we had our talk today about Brentford, we had our tactical training today, and he missed all that.

“He played 90 minutes, he has 12 hours of travelling, so that’s the answer maybe about his availability – he is not.

“I’ve got used to a lot of things in national breaks, this is how it is nowadays. Are we happy about it, all the coaches with the amount of games our players play for their countries? No, we are not. Does anybody ask us if we want to change anything? Also, no. So it’s nothing new.

“We speak about it during the UEFA coaches’ meetings, but it’s the calendar. And after that you have to accept it. I’m not even too frustrated about it.

“I don’t like it, I think it’s too many games, too many competitions for the top players in the clubs. The game is for the players and the spectators. And the spectators want to have the top players on the pitch, they want them healthy, fit and hungry. And you cannot always provide it if you play so many games in so many different competitions.

“I’m actually not too frustrated, maybe it’s just my body language today. I know what’s coming, I know the next national break is coming, we have seven games in between and we try to do the best in every national break.

“Actually this national break was a little bit better for us, in terms of minutes and management of the players.

In further team news, Reece James and N’Golo Kante are fully fit again. Christian Pulisic is still sidelined with ankle trouble, while Hakim Ziyech could miss Saturday’s game after a number of headaches.

Newcastle v Tottenham: Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo says his four South American players could still be involved against Newcastle on Sunday.

Argentinian pair Cristian Romero and Lo Celso along with Brazil’s Emerson Royal all played in the early hours of Friday morning. Colombian Davinson Sanchez has also been away in South America for World Cup qualifiers.

Nuno said: “Yeah, they are travelling now. They will join us tomorrow and then we’ll see. Then we’ll see.

“The reports that we have is that they finished their games well. Some of them played 90 minutes, Davinson Sanchez no, but what we are expecting is for them to join us and then we’ll see.”

Nuno Espirito Santo taking Spurs training.
Nuno Espirito Santo taking Spurs training. Photograph: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Getty Images

The Portuguese boss also came out with this somewhat enigmatic quote.

“After the international break there are always huge issues that happen. We have problems but I will not say before the game.”

Not a headline you read every day. Great story here.

Leicester v Man Utd: Ole Gunnar Solskjær says Marcus Rashford could make his first start of the season for Manchester United this weekend. Rashford had surgery in August to repair his damaged shoulder.

Marcus Rashford could add to Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s options up front.
Marcus Rashford could add to Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s options up front. Photograph: Matthew Peters/Manchester United/Getty Images

“He’s in the squad, yes. If he’s going to start or not, I can’t tell you now because it wouldn’t be right,” said the United boss.

“But he’s worked really hard throughout the whole lay-off and he’s been bright this week.

“He had a 60-minute involvement behind closed doors last week, so he’s fit and raring to go.”

Solskjaer has also given an update on the United rearguard, confirming that Harry Maguire has returned to training after being sidelined since last month with a calf injury.

“Harry’s just joined us on the grass this morning, first time he’s been on the grass,” Solskjaer said.

“Raphael (Varane)’s got an injury and out for a few weeks, but Victor (Lindelof) and Eric (Bailly) played in the internationals and got good game time, so that was good for us.”

If you missed this piece of sorcery...

Brendan Rodgers happy at Leicester amid Newcastle speculation

Leicester: Boss Brendan Rodgers says he’s happy to stay at the King Power after reports linking him with the Newcastle job.

“I have got a contract until 2025, I absolutely love being here,” he said.

“I’m very fortunate. I’ve got a great chief executive and a director of football who I have a close relationship with and a group of players that I really really enjoy working with.

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers is loving life at the King Power.
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers is loving life at the King Power. Photograph: Plumb Images/Leicester City FC/Getty Images

“I’ve seen all the reports around it but of course it doesn’t help anyone, particularly Newcastle and (their current manager) Steve (Bruce).

“It’s the type of week that I don’t like in the modern game.

“Managers and coaches work hard to do the best for our teams and then we have speculation and gossip that goes around and it can destabilise supporters and maybe players, but it doesn’t benefit anyone at all.

“Thankfully I’ve been in the game long enough now to just focus on my job and my role, and I’m very happy to do that.”

Steve Bruce on the Saudi takeover. Bruce is asked if he has concerns about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

He says: “Look, as far as I’m concerned, I’m sure people will look into that. That’s for politicians and all the rest of it to decide on that.

“It’s a great thing for the club of Newcastle and for me, the city too. I’ve seen the transformation in Manchester – not just for the football club, but for the city too – and I hope for the area and for the people and the supporters that there are exciting times ahead.”

More from Steve Bruce on whether he’d like to stay.

“Who wouldn’t want to try? I’m not going to give up the hope of it. Who wouldn’t want this job now going forward, the way it is, the way it looks in the future? Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to manage Newcastle?

“Certainly I would and I’m sure there’s hundreds who’d want to do the same thing. There are exciting times ahead for the club, that’s for sure.”

Steve Bruce on squad morale and team news v Tottenham.

“I think they’re excited like everybody else. They realise there’s been a monumental change and I’m sure the players will want to prove that they can be part of taking the club to a better place. Certainly there’s been a change in the whole atmosphere.”

Team news: “The only ones not available are Dúbravka and Dummett. The captain [Jamaal Lascelles] is fit, Jonjo Shelvey is fit and Callum Wilson is fit.”

Striker Callum Wilson is set to return. He’s picked a good time to do so.
Striker Callum Wilson is set to return. He’s picked a good time to do so. Photograph: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United/Getty Images

Steve Bruce on his landmark achievement - 1000 games as a manager.

“It’s not about me. It’s about the club going forward, the team and, more importantly, getting a result on Sunday. There’s times this season where I think we’ve played very well. We need a win to get us moving up the table.

“The most important thing for the fans is to see their team win a game and I know they’ll be right behind the players in an atmosphere which I doubt we’ll have witnessed at St. James’ Park in a long, long time.”

Steve Bruce is predicting quite the atmosphere.
Steve Bruce is predicting quite the atmosphere. Photograph: Michael Mayhew/Sportsphoto


Steve Bruce will "carry on until I hear otherwise"

Bruce is talking about his own position. He’ll stay for now but for how much longer is unknown.


Steve Bruce is speaking...

Steve Bruce is staying for now. Couldn’t get rid of him on the day of laughter.


Man City v Burnley: As well as losing Ferran Torres to injury, Pep Guardiola has confirmed that City are also without Brazil duo Ederson and Gabriel Jesus this weekend.

Guardiola said: “They played in Brazil yesterday and cannot fly back.” As for the Champions League trip to Bruges next Tuesday? “Maybe, I don’t know yet.”

Pep also responded to a question about Raheem Sterling’s future following the England star’s lack of game time and recent hints that he could move abroad.

Pep and Raheem getting their chat on.
Pep and Raheem getting their chat on. Photograph: Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC/Getty Images

“Raheem is our player and will hopefully be an incredibly important player for us,” said Guardiola.

“Some players want to play all the time but I can’t assure them of that. Always they have to speak on the grass – not Raheem, all of them.

“What I want from Raheem and everyone is for them to be happy.”

Thanks Barry. Some Pep coming up along with Ole Gunnar Solskjær and, of course, that man (doing Bryon Butler impression) Steve Bruce.

That’s it from me: David Tindall will bring you the rest of the day’s news, jumping in to take the glory as Steve Bruce prepares to face the media at Newcastle’s training ground. Have a great weekend.

Pep: Ferran Torres out for "two-and-a-half to three months"

Manchester City: Pep Guardiola has revealed that Ferran Torres will be sidelined for 10 to 12 weeks with an injury to his right foot that he picked up while on international duty with Spain.

Ferran Torres
Ferran Torres has scored three goals in seven appearances in all competitions for Manchester City this season. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

Liverpool: In news that is bound to have many Newcastle fans accusing him of sour grapes, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has questioned the Premier League’s silence on human rights issues following the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover of Newcastle.

“I actually was waiting for some official statements about it. Like from Richard Masters or somebody else,” he said of the Premier League chief executive who has remained resolutely tight-lipped since the Saudi takeover of Newcastle last week. “We all know there are obviously some concerns over human rights issues. That’s clear. We all think the same there.”

On the subject of the takeover itself, Klopp had this to say. “What will it mean for football? A few months ago we had a massive argument, issue, the whole football world, with 12 clubs trying to build a Super League,” he said.

“Rightly so it didn’t happen but this is kind of creating a super team if you want. It’s pretty much the same; guaranteed spots in the Champions League in a few years’ time. Financial Fair Play nowadays, nobody knows exactly if it still exists or not. Newcastle fans will love it but for the rest of us it just means there is a new superpower in Newcastle. We cannot avoid that.

“Money cannot buy everything but over time they will have enough money to make a few wrong decisions, then make the right decisions, and then they will be where they want to be in the long term. Everybody knows that, and obviously the Premier League, Richard Masters, thought ‘Yeah, let’s give it a go’.

“In five, six, seven years’ time, if the owners are patient enough, Newcastle is a new superpower and they will have enough money to buy the whole league.”


Everton: Rafael Benitez is not planning on leaving the club for Newcastle, in a state of affairs that will please Everton fans. Well, the vast majority of Everton fans.

Watford v Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp has revealed that Alisson Becker and Fabinho will miss Liverpool’s match against Watford tomorrow after being told by the club to fly straight to Spain from international duty with Brazil to complete their Covid quarantine. Liverpool are due to play Atletico Madrid in the Spanish capital on Tuesday night in the Champions League.

“We had to sort quarantine issues and the decision we made is the boys will not be here, they will go directly to Madrid, wait there for us, hopefully be able to play against Atletico, then will come back slightly later than us, so then they can come back in our normal procedure again,” he told reporters.

“Obviously they could have flown into England but with all the quarantine stuff that would have meant they would have to isolate from their families. Ali has three kids and being away with the national teams and then 10 days in isolation with the same rubbish again... we need solutions for that and they are still not there.

“They have played in Brazil so they already had four days there not in a red list country and that’s what counts. Then another six days not in a red list country, then they can come back and start immediately - so even when they go from bubble to bubble to bubble, it is still 10 days and for us that is the solution.”

The Brazilian duo’s absence adds to Klopp’s selection issues as he has also lost Curtis Jones, who came back injured from England Under-21 duty, while fellow midfielder Thiago Alcantara is still not ready to return from a calf injury.

It has not helped the Liverpool manager’s preparation and he is still not happy Saturday’s kick-off was not pushed back to the evening to give him an outside chance of fielding Alisson and Fabinho.

“As you know, Atletico are not playing at the weekend and something like that would never happen here,” said Klopp. “And if it would happen then it would be ‘Oh my god, how can they do it for them?’. We ask only for a few hours that would have made it a little bit more likely they could have played but bringing them in for 12:30, there’s no chance for them.

“If we had played seven o’clock then we would have probably tried it but neither Watford nor the Premier League was open to that kind of thing - their understanding of fair competition. We made the decision a while ago.”

Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp has hit out the Premier League, Watford and the English Football Association over assorted logistical matters that have left him without Alisson, Fabinho and Curtis Jones. Photograph: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC/Getty Images

This about sums up the Bruce situation ...

Newcastle confirm Bruce will be in charge on Sunday

The new owners of the Premier League club have released a fairly extraordinary statement which more or less confirms that Bruce will be replaced sooner rather than later, but will remain in position until a suitable replacement can be found.

Having spent the past week bending over backwards to kow-tow to fans, it seems remarkably tin-eared of the new regime to leave a man few if any fans want at the club in charge.


Club director Amanda Staveley said:

We have had an extremely busy week reviewing the business and getting to know people and it is imperative that we continue to be patient and considered in our approach. Change does not always happen overnight, it demands time and that we follow a carefully considered plan and strategy. We met Steve and the players on Monday and have given them the time and space this week to focus on preparing for what is a very important game on Sunday. Steve has been very professional in our dealings with him and he and his coaching team will take the team on Sunday. If we make any changes going forward, Steve will be the first to know but, in the meantime, we wish him the best of luck in his 1,000th match as a manager and will be joining you in getting right behind the team. Thank you for the warm welcome you have given us. We can’t wait to be at St James’ Park with you.”


Southampton v Leeds United: Marcelo Bielsa has admitted Leeds’ average of a just goal a game in the Premier League this season is a cause for concern, not least because Patrick Bamford, their main striker, remains sidelined with an ankle injury.

“I don’t think it depends on Patrick, we construct our offensive game in a collective manner,” he said. “Of course having a player that converts the chances increases the possibility of getting more goals. You asked me if it worries me, I say yes.

“I would like that we create more chances at goal and increase the efficiency. Both things have a margin for improvement and of course, if Patrick were here, we would enjoy the contribution that he makes. But in a parallel way we are ready to be at the same level in the games when he is not there.”

Bielsa is hoping to include Raphinha in his matchday squad at Southampton after the winger marked his full international debut with two goals for Brazil against Uruguay in Manaus – over 8,000km away from Saint Mary’s - in the early hours of this morning. “Football is a state of your mood, but muscular tiredness affects your performance and puts the players at risk of injury,” he said.

Bielsa will also be monitoring Kalvin Phillips, with the midfielder bidding to recover from a calf strain that forced his withdrawal from England’s squad. “He has possibilities to play and we will decide between Friday and Saturday,” Bielsa said.

Stuart Dallas and Mateusz Klich are both available following international duty with Northern Ireland and Poland respectively, while Jack Harrison has recovered from a knock which kept him on the bench in Leeds’ first win of the season against Watford two weeks ago. Defenders Robin Koch, who will have minor surgery in America to resolve a pelvic problem, and Luke Ayling (knee) remain sidelined.

Marcelo Bielsa
Marcelo Bielsa has been bemoaning his Leeds side’s lack of efficiency in front of goal this season. Photograph: Gareth Copley/PA

Big interview: Gary Cahill

Gary Cahill is now plying his trade outside the top flight with Bournemouth, for the first time since 2007. Ben Fisher sat the 35-year-old veteran defender down for a chat and discovered he isn’t simply punching the clock until retirement.


Newcastle United: Steve Bruce is at Newcastle’s Benton HQ and is expected to face the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Fourth Estate at 1.30pm in the day’s most eagerly anticipated press conference.

Steve Bruce
Steve Bruce will face a barrage of interrogatory projectiles about Newcastle’s future under new ownership and his place - or lack of it - in it from 1.30pm. Photograph: Michael Mayhew/Sportsphoto

Brentford v Chelsea: Brentford host Chelsea in a west London derby tomorrow evening and Thomas Frank has been extolling the virtues of his side’s opponents in the build-up to the first top flight clash between the two teams in 74 years.

“When we won our promotion in the play-off final they won the Champions League,” said Frank, referring back to a fateful day in May day for two clubs separated geographically by just six miles.

“I think that’s a very good picture of the difference between the two clubs. It is a team with world-class players and, with the transfer of Romelu Lukaku, it is more or less complete. They have top quality players in every position and one of the best managers in the world in Thomas Tuchel. I don’t think there is a weak spot.

“Every game in the Premier League is a big game, but to face the European champions and the number one in the Premier League is a huge challenge. But we love that challenge and we believe in ourselves. We can’t wait for the game.”

Thomas Frank
Thomas Frank is hoping to mastermind Brentford’s first top flight win over Chelsea since 1939. Photograph: Tim Goode/PA

Shenanigans Dept: Potential match-fixing has been detected in more than 1,100 sports matches since April 2020, according to research conducted by a global sports technology company, it says here.

Aston Villa v Wolves: Dean Smith has been talking up club record summer signing Emiliano Buendia ahead of Aston Villa’s game against Wolves tomorrow. The £38m Argentinian, who arrived at Villa Park from Norwich, has not started any of Villa’s last four Premier League games but did score on his last start against Brentford in August. He has spent just 33 minutes on the pitch since.

“We signed him because of the quality he gives us and we know what he can give us,” said Smith. “He shows that every day in training and it won’t be long before he’s in the team. We have never put any pressure on trying to handle any price tag or numbers because the players aren’t in control of that. That is what someone is willing to pay for them.

“Their job is to go out and work hard every day and be ready to perform in the arena on a match day. I have seen a player there who is able to do that. He’s getting to where we want him to be. He got injured during pre-season so he was lacking the fitness in the first couple of games. He was getting up to speed, scored his first goal against Brentford, and then had to go off with Argentina.

“We played very well at Chelsea and decided to go with the same system and unfortunately he didn’t get the nod in the Everton game. He has a lot of qualities but the one I have seen over the last three or four weeks is a drive and desire to succeed. I think all players need that and he has that in abundance.”

Douglas Luiz and Emiliano Martinez will only return from international duty with Brazil and Argentina today but Smith expects to have them in his matchday squad for tomorrow’s derby.

Leon Bailey remains out with a hamstring injury but he could be in contention for next Friday’s trip to Arsenal while Bertrand Traore (thigh) is being assessed and Keinan Davis and Morgan Sanson are back in training.

Emi Buendia
Emi Buendia has not started any of Aston Villa’s past four games. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

Steven Gerrard: The Rangers boss has been named as a potential successor to Steve Bruce at Newcastle United and ahead of his side’s top of the table encounter with Hearts at Ibrox tomorrow, he admitted that, like the rest of us, he is looking on at the situation at Newcastle with interest but refused to be drawn on speculation linking him with Bruce’s job.

“I don’t really react, or get involved in any kind of speculation, especially when there is someone who I have the utmost respect for sitting in that job, that the speculation is about,” he said.

“For me, I am in a very big job and a very big role here that I am very much fully focused on. We have got a top of the table clash at the weekend and it’s a game I’m very much looking forward to.

“I’ve certainly got one eye on Newcastle, in terms of watching Brucey get his 1000th game. He’s a great character of the game, someone who I’ve got a personal relationship with, and have the utmost respect for. I’ve really looking forward to seeing him get his 1000th game. I think it’s a mammoth achievement.”

Manchester City v Burnley: Third from bottom of the table and still looking for their first win of the season, Burnley will do well to get it when they travel to the Etihad to take on Manchester City tomorrow. Burnley have conceded 18 goals and scored none on their last four visits to the champions. THey’ve been gubbed 5-0 on each of their past three visits.

“They’re a top side,” said Sean Dyche ahead of tomorrow’s game. “Top manager and top group of players. They’ve spent a lot of money but very wisely in my opinion with some top talents and then moulded it into a very good unit.

“These are very tough challenges. But we have beaten them, we’ve drawn against them. We won at Liverpool last year, we won at Arsenal. Things can change but statistically it’s very tough.”

In summer signing Maxwel Cornet, Burnley do have a player who has scored four goals in three games against Pep Guardiola’s men while playing for Lyon. The winger has been out with a hamstring injury but could return this weekend.

“Other than the true match fitness, which usually finishes off with playing, we’re hoping he’s fit and well and ready to go,” said Dyche. “He’s got a nice attacking threat, which is obviously why we brought him to the club and the scouts promoted the idea of bringing him to the club. Good all round early doors.

“He’s getting better with his English, he’s adapting, his manner’s really good, he’s got a nice smile on his face, he wants to play. So far I’ve been impressed by him, not just his abilities. I don’t think Pep will be that worried about Burnley but he’s never lacked respect of what we’re trying to achieve.”

Burnley skipper Ben Mee is unavailable after testing positive for coronavirus so Nathan Collins could start, while summer signing Connor Roberts is in contention for the first time. Matej Vydra and Charlie Taylor are doubts.

Maxwel Cornet
Maxwel Cornet has scored four goal in three games against Manchester City, which is four more than his new club have scored in their past four games against the champions. Photograph: Ryan Crockett/JMP/REX/Shutterstock

Fifa assists in evacuation from Afghanistan

Women’s football: Fifa has assisted in the evacuation of almost 100 refugees from Afghanistan. The group, made up mainly of women and girls, includes players and coaches from the country’s women’s national football team.

All those evacuated were individuals deemed to be at the “highest risk” in a country which has been under the control of the Taliban since August. The refugees left the cvountry yesterday.

Football’s world governing body said it had received assistance in the evacuation effort from the government of Qatar, the country which will host next year’s men’s World Cup.

“Fifa would like to express its sincere thanks to the government of Qatar for its support facilitating extensive discussions and for ensuring the safe passage of these individuals, deemed to have been at the highest risk, on to a Qatar Airways charter flight from Kabul, Afghanistan to Doha, Qatar,” they said in a statement.

“The Fifa leadership has been closely co-ordinating with the government of Qatar since August on the evacuation of the group, and will continue to work closely on the safe evacuation of further members of the sporting family in the future.”

Taliban officials were quoted last month saying women and girls would be banned from playing sport, saying it was “not necessary”. Afghanistan’s women’s team withdrew from Asian Cup qualification in Tajikistan last month.

Performance in the Asian Cup finals will dictate which teams from the continent qualify for the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Female players from around the world, including Chelsea’s Norway international Maren Mjelde, are contributing to a fund established by world players’ union Fifpro to support footballers evacuated from Afghanistan.

In light of this news, it’s worth revisiting this sensational article written by our own Suzanne Wrack about the dedicated crew of people who helped the women’s national football team and others to flee the Taliban over two remarkable weeks back in August.

Big news: Ben White has let it be known that prefers to be known as “Benjamin”. In an interview with Sky Sports News, the Arsenal defender joked “you can call me whatever you want, I just might not reply. My name is actually Benjamin”.

The 24-year-old, who moved to Arsenal from Brighton during the summer, also admitted that he doesn’t watch a huge amount of football in his spare time. “Football is so intense,” he said. “You come in every day giving 100 per cent. All I want to do is go home and not think about it, then come in in the morning fresh and ready to give 100 per cent again. I watch myself for analytical reasons. I watch England, maybe, but I’m always busy doing something. I wouldn’t just sit down and watch a game.”

Benjamin White
Arsenal defender Benjamin White. Photograph: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC/Getty Images

Southampton v Leeds United: He played every minute of every top flight game Southampton contested last season, but James Ward-Prowse will be a conspicuous absentee when Southampton line up against Leeds tomorrow.

The Saints skipper is suspended following his deserved but somewhat unfortunate red card in defeat at Chelsea prior to the international break so Ibrahima Diallo is likely to get a rare start in midfield.

On-loan Chelsea forward Armando Broja will return to contention having been ineligible to play against his parent club, but striker Che Adams will miss out after suffering a muscle injury while on international duty with Scotland.

Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa has not ruled out winger Raphinha, who scored twice for Brazil in their 4-1 win over Urugay on his first start for his country in the early hours of this morning. Leeds will be without striker Patrick Bamford, who remains sidelined with an ankle injury. Kalvin Phillips will be assessed after withdrawing from the England squad last week due to a calf strain.

Raphina is hotfooting it back to Southampton to join up with his Leeds teammates after scoring twice for Brazil against Uruguay in the early hours of this morning. Photograph: Paul Currie/REX/Shutterstock


Norwich City v Brighton: Graham Potter has warned his players against complacency following their strong start to the season. Brighton are sixth in the top flight after taking 14 points from a possible 21 and have lost just one game to date.

“We’ve only played seven matches and it’s not like we’ve been the incredibly dominant team and deserved to win all the games,” said Potter. “The margins have been quite tight, they’ve gone in our favour this time. A lot of the time last year they didn’t.

“A lot of the performances and performance data was good last year but because we hadn’t really got the points you couldn’t turn round and say our xG (expected goals) is this or our performance data is this.

“We were down the bottom of the league and fighting relegation so you’ve just got to keep working. In terms of our performance level, the players have been consistent over a period of time and, as is often the case in football, sometimes you get the rub of the green and sometimes you don’t.

“You have to deal with those two sides of the coin in the same way, not think you’ve cracked it when it’s going your way and not think it’s the end of the world when it goes the opposite way.”

Graham Potter
Graham Potter has stressed that his players should treat the twin imposters of triumph and disaster the same. Photograph: John Walton/PA

Leicester City v Manchester United: “Ole Gunnar Solskjær is the touchline Mr Nice Guy whose breezy demeanour may be counterproductive,” writes Jamie Jackson. “To find a sighting of the manager scolding a Manchester United player is akin to a search for Lord Lucan: it could take some time.” Read on ...

This weekend’s Premier League fixtures

  • Watford v Liverpool (Sat 12.30pm BST)
  • Southampton v Leeds United (3pm)
  • Norwich v Brighton (3pm)
  • Aston Villa v Wolves (3pm)
  • Leicester v Manchester United (3pm)
  • Manchester City v Burnley (3pm)
  • Brentford v Chelsea (5.30pm)
  • Everton v West Ham (Sunday 2pm)
  • Newcastle v Tottenham (4.30pm)
  • Arsenal v Crystal Palace (Monday 8pm)

Something for the weekend ...

The international break is over, the players are back at their respective clubs and the Premier League is ready to crank back into life.

Steve Bruce has defied the expectations of many – himself included, one suspects – by remaining in situ under Newcastle’s new owners and looks certain to take charge for his milestone 1,000th game in management when his side host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday afternoon.

We’ll hear from Steve and lots of other top flight managers ahead of the weekend’s action, while bringing you any other news and talking points that happen to present themselves as the day unfolds.