Jurgen Klopp warns Liverpool stars not to repeat mistake from this time last year

Jurgen Klopp has warned his Liverpool players to not allow their impressive winning mindset to waver as they enter what he calls the “slog” part of the season.

Klopp has been impressed that his team have suffered no hangover from their Champions League triumph in May, hitting the ground running this season with four straight victories to stretch their winning run in the Premier League to a club record 13 games.

But as they start a spell of two games a week until January with today’s lunchtime kick-off against Newcastle, he is well aware that after a similar start last season they went into a 12-match run during which they only won five times, drawing three and losing four games in all competitions, including all three away fixtures in their Champions League group.

Maintaining the aggression and intensity they have shown so far is vital, Klopp insists, because there may be no room for error again in the domestic title race.

‘We have to be 100%’

“It was so important to hit the ground running,” he said. “Our football has no easy start, we don’t ease into a season – we have to be aggressive, that is very important and we did that, so that is really good. We’ve had to work hard. It wasn’t about the best football we could play, but about winning the games.

“We have really to be 100 per cent focused – that’s what brought us to the position we were in last year, and as long as we can keep that mindset alive and going, it will be good, it will be fine. Because we have quality and only with this mindset we can really bring them on the pitch.

“It always felt like we were one step behind until we finally won something, that’s true. Now we won something, it’s a big relief.

“The boys were confident last year, and the boys are confident this year. It’s all about playing the way we want to play. If we do that, we will win football games.

“We have had to deal with a few new things, a lot of talk about winning the Champions League but that’s part of it. But apart from that the boys are still the same bunch of good, hungry football players that they were before, and I am happy about that. This is what we have to show against Newcastle – who will fight like crazy.”

‘Salah and Mane are refreshed’

Klopp has made only a few changes so far but is ready to rotate his squad with the heaving schedule ahead – Liverpool fly to Italy on Monday to open their Champions League defence against Napoli, where they lost 1-0 last season in what Klopp described as “our worst performance in the Champions League campaign.”

Roberto Firmino and Fabinho, who were away in the USA with Brazil during the international break, could be given breathers, while Georgino Wijnaldum and Virgil van Dijk both played twice for the Netherlands as did Jordan Henderson for England.

But there are no concerns for once about Sadio Mane and Mo Salah who were both rested by their countries during the break and have had plenty of time to sort out any lingering differences following Mane’s rant at his team-mate for not passing to him in the win at Burnley.

“They are refreshed and hopefully we can use that,” said Klopp. “In the first four games there was no reason for changes but the players know we are going to need them all now in this most intense period – it’s the slog, absolutely.”

Klopp was impressed by Newcastle’s defensive defiance in their shock win at Tottenham and expects a similar approach from Steve Bruce’s side today. But the Geordies have a dreadful record at Anfield – only three League wins there since 1945. And, of course, Liverpool have not at home for two and half years.

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Steve Bruce reveals he tried to sign Virgil van Dijk for Hull

Steve Bruce isn’t surprised at the impact of Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool – having tried to sign him himself.

Bruce’s Newcastle United side must try to find a way past the £75million defender at Anfield this afternoon.

Van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson transformed Jurgen Klopp’s side into a title-challenging Premier League team, according to Bruce.

“We all know how good they are up front, but I believe the signings of Alisson and Van Dijk made them what they are now,” said Bruce. “Him and the goalkeeper just took them to that next level. They’re unbelievable at the other end, but you need that stability at the back.

“You have to give credit to Klopp, because he’s transformed them, really. They’re just about as good as I’ve ever seen, but whether they are as good as the Liverpool team of the eighties is up for debate.”

‘I went and we tried’

Bruce tried to sign Van Dijk from Celtic while he was in charge of Hull City.

“Yes, I could have taken him to Hull,” said Bruce. “I had dinner with Kenny Dalglish and the owner of Celtic, Dermot Desmond, in Barbados – I’m name-dropping now – and the owner of Celtic was waxing lyrical about the best players he’s had.

“He was saying ‘[Henrik] Larsson is definitely the best player that I’ve seen play for Celtic in my ownership, [but] what I can’t understand is, nobody’s gone for Van Dijk’.

“I thought ‘that’s interesting, he’s seen a lot of football over the last 12 years’, so I went and we tried. I tried to get him before he went to Southampton [for] about £10million, £12million. I was nowhere near getting him. I tried, but I had no chance.”

‘We’ve got to take him’

Bruce, however, did sign Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson from Dundee United while Hull manager.

“Stan Ternent, my chief scout, said ‘I’ve just seen this kid – we’ve got to take him’,” said Bruce. “We did our homework. I went to see him and we took him.

“It was a little bit of a gamble. I remember him arriving with his mum, holding her hand. To be fair to him, we had a couple of injuries and I threw him in. He had an unbelievable debut against QPR. He hasn’t looked back, has he? He’s been quite remarkable.”

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‘Hopefully we can bat big to get a big lead’: England’s Sam Curran aims to finish Ashes on a high

THE OVAL — Sam Curran believes England are in a strong position to end the Ashes on a high after helping his side establish a lead of 78 and 10 second-innings wickets remaining.

“I think it’s huge,” said Curran, who is making his first appearance of the series. “It was great for Burns and Denly to get through the evening, and hopefully we can bat big to get a big lead.

“There’s a lot of rough outside the left-hander’s off-stump for the left-arm spinner Leachy [Jack Leach], and I’m sure it’s going to keep turning as the game goes on.

“It’s really dry and I think if we can bat for as long as possible and get a big lead we can put some pressure on them second innings.” Curran felt England had bowled well to dismiss Australia for just 225, 69 runs shy of England. “As a group it was pretty good,” Curran added. “Hopefully the sun will be shining again tomorrow and we can get some nice runs on the board.”

Sam Curran erupted across the Oval like a starburst with three wickets in the late afternoon
Sam Curran erupted across the Oval like a starburst with three wickets in the late afternoon (Photo: Julian Finney/Getty)

High hopes

Surrey swing bowler Curran is relishing finally making an appearance – at his home ground, no less – after being in the squad for the four previous Tests.

“Being in all the squads has helped me keep up the level of intensity,” Curran said. “I’ve not had many county games and it’s been quite hard going from the Test squad to T20.

“But leading up to this game I thought I was going to be involved and I upped my overs.”

‘If we can bat for as long as possible and get a big lead we can put some pressure on them in the second innings’

Sam Curran

Australia batsman Marnus Labuschagne said Australia still wanted to win the series outright despite their relatively poor performance.

“The intensity definitely has not dropped,” he said. “It’s hard to say that when our play on the field maybe reflects that. But we came to win the Ashes and we really want to do that. We don’t want to just retain the Ashes.”

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How I nearly became world champion at the Blackpudding Throwing Championships

On a street lined with terraced shops and packed with hundreds of people, a pensioner is giving me some last minute advice on how to throw a blackpudding into the air.

“You can chuck it hard, but I’d go for a gentle lob if I were you,” he says with the confidence of a man who has thrown blackpuddings a thousand times in his lifetime.

“But I’m probably not the best person to ask,” he adds after a long pause. “I’ve never done this before either.”

Welcome to the World Blackpudding Throwing Championships in Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester, where I am about to toss a blood sausage at a shelf piled with Yorkshire puddings 30ft up a scaffold.

Competitors gather for the world championships. (Photo: Peter Powell/PA Wire)
Competitors gather for the world championships (Photo: Peter Powell/PA Wire)

Games for a laugh

With my right foot on the toe line – an iron grid that has been painted gold for the occasion – I suddenly realise that my throwing hand is shaking. But there is no time calm my nerves. I launch my squishy missile into the air. It shoots up past the Yorkshire puddings and hits a TV cameraman on the head.

The whole street breaks out in a cheer. “He’s accurate, this fella,” a woman somewhere behind me shouts.

The World Blackpudding Throwing Championships at Ramsbottom in Bury, the home of this Lancashire breakfast delicacy, is just one of a throng of madcap British sports that are currently taking the country by storm.

From hen racing in Derbyshire to coal carrying in Yorkshire, traditional folk games are becoming ever more popular among Britons searching or a new challenge.

Keeping you on your toes

Last month more than 160 people took part in the World Bog Snorkelling Championships in Wales – an event described by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s top 50 “must do” events – in a bid to beat the record of 78.82 seconds.

In 2018, meanwhile, a man became the first to take home a record 21 Double Gloucester cheeses over 14 years in the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling competition in Gloucester. In pursuit of his dream he suffered a broken ankle in 2005 and bruised kidneys in 2010.

But, while there is little chance of being hurt from a badly aimed blackpudding, the contest I am taking part in today is thought to have begun in more dangerous times.

During the War of the Roses between Lancashire and Yorkshire in 1455, rival armies doing battle ran out of ammunition and are said to have begun throwing food instead.

The challenge is to knock the Yorkshire puddings off the shelf
The challenge is to knock the Yorkshire puddings off the shelf (Photo: Peter Powell/PA)

Reviving challenges

The contest was revived by a pub landlord in 1839 and was brought into the modern world in 1984. Since then, contestants have poured into this former mill town with its stone houses and steam railway from as far away as Russia, China, Australia and Canada.

Lauren Distler, a 23-year-old Texan who is among today’s competitors, tells me after her first throw almost knocked down some of the Yorkshire puddings: “I gave it my best shot. It was the greatest thrill of my life.”

But my own enthusiasm has taken a knock after my disastrous first effort. I begin to watch and listen to the locals as a man starts juggling blackpuddings in the middle of the street.

“It’s about quantity over quality,” says a chap to his friend as he comes out of the nearby pub, The Oaks. “You just have to keep throwing.”

“You just have to believe in yourself,” I overhear another contestant saying. “It’s all about the power of positive thinking.”

With that in mind, I approach Paul Clayton, who is nonchalantly watching proceedings while leaning against the pub.

“I’ve been coming to watch this contest for years, but I’ve never had a go before,” he says. “I guess you’ve got to use your first throw to get the measure of things and then just go for it.”

Moments later, he steps on to golden drain and knocks down seven Yorkshire puddings with a well aimed shot – putting himself at the top of the leaderboard amid huge cheers. He looks as surprised than anyone.

It's a surprisingly difficult challenge. (Photo: Peter Powell/PA)
It’s a surprisingly difficult challenge (Photo: Peter Powell/PA)

But as the afternoon draws on, nobody is able to match Paul.

A woman accidentally launches her blackpudding backwards over her head into the crowd. Another pudding ends up on the pub’s roof and a third shoots down the street, narrowly missing a shop window.

A man on crutches and a woman carrying a baby in a sling both make valiant efforts.

While the rules are simple – over arm throwing is banned and the winner is the person who knocks down the most Yorkshire puddings in a single go – this is a surprisingly difficult sport.

However, my research reveals that some competitors have hidden talents.

A competitor throws a black pudding to knock down Yorkshire puddings during the annual World Black Pudding Throwing Championships in Ramsbottom. (Peter Powell/PA)
A competitor throws a black pudding to knock down Yorkshire puddings during the annual World Black Pudding Throwing Championships in Ramsbottom (Photo: Peter Powell/PA)

The competitors take charge

Husseyin Ozluk, 50, who won the world title in 2009 and again in 2011, tells me the secret of his success after he knocks four Yorkshire puddings from the shelf and joins Paul on the leaderboard.

“I’m a steelworker,” he says. “As an apprentice, I had to throw tools up to the scaffolding workers. There was no margin for error.

”Throwing a blackpudding is easier than throwing a hammer or a spanner – and a lot less dangerous too.

“If I win again today, I want to be made an MBE. Tennis players get them for winning Wimbledon don’t they,” he adds, before advising that a glass of vodka will improve my chances.

With the clock ticking down towards the end of play, there is a sudden sense of urgency in the air. Dan from Devon misses the target, while Graham from Southport hits home.

Armed with six fresh blackpuddings and a fresh dollop of determination, I rejoin the queue of competitors stretching down the street.

Husseyin is also in the line up trying to regain his title. Paul wants to secure his place at the top of the board. “This is your last chance everyone,” one of the organisers is shouting on a microphone. The crowd think it’s all over.

‘I sniff the breeze like a fox’

Tom Lowden, from Lincolnshire, is declared the winner
Tom Lowden, from Lincolnshire, is declared the winner (Photo: Peter Powell/PA)

I am almost at the front of the queue when I spot them. High up on the scaffolding, a pile of Yorkshire puddings are hanging precipitously over the left hand side of the shelf.

I put my foot on the golden grid and sniff the breeze like a fox. Then, I fire.

My blackpudding flies straight upwards like a heat-seeking missile and smashes into its target. Five Yorkshire puddings drop to the ground and I am suddenly joint fourth in the World Blackpudding Throwing Championships.

Filled with pride, I am only slightly envious when Tom Lowden from Scunthorpe takes home the title with a winning score of eight. His prize is a silver trophy filled with blackpuddings.

“I’d thought a lot about how to throw it,” he tells me afterwards. “But in the end, you just need a bit of luck.”

“I’ll definitely be back next year,” he adds with a broad grin. “I’m the world champion now. I’ll need to defend my title.”

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Tottenham news: Mauricio Pochettino warns three Spurs wantaways to knuckle down or be dropped

Mauricio Pochettino has told Tottenham’s unsettled stars to refocus or expect to be dropped.

Spurs host Crystal Palace today for the first time since the European-wide transfer windows closed.

Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen all ended up remaining in north London after a summer of intense speculation.

All three have contracts that expire at the end of the current campaign and manager Pochettino knows that the ‘noise’ that comes with the January window will soon be making itself heard, especially as fringe men Victor Wanyama and Serge Aurier also saw moves abroad fall down over the summer.

England’s Danny Rose is another case in point having been told in July that he could leave, but he too remains at White Hart Lane and likely to face the Eagles.Pochettino made it clear he expected all of the above to put any disappointment out of their minds, or pay the price.

‘I think we talk a lot’

“It is always difficult and I think we are all agreed that Tottenham always have more rumours than other clubs,” he said.

“In one month I think it will start again with the rumours, for sure, because the situation of the squad is going to help those rumours appear. I think we talk a lot.

“Now it is a time to be positive. Victor Wanyama is in my plans. Christian is in my plans. Now they are going to have the same possibility as another player to play.

“Before, I understood that they were in a difficult situation and of course always we try to help them, to help the club, to do their business.

“But it’s not easy. When it’s one player [who wants to leave], OK, but when it’s a few players, who start to make it difficult to create a good dynamic, a positive dynamic it’s difficult.

“But now it’s time to be positive. Now we need to start to win games. That is our objective. Be refocused and who is not refocused is going to be out.”

Speculation to mount again?

Eriksen had declared after the Champions League final in May that he wanted a new challenge – and has already been linked with a January swap deal with Juventus forward Paulo Dybala.

Pochettino insisted he was not worried about the Dane’s commitment. “When you sign the contract, like Christian who signed for five or six years, you need to be committed from day one to the last day,” he said. “He’s still playing and showing his commitment.”

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‘I see no problem’: Frank Lampard addresses criticism of Chelsea veteran Cesar Azpilicueta

Frank Lampard has defended under fire Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta who has faced criticism for his form during the opening weeks of the season.

Chelsea have conceded nine goals in Lampard’s first four games in charge which means they have the second-worst defensive record in the Premier League behind just Norwich City.

The position of Azpilicueta, an ever-present at right-back, has come under scrutiny but the Blues manager insists he will stand by the Spaniard.

“Firstly, I played with Azpilicueta and I know him very well and he is the first player to stand up,” Lampard said. “The reason he’s captain is because of that professionalism and attitude.

“He’s been an incredible player for a club that’s won a lot and he’s been central to winning a lot. He’s not just a bystander. He’s been right in the middle of it all and he will be aware more than anyone of his form and what it means.

“He will be the first one who wants to address it every minute of the day in training. I think he’s a big player for us and a big personality. I see no problem.

“I remember in my career countless times playing with better players than I was that had little moments in their career that whatever reason people want to talk about. The top ones come through it.

“Azpilicueta is a top player and I don’t there are any major issues. In the modern-day all eyes are on and if there’s a bit of a mistake or a moment people want to do that and players have to put up with that. I’ve got no problem. Azpi will comfortably put up with that.”

‘Too early to make predictions’

Lampard’s defensive issues mean he has only one win in his first four games in charge, but he remains defiant ahead of an away trip to Wolves on Saturday.

“If anyone’s jumping to conclusions it is because they are looking at Liverpool and City because they are the dominant teams who have got good results so far, particularly Liverpool,” he added.

“Other than that, I think it’s too easy. We’re on the same points as Manchester United and Tottenham. Other teams that might be less fancied than us are on higher points than us so I think now is certainly too early to make long-term predictions.

“We have conceded more than we would want to. It’s our job to put it right. We will focus on different elements of the game. Sometimes you can sit down and not worry about one part that’s going really well, but of course, if things show themselves, you have to address them.

“We regularly have videos. I don’t like the defending/attacking thing because I think some of the goals that we have conceded have been individual errors or we’ve given away possession and let them score.

“That means that it’s your attacking that’s not so good as your defending, so we always try and look at both sides.”

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Ashes 2019: End of the road gets closer for Chris Woakes after he sent down 10 overs for 51 runs

THE OVAL — Chris Woakes may have taken the prized wicket of Steve Smith on an eventful second day of this Fifth Ashes Test, yet that cannot mask the overall performance of a bowler who looks like he is entering the final furlong of his England career.

The decision to drop the 30-year-old for the previous Test in favour of Craig Overton drew much criticism. After all, wouldn’t Woakes, who had bowled well in the opening two Tests, cause the Australians more trouble with his ability to swing the ball than a medium-pace, hit-the-deck merchant in Overton?

Yet perhaps the selectors were right all along to discard Woakes – though not in also overlooking Sam Curran at Old Trafford – given the way he shaped up. Out of rhythm and sending down far too many loose balls, Woakes looked badly out of sorts on a day where he sent down 10 overs for the cost of 51 runs. The delivery that did for Smith was unremarkable – a straight ball the latter-day Don Bradman clone remarkably missed. Woakes got lucky. Like someone who wins the jackpot on a Las Vegas slot machine on their first go after the previous player had put $500 into it, he cashed in on the fine work earlier in the session from Curran and Jofra Archer.

That pair are the future of this England Test team’s bowling attack, Archer’s second six-wicket haul of the series and Curran’s superb spell that put him on a hat-trick in the evening session lighting up this match. Woakes, with his terrible overseas record and chronic injury to his right knee, appears very much yesterday’s man.

‘Physically struggling’

Chris Woakes gave up 51 runs in just 10 overs in an expensive day
Chris Woakes gave up 51 runs in just 10 overs in an expensive day (Photo: Alex Davidson/Getty)

Despite the fact he is seven years younger than James Anderson and three the junior to Stuart Broad, Woakes just doesn’t fit into any England attack when both that pair, Mark Wood and Curran and Archer, too, are available.

One of the chief complaints about England’s attack on the last Ashes tour in 2017-18 was that the quartet of right-arm medium-fast bowlers in Woakes, Anderson, Broad and Overton was way too one-dimensional.

Woakes can be a brilliant bowler when the ball swings. But unless you’re in England or New Zealand, that rarely happens. That’s why his overseas bowling average is a staggering 61.77 and at home it’s 23.18.

Woakes is clearly physically struggling and not at the top of his game. And as good a servant as he has been over the years, now should be the time to cut the cord and look to others to move this Test team forward.

Archer gives England hope

Sam Curran erupted across the Oval like a starburst with three wickets in the late afternoon
Sam Curran erupted across the Oval like a starburst with three wickets in the late afternoon (Photo: Julian Finney/Getty)

Chief among them will be Archer and Curran. Quite how the selectors have overlooked Curran – a player who turned his debut series against India last summer – until now is anybody’s guess.

There also needs to be caution over Archer because as brilliant as his six wickets were, that he bowled 23.5 overs in a day to get them raises further fears over his workload.

This after all, is the 24-year-old’s first summer of international cricket and having already been forced to play through a side strain during the World Cup, England risk burning out their brightest talent.

The ends may justify the means in this particular Test if England go on to win. But as Woakes would no doubt testify, international cricket can be a slog so to write cheques your body can’t cash, especially at the start of your career, is a dangerous game.

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Ashes 2019: Electric Sam Curran helps Jofra Archer put England in the box seat

THE OVAL — Game on. Six of the best for Jofra Archer and a reminder of how infectious Sam Curran can be, his waspish medium pace a darting, giddy complement to the A-Man’s violent pace. Curran’s vibrant appeals, the leaping celebrations are tailor made for Friday afternoons, propelling us into the weekend with hope in our hearts and a smile on our faces, the anti Steve Smith if you like.

The latter observation is of course borne of respect for a batsman of unflinching conviction. It is not his fault the opposition struggle to get him out. Neither is it ours that crushing predictability melts enthusiasm quicker than snow in the Caribbean. Curran erupted across the Oval like a starburst with three wickets in the late afternoon to remind us of the quality that made him one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year in 2018.

Though he didn’t claim the scalp of Smith it is entirely possible that his contribution, ousting Matthew Wade, Tim Paine and Pat Cummins was disruptive enough to unsettle the adhesive one sufficiently to make his wicket available. Chris Woakes mopped him up by bowling the perfect delivery at a batsman who moves across his stumps, a ball full of length that kept helpfully low and smashed into the pads. Smith was gone for 80, his lowest score of the series but still the highest knock of the match.

As ever England had little trouble getting Smith to the crease. The first wicket went down with the score on five. No points for guessing who. The surprise was that Stuart Broad played no part, David Warner becoming the first of Jofra Archer’s haul. Archer struck again to end the interest of Marcus Harris with the score on 14, which served only to pair Australia’s most destructive duo.

Archer finds the bullseye again

Sam Curran celebrates dismissing Matthew Wade of Australia in explosive display
Sam Curran celebrates dismissing Matthew Wade of Australia in explosive display (Photo: Jordan Mansfield/Getty)

The sun out, not a cloud in the sky, Smith cracking balls to the boundary, barely a hint of a chance. At the other end Marnus Labuschagne, a kind of Smith lite, untroubled, unfussy, playing the percentages. What we had in this period of Australian ascendency was the English summer in microcosm.

The impression created with Smith at the wicket is one of certainty, contrasting sharply with the English experience. Form ten to 20 to 30 and on up the decimal ladder the landmarks come and go as a matter of course, Smith betraying not a hint of the jeopardy that appears to stalk the English cricketer.

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The new Cook? England have many problems but at least Rory Burns has solved one of them

It seems the only way to discomfit Smith, and Labuschagne for that matter, is to break them. Smith missed an innings and one Test after being battered by Jofra Archer. Labuschagne, who also took a lumpy blow to the head as Smith’s substitute at Lord’s, was whacked on the arm in the second session here from a rapier Archer delivery that led to the appearance of the medical staff. How he winced as the physio rotated his wrist, and afterwards as he wriggled his arm in an attempt to shake off the low grade throbbing pulsating through the tissues.

In Archer’s very next over Labuschagne would be gone, trapped lbw to one full and straight, the result perhaps of that very blow having backed ever deeper into his crease. Smith continued to accumulate. With his tenth 50 in a row against England we reached full Smith fatigue, the point where a boundary off his bat is such an accepted occurrence that fielders no longer move and the audience doesn’t bother to applaud. They have even stopped booing him for goodness sake.

Electric presence

The idea of Smith’s impregnability has taken root among the players also, which perhaps accounts for their surprise when a chance does come along. Root would snaffle the Smith top edge off Curran more often than not. Perhaps Ben Stokes encroached enough to slow his reaction a fraction. The ball went in and out of an outstretched mitt and Smith was still there on 66.

With Curran an electric presence and Archer steaming in to end the late rally of Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle the mistake would not prove overly costly. Though the catch claimed by Rory Burns to dismiss Siddle was of the leaping salmon variety, it condemned him and opening partner Joe Denly to 17 minutes at the end of day fending off pelters from Cummins and Josh Hazelwood.

Denly was dropped by Harris at fourth slip in the final over and survived a robust last ball lbw appeal to head into the third day with ten wickets in hand and a lead of 78, an advantage they would have happily taken at the start of play.

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Chelsea team news: Injury latest and expected 4-3-3 line-up against Wolves

While it was never going to be easy given the club’s transfer embargo and the loss of their standout performer in Eden Hazard, Frank Lampard’s first season at Chelsea has got off to an underwhelming start.

A 4-0 thrashing at Old Trafford on the opening day was followed by defeat to Liverpool in the Uefa Super Cup. Despite edging out Norwich for their first win of the season, Chelsea’s last game before the international break saw them surrender a 2-0 lead to draw with newly promoted Sheffield United.

Facing a trip to Molineux to face Wolves, there will be no respite for Lampard this weekend. Chelsea only took one point from two meetings with Nuno Espirito Santo’s side last season, succumbing to a 2-1 defeat in the Midlands.

Lampard will be without N’Golo Kante, who missed out on international duty with an ankle injury. Mateo Kovacic and Pedro have passed muster, however, while Antonio Rudiger could return to the matchday squad after a long lay-off with a knee injury.

Wolves come into the game on the back of some mixed results of their own, so Lampard has some cause for optimism. Here’s how he could set up his side.

Defence

Emerson in action against Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge
Emerson has been a key performer for Chelsea so far this season (Getty Images)

While there were fears that Emerson might be ruled out of the trip to Molineux after picking up a knock on international duty with Italy, it seems that it was not as serious as first thought. While Lampard could opt to bring in Marcos Alonso in his place, Emerson has started every game so far this season and, as long as he’s fit, he should retain his spot in the starting XI.

He may have scored an unfortunate own goal against Sheffield United, but Kurt Zouma has been another ever-present for Chelsea this term. He should start alongside one of Andreas Christensen and Fikayo Tomori with Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back.

Probable starters: Arrizabalaga; Emerson, Zouma, Christensen, Azpilicueta

Midfield

N'Golo Kante has been ruled out of the trip to Molineux
N’Golo Kante has been ruled out of the trip to Molineux (Getty Images)

Though Kovacic returned early from international duty owing to an Achilles injury, Lampard has confirmed that he is fit to play this weekend and, as another near-perpetual starter this season, he seems likely to continue in the midfield.

With Kante still sidelined and Ruben Loftus-Cheek a long-term absentee, Lampard has limited options in the middle of the park. Jorginho and Barkley have started alongside Kovacic in Chelsea’s last two matches and Lampard has been nothing if not consistent in his team selection.

Probable starters: Kovacic, Jorginho, Barkley

Attack

Tammy Abraham celebrates his second goal against Sheffield United
Tammy Abraham has scored four goals in his last two games (Getty Images)

Though it’s not his most familiar position, Mason Mount has done well on the left of a front three recently. Instructed by Lampard to cut inside where possible, he scored an excellent goal against Norwich, teed up by Christian Pulisic, after doing just that.

Read more: Chelsea are 11th with five points from four games, but this is their most exciting start to a season in years

Pulisic is still growing into his game at Chelsea, but seems likely to feature on the other flank. Tammy Abraham has scored four goals in his last two games and should start up front, while Pedro, Olivier Giroud and Willian should serve as experienced impact subs.

Probable starters: Mount, Abraham, Pulisic

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‘I had to start again’: Nick Pope on his path from public school boy to Premier League star

Nick Pope was not looking forward to the conversation. As a 16-year-old he had already been let go by Ipswich Town, ending an unhappy period in which he had stopped enjoying football. It was, in his view, the chance for a new start: time to take a different direction, forge a new path, one which would, following many twists and turns, eventually lead to him becoming a Premier League goalkeeper with Burnley and vying for England’s No 1 spot.

Up until that point, Pope attended King’s School in Ely, an independent private school in Cambridgeshire – again, a path not well-trodden by most professional footballers – but, after earning “average” GCSE grades (“I got Bs and Cs”) he decided to leave private education, too, and enrol at a college with links to non-league Bury Town.

King’s, where Pope’s mother Bridget worked for four decades as a teacher, is so posh the alumni are known as ‘Old Eleans’ and many of its pupils board, although Pope did not reside there. “I only live 10 minutes away so if I boarded I don’t think my parents would’ve liked me!” he jokes.

To turn away from that, in an education-focused family, was a huge decision. “I decided to leave that bubble,” he tells i. “I just went through a massive change and decided to leave all my friends and whatever else I built up over the years and just start again. I went to a college with a decent football setup built around Bury Town.”

‘A conversation I wasn’t looking forward to’

Pope made his breakthrough with Charlton Athletic (Getty Images)

Three years later, he was on the verge of going to Nottingham Trent to study a degree in sports science until the March before he was due to start Charlton Athletic offered a trial, then a contract.

His father, David, is an Ipswich season ticket holder of several decades, and Pope did not think he would take much convincing, but he was not so certain how his mother, a geography and PE teacher, would take it.

“To tell my family that I wasn’t going to go to university anymore and I’m going to try and do this wasn’t a conversation I was looking forward to. My old man is a massive football fan, he’d’ve been on my side I think. Mum being teacher, she’s big on education.

“It’s a decision that looks easy now but it wasn’t at the time. I was 19 and quite late into football and knew this would be my last chance to make it as a professional.”

‘I’ve banged my head on a few doors’

Pope stands at around 6’6 (Picture: Steve Morgan)

Were they happy with his decision? “I think they’re happier now it’s worked out! They took it really well and realised people in their mid 20s go to university and it’s not a massive thing – that was my main selling point. Even if I played at a good level then got into my 30s, I could still do some studying alongside my football. You picture how your future could be. You plan if things don’t work out.”

It is obvious things have worked out as we stroll towards a pitch at Burnley’s luscious, green Barnfield training ground within the estate of Gawthrope Hall, a National Trust property. It is raining, but — again, setting him apart from plenty of other Premier League players — Pope has no qualms about posing for photographs outside.

I ask Pope how tall he is. “Six-foot-six-inches-ish,” he replies. “The average door is six-foot-six-inches… I’ve banged my head on a few!” He is clearly good at absorbing information and remembering it, and in a footballing world in which off-field analysis and study plays almost as much a part as physical training with a ball or in the gym, Pope’s educational background and propensity to learning serves him well.

‘There’s so much to talk about’

Pope believes he still has areas of his game to work (Getty Images)

He studies his own position extensively, and discusses expansively the “evolution” of goalkeeping, and his own game, and improving in “percentages”. He is constantly working with analysts, or sitting in a room with the goalkeeper coaches poring over footage of goalkeeping.

“That’s where you can get the next one or two per cent,” he explains. “As a goalkeeper you look at different things to most outfield players in the game, and you can almost make goalkeeping a kind of individual sport within a team sport and really focus on what goalkeepers are doing. You can really take in all sorts of games, there’s so much to talk about, and so much to look at what a goalkeeper does.

“The homework is when you’re at home on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, with the telly on; rather than just watching the game, you’re looking at what the goalkeeper is doing, looking at the different styles that you can be as a goalkeeper.”

‘I want to evolve my own game’

Pope earned a recall to England’s latest squad after a good start to the season (Getty Images)

England manager Gareth Southgate recently highlighted Pope’s shot-stopping ability after recalling him to his squad for the qualifiers with Bulgaria and Kosovo, joking that amongst the demands of modern-day goalkeepers it is now an oft overlooked attribute.

Now, it is on trend to expect goalkeepers to receive and pass the ball under extreme pressing from opposition attackers. Since the approach was popularised by Manuel Neuer, for Bayern Munich and Germany, it has become the prerequisite of goalkeepers at leading clubs. Manchester City and Liverpool, last season’s Premier League winner and runner-up, are the leading examples, with goalkeepers Ederson and Alisson each considered experts.

But Pope is working on that side, too. He is still learning, still striving to improve. “A lot of managers like to do things with goalkeepers that back in the day they didn’t used to do, and more is asked of goalkeepers in different departments,” he says.

“If you’re going back some years, goalkeepers used to save the ball and not a lot else, whereas now there’s a lot more to it and a lot more has been thought about the goalkeeper position. It is great to evolve myself as a goalkeeper and evolve my own game.

“At the moment, goalkeeping’s just become more rounded. Goalkeepers get involved with outfield players more in training, rather than go off by themselves. A goalkeeper is seen as someone who starts attacks now, rather than just stops them.”

‘The World Cup was a massive buzz’

Pope was part of England’s squad at the 2018 World Cup (Getty Images)

Patience also tends to be an essential attribute of the goalkeeper, and one Pope knows well. He went to the Russia World Cup as a backup and after long-term injury had to wait patiently behind Tom Heaton at Burnley, until Heaton moved to Aston Villa in the summer.

Goalkeepers who do not possess that crucial facet can be a disruptive force. For Pope, it is has always been an opportunity to learn more.

Take the World Cup, for example. “For me it was a World Cup off [the back] of the first season I played in the Premier League, so it was a massive buzz to be part of it,” he says. “That opportunity is what you make of it. I thought of it as an opportunity to train with world class players every day for 40 days and take experiences from that, watching the top elite level games from that close.

“You look at how you prepare for games at that level as well and and different things that are done at international level and just take experiences from other players as well. If I wasn’t there I would’ve been on holiday. What would you rather be doing?”

Knowing how close a player can be to making it or not – that fine line between going to uni or giving it a go with a League One club – he is not one to sulk and strop.

“It isn’t going to benefit me to down tools or stop training at the highest level. Your attitude has got to be train at that level and try to get in the team and if you do get in the team then you’re ready to play. You’ve got to use your energy and time wisely.”

Wise words from Pope, although you would not expect anything else.

More from Sam Cunningham:

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Arsenal team news: Injury latest and expected 4-3-3 line-up against Watford

Having dumped Javi Gracia over the international break before rekindling their spicy love affair with the dashing Quique Sanchez Flores, Watford will be hoping for the fabled ‘new manager bounce’ (not intended as a euphemism) this weekend. 

They may have sleepwalked through the first four games of the new Premier League season, but Watford are still a strong, spiky side with a sprinkle of mercurial stardust across the midfield and attack in the form of Abdoulaye Doucoure, Will Hughes and Gerard Deulofeu. Summer signings Ismaila Sarr and Danny Welbeck are now fully integrated into the team, ostensibly leaving them in a stronger position than they were at the start of the campaign.

In his last season as Watford manager Flores masterminded a shock win against Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-finals, so Unai Emery should be wary of the majestic silver fox in the opposite dugout on Saturday. The two know each other well from their time in La Liga, with Emery winning only once in seven meetings (Flores won three and three ended in draws).

Despite several high-profile defeats during the late Wenger era, Arsenal haven’t lost to Watford since Troy Deeney famously questioned their “cojones” after a particularly grim loss at Vicarage Road two years ago. Last season’s trip to Hertfordshire was a hard slog, however, and Arsenal will have to be on their toes this time around.

Emery at least has relatively few injury worries going into the weekend. Here’s how he could set up at Vicarage Road.

Defence

David Luiz in action against Spurs at the Emirates
David Luiz has been erratic in his first few games for Arsenal, but should retain his starting spot (Getty Images)

Though Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin are close to returning to full fitness, neither is expected to feature this weekend. After the departures of Nacho Monreal, Carl Jenkinson and Stephan Lichtsteiner over the summer, that leaves Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles as the only real options at full-back.

Though his contribution to the back line thus far has been only moderately better than what Shkodran Mustafi has to offer, David Luiz will likely reprise his partnership with Sokratis in the centre of defence. Though Rob Holding could return to the squad this weekend, he will need a gentle reintroduction to the first team and being monstered by Watford’s musclebound enforcers in his first appearance for over nine months would not be ideal.

Probable starters: Leno; Kolasinac, Luiz, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles

Midfield

Granit Xhaka carries the ball forward in the midfield
Granit Xhaka seems to retain the confidence of his manager, if no-one else (Getty Images)

Though Emery started a hard-fighting midfield three of Matteo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira in the north London derby just before the international break, he should be looking to set the tempo against Watford as opposed to entering into a royal rumble with them. 

With Guendouzi registering an assist last time out and Emery bizarrely committed to Xhaka’s brand of bull-in-a-china-shop midfield malcoordination, Torreira could well make way for Dani Ceballos. Arsenal were much improved when Ceballos replaced Torreira in the second half against Tottenham and he has the requisite final ball to unpick Watford’s threadbare back line.

Probable starters: Xhaka, Guendouzi, Ceballos

Attack

Nicolas Pepe looks for a pass from one of his teammates
Nicolas Pepe is still waiting for his first goal for Arsenal (Getty Images)

Having finally started Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe together against Spurs, Emery will have been relatively pleased with the results. Lacazette and Aubameyang both scored with Pepe assisting the former, suggesting Arsenal’s all-star front three is more than just an impractical Football Manager fantasy come to life.

Read more: It was a shock’: Marcus McGuane on his sudden fall from Arsenal and Barcelona to the Dutch second division

Against a defence which features the workaday talents of Craig Cathcart and Craig Dawson (there are only so many Craigs a team can field before they start to feel the gravitational pull of the Championship), the Auba-Laca-Pepe axis could be extremely dangerous. Reiss Nelson, still looking to make his mark on the side, could feature from the bench.

Probable starters: Aubameyang, Lacazette, Pepe

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Premier League doping tests drop by 10% in first decrease since records began

Premier League players were subjected to almost 10 per cent fewer drug tests last season, i can reveal.

Figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request show that UK Anti-Doping (Ukad), who carry out testing on behalf of the Football Association, conducted 1,770 tests on top-flight players in the 2018-19 season, down from the 1,923 tests of the same period the year before.

The FA point out that they have strict anti-doping measures in place. Players can be tested anywhere at anytime and do not have to be given notice. And if a player is due to miss training, turn up late or leave early, they must notify the FA and provide an hour time-slot that day in which they can be tested at home.

Three missed tests within 12 months is punished with a minimum year-long suspension from football, while testing positive for a substance banned on the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List can result in a four-year suspension, even for a first offence.

First decrease

Although Ukad’s overall drug testing statistics for the 2018-19 makes clear that hundreds more drug tests are being carried out for the FA than other sport governing bodies – including UK Athletics, British Cycling, the Rugby Football Union and England Cricket Board – this is still the first season that testing numbers for the Premier League have dropped since the programme began.

Drug testing in the Premier League has steadily increased in the past six years. In 2013-14 only 497 tests were conducted, rising year-on-year to 679, 799, 1,171 and 1,923 before the decrease last season.

Ukad have refused to reveal how many drug tests take place per season at individual Premier League and Football League clubs, claiming that it would enable clubs, managers and players to know where they were least likely to be caught and not act as the appropriate deterrent it is intended to be.

‘Flexible and responsive’

The FA say they “seek to use all intelligence and research available to identify the areas of highest doping risk and tailors its testing programme accordingly”.

An FA spokesman told i: “The Football Association operates one of the most comprehensive national anti-doping programmes across world sport in partnership with UK Anti-Doping. The Football Association’s anti-doping programme is research- and intelligence-led, which means it can be flexible and responsive to any potential emerging doping risk. So, rather than focusing on the numbers of completed anti-doping tests, it is more important to concentrate on being adaptable and to review anti-doping processes at the end of every season to meet the demands of the growing game.”

The governing body are unable to say whether drug testing will increase this season.

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Tom Davies’s Everton plight shows the fragility of Premier League player pathway

This week, Tom Davies captained England’s Under-21 team during their 3-2 victory over Turkey and was their best player during the 2-0 victory over Kosovo at Hull City’s KCOM stadium. In between the two games, Davies spoke of his happiness at getting positive feedback from Everton about his performance.

“Everton stay in touch. I got a text after the Turkey game from one of the staff so it’s all good,” said Davies.

The Liverpool Echo headlined his quotes: “The lengths Marco Silva went to monitor Everton starlet Tom Davies as midfielder thrives in new England role.”

It says something about the dampened expectations of both player and media that they professed to be so impressed by a text message sent by a member of Everton’s support staff to indicate that they had watched a first-team player in a match streamed for free on social media.

“The lengths Marco Silva went” did not appear to include contacting his player directly.

Crumbs of comfort

But then that is Davies’s lot, reduced to crumbs of comfort and the vague hope of good news. On 9 February, Davies, then 20 years old, captained Everton for the second time in four days in the Premier League. Since then, he has played 21 minutes in all competitions. It is a remarkable loss of status for such a popular and talented midfielder.

If being left out of the team in the Premier League is one thing, Davies’s omission from the Everton squad that travelled to Lincoln City in August is another entirely. Silva described it as a “tactical decision” and noted that both Bernard and Seamus Coleman were also omitted. But Coleman and Bernard both played against Wolves the following weekend; Davies, again, was not in the squad.

Against Aston Villa, Everton had a central midfield crisis. Idrissa Gueye had been sold, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Fabian Delph were injured, Morgan Schneiderlin had been sent off on the opening day and Andre Gomes was dismal. With Everton desperate for some intensity and drive in the centre of the pitch, Davies remained on the bench throughout.

Steady decline

This has been coming. Davies played 33 league matches under Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce in 2017-18, but only 16 last season.

He spoke on the eve of the season about Silva wanting him to press, get forward and be a box-to-box midfielder, but Everton’s 4-2-3-1 doesn’t really accommodate that role. A front four of Moise Kean, Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Bernard requires two holding midfielders or deep-lying passers rather than a box-to-box player. Davies is not attacking enough for one role; not defensive enough for the other.

But then this is the lot of the academy graduate, immediately disposable when fancier or shinier options come along and afforded so little patience when suffering an inevitable dip in performance that it can curb their career. It is easy to blame managers and their clubs for the lack of continued faith placed in young players, but supporters share the blame.

When Davies’s form dropped away slightly – at the age of 19 – a section of Everton fans criticised him and concluded that he was below the level required. He became one of the emblems of the club’s stagnation. Impatience is rampant, hardwired into the modern supporters who clamour for more signings and flounce when their team goes three games without a win. During a crisis we inevitably err on the side of experience. In the Premier League, you are never more than three matches away from a crisis.

Would a loan move have helped?

As a teenager, Davies had the world at his feet as often as the ball. He was Everton’s most exciting academy graduate since Wayne Rooney, predicted to eclipse even Ross Barkley. Two years on, his biggest regret this season should be failing to secure a loan move to the Championship during which he could have at least gained the regular starts that are so crucial to his development.

No longer can a young player afford to stumble, or even plateau. Clubs have too many alternative options to justify extended faith. It becomes an impossible catch-22: The more performances slip, the more a youngster needs patience and second chances. But the more performances slip, the more likely they are to lose their status within prodigious squads.

That is true anywhere, but it is particularly salient here.

It would be hard to design a better model of young English player to make the grade in English football.  Davies was born in Liverpool, was a boyhood Evertonian and the club retain strong links with the local community.

He is a socks-rolled-down, demand-the-ball, drop-the-shoulder central midfielder, one whose turning cogs are visible from Goodison’s old stands.

Davies is slowly being eaten up by the uniquely testing demands of the Premier League.

Boy wonder and man of the moment has become persona non grata.

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Mauricio Pochettino tells a different story of Kieran Trippier’s Tottenham exit

Mauricio Pochettino says Kieran Trippier was mistaken to assume he had no future at Tottenham this season.

The England right-back, 28, is embarking on a new chapter in his career at Atletico Madrid following a £20million switch during the summer.

Trippier struggled in his final season in London to replicate the form that made him a stand-out for his country during the 2018 World Cup finals. So much so that he sought clarification on his future from his manager and chairman Daniel Levy after months of fretting.

“I had a conversation with the manager, a meeting with the chairman to see what my future was and I didn’t get the impression that they wanted to keep me,” Trippier said during the international break. “It is football, it happens.​”

Poch hits back

That was not how Pochettino remembered his conversations with a player he had chosen to start in the Champions League final last season however.

“He asked me for a meeting and said ‘Gaffer, I think I have a good possibility and for different reasons I would like to accept the offer from Atletico Madrid’,” Pochettino said.

“He didn’t ask me anything. He only communicated whether the club were going to accept the offer. Nothing more. It wasn’t a conversation – ‘you want me? Or you don’t want me?’

“He played the final of the Champions League, when I had plenty of different options. My actions talk more than my mouth.

“There’s no point to talk. But I keep very good memories of him. We signed him from Burnley when they were relegated, for £4m. He was worried about whether he would play or not – I said to him ‘don’t worry we are going to provide the best platform for performance’ and one-and-a-half years later he was in the starting XI, reached the national team, played in the World Cup and now he’s with Atletico Madrid.

“We all feel proud to have helped him to achieve his dream and to reach a level that he wasn’t at before he arrived at Tottenham.”

Aurier’s absence

Trippier’s departure left Kyle Walker-Peters and Serge Aurier as Tottenham’s senior right-backs. Walker-Peters has established himself as the first-choice, with Davinson Sanchez switched from central defence for the north London derby earlier in the month when the youngster was absent injured.

Aurier, on the other hand, hasn’t been picked by Pochettino since March but has now claimed he was denied a summer move of his own.

Asked whether he feared remaining on the bench because of such competition he replied: “What competition? There isn’t any. I’d simply decided to leave, which was normal for me. In the end, I wasn’t able to leave. It proves the club trust me on a lot of points, and we’ll see.”

Tottenham host Crystal Palace tomorrow with Walker-Peters back in contention following a hamstring injury.

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The Ashes 2019: Jos Buttler’s late fireworks spare England’s blushes but Australia in control again

THE OVAL — Australia tried their best to make a series of it, wasting the toss by bowling and dropping Joe Root three times. Jos Buttler looked relieved when the circumstances had deteriorated sufficiently to provoke a late thrash. Successive sixes off Josh Hazelwood is a badge of honour of sorts, and Jack Leach is never dull viewing. But this was four days too early for comedy defiance and Buttler going full one-day mode.

Of course Australia could come out on day two and make a pig’s ear of it. Buttler might convert his second Test century. Steve Smith might forget where he is and slump to a 50. Then again events might unfold in accordance with what has come before leaving England again in the midden looking at another pasting.

The mistakes piled up by England’s batsmen during the first four Tests continued at The Oval, skipper Joe Root as culpable as any in attitude if not in the manner of his exit. In defence of his realm and his captaincy Root demanded that England learn quickly, that they absorb the lessons of a largely dispiriting summer in which they have been comfortably second best. His target is to be up and at ’em by the time the Ashes resume in Australia next winter. How about something a little more prosaic? How about winning the next match?

It is unlikely to be this one despite England making the best start to a contest this series. Australian captain Tim Paine, falling for the false promise of easy plunder under a grey lid, ignored cricket’s win-toss-bat-first convention to insert the opposition. Only three captains have won a Test match at this ground by inverting best practice. The move was described as a monster risk by ex England captain Michael Vaughan. Had he forgotten already the pattern of the series?

Familiar England woe unfolds

Australia’s Mitch Marsh celebrates getting Sam Curran out, the third of his four wickets
Australia’s Mitch Marsh celebrates getting Sam Curran out, the third of his four wickets (Photo: AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

The first wicket fell at 27, Joe Denly edging Hazelwood to first slip. Denly could have gone earlier, nevertheless the partnership was the highest by any opening pair in this series, 15 better than the average of 11.9. England progressed to 103-1 before Burns and Stokes self-destructed with top-edged pull shots when well set and the sun warming their backs.

Read More:

The new Cook? England have many problems but at least Rory Burns has solved one of them

One way or another fate had identified Root as the man to gather the England effort together, to guide the team to a total worthy of a cracking wicket in friendly conditions. He passed Sir Len Hutton in the English pantheon and 7,000 Test runs to sit 12th in the all-time list and though he posted a 50 for the 45th time in his career, the real story for a batsmen considered to be among the world’s top four is number in the centuries column. With only 16 from 158 knocks, and none this series, it is beginning to look less like a top four than a top three and a half.

World no.1 Steve Smith has as many tons as fifties, 26, in 122 innings. India’s Virat Kohli has 25 centuries and 22 fifties from 135 innings, and in 130 walks to the crease New Zealand’s Kane Williams has returned 20 tons and 30 fifties. Root, with an average of 48.09, is the only one of the four to average fewer than 50.

Ashes unfolds

In one rum passage either side of lunch Root hung his chin out like a pub heavyweight with a death wish, inviting the finest new ball attack in world cricket to knock him cold. They went close, Pat Cummins seeing routine catches dropped in consecutive overs, as well as passing both edges of the bat, and Steve Smith decking a sharp chance off Peter Siddle in the first over after lunch.

If Cummins wasn’t whispering “karma” to himself when Siddle decked a dolly at fine leg when Root was on 24, he was when he bent back Root’s timbers shortly after tea with a snorter that came back sharply. Root had harvested 57. Better than it might have been but nowhere near what England required. Sometimes a bowler can be just too good. In Cummins’s case more often than not. Root was his 26th wicket in the series, the only bowler to pass 20 until Josh Hazelwood clipped Jofra Archer’s wings for the eighth wicket.

With the score on 226 there seemed little point in hanging about. That was Buttler’s reasoning anyway. Down went the pedal, the crowd went nuts and England added 45 at a run a minute to close on 271-8. Australia will resume with a new cherry, a night’s sleep behind them and England pretty much where they want them despite Buttler’s muscular flourish.

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Tottenham team news: The expected 4-2-3-1 line-up against Crystal Palace

It’s been an inconsistent start to the season for Tottenham, not helped by an unfortunate succession of injuries to some of Mauricio Pochettino’s star performers.

Giovani Lo Celso is the latest player to suffer a setback after picking up a hip problem on international duty with Argentina, an injury which looks likely to keep him out until early November. He joins Juan Foyth on the sidelines, while Davinson Sanchez, Tanguy Ndombele, Ryan Sessegnon, Kyle Walker-Peters and Eric Dier are all being assessed ahead of Crystal Palace’s visit to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday.

“Always it’s a sad situation, [I’m] very disappointed,” Pochettino said about Lo Celso’s injury in his press conference on Thursday. “For Giovani, the first months here was to adapt to a new club and new football… we are so disappointed because now we need to wait for him.”

Palace have made a flying start to the season and went into the international break on the back of wins against Manchester United and Aston Villa. They are currently fourth in the incipient Premier League table, five places and two points ahead of Spurs whose last two games resulted in a shock 1-0 defeat to Newcastle and a 2-2 draw in the north London derby in which they blew a two-goal lead.

With Palace in the better form, Pochettino will have to hope he doesn’t have to wait any longer for Ndombele and co to return to full fitness. Here’s how he could set up on Saturday, presuming there are no further injury mishaps.

Defence

Kyle Walker-Peters nurses the injury he sustained against Newcastle last month
It is hoped that Kyle Walker-Peters will return at right-back this weekend (Getty Images)

Read more: Kieran Trippier feels a man reborn in the warm embrace of Diego Simeone

While neither Sanchez and Walker-Peters are guaranteed to be fit in time to face Palace, the latter seems likeliest to find himself in the starting line-up. Sanchez complained about irritation in his ankle following the international break and it would make sense to rest him even if he passes muster, while Walker-Peters has returned to training and should be ready to play.

With Foyth out of action, Pochettino has limited options in defence. Jan Vertonghen, curiously omitted for the first few games of the season, should retain his place alongside Toby Alderweireld after his return in the north London derby, while Danny Rose has started every game so far at left-back. Ryan Sessegnon could make his Spurs debut either at left-back or further forward, though he’s likely to come off the bench. 

Probable starters: Lloris; Rose, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Walker-Peters

Midfield

Tanguy Ndombele signals to a teammate during Spurs' season opener against Aston Villa
Tanguy Ndombele was left out of the France squad for their latest round of Euro 2020 qualifiers (Getty Images)

Read more: Jan Vertonghen warns that Premier League clubs at disadvantage to European rivals

Ndombele has also returned to training this week after recovering from the thigh injury which saw him miss the Newcastle and Arsenal games as well as the international break. Pairing Moussa Sissoko alongside Harry Winks in the deeper midfield positions has yielded modest returns, so Pochettino may well opt to give his £55m summer signing an immediate recall. 

Winks has been ever present for Tottenham so far this season, so Sissoko seems likely to drop to the bench. The other option is for Pochettino to play all of them in a midfield three like he did against Aston Villa in their Premier League opener, though that was hardly a resounding success.

Probable starters: Winks, Ndombele

Attack

Harry Kane applauds the travelling fans at the Emirates after the north London derby
Harry Kane has been on fire for England over the last couple of weeks (Getty Images)

Read more: Fantasy Premier League tips: 5 players to sign in Gameweek 4

After making his first appearance of the season against Arsenal having recovered from a recurring hamstring injury, Dele Alli should be in contention to start against Palace. Spurs have plenty of options in attack, with Pochettino able to fill the other attacking slots with any combination of Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela.

Up front, there is no such selection dilemma. Harry Kane scored four goals on international duty and Pochettino will be looking for him to carry that white-hot form into the weekend.

Probable starters: Son, Alli, Lucas; Kane

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Manchester United team news: The expected 4-2-3-1 line-up to face Leicester

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has often bemoaned the international break, but this time it arrived at the optimal time for Manchester United’s under-pressure coach. After opening the season with a commanding 4-0 win over Chelsea, things became inconsistent quite quickly and United looked like they could do with time to regroup and reorganise.

Draws against Wolves and Southampton, as well as a 2-1 home defeat against Crystal Palace, have left the Red Devils in a difficult position in terms of form and confidence. Injuries had already begun to mount up for Solskjaer and it was hoped that the international break would give the players the time to recover, though that has not worked out with Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial among his most high-profile absentees.

Leicester are much-fancied this campaign as the frontrunners to disrupt the top six, a reputation that Brendan Rodgers‘ side will be hoping to add to this weekend. Jamie Vardy has been in sharp form in the early weeks of the season, helping the Foxes to third in the table after taking eight points from a possible twelve. As tests go for United, this will be a big one.

Defence

Luke Shaw will miss another game owing to a nagging thigh problem (Getty Images)

Eric Bailly is still sidelined for the long term after picking up a serious knee injury last season. The Ivorian central defender is expected to be available around Christmas. Diogo Dalot was absent for the first few weeks of the season due to injury and it looks like he will remain sidelined, while Luke Shaw has been struggling with a thigh problem and has been definitively ruled out once again.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka has a minor back problem which he should hopefully be able to shake off to start. Ashley Young is expected to continue at left back for the home side this weekend, while Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof will continue to try and forge a solid partnership at centre back.

Probable starters: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Young

Midfield

Paul Pogba limped off with an ankle problem against Southampton (Getty Images)

Paul Pogba missed out on international duty with France after twisting his ankle, leading to Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi taking his place in the squad. Man United’s star midfielder has now been ruled out against Leicester as well, which has come as an unpleasant surprise. Scott McTominay will now most likely be partnered with Nemanja Matic.

Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira were given starts against Southampton and could be in contention for further minutes owing to Jesse Lingard‘s recent illness. The England international is expected to be prepared for the weekend and could slot in behind the striker in Mata’s role.

Probable starters: McTominay, Matic, Lingard

Attack

Anthony Martial has also been ruled out, compounding United’s injury crisis  (Getty Images)

Anthony Martial was meant to be fit after sitting out for a while with a thigh problem, but he too has been ruled out of contention. Marcus Rashford got some minutes for England while on international duty and should have got some of the misfiring streak out of his system after a stint away from Manchester.

Daniel James received the club’s Player of the Month award after a blistering start to the campaign and continued his good form by scoring for Wales in a recent friendly against Belarus. The former Swansea youngster has taken to the English top flight well and will be on the hunt for another goal to add to his burgeoning collection.

Probable starters: James, Martial, Rashford

Expecting Man United line-up against Leicester (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw; McTominay, Matic; James, Lingard, Rashford, Martial

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The new Cook? England have many problems but at least Rory Burns has solved one of them

THE OVAL — Rory Burns won’t always win points for artistic merit but England can now be confident they have a Test opener who can hold his own against the very best.

For that’s exactly what Burns has done during this Ashes series, his doughty 47 on day one of this fifth Test at his home ground of The Oval further evidence he can be a long-term success where so many others have failed.

The manner of the 29-year-old’s dismissal on Thursday – caught top-edging a mistimed pull shot – was ugly. But what went before it, especially during a 76-run second-wicket stand with captain Joe Root, showed the substance of a player who is seemingly getting better at this level with every innings.

Burns may not have added to the three fifty-plus scores he has already made in this series – including that maiden century in the first Test at Edgbaston.

Yet his average so far against one of the best attacks in the world is 41.11. That would be an impressive figure in any series but even more so in this one, where opening batsmen have struggled so acutely.

The new Cook?

In terms of England’s other openers in this series, Jason Roy averaged 13, Joe Denly 28.50. The three men Australia have used at the top of the order have fared even worse, so much so that when you add together the series averages of David Warner (9.87), Cameron Bancroft (11) and Marcus Harris (11.50) it is still way less than Burns’ average.

Historically, too, Burns is having an exceptional series. If he scores seven runs or more in his second innings here he will have scored the most runs by an England opener in an Ashes series since Alastair Cook’s freakish return of 766 on the 2010-11 tour of Australia.

Indeed, Cook, England’s all-time leading runscorer, only had two better Ashes series than Burns is currently enjoying – that triumphant trip Down Under nine years ago and the last one in the winter of 2017-18, when he scored 376 overall.

Like Cook, Burns is a flinty, left-hander who grinds down the opposition. Like Cook, he is also picking up the habit of finding a way to score runs by whatever means necessary.

Quick turnaround

Read more: Ashes 2021-22: How new-look England could line up down under

Burns is just 12 Tests into his England career but he has grown during this Ashes summer. Coming into the series on the back of two single-figure score against Ireland, he was devoid of form and confidence and close to being dropped.

But the 133 he made in England’s first innings at Edgbaston has launched his career. That knock was ugly – Burns playing and missing more than 30 times. But he showed character and a mental toughness to fight through – another similarity with Cook. He has improved since, the awkward technique still there but the false shots fewer and the sweet ones – such as the cover drive off Peter Siddle shortly after lunch yesterday that saw him move onto 46 – more numerous now.

Indeed, in an Ashes series that has ultimately ended in failure for England, Burns has been a genuine bright spot.

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Newcastle haven’t won at Anfield in 25 years – but this rivalry still deserves a place on our TV screens

The September international break is the cruellest of them all, snatching Premier League football away from us just as we’ve settled back into the comfortable routine of falling asleep in front of Match of the Day after a night in the pub and afternoons given over to Super Sunday.

But it’s back with a bang on Saturday. Liverpool vs Newcastle at Anfield. The return of a classic Premier League rivalry. A fixture made for television. Or is it?

Newcastle have not beaten Liverpool at Anfield since 1994. Twenty-five years. A quarter of a century. Hardly the makings of a classic. They couldn’t best them during the golden years of the mid-’90s, or the return to form over the early ’00s. Even Rafael Benitez, with all his history on Merseyside, couldn’t prevent Newcastle from being thumped 4-0 in front of the Kop last season.

Gulf in class

Newcastle’s record against Liverpool in the Premier League era as a whole is pretty dire. They have won just 10 of 46 meetings, a win percentage of 21.7. The Magpies have only come out on top three times this decade, and the gulf in quality between the two sides today is arguably bigger than ever. There were 52 points between them in the league last season. Newcastle could have doubled their total and still not caught up.

Origi
Divock Origi scored the winner for Liverpool against Newcastle last season (Photo: Getty)

Steve Bruce’s team have struggled for goals so far this campaign. Their three in the opening four games mark the worst return in the Premier League. Liverpool have bagged four times as many with 12 – second only to Manchester City. Based on both on past results and current form, this appears to be a colossal mismatch.

So why is it seemingly always on TV? Every season Sky and BT fall over themselves to air a game they know is unlikely to be competitive.

1996 humdinger

It all stems back to 1996, when both sides were trying – and ultimately failing – to chase down Manchester United in the title race. It was 3 April, and Newcastle travelled to Anfield having surrendered a 10-point lead at the top of the table, and knowing another defeat may leave them out of reach. Liverpool, conversely, were on a hot streak, and had a chance of stealing the title.

What came next has come to be one of the most famous games in Premier League history. It started frantically, with Robbie Fowler opening the scoring for Liverpool inside two minutes, before Les Ferdinand and David Ginola hit back, putting the Toon 2-1 up at the quarter-hour mark.

Liverpool celebrations
The Liverpool bench celebrates Collymore’s late winner in 1996 (Photo: Getty)

Fowler struck again to level the scores 10 minutes after half-time, but Faustino Asprilla restored Newcastle’s lead almost immediately with the outside of his boot. Still, the story of the game had yet to be written.

Stan Collymore got Liverpool back on terms in the 68th, and after a series of missed chances by both sides popped up again two minutes into injury time to send the Liverpool fans wild. Instant history, even if United did go on to lift the trophy anyway.

More than results

To many football fans, Liverpool vs Newcastle will always bring back memories of this famous game, but even without it this fixture feels worthy of our televisions and worth of our time, because sometimes football is about more than just what happens on the pitch.

You’d be hard pressed to find two more passionate fanbases in English football, or two cities where the game means quite so much. That’s why Liverpool vs Newcastle still feels big today, 23 years since that game and 25 after the Magpies last managed a win.

Anyway, we’ve not had any Premier League football for the last two weeks – don’t act like you won’t be watching.

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‘I wake up most nights thinking about it’: England’s Dylan Hartley struggling to deal with missing Rugby World Cup

Dylan Hartley is sitting in a central London office with the backdrop of a prorogued Parliament and a gloomy, slate-grey sky, giving vent to his experience as an injured England captain whose rugby dream has died. “For four years we have talked about winning the World Cup,” Hartley says. “And I have led that group, been a part of that journey. So to fall at the final hurdle… I wake up most nights thinking about it. It doesn’t sit well, but I have come to terms with it.”

From the start of Eddie Jones’s tenure as England head coach in January 2016 to the middle of 2018, Hartley was the hard-bitten Aussie’s right-hand man. Together they won two Six Nations titles in two seasons, the first of them with a Grand Slam. It was a spectacular salvation for Hartley, a brilliant but often controversial figure who played for England in the blow-out 2011 World Cup in his native New Zealand, and missed the even more disappointing 2015 edition when he was dropped by Jones’s predecessor Stuart Lancaster in the aftermath of a suspension for a head-butt.

The 2019 tournament could have been Hartley’s time. He might not have travelled as captain, as he had begun to share the role with Owen Farrell last year, but he had the nous and emotional intelligence accumulated in 97 Test caps to challenge Jamie George as England’s starting hooker. Instead Hartley has a knee injury and he hasn’t played since December. Aged 32, he wants to play at least another season for his club Northampton and for England if they want him, but as he speaks in the media for the first time this year, it is a tale of misery and missed deadlines.

“I looked at my whole rugby career and how I wanted it to pan out, and this would have been the ultimate send-off, the dream finish,” Hartley says. “The reality is you pick up an injury. I tried getting back for the World Cup camps around the start of July and basically put myself in a bit of a hole, physically and mentally. I tried a very aggressive approach, and it did not work. When the World Cup squad was announced [on 4 July], it was almost like I’d died, with friends getting in touch and seeing if I was OK.”

'I looked at my whole rugby career and how I wanted it to pan out, and this would have been the ultimate send-off, the dream finish', says Dylan Hartley
‘I looked at my whole rugby career and how I wanted it to pan out, and this would have been the ultimate send-off, the dream finish’, says Dylan Hartley (Photo: David Rogers/Getty)

‘It doesn’t sit well with me’

A meeting with Jones at Wimbledon tennis in July prompted another push to get fit, with a visit to the renowned knee specialist Bill Knowles in Philadelphia. An unglamorous two weeks in an Airbnb, “spending the family’s holiday money”, is how Hartley describes consulting the man who has worked with Tiger Woods, Andy Murray, Frank Lampard and John Terry. “It has given me a nice little springboard to slowly go on the up,” he says.

But it is too late for Japan, and while Hartley is reticent over exactly what is wrong with his left knee, which he flexes gingerly when he rises from his chair, he does declare his dislike of artificial pitches, believing that his last appearance at Worcester on 21 December was harmful. “I don’t think you need them,” Hartley says. “You’ve got pitch covers, indoor stadiums, employ more groundsmen.”

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Hartley quotes words of wisdom from his retired England team-mate James Haskell – “Not everyone can have the fairytale ending: Richie McCaw holding up the World Cup in his last ever game [in 2015]” – and he cites Ireland’s Devin Toner, New Zealand’s Owen Franks and various England players missing this World Cup on selection. But none of them are precisely in Hartley’s position. Three caps short of a century. One World Cup short of the most satisfying redemption.

“I genuinely think England have got a good chance to go and do it [win the World Cup],” he says. “The worst thing for me is to think if my leg wasn’t f**ked at the moment I could be there with them, winning the World Cup. I hope they go and win. I’ll get on [social media] and be a glory supporter – ‘remember me, guys?’ I congratulate the boys when they come home. I’ll be hanging off the side of the open-top bus, in my 97th [cap jersey] – what was that game? Australia [in November 2018].

“And even that shirt will be old by then, won’t it?”

 Dove Men+Care is an official partner to England Rugby. Follow @DovemenUK Twitter or @Dovemencare Instagram.

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David Warner can get the monkey off his back after Stuart Broad battle with a big score at The Oval

As we now reflect on what has been a series dominated in the most part by superb individual performances, now might be a good time to look at a battle than has rumbled on for all four Tests without really ever deciding one of those games. The battle between David Warner and England’s senior fast bowler Stuart Broad.

When there’s a bowler that appears to have your measure in a series, it’s a difficult place to be as a top-order batter. I had it with both Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel at different stages in my career with Australia and it can feel like a thankless task when things get as tough as they have for David Warner in this series.

When I was batting at my best, I walked out to the crease relaxed and calm. It felt almost like an extension of normal life. I just watched the ball and stayed focus and the runs would come.

When someone gives you a repeated problem to which you seemingly have no answer, that’s where you’re forced to work that bit harder to work out a way to get runs.

‘Stay true to himself’

David Warner looks to get his eye in in the nets at The Oval
David Warner looks to get his eye in in the nets at The Oval (Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty)

It forces you to question your technique and even your suitability to play at that level. I’m not sure if it’s harder to go through that early in your career or when you’ve got something behind you as David has, but it’s never welcome.

In that situation, batsmen start trying anything and everything to break the shackles and get free of feeling so venerable at the crease. We’ve seen David try to be aggressive at times in this series but we’ve also seen him try and soak up that pressure from Broad, all to no avail.

Thought processes get skewed and twisted out of shape and when you add in the additional media scrutiny on you in a series like this, it can be hard to get away from that hopeless feeling.

I don’t see any mileage in Australia looking to replace David at this stage and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he goes out and succeeds at The Oval now the Ashes have been retained. He has been and I’m sure will continue to be a key player in Test Matches for Australia for some time now.

Pressure and anxiety

When there’s a bowler like Stuart Broad that appears to have your measure in a series, it’s a difficult place to be as a top-order batter
When there’s a bowler like Stuart Broad that appears to have your measure in a series, it’s a difficult place to be as a top-order batter (Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty)

Despite that, no one is immune to that pressure and the anxiety that comes with a run of form like this. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of wondering ‘how am I going to get out?’ instead of ‘how am I going to make my runs?’

The one thing I think David has to do is stay true to his method. He’s developed a great technique since first coming into the side which enables him to both attack and defend extremely effectively. He hasn’t just lost that overnight, but he needs to survive the first couple of overs just to have a chance to get that one shot away that might get him going again.

I think back to my early career with Western Australia where I endured the biggest rut of my professional career. After a couple of years in the side, I spent time analysing the players in the Australian Test team at the time and decided that if I was going to make it as a Test Cricketer, I had to be more aggressive.

I changed by entire game plan in order to try and mould myself into this aggressive imitation of what I thought the selectors wanted, to the detriment of my game and my results personally. The internal doubt caused by that battle of identities saw me dropped from my state team and sparked one of the more difficult times of my life.

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Questioning myself and my future, I decided I need to go back to what felt comfortable and natural to me. David must do the same at The Oval. The pressure players put on themselves often outweighs the pressure coming outside your own little bubble.

Again, I’ve been reminded of the 2009 Ashes where there were a lot of people who thought I should be dropped. You never like to hear that as a player, but at the same time it’s part of playing the game at that level.

I walked out in my next innings and thought to myself “You know what? Stuff it. If this is my last Test Match for Australia I’m just going to enjoy myself and soak this up”.

That in itself was a huge mental release – not heaping that extra weight of expectation on myself and just being present. Much harder than it sounds, as we’re seeing with David.

Time to rescue score

If I was him, I’d look back to the success he’s had since returning to the game after his year hiatus. He lit up the IPL and had a very strong World Cup over here in white ball cricket. In cricketing terms, that’s not that long ago.

As much as the colour of the ball and the conditions are different, he has to trust in the ability and inner strength which has carried him this far. Stuart Broad and the England quicks have bowled brilliantly to him, but he still has one more chance.

I’m sure David’s teammates are right behind him. Losing the respect of your peers is often the scariest part of being in the sort of trough David is in, and you can only really get that monkey off your back with a big score. Not many better places to do that than at The Oval!

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England’s ruthlessness with Jason Roy provides a warning shot to other players

England have wielded the axe following the defeat at Old Trafford that saw the dream of regaining the Ashes go up in smoke, with Jason Roy the sacrificial lamb following his horrendous series with the bat.

Roy’s fate was sealed by the shoulder injury to Ben Stokes that sees him selected for this final Test against Australia at The Oval as a specialist batsman. Stokes was put through his paces in the nets, bowling several deliveries but ultimately England decided the all-rounder was not fit enough to justify his place in the team as the fourth seamer.

It means a batsman had to make way for Sam Curran. The decision to ditch Roy was a no-brainer considering he was averaging 13.75 in the series. Starting out as an opener following a fine World Cup in the same position, Roy was moved down to No4 for the fourth Test in Manchester after consistently failing to deal with the new ball.

Despite a top-score of 31 in that match, it was not enough to save the Surrey batsman from being dropped at his home ground. “Jason has had an opportunity to come in and play Test cricket and it has not gone quite how he would have liked,” said captain Joe Root. “But I’m sure he will go away and work extremely hard and come again. That is what you expect of guys when they get left out. I’m sure he will have that attitude and want to try and prove a point and get himself back into the side.”

Josh Hazlewood celebrates taking Jason Roy for nine
Josh Hazlewood celebrates taking Jason Roy for nine (Photo: Stu Forster/Getty)

Long road back

Despite Root’s encouraging words, Roy faces a long road back and it appears likely his white-ball commitments mean he will never play enough red-ball cricket for Surrey to ever make a compelling case for a Test recall. Yet the ruthlessness England have shown in ditching Roy before the end of the series should provide a warning shot to several other players.

Craig Overton was also dropped for this final Test after being picked in favour of Chris Woakes for Manchester. That particular selection error has been corrected for this Test.

The decision to discard Roy also means everyone in the middle order moves up one position – so Stokes will bat at four, Jonny Bairstow five and Jos Buttler six.

While Stokes’ place is obviously safe, life appears less certain for both Bairstow and Buttler.

Joe Root believes individual performances let England down in this Ashes series (Photo: Reuters)

Warning shot for England

Indeed, other than opener Rory Burns, Root, Stokes, Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad, nobody’s place in this England Test team should be safe.

Buttler especially can count himself fortunate to remain given he has also performed poorly with the bat in this Ashes series, failing to score more than 41 and averaging just 16.25.

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He will likely be rested for the two Tests in New Zealand in November after a busy summer that also saw him play a key role in England’s World Cup win.

But the four-match series in South Africa starting on Boxing Day could prove the tipping point in Buttler’s England career – especially as there is a ready-made replacement at No6 in Ollie Pope.

Bairstow’s future

Bairstow, too, has underperformed in this series and the balance of this team for The Oval – with everyone shunted up a place – means the path will be clear once Stokes is fully fit and able to bowl again for Ben Foakes to come in at No7 and take the wicket-keeping gloves from Bairstow as he did so impressively when he was named man of the series in Sri Lanka last winter.

Bairstow needs runs at No5 in this Test and if he succeeds, it may well convince the selectors his Test future lies as a specialist batsman.

For Root and England, there is still a chance they can draw this series 2-2 with victory over the next five days. There hasn’t been a drawn Ashes since 1972 but there should be enough motivation within the England camp to try and buck that trend.

“You are playing for your country, that’s the fundamentals of it,” said Root. “However you motivate yourself whether it’s getting yourself on a winter tour or trying to get yourself a hundred or five-fer, I think it’s really important to harness that this week and take it forward.”

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Liverpool team news: The expected 4-3-3 line-up to face Newcastle

The Premier League is back after an unwelcome hiatus (why do they always schedule an international break just a few weeks into the season?), and Liverpool will get us back underway, looking to extend their lead at the top of the table to five points, at least for a few hours.

Jurgen Klopp’s side will welcome Steve Bruce’s Newcastle to Anfield, with the Magpies in desperate need of goals. They’ve scored a league-low three in their opening four games.

Liverpool, by contrast, have 12, and are the only team who still boast a 100 per cent record. Their recent form against Newcastle at home – the Toon haven’t won at Anfield in 25 years – suggests that may not change.

Here’s how Liverpool could line up on Saturday afternoon:

Defence

Virgil van Dijk is Liverpool’s centre-back maestro (Photo: Getty)

Liverpool have still not put a time frame on Alisson’s recovery from the calf injury he picked up on the opening day of the season, meaning Adrian will continue to deputise in goal.

Read more: Premier League injuries: Martial, Wan-Bissaka and Laporte – all the players at risk for Fantasy football Gameweek 5

Reds goalkeeping coach John Achterberg said of Adrian: “He has done really well. Obviously he needed to adapt to the way we play, with wanting him to play out, but he’s done good and picked everything up. We couldn’t be any happier with how it’s gone.”

The good news is that the back four in front of Adrian is fairly settled. Virgil van Dijk is the first name on the team sheet, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson will continue on the flanks, and Joel Matip is likely to be preferred to Joe Gomez as Van Dijk’s centre-back partner, despite Gomez not featuring while on England duty over the last week.

Possible starters: Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson

Midfield

Gini Wijnaldum should get the nod in midfield (Photo: Getty)

Naby Keita is not far from being fit to play after a groin strain, but the game against Newcastle has likely come a little bit too soon.

Jordan Henderson should start after playing well for England, with Fabinho alongside him. The Brazilian midfielder only played a few minutes in his team’s defeat to Peru on Tuesday night.

Gini Wijnaldum, who has been in good form so far this season, will provide the goal threat from the midfield three. James Milner provides depth if Klopp wants to shore things up late on.

Possible starters: Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum

Attack

Salah
Mohamed Salah scores a penalty against Arsenal (Photo: Getty)

Liverpool have no reason to mess with a front three that is the lifeblood of their team, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino all expected to start.

Xherdan Shaqiri will be an option from the bench, as will Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, both of whom could also be deployed in midfield if Klopp requires some attacking impetus. Divock Origi will be the true striking option as a substitute.

Possible starters: Salah, Firmino, Mane

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Arsenal return to Women’s Champions League with hopes of upsetting status quo

Before Alex Scott became a Strictly Come Dancing contestant she had another claim to fame. A dozen years ago Scott became the first, and still the only British player to score in a Women’s European final.

Moreover, Scott’s goal against Swedish side Umea, scored from range in first leg injury-time, earned Arsenal what remains the sole British triumph.

The competition, then the Uefa Women’s Cup, now the Uefa Women’s Champions League, has since been dominated by German and French clubs, latterly Lyon in particular. No British club has even reached the final though a few players have: England’s Lucy Bronze and Wales’ Jess Fishlock were winners with Lyon in May against a Barcelona team featuring Lioness Toni Duggan.

Arsenal have not even been in the competition for the last five years having been squeezed out of England’s two qualifying places by the rise of Chelsea and Manchester City. However, having won the WSL title last season they return on Thursday.

‘An amazing opportunity’

Their long absence meant the Gunners were unseeded but the draw was relatively kind handing them a last 32 tie against Fiorentina, beaten 7-0 on aggregate in the last 16 by Chelsea last year.

It will be an emotional occasion for Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro, an Australian of Italian descent. He played for several years in Serie C and took his Uefa A and Pro licences at Coverciano, the Italian FA’s coaching centre near Florence.

“It is going to be nice to go back and visit a few of the guys,” said Montemurro, adding: “It will be an amazing opportunity for all of us, our first foray back in the Champions League. We are all excited. It is nice to be at that level.”

The women’s game is reviving in Italy after decades of stagnation. The national team impressed at the World Cup and the big Serie A clubs are now involved.

Montemurro added: “When I did my pro licence in 2013 at Coverciano there was a mandate from the federation that all Serie A and B clubs had to start an U14 women’s team then build on that every year. They now have the bulk of their youth teams up and running and some have invested in their first teams. Inter have been promoted, Roma are heavily investing as they have an American owner, Fiorentina too. The game is growing and they are bringing some serious foreigners in.”

‘You have to focus every second’

Fiorentina were the major first men’s team to develop a women’s side winning the title in 2017 and runners-up to Juventus subsequently. Their foreign players include Scotland’s Lana Clelland, Lisa De Vanna of Australia, who played under Montemurro in Melbourne, and Dane Janni Arnth who was at Arsenal last season.

The knock-out process means there is little room for error. New Arsenal recruit Leonie Maier reached the semi-final with Bayern Munich last year but was previously knocked out, by Twente and Chelsea, despite dominating much of the ties.

“Playing in the Champions League is different, it is always a high level,” she said. “If you do a little mistake you are punished. With no group stage you have to focus every second.”

Manchester City found that last season. Semi-finalists in 2018 they lost at this stage to Atletico Madrid. As he prepared for tonight’s first-leg tie away to Lugano manager Nick Cushing said that disappointment was, “definitely an additional incentive”.

Lyon, winners for the last four years, now with four English players, again start favourites. But Chelsea, who did not qualify this time, pushed them very close in last season’s semi-final.

“They are so strong as they have 30-odd players of world-class and they can mix and match according to what they need to do,” said Montemurro of Lyon. “But football is about the day and there are three to four teams in the WSL teams who can challenge them. Chelsea last year are the prime example.” The final is in Vienna in May.

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Manu Tuilagi exclusive: ‘I’m proud of the way I came back – it was a hell of a long way’

Manu Tuilagi sends money home to his mum and dad in Samoa every month and, if an extra expense such as a family funeral crops up, he sends a little more. To the England centre who has become indispensable to his adopted country’s World Cup plans this month, it is natural and just one element of the gratitude he feels towards his nearest and dearest.

“You know, I am sort of proud of myself the way I have come back into the team, because it was a hell of a long way, it was hard,” the 28-year-old Tuilagi says, in a chat before the England squad boarded the plane to Japan on Sunday. “There were a lot of dark days – a lot of injuries and a lot of things happened. It has been good for me, having my family there, and players at [his club] Leicester helped.

“But my fiancée was really the one who helped me through the bad times, she always stuck with me. Otherwise it would have been a different conversation; we might not be having this conversation.” Tuilagi’s fiancée is Chantelle Garrity, a Manchester University graduate who has worked as a business development manager in her father’s family firm, a Leicester-based construction company.

She is also mum to Tuilagi’s 16-month-old daughter Leilani – which translates as ‘heavenly flower’. England’s World Cup warm-up win over Ireland last month ended with Tuilagi on a lap of honour at Twickenham, cradling little Leilani in his powerful arms.

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He signed an improved contract extension at Leicester Tigers earlier this year, where he was already on a reported £450,000 per annum. But there is no figure he can put on his most profound priorities.

“I have been sending money since I started earning here,” Tuilagi says. “Most of the Islander players do. It is a different culture: we support church and funerals and all those things that are different from over here, and in Samoa a funeral is a long event.

“You know you’re not going to play rugby for a long time, and you have to look at investing whatever money you have – but that comes after the money you’ve sent home.”

Sure starter in Japan?

Tuilagi was a younger brother to four Samoa internationals at English clubs when he was capped at 20 by England, as a surging, ultra-physical attacker. Then came problems: a chronic groin injury among various ailments, plus court fines and suspensions for incidents including jumping off a ferry in Auckland at the 2011 World Cup and a late-night brush with female police officers in 2015.

Having played 25 times for England from 2011 to 2014, Tuilagi made just one substitute appearance in March 2016 until his return as a regular last November.

Now fans and pundits debating England’s midfield combinations at the World Cup are tending to go in one of only two ways: Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade, or George Ford, Farrell and Tuilagi. And when Tuilagi came on during another of this summer’s warm-ups, against Wales, the Twickenham crowd gave him the ear-splitting cheer associated with a cult hero.

Help from the witch doctor

“It doesn’t matter what they love about me, as long as they enjoy it,” Tuilagi says. He has been nicknamed the “pinball machine” by England coach Eddie Jones for smashing through Dan Biggar, Owen Watkin and Elliot Dee, with almost the entire Welsh team chasing him on a spectacular 25-metre line-break.

Jones also calls him “Chief” and Tuilagi cheerfully admits a witch doctor in Samoa has helped his healing, ridding him of unwelcome spirits.

“In the Bible,” says Tuilagi, who is a practising Catholic, “Jesus was tormented by the devil, and told him to ‘jump off [the temple in Jerusalem] and your angels will catch you’. I am very superstitious – but it’s not just that, you see it with your eyes. There is a natural pool [in Samoa] in this village called Sapapali’i; it’s guarded and, to cut a long story short, one guy got drunk there and was loud.

“Out of nowhere, he got slapped in the face – just ‘boom’, slapped by no one. And his friends were like ‘right, get in the car, let’s go’. The lady [witch doctor] I went to see, it’s only in her family, it has been passed down. It’s not like, ‘oh, I want to be a witch doctor today’ – nah, it’s not like that.”

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Vegan sport stars: Lewis Hamilton, Hector Bellerin, Tom Brady and others who have adopted a plant-based diet

England fast bowler James Anderson has revealed he is considering going vegan in a bid to prolong his international career, after missing all but a few hours of this Ashes series through injury.

Anderson, 37, says he wants to keep on playing until he is 40, and is weighing up whether switching to a plant-based diet might help keep him at the top of his game.

How a vegan diet can help athletes

A report by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, found several potential benefits for sportsmen taking up a vegan diet.

These include low saturated fats and cholesterol, which improves blood thickness and subsequently helps more oxygen reach the muscles, positively affecting athletic performance.

James Anderson
James Anderson is considering switching to veganism (Photo: Getty)

Other potential benefits were lower body fat, increased arterial flexibility – meaning better blood flow – and more antioxidants leading to faster recovery times.

Anderson would be far from the first sportsman to jump on the bandwagon, with everyone from footballers to boxers and Formula 1 drivers ditching meat and dairy in the name of hitting their physical peak. Here are other big names who have bad the switch.

Lewis Hamilton – F1

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Lewis Hamilton’s vegan cheeseburger tastes just like McDonald’s

Five-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton is one of sport’s most prominent vegans, having adopted the lifestyle in 2017. He is so committed to veganism that he has even helped launch a vegan fast food restaurant, Neat Burger, which will exist across the UK by next year.

Speaking to the BBC in the past about his choice, Hamilton said: “As the human race, what we are doing to the world… the pollution coming from the amount of cows that are being produced is incredible. They say it is more than what we produce with our flights and our cars, which is kind of crazy to think. The cruelty is horrible and I don’t necessarily want to support that.”

Hector Bellerin – football

Bellerin
Hector Bellerin has been vegan for around a year (Photo: Getty)

Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin is one of many prominent Premier League players who have decided to go vegan. Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has also made the switch, as well as former Tottenham and Bournemouth forward Jermain Defoe, who now plays for Rangers.

Even Lionel Messi, five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, has adopted a mostly vegan diet.

Bellerin announced in a Veganuary video last year: “I realised that there were athletes out there that were not just vegetarian, but actually vegan. So I started researching and found out that a vegan diet wasn’t just suitable for me, it was actually better for my body. So I switched.”

Venus and Serena Williams – tennis

Williams sisters
Serena Williams went vegan to support her sister (Photo: Getty)

Venus Williams has been vegan since 2011, switching to purely raw foods after being diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome. Doctors told her cutting out meat and dairy could help her with some of the symptoms, which include fatigue and joint pain. In solidarity, her sister Serena, winner of 23 grand slam titles, also switched to a vegan diet.

Men’s No 1 Novak Djokovic is another adopter. “My diet hasn’t just changed my game, it’s changed my life – my wellbeing,” he told Forbes.

Tom Brady – American football

Tom Brady
Tom Brady lives on a strict vegan diet (Photo: Getty)

Brady has long been famous for the strict vegan diet he swears by to keep his body in prime condition – as well as the six Super Bowl titles of course.

At 42, Brady is still one of the very best quarterbacks in the NFL, and his lifestyle is catching on. Fellow quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers recently made the switch, while 15 members of the Tennessee Titans have also sent meat and dairy to the end zone.

David Haye – boxing

David Haye
David Haye has been vegan for around four years (Photo: Getty)

“Apes are 20 times stronger than humans and they don’t rely on a meat-based diet. They eat plants all day long. It’s a myth that you need meat for strength,” said former world heavyweight champion Haye when asked about his vegan diet.

Australian Mark de Mori mocked Haye for his decision to ditch meat before their 2016 fight. Haye’s response? To knock him out in the first round in front of a full crowd at the O2 arena.

Peter Siddle – cricket

Peter Siddle
Peter Siddle famously eats up to 20 bananas a day (Photo: Getty)

Anderson has company in the world of cricket in the form of Ashes rival Peter Siddle, who claims to eat up to 20 bananas a day.

“It is working. I am feeling fit and strong. It can vary anything between 15-20 bananas a day,” he told The Telegraph in 2013. “Obviously it is a fruit-based diet and a lot of vegetables. It keeps me healthy, it keeps me strong and that is what is working at the moment.”

Barny du Plessis – bodybuilding

Barny du Plessis believes he is proof that anyone can go vegan, no matter the requirements of their sport. He won the Mr Universe title in 2014, a year after adopting a plant-based diet, and claims his body feels all the better for it.

“These days I train half as much, do half as much but get better results. Why? Only one answer, going vegan, GMO free, and organic. My body is running perfectly,” he said.

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‘It was a shock’: Marcus McGuane on his sudden fall from Arsenal and Barcelona to the Dutch second division

BARCELONA — Marcus McGuane looks up from his pasta, a glint in his eye as he remembers the night he became the first Englishman to play for Barcelona’s senior side since Gary Lineker.

“It was quite a big thing,” he tells i, days before completing a surprise loan move to Dutch second division side Telstar last week. “Back home it was on the six o’clock news. I got so many messages. So many. My Whatsapp, my Instagram, you can imagine. It was crazy.”

McGuane, 20, made his Barça debut in the Catalan Super Cup in March 2018. Just 36 days had passed since he had signed from Arsenal, who he made two appearances for in the Europa League. Things weren’t supposed to move so quickly. The idea was that he would spend six months adapting to his new surroundings and learning the language. That blueprint was ripped up when Gerard Lopez handed him his B team bow three days after he arrived.

Ernesto Valverde then called him up to train with the first team, before including him in the squad for the Super Cup game against Espanyol, bringing him on as a second-half substitute as Barca won on penalties.

‘I felt the impact straight away’

“Everything was going smoothly,” McGuane adds, before turning his mind back to the moment when things started to deteriorate. “I still hadn’t gone anywhere near my peak but I felt good. I was playing in my natural position and I felt I was getting better. Then Lopez got sacked and [Garcia Pimienta] replaced him.

“I felt the impact straight away. It happened on a Thursday before a game. We were travelling on the Saturday and I wasn’t even in the squad. It was a bit of a shock. After that it was tough. I never had the same feeling that I had during those first few months.”

McGuane was gutted by the departure of Lopez, a coach that he had struck up a rapport with. The change in management was just one of a succession of incidents which would knock the England youth international’s confidence and eventually see him turn down a number of attractive this offers this summer in favour of relative wilderness in Holland.

Under Pimienta, Barca B were relegated. They went from playing in front of crowds of 20,000 at Osasuna to being lucky to hit 1,000 at Cornella in the regionalised third division. There was then an untimely trip back to England for personal reasons after an impressive pre-season in which he had trained alongside Lionel Messi, who was absent from the first team’s tour of the United States. When he returned, after starring in a central midfield position in two friendlies, he found himself out of the team. He wouldn’t play his favoured role again.

‘Once in a lifetime opportunities’

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When he finally broke back into the team it was a right winger. Then he was ruled out with an injury in October. His season might as well have ended there. When it did end, he’d made just 16 appearances.

McGuane admits there’s frustration at being played out of position — “maybe as a kid I played there, when I was nine or 10, but I am not a right winger” — but he’s not seeking excuses. He’s not bitter about how things turned out as he looks to get his career back on track with Telstar.

“I didn’t play as much as I would have liked, but the training and the level of the boys was good and I had opportunities with the first team,” he reflected. “There have been some once in a lifetime opportunities.

“It’s been good to get away from the distractions you have in London, too. In London everything is so accessible, it’s so easy. For a footballer, it’s so easy to get caught up in the London bubble. Being away from that has been good for me. I’ve matured as a person. You find out the things you like, the things you don’t like. It’s helped me grow in so many ways and come closer to family members. It makes you realise the most important things in life when you don’t always have them around you.

“There have been times when it’s been really hard, but I am strong. I don’t give up easily. I wouldn’t have been in Barcelona for any reason other than football. It didn’t work out with the game time that I wanted, but there are no regrets.”

Familiar face in the Netherlands

Former Arsenal youth team coach Andries Jonker is now in charge of Telstar (Getty Images)

Hadjuk Split, Besiktas and Sassuolo all put together attractive packages this summer but they couldn’t offer what Telstar could: Andries Jonker, Louis van Gaal’s former No 2 and McGuane’s one-time youth coach at Arsenal. The Dutchman had been texting McGuane all summer and convinced him he could offer him what he wants: the chance to enjoy his football again, feel valued and play minutes in his best position.

“The most important thing for me now is feeling comfortable,” McGuane explained. “Being happy where I am, in a good environment with family and friends and the people that I love around me.

“Choosing a club this summer has felt like such a big decision. I’m still young, but it feels like a big point in my career. I have just got to get some experience playing. Coming to Barcelona was an easy decision. It felt like the right time. I felt like I was going to have the opportunity to show what I can do.”

His food now finished, McGuane admitted any long-term goals he had of returning to the Premier League or representing England have had to be put on the back-burner.

“With the way football is going, everything is more short-term,” he said. “My mind is just on this season. I just want to play and enjoy football again. Play. I want to get back to the level that I can perform at.”

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SSK? Jadon Sancho shows he can be final part of England’s exciting attacking trio

ST MARY’S STADIUM — MSN, BBC, SSK – can England’s latest front three join the great modern-day attacking trio acronyms?

The greatness of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, who from 2014 to 2018 scored a phenomenal 270 goals. The sheer phenomenon of Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, combining to score 442 goals in five seasons.

On Tuesday night, Gareth Southgate watched as Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Harry Kane netted five in 45 minutes, a haul eventually needed by the end of an astonishing match in which they conceded three against Kosovo.

A quick Google search reveals there are no major media companies sharing their initials, so Sterling, Sancho, Kane will have to make do with the knitting acronym Slip, Slip, Knit. It makes a decrease that slants to the left, according to expert knitters. It was either that or a dedicated key and lock supplier (SKS) or the architecture and design company KSS… Perhaps it won’t catch on, after all. Nonetheless, they captured the world’s attention last night.

The future?

They will, of course, not reach the highs of those Barcelona and Real triplets, who enjoyed the advantage of far more games in club football, working almost every day of the week with each other in training and honing that near subliminal understanding.

But for England what fun it could be over the next five years: Kane the oldest of the bunch at 26, Sterling only 24, and Sancho, the Borussia Dortmund teenager, not yet 20.

Could this performance have cemented Sancho’s place for Euro 2020 and – potentially – beyond? There was previously no doubt about Sterling and Kane. They are world leading players for their clubs, and are bringing that now to international football.

But England’s manager is not so convinced of Marcus Rashford and handed Sancho this opportunity, a player he has recently admitted he is struggling to hold back. Admittedly, it did not start as planned: Sancho was a ghost for the first half-hour, drifting aimlessly out on the right while everything went down the left and centre, driven mainly by Sterling with the help of Kane. Sancho’s only contribution of note some quick-footed skills before laying off to Ross Barkley to shoot over.

Itching for chances

Much has been made of Sancho’s decision to shun Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and venture abroad to Germany – a bold decision, one that particularly impressed Southgate and prompted him to send assistant Steve Holland on a scouting mission; in a fake glasses and moustache, Southgate joked at the time.

On either flank last night, then, was one player – Sterling – who had benefited from Guardiola arriving at City and another who benefitted from leaving the Spaniard’s tutelage.

Southgate has been itching to give Sancho chances, and has not held back to protect Rashford, revealing after the routine thumping of Bulgaria in England’s previous match that the United man had not quite impressed him enough, despite England’s four goals.

For a while, it did not look as though it was coming together for Sancho. But then he came alive. More skills, on 38 minutes, and a low drive through Kosovo’s penalty area that Mergim Vojvoda turned into his own net.

Final piece in the jigsaw

Read more: Raheem Sterling is England-s alchemist, turning this flawed construct of a team into gold

Then his first goal for England, followed by a second a couple of minutes later. A driving run from Sterling from halfway ended with an inch-perfect diagonal pass for Sancho to control and finish.

An even easier one created by Sterling again, dribbling from the left and clipping the ball past Kosovo goalkeeper Arijanet Muric. Sancho timed his run to stay onside well and tapped in.

It made him the youngest player to score twice for England since Wayne Rooney, who was 18 when he netted a double against Croatia in June 2004. The very best players begin being talked about in these kinds of ways when they are young.

By the time Barkley won a penalty, 20 minutes into the second half, after England had conceded two more in a quite bonkers game, Sancho had grown in confidence so much he was lurking next to Kane, clearly with the desire to take the penalty and complete his hat trick, and even seeming to politely ask. Captain Kane, understandably, was having none of it. Then missed.

So perhaps the final piece in the attacking trio did not quite get his treble, but SSK could be here to stay.

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Raheem Sterling is England’s alchemist, turning this flawed construct of a team into gold

ST MARY’S STADIUM — We have long since accepted Raheem Sterling as a great footballer. The challenge for England was to unlock his gifts in the service of his country. If he was impressive against Bulgaria, this was the full Sterling, the twisting, snake-hipped ball of nitroglycerin that explodes all over the pitch routinely in the colours of Manchester City.

Yes England shipped three goals, each a pantomime classic of towering incompetence, and missed a penalty via the agency of Harry Kane, yet this was not a night for glasses half empty. The flowering of Sterling into a player of global measure forbids any negative interpretations.

It would be reaching too far to classify Sterling as England’s Messi. However, in his diminutive shimmies and rapid acceleration, in his ability to find space in defended areas he at least approximates to the genie from Rosario. Messi would have approved of the header he planted to equalise, a much under-rated move from the Leo playbook. As for the turn that rinsed the defender on the edge of the centre circle and subsequent drive at the Kosovo defence to set up Kane, well, that was pure alchemy. Ditto the imperious moves that put Jadon Sancho on the map.

When a team has a player that can bend a game to his will they are entitled to think big. This is the territory into which England are beginning to move, the calamitous errors notwithstanding. You might say this was “only” Kosovo, a team barely three years old, and you would be right. Forget the longest unbeaten record in Europe. That anomaly was more hindrance than help at St Mary’s despite the goals for column.

Making gold

Raheem Sterling rises above the Kosovo defence to nod home England’s equaliser (PA)

This is more about how England see themselves regardless of the opposition. Once you reach the transcendent state of absolute belief, anything is possible. Watching this England go forward with Sterling hitting such a rare peak it feels very much like that.

Sterling’s excellence shone an interesting light on Sancho, who was given a start on the right side of the attacking trident in place of Marcus Rashford, which on the evidence of Wembley was harsh on the Manchester United rapier. Sancho is saddled with a reputation that does not yet match outcomes. Few would have been minded to press the £100m release clause on his Dortmund contract on the basis of the opening half hour.

Sancho was a circumspect, safety-first traveller in the early stages. It was not until the 38th minute that he blazed into the picture, his quick feet too much for the Kosovo left-back as he crossed for England’s third goal. He would score the next two himself in the space of a minute before the break, tapping in after the uncontainable Sterling had shredded the overmatched Kosovo defence with rapier breaks down the left.

Defensive concerns

Amir Rrahmani celebrates with Aro Muric after Harry Kane’s penalty miss (Reuters)

St Mary’s proved an excellent host 17 years after last staging an England match, and a generous one, all three Kosovo goals heavily dependent on English chapter of the Keystone Cops. There are few chapters in the coaching manual about how to respond to adversity 30 seconds into a match. Michael Keane will never play a better weighted pass, first time into the path of Fidan Aliti, who responded in kind with a cushioned pass to Valon Berisha. The instinct to laugh must have been strong. Berisha resisted until he had stroked his team in front.

He was celebrating again four minutes into the second half, converting a move begun by Declan Rice, who emulated Keane in the accuracy of his pass to an advanced Kosovo player. The penalty that followed six minutes later might be seen by fans of United as a tribute to Phil Jones, his club-mate Harry Maguire tripping over his own clearance to fell Vedat Muriqi, who exacted the maximum sanction from the spot.

Kane had the chance to atone only to see his spot-kick saved by Manchester City keeper Aro Muric, who won’t be on loan at Nottingham Forest for long. Sterling also hit a post as England continued the cavalier pursuit of goals.

The unleashing of Rashford for Sancho and Mason Mount for Ross Barkley in late cameos served only to underline the eager, young core straining to be part of Gareth Southgate’s thrilling if flawed construct.

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James Anderson considers going vegan to prolong his England career to 40

James Anderson has admitted he will consider going vegan in an attempt to extend his England career into his late thirties.

Anderson, 37, has missed almost all of the current Ashes series with the calf injury he sustained in the opening Test against Australia at Edgbaston last month.

England’s all-time leading wicket-taker this week insisted he wants to carry on playing until the age of 40.

And he is investigating a number of ways of keeping his body in shape to do just that – including moving to an exclusively plant-based diet.

Siddle’s banana inspiration

Australia bowler Peter Siddle, who famously eats up to 20 bananas a day, is cricket’s most prominent vegan.

But a number of other sports stars have attributed a plant-based diet to higher levels of performance, including American football quarter-back Tom Brady, who is still playing for New England Patriots at the age of 42.

Formula One star Lewis Hamilton and Tennessee Titans NFL team also swear by a vegan diet and both are featured in a new documentary – The Game Changers – that chronicles the rise in popularity of plant-based eating among athletes.

‘My wife’s not keen#

Now Anderson, once described as having “the worst diet of any professional athlete I know” by former team-mate Graeme Swann, is considering following the trend.

“I actually have chatted it through with my wife –she’s not keen,” he said. “There’s a documentary coming out, The Game Changers. You might be interested in this, it’s about Lewis Hamilton. I’m open-minded. I’ll give anything a go if it prolongs my career.

“I’m going to try and investigate every possible avenue of what I need to do at my age to keep myself in good shape. I feel as fit as I ever have. It’s just the calf keeps twanging. I’ll look at how other sportspeople have done it throughout their careers to keep going into their late 30s.

“I’ll see whether there’s anything specific I can do – diet, gym programme, supplements, whatever it might be – because I’ve still got a real hunger and desire to play cricket.

“I still feel like I can be the best bowler in the world. As long as I’ve got that mentality I’m going to try to find every possible thing to help me stay fit.”

‘Ashes a big disappointment’

Anderson is refusing to put a time-frame on his return but the tour of New Zealand, which ends with two Tests in late November, is on his radar. “Yes, that would be great if I’m fit for that,” he said. “If not, then South Africa would be next on the list. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

As for how he has felt watching England, 2-1 down ahead of this week’s final Test at The Oval, fail to regain the Ashes in his absence, Anderson said: “It’s just a big disappointment, the whole thing for me. You can beat yourself up – if I was playing it might have been a different outcome? But if you dwell on that, you send yourself crazy, so I’m going to try and look to the future.”

James Anderson was speaking on behalf of ‘The Test Experts’ Specsavers, Official Test Partner of the England cricket team

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