Hughes sorry now

Readers may be advised to sit down before they read the next sentence. Harry Redknapp will not, I repeat, not, become the next coach of the Ukraine national team.

Shocked? We all are. Only two days ago, Redknapp revealed he was seriously considering the vacancy.

“It’s a fantastic job. I found out about it a couple of weeks ago when they got in touch with my advisors,” he said of the Ukraine opportunity. “I am serious about it.

“They are an up and coming football country with some very good young players, some great teams like Shakhtar and some great stadiums.

“I will talk to them and see if we can sort something out. I’m definitely interested, without a doubt.”

Instead, Redknapp is poised replace Mark Hughes as manager of QPR. A move that no one saw coming. The people of Ukraine will be weeping when they hear the news. A cynic might suggest that Redknapp, impatient at the lack of job opportunities coming his way, put the Ukraine speculation in the public domain in order to flush out an offer from a desperate Premier League club.

As for the outgoing Hughes, who only a week ago was receiving supportive tweets from club owner, Tony Fernandes, he can console himself with the words he uttered when he walked out on Fulham just over a year ago.

“As a young, ambitious manager I wish to move on to further my experiences,” he said.

Karma hey?

Out of the frying pan…

Rafa Benitez says working for Roman Abramovich will be a piece of cake compared to dealing with Liverpool’s former American owners.

The Spaniard did not enjoy the best working relationship with Tom Hicks and George Gillett during his time at Anfield. Needless to say, that was all the fault of the owners. Those fools who had the temerity to sack Benitez after he had spent £300 million transforming Liverpool from perennial Champions League participants into a team that finished 7th in the Premier League, 23 points behind champions Chelsea.

“It was a difficult time, but still we were performing,” he said, clearly suffering from false memory syndrome. “Now you have a different situation and it will be easier.

“If you have two bosses who aren’t talking to each other, it’s difficult. You want a striker and one of them says: ‘I don’t know…’ This will be easier.

“The info I have from different people is that the owner here likes to see his team playing good football, but he’s not involved every day, telling the manager to do this or that.”

As for his last, unhappy spell with Inter, when he managed the singularly impressive feat of turning the Italian and European champions into a team of also-rans within the space of three months, well, again, Benitez recalls the era slightly differently.

Grinning like the cat that got the cream, with a belly to match, Benitez said: “At Inter Milan, we won two trophies (the FIFA World Club Championship and the Supercoppa Italiana) in five months, and then I was out like this.”

Quote of the day

“Rafa Benitez is very lucky because on his CV in two weeks’ time he could have two world championships to his name – and has had nothing to do with the teams. Jose Mourinho won the treble with Inter Milan. He (Benitez) took over and won the world championship without having to do anything and having nothing to do with the construction of the teams.”

Sir Alex Ferguson welcomes back his old sparring partner Rafa Benitez.

Double standards

Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti believes his side are being discriminated against after the Russian FA awarded his side  a defeat by default after a player was attacked.

Zenit’s game against Dynamo Moscow last week was abandoned after a flare thrown from the Zenit end left Dynamo goalkeeper Anton Shunin with eye injuries that caused him to be briefly hospitalized.

The Russian FA handed Zenit a 3-0 defeat Thursday and ordered last season’s champions to play two games behind closed doors. The ruling leaves Zenit third in the table, six points behind CSKA, who they play Monday.

“It’s obvious, as with last year, that they’re trying to give the advantage to CSKA,” Spalletti said, in an apparent reference to an incident last season when Zenit received a technical defeat for breaking squad selection rules.

“I don’t understand why they create problems like this for my team. What has my team done to deserve that?”

Displaying a lack of perspective that only a football manager could muster, Spalletti portrayed Zenit as the real victims.

“We have become just as much victims as Shunin.”

The Russian FA’s disciplinary committee ruled against Zenit due to an entirely reasonable regulation that states away teams are responsible for the visiting fans.

Zenit argued that Dynamo should take responsibility since the Moscow club had put tickets for the away end on open sale, but Dynamo said Zenit had agreed to this policy and that entry had been limited to those registered as living in or near St. Petersburg.

Goal of the day

Elsad Zervotic secured a last gasp equaliser for Young Boys against Liverpool, with a stunning strike from the edge of the area.

Ludicrous overhead goal of the day

It’s getting ridiculous now. The fashion for audacious, acrobatic overhead goals continues to thrive, with Fenerbahce’s Bekir Irtegun the latest exponent.

Changing the calendar

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has suggested a radical revamp of the Premier League after renewing his call to introduce a winter break.

Wenger believes the authorities should consider starting the season in January and finishing in November. In so doing the league would follow the example of other leagues across the world, including the Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League. Well, where the USA and China lead, the rest of the football world must surely follow.

The Arsenal manager hinted yesterday that the struggles of English teams in this season’s Champions League could be linked to the fixture schedule. Although, as it’s a schedule followed by the rest of Europe, one can be forgiven for being a little bit sceptical about the claim.

Wenger said: “I understand it looks completely strange as people have been educated the current way but I moved to Japan and the season was in January to November. We started training in January and after a while it was completely normal.

“The period of rest would be the same. It wouldn’t change the number of games. You would not be confronted with these situations when players are playing in two different championships. You would play during the summer period in the best period for football to be played.”

Bad boy?

Joey Barton is not as bad as he is portrayed by the media, his Marseille coach and team mates said ahead of the midfielder’s Ligue 1 debut against Lille on Sunday.

Barton joined on loan from Queens Park Rangers but had to serve a 12-match suspension that was extended to the French league.

“Really looking forward to making my league debut for Marseille on Sunday,” Barton wrote on his Twitter account.

“Feel fitter and stronger than ever before. Cannot wait to pay back the fans and the club for showing me love during this turbulent period.”

Barton was suspended by the English FA after being sent off for violent conduct in QPR’s final Premier League match of last season against Manchester City.

He was dismissed for elbowing Carlos Tevez and then kicked Sergio Aguero. He also appeared to try to headbutt City captain Vincent Kompany as he momentarily forgot that he was not on a night out with his mates, but was actually on a football pitch and those cameras filming him were television cameras and not CCTV.

“It’s an image that crossed the Channel and that he carries with him,” Marseille boss Elie Baup told reporters on Friday.

“He is a player with a character.”

Team mate Nicolas Nkoulou also praised Barton, who has only played five Europa League games this season, scoring once with a direct corner kick.

“He is a very different guy compared to the image that has been pinned to him,” the Cameroon defender said.

“On and off the pitch, the image of the guy who throws punches and does absolute nonsense is completely false.”

Just give him time Nicolas, just give him time.

Fans behaving badly

Two Italians thought to be fans of the Roma have been charged with attempted murder after a group of Tottenham fans were attacked in Rome.

Ten Spurs fans, in the city for a match with rival Rome club Lazio, were taken to hospital after Thursday’s attack.

One Spurs fan injured in the bar attack – named on social media as Ashley Mills, 25, from Brentwood, Essex – will remain in hospital for a fortnight.

The two defendants are expected to appear in court in Rome later.

A police spokeswoman said: “They have been charged with attempted murder for involvement in riots and causing serious injury with a knife and are due to appear in court soon.”

They have been named as 26-year-old Francesco Ianari and Mauro Pinnelli, 27.

Meanwhile, the Football Association will pass on its own report on the alleged anti-Semitic chanting during Thursday night’s game.

Shortly after revealing a ‘Free Palestine’ banner, a section of the home support began singing “Juden Tottenham” to the fans of the London club, who have strong Jewish links.

Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas hopes hopes UEFA mete out swift justice.

“It will take another investigation,” the Tottenham manager said.

“It happened last time and it was acted upon quickly by UEFA. We will have to wait and see if there is anything to act upon. If there is UEFA have to act.”


Chelsea refused to offer Mark Clattenburg any kind of apology last night for wrongly accusing the Premier League referee of racially abusing John Mikel Obi.

The Football Association concluded their three-week investigation into events during the clash between Manchester United and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on October 28 by exonerating the refereel who, it was alleged, had called Mikel a ‘monkey’.

Clattenburg issued a statement declaring his relief at the outcome and his desire to get back to what he does best: making questionable decisions in high profile football matches, and getting away with it.

“I am looking forward to putting this behind me and concentrating on refereeing in the Premier League and other competitions,’ he said.

“The messages of encouragement from those inside and outside of the game have helped me through the most stressful time of my professional life.

“To know you were innocent of something but that there was the opportunity for it to wreck your career was frightening.

“Racism has no place in football and this experience should not discourage those to speak out if they genuinely believe they are a victim of abuse. However, there are processes that should be adhered in order that any investigation can be carried out in a manner that is fair for all parties involved.

“I know first-hand the ramifications of allegations of this nature being placed into the public domain ahead of a formal process and investigation. I hope no referee has to go through this in the future.

“We are fortunate to be working in the world’s most watched and scrutinised football league. With that comes a responsibility in regard to how the different parts of the game work together.”