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Few football cultures revere tradition more than the English and few clubs in England can claim to reflect their local community more than Newcastle United. So you can understand why the announcement that the Magpies are to re-name their St James Park stadium, the Sports Direct Arena has gone down like the proverbial lead balloon.

The Sports Direct Arena is named after Newcastle owner Mike Ashley’s company and will be employed until the club find a sponsor to take over the full naming rights for the stadium on a permanent basis.

Newcastle United’s managing director Derek Llambias estimates that the club will recoup about £10millon a year form flogging the naming rights. That’s barely enough to pay one year’s wages for a world class player these days, and surely not enough to justify jettisoning 119 years of history. Incidentally, the projected income does highlight the absurdity of Manchester City valuing the naming rights for the Etihad Stadium at £400 million.

Mark Jensen, the editor of The Mag fanzine, spoke for the majority of Newcastle fans, when he said: “I’m very, very disappointed that with the team sitting in the top three that the club have taken the opportunity to basically bring up such a negative.

“It’s very hard to take. Everyone understands the economics of football in that you need to maximise the revenue but I think most fans would rather the ground not be renamed at all.

Former England cricketer Steve Harmison, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said: “Of all the things Mike Ashley has done since he became owner, I think this is the one people will find hardest to forgive and forget.

“I can only liken it to changing the team’s colours from black and white to red and white and making us look like Sunderland.

“That’s how big a deal it is. You do wonder whether they would do that if the money was right.”

I wouldn’t rule anything out.

Neymar staying put

Brazilian teenager Neymar has confirmed he snubbed a move to Spain in order to stay with Santos.

The 19-year-old had been expected to join Real Madrid next year after the Spanish outfit looked to have beaten most of Europe’s top clubs to his signature. However, Neymar has opted to pen a four-year deal with Santos and his agent says that he will not look to move until after the World Cup in 2014, which takes place in Brazil.

“There was interest from Spain, but I wanted to stay here because I am very happy,” he said.

“This was the important decision I have made in my life, and my parents helped me decide.

“It is a way of thanking everyone here for all the love I have got, and I am happy to be here until 2014.”

“I’m one of the fans, I love to play for Santos and the happiness of being in my country.

“I’m a player who is making history in Santos. I’m glad to represent Santos and Brazil. I can only thank God for putting wonderful people on the path of my life.

“Here is where I’m happy and here is where I want to stay. I’ve always said that happiness would play a significant role in my decision.”

His agent, Wagner Ribeiro, believes the announcement will increase happiness levels in Brazil.

“Some months ago we started a fight seen by some as a dream,” he said. “Finally this morning we finished the negotiations with the father of Neymar.

“Through dialogue, built day after day, he understood the permanence of Neymar ahead of the 2014 World Cup would provide a service to the country. I think Brazil is now a happier country.”

Tevez still missing

Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor says he is “very disappointed” at Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez for missing training and returning to Argentina.

The whereabouts of Tevez, who has not been seen in public since arriving at Buenos Aires airport on Tuesday, remains a mystery.

Taylor, who spoke on behalf of the forward on a previous misconduct charge, told BBC Sport: “He is in danger of burning bridges rather than reconciliation.”

“This now leaves him very vulnerable,” added Taylor. “He’s diminishing his value by his actions at the moment.

“You just hope that he will soon try to get to a place of reality – otherwise he’s on a self-destruct route. It could be a very difficult and complex legal situation.

“Sometimes sorry is the toughest word but it does put an end to difficult situations and stand-offs.

“Manchester City may well have a right to say ‘your contract is cancelled and we are keeping your registration’ and they could sue Carlos.”

Tevez’s options do appear to be narrowing with one of his former suitors, Brazilian side Corinthians, ruling themselves out of the battle to sign the forward.

The Argentina international previously enjoyed a successful spell at the Timao between 2004 and 2006 and has been linked with a return to Corinthians.

Nevertheless, marketing director Luis Paulo Rosenberg feels that the cons would outweigh the pros if Corinthians were to lure the 27-year-old back to Estadio do Pacaembu.

“Enough with signing old players. It would probably be a success from a marketing point of view. However, it would not be wise financially and won’t benefit the morale in the team,” Rosenberg said during a lecture in a shopping mall in Brazil.

Goal of the Day

Barcelona made hard work of their Kings Cup tie against Segunda Division B side Hospitalet, with the sides eventually separated by a curling strike from Andres Iniesta.

Poppygate finally over

FIFA finally agreed that the England, Scotland and Wales teams can wear poppies on black armbands during the upcoming internationals.

The decision represents a compromise following a stand-off involving the sport’s governing body and the national associations of Britain.

FIFA were adamant that no overtly political message should be displayed on football shirts, while the FAs, notably that of England, were looking to sport a poppy design on the front of their kit, and on the back, the words ‘Two World Wars and One World Cup’.

Joking aside, the row descended into farce  on Wednesday, when two members of the English Defence League climbed to the top of FIFA headquarters in Geneva to protest against the poppy ban, and yet no one thought to push them over the edge.

Ultimately, it required the intervention of a Conservative MP to resolve the issue. Chris Heaton-Harris contacted FIFA secretary secretary general, Jerome Valcke, to propose his idea for the England team to wear black armbands with the poppy emblem.

Game of the Day

There was a remarkable encounter in the Copa Sudamericana quarter-final game between Brazilian side Vasco Da Gama and Peruvian outfit Universitario.

Trailing 2-0 from the first leg in Peru, Vasco’s cause looked doomed when they fell 2-1 behind in the second leg. However, a remarkable comeback, aided in part by Universitario being reduced to 9 players, saw them score 4 goals after the break to win the tie 5-4 on aggregate.

Here are all the goals:

Liverpool find new ways to make money

Liverpool, who attracted criticism for a suggestion that they should earn more money from overseas TV sales than some of their Premier League rivals, have come up with a novel way to keep the wolf from the door.

The club has signed a two-year partnership with Turkish Tourism in a move that is set to promote Turkey as a travel destination.

“Turkey is a great country and we all have fantastic memories of our European Cup win in Istanbul in 2005,” said Ian Ayre, Liverpool’s managing director. “Through this partnership the club can provide Turkish Tourism with significant brand visibility and access to our supporter base to help raise awareness of their tourism opportunities.”

Tolga Tuyluoglu, director of the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office in London, added: “I am sure that all Liverpool fans will have positive associations with Turkey already, following their dramatic Champions League win in Istanbul back in 2005. We hope to build on this to create a dynamic partnership.

“The city of Liverpool is known for its music and culture; its world-class galleries, museums and landmarks, which of course provides a body of shared values for us to work with. Over one quarter of those taking package-holidays to Turkey do so from the North West of England so this area is very important to Turkey.”

Regrets, he has a few…

Martin Jol has admitted that he regrets leaving Hamburg.

The Fulham manager was in charge of the Bundesliga outfit in the 2008-09 season, leading them to fifth in the table and semi-finals in both the UEFA Cup and German Cup.

Thereafter, he left to return to Holland to manage Ajax before being appointed as Mark Hughes’s successor as Craven Cottage last summer.

“Today, I am sorry that I did not stay at HSV,” Jol told Bild, before refusing to rule out a return in the future.

“You never know. But then there is only one club for me, and his name is HSV.”

As Jol is only too aware, when it comes to the precarious business of football management, it always pays to keep your options open.

Playing the field

Eden Hazard has dropped his biggest hint yet that he fancies a move to Inter. The Belgian striker, who has become a target for many of Europe’s bigger clubs, had been linked with a move to Chelsea.

“Inter is a fantastic squad,” Hazard told Corriere dello Sport. “They have great champions. If you play for a club like Inter you have to be considered a top player.”

Observers of Marco Materazzi might beg to differ.

“Of course the interest of top clubs can only please me. When a great club like Inter that has won so much wants me, this can only make me proud.”

“Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all tried to buy me last summer. The interests of these great clubs and one like Real Madrid shows all the sacrifices I made were not in vain. I’m on the right track.”


There’s nothing like an inspirational coach to get the best out of insecure players and it’s fair to say that in the past two years, Fabio Capello has been nothing like an inspirational coach.

Ahead of Saturday’s friendly game against World champions Spain, Capello was asked whether England can still compete with the world’s elite.

He replied: “That time is past.”

One has to admire his honesty, and if it manages to prick some of the pre-tournament hype that accompanies England when they participate in a major finals, the dose of realism will have served a useful purpose.

Comparing England to Spain, was the Italian argued, a fatuous task.

“We have good players of our own but not good enough to try to have the style of play which Spain have,” he conceded. “You cannot think of playing one touch if you do not have the quality.’

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job. English football has only 33 per cent English players. No more. This makes everything difficult.”