Jose Mourinho has emphasised the importance of his Tottenham players getting used to empty stadiums as they prepare to resume their Premier League campaign against Manchester United next Friday night.
Spurs played Norwich in a friendly at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Friday to get a feel for playing in their cavernous home without the backing of their fans, with the match divided into four periods of 30 minutes to give more players the chance to get some meaningful time on the pitch.
“It was a good training session,” Mourinho said in an interview with the club. “We needed minutes, we needed to know the feeling of playing here without our supporters and to have this training sessions with another Premier League team is the best thing.
“We have to adapt to this new reality, which is what we tried to do, to have a feeling of playing with an empty stadium. The points are there to fight for, and with or without fans, the points are there on the pitch and ourselves and United will have to fight for them.”
Harry Kane, Moussa Sissoko, Son Heung-Min and Steven Bergwijn were all involved, having recovered from injury during the shutdown.
“We decided to mix them and to give almost the same amount of minutes to everyone,” Mourinho said.
“We didn’t want any players to be into the limits of fatigue and of course nobody played the four periods… what we work on tactically we do in the training ground but the match was much more about competing, getting minutes, intensity and it’s very important to do it and to have this last week without any injuries.
“We all know that in these first matches, and in the friendlies, there’s also the risk of getting some injuries.”
David McGoldrick has signed a contract extension at Sheffield United that will keep the forward at the club until the summer of 2022.
The Republic of Ireland international scored 15 times in 45 appearances in his first season with the Blades to help them achieve promotion to the Premier League – although he is yet to break his duck in the top-flight.
However, he has become the third Sheffield United player to put pen to paper on a new deal this week, following in the footsteps of club captain Billy Sharp and deputy Ollie Norwood.
He said on the club website: “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be spending the next two years, so I’m over the moon to sign this extension and remain a part of this fantastic journey the club is on.”
If Real’s finances were precarious before the pandemic then one can only wonder what they look like now, although to read the rump of the Spanish press one would think that it is Galatico business as usual.
CRICKET: England do not have to visit Pakistan in return
Pakistan’s head coach Misbah-ul-Haq insists the decision to tour England this summer has no strings attached regarding a return visit.
The Pakistan Cricket Board has named a 29-man squad to contest three Tests and three Twenty20s in August and September, following the example of the West Indies who are currently preparing for next month’s ‘bio-secure’ series in England.
Despite the stringent health and safety protocols devised by the England and Wales Cricket Board, both teams have still committed to long spells away from home at a time of great uncertainty due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as basing themselves in a country that has yet to fully control the spread of the virus.
In doing so they are providing a considerable service to international cricket as a whole, not to mention saving the ECB a huge hit to their broadcast revenues.
England have not toured Pakistan since the terror attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in 2009, instead playing at neutral venues in the United Arab Emirates, but with international cricket having gradually returned to the country in recent years that could soon change.
Misbah is clear that there is no reciprocal element to the forthcoming series but stressed his desire to see more teams return to Pakistan.
“It is not in our minds that we are coming and keeping in view something that the ECB has to do for us in return,” he said.
“At the moment the PCB is just thinking about the restart of international cricket. That is very important to us, to get the players back on the ground. Obviously, in a bigger picture, we are not expecting anything in return. Overall we want not just the ECB but all cricketing nations to help each other so this game can grow. It’s important for the cricket fans in Pakistan and also for Pakistan cricket that countries start touring Pakistan.”
While three West Indies players – Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul – remained in the Caribbean on safety grounds, only Haris Sohail has declined the offer to face England.
Explaining the circumstances, Misbah said: “For Haris it was purely all about his family concerns.
“They were having concerns, so that’s why they were not convinced. He has to respect the family’s decision and he pulled out of this series. Except Haris, the others are fine. There are no concerns. Most of them have relatives and friends there, the situation is improving and they are much more satisfied with that and they are ready to do it.”
Misbah also passed on his best wishes to former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi, who revealed on Twitter he had tested positive for the virus.
“My prayers are with him, all well wishes with him that he gets out of this soon,” said Misbah. “Throughout the Covid situation he was helping the poor, doing a very good job. I think he was doing a lot of work in the area of Balochistan and the northern areas just to help the people.”
My fear upon my retirement as a player – especially having spent so much time watching academy football – was there was a growing disconnection between youngsters, some who become multi-millionaires by their early 20s, and the fans they represent.
I no longer believe that. England’s current group of elite players are stronger, more independent and willing to take greater risks with their career than those before. This generation is not pampered. It is enlightened and pioneering.
Several Premier League clubs have shown their support for protests against racism and police brutality.
“We as players have so many people looking up to us as idols. We have to show, as Arsenal, that we support you,” the 28-year-old Leno told Sky Sports.
“It is sad in 2020 we are still discussing these things, but this is the reality and we have to keep pushing on this. It doesn’t matter if you are black or white, we have to respect each other and everybody should have the same chances in life.”
The Premier League on Friday approved a proposal for player surnames to be replaced with the words “Black Lives Matter” on the back of their shirts as a tribute to the anti-racism movement.
FOOTBALL: Restart talks came too early, says Moyes
West Ham United manager David Moyes has said it was the wrong time to discuss resuming the Premier League season when the United Kingdom was still gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Professional soccer in England has been suspended since March due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has caused over 41,000 deaths in the UK.
The government last month opened the door for elite sport to resume and the Premier League said it would restart its season on June 17.
“At the start of all this I thought integrity was being used in the wrong way,” Moyes told the Times.
“Some of the debate about coming back to football when there were so many people dying in hospitals and care homes. I thought it was the wrong time to be discussing the integrity of some football games. We had to wait for the right time.”
All 20 Premier League clubs on Thursday approved a range of matchday protocols for the season’s resumption but Moyes says there are lots of questions that still need to be answered.
“Has the bus driver been tested? If we are flying, has everyone been tested, when and by who? I don’t think we’ll get all the answers but we have to get on with it,” he added.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has acknowledged that the sport is not immune to systemic racism and says it will address the issue and try to bring “meaningful and long-term change” to the game.
Athletes across a range of sports have spoken out about racism after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died on May 25 after a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis.
“We have listened carefully to those who have spoken out in recent weeks about their experiences of being black in cricket, sport and society,” the ECB said in a statement. “We admire them for being vocal on this crucial topic.
“We know that systemic racism spans institutions and sectors across the country and we know that our sport is not immune. We truly believe that cricket is a game for everyone but understand that sadly, barriers to its enjoyment exist for many communities.”
Former England batsman Michael Carberry said cricket was “rife with racism” while fast bowler James Anderson said the team will consider a joint anti-racism protest with West Indies during their three-test series next month.
The ECB said they had made progress in bringing the game to more people and that they would “break down barriers and reform our structures”.
“We will now work to engage community leaders and black influencers within cricket so that we can review and evolve our existing inclusion and diversity work and specifically address the issues raised by the black community,” it added.
“From there, it is our overall desire to create demonstrable action, in order to deliver meaningful and long-term change that permeates every layer of the game.”
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